Mr. 96: I'm in Hawaii! Yay for me! But by the time you read this, I'll probably be going home! Anyway….this is much shorter than it could've been! I wanted to get back to the "When They Cry," and then go to the real shit of the story, which is Ichigo fighting Sorath and Tiriel, but…this is becoming more long and drawn-out than I'd like. I apologize. Anyway, after you're done, please review, or I go on a hiatus!

(Opening Theme: Black Paper Moon)

(as the guitar solo commences, Zangetsu falls out of Ichigo's hands, the sky turns into night as we get a look at the sky, and the words "Ultimately Annihilated" come up in Japanese kanji behind a background of stained glass. Look up the translation, if you will.)

I'm Falling Down into my Shadow, iki wo hisomete, matteiru Deadly Night

(Ichigo and Shana clash swords high above the ground, then Nigo appears on the sidewalk in a burst of flame and looks above, scared, as Friagne appears above Ichigo and Shana.)

Don't Scary majo ga egaita, kabocha no basha mo, sono me ni utuseru kara

(Yuji stands in a windy background, shifts to Keiichi and then image melts to form Mask)

See You in Your Dreams, Yeah Baby kowai yume da to shitemo

(Ichigo and Nigo dance with Rukia and Orihime, respectively, while Keiichi looks down on them from a rooftop, his face quickly turning dark with his eyes and the inside of his mouth glowing red)

Fairy Blue, kimi no tame ni hoshi wo kudaki, kazarituketa, Black Paper Moon

(Ichigo pulls out a small ornate black sword with angel-type designs from the stomach of a brown-haired teenager wearing a vest and a stubble, then leaps up and clashes with Keiichi)

Shinjite Kureta nara! When You're Lost "Here" I am… "Forever" With Your Soul

(Keiichi cries out as his blood flies everywhere and he falls down, Ichigo rips Zangetsu out of Friagne's stomach and tears him apart with it)

Miagereba kagayaku tsuki no youni

(Ichigo looks up in a faded dark sky as an androgynous being wearing black with wings looks down at him.)

Ichigo and Shana came to Yuji's house, where everyone was waiting for them, even Rukia and Renji.

"So, how'd it go?" Yuji said, sighing and quietly bemoaning his current state.

"What's with that tone of voice?" Ichigo asked, noting that Yuji seemed a little depressed.

"Well, it's because recently I've been having to host a lot of people in my house," Yuji said, "At first it was just Shana, and I was fine with that, but…."

A busty woman burst out of the floor. "Hi, Ichigo!" she smiled.

"W…..what the hell, Rangiku? Why are you here?" Ichigo asked, a little unnerved by the fact that Soul Reapers seemed to follow him everywhere he went.

"The same reason we're all here," a voice called from below. Yuji's floormat lifted up, and a white-haired boy only a few years older than Shana, a tall man wearing an eyepatch, a blond teenager with unusually large teeth, a little girl with blond pigtails, a girl with black hair, a young man with black hair and wearing a tuxedo, a bald man, and a teenager with red and yellow hair extensions over his eye all came out. "As of Rukia's report, the Head Captain has sent us all to the World of the Living," the boy explained.

"Wait, Toshiro, Kenpachi, Byakuya, Ikkaku, Yumikicha, Shinji, Hiyori, and Momo? Why are you all here?"

"The reason so many people arrived is because the Soul Society essentially came to the same decision that you did," Byakuya explained, "We're here to monitor the Hollows and the Crimson Denizens simultaneously before they have a chance to devour anyone. If people lose existence, they don't go to the Soul Society, so preventing casualties is an absolute priority for us."

"That's very sound reasoning," Alastor said, "But unfortunately, Crimson Denizens aren't as easy to contain as you think they are. It's extremely unlikely that your plan will work out. Besides which, the Torches help to ease the lack of balance already."

"Even so, the Soul Society feels it's morally wrong to replace people with unliving duplicates that vanish after a very short period of time," Shinji said, "Besides, Torches don't seem to have any souls, so we can't bring them to the Soul Society."

"HEY!" Yuji and Nigo shouted, neither of them taking kindly to the fact that they were being written off as objects.

"I'm just sayin'," Shinji said, "Anyway, Ichigo seemed to beat the tar out of the first Flame Haze he met and he doesn't have any formal training whatsoever."

"Speaking of formalities, Ichigo," Toshiro said, looking at the orange-haired substitute, "I told you a million times, it's 'Captain Hitsugaya'!"

"Shut up, shut up, shut up!" Shana shouted, already having three Soul Reapers too many to deal with, "Whattaya mean 'Captain'? Does the Soul Society really promote kids to high ranks? I can't believe it!" She burst into laughter, something Yuji noted as being seriously unusual. "And here I thought all of you Soul Reapers were almighty assholes after seeing strawberry brat, but you're just too pathetic!"

"Almighty, pathetic jerks…Yeah, that about sums them up," Ichigo smiled, which put everyone that knew him well a little off, but it wasn't nearly as surprising as the fact that he was agreeing with Shana.

