Summary: Sequel to BLEACH: Listen to Your Heart. Ichigo has escaped death, and lives in hiding. However, while he's in peace with Rukia and the Vaizard…Soul Society's been attacked. Ichigo is once more drawn into action. IchixRuki. M

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hey guys, thanks for opting to read another story of mine! To understand this story, you must first read BLEACH: Listen to Your Heart. Trust me, it's worth it. Anyways, I realize my last story was kinda…short in the chapter department. Sorry. This story will be REALLY long, haha, in comparison. Unless I decide to not finish it. But that has about as much chance as a snowball not melting in hell. No chance. So, I hope you guys enjoy this story as much as my last.

HOWEVER, forgive me…but I have put in three OOC's. :/ Please forgive me, lol. But, I'm giving Soul Society three new Captain's to fill the defector's spots. I felt that in the time that has elapsed between the stories, Soul Society would have gotten new Captain's.

In this story, I am also taking the advice of one of my reviewers, who told me my story lacked in the Point-of-view department. I realize I got extremely caught up in just Ichigo and Rukia's point of views, ignoring others. :'( I feel so horrible! What about my other favorite characters? I NEGLECTED THEM! I'm a bad, bad author! But, I will do better, I promise! Here is a list of pairings that are already in or I'm considering to put in this story.

ICHIxRUKI (No 'considering' about this one. XP)


URYUxHIME (Slight possibility)


KIRAxMOMO (Not completely sure about it. But I really feel bad for Kira, so I might do it.)

RENJIxMATSU (I alluded to it last story, and I'm going to continue it. Two red-heads. They belong together! REDHEAD WUV! :3)

MATSUxKIRA (Maybe. If KIRAxMOMO doesn't pan out, then it'll be MATSUxKIRA.)

HITSUxMATSU (Maybe. If KIRAxMOMO pans out, then it'll be MATSUxHITSU.)

IF ANY OF YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS, I MIGHT TAKE THEM! It all depends. :P Cuz, remember, though I will do my best to accommodate you…it is my story. I shall craft what I desire! BWAHAHA! *cough cough* Sorry. Weird moment over.

Also, thanks for your patience! My computer seems to be working now, though I really hope it isn't fkaing it again. ;) lol. Now onto the story before this section gets longer than the actual story!!!


Chapter 1

"Until the Day I die

I'll spill my heart for you, for you.

Until the day I die

I'll spill my heart for you.

As the years go by,

I race the clock with you.

But if you died right now

You know that I'd die too.

I'd die too.

You remind me of the times

When I knew who I was (I was).

But still the second hand will catch us

Like it always does.

We'll make the same mistakes.

I'll take the fall for you.

I hope you need this now,

Cause I know I still do."

-Until the Day I Die

By Story of the Year

Karin Kurosaki stood at the arm of one of the Sofa's in her living room. She stared around, appearing bored, but she was just hiding how she was actually practically ready to explode with excitement. Her living room was unusually crowded this Friday afternoon, but with good reason. Isshin and Yuzu sat together on one couch, along with a dark-haired teenager. Uryu, she thought it was. He was a friend of Ichigo's, though he hated Shinigami. She was still working out how it was possible to be a friend of Rukia's, when she was a Shinigami, and still hate Shinigami. The Quincy would always flush and try to explain himself, but only ended up embarrassing himself. Poor guy.

To her left, sitting on the sofa next to her was Chad Yasutora. To her, he'd always be 'Big Guy' or 'Mister'. She didn't know why, but she couldn't drop it. He was sitting bent forward, his forearms resting on his knees. He was wearing his school uniform. He was as silent as usual, but this time…he wasn't the only one. Even old Goat Chin was quiet, and unusually serious.

Beside Chad, to his left, was Orihime Inoue. She was staring off into space, her face thoughtful and slightly sad…her hands were clasped gently in her lap. She was in her school uniform as well. Uryu, Orihime, and Chad had all come straight from school. Yuzu and Karin had just gotten a doctor's note and not bothered to go today.

Karin then let her gaze rest on the TV. She was nervous as she looked at the TV. An old saying popped into her head. 'The watched pot never boils'. She looked away quickly. Though, she wondered how Urahara had managed to pull off what he did.

'Hat and Clogs' as she affectionately called him (though she only did this because she knew he didn't mind it because Ichigo had used to call him that), had shown up two days ago, holding a strange silver disk with three buttons. It looked like a Frisbee, but it had a hole on the outside rim…it looked similar to a plug-in.

Urahara had stepped in, greeting everyone warmly, and told them that he was doing Ichigo a favor…again. She lost count how much Ichigo owed Hat and Clogs. Urahara had proceeded to go to their TV, pull out some wires and a Cell Phone (that she found out was a Soul Pager) and hooked the silver disk up to the Soul Pager, and the Soul Pager to the TV. Then, Urahara had said to tell Orihime and Chad and Uryu to show up on Friday after school…Ichigo would be calling. He never explained what the disk did, but Isshin seemed to know. But when the girls asked him, he had only grinned and said that it was a surprise.

So, now Orihime and Chad and Uryu were all gathered in the Kurosaki Residence…everyone waiting for the call from Ichigo. It had been months since they had all received a letter in the mail, no return address…only their names on the Envelope. The letter had been written by Ichigo, she would know his messy writing anywhere, and it had explained everything that had happened in Soul Society. The letters had been given to them a day after Ichigo and Rukia had disappeared…along with the Vaizard.

Isshin had been furious after reading the letter, and had yelled about how Soul Society had gone mad, trying to banish Ichigo to Hueco Mundo with the Spirit Energy restriction cuffs on. She had been shocked at how he had barely escaped his fate, thanks to the efforts of the Vaizard. Yuzu had ended up crying. Especially when Rukia had written a little herself to explain that she had been raped…hence everything that had happened. Now they understood why she had been acting the way she did. Rukia had kept it bare-bones, no details except that she had been taken advantage of on her way to the gate room and then come home…and then she explained that thanks to Ichigo's help, the man was dead.

But, now that it had been two months since that letter…they all missed Ichigo and Rukia. It wasn't easy, living without an older brother she had had by her side her entire life. They had been left alone by Soul Society, Hat and Clogs said that the rulers had made the decision to leave the Kurosaki's memories intact, seeing as they had no proof that Ichigo had informed his family about Soul Society. So, though they saw the Soul Reapers around town, though not often, they acted like they didn't notice.

