Disclaimer: Bleach belongs to Kubo Tite. I only own this plot.

A/N: I might reuse this setting later. Either as a story or as a movie, with completely different characters and therefore different plot. Until then, this'll just be a fanfic. =_=

Prologue

Karin wiped the blood from her forehead and her mouth twisted up into a grin. She looked at the man before her and said, "You really shouldn't have done that."

Standing up again, she spat out blood.

"You see, though I'm your bodyguard, we both know that I'm basically your babysitter. You're perfectly capable of defending yourself from any assassinations. What your father instructed me to do was to protect you from your worst enemy, even if I have to incapacitate you."

Straightening, he narrowed his eyes. "Oh? How touching, kid." He spat that last word out. "And just who is my worst enemy…?"

After a pause, Karin answered, "You."

She swayed, and faster than the blink of the eye, disappeared.

The Bodyguard

Mission 1

4 years ago

Brushing her bangs out of her dark blue eyes, Karin examined what she assumed would be her future passport. Currently the pieces of her future identity lay in disarray on the workbench. Looking over at her older friend as he devoured steaming ramen, she commented, "I would have thought you'd have finished making the passport by now. You aren't, so why did you call me here?"

Ignoring her and vacuuming the last bit of noodle and soup into his mouth, the man smacked his lips.

Karin sighed, "Oh lord. How old are you, Ikkaku?"

Making a face, the bald man replied, "Older than you. Last I recall, twice your age."

"Right, then act like a 28 year old."

Sucking on the wooden chopsticks, Madarame Ikkaku straddled the bench.

"Alright then, down to business."

Indicating the chopsticks in his mouth, Karin pointed out, "You do know that those have been soaked in chemicals, right?"

Starting to shuffle through his papers whilst chewing vigorously on his chopsticks, Ikkaku grumbled, "Do me a favor and shut up, Kar."

Surprisingly, Karin did as she was told and stared silently but expectantly as Ikkaku shuffled through some of the papers spread before him. Gnawing on the disposable chopsticks a bit, Ikkaku hesitated before saying, "Usually, I'd be done by now… but there was just one thing I wanted to make sure with you before I actually finalized anything."

Mumbling to himself, Ikkaku continued the search for a certain paper. "Let's see… where did I put it… where… Aha!" Fishing out a paper, the corners of his mouth turned down as he indicated one section. "That said, I just wanted to show you what a big mistake you almost made."

Looking at the paper, Karin recognized the detailed information sheet on her new identity. Name, age, social security number, school and medical records… it was all there.

"What about it? I don't see any mistake."

Impatiently jabbing a finger at a specific section near the beginning, Ikkaku repeated, "You made one here. A big one."

Briefly scanning the contents of the sheet, Karin informed him plainly, "There's no mistake."

Once again, Ikkaku insisted, "Yes, there is." Squinting exaggeratedly at one portion of the paper, he growled, "See, here. You've listed your gender as male."

Karin stayed silent for a brief moment, before she finally said, "It's not a mistake."

"Of all the mistakes to make – " Ikkaku blinked as her words registered with him. "Wait, what?"

Patiently, Karin repeated, "It's not a mistake."

Slowly, a frown appeared on Ikkaku's face. "That's not funny, Kar."

Puffing out her cheeks and exhaling slowly, Karin took out a folder from her messenger bag. Almost sheepishly, she held it out to a still disbelieving Ikkaku.

"Here's the background information you wanted."

Grabbing the folder from her, he shifted his incredulous gaze from Karin to the papers inside the folder. Furrowing his eyebrows, he read aloud (words muffled by the chopsticks he still had in his mouth), "Born in Australia to Daichi and Natsu Akimoto… Sent to an all-boys' boarding school in Japan starting from primary school…"

Mid-sentence, he looked up, spat the chopsticks out of his mouth and asked, "What the hell is this?"

Karin refused to look at Ikkaku as she muttered, "I pay you, and you get the job done, no questions asked. This is busine – "

"In normal circumstances, it would be just 'business,'" he spat out the word, "but this is just ridiculous!" Ikkaku snapped. "You demand a fake passport out of the blue, deliberately list yourself as male, bring some bullshit background info – what on earth are you up to?"

Karin crossed her arms and stubbornly looked away, and it dawned on Ikkaku. "This doesn't have anything to do with that blasted dream about becoming a bodyguard, does it?"

Her brief glance told him everything he needed to know.

