yay! the sequel to Normal!! hmmm, actually it seemed to stand fine on its own…so tell me if you want it to be a multi-chap fic or i could just leave it as a one-shot!
just in case, Asauchi is the name of those blank zanpakutou (:
disclaimer: don't own Bleach
"Oji-san, one more please!"
"Coming right up!" A clinking of bottles, "Here you go,"
"Ichigo, stop it! Stop drinking yourself away," An agitated voice said.
"Shut up, Renji. Leave me alone,"
"Like hell I'll do that," Renji made to grab the bottle of sake away from Ichigo.
"If you're gonna be here, at the very least don't stop me," Ichigo's voice was slurred but the note of irritation was not missed.
Renji sighed heavily in defeat as he sat himself down next to Ichigo.
They were at a bar in a better district of Rukongai, one they usually frequent with the rest of their gang. For today though, the rest were busy with various things, leaving Renji to tend to Ichigo. Renji sighed. It had been ten years since the legendary Winter War.
And the legendary hero of the Winter War is sitting right in front of me, totally wasted.
He glanced at Ichigo as he took up a bottle of sake. After the death of one Grimmjow JeagerJaques, Ichigo had been like this. Pretending to be fine during the day while bottling it all up, only letting loose once a year. Renji didn't think that this was healthy. Ichigo needed help but had so far, simply refused any help from anyone.
Sure, like everyone else, Renji had been confused and mystified how Ichigo had ended up with Grimmjow. But in the end, they had come to accept it. In the end, Grimmjow hadn't seemed to be as evil as they had first imagined. Passing Pantera to Ichigo and making Ichigo stronger than ever, giving him the necessary power to defeat Aizen.
Renji would never forget the sight. The sight of Ichigo releasing that Arrancar zanpakutou and for it to assume a bleached version of Ichigo's bankai. Tenza Zangetsu and Pantera wielded in Ichigo's hand were more powerful than ever. The duo Getsuga Tenshou…Renji gave a small snort at that. The black and white double Getsuga had wiped out at least half of the room they were in, taking down the surrounding walls as well.
But that was the one and only time Ichigo had released Pantera. Renji thought as he watched Ichigo downed another bottle of sake.
Today was exactly ten years since the war. Since the death of Grimmjow. And Ichigo didn't look like he had gotten over him one bit at all. Every year on this day, Ichigo would always take a day off. Disappearing during the day and only reappearing at night at this bar. Nobody could ever find him during the day. Even the newest member of his Division was well aware of that. Renji had a suspicion that Ichigo had either gone to the Real World or Hueco Mundo during this time. None of their friends had gone after him though, knowing that Ichigo needed this time to be alone.
"Grimmjow..." Ichigo's whisper broke Renji out of his monologue.
Sighing, Renji decided to try getting Ichigo away from the sake again, "C'mon, Ichigo, you had enough. Let's go back,"
In response, Ichigo only allowed his head to fall lightly onto the counter.
Guess I just have to wait until he's even more drunk before I drag him back.
"Don't you think he's such a liar?"
Ichigo's sudden question caught Renji off-guard. He sounded so sober.
"He said 'forever'. What a liar. He couldn't even stay alive," Ichigo gave a half-hearted laugh, "Then again, it's not his fault right? Since I was the one who thrusted Zangetsu into him,"
"Ichigo…" Renji bit his bottom lips a little, unsure of how to comfort Ichigo.
Looking at the drunken teen - no, man in front of him, Renji wouldn't have believed that this was the very same Shinigami who had taken down Aizen if he hadn't seen it himself. He gritted his teeth. He had enough. How long was Ichigo going to mope?! Wasn't ten years more than enough?! He was worse than Taichou, seriously.
Then again, Taichou had forty years to get over Hisana and technically, he was older and more matured than Ichigo.
That was beside the point. He needed to get Ichigo back to normal, back to his life. It was his responsibility as a friend. Ichigo needed to move on. He was sure all their other friends would agree with that.
"And I hereby call this meeting to order," Renji coughed to get the others' attention.
"Stop acting like you're chairing the meeting, idiot," Rukia smacked him.
"So, why are we meeting again?" Rangiku asked, pausing in the middle of looking into her compact mirror.
