Bleach is the creation and property of Tite Kubo.
01. 'Went from a teen to a young adult/No excuses/It ain't my fault'
They say the outer districts of Soul Society's Rukongai are terrible,
especially on children. Whoever 'they' are Ichigo Kurosaki couldn't
figure out, but he supposed 'they' were right, especially if 'they' had
been speaking about Inuzuri's seventy-eighth. It was especially tough on
the feet, and the legs, and the lungs, and even the ears. "You little
rat!" That was the man behind Ichigo, chasing him. He had a big stick,
which Ichigo felt to be perhaps from the ugly tree the man had fallen
out of, hitting every branch on the way down. "Even if you give up now,
I'm gonna kill ya'!" Well, felt Ichigo, that was perhaps the best reason
he couldn't stop running now.
Why was he running from the man in the first place though? The reason
was in what Ichigo was holding close to his chest so he wouldn't drop
it. A small bag filled with apples, which was one of many that the old
man behind him had been selling at outrageous prices that nobody in the
alley could even think about affording. Since he couldn't pay for the
apples, Ichigo had decided to just take 'em when the old man was
distracted. However, the distraction must've been preoccupied with
something else at the time.... Perhaps it had been daydreams about the
prospect of apples in the near future. Whatever had happened, it had
ended with Ichigo running, and the old man chasing.
Well, it actually wasn't done yet. There was still the escaping, and not
the getting beaten up, hoped Ichigo.
Alley, street, lawn, fence, dog, people.... All Ichigo passed without
even thought. That was until he saw what a horse had left behind perhaps
not just as a present for all the world but in particular for a
short-for-his-age orange-haired boy. He jumped over it, deciding the man
behind him would appreciate it even more than Ichigo could, which
wouldn't be hard, he decided, never having developed any sort of feeling
towards ripe horse crap other than disgust.
He did enjoy the sound of a slip and fall from behind him though. And
also the sound of the man's now incoherent screams which chased after
Ichigo in the man's place but had as much chance of catching him as an
ugly old man hopefully face down in a pile of horse doings did.
Alley, corner, street, building, and dog.... In losing the old man, and
weaving his way through unfamiliar city to safety, Ichigo hoped the old
man would get as lost as Ichigo did trying to mislead him were he to try
to look for him.
Collapsing against alley wall, sliding down onto his butt, Ichigo
couldn't help but look up to the sky that was in turn peeking down
between the two buildings at Ichigo. "Where... where am I anyway?" he
asked himself. However, he didn't know, and so didn't answer. Ah well,
he decided. After a short rest, he could look around to see if he
recognised any place nearby, and from there, head home.
Actually, first, there was one thing to find before home. Something
useless he'd have to drag back with him, and then kick in the head for
utter and complete worthlessness. Then feed, and send back out to play.
Pochi. Ichigo's... friend...? Who the hell knew the kid's real name? Not
even Pochi, that was for sure. But he wasn't a bad kid, except for the
frequent theft of money, food, and anything else that could fit in his
hands from anybody without the wits to keep an eye on their belongings
in the seventy-eighth. He also lied a lot, and when he did that, you had
to go and find him and then kick him awake. And he also seemed to be
allergic to the truth, always sweating when he had to speak it, which is
when Ichigo ever suspected the boy of something small-time criminal,
which tended to be all the time.
All in all, Pochi was a kid of the seventy-eighth. He wasn't a bad
kid.... Well, actually he was, but if you kept him in front of you at
all times, you could trust him. Like how if you were trying to acquire
apples from a disreputable merchant, you could count on Pochi to be the
first to run away before you even had a chance to take the apples
thereby drawing all the attention to yourself when it was supposed to
split, giving both boys a chance to get away without any danger
following. Yeah, Pochi had a special kind of courage, felt Ichigo.
The boy was probably hiding, hoping for Ichigo to cool down.
Unfortunately for Pochi felt Ichigo was how Ichigo had a special kind of
temper where if he didn't blow up when he wanted to, then he'd wait for
an opportunity to present itself.
Looking ahead, he then ducked and hid behind a pile of alley trash,
seeing a man he didn't want to see. It was Bishou, a guy who had two
scars, both from his mouth to his ears, making it look like he had a
'Crap! Crap! Crap!' thought Ichigo. 'Please don't let him see me! Don't
let him find me!'
