Disclaimer insert here: I don't own or have ever owned Bleach or High School DxD. Please buy their stuff so they don't go home poor and destitute. Thanks.
All characters belong to their rightful owners, except any OC monsters I make up. As usual an M rating is for future violence, dismemberments, gore, language, very foul language, and of course lemons will be in, but don't expect a ton of them. Again enjoy your time here.
Response to Reviews Corner 3: Well I'm not going to respond to individual reviews because frankly you guys tore into me pretty good. Last chapter brought out a lot of negative reviews and some very pointed ones. So let's not sugar coat it guys and gals, a lot of you hated it and that is one of those lessons all writers try to learn from. So before you all think I'm whining; I'm not. I will chalk up last chapter to you win some; you lose some, a lesson for me to learn from your reviews.
So am I'm going to explain or defend myself, nope. You guys have your opinions and I respect that, I did defend myself to some of you in PM, whether or not you are still here? ? ? So again I will put that down as a learning experience and try to do better. However I do have one issue to deal with. A few, and adamantly at that, express the desire to see Issei stay the pervert he is. We'll see is all I will say on that. I like him in the LN but here I am going to be honest and say it might not work. Who knows maybe I will find a happy medium.
Now normally I like to turn a blind eye to certain types of reviewers but I guess even I can reach a breaking point before getting irritated. So to guest who said I shouldn't be writing, all I can say is this; I can't sing and I got two left feet, I got no choice but this. But to answer your comment, read the Response to Reviews and the AN's at the ends, they are there for a reason, please read them. If not, that is why the PM was created.
So on to the next chapter and hopefully it makes up for the last one for you guys.
Beta and co-creator: Okami Princess, don't forget to include her in your reviews or send a PM to her with your thanks. But don't bother her on plot; she won't answer just like me :)
Also please read AN for any important news or information. Also any mistakes you find let me know so I can fix them or take a look at them, thanks.
'Even when she isn't here, she can still make him sweat.'
The white face of the zanpakutō spirit cannot help but wince every time his wielder gets hit by Conor O'Madaihin, whom he is currently sparring against. Although Conor had said he was more proficient with a spear, he was still good enough with a bokken; due to the spars he said he used to have with Vincent to help him practice his swordsmanship. With that, the beginning of this spar was pretty lopsided in Conor's favor as Ichigo tried to attack only to find his opponent was moves ahead of him. Now an hour or so into the practice spar, he was finally hitting and deflecting the bokken that had landed on him numerous times early on. Conor wasn't kidding when he said he was going to improve his wielder's fighting techniques and help him regain both his stamina and strength. The few other males in the room, stood nearby watching quietly, only offering the young lord advice when they saw something that needed correcting.
Standing next to them was the blue haired arrancar, nursing a bruised ego and a healing broken arm that he received from the knight of Amyntas's peerage, Edmund, when he thought the Espada was going to attack Ichigo, which he was trying to do. Smirking over him was the green-haired Nelliel as she pats the top of her mate's head as he sat there healing himself. Glancing at the woman arrancar, Zangetsu can see that her eyes are fixated on Ichigo's flowing form, frowning from time to time in his attacks or when he defends.
'Not as dumb as they think she is.'
"Time!" The call comes from his grandfather's sole knight Conor, as he puts down his practice sword.
Ichigo breathes deeply a few times before bowing to the warrior across from him. Kneeling on one knee, he listens to the older devil point out his flaws in his swordsmanship, and the things he was now getting right. As he does so, he can feel the growing excitement coming from the female Espada as her hand begins tugging on her own tsuka as she listens as well. Finally the devil looks down at his lord and quirks an eyebrow at the giddy Arrancar.
"Care to take my place Nelliel-san?"
In a burst of sonido, she is before Ichigo, peering down at him from her standing position. "Come on Itsygo, I want to see how you do against me now. You and Grimm-kitty can play next."
"Fine Nel. But don't say you haven't been warned. Bokken or…" He looks around until a steel blue daitō is placed in his hands from his grandfather's knight.
"It belonged to Vincent-sama Ichigo. I think for now you should use it."
Hefting the blade before his eyes, he sees a slight curve in the weapon, no scratches or marks along the blade anywhere. The tsuka is dressed in alternating colors of black and yellow diamonds; the tsuba was four curved points outwards and a single bar connecting them at the middle. At the end hanging off the kashira was a yellow ribbon with a very small but familiar looking medallion.
"Is this a Quincy Cross?" He asks as he touches the cool metal.
"Your grandmother's Ichigo. She wanted him to have it when they partook in the Rating Games. For luck she said." Merti informs him from her place by Zangetsu.
Looking over at his zanpakutō, he grins as he swings the weapon experimentally. Even Zangetsu can feel the weapon's power and it was supposed to be a nameless blade. Walking towards him, his hollowfied zanpakutō takes the blade from his hands and runs his hand down the blade. Smiling, Zangetsu hands it back to Ichigo.
"It will do for now King."
"Alright then, when you're ready Nel, we can begin." Conor says as he points towards the middle of the sparring room.
Getting back to his feet, Ichigo grips the weapon with two hands as he takes a standard stance against the veteran Espada standing a few meters from him. She pulls her zanpakutō out and gives her own weapon a few swings before she holds it down at her side lazily. Tapping the tip against her thigh high boots, she grins at her friend as he arches on of his eyebrows at her.
"Never knew that you would spar so easily Nelliel, what's changed?"
Her smile falters but a second before regaining her grin again. "My home is being invaded Ichigo, I need to get stronger and face opponents such as you to gain that strength. This is the only way I know of helping those weaker than me."
"Fair enough then Nelliel-san. So first one to yield and no limits on our weapons?"
"Cero and bala?"
"Chains and…hell what ever kidō I can remember?"
"Okay then. Conor if you don't mind?"
Zangetsu leans over to the elfin woman and whispers in her ear. "Ya might wanna put up a few barriers and shields around the room. Things will get dicey soon."
She looks at him and begins to understand what he is saying as she begins to erect multiple magical barriers and begins asking the other devils in the room to do so as well. Conor and the two warriors wait patiently until the tall dark-skinned legend nods her approval. Dropping his hand, he moves quickly outside of the combat area.
At first, the two stand there regarding each other, before Nelliel phases out and the first clash of metal on metal is heard as Ichigo parries her horizontal strike with ease. Pushing her blade down and away, he comes up and points his finger at her shoulder, barely grazing her as his Byakurai skims her uniform top. In answer, she drops a few bala at his feet, creating a cloud of debris and uses it to come at him from the top.
There she encounters his chains for the first time as they first block and then grab the Arrancar gently by the waist before she is violently sent sailing across the chamber. Using her reiatsu, she puts the brakes on her throw and within seconds stops her acceleration and then pushes forward at him. Sensing her approach, the devil sends out a few of his own Shakkahō fireballs and moves backwards and sets up an ambush with his chains.
Nelliel can only gasp as she feels the first of the spikes rip into her unguarded leg as she fails to sense the metal links lying in wait. Jumping back, she waves off her mate when she senses his worry and growing hostility.
"Not bad Ichigo, can you do…" She dives out of the way when eight blade tipped chains sail straight for her, each impacting the spot she was just standing in.
"I got a little bit of a dressing down this morning from Yoruichi after she found out how badly I did yesterday. Let's say avoiding playing eight hours of tag with her would motivate anyone to get better quickly. She is the fastest shinigami alive and I am no where near my old speed yet, so you'll have to excuse me if I don't take it easy on you guys anymore."
"That's good to hear Itsygo; I don't want to beat you easily. So I hope you don't mind if I do this…" Her reiatsu flares straight up as she utters the words any spiritual being not of Captain rank or higher in power, with the knowledge of her former rank would fear.
With that, she transform in her centaur form, her skull mask now covering more of her face and the horns extending high behind her head. Her fists, elbows and shoulders covered in bone armor and in her hand she holds her double sided lance. Stamping one of her hoofs, she smirks at the devil now standing before her in his black armor.
"I figure I needed it once you released Nelliel. I know the power you have; you did kick the shit out of Nnoitra in Hueco Mundo."
"So how do you want to do this then?"
"Go until one of us drops?"
She frowns at him then. "Ichigo, you are hiding the fact that your reiatsu has increased aren't you?"
Shrugging his shoulders, he slowly releases his power and energy slowly until even she raises an eyebrow when it stops at a level higher than what she remembers.
"Is that it?"
"For now Nelliel. I don't have a true zanpakutō yet, one of those things."
She looks over at Grimmjow as he is looking at the black clad devil. Twisting slightly, he nods at the fact that his armor is reminiscent of his Vasto Lorde form, but with more angular plates than the smooth skin of Hierro. Watching him closely, Nelliel begins to stray to one side only to see the black figure disappear before her, instincts call out to her. Ducking her head, she can feel the blade of his weapon sail through the empty air, barely catching a few strands of her hair.
She sonido to the opposite side, only for her to feel the approaching chains once again, deciding she has to up her own ante; she cuts her hand and begins to feed her cero before she lets it loose at him. Not moving, she can only watch in horror as the ball of her blood fueled weapon moves to connect with the still figure. The room fills with smoke as the Cero hits its target and as everyone waits, she again feels her instinct telling her to move again. As she does, a black and red Cero crashes down upon her now vacated space.
"A Gran Rey Cero?" Both she and Grimmjow look to the floating form of Ichigo as he points his daitō at her.
"Sorry Nelliel got out of control with that one. First time using it."
Grimmjow snarls at Ichigo. "Fucking watch it Naberius or I'll jump in and kick your ass!"
"Then do it." The distant voice replies. "Zangetsu, it's time."
The white version disappears from his place and the room begins to feel heavier, even Merti and the stronger Devils look up at the black-clad of the shinigami devil and wonder how much more can he put out.
"Grind Pantera!" The panther-like Arrancar roars out.
Swiftly joining his mate at her side, the two released Espada both charge up their strongest Cero and blast away at the still unmoving Ichigo. As their combined attacks streak towards him, he sends out his chains and breaks the attack apart before they continue and crash down in front of the now stunned pair. They split apart not knowing that the devil was counting on that as he sent half his chains against the woman and the other half against the man. Each dodging or deflecting his chains, never realizing he was simply closing the gap to his first target.
Nelliel froze when the cold steel brushes against her throat and the point of his horn made itself visible in her peripheral vision, a soft red glow forming as his own Cero charges up. "Sorry Nelliel, I can't have you swallowing this and using it against me."
She flies about fifty meters away when his attack hits her dead center of her back, her Hierro the only thing keeping her injuries from being life-threatening. It also had the added effect of causing the white release of Grimmjow to fly into a rage as he recklessly charges his target, obviously what Ichigo was hoping for. Ichigo disappears behind a wall of chains that Grimmjow slams into and begins to tear apart only for him to realize he has been ambushed as well when the chains begin to glow red and suddenly explode around him.
Ichigo catches the knocked out Grimmjow as he drops the floor of the training room. As he settles the slowly sealing panther next to his mate, Ichigo lifts his visor and looks over at Nelliel as she tries to heal herself.
"Merti, can you help her heal?"
Nelliel groans out as the elf forms a magic circle around her and Grimmjow and they both begin to heal rather quickly between the devil's magic and their own regeneration powers. She gives Ichigo an appraising look before she smirks at him.
"I always thought you liked it rough Itsygo." She laughs at his face-palm.
Shaking his head, he moans out at her. "Nel, for the love of…Ehmmp!"
He glares at the hand covering his mouth then. "Watch your words Ichigo, they can cause you harm."
The armor melts away as Ichigo stares at the Carles, his grandfather's bishop, as he takes his hand away from his mouth.
"Ichigo, saying 'His' name, even just thinking it, will bring you pain."
"What, you mean God?" He sees everyone flinch then.
"Ichigo, did you not feel pain just now?" Daiki asks as he stares worriedly at his young lord.
"Ah, no. Should I have?"
Each of the devils in the room is looking at him in astonishment then. Merti as she kneels next to the two recovering Arrancar summons one of the Cerberus. "Go to Lord Amyntas and ask for the Bible he has stashed away and bring it back."
"Yes Merti-sama." The young female hound disappears quickly.
Ichigo looks around the training area to see every other devil staring at him, getting cranky at what is going on, he finally growls out his frustration.
"Okay, what is everyone's problem? Is there some rule I am screwing with that I don't know yet?"
"No Ichigo, it's because you can say things we can't. Anything associated with 'Him' of the Angels can bring devils pain, and extreme injuries can occur if items associated with them are used against us, like with holy water, crosses, holy weapons and artifacts, or holy books like the Bible."
