This is an OC-centric story. And when I say OC-centric, I mean, characters-from-the-franchise-don't-even-physically-appear OC-centric. This is an OC-centric story that explores a headcanon of mine that came from way in the beginning of Bleach.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach. This disclaimer will stand true for the rest of this fic as well.
Chapter 1: Hit the Floor Running
Asuka hadn't seen the car, nor had she heard it. At the point of impact, she, like the driver, was too busy with a phone to notice much else. Headphones drowned out city noise and car noise.
A slam of metal and then another one on asphalt. Whether or not the driver stopped, Asuka didn't know. She didn't see or hear of feel anymore. She was gone from the world in that instant.
It took a few seconds for Asuka to process the image her eyes were dutifully handing to her brain. Lots of brown. Blinking a few more times, Asuka finally saw that the brown was walls, floor, and bookcases in an old, brown, unfamiliar room. What was she doing in this place? Rolling onto her side from her back, Asuka took stock of her surroundings. There weren't that many old buildings in the heart of the city where she lived with her family and pet birds. Pushing herself up, Asuka barely noticed the worn blanket that slid off her arms. Something more important had caught her attention.
She wasn't wearing the t-shirt, hoody, jeans, and boots that she had donned that morning before leaving the apartment. Instead, a faded, orange yukata was wrapped around her. Her phone and music player were nowhere in sight either.
"Someone took my belongings," she gasped. Louder, she added, "And changed my clothes while I was unconscious!"
Throwing the blanket out of her way completely, Asuka leaped from the futon, also worn and old, and rushed to the room's door, legs wobbling slightly. The door slid open smoothly and she stumbled into the hallway. Earthy green wallpaper on the walls of the hallway greeted her. Both ends of the hallway turned off to somewhere Asuka couldn't see. A tiny murmur of sound came from somewhere unidentifiable. Candlelight flickered in her face.
"Uh," Asuka clung onto the doorframe, unsure where to go. Doors to more rooms lined the walls.
She huffed, "Well, the left side is closer."
Shuffling over to the end in her bare feet, Asuka trailed her fingers on the crinkled wallpaper. The unfamiliarity was rattling and she tried calming herself down with imagining how her artist friend, Mishima, would act. Probably mime an old geezer by stroking her chin and huffing in a low voice about homely tones and color agreement. Asuka smiled slightly thinking about the energetic brunette. Mishima would get a kick out of learning that her friend had been randomly kidnapped off the streets after she finished her hovercraft-parent spiel. She was weird that way.
Still, Asuka wondered where she was when she reached the turn. She had definitely been on her way to Miroku's house to work on that stupid school project before –
No, no, no, no, no.
Staring at the dead end before her, she suddenly remembered the car that slammed into her from nowhere. Something in her had cracked and crunched as she went flying in the air. Her headphones were ripped from her ears as the music player shot out of her pocket.
There was little chance that Asuka was alive, much less walking around, aimlessly in old, candlelit buildings. So how was she walking around, and where was she?
Although, Asuka's brain kept chattering as she pivoted on her feet and tore down the hall, maybe she had been in a coma and someone for some sick reason kidnapped her from the hospital just before she woke up. You know, totally possible, have to look at everything here. She ran past the candles, past the crinkled wallpaper, past the door she left open, down to the other end of the hall, and around the corner. Yeah, that theory was probably close to what happened. And in that case – Asuka thumped down the stairs that was at the other end of the hallway – she was ready to give a piece of her mind to whoever changed her clothing in her sleep and pepper them with questions.
Bastards took her from the hospital and shoved her in some brown room like a hamster shoved back in its cage. Well this bird's gonna fly and no one can stop her, justice will be served to all the perverts. Painfully. In the nuts. Hey, she's done it before and can do it again, don't judge this little girl, 'cause this little girl's an eagle, caw caw. Wait, that's not the sound eagles make.
Skipping the last few steps of the stair, Asuka glanced at the three corridors – one to her right, one to her left, and one right before her. The noise of a crowd came from the corridor in front of her. Noise meant people, and people meant answers. Asuka went down this hall. And kept going to the open door to her right and, oh hello, she walked into a bar.
More candles lit the dark wood surfaces. The round tables of the room were occupied with people, drinking, laughing, and talking. In the far corner, a bartender mixed drinks and chatted with customers. Everyone was also wearing yukata. Bizarre, what happened to wearing t-shirts and shorts when it was warm? Maybe some new fashion trend came up while Asuka had been in a coma.
"Hey pretty girl! You just gonna stand there? Come of over here!" A voice leered out.
Asuka turned to the man who called out and wrinkled her nose. No way was she going near some drunk pervert. The man's call got the attention of several other patrons who also started calling out and whistling.
Completely disgruntled with the situation, with how she had first been abducted and now she was being hit on, Asuka strode over to the bartender, ignoring and avoiding the tables. Her bare feet slapped the wooden floorboards as she marched and fumed. At the bar, Asuka shimmied onto a cloth covered seat and smacked the wooden bar. The bartender came over.
