Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or its characters; they are the property of Kubo Tite.
"What is it about this boy? Why does he draw people to him the way he does? It's not just his power, it's not just his innocence, there is something buried deep in his eyes that makes everyone want to follow him, protect him, ….love him?"
With a frustrated groan, Zaraki Kenpachi pulled himself back to his feet. He was sparring with Kurosaki Ichigo again. The final assault of the Winter War was set to start in two days and Ichigo had come to find the captain of the 11th division looking for a fight, needing to work off his excess energy.
"Zaraki, you're unfocused today. Pay attention or I might really hurt you!" Ichigo yelled coming to a stop in front of his opponent. "What the fuck is so distracting that you aren't enjoying the fight? That's not like you; you haven't even scratched me once."
"It's nothing Ichigo," Kenpachi growled, "I'm just tired. All the meetings to plan and prepare have just taken it out of me. I think I'm going to go take a nap. Sorry I'm callin' this fight, we'll finish it after we win the war."
Ichigo watched Kenpachi walk away, slightly confused. He swore that there was a looked of absolute emotional turmoil in the single eye that could be seen. "What is that all about?" he thought to himself. With a shrug he started towards his temporary quarters in the 9th division.
"Oi, Ichigo! Wait up!"
Ichigo turned around to see Abari Renji jogging up to him. He'd been so deep in thought wondering about that look in Kenpachi's eyes, he hadn't noticed his friend following him.
"Damn Berry-head! What's the deal? I've been calling you since you left the 11th!" Renji yelled.
"Sorry Renji, I was thinking. And don't call me Berry-head!"
"Hahaha! Even after two years it still pisses you off!" Renji laughed, "Come on, Yamamoto wants to see us. The runner said it's important."
Ichigo groaned, he hated dealing with Yamamoto Soutaichou. Especially lately, since the battle two months ago. Ichimaru Gin and Tousen Kaname led an army of arrancar into the soul society trying to invade the seseireitei itself. The memory forced its way into Ichigo's mind as they walked to the First Division office.
2 months ago
"They've breached the seireitei! Ichimaru and Tousen took down Jidanbo!"
Ichigo heard the calls of the scouts relaying battle updates, as he cut down the arrancar in front of him, he turned to see a section of the enemies army peel off and enter the seireitei. "Renji we gotta go! We're the closest and most of our troops are out here! Ishida, you too!"
The red headed lieutenant and the Quincy called their acknowledgement and broke away to follow the orange haired shinigami into the seireitei. The advancing forces hadn't made it too far; they were being engaged by a small contingent of 2nd division forces left inside the seireitei as a guard.
"Split up! Ishida, help take out the arrancars, Renji get Tousen, I'm going after Ichimaru! I owe him one; he tried to kill my sister!"
Ichigo quickly shunpoed to where Ichimaru was being engaged by several squad members. "Everyone clear out, Gin is mine!" Ichigo yelled as he swung Zangetsu around to engage the silver haired man.
"Ah, Ichigo, you don't seem happy to see me," Ichimaru laughed, "I came all this way to play with all my old friends and nobody wants to play with me!"
"I'll play with you Gin, but I play to win."
Ichigo and Gin launched themselves at each other, blades meeting in a shower of sparks and screaming metal. Again and again they clashed, trading blows and drawing blood. Neither one gaining the advantage over the other, Gins smile never faltered. He was feeling overly confident at this point because he was fighting the great Kurosaki on even ground. He couldn't have been more wrong, Ichigo watched as his friends cleared their opponents and vacated the immediate area. No one wanted to be caught up in the wave of retsu he was about to unleash.
Gin noticed the lack of activity surrounding them and looked closely at Ichigo, "Looks like everyone has deserted you." He smirked trying to hide his uncertainty.
"No they haven't," Ichigo sneered at the man," they know to stay away so I don't cause them harm unintentionally."
Gins smirk slowly melted from his face as he felt the rise in Ichigo's restu, it was astounding, and he had been told the boy had no control over his retsu! When had he learned? How much was he hiding? Gin began to fear that this was a battle he was going to lose. Gin began to pull in his own restu in preparation, he wasn't going down without a fight, as brief as it was going to be.
Ichigo smirked at Gin's attempts to increase his power, "Like he has a chance in hell of surviving this!"
