Chapter 7- Lamentations in the Rain
Ichigo stared up at his ceiling, just like he had been doing all night. Some of the sadder emotions that he had been suppressing ever since he came back to the past started to bubble once more, mainly because tomorrow was 'the day'.
Tomorrow wasn't a good day for the strawberry, simply because he mourned for his family. During the future, this was the day that he not only mourned for his mother, but also for his father and his sisters. They hadn't died on the same day as his mother, but it was the only time he allowed himself to cry for them.
But this was the past and he had a chance to make sure that this day never became so heartbreaking. He would find a way to make his sisters strong so that they may stand a chance, and that was a promise to his self and them.
With a sigh, he rolled onto his back, closed his eyes, and pulled his blankets tighter over himself. He might as well try to get some sleep with what little time he had left before he had to go to school for the day.
Unfortunately for him, it was at that time that a stuffed animal jumped onto his stomach and gave him his wake up call.
"Wake up, Ichigo! If you don't I'll…! Oh, wait… you're awake already," Kon tried to yell.
Before the perverted lion could react, Ichigo sent an angry punch to the modified soul; launching him across the room and making him slam into the closest door.
The strawberry mumbled under his breath how stuffed animals shouldn't even be moving in the first place, and how the perverted little thing needed to be kept on a leash.
He groaned as he realized that it wasn't going to be possible to get any sleep.
He prevented the 'Kon Incident' altogether, but he would admit to having a soft spot for the Mod Soul, and decided to keep him around. Kon still had his uses at this point in the past; at the current moment, there was no way he could get out of his body without Rukia or Kon. And he was pretty sure that the former of the two would hate him for a long time if he decided just to keep Kon in pill form for the rest of his unnatural existence.
Still, the last thing he wanted was the little bastard to ruin his hard earned reputation, or to embarrass him in front of Orihime. If the latter of two happened, he didn't have any qualms in making the stuffed animal's life hell. His memories recalled that Kon didn't like to be duck-taped to the back of the toilet.
"Stop with the racket!" Rukia yelled as she stepped out of Ichigo's closet, already dressed for school. "It's already hard enough to get changed in a closet!"
She looked down as she heard the signature laugh of a pervert getting what he wanted. And there her foot was, standing right on Kon, who was looking right up her skirt in the best view the stuffed animal could ever ask for.
"Nice! What's the occasion?" was all Kon said while giving her as best a thumbs up as his stuffed hand could offer.
Rukia then proceeded to repeatedly smash the little pervert with the bottom of her shoe, all the while the stuffed animal begged for mercy and his life.
"Not the cotton!" Kon yelled. "NOT THE COTTON!"
Ichigo couldn't help but sigh at their antics.
While Rukia was dealing higher justice to the pervert, Ichigo walked to the restroom and quickly went over his morning routine. When he got back, his dark-haired guest was still dealing punishment. By then, Kon was now a mess; his stuffing was leaking everywhere, and Ichigo would have sworn that one of his eyes was loose.
"I'm out of here," he told them.
The tiny girl gave Kon one last kick and turned to Ichigo. "Alright, I'll head out early."
"Sure," he said, closing the door as he went downstairs.
Ichigo walked down the stairs and into the kitchen where he could hear Yuzu cooking breakfast. Sure enough, she was there in her apron working on some bacon and eggs. Karin sat at the table reading something, but then looked up when she saw her older brother.
She was about to say something, but instead stopped herself, seeing the look that was in Ichigo's eyes as he switched back and forth between Yuzu and her. There was an emotion in them that she couldn't put her fingers on… as if at any moment they were going to disappear before his eyes.
"Hey, Ichi-nii," Karin asked him, "you okay?"
He stared at her for a second. "Yeah, just thinking about things."
"Does it have something to do with mom?" Yuzu said, turning her attention away from the eggs for a second.
"Partially," he answered with a shrug. "There are some of things that I've had to think about, that's all."
Even as he sat down at the table Karin and Yuzu kept a worried eye on him. He was acting different than he usually did on the eve of their mother's death date; normally he was trying to cover up his sadness, but today he didn't even bother, and that wasn't mentioning the distant look he was giving them.
They ate their breakfast quietly, not even bothering to speak once. And it was starting to aggravate Karin, badly.
She took a deep breath to break the silence. "So, seen any new ghosts lately, Ichi-nii?"
"No," he answered as he took a bit of eggs, earning a low growl from his sister.
"Well, forgive me for trying to start a conversation," she said in a sour tone before getting back to her own food.
Ichigo would have loved to tell her about his status as a Shinigami. He even thought it would be cool to tell his sisters about his two Bankai, but alas, they weren't…
Karin and Yuzu watched as their brother's face lit up as if he suddenly had an epiphany. They looked at each other, but the twin sisters shrugged their shoulders and turned their attention back to Ichigo.
"What are you thinking?" Yuzu asked.
"Something," was all he said, wearing the face of a genius that was planning something as he stood up and cleared his plate- not a smile, but the face of a man that was trying to concentrate.
"I wonder what's up with him," Karin whispered to her twin, earning a nod from Yuzu.
The next second, he ran out of the house with his backpack. When he had gotten far enough from his home, he allowed his mind to piece together the jigsaw pieces of a plan that would make his sisters stronger, and maybe even give them the power to even take on Kaname or Gin.
