Hello friends and fans, Kairomaru is bringing you another Force of Souls Chapter! Now that Ichigo has a proper Zanpakutō and a secluded place to train, how fast will he develop as a Shinigami? How many things will change as the butterfly flaps its wings?

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Chapter 2 – Shinigami Arts

People spend their lives distracting themselves from Death

After finishing his intro to Zanjutsu, as Rukia had called the sword arts, Ichigo was asked to meditate and focus on his Reiryoku. Ichigo had meditated before; he had studied Karate with Tatsuki for a number of years before he left the Dojo. So he evened out his breathing and focused. It was the first time he'd really taken stock of his power. In his mind's eye he could envision his Reiryoku and see it overflowing out of his body. He'd initially tried to halt the flow completely. But that had seemed impossible and almost made his Reiryoku fight against him. Like trying to stop the flow of water, his power had simply been obstructed and then flowed around his attempt to block it.

Ichigo was sort of proud of his minor progress though. He had managed to get a better handle on his Reiryoku by the end of the training session. Even a small increase in control was better than nothing after all. If he had to make a comparison, he'd say he managed to turn his Reiryoku output from ten down to nine. Maybe nine and a half would be closer, but Ichigo would take the improvement either way. Now he was leaving the bathroom at home after his well-earned shower. Just as he was about to enter his bedroom, Yuzu called out to him.

"Ichigo? Have you seen my pajamas anywhere?" Yuzu questioned curiously. His sister had a change of clothes under her arm. "One of my dresses is missing too."

"I have no idea… Do you think I'm taking your clothes?" Ichigo looked at his little sister with a raised eyebrow.

"No, it's just weird that I can't find them." Yuzu shook her head before walking towards the bathroom herself. Ichigo shook his head at the odd occurrence. Yuzu was always good about folding and putting away the laundry. For some of her clothes to seemingly go missing was weird.

Ichigo closed his bedroom door behind him as he finished toweling off his hair. He was just about to sit down on his bed when he heard a faint beeping sound. Stowing away his plan to text Orihime and Tatsuki for a bit, Ichigo tried to focus on the faint sound. It couldn't be Yuzu; she had headed to the bathroom to bathe. Karin rarely played videogames by herself, and this was too mono-tone for any videogame. Listening closely Ichigo realized the sound was coming from the direction of his closet. Approaching quietly, Ichigo slowly took hold of the handle. With a deep breath he slid the door open fully with a single motion.

"Ahh!" Rukia yelped as she was startled by the suddenness of the door being opened. She dropped her Soul Pager in shock and Ichigo suspected that was where the beeping had been coming from.

"What the hell?!" Ichigo exclaimed at seeing Rukia lying in his closet. The ravenette had clearly made herself a makeshift bed out of his spare futon and blankets. "Wait a minute… Are those Yuzu's pajamas? Is that her dress too?" He questioned noticing both what Rukia was currently wearing and the folded dress in his closet. Why are you in my closet?!"

"Where else was I supposed to sleep?" Rukia demanded, she was both flustered and annoyed, "I spent quite a bit on your Asauchi and now I'm worried about spending anymore from the Family Account for a while. Such an expensive purchase will seem suspicious if I continue to spend money on housing too. I was in the process of looking into how much I had left in my personal account when you startled me!"

"Why didn't you just ask if you could stay over while you recovered?" Ichigo blinked at her. Rukia blinked back at him for a moment before she looked away embarrassed. "Come on, hop out of the closet and I'll set up the futon properly." Ichigo motioned for Rukia to leave the closet while he went and locked the door to his room. He so did not need his dad to burst into his room in the morning and spot Rukia sleeping in the spare futon. That would be a headache he just didn't want to deal with.

"Thank you, Ichigo." Rukia smiled softly at her Substitute. His hospitality was very much appreciated.

"Don't mention it." Ichigo waved off as he got the futon out of his closet and started setting it up. "Also, instead of stealing Yuzu's clothes, we can just go shopping and get you a few things. Orihime and Tatsuki would be willing to help, I'm sure."

"I couldn't ask that!" Rukia denied with a flush on her cheeks.

