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21 March 2009 @ 08:48 pm
A Friendship of Opposites  
Title: A Friendship of Opposites
Fandom: Bleach
Characters: Kurosaki Kaien, Mirabelle the Fair. Mentions of others.
Rating: PG
Theme: Friends
Disclaimer: Bleach and it's characters do not belong to me. Kurosaki Kaien, however, does. Mirabelle is the property of utahimelorelei and is used with her gracious permission.
Summary: Unlike his siblings, Kaien has always had a hard time making friends and fitting in. But that's about to change. This is basically a little peek into how Kurosaki Kaien and Mirabelle the Fair met and ultimately became friends.

The pale brick-hued rubber ball caught the afternoon sun's light as it bounced, hard surface impacting against the heated blacktop of the road with a rhythmic echoing sound. A single small boy, spiky orange hair turned even brighter by the warm summer rays, followed along behind the ball at a slow pace, one small hand carefully catching and bouncing the toy in it's easy dribbling motion, violet eyes focused on his play.

Glancing up at the sudden sound of laughter, the ball forgotten in his hands, the child stood there watching as a clump of schoolchildren not much older than he ran by, giggling and kicking a ball ahead of them. He watched them for a moment before turning back to his solitary play, the ball once again bouncing evenly against the ground.

He wasn't like them, and not simply by virtue of the fact that he was still the "new kid" in town. He'd never really had friends, not the way that other children did, if only because there weren't really any other children like himself. No one else who saw the things he did, and who knew the things he did about the world.

Other children didn't understand the way things were, didn't understand that there wasn't just one world that they could see. He knew that, just as he knew that while he was in this world he wasn't supposed to talk about the other ones. And while he didn't have a problem with that fact, neither did it make things easier when it came to explaining to his schoolmates why he sometimes stared off into -- in their words -- empty space, or why his eyes sometimes seemed to change colour. Whatever the reason, Kurosaki Kaien had a hard time fitting in at a normal human school.

It had been easier before, when they'd lived on the farm and his father's hair had been black and no one had talked about the other world, that other place where the shinigami lived. He hadn't understood at the time, but at nearly 5 years old he knew now that they'd been in "exile". Exile wasn't a word he really knew, but he knew enough to understand that it meant his parents -- and therefore the rest of them -- were being chased by someone. That "exile" was why his father had changed his hair, in spite of what he always said about not caring what other people thought. It was why his mother had let her thick black hair grow long, and why neither he nor his sisters had really ever spent time anywhere other than the sprawling 5 acres that constituted the small farm.

There hadn't been any other kids around, and because he wasn't really even allowed to leave their own little world it hadn't mattered. The only times he'd even seen other children his age had been those rare occasions when his mother would head into the nearby town to pick up things and take him along with her. It had always made his father upset, but he hadn't cared because his mother seemed to enjoy the trips and in Kaien's opinion, his mother shouldn't ever have to be anything but smiling.

He'd been happy there, even without any other children around to play with, perhaps because it was all he'd ever known, and the concept of having friends and companions his own age was something he'd never really thought about. But whether that was the reason, or whether it had entirely more to do with the freedom he had, able to run fairly wild about the farm was anyone's guess. Even when he played with his mask, in spite of his mother's gentle yet consistent reminder that he shouldn't, there wasn't anyone there TO see.

Those were the days, though he couldn't remember them clearly, when he forgot what it felt like to be running. To be hiding from people he didn't even know, to see the fear in his mother's eyes, the anger in his father's face. The time in the big white house had been peaceful. It was where he'd sat on the porch swing watching his mother pull the outer green husk off of the big ears of corn, eating strawberries from the basket by her side. It was where he'd become a big brother the day that his grandfather had shown up out of nowhere and his dad had taken him out to the tire swing and pushed him for an hour, telling him that if he behaved he'd be a big brother when they went back inside and those were the times where his mother would come into his room at night, just before tucking him in, and set a jar of fireflies on his windowsill to shed their soft faint sparkle into the darkness of his bedroom.

