Yeah, not much to say up here other than apologize for how long this took. I could make any number of excuses from university to work and they would be accurate. I could point out how much work I've done in other fandoms that have been keeping me fully occupied, and that would also be accurate. But honestly...the real reason?

Volume 3.

I had built my original plot along the assumption that V3 would end up being similar to V1/2. Fairly light-hearted with some new revelations here and there, built around the stereotypical anime 'tournament arc'. What we actually ended up getting was...well. I like what we got, though I know it's divisive in the fandom. There's a lot of new material and plot points that really work better than what I had planned (though this chapter breaks from the canon in a big way).

And having to completely redo my post-V2 plot required a lot of planning and work. With V3 and now V4 out of the way, it's given me a lot of material and work done. So hopefully things will get back on track. Already started working on the next chapter, for what that's worth.

(I'd also like to think this long wait has improved my writing style too)

Also, title change. Because someone had the nerve to steal my title while I was away.

Ichigo Kurosaki


The glare that came his way after he said that didn't particularly surprise Ichigo. Mind you, very few things about Yang surprised him these days. At least when it came to her personality. And he knew that his statement was going to get some form of reaction out of her. It was almost funny in a way...he really did know her better than she thought. Better than he had thought he would. When exactly that had happened was beyond him, but it wasn't exactly something the shinigami would complain about either.

"Well, the two of ya might as well be dating."

Ichigo didn't even dignify that with a response, instead looking directly into Yang's narrowed violet eyes. His own amber didn't break from her glare at all, even as he raised an orange eyebrow.

"What? You're the one in charge here Yang, I'm just along for the ride." Ichigo continued, shrugging his shoulders as he leaned back against the wall of Junior's club. "So lead on, great leader."

"Don't think I won't punch you just because I like you," Yang grumbled without any real bite. She just paced beside her bike and ran a hand through her long hair. "Well, do you have any ideas? Your dad know anyone?"

"Not that I know of. I mean…" Here, Ichigo sighed and planted his face in his palm. And sighed again against the cool skin. "The old man may know someone that knows about Torchwick, but if he does he's never told me about it. Besides, I'm not dragging you back home any time soon."

Despite the situation, that got a teasing grin to cross Yang's pretty face, "Oh? Don't want your dad to try and flirt with me again?"

"Ew. No no no." Ichigo shuddered, his entire body feeling a cold chill. "Damnit Yang, don't even joke about that! I did not need that image!"

All his friend did was break down into helpless giggles while Ichigo sent her a distinctly sour look. A look that probably would have worked better had they not been standing by a street corner in one of the seediest parts of night. To say it was dark would be an understatement. It made him wonder just what Yang had gotten up to, when she went looking for her mother. If she came here, well, who was to say what else she did?

I can't say I don't understand her though...I would do anything to get Mom back.

Scowl firmly placed on his face, Ichigo pushed off the wall and walked over to Yang. To her credit, the blonde stopped laughing almost immediately at the look on his face. Say what you would about Yang, her joking habits and horrible puns and need to tease him over...well, everything. But when things came down to it, she knew him better than anyone on their little team.

And she knew that when Ichigo scowled deeply, the situation was serious.

"Seriously, Yang," Ichigo reached a hand out to grip her shoulder. His eyes stared into her's without a single hint of humor in them. "Do you have any other ideas where to look? You know Vale better than I do, probably."

"Wouldn't have taken you for a homebody," Yang clearly couldn't resist ribbing him even now. Despite her joking words, her tone was entirely serious though. As was the look she sent him. "And no, I don't. I only went to Junior because I saw Torchwick here when I was looking for Mom. I don't know the criminals of Vale."

Ichigo grimaced at that, pulling back and running a hand through his hair, "Well, I shouldn't be surprised. Guess we have to hope that the others found something out…"

His voice trailed off slowly, the hairs on his arms sticking up. Yang had a much more subdued reaction...but even she flinched slightly. He really did need to work on her reiatsu sensing abilities, one of these days.

That could wait though.

"Blake…" Yang's whisper reached his ears with more than a little worry in her usually confident voice.

"Yeah," Ichigo agreed with a nod, his serious expression looking at the distance where a pillar of purple light shot into the sky. Light that only those like him- or those he had trained -would actually be able to see. "Guess we know that works now."

"Everything you do works," Yang shot back instantly. Probably instinctively too, as she spun away from the other teenager and mounted her bike. "Come on, we need to get to her!"