"Well, they're going to find out I'm a Shinigami soon anyway." Ichigo shrugged as he placed the large blanket on top of the futon.

"Why would they find out?" Rukia questioned, looking at Ichigo seriously.

"Because I'm going to tell them," Ichigo stated as he stood back up. "I make it a point to not lie to my girlfriends, Rukia." He stared into her violet eyes with his dark brown. Being a head taller than the Shinigami woman forced her to look up at him and gave him a psychological upper hand.

"Ichigo…" Rukia sighed after a moment. "I suppose there's little harm in telling them. At the very least they'll know to be on the lookout for Hollows. I kind of wish you'd keep my situation secret, though that's a bit unrealistic given our situation."

"It'll be fine, Rukia." Ichigo assured her with a grin. "Tatsuki's able to roll with this kind of stuff. Orihime might be an airhead, but she's not stupid or anything, she won't go blabbering to everyone about this."

"Very well, I'll trust you on this for now." Rukia relented. "I doubt the Kikanshinki would work on either of them anyway."

"Don't try and erase their memories." Ichigo demanded, completely deadpan as he stared at the petite Shinigami.

"I won't." Rukia rolled her eyes and Ichigo nodded to her.

The two stayed up for a bit longer to chat about Ichigo's training. For now it would be mostly Zanjutsu and Reiryoku Control. But if Ichigo's control increased enough Rukia was intending for him to learn some simple Kidō to help in his battles. Curious about this Kidō that she talked about Ichigo asked her about it.

"Kidō is broken into two main parts and then two specialized branches." Rukia began her explanation. "The four types of Kidō are Hadō, the Way of Destruction. Bakudō, the Way of Binding. Kaidō, the Way of Healing. Finally there is Kekkai and Fu, the Barrier and Sealing Arts. These are considered a subset of Bakudō without being a part of the main list of spells."

"So Hadō is offensive, Bakudō is defensive, Kaidō is for healing, while Kekkai and Fu are for specialized uses?" Ichigo nodded along with her explanation.

"Close," Rukia smiled at him. "Bakudō also incorporates Utility spells like long-range communication and locating targets." Ichigo thought about that for a moment and shrugged. It made about as much sense as the rest of this Shinigami stuff.

"So how many spells are there?" Ichigo questioned and Rukia smirked at him.

"Of the standard Hadō and Bakudō spells, each category has a list that numbers from number one all the way to number ninety-nine. Of those spells, anything from ninety-five or higher on the Hadō list is classified as a Forbidden Spell and can only be used in dire circumstances. You'll be sticking with simpler spells if your Reiryoku Control improves enough." Rukia informed him, while also giving him a goal to reach with his Reiryoku Control training.

"Simpler spells, like what exactly?" Ichigo asked curiously. If they made dealing with Hollows easier he'd definitely like to learn.

"For you I'd consider Hadō Number Two, Number Eighteen, Number Twenty-Two, and Number Thirty-One a good start. It would give you some ranged options and Number Two can be used in multiple ways as well." Rukia had her eyes closed as she thought about what type of spells to teach her Substitute. "As for Bakudō, I think Number Two, Number Four, Number Eight, and Number Nine should see you through most any battle with average Hollows."

"So eight spells if my control improves enough," Ichigo mused. "Looks like I'll have to work a lot harder."

"I'm sure you'll do well Ichigo." Rukia offered him a smile which the orange-haired teen returned.

"I think it's time for bed." Ichigo glanced at his alarm clock. "Good night, Rukia." He said as he got into bed and pulled the blanket over himself.

"Good night, Ichigo." Rukia returned as she got into the futon and covered herself with the blanket. She had to admit, this was more comfortable than the slightly cramped closet. Resting her head against the pillow and looking at the ceiling she could only hope her powers recovered soon.

Outside of Ichigo's bedroom door, Isshin listened in to the quiet conversation. With his powers slowly returning he'd been able to sense the Shinigami girl residing in his son's room. At the very least the girl had a good head on her shoulders. Ichigo had plenty of raw power. If he was given a goal and reason to refine his control over that power, then he'd make a fine Shinigami. He'd need to speak with Kisuke soon; the man definitely had more influence in this situation than he'd let on so far. The former Captain of Twelfth Division was probably trying to counter whatever plan Aizen had cooked up. But this was his son; Isshin wasn't going to let Kisuke purposefully endanger him!

