The sun was shining brightly, further emphasizing the beautiful day presented to the residents of Karakura Town. In a classroom on the far side of the city, a girl sat beside the window, gazing at the outside world, watching the small events unfold in front of her. The way the gentle wind carried the leaves, taking them away and bringing them both nearer and further away from the window, as if dancing, mesmerized her. How a small child and his mother walked past the school gates, the child pointing to the enormous building as if he was telling his mom of the adventures he'd have there one day, made her smile in amusement.
Inoue Orihime propped her chin in the palm of her hand and let the smile overtake her. The smallest things seemed to be the most interesting ones to her, and it was even more fun if she imagined tiny tales to accompany the images presented in front of her.
Sat next to her in class was none other than her good friend Kuchiki Rukia.
Rukia had initially come with the mission of restoring Ichigo's powers, using her energy as well as many more shinigami to restore his reiatsu. Once he was fully powered up again and they all battled the Fullbringers, things settled back into the norm, with Rukia oddly back in the school once more.
Not that Orihime minded it. She loved seeing Rukia, especially after that long year without seeing her.
Turning her head towards her petite friend, she flashed a smile at her. Rukia, in return, turned and gave her a small smirk before attending back to her book.
Orihime's attention turned back to the front and she watched the teacher scribble something about Hamlet on the board. She focused on the lesson for a few minutes when she noticed Sado on the other side of the room, silent and still as he usually was. She couldn't help but giggle at her large friend paying so much attention to the Shakespearean lesson.
Her and Sado have been training more and more after school nowadays. Just because the threat with the Fullbringers was over didn't mean they shouldn't still be at the top of their game. So when they could, they met up and trained in Urahara's training grounds. He was more than willing to let the two train when they needed to be, and he seemed suspiciously optimistic about the results they could achieve by practicing so much.
So while Sado worked on perfecting a new, 'upgraded' version of his El Directo that was nearly twice as powerful as the original, Orihime tried to perfect her recent power, Shiten Koshun, as well as more training with Tsubaki.
With her attack fairy, she was more or less trying to talk to him and get them both to a spot where they could agree on how and when to properly use him. Although most of their discussions were at home and more private, she couldn't help but think back and realize how silly she seemed, talking battle plans with her fairy. Still, their talks proved to be more than helpful, and by doing so, Orihime had become much stronger and her resolve to use him grew much stronger. Tsubaki seemed fairly pleased with the results as well.
Sado seemed to be working so much harder, though. He would go to Urahara's place even on weekends, which both amazed Orihime at his stamina as well as worry her, making her fear that he wouldn't give himself time to rest. But his determination only served as fuel for her own, and she made that much more of an effort to keep up with her strong friend.
As usual, Orihime spent a lot of time with her best friend Tatsuki. Not only did she train with Sado to further her powers, she trained quite often with Tatsuki, learning more moves and attacks in karate. She could train all she wanted with Sado to strengthen herself mentally for the use of her powers, but it would be in vain if she didn't have the physical strength to back it up.
Tatsuki was hesitant at first, to help her with karate, only because she didn't know the reason behind her inquiry. Once Orihime explained what she was doing and that she just needed a little more training in the physical aspect, Tatsuki reluctantly agreed. She also bopped Orihime on the head, telling her she'd get more of that if she carelessly threw herself into hollow battles and got herself hurt. Orihime understood why Tatsuki didn't want her to jump into the middle of those battles. Orihime was strong, but the enemy could always be stronger, and the healer knew all too well about those kinds of situations.
Orihime hadn't seen Ishida nearly as much as she used to. Between school, work, and training, she really only got to see him during the Handicrafts club, which was only twice a week. They weren't in the same class anymore, much to her dismay, but she was still thankful for the time they did get during club activities. If It weren't for the club, she wouldn't see him at all. Ishida normally seemed glad to see her, when they got the chance, and it made Orihime happy to know that their friendship was still strong and kicking.
And then there was Ichigo.
Even in the middle of class, thinking about him brought a blush to her cheeks. Thinking back to recent events, her heart couldn't help but race over the notion of them getting closer.
Since the battle with the Fullbringers, Ichigo had been feeble on where to stand with her, or he was at first. She still felt terrible about what happened concerning Tsukishima's memory altercation, but she let herself guess that after being by his side for so long and unwavering in her decision to help him, to suddenly help the enemy was a great shock to him. She sometimes worried he still thought she no longer wanted to help him or be his friend, but with great determination and what little free time she had left in her week, she made sure to go above and beyond to show him that she would be there for him, no matter what else happened.
Once Ichigo determined that she really was there to stay, he seemed to warm up to her in ways she'd never imagined. He'd occasionally join her for lunch and he'd regularly ask her if she wanted him to walk her home. Her heart always threatened to jump out of her chest, whenever he asked that, and she had to refuse most of the time. It wasn't that she didn't want to (because in actuality, she really wanted to), but she had so much going on otherwise. Her ranting over her reasons of why she couldn't and how she had wanted to always left him with that small smile, just for her. He would always tell her that he understood, because he really did know she was busy, and would give her a pat on the head and a reminder that she should take breaks once in a while.
Even now, as she looked at Ichigo from her seat, her face still turned red. He initiated more touches too, which usually sent her into a fit of hysterics. After only talking to him for so long, to suddenly be tapped on the shoulder or nudged in the side was a wonderful, new thing. She tried to reciprocate when she could, almost imitating his actions towards her, with the nudging and tapping, but her embarrassment would get in the way and she would become an immediate bumbling mess right in front of him.
