Chapter 2: Welcome to Paradise

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Dear Hideki Fujiwara of “Shiromi Village”,

Thank you for your correspondence. We understand that you are requesting a dispatch of Shinigami, including shapers and healers, to your location in District 46, West Rukongai, for the purpose of “building settlements” and “resolving pressing concerns in the community”.

However, at this time, the Thirteen Divisions have insufficient manpower to accommodate your request. We would also like to clarify, once again, that our responsibility is to ensure safety and security in Soul Society. Should there be any Hollow incursions or serious breaches in law, you may approach any Ninth Division Shinigami in your area. Minor issues are outside of our jurisdiction, and should be settled locally.

Please do not contact us again.


Kazuki Saito (Officer, 10th Seat)
Headquarters Battalion
Third Regiment
First Division

Composed by:

Chiba Yasunobu (Officer, 19th Seat)
Seventh Company
Headquarters Battalion
Third Regiment
First Division

Hideki folded the letter and returned it to its envelope. The response was not unexpected, but disappointing regardless.

Hideki had lived here eighty years. He had walked to this very spot, planted a stick in the ground, and declared to any squatters who would listen that this was now Shiromi village. He taught them how to shape, cleared the debris from the streets, and together they raised the first actual buildings in Shiromi. The first twenty years had exceeded all expectations, the village settling quickly and efficiently.

But as Shiromi grew, so did its reputation, and soon people from all over had come, begging for clothes, for shelter. Very soon, there were too many for Hideki to provide for. There were precious few good shapers, both skilled and strong enough to raise a house at a regular pace. Retired Shinigami were ideal, but they were hard to find these days, and even rarer this far from the capital, Seireitei. It was impossible to keep up with demand. Souls fought for priority, stole goods, and sometimes even killed each other. Shiromi village became an administrative and logistical nightmare, as entropy did its best to return Shiromi to the dust whence it came.

But still Hideki forged ahead. Other than Seireitei, Soul Society was essentially one huge slum. One might think that people might stop fighting each other in a land where breathing was all you needed to satiate your hunger, and where material objects could be shaped at will if you were smart enough. But alas, land was scarce, and more importantly, so was status. People lied, cheated, stole and killed, either for their own gain, or to prevent others from doing the same to them. This was not a place one would envision spending the rest of eternity.

Shiromi village had begun to change this, before the thousands of prospective immigrants had come, fighting desperately for resources and shelter and in the process ruining them for everyone else. Hideki had hoped that with the help of some Shinigami, he would be able to increase short-term supply sufficiently to clear the slums and restart development. But now those hopes had been dashed. Hideki would probably pen another letter in a few months, but in the meantime he would need to find another solution.

His thoughts were interrupted by a shout from outside.

“Hideki!” a panicked voice called. “Help!”

The door slid open and Hideki turned to see two men carrying a boy into his study. The boy’s spiritual pressure was weak and wavering. Bits of his soul were flaking off and dissolving in the air. The boy was clearly in critical condition, but Hideki wasn’t a healer, what were those two thinking?

“Drop him!” Hideki commanded, and the two men stopped, startled. Hideki pointed to one of the men. “Rand, go get Midori. Mat, stay here and start shaping a pill.” The one called Rand took off quickly, and the other sat down, a small sphere forming slowly in his palm. Hideki knelt over the boy, his hands glowing red as he tried to recall what little he knew of the healing arts. The boy’s condition stabilised somewhat, the rate of deterioration slowing but not stopping.

“What happened?” Hideki asked Mat. “A fight?” The damage was too severe to be simple exhaustion.

“I don’t know. He was already like that when we found him lying on the street. I think he’s a newborn. We wrapped him up and brought him here, fast as we could.”

“Next time, bring him straight to a healer, and don’t bother with the clothes. He won’t need them if he’s dead.”

“Right. Sorry.”

