Author's note: Heey! Alright, so, now it's chapter 19! I feel like I really owe it you all for my long hiatus. I hope you all forgive me. Now...I'm thinking of ending book 1 next chapter. But I can't be too sure. Anyways, things are getting interesting. Well, I hope you enjoy!

.: Under The Stars :.

Book 1 – Sophomore

Faltering Heart

After the dinner with my friends, they decided to leave. I felt a little sad that they had to leave early but there was no arguing. It was getting late after all. School was tomorrow….The meeting too….

I didn't like thinking about it. I knew they were going to talk about individual failures and I was going to be the worst one. I groaned and dropped my pencil. Note to self: Thinking about Ambassador material and doing homework at the same time isn't healthy for the mental capacities of a young woman. As I returned my focus to the science homework in front of me, I heard something hit my window. I was startled and opened my window.

"What the devil…..?" I thought. An empty coke bottle was laying right outside my window. But it wasn't entirely empty. Inside, there was a folded letter. Curiously, I took the bottle and managed to get the letter. When I opened it, I quickly scanned the letter.

"Kuchiki Rukia

Your powers are endless.

It's time to unleash it.

Follow the instructions below…

Unless you want your family involved with this war."

My eyes widened with surprise as I stared at the instructions.

"What the h*ll…..?" I murmured.

XxXxXx

The next morning at school, I noticed that Kuchiki was walking in slower than usual.

"Hey, Kuchiki, what's wrong with you this morning?" I asked. She didn't respond.

"Kuchiki! Hey, Kuchiki?" I reached and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"WHAT IS IT, KUROSAKI?" She snapped, spinning around to slap my hand. Then I noticed it. In her eyes. Pain? Exhaustion?

"N-Nothing. Geez, you're so troublesome this morning."

"Well excuse my terrible attitude." She said, turned her heels, and walked off. Yet her pace was still slow.

As I watched her go, I took note of her eyes. Something happened after we left her house….

"Ichigo."

I turned around and saw Renji walking towards me. I managed a small wave.

"Hey."

"You alright?" He asked. "You were looking out into space."

"Ah, sorry. I was just wondering about our calculus exam 3rd period."

Renji laughed. "Don't worry bout it. We'll totally ace it."

"What do you mean by 'we'?"

Renji glared. "Me and You, stupid!"

"Oh."

"Are you calling me stupid?"

"Nah, not really…"

"You're f*cking lying." Then he looked at me, a serious face kicking in. "And about some other stuff."

I looked at him. "What are you talking about?"

"….Rukia…..She's different now."

"Different?"

"She was always afraid of guys. She didn't know how to respond to questions ask by males since all of her life was in an all girls school."

"What about her parents?"

"Her dad died days after her birth. She had no real brother. She had no male figures in her childhood. The only time she was ever able to talk to guys is when I, Kaien, or Hisana-san's husband is around…but even then it was subtle. Yet when she met you…She changed. She can easily speak to guys now. She seems easy around them."

"What are you trying to point out, Renji?" I asked.

"You did something to her."

"I think you're getting crazy, Renji. She's the same b*tchy girl when I first bumped into her on the first day of school. Nothing is different about her. She nags, she's troublesome, she's too complicated." But while I didn't admit it, Renji was right about how Rukia had changed. When I first met her, she was very 'etiquette' cautious and was formal around everyone. Now she's easy-going to some degree.

"Ichigo…Do her a favor and stay out of her way."

"You don't have to tell me that."

We glared at each other. Now Renji's acting strange…

In class, Kuchiki had placed a book up and pretended to read but instead placed her head down. Momo noticed this as well.

"Is Rukia ok?" She asked. "She usually READS the book…Not use it as a shield to sleep."

I shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe she overworked herself?"

"…..I'll go ask."

I quickly grabbed her shoulder and shook my head. "It's best to leave her alone."

Momo sighed. "I hope you're right…for her sake."

Once classes were over, I started to walk towards my locker when I saw Rangiku, Momo, and Kuchiki walking together. Rukia seemed a tad bit happier but her eyes….It still showed what I saw this morning. Pain. Exhaustion. And something else….Fear?

Rangiku caught my eyes and she smiled.

"Yo! Ichigo!" She called. "We're heading towards the Urahara Café! Make sure you get Renji!"

