Author's Note: Enjoy!
"Kaguya-hime gave her suitors five impossible tas--"
The school bell, much to the relief of the whole class, except a select few, rang loudly and signaled the end of another Japanese mythological lesson.
"Well, I guess that will be all. Read up on Kaguya-hime on page 66. Quiz on it tomorrow!" Ochi-sensei called over the din and walked out.
"Ahhhhh! What a nice nap! " Keigo stretched languidly, arms almost hitting Tatsuki, who whacked his arm away. "Why do we need to learn Japanese mythology anyways? It's not like it's going to help us in the future."
"Since when were you concerned about the future?" Ichigo raised an eyebrow while cracking his neck.
"How cruel, Ichigo!" Keigo grabbed his chest dramatically. "Of course I think about the future! How many children would Ichigo-san have? How much money should Ichigo-san give me? How many times a day should I visit my best pal? Will Inoue-san be my wife? Ooh! I wouldn't mind if Kuchiki-san became Asano-chan!"
The next second proved that Keigo's head was hard enough to crack cement.
"Don't sprout nonsense like that!!"
"NEVER visit me! Ever! Baka!!"
Orihime giggled and grabbed the thoughtful petite student beside her.
"Let's go, Kuchiki-san! Kagine-sensei said we were going to play baseball today!"
"Go? Where?" Rukia jerked in surprise at the contact, but let her hand be held. Play? Playing in school? It was very unsettling for Rukia. In soul society's shinigami academy, they could get punished for such a thing! ...What was baseball anyways?
"Why, to gym class of course!" Orihime replied without malice and pulled the resisting Rukia to the door. Gym? What's gym? Can we really leave class? Won't Ochi-sensei get mad?
"G-ym? Wha--" Rukia risked a glance the orange haired boy, who still had his foot firmly planted on Keigo's back. Ichigo rolled his eyes and walked to the door, leaving Keigo to his childhood friend's wrath. Rukia growled mentally. She was in potential trouble and her partner was fooling around!
"C'mon, we're going to be late." Ichigo said, indicating the near empty class as he walked out the door, followed closely by the smiling Orihime and startled Rukia.
"Aa!" Tatsuki called and let Keigo up. Something caught his eye.
"Uh...someone should wake Chad up first..."
"Ichigo!" Rukia yelled and evaded the lizard-like hollow's tail. On their way to gym class, another order came up and both of them had to run to the scene.
"I know! I know!" Ichigo whipped around, using the momentum to slice his zanpaktou through the hollow's mask. There was no time even to sheath his sword. Rukia pushed him back into his body and grabbed his wrist, already running in the direction of the school.
"Whoa! Wha--?!" Ichigo yelled indignantly and wrenched his hand from Rukia's grip. "What's up?! Is it a hollow?"
Rukia glanced over her shoulder and glared at Ichigo.
"No. Hurry up! I don't want to miss this germy class!"
"...Ah. Its gym, idiot." The orange headed shinigami pinched the bridge of his nose. Ever since Rukia came into his life, it had become so hectic. How he dealt with it, he didn't know. That girl was going to be the death of him. Shinigami or not. "Gym. Right. Do you even know what that is?!"
"No..." She trailed off as they ran down the road. "But Inoue said it was going to be...interesting." She admitted quietly, then shook her head. "Keh, what earthly activity can interest me anyway? All you people do is just sitting around staring at light boxes!"
"It's called a television! Besides...you do know you're the one running to school for gym right?" Ichigo scoffed and ran alongside her. "Sheesh, gym isn't that 'interesting' anyways. All you do is just ru--Ooff!"
Rukia dug her elbow into his ribs and glared at him as she ran ahead. "Don't tell me!"
Ichigo was left doubled over on the curb. The school entrance just meters away as he glowered at Rukia's disappearing form. Idiot...why couldn't she just admit she wanted to have fun? He straightened up, just to hunch again. Dang! For a tiny person, she hit rather hard. His scowl lifted somewhat as he walked slowly to the school.
"III-chigo! Why are you so late?" Keigo pounced on the scowling student as he walked into the field where they were having the gym class. Ichigo opened his mouth to yell, but sighted tears in Keigo's eyes.
