Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, nor make any money from this fan-made fiction.
Today was supposed to be a special day, and in some ways it was: graduation night. Ichigo Kurosaki, hero of two wars the waking world would never know about, had passed with a more than respectable 3.5 grade point average; this was despite all the classes missed due to his other life. His friends had passed, too, and considering some of them were missing as much as he was, it was a real accomplishment for all of them. He was currently taking a stroll to clear his head; the chill in the winter air seemed to help ground him. Things were changing once again, and he wouldn't see some of his friends for a long time if he didn't plan to visit them. That wouldn't be easy since he was going to a university to study and become a doctor like his father.
Mizuiro, in spite of his father's will, and despite the wealth he stood to otherwise inherit, was moving to the Bahamas to be with a girl he met on one of his family's many vacations. Apparently learning how to pilot and captain a tour boat was not too much of a downgrade, and considering his commitment issues over the years, this was a big step. Ichigo would visit him after his own first year of school was done.
Keigo had literally begged for Mizuiro not to leave, and been ignored as usual. With that said, Keigo would probably be able to visit far more often than Ichigo. He had gotten an apprenticeship as a salesman for a large construction firm owned by the father of a friend of Ichigo's younger sisters. Apparently Keigo was a young genius in the field, and had even—out of a nervousness that no one seemed to understand—studied. Ichigo would deliberately ignore him, knowing Keigo would pop in unexpectedly no matter what he did.
Tatsuki, Ichigo's oldest friend, a tomboy, and now the strongest woman in Japan as far as karate went, was skipping school to teach full-time in the dojo she trained at. She had begun coming to Ichigo's house more often as well, on their friend Orihime's insistence. He expected that would soon change as Orihime was going to the same university he was, and had a dorm there. Since Ichigo was planning to stay home and take the 1 hour train ride home, he would visit Orihime at the college at least once a week and see Tatsuki every weekend; Tatsuki had finally convinced him to spar with her.
Orihime's insistence on going to the same college Ichigo went to—under the reasoning that both Ichigo and Uryū were there—would have been odd for anyone else; but Orihime had earned his trust. The girl had, with her own special powers, reversed many of the life-threatening and would-be lethal injuries he had received over the past few years; there weren't even scars. She had been kidnapped in the first war and still insisted on helping out during the second. Maybe she just didn't want to separate from every person she had gone to war with, and considering how far Chad was moving, there was no way she would have been able to join him. Orihime's study would be psychology, as she was inspired to help other people who had been in tough situations.
Chad, who was Ichigo's closest friend, had taken a full athletic scholarship at an American college. He would join a boxing team and study to be a veterinarian while there. The gentle and usually silent giant, despite his tough exterior and willingness to assist Ichigo in a fight, even the supernatural ones, had a real soft spot for animals. Ichigo would visit him over the summer break.
A gust of cold air pulled Ichigo from his thoughts about his friends to another subject, though one far more unpleasant. After powering up from his most recent war experience, his body wasn't handling it well. His soul body was so strong that it 'overcharged' and mutated his physical body. And instead of cool powers, his body's mutations were what mutations normally were: cancer. It had been bad at first, and Orihime had been treating several new large tumours every week. But with help from Kisuke Urahara, arguably the smartest scientist in both Soul Society and the living world, the tumour formations had slowed to only a few, small, speckled areas per week.
A ring from his phone interrupted his thoughts, and he picked it up. "Hi Ichigo." It was Kisuke.
"Oh, hey Hat n' Clogs, what's up?" The nickname came from the green and white striped bucket hat and wooden clogs the man always wore.
"Come by my store, I have a new treatment that should fix your condition for good. The tests show real promise." Kisuke was a step ahead of anyone else in his field when it came to testing because he could create human bodies, and even souls if he needed, to experiment on. Though a bit of a mad scientist, Kisuke was someone Ichigo trusted.
"I'll be over in a few minutes." It was a good thing he was already out on a walk in the direction of Kisuke's shop, and what kind of treatment it was going to be made Ichigo wonder how crazy it would look.
"Aren't you supposed to be celebrating with you classmates at that after-party?" His voice was one of mock-surprise that Ichigo wasn't there, and Ichigo was sure that was done on purpose to irritate him.
"What do you think? I'll be over soon." Ichigo hung up.
The sliding door into the Urahara Shop was unlocked and Ichigo had no trouble opening it and closing it behind him. He walked down the main aisle, brightly coloured candy on both sides that would have most children's mouths watering. Stepping up the small step and moving beyond the checkout counter, he went to the small tea room that was behind it. A yellow card on the low table in the middle of the room caught his attention: it said, "Wait here Ichigo." That usually meant the treatment was from an injection, and not from some weird machine, so Ichigo was feeling a bit better about the visit.
