This is an idea that came from my stories Final Battles and After the End. It's about Hyourinmaru And the original Guardian. I've always wanted to do a take on Toushirou's past, and decided to combine my mad ideas with that. I thought of this before the zanpakutou arc int he anime and before the end of the war with Aizen, so there will be some differences from canon as by Kubo and the anime. After all, these are my imaginings from before all that.
Another note, I may have taken liberties with some concepts of zanpakutou and shinigami, so please bear with it.
Some say that zanpakutou are born from a shinigami's soul. That they are an inner reflection of that person's soul. Yet some zanpakutou were older than their shinigami. Perhaps then they were born at the same time as their shinigami, but in reality, were a separate soul, brought together by fate to work with the wielder that suited them best. Or perhaps they were born to that shinigami, and even though the shinigami reincarnated again and again, they remained as they were, always waiting for the next time the same soul came back and reawakened them once more.
For Hyourinmaru, it didn't matter one bit what the legends and folklore said on the subject. For as long as he had been a zanpakutou, he had been different. He was ancient, more ancient than the soutaichou. Perhaps the only one more ancient than him was Ryujin Jakka. But zanpakutou were ageless, anyhow, so that didn't matter to him either. Sometimes, while waiting on his home of ice, he pondered the days when he hadn't been a zanpakutou. Those days when he'd been free.
He'd been born along with the elements. As the universe sprung into existence, and the elements were molded into the planets and stars, as the first specks of reishi began to mold into souls, and life began to form, he had been born. He'd been wild, untamable, and powerful even then. Like many other of his kin, he dominated the heavens, and controlled the very moisture in the world, challenged by no one, doing only as instinct prompted him.
And then, she'd come along, with her long, silver white hair and brilliant turquoise eyes. She was rather small, but lithe. But it was her mind and wisdom that was her most domineering trait. One could see it just by looking into her icy blue eyes.
When they'd first met, she had appeared to him while he was resting from a long flight.
"Greetings, you are the ruler of the skies, the great ice dragon?"
He'd wasted no time. Growling at her unwelcomingly, he told her to go.
Normally, just his roar would have already frightened one away, but the woman did not even bat an eyelid. She just gazed back coldly. "I had come to you in peace, to speak, to make an offer. Will you not permit me?"
"I do not speak to strangers. I want no offers. It will only hinder my freedom," he'd retorted.
"I do not wish to take your freedom away. I just wish the best for this growing universe, and I need your help."
"I am a ruler of the sky and ice and water. I help no one, and have no intention to begin doing so. I see what you're here for. You are here for my territory. I will not give up this freedom without a fight."
She had frowned, but nodded. "Very well, if that is the only way for you to submit."
She'd seemed like a weak, irksome fly, yet she'd beaten him. She'd easily battled him, and forced him to submission. Because he was a dragon, and dragons had pride, he decided that since he'd been met with someone more powerful than he, he'd have to submit. He couldn't live with himself with this loss and humiliation.
"You have beaten me. I suppose you have now taken the rule of the sky and waters from me. My life is now yours to command." He hissed at her in defeat.
"I have no intention of that," she'd said. "I do not wish to take you away completely from your natural environment. I only wished to find a partner. You, as wild as you were, seemed full of potentil. Will you not fight as my partner?"
He had been taken aback. Over the time of his existence, he'd met many other creatures. He had never heard of something like partnership. It seemed unreal. At a time when the universe was forming, and territories were unclaimed, it was every soul for themselves. He gazed at her. "Who are you?"
"I have no name, but I was born around the same time as you, out of the same element. Perhaps we were once even one soul. I do not know. I am a Heavenly Guardian, a Guardian of ice, snow, and water. And you, a dragon of the same, are like my counterpart," she had replied serenely.
The dragon considered her. A Heavenly Guardian? He had never heard of such a thing, yet she had just beaten him, the ruler of the sky and ice. He could feel cold power radiating off of her. It seemed that in all his wild life, he had many things that he was ignorant of. This being, whatever she was, radiated wisdom. With a nod, he accepted her offer.
"Well, I do not wish to burden you with just calling you dragon. It seems crude, and too general. Do you have a name?" she had said, looking at him carefully.
The dragon considered her, and thought to himself. A name. The thought of such a thing seemed childish. But the Guardian was asking him, and since he'd agreed to her terms, he might as well. Thinking for a moment, he said carefully, "I have no name, but I feel as if I should be called…Hyourinmaru…"
The Guardian frowned slightly, thinking about that. Then she smiled, the first time he had seen her do so. "It suits you," she said, running her eyes along his icy scales. "Very well, I shall call you…Hyourinmaru."