It was a stupid plan, but he learned from his experience as a general of how even the most dumb-ass plan on the planet could come together more beautifully than anything –he'd have to thank Rukia, the queen of stupid-but-genius-plans, since they worked for her… at least, most of the time. After all, if it wasn't for her, he wouldn't be a Shinigami in the first place.
The plan was simple; the execution, not so easy: he was going to turn his little sisters into Shinigami.
But how to pull off such a grandiose plan? What he needed was a battle that his sisters would get caught up in, and then he would fake being weak so that the Hollow could deal a nasty strike. Next he would have his sisters stab themselves with his zanpakuto, and voila! Instant Shinigami.
That was when he hit another snag: where was he going to find a battle where he could get his sisters dragged into it?
'You dumb-ass!' Shirosaki interrupted, 'what day is tomorrow?'
Ichigo stopped to think about it. 'The day my mother died at the hands of Grand Fisher?'
Shiro stayed silent, but Ichigo could make out a mental image of his Hollow crossing his arms and tapping his foot impatiently. It was then that he mentally slapped himself, earning a smirk of satisfaction from his anti-thesis.
'Of course!' he shouted in his mind, 'it's the battle with Grand Fisher! But is that smart? He was one of the harder Hollows I fought back then.'
'If problems arise,' Shiro laid out, 'use one of your damn Shikai, you dumb-ass.'
Thinking about it, Shiro's plan made sense. Grand Fisher was a dangerous opponent, and should his sisters not be able to take him out, he would have no choice but to jump in. If that was the case, he would be forced to allow a tiny fraction of his power to be fully unleashed.
And he had to admit, pretending to be desperate enough that he'd activate one his Shikai was an extremely good excuse to get away with it without anyone asking questions, especially Rukia who was more than likely going to be watching.
It seemed as if Shiro wasn't as dumb as he made himself out to be sometimes.
'I heard that,' Ichigo's contrast growled.
But still, he couldn't help it as another sad frown. It was still a day that he remembered the fallen- the past, and the future included.
"Stupid ghost," Tatsuki muttered as she saw a pair of them making out in the air above her. Orihime saw them as she passed by, nibbling on a donut while shaking her head.
Ever since the incident at her apartment, Orihime knew that Tatsuki could now see ghosts for some strange reason. She had a gut feeling that it had something to do with Ichigo, but she wasn't able to believe it for sure.
It upset her that it was only her that remembered the night Sora attacked, but that couldn't be helped. Ichigo and Rukia had their reasons for why they made people forget what had happened during their fights with the distorted souls.
"You also see them, too, right?" Tatsuki questioned, snapping Orihime back to the real world.
To answer her best friend, she bobbed her head up and down rapidly while holding the donut in her mouth, earning a sigh of relief from her best friend.
"Good," she said, crossing her arms in aggravation, "I don't want to be the only one here who's going nuts. I wonder how Ichigo could put with seeing dead people all the time."
Inoue might have said that he protected them with two huge swords, and purified the ghosts that went sour and became monsters, but she would be giving away his secret and she didn't want to do that. But then again, Tatsuki might think it was her imagination running rampant again more.
Orihime thought back to her own personal training. She hadn't touched her sword since she'd been at Ichigo's house, mainly because she was aware of the fact that she herself was a klutz when it came to sharp objects of any kind. But she had taken to trying a couple smaller combinations of her Shun Shun Rikka- anything over two fairies was taxing to perform.
Her newest favorite combination created a handheld buckler. It was about the size of a trashcan lid, and it could even become larger, but it was lighter than a feather and should anything have the intention to harm her, it worked just as well as her stationary shield. She was more out to use it than her sword combination, and it was easier to use. The only major flaw with it was that it only protected her, not anyone unless she jumped in the way of the incoming attack.
Orihime was jarred out her thoughts as she suddenly ran into a metal light pole, losing her half finished donut in the process.
Next to her, Tatsuki stopped and sighed. "I think you dented the pole."
Inoue pouted as she rubbed her forehead. Looking at the pole, she could see that Tatsuki was right; there was a dent where her head had made contact.
"That hurt…" she whimpered.
"Well, I would think so," Tatsuki told Orihime as she pulled her up. "I think you should stop daydreaming and pay attention to where you walk."
Inoue opened her mouth to say that she wasn't daydreaming, but was distracted by the sight of Ichigo across the street.
Tatsuki saw her friend space out and sighed, knowing that she did that a lot when she daydreamed. But when she saw Orihime's head moving to keep track of something, she followed her sight, also spying the orange head. Both of them could see that his eyes were distant and that he seemed to be thinking.
"Why does Kurosaki-kun look so tense?" Orihime asked.
Tatsuki stayed silent, but as she watched Ichigo, she found herself sighing again. "It took me a couple of years to find that out. Tomorrow must be that day. But that's strange; he normally tries to act like nothing is wrong."
Inoue turned to her best friend with pleading eyes, mentally begging to know what was wrong.
"I'll tell you later," was all she got, much to her chagrin. "Until then, let's head to school."
She wasn't satisfied with Tatsuki's answer. She wanted to know what was wrong with Ichigo so that she could possibly help him. At the same time, though, she knew how stubborn her best friend could be when it came to giving out information about others.
