哀しい瞳が映す
消えていく命に背を向け闇を歩く


A soundless shadow stepped down the rocky path, its delicate paws padding against the dusty earth as it made its way along the walls of the residence. Tabby fur fluffed messily and an ear flicking occasionally to catch the sounds that drifted through the morning air.

The chirping of the birds.

The honking of the cars in the distance.

The light ruffle of the leaves in the tree.

Everything was per usual.

The cat leapt agilely onto a bin, balancing skilfully on it before raising a paw and beginning to brush through its fluffed and somewhat, ruffled looking fur. Its brown eyes closed as the warmth of the orange sunlight seeped through its thick fur, lulling the sense of sleepiness back into its body.

Its small jaw stretched open, lips curled over sharp teeth in an instinctive motion.

Two yawns split through the air.

The cat glanced up at the source of the same sound it had just emitted in letting out a tremendously lazy yawn, meeting the faintly amused gaze that belonged to a female who had happened to be passing by.

Rayne paused for a moment as the tabby cat regarded her with curious yet suspicious brown eyes, in reply, she shrugged simply and continued on her way.

"It seems that you are not the only one who is tired…" A smooth baritone voice commented lightly, drawing a faint smirk from the woman.

'So it seems…'

Treading around a corner, a store that seemed somewhat shabby and rather untidy came into her sight.

A store that had a large sigh saying 'Urahara Shouten' hanging on its roof.

"Yohoooo!"

A broom swung through the air like a bat, its handle grasped tightly by a boy with flaming red hair. Beside him, a timid girl swept the ground with her head down, she was the exact opposite to the boy who continued to act as a famous batter.

As usual.

Rayne stepped towards them.

"Geez, you're pretty enthusiastic even in the morning." Rayne grumbled wearily at Jinta, rubbing away tears of sleepiness that formed as she had yawned.

Said boy paused before immediately flaring up in temper.

"Morning? It's four in the afternoon right now!" Jinta yelled, pointing a single finger at her.

Rayne merely scratched the back of her head, ignoring the boy, she turned to the overly shy girl with a light smile.

"Good morning Ururu."

"I just said it's the afternoon now!" The red haired boy fumed, now pointing his broom at her.

"G-G-Good after-um-m-morning Rayne-san." The girl stammered, this caused Rayne to smile even more.

'This child…still tripping over her own words…' Laughing inwardly at the girl's extreme bashfulness, she stepped towards the door and yanked it open.

"Oi! Are you ignoring me?" A furious yell Jinta didn't faze her at all as she walked in but not before saying.

"Oh? Jinta, didn't see you there."

Closing the door behind her and muffling the boy's raging insults he now flung at her, she made her way into the shop, yawning again as she half stumbled into the room where the trapdoor hung agape like a mouth.

Unhurriedly, Rayne trudged towards the trapdoor she knew led to an underground training area, she could faintly hear the clash of metal against metal drifting up from the hole in the ground.

"Hmm…should I just jump?" She mused out loud, staring down intently into the darkness.

"No, maybe I should use the ladder…" Mumbling to herself, she contemplated over the rather trivial matter until she was interrupted by a booming voice that made adrenaline flood through her veins.

"You're late!" A sudden masculine voice boomed out, making Rayne jump a metre into the air in shock.

Spinning around, her searching eyes fell on the black cat that sat behind her, a…should she say, a mask of irritation plastered across its furry black face.

"Ah! Yoruichi-san, don't scare me like that."

The cat's whiskers twitched furiously as topaz eyes blazed brightly, a golden fire, coaxing a somewhat nervous laugh out of Rayne.

"Well, I just kind of woke up and…" The half baked reason flopped out uselessly and only further encouraged the exasperation evidently present in the rather…uh…malicious aura that now surrounded Yoruichi.

"Just hurry up and get down there!"

With those words accompanied with a powerful strike directed at the back of her knees, Rayne suddenly found herself sprawling headfirst towards the hole from the lack of support beneath her weight.

'Heh?'

Nothing but a narrow expanse of air that stretched downwards…

An endless tunnel of darkness… that was what she stared at for a split second before…

She fell.

Darkness enclosed her as she tumbled down the hole uncontrollably, tugged down by the force of gravity. The wind roared past her ears, louder than the pulse of her blood, sending her hair and the hem of her coat billowing out behind her in waves of silver and black.

"Guh." Clapping a hand over her mouth, she fought back the feeling of her stomach lurching upwards into her throat.