Isshin had been training Chad in Urahara's basement every Friday evening and Saturday, so usually they went to Urahara's every week. But, today was special. Today…any minute, Ichigo would call. So, they were all anxiously silent, trying not to watch the TV and phone and strange Frisbee-type device on the floor.

Suddenly, the Soul Pager rang. No one moved. They all stared at it, frozen by uncertainty. She walked forward, rolling her eyes, and grabbed it, being careful not to disconnect the wires. She flipped it open and crouched so she could put it to her ear. "Hello?" She asked, keeping her voice dull. She tried not to let the excitement show.

"Karin." A voice said. She froze.

"Ichigo." She breathed, and the voice laughed.

"Hey. Listen to what I'm about to say carefully." Ichigo instructed. She nodded. "M'kay." She replied.

"Now, go to the silver device, and hit all of the buttons. First, the one that says 'on', and then the one that has a lightning bolt on it, and then the one that has a rectangle on it. Then…have dad turn on the TV." Ichigo's voice said, and she nodded. She reached for the silver device, her hands shaking. Everyone around her was silent, but she knew they had to be on the edge of their seats.

She pressed the buttons in the order Ichigo had told her, and then said, "Dad…turn on the TV."

She heard Isshin spring up from the couch, and reach over her and hit the switch on the TV. "Don't panic." Ichigo said slowly. She relayed his words. The TV popped up to a bright blue screen…and then died. She about panicked, but then remembered his words. Don't panic. This must be apart of the process.

"Okay. Now, put the phone down, Karin. Don't close it." Ichigo instructed her. She did as he said, and then with a loud 'pop!' the TV turned back on. Karin jumped backwards, freaked out by the loud pop, and tried to calm her thundering heart.

She blinked, surprised, as the picture on the TV shone bright. Ichigo sat on a couch, grinning, in front a set of devices identical to theirs. She assumed he was looking directly into the TV, like they were.

"ICHIGO!" Yuzu was the first one to break the silence. She started crying after she yelled his name.

Ichigo, wearing tight blue jeans and a tee-shirt, frowned. He looked exactly the same as always…even his hair. "Are you in your body?" Karin asked suddenly.

Ichigo's voice came from the silver disk thing, scaring Karin. "Yeah. We got all the dye out of the hair. I won't need it anymore, seeing as they knew I was alive. But that's besides the point. Yuzu…come on…don't cry." He begged.

"I…I…I'm sorry!" Yuzu sniffled, as Isshin comforted her. Uryu looked uncomfortable, sitting next to a sniffling girl.

"It's fine…I just didn't think it'd be that bad for you…" Ichigo trailed off, and looked at the ground.

"Of course it was bad for us, you idiot!" Karin yelled, glaring. Ichigo's head jerked up, and he looked surprised.

"Our big brother's wanted, and everyone seems to want him dead! So, he goes into hiding and we haven't seen him in months!" Karin yelled, and Ichigo flinched. "Of course it's bad for us! We can't help but worry about you, you idiot, because you tend to get yourself in trouble!" She finished, and huffed.

Chad, next to her, chuckled. "She's a lot like you, Ichigo."

"Hey, Chad." Ichigo said, grinning. Karin shrieked, "I'm not done yelling at you!" Ichigo's head instantly snapped back to her, his eyes wide.

"Karin…he's had it bad, too. Leave him be." Yuzu said, sniffling and wiping away her tears.

"I'm sorry I was crying. I'm just so happy to see you." Yuzu said, addressing Ichigo. Karin huffed and crossed her arms over her chest, rolling her eyes at her twin.

Ichigo smiled softly, a rare sight. "I'm happy to see you, too. Just in a few months, you girls have grown a bit, I can tell." He sighed.

"Yep. I grew two inches!" Yuzu chirped happily. Ichigo nodded. "Good. You can't be short forever." He teased. Karin couldn't help but laugh. Yuzu laughed too.

"Kurosaki…" Uryu greeted, raising a hand in greeting.

"Uryu. How are you?" Ichigo replied, grinning.

"I'm fine. I'm surprised…I honestly thought we'd never see you again." Uryu admitted. Ichigo snorted, "Yeah, right. I can't stay away from all of you. The chances of me not showing up are about as small as the chance that Uryu will dance around in a tutu." Everyone laughed, while Uryu fumed.

"H-hello, Ichigo." Orihime said shyly, and Karin wondered what was up. She seemed shyer than normal.

"Hey, Orihime." Ichigo said warmly, and he waved. "How ya doin'?"

"I'm good. So is Tatsuki, and Keigo, and Mizuiro. They're getting much better." Orihime said softly. Ichigo's eyes softened and he nodded.

"Good. I was about to ask about them." He murmured.

"I found out something about Tatsuki…" Orihime said suddenly. Ichigo quirked an eyebrow. "What?" He asked, taking the bait.

"She can see Shinigami." Orihime said, and Ichigo's mouth dropped.

"Really?" He asked, and Orihime nodded.

"Yep. She saw Captain Hitsugaya one day on patrol, and she asked me why a boy was running around with a sword. He didn't hear her, luckily, but I had to take her aside and explain everything. I wasn't sure if I should tell her about you…" Orihime murmured.

"Are you kidding? Man…" Ichigo mumbled, and ran a hand through his hair. "Shinji told me how my Spirit Energy unconsciously leaked from me and awakening powers and abilities in others in the human population. I didn't think I'd affect Tatsuki."

"Keigo too." Chad suddenly said, and Ichigo froze.

"What?" Ichigo asked, looking fiercely at the TV screen and at Chad.

"Keigo. He's seen Ikkaku go Soul Reaper. It was during the Arrancar attack." Chad said, and Ichigo sat there, dumbfounded.

"Holy shit." He whispered.

"We don't know about Mizuiro yet….but he's been acting a little weird." Uryu said, chipping in.

"Damn. I just had to screw more things up!" Ichigo hissed.

Suddenly, a voice said, "Ichigo, quit being an idiot."

