Careless Wonder

A girl with strange light red hair, borderline pink, appears out of nowhere from Ichigo's past and demands that she speaks with his father... and why is Urahara looking for her? Ichigo/oc

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5. Chapter Five: Friendship?

Careless Wonder

Chapter Five: Friendship?

"How the hell did you become a Captain?" Ichigo said with complete and utter disbelief.

After their little scuffle in the court yard, and giving a proper greeting to Rukia, they (Aria and Ichigo, not Rukia, she had to run over some paper work with her captain), finally made it the 5th division barracks. But what lied inside was something Ichigo would have never expected. When he saw Shinji his jaw basically dropped to the ground when he noticed the white captain coat slung over the Vizard's shoulders.

"And this surprises you? That hurts my feeling', Ichigo." He gave his best hurt face, fake tears appearing in the corner of his eyes.

All three were sitting around a banquet of food as they spoke to one another. How they got there Ichigo didn't know. He was suddenly lead into a room when he arrived and was forcibly pushed on the shoulders to sit down before he even had the time to take in his surroundings. When he finally gave his surroundings a once over, sitting in front of him was Shinji in his Captain coat and the floor littered with food in front of them.

As Ichigo continued to gape at the Vizard, Aria ate to her hearts content, (While adding salt to everything she stuck in her mouth). When the two conversed she took the time to assess the captain in front of her. One asset she noticed first was how his teeth was always showing, like they were too big for his mouth. He had clean cut, medium short blonde hair that barely reached his chin. Her first impression of him was that he looked snobby. Someone that didn't look capable to help her with a certain problem she had.

Shinji's eyes shifted over to Aria, a rather large smile plastered on his face. "And who's this beautiful friend you brought along with you?"

Aria was slowly drinking from her cup, but his little comment made her sputter out the liquid forcing her to turn her head and glare at the Vizard captain. "What did you just say?" She said through gritted teeth.

Shinji's eyes grew wide and a little sweat drop appeared on the side of his face. "Um, never mind. I didn't say anythin'." He turned his attention away from the scorning female and looked over at Ichigo. "So why are you here, Ichigo? You wanted to see me for somethin', am I correct?"

Ichigo nodded, at this moment in time he wasn't going to wonder over the fact that Shinji somehow became captain. He'll have time later to ask him, but for now this wasn't about him. This was about his friend, Aria. His eyes shifted over to Aria when he began to speak. "This is Aria Diederich, she's a human like me but with soul reaper powers." He glanced back at Shinji, his eyes set hard. "And she's a Vizard like us that can't control her hollow side."

"I see." Shinji glanced over at the girl who now diverted her eyes away from the conversation, her eyes staring at the wall with boredom. Seemed she didn't feel comfortable when the subject was about her. "So you came to me to help her overcome her hollowfication." It wasn't a question, just merely stating the fact.

Ichigo nodded his head. "She's been fighting it for six years. She first turned when she was only ten. From what I understand, she lost control again not too long ago and if she loses control again, she thinks she may never go back."

Shinji's eyes grew wide with surprise. She was so young, too young. "How did that happen?" He looked over again toward Aria, his eyes searching for something. She continued to stare at the wall but he could see the hard set stare in her eyes as she listened intently to their conversation. Unfortunately, it looked to be she wasn't going to add her own personal opinion on the matter. Which Shinji thought to be quite strange? "I don't understand," he began as he looked at Ichigo once again, realizing now the only information he was going to get was from him. "That should be impossible. Are you sure about this?"

Ichigo's eyes narrowed. "Are you saying she's lying?"

"Well, it seems too surreal for my liking."

"Trust me," his stare did not waver as he continued to speak about the girl. "She wouldn't lie about that. She needs your help Shinji, more so then most."

Shinji sighed and nodded his head. "I do trust your word, Ichigo." He turned to look at Aria again, still feeling a bit uncomfortable about the information given to him. She was looking at Ichigo with her own surprise. Her eyes were still narrowed but he could see in the way her eyes shifted that she herself couldn't believe how Ichigo stood up for her. "But I would like a better explanation about the matter. I'm not saying she's… your lying," he had his attention on Aria now, directing the conversation to her. "I would just like further insight about the matter, to better understand it."