"Well, well," said Bishou, from behind Ichigo. "If it isn't me favourite
lil' alley rat. I've been lookin' for ye, Strawberry. I gotta job for ye."
Ichigo said, "Crap." Then he stood, facing Bishou. "What is it then?"
"Apples.... Ye wouldn't mind givin' one to ol' Bishou now, right?" asked
Bishou, knowing he wouldn't be refused. After taking an apple, and then
taking a bite, he returned his attention to Ichigo. "Well, Strawberry,
me boss was wantin' for ye to run a message. Get the boys out on
thirty-third street to know they's dead men if they keep forgettin'
who's got their backs."
Ichigo looked into Bishou's eyes. "Yeah, I'll do that," said Ichigo.
"Before sundown, right?"
"Yeah, ye know. By dusk those men must know they must make a choice to
live or die," said Bishou. He considered his next few words, looking at
Ichigo. "And ye also know, me boss wants ye to work for us
exclusive-like, if ye be interested? The best runner in the city workin'
for the biggest heart? A match made in Soul Society, ye know?"
"I'll think about it," said Ichigo. For his answer, he received a pat to
"Don't think too hard," said Bishou. "Me boss has lotsa' patients, but
it ain't infinite-like, ye know?" He reached into Ichigo's bag, and
grabbed another apple. "Anyhow, this job is worth at least two more bags
of these fruits, if ye gets it done right. I'll be waitin' at the usual
Ichigo nodded, and began running, hating having to let Bishou behind
him, which was the most dangerous place a man like that could be.
For a long distance, Ichigo could feel serious shivers down his spine,
and he didn't stop running until his nerves settled, and the feeling of
eyes boring into his back disappeared.
"Idiot!" Ichigo said, shouting at the sleeping creature which was now
under his foot being ground awake. "I would so kill you if you weren't
already dead!" The creature was Pochi, and he had been resting on a rooftop.
"Strawberry?" asked Pochi, waking, blinking his eyes. "How'd you find
me? An' I thought I hid so well, too...."
"I just thought to myself, 'Where would a dumb Pochi hide with his
freaking tail between his legs, especially if the dude looking for him
was me?'" said Ichigo. "And boom! The answer came to me. A dumb Pochi
would hide on a rooftop out near the river cause it'd be cool there. And
there'd have to be shade too. As well as food." The roof they were on
belonged to a restaurant with food so good Ichigo had heard the
cockroaches gave it two antennas up (and dismissed the rats' opinion
which was the food would taste better with less cockroaches and more flies).
"That's deduction, huh?" asked Pochi. He pushed off Ichigo's foot from
his head, and sat up. "So you got the apples huh?" Ichigo took out an
apple and tossed it to Pochi. "Wait, I'm supposed to get half...."
"The hell you talking about, dummy? I didn't see you doing your share of
the work. But I did see some old crank chasing after me. So that means
you get three apples, but somebody else wanted two so I gave 'em to him,
taking them out of your share. I sure as hell wasn't going to give that
guy any of my apples." Ichigo sat down beside Pochi. He took an apple
from the bag, and devoured the apple without mercy, finishing it in mere
seconds. "Ah, that's good!"
"Mine's all bruised," said Pochi. He had finished half his apple, and
looked forlornly at the bag of apples in Ichigo's arms.
"You don't deserve fresh food," said Ichigo. He tossed his apple core at
Pochi. "Eat that if you want fresh." He then took another out, and ate
it, again in mere seconds. "Ah ha, that's good!"
"So you're not hungry anymore?" asked Pochi. He had eaten the core.
"The hell you talking about?" asked Ichigo. "You don't get hungry in
"If you got spirit power, you do," said Pochi. He again looked at the
bag of apples.
"And who says I got that?" asked Ichigo. "You?" He took out one more
apple, and then handed the rest to Pochi. "Your freaking puppy-dog eyes,
man.... Take whatever's left then, you filthy beggar!"
Pochi looked at the apples, and then at Ichigo. "There's way more than
half in here," he said. "I can't take 'em all. Besides, you still look
"Shut up," said Ichigo. "I ain't hungry. I don't get hungry."
