Disclaimer: Don't own Bleach
Inspired by Stranger in a Strange Land by cywscross which I really hope will be continued one day.
Ichigo skidded back as his blades met Aizen's evolved form, relieved that he managed to cut the skin, even if it healed almost immediately. He was exhausted, but he had to keep going, he was all that was holding the mad man back as the others retreated. Seireitei was falling around them but he would not lose anyone else. Yamamoto-jii was had died three months into the war, Byakuya just four days ago and who knew how many rank and file Shinigami had fallen?
They'd lost a lot of people over the last ten years, including Ichigo's human body which sucked for him. His body had remained at Urahara's store for safety, because they thought the many layers of protection would hold but they hadn't. in the end a crater had been all that was left and the kids and Tessai were dead. They hadn't gone done easily though which was the only consolation anyone had anymore. They had only known the three were dead because they had felt them vanish as they rushed to help, there had been nothing left when they arrived, no bodies, no debris, just a crater.
The loss of his body had hut, even made him sick for a few days but other than that he'd barely noticed. It wasn't like he even had a home to return to anymore, the clinic was nothing but another crater thanks to Ulquiorra. He'd been training with the Visored when Geta-boshi had called in a panic, reporting powerful hollows converging on his house. he hadn't even needed to ask, Shinji and Kensei had moved with him, rushing back. For one brief second, he'd thought they were in time, the street silent, and then the house and clinic had blown up under a cero. The Arrancar had looked right at him, Yuzu squirming in his hold before screaming for Ichigo to help when she saw him. But he hadn't been able to do a thing as Ulquiorra stared at him dispassionately before ripping Yuzu apart even as Karin screamed and attacked with a metal pole, blood flowing down her face from an injury. He'd lost both his sisters that day because he had been too slow but at least that emotionless bastard hadn't survived either. His Dad had changed since their deaths, becoming a lot harder, not that Ichigo saw him very often as he had taken back his place as a Captain. Ichigo had refused a place in the ranks, remaining with the other Visored as allies only.
Yoruichi had given her life defending her old protégé Soifon when she had been badly outnumbered by several Arrancar. Kisuke had been too late to save either woman but had returned with his oldest friends' bloody body cradled close. It had taken Ichigo and Isshin to make him let go and they had stayed close for ages to try and keep him calm. With her death the one-time Captain of the Twelfth had thrown himself into his work in the labs, coming up with crazier and crazier inventions and ideas until one day he had just stopped and thrown himself back into the war recklessly. He'd taken an attack meant for Orihime that she wouldn't have been able to shield in time since she'd been busy healing another Shinigami. Ichigo knew it had been what Geta-boshi wanted but it still hurt to lose him. Orihime had fought to reject his wounds but Kisuke had just smiled at her, not wanting to live any longer without Yoruichi and Tessai. There hadn't been time to burn his body so she had rejected it, ensuring Aizen and his pet 'scientist' would be unable to get to it.
Of his friends, only Orihime was still alive, working with what was left of the Fourth. Ishida had fallen early, alongside his own Father, defending the hospital. Soul Society hadn't really cared about the fate of the last two Quincy, even with all the help Uryū had given in the war and so hadn't sent aid. Once again it had been Ichigo and the Visored who responded, but they had been in Hueco Mundo at the time, hunting down parts of Aizen's army. By the time they had made it, Uryū had been dead, Ryuuken standing over his son's body, defending it with only one remaining arm. They'd managed to save him, but he had died three months later in what Urahara had called a suicide attack, taking two of the new Arrancar with him. They had been rivals but also friends, it had been Uryū who had pushed him all the time to improve his control, losing him had hurt. Chad had lasted just over two years, his powers ever developing and evolving, until he had been overwhelmed while helping cover the retreat of a scouting mission to Hueco Mundo. Chad should never have been on that mission, but they'd needed someone familiar with the place and Chad had accompanied Ichigo there before, watching his back when Ichigo had been working with Shiro on controlling his Hollow powers.
Rukia and Renji were still alive and among those he was currently covering.
"Why do you continue to fight Kurosaki Ichigo?" Aizen finally spoke.
"You ask every time, the answer's never gonna change." Ichigo snarled, face hidden by his mask.
"Perhaps it will," Aizen smirked and Ichigo's heart sank even as he broke off, rushing forward in his personal mix of Shunpo and Sonido, trying to reach them, but it was already too late, and he was sent flying as the heart of Seireitei exploded before him, wiping out all who remained within the walls.
Ichigo blinked dazedly, feeling blood trickling down his face as he pushed upright through the rubble, his mask having crumpled during his impromptu flight. He stood, stumbling, before straightening up to stare in horror. He was somewhere in Rukongai, but he wasn't sure which District because Seireitei and the lower districts were simply gone. "No…" he moaned in pain even as he heard the sounds of terrified souls scrambling free of the rubble and staring in horror. It wasn't possible…Rukia…Renji…Dad…Orihime…all gone. His hands clenched into fists in rage, but he pushed it back and summoned his mask again before turning and ripping open a Garganta back to Karakura town. There was little of the town left but with waves of Hollows approaching it was the only option. "Go!" he yelled and slowly the souls began moving. He was just thankful he had become a well-known sight in every district, with and without his mask. He kept it open as long as he could before diving through himself, right as one of Aizen's latest monster Hollow's charged an attack and sent it flying his way. Ichigo slammed the Garganta shut behind himself and ran after the others, helping them into the town, thankful that the atmosphere was now utterly soaked with power since it would help the Souls with him. But how long until Aizen attacked them here?