Her eyes moved to the captain, narrowing further until they were like daggers. "I was ten when I first changed, it was the first time I used my Shikai," this even made Ichigo look at her with wonder and weariness. "You two now Aizen, right?" Both of their eyes flinched when she mentioned his name. "He was there and he did something to me. All I remember was this white thing engulfing my face and the…" She closed her eyes as the memories began to flood her mind. Her breath began to quicken. "The fear in their eyes…"

Ichigo saw the anguish in her features, it was the most emotion he seen on her face and it was something he wished he hadn't witnessed. Her eyes were shaking uncontrollably as her thoughts wondered over to the incident, her eyes growing wide and wild as the fear began to overcome her senses.

Who they we're, she mentioned, he expected were the two people she was with. The two people she killed when she was forcibly changed.

Ichigo reached out and grabbed her shoulder, he could feel her shaking. He squeezed lightly, her eyes blinking and looking over at the contact; the fear slowly releasing her. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to calm herself down and then looked up at Shinji with indifferent eyes. "So, will you help me Shinji?"

Shinji stared back at her, not saying anything as he looked into her eyes. Finally, he sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, why wouldn't I?" He opened his eyes and winked at her. "How can I say no to a beautiful face such as yours?"

Aria's face grew red, not liking in the least bit how he said that. How dare he.

Aria opened her mouth to voice her anger, but was stopped when Shinji raised his hand to stop her. "But you guys have to do something for me first."

"Yeah, what's that?" Ichigo was annoyed, he should have expected something like this.

"You two will attend the festival tonight…" His voice dropping seriously his eyes shadowed for what he was about to say. "And… have a good time!" He said a little too cheerfully, looking up at them with sparkling eyes.

Both Aria and Ichigo fell over to their sides from exasperation. "You can't be serious," Ichigo sighed out, fixing himself and sitting back up again. "And what does this have to do with anything?"

Shinji smiled innocently at the two. "You too look like you need a break. Tonight have some fun before the real work begins. It's nice to loosen up before the battle starts." He winked at the two human teens.

"And when does this festival supposed to start," Ichigo said with annoyance, his eyebrow twitching with irritation.

"Right…"

Epic scene change…

"Now!"

They were in the streets filled with people wearing different assortment of clothes, stands that held civil games and food, and more people drunk out of their minds. Ichigo watched with apparent irritation as two souls passed wearing kimonos and giggling louder than they should. Their faces were red which indicated something was playing a big factor in their goofy behavior.

"I can't believe you dragged me into this," Ichigo growled, his eye twitching.

Aria had her head in her hand as she shook back and forth, getting maddened herself. "Well," Shinji clasped his hands together as he looked at the two with glee. "Have fun!" he leaped away from them with a short laugh, bounding through the crowd of people and disappearing.

Ichigo crossed his arms and glared in the direction Shinji disappeared to. He sighed and looked over to Aria to find she wasn't there. He uncrossed his arms, his head whipping back and forth as he searched for her with panicky eyes but stopped when he saw a purple sweat shirt at a stand. He walked up behind her and peered over her shoulder.

"Can you put extra salt on that?" The man who was handing Aria something that looked like a large flat disk of fried doe with sugar on it.

Looks like she's taking advantage of this here festival…

"Um… okay." He brought the treat back and grabbed the salt shaker, and began to sprinkle it onto the fried doe.

When he stopped Aria shook her head. "A little more." He shook it two more times and looked up at her. "A little more." His face showed complete disgust as he shook the salt until she finally said stop. He handed her the fried doe, his face slightly green. Aria said her thanks and turned away to face Ichigo taking a big bite of her treat.

"You like salt a little too much…" Ichigo shivered when she took her bite and looked away, unable to watch her eat the salty fried doe.

"Salt makes everything taste better."

"Eating that much salt cannot be good for you."

"I've been eating this much salt since as far back as I remember. Nothing happened yet."

"The secret word in that sentence is yet."

"Hey…" she began, her voice low. Ichigo looked back at her and saw she was looking away from him at nothing in particular. "Why did you say that back there."

"Say what?"

She flicked her eyes at him before looking away again. "That I wouldn't lie. You don't know me, Ichigo, I could be lying." When he didn't say anything she glanced back at him again and was a little surprised to see that he was smiling at her.

"I just know."

"How do you know?"

"It's hard to explain. To tell you the truth, from the very first day I've always believed you." When she gave him a skeptical look he lifted his hand and pointed to her eyes. "I see it here. If you were lying, I would see right here if you were."

