Turn back the pendulum
Chapter 9 – Breakdown
Chapter's music: All I wanted by Paramore
Pieces by Red
That day, the day that changed everything, rain poured outside. Ichigo watched the dark clouds for minutes, fighting with his responsible side to just lie down on the bed and forget about school altogether. But damn, that side was making it pretty hard, remembering him how he had to skip classes because of his shinigami duties. So, dragging himself out of the bed and into a hot shower, he started to prepare for a day that apparently had nothing extraordinary happening.
When he sat at the kitchen table, where his family was already eating, he just grumbled a hello. He felt a migraine coming and buried his face on his hands, feeling that this day was starting as the worst of the week. Feeling his mood wasn't on his best days, his sisters left him alone and even his father looked at him with concern. He had a suspicion about what made his son so depressed for those last weeks, thanks to a very safe source called Kisuke. The blonde man told him that Inoue-san came one day to his shop and just sat there looking into nothingness; when Yoruichi tried to talk to her, she just crumbled and mumbling Ichigo's name, started crying. Isshin just expected that this delinquent boy he called a son wasn't making the same mistakes he did, trying to keep the person he cared about away.
It happened on his visit to the world of the living, every ten years. He was a high ranked royal guard, so he couldn't enter and leave the Royal Realm wherever he wanted, so he reserved one day every decade to let his curiosity win and let it know how the humans evolved during that time. And that was when he saw her. Her hair shined under the sun like gold, making him follow her path like a stalker. Oh, how he could feel her hands pushing him against a wall and demand what he was doing following her. And that was when he found out that she was spiritual aware; she could see him in his shinigami body. He jumped to the nearest rooftop and just ran away. During the next days he couldn't keep her out of his mind, so he invented excuses with his comrades to leave once again and if he wasn't a legend between the younger ones they would never agree with it. That day he appeared when she was leaving her school and she looked at him and just smiled.
"So are you a ghost?" she asked without beating around the bush. He laughed and surprising himself told her the truth. She looked at him like he was insane and he thought that he had lost her.
"Hum, you are a shinigami that sends spirits to a place called Soul Society?" and seeing him opening his mouth, she kept talking. "I'm sorry, you're a royal guard, is that right?" she asked in a stuck up tone that made him laugh. She looked at him and admitted she liked his laugh. He would never feel the same way about it. When he had do leave, at night, she was still trying to make him tell what had made him came down once again, but he wouldn't tell her. Not that night. Not for a long time. She was seventeen and he couldn't take her life from tracks like that...
But during the next three years, all his mind could think of was about her, how she believed him when he told her about his identity, how she never thought he was a crazy stalker spirit, how her curiosity demanded that he would tell her more about the royal family, what he did while he was a captain and more important when they would see each other again and he answered the last one with a word: never.
After those three years, he just gave up. He couldn't keep up like that; his life had lost its meaning... So, one day he asked for a reunion with the king and exposed his situation. The old man was fair, but losing his best fighter would be a big shock to his family. Isshin pleaded for hours, until the man gave him his approval.
"But I won't help you find a suitable body to live as a human, let's see how you can bear without that" he said with finality.
When Isshin left to the real world, he didn't know where to find an answer to his problem; he just had to. So, when after two days of roaming around, he found himself in front of a candy shop with a ridiculous high reiatsu he entered, in hope that someone could help him. And that was how he found himself face to face with Urahara Kisuke for the first time.
The blonde man told him, years later, that he thought he had come to arrest him and for a miracle didn't beat him with his fan.
