Hi. Hello everyone, ThisWillBeFun here with Sentinel07! I've decided to go ahead and take control of the opening notes, because…
Anyway, we've both been having fun with both our stories and reading your reviews. Really, if you have a single thing you want to say, please go ahead and say it. I don't read much, so I hope you all give us something. Besides, I can't help but notice that both this and Curiosity have an uneven amount of reviews. I refuse to accept this asymmetry and hope to see it fixed. Respectfully.
Anywho, Bleach belongs to a lot of people, mainly Tite Kubo, not us. If we owned it, we wouldn't be releasing this for free, would we?
Chapter 4: Brother and Sister
It was a tough jump out of the window, but Rukia still managed to make it unharmed. Although her Gigai was much weaker than her Reaper form, it could at least sustain minor damage well. That, and she was lucky for the bushes right below Yuzu's window. Granted, it would have been even easier if she didn't have to carry the little girl out the window with her. However, it appeared being carried out a second-story window wasn't enough to snap her out of her shocked state. It was starting to become a rather tiresome recurring theme with Yuzu.
"Hey, Yuzu!" Rukia shouted while shaking her unresponsive friend. "Snap out of it!" Something escaped from the Soul Reaper's lips, but Rukia still couldn't make it out despite holding her right in front of her. "What was that?"
"You...that guy…" she mumbled a little more audibly. "What was with that Hollow? It was a…"
"Human, yes. Why are you so surprised? I know you're not used to seeing the enemy's actual face behind the masks, but this shouldn't be news to you."
"Shouldn't be used to it?!" she shouted while forcing her partner's grip off of her. Random bouts of anger also seemed to be a recurring trend Rukia had noticed. For such a regularly timid girl, it was surprising how radically she changed her demeanour during times of great stress. An understandable quirk, but still quite a notable one. "You never told me anything like this!"
"Yes, I did. I specifically told you that Hollows are spirits."
"Yeah, so what? You never told me they used to be human!"
Rukia inhaled and exhaled in frustration. "Spirits used to be humans, Yuzu. Hollows are basically evil Pluses, just like the ones you've seen your entire life. I may not have told you directly that they used to be human, but I figured you knew how to use simple logic."
"Well…" Yuzu paused a bit, thinking of what she really wanted to say. In the end, she found she had no rebuttal and merely gave out a defeated sigh. "Right...sorry. It's just that...have I been killing humans this entire time? Have I really just been murdering innocent people?"
"Of course not," Rukia said sternly. "Hollows are beings of sheer impulse who were once human, but have since thrown their humanity away. When you defeat them, you're not killing them as much as allowing them to live once again and not be a slave their animalistic urges anymore."
"And they just go on to Soul Society?"
"Indeed." She then glanced a little to her right. "Granted, that's not always the case, but we'll just discuss that alternative once we get there."
"Nothing." Rukia then took out her phone. "Point is, whoever that Hollow used to be is dead, but whoever it's about to attack still has some time left. We just need to hurry. Now."
Yuzu nodded. "Right, lead the way."
"ARE YOU FREAKIN' STUPID?!"
"Well that's a little rude to ask," Orihime huffed while putting down her coffee on her living room table. "I'm not stupid.."
"Yes, you are!" her best friend Tatsuki retorted. "You'd have to be to waste a perfect chance like that!"
Orihime blushed a little at the comment. "Y-you really think so?"
"Duh!" Her movements became even more exaggerated. "Sometimes, you just have to GO for it! That was the perfect time!"
"Go for it?"
"Yeah! When he says 'Should I walk you home?', all you have to say is 'Sure.' After that, you practically have him hook, line, and anchor."
"I think you mean sinker."
"Not the point." Tatsuki's shark-like grin grew even wider. "See, all you have to do is accept. Then, you just lure him into a dark alley where no one can see him and TAKE HIM DOWN!"
"W-what?" Orihime gasped, accidentally sending her coffee flying straight on to her mouth on everywhere but her open space. Mentally, she made a note to clean her shirt later that. Outwardly, she sputtered from her scorching lips. "T-Tatsuki!"
"No, wait, listen," her friend instructed without losing her mischievous grin. "It's not like the little baby would fight back. It doesn't even need to be your fault. Just grab your breasts and suddenly, he'll be the aggressive one in the fight, so it's all on his head." Orihime could have gone without the Tatsuki groping herself in demonstration.
"I...Tatsuki...he…" Her face was redder than the sun, imagining the scenario in her head. Unlike most of her other Ichigo-centric fantasies, the one that she was forced to visualize was less favorable. "It...doesn't matter. I mean, I still don't know what this mark is all about," she rationalized while motioning the strange imprint on her leg.