A minute later, the healer arrived and Hideki stepped back, deferring to her expertise. She laid her hands on the boy, and a thick flow of energy seeped into him, stitching his tattered soul back together. The flow weakened, and the healer paused to take a pill before resuming with renewed strength.

As she worked, the boy’s condition improved significantly. His spiritual pressure was still weak, but it was at least steady. He was no longer evaporating and seemed more substantial than before. The healer ended the spell, nodded to Hideki and left quickly to her next errand. Healers were in short supply in Shiromi village. Everything was, really.

The two men helped Hideki carry the still-unconscious boy onto a thin mattress before leaving. How long would it take before he awoke? Probably several hours or so, Hideki thought. The healer had only fixed the worst damage, the boy would have to do the rest himself.

Just then, the boy stirred.

“Karin,” the boy murmured…

An ocean of sand. A dark, moonless sky. A smell of death.

A Hollow, its shape midway between a wolf and a gorilla, but with slippery scales in place of hair or fur. There was a dark hole in its chest. Strange markings twisted across its body, and its left foreleg was wrapped around with a length of white fabric, like a bandage. It thrashed in agony as its limbs grew, skin tearing and healing alternately. Its white mask was fluid and not fully formed, presently splitting open as it let out a piercing scream.

The sound was hollow and layered, like several voices in tandem. Despite that, Ichigo instantly recognised the voice.

It was Karin’s.

It was Karin.

Ichigo could still feel her presence, but it was weak. Diminished. Suppressed. The Hollow infection had burrowed deep into her soul and stolen the reins.

Help. A rustling in the wind. Somebody. Anybody.

I’m coming for you, Karin, Ichigo tried to say. Hold on. I’ll get you, no matter what. But he had no body, no voice.

The pain rose to a crescendo and the Hollow reared up, roaring. A final ripple spread across its flesh and its mask solidified. There was agony, and bloodlust. A craving to devour human souls. Go, the mask whispered. Hunt, and perhaps the pain will subside for a while.

The Hollow raised its claws and slashed the empty air.

A ripping sound. Sunlight burst forth. The smell of life.

The smell of prey.

The Hollow leapt through the doorway to the human world.

Calm. Quiet.

Ichigo slowly opened his eyes. He was in an unfamiliar room, and an elderly man sat nearby, watching him. Ichigo sat up and winced at the effort.

“Breathe,” the man said.

Ichigo drew in a breath, and was surprised to find it invigorating, replenishing his energy. “Thanks.”

“My name is Hideki Fujiwara. What is yours?”


“Ichigo, meaning strawberry?”

“No, ichi meaning first, go meaning guardian.”

“I see. A good name. You’re fortunate that it’s Japanese; it’s the predominant culture here. The founders were Japanese, you see. My name was originally Hadrian before I changed it to fit in better.” The old man gestured at the room around them. “Do you know where you are?”

“Uh…” Ichigo tried to recall what the girl in black had said. “I’m not sure. A girl tapped me on the head with her sword and then…”

Hideki nodded. “You are now in Soul Society. More specifically, you are in Shiromi village, in Tenryu Ward of Uenohara District of West Rukongai in Soul Society. What the Shinigami girl did to you is called Soul Burial; she sent your soul from the human dimension to this one.” His expression grew concerned. “For some reason, your soul was badly weakened upon your arrival. If two of my boys hadn’t brought you to me in time, you could have died. Might I ask what happened?”

“A Hollow attacked me and my sister. The Shinigami girl drove it off, but it grabbed my sister and left. I tried to pull her away from it, but…” The words stopped short as he remembered. The final, terrified look Karin had given him as the portal closed. What else should he have done?

The old man bowed his head. “I see. I am sorry for your loss. Many of us here in Soul Society have lost family and friends to the Hollows. Though not usually right before our eyes.” He looked straight at Ichigo. “That said, it was unwise to fight the Hollow. If you ever encounter one again, don’t fight. Run.”

What? “You’re saying I should have let her go just like that? Without even trying?”

