Summary: Tatsuki, Keigo, and Mizuiro walk home only to find themselves being confronted by hollows. One shinigami in charge saves them; but Tatsuki doesn't expect that it's the same man who abducted Orihime before.

Disclaimer: I don't own BLEACH. Tite Kubo does and I'm jealous at him for that.

Random thought, mostly sequel from 'Fleeting'; happened in the near future after the event of 'Alive'.

Tatsuki is a bit OOC, gomen; like I've said, I have tendency to make the canon characters as OOC… *sigh*

Uriya is just …well, himself.

Keigo and Mizuiro act as side characters only, gomen…


HOME

Asano Keigo and Kojima Mizuiro always walked home together.

Their houses were close each other; so they practically went to school and walked home together. Even after they graduated from high school and separated ways (Keigo preferred to work as a clerk in local music store; while Mizuiro continued his college at Management department in local university), they always walked home together.

They always made appointment to meet somewhere after they had their day at college or work. Keigo would take his bicycle and told Mizuiro to get the passenger's seat. The latter only laughed and complied.

That day, when they didn't walk home together, was the day Keigo being attacked by a hollow. It was just a small and unidentified hollow, but for Keigo who didn't have any power to defend himself (though he did have a little reiatsu to be recognized and technically could see spirits, courtesy of Ichigo), the hollow was quite terrifying.

He tried his hard to run away from the monster, but it could outrun him only with a flap of its wings. Keigo was literally thrown to the ground, succumbing to his pain. He gritted his teeth thinking he was about to die; when he heard Mizuiro' screaming from afar. He snapped his eyes open and looked at the direction of the voice.

He saw Mizuiro running towards him with a black-kimono clad man on tow. Keigo recognized him as a shinigami; he hoped it was Ichigo. But the man had raven hair instead of orange. And he was certainly smaller and more slender than Ichigo.

The man had the most brilliant green eyes he had ever seen. He also had an almost unnaturally pale skin and stoic appearance. His raven hair was somehow unruly, shaggy-styled cut. It framed his pale face perfectly, creating an enigmatic feature. He was just like a ghost, seemingly ethereal and unreal.

Mizuiro had already kneeled beside him, helping him to stand and move away. Keigo looked at his best friend and grinned sheepishly.

"Thanks, Mizuiro."

Mizuiro only smiled, relieved. "Don't mean it. We're friends, right?"

"Yeah, right. Thanks anyway."

They hardly moved away from the spot. Keigo glanced behind his shoulder and saw that the shinigami had stood before the hollow calmly and seemingly unfazed by its imposing size. He looked up at the hollow's mask and Keigo saw him grimace.

"…Pitiful trash." He heard him murmur softly. And then both of them saw the shinigami raised his hand and uttered some words.

"Hadou 63, Raikouhou."

A wave of thunderous lightning fell upon the hollow, instantly frying it on spot. Keigo and Mizuiro stood there, gawking as the shinigami turned around and walked silently towards their direction. The hollow slowly disintegrated behind his back.

When he was right in front of them, both young men could see his entire appearance. Keigo inwardly mused about their rescuer's odd feature, but quickly dismissing the thought. He had met odder people before and almost all of them were shinigamis. Even Ichigo was one; and he had orange hair at that.

"…It seems that you're alright." The green eyed shinigami remarked matter-of-factly. He observed Keigo's injuries. "Nothing serious here. Did you break something?"

"Nooo! If I did, I would know it beforehand!" Keigo wailed miserably. Mizuiro smirked and the shinigami raised his brows disdainfully. Keigo's antic was somehow unnerving sometimes.

"…I see." The shinigami leaned closer to inspect Keigo's injuries. He touched the slightly gaping wound and Keigo instantly jerked away from his fingers.

"Don't do that!! It's hurt!"

"…Hn." He only grunted in response.

But the green eyed shinigami moved closer again and inspected his wound more closely. Keigo decided to be silent still. Both of the teens eyed the shinigami suspiciously. Mizuiro felt a bit curious, though.

"…Like I've said, there's nothing serious. I can heal these in minutes."

Keigo practically beamed. "You can??!! Oh, thank goodness!! Then hurry and fix me, shinigami!"

The shinigami looked at him, slightly annoyed.

"Do not order me around, trash. And the name is Shizu Uriya."

