Byakuya dipped his brush into the ink bottle. Drawing it out carefully he placed the tip of the brush onto a piece of mulberry paper, and using smooth, long strokes painted the kanji for honor. He looked at his work, and with a satisfied nod put the paper aside to dry. He contemplated either taking a long walk or retiring to his chambers a little earlier than usual. After a moment's hesitation he slid the door open letting the cool summer breeze inside. It was a beautiful summer night. The full moon shone brightly bathing the Kuchiki manor in a soft yellow glow. Stepping outside he followed the path that led to his magnificent koi pond, and out of the estate. The moon cast long shadows as Byakuya walked past the 6th division barracks. He couldn't help but contemplate the events of the past few days that took place in Seireitei. After Aizen's betrayal soul society was left in disarray. Buildings were destroyed, the crumpled heaps of cement lying in a pile, the fourth division quarters were filled with the injured, and three captains needed to be replaced. Yet, despite the events that took place, the atmosphere in Seireitei was far from depressing. Preparations were being made to restore damaged property, members of the fourth division were working around the clock healing as many of the injured as they could, and the members of the other division have started training rigorously. Somehow the incident of Aizen's betrayal had left Seireitei with a fierce determination and a sense of togetherness that wasn't present before. Even Byakuya admitted that he felt different. After that battle with Kurosagi Ichigo, he opened his eyes to the important things that needed to be protected. It was after the battle that day, when Byakuya lay wounded in the stretcher that he remembered the promise he had made with love.
Byakuya, lost in thought as he usually would be during his long evening stroll was startled back to reality when he heard an unpleasant grunt. The woods in this part of the forest were quite thick, casting ominous shadows on the dirt path. Byakuya knew that if he kept walking through the thicket, the path would unwind and lead to a grassy open space. It was a beautiful open space with cherry blossom trees sparsely scattered around. The grass was lush and greener in these part of the woods with a waterfall cascading into a small pool of clear water. As Byakuya made his way through the opening, he saw a man with fiery red hair bent over panting heavily. He was wearing only a hakama, the top of his shihakusho lay in a crumpled pile at the foot of a nearby tree. The beads of sweat trickled along his toned, muscular body. Dark tattoo's snaked along his body in intricate patterns glistening in the moonlight.
" Is that all you've got?" taunted a voice.
Byakuya took his eyes off the man who he had come to realize was none other than Abarai Renji. A white baboon, with a snake for a tail was standing across from him, glaring with yellow eyes.
"No," rasped Renji.
" You sound as if you have been defeated," said the baboon solemnly.
" NOO," barked Renji.
" Let's try again shall we. You can't possibly think of beating Kuchiki Byakuya at the level you're at."
Byakuya felt as if he had walked in on something he shouldn't have. He knew that Renji had dedicated his entire career to surpassing him, yet the thought of that made him feel uneasy. He watched behind the bushes as Renji's zanpakuto spirit disappeared inside.
"Howl Zabimaru!" roared Renji. Renji's zanpakuto switched into its shikai form. It was a menacing looking blade with seven sharp protrusions attached from each segment. Using one of the nearby trees as a target Renji swung his sword. The tip of his sword barely grazed the tree as Renji quickly dashed to right, and aimed at the exact same spot. This time, Renji quickly pulled back just as the sword was about to touch the bark. Byakuya stared in awe at Renji's accuracy. He never really cared much for training subordinates and while he was aware of Zabimaru's abilities, this was the first time he had watched his vice captain train. Renji's movements were superbly fluid as he deftly pulled his sword back and aimed for the third time. Byakuya watched carefully; the way Renji swung his powerful body forward, allowing the zanpakuto to act as an extension of his arm, the way the zanpakuto shot forward with its whip like motion, and just as it was about to graze the bark, Renji pulled back with incredible precision. Zabimaru returned to its original form as Renji sheathed his sword. He wiped a sheen of sweat that had gathered on his forehead, and pulled his hair tie out. He shook his head and a sea of red flooded down his back. Running his fingers through his long, thick hair Renji lifted his head towards the moon, enjoying the cool summer breeze that ruffled his hair. As Renji's fingers made their way to untie his hakama Byakuya turned away flushing very slightly. He was certain that Renji was going to take a swim in the pool. Having intruded enough on the young man's privacy Byakuya turned away and quietly walked back to the Kuchiki estate.