Author's Note: Yay! I finally summoned the courage to write a full length story without giving up halfway. Anyway, I don't know what else to say, so you just continue reading beyond the line (wow, that sounds like Lion King).
Disclaimer: I don't know Bleach. Duh. YES I KNOW! I DON'T FREAKIN' OWN BLEACH! takes medication
For as long as I can remember, I have been running.
After a while, you get used to it, I guess. Correction: you have to get used to it. Rukongai is a dangerous place, and trouble brews all over. There are times I wish I was born in Seireitei, where I heard that life was much better. I would be a shinigami, and not have to worry about finding water all the time. Then, reality pulls me back into this twisted hell. Sadly, I am just another hungry child in Rukongai – wishing, but never getting my wish.
I have learned (oh so long ago) the difficult way that wishes never come true anyway.
Not in this life.
Once upon a time, I did retain those childish views on this world (could Soul Society even be considered a world?). I wish I could say how old I was at that time, but sadly, timeless years have gone by, and I have lost track of exactly how old I am. Therefore, I cannot continue this tale like it is a childhood fairytale. Not that I would tell this tale to an innocent child anyway.
Though I cannot remember my age that specific moment in time, I can vaguely remember that I was quite young; a small child in human appearances. That day, I was, as always, searching for more water. Walking around Inuzuri in the middle of winter was not the most pleasant experience, but as a hungry and homeless child, I had no choice. The cold winter winds thrashed against my face, and the cold seeped through my thin and old yukata.
I wandered around aimlessly for hours, before the chilling temperature finally took a toll on me. My feet had long lost all feeling, and my hands remained as numb as ever. There is still no sight of water, and I am cold beyond belief. For some strange reason, I enjoyed being so unfeeling, so numb.
Nonetheless, if I did not find shelter soon, I would freeze to death. As I looked up ahead in the distance, my hope of living came back, because there was a light in the distance. I walked slowly towards the light, fighting my fatigue and pain. Too bad my body gave in though; before I knew it, the world turned black (what a cliché).
I woke up, hours, perhaps days, later, on a comfortable futon. I can feel my hands and feet again, but the ceiling I was looking at was unfamiliar. As I tried to get up, a shadow flashed before my eyes, and suddenly, a shinigami was looking at me.
"You are awake."
The shinigami seems to be a man of little words.
"Did you bring me here, shinigami-dono?"
"Ah, I did."
"Thank you very much."
We did not talk much afterwards, so I crept back under the warm blankets and fell asleep.The shinigami's name was Mizuhashi Hiroto, as he later informed me.
At that point in time, I thought he would become the family that I always wanted. My wish had come true, or so I thought.
Mizuhashi-dono was a tall man; I only came up to his waist when we are both standing. He did not talk to me much (unless he told his stories), but he provided me with the basic needs such as water, and had taken me under his wing. For what reason, I did not know (back then), but found no need to question him about it. After all, he was the one who made my life safer, as I did not have to worry about finding water. He was like the father I never had.
Back then, I was truly grateful to Mizuhashi-dono.
Even though Mizuhashi-dono had to live in the barracks of his division in the Gotei Thirteen, he lets me live in his home in Rukongai. He occasionally visited though me though. When he did, he would tell me stories of his missions; whether it would be fighting a hollow, or on a reconnaissance mission to the living world. Sometimes Mizuhashi-dono would give me 'things' (he called it candy) to eat, even though I do not need food to survive.
On one of those visits, my childish wishes were ruthlessly shattered. After all, all good things must come to an end.
I had been sleeping on the futon when he came in. I heard him getting closer to my room, his footsteps getting louder with each step. At last, all was silent before he opened the sliding screen door.
Everything happened in a blur. He took a step to my bedside, and pinned me to the ground. As he lowers his face, he used his mouth to loosen my sash, and tossed it aside. I attempted to cry for help, but he uses his large hands to silence me. His eyes are filled with lust.
"I have given you everything you have. Now you will return the favour."
