Yuzu scooped some stew into the ladle, brought it to her lips, and smiled. Perfect. Just like mom used to make. She began scooping portions into four bowls and called out to her twin and father, "Karin-chan! Otou-san! Dinner's ready!" She carried the bowls to the table, greeting her twin sister along the way.
Her sister was wearing a scowl on her face, one much deeper than the usual one. "Karin-chan, something wrong?"
Karin turned to her sister. She shrugged. "No, not really. Ichi-nii can handle it."
"Oh, speaking of Onii-chan, is he home yet?"
"He's beating up some delinquents," Karin said matter-of-factly, grabbing chopsticks from the drawer to set on the table. "The idiots knocked over the vase."
"HOW CARELESS!" A boisterous voice called out loudly from the next room.
Karin grimaced while Yuzu smiled half-heartedly. "Otou-san…"
"7:01 pm! Your brother is late!" The patriarch of the household, Isshin yelled out, running in pace as if to expend excess energy.
Yuzu sighed, knowing that she wouldn't be able to get her father to sit down at the table until he "greeted" his son. So, she took her seat next to Karin and brought her hands together, closed her eyes in prayer, then began to eat. Five minutes later, the typical yelling and crashing sounds ensued. Yuzu decided to take up some small talk with her twin, "Karin-chan, you can see ghosts too, can't you?" Yuzu paused her chopsticks at her mouth, thinking quietly to herself. "At the very least, I can sense them. Dad's the only one who can't sense anything, huh?"
Karin dug into her dinner impassively. "I don't believe in ghosts. Even if I see them, refusing to acknowledge that they exist makes it the same as them not existing in the first place."
Yuzu pouted. She was envious of her older siblings. Karin can probably see spirits just as clearly as, if not more clearly than Ichigo. The black-haired girl was most likely too stubborn to admit it. Yuzu wanted to see spirits more clearly too. She glanced at the large "memorial poster" of their mother. Seeing spirits… would be nice. Yuzu thought.
The next morning, Isshin woke up early. He had a meeting to attend, for "official hospital business." It would certainly seem that way to anyone else, as he began walking toward Ishida Hospital. He took the elevator up to the top floor and stopped in front of the director's office. He pushed the buzzer, "Yo, Ryuuken, open up."
A white-haired man appeared at the door. "Shiba. About time." He opened the door wider for the man to step inside. "So? Any updates about Ichigo, Karin, and Yuzu?"
Isshin shook his head. He took a seat on the couch and folded his arms over his chest. "Nothing significant. Ichigo and Karin seem to have much higher sensitivity to spirits. Ichigo especially. It's strange. We already know the spirit type for Karin and Yuzu, but Ichigo… it's as Urahara said. He's a complete enigma."
Ryuuken sighed, pushing his glasses up. "All we can do is observe for now." He looked at Isshin with a more solemn look. "And you? How goes your… work?"
"I'm going to go again tonight," Isshin said darkly. He smirked shortly afterwards, "Why? Worried about me?"
"Ayane-san, please escort Shiba-san out of my office." Ryuuken deadpanned as Isshin laughed wholeheartedly at his friend's expense.
That night, Ichigo lay in bed, contemplating the day's events. What was that monster? And that girl with the sword? Ichigo narrowed his eyes. Why were things becoming so complicated? He was starting to get sick of seeing spirits. Nothing good has ever come from seeing them. Memories of a riverbank flashed behind his eyes. He cursed.
Earlier that day, Ichigo had been minding his own business in Karakura square. Crashes. Screams. Before he knew it, he was running away from a black monster chasing after the ghost that he rescued the evening before. Then, there was a mysterious figure in front of him. They were unlike any of the other spirits he had come across. The monster's presence suffocated Ichigo with its feral and fearsome energy. Her presence felt more covert and muffled. Ichigo could tell the difference between spirits and humans now that he was older; they gave off a different air that was difficult to explain. But, this girl seemed to have much more spirit energy, but it felt like the energy was repressed, coiling and writhing within her as if wanting to escape. That strange energy seemed to be released as she slashed her sword but then returned to its original state as she left.
Ichigo grunted, refusing to let this person consume his thoughts any more than she already had.