How much had he missed, while blindly flying through the skies? There was so much more to the world that he'd known. He flew alongside the Heavenly Guardian as she traveled to all the different worlds and places, helping in the creation of the universe. It was more peaceful back then. She'd taught him many things, and in turn he became wise. She'd also taught him to use his natural power efficiently, and he in turn became more powerful. They met other guardians in their journeys, but not many had a companion as this one did.
But as the universe finally formed, not everything could remain in peace forever, and not everything could stay the way it was. The balance was delicate, and easily shattered by evil. And so it did, about a few thousand years after all was settled, war broke out for the first time. It wasn't very clear what it was about, or who was on which side, but it was war nevertheless. And so, for the first time, balance was completely shattered.
Hyourinmaru snarled as he circled his companion, as she called herself. Over the course of the war, he'd come more to think of her as a sort of master, as she always made the decisions and gave the commands. His lethal tail lashed out, freezing whatever that had to misfortune to touch it. His harsh breath covered the ground with ice and frost. They were in the center of a field. Bodies lay everywhere, and some breathing their last while the enemy trampled their broken forms. About a hundred fearsome creatures, all resembling grotesque mutilations of other creatures mashed together, surrounded them.
"It's no good, Hyourinmaru. There are too many of them. I've spent all my power," the Heavenly Guardian said softly behind him. Hyourinmaru hissed in rage. "Is there not anything we can do?"
The guardian didn't answer. Hyourinmaru took down another gaggle of the monstrous creatures, and contemplated turning and demanding an answer when she spoke.
"Are you willing to make a sacrifice, then, Hyourinmaru?" she suddenly asked. Hyourinmaru hesitated for a moment, and then growled, "There's not much left to sacrifice. We cannot get out of here alive at the moment, so what is there to lose?"
"Your freedom, Hyourinmaru."
Hyourinmaru paused. Slowly, despite being aware that they had little time, he turned to face the Guardian. Her face was solemn, and her eyes sad. He could feel the creatures closing in.
"What do you have in mind?"
"I have had this thought for a long time. You are powerful, and so am I. If we could somehow combine our powers, then it would be so much stronger. I have heard of weapons that contain spirits. They are more powerful than normal ones," she stated calmly, her blue-green eyes piercing into his.
Hyourinmaru was not stupid. He understood. "You will have me become your weapon?"
"I asked if you were willing to make a sacrifice. I am confident that it will work, and we will win, but I will not do anything that you do not wish."
Hyourinmaru gazed at her evenly. "As I have said. There is no sacrifice. We will die here if you do not do anything. And besides, when you beat me those years ago, I gave you my life, even if you did not accept it. That promise still holds true."
The guardian smiled sadly. "I am sorry, Hyourinmaru. And thank you."
The great dragon bowed his head, and the guardian reached up to touch his snout gently. From the moment of contact, he felt a jolt of power rush through his veins, alighting them with an icy fire. He forced himself not to draw back as he felt his material form began to fade away, though the blood in his veins burned more strongly than ever.
Power rolled into him. The great influx was so much that he couldn't hold back the low growl that escaped his throat. His vision suddenly faded before his eyes, and he felt as if his very soul was being ripped from his material body.
The creatures were just on the verge of striking when a sudden blast of tremendous power and light threw them back harshly. They lumbered stupidly outside the direct glow, crashing into each other in confusion.
As for Hyourinmaru, he suddenly felt his own soul connect with the Guardian's, merging into one, and yet still two separate entities. He finally understood why she had thought that they might have been the same soul. His pieced into hers perfectly, like two pieces of a puzzle, always meant to be together. He blinked and hissed as his vision began to return, though all he could see was bright light. He felt some sort of form come back, but knew that he was no longer in the real world. As his eyes adjusted to the light, and he found himself on a plain of ice. Sunlight from a winter sky flashed on the crystalline water, bursting into brilliant spectrums that flashed in his eyes. The ice rolled smoothly out in all directions, rising at the edges where they became jagged peaks of distant mountains. His claws touched the ice carefully. It was as cold as he was. He flexed, feeling a rush of power explode from him, and clouds suddenly rolled in. Snow fell in a rushed blizzard, dancing wildly around him. This world, though barren, was beautiful in its own way.
I am here, he replied. The guardian's voice came from all directions, and yet at the same time, seemed only to speak into his mind.
It appears that your soul and mine were more compatible than expected. We have become one being. I can see you, and that plain of ice. I suppose it is our inner world. It resembles the place of our birth... the ice, the moisture, and the sky… Hyourinmaru, will you answer my call?