Kisuke soon entered the room, and pulled out some sealed bags holding the components of a medical syringe and a small jar meant to hold medical solutions with that spot in the lid that a needle could poke through. "Hello Ichigo, it's good to see you." He began opening the sealed packaging and assembling the needle. "So, any plans tonight?"
"You should go to that party. I think it would be good for you."
That was suspicious, Kisuke never got involved in his personal affairs. "Okay, what's up?"
Kisuke nervously laughed as he drew a strange green liquid into the syringe. "I'm a bit busy with some other projects, and could use Yoruichi's assistance, but she didn't take her phone. She wanted to spy on the various festivities, hoping to catch you acting less than sober. Do you mind getting her for me?"
Of course Yoruichi would do something like that. She was such a tease. "And my treatment—any side effects?"
"Oh," Kisuke said, now flicking the syringe with a finger and getting the small amount of air out of it, "this won't take long, and all the significant changes to your body won't happen until you're asleep." He put the needle against Ichigo's arm and pushed it in with ease, injecting the fluid and causing Ichigo no discomfort. After pulling the needle out and using a cotton ball to put pressure on the remaining hole, Kisuke taped it down. "As always, you can take off the tape after an hour. Now, off you go: I need Yoruichi back here."
Ichigo didn't know how he had been so easily suckered into finding Yoruichi, but before he realized it, he was already on his way to the party his classmates would most likely be at, if they had even decided to attend. It didn't take longer than fifteen minutes, and Ichigo entered the karaoke place that had been rented out for the party. The lobby was decorated for the occasion, with school colours decorating even the bar. Sure, twenty was the legal age, but very few people in Japan blinked if you were even fifteen. There was music but it was just loud enough to mask the graduates singing, and the lights were dim so it would be hard to find Yoruichi since so many people from so many different schools had shown up. The conversations had created a murmur, though broken up by the occasional loud song sung in one of the karaoke lounges, and that made hearing individual voices difficult unless someone shouted.
He had searched just about everywhere inside when, upon looking back to the bar, he spotted Orihime getting a drink. That wasn't something he thought she did. The bartender handed her two drinks. "Is she with Tatsuki?" he thought. He shook his head. He knew Tatsuki didn't drink. She said it was too unhealthy for her training, and didn't want to risk getting into any sort of habit involving the substance. Did Orihime come with someone else?
Orihime walked in his direction, and greeted him. "H-hi Ku-I-Ichigo." Was she already drunk?
"Hey Orihime, I didn't take you for someone who drank. Have you seen Yoruichi?"
Orihime giggled in an unusual way. "Well, um, well... something like this d-doesn't happen too often, so I thought I'd try some. I-I didn't want to miss out."
"Well, I don't think you're missing out on too much. I'm just going to find Yoruichi, but let me know if you need some help."
"OH!" she burst out, loud enough to draw the gaze of extra eyes nearby. "I saw her; she said she was going back home." She looked extremely nervous, and red in the face. But at least that was Yoruichi found and dealt with.
"Hey, Orihime, you look pretty out of it, do you want me to take you home?"
The young woman became more fidgety. "No- I mean... uh..." She downed one of the glasses she held in one gulp, and looked back to Ichigo. "Yes," she resolutely said. Ichigo took the other glass and set it down, deciding to bring Orihime home immediately. He was also starting to feel pretty tired, himself.
As they walked out of the building, Ichigo asked, "Did you come with anyone?"
"Did I?" she asked back, gazing off into the distance and not looking particularly well.
"You had two glasses."
"Oh, no! I just offered to get one for someone I met there... a girl!" Ichigo didn't know why that last detail was necessary, but right now he didn't feel bad about leaving said girl stranded for drinks. The walk to Orihime's apartment took about half an hour, and Ichigo was feeling somewhat sleepy.
Upon helping Orihime get up the stairs, Ichigo was asked to come inside; seeing how unsteady Orihime still was, he accepted the invite and made sure she got into bed without falling and hitting her head on something. Then it was time to go home, as he was already nodding-off. Maybe the treatment was kicking in sooner than expected?
The next morning brought with it peace, quiet, and most importantly: peace. Ichigo's eyes shot open and he saw the ceiling, which looked different. Immediately getting up to a sitting position, he noticed that he was not in his bedroom. Instead, he was in Orihime's living room, on the floor. He also noticed something else: whatever he was wearing felt weird. It was slimy all over, and made a weird "gluk" sound as he moved... and he was covered in it.