Suddenly, light flooded, making her go blind for a split second.

Then…

A thundering crash made Urahara and Ichigo glance up from their sparring, a cloud of dust hovered around the base of the ladder that led up into the room of the rather unnoticeable Urahara Shouten that resided somewhere in the town called Karakua ch-ou.

"W-What was that?" Ichigo demanded, lowered his newly acquired zanpakutou slightly as his attention shifted from Urahara to the sudden source of disturbance,

Violent coughing could be heard as a dark shadow shifted about, a part of it that could be identified as a hand swatted in the air as if to brush away the dust. Bursting out of the dust cloud, she staggered as her eyes burned uncomfortably.

"Damn that Yoruichi, shoving me down without a single warning, could have killed me…" Growling under her breath, she rubbed at her eyes which a bit of dust had gone into and made them fill with tears which were currently unable to be stopped despite her endeavours.

"Not that you would have died from something like that…"

"Ah! Rayne!" A man dressed in forest green skipped towards her brightly, his cane, now transformed into an extravagant sword swinging at his side.

"Hey! Urahara-san!" Ichigo called out as the man pranced off towards the new comer who was dusting themselves off furiously.

He was ignored.

The man skidded to a half beside her, making even more dust rise, a carefree smirk hanging across his unshaken face. Keen grey eyes roved over her face, an uncommon intensity entering Urahara's eyes as he peered intently at her.

"What?" Rayne couldn't help but snap at him due to her growing annoyance, but in return, she only earned a grin that spread widely across his goofy face.

"Rayne."

Oh no, she did not like the tone of his voice.

It was suggesting something.

Urahara's smirk grew at the slightly uncomfortably look that flitted across her face before vanishing without a trace.

"Are you cry-?"

Well, he never got to finish his sentence as he found himself buried face first into his new acquaintance introduced by Rayne's fist smacking across the back of his skull.

Yes, his new acquaintance was known as…

The floor.

Urahara immediately bolted up, spitting out the dust that got into his mouth and coughing haggardly.

"Did you just say something Urahara?"

A sickeningly sweet voice rang out from above, glancing up, he saw nothing but a charming smile lighting Rayne's face.

It was accompanied with a series of cracks that came from her knuckles.

"Uh-ah! No, no, no. Nothing at all." Urahara laughed awkwardly before straightening up once again and leaping to his feet energetically, grabbing his zanpakutou he had accidently dropped as he was assaulted unexpectedly.

"Now, now! Kurosiaki-san! Could you come over here for a moment?" The former captain of the 12th Division called out brightly whilst clapping his hands.

"What now? The carrot top yelled as he approached, exasperation evident in his voice, lifting his zanpakutou and resting the back of the blade against his shoulders, he walked towards the duo that stood there.

One, Urahara Kisuke, was waving at him to come over with a joyous smile as if he were a dog.

The other.

Well…

She was glaring at Urahara, a look of annoyance printed across her face, and looking rather unkempt as her black coat was covered with patches of smeared white that had resulted from the dust clinging to the fabric.

Ichigo immediately took note of a particular aspect about the silver haired woman who stood beside the odd man known as Urahara Kisuke.

It wasn't her face, gaunt yet flawless.

It wasn't the seemingly unnatural pigment of her silver hair that flowed down to her waist, tied loosely at the base of her neck in a tousled manner.

It wasn't the haughty and uncaring attitude that hovered around her like a fine mist.

It wasn't the katana that hung lopsided from her belt radiating the familiar sense of rippling reiatsu.

It was her eyes.

Her steel grey eyes that were underlined with dark shadows of weariness.

Eyes that reminded him of himself.

The him, all those years ago.

Full of blame and guilt yet…

There she was, looking as if she didn't have a single care in the world.

Just like he did.

Always forcing a smile just for the sake of those he cared for.

Walking towards the strange pair, he planted himself in front of Urahara.

"Who is she?" Was the first thing that tumbled out of the carrot's mouth.

A fantastic first impression indeed.

Rayne couldn't help but twitch, a bubble of irritation popping as Ichigo addressed Urahara as if she didn't even exist.

'This kid…'

"He's rather rude isn't he?"

"Well! Let me introduce her to you!" Urahara cheered brightly, having decided to ignore the annoyance that was now radiated from the woman beside him.

"This is Rayne." He gestured towards the silver haired woman with one hand as he tugged his hat further down to cover his eyes with his other.

"And from now on, she will be training you!"

