This is my first fic, so bear with me. You should probably know before you begin reading, that I place a great deal in details, and therefore my story will saturated with them. Know that while I will generally hold any advice voiced in high regards, it will be me that decides the matter of this story, and any who feel like criticizing anything, I only ask for it to be constructive, so that I may work to correct eventual flaws. Also know that some encounters, and meetings and so forth will happen as in the manga, but most will have a fairly different and radical outcome.
Summary: What would have happened to Ichigo if he met Neliel long before Hueco Mundo, how different would his life be? How would it affect his choices and his view on life and all in it? That's for you to find out!
Disclaimer: I do not in any way or form own Bleach, and this should be merely seen as the vivid of imagination of the present writer.
The Difference Of One
Chapter 1: Spirits and Monsters
"Nah, I don't think so Nel. I mean, if I could somehow bring you back to life again, I would have done so long ago", he sighed. "Besides, people are beginning to think I'm crazy, staring out into nothing all the time and talking to myself."
His orange locks were fluttering in the wind, leaves blowing around him, making it seem like a halo of leaves was surrounding him. But they dispersed just as quickly as they had gathered.
His brown eyes were missing their usual hardness. The frown that always seemed to adorn his face was gone, leaving behind a peaceful and relaxed look. He was always relaxed when he came to meet her; she just had that effect on him.
That was also one of the reason he came by here every day after school was over, meeting her in his school uniform, white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, tie relaxed around his neck.
"But yea, I kinda wish you weren't dead, myself", he sighed. "You are a hell of a lot better company than most of the people I know. I mean, it seems to me people are changing all around me, minding their own business more and more". He kicked a rock, launching it forward. "Or maybe it's just me that's changing, I just feel like we're drifting away from each other."
"You know Ichi, even though we would all like friendships to be a 'forever-kinda thing', it isn't always the case. Friendships won't just completely stop, but they might just start changing character, becoming more like acquaintances than friends. But that isn't a bad thing, it just means you're moving forward in life, developing as an individual", his companion shifted a bit, and said more cheerfully. "Besides, being a ghost isn't that bad Ichi, not when you're around to keep me company, so I'm happy you're spending more time here."
He turned to look at his companion.
Long curly, teal hair framed a beautiful face. The lips seemed to be made for smiling, her melodious voice made for laughing, always reminding him of a running creek. She had a milky complexion, and he had more than once felt tempted to touch her, to feel this perfect skin. But he knew he couldn't, she was a ghost, and he was a human.
He couldn't allow himself to get invested to deeply in her.
They were both restricted to seeing and hearing, and it was enough for both of them.
She had a set of murky golden eyes that he could get lost in, for what felt like forever. They were deep pools, and he knew he would get lost in them, but again and again they always ended up staring at one another.
Her face was a gentle one, albeit astonishingly beautiful, only accentuated by her teal wavy locks, draped down around her shoulders. Those selfsame locks were now waving in the air, caught by the same wind that his was. Being a ghost only meant you were invisible to the majority of the world, and couldn't touch or affect most things, but nature touched both dead being as well as those alive.
Her body was a perfect fit for her face. It had curves in all the right places, and was in general very voluptuous, which had caused more than one nosebleed for him, and more than one peal of laughter on his account.
Though he had tried to keep his eyes to himself, and when he did indulge himself, which happened a lot, he had always tried to be inconspicuous about it. But she had seen it nonetheless, which wasn't hard taking into consideration his blushing and staring, and had decided to question, more like torture, about it.
The end result had been a knocked out Ichigo from loss of blood, due to her showing some of the rather outstanding 'qualities' she had been gifted with from natures side, and which she was obviously very adept at using to her advantage.
Though he had learned his lesson, and had begun refraining from ogling, though he couldn't just stop, I mean what male could. Besides, it had been a pleasant experience to say the least.´, and from the blush and the grin on her face, he dare say not only for him.
"But, you know, I wonder when the shinigami will come to collect my soul", she said absentmindedly.
She didn't notice Ichigo go completely stiff.
He hated the fact that she would have to leave, he would probably fight the shinigami tooth and nail when it came, though he held little confidence in his own skills when matched against the God of Death, but that didn't mean he wouldn't do it.
Because this was his greatest fear, to be left alone again, by one who mattered so much to him, and he could see how it would be stupid of him to attach himself to a ghost, but it wasn't like he was a normal boy, he was anything but, and it wasn't like he had really had a choice in this matter. The decision to become attached happened despite him knowing better.
"It's been two months now, and I'm still here", she said wonderingly, shaking her head causing her teal locks to flail in the wind.
He returned his gaze to the river running through the city. This was one of his favorite places to relax, all he could see on the other side was trees, and the place was pretty secluded.
But it was also here he'd met Neliel, or Nel as she preferred him to call her, that had been confusing. He shook his head to clear it of that train of thought; he always ended up being extremely embarrassed.
"Do you…" he began awkwardly, and then fell into silence again, scratching his head self-consciously.
"Yea?", she said after a little while, gently urging him on.
"Do you… think we'll see each other again? You know on the other side," he said quietly, tracing
She sent him a sad smile, and turned to stare into the murky water.
"I don't know Ichigo. I honest don't know", she said solemnly, and hurried on seeing crestfallen look on Ichigo's face. "But that doesn't mean we can't hope does it? And I do hope."
They both scooted a bit closer to each other, although they couldn't touch each other; the mere presence of the other one had a calming effect on them both.
But they could say nothing more, because nothing they could say or do would change the fact that she, at some point, would be gone, leaving him behind.
The minutes seemed to just speed by, causing Ichigo to sigh and get up, the soft, but unreadable eyes of Neliel following him.
"Tomorrow?", she asked softly.
"Yea, I will see you tomorrow", he said cheerfully, staring into her golden, murky eyes, suddenly feeling a lot better.
'The shinigami hasn't come yet, so who says I should get so worked up by the mere thought', he thought optimistically as he threw his school bag over his shoulder, and walked off in the direction of his home, but not before throwing one last glance back at Neliel before moving on.
She was turning back to the river, letting her gaze travel over the calm water, the surface rippling slightly in the wind. The halo of leaves that had flown around him before, had now settled around her, also causing her teal locks to whip around uncontrollably in the wind.
She looked like an angel.
He quickly rid himself of those thoughts, and walked on. Even though it was later afternoon, the streets were still bustling with activity. But he did not want to be caught up the crowds. So he took to one of the side streets, and jumped a few fences, and were soon on one of the lesser populated streets, on the way to his home. Those streets were quieter and there were no people anywhere in sight.
But that wasn't what caught his attention, the small streets in his neighborhood, were usually always full of people, human as well as spiritual, but today they were completely devoid of both.
Nothing was there and it made him a bit uneasy. He however, just shrugged it off and turned to face the front of his home.
As he turned the doorknob and opened the door, he was met by a flying kick and a shout.
"WELCOME HOME SON!", his father, Kurosaki Isshin, shouted as he flew through the air towards his son, the sight in itself not being terribly unusual.
This was a routine among them, it happened every day, every time his father wanted to get in contact with him, and he initiated it through some violent act, and even though he would deny it to hell and back, he was happy his father was this way.
