I own nothing and am not making any profit. This is just for fun. (Is patrion sponsorship against copyright laws? I don't do it I just want to know.)
By all depictions, it is the most vile place one can imagine. A world of suffering, fear, and hopelessness. The horrifying reward granted to those who commit unspeakable crimes within life.
Hell was evil incarnate.
Or was it?
Kurosaki Ichigo wasn't sure how long he had spent in that pit of despair, how long it had been since he had entered hell to save his younger sister, though it couldn't have been more than a few short months, two years tops. The chains of Hell had dug into him and had not let go. It sucked, but what was he to do?
He had helped the Soul Reapers hold the Gate of Hell until it was repaired. After that, the Soul Society Elites elected to abandoned him to his fate… but he didn't really blame them. The fate of his one soul was nothing when compared to the consequences involved in trying to cheat Hell out of something it had decided to keep. While he had been more than willing to throw that bit of rationality to the wind in order to save his sister and friends, he didn't place such a high value on his own soul.
Besides, Hell hadn't been interested in keeping them. Not like it was with Ichigo.
Since then, Ichigo had started to gain an understanding of Hell. It was as if the world itself was teaching him, sending the knowledge of its purpose to him through the chains that it had been bound to his soul.
Hell was not truly evil. It was necessary. Just like all things that existed, it held a logic to it. A purpose.
Without Hell, the souls of the sinners would reenter the cycle of reincarnation too soon, the darker energy, brought about by their crimes, still latched on to their souls. While the torturing of the soul who ended up there might have been extreme, it was all in order to ring out the Yin forces which had been bound to their souls so that they could once again reach a level of purity needed for reincarnation. It had to be this way, or else the balance between Yin and Yang would be undone and the worlds would slowly collapse under the weight of all the accumulated negative energy. Hell needed to be a dark place in order to contain the darkness.
Hell was an instrument of the natural order of things which followed a very simple law.
"Only evil can contain evil, and evil must be contained." Ichigo mumbled to himself as he stared across Hell's landscape, watching the Guardians chasing down the sinners in order to feed upon their Yin energy. The Guardians never bothered Ichigo. Not since the chains of hell had embedded themselves into his soul. If anything, they seem to recognize Ichigo as one of their own. "Why am I even still here? You've made it painfully obvious that you don't intend to suck me dry." The orange haired teen asked as he lifted up his arms, staring down at the short black chains that seemed to grow out of them. As usual, the black iron chains did not answer, annoying Ichigo more than a little bit.
He couldn't understand why he was giving special treatment. Why the monsters of Hell didn't try to rip him apart anymore, or why the dark world seemed to be trying to teach him things.
Knowledge flowed through him. Not just knowledge about Hell, but also about the nature of the soul. Knowledge of magic, the ways of Destruction and Binding. Knowledge of the Quincies and his own Quincy nature. Knowledge of the innate souls within physical objects. Knowledge about the formation of the ones Soul Sleep and the purpose of their Soul Chain. Knowledge of the various worlds connected through the cycle of reincarnation, not just the Human World, Soul Society and Hueco Mundo, but other worlds that Ichigo had never even known existed.
But even if it taught him all of these things, it never gave him any idea as to why it was doing it. It was like it was trying to prepare him for something.
Lying down on his back Ichigo lifted his right arm, his eyes wondering over the black metal chain that seemed to be growing out from underneath his skin. He could feel the power of Hell which was contained within it. It was inviting him, offering him the chance to tame its power, the same way it had before, if he would only yield to its reasoning.
The offer had stood for months and while Ichigo had yet to flat out rebel against it, he was still hesitant. He understood Hell. He understood its reason for existence and why it was the way it was, but… it didn't feel right. Something was off, Ichigo couldn't put his finger on what it was, but there was something about it that he just could not accept.
Hell was patent though. It didn't need to rush to convince him.
It had all of eternity.
"And what are you doing to do when I finally do give in? I see no point so long as I am here." Ichigo said, speaking out to the premarital consciousness of Hell.