"Are you serious?! I've never had any problems with that stuff before now, so I thought that was a myth!?"
"You were human thanks to the seal back then, so I doubt it would affect you even if your maternal grandparents were devils."
Soon the minutes pass by before the young Hellhound returns with a small metal chest. Merti and Daiki take the case and gingerly place in on the ground before Ichigo's feet. Merti whispers to the box and steps back as the sealing magic releases the hidden locks. When the lid pops up a bit, the devils each step away, as Merti waves her hand at Ichigo.
"If you don't mind Ichigo, can you grab the Bible from the chest and hold it for as long as you can."
Thinking that the room is now filled with crazies, he picks up the book and notices the large cross on the front, frowning he points it at Merti, who reflexively takes a step back from the object.
"Are you sure this is supposed to hurt me? I feel fine."
"Just hold it for as long as you can Ichigo." Edmund Armistead commands.
"Fine, fine, I'll just stand here holding it."
'What the hell is their problem?'
"Could be something to do with the fact that they have been at war with the Angels for so long that sacred objects of the Christian faith could be dangerous to them. Or I am pulling shit out of my ass."
'Well, I wonder how long I'm going to be standing here then?'
"Well while we wait, you worried yet about why those two morons haven't let us near our Asauchi yet?"
'Yes, I'm getting worried. Kisuke should have come up with something by now.'
'I know. So help me with sealing our reiatsu some more as we wait this out.'
For three hours the devils watch the next Clan leader stand with a Bible in his hand with nothing happening. At first they thought he would drop it as any devil should, but within fifteen minutes they knew that the young devil was different from any other of their race. Merti and then Nelliel both realized early on that Ichigo was performing Jinzen while standing up as his reiatsu output slowly dropped over the course of time. It was only after the third hour that his body was finally began reacting to holding the holy book. At first no one saw it until Grimmjow asked what was burning.
Merti looking at her charge's hands sees the first wisps of faint smoke finally rise from his burning skin. Quickly she grabs a cloth from the chest and pulls the book from him, startling him as he snaps back to the world.
"Hey, what…?" He begins to ask before Merti points at his now healing hands.
Taking his hands and flipping them over, the reincarnated elf studies Ichigo's hands as they heal rapidly before her eyes. The semi-charred skin becoming tan with in a few seconds until nothing is left but smooth skin. Shaking her head, she lets them go.
"Not quite immune, but no other devil can do what you just did Ichigo. For us, just holding that 'book' would have been excruciating to us. All you had to show for it was some burnt skin and not even that now." She looks him in the eyes then. "You have changed the balance Ichigo."
"Well just great."
"Nothing Merti, just thinking. Ah, if you guys will excuse me, I need to eat and shower before I have to train with Momo and Rukia. I'll see you guys at dinner. Oh, Grimmjow, sorry for this morning. I forgot to tell her, my bad."
"Yeah, yeah. Just make sure I'm not going to get a fireball up my ass again Naberius."
Merti's smile causes a few of the peerage members to chuckle as well, causing the Espada to grumble as he stalks out after his rival. Nelliel openly laughs when the two men are gone.
"Both of them are idiots sometimes." The Arrancar snorts out.
Conor shakes his head as he was the first devil to find the petite shinigami and the blue-furred Espada trading blows just before breakfast.
"I had no idea that the two of them had a history of sorts."
Nelliel sheepishly looks around the members not aware of the early morning events. "Well he did stab her through the stomach, so I can see why she still holds a grudge. But Ichigo should have warned both of them that the other was here."
Daiki volunteers his own thoughts. "Well I guess we know why he kept the two on separate sides of the Estate, just bad luck your mate got itchy feet looking to spar with Ichigo."
"Thankfully Momo and Orihime were there to keep it from getting out of hand before Yoruichi and Conor were able to get between them." Edmund says with a chuckle as he remembers Conor holding the ice user from trying to skewer the befuddled hollow.
"I can't believe he actually forgot who she was. I think that is what pissed her off more, not that he was here, but that he forgot he tried to kill her. I'd be pretty annoyed myself with that if I was in her shoes." Akio, the missing rook from the day before from Vincent's peerage, says as he leans against his battle axe. He was obviously of Japanese descent, appearing to be in his mid twenties, with black hair and brown eyes, and was wearing a white martial arts Gi with the kanji for 'gold' in a golden yellow on the back. He also seemed to be pretty muscular too.
Nelliel rubs her head then. "It would be just like Ichigo to forget that himself. I can only wonder how training is going to go today."
Daiki, whom was wearing a traditional black kung fu uniform, walks away with a bit of mirth as he replies. "I don't think she will have an easy time Nelliel-san, after seeing him today, I doubt very much today will be like yesterday. But I have to agree with Ichigo, I'm hungry, and after watching him today, I think I'll need to train more myself."
Merti is the last one in the room, surveying the damage the three spiritually powered beings had created, she closes her eyes and soon the room begins to repair itself. When she opens her green orbs, she shakes her head as she leaves the room.
"Now I have a better idea of what the battles in the Winter War were like."
"If you and the peerages as well Amyntas and the Maou really want to see what Ichigo is capable of, come to the Library after lunch."
Merti wipes around to see the blonde-haired shinigami known as Kisuke leaning against a wall outside the training room.
"What do you mean Urahara-san?"
Kisuke pulls out a disk before answering. "I think it's time you saw, rather heard, what he did that day against Aizen. I wanted to wait, but I think his impatience about his zanpakutō needs to be addressed. This will help us explain things to him later, but first I want all of you to see what he actually did that day."
"You filmed it? How?"
Turning away, he shrugs his shoulders. "Some secrets belong only to me right now Merti-san. Only Ichigo will ever learn of them."
While lunchtime was normally her favorite time, Rias thought it was less exciting then usual since Ichigo was missing. The Kendo Club had elected Rukia and Momo to take over training the club for their matches until the orange-head coach could return. Their teacher had given them his work without asking too many questions, understanding his condition from last year must be the reason for his absence. The only other thing the group had to worry about was the fact that the Fallen Angels were still around, not active, but still in the vicinity of the Academy.
Yoruichi said she was keeping a closer eye on the group, but so far had made no move against them as of yet. Not that she was happy about not sending them back to be reincarnated, she had reluctantly agreed with both Amyntas and Venelana to let it go for now. So far they hadn't made an appearance except for the night they tried to kill Issei.
"What's wrong Buchou?" Akeno asks as she picks up a piece of her lunch.
"Nothing. I'm just bored." She responds as she picks at her own meal.
Rukia and Momo quietly snigger as they keep their heads down. Even Sōna rolls her eyes at her friend's behavior.
"You could always skip again Buchou-nee." The white-haired neko monotonously injects.
Shaking her head, she sighs. "No, he wouldn't want me to do that all the time, even he understands how a peerage works better now. He definitely wasn't happy to hear about the requests that Koneko or Akeno have had asked of them before. It wasn't until I assured him that none of us would ever entertain those requests."
Yuuto groans then as he slides down in his seat. "You didn't tell him about mine did you Buchou?"
Momo smiles at the young knight then. "I'm sure once he finds out how much of a gentleman you are with your contracts, he won't be so…"
"Can't call the kettle black."
The group settles down after making fun of their missing member, Sōna was asking Rukia and Momo about his family in Soul Society. Koneko wanted to know more about the twins, as did Yuuto for some reason. Akeno wanted to hear more about his time in Hueco Mundo after seeing Nelliel and Grimmjow this morning. That had lead to a new round of heated insults about the forgetful Berry-kun from Rukia.
Rias can't help thinking how much the group has become so open with each other, even with him not here; he would always be a part of her peerage. Looking at her new pawn, she can see him gazing outside the window in thought. Deciding she needs to engage talking with him, she asks the young man what was on his mind. He turns to her and rubbing the back of his head, he replies to her.
"The white version of him, his hollow zanpakutō, how exactly does it work? I mean does he and it talk all of time?"
Rukia who had been jabbing her fish violently stops as she talks with her own spirit. "Most shinigami can talk to their zanpakutō; in Ichigo's case he does it all the time. Because it is what Zangetsu is, a hybrid, an anomaly Issei-kun. You remember us speaking about Masaki-sama right?"
Seeing his answer, Rukia continues. "Well Zangetsu is a merger between Ichigo's Quincy, devil and hollow powers from Masaki-sama, his shinigami powers from Isshin-sama. No other zanpakutō exists like him, the only possibly is that maybe Karin or Yuzu might possess a mixed zanpakutō when he awakens their powers tomorrow. And the next possibility would be his…kids."
Everyone at the table then looks over at the Gremory heiress as her cheeks turns pinkish. Sputtering out, she holds them off quickly. "We haven't thought that far!"
"But you are thinking about it now Buchou?" Akeno sly asks.
"We're getting off topic here Akeno. So what else did you want to ask Rukia-san, Issei-kun?"
"Well can every zanpakutō come out and speak?"
Rukia and Momo both shake their heads at the same time, Momo answers. "No only a handful per generation can achieve Bankai, all the captains but one and a few of the lieutenants have bankai. I don't because I lack the strength right now. Part of Bankai training is the ability to manifest one's Zanpakutō into our world to face in a battle of submission. However I do find it odd that Zangetsu comes out as much as he does so easily. It normally takes a lot of reiryoku to keep them manifested."
"Is that odd Momo-san?" Tsubaki asks the lieutenant.
"Very odd Tsubaki-san. Normally one doesn't manifest their zanpakutō spirit in front of others. Maybe Zangetsu gets tired of being stuck in Ichigo's head. Can't really blame the poor guy, I would probably be grouchy if I was in the Berry's head all the time." Rukia says with a bit of amusement.
"Wait. So they are always there?" Rias's eyes getting wide at the implications.
Momo catches on first. "Why yes they are Rias-sama, are there things you don't want Zangetsu to know about?"
Most of the table stifles their laughter at seeing the shock on the crimson princess's face. She looks at the two shinigami and remembering that Rukia was engaged, she can only ask what it's like.
"Rukia, do they…you know…when ah…?"
Smiling genuinely then, the Kuchiki speaks honestly to her. "Shirayuki knows everything about me Rias, probably even better than I knew myself years ago. She was born of my soul; therefore she will always share my life with me. From when I fell in love, to when I marry Renji, she will be there my first child is born. They know us better than anyone else will ever be capable of, but they are also separate entities as well. They have their own ideas, emotions and sometimes their own goals to make us stronger. That is why Ichigo, Renji, Captain Ukitake and niisama all believe I will someday reach my own goal of Bankai. They believe in me as does Sode No Shirayuki."
"What is his bankai like?" Issei can't help asking in awe then.
"I can't say Issei-kun, while the blockhead does use it too much, we generally don't talk about it. I will say this though, when he uses it, it's too late for you. Only the Espada and most Captains at the time could stand against him, but if he defeated Aizen, then I can't even imagine what it is like now." Rukia finishes with a hint of pride.
Soon the bell signals the end of the lunch period and as the group heads back to their classes, Rias stops Rukia outside of their class then.
"Rukia is there anything I should know about dealing with Zangetsu?"
"Yes, remember he is a part of Ichigo's soul, they all are. Zangetsu will always look out for what Ichigo feels is his, you will be at the top of list along with Orihime, the twins and…"
"And you." The heiress ends.
"He will never put any one but family and friends first Rias, remember that. That is why he and Zangetsu are truly powerful; they both will do what ever it takes to protect what is theirs. Now come on before we get yelled at."
Yoruichi and Ichigo stood over the downed Isshin as he bled out on the floor, again.
"Dammit Goat-Face, why can't I have just one day of peace and quiet without you trying to screw up my sleep!?"
Moaning as the familiar orange dome once again covers him, his father rolls over. "Ichigo, I can't have you going soft on me, now can I?"
Cracking his knuckles, he stoops until he is looking down at his father. "As soon as Orihime is done healing you…" His chains begin to slink from behind his back, many of them forming large spheres at the end.
He laughs as his father's eyes get wide watching the slowly hovering weapons as they start circling him slowly by then. "Now Ichigo, that's not fair!"
"You said to die with a smile on my face, so I want to see if it's true when I kill you."
"Sorry Yuzu, but he does have it coming to him."
"I got to agree with him Yuzu. Dad does dumb shit like this all the time, it was only a matter of time before Ichigo decided to do this."
"Karin! That's Daddy he wants to kill!"
"He's dead already, so what's a little more?"
Yoruichi claps a hand on each of the twins' shoulders. "Your brother isn't going to do anything."
"You sure about that?" Karin and Ichigo say at the same time.
