Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.

Ichigo's thoughts: Hi

Shiro: Hi

Zangetsu: /Hi/

Chapter 1/Prologue—Disappearance

Urahara stood, stretched, and let out a weary sigh. He had almost completed his "little project". He had been working on it tirelessly ever since Aizen's betrayal, hoping that it would be able to help the Shinigami in the upcoming war.

"Are you done experimenting with that thing yet?" asked Yoruichi. She had just entered the Urahara Shoten's extensive basement and was the only one other than Tessai who knew of Urahara's little project.

"Yeah, I just need to make a few more adjustments to the kido that power this thing and it'll finally be complete."

Yoruichi tensed in anticipation. "Be careful."

Urahara grinned nonchalantly and said, "Don't worry about it! The rewards are greater than the risks!"

Yoruichi scowled and started to nervously pace while watching Urahara kneel down again to finish tinkering with his experiment. One of her best friends was toying with one of the most dangerous aspects of the universe, and she didn't like it.

Finally, after what seemed like hours to the former commander of the punishment force, Urahara stood once more. "I'm really exhausted. All the reiatsu needed to create this thing has worn me out. Good night, Yoruichi." he stated wearily, seemingly unaware of his best friend's anxiety and giving her the not-so-subtle hint that he would like to be left alone for the remainder of the night.

"Good night, Kisuke." Yoruichi acquiesced with Urahara's implied request and shunpoed out of the Urahara Shoten, too tense to stay in one spot. Hopefully the cool night air would be able to calm her swirling thoughts.

The next day…

"Why hello, Kurosaki-san, Kuchiki-san! What I can do for you today?"

Rukia replied, exasperated, "I need a new gigai. The one I have is destroying my reiatsu." Rukia glared at Urahara. "Now is not the time to be using anything that would weaken my reiatsu, even if I'd become untraceable in it. We need power to deal with Aizen, not stealth."

Urahara nodded in agreement. "I thought you would come to me about that soon. The power-draining gigai is the quickest and easiest gigai for me to make, so when I received your order, I made one of them. You did demand the gigai on short notice. My intention was for you to use it for one day only while I made a normal gigai. You are getting charged extra for this, you know. Anyway, your normal gigai is now ready for use."

Rukia's glare intensified. "Funny how you never mentioned the extra cost when I first contacted you…"

Urahara ignored her. "Kurosaki-san, could you please go downstairs and get it for me?"

"Fine," Ichigo sighed. He was in Shinigami form since he had been fighting hollows before he and Rukia came to the Urahara Shoten.

Ichigo jumped down the ladder and landed softly on the rough ground. He began glancing around for Rukia's new gigai and spotted it slumped against one of the numerous boulders that dotted the training room.

Why do I get the strange feeling I've forgotten something important?... Urahara wondered as he watched Ichigo disappear down the ladder.

Ichigo crouched down to pick up Rukia's gigai when he saw a flash of light in the corner of his eye.

Wonder what that is… Ichigo thought as he stepped towards the shining object.

/Be careful, Ichigo. That stone has a strange, almost dangerous reiatsu about it and I don't like it./Zangetsu cautioned Ichigo. After sealing his inner hollow in the innermost portions of his soul, Ichigo had started to interact with his zanpakuto daily. Zangetsu was an excellent teacher and had helped Ichigo to complete the hollow-mask-endurance training with the Vizards. (1)

Relax, Zangetsu. It doesn't seem to be dangerous. Ichigo thought, knowing his zanpakuto would be able to hear him perfectly.

/I'm just warning you…/

Zangetsu seemed tense, almost scared. It took a lot to alarm Ichigo's zanpakuto, so Ichigo approached the object warily.

It's just a stone.

/I still don't like the reiatsu it's emitting…/

It looks perfectly safe.

Ichigo picked the stone up and began to examine it. It looked like a normal rock, except for the shiny, almost glassy surface on one side. Unexpectedly, the stone honed in on Ichigo's wild reiatsu and started to glow. Before either Ichigo or Zangetsu could react, there was a brilliant flash of light and both the stone and Ichigo vanished.


Both Urahara and Rukia stiffened as they felt Ichigo's reiatsu vanish. Urahara gasped as he remembered what he had forgotten.

Oh no!! Ichigo must have-

"What happened to Ichigo?! His reiatsu just vanished! What's in that basement, Urahara?!"

Rukia turned and was about to jump downstairs when Urahara grabbed her arm.

"I know exactly what happened to Kurosaki-san. Please calm down a little bit and I'll explain everything..."

Everything was a jumble of pictures and sensations. Images streaked by in a slideshow of color, making Ichigo slightly nauseous. Ichigo was unable to discern what many of the images showed before they were whisked away.

What happened to me? Where am I? Did that rock do this? Ichigo wondered dazedly.

/I told you not to mess with that thing! Now look what's happened!!/ Zangetsu was furious, but Ichigo's attention was directed elsewhere by a couple of someones he recognized very well.

Hey, look, it's Rukia… and Renji! But what the heck are they dressed in? Ichigo thought.

As soon as Ichigo's attention was on that image, he began to spiral towards it, as if he were being sucked into an invisible whirlpool. Ichigo panicked at the sudden motion of being tossed about like a rag doll, and soon his vision went black. As soon as his world went dark, Ichigo felt like his head had suddenly split in two. Ichigo ignored the pain, however, and realized that he felt like he was falling. As the sensation of free fall disappeared, light and sound reappeared around Ichigo.

Ichigo crashed to the ground. His last sensations were of the rough ground under him and the dappled light (from a tree or forest?) on his face, then everything went black once again as Ichigo sank into unconsciousness.

(1) At this time in the canon, Ichigo can only hold the hollow transformation for 11 seconds. But in this fanfic, since Ichigo now communicates daily with his zanpakuto, he has been able to master holding the hollow transformation for extended periods of time. His current record's 21 hours, 37 minutes and 44 seconds.

Yes, I know Shiro was the one that originally talked to Ichigo about the stone. But I'm adding an extra scene to chapter two that will explain why Shiro's been silent and how he's introduced to the story. It'll fill a pretty big plothole, as well as give me material to work off of in the future. It'll also just about double the length of chapter two.

This is my first fanfic so please be nice! I know it isn't the best start but please bear with me. Sorry this chapter is kinda short but I wanted it to end with a cliffhanger. I'll get the next chapter posted as soon as I can!!

***Note: This is set after Ichigo's Vizard training and before Orihime is kidnapped.

I redid this chapter because I felt like it. I reread it and thought, I wrote THIS?! I hope you enjoy the revised version.

No flames for all the changes!! Please?