Shinju stood from serving the tea she had brought out and smiled at the man sitting at the table. "Your tea, Hiro."
"Thank you Shinju-san."
"Is there anything else I can get you?"
The older man sipped at the tea she had served him, wincing as the heat burned his lip. "No, the tea is plenty." He looked up at the beautiful woman, her chestnut brown hair cascaded over her shoulders in soft curls, it wasn't long but it was luxurious. She was average height slightly shorter than he was and full figured without being heavy. She was his dream woman. She was half his age, which in the Soul Society didn't mean much, he was still a young man by Soul Society standards, but he knew that her heart belonged to another, even if he didn't know who that was. His thoughts were disturbed by a scuffle outside the tea house she ran and he turned to look out the window.
Shinju also heard the scuffle and moved to the window to see what had caused it. There were some rogues on the street, they had apparently been running but were now laying on the street, dust rising around them from their fall, and there were two soul reapers leaning over them preparing to take them into custody. She couldn't see the soul reapers other than their backsides, which she reflected were pleasant to look at anyway, because they were back to her and leaning over the men. She sighed, there were more and more troublemakers moving into the district she lived in and she wondered if she would have to try and move again.
The soul reapers caught her attention again. She stepped out the door of her tea house and stood on the porch to see if she could learn more about their task. They were talking between themselves as if planning what their next move was. One of them was yelling at the men in the dirt but she couldn't hear what he was saying. She took in their uniform, the black shihakusho common to them, she took in the white band on the arm of the man on the right, recognizing that it signified he was the ranking officer. As they stood her breath caught in her throat, it couldn't be, could it?
Her mind drifted back to another time. She had been sleeping peacefully in her bed when there was a terrible screeching outside her window. She sat bolt upright in her bed only to see the most horrific thing she would ever lay eyes on. A creature rested outside her second story window, it's eyes glowed with a hunger as it watched her. It's head seemed to be covered in a skull like mask and when the jaw opened to screech again she saw another, smaller jaw inside. "You'll be a yummy snack, you puny human!"
Shinju screamed and scrambled away from her window to the far wall just as the frightening beast punched through her wall shattering the window in an effort to grab her. She took in her options for escape, the door was to her right and she started edging towards it as the beast flailed it's large disgusting hand into her room to seize her.
Suddenly her eyes were blinded by a flash and she felt the air pressure in the room increase. She blinked her eyes and when her vision cleared there was a man, back to her, fighting the hideous beast that was trying to get to her. He slashed his sword at it hacking off its hand. She covered her ears as it screamed in agony. "You won't win, Soul Reaper!"
"That's what you think!" The soul reaper slashed away leaving large wounds all over the beasts body and then suddenly he jumped in the air and brought his sword down onto the monster's head slicing it in half.
To Shinju's surprise this last attack caused the beast to scream in agony as it dissolved into nothing. "What was that thing?" She gasped as the strange man turned and sheathed his sword.
He looked down at her in surprise. "You can see me?"
The soul reapers stood and pulled the men up with them none too kindly. As they turned to go the one in charge looked around him, "Nothing to see here, move along!" His tone was rough and demanded obedience. At the last moment his gaze drifted up to the porch Shinju was standing on and he froze. Their eyes met and they stared at each other as if neither of them was certain of what they were seeing. He smiled slightly, nodded his head and turned back to his task at hand.
Shinju sighed, she knew it was him. There was no mistaking it but he had simply smiled and walked away. Maybe he didn't remember her after all these years, or maybe he just didn't care. She dismissed her hope and turned to go back inside.
Hiro had not missed the look that had passed between the soul reaper and Shinju. Was that the man who held her heart? He didn't know any soul reapers but it was apparent that they had met at some point. "Shinju? Are you ok?"
She shook herself and smiled brightly up at the man standing in front of her. "I'm fine. I...I just need some tea, that's all. This district is getting rowdier and rowdier." She moved towards the kitchen to get herself some tea trying desperately to forget that she had seen him.
You can see me?"