Venelana and Merti watch the exchange with a growing sense of normalcy. Since the arrival of the humans and shinigami, the devils have admittedly had the best entertainment in decades, if not a few centuries, with how they acted with each other. The best entertainment was either between Ichigo and Rukia arguing or Yoruichi and any one she felt like teasing, mostly Ichigo and Rias now. Venelana hasn't laughed so much until she met the mocha-skinned shinigami that first time at the spa. Since then, the woman has slowly grown to be a close friend, a devious one at that.
Merti couldn't imagine how her young lord could even be deemed normal after watching how his father acts around his children. She notices quickly that the girls were spared the physical altercations that he heaped on Ichigo, who responds just as equally back at his dad. Even now as Isshin lay on the floor, there was no real malice between son and father. Oh she knew they wouldn't hesitate to actually hurt the other to a certain point, but to them it was part of their routine, even with the others around they wouldn't hold back.
Soon the orange shield faded away as Orihime finishes healing the former shinigami captain, who somehow manages to get Yuzu between him and his son.
"Now, now son, that's no way to speak in front of your sisters!"
"Put Yuzu down and I might consider giving you a head start."
Kissing his youngest on her head, the family patriarch shunpo from the scene only to have his son disappear right behind him.
Karin looks at Yoruichi then. "Am I going to get that fast Yoruichi-sensei?"
"One day Karin, now come on I'm hungry. Tonight Ichigo is going to awaken Tatsuki's power and we need to be ready for anything."
Merti glances at the Shihōin princess then. "Trouble?"
"Kisuke anticipates nothing going wrong, but then again he didn't count on Ichigo being a devil."
The women all share a shudder after seeing what the orange-haired youth did in his fight against Aizen. None of the teens were made aware of the video, seeing how Kisuke didn't think they were ready to see Ichigo in such a way, especially his three sisters. Walking towards the sounds of mayhem from where the two males had fled, Merti can only shake her head in annoyance at the amount of items scattered along the hallways. Servants were busy repairing the damage father and son had caused in their wake. Finally sensing the two were outside, the women make their way to the balcony closest to the two combatants. Isshin grinning, as was his son facing him, both had their weapons drawn, both had a few cuts already.
"Daddy! Ichigo! Stop that this instant!" Yuzu shouts out.
To everyone's amazement the two men look at the youngest with sheepish looks. Ichigo sheaths his blade on his back, while Isshin puts Engetsu back on his hip and re-enters his gigai. Both give each other a shove as they make their way back to the women.
"He started it Yuzu my darling daughter!" Isshin says pointing at his son.
"You were the one who started it years ago, you moron!"
"Both of you knock it off. I want to eat lunch in peace today." Karin says as she leaves.
"Asshole." Ichigo quietly gets out.
"Wimp." Isshin retorts.
"Both of you shut it!" Yoruichi shouts out from inside the dining room.
Father and son sit on opposite sides of the table, Ichigo between Yuzu and Karin, Isshin sitting between Merti and Yoruichi. Soon the rest of the peerages and his friends make their way to the room. Orihime and Tatsuki were talking to Chad and Uryū about what the karate champion's power might be like after tonight. Ichigo does his best to hide his grimace, however Karin had seen it.
Leaning so only her brother could hear her, she whispers to him. "Ichigo, it will be okay. I trust you, she trusts you."
Looking at his sister, he smiles. "Thanks Karin."
It wasn't long before Kisuke and the rest of the shouten shows up for lunch. Sitting at the opposite end of the table, the hat missing from his head after a not so gentle reminder from Merti, he clears his throat.
"Ah, excuse me. But I have an important announcement to make. Ichigo, after considerable study, I'm afraid your Asauchi won't work for you."
No one could react in time to stop the white ghost from gripping Kisuke around his throat and lifting him straight up in unbridled fury.
"Speak quickly Geta-Boshi before I kill you. This is yours and Dad's fault that we are even in this position. This is what happens when you keep secrets from us. Now you're telling us we can't be whole, I can't be what I'm supposed to be. One reason Urahara, give me one reason not to kill you now." Even Ichigo could feel the slight shiver of fear he felt at seeing Zangetsu so calm, but his killing intent filling the room so completely, as he stares down the greatest mind from Soul Society.
Looking into the black and gold eyes, Kisuke could only image if this is what Aizen saw just before his head was ripped off.
"Choking Zangetsu." He manages to get out before Ichigo barking at his spirit gets his throat freed.
Tessai hands him a glass of wine quickly. Swallowing as quickly as he can, he holds up his hand showing he was fine.
"I guess I deserved that Zangetsu, Ichigo."
"Kisuke spit it out. I get it that you weren't done, but as you can see, Zangetsu is tired of waiting, as am I. Now what the hell is the problem?"
"Thank you Ichigo for that insight." He keeps a wary eye on the still raging zanpakutō. "However I have come to the conclusion that because of your new bloodline, a normal Asauchi will not work for you."
This time Ichigo has to hold his blade back from attacking. "Stop Zangetsu, you know how much of an over dramatic moron he is. So stop fucking around Kisuke!"
As he was about to pull out his fan, he stops when Yoruichi's hand settles on the butter knife in front of her. Gulping he knows exactly what she is thinking. Slowly taking his hand from his haori, he shifts in his seat before speaking to the deadly trio.
"Zangetsu is unlike any zanpakutō in existence, we all agree on this. So taking in account these new facts, Tessai and I visited someone who I thought could give us some help with Ichigo and Zangetsu's problem. He did in fact come to the same conclusions as I did and offered us only one alternative."
"So help me Kisuke, if you don't stop right now!"
"Yare, yare Yoruichi I'm getting there. The solution to Ichigo's problem is simple. He has to see Hephaestus."
"Huh? / Who?" The two question.
"Hephaestus is the Greek god of the forge Ichigo. He is responsible for the weapons of the ancient gods of Greece." Amyntas says in shock.
"You know this guy?" Ichigo says as he pulls Zangetsu into an empty seat near him.
"Yes I do, as do most devils. We have…an arrangement."
"What kind of arrangement Uncle?"
"He supplies us with the weapons we need to fight the Angels and Fallen Angels and we give him the materials needed to forge them, plus a substantial amount of gold. Of course he has similar arrangements with most of the other factions as well. The gold is just so he can purchase more materials for his own projects."
"So, he's like a mercenary or something?" Zangetsu says while glaring at the hatless Kisuke.
"He is an independent contractor in a manner of speaking. Once the Greek gods lost favor and they retreated back to Mount Olympus, he started selling out his services to any who would pay or give him the needed materials for him to forge their weapons." Kisuke drones out monotonously, a fact he knew would irritate Ichigo.
"Then exactly how is he going to help me and Zangetsu Kisuke?" Ichigo begins glaring just as hard at his sometimes mental mentor.
"Simple Ichigo, you are going to Isle of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea. There you will see Hephaestus and give him a gift to help reforge Zangetsu."
"That depends on what he wants Ichigo. You'll find out once you and Orihime get there."
The brown-eyed devil glances at his adopted sister with a curious look in his eyes. "Why do I have to take Orihime? I'm not going to take her if she is going to get hurt, so forget it Kisuke."
This time he is able to get his fan out, ducking at the same time when a butter knife flies by his head. "Now Ichigo, I would never endanger your family, not even I'm that stupid. Don't comment any of you. As I was saying, Orihime I believe will be able to help you gain favor with Hephaestus when you meet with him."
Ichigo and Zangetsu grow quiet, Karin finally noticing the blank look for what it was now, he and his zanpakutō were talking to each other. Now and then, he or Zangetsu would make a facial expression that was easily identifiable; from his famous scowl to what she thought might be a small grin. Soon the two become animated once again as Ichigo and his white copy turn towards her older sister.
"You up to this Orihime…oneechan?" He says with a smirk.
Smiling back she answers him. "Of course…oniichan."
Turning to his uncle, Ichigo raises an eyebrow. "So how do I get to Lemnos Uncle?"
"Well Ichigo I guess we know what you will be doing after dinner now. You and I will be practicing your teleporting magic before you and Tatsuki have your 'date' as they say."
"What!? / Dammit Yoruichi!"
"How is that my fault Berry-kun!?" She says as she points a fork at Ichigo threateningly.
"Easy, you corrupt everyone around you eventually! If you don't believe me, ask Goat-Face and…shit!" He slowly looks at the two innocent looking shinigami then.
"Nope, no idea about what you're talking about Ichigo. How about you Isshin, any idea what your boy is talking about?"
"No idea Kisuke. My boy would never, ever blame someone else for his problems."
"Well, I guess paybacks are indeed a bitch King. Come on, we have to get ready to put a beat down on Chappy-sama and her sidekick today." Zangetsu fades away laughing as Ichigo grumbles as he stands up to leave, turning he looks at his auburn-haired sister.
"See ya's then. Orihime if you don't want to go, I won't force you, got it."
"Don't worry Ichigo, I'll be fine. I'll meet up with you when you are practicing with Rukia and Momo-chan."
Nodding to his Uncle, Ichigo and Merti leave the room talking quietly between themselves. Kisuke slides down in his chair then as Isshin slumps in his at the same time. Yoruichi gulps her wine as the others in the room notice the three shinigami seem very relaxed suddenly.
"What just happened Daddy?"
"We might have started your brother down a path he can no longer avoid Yuzu." Isshin looks at the doorway his son just left through. "He will become the center of not just the Underworld, but possibly the entire Afterlife as well once Zangetsu is made whole."
One of his white legs swings lazily over the side of his new home, the moat of blue fire lapping the side of the black stone, never burning nor heating the foundation. Next to him is the only other inhabitant of his wielder's new world, a young child perhaps ten or eleven years old. Her eyes occasionally glance towards the older male as he lies on his back, a smirk playing at his lips.
"I see you smiling Zangetsu, why?" She readies herself.
Stretching his arms over his head, but not once cracking his closed eyelids, he simply smiles at her.
Getting to her feet, she gets into a crouch. "I know that look Zangetsu, you ain't fooling me."
Her eyes go wide when he disappears from his prone position, not even waiting; she jumps off the side of the black castle and plummets down the side of the towering structure. Soon she looks over her shoulders to yelp when his black sclera eyes are less than a foot from her.
"Zangetsu!" She cries out as his arms wrap around her waist and he sonido towards the flat planes a few hundred meters away from the moat.
Setting her down, he swiftly dodges her swing foot. "Oi squirt! I thought you like the thrill of the fall."
Huffing as she crosses her arms under her budding mounds, she narrows her eyes at him. "I do, but sometimes I wish I could do what you and Ichi can."
Ruffling her hair, he begins walking towards the forest surrounding their home, waving for her to follow; he begins to question the young girl.
"So, you don't know how you got here, why you are here, or if you even have powers. And I don't know what you are either; you aren't a plus soul, so the Hōgyoku is out. You aren't a hollow, no hole. So basically we have no idea who or what you are."
"Sorry Zangetsu. I just felt like I should be here with you two." She stops as she looks up at the white male.
Looking down at her, he has notice she has gotten a bit taller and she seems to be ageing. Yet her reiatsu was still nil and if she was anything else, he should have felt something. Hoisting her back to his shoulders, he begins walking into the blackened woods, never bothering with the creatures stirring around him; he makes his way to a different spot, a small cottage hidden carefully among the tall trees. Opening the door, he lets her down as he makes his way deeper into the small home. The child immediately makes her way to a couch and lies down as she waits for her caretaker to return from the other room. She smiles when she can smell the treat he calls hot chocolate in the air. Her eyes trace his hands movements as he places it on the small table in front of her.
"Thank you Zangetsu."
"No problem kid." He smirks as he sits down in his own chair; the only other one was reserved for his wielder once he figured out this is where his zanpakutō came when he needs to keep their lives separate.
Not that he minded keeping an eye on his wielder; he knew Ichigo needed privacy from time to time, especially when it came to him thinking about their mother, and now that he found his Queen. Even Zangetsu would hide his feelings for the woman that in part was his mother, even if she never gave birth to him, he came from her. She had been the one thing they would always agree on, her death was what caused them to become the hardened warrior they were now. Ichigo, because he never wanted his sisters to suffer another loss like that, him to prevent his wielder from being the cause of the loss of anyone else he cared for. Now the two of them were only a day or two away from regaining their true weapon, their true form, and the missing part of their soul.
