- On the precipice of defeat -
This story was started around chapter 270 of the manga, back in 2007, and anything after is mostly ignored.
Chapter 1: Coming Back
A lonely moon shone across a cold desert.
Its glow soothed the sands and the dead trees that cast dark shadows across the wastelands surface that was Hueco Mundo.
The night was empty, as hollow as the vacant chambers of a cold, dead heart.
Across the vast space of the endless sands, a massive building towered high in the never ending night. Las Noches white marble dome melted into the sands as if cowering away from the dead eye in the sky.
Few windows grazed the towers of the palace, but in one of them a small figure sat, who slumped deeper in the chair he sat in.
The boy was thin and gaunt. His skin a deathly pale and glowing faintly white in the moonlit room. Ichigo searched for something to look at, but the sky held no stars to see.
Without knocking Grimmjow, the 6th Espada, entered the young teen's quarters, disturbing Ichigo's distant thoughts. He walked over in a lazy manner with his hands in his pockets and sat down on the table Ichigo had previously been leaning his feet on. The boy stiffened, unsure how to react in front of the larger man.
"Oh, I'm not going to fight you today, don't worry. Gave you a good beating before, didn't I?" Grimmjow laughed. Ichigo squirmed in his seat and sat up straight to get further away from the man. He didn't know what the Espada was getting at.
"Then why did you even come?" Ichigo hissed. The Espada had never had any other reason to come here before.
"Geesh, I can do whatever I please," Grimmjow grinned.
Ichigo scoffed at that and trailed a hand over a still tender bruise. Both Ichigo and his inner hollow, Shirosaki, were weary of the constant fights they were put through. There was no need to fight each other when beaten by the Espada. The inner hollow wasn't pleased with the arrival of the arrancar any more than Ichigo.
"Can't you leave us alone then?" Ichigo asked, referring to both himself and Shirosaki.
"Ha! What do you do in here all the time that's so important that I can't visits, hmm?"
"Nothing." Ichigo shrugged. "It's not like we can get out on our own." The door was sealed with Kidõ and could only be opened from the inside by someone that knew how. Ichigo was in a sense, a prisoner of his own choosing.
"Anyway, I'm going to go eat," Grimmjow said, ignoring what Ichigo had said and got up. As the door opened to him without any hesitation, Grimmjow stopped. "You should come too," he added.
Ichigo mumbled something inaudible without looking at the man, but got up to leave anyway, knowing that he didn't have much of a choice in the matter. Exiting his quarters, Ichigo adjusted the red sash around his hip. He wore a uniform like every man or woman wore; white jacket, pants and black boots.
The boy trotted down the hallway, walking behind the Espada. He trailed his hand over his chest as he yawned; feeling the gaping hole there. Ichigo had had it for almost year now since he had run away from Soul Society and the real world.
It was under the middle of the war that Soul Society had found out about the group called Vizard, Army of masks, moving again and that Ichigo was one of them; a hybrid, a forbidden mix between a hollow and a shinigami. Good mixed with bad.
The highly ranked military shinigami had ordered the hybrids to be disposed of. They claimed that the Vizard would turn at any time to serve Aizen and therefore considered a threat. Aizen had turned away from Soul Society himself and formed his own army of heartless creatures, hollows, in order to take on Soul Society. When the shinigami had started hunting Ichigo, he had unwillingly done exactly that, joined Aizen as he had no other place to go.
Aizen did not judge out of what kind of spirit-energy Ichigo had, or that there was a hollow on the inside of his soul. Aizen had seen Ichigo's call for help and taken him in, even if it had not been out of kindness in all places. Some times Ichigo wondered if any.
So Ichigo had joined Aizen, even if against his own will and had done was he was told, in order not to get killed. The Arrancar that served under Aizen's command, hybrids as well but Hollow from the beginning instead of shinigami, had became his allies and to a point teachers. They had showed Ichigo the way to stop the urge of the hollow; to stop devouring souls and how Aizen had stopped the constant hunger and made the rush for life not so very addicting.
The hollow place where Ichigo's heart had once been had formed while the shinigami had hunted him for months. The constant hiding and fear of being killed at any second had been too much.
The blades of Soul Society had constantly been drawn and ready to kill him as soon as he was spotted. It had been devastating for Ichigo to witness his former friends turn their swords at him just because of orders. The feeling of death only seconds behind him made him eat his very heart out just to stay alive.
Soon the two passed the doors into the large dining room, making Ichigo snap out of his dark thoughts. They went up to the long, broad food-counter and took a bowl of the same goo they were always fed; a grey substance tinted a strange grey-green colour.
The teen searched the massive room for a free place to sit and marched over to one before anyone would take it. Grimmjow followed close behind despite Ichigo's odd looks at his unusually friendly behaviour and took the seat next to him.
The Espada took the salt he had brought with him to pour almost all of it over his food. Grimmjow knew of course that the salt would only fall out of the hole in his gut, but he didn't care; as long as it at least tasted something other than disgusting before he swallowed it, the arrancar was pleased.
