A.N.: This is a request by Draxon.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.
The Next Evening….
Laying on his bed, Ichigo nursed his aching shoulder, the pain caused by a wound courtesy of Orihime's Hollowfied brother, Sora. Rukia was once again asleep in the closet. Ichigo looked at the clock and saw that it was getting close to midnight.
Ichigo took a deep breath and felt a little anxious. He'd already been in a fight to the death with the Hollow Sora and he'd received his fair share of injuries. Sure, Rukia had healed him with her Kidō but he still felt small vestiges of pain. Rukia told him that it was natural and that the small pains he felt would fade the following day.
An hour passed and Ichigo wondered if his new teacher was coming. Finally, just when Ichigo was starting to doze off, he heard a tapping at the window. Rubbing his eyes, he saw a certain blonde-haired Arrancar standing outside his window. "Halibel!"
The woman put a finger to her covered lips, indicating Ichigo that he needed to keep quiet. She quietly opened his window. "Good evening, Ichigo. I…" her eyes scanned the boy and, as if she could read minds, her stare turned to his shoulder. "I see you've been busy since we've last met."
"Hi, Halibel," Ichigo smiled before remembering the Soul Reaper sleeping in his closet. "Wait, we're going to train? Now?'
"That is what we agreed to."
"Yeah but…" he turned once more to the closet. "What about Rukia? What do I do if she gets an alert about a Hollow and finds me gone?" he asked, wondering if maybe he should've thought this through.
Halibel shook her head and reached into her pocket. "Have no fear, Ichigo," she replied. "My Fracción will be ensuring that your training is uninterrupted."
"You don't need to worry about it." She pulled out a pouch and gave it to Ichigo. "As for your friend, sprinkle a pinch of this over her." When Ichigo looked at her with trepidation, she shook her head. "I give you my word, Ichigo. It's not harmful. It is merely a sleeping agent that will ensure that she stays asleep. I'm many things but sadistic is not among them."
Opening up the pouch Halibel gave him, Ichigo saw what looked like pink dust. He wondered again if this was right and if he'd thought this through. When he looked up at Halibel though, his judgment told him she could be trusted. Hoping that he wasn't wrong, Ichigo crept over to his closet and quietly opened the door. Rukia didn't stir while Ichigo reached into the pouch and took a pinch of pink dust out of it. He sprinkled the dust over Rukia's face. Inhaling the sleeping agent, Rukia sank into a deeper sleep, lightly snoring.
Closing the door, Ichigo grabbed her glove and popped out of his Human body. Putting his physical shell back into bed, Ichigo followed Halibel out the window, taking off into the night. He followed the Arrancar as best as he could but found that she was too fast. "Halibel! Slow down!" he finally said when he was starting to lose her.
"Hmph!" Halibel looked back at Ichigo and rolled her eyes. "If you can't keep up with me at this pace, you've a long way to go, boy."
Halibel finally stopped, her feet touching soft grass. Reaching the blonde, Ichigo huffed and panted. He looked around and saw that they were in the middle of the forest that was on the mountain overlooking Karakura Town. "Why are we here?"
"This is a perfect spot for your training. No powerless Soul Reapers to interfere and no family to distract you."
Ichigo scowled. He didn't like her tone. Drawing his sword, Ichigo gestured to Halibel's. "Um…you said you can teach me how to wield my sword better? But your sword is so much shorter than mine. How can you know of how to fight with a big weapon?" he asked out of curiosity.
Facing the boy, Halibel reached for her sword and drew it. "Do not make such quick assumptions. You hardly know anything about me, let alone Arrancars."
Stabbing his sword into the ground, Ichigo crossed his arms, "And just how am I supposed to trust you when I don't know anything about you?" he pointed out.
The blonde gave a low chuckle. "If you want answers, you'll have to earn them. Treat me as a friend or as an enemy; that is up to you. But the first lesson you should take to heart tonight is this: when you see a person with their sword drawn…"
Halibel disappeared from Ichigo's sight. The boy gasped and reached for his zanpakuto only to feel cold steel against his throat. He went still as Halibel held him at swordpoint, the woman humming in disappointment from behind him. "Don't ever take your hand off your sword in front of your enemy." Ichigo was thankful when Halibel took her sword away from his neck, only to yelp when Halibel put a boot to his back, knocking him away. As he stumbled he grabbed his sword and turned around. Putting up a stance, Halibel gestured for Ichigo to do the same. "Let us begin."
A few hours later….
"You're swings are still weak. You've a longer reach than me, use it." Halibel ducked another swing and swiped at Ichigo who blocked it. The impact sent him skidding backwards. Halibel was on Ichigo again, keeping up the pressure. Several trees lay cut down around them, victims of Ichigo's wild swings. Sweat dripped down Ichigo's back as he locked swords with Halibel, trying to push her away. "Don't bladelock," Halibel reminded him. "It boils down to who's stronger. And right now…that is not you."
Ichigo cried out as Halibel pushed him backward, tripping over a fallen tree and tumbling to the ground. He panted as he tried to get up. Looking up, he saw Halibel, one foot on the tree, extending her hand towards him. "Wow…" he breathed as she helped him up. "You're so strong."
