A/N: Damn. It. All.
I have no idea why I enjoy writing Ichigo with everyone else's zanpakuto so much. Anyways...here, at long last for those of you who've been waiting, is Tobiume's well deserved turn. All that remains for me to even consider writing might be Hyourinmaru, Sogyo no Kotowari and Wabisuke, MAYBE Gonryomaru and Tenken. I ain't touching Ashisogi Jizou and Gegetsuburi because I'd have to RADICALLY alter Ichigo's personality for that, and that, you all know, is taboo for me. Minazuki has too many possibilites for me to consider, though I COULD give it a stab if ya'll wanted me to. Senbonzakura?? Ryujjin Jakka? Dunno. But at last, I have paired Ichigo with every single Female zanpakuto! My life's work is complete and maybe now my muse will let me work on my other stories!
Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed my zanpakuto project as much as I have. My last Zanpakuto fic will tie all the different Ichigo's, and the zanpakto each one has, into one epic story, but that's a ways off, and a tale for another day.
Until then, enjoy the Sunshine.
The sun was beginning to rise. The first few rays glimmered over the green hills, making them glow radiantly. Finally, sunlight shone over the colorful meadow, causing flowers to bloom instantly. Wonderful splashes of white, and red, and purple, and yellow, and pink, and blue, and orange all opened up on the field; a magnificent sight to anyone who was watching. However, in such a large meadow, only thirteen flowers grew: the chrysanthemum, the tulip, the marigold, the bell-flower, the lily of the valley, the camellia, the iris, the bird of paradise, the buttercup, the daffodil, the yarrow, the thistle, and the summer snowflake. Each represented a different aspect respectively, and each symbolized a different meaning entirely. It was only fitting for this place, after all.
Right in the center of the field, a girl slept. Two bells lay on each side of her, both tied to a long black strap that looped around her entire waist, containing a series of scrolls. Her long black hair stretched to where the sash was first tied, and her only accessory in it was a small hairpin, almost in the shape of a flower. Her long robes served as an excellent way to keep warm, and seemed fitting for one such as her. She napped peacefully, her breathing coming in slow, steady breaths. She moaned softly, and nestled into a more comfortable position in her grassy bed. But then, she began to twitch, and her breathing became quick and shallow. She murmured quietly, and the air around her seemed to spark. And then, without warning, her eyes snapped open to reveal large brown orbs, and she sat up with a cry.
She'd fallen asleep again.
Rubbing at her eyes, she exhaled softly, hugging herself tightly, struggling to convince her frantic mind that the horrific dream she'd just experienced had been only that. A dream. But a dream that was becoming more and more lifelike by the day. She felt snatches of bitter nostalgia upon watching bits and pieces of her dream begin to unfold, in the day to day events of the Sereitei.
"Having a nightmare?"
"Eep!" She gave a small squeak of surprise at the voice, then hastily skittered back at sound of a branch snapping, followed by another, and still another. Her concern was well warranted. Moments later, a man dropped out of the tree in whose shadow she had been resting. Perhaps drop wasn't the best of terms. Rather, the man unceremoniously fell face first into the field of flowers.
He lay still for a moment, eyes scrunched shut, body twitching sporadically from absorbing the impact.
Then he rolled onto his back and looked up.
"I-Ichigo-san!" Her cry came out as little more than a small squeak, when she saw his right eye, nearly swollen shut. The rest of his face was in sorry shape as well, blood from his split lip spattering onto the crushed flowers beneath them. His orange hair was matted down with dried blood, and the rest of him looked like little more than one giant human bruise. And yet still, he smiled so easily.
"Hey." He grinned up at her. "Long time no see, flower girl."
She fought the urge to smile, and of course, failed miserably. Pulling his head into her lap, she gingerly began to braid her fingers through his hair, searching for, and delicately removing the clotted bloodstains from his scalp. He winced when she deliberately plucked a strand of strawberry blond hair from his head, then repeated.
"Ow!" He squirmed uncomfortably. "Damnit flower girl, that hurts!"
"It's not flower girl, Ichigo-san. My name is *******."
Ichigo blinked slowly, as if he hadn't heard the last part.
"Yeah, well, until I can hear your name, I'll just have to keep calling you that."
Kurosaki Ichigo, soon to be third seat of squad five, came to this place quite often. And he always, always called her flower girl. They'd been speaking to each other for at least half a decade know, and he still, still, didn't know her name. Ordinarily, most zanpakuto would have become irate at this. She, however, felt no such ire. She was content to simply talk with him in the morning, as always.
His attitude however, was another matter. It was something she constantly fussed over, something that he still did deliberately, just to get attention from her. It was pitiable, really. Though he was a full grown man, already welll pas a century in age, he could be so childish sometimes that she'd consider him to still be in his early years. Now, was another one of those times.
"Honestly. Didn't your mother ever teach you manners?"
His face crinkled into a frown.
Masaki Kurosaki, Ichigo's mother, was currently captain of the fifth division. As her son, Ichigo strove on a daily basis to make her, and the division under which they both served, proud. But it was more than a desire for excellence that pushed the young Kurosaki to ever greater heights. It was Ichigo's dream to surpass his mother, and her lieutenant, Hirako Shinji, whom, rumor had it, had already been chosen as Masaki's successor, pending her imminent retirement from the force.