Ichigo knew that it couldn't have been easy to raise him and his two little sisters alone, but he had done it. But the most surprising thing was that he had somehow managed to retain his boundless enthusiasm and exuberance.
But he wasn't blind, and even though he knew his two younger siblings never noticed anything, he did.
His father had a life-size poster of their mom in the entrance hall, where everyone coming in and out would see it. Even though his father hid it very well, he'd once in a while caught his father in staring at the poster with an almost boundless sadness.
Sadness that Ichigo could relate to, although maybe not the same kind, the love for a mother and the love for a wife, being two different things. But sadness was a link between them, it bound them together, and they helped each other subconsciously.
He hid it well, but Ichigo saw. So even though his father pretended otherwise, Ichigo knew he was still healing inside.
So he wouldn't trade this for anything in the world. This was their way of bonding. But he also had a automated response, because they had similar ways of bonding with one another. So as Ichigo ducked out of the way, due to his father's 'extreme reflex' training, almost subconsciously, he returned the greeting in a similar manner, by connecting a foot with his father's face, sending Isshin into the far end wall.
"You crazy , old bastard", Ichigo shouted, a tick-mark appearing above his eye, however Isshin disregarded this and jumped to his feet as if nothing was wrong and flashed him a thumbs up.
"Very good son, keep up the good work", he said proudly before entering the living room, apparently not noticing the small stream of blood running down his face.
Ichigo shuddered at the semi-insane look on his father's face as he left, but face-faulted when Isshin tripped over his own feet and somehow managed to destroy a table and a couple of chairs on his way down.
He shook his head and ascended the stairs.
He had some homework to finish.
A short raven-haired woman ran through the streets, intent on catching up to the prey ahead of her.
It had lost her, but she could still feel its spiritual pressure. She was however having trouble tracking it completely, which was baffling her. It shouldn't have been capable of hiding it's reiatsu from her to this point, unless it was somehow far more skillful and powerful than she'd thought. But the most probable scenario was that it had spent so much reiatsu to keep away from her, that it had lowered its reiatsu levels so far that it was hard to track it.
She muttered a quick incantation, and simply walked through the wall in front of her, as if it didn't exist.
Had she been seen it would have caused a giant uproar where she came from. But humans generally couldn't see them, but once every fifty years or so a human or two with enough spirit energy popped up. It was those she had to be careful around, but it wasn't as if there weren't any humans nearby with that amount of spirit energy, she would have sensed it immediately.
Her prey this time wasn't likely to be very strong, but it was however extremely sneaky, making it's a opponent twice as dangerous as one only using brute force.
She looked around and found that she was in a dark hallway.
It was somewhere around here, but she couldn't pinpoint it exactly, it felt as though something was blocking her senses, must be because she wasn't completely rested up.
She would just have to search the entire house then.
Ichigo looked down at the papers in front of him, all strewn haphazardly out on the table, only furthering the mess that was his desk.
Mathematics was easy enough, if you had the attention span to think about all the variables and complex formulas, but unfortunately that was something he didn't have right now, else this would have been done several hours ago.
He closed his eyes and sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I'm not going to get this done tonight, at least not right now."
His stomach rumbled and he turned to look at the dish Yuzu had brought up for him some ten minutes ago and his stomach gave a bestial growl, startling him slightly.
'Well, maybe getting some food inside will help', he thought to himself and gathered his notes together and sloppily dumped them in his bag. Tiredly he slumped on the bed, drawing the bed side table with the tempting food closer, quickly popping a morsel inside his mouth.
He had been able to see the spirits of the deceased for as long as he could remember, but he also knew he was the only one who could see them, so there was no point in discussing it with any of the people he knew, for they would not be able to understand what he was talking about, what he was feeling.
Sometimes this gift was a curse. Sometimes he had to view people in their very last moments, and there was never any glory in it. All who he'd met that had died, had died alone, no matter who or how many people had been present at their deaths; they were always alone when they stared into the jaws of death.
They died alone, sometimes they went peacefully, simply just passing along, but a lot of people had a tragic death, a lot more than he'd expect there to be, many of them died from accidents. He had seen the result of more than one car accident.
But sometimes this blessing was a gift, because if he didn't have this ability then he would never have met her.
He would never have met Neliel.
She had been a sort of catalyst for him, reminding him that the world was much larger than anyone could comprehend, the secrets of the universe greater than any human could ever hope to fathom. The spirits of the deceased were perfect examples, there was no reason they should even exist, and people wouldn't even be able to determine what bound the spirits to earth unless they departed. This was solely of the reason that they weren't really in the realm of understanding, they weren't bound by any forces known to man, and mankind would not believe that spirits could exist, because then they'd exist outside of their laws, their views on existence.
Ichigo had asked many ghost why they lingered, and all had the same question, all though always different in wording, it all boiled down to this; they were waiting for something. It had been an eye-opener, and it had all been because of Neliel, because he'd gotten close to her. He wanted to figure out this mystery, so that he might be able to counteract it.
But he had not had any luck so far.
Because he had been so deep in thought, it took him a moment to realize that he was no longer alone in his bedroom; there was another occupant now, one who seemed to be looking around for something, head swinging left and right, her onyx eyes whipping all around the room, in a cold calculating manner.
A raven-haired woman.
"Who the hell are you?!", he shouted angrily, and jumped up, all drowsiness suddenly leaving him, at the prospect of a burglar breaking into his house.
'Albeit a very stupid burglar', he thought as she just stood, pretending not to notice him.
He got no response from the woman, she just continued staring around the room, walking around the room, checking corners and other would-be hiding spots, effectively pissing Ichigo.
"Don't ignore me damnit", he shouted and took a step closer, threateningly, but still got no response.
When she next passed by him, he placed a foot in her back, launching her forward, landing face first on the floor in an undignified heap. She sprang up again immediately, and muttering something and pointed a finger at him, her eyes radiating surprise, anger and dread, though he severely doubted the last was because of him.
"First Restraint: Obstruction". His limbs snapped together, and he was now the one falling face first onto the ground, all as if some magic had been worked, which more than likely, situation was taking into consideration.
"You can see me?", the voice was strange, completely at contrast with how she looked, it sounded rude, if that was even a tone, but fact was that he disliked her already, although that might, partially, have something to do with the restraints he seemed to be in.
He raised his head and glared at her. "Who the hell wouldn't be able to see you, you idiot"; he sneered and wriggled in the grip of his invisible bonds, trying to break free. "What did you do to me?".
She looked seriously at him. "You might as well give up. You won't be able to escape for a long time. I used a spell to bind you, so cease your struggling", she said simply, which just made him increase his struggling.
"Why can you see me?", she asked, not crossing her arms in front of her, staring at him passively, but the demand for answers shone clearly in her eyes.
"What do you mean 'why can you see me', you're standing in the middle of my room", he said, glaring furiously. "Who are you?", he asked again through gritted teeth.
The raven-haired woman looked surprised for a second. "Me? I am Kuchiki Rukia, acting shinigami from Soul Society", she said proudly.
His eyes widened in part horror, part disbelief, and then narrowed again. "You're a liar. There's no way the shinigami would be as weak and stupid as you."
