I know I should be finishing the next chapter of CotG, but I just had to get this first chapter down. More soon to follow, I hope.


"P-please! Think about what you are doing!"

"I could… we could all get very hurt! Reconsider, I beg you…!"

"Help! Someone! Please…"

He pleaded with them all the way up the hill. It was April Fool's, and they were determined to have their fun as his expense, as they did every year. There were reasons Hanatarou dreaded his birthday. The small pranks, the harmless and mostly painless he could endure almost happily. But the big ones they always saved for April first.

It seemed this year they simply hadn't been able to wait, and had snatched him from outside the barracks on his way to the mess hall to eat breakfast (no doubt it would have been laced with cleaning chemicals today, anyway) and taken him to the execution ground where the Sōkyoku had stood.

The wind was fierce at such an altitude. It clawed at their loose robes like something alive and malicious. Hanatarou was clamped tightly in the burly arms of one of the 11th Squad officers who'd captured him, and no amount of kicking and struggling had managed to free him. Now he watched in growing horror as they brought him closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. Their intentions had been clear from the start, but he'd never thought they'd actually go this far…

Now another man took him from the first, grabbing Hanatarou by the ankles and dangling him upside-down as if the medic weighed no more than a pillow. The young Shinigami was almost crying with terror, grabbing at this captors' clothes, then at the dusty ground until one of them kicked him in the face so he clapped his hands over his bloodied nose and troubled them no more with his clinging. He closed his eyes for the seemingly infinite stretch of time they held him out in the open air, concentrating on the pain in his probably-broken nose and the itch of his blood welling around his eyes and drying on his forehead. They were laughing, not drunken laughter. They knew exactly what they were doing. They did things like this to him every year, but this was the worst so far.

Hanatarou felt the hand holding his left ankle let go. For a moment he slipped and opened his eyes. There was Soul Society above him, white blocky buildings stretching into infinity. A few bright drops of blood flew upward to be whipped off by the wind. It was fortunate he hadn't eaten yet that day or he might have thrown up.

One of them spoke, but he couldn't hear for the pounding of his own blood in his ears. They'd had their fun. They were going to let him back on the ground. He could feel the grip on his remaining ankle slipping. They could drop him on his head if they wanted. All that mattered was the safe solidness of the ground below his body he was sure he'd feel in a minute…

Something was wrong. The fingers holding his ankle were gone. He should have hit the ground by now. The next thing he knew was the feeling of sick lightness in his stomach and he knew he was falling, the pale ground and sky switching places so quickly that they became indistinguishable. He must have closed his eyes at some time during it because the tiles lining the streets suddenly looked much larger than they had a moment ago and they were getting larger by the second. It occurred to him that he was probably going to die when he hit the ground and that wasn't something he wanted to watch.

So he closed his eyes. It would be a long time before he opened them again.