Prologue: Where the Blaze of War Ends and the Ashes Begin
(Chambers of Central 46, 200 Years Ago)
"Captains Yamamoto, you have been charged with various war crimes and crimes against humanity in the recent Quincy War. How do you three plead?"
The voice almost sounded disembodied but the three men, hands bound and standing in the center of a lone spotlight in the middle of the vast room, knew where it came from. The speaker was a man hiding behind a screen with the kanji for one painted in black on it.
They think these screens give them the allure of appearing mysterious but in reality it makes them look like cowards. Too scared and shameful to show their faces, to look at the person or people they are condemning. One of the bound men thought.
The slightly tallest of the three exchanged brief glances with the other two before speaking. "I believe I speak for my brothers when I say that it does not matter what we say because you all have already decided on the verdict."
That sent a soft wave of murmuring through the dim room. The murmuring was hushed though when the pervious wise man spoke again.
"You do have a valid point but even we are merciful. Is there anything at all that you three have to say in your defense?"
It almost sounded like the judge was patronizing them. He probably was, the men wagered, of course the judge couldn't outright mock them for that would be improper and beneath them.
The man in the center of the group cleared his throat and spoke, "We followed given orders. If you wish to punish us for being loyal soldiers then you men are nothing short of petty adjudicators who waste their time on small matters such as this."
"This is far from a small matter, Takehiko Yamamoto. While it is true that you and your brothers followed your orders on eradicating the Quincy you three took it a step too far. You had no reason to slaughter them in the manner that you did or partake in grotesque actions." Said another shadowed figure sitting behind a numbered screen.
"If I may disagree, that is a matter of opinion. Your definition of grotesque may differ from mine and if I may say my brothers and I were not told how we should go about killing them. Our means justified the desired end so why should we be punished for how we went about this?" Takehiko argued calmly.
Murmuring started up again amongst the judges. His brothers, standing on either side of him, kept their mouths shut. They knew Takehiko was the better speaker of the three.
"Your points may be valid but you three have still shamed the Gotei 13 with your actions and therefore must be punished. Captains Taiki Yamamoto, Yoshirou Yamamoto and Takehiko Yamamoto you are hereby stripped of your ranks and barred from ever being reinstated in the Gotei 13," the disembodied voice boomed.
The three men were lead out of the Central 46 Chambers by silent masked guards. The now former captains were released from their binds once they stepped out of the compound and their escorts departed.
"And here I thought we were going to get the death penalty for sure. Do you think Father had anything to do with that?" The eldest, Taiki, asked.
Takehiko scoffed, "As if Father would do anything to help us."
"That is true. The only one he ever helped was Kagayaki but she's dead now," Yoshirou added.
The former Third Division captain, Takehiko, smirked, "That was the only thing worthwhile that came out of this war. Her and those infernal fools she surrounded herself with are dead as well."
It's a pity I never got to even know who had killed my useless lieutenant and started this whole fiasco. I would have very much liked to have met them. The same goes for whoever it was that ended my wretched sister's life.
"What do you think will happen to Kagayaki's branch of the family?" Yoshirou's voiced what they were all thinking.
They may be brothers but they lived in a dog eat dog world and only the top dog had the luxury of surviving. The powers were evenly divided in the Yamamoto family but taking control of another's branch would tip the scales in that person's favor.
"I do not know. There is the likely chance that Father will take her branch and keep it until she is reincarnated and returns," Taiki replied.
As if Kagayaki being reincarnated would ever happen any time soon and even if it did she would be nothing more than a regular soul in the Rukongai. As if their dead as dust sister would ever come back and be of trouble to them again.
Takehiko scoffed at the ridiculous notion and shook his head.
In the First Division there is a small secluded almost secret garden though nowadays it looks more like an untamed jungle. The person who used to trim and tender to the plot of land had perished, in fact her headstone was in that garden. No one dared to care for the garden too much both out of respect for her and the man who now sat on a stone bench in said garden.
The man didn't wear his captain's haori or even his uniform but plain civilian clothing. But one could still clearly tell who this man was especially with the withered cane he leaned against. At this moment he was not the Head Captain. He was not even a Soul Reaper.
He was a father mourning the loss of his daughter.
She wasn't the only one that was lost but it was her death that struck him the hardest. A bright vibrant young woman whose life was snuffed out like a flame. In a way he was responsible for snuffing out her life. If he had listened to her and not done what he did then...
He sighed gruffly and clutched his wooden cane. He knew there was no point in thinking of what could have happened. The future may not be set in stone but the past surely was. His hands tensed again when he felt another presence intrude though this one was familiar and at times welcoming.
"Do you require something from me Lieutenant Sasakibe?" Yamamoto asked without turning around.
"I merely came to tell you the verdict of your sons' trial. They have been stripped of their rank and barred from every being reinstated. I assume you have an idea as to who wish to fill their places. I have also finished the funeral preparations for Captain Kagayaki Yamamoto and the others," the second in command said formally but gently.
"Very good and thank you. I believe Shunsui and Jushiro are ready for a captain's position as for a third candidate I'll decide on that another time," the aged man finished.
The lieutenant bowed but before departing her asked, "Is there anything else you would like for me to take care of?"
"No, not at the moment," Yamamoto said softly almost distractedly.
Sasakibe threw a concerned look at his superior. The last time Yamamoto was like this was when his wife passed away. He knew the firm man would return to his former self but it would be a long time until then.