Shinigami Are (Not) Always With You

Ren sat, seiza, in a small room only a few tatami wide. It remained barren of decoration, as it had always been, with only the supplies needed upon a small desk before him: ink, a brush, and something to stamp the symbol of Eighth’s Lieutenant into requisitions and personnel duty assignments. Sweat rolled down the exposed arms of his sleeveless uniform, the outer robe of black hung on a small hook on a wall. Similar beads hung to his brow, and the man idly scratched at the days-old stubble he often neglected to shave.

Behind him, beyond the somewhat thin walls, a gentle flow of water could be heard.

“Lieutenant Saito?” A young woman called out, her thin silhouette just on the other side of a sliding door.

He gestured her in. She slid the door open and stepped forward, black hair long enough to cover a single eye. She pushed it aside and tucked it behind an ear to clear her vision, only for it to fall back where it was shortly.

“It’s the Eig—” she started.

His eyes flicked in the direction she came from.

“Ryoji, is it?” He asked her, just to confirm. Though, he already knew.

He always knew the members of his Division, even before he saw them.

“Send him down, immediately,” he insisted as he rolled one of the pieces of parchment before him and set it aside. His dark eyes turned hard and steely as the young woman bowed, then stepped back out, shutting the door behind her.

After she left, he shifted parchment around and pulled out another. His eyes scanned across it, and he took in each detail of the character before him, unflinching. Even as a new silhouette reached the door, this one devoid of the grace of the former, he didn’t take his eyes off it.

This time, his invitation to enter was not wordless.

“Come, Ryoji,” he spoke suddenly, loudly. He rolled the parchment he had studied and set that one aside with the others.

When the Eighth Seat stepped in, Saito’s eyes leveled on him immediately. Anyone in the Division for long enough understood that thinly-veiled anger and frustration.

Many—likely, at least—knew the question that was to follow.

“Tell me,” he commanded.

“Did your assignments include speaking with the survivors of the Academy, or others within the Tenth?”