Disclaimer: I do not own InuYasha or Bleach. I am merely bored and using them for my own amusement.
"I need another story,"
Things were looking grim and Ichigo Kurosaki wasn't sure he'd be able to handle it this time around. Hallows, Soul Reapers, Arrancars, Espadas, and vizards were one thing, things he could deal with, but demons. Demons who he had been told were virtually unaffected by the power and skills of Soul Reapers like himself. Demons who were slowly coming back out of the woodwork from the last five hundred years since they had been last heard from and starting up their old regimen of killing and feasting on humans.
For the first time in years since he had gotten his Soul Reaper powers, Ichigo felt hopeless and he was sure Soul Society whether they wanted to, whether they could admit it or not was probably feeling something akin to the vulnerability as himself.
"This is the third academy student this month," Rukia solemnly spoke as she covered up the bloodied remains of a horribly butchered reaper in training.
She stayed crouched besides the body, while Renji stood more off to the side, his arms crossed and his face set into a deep scowl as he stared intently at the ground, the long white robes of his status ruffling slightly with the wind. He had been named captain after Aizen's defeat. He took over the fifth division with Momo as his lieutenant and Rukia his third seated officer.
"It was supposed to have been a simple field test, to see how her training was coming along."
Ichigo just shook his head. He'd seen too many bodies like that one over the last few months and it was slowly taking its toll on him.
"This is getting really bad Ichigo," Rukia commented after a while, her gaze still on the lifeless body in front of her.
"I know Rukia. The death rate here is rising also and all the victims had been torn to pieces like this one," Ichigo slowly replied, a hint of frustration mingling with his words as he ran a hand though his orange locks. His mind had involuntarily gone back to the images of dead bodies he had seen go through his father's clinic. They had all been mangled beyond recognition like the one in front of him.
"There's more to it Ichigo," Renji spoke, finally looking up to meet his gaze. "Isane Kotetsu and Harunobo Ogido of the fourth division were sent of reconnaissance about a month ago. Yoruichi found Ogido's body this morning."
Things were getting too far out of hand.
"What's Soul Society going to do about this?"
Renji's scowl deepened as Rukia answered "We don't know yet. There's gonna be a meeting tomorrow with all of the Soul Reapers and it's been decided that you, your father, Urahara, Chad, Orohime, and Ishida and his father are to be there."
"We'll be there alright," Ichigo responded before marching off. He needed to get home. He'd tell his father first, and then phone the rest of his friends.
Whether it could be considered a good or bad thing, Ichigo ran down the empty streets, giving his easy access of the sidewalk though the only reason it was so eerily deserted was because of the fear the town was in thanks to the recent murders which had consisted of people of all ages. There was no specific target other than human.
Up until the last few months things had actually been pretty quiet in Karakura. After the whole Aizen thing four years ago, things had fallen into a sort of peaceful routine. There would be the occasional hollow attack and that would pretty much be it.
But now there was a new threat, demons.
For some reason the concept was still a hard one for him to get his head wrapped around. He was used to dealing with the paranormal, had been for years now and he had long resided to the fact that normal was one thing he would never be. But demons were out of his element. They weren't like hallows and so far they had proved to be above Soul Society's power.
Hurriedly, he sped up his pace. He was just as defenseless as the rest of the soul reapers but he had the sudden urge to hurry home. He was about a block away when he came to an abrupt stop, barely missing running into a girl holding more boxes than she could handle. He couldn't see her face but he could see a pair of long, tanned legs.
"Do you need any help with that miss," he politely offered, the manners that his father beat into him finally kicking in, his earlier impulse forgotten.
"If you could grab the top box before it…" she started to reply when the boxes began to wobble and she lost her balance.
Ichigo tried to grab the box and help her remain steady so she wouldn't fall. He managed to grab the top box like she had asked but the inevitable happened. The rest of the boxes ended up scattered on the ground along with the mystery girl. Luckily nothing spilt out. Swiftly, he set the box at his feet and offered her a hand up.
She took it and he was able to get a better look at her. She was younger than he had originally thought, probably around his own age. She was only about a head shorter than himself with long, black hair tied into a loose pony tail. Behind a pair of square framed glasses was a pair of startling blue eyes that were similar to Ishida's, only a lighter shade. All in all, she was actually pretty cute.
"Thanks," she said, dusting herself off.
"No problem," he replied as he helped her pick up the remaining boxes.
She sent him a bright smile before leading him up the huge set of stairs. He had walked past the place before but he had never given it much thought. It was an abandoned, old shrine that had been that way for as long as he could remember. The whole place looked out of place in the neighborhood and had it not been for its history, it probably would've been torn down a long time ago. He was mildly surprised to see that this was where she was moving into.