"Why you little…", she shouted, the sword at her side half drawn, eyes glaring, her lips twisted in a sneer. Her eyes however became impassive again as she noticed him increasing his struggling, severely testing his bonds. "If you keep struggling your soul might…"
Her attention was however diverted to something unseen, by both of them. She seemed to be listening intently, trying to pick up some faint sound.
A huge boom was heard, and the house shook violently.
Before Ichigo had a chance to reorient himself, Rukia was gone, down the stairs in a flash. He heard screams, and he recognized them as coming from one of his sisters, from Yuzu.
He increased his struggling, fighting against his unnatural bonds, urged on by the screaming from downstairs. He could almost hear his bones creak from the pressure that was exerted on them. Suddenly he felt his bonds slackening slightly, and he strained his muscles to their maximum capacity.
His invisible bonds just disappeared and he jumped to his feet and raced down the stairs panting slightly, feeling strangely dizzy from exertion, but quickly pushed it aside.
He gasped as he as he saw the state of the living room. It looked like a hurricane had gone through it. All the furniture had been broken, everything was thrashed and Karin lay slumped against a wall, a bit of blood trickling down her left arm, from what appeared to be a superficial wound.
His heartrate doubled nonetheless.
He was at Karins side in a blink, checking for a pulse. 'No… please don't let it be…' He found on, his heart relaxed, but his eyes quickly scanned for other more serious and potentially dangerous injuries.
He also found his father similarly knocked out, and quickly propped him up against Karin, both laying slumped against the wall.
'Where is Yuzu?'
He heard a scream, and ran through the destroyed wall, running towards the screams and his heart almost stopped, and his eyes almost bugged out at what he found.
In the alley beside his house stood what would in every sense, be considered a monster. It was big, and grotesquely lizard-like, completely white with black markings. What seemed even weirder was the mask covering its face, but it somehow still seemed to be a natural part of it.
The mask was intricate, but still awfully, and grotesquely simplistic, it was almost completely white, except for the black lines running around its mouth and eyes, and lastly running over where its ears were supposed to be. It was shaped like a monstrous replica of a human face, twisted in every sense of the word.
It had long arms with claws that looked to be able to tear apart a human with almost no trouble. But what really got his fear-induced adrenalin running, was not the monster, but what it held in one of its clawed hands.
Yuzu, it was from her the screams were coming.
"HELP ME", Yuzu wailed and every scream tore at his heart, bringing him out of his stupor.
Oblivious to the perils he would put himself in by engaging this monster, because he couldn't think about such things now, because this was his sister, his family and he wouldn't let anything murder, he grabbed a piece of wood, a leg from what used to be a chair. It wasn't much, but he'd have to make due.
Gripping it tightly he charged at the monster.
Despite its huge size, with it towering several feet above him, it was incredibly fast. He hardly saw it move before the creature backhanded him, and he was sent flying into the wall of his house, and crumbled to the ground, and momentarily blacked out.
When he came to, he saw the raven-haired woman, locked in a fierce battle with the monster, her katana slashing left and right, weaving an intricate pattern, though the monster seemed to be keeping up with her, and judging from the sweat on her face, he would also assume it was giving her a run for her money.
He saw Yuzu slumped against a fence nearby, and panic-driven, he ignored the searing pain of several broken ribs, as he got to his feet, and dragged himself to her, checking for a pulse, and to his immense relief, he found one.
He turned to watch the fight, only to see the raven-haired woman being forced back.
Anger rushed through him.
This woman had been searching for this monster, she was the reason it was here. He would make her pay, but after they had killed this monster.
He rushed forth, his pain forgotten, and reared back his fist and struck one of the creature's legs as hard as possible, but he only succeeded in garnering the attention of the monster.
He saw the shinigami leaping towards the monster, grasping this chance that had been presented to her.
She however, had underestimated the creature, and it's capabilities, and the monster swiftly turned around, catching her in midair, leaving a bloody gash down her side, and she clumsily landed beside Ichigo, but fell to one knee with a gasp of pain.
Ichigo grabbed her shoulders. "Get up. You are the only one who can kill it. So get up. Now!", he hissed to her.
"I… cant fight…", she gasped in pain again. "Anymore."
"I don't care", he hissed. "My family isn't going to die just because you…"
Her katana through his chest cut him short.
He experienced a plethora of sensations, pain was but one of them.
The borders all blurred and he suddenly felt an incredible power surge through him. He saw nothing, but heard Rukia cry out slightly, and gasp; "I didn't mean for him to take so much."
Then he saw. Everything.
The monster on its way towards him, and it moved as if in slow-motion and he reared back his hand, a giant blade, a long slender cleaver, almost as long as himself in it. The cleaver might have been called slender, but it was still twice and wide as his wrist, until it narrowed out to a point.
When the monster got within range, he made one downwards slash, cleaving the monster from head to toe, splitting it in two from mask and down.
"Die", he said quietly, and fed an immense amount of power to the blade, making it glow like a halo, the power seemed to run through the blade, increasing the power of his strike.
The power he sent, lashed into the creature before it disappeared and connected with something in the creature, something that although he didn't know how he knew, he knew it was primal, in every sense of the word, raw power, power similar, yet different from his. He tore it out of the monster, intent on taking from it, everything.
Even greater power filled him, and the monster was destroyed, but it didn't explode or disintegrate, nor turn into a pool of weird matter, as he had half expected it to.
No, it simply just ceased to exist, faded away.
He heard the female shinigami behind him, her voice quivering, from what he assumed was at least part exhaustion. "W-what did you do to it? I've never seen anything like that".
"I don't know", he said quietly, still facing away from her, looking at the spot where the monster had been only moments before, it all seemed to surreal, but the blade in his hand proved the truth of it all.
"You have to…"
She was interrupted by a whisper so quiet, she almost missed it.
"This is your fault. My family almost died. But they would surely have died, had you done nothing".
He turned away from the scene of what should have been a slaughter, and picked up the battered and unconscious, but otherwise fine, Yuzu, and walked back inside, leaving a stunned Rukia behind. Within the next quarter of an hour he had all of his family members placed in their respective beds.
He reentered the living room area again, and for the first time he actually assessed the damage, that the monster had left in its wake. He saw prized family heirlooms scattered and destroyed, the pieces strewn about the room, pictures were torn and their frames hang awry. Though his eyes only misted over, however slightly, at seeing their mom's collection of porcelain figurines destroyed, completely and utterly.
It had been a passion of his mother, to collect these and she had spent as long as he could remember adding to it, though only the most beautiful ones ever made it into the collection she displayed in the living room, the ones she loved the most. All the rest were stored in another room, she had commandeered for that exact purpose, and that room had been her room, a place she read stories for him when he was little, she could spend hours at a time, just sitting in her rocking chair in the humming a strange, calming tune.
That was why it was so hard for him to enter the room now, it only reopened the emotional wounds, but nonetheless all of them pitched in, and helped keep it nice and tidy, in honor of her memory.
He shook his head and wiped away the stray tear and tentatively went outside to survey the damage, and if anything it was worse here than anywhere else. Karin was going to be pissed, because it seemed that the monster had mowed her swing down, although she had gotten a little too old for that now, as Ichigo had pointed out several times, only to be answered with a string of curses. He quickly sorted through the rubble and stumbled upon something that made him gasp. He was staring at himself. His own body was lying in front of him, patches of dirt on his clothes.
