The man who has been the captain of the 5th Division for the past fourteen years stands at the edge of the promontory and looks down at the expanse of Seireitei before him. Red hair whips around his face like a windblown flame or a spray of blood.
His vice-captain advances on him from behind, her head held high and her steps sure and deft. She is tiny and he is tall, but when she raises her gaze to him, she regards him as an equal.
She speaks to him as an equal as well. More or less. "Put your hair up, you fool," she says. "Can you even see like that?"
There is an unasked question in her voice as well. He looks down, and for now, he doesn't even answer the question she did ask. Instead he says, "Didn't you say last night that you liked it down? Make up your mind, woman."
"There is a time and there is a place," she says. "This is neither." But there's something curiously hopeful about the way she slants her gaze up at him.
He sinks to a crouch, then to a sitting position. "This time," he says, "the word came all the way from the top. It's still a no." He hisses between his teeth. "Bastards."
She strides to the edge of the cliff, anger making her shoulders tremble slightly. Then she leans over and, very precisely, spits down at Seireitei below them. "Cowards. What are they so afraid of? Soul Society doesn't need these mindless fortifications and the endless fretting of the patrols. It needs him--and we are the ones who can find him."
She does not say I need him, but after a moment she folds slowly to her knees, and Renji understands what she doesn't say.
"There's got to be another way," he tells her, and they know it's a promise.