Just then, the black-clad girl from this afternoon, who had been plaguing his thoughts, leapt into his room from the window. "What? Who the hell are you?" Ichigo gaped.
"It's close…" the mysterious figure whispered ominously to herself.
Ichigo kicked her furiously, knocking her to the ground.
Karin heard a crash from Ichigo's room but ignored it. She huffed. "Must be another spirit annoying him," she muttered, sensing the presence of two spirits from her brother's room. One was nothing special; it was the same one that had bothered her during dinner yesterday. But, this other one… it feels… different. I can't put my finger on it. Something about this spirit's presence… it feels muted. Like hearing a scream being muffled by a pillow. Karin thought to herself, placing her book down. It was strange. It wasn't like any of those other annoying spirits that Karin had encountered until now. She ran a hand through her hair.
"Karin-chan? Something wrong?" Yuzu paused from scooping the leftover nikujaga into Tupperware containers.
"No. Nothing really." Karin said, not wanting to worry her twin.
Yuzu finished, placing the containers in the refrigerator. "Are you sure?" Yuzu started walking towards her sister, standing near the dinner table where Karin was sitting.
An ominous screech rang out. It sent a chill down Karin's spine as she froze with fear. "Yuzu, did you hear that?" Karin regarded her sister.
Yuzu looked puzzled, "Hear wha—" An arm crashed through the wall and swatted Yuzu, causing her to collide with the wall. Yuzu let out a shout of pain as she fell to the ground. She coughed and wheezed as she tried to push herself up on her knees.
"Yuzu!" Karin yelled, getting to her feet. She knocked over the chair she was sitting in. Her eyes widened, all previous thoughts about the strange spiritual presence in her brother's room completely wiped away by distress. Karin ran to her twin's side, scooping her head into her lap, "Yuzu! Yuzu!" Karin shouted desperately.
Yuzu let out a cough and whimpered in pain. Her eyes widened when she looked at Karin, "Karin-chan! What was that? It feels like there's something here!"
Just as Yuzu said that, Karin looked up. She saw the black monster that hit Yuzu stalking closer. Karin grit her teeth and lifted Yuzu to her feet, wrapping Yuzu's arm around her shoulder to steady her. "Yuzu, can you stand on your own?"
"Eh?" Yuzu let out a sound of confusion.
"Can you stand or not!?" Karin yelled with a tone of desperation.
Yuzu's eyes widened. Karin never raised her voice at Yuzu like that. Yuzu could only nod as she shifted her weight off of Karin's shoulders and onto her own feet.
"Go find Ichi-nii." Karin ordered with determination, eyes not leaving the monster. It had lifted the couch in the air, as if it was looking for something underneath it. Its white mask went skyward, sniffing the air.
"Just go! You can't even see that thing, Yuzu!" Karin turned towards her, a wild look in her eyes, "Go! Do you want all of us to die!?"
That was enough to get Yuzu to move. Yuzu started to run toward the stairs. The movement caused the monster to look in her direction. It wound up its arm as if it were about to swipe at Yuzu again.
A knife hit its mask. The sharp point had hit the mask, but it didn't pierce the monster. It fell to the ground below the monster with a thud. "Hey, Ugly! Over here!"
While Yuzu had run for the stairs, Karin had run for the kitchen, arming herself with the knife rack on the counter. Karin stared down the monster with a snarl on her face.
Yuzu had started running up the stairs. What was that thing? Yuzu thought as she bounded up the stairs. She couldn't really see much. She could only see slight distortions, like a mirage, near the gaping hole left in their kitchen. Karin-chan is alone with it! I have to hurry!
Yuzu tripped on one of the steps, but she caught herself with her hand, not stopping at all as she kept running. I need to get Onii-chan!
By the time she reached the top, the adrenaline that had been allowing her to run had worn off. She slowed to a walk in front of her brother's open door. "Onii-chan…" Through the door, she saw an orange head of hair on the floor. She could vaguely hear cries of desperation coming from within the room. A hazy image of a black-haired girl appeared in front of her eyes. She thought of her black-haired twin downstairs, but she couldn't form a coherent explanation, "Karin-chan… Onii-chan…" Yuzu reached a hand out towards the hazy image of her brother and black-haired figure. A tear rolled down Yuzu's cheek, "Please, save… Karin-chan!" Yuzu felt her knees give out as she collapsed to the floor, unconscious.