A sort of tension passed through the chains causing them to rattle slightly, giving Ichigo the impression that they themselves were considering his words and hadn't really thought about it. The rattling grew and grew until it suddenly stopped all together.
Then, much to the boy's shock, the blacken chains irrupted in golden fire.
"The Hell!" Ichigo shouted, jumping away and trying to beat out the flames as they spread from the chains onto his body. There was no pain as the golden fire burned brighter and brighter, and Ichigo realized what was going on. Hell's response to his inquiry.
He was being thrown back into the sea of reincarnation, with his memories still intact, and the Chains of Hell still attached to his soul.
Jian Yue's life was like one of the fairy tales that mothers would tell their daughter's in Glory City.
As a daughter of the lower class, she had been born as one of the one in a hundred thousand individuals with a genius level talent. Her green soul sea had distinguished her from her peers and with a little hard work she had quickly become a Demon Spirituals. Because of her talent, she ended up attracting the eye of one of the seven Noble Families of Glory City, the Winged Dragon Clan, marrying one of the Clan's heirs. All the other girls had told her how lucky she was.
She didn't feel lucky.
Jian Yue was only fourteen years old and had just become a Four Star Bronze Rank, earning her a reputation as a super genius, when the Winged Dragon Clan had approached her parents. Her mother and father had agreed to the marriage proposal. Of course they did. They lived on the Winged Dragon Clan's land and could only keep their small restaurant open by their blessings. They had not liked the idea of giving up their talented daughter, but they had no chose.
Xiao Yunfeng, her husband, was a handsome man, tall with dense brown hair and striking features, but he was over thirty-years-old, and in their time married, she wouldn't have called him a loving husband. His marriage to her was a political move, as any talented children she bore him would improve his own claim for the title of Clan Patriarch against his three brothers. He was not a cruel man, but in his eyes, she was just a baby maker, and only as good as the children she would give him.
As she had become a noble lady, she was no longer able to see her old friends and family, but at the same time, she was not seen as the equal of the girls who had been born in the noble class either. They didn't bother to hide the snide comments about her upbringing. The only friends she had were the servants who worked for the Clan, and they could only be friendly to her when no one was looking.
Her life was just like those fairy tales that they would tell. She was just like the princess trapped in the tower.
However, she did have one thing.
Jian Yue had always loved children, and it wasn't long after her marriage that she had become pregnant for the first time and gave birth to a child of her very own.
Xiao Ichigo was her precious child. The little baby boy's ginger hair was the same bright color as his mother's, and he shared her golden eyes as well. She had loved him from the moment she set eyes on him. The feel of his gentle touch as she held him made her feel happier than she had felt since she had been invited to join the genius class at her school, before she was forced to leave to be Xiao Yunfeng's wife.
Though on this day, even the soothing presence of her little one couldn't squelch the anxiety she was feeling.
Xiao Lin, the Patriarch of the Winged Dragon Clan and his four sons had summoned her to the main hall. The Elders from the rest of the branch families had also been gathered to see the event.
"As with tradition we will now test the talent of this child born to the main family, too see what kind of feature his life may hold and see if he will be the one to lead our Winged Dragon Clan to new heights." Xiao Lin said, his voice projecting out over the gathered individuals. He gestured to a servant who then walked forward into the center of the room to were Jian Yue was standing with the baby Xiao Ichigo in her arms. The servant drew out a large soul crystal and carefully held it out to the child, inviting the three-month-old boy to grab a hold of it. Ichigo grabbed onto the crystal, not knowing what it was, and held onto it with his tiny arms.
Murmurs filled the room as the crystal began to glow. A murky black and crimson red flame started to form in the center of the crystal.
"A red soul sea. How unfortunate." Xiao Lin declared to gathered individuals. "It does not seem as though this child is a worthy heir to the Winged Dragon Clan."
"Hmph, what did you expect with such a common woman as the mother." Xiao Yi said, barely hiding a smirk towards his brother as he took pleasure in seeing that his rival's child was no threat at all. Xiao Yunfeng himself looked disappointed.
