Winter has come to the Seiretei and with it, different challenges. Shunsui is sick with the flu (instead of a hangover). Due to this he doesn’t immediately catch on when his roommate, Jyushiro is pushing his body farther than is healthy. Sometimes, lessons have to be learned the hard way.
The chime of bells scattered throughout the academy hallways, slipping into classrooms and cutting into conversations. It carried all the way to the courtyards and training fields. Lectures came to a quick close as everyone began departing with the dismissal. Spars came to a standstill.
In Jyushiro’s kido class, it cut off the next round of firing. All the students paused, glancing warily to their stern-faced sensei. One wrong move and they’d be forced to stay and continue the draining task for who knows how long. Jyushiro could feel the burn just like everyone else. And a frigid, not to mention long, winter day in the Seiretei had left him drained in more manners than one. Actually, he reconsidered as a gust of freezing air snuck through the door pane, it had been a long week.
“Where do you think you’re going?” The voice demanded in a somber boom. Everyone’s eyes shot to the student who’d dared make a move, Senri Itoke. No one else dared to move. The noble, new to the academy and its ways, made a face before clearing his own expression. But he never quite met Takhoshi-sensei’s piercing gaze.
“The bell went, and I have tutoring to do for another class, sensei. I’ve already been late this week, sir.” The teen responded smoothly. Jyushiro leaned back on his heels as he prepared himself for the incoming onslaught.
“Yes, I hear you’re quite the tutor. I believe then Senri-san you wouldn’t mind beginning the next set of kido? I’m sure everyone would appreciate the demonstration. Besides, you’ve already been late once, a second time shouldn’t matter.” Itoke’s lips tightened marginally and Jyushiro could see the faintest of tightenings in the muscles of his shoulders. “Well? Begin, Senri-san.” Their sensei urged exaggeratedly. A muscle jumped in Senri’s jaw, but he stepped back and moved to the front of the line. The chant was quick and to the point before Itoke’s reiatsu spiked. Light flashed, shot out of his palm and the target was burnt to a crisp.
Then everyone else followed.
Itoke never tried to leave again after that, but he stayed silent and stone-faced as the class completed several more rounds of practice. By the time their teacher called for them to stop, everyone was panting, warm with sweat edging along their foreheads. No one had the energy to rush out of the room at their dismissal.
As he made his own way out of the room, his name being called, pulled Jyushiro to a stop. He turned on his heel and nodded to his sensei, parting from his peers and approaching him. Tahhoshi-sensei’s face was still stern, any emotion tucked away, but he’d lost the sense of mocking and annoyance he’d portrayed to Itoke, who had been one of the first to leave the doors once given permission.
“Sir?” Jyushiro inquired warily. He had to admit, he was itching to leave as well, he’d already asked Hiro-sensei if he could use the room for training after his classes finished.
“You are roommates with Kyoraku-san, correct?”
“Where is he?” This is the third time in a row he has missed an entire day of classes.” Now, Jyushiro clued in as to why his teacher was so peeved. He rubbed his arm idly.
“Shunsui has actually been sick, sir. He caught the flu that’s been going around. I thought he notified the office? He’s been bedridden.” The teenage shinigami cut off when Takhoshi’s expression darkened and disbelief shone clearly through his expression. He rushed to explain further and, with Shunsui’s reputation, it was no easy task. “Sir I didn’t believe him either. I forced him to visit the infirmary and Unohana-senpai was the one who said it was the flu.”
Jyushiro nearly let out a breath of relief when his sensei’s expression softened and relaxed from anger once Unohana’s name was mentioned. For all his vices and flirting, Shunsui could never get anything passed the strong-willed medic.
“Very well,” the sensei began. “Since he hasn’t I will notify the other teachers that Kyoraku-san is on bedrest until he returns to his classes. I appreciate your time, Ukitate-san.”
“Of course, Takhoshi-sensei.” Jyushiro bowed quickly before stepping back pulling on his hanten and leaving the room out into the cold air.
Outside he allowed himself to let out an amused chuckle. “Well, there goes Shunsui’s plans of skipping out on school for other activities once he feels better,” he mumbled to himself, still laughing slightly. Then a gust of wind distracted him as it shot straight into his lungs. He found himself bent over coughing for the next minute or so as he attempted to breath again. Every wracking cough hurt more than the last. Once it finally passed, he shook his head with a groan, running a hand through his hair. Thankfully, he already knew quite easily with his senses, there were no other reiatsu present. No one to baby him.
Another breeze reminded him of how cold it was. The stone walkways had been meticulously cleared of snow and ice with every snowfall. While it wasn’t at its worse for height yet, the snow was building. He tugged his covering tighter over his shoulders and began working his way to Hiro-sensei’s training hall.
