Author's Note: Hello, all! A year or so ago, I tried to make a Bleach/Hunger Games crossover and it lasted all of one chapter. I clearly just was not interested in it enough. However, after reading a lot of fanfiction and watching the movies a lot, I decided to give it another go. My problem was that my first attempt was too much like THG. This version is much more like Bleach.
For those who have not seen Bleach, no worries! Since this is an AU, almost everything is different, which means everything will be explained.
The plot varies so much from THG and echoes more of a Bleach vibe that I feel readers of The Hunger Games won't see anything in this fic coming. Really the only thing the series has in common with Bleach in this fic is the actual Hunger Games (which I renamed the Hollow Games in this fic) and how it's done, not how it goes down.
Also, for those that have noticed, the main pairing in this story is Ichigo/Rukia. For those that are not a fan of the pairing - don't worry. I would encourage you to read it anyway because the story focuses on the Games more than a romantic relationship between Ichigo and Rukia.
Finally, the last thing I want to mention is that this fic is currently rated Y. I'm not sure how certain scenes will turn out as I have not yet written them, so that rating may be subject to change. That being said, the rating will not change because of lemons, it will change because of violence/gore. c:
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or The Hunger Games, which belong to Tite Kubo and Suzanne Collins respectively.
The Hollow Games
Chapter I: Reaping
I stare unseeingly at the mirror in front of me as the first rays of sunshine are cast over Division 12. I am wearing worn clothes that my brother despises seeing me wear, and I have my large game bag swung over my shoulder. The bag is empty now, but it will hopefully be full by the time I return. My eyes gradually focus and I see myself clearly for what seems like the first time since waking up. My blue eyes are dull, and dark shadows look like bruises underneath them. My shoulder-length black hair is disheveled and hasn't been washed yet. I don't bother trying to clean myself up; I'll have to later, anyway, so why waste time doing it now?
Besides, I am in a hurry this morning. I quietly open the door of my room and silently pad into the hall, then down the spiral staircase. A few maids pass by me and give me hardly a glance. Despite the fact my brother hates it when I leave the house in my worn clothes and my game bag over my shoulder, everyone allows me to leave the house when I please. I think that it's maybe because it's their families I'm feeding, and they're grateful to me. Ever since I had been adopted into the Kuchiki clan six years ago I had started hunting for those living in the Seam, the poorest part of Division 12. Most are homeless and can't afford much more than a measly shelter let alone clothes and food. So I have taken the responsibility of feeding them, even though I could easily relax and enjoy a life of luxury inside the Kuchiki manor. I had once lived in the Seam so I feel I owe it to them.
I leave the mansion and am by the division fence before a few minutes pass. I listen for the hum of electricity that I know I won't hear and slip through a gap when I confirm that's it's not currently turned on. It is district law to have the electric fence turned on all the time, but I know the fence is rarely on in Division 12, probably to save the electricity or something. Once out of sight of the manor, I untie the white necklace around my throat and let it swing free from my hand. I look in admiration at the necklace for a moment. The beauty of it hasn't faded since it was given to my sister Hisana long ago from my brother-in-law Byakuya as a betrothal gift. I smooth the surface of the charm, which is a glittering white crescent moon resting against a black circle background. I have become very attached to the necklace and before long it became my token-the tool I use to wield my power. I set down my game bag by a pine tree, then continue on through the forest.
This forest is outside of Division 12. Technically, it's illegal for me to be out here, and I could be killed, regardless if I'm Kuchiki Byakuya's sister or not. But the Arrancar buy the game I shoot, so they would never hand me over. They don't get special food sent from the Capital, so they take what they can get. I swing my necklace forward and let it spiral through the air before calling out, "Sode no Shirayuki!"
Immediately, the necklace glows brilliantly and expands into a long white katana. I catch the hilt with practiced ease before it hits the ground.
I sigh a little as I think I wouldn't have to do this if the Capital just treated all the divisions right. Instead, they make us survive on the bare minimum while they live in absolute luxury. Not only that, but they have established a plethora of laws to keep our living restricted. Among them is the Hollow Games, which was founded seventy-four years ago today.
