"Let's take the long way home, Ichigo."
"But mommy, it's starting to rain…"
"Don't worry, I brought my umbrella."
He grinned, squeezing her hand a little.
"Ah!" A car sped by through a puddle, splashing mucky water right onto him.
"Oh my, oh my, what a bad truck. Are you okay, Ichigo?" She pulled a cloth out of her pocket and began to wipe his face. "Sorry. Here, let's switch. I'll walk on the roadside.
"It's okay! I'll stay on this side. I'm wearing a raincoat, so I'll be fine!"
It'd been such a carefree smile too....
"Why are we stopping. …Mommy?" He tugged on her skirt.
"We're waiting for someone. A friend of mine."
"… Okay." He smiled up at her as they both shared the umbrella, then froze as a strange dark shape loomed over them. His eyes went wide, he took a small step back, and tried to speak.
"Look out! Run!" Ichigo remembered his panic as that humongous, masked monster leered at them that day. His mom didn't pay attention to the monster with an Angler-fish type lure protruding from his forehead. In fact, she seemed....
"Shhh, It's okay, Ichigo. Calm down."
She seemed calm.
He was rigid, unable to take his eyes off of the threatening entity.
"Do you trust mommy, Ichigo?"
"Whoa!" The teenager started violently upright and awake, a cold sweat breaking out upon his skin. Startled eyes darted this way and that, until he finally recognized his makeshift home in Rukongaki. He'd been living here for the most of his foreseeable life
'That dream again...
"Are you done screaming yet?" A deep, irritated voice snapped at him, resonating from somewhere within his head, startling him, even after all this time. "You're making a ruckus."
"Um...Yeah." He breathed at last, hoarse from so much crying, as he'd apparently been weeping in his sleep again, something he still had yet to understand entirely. "I think I'm good. Now, whaddya want, old geezer?"
"Bakame." The voice spit back at him as he got out of bed, which was little more than a sack of hay for a pillow, and a ragged curtain used for a makeshift blanket. "Show me some respect. As I said yesterday, you'll likely attract more attention this year, and that puts you in even more danger than before. Hollow will stop at nothing to devour you, thanks to that constant reaitsu you're emitting."
"Yeah yeah," The teenager bent down to the bucket of water he kept at the foot of his door, splashing the cool liquid upon his face to regain his senses. "I know, end of the world, gloom and doom, that sorta stuff, right?"
The reason for this disembodied voice, you ask?
Last year, on his twelfth birthday, well, he wasn't sure if he really was twelve then, he'd just picked a day for his birthday and stuck with it, he'd begun hearing this voice, that of an old man, speaking to him. It'd been whispering to him for awhile
And he didn't even know the geezer's name.
Over the years, it'd gotten worse, louder, and now, the mysterious stranger spoke to him almost daily, interjecting its own opinion into his thoughts and ideas. He'd asked Renji and Rukia, his childhood friends about it, this voice that only he could hear, but Renji just laughed at the notion, whilst Rukia would put on a puzzled expression and shrug, saying she didn't hear anything.
"A vast oversimplification," sighed the wayward spirit with an air of frustration, "But yes, we'll go with that for now. It's not my place to tell you what must be done, you have to figure it out yourself. You'll know what you have to do, when the time comes. Enjoy the next few days while you can. Once this week ends, everything will change."
Before Ichigo could ask what that meant, a voice intruded upon his thoughts and the ragged pieced of wood he'd used for a door, trembled once, shook violently, and caved in at his feet, tipping over the bucket and soaking the dirt floor of the hut.
"Ah, there ya are, Kurosaki."
"Eh?" He froze, eyes narrowing as a shadow framed the door. "Howddya know my name?" The fellow was a tall, slender man, his features hidden behind a black shihakusho and the badge of a lieutenant worn round his right arm
His lavender purple hair, and eerie smile, left the boy on edge. If this man was a shinigami, then that meant he was trouble, and trouble was the last thing Ichigo Kurosaki wanted to encounter, especially when he hadn't stolen...erm eaten breakfast already.
"O-Oi, who're you?"
A cold hand lashed out, seizing him by the wrist. He froze, feeling as if the life were being drawn right out of him, just by this man's, this shinigami's touch.
"H-Hey!" He struggled, but to no avail, he was held fast. "Lemme go!"
