AN: I did say part of me was leaning towards a side-story thing didn't I?
In the end though, this idea morphed from a simple 'Tai and Qrow meet Summer again' one-shot, to a full-on side story with the potential I glimpsed. It'll be updated a lot slower than Soul Hunter itself though, if only because there are limits to what I can do here insofar as...well, you'll see what Isshin's gotten himself into.
That, and the fact that I want to keep the stories paced the same, not have this one cover events that haven't happened in Soul Hunter yet.
Hope everyone likes it, despite the shorter chapter!
"Hello? Is this Qrow Branwen?"
"Yes. And you are?"
"Doctor Isshin Kurosaki. I run a clinic in Vale..."
"Kurosaki? Father of Ichigo Kurosaki?"
"You know my son? I was under the impression he hadn't..."
"Professor Ozpin contacted me some time ago, about a student that was quite unusual. I doubt you are contacting me about that however."
"You'd be correct, though I might have to lecture my son to be more careful. In any case...I believe you have the right to know, that my son brought to my attention that your sister-in-law was reported missing some time ago?"
"Summer? Yes, she has not been seen in years. Despite any attempts we have made to find her, of which there have been many."
Isshin Kurosaki sighed. He had no idea how Qrow was going to react to the knowledge they had found Summer. Leaving aside her memory issues for the moment, there was the very fact she had been found in the first place. There would probably be happiness about that, but the fact Isshin had brought along the young sisters was going to come back to bite him, he knew that much. He had felt they deserved to look themselves, as they had been hurt as bad as anyone. He knew he wouldn't hold Ichigo back if it ever came down to fighting Grand Fisher...both of them deserved a crack at that monster. And as such, he had believed the girls deserved to help search, though he wouldn't have taken them if they hadn't passed his little test...Ichigo was well-along to becoming quite the strong young man. But his girlfriend and her sister didn't have the same sort of power or training...
And they weren't his children, however fun it was to rib Ichigo with the 'third daughter' line. Their Father and Uncle were likely to be a bit unhappy at the idea of them going into the Badlands, even if it had resulted in finding Summer.
"Is that why you have called me?" Qrow's voice broke in, a curious tone to it.
Shaking his head, Isshin focused back on the phone in his hand, "Yeah. You see, my son offered to bring your nieces here, to see if I had ever treated Summer Rose or anyone who may have seen her. As it turned out..."
As Isshin told the story of what had happened, he could only imagine the face on the other end of the line. Well, imagine what he thought it might look like, having never met the man before. He well knew how he would react if Kaien had suddenly been found alive...or if Masaki came back into his life. He could imagine that Qrow would be reacting more or less in the same manner. The sudden silence when he finished explaining how Summer was resting in his clinic just worked to confirm that theory in Isshin's mind.
"Summer is okay, yes?" the other man finally spoke up.
Isshin nodded absently, "As okay as she can be. She is severely malnourished, and seems to have more than a few badly healed wounds. I can't claim to understand what it was like in the Badlands for so long, but she will take time to recover from that. Her mind...I will be honest. It is impossible to say at this point if she will ever fully recover her memories. Not even remembering her daughters until seeing them is not a promising sign."
"I...see. May I have your address? I will be bringing Taiyang to your clinic tonight, to see Summer for ourselves."
Once he had done that, and said goodbye, Isshin sighed and ran a hand through his spiky hair. This was not going to be a particularly fun night for him. Of course, it would be even less fun for the sisters. Or Summer for that matter. He would need to get them bundled off back to Beacon then...make sure that it was just their Uncle and Father who saw their Mother. Anything more might be too much at once for Summer, and frankly, it was for the best anyway. They needed to get back before awkward questions were asked, especially since the other two girls who had been waiting here were likely the mystery pair that Ichigo hadn't wanted to talk about.
Well, time to get them back to Beacon. Wonder how long it'll be before one of them finally makes a move. Oh my dear Masaki, our son is becoming a man!
After the students had left his clinic, Isshin pulled out a chair and sat outside, watching the sun setting in the distance. For all the differences between Remnant and back home, this at least wasn't one of them. Masaki had always enjoyed just watching the sun set, and it was a habit that Isshin hadn't been able to break as yet. Not that he really wanted to break it though...it reminded him of her. Right now though, being outside had little to do with watching the sun. He was merely waiting on the other two men...Qrow had said they would arrive that night, so it shouldn't be that long.