"King, let me out. Please! He tried to kill Yuzu, sweet sweet Yuzu. No one is here to see me, let me tear this one apart."
"Fine, but Shirosaki, the second you feel anyone coming you have to go back in! And make it quick, no playing with your food this time."
"Awe King, not even a little?"
Ichigo laughed a little at his inner hallow, they had developed a near friendship and solid partnership throughout the course of the war.
Gin watched as Ichigo laughed a little to himself, and brought his hand up across his face. He saw a hallow mask begin to appear and the resulting explosion of retsu knocked him out of the air. As he fell towards the ground his only thought was, "Aizen cannot win against this boy, no one can." He watched as Shirosaki came down on top of him plunging Zangetsu deep into his chest.
"You chose the wrong person to follow; your precious Aizen will fall at our hand as well." With a final sneer at Gin Shirosaki fired a small but powerful Cero into Gin's prone and pinned body. With a final laugh the hallow mask melted away and Ichigo stood there staring at the broken body of one of the seireitei's worst traitors. With a deep breath he reigned in his retsu. As he turned around to rejoin the main body of the battle, his stomach fell. Standing not twenty feet from him was Yamamoto Soutaichou. He hadn't felt the mans retsu at all, "SHIT!" Ichigo thought to himself.
"King I swear I didn't feel him! I would never have asked to come out."
"I know Shiro; it's not your fault. Who knew that he could completely hide his reiatsu? We knew this would happen one day, but I was hoping to wait until the end of the war. Vizards are not welcome here, I wonder what he is gonna do? Shit, might as well get this over with."
"Soutaichou, two of the traitors are dead. Ichimaru and Tousen are no longer a threat." Ichigo wasn't going to give him the pleasure of seeing him squirm. Ichigo would not act like he had done anything wrong, as far as he was concerned he hadn't. "Fuck it, I am what I am. I will not let this old fucker tell me that there is anything wrong with who I am." He thought to himself.
"Kurosaki, return to the battle, it is almost over. I want you to come to me as soon as this battle is over."
"Alright, see you in about 30 minutes; I'll wrap this up quick." Ichigo smirked, "Shiro come on out and play." Ichigo watched Yamamoto's eyes narrow as he pulled down his hollow mask, a defiant glint in his eye daring the old man to say anything. With a final laugh Shirosaki shunpoed away and entered into the battle raging outside the gates. Shinigami fell away from him as his retsu washed over the battlefield causing the lower ranked to fall to their knees under the immense weight of Ichigo's combined hollow powers. Those that knew of his status as a Vizard cringed at the thought of what was going to happen after the battle. Those who didn't know what he was stared stunned and confused. The battle ended in less than 30 minutes and Ichigo disappeared toward the First Division to meet with the Soutaichou.
"Oi, snap out of it, we're here." Renji said bringing Ichigo out of his thoughts.
"King, this shit is getting old, he knows what we are why does he keep asking us the same shit over and over. Does he really think that we're gonna tell him how we became what we are? He already exiled Urahara for creating the other Vizards, when in fact it was Aizen, why would we tell him that he can now feel justified in his mistake? Do you think he'll leave us alone anytime soon?"
"Probably not Shiro, but I will not tell them anything about how I became host to your psychopathic ass. It will stay our dirty little secret, I won't even tell them that you wouldn't exist if Byakua hadn't tried to kill me."
"Why would you try to save his sorry ass? He is such a cold fish!"
Ichigo chuckled at Shiro's insane laughter echoing in his head. Cold fish was a great way to describe the Captain of the 6th Division. He had made an effort to loosen up since the last time Ichigo fought him to save Rukia, but that effort did not extend to Kurisaki Ichigo. That man hated the substitute shinigami for some reason. Oh well, to each his own as they say. Now Kuchki Byakuya would have yet another reason to look down his nose at Ichigo, but fuck it, who cares?
Yamamoto was sitting at his desk when the two red heads walked in. He looked up and narrowed his eyes when he saw the defiant look in Ichigo's eyes. It was the same every time he came into the office. Yamamoto had finally gotten a true understanding of this boy's soul. He was powerful; perhaps with more training and time he would be more powerful than himself. However, his power was used only to protect those he loved, his family and friends; he would never use his power for anything that would cause harm. He was fiercely loyal to those close to him and would die to protect them. His true power came from the depth of his love and devotion. Months of questioning had revealed the depth of his character even if it yielded none of the answers to his questions.