Soon his thoughts were pulled from thinking about their mother to the woman that now brought stability to their inner-world. He can't help the smile that forms as his thoughts shift from sadness to giddiness. Rias Gremory had done what no other woman had been able to do at this point in Ichigo's life, make him fall in love. Thinking about the various women, from Tatsuki to Yoruichi, the hollowfied spirit had always wondered why his partner never thought of them as something more than a friend. Not that any of them were unworthy of the orange-head's attention, it was that he was just too damn dense and respectful towards them. If they hadn't of been separated form each other, he wonders what would have changed back then. Then again, Rias was perfect for his King, she was powerful, open, knew how to keep him in line, and most of all, loved him for what he was.
Rukia had been the closest to being with his King, but the one thing they couldn't overcome was that she would have had to return to Soul Society eventually and he was still alive as a human. He knew Ichigo had wanted it work, but deep inside he knew that it wouldn't, since he never wanted Rukia to have to go through the pain of watching his human body grow old and die. Compared to how shinigami aged, while she would remain young, he would have refused to let his human body die prematurely and put his family through that heartache again, which is why he let the shinigami princess go. Zangetsu remembers the weather during the weeks that followed, cloudy with some heavy downpours, but in time it gradually faded as the war ramped up.
The next closest had been his childhood friend, Tatsuki, she would have made a fine match, but again the Afterlife had ruined any chance of that, since he'd always have to keep his life as a shinigami a secret from her, and Ichigo had not wanted to lie to her like that if they had got into a relationship. Plus, once he became a shinigami, the karate champ had no way of matching him in terms of power or abilities, and Ichigo did not want Tatsuki to get hurt just because she got too close to him. The list only grew as the zanpakutō gleaned over the women that had somehow threaded their way into his heart as someone he would die to protect.
"Zangetsu what are thinking about?" The child asks as she looks at him.
His black and golden-yellow eyes sweep towards the young girl sitting on the couch. "Just wondering what Masaki-sama would be feeling now that she has two new daughters in her family's life."
The young girl slides off the couch and into his lap as she snuggles into his chest. "Do you think she would approve of Rias-sama?"
"You miss her, don't you?"
"He and I both do Imp."
"Are ya still gonna go Captain?" The blonde Vizard asks of his walking companion.
Steel-grey eyes betray nothing, but inside he was a swirling mass of emotions. Despite Captain Ukitake's assurances, the Kuchiki noble couldn't help the feeling that his younger sister was hiding something. The preposterous report was just that, preposterous, but there laid the problem. It was so ridiculous that he was sure she was lying; however the same report from Momo hadn't bothered Shinji Hirako at all. All he would say on the matter was that he felt his lieutenant was just enjoying her first long term mission and had gotten caught up in the moment, as well as the fact she had grown much stronger under his tutelage. He knows not to interfere, but she is his sister, Renji's fiancée, and more importantly, the future Kuchiki Heir. Her safety was paramount to him at this point in his life and in his new relationship with Hisana's younger sibling.
Casting a calculating look to the half hollow Captain, he can see the amusement dancing in the man's eyes. Breaking the cold noble image he is famous for, he relents and answers truthfully.
"I will give her a few days and then I will visit her."
"Say hello to my lieutenant when ya get there then Bya."
Sōna sat with the twins and Orihime watching the three shinigami beat the hell out of each other during their kidō spar. The Sitri heiress could only flinch from time to time watching her cousin get hit with fire, lightning, or ice from the Kuchiki princess, while her partner would use her superior Bakudō spells to keep him in place for the few moments needed before his reiatsu broke him out. Despite the blood and cuts, the three seem to be enjoying themselves in the mock battle. Ichigo was laughing now and then when he would score a hit with his own kidō spell, each getting progressively stronger as the sparring went on. They knew the end was coming when once again Momo bowed out from exhaustion from the nearly two hours of kidō casting.
Touching down next to Orihime, Sōna heard the petite shinigami groan out in appreciation when the now-familiar orange dome envelopes her, healing her almost instantaneously. She lies next to them, breathing heavily as she looks up at the fake sky above them and lets out a huff.
"I can't believe those two."
Yuzu quips up and asks why.
"They don't know what the word quit means. I understand your brother has always been like this, but watching Rukia drive herself the same way makes me jealous that I can't keep up with them yet. Even now, the two of them are still going at it."
Sōna notices the same thing about her cousin; he never seems to tire or even thinks of quitting from what she has seen and has been told from his mentors, Kisuke Urahara and Yoruichi Shihōin. Both of the former captains had trained him early on in his shinigami powers and both had agreed he would have one day stood a chance at challenging the current Head-Captain. But that was no longer an issue; his path was now laid out before him. She smiles as she watches the two build up for their last attack.
"Oi Midget just wanted to say sorry before hand!" Ichigo shouts from his position.
Her reiatsu slowly saturates the air around as she build up for her best kidō. "Berry-chan, I hope you don't mind me kicking your ass again, especially in front of your family!"
She disappears in a flicker of shunpo before appearing over his head. "Ye lord! Mask of blood and flesh, all creation, flutter of wings, ye who bears the name of Man! On the wall of blue flame, inscribe a twin lotus! In the abyss of conflagration, wait at the far heavens!Hadō Number Seventy Three! Sōren Sōkatsui!"
Orihime's shield instantly sprang up between the five spectators and the explosion of fire and dirt that erupts from the spot Ichigo had been standing. Rukia lands close to the group, her back to them as she surveys the damage to training dimension.
"Ichigo?" The raven-haired shinigami calls out.
When the dust finally settles, there is no sign of the intended victim, causing the six teenage women to look around in worry. However Rukia flies forward instinctively when a wall of white electricity touches the ground behind her, nearly catching her in its raging conflagration.
"Dammit Ichigo! You could've killed your sisters you moron!" The violent shinigami screams.
Waving his hand to move the dust from his attack away from his face, he points to the familiar shield as it keeps the five women safely protected behind it.
"Oi, you really think Orihime would've let that happen?"
Lunging for his throat, she narrows her eyes in confusion as he begins to grin widely at her. "Bakudō Number One! Sai!"
Stumbling to the ground and falling to the front of his feet, Rukia glares up at him as he begins laughing and holding his sides. "Do you know how long I've been waiting to spring that on you Midget!?"
"You better let me out Ichigo or so help me…"
Then the air takes a sudden plunge as the air around them begins to drop rapidly in temperature. Not letting it faze him, the devil makes his way to kneel besides the struggling Kuchiki. She watches as he exaggerates his hand movements, bringing it down to her ribs, he gives her one last smirk.
"NO ICHIGO!" She begins screaming as he starts tickling her ribs, taking a quick glance he motions to Yuzu and Karin.
"Come on you two! You know you wanna!"
As the two younger women charged the older one on the ground, Ichigo backs away a safe distance. After letting his twin sisters get their fill, he releases the Bakudō and soon grins as the shorter shinigami gets her revenge. The three soon fall too quiet for his tastes and his intuition fails him when he finds his hands behind him now and his sisters, all three of them attack with a vengeance. Soon he has four sets of hands bringing him to tears as they tickle him.
"It's hard to believe." Momo whispers quietly to Sōna.
"That he can still smile and laugh after everything he has gone through."
Sōna looks at the shinigami and sees a distant look in her eyes. "Did you ever work with Ichigo?"
"No, I was Captain Aizen's lieutenant; I never actually met him until that day at Kuoh."
Sōna stares at the young woman. "You were his lieutenant?"
"The person I keep in my heart wasn't real Sitri-sama, because of Ichigo I know that now, but I still believe in the person I served for so long. Before you ask, I don't blame Ichigo for what he did. We all know now what his zanpakutō was capable of, so he freed me from that dream when he killed Aizen."
"And now?" Sōna gestures towards her cousin.
"Now I know the truth and that Ichigo was aptly named."
"Masaki-sama must have known somehow when he was born." A familiar voice says as she walks to the observing two women.
"Merti-san." Momo says with a small bow.
Sōna gives a small nod to the larger woman. "Merti-san I guess it's time for dinner soon?"
"Yes, I come to retrieve Ichigo and his sisters. Tonight will see Ichigo learn his first magic spell from his uncle and then he has to awaken Tatsuki's powers according to Yoruichi-sama."
Momo casts a quick glance at the young devil as he fights off his two younger siblings. "Hard to believe that she too has powers of her own."
"Does that bother you Momo?" Merti asks.
"Not anymore Merti. Before it would've been hard to imagine so many humans from one place could be so gifted, now though, not so much. Orihime's with her healing abilities, Sado-kun's arms, and Uryū being a Quincy, each of them fighting in a war at fifteen and that each survived when two of them shouldn't have even known of our world. Now they are linked forever to Ichigo and to Soul Society as its greatest heroes."
"Yet your government condemned Ichigo." Sōna remarks with a frown.
"I still don't know why they did that Sitri-sama." The Squad Five lieutenant replies with her own frown.
"When Ichigo trains tonight with Lord Amyntas, all of you will be shown the reason why. Yoruichi and Isshin decided earlier that each of you must know the truth over Urahara's objections. Be prepared though, the ending was…brutal." Merti then steps away from the two before calling out to Ichigo.
"Ichigo, it is close to time for dinner, and Rias-sama and her peerage will be arriving soon."
Ichigo waves from the bottom of the pile before he fights his way free by using his speed to tickle each of his attackers until they are red-faced laughing messes. When he finishes, he lifts them each to their feet, earning a glare or two before they join the other three.
"Merti, I got time for a shower?"
"Yes Ichigo, there is time for you, Rukia and Momo to clean up before then."
"Alright then, I'll see you guys at dinner." He disappears in shunpo, leaving them behind.
"You okay Rukia?" Momo says with feign innocence.
Rukia glares at her then. "I didn't see you in there Momo? Why's that?"
Snorting as she prepares her own shunpo, she glances at her friend. "Because I'm not a masochist Rukia."
She disappears leaving three women laughing at the petite woman, the youngest two are thinking about what she said, before Yuzu begins blushing and Karin looks at her brother's best friend with wide eyes.
"Rukia-nee are you…?"
"NO DAMMIT! She…dammit Momo I'm going to kill you!" Rukia also disappears to chase down the other woman.
Merti chuckles before placing a hand on each of the twin's shoulders. "Come along Karin-sama, Yuzu-sama. We need to get you ready for tonight as well."
Yuzu smiles as she grabs the elfin woman's hand. "I can't wait to see Ichi-nii practice his magic tonight Merti-chan. Do you think I will be able to learn too?"
"Of course you will Yuzu-sama. As soon as your devil blood is awakened, you will be able to use magic like the rest of us."
"About that Merti, what exactly is going to happen to me and Yuzu, besides becoming devils? I mean do we have to go through some ritual or something?"
"I think Ichigo and Amyntas-sama will inform you of what will take place."
Sōna gives the twins a reassuring look then. "Karin-san, it will be okay. All Ichigo is going to do is pour some of his power into each of you to break the seal on your blood. It shouldn't hurt when he does so, the only thing you should be aware of is when your wings appear for the first time."
Merti and Sōna both allow their wings to spread from their backs. Sōna's are the familiar black, while Merti's are a deep red-brown. The twins and Orihime look at them in awe and hesitantly reach for them.
"Please go ahead, it won't hurt." Merti says as she dips hers down for them to feel.
"I can't wait to see mine." Yuzu squeaks out.
"I'm jealous of you two." Orihime says as she pouts.
"Onee-san, you can get your own if you become a devil right? So ask Ichi-nii to make you into a devil." The lighter hair twin blurts out.
Sōna and Merti cast glances at each other than as they observe the look of deep thought that shows in the healer's eyes. Orihime shakes her head then and sighs out.
"Ichigo would never allow me to become a devil Yuzu-chan. I think he wouldn't allow me to take part in the Rating Games that Sōna-chan and Rias-chan spoke about."
No one says a word after that as they leave the false dimension behind.
Ichigo can only watch in amusement as Rukia and Grimmjow glare at each other while eating, the arrancar being served reishi enriched food that could serve as a substitute for their usual diet. Catching Nelliel's eyes, she rolls them first before slapping her mate upside his head.
"Enough Grimmjow, we are guests here." She chides her mate slightly.
He huffs out in annoyance then. "Hard to eat with her stabbing me with her eyes Nel."
"I can't believe you forgot who I was!"
"Not my problem shinigami, I was after the strongest one there, you…" He flinches when he is again slapped.
"Grimmjow." The former Espada's voice hardens slightly.
Momo lays her hand on her friend's hand. "Rukia the war is over. They are here because of Ichigo. If he trusts them, we should give them a chance."
"Fine Momo, I'll do it for Ichigo."
"So Naberius." The blue-haired arrancar smirks as he picks up a piece of chicken. "Is she your mate?"
Rias blinks as she turns to look at the hollow. "She will be soon Grimmjow. That's why you and Nelliel are here, to help me train after I get Zangetsu. I'm going to challenge her intended for her hand."
