Summary: Her eyes widened in shock as tears began to stream out. “I have been asleep for over 400 years? I wasn’t supposed to be asleep that long!”
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, nuff said.
Orihime sat still at, yet again, another awkward breakfast with Rukia and her brother. She really needed to find a better place to be. She was tired of being a leech, especially when there was so little for her to offer.
She had told Rukia this when they went to bed and Rukia said she would help her look for a job and a small place to stay. She was thankful that Rukia didn’t push her for more information about why she wanted to live on her own.
While they ate in complete silence, Orihime used the time to think about what kind of job she could possibly find. She didn’t know a thing about this world so she could only imagine all the labor work they had to offer.
She looked at her arm and sighed. It was still wrapped up and in the sling. It was taking a long time for her to heal her bone. She needed to be more careful about that from now on. She knew that with her arm like that she wouldn’t be able to do much labor.
Finally, Rukia’s brother set his chopsticks down and excused himself from the table. Orihime breathed a sigh of relief and sat up when Rukia did.
“Let’s go find you a job.” Rukia pushed in her chair as she said this and took the dishes to a large bowl on the side.
Orihime made a mental note to help her wash those when they got back.
Orihime shifted in her new outfit. She had gotten a few new clothes thanks to Rukia’s friend, Rangiku. She had yet to actually meet the person though. She wondered how long it would be before she did. She really wanted to thank her.
This time her outfit had a little more color. A splash of orange and pink, she felt like a sunset. It was a simple little dress that went down just above her knees. It was the perfect thing for her so that her arm could move freely in and out of it.
Rukia and Orihime walked down the streets of the small and peaceful village. A lot of people where already awake and looked like they had been even longer then they were.
It made a lot of sense, back in the past she remembered how people had to get up at the crack of dawn and start working in the fields so that they could eat later in the day.
It was strange to see how the world had to revert back to those times.
The bracelet she had on her left wrist jingled and sparkled under the sun. For some reason Orihime couldn’t stop looking at it.
It was starting to annoy her how she couldn’t get Ulquiorra at of her head. She began to wonder if that was the purpose of the bracelet.
“Here we are.”
Orihime stopped in her tracks when she noticed that Rukia was talking to her and had stopped as well.
She looked in the direction to where Rukia pointed and was surprised to see a very familiar scene.
“So we meet again, young girl.” It was the woman she had asked for directions to Ichigo’s house.
Suddenly, it dawned on her at how rude she was when she did that. She never introduced herself and then took off running before the lady could say anything else.
“It’s very nice to meet you, my name is Orihime Inoue.” She bowed slightly. “I’m sorry about how rude I was yesterday.”
The lady smiled kindly at her and made motions with her hands for her to sit back up. “It’s not a problem at all. I could tell that you were in a hurry.”
Rukia clapped her hands together to get their attention. “Well, I see you guys have already met. Good. This makes my job a little easier.”
“Unohana-san, I heard that you are looking for another helper. Orihime here is in need of a job and a place to say.”
Unohana took a look at Orihime and nodded. “Can you cook, dear?”
Orihime smiled brightly, if this job was cooking then it was a lot better than lifting heavy buckets of water or something. “Hai, I use to cook all the time for me and my brother.”
“Where is your brother now?”
Orihime’s face fell. “I’m not really sure.”
Unohana noticed the discomfort on her face and decided not to ask anything more about that.
“Well, you seem like a nice girl so I will hire you.”
Orihime clasped her hands together in excitement. “Really? Thank you so much!”
Rukia patted Orihime’s back. “Good for you Orihime, that didn’t take long at all.”
Orihime turned around and gave Rukia a hug. It was something different for her. She had never really made the first contact when it came to people other than her brother. “Thank you so much for helping me!”
Rukia was startled by the hug but since it didn’t last long it wasn’t completely awkward.
“We open up shop at 10 a.m. and close our doors at 10 p.m.”
Orihime nodded, listening to everything Unohana had to say.
“On top of the restaurant we have living quarters. If you like, you can stay there. Working in our shop will pay for that.”
Orihime’s eyes got bigger. This was getting better and better, she didn’t want to have to look all over for a place to stay.
