Many thanks to ThePowerPanda for pointing out a glaring error on my part Thanks to the Panda's diligence Der Waffle Haus and its patrons have been returned to Seattle where they belong.
Dead Like Bleach
by Juliet Carnell
based on the TV series 'Dead Like Me' by Bryan Fuller
and the anime series 'Bleach' by Tite Kubo
Georgia wandered into Der Waffle Haus, late as usual, and found Rube already sitting with Roxy in his customary booth. As she slid in next to Roxy she waved to Kiffany and their usual waitress came to the table carrying an empty mug and a full pot of coffee.
"You eating anything this morning?" Kiffany asked as she poured the coffee.
"She'll have the blueberry waffles," Rube said before Georgia could respond for herself. "It's definitely a blueberry waffle day."
Georgia looked at Rube's plate then said, "But you're having bacon and eggs?"
Rube smiled and said, "Someday when you can't get blueberry waffles, you'll wish you'd had them today."
Looking up at Kiffany she asked, "Have you ever 'not' had blueberry waffles?"
"Then I'll have oatmeal."
"Don't say I didn't try," Rube said before stuffing a bite of egg into his mouth.
"Where the hell are Mason and Daisy?" Roxy asked grouchily. "I've got to get to work."
"Don't worry yourself, Roxy my dear," Mason said as he and Daisy walked in behind them. "The dream team is here!"
"Make that the in your dreams team," Daisy said as she slid into the booth next to Rube.
"Can I get you anything?" Kiffany asked Mason.
"What do you recommend?" Mason said as he settled in beside Georgia.
"I hear the blueberry waffles are popular," the large black woman said in a deadpan voice.
"I notice no one is actually having blueberry waffles," Mason said as he scanned the table.
"Rube's pushing blueberry waffles this morning," Georgia said with a weary grin as she blew on her coffee.
"Really? Is Rube paying for blueberry waffles this morning?"
"Not a chance." Rube said as he shoveled in another mouthful.
"In that case," Mason said disappointedly, "I'll have to pass."
"Nothing for me either, Kiffany," Daisy said with a smile.
After Kiffany delivered Georgia's oatmeal, Rube pulled out his wallet and began handing everyone their death notices. Georgia glanced at the little yellow sticky note, but didn't notice anything unusual at first. She set it down beside her bowl and continued to eat her oatmeal.
"Well," Mason said rubbing his hands together, "I must be off, souls to reap, larcenies to commit."
"I better get going too," Roxy said picking up her hat from the table. "Daisy, you want a ride?"
"Thanks," Daisy said as she hopped up.
"Okay, George," Roxy said to the girl sitting beside her, "let me out."
Georgia scooped up one last mouthful of oatmeal, grabbed her death notice and slid off the seat. As she turned to leave with the others, Rube called out to her.
"Hold on, Peanut," he said. "Sit back down and finish your oatmeal. I've got something to talk to you about."
Georgia watched the other three soul reapers walk out of the restaurant and waved after them, "See you guys tonight." Then she sat down and resumed her breakfast.
Rube leaned forward with an intense look on his face that might have been sadness. "Don't you have any questions about the assignment I just gave you?" he asked.
Georgia looked once again at the little yellow note. It looked pretty much like they all did. It had a name, "K. Urahara", an address, "44 Sakura Yokocho, Karakura" and strangely a date instead of a time.
"What's with this address? Is it somewhere in Chinatown? And how come it just says the day after tomorrow, what gives? Can a deader wait that long?"
"That's not a deader, that's your new boss," Rube said with a pained look. "George, you're being reassigned and that address is in Tokyo, Japan."
Georgia slowly placed the spoon full of oatmeal back in the bowl and took another long look at the note before responding loudly. "Say what?"
"A team leader in Karakura has requested assistance. They need a temporary soul reaper because the regular team is dealing with some kind of problem. Someone above me felt you could benefit from the experience."
"But… Japan?" Georgia said with a stunned expression. "That's like… on the other side of the planet. How am I supposed to get there?"
Rube grinned. "I'd suggest an airplane."
Georgia stared into her oatmeal. "How much does something like that cost?"
"I don't know," Rube said rolling his eyes dramatically. "About seven hundred sixty eight dollars and twenty eight cents I'd guess."
Georgia's shoulders slumped. "Where am I supposed to get that kind of money? There's no way Happy Time's going to advance me that much… Hey, what am I supposed to do about my job… and my family? I can't leave here."
