Morning Walk


Disclaimer: Don't own BLEACH; Tite Kubo does.


Summary: Ichigo has a morning walk before starting his day on paperwork. Idle walks and idle conversation. Set after events in 'Alive' and 'Melancholy'.


A/N: Just a random thought. Set after events in 'Alive' and 'Melancholy' so Ichigo has taken a permanent residence in Soul Society.


Strolling out in the morning before dwelling in his office and doing his paperwork became a habit for Kurosaki Ichigo, the recently 5th division taichou.

This particular morning, he had gotten up early, taken a bath, and strolled out to take a relaxing walk. Uriya had presumably gotten up earlier than him, but his fukutaichou tended to come to the office first and finish his own portion of paperwork. He just needed short amount of time to do the work, though. After that, he was idle and having a lot of spare time. Sometimes Ichigo was curious to know what Uriya did to fill in his spare time. He guessed the older man resorted to read his collection since he liked to read.

Ichigo strolled in unhurried pace. Other people who liked to get up in early morning were Hitsugaya Toushiro and, sometimes, Kuchiki Byakuya. Toushiro however liked to perch on the top of the hill or the tree rather than strolling around—to watch sunrise—while Byakuya often opted to stroll at midnight than in the morning. Why he liked to stroll in the ungodly hours of the night, Ichigo didn't know and didn't want to know.

So to say, Ichigo strolled around. Beginning from his own division's compound, he walked around towards the 4th division and the infirmary. He pondered about saying a 'good morning' to both Unohana-san and Isane-san, but he banished it. Though he knew that Unohana had been up in this hour, he didn't want to interrupt the woman's morning tea.

So he decided to walk on.

His feet carried him to the vicinity of 3rd division. He could feel Kira's reiatsu, along with several others—new recruits, he concluded—from the division's training field. They had early morning training.

Ichigo chuckled. Reina-san was a kind and soft spoken woman, but when it came to training and battle, she became a fiery warrior. The fact that she was a vaizard like him didn't help at all. Though, Ichigo doubted that her recruits knew about that particular fact. Kira knew, of course.

Ichigo dismissed the thought of greeting Kira and Reina-san. He could feel the woman's reiatsu from the compound, seemingly busy with her paperwork. He didn't want to disrupt their morning.

So he walked on.

He reached 2nd division and immediately dismissed the thought to greet Soi Fong and her fukutaichou. The taichou wasn't quite fond of him as same as she wasn't quite fond of Urahara. And the fact that Ichigo was formerly the older man's disciple only added the spice.

Ichigo simply disliked Omaeda because he reminded him of a fat and burly bully.

He continued his walk until he reached the grand compound of 1st division. He halted and shook his head vigorously to get rid of the idea to greet the Soutaichou himself. Sasakibe-san was fine and all; but the old man… ugh, Ichigo shivered. Not that he disliked the gramps—sometimes Ichigo regarded him as his own gramps, all strict and stern—but it was just …ugh, na-dah. Nuh-uh. He didn't want an early stress, thank you very much.

So, Ichigo rounded his way back and chose another alley.

Using light and short shunpo, he reached the 6th division's compound. From afar, he saw Byakuya walked out from the compound, his hands holding a bouquet of white lily. Ichigo raised his brows in curiosity; he didn't have a notion that Byakuya liked flowers, other than sakura. Well, sakura represented his zanpakuto after all.

Not wanting to have snappish conversation with the older man—he was still as cold and stony as the ice bastard himself—Ichigo halted and watched as Byakuya's form finally disappeared on the next turnoff. Well, not before he took a glance over his shoulder at him. And to say that Ichigo was taken aback by Byakuya's silent glance was an understatement. His glance, however, didn't contain any hostile nor cold gleam at all; instead it contained a soft and sad look within.

Ichigo wondered why.

He walked nearer towards the 6th division and almost collided with Renji, who barreled out from the gate in hurry.

"Ow, watch out, Renji!"

"Huh? Oh, it's ya, Ichigo." The redhead looked around frantically before fixating his eyes on the younger man and asked hurriedly, "Have ya seen Taichou?"

"Byakuya barely walked out from this same gate, you know." The orange head answered dryly. "He went that way."

Ichigo pointed to the direction where the 6th division taichou barely strode to.

"Oh… thanks."

Renji almost ran to catch up with his superior when Ichigo unexpectedly grabbed his sleeve. The redhead fukutaichou jerked back in a start and glared at Ichigo.

"What?"

"Why Byakuya has flowers in his arms? I don't recall that he is so much fond with flowers before."

Renji scratched the back of his head and muttered almost inaudibly, "…Today is the anniversary, yanno."

