So I'm back from a very busy summer. For those of you wondering where the hell I've been...well there was the Rock in Rio festival, followed by string of Breaking Benjamin concerts I went to. There was also Lollapalooza in Chicago(Metallica!). I went trekking through a few caves and canyons and suffered through a family wedding. So busy busy.
Anyways, Oblivion will be updated by the end of the week. Probably Thursday.
As for this story, well, I wrote it several months ago and recently found it while I was looking for my draft of Oblivion. So I thought to myself, why not?
Hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of this shit.
Chapter 1: Heaven to Hell
"Still no word from him?"
Isshin Kurosaki looks up from his cup of tea and at the stripped hat of Kisuke Urahara. He lets out a heavy sigh before answering the mad scientist. "No…It's been roughly three months since I last spoke with him."
Urahara broke open that damnable fan of his and hid half his face behind it. "At this rate I don't think he'll ever come back."
"It's for his own good Kisuke," Isshin sighed again. "It's best for Ichigo to move on from all this."
As Isshin returned his attention to his tea, he heard Urahara hum in thought.
"You know," the former captain of squad twelve said slowly, "I'm the very last person who should hand out advice on parenting but, it seems to me the Ichigo is well on his way to 'moving on' on a permanent basis."
Isshin's grip on his cup tightened.
"What are you going to do if Ichigo decides to leave it all behind?" Urahara said grimly. "If you keep pushing him away, he may decide that he's a burden to his family and friends…or even worse, that they are a burden to him."
"Ichigo won't do that Kisuke," Isshin said firmly. "He's incredibly understanding and mature for his age."
"Yes, yes, I completely agree," Urahara said cheerily. "So mature in fact, that the best way to handle him is to drive him into exile and pretend he doesn't even exist."
"That's not true and you know it, Kisuke!" Isshin rumbled.
"Do you think me stupid? Wait, don't answer that!" Urahara said quickly. "I know that the only reason that you came up with this rotten plan is on the hope that Ichigo won't question your origins. So much easier to avoid the awkward 'I've been deceiving you all your life' conversation by disposing of him like common trash."
Isshin looked at Urahara with a blank expression.
"Fuck you Kisuke," he said flatly.
"Hmm," the deceptively cheerful man said while waving his fan. "And then there are his friends who think him so weak of heart that they believe he will give into depression and petty jealousy. I mean, it's not as if he willingly gave up everything for all our sakes."
The former shinigami dropped his head onto the table.
Several moments of silence passed between the two. Isshin continued to wallow in his numerous regrets while Urahara simply fanned himself. After a few moments, Isshin heard a soft thud on the table and groaned as he heard a strong masculine voice. "What's going on here?"
"Ah, Yoruichi-san!" The 'humble;' shop owner said good naturedly. "Kurosaki-san and I were lost on the road of life together."
An awkward silence fell into the room and Isshin felt that something horribly wrong about to occur across the universe. When nothing happened, he glanced up to see a black cat staring down at him condescendingly. "In other words," The cat said. "You were telling this waste of space what a crap assed father he is, right?"
Isshin dropped his back on the table with force.
Urahara laughed heartily. "Nothing that intense Yoruichi-san. We were just reflecting on some past choices on Kurosaki-san's part."
"Hmph,"Yoruichi huffed. "So how is my favorite strawberry doing?"
"Oh don't ask Kurosaki-san," Urahara laughed. "He hasn't spoken to his son in over three months. Oh! Don't worry though! It's all part of his master plan!"
Isshin could actually feel Yoruichi's glare on his skull. No doubt the former assassin princess of Soul Society was seething in indignation on behalf of her student. "You know," her voice came acerbically. "If you don't want him, I'll gladly take him off your hands. We could even formalize an adoption and everything. The Shihōin family would be ecstatic to know that Ichigo's potentially powerhouse kids would fall under their jurisdiction."
"You expect me to hand him over to those sharks?" Isshin mumbled against the wood of the table in quiet outrage.
"At least they would want him around," she said, the anger and resentment in her tone all too apparent.
He slowly raised his head to meet her golden eyes shining with censor. "It's for his own good. It's best for him to no longer be involved with our world. He can't be involved with our world."
"Yes," she spat. "And I suppose it's also for Yuzu's and Karin's sake that they worry themselves sick for the big brother they haven't seen or heard from in months. All for their own good."
Yoruichi's word were like a knife twisting in his gut. He was a prideful and stubborn man, Isshin knew this. However, he honestly thought that the best thing for Ichigo would be to get as far way from the machinations of Soul Society as possible. He knew how those old farts in Central 46 thought. Someone like his son, a wild card, would be perceived as a major threat to their power. Especially since Isshin had gone and revealed himself in the conflict with Aizen.
If Ichigo ended up regaining his powers and with the added knowledge of his lineage, Soul Society law mandated that his son take up the mantle of Clan Head. Never mind that the Shiba were considered outcasts now. Isshin himself was ineligible due to him having abandoning his previous post.
The old bastards would never let go of the opportunity to get their hands on the secrets of the Shiba family and they would manipulate Ichigo all the way to hell and back to get them. No, it was for the best that Ichigo be driven far away. Even if it tore the boy to shreds on the inside.
As for Yuzu and Karin…
Isshin slammed his head against the table once more. They'd understand once they were older…hopefully.
"You know," Urahara said. "Ichigo is a surprisingly resourceful and dedicated young man. What will you do if he decides to leave the country?"
"Eh?" Yuroichi tilted her head. "What a dumb question Kisuke. We drag him back and kick his ass. Screw Soul Society and their 'Ichigo Kurosaki is to not be approached' laws."