"Oh yeah...what was that about again?"
"I just said I didn't know."
"Oh, right, sorry. Guess I'm being the idiot now." The two shared a mutual giggle together, with Orihime just being glad the subject had successfully been changed. However, both girls' laughter faltered after the appearance of a strange, booming sound.
"What was that?" Tatsuki asked.
"I dunno. Couldn't be thunder…" That was when Orihime noticed something very troubling.
"Enraku, no!" Hurriedly, she ran over the fallen pink teddy bear. She had no idea what the heck could have caused him to fall down after several years of staying stationary up on his little shelf, or if it was even related to that strange sound. Still, there was no time to worry about that, as Orihime's dear toy still had no be put up.
"What's an Enraku?"
"My little teddy bear friend from when I was little," Orihime explained while cradling said bear in her arms. She then saw the true damage of her old friend. "Oh no! This is horrible! Tatsuki, look!" She then presented the bear and its large scar right across its right eye. "His stuffing and everything's falling out! What could have done this?'
"Maybe the fabric just decided to wear out," Tatsuki rationalized.
"Wait a minute…" Orihime felt something odd after a while of holding her old toy, specifically with her right hand. It felt...sensitive. Carefully withdrawing it and bringing its palm right within sight, she caught sight of something very alarming after just a slight shift. "Blood…?" She withdrew her hand completely and saw an alarming amount of blood calming out of the palm of her hand.
She then felt a quick, yet scathing pressure in her chest, causing her entire body to collapse on the ground with an empty look in her eyes. She barely even had a chance to blink before her body fell limp.
"Orihime! What's wrong?!" Tatsuki immediately tried running over to her friend, only to feel a sudden force slam her into the nearby wall. As she struggled to get up, she felt something dripping down her shoulder, only to see a rather sizable wound there.
"W-Where did this come from?!" Before any answer could be found, she was slammed back down to the ground, nearly knocking her out from the impact. Struggling to stay conscious, she tried to look for her and Orihime's assailant, yet she couldn't see anyone. She couldn't see the serpentine menace hovering right above her.
However, one person could: one soul, separated from her body and cowering in the corner.
"What is that? What is going on here? Why am I over here, yet over there?" Looking at her limp body across the room, a myriad of questions went through Orihime's head. Still, her attention focused on the chain on her chest, connected with her body across the room. Her hand slowly moved to it, gripping it. It hurt her chest. Should she break it?
"AHHHHHH!" Tatsuki's screams broke Orihime out of her trance as the creature grabbed her neck.
"Oh no Tatsuki! I'm coming!" Forgetting whatever else was on her mind, Orihime got back on her feet and started charging the creature. As hard as she could, she slammed her body into its claw, causing the creature to release Tatsuki from its grip. However, it also caused her to fall on the ground once the claw retracted. Somewhat amusingly, Orihime had a hand on her injured face as she ran over to her friend..
"Tatsuki, you need to get up! Get out of here!" However, Tatsuki just laid there, still in pain from the creatures' attacks. Orihime could only start shaking her in desperation. "Tatsuki! Are you not hearing me?!"
"It's no use, Orihime." Orihime turned as the creature growled at her. "She cannot see or hear us."
"How…..How do you know my name?"
"Do you truly not remember me?" The creature's voice had a certain sorrow to it, but Orihime still couldn't quite make out what it was talking about. " You don't even remember my voice. You...YOU REALLY HAVE FORGOTTEN ME, HAVEN'T YOU?!" The beast began to slam its claw straight at the girl, who could only close her eyes before the impact.
Yet, the impact never came. Instead, there there was a sound similar to steel clashing. Opening her eyes, Orihime had a little trouble making sense of the image in front of her. The only standing between her and the monster's fatal claws was a little girl around ten with short brown hair, a black robe, and a giant kitchen knife. If it weren't for the intense pain she was in, she would think she was dreaming the most surreal nightmare she'd ever had. There wasn't a single thing Orihime had to say about the situation.
The Hollow stared at the girl with an annoyed look on his face. "You interfere?"
"Yes, I do," Yuzu answered. "Human or Hollow, you will not kill this girl!"
The beast didn't falter its stare while slowly releasing its hand from the girl's sword. He then just stood there, watching with no further movement. Yuzu wasn't sure how to interpret this. Did she manage to scare him? Was the bleeding wound she'd just given him make give up? Either way, he didn't seem to be running away or attacking, so there was no reason for her to leave him be or rush him straight on. Granted, she was already starting to feel guilty for the gash she already gave the Hollow.