The color of one's soul sea was supposed to represent their talent in cultivating the power of their soul. Going from lowest to highest potential was red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, azure, purple. For a noble family who prided itself on producing strong Demon Spiritualists, having a son with a red soul sea was the height of embarrassment.
"Enough. Xiao Yunfeng, you will need to try again. Perhaps the next child will not be such a disappointment." Xiao Lin declared.
"Yes." Xiao Yunfeng said, bowing his head to his father as the gathered people left, some laughing at the man's misfortune. Xiao Yunfeng barely gave his wife and son a glance before leaving the room himself, but the look of disappointment struck Jian Yue's heart. He had rejected her son. More than likely, he would never give the boy another thought. Such was the way of the Noble Clans. Any child who could not become a Demon Spiritualist would be swept aside. The Clan resources would only go to the strong. She had heard rumors in school of the kind of bullying that happened within even aristocratic clans for children who lacked talent.
Her sad eyes moved from her husband down to her child and seeing his confused expression, she couldn't help but to smile. "Don't worry. No matter what kind of talent you have, you will always be by child. I will always be proud of you." Jian Yue said as she reached out and took the Soul Crystal from the baby's arms.
The moment she took it, she almost dropped it in shock. While the Elders of the clan had only sought to confirm the color of the boy's soul sea, they hadn't stopped to consider its strength. As a baby, the boy's Spirit Power would surely had been 1 or 2. But as Jian Yue held the Soul Crystal in her hand, she was able to judge the strength of her child's soul sea, and she could hardly believe the result.
He was just a new born baby, but he had already reached the level of a Three Star Bronze Demon Spiritualist. Jian Yue couldn't believe it. Not even in the most absurd legends ever told did any child have so much raw power so early in life. Genius wasn't a strong enough word. A genius would have reached that level of cultivation at the age of fifteen. Even the word legendary seemed inadequate. Her child was a true miracle. A gift from Heaven.
Wonder and pride filled the young mother's chest… quickly replaced by a feeling of dread.
If the Winged Dragon Clan ever found out about the child's unbelievable talent, then he would surely be elevated into being the most important individual in the entire clan… no, in the entirety of Glory City. The political game surrounding him would be a nightmare and they would doubtless try to have him taken away and trained, either to reach his full potential or so that he could be manipulated and controlled.
They would try to turn him into a weapon to be wielded against Glory City's enemies, or to conquer the city for themselves. The Dark Guild would surely seek to take his life. The City Lord using it as an excuse to steal him away. Ichigo would be taken away from her as surely as she was taken away from her own parents.
Jian Yue slipped the crystal away, out of sight of others before smiling down at her precious child. "Don't worry my little angel. No one will ever take you away from me. You will remain mommy's little miracle." She said as she left the room, hardly controlling the spring in her step.
A seven-year-old Ichigo held his breath in an attempt to steady his hands as carefully drew his inscriptions using the modified fountain pen. The hiss of the demon blood against hot metal accompanied the off-putting smells that filled any forge that could have been found inside of Glory City.
Regardless of his noble birth, Ichigo was treated as though he didn't even exist by most members of the Winged Dragon Clan, which suited him just fine. They didn't both him and he did as he pleased. The servants never minded his presence and let him do whatever he wanted, including using the old kitchen as a make shift forge to work metal and perform experiments with making Spirit Inscription. The fair-sized room was covered in books from the clan's collection, loose pages of his own scribbled notes and calculations, and various second-hand tools he had acquired over the last two years. All and all, it was kind of a mess.
"Done." Ichigo said as he put the finishing touches on the last piece he needed for his little pet project.
"It's about time! Now hurry it up and put me in!" The familiar frustrated voice of Zangetsu said, his words echoing in the back of the reincarnated reaper's mind.
"Shut up, this wasn't easy you know." Ichigo snapped back as he took the final piece and pressed it into its place on the back of what looked like a dog made entirely out of metal, with a special white paint on top of it to protect the inscriptions from being damaged. "Now I just need to put you in."