Everyone blinked as Rukia walked into the picture, and sat down next to Ichigo. She was wearing a soft violet sun-dress with a yellow shawl on her shoulders. She smiled at the screen, at them.

"Hello. It's good to see you all again." Rukia said. Then, she turned to Ichigo.

"You didn't screw anything up. Shut up and quit being a martyr." She said, and whacked him on the head. Yuzu giggled as Ichigo cursed and grumbled.

"Now…how is everyone?" Rukia asked, turning to them.

"I miss my third daughter, Rukia!" Isshin cried, and flung himself at the Television. He pressed up against it, as if he was hugging the TV.

"Yeah, drop it dad." Ichigo said, his voice bored.

Isshin ran to Yuzu for comfort. "So, What's the news on the home front? Rukia said everyone was training…" Ichigo asked.

"We are." Isshin confirmed, losing all pretenses of distress.

"Good. How far along is everyone?" Ichigo asked.

"I'm close to something…I can feel it." Chad said.

"I've achieved the Quincy level similar to Bankai." Uryu offered.

"I've been practicing with Rangiku…and my Shunshunrikka have improved." Orihime said, as well. She seemed hesitant as she asked, "How are you, Rukia?"

"Great. I'm being trained by Lisa." Rukia said, her voice kind.

"She's doing real well, too. She's come a long way in two months…and I'd bet she could give Byakuya a run for his money." Ichigo laughed. Rukia blushed slightly at the compliment. "Whatever, fool." She muttered.

"What about you, Ichigo?" Isshin asked.

Ichigo smirked. "What do you think?" He asked rhetorically, and then grinned. "I'm the fourth strongest Vaizard now. Only Shinji, Rose, and Kensei are stronger than me." He said, and Isshin's mouth dropped.

"I've learned a lot of stuff. I doubt even Kenpachi could put a scratch on me now!" Ichigo boasted.

"I bet he could." Rukia muttered. Ichigo rolled his eyes.

"Any news from Soul Society?" Ichigo asked.

Orihime decided to speak. "Yes. Everyone there has been attempting to train. Aizen's Hougyoku will be active soon, so everyone's doing their best. Even the Captain's are training in their spare time." Orihime said.

Icihgo arched an eyebrow. "Really? Wow…they're really serious." He commented.

"Yeah. Renji and Ikkaku were talking about how even with all their training…they're not sure we'll make the deadline." Chad chipped in.

"And Renji says that they've been detecting an increase in the Arrancar Ranks, including their power-levels." Uryu said, his face grim.

Ichigo grinned. "They're fools." He said. Everyone blinked.

"What?" Isshin asked.

Ichigo laughed, and Rukia rolled her eyes as she smiled. "I said they're fools. The Arrancar ranks aren't growing…they're shrinking." He said.

"I'm not getting it." Isshin said dumbly.

"Aw, come on. Do you really think I'd abandon Soul Society like I said? I'm not that cruel. If I abandoned them, then Hanataro, or Renji, or a few of my friends might die." Ichigo said, grinning still.

"So…what? Why have the Arrancar ranks been shrinking?" Uryu asked.

"Because…we've been making excursions into Hueco Mundo." Ichigo said, grinning. "We've found a rough location of Las Noches, and we hang around the outskirts…picking off stray Arrancar from time to time. We've managed to kill fifteen non-Espada Arrancar. Which is why their power levels are growing. They've been training to learn to fend off the attacks. They've never even seen us. All they know is they find blood-soaked sand, shattered Hollow masks…and no more Arrancar." Ichigo boasted. "I heard a large number of them murmuring about how it's an outcast Shinigami, who was banished to Hueco Mundo and has found his way to Las Noches. Apparently, the Huge Hollow I saw the day I was banished gave me away. But, thankfully, he didn't remember I had orange hair. He just remembered my Reiatsu level was through the roof." Ichigo laughed.

"Amazing! You've made it to Hueco Mundo?" Uryu asked, his eyes wide.

"Yup. Shinji has a move, that only the top three know. They've mastered it, and once I beat Kensei…they'll teach me. I'll be able to tear a rift in dimensions, and appear wherever I want. Whether it's in Soul Society, Earth, or Hueco Mundo." Ichigo boasted.

"How is that possible?" Isshin asked.

"Shinji says something about how the fusion of Shinigami and Hollow inside of us, as well as the Arrancar, led to something that was against the laws of nature. So, it's not surprising that we can do things that should be against the laws of the universe. Something about the fusion of a Hollow and Shinigami at the core completely rejects all natural laws, and as such, grants us powers that also reject natural laws." Ichigo said. Uryu blinked in surprise. Ichigo actually sounded intelligent.

"As directly quoted from Shinji." Rukia said dryly, and Ichigo glared at her.

"Spoilsport!" He growled, and she rolled her eyes. Uryu sweat-dropped, at the fact Ichigo had quoted something intelligent instead of coming up with it himself.

"So, Ichigo…do you think there's any chance we could meet out in public…like in Karakura Shopping district or something? So the Soul Reapers won't be able to spot you so easy?" Isshin asked.

"I'd have to run it by Shinji…" Ichigo said, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

"What's wrong?" Orihime asked.

Rukia looked softly at Ichigo as she answered Orihime's question. "He's reluctant to give away the Vaizard any more than he already has. He's lucky that we're still able to be here in Karakura…he's afraid if he jeopardizes the family, they'll start to dislike him and eventually they'll disown him." She murmured.

"No." Ichigo lied, and everyone saw through it.

"Ya dumbass!" A voice yelled, and suddenly a red blur flew on screen. It hit Ichigo, who flew off the couch. Ichigo yelped and flew off-screen, and Rukia shook her head as the red blur landed easily next to her.

Hiyori Sarugaki, as Isshin knew her, glared off screen. "Why would ya be afraid of that? It's not like we're your jailers!"

"Because, dammit, look what I've made you do!" Ichigo yelled back, stomping back on-screen. "I made you lose your home that you've held for decades, I've made Soul Society aware that you still exist! I don't want to do any more harm!" Ichigo yelled down at Hiyori. Everyone watched in concern in the Kurosaki house, but Rukia only shook her head.