Ichigo ripped off his Shihakushō, well, what remained of it anyway. He washed himself down with the murky water and then pulled on the jeans, t-shirt and jacket before pulling on socks and trainers. It felt strange to no longer wear the uniform of a Shinigami, but it also felt nice to wear normal clothes again after so long. It had been six months since Seireitei had been obliterated and the Rukongai totally overrun. He was staying in a rundown warehouse not far from where the other Visored once lived, before Aizen had destroyed the place and the extensive protections on it. This one was nowhere near as protected but Hachi had done the best he could in his condition, a missing arm and damaged ability to us Reiryoku, ensured the protections weren't up the Visored's standards but they were better than nothing and at least Hachi was still alive. Since retreating back to the Living World their numbers had been whittled away until the three of them were all that were left, maybe some of the souls Ichigo had evacuated were still around somewhere but he wasn't holding out hope.
Ichigo went out and flopped down next to Shinji, making sure not to sit on his blindside. They leant against each other, taking the comfort of another's presence where once Ichigo had shrugged off touch. War and loss had changed him, made him more willing to show those he had left how much he cared.
"We're losing," Shinji finally admitted, voice a barely audible husky noise due to the damage to his throat, and Ichigo turned his head to look at him. It hurt to look at Shinji, he had been a handsome man before the war but thanks to Tōsen half of his face was ruined, the eye sightless, hair burned away. Ichigo was the only one who had never shied away from the sight, even when the damage was fresh. Hiyori and Love had given their lives to save Shinji in that battle, buying time for Hachi and Rose to pull Shinji back to relative safety. Hachi and Ichigo had been busy trying to keep Shinji alive when the other Visored had gone for payback and paid with their lives. He knew the guilt weighed heavily on the once always smiling man, even if he could still smile, he wouldn't. Ichigo shifted so he was leaning against the wall and tugged Shinji around so the older man was resting against him even as he gently ran healing kido over his wounds, they were healed but still caused pain so he did this when possible to help alleviate that pain.
"We can win," he denied, and Shinji chuckled, a pained raspy noise and Ichigo hushed him.
"For what?" Ichigo glanced down to see Shinji looking up at him.
"For you getting dragged into this. It should never have been your war." It hurt to talk so much but Shinji needed to say it.
Ichigo snorted. "You didn't drag me in, Urahara, Rukia, none of you. If anyone did it was Aizen, you heard him, he watched me since birth. If Rukia hadn't given me her powers I'd have died really quick or who knows what Aizen might have done with or too me as a human. I've never regretted meeting any of you," he denied before moving to check on Shinji's newest wounds, a deep cut on the back of his leg he'd received due to his slowed reactions. Maybe his inner Hollow could have healed his wounds, but he'd never learnt high speed regeneration like Ichigo had. He may not have graduated but he'd gotten a fair way into his medical degree in between battles and he had learnt further from his Father, Ryuuken and the Fourth. He was the last healer they had which was just sad, Hachi's speciality had always been barriers even if he had functioned as the Visored's healer for a century.
Ichigo blocked the attack that would have killed Shinji, forcing Aizen back a step as he did so, his blades flashing through the air as he pressed the attack. Shinji slumped back against the rubble, vision blurry and not just because of being half blind. He pressed a hand to the wound in his stomach, feeling hot blood spill past his fingers. This was it, if Orihime or Unohana were still alive maybe he'd have a chance but without them he was dead. Ichigo was good but his body just couldn't take anymore. He turned his head slowly to see Hachi's foot past some rubble, the other Visored wasn't moving and he couldn't sense him either. Looked like he was the last, he'd failed them all. No…Ichigo still lived, he would win, he had to.
They were fighting close to what had once been Urahara's shop which meant Ichigo had to watch his step since some of the old traps and crazy inventions were still hidden around. He didn't even need to pull a hand down his face anymore to summon his mask which was good since both hands were rather occupied by his blades and he couldn't afford to let up the attack. There was no one left to drag Shinji off the battlefield to some sort of safety, he'd seen Hachi's fallen body off to the side, which meant he had to move Aizen back enough to remove Shinji from danger, he refused to acknowledge the amount of blood the other Visored had been losing. He would chase Aizen off and then go heal the other man.
Shinji felt cold, so cold, he couldn't see Ichgio anymore even as the unruined side of his mouth pulled up slightly. "S…s…o…r…y…Ic..hi…" he slurred as his eyes slid shut, hands falling from the wound to land limp on the ground.
They clashed over and over and then suddenly something vanished and Ichigo froze, eyes wide as his mask shattered and for once Aizen didn't take advantage, stepping back, smirking. "Oh dear, I believe Hirako just died."
No…Shinji…he couldn't be dead, he couldn't…he was juts hiding his presence. He promised he wouldn't leave him alone, he'd promised… Ichigo screamed in rage, power exploding around him, climbing higher than ever, his mask reforming, as he whirled on Aizen again and again. And for the first time in years Aizen was really losing ground to him, not just playing with him. Ichigo was lost to rage and grief, never smart, especially around a place where Kisuke had gotten to play mad scientist for over a century. He felt something shift, activating, right as Zangetsu sank deep in Aizen's chest, the Old Man's shorter blade soon joining him, striking the Hōgyoku and actually cracking the stone right as whatever they'd triggered activated. Ichigo lunged forward, hand wrapping around the stone inside Aizen's chest, pulling hard right before his world went white.