"Gross..." That was unusual, and most definitely not his normal voice. "What on earth?" Well, he didn't imagine it: something was wrong with his voice. Whatever happened, a certain Urahara Shop owner would be in a lot of trouble. He pulled his shirt off and tried cleaning himself off when he noticed another thing, or rather, two things, and it set him off. He screamed, which must have woken up Orihime, who had rushed into the room to see what had happened.
"Wh-" Orihime's voice got stuck as she tried to process what she was seeing.
"I'm gonna kill him, I'm gonna kill him, I'm gonna kill him..." Ichigo repeated, now using Orihime's bath to get clean. Orihime had been very understanding, and helpful, and had even offered up some of her own clothing, which would normally have been weird if Ichigo was still a guy. Once again, Ichigo swore the shop owner would pay; he just wasn't sure how to go about it. Once out of the bath Ichigo reluctantly put on a pair of Orihime's jeans and one of her t-shirts, which were definitely too loose on his new body. He felt exposed. "What do I do now... wait." He had an idea. "Orihime, can you get my badge?" The treatment was for his body, so his soul was probably fine, and still male.
Orihime agreed, and fifteen minutes later had gotten the badge from Ichigo's sister Karin, who gave her a look of amusement that caused her to flush a bit. She returned to her house wishing what Karin must have thought was true.
Unfortunately, when Ichigo pushed his soul out of his body, things were less than fine. "I don't get it Orihime; what was that pervert thinking?" Kisuke had to be a pervert to do this. "Orihime, do you have anything less... girly? Something that covers me up? I am not letting that damn shopkeeper see me in anything frilly or girly." Ichigo's clothing had been ruined by the slime, and sending Orihime back to his house for clothing would scandalize the poor girl for sure.
"Hmm..." Orihime really didn't have anything that wasn't girly. "We can go shopping!" she said enthusiastically.
"No way, I'm not going out in public like this."
"But no one will recognize you, even if you use your real name."
It was a good argument, and one Ichigo couldn't logically refute, which made the unintentional jab at his name sting worse. "Fine." Ichigo was not happy in the slightest.
"This is all I need Orihime. Kisuke made me a girl in one night; he can change me back in one night." Orihime seemed a bit disappointed, but conceded without much fuss. Ichigo had chosen black Cargo pants, a black t-shirt, and a black hoodie. All of it fit Ichigo well, and she even resigned herself to a bra, as it felt weird to have breasts that moved around on her too much. Now it was time to go to Urahara's shop.
The walk was short enough, but Ichigo still couldn't help feeling exposed. This wasn't normal by any means or definition. Ichigo was about to wallop Kisuke, but for the first time he could remember, Kisuke froze. Tessai, Kisuke's friend and ally from Soul Society—who usually ran the shop—was a bit confused for a moment before the realization also hit him. Jinta and Ururu, Kisuke's adopted kids, just looked at Ichigo confused, and decided to ignore everything in favour of leaving the room to finish their chores; it was a weird situation, and for once, they both agreed on something.
"Alright Hat n' Clogs, change me back. Or else."
"Yeah, it's 'Mr.' Kurosaki. Now fix this."
Kisuke slowly shook his head and turned around. "Come back to the clinic room and I'll run some tests to figure out what happened." As much a Kisuke wanted to make a joke, the barely restrained spiritual pressure emanating from Ichigo promised a lot more than pain should he attempt to make light of the situation. The biggest surprise was how unexpected this result was. The treatment was designed to change the body and soul in such a way that they had better connections to each other, which would allow the body to let the spiritual energy flow through it as more of a conductor and less of a resistor. It was not supposed to be anything that could change more than the internals. And running the ingredients and processes over and over again in his head, none of the drug trials indicated any change of this nature, or even a possible hint of it.
The gamut of tests was run as soon and as thoroughly as possible, and Ichigo had even stayed overnight to complete a few of them. The results showed nothing abnormal, and the science—spiritual and regular—pointed to Ichigo always having been female. If Kisuke didn't know better, he would agree with the conclusion provided by all the tests. His next process would be to make the drug again and compare it to the remnants of what he gave Ichigo, but that would take a few days. Kisuke had called Ichigo's father, Isshin—at Ichigo's request—to make sure the eccentric man didn't look any further into Ichigo's disappearance to find out what had happened. Isshin would never let Ichigo live this one down, and even Kisuke knew this. The only good news Kisuke was able to share was that Ichigo was now tumour-free.
