Long time. Sorry 'bout that, but I'm having trouble mustering up motivation currently. A side effect of having five stories on the go and stuff in real life that takes priority over any of them. Thanks for the patience, though.
And as a reminder, I own nothing you recognise from Canon Bleach. Or Canon anything else, for that matter.
Ichigo's eyes fluttered open, and displayed his confusion to any who would look into them. Of course, nobody was near enough to do so considering the cause of his befuddled mind-state.
'Hey,' A voice inside his head objected, as he struggled to form a thought. 'Where'd she go?' Nejibana asked in an annoyed tone, frowning. Ichigo had no answer for her, as he stared at the spot that had, only moments before, contained his… uh, Soi Fon. What she was to him would have to wait for a later conversation on the subject. Ichigo's right hand raised to touch the non-existent face of the beautiful captain, and his hand passed through the space; of course it passed through the space. What had he been thinking? The whole point of his confusion was that he couldn't feel her lips against his any more.
And that was annoying. It had been… nice. Nicer than he could have expected from a kiss; how could it have been so… nice?
Thump. Ichigo blinked. Then he turned his head to the left, looking towards the source of the noise. And found it.
Soi Fon was lying flat on her back with an expression on her face matching what Ichigo felt. Pure confusion. Obviously, she didn't know what had happened to end their kiss either.
Did the woman standing between he and she with her leg extended?
"Lady Yoruichi?" Soi Fon asked, frowning at her ex-mentor from the ground. "What's going… did you kick me?"
Ichigo couldn't see Yoruichi's face from his position, but something about the expression had attracted Soi Fon's attention.
The smaller female sprang to her feet, and Ichigo's eyes followed the movement as she fell into a fighting stance, with the majority of her weight resting on her back foot, with anger creasing her brow. He recognised it as one of the base forms of Hakuda that she frequently used. Come to think of it, so did Yoruichi. Was something special about it?
'I believe that it allows for a fast transition into Hoho techniques.' Zangetsu offered. Soi Fon's right fist closed.
'That isn't important! Ichigo, you have to stop this before they start-'
Soi Fon moved in a blur, and Ichigo's eyes barely followed the movement as her fist buried itself in Yoruichi's abdomen. The movement was quick enough that the purple-haired exile and physics both seemed to take a moment to realise what had happened. When they did, however, Yoruichi was thrown backwards with force that betrayed Soi Fon's harmful intention.
This was further punctuated by the petite captain springing forwards in a burst of Shunpo, and intercepting Yoruichi's flight with a hammer-kick that slammed Yoruichi into the ground and surprised everyone present.
In the time it took Ichigo to blink once, Yoruichi was on her feet and her own foot was swinging in an arc that connected with Soi Fon's raised forearm. The impact sent out a pulse of Reiatsu, and this told Ichigo that, had it been any Shinigami below the level of a Captain, the blow would have left the blocking limb broken and battered.
His brain started moving again, and Ichigo wondered if he should stop this.
'Yes! Yes, you should stop this! Preferably before they KILL EACH OTHER!' Nejibana berated him, and Ichigo blinked. His fuzzy mind was still slowly catching up to what was going on, and what had happened.
Soi Fon had been moved slightly by the blow, as was indicated by the indentations her feet made in the floor as it happened. But she held the advantage now, and Yoruichi's expression showed she knew it. In the attempt to attack, the Flash Goddess had neglected her defense, and Soi Fon took a hold of her ankle. Then, she… did something martial-arts related. Far more complex than anything Ichigo knew, it seemed very effective as she sent Yoruichi into the sky while maintaining her grip on the leg, and darted upwards herself to plant a foot in Yoruichi's throat.
Then, Yoruichi blocked it with her uncaptured foot. Ichigo blinked again at the fact that the exile had done so effortlessly, and would have marvelled at the flexibility had blinking not resulted in missing another position-change. Yoruichi had somehow freed herself from the hold, and both were now in mid-air exchanging blows faster than the average eye could follow. Of course most of the observers were well above average, and so could follow the complexity of their enraged attacks, and could see that, if one's defences fell, the other would surely capitalise and land a finishing blow. It spoke of their skill that neither faltered for a moment.
Ichigo knew what the outcome would be, as unhappy as he was with the knowledge, before it came.
Soi Fon's hand went for her blade, almost certainly to unleash her Shikai, and took a hold of the hilt. She began to draw, and triumph shone in Yoruichi's eyes. While Suzumebachi would give Soi Fon an advantage, the act of drawing the blade took a second she did not have to spare, and removed one of the Captain's limbs from the fight.