Pochi looked at Ichigo, as though thinking, which to Ichigo didn't seem
likely. "You know, Strawberry. I heard those with spirit power grow old
really slowly here. I've grown at least three centimetres since you got
here, and you ain't even grown at all. And you were ten when you died,
huh? You still look ten now even though it's been five years."
"I was nine, and it's been six years," said Ichigo.
"Really? But you still ain't grown," said Pochi. "You're a short fifteen
years old, and you're gonna be like that forever since you got strong
"Like you're a freaking expert on spirit power or anything," said
Ichigo. "I'm just one of those people who grow up suddenly, okay? In
another five years I'll hit a spurt, and be 180 cm's before you know it,
idiot. Don't got spirit power. Don't know nothing about it either, so
just shut up about this."
"Those with strong spirit power can be shinigami," said Pochi.
"Yeah, supposing I do got spirit power, and I go off and be a shinigami,
then who'd be here to watch your back, huh?" Ichigo stood up, as though
ready to leave, completely disgusted. "You wouldn't last one day without
me. Pochi just needs to be a good boy, and listen to me!" He began to
walk away, intending to get down off the roof.
"Strawberry, where you going?" asked Pochi.
"I got something to take care of, so just stay, Pochi! Don't follow me,
or I'll have to throw rocks at you!" Ichigo said, his voice commanding.
"So stay, Pochi! Be a good boy, and I might think about bringing you
back a treat."
"Don't treat me like a dog, Strawberry," said Pochi, annoyed.
Off the roof, down into the alley, around a corner onto the street, a
left turn into another alley, and straight ahead past three streets....
Ichigo ran, everything to his sides a blur, nothing but what was in
front of him clear to see. He had a place he needed to be. Thirty-third
street, in the part of the city called the Hollow-Downs.
Ichigo was a Hollows-Downs kid, and was proud to have gotten out of
there, but not to have been from there, which would be silly. No, the
Hollow-Downs was a nightmare, even for the seventy-eighth district of
Inuzuri. Best to get there while the sun was still out, and away from
there before the light disappeared, felt Ichigo.
Thirty-third street? That was deep in the Hollow-downs, right on the
outskirts and beside the river, and the path to there was a maze only a
few could navigate safely, otherwise you might run into a dark alley,
which would get narrower and narrower until you turned around, and found
yourself face to face with....
Bishou's face came to mind, but Ichigo dismissed his dreams, and pressed
on, pushing his body to go even faster. The quicker the job was done,
How odd, felt Ichigo, as he explored further into the Hollow Downs.
Usually, there'd be tens of dozens of people sitting on steps, digging
in trash, peeking out windows this far into the downs, but today,
everybody seemed to be busy.
Well, maybe it wasn't so odd. Somehow, it felt as though the residents
knew Bishou was soon going to make his way down the down's streets, and
even street monsters knew better than to tangle with a demon. Bad news
could travel fast, even through the twisted streets of the downs, or
rather, perhaps because of the narrowness of the streets, where houses
were not only side to side but built on top of each other creating
streets more like dry wooden caverns than roads, could news spread
quickly, like an out of control fire.
Yeah, one badly placed match could wipe out the downs, and perhaps the
whole seventy-eighth, probably in less than a night. Just another
delightful hazard of living in the seventy-eighth, felt Ichigo.
And ahead, the thirty-third. Probably the only place in the downs with
any amount of sunlight during the day, as once in the past did it burn,
taking many live and buildings, neither of which were ever replaced, the
current residents deciding to build up rather than out.
And suddenly, Ichigo was grabbed.
"Leggo! Leggo!" Ichigo began kicking whatever had him, but instead of
being released, he was brought face to face with some old guy.
"What is this? An urchin?" Damn! So the entrance to the thirty-third had
a guard, huh? Ichigo scowled at the old man.
"I'm here with a message from Bishou for the old guys in the
thirty-third," said Ichigo, feeling mentioning that name would get him
back on his own feet, rather than them dangling in the air.
"Bishou?" asked the man, grinning. "Why didn't he come himself?" The man
brought Ichigo closer so they were eye to eye. "Here, I know you.
Strawberry. So you running for Bishou now, huh?"
