Emptiness, nothingness, barren, and void.
Each of those words was synonyms for another.
Hollow was that word. The man looked down to his swords and felt that they were just that.
Hollow. Filled with nothing but his own power, the former tenants that used to walk his soul were just that. Gone.
Gone with his taint. The taint that poured all over his soul until his demons and the new ones that delved into the deepest pits and reaches of the confines that made his soul exist, simply ceased on trying to take over.
That was because they had already succeeded.
His former demon, his hollow, his former bane of his existence, the former being that made him question his very sanity at some points, Zangetsu, was the only being that held his swords, his life, to himself when the new taint took over and stayed for good this time.
Where had Zangetsu gone? Ichigo had wondered this question. The pale version of himself was still there, somewhere asleep in his soul once more.
Somewhere. That was the only reason he still had his swords, right? Right?
The taint that took over was deceptively beautiful in appearance, its golden outer shell covered his body in such an ethereal glow that it almost, almost, hid its true meaning, its actual meaning being a manifestation of Hell, Tartarus, the Underworld, the abyss, Gehenna, inferno.
The man looked from his swords to his pale skin, the tufts of red fur on his ankles, collar bones, and wrists blowing softly as the fires around him churned. He could feel the mask on his face, the horned abomination that had decimated Ulquiorra to an inch within his hollow life, though that was now just a fleeting memory from so long ago.
But it's only been a few years, the boy reminded himself.
But it felt like centuries.
How long had he been down here though? How long had he seen the fire-lit pits of the home of the sinners?
It's only been a few weeks, though, the man thought.
His final battle with Yhwach had torn through the dimensions of the worlds. It stretched from the Soul King palace to Soul Society, to Hueco Mundo and then to the world of the living. No one could explain why several dozen mile-wide craters were present on several continents or why unexplained tidal waves rocked the island countries or the coasts of larger ones. The final destination was Hell itself, the very place where Ichigo had step foot in not two years earlier.
But it seemed that when Ichigo had set foot in Hell, sent crashing more like it, the very area around him churned with every step, as if the place remembered him.
But as of now that was a fleeting memory.
As Ichigo turned around, his long, very long, bright orange hair flew around him. He had grown accustomed to its length during these last few weeks of solitude.
However, he wasn't exactly alone as sinners would reach up from the infernos, bathed in both fire and chains. They tried to grab onto him at a fleeting sign of hope but an almost unintentional swing of one of his swords would put an end to that. At first Ichigo had been frightened and terrified of the sight.
He wanted nothing to do with these evil beings. They were in Hell for a reason.
He had paused the first time he thought of that statement.
Was he in Hell for a reason?
Ichigo looked back to the giant Quincy cross, several hundred stories high and yards thick that loomed in the background of Hell now, reaching up to the lightning filled, fire ridden skies above. It was a testament to the power the Quincy king held.
But even the mighty, or Almighty have to fall at some point.
After the battle, Ichigo had tried to open a Senkaimon.
The key word, tried.
He had freaked out and then tried to open a Garganta.
He tried and tried for days (weeks?) to open one or the other until he gave up. There was also no true system in which he could tell time either.
The man never grew hungry or tired as he wore the golden armor of Hell, the very armor that he believed that allowed him victory over the Quincy King.
What best to fell the Almighty or the Alpha than the Omega?
The armor he wore shook lightly at that thought.
Ichigo shrugged at that. The Kushanada that had been absorbed to make the armor must have still had conscious thought he assumed, and it did not like its home being insulted.
For the current moment Ichigo wore nothing save the bottom half of his shihakusho. His physical appearance however, was off putting. His skin was a sickly pale white, though another noticeable feature was the hole seen through and through his body. It did not hurt, nor did it ache. It was simply empty.
From the hole spanned several thick black lines, four of them, two on either side, stretched from the hole across his muscular chest and to his back. The other two stretched from the upper portion of the hole up to his neck and to the most frightening portion of his current condition.
The mask had jagged teeth and looked like a skull as it encased Ichigo's entire head. It was as white as his skin and had the marking that reached up his neck go over the eyes and to the back of the mask. Though the final additions to the mask were the two razor-sharp horns that protruded from either side of his head and jut forward sharply.
The man looked down to gold he wore on his body, his entire left arm encased in gold plating as well as his pectorals though his hollow hole was still visible as a golden skull was split in two to present it. It went down the left side of his abdomen and had a tooth-like tasset that covered his left hip and went down his right leg and around to the middle of his buttocks.
He looked downright terrifying to anyone, be they alive, dead, or damned.
Ichigo sat down with his sword and trench knife beside him. The brimstone he sat upon did not feel hot in any way. Was it that he had gotten used to the feeling of the heat? No. Maybe because to him and not the sinners in the inferno itself, the brimstone and obsidian was cool to his touch and his alone?
He shook his head at that.
Maybe it was his hierro? The very thing that when combined with his blut vene, former blut vene, made his skin stronger than any alloy? No, he could still feel heat.
Maybe Hell was considerate of his stay there?
No, it was Hell. Even the name sounded bad.
Why didn't this place let him leave? What did this place want from him?
The orange-haired teen gazed at the hell in front of him with his sickly yellow and black eyes. Lightning crackled above him. Magma spewed from the brimstone. Fire bathed most residents here, the eternal brands of chains forever engraved and chiseled onto their burnt skin.
He just wanted to go home…
Kisuke Urahara sighed for the umpteenth time as he typed away at a reiatsu scanning computer.
What had happened in the final battle between Yhwach, the Almighty, and Ichigo Kurosaki? After the two had broken through the Dangai, nothing could be found of the two aside from the aftermath of their battle in the mortal world, Hueco Mundo, the Soul King Palace, and Soul Society.
If anything, Kisuke was mildly proud of his student as he could match the almighty Yhwach. The several-mile-wide craters around the world were a testament to the power both he and the Quincy King, former king that is, had.
The craters appeared, thankfully in unpopulated areas such as the Sahara, the deserts of Arizona, the unpopulated forests of Canada, the Alps, Greenland, the middle of the Atlantic, and Pacific, the Australian desert, the Himalayas, the flats of China, Siberia, the Congo, the Andes mountains, the list went on and on until the two of them broke through to Hueco Mundo.
Kisuke had, however, grimaced as the two of those transcendent beings seemed to travel throughout the world within hours, upsetting much more than the mortal populace.
The aftermath of the battle in the mortal world resulted in tidal waves that rocked the coasts of most countries but the mortality rate was kept down due to the supernatural forces intervention. Inland, however, while most areas were unpopulated, some backwater towns were destroyed.
After than the shifting of sands in Hueco Mundo and the rearrangement of some of the Menos forest, the grey desert went mostly untouched.
Though the surviving Arrancar such as Grimmjow, Halibel, Starrk, Neliel, and Ulquiorra, (not so much the latter two), had something to say about the shifting of their home though the two transcendent combatants didn't stay in Hueco Mundo long, thankfully as they had neared Las Noches.
But after that, the two were gone.
Vanished, and went up in smoke as they pushed through the last barrier they could push through, the gates of hell.
Kisuke had guessed that Ichigo and Yhwach had ended up in Hell and prompted to open a gate to the dimension.
Only to find that he could not.
Both he and several others had attempted to open the gate to the inferno but all had failed.