The Shihoin fighter knocked the other hand away with her right forearm, and blocked an attempted kick from Soi Fon with her left. And her own leg struck out, and slammed into Soi Fon's side.
Even from his place on the ground, Ichigo heard the crack of Soi Fon's ribs. And one of the voices inside his head snarled as another cursed and his own brow fell into a deep, concerned frown.
Soi Fon seemed to stay in place for a moment, as she processed what had just happened. Then, she coughed a splatter of blood and rocketed into the ground off to the left of the spectators. She hit the floor and rolled and tumbled.
And then stood up, her free left hand resting on her broken ribs as the other held Suzumebachi precariously. "Sting all enemies to death… Suzumebachi." She whispered. And in a moment the blade had shone with a bright yellow light, and shrunken to the thin gauntlet in the shape of a stinger that was her Shikai. Ichigo's eyes, however, remained on Soi's side with worry clear in them to anyone had they been paying attention to him instead of the two who were fighting.
Yoruichi appeared on the ground in front of her estranged apprentice with a rare serious expression. Each woman stared the other down with intensity in their gaze. And then, seemingly spontaneous on both parts, they burst into action again.
But Ichigo's original assumption was only fortified by Soi Fon's injury. She had already lost this fight once, and fighting in her current condition meant, no matter how determined the captain of Second division might be, she stood little to no chance of victory.
And Ichigo could no longer tune out the two voices demanding that he act, or the ominous feeling his oldest non-lingual spirit was projecting. He didn't want to intervene… or he didn't want to want to intervene might be more accurate, for the sake of Soi Fon's pride; she would be upset with him, surely, if he stopped the fight. But if he didn't…
Yoruichi had a trio of butterfly-style tattoos on her torso, each no more than two centimetres from the others. On her left wrist, the goddess of the Flash had another, having sacrificed that point to prevent Soi Fon from landing the killing blow.
Soi Fon's injuries were more significant, as she had failed to land a second strike on any Suzumebachi's marks. Her left arm had taken the entirety of one of Yoruichi's blows, and the strength of that attack had left it hanging limply next to her. Most likely, the elbow-joint had a serious fracture, as that was where Yoruichi's kick had landed specifically. Ichigo guessed that there was a jawline fracture, as the purple-haired exile had clipped her ex-pupil's chin. The captain was also favouring her right leg, though it seemed to support some of her weight when needed.
As if to punctuate this, she shot forwards with her shikai poised to strike.
Yoruichi's eyes widened. And then Soi missed a step, faltering and distracted by pain originating from one of multiple injuries. The were-cat spun out of her opponent's path, and as Soi Fon stumbled past, not expecting the avoidance, completed her rotation with her foot raised. Yoruichi brought it down on Soi Fon's left shoulder, the nearer of two, and the injured captain slammed into the ground. It cratered.
Ichigo watched through the dust that was raised, as Soi's mouth opened in a agonised cry. It closed a moment after, but it made its impact; the voices in his head clamoured over and over one another as they spoke to their wielder.
Ichigo filtered through them; the anger of Hichigo was the loudest. Followed by Nejibana's indignant voice. Under that, Kikoo was just… unhappy; disapproving; Ichigo couldn't put it into words. Then, there were the two that, though quieter than the rest, stood out. They were more… deliberate.
Tabigarasu's growl was worse than Ichigo had heard before. The sound resonated within him more than he could ever recall previously, as the oldest of his spirits tried to express worry for the woman who was making Ichigo happy and more importantly, as Ichigo correctly interpreted, for Ichigo's happiness as another person for whom he cared tried to take Soi Fon away from him. The rumbling sound told Ichigo he needed to do something, and Zangetsu reinforced this fact with a simple, calmly worded statement.
'She is in pain, Ichigo. Disregard her pride; only then can you help her to understand.'
Yoruichi's expression fell into a smirk, as she peered at the cloud of dust Soi Fon had raised. In that moment, she was not the person she strived for. Some of the worst parts of Yoruichi Shihoin were also the ones that had helped her advance to the pedestal on which she stood. Her ruthlessness had been necessary as head of the Punishment corps of the Onmitsukido, and the sadism she had tried to squash in the hundred years hence had never truly died. How could it, in the presence of Kisuke Urahara? They, at that moment in time, were fed by the pride that was born of being a Shihoin princess; the spoilt child who had wanted for nothing until now would not let Soi Fon have what she deemed hers. Wouldn't accept defeat when it came to Ichigo; they were meant to be together, not he and Soi, and she was willing to do anything for him.
