Things start a rolling yup yup!

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I woke up and I was dying.

At least, that's what it felt like. Imagine being freezing cold, on fire, under a two ton rock and punched repeatedly in the face. That's what it was like. Actually, multiply that feeling by ten, and add being skinned alive to the list. To sum it all up, I felt like shit and I'm positive that I was dying.

My back arched and an inhuman scream tore through my throat. Tears leaked through my eyes (I've never had a very high tolerance to pain), and I felt a hand tenderly wipe them away. A similar hand was placed over my gaping mouth as I screamed and cried.

"Kaede, calm down," said a voice. I could recognize that voice anywhere. Tensa.

I sobbed and thrashed, desperate for the paint go away. Everything hurt and I was screaming because why wasn't it stopping and why wasn't I dead-

"Oh no you don't!" Someone else growled. "You check out on us again and I'm kicking your ass!" Hichigo. He was here too? Familiar hands held my shoulders down as I spasmed. "Ichigo, grab her legs!" He ordered.

A door opened and a stampede of feet came in just as hands forced my legs to the ground. I moaned, I screamed, I cried. I might have bitten Tensa, but if I did, he showed no signs of it.

"What the hell is happening to her?!" Ichigo screamed. He sounded scared. If I weren't being skinned alive, I would have tried to comfort him. I opened my mouth to tell him that it was all right, but a scream was all that came out.

Suddenly, all of those familiar hands were gone and I was alone. My terror rose as I heard shouts and grunts of pain over my own sobs. I heard my boys cry my name, desperate and pleading. Where were they? I needed them and they needed me.

My pain would always come second. Get up, I thought. Get up! I shrieked as pain washed over my in a torrent, drowning out my thoughts. The shouts were renewed and suddenly I was surrounded. But the hands were unfamiliar and they forced me down. Their touch burned, and I hollered and yelled but they didn't stop. I screamed for my friends.

"What are you doing? Stop!"

"You're hurting her!"

"Get the fuck off of her you sick bastards!"

Hmm, I wonder which one was Hichigo.

The hands, or at least a pair of them, fiddled with something at my throat and something slid into my skin. I hardly noticed against the crushing pressure that surrounded me.

But then… it was gone. The pain faded away like a wave receding back into the ocean. Slowly, slowly… I breathed in deep, body heaving as I struggled for air. My throat felt like a feral cat had used it as a scratching post. "What…" I panted, "the fuck." And then I started to cry again, my body shaking as big fat tears trailed down my cheeks.

"Can you open your eyes?" A voice said, harsh and cold. Huh, I didn't even know that my eyes were shut. I slowly blinked them open to see a face hovering over mine. A stunning light quickly blinded me from anything else. It focused on my left eye, then moved over to my right before being replaced by a slim, glove-covered finger. "Follow my finger, please," he monotone. I wanted to smack him, but my limbs felt like jelly and I had no energy. Obediently, I followed the digit until he stood. I glanced around, noticing about five other people surrounding me, dressed in black with a blue sash wrapped around their shoulder.

"She's fine. It's a reaction to the reiatsu, as expected. The collar should continue to inject the formula the 12th division produced." The man who attended to me said. I opened my mouth to question him, but Ichigo beat me to it.

"What the hell are you talking about?" He shouted. I managed to flop my head in their general direction, too exhausted to move anything else. The three boys were being held against the wall with swords to their throats. My eyes widened as fear flooded my system once again.

Tensa stood calmly in the restraining arms of a giant man with a… wolfs head? Calm down, Kaede; prioritize, I thought vaguely, trying not to stare at his ears. Boys first, check your boys. Tensa looked at me, before turning his stunning gaze to the other people in the room.

Hichigo was held against the wall, having required two men to restrain him. One sword was level with his throat while the other stretched across his stomach. He must have struggled, I thought, seeing the crimson line across his throat and the blood that dripped down the weapons edge. His fists were clenched at his sides, blood dripping from his palms. The two men holding him seemed cautious. Well, at least the dark haired one did, the guy with the weird hair clips. The hulk with the spiked hair and the bells seemed absolutely pleased with himself.

I was shifting my gaze to analyze Ichigo's situation when I instead locked eyes with a familiar icy stare. "You," I whispered. The boy crouched beside me. His hair was like Hichigo's, but spiky (or spikier), and his skin was a nice tan. He looked a few years older than Karin, but his eyes seemed even older.

My kidnapper.

He held a small cup of water to my lips. "Drink," he commanded. I allowed the cool liquid to slide down my throat after giving him a long stare, and I had to resist crying out as it brushed my hot throat. Screaming really worked up a sweat. He pulled away when the cup was empty. "How are you feeling?"