"So I guess you're going to go all out then Itsygo?" Nelliel asks with her own grin forming.
"Of course, between you, my family's peerages and the others, I think I should be ready in a month's time. I'm not going to let her marry someone she doesn't love."
Nelliel looks at the crimson devil then. "Why not just say no Rias?"
She feels a slight tension in the air from the devils surrounding her, glancing at Merti next to her, she questions the change.
"Because all pure-bloods are expected to marry another pure-blood to keep the nobility viable Nelliel-san. Lord Phenex is one such devil and Rias-sama's family didn't know about Ichigo until after the arrangements."
"Well that sucks. It isn't much unlike how Grimmjow won me."
Akeno stops eating then. "How does your kind pick Nelliel-san?"
Grimmjow cracks a grin then. "I fought her."
Ichigo can feel Zangetsu laughing in his head then. 'What's so funny?'
"I was just thinking about who wears the pants in their relationship. Nelliel was the third while he was only the sixth."
Ichigo keeps his eyes down then, knowing if he looks at the male arrancar, he might break out in laughter at the image in his head.
'At least she's happy with him.'
"We'll be there soon enough King with our own Queen. And just think of the spars we'll get with them around."
'Yeah.' His smile creeps onto his face.
Rias sees his face then. "Ichigo are you okay?"
"I'm fine Rias, just thinking that in a few days we'll be whole again."
Ichigo grips her hand before he resumes his dinner, thinking about his lesson that will be held after dinner with his great-grandfather. He has to admit, he was looking forward to learning his family's magic after seeing how proficient it worked, and during his training with the peerages, how devastating their offensive and defensive capabilities were.
Akiko showed him how combining the fire of her kitsune heritage with her chains could cause massive injuries often resulting in fatalities against her foes. Her daughter Hanako had begun teaching him her Tōki techniques, which combined with her Yōjutsu and Senjutsu, had both offensive and defensive movements he couldn't hope to match currently. She had also told him of another use of Senjutsu, one which he had wished not to have known about, the Bōchujutsu, aka the bedroom jutsu. She and her mother both laughed when his face turned pink upon being told how it worked exactly, something that Rias found interesting when she heard the use herself.
As he raises his glass, he sees Tatsuki nod her head towards the dining room balcony. Watching as she leaves the table after laying a hand to keep Orihime from following, he leans towards Rias.
"I'll be right back; I think Tatsuki wants to talk to me real quick."
She kisses his cheek before nodding for him to leave. Getting up after excusing himself, he grabs his glass of water and follows his oldest friend out into the night sky of the Underworld. Seeing her leaning against the railing as she looks over the darkened grounds, he comes up next to her and leans against the stone rail with his back. She doesn't say a word for the first few minutes; instead he can see her face shift through a series of concentrated looks before she begins speaking to him.
"Ichigo, I talked to Kisuke, Venelana and your uncle this afternoon about my…situation." He flinches at her pause.
"And?" He questions quietly.
"With or without Zangetsu, Kisuke said it would be too dangerous for me to gain my powers the same way you did with Rukia."
He and his zanpakutō are now both tensing up. He looks at her from the corner of his eye to see her smile sadly before she continues.
"Venelana and your uncle both agree with him that there is only one safe way for you to save me."
"What do you mean 'save you' Tatsuki?" Now he is starting to worry about his friend.
She leans back and turns towards him, placing a hand on his face she stares at him with acceptance and resignation.
"Ichigo…it wasn't what we wanted, but the only safe way for you to awaken my powers is for you to make me a devil. Shhh, don't say a word until I finish. Kisuke figures that with your training, if you stab me with your zanpakutō, you would tear my soul apart before we could finish the transfer. My soul he said was exposed to too much of yours and Aizen's reiatsu during the war and because of that, my reiryoku is in too much flux, I need something to stabilize it quickly."
Cupping his face as she looks into his eyes, she can see both his worry and depression setting in. "Stop it Ichigo, it's not your fault. It was his Ichigo. I and the others would never blame you or condemn you for what has happened. Too be honest, I'm glad about this. I can finally stand with you guys, instead of staying home and worrying to death if you guys are ever going to come back."
"Ichigo, I can't and won't accept an Evil Piece from anyone but you. Please Ichigo, for me."
She places her forehead on his as he dips down in defeat and sadness. "Are you sure?"
"Yes Ichigo, I'm sure."
"I told her already. She…she's jealous by the way. She said she saw Sōna's and Merti's wings and wants her own now."
He can't help but chuckle then. "I can't believe I am going to do this, and with my oldest and one of my best friends is going to become my first peerage member."
She hugs him then. "Thank you Ichigo. I promise to listen and train as hard as I can."
Hugging her back, he lays his cheek on her head. "You better Tatsuki, you can only imagine what I will do if you get seriously hurt."
"I know Ichigo. Come on before we worry the others."
Stepping away from each other, Ichigo waves her to go on without him. Watching his spiky-haired friend leave, he leans back against the stone once again. Looking into his glass, he doesn't fail to notice his assistant standing next to him.
"She is strong Ichigo."
"I know Merti, but I'll never be okay with what or will happen to any of them. Tatsuki's was the normal one out of us, and now I'm going to be taking that away from her."
The woman stood next to him, looking out onto the grounds before speaking to him. "Ichigo, I believe she is well aware of what is going to happen to her tonight. Yet she does so willingly, she has chosen to stand with you as a member of your peerage Lord Ichigo Naberius. Make her choice a worthy one and help her become stronger as a member of our Clan."
"I'm going to kick her ass every day you know this right?" He says with a smirk
Grinning at her lord, the elf chuckles devilishly back. "And I will be standing with you when you do so Ichigo."
"Then you will help me train her then."
"Of course Ichigo, it goes without saying."
"Then tonight you will help me reincarnate my first peerage member."
Taking his arm into hers, she leads him back to the dining room. "Tonight you save a friend's life Ichigo. Remember that always."
Ichigo stands next to his uncle as he goes over in his head the simple instructions he was given. He could hear Zangetsu chuckling in his head at how easy the spell is, but of course they both knew that even with Ichigo's control over his reiryoku and devil powers being easier now, there was still a chance he could screw it up. Taking one deep breath, he forms the destination in his head that he wants and begins to form his devil energy around him. He doesn't sense anything until it's too late when that all too familiar feeling of the gut retching sensation reaches him. He immediately lurches forward when he opens his eyes and sees that he has been successful in his first attempt.
'Holy shit Zangetsu! I did it!'
"That's nice King, but I think we should get the fuck out of here!"
Ichigo looks down at the white city that is nestled below the tower-like cliff of Sōkyoku Hill. A brief feeling of longing enters his chest, but the reality of being condemned to death by Central Forty Six brought forth a new bitter emotion to him, betrayal. Taking one last glance, he forms the sands of Hueco Mundo in his mind and as his power gathers once again, he feels the power transporting him once again to his new destination.
Suì-Fēng couldn't believe what she just saw, she knew it should be impossible but she knew who she had seen. She had arrived well before her subordinates and for the first time in her life, she was relieved she had done so. If any of her squad had seen the orange-haired kid, she would have been forced to report to Head-Captain that Ichigo Kurosaki was no longer powerless or if she had to guess, no longer an amnesic.
As her squad arrives, she turns towards them and waves the all clear to them. As they leave, she glances back to where she had seen the strange light coming from under his feet.
'I'll have to tell Yoruichi to keep a leash on her student.'
Ichigo is staring down at the blood spilling out from the white clad woman lying at his feet. Zangetsu standing next to him as he too looks down at the unconscious woman, nudging her with his sandal covered foot, the white spirit narrows his eyes at the white uniform. Ichigo had almost no time to react, when as he was gaining his bearings, he dove out of the way when his chains came ripping out from his body to create a wall between him and his unannounced attackers. Using his high speed techniques, he quickly gained the advantage over his less experienced opponents by appearing behind them. Not even bothering to ask why they had attacked him, he struck at them based upon the rumors describing their white uniforms.
He had been shocked at first that a few had been able to escape him, but taking the lessons he had just gone through with Akiko and the rest of the peerages, he sent half his chains into the sands and let them hunt down his prey, the few that thought to stand toe to toe with him had died fairly easy. Flicking the blood off of his grandfather's blade, he closes his eyes for a few seconds and senses no one close to his position. Kneeling down, he checks the pulse of the woman under him and frowns as she starts to stir back to consciousness.
"What do you think Zangetsu?"
"She's a Quincy Ichigo. How are they even here? And what are they even doing here?"
"Questions for Geta-Boshi to ask her then? Maybe with Nelliel and Grimmjow back at the Estate, they can help him interrogate her."
They both look at the skimpy clad woman, her shorts and her rolled up shirt expose most of her fair skin, he hadn't seen her face, but her long green hair was getting darker from the blood seeping from her head wound. Grunting as he kneels next to her, he easily lifts her to his shoulder and throws her over it. Looking around at the still cooling bodies, he grimaces and looks at his hollowfied zanpakutō.
"Burn 'em Ichigo. Leave nothing for them to identify."
Nodding in understanding, he forms his chains once again and as each of them seeks a body, he unleashes hellish flames of blue to destroy the bodies in short time. Once the two hybrids are satisfied, the zanpakutō goes back to his world and the future heir forms a image of his new home in his mind. Again he feels the tugging but unlike the previous times, it has less of an affect on his body.
As soon as he appears under the Great Dome, he drops the body to his feet. He can feel the air instantly change as the numerous Cerberus guarding the home of his Clan become instantly alert. Turning to the largest male, he points down at the woman.
"I need someone to get my Dad, Kisuke, Yoruichi and Ryūken, as well as my uncle. We might need Tessai to help seal her powers. Tell them…tell them I think I brought home a Quincy, one that attacked me."
Bowing his three heads, the Hell Hound shifts his gaze towards the younger hounds behind him, sending them off, he stands over the barely dressed woman. Keeping his two outer heads pointed towards the woman, the middle head looks at the future Clan leader.
"Ichigo, who is this woman?"
"Don't know, I knocked her out and brought her back with me after she and few others attacked me in Hueco Mundo. I figure I'd had to bring one of them back alive to see if they really are Quincy and why they were somewhere they shouldn't have been."
Before either could say another word, the sounds of shunpo and a few magical circles begin to announce the arrival of more that those he asked for. Ichigo and the Hell Hound watch as not only the five people he named were arriving, but also Rias, Sōna and Orihime had come.
"Ichigo are you okay?" The young auburn woman asks him as she stares daggers at the crumpled form near his feet.
"I'm fine oneechan. She isn't though. Let's get some restraints on her before we heal her. Ryūken, do you know her?"
Shaking his head to the negative, the white haired elder Ishida gasps though when Ichigo flips her over casually with his foot, her headwear finally leaves her head. They all see the emblem proudly displaying on her uniform cap, the Quincy Cross. Ryūken turns to Amyntas then and points at her.
"Do you know of anything to seal her away Lord Naberius? She will most likely try to escape when she realizes there is no reiatsu for her to use here, but if the shinigami use Kidō, she might be able to use it for herself."
The Guardian of the Gates of Hell ponders for a few moments before his chains snake out from his body. Everyone watches as they encircle the young woman before they sink into her body and her skin shows faint tattoo like markings just under her skin.
"I believe that will keep her from trying anything Ishida-san." The Naberius Clan leader announces when he is done.
Turning to the young woman standing next to Rias, he motions to Orihime then.
"Please heal our guest Orihime-chan, we don't want to seen as rude when she wakes and her wounds are unattended by then do we?"
Without having to use her kotodama, the healing shield envelops the green-haired woman, her wounds disappearing very quickly, but she leaves her unconscious at Ryūken's insistence. Motioning to four servants, they place the scantily clad woman onto a stretcher, Amyntas turns to the shinigami and others.
"I can't risk her inside the Estate, so I will keep her in the Tower."
Kisuke quirks an eyebrow at that declaration, Amyntas seeing this forestalls the genius shinigami by holding up his hand. "No one but those of our Clan may enter the Tower Kisuke Urahara. I or one of my peerages will bring her to you for interrogations."
"So, no chance to take a peek inside then?" Kisuke asks as his fan hides his face.
However even Ichigo could feel the tension rise quickly when his crazy mentor asked about the Tower. He could feel the power building up from even Merti who had appeared next to him when he didn't notice. Glancing at the dark-skinned assistant, he leans towards her.
"Merti, what's wrong?" He whispers to her.