"Of course I can!" She snapped at the man in front of him. She didn't care how good looking he was she would not have it insinuated that she was stupid.
"You don't understand. I'm not from this place."
She looked up at him incredulously, "What do you mean?"
"Did you see everything?" He asked carefully, wondering how much she had seen.
"If you mean that hideous beast that you killed, then yes. I saw it all." She shuddered. "That was terrifying!" Then she looked up at him.
"That was a hollow."
"A hollow. They are corrupt spirits that feed on souls."
"And you are?"
"A soul reaper. It's my job to purify them and protect others from them." He shifted and leaned against the wall in a relaxed pose.
"And I'm supposed to believe that?"
"You can, or not, as you choose." He shrugged and turned to jump out the window.
"Wait a minute!" She needed to know more.
He turned to face her with a patient look on his face. "Yes?"
"How come I saw it? I've never seen anything like that before."
"You're spiritual pressure must have changed. Most humans can't see them, or soul reapers for that matter." He watched her carefully, she was taking this rather well. "I'd be careful. Hollows are attracted to high spiritual pressure, there will be more after you."
"How do I stop it?" The fear she was feeling showed in her voice.
"The soul society has me on duty here for a while. I'll be around," he smiled at her and again she noticed how handsome he was, "don't worry too much." He leaped out the window and took off into the night.
Shinju shuddered at what she had witnessed, and he'd said there would be more. She looked at the damage to her apartment wondering how it would get fixed and what people would think. She yawned and turned to go sleep on her couch, her bed was out of the question.
Hiro waited patiently for Shinju to return with her tea, she'd obviously recognized that soul reaper but from where? As far as he knew she'd had no business with them during her time here. He smiled at her as she joined him at the table, sipping her hot tea and breathing deeply as if to relax. "You looked as if you recognized someone out there." He said it casually, hoping she'd open up to him.
Her eyes darted to the window again as if she was hoping he'd still be in the street. "Oh no. I was just surprised to see soul reapers here, that's all." She hoped it was believable as her mind drifted again.
Shinju walked through the park on her way home from work. She kicked the leaves as she walked through them. It was fall and she knew that soon it would be too cold to walk home, she'd have to take the bus but for now she would brave the cooler temperatures and enjoy the beauty of the walk home.
Her mind drifted to the events that had occurred last month. The soul reaper who'd saved her life. She'd not seen him since, at least not outside of her dreams. Once she had thought she'd heard the same sort of screech that the hollow had made and she had jumped up to look out her window but she hadn't seen anything at all and the sound had not repeated itself. She idly wondered if soul reapers could die and if her soul reaper had done just that.
She smirked and laughed under her breath, her soul reaper. As if he even remembered her. He probably saw dozens of girls in their pajamas as he valiantly rescued them from the grasp of hollows seeking to devour them. It probably didn't mean a thing to him.
"Hello there." She jumped as someone stepped in front of her. Her gaze shifting slowly from the ground in front of her feet where she had been looking at the leaves as she kicked them. She slowly lifted her head taking in his sandals and his tabi socks, the fullness of his shihakusho pants and the white belt that secured it at his waist. Her eyes briefly paused as they took in his muscled chest that she was almost eye level with, his top hanging open in it's dip to his waist. Finally she looked up at him and made eye contact.
"Hello." She blushed because it was apparent in his eyes that he had noticed her appreciation of his chest. "You've been busy."
"I have. But it's quiet tonight." He smiled at her. "I could tell you more about spiritual pressure and help you understand how to control it so that you're less likely to attract hollows. If you like."
"That'd be nice. I'll admit that I've been a little scared this past month."
Hiro watched her as memories flooded her mind again, emotions flitting across her face. He waited for her to come back to the present and when she did he spoke. "You did, didn't you?"
Her gaze snapped back to the present. "What?"
"You did recognize someone out there."
Again her eyes drifted to the window but she remained in the present for now. "Yeah."
"A soul reaper, or one of the troublemakers?"
