I was running, always running.
Men, big and scary men with clubs and crude swords, were chasing me. I was breathless, my heart beating against my small chest. My physically eight-year-old legs felt like lead. The food I stole from my pursuers was clutched in my trembling hand. I ran for what seemed like forever, until I came upon my makeshift hideout. A rat tunnel like cave, so small that I barely got into it now. I squeezed into the cave and curled into a ball, trembling terribly.
Then sobs racked my tiny body. I was so scared, hungry, sad, angry, and pained that it was all I could do. Even though the gruff and mad voices of the men still on my trail reached my ears, I didn't care. I wanted it all to be over so bad that I just clutched my filthy, greasy white hair and screamed. Screamed while I cried. Until my throat nearly tore itself away, making my voice far more softer then it once was.
Then their arms seemed to shatter through the solid walls of my sanctuary and gripped my shoulder. And true terror flooded through me.
"Misami! Misami, wake up!" Rukia's concerned-laced voice cut through my screaming.
I jolted awake from the nightmare that always plagued my sleep, my throat feeling almost as torn as the last time Id had that nightmare. I looked up at Rukia's worried face. I muttered something to assure her I was alright, and rose from my soft bed. Rukia rose with me, obviously not buying it. I took a few deep breaths and looked her in the eyes, "Something's should never be repeated."
She saw the look in my eyes, and seemed to recognize something and nodded, "I know. Come on, we got to get to my class room."
"O-Okay," I slowly nodded and took a deep breath. I went and grabbed the white and red accented shirt of my uniform and put it on over my red under shirt, then tucked it into my uniforms trousers. The socks and sandals soon followed. Rukia looked over me to make sure I'd put them on right and nodded her approval.
We exited our dorm and went into the hall. I heard snoring from Ichigo's room. I gave a small smile, and shook my head. The sun hadn't even come up yet, which meant we must've gotten up extremely early to reach the place where Rukia will be teaching. We passed through the halls in general silence, the noise being made was our foot falls on the wooden floors. Rukia seemed focused, and excited. This must been something she expected to have fun with, since I couldn't imagine teaching a bunch of First Years to be entertaining unless you knew someone to make it enjoyable. Or you just liked to see how utterly they would fail at Kidō.
I, for one, was slightly nervous. The entrance exam I took made me realize that controlling my spiritual pressure to make a ball of energy had made me realize that there was some difficulty to Kidō other then memorizing incantations. But I had a good memory. The other aspects, like Zanjutsu, were easy enough. It was easy for me for one reason or another, despite my relative age. I even accidentally pulled off a rudimentary Flash Step, some how. But I still don't know how I'd done it, so I couldn't rely on it consistently yet.
"What're you thinking about, Misami?" Rukia's noble voice cut through my train of thought. Her saying my name had immediately made my heart swell with joy that she had used my new name so casually, as if it wasn't only twenty-four hours old.
"N-Nothing," I responded, "Just a little nervous about how well I'll do in Kidō."
She laughed, "I wouldn't worry about it one bit. Even if you can't do it, it's my job to help you with anything I can. And I'm pretty good at Kidō."
"Thanks, Rukia," I said, a little less worried but still nervous.
Training room was a wide open area with a line for students to stand at and target dummies on the other end. Grass expanded throughout the area and the morning sky was the roof. I liked this as opposed to the class room I thought it would be. It was less imposing and didn't make me feel as small as I was. It made me feel more at home, having the open aired feeling of Hanging Dog There was a couple of noble early-risers entering through the door ten minutes after us.
"Oh," Rukia said, smacking her forehead, "Crap, I forgot some things at the room. Can you watch things for me while I grab them, Misami?"
"Of course, Rukia!" I gave a small smile, "What're friends for?"
"You're the best!" Rukia called, running out of the room before flashing away as soon as she passed through the doors.
The two nobles looked at the door Rukia left through then at me. There was something in their eyes that made me feel like I was doing something wrong. That look of disapproval always fell on me when nobles knew where I came from, but that usually was the end if it. But these noble girls were walking towards me, analyzing me with their piercing gazes in such a way that made me feel as if I were naked. They were far enough out of earshot that they didn't hear my conversation with Rukia, so I don't know what set them towards me but they were soon a mere two feet away from me.
