Disclaimer: - I don't own Bleach. Kibo Tite owns Bleach. The closest I come to owning Bleach is my bottle of White king in the laundry.
WARNING MASSIVE SPOILERS
Please Read and Review
Setting: - It's 6 years after Ichigo first became a Shinigami and things have changed a lot. So much so that he's now about to take his first steps into Shinigami Academy in Soul Society. Ichigo is a bit more mature and still no one has been paired yet.
Tone: - More serious than the stuff I usually like to write, thought I'd change my pacing this time round. Still I like to have the occasional light moment.
Style: - Because this story will be set completely outside of western influences I will be using some honorifics and assuming readers know them. I will also be using the Japanese means of address with family name first then given name. Military ranking will go by English however as I believe it won't lose any of it's significance in translation.
Rating: - Dunno but occasional coarse language to be expected. Bit of violence on occasion so I might start it off on T and see how I go from there.
Point of View: - Third person not omnipotent.
And So He Died…
Holding his lion plushie up to face level, the tall youth stared deeply into it's plastic eyes and silently mouthed a few words to it. "Thank you Kon."
He gently placed the plush toy into his duffel bag and stood up stretching out, ruffling his spiky orange hair back into the controlled mess it usually was. Getting up he quickly looked around one last time at the dilapidated shack that had served as his home for the past year. Silently he said goodbye to it as he briskly walked out into the sunlight towards his new home and future, Seireitei and the Shinigami academy therein.
It seemed to him that he had said a lot of goodbyes in the six years since he had first become a Shinigami and became involved with Soul Society and all that happens in the afterlife. 'Regret' he thought to himself, no, deep down he never regretted taking this path that fate had given him. Still he had to wonder what life might have been like normal. As he walked down the dusty road towards Seireitei in his black kimono, his mind drifted back to the events that finally brought him to this situation.
It had been almost three years since the defeat of Aizen Sousuke and his Espada. The cost of his defeat was heavy for both Shinigami and human side was steep. Even after his defeat he had unleashed havoc upon the human world, creating hundreds of powerful Arrancar before he was finally caught and executed. 'Regret' the word came to him again, he regretted not being the one to finally kill Aizen himself, especially when just six months before his capture, he had killed his good friend Inoue Orihime.
"Kurosaki Ichigo" a familiar female voice called out to him.
"Kuchiki Rukia" he answered before he had even turned around fully to face her.
They began walking down the path together towards Seireitei, the white tower, Senzaikyuu, was visible now, getting closer, bringing back memories long past. Ichigo glanced over at Rukia. She still looked the same as the first day he met her six long years ago, same black, shoulder length hair, same deep brown eyes, same single bang partially covering one eye and even the same small lithe body that spent almost a year in his wardrobe.
He smiled to himself, grateful that Rukia had arrived at Orihime's death when she did, preventing Aizen from completely destroying her soul. "Thanks, Rukia."
"For what?" she asked confused.
"For burying Orihime when you did." Ichigo replied
"She's my friend too." Rukia smiled. "She'll be so happy to see you again, you know she's only got a year left before she graduates the academy."
"What unit would want her?" Ichigo asked more as a joke than anything else.
"Hey! She's strong now you know!" Rukia scowled. Part of her was actually happy that they hadn't lost their usual routine with each other. "She's been invited to so many units already!"
"Really! Soul Society must be really getting weak nowadays." Ichigo frowned, it was the wrong thing to say.
With the number of Arrancar still scattered around the globe after Aizen's defeat and Soul Society's heavy losses during the war, Soul Society really was getting weaker. A moment of uncomfortable silence passed before Rukia finally spoke up, "I think she wants to join the Fourth Division. With her power she'd be a perfect candidate."
"What is her Zanpaktou anyway, I don't think I've seen it before. Once you gave her a soul burial I heard she was assigned to a defensive positon… Even before she became a full fledged Shinigami."
