A Bleach Fanfic
belongs to Tite Kubo
I still say its GenocideHeart's fault…and zeebee1's too.
The Psychopomp and The Fragaria:
It was a beautiful, peaceful morning in the Minamikawase district of Karakura town.
"GOOD MORNING, ICHIGOOOOO!!!!!"
Well...a somewhat peaceful morning.
Ok, so it wasn't very peaceful if you happened to live within a three block radius of the Kurosaki Clinic.
…but it's the thought that counts, right?
"Bastard! What the hell you thinking, attacking your son while he's sleeping!" Ichigo growled out as he grounded his father's head into the floorboards of his bedroom.
"Not bad, my son!" Isshin said as best he could with Ichigo's hand pressing down against his face. "I have nothing left to teach you!"
"You…wait. What about your injuries?" Ichigo asked, confused, as he released his fathers face. "And Yuzu and Karin? Are they all right?"
"Injuries?" Isshin asked with genuine confusion. "What are you talking about? When did anyone of us get hurt?"
A few moments latter, Ichigo found himself staring stupidly at the damage done to the front of the Clinic.
'What's going on here?' Ichigo thought to himself as his father went on about how a truck had 'crashed' in to their home last night and that, not only were they lucky that no one was injured in the accident; but nobody had woken up when it happened. 'Is this the shinigami's version of damage control? And that girl…Nanao; did she go back to Soul Society?'
"Onii-chan; come on! Breakfast is ready!" Yuzu said as she happily skipped into the house.
"Yea…breakfast. Right." Ichigo muttered.
"Geeze, Ichi-nii. Stop standing there like an idiot! You could catch flies with that mouth." Karin said as she began pushing Ichigo back inside.
"Yea, yea. Damn it, Karin! Stop pushing me!"
At Karakura High School, a young girl with long, reddish-brown hair sits in her classroom between periods as she prepares herself to continue the school day.
"Hey, you're mouth is open, Orihime." A friendly voice broke the young girl's…preparedness. "You're too young to be zoning out."
"Tatsuki-chan!" Inoue Orihime said with embarrassment as she looked at her best friend.
Taking a seat, next to Orihime; the tomboyish Arisawa Tatsuki smiled at the other girls' antics. "Jeez, Ichigo sure is late."
"Huh?" Orihime blinked.
Giving the other girl a sly smile, Tatsuki asked "You were thinking about Ichigo, weren't you?"
"No…no I wasn't!" Orihime denied.
"Hum…Hey Orihime, What about him do you like?" Tatsuki asked as she leaned in close with a serious look on her face. "I mean, he's cold, his hair is a weird color, he's a brat, he's short tempered…frankly, a big breasted beauty like you could do better…"
"He's funny!" Blurted Orihime.
"Huh?" Tatsuki said, confused.
"I just imagine that grimacing face of him and…" Orihime trailed off, a goofy smile on her face before she snorted. "Pfft! The best!!"
"…really?" Tatsuki asked; clearly not following her friend's train of thought.
"He might not come in today." Another voice interjected "Ichigo, that is."
"Kojima-kun?" Orihime asked.
"What do you mean?" Tatsuki questioned the short haired boy. "Oh yea, you always walk to school with Ichigo."
"Yep." Kojima Mizuiro confirmed. "I went by this morning and there was this huge hole in the side of the house. His dad said that a tuck crashed into it during the night."
"A truck!!" Tatsuki yelled out in concern. "Then is he injured?! Or dea…"
Before Tatsuki could speculate further, a book bag hit her squarely in the back of her head.
"I'm not dead." Ichigo said, scowling at the tomboy. "Sorry to disappoint you, but nobody was injured."
"Kurosaki-kun!" Orihime greeted cheerfully.
Ichigo looked at the other girl. "Yea?"
"G…goo goo goo good morning!" stuttered Orihime.
"You look happy as always, Inoue." Ichigo said, making his way to his desk.
"So you came?" asked Mizuiro "You said you were helping out with the repairs."
"Pop's said he'll take care of it." Ichigo replied, settling into his chair. "What is this? Third period?"
"Yep." Mizuiro answered.
"Ochi-san, eh? Well, she won't bother me much about it." Ichigo said dismissively.
"Are you Kurosaki-san?" A prim, oh-so-familiar voice cut through all of Ichigo's thoughts as his head as he turned quickly to his right.
"Buh??" blurted Ichigo.
"My name is Ise Nanao. It's a pleasure to meet you." The shinigami from last night said, standing next to Ichigo's desk; bowing politely.
"Oh! That's right; you weren't here for her introduction." Mizuiro said, rushing to Nanao's side. "This is Ise-san. She just transferred in to our class today. Apparently there was a family situation that caused her to transfer here at a weird time."
"Y…you? Bu…but why?" Ichigo stuttered out, rising from his seat; only now noticing that she was wearing the same grey blazer and short skirt that was the girls uniform at Karakura High School.
"What's wrong?" a confused Mizuiro asked.
"Kurosaki-san," Nanao said, the light suddenly glinting off of her glasses in a way that made her look dangerous. "When I heard of your situation today, I took the liberty of taking notes for you for the classes you missed." She said, presenting the still stunned Ichigo with a small stack of papers.
