A/N: Guys, I think this was the hardest chapter I've done to date. I kept on thinking about what I should type because I was wondering what you guys wanted from a part 2 of Moon Phases. Did you want a serious chapter maybe set in the Quincy War? Did you want more fighting scenes? Did you want one big scene where everyone's shocked at Ichigo? Did you want smaller more personal scenes? Did you want specific characters? In the end I just went with it because it's not like I could ask anyways and I would have likely gotten different answers from everybody so sorry if this was not what you are expecting.
Ichigo doesn't know what's so confusing about this situation, but the entire ragtag team of suicidal teenagers haven't stopped giving him baffled expression that range from furrowed brows to slack jawed shock since he had appeared at Sokyoku Hill and defeated Aizen.
They've been ushered into one of the big airy rooms of the fourth division and been seen to by a couple healers even though Inoue and Yuzu were very capable at the insistence of Captain Unohana.
Now, they're all alone seated in the couches of the room with a pot of tea in the center table and all five teenagers are staring at him as if he were the most alien thing they had ever laid eyes on.
"Aizen said…" Yuzu trailed off shyly. " he said you were Kurosaki Ichigo?"
Ichigo nods his head in assent as he takes a sip of the tea; it's green tea, he would have preferred jasmine, but beggars can't be choosers.
He looks up at the ensuing silence and is met with expectant faces as if they are waiting for him to say something. Ichigo isn't sure what they want, Aizen pretty much blurted it out already and he had been planning to answer any questions, but they look to wired up to even begin formulating them.
"And…?" he prompts.
More silence, Yuzu is chewing her lip as she seems to debate with herself, and the other teens probably think the twins should have first dibs on the questioning.
Mostly everyone in the room startles -except Ichigo- when Karin stands from her couch and slams her hands on the table between them. He's inordinately happy he kept his cup in his hand when he sees the tea set jump with the movement and spills some of the liquid on the wood.
"That makes no sense!" Karin yells hysterically. "One, you live in Soul Society, two, my parents never spoke of you, three, your like eight and Yuzu and I would have known if we had a little brother who-"
Ichigo lifts a hand to stop her rambling. "Okay, stop there. I think we need to clarify something. I'm twenty-five."
Karin draws back for a second before her scowl returns and she's throwing herself back onto the couch. "Kid, you're four feet tall."
The orange head sighs and puts his cup down before straightening and looking up to stare at her gravely in the eyes. "Either you got bested by an opponent an-" he made air quotations." Eight-year-old could handle, or what Yoruichi-basan said when we met, is fact."
The raven head reddens at this, and Yuzu chuckles demurely at her sister's shame. Ichigo takes this as a good sign an continues.
"Soul Society Souls age very differently from human Souls." He lectures calmly. "If you have no reiatsu, you grow and die of old age relatively similar to humans, if maybe a tad bit slower in comparison. Souls with reiatsu age at different rates depending on how much reiatsu you have, but it is very common for us to range from children to teens in the first century. Depending on how much reiatsu you have, you reach a point where you seemingly stop growing older even though you still age, just at a much slower rate which -once again- is dependent on the amount of reiatsu you have."
"… well." Yuzu uncharacteristically begins. ", that's a bit awkward."
Ichigo tilts his head in puzzlement before asking. "Why?"
"I offered Yachiru-chan candy, but she's likely older than me." She blurts out, a bit overwhelmed with the revelation -if only she knew.
The orange head nods. "Yachiru is at least a century and a half, maybe more. Souls are peculiar, some of us slow our aging rate at a very young form, while others get to at least twenties."
"All this is very interesting." Ishida tacks in bluntly. "But we're getting off track."
"Right, thanks cousin Uryū." Ichigo responds back automatically which causes Karin to whiplash from Uryuu to Ichigo and the Quincy to balk. Whoops. "So, I'm twenty-five, which makes me your older brother. Father and Mother had to leave me in Kukaku-nesan's care once it became hard to hide the fact I wasn't aging at a normal rate."