"Mah, mah, stop whinin'," The man chided, roughly dragging him into the street, despite the boy's best efforts to resists. "Take it easy, I ain't gonna hurt ya."
That...turned out to be one big fat lie....
Five minutes later Ichigo cursed himself, lying in a broken heap upon the ground. This guy...he wasn't normal, he wasn't normal at all! He'd been mercilessly kicked around Rukongai, all the while being chided to 'let it go'.
Let what go damnit?!
Yes, that would be you. A deep, masculine voice echoed in his ears, bringing him pause.
All the colors of the world faded to grey, faceless, nothinginess. The man, his sword pointed to the boy's temple, had now frozen in its extended flight, a mere centimeter from striking the killing blow.
Face me, Ichigo.
There, floating in the abysmal darkness before, was a rugged looking man, his long hair streaming as if blown by some invisible wind, as was the cloak in which the rest of his body seemed to hide itself within. Eyes, hidden by tinted sunglasses, bored into his own.
Why are you running away from yourself, Ichigo?
All at once, he was kicked, landing rudely upon the floor, as his body bounced once more upon the pavement. When he tried to breathe, a thick wad of blood escaped his lips.
You still haven't called me yet. The man continued, his voice taking on a darker tone.
"Gah," He doubled over clutching his stomach. "Why the hell did you kick me?!"
Face forward, Ichigo! The man urged, looking him square in the eye, with such intensity that he actually froze there for a moment, both in his mind, and in the real world. You should be able to hear it now. The only thing plugging your ears is your own fear.
There's only one enemy, and there's one of you. So what is there to be afraid of? A cold, ruthless scowl formed upon the dark man's face, giving him an even more menacing look. Voices, his, the man in black, and countless others, rushed through his skull, flooding him with emotion.
"Abandon your fear."
"Don't give an inch!"
"If you retreat you will age."
"Be afraid and you will die!"
At his side, flashing into existence, a blade bathed its master in blue light, mingled with that of a shattered hilt. His body, motionless until this point, now whirled about, grasping the hilt with such force that his palms actually bled from the strain.
"Now!" The man commanded! "My name is...
"Oh?" The shinigami arched an eyebrow, his eyes becoming visible for the first time during their one-sided scuffle. "What...do we have here, hmm?" The boy's reiatsu, which had been relatively low to begin with, was no approaching sixth seat level, and still rising.
Interesting. He'd had the potential to begin with, but now, he'd just needed a push...
He took a deft sidestep away from the overflow of reiatsu that arced past him in a flash of azure flame, spitting smoke and lightning every which way, almost as if a miniature thunderstorm had been born upon the blade's release.
There, kneeling in the smoke, was Ichigo. Bluish red mist still swirled at his feet, forming a small circle as the haze finally began to fade.
In his right hand, he clutched a metal hilt wrapped in cloth, part of it trailing in the wind his power had created. No guard could be seen upon its form, for from this cloth wrapped hilt, came a large blade, rather resembling an oversized butcher knife, its edge a shining silver, its flat, a deep, ebony black. It was one blade, no guard, nothing.
A pure, raw, unrefined power.
"Hmm." Gin Ichimaru frowned slightly, eyeing the huge gash that had been ripped into the streets of rukongai. As he saw that the boy was leaning directly agains the sword for support, he chuckled. "Ya really tore up the place with that one." Ichigo, he'd passed out from drawing his sword, and now, his reiatsu hovered at that of an average fifth seat.
The boy's reaitsu was wild, rough, and coarse, both as much a danger to himself as it was to others. If he hadn't been found by the end of the week, he'd most likely have self destructed from it.
With a barely audible grunt, Gin picked Ichigo up, sword and all, wincing at the weight of the sword, and the lack of weight from its master. Kami! The boy was little more than skin and bones!
Tsking to himself, the lieutenant gave a long, heavy sigh. "Yare, Yare. Yer a scary one, ya know that?" He understood why Aizen wanted this boy, he'd realized it from the moment he'd skewered the door with Shinso and observed the boy's furious reaction.
With the proper training...
This lowlife could surpass them all.
Taking that, and the apparent malnourishment of Ichigo, Ichimaru decided he'd best report his findings to Aizen, and with a quick one two step, dissapeared in a flicker of shunpo...
Next time: Academy days.