Chapter 1: Hisagi Shūhei's Past

A/N: Hello minna! This is my first time ever writing Bleach. Please bear with me if there are any mistakes. Don't forget to let me know what you all think of the first chapter! Honestly, I wanted this to be a prologue but in the end, it came out a little too long for a prologue. Do enjoy!

(Approximately 100 years ago…)

"Doushite anata naite irunodesuka…?" A soft, female voice spoke up from behind the wall.

Almost instantly, the dark-haired boy stopped whimpering and his head snapped up at the undesirable intrusion. With an annoyed scowl, he stood up on tiptoes and tried to lean over the stone barrier which separated him and the mysterious girl. This place was his most favorite, out-of-the-way spot where he could cry by himself and sort of out his thoughts which his male playmates did not even know, so what gives a girl the right to find him here?

His gray eyes scanned the shadows below and only found a huddled heap of shabby cloth. "Who the hell are you and how did you know I was here?" he demanded, his scrapes now forgotten.

The girl giggled and her cloak quivered with her mirth. "First of all, this is my secret spot and second, I didn't know you were here. Third, I humbly apologize because I cannot do what you ask."

His accusing stare evolved into a full-fledged glare. How dare she claim this spot as her own when he had found it first? His arms were starting to ache from the effort of supporting his body weight now that his legs dangled slightly above ground, and it was this entire girl's fault!

"And why not?" he snapped rudely.

There was a slight but hesitant pause before she went on to answer his question. "Because my father said so; but I could tell you my name…it's Gina. Do you mind giving me my space please and not peep over the wall like that since it is apparent that we have to share this spot?"

The boy's mouth open and closed as he gaped at the girl in disbelief. However, he rapidly recovered and did as he was told though feeling resentful for it. "Why must you follow what your dad tells you to all the time; it's not like you are doing something wrong in the first place? Besides, he doesn't even know you are here, I'm sure." His curiosity of 'this girl in the strange garb' was piqued.

"You don't know who he is…he has eyes everywhere and I am afraid of the consequences if I do disobey his orders so I can't let you see my face, I'm sorry."

There was a hint of sadness in her voice, he noticed but generously decided not to point it out. After all, there was that 'dark something' that everyone wanted to keep a secret so as not to maim the opinions on how others perceive them. He crouched down and leaned back against the wall, sighing audibly. "My name is Hisagi, Hisagi Shūhei."

"Ja, Shu-chan!" The girl's voice had brightened considerably now.

He reddened slightly and raised a fist in mild irritation. "Just because we going to share my secret spot, don't go around changing my name! Besides, you aren't even my friend!"

The girl only laughed childishly but wisely ignored his juvenile remark. "So I heard you crying earlier, why?"

There was just something about the girl's pacifying expression that influenced him greatly to let slip his fears. "I saw those monster-like things killing people again…"

Again, came the pause just before she went on. "I'm afraid I can't say anything else to ease the pain except to lend you a listening ear and say sorry, Shu-chan…" she said sincerely honestly before allowing the sentence to trail off.

"When I grow up, I am going to be a Shinigami like Kensei-san and join up in the 9th Division and protect everyone in Rukongai!" he declared, standing firm to his resolve.

"Shinigami, huh?" Gina repeated, her voice suddenly sounding dull and hollow.

Shūhei stopped and instinctively turned his head to the side as his eyes slid over to the wall. "You don't like the Shinigami much, do you?"

"No, it's not as simple as just detesting them…" Gina's voice sounded uncomfortable. "Besides, I am sure you will become a fine Shinigami with such determination but then again don't be such a crybaby…" she added mischievously.

"N-N-N-Nani! Who are you calling a crybaby?" Shūhei responded indignantly.

"You, Shu-chan," she answered promptly before bursting into laughter.

"T-TEME, ARE YOU LOOKING FOR AN EARLY DEATH?" Shūhei snarled, a vein at the side of his forehead popping out as he shook his clenched fist. In response to his death threat, he only heard Gina's hysterics which was infectious as it subsequently brought a small smile, slackening his pursed lips.

"Ne Shu-chan, will you be my friend?" the girl from behind the wall, asked him unexpectedly after her laughter had died down.

"W-W-What kind of dumb question is that?" he answered, coughing slightly to cover up his embarrassment. "Baka, I've been talking to you for the past thirty minutes, haven't I? Geez, mendo kusai!" He scratched his head, further messing up his spiky hair. Then, he heard movement on the other side and intuitively looked up.

A pale, thin hand extended itself over the wall. "Promise?" Gina's voice sounded muffled but insistent which was loud enough for him to hear her. It was then that he noticed the inky black tattoo closely resembling the rungs of a ladder encircling her hand. Shūhei stood up and dusted his kimono. "Syouganai na!" he complained before he reached out and wrapped her outstretched pinky finger around with his own, giving it a firm shake to seal their friendship by means of the ever-familiar pinky promise.