Ichigo looked at his friend, confused. "What anniversary?"

"Hisana-san's death. Today is her death's anniversary."

Ichigo blinked and recalled Byakuya's soft and sad glance. "…Oh."

"Well, he forgot the incense. It seems that he took the ordinary incense, but Rukia told me that she has bought the special incense for Taichou to use and kinda forced me to remind him to bring it." He shook his head in slight exasperation. Rukia could be so demanding sometimes.

"…Doesn't Rukia supposedly go along with him?"

Renji shrugged. "She told me that she has a job to do."

Ichigo nodded. They parted ways after promising each other to meet at the bar nearby when lunch time came.

He continued his stroll and eventually reached the 7th division's compound. Even from outside, he could hear Iba's loud voice of "I'm sorry for my tardiness, Taichou! Please forgive me!" and an audible sigh from Komamura-san.

Ichigo stifled a chuckle at that—Iba-san was surely a dramatic and loud man. Typical of ex-11th division's member.

He barely walked pass the compound, dismissing the idea of greeting Komamura-san and Iba-san; when suddenly a huge shadow loomed over his smaller form. He looked upward and saw Komamura stood next to him.

"Good morning, Kurosaki-taichou."

Ichigo smiled. "Good morning, Komamura-san. Sheesh, just call me Ichigo already. I don't really like formalities."

Komamura let out a rumbling sound that Ichigo supposed to be his version of laughter.

"Fine, fine, as you wish, Ichigo-kun."

"…That's better."

They were silent for some moments before Komamura spoke again in friendly tone.

"Morning walk, eh?"

Ichigo let out a small chuckle. "Yeah. I like to do it before cramping myself within the office with stacks of paperwork. Uriya has already locked himself with his own portion, though."

Komamura chuckled. "Well, paperwork is surely tiring." He paused and looked thoughtfully at Ichigo, who raised his brows at him in confusion.

"…What?"

"…Nothing. Just thinking about the past."

"Like what?"

Komamura smiled in his own way; though, Ichigo could discern it. "Many things. Mostly about this peace and what Tousen said about justice and all." He looked away after he said the name of his supposedly best friend.

Ichigo looked away as well. "…Peace is good."

"…Yeah. If only Tousen could see this. Or rather, feel this."

Ichigo closed his eyes. He only knew that Tousen Kaname, one of the traitors, had been killed by the hands of both Komamura Sajin and Hisagi Shuuhei. It must be hard for Komamura-san to kill his best friend by his own hands, he mused grimly.

"…Don't worry, Komamura-san. He will see—no, he has seen it. Through yours and Hisagi-san's eyes." Ichigo smiled faintly. "I bet he must be happy now."

Komamura looked at the younger man and smiled peacefully.

"Aa. You're right, Ichigo-kun."

They waved goodbyes and Ichigo continued his walk.

He reached the 8th division compound and, due to the loud voice of something hard colliding with someone's head, he hurriedly walked past the compound.

As he scurried away, Ichigo could hear a whine of "Nanao-chaaaan, you meaniee!" from one Kyouraku Shunsui and a harsh snap of "Taichou! Wake up for work and stop harassing me!" from one Ise Nanao.

Shivering, he absently mused just when the two confessed their feelings for each other.

He reached the 9th division and saw Hisagi practicing his kata using Kazeshini in the middle of the field. Upon further peering, Ichigo could see that behind him, the other members imitated his movement. Ashido, however, stood on the side of the field, not far away from his men. He watched the training intently as his fukutaichou conducted the movements.

Ichigo decided to leave them be. Before he walked away, Ashido caught his eyes and nodded slightly in regard. Ichigo nodded back and continued his walk.

He strolled leisurely and eventually reached the 10th division's compound.

Ichigo halted as he felt a cold reiatsu seeped through the open gate and wondered if Toushiro was upset about something. He peeked from the front gate and saw that, true to his guess, the white haired taichou was pissed about something. Oh, 'pissed' wasn't the right word; 'furious' might be better word to describe the taichou's predicament right now.

"MATSUMOTO! WAKE UP AND GET RID OF THESE SAKE JUGS! RIGHT. NOW!"

Typical.

Ichigo snickered faintly. Rangiku-san was—most likely—totally wasted again. He heard from Uriya that last night she had a sake party with Kyouraku. And Ichigo dared to bet that she had another round of sake-consuming after the party was over—right in the office. Poor Toushiro had to endure the unpleasant smell of sake and an annoying, totally slacking off fukutaichou altogether. Well, it wasn't like it never happened before.

