Aurora took a deep breath before beginning, she also began to use a healing Kido on Torin so that eventually they'd be able to leave this place. "Torin was born into a world where he was completely alone, he is a pure soul, meaning he was born into the Soul Society, instead of coming here after living as a human. Usually pure souls have it pretty good, since they have parents to care for them, but Torin's parents were killed by a hollow when he was only a few days old. He lived as an orphan after that, which was a near impossible task in his district. People had no desire to help a child who had no family and was too young to pull his weight, so he had to take his life in his own hands" Aurora began
"So he had to steal to survive, not an unusual story for a rukongai orphan, what's the big deal about that?" Rida asked
"I'm not done yet! I'm just giving you the background so you can understand how the even that was the defining moment of his life came to pass!" Aurora snapped "now shut up and let me continue!"
Rida obediently shut up, and Aurora began to speak again "Torin spent about half of his life in the rukongai alone, but over time he met 3 others like him and became friends with them, they were all about his age, but they were weaker than he was and couldn't survive alone for much longer. So he took them in, became their guardian and best friend, and they became the family he never had."
"They were more than just that, they were my entire world, before I met them I had no purpose in life except to live. My existence was one long nightmare, always hungry, always in fear, and never having anything to live for. Venyx, Asaj, and Serena, they became my reason" Torin said, having been healed and awakened by Aurora's kido.
"Torin!" Aurora and Rida gasped in unison "are you OK?"
"I'm fine... I feel like I've been through hell, but I'll live" Torin said "I see you’ve taken the liberty of talking about my past while I was unconscious."
Aurora looked away "sorry, I'll stop now" she said.
"It's fine, I knew I'd have to tell this story to the both of you sooner or later… Or at least Rida, seeing as you seem to know a lot of it yourself... I just wanted more time to prepare myself to tell it... I'll take over now though, it's my story, and I need to be the one to tell it, no matter how much it hurts me." Torin said, a dark shadow over his face as he looked down at the ground.
Aurora nodded "if you're sure... alright..." she said
Torin nodded, then began to tell his story "Like I said, they became my world, I lived and breathed for them, I cared for them more than I did myself, and we all made a promise to be together forever. If things had stayed that way I would've been happy forever. I particularly loved Serena, though she never showed any sign of loving me back in the same way. I didn't mind, just being with them filled my days with joy... until one day everything changed..."
------100 years ago, Rukongai district 65------
Torin, Asaj, Venyx, and Serena were running through the woods. It was dark and rain was pouring down in torrents, reducing visibility to a few feet. Despite this, they were rung full speed through the trees, branches slapping their faces and steep hills tripping them and making them roll over rocks and mud. None of this fazed them, they all knew, they needed to get away, needed to find a place to hide.
They were fleeing from a hollow with the long curved blade-like claws of a demon, a serpent tail, legs of a lion, and the head of a dragon. It had found their makeshift house earlier and attacked, and in the heavy rain it quickly became apparent that fighting it wasn’t an option. Torin had thought fast and distracted it with some fake people made of bedding hidden under the covers. This had given them time to sneak away, but the ruse hadn’t worked long, and it was after them now.
"Damn this rain! I can't see a thing!" Asaj complained as he slowed down from exhaustion. “If it would just let up at least we could fight!”
"Shut up and keep running! That hollow could catch up any sec... Gack!" Venyx screamed as the hollow's tail shot from the darkness and tore out his throat.
"Venyx!" Asaj cried in shock and grief, but a claw quickly silenced him, impaling him through the heart and dragging him back into the darkness.
Serena stoped and turned to her dying friends to try and help them, but Torin grabbed her and dragged her onward. "There's nothing we can do for them, we have to keep going while its busy feeding" Torin said, his voice stricken with grief, but also determination. He could mourn later, for now, he had to at least save Serena, no matter what, he had to save her.
Serena sobbed, but ran with Torin, they ran for what seemed like forever, eventually bursting into a clearing and running halfway across it before they collapsed. They were exhausted, wet, and cold, but at least the rain had stopped.
"Do you think... we lost it?" Serena panted
"I don't ...know" Torin replied, equally out of breath. He needn't have bothered with an answer, as immediately after he said this a shadow blocked the moonlight above him. He didn't notice this, but Serena looked up, then tackled Torin out of the way as the hollow crashed into the ground where he had been, slashing downward with a bloodstained claw. It had flown above them with bat-like wings that it had gained after consuming the souls of Asaj and Venyx.
Torin hit the ground hard and rolled to a stop with his face in the mud. He was motionless for a moment, but then he heard Serena scream and looked up, squinting to see through the mud coating his face.
