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Title: The Trials of Nanao Ise
Genre: Romance/Drama
Pairing: Shunsui/Nanao
Spoilers: Through manga chapter 423
Status: Ongoing
Rating: R
Summary: Nanao will face the consequences of her decisions during and after the Arrancar War. Can she overcome these trials, or will they divide her from Captain Kyōraku forever? Canon compliant through manga chapter 423.

Back to Chapter 31.
Chapter 1.

Shinigami milled around the meeting room, chatting.  Shunsui approached Nanao, a faint frown on his lips.  His hairpins were missing from his hair tie.  “Lovely Nanao-chan didn’t wake me up this morning,” he said, leaning down low towards her ear. 
“I’m sorry.  I had a lot that I wanted to do, and I ran out of time.”  She glanced up at him, barely meeting his eyes.
“Is everything alright, Nanao-chan?”  He wanted to touch her—she could see him holding himself back—but they were in public, at work.
“I’m just tired.  For some reason I didn’t get much rest last night.”  She sniffed but it was for show.  She thought the memory of what they’d done last night would cheer him, so he might not ask her any more questions now.
He grinned at her.  “Poor Nanao-chan.  Maybe your captain will give you the rest of the day off.”
She forced her lips to turn up slightly.
Captain Ukitake waved Shunsui over.  “We’ll talk later, Nanao-chan.”  He brushed her arm with his hand as he crossed to Ukitake.
Nanao took the opportunity to pull Rangiku aside.   “Something’s going to happen now, Rangiku-san.  Will you do me a favor, please?”  She kept her voice quiet and her face smooth to avoid attracting attention.
Rangiku frowned at her.  “Of course, Nanao-san, what do you want me to do?” she asked.
“Please stop Captain Kyōraku from acting rashly.  It’s important that he not interfere.”
The blonde latched a hand onto Nanao’s arm.  “It’s worse than I thought, isn’t it?  Whatever trouble you’re in, I’m sure we can help—”
“No,” Nanao hissed.  She saw Shunsui looking at her from across the room and pasted a small smile on her face.  Rangiku’s frown deepened until Nanao gestured slightly in Shunsui’s direction.  “It’s too late for that.  All that would happen is conflict, and I don’t want anyone to get into trouble because of my actions.  Just please, will you take care of my captain for me?”
Rangiku’s hand dropped.  She laughed lightly for Shunsui’s benefit.  “I’ll do my best, Nanao-san, I promise.”
“Thank you, Rangiku-san.  You’re a good friend.”  They drifted towards the formation that was taking shape.  Nanao talked idly about a new calendar project for the SWA, Rangiku following her lead.  Shunsui eyed her curiously but said nothing.
The captains stood in two neat rows with the vice captains behind them.  One of the captains was not present—Captain Kurotsuchi was in Hueco Mundo conducting his research.  No one from the Twelfth stood in his stead. Nanao felt strangely numb, even though she knew this would likely be the end of her career in the Gotei 13.
Captain Yamamoto entered the room and headed to the front, followed by vice captain Sasakibe, who took a spot behind Yamamoto.  All talk ceased when the elder captain stomped his cane against the floor.  “We will now begin this meeting of the Gotei 13 leadership.  First, on the Aizen matter, most of you have undoubtedly already heard that the Central 46 has sentenced Aizen to twenty thousand years in Avici.  This sentence has already begun.”
There was a grunt from Zaraki and a few nods from others.
“On to the second matter of the agenda today.  Vice Captain Ise, come forward.”
Nanao stepped out from behind her captain, ignoring his murmured “Nanao-chan?”
She took up a position facing Captain Yamamoto at the opposite end of the lines of captains.  “Sir.”
“Vice Captain Ise, there are currently two issues related to you that must be discussed.  In order to address these matters, I am lifting the confidentiality order surrounding the events of the command post in Seireitei during the recent battle.”  Yamamoto grunted and Sasakibe produced a packet of papers that he set on a side table for Yamamoto’s convenience.  The captain commander flipped through these papers slowly.
Nanao stood at attention and refused to look at anything but Yamamoto’s face.  It would be more appropriate to drop into a seiza, but she wasn’t sure she could get up if she let herself sink down.  She would not turn to Shunsui; this matter could still be divisive for Soul Society, and she would not be the catalyst for that by asking for his help.  Shunsui might interpret any glance from her as such a request.  She wasn’t sure what would show in her eyes if she met his gaze.
“Vice Captain Ise, while you had command of the Gotei 13 in the command post, you are accused of committing the crimes of disobeying a direct order from the Central 46 and attacking an officer of the Kidō Corps.  In your official report on these events, you do not deny these crimes.  Is that true?”
