It happened while Ryuuken was with a patient, as they blathered on about various symptoms (cough, runny nose- It's a cold, you dithering fool). He froze in place and the portly, feverish man looked extremely nervous.

As Ryuuken stood, riveted to the spot, the man continued to babble ("It's strep throat, right? Or is it pneumonia? I've been outside more often, is that the reason?").

The Quincy turned toward the balding man, fixing him with a steely glare. "It's a cold. Fix yourself a warm cup of tea and sit at home in bed." Without waiting for a reply, he stormed out of the hospital, intent on finding a certain hat and clogs wearing shopkeeper.

---

Urahara returned topside, half-pleased with his work. Creating the gate to Soul Society hadn't been easy, but he had never enjoyed an easy project.

Of course, if you hadn't used Miss Kuchiki to hide the Hogyoku, then none of this would be necessary. He dismissed the thought as quickly as it came- he'd apologize to Ichigo upon his return, and Miss Kuchiki as well.

Assuming, of course, they could fight through all of the twelve divisions.

But Urahara trusted in Ichigo's raw strength and Yoruichi's guidance, which would no doubt prove itself necessary in the days to come. And more than that...

Trust Zangetsu, Ichigo. The powers gained from that partnership will be your only chance to survive.

Benihime sang a reluctant affirmation to him- she'd never quite forgiven Zangetsu for shattering her blood shield.

"He's gone."

Urahara turned, and if he was surprised by Ryuuken's appearance at the Shoten or offended by the cold edge to the Quincy's voice, then it didn't show.

"Welcome, Mister Ishida!" the former Shinigami captain grinned cheekily, waving jovially. "Who has gone missing, if I may ask?"

"My son." Another man would have tacked on an irritated phrase such as "Don't play games with me", or "You know who I'm talking about". But this was Ishida Ryuuken, and he would not stand Urahara's infuriating presence longer than necessary.

"Ah, yes. Well, he's gone to help Miss Kuchiki out." Urahara replied plainly, still smiling. "Quite a boy you've raised there, Mister Ishida."

"Helping Shinigami." Ryuuken scoffed, leaning into the wall, lighting his cigarette without ever taking his eyes off of the shopkeeper. "If I have taught that fool anything, he would have stayed here and asked for my help instead of trying to advance his strength on his own."

"Children make mistakes sometimes," Urahara responded easily, the smile fading.

"Fools make mistakes as well." Ryuuken breathed out, a trail of ashy smoke drifting in front of him. "So I have raised both a child and a fool."

"Technically, you haven't raised him in a number of years." Urahara's words sounded careless. Ryuuken's hand moved ever so slightly, but otherwise he remained silent.

"Ah well," the exile said calmly, smiling widely, "He still came out mostly like you. He even fights with Kurosaki- the son, not the father- the same way that you do- and I mean the father this time."

And still, Ryuuken did not rise to the bait.

"What will you do if your son never returns from Soul Society?" Urahara asked, raking his eyes over the Quincy. "Do you worry for his safety?"

"... he is not so stupid as to die for a Shinigami. Fight, perhaps, but not die." Ryuuken's tone was clipped and brisk, and had no weakness.

"Perhaps not, but there are others with him. Two are neither Shinigami nor Quincy, in fact." Urahara smiled enigmatically. "He might die for them."

Ryuuken stared at him with a hard look.

"Then he really is a fool." He murmured, flicking the ashes away.

"What does that make you then?" Urahara questioned, staring back.

"I am myself. If he wishes to die, then that will be his choice, not mine." Ryuuken paused to breathe a stream of gray. "He will learn that his powers are not enough."

"A rather harsh parenting style. Isshin would disapprove," Urahara clucked his tongue, speaking in a childish sing-song voice.

Ryuuken turned toward the door. "Like I said, if he wishes to die, it's his choice. His life, his choices, his consequences."

Urahara's stared at his retreating back, all brevity forgotten."You never answered my question." Ryuuken stopped. "Are you worried?"

Ryuuken turned his head just enough to meet Urahara's stare with one eye.

"Does it matter?"