Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or any of its characters. They belong to Tite Kubo and whoever else actually owns it and I make no money from writing this. This story however is mine and is not to be replicated, reposted, or copied in any way without my consent. Thank you.
What The Eyes Can't See
There was almost no limit to the number of traits one could name for a certain orange-haired teenager, and even those closest to him had absolutely no idea just how diverse his personality and fighting abilities were. Everything he did, he did with purpose; whether that purpose was clothes-lining his friend so he would stop annoying him, or slicing through a monster's mask with a giant sword to save some innocent soul, he always had to have a purpose. If he did something half-heartedly he would fail, if even the smallest amount of doubt remained in him, his strikes would be off target. Determination defined him, but depression was a stalker only a mistake away. At least, that had been the case; that was, until Ogihci taunted him for lacking a true fighting spirit, one that didn't need a purpose to be able to fight. The effects of that taunt had proved to be terrifying, for his enemies anyway.
To his friends, to her, he was the definition of a contradiction. Though they rarely got together as a whole, Ichigo was their one link. Under normal circumstances, Tatsuki Arisawa would never get together with the likes of Mizuiro, or even Keigo for that matter, but the mystery that was Ichigo Kurosaki actually had them pooling their knowledge to try and get a better understanding of said orange-haired teen.
As the young woman walked down the sidewalk, she absentmindedly kicked a rock in her growing anger. She had never thought she would have to resort to going to Mizuiro and Keigo as a way of finding out more about Ichigo. She could still remember the day she had confronted him about his hidden side, his role as a 'Shinigami'. She had never been as mad with him as she had been that day. She had also never been fonder of him than when he had returned to her much later, bringing along with him the subject of her worries that fateful day when she had punched him into a window: Orihime Inoue.
She tried to stay mad at him, but that was impossible. Even the day when she had let her frustrations at not being able to find Orihime out on him, her anger had quickly evaporated when she saw his haunted expression when he jumped into the hole split into the sky and heard the explanation of a certain geta-wearing shopkeeper. She was frustrated that she still knew so little about him when, at the same time, she knew more than most people alive.
He was usually happy, but he hid under the mask of a scowl.
He was usually snappish, but under the right circumstances he could be even gentler than Hanatarou.
He was usually impulsive, but if need be he could not only follow a plan, but formulate one himself.
He was usually kind, but if his friends were threatened he wouldn't hesitate to fight.
These were things they all knew. These changes he could undergo with the simplest provocation. However, with Ichigo, there were things his friends knew that were absolutes in her mind.
He was smart.
He was disciplined.
He was freakishly fast.
He was monstrously strong, both physically and spiritually.
And there was one last thing they all knew, a thing he had told them not long after he told them of his adventures in Hueco Mundo after he had returned. Truthfully, this one thing scared the living crap out of all of them even though she had masked hers by her usual tom-boyishness. She was only able to keep calm because she knew Ichigo would never break his word, and he had promised them he had it under control. The last thing was this:
He had a monster inside him. Maybe monster wouldn't be the right word, as 'god' may be closer to the right description.
Thanks to his rampant spiritual power, they had all developed enough spiritual prowess of their own to see the beings he called 'Hollows'. They all knew what Hollows did, and they all knew what the mask's purpose was on the monstrous beings. They were beings of pure instinct, things forged from a soul lacking a heart. Their pain would have been a way for pity to enter her once she knew of their existence, had it not been for the way those beings tried to ease that pain. The concept of having her soul eaten always caused a shiver to run through her. It had almost happened once, thanks to one of the things he called an 'Arrancar', and she was in no rush to experience it again.
This 'god' he had inside him…was a Hollow.
He was part Hollow.
What was even more terrifying was his inner Hollow, this Ogihci Ikasoruk, didn't wear a mask. Ichigo himself had to wear one in order to hide the raw instinct that was the common trait between all Hollows when he used that power, but the demon inside didn't need one. Ogichi was a being of pure, unadulterated, instinct. He might as well be called pure power. It was little wonder why Ichigo had to wear a Hollow's mask when calling upon that power, he was basically releasing instinct incarnate into the world and a Hollow's mask was specifically made for the purpose of hiding a Hollow's instinct.