I nodded. "Sure."

Kuchiki glanced at me, made a face, and looked away as she walked with her two friends. I sighed. I guess she's almost normal…

After getting Renji, the two of us made our way to the Urahara Café.

"Think the meeting will be long?" Renji asked as we skateboarded towards the Café. I shrugged.

"Dunno. Shinji usually makes things pretty quick. But if Headmaster is there….well, we can't guarantee time."

"Yeah, you got a point."

We rode in silence until we reached the Café. Urahara and Yoruichi greeted us as usual and we walked upstairs after ordering. Everyone was there, even the Hitsugaya guy.

"You guys finally made it." Shinji said; his feet kicked up on the table. Renji shrugged.

"Not our fault that traffic is slow on the sidewalks."

We took our seats. Kuchiki sat across from me. She didn't even glance at me. Hm, well, that's common.

"Alright guys, we have 3 things to discuss in this meeting today." Shinji started, but his tone was nowhere close to laid-back.

"Three?" Rangiku asked. "You told me only two."

"Well, there's a new topic to discuss…and it's the most important one on the list."

A tense silence filled the atmosphere. We stared at Shinji, anticipating what he would say next.

"There was an apparent robbery last night." Shinji muttered. "Here, at our headquarters."

"What?" Hiyori and Rangiku yelled simultaneously.

"I thought the café closed down every night after 8." Kensei stated. Shinji looked gravely at the filing cabinets.

"It did." He said. "Yet someone managed to slip in here past hours, enter our headquarters, and get files from the cabinets."

"It must have been the Mundos!" Lisa said. We all nodded but at a glance, I noticed Kuchiki was shaking. But it was very subtle. Only someone with close observation could recognize it. Was she hiding something…?

"We can't jump into conclusions." Shinji exclaimed. "We'd be doing suicide if we did." He paused. "I assume it would be the Mundos but when I came in here this morning, everything seemed to be in check. The window didn't have a single crack; none of the furniture was messed with…well, except for the filing cabinet. One of the shelves was left open."

Kuchiki bit her lip. Yeah…she was hiding SOMETHING.

"We need to find that b*st*rd! The longer we wait, the more likely-" Renji exclaimed.

"They probably already have the information they need by now. For now, we'll just make sure the security in this place is tougher." Shinji interrupted. "Ichigo, Kuchiki, you two will take the first shift."

We nodded as Shinji continued.

"Next is our fight from the homecoming night…"

I decided not to listen to Shinji's talking. Instead, I watched Kuchiki. She didn't look at anyone…she only looked at her palms.

Once the meeting was over, we all stood up and either stayed by or left. Kuchiki was one of the first to leave. I quickly followed her.

XxXxXx

"No….No….No….the mission was flawed…." I muttered as I skated away from the café as fast as I could. "I'm going to be caught…I'm going to be caught…."

Suddenly, someone grabbed my shoulder. I screamed, whirled a kick, but was caught by….

"Kurosaki!" I exclaimed, aggravated. "Let go of my foot, d*nm you."

"I'm not the one who should be d*nmed, Kuchiki." He said, his tone serious. "But lets talk somewhere more private."

I glared. "I don't listen to you."

"You might as well before I report you to Shinji."

XxXxXx

Her eyes widened and she tensed.

"How do you…."

"Explain the details to me later." I muttered as I dragged her through the alleyway.

"Where the h*ll are you taking me, Kurosaki?" She demanded. I groaned.

"You're a troublesome little b*tch, you know that right…?"

"You're an a**hole."

"You need to get a new life."

"You need to find a new color for your carrot hair."

We bickered like this until we finally reached the training building. She took off the skates and we walked in.

"By the way…Where's your skateboard?" She asked. I sighed.

"I asked Renji to take it back to my house." I paused and turned to face her. "So, you what's up with you?"

She didn't look at me. Instead, she watched birds chirp outside the window.

"Where should I start….?"

I gave her a cushion to sit on. She accepted and sat down in front of me.

"Right after the party." I stated. She nodded and looked up.

"I was doing homework….everything was normal…when I got a message…I don't remember the message clearly. But it told me to do something…"

"You took information about our group." I interrupted. "Did you give it to someone?"

