The Kidnapping of Kurosaki Ichigo [Chapter 6: A Prince's Duty]

Pairing: Hichigo Shirosaki (Dark/Hollow Ichigo) x Ichigo Kurosaki

Rating: M

Disclaimer: I do NOT own any BLEACH characters (D'X)

The Rouen Markets were bustling and alive as customers and stall-keepers bartered their wares in the centre of town under an early morning sun. Zangetsu moved through the crowds of people as inconspicuously as possible, only stopping to purchase various foods and items to stock up on in the cart. It didn't take him long to buy all that he needed, probably because Shiro had wanted to stay behind and keep a suspicious eye on Prince Ichigo and here, English was less abundant. As they moved away from the coastline, the numbers of people speaking English was lower and in a market like this, there was little need to use it unless the buyer spoke in the foreign tongue first. To remain inconspicuous, Zangetsu spoke only in French.

He stopped for a moment to rest and carefully ran a hand over his wounded leg. It was barely a bother to him since Shiro had earlier cleaned it with distilled alcohol and wrapped it up tightly. And besides, as a younger lad, he'd been enlisted in the army and had dealt with far worse wounds than this.

Suddenly, through the din of the crowd, a voice speaking in a familiar language stood out to him. Zangetsu turned his ear in the direction of the noise; two men standing beside a vegetable stall talking in hushed tones. He managed to pick up pieces of their conversation as he passed them.

"... Rumour through Paris... ...Prince Ichigo's kidnappers... ...Hueco Mundo..."

Zangetsu's grip on his bags tightened. He made up his mind to spy on the pair and with a quick turn around the corner of a stall, he disappeared.


Shiro, having risen before Zangetsu left for the markets, yawned loudly as he stood in a patch of sun, still trying to properly wake up. Yesterday, just as it was getting dark, they arrived in Rouen and parked the cart behind a thicket of trees just in case any locals stumbled by.

Once Shiro had warmed himself up, he wandered back over to the cart to check on Ichigo, who he presumed was still sleeping. He wondered for a moment what he would do if he found the coffin to be empty. It was all possible that the French prince might've slipped off in the middle of the night, but when he got close enough, he saw spikes of vibrant orange hair that could only belong to Ichigo.

He hopped up onto the back of the cart and knelt over Mr. Sleeping Beauty. Shiro stifled a laugh; you'd think that he'd be relaxed while sleeping, but no, his eyebrows were still bunched in that permanent scowl of his. He let his gaze wander over him a little and he noticed that the redhead was covered in tiny droplets of dew. Since Ichigo was still uneasy about the coffin lid, he must've slept without it covering him to stop some of the cold. Shit, he must've been freezing last night. Shiro placed a hand on the sleeping prince's cheek and he was right; his skin was cool to the touch.

Shiro was impressed despite himself. For a prince, Ichigo was much tougher than he'd originally thought. He rustled around for the blanket that he'd put away when he woke up and draped it over the coffin.

He was tucking the corners in at the sides when Ichigo's hands, still cuffed together, suddenly shot out and grabbed Shiro's arm. His eyes were focused on the white-haired male. "What are you doing?"

"Making sure you don't freeze to death. I know we don't have enough blankets but you could've said something."

Ichigo let go of his arm, "I'm fine."

"No need to be shy, I don't mind sharing." Shiro grinned cheekily.

The prince's frown deepened but he said nothing. Oh, how Shiro enjoyed riling him up.

But before he could continue his newest hobby, Zangetsu came striding back toward the cart, his hands full with stock and a pensive frown on his face. Shiro sat down beside Ichigo, prepared for an explanation. "That took a lot longer than usual. Did you find something interesting?"

"You could say that." Zangetsu tossed the bags into the cart loudly and glanced at redhead, "Ichigo, this concerns you too."

Ichigo sat up with a sober face. Ever since the incident with the blonde brothers, he was starting to see another side to the English pair, a strong camaraderie that made him think that these two were much more than just common criminals.