My tears blind me as I try to escape, but his grip remains firm. The last thing I remember is his ruthless touch, and how I somehow manage to escape him. His heaving breathing still rings in my head. The next thing I know, I am sobbing silently in a deserted house in Rukongai, attempting to tie my sash across my waist.
That is when I cut all ties from other people.
What happened is in the past. For now, I must move on.
After running away, I wandered off to another district, which happened to be Inuzuri. This shabby and dusty district that I am forced to call home now just happens to be one of the worst parts of Rukongai (I know, just my luck). The streets are mostly bare, without life, and its citizens (the richer ones, anyway) are harsher than the environment has ever treated a street urchin like me.
The adults are either robbers or murderers in Inuzuri. And yet, they scorn at children like me for stealing. They call us 'disreputable punks' or animals, though their crimes are greater than ours. The hypocrisy of the entire situation – should it make me laugh or cry?
No matter – nothing in Rukongai is worth shedding tears over. That is something I have learned long ago, and remains ingrained to my mind to this very day. Even so, I have accepted the title 'scum'.
This is what I am.
An orphan. A loner. The reasons why I keep on running. I run, not only for my physical survival, but to distance myself from the rest of the population. While the people who arrive here eventually create their own surrogate families, I do not. Human emotions and feelings are too complicated and too much of a hassle. Or maybe it is because a chilling person like me does not want to feel such emotions (never again will I fall for it), to feel the warmth of a family.
Fair enough; I need no kin.
And so the days pass by. Despite being on the run most of the time, my life has fallen into a steady, if not dull, routine. I spend my waking hours looking for water everyday, whether those methods be stealing or drinking leftovers from a water. Sometimes I have the luxury of resting beside a pond—occasionally it's clean, but most often it's not. When that happens, I spend hours staring out into nothingness, lost in thought. Then, as the sun begins to set, I start to look for a place to spend the night. The location varies from time to time – just yesterday I slept under a balcony of a richer Rukongai resident, and two weeks ago, I rested in an alleyway.
I drift from place to place, like a lost child trying to find their place in the world.
Then one day, this all changed. Perhaps it was fated to change.
There have been countless nights of pondering on my part, and perhaps, some slight regret over this incident. If I had not decided to walk into that busy, marketplace that day, then maybe, just maybe, I would not need to endure this kind of suffering (or is it happiness?) that I have for centuries to come. Perhaps if I had chosen a different path...but no matter – the past remains the past, and I have no power to reject it.
Sometimes, when I look back on this incident, I laugh at how idiotic he can be. Although I am not stupid enough to steal water in broad daylight in a busy, crowded street, apparently someone else thought otherwise. Such an idiotic plan can only be put to use by him. Anyone with a brain would be able to see that stealing in broad daylight is stupid.
And thus it began: my journey to hell and back.
The sun is ruthless in the summer, especially in Inuzuri. As I look on ahead, I can see the surroundings being distorted by the humidity and heat. Not a great day to be short on water. Sighing slightly, I make my rounds in the marketplace, hoping to salvage some leftovers in the garbage heaps. Unfortunately for me, everyone is looking for water, including the adults. As a child, I have no chance against those stronger and taller than me, so I begin to leave. Hopefully another district will have some water for me.
I have somehow managed to stumble upon the marketplace of another district: West Rukongai, District fifty-six. My feet seem to have automatically carried me here while I was thinking. Perhaps I am growing too absent-minded for my own good. As I slowly shift through the massive crowd, I see that this district is indeed nicer than the one I live in. Their food is less scrappy, and the water is not a murky shade of brown. If the massive crowd was not here, I would have taken this chance to steal some of it.
Before I can think of stealing though, a scene erupts behind me. I get a perfect view, despite the people crowding around, looking at what may have caused this ruckus.
"Hold it right there, you scum!"
I steal a glance over my shoulder to see – for a lack of better words – a fat, noisy, weird-looking merchant, beet red in the face. He holds a rather sharp katana (similar to the ones the shinigami from Seireitei have) in one hand, waving it around threateningly at the children who have stolen a jug of water from him. After seeing the katana, the crowd turns around to mind their own business. No one wants to get involved with a person wielding a katana.
