Author's Note: This is inspired by, and makes use of some of the mechanics in, The Gamer by Sun San-young and Sang-ah. Also inspired by The Game of Life by exocara, a fantastic writer.
Disclaimer: I own neither Bleach nor Highschool DxD or The Gamer. I'm just playing around with them.
This is an experimental pilot chapter.
'Alright, think about it this way, this is hardly the weirdest thing that's happened to me,' Kurosaki Ichigo thought with a resigned sigh.
He kept his gaze resolutely straight ahead, resisting the temptation to turn his head and look at the glowing strings of letters hovering above the heads of the people he passed. He had no clue why he was suddenly seeing names and stuff above people's heads, but it was pretty damned distracting.
He had spent at least ten minutes staring at the brightly glowing blue words above his own head. And he felt rather annoyed by the level.
[Kurosaki Ichigo, Level 20]
Seriously, after everything he had been through, he was only level twenty? Sure he'd lost his Soul Reaper powers after he'd killed Aizen, but still. What a rip off. Though he supposed he should be grateful that he wasn't as low as most of the people he passed were. The highest level he'd seen so far was a fifteen, and that was from a guy dressed in a gi, a traditional karate outfit.
Ichigo sighed again, pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket and checking the address written on it once again. He had already gotten lost once trying to find the apartment block that would be his home for the near future, and he was determined to make that one time the only time, glowing words and numbers be damned. The city that housed his new school was surprisingly easy to get lost in, and the one time he had tried to ask someone for directions the guy had run away.
Oh, and his Intimidation skill had gained a level, according to the blue window that had popped up in front of him.
And that was another thing, apparently he was the only one who could see the names and levels, not to mention the screen that randomly popped up in front of him! He had taken the train that morning to get to the city expecting someone to scream the first time the glowing screen appeared in front of him, but instead it appeared that he was the only one that could see it, and thankfully it didn't appear to be solid unless he pressed something on it.
Sure it was weird and would have made him doubt his sanity had he been anyone else, but considering that he had seen ghosts and spirits since he was a kid, until just recently been a Soul Reaper aka a Death God for almost two years, and defeated a megalomaniac bent on remaking the world in his own image, this newest thing really wasn't that strange. It was annoying, but not dangerous as far as he could see, so he was content to just do his best to ignore it.
...Yeah, so that wasn't working too well, but he wasn't ready to stop trying.
Ichigo paused at an intersection and waited for the light to change, crossing the street with the rest of the crowd after a few minutes. He was pretty sure that his apartment block was near a park, and he could see what looked like the entrance to one just a couple of streets down. He would check the park name and maybe take a break from all the walking he'd been doing (Endurance be damned), then try and get his bearings once again. He was pretty sure that if he was lost much longer his sense of direction would turn out to be as bad as Kenpachi's, and he definitely didn't want that to happen.
He collapsed onto the first park bench he came across with a quiet sigh of relief, stretching out his aching legs and groaning when his muscles flexed and protested the exertion he'd put them through that day.
Ichigo let his arms rest across the top of the bench, crossing his feet at the ankle and letting his head fall back, staring meditatively up at the clear blue sky above. It didn't look any different than the sky above Karakura Town, but then why would it? He thought with a sigh.
He had thought over his decision to leave Karakura Town and go to school somewhere else, for all that it must have seemed sudden to his dad and sisters.
It was just that he hadn't been able to stand the pitying looks Orihime, Chad, Uryu, and recently Tatsuki had sent his way when his back had been turned, thinking he wouldn't notice, or the way they had begun distancing themselves from him. And when they suddenly rushed out of class with paper-thin excuses...it hurt, knowing they were going after Hollows and that he wasn't able to do anything to help them.
But what really felt like a sword piercing his heart (and he knew from experience what that felt like...) was when they turned down his offers to hang out as friends and when he saw the fake smiles that they put on whenever they were around him.
Just because he'd lost his powers didn't mean they couldn't be friends, right? He hadn't thought so, but apparently his former friends had. That was what hurt most of all, he thought, and made his decision to leave and start a new life in a different town that much easier. He'd mulled over his options for almost a week before finalizing his choice in time for summer break, thus giving him time to find a place to live in the new city and get used to the place before school started.