"Why on Earth would Ichigo leave the country Kisuke?" Isshin asked.
"Hmm, perhaps to start a new life away from his neglecting family? Or maybe he decides to become an internationally acclaimed model? Who knows, really?"
Isshin looked up and stared dumbly at Urahara.
'Ichigo?…As a model?…Pfft…not a snowball's chance in hell.'
Yoruichi purred. "Mmm, I wouldn't mind if Ichigo went and did a catwalk in nothing but his underwear. Say what you will about that kid, but he knows how to rock his bod."
Isshin gagged as bile rose within his mouth. The images were only made worse by Yoruichi's all too masculine voice. 'There goes any thoughts of dinner tonight…or sleep for that matter.'
A silence descended on all three as they each lost themselves to memories of the young man that had such a prolific impact on their lives in the last few years. They sat there for several more minutes before Yoruichi broke the silence.
Hirako Shinji was not in a good mood. The reason being? The mountain of paperwork that laid unfinished on his desk. The damn things bred like rabbits and no matter how fast he finished them and moved on to the next pile, there would be all the more to take care of.
'Even locked up an' sealed that bastard Aizen still givin me a headache.'
Aizen's treason, along with him leaving his lieutenant mentally unstable, left Squad 5 terribly disorganized and backtracked. Naturally, it fell to him to sort out all the problems as he had been stupid enough to reclaim his mantle as captain…what the hell was he thinking?
"Oi! Hinamori-chan! Got somethin' here for ya," he called loudly.
When no answer came, he looked up and around. Now where did his lieutenant end up? She was normally such a well behaved girl and practically waited on him hand and foot.
Getting up from his desk and maneuvering around the stacks of paper, Shinji muttered out, "Kids these days, I tell ya."
Sliding the doors to his office open, he hollered out to the rest of his division. "Any of you dunces seen Hinamori-chan!?"
One of his subordinates cried back from somewhere. "She's at the fukutaicho meeting, captain!"
"She is?" He said to himself.
Then, a female officer called out to him. 'Hmm…that's my fifth seat…right?'
"Shouldn't you be at your meeting, Captain Hirako?" she asked pointedly.
He absently scratched his cheek.
"That was today?" He mumbled.
Sighing to himself, Shinji decided he better get going. Soul King knows that he doesn't need another lecture from the old man. He'd only just gotten an earful from the Captain-Commander just the other day after he failed to hand in the necessary budget reports for his squad. He sighed to himself as he folded his hands within his captain's haori. 'What was I smokin' when I decided to come back to this crap job?'
Disappearing in whirl of shunpo, Shinji arrived at Squad One's barracks in a manner of minutes. Hunching over and letting out another sigh, he trudged himself over to the meeting hall. As he opened the door, he looked at the faces of all his fellow captains.
'Damn. Ya know you're late when Kenpachi arrives before ya.'
"You are late, Hirako-taicho." The stern voice of the Captain-Commander vibrates through the air. Shinji subdued a shudder as the old man stared at him with steel. He knew that look. It meant he's in for another reprimand once the meeting was over.
Shinji waved him off dismissively. "Sorry, sorry. Took time to dig myself outta that pile of paperwork. On that note, since when is it protocol to file a report for a backed up toilet in your squad's barracks?"
That earned him a few snickers as well as a few glares.
"Enough! Take your place!" The oldest shinigami barked.
"Yeah, yeah," he said as he strode over to stand opposite of the Kuchiki kid. Now that was a captain who seriously had a major stick up his ass. The kid was a few centuries too young to be acting like the way he did. 'Don't know what went wrong with him. Used be a lively brat that chased Yoruichi all round.'
As the minutes ticked on, the captains discussed various things from resources to fighting between the squads and even the occasional need to redesign the uniforms. Most of it, Shinji yawned through. Although, he threw in his two cents every now and then.
An hour into the meeting, it was interrupted by the sound of loud 'beeping.' All heads turned towards the very end of the captain's line and looked at the twelfth squad captain. Kurotsuchi was a creepy fuck all around. And the worst part was that the son of a bitch knew it too. So when he reached into his robes and began to pull out something, it was with good reason the adjacent captains edged away from him.
Shinji watched with minor interest as he pulled out some sort of electronic pad and began scrolling through and punching away commands.
"Kurotsuchi-taichou! I have warned you against using your devices during meetings before! Now put it away!"
Sometimes, Shinji felt bad for the old man. It must feel like taking care of children at a daycare for him.
"Hmm?" The mad scientist hummed. "Oh yes. My apologies but it appears that an interesting development has taken place."
"Interesting?" Ukitake asked from across Kurotsuchi.
"Yes," Squad twelve's captain said while he continued to poke away at the…thing. "It seems Kurosaki Ichigo has gone missing."
That turned a few heads.
"Missing?" Rose said while immediately trading looks with his fellow Visored.
"What are you saying Kurotsuchi-taicho!?" The Captain-Commander demanded.
"As of thirty-seven minutes ago, all traces of Kurosaki Ichigo vanished from the Living World. Initial scans show that he isn't in Soul Society or Hueco Mundo either."
"Ya dumbass," Shinji dropped his forehead into his hand. "What've ya gone and done now?"
"So where the hell is he?" Kensei growled out.
Craning his neck back at an unnatural angle, Kurotsuchi tapped his chin a few times with one of his elongated nails. "Well, it maybe that the former substitute shinigami is being hidden by a third party but considering he's of no value to anyone without his powers, I doubt that."
"So then what is it?" Shinji asked, entirely losing his laidback demeanor and becoming deadly serious.
