Hello friends and fans, Kairomaru is bringing you a brand-new story! This is my first foray into Bleach, but I followed the series since its early days. I don't think the manga had even made it to the end of the Soul Society Arc when I first picked up the series.

Anyway, as with all my stories there are some changes to the background, which most definitely makes this an AU. What they are will be revealed throughout the story. Just know that things are a bit different and that crazy Power Creep will be mitigated as much as possible.

As always Patrons get all chapters early and all one-shots are Pat re on exclusive.

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Chapters 2 through 5 are Already Available for Patrons!

So without further delay, please enjoy.


Chapter 1 – Death and the Strawberry

We fear that which we cannot see.

It was the dead of night in Karakura Town. The waning moon gave off what illumination it could, but it wasn't much. As such, one could have been forgiven for missing the short young woman landing high up on top of a telephone pole, even if she hadn't already been invisible to normal eyes. She appeared to be a teenager with black hair, violet eyes, and wearing a set of black traditional robes. As the girl opened a folded paper and looked it over, a set of Shōji doors closed behind her. This paper contained her orders, her mission for the next six months. A standard patrol of the current Jūreichi, which just so happened to be in District 3600. This particular district fell under Squad Thirteen's jurisdiction, so she was sent here to patrol the town and slay any Hollows that threatened it.

"I feel something here… Strange… what is this strong Reiryoku?" The girl spoke her thoughts aloud. Closing the folded paper, she returned it to the inside of her robes and leapt off the telephone pole. Her leap would have been impossible for any human to make, but this young woman was no mere human. She landed on the roof of a house dozens of meters from the pole.

-Friday, 7:30 PM-

"What the?! You come over here, stomp Li'l Yama in the face, and then order us out like we're dogs?!" A teen that could only be described as a delinquent yelled at another teen. Said teen had spiky orange hair and an unimpressed look on his face. The delinquent's friends surrounded the orange-haired teen wearing the grey uniform of Karakura High School. "You crazy, punk? Got a death wish?! Speak!"

The orange-haired teen just scratched at his orange locks while staring at the 'head delinquent' unamused.

"Say something, you…" The Leader yelled as he rushed the other teen, but his demands were cut off by a foot slamming into his face.

"Holy shit!" One of the other delinquents exclaimed.

"He dropped Li'l Toshi!" Another cried out in shock as they watched their 'Leader' get stomped on repeatedly.

"This is messed up! Like really messed up! That's one bloodthirsty berry head." A delinquent that clearly dyed his hair blonde freaked out.

"That guy is a freaking psycho! Mess with him and he'll straight up kill you!" A delinquent wearing a beanie accused.

"Shut up!" The orange-haired teen yelled at the group as he stomped the 'Leader's' face one more time. "All of you chumps; look at that!" The pissed off high schooler demanded as he pointed to a cracked glass bottle with a flower in it. "Question one, what is that?" The teen glared at the beanie-wearing delinquent. "You; the smelly looking one, answer!"

"M-me?" The delinquent pointed to himself. "An offering for some dead kid?"

"Look at the brains on smelly!" The orange-haired teen called out as he kicked the delinquent in the face. The beanie-wearing teen dropped to the ground.

"Li'l Mitch!" Another delinquent cried out. The other delinquents started asking the downed teen if he was alright.

"Question two…" The teen spoke coldly. "Why is the vase lying on its side?"

"Umm…cause we knocked it over with our skateboards?" A delinquent with dreads replied.

"Is that so?" The high schooler demanded. "Then you should apologize to her, shouldn't you?" He pointed to his side where the transparent form of a bloody girl could be seen floating in the air.

"AAAGGGHHH!" The delinquents all screamed in fear as they ran away.

"We're sorry!"

"We'll never do it again!"

"Please don't hurt us!"

With that the delinquents, and their skateboards, were gone.

"Tsk, I don't think they'll be coming back." The orange-haired teen said to the floating ghost. "Sorry I had to use you like that."

"It's fine, I asked you for help, it's the least I could do." The ghost girl replied.

"I'll bring fresh flowers soon." The teen promised.

"Thank you so much for your help…um." The ghost girl realized she hadn't asked the teen for his name.

"Kurosaki Ichigo; and it was no problem." Ichigo smiled at the ghost.

"Thank you, Kurosaki-san. Maybe now I can rest peacefully." The ghost girl thanked him again.

"Yeah, you rest in peace." Ichigo waved over his shoulder as he headed home.

-Kurosaki Clinic – Kurosaki Family Home-

"I'm home-" Ichigo called out only to take a kick to the head from his father, Isshin.

"You're late!" Isshin yelled down at his son. "Do you know what time it is, delinquent? Dinner is at seven o' clock in this house!"

"Is that how you treat your son that just helped a ghost find peace, you jerk?!" Ichigo demanded as he held his head.

"No excuses! The rules of my house are iron! You break them, you gotta bleed!" Isshin growled back at his son.

"I'll show you iron!" Ichigo leapt at the man, ducked under an attempt to grab him, and judo-threw his father. The two continued to argue and even started wrestling in the entryway.

"Stop fighting you two!" Ichigo's little sister Yuzu called out to them. She had light brown hair and was still wearing the apron she'd worn to help make dinner. "The food is going to get cold!"

"Let them fight, more for us." Karin – Ichigo's other little sister and Yuzu's twin – replied as she helped herself to more food. Unlike her twin, Karin had black hair like their father and was currently wearing a graphic t-shirt and shorts.

The fighting between father and son went on for a bit longer. When Ichigo got fed up he flipped his father off of him and slammed the older man to the ground. With a growl he took the food Yuzu offered him to his room to eat in peace. When Isshin was chastised by both of his daughters for his actions, he went crying to the large poster of his deceased wife.

"Oh Masaki, maybe it's just puberty, but our daughters are treating me so coldly! What should I do?!" Isshin cried out.

"For starters you could take down that poster of mom." Karin rolled her eyes.

"Ichigo told me he's being haunted by more and more ghosts recently. He's at his wits end." Yuzu spoke up and Isshin turned to her in shock.

"He talks to you two about this stuff?! Why wouldn't he come to his father?!" Isshin looked perplexed and had his hand over his heart dramatically.

"I wouldn't come to you either." Karin replied without looking her father's way. "You're over forty yet you have the emotional maturity of a small child."

"Masaki!" Isshin cried as he ran to the poster of his wife again.

-Ichigo's Room-

"Man, why is my family so weird?" Ichigo sighed as he finished eating and set the dishware on his desk. He stood up to turn on the light, as the sun had set, and his room had gotten dark. It was as he stood up that he noticed a person seemingly come through the wall in his room.

"What the…" Ichigo's eyes widened as the person walked across his floor, seemingly not noticing him.

"It's close." The figure spoke only to be kicked in the back and sent sprawling to the floor.

"How's that for close, jackass?" Ichigo demanded of the downed person. "Pretty cocky for some kind of burglar, aren't you? What's 'Close'? The safe? That some kind of burglar lingo?"

"Y-You can see me? And… You kicked me?!" The figure questioned in shock.

"Stop blabbering! Of course, I can see you…" Ichigo replied to the figure.

"Quiet boy!" Isshin yelled as he threw open the door and kicked his son. "Stop jumping around up here!"