"No respect for his superiors! I swear!" Toshiro said, growling under his breath.

"Tell me about it. He seems to enjoy breaking centuries of tradition and trampling on people's pride," Byakuya said, nodding.

"I mean, first they kidnap Rukia just for giving me her powers, and try to kill her, and then I rescue her and find out she's got a boyfriend!" Ichigo said. "And then there was the time they branded Orihime as a traitor and forbid me from rescuing her! Didn't stop me from going, but..."

"Sounds just like you!" Shana said, "Too much of a jerk to let people do what they want!"

"Is he a womanizer or something?" Yuji asked Nigo.

"Huh? Nah," Nigo said, smiling, "He's just got a thing for Orihime. He was just thinking about Rukia 'cause everyone was branding them as a couple, but….. I dunno, recently I'm under the impression he's more into Rukia now for some reason."

"Maybe it's because you've been taking Orihime out recently?" Uryu said, fixing his glasses.

"Hey, I can't help it! I'm him, remember?" Nigo said, shrugging.

Meanwhile, Shana and Toshiro were busy fighting over who was shorter.

"Shut up! You're clearly younger than me!" Toshiro said.

"Shut up, shut up, shut up! Flame Hazes don't age!" Shana shouted.

"Oh yeah? Well, Soul Reapers age a lot more slowly too! Despite my appearance, I've already lived the equivalent of fifteen human lives!" Toshiro shouted.

Ichigo sighed. "Anyway, what'd you two find about Keiichi Maebara?" he said, turning to Yuji and Chad.

"Oh!" Yuji said, "Well…."

"It was really weird," Chad finished, "He invited us in openly."

"Yeah," Yuji said, "He seemed really…..nice. He even invited us to play hanafuda with him."

"Really?" Ichigo said. Keiichi Maebara didn't seem that friendly to him. In fact, he seemed kinda creepy at first…

"As a matter of fact, he said he wanted to talk to you again," Chad said.

"Well, I guess I should…" Ichigo said. He'd been wanting to talk to Keiichi ever since he tried convincing Lestrade to give him the Seishin-Ro because there was still a lot he wanted to ask him.

"He won't answer anything…." a voice said. Ichigo looked around him. The voice was feminine, but it didn't sound like anyone he knew. As a matter of fact, from that voice it was hard to tell anything about the owner of it. It sounded feminine, but it could have just as easily come from a young boy. (Note: Think Crona from Soul Eater for the voice)

"But you already know that, don't you, Ichigo?" the voice continued. "You know that he doesn't trust you. You know that he's your enemy. There would have been no way of telling if Lestrade really possessed the Seishin-Ro if it weren't for Shana. And even then, she couldn't tell for sure. All that she knew was that he was a Mystes."

"But….but he's helped me out!" Ichigo said, not noticing that there were people around him.

"Hey, Ichigo, are you talking to yourself?" Orihime asked.

"Huh?" Ichigo asked, then quickly realized that the voice was probably like Zangetsu. "Oh! Not really! I was just…y'know….listening to my Hollow self!"

"No, no, you don't have to pretend," Orihime said, "I think it's cute!"

Ichigo's eyes widened at this. He felt….different somehow. Back in the day, if Orihime said something like that, it would get him blushing, but now… didn't seem to faze him at all! He knew that Nigo was trying to get into a relationship with her, but even so, the two of them were the same, weren't they? So why didn't he feel the same thing that Nigo did?

"It's because you've lost something," the voice said, continuing. Ichigo was a little afraid, because a voice like that could ask him to jump off a cliff and he'd do it. And what do you mean by that? Ichigo thought, not bothering to speak for fear of being noticed again. "It's because you've lost Zangetsu. You can't act as a Soul Reaper anymore," the voice continued, "And because Nigo's living your life for you, you can't be human anymore either. It's upset you, Ichigo."

Yeah? Ichigo thought, And what's that mean to you?

"That's something I'd rather you find out for yourself. Just like who I am, and why Keiichi Maebara is your enemy."

Ichigo sighed. He definitely wasn't getting anywhere with this.

"Sigh…..I guess I'd better go home and cover for you, huh, Ichigo?" Nigo said, getting up. "Don't worry, I'll do a much better job of it than Kon!"

Ichigo almost growled at this. That voice was right about one thing, and that was the fact that Nigo seemed to be taking a good chunk of his life from him. "Just tell Dad that I might have to stay here awhile!" he said, trying to hide his frustration.

So, mysterious inner monologue voice in my head… I go to Keiichi Maebara's or not? I have to come to him sometime, Ichigo thought to himself, figuring out that he could talk to this voice in his thoughts.

"That's another thing you'll have to decide for yourself. Even though I say he's your enemy, he's still an important part to you getting Zangetsu back. You'll have to decide for yourself what degree you'd trust him to. I wouldn't lie to you, and although he has, all of his attempts to help you have been honest."

You remind me a lot of him, you know that? Ichigo thought. But the voice was gone. Ichigo shook his head. Why did he get the feeling that this night was not going his way?