“My husband and I would stay there but we already made a home elsewhere, plus we are getting too old to use all those steps.”
“But you don’t look old at all!” Orihime said with her hands waving about.
Unohana just laughed. “Believe me; I’m much older than you would think.”
Orihime just shook her head and thought she probably wasn’t nearly as old as she was. Of course, she would never tell her that.
“Another girl will be working with you, that way you can take shifts. Her name is Rangiku, she lives with a young man named Hitsugaya but no one is too sure about their relationship.”
At the mention of shifts Orihime got to thinking. She wondered how she would feel if she knew that she might go for long spells of being absent. “Um.”
Unohana put all her attention on Orihime which made it even harder for her to say this.
“There is one thing I think I should let you know.” She stopped and fidgeted a bit. She wasn’t even sure the best way of telling her this.
“What is it, child?” Unohana didn’t look to be getting impatient but Orihime wondered.
“Well, there might be times when I won’t be around.”
At this, Unohana actually looked curious. “What do you mean?”
“The Arrancar- Well they told me they will be taking me back to Las Noches from time to time.”
The tea that Unohana was about to drink from came crashing down to the ground. Orihime winced when she saw the look of disbelief on her face.
“Why would they be taking you away?”
Orihime couldn’t look her in the eye. She tilted her head down and stared at her feet as she answered. “I’m not really sure myself except that they were the ones that found me and I’m not exactly normal.”
It was quiet for a long time after that. Rukia just stood next to Orihime not saying a peep. She didn’t want to over step her boundaries on what Orihime wanted people to know about herself.
“There is nothing you can do about it then. I just suggest you let Rangiku know because she will have to be working in your place when you are gone.”
Orihime was relieved that the lady was not freaked out by this bit of information and bowed once again. “Thank you so very much! I promise I will not let you down and I will be a diligent worker to make up for it.”
Finally, the name that Unohana kept repeating sunk into her head. Rangiku was going to be her coworker and she was glad. She would do all that she could for Rangiku to thank her for the clothes and for any other trouble she might have to lay on her.
Rukia grabbed Orihime’s good arm and ushered her along. “We can go meet Rangiku now. I’m sure she won’t mind to know she finally has some help even if you might go missing sometimes.”
Orihime smiled at Rukia and nodded her head. “It was very nice to meet you.”
Unohana just waved her goodbyes as they walked away.
Ulquiorra sat in his usual spot as he watched Orihime in the village. She was doing a little more today so he wasn’t feeling as bored.
He noticed how she was talking to a lot more people and thought it was pointless. She was just going to leave them in the long run. Why would she waste her time?
Ulquiorra couldn’t understand why Aizen wanted him to always be watching her. It wasn’t like she was going to go anywhere and he was pretty sure he could be a lot more helpful elsewhere.
Still, it was not his place to ask or question Aizen’s orders. Most of the other Espada thought he was a suck up the way he followed without complaint but he only did it because he hated causing unnecessary conflict.
He thought back to the time Yammy went off on his own and hurt the woman. He had gotten into a lot of trouble just because he couldn’t sit still. It made his eye twitch at the stupidity of it all.
He thought he would be punished for sure since he let Yammy go down there but Aizen just nodded his head at him and thanked him for the useful information. Obviously, learning that Orihime held a power made it all okay.
Still, something wasn’t sitting right with him and he couldn’t figure out why.
Watching the woman was starting to stir something in himself.
Rangiku was beautiful. At least that is what Orihime thought when she first met her. She had a strong aura, full of pride and courage. She couldn’t help but envy her just a bit.
Her eyes bulged a bit when she noticed how much cleavage she liked to show off. Rukia wasn’t kidding about her being well endowed.
Orihime looked down at her own clothes and thought it was strange how she seemed to own some clothes that didn’t show the cleavage. She wondered how the conversation between her and Rukia went so that she could borrow these.
Just behind Rangiku was a young and small person. If you looked at him at just a glance you would think he was nothing but a child but Orihime could sense that wasn’t the case. The strangest thing about him was that he had white hair. He paid them no attention though as he swung around a stick that reminded her of sword training.
“My, my, so you are the girl Rukia has been stealing my clothes for.”
Orihime bowed before Rangiku and thanked her for the clothes.