Ichigo picked up a small clear marble off of the table, holding it tight in the palm of his hand. It was a Demon Crystal Stone, one holding the soul of a Demon Beast called a Spinney Hound.
This new world that Ichigo found himself in was populated by a number of creatures commonly referred to as Demon Beasts. A demon beast was any kind of plant or animal that made use of Spiritual power through the formation of a Demon Crystal that grew somewhere inside of the Demon Beast's body. After a Demon Beast died, its soul reminded behind inside of the Demon Crystal Stone, after which a human could absorb that Demon Beast's soul into their own Soul Sea, what the Soul Reapers called a Soul Sleep, and gain access to that Demon Beast's power. Any human capable of doing this was called a Demon Spiritualists.
Ichigo was not about to absorb the Spinney Hound's soul. For one thing it wasn't really fit for fighting. While it was technically a Demon Beast, that was only because of its ability to form a Demon Crystal. It had no abilities or strengths that could be absorbed. It was a domesticated animal, being a sort of house pet that was good with kids, then after it died, they could harvest the crystals and blood to be used for extremely low-level Spirit Inscriptions. Since there were so many of these kinds of crystals, and they were so weak, they ended up being cheap as dirt. Useful for someone like Ichigo who was working off of a seven-year-old's allowance.
Closing his eyes, Ichigo started to channel his own spiritual energy into the crystal, but rather than absorbing the soul, he merely gave it the boot. The clear stone shone dark black and red as the more hollow aspect of Ichigo's power took up residence within the stone, taking a far sized chunk of Ichigo's strength along for the ride. Then, finally finished, Ichigo inserted the stone into a small cavity in the mechanical dog's chest.
The dog's joints all glowed with the same dark spiritual energy as Zangetsu spread out his power, using the inscriptions to form pseudo muscles out of spiritual energy that had been spun into treads. The round eyes spun in their sockets before the yellow stones that made up the artifice eye's equivalent of an iris pointed forward.
The mechanical monstrosity slowly leached awkwardly upwards onto its feet before giving itself a sort of full body shake, like one would have expected from a dog who had just woken up. Then, taking his first steps forward, Zangetsu slipped, fell off of the table and crashed to a heap on the floor.
"The fuck is this! These fake nerves are so damn disorienting! I feel like I'm going to hurl, and I don't even have a stomach!" Zangetsu complained. Ichigo let out of snort.
"You will get used to it in a bit." The Old Man who had represented Ichigo's Quincy powers in his old life said as he lay in a relaxed stance of to the side in an almost identical mechanical dog, though this one had been painted black and had blue crystal stones for eyes.
"Oh I'm sure you are just loving this, aren't you Old Man!?" Zangetsu growled, seeming to have already started to adopt his new persona as a mad dog. To his credit, the Old Man didn't respond to Zangetsu's jibs, even though the Zanpakuto spirit had been laughing his ass off a mere hour pervious when it had been the Old Man who had been struggling to gain some kind of purchase inside of the artifice body.
"I don't want to hear any complaining out of either of you! It was hard as Hell to make those sensory organs. I should have just left you blind and deaf." Ichigo said as he climbed up into a seat and started to roll out his shoulders.
Ichigo had gotten the idea for making the mechanical dogs from stories about Soul Puppets. Mechanical bodies that Demon Spirituals could have their souls sealed inside, allowing them to continue the fight long after they had perished in battle.
Unfortunately, people saw such means as abominations, and just like with Mod Souls, all Soul Puppets were destroyed, along with all records of how to make them. Now over two thousand years later, when people lived in constant fear of the next Demon Beast Hord and things like Soul Puppets could have been seen as a possible answer to the city's increasingly dire military problems, no one knew how to make them. Ichigo had been forced to start from scratch, and what he had made would hardly be called battle ready.
