Ichigo ran, he ran for his very life, gasping and panting, throwing himself forward as the thin blade whisked through the air, and with it, came a few strands of his orange hair. This was insane! Urahara was batshit crazy! Who the hell just drew a sword out of their cane and started swinging it around like that?! And why the devil was he laughing like a maniac?!
"Wait a minute," He began to think, "Why am I running? He pulled that sword out of his cane! There's no way he can cut me with it!"
Slowly, the strawberry began to turn-
With a rush of steel, several more strands of orange hair flew into the air. The broken blade, damaged initially by Byakuya now fell to the ground, missing what little remained of its edge and left with little more than the guard and hilt.
"You let your guard down." Kisuke replied to the gobsmacked look upon the boy's face. "You thought, because I'm not a soul reaper, I couldn't have a zanpaktou." Twisting his thin sword to the left, Urahara frowned. "And right now, you're probably thinking there's no way I can hurt you."
A sigh escaped his lips.
"Awaken now! Benihime!"
With those words, the cane glowed red. Before his very eyes, that little thin blad contorted, twisted, distorted itself into a fearsome weapon. When at last the glow had subsided, Urahara held a flat blade with a crooked handle and no hilt. Ichigo froze, his eyes widening to the point of extrication as an unseen force assailed him. Raw terror clawed its way towards his heart.
"I assure you, this is a real zanpaktou. VERY real."
Ichigo recalled Renji saying something like that.
"You can't even ask your zanpaktou its name? Pathetic!"
Yeah, those were his exact words, and now they made the newly awakened shinigami think.
"A name? For my...zanpaktou?"
"Yes," A small smirk tugged at feature's of Kisuke's visage. "Each zanpaktou carries a unique name. This one, is..." Ichigo felt his gaze drawn to the gleaming sword held loosely in Kisuke's grip, and is if in response, a trickle of fear wormed its way into is heart. The blade seemed to sense this, and pulsed red. "Benihime, the red princess."
Faster than the eye could see, that same sword lunged for his throat.
"Now, let us show you."
(Bleach Ost music: Enemy Unseen)
By Kami's grace, he somehow dodged the first strike, but still, an overflow of red reiyroku picked him up off his feet, mercilessly throwing the strawberry into the dirt. Wincing as his jaw produced a hideous pop, he scrambled to his feet, only to find a shadow looming over him.
"The...hell?!" Ichigo started in surprise, rolling away from Urahara's strike, swaying under the second only to be violently thrown into the nearby boulder, courtesy of the third move, a brutal snap kick from Hat n Clogs. The impact didn't so much as hurt him, rather than surprise him that he was being so relentlessly outmanuevered.
Spitting out a clod of earth, Ichigo shook his head and tried to rise-
But before he could even think to run, Urahara swept forward from the smoke, Benihime already on a collision course with the young reaper's skull, with barely an inch to spare. No time, there was absolutely no way he could attack, and evade at the same time.
Ichigo dropped flat to the floor.
Though he'd dodged the blazing blade, Ichigo hadn't taken into account just how forcefully Urahara had swung. In other words, the result of blocking, again sent Ichigo Kurosaki through the rocky wall that lay behind him. It shattered from the impact,
"I don't know what you're thinking," Kisuke began bringing Benihime up for a lunge. Ichigo had seen enough, and took that chance to run, scrambling to his feet, clutching the sword and hilt for all he was worth, which wasn't really much at this point.
But too late, Kisuke appeared before him, barring his path.
'Swing! Swing Ichigo!' A voice commanded, but it did him little good in the end.
By blocking, he was forced to his knees, and with another strike, both arms went entirely numb, and with that, he was left with only the hilt of his weapon.
"But if you try to go against me with that inferior weapon...
"I will kill you."
And though surprise now mirrored his visage , it was gone in an instant, replaced by sheer terror. 'Shit!'Thinking only to save himself, Ichigo did not attack, he did not stand his ground. No, he ran, ran as hard and fast as his legs could hope to carry him, then the footfalls of Urahara's sandals fell after him like hoofbeats.
'I've gotta get away! I don't think he's kidding! He's really gonna kill me this time!'