As usual, Hisagi Shūhei ran over to their meeting place where he knew that Gina would be waiting anxiously for the results of his entrance exams to the Shinigami Academy. With encouragement from her, he had decided to re-take the exams again after failing it the year before.

"I failed yet again!" Shūhei announced cheerily, trying his best to hide the disappointment in his voice.

It had already been seven years since the beginning of their friendship when each had caught the other trespassing their favorite spot. By this time, Gina had managed to open up and trust him well enough to sit beside him but not enough to reveal her face which always seemed to be eternally shadowed underneath that dark hood of hers. He had been peeved by it at first but he knew she had her reasons for not showing him her face so he told her that he would wait until she was ready.

"Baka, is that how you are supposed to take it?" Gina shrieked at him and thumped him on the head furiously.

Shūhei winced and massaged the red bump that had erupted from the sore spot. "What am I supposed to do, Gina?" he protested, in a calm voice. "Cry over milk that has already been spilt? I've already failed twice; maybe I am just not cut out to be a Shinigami after all…Maybe I should –"

The girl folded her arms across her chest. From her rigid posture, Shūhei knew that she was mad at him for saying that. "You should what, become a sitting duck and wait for those Hollows to come attack you?" she interrupted in a crabby voice.

"Someone's in a bad mood today –" he began before he was cut short again by Gina who had promptly took the chance to whack him on the head again.

"That hurts big time, you know!" Shūhei growled as he continued to rub feverishly at the same spot which by now had developed into two throbbing bulges with wispy steam drifting from them.

She huffed and turned away from him, her arms still folded. "What happened to the boy I knew seven years ago who told me that he wanted to become a Shinigami like that Kensei-san?" she challenged. "Haven't you heard the phrase 'if you don't succeed, then try, try again'?"

Shūhei got up from the ground and went over to sit next to the girl. He smirked, "I knew you would say something along that line; don't worry, I'll take the entrance exams again next year and I'll show you and Kensei-san that I am no crybaby!"

A warm, companionable silence fell between the two but it was Gina who broke it, a few minutes later. "Ne Shu-chan, if something bad were to happen to me and I disappeared, what will you do?" she asked him unexpectedly.

On hearing this, Shūhei's head snapped up and he turned to look over at the cloaked girl, the girl he had known for seven years but had barely known anything about her except her clumsy but compassionate and temperamental nature as well as her deep interest of the Human World. He glared down at her bowed figure, suddenly realizing just how small and fragile this girl was despite her overtly expressiveness. "What the hell are you talking about?" he demanded harshly as he fully turned his frame towards her. It was simply uncharacteristic of her to sound so lost and distant with him.

It was as if she was holding out for a more intense effect because a moment later, Gina burst out into laughter. "Nanchatte!" she said in between her chortles. "I was just fooling around; there's no need to get all panicky!"

Indeed, Shūhei's facial expression was priceless as different emotions fought with one another to gain dominance over all. Finally, disbelief settled over his boyish features and he continued glaring down at her. "Don't say things like that, Gina even if you meant it as a joke…" he spoke up quietly, his gray eyes piercing; there was even a note of hidden anger underneath his tone of voice.

Almost immediately, the girl stopped laughing. Shūhei could feel her eyes on him but he did not turn to look at her, not that there was anything to look at anyway. "Do you still have to listen to your father about not letting anyone see your appearance?" he asked her. "I mean we have already shared a seven-year-long friendship…" he allowed his sentence to trail off, waiting expectantly for her reply.

"No," came her typical instant, impassive reply. "I'm sorry, Shu-chan."

If only I had asserted more strongly and looked past her laughter; if only I could have done that very thing…

Finally, it was the day before his third-time tryout entrance exam results were out and Shūhei was absolutely terrified of the looming outcome. Heck, he had already failed it twice…anything could happen to his third time. His fear did nothing to ease his stiff posture that Gina had oh-so-tactfully pointed out, taking this perfect opportunity to tease him about it as she continued to arrange the food out which she had cooked and had them boxed up, early that morning. For some reason or other, she wanted to have a picnic at their wall to commemorate their eight-year friendship which he found was ridiculous. He was in it for the food which was why he agreed to it, in the first place.

"Don't look so gloomy, Shu-chan!" Gina said, slapping him on the back. It was quite painful actually as his body shot forward from the impact but he could hardly feel the pain at all. "Here, have some of your favorite Vienna sausages, I made them especially for you!" The girl continued as she held up the plate but not before stealing one and popping it into her mouth that was concealed underneath her usual hooded robe.