Her eyes widen, but soon disappeared as she looked away. "You're a weirdo."

Eyebrow twitch.

"Why do you do that?"

"Do what, call you a weirdo? Because you are one."

"Not that, why do you always look away from people when the topic takes a turn for the better… or when it's talking about you."

Aria narrowed her eyes to her left. It was true, she always found herself doing that. She turned her head and glared at Ichigo. "Why do you care? If I remember correctly I'm only here to fix my hollow problem, not to be interrogated by questions." She stormed past him, not giving him the chance to respond. She walked with a quick pace, easily dodging through the crowd and trying to get as far away from the boy as possible.

Why? She didn't know. She just had to get away from him.

She could hear him call out to her but she continued on walking, ignoring him completely.

Her fried doe was half eaten before she got bored and threw it away. She was surprised that the soul society had such a festival. From what she remembered her mother saying was that the soul society didn't necessarily have the necessities as the human world. This seemed one of the 'necessities' she would have thought she referred too. Apparently, a lot had changed since her mother was last in the soul society.

Her eyes gazed upon the stands and games she passed. One in particular caught her attention. A little boy was trying to throw a ball into a small bowl, barely bigger than the ball, so he could win the gift which in this situation was a fish. When he threw, it constantly pinged against the top of the glass and would end up falling off the edge. He looked disappointed.

Aria walked over to the boy and watched his failed attempt once more. She stood next to him, his eyes slightly watering as he stared the fish down with sad eyes.

"Can I have a try," She asked the game holder. He handed her a ball and she rolled it in her hand as she assessed the weight of it. It resembled much like a Ping-Pong ball. She placed her thumb underneath it and flicked it high in the air. Both the boy and the man who gave her the ball watched as it reached its peak and slowly fall and land perfectly in a cup.

"That was amazing!" The boy exclaimed, his eyes sparkling up at the girl. When she was handed the fish in its glass she handed it to the boy.

"It's yours." She nudged it to him. He looked up at her with confusion but after a second he realized what she was doing and took it with the biggest smile on his face.

"Thank you lady!" He ran off. Aria turned to watch him run but stopped when she saw a familiar orange haired kid walking over to her with impatience. She rolled her eyes.

"Can't you take a hint? You don't have to babysit me," she sneered as she looked away from him. She scolded herself as she did so. Hating the fact that he called her out on the small gesture.

"Hey, someone has to make sure you don't get into any trouble," he smiled at her as he walked over to where she was standing. "Besides, I rather not be left alone with these maniacs." He pointed his thumb to the people behind him.

"Who are these maniacs you are referring to, Ichigo?" A voice said from behind. Ichigo froze, all the color draining from his face. He slowly turned around as his eyes caught sight of the black haired girl he knew all too well. She seemed very ticked.

"What? I didn't say that, you must have heard me wrong." He scratched the back of his head as he gave a fake laugh. "What I said was… ahhh… Okay. I wasn't referring to you, I promise." He pleaded, but it fell to deaf ears when he was kicked in the face by the petite girl.

Aria stared down at him with disinterest as he twitched on the ground with pain. She looked up to Rukia and raised her eyebrow, but had a small, almost unnoticeable smile of her face. "Nice job."

Rukia nodded her head; her arms crossed and eyes shut. "He deserved it. So," she looked back up at Aria as she asked the question. "Did you find Shinji?"

Aria nodded. "Yes, we did."

Rukia smiled. "I'm glad. I hope you're having a nice stay at the soul society. Even though today probably wouldn't be the greatest examples of how we work around her." As she said that two guys in shinigami outfits, tripped their way past them with the largest smiles on their faces.

Aria watched them trip away. "Aren't you guys afraid of an attack? Or something bad to happen, or however things work around here when something needs attention?"

"Not everyone are like those idiots over there. Most of us have brains." She lightly chuckled and Aria smiled softy.

"I'm sorry about earlier. I didn't mean to come off so rude. I'm not use to all this… interaction." She looked away from Rukia, to stare at the two soul reapers hitting on some girls.

"It's understandable. No hard feelings, I'm just glad we're having a civilized conversation now rather than at each other's throats later."

Aria nodded to that. Finally, Ichigo stood up rubbing his nose and glaring down at the petite girl. "That. Hurt."

"It was supposed to," Rukia snorted.

