So…..do I want to know how angry you all are with me? …No, no I don't. I don't even have an excuse. Is there a name for when you want to write, but physically are too lazy to? Ne, well that's what I have. Anyway, I won't keep you guys long. This isn't a super long chapter (I told my boyfriend to choose the length and he said 4100 words, but since I wanted to get this out close to the one year mark, it wasn't possible.)
I can't believe a year later I haven't finished this….
But thank you all so so so much for your reviews, and favorites, and alerts, and oh so many ideas! Surprisingly, I haven't gotten shot and killed for not updating faster. I'll try, I promise!
Review replies are at the bottom!
Oh, and also: As soon as I'm finished with this story, I'm going back to edit. I skipped random words throughout the story, people are OOC, and yeah. And sorry for the lack of fluffiness or smut in this chapter…DX There was simply no place to put it!
By the time late-afternoon arrived, everyone had gathered around the small table, each with a steaming cup of tea in front of them. Orihime looked unusually calm and quiet; Chad was the same; Uryu contemplated the rising steam in distraction; Rukia shifted uneasily and fingered the loose material of the shihakusho around her knees; Renji glared around impatiently; Urahara sipped the tea and gazed around at the other occupants of the table; and Shiro and Ichigo dreaded telling them what was to come, not that they couldn't handle it.
"I think we should go on the offensive," Ichigo blurted. The group startled at the sudden break in silence and stared at him with wide eyes. Ichigo awkwardly rubbed the back of his head and glanced at Urahara uncertainly.
"Urahara, maybe you should explain."
"Today, Grimmjow paid a little visit to Ichigo and Hollow-san, who got injured," said hollow shot a glare at Urahara, who continued obliviously, "and Grimmjow left with a warning that it was just the beginning. We also learned that his ultimate technique is a lot more dangerous than originally thought. He's able to control his Desgarron, which are difficult to explain. You'll know them when you see them and-"
"All in all, we need to kick the blue kitty's ass before he kicks ours. If we stay, we'll have homefield advantage, but if we go to Hueco Mundo, we'll have the element of surprise," Shiro interrupted. Urahara glanced at Shiro, but didn't comment. Nobody replied immediately, simply sitting and pondering what to do.
"We need back up from the Soul Society," Rukia murmured. Ichigo clasped his hands together and rested his head on them.
"There are 7 of us, not including Urahara and including Shiro. We can take them easily," Ichigo brushed off Rukia's suggestion offhandedly. Angered, Rukia hit the table with her hands and jumped to her feet.
"Ichigo, you have to stop being so damn hard-headed, you fool! You've nearly been killed either by these mutated hollows or Grimmjow multiple times! You've been lucky enough not to die because of anything in the past, but don't you think your luck might be running out? We need the Soul Society and you know it!" Rukia panted, scowling at Ichigo, who'd stood up during the middle of her shouting and was clenching his fists.
"Are you saying everything I've done is because of luck? That everything that's happened to me is because of luck? The fact that I'm still living is because of luck? Well let me tell you something, Rukia Kuchiki-"
"Don't yell at Rukia!" Renji stood up and started shaking his fist at Ichigo. Orihime looked flustered as Ichigo flushed with rage. He opened his mouth to retort when-
"Kurosaki! Control yourself!" Uryu said sharply, waving pointedly at Shiro, who was shaking from the flux of emotions. Ichigo paled from his bright red to a few shades whiter than his normal tan and he dropped next to Shiro. The Soul Reaper began murmuring quietly to the hollow, petting his white hair comfortingly. Shiro leaned against Ichigo and shut his eyes, and everyone in the room sighed in relief.
Everyone sat back down. Chad, Orihime and Urahara had remained silent the entire time, but Urahara chose then to speak.
"Rukia is right. As much as you may disagree, Ichigo, I don't think we can take any chances. Especially when we don't know exactly what we're walking into. Rukia, Renji, you two go to Soul Society and tell the Soutaichou about what is going on. Orihime, Chad, Uryu, Ichigo, and Shiro, you need to start training to get ready for-"
"No," Ichigo interjected, "Shiro and I are going with Rukia and Renji to help assemble our team. If we're getting Soul Society's help, I want to be able to trust who comes with us."
When no one objected, he grinned. "Let's get started then!"
The four stepped down on the ground of Sokyoku hill and Rukia instantly glanced over at Ichigo, who was talking to Shiro, who laughed and replied back easily. The Kuchiki felt a pang of sadness as an image of Kaien and the hollow that killed him flashed through her mind. She pushed the memory to the back of her mind and moved to stand beside the two.
"Shiro, you need to dematerialize. The Soul Reapers here are powerful and can detect you, even if you're not visible to them. They will get suspicious and attack, and we don't need to take that chance." Shiro sighed, but didn't object. He demanded that Rukia and Renji should turn around and the two Soul Reapers turned away long enough for Shiro to give Ichigo a deep kiss and dematerialize.
