Chapter 2: Reconciliation
"GODDAMMIT!" Grimmjow roared as he sent his fist into the white wall, webbing the stone with the hole he just created. Huffing out his anger from behind a clenched jaw, he glared intently at the damage.
"C'mon Grimmjow, we have enough repairs going on right now without you punching holes in the wall." Ichigo sighed, bringing his right hand to cover his exasperated face. The blue haired man ripped his hand from the wall, and shot a pissed off look to the younger Arrancar.
"No, this is bullshit! Not only do you finally get your lazy ass out of bed, you go on a rampage while I'm away. ARGH! I felt you all the fucking way out where I was. I missed a chance to kick your ass, AGAIN! I coulda gone all out this time too!" Swiping his hand in front of Ichigo for effect, he stared daggers at him.
Ichigo's hand fell from his face, and he let out a sigh. "Glad to know some things have stayed the same. Seriously Grimmjow I need to introduce you to Kenpachi, then maybe they two of you will finally leave me alone." The teen shook his head and continued to head toward their destination, the council chamber.
"Hey screw you Kurosaki. We're fighting later, no matter what your whiny ass says." Grimmjow growled pointing at the orange haired young man.
"Fine, but let's just get this meeting over with first." His right hand came to his face again, as he pressed his index and middle fingers in between his eyebrows, attempting to will away the growing headache.
Half a day had passed since Ichigo had awoken in the infirmary. Business had mostly returned to normal, as construction was back to priority now. Ichigo couldn't help but feel guilty, even more so when everybody just seemed to write off his 'outburst'. He felt they were hiding their true worries for his peace of mind, and of course that made him feel worse. At least he took Urahara's words to heart, and put that guilt to use helping in the construction wherever he could.
He was working alongside Apacci and Mila Rose when they all felt a furious Reiatsu barreling toward Los Noches. Seconds later a certain short tempered Arrancar was roaring out Ichigo's name, peppered with less than polite additives. Ichigo left the girls to their work, fearing Grimmjow would just cause mayhem if not confronted, and Sonido'ed to him. After a heated explanation, and Menoly appearing stating a meeting was going to be held, the two of them started toward the council chamber, with the small blond girl heading off to tell the others.
- Earlier That Day -
Teir had retired to her room after she left the infirmary. She came out much less worse for wear than Neliel, but was still exhausted. She'd been at Ichigo's side since returning to Hueco Mundo, and her sleep was less than satisfactory for those nine days. She didn't mind, even as she stifled yawns while getting ready to sleep in her bed for the first time in over a week. She gave orders to her subordinates to just work on repairs, and only wake her if it was something demanding her immediate attention.
Stepping out of the bathroom, she was beaded with shining jewels of water. A hot shower had relaxed her very sore muscles. Ichigo certainly had plenty of power to back his punches, and if it wasn't for her superior combat technique, she was sure she'd probably be in a bed next to her senior former Tres. Harribel toweled off her loose blind hair, the braids set aside on the nightstand, as she moved to sit on her bed. Her jacket and hakama were folded and set on the bench at the end of the bed, and she was now in just a fresh pair of panties.
The hot shower helped her wash away the fatigue of the battle, but also bring forth more exhaustion. She was more than ready to grab some deserved shut eye. A minute of drying her hair later, and she tossed the towel on the bench. Sliding under the sheets, Tier's head had just hit the pillow, when an unfamiliar scent filled her nose. It wasn't anything unpleasant, but it wasn't her own. 'This is Ichigo's scent isn't it?' Harribel thought. Ichigo had been in her bed till just earlier, so it was definitely his. 'I remember this...' Her mind trailed off, going back to when she last was this close to it, the night he saved her, and all of them from the Quincy. She remembered his warmth, and this scent, before passing out in his arms.
The Arrancar woman couldn't keep her eyes from closing, so she just let sleep take her while surrounded by the man's presence.
Harribel was woken up by a soft raps at her door.
"Lady Harribel an envoy from the Soul Society is here. He's asking for a audience with you and Ichigo." Menoly's soft spoken voice came from the other side of the door. Tier lazily stirred from her sleep and sighed. She felt a few hours under where she would have had a decent rest, but duty called, and being the Queen didn't make it any easier.
"Right. Thank you Menoly. Please find and inform Kurosaki and the rest of the Caballeros Obscuros to meet in the council chamber. We'll hold the audience there." The Hollow Queen's tired voice called out as she pushed herself off the mattress, and threw her legs over the side. 'The Shopkeep certainly is punctual about his reports.' Shaking the sleep from her head, Harribel went about getting dressed and leaving for the meeting.
About ten minutes after Grimmjow's gripe, he and Ichigo had arrived at their destination. The former Sexta had cooled down a bit, using the trip time to comment on Ichigo's new status and appearance, not above throwing in jabs almost every other comment.
Ichigo had picked an outfit he felt the most comfortable in before leaving the infirmary. Of course Nel and Kisuke had their two cents on what he looked best in, but he still went with what was comfortable for him. His new attire consisted of white hakama pants similar to his current companion's, and the same footwear. His top was a long sleeved white shirt that was zipped up down the middle, with black lining that went along the hems. There was a white scarf-like wrap around his neck and shoulders, but didn't cover his face. He wore white, bracer-like wraps that went from halfway down his lower arm to his wrists, with an extension that covered the back of his hands, and was held there by a small ring of fabric that went around his middle fingers. His long, lower back length orange hair was done in a loose messy pony tail, a clasp holding it at the base of his neck.
All in all he was comfortable with his new attire. His mask fragment was his biggest concern with his new look. The horn, while angled enough to not hit his shoulder, kept drawing his attention to it, and he figured it would take some time to get used to. It didn't help Grimmjow mentioned Ichigo was gonna poke somebodies eye out with it.
"I can't believe I'm back for ten minutes and already we have another frikkin meeting. These were already annoying when Aizen was Mr. High and Mighty here, but now I don't even see the need for me to go." Grimmjow griped for the umpteenth time, as they stopped briefly at the open doors.
"You coulda stayed out in the wastes and avoided this whole thing, you know?" Ichigo countered with a smirk. Grimmjow just shot back a toothy challenging grin.
"And miss the chance to test out the rookie? I think not." The older man barked out a short laugh after saying this, and Ichigo just rolled his eyes keeping his own smirk.
"Whatever, c'mon." He strode into the room, his hands in his pants' pockets, Grimmjow following and absentmindedly doing the same.
"Geeze you two, what are you clones?" Apacci commented as soon at the two of them entered the large room with a huge table and chairs surrounding it in the middle. She was cross armed and slouched back in her chair next to the much more proper Mila Rose, whom was sitting strait up in hers. Sung-Sun was standing near end of the table, next to Harribel's chair. The Hollow Queen's chair was the only one on an end of the rectangular table, it was no bigger than the rest, just as she wanted it. She may have been ruling Hueco Mundo now, but she didn't feel she needed to flaunt it. Besides, now that the Caballeros Oscuros were formed decisions didn't fall solely on her now, even if she had final say.
