Born in the Darkness

Chapter 1

The week had started off fairly well; at a time in the year which it rained quite often, it had been surprisingly sunny and cheerful. The people of the town had smiles on their faces and a bounce to their step, until the seventeenth of the month that is. The rain came early that morning, millions of droplets battering the earth with a thunderous roar that refused to relent even as the hours passed.

Normally one would just pass it off as you couldn't expect the weather to be great every day; however, something was off... there was a chill in the air and not one of the cold, it was ominous, and it promised that something terrible was coming.

For one family it would be the tampering of beings unseen by regular humans that would cause the loss of the centre of their family. A woman who with a simple smile could take all of the pain away would lose her life, and with it start a chain reaction of events that would lead to her son becoming a man of legend.

~ Karakura Town

Nighttime was falling quickly on the mother and son duo as they walked hand in hand along the riverbank towards their home. The boy, only nine years old had just lost again to his oldest friend Tatsuki whom he had met when he was four. You would think he'd be sad about such a thing, and perhaps he had been at first, but all it took was one look at his mother, and all of those dark emotions washed cleanly away.

Now as they walked home in comfortable silence a large smile could be seen on his face, one that matched nicely with his bright orange hair; to any passing civilians, he would appear to be the happiest kid in the world.

His mother, who was an exceptionally beautiful woman had a pleasant smile on her face as well. For any curious onlookers, they would seem like any other normal, happy family. Unknown to others and her own son, however, there was quite the inner turmoil storming in her mind.

She could feel it, had felt it since they left the Dojo, they were being stalked by a Hollow.

It wasn't anything new; she herself was a powerful Quincy and made for quite the tempting bait for any naive Hollow in the vicinity. In spite of that, however, she could control her reiatsu quite masterfully, the same of which could not be said for her son. And, if she was tempting bait than her son would be a full, five-course meal with dessert.

Even at such a young age, his reiatsu was incredible, and it poured from him without stop. Though considering his heritage, it was to be expected.

It was because of this that Shinigami normally crawled Karakura, far too many Hollow's were drawn here thinking they could get a quick meal and an easy power-up, thus the Shinigami patrolled it heavily. Although her feelings toward the Shinigami varied at times due to some of the things she'd heard about them over the years, it was a situation she was comfortable with.

She hated using her own powers because she understood that she destroyed a soul instead of purifying it as the Shinigami did. She believed that despite the evil nature a Hollow had, it still deserved a chance at reincarnation. It wasn't their fault that they acted as they did in their corrupted state, they didn't deserve to have their souls erased from existence for mistakes that we're not made of their own will. And, if by chance they had committed sins during their human life than the gates of Hell would be awaiting them at the end of a Shinigami's Zanpakuto, but they still deserved that chance.

And so, when a Hollow did appear she would simply ignore it, keeping on with whatever she had been up to at the time and letting the Shinigami currently stationed in Karakura deal with it.

However, tonight something was off. This particular Hollow had been following them for quite some time and judging by the depth of its twisted reiatsu as well as the control it had over it, it was no pushover. But even still, not a single Shinigami had entered their town. Not even the lower seated member who was stationed here had come out, obviously, they had no intention of confronting it either.

This brought forth confusion and a great deal of worry from the mother because she knew that the Soul Society was aware of its presence. Nevertheless, she wouldn't let any harm befall her son, and if the Shinigami for whatever reason refused to come then she would deal with it herself. She may not have liked it but her families safety was all that truly mattered.

In a moment of poor judgment, she had let herself fall so deep into thought that she'd failed to notice the Hollow's now very close position to them, still hidden from sight but very much there. The only indication she had that something was happening was the voice of her son speaking before releasing her hand and dashing down the riverbank towards a little girl stood dangerously close to the edge of the rapidly rushing waters.

It was at that moment fear struck her, that was no little girl, it was a ghost tainted with the same twisted reiatsu of the Hollow who'd been following them. And her son, who could not yet tell the difference was running straight for it. She quickly rose her arm, her Quincy cross dangling elegantly from her wrist as blue spirit particles gathered around her waiting for the spark that would ignite her bow.

Her other arm was already poised and in position to draw back an arrow, she was just waiting for the Hollow to make its move; as soon as it showed itself she would end it for daring to threaten her son's life. At least that was how it was supposed to go; instead, it all went so wrong. She felt a sharp spike of pain rip through her body unlike any she'd felt before and her eyes could only widen in horror as she felt every last bit of her power leaving her.

She knew what this was, Auswahlen; the selection of the Quincy, where the first Quincy and their progenitor would reclaim his strength by taking it from all Quincy deemed 'impure.' She being pure-blooded meant that normally she'd be exempt from such a thing, however, due to the Hollow which now tainted her soul, she too was deemed impure and her power was ripped away without mercy.

Already she could see the ghostly figure of the little girl beginning to fade, she no longer had the ability to see spirits and thus the girl would soon vanish completely from her sight. Pushing the pain to the back of her mind she focused on the world again. Her son was still in danger, and what mother wouldn't give her own life to protect her child? So, without another thought given she dashed forward, her long strides easily covering the distance between herself and her son; throwing herself over his smaller form, pain once again tore through her and the world went dark.

Ichigo was happy, sure he'd just lost again to Tatsuki, but he was improving. It was slow and certainly painful – the girls punches always were – but he was improving. He had managed to land a couple more solid blow on her than usual and hopefully soon he'd be able to beat her again. Their overall record was heavily stacked in the tomboys favour sure, but he had beat her a couple times, surely he was due for another.

Although none of the really mattered to his young mind right now; the reason being his mother who he was currently hand in hand with as they slowly walked home. Most of the people around him viewed him as a bit of a momma's boy – and in truth he was – but he just didn't care. He loved his mother more than anything and he was proud to say it.

