Disclaimer: No, I don't won Bleach, or Hina-chan or Shiro-chan either.
Dedication: For Solitair! Because she was nice enough to send me loads of HitsuMomo fanart to inspire me!
Warnings: Grammar mistakes galore. Unbeta-ed. My muse probably went into a timewarp while I was writing this, again. Would you like to beta for me?
EDIT: Changed the word "cool" into various synonyms. Thanks to KuroRyu and MomoKaori for commenting. I hope it's better now.
"I'm going now, Shiro-chan!"
"Quit calling me Shiro-chan!"
"When you're able to get into the Academy like me, I'll call you by your surname!"
"Gimme a break! Who the hell would want to go to some Shinigami School, anyway?"
"I'll be staying at the dorm, but I'll come out to play with you during break!"
"Don't come back, bed-wetter-Momo!"
His voice echoed endlessly and she waved back at him without turning around. He frowned as she disappeared through the doors. A sense of loss engulfed him and he knew that nothing between them would ever be the same again.
He thought to himself silently, just you wait Hina-chan. I'll get into the Academy one day, too. And we can be together everyday again, just like we used to
He placed his hand against the solid oaken lid, and traced the plum blossom pattern engraved on it. It was a gift, made by an old, old friend, to congratulate him for making it into the Academy. It was his – no – their little treasure chest of memories, and only the two of them could open it.
"You see, you place your hand here and infuse it with your spiritual energy," she explained. Blue energy flowed and traced the engravings. She lifted her hand and the lid opened by it self, suspended in the air.
"Here, you try it," she suggested, and closed the box again.
Very reluctantly, he placed his hand on the lid and mimicked her actions. His spiritual energy flowed and expanded across the lid. As soon as he lifted his hand, the lid shot up and landed a few feet a way. He blinked.
She laughed merrily, her voice mesmerizing. "That was very good, Shiro-chan," she cried delightedly, and mussed his spiky white locks.
"Of course; I'm a genius! And don't call me Shirou-chan anymore," he retorted angrily. "You promised you'll address me by my surname if I get into the Academy!"
"I remember someone saying once that no one ever wanted to get into Shinigami School," she teased.
He glared at her and she held up her hands as if to ward off his angry gaze, "Hai, hai, Hitsugaya-kun. Now, let's try it again. This time, try putting a little less energy into it."
Blue energy followed the swirling paths in the wood and the lid lifted itself and settled gently beside the box. He reached into the box and withdrew a sheaf of papers, careful not to damage the aged papers. The sheets were yellowed with time and crinkled with constant handling over the years. They were dear to him; they were the physical proof of a past they shared.
He inspected the contents of the box and memories from long ago swam to the surface of his thoughts once more.
When he first reached Soul Society, he was given a number and directions to his new home. Hinamori Momo was the "sister" assigned to him, and they were both placed under the care of an elderly woman, along with a dozen other kids.
He was unreceptive to her efforts to get him to warm up to him at first. But no one was immune to her cheerful disposition. He never let anyone bully her in any way back then; insulting her was his privilege and his alone.
And everyone knew how much Hitsugaya hates to share – especially his Hina-chan.
They were very close; it was rare to see one of them without the company of the other. She was the only one who could tease him out of his brattish fits and he was the only one to detect her sometimes melancholic inner self.
Then one day, she got hungry.
Her spiritual density developed quickly and she was constantly haunted by pangs of hunger. Feeding her cost a lot because food was scarce in Rukongai. He could still remember waking up long before the sun rises to hunt for fruits and nuts in the woods situated at the outer limits of Soul Society for her breakfast. It was dangerous – because it was near the border of the human world, where Hollows sometimes appear.
In the end, they decided to send her to the Academy. It would be for the best, they told them – Hina-chan would get to eat and he wouldn't have to take unnecessary risks to forage for food.
She was shocked when she finally realized where her sparse meals came from and the risk he took. All along, he had lied to her that he got it from somewhere else, a secret place where nobody knew where it was. She had gladly believed his words, and had eaten the fruits of his labor with great zest. At that time, all she could think was to satisfy the craving within her that never went away.
She agreed to try out for the Academy. She didn't want him to take anymore risks for her, she told him.
He told her he didn't mind. He really didn't.
She only smiled that gentle smile of hers and told him, "I mind, Shiro-chan."
To nobody's surprise, she made it passed the admission exams, displaying an exceptional aptitude for the demon arts. And so she left them, entering the world that some of them could never enter.
He felt disappointed. He felt betrayed. He vowed he would follow her there, somehow.
She came back to visit quite often the first few months, bringing with her news and stories from within those walls that separated them. He always sat in a corner, sulking as she regaled tales of the other Shinigami and her life in the Academy. Unfamiliar names poured from her lips: Abarai Renji, Kuchiki Rukia, Izuru Kira... names that were alien to him. They were part of her life now, a life which he has no part of.