On the other side of the table was Menoly and Loly sitting side by side, as always. Sitting a chair down from Loly was the only remaining Vasto Lorde of the group, Luka Vermillion. Luka had remained with the Hueco Ejercito as a Caballeros Obscuros after the war, where most of the surviving Hollows left as soon as they returned from the fight. He and Grimmjow had become something akin to friends. When asked if he would become an Arrancar, Luka simply shrugged. He didn't mind being the only Vasto Lorde to serve the Queen, and be part of the ruling class, in fact he took pride in it.
Both Ichigo and Grimmjow gave Apacci matching confused looks, before looking at one another. Seeing the mirrored postures, both just huffed and turned back to the dual colored eyed woman, smirking.
"Got a problem with that?" They both said at the same time, effectively making Emilou cringe. Her fellow Tres Bestias laughed at her joke being turned on her, accompanied by Luka.
"That's just creepy." Loly spoke up, as she herself shuddered a bit.
"Whatever pony tails." Grimmjow said before taking a seat next to Luka, near the end of the large table, and leaning over the table his right elbow on it and his cheek resting on that fist. Ichigo strode to the side housing Harribel's Fraccion, and sat down in the last chair from the end, closest to the Queen's, and next to Mila Rose. He sat upright, slightly stiff and formal, his hands crossed and in his lap. He was unsure of how to he should be at these meetings, and even the lazy atmosphere didn't really relax him.
With their entrance that just left the Shinigami representative, Urahara, Nel, and Tier. Last Ichigo had heard Nel was resting in the infirmary still, so she probably wouldn't be participating.
"You alright, Ichigo? You seem a bit anxious." Mila Rose asked softly, as she leaned over a bit to talk to him. Ichigo just let out a breath.
"I'm just not sure how to act at these meetings. Considering I've gone from high school student to the ruling class of Hueco Mundo, I feel a bit...nervous, I guess. I mean I wasn't even on any committees back in school." He confided, letting out a sigh afterword. Franceska smiled at him, shaking her head.
"You'll get used to it. I mean look at all of us. Do we look like we really care about appearances and formalities here? Since Aizen, we really don't feel the need. So relax." She chuckled, and saw Ichigo visibly soften up a bit.
"Thanks, but isn't this kinda a serious meeting?" He asked, looking around at the Hollows in the room. Despite the laid back dispositions of most everyone there, he could feel an air of uncertainty among the group. If he had to guess, hostilities between Shinigami and Arrancar were still there. Since he was out for all of the negotiations and truce talks, he guessed that interaction was still kept to a minimum, and probably through Kisuke more often then not.
"Probably, and my guess is this is mostly about you too." Mila Rose couldn't help the the smug smile as she saw worry cross his face. He was fun to tease, something she found out during their time in the Dangai.
"Me? Why would they be worried about me so much?" Everyone in the room had tuned in on Ichigo and Mila Rose's conversation at this point. Mostly because they all knew the reason, and were surprised he didn't realize it.
"To put it simply Ichigo, you are both a boon and a threat. If you look back on all that your actions have changed, even in just the past few weeks, you'll understand." Sung-Sun chimed in, after she moved a bit closer to Ichigo, and rested a hand on his shoulder.
"Well yeah, I understand why they wanted to use the Hogyoku on me, but that doesn't explain the need to send envoys to check up on me. Wouldn't Hats n' Clogs' reports be enough?" Ichigo knew he was missing something in this conversation, but he couldn't quite pin it down. There was a collective sigh of exasperation from the majority of the grouping. Before anyone could answer him, four people strode into the room.
First was Harribel, who stoically moved to her chair, and sat down without a word. Ichigo's eyes were drawn to her, and he missed the other three. There was something more...rigid about her right now. Sure, most of his experiences with her had been rather formal and closed off, but now she seemed to exude a wall of defensiveness. Her teal eyes flashed to his, before blinking back to the other newcomers.
"Is that Ichigo? Wow you look good kid." An overly familiar woman's voice brought Ichigo from the Queen. Quickly looking at the door he spotted Urahara standing next to Captain Toshiro Hitsugaya and his Vice Captain Rangiku Matsumoto.
"Toshiro, Rangiku, hey it's good to see you guys. So the envoy were you two?" Ichigo stood from his chair as he said this, and went up to greet them, arms open in friendly greeting. Just as he was getting to them, he stopped at the oddly cold look the young Captain was giving him. Toshiro looked guarded to him too. Sure the kid had always had his defense up, but now he seemed suspicious of Ichigo. The Arrancar teen hadn't seen that look since they first met back when Ichigo was an invader in the Seireitei. It stopped him in his tracks, and he sent Toshiro a questioning look, which was only met with the same side long stare.
That was also when Ichigo felt the weighing atmosphere in the room around him. He quickly looked over the Caballeros Obscuros, and all, while still in the same relaxed postures as before, had a restrained, darkened look about them. Any smiles that he could see didn't feel friendly, not like in the moments just before. It hit him then, despite the truce and negotiations, relations between the two factions was far from friendly, diplomatic and civil sure, but you could cut the tension with a knife.
"It's good to see you up and well, Ichigo. We were worried about you, weren't we?" Rangiku tried to salvage the moment, and gently nudged her Captain in the arm. Toshiro blinked slowly once, and poised himself.
"It's good to know you are okay, Kurosaki." While much less hostile than it sounded, the strict reserve in the way it was said worried Ichigo more.
"Right..." Ichigo trailed off, unsure of how to proceed, and frankly hurt by Toshiro's carefulness.
"Well, awkward as this is, how about we get on with the meeting?" Kisuke butted in like a blunt steamroller. Which, for once, Ichigo was thankful for. He'd try to talk to them again later, because he wanted to know why Toshiro was so cold to him, but right now wasn't the time to air personal laundry.
"Yes, lets." Harribel agreed with the older man. She, as did all the other Arrancar and Kisuke, knew that look, it was caution before the enemy. She'd rather get this over with, as the next day was certain to be a trial for their newest Arrancar. When Ichigo returned to his seat, Tier started. "The representative of the Soul Society, Captain Hitsugaya, has informed me of the reason they have come before us today."
- Minutes Earlier -
Harribel stopped after rounding the corner of a main corridor. She narrowed her eyes slightly at the three individuals she had come upon. The most recognizable was Kisuke Urahara, a welcomed member of the Caballeros, and walking next to him was a young white haired Captain, behind them was a tall over-endowed Shinigami woman with strawberry blond hair. She knew both Shinigami from past experience, and when the Captain's eyes met hers, there was a pregnant pause among the idly chatting group.
