I do not intend to garner any revenues from the use of Soul Eater or Bleach and their associated characters.
Act 1: Hollow Eater
Chapter 1 : The Man Called Ichigo
The thing about having a cell without a window is that even with the knowledge that day will turn to night and night to day it still feels like time has stopped for you. You could even imagine that everything outside is exactly how you remember it. Even better, exactly how you want it to be. But I know better. I know the world is still moving. Still moving on with or without me. Moving on with or without any of us.
It's sad really. All that time, we thought the world needed the Shinigami. And maybe, back when we were still in action, it actually did. After all, who else was going to protect the lost souls of the living realm? Who else could save them from the hollows? That was our purpose. Our reason for life after death.
Who am I kidding? I wasn't really a Shinigami anyway. Of course, neither were any of my friends. And they fought just the same. Just like I did. Maybe because I did. Uraharah did say something to that affect didn't he? That they gained their powers from being near me. Seemed kind of outrageous at the time, and I still don't know everything about how that worked. I mean I never really understood soul science, or whatever the technical term was for it.
Regardless, they couldn't stand still if I didn't. They cared too much, and somehow I didn't see it. Couldn't see it. Couldn't see that they wouldn't stop if I asked. Couldn't see that leaving space under the world that you take on your shoulders, makes those that care about you most, that much more likely to try and take a place at your side.
It was only a matter of time before something happened to them. But then, we were all living on borrowed time. Whether we were aware of it or not, the world was changing. Things were happening that would rewrite our rules and destroy us for breaking the new ones. It wasn't that we didn't care. We were just too busy to recognize it. Too busy fighting our wars against ourselves.
Yeah, against ourselves. Arrancar, Shinigami, and Vaizards, we weren't all that different. I wouldn't have said as much back then but it's really true. Our powers came from the same place, and our techniques were glaringly similar. We just didn't see it. Or we refused to see it. I don't know.
One thing is certain though. I don't belong in the world that exists now. Not sure if I want to either. A world where occult imaginings in legend and literature are real. Where witches, werewolves, and golems walk the earth. A world where the sun rises with a literal smile upon its stitched visage, and the moon rejoinders as it takes the sun's place with a crazed chuckle of its own. This is a lunatic's world if ever there was one. And yet, that's what we let it become.
I'm classified as a pseudo-kishin now. At least that's what Sid says. He comes down every five months and brings me just enough food to keep me going. Usually has a lot to say about current affairs. Almost like he's got no one else he can tell. Then again, he did remind me a bit of the soldiers in Soi Fong's group. Just the way he carried himself. He was definitely wet-works and special ops. Probably had a lot of secrets tucked away in that mind of his. I wonder how much he knows about back then.
He was the one to escort me to my cell in a mystically protected facility under Death Valley. It's only a few miles out from Death City, the new home for the protectors of souls. Meisters. I don't know much about them, other than that they exist to stop kishin from developing. Also that Sid and at least half the population of Death City are meisters as well. Makes sense when you consider that that's the place where they're all trained.
Shibusen is the name of the school where they become competent fighters and operatives. They learn how to fight against the strange and exotic beings that now walk this plain of existence. I don't exactly know how they do it, but they've done a good job so far, so I'm not going to intervene just yet. I learned my lesson during the Dark Times: power without knowledge is foolishness. Took quite awhile for me to figure that one out. To think, it was an arrancar that told me that.
Like I said before, they keep me on a strict five month meal plan. Keeps me drained and somewhat lethargic, but it's just enough to keep me alive. Death apparently has some use for me. Or at least Sid said as much. Not sure how much of that I believe, although, of the many things that arose during the Dark Times, Death was probably one of the wiliest of them. At the very least he figured out how to stop the hollow problem. That was a feat I never thought possible. Granted I never thought to think of that particular option, but I'm getting off the subject. I didn't believe it when Sid said that Death had a use for me. So you could say I was more than a little distrusting when Sid arrived two months early.
"Special day today" he said through the cell door's eye slit. "You get a full meal this time."
"What's the occasion?" Ichigo asked from the dark corner of the cell he was sitting in. "Don't tell me you're getting soft."
"I was never one to disobey my superiors." Sid stated proudly "That's the kind of man I was."
"Was?" Ichigo chuckled "What, you're a rebel now?"
"No" Sid replied matter-of-factly as he opened the cell door, revealing himself. He smiled as Ichigo's eyes widened at the sickly blue tinge that Sid's skin had. The flak jacket and army pants that Sid wore did little to hide that fact. "I'm dead." he said with a laugh.
Ichigo frowned disgustedly "Not sure if I wanna' eat that food now."
"That's too bad." Sid replied with a shake of his head. "Death said you liked it spicy. But I guess if you're not hungry..."
Ichigo opened his mouth to retort, but his stomach beat him to the punch, growling horrendously. He sighed, frustrated. "I guess food is food."
