Edited on 7/12/2010
Prologue: Breaking News
"Hello everyone welcome to Rangiku's Rambles; I'm your hostess Rangiku Matsumoto, thank you all for tuning in." The busty blonde smiled at the camera before rushing on, "Joining us today is a special guest who does wonderful things for our 'at-times-not-so-wonderful' teens. We all know about the Change of Hearts Program at the local Karakura Town Community Recreation Center. This wonderful program is designed to get troubled teens off the streets. The center has won numerous awards for the deeds they have done. They are a true asset to the community with a list of success stories that go on for miles." Rangiku seemed genuinely excited about all of this; if she smiled any wider her face would split in half.
"Joining us today," she continued, "is one such success story who also happens to be the new director of the Change of Hearts program. Please join me in welcoming mister Byakuya Kuchiki!"
The studio audience all began to applaud as a tall man with ink black hair and serious looking grey eyes walked onto the stage. He shook hands with the hostess before taking a seat on the cushy looking couch on the stage.
Rangiku's smile somehow managed to grow bigger as she greeted the man. "Welcome Byakuya, do you mind if I call you Byakuya, welcome to my show. May I say that I am personally glad to have you here? It's just so great all the wonderful things you do for the kids that come into the center."
"Thank you Matsumoto-san, but I haven't really done anything just yet." Byakuya's baritone voice rang through the studio, "I just took over as director of the program, but I do have a lot of things planned for the future of the Change of Hearts program."
"Hopefully you're not planning to change too much, the program is wonderful just the way it is."
"Of course not, Matsumoto-san,"
"Please call me Rangiku." The hostess cut in.
Byakuya nodded. "As I was saying, Ran-giku," he seemed to have a problem getting the woman's given name to escape his mouth, "I wouldn't dream of making major changes to the program; it's amazingly successful as it is. In fact I won't be changing any of the program set right now. I'll just be adding to the current program."
Rangiku nodded. "Won't that be just wonderful?" she asked the audience who all clapped their approval. "So tell us Byakuya," Rangiku said once the applause stopped, "Why did you choose to take over as director of the program?"
"Well as you said before, I'm one of the center's success stories," Byakuya said his voice carrying a tone of forced formality that hadn't been present before. "I wasn't exactly one of the better behaved kids in my youth. I made some bad choices, some big mistakes. Then after a certain event I suddenly realize the weight of the things I did and I wanted out. The Center offered me that way out and saved me. I owe the Center my life, so when I heard that the former director was sick and retiring I figured it my duty to repay my debt to the center, especially since the former director was a good friend of mine and approved of me succeeding him."
Rangiku nodded excitedly. "You mentioned before that you'll be adding to the current program. Care to elaborate on that?"
"Of course, the way I see it, the Center does have a lot of success stories, but not all_"
"You've been in here for half an hour, if you're not going to order anything then please leave."
Ichigo looked up at the stern faced man standing in front of him. He raised one eyebrow and glared at him challengingly. "Who said I wasn't going to order anything. I could have just been having a hard time making up my mind."
The man's eyes narrowed as he looked the teen over, Ichigo was wearing a pair of black jeans and a graphic tee, his bright orange hair was poorly kept and all over his head, his tennis shoes were dirty and ragged beyond the point of saving. "Humph," the man sniffed, "I know when people are going to order anything or not and you're definitely not. Leave and don't come back till you have actual money in your pockets and not just lint."
"Whatever." Ichigo stood and stuffed his hands in his, admittedly empty, pockets and strode towards the door. It wasn't like he actually wanted to spend his day onside that stuffy old coffee shop anyway. He'd only come in to see what was on the TV. And what was on wasn't even interesting. He knew all about the stupid Change of Hearts Program at the stupid Community Center, earlier that day he had dropped out of the program for the seventh time.
Well he hadn't actually dropped out of the program seven times, but he had been in it seven times. A few times he had actually made it through the entire program, not that it was any help since he was always back on the streets a week or so later. Staying home and playing family just wasn't for him. No matter how many times he'd tried to escape, the streets still called to him.
The stupid people at the center had given up on "saving" him, his stupid father had given up on him going back to the way things were, and his stupid teachers had given up on him returning to class and being one of their best students like had was before. The whole stupid world had given up on him. But Ichigo didn't care, because he had given up on his own stupid self. He tried to return to the way things had been, but there was something barring him from doing so, he was stuck as he was now with no way to return to the way things had been in the past. Ichigo Kurosaki thought himself to be a failure. He failed every time he went through the stupid program at the stupid center. He failed his family every time he failed the program. And he failed himself every time he failed his father. He was a failure, just like when he failed at saving-
Ichigo angrily kicked a small rock that was on the sidewalk, not wanting to dwell on the thoughts haunting his mind at that moment. He huffed and he burrowed his hand's further down into his pockets. It was late November and chilly out, his thin tee-shirt did nothing to block out the wind despite its dark color.
He scowled. He was going to freeze out here and his stupid pride wouldn't let him go home and get a the winter coat he knew would be hanging in the front closet waiting for him, or even the jacket he knew was laying across his bed. He didn't want to enter his father's house once again a failure. He had swore to himself the last time he had left the house knowing he was about to return to running the streets that he would never return to the family house again unless he was ready to go back to being part of the family again and this time stay a part of the family forever. Ichigo may have been a "troubled teen" but he was a man of his word. He wasn't going back unless things were normal again.
So where did that leave him? Out wandering the streets without a jacket on a chilly November night, probably going to freeze to death before he ever made it home. He wished he did have more in his pockets than just lint, that way he could at least buy himself a coat or jacket, but without a job there was no money coming his way. He knew that stealing was always an option, but he would not lower himself to petty crimes, he did have his standards. Getting one of the free coats donated to the Center was also a no, it was bad enough he relied on their free meal program for sustenance, he wasn't about to take another handout from them, especially since he'd taken to sleeping on a cot in their gym along with a bunch of other street kids so as not to freeze during the cold winter nights.
Ichigo shivered as a breeze blew, ruffling his hair and cutting through his shirt to freeze him right to the bones. A rumble in his stomach told him it was dinner time. He sniffled and looked up. The lights of the Karakura Town Community Recreation Center were right in front of him, beckoning to him, promising him food and a warm place to sleep. His hands pushed down in his pockets as he headed towards the lights.