Chapter One: Dreams
The orange barrier shattered as another flaming Kidou spell impacted against it. Orihime Inoue's tired legs finally gave into their fatigue and she dropped to the ground exhausted. Her sparring opponent rushed to her side. Small hands helped Orihime stand up on shaking feet. Large indigo eyes filled with pride entered the high-school girl's wavering vision.
"Can you walk, Inoue?"
The voice sounded too far away for Orihime to hear clearly. She attempted to take a step forward, but gravity intervened and caused her to fall once more to the dusty ground. She couldn't remember the last time that she'd been so completely drained, but it made sense; training for hours without rest could break even the toughest person's body.
Those small hands were once again gripping Orihime's shoulders, but they were shaking her now, trying to keep her conscious even as her mind sunk further and further into a blissful rest. A feeling of floating came over the young teen just before she gave in to the beckoning blackness.
Blood, pain and death.
Blood, pain and death.
Blood, pain and death.
It was everywhere Orihime looked. She could smell it in the wind, taste it on her tongue and hear it in the battle-cries that echoed in the valley. She remembered this place; she had seen it in her dreams for many nights now. It drowned out her thoughts of anything else, anything that mattered. She forgot about Ichigo, Sousuke Aizen and the Hougyoku. She even forgot about the impending battle between Soul Society and Aizen's army of Arrancar. While she dreamt, all Orihime cared about were the people that continuously fought and died: nameless, faceless people that felt as real to the high-school girl as her own friends did.
She turned to her left, knowing that a young boy clad in strange battle armour would be struck down by a man with a chipped broadsword. It was a scene that she had been forced to watch for the last six nights. Orihime glanced down expecting to see a shadow that concealed the boy's dying face, but she saw no such thing. In stead, she was privy to his miss-matched eyes glossing over as the life was drained from them. She saw his mouth contort with agony when the large man easily ripped his sword free from half-way into the boy's side. Lastly, she saw the blood pooling around the body, staining the dirt with more death and the boy's long violet hair with flecks of crimson.
Orihime's scream echoed through the squad thirteen barracks, waking the sleeping Soul Reapers and causing one in particular to jump up from her own futon into a fighting stance, Zanpaku-tou drawn, searching for an assailant that did not exist. Dark indigo eyes fell on the thrashing, sleeping body of Orihime across the room. Sighing with relief, Rukia Kuchiki sheathed her Sode no Shirayuki and crossed the two-feet of space that separated her half of the room from her struggling friend's side. She tentatively reached out to take one of Orihime's flailing arms. It was hot to the touch.
"Inoue, you need to calm down. You're having a nightmare." No response. Rukia raised her voice, "Inoue, wake up." Still nothing happened. If anything, it felt as though Orihime's struggles had intensified.
Rukia was about to try for a third time, but approaching footsteps drew her attention to the door. It slid open slowly and two stern faces glared at Rukia's small kneeling form.
"The human girl woke up the Captain! You know how much he needs his sleep, Rukia Kuchiki," seethed third seat Sentarou Kotsubaki.
"Yes, she was louder than the snores coming from the goatee monkey here," put in Kiyone Kotetsu.
Kotsubaki sent a death glare to his colleague, "I do not snore, booger girl!"
Normally they would have continued on in such a fashion, but Rukia stopped the madness before it progressed any further, "I apologise, third seat Kotsubaki, third seat Kotetsu. I take full responsibility for what happened. Please send my apologies to Captain Ukitake." She added a grovelling bow of her head for effect, knowing just the right actions and words that would placate the bickering duo and send them on their way faster.
Kotsubaki narrowed his eyes, "Right, well see that it doesn't happen again, Kuchiki."
Kiyone didn't even bother to say anything; she was too busy stifling a yawn. Both third seat officers began a slow shuffle back to their rooms, leaving Rukia with a sleeping Orihime, still plagued by a nightmare that wouldn't let her lie in peace.
The soldiers were advancing upon Orihime as she stood transfixed and terrified by the body of the nameless boy. Never before had they interacted with her when she dreamt of this place. Now it seemed that she could not escape this; there would be no waking up for her.
They were completely surrounding her now, one great circle that was steadily decreasing in size the closer they stepped. Orihime subconsciously reached for her hair-clips, wishing to call on the powers of her Shunshunrikka for aid, but she felt only the loose strands of her own hair. What? That wasn't right. Orihime never took the clips off. Never.
The men were within striking distance now, all of their bloodied swords drawn and ready to slice at her skin. They were close enough that Orihime could see their armour colours better – black with red embroidered on the edges. She brought her hands shakily to her face, wishing them to disappear like normal figments of a dream.
"P-please d-don't," her tiny little voice stammered.
Metal clanged together as the soldiers raised their arms to the sky, about to bring them down onto her pyjama clad body.
Orihime scrunched her hands tighter to her face, using all the will-power she could to get rid of them. Save me Kurosaki-kun!
The sound of slashing and heavy thuds as things fell to the ground forced Orihime to slowly remove her hands from her face. She blinked slowly when she saw that all of her attackers were on the ground, dead, while she was completely unharmed. What just happened? Was it Kurosaki-kun?
She looked around and saw a man with his back to her – he was small enough that he could easily have been a boy her own age, or just a little older. He was dressed all in white and his hair was as black as coal. He held in his too pale hand what looked like a Soul Reaper's Zanpaku-tou, the tip of which was covered with fresh blood. When he craned his neck slightly to look back at her, Orihime knew instantly who her 'hero' was.
