I do not own Bleach or any other property of Kubo Tite. Likewise, I do not own the Fatal Frame/Zero or Silent Hill series'. I would like to point out that while elements/inspiration are taken from each of these series, this is not a crossover. This is a love story based upon one simple idea.
He had to sneak into Heaven for Rukia, he had walked into Purgatory for Orihime, he would storm Hell for Tatsuki.
The steady beat and repetitive vocals were soothing as Arisawa Tatsuki ran through the park. The sun was strong, warming her to the very core as she went through her morning ritual. Others were jogging around her, Red Pants had passed her ten minutes ago, jogging beside a pretty young woman more suited to her knees. Sunshine hadn't come out yet, a man who seemed to only wear yellow shirts, although the track team had come and gone.
Tatsuki slowed her pace as her next thoughts hit her.
Everyone had come back, acting as though nothing had happened, as though nothing had changed between them. A part of her wondered if that was correct. Maybe nothing had changed. Maybe Tatsuki had just seen more in their friendship than was actually there. Maybe she would never get them back, because they'd never actually been hers.
Tatsuki shook her head and resumed her original pace.
They had been hers though. Ichigo had been her soul mate and as much as she'd been His. Tatsuki was the one who knew all of their secrets, the one who held them as they cried and acted as their rock. She was the one who assured them life was going to work out for the best, that you needed to keep you will firm and just keep going. She was the one who stood up for them when they couldn't stand up for themselves. She smiled and fought for them, would have died for them or lived for them, whichever her saiai had wanted.
She would have danced for him too.
She would have taken her wig off and worn a nice dress.
She would have done almost anything for any of them.
Tatsuki stopped running when she realized it really did hurt. Something in her chest was burning, stabbing, ripping her very soul apart.
The people she'd been running past we standing above her now, one holding her elbow as he guided her to the ground. The other was calling the hospital, trying to remain calm as they waited.
"I'd dare say she's suffering from a broken heart," Dr. Ishida told Mrs. Arisawa. "Her body is working perfectly, no abnormalities in her heart or lungs, nothing in her brain."
Yuuko pursed her lips as she looked in on her daughter. Her beautiful child, not Dougen's or Kaya's, hers. Yuuko had raised her from a tiny little thing, weak, dying in the maternity ward from a small soul. She knew then what she must do. She knew that she needed an heiress and Tatsuki, beautiful little dragon, lonely little moon, had been the one.
"I would destroy all of Seireitei if I thought it might help," Yuuko finally sighed. The doctor made a noise. "Oh please. You knew I was a witch the moment I stepped foot into this hospital."
"I didn't think you would admit it so readily."
The two stood a moment longer, looking through the glass at the young woman.
Dr. Ishida looked at her.
"I'm worried she's going to end up in Shizukami." Yuuko moved closer to the door. "She doesn't belong there, but I fear I have doomed her by making her my own. By stealing her away from death's cold fingers, I have sent her into hell."
Tatsuki jerked awake, panting for breath as her brain caught up to her body. It was cold, much colder than any place aught to be in the middle of spring. It was also dark, pressing in on her very soul, on the air, upon everything. An eternal dusk, always just at the edge of one's vision; she was not in the real world. Even she knew that much.
The woods around her were dead. Trees clinging woefully to black leaves, grasping them as a mother might cling to her child. Nothing was alive in these woods. Perhaps not even Tatsuki. It stank of sorrow and cruelty, of old blood that would never truly go away and decay that had only just ended.
"Shizukami," Tatsuki whispered.
Her mother had warned her about this. About getting involved with mortals, about loving someone and never going after them, about letting loss consume her soul so very deeply. Now Shizukami had her. The Silent God. She would judge Tatsuki, test her...
Tatsuki continued along the dead wood, following a faded path in the dirt. Gray grass crackled under her feet as bone white twigs struck out from the dust. The woods thinned as she went, the scent of decay stronger, until a singular building entered her vision. Plaster had long since crumbled, breaking away to reveal the pale white beams within the wall. The rushes above were rotted stiff, blackened with mold and from them, she could hear the groans of a young woman. Pained and begging and strangely pleasured.
Tatsuki continued along the path, begging, praying she would not go into the house of rot and lust. She did not want to see the woman inside, did not want to know why or what was being done to her.
Thankfully, Tatsuki's path continued past the house. It wound down into a small village. The faded dirt path becoming stronger, paved with pale white stones, as it broke off into different directions. Each winding steam led her to a different house.
One of the houses was boarded up, lonesome and decrepit, ash covered flowers beneath the windows. It was silent within.