Orihime gave one last worried glance to the fading figure of Ichigo as he trotted down the sidewalk, all the while deciding that she wanted to know what was wrong from the citrus-head himself.
Quietly, she followed Tatsuki, thinking about her crush all the way to school.
Everyone sat at a table, eating and enjoying their lunches. The only exception to this was Orihime. The girl ignored her food in favor of watching Ichigo as he sat by himself, staring off into infinity as he usually did when his mind was a torrent of thoughts. His scowl also seemed a lot deeper than it normally looked.
Tatsuki caught her friend glancing at the orange-head with worry, and sighed. Ever since she had gained the ability see ghosts, Orihime seemed to have gotten closer to Ichigo, but she didn't understand why. The strawberry wasn't somebody that let random people befriend him; and before whatever happened, he and Inoue hadn't been that close. Chad was one of Ichigo's few really close friends, but that was it.
"He's okay, it's just something else," she whispered to Inoue with an aggravated frown, watching her take another peak at him.
"But what is it?" the strawberry-blond whispered back. "I don't like it when he looks so sad."
Tatsuki was caught off guard by the fact that Inoue now seemed concerned about Ichigo's well-being. How truly close were the two?
She sadly frowned as she whispered back to Orihime. "I'll tell you later."
It still didn't assure the curious girl.
Orihime turned back to Ichigo, watching his face with a frown and saddened eyes as he stared off into space, not even touching his food. A part of her wanted to continue prodding Tatsuki, but she knew she wasn't going to get anything out of her. Another half of her just wanted to go up to Ichigo and ask what was eating away at him.
Finally, Orihime allowed her curiosity to get the best of her.
Tatsuki watched as Orihime picked up her food and walked over to the spot Ichigo was sitting at. The dark-haired girl wanted to protest and tell her best friend that he just wanted to be left alone today, but instead, Orihime was greeted with a surprised look and then a kind smile.
Orihime sat down and after of watching Ichigo for a second, she finally spoke her concern: "You okay, Kurosaki-kun?"
Ichigo sadly smiled. He loved her presence; every time she was near, the bad things in the world seemed to ebb away, and all of the sorrows seemed so distant. But at the same time, she was the greatest source of his mourning. His own hands were stained with her blood.
He let out a deep sigh as he returned his thoughts to the present. "I just have a lot on my mind."
"Like what?" Orihime gently prodded, slowly inching her hand to his own.
Before she could touch his hand, he pulled it away and ran his fingers through his hair, sighing again as he stared down at his uneaten food.
She sadly frowned, both at losing a chance to be able to hold his hand, and the sight of him being so distraught. Ichigo really did have a lot on his mind, and she was curious to know what was plaguing him. If there was a way she could help, it wouldn't take even a second for her to volunteer.
"Tomorrow is just not a very good day for me," he answered as he sat his hand back down on the table.
"If there's something…" Orihime tried to comfort, but was interrupted.
"I'm okay." He told her, setting his head against his hand. "Tomorrow is the day my mother died, and on this day, a lot of other things happened throughout my life."
"I'm sorry," she apologized, finding a sudden interest in her peanut butter and salami sandwich. "I didn't know."
Orihime could then feel his fingertips brush against hers, the sensation making her instinctively turn her sight back on his face. He wore a soft, sad smile that let her know that he was going to be fine, that he accepted things the way they were.
She nodded her head, knowing that he was going to be okay. After a couple minutes of an awkward silence, the two finally dug into their food.
That night, after his supposed 'family meeting', Ichigo found himself sitting on his window seal, staring out into the night. His scowl was sadder than normal, and his eyes were glazed over.
His mind was deep in thought, asking himself whether he was doing the right thing tomorrow. Karin and Yuzu were his little sisters, and the thought of putting them in harm's way in anyway was not something he enjoyed, but he didn't want them to die. At the same time, he felt like a chess player, maneuvering the pieces for an outcome that he wished for; it felt too much like manipulation for his taste.
"You don't sleep much," a voice interrupted his thoughts.
"Yeah, I know," he muttered as he turned around, greeting his eyes to Rukia who was sporting the pajamas she conveniently 'borrowed' from Yuzu's closet.
One of her eyebrows was raised, and her arms were crossed. She stared at him, expecting the citrus-head to explain what he was doing up, but when he didn't say anything, she sighed.
"So, why are you up?" she asked.
"I sort of became an insomniac a while back," he answered. "I get less than four hours of sleep a night."
It was the truth. Back in the future, he got little to no sleep. Due to a combination of worry about the war and the threat of another nightmare of his friends dying, Ichigo was afraid to sleep. Sometimes, he stayed up for a couple of days at a time without a wink of sleep, and when he finally went to bed, he slept maybe for less than seven hours.
Now, having come to the past and seeing his friends again, he was able to peacefully sleep more often. It was rare for him to sleep for more than five hours in the past, but now, he was sleeping for as much as six.
"You should think about taking some meds," Rukia suggested, though to Ichigo, it sounded more like an order.
"Thought about it," Ichigo told her as he turned his eyes on her petite form, wearing a tired smirk, "but I don't like to take meds."
At that moment, Rukia was able to catch a glimpse at his eyes. She was caught off guard by how sorrow-filled they were, and a maturity that was way beyond Ichigo's years. Very rarely did she actually catch his eyes, but every so often when she caught a glimpse into them, they always seemed so deep.