When Isshin told him all about his problem, going into details about how wonderful Masaki was, Kisuke felt that he should help this man. But, testing his resolve, trust and most important the truth of his words, he told him his own story: all about his unfair trial and how he had to run because of a maniac. Isshin heard everything, without any biased opinion, since he knew next to nothing about his newest friend's supposedly traitorous actions before he told him about that. And in the end believed him. That was when Kisuke presented him with an invention of his own, a special gigai that worked like a human body, getting sick, old and even dying, just like a normal person. Isshin felt like kissing him, but restrained himself, while he jumped into the gigai. He knew that that body had negative sides; Kisuke had told him about it, his reiatsu would low near a human level for years, until it finally would start getting his reiatsu back. But in that moment, he was leaving the shinigami world behind, he just wanted to be with Masaki and live happily ever after with her. Leaving Kisuke behind, he almost flew, in his new body, to her workplace. He had found out about it in his first day after leaving his old life behind, but never waited for her. He wanted to see her for the first time, in his new life, when he had his own body. When the woman stepped out of the building, he saw her looking at him, like she couldn't believe her own eyes. Dropping her things, she ran towards him, hugging him tightly.
"I really hoped that you were lying when you said never" was the only thing she said before she kissed him.
Isshin was brought out of his memories when Ichigo closed the front door with a kick. He really had to teach him some manners when he got home, that and how to treat a delicate woman like Inoue Orihime.
The rain was pouring over his umbrella and he was more wet than dry, but he just couldn't find the strength to be bothered by that. All he could think about was Inoue's expression the previous day, when he was talking with Chad and Keigo, while Mizuiro tapped on his phone.
She saw him turn his back on her and for Chad's expression he just provoked the fall of the drop that made the glass overflow. When he looked at her again, when they were both already in classroom, she was already at her desk, with a blank expression over her face.
A splash of color made him stop right beside the hill that followed the river's course. He was thinking about her, that's why he saw that color, it was just his imagination, he tried to tell himself, but looking carefully he really could see someone near the river.
"Inoue?" he whispered, while the person started her hiking through the mud heading to the road.
"Wait!' he said and before he could stop himself, he ran towards her. The rain and the wind made it difficult, but he got there, right beside her.
"What the hell are you doing here? Are you insane?" he yelled, worry coloring his voice.
"So, you are talking to me?" she asked, in a wounded tone. Ichigo flinched, seeing how badly he harmed her, but he couldn't regret it, he wanted to protect her from himself.
"I just came here to stop you from hurting yourself!" he answered truthfully. It was the most honest he was to her since the discovery day.
"I don't want your help! I don't want anything from you!" she snapped and her carefully prepared mask crumbled to pieces. "I don't understand what I did for you to hate me! You just keep ignoring me, like I was made of fog! You can't realize how much you hurt me with your actions? I thought you felt guilty because of that hollow and that you tried to keep me away from fight, but it wasn't only the fight that you kept me away! You don't let me come near you anymore!" her eyes were red and puffy, her hair and clothes soaked, her socks and shoes covered with mud and her whole body was shacking, but she was finally saying what she had to and that made her feel free like she didn't in weeks.
"Well, if you don't want me near you, I'll let you alone. I know what I said to Kurosaki-san, but it hurts too much being near you, but at the same so far away! Sometimes I just wish you never came for me in Hueco Mundo, that would save you from my awful company!" and with that, she turned around and started climbing again, leaving a dumfounded Ichigo wondering how in the hell she came to that conclusion. "Well, it was what you wanted, right?" his conscience snickered and he felt a knot forming in his stomach.