Karin opens her mouth, no doubt to yell some more before Yuzu squeals and stands up, an expression of evil delight on her face as she makes grabby motions at Ichigo. "That means we have the cutest Big Brother in the world Karin! Oh, I've been wanting to hug you since I saw you, but I thought it would scare you off! You're my brother though! So I can hug you all I want, right?!"
Ichigo doesn't even have time to open his mouth before he is snatched up by an enthusiastic Yuzu. He debates the pros and cons of running from this entire conversation when she starts pulling at his cheeks as if he were some squishy stuffed animal
In the end, escaping hadn't been hard.
He had finished explaining and fielding questions from Yuzu's lap even though it was demeaning and a blow to his pride. Ichigo doesn't care that he's a fluffy, chubby faced cute child, it doesn't matter. Yes, he usually takes the candies he gets from his clan members with an impassive expression and a nod of gratitude -they always seem to swoon while they praise his matureness- and Ichigo lets them because it makes his Clan happy and it really doesn't matter what he looks like or how people treat him due to it.
The problem, the part that rankles on his pride is when he's treated in a way that is unbefitting of the Great Noble heir he is. He doesn't care, but the way they treat him is a reflection of what they think of his Clan, and no one can get away with hating on his family.
So yes, sitting on Yuzu's lap was a hit to the Great Noble Clan… it was, honest.
Anyway, escaping had been easy because he hadn't even needed to escape at all. One of the Shiba retainers had actually come to notify him of the fact that some family members of the old Central 46 -if there was one thing Ichigo was grateful for, it was the fact Aizen had just killed them all- were getting together in the chambers to debate new members.
This had been a perfect cue for him, and he had easily used this as an excuse to remove himself from the conversation and go towards the C46 building. He was, amusedly enough, joined by the Kuchiki Head before he had even exited the fourth division, and once they arrived, there were representatives for the three other Great Noble Clans too.
"This is not an official meeting!" the one in the middle with the horrible mustache and a big bulk told them when they made their way in. "Why are the Great Noble Clans and the Disgrace here?"
Oh ouch, wrong move.
"With all due respect," the Imamura Clan Head responded, his face very clearly not showing respect. "we don't care."
"Besides!" Shihōin Yūshirō added with a peppy grin that belied the sharpness in his gold eyes, yikes. "All five of us are Great Noble Clans, we can come and go anytime."
The same man scoffed and threw his head back haughtily in a way that had Ichigo thinking this imbecile was trying too hard to be something he clearly wasn't.
"Shiba shouldn't be here then."
Ichigo drew himself up, his expression cooling several degrees and his chin lifting the tiniest bit. He was of Shiba, Keeper of the Gates of Heaven, he had no need to show his anger in the face of these people when it would only satisfy them.
"I see the attitude hasn't changed, even though the members have." He says, his tone languid and the slightest bit arrogant. He doubted he looked impressive while being the shortest of them all, but his attitude coupled with his reiatsu should make up for it.
"How dare you-"another of the members began, but was cut off by an unlikely source.
"I think it is this council that is too daring." Kuchiki Byakuya states, his face an impressive ice wall. "Shiba has, and will always be, a Great Noble Clan. One of Five appointed a role by the Spirit King themselves."
"This temporary council should also remember," began the last of their members, Hamasaki Ayumi and head of her Clan. "that the Central 46 was appointed by the Great Noble Clans to oversee things we didn't have time nor care to do."
Ichigo wondered if any of these old people would have a stroke with how red faced they were. It could potentially be entertaining, or a drag.
"We can discuss this." The first, mustache man began. "Where is Clan Head Shiba? She is the only Head missing."
Ichigo turned back to see the man glowering at him and smiled innocently and demurely. The man reeled back, obviously baffled in the face of his cuteness. Ha, take that!