I looked away, turning my gaze to the white ceiling. After glancing around at the walls, I realized that this whole room was white. I was going to go fucking batshit if they kept me in here for long. "Like I got hit by a semi," I finally whispered. I forced myself to roll over and moaned in pain. My muscles ached, and I wasn't offered any help. Not that I would have accepted it. After a few moments struggle in silence, I pushed myself to my knees, where I took a couple deep breaths before sitting back on the balls of my feet. I glanced at the boy beside me. He wore the same outfit as them, but instead of a blue sash he wore a white haori. "'What just happened to me?" I asked him.

He ignored me and gestured to the others in the room. "Captain-Commander wants to see them. I'll bring Subject 4." The order was followed in silence, except for the mutterings of the bell wearing man. I heard something about a rematch and munchkins. As they moved, I saw that a man with spikey red hair had detained Ichigo. The stranger glowered at me before shoving my protesting friend through a door. Guess what color it was?

Hichigo jumped at his attackers, his palm showering the ground in red as he tried to push the blade away. "Hichigo, stop," I said. I was slightly surprised when he did, staring at me with desperation. I know that my own expression mirrored his as the two men took the chance to shove him through the door. "Please, don't hurt them!" I called out, watching as my last hope, in the form of Tensa, was taken away from me.

When they were gone, and the twin's voices had faded, I slumped, a hand going to my throat. I blinked in surprise when I felt a smooth metal band there, like… a collar…

She's fine. It's a reaction to the reiatsu, as expected. The collar should continue to inject the formula the 12th division produced.

Feeling a moment of panic, I struggled with the sturdy piece of metal until a small hand gripped my own and pulled it away.

"That band is the only reason you aren't on the floor screaming," my kidnapper said. He gripped my upper arm and pulled me to my feet with surprising strength. "Come. We are going to meet the Commander."

"Commander of what?" I asked, wobbling unsteadily on my legs. The boy ignored my question, walking to the door. After a moment, I followed, and we walked through together. The room we entered was dark except for the fifty million computer screens working as light. People went to and fro, a few of them stopping to stare at me. Considering a lot of them didn't look remotely human, it was uncomfortable to say the least. These people wore white robes, and aversion to the black I had seen all the other people wear.

God, what's with all the white?

The boy opened two double doors and I was bathed in natural light. I covered my eyes for a moment until they adjusted, and then I gaped in awe. The sky was a bright blue, riddled with puffy white clouds. The buildings in my immediate area were made of wood with paper sliding doors, though the building I had just exited was made of concrete. The was grass and flowers everywhere. I felt as though I had stepped into another world.

Actually, it was another dimension, but I'll get to that later.

I was nudged forward and I started to walk. I'll save you the boring details of the journey. There were a bunch of stairs, gaping strangers, and a puppy. Don't ask about the puppy, I'm not sure where it came from. It barked at me before retreating. My kidnapper led me onwards until I was brought to a big room. There was a large window on one wall, displaying the city beneath us and the land beyond. In the middle of the room sat an elderly man, sipping at a cup of tea.

He didn't give me a glance as we walked in. "Thank you, Captain Hitsugaya," he said. His voice was deep and smooth, sending chills down my back. It was a voice that demanded respect and obedience.

My kidnapper bowed and proceeded to leave. So that's his name, I thought. Wow, he's a captain. So that must make this guy… "You're the Captain-Commander?" I asked. He, once again, ignored me.

I slowly walked forwards, hands wringing together nervously. For some reason, I felt underdressed. I had been working out before I was taken, so I was still gross and sweaty. The old man picked up a teakettle and began to pour a second cup. An open cushion lay on the ground on the opposite the Commander, inviting me to sit. And sit I did, though very hesitantly. I crossed my legs indian style and waited to be acknowledged. If I had learned anything from living with my Grandmamma, it was that old people did things in their own time. Patience was key.

An ornate cup was handed to me with wrinkly hands. The glass was warm, and I sipped at the liquid so as not to appear rude. Tea wasn't really my thing, but I wasn't about to say no.

The elder before me sighed heavily. "You, my dear," he said softly, "have caused quite the stir."

I blinked. "Um. Sorry?"

The man sipped his tea. "As you should be. It's not easy, keeping the balance while you are located in this reality."

My tea sloshed onto my hand as I jerked. After a hiss of pain, I growled, "Look, I've just been kidnapped, I got a fricking dog collar on, I woke up feeling like I got run over by a tank –" At this point, I believe I have forgotten I'm talking to the Captain-Commander of the fricking underworld "- and then I'm dragged in here, and I know you're all important but now you're talking about realities and me being in trouble and this isn't exactly routine, and I just-"

The slam of his wooden staff against the ground silenced me. The mans eyes narrowed, pinning me to my cushion. "Calm yourself, Miss Kaede. I will not tolerate being talked at, no matter the circumstances."

I flinched, staring at my reddening hand. Placing the cup delicately on the table, I lay my hands in my lap. After a few deep breaths, I dip my head. "Okay," I whispered. "I'm okay now. Sorry." The pads of my fingers traced the outline of the fresh burn.

