That Monday was just like any other for Asano Keigo. He walked to school, met up with his friends, and actively avoided actually doing anything in class.
But it was a joyous day, because his beloved Kurosaki Ichigo had decided to grace the school with his presence! Not that Keigo was gay for the carrot-top, of course. That would be weird. No, he was just glad Ichigo, Chad, Orihime, and Ishida were back from…wherever they seemed to go all the time.
Anyway. It was a beautiful—no, scratch that, freezing, horrible, I-want-to-die—February morning, and Keigo was eager to slack off, as always. This started off with bringing his breakfast to school, for he was far too lazy to get up early enough to eat it at home. Every day, he loudly downed orange juice, Lucky Charms, and charred toast during first period algebra.
Then, he tried to goad a classmate—lately either Mizuiro or Tatsuki—into pulling some sort of prank on the teacher. They always declined with either a "You should be listening to the lecture, Asano-san," from Mizuiro (as he texted under the desk) or a "Shut up! Why the hell would I do something with you?" from Tatsuki. This left an undaunted Keigo to pull pranks by himself, often getting detention. This did not bother him in the slightest; at least he didn't have to pay attention in class!
But today was different. Ichigo was back, and that was cause to celebrate! Keigo seriously considered throwing a class party before deciding that required far too much effort. He decided instead to invite their group to all eat lunch on the roof on Tuesday, when it was supposed to be warmer.
A (very manly!) picnic lunch was packed by himself, a grudging Tatsuki, and an excited Michiru. He was feeling especially cheerful, so he even invited Ishida! Never in his life would he consider inviting that sewing, four-eyed, stick-up-his-ass geek, but it was a special occasion.
The large group of sixteen year olds sat down to eat the next day. "Thanks for making this great lunch, Tatsuki-chan, Michiru-chan, Asano-kun!" Orihime said cheerfully, taking a huge bite of a peanut butter sandwich (Keigo's cooking skills were extremely limited). "Needs something, though…" She pulled out some ketchup from nowhere and spread it liberally across her sandwich. Everyone gagged and quickly looked away.
"So…where have you all been for four months?" Keigo asked, wanting to change the subject as quickly as possible.
"Uh…" Ichigo began, but he trailed off. Chad was silent as usual, and Ishida had pulled out his knitting. What a loser.
"We were in this great big desert!" Orihime said brightly. Keigo totally missed Ichigo, Chad, and Ishida's stares as the well-endowed goddess continued. "I was kidnapped by this clown, except he wasn't very happy, so maybe he wasn't a clown after all! But anyway, the others had to come save me and they almost died and Ichigo had to fight this blue-haired cat and the emo clown who turned out to be a bat—"
"I think your imagination's going a little wild, Orihime," Tatsuki said, laughing and patting her on the head.
"No, it gets better! Let me finish!" she pleaded with her friend. Tatsuki sighed resignedly, and Orihime continued. "Then we had to fight a bad guy with a mullet who just wouldn't die—actually, I wasn't there for that part, it was all Kurosaki-kun, but finally Kurosaki-kun beat Mullet-kun and saved the world! And then we came back."
Everyone stared at her a moment, trying to absorb the absurd story. "That sounds…like quite an adventure," Mizuiro said finally. He had even stopped texting in his shock.
The orange-haired girl nodded happily. "It was! I wouldn't do it again though. Not in a million years!"
"Hell no," Ichigo said under his breath, but only Keigo heard him. This made Keigo wonder if maybe it had been real after all…but before he could ponder that thought, the conversation had moved on, and he quickly jumped back in.
The teenagers enjoyed themselves immensely for about forty-five minutes before they decided they should start picking up the trash, as there was a lot of it. Keigo didn't really see the point, but Orihime insisted, and Tatsuki threatened to punch him if he didn't. He quickly complied.
A few minutes later, they were nearly finished. Ichigo was picking up some stray plastic wrap near the edge of the roof when, suddenly, he disappeared!
"Kurosaki-kun!" Orihime cried, her hands flying to her temples for some reason. Ishida put a hand on her arm and shook his head, obviously trying to look cool. Keigo was not sure why looking cool was too important at the moment, and he didn't know what Orihime had been planning to do, but he ran with the rest of the group to the edge of the roof. Ichigo was surely dead, he though wildly. The building was three stories tall, and there wasn't anything to land on below but concrete sidewalks.
Sure enough, Ichigo was lying, unmoving, on the ground dozens of feet below. "He's dead!" Keigo wailed. Most of the others looked just as horrified as he felt, but Ishida just sighed and shook his head. Then, he disappeared!
"What the hell—" Tatsuki began, but Chizuru screeched and pointed to the ground, where Ishida was standing, kicking Ichigo's body.
"DON'T DESECRATE THE DEAD!" Keigo screamed down to the blue-haired boy. He had to admit, though, the whole transportation thing was kind of cool.
"He's not dead, idiot," Ishida yelled back. He picked up Ichigo, slung him over his shoulder—and he was on the roof again!
"How did you do that?" Tatsuki demanded.