“Yes. All Hollows are significantly stronger than the average soul, and you are a newborn.” Hideki leaned forward. “Do you know what you looked like when you came in? You burned through all your energy struggling with the Hollow, and then some. Your soul was in tatters. You were falling apart.” He shook his head. “I can’t even imagine how you could stand the pain.”

Had it hurt that badly? Ichigo tried to recall. “I didn’t feel much,” he said honestly. “I wasn’t really paying attention to myself.” A thought occurred to Ichigo. “Do you know any Shinigami? I was wondering…”

“I know a few. I have written letters to some seated officers as well.” Hideki sighed. “But they do not like me. They would not help me, and I doubt they will agree to help a no-name soul like you. And they will certainly not agree to search out and cleanse your sister for you, if that’s what you want.”

“Perhaps I could go ask them myself. Maybe they will listen to me then. Where can I find the Shinigami?”

“There are some Shinigami from the Ninth Division here, but their duties are within Soul Society. If you want a Shinigami that will go to the human world for you, you will need to head to Seireitei, the capital of Soul Society. But they will not help you. They care little for the souls out here.” The last few words were bitter.

“But they normally kill Hollows.”

“They do. But they will not enter Hueco Mundo to search out your sister. They will cleanse your sister only if she ventures into the human world and is spotted by a Shinigami.”

“How long will that take?”

“It’s difficult to say. You need to understand that Hollows number into the millions. The billions. There are only so many Shinigami. There are only so many Hollows they can slay.”

There was a pause as Ichigo absorbed this information. “So you’re saying that she may not ever be cleansed.”


The matter-of-fact tone in which he said it was disconcerting. It seemed that Ichigo was expected to sit idly in Soul Society, and leave to random chance when Karin would be saved. No, if Karin would be saved.


The old man seemed to notice the look in Ichigo’s eyes. “There’s nothing you can do, Ichigo,” he said. “Just hope for the best, and be thankful that you are here.”

No. There were still options. “I can become a Shinigami. I will go find Karin myself.”

Hideki frowned. “You overestimate yourself, and underestimate the Hollows.”

“I don’t-”

“Listen. The Hollows are powerful and numerous, and the Shinigami have tried to eradicate them for a thousand years. A newborn weakling like yourself will not stand a chance.”

“I can train. I can become stronger than any of them.”

Hideki shook his head. “You are wrong. Come,” he said, standing up. The old man walked towards a ladder in the corner of the room, and Ichigo followed him up through the ceiling, through the roof, onto a small observation platform.

The platform was the tallest structure in the vicinity, and from it, Ichigo saw the village for the first time. There were houses made of sturdy white panels, lined in neat rows stretching out for kilometres. Further out, the houses were less well-built, slowly transitioning into an unruly slum.

“This is my village,” Hideki said. “My friends and I built Shiromi out of the slum it was before.” He raised a palm and a small piece of matter began forming in his palm. “I have shaped for a hundred years, and on a good day I might be able to build one tenth of a house.” He closed his fist. “But in a single day, the Shinigami made all this.” He gestured around him.

Ichigo was confused. “What, the village?”

Hideki shook his head. “No,” he said, “they made this world. This entire dimension.”

“So you see,” the old man said, “The Shinigami could do that, but they could not eradicate the Hollows. What are you, next to them?”

He waved toward the ladder. “Let’s go down now. Forget about the Shinigami. I can help you settle here. Shiromi village is a welcoming place.” The old man smiled. “And you have your whole life ahead of you.”

They descended in silence.

That night, Ichigo dreamed of Karin.

Not Karin, the sister he knew. Karin, the Hollow.

He watched as she stalked the human world, searching for prey. He watched as she devoured a soul, as it screamed and cried. He watched as she charged a Shinigami, only to be repelled. He watched as she ripped open a portal to Hueco Mundo to escape and recover from her wounds.

Through it all, the pain. The hunger.

He awoke, heart racing. It’s just a dream, Ichigo told himself. It’s not real.

He lay back down, on his mattress in the safety of Hideki’s house. It was a long time before he slept.