"Am I dead?", he asked no one in particular, in a daze but a slightly frightful look marring his face, but it also bellied a selfish hopefulness, that any reason for that didn't register in his mind. But for some reason he couldn't help but think of a running creek, and halos of leaves, all peaceful images for him, betraying a deeper hunger, a want, he didn't know he had.
"No", he heard a voice say from behind him. "You're not dead. You just have to enter the body; it should come to you naturally."
He glanced over his shoulders, to see the shinigami named Rukia, standing there, no longer dressed in flowing shinigami robes, but instead dressed like a normal schoolgirl.
He grunted, but otherwise didn't acknowledge her, but he stretched a hand forth, and it passed into his body, and he felt a tug, and simply just let go.
He blinked a bit.
He was in his body again, and he quickly ran hands over his own body, checking for injuries. His hand brushed over his ribs and he felt no pain, surprisingly enough they felt fine, better than fine actually, he felt fantastic.
He got off the ground tentatively, stretching his muscles, not really believing that nothing was wrong. But he quickly had to concede to the fact that he was perfectly fine, so he abruptly turned back to his hourse and left Rukia behind, who was staring intently at his back.
He wasn't ready to deal with this yet.
He'd deal with it tomorrow, after a good night's sleep.
She stared at the retreating back of Ichigo. She had seen him take a blow from that hollow, granted it was just a backhand, but still, he was human and he had come out of it unscathed, not a scratch on him whatsoever, but that was only part of why she was now wary of this human boy.
His presence was suffocating, his aura of malice when he had killed that hollow, had been scary. It had been unnatural, it was kind of like watching a captain use his control over emotions and reiatsu to momentarily stun a hollow or other, except for this boy it had been the threat of his sister dying that had been the trigger, unleashing his bloodlust.
It had started out as well as it could, the situation taken into consideration, but after he had dealt with the killing blow, he had done something she'd never seen nor heard of before, nor probably ever would again. He had channeled reiatsu into the hollow, and dragged… something out of it, and whatever it was, it was swallowed by his spirit energy before she had a decent chance to look at it, to discern what it was.
But she knew it couldn't be anything good, but she'd have to figure it out later, even though it disturbed her to no end, and made her absolutely paranoid.
She should never have let that hollow go earlier.
But she had been tired out from chasing it, and engaging it in battle at that time would have been… tough. She was quite certain she would still be able to defeat and destroy it, but she wanted to be a clean kill, not the scuffle it would surely turn into.
She sighed and forced herself to relax.
What she got was even worse, by far, and no matter how much she might hate it, she would have to try to use her family name as leverage back home. If that didn't work, then she didn't want to think about the consequences, though if it came to that, she'd just have to work out a way to silence this human, with his death her powers should be released, so they'd also not have a case.
Which brought her back to the root of her problems.
She had lost almost all of her reiatsu, and she need to conserve all she had left, and first thing would be to get a body, a gigai and the only place she could get one now, in her current situation, would be at one Urahara Kisuke, and luckily for her he also lived in this town.
She'd also need to get close to this Kurosaki guy, and also find a place to live until she regained her shinigami powers.
She would just befriend someone close to him, or attend whatever school the boy did, it was generally simple, but her starting point made it all the more harder to do that.
As for the place to live, she would ask Urahara if he had any room for her for a couple of weeks. That should be long enough for her to regain her shinigami powers, or at least come up with a backup plan.
She nodded to herself, satisfied for now that her plan would be the best course of action right now.
Until she got to Urahara, she would need a fully functional body at least, so she pulled a small red and green pull out from somewhere beneath her robes, which would provide her with a human body and clothes. But it had a time limit, and that depended on how much reiatsu the user had poured into it beforehand, and she hadn't poured much, but it would still be enough to keep her going for a few hours.
The Kurosaki boy exited through the hole in the wall and stared at the destruction.
'And I also need to call a cleaning squad', she thought, and a vehement expression entered her face at the thought of those arrogant punks and bitches, always giving persons in her place a hard time when they hadn't completed their assignment to perfection.
"Am I dead?", she heard the boy ask and looked back at him. He was standing in front of his physical body, just staring at it.
"No", she said, trying to keep her voice calm, despite still seeing the scene of him killing the hollow flitter by her eyes, and she couldn't keep a slight waver out of her voice. "You're not dead. You just have to enter the body, it should come to you naturally."
She quickly popped the pill in her mouth. She felt no change, but she knew she could now be seen by ordinary humans as well now, it was a function of the pill. Urahara had made it like that because he believed that people would only use it in life-threatening situations, where they would be almost out of spiritual power and would have bad to fatal physical injuries.
She grimaced. The pill tasted like raw sewage.
One of the reasons that weren't often used was because it was insanely expensive, and it was also one of Urahara's experiments, making almost everyone shy away from it as if it was a frenzied dog with rabies, or Kenpachi on a bad day or Yachiru when she had consumed an extra large quantity of candy.
Many people generally avoided everything Urahara touched, as if it was ridden with plague.
The boy glanced over his shoulder at her, grunted and turned back. He stretched a hand out, into his physical body, and his eyes glazed over.
Suddenly he was gone, and his real body blinked a bit. He stood up, felt about his body a bit including his ribs, before smiling slightly and turning his back on again. He reentered his house, not uttering a single word, nor sparing her a single glance, leaving a tense atmosphere behind in his wake.
This was not going to be easy.
She pressed a button on a little device she had in her pocket, and typed in a few cleaners had to know where they were expected after all.
That done, she also left the Kurosaki residence behind, however it started raining dampening her mood further, and ten minutes of walking later through the cold, clammy rain, in soaked clothes made it no better.
But it did take her to her destination.
A quick couple of knocks and a few seconds later the door opened to reveal a blonde man, with a hat, clogs, holding a fluttering fan in front of his face, a twinkle in his eyes. His posture relaxed, as if these things happened everyday for him.
"Ah, Kuchiki-san, to what do I owe the pleasure?", he asked jovially.
"Urahara-san", she said politely. "I have a favor to ask."
He looked at her seriously, studying her for a bit, and for some reason she felt like she was a lab-rat he wanted to dissect, although that was a silly notion.
Though he had been the head of the science department.
She gulped, but was shook out of her bizarre thoughts by his voice.
"Very well, come in and explain it all to me."
He opened the door to let her in and it closed a few seconds later, leaving behind a cold, wet and dark street, only sparsely illuminated by the moon.
The sun was cutting into his eyes. He squeezed his eyelids together, desperately trying to block out the rays, denying the fact that a new day had come to annoy his oh so pleasant the sun was a mighty opponent, and wouldn't admit defeat, so Ichigo chose to surrender, and soon he was up and on his way to the shower.
Then last night's events came rushing back to him, and he almost fell over his own legs in his hurry to get downstairs.
He needed to see proof that last night was real.
He turned the corner to find his two sisters sitting in the couch, watching television, chatting with each other. But what made him sigh in relief was the intact living room, everything. Even his mother's porcelain figurines, her most beloved collection.
This was the proof he needed to know. It proved that last night wasn't real.
It must just have been a bad dream.
"GOOD MORNING SOOOOON", Ichigo's father bellowed as he delivered a flying kick to his back, sending him tumbling, landing in a heap by the front door.