"How can I be quiet when I'm subduing an intruder?" Ichigo demanded as he kicked his father in the head. "Look at this! Where's our home security?" He demanded as he pointed to the figure in robes that had stood up, still looking a little shocked at him. The orange-haired teen had also noticed the katana the person was carrying and kept a sharp eye on the weapon.

"Look at what?" Isshin questioned as his eyes scanned his son's room.

"The person in the samurai get-up!" Ichigo looked at his father like he was dense.

"It is no use." The figure, a girl going by her voice, spoke. "Normal people cannot see me. I am a Shinigami." Ichigo blinked at the girl's words before sighing. He ushered his father out of his room, went down to the kitchen, and poured two cups of tea from the kettle that Yuzu had put on for after dinner. The orange-haired teen then returned to his room with both cups. He closed and locked his door before setting both cups on the low table he kept in the corner of his room. Sitting down on one side he motioned for the girl to take a seat on the other.

Blinking at the unexpected show of hospitality, the girl sat in seiza on the other side of the table. With a look towards the teen across from her she picked up the tea and took a sip. Setting the cup down, she watched as the orange-haired young man sipped his own tea as well. With a sigh the young teen spoke.

"So…what's your story?" Ichigo asked the spirit. This wasn't the first time he'd had to talk with a ghost to help them find peace and move on. It was the first time a spirit had been able to interact with the physical world and actually drink tea though.

"As I said, I am a Shinigami." The girl replied. "Kuchiki Rukia, Tenth Seat of Squad Thirteen of the Gotei Thirteen. I am here as part of a routine patrol of this District. My job is to send souls to the Soul Society through Konsō and to slay and purify Hollows."

Ichigo blinked at the black robed girl for a moment before sipping his tea again. Rukia took up her own cup and sipped her tea as well. It would be best to give the human a bit of time to process what she had told him. Ichigo set his cup down before he spoke again.

"Look, I've been able to see ghosts as long as I can remember, but I've never seen a Shinigami before and I've never heard of these Hollows either. You might be pretty, but I don't go along and believe everything I'm told. No matter who tells me it, whether they're a wizened old man or a beautiful girl," Ichigo motioned to Rukia slightly – whose cheeks turned slightly pink – before continuing. "Until I see it with my own eyes, I'm not going to believe it."

"Perhaps a demonstration then?" Rukia tilted her head as she stood up. Ichigo watched her warily as her hand went to her sword. The black-haired girl drew the katana and looked just over Ichigo's shoulder. With a quick movement the bottom of the handle tapped the forehead of a ghost that had been lingering behind Ichigo.

"No… Wait, please… I don't want to go to Hell…" The ghost, who was dressed as a salaryman, pleaded as a mark appeared on his forehead.

"Do not presume," Rukia spoke to the ghost. "What awaits you is not Hell, but the Soul Society. Unlike Hell, it is a restful place."

In a blue glow, the ghost disappeared leaving behind a black Swallowtail Butterfly that flew out Ichigo's window. The teen stared in shock for a moment as Rukia sheathed her sword. Ichigo had never seen a ghost just vanish like that before!

"Where's the ghost?" Ichigo questioned Rukia.

"I sent him to the Soul Society through Konsō. It is one of the duties of the Shinigami." Rukia informed Ichigo with a look that asked if he believed her now. "I will explain things so that it is easy for you to understand." Rukia pulled out a sketchpad from within her robes. She flipped to a certain page and then showed Ichigo the drawings. "There are two types of souls in this world. The Plus are the spirits of the dead. These are the type you know."

'Why is it a rabbit?' Ichigo wondered in his mind as he looked at the 'childish' drawings.

"Hollows on the other hand, attack the living and the dead indiscriminately and devour their souls. They are most attracted to strong souls and will seek them out if they sense them. Slaying and Purifying the Hollows is another duty of the Shinigami." Rukia explained as she pointed to a drawing of a bear. "Any questions so far?"

"You have a rather 'unique' art style." Ichigo ignored her own question as he sipped his tea. Rukia's eyebrow twitched as she reached for her tea and took a sip before she said something she'd regret. Again. "So, your mission involves slaying these Hollows. Does that mean that there's one around here?"

"There is." Rukia confirmed.

"Then why are you talking to me and not slaying it?" Ichigo questioned her.

"That's the thing…I haven't been able to sense its presence for a while now." Rukia admitted.

"Why is that…?" Ichigo was cut off as a horrible howl came from outside, making him twitch and look to his window.

"It's almost as if something is blocking my senses." Rukia looked thoughtful, and clearly wasn't paying attention to him anymore, seeing as she didn't notice the motion.

"Hey! What the hell was that loud howl?" Ichigo demanded and Rukia looked at him confused.

"Howl?" Rukia asked before she heard it too. The cry of a Hollow. It was incredibly close as well! 'How could it have gotten so close? It's like I'm hearing the Hollow through a filter. How could this guy have heard it before I could?'

A loud crash came from downstairs followed by a cry of terror.

"That was Yuzu!" Ichigo had already jumped to his feet and bolted to the door.

"Stay here!" Rukia yelled and Ichigo paused with his hand on the doorknob. "You can't fight a Hollow! You'll only increase the body count! I will slay it, so stay here!"

"That's MY family being attacked!" Ichigo yelled back at the Shinigami as he opened the door. A wave of spiritual pressure hit both Ichigo and Rukia as the door opened.

'How could I have missed this?' Rukia felt the thought run through her mind in shock.

"Ichigo…" Karin called out, blood covering her shoulder. The girl was crawling on the floor towards her brother's room. "It hasn't come here…good…Ichigo…run. The thing…I didn't get a good look at it. It came through the wall…hit dad…and came for me and Yuzu. I don't think…they could see it. Run…Ichigo…" With that Karin collapsed.

"She's just unconscious." Rukia told him after running and checking on the girl. But Ichigo had torn down the stairs already, his anger almost tangible through his Reiatsu. "Damn it! Ichigo stop!" She raced after him, calling the name she'd heard from the young girl.

Ichigo arrived at the front of the house and saw the smashed wall. The damage to the kitchen and living room was bad, but his father was worse. He saw him laid out near the wall, bleeding rather dangerously. Then he saw it, the Hollow.

'That thing's a damn monster! I figured since it was a spirit that it would look human!' Ichigo thought to himself. Then his eyes drifted away from the bone-like mask and the strange body. He saw what was in the Hollow's hand.

"Yuzu!" Ichigo called out as he charged towards the Hollow.

"Stop you fool!" Rukia had just jumped down the stairs and landed right as Ichigo charged. With a roar Ichigo launched himself at the large monster, intent on saving his little sister. With a swing of its large fist the Hollow knocked Ichigo aside.

"Damn it…" Ichigo huffed as he'd blocked the fist, but everything hurt now. It was like getting hit with a sledgehammer! Looking up at the Hollow swinging its unoccupied arm down at him, Ichigo glared. Rukia suddenly appeared in his vision, her sword out and slicing into the arm that held Yuzu. With another horrible howl the Hollow reeled back and dropped Yuzu. Ichigo was quick to bolt forward and catch his sister before she hit the ground. "Yuzu!"

"Stay calm!" Rukia yelled to him. "None of your family's souls have been eaten yet!"

"Really?" Ichigo exhaled in relief. "Wait. You said that Hollows attack people to eat their souls, so why has this one attacked my family and not eaten anyone?"

"I told you…Hollows are attracted to high levels of spiritual power. But they are also opportunistic." Rukia never took her eyes off the injured Hollow.