And when he did, the nightmare began anew.


This chapter was really difficult to write. I wrote and discarded three whole versions, around six thousand words. Turns out it’s difficult to introduce an entire setting and a new character at the same time, who would have guessed. Anyway, although it took a little longer than expected, I’m happy with the final outcome.

If you enjoyed this, or even if you didn’t, please leave a review! I always like to hear what people think.

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Falling Forever

[WP]Write the monologue of a guy who’s been falling through an endless pit for 12 hours.

I work as a roof cleaner. It’s not fancy, but it pays the bills. There’s a company that owns several warehouses in this place, and I’m in charge of their roofs. Getting out the leaves, clearing the drains, plugging leaks so nothing gets in and damages whatever they’ve got in there. They never told me what exactly they have in there. Something to do with space. It’s a secret, apparently, and very expensive.

So anyway, I was doing my job one night after all the scientists have gone home, when the roof collapses under my feet and I fall into the warehouse.

It was scary for the first thirty seconds.

Stomach turning. Disorientation. Realising that I was going to die.

I fell. I screamed. I pissed my pants, I’ll admit. But I didn’t die. It was rather surreal. One moment, fear is all you feel, trying to find a handhold or rope or anything, really, to grab at. Then slowly, you realise that you’re not dead. And in each passing second you’re still not dead. The fear fades away, replaced by confusion. It’s like watching a bad magic show. The magician lies in the box. The guillotine comes down and splits him in half. And then nothing happens. The magician doesn’t move. The audience is silent. What happened? What’s going on? You don’t know.

Even then, I was sure that I was going to die. Hell, as bad as my math is, even I know that at some point you run out of height. And I was going pretty fast. The wind was dragging up my arms and legs, so I was basically falling backward. My hair was being swept forward, going into my eyes. I probably looked a lot like Bieber. But anyway I resigned myself to my fate; I was going to die, no matter what I did, so I figured there was no use crying about it. I closed my eyes and thought about my life, my work, my children, my family, my loving wife.

For a while, I was at peace. Zen.


…I was still falling.

How long had it been? An hour? My pants were dry already. A little crispy, even. What’s going on? What has a guy got to do to fall to his death around here?

I looked around. Couldn’t see much, to be honest. Everything was dark. I got the sense that there were large cliffs rushing past me in the blackness. Could have just been the wind, though. I tried to change my direction, float off in one direction to see if there was any place to land there. But without any visual feedback, there was no way of telling if I was successful.

Pretty soon, I got bored. There weren’t any butterflies in my stomach now. I guess if you’ve been at it for hours, nothing much is scary anymore.

I was BORED.

There was literally nothing to do. Maybe you’ve been stuck at home before, on a weekend or something. You think that’s bad. You still have things to do. You have TV. You have the internet. You can listen to music or something. Heck, even if you’re homeless on a park bench you can look at a bird or something. I had nothing to do. I had nothing to see. I heard nothing but the wind in my face. I was floating in the middle of nowhere. This was hell.

Maybe I was actually dead. Maybe this was really hell. Hell wasn’t fire or brimstone. It was nothingness. It was non-existence. It was an eternity in which you would be forced to reflect on your sins. Alone.

The lights came on.

I was in some sort of machine. It looked like an incubator. There was a completely flabbergasted scientist staring at me.

“Who what fuck?”

He stood frozen for a few more seconds, then ran to the control panel of the wind tunnel and shut it off.

“I’m really sorry someone left it running overnight how did you get oh damn the ceiling is I’M GOING TO KILL STEVE-“

Chapter 1: Death and Strawberry

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It began as a feeling.

Something strange. Something wrong. Something approaching. Fast.

Ichigo turned to his sister, Karin. “Do you feel that?”

“No, what-”

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.”

Acceleration. Falling.

“Good luck.”

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!