But he listened anyhow, if not for anything – then just for the sound of her voice.
Her visits grew fewer and fewer, and longer in between. He spent his days either waiting at the doorstep or staring out of his window, from which the east gate could be seen. It opened frequently, but the person he wanted to see never came out of it.
In the place of her visits, letters arrived instead. There were always two missives: one to be read out after dinner and one for him, to read alone away from the others and to be re-read again whenever he missed her even more badly than usual.
I'm sorry I can't come home to visit, but I'm very busy right now. The seniors and teachers are being harder on us than usual. Did I tell you I was promoted into advanced class? It's really cool – all my classmates are really smart and we get to do really cool things.
I was late for class yesterday because I overslept. I dreamt of us playing in Rokungai again. It was fun, even if it was only a dream.
Hurry up and find your spiritual power already, Shiro-chan! You'll like it here, I promise!
I don't care even if you don't ever come back. Don't work too hard. Eat more. Set the alarm clock. I'm not there to wake you up anymore and you'll get into trouble for going to class late. And as I've said, who wants to go to your stupid school anyway?
I'm so sorry for not visiting in such a long time. Things have been pretty hectic around here lately, and we haven't had any breaks in a while.
We did Soul Burial today. It's totally awesome! We ran into a Hollow, though. I thought we were done for, and then suddenly a Captain showed up! He's really strong and told us to leave the place immediately.
I saw him later in the Academy again, later. He didn't look injured at all! I'm so happy – he praised me for standing up to the Hollow.
Actually, I was really afraid, Shiro-chan. But I thought it was very un-shinigami-like to run away from the enemy. As Shinigami, we shouldn't fear death. But I was scared I wouldn't be able to see you again.
I would like to write more, but I've got to get to class. If I send this off late, I'll have to wait for next week's mail! Hurry up, Shiro-chan, so we don't have to waste time writing anymore.
Stupid Bed-wetter-momo. You're only an apprentice Shinigami. If you see a Hollow you should run. Don't place yourself in unnecessary danger. You're not a hero. Leave things to people like that "cool" captain you met – they're captains for a reason.
I scored the second highest in demon arts class this term. First place went to Rukia. She's really good!
I met Captain Aizen again today! He came to the Academy for our awards ceremony. He shook my hand and said, "You've done well, Hinamori." He remembered my name!
I can't wait for you to meet him. I'm sure you'll like him very much and he'll like you very much too! So work harder, Shiro-chan!
You shouldn't be that happy with second highest. It means you're not good enough. And I don't care about your stupid captain remembering your name. And I think I'll hate him very much!
TAKE THAT BACK, HITSUGAYA TOUSHIRO! Or I'm never writing to you again.
Mou, I'm wasting time and ink writing to you. You obviously don't appreciate me taking the time off to write to you, especially now that the next term has begun! Sensei just demanded we write an in depth study on Zanpaku swords.
I wonder when I will learn my sword's name. The captains have really powerful swords. You should see the demonstration they put up the other day for the students. Enter the Academy quickly, and you'll be able to see them, too.
Continue slacking off and you'll never even graduate. And no, I won't take back my words because I'm a man!
He always growled in frustration whenever he reached the end of the letter. She never failed to tell him to work harder to gain spiritual powers. What work did she expect him to do? It wasn't as though she knew how she got her spiritual powers. Sometimes, Hinamori can be so frustrating.
After some time, her letters too became more and more sporadic. He felt lost; Hinamori had always been his anchor. Existence without her was cold and lonely. Sometimes, he thought he heard her voice down in the halls calling him, "Shiro-chan."
When her letters ceased altogether, he wondered if she had forgotten him.
He woke up one morning, and clutched at his stomach. An unfamiliar feeling churned in his stomach and he doubled over.
And then it struck him: he was hungry.
He would have jumped up with joy, if his hunger pangs weren't so painful. With great effort, he picked himself up and went to scavenge some scraps to temporarily sate his hunger.
That night, he announced to the entire household that he was going to sit of the Academy entrance exams.
They were all too shocked to say anything. The next morning, he went to be tested at the nearest center and was accepted. Four years had passed since Hinamori was accepted into the Academy.
He saw her at his welcoming ceremony. She looked as pretty as ever, not that he will ever admit that he thought her pretty, standing along with other seniors on a platform. Anxious, he worried whether did she still remembered him or if she got his hastily scribbled note informing her of his acceptance into the academy
She glanced his way and broke into a huge smile.
He grunted and looked away. She didn't see him smile.
That night, she came to his room with the box and showed him how it worked. "This is going to be our treasure chest!" she said excitedly. He peered into the compartment and was surprised to see mementos of their childhood: letters he sent to her over the years, a few origami cranes they folded together (hers was looked like a crane while his looked like a two headed chicken), crickets woven from dried grass, dried plum blossoms and assorted knick-knacks.