"Oh… okay." It was Mizuiro responding, albeit timidly. "My name is—"

"I know you." Uriya snapped coldly. "You're Kojima Mizuiro, first year college student in Management Department, at Karakura University. And you, the obnoxious one, are Asano Keigo, employee of local music store in town. Am I wrong?"

Keigo and Mizuiro stared at him, gawking.

"How—??!"

"Ichigo told me a lot about you both."

"Ehhh??! So you know Ichigo??"

"…Hn."

Uriya let his reiatsu flowing to his hands. The reiatsu-induced hands then hovered upon Keigo's wounds, slowly channeling the reiatsu into the wound and healing them. Both Keigo and Mizuiro watched in amazement as the bleeding stopped and the wounds slowly closed. Next moment, Keigo had already back in his healthy, unscratched condition.

"WOOOWWW!!! That was AMAZING!!! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! Ichigo's fellow shinigami pal!!" Keigo literally danced and intended to tackle Uriya out of gratitude, but the stoic shinigami had moved away from his grasp; making the teen fall face flat to the ground. Mizuiro laughed at Keigo, both relieved and amused.

"Oww, you don't have to be so meanie and avoid my grateful hug, Shizu-san…" he whined dejectedly. Uriya only snorted.

There was another ear-deafening howl from some nearby places. It was definitely a hollow; or worse, more hollows. The three young men tilted their heads towards the direction of the sound. Keigo clutched Mizuiro' sleeve, terrified. His best friend was no better. He stared, wide eyed at the direction of the hollow's howl.

"…Three at once. How inconvenient." Uriya sighed heavily. "I'm not complaining though."

He readied himself to leap when he felt his shihakushou's sleeve being pulled downward. He turned around and found both Keigo and Mizuiro clutching his sleeve tightly.

"…What again?" he asked, irritated. They started to make him losing his patience.

"Please, Shizu-san! Take us with you!" Keigo pleaded.

"Yes, that's right, Shizu-san. We don't want to be left alone here." Mizuiro added with his puppy-eyes mode on. Uriya seemed uninfluenced though.

"No. Go home already. It's safer that way. Following me, you could be trapped in danger again."

Keigo and Mizuiro shared a horrified look.

"But—but, our homes are still far away from here. I'm afraid if we run home, there will be many chances those monsters coming to us! I mean, I do have some rei—whatever is that, right?!" Keigo argued stubbornly. Mizuiro nodded fervidly.

Uriya stared at them, considering their reasoning. It sounded plausible enough. And he was sure as hell that there was no shinigami around to ensure they made it safe back home. That trash Kurumadani Zennosuke was absent, being called back to Soul Society. Kuchiki Rukia was no longer in her usual post since she was promoted to be 13th division fukutaichou. That left only Ichigo and himself in charge.

And Ichigo, god forbid, wasn't in his home or even in human world. He attended taichou's general meeting since this morning in Soul Society; which reminded him why in the first place he was informally stationed in Karakura Town for a day. Uriya inwardly groaned.

Sigh. "…Alright. Just don't struggle much. I'll carry you and shunpo away to the hollow's place."

Both teens nodded, even though they didn't really catch the meaning of 'carry' and 'shunpo'. Suddenly they felt their bodies being hoisted by the waist and next moment, they saw only blurs of shadows.

###

Arisawa Tatsuki walked home alone today.

Inoue Orihime, her best friend since middle school, was working overnight at her shop, the small boutique in the town. She had promised to work as fast as she could; but Tatsuki didn't want to burden her further. She dismissed their conversation at phone, saying that she would be fine walking home alone, much to Orihime's dismay. Tatsuki only laughed and reassured her best friend that she would be 100% fine. After all, she was a karate fighter and she could defend herself.

Walking slowly while enjoying the night breeze, Tatsuki hummed her made-up tunes and practically bounced on each her step. She barely won her other college karate tournament, a first winner at that, and it made her extremely proud and happy. Actually, she planned to celebrate the day with Orihime in their favorite ice cream shop, but since her best friend had to stay overnight to work, she decided to cancel it for later. Well, fun could wait ne?

Ear-deafening howl right behind her made her frozen. She knew that sound. Adding the chilly and dreadful spirit force emanating, she was totally sure it was hollow. Another howls made her more convinced that there were more than just one hollow behind her.