“Yes, sir.”  There was a murmur of questioning whispers throughout the room.  Nanao kept her head up, her back precisely straightened, and her face as cold as she could.  She would not allow herself to break in front of these people.  Shunsui stared at her, she could feel it, but he hadn’t spoken yet and she was grateful for that.
“When I assigned you the command of the Gotei 13 during wartime, I explained the order from Central 46 to you.  Did you understand the order as it was conveyed to you?”
“Yes, sir.”
“So you clearly understood that the order from Central 46: in the event that Aizen defeated the Gotei 13, you were to activate the soul-destroying machines created by Captain Kurotsuchi and destroy all of the human souls in Karakura town to prevent Aizen from creating the King’s Key.”
The room exploded in gasps and exclamations from the shinigami.  “An order like that,” Hitsugaya said, shocked.
“It can’t be,” Hisagi whispered.
Nanao could feel Shunsui’s eyes on her, could feel him willing her to look at him, but she did not take her eyes off Yamamoto.  “Yes, sir.”
Yamamoto ignored the noise in the room.  “And you understood clearly that you were to execute this order before Aizen took one step through a gate to Soul Society?”
“Yes, sir.”
“And yet, when the moment came to act on that order, you refused to do so, and attacked with Bakudō 61 and Bakudō 99 the vice captain of the Kidō Corps when he attempted to act on the order?”
“Yes, sir.”  Nanao kept her hands clasped together behind her back.  She could feel them shaking a little, but she pressed it down, trying to maintain her calm demeanor.  Her pride demanded nothing less.
“In your report, you explain your actions by stating you believed that it was important that Ichigo Kurosaki have the opportunity to take the field against Aizen.  But there was no room for your own personal decision-making in the order from Central 46.”
“No, sir.  I acted without proper authority and against my orders.”
Yamamoto nodded.  The low rumble of sound from the shinigami present had not stopped, but he continued on with his summary.  “So there are two issues presently, Vice Captain Ise: your admitted crimes in the command post, and the formal complaint filed by Vice Captain Takahashi of the Kidō Corps for your abusive treatment.  The primary matter of your crimes was considered and decided by the Central 46.  The matter of the complaint will be considered and decided by me.  Are you prepared to receive the judgment of the Central 46?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Yama-jii—” Shunsui stepped out of the captain’s line; his eyes had left Nanao and gone to Yamamoto.
“No, Shunsui, you may not speak now.  The judgment of the Central 46 has already been made.  You have no place to object.”  Yamamoto stomped his cane.
Rangiku pulled Shunsui back into the line, whispering something.
“Vice Captain Ise, it is the judgment of the Central 46 that you will be stripped of your rank of vice captain and remanded to the custody of First Division.  You will be held here to await further punishment on this matter at my discretion.  You will also receive judgment in the matter of Vice Captain Takahashi’s complaint.”
The room exploded in exclamations, objections, shouts.  Even Captain Kuchiki’s eyes were open and his brows drawn into a frown.  Nanao ignored it all, keeping her head up.  She removed her vice captain’s armband and walked forward with it.  “Yes, sir.  I understand.”  She placed the armband on the side table and turned to Vice Captain Sasakibe.  He courteously led her out of a side door and down towards the holding cells.
She could hear Shunsui calling her but she did not look at him, could not look at him.  What would he think of her now?  She couldn’t think about that or she might break down.  Her pride carried her out of the meeting room and down several hallways to the holding cells in the heart of First Division.
“If you could please give me your zanpakutō, Ise-san,” Sasakibe said as they arrived at her holding cell.
“Of course, Sasakibe-san.”  She pulled the tantō out of her sleeve and handed it to him.
“Your meals will be provided at appropriate intervals, and other services will be provided as needed.  Please inquire with the guard at the end of the hallway if you have any questions.”  Sasakibe left the cell and bowed slightly to her.
Nanao returned his bow.  “Thank you, Sasakibe-san.”
“I will return when there is news on your further punishment or a decision on the matter of the complaint.”
“Thank you, Sasakibe-san.”
And then she was alone in the cell.  She sat on the single chair and folded her hands in her lap.  For a short time, she’d had everything she’d ever dreamed of: her position in the Eighth, the respect of her peers, the friendships she’d treasured, and the love of Shunsui.  If it had all ended too soon, she could blame no one but herself.  She’d been fully aware of her actions when she committed the crimes in the command post.  What would Shunsui think of her?
She wrapped her arms around herself.  It was cold in the cell.  She’d never felt so alone.  Her pride cracked a little and a few tears escaped down her face, but she rubbed them away and straightened her posture.  Shunsui was sure to come to see her soon.  She didn’t want him to see her crying.  It would hurt him, and Nanao hated to hurt him.
But Shunsui didn’t come.  Instead it was Captain Ukitake who swept down the long hallway toward her cell.  It could have been minutes or hours later; Nanao lost all sense of time in the emptiness of the cell.  She dropped her eyes to hide her disappointment.