A century ago, the land I walk upon today was known as Japan. It is quite a small cluster of islands, islands that are now divided into several different divisions. Division 12 is located at the southern-most point of Japan. Long ago, Japan was a land that thrived. And so was the rest of the world. But war ravaged all over the globe and left most of it in ruins. Japan was one of the few inhabitable places and a man called Aizen Sousuke gathered up the remains of Japan and founded Kyogetsu, a land with a powerful government that provided for everyone. That's what the textbooks tell us, anyway. I suspect a lot of people didn't like the way things were run, because a group rebelled against the government. But Aizen, with his great power called Kyoka Suigetsu, defeated the rebel group and as punishment set up the Hollow Games, where he forced the rebels to offer up twenty-four of their own to fight to the death while it was broadcasted to the entire nation live. The fear after the first Games was so intense that President Aizen made the Hollow Games an annual event to remind the nation no one stood a chance against him or the Capital. And so the Hollow Games went on for seventy-three more years, with some tweaks and changes as it dragged on. All twelve divisions are required to offer up one boy and one girl tribute between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight to the death with only one victor coming out in the end. Those that win get riches, a new grand house, and rewards for their division for a year. And in order to keep the tributes and the rest of the nation in line, Aizen enlisted the Arrancar, masked soldiers, to be stationed in each division.
Today is the Reaping, the day the tributes will be chosen for the Seventy-Fourth Games. I raise my sword now, determination flooding through me.
"Nice party trick!"
I jump, whipping around with my katana braced in front of me. Then I frown in slight annoyance as I catch sight of that dark red hair. It's only Abarai Renji, my best friend since practically as long as I can remember. He's tying his long hair into his usual ponytail as he walks toward me with that stupid grin on his face.
"Renji! You're going to scare off all the game from here to Division Eleven!" I accuse, but my lips are twitching, threatening to turn up into a smile.
"Not if I catch it first," he says, smirking confidently. He opens up the large bag at his feet and shows me his load: three rabbits, a pheasant, and at least a squirrel or two. How he'd managed to fit all that in there, I'll never know. I recognize his own token bumping against his chest as he bends down; it's a large claw from some unknown animal hanging from a leather strap around his neck. "Not bad, huh?"
I don't like admitting his catch is pretty impressive. "Not too horrible. I can catch twice as much." I shrug, as if this is no big deal.
Renji glares at me, but I see amusement in his eyes. "I'd like to see you try." He steps closer to me and a twig snaps loudly underneath his boot.
Six or seven large birds fly out of the undergrowth, and I barely have time to wonder why they didn't fly away before when I realize I can seize my chance here. I raise my katana and frost forms along the blade. Quick as a flash, I whip outward and the frost solidifies into sharp, dagger-like icicles and three of them bury themselves into a few birds before the rest of the flock flies away. I jog forward and pick up three dead birds in satisfaction.
I look pointedly at Renji and now he just huffs. I smile, and can't hold back a triumphant laugh. I bend down to begin skinning the birds, pulling out handfuls of feathers. Renji stands there for a moment, watching me, then unloads his bag to do the same. We comfortably take an hour or so to do this, sometimes making small talk but mostly just enjoying each other's presence Renji and I have a unique history together. We met when we were only eight, and I joined his small pack of rowdy boys. Together, we stole food and drink from the Arrancar. However, there were at least five of us and it became difficult to help keep each other alive. One boy died of starvation, and another two from Arrancar retaliating. The last one fell ill, and even Kurosaki Isshin, the division's best healer, wasn't able to help him. Thus, Renji and I were left the lone survivors. Renji was somehow able to figure out how to use his animal claw as a token to gain the abilities hidden inside him. He taught me in return, but I wasn't able to discover what my token was until I was claimed by Byakuya at ten and given Hisana's betrothal necklace as a gift.
"We should be getting back," I say, as I pack my bag with the game I've shot. I press the end of the hilt of my katana, which has the same charm of the necklace, and it transforms back into one a moment later.
"Sure," Renji agrees as I put on my necklace. He keeps pace with me as we start back to the fence. "Do you want to get a pastry? As a special treat for the Reaping." His voice is thick with sarcasm at the last remark. The Reaping is supposed to be a celebration, but it's known collectively as the most dreaded day of the year.
"Okay," I say, shrugging. "I'm sure my brother will be pleased if I bring something back to the house." I hardly ever buy things for myself, even though I have all the money I could ever want.
Renji frowns. "Maybe we could sell my rabbits for money." I know that he detests my older brother, and I can tell he hates the thought of using his money.
"But we need to feed the others," I remind him, and the redhead sighs.
We soon approach the fence and duck under it. We head to the main part of the division, and I can't help but run to the window of the pastry shop. My mouth drops open in wonder as I see the beautiful cakes, which all have a great amount of detail. They look like works of art. I wonder who decorates them so magnificently.
"You want a cake?" asks Renji doubtfully. He thinks it would be a waste, I'm guessing. He still lives in the Seam and it's all he can do just to keep himself alive. I always offer him money, but he always rejects it in return. He never wants my brother's money.
"Yes, we'll share," I say firmly, grabbing Renji's hand and tugging him into the shop. It's sweet-smelling and warm inside, and the shop owner greets me with a smile, probably thanking his lucky stars for some good business.
"I'd like to buy a cake," I declare, going up to the counter with Renji in tow.
