Title: Turnabout
Rating: T
Bleach and all associated characters, settings, concepts, etc. within this story do not belong to me.
Warning: Some disturbing themes in this chapter, but nothing more intense than the Bleach manga

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Rukongai: Lilynette

It didn't take long before the nameless girl came to a disheartening realization: living in Rukongai sucked.

The 62nd District was far from the worst place to appear (that dubious honor was reserved for District 80- Zaraki), but that didn't mean it was hospitable or an easy place to live, especially for a new soul with no family, friends, or connections. Not to mention her need for sustenance, something that set her apart from the other souls (new and old) right from the start.

Since most Rukongai residents were not capable of feeling intense hunger due to their low levels of reiatsu, food was mainly viewed as a luxury item rather than a necessity. It was scarce and expensive, reserved for the rich, influential, and feared. Anyone outside of those roles who claimed to feel hunger was looked on with suspicion and distrust because high levels of reiatsu, if left untrained, tended to cause trouble for, and sometimes bodily harm to, everyone around the wielder.

But no one told her that.

All she knew was that she'd awoken famished and, a week later, she still hadn't gotten any food…which really wasn't fair because the people who already had it didn't even need it!

It didn't matter what she said or did; she'd tried demanding, yelling, asking, whining, pleading, cajoling…everyone simply passed her by, shaking their heads or shooting suspicious looks in her direction. If she attempted to confront any particular soul, that person's 'family' would rise up and drive her away, sometimes violently. No one was in the same isolated position she held; even younger souls, who appeared the same day or after, were quickly adopted when they wandered into town.

That brought her to her second big problem: companionship.

The green haired girl tried to find a family of her own, but it didn't go very well. Originally, one or two groups were willing to humor her and listen to her clumsy overtures at friendship, but it turned out she had rather exacting standards. Compromise wasn't a concept she understood, and when anyone disagreed with her opinions or challenged her in any way (friendly or hostile); she became loud, angry, and sometimes violent. Anyone who wasn't put off by her high levels of reiatsu and appetite immediately turned the other way when they encountered her attitude.

She didn't understand why exactly they didn't like her, but would not have reacted any differently if she had. Why should she change herself, or try to be someone she wasn't, just to make them happy? She was who she was (even if she didn't remember her name) and if they didn't like it, then that was their problem.

(The belief in unconditional acceptance as a family value was something she automatically held and took for granted. How could family act any other way?)

Unfortunately, the lack of good company did nothing to quench her desire for companions. She canvassed the entire town next to the forest she'd woken up in, meeting (and subsequently alienating) every local she could find. As time ticked by and her search proved fruitless, she pushed into neighboring towns and villages with increasing desperation.

She needed someone, but no one felt right. They just didn't fit.

Her methods of 'searching' quickly escalated, becoming extravagant and reckless in an attempt to draw the attention of someone…anyone…who would see her and think 'friend' rather than 'menace'. Risks became common- it was routine for her to balance on peaked roofs, climb trees that were far too high, or verbally provoke thugs and bandits too big and nasty for her to handle alone.

With her attitude, it might have been easier to just attempt to 'go it alone', but there was a lurking fear in her heart that if she stopped looking, something bad would happen. It was the same feeling she got when she searched for food – it would have been easier to just go hungry, get used to the emptiness and subsist on what scraps she could find, but she just had the feeling that something very, very bad would happen if she didn't try to fill the hunger.

It was something she couldn't explain, even to herself.

Eventually, perhaps two weeks after she first appeared, she discovered something that, with a little work, would hopefully solve both of her problems: a bar called Kiko's that straddled the border of 62 and 63. It didn't sell actual food (only high-end, expensive places touted that luxury) but it provided a steady stream of new people she could search for companions, and a 'unique' way of acquiring sustenance.

Sixty-two was relatively peaceful compared to the outer districts, but a hive of villainy and cut throats against the lower numbers. Many bandits came in from 65-75 to sell their loot, confident they wouldn't be reported to the authorities or murdered for their wares. They weren't the smartest or the best trained bunch (that group tended to stick to the higher districts and trade their acquisitions in 70-72) but they were big, mean, and well-armed: more than enough to convince most locals to stay away from them.

The girl was not a normal local.

When her pleas (demands) for food went unanswered, she turned to theft as an answer to her problem. Size and weapons didn't faze her; if her target was big, that meant he was slow, and if he was armed, that meant his running stance would be awkward. She relied on speed and agility for safety, confident in her abilities and in the stupidity of the bandits which kept them chasing her even after she proved they couldn't catch up. Most of her thefts ended that way; the chase was exhilarating (although she'd rather be the one doing the chasing) and she always outran them, coming to a halt, breathless and triumphant, in the forest near where she'd woken up.

Sometimes, that's how it ended.

Other times, she would automatically turn, a gloating comment on the tip of her tongue, to talk to…

…No one.

