The war may have seemed over for Ichigo, but it was far from that. One of the few remaining in the last vestiges of the universe, Ichigo is forced back to the very beginnings of the Gotei 13.
Rain drizzled steadily down over the rubble of the Soul Palace, washing away the blood and ash. Smoke curled from burning embers, and bodies lay scattered among the rubble of the Soul Palace. What had remained untouched was the throne of the Soul King. On that throne was a hunched over figure with alarmingly orange hair. A man stood beside him in silent vigil. Both were soaking wet as the rain rained down harder in the area around them. Even the universe was crying in grief and pain. His pain was nothing compared to the figure on the throne.
He thought it was a terrible sit to see. His former student, with nothing left to live for, yet continues to protect those who are left in this unraveling universe. The very universe that was slowly drawing the life out of him. This was not what he wanted for the now tortured teen. Ichigo had become more than a student to him, more of a surrogate son, especially after Issin died.
He was going to make this right. Ichigo was not going to suffer like this anymore, he deserves happiness after all that he has been through.
Approaching the teen, he could spot a streak of silver in his long orange hair. It had appeared there about halfway through the war, when Ichigo went missing for several months. The war that lasted of a very long time. He didn't know exactly what happened, but he could guess what had occurred.
Stopping a meter or so from the throne and the teen, his heart lurched in his chest at the sight of the boy. His shihakusho in tatters and covered from head to toe in bloodied bandages. The sight of Ichigo pained him more than anything. Ichigo had virtually given up. His shoulders sagged with the weight of the three worlds upon it. His eyes dull and lifeless with no flicker of hope or determination that he had always seen in them. his reiatsu so low that it was like a small trickle of water instead of a massive waterfall. The boy had serious wounds that were given basic medical attention, but continued to bleed and non-life threatening ones were left open. Scars from countless battles marred his skin, but it was the unseen scars that made him worried.
"Ichigo…" He said in a whisper, for he could speak no louder. His throat was constricted with guilt, that he had brought all of this on the boy. Said boy raised his head slowly and meet the eyes of the man he could trust his life to. The male standing beside Ichigo stepped up. His glasses streaked with water and his doctors coat, practically see through, hung loosely to his frame. His silver hair was tousled and his eyes were blood shot.
"Kisuke Urahara what brings you here? Have you found a solution to stabilize the universe?"
Ichigo glanced to the male then back to Kisuke. Lowering his head, he shook it sadly. He wished he could have found a solution, but it was just not possible.
"Ryuken-san, you know as well as I do by now, that there is no way to stop the universe from falling apart now that the Soul King is dead. It would have started unfurling earlier if Yhwach had not placed himself on the throne. Ichigo is slowing down the process immensely, but it has gone past the point of stopping and Ichigo doesn't have the reiatsu to maintain the universe."
"What about Ichigo? What will happen to when his reiatsu runs out?"
"You know what will happen Ryuken-san. Ichigo will…" Kisuke couldn't finish as another voice interrupted. Appearing from thin air was an albino version of Ichigo with short white hair and eyes with gold irises and black sclera.
"King will die. I'm not gonna let that happen. Do you see this rain?" The albino waved angrily at the rain around them. Rain that did not even touch the albino. "This rain is caused by the throne, which reflects the feelings of the one sitting upon it. All this rain, is Ichigo's. His sadness and despair. It is even worse for us in his inner world." He looked away in anger. "There's hardly anything left." Despair laced his voice.
"You are Ichigo's zanpaktou correct?" Kisuke asked curiously. The albino gave a shake of his head.
"No I'm only one part of his zanpaktou. I'm his hollow and shinigami side." The albino leaned closer and stroked his master's blood splattered orange hair. A look of pain flashed across his features. "King, I'm sorry I can't take the pain away. I can hold the memories back with the old man's help, but that's all we can do right now. But know this King, we will never leave you alone." The albino looked back to Kisuke. "I can't stay any longer without depleting more of King's reiatsu. Kisuke, King trusts you, so for this one time only, we will trust you too. Save Kingy."
Kisuke couldn't say anything as the albino faded away again. His guilt grew even larger when he heard that even Ichigo's zanpaktou wanted him to help. An absurd idea popped to the front of his mind as he thought again that Ichigo shouldn't have to go through any of this. If this could really work then the universe could be saved and Ichigo would not have to go through any of this. The pulse of the object that could make this happen thrummed softly in an inner pocket of his clothes. Giving a happy grin, he whipped out his fan for the first time to hide it. Ryuken noticed this and narrowed his eyes in suspicion at Kisuke.