"Sunrise Shrine huh. I didn't quite peg you as a shrine maiden," he nonchalantly spoke as they reached the top.
She let out a small chortle of laughter before replying, "Most people don't but I grew up on a shrine, the Sunset Shrine actually in Tokyo."
"Tokyo, what brings you here to Karakura? Most people here try to leave for Tokyo," Ichigo curiously asked.
"Well this shrine for one and an internship for the second," she answered as she set the box she was carrying by the ones Ichigo set down.
"Internship? Aren't you still in high school," he inquired before asking another question that was plaguing his mind. "Are you moving here by yourself?"
"I'm out of school and I'm moving into this place with my brothers, Kohaka and Souta. Kohaku went to buy some groceries and Souta was supposed to be here helping me unload. I swear he's gonna get it the next time I see him," she added the last part threateningly under her breath.
"How old are you," he bluntly questioned, ignoring her idle threat against her younger brothers.
She mocked gasp before saying, "How rude. You never ask a lady her age but since you did help me I guess I can forgive you. And I guess it wouldn't hurt to indulge you with the answer, I'm twenty-two."
"Well now that I got your age, can I get your name?"
She thoughtfully tapped a finger against her chin before suggesting, "Hmmm, that would be the polite thing to do, why don't you go first then?"
"Well, since it is the apparently polite thing to do, my name is Ichigo Kurosaki and I live a block away," he played along, his earlier angst all but forgotten. He found himself relaxing in her presence.
"Nice to meet you Kurosaki-san," she spoke; now offering her own hand for him to shake.
He took it and as they shook she said, "Thanks again for helping and I'm Kagome, Kagome Higurashi. If you ever need anything, just let me know."
"I'll see you around then Higurashi-san," Ichigo waved goodbye before starting down the steps. He really didn't feel like leaving but he had more important matters that he had to attend to immediately. Besides, he would make it a point to visit the shrine again. He didn't care that she was a few years older than himself, there was definitely something special about Kagome Higurashi.
Ichigo had run all the way home to find the one thing that no older brother should ever have to bear witness to. He had opened the door to his home to find his younger sister, Karen, the one who he thought he wouldn't have to worry about with this particular problem, making out with some boy he had never seen before.
"What the hell," he bellowed eyes wide in shock before they quickly narrowed into slits.
The couple immediately jumped apart and Ichigo was secretly pleased when he saw the boy bang his head against the wall he had been leaning against.
"Who is this," He questioned, jerking a thumb to the unknown boy as he settled his glare on Karen.
"Ichigo, you're finally home. Dad's been looking for you," Yuzu said, having arrived to see what all the commotion was about.
She and Karen had both shot up in the last few years but they were still pretty short for their age. Yuzu had decided to let her hair grow out while Karen's had stayed short.
"Oh, that's Karen's pen pal and I guess her boyfriend now," Yuzu answered, ignoring her sister's pointed look.
"My boyfriend you idiot. Sheesh, you're taking this worse than dad," Karen growled out, trying to cover up her embarrassment with a wall of anger.
"Uhhh, I don't have time for this crap," Ichigo mumbled before slowly stalking towards said boyfriend. He had a brother's duty to fulfill after all.
"Listen here punk. I'm in a hurry so if you hurt my sister, I hurt you, got it," he threatened, ignoring the deadly killer intent he suddenly felt from his sister. She should be thanking him. He hadn't punched him in the face like he initially wanted to do when he saw them together and nor had he yet to put his hands on the kid.
A scowl adding to the effect of his threatening manor, he stared down the kid whose eyes matched the girl's he had met not even half an hour ago. He also had the same dark hair and hell; he was even the same height.
Ichigo smirked, causing Souta to stiffen.
"Now why don't you run back to that shrine of your's…Souta."
The boy blanched and Ichigo felt very pleased with himself. He ignored his own sister's threats as he left the three teens in the hallway and raced up the stairs, looking for his father. Surprisingly enough, he found him in his room, staring at something in his hands.
He was being oddly quiet, so unlike him.
"I talked to Ryuken and he actually agreed to come," Isshin spoke, not bothering to look up or acknowledge his oldest child.
Ichigo took a seat besides his father and saw that he was looking at a picture of him, Yuzu and Karen that had been taken quite a few years back.
"There's a meeting tomorrow and they want us there, all of us."
"I know. I've already contacted Urahara and you can talk to your friends later. Right now we have to deal with your sisters," Isshin replied, tucking the photo back into his pocket.
"Deal with them? What do you mean?" Ichigo was confused now. What did his sisters have to do with anything?
"Things are too dangerous around here Ichigo. I don't want Yuzu and Karen here by themselves. We'll be leaving first thing in the morning and I don't know when we'll be back," Isshin explained.