The shinigami just sighed and jumped onto the bike, wrapping his arms around Yang's waist. "Just go already! If Blake is shooting up a signal flare…"

He didn't need to finish the statement. Couldn't either, since his closest friend kicked her bike into high gear and shot off towards where Blake had sent up a reiatsu flare.

Ichigo had taught all of them how to do that. It wasn't quite Aura, it wasn't quite was something unique to the girls and himself. The most important thing about it was simple though. It took only a little energy, and could only be seen by those who knew how to sense reiatsu. It wasn't like when he used his own ability and passed it off as Aura. This was unique, special, and something that was only supposed to be used…

...if they were in life-threatening danger.

Hang on Blake...we're coming.

"Kingy. You know that she wouldn't use that unless there was something really, really bad."

Zangetsu's comment echoed in Ichigo's mind as he tightened his grip on Yang's stomach. If the blonde noticed, she didn't say anything.

"I know that. And I don't want to lose someone because I was stupid. Not again."

Memories of red flashed through his mind. Of rain falling along the shore of a river overflowing its banks.


"I see them!"

That shout from Yang wasn't necessary. Ichigo could see just as well as she could, even with her long blonde locks flying into his face. The highway they were shooting along was filled with traffic, cars that would have been familiar back in Japan surrounding them on all sides. More importantly than familiar vehicles though...was something that wouldn't have looked out of place on what he remembered of Japanese television.

A mech, rampaging after the distant figures of Blake and Sun. The trainees leaping from car to care as the mech carelessly kicked and punched aside any cars that got in its way.

"Ichigo. You are aware how many are dying?" The old man's voice echoed in his head. Each word punctuated by a car flying across the road.

The scowl on his face deepened at those words. Oh yeah, Ichigo knew how many people were carelessly being tossed aside by whoever was in that machine.

"Yang! I'm going to do something really stupid!" Ichigo reached a hand behind his back, clenching down on Zangetsu's hilt. The rough grip brushed against his hand, as the other arm pulled away from Yang's stomach.

"Wha…" Yang's voice was filled with confusion, even as she spun her motorcycle to the side to avoid an SUV flying directly at their faces. "Ichigo, what are you doing back there?!"

"Something stupid!" The shinigami shot back.

As he kicked down against the bike, shooting into the air. Wind flew past Ichigo's face, sending the dark blue jacket on his arms flying off. He barely paid that any mind though...flashing into a shunpo. Zangetsu's gleaming blade came out of his sheath, slicing through the air as Ichigo angled directly down for the mech. His amber eyes were completely focused on the rampaging machine. Tanginently he noted Ruby and Weiss arriving on the scene, but only through his reiatsu sensing.

The remainder of his attention never once left the mech. Not even as Zangetsu's sharp blade sliced into the machine's back, the screech of metal-on-metal echoing over the sound of gears in its limbs.

"Oh what now?!"

Ichigo flinched back, the familiar voice echoing in his ears. Was it because he was attached to the mech?

Doesn't matter.

Because his eyes narrowed in barely repressed anger, the teenager kicking back with his strong legs. Zangetsu tore free of the mech with a horrendous scream of tortured steel. Silver flashed in the night, pieces of the machine flying free. And the kick?

Ichigo had more power in his lithe body than it may appear. The combination of Zangetsu tearing through joints and Ichigo's kick through the machine off balance. One leg rose up off the ground, the other continuing forward. The resulting spin sent it grinding off the road, asphalt flying into the air around the mech as it slid into the barrier along the edge of the highway…

And right off into a freefall towards the ground far below.

"King, that was that one bastard! The one from the port!" Zangetsu's voice was filled with bloodlust. And Ichigo didn't even tell him off for it, diving towards where the mech had fallen instead.

"Yes, it was. And he's not getting away again." Ichigo's own voice was colder than the steel of his blade.

When someone attacked his friends with the intention of killing them, they would forever earn his ire. When someone killed that many innocent people with not a care in the world for what he was doing...that made Ichigo coldly angry.


It wasn't like it was just him either. He could see an angry look in Yang's eyes as well, the blonde calling out his name as he came to a landing by her side. Blake, Ruby and Weiss all stood alongside the two...with varying degrees of anger on their faces too.

Sun and Neptune aren't here…

The monkey Faunus and his blue-haired friend were nowhere to be seen. But Ichigo didn't really think about that either, instead turning his attention fully on the mech that stood imposingly across from team RWBIY.