"You're n-not Kurosaki-kun…" She was too scared to run away from him though.
"How very perceptive of you," he paused to look directly into her grey eyes with his forest green ones, "woman."
Orihime awoke with a jolt, her right hand gripped tightly by Rukia, while her left hand was fisting the futon's mattress. The images of her dream were still on the forefront of her fragile mind and she couldn't shake the ending of it at all.
"I'm glad you're finally awake, Inoue. That nightmare you were having must have been terrible, for you to scream like that."
I was screaming? Oh no, I woke up Kuchiki-san!
Forgetting about her own concerns in the face of someone else's problems, Orihime looked apologetically at her friend, "I'm sorry for waking you up, Kuchiki-san. Next time I'll be a quieter room-mate! I don't normally make so much noise when I sleep. Tatsuki-chan says that I sleep like the dead most nights, but I don't think that's true because the dead don't drool and my pillows are always wet in the morning and-"
"-It's quite alright, Inoue!" Rukia interrupted quickly, "I wasn't bothered, really. I'm more concerned about you, though. What were you dreaming about? You were even running a fever when you slept."
Orihime averted her eyes from her friend's concerned gaze, "It doesn't matter Kuchiki-san. It was just a nightmare, so it can't hurt me!" She put on a smile, one that Rukia instantly accepted and the matter was dropped.
When morning came, the training regime continued once again. As Orihime activated her Santen Kesshun to repel Rukia's sword strikes, her thoughts were drawn to her dream again and the powerlessness that she had felt. Rukia noticed the orange-haired girl's side-tracked mind and stopped her assault.
"What's the matter, Inoue? You're not concentrating properly. What if I was an enemy? I could use your distraction as an opening for an attack!" She demonstrated her point by bringing her Zanpaku-tou down upon Orihime's shield, breaking it into small shards that faded into dust and returned to her hair-clips.
"I'm sorry, Kuchiki-san! I guess I'm not focussed today, that's all."
"It's alright, Inoue. If you need to take a break, just say so. We could have a rest by some trees if you want or…" Rukia trailed off when she saw a small black butterfly, a Hell Butterfly, approach with a message.
"What is it, Kuchiki-san?"
"Arrancar have shown up in Karakura Town. It looks as though the fighting has finally started."
Orihime nodded her head with certainty, "Alright, let's go, Kuchiki-san."
"I'm afraid you can't come, Inoue. The Senkaimon hasn't been prepared for human travel yet. You would need to be accompanied by two Soul Reapers with Hell Butterflies to pass through it."
Orihime quietly accepted this as her fate, knowing that she would miss out on helping her friends while they fought against the powerful Arrancar. Green eyes flashed briefly in her mind. And I won't have to worry about seeing him, either.
Before Rukia could leave for the gate, however, Captain Ukitake leapt down from the ledge above the training grounds. He seemed very cheerful and delighted about something.
"Don't worry, Inoue-san. I sent word ahead surrounding your circumstances, and two members from my squad will be taking you through the Senkaimon."
"Thank you, Captain Ukitake!"
Orihime had to curtail her 'glomping' urges out of respect for Ukitake, but she was completely overjoyed to be able to rally with her friends in the human world against the enemy. Rukia, and even Ukitake, could sense how happy the young teenager was, so they smiled right along with her.
With a Hell Butterfly floating above her shoulder, Rukia Kuchiki turned back to give her young friend some parting words, "I'll see you on the other side, Inoue. We'll beat those Arrancar and win this time."
Orihime's enthusiasm had deflated somewhat when they had arrived at the gate, but she offered her shorter friend a smile nonetheless, "Good luck, Kuchiki-san."
Rukia gave a brief nod, and then the miniature Soul Reaper disappeared into the light of the awaiting Senkaimon.
Orihime could feel in her heart, as the two Soul Reapers chosen to escort her approached, that something was about to go horribly wrong.
They led her through the gate and started the long walk through the Dangai. The whole time, Orihime couldn't shake thoughts of her dreams from her mind, especially the images from the most recent one. She couldn't shake those piercing green eyes or that deep, smooth voice from her memory. Stop thinking about him, Orihime! He's an evil-
"-Arrancar!" one of the Soul Reapers declared, which halted all three travellers in their steps immediately. Orihime looked ahead to where the Soul Reaper had pointed, and let a gasp pass her lips.
Emerging from a Sky Rift a barely 8 feet in front of the trio, was no ordinary Arrancar. This Arrancar had skin that was almost silver, hair blacker than the abyss he had stepped out of, green streaks down his cheeks like tear-tracks, a horned half-helmet Hollow mask on his head, and eyes as green as an emerald that pierced Orihime to the core.
"Stay where you are, woman."
Authoress' Note: Okay, this is attempt to dive into the world of Bleach. Although, with MY attempt it will probably dive away from Bleach and into my own madness before too long. I hope you all will stick with this, as action and all things amazing will follow in the second chapter, titled: RESONANCE. I wonder if you can guess who the Arrancar plaguing Orihime is? It's fairly obvious if you follow the series properly.
Oh and I JUST realised that my story title is the same as a chapter title in the Bleach Official Character Book, Souls. I'm sloooow...
Disclaimer: Yohlis and all original characters belong to me. Steal them and become a skinned pig. Bleach is Tite Kubo's and shall ALWAYS be his. I make no profit from his creation, as I am merely borrowing the characters for my own sick, completely penniless purposes.