I stand on a pure white wasteland
I breath air filled with life
Yet I no longer live
Now I am truly free
Chapter Two: Rukongai
“OI, NEW KID!” I keep my eyes closed, acclimating myself to this new environment. A few things come to mind immediately. First, sound; that guy was really loud, overpowering–for that moment–the soft sounds of the world around me, people talking, laughing, kids playing, a dog barked somewhere, I think. Next; smell, a bit dusty, but clean, not at all like the smoggy American cities I’d gone through to get to my ‘Death-denation’. After that, hunger; I needed food bad. After that, Touch; I was on something smooth and cool.
“NEW KID!” the man screamed again.
“Easy, Daruu-sama, let him lay there, he’s probably still in shock.” A high pitched voice said a couple decibels lower . I opened my eyes and the sun was above my field of vision. By the sounds of the people, I guess it was shortly after dawn. Which means that above me was East. That meant when I sat up I’d be facing West. I groaned as I got to my feet, looking around I was right, smack in the middle of a white circular platform.
People were all around, and so were buildings. Pale brown made out of thin wood like old Warring States era Japan. People were walking around, minding their own business, most of them. A few people had stopped to get a look at me. I guess an American is a rare thing here. I guessed that I was in the Japanese section of the after life.
“There is up, Mara, now then. HEY NEWBIE!” I turned my head to a short, muscular, Japanese man in a strange blue and green kimono. I was pretty fed up with his annoying voice and decided to smack him one. Then I saw the girl. Okay there’s all sorts of definitions for hot, sexy, just plain FINE, but she...Mara, I guessed,...wow...just....I stopped dead in my tracks and couldn’t take my eyes off her. She had long black hair with blue streaks, her form was slim but tall, and curved subtly. She blushed under my gaze and looked away with a smile.
The man, Daruu, was quick to pick up on this, I wasn’t exactly good at hiding the stare, and leapt onto the platform.
“STOP OGLING MY SISTER!” He brought his hand back to punch me but I had already snapped out of my revere and had grabbed his face before slamming him to the ground. A smile was on my face. She was his sister, not his girlfriend, hopefully, if I was dead and they were dead, they could have been from a time where sister and girlfriend weren’t so uncommonly the same thing. I shuddered at that thought but simply smiled as I hopped down to where the man had been standing.
I turned to the girl, Mara, who now looked at me with a bit of shock.
“Sorry about smashing up your bro, he’s a bit annoying with that yelling. Swear he’s loud enough to...wake..the....dead” I stopped and thought about what I’d just said. “Huh..that was supposed to be a joke but...its...not funny now that I’m part of the mentioned party...huh..” I scratched my chin.
Mara giggled, “Indeed.” I noticed her voice was much deeper than it was a minute ago as turned her head and watched as Garru got up and spun around.
“What the HELL was that!?” he screamed.
“ I shoved your face into the ground, what did it feel like I did?” I laughed.
Daruu just pointed at the ground. There was a good impression of his face and torso in the rock.
I opened my mouth but all that came out was the echo of my stomach growling. I blushed and apologized.
“Sorry, I’m just a little...okay REALLY hungry...anyone know a good place for some grub? I’ll pay you back somehow, since I don’t think my money came with me if my clothes didn’t.” I had looked down a moment before and seen that my outfit had been replaced by a plain white tunic and pants.
“You’re hungry?” Both of the siblings said, a bit shocked. A few people on the street turned their heads to listen.
“Yeah....” I looked around, “That a bad thing?” I inquired.
“Only if you like being weak!” Daruu laughed. He sat on the edge of the platform and a suddenly a black comet of light shot down.
“Hmm a Shinigami...” Daruu muttered. I watched as the dust cleared and, lo and behold the girl in black was standing there. She noticed me and blinked, then turned her sights forward and started walking, using stairs to descend from the platform.
“Hey, lady, um-“ I walked over to her and suddenly she was staring me in the face. “Um... Thanks ...for the saving me and all....” I managed.
“It’s my job.” she stated flatly. She looked past me and saw Daruu and Mara. “Hey! Daruu! Likai!” Wait, Likai? Then who was....I turned around and noticed, suddenly, a small girl with green hair in a blue kimono. She smiled at me and waved. So THAT was Mara...maybe... “And little Mara...still tagging along with this nut?” She asked the small girl.