Benihime sliced the ground where he'd been only a heartbeat before, ripping out a huge chunk of stone as it came away. Dust and dirt flew everywhere, stinging at his eyes, choking his lungs, filling his mouth with acrid, dry taste, but still, still he ran. 'This is so pathetic!
He didn't care that his body screamed for rest. He didn't care that his lungs were burning, crying out for air. He didn't care that he was making a complete and total fool of himself. He didn't care.
'What am I doing?!'
He just had to...
'Why am I running away?!'
He had to run.
'Is this all the backbone I have?'
He had to get away from here!
Without warning, his body jerked back half a step, for Urahara had grabbed him from behind, jerking his victim around by the collar, and now roughly heaving the boy to the ground, his face betraying nothing, a mask of cold emotion, all the while. Ichigo however, wore a look of pure terror, darting to the right, just before Benihime could claim his spirit.
'Am I just a coward after all? A complete phony?'
As if to insult him, the blade swatted him from behind with its broad edge, leaving Ichigo unharmed, but still assiting the strawberry in a face plant, that which broke his nose, leaving the acrid taste of blood in his mouth and on his tongue.
'I'm so disgusted with myself!'
But still he kept running, desperate to get away.
'How pathetic! It's pathetic!'
Again the shadow loomed....
Yes, that would be you. A rich, feminine voice echoed in his ears, bringing him pause.
All the colors of the world faded to grey, faceless, nothinginess.
There, floating in the abysmal darkness before, were two women. The first one is a tall, purple-haired woman with a red ribbon around her neck and an eye patch covering her right eye. She wore an indigo cape with a skull imprint on it and a long, dark dress with a significantly low-cut neckline exposing her well-endowed bust. Her clothing resembled that of an oiran, a high-class Japanese courtesan. She also wore a golden bone headdress.
The other was slightly more petite than the latter, and wore a mask, typical of what you'd expect to see from a ninja, over the lower part of her face, the cloth eclipsing both her nose and lower jawline. Furthermore, her style of dress seamed to be a bit more conservative, judging by the close-fitting clothes she had herself wrapped in, their color outdone only by the violet of her hair, which was a great deal longer than that of her companions, falling to the her shoulders, and hiding her face.
Like her sister, she shared the same eye trait, though her eyes were a dull jade, rather than a sparkling emerald teal. If not for their unique outfits, and mismatching eyes, Ichigo could have sworn they looked like they were....twins?
Why are you running away, Ichigo? The second asked him again, quietly.
"I-who the hell are you?"
"*****." The first replied haughtily, a thumb towards herself.
"********." The second answered. "Together, we are your sword."
The words were muffled, as if the sound had been smothered by a thick wet blanket.
"So....who are you again?"
The woman's visible eye narrowed dangerously.
"Did you not hear us?"
"You didn't say anything!"
"Cease your sniveling, Ichigo!" That was different, as the first woman, scowled murderously, her voice taking on an almost malevolent tinge as she hoisted him up roughly by the shoulders. She shook him like a rag doll, until the world spun like a top. "Have you always been this weak? This pathetic?!"
All at once, he was released, not landing rudely upon the floor, but rather, put down gently, her hands clasping him firmly by the shoulders. Idly, he noted that she wasn't quite as tall as he was, like he'd pictured her to be, perhaps a few inches shorter or so. Shaken by the sudden tongue lashing, he remained there for a moment, before slowly sitting up.
You still haven't called us yet. The second woman continued.
(Bleach ost music: On the Precipice of Defeat)
"Face forward, Ichigo!" The first insisted, 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. When now she shook him, it was a gentle 'wake up' kind of shake. "You should be able to hear it now."
The second nodded.
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 smug, defiant smirk had tugged at the first's lips up until this point, but now, it collapsed into a cold, sinister smile. A cold hand caressed his face, sending chilling shiver down his spine before it came away, leaving a red palm imprint upon his face.
"Oi! Why the hell did you slap me?!" He yelped.
"Did it knock some sense into you?" She smiled as though she found this amusing.
"I'll just have to slap you again, then."