She slowly turned around only to stand face to face with one of the ugliest creatures she had ever countered. Its mask was ape-look alike and it was tall, almost as tall as two stories house. There were other two hollows behind the ape-hollow. One being was heron-look alike, although uglier and nastier, with sharp row of teeth gleaming and red eyes; and one being was frog-look alike. They were all white in color and had huge holes in their chest. Tatsuki shuddered when her eyes fell on the sight of those holes.

She put her bag down and slowly maintained her karate stance. No, she didn't want to run away. She had defeated a hollow before, even though barely, and she was certain she could handle this one. But what if they attack all at once? Oh, she was surely doomed.

The ape-hollow howled loudly once more, almost deafening her ears, and charged forward, intending to crush her with its claws. Tatsuki leaped to the side, avoiding the most critical assault before rolling over and stood still once more, ready in stance. She waited for an opening to land her kick. Hopefully, it would crack its mask open and destroyed the creature for good.

She heard flaps of wings and turned around to see the heron-hollow lunged at her from air with full speed. She screamed out of shock and barely avoided the assault by swaying her body slightly to the side. She still felt the claws grazing her front, though; successfully ripping her jacket. She quickly discarded the shredded thing off her body and wearing only tank top, knee length pants and sneakers, she leaped out the claws' range and glared at the hollow.

She noticed from the corner of her eyes that the frog-hollow was ready to jump at her. Shit, she cussed inwardly. It was so unfair!! Three against one was so much unfair!

An incoming scream startled her. It sounded like human' scream… moreover, it sounded like Asano's…

She looked upward only to see a bunch of blurry black, light blue, red, and brown leaping towards her direction. The black blur suddenly let go of the light blue, red, and brown other blurs; and swiftly leaped at the hollows before she could register what it was. She heard a loud thump as the colorful bundle hit the ground, followed by groans of pain. Worried, she ran towards the lump and gasped when she recognized what it was, or rather, who they were.

"Aaahhh, shit, that's fucking hurt!! Can he drop us a bit gentler?!" Keigo groaned as he felt his body protested for being dropped hard onto the ground. He could feel bruises starting to form on several place of his body.

"Umm, at least we're safe and alive." Mizuiro meekly added. He was sprawling haphazardly right above Keigo's equally sprawling body.

"Yeah, right." Keigo snorted. "Before the hollows could kill us, he might have killed us first."

"That's because you're too noisy, Keigo. Just calm down a little. Enjoy the life."

"Enjoy the life?? ENJOY THE LIFE, YOU SAY??!! What kind of 'enjoy the life' if you're being dropped to the ground unceremoniously??!!!"

"Asano? Kojima? What the hell are you doing here?"

Both of them looked upward to meet Tatsuki's slightly exasperated eyes.

"Oh, hi, Arisawa." Mizuiro smoothly greeted. "Nice to meet you."

"Yo, Arisawa. What's up?" Keigo tut-tutted cheerfully.

Tatsuki rolled her eyes, utterly un-amused. "That's my line, you dork."

The two boys grinned sheepishly at her.

A pained howl jerked them back at the direction of the hollows. They watched with wide eyes as Uriya slew two of the hollows with his zanpakuto. The remaining hollow, the ape-hollow, could be seen cowering away from him. He soon slew it too.

Uriya observed the hollow disintegrate into nothingness with some kind of bitter amusement. The sight was always interesting for him to watch …in some kind of twisted way. He was formerly one of these kinds. He always remembered that of course. He also remembered the dreaded feeling coursing in his body soon after he became a hollow. The pain, the emptiness, the hunger… he even still felt those feeling sometimes. Other times, he would rather forget them at all.

He spun around and spotted the three humans watching him with awe and interest. He met Tatsuki's eyes which widened slightly when she saw him. He knew this girl, Uriya mused. She was Orihime's best friend. She was there, at the park when he and Yammy firstly arrived at Karakura Town as Aizen ordered them to do so.

Aizen… the name tasted bitter on his tongue now. He didn't hate the man for creating him and the other Espada that time, but now he didn't feel any feeling whatsoever towards the said man. Not even resent.

"…I presume all of you are uninjured." He stated monotonously. They nodded affirmatively, though Keigo whining about him being thrown carelessly to the ground. They deliberately ignored him.

