Hey guys Leo here again, I'm writing this about two weeks after writing the last chapter. I'm not too sure where to go with the story but I think I've thought far enough ahead to take the plunge and write this chapter. Sorry for the wait, I was going through another semester of college and now starting a new one.
Chapter 9: Gather the Flock
The atmosphere at the dining table was tense, thankfully nowhere near as threatening as the day before but still more than enough to be unpleasant. Miya took a sip of her tea, the cloudy green beverage warming her gently. The landlady sighed softly before opening her soft brown eyes, she met the slate colored graze of her guest.
"Why the hell do I have a strange feeling about this?" Ichigo thought.
Karasuba however held an impassive, unreadable expression as she stared at the lavender haired woman in front of her. The Black Sekirei's sword had been left leaning on the far wall, the long weapon had thankfully been confiscated temporarily by Miya before they had sat down.
"I know why you're here, however… the answer is up to you." Miya said, setting her tea down on the wooden table.
Karasuba gave the landlady a pensive expression. "Huh and what is that supposed mean?"
"It means you can stay here, with your Ashikabi on few conditions." The landlady said, taking another sip of her tea.
"Conditions?" Karasuba asked, leaning forwards slightly.
"First of all, while I can forgive any previous… misbehaviour I will not allow violence anywhere near my inn or my tenants. That would include Ichigo."
Karasuba's eyes widened, she half stood from her seat. "You can't-!"
"I can and I will protect them if I have to." Miya said, her voice stern and cold.
Karasuba paused before giving a grumble in defeat. "Fine."
"Good, no harsh language in the presence of other tenant and finally no indecent behaviour. For you and additional condition, no killing unless you're threatened first" Miya said.
"F-fine then, I accept." Karasuba mumbled, still fuming at Miya's indirect threat.
"Excellent, now you can move all your belongings later." Miya finished, setting the teacup down.
Ichigo breathed a sigh of relief, he had just about enough of more problems being thrown at him to deal with. The teen was just getting up when a pair of slender hand wrapped around his shoulders. Raising his head slowly, the substitute soul reaper's heart practically stopped when he saw the faces of the two Sekirei. Karasuba gripped his right shoulder whilst Miya held his left.
"Where do you-" Miya fumed.
"Think you're going?" Karasuba finished.
"Oh no." Ichigo murmured as he was forcibly pulled down to his seat.
After a lengthy discussion, the orange headed teen was basically made responsible for Karasuba while she stayed with them. He would rather fight Aizen and lose his powers all over again than spend all of his time in Shinto Teito trying to calm the bloodlust of his seductive grey haired Sekirei. The teen slumped on his bed, all his strength sapped by the activities of the day.
"I'm really beginning to hate this city…" The substitute grumbled, his voice muffled by the fabric of the bed.
Ichigo ignored the creak of his door opening and the footsteps that indicated Karasuba's entry. He could tell it was her since he could only just sense her presence, he noticed sensing the beauty was much easier across longer distances. The closer the proximity between Ashikabi and Sekirei the harder it was to detect the individual Reiatsu of either. Karasuba was no exception to this fact, she was able to sneak up to up on many occasions despite the fact that he was getting used to her presence.
"What do you want now?" An irate teen grumbled, dragging his face on the bed so he could give her a lazy glare.
This only served to amuse the woman however. "I don't need a reason, I'll see you when I want to."
"Of course you don't"
Karasuba laid her sword upon Ichigo's desk with a metallic rattle before sauntering over to the teen's side. While Karasuba's aggressive physical advances no longer came as a surprise to him, his prudish nature prevailed. The first thing the orange haired teen felt were two soft, supple, warm mounds pressed on his back. Her toned midsection followed closely by the smooth skin of her thighs rubbing against his clothed and leg.
While Ichigo wasn't too surprised anymore, even so the teen's face burned as red as the fruit that shared his name. Karasuba laid her head over his shoulder, nuzzled into his neck and releasing a warm breath on the soul reaper's skin.
"Why the hell do you do this to me?" The teen mumbled, glancing back at the Sekirei that was stretching like a cat against him.
The grey haired beauty lazily met one of his eyes, giving him a look as if to say his question was stupid. Quite frankly the question really was stupid, if only her precious one wasn't so amazingly dense. Then again, Ichigo seemed completely inexperienced when it came to women.
"At least that means I'm his first…. If I don't make my feelings clear now he'll never pick it up."
Karasuba lifted herself over Ichigo's form, now on all fours as she hovered over her Ashikabi's form. The orange-haired teen rolled onto his back and propped himself up by his elbows. The teen's face was only inches away from his Sekirei's face, an uncharacteristic pink blush creeping its way on her face as a smile graced her features.