She had yet to see it, but he told them he could form a mask at will in his Soul Reaper state and release power unlike anything they had ever seen. What he didn't know was, he didn't need to show it to them, they could feel it. She could feel it even more than his two idiotic friends, as she had much more spiritual power than them both combined, and hers was still growing thanks to that incident with Yammy. He didn't seem to remember that though he may have gotten better at sensing reiatsu signatures and fluctuations, he hadn't gotten any better at suppressing his own. His spiritual pressure went far beyond heavy and instead seemed to crush the very air around them whenever they were together, and the fact remained that it was even stronger when it didn't have his physical body to go through.
Sometime over the course of their friendship, he had gone from any other karate-toting, emotionally-repressed teenager that to this day she still enjoyed fighting, to a force of nature respected in all of the spiritual realms, without her even knowing it.
This was currently what one Tatsuki Arisawa was fuming over.
Ichigo's done so much in such a short time. He's leaped over obstacle upon obstacle that kept him from first Rukia, then Orihime just a little while ago. He not only learned how to fight with a sword, he's also learned how to unlock his sword's complete potential. Not to mention the fact that he managed to beat his inner Hollow, the thing that he said had more knowledge and fighting skills than any freakin' captain-class Soul Reaper! Tatsuki balled her hands into tight fists as she looked down on the limbs that she had once thought no one could conquer. And what have I done? I'm the second strongest woman in Japan for crying out loud so why do I feel like a child in comparison to Ichigo!?
It was maddening to think of her friend in such a negative context, but she couldn't help but feel jealous of Ichigo's blatantly superior fighting skills. Of course before, she hadn't even been aware of the other world just outside of regular perception, and as such she had since been training her growing spiritual powers, trying to get a better grip on this new power Ichigo had unknowingly pulled out of her. She found it odd that as she felt her spiritual power grow, her physical strength seemed that much easier to use. She was no expert in the department of reiatsu, and consequently she had no idea how to encourage such an ability to grow.
This resulted in some very interesting training methods, to say the least.
The one she found worked the best, however, was to simply meditate. Her karate training was invaluable in that respect, as she had already been taught to focus herself and her energies. With this newly discovered energy source that every human had but most could not tap into, she had had to re-train both her mind and body to be able to calm that sense as well as themselves.
She had always believed in the existence of the soul, but never before had she thought of it in such a physical sense before. For crying out loud Ichigo ran around daily in strictly his soul's form. The thought that the soul could be separate from the body and yet the body could still survive was a thought that confused her to no end. Still, she pushed the thought away, instead focusing on the other important factor this brought up. Now she had three things to train: Body, Mind, and Soul.
As the spiky haired young woman made it home she quickly excused herself to her room to start her exercises again. She loved the feeling of weightlessness that came the more she came into contact with her soul, and the more power she gained from it was an added bonus. She could tell her training was working, as she was able to spend more and more time contemplating the feel of other people's reiatsu in the nothingness she meditated herself into.
The more contact she had with her own growing reiatsu, the more she could feel the reiatsu vibrations around her, made simply from the people in the world living normally. Each person had a different feel, a different texture to their spirit force. She recalled her ability to sense Orihime before, and realized this was just an advancement of that ability.
Orihime's reiatsu was bubbly yet calm, and it had been tempered severely since her ordeal with Aizen and the subsequent heartache of watching her friends get hurt in their vow to save her that had followed.
Chad's was overwhelming, but at the same time it was gentle, seeking only to protect even in the deepest reserves of his Hollow-like ability, exactly like she had thought it would be. Chad was the definition of a 'gentle giant', even if his power was cause enough to be seriously feared.
Uryuu, now there was an interesting case. His power didn't come as much from his own spirit as it did from the spiritrons around him, and that made his power range in ability wherever the spiritrons were the strongest. Still, it took someone with a strong heart and soul to be able to command them to the extent he did. By the end of their quest in Hueco Mundo, Uryuu had more command over his vaunted Quincy powers than even his own father, the renowned "Last Quincy". Unlike the Soul Reapers, his power opted more on the side of control than pure physical might, though with that control the latter came easily.
