Chapter 2: A Denial

"Sorry," Asuka hissed, suddenly very much focused on Wanatabe as the man fiddled with a bar of dry ink, "what did you say?"

"'Sorry, you're dead now.' As in gone, kaput, dead. A spirit," Wanatabe chirped as he dug around in a bag on his lap. "You're not going back home. Only shinigami can visit the World of the Living and those sons of bitches are snobs. Stupid the whole lot of them. No one sensible likes them. Might as well not even think about going back home."

Asuka had already been frustrated since she woke up and her patience was currently fraying. Her parents had always wondered where her short fuse came from. Her parents, who this crack case smacking his hand against the bar to call for Wilfred, claimed that Asuka couldn't go back to see again.

Okay, Asuka didn't believe him at all. Originally she had given Wanatabe the benefit of doubt since she had never laid eyes on the man before, but no one said something like that without a straight face and certainly not with the childish glee that he was leaking. Chugging back the rest of her drink furiously, Asuka slammed the ceramic cup onto the bar and rounded on Wilfred as the bartender arrived to take Wanatabe's order.

Wilfred arched an eyebrow at her obvious anger and smirked. Before Asuka could get a word in edgewise, he cut in, "Gee man, did ya have to tell 'er the whole damn bombshell? I told you t' stop doin' that. And what do you want, eh?"

"The usual," Wanatabe remarked, ignoring the glares Asuka was shooting him with. He flipped through his book to an empty page. "And what's the problem with telling the newcomers they're dead now? Saves the trouble that would happen later if you didn't tell them."

Retrieving several bottles, Wilfred groaned. "'T's not that. The way you do it, 's what could use lots o' improvement. Stop chirpin' everywhere, damn it. Makes a man wanna clobber you over the head and beat you up for even openin' your mouth." He was also ignoring the fury radiating from Asuka.

Drinks were mixed together, then poured into a cup and slid to Wanatabe who smiled in thanks. The man never seemed to stop acting like an idiot. Downing the drink in a gulp, he gesture for more. He laughed. "I can take care of it, I tell you! After all, who's the one that goes around collecting stories, hm?"

"And who's the one that also keeps gettin' the black eyes and bruises? Not me," Wilfred snorted. "There's a reason why I asked fo' ya to let me do the talkin'. I can do it much better than you can."

"They do keep going for the face," Wanatabe sighed.

"Your face is stupid. It does need a good beatin' every 'nce 'nd a while. Can I get you a refill, sweetheart?"

Asuka nodded, her messy, black hair bobbing before her eyes. Loudly, she demanded, "What does he mean, I'm dead? I'm not dead, see, I've got a heartbeat, I'm breathing, and I can still throw a mean punch. There's no way this is real, dead people don't run around and act like doofuses. Dead people are, like, dead."

"'nd this is why," Wilfred groaned as he poured a refill for Asuka, "I tell you to let me do the talkin'. Or, hell, let Kuro do it, doesn't matter, snake lady c'n even do a better job than ya."

The bartender placed his elbows on the wood, chin resting in his left palm as he keep smirking at Asuka, their faces on the same level now. She glared at him over the rim of her cup, and noted that the smirk, while just as patronizing and coy, was looking strained and the cockiness didn't reach his eyes. He didn't quale from Asuka's peeved glare.

"I really haveta apologize fo' this dumbass. He's always too enthusiastic 'bout his work t' have tact with new Souls. 'nfortunately, he's right." Wilfred's voice softened. "Everyone 'ere's dead. You 'nd me. I'm so sorry. You really were too young t' come 'ere."

Shaking her head, Asuka replied, "I still don't really believe you. I honestly – I'm dead? No way, that's not possible."

"You got hit by a car, can't say I'm surprised you're dead."

Both Asuka and Wilfred whipped their heads around and glared at Wanatabe. He shrugged and helped himself to more alcohol. Wilfred ran a hand over his face and groaned again. Asuka thought she heard something along the lines of "'hy do I never kick 'im out 'f the bar" or something to that effect. Personally, Asuka just wanted to shove him out of his chair and then stomp on him while Wanatabe was on the floor.