Shunsui had messaged the current rulers and had gotten no response from them so now all Kisuke could do is find another way to the forlorn dimension or wait.
Kisuke never really liked waiting either.
The light-blonde haired scientist rubbed his temples as he attempted to even find the Substitute but it seemed that the scanners he had set up two years during the first incursion to Hell weren't picking up on any anomalies.
Was it that Ichigo's power was far too great to be sensed by any sensors as it had been when he had fought Aizen?
No, no, that couldn't be right. It was technology, not the senses breathing shinigami and hollows had. It should be able to detect any anomaly, right?
Meanwhile in the room adjacent to Kisuke's , Yoruichi stretched as she lay on her bed, gazing blankly at the ceiling. She wore nothing but her Omnitsukido uniform and black, baggy pants with her hair tied up like it usually was.
The woman turned her head to the right to see the still body of Ichigo Kurosaki, the boy's body had its eyes closed and it was steadily breathing. It also had a steady heartbeat and from what Yoruichi had gathered, that meant that the soul of Ichigo was still out there. Though it looked the exact same as it did those weeks ago when he left for Soul Society.
Yoruichi looked back to the ceiling as she muttered one word.
Why did he constantly have to shoulder everything himself? He was still a boy to her, to everyone in the Soul Society, to his father, but he had done so much in the short span of his eighteen years of life.
She assumed that Yhwach was dead as he hadn't come to kill everyone but she still simply wished that her student would come home himself. His family missed him, his friends missed him, she missed him, and Urahara did as well.
Though she simply thought that Urahara missed someone he could annoy.
The former Shihoin head simply sighed lightly as she closed her eyes. Perhaps a nap would do some good.
"This meeting of the thirteen court guard squads is hereby come to order!"
The Soul Society was left in shambles after the Thousand Year Blood War.
Thousands of Shinigami were dead or MIA, billions of Kan in damages, some of which was still going on though the Rukongai, save for three several mile-wide barren craters, was relatively untouched, and the Gotei thirteen were down two Captains.
It would have been four captains if Isane, the Lieutenant of the Fourth Division to show up at the conclusion of Unohana's and Kenpachi's death battle to heal the both of them.
The only two captains the Thirteen Court-Guard Squads had lost had been the Thirteen Captain, Jushiro Ukitake, as the Captain bravely replaced himself with the soul king after Yhwach had been pushed from the palace. And the other casualty of course had been the previous Captain Commander Genryusai Shigekuni Yamamoto.
Both Unohana and Shunsui had been grieving for days after the saw Jushiro become encased in the crystal the previous soul king had been encased in.
Another evaded casualty was Sajin Komamura as his lieutenant Iba Tetsuzaemon had carried him back to Sajin's great grandfather to plead for the latter's heart back. Sajin's grandfather, however, had simply chuckled and then proceeded to gouge his own heart out before he used it to heal Sajin by replacing it with his own though the seventh division captain kept his more human appearance. One decisive drawback, however, was that Sajin lost his immortality.
Afterwards, Sajin's grandfather died shortly after and Sajin then proceeded to help in the undoing of Gerard Valkyrie, The Miracle.
Other than the intensive care some lieutenants were in, Izuru Kira being one of them, most of the upper rankings of the Gotei 13 did not suffer as it was mostly underlings that had lost their lives in the conflict with the Quincy.
The Quincy faction, however, was reduced to several dozen as Uryu Ishida had taken up the title of leader of the Quincies. Shunsui had recognized their efforts in defeating the king and his elite guard so he had let them escape with their lives. Though after some, ehem, mild pleading on Inoue Orihime's part (Shunsui liked to think of it as seduction) Uryu was allowed to live his human life under surveillance.
With the Court of Pure Souls, or Central 46, disbanded for the time being as Military rule had not been lifted from the Soul Society as a whole, Shunsui could make these decisions himself.
Though back to the matter at hand, Shunsui looked at the Captains, his Captains and scanned them. Each of them looked relatively unchanged, save for new scars or Unohana's opting to wear her braid on her back rather than her front. Kenpachi had also opted to take the bells out of his hair and had taken off his eyepatch, saying that he refused to hold himself back anymore.
The only openings the court guard squads had now were Eighth Division's lieutenant and Captain positions and the Captain position for Squad Thirteen. Rukia would have been chosen for the promotion however she still needed training with her bankai as she had only attained not one month prior.
Shunsui cleared his throat.
"What are the reports on the reconstruction and recruitment of the divisions?" He asked with his usual lax tone somewhat evident as he leaned back in his chair with a lazy look in his eyes as the Inoue girl had also healed his wounds. He was garbed in his usual attire with his pink kimono covering his division one haori. He also had his usual straw hat tilted to the side. The lazy Captain Commander looked to Soi-Fon to report first.
"Division two is fully repaired though we are somewhat lacking staff. Though the new recruits from the academies look promising," she told the captain commander with authority present in her own voice.
"Division three is also fully repaired and while we did suffer many losses, and current soldiers are still shaken, we have an abundance of requests to join from the academy," Rose reported calmly.
Unohana was next. "Division four is still undergoing repairs but we have discharged most former patients and they are reporting to their former duty stations."
"All casualties have been accounted for and division five and our area of the Seireitei have been completely repaired," Shinji said blandly.
"Division six barracks have been repaired and recruitment has been going smoothly," Byakuya reported with closed eyes.
"Recruitment from the academy has been slow but as of now it is no issue. Repairs are nearly completed," Sajin responded with pride, the seventh division Captain's long white hair flowing freely behind his back.
Kensei spoke next, his ninth division haori thrown over his shoulder. "Repairs have been slow but recruitment has been moderately successful. Complete repairs should be done within two weeks. The workers from the Rukongai have really been helping out."
Ah, a political move by Shunsui. As reparation for not explaining the craters in Rukongai, he opened the doors to the Seireitei for the first time in the Soul Society's history. It worked fantastically as when he told the leaders of the organizations in the Rukongai that piece, their eyes lit up like the brightest of suns.
"Repairs are nearly completed but recruiting is slow," Toshiro Hitsugaya elaborated briefly.
Kenpachi Zaraki spoke next though the tone he had was one of complete and utter boredom. "Recruitment is fine, repairs are done."
"There were nearly no repairs to be made in the twelfth division but apparently this year's academy students are comprised of idiots," Mayuri told the Soutaichou (Captain Commander) with disdain in his voice.
Shunsui nodded at this, not at Mayuri's rude comment, but the reports. Good, this was very good. He already had a couple possible captain position recruits to take up the position and soon the Gotei 13 would be stronger than ever.
That was also when Shunsui groaned.
If he wanted to be as powerful as the old man, he'd really have to step up his game.
Speaking of overpowered individuals, where had Ichigo-kun gone to? As a matter of fact, was the boy even successful in bringing the Quincy King down?
From what Shunsui had knew he had broken through the dangai and to Hell after taking pit stops along with Yhwach through every other connected dimension.
He had heard from Kisuke that he had been unable to open the portal to Hell and so Shunsui had tried himself, but he had also failed in the endeavor.
It was as if someone had closed off those places from the inside and Shunsui had deduced that the only way for Ichigo to get out of hell was to open it from the inside, if the inferno had not claimed him, that is, but the Captain Commander sincerely hoped that wasn't the case.