From what she had learned during her time with him, Rukia had come to discover that Ichigo was surprisingly wise and very mature for his age. Often times, she had to remind herself that he only looked fifteen, and that his mind was way beyond that.
She cocked her head to the side as she saw Ichigo turn his attention back on the empty, darkened streets below.
"Why do you do that?" she asked out of the blue.
"Do what?" he questioned back, not turning away from whatever he was gazing at.
"Stare off into space," the Kuchiki answered as she came up to the wall next to him, and then began leaning on it.
It took Ichigo a couple of seconds to find a good answer. "I guess it's just a habit."
Rukia shrugged her shoulders. "You're weird."
Ichigo chuckled upon hearing that. He was a weird person, but even his most annoying habits had their uses.
"So…" Rukia said, changing the topic to something less angsty, "your family meeting looked fun."
"Yeah," Ichigo noticed that he sighed again –he needed to stop doing that. "It was kind of fun. My dad can be a real idiot sometimes, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
They stayed in relative silence for the next couple minutes. Ichigo could feel Rukia staring at him. From his knowledge of the past and the future, he could tell that she was trying to understand him. He couldn't help but wish her luck in his mind; he knew her better than she was ever going to know him.
Rukia continued to stare at Ichigo, trying to decipher this puzzle before her. What could have happened to the strawberry that he would become this way? It was almost as if he had experienced a great tragedy in his life, one that almost shattered him. Something came close to breaking him, but what it was she hadn't a clue of any kind.
She couldn't help but be reminded of a presence of a captain of the Gotei Thirteen; one that seemed to have such a tragic past, and knew horrors that many would never be able to rise above. It was an instinctive feeling every time she was near him, and it drove her nuts.
"Hey," Ichigo spoke, earning her attention as Rukia turned to him. "Do you think that I'll be able to take the day off tomorrow?"
"What do you mean?" she questioned with another raised eyebrow.
"I mean, a day off from being a Shinigami," he corrected.
"Of course not!" Rukia yelled just loud enough to get her point across, but not so loud that she would wake up everyone in the house. "You can't just…"
"I'm sorry," Ichigo interrupted, "but tomorrow is the day that my mother was murdered."
"Oh… I…" Rukia turned away sadly. She didn't know that little fact about her substitute.
Ichigo's frown deepened. He said that last time too. It was the way he broke the ice about his mother the first time, and even now it seemed like the best way to do it. Rukia's reaction was still close to the same as well.
"I'm heading to bed," Ichigo told her, getting out of the windowsill, and then slipping in between the blankets on his bed.
Rukia just stood there numbly, processing what she just heard. Was that the reason he acted the way he did? It made sense; the death of someone that dear could greatly affect a person, especially someone as close as a mother. Either way, though, she'd been caught off guard by his revelation.
Unable to come up with a retort, Rukia moved to the closet.
Ichigo walked up the hill beside his two sisters, casting his eyes everywhere and half expecting Grand Fisher to appear out of thin air. He was antsy, and his plan to turn his sisters in Shinigami didn't help. Already he lost them once, but he'd be damned before that happened again.
Walking alongside their brother, Karin and Yuzu could sense his anxiousness. Usually, Ichigo was morose on this day, but today, he was awfully skittish, keeping his head on a swivel for what seemed like an invisible opponent. A couple of times a twig snapped, and he was quick to turn his eyes to that area.
If one is wondering what had happened to Isshin, he had acted like an idiot a couple minutes earlier, prompting his son to give him the hardest haymaker he had ever experienced, launching him towards the bottom of the hill. He had yet to get out of the crater he was in.
"You okay, Ichi-nii?" Karin asked. "You've been really quiet today."
He looked over at a thicket of trees, thinking that he had seen the shadow of somebody there, but thinking it was nothing more than a trick of light, he turned his attention back to Karin.
"I'm okay," Ichigo gave her a reassuring smile. "I just had a lot on my mind lately."
His twin sisters weren't reassured.
Yuzu heard the pitter-patter of somebody's shoes behind them, and turned to look, finding a girl that looked to be around Ichigo's age following them, except, she was much shorter than a middle school girl.
"Hey, who's that?" Yuzu asked, prompting Ichigo and Karin to look behind their backs.
Karin was first to speak her thoughts. "Maybe it's someone that's here to pay their respects." She was quick to turn her attention back onto the path, finding no more interest in the newcomer.
Ichigo sighed as he saw the girl that was following them, wearing a summer dress, a backpack (that was sure to be holding Kon), and a large hat, waving 'hello' and wearing a perky smile that was quickly getting on his nerves. It was none other than Kuchiki Rukia, and Ichigo was contemplating whether or not to run for it just to piss her off.
'About time she got here,' Ichigo thought to himself, inwardly smirking that things were happening like last time.
"Do you know her?" Yuzu questioned Ichigo, looking at him with an expectant face. "She seems familiar, but I can't remember from where."
Ichigo stared at the approaching Rukia for a second, making the said girl blink at his contemplative stare as she came up to the small group. He rubbed his chin for added effect, as if trying to delve as deeply as possible into his memories for recognition. After a second, he shrugged his shoulders.
"Nope, never seen her before in my entire life," he told them.