"What do you have in mind Urahara?"
"I have a way to fix this, but you won't like it." Ryuken still regarded him with suspicion, but stayed silent and waited. "I can use the Hogyoku to send Ichigo back in time to fix all of this."
Ryuken gave a scowl.
"No. Absolutely not. Were you even thinking this through Kisuke? Ichigo cannot be sent back to the past." Kisuke looked exasperated.
"And why not?" Ryuken looked at him tiredly. This was problematic. He knew that it was the inevitable, but this was Ichigo. A cousin of Uryu and his nephew. Issin, as he laid dying in front of him, begged him to protect Ichigo as much as he could.
"Think about it Kisuke. We don't know if that thing will even teleport him to the past. Also he will be seeing people that have already died. That will be torture. Him knowing them, but them not knowing who he was. And if he changes the timeline, he could possibly not even be born. Would you wish that on Ichigo after all that he has gone through."
Kisuke stood there quietly. Ryuken was right, did he have the right to shove Ichigo back into the past and tear open old wounds. He looked at Ichigo. His eyes a lifeless dull brown, urged him to do something to stop Ichigo's pain. Finding his resolve, he removed the hogyoku and moved closer to Ichigo.
"This has to be done Ryuken-san. We both know it."
Tapping the Hogyoku to the boys forehead, he wished for Ichigo to go back to fix things.
"Ichigo, I know this will be tough, but you are the only one who could fix this. I am so sorry for all that I have put you through. You can blame me as much as you want, know that I won't hate you for it. You have my respect and my hope. Good luck and stay strong, and don't blame yourself Ichigo for everyone's death." Ryuken stood grimly to the side with an unhappy scowl. He knew that this might be the last time he sees his nephew. The rain had started to pour harder as the Hogyoku pulsated, and flashed brightly, blinding the three males. The light died down and Ichigo was gone. The rain slowed to a stop and the clouds peeled away to show the MilkyWay blazing so close. Cracks started to form and grow across the sky, like cracks on a mirror. He wished the boy all the luck in the world and that he will come out all right.
He could hardly breath. Everything hurt. His eyes burned and he could only see darkness. He didn't want to stay in the dark anymore. He wanted out. The rain was still there though, soaking him to the bone and sucking the heat from his body. From the warm blood that gushed from many painful wounds. He coughed, choking as warm liquid bubbled from his lips. Shiro and the Old Man were only the faintest of whispers in his mind. Urging him to keep his eyes open.
There was no reason for him to continue living. He was so tired of it all. Tired of the pain, the fear, the fighting, the death and most of all his own powerlessness. But he tried because they were all he had left, the ones who stood by him through pain and sorrow and saved his life countless times. Kept him sane and encouraged him to stay strong for everyone. Panic surged his system, blocking the pain for a brief moment. Where was Zangetsu? He couldn't feel the normal weight of the sealed blade, the one that was always on his person.
He called out mentally to them, when no answer came, he called again with panic in his voice. The soft whispers came back and mustering all of his remaining strength, he reached out with his right hand. Searching blindly for his blade in the grass and mud. His body leaning against the trunk off a large tree, slick with blood and rain, slid sideways and hit the soggy grass with a thump and a splash of water.
He felt the hard, cold hilt and grasped it desperately. Zangetsu's voices came in a flood, yelling, threatening, urging and begging him to stay awake. He apologized to them, wishing that he could see them.
His body involuntarily shuddered from shock and the cold. He couldn't feel the barest of pains anymore. This was it huh? He wished he could see the stars and die being able to see his blade one last time. Zangetsu's voices became frantic, but the sound was fading. His body had gone numb, he could't even feel the cold anymore.
The wind softly rustled the leaves in the tree tops, and he imagined what the area around him looked like. It was peaceful. So different from what he became used too. He tried to close his eyes, but pain lanced through his skull. Leaving them open, he struggled to breath. He didn't know how long he was there, could have been seconds, minutes, maybe even days. He couldn't see if anytime had passed. His breath hitched and his heartbeat slowed. Blood had stopped flowing from his now numb lips. The leaves rustled again against the pounding of the rain. That was the last that he heard before he couldn't remember the next moment he exhaled.
Thank you for reading our new story. The muse for our other story, Older Brother Bat, had escaped and we have yet to catch it. But we had come across another and just could not pass up the opportunity. Questions, comments and critique are welcomed. We will update soon. We apologize for not updating sooner.
- The Crew
P.S. - We do not own Bleach, Kubo Tite does. We own only the plot story and our own characters.