Leaning so no one can hear her but him, she answers. "Only those of the Naberius blood or those that performed the rites may enter and leave the Tower without consequence, all others will be seen as intruders and dealt with…harshly."
Ichigo question is easily seen in his eyes as Merti expands on her answer. "The Tower is where the damned souls are kept Ichigo, for just anyone, devil or not, to simply enter could bring chaos. The last thing we want to happen is for someone to sneak in to try to help the sinners break out. That is why over the ages, the Tower began to recognize only those of our bloodline. When a new member of the peerage is deemed trustworthy, they undergo a blood ritual that allows them to use Hell Chains and become a warden of the Skeleton Tower. Anyone else is seen as an intruder and immediately attacked. Even the Maou are subject to the rules of that prison which is why it is important that the Naberius has control over it. Why only you and your sisters will be able to take over if the eventuality ever arises."
"In other words only the devil guards and prisoners can ever enter that place."
"So how is it that the Quincy is going to be able to enter?"
"The chains that your great-grandfather marked her with make her a prisoner now. She will never be free until he removes them from her."
Ichigo stares at the woman as she is taken away, four of the Cerberus form an escort with Akiko leading them away. Turning to look at his 'uncle' Ichigo begins to understand the weight of responsibility he has had to carry for all these years with only the peerages to help him.
"When I come back, I want you to train me to take your place."
"I won't go easy on you because you are my great-grandson Ichigo."
"I would hope not."
"Then you and Tatsuki need to start preparing yourselves, in one hour you will gain your first peerage piece Ichigo. She understands the consequences of her actions and knows she will have to stay with you forever as a member of our Clan. Take this time Ichigo to go over devil reincarnation with Merti, you need to perform this correctly the first time Ichigo, if not…"
"If not I could kill her."
"You are a Naberius now Ichigo, this is part of your heritage. Don't worry so much, we will all be with you and Tatsuki, however because this is not a life or death situation, those not devils can not be there."
"Orihime, I want her there. She is Tatsuki's best friend and I think she should be a witness to this."
Amyntas looks at the auburn healer as she stands there clutching her hands waiting for his answer, nodding his head, he agrees.
"Orihime you will be allowed to attend. Just remember not to interfere, no matter what happens."
"Yes Uncle Amyntas. I promise not to do anything."
"Then in one hour we will gain our newest peerage member in over a hundred years. Isshin, Kisuke, Tessai, why don't you come with me and I will make arrangements on how to deal with our prisoner. Yoruichi, I believe you should stay with your student and spend the time getting her calm for what is to come. Ichigo, Orihime, you will spend this time with Merti going over the ritual. Everyone else, prepare the family room in the Western Wing for the ceremony."
Magic circles appear and one by one the devils disappear to gather the Clan for the reincarnation ceremony, a ceremony that will see the Naberius heir gain his first peerage member.
Tatsuki sits with Yoruichi on the other side of her letting the hot spring calm her already nervous state, even with the saucers of sake that the woman has had her drink, she still feels a few butterflies in her stomach.
"Suki-chan it will be okay, Ichigo won't let anything happen to you."
Dipping until her head is covered in water; she comes up and smiles weakly at the former assassin. "I know Yoruichi-san; it's just that I'm not going to be human for much longer. I won't be living in Karakura, and I'll be starting a new school soon. And my parents…"
"Your parents will be none the wiser if that is your biggest worry Tatsuki. Amyntas and Venelana will pay them a visit and use a subtle magic that will modify their memories of you going to Karakura High. How happy they were that you were accepted into Kuoh Academy on a scholarship for your last year. It will be fine, so just relax and let this be one of your best memories, that after tonight you will be able to help protect your best friends as they have protected you all these years."
"Speaking of Karakura, who is going to defend it now that we are all going to be here?"
Yoruichi grins then as she sits up straighter. "I'll be going to Soul Society tonight to see Jūshirō and Shinji and 'explain' things to them, maybe even see Bya-kun and let him know his sister is fine."
"You mean you are going to tell them about Ichigo."
Yoruichi grins even wider at her newest student. "You learn quickly."
Tatsuki rolls her eyes at her purple-haired mentor. "It was pretty easy to read between the lines with that one sensei. Jūshirō is Rukia's captain and Shinji is Momo's captain, while Byakuya is Rukia's brother. Kinda hard not to see what you are doing."
"But do you know why those three Tatsuki?"
"I'm going to take a guess and say that at least two if not all three stood for Ichigo against those morons running the Central Forty Six you told me about."
"Exactly. Shinji and surprisingly Byakuya both voiced strong oppositions against their ruling, Jūshirō has always seen Ichigo as a friend to Soul Society, even now he respects that he almost gave up almost everything to save us and never asked for anything in return. Even now he has hopes of keeping Ichigo as a valued ally of Soul Society."
"You know that's not going to be easy after learning they threatened us and his family."
"That's why I have to build a foundation of captains and lieutenants to support him when they do learn that not only does he have his memories, but that he is the heir to two Clans, one in Soul Society and one in the Underworld. I need Central to understand that it would be both politically and literally suicide to try and harm not only Ichigo, but his friends and family. If I gain enough support for him, he might be able to openly announce his return to them."
"If not?" Tatsuki knows the answer, but hearing it would only confirm her worry.
"If not, then it might be time to petition the Soul King to change our government once again."
Ichigo stands in his inner-world, Zangetsu near him as they both look upon his changed landscape. The zanpakutō knows his wielder is still coming to terms with what he is about to do in the next hour. Not that he has any say in the matter, but unlike his partner, the hollowfied spirit knows that she hasn't any other choice in the matter, nor does he.
"It's getting cloudy Ichigo."
"King. It's going to be okay."
"I know, but it's still hard for me. I thought after the War, it would be over for them, but it just feels like it's only beginning again. I can feel it."
"Then we train just as hard Ichigo. They will have to train just as hard. We know the truth; they know the truth this time around, no more surprises and no more keeping secrets from us."
Turning to his sword spirit, the devil-shinigami can't help the feelings coming from his zanpakutō, the excitement is there as always, but so is the resigned feeling of inevitability. "Once we make you whole Zangetsu, there will be no holding back on either account. We need to be the strongest being we can be if I am going to keep them safe."
"I couldn't agree more Ichigo. When the time comes, we will hone each of our aspects to ensure no one will dare touch what is ours."
"Going to be a busy couple of weeks." Ichigo snorts out.
Zangetsu grins crazily then, just like the old days. "First things first King. We rescue the Queen from that wannabe fried turkey."
"That's not even up for debate."
"Then get going Ichigo, it's almost time for you to reincarnate her."
Nodding, Ichigo disappears from his inner-world, again the silent child stands next to the only being that can see her.
"So Zangetsu, you looking forward to your future?"
"A queen, a peerage, and the chance to kick ass, did ya even have to ask?" The grin gets even bigger.
Face-palming the small child groans out. "Only you Zangetsu, only you."
"Come on Imp, I want to see which piece she is going to become. I get the feeling I know, but it's odd that they seem to be alive themselves."
"You notice did you? I thought it was odd myself how they changed colors from the moment he touched them."
He looks at the child as he dips down and picks her up to his shoulders. "We will learn what it means soon enough Imp."
Tatsuki and Orihime walk arm in arm down the long hallway leading to the room her life will be forever changed, her expression as neutral as possible as they pass the ranks of Cerberus and servants, each bowing as she passes them. Orihime tightens her arm now and then as they make their way to the two tall doors leading to the family room, just outside stood Isshin and the twins, Kisuke and the shouten residents, her human friends and finally the two lieutenants. Karin steps forward and hugs her older friend.
"Be safe Tatsuki, we'll be waiting for you when it's over."
"You're not coming?" The spiky black-haired girl asks.
"We aren't allowed yet Tatsuki-chan, only Orihime because of her healing ability can. Karin and I are not devils yet, so our great-grandfather said we need to wait until Ichigo changes us when he gets back." Yuzu pouts at the end.
Isshin steps in front of her after touching his daughter's shoulder. "I'm proud of you Tatsuki."
Isshin touches her cheek as he looks into her eyes. "You are giving up any chance of living a normal life Suki-chan and you are doing it of your own free will. Besides being his friend, I think of you as family Tatsuki. This is why I had Kūkaku add your name to our family's registry; as of now you are a member of the Shiba family, a noble of Soul Society."
"Isshin…I don't know what to say." Tatsuki says.
"Just keep my boy from getting too much of an ego." He goofily replies.
Laughing lightly, she agrees. "It's gonna be hard. You know how stubborn he is."
"You can be just as stubborn." Orihime chides her.
Before they can go further, the doors open to reveal Merti stepping out wearing a metallic grey dress. Looking over the ensemble of humans and shinigami, she moves to stand before Tatsuki and Orihime.
"Do you wish to precede Arisawa-san? This will be your last chance, after you enter through those doors, you will not be allowed to turn away. So I ask you Tatsuki Arisawa, is this your choice to freely become a member of Ichigo Naberius peerage?"
"It is Merti-san." Tatsuki stands straight as she answers.
Turning to one side then, the elfin woman holds one arm up and points to the doors. "Then enter Tatsuki Arisawa."
Gulping once, she looks over and sees everyone trying their best to keep their emotions off of their faces, she can see a slight tightness around Uryū's eyes, Chad's eyes are hidden but his hands seem to be flexing. Rukia and Momo offer her encouraging smiles. The other shinigami are emotionless masks, they know what she needs right now, support without the drama. She begins walking forward with Orihime at her side all emotions now gone except one, determination.
Every eye turns to the three women as they enter the room, the Cerberus standing on either side get up and close the doors as they leave the room. Ichigo sees Tatsuki's eyes boring in on his as she strides to him and his uncle. He can't help but smile finally at how serious she looks and seeing her grin back at him, he finally finds the peace he needs to do what is essentially saving his friend's life. Looking at Orihime, he can see her own excitement on her face as she comes to a stop two paces behind her best-friend. Tatsuki stops just in front of him and Amyntas and bows to them both.
"Lord Amyntas Naberius. Lord Ichigo Naberius."
Ichigo bows back to his friend. "Tatsuki Arisawa you have been offered a great honor. Do you wish to accept the responsibility of becoming a devil, a member of my peerage?"
Raising his hand to her, he guides her to a low alter that is covered with a thick silk sheet, and a satin pillow. Looking at him, she can see the seriousness in his expression as he guides her to lie down on the flat surface, no hint of his earlier smile visible as he waits for her. Sitting first on her rear, she slides back until she is in the middle before twisting and moves to lie on her back. She almost jumps when two sets of hands help ease her to her place, looking up she sees the smiling faces of Akiko and her daughter, Hanako. The two women then step away and join their respective peerage. She chances one look around and sees that besides Ichigo and his uncle, both of the Naberius peerages are there, along with Rias and her peerage and Sōna and hers. She looks up at Ichigo as he steps up to the alter she lies on.
Ichigo reaches into his black and red haori and takes out his first Evil Piece, the murmurs from the room are quiet, but she has the feeling something unusual is occurring then. Merti then stands next to her and reaches down and parts her own kimono slightly over her heart.
"Tatsuki Arisawa by accepting this piece you will be reborn as a member of our race." Ichigo then proceeds to place a small object on her chest.
Tatsuki feels something flat and cool at first touch her skin before her back arches slightly when the first wave of power rushes into her body. The feeling is close to what an electric shock feels like as it rushes through her, her lips part not in pain but euphoria. At each beat of her heart, the wave pulses throughout her body, she can feel herself changing from the inside, first tearing and then the mending of her soul. At first she thinks no time has passed, but each time her heart beats, she notices her energy steadily growing. Minutes pass and then suddenly she can feel the power that she has associated with Ichigo and the others begin to well up from deep inside of her body until in the final pulse, she collapses wearily when her reiryoku and devil powers stabilize.
At first nothing happens that she knows of until she hears Merti's voice. "Rise Tatsuki Arisawa, rook of Lord Ichigo Naberius."
This time she is able to rise on her own, no pain or disorientation that she can feel, just a sense of underlying power radiating from her body. Sliding until she can sit on the edge of the alter she looks up and sees relief on both Ichigo's and Orihime's faces. Standing until she is in front of Ichigo, she smiles at him.
"I guess I'm a devil now?"
Merti stands before her with relief in her eyes. "We were worried that it wasn't going to work Tatsuki."
Cocking an eyebrow at Ichigo, he grimaces then. "Normally it is a very quick Suki according to Merti, you took over fifteen minutes to reincarnate as a devil, but you did it. Congratulations' on becoming my rook."