The commander stared at me for a long moment before nodding his head. He took the kettle and refilled the amount that had been splashed and consumed. I forced my face to remain neutral despite my inclination to frown. When he finished, I took an obedient sip.

He nodded his head in approval before speaking. "I assume you are curious as to why you are here."


"Who we all are."

That would be nice to know, yeah.

"And what we plan to do."

Actually, I don't think I wanna know that.

Lifting his tea to his lips, he took a quiet sip (how does he do that? I can never drink quietly without a straw) before speaking. "Not all of these answers can be revealed to you at this time. As of right now, you are considered a hazard to all those around you." He gave me a hard stare. "An abomination."

I flinched at his words, and stared at the hands in my lap. I forced myself to remain calm, to take a deep breath. Sticks and stones, I thought desperately. Sticks and stones. I really wanted to ask why he thought of me that way – what had I ever done to him? But I kept my mouth shut. Tensa would be proud of me.

"However, I can tell you where you are," he continued. The cup clinked against the table as he set it down. "Currently, you are in the first division of the Gotei 13, located in the Seireitei of Soul Society." Up. Sip. Down. "The Soul Society is where spirits go after they die, and they wait to be reincarnated into the living world. We-"

"Wait," I interrupted, panicked. "If I'm here, does that mean I'm dead?" My hands flew to my mouth as terror flooded through me, though not for myself. "Oh my god, the boys! They-"

"Miss Kaede, you are not dead," the elder said exasperated. "Neither are your… companions. Due to special circumstances, your physical being has been retrieved as well. A normal human soul cannot be split from its physical form without death being the result." He reached across the table and held out his hand, palm up. I stared at him curiously. He just nodded his head, gesturing to the extended limb.

Hesitantly, I reached out my own hand and just barely brushed against his own. I could feel the soft flesh of his hands, and I gasped and jerked away. He chuckled.

"Despite the fact we are all souls, you will come to find that we are perfectly solid." I could definitely see a smirk tugging the corners of his lips, and despite my best efforts my face colored.

"What's the…" I frowned. "Gotei 13?"

Up. Sip. Down. "It is a military force that was erected a long time ago. Consisting of 13 captains, they and their divisions are charged with the protection of Soul Society and to guide wayward souls here."

I blinked, wanting to ask more, but his words started to sink in. Feeling numb, I wrapped my hands around my teacup, desperate to feel some kind of warmth. The Captain-Commander must have seen this as some sort of request, because he once again lifted the kettle and poured more tea into my nearly full cup. I swear, my eye started to twitch. I didn't want anymore fucking tea.

"So," I started, setting the once again filled china to the side. "I am, to dumb it down, in heaven."

He nodded his head. "In the most simple of terms, yes."

I glanced out the large window, taking in the view of the white city. In the distance, a huge wall sprung up from the ground, hiding a majority of the scenery beyond it. But I could still see the ant-sized people meandering about.

"So… all the people I've seen here are… dead?" I glanced at the old man before me. "You're dead?"

The quietest of slurps was my only answer. "Okay," I murmured to myself, rubbing my face with my hands. "Okay. Dead people, heaven, what else?" As I dragged my hands down my face, my flesh met the chill of metal around my throat. I tapped it with a nail, the small tang attracting the Commanders attention to the steel. "What's this for?"

He blinked at me before setting down his cup once again. "That was developed by the 12th divisions captain. When we… discovered you, a series of preliminary tests were performed and it was predicted that your body would not be able to withstand the pressure of the reiatsu here. A formula was produced to be injected into your system that will combat the effects you experienced this morning."

I recalled the vague feeling of a needle slipping into my skin. I nodded. He continued. "Ever few hours, the collar will automatically inject the formula. Thanks to the our Research an Development Institute, it will simultaneously record your vitals and track your location."

"I'm sorry, what?" I asked, incredulous. "Why do you need to… to track me? Why am I here? And why are my friends here? Where are they." My legs began to cramp and I fidgeted on my cushion. I clenched my fists in my lap, and it took a lot of conscious effort not to throw a temper tantrum. "Look, I don't know how things work around here, but where I'm from, you don't randomly collar people and, and kidnap them! You're all obviously crazy and I just want to…" I buried my face in my hands, my hair a curtain to hide my face. "I just want to go home," I whispered.

Before the old man could say anything, the doors behind me banged open and a set of feet trotted across the room. I didn't hear what was said, but when I looked up, the Commander was already on his feet, the small man at his side.

"You will not be going home," he said gruffly. I jumped to my feet as he began to walk out of the room.

"Wait! Where are you going?"

"There is a war coming," he grumbled. "And I have yet to decide what piece you are on the chess board."

And with that ominous parting, the old man left, and there was nothing I could do but stare at the doors he had walked out of.

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