"Shopkeep." Tier nodded formally to Urahara, breaking eye contact with the Captain. The Shinigami researcher was leading the Soul Society envoys to the council chambers. The Hollow Queen had happened upon the small group of Soul Reapers, as she went to greet them herself. She may have been a Queen in title, but she wasn't content with the pomp of the position. Tier would meet the party herself, a show that she wasn't a complacent or sedimentary ruler.
"Queen Harribel." Kisuke acknowledged with his trademarked smile, which quickly turned to contemplation. "I hope you don't mind me escorting these two. I wanted to catch up while we had the chance." The old man returned to smiling, which was met by a very neutral stare and unseen emotional expression of the Queen. 'Is that what it's like on the other side of my fan, I wonder?' Urahara thought, before Harribel spoke up.
"It is fine, Shopkeep." Tier said simply returning her gaze to the small Captain. "Welcome to Los Noches, Captain Hitsugaya." She said, remembering the Captain's name from their fight in the Winter War. Keeping an air of formality in this meeting was vital. While her trust of the Soul Society went about as far as her outstretched arm, this was still a diplomatic meeting. Though she mused the idea that they sent the boy because of their past history.
"We thank you for your hospitality Hollow Queen." Toshiro replied just as carefully, bowing his head ever so slightly. They were in the hornet's nest, and this woman was both ruler and had proven incredibly dangerous. Still he was here on a mission, and he expected to see it through.
"Shall we? We may discuss matters on the way." Tier turned in place and started toward the meeting place.
"Right then, best not to keep everyone waiting, right Toshi?" Urahara said breaking the mood with his upbeat voice. Toshiro just gave him a glare, before following after the former Tres Espada. Rangiku, while being cautious was much more relaxed than her Captain, taking in the sights of the large under construction castle. She rarely held grudges for very long, and Tier had never really been her opponent, so she held much less hostility.
There was silence for the first bit of the walk, until Kisuke decided it was enough. "I take it you two are here to get an assessment of Ichigo's transformation? Well the change was a success, and he's back to being our loveable berry boy."
"Phew, that's good. I was worried Ichi-boy's cute face was lost forever." Rangiku let out a relaxing breath, placing her hand in between her bosom. Tier couldn't explain the sudden urge to stare the other woman down, but decided to ignore it.
"Rangiku." Hitsugaya warned.
"What? I was. And you can't tell me you weren't worried about him yourself, Captain." The older woman pouted, earning a quick silencing glare from him.
"Yes, we've come to assess Kurosaki's condition..." Toshiro trailed off, being careful to choose his next words. "...and to ask his audience before the Gotei 13." The Queen ahead of him turned her head slightly to the side, showing she was addressing him.
"And what does the Soul Society want with Kurosaki? As you now know he is completely Hollow now, and Arrancar at that. You're intentions with the Hogyoku are complete, so why do you wish to meet with him?" Her calm voice seemed to take the slightest of edges.
"Despite his allegiance, Kurosaki was instrumental in our victory over the Quincy. And we wish to discuss his intentions now." The Captain proceeded.
"Our victory?" Tier questioned. "From everything I was led to believe the Soul Society had intended to stay it's hand, until he forced your actions. By doing so he led the Hollows to victory with the assistance of the Soul Society. Was I informed wrong?" It was increasingly hard to stay neutral with what the young Shinigami had said. She felt personal pride in Ichigo's victory, as he not only helped liberate the Hollows, he saved her, and he almost sacrificed his life for their combined forces. In her opinion it was his victory, no one else.
Toshiro felt a pang of guilt at the well worded insult, but he wouldn't let it shake him. He was ready to fight alongside Ichigo when they had been informed, but they had to wait on the go ahead from Central 46 and the Captain Commander.
"You were not, however we still wish to discuss his intentions now that the fighting has ceased and he is awake. Can this be arranged?" Deciding to let the guilt roll off him, Hitsugaya returned to the original point.
"That should be taken up with him. I will abide by whatever Kurosaki decides, but know this..." She halted about ten feet from the council chamber's doors, and turned to look down at him. "...should he be harmed, I will consider it a declaration of war." Her teal eyes reflected cold steel, relaying how deadly serious she was. Hitsugaya didn't flinch or look away, and just simply nodded in agreement.
"As long as that is understood. We are here." Tier turned and proceeded into the room followed by the group.
"Bullshit! We have no reason to let him go with you fucking Shinigami." Grimmjow growled, slamming his fist on the table, face curled up in a snarl toward the Captain of the 10th Division. Toshiro had just finished explaining the reason for the visit, which obviously wasn't met well. Grimmjow's distrust was matched by Luka, Loly, and Apacci. All were staring hard at the two envoys.
Harribel, of course, had reserved herself as this was Ichigo's decision. Sung-Sun hid her caution behind her sleeve as always, yet even she was finding little reason to allow his return. Mila Rose kept her attention on the quiet man next to her. She was trying to guess his answer, but even so she didn't want him leaving. Finally, Menoly just tried to blend into the chair, she desired no confrontation, but would fight if her friend refused to go with them.
Ichigo himself was lost in contemplation. He had no real reason to object honestly. He believed Toshiro and Rangiku were here for peaceful reasons, and had plenty of friends in the Soul Society. As far as he was concerned they just wanted to check up with him personally, but it was Kisuke and Sung-Sun's words that gave him hesitation.
"To put it simply Ichigo, you are a both a boon and a threat."
"However considering your history with them, the change in management, and the risks of not transforming you, it was close to a unanimous decision to use the Hogyoku on you."
Risks. Threat. Sure he could understand, it was actually as plain as day to him. Considering what had happened just hours ago, how could it not. ''Do they really see me as an enemy now? Are they trying to get me alone to deal with me? No, no, most of them are my friends. Even becoming a Hollow shouldn't have changed that. They are just being cautious.' Ichigo justified in his mind.
"Kurosaki, this is your choice. We cannot stop you from leaving." Tier's woke him, and he looked up to her. She, and after a scan of the room, everyone else were waiting on him. Closing his eyes and letting out a sigh, he looked back up to Tier.
"I don't mind going. I have friends there, and I'd like to see them again. Plus I'm pretty sure if I tried to go to see my family without letting the Soul Society know, it'd just cause problems. So I'll go with them." Looking back to Toshiro, the young man briefly showed relief. Rangiku grew a big smile, and clapped her hands together against her chest. Even Kisuke relaxed a bit, though he was welcomed here, Ichigo had a sneaking suspicion that there was still uncertainty about his neutrality among the Hueco Ejercito. The former Sexta tched before huffing out a breath, and resting his head on his fist again. Luka closed his insect-like eyes, and just shook his head. Apacci and Loly now diverted their hard stares toward Ichigo, Loly's reflecting more disbelief than Apacci.
"Ichigo, are you sure? You'll trust them just like that?" Mila Rose questioned, making no attempt to hide the question from the Soul Reapers in the room.