She was the centre of his world and the rest of his family's too, they all just continually orbited around her. It was because of her that he always tried his best at everything, he wanted more than anything to make her proud, to see her smile. So he studied hard in school, trained hard for Karate, and tried to be the best big brother he could – though that last one wasn't really hard – he loved his sisters and would move mountains just to keep them smiling.

It was also that desire to make her proud that would eventually lead to her getting killed.

When he had finally worked up the courage to tell his parents he could see ghosts they'd surprisingly believed him right away, no questions asked. Instead, they gave him a brief explanation about them, saying that sometimes spirits stayed behind longer because they are filled with deep regret or sadness due to something that might have happened during their life, and because of this they struggle to move on.

It was when he'd heard that, that he made the decision to try and help the ghosts out too because they deserved to be happy just as much as he did, right?

Unfortunately for Ichigo, he was never told about what happened to those spirits if they lingered for too long in the human world, or if the very monsters they risked becoming by staying behind found them. In all honestly, there was a lost he wasn't told that he really should've been, if only for his own safety. If he had known about the beasts which hunted innocent souls to try and fill the empty voids within themselves then maybe everything could've turned out differently.

But sadly, that wasn't meant to be. And so as they walked along; the rain beating down on them from above, the little boy with bright orange hair noticed from the corner of his eye a little girl standing much too close to the raging waters to ever be safe. Without hesitation he released his mother's hand and dashed down the soggy bank, the breath he'd been holding to shout a warning at the girl quickly escaped him when a sharp burst of pain jolted throughout his body momentarily distracting him and causing him to trip and fall forwards.

Shifting slightly so that he could lift himself off the muddy ground he pulled his gaze upwards only to pause as two things became clear to him. First, the little girl was no longer stood at the edge of the raging river, and second, there was something oddly heavy and warm laying across his back. As he turned his gaze to the side he noticed something that made his blood run cold, his mother's familiar orange hair and lots of red.

Panic immediately set into his mind, his brain working frantically trying to figure out what was going on. Why was his mother laying motionlessly on top of him, and why was there so much blood? He knew what it was, his family owned a clinic and more so he was a young boy who often had scrapes and bruises while growing up.

Mustering all the strength he could, he lifted himself up enough to where he could gently remove himself from under his mom. He quickly wished he hadn't. His mother lay there, three very large gashes across her back and a fourth smaller one just below, her blood continued to flow freely as her skin further paled.

Somewhere in his subconscious, he had known she was dead before his conscious mind could even acknowledge it. It was only after he noticed the tears staining his own cheeks that he truly began to understand what this all meant.

The only question on his mind was why? He'd only wanted to help that little girl, he just wanted to make his mother proud, so how did it come to this? Why was she laying there motionless, why did she have to suffer because he wished to do good? It wasn't fair.

He was wretched from his depressing thoughts by the sound of a sickening laughter, truly only a sound you would hear from someone who had long since lost their sanity. Gazing upwards he noticed a large figure seemingly stood in the sky, though with his vision blurred from the tears it was hard to really see. Slowly the ghastly form became clearer as he blinked the moisture away, however, his eyes could only widen in shock at what he saw.

A large ball of brown fur was the best way he could describe it, with four red chicken-like feet below it and a large white mask where its face should have been. The mouth of the mask was set into a permanently sick smile while its eyes were black and hollow except for two small glowing red lights that seemed to be looking right at him. The most horrifying thing about this creature though was the long antenna that came from its head and connected on the other side was the little girl he had just seconds ago been trying to save from drowning.

"That was unfortunate boy," the creature began in a heavy voice that matched it body quite well, "I hate spoiling my meals and look at what you made me do to this exquisite woman. But not to worry, as much as I dislike males your soul is far too powerful to pass up, I'll make do with you." And the creature actually sounded disappointed when it finished, like it really was settling for the lowest form of food right now. But its attitude didn't last long, clearly the idea of a powerful meal made up for it because before long the creatures body was again shaking as that same disgusting laugh escaped him once more.

Ichigo for the most part wasn't fully getting what it was saying, he was still too lost in his own sadness. "Who are you? Why did you do this..? He finally asked, struggling to keep his composure.

The creature was ever so briefly taken back by the questions but it didn't last long, "Oh?" he began in a curious but slightly annoyed tone, "I don't like it when my meals talk back, it upsets my appetite far too much. However, I am feeling generous today and so I will humour you. My name is Grand Fisher, I am a Hollow who has evaded the Shinigami for over fifty years and hunted powerful souls like yourself to gain power."

Confusion was the only word which could describe the small boy, 'Hollow? Shinigami?' he hadn't a clue what the creature was talking about.

"Enough talking though," the now named Grand Fisher cut in again drawing the boys attention, its voice having dropped into a much lower and menacing tone, "Enjoy this eternity of suffering as I devour your soul, human."

Ichigo for his part just knelt there, fear holding his body in place. Was this really it? His mother had just given her life to protect him from this Hollow, it was because of him that his father and sisters would never see her again, would they really lose him too? Then again, maybe it was for the best, it was his fault that the centre of their world was now gone, how would they ever be able to forgive him? They couldn't.

Just as the Hollow was about to consume him time seemed to slow and his vision went black. It felt like an eternity that he'd been floating in the darkness. Every so often he would catch the scent of dirt and dew covered grass carried on a tantalizingly cool breeze. Just when he'd started to hope that this darkness wouldn't last much longer his eyes opened.

He now lay in a field of lush green grass, the leaves providing a soft bed for his body as they swayed softly around him. It was an incredible sight he would admit, no small amount of awe entering his golden-brown eyes.

Large snow-capped mountains stood tall in the distance. A lake of the purest water he'd ever seen was set into the earth and all around him, giant green trees stood proudly. It was evening time in this strange land he found himself in, the sun had long since set. The only source of light around him now was the moon which hung ominously overhead, though he couldn't say it bothered him.

He didn't know why but he'd always loved the moon, it brought him a level of comfort that not much else could. And now as he sat in this field, a breeze softly brushing his skin as he looked towards the night sky it all just felt right; like this was where he truly belonged.