The man's eyes light up. I'm certain cakes are fairly expensive. "Very good. Which one? I saw you looking at some in the window."
"I'd like the one with the purple flower embroidery," I tell him, pointing at it.
He fetches the cake and carefully puts it into a box. "Alright, here's the price." He gestures at the price marked on the box. I raise my eyebrows slightly; as I had predicted, the cake is pretty pricey. But I just take out my coin purse and the correct amount on the counter.
"Thank you," says the man. "Enjoy the cake."
"We will!" I call back, as Renji picks up the box and leads the way out of the shop. "That's a nice place, don't you think?"
Renji grunts. "Expensive."
"Maybe to you," I retort. "But to my brother, it is very cheap."
Renji just clenches his jaw. His dark eyes trail down to the box he's holding, then passes it off to me. "Give me your bag and I'll handle passing things out today."
My smile falters. He clearly has no desire to eat the precious cake. He's probably never had it in his life. I silently let him take my bag and quietly say goodbye to him before I return to my home. I consider Renji my best friend, but I have never told him about my own concerns. I have never confessed things to him or really opened up to him. I don't tell him personal things like I probably should. Probably the only privilege he has as my best friend as that he gets to see me act like myself. Or, at least, act comfortable.
I am hardly through the front door when Byakuya summons me. "Rukia." I see him shadowed underneath the staircase.
"Nii-sama." I would try and bow, but it might not be the best idea while I'm holding the cake.
Eyes narrowed, Byakuya comes into the light and stares at me intently. "You weren't with the mongrel, were you?"
I flinch at the harsh term he applies to Renji. "No, Nii-sama." I lift the box of cake. "I decided to go out and get a treat this morning. In celebration of the Hollow Games."
My brother looks at me for a moment longer before nodding. "Good. We'll eat it before we leave. Now change out of those indecent clothes. I've already found a dress for you."
"Yes," I say quickly, before hurrying to the dining room and setting the cake on the table. Then I go upstairs to my room, where two maids are waiting. I let them take off my clothes and put the dress over my head. It's pale cream, and made of expensive material. I shift uncomfortably, disliking the feel of it against my skin. It itches.
After the maids fix my hair, I go back downstairs, somewhat eager to try the cake. One of the servants is already there, slicing the cake into seemingly perfect sections. He pushes a slice onto a small plate and passes it off to me. I reach to pick it up with my hand, but I am stopped as Byakuya sharply calls my name.
"Eat like a lady, Rukia," he says. "Do not descend to the level of street rats."
I suppose I haven't mentioned I actually dislike my brother a lot. I think I almost hate him. "I apologize, Nii-sama," I say behind clenched teeth. I then pick up a fork and take a bite of the cake. Despite my anger from before, I suddenly brighten as the taste floods my mouth. It's wonderful. I stop for a moment to admire the design on my slice before quickly eating the rest.
"Would you like some, sir?" asked the servant. Byakuya shook his head, waving away the servant. "Perhaps after the Reaping." When I'd finished off my slice, he went on, "Let's go, Rukia."
I nod and stand up. When Byakuya isn't looking, I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. I follow him out of the house and into the normal scenery of Division 12. It is a rather depressing place to live and being the source of coal for the Capital it is always dirty and usually the people are as well. Today, however, most people look much cleaner. Only those that live in the Seam - like Renji - are still dirty, since they are homeless. We take our places off to the side as the rest of the division filters in. Another thing I forgot to mention: the Kuchiki family has held the title of mayor for generations for their loyalty to the Capital. So my brother is the Division Mayor, a job he carries out dutifully.
We arrived early, so I just watch as those from the middle class and the Seam flood into the square. I catch Renji's eye as he moves in with the other sixteen-year-olds. He mouths, Good luck to me. I manage a small smile. You too.
Too soon, it seems, Hikifune Kirio, our Division representative from the Capital, steps up to her podium. Hikifune has been different almost every year I've seen her, which has been five. The three years, she was enormous but also indescribably beautiful. Her hair color changed from orange to red to royal blue within that time span. But the last couple of years, she has adopted a slender body with a large chest to compliment it; a perfect hourglass figure. This year, her hair is deep violet and she has gained small swirl tattoos just beneath her eyes. Her lips are painted black and I see her eyelids match. She's wearing a canary-yellow dress that fades to purple at the bottom, where long feathers brush her feet, which are tucked into six-inch purple heels. She gives us all a very cheerful, excited smile as she calls out, "Welcome to the Reaping for the Seventy-Fourth annual Hollow Games!"
There's no clapping, like there would be in other districts. Hikifune continues on, unperturbed, re-telling the history of our country. The country is named after the token of our president, Aizen Sousuke. Nobody knows what his powers really do, since everyone he's revealed it to always meets their death. But everyone knows the name of his token: Kyoka Suigetsu. However, he doesn't really need his token to frighten people. The fact he has somehow lived for a century without aging is terrifying enough.