Rube wrung his hands together. "Peanut, your job is reaping souls and you don't have a family any more. You're dead, I keep telling you that. I think one of the reasons you were picked for this job is to get you away from here so you'll understand that better."
"Okay," Georgia wasn't convinced. There had to be a way out of this. "But why Japan? How am I supposed to reap souls there? I can't speak Japanese."
"Can you speak Spanish?" Rube asked with a lift of one eyebrow.
"A little, but I don't want to be assigned to Mexico City either."
"Did you have any trouble reaping Mrs. Gonzales last week? She never learned a word of English, but she could understand you and you could understand her. That's part in parcel with being a soul reaper and it'll work the same way in Japan."
Rube was chasing her into a corner. She had to think fast, there must be some way out of this. Then it came to her and with a big grin she said, "How am I supposed to go to another country if I don't have a passport? Those things take months to get."
"Yes they do," Rube said, matching her grin. "Which is why I applied for one as soon as you became a reaper." He reached into his jacket and pulled out a little blue book with plane tickets folded inside and handed it to Georgia.
She opened up the brand new passport and looked at the picture of Mildred Hagen, her reaper identity. The tickets were for a coach seat on a flight leaving Sea-Tac International that night. "You think of everything don't you, Rube?"
"That's my job, Peanut." Rube said with a smile. "I'm going to miss you, kid. I hope this really is just a temporary assignment, but if it's not I want you to know I've really enjoyed working with you."
Rube stood up and wrapped a rubber band around his wallet. He stuck out his hand and Georgia shook it half-heartedly. Then he left her staring into her oatmeal.
Kiffany walked up with a coffee pot in her hand. "You want a refill?"
Georgia looked up at the only living person she ever seemed to have conversations with. "Kiffany, do they have blueberry waffles in Japan?"
o o o
The first thing Georgia discovered after landing at Tokyo's Narita International Airport was that while she might be able to understand dead Japanese people, the living ones all spoke gibberish. She made it through customs without a problem in spite of not understanding half of what the young customs officer said to her in what passed for English here.
However, once she made it to the main concourse the full impact of what she was up against hit her. Only about half the signs included English translations, the rest all looked like biker tattoos. All around her was a babble of incomprehensible chatter that was quickly giving her a headache. Announcements over the public address system sounded exotic, but were as meaningless as graffiti on a Ravenna Boulevard overpass.
Several people stopped and asked, "Mayo tea in mask, eh?" Georgia decided just to shake her head and smile rather than commit to trying to understand them. Then a strange looking guy in a Hawaiian shirt and a green stripped hat walked up to her and said, "You must be the replacement. I'm Urahara. Let's be kind to one another."
Georgia blinked in surprise. It was like watching an old monster movie. The man's mouth moved one way, but the words she heard didn't match up. She was still hearing him speak long after he stopped talking.
"Uh... yeah. I'm George."
"I thought George was a boy's name in America?" Urahara said with a grin.
"Well, it's actually Georgia."
"Isn't that a state?"
"Yeah, but it can also be a girl's name. Are you my new boss?"
Urahara leered. "You're a pretty good looking foreigner. I was expecting a big black guy for some reason. We better get going or we'll miss the next train."
"Train?" Georgia said in confusion. "I thought your place was here in Tokyo."
Urahara laughed, "We're not in Tokyo. Tokyo proper is a two hour ride from here and in Japan you go everywhere on the train. You'll get the hang of it. You able to read much Japanese?"
"Too bad, I'll try and find you an English map. Is it true you were hit by a falling toilet seat?"
Georgia hung her head and mumbled, "Yes."
"We don't get a lot of falling toilet seats in Japan. We don't get that many murders either, so I hope you won't get bored. You'll mostly be dealing with traffic accidents and suicides. We get a lot of those. We've got a bit of a backlog right now, so I hope you don't suffer from jet lag too much."
"If you don't mind my asking, why am I here? Rube mentioned you were having some kind of problem?"
"Nothing for you to worry about, I'll explain when we get back to the store. Tell me, do you like fried octopus balls?"
Georgia was certain there had to be something wrong with her soul reaper translator. At least she hoped Urahara hadn't actually said what she thought he just said.
o o o
"Tell me you're joking."
Georgia stared through the hole in the basement floor at the unbelievably huge cavern below. A simple metal ladder was attached to one side and extended down seemingly forever.
"You're not afraid of heights, are you?" Urahara said with a grin. "Even if you fall, you know you can't die again."