He was startled from his relaxed posture by the sound of movement behind him, quickly he turned around and took note of the two people stood behind him.

The first of the two was tall, very tall, with a lean build and a stoic and aged looking face. His skin was pale with high cheekbones, stubble, and long ragged black hair with brown highlights. His attire consisted of a tattered white dress shirt with an upturned collar and cuffs, black pants, low-heeled boots, and a long, amorphous black coat with a burgundy highlight that flared out into ragged ends. Finally, on his face, he wore a pair of brown-tinted, semi-transparent wraparound sunglasses. The man appeared to be studying Ichigo, looking for something, though what that would be the young boy didn't know.

The one on the right really surprised Ichigo, because although there were some stark visual differences it was definitely himself he was looking at, if not a slightly older version. This copy of himself had white skin and white, waist-length hair. Also, instead of Ichigo's normally warm brown eyes, this version of himself had golden iris' and black sclera. His outfit consisted of white hakama and a long-sleeved, ankle length white coat with a black lining that was closed at his chest. At the base, as well as around his neck and wrists they coat was left to flare out in ragged ends.

Much like the person on his left, this one too was looking at him intently; however, instead of a calm expression, his white counterpart had a psychotic grin and eyes filled with madness. Both of these people seemed so familiar like he had known them his whole life, yet he knew for a fact he'd never seen them before.

"You should let your family decide for themselves whether or not they can forgive you, Ichigo." The taller, more regal looking man started in a stern tone, much like that of a mentor. His voice was very low, rich and baritone, but it was comforting to Ichigo. When the man started speaking once more his tone had fallen into something more sombre, even the unknown person beside him had lost some of their crazy grin. "Never throw your life away so needlessly Ichigo, not when you have the power to do so much good."

Seconds later his inverted copy spoke as well, "I'm sorry 'bout your mom, Aibou." His voice surprised Ichigo, it was kind of watery and dual-toned, however he didn't pay much attention to it, the reminder of his mother brought a couple tears to his eyes. He looked up again at the white version of himself when he heard him start speaking once more,"but, you know she gave her life to protect you right? Will you now throw that sacrifice away, meaning her death was for nothing? Or will you stand and fight, fight for her sacrifice?" he finished, voice having risen slightly towards the end of his sentence, passion overtaking the sober tone he'd held at first.

After a few more seconds the first of the two spoke again, further continuing the train of thought, his voice too was back to it's former level of authority and sternness, "Will you cower in fear? Or will you slay this creature who has taken from you and so many others? Will you rise up and fight? Or will you stay your hand, choosing to instead die pathetically right here and now?"

Ichigo was taken back by the words these two spoke, it really made him feel like he could do something, like he did hold power, but could he? 'Of course not' he thought dejectedly, "I'm just a normal human boy who can barely even beat Tatsuki in karate, I don't have any power.." he spoke dejectedly to them, fully expecting the duo to agree. Instead, however, the white one to his right started cackling as his grin grew wider and even the stoic man on the left had his mouth upturn slightly at the corner, it didn't make sense.

"No power? I cannot remember the last time I heard something so ridiculous."

"Despite what you may think Aibou, your soul is brimming with power just beggin' to be released.. All you have to do is trust your instincts and no matter what enemy stands before you, we will SLAUGHTER THEM!" the white one finished laughing madly.

Ichigo felt a heat rising within him, he felt energized and compelled to believe these two people before him, 'If they think I can do it then I will! I will defeat that creature and avenge mom!' And just as that thought passed through his head darkness once more took hold, before he could completely pass out however he swore he could've heard the one on the left say 'leave the rest to us,' and so he did.

The two taller spirits upon hearing that statement from their wielder let him fall into a blissful sleep, that was all they needed to hear. They could already feel the strong determination in his heart, his stubborn will of iron that would lead him to countless victories. Most importantly though they could feel his instincts, the honed instincts deep within his soul that wanted to cut, to destroy, to slaughter everything, the instincts that wanted to bring the very world to ruins around them. Those instincts were calling out and they wouldn't be disappointed.

As time began to flow once more the Hollow was allowed to continue to close the distance between itself and his seemingly defenceless prey, unknown to him the Hell that was about to be unleashed upon his very being.

Not too far away a lone figure was watching the current proceeding with no small amount of annoyance. She is a tall, well-endowed woman with long green hair and blue eyes. She has prominent eyelashes and thin, thunderbolt shaped eyebrows. Her outfit is quite revealing, consisting of a white double-breasted jacket which is kept tied up revealing her midriff as well as unbuttoned to show off her cleavage. She has a small pair of white short shorts which are held up by a black belt with a green heart buckle attached to the side; she also has a white cap on her head with gold trimmings which features a black peak and an unknown emblem on its front. Finally, she has a pair of white ankle high boots to finish off her outfit.

'What a pain in the ass,' she groused, 'sent here to abduct some kid.' And yet, her Majesty never did anything without a reason. So for him to send one of his elite out and risk alerting the Shinigami to their presence meant this kid must've been important; though Candice couldn't for the life of her figure out why. Sure he had a lot of reiryoku for just being a human, that was blatantly clear, but it still wasn't anything to write home about. Perhaps it was his potential? She didn't know, but nonetheless, she had been given a task, and for fear of losing her life she would complete it.

When she'd first arrived the big furball of a Hollow had just finished killing what Candice assumed was the boy's mother. One thing that had confused her though was that for the briefest of moments she could've sworn she'd felt Quincy reiatsu from the woman; however, it was gone before she could confirm it or not. She knew that there were a couple Quincy from the Ishida family living here; so she would just assume it was them that she's felt briefly and leave it there.