"Ho Ho" Rukia laughed, "You don't know yet do you? Well I'll let you find out for yourself. She still had some sort of power after all when she was buried so you could probably guess if your smart enough"
"Are you calling me dumb? You bitch!" he called out as she started running away from him laughing madly.
'Just like old times huh' he thought to himself as he ran after her. They had ran nearly half way before they finally stopped, in the peaceful 24th West Rukongai District. Stopping at a nearby tea house for refreshments they sat down to talk and rest. "So do they serve juice boxes here" Ichigo asked coyly.
That earned him an uppercut and some rather harsh words. 'Yep, just like old times' he thought. After tea was served, and they were left all alone in the corner of the shop, Rukia began in a more serious tone, "So Ichigo, your family secret… No one here knows right?"
"Yeah. My bastard father told me to keep it quiet, otherwise maybe even Yuzu and Karin might get involved. So other than your brother, Captain Yamamoto Genryuusai and the Chamber of 46 no one else knows."
"It is a hefty burden to carry." Rukia mused.
"Hey. I got big shoulders." Ichigo replied, his eyes now lost in deep thought.
This was the Ichigo that Rukia knew, the strength that she knew was in him and the resolve that had carried him through life and now would aide him through death. It warm her heart knowing this, but it didn't make what she had to say next any easier. "About that Ichigo…"
"The Chamber of 46 has decided that in order to keep that secret safe you've got to do a few things." Rukia looked nervously at her tea cup unconsciously spinning the cup with her fingers.
"Your secret affects all of Soul Society Ichigo… If anyone found out and if things go bad…" an uncomfortable pause lingered on the air.
"I'd rather die than let anything like that happen Rukia. You know that." Ichigo's voice was barely a whisper now, even though he was confident in his statement, the weight of it all was bearing on him.
"I know… even still, the Chamber of 46 wanted me to give you this." She handed over a small black pendant to Ichigo.
Looking at the pendant suspiciously Ichigo asked "What is it?"
Rukia paused before answering. "It's a Death Bloom." Seeing the confused look on Ichigo's face she continued to explain, "It's a flower the freaks at the Twelfth Division created. Once you place it on your body, it'll quickly grow into a tattoo. You can only activate it once."
"What happens when I activate it?"
"Well… then you die…"
The atmosphere became thick all of a sudden. The uncomfortable silence was finally broken when Ichigo finally realized the enormity of the situation. "So Soul Society would rather I die than let my secret out or me fall into enemy hands."
"Please Ichigo, it was the best my brother and I could do for you, considering the alternatives." Rukia pleaded.
"They wanted to be able to activate it remotely."
Horrified, Ichigo scowled even deeper, before his expression slowly softened. "Thanks Rukia" he murmured genuinely grateful considering that alternative.
Leaving the small store, they continued onwards towards Seireitei in silence. Ichigo slowly became lost in his thoughts again, reminiscing about the recent past. It was a year ago that he died. Well not him personally, he was on a mission hunting some rampant Arrancar when it happened. He remembered his father was on some sort of business trip. Yuzu and Karin being 16 by then were left in his care, when the Arrancar struck. He remembers the chill night air as he left Kon in his body to clean the dishes as he raced over rooftops to meet the oncoming threat.
Three days later after tracking down and defeating the Arrancar he had come home to a smoldering wreck that was formerly his house. Frantic, he had raced across half the town before finally finding his sisters at a local hospital suffering burn marks. His father was asleep next to their beds but Karin was awake. Karin saw him walking in and weakly motioned him to come closer, her eyes glistening with tears.
She leaned over and hugged him, grimacing against the pain from her burns and in a voice, barely a croak, she whispered into his ear. "He died protecting us Ichigo. He fought them… in your body… but they were too strong… too many."
"You… knew..?" Ichigo fought to hold back his tears.
"For a long time now… Ichigo. When you… go away… he feels different… I could see you… in that… black kimono for a… long time now… you knew that… I can also feel you now…"
"Shh, get some rest..." she hushed him before he could finish.