Halibel nodded, glad that Ichigo could see the clear gap of power between them. Having said that though, Halibel was also pleased at Ichigo's progress. In a matter of hours his skill with a zanpakuto had increased. She was right when she ascertained his bountiful potential. 'To see him at his peak,' Halibel mused. 'That's a thought that sends chills down my spine…among other things….' She noticed how Ichigo kept rubbing his shoulder and raised an eyebrow. "Are you okay?" she asked, concerned for him. She'd dialed back on her strength to make sure she didn't pulverize him and she made sure not to wound the boy so to see him nursing his shoulder was concerning.
"Yeah. It's from earlier when I was fighting a Hollow," he explained. "My friend, Rukia, healed me but I'm still feeling some pain."
"I see," Halibel noted. She sat down on a stump and gestured for Ichigo to join her. "Tell me what happened." Sitting down on the ground next to her, Ichigo explained his earlier battle with Acidwire, AKA Sora. "Hmm…so this Hollow was your friend's brother?" she asked.
"Yeah. Rukia told me…that Hollows attack their loved ones when they first transform. Um…" Ichigo suddenly felt uncomfortable when he thought of a serious question. "Hey, Halibel? Is that true?"
The woman nodded. "That it is. The hole we Hollows carry represents our desire to become Human again. The urge to devour Souls, for most Hollows, is a result of that desire."
"So…did you attack the person you cared about when you became a Hollow?"
The forest became filled with the music of silence while Halibel struggled to come up with an answer. "No…" she said before turning to the boy. "I did not. I am not like other Hollows. I do not devour Souls."
The stare from her emerald eyes made Ichigo feel a little ashamed; he did ask a very personal question after all. "Sorry…."
"It is…more complicated than you know," Halibel admitted. 'How do I explain what a Vasto Lorde is to him?' she wondered. A Vasto Lorde is a Menos Grande type of Hollow. She struggled to explain to Ichigo how she even came into being. Halibel's name, her body and her powers were not her own. True, her personality was what kept her unique when she ascended from a Gillian to an Adjuchas but every part of her besides her mind was nothing but an amalgamation of countless Hollows. 'And that was before Lord Aizen transformed me into an Arrancar….' "It is alright. I know that this must be quite conflicting for you." She reached down and put a hand on his shoulder. "You are a Soul Reaper. I am a Hollow. It is natural that you're confused."
Ichigo smiled, glad that he didn't hit a nerve. He figured that there was something Halibel was keeping from him but he didn't think she was lying. Feeling a familiar jolt of pain in his shoulder he winced, causing Halibel to take her hand off of him. "Ow…."
"Your shoulder. Let me see it," Halibel requested.
The boy loosened his top and let it slide down his shoulders. Halibel's gloved fingers touched the small scar on his shoulder, sensing the pain beneath it. Ichigo wondered what the woman was doing when he felt…warm. He turned his head to see Halibel's hand glow yellow. "Is that…" he started.
"Arrancars may not have Kidō like you Soul Reapers, but the ability to use our spiritual energy to heal is simple enough."
Ichigo sighed in relief as the pain in his shoulder melted. Though Rukia's healed the wound, Halibel's technique seemed to make all the aches and pains inside him fade away. He reached up and touched Halibel's hand. It felt like Halibel was a warm ember, soothing and tranquil. 'She's so different from any of the Hollows I've seen. I guess she really is more like a Soul Reaper. I wonder what she was like before….'
When Halibel took her hand away she heard Ichigo give a tiny groan of disappointment. "I'm not going to do that with every bruise or cut you get. So don't go getting yourself hurt just so I can touch you," she teased.
"What?!" Ichigo stammered. The woman seemed to know just what to say to make his face resemble his name.
Chuckling, Halibel stood up and helped Ichigo to his feet. "I'm only joking. Still, this…Orihime, was it?" she inquired. You seem quite fond of her."
"Yeah. We're good friends."
Halibel frowned behind her mask, wondering if this Orihime was going to be a problem. 'Another time perhaps.' The lightening of the sky told Halibel that dawn was approaching. Knowing she had to return to Hueco Mundo, she reached into her pocket and handed Ichigo a bracelet. "Here."
Taking it, Ichigo inspected the trinket. It was a simple black band with a red jewel dangling from it. "What is it?"
"Unfortunately I cannot train you every night. That will be a signal to tell you that I'm waiting for you here."
"How will I know?"
"When the jewel turns green, you'll know." She grabbed her sword, stabbed into another trunk, and sheathed it. "I'll see you again soon, Ichigo."
"Good night, Halibel," Ichigo said, sheathing his own. Halibel nodded and disappeared from sight again, leaving Ichigo standing in the middle of the forest flustered.
"Okay, how does she keep doing that?"
To be continued
A.N.: To answer a few reviews. For starters: This is not going to be an OP fanfic. Under Halibel's guidance, Ichigo will be stronger but only slightly. OP stories are something that I do not enjoy all that much. Philerino, yes, I'm aware that my previous chapter was riddled with typos. That is why from now on I'm going to write at a more relaxed pace so that I don't feel rushed, which I hope is demonstrated in this chapter.