A few seconds later she huffed out, an unimpressed frown growing on her features. She hadn't a clue what it could be saying but the unknown Hollow had been blabbing on for quite a while, just as her patience was beginning to wear thin it stopped, now would be the time to kill it and take the boy. She would need to be quick about it though, she had been warned about the two ex Shinigami Captain's living in this town that could easily kill her if given the chance. Just as she was about to make her move she noticed a change in the air that caused her to pause, and a good thing too, a second later black energy exploded outwards swallowing everything.

Her eyes narrowed as she glanced downwards to the kid which now lay unconscious next to his deceased mother, that eruption of power had definitely come from the orange haired boy, yet she did not know how. Sure he had lots of reiryoku, but to her knowledge, he hadn't actually awoken that energy and turned it into some form of power yet. She was reluctant to do so but she would admit she could now see why her Majesty deemed this kid so important, sure it was unrefined now, but with some training, he could become a monster.

'I'd better stop wasting time and get this done,' she thought to herself, though just as she was about to exit from the shadow that kept her presence hidden she was forced to pause once more, she could feel two powerful energy signatures closing in at a rapid pace, immediately she knew who they were.

The first of the two, a man named Urahara Kisuke if she recalled correctly had just finished the hollow of which had been greatly injured and nearly killed by the kid, and for the brief moment in which his Zanpakuto was released she could feel a great power coming from him, though it was only a hint of his true strength. She couldn't tell much else about the man because his face was mostly hidden by a white and green striped bucket hat. The second was a woman named Shihoin Yoruichi who Candice would admit with great reluctance and annoyance was quite attractive, with a figure that could rival her own. All that she had been told about this woman was not to underestimate her just because she lacked a Zanpakuto, her speed could only be matched by a handful of people and her hand to hand combat was frighteningly destructive.

Candice gave one last sigh as the two finished a brief conversation between themselves and the dark-skinned woman attempted to grab the boy, she really didn't want to fight the both of them but if she went back without even trying then she would most likely be killed. Deciding that it would be better to just go with the flow she removed herself from her hiding spot and drew on some of her power; before the two Shinigami could even react a bolt of lightning struck the ground a mere two inches from the hand which had attempted to grab the unconscious boy.

Once the both of them had their eyes on her she smirked slightly at the surprise present on their faces, "Sorry," she began unsympathetically, "but I'm going to have to borrow that kid, and I won't take no for an answer." She finished, her smirk growing more vicious as her power rose and lightning sparked around her form.

A fair distance away in a small candy shop two other supernatural beings were keeping a close eye on the proceedings of the night with no small amount of apprehension. They, just like the young boy's mother noticed the lack of other Shinigami in the town, and both held a grim knowledge of the most likely reason for their absence. The young Kurosaki boy who inherited each aspect of his parent's powers making him something that truly shouldn't exist.

The first of the two, a blond-haired man who often hid his expression and feelings behind his signature hat and fan merely hummed as if he were in deep thought, the brim of his hat lowing to cast a shadow over his eyes. "I must say, it's quite odd that on the night an infamous hollow appears that has been eluding the Soul Society for over fifty years the whole Seireitei essentially goes dark and pulls out every Shinigami stationed here, it's almost as if they don't want to catch him." he finished with mock amazement in his tone.

"Hmph, don't play dumb, you know the Soul Society wouldn't just pass up on an opportunity to get a hollow like Grand Fisher without a good reason." The second occupant of the room which was a small black cat replied, it's tail flicking sharply in annoyance.

A brief silence took over the room before the small feline spoke again, its tone much more serious than before, "You don't think they found out about him, do you? It would certainly warrant the need to eliminate him before he became a problem."

"No." the shopkeeper replied simply, "it would be impossible for them to know of his heritage, to them he is just a human soul with large amounts of reiryoku." He paused briefly before continuing, however, his tone and attitude became deathly serious. "There is one, however, who would know of his true nature and could force the Shinigami to stay their hand."

The small black cat's eyes widened at that statement, "You can't mean...?"

"Yes, if Kurosaki-san is given the necessary time and opportunity he could grow strong enough to challenge even him, it's only reasonable that he could become fearful." He finished in a low tone, tipping his hat down to further shade his eyes. It really was a sad reality, whether anyone liked it or not Kurosaki Ichigo would be drawn into the supernatural; drawn in and forced to fight countless battles. If he survived them or not would depend on him; however, if it came to it Urahara already promised himself he would do all he could to help the young boy.

Before either of them could continue the conversation further they felt something that made their eyes widen in shock. The familiar sensation of Masaki's reiatsu rising pricked at their senses before it suddenly plummeted to nearly non-existent levels and it wasn't stopping there. Silently they got up, Yoruichi shifted smoothly into her human form and donned her normal garb, moving to the front of the store where Urahara had pushed on ahead; she nodded to him a silent confirmation that she was ready and they were gone.

Silently they raced towards the river at speeds most current Captains couldn't hope to match though just when the winding stretch of water finally came into their view they faltered mid-step. Masaki's reiatsu signature had just blinked out of existence, they had failed her.

Urahara, while saddened by this turn of events merely grit his teeth and forced his emotions to the back of his mind, there was still one who needed their help and they would not fail him too.

"Come on, Ichigo still needs our help," Urahara spoke softly, he knew that Yoruichi had been good friends with Isshin's wife and this must have hit her hard, but she wasn't a former Captain for nothing, she too quickly steeled her emotions and prepared to set off once more.

As they pushed reiatsu into their legs a sense of helplessness and dread washed over them and not even a moment later a pillar of black energy erupted from the ground where Ichigo and Masaki lay. Shock filled their beings as this impressive display of power was set off; they knew who this reiatsu belonged to; they'd felt his excess of power since he was born, but for him to produce such powerful reiatsu already? It was easily at the level of a third or fourth seat and still rising higher. But this turn of events only brought forth more questions. How was he able to release such a power? Could he have potentially met his Zanpakuto spirit already? A traumatic experience like this would certainly warrant it.

