A/N: Wow. I had no idea this story would be so well...accepted. I'm glad that all of you are enjoying my work, and believe me, I aim to take each chapter to a new level and then some! Benihime's abilities are relatively unexplored, so that leaves me plenty of plot/wiggle room...
Read, Review and enjoy the chappy!
Watching fearfully as you grow
Two hopes clashing, a conflict close by
One, a father's concern, knowing he's failed
Another, a mother's love, wanting the best
And to add another
A pair of golden glowing eyes
Waiting in the darkness
Waiting for her prize
As the first bolt of lightning tore through the clouds, the rain began to fall. It hammered against the roof, it tore through the streets, it engulfed everyone and everything in its path, drenching them to the core. All of Karakura suffered its wrath, save one. Walking amidst the rain soaked streets, a woman, garbed entirely in black, remained unscathed. The rain did not touch her, nay, it turned to steam and blew away with the wind before it could draw close.
Her visage could not be seen in the darkened cowl, but for a pair of gleaming, golden eyes. She walked with her arms folded, and head down, submissive, concealing her face from the occasional passerby. None bothered to spare her so much as a passing glance, however, and she continued onward, unperturbed. She continued to drift along in such a manner, until she reached what appeared be an ordinary hotel.
Suddenly, her demeanor changed.
She straightened, abandoning the hunch that had initially led her to be mistaken for an old woman. Her hood was cast off, revealing a young face, not quite that of a girl's neither that of woman. Rich, violet locks, cut short at the neckline, framed this tan visage, the rain plastering a few strands of hair to her forehead. She cast the black cloak aside, revealing a slim black kosode and slacks. No sooner had she done so, then she simply dissapeared. Present one moment, and gone the next, she appeared to have vanished altogether. It was not until she reappeared on a rooftop several blocks away, that her prescence was confirmed once more. She paused, slowly glancing to the left, right, and back again.
The window was unlocked.
She smiled, exposing pearly white teeth.
Then, gripping the drainpipe tightly, she swung herself into the room, feet first. Instead of smashing through the glass, however, the woman phased right through it, as though it simply did not exist. She tucked her body into a roll, and came up standing, in the middle of the room.
Her target lay in bed, snoring softly, dead to the world. A mass of wild spiritual pressure emanated from him, creating a small breeze in the sealed room that tickled at her senses. She crinkled her nose as the scent of dried blood assaulted her nostrils. Why would a boy have such a scent?
Frowning, she placed one hand beneath the pillow, carefully, so as not to disturb the child whose head lay atop it. Briefly, she allowed herself a small smile. So this was Isshin's son. The boy didn't look a thing like his father, even at the age of five. Orange hair? The kid probably got it from his mother, she mused to herself, shaking her head once more, before returning to the task at hand. The scent was overpowering now, at this range. As the reports had confirmed, the foul spiritual odor emanated from this point, and, seeking to see it for herself, the woman's hand closed around the first solid object she came into contact withand slowly, removed it. She had not been prepared for the sight that greeted her, however.
A massive something loomed up at her, screaming countless obscenities as the sword in her hand came alive with power. The light wrapped itself tightly around the katana, and suddenly, exposing a vicious looking woman, her hair streaked with black and red. Startled, the intruder dropped the sword, and the spectre faded away, her blood red eyes narrowing to furious slits as the unwilling well of power maintaining her, dried up.
This horrifying vision lasted for only an instant longer, and then she was gone.
Shaken, the woman stared at the sword, where it had fallen into bed beside the boy. He clutched at it, sheathe and all, in both hands, clinging to it as though it were his only lifeline in the throes of his dreams. All of that, and he hadn't even twitched? Drawing the half mask away from her lips, the intruder planted one hand on her hip and shook her head in sheer disbelief. That zanpakutou belonged to one man, and one man only.
And this boy had it.
"Kurosaki Ichigo...huh?" She murmured softly."What on earth am I going to do with you?" She felt the brief surge of killer intent from the blade, but, without a host, there was little else it could do but glow brightly. She leaned forward, ignoring the heat that emanated from the hilt.
With a small smile, she planted a soft kiss on the boy's forehead. Ichigo twitched, muttered something and rolled over. His spiritual aura seemed to shift for a moment, before it resumed its customary shape. Now, however, his azure blue aura possesed just a tinge of red. A touch of stability.
With this, the boy's power would awaken when it was truly needed. Whenever that may be, she told herself. Regardless, something this minute would be completely untraceable, and when the time did come, they would be none the wiser. If that day ever did arise...
'No.' She shook herself, willing those thoughts away as she sat down beside him.