Ikkaku leapt up to his feet, nearly upsetting all the papers on his workbench. "What? You're going to masquerade as a boy just to become a bodyguard? You can't be serious, Kurosaki Karin! There are so many holes in that plan!"

Karin flinched. Ikkaku only used her full name when he was really angry. But she jut her jaw out stubbornly and turned to face Ikkaku again. "I am serious. So just get the paperwork done."

"Then what exactly is your reason for changing your legal gender into male? Women can become bodyguards too, you know. Why can't this 'Haru Akimoto' be female?"

"There's a certain school I want to go to."

Ikkaku slumped onto the bench again and put his head into his hands. "…An all-boys school…?"

"Yes. Specifically, The Academy."

Immediately, Ikkau leapt up to his feet again. "What? Of all the training academies, why that place? Don't you have any idea how grueling the training is, not to mention the academics? Even I dropped out after the probationary period!"

Karin said calmly, "I'm prepared for the physical hardships. So just finish the paperwork."

Her tone left no room for argument, and without another word, she whipped around and left out the warehouse door.

A day later, Ikkaku called Karin again, claiming the paperwork finished. But not without some preparation to deter Karin. When she came into the warehouse, Ikkaku held out the passport and the relevant papers.

"Here's your new identity… mister… Akimoto."

"Thanks, Ikkaku."

Karin stretched out a hand to take the lot, but at the last moment, Ikkaku snatched his hand back. Dark blue eyes flashing with annoyance, Karin snapped, "What? I didn't take you for one who'd care, but I paid you in advance. You shouldn't have any problems." Her face turned scornful. "Or do you want more money?"

Scowling, Ikkaku leaned forward and growled, "How many years have you known me, Kar? You of all people should know it's not about the money. It's about you. I am your friend, business or not, and the issue of you masquerading as a boy to enroll into The Academy is more than slightly worrying."

Crossing her arms, Karin drew herself up and parried, "I'm taller than other fourteen-year-old boys."

Incensed, Ikkaku yelled, "That's not the point! You may be taller than boys your age now, but in a few years, that'll all change! And what about the other physical differences?" He motioned towards her chest area.

Gazing levelly at her friend, Karin replied, "I don't have much of a chest to begin with. If I develop, I can just bind it down."

Ikkaku continued to protest, "What about muscle mass? You may be well-built for a girl, what with you soccer activities and all, but you just can't keep up with the boys – "

Karin had been prepared for last minute protests, but any hint that girls weren't as good as boys rankled her. She said rather more heatedly, "Like I said before, I'm prepared for physical hardships. So give me the goddamn paperwork already!"

But Ikkaku had one last ace up his sleeve.

"Don't you know what your father would do to you?"

At this, Karin's temper flared.

"I know what my father is capable of. That's why I needed your and Kenpachi's help."

Ikkaku's eyes widened and he nearly yelled, "Zaraki Kenpachi! You, the daughter of the CEO of Kurosaki Armament, associated yourself with Zaraki Kenpachi? Karin, the repercussions – "

Karin narrowed her eyes and said dangerously, "My name. Is Haru."

Sighing in a forcedly patient manner, Ikkaku then asked, "Well then, Haru, do you really plan on entering into The Academy?"

Closing her eyes, Karin replied, "You know me, Ikkaku. Yes, I do. I've been preparing this for 2 years."

Ikkaku considered getting angry at Karin for keeping secrets from her so long, but he too, had kept – was keeping – secrets from her. There was a heavy silence between them before Ikkaku enveloped Karin into a big bear hug.

"I know you're not my younger sister, but you're as good as, and it worries me, the way you're rushing into this. You're only 14 – "

Trying not to let the tears spill out of her blue eyes, Karin whispered, "All applicants are fourteen or fifteen. And I've wanted to be a bodyguard for so long. If I can't take over my father's business, I want a life in the field – but my father would never allow either. I'm making my own opportunity for the second choice is all."

Pulling back from the hug, Karin gently tugged Haru's – her – paperwork from Ikkaku's fingers.

Looking down, Karin said in low voice, "Thanks for everything. Once I'm settled in, I'll get in touch."

Trying her best to hide her overflowing emotions, Karin walked away from Ikkaku, her friend and father-figure.

Now that she had obtained her new identity, all Karin had left to do was to enroll into The Academy and leave the place that had steadily been strangling her since her mother's death.