"Kukaku-nesama is out eating ramen with Shihoin Yoruichi-basama." He tells them with a formal casualness that has more than one member reeling.
"What!?" Yūshirō balks at this, turning his big golden eyes to him. Ichigo and Yūshirō are the two most similar in age, but the other boy still towers over him by a good five inches. "They went to get ramen without us?"
Ichigo blinks curiously at this, and reassures him on a mere whim. "We can get ramen after this."
"Really?" his eyes are sparkling now, how does he do that? "Yes!" Yushiro swoops down and grabs his hands to swing them around and Ichigo lets him only because he's so caught off guard. "My Ne-sama and your Ne-sama are great friends! So as 57th Clan Head and Future 57th Clan Head, we should be great friends too so we can further foster relationships between our Clans!"
Wow that was a word vomit, he's honestly impressed the other boy can be so exuberant and bubbly while being a cunning little cat -he should have expected as much from Yoruichi-basan's brother.
He manages to say in the ensuing silence before Imamura Hirose is scowling at them and stating he will go get ramen as well because it's unfair if only Shihōin goes. Then Hamasaki Ayumi is curling her lips coyly and inserting herself into the conversation as if it were planned all along that she was going too. Ichigo turns slightly -his hands still held hostage- to look at the Kuchiki Head and finds him just as impassive as ever.
Should he invite the stoic Captain along too?
As he opens his mouth to extend an invitation, a screech echoes around the room and they all stop talking to stare at the old guys.
"Who cares about Ramen!"
Somehow, they end up disbanding the Central 46 until further notice. It was unanimously agreed that the council would not be reestablished until the entire concept was discussed with the Spirit King. Ichigo thought this was a great idea and something they should have done ages ago, but was retracting this thought when Hamasaki Ayumi turned to him and asked when would be an appropriate time for them both to go to the Soul Palace.
Right, he had forgotten that as Keepers of the Gates of Heaven, it was Shiba's job to escort people to the palace and act as messenger. Since Hamasaki was Chamberlain, it was only proper Shiba and Hamasaki handled this.
After that, they had all found themselves in a very nice, and much posher restaurant than Ichigo would have chosen for himself, but it was understandable what with all the Clan Heads and him gathered for an outing. The Kuchiki Head hadn't said anything, and Ichigo found himself sweat dropping when the man merely fell into step with them as if this had been neatly written into his calendar weeks ago.
It was a bit stuffy at first, Ichigo was the odd one out being the Clan Heir and not Clan Head, but it became much calmer and dare he say, fun once the initial awkwardness faded.
After the dinner, they had gone their separate ways towards their respective compounds with a feeling of a job well done. Ichigo himself was also making his way home when he was kidnapped by a pink blur he easily identified as the eight division Captain who was instantly joined by the thirteenth division Captain who gave his friend a long-suffering look.
Ichigo sighed as he sagged into the arm that was carrying him like a sack of potatoes and grumbled. "I can shunpo."
Oddly enough, he was ignored.
"You see him!" The white-haired Captain, Ukitake Jῡshirō pushed him forward as if presenting him to the Captain Commander like a formal report. "Just look at him!"
Ichigo glanced down at himself, feeling self-conscious and found nothing wrong with his tabi clad feet and burgundy colored Yukata with fireworks splattered across the edges. Was there something wrong with his hair? When he saw it last in the restaurant bathroom mirror it had looked fine.
"You can't make him a Captain! He's a child!"
This made Ichigo rapidly turn up from his purview to stare at the wizened old man with a look of Alarm™ that the three adults seemingly ignored.
"He's a very high Captain Class Shinigami. If we don't add him to the Gotei, he will get snatched by the Royal Guard." Yamamoto explains ruefully, his tone holding no room for surrender.
"Wait one second." He interrupts the conversation going over his head -literally. "I never said I wanted to join either."
