I'm really, really, really sorry! I've had everything planned from this chapter onward, it's just… I just can't type it… Writer's block, seriously… Anyway, regarding one of the review from Sheriyuu, I promise it'll be explained in the latter chapter^^ And as for Isshin, a little spoiler, he'll be introduced to Rukia again in his shinigami form. As in which chapter, I do not know yet, as I usually typed much much more than my first expectation… Can't promise you for a definite chapter. Oh yeah, and beware for this chapter, as it majorly contains of our beloved girl, Tatsuki! And mass words in Italic, for that matter.
Disclaimer: Bleach © Kubo Tite. I only own a Kon pocket, and that's pretty much about it.
Letting out an exasperated sigh, Arisawa Tatsuki rested her head on both of her palms while her elbows firmed its place on the white window sill of Orihime's new apartment (she finally had rented one after Tatsuki forced her to do so since her kick out from her old apartment. Now her –maybe temporary- house was located at the far-end of Karakura Town, with the window on her room looking towards the thick forest of Karakura). With her weary black eyes, she watched as the orange-colored sun set itself on the horizon ornated with thick bush of foliage with no real reason to watch it. Just out of boredom, maybe.
It's like a moment of peace after an exhausting day of school—how she always watched the sun set with Orihime at her side. Her brunette best friend said she always loved how the red dragonfly start to appear when it was evening, especially near the river area when it was summer. She pondered why Orihime always took a liking towards insect –especially the red dragonfly-, maybe it's because they're insect (she had a strange hobby after all), maybe it's because they had wings (the brunette always mentioned she'd like to fly freely in the sky), or maybe it's because they reminded her of her deceased brother.
Then, there's another one, his name was Kurosaki Hi—
She wouldn't dare to finish that word.
It pained her so much.
Her weary gaze stared at the setting sun once again, somehow hoping that she'd be calmed by its tranquiling reddish rays.
'It's just like that time,' she said in her mind. 'The difference is that we were at the cliff. I and…,'
Tatsuki sighed again. Now, it's sounded more like a defeated sigh.
"Gah," she groaned a little as she scratched her not-itchy hair. "This sucks."
She was here, in Orihime's house, to relax her body; to forget about him, not to remember about him. Now why would she force her mind to remember about Hichigo, instead of trying to forget about him?
He's dead. Kurosaki Hichigo was dead. Dead. Not live. Had passed the boundary of the mortal life. Living in the afterlife. Whatever. There's nothing in the right mind of Arisawa Tatsuki that could change that fact.
But it still budged her.
Maybe he's not the best person that had lived in the world, but he's not the worst either. Okay, maybe he was a jerkass (so witty with his words, creepy, nerd, love to spit profanities and…well, jerk). Okay, okay, he was so protecting of his little brother—Ichigo, that's a plus for him. Okay, he loved his twin sisters too, there's another plus. Maybe he's not the luckiest person alive, regarding his albino disease and illness, but he was still a jerkass.
But Kurosaki Hichigo still didn't deserve whatever things that had happened to him.
She meant; people couldn't just forget about a person—the entire memory of this person's existence—just like forgetting about everyday chores you could easily forget, could they? The problem was, they really did—they really did forget about a person—Hichigo…
…and the fact that she's only the person who remembered about him was making her crazy.
She—Arisawa Tatsuki—who hated (okay, not hate, but still…) Kurosaki Hichigo with passion for being a creep.
"Aaargh! Damn you, Kurosaki!" shouted Tatsuki indignantly to no one. "Stop messing with my head again!"
"E-eh? W-what about Kurosaki-kun?"
Tatsuki gasped a little at the sudden soft yet bemused voice which came from behind her. She turned her head and found a confused brunette standing at the entrance of the room with both hands holding a tray where two glasses of orange juice were placed on.
"N-no! No! I-it's not about Ichigo!" stuttered Tatsuki, waving both of her hands in denial before continuing, "It's, err, a-about, Hichigo, err yeah, right! I meant Hichigo!"