"Ichigo needs to move on,"
That immediately got the attention of all those who were present. The mood sobered up.
"Agreed, but what could we do? It doesn't seem like Ichigo could forget that Grimmjow fellow so easily," Yumichika pointed out.
"You know what, this call for a little match-making!" Rukia gained a gleam in her eyes as she said so.
"Didn't we try that already? It failed so badly," Ikkaku shifted a little to make himself more comfortable.
"Well, maybe it was too early then, but it should be fine now!" Renji said eagerly.
"If two years ago seemed early, what makes you think that now would be fine?" Byakuya questioned patronisingly.
"But nii-sama, it has been ten years since his death…" Rukia said hesitantly.
There was a brief silence.
"So anyway er, let's compile a list of possible candidates," Renji said nervously, glancing at Byakuya.
"Let's see…Mako from the First?" Rangiku suggested, "Or…"
"I thought his interest is more to the male side?" Ikkaku yawned.
"He only had one boyfriend, so maybe he could swing both ways," Rangiku protested.
"Doubt it, he's gay,"
"He could be bi,"
"No, you can't like both genders at the same time!"
"You're just extremely narrow-minded!"
"Are too! Look, we have a perfect example of a bi here!" With that, Rangiku triumphantly jabbed her hand in Byakuya's direction.
Another moment of silence. Then Renji and Rukia started conversing very loudly and nervously, as though to cover up what Rangiku had just said. Realising her mistake, she hurriedly joined in on their discussion, glancing in Byakuya's direction before doing so.
Byakuya sighed, "Why am I even here?" He muttered to himself.
Idly, Hitsugaya thumbed through the stack of paperwork in front of him, mentally calculating how long it would take him to finish it. Matsumoto had all but disappeared on him earlier on in the day. Probably due to the increased amount of paperwork resulting from being in charge of the Academy.
Hitsugaya sighed. Since the War, Sou-Taichou had gotten the idea that it would be good to rotate the paperwork of managing the Shinigami Academy. Something about new duties had arose, allowing other Captains to be more in contact with their future underlings and so forth. The reason was lost on Hitsugaya since he could only register the fact of more paperwork. He simply couldn't fathom what the Sou-Taichou was thinking when he decided this. Lucky for him though, he had ten years of break before it was his turn.
Then again, the Academy's paperwork was far too tedious. The staffs at the Academy had sorted out the new students by name and put their test results with their reiatsu level beside it. Now all he had to do was to put them into classes and sort out their dorms. And that is only for the new first year students.
At this, he shot a glare at the stack of paper to his left. There were even more forms and applications concerning the older students. He would have to look through all their applications to move ahead of their classes, to switch classes, to switch dorms, to enter into a Division after graduation, etc. And suggestions aka complaint letters.
Didn't this sort of things fall under the duties of the staffs at the Academy? Noooo. Apparently their duties were only to maintain the building, think of new rules which were also to be sent to him, ensure there were enough beds and such. They should exchange duties, seriously. There were definitely more staffs than him and his non-existent Vice-Captain.
Hitsugaya sighed again. Why couldn't the brats who did well in the test also have high reiatsu level? Then he wouldn't have to consider so long. Thankfully, he had a month before the Academy opened to do this.
He looked back down on his current sheet of paper, slowly working down the list as his other hand wrote their names in their respective classes. He figured he could just sort the dorms out according to their classes so that could be done later.
He sighed heavily.
Hmmm? Hitsugaya's index finger stopped at a name on the list. Could it be? And for once, Hitsugaya cursed the lack of photos. Soul Society had not considered the invention of photographs by humans as necessary and Hitsugaya had full well agreed. Until now.
He tapped his finger against the name. Should he tell someone else? Matsumoto? If he remembered correctly, Matsumoto had disappeared earlier after Abarai had called her away, saying something about an important meeting.
Then again, it could all be a false alarm. It might not really be…
An image of a broken Ichigo entered his mind and Hitsugaya felt the familiar wave of sympathy and sadness washed through him.
Hitsugaya stood up, his chair making a slight squeaking sound against the floor. He made up his mind. This was the least he could do for a friend. Even if it might not really be him, as long as there was a small likelihood, Hitsugaya would take it.