She continued to stare at the ceiling, thinking. Suddenly, her eyes widened and she clasped her head, agony written all over her face. She screamed.

"Kuchiki! Kuchiki!" I got up and wrapped my arms around her.

"The…The…..Make…the….pain….STOP!" She yelled louder and her fingers dug deeper to her head. I pressed her closer to my chest.

"It's alright…it's alright….Don't think about it anymore. It's alright…" I muttered. I was thankful for being able to comfort people. It was part of being an older brother…

She stopped yelling and she was finally silent. I let go.

"Sorry….looks like I'm clueless….." She muttered, evading eye contact. I sighed.

"It's fine…" I gazed at her cautiously. Kuchiki was able to speak as if none of her screaming ever happened…

"You're going to tell Shinji, aren't you…?"

"I can't do that if I don't have actual proof. Do you have the letter?"

She nodded and looked into her jacket pocket. She took out a folded sheet of paper and opened it. Her eyes widened.

"This is….."

I took the letter from her and saw nothing but a blank sheet.

"Are you messing with me, Kuchiki?" I asked, handing her the paper. She shook her head.

"I swear…It had the writing….Now…."

"Kuchiki, can I ask you something?"

She looked at me. "What?"

"Did you ever talk with the Mundo group….?"

"Of course not." She responded. "One of them is responsible for Kaien-dono's death…."

She made a fist. "I would never correspond with those sons of a b*tches even if my life was on the line. I'd rather die."

I smirked. "You're rather confident on that matter."

She didn't enjoy my humor. "Don't give me that bullsh*t."

"Sorry, my bad…" I stood up. "I'll take you back home."

She scoffed. "I don't need a bodyguard. I'm not a damsel in distress."

"Hm, I suppose you're not."

Kuchiki smirked and stood up as well. "But I guess I'll make the exception."

XxXxXx

I didn't trust Kurosaki. But what the problem was that I couldn't remember a single thing about after getting the note. Even the instructions were becoming to blur. Strangely enough, I was able to remember it fully throughout the meeting….Was this planned? But by who?

I gritted my teeth. I have to find out who did this to me. I refuse to be a tool.

"I'll come pick you up later for our guarding situation." Kurosaki murmured.

"Look, I'm fine with you taking me home, but I think I'll be-"

"It could cause suspicion."

I didn't respond. He had some logic in his statement…

"I could find out who did this to me." I said. He shook his head.

"Even if you did, the same thing would happen. You'd loss your memories of the action."

I sighed. Guess there was nothing I could do there. Once we arrived at my house, I waved goodbye and walked inside. Hisana smiled.

"How was school, Rukia?" She asked. I sighed.

"Oh, the usual, onee-san." I responded. "Sorry I'm a little late, though."

"That's fine. I was told that you had a club meeting. Was that good?"

"Karakura Ambassadors? Ah, yes…it was fine. We're preparing some school events for future use."

"Good thinking." I heard her frying pan being placed on the stove. "I'm going to cook some dinner."

"Ah, actually, one-san, can you make a bento version of my dinner?"

She turned her head. "Why so?"

"Ah, well…I'm going to be studying overnight at the school. I also have some club papers to finish. Don't worry, Kurosaki Ichigo will be helping me finish the papers."

She nodded. "Alright then."

I walked upstairs and saw an envelope on my bed. It had Kuchiki Rukia in the front. I glared.

"Sh…Should I open this…." I thought. I knew that something bad could happen if I did….Suddenly, my body froze.

"Open the envelope, Kuchiki-chan….." A voice echoed.

"It's you….again….." I muttered.

"Now, lets see what the letter has inside for you today…."

XxXxXxXx

I was on my way towards Kuchiki's apartment. The sun was setting and people were on their way back home.

"Kuchiki…" I thought. Once I was in front of the apartment building, I saw Kuchiki running out.

"What's up?" I asked. Suddenly, she pushed me away and started running down the street…I glared at her directions. Something was wrong. I quickly ran after her. Something was off about her.

As I chased her, she ran into an alleyway. That d*nm girl….

I turned and suddenly, I stopped moving. My intuition was telling me that something was extremely off. It was like a heavy, dark matter was pressing on me…I slowly took out the dagger and flicked it to turn into a sword. I wasn't going down without a fight.