The strawberry turned heel, and began to speed walk the other way, making a tick mark appear on Rukia's head. When he got far enough, Ichigo began sprinting as fast and as hard as his human body could allow, only pissing off his friend even more.
"Get back here, you asshole!" shouted Rukia as she took off after him.
Yuzu and Karin shared a look, and then turned back to watch the retreating figures of their brother and some unknown girl that they barely recognized heading off into the woods.
"I got a thousand ryu in my pocket," Karin began, "that says that girl is either an ex, or his current girlfriend."
"I'll take that bet," Yuzu accepted.
Ichigo was just about to get away; all he needed was a couple more feet, but before he could such a thing, a large stick the size of a baseball bat came out of nowhere and hit him on the back of his head. It was natural that a projectile that size would make Ichigo eat dirt. He skidded into the ground for another couple of feet before momentum finally called it quits, allowing him to stop.
He looked up with a grunt and an angry scowl into the face of the victoriously smirking Rukia, her hands on her hips for added effect.
"You're an ass," she told him, tapping his forehead with her shoe.
"You didn't have to throw the stick at me," the redhead muttered as he sat up, rubbing the back of his head with a pained look.
Taking a second, Ichigo stood up and composed himself. He had done that for two reasons: one was to get Rukia into an area away from his sisters so that he could get Kon, and the other was to just piss her off.
"Alright," he said, "would you mind giving me Kon?"
"After that little stunt?" Rukia asked with a raised eyebrow. "I might mind."
At that moment, Rukia's backpack unzipped itself, and out came Kon in all of his glory.
"Did someone say my name?" the stuffed lion asked, looking about.
Ichigo violently snatched Kon out of the backpack, and then proceeded to shake the fake lion so brutally that he screamed with a high pitch, mixing a couple of colorful curses in for good measure aimed at the substitute Shinigami, his mother, and something involving a toaster. Finally, after a struggle of wills, Ichigo began choking Kon with the aim to pop his head off like a cork. The pill popped out and the strawberry stuffed it into his pocket for later.
Rukia watched the whole thing with blinking eyes. Part of her wanted to laugh; the other half couldn't help but feel bad for the Mod Soul. She also did have to remind herself that Ichigo and Kon didn't like each other very well.
"Talk about cruelty to animals," she finally said.
"You know he deserves it half the time," Ichigo shot back, already feeling the pill shaking in fury in his current form. "And yes I'm talking about you!" He shouted to his pocket.
He then swatted the pocket that contained the perverted pill, making the angry vibrating stopped.
"Sorry to tag along," Rukia told him, putting her hands behind her back, but still wearing her business look, "but you'll need me if a Hollow shows up."
"Actually, I'm grateful," Ichigo told her, shoving his hands in his pockets.
Rukia blinked as she was caught off guard, again. She had expected this to meet some resistance, but Ichigo had only shrugged his shoulders and said it was okay.
"But if it's not too much to ask, would you please keep your distance?" Ichigo continued, with a sad undertone staining his voice.
Rukia thought about for a second, but after a resigned sigh, she replied. "Alright, but if a Hollow shows up, I'll be there."
Ichigo shrugged. "I'm not going to be one to complain then."
Rukia spun around and began to leave, but turned to add something. "I still think you're an ass."
Then she was off before her partner could come back with something better. Ichigo sighed as he saw her disappear, taking a turn further down the stone path.
The future captain also began to do the same and head towards his family, but before he left, he looked over his back as he sensed a presence that he hadn't felt since his early days as a Shinigami, one forever instilled in his memory. Behind him stood Grand Fisher's deviously smiling marionette. He locked eyes with it, making sure to show the Hollow that he wasn't fooling anybody, but it only made the lure's smile widen.
After a short stare-down, Ichigo left, leaving his soon-to-be opponent. He needed to get things into place, and this included getting back to his sisters.
"How interesting," Grand Fisher told himself as he watched Ichigo disappear past the trees. "A Shinigami… This should be fun."
When Ichigo rejoined his family, Yuzu and Karin were already taking their turns giving their respects. Isshin was being his usual self and acting like an idiot.
As he walked by, Ichigo knocked his father out with a quick, hard hit to the head, but he figured it wouldn't take long before he woke up. At least his old man never saw the fist coming.
"Thanks," muttered Karin, as she held her hands in a prayer to her mother. "He was starting to get annoying."
"And I think he was starting to disrespect the dead," quipped Yuzu.
"I thought so, too," Ichigo told them with a smile as he came up. "The dead don't like to be disrespected." He knew that from experience.
He looked sadly at his sisters, who were blissfully unaware of his face as they stared at their mother's tombstone. It wouldn't be long until the fireworks started, and he wasn't looking forward to it. Ichigo didn't want to put his sisters in danger, not after having seen their dead bodies that day, but he wanted them to have a chance.
By the time Yuzu got done with giving her prayers, she had begun to cry and had left. Karin followed after to comfort her sister.
Ichigo watched his sisters as they left, and when they were gone, he moved over to the tombstone. He stood there just staring at it, quietly reminding himself that he had to protect everyone, and that he needed to look out for his sisters. This was his second chance, and he wouldn't waste it.
Isshin came up next to him, staring at his wife's grave after having recovered from his son's sucker-punch. He wasn't acting like an idiot for once; Ichigo could tell that it was because he was remembering the times he had with his wife.