But those days had ended in a riot of chaos and fear. That day he could remember. The day he'd been out in the field with his mother, picking strawberries and he'd suddenly seen her face change as her head shot up and she'd stared in horror at something he couldn't see, but could feel. He could remember the bright red of the strawberries spilling across the ground with the abandoned basket as she'd snatched him up and ran, voice shrill as she'd screamed for his father. He could see the dark shapes as they'd ran, slipping like shadows over the roof, could feel what he'd later learn was called reiatsu crashing into another feeling that he recognized as his father. And then everything had become a mesh of sounds and flashes, all twisted together with worry and fear and panic, anchored by the feel of his mother's arms tight around him as she'd clutched he and his sisters close and then all of a sudden there was a pulse of something and an explosion of light and sound and strange feelings and then the man with the striped hat was there, ushering them down hallways and through doors at speeds that were dizzying.

He didn't understand much of what had happened in the months after that, only that his mother had seldom let any of them out of her sight and that his father didn't join them. And then there came one day where the man with the striped hat -- Urahara, he'd later learned -- had been there again, his shaded face serious as he'd spoken in hushed voices with Kurosaki Rukia, the latter's face painted with a mixture of what Kaien later came to understand was rage and determination. And for the first, and only time in his short life that he could remember, Kaien saw his mother wear the mask willingly.

The days after that had been a blur, as his mother brought his father back home with her and then they were running again, fleeing through the nights the same as it had been before. Night after night after night of running and sudden changes and fear, until they'd once again slowed, settled. Found another place, another "home", and he'd been able to go outside again as long as his mother was with him. The fact that he could have gone out with his father was a moot point. He didn't like his father, considered him the primary reason why they'd had to leave home in the first place, the reason why his mother had to worry.

They'd spent several more months like that, living peacefully until that peace had been shattered. Those months were even hazier, and he didn't like remembering what life had been like without the normally ever-present figure of his mother. But it was alright, ok because she was home now, home where she belonged. It had been during that haze that things had changed, that the letter had come. On thick paper, written with something that made his father growl when he'd seen it, it had been the same sort of face that his father had made the last time his uncle visited. But whatever the paper was, they'd stopped running, they'd gone back to Karakura, and his father had started wearing the long white coat and going to the other world again.

That had been 3 months ago, and now that everything was "settled", as far as his parents were concerned, their lives had returned to almost the same sense of normalcy that had been there before, in the big white house. The only real difference was that now, because they weren't hiding, weren't running anymore, there were other people around. Other children, who were something of a fascination to him as much as they were a puzzlement. Masaki and Hisana, young enough to adapt easier, had already made several friends while their older brother just couldn't seem to click with anyone his own age.

Somewhat bored, seeing as there weren't any other children running by to watch, nor were there any wandering spirits to talk to, Kaien simply took to counting the sharp impacts of the ball against the warm concrete of the sidewalk. Chewing thoughtfully on his lower lip, he pressed harder against the ball, his efforts rewarded as the sphere of rubber smacked harder against the pavement and bounced even further, it's form getting away from him as it bounced off down the sidewalk a few feet. Darting after it, the boy caught up with his toy only to stop, his head turning up curiously towards the sky.

He knew that feeling, and yet.... he didn't know it. His young mind easily supplied the fact that the feeling was reiatsu, something he'd felt numerous times since he could remember. It also willingly offered up the knowledge that the energy he could feel belonged neither to his parents nor to any of the other small number of recognizable signatures in his repertoire. Uncle Shinji, Aunt Hiyori, Uncle Renji, Uncle Byakuya, Grandpa... even the strange prickly sensation that he recognized as "Quincy"; none of them matched the swirl of spiritual pressure that drifted on the wind. It was similar to some of them, similar to his father as well, but... different somehow.