The dead man nodded. "That's the way." With this, Sid entered the cell, bringing the meal along with him. On the plate was a mixture of sausage, chicken and fish, along with various vegetables and rice sprinkled throughout, all covered in a, (Ichigo assumed) spicy broth. It was certainly a step up from the stale bread and water he usually got. This, of course, was a suspicious development, However, Ichigo was rather famished. He scooped a portion of it up with a spoon that Sid had provided, and took a bite. The orange-haired swordsman raised an eyebrow at the spicy prickle that attacked his taste-buds and marched on the back of his throat.
"This is good stuff" Ichigo said through a full mouth, already moving for his second spoonful. "But why this, and why now?"
Sid grinned. "Well, Death said spicy and I said jambalaya. Southern cooking always had a special place in my stomach.
Ichigo frowned "That's not what I was asking."
Sid crossed his arms "You're going to be taking a little walk with me." He flicked a thumb towards the door. "To say hello to our friend the sun."
Ichigo stopped eating, giving Sid a hard look. "No."
Sid chuckled. "Does it creep you out that much?"
"You know why I'm not going back out there." Ichigo replied, "It's not the sun that I care about."
Sid's tone suddenly became darkly serious "But the people. You care about them right?"
Ichigo scowled. "What do you want?"
"It's the hollows." The dead man said in a dark tone. "They could be returning."
Ichigo stood at the word "hollows" "I thought there weren't anymore of them left."
Sid shook his head "It's not leftovers that we're dealing with here. Technically, I'm not even sure if we can call it a hollow yet."
Ichigo's brow furrowed at that statement. "Then what do you need me for?"
"To make sure we never have to call it one." Sid smiled "So how about that walk?"
Even after all these years, Ichigo's gigai was still in working order, a testament to Uraharah's workmanship. Also a product of said workmanship was its accuracy in its conveyance of the pangs and general discomforts of a normal human body. It was an esoteric quality Ichigo was generally glad for, all though at times he would feel otherwise. Right now, as he stepped out into the light of the desert sun, an oddly detailed jeep just a few meters away from him, he was very much feeling otherwise.
He took a seat in the passenger seat of the dusty green jeep as Sid got into the driver's side. Painted on the jeep's side was an oddly stylized skull, that had a fairly cartoony look to it. Despite this, the vehicle had quite the efficient engine, as shown by the the sudden acceleration that followed when Sid stepped on the gas. In seconds they were barreling across a rather flat section of the desert, with arid cracked ground stretching as far as the eye could see. It made for quite the bumpy ride, but Sid showed no signs of slowing down.
"Man, its bright out here." Ichigo said, squinting his eyes as they adjusted to the desert daylight. He glared at the sun, using his hand to block out its blazing gaze. "I swear that sun's laughing at me."
Sid chuckled "It laughs at everybody, Ichigo. As long as the souls of this world aren't in jeopardy the sun will laugh for them. I'd only worry if it were cringing, or worse shrieking." Sid's expression became grim. "That's when we've really got trouble."
Ichigo gave Sid an incredulous glare. "It can shriek?"
Sid shook his head "I don't know for certain, but I don't ever want to find out."
"Right." Ichigo sighed "I almost forgot just how screwed up everything got after the Winter War."
Sid nodded "Well, we've at least reached a form of equilibrium now."
"With the meisters, right?" Ichigo replied "Can't say I like the idea of them eating souls. Even if it's only on orders and only with pre-kishin material. There's a lot of risk in it."
"It's what we have to do now." Sid said somberly. "Ever since we lost Soul Society, there hasn't been a safe place to take the lost souls to."
"So instead, you make sure that there's nothing that can kill the lost souls." Ichigo frowned "I still don't like it."
"It's never about what we like—" Sid began
"Just what needs to be done." Ichigo finished. "I know all about that. Doesn't mean I have to like it."
"No" Sid frowned knowingly "It doesn't."
For long moment all that could be heard was the jeep's engine and its wheels as the kicked up dust from the cracked ground beneath them. Something about the ambience was at once piercing and quieting, as Sid focused his eyes on the horizon ahead. Ichigo could only wonder what was going through the dead-man's mind. However, curious as he was, Ichigo very much disliked the ambient silence that had fallen and decided to strike up a different conversation.
"So there's nowhere for the dead to go now, right?" Ichigo asked "Doesn't it get crowded down here with all the souls wandering around?"
Sid frowned thoughtfully "You'd think it would, but it's strange. After awhile they just disappear."
A puzzled expression formed upon Ichigo's visage "Just 'poof', they're gone?"
"Well, I don't know if they go 'poof'" Sid said with a chuckle "But there aren't any traces left after the disappearances." Sid shook his head. "I'm not sure what to make of it."
Sid shrugged "No one I know."
Ichigo sighed, staring up into the still laughing sun. He shook his head "It's just as screwed up as I remember it."
"Glad we didn't disappoint." Sid replied with a grin.
More to come…
Tell me, was it enjoyable? Or perhaps not.
Either way, let me know.