Ichigo's officer test was today, at precisely twelve P.M. And there in lie the problem. As a seated shinigami, you were required to know the shikai of your zanpakutou, which meant that you had to know its name in order to perform it. She had the sneaking suspicion that Ichigo had gotten himself beaten half to death in a vain attempt to hear her made perfect sense, in theory. Most shinigami were able to learn the name of their zanpakuto through periods of extreme concentration, or when they were about to die. Obviously lacking much concentration, Ichigo had opted for the latter.
Now, he was in her lap, his shihakusho torn, his body bloodied and battered, half-dead, and still, no closer to his goal. Seeking to distract herself from these melancholy thoughts, she glanced towards the west, and saw that the sun was now beginning to creep over the horizon, suggesting that it was also dawn in Soul Society.
"Must you worry me so?" She sighed, absent-mindedly stroking his unruly mane of orange hair, her gaze still focused on the luminescent disk of golden red, rising ever higher in the sky, stirring the flowers from their blissful slumber, one by one. "I may be your zanpakuto, but I can't take care of you all the time-
"Hehe." His sudden chuckle surprised her. "That's the first time you said it aloud. That you're my zanpakuto."
She blinked, slowly.
"So it is."
They remained there for another moment.
"I have to go?" Ichigo said it almost as a question as he propped himself up on his elbows.
A flicker of amusement trickled through her calm facade, then it was gone. Ah yes, she'd nearly forgotten. Ichigo-san could be terribly lazy when he didn't want to do something. Such was simply another example at just how nervous this trial made him. Words would not comfort him, nor would they her. Only one course of action could possibly remedy such a perplexing situation as this.
So she made a face and shoved him in the back. That same shove had more than enough force to catapault Ichigo from his mindscape and back into the real world. He turned as the flowery field began to fade, but she only jabbed a finger forward impudently. For some reason, the shinigami grinned another shit eating grin at her expression.
"So, I have to, then?"
"Yes, you do!"
Trying to control legs that suddenly didn't want to move, Ichigo forced himself to walk out onto the plaza. There were several shinigami lined up on either side of him, one of which he immediately recognized as Hirako Shinji. The blond found his gaze in an instant, and grinned a toothy grin, his gaze sliding back to the awaiting yard that had been section off just for the trial to come.
"Try not ta' puke, Ichigo."
Ichigo restrained a grimace and marched past his rival. He paused in the center of the ring, it wasn't really a ring per-se, and waited for the three captains, which consisted of his mother, Shunsui Kyoraku, and even Yamamoto Shigekuni Genryusai, to acknowledge him. It felt like an eternity before they took their seats at the table positioned in front of him. Yamamoto, of course, spoke first.
"Kurosaki, Ichigo, are you prepared?"
Ichigo set his zanpaktou down on the ground, and rolled up the sleeves of his shihakusho. When he straightened up, ten members of the Onmitskido surrounded them, their expressions invisible behind the black cloth masks that they wore. Ichigo gazed at them, his glare locking on one in particular, who was having difficulty restraining herself.
The faceless group surrounded him as he spun slowly around in the middle of the circle, body on pins as he watched each one of the figures. He was waiting for any small movement out of the men and women before him, any reason to begin the attack.
Patience was soon rewarded as one of the soldiers lashed out with a kick. He blocked the blow with his forearm, his wrist twisting around to clasp the woman's ankle. He pulled his opponent's leg forward, yanking him into the waiting foot. The moment contact was made, he used her face to launch himself up into the air. He spun as he ascended, both of his legs kicking outward and into the faces of two more men.
Once more using the body of hia opponent, he maintained his airborne status as he leapt from one man's head onto another's shoulders. Upon landin ghe kicked him in the temple with the side of his heel before vanishing in a blast of shunpo. The remaining six opponents seemed to fall backwards on their own before Ichigo rematerialized, the proud shinigami standing victoriously over his defeated sparring partners, all of whom had already sank into the welcome embrace of unconsciousness.
Throughout all this, not a sound was made.
Only the sound of chirping crickets pervaded the morning air.
Yamamoto raised an eyebrow.
"Well done, Kurosaki Ichigo. It seems you are well worthy of Shihoin Yoruichi's recommendation."
The teen's blush spread up and across his whole face, and judging from how hot his face felt, Ichigo knew his face must be bright, stop sign red by now. Masaki noticed this and smiled knowingly, gently, without reproach or concern. Ichigo flushed darker. She was all too aware of the more....intimate conversations that Ichigo and the captain of the second division often had. Now he knew that.
"Pretty good shunpo, Ichigo-kun." Shunsui's crystal clear voice rang across the distance to reach the youth. "I don't think I even saw that last one."
"I believe he had adequately demonstrated both his shunpo and martial art skills, wouldn't you agree?" Masaki's vote of approval didn't come as a surprise, but Ichigo hadn't been expecting skip the second part of the exam so easily. Now, was the third, and by far, his worst subject. Kido. If he lost control of a spell here, in this crowded space...
