A/N: I haven't watched Bleach in a LONG, LONG time, so forgive any inaccuracies. Just couldn't get this idea out of my head. This is set a couple of years after current events in the series, with Yuzu and Karin about fifteen-ish.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach. At all.
She hadn't even felt it.
She remembered looking up from the ground where she had been thrown, her eyes widening in terror as she saw the Hollow turn around and bear down on her sister—her sister, who couldn't see the thing but could damn well feel it, and was standing still underneath the streetlight, her head moving this way and that as she looked around and tried to catch a glimpse of the thing that she knew wanted to kill her. At that time, she could almost taste Yuzu's fear. Or maybe it was her own fear that left that metallic taste in her mouth. It tasted almost like blood. Her heart pounded so loud that she could hear it, adrenaline flooding her body.
Ichigo and the other shinigami were on the other side of town, dealing with a spike in activity. At least, that was what Toshiro had told her when she bumped into him on the way from school. She knew something was up when she saw him standing there in full shinigami gear, one hand on Hyourinmaru's hilt and the wind moving through his captain's haori. That conversation flashed through her mind in an instant as her eyes fixed on the Hollow.
"Must be pretty bad, if they sent you out here."
"It's not good. The stronger ones are concentrated downtown. I'm on my way there myself."
"…Should I be worried?"
"We're doing all we can to keep the stronger ones from slipping through. This sort of thing hasn't happened since the Winter War." He ran a hand through his white hair, then let out a sigh. The young captain turned and fixed Karin with cool green eyes. "Where's your sister?"
That was when she first felt it, the sudden cold feeling in the pit of her stomach. Until then, she had been talking out of the corner of her mouth, trying to avoid looking like a crazy person to anyone that happened to be passing by. Now, she turned towards him fully.
"At the clinic. It's her shift today. Why?"
"Take her and head to Urahara's."
"My brother? What about my dad?" she asked. Ichigo would have told her if it was that bad. Or he would have already taken Yuzu somewhere safe and would be looking for her now. The same went for Isshin. She checked her phone, just in case one of them had left her a message, but there was nothing.
"Kurosaki might not know the extent of the situation yet. We still haven't made contact with him. He and your father left earlier to handle it." Toshiro turned to look at her. "Go." It wasn't a suggestion.
Karin nodded once, gulped down a breath of air, and sped down the street as fast as she could. She didn't argue about how bad it might have been, because even though she didn't know everything about shinigami that her brother did, she did know one thing. They weren't stupid, and they wouldn't send a captain out into the city if it wasn't that bad. Not with her brother and his friends in town.
But by the time she arrived home, she had found this situation.
Her sister, standing outside the clinic to see a patient off as a Hollow loomed over her…
That was about twenty minutes ago, and she was breathing hard, bleeding from a gash the Hollow had opened up down her arm. She jumped up and ran as fast as she could, the skirt of her high school uniform flaring up behind her and making her wish she had changed into her soccer outfit before coming home today. She didn't think, her blood running cold in her veins.
She called out her sister's name and jumped, reaching out and grabbing her just as the Hollow swiped downward with one claw.
Looking back, Karin remembered a shattering noise, and feeling suddenly much lighter, before she and Yuzu both tumbled to the ground. The pain in her arm vanished, as did the bruises, both replaced by a sudden floating feeling, which was replaced again by pain as she and Yuzu tumbled. She remembered hearing the sound of something dropping behind her, and vaguely realized that that couldn't mean anything good, before Yuzu started shaking.
Looking down at her sister, Karin suddenly realized why.
Yuzu could see the Hollow.
And while all Hollows tended towards the ugly side of things, this one was particularly terrifying.
There wasn't enough time to question why Yuzu could suddenly see the Hollow straight on. Not when it could obviously see them, and was looking at them like it was trying to decide whether they were better boiled or fried. Karin jumped to her feet, grabbing Yuzu by the arm.
"Come on!" she said, pulling her sister up and dragging her into a run. Yuzu let out a squeak as she stumbled, but quickly righted herself and followed along behind Karin. The Hollow gave chase, but if Karin could be thankful for anything, it was that it wasn't faster than her. She gulped down a large breath of air, feeling her lungs burn as the Hollow closed in. Panic welled up inside her and she turned her head, letting out a loud shout as she extended her hand and tried to push as much reiatsu out of it as she could, the same thing she had first done with her soccer ball.
