"KARIN!"

Masaki got out of the cab and ran towards the group of boys surrounding her daughter; one of them had a handkerchief, about to cover Yuzu's struggling face. The graceful woman that she is had disappeared, decking one of the boys that grabbed Yuzu by the neck with his arm, and slapping the other boy's arm to drop the handkerchief, letting Yuzu free and into her mother's arms. Yuzu was frightened, trembling against Masaki's chest but slowly calmed down when she heard her father's voice from behind.

Yuzu slumped to the ground and Masaki caught her frail body on time. Isshin tried to chase after the boys but unfortunately, his age cannot compare to the times of youth. He groaned in frustration and brought out his phone, calling to ask where their security was at a time like this. Karin rushed out of the gates when she saw her mother carrying Yuzu.

"Mom! What happened?" Karin cried, dropping next to her sister and caressing her face. "Are you okay Yuzu?"

The girl fluttered her eyes and slowly nodded, giving off a smile. "I'm okay. Mom came in the nick of time."

"There were these boys that tried taking your sister away," Masaki brushed Yuzu's bangs out of her face. "Yuzu, what were you doing outside? It gets dangerous during times like this."

"I'm sorry mom, Karin forgot her cellphone. I didn't think she'd take that long so I just waited for her outside."

"Where were you guys planning to go? You could've called for a cab."

"We're just going to Ichi-nii's place," Karin admitted. "We were supposed to sleep over but it never happened."

"Girls, even though you're just going to visit your brother, it doesn't mean you guys should go out in public without anyone looking after you. Something bad could have happened!"

Yuzu smiled slightly. "It's okay mom, the good thing is, nothing bad happened because you came to help. If it weren't for you guys coming home, I would have been taken away."

Karin crossed her arms, "Where did you guys go anyway? Zangetsu came home saying you guys were looking for a Hitsugaya."

Masaki stiffened from her spot and Isshin approached her, patting her head and nodding. Karin stared at them seriously; it was time she told them.

"I know a Hitsugaya, mom."

"What? You do?"

"Yeah. I... I have a part-time job as an assistant coach and my boss is the soccer coach in Karakura High. Toshirou Hitsugaya."

Masaki's eyes widened. Could he really be the son of Yumi that she's been looking for?

Isshin crossed his arms. Toshirou? Hitsugaya? He remembered the surgery and having Ichigo take him home to his house.

One can simply not miss the fact that sometimes the person you've been searching for has always been in front of you.

So why did they?


"Where are we?"

Toshirou gaped as he entered cold room filled with ice-sculptures and blue glass-tiled floors. He looked at his reflection from the ground then up, amazed at the ice-sculpted chandelier lit up the room they were in. The temperature was freezing cold but Toshirou loved it, he had always loved the cold, much now that he's appreciating how cold it was in the room. Ichigo didn't seem to be bothered by the temperature because he entered the room with his casual clothes on. Toshirou was impressed.

Ichigo smiled sheepishly and sang, "The cold never bothered me anyway."

Toshirou rolled his eyes, "I've had enough of Frozen from the elementary school that I volunteered at. That song was contagious."

"Oh come on! It wasn't that bad, you just have to let it go~"

Disregarding Ichigo's usage of Frozen lines, Toshirou traced a sculpture of a woman that somehow resembled his mother, not that he remembered every single detail about her. The long dress she wore, a dragon mark on her right arm, her long hair, her sharp nose, and most of all—her smile. There was something about that smile that reminded him very much about his mother. Curious about it, Toshirou turns to Ichigo.

"Do you know who made these sculptures?"

"My mom had someone make them. These sculptures are all of us and her best friend."

Toshirou walked around the room, examining the pieces of sculptures that amazed him each time he passed each family member. From Karin, to Yuzu, to the man in which he assumed is Ichigo's father, the all known Masaki Kurosaki next to him, Ichigo, and a child. The child had an empty expression on their face. He looked like a child from higher status; his traced tuxedo, the book on his hand, his desolated eyes, his perfectly worn shoes and short spikey hair almost reminded him of...

