All characters © Kubo Tite
Yumichika and Ikkaku attempt to teach Zaraki how to use a real-world vending machine.
Real World Fail
It started with an incessant scratchiness at the back of his tonsils, a dryness that made his throat click with each swallow. After an hour, Zaraki Kenpachi could deny it no longer: he was thirsty. It was May, an intolerably-warm month in Karakura town, and they had been walking for over an hour in search of a dangerous hollow.
"Hey," Zaraki said, looking down at his two subordinates, "find me something to drink around here."
Yumichika and Ikkaku blanched, recognizing their captain's irritated tone when they heard it. They were sweating lightly themselves in the baking sunlight; it didn't help that their squad's kimonos were black and absorbent. "Where do you suggest we get that, Taichou?" Yumichika asked.
Zaraki shrugged. "You two come here all the time. You tell me."
Ikkaku deliberated for a moment, wiping a thin sheen of sweat from his bald pate and checking off their options. "Kurosaki and his friends are in school…" he went down the list: "Urahara probably won't let us in…how about—"
"Wait, wasn't there a vending machine outside of Kurosaki's school?" Yumichika inquired. Ikkaku grinned.
"Yeah, that's right! Come on, Taichou."
Zaraki raised an eyebrow, his scar twisting in response. "'the hell's a vending machine?"
"It's a ryoka appliance that regurgitates food and cold drinks," Ikkaku responded as the three headed for the middle school. Zaraki made a face, unseen to the others. Humans nowadays must be disgusting indeed to consume any type of spew.
"So?" The eleventh squad captain squinted at the vending machine, trying to figure out how this long metal container could regurgitate anything edible. He poked its plastic face skeptically, seeing that he was almost as tall as the machine itself.
Yumichika pointed. "See these buttons?" he asked. "They tell you what types of beverages there are. You put money in, press one, and the drink comes out of this slot. Isn't it beautiful?"
Zaraki stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Money?"
"Ah—" Yumichika dug through his pockets. "The machine doesn't work unless you feed it money. I happen to have some ryoka change, luckily—you never know what you need to buy down here." He dropped the currency into his captain's hand.
"Now, which one do I pick?" Zaraki asked.
"Well, they have Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, iced tea, root beer…" Ikkaku read the labels.
"They're allowed to sell beer at a middle school?"
"Well, technically root beer's not alcoholic," Ikkaku answered thoughtfully.
Zaraki read the buttons over again, and pressed the one for iced tea. Nothing happened. "Damn thing's broken," he growled.
Yumichika pointed to his other hand. "No, no, you just forgot to put the change in, Taichou," he reminded. "One coin at a time."
"There. It's still not working."
"You didn't put in enough."
Clearing his throat, Zaraki put in the correct amount of change and pressed the button again. The words 'Out of order' promptly flashed across the box.
Zaraki blinked, frowning. "What does it mean, 'out of order?" he asked lowly.
Yumichika sighed. "It means there's no more iced tea," he said. "You'll have to pick another one."
"Damn machine, telling me what to do…" Zaraki paused. "Do I have to put more money in?"
"I don't think so. Just choose another beverage," Ikkaku said, and couldn't resist smiling. "Vending machine one, Taichou zero," he snickered. Zaraki flashed him a look, and he fell silent.
This time Zaraki pressed the button for Coke, and grinned satisfactorily when the words in the box told him the drink was 'vending.'
A minute passed.
"So?" Zaraki questioned. "Why has my drink not been delivered?"
"Umm…" Yumichika peered through the slot.
"I think it ate your change, Taichou," Ikkaku concluded. Zaraki scowled, rubbing his eye under the eye patch wearily.
"It's a friggin' machine," he stated. "How can it eat my money?"
Yumichika decided not to correct his captain on the topic that it was originally his money, only opting to say, "I think it's a figure of speech, Taichou."
"Just get me my drink."
"Alright," Ikkaku took the remaining money, "let's try again."
After three more tries Yumichika was down to his last yen. "If this doesn't work we'll be out of money," he noted sadly. The machine had eaten their change twice more. On the last try, the box with the glowing words had told Zaraki that the Sprite was out of order too.
Zaraki snatched the money, at the end of his line. "Fuckin' piece of crap better work this time," he growled. Ikkaku crossed his fingers.
The money went in. Good.
The drink was in stock. Good.
Zaraki clenched his fists, grinning in triumph as the can dropped down into the slot—
—and promptly got stuck.
Freshman class 1-A was suddenly interrupted from their lesson by a vociferous bang from outside. It was followed by another crash several yards away. The teacher paused as the rest of the class's eyes drifted toward the partially-opened window.
"Those rowdy construction workers," she sighed, shaking her head and smiling. She raised her gaze, adding, "Kurosaki-san, Yasutora-san, Ishida-san, and Inoue-san you can sit down, there's nothing to worry about," as four of her students rose in alarm.
Ichigo returned to his seat, feeling apprehensive for a reason he couldn't place.