"what I saw was an image that still haunts my nightmares today" Torin said, his voice shaking as he continued
Torin squinted through the mud to see, dreading what he thought might be, praying that he might be stricken blind and be rendered unable to see what he knew was there. Then he saw the hollow standing above Serena's body, fresh blood dripping from its claws, her body was motionless.
Torin's mind went into a state of shock and denial, "Serena?" he asked as he began to crawl towards her "are you ok? Speak to me! Serena!" Torin was crying now, but Serena did not respond
Torin stopped in his tracks, the realization that she was probably already dead finally sinking in. "NOOOOOO!!!" he roared as he leaped to his feet, his exhaustion was completely gone now, replaced by blind hate and rage.
"YOU!" Torin spat at the hollow, hatred dripping from the word like venom. The hollow looked down at the boy with interest, was its next meal going to sacrifice itself to it?
"You... die now" Torin hissed as the sword in his hand, a rusty asuchi he had stolen from a local gang, who had stolen it from a shinigami they murdered appeared morphed into his zanpakto in an explosion of reiatsu and displaced air.
The hollow's amusement and interest vanished instantly as it realized it was now dealing with a very young shinigami, and that shinigami clearly intended to brutally kill it to avenge its previous meals that night
The hollow stepped back to turn and flee, but Torin was already on it, with a single slash the hollow lost both of its arms, another two slashes severed it's wings, a fourth and it fell to the ground, no longer having legs to stand on. Torin leaped up and descended on the hollow, using his sword as a spike to impale it, but before he could hit it the hollow sank into a garganta and vanished, making Torin's blade strike the ground harmlessly.
"GET BACK HERE! I'M NOT DONE WITH YOU HOLLOW!" Torin roared as he began to slash the ground randomly in a fit of rage.
"t...torin" Serena croaked, immediately Torin dropped his sword and ran to her.
"Serena! You're ok now, I've got this, just stay with me while I heal you!" Torin said as he placed his hands over the gaping slash in Serena's chest, between them a green light burst into action, slowly healing the wound... too slowly, Serena would die long before the wound was healed.
"Heal damn it! HEAL!" Torin cried as he poured all of his reiatu into the kido, the green light grew more intense, but it was far from enough. It would’ve taken a captain of the 4th division to heal this wound in time, and Torin wasn't even a properly trained shinigami, even this healing kido was his own creation, only meant for minor scrapes and the occasional broken bone.
"Torin... stop... we both know... that kido can't heal this..." Serena said
"SHUT UP! You are NOT going to die here! I promised we'd be together forever! I don't go back on my word! So shut up and let me heal you!" Torin sobbed, knowing in his heart that it was a wasted effort.
Serena weakly reached up and brushed Torin's hands away "I only have... a few moments... please let me... say what I need to say... while I still can" she said as she reached up to stroke Torin's face
Torin fell silent and cradled Serena in his arms "ok..." he croaked as he bowed his head.
"Thank you...Torin... I want you... to take this" Serena said as she took off the necklace she was wearing with trembling hands and placed it around Torin's neck, the necklace was a simple chain with a crystal pendant hanging from it, and it had once belonged to Serena's mother, it was her most prized possession. Torin understood this, and understood the significance of it being entrusted to him.
"Are you sure?" Torin asked
Serena nodded "I don't... want it to fade... when I do... and I want a part of me... to be with you always... so I can be with you... even in death... because... I love you Torin... I always have." she said, her words weak, particularly the last ones, as if she put all her remaining strength to say those words before she died.
Torin's breath caught in his throat, Serena had never shown that she felt the same feelings for him as he did for her. They had always been good friends, but it had seemed that was all. Torin's face clearly showed his shock, and though he couldn't form the words Serena could tell that he felt the same way as she did. She laughed slightly and said "thank you Torin... for everything... good…bye..."
Serena laid her head back into Torin's arm with a sigh and closed her eyes. Her body went limp and her hand fell from Torin's face, lifeless.
Torin caught the hand as it fell "No! You can't die now! We still have our whole lives to be together, how can you say you love me and then go and die like this?" he cried, but Serena was gone, her body began to shine and become more insubstantial, making it harder and harder for Torin to hold
"I won't let go... I won't let you leave me!" Torin sobbed
Then Serena's body vanished in an explosion of light, leaving nothing behind except the necklace Torin now wore.
"Serena..." Torin said, closing his eyes and pounding the ground, the clouds rolled in again and it began to rain once more, as if the sky itself had decided to mourn Serena's death.
"AAAAAAAAAAAARGH!" Torin screamed, his sobs echoed through the lifeless woods, sounding like a thousand grieving lovers instead of just one.