Shunsui sighed as he leaned forward and rubbed his temples.
"Mayuri, is there any progress on opening the gates to Hell?" questioned Shunsui as he allowed his gaze to travel to the deranged, yet effective, Captain of the twelfth division.
Captain Kurotsuchi snorted. "No, even trying to forcefully open the gate from within the Dangai has not been a success," he reported in an annoyed tone. Unohana took offense to this and looked to the Captain, her eyes suddenly turning cold and dead.
"Kurotsuchi-taicho, need I remind you that you are addressing the Soutaicho? You should use respect," she said to him, the peaceful aura that she used to emanate had been gone ever since her confrontation with Zaraki.
Now she only emanated death to those she chose.
Kurotsuchi's eyes widened as the cold chill of fear crept over him. "F-Forgive me, Soutaicho." It seemed that he was not used to addressing others, or rather Shunsui, with respect.
Said Captain Commander simply waved him off as Unohana left off with her killing intent.
From across the room, Kenpachi grinned as he felt the killing intent his new, yet second favorite, sparring partner put out. Ichigo was still number one in his book. And Zaraki knew he would get his eventually.
"And what of the repairs being done to the dangai, Kido Corps Commander, Shusuke Amagai?" Shunsui asked as he turned his head to the right to see the newly appointed Commander with a pleasant smile on his face.
Unlike Yamamoto, and this was one of the few things he disliked about the old man, was that he was too caught up in tradition. He had not reformed the Kido Corps because they did things by themselves too much, which Shigekuni believed led Tessai, the former Kido Corps Commander, to defect with Urahara.
While this was a logical train of thought, Shunsui thought it was time to give that division another chance.
Shusuke Amagai had disheveled features as his off-blue hair seemed ragged looking. The man had hazel-colored eyes and had slight stubble on his chin. He wore the standard shihakusho with a captain's haori with the symbol for the Kido corps on the back.
"The Dangai is fully repaired though we are working on a new cleaner, Captain Commander," Shusuke responded, inclining his head slightly in the direction of Shunsui.
Shunsui nodded. "Good, good."
The following moments were met with silence. No one moved.
Shunsui and looked around and raised a brow.
"Why the hell are you all still standing around?"
Nanou Ise, his lieutenant coughed beside him.
"Kyoraku-Soutaicho, you need to dismiss them," she told him with a small whisper.
Shunsui made an 'oh' sound before he grumbled. He really needed to get into the swing of things.
Ichigo walked and walked.
He didn't know where he was going. He kept his eyes to the ground as he moved so that he wouldn't fall into lava and because he practically knew what was going to be ahead of him.
More fire and more brimstone. Just like the rest of this place.
"This is the place where you will fall my wayward son!"
Ichigo cringed as he remembered Yhwach's voice.
"This is it! The fires around us will become your resting place as I ascend the throne and claim what is mine from my accursed father!"
Ichigo stopped walking as he closed his eyes and grit his teeth.
"I am above you, Kurosaki Ichigo! I know everything that you will do, and every outcome ends in your demise! So come at me with all you have so that I may crush you! You are Quincy no more and I will feel no remorse for ending you."
The man clutched his weapons as they shook within his hands.
"H-How are you controlling these fires? How did you obtain that armor?! Why are you beating me!?"
It wasn't fair. Why was he still here, still wearing this armor, this wretched armor, when Yhwach obtained passage to whatever afterlife he was able to, when Ichigo was still there?! It wasn't fair!
"No! NO! Why did I not foresee this? Why? Why?!"
The man shifted his body around in a flurry of rage and flung his weapons about, the reiatsu within them being unleashed from the blades for the first time in weeks. Massive, gargantuan waves of pure, black and gold energy erupted from the edges of the swords. Ichigo continued to scream, his voice being distorted from the mask he was wearing causing gusts of wind to be picked up by his agony ridden sounds of pain alone.
Unconsciously, a red orb of destruction began to charge between his horns as he turned to the giant Quincy cross in the distance.
"So, for the second time, I fall into a slumber. It is all because of you… you monster. Hell, the very thing that I as the almighty did not see as a development in my plans, was the tool for your victory. Remember…you did not win this fight. Hell did. Just as it has succeeded in Claiming you. You vile, wretched beast. Just by wearing that armor you are no longer the protector you desire to be. No…I foresee that you will be the one who destroys all that he would want to protect. I pray for the world as I look at you, Kurosaki Ichigo."
The orb between Ichigo's horns began to grow larger and larger until it was five times the man's size. It's golden outlines sparked onto the fiery ground, disintegrating it before a moment of silence fell over the field of the inferno.
Once again, Ichigo screamed. If anyone would have heard him, they would have feared his vocal cords would have shredded themselves at the amount of stress he was putting them under.
The giant cero ripped through the fields of Gehenna as it rocketed towards Yhwach's symbol of power.
On impact the cero decimated with no discretion the entirety of the cross' upper half. The cero continued onwards towards the sky of Hell before Ichigo kept firing it, pouring all his rage, his hate, onto the very being that wouldn't let him leave this place, the being that left him down there.
Explosions rocked Hell as several, mile-wide eruptions made themselves known, the outer lands of Hell being lit aflame anew by Ichigo's power.
After moments of Ichigo discharging his cero, the inferno fell silent once more as the power between his horns left him.
Ichigo stood as the quakes that shoot beneath his feet lessened themselves; the long tresses of hair that flowed behind him slowly stilled themselves as the explosions dissipated. Yet Ichigo could see no difference in Hell. If anything, Ichigo had made it even more hellish.
It was the same as always.
Ichigo also glared hatefully at the halved Quincy cross as it slowly began to rebuild itself from the reiatsu around him. Blue spirit particles began to make themselves into stone as the cross slowly but surely began to stand tall once more.
Ichigo let a growl escape his throat.
It was the same as always.
Moments later a surprisingly energetic sinner jumped up from the lake of fire next to Ichigo. This simply only proved to piss Ichigo off even more.
A growl escaped his throat as he crossed his swords and slashed at the sinner which was bathed in fire, chains, and burning skin, the swords not even making contact with it.
"Oh piss off!" Ichigo let the guttural sound escape his throat as he destroyed the sinner in one fell swoop, the body parts from the damned soul being ripped from each other and landing several hundred yards away in other parts of the lake of fire.
Ichigo panted as the sinner caught the sharp end of his aggression.
However moments later, Ichigo's golden eyes widened to their fullest as a pair of purple doors adorned in chains and skeletons on either side appeared before him in a flash of fire.
Ichigo shook as the doors began to open, and unlike before, so much time ago, no eye or scythe greeted him. The only thing that greeted him was a path made of fire that led into darkness.
With a shaky step, Ichigo walked forward and into the fiery black abyss.
As the man made his was onwards, piece by piece of golden armor began to fall off of him and onto the path before they dissipated in a burst of spirit particles.
Eventually they each fell off until all that was left was his pale skin and horned mask but Ichigo had the feeling that those things were going to stay permanently.
The man continued to walk on the path until he saw a light at the end of the pathway he was walking on. The light gradually grew brighter and brighter as he drew neared until he came upon a doorway that glowed with seemingly physical light.