"Some risk is needed to make the soul grow, but I'll have your head if I lose my son Kisuke." Isshin muttered to himself as he walked towards the master bedroom.

-Next Day ~ Sunday-

Ichigo awoke as the sun came through a gap in his curtains. With a muffled groan he opened his eyes and sat up. He stretched his arms and yawned as he looked over towards Rukia. The ravenette was waking up as well and looking around blearily.

"Morning, Rukia." Ichigo greeted the petite Shinigami.

"Good morning, Ichigo." Rukia blinked away her bleariness and covered her mouth as she yawned.

The two stood up and Rukia folded up the futon she'd used. Ichigo put it away in the closet before handing Rukia the 'borrowed' dress. "I'll bring up some food for you shortly. If you need the bathroom or anything use it while my family is downstairs." Ichigo then left his room so that Rukia could change in privacy. Walking downstairs he dodged his dad's attack.

"Sneak attack!" Isshin yelled as he launched a flying kick at Ichigo.

"Damn it old man!" Ichigo dodged the kick and clotheslined his father. "Are you ever going to knock that off?!"

"Good reaction time, son…" Isshin wheezed out. Yuzu scolded her father for his actions and the family sat down and had a normal breakfast. Ichigo took a couple extra dashimaki, two slices of toast, and a cup of green tea with him.

"If you're still hungry, stay and eat." Yuzu smiled at her older brother.

"Sorry, Yuzu, but I'm meeting up with Tatsuki and Orihime today and I need to get ready." Ichigo apologized to his little sister. That was even true; he just needed to text his girlfriends to meet him first. Ichigo made it back to his room to find Rukia wearing Yuzu's dress; it was white with blue accents and fairly simple. "I got you some breakfast." He sat down the plate of dashimaki and toast and the green tea for her.

"Thank you, Ichigo, I appreciate it." Rukia smiled at him and sat down at his desk to eat.

"Don't mention it." Ichigo smiled back as he gathered a change of clothes for the day. "I'm going to take a quick shower and then text Tatsuki and Orihime to meet up with us." With that Ichigo headed to the bathroom and quickly got himself clean. About twenty minutes later he said goodbye to Karin and Yuzu. He told his dad he had his phone if he needed to reach him and then left. Rukia had snuck out of his room through the window and met him on the street.

"So, where are we meeting up?" Rukia questioned Ichigo as they walked beside each other.

"At Orihime's apartment." Ichigo answered as they walked down a street Rukia wasn't familiar with. "We'll have privacy there so that the situation can be explained to them."

"Very well." Rukia replied with a nod. Better to get this out of the way now, she supposed. The walk wasn't very long before Ichigo led Rukia up the stairs of a small apartment building. He stopped at a door labelled 202. With barely a knock the door was thrown open and Ichigo was engulfed in a hug.

"Ichigo~!" Orihime cheered as she squeezed her boyfriend tightly.

"Hey Orihime." Ichigo returned her hug and kissed the top of her head. Orihime giggled happily as she welcomed them inside. Ichigo and Rukia removed their shoes and made their way into the living room. Tatsuki was waiting and Ichigo dropped down next to her and pecked her lips. "Morning Tatsuki."

"Morning to you too, Ichigo." Tatsuki smirked as she kissed his cheek in return. Rukia sat down at the low table at Orihime's prompting.

"So, what's this important thing you need to tell us?" Orihime asked with a smile. "Oh~ did Rukia change her mind and decide to join us?!" The orangette looked so excited that Rukia almost felt bad about correcting her.

"That's still a 'No' Orihime, sorry." Rukia smiled at the, now pouting, teen while Tatsuki pulled Orihime into a side hug.

"Some crazy stuff has happened in the last two days and you know I won't lie to either of you." Ichigo looked at Orihime and Tatsuki with a warm smile, the one he reserved just for them. Both girls smiled fondly at him in return. Ichigo was definitely not the kind of guy you let go once you had him! "Anyway, I know you can both see ghosts, so I'll let Rukia start this off."