"The most logical assumption? He's been eaten by a hollow."
He touched the pick to the metal strings with his right hand while his left hand slid up and down the neck, slowly fretting away a climbing melody. It was Chad who first introduced him to the guitar and taught him how to play.
He had spent hours every day practicing what his best friend had taught him and soon began to pick up different arrangements from the internet. Learning classical blues from the likes of B.B. King to the alchemical monstrosities of Jimi Hendrix, he revealed in the beautiful sounds of the world's most popular instrument.
It was a shame a near whole two years went by without him picking one up. The whole sordid affair with Aizen left him pursuing more aggressive troubles than leisure ones. Day in and day out, he threw himself into a hellish regime, fighting with demons both out and within. Blood, sweat and, perhaps, a few tears came down to the climax of his final showdown with the megalomaniacal genius of Sosuke Aizen.
That's how much time has lapsed since he gave up his powers. Three years since he exchanged his powers for the final defeat of Aizen and the guaranteed safety of his friends of family. Three years since he sentenced himself to the bleak and meager existence of a normal human teenager.
His hands quickened their movements as the momentum of the sound built and the guitar began to screech and let out a sweet sound of bitterness.
He was nearly nineteen now and was close to finishing to finishing his first semester of college. Having made his decision to study under as a Bachelors of Business Administration, he left Karakura town and moved to the dorms of Tokyo University. Though his family and friends protested him leaving to live so far away, in reality, it was something they had secretly rejoiced behind his back.
He wasn't stupid, he knew that they wanted him as far away as possible from the realities of his situation. Though why on Earth they felt the need to isolate him and treat him as if he were made out of glass was beyond him. If there's one thing he couldn't stand, it was being pitied. And that was exactly what they were doing.
His hands began to close across the metal plated strings and the furor of the sound picked up. The slow sorrow picked up into indignant rage as the guitar roared in reflection of its master. His fingers, swift and deadly, churned soft fretting into cold shredding.
They had taken to ignoring him.
Chad, Uryu, Orihime, Tatsuki…they all pushed him away fearing that he would lose himself in melancholy if he were faced with everything he had given up. Even his own family began distancing themselves from him. His father, ever the idiot, practically ignored him when he was around the house. Karin never talked to him anymore and she always ran off to Urahara's place, trying to keep her activities a secret from him. Yuzu was the same, except, instead of outright pushing him away, she would stare him distantly as if he would fall to pieces any minutes. His sisters, despite their best efforts, were never quite capable of successfully lying to him.
Idiots, the lot of them.
The ferocity of the guitar died down as his fingers calmed and his movements fell back into a strong and hollow riff. He closed his eyes in a silent sigh and tilted his head, letting the soothing sounds of his emotions wash over him.
Ichigo Kurosaki never felt so entirely alone in his life.
Although he never held it against his friends and family as they were only doing what they thought best for him. Even if they were doing it in the most retarded way possible. His time in the Dangai, the year he spent in constant conflict with himself, left Ichigo older, wiser and, perhaps yes, more world-weary. Though he liked to consider himself the same person he had always has been.
Still, Ichigo was never one to hold grudges. He had long since decided to move on with his, now all too human, life. No point trying to chase after something he never should have had in the first place. It was one of the reasons he had yet to demand answers from his father regarding his questionable 'human' lineage.
Yet, despite his acquired maturity and patience, it still hurt to know that the very people he had fought and died (twice in fact) for were pushing him to such a great distance. Such was his lot in life.
As his hands came to a steady slow, he muted the hum of the music on one last powerful note before silencing the whole surge of emotions with his palm.
Opening eyes marred with a distant sadness, Ichigo let out a soft sigh before taking his guitar overhead, unplugging it and placing down on its rack. He leaned down and flipped his amp off. As he stood, he let out another sigh and ran a hand through his hair.
Playing his music always left him in a sober mood.
Staring up at the ceiling Ichigo let out a soft, "…Yeah."
He decided that he could use a nice hot drink to go hand in hand with his mellow thoughts. Going into his bedroom, he quickly threw on a change of clothes.
While Ichigo never considered himself to be one of the 'popular kids' he always dressed fashionably whenever he went out. He put on dark grey jeans that were faded, a light beige shirt and a black leather jacket with a fur collar. As Ichigo moved to grab his keys off the dresser he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror.
Instinctively, his hand moved to fiddle with a lock of his orange hair. He had let it grow out and it was now shoulder length and messily fell over his eyes. With a shake of his head, he flicked his bangs away and looked deep into the reflection of his eyes. An unfathomable depth in his brown irises fully exhibited the burden of his now powerless soul.
Walking out his apartment, he locked the door and made his way down the dorms and went out into the light of the now setting sun. A despondency washed over him as he remembered the similar colors that preceded the death of his mother.
A sudden pain tore its way through Ichigo and he clutched his chest tightly.
For the last past few months, he'd been experiencing a chronic pain through his body. It wasn't serious as it only lasted a few minutes and quickly away but, lately, it had been coming up more frequently.
As Ichigo resumed walking, he quickened his pace as he didn't want to linger out in the dark for too long. Knowing what he did, he had no desire to run into a hollow that he had no chance to defend himself against. Granted, he doubted he was in true danger as the paranoid bunch that the Soul Society were would leave him without supervision. No doubt, they would be keeping a keen eye on him if he ever presented even a kindling of his old power. Urahara said that it was perhaps a blessing that he lost his powers as Central Room 46 would never have allowed him free reign after his victory over Aizen. However, despite all this, Ichigo wasn't about to walk into any form of danger as vulnerable as he was currently.
