Hi! I'm Captain Hair. You may know me from my first story - Strawberry Fix. You may not. Either way, you could check that out too!

This was actually one of the ideas I had while I was halfway through my first story, but then I realized someone had a similar idea, so I scratched this. But after throwing out other ideas, I decided to return to this one. The chapters wouldn't be as long as my first story, cause I want to experiment with that.

Basically, it's an AU where Ichigo isn't born in the modern world, but died and went to Soul Society 100 years ago. He was sent to Inuzuri, so you can expect who he'll meet. There will be IchiRuki, but it wouldn't be that soon because I'll be starting out at when they were just kids, then moving through the academy and so on. I plan to dedicate the first few chapters to their life in Inuzuri, because I think it's a fun part to explore with.

But how will the bleach universe change? Will Ichigo get Vizard powers? How would he fare being an official Gotei 13 member? I haven't thought that far yet, because I don't know how well this story will be received. I hope it will do at least as well as my first story.

So, read on! And when you're done, please do take the time to review. Thanks! And if you've any suggestions, you can tell me as well!

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach. Nuff' said.

Prologue: Life in the Afterlife

The little orange-haired boy had no idea what just happened. One moment, he was walking alongside his mother. Then, she screamed; a flash of pain, and he collapsed to the floor. He looked up, and saw a huge creature hulking over his mother. That scared the… well, not living, daylights out of him.

A white mask covered its face. It had a huge, terrifying grin that stretched to both sides of its face. The eyes were two red glowing slits and it had a row of black spots directly below its eyes. There was a weird tentacle-like thing hanging from its forehead.

The boy screamed, forgetting the pain in his chest, attracting the creature's attention. Shocked, and terrified, the boy began backing up, but just as the creature started to approach, someone shouted, "Back off you bastard!"

A young man in a black kimono sailed past the boy and attacked the creature with a katana in his hand. He swung, but the creature leapt away.

As the man fought the creature, the boy crawled over to his mother, motionless and face down on the ground. As he did that, the pain in his chest made him look down, and he was shocked to see a chain attached to his chest. It wasn't connected to anything.

Biting back tears of pain, he reached his mother. She was lying in a pool of blood. Kneeling beside her, he shook her gently. "Oka-san… Oka-san…" but she didn't move. Just then, he noticed someone under her, half covered by her protective embrace. He looked closer – and got another shock. He was looking at himself! So what was he doing moving around? The figure looked asleep, except for the trail of blood on his face.

He shook his mother again. "Oka-san… Wake up. You're squashing me." As a kid, he didn't stop to consider how weird that sounded. She didn't respond. He didn't understand why she wasn't responding. She always did.

A few seconds later, the boy heard movement in front of him. He whipped his head up, afraid that the creature was back. Instead, he saw the man in the black kimono walking towards him. One of his sleeves was bloody, but he looked otherwise fine.

The man knelt beside the boy, and the latter watched him nervously, afraid he might attack.

"Is it gone?" he asked timidly.

"Yes. It escaped," the man said briskly. He sounded angry at himself.

"Who are you?" the boy said as he looked at the man's katana in awe.

"I'm a Shinigami. I'm supposed to hunt down creatures like that one. I was too late to stop it though," the man said.

"But you chased it away. Can you wake my Oka-san up? She's still sleeping and she's squashing me," the boy said, gesturing at his body.

The man didn't move. "I'm sorry kid, your Oka-san is… she's dead, and so are you. That Hollow killed her."

At this, the boy burst into tears. "No! She's just sleeping! Oka-san! Oka-san!"

The man was now by the boy's side, trying to calm him down. "It's ok, it's ok. You should be happy for her. She'd just… moved on to a better place."

It was awhile before the boy finally calmed down. He looked at the man, still with tears in his eyes. "Oni-san, if I'm dead, then why am I here and Oka-san isn't?"

The man looked taken aback. "Well, that's because she's… she's going to be reincarnated into a good life!"

"Can I join her?"

He seemed to hesitate. "Uh, I'm sorry kid, you can't. It's um… you're too young. You can't be reincarnated just yet."

Years, many years later, the boy would know that the shinigami was lying to him, but with good reason too. I mean, which child would accept that their mother's soul just got consumed by a Hollow? But for now, he accepted that decision.

"So do I stay here?"

"You can't. I'm supposed to send you to the Soul Society."

"What's that?"

"It's the afterlife, for people like you. It's a very nice place, where everyone is friendly, and you won't go hungry ever!"