Karin was hurling knives and any silverware she could get her hands on at the monster. Battle cries ripped from her throat as she tried to grab something else to throw at the monster. Her fingers wrapped around air as she cursed. She jumped over an arm as it tried to swipe at her. Before she hit the ground though, its other hand had grabbed her out of the air. Karin cried out in pain as it squeezed. She was going to be strangled at this rate. Karin opened one eye, staring at the white mask of the monster. It was bringing her closer to its mouth.
S… th… …ll you …an do …uh? A voice in the back of her mind seemed to be calling out to her. Its tone was condescending, and it annoyed her. S… …eak.
Karin glared at the monster. It had opened its mouths.
I bet you can't even hear me. Karin's eyes shot open, and she tried to open her mouth to retort.
"Karin!" Her brother's desperate howl of her name sent her careening back to reality. The monster closed its mouth as it turned toward her brother's voice.
Karin forgot all about the voice and barely noticed the presence of a black haired girl next to her brother. All she could focus on was her brother, and he was running toward her and the monster with a ladder in his hands. Nothing had injured this monster so far, and Karin didn't want her brother to get captured or hurt, so she yelled, "Ichi-nii! RUN!"
Ichigo followed the Shinigami downstairs. His sisters were in danger. He couldn't let them get hurt. His thoughts were scattered as he rolled down the steps. The Shinigami seemed to be saying something, but he ignored her. All he saw was one of his sisters wrapped up in the grasp of a monster. He roared as he forced his arms apart. He was going to save Karin and Yuzu, or he was going to die trying. He would never let anyone from his family die in front of him. Never again.
By sheer will-power, Ichigo had ripped his bindings apart, grabbing a ladder as he ran toward the monster squeezing the life out of his sister. He swung it down, but the monster's fist had collided with him. His rage had blinded him, only allowing him to see the monster in front of him but not its hand to his right.
"Ichi-nii!" Karin called out to him.
He staggered to his feet again. The monster seemed to be saying something. "Karin…" Ichigo wheezed. The monster was reaching for him again. Ichigo growled and grit his teeth.
A slash sliced the monster's hand holding Karin, causing it to release her. Ichigo's mind started to find some clarity as he sprinted underneath Karin to catch her. "Karin! Wake up!" It seemed the situation had taken its toll on the 11-year-old.
"Don't worry. She and your other sister will be fine. You need to take them away from here," Rukia said, her blade still poised in front of her even though the hollow had retreated.
Karin slowly opened her eyes as she regained consciousness. What she saw immediately caught her attention. Her brother was facing the mysterious black figure from before. But the katana she was holding was poised at her brother's chest. Her brother seemed to be grasping the blade himself. Karin wheezed as she tried to get to her feet, "Ichi-nii!"
But it was too late. Her brother had been impaled by the katana. Karin could only look on helplessly, tears that she thought had dried up long ago, threatening to spill down her cheeks. She had little time to react as a flood of energy, similar to and yet different from the kind that spirits have, flooded her senses. She held up an arm as the rush of energy nearly knocked her back.
She gasped as she watched her brother leap into action, wielding what looked like a very large katana. With its size though, it seemed more like a greatsword. Something within Karin seemed to be responding to her brother's energy. Something instinctive within her was roaring in the back of her mind. Ichigo seemed to be wielding the weapon as if it was second nature to him. Karin wondered if he also felt something similar to what she was feeling now. Something raw and inexplicable.
Karin's eyes fell upon the now white-clad black-haired girl leaning against the wall. She seemed just as mesmerized, watching Ichigo slay the monster with what could only be called brute strength. Karin turned back to her brother who was now resting his weapon upon his shoulder, standing victorious over the monster.
Karin's fist clenched, and she closed her eyes, trying to quiet the noise in the back of her mind.
"Hey, you! What gives? Are you with that thing too?" Karin was pointing an accusatory finger at Rukia.
Ichigo rushed over to his sister's side. "Karin, are you okay?"