Still, for Ichigo, this meant living with Orihime for the next few days. He wasn't complaining about Orihime's generosity, he was just annoyed that he was still stuck as a girl for that much longer. The good news during this period of time was, due to being a girl, Ichigo wasn't feeling nearly as hot and bothered as she normally would have after accidentally seeing Orihime in a lacy bra. The bad news was she was starting to acclimate to the state of her body and soul and see guys in a different light. Hopefully she never met Chad during this period of time, as that could cause all sorts of unwanted thoughts she would never live down; more than the ones she was currently having just from thinking of that scenario, anyway.
By the fifth day, the novelty had apparently worn off on Orihime, who was feeling a bit down. Ichigo didn't want her to feel that way, so he tried to correct it. "I can stay with Urahara if you don't want me here."
Orihime's eyes widened, and she held back a gasp. "Oh, no, it's not that. You're even buying your own stuff, so it's not a problem."
"Then what is it?"
Orihime sighed. "You sound like Tatsuki." The girl had changed her sleepover with Tatsuki to be at the Tatsuki's house in order to keep Ichigo from being discovered. But Tatsuki, being both fairly observant and Orihime's best friend, had grilled her on it. Nothing was revealed, and it made Orihime feel worse about not being able to talk about it. Truthfully, Orihime didn't want to burden Ichigo and confess her feelings to him as a guy. She still liked Ichigo as a girl, but she didn't find her physically attractive in that way. It frustrated Orihime: if Ichigo stayed a girl, even if Orihime was fine with it—and the jury was out on that due to brain overload—would Ichigo ever be fine with the change? He saved the world, and deserved to feel good about him-herself. "Have you thought about what you would do if you stayed a girl?"
"Well, I'd have to tell Karin and Yuzu... and my dad." There was a particularly sour note from her voice as she said the last part. "I don't know. I guess I still have university? At least my grades are the same."
"Do... was there a girl you liked?" It was a risk for Orihime to ask this, but knowing would hopefully help her sort her own thoughts better.
"Uh... do you mean like more than a friend?" Ichigo asked. Orihime nodded. "Not yet. I haven't had the time to think about that stuff. And... Kisuke better fix me soon." Ichigo wasn't going to say anything more on that subject because, assuming his situation was temporary, he might say something he would be embarrassed about once he was normal.
Later that day, while playing a board game, Ichigo's phone rang. It was Kisuke. "Come to the shop, I'll let you know what happened."
Ichigo and Orihime had both sat around the low table in the Urahara Shop's tea room, but both of them had a sinking feeling when Kisuke appeared, an unfolded fan covering the lower portion of his face. He even held his cane-disguised zanpakutō, which never happened for any of the earlier meetings about Ichigo's treatments. "Thank you for stopping by," he said, surprisingly serious as he closed the fan and placed it in the robe he used as a coat. "I have figured out what caused your transformation Ichigo, and I am sorry, I have no way to reverse it." He bowed deeply, face to the ground.
It took a moment for Ichigo to process the statement. "Why not?" The only thing that kept Ichigo from immediately attacking Kisuke was the fact the scientist had prostrated himself. He would at least hear the man out before pummelling him.
Still bowed, Kisuke explained himself: "One of the ingredients I used in the treatment, the key ingredient, had been warped by the Hōgyoku. Unfortunately, I used the last of that batch to make completed drug, which you took. A new batch would be unable to have the same effect. I'm sorry, Ichigo... I did not account for this possibility."
Ichigo thought hard, trying to grasp what he had been told, and maybe find some evidence that Kisuke was wrong. But nothing indicated as such. Ichigo wanted to take it out on Kisuke, and deep down he knew that, since Kisuke had made the mistake, anyone would have. But that train of thought didn't make things right either. Kisuke wouldn't make another Hōgyoku, and rightfully so, as the last one had caused one the first war Ichigo fought in. No one could be trusted with one, and Aizen had been killed in the attack Ichigo used to defeat him. Even if he hadn't been killed, he wouldn't likely cooperate, or worse, decide Ichigo was better off as a girl and give some arrogant, twisted justification.
"What the hell Hat n' Clogs?!" Ichigo's voice came through like venom as he flipped the table onto the man. "I can't be a girl! What would my dad think? He'd never let it go! And my sisters: would they even believe me? And what about dating? This... this isn't right!" Ichigo kicked the table and stormed off, leaving Orihime and Kisuke alone.