Keeping amethyst eyes trained on the sky above, Kaien simply watched as the sky seemed to crumple, as though a giant fist was grabbing the very fabric of the atmosphere itself before a rip opened in the middle of the sky, giving way to blackness beyond. A slim, white-clothed arm was the first thing to come through the hole in the sky, followed closely thereafter by the rest of a strange, fair-haired woman, the side of her torso marked by an odd hole that he could see all the way through, platinum hair ornamented simply by a strange broken coronet of white bone that fanned out on either side at her temples like small wings.

She didn't seem to care much that she'd just come walking out of the sky, but Kaien wasn't really surprised at that. After all, plenty of other people in his life came walking out of strange places. The woman, whoever she was, was obviously a spiritual entity, seeing as the other people passing occasionally on the street as she settled into a crouch on the roof didn't seem to notice her in the slightest, which suited Kaien just fine. He was used to seeing things other people couldn't.

Sighing, Mirabelle rested one elbow on her knee, casting cerulean gaze out across the town as she frowned slightly. Boring, but that wasn't anything unusual for the human world, at least in her opinion. People couldnt' generally see her, she had to deal with the occasional annoying shinigami, not to mention all the other inconveniences that had sprung up lately with that damned ex-shinigami trying to take over what rightfully belonged to her kind. All those things rolled up together made the human world, specifically Karakura, a place she would have preferred to avoid. In fact, the only reason why she bothered to come here at all was because, catch-22 though it was, the ridiculously high amounts of spiritual energy in this town -- from all the shinigami and their ilk -- also had the side effect of drawing more Hollows to this place, which meant she didn't have to bust her ass as hard to get a decent meal.

It wasn't as though she were going to eat shinigami, they were just fun to play with, objects for her to taunt and tease and amuse herself with. It was part of the game, part of the deal that she'd made -- though it was more unspoken than anything -- with one nosy shopkeeper that she knew perfectly well hadn't always lived such a humble existence. Not that she really cared. It just meant that she kept to the same code she'd always kept to -- that of not harming any shinigami that didn't try to harm her first -- and Urahara Kisuke would occasionally "misplace" a shipment of those fake souls. Not as filling, but good for a snack here and there.

Glancing around as she tested the reiatsu of the area, picking out strong spots and weak patches -- she knew perfectly well what shinigami made this place their common wandering ground -- her eyes caught the figure of a small boy, bright orange hair standing out against the sidewalk. It wasn't his hair that really made her notice him, despite the fact that it was almost ridiculously brilliant, it was the way his violet eyes were focused on her. It wasn't the stare of a child who was simply staring off into space dazedly, imagining pictures of knights or dragons or whatever the hell it was that human kids thought about. No... she was relatively certain that this kid... could see her. Which, in itself, didn't necessarily make sense.

Kaien watched as the woman -- an arrancar, he knew what she was even if he'd never actually seen one -- seemed almost to sniff the air, as though she were testing the atmosphere itself, before eyes the colour of a summer's sky settled on him with a curiously perplexed look. One hand rested on the hilt of her zanpakutou as the other reached up to tuck a strand of cornsilk hair behind her ear. He could hear Kaien-with-black-hair whisper to him in the back of his mind, promising support should the attack come, but her demeanor wasn't threatening in any way.

There was no mistaking it, the kid could definitely see her, and more than that he didn't seem phased by her appearance in the slightest, which just didn't make sense at all. Normal human children, even those who could see spirits -- she was well aware that such humans existed, though they weren't supposed to be very common -- would have still likely reacted differently to a person coming seemingly out of thin air. Cocking her head to one side, she shook her head slightly with a smirk and nodded towards the little boy.

"You can see me, can't you kid?"

Her question was rewarded with a simple nod, the boy's bright violet eyes remaining fixed on her with a look of some interest. It was confusing. She could sense his reiatsu, and strange though it was, the kid was definitely human. Pursing her lips slightly, she studied him. She wasn't that good at gauging a human's age, they weren't like shinigami whose age hardly had much to do with their physical appearance. Either way, the kid was young. That much she could gather. Raising an eyebrow, she ventured another question to the boy.

"So, if you can see me, does that mean you know what I am?"

