Liner Notes: Yeesh was that last chapter ever rough as hell. Oh well, I suppose we all have our off days and I had several of them while writing that. On the whole it wasn't very good, but I know I can do better. Anyway, I'm also pissed that people are writing off Issou and Setsu as Mary-sues just because they're original. Particularly, there's only so much a person can do with writing using the same characters and I believe those with true talent have guts enough to use their own characters. I'm not saying I'm talented, I'm just saying I prefer original characters to be in stories. Also, expect to see many flashbacks about Setsu and Issou in this chapter and in the upcoming installments. Anyway, time to rock n roll.

XXXXX

I'd rather be in pain

Than be numb

-Ryuuhai Chokusetsu

2: Self-Destructive Rock

Despite the fact it was morning in Soul Society it went unnoticed to Setsu and Issou who were deep underground. There was light, but no sun to tell what the time was or how long they'd been there. In all honesty, it was pretty much just guess work.

It didn't really matter to the two current denizens of the underground though. Issou set a rather odd-looking, chalk-white doll up as Setsu just tilted her head.

"Okay, I know you went through hell and a half to get this," she commented "but what is it?"

"It's called a Tenshintai; apparently the Special Operations division finds it as an artifact of a sort."

"Uh-huh." Setsu didn't really know where this was going.

"When you stab this object with a zanpakutou, the spirit within is dragged into the world for Ban Kai training. However realize there is a-"

Issou didn't have time to finish the sentence as his hot-blooded friend had already thrust her sword right into the doll. The white figure seemed to implode grotesquely and then the entire thing burst as a small, black rip started to form.

"Impatient as always is this ojouchan."

Annoyed, Setsu's eyes glanced to her side to see a figure clad in silken green. A woman in a set of form-fitting black clothes leaned against a dead tree amongst the grounds. Her wavy black hair was tied back in a low ponytail that hung rather wispily to her waist. However, the most noticeable things about this woman had to be her paraffin skin and the black, marble-like orbs that were her eyes.

"The last thing I need is your smartass comments, Tatsu." the tomboy stuck out her red tongue.

"Yeah, yeah." the avatar crossed her slender arms over her chest and glanced at Issou "So girly man, I suppose I'm here to have this girl learn Ban Kai."

"Yes, so it would be rather helpful if you started right away."

Tatsukuchi sighed, canines showing as she closed her black eyes thoughtfully. Setsu braced herself as a sort of strong wind seemed to blow from Tatsu's direction, causing her hakama to flap haphazardly. This continued for several minutes, dust flying to and fro as well as the smaller branches on some of the trees snapping off and whizzing in any direction.

The wind eventually stopped, much to Setsu's relief. However, Tatsu examined her hands, sparks crackling on them and between her fingers. It seemed as though Tatsu had become charged with energy and now it couldn't be contained very easily.

"What the hell…?"

"Surprised?" Tatsu grinned "Sorry, but I had to make the entire place a field so I could do this."

"What are you talking about?"

The avatar just pointed her finger at a rock to the side of Setsu. The second after, a light shot directly from Tatsu's finger and the rock next to Setsu was shattered in an instant.

"What the hell!?" Setsu leapt back immediately at the reaction to the sight. Tatsu merely chuckled.

"The entire place is a field that increases reiatsu manipulation to the point where neither words nor much concentration are needed. You can now do it, though not as good as me"

"The fu-"

"Your test is to at least scratch me bad enough to draw blood." Tatsu drew a line across her face with her finger "However, you cannot touch me; as a precaution there is a field a meter wide around me that will damage you if you step in it."

Setsu stepped back wearily at the thought of it, though Tatsu stepped forward. Setsu curled her fingers slowly, digits popping.

"You ready?" Tatsu's eyes narrowed.

"Bring it, bitch."

XXXXX

"Special Ops?" Orihime asked as Isane she had just finished examining a patient.

"Yes, apparently the Special Ops storage was ransacked last night, though they've yet to find out what was stolen or who the culprit was."

