Tite Kubo © Bleach
Beyond The Beyond
"This your adopted kid?" Kukaku grunted, staring down at me with a critical eye. Behind her stood a child a few feet taller than me and was built heavily: nevertheless, he was a child. "What's her name again?"
"Yeah, well, she's an odd girl."
"And she's a Shinigami?" demanded Kukaru. I stared at her curiously.
"Yeah, isn't it obvious by her appearance? Shinigami don't let people parade around in their uniform without severe consequences, y'know?"
Kukau rolled her eyes. "You and your Shinigami pride. Isn't she, y'know, a bit too young?" Judging from her tone, she was mocking her older brother. I liked people similar to her; I beamed adoringly up at her. "Okay... you'r right. She's weird."
"Don't you hurt her feelings," muttered Kaien, placing a hand on my shoulder and smiling down at me. "Why don't you play with Ganju? He's dying to show off his Sand Magic."
"Yep!" chirped the youngest Shiba sibling. He jumped forward. "'M Shiba Ganju, nice to meet'cha!" And he bowed.
I mimicked him clumsily. "Uh, Arisu."
"Run along, kids."
Kukaku wasn't rude to me, it was just her nature. I got along well enough with Uncle Ganju. I spent the weekends with them and Kaien mostly, learning Sand Magic, playing and learning Japanese. Kaien and I trained often, aided occasionally by Ukitake-taicho.
I really liked the white-haired captain; he was gentle and sick as heck, but I still liked him and preferred sparring with him to Kaien. Yes, I know my foster dad was a lieutenant but his strength didn't show it much. I wanted stronger opponents, those that could give me a challenge, and frankly, Kaien didn't fit the bill.
Sadly, I could only spar with my Zanpakuto against three people: Hitsugaya, Kaien and Ukitake. I wanted a larger variety of people to fight with, to better my techniques. But the risk of getting prosecuted before Central 46 was too great for me to simply ignore. I didn't give a damn about rules, but I certainly gave a damn about the three men mentioned above: they were risking their positions and necks to ensure my continued existence, how could I repay them poorly by getting myself persecuted?
No. Just no.
It surprised me to this day that they accepted me so readily. Me, who was so obviously different from them. Me, who was separated from them simply by the language barriers. Me, who reeked of suspicion and no clear background could be provided.
Of course, I knew they were watching me still, gauging my loyalties and threat level.
Over the years, I rose to the position as a third seat. Not one of my division members could question my skills anymore. Not after the inter-division battle royal (that was held illegally in the tenth division barracks but whatever, Hitsugaya didn't know and nothing was hurting him because he was unaware) between the 10th and 11th divisions where I partook and kicked the snot out of their asses.
Sure, they still gave me weird looks when I started babbling in English (mostly insults towards them but they couldn't know and some of them even SMILED as I laughed at them!) but I'd learned to brush it off now.
Then there was the matter of the Three Musketeers—an awesome nickname I gave to the Aizen-Gin-Tosen team. They were up to no good as usual, but I could avoid them like the wind!
I was often with Yachiru and Kenpachi, or Rangiku, or Kaien so there was no chance of either of them cornering me alone. Tosen gave me sweets occasionally, and he was sort of nice—if you ignore his "justice must be served" rubbish and after he showed his true colors. Aizen was also super-nice (but I took off running when I saw him anyway). Gin was plain creepy and the only one I could act normally around; because avoiding and being shaken by creepy guys was totally normal.
The years blurred and occasionally, they combined into one, dreary night where I woke up and wonder where the years had gone by.
I'd nearly forgotten the main plot until I heard from Hitsugaya that there was a mission issued: to find and retrieve Kuchiki Rukia alive.
. . .
Renji and I nearly collided in a painful heap on our way to the 13th Division. I stumbled but managed to regain my footing. He failed, arms windmilling and ended up falling back. I didn't bother asking whether he was alright, I doubted he would be injured by a small fall like that.
I threaded past him—careful to avoid stepping on his limbs—and knocked on the door to my foster father's office. The one he shared with his captain.
"Enter," came Shiba Kaien's gruff voice. He saw me and smiled, the gesture not entirely masking the weariness in his eyes. There were dark rings around his eyes. I think he had been very worried about Rukia. How had I not noticed it before? "Hey, Arisu. Give me a sec, okay? I need to finish this report—"
"Rukia," I prompted. "Mission to get her?"
Kaien's eyebrow twitched. But before he could say anything, the door flew open once more. "Abarai-kun—"
"Kaien-fukutaicho!" Renji yelled, cutting in before he could finish. Which was quite rude if I might add. "Please let me go with her!"
Kaien looked alarmed. "What? I didn't say Arisu can go!"
"I want to— I'm bored!" I winced after saying that. Even to myself, I sounded like a child. "Uh, no—me help a lot!"
"Actually," started Kaien. "I was planning on going myself. But... I guess retrieving an unseated officer would not be so demanding, right? I suppose you two can go. But let me finish this report, okay?"
I crouched, paced and generally pulled the annoying card to get Kaien to finish his work faster. On the third round, Renji seized my collar and lifted me off the ground. "Oi, brat, can't you stop being so annoying?"
