Chapter One: Not so Ordinary Girl
Orihime Inoue awoke and felt like today was the first day of a new life. All the world's possibilities were out there for her to reject or accept as she wished.
She wondered if there were any pink hippos outside her apartment.
Not that she expected there to be pink hippos out there, but that would be pretty cool. Maybe it would have wings, and she and Tatsuki could get on it and fly to Africa. Then they could have all kinds of adventures fighting evil wizards.
Such was her thought process as she got out of her pajamas. She showered, bathed, and carefully pressed her long auburn hair. Last of all, she parted it with her star-shaped hairpin. When she donned her violet sweater, however, she was perplexed to see she'd grown another cup size. That had happened a lot in the past few years, but fortunately, the beautiful girl had prepared for this.
After eating a breakfast of ham slathered in peanut butter, she went to talk to her brother. Sora had been dead for a few years, but fortunately, ghosts existed. So that just meant he was stuck in the apartment the chain he wore.
"Ah, it's a beautiful morning, wouldn't you say, Sora?" asked Orihime.
"Yes, Orihime, it is," said Sora, looking out the window with distant eyes. "Are things going well at school?"
"Oh, they're going great, Sora," said Orihime happily. "Ichigo has gotten some really good grades lately, you know. Though, well, things haven't really been the same since you died."
"Well, I wish I could do more for you, but I'm bound here," said Sora.
"I know," said Orihime sadly. She missed the days when Sora could go out with her places. Though, him going out had kind of been what got them into this mess.
No, no, sticking around the apartment all day was dangerous.
"Anyway, I have to head out to meet Tatsuki at the park," said Orihime, finishing her ham.
Having pre-cooked her lunch for the day, she quickly stored it away in her lunchbox. Putting that in her backpack, Orihime stepped out of the store. Suddenly, there was a shout from inside the apartment.
Had something happened to Sora? Was it another migraine? Orihime rushed back in to see him clutching his face in pain. "Sora, is something wrong?"
"I... no, Orihime, nothing is wrong. I just..." Sora stood up, expression pained but controlled. "I'm glad you have friends. You don't have to worry about me."
Orihime smiled and then nodded. "Great, I'll see you later."
Heading out, Orihime Inoue made her way to school. As she came into the schoolyard, she saw a familiar girl nearby. Tatsuki Arisawa was a slim, dark-haired girl clad in the usual school uniform.
"Hey, Orihime!" called Tatsuki, racing toward her.
Orihime beamed happily and wondered if they were about to be swept off to a weird fantasyland. Maybe they could fight an evil dragon and talk a dark wizard to death. After all, Orihime had been thinking of physical descriptions. This, even though they already knew each other. So clearly, they were about to start the adventure. "Tatsuki, there you are! How are you?"
"Oh, pretty good," said Tatsuki, rubbing the back of her head. "Had a great day at karate."
"Oh, that's great," said Orihime. "You know, Sora asked after you yesterday."
"Sora, um, Orihime, you still talking to ghosts?" asked Tatsuki.
"Of course, silly," said Orihime. "It would be rude to pretend like the supernatural doesn't exist, just because it can't be seen by everyone."
"Um, right, yeah," said Tatsuki. "Listen Orihime, have you considered getting out a bit?"
Orihime blinked and looked at her friend. "Hmm?"
"Well, I mean, I get worried about you hanging out in that apartment by yourself all alone," said Tatsuki.
"But I'm not alone, I'm with Sora," said Orihime. Why did Tatsuki find it so hard to believe in what she couldn't see?
"Right, sure, what I mean is maybe we should go out and do something together," said Tatsuki, sounding a bit worried. "After school, I mean."
"What do you have in mind?" asked Orihime, looking to her.
"Oh um, well, I..." said Tatsuki. "Want to go to the arcade?"
"Well, I would, Tatsuki, but Sora says I should save my money," said Orihime. "He keeps insisting I have to have a buffer in case my relatives cut me off."
"Well, fine, I'll pay," said Tatsuki, quicker than usual. "My Mom's actually giving me an allowance, so I can cover us both."
"Wow, that's really nice of you, Tatsuki," said Orihime.
"It's no problem, really," said Tatsuki.