"You okay?" Isshin asked him, still keeping his eyes on the headstone.
"Just a lot on my mind lately," Ichigo answered with a sigh.
The strawberry had to remind himself that his father had been a former captain-level Shinigami. It would only be natural that he would sense something was off with his son.
"You? Thinking?" Isshin asked him with humor in his voice. "That's not always a good thing."
"Yeah, well," Ichigo began, not helping it as his own amused smile crossed his face, "at least a catastrophe never happens when I think, unlike you."
"I'll call it a draw," his father told him, good-heartedly.
After another minute of silence, Ichigo looked over to the path where his two sisters ran off to. Now he was starting to get a little nervous. The time for Grand Fisher's attack was inching closer, and he wasn't sure if he should go now or later.
Thinking it better if he did, Ichigo turned around and began to follow the path that Yuzu and Karin took.
"Where you going?" Isshin asked, still keeping his attention on the grave.
"I'm just going to go and look for Yuzu and Karin," he quickly answered.
"Stop crying, Yuzu," Karin tried to comfort in her own way, though she herself was trying he best to keep it together. "We're eleven now; we're older than that."
The dark-haired Kurosaki was trying her best to placate her twin sister. She was sitting next to Yuzu, patting and rubbing her back as she quietly wept. Both of them sat on a step of a path that led to a large portion of the graveyard.
"I'm sorry, but…" Yuzu sniffed, "but it's so hard."
Karin had to agree. Growing up, they had been so dependent on their mother, but ever since she passed away, they were trying their best to cover the sadness that still festered. It was hard to not to cry in remembrance of someone they held so dear.
She wouldn't openly admit; she really did want to cry for her mother, but Karin wanted so much to stay strong like Ichigo did. He always held back the tears, even when it was tough not to.
Yuzu sniffed again, and then looked down at the stone path below her. Slowly, she tried to gather her thoughts and get it back together.
It stayed silent for the next couple of minutes, both of them reflecting on thoughts of their mother.
After what seemed like an eon, Karin looked up as a crow cawed in the distance. From where the bird had sounded, she could see another girl staring out into space, her clothes flapping as the wind blew past. But what shook the Kurosaki was the fact that the girl was on the edge of the cliff.
Out of panic, she stood up and began to run over.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Yuzu quickly asked, scrambling up and chasing after her sister.
"Get away from the cliff!" Karin shouted as she came over, distracting the girl that was there.
The mysterious girl looked over in shock as she heard someone yelling at her. Karin had stopped a small distance away, taking a breather and relaxing knowing that the girl wasn't going to do anything stupid.
"You… can see me?" the girl asked.
The dark-haired twin had made the mistake of nodding her head.
"Karin?" Yuzu tried to ask as she came up from behind, not seeing anything that her sister could. If she had to guess, it was just another ghost that Karin was seeing. The two being in a graveyard only supported this in her mind.
"You look… tasty," the girl said, now staring hungrily at the dark-haired twin.
Karin then noticed the blurry outline of a being appearing behind the girl. Her eyes widened as the thing came into being, revealing what looked like a hamster with a weird skull mask walking on feet that looked like they belonged to a chicken.
"Yuzu…!" she tried to warn, only to have a hand come crashing down on her before she could finish what she was going to say.
The redheaded girl watched with wide eyes, trying to figure out what was going on. She ran over to find out what was wrong, but just as she came over, a tentacle shot out of the thing's mask, grabbing her by the neck to choke her, holding Yuzu in the air.
"YUZU!" Karin shrieked, seeing her sister hanging in the air and struggling for breath.
"I won't eat her," Grand Fisher's marionette told her. "She doesn't have enough spiritual pressure to be tasty enough for me."
Yuzu began to cry as she began to blackout from a lack of oxygen. Just before she passed out, Fisher threw her away, right into a gravestone where she finally went unconscious as her head made contact with it.
With the pest gone, Fisher readied to eat Karin. His captive began to sweat as she realized that she was about to die.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a glimmer approaching her and the monster at high speeds. Despite the fact that she was going to die, she couldn't help but turn her head slightly, allowing her to see a spinning blade coming at them at high speeds, whistling as it cut through the air. As Grand Fisher brought his mouth down to bite her, the thing lodged itself in his arm, revealing it to be the largest sword she'd ever seen.
The next second, someone grabbed her as Fisher let go, and then the two jumped away to safety. When she looked at her savior, her eyes lit up at the sight of her brother in full Shinigami garb, holding a second sword that was as large as the one that had impaled the Hollow's arm.
She looked back at Grand Fisher, watching as the Hollow gripped the arm with the sword sticking out of the wrist, screaming a couple of curses at the loss of his lunch. With anger, the distorted spirit grabbed the blade and threw it into a nearby gravestone.
Next to Karin, Ichigo flinched as he felt Amemitsukai in pain.
"You bastard!" Grand Fisher cursed him. "How dare you interrupt my meal!"
Ichigo was about to snap back at his enemy, but was stopped as he heard his little sister speaking. "Ichi-nii?"
He looked at Karin, finding her staring at him, full to the brim of questions that she wanted answered. The strawberry gave her a reassuring smile as he twirled Zangetsu in the air.
"I'll take care of him," he reassured. "But you need to grab Yuzu, and find a safe spot."
She nodded and then ran over to the unconscious girl.