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Prologue: Ascension

Bleach: The Road to Paradise | Next >>

Main Hall of the Thirteen Clans; Kyoto, Japan; 993 AD


Oetsu Nimaiya let his mind relax. The Kidou spell in his hand wavered, threads slipping from the weave and dissipating. As the last traces vanished, he opened his eyes.

Shigekuni Yamamoto stood before him. He was only a hundred years old, and already a clan head, but that was the way things were when Hollows devoured clan leaders left and right.

“It is time,” said Yamamoto.

Nimaiya shook his head. “I still think someone else should cast it. Not me.”

“Only you are capable of creating a sufficiently large dimension.”

Nimaiya looked levelly at Yamamoto. “If I do this, the Thirteen Clans will not allow me to fight again,” he stated.

Yamamoto inclined his head. “Yes.”

“I will be safeguarded, or locked away, or sealed, for my own protection.”

“Yes. We cannot risk the dimension collapsing if you are killed.”

“I am the best fighter of all the clan heads.” Nimaiya’s tone was flat. “I am the best warrior in all Thirteen Clans. I am the worst possible person to be taken off the front lines.”

“There are more important things than fighting, Nimaiya. The Hollows are numerous because they infect the souls of the newly dead. But the Hollows cannot access the new dimension created by this spell. If we can send souls to the new dimension before Hollows infect them, then we destroy the Hollows at their source!” Yamamoto gestured sharply. “You will do far more good than through simple combat.”

“I can make the dimension and still fight.”

“No! You are too important, Nimaiya. We depend on you for the zanpakuto, and soon for the new dimension, too. The rest of us are pawns and lances, silvers and golds, but you are the king, Nimaiya. You cannot be risked for any reason, or else the game is lost.”

“There’s no risk, Yamamoto. I can take care of anything that stands in my way.”

“Really? Like that time you took care of things so well that Ichibei died to save you?

Anger flared hot and hard in Nimaiya’s chest.

That was not my fault! There were fifteen Hollows-”

“And there may be fifteen again! Or twenty, or fifty! And you will lose, and you will be devoured, and the Hollows will win. We will be killed, the world will be a Hollow wasteland, and Ichibei will have died for nothing.”


“I swore I would avenge him,” said Nimaiya softly. “How, if I cannot fight?”

“Creating the new dimension will more than repay-”

Swear to me that you will destroy the Hollows in my place. Every last one.”

Yamamoto hesitated. “I swear.”

Nimaiya looked into Yamamoto’s eyes. There was a pause.

“Then I will do it.” Nimaiya’s words were heavy in his mouth.

“I am sorry to impose this burden on you. But you are the only one with sufficient skill.”

“Leave, before I change my mind.”

“Remember not to siphon from the guards,” Yamamoto warned. “In case the Hollows attack.”

Nimaiya nodded, and Yamamoto left the hall.

Nimaiya sat, and closed his eyes.

He raised a palm, and a million threads of pure energy wove themselves into a complex tapestry. This would be the most demanding spell he had ever performed. Inter-dimensional travel was straightforward; it was discovering where dimensions were located that was difficult. But creating a dimension from scratch was a completely different matter. Not only did it require a ridiculous number of threads, but any slight dimensional misalignment was liable to send everything slipping through the path of least resistance into a nearby dimension. Yamamoto had been right; Nimaiya didn’t doubt that the number of people in the Thirteen Clans capable of such precision could be counted on one hand.

Nimaiya felt his energy reserves quickly running dry. Here was the second reason he was suited to the task, although he had tried his best to deny it to Yamamoto. At that moment, every member of the Thirteen Clans was in the grounds, meditating as Yamamoto had instructed them to. Nimaiya reached out with his mind, touching the swords held by each of the ten thousand souls. Their zanpakuto. His zanpakuto. Fragments of his soul. They were him. He was them. In his mind, he saw the golden ribbons stretching out from each of them, converging on him.

Gently, he pulled.