"Forget that! Poor Kuchiki-san...aww, it makes you want to hug her and squeeze her!" Keigo hugged and squeezed a much irritated Ichigo. He promptly threw Keigo off with a powerful side kick. Ichigo's brown eyes immediately sought a certain petite girl out. If anything happened...
The said girl was wearing a baggy blue and white T-shirt and pants that reached her shins when it was supposed to stop right above her knees. She really did look pitiful and fragile in the oversized clothes.
"Ah! Kuchiki-san, it's a little too big...but it's ok! We'll have a fun time in gym class together, no?" The perky voice of Orihime cut through his thoughts. That little faker! She must have manipulated the class with her class zero act! Why, oh why, do Karakura people have to be so stupid?!
"Kurosaki! Five laps for being late again for gym class!" Kagine-sensei's loud baritone boomed from halfway across the field as he walked in. Ichigo groaned.
"That's not fair. You came in after me!"
"TEN laps for back talking! The rest get ready for the 100 meter dash! We are selecting three students to compete in the upcoming Karakura race!" He boomed and waved his clip board around.
Rukia looked curiously at the student body as they scrambled into a line beside the red road. 100 meter dash? A run? Were they going to do what Ichigo was doing? Her eyes followed his movements as he half jogged, half walked around the field. That didn't look like a run.
"Kurosaki!" Kagine-sensei thrust a finger at the orange haired snail on the tracks. "I said RUN TEN LAPS, or you stay after school!" Rukia watched with amusement as her partner immediately sped up.
"Kuchiki!" Rukia jumped at the sharp tone.
"Stop ogling and get in line!" The muscled teacher waved his clipboard at the straight line of students beside the red tracks. Rukia felt her cheeks heat up in annoyance. Ogling? Stupid human. She doesn't ogle. Besides, there was nothing to ogle at except at that bright mop as an excuse for hair. She frowned slightly and made her way behind a tall brunette.
"The girls will race first! Kagero Lita! Kirisawa Kaoru! Arisawa Tatsuki! Hibaki Menou! Take your places!" The race has begun.
Ten minutes later, bored violet eyes witnessed the amazing feat of eight complete laps a certain 15 year old male made. Rukia observed his heaving chest as he pushed forward, keeping his pace. She frowned. He still had a long way to go. Extra hours for training after hollow attacks then.
"-iki Rukia!" She looked indifferently at her gym teacher. "Take your places!"
Oh. She slowly stood up and walked towards the white like on the tracks. How boring. Inoue-san had gotten her excited for nothing. The small shinigami had watched the first dash and knew she could do better than twelve seconds. After learning shun po and seeing it in action, taking twelve seconds to reach the end of the track looked tedious compared to her brother's 0.01 second record. Nevertheless, the contemplative girl was aware of the gigai she was in and wondered how much she could push this body before it collapsed. Uruhara had said something about gigais being less durable.
Rukia dismissed the thought and mimicked the crouched stance the students beside her did.
"Kuchiki-san! Do your best!" Rukia gave a small smile to Inoue as the bubbly girl waved from the sidelines. Kagine stood beside her, looking intently at his stopwatch.
Rukia tensed and looked forward.
With a powerful push against the ground, she bolted down the track. Regulating her breathing and pacing her stride, she frowned when she did not reach the speed she wanted. Rukia's eyes widened as all three of her competitors passed her suddenly. She furrowed her brows and tried to catch up, but her efforts seemed to only make her more alert of her aching muscles and harsh breathing. She grimaced in more frustration than pain when she crossed the finish line six seconds after all her opponents did.
The panting shinigami skidded to an abrupt halt and bent over to catch her breath. Stupid, stupid, stupid gigai! She was better than this, dammit! She swallowed a lump in her throat. Rukia glared angrily at the red ground staring up at her. It was just running! She had never run so slow in her life! It took much more to get away from those angry shop keepers when she was a street rat. She clenched her hands. Now humans, tenth of her age, were faster than her. Rukia felt inferior and she hated it. She took a deep breath and unclenched her fists. Loosing her powers was down right challenging, but loosing her cool would be increasingly wearisome. Rukia exhaled slowly and stood up, just to find herself looking into smug black eyes. She narrowed her own violet eyes and fought to keep the irritation down.