Tatsuki stopped there to think for a moment. If my spiritual power keeps growing, but it doesn't turn into a power like Orihime and Chad's, does that mean I could be a Quincy? The thought was quickly discarded, as she reminded herself that she had no idea how to control spiritrons outside of her own soul, meaning she was more like a Soul Reaper in that respect. It was frustrating to think that her reiatsu might not ever grow into something more like Chad's and Orihime's had, meaning she would simply stay as a spiritually gifted person for the rest of her life and not able to take part in the adventures her friends were having.
She quickly struck the thought from her mind, as it would interfere with her meditating. Now where was I? Oh yeah.
Their adventures, or misadventures, had been done for some time now, and Orihime and Rukia had introduced her to Renji on more than one occasion. Rukia's power was cold but driven by a warmhearted instinct, and Renji's power was just that: power.
There was one point of commonality between all of her friends' power: they were all driven by the same thing. Underneath all the ulterior motives they may try to put in front of them, Uryuu being the head of that particular line of thinking, they all wanted to protect something, driven by love for another person. Even if the protection fell away, the love would always remain. It could range from something as simple as brotherly love, to something as complex as actual spousal love, but behind it all it always came down to the same thing.
There were very few times when Tatsuki would admit she actually had the ability to love someone more than simply the intense sisterhood she held with Orihime. The tomboy picked on Chizuru for a reason. She knew Orihime was as straight as they came, she was just too naïve to actually consider needing to voice that opinion in order to throw off Chizuru's shameless advances. Her current relationship with the Quincy archer seemed to finally do that for her.
In all her life she had never thought her friends would be able to change as much as they had, and it was all because they were all together in that final battle.
Orihime had finally understood that Ichigo simply couldn't love her.
Hell, I doubt Ichigo's able to love anyone, she thought. A little voice in her head fiercely opposed that and even went as far as to hope that that wasn't the case, but Tatsuki beat it back.
Renji's relationship with Rukia, and Ichigo's resignation, maybe even happy resignation, to that fact only reinforced that in her mind. It was as if Ichigo had been waiting for Renji to make his move on the shorter Soul Reaper, and he had even congratulated them when Rukia had timidly told him about them.
Chad had changed too, not so much as having a special person in his life like most of the others had, but he came back with a newly acquired sense of justice. He wasn't afraid to fight, and not only to protect things anymore. He had gained the ability to fight back.
His left arm was a testament to that fact.
Then there was Ichigo, the one topic of thought she had been trying to stay away from since her walk earlier in the day. She had always gloated to Orihime about what she should do to him to make him her own, but now whenever she looked at him she couldn't help the weird feelings he evoked in her. She didn't know what it was, and she sure as hell hoped it wasn't what she thought it was. She wouldn't know what to do if that was the case. For all her gloating she was at a loss.
Maybe it's because I don't know what it is yet. But…could I actually be developing feelings for him? She thought uneasily.
As much as she tried to deny it, she just couldn't force it from her mind every time she thought of him. For as much as she hated herself for being weaker than him, she actually felt herself wanting him… because he was stronger than her. He was not only a friend; he was also a goal to strive for. She wanted to get stronger so she could be as strong as him. Maybe just so she would be strong enough to be able to push that lean body of his against a wall and attack his li—
No! Stop right there! I do not think of Ichigo that way! After a pause and an evaluation of her body, a body that had since been gathering heat in the pit of her belly, she mumbled a curse. Stupid body. She didn't like the fact that since this had started, she found herself getting aroused simply by thinking of him. He was her friend from childhood and one of the few people that wasn't afraid of her demonic temper or her so-called 'unladylike' behavior. It wasn't much of a stretch to think that somewhere along the line she had fallen for him.
Her meditation shattered, she promptly punched the wall nearest her, trying to give herself a physical reason for the tears that had started falling down her face. Dammit, I do not love Ichigo! He isn't even capable of loving me back! More tears fell at that. Dammit stop! Stop!
