A fanfiction by Velkyn Karma
Note: Because Kon doesn't get enough love, and people seem to forget he has a serious side, too. Inspired by Kon's original introduction chapters, and a stray thought. If Modsouls were meant to be hollow-fighting soldiers, why aren't they armed with zanpaku-to to "cleanse" hollows? It seems like all they could do is kill them, not pass them on to the afterlife...in which case, a modsoul really would be killing a hollow.
Setting: Takes place in manga-verse, between the Soul Society and Arancarr arcs.
Note to my FE readers: Still working on a big FE project. It is big, thus, it is taking a while.
Summary: Kon had known it was a bad idea from the start. That was why he was standing in Ichigo's body now, planted firmly between the hollow and the fallen substitute shinigami.
Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, Bleach and any related characters or concepts. That right belongs to Tite Kubo alone. All that belongs to me here is the concept for the story.
"Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain."
--The Great Hunt, Robert Jordan
Kon knew from the beginning that this was a bad idea.
Ichigo wouldn't admit it, of course. Not even if he was conscious—which he wasn't—and able to think clearly—which he hadn't been able to do for a full day at least. That was why he was on the ground now, crumpled in a heap, bleeding from a hundred places and staring blankly at nothing.
Kon wanted to curse the idiot for getting him involved in this mess. If he would just listen to some freakin' reason...but he had to run off after the hollow, hadn't he. And Kon just had to be the responsible one and follow. He couldn't have done the smart thing and stayed behind. Damn the bastard.
Kon had known it was a bad idea from the start. That was why he was standing in Ichigo's body now, planted firmly between the hollow and the fallen substitute shinigami.
He'd been sick, of course. Ichigo, that was. Rare as it was for the entire Kurosaki family to come down with illness, when they did get slammed with a bug, it hit hard. Ichigo had spent most of his morning and half the afternoon caressing the toilet, emptying himself of virtually everything in his stomach and then some. The last half of the afternoon he spent in a medicated stupor, barely conscious as his mind and body fought off the illness. Kon had watched the entire thing with disgust, but Ichigo had looked so pitiful he didn't even have the heart to banter and throw insults around.
He'd been in the same drugged, half-aware state that evening when his shinigami substitute badge began shrieking of a hollow, causing Kon to jump a full three feet in the air—quite a feat for a stuffed animal, but the modsoul had quite powerful legs even in his lion form. He would never get used to that thing, he was sure.
Ichigo hadn't jumped. In fact he did not stir for nearly a full minute despite the badge's incessant screaming of hollows. It was as though he couldn't even hear the annoying thing, Kon noted in bewilderment. When he did finally shift, it was for his eyes to flutter open hazily and look around in confusion before they finally set on the badge.
He could barely reach for it. He could barely lift himself off the bed, and when he moved he was shaking. How the idiot had decided he was fit to do the job when he could barely stand by himself, Kon wasn't sure, but he wouldn't hear of it. Rukia-neesan would kill him if he let Ichigo leave like that.
It looked like he would be dying long and painfully, then, when Ichigo disappeared out the window.
Kon had barely managed to convince Ichigo to use his pill to shift to shinigami form, instead of just the badge. His sisters would check on him if he was sick, Kon had argued angrily, with only just a touch of pleading to it. In his hazy state, Ichigo probably hadn't even noticed. Somebody ought to be there, just in case.
The berry-head had agreed a little too easily. There wasn't much fight in him, which Kon didn't take as a good sign. He didn't even argue, just knocked the pill free, swallowed it, and clambered noisily out the window.
The idiot hadn't even thought to follow up Kon's promise either, and the modsoul didn't intend to sit around playing sick while that orange-headed bastard was out there being a fool. He lay in bed and counted to one hundred mentally while adjusting himself to Ichigo's illness-weakened body. When he was sure he had a grip on its currently unbalanced characteristics, he slipped the window open (damn bastard and his going-through-walls shinigami abilities!) and dropped to the pavement outside on bare feet.