"Ichigoooo…" A male voice called out. Rukia turned around and Ichigo looked over her head to see who was calling out the boy's name. Two soul reapers walked casually to the three, one had a signature shining bald head, and the other with feathers on his eyebrow and eye. When they were close enough baldy spoke, his sword tapping against his shoulder. "I'm still looking for that rematch. So what'cha say? Are you ready to fight?"

"You've got to be kidding me, where in a middle of a festival and all you want to do is fight!" Ichigo yelled.

"Doesn't matter to me, people will move out of the way." The bald man smiled at Ichigo, fire burning in his eyes as he stared down the man he so desperately wanted a rematch from. Then, his eyes shifted to someone he didn't recognize. "Who's this?"

"Hm," Yumichika bent over slightly to try and peer at her face, but she ended up looking down further to keep her face in the shadow. If he didn't get away from her soon, she was going to snap. "What pretty hair," he reached forward to grab a strand near her cheek but her hand flew up and smacked his away. He was briefly stunned, but was soon replaced with agitation. "Well that was rude, I was only admiring your hair."

"I don't like to be touched," she simply stated. She looked up exposing her blue eyes to him. "What are those ridiculous appendage sticking out of your eyebrow and eye?"

Ikkaku straight out laughed as Yumichika's face turned red. "They're not ridiculous. I don't think I ever met someone as rude and inconsiderate as you are!"

"Then you haven't been out much."

Ichigo covered his mouth as he tried to suppress a laugh, but ended up failing miserably as he and Ikkaku laughed so hard they began to cry. Aria glare over to them. "I wasn't trying to be funny."

"It isn't funny!" Yumichika yelled at the two, his arms straight at his side and his butt sticking out with aggravation. "She obviously has no sense of style." He flipped his hair and looked away from the two laughing, giving up trying to stop their idiotic laughter.

"Oh boy," Rukia said under her breath.

Aria crossed her arms and looked the other way. "Tsh, whatever."

"Rukia, Yumichiki, Ikkaku! Oh, is that Ichigo, too?" A very girly and annoying voice rang through the air causing Aria to wince.

"What now," Aria sighed out as she looked behind her to see who else was going to join their little social circle. A girl with a rather large bust was jogging over to them, Aria's eyes followed the flow of her boobs with a red face.

"Rangiku," Ichigo said when she was close enough to hear. She smiled at them sweetly. Rukia gave her greeting to the overly busted woman.

"I didn't know you would be back so soon, Ichigo. I'm actually quite surprised."

"Yeah, I've been getting that a lot…"

"Rangiku!" Yet another soul reaper came into view causing Aria to pull on the top of her hoodie to cover her face. This was getting uncomfortable for her. "Did I say you can attend the festival? You still have a mountain of paperwork to do and I'm not going to get stuck with them again." A short captain with spikey white hair appeared out of nowhere next to the one named Rangiku. She jumped away from him in surprise and fear, then gave him a sheepish smile.

"But captain, how do you expect me to miss out on such an exciting event!" She gave him her best puppy dog eyes.

"T-Toshiro's here, too," the oblivious Ichigo said, pointing to the short captain.

"How many times do I have to tell you it's Captain Hitsugaya!" he growled at the orange hair kid, his patience running thin.

Aria was basically invisible to their little group as they conversed. She took small steps away, trying not to draw to much attention. She turned around and was ready to disappear away from the horrid place until someone decided to call out her name and blow her cover.

"Aria, where are you going?" Ichigo stepped away from the group, looking at Aria with confusion; his arms crossed.

Aria turned her head to the side so she was looking at them with one eye. "I don't like to be in a large crowd." And just like that, she leaped into the air and disappeared.

"Damn it. Where she go off to this time!" Ichigo ran forward in the direction she thought she took.

"Ichigo, just let her go, she obviously wants to be left alone," Rukia called out.

Ichigo ignored her remark. "I'll be back soon, Rukia."

Rukia sneered and crossed her arms with annoyance. "Why do I even bother?"

~*~

Aria leaped from building to building, trying to get away from the endless charade they called a festival. She never felt that uncomfortable in her entire life. They were all too happy, too friendly. She wasn't use to that. She was in seclusion for most of her life, if they knew why they probably wouldn't be so friendly toward her. She gritted her teeth at the thought.

Then there was Ichigo. He, out of everyone she ever meet, was the strangest of them all. He only knew her for five days and he already trusted her. What was his deal? She was never that quick to trust someone. Never. Never in a million years. Then he just had to say that he trusted her since day one… what the hell? What was wrong with him? If he keeps that up he's going to get himself killed.