One was taller then the other by an inch, while both were at least a half foot above Rukia's height. Making them at least a foot taller than me. With the high-and-mighty sneer that always infuriated so many of the students from the Rukkon, they looked down on me as if I were not worth the dust on their sandals. The taller one had brown hair that went down to her shoulders and brown eyes, and the shorter had blonde hair that went down to her shoulder blades and green eyes. They were both obviously nobles, all posture while I stood up straight but didn't have as perfect posture as they did. The taller one had her arms crossed over her chest while the other had her hands on her hips. Their uniforms seemed to be pressed and dry cleaned, while I hadn't bothered with that yet since I didn't know how to wash clothes all that well. They looked to be the physical age of about sixteen or seventeen.
The shorter one spoke it a regal tone, "So you got it in good with the teacher, Rukkon Trash? Is that how the likes of you got here?"
The taller one sneered, "That's the only way such scum could be in the same class as us. Because there is no way this thing is our equal."
I was used to the names that they were calling, and how they were trying to make me feel, I was numb to it after centuries of it. It got old real quick. I merely gave a small smile, though I was very irritated on the inside, "Hello, and good morning."
The shorter one nearly recoiled, looked incredulously at me, "Did you just talk to us? What makes you think that scum like you can talk to us?"
I merely shrugged, straining myself to stay rooted in place and not run away in childish weakness, "Because it's polite? Respectful?"
The taller one slapped me hard across my face, so hard I almost toppled over, "Never speak to us as if you're better!"
I recomposed myself with as much dignity as I could, tears threatening to cascade down my face, "Sorry..."
"We're watching you, scum," The shorter one growled, "So you best keep your distance."
"Of course," I said, with a small breath. Then they turned and left me to return to probably gossiping in the corner.
As I just stood there, I drew my hand to my cheek, which still burned with stinging pain from the taller one's strike. I massaged the stinging and sighed. The pain wasn't what bothered me. Pain was normal for me and others who lived through what I had. It was just how rude and insensitive they had been. Normally, I never had to deal with the nobles messing with me because I never did anything other then be in their sight. Plus, I didn't have anything to lose by striking them back the last time nobles treated me like that But to end up being struck in the face for what seemed to be jealously was not what I was used to. To even have the slightest notion of anyone being jealous of me of all souls in the Soul Society was frankly unthinkable.
"Are you okay?" Rukia's voice shook me out of my confused daze.
"Huh?" I stuttered, trying to recover while hiding my eyes from sight, "Oh, hey Rukia! Yeah, I'm fine."
"You sure?" Ichigo's voice sounded behind Rukia. I turned to look and saw him walking behind Rukia in the same uniform as I was, only it was fitted to his enormously tall frame and had blue accents instead of red. He looked concerned for me, like he'd known me forever.
"I...yeah, I'm sure," I said stuttering as my confusion on Ichigo's concern spilled over with what I was about to say.
"You're hurt, Misami," Rukia said flatly, looking at my bruising cheek while I held it.
"It's nothing, really," I said, cursing myself for the childish sound of my voice. It made me sound so weak, so helpless. Even though I knew I was not. Ichigo moved past Rukia as she stopped in front of me and gently moved my hand way from my cheek. He eyed it with an angry look to his eyes.
"Who was it?" Ichigo asked kindly, looking into my eyes. I wanted to trust him with the answer, but I didn't want those two nobles on my case again. I shyly turned my head away, avoiding his gaze. He sighed and turned to Rukia.
"Misami," Rukia said in a somewhat commanding tone. I looked up at her. She looked right into my eyes with a pleading expression, "Whoever it is, if they threatened you, they won't be able to hurt you. Ichigo and I will protect you, because you're our friend."
"What can you do though? T-They're nobles," I said softly, sounding defeated.
"You forget, Misami, that I am a noble, and the sister of the head of the Kuchki clan," Rukia gently smiled, "And I know a lot of people that can help with anything dealing with nobles at all levels."
"And I guess you don't know that I don't let my friends get hurt," Ichigo gruffly added.
"Umm," I said, conflicted and uncertain, "A-Am I your friend, Ichigo?"
A bemused smile crossed his face, and touched his eyes, "Any friend of Rukia's is a friend of mine. Plus you remind me of my little sister."
I couldn't help but smile. Another friend, another person who actually cared about me. "Thank you, Ichigo...and the ones who h-hit me were those two girls over there..."
Ichigo and Rukia followed my gaze and saw the two nobles across the room, gossiping and snickering as if nothing had happened. Rukia analyzed them from where she stood. Ichigo seemed as if he was about to go over to then and slap them upside the head.
Rukia noticed this, and a good thing too, since the rest of the class was now starting to file into the room, "Calm down, Ichigo. I have a plan."