"Rukia?" Tatsuki turned to face the new girl, only to see her pulling on a fingerless glove with a skull design on the back. With a press of her hand to Ichigo's chest something emerged from behind their boyfriend. The Ichigo they loved slumped forward, almost like he'd fallen asleep; while an Ichigo clad in a black robe and with a sword at his waist stood behind him. "What the hell?!" Tatsuki's shock was to be expected.

"Ichigo… You're a superhero?!" Orihime exclaimed brightly with her arms in the air. Tatsuki's shock quickly shifted to her girlfriend as she turned to look at the excited orangette.

"That's what you got from this?" Tatsuki asked confused.

"What else would it be?" Orihime tilted her head cutely and Tatsuki couldn't help but sigh fondly as she patted Orihime's head.

"I've become a Shinigami; things have been really weird the last couple days." Ichigo rubbed the back of his head as he sat next to his own body. "I'll let Rukia explain the details. I'm still not one hundred percent on everything myself." Both girls turned their eyes to look at the Shinigami woman. She saw the countless questions in their eyes and hoped to answer them all.

"For starters I am a Shinigami." Rukia began her explanation. It would be almost an hour later before Rukia finished explaining the situation and answered all of Orihime and Tatsuki's questions. Everything from what a Shinigami was, what the Soul Society was, why Ichigo was now a Shinigami and even explaining the concept of Hollows to the two teens.

"Holy shit…" Tatsuki breathed out heavily. She and Orihime were both leaning into Ichigo, who was back in his body. "Talk about a World Shift."

"This is so crazy." Orihime nodded as she snuggled into Ichigo. "To think that Shinigami are real, and that there are monsters that eat souls." Ichigo pulled her closer to comfort the girl.

"So you see why I'll need to train Ichigo as often as possible after school?" Rukia asked and both girls nodded in response. Ichigo's power, if left uncontrolled, would cause more and more of their classmates to develop spiritual awareness. Left unchecked that would become a massive beacon to the soul-eating Hollows. So Ichigo needed to train and learn to suppress his Reiryoku before that happened.

"Well, at least we'll know where you are most of the time." Tatsuki sighed as she leaned her head onto his shoulder. "Or why you might have to suddenly run off somewhere."

"Yeah, I never meant for this to happen." Ichigo told her as he laid his head atop hers. "But I have to get my power under control before Hollows swarm this place. It'll be a nightmare if more than I can handle show up. I don't want them coming after you two." Tatsuki cuddled closer to the warm embrace of her boyfriend.

"Thank you for your understanding." Rukia bowed to both Orihime and Tatsuki. Both girls waved off her thanks as they continued to hold and be held by Ichigo.

"Hmm, that reminds me." Orihime spoke up a minute later. "You said we needed to going shopping today, why is that?"

"Rukia doesn't have any clothes of her own, right now." Ichigo informed the two. "She's borrowing Yuzu's dress and pajamas at the moment. I'd like it if you two could help her get some necessities for her six month stay in Karakura."

"Yeah, sure, it would suck to have to wash clothes every day." Tatsuki grinned at Rukia.

"Ooh~ Rukia would look great in something cute~!" Orihime brightened up noticeably and even started to bounce slightly in excitement.

"Thanks Orihime," Ichigo kissed her lips. "Thanks Tatsuki." She met his lips halfway and the two broke apart several seconds later with smoldering eyes.

"Thank you both for your help." Rukia smiled at the duo.

"Time to play dress up~!" Orihime sing-songed happily and Rukia suddenly felt like today might be more than she had anticipated. The four of them left Orihime's apartment a short time later and walked to the local shopping district. Ichigo suppressed a laugh on multiple occasions as Rukia was practically dragged along by Orihime. Tatsuki followed behind a bit with chuckles. Ichigo walked beside the tomboy with a grin of his own. Rukia had been put into at least a dozen outfits by Orihime. Ichigo had given his honest opinion on all of them as requested. Rukia's cheeks were red the whole time. She even faltered and almost tried to hide in the changing booth the first time Ichigo said she looked cute in an outfit.

"No!" Rukia had outright rejected an outfit Tatsuki had put into the changing room several minutes later. "The shirt is way too small! I'm not sure these can even be called shorts!" The Shinigami woman complained from behind the curtain.