Under the pretense that she couldn't find her phone, Karin casually asked to borrow Ichigo's phone. Without asking any questions, Ichigo handed it over to her.

She playfully saluted him. "Thanks Ichi-nii." Though he let her leave his room without comment, he gave her a sidelong glance as she walked away, as if he knew his younger sister was hiding something.

In her bathroom, where there weren't any listening devices or security cameras planted by her paranoid father, Karin made a quiet phone call.

"My name is Akimoto Haru, and I would like – "
" – yes. The last four digits of my social security number are – "
" – yes, I understand. Thank you. Good bye."

Karin let out a sigh of relief and slumped against the bathroom wall. She had enrolled, so she would leave that weekend. Whether she got accepted or not. The week couldn't end fast enough.

She went back to her older brother's room and tossed his cell phone to him, which he nimbly caught. He gave her an annoyed look. "Hey, this is expensive. What would you do if I didn't manage to catch it?"

Sitting down on his bed, Karin said sarcastically, "With your reflexes? I wouldn't be surprised if you could catch a bullet."

Ichigo snorted at that.

Karin continued, "Besides, we have an old man who is filthy rich." She said the last part sourly. "He can pay for a new one."

"I earn my own money." Ichigo reminded her pointedly. Karin shrugged her acknowledgment. It was true, he did juggle a part time job with his university coursework. She knew as well as Ichigo did that he hated to use money earned by their CEO father. But Ichigo would inherit the company. He would have to get used to being treated differently.

"Well, I gotta do the math assignment from Ochi-sen…" Karin made to get up from the bed. But before she could, Ichigo asked Karin, "Is there anything bothering you?" Karin froze. She looked at her older brother, but he kept his eyes carefully glued to his economics essay on his desk.

Regaining the ability to move, Karin stood up and dusted herself off. She said quietly, "Nothing. Just the usual." Karin left Ichigo's room.

Ichigo sighed. He lay on his bed, his feet at the headboard.

Karin had always been bothered by their excessive wealth. Time to time, following a particularly distressing outcome resulting from that unwanted wealth, that resentment exploded. But it had never manifested in such a subtle manner as this.

After she had returned late afternoon yesterday, Karin had been acting a little off from her normal self. It was barely detectable. To anybody else, she wouldn't seem any different. But he wasn't 'anybody else.' He was her older brother, and to his eye, she was definitely acting strangely. She looked almost… furtive. As if she was preparing for something.

But just what she was preparing for, he didn't know.

The next few days, it took Karin an enormous amount of effort to act normally around her siblings and the mansion's hired workers. But that was what she had to do the rest of her life; keep secrets from everyone. So Karin went out a lot more than usual, ditching the people spying on her and finishing the last minute preparations for her new life. She got a new cellphone under her alias, and new clothes to match.

Finally, Friday night came.

As soon as the clock struck twelve and it became Saturday, Karin got ready.

First things first, she would have to take care of the security camera in her room.

Though she'd turned off the lights, Karin knew that the whole mansion was equipped with high-tech night-vision security cameras. She'd studied the cameras thoroughly, including their brand and anatomies, and worked out how to take them apart. She even knew how to loop them so the monitor would play the same thing over and over again. But she had to have a special device to hack and mess with the security monitors for that, and she didn't. So she would have to settle with disabling it.

Tongue between her teeth in concentration, Karin first went into the camera's blind spot and slowly used a dark paper to obscure the lens' vision. She cautiously detached the camera from where it had been installed. Then she produced a mini screwdriver and disabled the camera inside. After restoring the camera back at its usual place, she hastily threw a suitcase together and pulled off the wig of long hair, revealing a boy-cut.

Karin couldn't afford to mess up; coming up with this plan had taken a hell's worth of time, effort, and preparation. If she didn't execute this plan properly, two years' worth of painstaking preparation would all go to waste.

She could just leave, but she wanted to say goodbye to her siblings. It posed a risk to her meticulously formulated plan, but she couldn't leave without saying goodbye.

Panther-like, Karin crept down the long hallway, staying in the security cameras' blind spots.

The first room she reached was her brother's. Per usual, his door was wide open. Seeing his orange hair at the footboard, Karin grinned despite herself. He had fallen asleep on the wrong side of the bed again.

The security camera in his room didn't allow her to enter the room. Swallowing the sudden painful lump that rose in her throat, Karin murmured, "Bye, Ichi-nii. You won't get into any trouble without me, right?" After all, he still had her twin to look after him.