Soon the room fills with warm welcomes and announcements of congratulations' from the soon crowding group of devils. She accepts everyone's greeting and welcomes to their Clan and on becoming a devil. It's not until she is face to face with her best friend that she knows how much her life is going to change. She can see how excited and proud her best friend is when she finds herself being hugged tightly by the auburn healer.
"Now you and I can have all kinds of adventures Suki! Just think we can battle the bad guys while Ichigo and the others rescue us when we get kidnapped together and…"
She can't stop herself from laughing then as she pats the over-excited and fanciful outburst from Orihime. "Hime, I'm not going to allow us to get taken in the first place and I'm sure as hell not expecting dandelion head to save me all of the time." She smiles at Ichigo's sudden scowl then.
"So why a rook Ichigo?" Daiki Kimura asks.
Pulling out the rest of his pieces, he holds them up for them to see. Pointing at one of his bishops, he speaks. "They have already chosen who I will have for a peerage it seems. When I was going over them to see what piece would be suitable for Tatsuki, one of my rooks began to glow like my bishop is now. Merti thinks because of what I am, my reiatsu and devil powers have changed the aspects of my pieces. They have already chosen for themselves who is to become a member of my peerage."
"So why is your bishop glowing then?" Akiko questions as she looks at the piece.
Turning until he is facing the Shun Shun Rikka user, he answers haltingly. "It…has…chosen…already."
Orihime and Tatsuki's eyes grow wide as the princess of Karakura High looks at the piece in his hand. "Ichigo, you mean it wants me?"
"Not until we come home from Lemnos and not until you and I have a very long talk Hime, but yes it has been acting this way every time you come near me. I…I won't say no if you ask me."
"Why that's Ichigo?" He can hear the slow anger in his new rook's voice.
Turning a hard glare at her, he answers truthfully. "Because Tatsuki, unlike you, she has already been exposed to the dangers of our lifestyle. Unlike you, her powers have already awakened; yours have yet to reveal themselves to us. Not only that, her powers won't disappear if she becomes a devil."
"They won't?" Orihime smiles happily.
Groaning he knows she is going to become one of his bishops no matter what he says to her. "Yes Orihime, the pieces make you into a devil but they don't take away your powers or gifts. In certain cases they only work to enhance them. You are godlike already with your powers; I can only imagine what you will become once you are my bishop."
"Did you hear Tatsuki!? I'm going to be Ichigo-nii's bishop!"
The two Cerberus grin as they watch the stalking purple-haired goddess pace back and forth in front of them, now and then when the pulses of energy had reached them, she would pause until the power faded away. Once or twice a string of obscenities would leave her mouth about stupid customs and stubborn fools. Soon the powerful pulses stopped after an unusual amount of time, and for the last ten minutes the group has stood waiting for any news to come from the room they are guarding. Everyone stops when the doors begin to open.
First out is Ichigo, his face showing no hint of what is going on.
"Well!?" Yoruichi says as she gets in front of her second protégée.
"She did it." He cracks a smile as he turns and motions for his new rook to come out.
Soon the shinigami and humans crowd around the young black-haired martial artist.
"How do you feel Tatsuki?"
"Do you feel different Arisawa-chan?"
"Tatsuki-nee are you really a devil now?"
Holding her hands up, she grins at them. "I feel fine guys, really I do. It…was weird at first but when it was over I could just feel the power in me already. I think I finally understand what all of you feel like everyday."
Yoruichi looks at Ichigo then. "What piece?"
"She is a rook. I think the piece chose her because of her expertise in the martial arts like Daiki-san. It will allow her to gain both offensive and defensive capabilities when her power fully matures."
"You don't know what it is yet?" Isshin directs at his son.
Both Ichigo and Tatsuki turn to the genius standing in the group, seeing he is expected to explain, he closes his fan. "Young Arisawa is being trained in Shunko. I think what ever she becomes; her power will be a derivative of that and manifest itself during her devil training. I am quite excited to see what she can do when it does show."
The Shihōin princess grabs her new student into a head lock then. "You had me scared by taking so damn long to come out. For that, your training is going to be accelerated to help you compensate for your lack of speed now Tatsuki-chan."
Tatsuki groans out loud as her future flashes before her eyes. "Ichigo can't you get me a pass or something?"
Snorting at her, he turns his own grin towards her, making even Yoruichi back up slightly. "You think what she has planned for you is gonna suck? Wait until you deal with them."
Tatsuki looks over her shoulder to see the peerages coming from the room her ceremony took place, many of them sporting large smiles as they heard his declaration.
"I hate you Ichigo." She seethes only for him to hear.
"Suck on it Suki." He says right back.
Chad steps forward then and speaks up. "So what do we do now Ichigo?"
Looking up at his tall friend, he smiles. "I figure we should celebrate tonight because Orihime and I have business to take care of tomorrow. I…we have something to tell you all then as well."
The dark-skinned human looks at the group's healer and sees what he wants then. "If she asked Ichigo, then I want to as well. We made a promise to each other and I won't let you keep me from keeping it."
The devils, shinigami and the twins have no idea of what is going on between the two friends as Ichigo stares at his larger friend. Slowly he walks up to Chad and puts a hand on his shoulder.
"If that's what you want Chad."
"Then when I get back it'll happen."
Finally Yuzu can't stand not knowing. "What are you talking about Ichi-nii? What is it that Orihime-nee and Chad-kun want?"
"They are going to become part of my peerage Yuzu. They are going to give up their human lives to become devils like you, Karin and me."
Yoruichi looks around as the Grand Dining Room is filled with every member of the Naberius, Gremory and Sitri Clans talking with either a shinigami or human or the new rook, Tatsuki. She can see that Orihime and Akeno seem to be in deep discussion, while Rukia and Momo are laughing with a few males from the peerages. Uryū and Chad are surrounded by a few of the lady members, the Quincy's red face indicating something embarrassing must be the topic of discussions. Kisuke and Isshin seem to be in deep conversation with both Sirzech and Lord Sitri as evident by the lack of laughter from either shinigami or devil. Tessai however seems to be having a good time as he and both men and women devils are laughing as he stands in the middle of the group, Jinta and Ururu are sitting with Koneko, Yuuto and the twins.
Only three people however are missing, she smirks when she can't feel either Ichigo's or Rias's energy, Amyntas is on the balcony alone it seems. Grabbing two glasses of wine, she makes her way out to where Ichigo's great-grandfather is. She walks up to the Clan leader as he sits at a table overlooking the hot springs that litter the grounds around his Estate. Not saying anything, she sits in a chair next to him and places a glass near him. Silence reigns between the shinigami and the devil, until Amyntas utters his first words to her.
"Thank you for teaching my great-grandson Shihōin-sama."
She laughs then. "I thought by now that it was simply Yoruichi Amyntas."
"My mistake Yoruichi, I just had a few things on my mind."
Sipping her wine, she sets the glass on the table. "I take it you are wondering about Tatsuki then."
"Among other things. That his friend Chad and his sister both want to become devils is surprising to me as well. I thought the idea of giving up one's humanity would be a hard choice for ones so young."
The former Onmitsukidō commander laughs with a hint of bitterness then. "Hard to imagine that those young teens did fight in a war already Amyntas, they aren't exactly innocent to the ways of the world anymore. Orihime had it the worst out of them, being forced to leave her friends behind, to be branded a traitor by Soul Society, and finally having to watch Ichigo die while rescuing her. Chad found his power by fighting Hollows that were among the strongest of their kind and nearly died in the sands of Hueco Mundo. Uryū found out that he has to train even harder when he was defeated easily by the Cuatro Espada. The only reason he is alive is because Ichigo became a hollow himself. Try to understand Amyntas, his friends have already bled with him and are willing to bleed with him again by becoming devils, to becoming members of his peerage. I think what those two are willing to give up speaks to how devoted they are to him."
The Keeper of the Gates of Hell swirls his wine around his glass before taking a small sip. "And what of you Yoruichi? Will you stay or will you leave them behind when they become devils?"
"If you are asking if I'm going to abandon them, the answer is no. I have too much to teach them and…and they are like my own children. Tessai and I have come to see them as ours, Kisuke won't admit it, but they bring him a sense of joy and fulfillment that he may never find otherwise. Sorry Amyntas, I'm afraid your Clan is stuck with four relics from Soul Society for the rest of your life."
"I would have been displeased if you…if any of you did leave us."
Smirking into her glass, she can't help the tease. "Sounds like someone would miss us."
"You would be right Yoruichi." He doesn't bother hiding his smile. "Speaking of that, I was wondering if you had plans a week from now?"
"Are you asking me for a date Lord Amyntas?"
Shifting until he can look at her, he clears his throat. "I have a formal business dinner with a few of my human clients and business partners in the Human World. I would like it if you would come with me as my friend."
Leaning forward, she rests her chin in her hand. "Don't know Amyntas, such short notice, I'd have to find a dress to wear, get my hair and nails done…"
"I'll take care of everything. So will you say yes?"
"I'll go on one condition."
"I'd like to bring the kids with us so they can have a night out on the town. I figure they will need a break from training and the excitement by then."
Giving her a nod, a servant appears next to him. "I want you to rent the top floor of our usual place for two nights."
"Yes Lord Amyntas." The servant walks away, leaving the couple behind in the quiet once again.
"So can I ask about your life Amyntas?"
Leaning forward on the table, he stares into her golden eyes. "I was born over close to two…."
The orange-haired teen eyes are closed as the crimson-haired teen keeps working the knots out of his shoulders. She smiles affectionately every time a moan or a grunt of pleasure escapes his lips, now and then he twitches when she runs her fingers down along his spine or along his ribs. Kissing him between his shoulder blades, she pulls him back until he is resting comfortably on her chest. Stroking the front of his body, she curls her head into the crook of his neck.
"You okay Ichigo? About Chad and your sister?"
"Yeah Rias, I'm okay. Orihime I had a hint of from Suki, but Chad was a complete surprise, though in hindsight I really should have seen it coming due to the promise we made to each other. Uryū though, I think he won't because his pride would probably make the thought of him being subordinate to me enough to make him break out in hives, as well as worrying about his own blood-line."
"I am glad your friends are those that you have chosen to be a part of your peerage Ichigo. Unlike many devils, you will have an instant trust with them. Some devils have had their own peerage members kill them when they let their guard down."
"Did you know someone personally that that happened to Rias?" Ichigo asks when he pauses Rias's hand from moving.
He can feel her shift slightly and her hand tightens around his. "Koneko-chan has an older sister Ichigo, a nekomata of immense power who became a devil when she was younger. I don't know the circumstances surrounding her former master, but one day she killed him and went rogue. Koneko, being her little sister, was going to be executed for her older sister's crimes. Luckily my brother stepped in and took her in under our protection to save her, which is how she became my rook."
"Is that why she has a hard time showing her emotions then?"
"Sometimes she does fall back into her depression, but since you have been with us, not nearly as much as before. I and the others have always wanted to say thank you for that by the way. She hasn't been this open to anyone in years, even among us; you seem to make her smile the most."
"Her sister, does anyone know where she is?"
"If they did Ichigo, she would be killed on sight by any devil. She is a wanted criminal in the eyes of the Underworld, the killing of a pure-blood isn't something easily forgiven, if at all. I don't want Koneko to ever find out if her sister is found and executed before they have a chance to speak at least one more time."
"I'll try and find…"
"WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TWO!?"
Ichigo freezes in front of Rias, not even turning around, he sends his chains and barely captures who ever the woman is that found them. Rising out of the hot springs, his eyes go wide at seeing who he has wrapped in his chains wearing nothing but a towel.
"Shit! I am so sorry Captain Suì-Fēng! I didn't…wait what the hell are you doing here!?"
"What am I doing here!? What are you…wait! You said my name! That means…that means you really did get your memories back! I knew it when I saw you earlier dammit! Now you're here again!" She curses softly to herself before adding her next thoughts. 'My day just keeps getting better and better by the minute.'
"Oh shit! I can explain about that Suì-Fēng!" He yells suddenly realizing he is in a bad spot.
Slowly and gently putting the Squad Two captain down, he puts his body between the volatile assassin and his bikini clad girlfriend. "I know what you must be thinking Captain, but I really can explain everything."
He almost turns around when the twin-braided woman begins to un-wrap her towel, luckily for him; she is wearing a black one piece bathing suit. Holding up her hand to forestall any talking, she walks towards the hot spring.
"I came here to soak because I've had a bad day Kurosaki. I also believe that I am going to need it if you are here and seeing that you have your memories some how makes it worse. So save it for a few minutes or at least until I feel relaxed enough to take the stress."
"Ah, sure thing Suì-Fēng."