"We moved around once every five years, but this time we'd stayed ten! It was about time for us to move on!" Hiyori snapped back. "And Soul Society has always known we were still alive. Whether or not they acknowledged it is another thing. But still, nothin' has changed for the bad! We've got you, one hell of a powerful natural Vaizard, and Rukia! Our goals are closer to being completed, thanks to you, you dumbass! If you'd like to go incognito in a busy place to see your family, we'd let you!" Hiyori yelled.

Suddenly, Shinji was there as well. "But, you'd have to go with several of us to make sure we can back you up if Soul Society finds us." He said. Everyone blinked as Ichigo spazzed out.

"QUIT SNEAKING UP ON ME, DAMMIT!" Ichigo howled, whirling on Shinji. Shinji blinked, looking unsurprised.

"Hey, Isshin." Shinji said, turning to the TV. Everyone gawked at Shinji's casual greeting.

Isshin raised a hand. "Hey, Captain Shinji."

Shinji grinned. "Ex-Captain." He reminded Isshin.

"Old habits." Isshin said, shrugging.

Isshin grinned. "Too bad about your hair being cut short." He said.

"Too bad about your reiatsu shriveling up." Shinji fired back, and Isshin pouted.

"That was uncalled for!" Isshin wailed.

"Don't mock the hair." Shinji said, his eyes glinting dangerously.

Everyone stared at Shinji, then Isshin, then Shinji again. Shinji and Isshin broke out in grins suddenly. "Truce." They said at the same time, and then laughed.

"So, if you want to see your family, it's completely doable, Ichigo." Shinji said, turning to the orange-haired youth.

"Really?" Ichigo asked, and Shinji nodded.

"Yup. But you'll have to take Lisa and Kensei. They'll back you up." Shinji said, and Ichigo stared, dumbfounded.

"What, you thought we were a bunch of soul-less beasts?" Shinji joked, and Ichigo laughed.

"Nah. Not you, at least. I worry about Hiyori sometimes, though." Ichigo joked. That earned him a punch to the gut and a snap-kick to the head from Hiyori. She stormed off then, leaving Shinji and Ichigo and Rukia. Rukia helped Ichigo to his feet, as he had just collapsed onto the ground due to Hiyori's assault. Shinji looked at the TV.

"When do you want to meet him, Isshin?" He asked, looking bored.

"Uh…" Isshin said, and scratched his chin. "Tomorrow?"

Shinji blinked. "So soon? Well, I suppose you haven't seen him in months..." He murmured.

"Okay. We'll send Ichigo with two watchers, at about noon at the Shopping District. It should be plenty busy to keep you all hidden from Soul Society." Shinji said, and narrowed his eyes at Isshin. "And if there's a Shinigami who follows you…have Uryu chase him off or something."

Uryu jumped to his feet. "Me? Hold on a minute, don't I get a say?" Uryu demanded.

Shinji regarded him with calm eyes. "Yes. You get a say. But, I figured that you'd prefer Ichigo not having to kill someone who saw him, instead of him having the blood of someone on his hands just so he could see his family."

Uryu flushed slightly, and replied, "You know that's not what I meant."

"Well, it's the situation." Shinji fired back.

"Enough! If Uryu doesn't want to, it's fine. I'll deal with it myself, and I won't have to kill the Shinigami. I can just have Rukia bind them, and then have her use her memory replacement doohickey on them." Ichigo said calmly, and Uryu tried to protest.

"It's fine, I'll do it." Uryu said, but Ichigo shook his head. "You don't have to Uryu. I can manage it…and I'm not sure I want Soul Society getting mad at the last Quincy on the face of the Earth." Ichigo said, frowning. Uryu pushed his glasses up higher to the bridge of his nose.

"Thanks." Uryu said, and Ichigo shrugged.

"Well, I suppose I'll get going now. I plan on trying to beat Kensei today." Ichigo said, grinning. They heard a voice yell, "In your dreams, Ichigo!"

Ichigo turned away, facing off-screen. "I'll kick your ass soon enough!" He roared back, still grinning.

"Aw, don't go, Ichigo." Yuzu whined, and Ichigo walked up to the TV, his face inches from the screen. He smiled kindly.

"Yuzu…I'll see you tomorrow. Don't worry…we'll be together soon." He said, and Yuzu nodded, trying to be brave.

"I'll see all of you soon." Ichigo said, looking at everyone else. They all nodded.

"Be safe, Ichigo." Orihime murmured.

Chad gave him a thumb's up, while Uryu said, "Don't do anything stupid, Kurosaki."

"Heh…I won't. See ya dad, see ya Karin." Ichigo said, and Karin cleared her throat.

"Ahem…um…see you tomorrow." Karin offered, and Ichigo grinned.

"Keep Rukia safe." Isshin said, and Ichigo's face turned serious.

"Always." Ichigo replied, and then the TV screen went black. The Soul Pager's glowing screen read, 'Call Ended'.


"He's an animal." Kensei panted, bending over and planting his hands on his knees. Sweat dripped from his face, and blood from a few cuts mingled with the sweat. The cuts were shallow, hardly anything.

Shinji, standing across from him and leaning across a boulder, nodded. "He's an eager study. He loves to fight, loves to get stronger. If it weren't for his moral compass, and his conscience, I'd say he's like the Captain Kenpachi Zaraki that Urahara told us about." Shinji replied.

"He'll overwhelm me soon enough." Kensei whispered, and cast a glance over his shoulder. Hachigen and Rukia were healing Ichigo's numerous gashes. While Ichigo would pull his blows against Kensei, Kensei wouldn't pull any of his. As such, Ichigo was a bloody mess. Kensei didn't believe in holding back…but was very glad Ichigo did. Otherwise, Kensei would be almost as bad off as Ichigo was. Kensei was sure Rukia hated him for cutting Ichigo so badly, but Kensei felt that Ichigo needed to be able to take the pain. No pain, no gain.

"He didn't even use his second Bankai phase this time." Rose said, his deep voice calm. The three strongest of the Vaizard were standing in a loose-knit triangle, discussing Ichigo's latest training session. This hideout, like every hideout of theirs, had a basement training level. This one was a bit smaller than the warehouse training room, but it was still big enough.

"No…I didn't give him the chance. I haven't even used Bankai, and I doubt he'd give me the chance. So, I'm not letting him use his second phase. It's near impossible for me to stop him from using his initial Bankai, because if I tried, I'd get blown back. But his second phase, it takes much longer to initiate. That's his weakness." Kensei admitted.