But the small things wasn't what had her so happy around him. There was still the matter of fighting together.
A few weeks ago, Orihime's attention was called to a rather large hollow attack nearby her home. As she had thrown a jacket on and slipped on some shoes, she could already feel Ichigo's reiatsu racing her direction. Still, she wanted to get to the scene as quick as she could, partially in fear that innocent bystanders may have been hurt and partially wanting to help Ichigo take down the hollow.
She arrived on the scene before he did and she attempted to shoot Tsubaki towards the hollow. The small, but fierce fairy zoomed around the hollows head, looking for a clear opening to attack. Orihime had yelled to him that there was a spot on his left that he could get, and she could seem him taking the opportunity, flying so fast she could barely see her small friend. The hollow proved to be too smart for the two and he took a swipe at the offending object, not able to damage Tsubaki by any means, but only allowed a fraction of a second for him to dodge the giant hand.
Calling Tsubaki back, Orihime stood her ground and prepared to call out her other three fairies to form her Shiten Koshun when the hollow noticed the human on the ground. How it happened seemed to go both slow and fast at the same time, because Orihime remembered calling her fairies out when the large hand struck down upon her shield.
As it attacked, Ichigo was suddenly beside her, grabbing her by the waist and shunpoing them both to the top of a nearby building. It was the first time she'd ever shunpoed and it definitely left her head feeling rather dizzy. At the time, she was seeing almost three different Ichigos in one spot and it made her nauseous. She'd wanted to relish in the feeling of him holding her by the waist, but the vertigo-like world placed that thought in the far recesses of her mind.
So this is what it's like, she thought to herself, holding her head. The three-headed Ichigo had frowned at her, but she could see the worry embedded in the nine brown eyes swirling around.
He jumped the gun and immediately asked her if she was alright, unable to help but notice the way she was trying to keep her head from moving too much. As the spinning slowed, Orihime nodded her head and smiled, explaining that she was just fine. As usual, she apologized to him for trying to fight before he got here. Normally when she jumped right in before Ichigo arrived, he'd usually lightly scold her and tell her that it was too dangerous to be fighting when he wasn't there.
But this time was different. Ichigo shook his head and told her not to apologize. He mentioned how it looked like she was actually doing a pretty good job at keeping it contained in one spot until he got there and that he appreciated the help. The less it moved around, the less damaged it caused to the city, which was considered a very good thing when fighting hollows.
His praise warmed Orihime's heart. She felt like she had been finally able to help him for once! Her big smile couldn't be held back any longer and it was only the roar of the hollow that drew their attention away from their own little world to the monster in front of them.
Ichigo unsheathed Zangetsu and stepped closer to the edge of the building, ready to attack. However, he stopped right before the ledge and looked back at her questionably. She was confused about his look, but what he asked her was something she'd never forget.
"Aren't you coming?"
Ichigo had willingly let her help in defeating the hollow, rather than tell her to stay back where it was safe. His train of thought definitely plagued her for weeks to come, but she refused to forget how she used Tsubaki to distract the hollow and used her Santen Kesshun to block attacks Ichigo hadn't seen coming. It took a little while to defeat the monster, but as a team, they worked together to properly cleanse its soul and send it to the other side.
Ever since then, Ichigo's allowed her to help with hollow attacks, whenever she was on scene at the same time. There had been some close calls with both of them, instigating worry from both parties towards one another, but it was usually no more than a few scratches or bruises and it wasn't anything that Orihime couldn't heal.
The way he was acting around her made her nervous, confused, but mainly happy. To finally be interacted with in a whole new perspective made her heart soar and her mind wander. There had been times in the past few weeks, such as that first hollow attack, that made her want to come right out and tell Ichigo the truth about her feelings. The way he responded to her occasionally gave her hope that he might feel the same way, or at least would acknowledge the emotions and not be nervous because of what she was feeling.
However, since Rukia came back from Soul Society and with her new, busy schedule, such confessions were not possible at the moment. Orihime determined that if she'd tell Ichigo how she felt, it would be the right moment, and that she'd know in her gut when it was time. Right now, that sign was absent, and Orihime chose to respect the lack of that feeling.
Bringing herself out of her memories, Orihime realized that she had daydreamed again, thinking back to the events of the past few weeks. She blinked heavily and blushed, thinking that she probably looked foolish letting her mind wander off in class yet again. However, with all of them being in their third year of school, she found herself imaging her future more and more and what would lie ahead; her biggest question being if she would confess early enough to let Ichigo be in it, if he wanted to.
"Inoue?" called a voice, snapping her from her thoughts. She looked up to see Rukia standing over her desk, giving her friend a soft smirk. Her face grew hot upon discovering that she'd probably made her wait for so long.
"O-Oh, Kuchiki-san! Did I keep you waiting long?" she blurted out, probably talking far too fast for the petite shinigami.
"Not at all. We just have a break before math next, so we should probably take advantage of it," Rukia explained, pointing her thumb towards the classroom door. Behind her, Orihime could see Ichigo leaving with Sado and Keigo, off to do their own thing as well before the classes started again.
Smiling back, Orihime stood from her seat and nodded in acknowledgment to Rukia. Together, they left the classroom, determined to return for their next lesson soon.