"What did I say 'bout shuttin' up?" Wilfred hissed.

Wanatabe mimed zipping his lips but didn't stop smiling.

Still not convinced about the whole being dead business, Asuka prodded Wilfred's arm to get his attention. "You still don't have me on this whole dead thing. If I'm dead – which I think is complete boloney, by the way – then doesn't that mean I'm like a ghost? And ghosts hang around and haunt people. Not get shunted off to some bizarre old fashioned place."

Wilfred shook his head and smacked Wanatabe over the head before he could speak. "Thing is, sweetheart, that 'snt' 'ow it works. Most 'f the time, you die 'nd 'mmediately come to Soul Society. Some people straggle, but they're 'nusual. You die 'n Japan, you come to the Japanese Soul Society. Die 'n somewhere 'lse, ya go t' that Soul Society. 'his why I'm 'ere 'stead of the American Soul Society. Died 'n Japan and got sent 'ere. Could be worse, could 'ave been the British."

"I still don't believe you."

"Sweetheart, I'm sorry, really am. But we can't do anythin'," his face was sober, but then a grin broke through again, "Refill?"

Asuka nodded and Wilfred poured out more for her. Her mind was getting fuzzy, but she blamed the ridiculousness of her situation.

"Anyways," Wilfred glanced out a set of door that Asuka hadn't noticed earlier. Soft candlelight from outside illuminated a dirt street. He continued, "I think 't's time f'r you t' turn 'n for the night. Sun went down long time 'go. Ya 'member 'ere your room is?"

She nodded again and staggered out of her chair. Wilfred waved her off with a smirk before rounding on Wanatabe with a murderous look as Wanatabe tried to slip away without paying.

The din of the bar faded as she stumbled back up the stairs and down to her room, her door still left open. The events of the day were catching up on her and she felt exhausted. The two men she talked with, the perverted drunk did not count, were odd. Both always had a smile or a smirk on their face nearly all the time. Wanatabe was too cheerful though, and it put Asuka on an edge. His cheer was borderline insane. She liked Wilfred better, even with his odd slurring voice and calculating eyes and cocky smirk. Still, Asuka thought to herself as she flopped onto the futon and stared at the ceiling, there was no way she was dead. It was probably an elaborate front these kidnappers were using on her. Turning on her side and trying to get comfortable, Asuka bit her lower lip as she wondered about her family and friends. They probably had the police looking for her. And then she could go back home when she was found. Everything would be alright.

She didn't notice when exactly she fell asleep. Sleep came quickly even despite how she was only awake for an hour at most.

Asuka woke up and promptly wished she was still unconscious. If she thought the buzzing last night had been troublesome, then today was on par with the headache she had from her concussion a few years ago. Probably worse actually. Shifting deeper under her blanket, Asuka scrunched her eyes closed more. For a moment she was tempted to forget what happened the last time she had been awake or call it a dream, but the hard floor under her and the pounding headache was telling her that yes, she was still stuck with a bunch of kidnappers.

With a groan, she tried to will herself back to sleep. Footsteps and clatter in the hallway sent spikes through her head and did nothing to help her in her attempt for more sleep. Finally, she simply rolled out of the futon and surveyed her room. There was a drawer and bookcase tucked together in a corner and candles were fixed to the walls. A small mirror hung above the drawer. More bookcases lined the opposite wall from her. A small window let in some light past heavy curtains. Only one door led out from the room. She remembered this door from yesterday, this door led to the hallway didn't it?

Standing up, Asuka wandered over to the mirror and try to see how stupid she would look if she went outside in her current state. While her hair was normally a spiky bird's nest, it was even worse today, strands sticking this way and that and flopping over her bleary eyes. Her yukata had creases and a general rumpled appearance. Asuka grimaced and pinched her slightly hooked nose, then tried smoothing down her hair and clothing. She was going to need to obtain some other sets of clothing and take a shower. It wouldn't do to look like a mess in some random kidnapper's base.

Where the hell was a bathroom?

So much dialogue…