*hangs head* Words cannot even express how sorry I am about my slow updates. This got second on the poll, so it's not a priority like TTD, but I got inspiration for it about a week or two ago. So here we are with an update, the longest one yet:)
Review replies are at the bottom!
Standard disclaimers apply, like always.
Oh, and I looked back on previous chapters, and it's amazing how much my writing has changed. Once I finish up this story, I'm going back and editing. My writing was awful last year. Bleh. Anyway, Enjoy! :)
The captains stood stock straight, looking ahead with glazed eyes as the Soutaichou rambled about inconsequential things. On the old man's right, in order, were Soifon, Unohana, Byakuya, Kyouraku, Hitsugaya and Kurotsuchi. Across from them were Ikkaku who was the new captain of the 3rd squad, Renji, Komamura, Hisagi who was the new captain of the 9th squad, Kenpachi, and Ukitake. Kenpachi was making faces at Ikkaku, who just jokingly glared back in return. Hitsugaya was attempting to quell the childish urge to freeze the Soutaichou's lips together so he would shut up. The other captains simply stood in their place, not speaking, until they noticed Yamamoto was turning toward more important topics.
"Captain Kurotsuchi. Have you confirmed the appearance of a hollow in Karakura town?"
Kurotsuchi snapped out of his slight daze and turned his head to look at the 1st division captain. "Yes, the 12th division has. It turned up yesterday around midnight, according to our readings."
The Captain Commander's brows furrowed and hit grip tightened on his disguised Zanpakutou. "Any victims?"
"A young boy, around the age of 4."
"Please excuse my interruption, Soutaichou, but hollows make an appearance in Karakura all the time. We have patrols there for a reason. Why is this case any different?" Komamura asked, wolfish eyes glittering with confusion and curiosity.
"Yes, Soutaichou. This hollow is one from about 10 years ago. It terrorized Karakura town and eluded our capture. Ichigo Kurosaki was still alive at the time and teamed up with Kuchiki Fukutaichou on killing it, but it disappeared before they were able to purify it. This particular hollow has remained off of our radars ever since and we all assumed it was dead, until late last night it suddenly appeared again and killed a young boy. I wish I could get my hands on this hollow and discover what its powers are, but no one has captured it. Or even glimpsed it!" Kurotsuchi growled and clenched his hands, but immediately gained control of himself when the Captain Commander waved at him to be silent.
"We need to send out a group of high level Shinigami to get rid of this menace once and for all, before more victims are killed. Most of the victims are young children. Who do we nominate to send?"
Nobody spoke, leading Hitsugaya to sigh and step forward. "I will go with a small group of others."
Yamamoto immediately shook his head. "We need high level Shinigami, but we also need to keep our captains here to maintain the peace. Lieutenants and 3rd seats would be our best option."
Renji's face lit up and he stepped forward. "Soutaichou, this is the perfect opportunity to test the Kurosaki twins!"
All of the captains had a visible reaction to this, most just staring at Renji in shock, while others gasped.
"Explain yourself, Abarai Taichou."
"Well, some people have been doubtful about the Soul Society's ability to block memories. Most Soul Reapers know that the Kurosaki twins have had their memories blocked. So if we send them to their hometown and they don't recover their memories, then we quiet those rumors, we don't need to hold our breath for the day when they get their memories back, and the options for them mission-wise would be endless! Also, the 5th and 6th squads have gone without lieutenants for a while; a few more weeks can't hurt. "
"And if they recover their memories?"
Renji silently wished for this to happen, but on the outside, he merely shrugged. "Then we capture them and block their memories again. Easy as taking cake from a baby, as the humans say."
"I believe you mean 'Easy as taking candy from a baby, Renji," Ikkaku corrected with a grin. Renji waved him off uncaringly, a grin still on his face.
Yamamoto was obviously pondering the advantages and disadvantages of this idea, but Renji could tell his idea was brilliant. He didn't get ideas like this very often, but when they came, they always worked.
"Fine, Captain Abarai. Inform Ichigo Kurosaki and Haku Tsukino that they will be sent out on this mission tomorrow morning. Captains, this meeting is dismissed. Go back to your divisions."