"What're you saying?" Ichigo questioned as he placed Yuzu behind the damaged wall of his home.

"I have never known a human that could see a Shinigami," Rukia stated and Ichigo felt his blood run cold. "Nor have I ever heard of a human capable of touching a Shinigami… I have never heard of a human with so much Reiryoku." Ichigo's eyes widened and Rukia turned to look at him as the Hollow stumbled backwards holding its injured arm. "I believe…this Hollow was looking for you."

"All of this…was because of me?" Ichigo breathed out. "Dad's dying over there, Yuzu and Karin are bleeding…all because of me?"

"That's not what I meant-" Rukia began to say but the Hollow suddenly lunged forward, clearing an absurd amount of distance in an instant, and backhanded Rukia into the neighbor's brick fence.

"Rukia!" Ichigo called out before he glared at the Hollow. "You son of a bitch! You came after me, right?! It's my soul you're after! Come fight me! Leave the others out of it!" The Hollow reared back and lunged, its neck extending out farther than it looked like it should be able to. Just as the teeth of the bone-like mask got close, Ichigo felt something push him out of the way. The next instant Ichigo heard the sound of blood hitting the pavement. The orange-haired teen turned to look and saw Rukia in the jaws of the Hollow. The Shinigami wedged her sword into the beast's teeth and slashed. With another horrible shriek the Hollow let go of Rukia and backed away, cradling its cut face in agony.

"You fool…" Rukia huffed out as she collapsed to her knees, blood everywhere around her. "Did you really think…that it would…be over…if you gave it your soul?"

"I…I just didn't want it to go after my family." Ichigo lamented as the Hollow thrashed in pain further down the street.

"I'm…afraid I can't console you." Rukia breathed heavily. "I can't move well…it's only a matter of time…until we become the Hollow's food."

'Damn it!' Ichigo roared in his head. 'We're all going to die because of me!'

"Do you wish to save your family, Ichigo?" Rukia looked at him from the wall she was leaned up against.

"Just tell me how!" Ichigo exclaimed as he moved over to her. "I'll do anything!"

"There is a way…only one way…right now." Rukia breathed out. "I'll transfer half of my Shinigami Reiryoku to you. You'll become a Shinigami."

"What?" Ichigo looked at her like she was crazy. "I can't be a…"

"You can!" Rukia interrupted him. "Take the point of my Zanpakutō and place it over your heart."

"Are you sure you can do this?" Ichigo asked the injured Shinigami, even as he placed the point of her sword over his heart.

"I do not know. Your soul is strong, but the chance of success is low… if we fail, you'll die." Rukia informed him. They were both aware of the Hollow stopping its' thrashing and locking onto them again. "We don't have time to ponder, Ichigo."

"Do it." Ichigo looked into her violet eyes with such determination that Rukia didn't even hesitate. Her Zanpakutō stabbed through Ichigo's chest just as the Hollow was closing in.

There was an explosion of Reiryoku, and the Hollow slowed its charge as it was buffeted by the Reiatsu that had appeared. There was a brief movement and the Hollow's left arm fell off. With wide eyes, the Hollow shrieked as it stumbled to turn around and face the one that had injured it. Behind the large beast stood Ichigo. The teen was now clad in the same black robes as Rukia, but that paled in comparison to the gigantic sheath strapped to his back and the ridiculously sized katana in his right hand. The large blade was twice the length of a regular sword and at least three times as wide.

"Impossible…" Rukia gasped from where she was leaned against the wall still. Now clad in a pure white robe, the injured Shinigami looked on agape as Ichigo faced down the Hollow. "I meant to only give him half of my Reiryoku, but he took almost every last drop of it!"

Ichigo and the Hollow charged at each other, the Hollow roaring loudly. With a quick swing of his massive sword Ichigo lopped off one of the beast's feet. The Hollow shrieked as it tried to maintain its balance while missing an arm and a foot.

"Never have I heard of a human that could see a Shinigami," Rukia repeated to herself. "Never have I heard of a human that could touch a Shinigami," The Hollow lunged forward with its' jaws wide, hoping to devour Ichigo in one bite as it fell. "Never have I seen a Zanpakutō so large before!"

"This is for attacking my family, you bastard!" Ichigo yelled as he swung his sword down in a textbook helm splitter. The blade of the huge Zanpakutō cleaved the Hollow's masked head in two without even slowing down.

"What is this man?" Rukia questioned herself as she watched the Hollow disappear as it was purified. Rukia wanted to move to help as she saw Ichigo collapse, but she was too weak to do so. Only a few moments later and she heard the telltale sound of wooden geta clacking against the pavement.

"My, my, you've had quite the eventful night, eh Kuchiki-san?" The tall, lean man remarked with a folding fan in his hand. He had light skin and gray eyes. His hair was messy and light-blond with strands framing the sides of his face and hanging between his eyes. He had a bit of chin stubble as well. He wore a dark green Shihakushō without an undershirt. Over that he wore a black haori, which had a white diamond pattern along its bottom hem. "Perhaps I can be of assistance?"

"You're…" Rukia's eyes widened. The man held up his fan over his mouth to hide his smile.

"Let's not make a big deal about that, shall we?" He requested as he motioned towards the downed Ichigo and the damaged Kurosaki residence. "We should take care of this first, right?" Rukia could only nod to the man and let him handle the current situation.

-The Next Morning ~ Kurosaki Clinic-

To the perception of three of the four residents the morning started with a loud crash. Isshin jumped out of bed and dashed down the stairs only to see the front of the house damaged. He ran outside, careful to avoid the debris and tried to find the cause. Hearing a large truck at the other end of the street the man looked and saw nothing. Assuming the truck must have rounded the corner and driven off Isshin lamented about the damage to his home.

"Dad?" Karin questioned as she stood on the steps with Yuzu. "What the heck happened?"

"I believe a large truck just backed into our house." Isshin grumbled. "It looks like they hit Oke-san's fence when they drove out of here too."

"What the heck?!" Karin glared at the large hole in the wall. "They back into our house and then just drive off?!"

"At least none of us got hurt." Yuzu looked on the bright side. Isshin latched onto that and tried to cheer his daughters up. It wouldn't do any good for them to remember. The fact that the Kikanshinki hadn't been able to completely replace his memory meant that the turning point had been reached. He remembered and now his own power would start to return. He'd hoped that he could've protected his son for a bit longer, but it had truly only been a matter of time. Ichigo's spiritual powers had just been growing too strong too quickly for any other outcome.

-Ichigo's Room ~ Later-

"Good…morning…Ichigo!" Isshin awoke his son with a flying kick. Ichigo grabbed his dad by the face and slammed him into the ground.

"What kind of sick freak attacks his son in his sleep?!" Ichigo demanded as he pressed his dad's head into the floor.

"Umf! Not bad…my boy, I have nothing left to teach you." Isshin mumbled out as Ichigo palmed his face.

"Wait a minute?" Ichigo looked perplexed. "Where are your wounds?"

"Wounds?" Isshin asked confused. "What wounds? Did I get hurt?"

"Say what?" Ichigo had never felt more confused.

The next several minutes were spent with Ichigo questioning how the hell his family thought a truck backed into their house. Karin was annoyed, which was pretty normal for such an odd situation. Yuzu had made breakfast as normal and was urging everyone to eat before they were late. Though to be fair, they were all late already. Isshin had called both Ichigo's school and his daughters' school to tell them that his children would be late due to an accident.

