Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.
Chapter 1 - Take Flight
We look up at the stars
And pray that our wings won't be clipped
As we journey into the heavens
"Okay, now fold that side, then that side."
"Not quite. Here, like this. Now turn it over and repeat the same folds."
Momo Hinamori, fukutaichou of the 5th division, was sitting quite comfortably on a cushion next to Rukia Kuchiki. Beside them was a low table littered with a mountain of colourful paper (some of which were crumpled and used to litter the floor as well), several spools of thread and a few needles lying precariously about.
"Now carefully pull it and…there! Done!"
Resting in the palm of Momo's hand was a slightly wrinkled, but all in all recognisable paper crane. Her eyes lit up in delight. "Thank you for teaching me Rukia-san."
Rukia smiled in response. "Do you want to hear something interesting about these paper cranes?"
"In the world of the living there's an ancient Japanese legend that says if one completes 'senbazuru'or the folding of a thousand paper cranes, they will have a single wish granted to them."
"Really? Oh, so is that why you've started?"
Momo spotted five chains of paper cranes lying on the ground next to the table. She reached over and carefully picked one up, cradling it in the palm of her hands so she would not damage them in any way. The petite cranes in this chain contained all the colours of the rainbow but each were marked with the same floral pattern. Momo smiled; she had always preferred small over large. When things were small it made them that much cuter. Of course there were always exceptions -- one being that Shiro-chan had a growth spurt (who would have thought after all those years?!) and was now just a smidge taller than her.
Matsumoto lowered her hand so half of it was sitting on her taichou's head and the other half…well it WAS meant to be sitting on Momo's head, but the thing was it wasn't. A wide grin graced her face and she bent over a little to ruffle the child prodigy's snowy hair. She, after all, still towered over him.
"You finally did it taichou! You are now taller than your precious Momo-chan! Congrats! Although it's only about this much."
She raised her hand up to their face level and put her thumb and index finger all but touching. "Well now that all of our curiosities are settled I'm going to celebrate taichou's growth with some good old sake! See ya!"
With that Matsumoto rushed out the door before Toshiro could yell at her. Although a little flushed from his fukutaichou's bluntly put "precious Momo-chan", nonetheless he was overall ecstatic at finally, FINALLY surpassing Momo in height. He moved his head a fraction and smirked down (that's right, DOWN) at her. Momo gave him a little glare.
"Shiro-chan you're not THAT much taller than me you know!"
"But I am still taller than you. I think I'm going to enjoy this."
"Mou! Just you wait Shiro-chan! Soon it'll be back to ME looking down on YOU!"
"Yeah. There're a hundred in each chain," replied Rukia
"Wow, so you're already halfway there. What are you wishing for?"
"It's a secret. But I'll tell you when it comes true. For now do you wanna hear something else about senbazuru?"
"I think you'll like this bit. If your wish involves another person- "
Rukia paused and used her elbow to gently nudge Momo a couple of times. Her face began to turn red and she was trying hard not to let a look of fluster show. "W-what?!"
Rukia gave her a knowing smile and continued.
"Then fold the last 8 cranes out of something that you feel is connected to that particular person. In doing so it will bring that person great happiness and luck, so it says."
"So what kind of something?" Momo tried to ask in a casual tone.
Unfortunately Rukia saw right through that one.
"Oh I don't know. Maybe a picture of them, a bit of fabric from their clothing, or maybe the wrapping paper from the present Hitsugaya-taichou gave you this year?"
Momo's face turned completely red and she started to nervously play around with her fingers. "Rukia I, um…I don't…I mean Hitsugaya-kun couldn't…WE'RE- "
Whoops, that had come out a little TOO loud.
" -we're just friends, that's all," she lamely mumbled.
"Aww, anyone with eyes can see that you to love each other…well except for you two of course."
Right at that moment something (or someone) fell to the ground right outside the window. Both Rukia and Momo got up to investigate only to see Renji sitting up, rubbing his head and looking around dazed. Rukia slapped her hand against her head and let out an irritated sigh before sticking her head out the window.
"Fall off the roof again? I told you not to sleep in high places Renji," she said in a bossy voice. "Remember that time you fell off the tree right onto that gravestone?!…Hmm, that was pretty funny actually."
"Shut it Rukia."
Renji tried to pull himself up and by tried I mean he dragged himself up, fully relying on the railing to keep him from falling over, and ended up doing just that as soon as he let go.
