Chapter Two: The Call to Adventure
Orihime Inoue woke up, stretched, and looked out through the walls at the morning sun. She enjoyed the heat of it on her face. Then she realized she was looking through a huge hole in her wall and thought this was odd.
She had the most wonderful dream where she'd become a superhero. She saved her brother from becoming an evil monster but had to say goodbye. Looking up, she shrugged. "Hmm, wow, what a beautiful today is! Wouldn't you say, Sora?"
But Sora was not there. And then Orihime realized it was not a dream at all. Sora was... gone.
Orihime dressed after that, looking at her hairpin with some sense of depression. She didn't like the idea of being alone again, but then, she wasn't alone.
She wondered where Rukia was as she dressed for school. The last thing she remembered was purifying Sora and then... nothing.
As she got outside, however, Tatsuki Arisawa rushed to meet her. She looked panicked. "Orihime! Are you alright?!"
"Hmm, what?" said Orihime, feeling a bit depressed.
"I just saw on the news that a truck plowed right into your house!" said Tatsuki. "Are you okay? Did you get hurt?"
"No, I'm fine, Tatsuki. I just..." Orihime tried to stay chipper and failed. She decided to just be honest. "It wasn't a truck, Tatsuki. It was my brother. He transformed into a monster, and... I had to purify his soul. See, there was this Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki, and she helped spirits pass on. But she got hurt fighting Sora, and she passed her powers onto me-"
"Orihime, are you okay?" asked Tatsuki suddenly. She thought Orihime was going crazy, didn't she?
"Yes, well, no..." said Orihime.
"Look, you can't stay in that apartment. Not with everything wrecked like that," said Tatsuki. Then she saw the hole was the second story. "Hang on, how did the truck get up there?"
Orihime sighed. "There was no truck, Tatsuki. It wasn't a monster truck, and there was no ramp to go up.
"Remember the lamp post?"
Tatsuki paused. "I do.
"Alright, let's just say something really weird is going on here and leave it at that. We need to get to school." And together they walked, without talking much at all. Orihime wasn't sure what to say, and neither was Tatsuki. "So uh, this Rukia Kuchiki, who was she?"
"Oh, she had dark hair and was slim and beautiful," said Orihime, finding something she did want to talk about. "But she wore these dark robes and had violet eyes. And she could leap buildings in a single bound and stuff.
"I wonder if she went back to that place she mentioned, the Soul Society?"
"I'll let you have that," said Tatsuki with a sigh.
As soon as they got into the schoolyard, however, Chizuru appeared. Leaping from behind, the red-haired girl grabbed Orihime's huge breasts. Her hands felt them up as she hugged her. "Orihime! I'm so glad to see you."
"Oh, hey Chizuru," said Orihime, right before Tatsuki struck.
"Get off her, Chizuru," said Tatsuki, pulling her off. "Her apartment got wrecked."
"What, seriously?" asked Chizuru. "What happened?"
"Yeah, Sora transformed into this huge demon. I fought it and defeated it before helping its soul find peace," said Orihime.
"Wait, that seems-" began Chizuru, sounding concerned.
"Drop it," said Tatsuki.
"Right," said Chizuru.
Tatsuki and Orihime made their way through the halls. As they did, they rounded a corner, and Orihime crashed straight into Ichigo. Falling back, she saw Ichigo standing there, staring into space. His orange hair was a bit messier than usual like he'd forgotten to comb it.
"Ow," said Orihime.
Ichigo paused and then seemed to notice them. "Oh, hey, Orihime."
Tatsuki stepped between them angrily. "Ichigo! You knock a girl down, and you don't even help her get back up."
Mutely, Ichigo reached down and helped Orihime up. He looked really bad, actually, and kept looking at his hands. "Sorry if I'm spaced out. I... something happened last night."
"What could happen to make you not even see five feet ahead of you?" asked Tatsuki.
"Well, I think a truck crashed into my house, but it doesn't seem right," said Ichigo. "I don't remember it at all, and... I remember Karin and Yuzu screaming, and hitting something with a bat and then... nothing."
"Two trucks in one day?" asked Tatsuki, looking to Orihime. "That's some luck we've got."
