'What's going on?'
Thoughts overwhelmed the teen as his body went numb, he let go of the baseball bat he used to strike at the monster with. His body was crushed against the neighbours house, the pain and his mind slowly fading.
"Not so tough anymore, eh?!"The massive monster screeched, holding the unconscious teen in his hand."Now for my reward!"He opened his ginormous mouth.
"Not on my watch!" The monster's arm went flying in a blink of an eye, a small woman appeared in front of the monster, raven haired and deadly. "You've crossed the line! We've been hunting you for weeks! A hollow with your intelligence… Mustn't be allowed to roam this world any longer!"
"MY ARM! YOU BITCH!"He threw the limp teen away and tightened his hand into a fist,"I'LL KILL YOU FOR THIS ONE, SHRIMP!"He dashed towards the raven haired woman.
His first strike was quicker than she thought, narrowly dodging it, she immediately countered, slicing her sword into one of his massive fingers, "Thick skinned…" she remarked quietly.'Should've cut his head when I had a chance… Stupid pride…'
"YARGH!"The hollow screeched again,"That one HURT!"He swung again and again, enraged by the wounds inflicted upon him.
'Did I upset him…?'The raven haired woman smirked as she evaded every attack.'Maybe it's time to end this… I had my hopes up, his intellect may be high, but he sure loses it the moment I cut him…'
"Have to SURVIVE… Any… Means…"His attention turned to the crushed teen,"Replenish strength, have to EAT!"Her eyes widened as she didn't expect him to ignore a fight and prioritize survival.
She disappeared for a moment, reappearing behind the monster.'First… Disable his movement…'Her sword made quick work, rapidly slashing through his calves.
"Urgh!"The monster fell to his knees,"She's quicker than you sa…"he tried to turn to catch the woman, but she was no longer there, suddenly he felt a painful sensation across his face.
'Cut the mask... The hollow will freeze and return to soul society…'She sheathed her blade, turning her attention to the body the hollow held,'...Please be alive…'She ran to the bloodied teen.
'Is he okay…?'She knelt down,'...no breath…'Her eyes widened as memories bombarded her.'I couldn't save him back then either… Kaien…'Her eyes began to glisten.
In the shadows three figures stood and observed.
"It does appear so… Maybe Kurosaki Ichigo wasn't the destined one…"
"If this really was his fate, he would've survived this attack… Did I miscalculate something?"
"How could a mere human beat a hollow… Not to mention, we also strengthened that hollow."
"Maybe she was too slow…? No matter, let us leave. We have to find a substitute for Kurosaki…"
"Now why are you crying…?" A manly voice rang out from behind the small woman clad in black.
"Who's crying?!" She jumped up to face her accuser, guity party being none other than the teen she failed to save, "...You…?" Her voice died down.
He raised an eyebrow, "Me? I'm not the one crying my eyes out." He pointed at her bright red nose, smiling sheepishly.
Something snapped, "Listen here brat!" She grabbed his finger, bending it the wrong way, "I wasn't crying! You hear me?!"
"Alright, alright!" He was released from her wrath, "...anyway… Why're you having a…moment?" He turned away, avoiding her fierceful glare.
"I couldn't save you in time…" She looked away, tightened her small hands into fists.
"What are you talking about? Has something happened that I needed saving from?" He scratched his head, "Look if anything you can rescue me right now…"
"Wha…?" She faced him again. He didn't express any sadness or hatred, if anything his face was tangled in thought, confusion and slight embarrassment.
"Who am I?" He pointed at himself, "I can't, for the life of me, remember my name… Or anything really…" He brushed some of his hair,'Orange?'
"You're the first person I've met in my life…" His finger was now pointing at her.
"You don't remember?"'What is going on here?'
"Not really... Where are we even?" He scratched his head as he looked around, spotting a big monster and a lot of blood, "Woah! What happened here?!" He poked the big monster with a stick. "Is it feeling okay?"