There was never anyone there, and those times she ended her night sleeping in the forest, feeling more empty and alone than ever.

The problem with being a thief, especially one that depends on the stupidity of others, is that inevitably you will steal from the wrong person: someone who is strong, mean, and vengeful enough to hold a grudge and not give up after the first fruitless chase. If you don't have the physical abilities and training to win in a straight fight against such a person, choosing the wrong mark can be deadly.

For the green-haired girl, her first major complication occurred two months after her appearance in Rukongai. A week before, she'd managed to steal a box of crackers from a bandit at Kiko's. To her, it was a feast. She'd eaten half the box in one night and rationed the rest – for a few days, the precious crackers kept her hunger away. She hadn't even cared about the chase or the identity of her mark.

That was a mistake.

Ritoshin Jalk was a small time bandit lord in West Rukongai, infamous for the curved sickle he used to disembowel his victims and a nasty scar on his throat, an old injury that made his voice sound like he was eternally gargling gravel. Some whispered that he had received it from the legendary Zaraki Kenpachi, who had passed through Ritoshin's land on his way to Seireitei. The bandit lost the fight but survived, a claim no other man could make. The roads from 60 to 70 were widely accepted as his territory and he prowled the area with a disturbing single-minded focus. He preferentially targeted young females traveling between the districts, killing their male companions and taking them prisoner. No one knew what he did to them, but they were rarely seen again.

Normally, he stayed within that area, sending his minions out as proxies to barter away his loot in return for luxuries such as food, gems, and gold.

The girl from 62 had been unfortunate enough to steal from Jalk's proxy. The crackers she'd so enjoyed had been destined for the bandit's dinner plate. When his subordinate returned with the humiliating news that a female child bested him, Jalk knew such embarrassment had to be repaid in kind. After making an example of the unlucky man who brought him the news, the bandit lord set out in person to ascertain his revenge.

The girl had no idea there was anything special going on that day. She was hungry again and hoped the man with the crackers would be back so she could steal another meal. When the sun began to set and there was still no sign of him, she decided to settle instead on a buffoonish looking stranger with long blond hair, a back-pack, and a stutter. He was obviously from the lower districts and probably lost (if the deer-in-headlights expression on his face was anything to go by). She wasn't the only one to notice; there were at least five bandits also eying the stranger's bulky pack.

She would have to be fast and inconspicuous if she wanted to get it first.

Creeping into the crowd was the easy part (she was so small that they probably wouldn't notice her if she walked in) but then came her least favorite aspect of the evening: waiting for the chance to strike. Patience was NOT her strong suit. However, inspired by the idea of food (or money to buy food) she managed to crouch silently beneath a neighboring table until the traveler was nodding off over his sake, exhaustion and alcohol getting the best of him. Then she darted beneath his table and slowly drew the pack under with her. Experience had taught her that inspecting the contents now would be a bad idea – others who had been eyeing the pack would notice its absence – so she lifted it out and shifted into the shadows, sidling away as inconspicuously as possible. It wasn't her most graceful exit, so she was pleasantly surprised when no one noticed her.

She stuck to the shadows, too invested in her loot tonight to hope for a chase. So focused was she on her package, that she didn't notice as the streets became steadily more vacant the closer she got to the edge of town, or that the few people still out were jumpy and wide-eyed. Shutters were pulled closed, lights were dim, and doors, even those of stores and communal buildings, were locked against the night. None of them concerned her…she lived in the forest outside of town and that was her goal.

She didn't make it.

The nameless girl came to a halt just inside the final row of buildings, eyeing the strange character standing before her with confusion and wariness. Backlit by the setting sun, she couldn't make out many details beyond his silhouette. He was of average height, but thick with muscle around the neck and arms. In one hand, he bore a long curved sword and in the other…was that a hook? His eyes seemed to shine in the dying light and she realized with a shiver that he was looking directly at her.

"So you're the thief." His voice rasped horribly, as if he was trying to speak through a throat full of marbles.

"Uh…" She edged away, clutching the bulky pack to her chest. "I'm not…"

"A girl with green hair." He began to walk towards her, movements swift and sure. "Tiny. Skinny. Maybe twelve years old."

She found herself backing up, unconsciously quickening her steps and trying not to stumble on the unpaved road. As he came out of the glare, his features became more obvious: craggy, weathered skin and long, oily black hair were not nearly as eye-catching as the numerous scars marring his face and a long, red slice across his neck- badly healed and obviously the source of his speaking problems.

"Arrogant. Greedy. Presumptuous." His voice lowered into a growl. "Willing to steal what is mine."

"H-hey…I never stole from you…" She'd definitely remember him. She might be reckless, but she wasn't suicidal.

Her shoulders hit something solid and she realized he'd backed her straight into one of the buildings. Breathing beginning to quicken from nerves, she edged sideways (still refusing to take her eyes off him), trying to find the boundary so she could run. There was no way he'd beat her in a straight sprint…

He smirked nastily, the expression pulling at his scars and contorting his face into something even more disturbing.