The energy of ten thousand souls began to flow slowly into him. Nimaiya immediately spun it into thread, weaving complex patterns into the spell. With this, he could make a weave thousands of times bigger than when doing so alone. Of course, Nimaiya could have fed the siphoned energy into another person who would in turn cast the spell, as he’d tried suggesting to Yamamoto. But that would entail a significant energy loss, and that was before accounting for how inefficient their casting was, compared to him.

Nimaiya felt the presence of a number of souls whom he disliked, and was tempted to wrench away their zanpakuto completely. But he’d never hear the end of it from Yamamoto, and he’d be forced to give them another one anyway. They’d need the sword for their work. When the dimension was complete, access would be restricted only to those marked with the energy of its creator. This was the main innovation, the cornerstone of the new dimension. Hollows would be prevented from moving freely between it and other dimensions, unlike how they were travelling from their thrice-damned Hueco Mundo.

Due to that, if Nimaiya had been any other soul, he would have been required to personally mark every soul that wanted to take refuge in the new dimension. But it so happened that Nimaiya was the one person able to give parts of his soul to others, in the form of a sword. Everyone possessing a zanpakuto was thus capable of marking another soul using that piece of him. It was a piece of excellent luck for the Thirteen Clans. Not so lucky for me, Nimaiya grumbled internally.

Nimaiya felt the pool of energy running low. If he drew very much more, he would risk evaporating the zanpakuto. The weave was now several times the size of Honshu; still not as big as he would have liked, but probably larger than what anyone else might have achieved. Even if they had the same energy reserve to draw from. Amateurs. If only there had been someone else.

Nimaiya looped the weave into an enormous sphere, and examined it for any final flaws. Finding none, he slowly released his grip. He let go of the final threads, and felt the weave cool. Pure energy solidified, and it was done.

Nimaiya exhaled and opened his eyes.

The world came back into focus. No. The human world, it should be called.

After all, there was a new one now.

The Road to Paradise | Next >>

Absolute Zero

[WP] God has a points system. Positive for good deeds, negative for bad. You die and St. Peter tells you your net points equal 0.


A woman stepped forward nervously. “Here, sir.”

St. Peter glanced at her, then looked down to the computer screen in front of him. “Over two hundred points, well done. Please proceed.” The woman skipped lightly through the Pearly Gates, a blissful smile on her face. As the Gates closed, I saw thousands of other beings inside, welcoming her with open arms.


An old man hobbled forward. He seemed to do so out of habit, though; his balance was perfect and he did not favour either leg.

“Thirty-nine point seven, could be worse. It’s Purgatory for you, until you get those last ten points.” St. Peter waved towards a smaller, more modest door beside the Pearly Gates. The old man hobbled through it, with a final longing look at the Gates.


This man was dressed in a sharp suit, and walked ahead smartly. He bowed to the angel. “Present, Your Honour.”

St. Peter glanced at the screen. “Wow. Okay.” He pulled a lever and the clouds below the man parted. Mr. Suit-And-Tie fell out of sight, screaming all the way down. There was a sizzle and a flash of orange, flickering light. The clouds closed again.


I gulped, stepping forward. I wasn’t proud of my life. I’d done many things, some good, some bad. I’d lifted stuff from the local supermarket once or thrice, but I’d been loyal to my friends and family, helping them out in times of need. Surely family matters would give enough points to outweigh some petty larceny, didn’t it? Well, loyal for the most part. Sometimes I just couldn’t find the energy to deal with their problems. Like the time Janet said “we had to talk”, but I was a little busy at the time playing Halo. But I helped take care of her cat when she was away. Except for that one time when it jumped in my cereal and I screamed and accidentally threw it out of –

“Matthew!” St. Peter called, interrupting my thoughts. “Come take a look at this.”

A bespectacled angel flapped his way over, tilting St. Peter’s screen to get a better view.

“Curious,” he said. He prodded a few keys.

I was growing even more nervous than I had been before. I snuck a look at the leaderboards hanging beside St. Peter. Gandhi and his three thousand points smiled back at me, as did Hitler and his negative nine thousand. I wondered if I had just made it to one of the lists.