Renji mentally cheered and he rushed out of the meeting room and shunpoed down the hallway, making his way to the barrack that Ichigo and Shiro were assigned to. It was early in the morning, and they would be waking up in the next few minutes.
A flash was his only signal and he leaped back as his former captain suddenly appeared in his path, and Renji blew to stop, eyes wide with surprise.
"Kuchiki Taichou, what are-"
"That was purposeful, wasn't it, Renji?" Byakuya interrupted passively. Renji looked closer and he thought he almost saw amusement glittering in the 6th squad captain's eyes.
"Maybe, maybe not. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go inform my subordinate of his new mission."
"And I'll join you. I need to brief my subordinate as well, or do you not remember?"
Renji scowled, but relented, shunpoing off again without a word. He didn't want to have to put up with his annoying ex-captain for too long. Byakuya easily matched his former lieutenant's pace, and they arrived at the squad-less barracks in only a few minutes.
They knocked on the door to their lieutenants' barracks and entered without waiting for an answer, only to freeze in their tracks because of a strange sight. Ichigo was tugging Shiro's hair and shouting at him, while Shiro kicked Ichigo's shin and shouted even louder.
"That hurts, you baka! Let go of my hair! Get off of me! I didn't do it, dammit! It's not my fault that I can't control my Zanpakutou! You know he has a mind of his own!"
"I don't care! Zangetsu shouldn't have to put up with Taiyo's shit! He nearly tore your Zanpkautou apart, and he'll do it again if Taiyo even thinks about repeating what he said!"
"But why are you attacking me over it? It was Taiyo's fault, go punish him!"
"You know as well as I do that I can't do that!"
"Then let go of my hair!"
"Then stop kicking my leg!"
"Let go of my hair first!"
"Get Taiyo to apologize to Zangetsu!"
"I can't control that bastard!"
"Then I'm not letting go of your hair!"
Shiro let out an outraged cry and pushed his hand under Ichigo's chin; he snapped his head backwards and made him stumble away, releasing the snow white hair between his fingers.
"Hah! There! Now then-"
A small 'ahem' interrupted Shiro's triumphant cry and made them both freeze and turn slowly on the tips of their feet toward the door, where they saw a smirking Renji and a nearly stoic Byakuya. Byakuya's eyes were glinting and were crinkled at the edges, but other than that, he gave no other sign that his mask was broken.
"Eh heh, Kuchiki Taichou, Abarai Taichou! How can we help you?" Ichigo questioned as he scooted indiscreetly away from Shiro, who was running his fingers through his hair, wincing every few seconds.
"You have a mission in Karakura town."
Intrigued, the two doppelgangers perked up and listened to the mission briefing, which was done mostly by Byakuya, much to Renji's irritation.
"Do you understand?"
"Yes, Kuchiki Taichou," Shiro replied, trying to quell his excitement.
"Good. You will leave in the morning. Don't forget your Zanpakutou, Kurosaki." Ichigo scowled at his captain.
"How was I supposed to know that the one day I chose to leave Zangetsu in the barracks a hollow would invade Soul Society? Not my fault, Byakuya Kuchiki."
Shiro, Byakuya, and Renji all stared at Ichigo in surprise. Renji very nearly laughed. His best friend was slowly coming back. Ichigo's eyes widened as he realized his mistake in the rant, and immediately bowed.
"I apologize, Kuchiki Taichou. Please forgive my insolence."
Renji inaudibly sighed. 'Almost,' he thought. 'Hopefully after this mission he'll be back for good.'
"Stand, Kurosaki. It was merely a mistake that won't be made again. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some paperwork to do since my lieutenant will be gone for an unknown amount of time." Byakuya swept out of the barrack dramatically and didn't look back. He's was gone in a flash, leaving the other three behind in an awkward silence. Renji scratched the back of his head and shrugged.
"Shiro, I want you to report back to me as soon as you've gotten rid of this hollow. That's not a request. Both of you remember this hollow has killed many Shinigami before. Don't underestimate it. And if you come back in a coffin, I'm killing you in your next life," Renji threatened with a pointed finger, before spinning and leaving as well, tension obvious in his shoulders. The look-a-likes watched him leave with unreadable expressions until they began to get ready for their mission the next day.