Hyourinmaru closed his eyes and growled low in consent.
The guardian looked up just as the light that surrounded her faded. In her hands, she held a long sword, with an odd four-star shaped bronze guard and blue hilt. The blade shimmered with light and power, and glinted off the sun. Her eyes flashed a bright blue and she called out in a confident voice the first words that came to mind.
"Reign over the frosted heavens, Hyourinmaru!"
Perhaps she'd always remembered his as the powerful dragon that ruled the skies before she came. And perhaps he remembered as well, for as soon as the words left her lips, Hyourinmaru felt power course through his spirit. He could almost taste the sky again. He felt himself enter the real world once more, though only as a shadow of his true self. Ice and water swirled around the blade, twisting to form a serpentine dragon shape. Hyourinmaru knew that the Guardian had never really wanted to deny him flight, and so, even though he was a shadow, he soared through the air, new power pulsing through his very being.
With a roar, he attacked, and the Guardian leapt, her blade now sporting a long chain. They attacked together.
The petty creatures stood no chance.
Time passed, but with the end of that war, a new realm was born. The realm of the dead, or at least, the passed on souls, or the new souls not yet born. It was essentially exactly the same as the real world, with many different sections and worlds within the realm. Yet somehow, the Guardian was very fond of this place, especially one such world called "Soul Society". She came to visit often, along with a horde of other Guardians. It appeared that some of the first human souls (humans having just shown up in the universe) had a high level of supernatural energy. They called it 'spirit energy', or 'reiryoku'. It also seemed that the birth of weapons from spirits weren't so rare now. Many spirits had been born, and born to be a weapon- a sword like Hyourinmaru had become. They were the weapons of the human souls with high levels of spiritual energy. The Guardians helped hone the powers of these souls, who called themselves 'death gods' or shinigami. They taught them shunpo, kidou, hakuda, and zanjutsu. The one who taught zanjutsu and the manifestation of the swords was naturally the white-haired Guardian. Hyourinmaru just had to put up with a tremendous amount of being used as a demonstration, and the sudden arrival of others like him, though none were quite like him.
Soon after they shinigami mastered all the techniques and began to teach others themselves, the Guardians came to the realm of souls less, but the white-haired Guardian still came often, having grown a strange attachment to this place. Soul Society was now full of shinigami, all of whom had learnt how to lead souls of the dead to their world. The technique was developed by the Heavenly Guardian herself. By striking them with the hilt of the zanpakutou, which was the name that she gave their swords, they created for them a path that led to the Soul Society.
I do not understand why you are so attached to this place. They have no need of us here, Hyourinmaru said to her one day, when they were sitting just outside of the walls that surrounded a giant wall that was being built to house the shinigami and the few who declared themselves nobles. The Guardian often let him come out of the inner world and fly around. She knew how much he liked actually flying in the real world as opposed to merely their inner world. Though in spirit form, it was just as exhilarating as flying with a real body.
"It feels right. Among the Guardians, there isn't one quite like me."
No two Guardians are completely alike, Hyourinmaru pointed out.
"True, but I am the only one who carries a zanpakutou," The guardian replied.
So now I'm a zanpakutou, just like the rest of them.
"Of course not. You will always be different. You are my companion. Always more than them, always different. But essentially, yes, you are like a zanpakutou. I'm surprised though. One zanpakutou already existed when we arrived."
Hyourinmaru just growled in response. Ryujin Jakka was old, and powerful. He was fire, as hot as Hyourinmaru was cold, though the two got along just fine. Hyourinmaru didn't speak to many of the other zanpakutou often, however.
The Heavenly Guardian suddenly stood. "I have been wondering, Hyourinmaru. That shinigami in there, the one who owns Ryujin Jakka, asked me an interesting question. He asked me whether there was more to our zanpakutou than just our shikai. I replied that perhaps, if it truly thought you its master. Tell me, Hyourinmaru, do you think me your master?"
Hyourinmaru stopped his flight and turned slowly to face the guardian. She stared back solemnly, awaiting his answer. You have beaten me that one time…
"Yet we are still not as close as we could be. You think of me as a master, yes, but not a true master. Not one whom you would willingly serve with all your being. I have not proven myself fully to you, or won your complete respect yet, have I?"
Where are you going with this?
"You are more powerful, more wise now than you were the first time I met you. Whether you instinctively think so or not, you still do not completely accept me. For us to truly understand each other, I suppose we need to have pride in each other. I have pride in you, but you do not have pride in me."
