Aljan Moonfire does not own Bleach or Naruto
Prologue: An End and a Beginning
Ichigo couldn't resist the soft sigh of relief that left his lips as he raised his face to the sky. The peaceful blue color, occasionally interspersed with small, fluffy white clouds, gave lie to the fierce battle that had just ended.
Aizen was finally defeated.
He almost couldn't believe it. It had ended almost anticlimactically in a way, all of it over with a single attack. Before Aizen, before Rukia, everything had been so simple. Even if he could see ghosts, other than that he had considered himself just an average high-schooler, albeit with orange hair. So much had happened in the past year, he had pushed himself so hard, and now it was over.
He couldn't help but wonder to himself now, what was going to happen next? A light breeze ruffled his longer than usual hair, and he remembered. He was going to die. That attack, the Mugetsu (Moonless Sky), had completely annihilated Aizen. All that was left was the small orb of the Hogyoku, lying there, so innocently, in the center of the immense crater that the attack had left behind.
He had known, even as he had used it, what would happen. Zangetsu (Slaying Moon) would have never told him if he hadn't passed his test though, he knew that. He also knew that his father couldn't have known either, or he never would've even suggested it. But perhaps that just meant that he was that much more powerful than his father.
When his father had used the Saigo no Getsuga Tensho (The Final Moon-Fang Heaven-Piercer) he had merely lost his powers. Ichigo, he was going to die, and he knew it, had accepted the consequences. The strength of the attack is, was, far too much for even a Shinigami (Death God) to handle. He probably had less than an hour left before his body would begin to disintegrate.
He supposed Aizen had been right in a way. The power he had gained, had he kept it, would have made him a god among Shinigami. But such strength always came with a price, and he would pay it. He bent over and picked up the small, marble-like orb before him and raised it to be level with his eyes.
"So much pain, so much sorrow," he murmured to himself, "and just for power – just for this..."
His thoughts were then broken by the soft tread of wooden geta on the ground behind him. "Kurosaki-san."
He blinked slightly in surprise, turning to look behind himself, "Urahara." He returned, surprised. 'I didn't even sense him. It must have already begun…"
"It's over then?" Urahara asked, surprised himself, and he looked over the destruction of the local landscape. 'It seems my intervention won't be necessary.' He mused to himself.
"Yes." Urahara raised an eyebrow slightly at the sad tone the boy answered with.
"What's wrong?" he asked, unable to stem his curiosity.
Ichigo hesitated for a moment before replying. "I'm dying, Urahara."
The man just blinked in confusion. "What?" he asked, stunned.
"The Saigo no Getsuga Tensho," Ichigo began, "Is too much, too strong." He sighed harshly, griping the Hogyoku in a tightly clenched fist, "even for me. My Shinigami powers have already begun to disappear. Within an hour or so my body will follow." At Urahara's stricken expression, he gave a slight smile. "It was my choice to do this," he attempted to reassure the man. "And now my family, my friends, are safe; and Aizen is dead."
As if to give credence to this declaration he opened his fist and held it out towards the Shinigami before him, the dark orb of the Hogyoku displayed to his gaze. Urahara reached out and took the small, but immensely powerful device from the teenager and examined it for a moment before nodding and tucking it in a pocket in the folds of his jacket.
He then returned his attention to the boy, no, the man before him. He couldn't think of anything to say. Whatever he said, whatever he did, Ichigo was still about to die. And it was his fault. He had made the Hogyoku. He had dragged Ichigo into all of this in the first place. He was the one who had created this whole mess to begin with, and now Ichigo was going to die to clean it up for him.
He finally spoke then, eyes just as sad as the man before him. "I – I'm so very, very sorry, Ichigo."
"It's alright." Ichigo said after a moment. Then he turned and once again resumed his contemplation of the sky.
Urahara left him to his thoughts then, quite unable to stand the silence as unbearable guilt continued to eat at his chest, but he returned to the site of that final battle around half an hour later to find Ichigo still standing there, looking up at the sky.
"Kurosaki-san." He said again, slightly uncertain about interrupting the fifteen year-old's thoughts.
Ichigo's eyes widened in surprise as Urahara's voice broke the silence once again and turned to look at him over his bare shoulder. "Urahara…" he replied, and then went on to voice a thought that had occurred to him. "Where is everyone?"
"They've all gone home." Was the reply. Then a wry smile crossed the man's face as he continued. "It looked like they wanted to talk to you, but found you difficult to approach."
Ichigo looked a bit skeptical at this. "Don't tell me you've wiped their memories…" he returned.
"No. I didn't do anything this time." He said sadly.
"Oh. Good." Urahara couldn't help but look at him oddly at that, but Ichigo continued. "I don't want to hide anything from them anymore. When you go back, will you tell them everything?" he asked.
The blond man nodded slowly in reply. "Yes, I'll do that."
Ichigo nodded in satisfaction at the reply, then stilled when the shopkeeper continued to speak, "I have sealed the Hogyouku again." He said seriously. "I've hidden it away in a place only I know about under multiple sealing kido of the strongest kind. Hopefully, something like this will never have to happen again."
Ichigo just blinked as he absorbed that, before nodding, "Yeah."
He then turned and sat down on a nearby boulder, one of such an awkward shape it had probably been ripped from the ground by his and Aizen's fight. The silence that then filled the air between the two was comfortable, and rested much easier on the older man's heart then the one that had emerged at the end of their previous conversation.
Then that too was broken by a surprised female voice from behind them. "K - Kurosaki-kun?"
They both turned to look behind themselves, discovering that Orihime had been the one to speak. But she wasn't the only one there, though she seemed to be the only one that was uninjured. Renji, Chad, and Ishida were also there, their arms and torsos covered in multiple bandages, pristine white in color. Bringing up the rear was Rukia, the petite girl dwarfed by her companions, one arm in a sling.