Yep, he had gone and announced it for the world to hear.

"W-What? But! Didn't you say that you would-!" Ichigo began to protest.

"Oi! Child."

Ichigo was shaken out of his thoughts by an apathetic voice, turning his head, his eyes fell onto the woman who now seemed to be appraising him. Suddenly, a smirk broke out across her face.

"Control yourself, you're reiatsu is leaking out like water from a broken tap."

Was what she said.

Ichigo gaped at her, it was as if his brain could not process the meaning of his words, and it was a few moments later before he fully reacted to her insult.

"What did you just-?"

One again, her voice cut through his protests.

"This is really just a waste of my time." Her words were directed towards Urahara who was standing at the side, whistling and glancing around.

Rayne let out a sigh.

He was doing it on purpose.

'Fine then…be like that…' Letting out a breath, she turned back to the teenage who had hair the colour of carrots.

"Kid, go home." Rayne deadpanned bluntly.

This time Ichigo was ready to react and he immediately flared in response.

"Hey! Stop calling me kid! I have a name you know!" Jabbing a thumb at himself, he only earned himself a slight quirk of her eyebrow.

"Well, you never told me." She pointed out usefully, amusement now lacing her voice.

"Oh uh right." Ichigo flushed, scratching the back of his head awkwardly before once again meeting her steely gaze.

"I'm Kurosaki Ichigo."

At this, a sly smirk crept across her face, it was escorted with a teasing glow that entered her eyes.

"Ho? So you're a strawberry, I thought you were a carrot." Rayne declared, her smirk growing when Ichigo's face turned a bright shade of red, due to embarrassment of anger she didn't now.

"It doesn't mean strawberry!" He squawked indignantly.

Hmm…

Well, maybe it was a mixture of both.

"Aw, how cute." Rayne grinned teasingly as the teenage continued to splutter.

"S-Shut up! It's 'Ichi' for 'first prize' and 'Go' for 'guardian angel'! It ain't cute!" He griped furiously, still a deep shade of crimson.

"Okay, okay, no need to get so flustered. I'll just call you strawberry." Lifting her hands, she attempted to ward off his echoing disputes.

"Oi! Weren't you listening to what I just said?" Ichigo roared, now looking like a tomato.

In reply, Rayne only shrugged once before the smile that had painted her face vanished without a trace, which succeeded to gain Ichigo's attention.

'She…She looks so different when she smiles and when she doesn't…' Was the strange through that floated across Ichigo's mind before he batted it away.

"Now then, since we have gone through the introductions, let's move on to business." Rayne stated, voice deadly serious.

Ichigo gulped at the abrupt change in her attitude, even the air she emitted had shifted from a teasing nature to a stifling coldness.

"Well, I don't want to waste my time attempting to train a child who has no potential." She muttered, her gloved fingers brushing against the worn grey hilt of her zanpakutou.

"Meaning, you will have to prove your worth to me…" Glancing up, she offered Ichigo a slight tug of the corner of her lips.

Then, Rayne shifted her focus onto Urahara who was standing off at the side, sucking on a lollipop he had somehow managed to attain. Well, maybe it was because he owned a candy store which meant he could help himself whenever he wanted to.

"If he doesn't attain my approval and still refuses to accept defeat, I will not hesitate to…" Rayne paused for a moment, "break a few bones and convince him otherwise."

She ended ominously, her charcoal grey eyes glinting brightly.

"Is that alright?"

Her question was directed towards Urahara who in reply gave her a bright okay sign along with vigorous nodding.

"Sure, sure. Absolutely fine." Urahara responded whilst grinning.

Ichigo twitched.

"Hey! What are you agreeing to without my permission?"

He was ignored.

Gloved fingers curled firmly over the hilt and tugged, allowing the sleek silver blade to slide smoothly from its black sheath. Slowly, gracefully, her stance shifted, the blade now hung over a single shoulder, posed to strike a deadly blow.

The viper had been roused and was now posed to attack the disturber.

Ichigo immediately jerked back.

'This person…Rayne…'

Sweat trickled down his brow as he felt it, the murderous intent radiating from her like waves of heat from the blazing star known as the sun.

'She's dangerous!'

"Now then, let's start shall we." Rayne murmured softly, storm grey eyes glowing as she readjusted her grip.

Lips curled up into a twisted smirk.

"Strawberry."


It shows in my sad eyes
I'll turn my back on my fading life and wander the darkness

~I myself am Hell by Hassy


~Crimson