School passed in a blur, with most of the math problems and literary tests being fairly easy. Orihime didn't have time to imagine any wars between the number of gods, so it was all pretty dull. Afterward, she and Tatsuki went out through the streets toward the arcade. The streets of Karakura Town were pretty crowded, which surprised Orihime. The recent recession had left things in a pretty bad state, after all.
And then, suddenly, Orihime heard something. It sounded almost like a howl, and she looked up but didn't see anything. "Hey, Tatsuki, do you hear that?"
Tatsuki looked up. "Hear what?
"I don't hear any-"
And then a giant praying mantis tore through the masonry. It had a mask upon its head and snarled as it rushed toward them. Tatsuki looked up but didn't seem to see it. "Is this some kind of gas explosion?"
Orihime grabbed Tatsuki's hand and pulled her away. "Come on, Tatsuki, we've got to get away from that thing! Quickly!" Glancing back, Orihime saw the creature rushing after them.
"What thing?" asked Tatsuki. "Orihime, what are you-"
The thing slashed at them, and Orihime pulled Tatsuki down. The scythe passed over of them, and Tatsuki and Orihime looked up. Above them, the beast snarled.
And then, a beautiful, dark-haired girl descended from on high. Wielding a brilliant, white katana, she slashed the praying mantis across the arms. Landing, she then leaped upward and split it in half down the middle. The creature snarled and then dissipated into nothingness.
The girl landed, glanced back to them, as though satisfied, then walked off.
Tatsuki stood up and stared at a lamppost that had been cut clear in half. Her mouth opened, then closed again. "Orihime, do those...
"Do those look like claw marks to you?"
Orihime stared at her. "Didn't you see? The masked praying mantis made the claw marks."
"What praying mantis?" asked Tatsuki. "That had to be some kind of accident. Like a gas explosion or..."
"Look at that," said Orihime, pointing to the broken lamp. "That thing was cut clean in half."
"What?" said Tatsuki. "How... no fused circuit could have done this. Orihime, you want to get out of here for a bit? I uh... I don't really feel safe here."
"Yeah," said Orihime. "You're right."
On they walked, back along the usual route. As they did, however, Tatsuki seemed increasingly out of sorts. Finally, she looked at Orihime. "So uh, what do you think that thing was out there? I mean, it couldn't have just been an accident.
"I mean, I thought I saw something then. A bit of a blur, and though it was gasoline."
"Maybe it's some sort of government conspiracy, and they're planning to take over the world!" said Orihime, letting her imagination run wild. "But we'll join a team that will fight them, and we'll stop instrumentality!"
"I wish I had your imagination," said Tatsuki. "I mean, I'm really hoping this doesn't become a repeated thing is all. I woke up this morning and felt like I'd spent twelve years getting crushed into the ground.
"I really ached all over."
"What do you think you did to get like that?" asked Orihime.
"I don't know," admitted Tatsuki. "But I was physically fine, I just felt really spent is all. Did you feel anything weird?"
"Oh me?" asked Orihime. "I felt like I'd woken up with a chance to be something more than ever before! I was feeling really chipper."
"Well, as long as it isn't fighting giant monsters, who cares?" asked Tatsuki with a smile.
"I dunno, I think it might be fun to do battle with giant monsters," said Orihime.
"Whatever you say," said Tatsuki. "I've got to break off here. See you tomorrow at school."
"Bye!" said Orihime, watching her go.
As Orihime walked, she reflected that she hadn't really spent as much time with Tatsuki as she'd liked to. Spending time with Ichigo was nice, but, oh wait, silly her, she hadn't spent as much time with Ichigo in this universe. Though there was probably an alternate universe version of her. And that one did spend time with Ichigo because she was more assertive.
And maybe she was secretly manipulating him as part of her plan to take over all universes. And even now, she was working to breach the gap between dimensions. She was going to kidnap these universes Ichigo!
Orihime had to stop her!
Then Orihime remembered she was disappointed and that things like that didn't happen. Not in real life anyway. Somewhat sadly, she walked on, until she was nearing Ichigo's house. Halting there, she considered knocking and saying hello. Then, suddenly, an impulse hit her to just move on. Orihime wondered why.
Then, just before she could, she saw that same girl from before. She leaped down from a telephone posted and landed in front of the door.
"Wow, that was really cool," said Orihime, walking up to her. "How's it going?"
"It's somewhere near here..." said Rukia.
Orihime tapped her on the shoulder, delighted to have found a fellow dreamer. "Hello? Um, can you hear me?"