She cried herself into a sleep that lasted until she was called for supper.
The next day at school came, and was going by without much excitement. That, naturally, bored Tatsuki so much she didn't think it was even worth staying awake for. She did the next best thing though. While the teacher—the unusual, un-teacher-like, teacher—droned on about something or other—she honestly didn't care—she let herself relax until she felt herself slipping into the state she desired most.
In this place reiatsu was as clear as daylight to her and it reverberated in the air around her like the graph of a sound wave. In this place, her mind was allowed to wander, to delve into the deepest depths of her soul to poke and prod at the dormant power she knew was still hiding down there. While that was the major advantage to this exercise, there was one major disadvantage she hadn't taken into account before she had dove into this world.
She was in the same class as Ichigo. Ichigo sat only a few seats away from her.
His reiatsu was so powerful it almost overwhelmed her even in the safety of her own inner world. It was heady and thick, moistening the spiritron-rich environment around her so completely she could barely tell where his reiatsu ended and hers began. The sleeping power she felt in the darkness of her soul resonated with this power, craved it, wanted it almost as much as her heart wanted his body. It was almost like a separate entity lying quiescent in the corridors of her spirit had recognized his power as its creator and wanted nothing more than to be near it.
Before she knew what was happening, that dormant power seized up like the rising of a sea-born leviathan. Her reiatsu flared in the material world, like it was trying to grab on to Ichigo's, the power that was placidly hanging in the air as a welcome addition to the spiritually parched atmosphere the Earth held, allowing all to know that it's owner was absurdly powerful. She couldn't stop it, it just kept coming and coming and coming… and it felt like she was dying.
The spiritually-aware students in the room had either been pinned to their chairs by the heavy pressure the reiatsu was putting on them, or they were staring in wide-eyed astonishment at the power that flowed unabated from their close comrade. They had no idea what was going on or what had caused it, all they knew was their seemingly weak—in reiryoku anyway—friend suddenly released an onslaught of the invisible power and it was latching onto Ichigo's like Yachiru to Kenpachi.
Tatsuki could feel her spirit force in the air around her but she couldn't move, she was completely drained, her own reiryoku was keeping her in her chair and at the same time it was trying to…feed off Ichigo's like a mosquito. She couldn't move, hell, she could barely breathe. It was like a part of her soul was trying desperately to break free of her mortal shell and it hurt. Air was becoming harder and harder to get into her lungs even as she felt herself strengthening as Ichigo' reiatsu tried to sustain her, like it knew what was happening to her.
That was when she noticed that her head hurt and she wasn't sitting anymore. Somewhere along the line she had fallen out of her chair and was now lying prone on the floor. That was also when she noticed her chest was being forcibly pressured in timed compressions.
CPR? Why is someone giving me CPR? Am I dead? She thought hazily.
She didn't know how close to right she was.
Ichigo didn't know what to make of what was happening, all he knew was his friend was in danger. She was losing all her reiryoku to the air, and it almost seemed that it was trying to attach itself to his reiryoku. He had continued to sit, wondering what was going on, but was forced into action when he saw Tatsuki fall from her desk and onto the floor with a loud thud.
Panic broke out in the students unaware of what was going on and Ichigo shot from his desk like a lightning bolt to her side. Living in a medical clinic did have its advantages, unauthorized medical training being one of them. He quickly checked her pulse and found that it was almost non-existent and her breath was coming in shorter and shorter pants, barely making it into her lungs before it was exhaled. Her body was rapidly losing color.
Dammit she's going into shock!
Without thinking, he allowed his father's training to take over and he started the rhythmic motions of artificial breathing to try and keep his childhood friend alive. "Tatsuki you are not doing this to us, you hear me!? Pull yourself together; get your reiatsu under control dammit!"
The regular students—excluding his friends of course, even Mizuiro and Keigo knew what was going on—were staring in shocked awe. Wasn't reiatsu spiritual pressure? Why the hell was the strawberry talking to their unconscious classmate about reiatsu of all things, at a time like this?