Shaking his head, Ichigo decided to skip over the 10th division and continued his walk.

Reaching the 11th division compound, he could hear Ikkaku's loud yells as he trained the new recruits. Ichigo chuckled. Ikkaku was a Spartan when coming to training. He decided to skip the compound in fear of meeting a certain bulky taichou when a gaily voice called his name.

"Ichigo-san, good morning!"

Ichigo turned around and saw Yumichika sauntered towards him. He looked fresh and clean—typical—and he smiled eerily wide. Ichigo shivered. That smile didn't look so good…

"…Morning, Yumichika-san. You look… happy."

Yumichika widened his smile, improving his charming persona which did nothing to Ichigo; except for increasing the uneasiness within his gut.

"Why of course!" he exclaimed happily. "Today is a beautiful morning, am I right?"

"Ah, yes…"

"And one more important thing…" he paused to suck in breath. Ichigo somehow dreaded his next words. "I GOT LAID!"

Ichigo face palmed. And unwontedly blushed.

"You what?" Ichigo grimaced as he realized his unthinking blurt of a question. Oh, he didn't really want to know the details. By now, Yumichika would undoubtedly bombard him with the juicy story.

"I GOT LAID!" the effeminate man exclaimed once more, his face flushing with pink tint and delirious excitement. "I finally got my hands over that beautiful specimen of a girl—"

"Gah! Enough already! I don't want to hear the details!" Ichigo closed his ears and scampered away. Behind him, Yumichika laughed gaily before Ikkaku screamed something about "Just lay it off, Yumi!" and grumbled about disturbing noises during the night that made him completely sleepless.

Still blushing something horrid, Ichigo ran past the 12th division's compound. He didn't want to meet the crazy taichou of the 12th or even his fukutaichou. Oh, Nemu-san was fine, but since she rarely got far from her deranged taichou, Ichigo dreaded to see her too.

Skipping the compound, Ichigo eventually reached the 13th division's compound. He stopped to take a breather and crouched down beside a koi pond. The 13th division was neat and relaxing compound with koi ponds and artistic buildings. Ichigo found out that Ukitake's residence just a few blocks away from the compound and that the division was modified for Ukitake's delight. Previously, there wasn't even one koi pond within the division. But Ukitake made it and several others because he liked the scenery. It seemed to soothe his ail too.

"Ichigo-kun?"

Ichigo jumped and turned around only to find Ukitake looked at him in concern. The older taichou had his hair tied in white ribbon and his neck wrapped in white shawl. He had his usual long-sleeved haori and black shihakusho while his hand held a pack of fish food.

"You look disheveled. Something's wrong?"

Ichigo scratched the back of his head and smirked uneasily. "…Ah, nothing, Ukitake-san, nothing. I just, umm, walk around."

Ukitake smiled soothingly. "Oh, well, okay. Good morning."

"Good morning, Ukitake-san."

"Want to feed koi with me?"

"Sure."

Ukitake walked to stand beside the younger taichou. He offered a handful of fish food to Ichigo, who accepted it with both hands. They spread the food little by little and watched silently as the fish struggled to get the food.

"The scenery is relaxing."

Ukitake chuckled softly. "That's why I love this place."

"Where are Sentaro-san and Kiyone-san? Usually they tag along with you."

Ukitake snickered in a very mischievous way that made Ichigo paused and looked at him with wide eyes. The man looked like another Rangiku-san or maybe Rukia for him—just right now.

"I sent them to Rukongai to buy candies. Several kinds of candies and not to mention the rare ones. It will take them some time until they come back."

Ichigo scoffed. "Ukitake-san, that's mean."

"Well, it has to be done. I don't mind their companionship and honestly, their bickering is rather refreshing. But after some time, it's getting to my nerves. I need tranquility for now." Ukitake smiled.

"I understand. They can be so loud sometimes—well most of the time, for exactly."

"By the way, my candy supplies are almost empty. And I want to give Hitsugaya-kun candies as a surprise present."

Ichigo sighed. "Ukitake-san, Toushiro doesn't particularly like candy and sweets for general. You shouldn't stuff him with a lot of candies. And what's with this surprise present anyway?"

Ukitake turned around to face him, his hand which was holding a handful of fish food pausing midair. His eyes were wide in earnest disbelief that made Ichigo felt uneasy for telling him the fact.

"Really? So he doesn't like sweets and candies? But he always accepts my offering."

"That's because he doesn't want to be impolite by rejecting your present; and make you sad."

"Oh… well, I think I have to consider about his feeling more closely from now. Thanks for telling me, Ichigo-kun. And about this surprise present, well, it's just for celebrating his growth spurt."