The martial artist swallowed, walking closer to the house, though mindful to keep on the path. The closer the moved to the house, the faster her heart beat. Every step echoed through the town, bouncing off of lonely walls and back into Tatsuki's ears. The ash from the flowers fell off, trickling onto the path beneath Tatsuki's feet until she was almost up to her ankles in it. Coach Yamata's house had burned down five years ago, killing everyone inside. Coach, his two sons, his father. Tatsuki knew this house too well, and to see it standing before her tugged at emotions she'd long since buried.
The teen extended her hand, slim fingers reaching for a board, just a graze of the fingertips, that was all she wanted.
That was all she wanted.
A hand extended from the depths of the boarded door, seeking much the same.
Mottled and swollen, it mirrored her own actions, just a touch.
Tatsuki jerked her hand back as the other hand open up. The fingers broke, unnatural in their position as the palm revealed rows upon rows of needle thin teeth. More hands began to extend from the depths of the house, burned and rotting, flesh falling from the bones, all of them reaching for her. Silent in their pleas for touch.
"No," Tatsuki whispered, backing away from the house of ash. "No. No touching."
Touching led to pain and sorrow. Soft touches led to harder touches and tears as people were arrested, dirty eyes accusing. This house had burned down, taking every sinner with it. Every touch it might ever offer, every 'friendly' smile, everything and everyone.
Tatsuki would never let their touch haunt her again. Ever.
Ichigo stood in the waiting room, waiting for visiting hours to begin. He'd ditched Rukia on the way to school; some story about forgetting his paper.
Why didn't she tell him? Why didn't Rukia or Orihime tell him that Tatsuki was dying in the goddamned hospital? The too clean hospital with the too bright lights was eatign away at his nerves. Bleach and cleaners burned his nose, stronger her than at the clinic. The feeling of looming death was stronger as well. He could actually feel people dying here. Some were calm, going int heir sleep, others fighting tooth and nail to keep going.
"Will you calm down?"
Ichigo shot a look at the quincy. At ten last night, Ichigo had gotten a phone call from Ishida. He'd been trying to call all day, ever since he saw Tatsuki fall tot he ground in the park, heartbeat fading as her soul trickled out of her body. Everytime the phone was answered by Yuzu or Karin or Rukia, never anyone who would pass the message on accurately or correctly. Even Isshin would have done, but no matter when Ishida called, he was met by the wrong person.
"I can't." Ichigo did sit. His legged twitched, bouncing on the ball of his foot. "She's not in there. I can't feel her."
"You can't feel her?" Uryuu looked at Ichigo over his glasses. "I knew you were bad at picking up energy, but-"
"Not like that," Ichigo shook his head. "She's...I can't explain it. But she's not in there. Not completely."
The nurse nodded at them, smiling sadly as she did so, before telling them Tatsuki's room number.
Ichigo's face was grim as he made his way through the halls, faster than he may have normally walked, more aggressive in his demeanor. He barely apologized to the nurse he bumped into; Ishida would take care of it. The halls passed in a blur, doors barely registering and the elevator was simply too slow for his liking. His steps didn't even echo through the tiled halls.
He would have stormed into her room too, but Arisawa Yuuko was sitting at her daughter bedside. Very quietly, Ichigo stepped inside, taking the seat opposite the woman as he looked into the face of his...
"You missed quite a bit," Yuuko spoke, interrupting his broken thought.
"I should have been there. I should have been here." He wanted to shake her awake. It wasn't right seeing her like this. She was hooked up to oxygen and all sorts of tubes and machines. Tatsuki was too pale, too still. Her short ebony strands were gone; a thick cable braid rested on her shoulder, reaching to past her knees. Her figure was strange, free of bindings. Why had she been hiding? It hurt. A sudden wash fo guilt hit him as he realized his sin against the woman on the bed.
"Do they know whats wrong?"
"A great many things are wrong, Kurosaki Ichigo." Yuuko shut her book. "The first of which is where my daughter's soul has gone." Ichigo tried not to flinch at the woman's words. "I can't feel it. Her life force yes, but the rest of her...you know what I'm talking about."
"I can have someone search Seireitei," Ichigo finally spoke, voice cracking. "But I would have seen it, I would have felt the path open up."
"She isn't there," Yuuko shook her head. She was more than just sad, she was near to sobbing, very nearly broken. "I know she isn't. Our kind doesn't go there."
Ichigo took his gaze from Tatsuki to stare at Mrs. Arisawa. Unconsciously, he slid his hand into Tatsuki's own, thumb making small circles on her skin. Yuuko had a guilty look on her face.
"Tatsuki was born human," Yuuko spoke. "Human and weak, her heart should have given out within a month. Her parents agreed to give me Tatsuki in exchange for their son's life. I saved her from death, but you know as well as I that she will not be cheated. Not by my kind or yours."
"What is your kind?" Ichigo asked.
