The process of becoming a hollow and the evolution that follows is something that's always fascinated me about the Bleach world. I decided to write something from a Hollow's point of view as they progress through the various stages of development toward Vasto Lorde. I hope to accurately depict what my view of a Hollow's growth involves as well as the main character's personal growth. I hope it turns out well. I actually planned this story out, unlike any other story I've ever made in my life.
It's going to be a bit of a mishmash between action-adventure, tragedy, and a psychological journey of sorts. Actual canon characters probably won't become involved until much later in the story. Like…toward the last few chapters. And even then, no one from Karakura or modern day Bleach world. This should take place a couple years before the actual Bleach storyline. Certainly before Ichigo is born. But I hope that the characters I create will be interesting enough to keep you reading. Let's see how it works, shall we?
The sun was shining when she died. The sky was the bluest of blues, and there wasn't a single cloud in that entire vast expanse. Below the hospital window, the cherry blossoms swayed gently in the breeze. Inside, it smelled like disinfectant and latex. The doctors and nurses dashed back and forth all around the room, checking monitors and yelling about her failing status.
We could hear them from the hospital courtyard. I sat silently under the gentle pink of one of the cherry blossoms. Beside me, she leaned thoughtfully against the trunk, staring back up at the hospital window where the doctors were doing all they could to save her life.
"I feel like we should tell them…" she said slowly. "They're trying so hard but…" She turned to look at me, her favorite sundress flowing gracefully around her ankles. "I'm already here, right?"
With a smile, I turned to look at her. She looked peaceful now. No tubes jutted out of her mouth and nose. No unsightly hospital gown hung off her slowly diminishing figure. No smooth pale skin where her hair was supposed to be. And best of all, her eyes were finally open again. It was soothing to be able to look into those gorgeous pools of green again. It had been months since I had been able to see those eyes open.
"Are you listening, Aki?"
I blinked and shook my head. "Sorry, Ayano." I smiled and stood up. "It's just been such a long time since I could look at you like this."
Ayano blushed and looked shyly at the ground. "Aki…" I could see her smiling as she tried to hide herself from me. After a moment, she looked up, grinning ear to ear. "Isn't it great? When I came to, my hair was just the right length, and I even had my favorite dress on." She spun around in place, her long black hair fluttering in the breeze and falling perfectly into place around her. She giggled and smiled. "It's just like you said it would be."
Ayano turned back to the hospital as one of the doctors shouted. There was an audible buzz of electricity. Ayano looked back at me. "Aki…you should say something."
Quietly I shook my head. "It wouldn't make any difference." I shrugged with a helpless smile. "Who's going to believe a kid who says he sees ghosts?"
"But Aki…" she said pleadingly.
"Doctors have their pride, Ayano." I said, looking up into the window. The doctor yelled "clear" again and electricity buzzed. "They do everything they can to save every life they can. Every day is a battle for them, fighting against something as natural as death…it isn't my place to tell them to give up."
Ayano gazed silently up at the window where her body now rested. It was now silent in the room. The doctors had stopped yelling and the nurses had stopped bustling about.
"Well…" Her voice was soft and restrained when she spoke. "I guess that's the end of that life."
I took a step forward and stood beside her. My hand gently reached up and rested on the small of her back. I could hear her breathe in sharply. I realized that my hand had been trembling. I had been scared, really scared. I'd seen ghosts for years now, but I had been so frightened that I wouldn't be able to ever touch her again. But there it was, my hand resting on her spiritual form and it felt just like she was alive under my fingers.
We turned at the same moment, gripping each other tightly. I held her firmly against me, letting her fingers clench against my back as her chest heaved with heavy sobs. We were one in that moment. My body and her spirit, clutching one another, being able to feel the other for the first time in months. Tears came unbidden to my eyes and I let them fall freely, soaking into her soft dark hair.
"Aki…I'm so happy!" I could feel her tears roll down her face and onto my cheek. "I was so scared that I'd never see you again!" she sobbed. "Aki…" she began to laugh as she cried. "I've never felt more alive!"
I held her tighter as I began to laugh as well. People passing us began to slow and stare. All they saw was a young man laughing and crying by himself. They didn't hear the voice of the girl I had waited for. They didn't see the smiling face of the girl I had prayed for every night since she agreed to go to the hospital months ago. They couldn't feel her shaking as laughter and sobs racked her spiritual body. They probably thought I was crazy. And I didn't care.
Gradually, the laughing and the crying began to diminish until we were still except for our own breathing. Finally, I pulled away slightly, still holding her. I looked straight into her beautiful green eyes.
"I love you, Ayano."
She didn't blush, or blink, or turn away for an instant. She looked straight back at me and smiled widely, the last of her tears falling from her eyes.