Any other attempts at interference were strictly forbidden. If she were to, kami forbid, actually give the boy a chunk of her spiritual power, then who knew what the repercussions would be? He could become immensely powerful in a very short time, or he could explode from receiving what his body would reject as foreign matter. No, she couldn't take that chance. The Thirteen Court Guard would know at once that it was her doing.
Feign ignorance, claim that the only source of spiritual pressure in Karakura had been that of Isshin Kurosaki, and he certainly wasn't a threat to anyone anymore, not with the loss of his powers twenty years ago. Play to their vanity, and hope that the Central Forty Six would swallow her lie.
This was all she could do.
With a lone tear in her eye, she stroked his tiny face.
"Become strong, Ichigo-boy. Live long, find yourself a nice girl, settle down, and start a big family. And no matter what, never, ever, use that sword. Hide it, bury it, break it, if you can, but don't let anyone see it. Don't talk to it. Ignore it, forget about it. Pretend it never even existed."
The zanpakutou burned bright at that remark.
You underestimate my power, Shihoin Yoruichi. Did you truly think that I would choose this boy as my companion if I did not believe that he had the potential to surpass even you? He will become more than any shinigami ever was, and ever will be. He...is my prince.
"Urusai." Suddenly, her eyes with chips of stern amber, as she glared down into the blade that Ichigo held fast."Don't speak as if you know me, zanpakutou. I won't even bother with your name. You're just a faux. A mistake. Because of you, a little boy, and his entire family, are going to die."
A faux? Me? I dare you to pick me up and say those words to my face!
"I don't have to." Yoruichi retorted calmly. "You're nothing compared to the original. Just a speck of dust in the wind. So make no mistake. I'm doing this for the boy, not for you, crimson princess." Ignoring the zanpakuto's ferverent objection, she deliberately kissed Ichigo on the cheek.
"It's a shame, really. For you, that is." She batted an eyelash at the drooling boy who continued to mumble in his sleep. "If Ichigo somehow survives all of this, he'll be a fine man in a few years. Who knows? I might even be inclined to pay him a little...visit."
SAY THAT AGAIN, YOU WHORE!
Alas, her words fell upon empty air.
Yourichi Shihoin was gone.
(The next day)
Ichigo Kurosaki awoke the next morning to the smell of pancakes. He bolted upright, searching at once for the katana, relaxing only when his hand curled around its onyx sheathe. He'd talked late into the night, pausing only when his voice deserted him and exhaustion threatened to smother his thoughts further. At some point, he remembered being brought upstairs, though that felt like it was only five minutes ago.
"Ichigo, breakfast is ready."
The thought of food wiped all other concerns from his mind. Glancing at the clock, and realizing it was still Six A.M. a sudden realization reached the mind of young Kurosaki Ichigo. If his mother was up at this hour, and breakfast was already prepared, then that could only mean one thing.
Tucking the sword under his pillow for safe keeping, Ichigo hurriedly dressed himself and thundered down the stairs. The pleasant aroma of bacon and eggs soon joined that of the pancake, and Ichigo couldn't help but grin as he scurried into the kitchen, knowing all too well what he'd find.
Sure enough, there she was.
Her golden orange hair tied back into a loose topknot, an apron draped about her waist, Masaki Kurosaki hummed tunelessly to herself as she glided about the kitcehn floor, a dish of delicious homemade pancakes in one hand, and a tray of bacon and eggs in the other. Setting them aside upon the table, she smoothly swept a chair out with her heel for Ichigo, who was already halfway into the seat before it had finished moving.
"Ah, there you are."
"Arigatou!" Ichigo grinned up at his mother, as a cold glass of milk was sent down beside his plate. "Ka-chan!"
Occasions such as these, when his mother would rise early in the morning to prepare breakfast just for him, had become increasingly rare as of late. By the lack of commotion in the house, it was obvious that Karin and Yuzu were either still sleeping, or they had already been fed and had been taken upstairs. It was the first time his mother had made breakfast since her return from the hospital, and Ichigo was elated to discover...
His breakfast was acutally edible today. With a small cry, Ichigo gave his thanks once more, and immediately dug into his morning meal. The bacon was crisp and full of flavor, the eggs practically melting into his mouth. And the pancakes, oh the pancakes with extra syrup, were pure heaven.
Masaki's tender smile as she sat down beside him, made it all the more enjoyable. Ichigo couldn't remember the last time he'd had breakfast with his mother, let alone one that tasted this good. In fact, it wasn't long at all until Ichigo had devoured his first and second helping of Masaki's wonderful cooking. With a small, bashful burp, the boy pushed his now empty plate away from the table, and sank down into his chair.
"Good." Masaki playfully dapped at Ichigo's sticky, syurpy face with a wet cloth, eliciting a small blush from her son. "I'm glad you enjoyed your special breakfast. You're going to need three full meals for what I have planned for us today, Ichigo." Now, I want you to go back upstairs, and bring your sword with you when you come back down. Oh, and you should bring a change of clothes, too. We wouldn't want you to get dirty."