“Hello, Captain Ukitake,” she said.  She rose from the chair and moved towards the bars so it would be easier for him to see her.  It was dim in the cell.
“Hello, Ise-san.  Kyōraku wanted to come, but Yamamoto-sensei has forbidden him.  He was concerned that Kyōraku might act emotionally where you are concerned.”  Ukitake studied her face.  Nanao was not certain what he might see there, but she was too emotionally drained to try to summon an icy wall around herself.
She nodded, although she was not certain whether to believe Ukitake or not.  He was not the kind of man who told a lot of lies, but he was the kind of man who would try to spare her feelings.
“How are you, Ise-san?”  His voice was warm and gentle.  If he’d lost respect for her, it didn’t show.
“I’m fine.  Thank you for asking, Captain Ukitake.”  Nanao kept her eyes focused on Ukitake’s white hair and his captain’s coat.  Each was very bright in the dimness of the holding area.
“Ise-san, several of the captains submitted formal statements of disapproval regarding your punishment, and we intended to submit requests for reinstatement for you.  It isn’t fair that something like this should be decided without allowing you a trial or any defense from your captain.”
She looked up at him, surprised.  “Several captains?”
“There are some ethical objections to the order you were given, and some also feel that giving Ichigo Kurosaki a chance to fight was the most appropriate choice.  Having the Central 46 decide to destroy human souls is not something we can take lightly.”  Ukitake’s manner was still warm, but there was a darker thread running through his words.
“But that was the order I was given, and I did not follow it.  There was no need for a true trial or a defense because the facts were never in dispute.  I admit to my crimes.”
“But Ise-san, you must know that you have friends who want to help you.  Being stripped of your position for refusing an unjust order is something that we will fight for you.”
Nanao blinked several times.  “I don’t understand.  I admit to what I did.  I knowingly, willfully broke the rules.  That I should be punished for that now is only to be expected.  No one should get into any trouble over this, over me.  That isn’t what I want.”
Ukitake smiled at her.  “You won’t be able to stop your friends from trying to reverse this, Ise-san.  But I will assure you that we are acting within the confines of the law and through all proper channels.”
She nodded.  After a moment she spoke again.  “Please tell Shunsui—Captain Kyōraku—that there is a manual on his desk in the office that outlines all of the important or time-sensitive tasks that I do for the division and how best to divide the responsibility among the other seated officers.  This manual should be helpful in maintaining the division now, and when I am replaced, the person in my position should find it instructive.”
“Kyōraku isn’t going to replace you, Ise-san.  You are the vice captain of the Eighth.”
Nanao looked away, at the wall of her cell.
“You must have known about this for quite a while, to write a manual like that.”
“I was aware from the moment I acted in the command post that this outcome was likely,” Nanao said flatly.
“Ise-san—Kyōraku isn’t going to replace you.  We’re going to pursue this matter and get everything restored to the way it was.”
Nanao did not look at him.
“He wanted to come, Ise-san.  He was angry and upset to be forbidden.”  Ukitake was earnest, but Nanao turned and walked back to the chair, sitting.
“You’re very kind, Captain Ukitake.  Thank you for visiting me.”
“Ise-san—” he started, but stopped when she met his eyes.
“Thank you, Captain Ukitake.  Please tell Captain Kyōraku that I’m sorry for the shame I’ve brought to the division.  Please tell him I’m sorry for everything.”  She clasped her hands together in her lap and stared at them.
“Ise-san, we’re going to get you out of here.  We’re going to fix this.”
Nanao did not speak.
Ukitake sighed, long and low.  “We’re going to help you, Ise-san.  Please rely on your friends for now.  Kyōraku will see you as soon as he can get permission from Yamamoto-sensei.”
“Goodbye, Captain Ukitake.”  She raised her head, her face carefully blank.
Ukitake looked like he wanted to continue to argue several points, but eventually he said, “Good night, Ise-san,” and swept back down the hallway.
She stared at her hands in the dim light of the cell.  This time when the tears came she let them fall unchecked.  Shunsui was not coming.  He would not ask her to marry him today; he would never ask her again.
Shunsui pushed away from the wall he’d been leaning against outside the First Division gate when Ukitake emerged.  “How is she?” he asked, falling into step with his friend.
Ukitake sighed.  “She was cold, polite, and distant.  She looked tired.”
“Did you tell her why I didn’t come?”
“Yes.” Ukitake’s face was neutral, but they’d been friends for too long for that to fool Shunsui.
“But what?  Tell me, Ukitake.”