She just sighed in answer and Hiro watched her drift away from him again. He knew she'd never be his but he was worried that she would pine after someone who didn't care for her.
Shinju laughed as they approached her apartment. She wondered if this handsome soul reaper would stay longer. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, she was enjoying his company and he seemed to enjoy hers as well. He'd sat with her in the park for the last hour explaining spiritual pressure to her, how she could control hers and how that would help protect her. He had also explained that most humans didn't see souls or hollows and so she couldn't just talk about this with anyone. He'd said their were others that he knew in the area and he'd introduce her to them if she wanted but she'd declined. He was the one she wanted to get to know.
"How long will you be around?" She looked him in the eye and wondered if he would tell her the truth.
"My assignment was for two months, so another month, maybe. Unless it gets extended." He looked up at the moon hanging above them in the sky watching over the world through the night.
"I see. Will I see you again?" She hoped she didn't sound too hopeful in saying that.
"I don't know. We're discouraged from making friends in the land of the living." He stepped back from her as if the distance might help that.
"Well, I should be going now. I told Fumio I'd stop by before heading home tonight." Hiro rose and reached for his jacket.
"Oh." She came back to the present. "I hope I haven't been poor company, Hiro." She knew she had been.
"It's ok. I understand." He knew that he'd lost, he just wished he knew to whom.
She walked him to the door. "Will I see you again soon?" She enjoyed his company even if she didn't feel for him what he felt for her.
"Of course you will. You can't get rid of me that easily." He smiled and moved through the door sliding it shut behind him, she watched as he left. She knew all too well that he wouldn't wait forever. He was a chance at companionship in this lonely place full of people. Sadly she admitted to herself that she wanted another's companionship. She had almost given up on finding him but today she had seen him and hoped had reignited in her heart. She knew she couldn't settle until she knew for sure that there was no chance.
Again her mind drifted.
She was sitting in the same park she'd seen him in. That had been two weeks ago and while a part of her hoped she'd see him again, she knew it wasn't likely. She let her eyes rest on the sky, it was full of puffy clouds that were being stained a dusky pink and lavender as the sun set for the day and evening came. They drifted lazily across the sky from some high current shifting in their form as she watched them. Their colors became deeper and deeper as the minutes passed. She shivered, she knew she'd have to go home soon.
This time she didn't jump. She'd sensed him even if it was only slightly. She'd actually thought it was her imagination but she hadn't been surprised she'd felt him sit down next to her. She looked up at him and sighed, he was so damn good looking. She wished she could just sit there in his arms for the evening but she knew that was unlikely. "Hi." She shivered again.
"Just a little."
"Why don't we go to your house? We can visit there." He grinned at her, "And you could feed me."
"Sure. Wait, you need to eat?" She had to admit she was a bit surprised.
"Only to help restore my spiritual pressure. And for fun." He stood and reached down to pull her up. She took his hand and a jolt passed through her at the touch.
They walked back to her place side by side but not touching, she wondered if he'd felt the spark also. When they arrived there she looked in her refrigerator. "I have some sushi I made earlier before work, miso and rice. I'm sorry, I need to stop at the store tomorrow." She shut the fridge and noted that he'd been right behind it and was now standing very close to her.
"Sushi's good." He smiled looking into her eyes.
She wondered how long he'd stay. After they'd eaten they moved to the couch with their tea. He sighed, "I'm going back to the soul society tomorrow."
She looked up at him in surprise although she didn't know why, she'd known that this day would come. "It's sooner than expected, isn't it?"
"Yeah, but the hollow threat seems to have dropped off so my mission has been cut short." He shifted on the couch so that he faced her. "Shinju, I..I've really enjoyed getting to know you." He looked into her eyes and his hand drifted to rest over hers.
Shinju shifted so that she faced him but she was unsure what to do now. Was he flirting with her? Coming on to her? Was that even possible? "I'll miss visiting with you. Will..will you be able to visit at all?" Her question sounded so stupid even as she voiced it.