Ichigo hesitated slightly as he outstretched the hand with the trench knife and touched the light. It did not hurt nor did it feel like, well, anything. And with a baited breath he pushed forward to see himself in a forest overlooking Karakura town.
The orange haired man breathed in a long, deep breath and smiled under his mask for the first time in weeks.
He was home.
For over an hour Kisuke had the hairs on the back of his neck sticking upward and they had not a care in the world.
He had the feeling of dread creep over him and he didn't even know why.
Kisuke's first thought was that he had left the over on but after he was sure that it was turned off, he was completely stumped. Did he miss Yoruichi's birthday?
No, that wasn't for another few months at least.
So, what was it?
Kisuke shook his head. It was useless to think of these things. There was no real danger so he had to focus on getting Kurosaki Ichigo back to his family and friends.
Moments later there were a few knocks at the door to his little shop.
It must've been Ishida Uryu. The defacto Quincy leader had checked in more often that most nowadays for Ichigo's whereabouts. That must've also been why Kisuke had not sensed any reiatsu at the door.
Kisuke was busy typing, trying to code his machine differently so that it could try at discern different types of reiatsu in Hell.
"Yoruichi! Can you get that?" Kisuke called out, not looking away from his monitor. Tessai, Jinta, and Ururu were each out getting groceries at the moment so it was only him and Yoruichi currently.
Kisuke received no response from the neko woman.
The blonde man grumbled. Damn cat must've been asleep.
In a huff, Kisuke stood up swiftly and grabbed his cane before he began to make his way to the door.
As the blonde grew closer to the door, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up even straighter than they had previously. The dread he felt increased tenfold as he rounded the corner to the door only to see Yoruichi standing there with wide eyes and the door was opened.
Kisuke briefly questioned why she was simply standing there only for his mouth to run dry at the being with pure white skin standing in the doorway, black markings, two swords, and long, orange hair. Another predominant feature was the hollow hole proudly presented in his chest seen through and through.
The longest sword was on the man's back, tied to his torso with black fabric and the shorter of the two was at his hip.
Both Yoruichi and Kisuke's mouths ran dry as the hollow, as they could discern, reached up to its mask and removed it slowly to reveal the face of Ichigo Kurosaki with golden and black eyes displayed illustriously. Or rather forcefully, though that depended on who beheld them.
Ichigo looked at the two of them and smiled though he could tell they were shocked at his appearance. His small smile disappeared and he coughed, gaining their attention.
"I guess we need to talk."
"This is indeed troubling," Kisuke mumbled as he looked at the orange-haired man. One thing he wouldn't let the supposed Shinigami Substitute know was that those golden and black eyes unnerved the hell out of him.
He, Yoruichi, and Ichigo sat across from each other in living room-esque are in the Shoten shop. Ichigo sat cross legged with his mask on the table. Ichigo already knew that removing the mask did little for him except let people look at this actual face. Kisuke had thought that would revert him back to his original form but for once, the sandy-blonde shopkeeper was wrong.
Perhaps Zangetsu had turned Ichigo into a hollow in last-ditch effort to save him from Hell's clutches?
"You don't think I know that, Kisuke?" Ichigo snapped back irritably with a scowl on his face, using Urahara's first name for a change to show he was upset.
Yoruichi simply gazed at the floor in thought. With how long Ichigo had been in Hell, had it changed him more than physically?
"How long have you been…like this, Ichigo-kun?" Yoruichi asked as she gazed at him making his eyes snap to her making the woman flinch subconsciously at the intensity.
Ichigo noticed the flinch if only barely and sighed before he answered. "It was in the middle of my fight with Yhwach, just about as soon as the armor of Hell attached itself to me," Ichigo responded.
Kisuke's eyes widened as well as Yoruichi's. They had both heard of Ichigo's previous endeavor into hell two years ago and from his account, Hell had helped him in defeating Kokuto by adorning him in golden armor.
Moments later Kisuke spoke. "Is that how you defeated Yhwach?" he asked finally which Ichigo looked at the ground.
He knew it wasn't his power that defeated the former Quincy King, it was Hell's. Ichigo merely acted as the wielder for the sword which belonged to Hell.
Ichigo scowled even harder as he nodded.
Kisuke nodded to himself while Yoruichi simply frowned once more.
"How long was I down there?" Ichigo asked abruptly. "I couldn't tell, but it had been a while," Ichigo asked while Kisuke nodded once more. Hell didn't have a day or night cycle from what he could tell from the data.
"You were down there for twenty three human days," Kisuke responded while Ichigo's eyes widened slightly. He had been in Hell for that long?
Kisuke had also gathered from other witnesses, Uryu, Renji, and Rukia, that it was a few moments after Ichigo had defeated Kokuto that the armor left him. So, going on a hunch, Kisuke decided to ask if the armor had left him after his battle.
"Ichigo," Kisuke called the Substitute's name, gartering his attention, "how long was the armor attached to you during your excursion?" he asked making Ichigo's eyes go towards the floor. If Kisuke didn't know any better, he would have assumed that Ichigo was ashamed to answer.
Moments passed before Ichigo answered. "…Up until I was walking in the portal home."
Kisuke's eyes widened. The armor had been attached for twenty three days instead of a few minutes this time?
Minutes passed in silence as Kisuke ran scenarios through his head, but he still couldn't shake the feeling of dread he had felt. He did, however, snap from his musings as Ichigo stood abruptly and began to make to make his way to the back of the store where his body was located after picking up his mask.
"What are you doing, Ichigo?" Kisuke as he stood as well while Yoruichi sat at the table, absent-mindedly looking at it, seemingly lost in thought.
"I'm going to get my body, Urahara," Ichigo responded tiredly as he opened the door only for Kisuke to put a hand on his shoulder.
"Ichigo we don't know what you entering your body will do to it. Please, just give me a little time to analyze this so I can make it to where you safely enter your body, alright?" Urahara pleaded slightly only for Ichigo to remove the blonde man's hand from his shoulder, the Kurosaki's clawed hand sending shivers down Kisuke's spine.
"Urahara," Ichigo spoke making both Kisuke and Yoruichi look at him as Ichigo turned around to look at them. Their eyes widened as they saw the dull and lifeless golden color of them. Ichigo seemed so tired. "I…I just want to go home."
Kisuke's eyes widened as his arm dropped to his side like a limp pile of flesh while Yoruichi closed her own golden eyes and pulled her knees up to her face and buried it in them.
Ichigo was still so young. He was eighteen and had seen two wars within three years of one another. The Winter War was no one giant battle to end all battles. After Ichigo's subsequent invasion of Hueco Mundo to save Orihime, both Aizen and Soul Society had geared up for war. Many skirmishes were fought on both sides. Aizen had tried to invade Soul Society but failed as he had already lost four Espada.
Likewise, Soul Society invaded Las Noches but failed as Aizen had used the Hogyoku to transform countless Menos Grande into arrancars, while mindless, they put up quite the fight to unseated Shinigami.
It ended as the Captains and Espada as well as the majority of their troops fought in a long, hard battle against each other in Soul Society, far from the Seireitei.
The war was long, lasting five months, and it was hard on the Substitute. Time and time again he was called to help assist in defense or offense. He had even lead contingents of Soul Reapers as there were still unmanned Captain positions, but he had seen some of them cut down before his very eyes as he was fighting his own battles and couldn't protect them. Sometimes he lost entire units on missions when he wasn't fast enough to protect them.
