All That Remains

Shin'o Academy
Though only three survived, the halls of the Fourth Division were overrun with officers, nurses, and gurneys. Rooms were filled with patients who would only have seconds more to live before they were pronounced dead. Black blurs of Shinigami constantly poured in and out of rooms, carrying bodies to and fro. Mostly fro. Mostly to be laid alongside the other dead bodies to be identified, cleaned, and then recorded.

Somehow, Hildr's wounds had been relatively minor. Shielded by the might of both Hazuki and Noboku, little had truly threatened Hildr's life -- even that run in with the Hollows during the mad escape. What wounds she did have were treated and then bandaged to heal on their own. Much to the relief of the overworked, exhausted Officer who had been tending to her, there would be no permanent damage.

The young boy had openly sobbed over Hildr's chest, thanking her over and over for surviving.

Even as she walked through the halls, she couldn't get the image out of her mind.

She had managed to catch one Shinigami between jobs, and was able to ask him about the person at the front of her mind. He breathed a sigh of relief, smiled, and then pointed towards the very end of the hall. The quietest part of the medical ward: where those in recovery were being held.

Hildr hurried down the hall, feet light and carried by the swelling excitement of the news. That she was alive. Well, even. She was resting and should be on her feet soon. In Hildr's hurry, she practically torn the door from its railing when she threw it open and stepped inside.

Though the room was filled with beds, each of them pristine and white, only one was filled. A woman sat upright, head turned towards the open window beside her. Locks of curly red poured around her shoulders, framing a delicate face and eyes tense with thought. It was only when she turned, startled by the suddenness of Hildr's arrival, that her matching, red eyes widened and sparked to life, jarred from those thoughts.

"Tachibana..." Hildr breathed her name. "You're..."

Alive. But the word choked in the back of Hildr's throat. Her eyes burned. Her chest clenched. Her stomach churned. All she could do was run across the room and, with little regard for the tender state of her teacher, she threw her arms around the other woman and squeezed her with all of her might.
Today, Nobuko’s hair hung straight down past her shoulders. It lack the natural curls and waves she typically work it with, instead brushed into compliance and allowed to hang free. She sat in the bed, partially wrapped in the white sheets, with thin, white robes to match. They clung snug to her body, firmly shut by a matching sash, as she looked out into the courtyard of the Fourth Division’s medical complex. Beyond her wind, hanging open on a wooden hinge, she watched as other patients—wounded on Earth, mostly—meandered about under the sun.

She never noticed Hildr until the young woman was upon her. Her eyes widened and head snapped to the side as the former student, still in the garb of the Academy, wrapped her arounds around her shoulders. For a moment, she hesitated, before she returned the embrace and brought their chests together.

“You’re well,” she spoke the obvious, her relief palpable. “I had heard from the Fourth, as well as Lieutenant Kikuchi and the Captain, but it’s…”

A slow, deep breath filled her chest as she held Hildr.

“It’s different, to finally see you,” she finished and the two women parted.

Nobuko’s eyes flicked up and down Hildr once, then twice, as if counting digits and limbs.

“Tsukimiya did well, just as I had been told.”

Her smile grew when she finally met Hildr’s eyes.

“And what did you call me? Tachibana?” Nobuko giggled quietly, visibly lighter a moment ago than when she looked out the window.

“I think we can say we’re beyond that, can’t we, Hildr?” Nobuko asked with a tilt of her head. “The Captain told me something else, too: You’re no longer my student, or anyone else’s.”

That smile softened, but only briefly. Then, she straightened her posture and pushed her hair back over her shoulders. She pulled a tie from the bedside stand next to her and put it all into a tail of raspberry red, before shaking her head to straighten it.

She added, quietly: “The Captain or Lieutenant usually says this, but I’ve always wanted to.”

Nobuko cleared her throat, head held high.

“Congratulations on your graduation, Hildr Kawasaki.”