As I walked through the alleyway, I heard the voice of laughter.

"Aw, looks like Kurosaki-kun is going to play my game too~!" A voice chirped.

"Who are you?" I yelled. Another voice of laughter.

"You're so funny, Kurosaki-kun. Ah, I know! Lets play hide-and-seek! If you find me, then I'll tell you who I am! But if you find Kuchiki-chan instead…" I heard a giggle. "You'll be in for a surprise!"

Suddenly, the alleyway altered. Everything around me did. In a flash, the walls were white and the sky was black.

"Try and find me!" The voice yelled, ending with a laugh. I grunted. It's literally like a maze. My movements were no longer held back so I quickly ran through the maze. What did the voice mean by a surprise….?

After running for what seemed to be 15 minutes, I stopped.

"Aw, do you give up so soon, Kurosaki-kun?" The voice asked.

"I don't have time to be playing with you…" I muttered and lifted my sword. "I didn't think I would have to use this technique…"

I took in a quick breath. "Dark Moon Technique: Eternal Chains."

I shifted my stance and swung my sword. A black and red matter came out from my blade. Instead of one strip, it separated into several matters and destroyed the walls around me. I heard the voice gasp.

"What are you doing to my beautiful maze, Kurosaki-kun?" The voice asked.

"Dark Moon Technique: Piercer of Heaven." A black matter came out from my blade and wiped out all the other walls. When the dust dispersed, only one person stood.

"Kuchiki…"

Her face was still blank but she pointed her blade at me. The voice laughed.

"Hoho, looks like you found Kuchiki-chan instead!"

I gritted my teeth. Sh*t….I didn't want to fight Kuchiki.

"So that's what my power would look like once I've completed it…." Kuchiki muttered. Her tone had no feeling. I gripped my sword with both hands and took a defensive stance. Kuchiki then pointed her blade to the sky.

"I will kill you, Kurosaki Ichigo." She stated. "And you will no longer get in my way."

I glared. "This isn't the real you. You're being controlled."

"Hoho, are you sure, Kurosaki-kun?" The voice asked. "These feelings are pretty genuine. I may have control over her movements and part of her emotions, but what she speaks is true. Those are true feelings that I found in the deepest portion of her heart."

"What…?" I murmured.

"It's not lying, Kurosaki Ichigo." Kuchiki muttered. "You were always in my way. You treated me like a weak girl. You never saw the real me. You never will. Prepare to die."

She rushed towards me and we clashed. I was driven back but I kept a firm stance and grip.

"White Moon: Dance 1." She murmured. Unlike my blade, there was no change to her sword. But her movements were fast. If I didn't think quickly enough, I would have been hit. I swiftly dodged it, used the dull side of the blade, and slashed at her. She jumped back.

"Why did you use the dull side of your sword, Kurosaki Ichigo?" She asked.

"I'm not going to hurt you. I promised Renji."

"Ren….Ji…." She murmured. At that moment, her eyes showed sorrow.

"Finish him off, Kuchiki-chan~!" The voice cheered. Kuchiki's eyes turned blank once more and she ran towards me. I dodged and swung a kick towards her. She ducked and I felt a stab on my thigh. Using the opening, I pointed my sword at her neck.

"Oh…?" Kuchiki murmured.

"I've got you…" I stated.

"Then why do you hesitate? Kill me…." Kuchiki noted. I took in a deep breath then looked at Kuchiki straight in the eye.

"Because everyone back in Karakura Ambassadors would be depressed about your death."

Her eyes then showed emotion.

"Everyone…"

"That's right. Renji, Rangiku, Momo…..even Inoue. You made your first group of friends since joining the Karakura Ambassadors. You're only a sophomore! Kuchiki-" I paused. "I mean…Rukia, you should cherish life, prove your skills to the world, and you'll be a great Ambassador. One who will protect the weak, the struggling, and the lonely from the pits of hell…your strong enough to beat this hypnotic trance. Don't let it engulf you, Rukia!"
At that moment, she slowly removed her blade for my thigh and stepped back. I winced and knelt to the ground, still gripping on the hilt of my sword.

XxXxXx

"What are you doing, Kuchiki-chan?" The voice asked in my head.

"Ichigo is right." I said, finally able to say Kurosaki's first name without any disgust. "I'm strong enough to get out of this stupid trance. I'm smart enough not to listen to your stupid sayings."