"Our kind has no name. We live outside of the cycle of life and death," Yuuko answered. "When one of us tires, we give our very being to the next generation, living on in a new being and a new vessel. My essance had been around for a very long time. In the beginning, I took Tatsuki only as a vessel. I sought to live on through her, to replace her consciousness with my own."
Ichigo didn't need to hear the rest. Yuuko had obviously changed her mind.
"Her life force, the energy that drives her being is my own. I have given myself to her since I took her as my own. When she wakes, I will continue to feed her soul until I am gone."
"Why when she wakes?" Ichigo asked. "Why not now, it could wake her up."
Yuuko shook her head. "No. If I gave her my soul, Shizukami would shift and twist, I would take her from her hell and place her in my own, and I have seen many more evils than she."
The clock ticked.
"How do I go get her?"
"How do I go and get her?" Ichigo asked again. "We know where she is, tell me how to get there so I can bring her back." Ichigo didn't take his gaze from Tatsuki's face. He could feel Yuuko's eyes on him. "Tell me how to get her."
"It will cost you."
Ichigo brushed a strand from her face. Maybe he could talk her into wearing her hair down when she woke up.
"Tonight is a full moon." Yuuko stood from her seat, leaving the book on the bed. "I will return with the items needed for the spell. I suggest you prepare to pay the price."
Yuuko left the room, taking the energy he'd always associated with Tatsuki with her.
Two heartbeats thumped in time with the machinery as Ichigo picked up the book. "Sleep priestess, lie in peace..."
Ichigo was in the second chapter of the book when someone joined him. Ishida had finally entered, carrying a foam cup of coffee for each of them. His rival, the single person who pissed Ichigo off more than anyone and perhaps the only person who had known what he was going into from the beginning was his greatest friend. Ishida pulled Yuuko's chair around to sit next to him.
"Does anyone else know yet?" Ichigo finally asked. The book he'd been reading was terrifying; it was Tatsuki's favorite.
"Orihime just found out," Ishida admitted. "She called, asking why we weren't at school. I would assume she's on her way here now."
Ichigo nodded. Ishida had it bad for the busty redhead. If she'd gone to Ishida that night, shown him a single nuance of affection, he didn't doubt that Ishida would have torn heaven down for Inoue.
"She's most likely going to bring the others."
Ichigo opened the book again. "Everyone has gone to the other side. I have been left all by myself." Orihime came in, quiet as a mouse as Ichigo read, and stood on Tatsuki's other side. The slightest glance showed tear stained cheeks and puffy eyes. Ichigo continued on with the book, barely aware of others coming in or standing outside of the door. "Those who know pain, who know loss of love, shall be engraved with Holly. If I have lost you, I shall willingly bear this mark." Ichigo's heart clenched in his chest. "If it is decided that I can never see you again, then I shall sleep for all eternity." Ichigo closed the book as he recited the final line. "I can save others with the same pain."
It was Rukia who spoke up after his final line.
"It's sad," Orihime countered. "It's more than sad, it's tragic."
"It's her favorite." Ichigo set the book in his lap, returning his hand to Tatsuki's as he looked around those gathered in the room. Aside from himself and Ishida, four others had joined them. Orihime and Rukia first amongst them, along with Chad and an entirely too familiar cat. Ichigo didn't think Yoroichi even knew Tatsuki. He said as much.
"What are you talking about?" A feline nose was stuck in the air. "It just so happens I've been living with her witch of a mother since I came to earth." Yoroichi jumped onto the blankets. "Tatsuki has been my favorite for many years boy."
Ichigo wondered if Tatsuki even knew. Something struck him.
"You said you've been living with them...what can you tell us about Shizukami?" The spirit stiffened on the sheets. "You must have heard of it, and Yuuko-san isn't saying anything about it."
Yoroichi sighed, kitty shoulders sagging as she began to explain just what Shizukami was. The Silent God, the true god of death and rebirth, she was cold and cruel subjecting her agents to a hellish realm built on their own fears and insecurities. If they failed her tests, Shizukami would keep them in her village, either protecting them or punishing them as needed.
"I've never been inside, but it is not uncommon for one of Yuuko's kind to remain within. They succumb to the pain and loss within their hearts or they go mad and become violent, vengeful spirits." Yoroichi looked hard at Ichigo. "That book you're reading is a diary Yuuko-san found on her journey within Shizukami."
"Whose was it?" Orihime asked softly. The story had taken on an entirely new meaning.
"It belonged to Yuuko-san's sister. She didn't make it out."
The white stones echoed hollow beneath her feet as she continued on through the village. The ash had never left after Coach Yamata's husk of a house. Instead, it had followed her, falling hot from the sky as she walked through the village. It burned her skin where it fell, not too badly, but enough for her to feel pain. Let it fall. She had no regrets.