Wordlessly, he stood up,walked to his pack and took out a sheaf of papers. He thrust them at her without looking.
She squealed with delight, "You kept my letters!"
"Whatever," he muttered and he took the papers from her hands and dumped it unceremoniously on top of his letter in the box. She only smiled knowingly before closing the box again.
"I've got to go back now. It's almost past my curfew. I'll see you around, kay?" she said cheerily as she stood up and made her way to the door.
"Oi," he called after her and nudged the box in her direction.
"You keep it," she said, still smiling. "It's your turn to contribute!"
With that, she was gone.
He saw her often in the halls, chatting with her classmates or bounding to her next class. She usually waved to him enthusiastically if she saw him too, but he would just look away.
A loner by nature, he refused all offers of friendship. Instead he trained long and hard, sometimes sneaking out to hunt hollows for practice, hell bent on catching up with her. He was afraid, afraid that one day, the distance between them will be so great that nothing can ever bridge the gap the lost years caused.
He was first to learn the name of his sword in his class. It was really stupid: he was in the forest again, only this time, he was the one being hunted.
A Hollow had caught up with him. In a desperate fight for his soul, his sword awoke.
I will not die! He thought fervently as he parried the Hollow's fangs with his sword. I will not die!
A low rumble resounded in his head and his sword turned ice cold. Are you stupid enough to think that shinigami cannot die?
He was so shocked that he almost dropped his weapon.
Oi, look up.
Instinctively he raised his sword to block a blow from the air. With a mighty shove, he pushed the Hollow back a few paces and stood there, panting heavily with his sword in front of him. Thick blood trickled into his eye, and he blinked, his vision blurring.
Who are you? He gritted his teeth and eyed the Hollow warily.
There was an ear splitting roar that he assumed to be laughter. Foolish boy, you're not even aware of my existence when you've been carrying me around for so many years now?
His eyes widened with realization. You're my sword, he thought back monotonously.
Yes, pretty quick aren't we? Watch out, he's advancing.
He blocked the blow easily and jumped back. Aren't you supposed to help me?
Why should I? Are you worthy?
He leaped away just as one pincer crashed down on exactly where he was a moment ago.
I am worthy.
Such confidence, the voice mocked. Tell me, boy, do you really think Shinigamis cannot die?
I didn't say we cannot die. I said, "I will not die."
The loud rumbling resounded in his head again, and he winced. Tell me, why won't you die?
I will not die until I catch up with her.
Spunky; I like you brat. It's good to be held by someone with a spine. My name is Hyourinmaru. And with me in your hands, you will not die.
"Hina-chan! Hina-chan!" He called out as he raced towards her dorm. Without preamble, he rushed into her room.
She turned and looked up with him, her face shining with joy. His heart beat a little faster.
"Shiro-chan!" she said. "I've got the best news!"
"I learnt the name of my sword! His name is..."
"They've decided to let me graduate next term! And I've been assigned to the Fifth Division! That's Captain Aizen's division!"
His heart stopped beating and sank to the depths of his being. "Congratulations," he wished her stonily. "I've got to go. Class in three minutes. See you."
Oi, boy. Don't push yourself too hard.
I can't stop, he thought through gritted teeth. If I stop now, I'll never be able to catch up with her.
You won't catch up with her either if you died of exhaustion first.
I won't die. You promised as long as I have you in my hands, I won't die.
Hyourinmaru grinned. Alright, then let's go.
When he finally graduated, after five years in the Academy instead of the usual ten, she had already made it to vice-captain.
Worst of all, she was vice-captain to Captain Aizen of the Fifth Division.
They called him a genius. But he knew better: he was nothing more than a desperate man. But she always seemed to be two steps ahead of him, always out of his reach. She was like a mirage – his fata morgana – seemingly unattainable.
He often saw them walking down the halls together when he, too became captain. She was always smiling when she was with her captain, love and adoration shining in her eyes. A little flame of jealousy sparked within him; she used to smile just like that only for him.
Her words echoed in the hollow depths of his soul, "Work harder, Shiro-chan!"
He put the papers back into their container and sat back in his chair.
His finger traced the intricate floral motif on the lid. Touching it comforted him; it reassured him somehow – as long as it was there, their memories would never be forgotten.
She called him Hitsugaya-kun, now, just as she promised she would a long, long time ago if he made it into the Academy. But it was moments like these he wished to hear her call him, "Shiro-chan" once more.
The conversation in the first scene was adapted from the translations found at Soul Society's Rockin7 site. Kudos to them.
I took some liberties here and there with the fic. Whatever that wasn't in the manga is made up by me.
There's a fanart that particularly inspired this piece. Check it out. The link is in my profile.
If response is good, and I'm motivated, I might write the sequel from Hinamori's point of view. It won't be as long, but I think it'll be a happier conclusion. Again, it depends on my mood then (or how many pretty fanart Solitair sends me again.
That's all. Thanks for reading.