"But it shows off plenty of your cuteness, Rukia-chan~" Tatsuki teased her fellow ravenette.

"It shows off far more than that!" Rukia refused as she tossed the short shorts and crop top out of the changing booth. "The shirt barely covers my chest!"

"I know~" Tatsuki giggled at hearing Rukia fuss over the outfit. "The shorts would certainly show off your cute butt though~"

"She's right, Rukia!" Orihime chimed in with a bright smile. "You should try them on!"

"No, thank you!" Rukia rejected firmly. Orihime playfully pouted while Tatsuki snickered. Ichigo chuckled as he pulled both of his girlfriends into side hugs.

"Be nice." Ichigo gently chided the two. "If she doesn't want to wear it she doesn't have to."

"Thank you, Ichigo." Rukia replied as she opened the curtain. She was back in Yuzu's dress and had a few of the outfits that she liked under her left arm.

"Well that just leaves the last of the essentials." Tatsuki smiled. "Ichigo wait for us up front, okay?"

"Hmm?" Ichigo looked at Tatsuki questioningly.

"I don't think Rukia is ready for you to help her pick out her underthings~" Tatsuki teased while shooting Rukia a wink. The Shinigami woman blushed brightly and turned to face away from Ichigo.

"Right, right, I'll see you all up front when you're done buying." Ichigo chuckled as he separated from the group. Several minutes of waiting later and Ichigo was rejoined by the girls. Rukia had a bag full of new clothes in one hand and looked satisfied.

"How about lunch?" Orihime asked and both Ichigo and Tatsuki said yes immediately. It was hard to tell Orihime 'No' when it came to meals. She was absolutely adorable when it came to food. Even if she did have a rather odd palate sometimes. The four stopped at a local place that Tatsuki, Orihime, and Ichigo frequented when they went out. Rukia had found the food very good. She was honestly surprised at how well she was already fitting in with Ichigo and his girlfriends. She'd only known them a couple of days and already she felt close to the three.

The day ended with everyone back at Orihime's apartment. Rukia had been offered the shower and was currently bathing. She'd change into one of her new outfits when she was done so that Ichigo could return Yuzu's clothes to her. Tatsuki, Orihime, and Ichigo were happily lounging around and just watching TV. When the sun started to set Ichigo and Rukia left Orihime's apartment. Tatsuki was staying the night and had winked at both of the Shinigami as she closed the door. Ichigo was very tempted to call his dad and tell him he was staying the night at Orihime's. But knowing his father, the man would show up shortly afterwards and make a spectacle of himself.

-Ichigo's Room ~ That Night-

Rukia was smiling gently as she prepared her futon. Ichigo had been able to sneak Yuzu's clothes back into her room. Rukia was wearing soft cotton pajamas of her own in a blue, black, and white pattern. They'd had dinner at Orihime's and to her surprise found out that both Tatsuki and Ichigo could cook fairly well. Orihime wanted to make very strange combinations of foods. Rukia was glad that none of the orangette's recipes had ended up in the meal.

While Ichigo and his family spent time together in the evening, Rukia had been able to quietly brush her teeth and use the restroom. Now she was ready for bed and Ichigo had just returned from his bath. The orange-haired teen made sure to lock his door as they both finished getting ready for bed. Rukia was comfortably in her futon when Ichigo turned out the lights and got into bed himself.

"Thank you for today, Ichigo." Rukia thanked her Substitute again.

"Don't worry about it." Ichigo replied as he yawned. "Good night, Rukia."

"Good night, Ichigo." Rukia smiled softly as she closed her eyes. It had been a good day, not a single Hollow attack at all. She knew that would be a rarity since Karakura was the current Jūreichi. But for now she'd focus on recovering her powers and training Ichigo. Hopefully he'd be strong enough to manage until her powers returned. She didn't want him to have to fight a Huge Hollow. The towering monsters rarely showed up in the Living World normally. But the Jūreichi could expect to have six or more appear within a year. It was why only Seated Officers were allowed to patrol the area. A single Unseated Shinigami would only be a casualty against a Huge Hollow.