"Most likely not." His mouth was set in a firm line. "Even if I did it's likely we wouldn't run into each other again."
"What if..." She let her voice drift off not willing to sound desperate.
He took her hand in his and pulled it to his lips letting them brush over her fingers, looking up at her to gauge her reaction. She shuddered with the contact but let him continue it. Emboldened by her reaction he leaned over to her and touched her cheek letting his fingers graze her jawline then more boldly he rested his hand behind her head and pulled her into him and his lips descended on hers in a kiss. She leaned in and kissed him sighing and knowing that no man would ever kiss her like this again.
She shifted, her neck stiff from falling asleep on his shoulder. He shifted and looked down at her. "Hello sleepy."
"Did I fall asleep? I'm sorry."
"It's ok. I enjoyed holding you. I have to leave soon."
"There's rules about relationships between soul reapers and humans. If my captain found out that I'd kissed you...well, lets just say that it wouldn't be pretty." He smiled in that confident, happy-go lucky way of his.
"I imagine that sort of relationship would be complicated."
"Very." He rose and pulled her to her feet from the couch with him. Pulling her into his arms he held her close, "I'll never forget you, Shinju. You and I are were meant to be, just not now." He planted one last kiss on her lips and turned to leave.
She had to ask but she was so afraid of sounding desperate. "What if I died?"
"Don't worry. I'm not contemplating suicide, I was just wondering. What if I died? I'd end up in the soul society, right?"
"Yeah, but the soul society's huge, it's unlikely that we'd meet there. Besides I live in the seireitei with the other soul reapers, not out in the districts."
"I see. In another lifetime maybe?"
"There is a chance. If you died, of natural causes," he stressed that part not wanting her to do something she'd regret, "that we might run into each other. But they are small. When a human enters the soul society they retain their memories of this life so you would remember me."
"And I'll never forget you." He smiled and let himself out.
She sighed and stood, picking up the teacups from the table and turning to take them to the kitchen for washing. She had been here for several years now and never seen him until today. He'd said he'd never forget her but she had to wonder when he'd only looked at her and left. It seemed as if he'd forgotten. She started towards the kitchen when she heard a knock at the door. Turning she realized that it'd gotten much darker since Hiro had left and she wondered how long she had sat there wallowing in memories of him.
The knock sounded again and she moved towards it, wondering if Hiro had forgotten something that he needed. She decided that she would tell him yes when she opened the door. There was no point in waiting for a man who didn't even remember her.
She slid the door open and her breath left her in a woosh. Strong arms enveloped her and pulled her into his chest. She wrapped her arms around his waist and felt tears slipping down her face. "You didn't forget!"
"I told you I wouldn't!" He held her away from her for a moment to look her in the eye. "I told you that we were meant to be."
She looked up at him and smiled and then his lips descended on hers in a kiss. "Would you like some tea?"
"No. I just want you. I want to hold you and catch up on all the years since we last saw each other."
They were sitting at the edge of the forest. He was leaning up against a tree and she was leaning back against him with his arms around her. He'd come back again and again to visit and catch up with her. She looked forward to the times they could spend together and he'd promised to visit as often as he could. Today her tea house was closed and they'd gone on a picnic. The remnants of the bento boxes she'd made them sat beside them.
"I went back you know."
"What?" She twisted to look him in the eye.
"I went back to see you. It was about two years later. I knew you'd probably moved on but I had to see you."
"And I wasn't there, was I?"
"No. There was some old guy living in your apartment. I didn't know how to find you. That was hard."
"Where were you?"
He looked at her in surprise. "You didn't?"
"No," she smirked, "I didn't kill myself." She let her gaze drift to the horizon. It wasn't that she hadn't considered it but she knew it wasn't the answer. "I was hit by a bus. I remember the ambulance ride, the sirens and some woman in my face telling me to hold on. What she didn't know was that I was holding on, just not to her world." She twisted so that she was on her knees facing him.
He smiled at her and pulled her closer so he could kiss her. "Shinju, I love you."
"I love you too Renji."