The great pillar of black slowly faded away as they approached, the ground was completely ripped apart around the unconscious Ichigo and his deceased mother, both of them surprisingly without any injuries, with the exception of the four large gashes across Masaki's back. The same could not be said for the hollow that attacked them. Grand Fisher was completely still, obviously still in shock at the turn of events, he had countless gashes all over his body in which blood freely leaked from and even though he still had a mask on his face you could tell he was in incredible pain.

"Awaken, Benihime." the blond-haired shopkeeper spoke silently, his usually inconspicuous cane morphing into his Zanpakuto; with a small flick of his wrist, he sent a crimson wave of energy screaming through the air towards Grand Fisher, ending his life.

Yoruichi, who had ignored the hollow and immediately touched down beside the two Kurosaki's felt a couple stray tears running down her cheek at the sight of Masaki, even in death, she had such a serene expression on her face, obviously happy knowing she saved her little boy from the Hollow. Gaze shifting to said boy, she couldn't help but crack a small, crooked and slightly sad smirk at the kid's bright orange hair. She'd always known he was special, but that outburst of power, at such a young age was incredible.

As Urahara touched down beside her, she shot a brief glance in his direction. She could see the tired lines that marred his face however she also saw something else in his eyes, a sort of grim contemplation as he looked down towards the young boy, she almost didn't want to ask but curiosity got the best of her. "What is it, Kisuke?"

The shopkeeper did not respond, instead he knelt down beside Ichigo and pulled back one of his eyelids, what was revealed brought a shocked gasp from Yoruichi and caused his already grim expression to darken greatly. Instead of the child's normally soft brown eyes, he was met with a golden iris and tendrils of black that were slowly receding from the white sclera.

"Oh dear, what an unexpected turn of events," Urahara stated with a dull voice, his mind was already working a mile a minute contemplating things that needed to be done and things that were still yet to come. As he cast one more glance towards the deceased mother he couldn't help the heavy sigh that escaped him, there was still so much to do, first and foremost telling Isshin of the happenings of this night, that fact that his wife had now passed on and his only son may or may not have been contacted by his Zanpakuto spirit as well as awoken the sleeping hollow within.

He would also need to tell Isshin and try to convince him that it would be best to immediately start training Ichigo. This event clearly showed that the boy wouldn't be getting a peaceful life as they had hoped; it would be best if they helped him prepare for whatever will come in the future. 'Oh dear indeed...' he finished quietly in his mind. It would seem though that their night was not yet over, for when Yoruichi reached down to pick up the sleeping boy in her arms a bolt of lighting faster then their eyes could follow struck the earth between them forcing her hand back.

Kisuke Urahara was a scientist and inventor, it was because of this that for the most part he liked being presented with things that seemed unbelievable to him; however, there were times when that was not true as well, and right now as he gazed into the eyes of this woman wearing an evil grin and the cross of a Quincy it was one of those moments.

Even as the shopkeeper stared off impassively his mind was racing, wondering if the song of the Sealed King could really be true; if that man really was alive than they had much bigger problems to deal with than Aizen and the Hogyoku. As much as he wished to deny it the Quincy stood before him – and wishing to take Ichigo away no less – was all the proof he needed.

With narrowed eyes and a firm hand on his cane Urahara finally addressed the person before him, "Why are you after Ichigo? He has no ties to this world, he is innocent."

She snorted mockingly at Urahara's questions, "I, do not want him, but this kid has been chosen by his Majesty to help bring about the new world, and so I will be returning with him."

There it was, the confirmation that Yhwach really was alive, and at most they had a couple years before he would return himself and try to take this world for his own if the Quincy Hymn was really accurate. 'Enemies come and go, and wars continue to be waged, that's how it has always been and will always continue to be. However, I will be damned if I let someone take Isshin's son just so they can train him as a weapon of war.' he thought to himself, fixing the Quincy woman with a murderous glare from under the brim of his hat, his Zanpakuto, Benihime thrummed in agreement from his hand.

His eyes briefly met those of Yoruichi's and within that instant a message was passed between them. This was not a fight they could afford to drag out, they needed to win as fast as possible.

Yoruichi, true to her nickname of Goddess of Flash, flickered from existence and reappeared in front of Candice with her fist already mere centimetres from her face before the Quincy could even blink, just as the fist made contact Candice preformed a lightning jump to get away though not without receiving some damage, even without fully connecting the punch was jarring.

The flash goddess was not able to walk away from the confrontation unharmed either, her right hand was decently singed from the brief second in which Candice turned into lightning. Said female Sternritter was given no chance to rest, as soon as she stopped after dashing away from Yoruichi, Urahara was there with his Benihime poised for a strike, she formed her own blade quickly out of lighting in an attempt to fend him off however she learnt very quickly that he was no novice swordsman.

His stabs and slashes were incredibly fast and accurate and although she was doing a god job of fending him off every few strikes or so he would hit the mark and cut her, just as she finally managed to push the shopkeeper away Yoruichi was right above her, leg coming down to kick her from above, crossing both of her lightning blades above her head she barely managed to block the attack though it left her wide open, something Urahara was not afraid to take advantage of.

"Hado #73, Soren Sokatsui!" the shopkeeper mombled out, watching sharply as the large beam of blue energy hit its mark and detonated with a great explosion. When the smoke cleared Candice was slightly more dishevelled in appearance and you could see her stomach was lightly singed and bleeding where the attack had hit. She looked to be significantly more angry then before, the smirk she once had no longer present now replaced by a snarl, like last time, however, before she could do anything to retaliate Yoruichi was on her like a hawk.

'Dammit! This is ridiculous, I knew they were strong but I cant even get an opening!' From the moment the fight started she was being pressed, be it in swordplay with Urahara, or hand to hand combat with Yoruichi. If it was just a pure one on one fight she would have fared much better against either but with them working in tandem and switching out frequently Candice was tiring quickly. Although she had landed a good couple of hits on both opponents she was looking much worse for ware with multiple cuts and bruises spread out on her arms, legs and torso.