"Hey can you get the hell off-" Ichigo began, cut off by the woman leaning on his chest and drawing her arms around his torso.
"You know, us Sekirei are creatures of love. We all love our Ashikabi, even if for different reasons, some have a sibling-like relationship, other a parent some become lovers or friends…" Karasuba sighed, the pain in her voice was unmistakeable to Ichigo.
"All of the others could feel their Ashikabi in some form, yet for some reason I couldn't feel you. The only time I could feel something… anything at all was in the heat of battle, amidst the blood and the swing of my sword…"
Ichigo's infamous and near-permanent scowl softened, he felt a tug at his chest. In all her bloodlust and ruthlessness she still shared a bond with him, a bond of the soul and spirit. When their swords clashed he felt her pain, her loneliness and desperation. She hoped, practically pleading for him to be the one for her.
"Then I found you, and I'll be damned if I let any other Sekirei weaklings have you. You'll be mine, forever and ever." Karasuba practically growled, lifting her head.
Ichigo was the one to move this time, pushing his head forward and meeting his Sekirei's lips. Her eyes widened in shock from the sudden and unexpected initiative from her Ashikabi. Her hands grasped the teenager's shirt as her body went slack, an uncomfortable heat burning within her chest and midsection even as the teen broke the kiss for air.
"It isn't like I don't like you or anything but… love is just." Ichigo said, turning his reddened face away from the woman.
Karasuba gave the substitute soul reaper a small grin, vaguely resembling the bloodthirsty grin he had seen before. The Black Sekirei released her hold on her Ashikabi, much to her Tama's protest to stay with him. Picking up her sword, Karasuba gave her Ashikabi a final word before leaving the room.
"I need to tie things up with MBI, I'll be back later."
"Fine but don't we long, we promised to spar together didn't we?"
Karasuba closed Ichigo's door behind her with her lips forming a small smile as she left, it was refreshing to have Ichigo actually look forward to seeing her again. Making her way down the stairway, the hall forward was blocked by someone she knew all too well.
A young man with a head of dishevelled silvery-grey hair that eerily mirrored her own leaned on a nearby wall. His black dress shirt and pants wrinkled no doubt from his nightly excursions with various women, all in his quest to find his destined one. Karasuba couldn't blame Kagari, his special condition meant it was crucial for him to find an Ashikabi before the second stage began.
Karasuba didn't acknowledge the other Sekirei's presence, instead passing right by him. Kagari cleared his throat, prompting the woman to pause and turn to face him. They gave each other something between a glare and an understanding expression.
"Don't think about following me, the director knows all too well you tend to hold a grudge."
"I wouldn't have a grudge to hold if he didn't curse me with this body." Kagari said, clenching a fist he didn't remember holding.
Karasuba shook her head slowly giving Kagari a small, pitying… almost condescending smirk over her shoulder. Kagari fumed as Karasuba disappeared down the hall, the once smouldering flame inside her now blazing as she remembered why some hated Karasuba's presence more than just her violent tendencies.
Staff stepped aside as a hundred hushed voiced filled the lobby of MBI headquarters. Her disappearance brought turmoil to the higher management, some worried that she was starting another bloody massacre since her fit in the morning. A huge ruckus did however manage to be avoided only because Takami pulled her position within MBI and forced the other staff to calm down, assuring them that she knew where Karasuba was that she would do no harm… for the moment at least.
The grey-haired woman stepped into the elevator and hit the top floor, almost everyone in the lobby's eyes following her until the elevator's door's had closed before resuming their previous activities. The low hum of the elevator did not make for a good distraction from her thoughts as the elevator climbed up the various floors to the director's office.
Karasuba hummed in thought, brought out of her trance when the sharp ring of the elevator meant that she had reached her floor. The door slid open with a silent hiss, opening up to the massive marble laden room of MBI's mad director. Smooth and polished the black marble floors and white marble pillars paired with the large window panes that also made up the walls of the office.
For an office the room was almost completely barren of furniture save for the large wooden desk and wheeled leather chair at the far end of room. The Director's wild mop of white hair and pale complexion was illuminated by the dull blue glow of his computer monitors. The man looked up, the light no longer reflected from the monitors making his glare visible. Beside him Takami stood, giving the Sekirei a small smirk.
If Karasuba was taken aback she didn't show it, despite the fact that she wasn't used to seeing the madman serious under any situation. The director's serious façade broke almost immediately, a childish pout replacing his glare.