With both teens full attention, Zangetsu said, "According to rumours I heard this morning, a man was taken in by the gendarmes who may have had something to do with your kidnapping. They said that he was working for Hueco Mundo."

Shiro watched Ichigo's expression darken but didn't entirely understand why. "Why would a Spanish extremist group want to kidnap a French prince?"

"For years now, the Spaniards have caused us nothing but trouble. They killed my people just to send the message that they were against the throne. And now they've gone out of their way to kidnap me personally." Ichigo's voice lowered into a snarl, "Ils ne sont rien que des ordures. (They are nothing but scum)."

Zangetsu made a noise of curiosity, "It sounds like this is news to you. Didn't you see the face of your attackers?"

Ichigo sighed heavily. "I did, I think. Let me remind you that I've been knocked out a number of times and no matter how hard I try, I can't remember any exact details. One moment I'm in a bar and the next I wake up inside a coffin."

Zangetsu's brow furrowed. "That's not possible. As a Prince you have guards following you everywhere -whether you know it or not- and they'd never allow you to go somewhere like that. What were you doing in a bar of all places?"

Ichigo rested his chin in his hands, debating whether or not to tell them the truth. Despite being told that he was still their bargaining chip, he knew that their hearts weren't really in it. He could tell that the uncle and nephew weren't kidnappers by any stretch of the imagination. If he could somehow get them onto his side, they would prove to be valuable assets. The French prince was going to make Hueco Mundo pay for what they had done.

Ichigo had made up his mind. He raised his head and looked the pair in the eyes, "What I am about to tell you is of great national important and could be devastating if spread to the wrong people. Because of that, we need to make a deal."

Zangetsu was about to speak, probably something along the lines of 'we don't want to get involved', but Shiro held up a hand to stop him. The pale teen's curiosity had been piqued and he just had to know more. "Go on."

The redhead grinned on the inside. Shiro's reaction was just what he'd hoped for. "First, I need to know why you're using me as a bartering tool."

"We're trying to get to Naples." Shiro answered without missing a beat. "But with our... colourful history in some countries, it'll be hard to get through the border without help. And that's where you come in."

"We're not going there to cause any trouble." Zangetsu added, obviously wanting to make it clear. "We're retiring from this line of business."

Shiro dipped his head towards his uncle, "Well he is anyway. I'll see how I feel after a year or two." He grinned deviously, "So what's this deal you're proposing, Princey?"

"Safe passage through Italy's borders in exchange for your assistance in taking down Hueco Mundo. I want to find whoever ordered my kidnapping and make them bleed."

Shiro bit his lip, "I dunno... It's risking a lot on our part."

Ichigo turned to the older man, "Si votre casier judiciaire est aussi mauvais qu'il ne semble, même se cacher à Naples ne vous sauvera pas. Mais je peux changer vos rapports. (If your criminal record is as bad as it sounds, not even hiding in Naples will save you. But I can change your records,)" Ichigo's eyes flitted over to Shiro. "...Et ça aussi.(... And his too.)"

For whatever reason, the comment seemed to hit a nerve and Zangetsu nodded. "Bien, j'entendrai votre affaire, mais j'aurais besoin d'y penser. (Alright, I'll hear your deal, but I'll need to think about it.)"

Shiro rolled his eyes in frustration. "Well fuck you both and your stupid secret language."

Ichigo ignored the outburst. Even though Zangetsu said that he'd think it over, his reaction when the redhead mentioned Shiro's criminal record told him that he would almost definitely agree to the deal. "Since I was born, I have been raised to one day take over my father's position and become king. When I turned eighteen earlier this year he told me that he plans to step down when I turn twenty. But for me to be king, the continuation of the royal bloodline must be secured."

"... Meaning?"

Ichigo turned to Shiro, "It means that two weeks ago I was told that I have been betrothed to the English Duchess, Orihime Inoue; an arranged marriage with the purpose of strengthening ties with your country."