"Well...yeah. They came to me and asked nicely. If this helps put tensions at ease, then great. Besides I trust most of them, and I can't see Shunsui being as much of a hard ass as Old Man Yama, right?" Ichigo leaned back in his chair, and raised an upturned palm as a talking gesture. The last question was directed at Hitsugaya, whom actually deflated a bit in embarrassment, giving Ichigo his answer and a grin.
"What if it's at trap?! You cant go alone, I'll come with..." Loly began, worry evident in her voice and expression.
"Kurosaki will not be alone on this venture. I will accompany him to the Soul Society." Tier interjected, immediately drawing stunned attention toward her. "This shouldn't be a problem right, Captain Hitsugaya?"
"But Lady Harribel... / Mistress Harribel..." Apacci and Mila Rose shouted at the same time, only to be silenced by their Queen's hand raising for silence.
"I have no objections, especially if it puts your mind at ease." Toshiro agreed with a slight nod.
"Tia, you don't have to come with me. I can..." Ichigo began.
"Lady Harribel's name is Tie..." Apacci interrupted in an agitated shout.
"Apacci please calm down. Kurosaki, your safety is important, and I wish to speak more to the new Captain Commander about our treaties." Tier's tone was that of a leader. She didn't want this disputed, and left no room to. She would personally see to it that their savior would return safe and sound, or take out a good chunk of the Soul Society trying.
"This again, seriously? Two of our strongest go into the heart of enemy territory, and the rest of us are sidelined again." Grimmjow grumbled loudly, throwing his arms up in annoyance. "Does anyone else see a problem with this? I mean come on, I cant be the only one to see a freakin problem here?" He asked the room incredulously. The others all looked to him, with pretty much everybody agreeing, aside the two leaving and the Soul Reapers.
Ichigo actually blinked a few times while staring blankly at him. Grimmjow locked gazes with him, and raised a brow.
"It's just... I never expected you to be the voice of reason Grimmjow." Ichigo stated surprised. A vein popped on the panther Arrancar's forehead, followed by an audible tightening of his fists. To the room's shock Grimmjow didn't lunge at Ichigo. His restraint was holding by a thread, but it was holding.
"Someone around here has to be." Grimmjow snarled from behind clenched teeth.
"He does have a point though. What assurances are there that our lady and Ichigo won't be harmed? The last time we visited the Soul Society, we were basically outlawed upon our discovery." Sung-Sun spoke up. This was a bit surprising to Ichigo and her fellow Fraccion. She had usually agreed with Ichigo's or her Queen's plans or judgment, this seemed out of place.
"I'll tag along too." Urahara cut in before Toshiro could respond. "As mediator between the two factions I will make sure nothing goes awry. Besides, you all know just how good I am at escaping if we need to." He joked, bringing his fan up to cover his face. Hitsugaya shook his head, feeling a headache resurface.
"Well Hat's n Clogs has a point. He's really good at running away." Ichigo sneered at his former mentor, who slumped dramatically at the jab.
"Then are there any other objections?" Tier said aloud, looking over her peers.
"I give up, just do whatever. If you get killed it just means I'm the new King of Hollows." Grimmjow returned to resting his head on his palm on the table.
"Guess that settles that matter. When do we leave?" Ichigo got up from his seat, and looked to the young Captain.
"Within the hour. We'll need to contact the Soul Society to open up a Senkaimon. Is that enough time your highness?" Toshiro asked, focusing on the Hollow Queen.
"That will be plenty. We shall prepare to depart then, if you'll please excuse us." Tier stood up herself, followed by everybody but Grimmjow and Luka. She, followed by her Fraccion walked over to the envoys, and they all left the council room to prepare.
Ichigo stopped at the door with Menoly and Loly next to him. He turned to look at Grimmjow and Luka. "You'll come and save us if we get into trouble, right?" Ichigo said with a smirk.
"One of these days your gonna have to save your own weak ass, Kurosaki. But..." Grimmjow stared at Ichigo from the side, a toothy smile plastered on his face. "...I guess you can owe me another one. Best prepare yourself for a fight once you get back, cause you are officially out of excuses this time."
"Thanks. See you guys later." Ichigo's smirk turned challenging, and he waved once with his back to the two on them. Loly huffed out of aggravation, and Menoly held back a small chuckle. The three of them left the room at that point.
With Ichigo, Loly, and Menoly
"It's always fighting with him. Isn't there anything else he thinks about?" Loly griped as the three of them walked toward the living quarters. Ichigo chuckled and looked down at the smaller woman on his right.
"Some people are just like that." Ichigo responded in good nature.
"I'm so glad you aren't." Loly said absentmindedly, making Ichigo give her a curious look. She heard Menoly snicker on Ichigo's other side, and her eyes suddenly went wide, a red tint covering a good portion of her face.
"Why's that?" The orange haired teen asked.
"Uh...ummm...I mean, we don't need any more battle crazy meat heads in the Caballeros." Loly practically shouted, closing her eyes, lifting her chin up, and quickly placing her fists on her hips. Ichigo blinked at her a few times, and a grin crossed his features.
"Well I'm glad you don't see me as a battle crazy meat head, Loly." He thanked her, only bringing the red further out of her.
"You are still a moron for going with the Shinigami. And you better protect Lady Harribel while you are there." Loly quickly changed the subject, and pointed a finger at him.
"I will, I promise. Even if it was any of you going beside her, I'd still protect you with my life, if it comes to that. Not that you need protecting, considering how strong you are." Ichigo said truthfully. His response quickly shut down whatever retort Loly had, and she just looked down at the ground as they walked.
"And we thank you for that Ichigo. We wouldn't be this strong if it wasn't for you, but it's still reassuring to know you are there for us." Menoly said happily, giving him a smile, which he returned.
"Y..yeah, thanks." Loly mumbled.
"Alright I better go get my sword and meet up with Tia. See you guys in a bit." Ichigo said as they came to a cross roads corridor. He waved them off as he took off down a separate hall. Menoly waved back, and when he was out of sight she slid over to her sister, and softly jabbed her side with her elbow.
"Smooth." The blond Arrancar teased. Loly just sent a glare at her, and grumbled incoherently before taking off down the opposite corridor.
"We'll contact the Senkaimon operators and meet you outside the castle. It shouldn't be more than an hour till the gate opens." Toshiro stated, as he and Rangiku bowed slightly to the Hollow Queen, her subordinates, and Kisuke.
"Alright then. We'll meet you in a little bit Toshi." Urahara said playfully, causing the Captain to glare hard at him for a second. Kisuke just waved them off as the two turned and left with Apacci escorting them to the entrance. Once they were out of earshot Tier turned to their Shinigami member.
"Shopkeep, in your honest opinion, will the Soul Society abide by their agreement?" She asked simply, knowing that he knew what she meant. Both Mila Rose and Sung-Sun faced him as well. This was something of dire importance to them. Not only would their leader and friend be going, but Ichigo too. The old man scratched the side of his head, under his striped hat, and looked toward the ceiling, contemplating what to say next.