It had only taken about a day to figure out how to make fake muscles using Spirit Inscriptions, however making anything that could act like an eye or ear so that Zangetsu and the Old Man could navigate the world while inside of the fake bodies was much much harder, taking entire months of nearly sleepless nights spent researching Spirit Inscriptions. Lucky, he hadn't needed to sleep, as his excess spiritual power was enough to keep him going. He wondered what Uruhara would have thought, seeing him slaving away at the project.
Damned Hat-n-Clogs probably would have been able to do it in a few hours.
"How do you feel, Ichigo?" The Old Man asked.
"Like someone lifted a huge strain off of my chest." Ichigo admitted.
The Old Man nodded in understanding. "Your spiritual power has been returning more quickly than your young body has been able to keep up with, but now Zangetsu and I should be able to drain away most of it without either damaging your body or drawing undue attention to you. A temporary solution, until your body grows into its power."
Zangetsu had managed to pull himself up again and take a few steps before tripping again and tumbling to the ground. The Zanpakuto spirit let out a growl of rang and started to thresh about.
"Hey, careful! If you break that, I'm not making you another one!" Ichigo shouted at the riving spirit.
"Fuck you King! If it breaks it's your own damn fault for using such cheap materials!" Zangetsu shouted back as he got back up.
"Well sorry for being on a tight budget." Ichigo grumbled. Most of the metal he had used was from scrap of cast iron kitchen pots that wouldn't stand up to heavy hits, the blood came from second rate demons and didn't have the ware resistant qualities of higher grade stuff and had no elemental attributes. The only thing he could really be grateful for was that one Demon Crystal Stone was just as good as another once you ignore what kind of soul it had been carrying. So, while the Spinney Hounds were far too weak to have even been called Bronze rank, Zangetsu and the Old Man could both be counted in the Gold rank ranges when it came to raw Soul Power, which would only grow as Ichigo himself grew.
"Do not worry, Ichigo. These forms serve their purpose." The Old Man said calmly.
Zangetsu scoffed. "Yeah, you would say that. You're not a real Zanpakuto spirit. I'm supposed to be a weapon, not a kid's play thing. How long is it going to take you to make me a proper sword to reside in?"
"Don't hold your breath." Ichigo said with a sigh. "I have no clue how to make a Zanpakuto or any kind of equivalent. I'll keep looking around, but the secret to how to make Soul Weapons was lost to this land thousands of years ago."
Ichigo had stumbled upon mentions about Soul Weapons when he was looking into possibilities for any sword he could wield in the future. They were supposed to be weapons that merge with the wielder's Soul Sea, becoming part of it and growing as the user grows. Sadly, because the method of creating them was lost to time and because when a wielder dies the Soul Weapons disappear with them, Ichigo wasn't likely to ever find one.
All alternatives weren't all that great either.
While a Black Gold grade sword was all well and good, even the best of them might as well have been a hung of wood when compared to Zangetsu. Not that he himself was ever going to get his hands on one. There were probably only a few dozen Black Gold grade weapons in Glory City, and no one had been able to make anything above a Silver grade weapon since the collapse of the previous empire just over a thousand years ago. Black Gold weapons were valuable relics that cost more than a mansion.
Fifty million spirit coins, or approximately eighty billion yen, for a single one hand sword. An absolutely staggering amount of money.
"I suppose I'm going to have to figure out a way around that too." Ichigo said, rubbing his knuckles over his eyes. Making the Soul Puppets was one thing, all they really were was pieces of metal connected by spirit strings. Something that the Old Man's knowledge of Quincy skills had been a huge help with. Hardly rocket science.
Figuring out how to mix metal alloys with feudal era technology, which he knew precisely jack shit about. Not to mention which kinds of inscriptions would be of use as reinforcements. Since no one alive knew the proper mixtures or inscriptions to use, that would mean Ichigo himself would have to figure it out through trial and error. Something that could take hundreds of years.
He could make a sword by condensing spiritual particles, using his spiritual pressure, but doing so would be an unnecessary drain on his spirit energy and concentration in a fight, and would be worse than even a Silver grade weapon anyways.
Ichigo was dragged out of his thoughts when a very familiar shout came echoing from down the hall. One that brought a smile to his face. "Big brother, we're home!"