Rangiku just told her it was fine and forced Orihime to look back up.
That’s when Rukia butted in. “Oh yeah, you know how you complain about not having any help at work?”
Rangiku turned her attention on Rukia and nodded.
“Well, Orihime has just now been hired at the same place.”
Rangiku grinned and turned to Orihime. “Really?”
Orihime just nodded.
“Finally!” she grabbed Orihime in a firm hug. “Thanks so much!”
Orihime wasn’t sure what to do. She hadn’t received so much direct contact in a long time. “Um, you’re welcome but I might not be much help.”
Rangiku finally let her go and just laughed. “I’m sure you will be more than enough help.”
Orihime was starting to feel nervous again. “Well, I will certainly try but I might not be able to help out every day.”
Rangiku’s smile didn’t falter. “Why is that?”
“Um.” Orihime turned to Rukia as if asking for help.
Rukia understood the situation and decided to butt in. “The Arrancars come to get her occasionally.”
Rangiku’s smile was gone and the guy who was ignoring them suddenly stopped and turned his attention to Orihime.
It was very quiet. Just when Rangiku was about to say something, a loud banging noise sounded off.
Rukia grabbed Orihime by the wrist and started to rush off. Orihime was confused as to what was going on.
“Quick, we have to get home so I can get my weapons. A hollow has appeared.”
Orihime picked up her speed to follow Rukia. She wondered what these hollows would truly be like. She had seen them in Ulquiorra’s visions but never in person. Would they scare her like Yammy did or would they make her curious like Ulquiorra did?
Once Rukia had gotten her weapons she told Orihime to stay home but Orihime would have none of it. She wanted to be of some help even if it meant all she could do was heal them. It wasn’t like she could fight much with her arm in a sling.
Not having time to argue Rukia just nodded her head and they ran to meet up with the rest of the team.
Orihime saw a lot of the same people from back when Yammy came into town. The young man with glasses was scowling as usual but it was just at Ichigo. Renji was there was well. She looked around in search of Chad but saw no sight of him.
The group turned to look at her and shrugged. “We wouldn’t know. He never fights with us.”
Frustrated by their apathetic attitudes Orihime turned to go find him. “I will go find him and meet you guys there later.”
They told her to be careful and took off in the opposite direction.
Orihime wanted Chad to be welcomed into this group as much as herself. She felt the strong need to make some small changes in this town no matter how insignificant it would be.
She wasn’t really sure where he lived but she knew it was in this direction and that he lived on the outskirts of town. After running for awhile Orihime finally spotted a small shack.
She ran even faster and called out his name.
It got his attention quick because he stepped out with a worried look on his face. “Are you okay Inoue-san?”
Orihime stopped just in front of him and took some deep breaths. “I’m fine, but the others are going to fight. Won’t you join us?”
Chad looked at her with sad eyes. “I would rather not get in the middle of their fight.”
Orihime grabbed his arm. “I’m going to fight too. Please! I would really like for you to fight by my side.”
Chad just couldn’t tell her no. Something about the way she was looking at him made him give up in an instant. “Alright.”
Orihime squealed in joy. “I’m glad. Come on it’s this way.”
They took of running towards the sounds of the angry roaring.
As soon as they got there Orihime spotted the gang fighting. She was worried about them so she ran out to help them but then she finally noticed the Hollow.
It was strange looking, so huge and nonhuman like. In fact it resembled some sort of animal more than it did a human.
She stood frozen in her spot, just staring at the beast.
She was scared, but more than anything she felt a lot of pain and a lot of sadness.
She could feel her body tremble and a cold sweat started to form from her forehead. Everything around her was just swirling, nothing focused but the monster. Sounds were nothing but muffled noises as if she were under water. It almost felt like she would suffocate from some enormous pressure.
Chad’s soft use of her first name snapped her back to reality and she realized that she had been crying. It wasn’t just a few tears either, but big drops and even though she had woken up from her spell she couldn’t get them to stop.
“I’m okay Chad, please go help the others.”
Chad looked at her with worry but when he noticed the determination in her eyes he nodded his head and ran off to help.
The others seemed surprised at first but welcome him into the fight. Orihime was glad and knew that if they continued to fight together they would learn to trust each other.
