• I hoped Ukitake was coming back soon. He’d been gone longer than I expected. He even promised me yesterday that he would be back in time to watch my match. I was starting to get a little nervous. Not that I was the nervous, butterfly’s in the stomach type of girl, but he wasn’t known for being late. Especially to my match’s, he was never late to those. I started jumping up and down warming up my body for the fight ahead of me.
    About a year ago I moved to Japan with my parents and younger brother. My dad was sent to work in a small town in Tokyo called Jigoli. There was nothing special in Jigoli except for my dad’s job and even that wasn’t that interesting. My life was just…boring I guess is a good word for it. That was, until the accident. It wasn’t more than a few weeks after we had moved to Jigoli that my dad had already been promoted to assistant manager at his company. That night my mom suggested we go out to eat, ‘to celebrate’ she said. She had also mentioned that it would be a good way to really start learning about the culture my dad had grown up in. Me, I wasn’t to thrilled about the idea so I told my mom to go ahead and have a special celebration with just my dad, let them be alone and spend some quality time together. I even offered to babysit my younger brother which wasn’t an easy offer coming from me. My mom tried to pressure me into going but I wasn’t about to give in. The last time I saw my parents alive and well was that night as they walked out of our new Japanese home. I didn’t stay up waiting for my parents like I usually did but instead tucked my brother into bed and fell asleep with a book in my hands. I woke up to the telephone ringing in my ear and someone knocking on our door. I waited a minute before getting up hoping my parents would answer the phone and door, but they didn’t. The phone had stopped ringing so I went straight for the door. I opened it to a tall Japanese police officer who looked at me then stared sadly at my little brother who had followed me to the door with his tattered blue blanket in hand. Before the man even got a chance to speak I knew something was wrong. My parents never came home last night. I pushed past the man and his deputy that stood to the side of our door and ran. The deputy ran after me but I was to fast. I was after all the fastest girl on our track team back in the states. After a while it started raining. I would have to go home soon, for dry clothes. I was still in my pajamas. I sat down on the corner of a sidewalk and rested against the wall of a tech store. I heard nothing until I heard the names of my parents blare out of the TV inside the store. I got up and rushed into the store to stare at the TV screen. The man standing behind the counter didn’t even give me a second thought, he most likely felt bad for me. I looked like a mess; I was soaked down to the bone with wet and messy hair that I hadn’t combed after getting up. I once again gave the TV my full attention. What I saw didn’t sit well with me. I threw up all over the floor and fell to my knees and sobbed. The old man came to help me but didn’t know what to do. He said something in Japanese that I didn’t understand. Soon a kind old woman came and wrapped a blanket around me and led me upstairs above the shop. She handed me a hot cup and tea and then called someone. Soon child services came and picked me up. I had nowhere else to go. My parents were dead. Killed by some lunatic that had business to take care of and they had just been in the place at the wrong time.
    Why? That was the one question that I asked. Every time I ran away, every time I was forced to steal food or find a place to sleep, and even when I thought about my parents and their death. For a month I went on like this hoping my younger brother was in good hands. I figured he was to young to understand any of this much less remember it, so he would be able to transition into a new family easy enough. He didn’t need me anyway. I was just a mess of a teenage girl that didn’t know what to do with herself or her life. That was until the day I arrived at the Soul Society. I didn’t know how I got there I was just there. I wondered around for a few days getting in a few fights with kids but every one of them I beat and moved on, until some people called soul reapers came and picked me up. They had some interest in me but I didn’t know what it was. At first I thought I was in trouble because of the fights but that thought didn’t last long. Soon enough they entered me into some academy, gave me new clean clothes and a nice warm place to live. It was like a small apartment that I shared with some other girl my age. We didn’t talk much and we never really became friends. It went this way for me all though the academy until I graduated at the top of my class and met Jushiro Ukitake.