The body wasn't nearly as responsive as usual. Sickness was so...annoying. And foreign. Modsouls did not grow ill. But Kon was built to enhance and empower a human body, and even in its diminished state he was still currently far more powerful than the average human...perhaps even hollow.
Kon did not bother to dwell on it. More important was what to do next. He considered finding one of the others, bringing them back to help Ichigo. All of his human friends knew of Kon's existence now, and all would be willing to help if they knew Ichigo was in danger. Hell, even that prissy, fashion-challenged Quincy would probably help, if only to make some stuck-up announcement that he did it to make sure his rival didn't die before he could fight again.
But they were all far away. They wouldn't make it in time. Kon could—he could zip to any of their homes and back in a matter of minutes—but he wouldn't be able to carry any of them back quickly even in a perfectly healthy state, let alone a sick one. Only his legs were enhanced, not his arms and back.
There was only one choice, and with a curse of irritation Kon set out to follow it.
The impact of sickness really was foreign to Kon. He hadn't realized just how little he understood it until he watched Ichigo's struggle to even move.
It hadn't been at all that hard to find Ichigo, even when he did have a head start. Kon had never been fantastic at sensing spiritual pressures. His ability extended to detecting hollows only a short while before they showed up, and recognizing familiar spirits. But Kurosaki's pressure was even more erratic than usual. It was like following neon signposts, even to the modsoul.
With his enhanced legs, Kon caught up to the sickly shinigami within moments, though he remained out of sight, hopping along the tops of buildings while Ichigo stumbled along the streets. He was famous for pulling the strangest victories out of nowhere. Who knew—perhaps even sick, the berry-head could kill this hollow when he found it just as he always had. No reason to show he'd broken his promise unless he had to.
Kon was thinking it unlikely, though. Sickness, it seemed, affected humans in two ways: physically and mentally. Ichigo might have shed his mortal coil temporarily, but his mind and spirit were still exhausted from the ordeal. His shinigami form was just as weak as his physical one. Even more so, currently, since Kon was empowering his physical body far beyond its natural capacity.
Nothing good could come of this. Kon knew it was a bad idea from the beginning. He also knew he could probably overpower Kurosaki at the moment. Perhaps it would be better to knock the shinigami substitute out and call in one of his friends to deal with the hollow after all.
He was ready to act upon his plan when the air shattered. Something came pouring free, and with a shriek from the hollow and a curse from Kon, the mess really began.
It really shouldn't have happened this way.
The hollow was only average in strength. Crawling on eight spindly legs, with a catlike, mandibled mask and a scorpionlike tail, the creature looked intimidating but could hardly be considered formidable. Ichigo had been smashing creatures of its like before he had even gone to the soul society. With his power raised exponentially, the thing should have been little more than a dust-speck to him.
But only if he were focusing. To the unfocused mind, even an average hollow was death embodied.
Kon had watched at first. Perhaps, any moment now, Ichigo would pull that win free. Slice up the hollow, split its mask, make some snide comment about the thing wasting its time, and then stumble back to his bed. Probably ream Kon out when he found the modsoul out for a romp in his body, too. The bastard would have no right to yell of course—Kon was the one who should be yelling, after doing something as noble as following him to make sure he didn't die!--but Ichigo wouldn't listen. They'd argue, he'd eventually pass out from his medication, and everything would go back to normal like it should.
It didn't happen.
The hollow was fairly fast for one of its level. Ichigo was faster, but he wasn't using it—in fact, in his drugged half-stupor, he seemed barely able to follow the monster's movements. It skittered around him repeatedly, lashing out with jagged claw-like legs and spiked tail. And while Ichigo was conscious enough to deflect mortal blows, he took nearly every hit without returning any in kind.
His collapse was sudden. Even Kon didn't expect it, though he probably should have. Ichigo had barely been able to stand, to walk. There was no way he could take so many countless wounds without suffering consequences. One minute he stood slouched; the next he was heaped on the ground, drooling blood, Zangetsu inches away from his curled, limp fingers.