He had felt bad about leaving his sisters, but for all he would miss them and they would miss him, they had supported his choice when he'd broken the news to them over dinner (and his dad's wailing to that stupid poster). They had made him promise to send them regular messages and call at least once every couple of days, but that was something he would have done on his own anyway. He would even faintly miss Goat Face, but he'd be damned before he'd ever admit that outside the confines of his own head.
He hadn't even bothered telling his former friends that he'd left, instead leaving it up to Karin and Yuzu to tell them if any of them happened to notice his absence. A clean break was best, he'd figured, so he'd packed up his stuff, talked to Kon (he'd pretended not to notice the stuffed lion's sniffles when he'd said goodbye, or the way his own eyes had felt a little misty), and told his family that he'd let them know when he'd found an apartment so they could send his stuff along.
So now here he was, starting over in a new city and completely lost on his first day there, lounging on a park bench with a backpack full of necessities at his feet as he took a break.
Thankfully the whole names-and-levels thing had only started after he'd left Karakura, he thought with an amused snort, closing his eyes momentarily before opening them again. Taking one last look at the sky, he straightened from his lounging position, reaching into his jacket pocket to pull out the directions to his new apartment (he'd have to look into getting a part-time job, since he only had enough saved up for a couple of months' rent at the moment). He might as well have another look at them, see if taking a break had helped clear his head.
When he looked at the address written on the - now rather wrinkled - paper he saw that no, the rest hadn't really helped except making him feel a bit better.
Ichigo sighed, resigned to simply trying to ask people for directions until he found someone who would hopefully answer him before running away. He wondered if it was possible to turn off that intimidation skill that he apparently had...Shrugging, he folded the paper again, stood up and stretched his arms over his head, gradually bringing them back down to his sides after a moment. He bent down to pick up his bag, slinging it over a shoulder and setting off towards the park entrance he'd come through.
It took him almost an entire hour before he found someone to give him directions, and he strongly suspected he only got those directions because he'd exerted a monumental amount of willpower and turned his customary scowl into a sort-of smile.
He was quickly informed by the kind soul he asked, an old lady about to enter a grocery store, that he had been going in circles and was then told the correct way to go. He had thanked the old lady politely but profusely and set off, resolutely ignoring the blue screen that popped up.
[Passive Skill: Charm has been created!]
...He didn't want to know, he really didn't.
Ichigo carefully followed the new directions, and once he got a glimpse of a street sign that matched one that he'd written down he knew he was on the right track. Now that he was on the right path, it took an embarrassingly short amount of time before he had arrived at his apartment block, a plain building that looked like a carbon-copy of several others that he'd seen around town.
Checking in with the manager and getting his key barely took five minutes, and then he was standing in the barren living room of his new place. It was clean and actually looked pretty spacious, so Ichigo gave it a five out of five - after all, it wasn't like he was going to have someone living in his closet again, right?...on second thought, maybe he shouldn't jinx himself, he thought as he quickly rapped his knuckles on his bedroom's wooden door frame, just in case.
He had a cell-phone, courtesy of his dad, so he sent a quick text to Karin to let her know his new address so they could send his stuff. That done, he was officially on his own, and he had no clue what to do next.
The apartment itself was pretty generic, having a grand total of five rooms: the living room, kitchen, his bedroom, a guestroom, and a bathroom. There was no decoration, and the walls were all painted in a neutral cream color. The floors were mostly wooden, the only carpeting being in the guestroom that actually came equipped with its own futon (his own bedroom had a futon too, so that was another plus).
Everything looked okay, he decided after a thorough walkthrough, and sighed in relief that he wouldn't have to blow any money on tools to fix a leaky faucet or something like that.
Thirty minutes later found him finishing up putting away the few toiletries and other necessities he had brought along with him. He left the bathroom, being sure to turn off the light behind him, and made his way back to the living room where he tossed his backpack (it really only had a few changes of clothes in it now, so no worries about him breaking anything in it) into one of the corners.
Okay, he was now as settled in as he could be...now what did he do?
Answer: go exploring and hope he didn't get lost again.
Putting his shoes back on was the work a moment (he still had his jacket on, so his wallet and new apartment key were safe in one of the interior pockets), and then he was out the door. He made sure to lock it behind him, because for all that there wasn't really anything worth stealing in there, there wasn't any use in tempting fate.
Now, his first priority, find out where the nearest grocery store was.
Author's Note: Happy belated 4th of July! It's a day late, but I'm hoping this still counts. :) Be sure to leave a review on the way out and let me know what you think! As always, constructive criticism is welcome!