Tatsuki observed the pale shinigami in front of her. He looked familiar. She recalled her conversation with the certain shopkeeper and his lover almost four years ago. Something about this man brought a sense of familiarity to her.

Pale skin, stoic appearance, raven hair, and the most brilliant green eyes she had ever seen… Tatsuki gasped softly, gaining attention towards her person from the others.

"…You're Ulquiorra Schiffer." She breathed slowly.

Uriya's emerald eyes narrowed at the mention of his past name. Oh, how much he hated that name now!

"…Ulquiorra Schiffer is dead, woman. Kurosaki Ichigo killed him, or at least he pretended to." He snapped blankly. Tatsuki didn't seem to mind his cold tone. "The name is Shizu Uriya now."

"…You were supposedly Orihime's caretaker at Hueco Mundo." She continued. "Not to mention, her abductor."

Keigo's and Mizuiro's surprised gasps went ignored.

Uriya looked at the young woman before him intently, suddenly feeling rather uncomfortable. He didn't like being reminded of his self-considered past 'sin'. He didn't want to remember hurting one woman he began to care about. He didn't even want to remember his growing feeling for Orihime back then.

Unfortunately, he remembered all. Sometimes, he envied Ginjo and the others as they didn't have regained their memories as Espada yet. Ignorance was bliss indeed.

"…Yes, I was. It's happened long time ago." He murmured wistfully.

"Not that long." Tatsuki growled, suddenly feeling angry. This man was Orihime's abductor. The one who took her best friend away from her. She had vowed that she would beat Orihime's supposedly abductor if she laid her eyes on the person, who or whatever he was. And now, the culprit was standing impassively in front of her. Sure enough, she didn't want to back away now. "It was supposedly happened barely four years ago."

"…I guess you're right, indeed." His emotionless reply was making her irritated.

"Were you supposed to be an Arrancar?" she asked heatedly.

Uriya inwardly surprised the girl knew about what arrancar was. "…I was, previously. Like I've said, Kurosaki killed my past self, and I was reborn as soul. And now, ironically, I am a shinigami."

Tatsuki snorted mockingly. "I can see that. But it won't make me holding myself back to hit you square on your pristine face."

Uriya blinked at her. So, the girl was angry at him for abducting Orihime back then? It was reasonable enough. Fine, he could accept whatever temper tantrum the girl would give him. Not that he was undeserved of it though.

"Go ahead if you want to hit me. I won't fight you."

Tatsuki growled in anger and annoyance. "DON'T BE SHITTING ME, YOU BASTARD!!" And she charged at him with her fist raised.

Keigo and Mizuiro winced when they heard loud crack as Tatsuki's fist connected with Uriya's pale jaw. The man didn't even flinch.

Tatsuki pulled back her fist. She panted harshly and looked at Uriya with much difficulty. The said man now had nasty, red gash on his left cheek. Blood dripped from his lips, undoubtedly coming from the injured inner cheek. She gaped as Uriya wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth almost nonchalantly. As if he didn't feel the pain! Tatsuki seethed. She hit him full force, goddamn!!

"…Done?" he asked her impassively. "I have duty to perform."

Tatsuki gritted her teeth tightly.

"How?! How could you manage to be so calm about this??!!"

Uriya blinked. "Because that is how I used to be."

Tatsuki stared at him helplessly. Orihime… Orihime was abducted by this kind of man; and in the end, she developed some kind of feeling towards the said man. How come? What was so interesting, what was so much …appealing from this man?!

They managed to lock eyes for some moments before Uriya finally broke the connection and looked at the sky.

"…Another hollow." He murmured absently before sighing heavily. He turned his green eyes towards the enraged girl in front of him and the two gaping young men behind her. "…I have to go; whether you're done or not with your temper tantrum."

"Wait!! I'm not done with you!!" Tatsuki yelled angrily as she advanced to him.

Ignoring her, Uriya turned around to leave, but managed to glance from his shoulder and muttered, "…Don't tell Orihime about all of this fuss. She doesn't need anymore things to burden her mind."

And then he left. But not before Tatsuki caught a glimpse of sad smile tugging on his lips. She blinked, thinking that she might be imagining something.

So much for coming home alone today, she mused.

However, she thought while she walked home (Keigo and Mizuiro on tow, still clueless), she was sure she would meet with that green eyed shinigami again.

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