Sorry for the incredible wait. I've been incredibly busy. No this story isn't abandoned, in case you were wondering. I'm gonna use some healing Kido to revive it, and try to update it once a week.
I don't own Bleach, Tite Kubo does etc. etc.
Monday was an uneventful day for Ichigo and the shinigami task force stationed in Karakura as they buckled down and resumed the routine. Tuesday however, was not. Everyone perked up when their homeroom teacher Ochi-san informed them they would have a surprise. Briefly leaving the classroom, she returned with a smile.
"Well class, I'd like to inform you that we'll have a substitute physical education teacher starting today! Please give a warm welcome to Zaraki-san."
Ichigo almost fell out of his chair in shock at her words, unsure if he had heard right. All of his friends turned their gaze to him, and then back to the front of the room as the door was opened. When the man himself stepped into the classroom, he could feel every normal student become intimidated by his presence. Keigo nearly fainted when Zaraki's gaze lingered on him.
Ichigo however, had to slam his hand over his mouth to prevent himself from laughing when he registered the normally wild warrior's appearance. He was dressed in a white button down dress shirt, red tie, and black slacks, with his long hair down and combed into a semi normal style. Without the reiatsu eating eye patch he always wore, the man almost appeared normal. The 11th's newest member looked over to Ikkaku, who was apparently trying to catch flies with the way his mouth was gaping open. Yumichika had a little more tact, but the way he covered his mouth with his sleeve while staring with wide eyes told an observer everything. Kenpachi in business casual? What the hell was the world coming to?
"Yo. I'm Kenpachi Zaraki, and I like strong people. If you aren't strong, then you better get that way quick." The large man continued to creep out the classroom with his trademark grin.
Everyone groaned at that comment, Ichigo included. The day would be interesting indeed.
Before gym class the members of the 11th decided to meet up in Zaraki's new office. The taicho had changed into a more fitting outfit for the intensive workout that was to come, a gray track suit with a skull and crossbones on the back. Yumichika looked disappointed by the change of clothes.
"Taicho, where did you get that lovely outfit you were wearing earlier? You looked magnificent!" he effeminate shinigami gushed.
"Kuchiki picked it out. Leave it to him to make me wear something fruity you'd fawn all over."
"Taicho what are you doing here?" Ikkaku started. "They already have Hitsugaya taicho here. I'm kind of surprised they sent you here as well when Soul Society is short handed."
"You'd think so, but the old man is incredibly pissed off at me at the moment. More then the time Yachiru got into his office when no one was around and decided to redecorate."
"Wait, this is supposed to be a punishment? Sending you here just means you get first dibs on any arrancar fights" the bald shinigami continued.
"I know" Zaraki said with his feral grin plastered across his face. "I guess he was so angry at several blocks of the Seireitei being destroyed in my fight with Ichigo he didn't think it through. I'm more then happy for the chance."
Yumichika and Ikkaku looked at each other and smiled. With Ichigo, Zaraki taicho, and the two of them present the vast majority of the 11th's power would be represented in any fight brought to Karakura Town. Just thinking about that kind of battle made them all giddy. The only thing that kept Yumichika from enjoying it completely was a small sense that something was wrong with this picture. Suddenly he realized what, or more specifically who was missing.
"Taicho, where is Kusajishi fukutaicho?"
"I had to leave someone in charge who could control the men while I was gone. Don't worry Madoka is with her. I told her she could use your office while we were gone since mine was a mess. Now lets go outside and train these bums to be men."
Zaraki completely ignored the horrified expression on his 5th seat's face as he left to instruct his class.
Madoka watched as Yachiru explored Yumichika's office, playing with every object she could get her hands on. His hopes that she would get bored and leave the immaculate and color coordinated office intact and prevent an unnecessary confrontation were dashed when she suddenly showed him a tub of orange paint.
"Yumi's office is so boring. Lets surprise him by painting it!"
"Are you sure thats wise Kusajishi fukutaicho?" the older shinigami replied, hoping to sway the young officer away from her choice. "Yumichika spent quite some time decorating this place."
"But it will be fun!" Dipping her hands into the paint can, the girl jumped around the office leaving orange hand prints on the walls, ceiling, floor, and furniture. "I think it looks better already, don't you agree?"
"Of course fukutaicho" he muttered, feeling a headache building. "Ayasegawa is going to kill me."
Most of the students were extremely nervous as they gathered for gym. Rumors had already spread throughout the school that the new physical education instructor was a beast of a man who could break a student with his gaze alone. As the class watched, Kenpachi emerged from the school and out into the gym area flanked by the two new transfer students that had mysterious transferred in a few days before. Standing before the gathered crowd, silence descended over the scene. After several moments of looming over the students with his intimidating presence, he made his voice known.