With a tired smile aimed at his son, the two headed back down the stairs together. Yuzu was back in the kitchen and Karen was locked at the lips with her boyfriend again.
"My baby girl is growing up so fast. Look at her, pretty soon she's not going to need her old man anymore," Isshin dramatically sobbed, back to his normal goofy self.
Karen immediately broke off the kiss to glare at the man she was ashamed to call her father. Her face was a deep scarlet from both embarrassment and rage. Souta for his part looked ready to burst out laughing at any moment.
"My precious little girl is becoming a woman," he cried out before his tears abruptly stopped and he turned a fixed look to Souta, "She better not be a woman yet or anytime soon, you hear me punk. I run a clinic and I know how to make it look like an accident."
Souta didn't need him to elaborate on what it was. Unwittingly he gulped. He should have just stayed home and helped Kagome finish unpacking.
Karen couldn't take it anymore. She threw the nearest item at her father, beaming him in his head.
"Cut it out dad. I'm only fifteen. I'm not even thinking about that sort of stuff," she yelled at him.
"You may not, but he might. In fact, I know he is," Isshin retorted, jabbing Souta in the chest with his index finger.
Karen faced palmed. She really couldn't believe they were having this discussion right now.
"Relax dad. He's a shrine kid, almost monk like," she started to say, ignoring the sudden snicker that came from Souta's direction. "He's too much of a pansy to try anything. I'm the one who kissed him first and I'm the one who deepened it."
"Hey, I am not a pansy."
Taking pity on his sister, Ichigo grabbed his father by the collar of his jacket and pulled him away from Souta, who looked composed, but Ichigo could see the twitching in his hands. He had to give the boy some credit though. The last punk who had tried to ask Yuzu out ended up a crying mess and despite the fact that he was trembling, Souta had yet to attempt to bolt like many others.
"Dad, we came down here for a reason, remember," Ichigo grunted.
"Wha, oh yea," Isshin immediately sobered up before addressing his two daughters.
"Ichigo and I will be leaving first thing in the morning for an important conference and we're not sure when we will be back. So, I want you two to stay with a friend tonight."
"What friends? Everyone at school thinks we're freaks because of you and Ichigo," Karen snorted out, now trying to avoid looking at Souta, embarrassed of what she had admitted.
Ichigo for his part looked surprised. He hadn't realized how much of an impact he had on his sister's lives.
"You could stay at my house if you want," Souta offered, speaking for the first time since he had been threatened by Ichigo.
"I don't know about that," Isshin quickly replied, rubbing his chin thoughtfully while sending pointed look between Karen and Souta, the implications hanging heavily in the air.
Souta tried to dispel his girlfriend's father unease. He genuinely did just want to help them out, this meeting of theirs sounded really important and it wasn't like he was ignorant. He knew about the boom in murders around here lately. The fact that there was a possibility in his girlfriend spending the night was just an added bonus. A very nice bonus at that.
"It's cool, really. My older sister will be there and she loves helping out when she can, not to mention having company. She's really responsible and stuff."
"Hmm, I'd have to meet this sister of yours first punk."
"My name's not punk, it's Souta, Souta Higurashi, Kurosaki-san," Souta introduced himself, bowing politely to Isshin.
"Hello Kurosaki-san. I know you said you'll see me again, but I didn't expect it to be this soon," was the first thing out of Kagome's mouth as she opened the door to the entrance of the Sunrise Shrine.
"Oh and I see you brought guest," she added after seeing that he was not alone.
"Yea well, I found this in the neighborhood and I thought you might like it back," Ichigo said, ignoring the looks he got from his family as he shrugged nonchalantly and jerked Souta forward, who had been hiding behind his father's back.
"He-hey si-sis," he stuttered out, giving her a small wave.
At this, Ichigo raised an eyebrow. It seemed he was more scared of his sister than he had been of him and his father. He was impressed.
"Inside now gaki," Kagome spoke through clenched teeth, her whole demeanor instantly changing as she zoned in on her brother. Roughly, she pulled him inside the shrine walls.
"Thank you for bringing him home, but I have a small inkling that wasn't the only reason you stopped by."
All four Kurosaki's gave her a blank look before Ichigo could reply. She could sure change her attitude fast.
"Well, actually I was hoping to cash in that favor, if that's all right with you," he sheepishly admitted, rubbing the back of his head, obviously embarrassed. He knew most people only offered to repay someone out of courtesy. He was hoping that she wasn't a part of the most people category.
"Sure of course. Why don't you guys come inside," she said as if it were nothing, ushering them inside.
"Sorry if this place is a bit of a mess, but we just did move here and it needs a lot of work."
None of them had ever been inside of a shrine before, and seeing this one they weren't too sure they were going to make it a habit. She hadn't been lying when she said the shrine needed a lot work. The walls were cracked and the paint was peeling and every step they made they could hear the floor boards creaking below them.