"Hichigo?" tilting her head slightly, Orihime asked and took a few steps forward. The brunette took a sit beside Tatsuki, and after placing they tray onto the floor, she concluded softly, "Kurosaki-kun's brother?"
Tatsuki returned the question with a weary sigh, "Yeah."
Orihime, brown eyes still focused at her orange juice below, said nothing at the matter. A few moments of awkward silence fluttered in the room, before finally broken by the brunette's voice.
"Tatsuki-chan…," she said tentatively, before bracing herself with a deep breath and continued, "Tatsuki-chan, would you bother… telling me about how Kurosaki-kun's brother died? U-uum, Hichigo-kun?"
The black-haired girl looked at her friend who was blushing madly in shame (the girl quickly realized about her mistake that she had asked her friend about an incredibly sensitive-subject who had succesfully made her cry). Tatsuki quickly dismissed her shame by shaking her head a few times, a small smile tugged at her lips.
"Don't be like that, Hime. I'll tell you about him," said Tatsuki, hand grabbing the brunette's reassuringly.
"Or, at least, I'll tell you… Tell you everything the day before he died, the last time I saw him…,"
It was another Saturday. And it was evening. A Saturday evening I thought to be another usual day with no unusual thing to pass. I was walking down the street alone—the street near the cliff where you can see the calming sea easily. I was planning to go home to my house after that day's football practice for the upcoming school match.
But then, as fate was tying us, I spotted him.
As white as snow, differing himself from the rest of the reddish scenery for it was a lovely evening, he was standing still on the edge of the cliff. He seemed to not notice me, else he'd start bickering at me again with how I always made Ichigo to cry (although he'd stopped crying after losing any match –if any- at that time, so I knew that his threatening just purely made from his wants to mess with me). As he kept looking at the setting sun faraway at the horizon, tainting the blue sea with its orange-ish color, I thought about to not disturb him. It seemed as if he was in deep thought or something, something I should not bother.
"So, that's the last time you saw him?" asked Orihime out of curiosity, sipping another small portion of her orange juice.
But, Tatsuki shook her head, while her juice still left untouched on the tray.
No, I just… couldn't leave him like that.
I didn't know that time, and I still don't know what as for today… I didn't know what made me stop there, like, there was something… something calling me from the depth of my mind, telling me to stop and instead talk to him.
Beside, while the other reason was the strange desire calling me from my mind, another reason was that I knew that Hichigo was not in a good health for about months. He had stopped coming to school, although occasionally showed up at class, somehow always claiming a perfect score for test (well, that guy was way more nerdy than his brother, looks seriously can deceive, huh? "Like you, Hime,""Eheh~! Hehehe~," "Stop giggling.""Aaw! Don't whack me with Enpa!"). From Ichigo, I was told that he was still kept to the current studies, said to be home-schooled by his father. Well, Kurosaki-san is a doctor, after all, he should've been classifying enough to be a teacher.
But, still, as time passed, the interval from when he came to school kept stretching into a longer time, days became weeks, weeks became month, until he really never showed up again.
The last time I saw him at his house was… he was…in his bed, in the patient room, sleeping peacefully while I played with Ichigo at the other room. Sometimes I took a peek inside when Ichigo was not looking, gazing at Kurosaki-san who stayed by his side every minute, sometimes stroking his pure white hair with his brass yet gentle hand. Hichigo, oblivious to the wistful gaze his father kept give him, kept sleeping throughout the day without even one flutter of eyes which would be a sign for him for finally waking up.
At that time, I realized…
His life was deteriorating.
There was not much time left for him to be alive.
Orihime was seen hiding her eyes with both of her hands, sometimes letting a hiccup for Tatsuki to hear. It was obvious that she was crying, although she had tried her best to not to.
"S-sorry, Tatsuki-chan…," said Orihime weakly with a sob, clamping her hands on her lap tightly while a droplet a tear at the edge of her eyes threatened to fall. "I just... you know, I may not know who Hichigo-kun was…, but, knowing that he was once Kurosaki-kun's brother… it was…," 'sad…' she finished in her mind, an image of her deceased brother –Sora- once again flickered.