Luckily, the coffee shop wasn't too from the dorms as it was built on campus to cater to the needs of the numerous college students. Within a few minutes he arrived at his destination and took a place in the line. The line was somewhat long as it was a popular destination for all the students so he passed the time by absently tapping his foot while formulating guitar licks in his mind. The one thing that really distracted Ichigo from his lost abilities, aside from the mountain loads of homework, was his music.
As the number of people in front of him dwindled, Ichigo finally arrived at the counter. "Ah! Kurosaki-san! Are you getting the usual?" Ichigo blinked in surprise at the man behind the cash register before smiling cordially. "Yeah, that'll be all, Hanabusa-san." Hanabusa was a relatively young man and owned the coffee shop and, because Ichigo always stopped by in the morning just as the shop opened, he grew familiar with him. Once Hanabusa punched in the numbers, Ichigo gave the man his debt card.
"Thank you for your business," the man said with smile as he swiped Ichigo's card and handed it back to him along with a receipt.
Ichigo walked over to the other side of the counter and waited with a few other people for his order. After a minute or so passed, he finally picked up his cup of steaming coffee. Once he put in a hefty amount of sugar into his hot beverage, Ichigo found himself a seat.
Due to the hour, most people were simply grabbing their orders and returning to their homes so Ichigo had no trouble finding a spot to seat himself. He observed the various busy bodies as they came and went while slowly taking sips from his coffee.
He looked out the window and noted that the sun had finally set and night had completely blanketed the sky. A momentary frown crossed his face as he felt something stir within him. However, he swiftly dismissed the sensation as he didn't want to go down that path.
The first few months of life after the loss of his power were filled with half hopes and dashed dreams. Every time he felt something was off or he felt strange, it was actually a desperate longing for his power to return. It was a difficult time for him but, he learned to finally let go of everything.
As he continued to drink away and revel in the scalding liquid that burned its way down his throat, Ichigo's mind turned towards his younger sisters. The twins would both be at home now after a day in middle school. Kairin, for all her brashness, was a puddle of goo when it came to her older brother. He knew how much she looked up to him and, undoubtedly, his absence was weighing heavily on her mind. Poor Yuzu was probably feeling the brunt of the sisters' guilt. She was never anything but gentle and compassionate.
Taking a long draw from the plastic cup, Ichigo drained the entirety of its contents. However, another spasm of pain ripped its way through him and he was forced to sit back down. With a grunt, he inhaled sharply as the pain faded and echoed away.
Tensing his muscles, he made to get up again but this time, he was stopped by a vile chill that crept up and down his spine. A feeling of cold dread made itself known in the pit of his stomach.
He immediately stopped and looked around. Ichigo's eyes narrowed as he realized that he wasn't the only one to suddenly shudder. He felt a dull throb in his chest as his mind began to race.
'A hollow? But that's impossible…I know I don't have any spiritual awareness.'
Despite losing his powers over three years ago, Ichigo would have instantly noticed if even an iota of his old strength returned. So what was it that had set everyone in the shop on edge?
As if to answer his question, the door to the shop swung open and in strode a figure that instantaneously captured the attention of every single person in the room. He was tall, as tall as Ichigo and had a haunting, otherworldly grace to him. But, the one thing that seized Ichigo's attention was his hair. Long flowing hair that was the same color of freshly shed blood.
Ichigo stared hard at the man and grit his teeth. This man…he gave the same feeling as the Hōgyoku. Ethereal, fleeting and totally beyond his comprehension.
Ichigo took a good look at him. The man appeared to be young, maybe a few years older than Ichigo himself, and was dressed sharply. A pinstriped black business suit with a black shirt and a scarlet tie that matched his hair perfectly.
The red-haired man cast a glance around the shop before his blue-green gaze fell on Ichigo. The moment he spied him, the red-haired man gave an unnerving smile and began to walk towards him. As he approached, Ichigo schooled his features and swept his bangs out of his eyes. As the man sat across from him, Ichigo eyed him coolly.
"Hello Ichigo Kurosaki," The stranger greeted with a smile.
Alarms bells rang off in Ichigo's head. The man knew who he was and, judging by the vibes he was giving off, knew what he used to be. Things were getting dangerous and Ichigo seriously hoped that his suspicions that Soul Society was keeping tabs on him proved to be true.
"Can I help you," Ichigo asked with a quirked eyebrow.
"Straight to business then?" The young man asked with a good natured smile. "Well, Ichigo Kurosaki, I regret to inform you that I'm here to collect a debt."
Ichigo stared blankly at the man for a moment as he thought he heard wrong. Then, he blinked in confusion when there was no attempt on the other man's attempt to repeat himself. 'He's…a debt collector?...Wait a minute…I don't even have a credit card!'
"A debt?" Ichigo repeated carefully.
"I'm afraid so." The red-haired man while still smiling.
"What kind of debt?" Ichigo asked.
He obtained a nonchalant reply of, "The big kind."
"Right," Ichigo drawled. "Mind telling me what precisely this debt is and how in the name of Hell I got it?"
Something he said must have set the man off as he gained a wicked crookedness to his smile. "Well, it happened a few years ago. You, and a group of friends, trespassed on my private property, saw fit to cause wanton destruction and then proceeded to lead my staff on a wild goose chase as you made your exit."
Ichigo blinked a few times. 'I did?'
"Out of curiosity," Ichigo began. "Just when did I supposedly do all this?"
"Roughly speaking, over three years ago," The man said never losing his smile.
Back when he was still a substitute shinigami.
Tresspassing…? Property damage…? Staff on a wild goes chase…?
Ichigo garnered a look of pure shock as he stared at the well-dressed stranger. "You-you're not the Soul King are you?"