"Hm. So when we all go to fight Aizen, that's a weakness that we'll have to compensate for. No problem, really…it'd be fairly easy to compensate for. We'd protect the powerhouse while he uses his second Bankai Phase, and so on. It'd hardly slow us down." Shinji said.

"I agree. Considering how much skill and power he has, it's hardly a weakness at all." Rose agreed, and glanced over at Ichigo. He was sitting up now, rubbing his head as his mask cracked and shattered into non-existence.

"Damn." They heard him say, and Kensei laughed and shook his head.

"I really hope he doesn't have any idea how hard I had to fight today. He'll never let me live it down." Kensei laughed.

"You never know. He never bragged to Hiyori, when he finally beat her." Shinji said lightly. Kensei, shrugged, and straightened.

"Nonetheless...he's getting damn good. He's the fastest learner I've ever come across…even faster than Kuna." Kensei said, and popped his neck. He holstered his combat knife Zanpakuto, and sighed. "I'm gonna go eat and take a shower." He said, and then left.

Rose ran a hand through his long blonde hair. "Kensei's right. Something about him…gives him not only the will, but the strength to learn so fast. By all rights, he should have drained himself of Spiritual Power earlier, when he tried to blast a Cero down Kensei's throat. It should have left him in shock, too drained to move, but he flash-stepped and blocked a blow from Kensei. There was no pause, it looked like it hardly affected him." Rose murmured, casting a wary glance at Ichigo.

Shinji nodded. "So you noticed too? I have to ask Isshin about the boy's mother. I have a hunch…and I'd like to see if I'm anywhere near right."

Rose arched an eyebrow. "Are you going to share your hunch?"

Shinji shrugged. "Only if I'm right." Then…he walked away.

Rose left as well, leaving Hachigen and Rukia and Ichigo to themselves. Rukia was helping Ichigo to his feet.

"You need to stop holding back! It would do him some good to feel how it's like to get cut into pieces!" Rukia fretted, as Ichigo synched into his body that Hachigen presented to him.

Ichigo stood, dusted himself off, and raised an eyebrow. "Why? He's the one who's training me. Not the other way around. Besides, if I focused on trying to cut him, I'm sure he'd get even rougher." He said, and winced. "Damn. I'm still sore. I need a bath, too." Ichigo complained. Rukia shook her head.

"Did you see how stressed he was? You're getting better." She said. Ichigo shook his head.

"I wasn't focused on that. I was focusing on not getting my friggin' head blown off by his Energy Blasts, damnit." He growled, and then ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "Sorry." He winced as he looked down at her, expecting a kick to the shins or a verbal lashing from her sharp tongue.

"It's fine. You've been fighting for the past two hours. It's understandable." Rukia murmured, reaching up and caressing his cheek. He looked down at her, and she blushed at the look he was giving her. It was so piercing, she felt he could see straight to her core.

"You're never irritable after you've been fighting with Lisa." Ichigo pointed out. Rukia smiled softly.

"Fool, that's because Lisa doesn't cut me into shreds." Rukia pointed out. Ichigo shrugged as he saw Hachigen try to leave stealthily.

He stepped right up to her, their bodies now a mere inch apart. He looked down at her and unconsciously frowned. "No, but you're just as stressed and tired. You don't snap at me, even then." He murmured.

"You're in a rotten mood today." Rukia observed, and gave him a soft smile. "Didn't seeing your family and friends make you happy?" She asked.

"No…it made me mad." He murmured, and looked away.

"It made you mad? What for?" She asked. She reached up to his face with her right hand and forced him to look at her.

"It made me mad…because I realized that I'll never be able to be a normal kid anymore. I'm dead, Rukia. No one knows I'm alive, I can't finish high-school, can't get a job without a diploma, can't visit my family or even stay by their side and watch my baby sisters grow up, can't watch my dad grow old, can't…" He flushed red, and squeezed his eyes shut. "I can't give you a wedding, when we get married. I can't give you the big event that you'll want. I'm not welcome in Soul Society, and we're both known 'traitors'. We can't go out in public, without watching for Soul Reapers, so I can't get us married in a nice wedding ceremony!" Ichigo ranted, and Rukia stared, surprised. She was especially surprised that he said 'when we get married' not 'if'.

He opened his eyes, clearly embarrassed, and stepped back away from her. "Sorry." He said gruffly, and turned to leave. "I'll be in my room." He said, and was about to walk away, when she whispered something.

"Stop." She whispered, but he took a step away. "If you love me, don't you dare walk away." She said, and closed her eyes to fight back the sudden tears that welled up in her eyes. 'Fool! Why are you crying?!' She didn't hear him take another step, but she couldn't rely on her senses. He was too good at being quiet now. She opened her eyes, and saw through the film of tears that he was still there…standing with his back to her.

"Don't you dare try to run from this." She whispered. She took a step towards him, and said, "I don't know how to fix this, I really don't! You feel you're the one to blame, but I was the one who let you come to Soul Society! I was the one who let you be discovered! If it hadn't been for me in the first place, you never would have been this way! You would have never fought Renji, never almost died by Byakuya's hand, never become a Hollow, and you never would have had to deal with this!" She yelled. Ichigo turned to her, his face hard.

"Damnit, Rukia!" He yelled, and she blinked. He would raise his voice from time to time when he was mad, but he had never been angry at her. It had always been some other reason or at some other thing…but now she could tell he was angry at her for the first time. She flinched as he took a step towards her, and when he saw her reaction he stopped.

"How many times do I have to tell you, none of this is your fault. It's mine. The only thing you're responsible for, is giving me the only bit of happiness I've had for a long time." He said softly, and she blinked. Tears rolled down her cheeks, and dripped off her chin. He crossed the gap between them, and she didn't flinch this time. He gathered her up in his arms, hugging her.

"Damn it all…" Ichigo whispered. "If you hadn't shown up in my life, I'd have one hell of a sorry life to live. You're the best thing in my life. I just want to give you what you want. A nice wedding ceremony, a big event, a family…"

She buried her head in his chest and sobbed. "You fool! I don't care about that! All I want is you! If we can't have a huge ceremony, I couldn't care less!"