"Isn't that place filled with guards and cameras to avoid such things though?"

"I just heard it at passing from Unohana-taichou; you should know more than me since you're married to a Captain."

"Heh-heh-heh," Orihime laughed nervously "Ichigo doesn't really talk about his duties that much since he finds them boring more often than not, especially whenever he has long meetings."

Isane scratched her head quizzically "Why is he a Captain again?"

"Your guess is as good as mine."

Why would…correction, how could anyone raid the Special Ops storage? That place was guarded like the gates of Heaven with sentries posted 'round the clock. But not only did someone manage to get inside, they got in unnoticed. Maybe a Captain could do that, but footage of the intrusion would have shown up no matter who it was.

Orihime began working on those reports she didn't finish the night before, brush in hand. She was a bit tired from last night, though that was mostly due to Ichigo. She had terrible stamina as opposed to Ichigo who was some sort of endurance freak. Oh well, everything had its ups and downs she supposed.

Orihime sipped her tea, writing down what she could on the reports for patients and such. One seemed to have frequent migraines, though it was mostly due to an injury that hadn't really healed right. Orihime requested treatment in the form of minor surgery. Another had a severely broken leg which all that Orihime needed to do was use her zanpakutou.

Orihime sighed at the tranquility of the past few years she had spent in Soul Society. Ever since her engagement and eventual wedding, there was nothing to be anxious about anymore. There was no one trying something dangerous or apocalyptic anymore to threaten. Things seemed a bit boring, but…what was this sense of dread she had? What was…what was this ball of anxiety within her chest that buried itself so heavily?

XXXXX

Ichigo drummed his fingers against his desk as he thought about the meeting last night. It still boggled the mind at how someone could break into the Special Ops' warehouse unnoticed and somehow get out without so much as a visual report of their intrusion, let alone a fight or even a scuffle. It shouldn't have been physically possible even for someone of the upper-tier Captains. Who the hell could have done that?

Knocking on the door brought Ichigo to his senses after his meditations. He shook his head to get back to the world.

"Sir, it's Kiyone." thought so; most people wouldn't knock on his door normally.

"Come in."

The shouji slid opened, revealing Ichigo's Vice-Captain as well as a tall figure in a haori. Ichigo smirked, recognizing the telltale tattoos and the ostentatious hair that was worn down.

"Er, you have a visitor." Kiyone's sweat dropped.

Ichigo waved his Vice-Captain away, ushering Renji to take a seat.

"Che, you're as nonchalant as ever." Renji set Zabimaru against the wall "Do you always act like that to your subordinates?"

"Meh, I still don't see why this Captain deal is so big. It's just something in name really."

Renji grinned, seeing that a few decades and a promotion hadn't changed Ichigo, though he was pretty sure the tangerine-haired man's marriage did. The red-headed captain tossed a stray strand of his crimson hair over his shoulder.

"Who do you think did it?" Renji asked as he sat.

Ichigo glanced, his brown eyes shifting at his colleague.

"Dunno, could be anyone really."

"Ch, typical of you to have such an apathetic reaction." Renji scoffed.

"Why should I be concerned? For all I know the guards just got lazy and were sitting around with their thumbs up their asses."

"Hnn, ain't that simple; someone had to be highly skilled to not only slip past security but also to actually avoid being seen by cameras and then get out with the stolen object. That ain't an easy job, even for a captain."

Ichigo scratched his head, getting a little weary of basically a recap of the previous night's meeting.

"So, what's your point?"

Renji slid his hand into his kimono, pulling out a thin piece of paper.

"We got a lead." he said "Apparently what was stolen was a Tenshintai."

Ichigo's brow raised, knowing quite well what that thing was. To this he said: "So I guess a person with high potential got it."

"Mm-hm," Renji slid the piece of paper back in "so all of the Squads are investigating everyone thoroughly from where they were at the time of the theft to their origins."

"Wait a minute, this makes even less sense." Ichigo was confused again "No one besides a Captain should be able to do that; even a Vice-Captain would be caught in the first corridor."