The man actually looked taken aback for a moment right before he burst out in wild laughter.
"Wrong end of the spectrum, Kurosaki-san," He exclaimed as he wiped a tear away. "Though I suppose it's my fault for not properly introducing myself."
As the man continued to chuckle heartily, Ichigo's eyes narrowed in irritation.
"You know, this has gone on long enough," he growled. "Just who the Hell are you?"
The man's laughter receded and he fixed Ichigo with a look of utmost amusement.
"My name is Sirzechs Gremory," he said through a polite smile and Ichigo felt a chill crawl up his spine as the red-head's eyes flashed with a crimson malice. "Though, now-a-days, I go by Lucifer."
"So you're the Devil?" Ichigo deadpanned.
"Yup," he responded cheerfully.
"And I owe you one?"
"Uh-huh." The smile never leaft his face.
Ichigo relaxed and threw an arm behind his chair.
"Don't take this the wrong way or anything," Ichigo said casually. "But you're pretty feminine looking for supposedly being the embodiment of evil."
Lucifer blushed, blushed!
"Yeah I get that a lot," he said while rubbing the back of his sheepishly. "I took after my mom more than my dad."
Ichigo looked at him in surprise. "You have parents?"
"Of course I do!" the amusement on his face was a little unnerving. "What? Did you think I popped out of the ground or something?"
"Huh," Ichigo tilted his head and brushed his hair from his eyes. "I always thought you were some sort of angel turned demon thing."
"Ah, common misconception," Lucifer said good-naturedly. "That would be my predecessor. After he died I took over the job."
Ichigo had been through a lot of strange things in his life. Very strange. Suffice it to say, this conversation was quickly making its way to the number one spot.
"The Devil…died?" Ichigo said incredulously.
"Yeah," Lucifer shrugged. "There was a war, a really big one, and he and his cohorts went down along with several other major players. Through a series of long and painful events, I ended up with a job."
Ichigo could only offer something as simple as, "…Oh."
As he processed the information, Lucifer snapped his fingers and a glass filled with a dark purple liquid appeared. He lifted the glass and took a light slip.
Ichigo always wondered if there was more than Soul Society out there but this-this!-was entirely beyond him.
The most feared and reviled figure across numerous cultures and religions, was calmly sipping away in front of him with a smile plastered on his face that was all too reminiscent of a certain eccentric candy shop owner.
"So," Ichigo stated carefully. "What precisely do you want from me?"
"Hmm," Lucifer tapped his chin. "Well, for starters, could you tell me why you felt the need to bust into my domain and cause so much trouble for me?"
Ichigo blinked in surprise before he said, "Sure."
And tell him he did.
Ichigo explained everything and how it went down to Lucifer. From his initial skirmishes with the escaped Sinners, to being duped by that crazy son of a bitch who kidnapped Yuzu, him losing control and going berserk, to finally beating the crap out of Kokuto. By the end of his tale, Lucifer had his face hidden in shadows and Ichigo couldn't make out his expression.
What he could tell, was that the man's-err being's?-shoulders were trembling and shaking.
The next thing he knew, his hand was being held in a firm grip and the Devil decided to get up close and personal. Big watery eyes filled with unshed tears and lower lip quivering violently, the King of Hell began to cry in front of a, now completely, terrified Ichigo.
"Kurosaki-san!" The red-haired Devil cried. "To think you would go so far and suffer so greatly for your imouto! You are a great-no! You are a true paragon for big brothers across all of Creation! Consider any debt between us absolved!"
"Hey now," Ichigo cast a wary glance across the shop as he attempted to shake the red-head's grip off. "You're causing a scene."
Indeed, the entire store was now looking at the two young men in interest. A few of the more imaginative females saw two handsome young men, one of which who was crying, holding hands together. Several noses started to drip red.
Lucifer conjured a handkerchief from thin air and blew his nose rather unmannerly. "Sorry, it's just that I have a little sister of my own and I'm always fretting over her. She's such a free spirited child, so a big brother can't help but worry."
Ichigo did not see. It was hard enough trying to come to terms that the Devil wasn't all that he was cracked up to be but, he was also a worrying older brother? Things couldn't get more bizarre.
Nodding his head, Lucifer wiped away his tears. "My Ria-tan is going through her rebellious phase so it's been particularly hard on me these last few years."
The Devil gained a wide smile, normally said fact would fill most people with a horrid dread but at this point Ichigo just wanted to be rid of him.
"My sister, Rias! Wanna see a picture?" He asked excitedly and began to dig through his pockets.
Ichigo expected something along the lines of a small photo in his wallet, so when the red head pulled out an entire album seemingly out of nowhere, Ichigo felt exasperation dig into his skull. Somewhere in his mind, an amused part of realized that, a few years back he would have snapped at the man for wasting his time and probably done something rash.
"Look!" Lucifer pointed excitedly. "This is Rias when she had her first dance recital at age five! And this one was from when she first learned to use magic! Oh! And this one was just last year! Her first year entering high school!"
Ichigo watched with no small sense of amused confusion as Lucifer pointed to picture after picture. Ichigo's own eyes softened considerably and he gained a faint smile. It obvious to him, that this individual loved his sister. The shine in his eyes, the warmth in his facial expressions and the way his smile spilled infectious joy were not lost to Ichigo.
'So even the Devil has a heart,' he silently mused.
"No no," Lucifer said flippantly. "Call me Sirzechs. I only use my title for official business."
"Okay," Ichigo gave a small chuckle and prompted his elbows on the table then folded his hands in front of his face. "You said your sister just entered high school last year. Are you saying she's only a teenager?"