"I- Uhm…" This anomaly was mind boggling,'Spirits always remember their past… what is even going on here…Was the hollow at fault here?'She glanced over at the corpse.
"...you slow or something?" The orange haired teen waved his hand in front of her face, promptly receiving a clenched fist to his face.
'Calm your nerves… He may be some annoying punk, but you're still a Kuchiki…'She cleared her throat, "We're in the town Karakura."
"Finally came back to your senses, huh?" His smirk awarded him yet another punch, this time to his abdomen.
"As for who you are…" She knelt next to his dead body, searching his pockets.
"She's pickpocketing an unconscious man… Should I really talk to her about this…?" He muttered under his breath.
She shot him a cold glare, "I heard that." She continued searching the pockets, until she found his student ID card, albeit torn in two. "I-chi-go?"
"Ichigo." He smiled as he looked at nothing in particular.
"Strawberry." She smirked.
"You!" He cocked back his fist, restraining the urge to the most of his ability.
"The rest of the information is missing… tsk." She clicked her tongue in annoyance,'If he knew his last name he might be able to find some family in Soul Society…'She thought the situation wouldn't be as bad as it was, if only he had somewhere to return to, she would even take it upon herself to return him to his relatives, if only she knew.
"It's alright. You've done more than enough, at least I know my name." He gave her a weak smile,'To protect, huh…'The thought alone lightened his burden.
She returned with her own sad smile, "Listen closely now, Ichigo." He nodded, "Due to this district's Shinigami's inability you've lost your life."
His eyes widened, he wanted to say something, but his voice was lost in the moment.'I'm dead, so this is why I've been feeling eerie…'
"I deeply apologize! I should've been faster." She bowed before him and continued apologizing.
He stood up and grabbed her shoulder, "It's not your fault." Her heart stopped for a moment.
"How can it not be my fault? If I was stronger I could've been here sooner!" She vented her frustrations. "...and now because of my failure, you've lost everything!"
"...I don't know who I was before… What my life has been, the people I've known, my family… I seem to have forgotten everything… You're the only person I know!"
Ichigo's eyes glanced at his dead body, "I can't hold you accountable… It wasn't you who killed me. It was that beast from earlier…" He looked at the monster's fading body, "That monster was by no means weak! Which means you're strong!" He tried to reassure the quivering raven haired woman.
"But- your past!" Her violet eyes met bright amber.
He looked away from her gaze, "I'm sure a lot of people will be sad...But even if I saw them right now, I wouldn't be able to know who they are and what they meant to me…" His strong voice couldn't hide the loneliness of his words.
As much as she hated the fact, it was now their reality. He was slowly accepting his fate, nothing could hold him back from it, no family, friends, loved ones in his mind that could drive him insane with hate, grief and regret.
"How can you accept all of this…?" Her voice was soft.
"I've died… Haven't I…?" His eyes locked with hers, "That means whoever that is…" He nodded at the body, "Is no longer who I am…"
'His past died with him?!'
"Isn't that how it always is…?" His amber eyes sought something to hold onto. He pleaded for it to be the truth, reality would be too harsh otherwise. Forgetting everything; the worst punishment imaginable.
She finally understood what was going on. He wasn't impassive to his past, he wasn't throwing it away, he was under the impression that everyone lost their memories when they died. He was holding onto her for this confirmation.
She gave him a small smile, "Yes, humans that die get their memories wiped." The weight of those lies felt heavier than anything she ever experienced.
"Is that so?!" He chuckled and sighed in relief, "For a moment there I thought I was the only one."'So even she can smile like that? Am I doomed?'
"One last thing…" The raven haired woman drew her blade.
"Woah, woah! You don't have to cut yourself, there's no hard feelings!' He waved his hands.
"Cut myself?" She placed her swords hilt onto his forehead, "You really are stupid… Fits with your hair, I guess." She giggled inwardly.
