251 What to do... what to do...

(Ryoto's pov)

I sat in front of Isamu's grave, which was next to the other grave on the hill that I made for all the people I killed. Usually, I come here about once a year to remember all the ones I killed, why I'm doing what I'm doing, and just go down memory lane. Remembering happy times, sad times, my relationships, and so on, but today was not that day. I just wanted to vent to an old friend.

"Hey, Isamu. Long time no talk. I know that I visit seldom, but you don't reach out to me either, so I feel it's fair." I chuckled lightly at my own joke, but it died down quickly as I turned more solemn. "I don't know what to do. There are so many choices, so many dead ends. I know the way to victory, but it's filled with sacrifices and probably a broken family. I wonder what you would do in my place..."

He would probably do everything he could to help me. If he was alive, I would probably ask him for help, and it would solve a lot of my problems, and since I don't have that much contact with his family and Quincy overall, my options are limited.

"You know, when I made this grave, we 'drank' together for the last time, but I hope you don't mind if I drink a bit of sake."

I'm not a drinker by any means, but I can appreciate a taste from time to time, although nothing beats lollipops to this day.

As I was enjoying my time alone trying to find a solution to my problems, I noticed someone spying on me, and I recognized my stalker.

"What is it, Soi Fon?" I called out to her without turning to her, and she came out of her hiding spot and stood behind me, not saying anything for a short while.

"Yoruichi-sama asked me to 'beat the depression out of you', but looking at you, I lost all motivation to do that."

I chuckled at her. "Is it your rebellious phase? I can't imagine you disobeying your precious Yoruichi-sama."

"If you are trying to get yourself punched, then you're doing a great job."

She practically growled at me.

Soi Fon took a few steps and stopped when she was next to me and again didn't say anything for a few moments.

"So, what's going on?"

"I must be dreaming. Soi Fon is asking me about my well-being."

"One more word, and I'm pulling out Suzumebachi."

It was an empty threat and not even a threat, to be honest. We both knew that even if she tried to, she wouldn't be able to hurt me. It's the kind of dynamic that we have.

"So... that's your friend's grave?" She finally asked.

"Not a real one. He is buried in the living world, but this grave here is just a memorial that I made."

She turned to the other grave. "And this one?"

"This one is more complicated. Do you still want to hear about it?" I asked, at which Soi Fon took a moment before nodding her head. "You see, before I became a parent, before I became a Captain, and even before I was a Lieutenant, I was an ordinary guy... OK, maybe not so ordinary, but my point stands. What I'm trying to say is that I had a kind of normal life, so when I came to Soul Society with Rin, I knew that I needed to change to protect her. I knew that I would be forced to kill sooner or later, and unfortunately, I was right."

I continued talking as Soi Fon carefully listened to me.

"But you know what? I hate killing. Taking someone's life away is not a pleasant experience, not just because it can be messy, but knowing that your actions end someone's existence for any reason can be traumatizing. And it was at first, but it gets easier every time I do this, and this in itself is scary. I don't want to be numb to the act of killing. If it happens, it means that I disregard the importance of life, and I'll be changing beyond what I'm comfortable with."

I took a small pause to breathe.

"And finally, we can talk about this grave. You see all the strokes on it?"

She nodded. "Each stroke represents a person I killed since I got to Soul Society, and I even remember all of their faces while trying to remember as many of their names as possible. I don't want myself to forget that they were alive, and because of me, their life has ended. In a way, it's grave for an old me, and each stroke buries him even further underground."

With this, I was finished and let Soi Fon digest all of what I said, but before she could say anything, I forced a lollipop into her mouth.

She was confused by my action, so I began clarifying.

"You came here to beat the depression out of me, so what's with that sad look. All of what I said is mostly in the past. I come here mostly for sentimental value, so don't you worry. You are too young to worry about me."

Soi Fon was a part of the Stealth Corps, and her hands are not exactly the cleanest, but seeing the always happy-go-lucky guy who often annoys her be in a solemn mood for so long was unsettling, and she probably wanted to somehow cheer me up even if she didn't know how. Although my last comment bothered her.

"We are of similar age..."

"You look more like my kids, though. Any comments about that?" I smirked, and at the same time, Soi Fon's Zanpakuto was centimeters away from my throat as I was taking a luxurious sip of my sake. She wouldn't kill me, and she knew that I knew that, and that made her even more annoyed.

She then sighed and sheathed her sword.

"You are insufferable."

"That's my charm." I said, a smirk not leaving my face. "But thanks for worrying."

Hearing my earnest thanks, Soi Fon got shy, and I could even see a tint of red on her cheeks.

She's easily embarrassed.

"I-I wasn't worried about you! Yoruichi-sama was the one who asked me to check on you! That's all!"

I didn't tease her anymore and took another sip of my sake. Surprisingly, talking with Soi Fon cleared my mind, and while I still don't know what I should do, maybe it's fine. If Yoruichi decides to save Kisuke and Tessai, then I'll respect her decision as much as it hurts me to separate from her for a long time, but it must have meant that Kisuke and Tessai are in her eyes important enough to risk that much. I'll still confront her if she does that to clarify some things.

In the case that it doesn't happen, I'll bail them out myself in disguise while using Gyako. No one should suspect me that way, as everyone who's seen me using my Zanpakuto knows that it's Zangetsu.

As I prepared what barely counted as a plan, a Hell Butterfly flew to me and landed on my finger, relaying a message.

So, it begins...



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