-The Next Day ~ Monday-

Rukia and Ichigo awoke and performed their morning routines. While Ichigo was eating -usually accompanied by some kind of loud ruckus with his father- Rukia could sneak a quick shower and prepare for the day. Ichigo would take extra from breakfast for her and she'd eat quickly before leaving through his window quietly. Walking to school, they were joined by Tatsuki and Orihime. The four showing up to school together had caught some attention; but a single look from Ichigo had silenced most of them.

School was boring as usual. Rukia honestly couldn't care much for the subjects. They were irrelevant to her mission. At lunch she'd gone with Ichigo. He'd led her up to the roof after buying them both some food. Rukia sat next to Ichigo, making sure her skirt was keeping her properly covered, and began to eat.

"Hey, Ichigo," Rukia held out a juice box to him. "How do I drink this?"

"You take the straw off the back," Ichigo showed her as he spoke. "Then you use the sharp end and puncture the foil over this hole." He stabbed the straw into the juice box before handing it back to Rukia. "Like that."

"Thank you." Rukia smiled at him as she took a sip. "Mmm, it's sweet."

"Enjoy." Ichigo chuckled as he ate.

"Together again?" Mizuiro asked as he approached them with his lunch. "You even showed up at school together. Are you sure you haven't added another girl to your relationship?"

"No, Mizuiro." Ichigo shook his head slightly.

"Good afternoon, Kuchiki-san." Mizuiro greeted Rukia.

"Good afternoon, Mizuiro?" Rukia half greeted, half asked.

"Cha-Ching!" Mizuiro smiled at her. "You remembered my name even without a formal introduction."

"Careful, Rukia, he's the Player I warned you about." Ichigo spoke up.

"Ichigo! You're going to damage my reputation!" Mizuiro accused the orange-haired boy. "Besides I prefer older women, I'm harmless to girls my age."

"Like I said, watch out." Ichigo took a drink from the can he'd gotten from the machine. Rukia blinked at the byplay while sipping her juice.

"Anyway, you can deny it all you want but people are already starting to talk." Mizuiro warned Ichigo.

"If I cared what people said or thought, I'd have dyed my hair black a long time ago." Ichigo snorted before taking a bite of his bread.

"True enough." Mizuiro chuckled.

"Hey guys!" Keigo greeted the group as he walked over with his lunch.

"Oh, hey Keigo." Ichigo greeted his buddy. Keigo's eyes suddenly fell onto Rukia and he made a weird pose in shock.

"Is that the lovely new girl, Kuchiki-san, I see here?!" Keigo asked dramatically.

"Yeah, Ichigo picked her up and brought her here." Mizuiro informed 'helpfully'.

"Hey…" Ichigo gave a warning tone.

"Rumor has it they even walked into school together with Orihime and Tatsuki." Mizuiro smiled 'innocently'. "A lot of people think Ichigo here has added another girl to his relationship!"

"Ichigo! Save some lovely ladies for the rest of us!" Keigo complained with crocodile tears.

"I will throw both of you off this rooftop, so help me." Ichigo warned his buddies.

"Hey, Chad isn't here yet?" Keigo asked as he looked around.

"Not yet, sometimes he goes to the machine on the other side of school for that drink he likes." Mizuiro shrugged.

"I'm here." A large, teen spoke up as he walked towards the group with his lunch in one hand and black aluminum can in the other. He had shaggy, dark-brown hair, brown eyes, a darker complexion than his classmates, and stood almost two meters in height. Rukia blinked as she stared up at the tall young man. She'd only met a handful of Shinigami taller than this teen. He towered over everyone she'd met since coming to Karakura Town.

"Good afternoon." Rukia greeted the tall young man.

"Good afternoon, Kuchiki-san, right?" Chad asked.

"Yes, Kuchiki Rukia; pleased to meet you." Rukia introduced herself.

"Sado Yasutora, you can call me Chad if you want." Chad responded with a friendly nod, before sitting down to eat with the group.

Conversation started up and Rukia finished her lunch while listening in. It seemed for all his intimidating size, Chad was a gentle giant. He had Ichigo's back, according to Keigo. Ichigo had informed her of the context. Apparently Chad never threw the first punch; he'd let people beat on him if they'd get too injured from his fists. But if he was fighting to protect someone else, he'd lay out most people with a single hit. Rukia thought he was a good person though. He clearly had a heart of gold, as the saying went.