"Did you do any damage to it?" Blake's voice was subdued, her amber eyes turning to look at Ichigo even as her weapon never left the mech. Gambol Shroud's blade barely shook despite the clear worry in the Faunus' expression.

"Nah. That thing's tough…" Ichigo clenched Zangetsu's hilt more tightly as the mech drew closer. "Teamwork time, right guys?"

"You've got that right!" Yang was quick to agree, cocking back her fists to chamber shells in Ember Celica.

Weiss rolled her eyes, "Ruby, your sister is insane."

"Oh Weiss," Ruby just giggled...before her face took on an entirely serious- and entirely unlike her -expression. "Let's do this. Freezerburn!"

Ichigo couldn't resist rolling his eyes, as he jumped into the air. Yang winked at him while she did the same, her fist cocked back. Beneath the shinigami and brawler, Ruby and Blake flew backwards as Weiss brought Myrtenaster down to the ground. The tip pierced the concrete beneath the Schnee spreading out from the point of impact, coating the ground in a massive circle around RWBIY and the mech. Ice that Torchwick stepped right towards, seemingly unable to realize what was coming.

"Or he's just that damn cocky. Think we should beat that out of him?" Zangetsu practically licked his lips at the thought.

Ordinarily, Ichigo would have shuddered at the feeling. Right now?

He was in full agreement with his blade.

"Go!" Yang's shout brought his attention away from his inner world, and back to the real world.

Right as her fist, wreathed in flames as he had taught her, slammed into the ground. Weiss' ice circle became thick fog that surrounded the area, the flickers of human forms darting to and fro inside it. Ichigo watched that, and the mech sprouting laser sights, from the air. His position was as the eyes in the sky in this plan…

Something that allowed him to see Ruby lancing forward at Torchwick out of the fog.


"Checkmate!" Ruby's cry was both the cue for Weiss and Blake to combination-attack the mech, and a distraction to keep the enemy looking at the ground.

The white and black members of the team darted from cover, fog sliding off their bodies like water as Myrtenaster and Gambol Shroud sliced into the legs of the mech. Sparks flew from the points of impact, Weiss pulling back with a pirouette while Blake moved in front of her, the wide blade of her 'sheath' grinding against the tough metal of the Atlas-built machine. And as Blake jumped back, Weiss moved forward, jabbing and twisting her rapier at Torchwick.

Despite the power behind the blows, the mech was unscathed save for gouges along the hardened legs.

At least, untouched from the girl's weapons.


Ichigo had no such problems, lancing out the sky with Zangetsu gleaming in the shattered moonlight. The sharp blade of his Zanpakutō cleaved directly through the protruding backpack of the mech, stabbing through the metal like it wasn't even there. Blue light shone along Zangetsu's blade and through the hole in the mech, Ichigo wearing a fierce scowl on his face…


As he fired off his signature attack. A groan of tortured steel rang out, Zangetsu pulling free of the mech. The entire shoulder-mounted weapons of the machine were vaporized in a roar of fire, the combination of the Getsuga and the apparent missile pods going off at once combining to ruin it.

And yet, Ichigo was forced into another shunpo. The world blurred around him, Torchwick's mech attempting to smack him from the sky as he flashed away. His feet impacted the ground, skidding along the surface while sending pieces of concrete flying.

"Blake!" Ruby's voice echoed in his ears as he stabbed Zangetsu into the ground to arrest his momentum. "Ladybug!"

Red and black flashed forward, Ruby and Blake's speed allowing them to get inside the mech's guard, the machine unable to keep up with their rapid-fire slashes and stabs. Pieces of damaged metal fell away with each and every stab, the mech stumbling around as Torchwick attempted to get a bead on either of the girls hitting him.

Something made more difficult by Weiss using her glyphs to speed Blake up, while a black rune appeared beneath the mech's left foot. A grim smile crossed Weiss' face when she saw that...a smile that was one borne of long experience in training to use her glyphs more creatively.


The Heiress whispered that under her breath. Her arm snapped the point of her silvery rapier to the side, and the mech's leg followed the movement. The limb snapped out so fast it nearly clipped Blake, forcing the Faunus to jump back. It was a sign of how much the team worked together that she didn't snap at Weiss for that. No, Blake just cast her amber eyes at Ichigo, as Torchwick struggled to right his mech. The limb that had been torn aside by Weiss sparked, grinding gears making the damage it had taken clear.

"Hey, Ichigo!"

It wasn't Blake who called out to him though. The bubbly voice could only belong to Yang, her powerful legs pushing her across the battlefield and towards the smoking rear of the mech.