"Well…" Renji paused, trying to find the right words "we think some people might have been hiding their power."

"?? Is that possible? I know it's possible to hide reiatsu, but hiding how powerful someone is seems a bit weird."

"People have reasons; I believe you should know more than anyone that some people don't like Soul Society."

"Hmm, that's true, but I'm pretty sure that even the Rukongai citizens know that we don't fall easy in here."

"You better hope for both of us that you're right."

XXXXX

Issou looked from his perch at the two women (well, technically one woman and a zanpakutou-avatar) dueling amongst the worn stone and the dead trees. To describe the fight was…difficult, even with a very eloquent and articulate person. All that Issou could really call it was a series of blinding, high-speed lights. Every few seconds, either Setsu or Tatsu would fire some sort of hardened ball of reiatsu that would result in at least a small explosion. To put it into words was something of an insult.

Another burst happened, this time behind a rock that obscured Issou's vision. Unsurprisingly, a ragged Setsu skidded from the obstacle, one of her sleeves singed from the burst. A few more missiles of light fired from the unseen Tatsu, forcing Setsu to duck at their speed and deadliness. The projectiles embedded into the ground, sizzling as they burrowed into the earth. From what Issou could tell, they were deadly and he daren't think what a direct hit would feel like.

Setsu breathed heavily; sweat sliding down her skin as drops. It hadn't been even fifteen minutes since this had started and her body was already exhausted from the strain of fighting. Then again, how many of those bullets had she been firing since this whole thing started; fifty, sixty? The things were small, but even a graze was extremely painful plus they were really, really fast. As such, it usually took all of her skill just to keep the damage to a minimum.

If that wasn't enough, if Setsu so much as tapped that field around Tatsu, she'd get a shock like a bolt of lightning striking her. Setsu knew that her zanpakutou was a hardass, but that friggin' avatar-bitch could have held back at least a little. Then again, she probably was.

Setsu dodged once again, a high-speed bullet singing her hair along with leaving a cut on her cheek. Tatsu had moved forward a couple steps with a slow pace, forcing her opponent to step back to which she grinned.

The avatar had already cleared the distance in the time Setsu had decided to back away, almost making her touch that field. The two then charged their reiatsu in their hands and fired.

"Huh, so it finally happened?" Issou raised his brow to the display.

The resulting burst caused both women to skid in opposite directions, though Tatsu was still on her feet while Setsu was on her knees. Setsu was breathing heavy, her short, dark hair plastering itself to her face. Red liquid oozed down her cheek, indicating a cut made by Tatsu's high-speed bullet. Tatsu, on the other hand, merely had a graze across her forehead that wasn't deep enough to cause any sort of bleeding.

Tatsu scowled, a bit annoyed that her master had already managed to get a strike on her. Oh well, it wasn't enough to cause her to bleed anyway. Although, Tatsu didn't put it past her master to be doing things like this already.

Setsu brushed the back of her hand over her cheek, wiping away the blood despite the fact that it just kept oozing. She brushed away the sweat pouring over her eyes, exhaustion already piling up on her body. She swallowed, drying to get her throat dry.

"Shit, am I gonna make it through this?" she thought

Setsu glanced over at Issou, his gaze as stony as ever. He too looked as though he was reaching his limits as far as this went. Setsu grinned at the stoic, trying to show him that she was alright. With that thought, she went charging at Tatsu, reiatsu already showing on her arm.

"Iccha…no, Issou, I'll make it through this. Even if my arms and legs fall off, I'll get through this. And then…maybe…"

XXXXX

District 1 Junrinan: 20 years ago

In the wake of the Great War, things hadn't really changed even with great casualties among Shinigami and civilians. It didn't really matter since they'd be reincarnated anyway. Things in Rukongai had always been the same, before the war and after and would probably continue to be so. However, back then, she was fine with just that.