Several minutes passed, and the two angels continued to pore at the computer, whispering to each other. I glanced behind me. People in the queue were beginning to get restless.

“Excuse me, sir,” I ventured, “Might I ask what the delay is?”

St. Peter looked up and sighed. “It’s a small technical problem, no worries. We’ll get it sorted out soon.”

Beside him, the angel who was presumably St. Matthew gave a soft snort. “Cloud computing. What a joke.”

Hours passed, but the issue didn’t seem to have been solved. An increasing number of angels began to crowd around St. Peter’s computer terminal. Finally, they seemed to reach a conclusion, and St. Peter strode forward.

“Sorry for the delay,” he said. “There’s been a small issue. You see, we track scores with real numbers — that is, numbers with infinite decimal places. Each good or bad thing you do earns you a decimal score between fifty and negative fifty, and we sum them up to get your final score. If your score is positive, we let you into Purgatory or Heaven; if it’s negative you go straight to Hell.

“Your score seems so far to be zero, so we don’t know where to send you. Yet. Summing numbers with infinite decimal places results in exactly zero with exactly zero probability, so all we need to do is keep scrolling down until we find the first significant digit. Not to worry, we’ve looked through several billion digits already, it won’t be much longer.”

Several hours passed.

Several days passed.

The queue for entrance was now rather long. It stretched out as far as the eye could see. People squatted all over the place, having long given up hope of the line moving forward in the foreseeable future. The woman behind me had grown increasingly frustrated, at one point slipping off to have a whispered conversation with an angel, of which I only caught the words “additional terminals”, “bureaucratic inefficiency”, and “fucking idiot”.

All to naught, though, as nobody had yet found any significant digits. Forty angels had been recruited into the effort, and were now searching various parts of my score in parallel, St. Peter himself continuing the first sequence while others skipped gazillions of digits to search in the middle of my score. All zeroes.

At first, I had been confident that a digit would eventually be found, but confidence tends to wane after several octillion digits of evidence to the contrary. At this rate, I was worried that I had locked everyone out of heaven forever.

After a week had passed, I was positively jittery. The good lady behind me was staring daggers at me whenever I happened to look in her general direction, and the rest of the queue was warming to her attitude. Although I was fairly sure I was now an immortal soul, I had a feeling it couldn’t be much longer before the collective efforts of the Queue managed to find a way to make me disappear, permanently.

I couldn’t stand it any longer.

“St. Peter,” I said. “Can you please just send me to Hell?”

St. Peter lifted his weary face, and removed his spectacles. “Excuse me?”

“Well, I understand that you need certain criteria for letting people enter Heaven, but my being here is preventing everyone else from entering either. Would you please send me to Hell so that everyone else can proceed on to the afterlife?”

St. Peter looked at me thoughtfully. “You are aware that Hell is an eternity of suffering, yes?”


“And you are willing to bear it, on the behalf of everyone else in the queue?”

I paused. It couldn’t be much worse than an eternity of waiting in a queue, especially one with Ms. Pissed-Off plotting behind my back. “Yes.”

St. Peter nodded slowly. “As you wish.” He reached for the lever he’d pulled earlier to drop Mr. Suit-And-Tie down the gutter. I closed my eyes.

There was an electronic ding, and St. Matthew’s voice cried out, “Wait!”

I opened my eyes. I was still standing on the cloudy ground before the Pearly Gates.

St. Matthew pointed excitedly to the monitor. “Look!”

“Well, I never,” St. Peter exclaimed. “It looks like your act of ultimate personal sacrifice has earned you fifty points! I can let you in now.”

“Uh…” St. Matthew said.

St. Peter waved me toward the small door to Purgatory.

“Uhhh…” St. Matthew said.

“What is it?” St. Peter asked, turning to him.

“He got fifty points, Pete. Fifty point zero. Fifty point zero zero zero zero.”


“So… should we send him to Purgatory or Heaven?”