The next, and last, door she would stop by was her twin, Yuzu's. Yuzu had requested to not have a security camera installed in her room, for some reason. She probably wanted privacy, without having to worry about the various peoples in the security room. Their father had acquiesced, on account of Yuzu having proven herself to be deadlier than ten intruders wielding AK-47 guns, what with the numerous martial arts under her belt.

Creeping into Yuzu's room, Karin looked down fondly at her twin, who lay fast asleep. Who would've thought that such a sweet and round face belonged to a black-belter in karate, aikido, and tae-kwon-do? Biting back a longing to reach out a hand to stroke her twin's hair, Karin whispered, "Goodbye, Yuzu. Try not to be a crybaby. I'm not going to be here at your side anymore."

As if Yuzu had heard her, she frowned in her sleep, her hand bunching the blanket as she clutched it to herself.

Before her heart could weaken any more, Karin spun on her heel and left the mansion, without even sparing a glance at her father's door.

Karin had booked a room in a motel, under her alias Akimoto Haru, as a boy. The motelier hadn't so much as looked at her; they got runaways all the time. She figured that her father wouldn't expect her to room at a motel, not to mention he didn't even know her new identity – neither name nor gender-wise. He would probably think that she had gone to a five-star hotel, with his extravagant tendencies.

Her father had no way to trace her.

Not through her bank accounts; she'd saved up money the past two years in a different account made online under her alias.

Nor through her cell phone. She had thrown the one that she had previously used under the name 'Kurosaki Karin' in the dumpster on the way out of the mansion.

Nor through her looks. Karin had made sure to change her wardrobe thoroughly – like a boy's for one – purchased brown contacts to hide her blue eyes, and cut her hair short in the bathroom and covered it up with a wig that had imitated her real hair to the tee before she'd left. She'd made sure to take that wig out with her; she couldn't risk leaving it behind and have them suspect that she'd changed her hair style. Besides, she might need it later. It would put her in a difficult situation if it were to be found, but she had to take the risk.

Karin flopped down on the rather uncomfortable bed that the motel provided. It was scratchy compared to the one she had at home. She had really been spoiled, she thought.

Karin knew her plan was far from foolproof – her father had set many spies on her, because she was going through her rebellious stage. He'd done the same for Ichigo. Ichigo had warned her, and given her tips on avoiding them. Apparently he'd even dressed in drag to get away from them. Karin didn't want to imagine her brother in drag. Though putting on a wig was a good idea for him, as his orange hair stuck out like a tiger among antelope. Going to the lengths to even dress in drag had probably driven Ichigo's pride off a huge cliff.

Karin's eyelids were starting to get heavy, and she succumbed to sleep.

When she awoke the next day, Karin briefly didn't remember where she was, and was puzzled by her surroundings. But one look around and she remembered that she had finally executed her plan. Done the deed.

Karin glanced down at her wrist to look at her nonexistent watch, when she realized she had thrown that away as well. She had thrown away all electronic devices on her person. Sighing, Karin realized that she would have to get a new one.

Instead, she looked at the digital clock on the bedside table. It read 8 o'clock exactly. Though she no longer had an alarm, apparently her body had gotten into the habit of waking up at the usual 8 o'clock, which was when she usually had woken back at the mansion. She would probably have to wake up earlier once she got to The Academy. Though the more sloth part of her said that she should sleep while she still could, the more sensible part of her knew that she should practice waking earlier.

Karin left her suitcase at the motel and headed towards the nearest department store, to buy herself a few necessities that she hadn't thought of in the few days after she had received her new identity.

A new watch, some writing material, a few more articles of clothing, and heaven forbid, boxers. She probably wouldn't need the extra clothing, as the school probably distributed uniforms to all entrants, but it wouldn't hurt to be prepared.

After she had picked up all the bare necessities, she headed back towards the motel room.

Maybe her father's paranoia had rubbed off on her, but she became wary of everybody around her wearing blue-tooth headsets and looked at her. And every girl who tried to pick her up.

A week had passed when she finally received word from The Academy, late at night.

"Congratulations, your records have been approved. Like all other freshmen, you will go through a year of probation, and if you pass both academically and physically, you will be able to go onto the next year."

Karin fought the urge to fist-pump. The woman's voice continued, "Coordinates of The Academy will shortly be sent to your cell phone. You will receive further instructions once you arrive. You have until tomorrow noon to get here, or your spot will be filled by another applicant. Good luck."