"Neh?" Ichigo blinked once, twice, and then once again. He vaguely recalled that his mother had told him he didn't have to go to school today. His little eyes grew wide as he glanced at the clock. She was actually serious about that! If he wasn't going to school today, then what on earth-
"Ichigo, have you ever heard of kendo?"
Oh, dear. I don't like where this is going.
"Neh?" Ichigo blinked, the word foreign to his ears.
"Just go upstairs and get yourself dressed, dear. I'll explain everything when you come downstairs." Ichigo did as he was told, silently slinking upstairs to retrieve the sword, and sneaking back down just as quietly. When he'd returned to the kitchen, he was surprised to find that Masaki had abandoned the apron and miracously cleared the kitchen table of all its dirty dishes. He had no idea his mommy could move that fast.
She sat on a nearby chair, smiling serenly as he approached, extending one hand.
"May I see your sword, Ichigo?"
Ichigo felt it, a surge of dread so sharp, so abrupt, that he momentarily lost his grip on the blade. Do not give me to her little one! She is not my wielder, YOU are my wielder, and I will not- YOU DROPPED ME! The disbelief in her voice would have been humorous in any other situation.
"No!" Instead, young Ichigo cried out as his mother calmly caught the sword in hand, just before it could hit the floor. When he reached for it, his mother calmly pulled the weapon out of his reach. "Ka-chan, what are you doing! Give that back! It's mine! GIVE ME THAT BACK RIGHT NOW!"
"Don't worry," If Masaki had been startled by Ichigo's sudden outburst, she did very little to show it. "I'll give it back to you in a moment." This did little to assauge his fears however, and it certainly didn't calm his sword down, as her protests grew louder and far more ferverent.
LET ME GO! LET ME GO THIS FUCKING INSTANT!
"She says let go!"
"I will." Masaki assured her distraught son, running one eye over the blade. "Just a moment."
Ichigo remained torn somewhere between sorrow and anger when his mother drew his sword from it sheathe. The pain he felt was not quite his own, it felt numbed, chilled, and cold. But Ichigo was fairly certain that he didn't like it, and that it was coming from the sword. His SWORD!
"Don't you want to know her name, Ichigo?"
"Hai. You already know it, don't you?"
A fuzzy pressure clawed at his skull, demanding release. Ichigo gasped, falling to his hands and knees as his heart inexplicably slammed against his chest, threatening to shatter his ribcage. The very sight of his sword, not in his hand, but in that of another's caused him pain. No, not just pain. This wasn't any other owie that his mother could kiss away, this pain came from the inside. Scorching, searing, burning, it took all of his willpower and cast it aside as if he were nothing. He felt the words forcing their way up his throat, scalding and cutting and hacking at him.
YES! My name! Speak it, little one!
Masaki's eyes shot wide open.
The blade in her hand, the weapon of her one and only son, was becoming warm to the touch. As Ichigo fumbled with the unspoken name, as he gripped tightly at his head, the blade began to change. Its slim, tapered tip grew flat, becoming wider as it burned. Soon it was too hot to hold altogether. Carefully placing it upon the table, Masaki looked on in awe as the blade began to transform. It raged hotter still, emitting a crackling, popping sound, red light wrapping loosely around its length, a tassle now dangling from its hilt. Its edge was black, its tip silver...
And suddenly, it was a normal katana again. The crimson energies departed from the blade, returning to its sheathe in a rush of wind so sudden, that the kitchen windows shattered from the force of it. And somehow, little Ichigo had managed to stand up during the blast.
Ichigo swayed on his feet for a moment longer, and toppled forward, the whites of his eyes showing as they rolled back in his head. The forces exerted upon him had simply been too much for the boy to bear, and though he had come within an inch of naming his sword, it would have to wait for another day. Masaki pulled him into her arms, and the sleeping Ichigo did not resist, sagging against his mother as she praised him.
"Oh, my darling Ichigo. Mommy is so proud of you!"
"Masaki! What was that explosion!"
The heavy pounding indicated that Isshin was already on his way downstairs. Vaulting over the railing feet first, the patriarch of the Kurosaki household, cradling Karin in one arm, and Yuzu in the other, took one look at the burnt tabletop, then another at Masaki, and yet another...
Slowly, he turned to regard his wife with a look of absolute horror. No, it was more than that. Disbelief, sorrow, confusion, and even a dab of anger and regret, mingled with terror, all of these emotions and more were mixed together in the pained expression of Kurosaki Isshin.
"Masaki...don't tell me you taught him it."