"They aren't going to be happy," the former Captain sighed to himself.
"Perhaps, but perhaps they will be overjoyed at Summer being alive?"
"Engetsu, I've told you not to talk to me outside Jinzen. Who do you think I am, my son?"
There was silence after that, as Isshin snorted softly. His Zanpakutō was picking up bad habits from his son's blade. Not that he was one to talk...he was lucky Ichigo hadn't picked up his habits sometimes. Masaki would have killed him, slowly and painfully.
I miss her so much...
"Are you Isshin Kurosaki?"
Turning his mind away from the old pain, Isshin nodded. He recognized the voice, even if he didn't recognize the man- men -in front of him. The hardbitten men were clearly hunters as well, scars quite prominent. The taller one had what looked suspiciously similar to Ruby's weapon on his back, marking him as Qrow if what Ichigo had said was true. He was tall, even slightly taller than Isshin himself, with pitch-black hair. His sharp grey eyes were scanning everything, the sign of a trained huntsman if ever there was one. A long scar crossed his cheek, likely from a Grimm claw, and with Aura providing protection...that must have come from a hell of a fight. Qrow's sharp features turned finally to Isshin, a small smile crossing his face.
Next to him, was a shorter blonde-haired man who could only be Taiyang. His features reminded Isshin more of Yang than Ruby, and it wasn't just the hair. Unlike Qrow's sharp features, Taiyang had a much more kind and...soft...nature to his face. His violet eyes held a kind look, set in a face with wrinkles clearly made by smiling often. It was quite the contrast with Qrow, to be honest.
"I am. I assume you're Qrow and he's Taiyang?"
"You would assume correctly," Qrow nodded, "may we see Summer?"
"Certainly. She's probably asleep at the moment though, so I'd request you to be quiet."
Taiyang was oddly quiet, as he followed the other two into the building. Isshin could understand that as well. It can't have been easy for the man to finally be coming to see his wife again, and knowing she might not even recognize him. Presuming Summer was even awake of course, which was far from a given in its own right.
Stopping at the door to the clinic, Isshin sent his best 'serious doctor' look at the other two men, "She's right in here. Let me make sure everything is okay."
Qrow nodded, "We've waited years...we can wait a few more minutes."
All that the other man did was nod slightly.
"It shouldn't be even that long."
Once in the room, Isshin moved over to Summer. The woman was sleeping peacefully, her hair moving up slightly with each breath. For someone in a strange place after spending years fighting Grimm in the Badlands, she looked remarkably peaceful even. And that was why, more than anything, he didn't try waking her up to talk to her husband and brother-in-law. Summer needed rest more than anything else. As a Doctor, it was Isshin's first priority to ensure she recovered. And if that meant keeping her asleep instead of meeting her family...for now, that was the better option. There would be plenty of time for reconnecting later.
"You can come in now," he whispered, loud enough for the other men to hear, but not loud enough to wake Summer, who merely stirred slightly in her sleep. Qrow and Taiyang entered the room slowly, faces expressionless masks. Isshin knew the look well...they believed it wasn't really Summer, despite what he had said.
The moment they actually laid eyes on the woman in the bed, however, the masks shattered. Qrow's eyes widened, the most emotion Isshin had seen on his face to this point crashing across it. Shock, hope, disbelief, joy...you name it, and it crossed the Professor's face. Taiyang was more extreme...tears came to his eyes, as a choked off cry left his throat.
"Summer," the man spoke for the first time, his voice extremely similar in sound to Yang's. Ignoring anything else, the blonde ran forward, stopping only when he was by his wife's side.
Like he couldn't believe what he was seeing, he reached a hand out, hesitantly...slowly. The hand tangled in Summer's hair, slowly stroking it so as not to wake her. Qrow smiled at that sight, before moving to stand next to Isshin, who was keeping a respectful distance.
"I had doubted you," the taller man began, "I didn't believe that you had really found Summer. It's been so long, and I have personally spent so much time looking for her...we had given up almost all hope of ever finding her. Taiyang commissioned a grave stone for her. I think losing Summer broke him...my friend has never been the same, not since he lost her."