Hyourinmaru opened his mouth, and closed it, letting out a hiss. He couldn't argue. He couldn't, though he had chosen her as his master the first time they'd met, admit that he truly felt this way yet. She was right. In some part of him, he wanted her to prove to him again, now that he'd gotten stronger, that she was worthy to be his master. Worthy to be above him. What will you do, then?
The Guardian looked at him levelly. "A rematch. I will bring you out into the real world again, in your full corporeal form, and we will have another battle. Let the outcome be your judge on whether I am worthy or not."
For a moment, they were still, dragon and Guardian, staring each other down with identical severe expressions. And then, the dragon bowed his head. Very well, if that's what you wish, I suppose I will comply.
The guardian smiled. "Then let us go to a more sparse area."
The entire area was encased with ice. Every single rock, every blade of grass, was either frozen or lay shattered. The air was so frigid that it was a wonder how anyone could still move, and how the blood inside them had not yet frozen.
The great ice dragon, once again completely corporeal and solid, let out a deafening roar as he wove around the figure that stood in the middle of his coils. Many places on his body had been wounded, and his opalescent ice scales were rough and slightly dull looking.
Without warning, he snapped his jaws at the woman again, the lethal teeth gleaming. It would have easily crushed the woman if she hadn't shunpoed away just before the teeth clamped down onto her body. She herself wasn't completely unscathed either. She was bleeding from several places, and her usual silver-white hair and clothing were marred with crimson. But her turquoise eyes gleamed with determination and coolness as always.
"You have gotten stronger. You are probably just as powerful now as I was the first time we met. Perhaps if I was still at that level, I would be dead by now," she said, the corners of her mouth twitching.
Hyourinmaru hissed with satisfaction as he breathed out a rattling breath. The very moisture in the air turned to ice as the wind shot at the Guardian. The Guardian leapt out of reach and waved her hands. Ice melted smoothly to water and back to ice again, forming a series of sharp spears. With a quick flick of her wrists, she sent them flying at Hyourinmaru.
The dragon whipped around, growling in rage. His tail whipped back, slamming into the spears and shattering them. He held back a hiss of pain. The spears were harder and sharper than he'd thought.
The guardian flew into the air now, blue reiatsu flowing from her body. Her ice flashed blue and with a wave of her arm, there from the ground rose a hundred pillars of ice, all surrounding the dragon. As she flicked her wrists again, they began to close in, about to crush him. Hyourinmaru flew up out of their reach as he hissed, "Sennen Hyoro. I only just developed that technique. But it was not powerful at all just now when you used it."
"No, I suppose not. I suppose that if you used it, it may be more powerful, because you made it. But I do have some skill with it, just from watching you," she smirked.
"Yes, you are quite a genius," Hyourinmaru hissed back, still enraged that she'd watched him as he tried to develop new techniques, and used his own techniques against him.
"Your techniques are so very incredible. I always knew you had great potential. If I win, won't you share some of your power with me?" The Guardian said calmly, her head cocked to the side, as if teasing him.
"If you win, then you are my master, meaning that you may use all my power," Hyourinmaru said, narrowing his eyes. "It is not a question."
"Then that's all the motivation I need," the Guardian said softly. Suddenly, she was gone again. She appeared above him. A glow formed in her hand and suddenly, a stream of ice gathered in her palm, solidifying into a blade. She slashed it in front of her as Hyourinmaru's teeth came at her again. "But be warned, Hyourinmaru. I will not hesitate this time."
"That is good. I would hate for my master to be one who hesitates," Hyourinmaru replied. He roared skyward, and dark clouds began to gather. Thunder rumbled, the sound echoing across the whole of Soul Society. Hail began to fall, and suddenly, a hole opened in the sky, and flakes of snow began to fall.
The Guardian shunpoed immediately to an area outside the hole, narrowing her eyes as she saw ice flowers burst into bloom as soon as the snow hit the ground. "Who is copying another's techniques now?" she said, gazing at Hyourinmaru. Hyourinmaru gave an amused hiss. "I suppose it is because our powers are so similar. After all, you believe we were born of the same thing."
"Yes, I do. And now, we will decide which one of us will be master. You may have gotten as powerful as I once was, perhaps more. But I too have grown in strength. I think that it is time that I ended this."