When she was halfway the hill, Ichigo finally caught up with what was happening. The wind was so strong, that it probably meant a hurricane was coming. The rain was running down the hill like a waterfall and in the gap of seconds, Inoue's body disappeared under a flood of mud, water and rocks that came from above them. Ichigo screamed and jumped forward, trying to swim through the brown water. He couldn't see her orange air anymore and that made him search with new energy. The flow took them under the river's water and for some moments, Ichigo could see himself, right beside that river, crying under his mother's dead body. He searched desperately, until he found a white spot, her shirt, that called his attention. Swimming forward, he caught her around the waist and brought the girl to the river bank. She was bleeding from her head, probably from one of those rocks. He could feel the flow of water trying to push them to the river again, so he grabbed her in his arms and fought his way out of that place. When he got under the bridge, safe from the flow, he finally had time to take care of her. He compressed her chest multiple times and opened her lips, but when it came to do mouth to mouth he just couldn't, so doubled his efforts on his compression. When she coughed the muddy water, Ichigo fell over his backside and breathed deeply, until he started laughing like an insane person. Inoue opened her eyes and looked at him like she thought exactly that. When he saw her changing to a sitting position, he jumped and pressed her against his chest. He was trembling with cold and an unknown emotion. The boy just wanted to held her against him and even if it hurt like hell, the girl just wanted to be held by him, so she kept her mouth shut and her fists from thrust into his chest and show him how hard he hurt her, and just enjoyed the moment.
"I'm sorry." he said, after what looked like years. She pushed herself backwards and looked him in the eyes. "I was trying to make you hate me, so you wouldn't suffer anymore…" he confessed, in a low voice.
"Kurosaki-kun..." she whispered, watching his conflicted emotion running through his eyes.
"I didn't want you to suffer because of me" he started again, but Orihime stopped him. She wasn't having that conversation again.
"Kurosaki-kun, I'm not a delicate flower, I can fight just like you. If you had paid attention you would realize that I'm no longer the fifteen years old that went with you to Soul Society." Orihime explained, looking into his face. "I got my powers because I wanted to protect the people I care about and in that field I'm not different from you. You tried to protect me by keeping us apart, but that hurt me more than any hollow attack." she confessed, without knowing what he was thinking about her words. She just couldn't keep it all bottled up, she was going to explode sooner or later.
Ichigo observed while the girl in front of him poured her heart. His mind kept going to the fateful day he found out about her feelings. He could understand his side that defended a happy ending, it would be easy, she would make him the happiest man alive, he could already imagine himself waking beside her, kicking other guys' butt to defend her honor and almost unconsciously his eyes traveled to her muddy lips. They were moving in a mesmerizing way, but when her words caught up with his mind, he remembered why he wouldn't let himself be happy that way. Everything he loved got tainted in some way: his mother died, not far away from there, protecting him; his father almost died preparing him to a fight he couldn't ran from and his sisters had to suffer with his absences and the constant peril they were in. No, Inoue wouldn't be the next on his victims' list. She needed a normal man, a happier one that could worshipped her like the goddess she was. He wasn't that man. "At least for now" said a small voice in the back of his head, but he crushed it like a bug. There was no time for hope.
"I know that what I did hurt us and everyone around us, and I'm so sorry for that. I just couldn't think of a different way to protect you." he just hoped that she wouldn't ask him what made her different from Chad, Ishida or even Tatsuki, he didn't know if he could lie to her. But she didn't and he sighed, relieved.
"Apologies accepted." she said, in a low tone, after long minutes of silence were filled with the sound of the storm around them. She didn't know why, but something in his tone made her believe that there was something he wasn't telling her, something she knew was important. But even knowing that, she could feel the sincerity in each word, the pain he suffered himself, the raw emotion he was trying to suppress so the girl wouldn't see him as a weak person. She knew him so well, that her words couldn't be different from the ones she said.
"Let's go to my place or else we'll be sick tomorrow." Ichigo proposed, knowing how much harder it would be to stay near her in the comfy aura of his house. "It's closer than your apartment." he explained, seeing Inoue open her mouth to discord. She sighed and Ichigo pressed his shinigami pass against his chest. Putting his human body over his shoulder and grabbing Inoue against his chest he started their depart. When they got out of the bridge, he felt something warm surround them and saw Inoue surrounding them with her shield.
She blushed when he smiled thankfully and diverted her eyes from the face right in front of her own.
Where her muddy body touched his, she felt so warm, like in her own bed with a mug of hot chocolate in her hands and not in the middle of a hurricane.
We are close to the moment everyone has been expecting... Next chapter it will happen, I promise!