Sorry it's a bit short, but I'm really having a rough time getting through these earlier chapters. I really, really want to skip ahead to the Fullbringer Arc, but there are a few things I need to get out of the way… it's just so boring moving through things slow… but rushing this point of the story, would really cheapen the rest of it… *sigh*.

In any case, there will only be a few more chapters until the time-skip, at most, two or three. Then, I can finally start writing the best parts of this story. Just bear with me that little bit longer everyone, we'll get there.

SSJ3 Kyuubi Gohan.

Disclaimer – I don't own anything from the Bleach anime/manga. All I own are my original characters and plot twists.

'Talking'

"Thinking"

'Hollow, Inner Hollow or Zanpakutou talking'

"Hollow, Inner Hollow or Zanpakutou thinking"

*expression*

Flashback

Chapter 4 – Like Mother, Like Son

At the end of the day, Ichigo prepared to head home, only for two girls to accost him.

'Hey Ichigo, you weren't just going to leave here without us, were you?' Asked Candice, from in front of Ichigo.

'Please, we don't need to stick around him just because we're neighbours.' Said Bambietta, walking up to the two.

'I know, but it might be fun.' Said Candice thoughtfully.

'Or another gang could try and attack us.' Said Ichigo.

'Yeah, that's what I just said, fun.' Grinned Candice.

'If a single speck of dirt gets on your clothes, they won't be able to walk away.' Said Bambietta in boredom.

'Oi, Ichigo, what are you doing?' Asked Ichigo's childhood friend, Tatsuki Arisawa, as she approached the duo.

'Me? I'm not doing anything.' Answered a confused Ichigo.

'You're not huh?' Questioned Tatsuki disbelievingly.

'Oh, hi Bambi!' Chirped Orihime, walking beside her protector.

'Hi Orihime, nice seeing you.' Said Bambietta politely.

'You two know each other?' Asked Ichigo curiously.

'Yep, I ran into Bambi a few days ago. I was thinking about getting a triple glazed chocolate doughnut and bumped into Bambi, so I offered to buy her a doughnut as well.' Explained Orihime happily.

'That's… nice.' Said Ichigo, nearly lost for words.

'So, are you going to walk us home or what, huh Ichigo?' Asked Candice, making an exaggerated show of batting her eyelashes.

'You got here didn't you, why do I need to help you get back?' Asked Ichigo.

'What happened to all the gentleman stuff you were going on about when we first met? Or was that you just trying to impress me?' Teased Bambietta.

'I wouldn't need to impress my bloody stalker… fine, I'll walk you two home.' Said Ichigo reluctantly.

'See you two tomorrow, Tatsuki, Orihime.' Said Ichigo tiredly, before walking off, Candice to his right and Bambietta to his left.

'What's with that look, Tatsuki?' Asked Orihime curiously, seeing her friend send a scrutinising glance at the trio, who were slowly shrinking from their view.

'Nothing Orihime, let's go.' Said Tatsuki, getting an energetic cheer, from her bubbly friend.

-line break-

'Well, how did you find today?' Asked Ichigo, after a moment.

'Boring. Can't believe you can put up with it.' Commented Bambietta.

"Well I was missing a lot of class time anyway." Thought Ichigo, remembering how often he flaked out on school, for Shinigami related matters.

'It wasn't that bad, plus, I got to try out my acting skills. I've still got it, clearly.' Commented Candice happily, with a smirk.

'Thanks for that by the way, again.' Said Ichigo.

'No problem. Couldn't let our little strawberry get in trouble, for something he didn't even do.' Said Candice cheekily, causing Ichigo to sigh.

'You said you were going to ease up on the strawberry thing.' Grumbled Ichigo.

'Aw, but it's such a good nickname… I'll think of another one then.' Said Candice thoughtfully.

'You could just call him grouchy, since he barely smiles.' Said Bambietta, pointing at Ichigo's mouth, which shifted into a deeper scowl, in response.

'Nah, too easy.' Said Candice, waving off Bambietta's suggestion.

'Well, good luck with that.' Said Ichigo, as he saw their houses come into view.

'*sigh* I'm not going to get any sleep now. I need to think of a good nickname.' Sighed Candice.

'I'm sure you'll manage.' Said both Ichigo and Bambietta simultaneously, getting the two to look at each other.

'Stop that.' Ichigo and Bambietta both said again.

'How about King, since you like ordering people around?' Said Bambietta dryly.