"Do um," Orihime stuttered. "Do you want us to help you with it?"
"It's fine," said Ichigo. "Dad says we've got the repairs covered.
"I remember there was this weird insurance salesman he was talking to outside the house. Or at least he said it was an insurance salesman. He wore this weird, green, and white striped hat and looked really shady. Wore clogs too."
"Doesn't sound like Hat and Clogs has much fashion sense," said Tatsuki.
"Yeah, I know," said Ichigo. "Dad looked really serious while talking with him, but wouldn't let us be with him.
"Something is going on here."
"Do you think he's running some kind of protection, racket?" asked Orihime. "Maybe there are some gangsters from the Italian Mafia muscling in on the Yakuza! And then... nevermind. See you, Ichigo."
They separated and got to class. As they did, Tatsuki looked really troubled, and Orihime knew why. She didn't usually cut her stories short like that. "So, Orihime..."
"Yes, Tatsuki?" asked Orihime.
"What's your plan for the repairs?" asked Tatsuki. "Seriously, that's something you need to consider. If you want, I could help you out. I'm sure Ichigo would be willing to work with you. You could stay at my place for a bit."
"Well, I considered that, but I think it'll be fine," said Orihime.
Tatsuki blinked. "What do you mean, fine?"
"Well, if you think about it, these invisible monsters have been around for a long time," said Orihime. "But you don't see claw marks all over the roads and walls, and nobody knows about them.
"That means they've probably got superhero repairman on the job right now!"
"Orihime, this is serious," said Tatsuki.
"So am I," said Orihime, gritting her teeth. "This is my serious face.
"I'll bet as soon as we get back to my house, all the damage will have been repaired. I mean, have you heard about any repairs being done near the mall?"
"I..." Tatsuki halted. "No. No, I didn't."
And then Rukia walked in, dressed in a school uniform. "Excuse me, you're Orihime, right?"
"Oh, Rukia, there you are! How have you been?" asked Orihime, glad she wasn't dead.
"You two know each other?" asked Tatsuki.
"What are you talking about?" asked Rukia. "We've never met before. Isn't that right, Orihime?" And she turned her palm to reveal the writing.
'Make a scene, and you are so dead.'
"Here, I need you to come with me," said Rukia grabbing Orihime's hand.
"Now hang on a second, just why do you-" began Tatsuki.
Orihime got the feeling this was super-secret stuff. "One sec, Tatsuki, I need to talk with her for a bit."
Tatsuki shrugged. "Fine, whatever you want. Just be sure to be back in time for class. It'll start soon."
Rukia led Orihime through the halls quickly and out into a courtyard. Here they halted, and Orihime looked at her in surprise. "So, um, what exactly is it you wanted to talk to be about, Rukia?"
"Last night, when I gave you my powers, I had intended to give you only half of my powers," said Rukia. "However, you somehow absorbed all of them.
"As a result, I can't go back to the Soul Society."
"Oh, I'm sorry, is there some way I can give them back?" asked Orihime. She felt she ought to make the offer. It wouldn't be nice to steal someone else's powers.
"No," said Rukia with a sigh. "Fortunately, my powers should return to me gradually over time. However, until that happens, I'm going to need you to fill in. It's up to you to perform the duties of a Substitute Soul Reaper."
"Okay, great! I won't let you down!" said Orihime, saluting in a way that sent her chest bouncing.
Rukia raised an eyebrow and bit her lip. "Huh, you're... enthusiastic."
"Well yeah, I've always wanted to go on adventures and save people like a real superhero!" said Orihime. "So um, how do I transform into that uh, Soul Reaper form. Is there some sort of mystical phrase I have to-"
And then Rukia moved forward and, with an open palm, struck Orihime across the chest. Instantly, Orihime found herself backing away. But seeing her body collapse onto the ground, asleep. "Ow.
"Wow, I can see my own body."
"I know," said Rukia. "Now follow me, a young boy in a playground is about to be attacked."
Orihime suddenly realized she was wearing that same Soul Reaper outfit from before. Her hairpins, meanwhile, were hanging from her hips. Taking them out as she followed Rukia, she marveled at them and thought them really cool.