"Err…right." Ichigo said slowly, taking the papers.
Looking down, Ichigo was surprised to see that they were indeed notes…very detailed notes written in a very tight and clean kanji. Sitting back in his chair; Ichigo quickly flipped through the pages, not noticing anything out of the ordinary (except the sheer amount of information concerning only two classes). It wasn't until he reached the last page did he notice something out of place. Written in small; neat hiragana on the bottom of the page was a small note.
I need to speak with you in private on a matter of utmost importance as soon as possible
Looking over at the now seated Nanao, Ichigo saw her looking at him out of the corner of her eye. Seeing him look at her, the shinigami gave him a sharp nod just as the teacher, Ochi Misato, breezed into the classroom.
"Yo!" she said, looking around the room. "Ah! Kurosaki! I heard that you were ditching. So, did you decide you couldn't make it through your day without seeing me?"
"It ain't like that, Ochi-san." Ichigo defended himself. "A truck ran into my home last night and I was helping to clean up."
Ochi looked at Ichigo oddly for a moment before she flashed him a thumbs-up. "Cool! For actually coming up with an original excuse, I'm giving you an extra ten points on your next test. Anyway, since the only other people missing are a couple of slackers; well, who cares! Let's get started!"
By the time lunch rolled around Ichigo was both annoyed and curious. Throughout the class he paid half attention to; Nanao never once acknowledged his presence. Watching her through the corner of his eye, he saw her take a copious amount of notes with a crisp efficiency and seemed thoroughly absorbed in the lesson; yet Ichigo would swear that she was completely focused on him.
It was kind of freaking him out; to say the least.
Once lunch period started, Ichigo made his way out of the classroom as quickly as he could without drawing any attention to himself. Once out of the room, Ichigo made his way down the stairs and outside before heading towards the old equipment shed.
It didn't surprise him that Nanao had been following him from a short distance the entire time.
"Look Nanao," Ichigo said once they were behind the shed and out of sight of the school. "It ain't like I don't appreciate what you did last night and all; but why the heck are you here bothering me? Don't you have a job to do or something?"
"Ise-san." She corrected irritably before deflating slightly. "I do, Kurosaki-san; however that is part of the problem. That is the reason I've sought you out."
"Remember how last night I forced my reiatsu into you, causing you to manifest as a shinigami?" Nanao lectured as Ichigo remembered the sudden, sharp pain as the blade stabbed into his chest; followed by the huge burst of power that flowed through him. "While the process worked, as you recall, something went wrong. I had meant to only give you a portion of my reiatsu; however it seems that nearly all of my power was taken in the process."
"And that means what?" Ichigo said, motioning with his hand for Nanao to get to the point.
It wasn't like Ichigo couldn't follow her; but in the short time he had known her he noticed that she liked to give way too many details with her explanations.
"That means, Kurosaki-san; that I am no longer have access to my shinigami abilities."
"And…what's that got to do with me?"
Sighing, Nanao adjusted her glasses. "If what I suspect is true, the reason I have lost my shinigami abilities is because they currently reside in you."
Scratching his cheek, Ichigo looked thoughtful for a moment. "Umm…no? I case you ain't noticed; I'm not wearing a kimono and I ain't got no sword."
"What I mean to say, Kurosaki-san, is that your soul, not your body, that has been granted the abilities of a shinigami. And, while presumptuous of me, I find that I must humbly ask for your assistance." Nanao said, as she bowed.
With a snort, Ichigo turned his head. "Look. Like I said, I appreciate what ya did last night; but I'm not buying this. So why don't you scramble off and do whatever it is you're suppose to be doing."
Straightening with a heavy sigh, Nanao reached into the inner left breast pocket of her blazer and withdrew a red, fingerless glove with a stylized skull surrounded by blue flame on its back. "Very well; it seems that a demonstration is in order. Pardon me."
Quickly putting the glove on, Nanao stepped forward and placed her hand on Ichigo's chest and pushed.
Ichigo stumbled back several feet and shook his head as the world around him seemed to lose focus yet sharpen at the same time. Looking back at Nanao, he was surprised to see her supporting what could only be his body.
"What the hell!" Ichigo exclaimed, looking down at his body and seeing the same black kimono as last night and feeling the oddly comfortable weight of the over-large katana strapped to his back.
"As I said, Kurosaki-san," Nanao explained as she maneuvered his body around so it was leaning against the side of the shed, "You are currently in possession of my shinigami abilities. Until my abilities recuperate, I am unable to continue performing my duties. Which is why I am asking for your assistance."
Finishing arranging Ichigo's body so it was sitting on the ground; looking like he was asleep; Nanao turned to the bleached blonde youth. "Again I ask, Kurosaki Ichigo-san, will you assist me?"
Ichigo looked at Nanao with a scowl on his face. "So you want me to fight those monsters for you?"
"Among other things, yes." replied Nanao as she stripped the glove off of her hand.
"Last night…" the neo-shinigami said; turning around and looking off into the distance, "Last night I fought that thing because my family was in danger. I can't do something like that for strangers. I'm not that nice of a person!"