"Karasuba-chan don't leave u-" The director began, almost about to launch himself at the Sekirei from his chair before a hand grabbed his jacket collar and sending him crashing to the ground in a heap.
"Don't be an idiot Director." The Takami grumbled, releasing the man's collar and dropping the man unceremoniously on the floor with tears streaming from his eyes.
The Sekirei adjuster shoved a hand into her pocket pulling out a pack of cigarettes and shaking out a stick from the box. In another hand the mother of two pulled out her lighter and lit her cigarette. Taking a long, slow drag from the cancer stick and casting her gaze upon the other grey haired woman in the room with her.
"So you took my advice after all." Takami smiled.
"You could say that, I take it you know exactly why I'm here then." Karasuba sighed, resting her hand on her Nodaichi's handle.
The Director picked himself up from the ground, his pathetic appearance rectifying itself instantly. His voice and expression hardened, staring straight at the Sekirei's slate grey eyes.
"You've been with us since the very first day of the S plan, are you really going to leave us after all these years." The CEO asked.
"You're going to have to find another Disciplinary squad leader, to me my Ashikabi is always going to be more important. Ichigo will always be more to me than MBI ever was." The Sekirei said.
"I see… well I guess it can't be helped. We'll have all your belongings moved to Izumo Inn by tomorrow. " The white-clad man sighed, almost sad at the prospect of the long-time disciplinary squad leader's departure.
Dipping his hand into his jacket pocket, Minaka fished out a small silver credit card- a gift he gives all Ashikabi in preparation for their future troubles perhaps it could be also be called compensation of sorts. After all being an Ashikabi can be a monumental interruption to his or her life, be they a student like Ichigo or otherwise.
"Don't think Ichi-chan would need that, he has an... interesting job." Karasuba chuckled, giving the card a dismissive glance.
"Then consider this a gift Karasuba-chan, for all your years of staying with us." Takami sighed, plucking the card from Minaka's hand and tossing it to the Sekirei.
Karasuba smirked, catching the credit card with her gloved hand.
"I'm not thanking you director."
Ichigo grumbled a string of curses as he tapped on the screen of his new phone, stabbing and slashing things he could do- adapting to new technology was not one of his talents.
"This almost makes me regret dismissing that tiny version of Hat n' clogs… almost."
Hearing the chime of the doorbell downstairs, Ichigo pretty much knew who to expect. The next few years were set to be pretty hectic; at least he had some experience with troublesome house-mates. He wasn't too sure about battle-crazed women that may be in love with him, that was something very new.
Setting his cell phone down on his desk, Ichigo leaned back and threw his arm up over his head to stretch. Long slender fingers wrapped around his wrists and yanked him backward. The teen was met with the smiling face of his Sekirei hovering over his own, her messy bags of grey hair falling around Ichigo's face.
"How did you get in here so fast? I didn't even hear you come in." Ichigo asked, slightly shocked that she had managed to go from the front door to his room that fast.
"You left your door open." Karasuba grinned.
"Of course I didn't… I really should start doing that." The substitute sighed.
Still holding onto his arms, the Sekirei leaned down and pressed her lips onto his. She was pleasantly surprised when he pushed up a little to meet her in the middle. The kiss was chaste, lacking the lust and desperate desire of their previous ones. Also the first one that Ichigo willingly shared with her, it was nice that he finally began to feel comfortable around her.
It took a while before Karasuba reluctantly pulled away from a very red-faced Ichigo with a soft sigh. Releasing his arms and letting him sit upright again, she gave the orange haired teen a ghostly smile that he only barely caught before leaving his room.
Ichigo stared at the open door the woman had just left, he hated to admit it but Karasuba had pushed her way into his heart somehow. Well technically she had entered his Inner World, Zangetsu had told him not to worry too much about it though.
"Still that problem with that hollow thing she's got though…" Ichigo sighed, groaning in irritation at the thought.
Minato hummed, lost in thought at the dream he had the night before. That little girl in had called out to him more than once so he hopefully wasn't going insane. Were the visions another Sekirei reaching out to him? Rising from his seat on the porch of the back garden, Minato spread his fingers open, the young man placed his open hand upon the bark of the old tree.
"It's almost impossible, how would I even find her in this mess?"
The distinctive flash of bright orange and dull grey brought his attention to the corridor, his neighbour walked with an unfamiliar woman clinging onto his arm. He guessed this was his neighbour's Sekirei given the way she clung onto Ichigo much like Musubi clung to himself. Her eyes remained ahead, barely bothering to give the black haired man a glance as she kept by her Ashikabi's side.