A Cheshire-grin spread across Yoruichi's face, as she caught sight of a small figure in the cloud, hunched over and shaking.
"Come on, Little Bee," She said sweetly, and crossed her arms over her ample chest. "Where's that fierce exterior gone? How can you expect to beat me like this? How can you expect to win anything when you're so… very… pathetic." The Goddess of the Flash said, slowly to highlight the condescension in her tone.
The figure rose slowly, as though dearly injured, and Yoruichi spoke again.
"That's more like it, Little Bee. At least this way your last moments won't bring shame to Ichigo for laying his lips on yo-" Yoruichi's eyes widened, and she appeared ten metres away with her hand pressed to her throat. She gasped, as an ink-black butterfly spread beneath her fingers, and her eyes locked onto Soi Fon, stood in the spot she had just evacuated.
Steel-grey eyes, as hard as the metal itself, bored into pools of gold as the current captain stood motionless with her Shikai still extended from her dodged second strike.
"Bakudo #1: Sai." Soi Fon's voice was quiet; Yoruichi missed the word, and so her surprise was understandable.
"What the- Are you really this desperate, Soi? You know my Reiryoku is stronger than yours; what's the poi-" She was cut off by Flash-Stepping from danger again, and then continued with a frown. "You aren't going to catch me out twice, Little Bee." The stinger of Soi Fon's Shikai had skimmed Yoruichi's throat, but the dodge had been inevitable.
Yoruichi scowled at her ex-protege, and the cold fury in Soi's eyes; that was part of captaincy that the younger of the two of them had mastered to a greater degree. Soi Fon was icy during battle, to the point that it was unnerving even to Yoruichi that no emotion was coming from the grey eyes she knew well. Yoruichi was smart enough to know that Soi was not being quiet for the sake of shyness, not in this case at least; she was thinking, and a plan of attack from her opponent was not welcome in Yoruichi's mind.
So she would have to end the fight now. Before the tables could be turned. She should have done so already, but cats like to play with their food.
She vanished, in a single step of Shunpo and, as she appeared in front of Soi Fon, Yoruichi attacked. Her foot swung through the air, to strike Soi Fon in the side of the head. And then it stopped.
It took Yoruichi half a second to register the sight before her. And when she did, the air froze in her chest as she stared into burning crimson eyes sat in the face of her desired.
"Stop." That wasn't Ichigo's voice. Below the surface, she could hear his words, but the familiar tones were covered by something dark. A gravelly, deep voice that belonged in a demon's maw, not coming from the mouth Ichigo Kurosaki.
She couldn't stop looking at him; her eyes were frozen on the rage-filled gaze directed at her for what felt like an eternity as she awaited death. She couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't even think beyond the fear that was gripping her heart.
And then he looked away, turning his head to stare at Soi Fon. When had she passed out? How had she? Yoruichi hadn't had the time to strike her, so who…
'MOVE!' That was her own voice, urging her to flee. But… why couldn't she? How was she trapped in place?
Her eyes moved to her ankle, in the grip of whatever was possessing Ichigo. The palm of his hand had sapphire veins snaking across his skin, but Yoruichi discounted that for the time-being. She had more important things to worry about; namely getting out of here.
No. No, she couldn't run; Ichigo would be lost if she didn't help him. But could she help him? How could she go about freeing him from this monster's clutches?
She would need help. The Captain-commander. He was the one most likely to know what the hell this meant, and she felt certain that he would want to protect such a valuable ally.
So her plan had two steps. She would free herself, and then fetch the Genryusai Yamamoto. And… and she would grab Soi Fon. She couldn't leave her to the clutches of… this.
As Yoruichi readied herself, preparing to use Shunko to put not-Ichigo down long enough to act properly, she took a slow, deep breath.
And Ichigo heard her. He turned and frowned at the purple-haired woman.
"Why would you do this, Yoruichi? Why do you keep hurting her?"
He vanished, and with him went Soi Fon's unconscious form.
Yoruichi stumbled back with wide eyes, as something crept into the pit of her stomach. Self-loathing, she would later name it.
As her eyes moved to the spot Ichigo had been holding, and found the shallow-cutting claw marks, it dawned on her how he must have viewed her at that moment. How similar it must have been to the thought she had had seeing those burning red eyes, and that he wouldn't be wrong. What did humans call jealousy? A green monster? So what did that make her, to be ruled by the horrid emotion?