"Just a one time thing," said Ichigo. Tired of being in the man's grasp,
Ichigo decided to kick the man where he would get the man's entire
attention, since his feet were at about that level. Back on the ground,
Ichigo then kicked the man in the head, since the man was now on his
knees, gasping in pain. "And you're holding me up, idiot!" Well, maybe
not anymore, felt Ichigo, realising his words.
Free, Ichigo then stepped into the thirty-third, which was bathed in
sunlight. After the cavernous streets of the downs, it felt good to
again be someplace he could actually see what he was stepping in.
But it didn't feel good to have a sword pointed in his face.
"Boy, you're causing trouble," said the man with the sword. "Get lost,
or you'll be gutted."
The man had a point, felt Ichigo. He also groaned at his pun, and
decided to comply before he was hurt by either sharp sword or blunt joke.
"Wait," said another man. "That's Strawberry. We been lookin' for 'em.
Bring 'em to the boss."
While he would've rather have walked, Ichigo didn't complain as he was
hoisted over some guy's shoulder, and packed into a building, as he was
intending to get into wherever the street's boss was anyway.
Up a set of stairs, and into what seemed like an office, Ichigo was
deposited onto a wooden chair before a man who seemed like he had better
things to do than have to meet with a street urchin. Well, that was
okay, felt Ichigo, as he too had better things to do than meet with a
guy that looked like he had a bear sit on his face.... Wait, realised
Ichigo, recognising the man. "Ryu?"
"Strawberry," said the man named Ryu. "It's been a while. Good to see
you." Ryu's face though didn't seem to express that this was a pleasant
meeting, felt Ichigo. "So you're working for Bishou now? Heard you're
delivering messages for him now?"
"No...." said Ichigo. "Just this once. I run for everybody." Damn Ryu,
making him feel guilty for just trying to make a living!
"But this isn't the only time you've run for him, right?" asked Ryu. It
seemed he didn't wait for Ichigo to rebut his question, instead taking
Ichigo's facial expressions as his answer. "Well, it's only natural, I
suppose. It's the seventy-eighth, after all. If you're not working for
Bishou, then you're an outcast, if you don't get killed first." He
sighed, looking at Ichigo. "So, what's Bishou want to say to us, then?"
"He's coming here soon, by tomorrow," said Ichigo. Crap, he just
realised something! Bishou finding Ryu...? "Ryu...! You can't be here!"
said Ichigo, suddenly desperate. "You gotta go! Run! Hide!"
Ryu smirked, his hands reaching to his stomach as though trying to
soothe an old but not forgotten pain. But when he saw Ichigo guiltily
watching his habit, he pulled his hand up, placing it on his desk. He
leaned towards Ichigo. "No running, Strawberry. If I ever retreat, then
it's only so I can get a good running start back."
"Why?" asked Ichigo. "Why not just live?"
"Why?" Ryu sat back, as though giving serious thought to Ichigo's
question. "Wouldn't know. Something like that, I avoid thinking about.
But maybe part of the reason is because I hate that bastard Bishou. Him
and his boss." He grinned. "It'll be fun to see Bishou's face when he
finds me back here." He stood, walked over to the office door, opening
it, and then shouted, "Akira! Get your ass over here!" When the guy
called Akira appeared (Ichigo recognised the guy as the one who brought
him up to the office), Ryu returned to his desk. "I heard something
"What's that, Sir?" asked Akira. He curiously glanced at Ichigo, but
quickly returned his attention to Ryu.
"Bishou's coming here, finally," said Ryu. "Took that bastard long
enough to realise we were up to something. Anyway, get the men ready for
a fight. And barricade the allies. Stop anybody from getting in or out.
Except for Strawberry here. He's got the job of bringing back our
response to Bishou." He looked at Ichigo. "Tell him we said 'no'."
An icy shiver ran down Ichigo's spine. Was what Ryu just said real?
Didn't Ryu realise how crazy Bishou was? A man was lucky if he ever
looked into Bishou's eyes, and lived. A man was fortunate if he ever
stared into Bishou's soul, and kept his own sanity after witnessing the
chaos in that man's essence.
But Ichigo was staring into Ryu's eyes now, and what he saw in them was
something approaching Bishou's mind, but from the other direction.
Something of fire that burned all it saw, and right now, it was looking
back at Ichigo who couldn't look away.