"H-hey Ichigo!" He called, prompting the constantly scowling teen to face him.
Just before he had a chance to speak, the window between the two shattered into a million razor sharp shards of glass. Uzume flew out of the window, clad in only a towel that hugged her attractive figure. She seemed unscathed by the shower of glass shards and wood splinters, yet somehow the impact of her landing loosened the towel. The only layer of fabric that hid her bare chest fell to her waist and exposed her half-nude form to the young men below.
"How the hell that does that work!?" Ichigo yelled, his face tinged red before an arm flew his over his eyes and blocked his view of Uzume's body.
Karasuba stood behind her Ashikabi, left forearm covering his eyes and her right drawing her Nodaichi from its sheath. Ichigo gave an indignant sputter when he felt a soft warmth press against his back. Pressing her chest to the teen's back, the Sekirei angled herself so that her blade was pointed toward Uzume whilst covering her Ashikabi's eyes. Unfortunately for Ichigo, Karasuba had no such aversion to physical contact when it came to Ichigo.
Uzume spotted Minato, the Cheshire grin gracing her features as she jumped behind him and wrapped an arm over his chest. "You're that girl's Ashikabi aren't ya? Well I don't really wanna fight so could you call her off?"
Musubi jumped out of the smashed window, with her fist raised and in no better a state of dress than Uzume. "Stay away from my Minato-sama!"
"Mu-chan?" Karasuba's eyes widened, one of the reasons she had decided to leave MBI's disciplinary squad right in front of her.
"You know each other?" Ichigo asked, trying to free himself of Karasuba's vice-like grip.
"Karasuba-sama!" Musubi cheered, finding the woman that she had promised rival to before the games.
Musubi's cheer quickly turned to ire as her attention was redirected to Uzume, still standing behind her Ashikabi. "Let Minato-sama go!" She demanded, cocking back a fist in preparation to strike the offending woman.
"Mu-Musubi, just wait a second..." The Ashikabi stammered, holding his open palms up in a futile attempt to dissuade his Sekirei from attacking.
"He-hey, what the hell's goin' on!?" Ichigo yelled, half tempted to pry Karasuba's arm off his eyes. He decided against it lest he face his Sekirei's wrath.
"Nothing you need to see!" Karasuba growled, pressing her body against Ichigo's back effectively silencing the younger man.
Disregarding the fact that Minato was in her way, Musubi charged forward and swung her fist down. A flicker of motion between the attacking Sekirei and her Ashikabi followed by a the metallic clang of a fist striking metal was the only indication of Miya's arrival. What appeared to be a lid in one hand blocking Musubi's monstrous strength and a ladle in the other made it apparent she had been in the midst of preparing dinner.
Ichigo finally managed to sneak a peek over Karasuba's arm, at first the teen struggled to understand what had just occurred. Slowly his mind caught up to what he was seeing, his eyes widening when he saw little more than a dent on the seemingly thin metal lid.
The small smile that graced the landlady's features melted into a small scowl, raising the ladle in her hand and striking Musubi on the forehead. "Where are your manners as a girl, fighting like this is frivolous!" She chastised.
"Yes... I'm really sorry landlady..." Musubi whimpered, the busty Sekirei holding her head in pain.
Uzume sniggered behind Minato's shoulder, having someone else being scolded for once was a welcome change.
"Hehehee... You got scolded by Miya-san." Uzume said between her laughs.
Miya's head snapped around, her unorthodox weapon pointed at the Sekirei hiding behind her human shield. Uzume gave a high pitched squeak and ducked behind Minato's shoulder in an attempt to avoid the gaze of the purple haired beauty.
"The same goes for you Uzume. While I won't ask what caused this mess I'll reiterate one of my rules, I will tolerate no violence in this house." Miya sternly warned, her fierce gaze swept across everyone present and lingered slightly on Karasuba.
"Have I made myself perfectly clear?" Miya asked, her malicious smile taking Minato aback.
Minato quickly nodded, scared out of his skin of the sudden change is his landlady's normally gentle and motherly aura. Miya's smile lost its veiled threat almost immediately, returning to the beautiful and serene expression she always seemed to carry.
"Well then, I suppose I should get back the kitchen. Dinner is almost ready everyone." Miya said, disappearing into the house a moment later.
Ichigo smirked, prying Karasuba's arm off his face and pulling away from her. Karasuba cast the Vizard a glare but soon relented, seeing as Uzume and Musubi had at least made themselves somewhat decent.
"Yeah, Miya-san can get scary when you break her rules. Follow them and you should be fine, piss her off and well... you get the idea." Ichigo sighed, leaving to help Karasuba finish setting up her room.