"Yup!" Sirzechs smiled brightly. "She recently turned seventeen a few months ago!"
Ichigo blinked in surprise.
"She's even younger than me." He muttered.
"Devils' have a very low birth rate. A couple will most likely have two or three children over the span of several centuries."
"Yes, Devils," Sirzechs said and continued at Ichigo's look of confusion. "There's a separate part of Hell known as the Underworld. It's split between us Devils and Fallen Angels."
"Angels?" Ichigo's eyebrows disappeared into his hairline.
"There are many factions of the supernatural, Ichigo-kun." Sirzechs explained. "And each faction has its own afterlife."
"I…I had no idea." Ichigo admitted.
"Most humans don't. Japan is ruled by the Shinto faction. Their afterlife is governed by the Soul King of Soul Society. And, for one reason or another, the Soul King keeps his subordinates ignorant of the rest of the world. But he is very serious about maintaining the regulation of souls so there's never been a major issue."
"That-That's a lot to take in at once," Ichigo said as every word of Sirzechs caused his eyes to grow.
Sirzechs nodded sympathetically. "The world is much bigger than you think, Ichigo-kun."
Taking it all in, a question suddenly popped into Ichigo's mind. "Wait, if each place has its own afterlife, how come you're in charge of Japan's Hell?"
"Ah, well you see," Sirzechs explained, "Hell is the agreed universal dump for all the world's Sinners. And, as luck would have, I got stuck with the job of running the place."
"Oh…you said Shinto faction?" He prompted for more.
"Yes, the Shinto hierarchy is headed by Amaterasu. The Soul King runs their afterlife under her direct orders, but for the most part, Soul Society is autonomous."
Ichigo leaned back in his seat, the overload of information beginning to take its toll.
"Wow," Ichigo breathed, eyes widening. "All those fairy tales are true."
"For the most part, yes."
"Huh," Ichigo said before letting the air between them fall into a comfortable silence.
What a revelation. He spent over a year fighting for what he thought was for the fate of the world when in reality, the world didn't need him at all. Actually, it might have been worth it to let Aizen do whatever the hell he pleased only to watch as he got his ass handed to him by higher powers. 'Damn…I trained and got stronger so I could protect them all…to protect them from Aizen when, in reality, neither of us knew just how low we were on the ladder.'
"Well Ichigo-kun" Sirzechs said, breaking Ichigo away from his thoughts. "I'd say our business is concluded but I wanted to extend an offer to you."
His attention fully returning to the legendary being of evil before him, Ichigo quirked an eyebrow at him. "An offer?" He repeated.
"How would you like to work for me?" Sirzechs said with a dangerous smile.
"Work for you," Ichigo said in surprise. "What could a useless human like me do for you?"
"Useless?" Sirzechs mirrored Ichigo's look of puzzlement. "I can assure you, Ichigo-kun, you are far from useless. And as for human, well, I could make you into a Devil."
That's exactly when Ichigo knew to back out. "Sorry Sirzechs-san, but I don't plan on giving up my humanity for anything."
Now Ichigo could staunchly believe that this man was the Devil of legend. Sirzechs's eyes flashed and gained a predatory glint. "I can give you anything you want you know?"
"Sorry Sirzechs-san but I have to refuse your kind offer." Yeah, Ichigo was actually being tempted by the Prince of Hell himself. Screw every hollow in existence. This was infinitely more terrifying and, strangely enough, exhilarating.
"Not even for riches?" Sirzechs tempted. "For all the women in the world? A chance to cure your illness? A chance to conquer a nation or to even become immortal?"
Ichigo shook his head. "No, no and…wait a minute…what? What do you mean illness?"
Sirzechs smirked at him. "Give me some credit, Ichigo-kun. Do you honestly believe that I, the Ruler of the Underworld, wouldn't notice your sickness when the source of it is my own realm?"
Ichigo looked flabbergasted. "What are you talking about!?"
Smirk faltering, Sirzechs said, "You…you don't know?"
"Know what!?" Ichigo nearly yelled.
Sirzechs looked absolutely horrified and Ichigo knew right away that, when the Devil makes that kind of expression, shit's about to hit the proverbial fan.
"Ichigo-kun…you're dying." He whispered.
His words took some time to sink in but, Ichigo heard them loud and clear. He would've denied the assumption. He would've raged at the absurdity. But deep down, through that intuition which developed in countless life and death moments, Ichigo knew that Sirzechs's words rang true.
The random spasms of pain made all too clear to him.
Eyes horrifically wide, fingers numb with cold reality, Ichigo's hand trembled as he slowly brought it over his chest. He felt the dull beat against his ribs and wondered how long he been dying without him even realizing it.
He asked the only question that he could think of. "How?" His voice barely above a whisper.
Sirzech's eyes had a shadow creep over them and Ichigo recognized, that despite his almost childlike demeanor, this man was old. "When you entered Hell," Sirzechs began softly. "You were given power by the Kushanada. You accepted the energies of Hell into your soul. The kind that leave a permanent mark and don't go away."
'That long huh..,' Ichigo thought wistfully.
"While you remained a Shinigami, your powers contained the dormant particles of Hell. However, the moment you returned to being human…"
"I never stood a chance," Ichigo finished for him.
Sirzechs nodded sadly.
"How long do I have left?" Ichigo asked solemnly.
Sirzechs shrugged. "I can't be sure but I'd say anywhere from a year to three."
"And the chance of a cure?" Ichigo asked but not getting his hopes up. His eyes slowly dimming and a dark mirth settling in at the irony of his situation. Killed by sickness of all things.