"I love you to, Akihiko."
We leaned in and our lips met. She tasted salty from the tears that had touched her lips and I knew I must have tasted similar. The kiss could have lasted hours and I wouldn't have known the difference. She was finally back. I had missed her more than anything in the world, and she was finally back.
At last, our lips parted and we stood, holding each other close, our foreheads resting against each other.
"Thanks for waiting for me," she said with a shy smile.
I kissed her lightly again before speaking. "I'd do it again in a second; you don't need to thank me."
"People are looking at us…" Ayano glanced around. She paused for a moment. "Well…they're looking at you I guess. Wow, you must look like a weirdo, Aki."
"Let them stare. I could care less what they think right now."
Ayano turned to look at me again. She was blushing now. "Let's go home, Aki."
I smiled and leaned forward, kissing her again. "Alright. Let's go."
We parted and I took my hand in hers, walking together under the cherry blossoms and the brilliant blue sky for the first time in months. We were going home.
Later that night, we lay together in my apartment, naked under the sheets. It was sometime past midnight but I had lost track of time a while ago. It was our first night together in what felt like eons. It didn't matter that I had work tomorrow. I would take the day off. All that mattered was Ayano. I felt a finger trace down my bare back
"You're stronger." Her soft voice filled the room. I felt myself blush slightly. "Have you been going to the gym?"
I rolled over and looked at her. In the dim light, her skin almost glowed. "Come on now," I said with a smile. "You were only gone for a few months. Do you really think I would change that much?"
She smiled and kissed me softly. "You're right, that was silly of me." She ran her fingers up and down my arm. "So what's with the muscles?" I felt my face turning red again. "Ooh…it's something embarrassing isn't it?" She wriggled under the covers, pulling closer to me. "What is it?"
I shook my head and made an uncomfortable noise.
"Alright, lemme guess." She thought for a moment. "You've been watching old kung-fu movies, and because you live by yourself you can clear out the area in front of the television and try and replicate what you saw."
"Not just kung-fu movies…" I grumbled. "Samurai movies too…"
She laughed. "But you realized you couldn't pull off most of the stuff because you're not flexible and you get tired quickly so you started stretching and running every so often."
I nodded, face bright red.
"Wow, Aki." She laughed again. "You know that's just like you…you really haven't changed." There was a long pause. Ayano moved closer to me. "I'm really glad though." She looked at me, her emerald eyes gleaming in the half-light. "I don't know what I would have done if you weren't you anymore."
Silently, I reached my arms around her and held her tightly. I held her in the darkness until I felt her breathing slow and grow calm. Apparently ghosts slept as well, I thought. I ran my fingers through her hair and let my head rest against the pillow. I began to fall asleep with her in my arms…
I woke up to the sound of Ayano's urgent whispers. Quickly I threw the covers off myself. I noticed that they simply passed through Ayano.
"Aki, do you hear that?"
I looked at her, floating slightly above the ground. She looked frightened—terrified even. I listened closely in the darkness but couldn't hear anything.
"Ayano…I can't hear anything."
"Just listen, it sounds like something…howling."
I paused again and listened as hard as I could. Everything was silent. After a moment though, I began to hear something.
"Actually…I do hear something howling…" I said slowly. It was faint, as if coming from very far away. It was hard to be sure if I was hearing it at all. After a moment, it disappeared.
"It's laughing now…" Ayano's face was pale. She turned to me, her fear apparent on her face. "Aki, it sounds like it's in the building!"
"In the…" I listened again. I could hear the faintest sound of something…it might have been laughter, but it was hard to tell. "Ayano…I…"
"Aki it's getting closer." Ayano's eyes were wide with terror now. "It can't be human!"
I looked at her for a moment and then nodded. Silently I stood up and looked at the door to the room. I listened as hard as I could. Ayano was frightened. I didn't know what it was, but I wasn't about to let it keep scaring her like this. Gradually, the sound became clearer. Laughter. It was getting louder, but it still sounded far away. Ayano was right though, it didn't sound human.
"It's in the next room…"Ayano clung to me. I could feel her shivering. Silently, I braced myself, concentrating as hard as I could. If Ayano could hear it and I couldn't, it was probably something spiritual. Something like a ghost. I focused as hard as I could on the sound.
At the edges of my vision, something began to blur against the far wall of the room. I heard Ayano gasp.
"Wha…what is that thing?" she stammered.
I focused on the blurs, they sharpened, becoming shapes. I noticed at that point that I could really hear it now. Something laughing, cackling to itself.
"I've already eaten tonight…"
The blurs grew more defined, taking on shapes until they outlined some sort of hulking creature.
"But you just smelled so delicious."