Kon bit his lip. But he didn't hesitate. As the hollow surged forward to feed, he surged forward as well, entering the battleground. The kick sent it flying backwards, bought him time to settle himself like a shield between the sickly shinigami and his attacker, and unexpectedly the modsoul was doing exactly what he had been born for once again.
Kon hated fighting.
He never understood Ichigo, or the shinigami, or even the berry-head's human friends. They all wanted to fight, insisted on fighting, even if they couldn't do it, weren't strong enough to do it. He could never understand it. Why would a person want to fight? Fighting meant hurting other people; worse, fighting inevitably led to killing other people. Kon loathed the thought, was terrified of the thought, of ever killing something.
The funny part was, he was one of the stronger people. He could fight, if he wanted to. It was his very purpose, what he was created for, after all. To hunt and exterminate hollows tirelessly...and that required being strong.
Kon preferred to step away from that purpose. He didn't like the thought of existing for one thing only, as though a tool, or a puppet. He didn't like the thought of not existing because that singular purpose was deemed intolerable, either. That was why he liked staying with Ichigo, much as he hated to admit it sometimes. Kurosaki never required him to fight and respected his desire to simply live and to exist freely like any other being.
Even though he understood the necessity of fighting hollows, the thought of killing them had never really felt comfortable to Kon, either. Even with Ichigo, it was sometimes necessary to put his abilities to use; he had kicked around a hollow or two since the day they met. But he had never killed them, not intentionally. Even when he barely knew the soul of the body he had hijacked, even when he fought the massive caterpillar-like hollow, he had only engaged it to stall it long enough for Kurosaki to arrive. Ichigo had always landed the killing blow.
Still, hollows were not quite the same as humans. They preyed on the weak, defenseless souls of humans, living and dead alike, without discrimination or care. Because of the attack of a hollow, other lives, other souls, were refused the right to survive. That couldn't be right. It couldn't be.
Kon repeated that to himself fervently as the spider-like hollow picked itself up from his displacement kick. Bastard that he sometimes was, Ichigo had refused to let others deny Kon his right to exist. Kon would do the same—this hollow would deny Ichigo the right to live, unless the modsoul intervened.
Perhaps some souls deserved that right more than others. Narrowing his eyes at the hollow, both charged.
The match was even.
Kon was badly out of practice. He had not fought often since he was created, and lacking battle experience reflected poorly on his fight. Worse, using Ichigo's sickly body made his attacks even weaker than usual.
But the hollow appeared to be fairly new, lacking experience as well. Certainly it had never tackled any prey that fought back, and clearly it was frustrating the creature.
Kon ducked, leapt, dashed, and spun with surprising fluidity, searching for weaknesses as he lashed out at the creature with bare feet. He made sure to stay aware of his surroundings, keeping himself between the fallen Ichigo and his would-be predator lest the thing forget it was fighting and lunge for the unprotected soul.
It wasn't as easy as he had hoped. Kon was faster, but the hollow had a multitude of limbs with which to attack and defend. It slashed out angrily with claws, clubbed with armor-encrusted limbs, and before long Ichigo's weakened body was sporting numerous cuts and bruises beneath the baggy sweatpants and T-shirt he'd been wearing all day.
Kon knew the body couldn't hold out much longer, not even with the enhanced strength he gave it, especially since his torso and arms gained little extra strength from his spirit. He had to finish fast, or they would both be in serious trouble.
The first touch of luck came from an unexpected attack by the hollow's third left limb. It extended nearly completely and came smashing down, hoping to crush the frustrating modsoul. Kon had been on his back, knocked off his enhanced feet by the hollow's sweeping tail, and had kicked defensively as the leg dropped. Empowered foot met surprisingly brittle leg joint, and with a crack the hollow's leg broke off at its insect-like 'knee.'