"Early on, perhaps, it could have been possible to quarantine Hell's power within a small portion of your soul or even purify it but now, its spread too far. For all intents and purposes, Hell has claimed your soul."
"You said that you could cure me," Ichigo suddenly asked sharply.
Sirzechs gave him a piercing look. "Are you sure? You seemed pretty adamant about remaining human."
Carefully, going over his words in his mind before speaking them, Ichigo said, "What would change if I became a devil?"
"Your physical capabilities would be greatly enhanced." Sirzechs hummed. "You'd gain the capacity to learn magic. Certain humans have also exhibited an increase in comprehensive capabilities. You're life span will increase to a Devil's natural one"
"That…doesn't sound all that bad." Ichigo said in wonder.
"Admittedly, anything even remotely holy would bring about a great deal of pain by association or touch. If you plan on getting married in a church then please throw those plans away. Hmm," Sirzechs hummed to himself.
"Ah yes, Angels and Fallen will generally attack you on sight. And every reincarnated devil has experienced an increased desire to…uh, well…sin."
"Will I be able to see my family again?" Ichigo asked quickly.
"Of course," Sirzechs said. "On your days off that is."
Ichigo's brow furrowed in confusion. "Days off?"
"As I said, you'll be working for me. Think of me as your employer."
Sirzechs tapped the table with a single finger and a chess board appeared. Ichigo looked down in curiosity as he noted that one side of the board was empty of any pieces while the other side had a full set that glowed an ominous red.
Then he noted that the pawn piece all the way at the right end of the board was pure black and looked like a twisted spire of metal.
"These are what are known as Evil Pieces." Sirzechs smirked.
"Evil Pieces?" Ichigo asked.
"It's how Devils reincarnate other species." Sirzechs explained. "After the Great War, where the original Satans died, our numbers were severely lacking and our race on the verge of extinction."
"You're not the only one?"
"Patience, we'll get there soon enough." Sirzechs said, holding up his hand. "Now, one of my fellow Satans came up with this method. The King, refers to the leader of the Peerage. That would be me, by the way. Now each piece has a unique characteristics."
Sirzechs placed a finger on a piece. "A Knight will be gifted with the ability to move at extreme speeds and is generally very agile."
'Fast and agile…pretty much Yoruichi.'
Moving his finger, he touched another piece. "The Bishop is granted an augment towards is magical abilities and arcane arts."
"Tessai-san or even Hahchi,' Ichigo equated in his mind.
"The Rook," he gestured to the end piece in the last row. "Is a powerhouse. Capable of taking and dishing out extreme punishment."
"The Queen, is the second most powerful" Sirzechs said "And usually in charge of the peerage during the King's absence. The Queen has all the benefits of the other three pieces, though to a lesser degree."
'Sums up Byakuya who's well rounded on a master level.'
"And finally, we have the Pawns." He said while gesturing over the vanguard. "The most versatile of the pieces. With the King's permission, a Pawn can 'promote' and take on the characteristics of any of the other pieces."
Ichigo soaked up all the information like a sponge. "So by the fact that only one pawn isn't red, I'm gonna guess you have fourteen other servants."
"Actually," Sirzechs smirked. "I only have a total of seven servants. You're going to make number eight."
"I don't follow.' Ichigo stated, his brow furrowed.
"Depending on the strength of the potential servant," Sirzechs specified, "They may take up more than one piece. My Knight and Bishop used up both their respective pieces. And I only have two Pawns that used up my other seven."
Ichigo's mouth twisted on a sour note. "So I'm only worth one Pawn then?"
"This, little beauty," he said holding up the untaken Pawn, "Is what is known as a mutation piece. It's an extremely rare piece that is more valuable than any other. They are generally reserved for extremely powerful pieces. Luckily, they're easy enough to get when your best friend from your childhood invented them."
"You're going to waste it on me?" Ichigo asked incredulously.
"I'm starting to think you have insecurity issues, Ichigo-kun." Sirzechs chuckled quietly. "Trust me. You're far from worthless."
Ichigo rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. He never was comfortable with praise.
"As I've said," Sirzechs continued. "You have Hell itself flowing through your soul currently. To me, that screams potential."
"Not to mention you may even regain your previous powers…maybe not your shinigami ones but," Sirzechs lips curved in a, dare he say it, devilish smirk. "You may just regain your Hollow ones."
That certainly brightened Ichigo's day considerably. His powers…ever since he lost them he'd been feeling as if a section of his very being was missing.
"Now," Sirzechs said folding his hands in front of him. "Before you jump and make a decision, why don't I let you know just what you're getting into?"
So, for the next hour, Ichigo listened as Sirzechs gave him a crash course on how things were run down, he assumed down, in the Underworld. The nobility and the Seventy-Two Pillars, the different tiers of devil rankings and the rating games.
He even told Ichigo what would be expected of him as member of a Satan's peerage. The pressure and scrutiny that would be heaved on him. The duties he would have to preform and what level he would have to preform them. And most importantly, the level of power and strength he would have to maintain and show at all time.
"Oh," Sirzechs said. "I forgot to mention one last thing."
Ichigo gave him a questioning look.
"Due to your unique situation and affinity to Hell, I may ask you to manage the Sinners and even track down a few escapees every so often."
"Does it happen often?" Ichigo asked, his own foul experience with the situation.
"Every now and then, we get some sort of idiot necromancer trying to dig too deep. I normally assign the cleanup job to whoever's territory is closest, but we'll make it part of your official duties."
"Lucky me," Ichigo said dryly.