"Wellllll...If I know Kyoraku and most of the Captains, then it should be by the book, and this is a legitimate truce meeting and check up on Ichigo." He paused and looked Harribel in the eyes, making sure she could see he was serious "That being said, I can't guarantee that you two won't be treated without hostility from the rest. They would be under orders to cease and desist, but the C46 and general Soul Society attitude toward Hollows is touchy at best. Ichigo is well known there, but I could see his transformation being flipped on him by the general public."
"Prejudice I can accept and understand Shopkeep. What I want to know is if we will have problems returning without violence." Tier specified.
"That really depends on Ichigo." Kisuke mused, which caused the Hollow Queen to raise a brow at him.
"We both know you can handle this kind of distrust. Heck pretty much anyone else on the Caballeros can, but Ichigo...well, he's new to this. Sure he's been seen as an outright enemy and even an traitor for his choice in actions, but he has made many close friends there. If they were to suddenly turn on him, I'm not sure he could handle it. You saw the conclusions he came to when under his Hollow instincts. Knowing him he is still unsure of himself, and that could lead to unpleasantness if his friends suddenly abandoned him. Not that I think they will, but you saw how he reacted when Toshiro was indifferent towards him. Toshi probably wouldn't admit it, but the two were friends." Urahara explained. Tier brought her left arm under her breasts, rested her right elbow on the left fist, and held her right fist in front of her collar covered face in contemplation.
Ichigo had a strong character, and most of the time unwavering determination to press on. But the forced change was a whole new ball game. Tier recalled that he had become a Hollow in the past, even learned to fight using those Hollow abilities, however each time he returned from the brink, or could return to being human. That was no longer possible. He was uncertain now, and that uncertainty helped lead the events of earlier. If he came to distrust the Soul Reapers, and if one spark of anger or violence were to occur, this could turn dangerous quick. Tier resolved herself into not allowing that to happen. She would remind him he still had allies and friends here, if it came to that. She just hoped that his family would continue to see him as the person he still is. She was sure if his family ever rejected him, he would break down.
"That is true. Still this is something he will have to face in time either way. We can only hope that the ties he has made with the Shinigami hold true now." She said after some thought.
"He managed to change our opinions of him, and we were enemies. Before that he told us he was fighting the Shinigami, and he still made friends with them. I personally think he'll be fine." Franceska spoke up, with a proud smile on her face. In the days following Ichigo and Grimmjow's defeat of Quilge, especially in the dark world of the Dangai, the Arrancar got to know him and his friends. They learned of his unwavering loyalty to family and friends, his desire to protect them from harm, and how the entirety of his journey into the spirit worlds started. Needless to say those who cared were impressed.
"Ichigo certainly is a charismatic guy. I've never once looked back on helping him, or his family. I agree with her, I think he'll be fine. Just in case though, we'll be there to help." Kisuke grinned. "Well I best go get some things ready, and tell Tessai about what we're doing. See you shortly ladies." Turning he left down the corridor, his robes fluttering behind him. Harribel and her Fraccion watched him go, the former still trying to get a read on the ex Shinigami. He was an odd one. Considering the ease with which he worked along side the Arrancar and helped them, even if it was for Kurosaki's sake, was a curiosity as to why he would, to her. Again Tier would have to contemplate this later, she had preparations to start.
"I should prepare myself. Mila-Rose, Sung-Sun, I ask you to once again take my place in my absence." Harribel asked, as she looked between the women. Both bowed to her slightly, affirming with a "Yes, Mistress.". Tier gave both a small hidden smile, and started her way back to her quarters. She didn't get far before Sung-Sun caught up to her alone.
"Lady Harribel, if I may have a moment?" The olive haired woman said, making her leader pause and look to her.
"This excursion may not be the best place or time, but I believe you have a good opportunity to get to know Ichigo without all of us interrupting." Sung-Sun said slyly from behind her usual sleeve. Tier stared at the shorter woman for a moment, unsure of exactly how to respond to that.
"This is a diplomatic mission, I don't believe it would be appropriate." Tier finally said, but there was a small level of uncertainty in her voice. It wasn't an unappealing idea, in fact Cyan was right, it would be the perfect chance to learn more about him, but...
"I understand, Mistress. But, even if you don't, at least have him show you Sokyoku Hill while you are there. Trust me the sight is well worth it, and you may not get another opportunity." Sung-Sun added quickly. Ever since she had experienced the sight herself, she had wanted to share it with her friends and Queen. Now Harribel had a golden opportunity, and with the person she had an interest in. It was almost perfect.
"...I will think about it, thank you Sung-Sun." Tier nodded her head to her friend, at least she could accept and think on the suggestion. It couldn't hurt, plus having Ichigo show her held a spark of interest.
"Of course, Mistress." With that the snake Arrancar bowed, and left the Queen to her thoughts. Tier shook her head a few times, freeing herself from her wonderings, and headed off to prepare.
One Hour Later
Outside Los Noches
A violet horizontal tear in the dark night sky cracked before the assembled party. The tear stretched and widened into a crimson light, which slowly revealed traditional Japanese doors. The central doors faded into existence, and slowly opened up, spewing out a cloud of smoke. A white portal stood open now, allowing safe access to the Seireitei. Toshiro stood in front of the pack, Rangiku as always next to him, and a few paces back from them and the Senkaimon Urahara, Ichigo, and Tier. Further behind the group was the send off party of the Tres Bestias, Loly and Menoly, and a recently awakened Nel. Grimmjow and Luka opted to stay by the castle doors, watching from afar for any funny business.
"Is everyone ready?" Hitsugaya asked, getting nods from the three. "Alright then, follow me." Toshiro entered the light, vanishing into it, quickly followed by his Lieutenant.
"Hold down the fort for us while we're gone." Ichigo turned to look at the sendoff, who gave him mixed responses, but generally positive.
"We should return within twenty four hours. If there is no word after, then you know what to do." Harribel directed toward her Fraccion, who all carefully nodded to her. Ichigo noticed the seriousness, just from the lack of verbal agreement. He would have to ask what that meant later, but for now onto the immediate problem.
"Be careful Ichigo, Tier, Old Man Hat's n Clogs." Nel said with a bit of a pout. She'd missed the who meeting, and woke up to them leaving. So she really didn't have a chance to throw her hat in on wanting to go.
"We will Nel. See you all later." Ichigo smiled back to them, catching Grimmjow's gaze for a moment. A silent exchange going between the two warriors. Kisuke entered the gate next, followed by Ichigo and Tier side by side.
The blinding flash lasted for just a second, but the bright sun gave them pause as soon as they exited. Tier and Ichigo both took a moment to adjust to the sudden change, and when they did both suddenly grew cautious. On both sides of the Senkaimon gateway road was a Soul Reaper guard. A multitude of Shinigami standing at attention. Before conclusions could be drawn by the Arrancar, a voice drew their attention toward the middle of the road.