Ichigo felt Akira's hand on his shoulder. He looked at the man, and
guiltily felt relief overwhelm himself. "We're leaving, boy," said
Akira, pulling Ichigo off the chair onto his feet.
Marched from the office, down the stairs, through the mess that was the
building with men and women hurrying about, shouting at each other, and
outside into the chaos that was men and women running to and fro
shouting to each other, and back to the entrance of the thirty-third to
the rest of the Hollow Downs.
After given a good shove by Akira back into the cavernous street, Ichigo
didn't look back. He could only run forward even though his thoughts
kept returning to Ryu.... 'Idiot! Does he want to die...? Stupid
Ryu....' Maybe he did want to die, felt Ichigo, deep from the part of
his heart where all thoughts resided that betrayed the world of fantasy
that he wanted to live in, returning him to cold reality. Maybe all
those people in the thirty-third did, waiting for Bishou to give to them
'Don't think about that!' Ichigo inwardly screamed at his heart, and
grimaced, and pushed his legs to carry him further and faster than he'd
ever gone before. Don't think about Ryu or Akira! Not about that guy who
shoved a sword in his face, or about that guy he kicked in the...
entrance to the thirty-third.
Just run. Finish the job. And face Bishou, and tell him....
"They said 'no'," said Ichigo, in front of Bishou, at the 'usual spot'
minutes and minutes later. His heart was beating hard, but not from the
run. Hide Ryu from his thoughts. Don't think about him, or Bishou will
go crazy right here, and kill everything in sight....
It was difficult to read Bishou's expression, if he was really ever
smiling, or if he ever frowned or scowled. "Well, that's a shame," said
Bishou. "But not unexpected." He patted Ichigo's head. "Sorry to put ye
through that, Strawberry, but a civilised man like me feels a strange
need to barter with fools sometimes." He walked past Ichigo. "I promised
ye some fruits, right? So here."
Ichigo took two bags of fruit from Bishou, and then bowed, and began to
walk away from Bishou.
"Wait, Strawberry," said Bishou, his cold voice instantly stopping
Ichigo. "Remember my offer. It's not one ye should forget...."
Ichigo struggled not to shiver, and hurried away.
Home was where the Pochi was. True to his name, he was eagerly bounding
up to Ichigo, especially since he realised Ichigo had food. Unlike a
true Pochi, he could ask questions, especially annoying ones.
"Where'd you get this from?" asked Pochi. He had swiped a bag from
Ichigo, which turned out to be full of oranges.
From Bishou, was what Ichigo didn't want to say, so he instead
shrugged. "Picked them up."
"From where?" asked Pochi.
"Don't know. Just saw them on the street," said Ichigo. "Had something
on my mind, and wasn't paying attention to where I was."
"You saw these on the street?" asked Pochi, but not incredulously since
he didn't have the ability for such a complex sarcasm. "They were just
sitting out in the open? In the seventy-eighth? Nobody tried to stop you?"
"The hell does it matter?" asked Ichigo, annoyed, and a bit embarrassed
at such a lame ass excuse. "We got food to spare for once. Why you gotta
be such a freaking copper about all this?"
Pochi doubtfully looked at Ichigo, but didn't have any follow-up
questions, instead devouring the first orange he took from the bag.
Home was where the old man was, too. Whatever the hell his name was,
Ichigo didn't know, but he was an old fart that didn't ask any questions
other than, "Eh? What was that? Can't hear ya' if ya don't speak up!"
Anyway, the old man slowly walked past Ichigo and Pochi, taking his seat
by the window, which had a great view of the wall of the house next
door, which wasn't more than a metre away.
How the old man had kept his own home in a city known for its pride in
its heartlessness was a complete mystery to Ichigo. He had asked once,
but only received a question in response: "Eh? You say somethin',
sonny?" So he could only posit theories, such as the old man had had his
home stolen in the past, but because he was both nearly deaf and blind
never understood he had been kicked out of his home, and so just stayed,
whatever else may have happened around him. Ichigo and Pochi's uninvited
residence in the house was evidence such a theory was possible, as the
old man didn't give a damn who they were, so long as they never took his
chair from him.
Ichigo waved at the old man, and said, "Yo, Jii."