The white-haired teen snapped his fingers, "Well that makes a lot more sense, I mean, if Hueco Mundo somehow found out that you were getting married, then they'd want to try and get you out of the way before you secure the bloodline," Shiro pondered. "Though to be quite honest, I'd hate to get married. I'd probably be hiding away in a bar as well."

"Je ne me cachais pas! (I wasn't hiding!)" Ichigo snapped back. "I tried to tell my father that I didn't want the marriage to proceed, but he wouldn't hear a word of it. I just wanted to escape from being me for an hour or two. I needed some time to myself to gather my thoughts." He brought his cuffed hands up and pinched the bridge of his nose, "But something happened in the bar, I remember fighting back and heading back towards the Chateau, but I don't think I made it..."

The French prince frowned heavily and Shiro could clearly see the levels of anger in his expression. Anger at his attackers, anger at his lack of memory, but what Shiro saw the strongest was anger at his own actions; for escaping (even momentarily) from his responsibilities by sitting in that bar. What a dutiful bastard, Shiro thought.

Zangetsu broke through the silence by loudly hopping back up behind the reigns. "Since we've got what we came for, I believe it's time we went on our way."

"Where are we headed now?" Shiro called over his shoulder.

"I'm not sure yet."

Ichigo frowned, "I thought we just got here?"

As the horses started moving, Shiro shrugged. "Well Zangetsu's been hanging around the market all morning and if you haven't already realised, he's not exactly very normal-looking. It's better to leave as quickly as possible before they really remember what we look like. We've never stayed anywhere for very long."

"But don't you have a home?"

Shiro was just going to make a joke about being a free spirit or something but when he saw Ichigo's expression, he could tell that the redhead was serious. He coughed awkwardly, "I guess since you told me your story, I should tell you one of mine. Ok, how about this; when I was younger, Zangetsu would tell me stories about when he lived in Italy. His favourite city of them all wasn't Rome or Venice or Florence, it was Naples. After my parents died when I was about ten, he promised to one day take me there when I was older. But we had very little money and we started working with illegal goods and other jobs just to get by."

He looked to his side and was surprised to see Ichigo listening so intently. He could feel his chestnut eyes watching him and blushed lightly. "Anyway, a while back we decided that it was time to fulfil that promise and do everything we could to get there." Shiro chuckled, "Naples or nowhere. It's all we have."

Ichigo looked over his shoulder at Shiro's uncle, "You say that, but I know he's going to agree to the deal."

The pale teen nodded, "Yeah, but he likes to really think things over sometimes. He did the same thing when trying to decide whether or not to smuggle the opium." Shiro suddenly grinned, "Or maybe he still doesn't trust you. Maybe you've made all this up just to fool us then you'll escape at the first chance."

Ichigo frowned at the goad. "I can assure you that my offer is genuine."

Shiro leaned in, "… Prove it."

"Then take these off me." The French prince held his cuffed hands up. "I promise I won't run."

"Should I, Zangetsu?"

"Do what you want." His voice answered behind Shiro.

The white-haired boy grinned ear to ear. He searched around in the bags behind him and finally found the keys. "You're lucky I stole these as well or else you'd be stuck with them."

The locks opened with a light click and the two just sat there, unmoving, staring each other down.

Shiro was ready for Ichigo to sprint; he almost wanted him to run for it so he could tackle him down and triumphantly pull him back into the coffin.

But Ichigo didn't move an inch. A disbelieving smile played at the corner of his mouth, "You were hoping that I'd run and give you something to chase."

"Of course. But damn, it would've been so much fun," he chuckled.

The redhead stretched his arms wide, enjoying the feeling of finally being able to move freely again. Muscles in his arms ached from lack of use, but it wouldn't take him long to get them feeling back to normal again.