The heat that met him within the halls of the dojo was welcoming. It immediately began working the chill off his skin. Jyushiro shook off any snow and toed off his shoes before he entered the training room pausing to give a low bow of respect to the dojo as he did so. He bowed slightly once more as he caught sight of his sensei, receiving a nod in return. He removed his covering and hung it among several others. Stepping fully into the room, he also began stepping into the mindset he needed to train.
He picked up a familiar bokken. When first entering the academy, most were assigned practice blades to keep in their room. Upper classes, especially with Hiro, tended to assign specific blades they could keep in his dojo. This one was as familiar to the student as his real blade.
Finding a spot off to the side where he set up a straw target, Jyushiro began a few basic warm-up exercises. He ran through the basic overhand strike, then vertical, then blocks. All separately as his body reheated from the cold walk here. The motions were smooth and familiar as Jyushiro immediately began finding his mistakes and working out any stiffness in his motions. He made quick work through his suburi and kata with ease. Before long, he moved on to putting it all together.
The familiar routine calmed him. And Jyushiro ignored the painful pressure in his chest from the recent coughing fit. Every winter this tended to happen, everyone got sick and his own illness became increasingly aggravated. It meant his limits were shortened and pushing them always made his doctors nervous. Yet it only managed to frustrate Jyushiro to no end. Another heavy overhead strike made contact with the straw target. But the straw was packed hard together, well made and not open to giving away. It managed to send stinging pain through Jyushiro’s arm when his distraction cost him in some level of technique. It hurt.
A curse shot out under his breath and Jyushiro backed up. He felt oddly unsteady. His arms were already screaming at him. With a quick glance around the dojo he discovered all the other students training before had disappeared and the winter sky was already darkening as the sun disappeared and large snowflakes began making their way down from silver lined clouds.
His hands ached anew and Jyushiro dropped his bokken. WIth a grunt he realized some of the skin had broken along his hands.
Cold from the weather and dry from the lack of care, he’d cut them open in some places. Another sigh slipped from the young shinigami’s lips, which, now that he took the chance to notice, were dry as well. Recalling some his homework he’d received from theory classes Jyushiro grudgingly decided it was time to call it. Especially since he’d spaced out enough that he wasn’t sure how long it had been. Hopefully Shunsui hadn’t attempted to run-off if he was feeling better, he didn’t feel like hunting him down to make him do the work he’d gotten for Shunsui as well.
Jyushiro returned everything to its proper place and made his way back out onto the walkways, which were snow-covered once more.
As it turned out, Shunsui had spent most of the afternoon vomitting and hadn’t been able to realistically consider leaving his place on his futon. But the fever he’d had previously had broken, so once Jyushiro inconspicuously wrapped up his hands , he settled them down at the desk sitting seiza with papers spread out around them, and a bucket just in case.
“Jyu-chan you truly take no pity on the sick, do you?” the dark-haired teen groused. He’d been doing so under his breath for the first ten minutes. Even though any question he came across and actually read, he finished within minutes. This was the first time he truly spoke up about it when he leaned back, one arm wrapped around his aching stomach and staring aimlessly at the ceiling. Shunsui glanced over when Jyushiro snorted loudly and raised a pitch black brow at his roommate. Always a contrast to stark white hair. Shunsui grimaced slightly before his face relaxed into an indolent expression. “Okay, bad choice of words.”
“Mmhmm,” Jyushiro murmured in agreement. “Something else to add to you nearly getting me in trouble today.”
Shunsui balked. “How could I’ve gotten you in trouble? I never even left the room today!”
“Yes, exactly why I’m surprised, you’re truly accomplished.” The white-haired shinigami continued. Annoyed though his manner seemed, there was no bite to his words.
“Are you gonna explain anytime soon, Jyu-chan?”
“Mmm, Takhoshi-sensei questioned me about your absence.”
“That stick in the mud?” Shunsui demanded rhetorically. “Okay, yeah, fine I can’t disagree now. At least you said almost, right?”
“True. Oh and by the way, he plans on notifying the other teachers that you are on bedrest until returning to class.”
The meaning behind Jyushiro’s amused words didn’t take more than a second to come to Shunsui’s mind and he groaned. This time, the lazy soul’s tortured attitude only made Jyushiro laugh. The humour left him when Shunsui became distracted by his stomach. It also meant he missed the way Jyushiro’s laughter cut off abruptly to stop the cough he could feel building. Pushing it off as much as he could, he went over to where Shunsui was now bent back over the bucket, not that he had much content left in his stomach to put out.