His skin began glowing in bright white, "What is happening?"
"I'm sending you to Soul Society. Where all souls of the dead go… It's their afterlife." She explained, "It's one of my duties."
"So I won't be alone… Thank you, uhm?" He realized then that he hadn't even asked her name.
"Rukia Kuchiki." She gave him a genuine smile.
The glow kept on getting brighter, "Thank you, Ru-" Until it stopped, "Rukia?"
She raised an eyebrow, "Why are you still here?"
"How about you explain that to me?!" He roared.
"Maybe we should try it again…?" For a moment there Ichigo could've sworn he saw the devil talking, as the hilt of her sword slammed against his forehead.
"One more time?"
"Am I using it upside down?"
"My head aches…" Ichigo caressed a bright red mark on his forehead,'She's a monster when it comes to her duties, huh…'
"This is really bizarre." She glanced down at her blade,'Today is getting weirder by the minute. First an intellectual hollow, if you can even call those beasts intellectual, then a plus without his memories, who also can't be sent back to Soul Society…Now that I think about it… Where's his chain…?'
'Could you pick a worse time?'She cursed Seireitei under her breath.
"The hell is that noise?" Ichigo stared at Rukia as her guilty pleasure ringtone rang loudly.
"You weren't supposed to hear that…" A small blush could be seen on her cheeks as she checked the message.'Return to HQ, swapping with 9th Seat for a week.'
"Something important?" Ichigo noticed a change in her expression immediately. She seemed calmer, but only on the outside, as if she was controlled by someone.
"Otherwise they wouldn't ring me… I have to go." She packed her phone and was about to dash away only to freeze up, "I'll send someone to clean up here, wouldn't want someone to find your body in such an unnatural state…" Her finger pointed at the bleeding copse.
"What should I do..?" Ichigo stared at her as a door appeared in front of her, opening on its own, yet there was nothing to be seen inside.
'Crap… I'm so used to sending them back to Soul Society… Routines…'
"Just sit tight, I'll be back in a flash!" She gave him a weak smile, "...Promise."
"Oh.. Okay. I'll be here!" His eyes scanned "here".'Though it's hard to remember such a weird alley…'He already felt defeated.
'He looks sad…But I can't stay here, I have to see our captain first and then talk to my brother...'She waved at him as she jumped through the door, which disappeared the moment it closed.
"...Come back soon." His hand was reaching out to her, yet his body stood there, unable to move. "It's gonna be incredibly lonely if you don't return quickly…" He uttered quietly.
"What now…" He turned to face his limp body, "Even if I could jump back into it… Doesn't look like I'd live long enough to even get to a hospital, darn it… What even is a hospital…?"
He walked aimlessly alley after alley; street after street, "Oh… OH! PEOPLE!" He dashed towards them with all the strength he had, "Hey, hey! Quick, you can still save me!"
"Mister, this way!"
"Miss please, turn that way!"
"Quickly, it's over that way…"
"Won't you help me, miss?"
"Please look at me!"
"Why are they ignoring me…?" He sat down by the door of a coffee shop, defeated. "Can no one see me?"
He picked himself up, "No! Not giving up yet, there has to be someone who can see me!" He continued with newfound determination, screaming into the faces of every passerby, trying to get their attention any way possible. He wouldn't give up, as minutes turned into hours... day turned to night. People were slowly thinning out as the hour turned late.
"Ugh.. I'm exhausted..." Ichigo groaned, punching the ground in exasperation, "No one saw me… What a waste of time!" He punched the ground again, cracking the tile he hit.
"What was that?!" A highschool student jumped in surprise as she saw the tile crack for no apparent reason, "Let's get out of here Tatsuki, this place is weird!"
"She saw it, she saw it right?!" He jumped up, "...If I can crack stone tiles… I can maybe write something!"
He dashed into the coffee shop and started scanning for anything to write with,'There!'He spotted a man marking up some documents. "I'll be borrowing this." He snatched the marker out of the man's hand, scaring him half to death in the process.