Orihime watched as they continued to fight, she could see they were struggling hard but before long Ichigo attacked with the finishing blow and the monster crumbled away like ash.
The feelings she had finally went away as if a huge bolder had been lifted from her shoulders, and Orihime knew it was because of the Hollow. She wondered why no one else felt it.
Ichigo walked up to Orihime and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Are you doing okay?”
Orihime jerked a bit from the shock and Ichigo pulled away when he noticed. Realizing what she had just done she quickly nodded her head and smiled at him. “I’m fine.”
Rukia came up behind him and wiped the blood from her face. “It’s not surprising you had such a reaction. Most people that see a Hollow for the first time get so scared they even pass out.”
Orihime just smiled at Rukia. She didn’t want to tell her that wasn’t the reason she cried and stood still.
“Don’t worry though. You will get use to them in time.”
Orihime didn’t want to believe that to be true, but said nothing out loud.
“Do you guys need me to heal you?”
All of them shook their heads and Ichigo smiled at her. “Don’t worry about it Inoue-san. Save your strength and power for when someone is seriously hurt.”
She nodded but started to feel really useless.
Ulquiorra had never seen such a reaction from someone before. The Rukia girl had said it was normal but he knew that was not true. Either they were blind or they really had no idea what had just happened.
It was not what he was expecting in the least. It looked as though she had actually felt all the emotions and pain from the Hollow. Perhaps Aizen’s interest in the woman was more than he let on.
With her reaction to the Hollow he was glad that he never explained what they were to her.
Orihime stretched as she got ready to go to bed. She finally felt peace knowing she was in her own place. It still didn’t feel like home but at least this way she had a chance of it turning out to be.
There wasn’t much to the room but it was more than enough. The room was small with a single window to let in sunlight but since it was dark outside, the only thing to keep her company was a single candle.
Her bed wasn’t made out of straw but of fur and some sort of rags. It would be interesting for her to get used to it since she was so used to cotton but she figured it would keep her really warm if the night ever got cold. Of course, she wasn’t sure if that was possible in this world.
She had a single little table with one chair. It looked lonely so Orihime vowed to never eat there. She would rather eat alone outside than at the table.
Then there was a dresser with two drawers. She had nothing to put in it except for the clothes the Rangiku had given her. Both Rukia and Rangiku told her that, if she didn’t want to make her own clothes, she could hire someone else to do it once she got the money.
Orihime liked the idea of that and figured her first paycheck would go into getting her some of her own clothes. She wasn’t sure who she would ask but she figured she could get Rangiku or Rukia to help her out.
She couldn’t wait until she was able to do most things on her own because she felt like such a leech. Still, at least everyone was really nice to her. It made her feel a little less like a pain.
Looking over at the dresser she saw a bowl of water and a wash cloth. She remembered from her text books and studies that in the past they didn’t have bathtubs because they had no running water.
She knew they either had to bathe in a stream or give themselves a scrub down with a cloth and water. She knew it wouldn’t make her feel clean enough to do that so she thought back to when she was going around the town.
The memory of a small body of water just outside the town came to her mind. She had spotted it when Ulquiorra had dropped her off. She knew it could be dangerous to go out in the pitch black night, especially outside of the town, but she was desperate to feel clean and wash her hair.
She grabbed her cloth and the small bar of soap then crept down the stairs and through the store.
She could have waited for morning and asked where the others got their baths but she didn’t want any one to know about something. It was a memento she had back when she was young. It was the reason she made everyone get out of the room when she changed and the reason she rejected one of the outfits that Rangiku gave her.
They probably thought she was just being prudish but the real reason was because of the scar on her back. When she was in high school and had to change in front of other girls they always seemed to give her a look of disgust or discomfort. She didn’t want to feel that way again with any of her new friends.
It wasn’t as dark outside as she had thought it would be. The light glows of candles from insides home and outside kept her from tripping over rocks and bumping into walls.
She prayed she was walking in the right direction though. When she reached the end of the town she noticed how dark it was outside. She gulped but was determined to go through with it. She lit the small candle she had brought from her room and walked on towards the pond.