'Maybe I bit off more then I could chew here, I'll ha-' she was cut off when an attack slammed into her from behind, she visibly grimaced at the damage it had done.

"Nake, Benihime!" Urahara spoke out, launching a wave of crimson energy at the Quincy and cutting deeply into her back.

She was quickly reaching her boiling point, they were making her look like a child, "DAMN YOU BOTH!" she yelled, electricity ripping through the air around her as her reiatsu spiked catching both of her opponents off guard, using that surprise to her advantage she shifted her body to a state of lighting and jumped in front of Kisuke before attacking, "GALVANO BLAST!" she roared, the arc of lightning that hit Kisuke was massive and momentarily distracted her second opponent who looked for an indication that her friend was okay. Candice not looking a gift horse in the mouth, shifted once more and got behind Yoruichi and used one of her lightning swords to cut the woman deeply in the back to which she followed up with a kick shooting the dark skinned woman towards the ground.

All three attacks landed head on and caused serious damage to both of her opponents however she hadn't been warned about them for nothing, it would take a lot more than a couple well placed attacks to even remotely slow down Urahara Kisuke and Shihoin Yoruichi, something she quickly found out.

Shrouded in white electricity Yoruichi rocketed from the earth towards Candice, her expression so feral that it actually caught the Quincy momentarily off guard. Focus returning she prepared to intercept the woman's attack, though try as she might there was just no chance, her speed was far too great. When the deceptively small fist pushed into her gut and twisted all she could do was scream silently while spit flew from her mouth. Body folding mid air her blurry vision fell on the woman's partner who's glowing hands were outstretched towards her.

All Candice could do was curse silently.

"Bakudo #79, Kuyo Shibari!" were the simple words spoken by the man though he was unsure if she could even hear. Watching impatiently as eight dark orbs formed around her body he breathed out a sigh of relief and prepared for his finale when the ninth pulsed to life at the centre of her chest. Urahara Kisuke was not a Kido master just in name and he would make sure this Quincy knew it.

"Limit of the thousand hands, respectful hands, unable to touch the darkness. Shooting hands unable to reflect the blue sky. The road that basks in light, the wind that ignited the embers, time that gathers when both are together, there is no need to be hesitant, obey my orders. Light bullets, eight bodies, nine items, book of heaven, diseased treasure, great wheel, grey fortress tower. Aim far away, scatter brightly and cleanly when fired. Hado #91, Senju Koten Taiho!"

The aftermath was incredible. The sky was bathed a deep pink for blocks on end and there was a dull ringing in both the former Captains ears that refused to relent as the seconds passed. Any hopes they had about the Soul Society staying in the dark about all this had just been flung through the window and clean out of the stratosphere.

It had been a long time since Candice felt such pain, and as the smoke continued to disperse around her she knew the fight was over, at this rate she'd be lucky to make it back to Silbern alive, and even if she did it was uncertain whether or not this failure would be overlooked by his majesty. Not only physically, her pride had taken a massive hit as well, when she took this mission from Yhwach, the man had asked her if she wanted to take anyone else along for support, she immediately said no believing that she could easily complete this task by herself, how wrong she was.

At least no one was here to witness her last pathetic moments, or so she thought.

Both Candice and the two former Captain's were startled when suddenly a hysterical laughter filled their now silent battlefield, the female Sternritter recognized it immediately and cursed her luck while the two Shinigami gazed wearily towards the new voice and the newcomers.

The first of the two and the one laughing was a tall man with green eyes and red hair set into a long mohawk with two metal nuts pierced into his upper-left ear, and a bolt through his lower-right ear. His attire is a variation of the Sternritter's typical white uniform consisting of the orders signature hooded cloak, a thigh length trench-coat, black gloves and pants which are cropped just above a pair of black military boots. He has a simple chain hanging around his neck with the Wandenreich emblem attached to it as well as black armbands around his biceps with a skull and cross bones design on them.

The second was a fairly slim and impassive looking man with narrow pale blue eyes and short black heir with his pointed bangs hanging between his eyes. He has a small, vertical scar over the left side of his mouth. His attire is a variation of the Sternritter's typical white uniform consisting of the orders signature hooded cloak, a trench-coat like gi ending just past his waist with a black sash, and a pair of black finger-less gloves.

"Hah! You're so pathetic Candice, even after telling his majesty you didn't need any help on this mission, now look at the state you're in! I should just leave you here to die." the red haired man roared over the silence bringing a slightly downcast and angered expression to the females face.

"Bazz-B... you bastard, what are you and Cang doing here?"

The now named Bazz-B almost looked offended at her words, "Why are we here? We're here because your pathetic ass thought you could take on two former Shinigami Captain's, and now look at you, you can barely stand."

Out of the corner of their eyes they could see both Urahara and Yoruichi tensing and preparing to fight once more, though now with the odds stacked against them, just as Bazz-B was about to address them Cang beat him to the punch. "Urahara Kisuke, Shihoin Yoruichi, our fight is over, we only need to retrieve our ally, the main objective has already been completed."

The two addressed fighters were not stupid and it only took a brief second for the true meaning of the Quincy's words to hit them, before another second had passed the pair spun on their heels and glanced at the now empty spot where the unconscious Ichigo should have been. Fury flooded their veins at this sight and as they spun back to face the Quincy's, eyes only seeing red they found out they were far too late, the shadows were already consuming the three, they were now out of reach.

Once more Ichigo's eyes opened to the sight of that serene world, but this time he just couldn't bring himself to care all that much. He felt so very tired, mentally and physically, the last few hours felt like nothing more than a blur. The weight of his current situation further became clearer as his mind kept wandering back to the same thing, this day which had so quickly turned into a nightmare.

Asides from the never ending rain which he'd always hated, it had been a good day, he still couldn't believe how quickly everything had turned. It was hard for him to accept, to admit to himself that his mother was indeed gone, however, deep down he just knew it was true, and although he was sad, terribly so, he wouldn't cry, the tears just wouldn't come.