Tatsuki waited for Orihime to stop crying, offering her a tissue paper to wash her round face from tears. She took it, and put the thin and smooth paper on her face and let it absorb her tears.
Then, Tatsuki said, "Orihime-chan… Do you want me to continue?"
Orihime nodded weakly, "Please do,"
So, with that reason, I walked up to him, quickly standing on the spot beside him. Hichigo quickly tilted his head to the side, looking at me with a perplexed stare.
"Arisawa?" he said softly, almost inaudible. I felt my heart wrenched again hearing his weak voice—as if he was going to fall apart in any second. But, I tried to brave my heart, and pulled a cheery expression unto my face, yet I felt it was obviously fake, and, looking at his face, I knew that he saw through my façade, but decided to leave it at be.
"W-well," I stuttered, still keeping my brave face. "What are you doing here, Kurosaki? Teaching small children yet again with your 'colorful' words?"
"Meh," his lips wavered into his typical grin. "As if ya gonna stop makin' boys cryin' ag'n, wonder how ya got raised by your mother as a kid. Mus' be pretty messed up."
Heh, he still kept his annoying-self, although at time all pure symphaty quickly melt itself into an angry expression I wore. I nearly decided to just leave him like that and go straight to home instead, if not for a sudden violent coughing fit he suddenly had that forced me to stay by his side.
He kept coughing and coughing as I watched him in pure silence, unable to do anything. What could I do anyway? We were alone at the street with me having no cell phone at the time, nor that Karakura Hospital was near and all. Of course, I already had the mind to run into the town to call for help, but I feared that his body couldn't stand the pain and fall from the cliff instead—which would make matters worse.
"Ku-kurosaki? Kurosaki! A-are you alright?" It was a silly question. Really, really silly. A faint hope a kid like me had at the moment that he'd mutter a "Yes.", no matter how weak, because, seeing a people—your friend—die in front of you is not really a great spetacle, is it?
Of course, the fit hadn't stopped like I wished it'd be; it got worse. He fell onto his kness and clutched his mouth, trying to hide a red liquid coming from the inside of his mouth, yet failed to keep some of it to drip onto the abysmal sea beneath.
"…I'm…," finally he was able to speak a word after that coughing fit finally ceased, albeit a whispered one. He cleaned the blood at his mouth with the back of his head, before whispered again, "…I'm alright." Weak and soft, with no imply of sarcasm at all. He truly wished to be alright.
"You—you are not alright! And with this condition, you by all means should be in bed instead!" I shook his shoulder, trying by any chance to free him from his wistful notion of being healthy at any form. He just fixed his gaze onto the side, trying to avert any direct eye-contact with me, like he was being guilty of something. Then, it all came to me, from both of my sentences and his guilty-looking face: Why would Hichigo –in this worst condition I'd ever seen him in- be in the outside, far from home, with no one to accompany him? Not even Ichigo or his father or—or…his sister… or whoever? A condition where he should be appointed into a hospital instead? Yes, yes, Orihime, he…
"You ran away, didn't you?"
His yellow eyes flickered for a second, before dimming ever so slightly.
"…You're going home, now."
"I don't want to," I noticed that he didn't use his usual tone again, clearly meaning that he was dead serious by it. But I didn't bother with it, and kept nagging him:
"Ooh, stop going so emo like this, you idiot! Where's the obnoxious, annoying Kurosaki Hichigo I knew about?" I shouted to him, pulling him by his white shirt, but he still didn't budge from his spot, as if his feet was firmly planted into the ground itself, like an ignored white edelweiss on the top of a mountain waiting to wilt.
"He's right here, Arisawa, and he's gonna die at any moment."
Yes, he said that, Orihime.
He really said that.
As if there was no hope left for him in the world and all thing he can do at the moment was waiting to die.
"You're not going to die!" I shouted in pure denial, although, somehow, deep in my heart, I knew it was coming to him. "You're not going to—to…die! Your father will nurse you back to health, okay?"
"Ooh, please, Arisawa, even an idiot know that this poor albino guy is going to kick the bucket at any time soon," he said, rolling his eyes as he let out a humorless smirk. "And my father can't do anything about it. He can't control the cycle of death, no matter how both of his jobs are ironically befitting to the task."