"I am disappointed son. How do you expect to protect your family…", he said in a chiding manner, he got not further before a fist was imbedded in his face.
"What the hell is wrong with you old fool", he shouted to the man lying face first on the ground in front of him.
"Ahh, my son. You're not as lax as I…", his father began, lifting himself from the ground, only to have it shoved right back down again by Ichigo's foot.
"Would you shut up", he said, annoyance clear in his voice, twisting his foot for good measure, it was what the old man deserved after all, being as irrationally violent as he was.
"Would you both shut up", Karin yelled at them, from her spot on the couch, not even turning to look at them. She had become accustomed to the antics of her father and big brother a long time ago.
Ichigo just grumbled something imperceptible, and moved to the kitchen, leaving a bleeding father behind.
He grabbed a bowl from one of the cupboards, some cerial, some milk and plopped down on a seat and set about devouring his meal.
Yuzu scurried into the kitchen a few minutes later, a flurry of productivity, as she quickly threw the few used cereal bow into the dishwasher.
"You should probably hurry up if you want to catch a shower before you're off".
Ichigo looked at his youngest sister. She was a good-natured, well-mannered and kind-hearted, and most importantly of all she was peaceful and quiet to be around.
Ichigo loved peace and quiet, which was partly why he and Nel got along so well. They both loved peaceful silence. They needn't chatter to be content.
So he admired and cared greatly for Yuzu, as he did all his family, but he wouldn't change who he was for them, as was the aspect of family, being yourself was okay.
"Sure, whatever", he said, and placed his now empty bowl in the sink, only to have it snatched up immediately by Yuzu as she raced by.
He took the stairs two steps at a time, going for the shower.
A quick rinse later, and he was clothed and on his way out the door, after ducking another surprise attack from his father, followed by a shout from said man about how proud he was of him, and him effectively finishing his father's speech by upper cutting him.
The crisp morning air was comfortably hot, the sun shining brightly, as he made his way down the street, towards the school. Lately he'd taken to showing up at school just before the bell struck. That way he avoided Inou and Tatsuki. It wasn't that he disliked them or anything. But they both belonged under the category of energetic and chatty, the exact thing that annoyed him immensely, although Inou was in a league all of her own.
Another reason they were drifting apart was that he wasn't nearly as tolerant as he used to be. Nowadays it seemed that the only one he could spend more than passing amounts of time with, besides Nel and his family, was Chad and that was mostly because he was just like him in some areas, he also valued silence. But even they seemed to be drifting apart, though mostly because he had been distancing himself from them more and more.
They had simply grown apart, or he had grown apart from them.
Tatsuki his childhood friend, one of his first friends actually. They had both been practitioners of the martial arts, but whenever they spared she always won. She was good, but he was at least just as good. But winning over him meant so much to her, that he always let himself go down. Not that he'd ever admit it or mention it, because even though she put up a tough exterior, she really was a fragile girl at heart.
But she tried to cover this fact up by being unnecessarily violent, Ichigo taking the brunt of this for some reason, and it was beginning to get to him.
She had made herself the self-proclaimed guardian of Orihime, although it was more an unofficial matter, and Ichigo honestly had no idea why she had suddenly attached herself to Orihime. For all he knew, she could be a lesbian and be into Orihime, though he could understand the physical attraction if it really was that.
But it seemed Nel was right, former friends could become something less, they could become acquaintances only, even those that had lasted from one's childhood, were not resistant to this, it was the way of society, of nature. People grew up, and sometimes drastic changes happened when this transformation from young to adult occurred.
Orihime was an entirely different matter, in the sense that he knew she cared for him greatly; maybe she was even in love with him, he wasn't naïve, and even though he might feel physically attracted to her, the emotional attraction just wasn't there, so he couldn't return the sentiment, even though she deserved it. She, more than anyone, deserved someone who loved her completely. But the fact was that he didn't truly feel anything for the brown-haired, busty girl, so he settled for just being her 'friend', hoping she would overcome her need for attention from him eventually, and hopefully move on.
The world was large, many mysteries were out there, and out there, somewhere, there was someone meant for her, but it wasn't him.
It was the least he could do, after all, she no longer had any family left, her brother having died a couple of years ago, and her parents having been part of an accident when she was still little. So he gave her sporadic attention, helping her while also not encouraging further attention. He could after all, relate to her situation, even if only a bit.
He sometimes felt that he had a lost puppy on his hands, and he couldn't help but chuckle slightly, that being unnatural in itself, but he found himself laughing and smiling more since Nel.
The comparison was strangely fitting. She certainly was as fitting as one, and in most matters had the same attention span, he would almost say she was close to being ditzy. The term fit her perfectly, but then again, didn't.
She was strong, but also extremely fragile. But she would survive without him, that he was sure of, she had learned to depend on her friends now.
Chad was also a special case. He was one of the few people he would trust his sisters with completely. Not that he ever would let it come to that point, but Chad had taken it upon himself to act as a guardian for them. He viewed them as step-sisters, and would do anything to protect them as well.
He was grateful to Chad of that reason.
He was the mildest and most uncomplicated person Ichigo had ever met, completely contradicting his scary exterior. He was not, and would never be, but it was only after Ichigo had taken to defending him and telling him to defend himself, that he had gained some measure resolve when it came to protecting himself. Although his physique just plainly scared most people away, it also gave rise to a number of people wanting to pit themselves against this huge man, and for them he had been easy pickings. But he wasn't anymore, now he would defend himself, although because of his friends, but what did a little word-bending matter when the outcome was fine.
But the fact still was that Ichigo was slowly, but surely gliding away from him.
Him and everybody else.
The guys who had tagged along with him, almost since day one of highschool, Keigo and Mizuiro, weren't really of any importance, since he, to be honest, had never considered them friends, more tag-alongs, they were like a pair of human leeches.
Fact was that he didn't really have that many people he called friends nor many that would call him one.
But that was just fine by was a loner by nature, and he didn't need many friends.
One was enough for him.
He raised his head, looking up at the big building in front of him. It seemed so surreal to stand in front of his high school, especially after that dream. It had been so realistic, it felt like his body should remember the broken bones, but it didn't.
He was glad it wasn't real, glad his family was safe.
He was also a bit sad. That feeling of power felt incredible, he felt like he could do the impossible and it was the impossible he wanted to do, because bringing back the dead wasn't something in the realm of what was humanly possible.
He sighed and lowered his head.
Inou Orihime was by no means a fragile girl, but anyone who had lost both parents at an early age would be broken, but she had been able to pull through thanks to her brother, he had raised her all by himself. He had been her pillar of support, the reason she really mad it through the deaths of her parents.
Bit by bit they had both been able to return to their lives, opening up to their friends again. They had suffered a loss that had almost shattered something in both of them, but they had come out on top.
But then everything had gone downhill and disaster had struck.
Her brother, her pillar of support, had been in an accident, and he didn't make it out of it alive, her brother had died. Her sole remaining family member was dead, so she had no one left.
She was alone.
Her world crumbled, shattered like glass, a thousand pieces had scattered in a thousand directions, and she had been unable to stop it, enveloped in grief as she was and nothing had mattered to her anymore.