Shiro and Ichigo went to the Senkaimon early the next morning and were pleasantly surprised by the relatively large send-off party waiting for them. Nel was talking animatedly to Grimmjow, who was rubbing his eyes tiredly. Ulquiorra watched on with his normally blank expression. Starrk was leaning up against a wall while Lilynette ranted and raved nearby. Harribel stared at the scene with a raised eyebrow and crossed arms. A few feet away, Renji was having a quiet conversation with Rukia, but they both looked up when they noticed the two Shinigami's approach.
"Shiro! Ichigo! Hey!" Grimmjow boomed before anybody else could greet them. The bluenette strode over and pounded both of them on the back. Before either of them could respond, a high-pitched squeal warned them to step to the side. Nel flew past them, but spun around and captured Ichigo in a bear hug.
"Nel! Don't murder them!" Grimmjow scolded as he wrapped his arms around her waist and pried her off Ichigo, who couldn't help but compare this to their first meeting. Nel pouted, but released Ichigo and spun to embrace Grimmjow, nuzzling his neck. Shiro's eyes widened and he spluttered in alarm.
"Grimmjow? W-what are you not telling us?" Grimmjow chuckled and wrapped his arm around Nel's waist.
"I figured it be obvious, whitey." Shiro gaped at Grimmjow, not even fazed by the insult.
"You and Nel?"
"Gotta problem with that?"
"Course not! I'm just surprised!"
"Alright then. Now drop it."
"Won't you guys just get along," Ichigo sighed as he rubbed his orange locks passively. He wandered over to where Rukia and Renji had been watching the scene with amusement.
"Hello Kuchiki Fukutaichou, Abarai Taichou." Rukia chuckled, shaking her head before lightly shoving his shoulder.
"Ichigo, just call me Rukia. We're at the same rank, so it's not a big deal."
"Okay then, Rukia. What're you guys doing here?" Renji tipped his head back and laughed, his bright red hair shaking and revealing even more of the black tattoos across his forehead.
"We're here to see you off of course! And-"
"Yamamoto-Soutaichou sent me to give you some inside information on the hollow you're going after," Rukia interrupted Renji with a sniff before continuing. "You may know that it hasn't been given a name, so if you see any defining things about it when you kill it, go ahead and give it a name. I was one of the ones sent to defeat the hollow, but it always was gone by the time yo- er, my partner and I got there. So keep your eyes out and be ready. He kills quickly. Be safe. Now if you'll excuse me, my brother requests my presence. I apologize for not being able to see you off." Ichigo waved away her apology with a small smile and she returned it likewise before shunpoing off without another word.
Renji stared in the direction Rukia disappeared in with an expression that seemed almost forlorn before turning to look at the two lieutenants.
"Listen to what Rukia said. She knows what she's talking about." He glanced over their shoulders before continuing. "The Senkaimon is ready for you now. Remember; be safe, stay alert, and don't do anything stupid." He glared at them both meaningfully. "Shiro, you have your soul phone, right?"
"Yes, Abarai Taichou."
"Good. Then I'll let you take your leave. Good luck to both of you." With that, and a nod, the captain of the fifth squad shunpoed away, leaving behind a grumbling albino and orange-head.
They turned and gave a quick farewell to each of their friends, which were received with varying degrees of excitement.
Two Hell Butterflies flew over to hover above their shoulders. With one final wave, they were in the Dangai Precipice World and on their way to start their newest missions; one assigned by their superiors, the 13 Court Guard Squads and the other a quest to find out what those same superiors were hiding from all of Seireitei.
The two jogged on the path between the oozing walls warily and in uncharacteristic silence. They both breathed a sigh of relief when they spotted the exit just in front of them. They picked up their pace and smiled as they stepped out, only to stumble with unmanly screeches that would later be denied as they realized they were arriving into the World of the Living in mid-air. After gathering reishi beneath their feet to steady themselves, they felt what could only be compared to a cage being put on their stores of reiatsu, making them inaccessible. It was uncomfortable, but not severely unpleasant.