Her whole body began to pulse with power and blue. She leapt forward just as the last flake of snow fell onto the ground and slammed her blade into Hyourinmaru's snout. Enraged, Hyourinmaru's tail lashed out, but she pushed off of the dragon's snout, and, flipping through the air like an acrobat, she landed behind him. Before the dragon could realize where she was, she had dodged his lashing tail and jumped nimbly onto it, running with swift, unfaltering steps up his serpentine body. Hyourinmaru hissed, and reared back, craning his neck back and snapping at her. She dodged with cool ease, flying into the air, over his body and wings, and landing directly on his head, just above his eyes. His eyes burned with cold fire as he glared up at her, but before anything could be done, she had slammed her blade to the area between his eyes, the flat of the blade, so as not to hurt him, and pushed down. There was another burst of reiatsu, and suddenly, the force pushing Hyourinmaru toward the ground increased exponetially. Cold filled his whole body. It seemed impossible that a ruler of ice like him could feel cold, but he certainly felt it now. His body became immobile and he crashed onto the ground, sending up a spray of ice and dust.
The Guardian did not release her hold, even as the dust cleared. She kept her eyes locked with Hyourinmaru's, even as the dragon glared back defiantly. "I have overpowered you once again, it seems. I am the master, the one to rule us both."
Hyourinmaru thrashed for a moment longer against the blade, but it did not even shake. He breathed cold air through his mouth and snapped his jaws, but to no avail. The air brushed off of the Guardian's blue reiatsu harmlessly, like a kitten's breath, though it plunged the surroundings into more ice. The jaws could not reach her. He looked into her icy blue eyes again, and seeing once more the tremendous power in them, realization hit him.
From the moment that he'd first met her, he could not surpass her. She was always to be the master, and he the shadow, no matter how strong he was, or how alike they were. They had been born around the same time, born from the same things, but she had always been more powerful, always been destined to be the dominating force.
He slowly stopped thrashing and growled in defeat. He knew that he was beaten. There was no way to win. Yet he felt no humiliation. Perhaps it was the fact that she'd beaten him so soundly, so absolutely that there could be no question. He didn't feel humiliated to have been beaten by such a powerful opponent, because he knew that there wasn't another who could have ever challenged her in the first place.
"I am you, and you are me," The Guardian spoke again, as Hyourinmaru's body began to fade, condensing into a sword gain. "We are one soul, yet two at the same time. I have beaten you at your full strength, so will you finally see me as master?"
Yes. You have beaten me. You are the true power of us two. I am only a shadow, but I am proud to be your servant. To serve you is an honor, for it is an honor to have such a powerful Guardian as my master.
"I will not call you a servant. I am proud of you as well. You are my companion, but I will always be your master. Now that we have proven that point, let us grow stronger, together. I can fly on my own wings, but if you lend me your wings, and I lend you mine, we can be so much more. Do you agree, Hyourinmaru?"
There was another tremendous burst of reiatsu, the likes of which that was so great that all the souls in Soul Society felt it. Ice and water swirled around the heavenly being, molding into two magnificent wings of ice. Ice claws covered her hands, and even a powerful tail formed. She smiled. It truly felt as if she now carried a part of Hyourinmaru with her.
"I think that when you are in this form, I will give you a new name. A name that this form demands and deserves. Daiguren Hyourinmaru."
Bankai. That's what the shinigami called it. Hyourinmaru found now that he could materialize into the real world for some time in a corporeal form, though he always had to return to the inner world in the end, as it took energy to maintain a corporeal form. Unlocking bankai also gave them a level of communion beyond what they had before, and allowed their powers to pool into one reservoir, allowing them to reach new heights and develop new techniques.
Years after the Heavenly Guardian managed to commune with Hyourinmaru to an even greater extent that prompted him to finally give her all his power, the other shinigami, always eager to learn from her, also tried it. But it was rare, only a handful of shinigami ever succeeded in achieving it. And none of their bankais could quite compare to Daiguren Hyourinmaru.
As the for the heavenly pair, they did indeed grow closer, sharing knowledge, developing new powers, growing stronger all the time. Soon, they were the elite, even among the Heavenly Guardians. Hyourinmaru, when he first sprang to life from the ice and water, had never imagined that he would form a bond like this one. It wasn't one of friendship, or comradeship. It was so much more, something unexplainable.
"Hyourinmaru, have you ever talked to any of the other zanpakutou?" The Guardian asked one day.
Not really. Most feel me too cold. Why do you ask?
"You seem to be lonely. You only speak to me. Do you not want someone more like you to speak to? As in, in a more similar situation?"
I have never thought about it. There are a few who have spoken to me, but not often.
"Oh? And who are they?"
They're the young ones. The ones that are newly born, and have not had the rumours of my coldness implanted within their heads yet. They probably will soon though, and will then shun me. I do not wish to form bonds when that is the case.
"Perhaps you should. It is helpful to have companions."
I have you.
"And I may not be here always. War is coming again, Hyourinmaru. I can feel it. This time, who knows what will happen?"