Ichigo leaned on the door, Karasuba had unsurprisingly simple tastes. A futon was folded away in the closet and a single stand held her sheathed Nodaichi, the weapon proudly displayed with its gentle curve pointing upwards to maintain its edge. multiple sets of her usual clothing.
"Doesn't she have any other damn clothes?" Ichigo thought, he mentally shrugged at her limited wardrobe.
Speaking of the grey haired beauty, Karasuba had seated herself at a far corner of her new room and simply closed her eyes. An uncomfortable silence settles between the pair, neither Ashikabi nor Sekirei eager to start a conversation. The teen sighed and reached back, rubbing the back of his head had always been a habit of his whenever he was nervous.
Ichigo spoke first, "So, you aware of the other 'Karasuba'?"
The Sekirei's eyes widened for a split second, "I shouldn't be surprised you know about the hussy should I?"
"She isn't just some other person in your soul you know, she's as much part of you as your sword is." Ichigo said, his words holding memories of his own initial reaction to his own resident albino.
Karasuba gave her Ashikabi a half-lidded stare, catching him completely off guard when she moved. He had almost forgotten how swift the grey haired woman could be, within half a second she was upon him. Yet what he expected to be another lust-filled attack turned out to be somewhat innocent.
She had pulled him close, arms wrapped around his torso and her face buried on his neck. It was uncharacteristic for the normally bloodthirsty woman to be affectionate. He was taken aback initially but calmed down a moment later, a recent memory drifted into his mind. Just as his former employer, Ikumi Unagiya, had once done for him, he would be there for Karasuba when she is vulnerable like he was those months ago.
"The only difference being is that the adult is the one that needs the kid." Ichigo thought, wrapping his arms around his Sekirei.
In a way he felt sorry for her, she could feel his soul as well as he could feel hers. They were bound together now, there was nothing they could hide from each other. Everyone fights for a reason that sometimes even they weren't aware of, fire-fighters did it to save lives, soldiers fought to protect their countries and he fought for his friends and family.
Karasuba however simply fought to fill the void in her heart, to stave off the loneliness that ate away at her. Miya had told Ichigo of the deep relationship that an Ashikabi and Sekirei, Karasuba was one of the first of their number. Perhaps it was due to her being brought into the world four years before him, either way she didn't want to let him go now that she had finally found him.
The two said nothing, simply holding each other for what felt like an eternity compressed within a few seconds until a knock on Karasuba's door brought them out of their stupor. "Karasuba, Ichigo time for dinner!" Uzume called.
The grey haired Sekirei sighed into the teen's chest before slowly raising her head to meet his amber gaze. Giving her Ashikabi a quick peck on the lips, happily surprised when he returned the gesture albeit looking away in an attempt to hide his blush. The pair left the room, walking a short distance before coming upon Miya leaving Minato's room. Flashing Ichigo a smile while pointedly ignoring Karasuba, she gave the pair a short nod before disappearing down the stairs.
Minato's mop of dishevelled black hair stepped into his line of sight. The shorter man looking absolutely exhausted, slouching down so far that his knuckles were almost dragging on the ground.
"Yo, how's it going?" Ichigo asked, giving the Ronin a lazy wave.
"Oh... Ichigo, I was making sure Musubi apologized for this evening. But-" Minato stopped mid-sentence, whipping around to stare outside the window as if someone had called from outside.
"Hey what're you-" Ichigo peered around the older teen's shoulder to see what had him so distracted.
Finding nothing, Ichigo merely shrugged before going on his way to the dining room. Leaving Minato spaced out and staring out the window. Karasuba had already left his side, finding it a waste of time to socialize with Musubi's Ashikabi.
"I swear I heard a voice though..." Minato thought, scratching the back of his head in thought before following the other Ashikabi down the stairway.
Ichigo walked in to a scene that froze the core of his very soul, his own Sekirei and his landlady…working together. Miya, ever motherly and gentle was bringing the main dishes out while Karasuba set up the tableware. The two could barely stand being in the same room let alone setting the dinner table together.
Noticing her dumbstruck tenant, Miya walked toward Ichigo and gave him a puzzled expression. "Ichigo, are you feeling alright?"
"I think he's having trouble believing what he's seeing, can't say I blame him." Homura calmly said, walking around the dumbfounded teen and taking his seat at the table.
Smirking, Karasuba stepped forwards and took the substitute's hand, dragging him to the table like a lifeless zombie shuffling from the grave. Minato, his Sekirei and Uzume soon joined them at the dinner table, all settling into the usual chaos of the dinner table.