"Actually I was a bit more worried about the climb back up."
The man in sandals and the oddly striped hat chuckled. "Suit yourself, but I need to be down there tonight and you need some training. I can't be in two places at once, so make up your mind and meet me at the bottom."
With that Urahara swung his legs around the ladder and started swiftly lowering himself into the hole.
Georgia sighed. Hadn't these people ever heard of elevators? They seemed to have every other imaginable modern gadget. On the train ride from the airport she'd seen more cell phones, mp3 players, and laptop computers than at a Radio Shack convention.
With a resigned shrug, she looped her handbag over her head, grabbed the sides of the ladder and started the long climb down. When her foot suddenly touched the floor of the cavern several seconds later, she nearly fell over.
"Don't assume everything is as it appears, Georgia-san. Did you really think there was a huge cavern physically under the streets of Tokyo? Come on, I'll introduce you to my team."
They walked deeper into the cavern until they met a group of teenagers. There was a tall boy with blond hair and oriental eyes, a broad shouldered boy who looked more polynesian, a girl with orangey colored hair and a nerdy looking guy with glasses. There was also a black cat, which eyed her suspiciously.
"Everyone, I'd like you to meet Georgia. She's a death god from America and she'll be filling in for Ichigo while you're all in the Soul Society."
The tall blond boy said in translated English, "Nice to meet ya. I'm Ichigo." But the others all babbled at her in Japanese.
Georgia's pointed at the teens. "Um… they're not dead. I thought you said this was your team?"
Urahara grinned and scratched the back of his head. "Well, technically only Ichigo is a death god and he was only a temp until just a few of days ago. The rest of these kids are just... well, gifted humans. By the way, in Japan it's not polite to point at people."
"Uh... I - am – sorry!" She said loudly and slowly. Then she tried to bow to the kids the way she'd seen people at the airport bowing.
The girl giggled and walked up to her. "No need shout, Georgia-san. Most us know little bit English. My name Orihime Inoue. This Chad Sado and Uryuu Ishida."
The two boys bowed, but the blond boy in black said crossly, "Inoue, what are you doing? She speaks Japanese just fine."
Urahara laughed. "Relax, Ichigo, I'll explain later. I'm going to get Georgia-san settled and then we'll set up the portal. You guys should start getting ready."
As Urahara led her away Georgia asked, "What's with all this 'death god' business? I'm a soul reaper."
"Not while you're in Japan. Here you're a god, but don't let it go to your head. In Japan, even flowerpots have gods of their own. Now, let me introduce my real team."
They walked up to a rather large man wearing a leather apron and two children. The big man and the little girl bowed when Urahara introduced her, but the little boy just crossed his arms and said, "You send for replacements and this is all you get? She's not even Asian, much less Japanese."
"Shut up, Jinta." Georgia noted that even when he was speaking harshly, Urahara's smile never faltered. "For obvious reasons I couldn't ask the Soul Society for a replacement. If you go to the Americans for help, you're going to get an American."
"You expect her to go up against Hollows?"
"No, I expect you to handle all of that. Georgia-san is going to do all the soul reaping Rukia was supposed to do when she came here." A cane suddenly appeared in Urahara's hand and he cracked it across the boy's head before he could say anything else. "I'm sorry, Georgia-san. This rude young man is Jinta and the far more polite young lady is his partner Ururu. And this is my assistant, Tessai."
The big man bowed again. "My pleasure, miss."
Georgia returned the bow. All this bowing was beginning to give her a backache.
"Tessai, did you bring everything?"
"Of course." He handed Urahara a cell phone and a bundle of black clothing.
Urahara turned to Georgia and handed her the phone. "You'll get your assignments on this. Don't worry that it's Japanese, you'll be able to read the death notices. It has a GPS function, so you shouldn't have any problem finding your way around. This used to belong to another death god named Rukia, so if it rings don't answer it."
Georgia flipped open the phone and sure enough the display was covered with incomprehensible Japanese characters. "What happened to this Rukia?"
Everyone got really quiet and Urahara's smile faded for the first time. "She made a few mistakes and now she's in trouble with the Soul Society, what you might call the Other Side. That's where Ichigo and the others are headed tonight. They're going to try and save her."
Georgia's mind reeled. "They're… going to the Other Side? But three of them aren't even dead… and how's the blond kid going to get there? I was told soul reapers couldn't cross over."