Even now, Hyourinmaru didn't know whether she had really known the future, or it had been just a lucky guess. War did indeed sweep over them again. It appeared that the shinigami, in all their obsession with building Soul Society, had neglected some of the souls in the world of the living. The souls, growing more and more despaired, had eventually lost their hearts and became emotionless monsters, seeking only to kill others, and devour their souls. Hyourinmaru thought grimly that they seemed to almost resemble the monsters that they'd first fought when he was forced to become a zanpakutou.
The monsters, dubbed 'hollows' by the grim shinigami in accordance to their hollow where their heart used to be, varied in strength and intelligence. Some had only the intelligence of wild animals, and some were so keen that they surpassed even most of the intelligent races of creatures. But one thing existed for them all- a terrible thirst for blood and souls, particularly souls with power.
The shinigami found that their zanpakutous now served a purpose more than just leading souls to Soul Society. The blade seemed to purify the hollows, sending them to Soul Society as well. They weren't sure why, after all, no one really knew when and why zanpakutou came into existence in the first place, but wasted no time in questioning it. They fought, day and night, for if they didn't, they would be killed.
Most Guardians had decided not to involve themselves in this war. The ice guardian of course, did all she could to help protect the world that had become so dear to her. A few of the living, those who possessed some level of power, also helped fight, if only out of survival, but their forces were thin.
And it had cost them dearly, Hyourinmaru thought, horror filling every fiber of his being as he watched the Guardian fall, having used all of her power, and her life force, in a huge burst of power that severely decimated the opposing forces. He materialized into the real word, and flew as fast as his body would allow him, catching her before she hit the ground, and shooting out of the battlefield as fast as he could. They had fought valiantly, but had been on the verge of loosing. From the distance, The Guardian had saw all, and knew that all would be lost if she didn't do anything. Gathering all her power and feeding it with her own life force, she'd unleashed it at the hollows in a furious rage. The pure, heavenly power was too much for the hollows. Even the most powerful could not stand up to it. Seeing their forces destroyed in front of them, the few remaining hollows were filled with fear and escaped the battlefield, only to be met with the other shinigami. The shinigami had no trouble defeated the scattering and terrified hollows.
But Hyourinmaru didn't care for all that. He landed gently upon the now frozen ground of a plain of ice, created by the blast of power and resembling impeccably the plain of ice of their inner world, the Heavenly Guardian lying limp over his back. She slid off like a sack of potatoes, eyes closed, blood flowing freely from wounds all over her body, and her life dwindling away.
Hyourinmaru growled and nudged her, fear and despair filling his heart. Why didn't she call for his help? Why did she have to sacrifice herself like this?
The pale eyelids fluttered, and opened weakly. Hyourinmaru felt a slight bit of hope as he saw the brilliant turquoise eyes gaze up at him, still clear and aware.
"I'm sorry, Hyourinmaru…"
"No, do not speak. You will-"
"My time is up, Hyourinmaru. I cannot be saved." They guardian spoke quite calmly, as though speaking of the weather.
"No! You will not-"
"Let me finish, Hyourinmaru," The Guardian interrupted weakly. She closed her eyes, and for a moment, Hyourinmaru feared that she had lied and was leaving this world now. But a moment later, she opened them again and her gaze, though clear, seemed to be staring at something far away.
"I have had a good life. I do not regret sacrificing myself for Soul Society. It is an important world, and it is precious to me. I did not want to lose it. But now…I can no longer watch over it. At least, not as I am…"
Her gaze focused on Hyourinmaru. "I will give you one last gift, Hyourinmaru. You have served me well, and are my closest companion. I want to give you something to help you in the future…" she lifted a weak arm, and touched Hyourinmaru on the snout. He wanted to draw back, but a sudden influx of power froze him, not allowing him to move. He hissed, but could not stop it. He felt his veins alight with power, more power than he'd ever felt before. His eyes widened as he felt his body seeming to dissolve, but he did not lose his form. He felt himself shrinking, his icy body turned softer and human, and scales turn to silken robes. His eyes, though he did not know it, turned a brilliant ice blue, and the spines on his head softened to silky, silver white hair, flashing blue in the light of the reiatsu. His wings and claws faded, to be replaced by arms and legs. For a moment, he realized that he had turned into a human form. In shock, he felt his heart cry out in panic. But then, the power stopped, and as soon as he had wished it, he felt his scales come back, his claws formed, and wings sprouted from his back.
He stared at the Guardian as she laughed weakly. "You almost resembled me for a moment. I suppose we really were one soul…" She sobered at Hyourinmaru's demanding glare. "A human form, Hyourinmaru. I think you will find it useful. I also transferred the remaining of the power in this body to you."