Once the vomiting was over, Jyushiro proceeded to move Shunsui back to his futon, much to the other shinigami’s chagrin. With Shunsui re-settled, Jyushiro quickly excused himself to clean out the bowl in the bathroom.
In the other room, alone because it was now becoming late into the night, Jyushiro managed to make it through rinsing out the bowl before his body was sent into a violent coughing fit. He quickly brought himself to his knees to avoid collapsing into the sink. That was the last coherent thing he could consider before he was lost in fighting for breath. Again, recovery eventually came and he was able to bring himself back up onto his feet. He stared into the mirror for a moment then glanced down at his shaking hands. He stared at them until his fingers finally stilled and he felt like he had control over his breath once more.
Then he silently returned to his room where Shunsui had managed to fall into a fitful sleep. He replaced the bowl beside and took his place in his own futon.
Days went by where Jyushiro found himself caring for Shunsui or in the dojo more often than not. His roommate enjoyed soaking up the attention Jyushiro so rarely handed out to him. Kind and giving to those around him, he was still easily distracted with things that needed to be done. Rarely did he take care of Shunsui, mostly because of his trust in the shinigami. Jyushiro believed Shunsui could take care of himself, so he left him to do so. A bittersweet realization for Shunsui everytime he thought of it.
Shunsui was beginning to recover now. His constant vomiting had subsided, now his stomach was simply uneasy and he was careful about what he ate. He’d probably return to classes tomorrow. Only because Jyushiro insisted. Besides that, their room was getting boring. It wasn’t that he was much more behind than he’d already been thanks to Jyushiro’s insistence.
Shunsui paused for a moment in eating some soup that Mika-chan had been kind enough to bring him. Jyushiro had been off lately. Classes were already well over, but he hadn’t been back to the room yet. Normally Shunsui would’ve assumed he was doing some study group or tutoring. Except that Mika had informed otherwise. Shunsui’s roommate hadn’t been at study groups lately, in fact he’d been going to Hiro-sensei’s halls and trained in the dojo everyday after school. To Shunsui’s shock he’d been doing it quite a bit before he’d even gotten sick. And Jyushiro would stay there for several hours. Until everyone else was gone, then he’d come back.
He’d been more frail lately though, Shunsui had been able to sense it in his reiatsu. Shunsui avoided commenting because while the two of them were becoming close, speaking of Jyushiro’s illness was usually a mistake. The white-haired soul never became openly hostile, it wasn’t in his nature. But it was the way his reiatsu would begin to thrash, like waves in a storm. The first time Shunsui realized why it happened, he stopped bringing it up.
Now he was worried. Pushing up from the desk, Shunsui decisively threw on his hakama and top followed by his hanten for the cold.
Then, as his anxiety began to spike, he shunpo’ed off and on the distance to the dojo.
Outside, he could sense no other reiatsu, no traces either which meant the dojo had cleared out awhile ago. Except for one, Jyushiro’s. And it didn’t feel right by any means. He barely thought of getting rid of his coat and shoes, out of respect and tradition, he did it naturally. There, in Jyushiro’s favored place to spar, he was lying unconscious on the mats. Shunsui’s breath caught and he was moving before he consciously decided to. A bokken was lying on the floor by Jyushiro, but tossed slightly to the side. Lying on his side, unconscious Jyushiro was still struggling to breath as blood fell from his mouth in a stark line. Splatters of the scarlet liquid were scattered along the mats near Jyushiro.
Barely able to consider much more, Shunsui was already gathering Jyushiro’s tense form in his arms and moving towards the infirmary. As he shunpo’ed into the main entrance, he was already shouting for help.
By the time Jyushiro came fully back to for the first time he was in his room, Shunsui had already had the situation of what happened to Jyushiro in the winter and had come to his own conclusions about why his friend had pushed the way he had. Because that’s what he’d done, trained so hard his body simply collapsed to have a chance for recovery.
Jyushiro’s bright green eyes appeared slowly out from behind eyelids heavy with sleep. His body ached faintly. But it didn’t compare to the ache in his lungs and with every intake and outtake of air. When he found Shunsui staring down at him with a sardonic expression on his face, he didn’t bother holding back a groan. And couldn’t hold back the wince of pain it caused him.
“I’ve found a new appreciation for my own laziness,” Shunsui began languidly. “I tell you, I’ve never ended up bedridden from, over exertion.” The emphasis on his last two words were pointed directly at Jyushiro, along with a steady glare. A glare that couldn’t hide the remaining concern and worry still bogging down Shunsui.
Returning the glare weakly with interest, Jyushiro pushed himself into a sitting position, appreciating silently that Shunsui made no move to assist. He rubbed his face in his hand as he finally recalled the pain that had taken over his body in the dojo. The panic he felt when his breath began closing up faster than he was accustomed. His body giving out beneath him when the strain became too much.