-Matsukura Hospital ~ After School-

"We'll begin with Zanjutsu and then move onto Reiryoku Control again." Rukia instructed and Ichigo nodded. He moved to set his book bag in the shade of the abandoned hospital but as soon as he got within a dozen meters of the building he heard it.

"Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!" The wail of a Hollow.

"Rukia!" Ichigo looked back at the Shinigami only to see her looking curious, rather than preparing for battle.

"Do not worry, Ichigo." Rukia spoke as she pointed to a spot a bit away from the teen. "That is a Jibakurei, a spirit bound to a place by its regrets."

Looking over to where Rukia was pointing Ichigo saw a male ghost appear. It was an older male, probably in his early thirties when he'd died. But he had chains attaching him to the building. Ichigo also noticed the partial hole through the ghost's chest. Stepping back slightly Ichigo looked at the howling spirit.

"Why does it sound like a Hollow?" Ichigo asked as the man continued to wail.

"Jibakurei blend into their surroundings, they're undetectable until their territory is breached. If his regrets had centered on a person then he'd have become a Tsukirei; a ghost bound to a particular person." Rukia explained before she was drowned out as the ghost stopped screaming and instead started yelling at them.

"This hospital is mine!" The ghost yelled out. "I won't let anyone take it from me!"

"As you can see, his regrets are deeply tied to this place." Rukia grimaced at the volume of the ghost.

"You two better not come in here! If you do, you'll have to pay me!" The ghost ranted at them. "I was supposed to inherit this hospital from my father! I was going to make myself filthy rich off this place! I was gonna be the king of Nishi-Azabu's nightlife! But then, then that pig willed it to my younger brother! I'll never forgive him!"

"Ichigo, Konsō him." Rukia requested as she pulled on her Gokon Tekkō. With a push against his back, Ichigo was ejected from his body into his Shinigami Form.

"Right." Ichigo agreed; the man's ranting was getting annoying. He was definitely from the 'Me' Generation. Walking up to the bound ghost, Ichigo drew his sword.

"Hey! Who the hell are you?!" The ghost demanded as he glared at Ichigo. "What're you doing with that sword?! Huh?! Answer me!"

"Just let this place go." Ichigo stated and the ghost stopped talking for a moment. "This place is closed, abandoned, has been for just over six years. No one is making any money off this place. Not your younger brother, not you, nobody. Just move on, alright?" With that Ichigo tapped the kashira against the ghost's forehead. In a blue light the bound spirit's chains vanished and he disappeared. A single Black Swallowtail butterfly fluttered off into the distance.

"Very good," Rukia praised him. "Consoling Jibakurei is often rough; but it's the sign of a good Shinigami to manage it."

"I'm just glad he wasn't a total monster." Ichigo sighed. "From the way you've described Hollows it must be horrible being one. I'm glad I got to him before he fell entirely."

"That's the goal of the Shinigami." Rukia smiled at him. "To save the souls before they fall and from the ones that have already fallen. To bring peace to the Hollows by purifying them, and maintain the Balance of Souls."

"Then I should get better fast then," Ichigo grinned at the violet-eyed woman. "Same as before for Zanjutsu?"

"Exactly, and if you can still lift your arms afterward we'll practice the basic techniques." Rukia smirked challengingly at him. Ichigo matched her smirk and set about his swings. To Rukia's hidden amazement, Ichigo was able to keep going after his practice swings. She'd only had to correct him a few times for being sloppy too. So she started him on basic swordsmanship techniques for Zanjutsu. Afterwards they practiced Reiryoku Control. They started with meditation again, allowing Ichigo to take hold of his power. Ichigo was slowly getting the hang of how to direct and control his Reiryoku. Keeping it circulating within his body, rather than spilling out constantly.

Keeping with Ichigo's previous comparison to a one to ten scale. The orange-haired teen now felt he had solidly toned down his Reiryoku release from nine and a half to nine, maybe eight and a half if he was being generous. Going along with Ichigo's comparison, Rukia informed him that if he could control his Reiryoku well enough to keep it at a seven or below she'd attempt to teach him both a Hadō and a Bakudō spell.