He rocked her side to side, and murmured, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

She felt him wiping her tears from her face, and she sniffled. "It's not like we're even engaged yet. We've only been together four months…that's hardly anything."

"I know. I'm sorry." He said again, and she angrily punched his chest. She fought back surprise at how solid he was. "Stop saying you're sorry!" She yelled, and he was about to say it again, but he clenched his jaw shut.

"I don't know what you want me to say." He murmured, and she looked up at him and saw his confusion. He wanted to say he was sorry, she knew he was sorry anyways, but he had no idea what to say to placate her.

"Don't say anything." She whispered, and closed her eyes. "Let's go to our room." She murmured, as she held him tight. It was so strange, feeling so angry all of a sudden and then being calm. Sudden mood swing.

The wind whipped around them, as Ichigo used Shunpo without departing from his body…a trick that Shinji had taught him in case he needed to dodge a Soul Reaper without having time to grab his Deputy Pass. They had worked extensively on Ichigo's ability to concentrate and control Reishi and his spiritual power while he was in his body, much like a Quincy could, which in turn improved his strength and speed of Reiatsu control when he was out of body. Rukia vaguely wondered if Ichigo, with training, could make a Quincy bow.

They were still, now four floors down and in one of the large rooms that had just been re-constructed when they got here. It was Ichigo's room, a much larger room than at the warehouse. She and Ichigo had shared a room, so technically it was her room as well, but she always thought of it as Ichigo's room. The reason being, there was a lot of black in it, just like in his other room. Though, they had kept the carpet white as well as the walls…the majority of the furniture was black. She didn't mind it, really, but it made her think it was Ichigo's room.

He let go of her, and she stepped away. She caught his gaze purposefully, and then looked pointedly at the large bed. It had been a while since they had done anything, mainly due to the fact that at night was when the Vaizard liked to strike at Hueco Mundo…and Ichigo was always trying to control his urges. He didn't want to seem like an out of control animal, and she loved the hell out of him for controlling himself so well. Though, sometimes she felt mean for withholding from him. The plus-side, though, was that when they DID do something…it made it that much more intense.

He frowned down at her. "Really?" He asked dubiously, and she smirked.

"Well if you don't want to…" She said, and started to walk away. He caught her arm, lightly, and she fought back a laugh.

"No. Trust me…I want to." He said, his voice husky. The desire in his voice made her heart flutter, and her knees weak. She felt the desire for him start at the base of her belly…and she turned to him. Desire was written all over his features, and there was a hungry look in his eyes.

"Good." She murmured, and leaned up on her tippy-toes and kissed him.

Before either of them realized it, they were on the bed, tearing off each other's clothes. The urges of the flesh were strong, stronger than Rukia had thought. But now that she looked back, though it was hard to do when his lips were nibbling at her collarbone and moving slowly down to her chest, she saw this had been one of the longest times they had gone without this. It had been weeks, almost a full month. No wonder it was such a strong urge. But then, she lost all thought as his lips made it to her chest. She gasped, arched her back, and gave into the bliss.


Captain Byakuya Kuchiki, for the eighth time this week, found himself in yet another Captain's meeting. Now, their ranks were full. No longer were there gaps in their ranks. Thirteen Captains, one through thirteen, were all present. Two of the three newest additions stood perfectly straight, though they also looked slightly relaxed…while one looked bored and put most of his weight on his right foot. They were young Soul Reapers, but no one could deny their strength. Just last month, Byakuya had fought the applicant for Third Company. It hadn't been an easy battle.

Soto Hitashi, the Third Company Captain, stood straight, his sleeveless Captain's coat perfectly white and without stain. His dark blond, unruly, curly hair was almost down into his eyes…and hid most of his eyebrows. It was a similar haircut to the exiled Kisuke Urahara…except Soto's wasn't as long. His piercing blue eyes locked with Byakuya's, and Byakuya knew Soto would look away. Soto didn't back down from a challenge…but he knew his etiquette, and he was polite to his superiors and seniors. He was extremely polite…but Byakuya knew from first-hand experience that politeness only hid the raging berserker that he truly was. He had been a no-name Soul Reaper, to lowly to even get a seat…but that was all an act. He had been a member of Eleventh Company, but he had refused any seated position…until recently. Soto's piercing blue eyes looked away, and to Captain-General Yamamoto.

Byakuya examined another of the newest Captain's, the relaxed and bored-looking one. His name was Draken Shin. He wore a sleeveless Captain's Jacket as well, though the sleeves had been ripped off…fashioned like Zaraki's. His Shihakusho was sleeveless as well, so his arms were bare. He had olive-colored skin, almost like a tan, and dark brown hair. His hair was straight, and the front of his bangs hung down over his right eye. His left eye was revealed, due to the bangs all being brushed over to a slant to cover his right eye. His revealed left eye was half-lidded, giving him a dreamy expression. The rest of his brown hair went down right to the middle of his shoulder-blades, and then stopped. Byakuya had heard he had been a ninth-company low-seat member. However, he had quickly risen in power and claimed his Captain's old position. Shuhei Asagi had been overwhelmed in a fight, without a single scratch on Draken…and that was what had drawn Yamamoto's attention to him. After fighting Mayuri, and almost killing the 12th Company Captain with very little injuries, he had gained Ninth Captain position.

And the last newest Captain. His face was a mask, perfectly calm…almost in a Kuchiki-like manner. No, it was definitely like a Kuchiki. He had long, straight, black hair, like his brown-haired comrade, but his was a bit shorter and instead of his right eye being covered…it was his left. His name eluded Byakuya for a moment. 'No wait. It's…Haruko. Haruko Arazashi. Very strange name…' Byakuya thought. Whereas his newest comrades had their Shihakusho's similar to Kenpachi's, where their chests were almost completely revealed, Haruko had his Shihakusho closed right at the neck. He also wore a long-sleeved Captain's jacket…like Jushiro. He stood rigid, his lone right brown eye staring at Yamamoto with a bored expression as well…but his was a mask. Byakuya had heard how similar he was to himself, wearing an emotionless mask yet being a deadly fighter. This man had fought Hitsugaya, applying for Fifth Company. Not much was known about Haruko, except that he was from Twelfth Company and had eagerly requested the chance to become Captain. Now, there he stood, looking as if he had always been there. Byakuya had heard of his battle with Hitsugaya, and heard it was legendary. A Fire Zanpakuto, a rare Zanpakuto indeed, versus an Ice Zanpakuto. The battle had been spectacular. Unfortunately, Byakuya had missed it due to being assigned that week to look for any traces of Ichigo in Hueco Mundo.