Her carefully rebuilt world was broken again, leaving behind only sorrow. She had withered away, had been like a ghost, only going about school and other necessities, but she felt hollow, she was hollow. She felt no emotions, she had none left to feel, because feelings was now a foreign subject to her, she was no longer human, just a shell, her spirit bottled away so deeply that no one could reach her. She wasn't Inou Orihime anymore.
Then he had come. Like an angel.
He had talked to her, and after a while she found herself listening to what he said.
She heard him talking about his mother, how she had died when he was young, and how he had blamed himself, how broken he had been, how he'd sunk into depression. He told her not to forget, because that would be a betrayal to the memory of her brother, he told her to always remember them, their good side and their bad side.
He told her to accept it and move on. He told her that it would be a lie to say it wouldn't follow her, because it would. It would shape her, but she could decide which shape it would be, she would be able to decide if she would continue through life, barely living, or if she would get back up, and fight through this, fight through bitter sadness, self-hatred and maybe have her life back again.
He had become her focal point, her new pillar, and she had begun to piece herself back together, gathering the tattered remains of her soul. Because he had offered her a hand, and she had grasped it like it was a life line, which it was for her.
It had been a slow process, and Ichigo spoke to her casually each day at school, inspiring her to do her best and piece by piece had she been able to rebuild herself, become herself again, she became Inou Orihime once again, no longer a void. She started talking to her friends again, went out with them, having fun enjoying life again.
And it was all thanks to him, because he had saved her, and he was her new pillar.
But he'd changed, not for the better or for the worse, he'd just changed. He was slipping away from them, from her.
She stared at his empty seat. The bell hadn't rung yet. He would be here in time, he always was. But he always only just arrived in time, sat down and secluded himself all day, not really talking to any of them anymore, except for the needed formalities.
Whenever school was over he would just go, leaving all of them behind, not saying a word.
It bothered her, because he had been there for all of them, but they couldn't be there for him. It frustrated her beyond belief, and not only her.
Tatsuki and Chad were sharing her sentiments. Tatsuki even going as far as to try to pound him back to his own self.
His response had been surprising.
Instead of being beaten, he had simply grabbed her hand, and quickly put her in an arm lock, and whispered in her ear; 'Don't do that again'.
He'd left the two of them behind, stunned and unable to do anything and as a result, the relationship between him and Tatsuki had been strained since then.
Tatsuki had tried to apologize many times, but she never had the chance, as Ichigo was nowhere to be found, and apologizing in the middle of a class wasn't the way to do it, she was too prideful for that. So Ichigo changed, and they could do nothing about it whatsoever.
They were losing him.
The classroom door opened.
He entered the class room, quickly picking up on the stares sent his way, most prominent being that of Inou, Tatsuki and Chad.
He chose to ignore them, and slumped down in his seat just as their math teacher came in.
He supposed he would be no good in math with the way his thoughts kept spinning around in his head, him still clearly and vividly remembering his dream.
The math teacher began solving equations on the blackboard, sometimes requesting a student that was academically behind the rest, come up and solve a few of them and not for the first time he congratulated himself on being one of the top-ranked students in his school.
He half slept through the first class, his dream had apparently been a bit tiring for some reason, and when the bell rang, he quickly slipped out, leaving behind three people, two of whom desperately wanted to talk with him.
He silently strode down the halls, avoiding contact with any that might know him, since he really didn't want to talk to anyone right now, or rather he only wanted to talk to one person, but right now that wasn't possible.
He wanted to get his head straightened out; too many thoughts were flying around in there, distracting him from everything.
The dream was terrorizing his thoughts, and the more he thought about it, the less sure he became of his conclusion.
How could a dream be so vivid, so real, so full of details, so… so real.
And the fact that he felt great, better than great, he felt fantastic, only added to his suspicions. He'd only ever felt so great in his dream, and if the dream was what had really happened…
Then he'd killed a monster, his family had almost died, all because of that woman.
No this was ludicrous; monsters didn't exist, besides, where was that huge ass blade right now. He'd seen nothing of it this morning, and from what he remembered in his dream he had put it in his room as he carried his family inside.
He shook his head again. No it was just a dream. It must have been a dream,
He stepped onto the most secluded place in school. The rooftop.
He slumped down, legs over the edge, the strong wind pushing them around, making it look as if he were swinging them.
He stared at the sky, at the white clouds drifting by and pleasantly warm air ruffled his hair. He was delighted with the weather; it showed no signs of rain at all, being cloud free, just and endless blue sky.
He hated rain, but he also loved for some absurd reason, and his love and his hate shared the same root.
It had rained the night his mother died.
He had reconciled himself and accepted the fact that she was dead. But whenever it rained, it tore at the old wound; it reminded him of the day she died, how she died, why she died.
An accident his father had said. It wasn't his fault his father had said. But for a long time he had been unable to face it, been unable to face the death of his mother, choosing to favor seclusion rather than healing. But his family had somehow helped him, but only helped him, not cured.
He had looking at the river one day, and it had started to rain. He couldn't find any shelter, and was forced to run through the rain, he wanted to get away from it, away from everything. Suddenly he just broke down on the street, crying his heart out, muttering the name of his mom, until he fell asleep on the street, in the pouring rain.
He didn't know what happened that day, but when he wake up again, he had been in his room, and it still rained. However it didn't hurt him, or rather it did, but it also brought a small measure of comfort, he knew his mother wouldn't want to see him like this, so he would make her proud from wherever she was looking at the moment.
But the rain also helped him to never forget her. Whenever it rained, he would walk outside, and just stand as the drops hit him, because then he'd feel closer to her, closer than he ever did since she died.
He lowered his gaze and stared out over the city, eyes instantly drawn to the riverbank a few miles away, where he was headed after school.
Nel said it had rained when she died as well.
Rain was something he couldn't fight, so he had to accept it, and he did. But accepting that there was nothing he could do for Nel was something he couldn't accept. Something he wouldn't accept. She had become an important part of his life, and he'd be damned if he'd let her go unless she told him to.
The bell rang, signaling the end of the break.
Sighing he stood up, and crept back through the door and descended the staircase, going two floors down, the only sound being his footsteps on the stairs and the distant sound of many footfalls, from the corridors full of students, corridors that came closer with each step he took.
He came out in a bustling hallway, all the students were, like him, trying to work their way through the busy crowd to whatever classroom they belonged to.
He melded with the crowd, quickly maneuvering between the people, going for his classroom, and after a few minutes of fighting he finally arrived at his destination.
Sliding the door open, he stepped inside and silently went to his desk and sat down, drawing no stares except the usual three, which he ignored in favor of extracting his books and notes. However he didn't have to wait long before his teacher arrived, bring with her a person that made his eyes go wide, and his body start trembling ever so slightly.
He couldn't believe what he saw. How could he? This wasn't possible, but the undeniable truth was right in front of him, unpleasant shivers ran up and down his spine.
"Students, pay attention", the teacher bellowed, silencing the entire room before continuing in a more suitable tone. "We have a new student with us today, so please take good care of her."
She then prompted her companion forward. Said girl had raven hair, and was small and slender, to the point of being fragile-looking.
She bowed to them, eyes scanning the crowd of students, lingering a bit longer on Ichigo than he'd have liked them to, but soon slid away and opened her mouth to speak for the first time since entering the room.