Karin was confused by the last phrase.

"Good luck? What does she mean by that?"

She looked at her new wristwatch and saw that the call had taken place at exactly 1 o'clock in the morning. They must be really intense, if they called you this early. She guessed that if she hadn't picked up within two rings, the school would have immediately dropped her.

Her cell phone buzzed. The message must have arrived. Karin flipped open her phone and was slightly confused. These weren't coordinates. They were equations, and long ones.

Then she realized what the 'good luck' had meant when she looked at the image sent to her phone. Getting to The Academy was a preliminary test in itself. If you didn't know how to do calculus and combinatorics and read the resulting coordinates, you had no right to attend The Academy.

The Academy, which would probably be located far away from cities, would probably take a long time to go to, with very few ways to get there. And she only had until noon tomorrow. This was almost as intense as the Amazing Race.

Sighing, Karin splashed some water on her face to wake her up and set to work on the math.

An hour later – she was rather rusty on her math – Karin had her coordinates, and saw that she had been right. The Academy was located somewhere in Shizuoka, one of the least populated areas in Japan, roughly three hours away, by Shinkansen.

Trust The Academy to be situated in a place very convenient for shooting guns without bothering anybody. Also convenient for harsh training for aspiring bodyguards, complete with corporal punishment. Hopefully the corporal punishment wouldn't require stripping. That would be a dead giveaway for her true gender. And that was a serious understatement.

Karin figured that she could sleep on the way to Shizuoka. She quickly threw her clothes and wig into her suitcase, and headed towards the nearest shinkansen station.

Once Karin arrived at the station, she purchased a ticket that stopped by Shizuoka, the location of The Academy.

Karin gave one last look around at Tokyo, her hometown.

She wasn't sure if she would miss it, but three years was a long time.

And she stepped foot into the train.

Three hours later, Karin was disembarking the train, sleepily wiping her drool off her mouth.

Suppressing a yawn, she read the address she had gotten from the coordinates. Though it was against her creed to ask for directions, as of now, Karin was too tired not to.

A small, kind-looking old lady overheard Karin asking the lone security guard (who looked like he wanted to be here as much as he wanted to have all his teeth pulled out) ask about where the address was.

"Oh? You're an Entrant for The Academy, young lad?"

Karin nodded, relieved that someone knew. She had half-expected even the villagers to not know of it, as its location was so secretive.

The old lady chuckled. "It's located right next to my plot of land. I can take you there, if you like."

Karin's face broke out into a grin.

"Mind you, it's only because you're so good looking." The granny joked.

Karin stared at the horse-driven cart. She hadn't known that these still existed, apart from major tourist attractions, like New York or Rome.

Nevertheless, she climbed into the cart, grateful for the ride. She checked her watch.

It was nearing 8 o'clock.

After about an hour and a half of being jostled and bumped on the hard wooden surface of the cart, Karin found herself about to drift off to sleep when they came to an abrupt stop.

Karin blinked owlishly at the old lady, who was peering at her. She said groggily, "Have we arrived?"

When the granny nodded, Karin jumped out of the cart, less than nimble because of her dead-tired state. With some difficulty, she unloaded her suitcase as well.

Before Karin was a great big rice paddy. Surprised, she turned to the old lady. "You own a rice field?"

The granny chuckled. "Well, now it technically belongs to my granddaughter. I'm trying to vie for a grandson-in-law at that place where she works." She gave Karin a sly look. "You don't look that much younger than her, young lad."

Karin didn't really much fancy becoming anybody's grandson-in-law and tried to laugh it off as a joke. "My name is Akimoto Haru. May I ask for your name, grandmother? I want to repay this favor…"

Smiling, the old lady said, "Hinamori Chiyo. Haru… Spring… that's a nice name. I should introduce you to my granddaughter. She works at The Academy, as a secretary."

Karin jolted and checked her watch. It was almost 10 o'clock. "Speaking of The Academy… Where is it? You said that it was next to your land…"

The granny grinned toothily and pointed in the distance.

It was huge, but Karin could tell it was far.

Not wanting to impose any longer on the elderly lady, Karin bowed and said, "Thank you for taking me this far, Grandmother Chiyo. I can walk the rest of the way."

The grandmother nodded. "I see. Well, it takes considerably less than two hours to get there. Why, my Momo goes there by foot every day."

