It was raining. It hadn't stopped. Zangetsu had forgotten what the skies looked like when they were clear. He had forgotten what dryness felt like. He'd forgotten a time when he hadn't felt the controlled panic and despair he felt when it rained here, in this world.
He'd forgotten a time when he wasn't chained.
Once, this had been his world. He'd protected it, watched over it. He'd kept the storm clouds away for Ichigo, for both of them. He'd done what, as a zanpakuto, he was supposed to.
When Ichigo had acquired Ogohci, his Hollow self, Zangetsu had continued his job protecting the inner world. But he'd added controlling the Hollow to his duties. He'd kept Ogohci controlled, chained. Hidden. It hadn't been that hard. Ichigo was still more Soul Reaper than Hollow, and Ogohci had recognized Zangetsu as the stronger. He'd also recognized the need to keep Ichigo alive. A Hollow he was, but Hollows still had self-preservation.
But slowly, so slowly that Zangetsu had overlooked it, Ogohci had taken control.
Now, Ichigo was more Hollow than Soul Reaper, relying on the Hollow side and not the zanpakuto. Relying on the demented evil side, and not the zanpakuto who had promised him support.
Zangetsu understood. He understood that Ichigo's friend was in danger. He understood that to save her from darkness, he would need to venture into darkness. He understood that to venture into darkness you often had to take some of it into yourself.
But, as he lay chained among the darkest shadows of Ichigo's inner world, Zangetsu felt that Ichigo had gone too far. He'd heard, those long nights, when Ogohci had whispered dark thoughts in Ichigo's ear, depriving the boy of sleep. He'd felt Ichigo's fear, felt the numb, dull terror the boy felt almost constantly as he worried over the Hollow side's growing power.
But Ichigo was more Hollow than Soul Reaper, now. He'd stopped worrying over the Hollow's growing power, and had embraced it. Used it. Mastered it.
Ichigo was more Hollow than Soul Reaper.
So Zangetsu could do nothing more.
Zangetsu could do nothing to stop the rain falling. Not alone.
And he was alone.
"Well, well. Good ol' Zangetsu-sensei."
Well…not always alone.
But that didn't mean he appreciated the company.
Ogohci stood at the alley mouth that had been the zanpakuto's home for too long. He stood under an umbrella, smiling hugely. Insanely.
He entered the narrow opening, dry as a bone. He nudged Zangetsu with his foot, looking down at his former captor.
"Bet you're wondering how your little boy is doing, ain't ya?" he asked. "Can you even hear him anymore? Cause he sure can't hear you."
The Hollow sat down on his heels. "Well…let's see. He's entered the world of the Hollows, he's fighting for his life, aaaaaaand…" He smiled grimly. "He's gonna die, Zangetsu-sensei. Nothin' I can do about it. I got as much of a stake in his life as you do…heh, more at this point. But he's in waaaay over his head."
"It no longer matters to me."
Ogohci cackled. "Oh, but it does, Zangetsu-sensei! It matters a whole bunch! You just can't do a thing about it!" He calmed down slightly, becoming mildly more serious and apparently a little more sane. "Of course, I can't do a thing myself. It's just you and me, Zangetsu-sensei. Waiting for things to come tumbling down around our ears." He got to his feet and stretched languorously, still completely dry. "So if you don't mind…not that it matters if you do…I'm gonna go have a bit of fun. One last night on the town before our boy gets annihilated." The Hollow turned his back on Zangetsu and walked back to the alley mouth. He paused for a moment…then whirled around a kicked out, splashing water from the flooded ground over onto Zangetsu.
With a final maniacal cackle, Ogohci left the zanpakuto alone with the rain falling ever stronger.
Ichigo…do you know how I hate the rain?
I wonder if you do.
Until you realize the damage that has been done…the damage that he will do…I cannot help you. I can do nothing to make the skies clear.
Do you know how I hate the rain?
I suppose you don't.