The letters were colossal, but also ragged,'Was this something I sucked at back when I was alive too?'
PLEASE SAVE ME, I'M SEVERELY INJURED, X STREET, HURRY!
"That should do it." He nodded at his work and turned to find the whole coffee shop emptied, "Huh?" Ichigo took a step outside, hearing a man screaming his lungs out, "There's a ghost haunting that coffee shop, run for your lives!"
"You've got to be joking…" He looked up at the night's sky, "Is there really nothing I can do?" Sighing in defeat he took a stroll back to where his body had been, except it was gone. Everything that had been broken due to the fight had mysteriously disappeared or gotten repaired. "It's almost as if I've never even been here."
He stared at the floor in disbelief, "I should've waited… What if she came back to pick me up and lead me to this Soul Society… Did I miss my chance? What if she doesn't come back again…"
He sat down on the floor, "I have no regrets… I don't remember anything… I don't even feel sad…." His sight was glued to the pavement,'Why do I feel so empty then…?'
"The only one I know is Rukia. That freakishly strong midget." He chuckled, "She's quite violent, but seems sincere…"
"Hopefully she brings food, I'm famished..."
He sighed, "It's gonna be terribly boring… Being alone like this…"
Who said you were alone?
A voice rang in his head.
You just got a first class ticket out of that stinking, filthy, disgusting human body!
"Who?" He turned left, then right,'Nothing? Has to mean only one thing…'His sight quickly shot up, "Above me?!" The source of the voice wasn't found.
She did have a point about your intellect, and you called HER slow!
"Who the hell?!"Ichigo screamed.
"Who the hell what?" A man clad in black appeared before him, his sword drawn. "Hey kid, I heard a hollow scream, any clue where it went?"
"Hollow?" Ichigo raised an eyebrow.
"Big monster things, with a hole in their chest…" He sighed. "Never mind, let's just send you off to Soul Society, I'll find it." He quickly placed the hilt of his sword on Ichigo's forehead and dashed away.
Bright lights shone from out of Ichigo's skin again.
"Hey wait, damn it!"
'Nothing again…'Ichigo's eyes gazed upon the stars as they shone for the last time that night,'Almost morning huh…'He looked down at his chest to find a chain, "Whadafuck! Where did this come from?!"
He tried pulling it out, "Did that old man put that chain on me?! PERVERT!" The chain wouldn't budge.
"I'm gonna get you for this, you old perverted man!" He jumped up, "Now which way did he run again?" His head slumped upon realization he couldn't see the direction the man ran off to, as the lights shone too brightly.
"Wait! If there's one Shinigami per district, like she said, that must mean there's a ton of these dudes around the city, I only have to find them."
He started running aimlessly, "Shouldn't be that hard, they both wore black robes, how hard can they be to find?!"
'How hard can that be to find, MY ASS! You IDIOT Ichigo! It's been over half a day and I haven't even seen anyone wearing black at all! Is it wear "pink, blue, gray and green only" day?! Cause NO ONE informed me!'
He sat down on the park bench,'How could they… They can't even see me…'He exhaled in frustration, his tired eyes spotting a group of friends talking at the bench across from him,'Must be fun…'
He approached them, "Hey, you guys better cherish these mome-" He was cut off by their abrupt fight.
"What doyoumean Starscape's better?!"
"Excuse me, have you even seen his move set?"
"You're both dumb, Starslasher is supperior to anyone!"
"In what world…I'm done with this pathetic team, why did I even bother, what a waste of time!"
"Same here dude! Get a life!"
"Piss off the both of you… I'll make a full Starscape team and you'll both cry!"
They parted ways.