"Sound like fun! Will I see my Oka-san there?"

"…Maybe." The Shinigami unsheathed his sword, scaring the boy slightly, but he then pointed the hilt of the sword at the boy. "Just one more thing. What's your name kid?" he asked curiously.

The boy stared at the sword nervously before replying. "Ichigo. Kurosaki Ichigo."

Before long, Ichigo found himself in a village. It looked similar to his, except for one glaring difference – it was in a horrible state of squalor and filthiness. The houses were dilapidated and in various states of decay; some collapsed, some abandoned.

He looked round, uncertain of where he should go next. When that shinigami had described Soul Society, this wasn't what he had in mind.

More importantly, he was alone now, without family or money. He vaguely wondered about his mother and where she was right now. What was he going to do?

Eventually, Ichigo decided that he had to move somewhere, anywhere. Right now, the street he was on was deserted. He decided to check the first house he came across that didn't look like it was going to collapse at any second.

When he finally did, he slid the door open and looked round. The interior conditions were only a slight improvement from outside. There was a middle-aged man sitting on a stool, his back to Ichigo and a boiling pot of water beside him.

"Um, excuse me, oji-san…" he said.

The man froze and turned to look at Ichigo. His dirty face grew steadily angrier until he gave a snarl and brandished a deba bōchō at him. "What are you doing here? I'm not sharing this water! Get out or I'll kill you!"

Shocked, Ichigo didn't move, until the man got up and began advancing on him, which was enough to force poor Ichigo to bolt.

This went on for a few days. He got kicked or threatened out of every inhabited house he entered. He didn't understand why. He tried asking nicely, especially to any kids he came across, but they would shun him and/or chase him away. Finding a place to stay was almost no different.

At least that shinigami was right. He didn't go hungry, not because he had a lot to eat; he didn't need to eat, and he still didn't feel hungry despite having gone without food ever since he came to Soul Society. The one thing he did need was water, and he quickly realized that like the Living World, money talked.

Well, there was also stealing. It seemed like a way of life for kids; no one ever stopped them. One day, he witnessed a few boys working together to steal water. Sadly, when he tried to approach them, they chased him away again. Eventually, he realized that for someone like him – a loner, and a kid to boot, stealing was the only way he was going to survive. No one took pity on you. You had to work to survive.

It took him awhile to muster the courage and dispel his fear of getting caught, but when he did, he realized that it was relatively easy. He managed to slip away undetected most of the time, and whenever he got caught, he could run away. He didn't look like it, but he was fast, usually able to give his victims the slip.

He also had some martial arts training back in the living world. It wasn't much, but at least he wasn't completely defenseless, although he hoped he'd never have to use it.

After awhile, he did start to feel hungry, but getting food was much like getting water, the only difference being that food sellers were more vicious when it came to defending their wares. They didn't pose much problem for him though.

And so, Ichigo eventually became more and more independent, adapting to the style of living here, his mind maturing much faster than his physical body showed. Life was harsh, he'd admit.

He stole everything he needed, except for shoes. No one he saw ever wore footwear of any kind. He moved from place to place, staying in abandoned houses or alleys, never staying in one place permanently.

He was a loner – he found that he worked best alone; groups tended to have at an individual who was a liability to them.

It wasn't always plain-sailing. Sometimes, people tried to steal from him. That wasn't a problem given his speed, but he wasn't immune to failure. For an unarmed, inexperienced kid like him, you just didn't argue with armed individuals when they cornered you.

But every time he spotted a group of kids, it never failed to make him feel left out and all alone in this place.

Sometimes, he wondered what it would be like to have a companion; someone he could talk to, survive and harass adults with. A friend. He supposed that there were kind souls out there, but so far, he hadn't spotted any. Surely not all kids would be hostile towards him. But after getting rejected a few times early on, he didn't see the need to try again.

Being a loner, he could go days without talking to anyone. Although it wasn't required for survival, he couldn't deny it was depressing at times.

Even self-proclaimed loners are bound to have friends at some point in their lives. Ichigo was no different, and it was through strange circumstances that he met his first.

It was a bad day. Ichigo had woken up in an abandoned hut that was his current home in a sullen mood. Why, he had no idea. All he knew was that he woke up wondering if life could be any better. Surely not all the districts were in as bad a condition as this was.

Then, the foul streak continued. First, he tried to steal some onigiri from a vendor. He was quiet, he was sure of it, yet the man managed to catch him red-handed. Enraged, the man gave chase, and Ichigo would normally have no problems running away, but this time, he tripped and was nearly caught, forcing him to abandon his loot.

