You're everywhere and nowhere,
forever present and gone.
Like the wind.
Their smiles are brief, but they are there, and he hates it because his smile pricks his face like needles, embroidered to his face in haphazard stitches. He hopes the pain doesn't reach his eyes, but when he catches her violet orbs, he can see grief in them. Is the anguish hers? Or is it his?
He doesn't know, he isn't sure anymore. Because those dark eyes of hers always mirror his soul, always tell him more than he ever needs to know.
And then she's gone. It happens too fast. She scatters like dust, like the remains of a dead person, trailing and twirling aimlessly in the air for a while, before vanishing entirely, blown by the wind.
He can't feel her.
But the debris clings to his body for a while, fresh water showering his naked soul, quenching his desert heart.
That's all she leaves behind.
Every time he glances around his room, the impassive closet, the window, the rooftop — he can't help but glimpse a shadowy figure flashing in and out of his vision. He'll blink, rub his eyes, and wonder if he's hallucinating.
No one is there.
He doesn't even realize he's been holding his breath till then; giving out a long, tired puff, he pivots on his heels, fading anticipation stalking behind his shadow.
The gust of wind is extremely strong today. He hunches his shoulders, shuddering as the storm picks up. His hazel eyes inadvertently fly skyward, only to notice the clouds already gathering and growling, gloomy and formidable.
He begins to run, orange fringes whipping on his face just as the downpour spills its wrath out.
Heavy droplets plummet against the streets, the houses, his entire body, drumming stridently in his ears. And he's completely soaked now, clothes sticking to his skin, reminding him of somewhere far away where the skies are constant gray and the rain is perpetual, where he stands alone basking in the rainstorm.
Waiting for a twinkle of light to gild the heavens gold, waiting for something, someone, anyone to dry his world.
The rain is deafening.
The wind is still blowing. Sometimes it brings the scent of nostalgia, other times it reeks of things he wants to forget but inevitably remembers.
When the wind brings dust to his eyes, he remembers her. The outline of her petite body, every detail of her figure as she receded from his vision, unspoken confessions and silent heartbreaks bursting in a whirlwind of ashes — the last thing he could have had of her, something he should have forever tucked away somewhere deep inside his mind.
But one coffin barely sufficed two fractured personae.
At first, he didn't want to count. But he eventually does.
The numbers on the board, the numbers his teacher is blabbering about — they mean nothing.
Nothing compared to his countless heartbeats. Nothing compared to the minutes and hours and days and months without her.
He gazes at his fingers, somewhat transfixed. It's already five.
He wonders if it'll reach six soon. Somewhere deep inside him, he knows it will. But still he tries to deny it, and knows he's hoping too high.
Trying to get used to this new routine was difficult, but he's getting a hang of it. He'll either deadpan or have a bored expression on his face and go to school, each step heavy with the echoes of another identity, another occupation with black robes and airy paces and huge sword instead of books—
With a raven haired girl by his side. Instead of Keigo and Mizuiro.
He knows he should be paying attention to the teacher, but his mind has been wandering around too much these days, and he can't help it. There are too many things to contemplate.
He wonders if she's alright. He wonders if she's been promoted. He wonders if she's happy. He wonders if she's busy.
He wonders if she misses him as much as he misses her.
It's odd how the air is deadly silent. Everything is serene, nothing seems off. As quiet as the grave.
And he thinks it's peculiar, to feel nothing, to feel everything completely fine, to perceive nothing but the presence of the living.
Sometimes he squints so hard, trying to catch something amiss — cracks in the sky? Monstrous bodies just a mile away, prying on humans souls?
The pool of ominous shadows elongates as twilight comes, shrouding the town with dreadful blackness, nightfall coming into play precipitately.
And he slants his eyes in the window's direction, waiting for a figure to intrude upon his haven, ebony hair and robes billowing in the wind.
Nothing but oblivion meets his gaze.
Her sisters are growing into strong and beautiful girls, and he should be proud of them. Isshin never seems to stop lavishing them with praise and love and adoration, and Karin will glare daggers at him, obviously disliking the overrated affection.
Ichigo smiles then, and only when Yuzu asks to pass the soy sauce over and snaps him out of his trance does he blink, realizing he's not smiling at them, but at the far-off memories that play a different scenario and setting in his head.
The tips of his mouth drop. His fingers tremble.
He croaks, his voice seeming to come from far away, unused and unsure, and the question is finally out in the air, now insecure just like his heart, throbbing and aching, anxiously waiting for puncturing possibilities and answers and—
Ishida and Inoue drop their gaze. Reluctant. "No, Kurosaki. Kuchiki-san hasn't visited… at all."
He shouldn't have asked.
He should have known.
Tangerine clouds roll lazily above him, and the sun dawdles between them, never quite reaching the horizon.
He ponders about his future. But all he can see is the limitless heaven overhead, too vast to grasp, too enormous to drown in.
What is his purpose in this world?
He doesn't know anymore.
His room isn't too big, it's actually the normal — if not perfect — size, but it seems too austere now, too spacious for him alone. Impromptu solitude smothers him as he flings himself onto his bed.
The sound of the ticking clock is obnoxious.
He even begins to miss Kon's horrendous, high pitched voice.
He spares the other side of his room a glance.
Most of all, he misses the sound of his closet sliding open.