'Despite the fact that you're copying me.' Deadpanned Ichigo.

'King, I like it.' Added Candice.

Ichigo thought back to another person who previously called him King, before frowning.

'I don't.' Said Ichigo calmly.

'Eh, we can work on it I suppose.' Said Candice lazily.

'Whatever.' Said Ichigo, before walking off to his house, throwing a wave over his shoulder.

'King? A bit pretentious, don't you think?' Commented Candice.

'Well, His Majesty would have been a bit of a stretch.' Commented Bambietta, getting Candice to snort.

'Although, these next few days are going to be boring. At least the Quincy wasn't suspicious of us.' Said Candice, opening the door to their house as she did so.

Bambietta followed after, as both made their way to the living room, only to find a certain blond there, waiting for them.

'What are you doing here, Haschwalth?' Asked Bambietta.

Jugram Haschwalth was a tall young man, with a thin build and long blonde hair, which reached below his shoulders. His attire was a variation of the typical, white Sternritter uniform, consisting of the signature hooded-cloak, a calf-length trench coat, with dark green fur running down from his left collar, to the front of the coat. Additionally, he wore a green belt, with a golden belt buckle, along with white trousers and shoes.
In addition to all this though and perhaps most importantly, he was second-in-command of the Quincy, answering only to Yhwach himself.

'I was just sent here as a brief reminder. Given the time, you will have no doubt met the target by now. His Majesty just wants you to remember, not to be complacent. After all, as you no doubt know by now, your lives are on the line here.' Said Haschwalth.

'We know.' Said Bambietta calmly, with Candice giving a small nod.

'Very well then, good luck and if you should fail, goodbye, as no one will ever see you again if you do.' Said Haschwalth, before the shadows engulfed him and he disappeared.

'Damn I hate Haschwalth and his smug attitude! Just because His Majesty picked him.' Growled Bambietta, giving a small kick to their couch.

'Well, I guess we should take a break from the teasing and start focusing on the mission a bit more.' Said Candice, with a frown.

'You're right. This weekend, I'll set the first test up. If he survives, we'll be well on the way, if not, well, we might as well start running.' Said Bambietta.

'What do you have planned?' Asked Candice.

'It's time Ichigo ran into the supernatural again.' Said Bambietta calmly.

-line break-

'Ichigo.' Said a familiar voice.

'Zangetsu, is that you?' Asked Ichigo.

Ichigo was once again in a world devoid of all colour, plunged into utter darkness.

'Ichigo… time is coming… soon… powers.' Said the same voice, breaking up intermittently, not allowing Ichigo to understand what was being said.

'What are you trying to say Zangetsu? What's coming? What powers?' Asked Ichigo in confusion.

'You… I… Ichigo… give… Almighty.' Said the voice, before a light started to shine, in the expansive area of inky darkness.

Ichigo shielded his eyes from the light, with his left hand, while walking towards it, right hand outstretched towards it.

-line break-

Ichigo suddenly woke up and found his arm was still outstretched. Letting it slump down and join the rest of his body, Ichigo frowned.

"Another dream… what's going on?" Thought Ichigo in confusion.

Ichigo hadn't had any dreams like this since losing his powers before, so why now? Why was he seeing Zangetsu in his dreams? Why was he occasionally seeing Zangetsu's visage replace his in the mirror? It made no sense to Ichigo.

"What happened… what changed?" Wondered Ichigo.

'Good morning, Ichigo!' Shouted Isshin, slamming his son's door open and trying to drop an elbow into his gut, only to find a foot planted into his face, sending him into the wall.

'This is going to be a long week.' Grumbled Ichigo, getting off his bed and going to wash up.

-line break-

True to form, the week had been long for Ichigo, and he was glad to finally leave that Friday afternoon. Walking outside, he waited a minute or two, before his two new neighbours accosted him again, as they had been doing all week. Setting off, the trio made mindless small talk about the day as usual. Ichigo made to leave them, as they reached their respective homes, only for Bambietta to throw something at the back of his head.

'What the hell was that for?' Grumbled Ichigo.

'Just take it. We're going away for the weekend and might not be back in time for school next week so let us know what we missed.' Said Bambietta.

Ichigo scowled at Bambietta before looking at what had struck his head. It was a phone case and inside, predictably, was a phone.

'Before you say anything, it's a temporary phone, it'll only last a week or so. See you later.' Said Bambi, before heading home with Candi.