On that note, Byakuya lost himself in thought. He had scoured Hueco Mundo, making it quite far without running into Hollows. He had scoured the area around where Ichigo had been sent, but found nothing. No blood, no corpse…no shattered Hollow mask. Not even his Zanpakuto. Byakuya had reported back, and he was under the impression that Ichigo was alive and abroad in Hueco Mundo. He could only hope.

"I'm sure you all are wondering why I've called yet another meeting?" Yamamoto finally growled, yanking Byakuya from his thoughts. Kenpachi grunted a 'yes'. Byakuya fought the urge to roll his eyes. It had been a rhetorical question.

"Captain Kurotsuchi has been monitoring different portions of Hueco Mundo…areas where it is possible to breach Soul Society. It is a precaution I've had initiated when we banished Ichigo Kurosaki." Yamamoto growled. Byakuya stiffened. He didn't like to remember that day. Ichigo's scream of pain had been the last thing he had heard…and many of Ichigo's friends had openly protested at the measures taken to secure Ichigo. Like leaving the Reiatsu cuffs on, instead of binding him with Kido. But, there had been more cheers than protests…and Byakuya had been sorely tempted to start to slash people with Senbonzakura.

"Mayuri…please explain what you found." Yamamoto requested, and Mayuri took a step forward. Byakuya froze, his heart suddenly pounding in his ears. Had they found Ichigo?

Mayuri made a gesture with his right hand, and a glowing yellow projection hovered above their heads. It was an image of a small area in Hueco Mundo. Mayuri spoke as the image played in fast forward, showing sand blowing off the white dunes. "We detected a dimensional anomaly two days ago, and I've been analyzing this information and video ever since. I've managed to clean the video enough that we can see what happens, though it only takes two seconds. These two seconds…are shocking." Mayuri cackled, and Byakuya shuddered.

Suddenly, the image slowed into a frame by frame progression. "Now, you'll see a strange sight. The air will pull back, open, and that's what set off the alarms." Mayuri narrated. Just as Mayuri said, the air above a dune shimmered…and then opened. It reminded Byakuya of the jaw of a beast widening. Blurs slowly shot out, and Byakuya's eyes widened. As they shot out of the hole, Byakuya counted them.

"Nine, yes nine, different Hollow Reiatsu signatures were detected. It appears they're using some high-speed move…and I've deduced they were using Shunpo." Mayuri said, and made another gesture with his hand. The frames stopped progressing, and froze. Then, the image enlarged and descended to the middle of the space between the Captain's. It focused on one of the blurs, right in the middle.

"This one caught my attention, it's the slowest of them, and it's the only one I was able to clean the image enough to make out their face." Mayuri said, and Byakuya watched as if zoomed to the area that was the face of the blur. It took a few seconds for the image to regain a semblance of clarity, but Byakuya's eyes widened once it did. The face was slightly blurry, but definitely clear enough to make out the features.

"Impossible!" Hitsugaya exclaimed, and Mayuri cackled.

"Apparently not. " Mayuri replied, and Jushiro took a step towards the image that was almost directly in front of him.

"How…how could he have survived?" Jushiro whispered, but everyone heard him.

Byakuya stared, shocked. The white porcelain Hollow Mask was blank on the person's right side. However, on the left side there were dark red lines, on the forehead, under the narrow eye, and under the teeth. The yellow eyes were blurred…and so was the orange hair sticking up behind the mask. But, it was completely certain on who it was. They had all seen the orange-haired Hollow before. 'Hichigo'. But, they all knew it wasn't 'Hichigo'. It was Ichigo Kurosaki, alive and well…and in the midst of eight other blurs. Byakuya knew immediately it was the other Vaizard.

"Amazing. Ichigo survived Hueco Mundo." Kenpachi cackled, earning a glare from Soi Fong.

"Not just that…but apparently the Vaizard now have the ability to tear open a dimensional rift to Hueco Mundo. The analysis I've done, regarding the rank and power increase in the Arrancar…must be because of them. The Vaizard have sided with Aizen." Mayuri said, his voice betraying his slight fear. The three newest Captain's, having been briefed on Ichigo, were staring wide-eyed at the image. They knew of his capabilities, his strength…and now they knew he was alive and siding with Aizen.

Byakuya doubted Ichigo and the Vaizard went to Aizen. First off, Ichigo wouldn't trust the Arrancar. Second, he would try to kill Aizen before asking to become his subordinate. And third…he would never put Rukia in that kind of risk. Byakuya wondered then…what were the Vaizard doing in Hueco Mundo?

"We must prepare all of Soul Society. We must increase our readiness…and prepare for the worst. Ichigo Kurosaki was a powerful Hollow, we can only assume that since he was the newest of the Shinigami-Hollow Hybrids, he was the weakest. I believe, and Mayuri has speculated, that the others are at Espada strength. Aizen now has control of nineteen 'Espada' level Hollows…and Soul Society is doomed unless we can find a way to eliminate them. We must become stronger. Or…the universe will be destroyed." Yamamoto said, and the image disappeared. Byakuya caught Jushiro's gaze. They would need to talk. Jushiro nodded minutely.

"I would recommend you taking your Lieutenant's aside, and work on helping them achieve Captain-level strength. That means, assisting them with achieving Bankai." Yamamoto barked out. "And when the Lieutenant's are up to par, they should teach their underlings to be Lieutenant-level. We must become stronger, larger in number, if we hope to withstand an assault from Aizen and the Shinigami-Hollow Hybrids."

Byakuya nodded, as did everyone else. But, Byakuya actually disagreed. He noted that Yamamoto refused to use the phrase 'Vaizard', and he suspected it was because Yamamoto wouldn't distinguish them from Hollows. But still. Byakuya did not believe Ichigo Kurosaki and the Vaizard would have joined Aizen. He refused to believe it.

