A/N: Okay, since this is a sequel to "Obon for the Daiko," I have a list of people to thank for the third chapter of that short story: Dark Inu Fan, Lalaith Quetzalli, Dark-heika, Iceflame55, Fallen-Yuki, novicestar, hollownature, Rukia's Reflection, AnimeFreak134, Mocha Turtle, MaN6A10v3r, and Assault Godzilla. Yes, I'm alive, although greatly unproductive. What do you do when you can't update four stories? You write another in celebration of Rukia's birthday. Real bright, wasn't it? This will be another short story like "Obon…" Enjoy.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Bleach characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Tite Kubo et al.
Gifts for a Princess
Back in Black
Ichigo buried his blade in the ground and wiped off the sweat dripping from his forehead in miniature rivers. Zangetsu's shape was significantly different from what it had been when he'd first attained his shikai but he supposed that was only to be expected. His bankai state was even more incredible although he did kind of miss the sleek black blade it had been. It had fit with Rukia's shikai so much better, almost as if they were a pair. Perhaps his was meant to be larger so that he could shield her if there was ever a need to do so.
Right, and if she ever heard him spout such idiocy, he'd be visiting the fourth division or Orihime within moments of opening his mouth.
"You really are a scary kid, Ichigo," Urahara said, picking up the pieces of his shredded hat.
"Sorry, Hat-and-Clogs, but I don't have time to mess around. Do you think I'm good to go?" the younger Shinigami asked, pulling his Zanpakutou out of the hardened dirt and placing him back on his back.
Urahara studied the eighteen year old in front of him and privately thought that now that the daiko had his powers back, nothing would be able to stand in his way. After the incident with the Fullbringer Tsukshima and Xcution, the old shop keeper had with the help of Isshin worked to speed up the process of returning Ichigo's reiatsu to a state comparable to where it had been when he'd lost it at the end of the war.
The orange haired high school senior had perfected his Fullbring within days of Rukia returning to the Soul Society, something Ginjo hadn't expected. The other techniques that Xcution had taken years or months to learn turned out to be child's play for the war hero. Resentments and built up between the group of Hollow-effected humans and in the end their true goal had been revealed in a yelling match between Riruka and Ichigo. With Chad at his side and Orihime and Ishida coming for back up at the fluctuation of his reiatsu, Xcution's attempt to steal his powers was worth nothing but a footnote in his seemingly long career as a Shinigami daiko.
"There's only one thing I'd like to try, if you still have time," the older man answered. He knew the teenager had been preparing for college entrance exams and was probably in need of two or three days of rest. Unfortunately for him, the exam he was taking just happened to be the same day he planned on surprising the Soul Society with his return. It also happened to be Rukia Kuchiki's birthday.
"Only a moment, I still have to study for my test."
"Yes, yes, it's a simple matter, really. I was just wondering if you could open a Senkaimon. It would make things easier and you wouldn't have to wake me in the dead of night any more if you felt compelled to take a jaunt to the other dimension."
Ichigo raised an orange brow, knowing that Urahara's desire for his "beauty sleep," was the real reason the mad scientist wanted to know. "Beats me," he answered. He'd seen Rukia and Renji do it before but had never tried. He'd assumed it was something only official Shinigami could do.
Positioning Zangetsu like he'd seen the others do, he poured some of his reiatsu into the blade and shoved it into empty air, hoping it would work. The action was a success although the amount of energy coming out of the rift was clearly unstable. Turning the Zanpakutou sideways, he heard a satisfying click and watched in stunned disbelief as the gate opened.
"Isn't that interesting," Urahara mused. "Well, congratulations, my wonderful protégé! I have nothing more to teach you!" the genius exclaimed jovially although he wondered silently if it was true.
"Ah, great, thanks. I'd better close it before they get suspicious." Ichigo shooed the Hell Butterfly that had come out to greet him back into the Dangai and removed his sword from the gate's mouth. The doors closed and he sighed in relief. "I'd better get going now. Yuzu won't wait dinner on me."
"Of course, of course. Have fun!" the shopkeeper waved with his fan, watching Ichigo get back into his body and leave the underground training area. A sleek black cat rose from her perch on a nearby rock and stretched sinuously. "My, they grow up fast these days," her old friend murmured.
"You do realize he's going to come for your head when he finds out that you didn't warn him about Byakuya's plans for Rukia's birthday, don't you?" Yoruichi asked, licking one paw casually. "And I'm not helping you when he does."
"You worry too much," her old friend responded.
"One of us has to," she muttered and left the blond to his musings. Maybe Tessai had finished dinner. She could do with a saucer of milk laced with something strong right about now.
Kisuke Urahara was going to be the death of her one of these days.
Ichigo dragged his feet home, feeling every muscle and bone ache. Between regular school work, studying for the entrance exams, and training to get his powers back, he'd pushed himself to the limit. The orange haired teen hadn't even gotten a good Hollow extermination in in recent months because of the way things had been going. His job was the only thing that hadn't added to the stress and that was because he'd been "temporarily fired" until his exams were over. His boss, in her ever-so-charming way, had demanded he get top marks. Knowing that her order had stemmed from a maternal, if odd affection, he'd only pretended to protest.
"I'm home," he called when he opened the door and bent down to take off his shoes. Shouts from his family to hurry and up and come eat were his answer and he cautiously made his way to the table, not wanting to get attacked by his old man.
"So, my lazy son, are you ready to venture forth into the afterlife again?" Isshin questioned, his inquiry not as light hearted as it seemed.
"Yeah, I'm all set. I can even open a Senkaimon by myself."
"Really?" Karin asked. "Poor Rukia-nee."
"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?" her brother demanded angrily.
"What do you think it means?" she shot back, grinning. "My poor, lovesick brother now has the ability to go to the Soul Society any time he wishes."