Himself.

He felt like ten thousand bolts of electricity flowed like a current inside of him. Toshirou clutched on his chest, then his head with these voices playing and refuses to listen to them. Ichigo noticed the change in Toshirou's expression and wrapped his arms around him in comfort. His touch snaps Toshirou back to reality and his vision towards the child's sculpture became clearer to him once again.

"Who is that?"

Ichigo's smile turned into a sad one. "He's someone my mom's been searching for a long time. He's very important to her."

"Was he... one of your siblings?"

The strawberry shook his head, staring at the child sculpture as well. "He was my mom's best friend's son. When she died, my mom wanted to provide everything for him. I think she's planning on taking him in as family. I don't mind. From what I remember, I had a good childhood with him. I don't remember much because his father was very abusive and he would always get mad at his mom for taking him out. Damn, what was his name again—"

Ichigo seemed to struggle trying to remember the boy's name. Toshirou laughed softly, patting his shoulder. "It's alright. Don't stress too much on the name. I'm very sorry about your childhood friend though. I hope you find him soon; I know what it feels like to have an abusive father."

"Really?" Ichigo frowned. "Do you live with your father?"

Toshirou's eyes narrowed as he felt his throat grew thick. The saliva on his mouth almost seemed to refuse for him to answer that question.

He shook his head. Ichigo's face turned relieved. "Good. I wouldn't want you living with him anyway."

He let out a small smile before turning away from the child sculpture. "This place is at the outskirts of town, you guys must have a lot of money to be able to occupy this space huh?"

Ichigo shrugged. "We're not all that rich. This used to be my mother and her best friend's hide out. Her best friend used to love making sculptures."

Same as my mom, Toshirou thought as he walked out of the room next to the carrot top.

Ichigo didn't want to keep Toshirou out much longer. After showing the ice-sculptures, he decided to take Toshirou home. Toshirou agreed, saying he was tired from work and he had to work on his senior project tomorrow so that he can work on Saturday with him. They talked for a bit, mentioning their likes and dislikes. Ichigo found out that Toshirou hated staying under the sun for too long and he was the opposite.


On their way home, Toshirou spotted a little girl with a broken mask on her head. She wore a green gown with gray shorts and her green hair was very messy but seemed aloof. The little girl sat in an Indian-style with her back against the wall and her right arm on the pole to support herself from tilting. Toshirou frowned when he caught a scar coming down from her forehead to her nose. He shook Ichigo to stop.

Ichigo stopped. "What's wrong?"

"That child—" Toshirou got out of the car and walked towards the little girl.

The little girl looked up at him in a daze.

"Hi, I'm Toshirou. Can I ask what you're doing out here, little one?"

"'So...Sushi..." Was what the little girl could say with attempting to say his name. Her hazel eyes grew wide, snapping her awake. "I need 'tsu find my bro'thurs!"

Toshirou frowned. "Did your brothers leave you?"

She shook her head. "I lef'ut them. I got mad so I lef'ut them. Now I don'th know where I am..."

"Don't worry, we'll find your brothers for you. What's your name?"

"N-Nel."

"Alright Nel, come, I'll help you find your brothers."

"What's going on?" Ichigo's voice came from the car. Nel and Toshirou turned to look at the orange head walking towards them. "An orphan?"

"Nel is no'th an orphan!" The child whined. "I have bro'thurs! BRO-'THURS!"

Ichigo apologized and kneeled down next to Toshirou, facing Nel. "It's getting kind of late, so why don't you come home with us?"

The little girl frowned, scooting away from the two boys in front of her. "M-My bro'thurs said tsu s'thay away from s'thrangers!"

"I'm not a stranger," Ichigo smiled sincerely, extending his hands. "I'm Ichigo, and you know the guy next to me."

"Itsygo.. and... and Sushi," she hesitantly took the strawberry's hand. Ichigo picked her up from the ground and carried her back to the car.