"Welcome to the Soul Society Queen Harribel, and welcome again Ichigo Kurosaki, Kisuke Urahara. We thank you for generously accepting our invitation." Captain Commander Kyoraku, in his usual flamboyant overcoat, minus the hat, stood there. He personally came to greet and escort their guests. He wasn't alone, as Captains Unohana and Ukitake, their lieutenants Isane and Rukia, and his vice Nanao stood next to him. He had his award winning smile on and had his arms opened in a friendly manner. "I know it may be a bit much for a welcome, but we wanted to make sure you know you are our honored guests while here."
Ichigo instantly relaxed at Kyoraku's words. It wasn't an ambush, it was a welcome for a VIP. Especially seeing Rukia with them. Ichigo locked eyes with his diminutive friend, and he sent her a happy look, which she responded to with a curt nod. 'Same old Rukia.' Ichigo thought. He would have to talk with her when the meeting was over. Obviously she was in work mode, and that left greetings short for the time being.
The same couldn't be said for Tier. She had no reason to trust this Soul Reaper's words. To her it seemed way to much for just greeting her and her knight. To her it looked more like a precaution against them. Still, she had to at least allow the benefit of the doubt. She relaxed enough to keep her cool, but she wouldn't allow her guard to be dropped. Tier remained silent as the greeters watched her, but she bowed her head to them.
"Thank you for your hospitality, Captain Commander." She said just loud enough for the group to hear. Ichigo kept an eye her, the silence before the her words making him tense up slightly. He honestly expected her to just stay her usual stoic self, as this was the heart of enemy territory, but she was trying to be courteous. He took that as a good sign she wanted these peace talks to go well.
"Of course, of course. We want to make sure you know that we mean no harm, and do strive for a continued peace between our factions. That being said, " The new Captain Commander side stepped, and gestured toward the the road behind him. "shall we proceed with the meeting. I'm still not terribly fond of drawing things out, even in my position, and I have the feeling you probably wish to return as soon as possible." Kyoraku apparently had not lost his tactful nature, which just made Ukitake roll his eyes, and Unohana shake her head. Ichigo stepped next to his Queen, and she spared a glance his way. Ichigo gave her a smile and nod, then the two of them, followed by Kisuke, proceeded toward the welcoming party.
As they met up with the Shinigami, they fell into line with them. Ichigo stayed on Tier's right, while Kyoraku took to her left, with Unohana next to Ichigo and Toshiro next to her. Ukitake was on Kyoraku's left. The Vice-Captains brought up the rear, with all near their respective Captains, and Kisuke joining them. Tier nodded briefly to Unohana, whom she had a very brief chance to know during the Quincy fight. She received a kind smile in return.
With everyone in place the trip began. Kyoraku did his best to entertain his royal guest, even attempting to hit on her, asking her to drinks later. Harribel refused, politely, and stayed the course of minimal small talk. She worked with as few words as needed to answer or acknowledge, just wishing to get this over with.
Ichigo was a much better conversationalist, but then again he knew these people.
"I must say Ichigo, this new appearance certainly isn't as bad as I originally imagined it. Even the horn seems to fit you." Retsu said in her soft voice. Ichigo chuckled embarrassed, scratching his jaw with a finger.
"Well, thanks...I guess. Yeah the horn is kinda an adjustment, but I'll deal. Oh, right I never got to thank you for your help during the war. Thank you Captain Unohana." Ichigo thanked, with a smile. The older woman brought her hand before her mouth and giggled slightly.
"Ichigo, it's Retsu please. There is no need for formalities now. I think that point is beyond us now."
"And what about thanking the rest of us? We were there too you know, ingrate." Rukia cut in from behind him. Turning to see his first Shinigami friend, Ichigo matched her playful smile with his own.
"Well it's good to see you too, Rukia. I wouldn't forget to thank you, even if I didn't actually see you there. You must have been lost in the crowd of tall people." He joked, his smile turning into a grin.
"Maybe next time we won't search for your body." Rukia chided back, and both chuckled humorlessly with each other. Though that quickly changed to a sincere smile on both faces. "It's good to see you okay, Ichigo."
"Same here, Rukia." Ichigo felt a humongous weight lift off him with this exchange. Rukia had acted as if nothing had changed, and things were as they always were. It made him forget about the most of the worries he had before coming. He still had a few friends here, and now he was much more optimistic about the visit.
Tier was listening in on Ichigo's interactions. She too felt some of her worry leave at the good natured banter he and the others were having. It wasn't all as it once was, but at least he still had allies here.
The trip to Squad One's Captain's Meeting Chamber didn't take as much time as Tier had thought. In fact over the trip, and past the incessant small talk of the Captain Commander, Tier caught glimpses of the Seireitei, and the differing beauty it held. She noted the incredibly large hill in the center, guessing that was probably the one Sung-Sun mention. That in turn brought the thought of asking Ichigo to escort her there up, if they had the opportunity.
Squad One HQ
Captain's Meeting Chamber
Tier, Ichigo, and Kisuke stood before the two rows of Captains and the new Captain Commander. Standing next to Kyoraku was Genryusai Yamamoto, whom was in normal Shinigami robes. The old Captain Commander still looked the part of the leader, even after loosing his Bankai and resigning his position to take up a seat on the Central 46. Ichigo wasn't thrilled to be meeting Old Man Yama, especially after basically escaping from the Soul Society twice in his presence.
The atmosphere in the chamber was a mixed pot. Most of the Captains were glad and relieved to see Ichigo alive, and more or less human again. Of course there were the few who seemed to care little for their guests. The Queen, her knight, and the Shopkeep were rather silent and tensed, considering just minutes earlier they had been welcomed pleasantly. This however was the start of the official business, and being in the same room with the strongest in the Seireitei didn't help. Needless to say the room was heavy with apprehension.
"Well let's get this meeting started." Shunsui stated, tapping his right sheathed sword on the floor. "Today we are in the presence of Tier Harribel, the Queen of the Hollows, and ruler of Hueco Mundo. With her are Ichigo Kurosaki, and Kisuke Urahara. We are here today to discuss two topics, the continued truce between the Soul Society and the Hueco Ejercito, and find out the intentions of Ichigo Kurosaki." The room was in rapt attention of the Captain Commander.
"We'll start with Kurosaki's case, if that is okay with your Majesty?" Shunsui asked, making sure to stay formal with the Hollow Queen. Tier, whom had her arms crossed since arriving in the chamber, simply nodded. She looked to Ichigo, who met her gaze, and took in a deep breath. "Ichigo Kurosaki, step forward please." Kyoraku continued, gesturing for the teen Arrancar to come closer. Ichigo obliged, and took a stride forward, standing before the entire room.
"Ichigo Kurosaki, those assembled today, along with Central 46," Shunsui waved his hand toward Yamamoto. "wish to know what you plan on doing, now that you are an Arrancar."