"Well, that could have been worse," Kisuke spoke, sliding the table off as he got up and putting it back in his rightful place. He looked at Orihime as he corrected his nose, seeing how upset she was. He understood why, as Orihime was the one who asked him to convince Ichigo to go to the graduation after-party. Then he saw a dangerous look in the young woman's eyes. "Miss Inoue, I'm not going to say you can't use your abilities to try and return Ichigo to his former state, but let me warn you: Even with Ichigo's cooperation, he far outclasses you in power. Trying to deconstruct him may activate a latent natural defence that could hurt you very badly." She seemed angry at Kisuke, so he spoke once more with a harsher voice. "Let me be clear: I'm only telling you this so Ichigo doesn't come after me in the worst case."
Orihime got up from her seat, still angry but holding tears back, and nodded. "I understand," she said. She understood, but it was something she had to try. She wouldn't tell Ichigo about the danger, worried Ichigo would refuse her attempt to try and keep her safe. Ichigo really was too kind for his own good. Orihime only hoped for the best.
Ichigo was hurt. Not physically, but that didn't make the pain any less real. Orihime had tried to use her powers to change her back, and nearly gotten killed because of it. Standing beside Orihime's hospital bed, Ichigo began to pace nervously while she continued to think. She would make sure no one else got hurt this badly trying to fix something they didn't cause. Ichigo would accept this new body and soul as her real self, and deal with whatever came from it. It's not like being a girl stopped her from doing what she wanted. Besides, there would time to sort out the rest.
Tatsuki was the first person to enter the room, and she eyed Ichigo carefully, before checking on Orihime, who was asleep in the hospital bed. Seeing that Orihime wasn't fighting for her life, Tatsuki turned her attention to Ichigo. "Who are you?"
"Ichigo Kurosaki." Ichigo waited for the incoming reaction.
Tatsuki glared at Ichigo, looking the girl up and down. "No, you aren't. Who are you, really?"
"I'm Ichigo. Kisuke tried something and I ended up like this. Even my soul form is a girl."
Tatsuki narrowed her eyes, "And how can you prove it?"
Ichigo sighed, thankful this was all it would likely take. "You made me cry all the time back when we did karate."
This surprised Tatsuki, as she knew for a fact Ichigo wouldn't tell anyone, but that didn't mean she hadn't blabbed from time to time. "Not good enough."
"Really, Tatsuki? Fine, in the seventh grade, when we had sex ed classes for the first time, you asked—"
"Alright, alright, don't say another word; I believe you!" This left so many questions. "And that shady shopkeeper did this to you? How?"
"I was getting treatments for a medical condition, and the cure did this," Ichigo replied, extending her arms out and looking down to signify her body.
"Can he fix it?" Tatsuki knew for a fact that Ichigo wouldn't have liked her situation.
Ichigo crossed her arms, adopting a scowl that spoke volumes of displeasure, proving Tatsuki's thoughts right. "No. I'm stuck like this."
Tatsuki couldn't help but laugh, and thought of various ways to tease Ichigo. It didn't help Ichigo's mood, but she couldn't help it. But another thought hit her, and caused her to go silent. "How does Orihime feel about it?" Orihime had caused their conversations to center around Ichigo many times, and Ichigo suddenly becoming unavailable couldn't be easy on her. Tatsuki now suspected that was the issue Orihime talked around during their most recent sleepover. "Ichigo, do you know how Orihime got hurt?"
Ichigo's scowl got worse as she shook her head in a clear display of regret. "She was trying to turn me back... and things went wrong."
Tatsuki leapt at Ichigo, "Ichigo you son of a—" only to have her fists caught. That was weird, Ichigo didn't look that strong.
"Hey, it was Orihime's idea! I didn't know this could happen!" Tatsuki still looked too angry for Ichigo to let go of. "And I'm not going to let her do that to me again. She doesn't deserve to get hurt like that."
After a minute, Tatsuki closed her eyes and sighed; angry, but not sure who to be angry at. "Fine," she bit out, "As long as you know."
An hour later Chad, after Ichigo told him via text message, came by with flowers in a vase. Though he never got the chance to place them down as he froze in place when he saw Ichigo. Tatsuki grabbed the vase just as he dropped it. The girl in front of him, from a spiritual perspective, was Ichigo, mostly. But Ichigo wasn't a girl. "I-Ichigo?" The words more slipped from his mouth than anything else, and after some hard thought, he was about to apologize.
"Hey Chad... uh, blame Kisuke. It was a new treatment. I'm tumour free, though." Ichigo was trying her hardest to set her best friend at ease, and surprisingly it was Tatsuki who rescued her from any confusing over-explanation she might have to make. But now Ichigo was facing a very distressed and slightly panicked set of questions.
"Treatment? Tumours? Ichigo, what's going on?" So Ichigo explained everything to her, citing Orihime's involvement, and assuring her there was no danger because of their friend healing him. "You know," she responded, "everything suddenly makes a whole lot more sense. Ass. Why didn't you tell me?"