His words didn't seem to reach her as her power kept flowing out of her, and instead of strengthening her like Ichigo's had in his initial fight against Kenpachi, hers was draining her life energy to keep flowing. Finally, an idea hit the broody Soul Reaper.
"Uryuu, get your ass over here!" The Quincy came to his side quickly, mostly because the girl that was on the floor was his girlfriend's closest friend, and it would not bode well for him if he were to deny a chance in saving her when the orange-haired teen obviously had a plan to help her, even if it did involve him.
Now the class was truly stunned. Since when did Ichigo get on a first name basis with the arrogant head of the Handicrafts Club!?
"What do you need Ichigo?" Uryuu whispered, surprisingly genuine concern behind his voice.
"You control spiritrons don't you? Can you get her spirit power back into her body somehow?"
Uryuu sat beside him, stunned momentarily that he could come up with something like that…and so fast. All Ichigo's basically asking me to do is the opposite I had to do to him after our first encounter with a Menos Grande! Ingenious! The Quincy teen thought, mostly surprised he hadn't thought of it.
He placed his hand, holding his Quincy medallion, over Tatsuki's throat lightly, careful not to disturb Ichigo's never-ending respiration technique. Thanks to his particular ability, that of making other people's spirit particles his own, he was able to determine the flow and feel of her reiatsu rather swiftly. Not giving her any more time to leave the land of the living, Uryuu hastily reached out into the air around them with his own aura, trying to find all the spirit particles identical to the ones he was feeling. Thankfully, that came just as easily as his ability to discern them, and when he had gathered as many of her particles as he could, he quickly activated Ginrei Kojaku. The web-like bow triggered with an explosion of light, but instead of shooting arrows made from her own reiryoku back into her, which would probably kill her, he held his bow hard into her body, forcing the spirit particles that made up his bow into her body with sheer brute force and his own spirit-manipulating ability.
The air seemed void of almost all reiatsu save Ichigo's for all of two seconds, until Tatsuki's color returned to her cheeks in a flash and she shot upwards into a sitting position with a huge gasp of breath, effectively launching Ichigo and Uryuu away from her and into the rows of desks behind them.
"Owww," Ichigo moaned as he carefully got up and rubbed his sore head. Uryuu had fared no better but had decided not to voice his discomfort, instead choosing to rearrange his glasses into a better position on his face from where they had been knocked askew by Tatsuki's sudden revival. He didn't get long to keep up his smug 'Quincy pride' thing because soon after Orihime had jumped into him and therefore, sprawled them both onto the floor and further mangling the position of the desks the Ishida-heir had been resting against. It was pretty funny to see the buxom young woman planting kiss after kiss on the pained Quincy's face as she gasped muttered 'thank-you's in the gaps between her fevered kisses. Her plan did have one pretty large flaw to it though, which Uryuu, though thoroughly enjoying the treatment, hastily pointed out.
"Urgh, you're welcome…O-Orihime. But…you're p-pushing my back into the bars of the desk…UGH!" he groaned thankfully when Orihime caught on and jumped off him, releasing his sore back from any further punishment from the unforgiving bars of the desks she had practically tackled him into. The girls of the class were snickering and Ichigo couldn't resist adding his own light chuckle at the display, which earned him a pointed glare from a certain Uryuu Ishida.
"Wha…what just happened?" Tatsuki asked uncertainly as she clasped her throbbing head in pain.
Ichigo regarded her with a raised eyebrow. "I'd like to know that too," he mumbled. Turning his full attention to her he said calmly, but not without a certain edge of near deadly determination, "I think it's time you and I paid a visit to Urahara."
Tatsuki gulped silently.
Author's Notes: Well, I though I'd post this here. This is an already completed work I originally posted on another website, but I thought I'd get people's opinions here. So, here's the first chapter. Please feel free to tell me what you think! This was written a while ago, before all of the recent plot, so be warned there will be deviations in later chapters from the canon, that is if people still want me to continue to post it.
Please tell me what you think!
Hope you enjoyed the chapter!