"A whole six seconds!" The girl with the black eyes stared Rukia down. Rukia noted with building annoyance that she was one of the students who raced with her. "That's what you get for racing with me, Raito of Karakura! You'll never make it to the race. Give it up!" She laughed mockingly. "Six seconds! How pathetic."
Rukia felt like screaming. First loosing her powers. Then loosing the race. Now this! A stuck up fifteen year old making fun of her disadvantages! Rukia felt the tatters of her spiritual energy build up inside her. She had enough of people taunting her! There was already too much of it back from where she came from. Releasing the 31st demon spell on that arrogant teenager looked very tempting; but whether she could do it or not was the question. Rukia flinched as she felt for her meager amounts of energy. From what she could gather, it wasn't even enough to scratch a human. The taunting words came back to her. Pathetic. Unrefined. Worthle--No! What happened in the past stayed in the past. Maybe she could apply layer over layer of bottled up negative energy to the spell and perhaps it could just...What was she thinking?!
Rukia turned on her heel and walked off the tracks. Ignoring the ridiculing chuckles behind her. What was wrong with her? Never before did she let any careless words get to her. Especially the ones of an immature child. Her ears caught the other two racers say something and join in the hateful laughter. Rukia quickened her pace. They were just kids. They didn't even know her. Even so, why did she feel like crying? Suddenly, her face crashed into a sweaty chest and her infuriation spiked.
"Watch where you're going, fool." She bit out heatedly and cursed inwardly when her voice wobbled.
"Wha--Rukia?" The said girl felt two warm hands settle on her shoulders. "What happened?"
The small shinigami tensed further and looked away, a small spark of relief formed when she recognized who she was snapping at.
"Nothing." She closed her eyes and tried to calm down. When she opened her eyes, she found concerned brown eyes boring into her own. She sighed and pried his hands off her shoulders.
"Nothing for you to worry about, Ichigo. Let's go." The raven haired shinigami walked past him. She didn't want to be here anymore. If all gym classes served as a reminder of her weakness, she never wanted to come back again. As the worried boy turned to follow her, he heard snickers behind him and saw Rukia's shoulders tense again. Getting a rough idea about the problem, he surprised himself as he immediately whirled around and marched right up to the three snickering girls. Thankful that there weren't anyone around for 100 meters, and not sure whether he would stop if there were, he raised himself to his full height and stared them down.
"Oi. What did you say to her?" He cracked his knuckles threateningly, his face darkening. Silence engulfed the three simpering girls as they shook in fear before one of the notorious punks of Karakura. The black eyed girl's mouth opened several times, but only squeaks came out.
"Whatever you said to her, apologize and never show your face again." He growled and pointed towards the small raven haired girl ten feet away. "Apologize. Now."
All three terrified girls 'eeped' and scurried off, but not before mumbling a hasty apology to the shocked Rukia. Ichigo watched in satisfaction as he made his way back to his partner's side.
"...Why?" Rukia asked as they made their way towards the changing rooms. Ichigo stuffed his hands into his pockets and shot her a lopsided grin.
"'Cause I hate people picking on midgets."
Rukia walked hotly pass Ichigo's hopping form gleefully, leaving a swearing strawberry leaping with one leg after her. Rukia smiled softly. Suddenly, everything was all right.
"---ano Keigo, Kurosaki Ichigo! Take your places!" Only three walked out. Kagine narrowed his eyes. "Kurosaki Ichigo! Kurosaki!!" There was no answer. "Where is that boy?!"
Author's Note: Whooooo!!! All done! There was supposed to be baseball, but decided I'll do that separately. The time frame is before the run in with Chad's parakeet. This is more of a small insight to Rukia's feelings. She had to feel some frustration when she lost her powers and was unable to do so much. It also plays upon one of the times Ichigo and Rukia spent together before the Soul Society arc.
I sincerely doubt that 'owing Rukia a debt' was the only reason why he traveled all the way to a highly dangerous place and risked his life repeatedly for her. END SPOILER
Anyways, I'd like to thank ALL of you for your encouraging reviews:D :) Wishing you lot a Happy New Year!! May you have a wonderful new year filled with lots of love and chocolate! And if you aren't a sweet tooth, pasta then! hehe! God bless!! Seeya all next time:)