"It better work, or that's plan B," He growled under his breath.
"Fine," She whispered, then turned to me, "You don't worry about them, not yet."
"O-Okay," I slowly nodded.
She gave me a smile then turned to the gathering class of First Years, her face hardening into an authoritative, commanding mask, "Good morning, class. I am Rukia Kuchki, and I will be your teacher until your original teacher is heathy again. This class, in case you can't read the name on your schedules, is Beginning Kidō. Today, you will be learning to perform level one spells. There are three types of Kidō: Hado, Bakudo, and healing Kidō, which is optional. If there are no questions, let us begin."
I watched as Rukia gave each one of the large class' student a number from one to four and had them get into line in that order. I ended up in group four, with a large and protective Ichigo sitting right beside me. He was acting like he'd just met me and he was making sure that I was alright. Of course, since I was a helpless child. Others of my group gave me sideways glances, then their gaze drafted to the carrot-top next to me. Compared to him, I looked as if I were five. Ichigo's amber eyes were commanding and fierce, his seemingly permanent scowl scarring his masculine features. He gushed power, as if he had no idea how to control his enormous spiritual pressure. Some of the closer ones seemed light headed because of it.
But whispers spread quickly, and soon it seemed as if the whole class was talking about me and Ichigo.
"Is that Ichigo Kurosaki? There's no way."
"Is that the prodigy next to the orange haired one? She looks pretty messed up to me."
"I heard that the white haired girl's been recruited by a captain, can you believe that?"
"The orange haired one looks pissed, the girl too. Man, they look like they've seen some stuff, huh?"
"I wander how good the girl will do. I've always wanted to see a prodigy up close."
"The teacher keeps looking the carrot-top, I wonder what's up with that?"
"Maybe we should-"
"Group 1!" Rukia's commanding noble tone shut down the whispers like a switch, "Step forward onto the line!"
"Yes ma'am!" They yelled back, scrambling to the white in front of where they sat.
They stood straight up with tier hands at their sides awaiting further commands. At this point I saw that the two nobles from earlier where in this group and my gaze stayed on them. In the corner of my eye, I saw Ichigo staring daggers at them too. I gently, without realizing it, slipped my petite hand into his and gave it a meek squeeze. He looked down at me and flashed a smiled to reassure that it was alright. I nodded and looked to Rukia, who was teaching the incantations for the Kidō. I'd already memorized it by the time the third group was up though. Ichigo looked like he knew what to do too.
"Group Four!" Rukia yelled, "To the line!"
"Yes ma'am!" Everyone yelled back, except Ichigo, who just scowled, while I just stood up nervously.
I quickly made my way to the line and stood with my feet shoulder width apart and ready for the command.
"Perform Bakudō No. 1!"
I pointed with my index finger and middle finger together at a target and calmingly said, "Bakudō No. 1. Sai!"
Immediately my target's arms were pinned against it's back. Perfect. Ichigo's also was perfectly done. The rest were either completely wrong, had the arms pinned the wrong way, or it had not worked much at all. Rukia smiled at me and Ichigo as we moved back to our original places. I'd smiled back briefly and then went back to a straight face. Next was Hadō. The offensive spells. Something I rather enjoyed the thought of.
"Yes ma'am!" They yelled, scrambling for the line once more, however they were more organized this time.
As groups two and three took their turns I just relaxed and waited for the day to be over. The rest of the Kidō class blazed by, with everyone except Ichigo and I mostly having to revisit either Hadō No. 1 or Bakudō No. 1, or both. It goes without saying, Ichigo ad I were the only ones out of that class to flawlessly execute both spells one the first attempt. The two noble girls eyed me with hatred through the entire class, and started to do the same for Ichigo as soon as they figured out that he was both at my level (even though he had to be at least Captain level from the spiritual pressure he was giving off), and on my side. But all things must come to an end and I was soon saying a good bye to both Ichigo, and Rukia. I was nervous about walking through the halls without either of them. The insecure, childish side of me was nervous that their two nobles would attack me on my way there, while the mature side of me knew that I could easily use the new Kidō to protect myself. This debate continued as I walked eye level to almost everyone's hips and stomachs on my away to my next class.
I looked at the piece of paper that had my schedule written on it. Everyone of my classes were Advanced. And from what I've seen, it seems I'll be allocated up at least a few years in at least Kidō. The other classes, like before Kidō, I had no idea if I could surpass the First Years in Zanjutsu, or the many other classes that were for combat. The History classes should be easy, since my memory was at least a little exceptional.