'Dang it, stop thinking of it as a guy,' Yuzu mentally berated herself. 'It's like Rukia said. He...it's nothing more than a monster now, with no humanity once so ever. Just have to assess the situation.' Looking over she noticed a body laying on the ground, one looking like it belonged to a teenage girl with spiky purple hair. 'Wait...Tatsuki?! What is she doing here?' She hadn't seen or heard much about Tatsuki ever since she was little and Ichigo started to become even more reclusive than normal. However, she did always have a small amount of admiration for the girl and would sometimes ask her brother about how she was doing, not that he ever knew anymore.
'Okay, Yuzu, come down,' the Reaper thought to herself in order to keep her focus. 'She's not dead and the other girl isn't dead. Wait a sec...' She looked across the room to see a carbon copy of the girl she was currently guarding, but with a chain hanging straight from her chest to...the chest of the girl she was guarding. Oh.
"Wh-what are you?" Orihime asked while justifyingly trembling with a nervous smile.
"Wait, she can see me?" Yuzu asked out loud, more than a little surprised to see the girl acknowledge her. "Wait, b-but you're not supposed to be able to! Regular people aren't supposed to be able to see me!"
Suddenly, the Hollow made another movement, albeit only with his mouth in order to give a booming laugh. "Idiot girl! You just can't put two and two together, can you? She can see you because that's her soul! Sucks to be you considering that the sweet little Orihime you were trying to protect is already dead!"
Whilst Yuzu's eyes suddenly widened after hearing this information, the Hollow took the opportunity to whip out his tail and try to thrash the girl across the room. The Reaper was able to compose herself just in time to prevent getting thwacked by the monster's gigantic tail, only to realize that his-its body was covered in what seemed to be extremely hard scales that not even her zanpaktou could manage to cut through. As such, she ended up successfully being thrashed across the room and straight through the wall of the apartment. Rukia watched as her partner came crashing down from the second-story window and straight onto the the grass outside.
"What the heck was that?!' Rukia snapped as Yuzu tried to get back on her feet. "Why'd you just fall like that?!"
"Because that's what gravity makes you do!" the Reaper retorted, wiping her forehead and seeing the blood that appeared be have come from it. Great, first human protection job and she was already bleeding from the head.
"Oh, wait, did I never teach you about shunpo?"
"All you taught me was that tennis is evil!"
"Right...sorry about my carelessness." Rukia looked up at the newly-formed hole in the building and saw the Hollow peering down with its glowing eyes. She then hastily turned back to Yuzu. "Look, you can manipulate the reishi around you to basically run and jump on air. Got that?"
"Don't make it sound so simple. You never taught me anything like this!"
"Well, if you want my lesson to be less simple, perhaps I should remind you of the girl about to get eaten by a Hollow. Is that thorough enough for you?"
Yuzu had nothing to argue with, especially with the remainder of the girl currently in danger. Instead, she just nodded, looked towards the hole in the building, and jumped as high as her powers would allow her. She managed to reach just below a reasonable entrance level to the hole, but then she tried to concentrate on the spiritual energy stuff Rukia had taught her to recognize about her feet. To her surprise, she actually managed to press her feet against what felt like a thin layer of air. As strange as it all felt, Yuzu saw no reason to think about it for too long, especially since the serpent was already heading back towards its original victim. So, she took one small leap and charged straight through the hole and straight at the Hollow, her sword in ready position to slice.
Yuzu ended up getting a good stab straight into the Hollow's back, resulting in an all too familiar wail. The beast began turning around, trying to get its attacker with its giant claws. The Reaper just held on to her sword as she twirled around, only pulling it out once one of the hands looked about ready to snatch her. Luckily, there was still enough pain with having a sword withdrawn from its body to cause the Hollow to cringe in pain, effectively paralyzing its approaching grasp. Without much problem, she was able to dart on over to the other side of the room, right in front of Orihime's paralyzed body.
Wait, her body?
Yuzu followed the chain leading from the body to Orihime's soul, only to see that said soul was already within the Hollow's grasp, shouting and struggling.
"Let me go!" she screamed before attempting to bite the almost monster's near invulnerable hand. "Lemmegolemmegolemmego!"
The Hollow just stared down at the struggling girl with eyes that Yuzu would almost call sorrowful. Well, Hollow's were supposed to be more or less composed of despair, but this one actually looked hurt by Orihime's actions. It wasn't eating her, so at least that was a good sign.
"You truly have forgotten, haven't you, Orihime?" the creature snarled to the teenager's confusion. It began to move its other arm, making Yuzu ready her sword in case it was starting an attack. However, it just seemed to reach for its own face. "It's me." Somehow, the monster's hand caused a segment of its mask to dissipate, revealing the portion of actual human visage Yuzu had seen earlier. Orihime's reaction somehow managed to be more horrified than the Reaper's earlier.