After peeling an orange, and putting it into Jii's hands (and making
sure Pochi didn't swipe it), Ichigo went outside, and sat on the house's
front steps. Damn.... His heart was still nervously beating.
"What's wrong, Strawberry?" asked Pochi, from behind him. He then sat
beside Ichigo. "You only ever come out here when you're thinking."
"None of your business," said Ichigo, sourly. He came out here so could
forget and not worry, just like Pochi was all the time. A big mess of
ignorant happiness. "I heard something jingle in your pocket," said Ichigo.
"Th... that wasn't nothin'!" said Pochi, panicking. "Just some....
thing...." He couldn't even think of whatever else it could've been
other than what it actually was. "I picked up some.... Um, found money
on the way home," which Ichigo knew to be Pochi-ese for 'Picked it out
of some sucker's pocket'.
"Pochi, you suck," said Ichigo. "Give me some of that 'nothin'', then.
I'll go get us some confetti."
"Wait! I'll come too," said Pochi, excited.
"Oh yeah? Then don't follow me in the store or we'll get kicked out,"
said Ichigo. "That candy dude knows you're swiping his stuff now, and
he's gonna kick your ass for anything stupid you do."
"It's not like I'll do anything," said Pochi, pouting.
"Trust me on this," said Ichigo. "He's pissed off cause you've been
taking too much. Getting greedy."
Yeah, you couldn't take Pochi anywhere, decided Ichigo, after they left
the candy store with confetti in pocket. With a quick interrogation, and
eventual pat down, Ichigo found Pochi had snitched a pair of candy
apples, and a bunch of sugared rice balls, and he didn't even notice
Pochi in the store.
After a quick retreat back home, Ichigo and Pochi resumed their places
on the steps. A candy apple later, Ichigo leaned back. He looked at
Pochi out of the corner of his eye, curious. "How old are you, Pochi?"
"Eh? Me?" Pochi looked at Ichigo, confused. He then put on an expression
of frustration as though asked an algebra equation. "Let's see.... Uh,
"Fifteen, and it's been five years...."
"Six years, and I remember hanging around here before you came for maybe
fifteen years," said Pochi. "I was a baby here, but don't remember
nothin' else. Just got passed around from house to house until I was old
enough to run away."
"So about twenty then, if you were a baby here too," said Ichigo,
sighing. "Then why the hell do I feel like I'm the adult around here?
I'm younger than you, man."
Pochi laughed. "Yeah. You're like a big brother, you know?"
Yeah, like a big brother, felt Ichigo. Protecting the ones he cared
"We need to run away," said Ichigo. "Get out of here. Go to the first
district, you know?"
"Yeah," said Pochi, unenthusiastically. "And then you can become a
shinigami." That he said with life, but Ichigo ignored Pochi.
Escape from the seventy-eighth.... Ichigo sighed. There was so much he
didn't want to dwell on, especially tonight, with Bishou making his way
to thirty-third street, ready to face off with men he wished to kill. He
would be surprised to find Ryu there, though....
What to do...? Especially when Bishou would stand in front of Ichigo
later on, and then ask why Ichigo didn't tell him why he knew Ryu was
back in town? Ichigo felt then Bishou would definitely smile, but not
the sort of smile it would be. Perhaps it would be the one when Bishou
was about to kill....
"Where would we have to go first?" asked Ichigo. "Seventy-seventh,
right? But after that, it's straight to the seventy-fourth...?"
"Yeah, and then to the seventy-first after that," said Pochi. "It's easy
if we get to the seventy-seventh. But we'd have to go by the road to
The road... was a dangerous place, knew Ichigo. Well, anywhere outside
of the city was terrible for the unprepared, and for the prepared too.
This was because of the law of the strongest. The weakest were pushed
out of the city, and away from the tentative order of the
seventy-seventh, people became... desperate. Perhaps crazy. And this was
in comparison to the city, which was always on the brink of chaos.
Well, felt Ichigo. It was a nice dream anyway. Maybe it'd come true one day.
.---Anime/Manga Fanfiction Mailing List----.
| Administrators - firstname.lastname@example.org |
| Unsubscribing - email@example.com |
| Put 'unsubscribe' in the subject |
`---- http://ffml.anifics.com/faq.txt -----'