"No… you need.. to know… He fought… and fought… and fought for us… and when he couldn't… he shielded us with his body… I mean, your body… but they wouldn't… stop blasting…and blasting." She gulped back a tear before continuing. "I couldn't stop it… I was screaming.. Yuzu screaming… then daddy came…"
"Dad?" Ichigo exclaimed in surprise. "How…?"
Their father was still sleeping next to them, arms folded across his chest oblivious to Ichigo's raised voice. "He wore the same kimono… like yours Ichigo… but I didn't see… what happened next… He, I mean… you… I mean your body… told me to tell you… he said… 'Tell Rukia and Ichigo, sorry and thank you'…" She sobbed quietly, which was rare for Karin, usually it was Yuzu who the emotional one. It was as if a massive weight was lifted from her shoulders, she fell back to her pillow and drifted off to sleep.
"ICHIGO!!" Rukia shouted snapping him out of thoughts.
"What!?" came Ichigo's terse reply.
"What were you thinking about?"
"Kon" she whispered.
A moment of silence ensued. "That was when your dad told us everything, wasn't it." It was a statement, more than a question.
Ichigo's thoughts drifted back to that ironic funeral. Half the people were there to mourn him and half were there to mourn the true death… Kon. His father, Kurosaki Isshin had taken him and Rukia upstairs to talk privately. He still remembered the conversation, word for word, and the pain it caused him to feel. But a decision needed to be made.
"I'm sorry son, by the time I got back and killed the two Arrancars, Kon had already died." Isshin looked at his son, concerned.
"Where is he now?"
"I cremated him and placed him in his own coffin within yours. It was the best I could do for him."
"I see… Thanks"
"I'm sorry Ichigo, your body was too badly damaged." Isshin sighed, and looked wistfully out the window. "By the time I got back to the hospital in my body, the hospital had pronounced you dead and your death certificate signed."
Ichigo felt a strange kind of detachment listening about his own apparent death, but now he had to make a big decision and his father was about to explain his choices to him. "You're always welcome to come back you know. Yuzu and Karin know about you. But I think you should know… there's not much of a future left here for you. To the world you're officially dead now."
"What about Gigai's?" Ichigo asked.
"They have an expiratory date of roughly one year. Unless you use one like Rukia used before."
"But won't that mean he'll become human again. I mean normal human, with no Shinigami powers?" Rukia asked worriedly.
"Yes. Even if you change Gigai's every year there's still a problem with your records and how much interaction such a lifestyle will allow in this world. It's totally your choice Ichigo, but keep in mind that you're dead on record so there's not much you can do. No jobs, no university, no marriage, no drivers license even. Not only that, there's more…"
"More?" Ichigo flushed angrily.
"You're sisters Ichigo. They are high spirit beings as well…."
"And so there likely targets for hollows, right?" Rukia finished off Isshin statement.
Isshin smiled at her briefly before continuing. "It's about what's best for your future. Where you can be the best that you can be and do the most of what the best that you can be, is. Then there's one final problem Ichigo."
"Rukia will be a great help dealing with it. Not only that I'd feel better if someone like Rukia was looking after you" Isshin chuckled.
"Problem?! Spit it out already you old fart!" Ichigo almost screamed.
Isshin's face became stern, his jaw set firm and his eyes took on a seriousness that Ichigo rarely saw in them. "You've not only inherited the family name, but also the family secret, that's why I wanted to speak to you both."
"Kurosaki-san!! Ha! It's been a long time! How have you been!" Jindanbou booming voice snapped him out of his trance.
"Yo! Jindanbou! Do I have to fight you again to get in?" Ichigo joked.
"Ha Ha Ha! No, no you've been expected. Here I'll open the gate for you." Jindanbou replied.
Lost in his reminiscing they had arrived at the gate before Ichigo had even realized. Finally he was here, at the junction place where his life in death would finally start and veer off into the unknown.
"Thank you." Rukia nodded as they walked under the raised gate.