'Who the hell throws phones at people's heads?' Muttered Ichigo in annoyance, as he picked up the phone and took it inside with him.

-line break-

'Really Bambi, a phone?' Asked Candice in disbelief.

'Well what else could we give him? Besides, it isn't like the phone itself actually matters.' Scoffed Bambi.

'Remind me again why we're putting time delayed Hollow bait, in a phone case, which we are giving to our spiritually powerless neighbour, who, just in case you forgot, we need alive?' Asked Candice in annoyance.

'Relax, at best, he'll get a dozen hollows after him, not even strong ones.' Said Bambietta dismissively.

'And just how exactly is he supposed to survive?' Asked Candice in annoyance.

'He has friends, I'm sure they'll save him.' Said Bambietta calmly.

'*sigh* I can't believe you, Bambi. You say the dumbest things every now and then.' Sighed Candice, pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration.

'Relax, worst case scenario, we'll save him.' Said Bambietta.

'You know this is really dangerous, even for you?' Pointed out Candice.

'Look, if it doesn't work, we try something else, but if it does, we can finally start making progress here.' Said Bambietta, effectively ending the conversation.

-line break-

That weekend, unbeknownst to Ichigo, the phone case; which he had thrown into a small bin, that he had in his room; disintegrated. Soundly sleeping, Ichigo was awoken, as he heard a familiar sound.

"Was that a Hollow?" Questioned Ichigo, sitting straight up in his bed, looking out the window.

It had been faint, but Ichigo was sure he heard a wail, one classically belonging to a Hollow. Ichigo got out of bed and made his way outside, being careful not to disturb anyone. Lacing up his sneakers and steeping out into the cold, Ichigo felt a chill run down his spine, which had absolutely nothing to do with the weather.

"This feeling…" Thought Ichigo, feeling his body tense in anticipation.

Ichigo slowly made his way out of his street, trying to calm his nerves.

"It's okay… I have virtually no Reiatsu anymore, so nothing should happen." Thought Ichigo, as he slowed his breathing down.

A drawn out wail caused Ichigo to tense in anticipation again.

"How can I hear that?" Thought Ichigo nervously.

Ichigo picked up his pace, walking at speeds just under a jog, making his way through Karakura Town, but never straying too far from home. The wails stopped after a minute or two, making Ichigo believe that they had been taken care of. True to form, the Shinigami on duty had done his job and taken down ten Hollows, all by himself. Feeling quite pleased with himself, the Shinigami made his way to another part of town, seeking to cover all his bases.

Hearing nothing for a few minutes, Ichigo relaxed and made his way home, writing the incident off as a trick of his mind. Entering his street, Ichigo started to walk towards his house, only for his instincts to scream at him, causing him to leap to the right. Not even a moment later, a heavy body of some sort, impacted the ground where Ichigo had been standing, crushing the concrete beneath it. Ichigo blinked and saw a blurred, white creature, which was quickly coming into focus.

The creature had four stubby limbs, which somehow supported its muscle-bound frame. It looked like a bull, only it had two sets of horns, one which curved up, while the other set jutted forward, similar to Ichigo's own in the past. The horns were a smooth, curved white, with black tips. The creature's entire body was black, except for three crisscrossing segments of white, in a zigzag pattern, running from its horns to its bony tail, which was half a metre in length and branched out, into three prongs at the tip.

"A Hollow… but how?" Questioned Ichigo.

The bull like Hollow pawed the ground, before charging at Ichigo. Ichigo leapt to the left, avoiding being gored, but suffered a deep gash along his right leg.

'Augh! That hurt… how?' Cried Ichigo in pain, before becoming confused.

The Hollow didn't pause to entertain Ichigo and was already charging him. Ichigo panicked, trying to get to his feet, only to fall down once again.

"Is this really how it ends?" Asked Ichigo, seeing some of the most notable events of his life, flash through his mind. Meeting Rukia. Fighting Byakuya. Being killed by Ulquiorra. Defeating Aizen. Lastly though, his mind focused on his mother's death.

'Ichigo.' Said a voice, causing Ichigo to jolt.

"Zangetsu?" Thought Ichigo, only to get no response.

The bull-like Hollow was almost upon Ichigo, less than two metres away now, head angled down, preparing to finish Ichigo off.

"No! It can't end like this!" Thought Ichigo desperately.

Ichigo threw his hands out, futilely trying to stop the Hollow, only for something to shoot from his hands and disintegrate the Hollow into nothingness.