'What is this? Some kind of Shinigami cover-up ability?' Ichigo wondered as he ate Yuzu's cooking and got dressed in his uniform. He headed for school as his dad was nailing wooden boards in place to cover the hole. The man was also on the phone with the insurance company and describing the situation while working. For as much of a goof as his father was, the man was a damn good dad. 'Did Rukia go back to that Soul Society place?' He pondered as he left the house and walked his normal route.

-Karakura High School ~ 10:45am-

A beautiful orangette girl sat in a chair by an open window in class. She sighed a little despondently, as the one she had been daydreaming about hadn't been there for first period.

"Hey, none of that now." Another girl walked up to her with a smile. "He'll be here soon."

"Tatsuki-chan~!" The orangette smiled at the ravenette.

"Ichigo called just a bit ago." Tatsuki smiled. "Some asshat backed a big truck into their house early this morning, so he said he was on his way. Just be patient, Orihime."

"A truck?! Is he okay?" Orihime asked worried.

"I'm fine." Ichigo said as he walked up to the pair of girls. "Sorry if I worried you both."

"Ichigo!" Orihime beamed at him as she stood up and lunged. Ichigo smiled as he hugged her back, though not nearly as hard as she was squeezing him. After a few moments, Orihime pulled away with a large smile on her face.

"Like I'd worry about a truck taking you out." Tatsuki smirked challengingly at him, before she was yanked into a hug and their lips met for a quick kiss. Pulling back Tatsuki grinned at Ichigo, who gave her the same smile as Orihime. The smile that only they got to see; but that was to be expected considering the three were dating.

"I'm heartbroken." Ichigo chuckled. Orihime was quickly pulled back in by Ichigo and given a kiss too. The orangette had a dopey smile on her face afterwards. Tatsuki kissed Orihime's cheek too and the girl hugged the ravenette.

"How are you so damn lucky, Ichigo" Asano Keigo, a buddy of Ichigo's, demanded with crocodile tears pouring down his face as he skid to a halt near them. "It's not fair, man!"

"Shut up, Keigo." Ichigo replied the same way he always did when Keigo whined, his expression back in its carefully schooled manner.

"Son of a… Are you Kurosaki?" Ichigo heard a VERY familiar voice coming from the desk next to his. Looking to his right he was greeted by the smiling face of Kuchiki Rukia. "It's nice to meet you."

Ichigo's eyes widened even as Mizuiro, another friend of his, explained that Rukia was a transfer student. How did she? Why was she? What the hell?! And how the hell had he missed her walking in?

"Y-you…" Ichigo pointed at Rukia.

"Say, Kurosaki, I don't have any textbooks yet. Would you mind sharing yours with me?" Rukia asked as she held out her hand. Ichigo noticed writing on her palm.

Make a scene and you're dead. Was written on the Shinigami woman's palm.

'Is she out of her mind?!' Ichigo thought to himself while Rukia was all smiles.

During their break, Rukia had gotten Ichigo to 'show her around'. This was the one time Ichigo really could have done with Ochi-sensei saying 'No' to somebody! But the kind, young teacher had thought it was a great idea to have Ichigo show the new transfer around, seeing as he was a top student. So now Ichigo was leading Rukia to a secluded place to talk.

"Such a secluded place. What's on your mind, big boy?" Rukia asked and Ichigo started slightly. What kind of question was that? Especially with that serious voice? And where did Rukia learn to talk like that from?!

"Not what you're thinking." Ichigo stopped walking and turned to face her. "But if you talk like that people will get the wrong idea." With that he turned and leaned against the wall of the school in the shade. "So, be careful of what you say, alright?" Ichigo asked with a cocked eyebrow, Rukia raised one of her own delicate brows in return. She copied his motion and leaned against the wall too.

"You already have two young ladies and I have to admit, I didn't expect that from you. You don't seem like the playboy type." Rukia mused and Ichigo rolled his eyes.

"If you're looking for playboys you should talk to Mizuiro. He looks all innocent but he's easily the most experienced guy I know." Ichigo commented with a snort. "I've known Tatsuki since we were small; and we met Orihime in Junior High. Things just kind of spiraled from there. Try not to get caught in Orihime's orbit, will you?" His lips quirked minutely.

"Oh? Am I not to your liking, Ichigo?" Rukia questioned and Ichigo raised an eyebrow, but looked her right in the eyes before he spoke.

"You look very cute in the uniform, Rukia." Ichigo told her straight to her face. "You've got beautiful eyes too."

"Wha?" Rukia blinked, before she blushed at Ichigo's words.

"Now, how about you tell me why you're here at my school?" Ichigo asked as her. Rukia took a second to regain her composure. She was most certainly NOT used to such genuine, direct compliments.

"I thought that would be obvious." Rukia sighed as she crossed her arms.

"Explain it to me." Ichigo requested while looking at her. "I figured with the injuries you sustained you'd have gone back to the Soul Society you told me about."

"To do that I'd have to be a Shinigami." Rukia replied with a blank look on her face. "I can't go back."

"What do you mean?" Ichigo questioned, question marks appearing over his head. "You are a Shinigami."

"I lost all of my Reiryoku." Rukia looked at him flatly.

"You lost your powers?" Ichigo looked befuddled. "You can just lose being a Shinigami?"

"Almost all of my Reiryoku is now inside you." Rukia told him bluntly. "Not in your body, but in your soul. You practically drained all of my power from me last night. I can only do a few simple Kidō now. I also have to rely on this Gigai."

"Gi…gai?" Ichigo tested the unfamiliar word.

"A temporary body we Shinigami use in emergencies." Rukia explained as she held her hand to her chest. "Injured or weakened Shinigami inhabit Gigai until we recover."

"It looks human enough." Ichigo looked the false body up and down. If his face and tone hadn't been so serious, she'd have thought he was 'eyeing her up' as the books and magazines she'd poured over last night to learn more modern language had called it.

"It has to. I'd be easy prey for a Hollow without my powers. The Gigai allows me to disguise myself as a regular human." Rukia informed him of the secondary purpose of the Gigai.

"Ok, so what do you want from me? Is there a way for me to give your power back to you?" Ichigo asked the petite ravenette. "Like do I just focus and channel it back to you or something?"

"I'm afraid it doesn't work like that." Rukia shook her head. "Until I regain my powers, you'll have to do the work of a Shinigami."

"Huh…?" Ichigo blinked at violet-eyed woman, jaw unhinging slightly.

"What's the problem?" Rukia questioned the orange-haired teen. "You have the powers of a Shinigami now. I'll even be helping you. This really can't be left alone."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down!" Ichigo held up his hands. "I fought the Hollow yesterday to save my family! That was the whole reason I decided to go through with becoming a Shinigami, remember? I can't just go around fighting those monsters all the time for random people. What, do you want me to drop out of school until your powers return or something?"

Rukia sighed, "Very well, then I'll have to show you." Rukia pulled on a red glove with a stylized skull surrounded with a flame design on the back. Quick as a blink, her hand was on Ichigo's chest and the orange-haired teen felt himself stumble backwards. A second later and Ichigo was looking down at his own body.

"Hey! What the hell? What did you do?!" Ichigo asked as he looked between his body and his black robe-clad spirit. He felt the large sword on his back too.

"Ichigo, follow me, there's something you need to see." Rukia informed him as she hid his body in the bushes behind the nearby supply shed. No one was likely to find it there. With that she walked off leaving Ichigo with little choice but to follow her, getting increasingly annoyed as she dodged his questions.