"What I plan on doing?" Ichigo asked a bit confused. "Could you be a bit more specific, please. Honestly it hasn't been very long since I woke up."
"Well Ichigo, we just want to know if you are gonna become an enemy of the Soul Society or not, to put it bluntly." Shinji said, lifting his hands and shrugging with a playful smile on his face. Several of the more uptight Captains, namely Byakuya, Ukitake, SoiFon, Toshiro, and Komamura, stared at him in disbelief at his statement. He even got a partially opened eye from Yamamoto. Everyone could see the sweat drop that formed on his brow. "What? I just saved us about fifteen minutes of needless beating around the bush here. C'mon this is old hardheaded Ichigo we're talking about, it would have taken him that long to figure out what we were asking." Shinji justified, which was agreed to by the less surprised Captains, even Byakuya had to agree with him.
"Gee thanks Shinji, I'm glad you've got my back." Ichigo deadpanned toward his former fellow Visored.
"Anytime Ichigo." Shinji just smiled, as if nothing was wrong.
"Um...ehem, yes more or less that is what we're asking you Ichigo. In light of your past relations with the Soul Society, and recent falling out, we wanted to know what you would do with your new status. And...please don't take this the wrong way, but we also wanted to assess your mental stability. Purely because a transformation such as yours has never happened in our collective histories." Kyoraku continued, attempting to be professional.
Thanks to the warnings he received earlier, Ichigo had been expecting the first reason, the second caught him a bit off guard. Mental stability, they were questioning his ability to reason and think. When he thought on it, he couldn't help but agree with it. He had experienced how easily warped it could be earlier that day.
"I'm not to sure what to say here. I haven't really thought about what lies ahead of me now. Honestly I haven't had much time to think about it either. I can say that I hold no ill will toward the Soul Society. I still have friends here, and if you still consider me such or even just an ally, I won't have a reason to harm you. However, if any action is taken against my fellow Arrancar without provocation, I will willingly become your enemy." Ichigo let that hang in the room. While not wanting to fight against his friends, he would if it places those he cares about in danger. He wanted them to know that.
Tier felt a warmth in her chest at Ichigo's words. The young Arrancar would fight for them, against his old allies if needed, to protect the Arrancar, and her. It was something she wasn't used to seeing outside herself, and even then it was a much broader reasoning than she had. She wanted to protect the few female Hollows who survived becoming Adjuchas (Intermediate Great Hollow), while Ichigo was willing to protect every one of them. She was again happy she had a high collar and her mask fragment, because she could feel her cheeks warming up. Quickly she removed those thoughts, and returned to the meeting at hand.
The room was silent for a few moments after Ichigo's declaration. The Captains were sure to interpret his words and their meaning. So he stood before the assembled group, and awkward tension building.
"I, for one, believe him." Shinji stated to the others.
"As do I." Unohana agreed.
"Kurosaki has always been passionate, but his honesty has never been in question." Byakuya, surprisingly agreed. The majority of the chatted amongst themselves in agreement.
"While I don't agree that consorting with Hollows is a good idea, I can't say much about it. Considering several of our Captains are partially Hollow." SoiFon added, gaining a few stares from the Visored Captains.
"We like you too, SoiFon." Shinji retorted, receiving a quick glare from the petite woman. There was a round of subdued laughter, from several in the room, including Ichigo and Kisuke.
"For the time being I will be monitoring Ichigo for any major changes. If that helps put your minds at rest." Urahara spoke up, in further defense of his protege. Another bunch of murmurs ran throughout the Captains, as they discussed further amongst themselves. Ichigo looked around the room, and noticed Kenpachi had been very silent, but had been staring at him with a smirk. Ichigo had a guess as to why, but he would leave it for now.
"Then I believe we have come to a consensus." The Captain Commander said after a bit of discussion with Yamamoto. "Ichigo Kurosaki we are happy to have you back, and hope to continue an alliance with you and the Hueco Ejercito. Now, how about we get to the peace talks?" Shunsui said again tapping his sword on the floor.
An Hour Later
The peace talks, while simple, covered a wide variety of questioned subjects. Most prominent was interactions between the two factions. It was decided that the Arrancar and Shinigami would officially stay out of each others internal and external affairs, however an accessible line of communication was to be established. This would allow each to keep in contact in case of emergency, or at requests of movement between the realms. Harribel would rule without interference, as she had been, and the Soul Society would continue to defend the Human World from general Hollow attacks. The stipulation to these was that Harribel and the Caballeros Obscuros remained in power.
Officially everything was to stay the same, outside communications. Central 46, through Yamamoto, had made it abundantly clear that they wanted nothing to do with Hueco Mundo, outside of making sure there was an established peace with the rulers. Which Tier readily agreed to, as long as the Soul Society afforded the same. This truce was also to remain a secret to the general public. The status quo was to be kept intact. The biggest amenity to these was Ichigo Kurosaki himself.
Ichigo, having saved the realms several times, was given special permission to travel freely between the Soul Society and Hueco Mundo, as an official ambassador. Upon request to the Gotei 13, and with the allowance of a Gigai, he could visit the Human World, with escort of course. Kisuke happily filled the roll, as he already had an established pathway, and a neutral facility.
Ichigo was ecstatic that he could visit his family again. He had no idea what his Father had done to cover Ichigo's disappearance, but he knew the truth had to come out for his siblings' sake. They had a right to know that their big brother was more or less fine, but also that he couldn't be with them anymore. That worried him more than anything else he could think of.
Even the incarcerated Quincy were brought up in the discussion. Ichigo had a particular interest in wishing to meet and talk with the man Haschwald. This was the most heated part of the peace talks itself. Yamamoto had initially refused any interaction between them. He even stated clearly that it was because they wanted no chance of the Quincy escaping or an alliance of sorts being struck. Ichigo had to reason that he wanted to know more about what Zangetsu and his Inner Hollow were speaking about, before the former had ceased existing. It took some time, but it was agreed that Ichigo could speak with the current Quincy leader, only under heavy guard, alone, and without his weapon. Ichigo agreed.
As the meeting adjourned, and everyone began to file out, Ichigo was wished well by several of the Captains. Shunsui and Yamamoto were still discussing things, and offered to escort the three to the Senkaimon after. Tier had watched his caution removed throughout the meeting. The jabs and back and forth between Kurosaki and the Shinigami had seemed to be as normal as his interactions with her people. She wouldn't lie to herself and say she wasn't pleased that he wasn't mostly being treated as an enemy, and still seen as a friend or ally. She found herself feeling content that all his sacrifice wasn't in vain. She watched him make some small talk with them from a short distance away, standing next to the Shopkeep. Even though they just finished with their peace talks, Harribel could only bring herself to trust two in the room, Ichigo and the Shopkeep.