"Indeed." Yamamoto nodded suddenly, drawing the youth out of his reverie and back to the present. "In that case, let us proceed to the final portion of the exam." Suddenly, his burning gaze locked itself upon Ichigo, conveying his authority with a single command. "Release your zanpakuto, Kurosaki Ichigo!"
"S-Sir?" Ichigo blinked in surprise. He hadn't been expecting a freebie on that one. He'd expected them to proceed with, welll...procedure. Why the hell was the old fart letting him off so easy? Could Masaki possibly have anything to do with this?
"You yourself have admitted that your kido control is below average. I would not want you to accidentally misfire and harm anyone."
"R-Right." Ichigo nodded uncertainly.
Now, it was the moment of truth.
"Could you guys.... take a step back?"
Immediately, the crowd drew back one collective pace. The entire air was suddenly hot and humid. Not only from the tension, no. Some other power was at work here, something, someone, was slowly raising the temperature in Ichigo's vicinity. The tiled floor beneath his feet suddenly gave way in proof of this, his massive reaitsu roaring free of the control he'd been exercising the entire time.
"Hajike." Ichigo whispered softly, gripping her by the hilt, beginning to pull.
He felt it at once. Instantaneously. A rush of surprise from her, coupled with confusion, then anger. He'd known her name all this time, and kept it secret? From her? But then elation overrode the immediately angry response, and she answered in kind, her reaitsu blazing through his veins, bolstering his own reserves, empowering him. It was all he could do not to contain it, channel it into...
With a rush of wind, the zanpaktou whipped free of Ichigo's hand and all but threw itself into the air arcing end over end as it gained momentum and altitude. Red light engulfed the katana, swirling up and around from the sheathe and into the blade, forging a new weapon in the flood of reaitsu. Throughout it all, Ichigo kept silent, his eyes closed against the flare of crimson energies from on high.
Suddenly, just as quickly as the display had begun, so to, all too soon, did it end. Like a bolt of furious lightning, the zanpaktou plummeted down to the earth, spitting heated energy as it flew towards its master, tip first. Ichigo simply held up his hand, and the handle smacked into his open palm with an audible pop.
The katana had become a longer, sharper, straighter sword with a five-petal flower designs stamped on the rectangular crossguard with a red handle. Jutting out along its length at various intervals were three jutte-like prongs, across which red flame danced. Now, his eyes shot open, and he met the eyes of his mother, who had watched the entire display with a small smile.
"Tobiume." He spoke the word with great reverence, and felt a surge of elation from his partner. Gripping her light red hilt, he whirled, lashing out at the first target he could find. In this case, the target turned out to be a particularly large boulder that had been set up for the sole purpose of this exercise. Fire leapt from the blade, slamming into the boulder with such force that Ichigo actually felt his teeth vibrate from the impact. Even the very earth shook from the force of the blast. Thick, black smoke now spilled out into the courtyard eliciting a sharp hacking cough from those present.
"Tenran." Yamamoto called out from within the smoke, and seconds later, a vicious gust of wind blew the fog away and into the skies. Ichigo cut through the smoke with a few quick slashes, driving the rest of it away, and allowing himself to be seen.
Finally, the fog began to clear. Several gasps arose from the crowd that had assembled to observe. What remained of the boulder, was a smoking crater. The fireball had drilled right through the rock and kept going, until it impacted upon the Seki Seki rock that lined the walls of the plaza. Even they were lightly singed, though the blast had not been able to pierce through their defense.
Ichigo remained composed as he sealed his sword, Tobiume sliding into her scabbard with a silent click. It was only after Masaki nodded to him, that the youth grinned from ear to ear. He saw it in her eyes, he knew all too well what was coming, what had been coming, what he'd deserved, for the longest time. Still, it was with baited breath that he watched her stand, and awaited her words:
"Ichigo Kurosaki, you have shown yourself to be an adept shinigami in many, many ways. You excel Hakudo. Fuku-taichou Hirako has given assent that your swordsmanship, although rough, is well on par with his own. Your kido is also admirable. And last, but certainly not least, you have proven, in front of fifty witnesses, including three captains, that you have attained shikai. Therefore, after counsel with your peers, I hereby confer on you the rank of third seat in the fifth division. May you strive and continue to excel in all that you do."
Ichigo remained silent, unable to convey the gratitude that soared through his soul. Tobiume felt the same and tried to temper herself from becoming too excited, but her joy was every bit as infectious as his own. The new third seat made a note to have a long talk with her once tonight's celebration was over.
Finally, remembering himself, Kurosaki Ichigo managed a stiff nod affirming what he already knew, and confirming that he would indeed, accept this position. He lowered his arms and bowed low at the wais, refusing to look anywhere but straight into the ashen cobblestones at his feet. A murmur of approval ran through the assembled observers.
"U-Understood!" Ichigo straightened himself up, and now, he couldn't hide the smile. "I, Ichigo Kurosaki, accept this position with all the humility and gratitude that is deserving of it!"
Seconds later, the crowd erupted into applause, and Ichigo was swept up in their adoration.