Of course he was trained by other captains to lead, and Yamamoto was against this at first but was eventually pressed into him becoming a leader of some kind.
The Thousand year blood war was the same though it lasted a month less that the other. But it was three times as bloody. Thousands more unseated and seated Soul Reapers were lost in the conflict and again, Ichigo had seen war that reshaped landscapes.
And in both of those wars he was eventually pit against the strongest on either side. And by a hair, he had come out the victor either times.
To keep up Ichigo's human appearances during these times, Kisuke had a mod soul act as Ichigo for the time being so that he wouldn't get kicked out of school.
Yoruichi felt guilt overcome her at these thoughts. Ichigo was still young, much too young for this. These events could shape his entire life into becoming detached war veteran. She sighed heavily. The only thing that could help him would be to be there for him, just like his family would be.
Ichigo walked to the back of the shop to see his body lying there, breathing steadily with closed eyes.
He smiled as he looked at his old appearance. He cringed at the thought of him having to look like this all the time.
Ichigo walked over to his body before entered it slowly.
For the first time in over two months Ichigo entered his body and he could tell it felt loads more different than when he was in his spirit form. The man slowly raised his hands up to reveal his peach-colored skin once more and he smiled slightly.
Ichigo slowly stood up which resounded in a multitude of cracks and pops echoing from his joints and bones. His muscles stretched themselves for the first time in weeks and it felt positively amazing for the young man. He currently wore a white tee with the number fifteen above his heart in black, khaki skinny jeans, and white sneakers.
Moments later he walked out and stretched his arms above his head while walking back into the living area. Urahara and Yoruichi both eyed the teen, the former with a small frown but it soon etched itself into a small grin while the latter of the two sent a smile towards him.
"I'll see you guys later," Ichigo said with a more upbeat tone of voice this time as he walked past the two to the entrance of the Shoten.
"See us soon, Kurosaki-kun," Kisuke said jovially as he moved to the other room to send a message to Soul Society.
And to run through many different events that ran through his head. He would prepare proper countermeasures if the events he thought were going to transpire were going to happen.
He wasn't labeled as a special war power by a being far more powerful than he was for no reason. Kisuke knew outright that his mind was his greatest weapon and he would use it to help his most prized student if he could.
He wouldn't tell Benehime that of course.
Just as Ichigo opened the door, Yoruichi hugged him from behind making Ichigo raise his eyebrows in surprise at the gesture.
"I wanna know how my student defeated Yhwach in detail sometime later, alright, berry-kun?" she said in a muffled voice.
Ichigo smiled. She truly had missed him. He even disregarded the misuse of his name…for now.
"Of course, kitty-chan," he grinned towards her as she let go of him after hitting him on the back lightly.
Ichigo chuckled as he sent a backhanded wave towards Yoruichi and headed home.
Ichigo wouldn't let loose the smile he wore as he made his way towards his home. Even though he had arrived back in Karakura town mere hours ago, Hell seemed like such a distant memory.
He would say hello to his friends later, now, he just wanted to hug his sisters and land a hit on his asshole father.
He traversed the streets towards his home like he had done for the past eighteen years. It still felt so alien to him, so unreal. But he was still happy.
When Ichigo arrived at his house he saw his dad's car parked in front so that meant he was home. And add to the fact that the sun was getting dimmer; his sisters should've been home as well.
Ichigo walked up and raised a fist to knock on the door. He hesitated, if only slightly before the door opened itself to reveal Karin with a soccer ball in one hand and cell phone talking to someone in the other. The fourteen year old girl had turned around when she opened the door to put on her shoes and clearly hadn't noticed him. She wore a black tee shirt and white shorts that ended just above the knee as well as black sneakers.
"Yeah, yeah, I know I'm running late for practice, but I'll be there in a few. Yes, I'm bringing a spare ball-," Karin had turned around at this point and had noticed the new presence. Her eyes widened as she looked at the smiling form of her brother.
Ichigo could hear the other person on the other end calling Karin's name but said girl was currently gaping like a fish.
Seconds later Karin responded. "Yeah, uh, I don't think I'll be able to make it to practice today," she said, not even bothering to wait for a response as she promptly hung up the cell phone.
She dropped the ball as Ichigo continued to smile.
"Hey there, Karin," he said in his deep baritone voice as the black-haired girl leapt at him in a surprising show of affection.
Moments later Karin pulled away as she called for Yuzu.
"Yuzu! C'mere!" Karin shouted as she and Ichigo entered the house.
The other twin rounded the corner from the kitchen wearing a pink apron above a pink tee, black pants and no shoes or socks. Her eyes widened as tears spilled from them moments later as she ran at her big brother with a large smile on her face.
Ichigo accepted the hugs from his little sisters as he picked them both up with a grand bear hug.
Behind them Isshin crossed his arms and smiled at his children.
He had heard neither hide nor hair from Ichigo after he had left for Soul Society a month ago. Usually the Substitute checked in once in a while but he had heard nothing from him and Ichigo's siblings were beginning to worry. The only indication he had was that Ichigo's last known location was Hell battling Yhwach.
But his son was home and that was all that mattered.
Ichigo smiled down at his sisters as they lay on either side of him, their heads resting on his thighs with smiles on their faces. The Shinigami was sitting on the couch and it was around eleven at night. He was watching television but it was getting late if his yawn had any indication about it.
Adjacent from him, Isshin sat on a chair, looking at the three of his children, a small smile directed to them. He was happy his son was home where they could be a family again.
Isshin coughed gaining Ichigo's attention.
"I'm glad you're home, my boy," he said while Ichigo nodded with a small smile in place.
"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," Ichigo responded.
Another hour passed and Isshin was passed out in the chair he was sitting in and Ichigo could feel himself nodding off as well. It was time for bed he assumed.
Ichigo gingerly picked up both of his sisters and carried them to bed like he used to when they were little, though they were still little to him as his frame of 6'1'' towered over their 5' easily.
The orange haired man laid Karin down first, kissing her forehead softly before he made his way to Yuzu's room, doing the same to her as well. But he didn't notice the thin sheen of sweat forming its way over her skin.
Ichigo smiled as he made his way to his room and shed his clothes 'til he was down to his black boxers. He then sifted through his drawers and pulled out clothes until he was finally garbed in a black wife-beater and red sweatpants. The shinigami fell onto his bed with an 'oompf' before he put his arms behind his head and closed his eyes.
Things truly couldn't get any better right then.
Ichigo had never been more right in that very moment.
"Mayuri-sama!" a scientist called out frantically as alarms blared throughout the 12th division's barracks.
"What is it?! Have you discovered who opened the gate to Hell? And what are the reverberating shockwaves of Hell's energy coming from?!" he shouted to his subordinate who typed away frantically at a computer.
"Yes, I believe so!" the unnamed squad 12 member said. "Ichigo Kurosaki opened the gates from inside Hell! And the cause for the energy fluctuations is by the Substitute himself!"
Mayuri's eyes widened before they narrowed. "Get me the Soutaicho immediately! We need to send a message to the Royal Guard!"
Next Morning: Karakura Town…
Ichigo awoke to the sun shining on his face. Slowly he yawned before he opened his eyes and blinked.