"Oh don't be like that," Sirzechs smiled. "We can even give you a cool epithet. Hmm…how bout the Overseer of Hell! Or the Hunter of the Damned! Oh! I know! The Sinful Strawberry!"
"That last one sounds like a porno," Ichigo said flatly.
"Huh," Sirzechs adopted a thoughtful countenance. "It does doesn't it?"
After a few seconds, they both doubled over in wild laughter. Several moments later they both straightened and Ichigo locked eyes with Sirzechs who rested his cheek against his fist. "So how about it, Ichigo-kun? What do you say?"
Sirzechs reached down with his other hand and picked up the black piece and slightly held it out to Ichigo. "Will you join this Sirzechs Lucifer?'
Ichigo stared hard at the glistening piece of metal in Sirzechs hand. On one hand, he would be giving up his humanity and possibly leaving everything behind for good. On the other hand, said life was drastically cut short and Sirzechs was offering him life as well his powers back.
Ichigo laughed suddenly as he blew bangs from out his face. "It's so cliché. I'm actually making a deal with the Devil."
"Just wait until we get to the dancing." The Devil said with a smirk and it wasn't lost on Ichigo on how Sirzechs eyes began to redden.
Ichigo reached out and just as his fingers were about to touch the twisted metal, he pulled back and averted his gaze from Sirzechs. The Devil didn't say anything and Ichigo was left to stew in his thoughts. The cold dread of rejection if any of his family or friends found out gnawed at him painfully.
He closed his eyes, a crushing darkness falling on his soul. The ultimate irony as one already existed within and was slowly eating away at him.
"Is it wrong," Ichigo whispered uncertainly. "To want to live?"
"The lover of life is not a sinner, Ichigo," Sirzechs said smoothly.
Taking a deep breathe, Ichigo recalled his very first lesson as a Shinigami.
"Why do you run, Ichigo? You still have not called on me. Face forward, Ichigo. You should be able to hear it now. That which blocks your ears is worthless fear. The enemy is one - You are one. What is there to fear? Cast off your fear! Look ahead! Move forward! Never stand still. Retreat, and you will age. Hesitate, and you will die. Shout! My name is...!"
Ichigo reached out with the faintest of smiles, his resolve unwavering and he let out a soft whisper, "Kurosaki Ichigo."
There was a flash of brilliant crimson.
"How's he doing?" He said as he approached the bed. Sirzechs watched on as his wife wiped his newest Pawn's brow with a wet towel.
Grayfia did not look up and continued looking after the boy. "The change is gradual but, it is happening."
He caught a glimpse of her face and saw that her lips turned in a frown. He didn't say anything and walked over to a large window. He leaned his back against the glass and craned his neck to look at the two moons in the Underworld sky.
After a moment, his wife called out to him. "Sirzechs?"
"Hmm," he intoned as he looked over at her. She was looking at him while gently brushing the youth's hair back.
'Lucky brat,' Sirzechs though with a twinge of amusement. 'Looks like Grayfia found another kid to fuss over…and she hasn't even properly met him yet!'
"Why hasn't he changed yet? The transformation should have been immediate."
Sirzechs put on a thoughtful look before returning to look at the moons. "Tell me Grayfia, do you know the difference between a warrior and a soldier."
"Huh?" Obviously she was startled by the abrupt change in subject. "Ichigo-kun is a soldier. He fights to protect. Devils…by nature…are a warrior race. We fight to conquer."
He looked back at his wife and gave her smile. "Right now, he is in a desperate battle in his very soul. Trying to find the path he needs to walk."
"Did you know this would be happening?" She asked sternly.
"Not in the least," he laughed. "Imagine my surprise when he slumps forward in front of me in the middle of a coffee shop. Half the humans were looking at me as if it were my fault."
"Technically speaking, it was your fault, Lord Sirzechs" She fixed him with a glare. "And what have I told you about making a scene in public?"
"Hey, hey" Sirzech said. "I don't want my maid. I want to speak to my wife."
"You will get the chance to speak with her when she decides that you've grown up."
"But Grayfia," he said, reverting to a childlike demeanor. "I love you so much! Why won't you reciprocate my love?!"
"Sirzechs-sama," Grayfia glowered as she gained a tick mark. Faster than she could see, Sirzechs appeared behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. "It's not fair how tender you were being with Ichigo-kun and how cold you're now being wi-uff!"
Grayfia cut off his childish rant by slamming her elbow into her master's gut. "Behave yourself Lord Sirzechs. There is a child in the room with us."
Sirzechs snorts and, regardless of his wife's warning, entwined his arms around her once more.
"He's no more of a child than we are," Sirzechs said while he let a hint of sadness creep into his voice.
He smiled slightly when he was rewarded with his wife leaning into him gingerly. "He will make a good addition to the family?"
"The very best. Ichigo-kun is the type to rewrite fate if it means protecting his loved ones."
Grayfia gave a hum of approval in his arms. "And you know what else? I don't think Ichigo is trying to find a path right now."
Shifting his gaze towards his newest pawn, Sirzechs allowed the faintest of smiles to drift to his lips.
"No…he's more the type to forge one."
Author's Note: Most of my reader's know that I'm a huge MetalHead. Oblivion being inspired mainly by Megadeth, Do Me A Wrong was straight from the genius of Black Sabbath. Kudos to those of you who caught the song that inspired the title of the story and quoted by Sirzechs.
One thing I should mention, I've put off the conflict with the Quincy for the time being. Don't really want to touch that crap until I know where it's going to go. Also, this is roughly a year and a half before the main story line of DxD begins.
Pairings are completely undecided. I may even hold a poll but until then, feel free to send me your thoughts.
Hope you enjoyed.