My legs were long enough to kick his crotch but before I could go through it and show him who's boss, Kaien's voice cut in, "Renji, put my daughter down, she can't help herself. Children are energetic," inadvertently saving Renji from being forever childless.
Renji huffed. "Yes, sir." He put me down.
"Bet you frustrated." Renji cracked an eye open to glare at me. Sure, he towered over me but he would need a lot more to intimidate me. I smirked. "Girlfriend Rukia already found a new boyfriend. Lame dick. Someone got dumped. Boo-hoo."
"Arisu!" exploded Kaien, looking scandalized. His paperwork laid ignored as he gawked at me. "Where did you learn that?!"
"Ikkaku. Ken-chan. All of 11th Division." Renji's face was so red he could've made his hair look pink. I cackled as Kaien palmed his forehead, shaking his his head in utter misery. "Hurt Lobster's feelings. Boo-hoo, boo-hoo."
"Gah, you little—!"
"Arisu, Renji—OUT! This isn't a playground—argh!"
. . .
"Why is he here?" I hissed at Kaien. My foster father crossed his arms, looking utterly benevolent though his actions belied such. "I don't like that dick."
"Arisu, language," Kaien almost begged. I might just consider it.
I mimicked my father's stance and scowled up at Kuchiki Byakuya. Renji and I had beaten one another until we ended up in the 4th Division for treatment. He had to stay overnight while I only had to remain there for a few hours to mend my broken arm: the winner of the battle was so obvious it wasn't even funny. All of 6th Division must be incompetent for him to be able to make it as a lieutenant.
However, Kaien didn't share my sentiments: I should be the mission-leader since I was obviously stronger. So he'd asked Rukia's loving older brother to accompany us. I saw, from Renji's expression, that he disliked this arrangement as much as I but he did not complain and forced his face into one of indifference.
"Shiba-dono," Kuchiki Byakuya acknowledged, nodding politely to Kaien—who was the clan head of one of the Five Great Noble Clans and blah, blah, blah. (I hate this prick who thought he was way above me just 'coz he was born a noble). His grey eyes narrowed slightly at me. Kaien batted my hand away before I could flip him the bird. "I would appreciate it if you would tell your daughter to behave."
"I'm behaving!" I exploded.
"Arisu, he isn't trying to challenge you. Pipe down or you're not allowed to go."
I sidled over to Renji's side and sulked all the way to the Senkaimon, glaring daggers at Kuchiki Byakuya; I could see Renji's sour expression from where I was walking and I felt a fierce rush of empathy towards him at the moment.
I watched as the Kido-users prepared the gateway to the World of Living and wondered what were my chances of high-tailing it to the other side of the world to see my if I still lived in the same world as my old family. Twenty years had passed and while the chances were less-likely, one couldn't say die without trying, right?
My doubts centered about whether or this world had other countries. Karakura Town did not exist in the real world map. Besides, the number of souls in Soul Society did not even begin to compare to the number of human beings existing. I was guessing that those with religions went to the afterlives of their religions while Soul Society existed for those that had no real beliefs.
I wondered how I ended up here.
Kaien's voice drew me out of my reverie. He placed his hand on my shoulder and spun me around to face him; he had to crouch to look me properly in the eye though. "Alright, Arisu, I don't want you screwing anything up."
I scoffed. "Tell that to Lobster."
"I'll bring Rookie back," I chirped, patting Kaien's shoulder in reassurance.
"You won't cause trouble," intoned Kaien.
"You will not play truant and disobey Captain Kuchiki."
. . .
So, ditching those two was exactly what I did. I was undoubtedly faster than Renji even with weights on, and Byakuya had too much dignity and pride to chase after me like a disheveled nanny (that Kaien had hired once to take care of me). So I was scot-free.
"Woo-hoo!" I sped around the human streets, no real destination in mind, other than to soak in the sight of the human world. I'd missed these so much. As a Shinigami, all I ever did was patrol the streets of Seireitei, maintain the peace in the Rukongai and purify Hollows: there was barely anytime for enjoyment.
Being a Shinigami was essentially a lifetime of service; it was the highest honor there was but also the greatest burden. I couldn't even retire if I wanted to. If I did, it was a one-way ticket to Maggots' Nest. I wonder if I asked nicely, would Urahara Kisuke let me live at his shop along with the other outcasts...
I mean, where was the fun in working all day and for the rest of your (after)life? No wonder Shihouin Yoruichi ditched the Shinigami and joined her childhood friends in the Human World. I bet the chick was having fun.
Unintentionally, I found myself scouting for high-spiritual beings. It wasn't until I found myself in front of the shop that I realized what I was doing. Never one to be cowed, I walked right in. It was a redheaded boy that greeted me. "Welcome to Urahara-shoten!" he chirped, grinning. "We have a large number of merchandise, kid. Name what you want and we'll—"
"Jinta-kun," interrupted a soft voice, "that's a Shinigami."
That last word triggered and instant reaction: the two grown men that lurked in the depths of this store materialized almost immediately.