They eased themselves to the ground and gazed around at the bustling city in front of them. People were striding down the sidewalk on their way to work, while children giggled as they raced each other to school.
Shiro glanced over at Ichigo to see him with his brows furrowed, as if straining to remember something. Shiro could almost see the gears turning in his head. When he finished thinking so much, Ichigo sighed and turned to face Shiro, looking tired and worn.
"Shall we start?" He asked with a raised eyebrow and Shiro snorted in amusement.
"I've been waitin' for you, Ichi'!" Ichigo scowled at this and punched Shiro's shoulder before stomping away grumpily. The albino chuckled before following his companion.
They wandered around for a while, mostly walking in the air above Karakura for a birds' eye view of the city. The two didn't speak much and Shiro didn't want to be the one to break the silence, especially since Ichigo had a grim and serious look on his face. His stomach growled and he opened his mouth to ask if they should get some food when a beep interrupted him. The small noise came from the albino's shihakusho and Ichigo's attention was immediately on the phone Shiro was pulling out. The lieutenant of the 5th squad mentally calculated where the hollow was, as indicated by the blinking dot on a grid on the screen.
"It's close. Let's go," Shiro commanded as he flipped the phone shut. They shunpoed to try and catch the hollow, forgetting about their hunger and began wondering if this was their target. They quickly leaped towards the hollow, passing by a wide river when Ichigo flinched and shut his eyes, only to open them back up to once more continue to hunt down the hollow. The 6th squad Fukutaichou looked away from Shiro's direction, but not before the latter saw his slightly haunted expression and a strange curiosity at his friend's expression took over. Normally Ichigo would tell him what was going on in his head, so they could figure it out together, but he was staying silent this time, which was puzzling. He shrugged it off and picked up his pace.
They finally stopped in a wooded park, but there was no sign of a hollow. The only sounds were two voices of a woman and her son nearby. The woman was dribbling a soccer ball between her feet as her small toddler giggled and attempted to kick it out from between her feet. She nimbly dodged a few feet away and the boy followed once again and the process repeated.
"I don't see anything here, Ichigo. Maybe it was a false alarm?" Shiro wondered aloud and the woman froze, her black hair settling back onto her shoulders as she bounced the ball into her hands and quietly shushed her son.
"I doubt it, Shiro. Soul Society doesn't make mistakes like that. Let's look around the park and see what we find. You head in that direction, I'll go this way," Ichigo strategized, pointing Shiro in the direction of the young mother and himself in the other.
Shiro nodded and leapt deftly into the air, propelling himself up until he was above the tree line. He peered in every direction, but he couldn't see anything so he shunpoed to the opposite side of the park. After seeing nothing there, he made to meet up with Ichigo, but was stopped by a loud scream in the direction he'd come from. His mind instantly conjured up a mental still-frame of the mother and boy, and, with a worried expression on his face, he spun and shunpoed as quickly as he could back to the large clearing.
The first thing he saw was a large hollow glaring down at the two humans before letting out a roar. The black-haired woman glared at the hollow and told her son to go play on the playground and that everything was ok. The toddler shook as he looked up, almost as if he could see the hollow as well and turned to sprint as quickly as his little legs would allow him, and hid under the slide.
After satisfied that her son was safe, the woman turned to prepare for the hollow's attack, only to see someone standing in front of her.
"Hey! Where'd you come from, Shinigami?" At Shiro's bewildered look that was cast at her over his shoulder, she scoffed and continued. "Yes, I can see you and the hollow. Now, you might want to pay attention, because it looks like it's about to do something."
Shiro spun back around, simultaneously pulling Taiyo no Ryu from its sheath and setting himself in a battle stance in front of the woman. The hollow regarded them for another few seconds before launching himself at Shiro, who sliced off the hollow's arm and forced it away from them. The hollow roared in pain and glared at them before attacking again.
Shiro swung Taiyo and absently noted the sky was getting darker as he just barely missed the hollow's mask when it dexterously dodged to the side. A rain drop hit Shiro's cheek, but he ignored it in favour of getting rid of the hollow threatening the humans' lives.