"It's good to see he wont be ostracized by most of them." Urahara said, bringing Tier out of her thoughts. As usual she had her arms crossed under her large chest, and her teal eyes reflected a calm neutrality.
"Yes, and hopefully it stays that way." She said simply as she watched an incredibly tall, spiky haired man with an eye patch suddenly loom over Ichigo. She felt an incredible dangerous killing aura off of him, and even if he wasn't projecting it, she recognized a predator when she met one. Suddenly she made sure to attune to the conversation between the two. Her eyes narrowed slightly, and she felt her muscles tense to the ready.
"Gotta say Ichigo, I like the new look." Kenpachi said, showing his wide fanged grin to the Arrancar. Ichigo met the battle crazed man's eyes, and grinned back.
"Thanks Kenpachi, so what can I do for you?" Ichigo replied in an almost challenging tone. Normally Ichigo would avoid this man, simply because he was a terrifying battle freak. He always wanted to fight with Ichigo, finding him to be a challenging opponent. It was different this time though. Something in Ichigo stirred as soon as he felt Zaraki's presence near him. It was like his instinct was telling him that someone worthy had stepped up, and that he knew, and wanted to do what the man was going to ask. For some reason Ichigo felt the urge to accept the inevitable fight request. Ichigo had felt the same urge swell up when Grimmjow challenged him earlier, only it was a much lesser extent, because Kenpatchi oozed an aura of battle.
"How about we test out that new body of yours? I'm just itching to sink my teeth into a powerful Hollow." There it was, Kenpachi's usual challenge. This time though Ichigo actually considered the request. Just being near this man made his blood boil, his desire to fight rose up. It wasn't an uncontrollable urge, but a strong daring one none the less. He even felt his right hand twitch, wanting to reach for the sword on his back.
"You know what, that sounds like fun." Ichigo's mouth split into a toothy smirk, his eyes glinting with anticipation. Kenpachi was taken aback for a moment, loosing his smile. He blinked once, and then his face splitting grin returned two fold.
"Finally grew a pair huh? Good." Suddenly most in the room felt the spike in killing intent from both. Harribel started to uncross her arms, just in case. Kisuke placed a hand on her shoulder, directing her attention to him.
"Don't worry. That's Kenpachi, he's much like Grimmjow in that he wants to fight almost constantly. Ichigo had proven before to be a challenge, so he always solicits him to fight. Though this is the first time I've seen him accept." Kisuke explained. Tier resumed her crossed arms, and watched the two stare each other down for a moment.
"We are creatures driven by instinct. It doesn't surprise me Kurosaki wishes to test his strength against a powerful opponent. It's a second nature to Hollows." Harribel sighed and stepped forward toward Ichigo. "Kurosaki, we should return soon." While she wouldn't mind seeing the new Arrancar's power, which were probably incredible, she didn't want to extend their stay for to long. Ichigo's aura diminished at Tier words, and he took a step back from Kenpachi.
"Sorry Kenpachi, we'll have to fight some other time." Ichigo said not taking his eyes off the Captain of Squad 11. His desire to fight the man was strong, but he also knew Harribel was uncomfortable here. So he put that urge on the back burner. Besides he could come back on his own another time.
"Backing out again, eh Kurosaki? You disappoint me." Kenpachi scoffed, his nostrils flaring as he breathed heavily outward.
"Oh trust me you'll get your fight, you'll just have to wait a bit longer." Ichigo raised his right hand in a wave, as he turned around and move to Tier.
"Sorry, I don't know what came over me." He said a bit sheepishly stopping in front of the beautiful Queen.
"It is quite alright, Kurosaki. Is there anyone else you wished to see before we leave? There is still some time before we need to leave." Harribel asked, wanting to return, but not object to seeing more of the Seireitei, and learning more about Ichigo.
"If you're sure you don't mind, I do have a few I'd like to meet."
"I'm sure there are those who want to know you are safe. I do not mind waiting a bit longer for such." Tier said a small smile behind her collar.
"Thanks Tia. I'll try and make it quick." Ichigo flashed her a smile, and then the trio left chamber, when Shunsui finished. Almost immediately they ran into a gathering of Lieutenant's, including Rukia, Renji, Matsumoto, and Yachiru.
A simple talk, turned into a party invitation, and that somehow ended up in the situation Tier and Ichigo now found themselves in. Both were sitting on the edge of a deck, outside a room in Squad One's Barracks, overlooking a small garden. They were looking up at the moonlit night sky, sitting a few feet apart from one another. The night sky in the Seireitei was something entirely different to the Hollow Queen. The sounds were so calming when compared to the endless silence of Hueco Mundo. A soft wind blew around them, making the evening smells and sounds come alive.
"I'm sorry Tia, I didn't mean for it to end up like this." Ichigo rubbed the back of his neck, as he leaned back, his left arm as a brace on the deck.
"It's fine Ichigo. The others know of our return tomorrow, and... it was an interesting experience. There is no need to apologize." Tier closed her eyes, smiling slightly, as she shook her head at Ichigo.
"Thanks. I'm glad it wasn't terrible for you. I know my friends can be a handful, but they are usually good people." Ichigo looked over at the moon bathed woman, next to him. Her tan skin shined in the light, and her eyes became teal reflecting pools while looking up at the Soul Society's moon. The slight movement of her hair in the wind, just accentuated the fact he was sitting next to an incredibly attractive and powerful woman. He felt a blush creep up on his face, as he looked behind them at the single open room.
"But I was more talking about the sleeping arrangements." Ichigo said with uncertainty. Tier followed his line of sight, and looked at the two laid out bed rolls in the room.
CHAPTER 2 END
A/N: *Pokes head out from behind a makeshift barricade* I'm so sorry! Seriously I am. I have my reasons, I do, but you don't want excuses from me I know. I can only try to churn out more sooner. The last few months have taken a toll on all of my writing. It didn't help this chapter was mostly character development. I always seem to do better when there are fight scenes or conflict. Anyways, I'm so glad so many of you stuck with me, and enjoy my story. The next chapter will explain the cliffhanger ending, as it'll cover what happened in the hours before. Please don't hate me, but I'm a bit selfish in I want to keep you interested. I can promise I will never abandon this story until it's conclusion, outside of overly extenuating circumstances. Thank you all for your support, I really mean it. Even the not so nice support. It really keeps me motivated. The next chapter will be fun, and heavily Tier and Ichigo interactions. So look forward to it. Thanks again everyone.
TheWickedTruth89: Short and sweet as always. Thanks.
Doombug: Sorry to make you wait so long, and thank you so much for liking my story.
Friaku: Thanks as always Friaku, and of course they have motives. Their motives have motives. But yeah I couldn't see Shunsui being nearly the stickler as Yama.
amir26r: Thanks, and I plan on stretching this out for a while. I need to make believable development. So slow and steady.
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KuramaFTW: It will not be a harem, I can guarantee it. But as stated in a previous review response, a little competition tends to help things along.
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