Blue light flared out from her hand, surprising even her. It slammed into the Hollow and threw it back into a wall, and as the light sizzled and dissolved into sparks, Karin tugged on Yuzu's arm and dragged her down the street, her eyes wide.
That was so much stronger than anything she had been able to accomplish before.
And she really didn't like where this was going.
Karin took a deep breath and looked down at Yuzu. Her sister ran beside her, her eyes closed and her breathing coming in heavy pants. Yuzu wasn't used to this much physical activity, but that wasn't what drew Karin's attention.
It was on her chest, clamped on over her school uniform. A chain.
One that had been cut just below the sixth link.
Karin spared a glance at her own chest, noticing a similar chain. They were dead.
She knew she should have been more distressed by this, but Yuzu's wrist beneath her hand was still very solid and real, and the Hollow chasing them was even more real.
And if they didn't keep moving, they would be dead again very soon.
"K-Karin-chan!" panted Yuzu suddenly, skidding to a stop.
Karin nearly fell over. Her eyes narrowed as she straightened up, watching as a second Hollow stepped out from around a darkened corner, sniffing the air before turning its masked head towards them. She tensed, stepping in front of Yuzu and spreading her arms as the Hollow turned. Her heart beat erratically in her chest, and her hair clung to her forehead with sweat.
She promised to find whoever told her that death was peaceful and kick him in the groin, if she made it out of this alive. And yes, she saw the irony in that statement.
A flurry what looked like pink sakura petals erupted from one of the rooftops, swarming around the Hollow and slashing it to ribbons. Karin's eyes widened as the remains of the Hollow disappeared, and a shinigami jumped down from the roof. Like Toshiro, he wore a captain's haori, with the character for six on the back. He was tall, with dark hair and cool gray eyes, and as he swung his hand around, the flower petals followed it, slashing through the Hollow behind them before coming back to his hand and reforming into a sword. He lowered it and eyed them coolly, disdain evident in his expression.
The shinigami stepped forward towards her and Yuzu, turning his sword around to expose the hilt. Karin's eyes widened when she realized what he meant to do.
"No!" she said. "Don't!"
He ignored her, continuing to walk. "Wait!" said Karin. He didn't respond.
"Our brother's a shinigami! So stop!"
That made him pause for a moment. He looked over her and Yuzu, who was standing behind her, her hands gripping Karin's arm tightly. Then, he frowned at them.
"What is your name?" he asked.
Karin drew herself up to her full height, meeting the shinigami's piercing stare head on. "…Kurosaki Karin," she said. She paused for a moment. "Who are you?"
The shinigami stared at her for a moment, meeting her eyes. Then, he lowered his sword. She wasn't sure, because there was very little emotion in his expression, but she thought he seemed surprised. "Kuchiki Byakuya," he said.
Her eyes widened, and Yuzu's grip around her arm loosened.
"Ku…chiki?" repeated Yuzu, frowning at him.
Byakuya ignored her. "There is a shop further down the road from—."
"Urahara's," said Karin, interrupting him. Byakuya stopped, raising an eyebrow at her. "We know," she said.
"Go," said Byakuya in reply, stepping away from her and walking down the street. Karin nodded, tugging on Yuzu's arm. That was all the encouragement her sister needed to start running again. They had barely gone a few feet when she heard a shout.
"Karin!" called her father.
"Yuzu!" shouted Ichigo.
The two shinigami rounded the corner, running towards them. Yuzu quickly pulled herself out of Karin's grip, running to their brother. "Ichi-nii!" she shouted as she ran. Behind them, Byakuya stopped, turning his head to study the reunion with practiced indifference. Ichigo placed his hands on Yuzu's shoulders. He was bleeding from a gash down his chest, and his face was splattered with blood. His eyes widened as he saw the chain on her chest. Isshin noticed it too. He stopped behind his son, his eyes flicking over his daughters and an uncharacteristically serious expression on his face.
Ichigo tore his eyes away from Yuzu, and looked up at Karin in stunned silence. She looked back at him as Yuzu frowned, apparently still processing the situation.
"…Ichi-nii?" asked Yuzu. He said nothing.