He took the sheet of paper with him and left his office in search of his Vice.
"Good morning Kurosaki-Taichou!" Twin choruses startled Ichigo as he walked into his office.
"Morning Daichi, Kazuki," Ichigo greeted his Third and Fourth Seat, wondering why he could still be surprised by their antics after so many years.
"I've already put your paperwork on your desk Taichou!" Daichi said proudly.
"Hey, shouldn't it be we? I helped too, remember," Kazuki protested.
Ichigo merely rolled his eyes. How did he managed to get these two out of the hundreds of Division members to be his Third and Fourth? And of all the things, they had to have the urge to compete with the Thirteenth's Third Seats for the spot of the Most-Enthusiastic-In-Helping-Their-Taichou Award. Just great.
Walking around the bickering of his officers, he reached their desk and with a practiced swipe, took a third of each of their respective stack of paperwork. With that, he walked to the back of the room and opened the shoji screen separating his desk from theirs.
As he started his paperwork, the familiar feeling of being back in High School came to him. He felt like he was doing the dreaded homework that went along with High School and the normal feeling of 'waiting for some sort of distractions to appear' that was attached to it came back in full force.
"Pfft Ichi, you're doing your homework again?"
Ichigo stopped in mid-stroke and squeezed his eyes shut. Somehow no matter what activities he was doing, the memory of Grimmjow's voice always came to him unexpectedly. As though he was really there and commenting on his actions.
Ichigo scoffed. Grimmjow was long dead. Killed by my own hands.
With a narrowing of his brows, he forced himself back to his paperwork. Pushing back the familiar surge of guilt and sorrow. Focus Ichigo. You need to finish this today.
Contrary to popular belief, Ichigo do recognise that he needed to get over this guilt and get over Grimmjow's death. But even as much as he told himself that Aizen was the one who had caused Grimmjow to jump in front of him and die in his stead, he could never forget the feel of Zangetsu piercing the flesh in front of him. Blood.
Working faster, Ichigo pushed himself away to concentrate on the large stack of paperwork in front of him. This would occupy him until after lunch when he had to do his rounds. And luckily, his rounds were more than a distraction for anything else.
Ichigo turned around as Kazuki ran up to him.
"We've a problem Taichou! We ran out of Asauchi!"
At that Ichigo gave a blank stare, "Didn't we just order a large stock of Asauchis last month?"
"Well, er…the things is they were all kinda destroyed,"
"By?" Ichigo twitched. Running out of Asauchi was not good.
"Er, we think it might have been Kusajishi-FukuTaichou…" Kazuki said hesitantly, afraid of slandering a Vice-Captain's name.
Ichigo groaned. Trust Yachiru to cause him trouble.
"How many Asauchis do we need? Is it urgent?"
"Well, we only need one. The person is leaving for the Real World with his squad in about an hours' time,"
"And he have to break his zanpakutou now?!" Ichigo asked in exasperation.
"Better now than later in the field,"
Ichigo nodded, "True…Give me a second, I'll pop over to the Sixth and ask to borrow one,"
"Aye aye sir," Kazuki bowed his head.
Ichigo grimaced at his words. He turned and hurried off to the Sixth, praying and hoping that Byakuya would not be such a tight-ass and would actually loaned him an Asauchi.
He stepped into the Sixth's compound and was greeted by the members of the Sixth who bowed before continuing their activities.
"Byakuya? Renji?" Ichigo called out as he walked into their shared office.
He took a moment to recover from the messiness that blanketed half of the office. Clearly, Renji occupied that part. He wondered why Byakuya never insisted on Renji cleaning up his side of the office.
They're not here…I wonder where they are? Damn, now what?
Ichigo strode out of their office and decided to take a walk around the Sixth's compound, hoping that he would see them somewhere around.
Half an hour later, he gave up. Frustrated, he had to stop himself from reaching up to yank at his hair. Where the fuck are they?! I can't believe this, just the day I needed them to be here, they aren't! Argh!! And not even their Third, Fourth or Fifth Seat is here, damnit!
Ichigo took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down. Okay, the problem now was that he was lacking time. By the time he reached another Division and asked to borrow one of their Asauchi, it would be too late. Fuck, would Byakuya mind if he just helped himself to the Sixth's supply?