"Leave him be, *****." ******** chastised her sister. "Allow him to focus and call us."
*****snorted and stalked back to her sister.
Ichigo mumbled a thank you, still painfull rubbing his sore cheek as the two women faced him. He made the mistake of looking into their eyes, then and instantly wished he hadn't, for he found himself spellbound and unable to pull away. Pain flared throughout his heart. It felt as though a thousand knives were slowly being dragged through his flesh.
"Hear our voice/Hear our voice."
Voices, theirs, his, and countless others, suddenly rushed through his skull, flooding him with emotion. They began to speak as one, their words overlapping in places with eerie synchronicity. He tried to ignore them, blot them out, but they clamored at his ears, righteously demanding his attention. Ichigo clamped a hand over each ear, but they grew louder still. They were inside him, he realized.
Abandon your fear.
"Turn and face him."
"Don't give an inch"
"Now Ichigo! Advance!"
"If you retreat you will age!"
"Be afraid and you will die."
At Ichigo's side, flashing into existence, not one, but two blades materialized. One was much larger than its counterpart, the other was little more than a short sword. His body, motionless until this point, now whirled about, grasping each hilt such force that his palms actually bled from the strain. He recognized it at once. Tachi. Wazikashi. A daisho sword pair. He'd read about them in class, and even now felt the strangest hint of nostalgia. They'd come into existence during the Muromachi period (1336 to 1392).
The cloth wrap of his hilt burned itself black, and the from the ruined hilt, a new weapon began to emerge.
His eyes snapped open, revealing his brown irises to have turned a deep, emerald. Power surged through him, in him, out him, refusing to be contained any longer. The words burned, threatened to rip their way past his lips, as if they had been hanging on his tongue all the while, just waiting to be remembered.
Ichigo set the two blades against each other in a cross.
Kisuke paused, hazel eyes widening as Ichigo began to pull, uttering a poem-like command:
"Hana kaze midarete, kashin naki, tenpū midarete, tenma warau ("Flower Wind Rage and Flower God Roar, Heavenly Wind Rage and Heavenly Demon Sneer")Ichigo intoned solemnly, his eyes narrowing coldly as the daisho sword pair began to pulse an ominous black, feeding more and more energy into the blast as the shikai transformation occurred out of sight.
And then he pulled.
No sooner had he done so, than the entire basement/underground training field was smothered in black light.
Much to Urahara's surprise, Ichigo had actually swiped at him with the hand that still held the newly named zanpaktou, bathed in black light. The intense wave of spiritual pressure rushed outwards from the blade, eclipsing both zanpaktou and master within the smoke.
Urahara nimbly sidestepped the overflow of reiatsu that arced past him in a flash of dark flame, spitting smoke and lightning every which way, almost as if a miniature thunderstorm had been born upon the blade's release.
As the smoke parted. Ichigo lay on the ground, gasping heavily.
For the first time during their scuffle, Urahara blinked.
In his hands, Ichigo clutched a pair of two separate swords, each contained within a bright red sheathe. 'This can't be', Urahara realized, recognizing the released state of the blades, with their dark blue hiltwraps, and bronze hand guards with inward-curved edges, a stylized flame pattern on the long sides, and a simple decorative slit on the short ones.
When the flash cleared, Ichigo's zanpaktou had become a pair of huge, heavily-curved, black Chinese scimitars with silver edges. The hilt and cross guards of each were still the same as they were in sealed state, but they now sport long red tassels dangling from the end.
"Katen Kyokotsu." Urahara breathed silently, both awed by the fact that Ichigo had released his zanpakutou, but more-so by the aforementioned sight that lay before his eyes. "I never expected this." He shuddered briefly, a whole new set of factors whisking through his mind. Of all the zanpaktou, Ichigo had the same one as Kyoraku? This had only happened once, centuries ago. For this to occur...
If Ichigo's shikai was indeed that of Kyoraku's, then this meant that the odds were about to be either against him, or for him. Shunsui's zanpaktou was ridicuously powerful, and at the same time, unbelievably difficult to wield. Of course, the iron law that two shinigami must never posess the same zanpaktou was also more than precedent. If this was the case, Ichigo would be put to death without a second thought. And the thought of him fighting Kyoraku for possession of his sword?