"You have better return my water jug before I count to ten!"
The red haired boy, who appeared to be the leader of the group, clutches the water tightly as the rest run behind him through the mass of the crowd (Did they not hear or see the commotion?).I watch as the merchant persistently chase them, yelling threats and insults in a frenzied manner. As he continues to dangerously wave his sword, I look towards him and see a killing intent in his eyes, suddenly feeling some pity towards the group of boys.
I can see the merchant's patience waning, as he does not take the effort to count to ten. "One! Ten! I don't care anymore! I'm going to kill you even if you want to give it back!"
Something inside me snaps) at that point. Perhaps it was the repressed feelings I had about Rukongai; perhaps it was life in general. Anyhow, it takes me less than a minute to come up with my 'brilliant' plan.
As the merchant pasts in front of me, I stick my foot out suddenly, making him trip and fall flat on his face. A rare smile slowly sneaks up onto my face as I looked on, satisfied with my work. But before the merchant can recover from my sneak attack, I proceed to step on top of him and run ahead.
"This way! Follow me!" I call to the group of children, and turn back for a second to see the red haired boy staring at me, dumbstruck. "Hurry up, unless you want to lose the water that you are holding!"
With only a moment's hesitation, the group of boys begin to follow my lead. I run through the many alleyways of Inuzuri, avoiding all the adults that may have been suspicious of us. We nearly bump into a shinigami twice, but we run away before our faces make a lasting impression on their mind.
"Oi! Where are you taking us?" The red haired boy seems to be a bit impatient with my route (which, I might admit, was a long and tiresome one).
I try to ignore him and concentrate on running, but the red haired idiot would not take no for an answer. Before I knew it, he has grabbed my head, and makes me turn around to look at him. And all while the water is still in his hands.
"Don't ignore someone when they ask you a question! Where are we going?" He is seething with rage, and panting from all the running.
I grab his wrist and start running again, completely ignoring all of his protests. After what seems like an eternity of running, the abandoned house that I have made my temporary residence comes into our sight. I slow down my pace, and come to a stop. As I catch my breath, I look over at the shabby house once more. To my eternal disappointment, the front door has been removed, making the interior a chilly and unpleasant place. There are some boards missing here and there, but mostly intact.
Quite a nice finding, though I try hard not to brag. In reality, I do not have anyone to brag to, so therefore, I do not brag at all.
After a few moments of heavy breathing, my heart rate begins to slow down. I turn towards the red haired boy (whose hair is tied up on top of his head, giving off the image of a pineapple). He is holding the jug of water like it is something precious to him—which it probably is.
Of course, I let go of him first. I glance down at his wrist for a second to see that my grip has made a lasting impression on it.
"You are being very rude to the person who just saved your ass." I remain level-headed, keeping the tone of my voice cool and aloof.
He continues to glare at me, while rubbing his bruised wrist. The water jug is now on the ground. "Answer me! Where the hell are we?" The boys glances around curiously, if not cautiously.
I continue to act like the calmer one, keeping my voice steady and distant. "Some would call it home. I choose not to; therefore, I called it a temporary residence."
The red haired boy's anger seems to have died down a bit, but the attitude still remains. "Ah." The word escapes from his mouth a bit too softly for his liking because I see him looking a bit flustered.
A smirk plays on my lips, finally showing some emotion for the first time in my life. "Is that all you can say to your saviour?"
He smiles mockingly at me and bows down. "Thank you so much." One can hear the massive amount of sarcasm dripping from his voice. Still retaining his smile (it should be called a smirk, really), he straightens his back stares at me curiously. "I guess it's only natural to know my saviour's name."
I extend my arm and shake his hand while mirroring his smirk. "Rukia."
"Nice to meet you, Rukia. I'm Renji."
And so begins my adventure to hell.
Author's Note Part 2: Hope you enjoyed it! I don't know how people can write a 4,000 word chapter, but I hope this wasn't too short. Anyway, reviews are appreciated, and constructive criticism is very much wanted.