"Why did you leave your brothers?" Ichigo asked curiously. Nel only looked away with attitude.

"They're being jerks. That's why."

Toshirou frowned, "that's not very nice to say about your brothers."

Nel hummed at him, feeling regretful. "I know... Ith's Nel's fault because she jus wand'ed to find her parent'hs."

Ichigo passed her on to Toshirou, "have her sit on your lap. We don't have a child seat for her."

Toshirou obliged, taking her into his arms, entering the car and sitting her on his lap when they got on. Ichigo went to the drivers seat and started the engine.

"So what, to my house?"

After he patted Nel in apology for making her feel bad, he nodded. "My house isn't exactly an appropriate place for her to stay in."

The driver chuckled, starting the car once more. "My place it is."


"WHOA."

Nel came inside and circled the living room with excitement. Ichigo's house seemed surreal; Nel never thought that there would be a home that was almost as large as a castle and simple as a hotel. The couch was soft; Nel jumped on it and felt like she was buried in fluffy pillows. She snuggled with on of the couch pillows then sat up, forgetting her manners and got off when Ichigo closed the door from his house.

"S-Sorry," Nel said quietly. "I've never been in a house before."

Ichigo looked at her in surprise. "You've probably been in one, Nel. Just not in a house like mine, but... feel free to treat this as your new home."

Her eyes sparkled with life. "Really!?"

The strawberry smiled, Toshirou walked in to Nel happily running towards the kitchen.

"I still don't think you have servants," Toshirou argued.

"I don't need servants. I'm never home anyway. Zangetsu came back too, so I'll be expecting him to come real soon."

"Zangetsu?"

"Yeah. He's our family butler."

Toshirou smiled warmly. "Just like Hyourinmaru then..."

Ichigo and Toshirou looked up at the ceiling when they heard running above them. Nel screeched as she reached Ichigo's room, her mouth opened in awe. She jumped on the king-sized bed, looked out the window, stared at the ceiling light, played with the lampshade, and then gasped when she saw his cabinet. No way. CLOTHES!

She ran towards the cabinet and opened it all the way, gasping and giggling each cloth she looked at. Nel looked through the drawers, saw Ichigo's collection of neckties, sunglasses, and watches from g-shock to Rolex. How amazing is this guy? Her hands wiggled when she reached for the last bottom right drawer.

What she saw utterly shocked her as her face turned bright pink. Ichigo walked into his room with Toshirou next to him and his face paled. Toshirou snorted. Nel wore Ichigo's boxers and brief over her head. The strawberry let out a strangling cry as he ran after the little girl who laughed, running away from him and getting chased after.

"Get back here you little brat!"

"Come get me Itsygo!" Nel laughed, sticking her tongue out.

Toshirou sighed apologetically to Ichigo indirectly. He watched the two of them chase after each other and sat down at the edge of Ichigo's bed, fatigue kicking in. He felt lightheaded; he massaged the temples of his forehead and decided to lie down. A few minutes after, Nel was lying down next to him.

"Are you okay Sushi?"

He nodded slowly. "Is Ichigo still chasing after you?"

Nel shook her head, "Itsygo hit his head on the wall."

Toshirou guffawed, holding on to his stomach as he laughed. Imagining Ichigo hitting his head because of a little girl was something he could not picture normally. Ichigo came back to the room with his own underwear over his head.


An argument came up about where Nel should sleep. The little girl refused to sleep on her own, her brothers often tucked her to bed or slept next to her, so Ichigo and Toshirou couldn't simply slip her into one of Ichigo's baggy white shirts, put a blanket over her, and say goodnight. Ichigo sighed softly; he has work tomorrow, continuing this argument any further would just stretch out his lost time on resting and he knew the same goes for Toshirou.

"Alright, you can sleep with me," Ichigo finally decided. "But you can't pee on my bed, I'll kill you."

Nel grinned. "Of course I won'th Itsygo!"