The girl turned around suddenly and stared at her. "Wait, you can see me?"
"Of course, I can see you, silly!" said Orihime. "That's a really nice sword! Are you some sort of superhero? Do you have a secret identity and a cave where you hide everything?"
The girl cupped Orihime by the cheek in an odd way. Orihime felt her heart flutter. "How very strange.
"You look normal, but there must be something wrong with you."
"Now that doesn't seem very nice," said Orihime. "I'm just an ordinary teenage girl who wants to attract her crush and then become a giant robot and fire missiles! Oh, maybe I could have a showdown with an evil god thing in the middle of Tokyo! That would be so..."
"Slow down, okay," said the girl. "I saw you before. And to answer your question, I am a Soul Reaper. My job is to hunt creatures like the one you saw before. There are two kinds of spirits you'll find in the World of the Living.
"The first are pure spirits, called wholes, who I help pass on to the next life. The second are evil spirits called hollows. The hollows hunt down spiritually sensitive people in order to devour their souls."
"Wow, so you are a superhero," said Orihime, excited to be in that kind of story.
The girl blinked in surprise, however. "Superhero?"
"Yeah, like a costumed badass. Someone flies around saving people and stopping bad guys," said Orihime.
"This isn't a costume," said the girl, sounding faintly offended. "It's my uniform."
Orihime paused. "Oh, I see.
"So, you're an army of superheroes!"
The girl looked at her for a moment and finally smiled. "...Sure, why not.
"Listen, I actually have to get over to that house over there."
"Why do you need to go to Ichigo's house? Is he a superhero, too?" asked Orihime, it sounded about right. After all, Ichigo liked to protect people.
"No, but, well, there is a boy in there with a very large amount of spiritual pressure," said the girl. "I suspect that if a hollow does attack, it'll show up here first.
"Then again, you seem to have a pretty high level of spiritual pressure as well.
"Listen, you should head home now."
"Oh, okay," said Orihime, feeling disappointed that the call wasn't for her. "Well, I'm sure my brother will be happy to hear about it. He's been getting headaches for a while since he died."
The girl stopped, suddenly serious. "Died?"
"Yeah, there was this big pileup, and, well, he got really badly hurt," said Orihime. "But then he came back as a ghost and-"
"Show me to him now!" said the girl quickly.
"What, but why?" asked Orihime.
"Listen to me, when a spirit lingers after death, it gradually starts to become sick," said the girl. "Feelings of resentment and anger grow and grow.
"Eventually, if the spirit gets angry enough, it becomes a hollow.
"How long has your brother been with you?"
"Um, he's been a ghost for years now," said Orihime, trying to remember how many. "Since the accident."
"Then we don't have any time to waste," said the girl. "I need to send him on to the Soul Society before he becomes a hollow."
"But I don't want Sora to leave me all alone," said Orihime. "I mean, I have friends in Tatsuki and Chizuru and the others, but..."
"Do you want to be eaten?" asked the girl, taking her by the shoulder. "Do you think your brother would want that for you?"
"No, I guess not, but um... we should explain it to him," said Orihime.
"Fine," said the girl. "Just lead me to him."
Orihime did lead him. As they walked, she thought about the possibility of losing Sora for good. Well, not for good, maybe she'd see him again in the Soul Society when she died. But still, to have him be gone for so long...
But if he did become a hollow, one of those things, didn't it have to happen?
Orihime didn't want it to happen. She didn't want him to go. And yet that was what was keeping him here, wasn't it? She'd begged him not to go when he'd died.
As these thoughts went through her head, she opened the door. She and Rukia entered, and Sora was near the far wall, clutching his head. Looking up, he tried to look strong. He'd been doing that a lot lately. "Orihime, you're back. How... how was your day?"
"Sora I..." Orihime's throat choked; she couldn't say it.
The girl, however, moved forward. "Listen to me, I am a Soul Reaper.
"I'm here to send you to a better place, the Soul Society."
Sora shifted and looked to Orihime, who found she still couldn't speak. "I can't leave yet.
"Orihime needs me, and I need to stay with her."
"Listen," said the girl. "As long as you are here, you are a danger to her and everyone around her. If you wait too long, you could turn into a hollow. When that happens, you will kill her."