Atop a random building in Rukongai sat a girl, her long legs dangling freely from the roof. The girl was seemingly in her teenaged years, her face not quite defined enough to be an adult and with her short, bobbed, cobalt hair framing adolescent features. The summer sun was high over her head, having reached its zenith some time ago. As such, the girl was sweating whether she liked it or not.

The teenager sighed exhaustively, wiping one of her hands across her forehead to rid her face of sweat. Usually the girl liked such heat, though such thick humidity was another matter altogether. In cases like these, the girl just hoped night would come already.

"Hey, is he dead?" a male voice came somewhere from behind the girl, getting her out of her summer daze.

"I dunno, wanna see if he's still breathing?"

"What's up with the sword?"

The girl raised an eyebrow, easing herself over to the other side of the roof. Peeking over, she saw three young boys examining what appeared to be someone collapsed in the middle of an alley. No matter what the person's skin color was, it was impossible to see through a multitude of bandages wrapped around the body. However, she did notice a rather chaotic mane of emerald-green hair.

"I say we bury him and take his sword."

"Are you nuts? That damn thing is bigger than us."

"Hey!" the girl yelled towards the youths which signaled them to run down the street as though their tails were on fire. As such, the girl pouted and said: "Pfft, friggin' pricks."

Sighing, the teenaged female hopped from her perch and landed next to the collapsed figure. Upon doing so, she immediately smelled the sharp, stagnant odor of blood around the person. About to wretch, she covered her nose quickly with the fabric of her yukata.

The girl waited for a second, long enough for her to forget the scent of what hit her nostrils. She drew closer to the person, examining it closer. Beneath a robe that was ripped heavily there were bandages wrapped around the person's arms and legs, preventing as skin from peeking through. Furthermore, even the bandages seemed to be covered in blood that was not the person's own. Yeesh, had this person walked from a massacre or something?

"…guhhhh…"

The girl flinched at the sound emanating from the collapsed figure, almost enough to make her jump. She glanced nervously at what seemed to be bizarrely colored eyes beneath the wild, green mane. Those eyes, practically glowing with silver light met the girl's strange, violet ones. Those eyes looked…dangerous? Or was it relief? Whatever the case, those eyes met hers for what appeared to be an age with neither one of them moving.

The girl flinched again as long, slender limbs struggled to support the person's weight. Shaky as they were, their owner forced them to act as a prop. It was all in vain as the fatigued, fragile arms gave out and the figure slammed into the ground rather inelegantly. The person gave short, ragged breaths.

"Hey, don't force yourself!" the girl said around the cloth covering her face "You're better off just resting!"

"…r..te."

"Huh?" the girl leaned in closer.

"Sei…re..i…tei…"

The girl raised her brow at the voice, identifying it most obviously as a man. Then she caught sight of those very odd, burning eyes the figure had. They were silver, flaming silver, more brilliant than that of a sword in battle. The man finally gave up, passing out from extreme fatigue. The girl sighed, seeing that she had to do something as a good person. She picked the man up, despite being smaller than he was, and began dragging him back home. Needless to say, she was cursing the entire way there.

XXXXX

It was night when the young man woke up. His eyes opened slowly, the silver orbs scanning his environment which was a simple, run-down room with a small fire in the center as the only source of light. The man rubbed his eyes, not quite being accustomed to even the little light that the fire provided.

"Hmmm, what happened?"

"I'll tell ya what happened, you making me drag your ass half a kilometer."

The man looked to the entrance into the room, seeing a girl that looked a few years his junior carrying in wood. Her teenage cheeks were flared out in annoyance as she entered.

"God, why in hell did I have to drag your butt all the way here?" she grumbled as she set the random sticks and branches next to the fire.

"Oh, you're…"

"The girl who saved your skinny butt." she finished his sentence.

The man removed his hand from his face, observing the girl as she placed wood into the fire. He sighed inwardly, a bit agitated that he had been in such a pathetic state.

"Hey." the girl asked.

"Hm?" the man's brow quirked.

"What's your name?"

"….Issou, and yours?"

"Chokusetsu."