"But you just can't lose hope yet!" I was still persistent at time, like an obnoxious child denying the truth about losing a match. "There are so many people in the world who struggles for the living, yet you just wanted to throw your life just like that?"
"I'm not throwing my life," he said morosely while his eyes narrowed dangerously. But his expression soften, as if the action itself had drained him from every energy left in his body. He spoke, "It's not that I'm throwing it, Arisawa, it's just that I know that this fragile body has reached its toll."
"Don't speak like that," I said. Of course, it was a very horrible subject to be discussed when you're still a kid, as we all knew it. The imagination of people losing life and to never come back was…horrifying. No matter even if it was the people you most hated in the world.
"Do not speak like that, idiot," I repeated it again, as if trying to clarify my point. "How—no, what—what will happen if you just die like that? You know, h-how about…me? You can't mess with me again when you're dead, can you! (He snickered at this) A-and then, your sisters! They loved to play with you, and you can't play with them when you're dead! And your father! Didn't you say you'd like to be a doctor, like your father, someday? How about that? Won't your father be sad if you just lose hope at your dream, then? Your mother (his eyes once again narrowed at the mention of his mother, but I didn't bother with this, no matter how he'd complain at me later), of course your mother would like you to be a doctor, right? Helping the living to maintain that life, and the others? Then, Ichigo…,"
I grabbed both of his pale hands with my own. Hands so icy, as cold as a corpse, as if no blood was flowing through his veins.
"Ichigo… He'd be alone, wouldn't he? H-he… He'd cry… Like old times… When I beat him… And there'd be no you, to scold me about it…," I said so weakly, tears welling in my eyes, making his weak form to be blurry in my sight. It was scary, as like his body would break like shattered pieces of mirror as soon I took my eyes from him. "Please… Think about how Ichigo would feel…, how no one would protect him…"
At first he seemed to have no answer for this, as he bit his lips guiltily. But, he gripped my hands back, saying, "…Then I just need to leave him to you, right?"
My eyes seemed to crack so wide as if it'd fall from its pocket.
The grips on my hands tightened. He gave me another sad smile.
"Arisawa, I seriously hate to admit this, but…," he was hesitant at the moment, averting his eyes from direct-contact and looking at the reddish sea instead. Suddenly, his face contorted into that of a pain, biting his lips so hard to resist the urge to have another fit of violent coughings that spammed his body from the inside like a ceaseless plague. Both of us knew that he was not going to have any much time left, so he tightened his death-like grip on my hands, saying "I'm going to leave you to protect Ichigo."
I was silenced at this, as if he just had stolen every words I knew to construct a sentence of denial. I just kept looking at him incredulously, secretly hoping that everything he had said was just a very smooth-going plan to mess with my head.
"I don't know what I'd done to him later, or what would befall on him at that matter, but you will protect him…, won't you?" asked him, adding a sad smile at the end of it. It did it; my façade quickly fell, a single stream of tears stroking my cheek as I tried to kept my brave face but failed to everytime I wanted to pull one.
"Hah… Seriously, it'd be so funny looking at your priceless face had it occurred at another day…," he said, letting out another chuckle as tear kept welling in my eyes. Then, somehow I felt my hands he gripped going warmer as a sudden gust of wind swept through us. I don't know what it was, or how he did it with his usually cold as ice skin, but he was so warm… As if I was in a room with a warmer with a blanket tightly bound to my hands. Yet the feeling dissipated as soon as it came, returning the cold and stinging sensation of his skin as he shot me a thankful look.
Suddenly, I heard a vrooming sound ringing in the air, and I turned my head, only to find a blue-tinted car behind us speeding up across the narrow street of the hill before abruptly jerking into a halt beside us, leaving a screeching sound and a small, nearly invisible grey smoke in the air. From the car, there came an orange-haired boy as old as us, face ridden with a horrified glance as he looked at us. Another middle-aged man stepped out from the driver seat, bearing the face not nearly as panicked as his other son.