He was an idiot.
And Shunsui said as much. He stepped closer to his roommate, but remained standing.
“You’ve been out for a bit so I’ve had time to think this through. So every winter, it’s a bit harder to breath, huh? My guess is whenever that happens you can’t train as much. And as a result you feel like you lose a bit of strength every time. This year you decided you’d beat that by training your body to the limits. All because of extra hindrance due to your lungs.” All the while Shunsui had stared out the window of their room. And when he finally looked down and met Jyushiro’s gaze, the white-haired soul found himself wishing he hadn’t, but he refused to look away. “So tell me, am I close, Jyushiro?”
Before he could think much of it, Jyushiro found himself looking away, down into his lap. There, he was shocked once again by the appearance of his hands. Normally surprisingly smooth for a swordsman, they’d completely dried up, parts of his hand and fingers had split open and there was still dried blood along his hands. How much had he been pushing his body and not caring for its needs? Still, he couldn’t help the mumble, “I may be ill, but I’m not inadequate.”
He’d missed Shunsui moving because suddenly he was surrounded by the laconic student’s warmth and reiatsu. He was kneeling by him with Jyushiro’s hands gently in his. Without a word, he’d dipped Jyushiro’s hands in a bowl of warm water making him hiss and wonder how he’d managed to collect all of this without his noticing.
The water was pleasant, but also emphasised every crack and ache in his palms. When he was finally able to stretch his fingers under the water, Shunsui pulled them out and began drying them off with a towel, careful with every touch. Then he was reaching into a jar that smelled of shea butter and spreading the oily substance across Jyushiro’s hands. All the while, Jyushiro felt no hint of pain.
“I never said that, Jyu-chan, don’t go putting words in my mouth. If anything being sick gives you a different advantage over any of us, empathy and a will stronger than any I’ve ever seen.” Jyushiro tensed at the subject. But any reply was caught in his throat at the words spoken.
“The problem is that you’re solution to it was bad. Working is good, but working too hard isn’t, it can take its toll on the mind and body. Just like being lazy isn’t all that great for work ethics, as you’ve said to me a million times. But it’s also important to take that time for rest. To recover and take a break.” Shunsui’s hands were amazingly warm and soothing against his skin. His words were shaking Jyushiro to the core. It was so shocking he found himself laughing.
He leaned over and fell into full-bodied laughter. It paused when he glanced up and saw Shunsui’s face, brows furrowed and face twisted in confusion. Then he noticed the tears coming to Jyushiro’s eyes and the twinge of emotion when the young shinigami spoke.
“Of anyone to give me advice on this, it was you, Shunsui. Not to mention, all these years and you’re the first to ever catch me on exactly what I was doing and why.” He sighed and let out a few coughs. “Yes, I’m an idiot, and I’m taking advice from my love-obsessed fool for a best friend.”
Shunsui shook his head at Jyushiro’s manner but joined in with a chuckle of his own as he finished wrapping up Jyushiro’s fingers, “Does that mean you’re going to listen to me?”
“Mmm, since you’re right, I don’t have much choice do I?”
Shunsui shrugged, leaning his head from side to side for a moment a nonchalant expression returning to his tanned features. A teasing smile turned up his lips “No, I don’t believe you do.”
Shunsui’s tanned fingers cradled Jyushiro’s gently in his own. Soothed and bandaged, his callused fingers moved carefully along them. Jyushiro’s dark-haired roommate lifted them slowly. He placed a soft deliberate kiss on the back of those pale, damaged hands. All Jyushiro could do was watch, mature as he could be, he wouldn’t ever admit to the flush of red that spread across his cheeks. He definitely wouldn’t admit the way he ached to feel those lips on his own.
In his own thoughts, he never considered how long Shunsui kept his face downward, didn’t look up at him. Shunsui was too proud to admit that he of all people, always playing around with pretty girls, was blushing more than he ever had before.
They spent the rest of the day sitting around. Jyushiro had to admit, it felt nice. His body was still screaming at him for the over-exertion he’d placed upon it. A relaxed atmosphere and allowing the time to rest, along with Shunsui’s presence. He wouldn’t be stuck with bed rest for too long, he was too stubborn. He’d take it while he had the chance though. Shunsui’s teasing included.
Suburi refers to cutting exercises
Kata refers to forms in kanjutsu
Hanten is a short winter coat, it began to be worn during the Edo period
Lesson number 1: Work is good in moderation, too little can turn to laziness and too much can become wear on the body. Both are unhealthy.
Until next time,