Nanao looked at for a long moment. "Very well, Kurosaki-san. I understand your position. Before we part ways, would you mind coming with me? There is something I wish you to see."
It took only a few minutes for the pair to arrive at their destination; the Yumisawa Children's Park.
"Ok, were here. What do you want me to see?" Ichigo asked with a frown.
Pulling a cell phone from the inner left breast pocket of her blazer, Nanao consulted it for a moment. "Tell me, Kurosaki-san, are you familiar with any spirits that frequent this location?"
"Um, yea. I've seen a kid around here a couple of times; 'bout yea high. He usually plays around here. Why?"
"And have you ever spoken to him like you have to that child whose offering you defended yesterday?"
"No. Hey! How do you know about her? And what did you do to her?" Ichigo asked defensively.
"I observed you yesterday before I made contact with you. Do not worry, I preformed a konso on her and sent her to Soul Society. Anyway, look at this." She said, handing Ichigo her cell phone.
Looking at the text on the screen, Ichigo read the message. "Yumisawa Children's Park, 20m, 12:00p.m. /15min.. What the heck does this mean?" he asked, handing the cell phone back to her.
"Soul Society has the means to predict both the time and the location of the appearance of Hollows in the Human World. That message is an order stating that a Hollow will appear within 20 meters of this location any time between 11:45 am and 12:15 pm. With the presence of that spirit here; the Hollow will most likely attack him."
A loud scream broke the sudden silence; causing the duo to turn to look across the playground. Ichigo looked on at the sight of the young ghost fleeing in terror from the crab-like Hollow chasing it.
"You set me up!" Yelled Ichigo.
Grinding his teeth in anger, Ichigo gripped the handle of his zanpakuto and prepared to leap over the fence in front of him.
"Stop." Nanao commanded.
"What!" Ichigo spat "You expect me to just stand here and do nothing?"
Nanao gave Ichigo an indescribable look. "He's a stranger, isn't he?"
Turning to look back at the playground, Ichigo saw the boy trip and fall. His body tensing, he was about to move when Nanao's sharp, cold voice stopped him in his tracks.
"You say you will not aid a stranger when they need help, yet rush to help that unknown child? It does not matter if you know them or not; it does not matter whether it is convenient for you. It is a shinigami's duty to treat all spirits equally. If you wish to save that child, you must be willing to do the same for any spirits. You must be willing to do anything for them, to protect them…even if it means to give up your life to save them!"
Ichigo stood there for a moment, his eyes downcast before a look of determination crossed his face. Gripping the hilt of his zanpakuto, he drew the large sword and raced forward with blinding speed.
"Shinigami?" the Hollow growled out in surprise, before it screamed in pain as Ichigo lopped off one of its legs with an almost casual ease.
"Kurosaki-san." Nanao muttered with relief as her shoulders sagged.
"I call bullshit!" Ichigo yelled as he thrust his zanpakuto into the ground and turned to look at the startled Nanao from across the playground. "You stand there, going on about shinigami duty and treating all spirits as equal and I say bull! I saved this kid because I wanted to! Are you any different? Last night, were you thinking aboutduty or equality when you saved me and my family? No! You did what you did because it was the right thing to do! Hell, even you going out of your way to find me to help me stop doing whatever the heck I was doing to screw up your job you did because it was the right thing to do, right?"
Nanao stood there stunned at Ichigo's verbal tirade. 'He's correct.' she realized, 'Everything I have done recently is because it is something any decent person would do; not because it is part of my duties.'
So lost in her thoughts, Nanao didn't notice the Hollow regain its footing and advance on Ichigo until she heard its voice.
"Shut up! I'm not talking to you!" Ichigo roared as he pulled his zanpakuto from the ground, turned, and thrust the sword hard into the Hollow's mask, causing the blade to sink into its flesh nearly to its tsuba.
"Look…" Ichigo said quietly, "I'm not saying that I'm committed to helping you with this job of yours. I'm not the kind of a person to give my life for total stranger; so if things get bad enough, I might run. But!" Ichigo turned and looked at Nanao with conviction. "I'm also the kind of person who can't live without paying back his debts! So, I'm going to help ya with this shinigami gig, got it!"
"Yes, Kurosaki-san, I 'got it'. Thank you." Nanao said with a smile as she walked towards Ichigo and accepted his outstretched hand.
"One more thing." The neo-shinigami said; his eyes narrowing as his hand tighten his grip on Nanao's hand briefly. "Don't set me up like this again, understood?"
"Call me Ichigo."
"It's Ichigo!Ichigo! Jeez, it's not that hard of a name, Nanao!"
"Yea, yea, whatever."
To Be Continued
"What's wrong, Yuzu?"
"I don't know, Karin-chan. Just looking at this hole left by that truck last night makes me feel like I'm forgetting something."
"Yes. Just looking at it makes me feel like I've forgotten something…something really important."
"Well, don't strain yourself."
"Oh! Now I remember!"
Yuzu rushes out of the room, where a series of loud noises proceeds her movements before she returns; standing in front of the hole.