He ignored her, putting Ichigo's body on the ground. "Kurosaki, you're not fooling me. C'mon. We'll be late for class if you don't hurry up!"
Everyone stared on in astonishment as Ichigo slowly sat up, glaring at Ishida. "Just because I'm not dead doesn't mean it didn't sting," he said, now standing up.
Keigo could only gape along with the rest of the group. Well, maybe Orihime and Chad weren't shocked, but Orihime always looked surprised anyway, and Chad never showed any emotion.
"You just fell three stories onto concrete and it stung?" Keigo asked loudly.
Ichigo turned around quickly. He looked surprised; maybe he had forgotten the rest of them were still there. "Oh…uh…yeah," he said lamely.
"Your arm is facing backwards," Mizuiro said, turning slightly green at the sight. Keigo looked at it apprehensively, and—sure enough—Ichigo's elbow was facing forward. He suddenly felt rather nauseous.
"Is it?" Ichigo asked interestedly, looking at it. "I'll have Ori—dad look at it later. Doesn't hurt much."
"You're bleeding everywhere!" Tatsuki said loudly. "What do you mean, 'it doesn't hurt?' We thought you died!"
"You should know better than that!" Ichigo said indignantly. "I wouldn't die just from that! I didn't even leave a crater, did I?" Everyone looked at the ground below; a flawless sidewalk stared right back.
"So what you're saying is that you have left craters in sidewalks before?" Tatsuki demanded.
Ichigo paused. He had demolished several paved streets around town by being thrown about by Grimmjow and other hollows, but they didn't need to know that. "Maybe. I dunno. But it doesn't matter, does it? I'm fine."
"But no one else would be fine after falling that far!" Michiru said, looking at the boy in awe.
Ichigo shrugged. "I've been through worse." Much worse, in fact. While fighting Grimmjow, Nnoitra, and Ulquiorra, he had pretty much single-handedly caused the collapse of Las Noches. But not because of his own destructive power—because of the number of concrete support pillars he had been thrown through.
"While you were off 'saving Orihime?'" Tatsuki asked skeptically. Ichigo shrugged again.
"We're going to be late to class," Chad said loudly, effectively ending the conversation before it became any more dangerous.
"Kurosaki-kun can't go to class like this!" Orihime said, glancing at Ichigo's arm and the blood everywhere, apparently sizing up his injuries. "I'll take him to the nurse."
As the two of them sped off, Keigo and the others only stared. "We should get back to class and tell Ochi-sensei what happened," Ishida said after a moment, pushing up his glasses like the nerd he was.
Collecting the last bits of trash, Keigo and Co. quickly left the roof and returned to class just as the bell rang.
"Where are Inoue and Kurosaki?" Ochi-sensei asked suspiciously.
"Well…uh…Ichigo kinda fell off the roof." Before Keigo could continue, there was a loud uproar from the rest of the class.
"What happened?" the teacher asked, not looking concerned in the slightest.
"I dunno. He just kinda fell off. But he's okay! He's cut up and he broke his arm we think. Orihime's taking him to the nurse."
The whole class spun around to see a beaming Orihime and a perfectly intact, scowling-as-always Ichigo, complete with unbroken arm.
"How'd you do that?" Tatsuki demanded, standing up from her chair. Everyone—except Ishida and Chad, Keigo noticed—looked shocked. I wish I could go on their adventures! They always seem to have so much fun together and they always know what's going on…plus I'd get out of class!
"My arm just got turned around," Ichigo was saying, shrugging. "It wasn't broken. And I stopped bleeding, so…here I am!"
Everyone continued to stare as the two students sat down. Ichigo sat next to Keigo in this class, so the brown-haired boy leaned over to him once chatter started up again.
"Can I go with you guys next time you go on an adventure?"
Ichigo looked over, a shocked expression on his face. "What makes you think it's fun?"
"You guys always know what's going on with everyone! Plus I'd get out of school!"
"Well, sure!" Ichigo said cheerfully. Keigo was not expecting such a forthcoming acceptance into their little group; he was rather excited and could only just restrain himself from cheering. "…As long as you meet a certain requirement," Ichigo continued.
"What requirement?" Keigo asked, suddenly apprehensive.
"You'll have to build up your pain tolerance, just a bit," he said conversationally.
Keigo's hopes and dreams were crushed into the ground. He was the type of person who screamed bloody murder when he got a paper cut. "So I have to survive falling off a building without crying or something?"
"Well, that's a good start. But you'll also have to tolerate being stabbed, being thrown down an entire street, being thrown through concrete pillars, fighting a demon that only exists in your head…" he counted off on his fingers, "oh yeah, and getting a six-inch hole blasted through your chest. That about covers it."
Keigo stared. There was no way anyone could ever survive things like that! If Ichigo didn't want him to go with them, he could have just said so.
"Oh, and you'll have to learn how to fight. Maybe learn some sort of strong attacking spell…we've got the rest of it covered."
Keigo's head was spinning as Ichigo gave him another uncharacteristically bright smile and turned toward the teacher again. He had to be kidding…right? But the way he talked about it made it seem real…
Maybe he didn't want to join their group after all.