I arrived at my history class and quietly sat down at my designated seat. I was early, and only about two or three other students were there. I stared down at my hands as they lay in my lap. I felt the students looking at me out of the corner of their eyes. Expressions of awe and jealousy oozed from there spiritual pressures.
Thankfully, the teacher was prompt and as soon as the last student sat down, he began his lesson. I absorbed all the information easily, having no need for notes. While almost everyone else was furiously scribbling down the most important facts, I sat and merely listened. I probably had a bored expression on my face through the entire class. Some students looked at me and frowned at how easy I made it look, but others seemed to be jealous of my abilities.
I was already getting used to those looks.
Next was Zanjutsu. Sword combat. And I wondered if this might go the opposite of what my day had been so far. The constant looks I was getting from everyone was starting to become normal to me, of course. Now I had to just see if I was naturally proficient at swords. I walked through the classroom, which actually was a dojo-like training hall, and saw a familiar carrot-top.
I instantly was relieved and smiled as I ran for him with arms spread wide for a hug, "Hey, Ichigo!"
Ichigo, who was furiously arguing with another First Year, turned to look in the direction of my voice. He instantly smiled warmly at my happy face, "Hey, Misami!"
I ran right into him and jumped up, hugging his torso tightly while my legs hung a good foot above the ground. I heard the First Years start to chuckle at my display of affection and I dropped back down to the ground. They only laughed louder when I gave them my most furious look, which wasn't that intimidating at all. But I saw Ichigo's twitching eyebrow, and I decided to do something about it.
I lifted my hands in the right position, and muttered calmly, "Bakudo No. 1. Sai."
The First Year's arms contorted behind his back and he collapsed onto the ground face first. Ichigo, with a proud expression on his face, looked down at me. The First year struggled against the Kidō, but to no avail. While Ichigo and I casually caught up on how each other's day went, I left the Kidō in effect until the teacher called out to the class as it was about to start. With a flick of the wrist, the Kidō dissipated and the First Year rose slowly to his feet.
"Alright!" The old looking man hollered, "This is Zanjutsu! Today we will be pairing you up according to the skills you displayed during the entrance exam and we will keep those teams unless there are those of you special cases that get to leave early! First pair will be the two highest scoring in the areas of flash step and basic instinct, as well as all other respective areas! Ichigo Kurosaki and...Misami Tsukino!"
All I could do was smile widely. Ichigo was easily one of the strongest in possibly the entire Academy and beyond. He had the power level that was at minimum, captain level, and had extraordinary fighting skills. To learn the art of sword fighting from him was mostly the best thing to happen to me in this class. We tuned out te shouts of the old instructor and headed over to our designated sparring area after we were issued bokkens, which were practice swords.
"Ready!" The instructor said, "Begin!"
Ichigo smiled and lifted his sword above his head and brought it down in a cleaving motion. I gripped the hilt of my sword and put the palm of my other hand behind the end of the weapon and braced for the impact just before his strike's hit. Shock waves resounded through my small child body as he struck, and waves of air flooded away from the impact as I used some of my spiritual pressure to keep the wooden sword from snapping under the power of Ichigo Kurosaki. He lifted his sword and prepared for another strike, but from the side. I pivoted and jumped up, torquing my body to add more speed. As I rose to about his chest area and temporarily hung there, I lashed out at his side with all the power I could muster. To my surprise, Ichigo instinctively redirected his sword to deflect mine. Then I retracted my sword as I fell, still spinning pretty quickly. As I landed, I extended my sword arm and my weapon contacted with Ichigo's shin as I landed like a ninja with my legs crouched, my free hand stabilizing me as it rested on the ground, and my weapon extended.
Ichigo groaned in pain as my weapon contacted his bone, but soon ignored it as he again brought down his sword in a cleaving motion. I twisted and swung my sword to meet his. My sword hit his sword on the side, deflecting his blow so that in crashed into the wooden floors inches to my right. The air displaced by the whooshing blow blew my hair in a dramatic way, as the floors split and splintered from Ichigo's attack. While he hefted his weapon from the floor I jumped on top of the sword and pointed mine at his throat. It didn't reach his neck by probably one or two feet, since I was so dang short. Ichigo flicked his sword sideways and I tumbled down to the ground. As I fell, I went with the spin Ichigo had given me and rolled away from him as I landed on the hard wooden floors. But I rolled the wrong way, and directly into the splintered floor crater Ichigo had just made. The jagged floor board sliced a deep gash across my cheekbone, and felt as if it embedded itself into my skull. Then as I rolled away, the floorboard tore away. The cut was agonizing, and probably had at least five splinters embedded into it. Blood splattered from the wound onto the floor.