What was wrong with her?
"I'll fix that later," Ichigo sighed, glancing back at the wooden wall he had demolished. He must have missed that last time he was here, because he had no recollection of Soi Fon's room having a division between her sleeping area and the entrance. He carefully shifted the weight of the girl in his arms, and took a slow step towards her bed; her healing would be an easier experience if she stayed asleep, according to Old man Zangetsu.
Ichigo wondered if he should be worried; Soi Fon's pride was substantial, and he had interrupted her fight. Hopefully, that would not jeopardise their relationship before it began.
'I doubt it could, Ichigo.' Nejibana assured him. 'Considering the time the two of you have been dancing around it, I expect you would have to do something exceedingly silly to ruin what you have. Since you were acting in herinterest, I am sure Soi will see reason.'
'In case she doesn't, I rec-'
'If you do as your idiot aspect will no doubt suggest, though, I doubt she will be forgiving. Women are not very forgiving when it comes to being molested in their sleep.'
'Molest's such an ugly word! I prefer the term 'slumber party'!'
'That doesn't change the fact that you are trying to sabotage Ichigo's relationship through molestation! Whatever you call it, it is a disgusting thing to suggest!'
'Agree to disagree! I think I'm being romantic, and that Ichigo should follow my lead to tell her how he feels!'
'Via a romantic gesture! Not… not that, you disgusting Hollow!'
'Guys! Please shut up, you're fucking with my Reiryoku again!' Ichigo berated, with a concerned glance at the unconscious captain and the frown that had darkened her expression as the two argued. 'I get that you don't like each other, but it can wait?' His mental tone was exasperated, and the two unhappily fell silent.
Ichigo gently set her down on the soft surface, and exhaled a sigh through his nose. Then, he brushed a strand of hair from her forehead and his hand lingered on the slightly slick skin; she was sweating from the injury, Ichigo believed. She couldn't have bad enough luck to have fallen ill at the same time as all of this was happening; not when Shinigami with high Reiatsu were so well protected from any and all sickness. And yet he was worried about her.
The Reiryoku Ichigo gave her was turquoise; a mixture of the healthy healing green and his own blue reiatsu. Soi Fon stilled at receiving the energy, and Ichigo smiled softly at the serenity that seeped into her expression. He stayed there for a moment, and then a comment reached him.
'You're bein' creepy, King. Why're you watching 'er sleep?'
That killed the mood Ichigo had been enjoying, and he stood slowly so as not to disturb her. He turned, and slowly walked out of the room. This time, she didn't complain. For some reason, Ichigo felt it was because his Reiryoku was still working on healing her.
Or maybe she was just in a better mental state at the moment, even if she was injured physically. The hybrid man didn't know, and had a feeling she would not want to divulge it to him.
As he stepped out of the building, Ichigo moulded the Reiatsu around his feet, and pushed himself up onto the nearest building. There, he was still as he listened to the quiet in his mind.
He sat on the rooftop, scratched his cheek, and thought on the events of the day. A lot had happened, and something new had come to light.
Yoruichi was in the wrong. Obviously, she was; Soi Fon only escaped serious injury by chance and his action. But would the teacher have killed her student?
He didn't think so. Ichigo was sure that Yoruichi cared about Soi; that she would have stopped before she'd done anything irreparable. Most likely, she would have had a guilt trip, and brought Soi Fon to the Medics of the Fourth Division, and everything would have been made right eventually. If this meant that their… friendship would be repaired, and ignoring the causation of the fight, that left only one problem that Ichigo needed to deal with.
Because, while Yoruichi would not have taken a life today, Ichigo had been far too close for comfort.
He, and Tabigarasu through him, only avoided striking Yoruichi because… well, because it was Yoruichi. In that situation, or in any situation like it, with anyone other than the handful of people Ichigo cared deeply about, the outcome would have been less favourable. That he would have struck them wasn't even a question. If he was lucky, maybe Tabigarasu wouldn't have been so close to the surface. If that was the case, there was less chance of the Shikai accidentally forming, and that meant that Ichigo's strike would have been survivable for all of the captains, and likely most of the Lieutenants.
But what about the others?
What if one of his human friends did something to aggravate him? Kami knows how annoying Keigo could be; Ichigo could so easily hit him and not even think twice about it. It was a habit long-since ingrained in him, to punch the needy boy in the face to put down his excitement.
And the way Ichigo was now, that would result in him killing his friend.