"Do you really not remember your older brother!"
Orihime stopped trembling as the Hollow carefully let her down. Despite all her confusion and fatigue, she did not fumble or even blink. "Brother...is that r-really you?"
"So you do remember me," Sora said with little more than a growl. "You haven't forgo-"
"Why?" Orihime interrupted. "Why did you hurt Tatsuki and that other girl?"
"Why?" the Hollow snarled indignantly. "Isn't it obvious. They were trying to tear you and I apart this entire time!" His sister looked understandably confused, but he was quick to elaborate. "After I died, you always prayed to me every day. Even though I was dead, I was always watching. It made me feel so...happy. I had died, but I felt as if nothing else would matter once I heard your precious prayers."
The wistful look in his eyes turned back into pure rage. "Then came a year or so after that. Since then, I watched as you grew further and further away from me. First you met your little friend Tatsuki and your prayers became more and more sparse." Both Orihime and Yuzu pierced over to see the still unconscious girl in a small pool of blood. Both hoped she wasn't as bad as she looked.
"Then you entered high school," Sora continued, "and you stopped caring about me altogether! Every day, before you'd leave and after you returned home, all you'd ever talk about is that Kurosaki boy!"
Okay, Yuzu didn't see that coming at all. Was this girl…? She looked around Ichigo's age, but...this was new. Ichigo never mentioned any girls, but then again, he never talked much about school or life in general, so…
'Gah! This isn't important!' Yuzu yelled at herself within her mind. 'None of this is important! This guy used to be alive, used to be happy, but now he's insane and going to eat this girl. He may be talking now, but he's not a human...he's not a human…it's not a human...'
"It was painful," the monster kept on saying. "Every single day, I saw myself disappear from your heart more and more."
"You know that's not true, brother!" Orihime pleaded back. "I never forgot y-"
"You know damn right you did!" the best snarled with its eyes glowing a magnificent yellow. "All that time, all those months upon months, I felt so sad."
'It's not human...he's...it's going to kill her...'
"I felt so alone."
'They're still monsters. They must be defeated.' Yuzu readied her sword and her stance.
"So many times, I felt like I cou-" The beast's senses flared and quickly twirled around to whip its tail. However, the attacker with a sword was more than ready for this and allowed the tail to meet her blade, even meaning she had to twirl around with the same tail. On one hand, Yuzu managed to get a pretty deep cut into the tail. On the other hand, she wasn't able to hold her cutting position for much long before whiplash set in, causing her to fly across the room once again, but luckily not outside of it again.
"You little pest!" Sora turned back to the Reaper and charged towards her with its arms charging. Yuzu charged her sword forward again. Even with the extreme force she put behind her jab, it was not enough to stop the force of the claw, but it still managed to go straight through the thing. Yuzu was still pushed backwards onto the wall, causing the pictures and shelves on it to shake violently. With the girl now stuck between its claws and the wall, along with her sword now stuck within said claws, there was nothing to keep the Hollow from thrashing her with its remaining arm.
Another wall became bashed, this time with only Yuzu on it, though the Hollow was quickly approaching. Only problem was that her sword was still lodged in the beast's hand. That needed to be fixed. Maybe if she just dodged and jumped and...it was coming in fast. Carefully, she tried to redirect as much spiritual energy as she could into her right hand. Hopefully she could actually do something crazy like that.
Sora forwarded its arms to ready a good squashing with the very hand with the sword in it. Perfect. As soon as the zanpakuto was within range, Yuzu forced her charged-up fist at it, causing the lodged sword to go blast straight through the rest of the hand. Even though the Reaper was soon met with a facefull of bloody scales against the wall, that was just before the tip of the blade got shot straight into the Hollow's forehead. The hand quickly released itself from the wall to the sword now stuck within the monster's skull. Removing it proved almost as painful as the original stabbing, making regular wails of a natural Hollow reverberate throughout the room once more, only even louder than usual.
"Sora!" Orihime yelled from across the room, rushing towards her brother. However, her chain proved to be too short to reach the screaming monster before restricting her.
"You little...GAH!" The Hollow thrashed around the apartment while clutching its head in pain. Orihime couldn't stand to see the sight of her older brother with his face covered in blood again, even if half of it was just a mask now. The only thing she couldn't stand more was how it stared at her with the same face. "Why did you allow this, Orihime?!"
The teenage girl was tearing up. "You...Sora would never say anything like that," she managed to sputter. "He would never do any of this!"