Not in the mood to play games like she normally would, Asuka narrowed her eyes at the man cleaning a glass and ground out, "Where am I? Why am I not in a hospital, I should be in a hospital after the car accident."
The bartender seemed amused, if his easy-going smirk was anything to go by. "Hospital? You don't need a hospital. 'Sides, no one in these parts can afford a doctor, let alone a hospital. No hospitals 'round here, sweetheart. Don't know what car accident you're talkin' about, you aren't wounded, 'far as I can see. Anyhow, you're at the Black Rose. Kuro found you by the forest edge outback 'nd dragged you in 'fore you ended up dead via other Souls or Hollows, doesn't matter which."
"I was hit by a car," Asuka deadpanned, plowing on with her original objective and ignoring the other jumbles of words and phrases that had no meaning to her. "And who's this Kuro? No, better question: who took my belongings and changed my clothing while I was asleep?"
The bartender merely shrugged, his devil-may care attitude never slipping, and said, "Sorry to hear 'bout your belongings. Urchins must have stolen them 'fore Kuro found you. And don't worry, sweetheart, Kuro's the one who bathed and clothed you. Now, 'nough jabberin'. Do you wanna drink?"
Indignant about the "sweethearts" and her lost belongings, but deciding to leave those problems for later, Asuka rocked back before sighing and requested, "Some juice if you could. But I don't have any money on me."
"Ah, don't worry 'bout that," the bartender chuckled as he walked to the selves, long fingers skimming over the bottles before hovering between two squat, ceramic jugs, "Cute lady like you, I can let you pass this once. Apple or grape? And I can see you Wanatabe, and you still gotta pay, you cheap ass."
Asuka turned to see who the bartender was talking to. "Apple, please," she shot distractedly.
"No need for the pleasantries, not many 'round here that use 'em."
To Asuka's right, a few seats down, sat a man with sharp cheekbones and short, cropped, dark hair. He was pouting and flipping through a book with handwriting in it, shrugging in his navy blue yukata. "Come on," he whined to the bartender. "Wilfred, I'm such a good friend to you. I come every day and I help you break up drunken bastard's fights; can't I get a free drink every now and then? And I told you to call me Ryuuhei, we've known each other for long enough."
The bartender, Wilfred – a weird name, Asuka mused as a glass of golden juice was placed before her and her thanks were waved off – glared at Wanatabe. "I don't give free drinks t' men and you only come here every day to see if you can catch some new stories and hit on Kuro."
Sipping her drink – which had the taste of a homemade kind and something else – Asuka frowned at the mention of this "Kuro" figure again. She interrupted the now squabbling men, "You know I still haven't figured out who this Kuro is."
Wanatabe grinned slyly. "Beautiful woman, she helps my friend Wilfred here to run the Black Rose. Although, I have a question for you too: you said something about a car crash?"
Grimacing at the reminder to Asuka's situation with abductions and drunks and alcohol and odd trends, Asuka nodded. Wanatabe looked overjoyed, his dark brown eyes taking on an excited gleam. He stuck out his hand to Asuka and smiled. "My name's Wanatabe Ryuuhei. So sorry about your loss. How has your stay at Soul Society been so far?"
"Soul Society? Never heard of the place before. Is that where we are right now?" Asuka asked, not fully trusting Wanatabe with his overly enthusiastic response to the news of her car crash. Actually, she didn't trust either men and had no idea why she was still talking to them and listening to their shenanigans. She also was still wary of this whole "found at the forest and then brought here" story; she had no business at a forest. Frankly, she'd never seen a proper forest in her life. Cities had no room for forests. And even if the tale she was being fed was right, and these people didn't abduct her, then who did take her from the hospital where she had surely been recovering?
Speaking of the hospital, Asuka's brain wandered and worried about her family. Her dad would be worried sick about his hurt little girl and now she was taken from the hospital and her mom, in her calm and collected way, would also worry more quietly. Her older brother who was in college would surely have received the news of his baby sister being hurt and rushed back home when he could. Hopefully someone was still taking care of the birds, the little guys had to be treated with affection every day or they would grow lonely.
Lost in these wanderings of her mind, she barely processed the man sitting next to her explain about this "Soul Society," gesturing wildly all the way. Wilfred had moved on to serve some other customers, leaving the two by themselves.
"Oh you must be new! I love meeting the new Souls. They are always able to keep remembering their life! They haven't had enough time to forget yet. Anyways, welcome to Soul Society, this is where Souls reside after they've passed on. Everyone comes here first. There are a bunch of different sections, but that doesn't matter, all that matters in the end really is that there is a lot of land with a lot of people and the bastards in the middle of the whole shebang are, well, bastards. Don't go there; nothing good comes from the center of Soul Society."
Asuka blinked slowly, her distracted brain not really taking in the information. "Uh," she fished around for what to say and brought her concentration back to the matters at hand. The words flopped out of her mouth, "How can I get back home?"
Wanatabe's expression didn't change from his excitement. "You can't. Sorry, you're dead now."