The Captain Commander gives a humming noise and shuffles around his drawer before pulling out a tin that he opens and hands to Ichigo. The orange head looks down and finds his mind short circuiting at the container full of cookies he has been given.
"We can put him in a lieutenant or co-lieutenant position while he learns the duties that are expected of the Gotei 13 before promoting him." Ichigo hears the old man say, but his eyes are still glued to the tin and the delicious looking cookies. Are these meant to be some sort of bribe? Compensation? Distraction? What kind of Commander wants to put a child at the helm of a division but then hands the same child cookies?
"Well," Ukitake Captain bristled, uncharacteristically rattled. "I'll take him in! He's my previous lieutenant's baby cousin, it's practically my duty to do it!"
"Now now, Ju-chan." Captain Kyōraku speaks up for the first time in this conversation, his tone playful but serious. "You're laying sick half the time, how can you care for someone else if you can't care for yourself?"
The white-haired man spluttered a bit but didn't seem deterred. "It'll be good Captain practice for him!"
He continues staring at the cookies before sighing in resignation at all these adults bantering like children and reaches in for a cookie. Honestly, why was he even kidnapped if he was just going to be ignored?
"Can I have Jasmine tea please?" he cuts in, his eerie, serious brown eyes bearing into the Old man as he cradles the cookie tin to his chest; he must cut a picture of perfect poise. "Only eating cookies is no good."
The ensuing silence is cut off by what sounds like a body sagging onto the floor and Yamamoto takes this as his cue to nod.
"Yes, you already show better aptitude for decision making than many of our senior officers." He replies.
The muffled groans behind Ichigo are swiftly ignored as he gives the Captain Commander an imperious nod in thanks.
Karin and Yuzu had insisted he follow them to Karakura and meet with their father and everyone else. In the end, he had resigned himself to the fact the twins would manhandle him through the Senkaimon if he didn't agree and scheduled the trip the day after he had to accompany Hamasaki Ayumi to the Spirit Palace -and why did he have to do it? This was supposed to be Kukaku-nesan's responsibility.
Since he was accompanying him, he had organized the Shiba Senkaimon to be ready, and had politely declined the offer of transportation the Captain Commander had offered the invasion team.
Arriving at the Urahara Shop was nothing short of utter pandemonium.
Ichigo had calibrated it years ago to open in the underground training area, and now was no different. Once they stepped out of the sliding doors, they were met with a colorful and big welcome delegation that Ichigo was almost a bit overwhelmed by. There were the usual occupants of the shop, and their Father was present too, acting as if he had been in on everything the entire time, but there was a man that Ichigo got a distinct Hollow impression from that piqued his curiosity too.
After the greetings, hysterical hugging and crying as was expected from the patriarch of the Kurosaki Family, they were all introduced to the weird person that Ichigo was now able to put a name to a face.
"No way did this baby kill Aizen." Hirako Shinji drawls, a frown plastered on his face as he bends down to properly examine Ichigo.
"Hey!" Karin shouts, her hackles raised as she strides over to them and pulls Ichigo back. "He's twenty-five, who are you calling a baby?"
The orange head is somewhat touched at Karin's defense of him, and would have been more grateful for it, if her words and actions weren't so contradictory what with her ushering him behind her taller stature.
"Oh," Hirako arched a brow and straightened. "Ya must be one of Isshin's daughters" He gives her a cursory glance before a wide smirk stretched his lips. "You're right, sorry 'bout that. You're the baby, he's the toddler."
As Karin growls low in her throat, Ichigo sighs in resignation before shuffling to stand in front of her. "Is there anything I can help you with, Hirako-san?" He asks.
The blond man's smirk widens further, and he looks endlessly amused by something. "Just Shinji 's fine." He states. "So, true or false, dead Aizen?"
Ichigo nods once in assent before craning his neck up to stare the man in the eyes. "True. Zangetsu consumed him."
This makes him reel back, his smile dropping while many of the others share confused glances.
"Zan…getsu?" he asks like it pains him.