Isshin nodded, "I can understand the sentiment. My wife has been gone for years now...it never gets easier to wake up alone, without her there by my side. I know my children aren't coping much better."
"That sounds the same as Ruby and Yang. They don't show it often, but they were devastated when Summer vanished," Qrow sighed softly, "as much as I would not like to admit it, Taiyang was in no condition to raise children after...she left. Yang raised Ruby, more than their father did. I helped where I could, and that's probably why Ruby has always come to me with her problems."
I can relate, Isshin thought with a slight wince, I know I didn't do as well as I could with Ichigo. Zangetsu did just as much as I ever did.
The other man didn't seem to notice as he continued talking, "That has changed recently, but now that we have Summer back...we might have the old Taiyang back."
"I'm not sure how much of her you have back," Isshin warned him.
"So you've said. Still, I'd like to be hopeful."
He could hardly blame the other man for that opinion. It was hard not to be hopeful in this situation. Isshin knew that if he had Masaki back, it would be the exact same situation. Souls that moved on or were purified from Hollow's almost universally lost all memories of their past life. There were exceptions to every rule, but it was very rare. The odds were, that even if they ever got Masaki back by some miracle, it was highly likely she wouldn't remember her family, beyond foggy snapshots of her old life. Knowing that, it was easy for him to place himself in the shoes of Qrow and Taiyang. Because Isshin knew...that even if Masaki didn't remember, he would give anything to have her back. And he would stand by her side, even if she didn't remember him properly. Because he loved her deeply, and would do anything for the heart of the Kurosaki family.
Summer seemed to fill a similar role in her own family. After all, the look on Taiyang's face had gone from shocked to a happiness that Isshin knew was not faked in the slightest. The man just looked completely overjoyed at having Summer back, and nothing else mattered to him.
The problem was...he had to tell them his theory on what happened to Summer, before healing her could really begin.
"You know what happened to my wife?" Taiyang's voice was sharp and quite lucid, after Isshin had pulled the other two men into his office.
"Only a theory," the shinigami held up a hand, "I don't know enough to say for sure, at least not yet."
"Anything is helpful," Qrow broke in.
It was odd, seeing both of these men fall into 'huntsman' mode so quickly. It reminded Isshin of his own 'mood shifts'. Maybe not as extreme though...
"I can't think of any Grimm that is capable of such selective damage," he began slowly, "if a Grimm gave Summer enough of a wound to harm her memory like this, it would have killed her. Because she would not have been capable of defending herself after such a traumatic brain injury. I am quite familiar with what it takes to cause memory loss like this from physical attacks...and it is neither easy, or quick to do."
Qrow tapped his finger on the desk, "Neither can I. Grimm are anything but subtle...I made a point when I was a Professor and not Headmaster of pointing that out at Signal. If you encounter a Grimm, it will do everything it can to kill you. They don't leave someone alone after just wounding them. And I didn't see a scar on Summer's face...it could possibly be covered by her hair but..."
"There isn't one," Isshin finished.
Taiyang frowned, "If a Grimm didn't do this to my wife..."
"Something else did."
And there was the question. It was possible there was a new type of Grimm out somewhere in the Badlands that could do something like this, mess with memories without leaving physical signs. After all, there was that dinosaur one that Isshin knew was still uncatalogued as of yet. But the idea that there was a Grimm that could use mental powers of some form was a very tough pill to swallow, even for him. He was familiar enough with the abominations. They were worse than any Hollow he had ever encountered, completely unnatural in every way. From how they spawned to the fact they shouldn't exist without a soul. But they were not spiritually powerful. Because nothing else could have done this to Summer, but something with spiritual abilities.
Which was terrifying in its own way. There shouldn't be anyone else in Remnant capable of using that specific type of power but himself and his family. It was the entire reason they lived in Vale in the first place after all. So the idea that there was someone else out there who had targeted Summer was...worrying. Not least because it meant they might still be out there.
"What could have done this though?" Taiyang continued, dropping back into the 'hunter' mindset he had long since left behind, "Nothing I know of can."
"Hmm..." Qrow hummed thoughtfully, sending a significant look at his old partner.
"You don't think..."