He moved to swing his sword, but before he could, his vision blurred and a great pain bloomed in his head. He cried out and attempted to push back the pain long enough to beat the hollow, but it didn't work. A series of images played in front of his eyes.
He was bloody, holding the hilt of a sealed Zanpakutou that he didn't recognize and glaring at a hairy hollow in front of him. He felt like an observer and participant at the same time, strangely enough. The hollow's eyes were mocking him and a woman suddenly appeared in front of him and spoke. She had a melodic voice and Shiro recognized it, but he couldn't recall who the beautiful light-haired woman before him was. She crooned to him and spoke gently, calling him Ichigo, and Shiro was too fascinated with her to notice. Suddenly he felt a pain in his side and he choked, coughing up blood.
Another scene flashed in front of his eyes. It was dusty and he was exhausted. Something was blocking his vision, and he panicked. 'Have I become a hollow?' He thought frantically, but, somehow, it felt like he wasn't thinking that rather than someone else. He felt a familiar hilt in his hand. He swung his hand up and smashed the mask on his face and moved the rest to the side. He blinked as he saw tanned hands rather than his white ones, and then he felt as if he were being pushed away, and he fell into darkness.
What felt like hours later, he blearily blinked his eyes open. To his surprise, the hollow, woman, and all his surroundings were frozen. He couldn't move his limbs and he began to panic, before he felt a familiar presence near him.
"Taiyo!" He swivelled his eyes above and behind him, where he saw his Zanpakutou's humanoid form slouching. His bright red hair hung limply around his face and his orange eyes were dull with exhaustion. He limped over to Shiro and sat down.
"Do you know what you just saw?" The Zanpakutou inquired quietly as he stared down at Shiro, who was still paralyzed.
"No," Shiro muttered as he examined his partner's eyes. They glimmered, but were unreadable. Taiyo could normally be read like a book, and this puzzled Shiro.
Taiyo continued as if he were unaware of Shiro's investigation of his emotions. "Those were memories from your past life." He sucked in a breath and clutched his chest. He tried to speak, but it only came out a gargled mess, before he collapsed to the ground and dissipated.
"Taiyo? Taiyo? Taiyo no Ryu! Stop messing with me! What's going on?" Shiro yelled as he continued to struggle against his invisible bonds. A wave of calm flowed through him and his muscles loosened as he began to wonder, again, what was going on.
'Relax, Shiro. I'm ok; I just went back to your inner world. You'll learn what is going on soon enough. I slowed down time so you can still protect those humans and kill that hollow.' Taiyo murmured to Shiro through mindspeak and Shiro mentally nodded back, hesitantly. Then darkness overcame him again.
This time he opened his eyes to see the hollow with its mouth open and eyes eager, diving at Shiro to try and eat him. The albino yelped and rolled out of the way gripping Taiyo in his hands again. The Zanpakutou quivered in his hands and he grinned before leaping at the hollow with a battle cry. The hollow roared back in return and tried to once again dodge out of the way of his blade, to no avail. The hollow dissipated with one last cry of rage and sorrow and Shiro sheathed Taiyo with a click, before turning to look back at the woman.
She was scrutinizing him with charcoal-colored eyes, appearing as if she wanted to ask something, but she wasn't sure how to phrase it.
"What's your name?" Shiro asked before she could say anything. The woman scowled and crossed her arms.
"What's it to you, Shinigami?"
"I'm curious to know the name of the human I just saved that can somehow see me." A vein throbbed in the woman's forehead and she glared at the albino in anger as the rain continued to drizzle around them.
"I could have protected myself easily, but you stepped in before I could," she retorted and Shiro found her temper quite familiar, but before he could follow this train of thought, her son came running out from under the slide and clutched onto her leg.
"Mommy! Is the monster gone now?" He inquired frantically as his brown eyes moved to peer around the clearing. The woman calmed him as she picked him up to settle him on her hip and ruffle his black hair affectionately.
"Don't worry Fuyuki, he's gone now. Now, Shinigami, what's your name?"
"Haku Tsukino. May I ask for yours now?"