"I'm not lovesick!" the eldest sibling protested.
"Sure you're not."
"Karin-chan, Onii-chan, stop fighting. When are you going?"
"After my exams on Saturday. Until then, I'll be studying like mad so don't interrupt me."
"Saturday? That's the fourteenth, isn't it?" Yuzu asked, adding more curry to her brother's plate.
"So? Ichi-nii, don't you remember whose birthday is January fourteenth?" Karin watched her brother wrack his brain for the answer and almost laughed out loud when it came to him.
"Oh, crap! I can't go without a gift, Rukia'll kill me!" No man in his right man forgot his almost-but-not quite girlfriend's birthday. Not if he wanted to live to see another day.
"You forgot my third daughter's birthday? Oh, Masaki, where have I gone wrong?" Isshin lamented, fake tears gathering in his eyes.
"If I get the chance, I'll be sure to ask her." Knowing his mother was in the Academy gave him some measure of peace although he would prefer it if she never saw a day of battle. Maybe he could get Captain Unohana to take her into her squad so that she would remain mostly in the Seireitei.
"Do you think she's still in the Academy?" Yuzu asked, her head titled in inquiry.
"Sure, they're usually in that place for six years, unless they're geniuses like Toushiro."
"Oh," the younger twin sighed.
"Anyway…" Karin said, trying to get her sister to forget her sadness. "Yuzu and I were pretty sure you'd forget Rukia-nee's birthday, so we took the liberty of getting her presents on your behalf." The dark haired sibling got up from the table and picked up a large box from the sofa where they'd put it earlier.
Setting it down in front of him, she watched as he lifted the lid and examined the contents. "Where, how, why…"
"There's a new accessories store in the mall," she answered his first question. "Rukia-nee's in a traditional clan so we thought it would be appropriate. And we stole your bank card when you weren't looking, so you really did pay for them."
"She has short hair now, I don't think kanzashi are going to work too well," he objected, picking up a kogai.
"So you did notice that she had cut her hair," Karin said, her voice filled with superiority. She'd obviously taken lessons from Rukia when he wasn't looking. "It's been six months since then anyway; she could have grown it out. If she didn't, that's fine too as most of these are pins that can be worn with short hair too. Unlike our brother, we thought of everything."
"The only thing you need to do is find a suitable box to put them in and wrap it. I asked Otou-san and he said you shouldn't have any problems bringing them through that gate thing," Yuzu added for her sister.
"It might make up for breaking your promise by two days," Karin goaded.
"Promise?" Ichigo asked blankly.
"Uh-huh, you remember. 'The day I get my powers back is the day I…" his sister recited, only stopping when the elder sibling leapt for her throat. "It was so romantic."
"I can't go now!"
"You did promise, Onii-chan," Yuzu admonished.
"I know but do you have any idea what would happen if I went now? Kenpachi would chase me all over the city wanting a fight and Gramps probably wants to know what the heck happened with Xcution. I'd never make it back in time for my test. Now I wish I'd remembered her birthday sooner so I could have sent a message with that stupid butterfly that came to me when I opened the Senkaimon."
"You're in luck, my boy! Daddy just happens to have one Hell Butterfly waiting for a message to be sent to my dear third daughter!" The black insect fluttered out into the open, hovering over the table before coming to sit on Ichigo's finger.
The daiko stared at the glittering butterfly and tried to figure out how to give it his message. If he tried to infuse it with his reiatsu, he'd likely kill the thing and then Rukia would never get his message. The word had probably already gone out that he had his powers fully back and she'd wonder why he hadn't shown up like he'd promised.
"Oh, for crying out loud, Ichi-nii!" Karin said a snatched the messenger into her hands. "Now look, bug. You're going to give a message to Rukia Kuchiki-fukutaicho of Squad Thirteen. Let her know that my idiot of a brother has his university entrance exams coming up and he can't afford to miss them but he'll be there as soon as they're over. Got that?" The Hell Butterfly seemed to blink at her and moved its wings up and down as if giving an affirmative answer. "Good, and give her a kiss for him too."
"Karin!" Ichigo choked out while the others laughed. The Hell Butterfly didn't give them time to change their minds but flew off on its appointed rounds. The daiko groaned, hoping that Rukia would know it hadn't been his idea.
"Ne, Otou-san, where did you get the butterfly?" Yuzu asked.
"I have my ways," Isshin grinned and left his children wondering. "Hmm, maybe I should have sent a kiss to her myself…"
"Hell no, you perverted old goat!"
"Onii-chan, don't swear!"
Rukia was just getting ready for bed when a Hell Butterfly flew into her room and landed on her hair. Finding the behavior strange, she took the insect into the palm of her hand and listened to the message it had brought. Karin's voice echoed in the stillness of her room and she couldn't help the small smile that tugged at her lips. She heard Ichigo's shout of protest and the others' laughter as the butterfly gently touched her cheek.
"What an idiot. Fine, I'll forgive you for being a bit late, but you'd better ace that test." Skimming the wings of the insect, she looked it in its beady eyes and cleared her throat. "I want to send a message back," she declared and watched in astonishment as the Hell Butterfly seemed to have a panic attack before dropping to the floor, dead. "Only the Kurosaki family could kill a Hell Butterfly by simply sending a message."
Several rooms away Byakuya Kuchiki closed his eyes in dread as he heard his sister's delighted laughter. He had the nasty suspicion it had to do with an imminent visit from Ichigo Kurosaki.
A/N: Just a couple of terms you might not be familiar with:
1.) kanzashi- Japanese hair ornaments
2.)kogai- a type of hair pin that is formed as a "pin and sleeve" like a sword and its sheath.
More will be introduced throughout the story and expounded on.