-line break-

'I'm telling you, Bambi, this is a bad idea.' Commented Candice, as she and Bambietta watched Ichigo wander around town, while the Hollows that had emerged in response to the bait, were dispatched by the Shinigami assigned to the area.

'What are you worried about? Nothing's happened and that stupid Shinigami is doing his job.' Scoffed Bambietta.

'That's the point though! You said his friends were going to come help him, but none of them are even close.' Shouted Candice in irritation.

'Look, he dealt with them all so nothing happened.' Noted Bambietta, as the Shinigami dispatched the last Hollow and left the area.

'So basically, nothing at all was gained by your little venture?' Asked Candice unhappily.

'I don't know about that, he seemed to hear the Hollows, so that's at least some progress.' Commented Bambietta thoughtfully.

The two watched as Ichigo entered his street, only for a hole in the sky to open up.

'Shit, another one! That Shinigami left as well now.' Said Candice, preparing to obliterate the Hollow, only for Bambi to stop her.

'What the hell are you doing, Bambi?' Asked Candice angrily.

'Just wait, watch.' Said Bambietta calmly, as the Hollow tried to attack Ichigo, only for Ichigo to dodge it.

'What… how did he know that was coming?' Asked Candice in shock.

'I don't know, maybe he is getting his powers back… or tapping into his Quincy powers for the first time… either way, don't interfere. This might be just what we need.' Said Bambietta.

The two watched on calmly, as Ichigo dodged the Hollow, only to suffer a small wound.

'Bambi?' Asked Candice curiously.

'Not yet.' Said Bambietta calmly, even as the Hollow was nearly upon Ichigo.

In the next instant, a flash of yellow light was seen and the Hollow was destroyed, leaving Bambietta speechless. Fortunately, Candice was not.

'What the hell was that shit! That was my power! How the hell did he use my power?' Exclaimed Candice.

Bambietta was about to comment, only for a worm-like Hollow to crawl towards Ichigo. Ichigo noticed the Hollow and attempted to escape it, only for the Hollow to quickly wrap around Ichigo and begin to constrict him, causing him to yell out in pain. Bambietta snapped out of her trance, as she saw the Hollow tightening its grip on Ichigo, preparing to consume him, causing her to start gathering Reishi, only to quickly stop, as the Hollow blew up.

'How did that just happen?' Asked Bambietta in shock, as the Reishi she had been gathering dissipated.

-line break-

Ichigo looked on in shock as the bull-like hollow disappeared. Ichigo had no idea what had happened. Ichigo had raised his hands one moment and the Hollow was destroyed in the next. Ichigo struggled back to his feet, looking at his hand in confusion.

'What was that?' Muttered Ichigo, clenching and unclenching his hand slowly.

Ichigo's senses screamed at him to move once again, but with his injured leg, he could barely move and was quickly wrapped up by something. Ichigo cried out in pain, clenching his eyes shut, as he felt his bones and muscles being crushed.

"You've got to be kidding me! First one Hollow, now another! Give me a break, damn it!" Thought Ichigo in annoyance, opening his eyes slightly, to glare at the Hollow.

It was much plainer than the previous Hollow, being completely white, except for its mouth, which was ringed in black. The mouth of the creature opened and gave the signature wail of its species.

"I'm getting really sick of that stupid sound!" Thought Ichigo in annoyance, before an explosion engulfed him.

The smoke from the explosion cleared slowly, revealing Ichigo was now unconscious, but the Hollow, which had been crushing him, was now gone. Ichigo's unconscious body was picked up by Candice and was quickly deposited in his bed, through his window, before she left with Bambietta.

'Well, was that what you were expecting?' Asked Candice quietly.

'I don't understand what happened! How on earth could he use our powers?' Ranted Bambietta.

'No idea, but this was your plan.' Said Candice, crossing her arms over her chest.

'Why are you so calm all of a sudden?' Asked Bambietta in irritation.

'Well, I was only annoyed when I thought he was using my power. Seeing him use yours too was enough to calm me down.' Answered Candice calmly.

'Whatever.' Said Bambietta, with a hint of irritation.

'So what are we going to do now?' Asked Candice.

'… I don't know. I was expecting him to only see spirits and the like again. If he did manifest Quincy powers, I was anticipating a standard bow… not our unique powers that we were granted by our Schrift.' Said Bambietta calmly.

'Well, now that he has powers of some sort… should we reveal the truth yet? About us?' Asked Candice curiously.