"Ichigo," said Isshin, breaking the silence. "…Get your sisters inside the shop."
Ichigo's eyes widened and he turned towards him. "Dad, they're—!"
"I know," said Isshin, cutting him off. "Do you want them to get eaten too?" He faced Ichigo, as if challenging him. Ichigo met Isshin's eyes for a moment, before taking a deep breath and nodding.
He slung an arm around Yuzu and pulled her to him, then walked forward and did the same to Karin. The world suddenly flashed by at the speed of light, coming into focus for a few moments at a time before disappearing again. Once, high in the air. A second time, at the street corner.
By the third time, they were standing outside the Urahara Shop. Ichigo threw open the sliding door almost angrily, putting his sisters down once they were inside. Urahara looked up from his seat, looking them over as Yuzu scrambled up, sitting on her heels. Karin didn't bother, dropping down and crossing her legs as Ichigo strode past them, slamming the sliding door shut.
"Well," said Urahara, "It looks like we have a situation."
"You think?" asked Ichigo, his voice angry.
"What?" asked Yuzu, a concerned expression on her face as she looked around. "…What's going on?"
Karin sighed as a silence fell over the room. She took a deep breath. "…We're dead, Yuzu," she said.
Yuzu's eyes widened. "What?" she asked, her voice getting slightly panicked. "But how can that be? We're here!"
"We're spirits," said Karin, reaching forward and picking up Yuzu's chain to show her. Her sister stared at it like it was some sort of alien. "See?"
"It probably happened quickly enough that you didn't even feel it," said Urahara, uncrossing his legs and covering his mouth with his fan. "It's fairly common~"
"Don't sound so happy about it!" shouted Ichigo, slamming his fist down onto Urahara's table. The tea cups on the table jumped. Yuzu jumped as well, backing up. Karin eyed her, frowning.
"…Ichi-nii," she said.
Ichigo glanced at Karin, who inclined her head towards Yuzu slightly. The oldest Kurosaki took a deep breath and sat down, turning towards his sister.
"Sorry, Yuzu," he said. He pulled her into a hug, and Yuzu collapsed onto his chest. Vaguely, Karin thought that she might need a hug too, but she put that aside for a moment and looked up at Urahara. "So, what happens now?" she asked.
"One of two things," said Urahara. "You could allow me to perform konso and send you to Rukongai."
Ichigo snorted, looking up from where he was holding on to Yuzu. "Fat chance," he said.
"Or you could allow one of the shinigami to take you through the gate into Seireitei," finished the former shinigami. "Considering your heritage, the both of you should have no problem getting into the Shino Academy, if you want. Or you could live in a safer district of Rukongai." He paused as a tense silence filled the room at his words. Then, he looked up. "Tea?~"
A bowl flew through the air, hitting Urahara square in the forehead. "Learn to read the mood, damn it!" shouted Ichigo.
"Either way, you both end up in Soul Society," continued Urahara, rubbing at the red mark on his forehead.
"…Can't we stay here?" asked Karin, frowning.
"I wouldn't advise it," said Urahara. "I don't know if you've noticed, but the two of you are excellent Hollow meals right now. What with your family's abnormally high spiritual power."
Karin frowned. She hadn't really noticed it, but…she remembered how it had felt earlier, when she attacked the Hollow. Ichigo turned towards her.
"We sensed your reiatsu," he said. "That's how we knew where you were."
"You'd still be able to see your family if you went through the Gate," said Urahara. "Since Ichigo's always there in any case."
She took a deep breath. All she wanted to do this afternoon was go home, change, and play some soccer. Or turn the TV on and watch a movie. She hadn't been expecting this. Her shoulders began to shake, and she closed her eyes, taking another deep breath.
"…I want to wait for Dad…" mumbled Yuzu, as if sensing her twin's moment of weakness. She looked up.
"They should be back soon," said Urahara, grinning. "The last I heard, they were just finishing up."
At that moment, the door opened. Karin looked up, watching as a shinigami stepped into the room. He looked at her, and his eyes widened.
"Karin," he said.
"Toshiro," she replied, giving him a flat look.
"Oho~" said the busty woman behind him, looking down at them.
She really wished people would stop looking at her like she had sprouted horns. Or, she supposed, a large broken chain growing out of her chest.
TO BE CONTINUED