"No, no, I'd never do anything like that!" said Sora. "Never I..." And then he grabbed his head.
Rukia drew her sword immediately. "We don't have any more time."
Even as Rukia surged forward, however, Sora moved aside. And as he did, a masked appeared upon his face. His legs merged together into a tail as his clothes burst to reveal black and red skin. "Stay away!
"Orihime... Orihime is mine!"
"Sora, what are you..." gasped Orihime. "Sora, you've got to fight it!"
"It's too late!" said the girl. "He's already transformed into a hollow! Get back!"
"But why-" began Orihime.
"You, stay away from Orihime, Soul Reaper!" roared Sora, surging forward. His tail struck Rukia, and she was thrown through one of the walls. Orihime saw him chasing her through the hole and followed down the steps.
Sora surged toward the girl, who dodged aside and brought down her sword. Yet Sora rolled away and swung his tail, driving Rukia back.
"Sora, stop this!" cried Orihime, rushing down.
"Shut up, Orihime!" said Sora. "You have no right to order me to do anything! I stayed with you for so long, even after I died! You have no right to just replace me after all that!"
"I don't want to replace you, I just-" began Orihime.
Then she saw the girl coming at Sora from behind, a blade raised. Rushing forward, Orihime leaped between them. "Wait, Rukia, don't!"
The girl halted, her blade merge inches from Orihime's breasts. Then Sora turned in a rage and charged. The girl was bowled down, and the two were flung head over heels. There was a screech, and Sora fell back, dropping blood from a deep wound. Yet Rukia was bleeding as well, and leaning against a wall.
"You idiot, how could you possibly have thought you could reason with that thing..." said the girl.
"He's not a thing," choked Orihime, running forward. "Sora is my brother."
"Quiet!" said the girl. "If you don't stop interfering, we'll both end up as his food! He'll forget all about you sooner or later!"
"But you were trying to kill him!" said Orihime.
"Purifying a hollow isn't the same as killing it!" said the girl. "If you'd just let me strike, he'd have passed on to the Soul Society!" She tried to stand but fell back, blood soaking the ground. "I can't fight like this.
"...Listen, do you want to save us both and your brother?"
"Of course," said Orihime.
The girl turned the blade of her sword around to point at Orihime. "Then you have to take my sword. Drive it deep into the core of your being. Then I will pass my soul reaper powers to you. This might not work, but if we don't do it, we're both dead anyway."
"Orihime!" snarled Sora, coming toward them.
Orihime looked to him, then took hold of it. "Right, um... give me the sword, I think I can do this..."
"My name is... Rukia Kuchiki," said Rukia.
"And my name is Orihime Inoue," said Orihime.
Orihime drove the blade into her chest.
And then she felt power surging through her. It filled her, and a white light emerged around her. As it did, the sword dissipated, and Orihime found herself clad in form-fitting black robes. They had a very lowcut neckline that showed off the sides of her breasts and a split skirt that bared her thighs. In her hand, she found she had two bladed weapons, shaped like the hairpin Sora bought her.
No, it was the hairpin.
"Orihime?" said Sora, halting.
Orihime found she could use the blades as easy as breathing, but she did not want to. "Sora, you have to stop.
"I... I remember the day that you died. The other kids had tried to cut my hair the previous day. And when you got me this hairpin, I threw it at you and told you I didn't want it. Then... when you left, I didn't say goodbye. When you died, all I could think about was how I didn't want to lose you.
"At the same time, I didn't want you to be trapped in my apartment forever. And I thought that if I moved on if I showed you I was well and truly happy, you could be at peace."
"Orihime..." said Sora, struggling with his mask. Then something seemed to take hold of him, some beast, and he snarled and seemed to struggle with himself. "Orihime, strike now!"
"So I'm going to say what I should have said before," said Orihime, reminding herself that death was not the end. "Big brother..." Then Orihime surged past Sora, bringing her blades around. There was a slash, and she passed him, tears running down her cheeks. "Have a good day."
Sora's mask shattered.
"...Thank you, Orihime," said Sora before he faded away.
Then, Orihime found herself overtaken by weariness and fell asleep.
Okay, this is probably going to be only a one-shot. It was a concept that has been floating around in my head for a while.
However, if I get a big enough reception and enough people want me to continue it, I will. This means that if you like this story and want more, I need you to tell me in a review. Otherwise, it might not get continued at all.