(Short) Sketch

There were no clocks in the basement.

No clocks. No watches. Had it been an hour? A day? It was difficult to tell.

The boy hunched over a wooden desk, soldering iron in hand. The desk was rather shabby, with many chips and scratches, and patches that looked like they might have been scorched. By its side stood a small wooden barred filled with water, half-covered with a metal lid.

There was a soft hiss as the boy welded another pipe onto the small device in his hands. It was curiously formed, a mass of gears and pipes crammed into a tiny space, encapsulated with the beginnings of a protective shell. Some silver, some bronze, and a few dull grey. Most were of different diameters, and showed different amounts of wear.

There was a puff, and vapour began to seep out of the device. The boy sighed, shook the device gently, and a little bronze cylinder fell out. Without looking up, the boy pulled open a drawer by his side, and reached into one of the many small trays, pulling out a replacement.

But something must have gone badly wrong, because the device began to vibrate in his hands. The boy reached over and dropped the device into the barrel of water beside his desk, replacing the lid. A second of silence, and then several simultaneous clangs rang out, exactly as if some sort of device had exploded inside the barrel.

The boy set the lid aside again.

He pulled open two drawers, and counted out a precise number of gears and pipes onto the desk. He could start anew, and would, over and over.

After all, he had all the time in the world.

The End

As I laid the firewood down, the farmer thanked me.

‘Fox’, he said, ‘I cannot repay you for everything you’ve done. I am poor, and all I have are these carrots, but you may take as many of them as you wish.’

I cannot eat carrots, but I know my good friend Rabbit does. There are mountains of carrots, more than you can ever hope to eat. Will you come with me tomorrow?

The rabbit listened, but he knew the fox was cunning and deceitful.

“No, Fox,” the rabbit said, “You have fooled me twice already. I know your ways, and I am blind no longer.”

The rabbit pulled the lever he had hidden in the wall. The ground opened under the fox, and he fell into a pot of boiling water, never to trouble anyone again.

And the rabbit lived happily ever after.

I closed the book. Julie was silent, drawing the slow breaths of deep slumber. I reached over and turned out the light. For a while, I simply sat, watching her.

I heard a creak behind me.

I turned, and there crouched a man in black clothes. He froze when he saw that I had noticed him. He was wearing a black mask — well, it may not have been black, because the lights were off and it was quite dark, but it was some kind of dark colour, maybe blue or brown but you get my meaning — and he was carrying a knife.

I screamed, Julie screamed, and the man fled. I ran after him, grabbing the golf club that I keep in the hallway. I was catching up to him, and he must have panicked because he tripped and fell, hard.

Knowing I was about to catch up to him, the man got desperate, and from his pocket he pulled out a bazooka-

“Wait a moment.” The cop held up his hand, disbelief written all over his face. “A bazooka? Seriously? Don’t fool around. A police report is serious business.”

“What do you mean? Of course I’m serious!”

“A bazooka, taken out from his pocket.”


“How big was the bazooka?”

“Uh, about thirty centimetres.”


“No, thick. The length was, ah, about two metres.”

“…I’m going to write you up for obstruction of justice.”

The judge pressed a button, and the recording stopped. I held my face in my hands.

“In my defence, Your Honour, I was drunk.”

The judge sighed. “Enough. We will convene again in fifteen minutes.” He tapped his gavel.

That was when I thought, I want to go one layer deeper! But how?

(Short) Vision

“Alright, tell me what you see.”

“I see… a man. He flees a burning city on a dying horse. Blood flows like water, and ash falls like snow. His heart is filled with grief, but in his arms is the child that has the power to end the Dark Lord, for neither can-”

“No, no, what do you see here?” She raps the board. “What letter is this?”

“Oh, er… M.”

“And this?”


“This one?”

“It’s a P.”

“Alright Mr. Collins, your eyesight is perfectly fine.” She glances skeptically at him. “Your third eye, on the other hand, needs some seeing to.”

“Can you recommend a specialist?”