Karin wasn't so surprised that the old lady knew that she had to get there by noon.

"I shan't detain you any longer, Haru-kun." She waved Karin off.

After what seemed like an eternity of walking, Karin was finally before the huge gate of The Academy.

Someone who looked like a security officer stood there. Karin approached him, and immediately, he said. "Akimoto, correct?"

Karin nodded.

"Good, you're an hour, twenty-five minutes, and thirty-two seconds early. Two bonus points for you."

'Points?' Karin thought, but knew better than to ask. The man before her looked scary. Almost as scary as Zaraki Kenpachi, and that was saying something. He opened the gate for her and said, "Go to the main hall and await further instructions there."

Karin inclined her head and entered straight ahead.

Soon enough she saw a large desk, with two women sitting behind it. Karin saw one who had a nametag 'Hinamori Momo' printed on it, and she was about to talk to her about how Grandmother Chiyo had helped her when the other secretary, whose nametag read 'Ise Nanao' looked at her.

"Name?"

Her voice sounded familiar, and Karin realized that she was the one who had called Karin over the phone with the instructions.

"Akimoto Haru."

Pushing the bridge of her glasses up her nose, the secretary peered near-sightedly at Karin. "Have I seen you before?"

Hiding her nervousness, Karin laughed and said, "Yeah, I get that a lot. My face is really generic, isn't it?"

Actually, it was far from that fact. Karin's face was an exotic mix of Asian and Caucasian. Knowing that blue eyes and Asian faces didn't mix well together, Karin had worn dark brown contact lenses. Karin had been famous for being her father's daughter, as well as being an almost rebelliously intelligent child. Characterized by blue eyes that she had inherited from her mother, Karin realized that her eye color was one of the things that she would have to hide.

Nanao scanned the list on her computer and found the name 'Akimoto Haru.'

She gave Karin the key to her room, as well as a map of the whole of The Academy (in small-scale coordinates, again). Thanking her, Karin wandered off.

First, Karin examined the key, which read 1408. That was ominous. Next, she scanned unnecessarily complex map of the place, and Karin thought grimly, 'This is no joke.'

With some trouble, Karin finally found Room 1408, bizarrely located on the 18th floor. She fumbled with the key to unlock the door. Once she had opened the door, she found a rectangular room bare except for a window and a narrow, flat bed in the corner. It was a terribly depressing room, and Karin found herself thinking longingly of her own room back at the mansion, with posters of Mia Hamm, Lionel Messi, David Beckham and Tele plastered all over her walls.

This room only needed shackles to be equivalent to a prison cell.

Shoving her suitcase into the room, Karin looked around and saw there was a connecting room to hers through a short hallway with what she assumed was the bathroom. There was no door.

Karin had been prepared for this, but her heart pounded as it really hit her that she would have to share a living space, as well as a bathroom, with a boy.

She peeked into the room, and immediately gaped. If she had thought that she was messy, she was positively OCD compared to this. Clothes were strewn everywhere, as if the occupant considered the whole floor his closet. As she looked at the horror of a room, she wondered what sort of pig lived there.

As if to answer her question, a boy emerged from the bathroom, looking as if he'd just finished taking a shower, judging from the warm steam that washed over Karin. His rather long red hair was also sopping, and he wore nothing save towels around his waist and shoulders.

The boy, who was a few inches taller than her, spotted her immediately. "Oh! You must be my new suitemate." He grinned and held out a hand.

"Hey, I'm Renji. Abarai Renji."

Shaking his hand, Karin said stiffly. "Hello, Abarai-san."

Renji laughed. "No need to be so formal. No Senpai stuff either. Just call me Renji. You're Haru, right?"

Karin relaxed minimally as she nodded. Maybe this guy wouldn't be as bad as she thought. Motioning towards his red hair, she asked, "Is that natural?"

"Oh, my hair? Yeah, it is." He looked regretfully at it. "The first year I was here, they thought I'd dyed it, and forced me to dye it black. But when they saw my roots and my pubes were red, they realized that it was natural, and they gave up on trying to make me dye it."

Not noticing Karin's disgusted face at his casual mention of pubic hair, he continued, "Think they figured that they could spend the money for dye somewhere else, like weapons."

Once she got over her disgust, Karin found herself nodding understandingly. "My older brother is the same way. His hair is naturally orange, but everybody thinks he bleaches it."