XXXXX

Issou looked at the string that had been supplying his reiatsu to the Tenshintai just moments ago. As he had expected, Setsu had managed to last the duration though exhausted and she didn't pass her zanpakutou's test. She was now in the same state she was the night before, exhausted and breathing heavy. Issou dropped from his perch, walking over slowly to the spent Setsu who was cursing in between breaths.

"I swear…I am gonna put that bitch….through hell when I pass this."

"Really now?" Issou raised an emerald eyebrow.

"Friggin' ass, doing crap…like this."

Issou knelt by Setsu who was obviously a bit too worn to really do anything. With a swift motion, he carried her like a bride over to the spring. She looked up, chuckling.

"What is it?" Issou asked.

"And I thought I was supposed to be the one carrying."

XXXXX

Liner Notes: -bangs head on table- Lord, why did I get around to doing this now? Guess I got lazy, plus those-projects with Trayne are going to keep me busy. This chapter was choppy again and the ending was rushed but I'm not gonna spend the next half-hour critiquing myself (cuz I suck at it). Anyway, be wary of the flashbacks as they will show up for awhile (maybe even every chapter). It might be hard to decipher them, but my readers aren't stupid so it's not like they shouldn't be able to figure it out. Anyway, here's Orihime now:

Name: Kurosaki (Inoue) Orihime (black cape, (high, well) weaver princess)

Birthday: September 3

Height: 165 cm

Weight: 51 kilo

Hair: Auburn

Eyes: Brown

Blood Type: BO

Birthplace: Karakura Town

Squad: 4th

Rank: 4th Seat

Discipline:

Zanjutsu: 3rd dan

Hakuda: 4th dan (karate)

Hohou (secondary): 5th dan

Kidou (main): can bypass incantations for level 40 spells

Zanpakutou:

Name: Rokurenge (Six Lotuses)

Appearance: A katana with a lacquered handle and a hilt in the shape of a lotus flower

Avatar: A hermaphroditic, red-headed, blue-eyed person with six personalities

Inner World: A field of flowers

Shikai: Blade vanishes and becomes six, fairy-like entities

Command: Reject

Abilities: Same as her previous abilities.

Rokuten Suishun (Six-Heaven Absorbing Shield): This is a technique that absorbs an enemy's reiatsu and turns it into Orihime's. Orihime has not yet been able to use this due to the amount of vectors it involves

Goten Kakeshun (Five-Heaven Running Shield): A transportation technique that instantly teleports Orihime to a different location. Orihime can only do this once a day (depending on location) due to the massive amount of reiatsu it uses

Yonten Kyoushun (Four-Heaven Mirror Shield): A technique that reflects an enemy's attack back at them, be it physical or otherwise

Santen Kesshun (Three-Heaven Repelling Shield): A simple shield to keep from getting damaged

Souten Kishun (Twin-Heaven Reflecting Shield): Restores a person's condition by rejecting the fact that the event happened. This is her strongest ability

Koten Zanshun (Single-Heaven Slicing Shield): An offensive technique that slices enemies in two. Orihime rarely uses it

Muten Musshun (Zero-Heaven Empty Shield): Apparently Rokurenge's most powerful ability. Rokurenege won't reveal the specifics, but says it's an ability that can either restore something completely or cast it into oblivion

Likes:

Cheese

Butter

Asian and flower prints

Comedy

Her husband (especially!)

Dislikes:

Violence

Miscellaneous:

Daydreams a lot

Mouth open when daydreaming

Puts butter on yakiimo (baked sweet potatoes)

Has been married to Ichigo for four years

Unohana formally adopted her as her daughter to help her get into the Academy and the Gotei Thirteen

Bio: Ichigo's wife who he knew long before they married or even lived together (and she had also been in love with him for some years). Despite her not being a natural Shinigami, she is very sociable and well-liked.

Theme Song: "T'en Va Pas" by Elsa. Recorded in L'Essential Elsa 1986-1993

Paint it Black theme Sone: YOU feat. Kasami" by Kazami. Recorded in YOU Himiwara