"I don't know how long I stayed there, just crying, I was devastated, I wanted to kill myself, but I didn't have the energy left to do it." Torin said "Eventually shinigami arrived on the scene and found me, they had been fighting off a massive hollow outbreak all night long, and they hadn't been able to reach me in time. It was at that point that I resolved to become a shinigami, so that next time I could make it to those in need and save them from going through what I did. I vowed to become stronger than any shinigami that came before me, so I could make new friends, and this time I would have to power to protect them, ever since I made that vow my life has been lived for that sole purpose"
"I... I don't know what to say..." Rida said "I've never heard any story like that before, and I always complain about how rough my life was... I must have seemed like such an asshole... I'm sorry Torin..."
Aurora said nothing, even she hadn't known all of the details about Torin's story, if she had known how painful it was she would never have brought it up to Rida. She stared at the ground, ashamed of herself and what she had done.
Torin got up and walked a bit away "sorry... I need some time to myself... see ya back at HQ" Then with a gust of wind he shunpod away.
Rida stared after Torin for a bit, then looked at Aurora, who was still avoiding any kind of eye contact.
"It's not your fault, even you couldn't have known" Rida said after a moment of silence
"But…!" Aurora protested
"Don't, I know you and Torin well, I may seem like an insensitive blockhead sometimes… ok… all the time, but I can still tell how you two are feeling. Now I want you to get up and find Torin, he says he wants to be alone, but he's lying, really he just doesn't want to show how hurt he's feeling to me, that's just how our relationship is, we're good friends who act tough and mess with each other. Tender moments like these are awkward for us." Rida said "but you're different, you're someone he can show his pain too, and right now he really needs that, if you care about him, then go to him now. There will never be another chance for you to do this Aurora, so go."
Aurora tried to speak, tried to refute what Rida had said, partially out of her still feeling ashamed, and partly because she didn't want to take emotional advice from a self-admitted insensitive blockhead, but eventually she nodded and got up to go look for Torin.
Rida stayed seated for a bit, then said "well I hope she finds him, but I should really get back to HQ with our report" as he tried to get up, but found that he couldn't.
Rida groaned and smacked himself in the head "damn it! I sent Aurora away before she healed me!" he cursed "now I gotta wait for them to be done! Crap!"
----about a mile away----
Aurora found Torin standing near the edge of a cliff, 3 wooden grave markers held together with some rope were in front of him. The grave markers were in a small clearing, and around them was an orchard of cherry blossom trees larger than Aurora had ever seen, unfortunately she couldn't really appreciate them since it was still dark out.
Aurora stayed hidden and watched as Torin drew his zanpakto and held it upright in front of him, then placed his head against the flat of the blade, almost as if praying.
Torin stood like this for a while, then spun his sword around and rammed it into the ground with a wordless roar.
"Grow" Torin commanded quietly, releasing his shikai and crystallizing the ground and the grave markers.
The crystals were motionless for a moment, then they burst into activity, growing into three masterfully made statues on a pedestal. The statues were of two boys and a girl, each of them looking as if they had sprung from the memories of their creator, the attention to detail was impeccable.
The boy on the left had long flowing hair, a scar on his cheek, an athletic build, and wore a t-shirt and shorts, he was holding a wooden sword over his shoulder and had a smile that made you think he was about to challenge you to spar with him at any moment.
The boy on the right was scrawny, you could tell that by his bony hands, but he wore a baggy long sleeved shirt and pants to cover it up. He had shorter hair, and a book cradled under his arm. He was also smiling, but this smile was more of the scholarly type, as if he had just read a good joke or fact and couldn't wait to share it with you.
Those statues were beautiful works of art in their own right, but they paled in comparison to the center statue of the girl, Torin had obviously put the most thought into this one. She had hair that was long enough to stretch down to her waist, but it spread out behind and to either side of her as if the wind were blowing it. Her face was perfectly shaped, and it was tilted slightly, with a slight loving smile. This was compounded with the design of the eyes, which were carved in such a way as to appear lifelike as they reflected light, the result of this was that it looked like she was a real person ready to step down off the platform and embrace you in a loving hug. She wore clothes that didn't really flaunt her looks, but it could be seen that she had been beautiful when she had been alive.
Then the sun came up over the horizon, and when the light struck the statues they burst into color, they had been designed to act as prisms in order to add color to the mix. The girl had fiery red hair and blue eyes, the boy on the left black hair and green eyes, and the boy on the right had white hair and hazel eyes. All of them had tanned skin and clothes so pure white that their equal could never be found in the real world.
Torin pulled his sword out of the ground and sealed it, then sheathed it. "Alright, come out Aurora" he said without looking back at where she was hiding.