    Ukitake was, I soon learned, the 13th division captain. He was also sick and dying from a disease that he got when he was young. In time I became a part of his division and for the first time I made friends. Both of his third seat officers, Kiyone Kotetsu and Sentaro Kotsubaki welcomed me with open arms. They even gave me a nickname; ‘Yoshiko’ is what they called me. They said it meant ‘lucky or respectful child’ which had nothing to do with my real name Azami, which means ‘thistle flower’. No one had ever done such things for me before. It was never because I was stupid or klutzy or anything like that. I think people just noticed something off about me, something weird that they couldn’t place and that gave them a reason to stay as far away from me as they could. That and I guess I never made out to be friends with anyone anyway. I had no reason to get attached to anyone. I knew the pain that it could cause.
    So here I am today trying to prove to Ukitake and anyone else that I deserve to take the empty spot of Assistant Captain of the 13th Division. I just don’t know why Ukitake wouldn’t be here. He knew about it and the only reason he wouldn’t show is because of his health. And even then he would send a message, a hell butterfly, something! I’d grown to attached to him for anything to happen just as I’m getting to know him best. I hope its just some unfinished duty he has to finish up. I guess I could always ask someone in the training room. In fact I think Kotetsu and Kotsubaki are here. I stopped performing my exercise and focused on my surroundings until I could pinpoint their location. It was one of my abilities that I had mastered while in the academy.
    “Kiyone Kotetsu” I whispered. I could already feel the connection forming between the two of us. Hopefully she knew where Ukitake was. “Kotetsu, have you seen the captain today? I need to know where he is. He promised he would come and watch me fight.”
    “Damn! You made me lose my concentration Yoshiko! I hate when you decide to just pop in for a chat. It freaks the living daylight out of me! You need to warn me next time. My poor brain/head can’t handle all of this weird telepath stuff that you do.”
    “Sorry. I just thought I’d ask and this was the easiest way to do it.”
    “Aw kid I’m sorry I freaked out. In time I’ll get used to your abilities but until then we need to find a better way for you to contact Kotsubaki and I. So what was it you needed to know?”
    “Well I was wondering if you’d seen Ukitake at all today? He’s supposed to come watch my fight. Remember, today I’m trying to make my way into the empty assistant captains spot. But, he hasn’t showed up yet and it’s almost time.”
    “Hmm. Well I saw him earlier with Kyoraku. They were talking in the hallways of the captain’s quarters. They seemed pretty serious for whatever they were talking about but I don’t have a clue as to what that was. But you know what? Its not like the Captain to forget something this important. So maybe he’s just late as unusual as that sounds.”
    “Okay. Thanks for the help Kotetsu.”
    Maybe she was right. Maybe Ukitake was just late. No! That wasn’t right! Something is wrong. I know it! I have to go find Ukitake. Before I ran off to find him I put all my focus into locating him with my mind first. Nothing. He was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t locate him. He was either masking his spirit energy or was to far out of my reach for me to sense him.
    As I ran out of the doors something wet trickled down my cheek. I was crying. But why was I crying! Nothing was wrong…not yet. As far as I knew Ukitake could be perfectly fine besides the fact of his health but other than that there could be nothing wrong at all. I just had to keep telling myself that. Nothing is wrong. He’s fine. But deep down I knew he wasn’t. Something had happened or was about to happen. I just didn’t know what yet. It brought back memories. Terrible memories that I thought I had lost. Memories of rain, a small shop, and kind old woman who did what she could. I would never forget the feeling I had when I realized something had happened the day the police showed up on the doorstep of my house. That same day that I saw the bodies of my parents covered in blood, their blood, on the television in the old couples shop. I could never forget it no matter how hard I tried to cover it up. It would always be there lingering like a familiar scent in my mind. I had finally given up and tried to make friends…and fall in love. Fall in love with someone that I cared about. I must have made a mistake. Falling in love with a dying man. What was I thinking! Was I so stupid that I didn’t see the day he would die in my arms or did I only have hope that he would live long enough to possible out live me. I didn’t know anymore. I didn’t know anything.
    I tried once more to locate Ukitake with my mind as I kept running through the maze I called home, the Soul Society. Finally I found a glimmer of hope. I could sense a small piece of Ukitake’s spirit energy. I reached out and called to him with a whisper.
    “Jushiro Ukitake…”
    He replied calmly with force. Used to my weird ability that freaked everyone else out.
    “Azami! You must stay away. As far away as you can get! It’s not safe here! A battle is raging and I don’t want you to be harmed.”