A low grunt alerted Kisuke, reminding him that Ichigo was still very much concious.
Get him. Get him. The insistent cries of his zanpakutou filled Kurosaki's mind, their dual voices always overlapping one another's, and nevere once speaking out of synch. "Repay the humiliation he has dealt you! Return it to him ten- no a hundred fold!
'You don't have to tell me twice.'
Removing the twin pair from the stone in which they were embedded, Ichigo raised his head, revealing an uneasy smirk tracing his features. Stepping forward, the ground buckled beneath his feet, not from his weight, but from the sheer, uncontrolled reiatsu his body emitted. His very body seemed to vibrate with power, lending the air about him a static charge.
"Alright Urahara-san," There was no need for pleasantries, not know, not when his very soul screamed for payback. Twisting his swords' at a diagonal angle by the cloth Ichigo began to spin them about, their hilts locking together as they twirled.
"I hope you're able to dodge this." His voice was even, barely audible under the humming the two wazkiashi produced Brown eyes sparked their defiance as sparks began to fly from their tips.
"Because right now...
Kisuke's frown turned to a scowl as the pinned cloth at Ichigo's shoulders now swelled, then abruptly shattered, spraying across the training grounds with the boy's next words. "I can't control this very well!" Evidently, he wasn't kidding, as that same surge became tangible, rushing across the abyss between them, ready obliterating anything that was unfortunate enough to be in its way.
'I'd better not let that connect.' Kisuke mused idly, looking on as the blast plowed through the ground towards his current position. 'But then again, I'd like to see just what kind of ability his sword posesses...
With a shrug, he raised his blade, ruby red light oozing out from its hilt.
Then Ichigo smirked.
"Urahara-san, where are you looking?"
Kisuke didn't have time to be surprised. No, not when the wall of wind slammed into his back and drew forth a fountain of blood, and certainly not when the second gust slammed into his shield, shattering it like so much glass and leaving him deaf to the world. Glancing back toward Ichigo, he was forced to blink through the red haze that clouded his vision and deadened his limbs. The youth was behind him, holding both scimitars in a criss cross formation, a satisfied smile plastered across his face as the ex-captain's ruined hat land at his feet.
Victorious, Ichigo didn't particularly seem to care that Kisuke could no longer hear him.
"I warned you, didn't I, Urahara-san?"
Urahara glanced at his student, at his own bloodied hand, then down to his favorite piece of headgear. Then back again. After repeating the process for a third time, he finally decided to reach down for his most cherish belonging. No sooner had his fingers closed around it though, then it split directly down the middle. With a sigh, he placed upon his head, only for the hat to flop off seconds later.
Tsking, he returned his attention to Ichigo.
"Now now, that wasn't very nice. I do believe you've killed my hat."
Ichigo only grinned.
"You should be glad that's all I killed."
Running a hand through his hair, Urahara sighed again, though it was a relieved one this time, and not without an anticipatory wince Yoruichi-san was going to have a fit when she saw how...out of hand the situation had gotten. But for, best to let Ichigo off the hook. Ignorance was bliss, after all...
"Lesson Three, cleared."
Aizen Sosuke barely resisted the urge to celebrate as he turned away from the view-screen. This had been the one factor that he could not control. Whatever type of zanpakuto the boy received would essentially be the mold for the battles to come. He had all the raw potential necessary for such an ideal, now it was just a matter of ensuring his growth. Simple enough. But those were matters for another time....
A soft knock on the door alerted him to the prescence of his lieutenant....
"Please, come in, Momo."
If one had the prescence of mind, they would have asked why Sosuke Aizen was smiling so, even as he was given report of Kuchiki Rukia's mysterious dissapearance and her sudden capture. But to know that, one would have to understand the inner workings of a mind more complex than quantum physics. Such a thing was simply not possible. And so, the smile was written off as a kindly greeting, nothing more.
'So...your zanpakuto is Katen Kyokotsu? You've simplified things for me, Kurosaki Ichigo. You have my most heartfelt thanks.'
Next time: Consequences.