"So what have they been teaching you kids lately?"
"Well lately we've been playing soccer Zaraki-san" one bold student ventured.
"Soccer?" Kenpachi asked as Ikkaku leaned over and briefly described the game to him since he rarely traveled to the living world. "They have you people doing that instead of training? How the hell is that going to make you stronger?"
"S-stronger? But this is gym, we're just supposed to play some games get some exercise."
"Well then I have an idea" Zaraki said, grinning maniacally while taking the wooden bokuto Ikkaku always carried with him to school. "We'll play a game and I'll train you at the same time. You can all play this soccer game of yours, but we'll add something new. I'm going to be attacking whoever has the ball. If you can dodge a sword, you can dodge the defenders you're trying to get past."
The class went white as a sheet at those words as the newest teacher picked up the soccer ball and tossed it to Ichigo who just groaned. The man obviously didn't know when to give up. When he blew the whistle signaling the start of the game all hell broke loose. With a kick Ichigo passed the ball to a wide eyed Tatsuki who had to stop and dodge a slash from Kenpachi before she sent the ball on ahead to Uryu.
Seeing the maniac bearing down on him, the Quincy unconsciously sent more reiatsu to his legs to pick up speed as he charged at the net. Before Zaraki could reach him for an attack, he shot the ball past the goalkeeper for a score. Uryu simply smirked at Ichigo when the game restarted with the ball in the shinigami's possession yet again. If anything, he was enjoying watching his rival deal with the pressure.
The game continued for most of the period until Zaraki managed to get a swing on Chad who only grunted when the wooden sword simply broke apart upon hitting him across the back. It was little consolation for the many students already sporting bruises from the unforgiving weapon. It was going to be a long week.
Ichigo looked over to his clock as he laid on his bed brooding. It was 5 am. The week had been hell. All of the vigor he had at the start of the week from his fight with Kenpachi was gone. Zaraki's behavior coupled with dodging his friends had not been easy. He could see the worried looks on his their faces, the way they tried to strike up conversations with him and include him in as many activities as possible. Avoiding Rukia had been the hardest. She was back to sleeping in his closet, probably to keep an eye on him and make sure he was alright. He glanced over his closet's door, wondering if she was sleeping or awake and pondering just like he was. He appreciated what everyone was trying to do, even if he couldn't currently face them. His main worry was wondering how he could protect his friends when he couldn't even protect himself. How could he possibly involve them in something so dangerous?
The idea almost made him laugh. If their trip to Soul Society wasn't dangerous then the substitute shinigami didn't know what was. No, the real answer was that it was too difficult to admit to himself the monster that lurked inside him, let alone his friends. His own stubborn pride was getting in the way. Admitting to weakness was something he could not afford. When he had first met his other half back during the invasion against Soul Society he had been confused. The being had challenged him and fought honorably at the time, and the power he received from defeating the other version of himself had helped him through Soul Society. He had used that power to survive the battle against Kenpachi and against Byakuya. It stung to think that despite his training he wasn't the one who had the strength to save everyone, it was the hollow inside. The teen tossed and turned on his bed trying to get comfortable while he continued to muse.
He thought his other half was vicious, ruthless, and cunning. It loved to harass him every chance it got. Ichigo had no doubts that if his hollow ever dethroned him he would end up killing many people who were close to him. Hollows devoured those close to them in order to fill the emptiness inside. Ichigo didn't imagine he would be any different. He had to be on guard twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. It was exhausting and pushing him to the breaking point. Several thoughts drifted to the front of his mind before he closed his eyes and tried to get one more hour of sleep before school. He knew about hollows, but what did he really know about his own hollow? He'd never tried to find out more, only chase that part of him to the farthest reaches of his mind. Why did he keep running? What had his hollow meant when he told him that he wasn't as strong as he could be? Was not bankai the pinnacle of a shinigami's power? What would his hollow say if he simply asked? Ichigo found himself wishing he still had the means to talk to Zangetsu.
As Ichigo drifted back to sleep, his other side calmly laid on one of the many buildings staring at the cloudy sky. It wasn't raining like it had been earlier, but the sky was far from clear. Hearing the thoughts of his king, the hollow let out a soft laugh.
So you finally had the idea to man up and face me? Theres more to it then that, but perhaps there is still hope for you yet King. Maybe someday you'll stop blindly running and try to figure out the answers to those questions.