She'd expected the more "typical" answer. Ghost, spirit, angel, demon, the boogey-man. All of the sorts of stories that children believed, she'd been called so many fantastical things that it was hard to keep count of the myriad. What she was not expecting was the simple, straightforward answer she got from his childish voice as he nodded and picked up the ball resting on the ground in front of him.

"You're an Arrancar."

Well, that was a new one. Blonde eyebrows nearly hit her hairline before cornflower eyes narrowed slightly as she studied him closer. He didn't look threatening, but she'd seen plenty of shinigami who seemed harmless; enough to know that they seldom were so when it really came down to it. Tightening one hand slightly around the hilt of her zanpakutou, she measured him up in her mind. Orange hair, violet eyes, childish features that, in spite of the softness of childhood, gave the promise of sharper angles and lines as he grew. There was something almost familiar about the kid, despite the fact that she knew perfectly well she'd never seen him before.

"Yeah... That's right, kid, but I sure didn't expect you to know that."

Nodding at him, she resettled herself on the eave of the roof.

"What's your name, kid?"

He stared at her for a moment, as though considering. His mother had told him, like all mothers did, not to talk to strangers. However, she'd failed to mention whether an Arrancar counted as a stranger. And seeing as she never seemed to mind much when he told his name to the ghostly children that he could occasionally encounter during their trips to the park, it was a simple matter to log this encounter with those other ones. Cocking his head slightly, he smiled up at the Arrancar with a nod.

"Kurosaki Kaien. What's yours?"

Mirabelle's eyes widened at the child's words. Kurosaki. No wonder the kid had looked familiar, even if that sense had been based more on word-of-mouth and heresay than any sort of actual encounter. Every denizen of Hueco Mundo, at least the ones intelligent enough to care, knew about the human who had traveled into their territory, of the battle with Aizen Sousuke's ilk. Just as those who paid attention knew the other goings-on of the worlds. Knew that one Kurosaki Ichigo, a human -- a substitute shinigami, however the hell that worked -- had fought alongside the shinigami of the Gotei-13, and had ultimately been made a captain of one of the divisions that the usurping traitors left behind. But... that wasn't all she'd heard.

"Wait a minute. So you're the strawberry's kid, huh? Then that means... that you're a Vaizard. Right?"

It would make sense, given what she'd heard about Kurosaki Ichigo and his mask, that the son would have inherited the talent as well. Vaizard... almost like a foil to her own nature, a different sort of blending of Hollow and shinigami. It was interesting, not to mention amusing, that a child like this would react to her thusly. She watched, slightly curious as the boy's eyes brightened and he nodded with a smile before those same violet orbs shifted to black and green with a flare of reiatsu and the white bone curved over his face for a moment before sliding back. One eyebrow raised in appraisal of Kaien. The kid had potential, that much was obvious. Mirabelle didn't necessarily know that much about Vaizard, but she at least knew enough to know that it took a considerable amount of talent -- or at least something -- for one of them to be able to use their mask so easily like that. It was supposed to be something that took training, that took time. For a kid as young as he looked to have such ease with it...

Settling back onto the eave of the roof, she threw back her head and let out a howl of laughter, shaking her head slightly before turning her attention back to the boy.

"I like you, kid. You've got potential. What say I show you a couple of things, huh?"

She didn't really expect him to take her up on the offer, hell he was still a kid and kids were inherent scaredy cats. That being the case, it took a few moments for it to sink in that he'd perked up at that, and was now focused rather intently on her, a hopeful look in his shifting eyes.

"You... you'll play with me? Really? And.... I can play with my mask? And... not get in trouble?"

Was the kid serious? Play? She was an Arrancar, she didn't "play". But, she'd offered, and the kid was amusing. It couldn't hurt, she supposed. Hopping down to land lightly on the pavement next to him, she shrugged her shoulders. What harm was there? Besides... it might give her a good chance to get a better idea of just what the hell those masked ones could do. Reaching out hesitantly -- she didn't usually touch humans, and her touches in general didn't always qualify as "gentle", she ran fingers through his messy orange locks.

"Sure kid. Why not?"