Ichigo couldn't help but laugh.

"Ukitake-san, Toushiro has undergone his growth spurt over two years ago."

Ukitake looked surprised, though he also laughed when he realized that Ichigo was right. Hitsugaya Toushiro had grown tall enough to compete with Ichigo, much to the orange head's chagrin. He still had his baby face and fluffy white hair, but his feature had matured. While the reason behind this sudden growth was remaining unknown, Ichigo somehow had inkling that Toushiro's growth spurt had a connection with his relationship with Karin.

Oh, he had enough temper tantrums for that particular fact. Several years ago, when her sister was found out to be having her own zanpakuto, Ichigo was forced to accept that Karin would be trained to be another substitute shinigami. Normally, Urahara and Yoruichi were the ones who trained her; but eventually the task was handled by Uriya. Hitsugaya, however, was stationed in the living world for a mission regarding some cases of sudden attacks by hordes of hollows and occasionally, arrancars. It wasn't that Ichigo and the others couldn't handle the hollows but their numbers were just too much.

During the mission, Hitsugaya and Karin fell for each other.

And, if not for Uriya's bakudou and Rukia's violent efforts of manhandling him, he would surely beat the hell out of one Hitsugaya Toushiro; not that the taichou was defenseless. Not to mention, Karin hit him on the head hard; for throwing such temper tantrums at her boyfriend—Ichigo stared in horror at her at that time after hearing that word—and calling him overprotective.

He was overprotective, of course. Who didn't? Especially when knowing that your baby sister was suddenly being snatched away by some random guy—well, it wasn't random anyway, it was Toushiro for cry out loud, but still…

Karin hit him again—this time on the shin—when he uttered those words.

"I'm not a baby, Ichi-nii! Sheesh!" that was what she said before storming out the shop—they were gathering in Urahara's shop at that time—with Hitsugaya in tow. And after some convincing efforts from Rukia that Karin would be okay and Hitsugaya was the best boyfriend she would have ever had, Ichigo gave up. Grudgingly, he gave his blessing, much for Karin's happiness and Hitsugaya's disbelief.

Well, the ruckus part was over now.

Loud chimes of morning bell startled them. Both Ichigo and Ukitake looked at each other before letting out simultaneous sighs.

"…I wonder why the old man changes the utilizing of jigokucho to morning bell for indicating the beginning of the workday." Ichigo mumbled as he listened to loud chimes echoing from the direction of the 1st division.

"Maybe he thinks it will be fun? Well, Genryuusai-sensei has some uncanny taste of humor, you know." Ukitake shrugged and adjusted his shawl.

Ichigo frowned at him. "I don't see it as humor. It's kinda annoying—and noisy too. Not to mention, the bell tends to attract unwanted attention."

Their thoughts flied towards one particular memory of Yachiru climbed up the bell tower and happily rang the bell in ungodly hour of cracking dawn. Seireitei was suddenly hit by an uproar where the shinigamis—taichous, fukutaichous, seated officers, and ordinary members alike—still sleepy and tired, scattered out of their respective barracks and residences, holding their zanpakutos tightly and preparing for the sudden attack. They appeared in various appearances, mostly hilarious, disgraceful, and silly, such as Renji's surprisingly colorful boxer or Rangiku's messy hair rolls.

While most of the taichous appeared ready and almost as neat as usual, Ichigo couldn't help but notice that Toushiro's hair was spikier and messier, Byakuya's kenseikan was slightly …off-positioned—instead of his usual immaculate hairdo, the kenseikan was clipped hurriedly and making Byakuya looked like some sissy trying to roll his hair—Unohana and Soi Fon lost their usual braids, Kenpachi lost his usual bells-spiked hair, Ukitake forgot to pull out his sleeping hat… man, Ichigo had a good laugh after all of these were ended.

…Until Uriya evenly reminded him that he had bed-sheet face and trail of un-wiped drool on the corner of his lips down to his chin. Not to mention, his orange hair was jutting out messily in every direction.

Shit…

After that, for the safety purpose, the bell was protected by special kidou. That way Yachiru or someone else couldn't lay their idle hands on the bell and use it for their equally idle fun.

"Well, it's time to go, Ukitake-san."

"Alright, thanks for the companionship, Ichigo-kun. You can come again anytime."

"Okay, thank you, Ukitake-san."

Waving goodbye at the older man, Ichigo swiftly set on his shunpo and zapped towards his division. He smiled widely as he recalled this morning walk.

So much for a morning walk, he mused.

I like it nonetheless. It's …normal.

Still smiling widely, he arrived on his office and began his workday.

Owari.