"No you don't!" Grand Fisher shouted, charging at Karin.
Before he could get to her, Ichigo got in the way, and pulled up his blade to block the charge. With a shove, Fisher went back the way he came, with the added bonus of extra distance.
"Don't touch my sisters," Ichigo warned dangerously.
When he saw that Karin had dragged Yuzu to safety, he held his blade out in front, getting into a stance that he favored when he was fighting with only one sword.
Looking around, he could see that he was too far away to grab Amemitsukai, which meant he needed to do this the old-fashion way and only use Zangetsu until he got close enough to grab the other zanpakuto.
Earlier, when he had come into the area he had followed his sisters into, he had swallowed Kon into his mouth. Before the Mod Soul could pop-off any snide remarks, Ichigo grabbed his body by the throat and ordered Kon to go and find Rukia. Though, the annoyance threw a couple of cuss words out, he did as told. The only thing that the future captain didn't know was how long it was going to take before they showed up.
Stopping his musings, Ichigo watched as the skin on the lure unzipped itself, and then for it to reconnect to the puppeteer that controlled it by the use of a tendril.
"You're fighting the wrong opponent, Shinigami," Fisher warned, wearing a smile as if victory was already in his grasp.
"Funny," Ichigo countered, though, still wearing a dangerous look, "I was about to tell you the same, Hollow."
He watched Grand Fisher carefully as they both began to slowly circle each other, trying to find the perfect angle to attack first, or planning what was the best way to quickly take out the other.
Ichigo knew that he had to get rid of that lure before Karin or Yuzu took up the fight, otherwise it was going to be difficult for them. He also had another reason to worry about Grand Fisher: the Hollow could look into a person's memories. If he looked into Ichigo's, he'd panic and run for it.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, Ichigo finished polishing out his plan, and then opened the fight. He charged forward with Zangetsu pulled back for a slice, but just as he came within range, Fisher used his lure like a golf club, hitting the Shinigami into the air. The Hollow jumped after, but Ichigo blocked his initial claw swipe, and used Fisher's mask as a jumping platform while pushing spiritual pressure into his legs to launch his enemy into the ground below.
The future general of the Gotei Thirteen landed gracefully on the tip of a tall headstone, while Fisher crashed into the ground in a cloud of dust.
Ichigo clucked his tongue as Fisher pulled himself up. "I've seen slugs more intimidating than you!"
The future general then jumped out of the way as a spear made of fur came at him from the evasive spirit, turning the stone he formerly stood on into rubble. Another came at Ichigo as he landed, but with a quirk twirl of Zangetsu, he sliced through the hair whip and whatever ones that followed.
"You're good, Shinigami," Fisher sarcastically complimented, sending more of his spears of hair, "but you're still as cocky as hell!"
Ichigo had been concentrating on the hair so much that he didn't see the hyper-extended hand come at him. He only had a split second to realize that it had grabbed a hold of him before he was whipped through the air, and then through a large headstone. The Shinigami was then thrown into the air by the hand, and just as he could sense the nails making an appearance, he maneuvered to the side and hurriedly spliced the hand and then landed a distance away.
Grand Fisher quickly regenerated his hand, now taking his enemy more seriously than before. Across from him, Ichigo landed on the ground in a crouch, planning how to get at the lure and destroy it.
After a split-second of rest, Ichigo ran at the corrupted spirit, putting more speed into the attack than he normally allowed.
Caught off guard by the sudden increase in velocity, Grand Fisher didn't have any chance to form any spears of hair. He made an attempt to swipe at his opponent, but the substitute Shinigami did a front-flip to dodge the attack, and then used the Hollow's extended hand as a platform for a hand-stand. With one last jump, Ichigo pulled back his sword and swiped at the lure with enough force to slice it cleanly in two.
Ichigo smirked in satisfaction at the Hollow's cry of pain. As he landed on the ground, Fisher attempted to gain his revenge as he sent a fast moving spear of hair at him.
The strawberry couldn't help but smirk as everything he needed fell into place. He spun around to meet the attack, purposely missing it and allowing it to stab him in his stomach.
"ICHI-NII!" Karin shouted as she watched from behind the rock she and Yuzu were. The other twin was still out like a light.
With a grunt of pain, Ichigo cut the hair and then jumped almost seventy feet backwards towards his sister. He fell to one knee, holding his new wound. Thankfully, he had such dense spiritual pressure that the wound was shallow, but that didn't mean it didn't hurt.
"You'll pay for that, Shinigami!" Fisher yelled, now angrier than hell.
Just as he was about to run at the recovering teen, one of his legs exploded in a fountain of blood. He hadn't seen Ichigo place one last cut when he had gotten into his guard earlier before. Angry, he tried limping over to him while cursing, all the while healing his leg as fast as possible.
Karin ran next to her brother as he pretended to struggle to get up. She grabbed his arm, hoping to help him up.
Ichigo had to admit, his plan was coming together beautifully.
"Karin," he quietly said, keeping his eyes on Fisher as he slowly approached. If the damn Hollow moved any faster, his plan would be botched right then and there. "Listen, I'm not sure if I can keep fighting, but I have an idea."
"What is it?" Karin asked, hoping that his plan would save them.
"I want you to stab yourself with my sword."
She tore her eyes away from the Hollow long enough to look at her brother as if he had grown two heads.