Friday evening hadn't come fast enough for Kurosaki. He had to admit he was coming to like his visits to Soul Society. If anything it was an escape from his current problems where he could be around people who did not know him well. They wouldn't make such a huge fuss over him. Despite any dangers his instability in combat might bring about it was better then hopelessly waiting in Karakura Town.
Kon was more then happy when Ichigo swallowed the pill that separated his soul and allowed the modsoul to gain control of his body. Grabbing his weekend travel bag and giving some last minute instructions he jumped out the window and headed towards the place where it all began. When he arrived at Urahara's shop Rukia and Kenpachi were waiting for him. Rukia did not look pleased as she stared hard at him with her arms crossed in a defiant manner while his taicho merely leaned his immense frame against the wall.
"Please Ichigo no trouble this time. In one week you and Zaraki taicho managed to cause so much chaos and there are rumors flying all over the place about you. Do you have any idea how uncomfortable it feels for me when everyone comes to me asking about ridiculous rumors?"
Ichigo could tell she looked annoyed and frustrated with the situation. Although she wouldn't say it directly, her words were her way of saying that she cared and was worried. He sighed as he realized it was a good thing she didn't understand how desperate the situation really was for him.
"Yea yea I hear you" he replied, doing his best to play off her concerns. "What rumors are people spreading about me now? Why are you here? Aren't you assigned to protect the town?"
"I'm coming with you because someone needs to keep an eye on you" Rukia said quickly, emphasizing the word someone. She wisely chose to ignore the first question. She didn't want him getting into fights with people over rumors and possibly get him into more trouble.
"Whatever" Ichigo replied, quickly dodging her attempt to smack him for being rude before focusing on his taicho. "What about you Kenpachi?"
"I have to check in on Yachiru. Madoka and the others can only handle her so long. Besides we're all healed up, and that means we can fight some more" he grinned and started to walk towards the senkaimon followed by a groaning Ichigo.
"You two are hopeless" was all Rukia could say as she followed the two imposing figures through the gate and into Soul Society, rubbing her temples the entire time to prevent a headache. She simply wasn't rewarded enough for this kind of hazardous duty.
After exiting the gate into Soul Society the three were immediately summoned to the 1st Division headquarters. Ichigo could only imagine he was going to get chewed out by Yamamoto since the old man did not have the chance to do so the previous weekend. When they arrived, they were quickly ushered in to the elderly taicho's office. The teen noticed the immaculate neatness and many old traditional works of art decorating the place. Any other time and he might have taken several moments to admire his surroundings.
"Ichigo Kurosaki" he said, his voice stern as he gripped his cane tightly. "It has been one week since you joined the Gotei 13 and already you have caused an enormous amount of chaos and destruction within these walls. I realize a large portion of the blame lies on the shoulders of Zaraki taicho" he paused, shooting the eye patched man a glare. His target merely looked away with a neutral expression and gave an annoyed sigh, having no desire to hear this speech again. "That does not excuse your role in the incident. Part of being a shinigami is learning proper behavior as well as technique. Since it has become clear to me that you cannot get a complete education under Kenpachi, for the next two weeks you will be on loan to the 13th division. You will still be considered a member of the 11th, but you will report to Ukitake taicho who can teach you a great deal. Is that understood?"
"I understand" Ichigo sighed. Rukia promptly smacked him in the back of the head before hissing in his ear, reminding him in a not so gentle way to show manners. "I understand soutaicho" he repeated, emphasizing the older man's title. The ancient shinigami nodded to both of them.
"I trust you can lead him to the 13th Rukia Kuchiki?"
"You two are dismissed. Zaraki taicho and I have business to discuss."
Bowing to her superior, Rukia grabbed Ichigo by the arm and dragged him from the office as Kenpachi stepped close and grinned at the two of them.
"Don't go getting all soft on me while staying with the 13th division Ichigo. I want you in peak condition next time we fight."
That man really does have a one track mind.
Deep in the bowels of the sprawling Kuchiki manor several women met in secret in a hidden room.
"Writing and publishing a romance novel at the same time as the calendar really was a good idea vice president Ise. I'm really eager to read it, but you haven't told us any details about it yet."
"Don't worry Isane, it will be worth the wait. Nemu has been studying romance literature and writing the plot. She should be finished this weekend so we can start printing the books for distribution. Next week both the calendar and the book will be out. Isn't that right Nemu?"
"Hai. The information I have gathered from my research as well as interviews with those close to the subjects of the story is very accurate. I am sure it will be of great interest and many will enjoy reading it."
"Excellent" Nanao smiled whiled rubbing her hands together thinking about how much money the SWA was about to make.
Well its been some time, hopefully some of my old reviewers are still out there and will let me know what they think! New reviewers welcome too!