After sitting in silence with the disgusting food for quiet some time, two other arrancar walked up to their table; Nnoitra and Ulquiorra. They took their place next to the 6th Espada. Ichigo drew back a bit, not sure what was going to happen. Company wasn't something the boy was used to, as the Espada only talked to him when they were forcing the boy to fight.
Nnoitra frowned while making circles in his food with his spoon and shuddered with disgust as he swallowed. The substance quickly set out what it was made to do; spread its way into the body, into every nerve to awaken them, making Nnoitra's pupils dilate and entire body shake in a tremor of pleasure and pure disgust as his body gained new life. It forced the instincts to kill away and made every hollow less like a monster, just what happened when a hollow consumed a living soul in the real world. The food worked as a replacement for it, just a lot less pleasant.
"Man; I hate this…" He mumbled between shudders.
Ichigo didn't answer, conversations like this was nothing he was used to have. His face drew together in a grimace and with a shudder of his own he swallowed his food.
"We have orders to lie low for the moment from master Aizen." Ulquiorra informed with no emotion whatsoever in his voice. "You, Ichigo, however, are ordered to spend some time with your family."
"What?" Ichigo spat; nearly chocking on his own food. He hadn't expected to be spoken to. "Why?"
"I do not know his intentions, but it is an order and you will go, whenever you like it or not," Ulquiorra went on.
"Tch… damn it," Ichigo said through gritted teeth, more to himself than the others. He knew there was no point in arguing.
Finishing his food and standing up, Ichigo left the dining hall and headed for his small quarters without any further words to the Espada.
'King; none of us wants to go!' Shirosaki suddenly mumbled within the teenager's mind, his bright voice making Ichigo cringe.
'Shut up. We'll go there for a few days and get it over with! You know Aizen just wants us out of the way,' Ichigo thought back in an angry tone. 'And I am happy to oblige,' he added, his tone full of mockery.
'I know. We'll just stay out of the house and avoid everyone the best we can,' Ichigo rubbed his eyes.
'I guess…' His hollow sighed. 'Why can't they just let us sit in our quarters and stay out of they like they want…' Shirosaki mumbled, but suddenly stiffened. 'Wait. What if Aizen found out about the training that we're not supped to be doing?'
Ichigo stopped in his tracks. He had been warned not to leave his quarters, yet he had been forced regularly to do it with the help of the 6th Espada's servant. He had been lead to the training building to be fought with for entertainment for the others. The Espada had little amusement at their disposal and it seemed that beating the newest assets in the palace was the best thing you could get.
'Just great!' Ichigo though to himself as he rushed out from his private quarters before the doors closed, his cleaver Zangetsu now securely fastened on his back. What if Aizen wouldn't allow him to came back because of it? Leaving Ichigo to stay in the real world where the soldiers from Soul Society could find him was worse than locking him up in his quarters. 'Damn it…'
Resuming to his destination, Ichigo hoped for the best. Maybe he could manage for just a while and then come back, and hope that Aizen wouldn't notice. He never saw the man himself anyway, just his servants delivering messages.
When he headed outside of the palace at the front gates, he spotted one of the servants of Las Noches.
A buzzing sound rang in Ichigo's ears as a thin almost invisible line appeared in front of the stiff servant's hand. The line exploded into a black gaping hole, tearing the air and space into threads. Cool air from the other side blew out of it and the hole stretched and ate itself wider. The black portal hung before him, waiting for anyone to go through its fangs. The portal was a Gargantuan, a gateway to the world of the living.
Ichigo stepped into it and the portal closed around him to reopen a block away from the house where his family lived. After stepping out of the rift, Ichigo quickly focused on masking his massive spirit energy better, so he wouldn't get unwanted attention. He and the hollow within had leaned to mask it from no other than the girl that had turned him a shinigami; Rukia. She had also helped him escape from Soul Society when they had turned their swords against him.
The street before him was empty and Ichigo walked slowly toward his house; wanting to get there as late as possible. He wished his family would be asleep when he arrived; but unfortunately it was too early for that. The wind blew strongly in his hair and clothes and it was as cold in the real world as it had been in the endless night of Hueco Mundo.
Walking up the door, Ichigo stopped in front of it. Nor Ichigo or his inner demon were sure if they were going to knock. The last time they had visited was eight months ago after all. That was when he had screamed at his father had he hated him, which to a small degree he still did. He frowned deeper has his hand hovered over door knob.
Slowly the boy stepped inside, closing the door as quietly as he had opened it. He hid in the hall, not daring to go any further, but turned his head when he heard the sounds of a TV-programme coming from the living room. He sighed nervously and let a hand run through his orange hair, straightened his clothes and then stepped into view before his family.
"Ichigo…?" Karin's voice rang through the room. Her voice full was of disbelief.
Yuzu gasped and her face lit up with a big smile. She couldn't see ghosts as well as her older sister could, yet she rushed forward, running blindly at the blurry blackness that she didn't doubt was her older brother and when she hit it, she wrapped her arms around what she assumed was his legs.
"Big brother, you're back!"
End of Chapter