Ichigo stood frozen in front of an empty park bench, "You had everything, and so easily you broke your bonds...?" He looked at one of them, whose shoulder shook as he walked away, "If you cared so much, why did you leave, fight for these bonds, damn it...Now you'll be alone... like me…"
"Was I this careless too with my friends? Did I take them for granted? Did I even have friends?" He was leaning against a tree, watching a girl throw a ball for her dog to fetch, "...or have I always been alone and nothing's changed?" His depressive thoughts disappeared for a moment as he saw the dog jumping at the girl excitedly, "I was alone that day... Was I going home from school, no one else was with me… Right?"
A girl's squeal brought him out of his thoughts, "Mizuiro! We shouldn't do that in public…" His eyes studied the situation curiously, "No one's around…" The black haired teen whispered before going on the attack.
Ichigo looked away, "If I was alive right now, would I be doing this kind of stuff right now?" He started walking again, "...Did I have a lover?" he looked down at his hand, "Just how many people have I forgotten…?"
'...I wish I knew more…'He clenched his hand into a fist.
"Where the hell am I now...?" He couldn't recognise this part of town.
He threw his hands up, "Bah, who am I even talking to? It's not like anyone can hear me…" His brows furrowed as people passed around him, yet his eyes glanced on something interesting for a moment.
Across the street stood a black hair teen with glasses, staring at Ichigo,'Can he see me?'
"Kurosaki…?" The teen whispered inaudibly.
Desperation befell Ichigo, he bolted to the teen who was seemingly frozen in thought, "Can you see me?" Ichigo gasped as their eyes locked.
"Orihime!" The black haired teen called out, "Over here!" He waved at another student.
"Huh…?" Ichigo's heart stopped for a moment, "I could've sworn…" He turned around to spot a teenage girl with bright orange hair and a smile that could warm up a room.
"Ishida! I didn't know you lived close to here." Her eyes were sparkling with awe and curiosity, "Which one is it?" She started scanning each house in an attempt to connect the person and his home.
"No, I don't live here." He grabbed her by the hand, "Now come, there's something I want to talk with you about…" He dragged the, now bright red, girl with him.
"So he couldn't see me… He was looking for his friend... " He sighed, "How stupid of me…"
"I hope she visits soon… I should ask her lots of stuff next time…" The thought alone left him with pleasant feelings, someone to look forward to seeing again. It didn't matter who, as long as they could see that he existed was alright with him.
He stared at the night sky again, "No stars today, too cloudy huh? Shame, I really like them…" He looked around at the empty streets, then back up at the sky, "...they must be lonely too… So far away from anyone or anything, and the only way for them to show us they exist is their light, only for the light to be dimmed by rain clouds like these… What a shame, really."
'Ironic, my light got dimmed each time too… Is that why no one can see me? Is my existence obscured by some clouds that are our way…?'
He stood up for a walk.
"Weirdly enough, though it's raining heavily, I don't get wet and I don't feel cold." He grabbed a lock of his hair, "...it's not growing… I'm not getting dirty either, no matter what I do."
His sight focused on the chain hanging from his chest, "The only thing changing is this chain, it keeps getting shorter, day by day… Is this my expiration date?" He chuckled in the irony,'Ghosts expiring… I'm dead already, aren't I? What's worse that can happen?'
'How many days has it been?'He thought to himself as he stared at the sunrise again,'I'm so tired… This hunger isn't going away either. I can't eat food, each time I bite into a meal nothing happens.'
'This chain is also strange… It's almost fully gone. What happens when it disappears?'
'Did she tell me?'
'What did we even talk about…?'
'I can barely remember that day anymore… '
'Death sure makes stuff pointless. Is life pointless too then? If you forget everyone.. What's even the point of creating bonds between ourselves…'His eyes opened slowly, it was still dark and quiet. He liked this part of the day the most, no humans screaming at each other, having to go somewhere to do their pointless work, for their lives that they'll forget about when they die.
Bite bite bite
"WHAT THE HELL?!" Ichigo jumped up, spotting a small creature with a mask. It's teeth glued to his arm, "Will you let go?!" He swung his arm around, but the creature wouldn't let go.