The three remaining Shinigami flash-stepped to the First Squad's office and were greeted by Chojiro
Sasakibe, the First Squad's Fukutaichou. He hardly looked shocked at the three's appearance and wordlessly led them to the Soutaichou's office. He opened the doors and let them in, announcing their arrival to Yamamoto who didn't look surprised either, but slightly disgruntled.
"Who do you think you are, barging into my office without prior warning?" He demanded, eyes narrowed and grip tight on his camouflaged Zanpakutou. Rukia, because she was a noble, stepped forward to explain.
"Soutaichou, there is trouble in the World of the Living and Hueco Mundo. We know that at least one arrancar survived from the Winter War and has created an army of mutated hollows to take revenge. There may or not be more arrancars that have been newly created from this new strain of hollows. These hollows have repeatedly returned to the human world to wreak havoc, but they don't live off of souls like normal hollows. They take your energy through how much of that energy is used on emotions. We came to request backup when we go to Hueco Mundo to destroy these hollows before they cause more harm."
The Soutaichou was quiet for a moment, simply watching Rukia before he replied.
"I am allowing this request for backup because of you and your friends' history of not obeying my commands. If anyone is killed, retreat immediately. You may take 4 more Soul Reapers with you and only one may be a Captain. Dismissed."
Rukia and Renji bowed; Ichigo did as well, after Rukia cuffed him on the head. They took their leave and shunpoed to the 10th squad, where they barged in on Hitsugaya doing paperwork impatiently as Rangiku sipped sake on the couch. She glanced up at their arrival and set her cup down, jumping up to give Ichigo an excited hug. She bounced back and started asking questions without giving them a moment to answer when Hitsugaya interrupted her rambling.
"What do you want?" Hitsugaya stopped Ichigo's retort with a wave of his hand. "Every time you lot come in here, you want me to do something or you want something that I have. So what is it?" Ichigo chuckled at the 10th squad captain's impatience.
"You know us too well, don't you Toshiro?"
"I've told you a hundred times, it's-"
"Captain Hitsugaya, I know. I like calling you Toshiro though." Hitsugaya puffed out a sigh, before turning back to Rukia.
"So now are you going to tell me what's going on?" Rukia explained the situation to Hitsugaya like she had the Soutaichou, only this time Ichigo jumped in every once in a while to add in a few first-hand stories and details and by the end, Hitsugaya looked troubled.
"Is there evidence of other arrancars?"
"We haven't seen any other arrancars besides Grimmjow, the ex-Sexta Espada, but we suspect someone with more patience and intelligence is working with him. Grimmjow couldn't pull something like this off. If they're intelligent enough to mutate hollows into this, I'm sure they could figure out how to speed up the process of becoming an arrancar." Now Hitsugaya was grim-faced.
"Rangiku." Rangiku looked serious as she turned to face her superior. "Gather up Ikkaku and Yumichika, after checking with Zaraki Taichou that they may come with us. We're going to the human world." Renji, who'd been silent the entire time, finally commented quietly as Rangiku flash-stepped away.
"Thank you, Hitsugaya Taichou, for helping us."
"It's not like I have much of a choice," Toshiro murmured, glancing to the side and shaking his head. Before anyone could reply, Toshiro froze and his eyes glazed, as if listening to someone. Then he blinked and looked at Ichigo.
"There's something you aren't telling me, isn't there?" Ichigo tensed and took a step back before glancing around them, even though Renji, Rukia and Toshiro were the only other ones in the room.
"It's better if I show you, Toshiro, and now isn't the right time. Later, okay?" Hitsugaya narrowed his eyes and nodded tersely. They stood awkwardly for a moment, only to be interrupted by Rangiku who appeared in the room with Ikkaku and Yumichika trailing her.
"So we heard we've got a new challenge?" Ikkaku drawled and Yumichika shuddered.
"Fighting hollows and arrancars who suck on your emotions? That is not beautiful," he sniffed and flicked his hair out of his face. Ichigo rolled his eyes at the two.
"You definitely haven't changed, either of you. Yea, we've got a new challenge. You up for it?" Ichigo grinned ferally at the bald Soul Reaper, who grinned back in an excited manner.
"Why are you even asking? Let's get going. It's boring around this place," Ikkaku glanced around Hitsugaya's office, and then walked out with Yumichika next to him. The rest exchanged glances and shrugged, following them out. They took off to the Senkaimon and the guards let them through with barely a second glance. The group frequented Soul Society and the World of the Living so often it was just a waste of time to interrogate them. They wouldn't tell them anything anyway.
As they made their way through the Dangai Precipice, no one spoke, and the Death Butterflies followed along as silent companions. When they stepped through the doors at the end, the butterflies flew back and the Soul Reapers shunpoed to Urahara's shop in an instant. It was late, nearing midnight, and Chad, Uryu and Orihime had already left to go home when they arrived. Urahara greeted them and let them in, but before he could get a word in, Hitsugaya turned to Ichigo and demanded to know what he wasn't telling.