It's not that Chad didn't believe Ichigo was a girl, but it was a huge surprise nonetheless. He took a serious look at her while she argued with Tatsuki, and the resemblances helped him mentally navigate this new aspect of his best friend. A couple of years ago, when he was trying to reactivate his own set of powers for the first time, he was told to imagine the reason his powers awoke in the first place. That had been to protect Ichigo's younger sister Karin, but because he didn't know what she looked like, he tried to imagine Ichigo as a girl. Needless to say, the real thing was far more pleasing to look at than his botched imagination back then. However, he wasn't sure how appropriate those thoughts were, so he sent them to the back of his mind.
Ichigo stopped arguing when she noticed Chad looking at her. She could tell what he was struggling with, which caused her own thoughts going places she wasn't ready for. Immediately she pushed them to the back of her mind. At least he wasn't leering at her. Speaking of which: "No one tells Keigo about this." Chad nodded, a bit blanched himself, and Tatsuki vocally gave her agreement. The living embodiment of melodrama didn't need any more powder in his hyperactive keg; he was bad enough around a pretty face as it was.
Eventually the hospital's visiting hours ended, and Ichigo, Chad, and Tatsuki were all thrown out, and Ichigo resigned herself to finally face her family. She dragged her walk out far longer than necessary, but eventually she met the familiar front door, and prepared for the oncoming assault. Opening the door, she ducked as her father flew over her head with his foot extended outward. At least this was normal. "Why can't you greet me normally for once?!"
The man-child sprung up, and froze. "Ichigo?" he eventually got out, "What happened?"
"Kisuke screwed up, and I'm stuck like this. Now get inside before I close the door."
Isshin quickly followed Ichigo inside and closed the door behind him, calling his daughters Karin and Yuzu into the Kitchen where Ichigo tiredly pulled out a chair and sat down at the dining room table. As the two girls came down from their bedroom and saw Ichigo, Karin—who had fairly developed powers of her own over the years—eyed her suspiciously. The only real relief, if it could be called that, was that Yuzu seemed clueless. And if anything, the way her eyes widened just before she went into 'guest-hosting' mode was something familiar, even if Ichigo had never been on the receiving end.
"Don't worry about it Yuzu," she said, "I need to tell you and Karin something."
Immediately Yuzu's face filled with worry. "Does this have something to do with Ichigo? Is that why he hasn't come home?" Karin just kept giving Ichigo a glare of suspicion.
The extended walk gave Ichigo time to ponder over how she was going to reveal this change to her sisters, and she just barely remembered what she rehearsed in her head now that she was about to tell them; though most of the details had left her mind.
"Ichigo was having some problems with his human body recently, and Ha-Mr. Urahara had been helping him out with treatments to cure the problem." Seeing his sisters' worry increase, Ichigo quickly tried to fix that. "The treatment worked, and... there are no... dangerous issues. But there was a side effect, and now Ichigo's, uh, well... he's me." It was a dumb explanation, and the slightly open mouths and glazed over eyes of both his sisters showed Ichigo they weren't really comprehending what she just said. "I was turned into a girl, and the lout responsible can't change me back."
Karin was the first to recover, though not by much, and she turned around. "I'm gonna go upstairs and, uh... think."
Yuzu was the only sister left in the room as she processed it and began to look disappointed. "W-Welcome home, Ichigo. Do you want anything?"
Ichigo shook her head. "I'm good Yuzu; sorry to spring this on you like that."
Yuzu nodded her head and turned to go upstairs. "I'm going to see how Karin is doing."
Once alone, their father spoke up. "Well, I never imagined I'd get my fourth daughter this way."
"Fourth? What happened to third?"
Ichigo let her head fall to the arm that was resting on the table as the memories came back. "Of course," she said dryly. At least her father still had that awful sense of humour.
"You wanna talk about it?" Isshin asked.
With a sigh and a visible heave of her body, Ichigo left her chair and headed towards the stairs, arms limp at her sides. "Don't wake me up." Trudging up the stairs, she closed the door to her room behind her and fell into bed. The mattress was more comfortable than she remembered, and sleep overtook her before another thought could hold her attention.
Ichigo wasn't sure how it became such a big deal, but after calling Tatsuki to help her buy a wardrobe of properly fitting attire, it turned into a girls' day out with Karin, Yuzu, and even Yoruichi somehow getting word and joining in. They had first taken her to get more underwear, and some of Yoruichi's comments had both her and Yuzu flush visibly and set Tatsuki off into laughter more than once. While Karin didn't laugh, the amused smirk she had spoke volumes. Ichigo vehemently stuck to the basics, and eventually the other girls gave in. Now it was time for shirts and pants; a skirt was not an option, no matter how hard Yuzu and Yoruichi tried to goad her. Even a skort would be denied.