"Not now, Ichi-nii!" Karin glowered at Rukia angrily. Right before impaling Ichigo and giving her powers to him, they had exchanged names.
Ichigo placed a hand on Karin's shoulder. His own temper was starting to get to him now that the danger had been taken care of. "Don't give me that, 'Not now,' crap! I'm asking you if you're okay, damn it! You were hurt by that monster, weren't you!?"
His tone seemed to grab his sister's attention as she whirled on him with fear in her eyes. "Yuzu…"
Ichigo's eyes widened, and he ran back into the house, running up the steps two at a time with Karin close behind him. When they reached the top, Ichigo saw Yuzu exactly where she had collapsed in front of his room. He knelt by Yuzu's side and scooped her into his arms. "Karin! Let's go! We need to get her to a hospital!"
Karin nodded in agreement. The two of them were running out the door again, Ichigo seemingly intent on running all the way to Ishida Hospital with Yuzu in his arms.
"My, my! Quite the mess your family is in, Kurosaki-san!"
Ichigo and Karin both turned around slowly, both thinking that this new voice was calling out to them. Instead, they were greeted with a strange man wearing a hat and sandals, talking to their father.
"Oyaji!" Ichigo and Karin called out together.
Isshin ran straight to his children, enveloping all three of them into his arms. "Thank god you three are safe."
Karin held back tears as she shoved her father out of the hug. If Karin had been a different girl, maybe she would have surrendered to the comforting embrace and cried tears of relief. But she wasn't. She was Kurosaki Karin, and she was not going to lose herself in the moment—no matter how much she wanted to—when her sister was still unconscious. "Oyaji! You have to drive us to the hospital! Yuzu—"
"—will be fine, Kurosaki-san," Hat and sandals spoke up from behind his fan. He was kneeling beside Rukia, appearing to examine her condition.
Ichigo and Karin glared. Ichigo was the one to speak up, "Who the hell—"
"Urahara Kisuke. I own a candy shop near here. I happened to hear the commotion and came right over to offer my services." Urahara said with a tone of smugness.
"'Services?'" Ichigo asked incredulously.
"What the hell can a candy shop owner do in a situation like this?" Karin questioned with a sneer. She was about to continue, but she stopped her words in their tracks as Urahara suddenly closed the 15-meter distance in less than a second. Karin's eyes widened as a tiny cloud of smoke and a bird on a spring popped out of a toy. Ichigo watched in shock as her eyes glazed over, and her knees started to give out. Isshin caught her before her knees hit the ground.
If Ichigo wasn't holding Yuzu, he would have been talking with his fists, "What the hell did you do to her!?"
"Calm down, Ichigo. It was probably for the best," Isshin said as he carried Karin over to the wall near Rukia, leaning her against it in a sitting position.
"What do you—" Before Ichigo could finish talking, the strange shopkeeper had used the toy on Yuzu as well.
"Memory replacement," Rukia said suddenly. "It would be too traumatic and dangerous for your sisters to remember the events that transpired tonight." Ichigo was so dumbfounded that he barely felt Isshin take Yuzu out of his arms and place her near Karin.
"Precisely, Kuchiki-san!" Urahara grinned. "Our shop can offer a service to remedy your situation as well. Tessai-san can fix you right up!" Urahara closed his fan and slapped it against the palm of his hand. "Kurosaki Ichigo-san, perhaps it would be best for you to return to your body for now."
Ichigo looked at the man with a look of confusion. Urahara pointed toward the ground behind him with his fan. Ichigo's gaze followed the gesture and he saw his seemingly lifeless body lying in front of Rukia. "What the—" Ichigo was cut off again by an abrupt blow to the back of his neck, knocked unconscious.
"Sorry, son. There's too much to get done tonight to explain it all right now."
Urahara caught Ichigo easily. "Don't worry, Kurosaki-san. You'll understand soon," Urahara said to the unconscious Ichigo.
6 years later and I'm back at FFN. Hopefully with writing that is less cringy.
I have more chapters written for this story, but I was hoping that I could get a beta reader for advice on avoiding cringy plots/OOCness. Also, I'm testing the water. I mean, do people even read Bleach fanfiction after the debacle of 686?
Thank you for reading!