"I didn't say it was from me. But it was still mine, little girl."


She hadn't found the edge yet, but he was getting closer far too fast. She was going to have to take her chances with a blind dash. Maybe if she threw something in his way, she'd be able to-.

"And I'm here to take back my possessions. With interest."

"I don't-" She cleared her throat, eying his sword nervously. Her muscles were taught and ready to dash at a moment's notice. "I don't have your stuff."

"Hm." A slow smile spread across his face in pure enjoyment of what was to come, but his eyes stayed dead black, emotionless and calculating. "Then I will take its price from your hide."

He lunged, striking out with the blade, but the girl twisted down and to the left, throwing her hard-won loot at his face and spinning to flee. He pulled back with a curse, knocking the pack out of his path with one easy swipe. The girl put her few seconds head start to good use, fleeing down the wall and towards the town.

Only to run head-on into a dead end.

He'd backed her into a closed alley and she hadn't even realized it. The wall was at least ten feet tall and smooth; too high to jump and too sheer to climb.

"Where are you going, thief?" He rasped, now standing at the mouth of the alley. She backed away, but there was nowhere to go.

As he advanced, she began to tremble.

"I-I never hurt you!"


"What…I could get your thing back!"

"No." He plodded forward, taking pleasure from her obvious fear.

"But you won't get any payment if I'm dead!" Her voice trembled an embarrassing amount, but she was too frantic to notice. There had to be a way out…there had to be…!

"Maybe." He came to a leisurely stop a couple feet away, eying her from head to toe with an anticipatory smirk. "But I think this will be much more…satisfying."

Her blood ran cold.

When he reached forward with the sickle, running it almost gently along her shoulder towards her neck, she realized the weapon was still wet with fresh, red blood.

"Get away from me!"

She lunged desperately, trying to dodge past him to freedom, but he turned with equal speed and kicked out hard enough for her to feel something crack in her leg, knocking her to the ground on her hands and knees with a pained yelp. Then the breath 'whooshed' from her lungs as one huge boot crashed down on her back, forcing her all the way down and grinding her inexorably into the muck and dirt of the alleyway.

"Not this time, little girl."

Pinned and helpless, she kicked and scratched at everything she could reach, ignoring the pain in her leg, and yelled as well as she could with a weight forcing the air from her small body.

"Get off me! Help! Someone…anyone…HELP ME!" Her words echoed in the empty streets. If anyone could hear her, they ignored her.

No one cared. No one would help! She couldn't…it couldn't end like this! Not after everything! She hadn't even found a family yet!

The bandit looming over her threw back his head and laughed, a horrible grating sound that sent shivers down her spine and stilled her thrashing.

"Do you know who I am?"

He leaned over, applying more weight to her back and pinning her with an expectant stare. When she only glared furiously, he pressed his heel down until she whimpered in pain.

"I am Ritoshin Jalk, and this territory is mine." He reached down with the hook, waving it in front of her face with obvious intent. Her eyes dilated and breathing sped up as she realized this was it. This was really happening. "And I think you will make a perfect example for what happens to those who defy me."


She watched as he held the weapon up to the light, as if admiring its wicked point.

This can't happen. It CAN'T. I won't LET it.

But she couldn't move, and Ritoshin was smirking and bringing the hook down until it was level with her left eye.

Help me. Please, someone, anyone…help me…

She remembered that presence that had never been there, the one that would protect her, that did not exist, and screamed.


Something snapped.

And the alley exploded into blue light.

Author's Notes:

Everyone say: "Hello Jalk!"

I normally try to avoid original characters while writing fanfiction, but sometimes they are necessary, especially when the canon characters are hundreds of miles away and/or in different dimensions. Fun fact: the 'bandit lord' was originally going to be named 'Jak', but I decided that wasn't intimidating enough. He..uh…turned out a bit more evil than I'd intended. Like generic bad guy level 3 to twisted bastard level 8. But I didn't include what happened to the unfortunate minion! You should probably be happy about that, especially since I originally intended to keep that scene in…

This chapter is shorter than it was supposed to be, but my inspiration just sort of died in the middle of writing. Since it's the transition that seems to be the problem, I decided to split the chapter in two rather than forcing the situation. Besides, this is a natural stopping point, even it isn't the one I was aiming for. And I'm guessing you guys would prefer an update as soon as possible (if I held on to it, it would probably take another 2-4 weeks).

Oh, and…Starrk's back next chapter! Yay!

Reviewer Questions:

Question: Will I be taking into account recent developments and reveals from the manga?
Answer: No. Just…no. In fact, keeping up with the manga is slowly draining away my interest in Bleach altogether. The new direction is just…ugh.

Please Review & let me know what you think!

Reviews are a great source of encouragement and inspiration – I'm always happy to hear your input!