“You better believe it Rola-sama!” she cheered, same high pitch voice I heard before.
“Rola?” I found myself saying aloud. The girl, the Shinigami, turned around.
“Rolanda Tanara, Tenth Company, 4th seat.” She recited with a smirk.
“That supposed to impress me? I don’t even know where I am so if it was, it was a waste.” Rolanda sighed.
“It usually is.” she looked up. “Anyway your in Rukongai, the living place for those no longer living. East section. Okay place, long as you stay out of trouble. If you want to do that, avoid this bum.” She thumbed over her shoulder at Daruu. I couldn’t help but laugh
“Trouble’ll find this kid anyway, Rola. He’s hungry.” Daruu said, with some clout.
Rola’s eyebrows rose a bit. “Really, how hungry?” she asked Daruu, strange that she didn’t ask me that. And what was the big deal?
The short man pointed at the imprint of his face and chest on the platform, “THAT hungry.” Rola’s jaw dropped, just as my stomach roared in protest of not being filled. This time many people looked at me like I had the plague or something.
“Okay what the hell is so wrong with being hungry?!” I yelled in inquiry.
The tall girl, Likai, laughed, “Nothing it just means you have spiritual powers.” She covered her mouth to keep from laughing to hard.
I blinked hard. “Oh. That all?” I sighed and leaned against the platform. Daruu spoke in a low tone I couldn’t catch and Rola nodded to whatever it was. The dark skinned shinigami girl waved to get my attention. I was in a bit of a ‘Thinker’ pose, and my attention was not on what my eyes were perceiving. So she whacked me on the head with the back of her hand.
“Hey, I’m trying to be polite and say good-bye, ya dumbass!” she swore.
“Ow....” I rubbed the offended temple, “Fine. So long, farewell, alveterzen, good night.” I grumbled. “Thanks again.” The girl stopped for a moment but shook her head, smiled, and spun on a sandaled heel and walked off. I could see, down the street, large buildings with orange-yellow tiled roofs and tall white walls.
“OH!” She stopped and turned around. “I didn’t get your name.” She said, with a smirk.
“Kaito. Just Kaito.” I said with a smirk. She nodded and turned to resume her walk.
“Well ‘just Kaito’, Let’s get moving.” Daruu wrapped my neck in a hairy arm and started dragging me along the road.
“GACK!” I managed before he started running at high speeds. I blacked out shortly after.
“Geez, Kaito-san,” Mara stared at me wide eyed, “You really can pack it in.” I laughed. Considering I’d just eaten enough food for three people, she was being polite.
“Yeah, didn’t think I could fit that much in me but,” I patted my stomach, it wasn’t any bigger or showing signs of bloating, but I felt full, “I really needed that.” I turned and faced Daruu, “Thank you for the incredible meal,” I said, bowing low. The man was on his side on a cot. The house we were in was small, but it had several rooms. The wok hanging over the fire pit in the center had some food left in it, I’m pretty sure I could have stuffed it down my mouth and enjoyed it too, but that would have been rude. Likai smiled while her brother laughed.
“I’m the best cook in Rukongai and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, kid.” Daruu declared. He sat up and crossed his legs. “Okay, now that your mouth is empty enough to start giving thanks without spitting food up, go over what I told you.”
I nodded and starting thinking back to what he’d said. “I’m in the Soul Society, a place were the dead live their second life, but noone knows what’s after this life. Rukongai is the area we are allowed in, and where normal souls live. The Seireitei is the Death God Compound and where the Shinigami live and work when not on missions in the Living Realm, hunting Hollows. Hollows are human ghosts that either become corrupt due to time, their own evil nature, or another Hollow. They feed on souls and turn those souls into other Hollows. The Shinigami, or Death gods, use their Zanpaku-to, or soul cutting swords, to purify the good souls that have been corrupted, and send the evil souls to Hell. Zanpaku-to are spiritual beings with names and personalities, a Soul reaper of appreciable strength can all out his Zanpaku-to’s name and it will transform from a katana to some wild new shape called umm....”
“Shikai.” Mara chimed in.