For all his acting, Kon was no fool. Disabling was a smart move against this creature. It also felt more comfortable to the modsoul; disabling wasn't killing. He could live with that. Moving with a wave of determination, Kon dodged and leapt his way into the forest of limbs, kicking and hacking with powerful legs to sever joints. One leg. Two. Three. The thing would barely be able to move soon.
The hollow sensed it as well. Shrieking, it half-limped, half-scurried forward, towards the abandoned Ichigo. Mouth gaping, mandibles drooling, it wailed in triumph, in anguished hunger.
Kon was on its back. He kicked again in a panic, severed a fifth limb, but the creature only shuddered and dragged itself on. So close. Too close. Had to stop it!
The modsoul gritted his borrowed teeth. Fool. He'd been a fool. Disabling the hollow, instead of killing it...what kind of idiot...what was he fooling himself for? Rukia-neesan would be furious. But somehow...a part of him hoped that if he could disable the hollow, perhaps Ichigo would wake up in time to kill it. Or maybe one of his friends would show up, sensing the hollow's presence. Or a shinigami. Or—anything. Anything, but why did he have to destroy when he hated to?
Don't be an idiot. And Kon leapt, dashed up the hollow's back, brought his heel smashing down with all the strength his modification-soul could produce. A crack, a shatter, and two screams, one inside and one out, and then nothing at all.
Things need to be taken care of, and Kon did it quietly.
Inoue-san was the first thing to tackle. Ichigo was wounded badly. He was wounded as well, in his borrowed body, though not terribly. Still, it needed looking after, and so he dashed to the human girl's apartments within minutes requesting help.
For perhaps the first time in his life, Kon did not bother to oggle Inoue's sizable endowment. He could barely bring himself to even pay attention to them, large as life though they were, or the fact that he first saw her laying sprawled out in bed, apparently gone to sleep early, when he tapped on her bedroom window. There was too much else to think about—too much to try and not think about.
She seemed to understand who Kon was, though she'd never seen him in Ichigo's body once since officially meeting him at Urahara's. Kon explained the situation tiredly, and she agreed to go immediately. He dashed back to Ichigo's side, afraid to leave the unconscious shinigami too long alone when there were hollows about, and half an hour later Inoue arrived to heal them both.
Afterwards there was the matter of getting Ichigo back to his home and into his body, a trick that would be difficult considering Kon would have no hands once in his pill form. Inoue agreed to help with this as well, though it hardly surprised the modsoul. He was able to carry Ichigo on his back—slowly--and transport both him and Inoue into the berry-head's room with a quick jump. By now the sickly body was really beginning to tire, but it only needed to last a few minutes more.
The transfer went without a hitch, once Kon explained to the girl how it worked. Ichigo was settled back in his bed, probably more exhausted than he had been before, but no worse for the wear otherwise. Kon, back in his stuffed body, felt utterly exhausted as well. Cotton and cloth had no muscles to feel fatigue; his fatigue was all in his mind.
Inoue offered to let both Chad and Ishida know about the current situation—Kurosaki certainly wouldn't be fighting hollows for several days, after pulling that stunt—and reassured the modsoul cheerfully that they would cover everything. Kon nodded dully, and strangely, was glad when she left.
He wished he could have stayed in his pill form. Somehow, it was so much easier to not feel anything at all as an inanimate object.
The next morning Ichigo was awake.
Kon didn't expect him to really remember anything. He'd been drugged up on medication when he left, and had been unconscious for the entirety of the modsoul's fight. There was no way the berry-head could possibly know what had happened.
Which was why Ichigo broke through Kon's blank mind when he glanced down at the slumped stuffed animal at the foot of his bed and muttered slowly, regretfully, "I'm sorry."
Startled, but feeling it only distantly, the lion's head came up to meet Ichigo's eyes. Clear. Not hazed with medication, or sleep. Conscious, if tired. "For what?"
"You...fought that hollow."
"I know you don't like fighting."
"I've done it before."
"You killed it." Ichigo's stare was oddly penetrating. "Didn't you?"