"Please trust me," he continued, keeping his wine-brown on eyes on Fisher. "I'll channel some of my strength into you, and you'll turn into a Shinigami like me. You might be able to defeat Grand Fisher that way."
The said Hollow was now within thirty feet of them, and it looked as if his leg was almost healed. Karin kept looking between the spirit and her brother, trying to figure what they were going to do. With a worried, but trusting, face, she nodded her head. Ichigo quickly handed her his sword, and she got it into position.
Upon seeing what they were going to do, Fisher charged at them with his mouth agape. Just as he got within range to bite both of them, Karin stabbed her self, throwing him backwards from an explosion of power as the two were engulfed in light. Fisher covered his eyes, waiting as the light slowly ebbed away. Clear of the obstruction to his view, Fisher's eyes widened.
There stood Karin, but she was different. Like her older brother, she was in full Shinigami garb, though much shorter than her older sibling. Twin chisakatana adorned her back, the sight of which made Ichigo's eyes widened.
'She has a dual zanpakuto?' Ichigo mentally shouted in his mind.
He knew of only three people with a dual zanpakuto, and two of those men were captains. Anybody with a dual zanpakuto had incredible latent potential. Already, Ichigo was looking forward to see how far Karin would come as a Shinigami.
"Karin, look out!" shouted Ichigo, as Grand Fisher came crashing downward.
Both Shinigami leapt towards opposite directions. Karin pulled out both her swords while Ichigo twirled Zangetsu; Grand Fisher looked towards both combatants.
"I'll kill both of you!" he said. "I'll especially make your death slow!" The Hollow pointed a finger at Ichigo.
"Screw you!" Karin yelled as she charged forward.
"Wait, Karin!" Ichigo tried to yell, only for his words to fall on deaf ears.
Karin ducked under Fisher's spear of hair, but the Hollow's claw came downward, pinning her underneath. Fisher prepared his other claw, the nails readying to fire. Karin's eyes widened, but not from fear. Rather, Ichigo fell from above with his sword pulled back. Fisher, following Karin's gaze, quickly switched targets, firing his nails into Ichigo.
Ignoring the pain in his thigh and shoulder, Ichigo landed and cut Karin free causing Fisher to stumble back from the pain of his severed hand. The elder Kurosaki grabbed his sister and leapt back to safety.
'I'll have to teach her a couple lessons about plans and patient,' Ichigo thought, turning his attention back to Fisher.
Only after being given several seconds to go over the memories he received, Grand Fisher's eyes widened.
"This… This is impossible!" Fisher almost yelled, backing away slowly from the orange-haired monster. "W-What are you?"
He'd seen it all in the brief second he stabbed Ichigo. Everything. This wasn't a Shinigami. Even the word 'monster' couldn't aptly describe this… being.
"I'm a Shinigami," answered Ichigo, his eyes hardening.
With that, he charged forward at full speed and pulled back his zanpakuto. Grand Fisher was going to die!
"No, wait…!" Fisher tried to say.
He was interrupted by Ichigo with a voice that screamed for his destruction: "Zangetsu!"
The zanpakuto, as it swung into the Hollow, changed. In a burst of spiritual pressure, the area exploded in blue light.
"Ichigo-nii!" shouted Karin as she watched the explosion.
She waited with baited breath as the cloud of dust died down, revealing Ichigo standing victoriously over the crater, Grand Fisher long gone. On his shoulder, an almost elegant meat-cleaver was leaned against his shoulder, the loose binding flapping wildly in the dying wind.
Karin turned to the side as she felt someone's presence, finding the short girl from earlier that day. Her mouth was agape as she stared at Ichigo.
"No way…" she muttered in disbelief. "Is… that his Shikai?"
Ichigo could only smirk. His plan worked, if only partially. Karin was now a Shinigami, but Yuzu was still only human.
Later that evening, after everything died down and Rukia explained what a Shinigami was (damn those poorly drawn teddy bears!) while berating Ichigo for such a rash action, the strawberry found himself before his mother's grave. Inwardly, he could feel Amemitsukai comforting him and Zangetsu being polite and offering his own condolences; even Shirosaki and his ever-flapping mouth was silent.
As he stared at the headstone, the rains around him danced sadly, like his mindscape when he was despairing. He was soaked to the bone, but he didn't mind; it was… almost comforting.
He briefly looked to his side as Isshin walked up next to him, a cigarette between his lips and an umbrella parting the rains.
Ichigo knew what he was going to say; it was almost the same thing he said last time. "You don't smoke."
Isshin chuckled. "Yeah, but you're mom thought it made me look cool."
They stayed in silence, comforting each other on a loss that happened so long ago. It seemed like ages to Ichigo since he saw his mother pass away.
"Please," Isshin said, pulling Ichigo from his thoughts, "protect your sisters."
This didn't happen last time. And it confirmed that Isshin had been aware of his fight with Grand Fisher the first time around. Yeah, things were changing.
"I promise I will," Ichigo said with conviction.
Author's Note: Well, I have bad news. I'm taking down Nevermore. But the good news is that it will be going back up by popular demand. The story will be rewritten to follow cannon more and to incorporate new information that the Kuto wrote.
I'm not sure how long the rewrite will take, but the chapters should come up fairly fast at first because it's merely rewriting what I have now. We'll see what happens next.