And it'll probably be by her hand.

Again, she gritted her teeth as she shook the thought from her mind.

She stopped on top of a building when she was finally clear of the festival. The lighting illuminated the sky, making it quite beautiful in her opinion. Not everything was bad about that festival, it gave off a nice orange light.

"Aria." She heard a somewhat familiar voice call out her name, but she couldn't put a face to it. She glanced down and to her surprise she saw the the wolf captain standing underneath her with the same tattoo guy who didn't talk throughout their last conversation.

She jumped down and landed in front of the two, diverting her eyes toward the festival as she kept a sharp eye out for orange hair. "Captain wolf, erm… I mean Sajin..."

Sajin chuckled at her remark. "What are you doing all the way out here? Shouldn't you be enjoying the festival?"

Aria rolled her eyes and snorted. "To crowded for my liking. Started to feel uncomfortable."

"I see. If you want a more secluded spot to yourself head that way and once you see three distinctive boulders not too far ahead there should be a hill with a small tree on top of it. There's going to be fireworks, I imagine that spot may have the best view."

Aria blinked at the captain, confusion clear on her face. "Um, thank you sir." She bowed to the wolf captain respectfully before disappearing into the night. That was unexpected.

They both watched her shadow disappear on top of the buildings, Sajin smiling after her. "You like her, don't you?" Hisagi asked as he turned his attention to the captain he befriended over a lost friend.

"She's an interesting character to say the least. She intrigues me, but what had drawn my attention to her the most was her eyes. There's a deep sadness in them and also fear, what that is we will probably never know. I wish her the best of luck."

It was silent between the two as Hisagi thought over the wolf captains' words, but the silence soon left when they heard someone's loud foot steps running toward them. Simultaneously, both turned to see Ichigo running over to them, sweat running down his face.

"Hey," he began but stopped to catch his breath. "Have you two… seen… Aria?"

The wolf captain let himself chuckle for the second time that night. He turned sideways and gestured behind him toward the direction she disappeared to. "I suggested a secluded spot for her to enjoy the fireworks. Just follow ahead until you see three distinctive boulders, past that should be a hill with a small tree on top of it."

Ichigo was still panting, but nodded his head regardless. "Okay, thanks." He ran past them and in the direction of the girl. Both watched him disappear behind the buildings, even though his loud breathing and moans of displeasure were quite audible.

Ichigo continued to run, his heart pounding in his chest as he was outside the city and running up a steep hill. "Damn it. Perfect timing to start losing my spiritual powers."

Finally, he reached the three boulders the captain described. He took a quick breather, his hand on the boulder as he bent over to take deep breaths. Damn that girl. He was going to kill her if she keeps disappearing on him like that. When he thought he had enough of a break he began his run up the hill again, instantly regretting not taking a longer break.

Once he made it the top of the hill, he almost fell over and collapsed right then a there. "Damn it," he growled at his weakness. He wiped the sweat off his forward and looked around him to see if he could see the hill he was talking about. It didn't take him long to spot it. This time he walked to the hill, a path leading up and swirled around till it got to the top.

He stopped when he noticed Aria was indeed on top of the hill, but was lying back against the grass and staring up into the night sky. He took a step forward hesitantly, then another until he was next to her. He knew he was going to get a scolding so he just sat next to her wanting to get it over with.

She had both eyes closed, he noticed, but her right opened to look over at Ichigo. "Couldn't leave me alone, could you."

He chuckled. "You might get lost, I'll have to be by your side to make sure that doesn't happen."

"A pretty pathetic excuse if you ask me."

"Yeah, it is isn't it?"

Ichigo reached behind him and pulled his large sword up and off, setting in next to him. He leaned back on one hand and placed the other one on top of his now raised leg. He looked down upon the capital city seeing the lights flicker from different shades of color from the festival. It was silent between the two, Ichigo continued to keep his attention on the city, and Aria kept her eyes closed as she relaxed against the soft grass below her.

The silence soon evaporated when something boomed in the sky. Aria opened her eyes to see the purple firework spread throughout the sky and then disappeared, but was followed by another with a different color, and another. They came faster and faster until the sky was lit with multiple colors, flashing against the two teens faces.