"Shinigami-chan?" chirped the Hats-n-Clogs himself, fanning himself, grinning a grin so wide it could've split his face. "Mah, it's been years since we last saw each other! What do you need, Arisa-chan?"
I stared. "You know me?"
The broad-shouldered and thickset, tanned-skinned man adjusted his glasses. "Arisa-dono, did the transition not go smoothly? What memories do you lack?"
"I can't believe you know me!" I cried.
"I can't believe you wounded me," Urahara laughed, pulling his kimono back slightly, revealing the top of a scar running from directly below his collarbone to beneath. Since there were kids, he did not strip to show me everything.
I did that? I wondered in a daze. I gripped my chin, other arm wound tightly around my slight torso. "This is odd," I murmured. "Urahara, do you know anything about these chains?"
His grey eyes fell onto the chains linking my wrists and ankles. "I thought we established that they are unmovable?" he said, not really answering at all. I glared. "You haven't changed much. Did twenty years dull so much of your memory?" He chortled.
Tessai frowned deeply, leaning over to his boss and whispered furiously into his ear. Urahara looked unperturbed though Tessai seemed ill at ease. "True, true," said Urahara, "this might be a trick of the Shinigami but Arisa-chan won't betray us. She'll be in even more trouble than we'll be in!"
Was that... an indirect threat? I knew this guy was dangerous but it had seem insubstantial before; to really confront him now seemed unwise. I had tons of questions but my Japanese was not perfect, I could not ask overly complex questions without giving myself away as a complete stranger in Arisa's body.
"These chains are... strong. Cannot let go," I stated.
I saw Ururu and Jinta exchanged confused glances. Twenty years ago, they hadn't been born yet, much less know anything about their employers. Tessai subtly herded them out: clearly, this was a conversation not for their ears.
Urahara's eyes were cast by shadows, his fan obscured the lower-half of his face but I could feel his assessing eyes on me. "I wanna know. My own good." I placed a finger to my lips. "No telling boss. Promise."
"You really don't remember anything?"
Urahara gave me a full-blown beam, no distrust in his eyes. "So you succeeded? Turned over a new leaf, did you? That's wonderful news, Arisa-chan," he said, sighing somewhat wistfully. Was it because he couldn't? "What's the new name you've chosen for yourself?"
I pursed my lips, processing the new information. Was he insinuating that he knew Arisa would lose her memories? He hadn't accounted for the fact that I had taken over. Or... or I was Arisa and this Arisu was actually a fluke, a memory that was implanted by this overly suspicious dude that you shouldn't even trust with your laundry.
My head was splitting; now was not the time to think whether or not I was Arisa or Arisu. Behind me, the sun was setting. Byakuya would probably be sending Renji after me. He may not seem like it, but Byakuya and Kaien were on-off, somewhat friends and they liked one another in Byakuya's own way: letting Kaien's daughter, foster or not, run wild in the World of the Living was not an option.
My time here was limited—what I needed was more time to speak to Urahara. Here was the man who finally, finally had answers I craved and I had no time.
"Arisu," I eventually answered. "I was adopted after that. Became a Shiba. New name's Shiba Arisu."
"That'd make you Isshin's grandniece, eh?" I blinked and he shook his head with a fond smile. "Never mind."
"Gotta go, gotta find Kuchiki Rukia. Stuck-up Byakuya and Stupid Renji're here, too." My library of insults was cropped full, really.
"Why, it sounds like you're tipping us off." His grin was sleazily sly.
"I am, in exchange for info." I thrust my the chains into sight. "Why they can't be broken?" I pursued.
Urahara stared at the chains then looked into my eyes. "You seriously want to know? After all you've done to forget it?" His tone was light, however, in the darkening shop and the notable absence of anyone but us, enclosed in this store, it was ominous.
"I WANNA KNOW!" I exploded, temper and patience running thin.
If Urahara didn't like how I was screaming at him, he did not show it. He fanned himself as he spoke, as if he was flustered but I sensed distinct amusement and wryness and an uncertain emotion I couldn't exactly place. "These chains are a part of the force of Jigoku that is incarcerating the Togabito that have committed unmentionable crimes and sinned so badly in their human lives that there are no salvation for them. They are nearly impossible to destroy. Which is why the chains on you is indestructible."
I stared. "English, please?" He frowned, confused. So, as much of a genius he was, he didn't know English. "Write it down," I demanded. "Please," I added as an afterthought. "Need to get my friend to translate. 'M not very good at Japanese."
Urahara's brows furrowed. "You did say you were half-Japanese. Oh, right, memory loss. Forgot about that. Hehe. Caught the pun?"
Five minutes later, I had left Urahara Shop and ten minutes later, was reunited with Byakuya and Renji as a Quincy leapt into battle to assist my target.
. . .
[A/N]: How many of you saw that coming? I hinted it in an earlier chapter. A movie character appeared deeply connected to Arisu, so the chains' origin would be revealed. Arisa's history will also be revealed in a few more chapters. More on Urahara and Arisa in the upcoming arc where Toshiro & co. are assigned to the World of the Living but feel free to make your theories.
Question: What sort of crime do you think Arisa committed?