Rukia let out another sigh. "Might as well go help him before he does anything stupid-"
"I heard that!"
"Amazing," she muttered sarcastically. "Hinamori-san, you can help yourself to anything on the table if you want, just please don't take the Chappy printed paper. I'm really attached to those."
With that said she rushed out of the room.
Momo walked down the halls of the Seireitei carrying a spool of thread, a needle and a stack of paper. She could still faintly hear Rukia and Renji arguing. As soon as Renji was a lot more coherent and was able to stand on his feet, a shouting match took place. ("You know, I bet if you slept on the ground you'd find some way to fall!" "Stupid! You can't fall off the damn ground!" "Exactly!")
During the entire walk from the 13th division to the 5th division, all that was on Momo's mind was the senbazuru legend and the tenth division taichou.
I wonder how long it will take before I can wish that Shiro-chan will love me? I have no duties today. I think I can finish about fifty before five…Too bad I'm not better at folding them yet.
She went into her room and with her goal in mind, began to fold with barely contained enthusiasm and excitement over the prospect of her wish.
She threaded her fiftieth crane through and held the chain in front of her. The ones down the bottom looked very much like her first one; all wrinkly and worn looking. But as her eyes travelled up she could see them gradually getting better. The ones at the very top were perfect! It was half and hour before five. Even with her slow pace she still managed to complete her goal at the expense of somewhat sore fingers. She placed the chain in one hand, making sure the needle was safely tucked away. After all, she still had more cranes to thread on before she could tie it off. Momo already decided to make eight chains of 124 cranes and a single chain consisting of the last eight ones; the ones to be folded out of something that reminded her of Shiro-chan.
She gently closed the door to her room and began making her way towards the 10th division. When Momo reached the doors of Toshiro's office, she went in without knocking and cheerfully walked up to his desk. As usual he was busy with paperwork and his fukutaichou Matsumoto was no where in sight.
"Taichou," he said without looking up.
"How do you even know I wasn't going to say 'Hitsugaya-taichou' hmm?"
Toshiro looked up and gave her an 'oh please' look before continuing on with his paperwork.
"Fine Shiro-chan. I'll leave," Momo said with false sulkiness. And it worked.
Toshiro sighed and put his brush down. "Jeeze, what is it Bed Wetter Momo? And it's Hitsugaya-taichou." He reached for his cup of green tea.
With a huge grin she dangled her chain right in his face. "Look Shiro-chan! If I make a thousand of these my wish will come true!"
"You believe in that stuff Hinamori?"
"It sounds magical, like if I do this then my wish really will come true."
"Okay then what is it?"
"I can't tell you or else it won't come true."
"You probably wouldn't even be able to fold a thousand anyway."
"I will too be able to fold a thousand! Don't be so mean Shiro-chan!"
"Don't call me that Bed Wetter Momo."
"Then don't call me THAT Shiro-chan!"
"I'm of a higher ranking."
Momo glared at him in annoyance. She couldn't think of anything else to say. Once upon a time ago she could've said that exact same thing. Damn those growth spurts. Toshiro folded his arms behind his head in a nonchalant way. "I win."
At that moment the doors burst open and an amazingly tipsy Matsumoto teetered in. "Never fear! Matsumoto is here!"
Though being tipsy doesn't exempt her from saying down right weird and stupid things.
Toshiro perked up an eyebrow. "What happened? You're not a walking bottle of sake for once." he asked dryly.
"Oh taiiiiichoooooou! It's horrible!"
She ran over and hugged his head, nearly suffocating him in the process. "The bar ran out of sake! I only drank half a bottle! Damn you Kira and Renji for drinking so much! Go steal the chicken!"
Toshiro detached Matsumoto's arms away from him and pushed her away, deciding against asking what in hell she was talking about. It would probably lead him into a headache.
"You're so cold taichou!" she whined.
She looked over and noticed Momo for the first time. "Ah Momo-chan! How are you, how are you?! Oh, what's this?"
She lifted up Momo's hand so she could take a close look at the cranes. "Paper cranes? Oh yeah! I think Rukia-chan told me about these. What was it, what was it? A wish…another person or something…AHA!"
A sly grin appeared on Matsumoto's face; a grin that told Momo trouble was coming.
"I bet you're gonna wish-"
That you won't say it?!
Please, please, please don't get it right!!
"-gonna fall in lo-"
Ah damn you Rangiku-san…