He paused. I mean, come on, it's only one fricking Asauchi…Byakuya shouldn't be such an ass…right? He nodded to himself hesitantly. Right, I'll just take one then. In fact, I could just return it tonight and they won't know anything.
Reassured, Ichigo turned around to the Sixth's store.
"Kurosaki-Taichou, do you know why you have been summoned here?" Yamamoto-SouTaichou set his stick down firmly as he spoke to Ichigo.
Nervously, Ichigo shook his head, hoping that he would get away with a lighter sentence this way.
"You are here because you have shown disrespect for the rules of Seireitei. Do you remember what you took from the Sixth's store this afternoon?"
Damn Byakuya, why must he report this? "I took an Asauchi. But I returned it immediately this evening!"
"Do you know the reason for Seireitei having rules?" Yamamoto's voice boomed out angrily, "Do you know that taking such a simple thing could cause a big disruption?"
"I don't," Ichigo replied heatedly, "It's just a bloody nameless zanpakutou! It wouldn't make a difference!"
"Your actions have already caused an uproar! Abarai-FukuTaichou was doing stock-taking and a difference of a zanpakutou could have actually hinted that there was something bigger happening! Do not forget that the reason Aizen managed to get away with so much for so long was because of such rash behaviour!"
I doubt that. "Then shouldn't you blame the Eleventh's Vice Captain first? She was the one who destroyed all my Division's Asauchis!"
"That you don't have to worry," Yamamoto said coolly, in an attempt to calm his own rage, "She will be dealt with a fitting punishment. And that goes the same for you,"
Damn shit. "Fine," Ichigo said grudgingly, "What is my punishment?"
"After a long discussion with Kuchiki-Taichou, we've decided that the best punishment for you would be to enter the Shinigami's Academy,"
What?! Of all the shit! "Are you insane?! Senile?! You want to send me back to the Academy?!"
"That is no way to speak to your superior, Kurosaki-Taichou!" Yamamoto said angrily, "This is the reason why we think it would an appropriate punishment for you to actually attend the Academy. You would learn the proper decorum which you never had and the knowledge of the other arts of Shinigamis beside Zanjutsu which you are seriously lacking in. And if my memory serves me right, you have never been there so it's incorrect to say that I would want to send you back there,"
"Then what? I supposed to spend six years there? And what are you going to tell my Division members? Or the Academy students? That a Gotei 13 Captain is so weak that he needs to go back to the Academy? Some major boost of morale that is,"
"Contrary to what you have believed, you are not that well-known among the Academy students," Yamamoto said icily, "Hitsugaya-Taichou have arranged classes, dorms and your supposed history for you. Kuchiki-Taichou will speak to the rest of the Nobles to convince their sons and daughters to not point you out in the Academy. As for your Division, your Third and Fourth Seats have already been advised by Kuchiki-Taichou,"
Ichigo could only gape open-mouthed, "You've already planned this, haven't you?"
"A few moments before you stepped in, yes. All you have to do now is pack your things. Leave your zanpakutou with your Division, they would guard it well. You are hereby dismissed, Kurosaki Ichigo,"
The missing suffix normally attached to his name told Ichigo that Yamamoto had, in a few seconds, stripped him of his title and command, even if it was just temporarily for a period of six years.
He stomped angrily out of the First Division's quarters. Damn Yamamoto, damn Byakuya, damn this shit!
Drawing a slow breath to calm his anger, Yamamoto spoke clearly, "Was that convincing enough?"
Byakuya walked out from behind the door leading to Yamamoto's personal office, bowing his head a little, "Yes, thank you SouTaichou,"
Yamamoto eyed him fixedly, "You guys are really intent and going all out just to make this work, aren't you?"
Byakuya gave a small uncharacteristic chuckle, "It'll be good for everyone in the end, anyway,"
Yamamoto nodded absentmindedly.
"C'mon Ichigo, it isn't that bad," Rukia said pleadingly as she sat on a chair in Ichigo's room, "At least you got to take off from all the paperwork,"
"Yeah man, that counts for a lot, don't you think?" Renji supplied, "Besides, you'll get to learn kidou you know, instead of just yelling your head off about not knowing how to,"
"Shut it, you guys are not helping at all. Shove off if you have nothing else to do," Ichigo said irately as he shoved some clothes into his bag.