"Our great President Aizen, being the master strategist and intellectual he is, came up with the system we have today that keeps the land from turning into what it was long ago. He first destroyed Division 13 as a warning to the other divisions of what would become of them if they tried to wreck the peace again. And then he established the Hollow Games to keep that peace so Kyogetsu will never be ravaged by war again." She says all this with great admiration, as if Aizen is one of her greatest role models in life.
"Now we'll have the drawing for the girls," she says.
I bite my lip. Even though I am the sister of the mayor of the division, I still can't avoid the Reaping. It is always possible for my name to be picked unless I am a victor. But I'm more afraid for Renji at this point than anyone else. After the girls, the boys' bowl will drawn from. Renji's name is in there at least sixty times, in contrary to my five. This is because you can enter your name multiple times into the Reaping bowl in return for tessarae - a small amount of grain, clothes, and other necessities. It may be meager to me, but it is more than enough for someone like Renji. I am fortunate enough to have never had to enter my name for tessarae since I was adopted by Byakuya before I turned twelve.
Then my eyes flick over to the young girls standing in the front. Most of them look terrified, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with wide eyes. Only one looks utterly calm; she has short black hair and gray eyes, and I think she might be one of Kurosaki Isshin's daughters.
"For the female tribute, we have..." Hikifune swished her long fingers around the bowl, then pulled out a slip of paper. "...Kurosaki Yuzu."
The dark-haired girl I'd been looking at suddenly stretches her eyes wide. She lets out a shriek as the brown-haired girl next to her stiffly steps out of the crowd. "Yuzu!"
Hikifune looks almost disappointed when she sees the girl. I am too, but not for the same reason. This girl does not deserve this. She must be twelve years old, the youngest age a tribute can be, and she's been chosen. A wave of sorrow and pity washes over me.
"Yuzu!" This is a boy's shout. My gaze jerks toward the male crowd, and I see a boy with orange hair staring desperately at the twelve-year-old girl walking up to the podium. His brown eyes are wide, despairing. He looks like his whole world is falling apart. A couple of Arrancar grab hold of him as he tries to lunge forward. But that wouldn't help, would it? He couldn't volunteer in place of her. Only girls could volunteer for the girl tributes. As I think that, I look back at the girl - Yuzu - and an awful, crazy, insane thought races through my head and then suddenly I am yelling out something.
"I...I volunteer!" I run up to the podium before my brother - or anyone - can stop me. "I volunteer as tribute!"
And now everyone is staring at me, and Yuzu is looking up at me with tearful eyes, and those are the eyes of a baby fawn, and I know now I could never regret taking her place in the Games, no matter what happens to me. I don't really understand why I did what I just did, but it is done now. My heart is pounding, too loud for me to hear the relieved cries of Yuzu's sister. My mind is still buzzing, as if filled with static from a television. I can't hear anything and my vision is really blurry around the edges. The older boy rushes forward to embrace the girl, who must be his sister. Then he is shoved away by Arrancar, and Yuzu is returned to the black-haired girl.
I stare sightlessly over the crowd, wondering if I still possess my sanity. Slowly, my hearing is returning to me and now I see Byakuya arguing coldly with Hikifune.
"...she can't fight, she won't be in the Games. Take her out, and send the other one back in. There is not a chance I am permitting this to occur!"
"I'm sorry," says Hikifune, looking oddly frightening as she smiles tightly at Byakuya. "It's her own decision, and there's nothing I can do once someone has volunteered."
My hearing blanks out again and I only watch blankly as Byakuya returns angrily to his seat after a sharp rebuttal from Hikifune. Now I can hear once more, and the pounding in my ears isn't so harsh.
"The male tribute we have..." I automatically think of Renji and try to search for him in the crowd. But my vision is still half-blurry and I can't place him even though his red hair should stand out to me.
I almost sag with relief, but then the orange-haired boy is walking out of the crowd, and he comes up to the podium. His jaw is clenched tight, and his eyes are expressionless.
"Any volunteers?" asks Hikifune.
There is silence. After a few more moments, Hikifune continues on, then congratulates us on becoming tributes. We are escorted to the Justice Building by Arrancar and the boy - Ichigo - stares at me, and his brown eyes scream one word, one question that demands an answer: Why?
Author's Note: So, what do you think? Like it? Love it? Hate it? Please let me know! I welcome constructive criticism or any advice that you think might improve the story at all. Otherwise feel free to ask questions if you have them!
I edited this first chapter so many times I'm not sure what more I can do with it, lol. I'll probably keep tweaking it in the future, but I'll let you guys know if I make any major changes.