"Why?" Hyourinmaru hissed in rage, as he noticed all his weary and wounds from battle heal, and knew that she had given him her life energy as well, even though she did not tell him so.
"Did you really think I intend to just leave? I only ensured Soul Society one victory. This conflict between hollows and shinigami is not over. I couldn't protect them all. I couldn't save all of them. One day, another evil will come. Because of that, I will be back. I may not be exactly the way I am now, but…it will be enough. It may be a long time before I can truly be back though. So please... wait for me…"
Hyourinmaru felt a sudden jolt. Did she mean…?
Her eyes closed again, and it was a long time before she opened them again. Her eyes were dimming. Her whole body was fading, beginning to dissolve into sparkling dust. Hyourinmaru struggled to say something, but found that he could only manage a low growl, his throat seeming to clench too much for words. But she interrupted him in a clear voice, "Listen well, my true reincarnation will far surpass me in power. I know it. I hope he can do what I could not. I hope… that you can share with him… an even closer bond than you have with me… Goodbye, Hyourinmaru… until we meet again…"
With one last final smile, her body dissolved into sparkling ice dust, blowing away with the wind.
Hyourinmaru didn't truly believe or understand her words, not at first. At the moment when she'd faded to dust, the numbing pain that overwhelmed his senses didn't allow him to think much beyond his grief. He'd watched as Soul Society rebuilt themselves, never really truly known what the Guardian had sacrificed for them. But then again, they'd never truly known her.
But he couldn't maintain his form for long and lost consciousness, and when he awoke, found himself once more in his inner world, having lost connection with the real world, crouching restlessly on his plain of ice. On that plain of ice, he waited. He knew that the guardian would return, but he doubted that anyone would ever be the same as her. No one could possibly form a bond with him closer than that he had had with this guardian.
He watched as the first reincarnation came. She was only a little like the guardian, treating him only as another zanpakutou. She was powerful, but she never truly acknowledged Hyourinmaru's words that she was more than a normal shinigami. Without her bankai, she was killed in a battle against many hollows, and Hyourinmaru retreated again into his icy world, dark and empty with no one to share it.
He spent the time waiting developing new techniques, ones that he would teach to the new Guardian to ensure that nothing ever happened to them.
And it happened again, and again. Each reincarnation carried at least one trait of the Guardian's, but none of them were quite competent enough. Still, Hyourinmaru noticed that they were becoming more rare, yet they were also more and more like the Guardian every time.
He watched over each of them, watched them grow, and ascend the ranks of the newly founded Gotei 13, founded by the most recent wielder of Ryujin Jakka. Watched as they died in battle. None ever made it to bankai. And every time, Hyourinmaru blamed himself, but never as much as he did for the first Guardian's death. He never truly formed as close bond with them as he had with her.
He had thought that the true reincarnation had come with that last lieutenant. He had liked him. They understood each other, and had a close bond. He could say he was almost ready to call him master. Battling against a raid of vasto lordes and other hollows, he managed to tap into some of the Guardian's power. It seemed that he had finally awoken. Certainly, he had become very powerful, even cracking the large hill in the middle of Seireitei to a towering cliff. Hyourinmaru wondered if at last, his master had returned.
It was a vain hope, however. The shinigami battled the vasto lordes, and defeated them. But he was wounded so very badly. In a last burst of power, one that was hauntingly similar to his predecessor's, he managed to kill all the hollows in their stronghold, but consequently ripped his body apart, plunging Hyourinmaru right back into his icy plain.
Hyourinmaru despaired. It seemed that the Guardian had lied to him. But he will not give up hope. No, even if it were forever, he would wait for the return of his true master.
There were only a few zanpakutou who ever spoke to him. The rest avoided him, knowing of his coldness. One was named Tobiume, who was a cheerful girl with a kind demeanour. She didn't fear him at all, and visited him often, though she wouldn't drop the great respect that she always demonstrated around him, however many times he told her to stop.
Another was Senbonzakura. The two had only spoke once, when Hyourinmaru had chanced upon the zanpakutou during the life of one of his shinigami. The man showed no fear, and treated him as any other zanpakutou (that didn't get on his nerves of course).
He had also met one named Haineko. She was feisty, and stated bluntly when they met that she didn't know how to speak dragon, to which he spoke in a human tongue just long enough to tell her to get out of his world. He knew that he had a human form, but he detested it. For one, it didn't look as menacing as his dragon form. For another, it reminded him too much that the Guardian had given him the last of her life force and power. The thought always made guilt rip through him.
It had been about nearly a thousand years since the death of the last reincarnation when Hyourinmaru found himself one day, while crouching on the plain of ice, sending his senses out to see if a reincarnation had come, being interrupted by a familiar voice.