“Right...” I nodded, “The other tool of Shinigami is Kidou, or spirit power. It stems from the inner most core of the soul, and coils outward. Using incantations, or memorized spells storied in the metaphysical spiral of kidou, a Soul Reaper can unleash varing attacks against their foes. Spells used with the full incantation are inherently more potent then a stored spell, but the stored spells can be used rapidly and more than once without having to recite the whole spell. Spiritual energy is best focused while imagining a dark circle, however other shapes are needed for certain spells. This means a caster needs a clear head and a strong imagination.”
“WONDERFUL! You’d make a great parrot!” Daruu laughed. I frowned.
“Just doing what you asked me too.” I grumbled
“Do things for yourself!” Daruu declared. I think a vein was about to burst in my forehead cause I was more than a little pissed at that point, but I took a deep breath and said nothing. “Okay now what?”
“What do you mean?” Daruu asked.
“I mean what’s the point of telling me all this?” I asked, a little sore now from eating so fast.
“So you know.” Daruu shrugged. “There’s many paths you can take. You can try and join the Shinigami, you can stay here and live out the rest of eternity....but then..you have eternity to decide!” The man laughed, “Just so you know I’m around 134, and my sister is over 220!” I gawked at this remark and looked between them. “Wait that would make her your GRANDMA not your sist-OW!” Mara suddenly hit me over the head with her foot.
“That’s really rude, Kaito.” the small girl said.
“Hahaa that’s right KaitoOOOW” Daruu received a similar strike.
“And it was rude to mention her age, Daruu-sama!” she squealed. I looked to Likai when she coughed politely to get my attention.
“People who are related to one another by blood rarely find each other hear. Its simply a matter of odds. All the people in Soul Society are those who have died in the past, but did not go to Hell. And while some generations the ratio of Hell to Soul Society is drastically in the former’s favor, it still makes it almost impossible to find someone, there is also to fact that many people with strong wills become Shinigami. Because of all this, people here grow attached to those near them and make families of their own. It’s the same with the Shinigami, though their ties are of strength and ideals rather than compassion.”
I mulled this over. “So if I get strong enough, then what? The Shinigami will come find me and tell me to join them or something?” I looked at the tall girl. She laughed.
“Well they’ll send an envoy to test your Kidou strength. Usually there’s a charm involved but sometimes not.”
“How do you know?” I asked, a bit curious.
“Oh, I’ve been given the test over a hundred times. I’ve passed all of them, but I’ve stayed because of friends and family who I care for. I can join anytime really.
“She’s staying cause Daruu-sama is WEEEEEEEEAK” Mara chimed in. I laughed at this and smiled at the group. I didn’t realize it then, but they had already accepted me as part of their group. So when I asked how I’d get the Shinigami’s attention they all got quiet. THAT’S when I realized they had accepted me.
“Um....well...sorry guys it’s just...that Hollow...it.....I .....I don’t know I just feel this compulsion..and...huh? Daruu-san...” I spoke as the man got up.
“When you feel that urge, it is destiny. Don’t deny it unless you can think of a reason, and if you can’t even place the feeling itself then finding a reason to deny it is almost impossible.” He pumped a fist into the air in between us. “GO and cause mayhem. That’ll get their attention!”
A bead of sweat ran down the back of my neck. “I don’t want THAT kind of attention.”
“Oh....” the man pondered before snapping his fingers and going into a room off the main sitting area. I could hear sounds of things being tossed around. “AHA!” Daruu came back with two things. One was a rectangular box, the other was a weird artifact. It looked like a dagger made from bamboo, but red and covered in black writing. He tossed them to me and I caught them reflexively.
“In the box is ink, notebooks and a couple of brushes. Go into the forests and write poetry. The dagger is a dowsing artifact, it resonates to fruits growing in the wild.” He said simply.
“Um....” I looked at the items, “How is this gonna help?” I asked. Daruu sighed, pained, “Such an idiot....” he pointed at the box. “Most Kidou spells are just poetry some old Shinigami recited one day and ended up burning half his audience, or his house, or his cat. Try writing and reciting anything that pops into your head. Give it a few weeks, maybe a couple of months. The dagger will help you find food. My advice: pluck the red mangos as soon as you can. They become poisonous for weaker spirits if left on the trees too long and go purple.” He smiled as if he’d come up with some great plan. In the end it was like saying; “Here have some stationary and a compass; go get stronger or die.”
--------------------------------------------END CHAPTER TWO---------------------------------