Renji paused in the process of vigorously towel drying his hair.

"Orange hair? What's your brother's name?"

Karin realized immediately she had made a mistake. She desperately made up a name on the spot. "T… *Tamago."

Renji looked horrified at that travesty of a name. "Tamago? As in egg?"

Inwardly, Karin grimaced. Why couldn't she have thought of a better name? To her relief, Renji grinned at her.

"For a moment, I thought you were talking about Kurosaki Ichigo."

Karin pretended to busily start unpacking her suitcase, zipping it open, then hastily zipping it back up. She had forgotten that the wig was on top of everything.

Clearing her throat, thinking it safer to feign ignorance about her brother, Karin asked, "Ichigo? Who's that?"

Looking rather surprised, Renji said, "You came here to become a bodyguard without even knowing the son of the CEO of the biggest weapon production corporations?"

"Oh. I thought his surname sounded familiar."

Without a care, Renji sat on the edge of her bed, dripping water all over it, Karin noticed with annoyance. Did males not have any sense of personal space?

"Well, I suppose only hardcore fans would know. Kurosaki Ichigo has orange hair, just like your brother."

"Why would you think Kurosaki Ichigo is my older brother? Our surnames are different, for one." She pointed out.

Renji shrugged. "Well, who knows, Kurosaki Isshin might have an illegitimate child."

Unknowingly, Karin clenched her fists. Her father may be many things, but unfaithful to her mother was not one of them. She struggled to calm herself.

Unaware of Karin's anger, Renji said dreamily, "And man, those Kurosaki twins are hot."

Taken aback, Karin forgot completely about the offensive claim against her father.

"Yuzu's cute, but that Karin… her futsal skills are magnificent. She could even play for the national team. Though she'll probably go into soccer. She doesn't have much of a chest, but the rest of her bod is real nice. All lean muscle, ya know?"

Karin was suddenly very, very glad that her short-cropped hair and lack of eyeliner made her look completely different. She would probably have to bulk up, too.

"Uhh… She's only fourteen…" Karin hedged.

Renji raised an eyebrow. "Oh? You don't know of Ichigo, but you know of Karin?"

Karin started sweating. She was making an awful lot of mistakes, and it was only her first day…

Thankfully, Renji's conclusions were way off the mark. "So you're a fan of hers too eh?"

Karin praised God that she had such a dense suitemate.

"She's fourteen, but I'm only sixteen, so it's not criminal, is it? It would be a different matter if I were an old man though." He looked slightly disturbed at the thought. Karin had to fight back a gag at that.

"Well, I'll let you unpack, then." Renji jumped off of her bed, leaving a large wet patch where he had sat.

"Whoops. Sorry." Renji apologized without sounding sorry at all. As he crossed into his own room, Karin briefly saw zigzag wing tattoos under his red hair on his back.

Though Renji had left, she still heard him rustling about in his own room. Though she wasn't comfortable with such an open space between their rooms, Karin begin to unpack items from her suitcase, first of all shoving that accursed wig as far under the bed she could.

And so Karin's life at The Academy started.

Character Profiles

Name: Kurosaki Karin
Alias: Akimoto Haru
Age: 14 years
Height: 5'6"/168cm (still growing)
Birthdate: May 6th
Bust–Waist–Hip measurements: N/A–27"–34"
Favorite food: too many to list
Least favorite food: Purple sweet potatoes
Favorite sport: Soccer/Football

Name: Abarai Renji
Age: 16 years
Height: 5'8"/173cm (still growing)
Birthdate: August 31st
Favorite food: Star Candy
Least favorite food: Cabbages
Favorite sport: Futsal

Name: Madarame Ikkaku
Age: 28 years
Height: 6'/180cm (fully grown)
Birthdate: November 9th
Favorite food: Onigiri(rice balls)
Least favorite food: All vegetables
Favorite sport: Kendo

A/N:These statistics are in no way canon (all random), except for Ikkaku's height. And maybe the Star Candy was inspired by an episode depicting Renji's young days.

And yes, I meant the irony of Ikkaku protesting against Kenpachi. (Because in the Bleach canon, he says he'll die under Kenpachi's command.)

And no, this does not mean Renji and Karin pairing. KarinxAnybody will come waaaaay later in the storyline. She's only 14, for goodness' sake! (hypocritical, I know, because Fallen Souls paired her up when she was 14 anyway, but this story is different!)