"Fine. My name is Karin. Wh-"
"Shiro! What happened here?" A voice demanded, cutting off what Karin was about to say. Karin's eyes dilated as she recognized the voice; a voice she hadn't heard for over 5 years.
"Ichi-nii?" She murmured as she turned and, indeed, spotted the orange-haired Shinigami who held the title 'brother'. Ichigo glanced over his shoulder, but didn't see anyone. He pointed at his chest.
"Are you talking to me?" He asked with a confused look. The woman in front of him was familiar, but he didn't recognize the boy on her hip.
"I-ichi-nii? Don't you remember? It's me, Karin! Your younger sister! What about Yuzu?" Karin questioned desperately, while Fuyuki and Shiro glanced back and forth between the two.
"I'm sorry, I don't remember you. I don't remember anything about my human life," Ichigo apologized in a murmur, hanging his head sadly. Karin's eyes widened at this confession, but narrowed again dangerously.
"Why do you look so defeated?" She shouted, startling her son, who clutched onto her shoulders in fright. "Why are you hanging your head? The brother I knew was strong and would fight anything! Just because you have amnesia doesn't mean you won't remember eventually! Come with me; I'm taking you to Goat Face." Karin fumed as she turned to lead them out of the park after putting the soccer ball into a net-bag and shouldering it with ease. She paused and turned to look back at the doppelgangers, who still looked shocked at her outburst.
"Are you coming or not?" Her sharp question jerked the two out of their reveries and they followed along bemusedly. They walked along in silence, before Ichigo finally spoke up, voicing the question he and Shiro both had.
"Who's Goat Face?" Karin shot him an amused glance before rolling her eyes.
"Dad. Isshin Kurosaki. He'll know what to do." At this, Ichigo was so startled he nearly tripped.
"Isshin Kurosaki? Great! You're taking us right where we want to go!"
"Well, that didn't take a lot of convincing. Oh, Fuyuki, I'm sorry, I forgot to introduce you. This is Haku Tsukino and Ichigo Kurosaki. Ichigo is your uncle, but he's like all those spirits who talk to you. Ichi-nii, this is your nephew, Fuyuki."
"So Uncle Ichi's a ghost?" Fuyuki asked as he chewed on his pointer finger, which Karin promptly whacked out of his mouth. The boy pouted, but didn't chew on it again.
"Pretty much," Karin answered.
"Cool!" The boy crowed as he stared at Ichigo with a new enthusiasm than before. Ichigo rubbed the back of his head awkwardly.
"I suppose so," he muttered. The boy began to question him quickly, without giving him time to answer, and Karin shot Ichigo an apologetic look.
"He talks a lot for a 3 year old. Sorry." Ichigo shrugged, but continued to listen to Fuyuki's ramblings, until they finally stepped in front of a building with a sign that said 'Kurosaki Clinic' and stopped.
"Here we are," Karin announced, and Ichigo nervously nodded back and exchanged a nod with Shiro, who had been abnormally quiet.
'Here we are.'
So just to give you some perspective, when Ichigo died, he was 24. If he were still alive now, he'd be 29.
I hope you guys enjoyed the chapter! I would appreciate feedback...like, a lot. I want to know if I kept them in character. I realized I haven't been doing that very well for all the other chapters...XP
Shawna: Yeah, I feel bad for doing this to Renji as well...
Legend of Zelda 4 life: Hahaha! Sarcasm is a beautiful thing;) I'm glad you enjoyed that chapter, and I hope this one is just as good! I can see the end of the story!
deadpoolhulk: Yeah, he kind of was a 'chosen one' but that makes him sound like Harry Potter XP
kitsunelover300: I like that idea. And I know exactly how to fit it in to the story. Well, I had planned for it to be similar to Pantera, but since Grimmjow, sadly, isn't the focus in this story, we're not going to see Pantera's Soul Reaper equivalent :( And I see what you did there ;)
mist shadow: It wasn't several years. Only about 3. Which is still a long time, but she's been busy with being a lieutenant. XD Didnt mean to make Chad and Ishida OOC. Woops. And everything will be revealed soon...
Xiang Yun: Thanks? And no, no yaoi. It was decided a while ago, and that won't change :)