Without another second to waste, Ichigo quickly rushed to his brother's side, clearly not noticing or bothering with my presence at the time, as if the boy had found a priceless treasure no one else in the world ever find, which, in a sence, he did.
"Are you out of your mind? Running off from home just like that and panicking four of us?" the younger twins asked with pure disbelief, grabbing Hichigo by the wrist so tightly that the albino winched a little.
"Eh, a little sight-seein' wouldn't hurt," he replied flippantly, earning another worried yet angry glare from Ichigo. Without another resistance from him, Ichigo successfully pulled him into the car, muttering something too low to me to heard. I just watched them as he closed it with a 'click'. I heard Kurosaki-san let out a weary sigh, rubbing his nose bridge with his hand.
"Ooh?" the elder Kurosaki shot me a guilty look after finally noticing my presence, now rubbing the back of his head with his right hand. In the end, what he could do was to give me a meek smile. He came up to me, and said, "Tatsuki, isn't it? Sorry for Hichigo, was he bothering you?"
"No, no! D-don't worry, Kurosaki-san, I was not bothered at all." I said too quickly, but he seemed to not notice this, though, and instead gave me a relieved sigh. He turned around after saying a, "Thank you for watching after Hichigo," to me, entering the driver seat as the car prepared to take them home. After the sound of machine finally started to work, he seemed to realize about something. Kurosaki-san then opened the window, looking at me again with his calming, fatherly gaze.
"Would you like a ride? I'll take you home, safe and sound! Oh, and free, of course!" said Kurosaki-san with a happy grin from ear to ear. He was trying to be strong—to be happy, strong for both of his children like that. It was heart-wrenching.
I shook my head, "Thank you, but no. It's pretty near, just a 10 minutes walk from here," I pointed my finger to the long road above. He nodded in understanding, then closed the window.
When the car started to leave, from the glass pane, I saw him for the last time, glittery yellow eyes boring itselves into mine with an apologetic look, while his lips muttered,
"…Good bye, Tatsuki."
"Then, at Monday, there was an announcement at school about his death," Tatsuki said weakly, grazing her black locks with her hand. "I don't know ho he died, or where he was buried. Nothing… And then, I never heard about him anymore. Not even from the teachers, not even from my classmates, from his sisters, his—his… Ichigo… Anyone…,"
"I just hope… Just—that everyone remembers him, that's all…, so that—that, at the least, he will know that there's someone who still loves him…,"
The black-haired girl buried herself into the brunette's hug, somehow feeling completely drained while Orihime patted her back lightly, sometimes rubbing it to offer comfort to her.
Maybe… Maybe she might not know who Kurosaki Hichigo was,
But of course, to be remembered by the livings so that he could still know that there was someone who still loved him was indeed a very pleasant things to have.
'Please let Tatsuki-chan's hope comes true, so that Kurosaki-kun's brother knows that Kurosaki-kun still loves him…,'
It was the best for them to wish that everything would be alright…,
~to be continued
Uuh, the last part was a bit rushed… Sorry, I ran out of words. Okay, I admitted, at first I was gonna type the contract of the seal with a cliché blinding light which in the end made Hichi vanish right in front of Tatsuki. It's cheesy, so I discarded the idea. Second thought, making Hichigo and Tatsuki kissed each other. Yes, you read that right. –burnt by expecting-yaoi-fans- Then I suddenly remembered that I was writing a yaoi fic and quickly dissed it (Sorry, I've a sick thought of shipping HichiXTatsu hard after IchiXHichi. And yes, all of my het pairs are cracky). So you get it; would be a wonderful omake to make, wouldn't they? –killed- So, I dunno, I do have a mind about making a fic about them. A light-mood interlude or something? But I'm not good with jokes…
Anyway, yay! Reviews finally hit the 80 numbers! Seriously, thanks guys! When I first posted into this fandom, I seriously don't think that I'd get so many reviews like this. So, yay! Again! Well, keep reviewing, guys! –get shot by shameless nagging- You just don't know how I kept smiling throughout my mailbox list :) Thanks yet again, and again for bothering to keep up with me with this ooh-so-late update!