Kon snorted, doing his best to act casual and argumentative as he always did, but it felt so...distant. Fake. "You're imagining things. Inoue-san showed up. She beat the hollow and then healed you up, and I carried you back here--"
"Kon." Ichigo's voice was firm has he interrupted. "Don't lie. I...wasn't fully conscious, but I could hear and see a few things last night...I thought it was a dream, but thinking about it now, it couldn't have been." He looked away, out the window at the bright blue sky. "I saw you split that hollow's head."
"I'm...sorry," Ichigo repeated. He looked genuinely regretful, staring out that window still, as though he couldn't make himself look at the stuffed animal. "I know how you feel about living...and about killing. I was stupid. I shouldn't have gone. But I did, and you had to bail me out, and deny your own beliefs in the process."
If Kon had had a heart, it would have felt as though it were being stabbed right then. The modsoul didn't want to think about it. About the way the mask had crumbled under his bare feet, how the blood slipped between his toes, how the hollow had screamed as he eradicated it, how he knew that scream was all his fault, that he had caused it...how the face beneath the mask had smiled, tears in its eyes, as it shattered, as though thanking him for his brutality...
"Are...you okay?" Ichigo was frowning in his direction now, though carefully not meeting the stuffed animal's eyes. As if it mattered. The lion didn't have optical nerves or a brain to register it; Kon didn't need the bead eyes to see the kid's pathetic expression.
"Grow up," he rasped, disgusted by how weak his voice seemed, even though it was much stronger than he had thought possible.
"I said, grow up," the modsoul repeated, standing up on tiny cotton legs. He felt like trembling; his sewn body stayed surprisingly calm. "Get that wimpy look off your face. You don't owe me anything." You owe me everything. There's blood on my hands now, even if it is hollow blood. I don't want it there. " I made the choice to engage that hollow, even knowing what it might mean." Even though I didn't. You were supposed to wake up and kill it, dammit. Somebody else should have shown up. Anybody. Why did I have to destroy it? "So grow up, and stop looking like that. If you keep blaming yourself--" you should, it's your fault! "--you're never gonna get better." Yet somehow, I can't really blame you. Damn bastard.
Ichigo was frowning at him now. "Kon--"
The modsoul thudded ineffectual cotton arms against the teen's leg beneath the sheets, beating him even though it did no good. "Just shut up, Ichigo."
"Just shut up. Please."
Ichigo frowned, watched, said nothing.
"Just...don't mention it again. Ever. Okay? Okay." Forced his stuffed face into the best grin he could manage. Waved a stuffed paw mockingly, gave his voice an audible, joking, sneering tone. "There. Easy. Even an idiot like you could manage not talking!"
Ichigo watched him, silently, for a very long time. Silence, Kon discovered quickly, could be just as oppressive as talking. But then at last he spoke, slowly, his voice filled with confusion and perhaps even...concern?...but also respect. "Fine. Alright. If that's what you want."
"Good." Kon placed paws on nonexistent hips, waved one warningly. "Now take it easy. Inoue-san says you're out of commission for the next few days, so the others will take care of everything. Bringing you homework and all that human crap." He did not mention shinigami runs, and neither did Ichigo, but both understood the implications.
It was only a few hours later, when Ichigo had fallen asleep—dosed again with meds to help—that Kon really had a chance to think about the deal. Don't mention it again. Ever. Silence would help. Ignore it. With time, he could forget it ever happened, erase it from his memory and from his deeds. He would never have broken his code. Nobody would know he had ever done it, nobody but he and Kurosaki, and both had agreed never to speak of it again.
It would go away.
It had been the right thing to do—in all counts, in any way of looking at it, it had been the right thing to do. It was a hollow. It had to be killed. Ichigo deserved to live. He shouldn't have to die for trying to do his job.
In all counts, it had been the right thing to do, but deep down Kon knew he would never be able to forget, ever, no matter how long the silence stretched.
If you decide to leave a review, kindly give it some substance. Did you like it? Did you not? Why? What was done well? What wasn't? Constructive criticism is the best way for a writer to grow, don't forget.