Which meant…

"Strawberry Sunrise!" Ruby's clear voice echoed over the sound of the tortured mech.

And over the groan that came from Ichigo at that combination attack name. Goddamnit Yang…why in the world they had to pick a name like that was beyond him. They shouldn't have picked one that had to have that fruit in it!

"Ichigo, now is not the time."

His wise blade was correct as usual. Pushing down his scowl, Ichigo flashed into shunpo. Reappearing next to Yang, the teenage shinigami reached down and grabbed her wrist with his own hand. A fierce grin crossed the blonde's face, and despite himself, across Ichigo's own. Name aside, this move was special. His arm pulled back, all the strength he had in his body coiling in that one limb. Every bit of power he could safely use was concentrated in one smooth movement.

Pull back. Aim.

And throw!

"Whoo hoo!" Yang's cheerful shout rang out, the blonde lancing forward like a spear. Her fists were wreathed with fire, and aiming directly at the mech. "Take this you big piece of scrap!"

The impact, a resounding 'clang' echoing out from where Yang hit, was excessive. Her powerful punch- further increased in power by Ichigo's own energy -crumpled the metal of the mech from the point of impact out. Rivets and welds popped and snapped. Pieces of metal flew into the air. Joints shattered and twisted in ways they had never been designed to do.

And Torchwick went flying out of the disintegrating machine, rolling across the ground with muffled curses.

"Come on…" the man grumbled, sounding more annoyed than anything else when he came to a stop. Pulling himself to his feet, the criminal stared at the team of students gathering in front of him. His eyes looking directly at Ichigo, Zangetsu pointed at his throat. "I just got this thing cleaned, you know!"

"You'll have a lot more to worry about than a suit!" Yang was quick to snap back, her fists already cocked back and ready to punch that smug smirk in.

Ruby nodded with her sister's words, Crescent Rose held in a ready-stance, "Yeah! You're not going to get away this time Torchwick!"

Despite the array of weapons pointed at his face, Torchwick remained annoyingly smug. The man casually reached down to pick up his cane from the wreckage all around him. He touched the rim of his hat in a casual bow. One that spoke of how little he cared about the people in front of him.

"Ah ah ah," Torchwick's voice was filled with his usual arrogance. "I'm afraid I can't do that ladies and...gentleman." The delay before talking about Ichigo was accompanied by a hint of disgust in the older orangehead's voice. "Neo, if you would?"


As soon as that thought went through Ichigo's mind, a short little woman appeared in front of Torchwick. A woman with mismatched hair and eyes, holding a frilly umbrella instead of any sort of weapon.


A woman who felt dark when Ichigo focused his senses on her to try and get a bead on how strong she was. Dark enough to elicit that cry from the usually unruffled Zangetsu, the Quincy side of his blade normally calm and collected. And Ichigo couldn't blame him for that reaction...there was something very, very wrong about that woman. He couldn't put a finger on it.

But he instinctively wanted her gone.


Even as he charged up an attack though, Ichigo let his energy fade away. Torchwick's smirk at him made it clear the man knew why he did as well.

"Get back here!" Yang didn't, however. She raced ahead of the rest of the team, her fist cocked back for a fierce punch.

A punch that never connected. The crack of Ember Celica rang out, accompanied by the sound of shattering glass. Torchwick and the woman by his side fell apart like a cheap mirror.

"Wha...where did they go?!" A frustrated cry came from the blonde brawler, as she spun around and looked for the criminals.

Only to snap her head around when the roar of jet engines got her attention. A Bullhead flew away in the distance, somehow having avoided detection and snuck the two crooks aboard. Just like at the port...Torchwick got away in the air. He escaped without any wounds or any lasting damage done to him, just to his partners in the White Fang. The man was a regular karma houdini, wasn't he?

Of course, there was a reason for that…

"Ichigo, why didn't you attack?" While Yang continued to glare at the retreating aircraft, her younger sister sidled up to the shinigami. Ruby's silver eyes were filled with nothing but honest concern as well.

Something that had Ichigo sighing heavily, a shaking hand returning Zangetsu to the sheath across his back. "Look around us, Ruby."

"Eh? What do you mean?" Ruby's voice was filled with confusion, her eyes scanning the area around the team. And widening with realization as her mouth formed the shape of a large O, "Ohhhhhh...the highways!"

Ichigo nodded, "Yeah, the highways. If I missed them, I would have taken enough pillars down that I might have killed someone."