"Isshin, why can't you be proud of your son?" Masaki shook her head sadly and held their child tighter. "I understand your feelings. Truly, I do. But sheltering Ichigo from his heritage, from his life, you're only going to alienate him. I won't stand for that. I want our child to live a joyful life."
"No. I don't think he succeeded. He came close, but it wasn't enough. We'll try again tomorrow, when he's rested."
Isshin looked as if he were about to shout, then remembered Karin and Yuzu and decided against it. "Masaki, do you have any idea what you're doing? He can't hide from them! Sooner or later, the Central Forty Six is going to notice this! What do you plan to do when they come here?"
"I will fight." Masaki's stern reply left her husband speechless. "I will not let them take Ichigo away from me. So yes, my darling husband, when they come for my child, our child, I will fight them. If they break my arms, I'll protect him by kicking. If they take off my legs, I'll protect him by biting...if they break my neck, I will protect him by staring...if they kill me, Isshin, then I will protect my son by becoming a hollow, if I must."
"They can try whatever they wish...but they will never lay a finger on my son." Isshin could not find the words to speak as Masaki tearfully clutched her eldest child to her bossom. Those same eyes, those lovely orbs of green that had always been so happy during the first years of their marriage, now turned their wrath upon him."I will train him, Isshin. I will make Ichigo strong, and when the enemy comes to take him away, I will give my last breath in his defense. I ask the same of you now, darling. What will you do when they come? Will you stand and fight? Or flee?"
"Do you want your only son to hate you?"
Isshin surprised Masaki then, by calmly turning his back on her, and walking into the family den. After quietly placing both Karin and Yuzu in their crib, the head of the Kurosaki household calmly exited the room, and shut the door behind him. Now, arms empty and shoulders hunched in defeat, he returned to the kitchen, staring only at Ichigo for a moment, his battered, bruised son that refused to understand the situation.
"He is my son." Isshin's word's were empty, yet at the same time, they were full of so much sorrow. "I only want what's best for him. Masaki, if he, if Ichigo goes down this path, he has no chance. I've cut ties with Soul Society. He will have no one but you and I to rely on, and...we just can't."
"You would deny him his happiness then." For the first time since their arguement had begun, Masaki actually sobbed, one hand flying to her mouth. The sound of it nearly broke Isshin's heart in two. "Do not say those word's to me, Kurosaki Isshin. If you insist on doing so, then I-
"No!" Isshin shook his head fiercely, desperate to prevent that. "I won't throw him to the wolves, Masaki! That is exactly what you'll be doing if you raise our son to think that he's invincible! He won't stand a chance by himself, and even if I did have my powers, without allies-
"And...what would you do...if he had allies?" Masaki asked quietly.
"Nani?" Isshin blinked. "Masaki...you wouldn't."
"Iie. I am not so far removed from logic as you are." Masaki shook her head slowly, a sad smile adorning her face. "You may not see it yet, my darling husband, but Ichigo does have allies. Some of them will surprise you, but they will emerge, when the time is right."
"Better that than losing my only son to that...that monster!"
"Benihime." Ichigo rasped softly, earning a startled gasp from both his parents."She...isn't... Isshin choked aloud and turned to stare at his now very much awake son. For Ichigo, Ichigo, covered in sweat, was glaring up at his father with a rare emotion in his eyes, one that his father instantly recognized as outright defiance. Squirming in the arms of his mother, the exhausted child twisted around to reach for something, and Masaki delicately set her soot covered son down beside. With trembling fingers, Ichigo reached for it, the blade, for it had fallen from the table.
"She's...She's not a monster."
The instant Ichigo's hand curled around the hilt the blade complete its transformation. With a sharp crack, the katana exploded into its true form, losing its hilt in the process as the handle bent itself down at a sharp angle. He gripped its black clothen hilt until his little fingers bled into it.
"Impossible." Isshin thought he was looking at a young Kisuke Urahara for a moment, such was Ichigo's gaze. That refusal to flinch, the ability to walk to his own death with a smile on his face. Even now, defying the odds in the face of overwhelming danger. It was almost as if...
At last! I am AWAKENED!
"Her name is...Benihime."
A/N: I DO NOT OWN THE POEM! Ms. Hawkins, I appreciate the help! Hope I translated everything right. I wasn't entirely sure if I translated 'mother' properly, but if I made any errors, feel free to correct me. Next time: Undertaking in the Making.
AND...hERE'S AN OMAKE TO KEEP EVERYONE HAPPY!
"Well, this certainly is a problem. A boy with my zanpakutou..."
"Eh? When did you get here, Kisuke?"
"Ah-haha. That's a bit of a story, Isshin-san. Oh, and it looks like we're already out of time. Too bad."
"But of course! Now, for the preview!"
"H-Hold on a sec! What're you-