"Kohaku," Kagome yelled, as she led them pass the foyer and into the family room. It was in better shape than the foyer. The walls were a soothing lavender color with wall scrolls depicting scenes from an earlier time. There was a long brown coach and a small table with a bouquet of white lilies in the center.
In seconds another boy appeared. He was taller than both Kagome and Souta and unlike the two he had brown eyes, brown hair, and freckles sprinkles across his nose. He didn't look much like the two, but none of the Kurosaki's paid that tidbit of information much thought.
"Yes, Kagome," he politely asked.
Smiling, Kagome introduced the younger boy, "This is my other brother, Kohaku."
Kohaku blushed as everyone turned their attention to him. Politely, he bowed in greeting.
"Where are my manners, my name is Isshin Kurosaki" Isshin spoke, now introducing his own family, "You already know my son Ichigo and these are my daughters, Karin and Yuzu."
"Aww, so you're the girl Souta's always going on about," Kagome winked at Karin, causing her to blush.
Still smiling, she turned back to Kohaku, "Go get Souta and tell him to make some tea and then you may join us."
"Alright Kagome," Kohaku replied, before dashing out of the room but not before knocking over a box.
Yuzu giggled and Kohaku felt his ears start to burn.
"So-sorry," he mumbled as he hastily made his exit.
Kagome gestured for them to sit down while she took a seat in front of the small table.
"So, what can I do for y'all," she asked once they had sat down.
"Your brother actually volunteered your services," Isshin slowly answered. "You can say no of course but my son and I are leaving first thing in the morning and with the way things have been around here lately, I'm hesitant to leave them at home by themselves."
Kagome instantly caught on to what he was trying to ask, "They can stay here of course. And don't worry about Souta; I'll make sure that everything will be kept PG in this shrine."
"Thank you Higurashi-san but do you mind answering a few questions. You are a stranger after all, I hope you understand," Isshin sheepishly asked, ignoring the looks his children sent him.
"Of course not Kurosaki-san. I understand your concern," Kagome replied, not in the least bit offended.
Kohaku came back in at that moment, an amused grin on his face. "Sorry for interrupting Kagome, but Souta burnt the tea."
"He burnt the tea," she repeated unbelievably. "How do you burn tea?"
"I don't know but Souta just managed to," Kohaku shrugged his shoulders.
Sighing, Kagome was about to reply when Isshin beat her to it. "That's okay. We're not going to be much longer. Ichigo, why don't you walk Karin and Yuzu back home to get their things while I finish talking to Higurashi-san?"
Nodding his head, Ichigo stood up along with Yuzu and Karin.
"Kohaku, why don't you tell Souta to join them; you know, so he doesn't burn down the kitchen," Kagome suggested, looking him right in the eye. In that second Ichigo could have sworn he saw something in her eyes, as if she was telling him some sort of message.
Souta scowled as he kicked the sidewalk in front of him. He ignored the dark looks being sent his way and instead fumbled with the protective ofuda his sister had slipped into his coat pocket. His sister was going to be the death of him, he knew it.
"I can't believe you burnt tea," Karin teased, poking him on his side. She liked getting a rise out of him, he would always start to blush and stutter when she succeeded.
As she knew he would, he flushed a deep scarlet but otherwise remained quiet.
Taking pity of him, Yuzu decided to change the subject. The poor boy had already been through a lot that night. "So Souta, do you mind telling me about your shrine. I always like to hear about the old legends."
Souta took the opening, glad that at least someone was willing to take pity on him. "S-sure. The Sunrise Shrine is actually related to the Sunset Shrine, where I grew up. I guess you could say they're sister shrines."
"The Sunset Shrine, I've heard my teacher mention that before. Something about a magic jewel, and demons right," Karin added to the conversation, not wanting to be left out.
At that Ichigo raised an eyebrow.
"Something like that," Souta quietly murmured to himself. "Anyways, the Shikon jewel was said to have been very powerful and demon and man alike coveted that power. And there was a terrible fight over it where the Sunrise Shrine is. That shrine was actually built to honor the fallen warriors who died in battle."
"Warriors huh? So, people actually fought against these demons," Ichigo commented, trying to not sound too interested.
"Of course. There were those with holy powers, like monks and priestesses, even demon slayers. But if you want to know more ask Kagome. She knows more about it than I do." Souta replied.
Now, after all these years, the Shikon jewel was something he wanted to avoid talking about. Kagome and Kohaku carried so much guilt, so much angst with them that it was hard to be in the same room with them some days and he felt ashamed of himself. Ashamed that he had always taken his sister's journey so lightly, that he thought it was some cool adventure when it was anything but.