-Yumizawa Children's Park ~ 20 minutes later-

"Why did we come here?" Ichigo asked as he looked around the empty park.

"Do ghosts come to this park?" Rukia answered his question with another question.

"Uh, yeah, one does." Ichigo blinked at the question.

"What's it like?" Rukia inquired still looking out at the empty park.

"A boy, about five years old. Around this tall." Ichigo held his hand out flat to indicate the ghost's height. "He likes to play in the park around noon."

"A friend?" Rukia asked without looking his way.

"I've seen him a few times, but I've never spoken to him." Ichigo shrugged. "What's the big deal?" In response to his question Rukia held out her cell phone. On the screen was the name of the park, twenty meters, a time of Twelve Noon, and below that a plus sign and a minus sign next to the words fifteen minutes.

"What's this?" Ichigo questioned.

"An order from the Soul Society." Rukia stated. "Within twenty meters of this park, at noon, plus or minus fifteen minutes, a Hollow will appear. Probably to attack and eat that child." Ichigo stared at the phone in his hand before the screams of a young boy rang out from the park.

Rukia and Ichigo turned to the sound and saw a six-legged Hollow chasing after the ghost of the boy. Ichigo grabbed the handle of his large sword and prepared to jump in.

"Why are you moving?" Rukia asked and Ichigo hesitated. "You don't know that ghost, right? He's a stranger to you. Why are you helping him?"

"Like hell I'm going to stand back and watch the kid get eaten by that thing!" Ichigo shouted at her.

"So you'll save them if you happen to be nearby?" Rukia questioned with a cold look. "They'll all be hunted and attacked whether you can see them or not." Ichigo grimaced as he watched the boy run from the Hollow. "You can't pick and choose which ones you'll save! That's not how it works! If you don't perform the duties of a Shinigami he'll just be attacked again and again! If you try to save one, you need to try and save them all!" Rukia's fists were clenched and she was trembling. Ichigo realized that she was holding herself back from jumping in herself.

Ichigo stared at Rukia in shock. She was fighting against her own desire to perform her duties, even though she was almost powerless now. She was trying to make him understand the importance of the Shinigami. This had to be agony for her; she had trained for perhaps her entire life to save spirits like this, and was now powerless to do so. What she said next struck him deep. Probably deeper than she'd actually intended.

"You must be willing to go anywhere and to even risk your very life to try and save them! To sacrifice for them is the duty of the Shinigami!" Rukia shouted at him even as she forced herself to remain in place when the boy tripped.

'Sacrifice myself…' Ichigo thought as his mind flashed back to last night. To when Rukia had thrown him aside and taken his place in the Hollow's jaws. 'That's right… I'm…' In a blur Ichigo was standing in front of the Hollow. The boy was sprawled on the ground between Ichigo and the six-legged Hollow.

"What are you?" The Hollow asked in a scratchy voice. With a swing of his large blade Ichigo lopped off the front left leg of the Hollow. The beast shrieked in pain as it toppled onto its back and thrashed around.

"So you've made your decision then?" Rukia asked, only for Ichigo to stab his sword into the ground next to the ghost. He turned back to her with a fierce look.

"I helped him because I was here!" Ichigo shouted at her. Rukia blinked at his outburst stunned. "What about you?!" He demanded of her. "You threw yourself into that Hollow's jaws last night for me! Was that just part of your duty? Duty is no reason to sacrifice your life!" The now five-legged Hollow had righted itself and was charging at Ichigo from behind. With a powerful spin Ichigo turned and buried almost two meters of blade straight into the Hollow's mask. With a heave he yanked the blade back out of the beast and watched it collapse. As the Hollow began to disappear into spirit particles Ichigo turned to Rukia.

"Ichigo?" Rukia looked confused by the orange-haired young man.

"I owe you a large debt." Ichigo told her. "So I'll perform the duties of a Shinigami for you, until your powers return. I won't let this place be overrun by the Hollows. I'll save every soul I can."

"Thank you, Ichigo." Rukia graced him with a smile.

'Huh, she's got a nice smile.' Ichigo thought as he turned back to face the boy. "Listen kid, if you keep hanging around here more of those monsters are going to show up. Let me send you somewhere better, alright?"

"Better?" The boy asked and Ichigo gently pressed the bottom of his sword handle against the boy's forehead. The blue emblem appeared and in a bright blue glow the boy was sent to Soul Society. A black Swallowtail Butterfly fluttered off as the light died down.

"You did that very well." Rukia softly praised him. Ichigo watched the black butterfly flutter away for a moment. Turning to face her, he gave her a gentle smile of his own. Rukia returned it; the orange-haired teen looked better with a smile rather than a scowl. The two made their way back to the school so Ichigo could re-enter his body and finish out the school day.

-After School ~ Orihime's Apartment-

"Your dad really doesn't know what we do over here?" Tatsuki questioned as her lips separated from Ichigo's. The ravenette looked skeptical.

"If he did, I'm sure I'd have heard about it by now." Ichigo replied. He was going to say more, but Orihime grabbed the back of his neck with both hands and yanked him close, capturing his lips hungrily.

"Man, he's dense. Either that or waiting to pull that card on you at some point." Tatsuki shook her head with a snicker before pulling her shirt over her head. The polyamorous relationship between the three had been a surprise, but none of them regretted a thing. She got behind her Hime and gently massaged her breasts, kissing her neck. Orihime mewled happily as she and Ichigo deepened their kiss.

"Ichigo~" Orihime cooed with a smile as they separated.

"Shirt off, Hime-chan~" Tatsuki whispered into Orihime's ear as she unbuttoned the purple shirt her girlfriend was wearing. When she got the shirt open, both Tatsuki and Ichigo were treated to the sight of their girlfriend's large breasts. The pink bra was almost overflowing with Orihime's bountiful bosom.

"Ahn~" Orihime let out a little moan as Tatsuki slipped a hand under a cup and tweaked her nipple. "Don't stare~" She mewled as Ichigo undid her bra and the orangette slipped it off. Her DD cups were a sight to behold and she was quickly reduced to a moaning mess as Ichigo and Tatsuki got comfortable and latched onto her nipples. Licking and sucking on Orihime's large boobs was always enjoyable for all three of them. Orihime's fingers caressed both of her lovers as she ran her fingers through their hair. She mewled and moaned as they lavished pleasure on her. When Ichigo pulled back to remove Tatsuki's bra and expose her C Cups, it was quickly the tomboy's turn to be pleasured.

"Yes~" Tatsuki moaned as she pulled Orihime and Ichigo closer to her tits. She gasped when her skirt was undone, pulled off, and familiar fingers found their way into her panties. "Fuck~" She panted only for Orihime's lips to meet hers. She kissed her girlfriend back and rolled her hips to the expert touch of her boyfriend.

"You're beautiful, Tatsuki~" Ichigo whispered into the ravenette's ear softly. Tatsuki bucked into his fingers at his words and the fact that he was hitting the best spot inside her.

"No~ you can't say that~" Tatsuki mewled as she kissed him. Hearing Ichigo say her name like that, while calling her beautiful with such love in his voice always got to her. Orihime was back to lavishing attention to her breasts and Tatsuki was in paradise. She loved Ichigo and Orihime with all her heart. She knew in her very soul that would never change. Orihime's skirt and panties were removed shortly afterwards and with both young woman bare they turned their sights onto Ichigo.

"Your turn Ichigo~" Orihime smiled, her eyes half-lidded as she ran her hands up his chest.

"Get undressed~" Tatsuki purred as her fingers quickly unbuttoned his uniform shirt. Ichigo shrugged it off, leaving Orihime and Tatsuki to eye his torso appreciatively. Ichigo was in very good shape after all, the amount of fights he ended up in kind of necessitated that. Tatsuki happily kissed her way up his torso before claiming his lips. Orihime giggled as she pressed their bodies together. Her large breasts molding against Ichigo's chest and the bare skin on skin made both shiver pleasantly. Tatsuki broke away from the kiss and Orihime was quick to take them for herself, slipping her tongue in where it met his.

"Ichigo~" Orihime backed away, a strand of saliva connecting them as she cooed his name, hand playing with his belt. Ichigo grinned at her before pulling her back in. Tatsuki giggled at the dopey expression on Orihime's face afterward. Ichigo undid his belt and Orihime was quick to remove his pants and boxers in one fell swoop.

"Mmm~" Tatsuki moaned in her throat at seeing Ichigo in all his glory again. Their boyfriend was certainly not lacking in the size department. Catching each other's eyes Tatsuki and Orihime smiled and moved down to Ichigo's length.

"Damn~" Ichigo practically hissed out as Orihime and Tatsuki pressed their breasts against his shaft. The soft mounds surrounded him and Ichigo threw his head back in a loud groan when Orihime and Tatsuki began to lick the head. Ichigo could only breathe heavily as his girlfriends worked him over. When the two of them started making out with each other, with his length between their mouths at that, Ichigo couldn't help but give in. He gently ran his hands through their soft locks and both girls knew it was a warning. "Fuck!" Ichigo called out, only for the word to be lost in the rumbling groan he let out as Tatsuki and Orihime kissed with his cockhead between their open lips. Both girls felt a strong jolt pass through them as they swallowed Ichigo's seed. They both shivered in their own orgasms from the feeling. Once Ichigo had regained his focus he was met with the sight of Orihime and Tatsuki making out.

"Ready Ichigo~?" Tatsuki questioned with a salacious grin at her boyfriend. Ichigo couldn't have been more ready after seeing his beautiful girlfriends like this. Tatsuki cradled Orihime against her body while Orihime blushed as she spread her legs for Ichigo. The young man gently guided himself into Orihime's hot, wet depths as they both moaned at being together again. It didn't matter how many times they were together. Every single time was just as intense and passionate as the first.

Thankfully Orihime's apartment had thick walls or her neighbors would have easily heard the trio once again consummating their love for each other. Ichigo gave everything to pleasing Tatsuki and Orihime. The girls both returned this desire and Ichigo would nearly be overwhelmed each time. Orihime felt another powerful jolt when Ichigo filled her for the first time that afternoon. Her orgasm had almost made her black out and once it was her turn, Tatsuki was no better. The tomboy had almost shrieked in rapture and ended up biting Ichigo's shoulder to muffle her cries of ecstasy. Both girls felt a rush like never before and had clung to Ichigo tightly until they'd managed to regain themselves. Ichigo couldn't help feeling a bit of masculine pride at seeing his girlfriends with such blissed-out expressions afterwards.

"Mmm~ Ichigo, that was amazing~" Tatsuki murmured into his ear as he held them both close.

"I almost passed out~" Orihime giggled as she snuggled up close to Ichigo.

"Glad I was able to please." Ichigo chuckled as he kissed the tops of their heads. The two on either side cuddled him tightly.

Tatsuki slowly smirked before inclining her head, "I noticed you took your time showing the new girl around today~" Tatsuki teased as she lightly nibbled on his ear.

"Oh?" He turned and pecked her on the lips, staring at her challengingly, "What about it?"

"Hmmm, I'm just wondering if Honsho will cry tears of blood with you taking another girl off the market~" Tatsuki whispered in mock-seriousness.

"It's not like that." He rolled his eyes.

"Mou, she is cute though. Should we ask if she wants to have some fun with us~?" Orihime asked sleepily, curled up into Ichigo's side.

"Let's get to know her a bit before that, hmm?" Tatsuki smiled at their sleepy airhead. "She is cute though." The ravenette wiggled her eyebrows at Ichigo. The orange-haired teen just snorted at her teasing, before reaching up and pulling her into another deep kiss. She squeaked into his mouth as a hand came down sharply on her pert behind.

It came as no surprise to anyone that Ichigo was late getting home that night.

-The Next Day ~ Karakura High School-

"Yahoo! It's lunch time!" Orihime cheered as the bell rang.

"It's just lunch, Orihime." Tatsuki smiled fondly at her girlfriend. "It's not New Years; you don't have to throw a celebration."

"Only lunch, Tatsuki? Lunch is the reason we girls come to school!" Orihime stated with a silly pose.

"Of course, how silly of me." Tatsuki chuckled as she and the rest of the girls made their way to a large tree out in the courtyard. Rukia followed after Orihime practically dragged her along with them. In the shade of the tree the girls took out their food and began to eat.

"What did you make today, Tatsuki?" Orihime asked with a bright smile. "I brought bread and sweet bean paste!"

"I made us something nice." Tatsuki grinned as she unwrapped two bento. Orihime smiled cutely as she pulled the lid off the one handed to her. Inside the bento was rice, grilled chicken, steamed veggies, and a hardboiled egg.

"Wah~ this looks great Tatsuki~!" Orihime beamed at her girlfriend making Tatsuki smile back reflexively.

"Glad you approve." Tatsuki laughed as she watched her airhead eat her cooking.

"They're so cute together; it's hard to believe they're both in a relationship with Kurosaki too." Michiru, a petite brunette, commented.

"If it works for them." Ryo, a taller girl with long black hair shrugged, as she read her book between bites of food.

"Hey Rukia, I've noticed you and Ichigo glance at each other pretty often during class." Mahana, the only girl in class that even came close to Orihime's figure, mentioned with a teasing grin. "Is there something going on there? You only just transferred, but you two seem to have eyes on each other."

"Wh-what? N-No, no, that's not the case at all." Rukia waved her arms in front of her. Her cheeks went pink and her eyes were wide. If she'd been drinking anything, she'd have done an impressive spit-take.

"Really?" Mahana pressed with an inquisitive look.

"Yes, Ichigo and I are just becoming friends is all." Rukia smiled at the group of girls.

"Hmm, that's too bad for us girls." Orihime stated as she crossed her arms under her breasts, inadvertently pushing them up and catching Chizuru's eyes. "If Rukia started liking Ichigo like Tatsuki and I, then there'd be three of us!" She spoke her own little daydream with no filter, as she always did. Rukia gaped at her

"Orihime, don't try and make a harem for our boyfriend." Tatsuki giggled. "You'd probably make Ichigo's head explode if you just started bringing girls into our relationship."

"You know, an Affection Competition may not be a bad thing~" Chizuru stated with a lewd grin. "I'll take Orihime-chan first~!" Chizuru removed her tie and started unbuttoning her shirt as she crawled towards Orihime. She was met with Tatsuki's fist to the back of her skull, the redhead face-planting into the dirt while Tatsuki growled.

"Not you!" Tatsuki denied the touchy red-headed girl, entire personage deadpan.

"So? What do you say, Rukia?" Orihime asked the violet-eyed girl. "Do you want to pursue a relationship with us?" Rukia's eyes widened at the sheer boldness of that question! She'd only known Ichigo for two days! Even more insane was that she'd only known Orihime and Tatsuki for a single day!

Michiru stared at the airhead and the new girl. "She really just asked that straight to her face…"

"Hime," Tatsuki chuckled with a shake of her head.

"Uh… N-No… I think I'm good…" Rukia waved off the question even as Orihime pouted. Tatsuki pulled the orangette back to her side to finish lunch, reminding the airhead about actually getting to know Rukia first, and conversations resumed. With the focus off of her for a bit Rukia was able to ponder on the realization she'd made. Usually she was so close to Ichigo that his overflowing Reiryoku made it hard to sense other things. Now that they were apart she'd discovered that both Tatsuki and Orihime possessed rather impressive amounts of Reiryoku as well. Nothing like Ichigo's insane amount – which reminded her that she needed to start on his Shinigami Training after school today – but both girls easily possessed enough to freely interact with ghosts and probably Shinigami directly.

'It's surprising they haven't been targeted by Hollows yet.' Rukia mused in her mind as she ate. Looking at the two teens, she would never think they were spiritually aware. Though with the amount of Reiryoku they had there was no chance they weren't. 'Perhaps they're being shielded by Ichigo's overwhelming Reiryoku? The Hollows that do show up will be far more attracted to Ichigo than Orihime or Tatsuki.'

Lunch ended without any further embarrassing questions and the girls returned to class. Rukia passed a note into Ichigo's desk telling him to meet her an hour after school let out. That would give her the time she needed to go purchase what Ichigo desperately needed. Ichigo had given her the briefest of nods after he'd seen the note and Rukia was satisfied.

-Urahara Shoten ~After School-

"Ah, welcome back Kuchiki-san, I trust the Gigai is working properly?" Urahara Kisuke smiled at her; his eyes peeking out from under the brim of his bucket hat.

"It's fine so far." Rukia replied as she looked at the blonde man. "I need an Asauchi." She stated looking the shop keeper directly in the eyes.

"I'm afraid that's not an item I can possess, much less keep stock of." Urahara shrugged while shaking his head.

"Don't lie to me." Rukia demanded her gaze sharpening. "I know you have at least one, probably more. Get it for me, I'll buy it."

"I'm not sure you can afford it." Urahara commented staring her dead in the eye from under the brim of his hat.

"Did you forget my Family Name, by chance?" Rukia stared Urahara down and the shop keeper eventually smiled.

"Jinta, go fetch the sword from the special room." Urahara called out to the red-haired boy standing off to the side.

"Yes sir…" Jinta huffed as he trotted into the back of the shop.

"Anything else I can get you today, Kuchiki-san?" Urahara asked as he opened his fan and waved it gently.

"Has my order come in yet?" Rukia questioned curiously.

"Not yet, it'll be a few more days. Gikon go bad after sitting unused for too long. My last batch was tossed a few weeks ago. The new batch should be in early next week, with your order along with it." Urahara informed the girl.

"That's fine then." Rukia replied. She already had the Gokon Tekkō for emergencies and standard patrols. It would do for now. Jinta returned a few moments later with a sheathed katana in hand.

"Here you go, sir." Jinta handed the sword to his boss.

"I believe this will suit your needs, Kuchiki-san." Urahara nodded as he handed the Asauchi to her. Rukia took the sword and looked it over. As with all Asauchi it was very plain. A red tsuka-ito, solid oval tsuba, standard brown saya, and a feeling of being hollow or empty in the hands of a proper Shinigami. It was an 'empty sword' and the base of all True Zanpakutō, given to students at the Shinōreijutsuin to become their own Zanpakutō after pouring their own Reiryoku into it. With this as the physical base for his Zanpakutō, Ichigo should have a bit of an easier time reining in his overflowing Reiryoku.

"It'll do, thank you." Rukia handed over her Denreishinki, or Soul Pager as the Shinigami Women's Association called it, because it sounded 'cuter'.

"Thank you for your patronage." Urahara smiled as he tapped a few buttons and the amount for the Asauchi was deducted from Rukia's account. Rukia really hoped a rather expensive purchase like this wasn't noticed by the Kuchiki Clan's Bookkeeper. She'd draw suspicion for spending so much while on a Patrol Mission.

"Until next week." Rukia nodded to Urahara. The shopkeeper just waved with a smile hidden behind his fan. Rukia left the shop with the Asauchi in hand. As a spiritual weapon it couldn't be seen by regular people, so there was no need to try and hide it.

- Matsukura Hospital ~ After School-

"Why did she want to meet here?" Ichigo wondered as he stared up at the fenced off abandoned hospital. The place had closed down almost six years ago when the new hospital had been built. Many people claimed it was haunted and nobody went near the place except the occasional group of delinquents to tag it with spray paint.

"Ichigo, good you're here." Rukia spoke as she walked up to him. Ichigo immediately noticed the sword she was carrying. He would have freaked out about her carrying a weapon like that in public if he hadn't 'felt' the thing with his awareness.

"Is that sword a spirit weapon or something?" Ichigo asked as he looked at the plain katana. Literally nothing about it stood out, at all.

"Let's get inside first. I'll explain everything then." Rukia motioned past the fence.

"How do you want to do that?" Ichigo motioned to the fence and the signs that said 'Keep Out' on the metal.

"Like you can't scale this fence?" Rukia cocked an eyebrow at him. Ichigo sighed and scratched the back of his head. He cupped his hands and held them out to her.

"I'll help you over first and then I'll climb over." Ichigo stated when he noticed the look she was giving him.

"Oh, thank you." Rukia nodded, remembering her Gigai was only slightly stronger than a regular human. Her height would've made scaling the fence slightly more difficult. She placed her foot onto his cupped hands and let him boost her up. She grabbed the top of the fence and vaulted over. Looking back, she noticed Ichigo had his eyes closed. "Ichigo, what's wrong?"

"You're wearing a skirt, Rukia." Ichigo reminded her as he reached up and grabbed the top of the fence. The orange-haired teen easily lifted himself over the barrier and dropped to his feet on the other side.

"Ah, right." Rukia looked sheepish for a moment and her cheeks had a light dusting of pink on them. "Thank you for your consideration, Ichigo."

"It's fine." Ichigo waved off. "So why did you want to meet here?" He asked as they walked behind the hospital and out of sight.

"This is where we'll conduct your Shinigami Training for now." Rukia turned to face him. "You need to learn quickly, or you may not survive."

"Alright." Ichigo stared at her seriously as his eyes narrowed. "What does that sword have to do with it? I already have a giant sword that I need both hands to wield properly."

"The sword you have now can barely be called a Zanpakutō." Rukia bluntly told him. "It is nothing more than your Reiryoku using Reishi to take on a physical form. It's about the equivalent of having a rather sharp glass sword. It's fragile compared to a real Zanpakutō. That's why I got you this." She held out the plain looking katana to him. "This is called an Asauchi and it is the physical base for all True Zanpakutō. With this you should have a slightly easier time controlling your overflowing Reiryoku."

"Really?" Ichigo looked over the Asauchi as he took it into his hands. "How does this work?" He looked over to Rukia; the ravenette was already putting on the glove that she'd shoved him out of his body with before. "Rukia? Hey wait!" With a palm to the chest again, Ichigo was ejected from his body and into his Shinigami Form. "Couldn't you tell me you were going to do that beforehand?"

"You're fine." Rukia rolled her eyes at the teen's pouting. "Now, take up the Asauchi and pour as much of your Reiryoku into it as possible." Ichigo grumbled a bit as he picked up the plain katana. He already had this big sword on his back. Hell, the one that she called 'made of glass' felt far stronger to him than this thing. It felt like a stick in his hands, like he could snap it over his knee without a problem.

"Alright here I go." Ichigo looked at the Asauchi for a moment before turning to Rukia, his face rather deadpan. "Uh… how do I move my Reiryoku?" Rukia almost face-faulted at the question.

"You have that much power and yet you've never even tried to make use of it?" Rukia questioned incredulously.

"I've never needed to!" Ichigo retorted. "Until you told me, I wasn't aware that I was spiritually powerful at all!" Rukia looked slightly startled that Ichigo was THIS strong already without going through any form of training or practice. It boggled the mind thinking about how strong he could become WITH training.

"That's fine; we'll start with the basics." Rukia exhaled softly. "Imagine a circle in your mind, Ichigo. Focus on that circle, let it become the only thing in your mind's eye." Seeing Ichigo close his eyes and even out his breathing made Rukia smile. He was good at listening at least. "Once you are fully focused upon the circle, imagine throwing yourself into it."

Rukia would have NEVER suspected what happened next.

Ichigo glowed with a bright blue light. A shockwave of force exploded from him, forcing Rukia back several steps. Her violet-eyes widened as she stared at the massive amount of power Ichigo was putting out. The air almost felt like it was shaking as Ichigo's Reiryoku exerted its pressure upon the world. The orange-haired teen's Reiatsu was heavy. If Rukia didn't know better, she'd say a Seated Officer was standing before her. Worse, if her senses were correct, Ichigo might have even more raw Reiryoku than she did! That was ludicrous! Especially considering she'd been a Shinigami for longer than he'd been alive!

"Ichigo?!" Rukia yelled to the Substitute Shinigami. The mass of Reiatsu pushing down on her made it difficult to move.

"I've…got…it…" Ichigo ground out as he struggled to control his power and direct it all into the Asauchi. For its part, the Asauchi was already absorbing tons of Ichigo's Reiryoku. As Ichigo learned best by doing, his Reiryoku began to flow how he wanted it to after a short time. He directed the flow down through his arms and into the sheathed sword he was holding.

"He's actually doing it." Rukia exhaled as the weight of Ichigo's Reiatsu lessened. She watched the bright Reiryoku flow better with each passing moment. Soon it was all flowing into the Asauchi and the Reiatsu was almost gone. Ichigo stopped glowing as he reined in his Reiryoku and stopped the flow. With a deep panting breath Ichigo grinned at Rukia.

"I told you…I got it." Ichigo chuckled as he looked at the Asauchi. The sword still looked the same and Ichigo blinked. "Uh…shouldn't it have changed?"

"Asauchi are given to students of the Shinōreijutsuin fairly early on in their time there." Rukia explained as she approached Ichigo and his new Zanpakutō. "It takes almost the entire six-year curriculum for an Asauchi to change and take on unique markings, colors, or tsuba shapes. But with how much Reiryoku you just gave the sword, you most definitely succeeded in making it your own."

"Really?" Ichigo blinked as he looked over the plain sword. At the very least it no longer felt like a stick he could snap at a whim. But it wasn't like it suddenly 'felt' like an unbreakable force of power either. It felt whole, complete, and ready.

"Of course," Rukia grinned at him. "You don't feel the sword on your back anymore, do you?"

"Huh?" Ichigo looked over his shoulder and noticed the giant sword he'd had was gone. He'd even lost the large belt that secured the old sword, and its giant sheath, to his back too. "Ok, so do I just put the sword through the obi like you had-?"

Ichigo didn't even get the chance to finish his question as the Asauchi glowed brightly. An aura of Reiryoku surrounded the sword, blue became navy, then navy turned to a dark indigo, the indigo darkened further to black before the Reiryoku began to die down again. The color of the Reiryoku took on a navy color with indigo on the edges as the glowing sword began to shift and change.

The blade and sheath lengthened noticeably, but instead of being double the length of a standard katana, like his old sword had been, his new Zanpakutō was about ninety centimeters of blade and thirty centimeters of handle. The saya had turned pitch black and the tsuba had changed. The metal had become a circle, rather than an oval, and appeared to have stylized arrows on it. All of the arrows were pointing to the base of the blade as well. The last thing to change was the tsuka, the red ito wrappings changing to a golden color.

"So…was that supposed to happen?" Ichigo asked and Rukia blinked in shock.

"With how much Reiryoku the Asauchi took in, I'd guess so." Rukia replied before shaking herself to get back her focus. "Well, now that you have a proper Zanpakutō we can begin your training. We'll start with Zanjutsu to give you some skill with your sword. After that we'll be working on your Reiryoku Control. Every day that we train will have a portion of it dedicated to Reiryoku Control. If we don't rein in your overflowing power well enough, you'll never be able to utilize it for Kidō. Learning Hohō and the higher Hakuda Arts will also be a challenge if you can't control your Reiryoku.

"Alright, I get it, my control sucks." Ichigo grumbled as he secured his Zanpakutō into his obi like Rukia had when he met her. "You don't have to rub it in."

"I'm not trying to rub it in, Ichigo." Rukia shook her head. "Powerful, uncontrolled Reiryoku like yours can affect the Living World in multiple ways. I'm certain that both Orihime and Tatsuki can already sense, see, and physically interact with even Shinigami. If we don't get your power under control, all of your classmates could end up affected and that'll become a massive beacon to Hollows. There would be no end to them." She warned him with a serious gaze. Ichigo's eyes widened and his face went stone cold at the thought of so many Hollows. Of Tatsuki and Orihime being hunted by the monsters.

"Alright, Rukia, teach me how to be a Shinigami." Ichigo looked her straight in the eye. The determination she saw there was enough to solidify her belief in Ichigo. He'd make an excellent Shinigami until her powers returned. Whatever happened after that, she'd plead his case to the best of her ability. Even if it meant she would be punished.

"Draw your sword, Ichigo." Rukia instructed. "Your sword is a bit longer than a standard katana. Knowing that, you'll need to get accustomed to the wider range of motion you'll need to unsheathe it." She instructed her Substitute. "I want one hundred swings for each direction. Vertical Down, Vertical Up, Horizontal Right, Horizontal Left, diagonal from upper left to lower right, diagonal from upper right to lower left, diagonal from lower left to upper right, and the diagonal from lower right to upper left. Begin!"

"Taskmaster." Ichigo playfully grumbled at her with a smirk as he began. Rukia returned the look and watched his form. Anytime he got sloppy she made him do it again. Ichigo would put his all into this training! There was no way in hell he was letting Orihime or Tatsuki get attacked! Not if he had the power to protect them!

-End Chapter-


Boom! Chapter one is done! Got a good foundation here! Things have begun to change already! How much more will this AU diverge? Quite a bit!

So Ichigo is getting proper Shinigami Training, Rukia has gotten him an Asauchi that has now become a Proper Zanpakutō! Instead of the mass of Reiryoku and Reishi Ichigo had in Canon. Will he actually learn the Four Arts of the Shinigami? Tatsuki and Orihime have much greater Reiryoku too! Where will that lead?

Keep reading to find out!

Until I get your reviews, later!