"It is a possibility, is it not?"
"Maybe, but I've never..."
"Neither have I, but it seems like the only option."
Isshin looked between the two, head snapping back and forth as the two clearly forgot he was even there. He had no idea what the hell they were talking about either, which was an odd feeling. It was normally him talking about stuff no one else had any idea about. Reversing that on him was annoying in a way. So he allowed himself a moment of 'goofy Isshin' to get the men's attention. Hey, he hadn't had this much time being serious in years. He was entitled to a bit of goofing off now.
"Helllloooo...mind explaining to the clueless doctor?" he waved a hand in front of Qrow's face, while sending his patented goofy grin at Taiyang. Who looked amused by it.
Qrow coughed, "Right, of course you wouldn't know. This is highly secret, and it cannot leave this room. Only myself, Taiyang, General Ironwood of Atlas, and Headmaster Ozpin know what I'm about to tell you."
What did I just stumble into?
"Shoot," was all Isshin said.
The next morning found Isshin standing with Qrow and Taiyang, Summer safely bundled into an ambulance on loan from Vale General Hospital. The three men had stayed up nearly the whole night, going over the suspicions they held about the 'Queen'. There wasn't a lot of information to go off...or not a lot they were willing to share with him at any rate. Not that he could necessarily blame them, since he wasn't exactly entitled to know this, regardless of the fact Ichigo was painting a massive target on his back. It was not his place to be brought in, since he didn't have any dedicated Huntsman experience. It was only because of his son and Ozpin's interest in him that Isshin was told as much as he was.
And that was enough to worry him. The 'Pawns'...the Queen themselves...it reminded him far too much of a certain traitorous Captain. Which was what he was thinking might have happened to Summer, even if the idea made him worried. Shouldn't be any way for him to find Remnant...but if he did, they were all screwed. Might be time to push up Ichigo's training even further, just to be on the safe side.
For now though, he was just doing his job as a doctor, making sure Summer was safe to move.
"Are you sure you want to move her to Patch?" Isshin asked the other men, "It's no problem to keep her here till she recovers!"
Taiyang shook his head, "I appreciate the offer, I really do. But I want Summer home...a familiar environment might help her recover."
What was left unsaid, was that he wanted his wife with him.
"And I feel more secure if she is where I can watch her," Qrow added, "No offense to your skills of course, as you are clearly a capable fighter."
Isshin scratched his head, "Yeah, I am."
"I still want to have a word with your son for dragging my daughters into this," Taiyang added himself, as he sat with Summer in the ambulance.
Qrow just shook his head, "Always overprotective. I've trained Ruby and Yang myself, and they are more than capable fighters. Still though, I can understand what he is saying. Maybe you should contact one of us if you ever feel the need to take them into the Badlands again?"
"Certainly. I would have this time, but we had no way of knowing..."
"If Summer would still be where she was sighted. Yes, I do understand why you did it," a small smirk crossed the taller man's face, though it quickly faded, "Keep in mind what I told you. If you see anything out of the ordinary..."
The Shinigami nodded, "I'll tell you as soon as I see it. So long as you fill me in the rest of the way."
"I will," Qrow clasped Isshin's arm, before joining his long-time partners in the ambulance, "Farewell for now."
Isshin watched them go...sighing as his life grew ever more complicated. Ah, what the hell...things had been getting boring anyway. Now he had something to work towards for the first time in years, so at least there was something positive. He just wished it was something that wasn't likely to endanger his family. He had moved to Vale to keep them safe...the idea that they were still in danger from more than just Grimm didn't sit well with the man.
But, that could wait for the future. For now...
"Yuzu! Daddy needs some of your marvelous cooking!"
...the situation could continue as usual in the crazy Kurosaki household.
AN: And there we go. Needless to say, I'm being very cautious in relation to the 'Queen'. Is she Cinder? Or is Cinder one of the Pawns? We don't know yet, and that is way to major a plot point in RWBY for me to wing it. I'm sorta-fine with saying that Tai and Qrow are different from their Canon versions since I don't know enough yet.
Taking the overarching enemy of RWBY and twisting it is taking things too far, IMHO though. So the next chapters are going to focus more on Summer's recovery...as the story title indicates.
Hope everyone enjoyed it!