Ichigo pulls his Zanpaktou from his scabbard and shows the group his blade in answer. "This is Zangetsu, say hi,"
No one says hi, but Ichigo wasn't talking to them anyways. Zangetsu pulses a pale blue color first, and then a black with dark red edges which the orange head easily translates.
"That was hi."
"Yeah," Shinji drawls, his expression dry as a desert. "I got that impression. So, you're Zanpaktou's ability is… eating people?"
Ichigo draws back in shock as he looks around at the horrified looks he's getting from everyone bar Kisuke-ji and finds his mind blanking. What?
"Of course not." He denies, his voice so utterly offended and upset that it causes even Kisuke-ji to look at him with a raised brow. "How can you even say that about poor Zangetsu? That's only one of the phases Their bankai gives me due to the Quincy principle of reishi absorption. Apologize to Zangetsu, now."
Shinji and Ichigo have a silent stare down where Ichigo scowls and somewhat succeeds in being menacingly while Shinji blinks owlishly at him wondering if he's being serious. When no apology is forthcoming, Ichigo takes this as a denial and releases a bit of his tightly contained reiatsu. It's probably more than he should be throwing around, but it's for a good cause. He feels he is entirely justified for it even with the scolding he might get when the blonde staggers a bit under the pressure.
"Apologize." He reminds him, his eyes flashing gold in warning.
Shinji straightens himself as best he can under the heavy feeling and says as solemnly as he can. "Apologies Zangetsu, I meant no offense."
Good, Ichigo nods, that will teach the blond man about insulting his precious people.
"Call me a baby if you like." He tells the man and pretty much the entire room. "Ruffle my hair, pull my cheeks and carry me around like a sack of potatoes, I can do that, I don't care. But don't hurt my people, emotionally or otherwise. Got it?"
Shinji snorts in laughter and hunches down to ruffle his orange hair. Just as stated, Ichigo didn't even batt an eye at this. "Yeah we get it." Shinji reiterates, his tone serious but edged with a softness that wasn't there before. "We've been hoping for a hand in taking down Aizen, so hearing someone had already done the job for us and in such an… unconventional manner had us wondering."
Ichigo hums in understanding, finds his shoulders untensing and the unconscious grip he had on his Zanpaktou loosening. "Well Zangetsu already absorbed Aizen, so I can't really do anything about that."
"Wait a second." Kisuke-ji interjects, his tone tinged with uncharacteristic weariness as he pears down at Ichigo. "That's what Shingetsu does?"
"Yes?" Ichigo agrees, his big brown eyes blinking rapidly as Kisuke-ji pulls down his hat and does his version of a groan. "Is there a problem with that?"
Kisuke-ji crouches down to stretch one of his cheeks, and Ichigo lets him because this isn't an uncommon occurrence anyway; the blond always does this when he's left speechless by something Ichigo has done or said.
"So now that you've… absorbed Aizen-san, how much reiatsu did you gain?" Kisuke-ji asks, his voice implying he might've wanted to ask something else.
There are startled noises from the entire group as what it means to have absorbed Aizen's reishi seems to sink in to everyone else.
"Umm," Ichigo stutters as he tries to even gauge his endless power. "I think it grew like sixty percent more."
For a couple seconds no one speaks, before an almost hysterical laughter seems to wrench itself out of the blonde Visored's throat. "Alright, I get it now. I see how killing Aizen was so simple for you."
Ichigo sweeps his gaze around the room for some help and finds none. In fact, Karin looks like she wants to ditch them and go train -this thought process is likely linked to the fact her older younger baby brother is so much more powerful than her and it's a hit on her pride as the older sister or something.
Not to be continued…?
So how did you like this? Hope it doesn't fall very short on your expectations.
A heads up, I will be away from home for a couple days and won't be back until Wednesday. I likely will come back with a new chapter by the end of next week, so don't panic, I'm not going silent yet. Please stay tuned.