Aurora sheepishly stepped into the open "is that them?" she asked
Torin looked down at the ground "yeah… its them" he said " I buried their things here, what was left that is, Serena always loved this place, the cherry blossom trees were her favorite type of tree, and she always said the orchard here was the most beautiful of them all. So I buried her and the others here… in the end… that was all I… all I could do for them…"
Torin couldn't continue speaking, he was too overcome with emotion, tears began to run down his face and fall to the ground. Then his whole body shook with the sobs that ripped themselves from his throat.
Aurora walked over and hugged Torin from behind, something that even the thought of would've made her faint any other time because of her feelings for him, but she wasn't thinking about her own feelings now, she was thinking about his.
"It's ok Torin" Aurora said soothingly. Torin turned and cried into her shoulder as she continued to comfort him over the next hours. Eventually they fell asleep side by side up against a tree, Torin curled up into a ball and Aurora holding him close
Aurora woke first, and immediately realized how close to Torin she was at the moment. She slowly moved away, heart threatening to pound its way out of her chest. Then she got up and went to sit by the statues. She tried to remember what had happened, and once she did she calmed down a bit, looking over at Torin, who was still sleeping. She realized that Rida had hit the nail on the head, Torin had really needed to share his pain with someone. He had been bottling it up for so long, and then he had finally told his story to new friends, if he had tried to bottle it up again after that it would've torn him apart.
Aurora went back over to Torin and tentatively stroked the side of his face "Don't worry Torin, you don't have to be alone anymore, I'll be here for you, always, Rida will too, that dummy thinks that he can't support you and help fill the void in your heart, but he'll be here for you too. We're your friends now, maybe Rida can't replace Asaj or Venyx, and maybe I can never truly take Serena's place in your heart, but we'll be as close to you as we can get" she said softly as Torin continued to sleep "and maybe one day you'll be able to love again, if that day ever comes, I hope that I…"
Torin began to stir, and Aurora stopped speaking, as Torin woke up she moved away again.
"Good morning, sorry about last night Aurora, I didn't mean to break down like that" Torin said as he sat up "I hope I didn't look too pathetic"
"Oh not at all! I understand how painful that story must've been for you to tell, I would've thought you were more pathetic if you weren't overcome with emotion" Aurora said.
Torin chuckled a bit "I suppose you're right about that" he said as he got up "we should head back home now"
Aurora nodded and began to get up herself. “Do you… want to talk about them?” she asked
Torin paused, then looked at the statues. “Asaj was a lot like Rida, a total knucklehead, fun to be around, always getting us into trouble. I lost count of the messes I pulled him out of. He was the one who was taking care of the others before they met me, he had potential as a shinigami, so he was able to keep them going, if only barely.
Torin reached into his bag and pulled out a tattered book “Venyx was a genius, you couldn’t find him without a book in his hand, if he didn’t have a new book, he’d be re-reading an old one and trying to find hidden motives of the authors. His favorite thing to read was Shakespeare. He was a bit weak, and couldn’t help us get supplies, but he outsmarted the adults and rescued us whenever we got in big trouble. I remember he used to scold us a lot.”
“And Serena?” Aurora asked
Torin sighed “Serena was perfect, a diamond shining through the muck of this place. She was kind and innocent, strong, independent, smart, funny, and always looked on the bright side of things. I’m pretty sure both Asaj and Venyx loved her too. None of us said it, but the real reason we worked so hard was so that at the end of the day, she would be happier.”
Torin fell silent “never again, never again will I let someone dear to me die. So long as I still draw breath, I will be a pillar of strength, crushing anyone who dares to try and harm them, even at the cost of my own life… That’s what I swore when they died” he said after a long pause. “I will keep that oath, no matter what…”
“I know you will” Aurora said “you’re strong, truly strong, I believe with all my heart that you’ll keep us all safe, just like you always have.”
Torin looked back and smiled “Thanks, it means a lot to hear that. Now let’s go” he said, then took a few steps away "oh and Aurora?"
"yeah?" Aurora asked
"Thanks for following me… I appreciate it, I really do." Torin said as he looked back over his shoulder at her.
Aurora laughed "Silly, thanking me for something like that, I'm your friend, if I'm not there for you when you need it then I'd be a real lousy one" she said.
Torin smiled "I suppose so, but still, thank you, it really meant a lot that you came to comfort me…" he said as he looked at Aurora, who was standing directly beneath the statue of Serena, he seemed lost in thought for a moment, then shook his head "anyway, let’s get going" he finished.
"OK!" Aurora said as she followed Torin back through the woods and back to the Seireitei.