Jinta snickered again, which earned him another crack over the head from Urahara's cane. "In general that's true. Death gods recruited from the living aren't usually allowed in the Soul Society, but this is a special case. I'll be setting up a portal for them to pass through, but it's not exactly standard practice."
"He means it's illegal and we could all get in trouble for it." Jinta said defiantly before he ducked out of the way of another swipe of Urahara's cane.
"Anyway," Urahara's smile returned. "That's nothing for you to worry about. The four of us are staying behind, but we'll be busy with other things. All I need you to do is catch up with the soul reaping around here while they're gone."
"Okay…" Georgia had a sneaking suspicion there was more to all this than they were letting on, but if all she had to do was reap a few souls and then hopefully go home in a week who cared about what they were hiding. "I guess I can handle that."
"Good! Oh, there are a few things you need to know about reaping souls in Japan. First, you'll need to wear these when you're doing it." Urahara took the black robes from Tessai and handed them to her. "These are the same type of robes Ichigo was wearing."
"You expect me to walk around Tokyo dressed up like Tom Cruse in The Last Samurai?"
"No, these are spectral robes, they'll only show up when you're actually reaping. You'll also need this…"
Like some birthday party magician, Urahara reached past Georgia's left hip and out of nowhere produced a long black sword in a wooden scabbard. He held it out to her, but something about the weapon frightened her. Georgia didn't want to touch it.
"Go on, take it. This is your Soul Slayer and you'll need it to release and bury the souls of the dead here. You can't just touch people the way they do in the West. In Japan we are bound by very ancient customs."
Georgia reached out and tentatively gripped the handle of the sword. Instantly she felt her corporeal body melt away as it usually did right after she reaped a soul. Looking down she found herself already dressed in the black robes of a death god. "Whoa!"
"I know, it's a bit dramatic," Urahara said as he let go of the sword and Georgia felt its full weight. "But even in modern Japan the traditions of the samurai still run deep. Use the blade to release the souls of the living the same way you have been. Then use the other end to bury the soul and send it on its way. Be careful with this thing, even though the blade won't cut living flesh it'll slice through you like tofu."
Georgia drew the blade out of its cover and gazed at the polished surface. "You actually reap souls with this thing?"
"Up until the second world war, American death gods were still lugging around scythes to mow people down with. I think it was seeing us with our soul slayers that made them decide to do away with the ungodly things."
Georgia snapped the sword back into its case. "I'm sorry, I can't do this. I've never even held a sword before. Now you want me to swing this thing at people?"
"You don't have to become a swordsman, just take it out and touch them with it if that's all you want to do. Look, I've got to go get those kids on their way. You stay over here and practice for a while. You'll get the feel of it soon enough. Tessai, Jinta, Ururu, let's go. That portal isn't going to create itself."
Georgia watched them walk away and shook her head. "This is crazy. I'm not a samurai, what if I cut my arm off with this thing?"
"You stick it back on until it heals."
She looked around for the source of the deep voice, but the only thing nearby was the black cat from before. "Don't tell me, you're a death god too?"
The cat looked up and then its mouth moved. "Very good. Either that was a lucky guess or you're smarter than you let on. My name's Yoruichi Shihouin by the way. Urahara always forgets to introduce me. I have a little time before I must leave with the others, if you'd like I can show you how to use your soul slayer."
Georgia rolled her eyes up and looked at the long ladder leading to the tiny hole in the roof of the cavern. "I get it now. That's the rabbit hole, I'm Alice and you're the Cheshire cat…" When she looked back down again the cat was gone, replaced by a naked woman with eggplant colored hair and a tan so dark it made George Hamilton look pale.
"The first thing you need to learn is how to draw your sword," Yoruichi said as she walked behind Georgia and guided the hand gripping the sword down to her side. The woman's bare breasts pressed into Georgia's back as she continued to explain how to hold and draw the weapon. All Georgia could think about was how much Mason would love to be in her place right about now.
x x x
All characters in this story are a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead is purely coincidental.
This work is copyright © 2007 by Juliet Carnell, it is not public domain and all rights are reserved. This work is not for publication. This work may not be reproduced, distributed or sold in any format or media. This work may not be included in any collection without the express written permission of the author. The reader may make one printed or electronic copy of this work for personal use.
Characters and story elements that have appeared in 'Dead Like Me' are copyright © 2003-2004 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. and are used here without license.
Characters and story elements that have appeared in 'Bleach' are copyright © 2004-2006 by Tite Kubo and are used here without license.