Ichigo knew he could do it. He'd already made progress! If he just kept at it, then he'd figure it out. Kinetic learning was a strong point of his. The more he actively practiced and tried the faster he'd get it down. Plus, Kidō sounded very useful from how Rukia described it. Anything that would make fighting Hollows easier was a win in the Substitute's book.

-That Night-

Rukia was awoken from her sleep by a beeping noise. For a moment she didn't process what the sound was. But a second later and it clicked. Rukia grabbed her Soul Pager from beside her futon, flipping it open she looked at the order that had just come in. Turning to say something to Ichigo, she saw the teen already awake and blinking the sleep from his eyes.

"What's going on?" Ichigo asked sleepily.

"Orders, there's a Hollow." Rukia stated urgently, though making sure to keep her voice low to not wake anyone in the Kurosaki home. She slipped on her glove and pushed Ichigo out of his body. Without a thought Rukia climbed onto Ichigo's back and directed him out the window.

Ichigo didn't comment. Rukia sounded urgent, so he just helped her stay on his back as he leapt across the rooftops. The two travelled at a good speed for a few minutes. Ichigo tried to listen for the distinct howling, or spot a large monstrous form, but he both heard and saw nothing.

"Left, down there!" Rukia instructed, pointing down towards the river. Ichigo leapt downwards and saw the Hollow underneath the bridge. The beast had cornered what appeared to be the ghost of a scruffy looking man.

The Hollow looked like a cross between a dog and a rat. A dog-like mask adorned its face and its body was distinctly canine. But the feet were the claws of a rodent, as was the long thin tail that lashed behind it. Rukia hopped off his back as the Hollow noticed them. Letting out the same horrible, howling roar as both of the other Hollows he'd slain the monster rushed towards him. Ichigo drew his sword and held it at the ready.

'This one is mindless. Ichigo can take care of it easily.' Rukia mused to herself mentally. The Hollow was strong enough to outclass the spider-like one that Ichigo had slain in the children's park, but wasn't an intelligent one that would pose a threat.

True to Rukia's predictions Ichigo struck the Hollow with a clean helm-splitter strike. A basic Zanjutsu technique known as Suikawari. The power of Ichigo's proper Zanpakutō shone through as it cleanly cleaved the Hollow's head in half. The beast dispersed into reishi while the souls it consumed passed over to the Soul Society as small points of blue light that quickly faded from sight.

"You've had a bad night, haven't you?" Ichigo asked the cowering ghost.

"Is the monster gone?" The scruffy ghost looked around in fear.

"Yeah, I took care of it." Ichigo reassured the ghost. "If you want I can help you pass over, you won't have to worry about being chased by those things anymore."

"Can you?" The ghost looked happily surprised. "Please, I don't know why I'm still here. If you can, please let me pass on."

"Sure thing." Ichigo smiled as he slowly turned his sword around and gently tapped the man on the head. With a smile the man was engulfed in blue light and faded away. The butterfly appeared and flew off, as normal, and Ichigo turned to Rukia with a tired smile. "Can we go back to bed now?"

"Until another order comes in, or we have to get up, whichever comes first." Rukia nodded with a grin. She'd like to get back to her warm futon too.

Climbing onto Ichigo's back, the two headed back to the Kurosaki home via the rooftops. They landed a few minutes later on Ichigo's windowsill and Rukia happily climbed back into her futon. Ichigo re-entered his body and curled back up to sleep. Both of them were out in less than a minute.

-End Chapter-


Things continue to change. Ichigo has dealt with the Jibakurei early! So will Don Kanonji even come to Karakura Town? Rukia is being aided and having her needs met by Ichigo, Tatsuki, and Orihime! So much better than scrimping by and being cooped up in a closet! Ichigo's honesty with his girlfriends, and bringing them into the secret, has already helped!

Ichigo is slowly making progress at actually controlling his Reiryoku! Rukia has offered to teach him Kidō once his control is up to snuff! What kinds of Kidō does she have in mind?

Keep reading to find out!

Until I get your reviews, later!