DISCLAIMER: I own none of these characters or their settings, except for the demons. I just play with them for my own twisted amusement, and for that of others.
A/N: This is intended as a sequel to Dark Eyes. If you have not read that story yet, I suggest that you do so before you read this, or else a lot of it isn't going to make any sense.
"Renji! Where the hell did they go?" Ichigo snapped, pissed now. These stupid demons had been evading the two shinigami for over an hour now, and Ichigo was ready to just start swinging his zanpakuto. Those bastards couldn't hide forever.
"Like I'd know," Renji snapped back, just as irritable as his partner. "Don't you have a better sense for them?" A handful of demons had appeared in town, and Ichigo had felt them with that sixth sense that he had developed after defeating and absorbing a demon's powers nearly six months ago, in a thwarted attempt by the demon lord to take Ichigo for her own.
Instead, Ichigo had made a contract of sorts with Abarai Renji, putting him out of reach of the demon lord, which had infuriated her. However, she had kept her word and left Sereitei without harming anybody there, and without trying to take Ichigo with her. Instead, Ichigo had been allowed to return the human world, still a substitute shinigami, but now with a Vice Captain at his side.
And to think, it had all started when a demon had infiltrated Sereitei and possessed Renji. The demon had sifted through the shinigami's memories and taken an interest in Ichigo, the spiritually powerful human who was also substitute shinigami and Hollow. The kidnapping and torture that had followed hadn't been pleasant, for either of them, but in the end, the demon had been defeated, and Renji and Ichigo had grown closer, becoming friends, allies, and eventually lovers.
Running around blindly after demons at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning was not how Ichigo had wanted to spend his summer vacation. He was tired, grumpy, and getting more pissed with every dead-end. When he finally found the demons, they were toast.
Another tingle up his spine, and Ichigo made a sharp right, dashing down another alleyway and leaping easily over the brick wall at the end of it, Renji hot on his heels, sword held easily in his large hands, ready to attack. A few seconds later, the reiatsu faded away again, and Ichigo bit back a scream of frustration. What the hell were these guys playing at?
"Ever stop to think that maybe it's a trap?" Renji muttered at his side, and Ichigo came to an abrupt stop, turning to glare at the redhead shinigami. Of course he had realized that it was probably a trap. If it wasn't a trap, he would have found and destroyed them by now, as he had with the others that had come before. But he hadn't missed the fact that it appeared almost as if they were being herded, drawn to a specific location decided ahead of time.
Sighing, Ichigo nodded. "The thought has crossed my mind," he admitted wryly. "But I didn't think you'd take too kindly to being ordered to stay behind." Renji scowled at him, and Ichigo just shrugged. It was true, though; he could have ordered Renji to remain behind, where it was safe, but the shinigami would have fought the desire to obey and followed after him anyhow. It was easier to just bring Renji along, so that he could keep an eye on him. With demons in the area, Ichigo didn't want to take any chances that they might split up and try to take them out separately.
If, of course, that was their intended goal. Ichigo hadn't felt the demon lord's presence in town in the past several months. The last time he had felt her presence in his hometown, he had ordered Renji to remain behind. The shinigami had been pissed at him, but had nonetheless surrendered to him later that night, when they had taken the first tentative steps towards becoming lovers.
Afterwards, Renji had made it abundantly clear that if Ichigo ever ordered him to stay behind again, not only would he disobey, but he'd beat the shit of Ichigo as well. Ichigo wasn't keen on testing the shinigami.
A sudden surge of power nearly flattened the two shinigami, who stumbled as the power flashed over them. The demon lord was back, and was waiting for them straight ahead. An uneasy glance passing between them, the two men slowed down, approaching the edge of the street cautiously, both of them ready to fight at a moment's notice.
Not risking it, Ichigo summoned his bankai, allowing his power to breathe freely around him, tangling with the demon lord's. He wasn't pushing, not yet, but he was warning the lady that if she made a wrong move, he wouldn't hesitate to launch his own devastating attack. Renji couldn't call his Bankai out here, in such a confined space, but he had tightened his grip on Zabimaru, ready to attack as soon as the enemy had been sighted.
Tense, the two shinigami edged into the abandoned lot, glancing warily around. The only demon they saw, or felt, was standing calmly in the center of the lot, watching them with amused eyes. Ichigo growled under his breath, her obvious enjoyment grating at his nerves.
Ichigo stopped several feet away, out of easy reach, and Renji stopped next to him, his grip on Zabimaru firm as his eyes roamed the lot, taking in exit routes and possible problem areas, where an ambush could impede their escape. Ichigo kept his eyes trained on the pretty female in front of him, her body that of a human, but her eyes ancient and powerful as they stared steadily back at him. These eyes had no doubt seen the worst that humanity could do; had probably been the driving force behind some of those acts.
"It's good to see you again, Ichigo," the demon lord purred, and Ichigo just scowled at her, a growl bubbling up his throat. Inside, he could feel both his Hollow and Demon selves bracing for battle, the former eager to shed a demon's blood, while the demon itself was more interested in surviving the encounter rather than enjoying it. Zangetsu was a comforting presence in his hand, the weight of it light and familiar.
Taking a deep breath, Ichigo asked the only question he cared about at the moment. "What the hell do you want?"
The demon's eyes glittered back at him mockingly, as a cruel smile stretched across that beautiful face, turning it into something vicious and ugly. Ichigo swallowed, even as Renji muttered beside him, "That was probably the wrong question to ask." Wrong question, indeed, but at least, Ichigo thought grimly, the demon lord seemed inclined to answer them.
"What I want," she stated simply, "is to bring you to your full potential. That pathetic Hollow form, and even the sniveling demonic presence inside of you, aren't even close to what you are capable of. I intend to bring out all the power and malice that's inside of you, one piece at a time, if I must." The threat rang clearly in the air – Ichigo would comply, or it would come down to a battle between the two shinigami and the demon lord, who probably had an army just waiting for her to give the word.
Gripping his zanpakuto tightly, even as Renji did the same, Ichigo snarled, his eyes going dark and cold. Sparks flashed warningly in his eyes, and the demon lord just laughed. "Very well, then," she mocked them, "one piece at a time it is." With that, gates opened all around the lot, demons spilling out of the opening and surrounding them, hissing at the two hapless men in the center of their circle.
Ichigo swallowed, pulling his reiatsu close to his body, even as he raised a hand, allowing Hichigo's power to flare, a Hollow mask covering his face, golden eyes glittering out from behind the white bone mask. There was no way in hell he could give in to the demon lord's demands, and so a fight it was, pitted against an entire demonic army. Ichigo sighed, raising his zanpakuto. So much for summer vacation.