'No… definitely not. Although, maybe we did rush things a little. Damn Haschwalth.' Grumbled Bambietta.

'Well, in that case, wouldn't it be a better idea to get closer to him now, now that we know he has the capacity to regain, or already has regained, powers of some sort?' Suggested Candice.

'You read my mind.' Smirked Bambietta.

-line break-

'Ichigo.' Said the same voice Ichigo had heard, during his fight with the Hollow.

'Zangetsu!' Shouted Ichigo into the darkness.

'Ichigo, how have you been?' Asked Zangetsu, appearing in front of Ichigo.

Ichigo blinked and the previous world of black darkness, had turned back into the inner world he was familiar with, full of towering skyscrapers.

'What the hell old man? You know exactly how I've been!' Shouted Ichigo.

Zangetsu smirked a little, surprising Ichigo.

'Yes Ichigo, I do. I'm proud of how you've handled yourself.' Said Zangetsu happily.

'How are you here right now anyway? You said the Final Getsuga Tenshou was the end of my powers.' Asked Ichigo curiously.

'I lied.' Said Zangetsu abruptly, getting Ichigo's jaw to drop, uncharacteristically in shock.

'What do you mean, you lied?' Asked Ichigo in shock.

'Ichigo, do you remember what we told you we wanted to protect?' Asked Zangetsu seriously.

'Me. Even above the things I wanted to protect.' Said Ichigo, getting a nod from his mysterious spirit.

'Yes, and the reason for that was because of what has already been set into motion.' Said Zangetsu.

'So if you're here, does that mean I have all my old powers back now?' Asked Ichigo eagerly.

'No.' Said Zangetsu flatly, causing Ichigo to scowl.

'The powers you displayed, just a few moments before… they were not your powers, Ichigo. You have a different set of powers within you, Ichigo. Even without your Shinigami powers, you are far from powerless.' Said Zangetsu, interrupting Ichigo, before he could protest.

Ichigo silently reflected on Candice's words again.

'Ichigo. I do not wish for you to become embroiled with matters of Hollows and Shinigami. However, our goal has always been to protect you. Today proved, that your powers will not stay dormant within you quietly. I will not have you start using them though. I will supress your powers once again and keep you from using them.' Said Zangetsu, causing Ichigo to prepare to protest once again.

'However… I will help you train them in here with me. Make no mistake. You will not have active powers again… but should an incident like the one before occur again, I do not wish for you to be defeated, due to powerlessness.' Said Zangetsu.

'But why, Zangetsu… why don't you want me to use my powers to help my friends?' Asked Ichigo.

'Ichigo, one day, you will realise that friends are not everything. Family is. Your mother died to protect you. You sacrificed yourself for your friends though and now your siblings are dealing with the consequences.' Said Zangetsu.

Ichigo scowled, recalling his suspicions about Karin being pestered by spirits.

'Ichigo. I will help you become strong, but I will not help you be strong for your friends. I will help you become strong for yourself and your family. You need to learn that your powers carry a heavy burden. Truth be told, this is why I wanted you to break away from the supernatural world altogether, to finally live your life as it should be… as a human. Alas, my wishes have been refused once again, through my own machinations in fact. I could have left you powerless, against those two Hollows, but I couldn't do that. First and foremost, your safety is my priority, but it seems I needed to risk your future safety, for your immediate safety. Mark my words Ichigo, once you start, you can't go back anymore. If you want power, take my hand, but know this, once you do, you will have sealed your future and will be caught up in things on the same level as Aizen. Are you sure this is what you want?' Spoke Zangetsu calmly, extending his right hand to Ichigo.

'I do. I want my powers back.' Said Ichigo, firmly gripping the hand of the spirit, causing his hand to glow.

As Zangetsu pulled his hand away, Ichigo saw a strange object. It featured a silver cross, with a blue pentacle design in the centre of the cross. A long silver chain went through the top of the cross, from both sides of the uppermost section.

'This, Ichigo, was your mother's and it will be the source of your powers from this point on.' Said Zangetsu.

Ichigo looked at the object in his hands in surprise, before feeling his perception of the environment around him start to fade.

'One last word of advice, Ichigo. You would do well to befriend your new neighbours. It might not be apparent now, but the closer you are to the two of them, the stronger your new powers will grow. Farewell for now, Ichigo. Soon… you will see the light.' Said Zangetsu, before Ichigo faded away.