Aria sat up and wrapped her arms around her legs as she continued to watch the fireworks with wonder. "This is the first time I've seen fireworks," she admitted.

Ichigo looked over at her, he was a bit surprised that she mentioned something about herself to him. "You really have never seen fireworks before?"

Her eyes were glued to the sky but she shook her head no to his question. "I've always lived in seclusion since I was a little kid, even when my parents died…" she stopped short, not believing she just told him that. She turned her head away from the fireworks, scolding herself for her mistake. That was the reason she hated being around certain people for too long, she begins to feel too comfortable around them.

"There you go again, turning away and avoiding the topic. Why do you do that? I'm only here to help you not to look down upon you for something that obviously happened in the past." When she didn't budge he started to become agitated. "Look, it's not healthy to keep everything to yourself. It'll do you good to let it all out. I won't judge you, I'm here for you whether you like it or not."

"Why?" she whispered, not liking where this was going. At least, she didn't think she was liking it.

"Because I'm your friend and that's what friends do. They support each other through the hard times."

She turned her head sharply and pierced him with her angry eyes. "You're not my friend. I didn't ask you to help me, nor do I need your sympathy."

"Who said I was showing you any sympathy? I'm only giving you a suggestion, but you're too self-absorbed to listen to what I have to say, or anyone else for that matter." His voice was rising as he continued to argue with the girl.

"Maybe because your suggestion is stupid. You don't know anything about me! I can't tell anyone anything because that means I'm getting close and everyone I ever get close to always dies!" her voice was rising as well, but toward the end she closed her eyes and looked away. Her fists shaking at her side as she tried her best to calm herself down.

"So that's why, isn't it? You're afraid to befriend anyone because of your hollow side? You're afraid to lose control and kill them so you seclude yourself from anyone so you don't have to go through the pain again," his voice was gentle as he realized her excuse. But then he snorted and crossed him arms as he stared up at the sky to watch the fireworks continue. "That won't happen to me, I'm going to make sure we defeat your hollow side. I know we'll win and once you can control it you can go back to living a normal life."

She hugged her legs again and buried her head in her arms. "Do you really believe that?" She said so lightly Ichigo barely heard it.

"I guarantee it. I never break a promise to a friend." He sounded so friendly, so open. She felt her heart give a loud thump. She was starting to like him, something she should had never let happen. No. It had gone too far.

"I killed my mother and father when I first hollowfied," she said bitterly. She looked up to see Ichigo, to see his expression. He was looking ahead, still staring up at the fireworks but Aria could see the slight shake in his eyes.

"I figure as much," he finally said. "That wasn't your fault. It was Aizen's fault." She wasn't expecting that. This wasn't going as she planned.

"But it was my hand who took their life. If only I was str…"

"Shut UP!" Ichigo yelled, startling Aria. He was… glaring at her. "Don't you realize what you're doing to yourself!? You are the biggest idiot I know! Why don't you stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something about it? But no, all you do is hide away in your own self-pity, blinding yourself from what's going on in front of you! I already told you once, I'm not going to let anything happen to you. This will end soon, I'll make sure of it. Don't make me say it again." He turned his burning eyes away from her startled ones, glaring up into the sky as the finale began.

"And no matter what you say you can't make me run away. You can't get rid of me that easily. When I set my mind on something I will see it to the very end."

Her own eyes were shaking after his little speech, she couldn't stop looking at him, she was too shocked to look anywhere else. Everything he said, it was all true. Everything about her and his promise. She believed he could save her. She actually believed…

She began to lightly laugh. Slowly it grew, forcing her to hold her sides as tears began to roll down her eyes from the pain in her gut. She looked up at Ichigo who was giving her a 'oh shit, she's gone crazy' look. That made her laugh even harder as she fell back.

Finally she stopped, both her arms and legs splayed out as she watched the last firework disappear in the sky. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but your right, Ichigo." She sat back up and smiled at him. Actually smiling at him, the big goofy kind, too. "I've haven't felt this happy in a long time."

He blinked at her, trying to comprehend what just happened. She laughed, actually laughed and not a small laugh either. She basically bellowed with laughter. And to make it even more strange she was smiling, an actual, genuine smile.

He smiled back.

She looked ahead of her, her eyes bright with glee and a large smile on her face. "I think I'll take you up on your offer, Ichigo."

"Oh, and which one would that be?"

"Your friendship. I think it's safe enough for me to say that I also consider you my friend."

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