Just a stroke of bad luck right? He tried again awhile later, this time managing to escape by running into an alley. He waited there for a few minutes, eager to return to his makeshift home to enjoy his meal. Unfortunately, when he emerged, he found three youths – all boys and all taller and meaner looking than him, blocking the exit.

The one in the middle – probably the leader, smirked at Ichigo. "Thanks for getting us our food. Now hand it over."

Ichigo scowled. Normally, he would've given in to avoid a confrontation, but this time, he was in a bad mood, so he wasn't inclined to surrender without a fight.

Suddenly, one of the youths pitched forward and fell flat on his face. Surprised, all heads turned to look, and Ichigo saw a raven-haired girl that looked no older than him standing on the fallen youth's back. Stunned, the other two bullies gaped at her, and that was all the distraction Ichigo needed.

Freeing his hands, he swept the leader's feet from beneath him. He winced at the impact, but it was enough to send the bully to the ground.

At seeing his leader down, the remaining bully charged at Ichigo. He threw a fist, and Ichigo raised his hand to block it. Unfortunately for him, his physical body was only that of a 9-10 year old, and the impact was harder than he expected.

Ichigo yelped in pain. The bully threw his other fist at Ichigo, who still had the presence of mind to duck aside. At the same time, the girl pounced onto the bully's back, and her added force plus the bully's momentum sent him pitching forward as well.

Shocked that they'd won, Ichigo didn't notice the leader recovering, until the girl grabbed his arm. "Don't just stand there, let's go!" Ichigo didn't protest, and they high-tailed it out of there.

"What's your name?" the girl asked him as she handed one of two onigiri to Ichigo. She had salvaged them after Ichigo had dropped them.

"Kurosaki Ichigo," he replied. He was checking his hand to see if anything was broken. They were now sitting in the sanctuary of his makeshift home. "You?" She seemed alright to him. After all, she'd just come to his aid.

"Rukia," she replied, helping herself to the other rice ball. Ichigo didn't stop her.

"That's a nice name. Just Rukia?"

She nodded. "I never knew my family name."

"Oh, that sucks. How about you use mine?" Ichigo said with a smile, his 9-yr old brain not realizing what he was implying.

Similarly, neither did she. "No thanks. I've been here for quite awhile now. I'm fine with just being called Rukia."

"Why did you help me earlier?" he asked curiously.

She looked away. "I don't like seeing bullies picking on kids."

"In that case, thanks."

She shrugged nonchalantly. "I could've taken them all myself, but it's refreshing to see someone who can at least put up a half decent fight."

"Hey! What do you mean half decent? I took down the leader all by myself!" he protested.

She smirked back. "Yeah, and you were screaming like a girl back there."

He wanted to retort, but chose to hold back. After all, he hadn't had a proper conversation in awhile, and he didn't want to scare or anger her, afraid she might leave.

"How long have you been here?" Rukia asked.

"I'm not sure. A few weeks? I lost track awhile back."

She looked surprised. "That's… interesting. You seemed to have adapted well. Most kids that come here are usually defenseless and can't fend for themselves."

"Well, I had to, if I wanted to survive."

They sat in silence for a moment, until Rukia spoke up. "Hey, how about you join me?"

"Join you?" Ichigo parroted.

"Yeah. I move alone too, but I think we can work better together, especially since you seem to be able to take care of yourself."

Ichigo considered this for all but one second before he smiled. "Sure! It's boring being alone too."

"I managed to," she pointed out. "But I see what you mean. Just don't come crying to me when you get hurt."

"Hey! I don't cry! I bet I could beat you in a fight."

Rukia smiled with a gleam in her eye. "Go ahead. Try me."

Ichigo seemed ready to, but he eventually backed down under her challenging stare.

"I thought so."

So there you have it. It's only the prologue, but I hope you guys like it.

To explain some of the details - The Hollow description at the start was Grand Fisher, if you couldn't tell, but instead of him evading Soul Society for 50 years, but here, he starts out right about this time too.

Rukia died about 150 years ago as a baby. So if she grew up from there, she would roughly look like a 9-10 year old at this point. As for the family name part, that was just for fun.

So this is the first chapter. If you wish to know my reasoning for certain stuff, tell me, and I'll get back to you either by PM or the next chapter.

Till then, I hope you guys can review, and I'll have more soon!