"Don't bust a hernia." Ichigo laughed as he waved goodbye to the guardsman.
Once inside they met up with Hitsugaya Toshiro, the small silver haired, boy captain of the Tenth Division. "Yo! Toshiro! What's up? Come to meet me?" Ichigo waved.
"That's Captain Hitsugaya to you." Toshiro replied angrily. "Ichigo… Come walk with me, we need to talk."
"What's this all about?" Ichigo asked, his countenance becoming very serious now.
If there was one person who scowled as much as Ichigo did, it was Toshiro. "I'll get straight to the point. Kurosaki Ichigo, the Gotei 13 need another captain. Your name was mentioned and you surprisingly got a lot of support from certain captains. In short Captain Yamamoto is willing to fast track you into a unit after only one year in the academy."
"One year!" Rukia surprised at what she heard.
"Well the fastest anyone has graduated is after three years I believe, but then again, no one in Soul Society's long history has entered the academy as a freshman with Bankai before." Toshiro stopped walking and looked Ichigo in the eyes and almost whispered. "As you know the Arrancar war has hurt us immensely. We need all the manpower we can get, especially high caliber manpower. The choice is yours, but know that you have the support of most of the captains and vice captains."
Pausing only slightly, Toshiro, satisfied with the look of understanding in Ichigo's eyes, turned around and waved before heading off in a different direction. "Think about it. You can answer us anytime within the year."
It was nearly an hour later when Rukia and Ichigo finally made it to the Academy compound. It was a small room in one of three large barracks located within a walled section of the compound. The room was sparse but clean, made entirely of wood and contained two double bunks on either side. Two tall lockers were situated at the foot of the each bunk and each was clearly labeled with names. Ichigo started unpacking his clothes into the locker marked with his name. Rukia sat on a bunk bed watching Ichigo slowly unpack into the locker. "Ichigo, for training you won't be using your Zanpaktou. It's just too powerful to train with. Not only that but you won't need it for your theory lessons."
"What!! What do I use then?"
"I'll bring you an Asuachi tomorrow. A soul less Zanpaktou for training purposes."
"Why? What's wrong with Zangetsu anyway? Why can't I just control it's reiatsu while training?"
Rukia sighed. "Look moron, your pretty famous round here. Not Kurosaki Ichigo, but the orange haired Human Shinigami, with a sword as big as his body, who took out captains and the Espada. Try to keep a low profile for a while, that way you can at least make friends before you start waving Zangetsu around and showing off."
'Friends huh?' Ichigo mulled over the word. It was true now, he had to start all over again, making new friends and fitting into a new world. Her world now. The irony was not lost on Ichigo as he smirked in the reversal of their roles, guardian, ward – ward, guardian. He put his Zanpaktou into the locker and decided that he'd give it try, just until he was sure what was going to be happening in his future.
"The bed's mine, you can sleep in the locker." Ichigo teased.
Memories came flooding back to the pair and they laughed a little before Rukia added her retort. "You're under my care now boy! Would you like to borrow my pyjama's? A dress maybe?"
"Kurosaki Ichigo will never wear a dress."
"So it's the pyjama's then?"
Ichigo flashed an evil stare at Rukia, who merely pretended to look innocent, one hand covering her mouth in a fake laugh. It was then that the door was opened and two tall male Shinigami's stood at the door way. Rukia quickly got up and whispered to Ichigo in a tone that no one else could hear, "I'll show you to school tomorrow morning" then louder she said, "I will let you get settled in Kurosaki-kun."
"Kyuchiki-sama" the other Shinigami's bowed as they let the girl through the door.
"Yo! Rukia!" Ichigo shouted out, to the surprise of all. "Thanks!"
Rukia pinked slightly, nodded, quickly turned around and marched off towards the Kuchiki mansion.
End Chapter 1
Well how was it? Please Read and Review. Constructive criticism welcomed as I really need the help on 1) story construct, 2) dialogue construct and 3) paragraphing constructs.