Thankfully it wasn’t that far away from the town, probably about a five minute walk. She set the candle down on a rock next to the water and began to undress. It was strange getting naked in the outside air but at the same time it was kind of refreshing. When she reached for her cast she flinched in a little pain. Still, there was no way she could bathe with it on so she took it off completely and made a mental note not to move it too much.
Then she remembered the bracelet. Even in the dark of the night it seemed to glitter. Orihime wondered how it could be so pretty when it most likely was a chain. She twirled it in her fingers some and then set it down next to her candle.
She put her foot in the water and was surprised to find it was actually a nice temperate. It was a lot cooler than she was expecting but she figured it was probably because there was no sun up. Once she fully submerged herself in the water the temperature began to mix with her own and pretty soon it felt like a lukewarm bath.
She swam around in the water and just floated on her back. It was very relaxing and peaceful. For once she didn’t feel like she needed to walk on eggshells. It was almost like she was back at home in her own tub, with her brother just in the other room making dinner.
The memories of her brother and old life started to hit her hard and she began to cry silently. She hadn’t ever given herself time to think about it, but the realization was hard. Her life would never be the same. She was going to have to be as strong as possible and live in a world that was so foreign to her. At one point she wished she had died in that tube, along with her brother because then she wouldn’t have to be all alone.
Tired of crying, Orihime dunked her head under the water to refresh her face. Then she took the bar of soap and began to scrub at her body and hair.
After getting all clean she remembered she forgot something very important, something to dry off with. Getting out of the water she felt how dry the air was and figured she could sit on a rock and dry off a little before putting on her clothes.
She wanted a little more time to herself anyway. She made herself comfortable on the rock she had placed her candle on and stared out into the water. It was really dark still but her eyes had adjusted to it a while ago. She could see a reflection of the broken moon so she looked up and gasped when she finally realized how close the moon looked. Sadly she couldn’t find any stars in the sky. As if they had all been taken away and it made her feel sad all over again.
Ulquiorra sighed as the light went out in Orihime’s new place. Now he was going to have to sit and watch nothing. The day had been interesting enough but he was not looking forward to just sitting and staring into the dark.
His thoughts of being bored vanished quickly when he noticed her sneaking out of the building with a few things in hand. He was curious as to where she could possibly be going at such a late time in the night.
He watched her intently as she seemed to be walking closer and closer to him. There for a second he thought she was coming to find him but it didn’t last long when he knew there was no possible way she could know he was even out there.
When she reached the edge of the town he thought she would turn around, thinking she got herself lost but was surprised when she lit a small candle and kept on walking.
Did she have a death wish? It wasn’t safe to be on the outskirts of town all alone at night. She was lucky he was there to watch for it but if no one was she would be killed quickly in this world.
He sighed to himself when he realized he had sort of become a babysitter for the woman. Perhaps this is why Aizen wanted Ulquiorra to watch her 24/7.
When she reached a body of water that was only a few meters away from where he sat he noticed her sigh of relief.
He had to admit, the woman certainly kept him from feeling bored. That thought only got stronger when she started to pull off her clothes.
Right away he noticed a strange mark on her back. His curiosity started to get stronger. He wondered when she got that mark and how. If she could heal herself so easily and quickly, it didn’t make sense for her to have such a horrible scar on her back.
This woman seemed to have a lot more secrets than just her powers and age.
He then turned to look at what the woman was doing with her hands. He couldn’t see at first but then realized she was staring down at the bracelet her gave her. He wondered what she was thinking as she messed with it but soon she took it off and set it down to get in the water.
He continued to watch as she swam around in the water and cleaned herself off. There wasn’t much to see but here hair floating around the top of the water. Once she got out and sat on a large rock he could get a better look at the scar. It appeared to be a burn mark of some kind.
When she turned sideways and looked up it was the first time he actually looked at the rest of her. She was very small and curvy, much like Nelliel, one of the few female Arrancars. However, she was nothing like them. She had a soft glow from her skin, full of color and life.
He started to feel mesmerized by it and wanted to know how it would feel. When she sighed he snapped out of his trance and then got angry at himself. How could he let himself have human thoughts? It wasn’t like him at all!
He took one more look at the woman and then turned away.
He was tired of watching her so he headed back to Las Noches to give Aizen an update of her life with the humans.
To be continued.