And as the rest of the team joined back up with him, Ichigo had only one thought in his head.

Enough people had already died that night…

"I am both proud and disappointed in all of you."

Professor Ozpin's glasses did very little to hide the expression in his grey eyes. The Headmaster had called RWBIY to his office the very next morning after they had returned. Ichigo had been the only one to really expect that to happen. Ruby and the others? They had seemingly been convinced that Ozpin didn't know what they had gotten up to. Or that he wouldn't call them.

The shinigami knew better.

"Put Prof!" Yang was quick to protest, of course. "We found a White Fang base! And Torchwick!"

Ozpin only raised a single eyebrow, "Oh? And you also caused much damage to the central highway system, in addition to causing a commotion across Vale."

"I apologize profusely, Headmaster," Weiss cut Yang off before the hot-headed blonde could get her steam up. The heiress, drawing on her own training and experience was quite formal when she bowed towards Ozpin. "We had not planned on such...extreme...conditions occurring. We were merely attempting to find more information on what the White Fang have been up to in Vale."

"I assumed as much," the Headmaster inclined his own head in a sign of respect for Weiss' words. "However, that does not change the fact that you left campus without permission- at night -once again. I won't punish you this time, since you did prove yourselves against the Paladin. I do request you come to one of your professors first, however, if anything else comes up."

Those words got a nod from Weiss, a grumble from Yang, and slumped shoulders from Ruby and Blake.

Ichigo just sighed, "I told you this would happen."

"Not helping!" Yang whispered at him, turning her violet-eyed glare on the unrepentant shinigami.

Only a twitch of his lips betrayed any amusement from Ozpin, "I believe you should listen to Mr. Kurosaki on this subject, Miss Xiao Long."

Yang didn't exactly look happy to be chastised like that. Her face bore a scowl remarkably similar to Ichigo's own in fact. But the blonde still nodded reluctantly anyway. Ichigo knew he was going to face hell over that later. For now though...well, for now they would have to listen to what Ozpin had to say.

As it would turn out, not very much.

"Now, I believe there is a dance that you volunteered to plan." The headmaster got up from behind his desk, his cane clattering against the floor as he walked around the large glass table. "Run along girls, I am quite eager to see what you have in mind."

"The dance!" Ruby held her hands to her cheeks, silver eyes widening in a mix of shock and worry. "I completely forgot about the dance!"

Weiss sighed heavily as a petite hand reached up to pinch at her brow, "Honestly, Ruby, you're the leader…"

"But everything that happened made me forget!"

As the girls argued amongst each other, Ichigo stared at Ozpin. The man's grey eyes remained locked on him, and not anyone else.

"Just the girls?" Ichigo's voice cut through the brewing argument. The rest of his team turned to look at him and the headmaster, as Ozpin nodded ever so slightly.

"Indeed. Mr. Kurosaki, I believe you and your father have something to tell me. As I have something to tell you."

Ichigo sighed, "Well, that explains why I feel Goat Chin hiding behind that dresser."

Ozpin's lips twitched, "Hm. Now, the rest of you should prepare for the dance." Those words were directed at the female members of the team, the headmaster directing his gaze at Ruby in specific. "Don't worry, Mr. Kurosaki will be along shortly."

While each and every one of the girls- even Weiss, surprisingly enough -looked ready to argue the point...none of them did. While the rest of the eclectic staff at Beacon couldn't corral such vibrant personalities so easily...Ozpin was not like his staff. The Headmaster had a certain air around him that none of them, not even Glynda, did. When he told someone to jump, they jumped. When he told them to leave...well, they left. They sent Ichigo worried looks as they did so, but the girls still left.

It was only once the last of them had vanished into the descending elevator, that a serious looking Isshin Kurosaki moved out from behind the aforementioned dresser. The former Captain was wearing his old uniform, with Engetsu prominently displayed on his belt.

"This is serious, Kingy." Zangetsu sounded more concerned than anything.

A feeling that Ichigo felt as well, "So, what's up?"

Ozpin pushed his glasses up. His eyes looked between both Kurosaki men, unreadable and completely and deadly serious.

"Tell me...what's your favorite fairy tale?"

AN: Like I said above...rather large break in the canon here.

I have no idea how many people are still here and reading. If you are, drop a review and let me know! I'd like to see that my fans are still around, though I would understand if people ran off to greener pastures, so to speak. If you do still read and do like the chapter, let me know at least though. I worry when a long break like this happens...