Once, twice, three times before he realized he was in his bed for the first time in months.
The orange-haired man smiled once more as he sat up and put his feet on the ground before stretching.
The man looked out his window to see the sun shining. It looked like it was almost noon.
Had I really slept for twelve hours? He questioned himself before he shook his head free of the thoughts. Moments later her stood up and made his way to the bathroom.
Might as well get a shower and start my day, he thought as he flipped on the bathroom light, not even bothering to look in the mirror as he began to shed his clothes after shutting the door. Soon enough he stood nude as he started the shower. The man outstretched a hand and turned the walk in shower to let it warm up. However there was one thing that caught his eye and the appendage he used to turn the shower on.
Did I get…paler? He thought as he looked at his once sun-kissed skin only for it to now be several shades paler. It wasn't chalk white like his…hollow form…
His eyes widened.
Ichigo whipped around fast enough he could feel his head spin from the action. His eyes widened to their fullest as he looked at his appearance.
The man leant forward and let a furious visage of anger cross his face as he looked onto his once amber eyes only for them to have the same golden color as his spiritual form's eyes. He stretched his bottom eyelid downward as he looked at the dull gold, flecked with the old amber of his eyes though his scleras were not black. He then looked down at his skin and immediately looked away.
The markings his hollow form had were now on his chest, originating from the pale skin instead of a hollow hole this time though it was still in a circular fashion. They reach around to his back and up to his neck, stopping just below his jaw where his mask would usually complete them.
Ichigo's right fist twitched itself into a fist as he let loose a mighty roar, shattering the mirror with his fist.
I should have waited…Kisuke might have been able to figure something out…
"Damnit!" he cursed as he withdrew his fist however the curse was not from pain, but the appendage was steadily dripping blood though Ichigo briefly wondered that it should have been bleeding more that it was. Though that thought was vacated from the man's head as soon as it came.
Ichigo furrowed his brows in frustration as he looked at the broken mirror once more, the grinning visage of Zangetsu appearing behind him though Ichigo knew that was just because of the resemblance he now bore to him.
Ichigo shook his head. Zangetsu had a reason to turn him into a hollow. He wouldn't blame his Zanpakuto's late or sleeping spirit for his own weakness. Ichigo eventually got into the shower and began to slowly clean himself. However for some time he simply stood in the water and let it cascade down his pale form.
How would he explain this to his sisters? How would he explain this to his father let alone anyone in Soul Society?
Ichigo grit his teeth as he turned the running water off. The man reached for a towel and began to dry himself off at a sedated pace before he put on his boxers and put his other dirty clothes in the hamper.
Putting the towel around his shoulders, Ichigo looked at the shattered mirror once more as well as his reflection. He scowled and closed his eyes and made his way to his room, hoping that neither of his sisters or father would be on the second floor of the house. He really wanted to avoid them at the moment as they would ask too many questions. Or notice the mirror before he could replace it.
Ichigo himself needed to come to terms with the changes first as he still fully hadn't accepted them.
Luckily both of his siblings and father were not there so he was unhindered in going to his room.
The man quickly changed into a pair of light blue jeans, black tee, and a brown jacket with fur around the hood. He looked at his reflection in his mirror in his bed room and looked away.
Seconds later he heard a crash and scream from downstairs, the scream belonging to Karin.
Ichgio's eyes widened as he bolted downstairs in search for his sisters, noticing that he could see Karin kneeling at the entrance to the kitchen. That meant that Yuzu had fallen.
Ichigo quickly made his way over and knelt down beside Karin to see Yuzu on her side facing away from him, shaking slightly. There were a few broken plates beside her so Ichigo had figured that, that was the noise he had heard.
He looked to see Karin frozen up as she looked at her sister on the ground. Ichigo shook his head and grabbed Karin by the shoulders, forcing her to look at him.
"Karin! What happened? Why is Yuzu on the floor?" He asked her, his deep voice making her look at him only for her eyes to widen as she looked at him.
Ichigo shook her again as she noticed her looking at him. "Karin, I don't give a fuck what I look like! What happened!?" he raised his voice at her making her tear her eyes away from him.
"I-I was watching T.V. and Yuzu had been looking sick all m-morning but other than that she seemed fine, but then I noticed a b-black chain coming from her chest and she fell to the floor," Karin elaborated as Ichigo's eyes widened once more as he let go of Karin and slowly rolled Yuzu towards him. His eyes began to water as he looked at the familiar chain of Hell that she had possessed years ago, pale skin that looked like she lost blood and dead eyes.
No…no! It's not fucking fair! How did this happen?! It is because of me!? Did I do this because of me being down there for so long?! WHY?!
Ichigo's mind a thousand miles a minute as he tried to process why this was happening. He hadn't even noticed Karin's voice as he looked at his downed sister.
Said man looked to his other sister after a second before he blinked and refocused.
After a moment he spoke. "K-Karin, get dad, and have him take a look at it, okay? He's probably in the clinic. I-I have to go to Urahara's and figure out what's going on," he said shakily as he kissed Yuzu's forehead before he stood up. He then looked at Karin with his golden eyes and nodded to her. "I need you to be strong for me, Karin, and take care of your sister. Know that I love you both…okay?" he told her as more tears threatened to spill from his eyes.
Karin nodded as she hugged her brother before he quickly kissed her head. Moments later she bolted to the clinic as he picked up Yuzu and put her on the couch. Her shaking hadn't ceased but the chain was still prevalent as ever.
Ichigo knelt down and pet her head as he put his forehead to hers. "I'm sorry for this, Yuzu-chan," he mumbled as more tears fell. He heart wrenched itself as he looked her almost lifeless body. Ichigo kissed her forehead once more before he quickly ran to the door, put on a pair of black sneakers and sprinted towards Kisuke's.
Ichigo ran and ran and ran.
He didn't know how fast he was going as buildings flew past his face.
It was so similar to when he felt his friends and family betrayed him to Tsukishima. He didn't know what was going on, why it was happening.
Ichigo grit his teeth as he neared the shop. Who else's fault would it have been other that Ichigo's that Yuzu would have the chain of Hell in her chest? Ichigo had spent so long down there; he should have figured that when the armor had not dissipated from him like it had the first time that something was wrong.
Ichigo shook his head.
Jumping to conclusions not matter how logical they may have been would not help at this time. Not when his sister was suffering. He needed answers and he needed them now.
Ichigo finally arrived at the shop moments later and quickly flung open the door. Pleasantries could be held off for the current moment.
Ichigo scanned the first room of the candy shop only to find that it was empty. Kisuke was mostly a recluse so it was very likely that he was in the back. Without even taking his shoes off, Ichigo quickly entered the shop and walked into the living area only for his eyes to widen.
Around the table sat Yoruichi in the same clothes she wore the previous day as well as Kisuke, Tessai also sat there and the most surprising member was the leader of the Royal Guard himself, dressed in his usual Royal Guard outfit.
"Ichibei…?" Ichigo muttered to himself as each of the occupants of the table look at him and for all of their eyes to widen at his pale skin and eyes.
Kisuke's eyes clenched themselves shut as the resemblance to Ichigo's hollow form struck him immediately. He should have pressed Ichigo more into waiting more than he did.
"Ichigo-kun? What happened to you?" Ichibei asked only for Ichigo to brush him off and to fall to his knees in front of Kisuke in a flurry of grief.