    “Ukitake! Please! Let me help you. I’ve been waiting for this. I must prove myself! Your health is not good and you need an assistant captain by your side!”
    I could feel his bone rattling coughs course through my own body through the link we shared. Our bond had become strong over the few months I’d been in his division.
    “NO! You can’t come. I am in no need of your help. Kyoraku is already aiding me in the battle. Azami…listen to me please. You will be in great danger if you do not stay away.”
    A small “ok” was my only reply. I hated to lie to Ukitake but I had no choice. Who ever this battle was with, it was someone with a very high amount of spirit energy. Even with the two of them there was no way they would survive. I had to help them. I picked up speed putting all I had into reaching Ukitake before it was to late. After all, I was once the fastest girl on my track team.
    To soon I had reached the heated battle. I ran to Ukitake’s side and took my battle stance. I had been training for something of this level ever since I had become a soul reaper. This was my time to shine, my chance to finally prove myself.
    I glanced to Ukitake and caught a frown pass over his kind face. I small pool of blood lay at his feet. I looked him over for any open wounds and found none. That meant it had to be his lungs. He had to have agitated them by fighting hard. He started coughing again and this time I found my evidence. The pool grew larger from the added blood that had just been coughed up. Ukitake was wrong. He did need my help, he just didn’t want to admit it.
    I turned to face my opponent. Staring at me with small glowing yellow eyes stood an orange haired figure with a hallow mask covering his face. What was this? How could someone live with a hollow mask yet not have been turned into a hollow. He had no whole in his chest yet he held the sword of a soul reaper and dressed like one to. Who was this guy? And how did he make it past the gates!
    Before Ukitake could stop me I took off at a full run towards the masked figure. He stood and watched until finally I reached him. I could feel his spirit energy press down on me along with his slender black zangpak-to. I reached for his mind but couldn’t get a strong enough hold on it to enter. This man was more that he seemed. He held power that I had never once come across. He fought as if he were taking a peaceful stroll through the park. Nothing seemed to phase him. Until that is, I grasped his mind.
    I could feel his power cross over to me. I rose stared at him. Shock spilled through his eyes and then vanished but not soon enough for me not to notice. I could defeat him. This powerful opponent that no one else could! Me! Myself! I could do this.
    A low demonic chuckle enveloped my mind. “You! You think you can defeat me! You silly little girl! NO ONE! Can kill ME!” The laughter grew as he raised his head. It grew until it shook my body not only my mind. I had to sever the link! It would kill me! I struggled in my mind but nothing stopped him. I had let go of the link but it seemed as though he had a firm grasp on it that I couldn’t control. I didn’t know what to do! I panicked and stumbled backwards. I tried to turn and run back to Ukitake but it was no use. My body couldn’t move.
    “Hmm. I rather like having a doll! And you’re such a pretty one to! You really shouldn’t run off like that before we play for awhile first.” By this point I was terrified. I was wrong to ever think for even a split second that could kill this guy. He was much to powerful for me to ever handle.
    “Azami!” Called Ukitake’s voice. To me, it was like water in a dessert, a sweet sound that calmed me. I tried to turn my head but couldn’t, an iron vice kept me in place. The cold demonic laughter started again. “So that is your lover? Well, we’ll just have to see how he does without YOU! At that instant my world ended. There was nothing I could have done about it and nothing I could have said to stop it, it just happened. A cold steal was thrust through my chest and pulled back out again. I could feel my body drop and thud to dirt ground. This was it. This was how I was going to die. Not respectfully but foolishly instead. There was no honor in this death only humility. Someone scooped up by body and held it tightly. More than anything I could feel the sadness of the person that caressed my body. My dying body that never held anything, not even my soul was worth it. I was never meant to live as long as I did. Before I left, I heard one last whisper. A whisper from the last person I would love. I heard it clear as day and as if Ukitake had never been burdened with a sickness. “Yoshiko, this was never meant to happen! I loved you and cared for you! I told you to stay away but you came anyway. I know you had your reasons. You couldn’t stand by and watch me die just as I can’t let you die in vain. I should never have outlived you! NEVER! This can’t happen again!” With those words my life was complete. My soul would forever belong to Jushiro Ukitake and no longer to my parents.