"Relax Toshiro, I am now. Let's go to the basement. You should come too, Ikkaku, Yumichika, Rangiku, so it won't be a surprise to you later." The group followed Ichigo down to the basement. Rukia and Renji knew what was coming, and Ikkaku, Yumichika, Toshiro and Rangiku were slightly tense. Then, before anyone could say anything, an albino carbon copy of Ichigo suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
"It's about time, aibou! I was getting bored in there, not being able to talk or do a lot of anything," Shiro quipped before glancing at the others by them. That was when Hitsugaya noticed the albino's eyes and immediately put his Zanpakutou to the hollow's throat.
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't kill you now, Hollow," he growled, but Ichigo pushed the blade away, startling the young captain.
"What's wrong with you Kurosaki?" He demanded and Ichigo merely grinned.
"Everyone, this is Shiro, my inner hollow. He's not dangerous unless you give him a reason to be. Shiro, this is Ikkaku, Yumichika, Rangiku, and Toshiro," Ichigo introduced, but Shiro waved off the introductions.
"I'm you, Ichi', so I know who they are. Introductions aren't necessary." Ichigo scowled and hit Shiro on the side of the head.
"I was doing it as a formality, and for them to know you're not gonna kill them! Don't give me that shit!"
"I'm not giving you shit, I'm simply telling you I already know who they are," Shiro replied coolly while Ichigo grit his teeth in irritation. He froze when he heard giggling. He turned to see Rangiku with a hand over her mouth, laughing at their antics.
The doppelgangers exchanged glances and Ichigo scratched the back of his head awkwardly. Yumichika wasn't paying attention to what was going on, simply fussing over his appearance. Ikkaku seemed indifferent, if not slightly excited by the thought of a new sparring partner. Rangiku was still giggling while Hitsugaya was still wary.
"So this is the hollow who took control of your body constantly?" Hitsugaya interrogated, irritating Ichigo.
"Not constantly," he snapped before sighing. "Yes, this is him. He's….different now. He and I will most likely be switching off when fighting in Hueco Mundo."
Footsteps made the group look back over to the entrance to the basement to see Urahara with his cane and fan, looking quite pleased with himself.
"Oh Ichigo! I've got a surprise for you!" He sing-songed as he made his way over with his hand behind his back.
"What are you up to, Urahara?"
"Oh, just trying to help in any way I can! But I'll need Hollow-san's help on this!" Shiro raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"My help? With what?"
"Oh, just something that'll help when you go to Hueco Mundo! My own specially designed gigai for you! You'll be able to access each other's powers through your Zanpakutou. So Ichigo, that means you can use your mask and Soul Reaper powers and Shiro, you can use Zangetsu and your own hollow powers! Hueco Mundo is full of spiritual energy that needs to be filtered. If you ask nicely, perhaps Zangetsu will teach you how to filter it to use instead of all of Ichigo's energy, Hollow-san!"
Ichigo looked slightly impressed and Shiro grinned ferally.
"Let me see your gigai, Hat 'N Clogs!" Urahara handed over the gigai with an excited smile. Shiro fused himself with it, and the gigai changed to match his appearance; gold and black eyes and everything. Shiro smirked happily.
"This is perfect." Urahara bowed jokingly before turning serious.
"You'll need to train in your gigai for a few days before we can know for sure that everything is functioning correctly. So all of you go home or wherever you're staying, get some rest, and come back tomorrow to get ready." Everyone nodded and began to leave. Renji stayed behind to ask Urahara to stay in his shop, who agreed happily. Rangiku and Hitsugaya left for Orihime's apartment and Yumichika and Ikkaku left for Keigo and his sister's apartment. Rukia decided to stay at Ichigo's house for the night, hoping to ask Ichigo's dad to stay in the girls' room.
Shiro had decided to keep the gigai so he wouldn't have to depend on Ichigo's energy. He lay down next to his other half and snuggled against the other's broad chest.
"Go to sleep, Ichigo. We're gonna be spending tomorrow training and getting ready to go to Hueco Mundo," Shiro mumbled, sleepily poking Ichigo in the ribs. Ichigo shied away from the poking and got himself comfortable in Shiro's arms.
So...bad? Good? Review guys and let me know what to improve on or if you think something is wrong! Thanks much~!
TealEyedBeing: Grimmjow's a buttface. You're welcome to swat him with a newspaper. And thank you! :D
Lenighma: Just an eensy weensy bit. And that's probably because although I've read the manga, I followed the anime a little more avidly since I didn't have access to all the volumes.
Yuffie097: Random people are definitely the most fun. Yeahhhhh Sprite! 7-Up is pretty good too….a speech impediment? Oh! I do that too XD *gives a pillow pet* sleeping at school? That's the best time to do it! Are you kidding? My reviews are insanely long too. I love long reviews anyway. They make me happeh :3
Yuruse: Yes he is! I just all around love Shiro:3
Hollow Ichigo-Ichigo: At least you didn't have to wait too long! :D Hopefully it won't take another 5 months for me to update…