So instead he fell forwards into the comforting embrace of the stoic man knelt before him. He could see a look of concern in his white counterparts eyes though judging by the uneasy look on his face he wasn't quite sure how to handle the situation and thus settled for sitting in the grass a couple feet away. Ichigo didn't mind, he appreciated the support.

After a few moments had passed the pair separated and Ichigo fell backwards into a seated position. Ichigo knew he wouldn't get over his mother's death for a long time, but these few minutes of comforting silence had helped ease his mind, he felt a little better. "So, did I really do it?" He finally asked. The fate of the monster which had taken his mother away hadn't once left his mind.

"Of course, that sorry excuse for a Hollow stood no chance against us," the white Ichigo said gleefully, mouth twisting into a malicious grin.

Ichigo sighed in relief at the affirmation, he didn't want anyone else to go through what he just had. But, now that that was out of the way he let his curiosity take over.

The white version of himself had just referred to that creature as a 'Hollow,' in fact that was what it had originally called itself too, the 'Hollow' had also mentioned something about Shinigami, death gods, it was kind of frightening to think that they potentially existed. But before any of that, he was curious about this world he once again found himself in, and the two people that inhabited it, they both seemed to know him and yet he knew nothing of them or the power he supposedly held.

"Who are you two? When I first saw you I got a strange sense of familiarity but I know I haven't seen you before..." he finally asked, unable to bear the wait any longer.

"It is understandable that we would seem familiar to you even though we have never physically met before today and the reason is that we are the physical manifestations of the powers you possess and as such have been with you since your birth." The stoic mas stated simply, watching silently as Ichigo pondered over the information given.

Face scrunching up in confusion Ichigo looked between both spirits curiously before speaking up again, "If you've been with me since I was born then why do you look so much older than me, shouldn't we be the same age?"

"Yes and no," he answered, "your power is something you've inherited from your parents, as they did from theirs and so on, the power itself is hundreds- if not thousands of years old going back through generations of your bloodline, it merely changes itself to match a person's soul when someone new is born into the family."

Ichigo nodded, "is that why he looks like an older me?" He asked, throwing another glance at his silently watching inverted copy. The old man gave Ichigo a weird look at the question, almost like he didn't want to reply.

"No, normally the power that he represents would have a unique appearance from the wielder, but at your birth, a foreign entity was introduced into your soul merging with him and making him what he is today. It is a power you never should have received in the first place but nevertheless it is a part of you now."

The boy stayed silent for a moment, pondering what he had been told. He was a little concerned about this 'foreign power' the old man had brought up, it sounded dangerous but if they weren't concerned about it than neither would he be.

With a nod, the boy moved onto his next question. "So, what is my power exactly?" Once again the regal looking spirit spoke up, Ichigo was quickly getting the picture that Zangetsu wasn't much of a talker, but that was fine.

"In order to tell you that, first you must learn of everything that exists in this world." With those words said the spirit had the utmost attention from their wielder, it was nice to see that despite being so young, he was so eager to learn.

"When a person dies, either by natural or unnatural means their soul separates from their body. After this soul separation occurs the fate of that person is decided. If they were a sinner in life then the gates of Hell would appear and a guardian from its depths would grab the soul and drag it down where it would stay for all eternity. If the person had been good during their life then they would pass onto a place known as the Soul Society, essentially what you would know as 'Heaven.'

But, what happens to a soul which dies filled with regret or other negative emotions? They become bound to the human world, unable to move onto the Soul Society or Hell, and if enough time passes then their sanity will eventually slip and they will become a Hollow, much like the creature which attacked you.

When a soul finally gives out and becomes a Hollow they lose their hearts and instead form as masks on their faces. All Hollow's feel an incredible emptiness inside of themselves and a hunger that can never be quenched. In order to try and ease that emptiness and hunger Hollow's eat the souls of humans which hold an above average amount of spiritual energy, like your mother and yourself."

The boy understood where the conversation was going, "what happens to the souls that they eat?"

"Sadly, they are trapped within the hollow that devoured them until that hollow perishes," he answered, pausing slightly to take a breath, there was still quite a bit more left to explain.

"That question brings us onto the next topic, Shinigami." He continued, "the Shinigami all live in the Soul Society and any soul that possesses an above normal amount of reiatsu has the potential to become one. Shinigami have two main purposes, the first is to guide souls that are stuck behind in the human world due to their negative emotions or regret, the Shinigami help them move on before they become Hollows.

The second purpose is to purify hollows by slaying them. Once a hollow is defeated its soul as well as any that it consumed during its life are set free and allowed to enter the cycle of reincarnation once more. In order to purify a hollow the Shinigami must use a special type of weapon that only they possess called a Zanpakuto, however, no two Zanpakuto are the same because each one is born from a Shinigami's soul itself."

Ichigo quickly caught on, "Then you two are my Zanpakuto, right?"

"You're half right Aibou, I'm your Zanpakuto but he represents a different part of you," the white Ichigo finally spoke up, jabbing a thumb in the direction of the old man.

Immediately Ichigo turned a curious gaze to him, very interested in learning about what aspect he represented. If his inverted self was his Zanpakuto, the manifestation of his Shinigami powers, then what could the old man be?

"Worry not, I will explain after," he assured, "but first there is one more thing I must tell you. As you now know there are Shinigami and Hollow, however, there is one more race as well, called the Quincy. Quincy are humans with access to spiritual powers, and the opposite of Shinigami.

Quincy like Shinigami are born from powerful souls, however, they awaken them during their life, unlike the Shinigami who do so after death. The other main difference between the two and the reason Quincy are hated by the Shinigami is that they threaten the very balance of the worlds. Instead of purifying the Hollows as Shinigami do, Quincy destroy the soul, removing it from existence." The old man finished in a grim tone.