"Hello, my name is Kuchiki Rukia", she said cheerfully, but at this statement his hopes plummeted, he had in the back of his mind secretly hoped that it would be a coincidence, a very strange on, but a coincidence only. But this was too unreal to be a coincidence.
The teacher looked around the classroom then stopped to the left of Ichigo. "There is an empty spot next to Kurosaki-san", she said and pointed towards him.
Rukia took the seat next to him, and gave him a smile as she sat at the desk beside him. Although this good girl image was ruined when she flashed the palm of her right hand, showing a message.
In her hand was written; 'a word and you're dead', however her hand closed so quickly that he was sure none but him had seen it, and was having a little doubt if it had really happened with her still smiling innocently at him, but she soon returned her attention to their teacher.
He turned to stare out the window, but occasionally felt her gaze on him, but every time he turned to return the stare, she would be facing the blackboard.
The thoughts were swirling around inside him, his head a big chaos.
'This can't be possible, if it was then that meant Yuzu almost died yesterday, almost died because this… this… shinigami, didn't do her job, she's the reason my family almost died'.
This was too confusing none of it made sense; he had to talk with Neliel. He needed to talk to her.
The class had only just started, but he couldn't stay here any longer, he needed to some peace and quiet. He raised his hand, attempting to catch the attention of his teacher.
"Yes Kurosaki-san, what is it?", she asked, pausing momentarily in her lecture.
"I don't feel very well, may I be excused", he said seriously, luckily he almost never did this, he never skipped class, so she would probably just let him go.
She studied him for a bit, then nodded. "Very well Kurosaki-san, you may be excused, you don't seem to be quite well, you are a little pale", she pointed out, and he didn't doubt, if there was any situation to pale in, this would be it.
He quickly gathered his stuff together and placed them in his bag, and was out the room before anyone could count to ten.
He needed to talk.
Nel was bored; she almost always was unless Ichigo was here. His company was delightful, and refreshing, and she always found herself looking forward to the time when he would arrive. They sometimes had long complex conversations, but other times they might just have been sitting there for several hours, not uttering a word, but just enjoying the silence.
They were so very similar, they had both been loners almost all their life, but a lot of people had attached themselves to both of them, although none of them really qualified as friends, at least not in the long run.
The water ran swiftly by beneath her feet, the air was gently ruffling her hair and the sun was shining brightly, casting warm rays down on her.
One thing she had noticed since she died was that she didn't really need that much sleep; mostly it seemed that she only slept because of habit, a habit she didn't really want to break. An end to a day also meant the start of another, which meant that even the dark eventually had to relent to the light, like light had to relent to the darkness.
So she was looking forward to Ichigo's visit, with equal parts giddiness and regret.
The reason that she was feeling regret was because they both knew the shinigami had to come pick her up, and send her to the other side. She didn't want to go away, she had never really wanted to die, but now that she had met Ichigo she didn't want to pass on, even though she was lingering between the dead and the living. But she knew, as well as he did, that she was only a ghost, and he was only a human, they simply couldn't afford to get too invested in each other.
But she found that harder and harder to do for everyday that passed, she felt connected to him, and she didn't want to leave him.
He was rough and unpolished, rude to most people except her, but she wouldn't want him to be anyone else.
The sun was straight overhead, which meant that Ichigo would soon be done with school, which meant he would soon be here.
She looked at the forest across the river, if only she hadn't died. That was one thing she regretted more than anything now, not fighting harder to survive, so she could have met him someday. Because she knew she would, they lived in the same city, they were bound to meet each other eventually, and for some unexplainable reason, she felt drawn to him.
She stared down at the surface of the river, she could sometimes see the fish swimming by, she had never truly appreciated nature as much as she did now, she could now spend hours looked at fish swimming by, or birds flying around, the wind picking up the leaves and tossing them around.
'If only Ichigo was here'.
She heard some shuffling behind her and turned around to find Ichigo there, with an almost wild look in his eyes, panting heavily. He must have run all the way here, from school, where he was supposed to be right now.
"Nel…", he croaked out.
She was by his side in a flash, grabbing his hand, guiding him to where she had been sitting moments before. She made him sit and draw a couple of deep breaths.
"What is wrong Ichi?", she asked with concern, afraid something had happened.
He struggled a bit with himself, but eventually managed to stare deeply into her eyes. "Something happened… yesterday…", he said vaguely, his eyes glazing over momentarily in remembrance, "The shinigami was at my place… there was this huge monster, she was the reason it was there… my family almost died…", he said shakily.
"I don't want to lose any of them, and neither you…", he said, oblivious to the small stream of tears running down his cheeks.
Her eyes widened at this revelation. The shinigami had been here, and Ichigo's family had almost died. The shinigami might soon collect her soul, send it on.
"Are you completely certain it was the shinigami?", she asked, she had to be completely certain.
He looked at her miserably. "At first I thought all of yesterday had been a dream. But then she showed up at my class, and I'm sure it's her, the shinigami". His eyes lowered to his hands, looking at them oddly. "She did something to me, but I'm not sure what, but I killed the monster, the monster she had brought with her."
His eyes locked with hers, his hands trembling slightly. "You believe me right?"
She nodded her head, how could she not. This was Ichigo, he'd never broken down, not even when talking about his mother, and this was a completely new side of him. The shinigami was here and it was apparently a she, and she had done something to Ichigo.
Her eyes narrowed at this.
She never wanted Ichigo to feel this way, so she held him closely in a sign of comfort, not caring in the slightest about getting too close.
"What are you going to do about this?", she asked after a while, having pondered it a bit herself, but it all hitched on Ichigo.
"I don't know… but she is not getting any closer to my family. I think it would be best if I just ignore her and try to continue with my life, pretending nothing has happened. It's not like anyone is going to believe me", he said calmly, having regained his composure.
He turned anger filled eyes to her. "But that does not mean I'm going to forget anything." He deflated then, and turned away. "I'm sorry to burden you with this, but I don't know who else to talk to. It's not like my family even remembers, and I needed to… talk with you. I needed someone to understand".
She couldn't help but smile at this, and she ruffled his hair. "You don't have to apologize. You would have done the same for me".
He smiled slightly, and relaxed in her arms, she put her chin on his head.
Silence reigned again, and they just sat there for a long time, till the sun was beginning to set. Then she remembered something he'd said.
"Ichigo", she began quietly.
"Hmm", he responded half-dazedly.
"You said something about her doing something to you. What was it?", she asked tentatively.
He became rigid momentarily, before relaxing in her grip again.
"I… don't know…", he finally said. "I honestly don't know. One second she'd stabbed me with her sword and the next…"
"What!?", she almost screamed. "She stabbed you? Where?"
"I don't know what happened but I don't have a single mark, and I feel incredible now. Better than ever, though I don't know why", he said scratching his head. "Something happened when she stabbed me. I don't know how to explain it except by calling it power. I felt so powerful, like I could do anything, as if I could make season rise when I gave the word. I also had a sword, a cleaver, it appeared from out of nowhere, but it felt so natural to me, like it was a part of me. Then I killed… it. The monster that had Yuzu, I killed it.", she felt him shift uncomfortably. "Do you think I'm a bad person Nel?"