Wearing a white t-shirt with the word 'dare' in a stylized, red font and a pair of dark cargo shorts, Ichigo had finally picked out the last pieces for her new wardrobe.
"You know," Yoruichi began, pulling the opening of the shirt a little to the side and examining it like some piece of art, "you'd pull off a top-tier 'girl next door' look." While Ichigo wasn't quite sure what that was supposed to look like, she did remember Keigo mention it a few times, and was sure that was more sexual than the words themselves might indicate.
"She would, wouldn't she?" Karin added, sharing a conspiratorial look with the other woman.
"I don't know," Tatsuki began, "She's got the body, but there's no way she has the charm."
"Don't even start," Ichigo interrupted, "and where did you learn what that means Karin?"
Karin didn't even look phased. "Where did you learn about it?"
Karin had to stop and blink a few times; she was not expecting that response. "Uh, no. It's just something some of the girls talked about at school. Man, you're more of a prude than I thought."
"See Karin," Yoruichi said dramatically, "Ichigo even told me to put my clothes on when I gave him a free show."
Yuzu looked scandalized, and Ichigo couldn't take any more. "That's it, I'm done."
Quickly going back into the change room, Ichigo got back into her first set of clothes and went to the counter to check out. The cost was much more than the clothes she got as a guy, which was puzzling because she actually wore less material since she was both shorter and skinnier than her former male self. Regardless, despite wincing, she payed with her own money.
Yoruichi, Tatsuki, Karin and Yuzu all helped Ichigo carry the bags that held her new wardrobe, and they were on their way back to her house when they came across Chad. The gentle giant greeted the girls and wordlessly offered his services in carrying many of the bags Ichigo and the other women were holding.
"So, how are you holding up?" Ichigo asked.
Chad shrugged his shoulders before sending Ichigo a pointed look that asked, "What about you?"
"I'll... figure it out; you know me."
Chad grunted, and Yoruichi, Karin, Yuzu, and Tatsuki watched with fascination as Ichigo and Chad continued to converse on a level that, to the unobservant person, could be perceived as mind reading. The two had always been close, and surprisingly, Ichigo's transformation hadn't noticeably hindered that. There might have been more conversation had both not turned to look at the other girls at the same time.
"What?" Ichigo asked.
"Oh, nothing." Yoruichi said in a way that implied there very much was something.
"No, really. What?" Ichigo was tired of the teasing, and she didn't want them to tease Chad, either.
Tatsuki could see the frustration and realized just how short Ichigo's fuse had gotten. "They're just shocked that you and Chad can still do that mind-reading thing."
"First, it's not mind reading. Second, why would me and Chad have trouble talking?" And that's when it dawned on Ichigo. "What is wrong with you guys? Chad's my best friend. Why does it have to be more difficult now that I'm a girl?" Ichigo began walking faster. "C'mon Chad."
As Ichigo walked away from the group, Chad looked to the girls in question. "He... she just needs some time," he said, following to catch up with Ichigo.
It had been an awkward walk to Ichigo's house, and Yoruichi had finally had enough just before Ichigo opened the door. "Sorry Ichigo, I got carried away." Normally Yoruichi wouldn't apologize, but Ichigo's attitude wasn't from being a prude this time, which made her feel like a bit of a bully. "And for the record, you've got nothing to be ashamed of. So don't pout too much."
"Who says I pout?"
"Kisuke, your dad, Rukia,"
"Me," Tatsuki added.
"Oh, you're a pouter," Karin said.
"Alright already, I get it. Apology accepted."
Yoruichi's efforts did lighten the mood, and Ichigo opened the door and walked to her room. Everyone helped her get her wardrobe put away. Yuzu offered snacks for anyone who was hungry, and even asked who wanted to stay for dinner. Tatsuki had turned down the offer, as she wanted to see Orihime in the hospital. Yoruichi considered it, and had accepted; she wanted to share another fun memory with Ichigo before Ichigo went off to live her life.
Chad had to pack his stuff to move, and said as much, but Ichigo wouldn't have it. "I'll help you Chad; enjoy Yuzu's cooking."
Chad nodded, and soon they were all eating and talking together.
