A/N: Since manga chapter 423 frustrated and kind of made me angry, I decided to write this. At the end, I just wanted to shout, "Ichigo can't lose his powers forever; he's the freaking hero!" Of course, there was also the nasty suspicion that Aizen wasn't done making trouble that hoped that our favorite orange haired Shinigami would regain not only his spiritual powers but his Shinigami ones as well. And it was so sad to see him lose the ability to see Rukia. I'm going to blend this information into "A Little Revenge" so this may seem like a prequel of sorts to that series.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Bleach characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Tite Kubo et al.
He watched her disappear from his sight and forced himself not to cry. His friends stood at his back, able to see whether Rukia had really walked out of his life or whether she was still standing in front of him. Ichigo forced himself to say goodbye, thanking her silently for all that she had done for them. He knew he'd see her again one day, and he was determined that it wouldn't be years from now when he finally died for real.
"Kurosaki-kun," he heard Inoue say hesitantly. He knew about her feelings for him, but also knew they weren't real. Not like what he felt for Rukia. The midget had been able to make the rain in his soul stop. No matter how much they had fought, they were a team, two halves of one whole, and he would never forgive himself for not telling her when he'd had the chance.
"Inoue-san," Ishida said from behind him. "Let's leave him be for now. See you at school, Kurosaki." The Quincy drew the strawberry-blonde away, Chad the only one remaining.
"I'm going to regain what I lost, Chad. I wouldn't have minded losing the ability to change into a Shinigami or stop seeing ghosts normally. But I didn't realize how much not being able to even sense Rukia would hurt."
"She left," the giant said in answer, knowing that was his friend's concern. "She'll be back."
"Yeah, but I'll have to drag Kon along if I want to find her and talk to her. He's not the kind of guy you want as a go-between."
"No." Chad hoped Ichigo didn't plan on asking him to do the honors. Whatever was between the two should be kept private. The next time he saw Rukia, he would have to suggest a gigai. He knew she had wanted to give Ichigo the chance for a clean break and a normal life but he knew his friend too. That wasn't what he wanted.
"Somehow, Chad, I'll regain what I've lost. Besides, how can I possibly rely on all of you all the time? If I can't sense hollows or other threats anymore, there's no way I could protect my family long enough for you three to get here. And the old man might have regained his powers thanks to me but he's not here all the time."
"Do you have a plan?"
"First, I have to catch up on school work and then I'll go to Urahara. If I know him, he's already thought up of a way for me to regain my powers. I'm determined, Chad. You have my back, right?"
There was no need to answer. Chad had always had his back. At one time he had thought he'd been unable to fight by Ichigo's side anymore without getting stronger. Now he had to be the protector, willing to take the brunt of the damage until Ichigo could once more wield his Zanpakutou. The determined look in his friend's eye was all it took to believe that it would be possible one day. Ichigo might have lost his spiritual powers, but it wouldn't be for eternity.
Zangetsu rested in the Realm of the Zanpakutou, mourning his separation from Sode no Shirayuki and Ichigo. Even that dratted hollow of the kid's had become a companion of sorts and he too was gone. How long would it be until he was back in the soul where he belonged? Would he ever be in Ichigo's soul again? The hero of Soul Society had lost his spiritual powers because he had used the Final Release. Without the abilities that came with those powers, becoming a Shinigami was impossible.
"You shouldn't sit around moping, old man." The black sun looked up to find a crimson haired princess smirking down on him.
"You should watch your tongue Benihime. Your Shinigami is far older than mine."
"True, but Urahara is nothing if not an eternal child at heart. That is why I remain young and beautiful." Zangetsu didn't comment on that. He'd learned right along with Ichigo not to say anything negative about a woman's looks.
"Why are you bothering me?"
"To tell you that your Shinigami is quite determined to have you back."
"Is he?" All the determination in the world wasn't going to do the orange haired teen any good if he didn't have the power.
"Yes; and my Shinigami just might have found a way. Are you willing?"
"Of course. There are two precious people I need to protect. Three, if you count Ichigo's precious person."
"You are going to have to include all of his friends and family, anata." Zangetsu turned and for the first time since returning to their realm saw the white moon that haunted his dreams.
"Yes, I thought you might be feeling as down as your human. I convinced Rukia to let me make a quick trip here to check. She cries for him and it pains me, anata. We cannot let this continue. They are two halves of one whole and until they are reunited, nothing good can come of their worlds. I do not trust that all is over with Aizen."
"So you have that feeling too." Benihime, having been ignored until that point nodded with the others' that had gathered around. Their queen was not quite as satisfied with how things had played out as the soutaicho apparently was.
"Do you have the determination, anata?"
"With you by my side, anything is possible."
"Then let us go give our Shinigami something to fight for." Standing, Zangetsu bowed to the ladies.
Benihime smirked behind their backs but didn't make a sound as the morose expression on Zangetsu's face cleared up. Sode no Shirayuki returned to Rukia's inner world and her other half prepared himself for whatever arduous task Urahara had come up with. "It won't be easy," the crimson princess warned.
"Nothing worth having ever is. I am determined though, as is Ichigo. I may not be able to hear his thoughts, or feel his heart, but I know what he wants. If it weren't for Rukia, he would have been content with his memories and the knowledge that he would be in the Soul Society one day permanently. He is in love and is unwilling to be separated for decades from his other half. Surely you can understand, young one."
"Shut up," the other Zanpakutou grumbled and wondered if she could have Urahara add tasks just out of spite. "I'll come for you when it's time."
"I'll be waiting." No matter what pain or time it took, he would be reunited with Ichigo and his beloved once more. "And this time, I'll make sure the idiot confesses." Determined, he waited, just as Ichigo did in the Living World. What separation existed now would come to mean nothing in the end.
And it was a good thing, because they would all find out that Aizen too had been determined and the cost would be the lives of at least two captains.