Shūhei only stared blankly at her as she waved the plate before his face, trying to entice him with its aroma. "You burnt them again, didn't you?" he finally spoke up, sighing. "You took the only one on the plate that wasn't burnt."

"Of course not, they look well-done that's all." she protested indignantly. "Shu-chan, how could you be so mean to me? I woke up really early to make those for you! So eat!"

Again, Shūhei heaved a sigh and he took one off the plate before popping it into his mouth and chewed. He grimaced but managed to swallow it down after much difficulty and five glasses of water. "See, it's not even well-done, Gina…it's over-done."

"Okay, so I placed them in the skillet for an hour and forgot to take them out…so what, it's the thought that counts in the end!" she argued back.

Before Shūhei could respond, he was cut off by an earsplitting scream which was followed by a savage roar. Instinctively, their heads snapped up at the sound and they leapt up. "Kono reiatsu…it belongs to a Hollow!" Shūhei shouted out before he took off into a sprint, their picnic soon forgotten.

"Shu-chan, wait! Shu-chan!"

Shūhei heard Gina calling out for him and the sound of running feet that were behind him but he did not bother to reciprocate. His heart was hammering against his chest as the blood rushed to his brain and face and adrenaline surged through him. His ears were ringing from the inhuman sound. Fear crept its way into his heart, pushing out the small ounce of courage he had earlier.

All he had in his mind was to get there as fast as possible. He would have to deal with Gina later; the situation at hand was more important. He arrived at the scene, of course in time to see two of those corrupted spirits lunging for a horror-struck boy who was rooted to the ground. Not thinking things through like he habitually did, he grabbed a fallen branch that was lying near him and dove for the Hollows with a loud bellow. A second later when he was sent flying backwards by one of them, he realized that that he had no chance in winning against even one, not without a Zanpakutō.


Somewhere from behind him, Shūhei heard Gina screaming out his name as his head was knocked backwards and his gray eyes slid over to the hooded girl.

"G-Gina…" Shūhei managed a whisper just before he hit the ground. His body rolled violently backwards before stopping a distance away from his friend. He was not strong enough to protect anyone…

It was then that he saw Gina stepping out in front of him with her back to him, blocking his view of her. Through his cloudy vision, he raised one hand out weakly towards her. "Don't go there…" he murmured just before the darkness swooped down to claim him.

Shūhei did not know how long it was that he was knocked unconscious by that Hollow; how many hours had passed since he had failed to rescue that boy…or at least tried to with a broken tree branch? Inwardly, he scoffed at himself for his weakness and his fear of fighting. Opening his heavy-lidded eyes seemed so difficult a task; he shut them hastily as soon as his vision swam, making his stomach churn in nausea.

"Relax Shu-chan…"

Someone was whispering in his ear and its warm breath tickled the sensitive skin in his ear. He groaned in response and held one hand out to the familiar stranger whose voice he had recognized almost instantly for eight years. A warm, soft hand enveloped his cold one. "You hit your head pretty hard though," Gina added. "Don't worry, you'll be fine after a night's rest."

He could hear the intensity in her voice…was it something akin to sadness? He did not know. Shūhei tightened his grip on her hand as he opened his mouth to speak to her. "T-T-That boy…" he stammered out hoarsely. "W-What happened to him?" Again, there was the ever-familiar pause from her and he felt her loosening her grip on his hand but he held on. "G-Gina…" he called her name.

"You worry too much, Shu-chan; a Shinigami came by and saved him."

He allowed a bitter smile to cross his lips as he tried to force open his eyes once again. "Lie…" he hissed out. "I saw no one…just you…"

There was silence again after his words. With his free hand, he fumbled around for her. "Gina…" he whispered huskily. "Please…tell me…W-Who are you?"

Still, there was only silence. It was as if he was talking to himself and not to her. It was then that he felt it; droplets of moisture that fell onto his left cheek. She was crying, he realized which drove him to strain himself to open his eyes once more. Through his still murky vision, he saw her…the real Gina whom he had never once laid eyes upon for the past eight years since they had met. Her hair, long and wavy was the color of silver which her name must have symbolized and her eyes were the color of light turquoise. He raised his free hand to touch her face to prove to himself that he was not dreaming. Her face so close to his, yet seemed so far. Their lips met in the softest of kisses before she pulled away from him and gave him one final kiss on his forehead. "Good luck for tomorrow's results which you will definitely pass and get through. You will become a great Shinigami, Shu-chan."

"Gina…" Shūhei breathed, his hand still caressing her soft face.

"I hope you will forgive me, Shu-chan…"

Those were her parting words for me, I guess because these were the last of the memories I had of her, Gina, the girl who disappeared from my life as quickly as she had appeared…