Toshirou thought it was time for him to go home. He stood up, saying goodnight to both of them before heading out the door but stopped when Nel's whining returned and Ichigo's frustrated groan was buried under the pillow.

"You need to th'ell me a st'hory!"

"I don't know any stories," Ichigo grimaced. "I know Disney Fairytale stories."

Nel moved back, disgusted.

"Hey, in my defense, my mom told my little sisters that lots of Disney Fairytales."

"I don't like Disney Fairytales."

"Well your luck just ran out."

Toshirou walked back next to Nel. "Do you know the real story behind Disney's The Little Mermaid?"

Nel shook her head. "Littul mermaid became human and married the prince and lived happily ever after right?"

He moved the blanket up to cover Nel as she got comfortable on her position. Ichigo on the other side began to relax, looking at Toshirou apologetically and nodding before his eyes came to a close.

"Actually, Nel. That wasn't what happened," Toshirou smiled softly. "When she became human and lost her voice, she still hoped that the prince would marry her but she fails because the prince ends up marrying someone else."

"That's sho sad!" Nel frowned.

"But, the mermaid's sisters gave her a knife so she could kill the prince. If she kills the prince and his blood drops to her feet, she will become a mermaid again."

Nel gasped and Toshirou smiled sadly, patting her leg. "So one night, she stood in front of the prince's bed where he slept with a knife on her hand. She couldn't kill him. When the sun rose, she went back to the sea and she turned into foam. That was the real story."

The little girl was tearing up. It didn't affect Toshirou because he was old enough to understand that it was for love. Nel would come to understand that someday. He wiped her tears away and rubbed her leg in comfort.

"Shh..." He cooed. "My mom used to tell me a different story."

"R-Really? What did she say?"

"The night where the mermaid stood in front of the prince's bed, the prince woke up and asks her to kill him."

Nel's eyes widened; Ichigo's ears twitched.

"The prince said 'don't hesitate and please take my heart. Just think of me as a stranger and when the dawn lights up into the skies, it will be as if nothing happened. You will never turn into foam for my love is with you forever, so don't cry.'"

Ichigo might have had his eyes closed, but he was listening to the story telling. His eyebrows furrowed, remembering that the story he told was also a story his mother used to tell his little stories. It was a sad story indeed. Usually after the story ended, she would look at Ichigo and said, 'please be that prince, Ichigo. One who loves truly deeply.' When he was small, he refused to do it for some silly girl who would sacrifice her life to become a human and spend time with a prince who barely knew her. Does he think different now?

Nel's voice was happy again. "So she turns back into a mermaid?"

Toshirou smiled sadly. "Yeah."

"But the prince died... right? Why couldn't they both st'hay alive?"

"Sometimes, love isn't sugar coated, Nel," Toshirou explained quietly. "Sometimes love is painful. Sometimes you cry for it, hurt for it, becoming empty for it but it's still love. If you feel it here—on your chest—you look at someone and you feel something there. That's love."

"I feel something here! With you and Itsygo!"

The whitehead blinked, brushing Nel's green hair and tracing the scar on her forehead. He wondered what happened for her to deserve something like that but that shouldn't matter right now. The girl's eyes were fluttering to sleep, Toshirou reached for the lampshade and touched the main body so the light dimmed to darkness. Ichigo remained motionless, pretending to be asleep as he listened to Nel's quiet and steady breathing. Toshirou's sound of footsteps decreased, distancing himself away from the two.

"Goodnight," he heart Toshirou whisper before the door shut.


"Masaki can you please tell me why you're so angered with Toshiki?"

"Please stop calling him that, darling. That's not even his real name."

"How should I know what his real name is? Hell, I didn't even know that their child's name was Toshirou until this morning!"

"I don't have time to argue with you over this. Let's not."

"The least you can tell me is Toshiki's real name. You can't leave me in the shadows like this, not if I want to protect you."

"Toshiki's... Toshiki's real name is Aizen. Aizen Sousuke."