"Actually we came to give you your supposed background…"
Ichigo glared at Rukia for a short while before sighing. He sat down on his bed, running his fingers through his orange locks.
"Go on then,"
"Erm, you came from the 21st District of North Rukongai, appeared in Soul Society for twelve years. You stayed with an old caretaker who died shortly before you left to enroll in the Academy. He was the one who encouraged you to be a Shinigami,"
"Oh, remember that you always feel hungry alright, that's important," Renji broke in.
"Don't interrupt me!" Rukia hit Renji over the head, "Anyway, 21st is a pretty good district, not here nor there, so you should have no problems. You're supposed to report to the Academy in a half a month's time so it would be good for you to leave for Rukongai now and mixed with those who you're going to take lessons with. Most of them are camping outside the school since their homes are too far away,"
"Right. Great. Wonderful," Ichigo said sarcastically.
Half a month's time was fast, Ichigo concluded. In no time at all, he had stepped through the gates of the Academy and was queuing up to receive his schedule and other arrangement details. The group that he had stuck with seemed to have increased their noise level. He was going to have a headache soon.
To his surprise, he realised that orange hair was not that unusual on the Academy's ground. From his sources of information aka the group of people-who-may-even-be-called-friends, he found out that there were some rumors that the hero of Soul Society had orange hair, resulting in many students colouring theirs. And for such reason, he had already been labeled as a wannabe.
Seriously, had it been so long that he had gone to a school? He had totally forgotten about the different classes that a school was bound to have.
He took his schedule and with a wave, bade his group of people-who-may-even-be-called-friends goodbye after realising that none of them were in the same class as him. Slowly, he made his way to the classroom while other students rushed past him excitedly. Seriously, it seemed he was the only one who was that unenthusiastic in attending the Academy.
Truthfully, he was a little afraid. It had been some time since he had met and interacted with other people. In his Division, he guessed he could be said that he was sheltered. He only had to deal with the other Captains, Vice-Captains, his Third and Fourth Seats on a regular basis. Interactions with the occasional members by himself were kept to a minimal. It had been some time since he was alone in a foreign environment.
He entered the classroom, immediately making his way to a seat at the back of the room. Quickly, he pulled his chair back and sat down, not making eye contact with anybody and pretending that he was asleep.
A knock on his desk broke him out of that, "Hiya, sorry for disturbing you, my name's Yuu," A green-eyed teen sat himself in the desk beside Ichigo.
Can't this guy see that I was sleeping? "Ichigo," He grunted back.
"As in strawberry?" He raised a brow as Ichigo groaned, "And to answer your question, you looked like you were fake-sleeping actually," He said cheerfully.
"It doesn't mean strawberry, alright…And I didn't know that I was that obvious," Obviously lack of practice in that art isn't good.
"Haha, when you come from a family with as many kids as mine, you'll learn to spot such things easily," Yuu replied, "Hey, the teacher's here. C'mon, stand up,"
Sounds of scrapping echoed in the classroom as all the students stood up to greet their teacher.
"Good morning to you as well, I'm - "
Ichigo tuned their teacher out as he launched into a speech about the Shinigamis and what to expect from the Academy. He was already dozing off when there was a sharp jab at his side, causing him to straighten with a start. He glared at Yuu who pointed to their teacher.
"Kurosaki Ichigo? Kurosaki - "
"Here," Ichigo belatedly realised that the teacher was taking roll.
There was a slight giggle when Ichigo answered. Apparently there were more in the class who found his name cute.
"You're lucky, you know," Yuu whispered to him.
Ichigo raised an eyebrow.
"This teacher is said to be pretty patient, but rather eccentric though. For instance," Yuu laughed a little at that, "He takes roll from the back,"
Ichigo rolled his eyes. Yes, it was a little strange but still…Yuu have a weird sense of humor. And he opened his mouth to tell him that.
"Here," A gruff voice answered.
Shocked, Ichigo forgot what he wanted to say and turned towards the direction where he heard the reply.
Brown eyes met teal.