Yuzu's head bobs into his room, her brown eyes sparkling with joy. "Onii-chan, do you want me to buy something for you? Karin-chan and I are going to do some little shopping."
He lifts an eyebrow, stares at his sister from over the rim of the book he was engrossed in. A shrug, and then he's back to reading again. Before Yuzu can stampede into the room and take the book away from his hands, he answers nonchalantly; "strawberry juice."
If his sister is confounded, he doesn't witness it. She just okays his request and leaves the room silently.
He decides to make some changes in his room. He moves the bed closer to the window — he isn't sure why; what is he expecting? Someone to come through the window and fall on him?
He rearranges a lot of things.
And when he approaches his closet, his heart begins to pound boisterously. Each step he takes seems like eternity. When he finally reaches it, he grips the holder tightly — so tight his fingers are turning white — and opens it a bit too quickly.
Nothing is there. Of course.
When he closes it again, it makes an earsplitting sound, almost like a shrill. It's not the sound of the door of his closet closing too hastily, too hard that it breaks into pieces—
It's the sound emitting from somewhere deep inside him, clamoring wildly and trying to break free from the ribcage it's encased in.
Everyone seems to move forward. His friends are now serious about schoolwork and their future, their university, their possible career. They change for the better, and he knows he should feel happy for them. But even as he smiles, it just doesn't feel right anymore.
Every time he sees and grins at them, waving as he walks past them, all he sees is their old faces; Ishida's smug smirk, Inoue's bubbly laugh, Chad's silent nod, and their silly secret of heroic breakthrough: annihilating evil monsters and protecting the town.
He blinks, and those faces are temporarily gone. But murky shadows envelop his irises, always obscuring his sight of the present.
And somewhere painted across the black background of his mind and eyes, there's a white figure that always lingers, always there, always present, never leaving, white white white.
Always so close, and yet so far. Unattainable.
This is his life. No more bloodshed. No more wars. No more monsters. No more black robes. No more swords. Just a normal guy, seventeen, going to college soon, blessed with two incredible sisters and an idiotic father.
Life's completely okay. Completely ordinary. Just like it should have been all along.
Isn't this what he's wanted since forever? A peaceful life. Serene days. Tranquil town. Exams to worry about, grades to keep up.
He lifts his hands, stares at them, fingers slithering around nothing — a sword? He gazes at his reflection in the mirror: orange hair, bored face, well built physique. The guy in the mirror reminds him of someone from another story, probably another life — someone with vivacious bearing, determined eyes, breathing and purposeful and alive.
He touches the mirror. And instead of the replica shattering into splinters, he breaks, shredded by the fragments of who he's supposed to be.
Kurosaki Ichigo. 17 years old.
Hair color: orange; eye color: brown; occupation: high school student.
Cannot see ghosts.
It's been seventeen months.
He twirls the skull badge in his hand absentmindedly, heedless to the teacher who chatters on and on about physics.
This badge used to be very precious back then — the sign of alliance, the sign of his role, the sign of who he was. It was given to him because of what he'd done, who he'd saved, who he could protect from then on.
This badge used to be so heavy, laden with possibilities and pride and purpose, swelling his chest with cosmic resolve, as if the world was at the palm of his hands. But now, it's become very light. Void of everything. Engulfing him in miasma of misery. Suffocating.
It's a reminder of another side of the story, a life that's slipping from his grasp and slowly unfettering its connection from him.
It's also a reminder of someone he was once linked to.
He can feel their entwined ribbons of bond slowly unfurling, unfolding… no matter how hard he wants them to stay there.
He wants to keep believing in her. Maybe she's busy; she's not in charge of Karakura Town anymore, but why—
The badge seems to scream in its eerie solace.
Maybe it's the best for both of them. So they can move on. There was never any other way, was there? There was never any other option.
Sighing, he puts the badge back into his bag, hoping the zippers can lock the poisonous mist away.
Why is it so hard to move on? What can he do to take a step forward?
"…aren't you lonely?"
Can lies erase an existence entirely?
"Like hell I'd be."
The words taste like toxic in his mouth.
He turns around, walking away from his friend, trying to breathe, lumps clogging his throat. Keigo is silent, and Ichigo is somewhat grateful for it. Everything is quiet then.
He's getting used to this — at least he'd like to think he is. He's used to seeing nothing and feeling nothing and smiling for nothing.
The wind whizzes past him. The air stirs. The ambience changes. His surroundings twirl and fade.
And he sees a girl.
He always sees her.
He cannot see ghosts. Cannot see spirits, hollows, and death gods anymore.
But he still can see ghosts of the past.
He always can.
And he knows he's tethered by their otherworldly hands, scraping his arms and leaving scars that bleed translucent blood. Daubing his fingers with claret smears, crimson sutures of sewn longing.
Until today, she still haunts him.
Disclaimer: Bleach is not mine.
a/n: inspired by chapter 423-424. It's just getting more and more heartbreaking for both of them ;_; But their angst equals perfection. I hope they can reunite soon. Now I'll run back to writing the intro of my chaptered IchiRuki. *has been procrastinating too much*
* The "numbers" are supposed to represent each month that passed.
* Errors fixed.
Thanks very much for reading, reviews would be greatly appreciated. Please tell me what you think about it.