Pinching her nose, she mutters loud enough for him to hear. "Why didn't Yoruichi at least teach him some decorum when speaking to his superior officers?"
Upon hearing that, the third person begins laughing softly at him. "I see you left quite an impression with your shinigami friends Ichigo."
Suì-Fēng pauses as she dips into the hot water, looking over at the voice, she finally realizes that the other person is a young teen woman with crimson hair, green-blue eyes and a figure that would rival the human she knows as Orihime and the Squad Ten lieutenant. Finally resting on the ledge opposite of the two, she waves at Ichigo.
"Who is your friend?"
Taking a seat next to his crimson princess, he blushes slightly when he tells her. "This is Rias Gremory, Heir to the Gremory Clan of the Underworld and about a month from now she will be my fiancée."
For a long minute, the two sees a myriad of emotions play across the face of the Squad Two captain; finally she sighs out in resignation and leans back with her arms on either side of her.
"I know I'm going to regret asking this, but how?"
Looking at the Yoruichi's former student, Ichigo lets out his own sigh. "I hope you don't have anywhere to be for awhile, it's gonna be a long story I fear."
"I have a few hours Kurosaki, spit it out."
"Well first thing is, I'm not really a Kurosaki; I'm both a Shiba and Naberius, a Devil Clan of the Underworld."
Suì-Fēng sits in absolute quiet for the next two and half hours in stunned silence as the Berry retells his story from the moment he woke with a faked case of amnesia.
'I'm going to kill Kisuke!' She screams to herself in her mind.
Many of the people sitting around the room waiting for word of where Ichigo and Rias are, can't help glancing at the silently fuming Clan head as he stands in front of the fireplace. Yoruichi sits with Tessai, Isshin and Kisuke as they wait for Merti, the Cerberus and members of the peerages to complete their searches of the Estate, the grounds and their home in the human world. The were-cat is about to get up when a sound causes everyone to look at her as she digs through her kimono searching for the device.
"Moshi, moshi you're most..." Even the devils lean back as Yoruichi quickly holds the phone away from her ear.
"YORUICHI! YOU BETTER HAVE A GOOD EXPLANATION WHEN I SEE YOU NEXT TIME!"
"Ah my Little Bee, what can I do for you?" She places the phone on speaker for everyone to hear.
"Oh, I don't know Yoruichi. Perhaps telling me why I am currently in the hot springs under Sōkyoku Hill with an orange-headed moron!"
Hissing loudly, Yoruichi yells back. "Put that dumbass on the phone now!"
There is relief in the air as Ichigo's voice is heard. "Hey Yoruichi, I can…"
"Shut it Ichigo! Are you crazy!? What the hell are you doing in Soul Society!? Everyone is worried sick about you and Rias! Is she okay!?"
"Yeah, yeah Yoruichi. She's fine, I'm fine. As for why I'm here, well it's sorta a date…"
"A date? You took your girlfriend to Soul Society for a date?" Many of the shinigami groan out in disbelief, two however have other thoughts as well.
Kisuke nudges Isshin and whispers to him. "Kid got a set of brass ones, eh Isshin?"
Trying hard to keep his laughter from escaping him, Isshin grins at his blonde-haired friend. "Don't ever say a Shiba man knows the word boring when taking their significant other out on a date."
Both men shut up quickly when they feel the killing intent pour off the Goddess of Flash then. "Ichigo, I suggest you bring Rias back here immediately and bring Shaolin with you as well. You and I are going to have a discussion on the word discrete when you get back!"
Rias's voice can be heard in the background then. "Are we in trouble Ichigo?"
"I am but I don't…"
"Oh, yes she is Ichigo. I will also be speaking to you and my daughter after your discussion with Yoruichi." Venelana says is a quiet voice, one that sends shivers up a few spines.
Yoruichi taps her finger on the table next to the phone. "Ichigo."
"Ah, yes Yoruichi."
"Why aren't you here yet?"
The line goes dead as they hear him yelling to the two women with him. "We have to go now!"
Ichigo transports himself, Rias and Suì-Fēng to the Great Dome of the Naberius Estate with a deep sense of dread for himself and Rias. The moment they arrive proves his gut feelings correct, when not only Rias hides behind his back, so does the shinigami captain he brought. Staring at him are three very angry women, Yoruichi, Venelana and his own assistant, Merti, who has murder in her eyes.
Holding her hand up, his sensei utters the words he knew he was going to hear. "Training dimension. Five minutes. GO!"
As he goes to leave with Rias, Venelana stops them both. "Rias a word in private if you please."
"Yes Mother." Rias quickly kisses Ichigo before she walks quickly by her mother.
"Ichigo, after Yoruichi is done with you, I would also like to speak to you in private."
"Yes Venelana." He gulps at his future mother-in-law.
Suì-Fēng comes from behind him and stands next to him as he instructed her to do so before teleporting them to his home in the Underworld. She stands perfectly still as the huge Cerberus approaches her and sniffs her for a few minutes.
"May I have your name please?" Kane asks finally.
"You can talk? I thought you were joking Kurosaki."
"I told you so." He says with a hint of sarcasm. "Kane this is Captain Suì-Fēng, captain of Squad Two and the head of the Fon Clan in Soul Society. She is also a former student of Yoruichi and a few of us will vouch for her."
"Very well Ichigo. She may pass. Captain Suì-Fēng, please allow me to welcome you to the main estate of the Naberius Clan."
Rias hurries to her and Ichigo's room, hoping to change quickly before her mother and presumably her sister-in-law decide to destroy her hearing. As soon as she enters, she finds herself being surrounded by a group of females.
"Are you okay Buchou?" Akeno worriedly questions.
"Yes Akeno I'm fine. Ichigo and I were on a date."
"Ichi-nii took you out without telling us."
"Yes Yuzu, we wanted a little privacy." Rias says with a hint of a blush at being caught by her soon to be little sister-in-law.
Orihime and Tatsuki both begin giggling then. "So how's the meeting the captain of Squad Two stack up for ya?"
The crimson teen looks at Ichigo's rook with wide eyes. "She is scary when she is mad. I never heard anyone yell with such force like her."
"Oh you will see soon enough a second time Rias. Ladies if you don't mind, I have a few things to say to my daughter."
Everyone sees the older and more mature version of Rias standing in the door frame, her hands folded in front of her waiting for the others to leave. Stepping aside and returning each departing persons greeting with her own, she keeps her daughter's eyes trapped with her own. Akeno is the last to leave, giving Rias's hand a squeeze; she leaves the room, closing the door behind her as she goes. The older Gremory makes her way to the bed and sits down with a huff.
Patting the place next to her, she speaks to her teenage daughter. "Come Rias, we should talk about what you did tonight and see to it that this doesn't happen again."
Rias does as her mother asks and sits next to her on the bed, folding her hands in her lap, she waits.
"Rias did you and Ichigo have fun?"
The teen nods her head to her mother, waiting for the yelling that does not come.
Patting her daughter's hand, the older woman holds it then. "You and Ichigo need to understand that you can't simply disappear anymore. Both of you are the heirs to your Clans and if anything were to happen to either of you, we wouldn't know what or when. I want you to understand that you are his future wife and we both have heard what he is capable of doing when those he cares for are harmed. I don't want to see him like that ever Rias."
"I'm sorry Mother; we just haven't had much time to ourselves. He wanted to get away and I let him because I wanted to spend time alone with him as well."
Hugging her daughter, Venelana rubs her daughter's back. "Next time at least tell Merti or Akeno what you two are doing, just no more going to Soul Society though. I think you should talk to your brother tomorrow when Ichigo is gone with Orihime, he will tell you about the Pact we have with them."
"Did you really think we were the only races in the world? There are many more you have to meet my dear, so tomorrow I want you and your peerage to gain an audience with Sirzech and ask him about the Pact."
"So tell me how was it?"
"How was what Mother?"
"Your date with Ichigo? Did you get further this time?"
"You two are insane!" Ichigo screams out as he dodges the hits the two death gods are hell-bent on kicking his ass with.
Suì-Fēng sweeps for his legs, while the purple haired flash goddess sends kicks towards his chest. The devil uses his chains to anchor himself to the ground and blocks the smaller shinigami strikes, while using his arms to stop and the capture the leg of his mentor. Kicking Suì-Fēng in the face and sending her skidding back, he tosses the body attached to the leg over his head before he shunpo a safe distance to ready himself for their next assault.
"Not bad Berry-kun." Ichigo dodges the head strike from the current assassin for Squad Two.
Twisting, he his able to drive his elbow to middle of her back, not seeing Yoruichi is now on top of him, he gets kneed to his stomach and drops to one knee. Quickly setting up a kidō barrier, he reaches and grabs the small captain's uniform top and body slams her into the ground before jumping up and grabbing the shunko powered punch aimed at his face. As soon as he grabs the wrist of the former captain, he realizes that it is only a speed clone. Tensing, he goes flying forward when she lands a kick to the middle of his back, getting up he can't dodge Suì-Fēng's shunko punch.
Standing to his feet and wiping the blood from his mouth, he looks at his two nemeses. "Okay, I get it you're pissed Yoruichi. I said I was sorry."
Both assassins stop then when Yoruichi sends him a look of frustration. "I'm not mad at you for being in Soul Society; actually I'm proud that you snuck in there in the first place without getting caught."
"Then why the ass-kicking?"
"It's because you didn't tell anyone where you and Rias were going Ichigo. You are the Naberius heir and she is the Gremory heir. Both of you are nobility and you both have responsibilities to your clans and their futures. The simple life you envisioned once upon a time is over now. Soon you will be fighting for Rias's hand in marriage and then after that you will have to start planning the rest of your 'human' life and then your life afterwards in the Underworld as her husband and the next to rule the Skeleton Tower Ichigo. That is why I'm pissed, you two could have been hurt or killed and none us would have known what happened to you two."
He pinches his own nose knowing she is right. He didn't think, just wanted to be alone with his girlfriend for a bit before he left for Lemnos with Orihime. Sighing as he knows that he did mess up, he looks at his mentor with a small frown.
"It won't happen again Yoruichi. I'll make sure to tell Merti or someone in the peerage from now on where and who I'm with."
"Good. Now tell me Ichigo, did you get further?"
"What? Her mother wants to know."
Ichigo and Orihime stood side by side under the Great Dome the next morning, waiting for his great-grandfather to bring him the gold and other items that might prove useful when bargaining with the Greek God. Orihime was talking to Tatsuki, who was going to have her first lesson after they left with Amyntas and Vincent's peerages. Everyone else was back in the World of the Living getting ready for school, along with Chad and Uryū who would be transferring in that morning. Tatsuki would be going next week after she had a bit of training and after seeing her parents once their memories had changed.
Ichigo sees Venelana and Yoruichi walking in together, causing the young devil to straighten up a bit more as he sees the women send him knowing smiles as they approach him.
"Good morning Yoruichi, Okaasan." He can see the widening of his sensei eyes at the title.
"Good morning son. I trust that you and Rias slept well last night."
"We did okaasan."
Yoruichi can sense something had passed between the two, but neither were going to talk about it right then. So she turns to Ichigo and places a hand on his shoulder.
"Come back safely Ichigo, protect your sister and if you can't make a bargain with him, leave, don't force the issue. We'll find a different way to gain your zanpakutō."
"I understand Yoruichi; I will protect her first, zanpakutō second."
Kissing him first on his cheek, she moves to stand in front of the young woman. "Take care of yourself Hime, don't do anything rash and listen to your oniisan. Stay safe and keep your wits about you and come home safely."
"Yes Yoruichi, I will." She smiles when the older shinigami kisses her cheek.
"Time to go Hime. You ready?"
"Let's go Ichigo!" She fist pumps as she does a little jump.
Tatsuki, Yoruichi and Venelana step away as a circle appears under their feet, the two wave as they disappear towards the island that may hold the final piece to Ichigo's life.
Tatsuki looks at the older two women. "Do you think they'll be okay?"
Venelana speaks then. "Don't worry Tatsuki-chan; they will be back before we know it. Come, I will escort you to your first lesson in using your magic."
Yoruichi stands there until a hand touches her shoulder; she speaks without looking at the devil. "Don't worry, he understands now Amyntas."
"Thank you Yoruichi."
AN: Well I have had a few bad weeks, so I'm not sure how much writing I'll get done this summer. I'll try and keep to my promise for new chapters by the end of the month, but I'm not sure how much I will get done. So Okami and I will see you next chapter of WTMW. Thanks to Kiwifan7 again for letting me bounce ideas of off him along with Okami for her hard work once again.
PS. I just got a certain review that brought up a good question. Should I do normal Zangetsu or original design? Your thoughts.