I mustered the last of my strength and forced the inner thing inside me out. When I finally got control of my body, I could finally see where I was. Then I saw Ichigo, his thigh bleeding heavily.

"Ichigo!" I yelled, sheathed my sword, and ran towards him.

"Kuch….Rukia…..Are you alright?" He asked. I nodded.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Besides, I should be asking you if you're alright."

"Eh, this won't kill me at least….." He murmured. Suddenly, we heard a loud anguish cry.

"WHAT'S GOING ON HERE? WHAT IS WITH THIS? WHY DID KUCHIKI-CHAN BREAK MY HYPNOTIC TRANCE?" The voice asked. I stood up.

"Because friendship is stronger than any evil aura." I responded. "Even if we fall, someone will always be there to pick us up."

"FOOLISH! FRIENDSHIP IS NOTHING BUT A MERE NONEXISTENT BELIEF! ONLY THE LONE WOLF GETS THE PRIZE FOR HIMSELF!"

"Then die alone." I heard Ichigo say. "Rukia, lets go."

"YOU B*ST*RDS! YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO LEAVE WITHOUT-"

"White Moon: Dance 1." I murmured as I quickly unsheathed my sword. But this time, I could feel a new power within me unleash. The blade turned frozen white and I took my normal stance, a cool breeze danced around me. With a simple slice, a snowy white matter erupted from my blade and destroyed the walls that confined us in this hypnotic box.

"I'LL BE BACK, KUCHIKI-CHAN, KUROSAKI-KUN! I SWEAR!" The voiced yelled before it disappeared forever. At that moment, everything crashed around us until we were at the alleyway once more.

"It looks like we're back…" I said. Ichigo nodded.

"Yeah, finally….Agh…." He fell to his knee and gripped his bleeding thigh. "Crap…."

"C'mon, lets head for Doctor Unohana." I exclaimed. "She'll get it wrapped up in a flash."

Once we arrived at Dr. Unohana's office, she was working on paperwork. When she saw Ichigo, she immediately began to heal him. I was just relieved that Ichigo was ok….besides, he was the first male to enter my faltering heart. He deserved to be called by his first name and….

Be called my friend.

XxXxXxX

"You've failed me again, Homura." He said, his tone showing superiority and evil. I lowered my head.

"Please forgive me, Aizen-sama….I will not fail you again."

"Do you want your brother to die?"

"Please! I beg of you, Aizen-sama, please don't kill Shizuku! He's the only family I have left! I swear that I will-"

"Your existence is no longer needed. You are no longer welcomed in my League."

"And my brother…..?"

"Will die." I turned and saw Ichimaru Gin walking beside Aizen. I stood up, clenching my fist.

"I DID EVERYTHING YOU ASKED! YOU COULD AT LEAST FREE MY BROTHER FROM YOUR D*NM-"

Suddenly, everything went numb. I didn't even sense it at first….until it finally hit me….

"Aw, you didn't have to kill 'er, Headmaster Aizen." I heard Gin say.

"Her brother will follow her lead later. Loly, Menoly, get this student out of my office…"

And everything went mute.


Note: Woohoo! Yes! This was awesome! Ok, so, I admit, I added more….non-realistic material than I wanted but hey, I never said that this would be a normal everyday high school story, right? I've been busy watching Katekyo Hitman Reborn and Code Geass so watch me add hints and tints of those anime's plotlines coming into action with my Bleach story! xDD Don't worry, it's still a Bleach story (ichiruki) and stuff but the plot might be different every here and there. Yay!
Edit 1: (Sunday April 17, 2011)
I'm sorry for making you all wait. This chapter was written January 30th, 2011. To think I'm able to finally upload it onto my account after 3 and a half months of hiatus...It's shocking. I want to deeply apologize for not being able to write as often as I should. I guess I have a tendency to start something and never finish it...But I hope this story is not the case. I will eventually finish Book 1 but Book 2 is undetermined. And after reading some of my other drafted chapters, I doubt chapter 20 will be the last chapter in Book 1. But then again, I'm not sure what to do now. Anyways, thank you for reading and I hope you continue supporting my writing! -Blaze

Ok, please remember to review and fav/alert! Thank you guys!