It began as a feeling.
Something strange. Something wrong. Something approaching. Fast.
Ichigo turned to his sister, Karin. “Do you feel that?”
And the wall exploded, and they were dead.
They say that time slows down when you’re about to die. That your life flashes before your eyes. But whoever said that clearly hadn’t died themselves, because Ichigo barely had time to register surprise before the concrete hit him, and everything went dark.
He couldn’t see. He couldn’t hear.
But with a jolt, Ichigo realised that he could feel. Not the boring kind of feeling, using skin and nerves and such. It was a sixth sense, so weak, so faint that the other five had always whited it out, like a firefly by the midday sun.
But now the sun was gone, and Ichigo could see the stars.
He recognised the shapes around him. The wreckage of the room. His and Karin’s bodies, silent, devoid of life. Karin’s soul lay nearby, coming to her senses. But the clearest presences by far were the two in the centre of the room.
One, a monster. Three metres tall, with four muscular legs, a white mask and a dark hole in its chest. Its aura was powerful and intimidating, and it smelled of pain and hunger. The other, a girl. Dressed in black robes, she wielded an elegant sword. She radiated determination, mixed with tension.
The monster snapped at the girl in black, its sharp teeth flashing. She dodged and retaliated with a stab, scoring a shallow cut in the scales on its neck. The monster howled, dark fluid leaking from several wounds. It took several steps back as if preparing to flee, and Ichigo let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. But his relief was short-lived as the monster broke into a charge, attempting to leverage pure strength to overcome the girl’s superior skill. The girl in black rolled to the side, but not quickly enough, as the monster flicked its head and sent her flying through another wall, from which she did not emerge.
The monster turned toward Ichigo and Karin.
Shit, Ichigo thought. Escape was not an option. There were only walls behind Ichigo. The door and the destroyed walls were all on the other side of the room, near the monster. Not that getting out would do much good; it was unlikely that they would outrun a quadruped twice their size. He needed to think of another-
The monster leaped at them. Ichigo jumped desperately to the side, landing roughly in the wreckage of a table. A scream. Karin hadn’t been fast enough, and was pinned under the monster. Shit, shit, shit. Ichigo swept up a table leg and ran toward it, hitting it over and over with all his might until his hands hurt but it was still–
“Sokatsui!” The black-robed girl’s voice cried out, and blue flame burst forth from behind the wall she’d been thrown through. The monster howled in pain as the flames scoured its flesh. It dropped Karin and charged toward the girl, a second bolt of blue fire scattering harmlessly off its mask.
Ichigo quickly took advantage of the monster’s distraction and dragged Karin to relative safety behind a fallen cupboard. The escape routes were still blocked, but hopefully the monster wouldn’t be able to find them here.
Karin’s face was pale. “It bit me!” she whispered. Her right arm was a bloody mess. How did that work, anyway? Weren’t they disembodied souls now? Karin’s wound looked rather similar to that of a physical body. Upon closer examination, Ichigo thought he saw something dark in the wound, but it wasn’t there when he looked again.
Karin’s hand was trembling in his as she looked up at him. “I don’t feel very well…” Suddenly, she retched as white fluid burst out of her eyes and mouth, and her limbs began to convulse, even as Ichigo stared in mute horror. Her skin bubbled, changing colour, her limbs twisted and grew.
And she began to scream.
“Karin!” Ichigo shouted. If she could hear him over her screams, she did not show it. What was going on? What was happening to her? What should he do? Question after question after question. No answer.
The monster howled in pain as it sustained another injury from the girl’s blade. It paused for a moment then dashed towards Ichigo’s hiding place, smashing the cupboard to matchsticks and snatching Karin mid-metamorphosis up in its jaws. It had given up on killing the girl in black, and was settling for escaping with its prey.
It raked its claws in the empty air. There was a ripping sound, and a hole appeared in the air. The other side was dark, foreboding, smelling of death. The monster leaped through the portal-
“No!” Ichigo shouted, grabbing Karin’s uninjured forearm and pulling with all his strength. The monster growled, and the two struggled in the doorway. The monster’s teeth closed around Karin’s torso as it tightened its grip.
There was a crunch, and now tears as well as blood ran down Karin’s face.
It was a difficult choice, but Ichigo held on.
The monster was far stronger than Ichigo, and it took only a moment to pull Ichigo to the edge of the hole. The edge sliced deep into his flesh and his arm was burning like it would be torn in two, but by some miracle he was still holding on to Karin.
“Let go!” screamed the girl in black. “It’ll pull you in!”
Karin’s eyes were filled with terror.
There was a dreadful wrenching feeling.
Ichigo staggered backward, and the hole closed.
Ichigo’s hand had never felt so empty.
Failure. Loss. Brokenness.
“She is gone.”
The girl in black sheathed her sword. “She has been taken to Hueco Mundo. The Hollow dimension.”
Another dimension? “Why did the monster take her there?”
The girl closed her eyes. “It is called a Hollow. It is an evil creature which devours other souls, infecting them and turning them into new Hollows.”
Ichigo had a vision of Karin’s face, white substance erupting from her eyes and mouth. “So that was what was happening to her? She was becoming a Hollow?”
“Yes. Had the Hollow left her behind, I could have cleansed her. But it did not, and I cannot. I am sorry.”
“It’s not too late,” Ichigo said, standing. “We can go there and bring her back.”
The girl stared at him, incredulous. “You know nothing, boy. There are thousands of Hollows there. Thousands of thousands.” As she spoke, Ichigo noticed that she was favouring her right leg. Her face was scraped and bruised, and part of her robes clung to her body, drenched with blood. The fight had taken a toll on her.
“Is there anyone else who can help?”
The girl shook her head. “There is no way to fight that many. We have tried for a thousand years.”
Ichigo was silent for a moment. His mind raced down many different paths, searching…
“There must be something I can do.”
She shook her head. “All you can do is wait, and hope that a Shinigami defeats and cleanses her. You are not alone. Many of us have lost friends and family. Be thankful that you were not taken as well.”
“No-” Ichigo began, but the girl raised her sword and pressed the hilt to Ichigo’s forehead. Ichigo felt warmth as a glow enveloped him. He felt suddenly exhausted.
“I will send you to Soul Society now. Do not fear. Unlike this world, it is a peaceful place.”
The world began to spin. He staggered.
“If you want to help others like you, others who have lost their loved ones, in Soul Society you can train to become a Shinigami like me.”
There was a burst of white light.
Thanks for reading! I have many plans for this series, and expect to be updating about once a week or so.
My motivation behind this fic is to create a more consistent and narratively satisfying story. In the canon manga, many plot elements at crucial moments were introduced exactly when needed without foreshadowing, like Ichigo’s out-of-nowhere power up against Ulquiorra, Nanao’s unbelievably specific zanpakuto power, Still Silver being introduced two chapters before being used in the final battle… The list goes on.
Here, I attempt to craft a consistent world where the reader can (eventually) understand exactly how the setting universe works, and can try to solve the problems faced by the characters alongside them.
Hope you enjoy it!
If you notice any spelling/grammatical mistakes, or have any comments or suggestions for improvement, please don’t hesitate to leave a review!