The boy was speechless at the revelation. If they destroyed Hollow's then wouldn't that mean that they destroyed all of the souls which were consumed by it too? If that was the case, why did they use their powers still? Or why didn't they at least try and change the way their powers worked so that they could purify as the Shinigami do..." Why don't they stop killing Hollow's?" He asked simply.

The old man's expression darkened further. "Sadly Ichigo, most Quincy are selfish, evil and twisted beings who care not for reason, only their pride."

As the three sat in silence Ichigo's mind continued to think about the stoic man who had been teaching him. 'He was fine talking about Shinigami and Hollow, but as soon as these Quincy came up he got really upset. The white me said that he represented a different aspect of my powers, could it be that...'

"You're the manifestation of my Quincy powers, aren't you." He stated bluntly. Had it been any other situation the look of astonishment on the old man's face would have been funny, but Ichigo could tell this was a serious situation and something that really bothered him.

He had a crooked sort of smile on his face; like he was unsure whether to be proud at his wielders intelligence or sad that he had been found out so soon, thus that crooked smile was born as a compromise between the two. "Yes... you are correct, I am the manifestation of the Quincy powers you possess."

He so badly wanted to ask why the old man seemed so distressed by the fact, but he could tell that it wasn't yet time for him to know; they would tell him when he was ready.

Further pondering the knowledge he'd gained he came to another conclusion, this one he wasn't so sure he liked. "That foreign entity you talked about, the one that merged with my Zanpakuto, it was a Hollow wasn't it...?" The boy grimaced at their nods, to think that part of him was the same as that Hollow who'd taken his mom away... he didn't like it.

As much as he wanted to know why and how such a thing happened, he got the feeling that they wouldn't want to answer it right now. It too would need to wait for a later date. It was okay though, there was one more thing he still wished to ask. "So, what exactly is this place?"

Ichigo's Zanpakuto shifted his position on the ground slightly so he could face Ichigo a little easier, it seemed he was finally ready to field some questions now. "This is your inner world. All Shinigami have one, but just like how no two Zanpakuto are the same, no two inner worlds are the same either.

A Zanpakuto is a reflection of the wielder but in their truest forms. People often create masks to hide their true selves but Zanpakuto aren't like that, they don't have masks- can't have them. I am your truest form. And, just like a Zanpakuto is the reflection of a wielder, the inner world is a reflection of their soul. You've always loved the moon and have a strong affinity for it, that's why my name is - and why it's always evening in your inner world."

Ichigo's face scrunched up in confusion, quickly his two spirits realized what had battled the boy so. "Your name is what?" He asked again, though was confused when his white counterpart merely shook his head.

"Don't worry about it," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Shinigami can only hear the name of their Zanpakuto when they're ready, I didn't think you would be yet but I figured it was worth a try anyway."

Ichigo merely nodded. He was sad that he couldn't hear his Zanpakuto's name but his white counterpart didn't seem bothered by it so it obviously wasn't a big deal yet. "Will I be able to hear your name?" He asked now, turning towards the older man, he was kind of embarrassed to admit he'd forgotten to ask either of their names sooner.

"You may call me Yhwach, Ichigo..." he replied simply, head tilting forward slightly in a nod.

Now despite his young age Ichigo could be quite perceptive when he wished to be, because of this he didn't miss the slight look of distaste nor the bitter tone when his black-haired spirit spoke the name 'Yhwach' though he didn't understand why. Nonetheless, he didn't feel it was right to press the issue right now, perhaps in time, he would learn more about it, for now, he just nodded his head in understanding.

An unknown amount of time passed in tranquility after that, Ichigo had gotten lots of new information to mull over and decided to just take a break and relax. Even though nothing ever changed in his inner world, time never progressed and the soft breeze never waned Ichigo knew he would never get tired of this experience.

But, just when he thought nothing could go wrong something shifted. He understood right away that he had a connection to his inner world as well as the two spirits who inhabited it when he originally arrived, thus he immediately felt the shift in his inner world when the sky dimmed and the moon lost some of its impressive glow.

Looking to his partners for answers he found both of them staring off into space, eyes glazed, clearly, they were seeing something he couldn't. As the seconds passed watching his two spirits the young child's worry continued to grow. Yhwach's normally indifferent expression turned into grim contemplation and his white counterpart shifted from his normal- if not slightly psychotic grin to a vicious snarl.

Moments passed and finally, they snapped out if it, though there was no time for questions as Yhwach took control. "Ichigo, listen to me, something bad has happened to you in the real world, you are being taken somewhere..." He paused, eyes glazing over again briefly. "I'm going to send you back, when you wake up, do as they tell you, don't speak unless spoken to and don't say too much when you do." He continued, coming back from wherever vision had captured him that time. "I know this is sudden but trust me Ichigo, I will be with you every step of the way, you will be fine."

A stunned and overwhelmed 'What?' was all Ichigo could say before he was thrust back into darkness.

~ Unknown Location

The only sound heard in the dimly lit room was a dull thump as the sole occupant slammed his clenched fist off the desk he was perched at. The light from the monitors glared sharply off his square-framed glasses, holding images of people in white and a young boy with orange hair.


Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.

I don't have too much to say here, it should be pretty obvious what this story will be about from the summary and the chapter itself, so all I can say is I hope you enjoy. I want to give a warning though, this Ichigo is going to be different from the one we knew. Yes his main canon traits will still be there but he wont be exactly the same. He was just taken by the Quincy which isn't exactly the best bunch to grow up with.

I'll quickly make a note about romance too because I fell like it'll be brought up eventually. At this point I don't think there will be any in this story, it's just not something I see as a priority. I will say this though, Ichigo's relationships here are going to be different from what they were in canon. He will still have some of the same friends but because he wont be exactly the same person as before those friendships are going to be slightly different and he may even gain some new friends that surprise you.

If you have any thoughts on this chapter than feel free to leave a review, I'm always looking to improve my writing and so constructive criticism is always welcome. Or, if you have any specific questions or would just like to chat with me then feel free to send me a message, I always reply when I can.

- Vertius