Yoruichi and Tessai's eyes widened as they looked at the frantic Substitute. This was the first time they had seen him like this. What in the Hell had happened?
"Kisuke!" Ichigo began as he caught his breath. "You've gotta…help! Yuzu she's got…the chain! The chain…!" Ichigo tried to speak only for Kisuke to put his hands on Ichigo's shoulders.
"Ichigo!" Kisuke shouted. "Get a hold of yourself! Calm down and speak to me clearly!" he told Ichigo while the Substitute looked at the floor. Panicking would do not good in this situation.
After a few moments Ichigo spoke.
"It's Yuzu…" Ichigo began. "I heard crashing from my room after I discovered my new," Ichigo paused, "appearance, and went downstairs to find Karin hovered over Yuzu who was on the floor. I rolled her over…and," Ichigo choked back a sob. "She had the same chain…the same chain, that she had two years ago when those Togabito attacked, the chain of Hell," Ichigo finished in a whisper as Kisuke's, Yoruichi's, and Tessai's eyes to widen.
"It's your fault," Ichigo heard making his head snap up to Ichibei's direction, an angry visage on his face.
"My fault? How the fuck is it my fault, Ichibei!?" Ichigo shouted as he stood up to face the large sitting man.
"It's your energy's fault, more like," Ichibei corrected. "From the reports I've read, ever since you became a Soul Reaper, you've had an overabundance of energy, so much so that you can let it flow from you at 'full blast' that you dubbed it, all the time and not feel fatigued. Even though you are, ehem, transcendent, as I heard Aizen Sosuke dub it, your energy can still affect this plane of existence. Just like how weaker beings are killed in Aizen's presence. Because you were in Hell for twenty three days, and wore the armor for twenty three days, the taint of Hell has overtaken your spiritual energy or has begun to coexist with it, and those who have been in Hell before but were not damned will be affected. Your sister, for example," Ichibei explained with steel in voice while Ichigo's eyes widened.
It truly did sound like it was his fault. And his previous suspicions were true after all…
"And as of this moment, because your amount of energy is so large, it is currently spanning the entirety of this town and the surround area. Anyone who has been claimed in Hell before this current moment is currently being affected. Ishida Uryu, Abarai Renji, and Kuchiki Rukia. The other two will be effected if you enter Soul Society. Regular Soul reapers and those with a good degree of spiritual resistance should not be affected," Ichibei continued to elaborate. "The only way to counteract this is for the source to get as far away as possible."
Kisuke pursed his lips. The suspicions he had the day before were correct and the feeling dread he was currently still feeling was the Hell energy's latent feeling. Ichibei was as old, if not older, that Yamamoto, thus he should have known more about Hell than almost anyone.
Yoruichi looked at Ichigo with a sorrowful gaze as she noticed his whole world crashing around him. The day before he had just wanted to go home after this long war he was in, and now he was being pushed away from that very home the next day.
Tessai opted to stay quiet and observe. He knew very little of Hell's workings, and Ichibei seemed to know more than most so he would let the leader of the Royal Guard do the talking. He truly felt remorse for the young Kurosaki, to be burdened so heavily.
Ichigo clenched his teeth. "Can I go to Soul Society? What about Hueco Mundo? Is there anywhere I can go aside from halfway around the world?" Ichigo asked as his eyes were closed. Each of the occupants could see the tears streaming down his face as he looked at the ground.
Ichibei shook his head while ignoring Ichigo's tears. He was the leader of the Royal Guard, protector of the Soul King and Soul Society first and Ichibei Hyosube second.
"The only world you may stay in is this world. The Chain of Fate, an invention made by the first Soul King, protects the Souls of this world from even a force such as Hell's influence. Soul Reaper's Saketsu (Binding Chain) and Hakusui (Soul Sleep) keep them protected, however the residents in the Rukongai will be affected just as much as your sister because they lack all three of those things. The same goes with Hollows of the lower degree because they lack the Soul Sleep or Binding Chain. Coyote Starrk, I believe, killed lesser hollows just from his reiatsu alone because they lacked the resistance. Arrancar have the same Saketsu and Hakusui thus giving them the ability to resist your reiatsu. But others will not be so lucky," Ichibei continued while Ichigo could feel his entire world coming down upon him, each explanation more painful than the last.
"It's for the good of Soul Society, Ichigo, I hope you understand," Ichibei told the youth. The reaction he obtained from that, however, was as sharp as Oetsu Nimaiya's Zanpakuto.
Ichigo let a growl escape his throat as his sadness was replaced by anger in an instant. Ichigo's golden eyes bore their way into Ichibei's onyx orbs. "No, as a matter of fact, I don't understand. I don't fucking understand why you can't help me, but all it seems like you're doing, Ichibei, is pushing me away, the very person that saved your lives, Ichibei! But fine, I'll roll over, Ichibei; I'll accept this if only for the beings that I'll harm in my own 'selfishness'. How does Shunsui feel about this, Ichibei?" Ichigo asked the man, venom dripping from his words every time he used Ichibei's cursed name. Ichigo was standing by this point, glaring one of his most heated glares at the man.
Ichibei glared back at the boy, but said nothing about the use of his name. "My word oversteps his, Ichigo Kurosaki. He protested as well, however, when I presented to him the after effects of his allowing you to go to Soul Society, he backed off the matter, but again, I am the vassal of the Soul King first, your friend second. I am simply doing what is best for Soul Society. The Senkaimon will be sealed off from your use," Ichibei stood up at this and his skin began to glow, "I bid you farewell, Ichigo Kurosaki. And may your," he coughed, "developments, become controlled."
And with those last few words Ichibei was gone in a pillar of light, back to the Soul King palace.
Ichigo's anger bristled as he closed his eyes. The man bit his lip allowing his blood to flow from it. Kisuke moved to the back room to go get a few items while Tessai moved to help him as well. Yoruichi stood and made her way over to Ichigo before she engulfed him in a hug, the tightest hug she had ever given him.
Ichigo made no move to hug her back as he shook with unbridled fury.
Did Yhwach foresee this as well?
Ichigo could hear the dead Quincy King laughing. In the end, he had gotten the last laugh.
Ichigo was being forced from his home because of something beyond his control at the moment. He didn't want to hurt his sister, someone he wished to protect. It went against his code, his creed, his blood, to hurt someone he protected.
And here he was, doing that, be it unintentional or not.
After a moment he returned Yoruichi's hug and put his head on the top of hers. She felt him pour his sadness and anger into this motion as she could feel his stomach convulse as she felt his silent sobs.
They stayed like this for what seemed like ages as Yoruichi clung to him, trying to be his pillar of support in this, but she knew she couldn't do much. There was nothing to be sorry about, nothing to talk out, and nothing to fix normal problems. All Ichigo could do at the moment was leave and figure things out from there.
Moments later, Kisuke came out from his 'workshop' with a couple duffle bags being held up by one hand, and in the other, van keys to his van out back, and Ichigo's Shinigami badge.
Ichigo let go of the hug from Yoruichi while she did not and blinked away the water in his eyes. He looked onto the items in Kisuke's hands and cringed.
He truly was going away from the very place he wanted to be most.
Tokyo airport was roughly an hour from Karakura town.