A few days had passed and Chad was at the airport with Mizuiro: both were sharing a cross-Pacific flight. Mizuiro would continue to his destination in the Bahamas from a second flight from within the US. And much to Ichigo's chagrin, Keigo had shown up. Though in all fairness, that was to be expected since Keigo and Mizuiro were best friends. Keigo practically lost it upon discovering Ichigo's condition, and Mizuiro had been shocked as well.
Understandingly, after Ichigo told him the reason, Mizuiro had forgiven her for keeping the news secret, since Keigo was constantly around him and no one wanted that much melodrama while they were first adjusting to such a change. And when Keigo predictably asked Ichigo what having breasts was like, and if Ichigo had tried anything perverted, she punched him at the same time as Tatsuki.
After a whine and a whimper, Keigo quickly got back up. "So where's Orihime?" He was sure she wouldn't miss Chad leaving.
"She got hurt, and is recovering in hospital." Tatsuki said, "But, I can get her on a video call."
Tatsuki dialed and Orihime picked up. "Hey guys! Sorry I can't be there with you."
The discussion was thankfully not a heavy one, and some stories were shared of what had happened recently. But eventually Keigo's phone rang and he quickly silenced it. "Sorry guys, I have to get back to work." He said goodbye to Chad, and with a promise to visit Mizuiro, he was on his way back to his job. Apparently he had taken time off to see them off.
"I'll never understand how he got that job." Ichigo said.
Mizuiro smiled as if he knew something, but began walking past the security gate before he could be asked.
This left Chad, who grunted with Ichigo in agreement. "Have a good semester Ichigo."
"You too. I'll be visiting on my break."
"And... thanks for having my back."
"I should be thanking you."
"You don't need to."
The voice over the speakers stated its last call for Chad's flight. "See you in four months." Chad said, he and Ichigo bumped fists and Chad crossed the security gate.
Ichigo and Tatsuki walked toward the direction of the train station back to Karakura. "I'll get my stuff packed and help you with Orihime's," Since Ichigo was now a girl, Orihime had invited her to live with her near the college, and since the semester started in a few days and Orihime was being released from hospital just before that, there was a slight time crunch.
Tatsuki broke whatever silence there might have been. "It's kind of crazy seeing everyone split up like this. I'm gonna miss everyone."
"Yeah, me too."
"And how are you not in a padded room right now? Two wars, nearly dying a bunch, your best friend moving across the ocean... and you've been turned into a freaking girl!"
Tatsuki made good points, Ichigo probably should have been driven insane at some point. But she wasn't completely without an explanation. "You know, maybe before I met Rukia, this would have been too much. But I've learned a lot, and I've done a lot. So what if I nearly died? Rescuing Rukia and Orihime was worth it. And who cares if I'm a girl... well, I'd prefer to be a guy, but I can still go to university, and I can still be a doctor."
"Huh, so you've got it figured out, eh?"
Ichigo's voice shook. "Not a chance... I'm terrified. I haven't even had a period yet. But what can I protect by standing still?"
Hey everyone, I hope you liked the story.
I want to address something that I think might be a point of contention involving Orihime being unable to change Ichigo back, considering the nature of her powers in comparison to what Urahara's botched treatment was able to do:
Orihime rejects reality, and then substitutes it with her own (limited by power level and her imagination). The treatment Kisuke created did not reject or destroy any part of Ichigo's core being, but took what was there and convinced it to reconfigure itself without any danger of destroying anything. Therefore, it did not endanger Ichigo enough to be considered a threat.
Could Orihime practice her powers and recreate the ingredient Kisuke needs to reverse it? Technically, yes. But Kisuke no longer has the means to figure out what exact change the Hōgyoku made to the ingredient. He also doesn't know if that change will work in reverse or if it needs a different change to be effective. Orihime would likely need to spend decades developing enough of an understanding of physical and spiritual chemical elements and compounds to create that perfect ingredient. And Ichigo isn't about to let someone else derail their life just to fix something she can easily live with.
Could Orihime practice her powers enough to change the reality of what the treatment did? Sort of... so yes. But again, it would take decades gaining that understanding and familiarity to mimic what the treatment did at that level. Besides, who would Orihime practice that skill on? And Ichigo will not let Orihime endanger herself again just to fix something she can live with.
I hope that explanation satisfies any readers who are keen on such matters.
To anyone who is wondering: I am working on the next chapters of 'The Double-Date' (currently in the last half of chapter 4), as well as a Bleach/Avengers crossover. I find it easier to keep a story making sense when, if I need to make a change, I can make it before it goes live. Completing a story before releasing it also helps my productivity, as I've discovered.
If you don't mind, please consider leaving a review or sending me a PM. I would appreciate it.
As always, have a great week and God bless,