"Are you okay!?" Ichigo stared at me as I slowly staggered to my feet. "Do you need to stop?"
I gritted my teeth and tried to ignore the pain, "No, let's finish this match, then we can worry about me."
"Rukia will probably hate me for encouraging you," Ichigo said, shaking his head, "But I love that fighting spirit you've got. Just be careful, okay, Misami?"
"Gotcha!" I said, wiping away the blood running down my right cheek.
I jumped up as I charged, and brought down my sword in a cleaving motion, mimicking Ichigo's technique. He lifted his sword and blocked it with ease and pushed forward. He used so much more strength then I thought he did, since that strength sent me backflipping down to the ground. By some lucky strike, I landed like a cat on my feet and instantly lowered myself to make it harder for Ichigo to hit me. He swung at my ankles, and I jumped. But I jumped way too early and landed on his sword.
Had I been older and heavier, it would have worked out perfectly, and his sword would be driven into the ground. But since I was still a child practically, the speed of Ichigo's swing brought me with it. I crashed down onto my hip and then my side. The breath was knocked out of me as I hit.
And in the moment of shock, when I couldn't move, I felt Ichigo's wooden sword gently tap onto my throat, "I win."
"Good job, Ichigo!" I smiled, hoping he wouldn't notice how disappointed I was in myself.
He smiled widely, a rare occurrence indeed, "You did pretty dang well yourself, Misami. That's an impressive technique you have. Where did you learn it?"
"I grew up in the 78th South Rukkon, Ichigo. In Hanging Dog. I wouldn't be alive if I didn't know how to fight. But I don't have a technique, just instinct."
A torrent of memories from my 'home' flooded my vision and I clutched my head with my free hand to try and stop the swirl of painful emotion that came with those memoirs. Of me having to scrape out an exist acne and steal food just to survive. To hide constantly from almost everyone. The family I'd had was a bunch of kids my age, with physical ages of seven to ten. They all died off one after the other. I was alone for at least a century before the Captain had found me, not trusting myself to another family for fear that I would lose them too. I remembered having to fight grown-ups so that they would be distracted long enough for my friends to steal food from their stands. I remembered burying those same friends. I shook my head, shaking off the memories. I looked up at Ichigo's concerned face.
"Misami Tsukino! Ichigo Kurosaki!" I heard the instructors voice bellow.
I looked around and realized the entire class had been starring at us as we had spared. They looked shocked. Ichigo helped me to my feet as I held my lacerated cheek gingerly. The instructor slowly made his way over to us. I was glad this was one of my final classes, because I don't know if I could stand being the center of attention all hours of the day.
"You two shall report to the Headmaster's office. He as a message he would like to personally give you."
"Yeah," Ichigo said casually, "Fine."
I remained silent and followed the carrot top as we exited the training room. We tossed our bokkens at a couple of students as we exited through the doors. The trip there was spent in silence, since I had no idea how to start a conversation all that well, and I was also busy think of what if done to cause the Headmaster of the entire Soul Reaper Academy request an audience with Ichigo and me. Whatever I did, Ichigo must've also done that same deed, since he was also seeming to ponder the meaning of our summoning. We passed through the wing we were in and slowly descended the steps to the first floor and continued on the the front office.
It was beautifully decorated, with traditional Japanese banzai trees and decorations. The secretary directed us into the Headmasters office and closed the door behind us. The was a beautiful Banzai tree on the corner of his desk, and a cup of freshly brewed tea. The Headmaster beamed at Ichigo and I, and we both looked at him quizzingly, still wandering what was going to happen.
"I knew that I would get to do this, since you both displayed such astonishing raw skill," The wide man chuckled, "Well, I expected as much from you, Mr. Kurosaki, but not that you, Miss Tsukino, would be so close behind him. I would like to congratulate you both. You have been reallocated to Sixth Year classes in all subjects. Your graduation dates will be at the end of this school year."
I was speechless as Ichigo just shrugged, "Alright, then. Can we go back to our rooms then?"
"Of course," The Headmaster said, "And just so you know, you will be issued asuchi during tomorrow's Zanjutsu."
I nodded and Ichigo and I left the room. During the trip back I couldn't help but smile to myself. Sooner, five years sooner, I would be free of this place and a Soul Reaper.
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