Tatsuki's path led her to a grouping of three burned houses. One on either side, her path refusing to lead her over tot hem, and one straight ahead of her, the path leading straight through. The teen glanced back, breath catching as she saw her path slowly fading behind her. Shizukami wanted her to move forward.
"I guess I don't have a choice," Tatsuki whispered quietly. She could never shout here. It felt wrong to even speak in this silent realm. Tatsuki lifted her foot over the threshold, gasping the moment her foot touched the ground on the other side.
Th ash was falling falling heavier within the house, no longer hot, but icy cold. It was snowing. A falling sensation took a hold of her, pulling her towards the earth and burying her hands in the icy cold. The house around her was gone, replaced by broken tombstones and rotting holly. Stark white surrounded her everywhere, save for the vibrant berries of the bush beside her. Bloody red and sinister, they taunted her, reminded her of life within this realm. A wicked life.
Her sense of balance returned. Tatsuki stood in the snowy field, looking around herself for the village or even a full graveyard. A single home stood in the distance, a great shadow in this everlasting dusk. All around it's base, reddish orange lanterns glowed with the same wickedness and lust the berries held. But while the holly berries tempted her, the lanterns demanded, piercing the cool depths of the sky and illuminating the shadowy manor in spike of vibrant light. The more she looked at the house, the more details Tatsuki could make out.
This was Tsuki's hell. Detailed so vaguely in her diary, and yet Tatsuki had dreamed of this house often when she was young. It didn't make any sense, and yet, it did. Tatsuki had always felt a bond with her lost aunt. Their situations were always too similar, their loves lost to them, leaving them alone and in danger. Once upon a time, she'd dreamed of rescuing her lost aunt.
Tatsuki shivered as a bitter wind blew against her skin.
"Yeah, I'm coming."
Tatsuki continued along the white stone path, noticing that the stones were changing every so slightly, cracks and ridges becoming exposed until several of them were obvious skulls. The cracks in the skulls became wider, thick liquid sticking the Tatsuki's soles with every step she took. The snow continued to fall, pure white until it hit the path and dissolved into crimson droplets.
The path up to the house smoothed out once more, ivory bones turning into slabs of granite as it led up up to the manor's front door.
No hand reached out for her. Her path remained behind her, leading into nothingness and shadow. She could hear whispered screams in both directions. Maddened and pained screams and even laughter could be heard all around her.
The teen extended her hand to the wrought iron door handle and pulled it open before entering the manor.
It was not warm within the house, nor was it cold. A steady coolness clung to the air and the wood. The reddish light from the yard seemed to come from the very walls in here, though it was dim and lesser than the lanterns. The room itself was strange, an open ceiling leading to an inky black sky above her. The snow she'd known only moments before was gone.
She rather wished it might come back.
A mound of earth and broken graves were collected in the center of the courtyard, stacked upon one another in a mess. Bars of rusted steel and ivory poked out from the soil.
Tatsuki moved closer to the mound of graves, a glinting object at the base of the pile had caught her eye. A clean shaft of steel was buried in the dirt. A modern switchblade, left behind by some other heiress on her journey. The edge was sharp thankfully, and the five inch blade -while short- was better than nothing in this world.
Tatsuki stood, bringing the blade up with her as she did so. A door stood on the other end of the courtyard, old an ancient, as decrepit as the wood she awoke in. the cold wind was pushing her towards the door, this time bringing the painfully cold snow with it. Though the door appeared fragile, it slid upon easy enough, strong despite its age and appearance.
Unlike the graveyard she'd just passed through, the room she entered was not dead. Veins of blue and red liquid were trickling down the walls to the floor, pooling on the floor. The floor was drinking it in, pulsing beneath her feet as her heart beat in her chest. The entrance hall was nearly empty with two doors at each end and a small hearth directly in front of her.
She did not want to look in the hearth, but Tsuki's diary had mentioned it many times, there had to be a reason it was here.
Tatsuki moved forward, blade still in hand as she knelt on the floor to look inside. Nothing.
Nothing at all.
Tatsuki glanced around the room before patting herself down. She'd tucked her ID into the waistband of her jogging skapri's, along with a five yen note and her keys. The martial artist placed her id within the hearth; she would not come out of this the same woman, why pretend she might? She stood after closing the door to the hearth, noting that the room around her had changed ever so slightly.
A flash of orange hair and black robes caught her attention. The sound of steel being drawn rang throughout the hall, even though the figure was out of sight.
"What the hell?" Tatsuki took a step back, wondering if she'd really seen Ichigo walking down the hall to her right. "Ichigo?"
There was no sound save her heartbeat.
The grief that does not speak, whispers to the o'er fraught heart and bids it break.