The creature was tiny and its mask horrendous. Its face was obscured by a white mask that was as hard as steel, with dark blue markings across the eyes that connected at the top. It barred massive, razor sharp teeth almost as large as the mask itself. Its eyes were tiny and glowing bright orange. Curiously, it had no nose, and the only other remarkable feature about the mask were two holes at the top.
"Let go!" He tried to pull it off, making the pain even worse than it already was. "Ugh! Do I look like food to you?" He stared at it in annoyance, it blinked twice.
Ichigo raised an eyebrow, "Two means yes, one means no?" It blinked twice, "So you understand me?" It blinked twice again.
"Would you let go?" It blinked once.
Something snapped inside Ichigo's mind, as he was now madly flailing his arm around.
"You're…" he tried catching his breath, "...a resilient little fucker…" He could see the creature almost smiling with pride.
'How do I get it off?'He stared at it only to notice two small holes on the top of its mask,'Is that it's nose?'
The hollows eyes widened as its nose got pinched shut,"You dum dum!"The hollow let go,"No one pinches PINCHER!"It jumped up again, attempting to bite Ichigo, only for it to receive a smack on the head.
"Back off would ya? I'm not your food, go fetch yourself some mice in the garbage or something!" Ichigo pointed away angrily.
The hollow looked where Ichigo pointed and then turned back to him,"B-but you smell's food! I nevah smell's hollow like you, I wan taste you, but you skin tough's nails!"
"Hollow? What you talking about? I'm 100% uhm… Human!" Ichigo exclaimed as he proudly pointed at himself.
"Hooman? I nevah heard of hoomans, whose camp you in?"The hollow looked in disbelief.
"Human as in, humans! You see those people walking around, I'm like them!" He pointed at people rushing to work.
The small hollow looked at Ichigo, then at the humans, then back at Ichigo, then back at the people in a hurry,"I don't buy't! You smell hollow! You's hollow!
"I'm no hollow… They're usually big monsters with holes in their chests!"'...Or so that old man said…'
The small creature stared at Ichigo for a moment, absorbed in thought,"Pincher hollow, Pincher small, Pincher hole in arm, see?"
"You're a hollow?" Ichigo was stunned for a moment,'Such a small, defenseless creature is a hollow? This is what that old man hunted yesterday? Big bad monsters my ass…'
"So can eat you naw?"He was nigh salivating.
"No! Gee, what did you eat before?" He rubbed the sore spot on his arm.
"Small hollow… But dey go bye bye…"
Pincher nodded,"Bye bye…"
'What the hell is he talking about...?'Ichigo sat there dumbfounded.
"Beefor, much small hollow, Pincher much eat. Den big hollow come, small hollow go bye bye…"Pincher explained with a sad tone.
"Were some of them your friends too…?" Ichigo followed, to which Pincher only nodded.
"Wich why Pincher gon eat good smell's hollow! Den I go eat big hollow!"He tried jumping onto Ichigo to nibble on him again, but was quickly grabbed by the other party and held an arms length away.
'Big hollow though… I've been walking around this whole town for… god knows how many days, weeks…? I haven't seen a single hollow around… This little fella must be the last one around.'Ichigo sat there thinking about both their situations, while Pincher was using Ichigo's lowered guard to sneak an attack in.
"Morning already, huh…" Ichigo whispered as he looked at the rising sun, "I guess ghosts like myself don't sleep… But hollows do?" He stared down at Pincher who was unconsciously nibbling his arm, "He's been alone for a while, hasn't he…" He gently patted Pincher on the head, as he did that Pincher stopped biting and simply grabbed onto Ichigo's arm, "I'm not leaving." He smiled at the menacing beast that wanted to eat him alive.
No longer lonely huh? Seems you've forgotten…
At the corner of Ichigo's eye, a small tint of black began spreading...
Merci pour la lecture!