Sora looked shocked at this reply and was ready to snap at his sister, but then it caught a glimpse of the Soul Reaper picking her sword back up off the floor. No, there was no time left. Hands and face were bleeding and that would not be the end. There was no use to keep on trying to win today. Orihime would have to wait to die. Now, it was time to leave.
With that mentality, Sora ran towards the open hole in the building. Yuzu tried to catch him, but was whipped out of the way by its tail before getting too close. Rukia watched from outside as the Hollow soared out of the hole before appearing to disappear in a mist of dark energy.
"It...got away?" Rukia asked the air outside. She looked back at the opening and saw Yuzu flying out of it. Before crashing on the cement, she managed to shunpo slightly above the ground with one foot. Her air time was short-lived, as she ended up slipping on the air and falling on the ground still.
"What did...where did it go?!" Yuzu asked in disbelief. Were Hollows supposed to just disappear like that?
"It's a bit of an involuntary reflex. Whenever Hollows are in legitimate fear for their lives without being too badly damaged, they sometimes end up sending themselves back to Hueco Mundo."
"The heck is that?"
"The land of the Hollows. It's where they reside when they're not inside the World of the Living or Soul Society. It's where they eat each other, it's where they recover, it's where they grow stronger."
This new stack of information did not bid well with the Reaper. "So, because that Hollow got away, he's….it's going to come back, huh? That girl's still in danger, huh?"
"Regrettably, I'd have to say yes." Rukia then took out a strange device that looked a bit like a Pez dispenser with a rubber duck head for a tip. Yuzu didn't even feel like asking what it was, so she took it upon herself to. "This is a Kikanshinki, essentially a memory-replacer. It's the same thing I used to make sure nobody was suspicious about the giant hole in your house."
"So that's why everyone thought it was elephants?"
"Exactly." Rukia then sighed. "Guess I might as well fix everything here. You can head home if you want. I got everything under control. You've had a long day."
"Right…" Yuzu looked at her right hand again, seeing the blood she wiped from her forehead earlier had dried up. "But what about that girl? If that Hollow returns and eats her, it'll all be my fault."
"No, it won't," her partner reassured without changing her serious demeanor. "Look, you have your responsibility as a Soul Reaper, just as I had mine. We've all had her failures." To Yuzu's surprise, Rukia actually began to look solemn for a moment. "This is nothing, trust me. That girl's still alive and so are you." Her authoritative look soon returned. "You just have to resume responsibility."
"But her brother could attack at any time!"
"Then I guess you'd just have to make sure she stays safe."
"Right…" She tried to imitate some amount of confidence, but still couldn't mask her overall worry. "Well, I guess you have this all under control, right?"
Rukia nodded her head. "This is all just routine stuff. I've done it plenty of times before. Any major casualties?"
"Well, one of my brother's friends is facedown on the floor unconscious while the girl being attacked is separated from her body."
"Was her Soul Chain still attached?"
"Good. You still managed to save a life then." Rukia then walked over to the front door and noticed that it was locked. "Huh. Guess there's no one home downstairs. Yuzu, think you could knock this down for me?"
"Sure, why not?" her partner sighed. Honestly, she didn't care what she did to public property anymore. So, she nonchalantly swiped her sword across the door, creating a hole in it big enough for a person to crawl through, which Rukia did. "Oh yeah, one more thing."
"What might that be?" Rukia asked from inside the abandoned floor, her voice echoing inside.
"I think the girl, I think her name was Orihime, may have a crush on my brother."
A suppressed laugh echoed throughout the building. Rukia was visibly covering her mouth
"Rukia, are you laughing?" This was certainly a new sight.
"M-maybe…" she scoffed a little bit. She then uncovered her mouth, which was now in a smirk she was obviously trying to suppress another laugh. "You can just go. I...I'll take care of everything." Rukia barely made it through that sentence before breaking out in echoing laughter and disappearing into the dark building.
"It's not that funny!" Yuzu shouted through the hole, following her partner through it. "Please stop laughing."
"I'm sorry, I just...sorry." She then opened the door to Orihime's apartment and began to head towards the curled up girl in the corner. That was enough to wipe the grin off her face. "Okay, let's do this…"
Sentinel07 here and there's another chapter in the books. We finally have our first major deviation from the canon story (aside from the fact that we're using Yuzu). One can only wonder how Sora living on for a while will affect things. And as if Yuzu doesn't have enough things to worry about, Orihime enters the scene.
(ThisWillBeFun: Yep. I hope you don't mind me admitting I did a majority of this chapter. So, if you have any criticism, you have to answer to me. Please answer to me. I get lonely.)
Not much else to say other than that. Look forward to our next one. Sentinel07, out!