"Sulking again, Hyourinmaru-sama?"
Hyourinmaru looked behind him, irritated to see Tobiume stepping gingerly over the plain of ice. They had found that they could visit each other even though they didn't have shinigami in the recent years. It was somewhat of a relief for him, for the visits helped ease his loneliness and he liked the other spirit well enough. However, he did not appreciate her interruption or comment right at that moment.
"I am not sulking. And I do not understand how you can call me 'Hyourinmaru-sama' and insult me in the same sentence."
She smiled. "Looking for a master again? I understand your feelings. I haven't found my master for nearly as long as you have now. Or at least, that's what my situation was until just today."
Hyourinmaru realized what she was saying. She had found her master again. She was saying goodbye. Again.
"Congratulations," he said in a voice devoid of emotion.
"Thank you, Hyourinmaru-sama."
"Do not call me that." He didn't deserve to be called that after failing his master so many times.
"I'll stop when you find your next master. How's that?"
If only she had known how soon that it would be. Barely had she left when Hyourinmaru suddenly felt it. A flash of reiatsu that was achingly familiar, though he hadn't felt it for nearly 1000 years. Excitement flooded through him. Was this one it? Was this finally the true reincarnation?
He felt his soul connect with this one. The reiatsu felt so alike the Guardian's, only dulled. Concentrating hard, he conjured up an image. He saw a young boy, looking at the moment no older than five, lying on a field of snow and ice. It was winter in Rukongai. The boy had wild silver white hair, and when he opened them, brilliant turquoise eyes. For a moment, he seemed to look directly at Hyourinmaru, though he couldn't possibly see him, as this was only a conjured image. The eyes, however, burned with a wisdom and power much beyond the years of the boy. For a moment, Hyourinmaru was startled. He'd thought he was staring into the original Guardian's eyes.
He watched as the boy's eyes closed again, and he let out a small sigh. But at the same time, a brown haired girl just happened to pass by. Seeing the strange bump in the snow, she rushed over, pulling him out of the snow.
"Are you all right? Are you new here? I've never seen you before, I would know because of your eyes and hair," she said, frantically," I'm Hinamori Momo! I live here, what's your name?"
The boy looked up at her, his eyes slowly focusing on her face. He frowned and concentrated for a moment. "Hitsugaya…Toushirou…" he answered faintly.
Hyourinmaru withdrew from the vision, his whole body quivering with excitement.
He was sure of it.
The Heavenly Guardian had returned once more.
I look forward to see what you can do, Hitsugaya Toushirou.
A few quick notes and explanations. I have edited this story somewhat from the original, so those who read it when it was first posted may have noticed some minor changes. I don't think they affect much though.
I'm not sure how many people noticed, but I alluded to the fact that Soul Society was one world in the Realm of the Dead. This just seems to make more sense to me considering how long souls live, and how big (or rather small) Soul Society is. There's no way that all souls that have ever died on Earth and souls that are to be born all live there, as that would be a huge overpopulation problem all the time and the system would not work. My personal headcanon is that there is a Realm that are just for souls, and many different worlds there. Each is responsible for one area or country on Earth, though this is not a hard and fast rule, and some shinigami may go into other countries once in a while and send some souls on. Where you end up depends on which 'pathway' (eg if a Soul Society shinigami sent you on or another one from a different world, or maybe some places have special 'gates' that souls naturally find themselves going through) you went through when you died. That explains why most of the souls in Soul Society are Japanese- they deal mostly with Japan, and have adopted that culture. You see a few other races here and there, and that's mostly due to random chance meeting with a Soul Society shinigami because once more, the Living world's borders aren't as strict to them. The other worlds probably will never come up in this story, though. The worlds are somewhat connected though, existing almost like separate 'countries', but for the most part they keep to themselves.
Furthermore, I am of the belief that each zanpakutou corresponds to one soul. However, the souls are usually reincarnated again and again, though they keep the same zanpakutou. The zanpakutou generally don't speak about previous incarnations to their wielder, and some wipe their memories of their previous incarnations each time, as a way to focus on their current incarnation, though some remember other zanpakutous. If a soul is destroyed, a zanpakutou generally also dies. If a soul merely dies, however, a zanpakutou main remain for a while, but if they linger too long they end up being driven mad, or too exhausted to do so and retreat to their inner world to wait until the next incarnation comes along.
Wow... that was a rambly note... if there is anything else that needs clarification, feel free to tell me in a review or message me. Otherwise, I hope you have enjoyed reading this introduction of sorts and will continue on to the rest of the story!