It wasn't long before that rapid pattering of feet against the floorboards could be heard and the door to Ichigo's make shift mad laboratory was thrown open to reveal the wide smiling face of his little sister.
"Welcome home, Ning'er. How was…" Ichigo started, but before he could finish the sentence, the five-year-old girl gave a squeal of delight.
"Doggies!" She shouted, moving across the room with surprising speed and throwing herself at Zangetsu, who had just gotten the hang of walking around. The Zanpakuto spirit gave a yelp of surprise as the girl tackled him to the ground. "It's so cute! Can I have this one big brother, can I!? Please!" Ning'er asked, looking up at her big brother.
Xiao Ning'er was an adorable kid. Her long bright orange hair came down to her waist and was always in a slight bit of disarray from the way she preferred to run everywhere rather than walking, and her large smile and large golden eyes seemed to brighten up the room, an effect that was amplified by the bright reds and yellows that she usually wore on a daily basis. She was a sweet little girl in the same manner that Yuzu had been, if a little bit more aggressive. Seeing her with her arms around Zangetsu's neck, the Zanpakuto turned dog crying out in panic, Ichigo couldn't help but laugh.
It seemed far less funny when he himself was attacked by the older model.
"My goodness. Ichigo did you make these?" Jian Yue asked when she too entered the room after her daughter. She giggled aloud before grabbing onto Ichigo and pulling him into a huge. "Oh, that's my little genius!"
When Ichigo had first been reborn, the sight of his mother had been a huge shock, and she looked like she could have been Orihime's twin sister, with her beautiful slender body and large breasts, coupled with her ginger hair and happy golden-brown eyes, and she only became more beautiful as she reached her early twenties. The embarrassment from having been self-aware during the time in which he was being breast fed as a child had stuck with Ichigo into his later years. Now every time his mother hugged him, he couldn't help but break out into a blush. Something that the woman enjoyed so much that it only made her squeeze him all the harder. And considering she was a Four Star Silver fighter now, and her hugs could have snapped small trees in half…
"Mom… can't breathe." Ichigo gasped.
"Oops." Jian Yue said, letting go of her son. "Sorry, your mother forgets her strength sometimes." She rubbed the back of her head as she laughed an innocent and scatterbrained laugh, making the comparison between her and Orihime even more apt. "So, have you named them yet?"
"…Yeah." Ichigo said as he regained the flow of air to his brain. "The black one is called Old Man, and the white one is Horse."
"Fuck you King!" Zangetsu shouted from his compromising position of being pinned down by a five-year-old girl. Not that anyone but Ichigo could hear him. Ichigo had played around with the idea of speakers, but the proto types he made ended up sounding my police sirens and he had quickly disposed of them. It wasn't like Zangetsu and the Old man needed to talk to anyone but him anyways, and they could do that through his soul.
"He's not a horse silly! He's a doggie!" Ning'er laughed.
"Hm, so he is." Ichigo said.
"Well… since one is black and the other is white, why not call them Yin and Yang?" Jian Yue suggested.
"She wants to call me Yang? You couldn't pick a less appropriate name if you tried." Zangetsu snorted. Even the Old Man's head raised at the name suggestion, probably because Yin was a feminine name.
"I like it!" Ning'er said proudly.
Ichigo chuckled and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, you two heard the girl. Yin and Yang it is."
"Please tell me your shitting me." Zangetsu said, shoulders falling, followed by the rest of him.
"*sigh* I suppose its better than simply being called Old Man all the time." The newly dubbed Yin said as he relaxed himself again. It was a new life. A peaceful one.
For now, anyways.
You all know the drill by now. I've been gone a long while because I started up a new medication trial and lost all interest in the world.
A Bleach/Tales of Gods and Demons crossover is actually something that an oddly large number of people have been asking me to do. So I figured it could be something to get me back into the swing of things. Maybe after this I'll finally finish that one chapter of the Soul Land crossover I've been meaning to finish for who knows how long.