Shiro watched him stretch and crack his limbs when he suddenly remembered something. "Ah, almost forgot about this. Now you can actually put it on properly." He rummaged around again in the bags and pulled out a new hooded coat. Unlike Shiro's black one, this coat was a deep, chocolate brown. He handed it to Ichigo who pulled his arms through it and wrapped it around himself. The pale teen smiled lopsidedly, "It looks good on you."

Ichigo smiled despite himself, "… I do like it. Merci."

"You look like a true plebeian now. Not even your girlfriend would recognise you." Shiro imagined Ichigo walking back into his family's Chateau wearing such simple clothing. Everyone would gasp in horror at their precious prince wearing such crude commoner's clothes. It was a hilarious image.

"The duchess is indeed someone's girlfriend, but not mine."

Shiro let out a low whistle. "My my, the royal family is rife with drama. So she's already got herself a man even though she's supposed to be engaged to you?"

The prince nodded, "When I heard that she was already in love with someone, that's when I started rejecting our arrangement. I refuse to tear apart their true love."

Shiro grimaced, "You've really taken this 'Prince' role to heart, haven't you? I've never met anyone so patriotic and noble in my life. It's borderline sickening."

Ichigo raised a scorning eyebrow, "I could say the same thing about you. You, who cares for no one, fights dirty and has a vocabulary to match."

"Ok, now you're just getting snobby. I never had any fancy education and any faults with my vocabulary, blame them on him," Shiro pointed over his shoulder, "He's been my only teacher since I was thirteen. And it hasn't been easy for him either since we've always been on the move." He threw his hands in the air, "I used to dream about being a prince, but I learnt very quickly that life can be shit. I bet you and everyone you know is just rolling around in your wealth without a single real problem."

The pale teen thought for sure that Ichigo would yell at him, but even though the redhead never raised his voice, the malice in his words was clear. "No real problems? ... You have no idea what it's like to bear the brunt of an empire; watched almost every second of every day, conforming and contorting to fit their ideals. When I was younger I would've happily swapped lives with a plebeian you."

He looked at the redhead like he was insane. "Serious? I'm pretty sure that being a prince is much better than being a... What the hell are you smiling about?"

A small grin had started to curl at the corner of Ichigo's mouth, "I've just realised how strange it is that we wanted to swap places when we look so, so similar. Well, if only your skin wasn't as pale and your hair was such an outrageous colour like mine."

Shiro wanted to say some kind of retort, but it disappeared when he saw the prince's soft smile. "Oh? Try looking at my side of things; this white hair of mine makes me stand out even on the darkest of nights, not a very helpful trait when you're trying to hide. And on top of that I'm probably going to get really sunburnt it Naples." Shiro pulled up his sleeve and extended his arm to Ichigo, exposing his ridiculously pale skin.

The redhead's eyes widened slightly. "I know you're from England, but merde, your skin is very pale." Ichigo reached out and touched the underside of his arm, his fingertips lightly skimming over his skin. He was actually surprised to feel that he was very warm. His grin widened a little more.

The cart bounced over a hole in the road and the jolt made Shiro's heart missed a beat, or maybe it was because of Ichigo's touch...

Nah, it was probably the road.

Shiro and Ichigo are such children. Stop fighting over everything or Zangetsu will put you in the time-out corner of the cart!

Yar, here be another chapter! We're starting to find out more about Ichigo and how he ended up in this mess! Those three are beginning to get to know each other a little more, which is nice, because it means that they're starting to become friends! Well, maybe not 'friends' just yet, but it's a start.

It took me a while to get happy with this chapter, but I reckon I got all the information out that I wanted to. I actually used to have a different reason for Ichigo wanting to stop the arranged marriage, but when I really thought about it, it was too OOC for our royal redhead. So I changed it and because of that ONE change in detail, a lot of the original plot had to be re-written!

Anywho, Thank you, Merci beaucoup, once again to Fellmekke Cross Fire ( u/2731118) who translated the French text!

Comments and reviews will be used to further investigate Shiro's heart palpitations. Is it really just the road or is he telling lies?