“I don’t think she believed me, or—I’m not sure, but I think she wanted to see you.”  Shunsui had already turned around when Ukitake grabbed his arm.  “Be smart, Kyōraku.  Yamamoto-sensei has Ise-san’s fate in his hands, and we’ve already pressed his patience to the outer limit today with our arguments and the statements of disapproval.  We’ll do the requests for her reinstatement and talk to Yamamoto-sensei tomorrow.  She’s safe in the First Division.  It’s better for her if you don’t try Yamamoto-sensei’s temper.”
Shunsui reluctantly turned away from the First Division.  They walked toward Ukitake’s house at Ugendō, though Shunsui did not particularly care where they went.  Yama-jii had refused to let him see Nanao and Ukitake had convinced him that it was best for the moment to go along with the old man, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.  “What else did she say?”
“I told her we were working on her behalf, and she tried to refuse it.”
“Stubborn Nanao-chan.”
“She said that she’s left a manual to running the division on the desk in your office, and that it would help keep things going now and for her replacement.”  Ukitake paused to cough a little, and Shunsui waited for the spell to pass.  There was no blood, so it didn’t seem too serious.
“There’s not going to be a replacement for Nanao-chan.”
“I told her that, Kyōraku.  I made everything as positive as I could.  She wouldn’t respond.  Ise-san asked me to tell ‘Captain Kyōraku’ that she is sorry for shaming the division and sorry for everything.”  Ukitake’s eyes were solemn as he watched Shunsui.
“No.  No to all of that.  She called me Captain Kyōraku?”  He felt something twist in his heart.
“I asked her to marry me yesterday.  And today it’s Captain Kyōraku?”  He rubbed his chest. 
“I’m sure she didn’t mean to be hurtful,” Ukitake said.  Shunsui would have smiled to hear his friend defend Nanao at any other time, but nothing could break his dark mood now.
“Of course she didn’t intend to hurt me.  Nanao-chan cares about me.  Captain Kyōraku.  That many steps back—and she didn’t come to me about this—” He sighed, rubbed one hand over his face.  “Damn it.”
“She’s in a scary position.”
“I have to see her tomorrow.  Whether Yama-jii consents or not.  That I have to leave her in a holding cell tonight is bad enough.  And it’s not even at the Eighth, where I could stay with her.  She has nightmares.”
“I’m sorry, Kyōraku.”  Ukitake studied his profile.  “Will you be alright?”
“I’ll be alright when Nanao is alright.”  Shunsui shook his head.  “I didn’t even suspect it was something on this scale.  I assumed the complaint was bothering her and that I could easily deal with that for her when Yama-jii lifted the confidentiality.”
“To have suspected this would have required knowledge about the soul-destroying machines that we didn’t have until today.  I can’t believe something like that has been created, and that we considered using such technology.  But you’ve done everything you could.”
“She carried this secret alone for weeks.  I should have dug harder.  I should have gotten her to tell me after we fought about the complaint.”
“If you’d gotten her to tell you by breaking her pride and using her feelings for you against her, what would the cost have been?  Something like that could destroy a relationship.”  Ukitake could be right, but Shunsui couldn’t be eased by his words.
“What I could have done or should have done doesn’t matter now.  Where are we on the requests for reinstatement from the other captains?  Is the Eleventh Division going to be a problem?”
“Yachiru-chan has promised that Captain Zaraki’s request will be delivered to the First tomorrow morning.”
“Oh?  How did you manage that?”  Yachiru was nearly more unruly than her captain.
“Apparently she’s quite fond of Ise-san through their association with the Shinigami Women’s Association.”
“Nanao-chan has more friends than she thinks,” Shunsui said, and nearly smiled at the thought.
“Indeed.  There are a few people at my house working on their requests.  I’ve had dinner prepared as well.”  Ukitake slowed as they reached the gate to Ugendō. 
“Toshiro-kun and Hisagi-kun will be here?”
“Yes.  And Matsumoto-san as well.  She’s promised to get the Third Seat of the Fifth Division to write a request, since Hinamori-san is incapable at the moment.”
Shunsui nodded.  “If this doesn’t work, we’re going to do things my way.”  Shunsui walked up to the door of Ukitake’s house.
“If this doesn’t work, we’re going to have a lot of new problems,” Ukitake said, and went to greet his guests with a smile.

On to Chapter 33.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 18th, 2011 04:43 pm (UTC)
Such a great chapter. You are a master of suspense. So scared to read this at times. Poor Nanao. But things will work out I hope. Go Shun and save your girl! Like the stuff in the previous chaps addressing Lisa. Most just have her magically appear which is just weird. No matter how close people WERE they have to get to know each other again. I hope to see her though. Can't wait till the next update.
Oct. 19th, 2011 03:18 am (UTC)
Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you're enjoying this story. ^_^ There has to be some conflict and suspense, but hopefully the story will be satisfying for people in the end. I wonder what will happen with the Vizards in the manga, if we'll see them again at all?
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )