Hello friends and fans, Kairomaru is bringing you another Force of Souls Chapter! I got another Tier Reward for this to be updated! Yay! So glad it has fans! As Ichigo progresses further into his training, will he rein in his Reiryoku? Can he learn Kidō if he actually has someone willing to teach him? Ichigo is a hard worker with an amazing growth rate, right?

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Chapter 3 – Kidō the Demon Way

As time passes, we grow closer to the other side

"Ichigo," Rukia called out to her Substitute. She had her Soul Pager in her hand and was looking at the order that had just come in. The two had just gotten out of school and they'd been walking home with Tatsuki and Orihime when the cellphone-like device had gone off.

"Damn." Ichigo scowled with a sigh. "Can you two keep watch over my body for a little bit?" He asked his girlfriends.

"Watching over your body is a favorite pastime of ours." Tatsuki grinned at him, trying to lighten the mood.

"Go Ichigo!" Orihime cheered like she was watching a superhero cartoon. But both Tatsuki and Ichigo could see the concern in her eyes. Ichigo pulled them both into hugs and pecked their lips.

"I'll be back soon." Ichigo promised as the three of them sat on a bench at the nearby park. With a push from Rukia's gloved hand Ichigo emerged from his body in Shinigami Form. Tatsuki and Orihime smiled at him as the two Shinigami ran off to confront the Hollow.

"I wish we could help." Tatsuki huffed, she hated feeling useless.

"I just don't want Ichigo to get hurt." Orihime admitted as she leaned against Ichigo's body. Without his soul his body was basically sleeping, but would be completely unresponsive. Tatsuki leaned against her boyfriend's body too. They shouldn't draw any attention like this. They were just three High School students sitting on a bench together after all.

-Ichigo and Rukia-

"There!" Rukia pointed out as she and Ichigo ran through Karakura Town. They'd covered a rather impressive distance in a short time. Rukia's Gigai was slightly stronger than an average human of her build. Ichigo had no problem maintaining his speed in Shinigami Form. The ravenette was pointing to a fairly large Hollow, at least the same size as the one that had attacked Ichigo's family. It had a mantis-like shape, with sharp sickle like blades for arms, and its mask was a cross between a human and mantis. The large purple eyes and the human like mouth made a gross mockery of both aspects.

"Raaaaahhhhhh!" The Hollow let out its howling roar as it noticed them. It raised one of its large scythe-like limbs and prepared to attack.

"Shit!" Ichigo realized that from the angle the limb was held, if the Hollow swung, the building next to it was going to be torn into by the large limb.

"Bakudō Number One: Sai!" Rukia exclaimed as she swiped her right hand, index and middle finger extended, in a wide arc. The Hollow shrieked as both of its large claws were twisted behind its back. A horrible cracking sound followed the abrupt and unnatural movement. "Ichigo, now!"

"Right!" Ichigo drew his sword and leapt towards the immobilized Hollow's mask. Using another Zanjutsu technique, Agitowari, Ichigo performed a horizontal slash straight across the mask. His Zanpakutō cleaved through the bone-like material and split the Hollow's head in half. Ichigo landed as Rukia dropped her spell. The Hollow dissipated into reishi and three small blue lights, souls, disappeared as they were automatically sent to Soul Society through Konsō upon the Hollow's purification.

Ichigo turned to face Rukia and quickly became concerned at what he saw. Rukia was breathing heavily and had her hand on the wall of the building beside her. The ravenette looked worn-out, even more than when they'd run all the way here without stopping. Did that spell really take so much out of her?

"Rukia, are you alright?" Ichigo questioned as he walked up to her. Rukia inhaled before exhaling slowly.

"I'll be fine, Ichigo." Rukia assured him. "I thought I'd regained more of my power by now." The Shinigami woman looked at her hand, the Gigai body shivered and Rukia clenched her fist. "My Reiryoku is still so low… Even the most basic of Kidō does this to me?"

"Come on," Ichigo turned and lowered himself slightly. "Climb on; I'll carry you back to Orihime and Tatsuki." Rukia was about to refuse, but a tremor running through her legs made her reconsider. With a sigh she climbed onto Ichigo's back and let herself be carried. Ichigo made sure to utilize the rooftops to avoid Rukia being seen seemingly floating through the air. The two landed back in the park a bit later and both Tatsuki and Orihime looked up when Ichigo landed. Rukia was let down and Ichigo returned to his body. The four teens headed to Orihime's apartment so that Rukia could rest.

"So, what happened?" Tatsuki questioned as Rukia relaxed and sipped some tea that Orihime made for her.

"Neither of you were injured, right?" Orihime asked in concern.

"We're both uninjured Orihime, thank you for asking." Rukia spoke up as she rested. "I used a Kidō to restrain the Hollow before it could cause damage to the buildings around it. It tired me out far more than I thought it would."

"Didn't you say that Gigai thing was supposed to help you recover?" Tatsuki blinked at the violet-eyed girl. "You've been using it for almost a week now, right? How long does it normally take?"

"I'm not sure." Rukia admitted with a shake of her head. "It's been a very long time since I was this low on Reiryoku. We Shinigami recover our Reiryoku through rest, food, and absorbing trace amounts of free-flowing Reishi. If I was in the Soul Society then I could recover faster because of it being a Spiritual Realm made of Reishi. The concentration is simply much greater there than in the Living World."

"What about Ichigo?" Orihime asked with her head tilted cutely. "Ichigo has tons of Reiryoku, right? Couldn't you get some from him?"

"Ichigo does indeed have a large amount of Reiryoku." Rukia agreed with a nod. "But even with his Reiryoku suffusing the space around him, it doesn't extend that far from his body. Sitting next to him in class is about the closest I get to him during the day. I sleep in a futon in his room at night, but we're not exactly close enough for me to gain much of the Reishi that is formed from his Reiryoku filling the air around him."

"So you just need to get closer then!" Orihime exclaimed with a bright smile. Ichigo, Rukia, and Tatsuki all choked on air at the orangette's 'solution' to the problem.

"Orihime!" Ichigo shook his head at his girlfriend.

"Pump the brakes there, Hime." Tatsuki patted Orihime's head.

"I-I-I…" Rukia seemed to be having trouble forming words.

"What?" Orihime blinked at the three. "It's a simple solution, isn't it?" Tatsuki shrugged, because she simply didn't know. Ichigo looked towards Rukia for any clarification. Rukia's cheeks were a bit red as she sipped her tea to buy time.

"She's not wrong, technically speaking." Rukia finally admitted after she'd finished her tea. "Being closer would allow me to absorb more Reishi and recover faster, in theory. But in practice that would require us to…" She looked down and refused to look any of them in the eye.

"You'd have to share a bed…" Tatsuki trailed off. She was thinking about the situation deeply. On the one hand, Rukia would be sharing a bed with her and Orihime's boyfriend. Unless Rukia was joining their polyamorous relationship, that didn't sit as well with her. On the other hand, this was more like a medical thing for the Shinigami woman's recovery. Ichigo wouldn't do anything untoward with Rukia, she trusted him on that, plus Rukia was her friend. Seeing what her condition was really like, after using what she described as 'the simplest of Kidō' a single time. Well, Tatsuki would be lying if she said she didn't want Rukia to recover as fast as possible. "What do you think, Ichigo?" She turned her warm eyes onto her boyfriend.

"I wanted to try and give back the Reiryoku I took when Rukia first told me about it." Ichigo answered as he looked into her eyes. "But she said that wasn't possible. Too much, too fast would hurt or potentially kill her instead of restoring her power. So I've not thought about it since."

"I'm okay with you two sleeping next to each other." Orihime smiled as she hugged Rukia gently. "I want Rukia to get better sooner!" Rukia blinked at the sudden hug, before she registered what the girl had said and blushed.

"Seeing Rukia like this did drive home just how bad her condition is." Tatsuki nodded with a thoughtful look. "As long as it's just sleeping next to each other, I'm alright with it." Ichigo looked back and forth between Orihime and Tatsuki. "But~" She leaned closer to Rukia with a teasing grin. "No naughty stuff unless Rukia joins us."

"Tatsuki…" Ichigo sighed fondly as he pulled her into his side and away from the now tomato-red Rukia. "Stop teasing Rukia."

"But I'm serious~" Tatsuki smiled at him before kissing his cheek. "Hime and I both trust you not to do anything, Ichigo." Orihime smiled and nodded as she snuggled into his other side. "Plus, Rukia is our friend and we want her to get better." Rukia shyly looked up at the three of them with a soft smile of thanks. "So, if you two decide to try this method of recovery, we'll all be okay with it."

"You two are too good for this world sometimes, I swear." Ichigo cuddled both Tatsuki and Orihime closer, kissing the tops of their heads as they both snuggled into him. Orihime was giggling happily while Tatsuki chuckled in agreement with his statement.

"Thank you for the offer, but that's still…kind of…" Rukia's cheeks were red again and she was having trouble looking at the three of them. Orihime cooed at how cute Rukia looked and Tatsuki grinned at the other girl.

"It's fine, Rukia-chan~" Tatsuki and Orihime said in unison with pretty smiles. Rukia just ducked her head and nodded along with them. They were good people, good friends; she couldn't help the small smile that came to her lips.

Several hours later and Rukia was sitting at Ichigo's desk while the orange-haired Substitute sat on his bed, meditating. Ichigo had taken to practicing his Reiryoku Control every night before he slept. This nightly practice had already started to show improvement too. Using the One to Ten scale that Ichigo had started, the teen was now capable of maintaining around an Eight or Seven and a Half regularly. A bit more solid control and Rukia would attempt to start teaching Ichigo his first Kidō spells. Rukia perked up when she heard Ichigo exhale and saw him open his eyes.

"You're getting better." Rukia praised him with a gentle smile.

"Thanks, I'm hoping to get this down enough that I can make more use of my Reiryoku. Your spell today was impressive." Ichigo grinned at her.

"That was the most basic of Bakudō, it wasn't anything special." Rukia shook her head. "We'll see how well you take to Kidō once your control is sufficient."

"Sure thing," Ichigo agreed as he stretched. "I can get the futon set up if you need to take care of anything before bed."

"I…well…actually, if you didn't object…" Rukia stumbled over her words slightly and Ichigo blinked. It only took him a second to put the pieces together though.

"Oh, um, yeah that's alright." Ichigo rubbed the back of his head. The two were already in their pajamas anyway, so Ichigo nodded to Rukia. He turned off his light and climbed into his bed first. Ichigo had a Full-Size bed, so there was plenty of space for two people. The brown-eyed teen scooted over, closer to the wall, and left plenty of space for Rukia to lie down.

"Thank you…" Rukia's cheeks were a bright pink as the violet-eyed Shinigami crawled into the bed too. She got comfortable and Ichigo pulled up the blankets. The two had empty space between them on the bed so there wasn't nearly as much awkwardness as there could have been. With a deep breath Ichigo closed his eyes and calmed down. This wasn't anything new to him, really. He'd slept with both Tatsuki and Orihime on multiple occasions. Waking up with his girlfriends in his arms was Ichigo's preference now days. He would be fine. With those thoughts he drifted off to sleep.

Rukia was incredibly stiff as she lay next to Ichigo. She'd never shared a bed with a man since she'd been adopted into the Kuchiki Clan. The few times she'd done so before that, she and the 'man' in question had both been children, so it was entirely innocent. Now she was lying here, next to her Substitute, and too nervous to fall asleep. It was only when she heard Ichigo's breathing even out that she started to relax. Ichigo clearly wasn't nervous about this. Though, she figured he had more experience with both Orihime and Tatsuki. With a sigh at her own pointless nerves, she relaxed and got comfortable. She needed to rest properly if she wanted to recover. There was also no telling when the next order would come in. Ichigo was doing this for her sake; the least she could do was make the most out of it.

-The Next Morning-

'What's going on?' Rukia thought as she slowly woke up. She was warm, comfortable, and she felt well-rested. This was undoubtedly the best night's sleep she'd gotten since starting her mission. She refrained from opening her eyes just yet. She wanted to enjoy this a bit longer. Instead she turned her focus inward and checked her Reiryoku. A smile formed on her lips as she noticed the Reiryoku she'd expended on her Bakudō yesterday had replenished. Her smile widened when she felt a noticeable difference in the amount of her Reiryoku that had recovered too. It wasn't a lot, but it was noticeable, and that meant progress towards recovering her powers. With a sigh she opened her eyes and took in the room. It was only a moment later she realized why she felt so warm.

Ichigo was pressed up against her back.

Ichigo had his arm around her waist.

Ichigo was gently resting his head on top of hers, their height difference making it easy for the teen.

"Ichigo!" Rukia barely stopped herself from screaming. Ichigo jerked awake at the noise and looked down to the half-panicking, half-frozen in shock, Rukia as she looked at him with an interesting mix of a glare and sheer embarrassment. It was then he realized that at some point in the night, he'd pulled her close and spooned with her like he did when he slept with Orihime and Tatsuki.

"This wasn't on purpose." Ichigo told her, his brown eyes locked onto her violet. Rukia could see the truth in his gaze, but that didn't change the fact that he was still holding her!

"I believe you," Rukia nodded, her glare disappearing, though the embarrassed flush remained on her cheeks. "But could you let go of my waist now?" Ichigo removed his arm carefully, making sure to not touch anywhere else on her body, even by accident. Rukia sat up once she was 'free' again and slipped out of Ichigo's bed. Her cheeks were still warm, but she was able to calm down a bit now.

"Sorry about that, Rukia." Ichigo apologized as he sat up.

"It's fine," Rukia replied, though he noticed she didn't turn to face him. "We should get ready for school."

"Right." Ichigo agreed and got out of bed.

Just over an hour later, the duo was walking towards school, planning to meet up with Tatsuki and Orihime on the way. The awkwardness had faded for the most part, though Rukia occasionally found herself thinking about it. She shook her head and put it from her mind again. She saw Orihime and Tatsuki up ahead.

"So? Did it work?" Orihime asked curiously as the four walked to school together.

"It did." Rukia admitted even as her cheeks were a light-pink. Tatsuki noticed and snickered to herself. Orihime didn't seem to notice and simply smiled happily at Rukia.

"Oh yeah~" Tatsuki teased as they walked. "We forgot to mention it yesterday, Rukia~" The Shinigami woman blinked at the martial artist. "Ichigo's a cuddler~ so you might need to put something physical between you two at night~"

"Y-you…You knew and didn't warn me!" Rukia looked mortified, embarrassed, and betrayed all at once! Tatsuki cracked up, laughing loudly. Ichigo shook his head; honestly he should've remembered his sleeping tendencies better! Orihime just tilted her head and smiled.

"Warn you?" Orihime asked. "The cuddling is the best part!" The orangette beamed at Rukia, the Shinigami woman's face was glowing at this point. She looked at the ground and refused to meet anyone's eyes. Orihime giggled as she held onto Ichigo's arm and laid her head on his shoulders. Ichigo gave her that warm smile she loved so much and kissed her forehead. Her smile wouldn't fade for the rest of the walk to school.

-Lunch-

Rukia's Soul Pager beeped.

The violet-eyed Shinigami opened the device and looked at the message that had been sent to her. With a satisfied nod she closed the phone-like device. Her order had finally come in. She'd take Ichigo with her after school to pick it up. He'd need to know what he was being given and how to use them. Tatsuki and Orihime looked at her and she smiled slightly at them.

"Oh?" Mahana leaned over with a grin. "Was that a text from Ichigo?"

"No, Natsui-san, it wasn't." Rukia shook her head at the gossip-loving girl.

"You know, everyone thinks you've joined Tatsuki, Orihime, and Ichigo's relationship." Mahana grinned at the petite girl. "Are you sure you don't want to confirm it for us?"

"That's not how it is." Rukia informed the brunette. "We're just friends."

"Uh huh…" Mahana raise an eyebrow disbelievingly.

"She's not part of our relationship, Mahana, leave her alone." Tatsuki spoke up in Rukia's defense.

"Not yet, anyway!" Orihime was all smiles and Rukia almost choked on her juice.

"Hime, don't rush her, she can make that decision on her own." Tatsuki kissed her girlfriend's cheek. "If she decides not to join us, then that's fine too."

"I know…" Orihime gave an adorable little pout. "But Rukia's so cute~!" Rukia felt her cheeks heating up again as she focused on her lunch.

"I agree, Hime-chan~!" Chizuru smiled as she gave Rukia a thorough look. "Cute, petite, looking oh so innocent in the ways of love~ I could just eat her up~!"

"Back off you horny cat!" Tatsuki admonished the redhead.

Rukia sighed; this was her life for the foreseeable future. Filled with laughter and innocent, youthful shenanigans. It was so very different from what she was used to. But maybe that wasn't so bad. As long as her powers returned before anything truly threatening came to Karakura Town, she'd be content.

-After School-

"Where are we going, Rukia?" Ichigo questioned the petite Shinigami. This was a completely different direction from the abandoned hospital where they trained.

"Some equipment I ordered came today, so we're going to pick it up." Rukia informed her Substitute. The duo walked further on and Ichigo could say he'd very rarely been to this part of town. When they finally stopped Ichigo cocked an eyebrow at what he saw. It looked like an old-fashioned candy store. Wedged between two newer buildings it definitely stood out. Urbanization hadn't stretched quite this far yet, only a few larger buildings were visible from where Ichigo stood. Everything else was houses and small apartment buildings that had been built some twenty years ago. This candy store looked like someone had purposefully kept the traditional look for the better part of a century.

"You have your orders delivered to a candy store?" Ichigo asked and Rukia shook her head. The two walked inside to see a large, muscular man with glasses, a mustache, and his hair in braided dreadlocks. He was wearing an apron with the shop's name on it, so Ichigo assumed he worked here.

"Oh, Kuchiki-san, one moment please, I'll go get the boss." The large man spoke with a deep voice as he gave a small bow.

"No need, I'm here." A blonde man in a traditional outfit, all in green and black, said as he opened the shoji near the back of the storefront. He wore a green and white-striped bucket hat on his messy blonde hair. Ichigo got the strangest sense of déjà vu from the man.

"I got your message, Urahara." Rukia looked at the blonde man. "You said my order had arrived."

"Indeed it did, Kuchiki-san." Urahara smiled at the pair. "Tessai, can you bring it out here please?"

"Of course," Tessai nodded and went into the back of the shop.

"Is there anything else you need today?" Urahara asked Rukia with a grin. "Your order came in with my newest shipment, so I've got plenty of brand-new stock!"

"I could use a few things." Rukia nodded and Urahara smiled before glancing at Ichigo.

"So, you brought your Substitute, I see." Urahara gave a small wave to Ichigo. "Seems fairly powerful for only being a Shinigami about a week; you must be training him well."

"Kurosaki Ichigo, fifteen, nice to meet you Hat n' Clogs." Ichigo nodded to the shopkeeper.

Urahara chuckled at the teen, he knew Ichigo, of course. The teen wouldn't remember him though. He had come to the Kurosaki home on a few occasions to check the progress of the seal they'd placed on 'White', Aizen's strange experiment of a Hollow and Shinigami. Thankfully, Isshin's heritage had shown through in his son. The seal had worked perfectly, slowly purifying the abomination like a Zanpakutō through a Hollow's mask. Not a trace of Hollow Reiryoku had remained the last time Urahara had checked Ichigo. That was almost four years ago now. Ever since then, Ichigo's soul had been slowly assimilating the huge mass of pure Reiryoku into itself. Now that Ichigo's heritage was freed from the seal, the teen's power was nothing to scoff at. He was easily as powerful as a Seated Officer with no training or instruction; just a huge amount of Reiryoku that was waiting to be trained and tempered in the Shinigami Arts.

"Urahara Kisuke, Kurosaki-san, a pleasure." Urahara introduced himself. "I'm but a humble shopkeeper that makes his living selling to the local community; and some Shinigami as well."

"Shinigami have shopkeepers?" Ichigo raised an eyebrow at that.

"Can't fight Hollows without the proper equipment, right?" Urahara grinned before turning back to Rukia. "So, what'll it be, Kuchiki-san?"

"One Soul Pager power cell," Rukia stated and Urahara pulled out what looked like a calculator from his haori.

"What Grade?" Urahara questioned as his fingers were poised over the buttons.

"The cheapest." Rukia replied.

"It's you're funeral…" Urahara mentioned.

"Sixty somafixer internal soul-fixing medicine, and…" Rukia was cut off by the shopkeeper.

"Look, it's none of my business, but too much of this stuff is bad for you." Urahara spoke up. "If you stay in that Gigai too long and over-synchronize with it, you're in for a rough time when you finally come out of it again."

"I know that." Rukia stated as she glanced at the Gigai's hand. "But it's slowing down. Sometimes it responds sluggishly."

"That shouldn't be the case…" Urahara muttered. "Want a checkup? All Two-Hundred-Fifty-Five parts for only Four-Thousand-Nine-Hundred-Ninety-Nine Kan!" Urahara had a salesman's smile as he looked at Rukia.

"No." Rukia flat-out rejected the man.

"Kan?" Ichigo raised an eyebrow at the foreign term.

"The currency of the Soul Society." Rukia informed him. "The value to the modern Yen fluctuates, so I'm not sure of the exact conversion. Not like the Soul Society has much in the way of exchange rates with the Living World. Who would accept money they couldn't even perceive?"

"Right…" Ichigo supposed it made sense, who would be trading partners with the Spirit World? "I'm assuming that's a lot though? Five Thousand of most currency is a decent amount."

"It is," Rukia stared at Urahara. "He just wants a payday."

"Hey now, Gigai inspection and fitting is precise work. It requires a lot of technical skill, so it's a bit pricey because of that." Urahara defended himself.

"That may be so," Rukia admitted with a shrug. "Still, no."

"Geez, fine, is this on account?" Urahara sighed at the lost money.

"No," Rukia shook her head as she held out her Soul Pager. "Take it from my personal funds."

"Sure thing," Urahara agreed as he took her Soul Pager. "You haven't slain any Hollows that had any Bonus Money on their heads, have you?" He hit a few buttons on the device and began to glance through it. "Fishbone D, no bonus; Hexapodus, no bonus; Rathound, no bonus; Slash Mantis, no bonus; looks like this is all coming out of your own pocket, Kuchiki-san."

"Hollows have names?" Ichigo blinked at the new information.

"More like designations." Rukia informed him as Urahara completed the sale. "Every Hollow a Shinigami encounters is recorded by the Soul Pager. Their features are documented and a designation assigned until it is purified. Most Hollows don't last very long. They may get a soul or two before they're slain and purified. Only particularly intelligent or old Hollows are given a Bonus. Usually after they've killed and devoured a Shinigami."

"Huh, who does all this?" Ichigo asked; did the Soul Society have a whole Monitoring Division for Hollows or something?

"Squad Twelve of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads; is in-charge of monitoring Hollows, and keeping track of their movements into the Living World. That's where the orders come from." Rukia explained as she received her items from Urahara.

"There's also the Huge Hollows." Urahara tilted his hat up a bit. "They don't usually appear in the Living World; but they're such a threat that each of them nets the Shinigami that slays them Ten Thousand Kan."

"Huge Hollows?" Ichigo was starting to really realize how little he knew about being a Shinigami.

"I'll explain tonight." Rukia waved him off. "For now what you need to learn about is this." She handed him what appeared to be a candy dispenser. It had the head of a dog wearing a graduation hat, tassel and all.

"The heck is this?" Ichigo wondered looking at the words printed on it. "Soul Candy?"

"Gikon, or an Artificial Soul, they're used by Shinigami to leave their Gigai." Rukia informed her Substitute. "When the Gikon enters the body, it ejects the current soul. The Gikon then takes over that body until it's removed by the Shinigami again. Each one has a pre-programmed personality. Pupples there is the third most popular and the one I thought would fit you the best. Smart and obedient, it stays out of trouble, although it does tend to be a bit of an introvert. I myself would prefer Chappy the Rabbit. It's the most popular among female Shinigami."

"Good luck…" Urahara exhaled heavily. "You'll fight to the death to get one of those."

"So I just eat one and I'm out of my body instantly?" Ichigo asked for clarification.

"That's the process." Rukia confirmed with a nod. "Keep it on you at all times. If you ever need to become a Shinigami when I'm not around, take one of the Gikon. When you leave your body, just tell the Gikon to leave the area and it'll retreat to a safe distance. With the Gikon you won't have to worry about leaving your body lying around."

"Huh, this thing does sound useful." Ichigo looked at the 'Soul Candy' with new respect.

"Let's head to Matsukura, Ichigo." Rukia turned to leave the shop. "There's still time to train today.

"Right," Ichigo shrugged and turned to leave as well. "Later, Hat n' Clogs." He threw a backwards wave over his shoulder as he left.

"Come again!" Urahara waved back, even though Ichigo couldn't see him. "Growing like a weed, that one is."

"You're telling me." Isshin chuckled as he emerged from the back of the shop. "Takes after his old man!" He thumbed his chest proudly.

"Pretty sure his growth rate comes from his mother." Urahara hid his face behind his paper fan.

"Well I definitely provided the power!" Isshin grumbled at his friend. "I was a Captain you know, remember?"

"As you say, as you say." Urahara chuckled.

"So, about how much longer before I can leave this Gigai, when I need to?" Isshin questioned his friend seriously.

"It'll be a while yet, Isshin." Urahara shook his head. "Your own Reiryoku was tied up in that seal for the last fifteen years. You're lucky you're not in the same boat as Kuchiki-san. It won't come back overnight. You need time to recover your lost strength. I'd say late summer at the earliest to use your power again; probably around mid-autumn, at the earliest, before you're back to full strength."

"I guess I should have expected it to be a long time for recovery." Isshin sighed in annoyance. "Hopefully Ichigo will be strong enough until I can lend a hand again."

"I'll do what I can to help both of you." Urahara nodded to his friend.

-Abandoned Matsukura Hospital-

"Use the Gikon, Ichigo." Rukia instructed her Substitute. Ichigo nodded and popped one of the pills into his mouth from the dispenser. It a flash Ichigo stood in front of his own body in Shinigami Form.

"Do you need me to do something?" Ichigo's body asked the real Ichigo.

"Take care of this schoolwork." Rukia told the Gikon while handing it Ichigo's homework.

"Can do." The Gikon nodded as it walked over to the shade and sat down.

"It can do homework?" Ichigo blinked as he watched the Gikon set itself up to work.

"It has access to all the knowledge your body has." Rukia explained with a small smile. "It's how Gikon are made. That way if you tell them to 'Return Home' they actually know where 'Home' is."

"Huh, that's helpful." Ichigo blinked as he watched the Gikon work. It seemed to be doing the work in a similar manner to him too, he'd make sure to check over the work before bed tonight, just to be safe.

"Show me your Reiryoku Control, Ichigo." Rukia requested him. "I believe you might be ready to learn your first Kidō."

"Sure," Ichigo nodded as he exhaled softly and focused on controlling his Reiryoku flow. Rukia watched as Ichigo controlled his power, noticed how the minute pressure of his Reiatsu changed.

"Focus it into your hands." Rukia instructed and smiled when Ichigo's hands began to glow a moment later. "Now your feet." She called out other parts of his body every time he succeeded in controlling where his power went. After a few rounds, Rukia was satisfied that Ichigo was ready. "Very good, Ichigo, I believe you're ready to learn your first Kidō now."

"Great." Ichigo smiled at her. Rukia gave him a smile in return and began explaining.

"We'll start with Hadō." Rukia stated as she stood in front of Ichigo. "Now, each spell has its own incantation. Using a spell without the incantation weakens it, but in exchange it can be cast much faster. A full incantation will result in the greatest effect possible for the spell you are using. The first spell I'm going to teach you can be very versatile, though its uses can be disrupted fairly easily." Rukia turned and faced where the Gikon was working. She held out her right hand, palm facing forward, and began to chant. "Gentle breeze, winding river, connecting distance. Hadō Number Two: Tō Nigi!" Ichigo barely saw a transparent wave move from Rukia's hand. A second later and her book bag was flying towards her! Rukia caught the bag with no difficulty and smiled at Ichigo. "That is Hadō Number Two, Tō Nigi or the 'Long-distance Grip'. With it you can apply any effect of your hand to objects outside of your reach. I just used it to grab my bag from over there. But it can also be used to attack."

"Ack!" Ichigo hacked as the unexpected feeling of a punch impacted his stomach. Rukia smiled at him, her left hand in a fist and aimed at him.

"You little…" Ichigo growled at her.

"No time for that," Rukia chided him with a challenging grin. "I still have another spell to show you and then you have to practice."

"Fine." Ichigo grumbled at her and Rukia chuckled lightly.

"Alright, the first Bakudō that I'll teach you is also number two on its own list." Rukia informed Ichigo.

"Why are we skipping the first spells?" Ichigo asked curiously.

"I feel these two will serve you better than those two." Rukia explained her reasoning. "I can teach you both of those spells at a later date; but the spells I want you to learn until my power returns are all meant to increase your survivability."

"Oh, thank you." Ichigo blinked and Rukia couldn't stop the laughter at the look on his face.

"I won't let you die, Ichigo. Not if there is anything I can do to prevent it." Rukia told him seriously, her eyes filled with determination. Ichigo was taken aback at how much Rukia valued his life. But, then again, maybe he shouldn't be? Rukia literally devoted her life to the protection of souls from Hollows and to purifying the Hollows themselves. She made it her mission to protect others and Ichigo really respected her for it.

"Thank you, Rukia." Ichigo gave her a warm smile, one which Rukia returned before she continued.

"Now, watch and memorize this spell so you can practice it." Rukia grinned at him. "Sabers rattle, leaves fallen, the path ends. Bakudō Number Two: Shisho!" Rukia pointed her right index and middle finger at an empty space. Ichigo blinked when what looked like a pane of glass appeared. When he looked closer he realized it wasn't glass, but spirit particles, or reishi as Rukia had told him it was called, held together in the square shape. Ichigo tapped on the small barrier and found it to be solid enough, though he felt he could probably punch or kick through it if he really tried.

"So it's a barrier or shield?" Ichigo questioned and Rukia nodded as she let the spell fade.

"Bakudō Number Two: Shisho or 'Obstacle' creates a shield of reishi that can block a blow or cut off an opponent's escape. Though it isn't all that strong, nor can it last for more than a dozen or so seconds, its range is also limited. But for a low-level spell it's very good. With this you have a defensive spell to help protect you." Rukia smiled at him, he could tell she was breathing a little heavier after showing him both spells. Her Reiryoku was still very low.

"Got it." Ichigo nodded as he exhaled and focused his Reiryoku. "Walk me through the incantations again, please."

"Alright." Rukia nodded as she gave him a small smile. "Repeat after me."

Ichigo spent the next few hours memorizing the two incantations and practicing the spells. Tō Nigi was interesting in that both the 'area of effect' and the 'force' he could generate with it were inversely proportional to the distance he 'reached for' with the spell. The closer to him he focused the spell, the more he could effect and with greater strength. The farther he went the more the spell narrowed and the weaker it became.

Shisho gave him a bit more trouble. While his control had most definitely improved, maintaining the barrier to its limit was difficult for Ichigo. He could make dozens of them, one after another, but instead of twelve seconds or so, Ichigo's were lucky to last five or six. Still, they were solid and could take a hit for him, so he felt he'd done pretty well so far. Rukia's smile and congratulations had further reinforced that feeling.

It was as they were walking back to the Kurosaki Clinic, just as the sun had finished setting that Rukia's Soul Pager went off. She grabbed it quickly and looked at the new order that had come in. Her eyes widened as she grabbed her Gokon Tekkō and practically shoved Ichigo out of the way. A large, clawed, hand slammed into the ground where the pair had just stood. From a dark void emerged a long Hollow with a humanoid upper body and a snake-like lower body.

"Ichigo!" Rukia called out as she gently placed his body down. The Substitute Shinigami was already launching himself at the Hollow, sword drawn.

"Bastard!" Ichigo roared as he swung his blade at the Hollow's head. The Hollow whipped its tail forward and deadlocked with Ichigo. The orange-haired teen noticed his Zanpakutō was scraping along the scales of the Hollow. Gritting his teeth, Ichigo broke the deadlock and jumped backwards.

"She's mine!" The Hollow roared out and Ichigo blinked, that was not something he'd expected to hear from a Hollow. The only 'she' in the vicinity was Rukia; did this Hollow somehow know, or maybe sense, that Rukia was a weakened Shinigami?! Ichigo had no time to ponder as the Hollow spit a green substance at him. Ichigo jerked sideways to dodge and noticed the concrete begin to hiss and smoke where the liquid splashed on it.

"Acid?!" Ichigo exclaimed only to have to jump to avoid the tail strike that came at him while he was distracted. The Hollow reared back and Ichigo knew more acid was coming. "Sabers rattle, leaves fallen, the path ends. Bakudō Number Two: Shisho!" The nearly transparent square barrier appeared before Ichigo, it was at least two meters wide and tall. The Hollow spat acid in a stream before it realized the barrier was there. Its acid hit the spell and sizzled for a second before the barrier broke. Ichigo was already preparing his next move.

"She's mine damn you!" The Hollow howled loudly, sounding deranged.

"Gentle breeze, winding river, connecting distance. Hadō Number Two: Tō Nigi!" Ichigo yelled out and a transparent haze surrounded the Hollow's head. With a cry of exertion, Ichigo moved his left hand downward, fist clenched, forcing the spell to slam the Hollow's head to the ground. The Hollow howled and screamed more barely intelligible comments, its long body thrashing around. Ichigo leapt forward, and just as his spell faded, he struck. The Suikawari landed directly on the Hollow's mask, Ichigo's strength and weight all came down on the blow. The bone-like mask split and the Hollow gave one last howl before it dissipated into reishi; a single small, blue light sent to Soul Society by the automatic Konsō.

"Ichigo, are you alright?" Rukia asked as she walked up to him.

"I'm fine, are you okay, Rukia?" Ichigo questioned as he looked her over. "That Hollow kept screeching 'She's mine!' over and over again. You're the only girl around here at the moment, so I thought it was targeting you directly."

"I'm alright, Ichigo." Rukia smiled at him, the amount of concern he was showing was appreciated though. "You used both of your Kidō well in that battle, I'm proud of you." Ichigo couldn't have stopped the smile that appeared on his face if he tried.

"Thank you, Rukia." Ichigo chuckled. "I had a good teacher." Rukia flustered slightly before lightly bumping his shoulder.

"Flattery will get you nowhere, mister." Rukia grinned at him. "You'll continue training just as hard until my powers return!"

"I know, I know," Ichigo chuckled as he re-entered his body and they continued their walk. "Using both of those spells actually took a bit out of me."

"You've been practicing for hours before that, it's only natural that you'd feel some drain, even on your reserves of Reiryoku. A good night's sleep will fix that though. Hopefully we won't get any middle of the night orders." Rukia assured him.

A few hours later, after a filling dinner and a warm bath, Ichigo and Rukia were preparing for bed. The two were both tired from the day. Ichigo from his training; and Rukia from demonstrating the Kidō she was teaching him. Ichigo climbed into bed and scooted closer to the wall to give Rukia space. Rukia climbed in after him and lay down on her side of the bed.

"Goodnight, Rukia." Ichigo yawned as he relaxed into the bed.

"Goodnight, Ichigo." Rukia replied as he pulled the blanket over the both of them.

Maybe it was their exhaustion, maybe it was simply forgetfulness, or perhaps it was because neither really minded; but no physical barrier was put between them before they fell asleep. The two would have another, interesting morning come tomorrow!

-End Chapter-

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Well now, Ichigo can use Kidō! Holy shit! That's different! He's also learning more about being a Shinigami! Rukia has noted Ichigo's personality and gotten a Gikon that 'mostly' matches him. With her not trying to order Chappy, that means no Kon! The changes continue to amass as the butterfly flaps its wings!

Rukia sleeping next to Ichigo actually helps her recover a bit faster? That's a good use of his extra Reiryoku, right? Will Urahara's 'special' Gigai be able to drain away Rukia's powers with Ichigo's excess Reiryoku bolstering her own?

What will Isshin do as he waits for his own Shinigami powers to recover?

Keep reading to find out!

Until I get your reviews, later!