"No I don't think so, and I never will", she said firmly and hugged him tightly. "What you did, you did to protect Yuzu and your family, and I'm proud of you. So never be ashamed of it, and cheer up", she purred, switching to her teasing mode. "You look a lot less attractive when you are down".
"Thank you… I don't know what I would do without you…. Neliel…", he said emotionally, ignoring her jab at his attractiveness.
The sincerity of his words struck her, and she couldn't help the few tears sliding down her cheeks, nor could she help the big smile adorning her face.
"Me too", she simply said.
Rukia was annoyed, no she was past annoyed as of two hours ago, she was full-blown pissed now, and had already tried venting on several inanimate objects nearby, but found that hit a light post proved to be a not so bright idea, the prime example being a bruised right hand.
"Where the hell is he?", she shouted angrily, not for the first time that day.
She had hoped to tag onto a few of his friends today, become acquainted with them, so as to use them as an excuse to hang around him. But that was hard seeing as she never had the chance to see with whom he interacted, because she had been there for no more than fifteen minutes before he'd gone and left under the pretenses of feeling sick.
And after that he'd simply been gone, she'd been watching his house for several hours now, and had neither seen him come nor go, until she just gave up, at least for the mean time.
She had been lucky Urahara had been able to spare a gigai, though it by no means had come cheap. But that was partially because it was the only one he had left in stock, she had also been able to barter for a room for an indefinite amount of time.
She had a time limit, but it was far off, so she still had time to get closer to him, and she still believed the first step would be his friends.
But there she ran into another hitch, oh he did have people who considered him friends. The problem was he'd been withdrawing from everyone for some time now, and had become much more of a loner, and that would make it increasingly difficult to reach her goal.
She would just have to try harder, and catch him before he had a chance to escape tomorrow. She would be damned if she'd let him get away again.
She looked up and found herself facing her current residence, the Urahara Shop.
It was in everything just a common neighborhood shop, but that was only to the ignorant, it was here Urahara kept up his experiments after leaving Soul Society. This was his new home, after he had left the Thirteen Squads, the Gotei 13.
She entered the shop to find a big well-muscled man standing behind the counter, in what appeared to be a distant cousin of a wrestler outfit, glasses and a moustache.
All in all he would appear very humorous, if not for his huge size, and if she didn't already know the power hiding behind this ridiculous exterior.
"Hello Tessai-san", she said politely, and bowed slightly.
"Ahh, Kuchiki-san, welcome back.", the big man greeted her cheerfully. "How are you today?"
"I'm fine thank you", she replied politely. "Do you know whether or not Urahara-san is here?"
"Oh he should be around here somewhere. Though I have no idea as to where."
"He's out back, in the small dining room", a new voice broke in, and she turned around to find Jinta standing in front of her. He was but a boy, but still strong, but he had an attitude befitting of his age.
He was a heck of a brat.
"You better hurry up and join him while you can still find your way there. I hear your eye sight begin to fail as you get older, and those wrinkles aren't going to disappear by just standing there."
"Why you little…", she began, completely ignoring the fact that as a shinigami she never aged.
He turned tail and fled, her following right behind him.
His route led him through the small dining room, where he jumped out the window, leaving her in his wake in the dining with a bemused Urahara sitting nearby watching the entire thing unfold.
"Kukuku, you know Kuchiki-san, from what I hear, acting as a child against a child won't get you anywhere productive", he chuckled.
She turned around to find Urahara staring at her from underneath his hat, a bemused smile on his lips. She had the decency to blush.
"I don't know what came over me", she said ashamedly.
"Why not just let it be, Jinta has that effect on most people, I've seen some of the most respectable people turn into bloodcrazed lunatics because of that boy. My advice would be to let his taunts pass you by while you're still only subject to his lighter taunting, eventually he will give up on you, and find himself a new victim."
She nodded slowly, wide-eyed, never had she imagined that the child could be such… such… a demon. She decided to take his word for it.
"So Kuchiki-san. Have you had any progress?", he asked good-naturedly, but she sensed the underlying interest. He was more interested in these latest developments than he let on, but withholding any information from this man would be a wrong move, as it was now he had the power to make or break this entire thing.
So she had to heed his advice, whether she wanted to or not.
"I have not made any as of yet, except for being enrolled at his school, but that is proving to be useless", she sighed.
"Oh, and why may that be?", he asked offhandedly.
"Well, he appears to have always been somewhat of a loner, and from what I could gather he seems to be withdrawing more and more from those who he used to call friends. Getting close to him will be difficult if not impossible."
"Have you tried his family?", he asked, taking a sip of his tea.
"He would never allow me near them, so until I am on better terms with him, that option is as of yet unviable", she said, rubbing her temples in frustration.
"How about approaching him directly?"
"I have considered that, but as you already know, we didn't get off on the best of terms, and I am quite certain he wouldn't take too well to me, and I believe it would be counter-productive. So I stand by my belief that right now the best thing to do right now is to just gain his trust little by little, and how futile it may seem I believe the only way to do this is through his friends."
"I shall not dispute your claim, but consider this, there are other ways of gaining his trust, or at least his cooperation. One is often willing to go to great lengths to protect what is dear to oneself", he said cryptically, before turning his attention away from her, and to the television. "Think on what I have said."
She saw it for what it was, a clear dismissal, and made a quick bow before exiting the small room.
She had lots to think about, and she needed some time alone for it.
He had nodded off, and now found himself staring up into a starlit sky, a clear night, a beautiful moon flying overhead.
But that wasn't what was truly particular, although that in and of itself qualified. No, what truly puzzled him was the softness his head was resting on, and the fingers running continuously through his hair.
He turned his head slightly and saw Nel's face, gazing out into the night, her hand the one running through his hair, and her face set in relaxed folds.
He then connected the dots, and found that his head was pillowing in her lap, and the softness beneath him was her thighs. But aside from making him blush slightly, this was far better than he had ever imagined, and he felt truly relaxed.
So relaxed in fact, that he unconsciously squirmed a bit closer.
She must have felt it, because she looked down at him, a snug smile on her lips, and her eyes were twinkling.
"Comfortable, are we?", she asked, that teasing back in her voice.
He just grinned a bit, answering her smug smile with one of his own. "Of course, why wouldn't I be?"
"I don't know, you tell me", she answered making both of them snicker briefly.
She was still running her fingers through his hair. "It's late you know."
He grimaced. "Yea, I kind of noticed. Hard not to with the moon and the stars and all."
He reluctantly left her surprisingly warm lap after a bit, and stood up.
"I better get going you know. Don't want my family to get worried about me", he said, now feeling a bit awkward for some reason.
"Yea, you better"
He turned around and silently and slowly strode away from the river.
He was, however, halted by Neliel's voice.
He turned around to see her staring at him with extreme intensity.
Then a small smile played on her lips.
He smiled to himself.
He walked away from there with a light heart, and high spirit.
Not everything in the world was bad after all, and everything was going to be alright.
Well that's it for now, I hope you enjoyed it, and remember, constructive criticism if any.
I hope you found my story good so far and I apologize for the fairly long introduction chapter, but I felt it crucial for the explanation of several key points relations in the beginning that will have wide spread effects later on in the story.
Beetledude over and out.