"Kurosaki-san, Abari Fukutaichou, I have a small side mission for you. You will have until noon tomorrow to complete it and return here for the final battle. Kurosaki, I would like you to request that Urahara Kisuke and the Vizards come to the soul society to participate in the final battle. I know they will object that is why I am issuing pardons to all of them. I will not try to integrate them into the 13 squads unless they want it. Under Hiraku Shinji and yourself they will be a separate entity in this war. You will be the bridge between them and the Gotei 13. I wish to try to right the wrongs of the past, and to start I wish to offer them a chance to come to terms with what was done to them and to confront the captains of the Gotei 13 after the war if they so choose. Abari Fukutaichou, you are to accompany him and to help escort those that wish to return as well as Kurosaki's family back to the seireitei. You may leave whenever you are ready. I have sent a Hell Butterfly to Urahara to inform him of your arrival and the purpose of your mission. He will have everyone assembled when you arrive."
Ichigo looked at him and started laughing, tears rolling down his cheeks gasping for breath he finally responded, "I hope you know what you are getting yourself into inviting that group back. They are not the same taichous and fukutaichous you tried to exterminate; they are all stronger and crazier than ever. I will take your proposal to them but don't hold your breath. I take it you are bringing my family here to protect them?" Yamamoto nodded his assent to this, "If the Vizards do not want to participate then they will protect my family, I trust them more than the Gotei 13."
Renji cringed at this last statement. Yamamoto looked thunderstruck, Kurosaki had never made a secret of his opinion of the Gotei 13's rules, but this was the first time that he had made known his lack of trust in them. Ichigo turned and walked out of the office, he didn't care to hear the old man's thoughts on this latest revelation.
"Yo Renji, you comin? I'm opening the gate as soon as I step outside. Hurry up or wait for them to open an official gate for you!" Ichigo called over his shoulder. Renji looked to the Soutaichou and he nodded his dismissal.
As soon as the two men left his office Yamamoto sighed. Dealing with Ichigo was never easy and often required a level of concentration and retsu control that was unrivaled. Yamamoto sat deep in thought for a few minutes longer.
"That boy will be unstoppable soon. What is it about him that inspires such loyalty from his friends? He pulls people to him; he makes them stronger by his sheer force of will. His will is unbreakable, his heart is true, and his resolve is harder than steel. What is it that hides in the boy, that thing that you can almost see in his eyes, for an instant before it's gone? It's not his power as terrifying as that is. To know Kurosaki is to love him, in some small way. Even my captains are drawn to him. It will take centuries to learn this boy's secrets and millennia to understand them." Yamamoto mused to himself, looking up as he felt Ichigo's gate open. "That boy is intriguing, that felt like a gargantuan being opened, but the retsu used wasn't tainted. I wander what the true extents of his abilities are?"
A knock on his door snapped the Soutaichou out of his thoughts, "Come in Soi Fon."
"Soutaichou, what is going to be done about Kurosaki? Did you feel that gate he opened? It was not a senkeimon of any sort; it was more of a gargantuan. Only hollows are capable of opening a rift like that, and only arrancars are capable of controlling with such accuracy. What is that boy?" The small 2nd Division Captain scowled.
"He is Kurusaki. Tomorrow there will be a meeting to address all of the concerns from the captains. Until then, attend to you preparations for the final battle. No more needs to be said on the matter at this time." With that Yamamoto had effectively dismissed the enraged captain. As she stomped out of the 1st Division she started thinking about the young man in question.
"Why does he frighten me so? What is it about him that makes me want to run away and follow him into hell both at the same time? Lady Yoroichi may be able to help me understand this boy better." With that she ran off to send a message to Yoroichi in the human world. Soi Fon did not like being confused, it pissed her off. And one Kurosaki Ichigo confused the hell out of her. As she walked lost in her own thoughts, she failed to notice that all around the seireitei the shinigami were talking about Kurosaki and the strange power he possessed. How did he open a gargantuan? What was he? Could he be trusted? Of course he could be trusted; he was fucking Kurosaki Ichigo, savior of the soul society, the one and only living shinigami.