"So um, why is my weapon different from yours anyway?" asked Orihime.
"A Zanpakto is formed to fit the wielder," said Rukia. "Usually they take the form of an ordinary sword, but yours seem to be in Shikai automatically.
"That's... not normal, but it isn't unheard of."
"So does that mean I'm super talented?" asked Orihime. It would be so cool if she was the strongest person ever. Like superman!
"No, it means that you have no skill at controlling your spiritual pressure. You are pouring it all into your weapon," said Rukia, a bit annoyed. Then she seemed to notice something. "I'm going to need you to do some training in that soon. Hmm, your hairpin is gone."
"Well yeah, my hairpin becomes these weapons," said Orihime. "It was given to me by Sora, and it's really important to me."
Rukia nodded. "I see.
"You must have naturally stored up a lot of yourself in that hairpin. When you became a Soul Reaper, you must have called the soul of the hairpin into yourself. So the shape affected your weapon."
"Hairpins have souls?" asked Orihime. This changed everything.
Rukia smiled slightly. "Sort of.
"A soul is nothing more than the spiritual nature of an existing object. Humans are much more complicated animals, so their souls are also very complicated. Objects, though, have very simple natures. However, if an object is particularly important to someone, a sort of bond can be formed between them.
"In time, that object can take on qualities as a result of that bond."
"Wow, that's pretty cool," said Orihime. "But, um, what do you mean when you say souls are just the spiritual nature of existing objects. Aren't souls who you really are. Immortal and unchanging."
"That's a human myth," said Rukia quickly. "Souls aren't immortal. They can be injured, broken, and even destroyed. So you absolutely cannot hold back when in the field.
"Well, that was disappointing. So there was an afterlife, but you could die. "Oh.
"So um, where is this boy supposed to be?"
Orihime wondered if she'd be rescuing Ichigo.
Rukia led her to a playground, and there motioned. "Look there. There he is."
It was a young child with brown hair, running for his life. Behind him came a huge spider thing following. He ran toward them, screaming, and a broken chain was falling from his chest. "Help, help!"
"Now, Orihime, you've got to save him!" said Rukia.
Orihime sprang into action, leaping between the boy and the monster and drew her blades. Landing on one knee, she spun around. "Stop right there! I am Orihime Inoue, Soul Reaper! And you will face the wrath of-"
And then the spider opened its mask and spat out waves of threat. Orihime instinctively raised her blades, and the webs were blocked. They seemed to be somehow deflected away from them. However, one of the threads caught her leg, and the creature pulled her forward toward the spider.
"Orihime, kill it!" called Rukia.
Orihime raised her blades and blocked the spider's maw as it came at her, keeping it in place. "But I'm supposed to strike a pose, aren't I?"
"It's a wild animal trying to eat you! It doesn't care about poses!" said Rukia.
Orihime reflected that being a magical girl wasn't quite so much fun as expected. Then she slashed the threats around her leg and rolled backward. Coming to a halt, she spun around her blades before hurling one of them at the beast.
It cleaved off a line of legs, and Orihime leaped into the air as it fell. Striking hard and fast, she cleaved down its mask. The creature howled and then dissipated into nothingness before Orihime landed.
"Orihime!" said Rukia. "Are you alright?"
Orihime realized she'd won. Then she cheered. "Got it!
"I did it! Yes!"
And she leaped for joy.
"Orihime," said Rukia. "You have more work to do." And she motioned to the boy.
Orihime nodded and moved forward to kneel by her. "Right um, listen, I know you're scared, but there are more of those things around. I've got to send you on to a better place, the Soul Society.
"There aren't any hollows there, and it's much better, right, Rukia?"
Rukia shifted and looked away. "Um, yes, as close to heaven as you can get."
"Right, so I'm going to send you on," said Orihime, before tapping the flat of her blade against the boy's forehead. Instantly, the boy disappeared into the light and vanished.
"...You did that quite beautifully," said Rukia, looking a bit guilty.
"Well, I've got work to do," said Orihime. "Now I've got to get back to school! Tatsuki is gonna be worried if I don't get my body back quick."
And so the first Soul Reaper mission Orihime had fought was over.