Juushirou leaned back with a sigh, waving off the fourth cup of sake Kyouraku offered. “Do you really think this is going to work out?” he asked, frowning.
“Of course it will.” Kyouraku emptied his own cup. “Rukia-chan is brilliant at this kind of thing.” His eyes glinted under the mess of his hair as he slanted a small smile at Juushirou. “Kind of like you; after all, how many other people can actually call themselves Byakuya-kun’s friend? Besides,” somehow a full cup was in Juushirou’s hand again, “she has powerful potential but she just doesn’t think like a warrior. That whole mess with the Kurosaki boy would never have happened if she did. This will be the best thing for her.”
Juushirou took a distracted sip of sake, and paused as the taste on his tongue reminded him that he’d been going to stop. He gave his friend a rueful glance. “Yes, well, you’re not bad at it, yourself, one on one at least.” His lips quirked. “Though I’m not sure you could have been more obvious with Byakuya unless you’d hit him over the head with a hammer.”
“He’s got a thick skull when it comes to new things.” Kyouraku’s airy wave didn’t spill a drop. “Now. How long before you think Rukia-chan will be ready?”
“She’ll be promoted, formally, within the next year, at this rate,” Juushirou mused. “Give her a little time as a vice captain, to become better known to the officers of other divisions. Hmm. I don’t think we can really expect to get her appointed in less than five years.” He chuckled, remembering. “Not that she isn’t capable, now. You should have been there yesterday. I’ve never seen anyone besides Unohana herself calm Isane down that fast.”
Kyouraku grinned. “That’s our Rukia-chan.”
Juushirou rested a meditative look on the water visible through his open door. “Can we keep this up, though? You know Genryuusai-sensei doesn’t like the Court Guardians interfering in politics.”
Kyouraku snorted into his cup at this perennial reminder. “It’s a little late for that, now. As soon as the Forty-six were murdered we were all in it up to our necks. The old stick-in-the-mud just doesn’t want to admit it.” Exasperation and affection mixed about equally in his face as he grabbed the sake jug. Juushirou smiled.
“Perhaps he’s just cranky because the crisis interrupted his retirement plans,” he offered. “I still think he was planning to pass the title on, in the next century or so. And he certainly can’t choose either of us for that, now, no matter how right we turned out to be.”
Kyouraku’s eyes softened into the speculative haze that usually preceded his most innovative and trouble-making ideas. Juushirou braced himself.
“It’s really to bad that the Kurosaki boy is still living as a human. He’d be a great successor as Captain-General,” Kyouraku murmured, dreamily. “Him for the militant side, and Rukia-chan for the basic ruling and policy. He’s got charisma to match hers, in his own way. It’d be the perfect division of talents.”
Juushirou stared at him, wide-eyed. “Kurosaki…” he repeated, a bit weakly, “as Captain-General…”
“Well,” Kyouraku said reasonably, “he does think like a warrior, his potential is ridiculously high, and his allegiance to the shinigami is unshakeable. He’s the star of Rukia-chan’s portfolio, on that count.”
Juushirou gave in and held out his cup, wordlessly. Kyouraku grinned as he refilled it.
“Still,” Juushirou persisted, a bit raspily having tossed back the entire cup in one go, “you think the Kuchikis will get through this in one piece? I shudder to imagine how Byakuya-kun will choose to go about it, now he’s got the idea in his head.” He paused, considering. “And I shudder even more to imagine how Rukia will react.”
“She’s his match in stubbornness,” Kyouraku agreed easily, “but she couldn’t manage to kill him yet. I’m pretty sure.”
“You’re so reassuring,” Juushirou muttered.
Kyouraku’s laughter floated out over the water.