Ichigo sat in the seat behind the front passenger seat of the van which was currently on its way to the airport.
Yoruichi sat in the passenger seat while Kisuke drove. It had been silent ever since they had set foot in the van and no one knew how to break the silence. Ichigo, however, didn't want to break it as he really had nothing to say.
He hadn't had anything to say as Ichibei had answered everything he needed to know. Regardless of whether or not Ichigo wanted to hear it or not.
In short, Ichigo was without a purpose.
He was going to be without anyone to protect, no one to ward over. He had all this strength, yet had no reason to use it now except to defend himself.
HIs heart throbbed. He didn't even say goodbye to Orihime, or Chad, Uryu, Mizuiro, Tatsuki, Keigo, let alone say hello to them, or even say a proper goodbye to his father, or his sisters, or even stop by his mother's grave.
He blinked tears away as he thought of Yuzu and the pain he was putting her through. But maybe his absence would truly help her.
Ichigo stared at the passing cars as they drove, his mind running a million miles a minute. He put his hood over his head and closed his golden eyes.
He briefly pondered asking his friends if they would accompany him, but he shook that thought off quickly. He wouldn't ask them to stop their lives for his sake. He also needed someone to protect his family where he could not.
Kisuke began to pull into the airport and cleared his throat. He looked in the rearview mirror to see Ichigo still looking out the window. "Ichigo," Kisuke called making the Substitute look at him out of the corner of his eyes. He had Ichigo's attention, Kisuke supposed.
"In one of those bags is all you need to continue your life outside of Japan. I forged your High School Diploma, saying that you graduated last year. All of your documents are in there as well including your passport as well as a decent amount of currency for the country you'll be going to, France. I picked that country because you excelled in that class more than any other in High School," Kisuke told the man only for Ichigo to grunt as he looked forward now and clasped his hands in the other and tilted forward. "In the other bag is basic essentials and some clothes that should fit you."
Yoruichi turned her head to look at Ichigo, and her eyes grew saddened at his expression. She steeled her resolve at that. She would go with him, and be his support for this ordeal, his pillar to cling on. She had traveled the world before so she could guide him.
"There's also one more thing," Kisuke said seriously as he pulled over to the terminal area where Ichigo could get out and begin his departure.
"I've modified your Substitute Badge to where it's similar to the arrancar's Negacion cubes. It puts your body in a pocket dimension until you need it again. Just put it to your Spiritual Body again and it will appear," Kisuke explained, gaining the faintest of nods from Ichigo.
Kisuke sighed. Ichigo was barely paying attention but it was perfectly understandable.
After a moment, Ichigo opened the door and exited before putting on a pair of sunglasses to hide his new eyes from the churning masses around him, going in and out of the airport, not even noticing the three beings of supernatural power around them.
Moments later both Kisuke and Yoruichi and exited as well, Yoruichi garbed in an orange sweatshirt now as well as her baggy black pants and black shoes while Kisuke wore his usual Geta-Boshi outfit.
Ichigo grabbed both of his bags and put them over his shoulders while shutting the van door back. He then noticed Kisuke looking at him with a frown before it morphed into a small smile. "I've got some reiatsu control exercises in there as well. Don't worry, Ichigo, you'll be back here in no time, I have faith," he said while he nodded to Ichigo. Ichigo nodded back however Kisuke noticed his expression didn't change. Kisuke extended a hand to shake Ichigo's, a gesture Ichigo sluggishly returned. "Good luck, Ichigo," he said while he stepped back so that Yoruichi could say her piece as well.
Yoruichi stood in front of Ichigo before she smirked and put a hand on her hip. "You think I'm gonna let my cute little student explore the world all by himself?" she said while behind Ichigo's sunglasses his eyes widened. Moments later he shook his head.
"No, Yoruichi," he said somberly making her lose her smirk and for her eyes to widen. "I need to go by myself. You can't disappear from your friend's lives in Soul Society. I also need you to help protect my family, my friends where I can't," Ichigo said with sadness evident in his voice.
Yoruichi shook her head as she looked at him. "I can send a message to Soi-Fon and tell her I'll be dealing with stuff! And your friends and Kisuke, and Isshin can protect each other! Ichigo, I don't want you to be alone in this. You bear so much on your shoulders already, I don't want loneliness to be another thing you have to deal with!" Yoruichi began to shout, drawing the attention of those around them.
The civilians looked on to see a lover's quarrel or a heartbreaking goodbye, the real reasoning behind the argument, they would never know.
Ichigo looked at her for a moment before he let a small, very small, sad smile to grace his features. He put a hand on her shoulder before he shook his head.
"I need to be strong for the moment. I need to be strong for just a little longer…and if loneliness keeps me from taking my aggression out on you whenever I begin to feel anger about this situation, then so be it. I'll protect you by going by myself," Ichigo told her solemnly.
Kisuke's wide eyes at the declaration of Yoruichi's wanting to go with Ichigo being rejected so easily by Ichigo softened at his reasoning. Why must you shoulder this alone, Ichigo? He thought. Ichigo wanted to continue being a protector of some kind he would take the entire burden himself.
Yoruichi was about to put a hand on Ichigo's shoulder to knock some sense into him only for the Substitute to turn around and begin to walk away, offering the two of them a backward wave as he entered the airport, disappearing with the crowds.
Yoruichi felt her hand go numb as she clenched her fist and blinked tears away. She muttered one word as she and Kisuke entered the van again to go back to Karakura.
Ichigo stared out the window to the airplane as it took off, the rumbling of the machine leaving the ground quickly becoming a background noise to him.
Kisuke had been nice enough to obtain Ichigo his former phone and earbuds to pass the time.
Perhaps music would help soothe his guilt about the situation.
As the plane's rumbling leveled out, Ichigo turned his head to look out at the sunset.
The person beside him, a man in his forties, had tried to make small talk with Ichigo but stopped when Ichigo put in his earbuds, after muttering 'asshole' of course.
Perhaps he shouldn't have rejected Yoruichi's offer, if only for a better person to sit beside him.
In the end, Ichigo didn't care. His mind was still occupied on his family and friends. He would miss them dearly, but because he didn't know the extent of his power, he would have to get as far away as possible.
It wouldn't make sense to move to a nearby town when he still couldn't see his sister without adverse reactions.
Perhaps this was what Aizen meant in their final fight.
Being one of the strongest was a lonely existence.
Ichigo closed his eyes as he tried to sleep.
It was lonely indeed.
Yo, not dead, simply writing the longest chapter for anything I've ever written. And a reviewer noticed that I was writing almost exclusively Naruto fanfictions.
And he was right. Lol
So here's a Bleach x H. story for ya.
It will be a harem, like most DxD stories, but I'll let you figure out the members.
The idea for the powers is not wholly original as I was reading Do Me a Wrong by ChaosEmperorNex but the theme, as you've guessed, is ENITRELY different. I won't be going off of canon for a while.
But yeah, leave me a review, tell me how it was.
By the way, if anyone tells me that Ichigo was being a bitch about this, no, he wasn't. If he went anywhere, he'd damn someone, if he stayed in Karakura, he'd damn his sister eventually. So what other choice than just leave or go back to Hell?
I sure as fuck wouldn't want to go back to the place that caused me to get the powers to harm others on that type of degree.