"You are dismissed." Yamamoto said, and everyone bowed. They all filed out of the room, silent. As soon as the large meeting doors shut behind them, and all of them were walking down the halls…Kenpachi spoke.

"I don't care what any of you say…" Kenpachi grated. "Ichigo's not some low-life who would flee to Aizen's side. He'd go there to have a hell of a fight."

Soi Fong retorted, "Apparently, he has joined Aizen. Why else would he go to Hueco Mundo? Didn't you listen to his farewell speech, before we banished him there? He refused to help us against Aizen. It appears we've driven him to seek an alliance with Aizen."

Byakuya heard her tone, and analyzed her words easily. She wasn't anti-Ichigo, so to speak…she was angry because now she believed Ichigo actually betrayed them. She had held him in good standing, because of Yoruichi's influence, but now she held him in contempt.

"What gets me…" Haruko, the Captain of Fifth Company, said, "Is where they were coming from. Do you think they are still in the World of the Living, or living in Las Noches with Aizen?" His voice was soft, thoughtful. His friend, Soto, spoke up.

"I've researched Ichigo…a lot. Anything we've had on him, including the Stealth Unit and Surveillance Squad's record's and personality files. I doubt he'd live with Aizen. I doubt he's even in league. He appears to be driven to protect Rukia Kuchiki, and they've been near inseparable since their first meeting. He would still hold a grudge against Aizen for manipulating Soul Society into attempting to execute Rukia. He wouldn't go to Las Noches to join Aizen…he'd go to Las Noches to thin the Arrancar ranks. I'd bet you anything the Vaizard still live in the World of the Living, but they were striking at Las Noches." Soto said. All of the Captain's listened, surprised.

Draken Shin spoke up too. "I dunno. He's a Hollow, Soto. I doubt he'd fight other Hollows."

Soto glared at his friend. "I'm no fool, Draken. I'm telling you…Ichigo's personality files, his information, everything indicates he would protect Rukia Kuchiki above all else. He wouldn't leave her behind, just so he could go to Las Noches to serve Aizen and get back at Soul Society. He also wouldn't take her to Las Noches with him, because of the Arrancar. They would try to kill Rukia. I'm telling you…Ichigo Kurosaki is not a threat to us."

Mayuri sneered, "Perhaps you should have been Captain of Twelfth Company, Soto. You seem to enjoy coming up with ridiculous theories. I've heard you even believe some Soul Reapers can retain memories of their previous life. Any Souls, you believe, can. What a fool."

The only warning they had was the sound of a blade leaving its sheath. The Captain's all moved, except Mayuri. He was notably the slowest of the Captain's anyway. Soto stood, glaring at Mayuri, his two-pronged Katana at Mayuri's throat. The Captain's had all flash-stepped down the hallway a bit, watching…their hand's on their swords. "You've been nothing but disrespectful to me, Mayuri. You may have brains, but you lack faith and trust, and a good moral compass to guide your brains to reasonable conclusions. Don't put me down, when you've done nothing to disprove my theories in the first place. Prove to me Shinigami and Konpaku can't have memories of their previous life. Tell me my memories are all fictional. Go ahead." Soto seethed, speaking through his teeth.

"Ohoho! A fight." Kenpachi growled, licking his lips.

"Enough!" Jushiro barked, stepping forward. "Sheath your Zanpakuto, Soto!"

Soto removed his blade from Mayuri's neck, and they all saw a small trail of blood run down the 12th Company Captain's neck. Soto sheathed his blade, and stormed down the hall towards the Captain's. He brushed past them, and Byakuya blinked in surprise. The boy was unique. He could remember his life as a human?

"That fool!" Mayuri hissed, and his hand darted to his own Zanpakuto. Byakuya intervened before Mayuri could make a mistake that would end his own life.

"Mayuri, if you draw your Zanpakuto…I will disarm you. Literally." Byakuya said, his voice monotone…but his hand was on his Zanpakuto's handle. Mayuri's eyes widened, and he licked his lips for a moment. Finally, his hand fell to his side. He stormed off, leaving the rest of the Captain's standing in the hallway…tense and unnerved by the sudden hostility in their ranks.

"I happen to agree with Soto." Hitsugaya said, breaking the tense silence. Everyone looked, surprised, at the young Captain who rarely gave his opinion. "Ichigo was never much of a threat to us, though I worried if it was indeed him or his Hollow in control. Ichigo would never go to Aizen. It's not in his character." Hitsugaya said.

"But it doesn't make sense. My reports show an increase in power coming from Hueco Mundo. Their ranks and power must be growing." Mayuri hissed, glaring.

"It makes sense…actually." Haruko said. He waited for everyone to give him their attention. When he had it, he shrugged. "From what Soto says, and I tend to believe him seeing as I've never been able to prove him wrong, the Vaizard were probably striking at the Arrancar. I'd bet you that the Arrancar are increasing their strength, to defend themselves."

"You may be on to something…" Jushiro murmured. "But still. We must go to our Lieutenants. We all must help them grow, achieve their max potential…regardless of what Ichigo is doing. We have to operate under the assumption that the worst has happened…otherwise we'll take it too easy and we won't be prepared. Regardless of what you truly think, prepare yourselves as if you were preparing to fight Ichigo. Some of you know how difficult it was to fight him, from first-hand experience, so you'll know how to prepare accordingly. The rest of us…we need to increase our strength as much as we can. We cannot take this threat lightly." Jushiro said, his voice gaining volume at the end.

"I agree." Hitsugaya said. He cast a glance at the gathered Captain's. "However…I'll only say this once. The next person to draw a sword on another…I will personally arrest." Then, Hitsugaya strode off.

Everyone exchanged humored glances, Hitsugaya's threat was so serious it was funny, and then strode off as well. The preparations were under way. The Hougyoku would awaken to its full potential soon, and then they would have to wage war against Aizen and the Arrancar. Whether or not Ichigo and the Vaizard assisted them, they would put up a hell of a fight. The fate of the universes rested on their shoulders…and it was a responsibility they did not take lightly.


VIOLA! That is the first Chapter of Bleach: UNTIL THE DAY I DIE! I suggest you all look up the song on youtube. Good song. :) So, lemme know if you guys liked it or not!

Your Eager Author