Ichigo just stared for a moment surprised by their presence. "Inoue, Ishida, Rukia, Chad, Renji…" he said, rising to his feet with a smile, "What are you guys doing here? Should you really be up and about already?" he asked, concerned.
Rukia, of course, quickly retorted, "I could say the same for you. What -"
Before she could finish her question, Orihime's trembling voice interrupted her. "It… it really is you…" she said, voice wavering as happy tears pooled in her eyes. "Your hair's so long… I wasn't sure… I'm so glad… so glad…" she trailed off, wiping the tears from her eyes.
"What's with that face, Inoue?" Ichigo replied, still smiling slightly. Then he reconsidered as he glanced at the shaggy orange locks that partially obscured his line of sight, "Well, it's true that my hair is kinda shaggy -" His voice cut of mid-sentence as he collapsed to the ground, pain shooting through his body in unbearable bursts.
Shocked by the abrupt change, his friends could only look on with horror for a moment as he hit the ground harshly, unable to catch himself. As they called out his name in concern, he couldn't restrain the first scream that ripped itself from his throat. Then his own hearing faded out and his wavering vision caught only glimpses of his concerned friends as his body curled instinctively against the agony ripping through his body.
Then all of the attention he could spare was seized by the sight of his right hand, previously tearing at the soil beside him, beginning to disintegrate, the reishi (spirit particles) that made up his soul tearing off and vanishing into the atmosphere. Soon enough his entire hand was gone. Then the pain intensified even more and even though he could no longer hear, he could practically feel his vocal chords tearing under the strain.
Thankfully, that was when he passed out.
Unfortunately for them, his friends were not so lucky. All they could do was watch helplessly as their friend and leader's body tore itself apart before their very eyes. In the end, there was nothing left of the teen, even what clothes that were left on his body after the battle dispersing into the air.
Even as they collapsed to the ground they couldn't believe it. Renji was the first to snap out of his shock, and when he did, he rounded on Urahara, demanding an explanation. When Urahara obliged the rest came far enough back into reality to listen.
But even as they did so, reluctantly accepting the explanation – the same one Ichigo had given to the man earlier – they were only able to do so because they had watched the boy's body tear itself apart before their very eyes.
And so, both Aizen and Ichigo died, and the Soul Society was once again safe. Over the course of the bare year that Ichigo had been a Substitute Shinigami he had saved both the Soul Society and the Human World multiple times. This was not forgotten by anyone, and his name soon became legendary, his exploits taught of in the Shinigami Academy.
It was small comfort to those who had known him though, and they mourned his passing for a very long time.
Unknown to them though, this was just the beginning.
Ichigo woke up.
That, in and of itself, was probably what surprised him the most. He blinked slowly, and then blinked again when nothing changed. He couldn't see anything. Frowning slightly, he attempted to push himself into a sitting position and succeeded, much to his surprise.
Then he tried to touch what ever he was sitting on and felt nothing beneath his fingers; the only reaction he had was a brief blink of surprise. 'What… is going on..?' he wondered hazily.
Then he collapsed back into his previous position, eyes drifting closed. 'What happened… to me..?' his last thoughts blurred and faded into nothing as sleep once more overtook him. 'Didn't I… die..?'
When Ichigo woke again he was just as hazily surprised as he had been the first time. But this time, he was not alone.
Hovering before him was what could only be termed as monster. A spiky mane of hair completely devoid of any natural color covered its head and shoulders, spiking out past what anything else could do naturally. Slightly curved blood red horns arced out of said mane of hair to point to either side of its head.
The hair reached downwards to the creature's waist, framing a ghastly face and chest that resembled an unwrapped mummy in appearance, all unnaturally colored skin and jutting bones. Thankfully, the rest of the fiend was clothed in a pure white robe-like garment that only seemed to emphasize the unnaturalness of the being. The only other distinguishing feature was the blood-colored claws that tipped the ends of its emaciated hands.
A sharp tanto was clenched in its teeth, and Ichigo resisted the urge to jump as it reached up to remove the weapon from its mouth. A steaming breath emerged from the creature's mouth as it exhaled, and then it spoke. "Kurosaki Ichigo," It rasped in a reverberating voice that seemed as if it had not spoken in millennia, "As you may have guessed, you are dead."
Unnerved, and slightly frightened, though he'd never admit it, Ichigo could only nod in reply. Then it continued, "But the way you died was very…unique, as you might have guessed. It has been a very long time since anyone has had the resolve and raw power to die in such a way, knowing what would happen."
Ichigo nodded again at this, slightly curious now as to where this was going. "As the King of your native dimension owed me a favor, when you died, he gave your soul to me."
Ichigo couldn't help the shock that ran trough his being at that. "What?" he choked out. Then he blinked in surprise at his own voice, the sound of it much lower and stranger than usual.
"You are a very interesting child." It commented idly as it observed the confused spirit. "I am the King of my own dimension, and I have a use for you." He told him.
"A use?" Ichigo asked warily, still unnerved by the situation.
"Yes, a use." It confirmed. "I am a veritable god, and I rule over my dimension completely, instead of leaving it to humans the way your former dimension's King does. However, I have chosen to keep my hands out of the affairs of the living. Thus, unless I am specifically called upon by them, I am unable to interfere. You will be my way around that."
"Wait, wait, wait, wait." Ichigo interrupted. "What do mean by all this dimension stuff? And why am I getting a bad feeling about whatever 'task' you seem to have ready for me?" he asked.
The 'King' seemed more amused than anything else by the questions, and relented and answered them. "To answer your first question, there are innumerable dimensions out there, each one holding a universe that an individual King or Queen holds sway over. You know your dimension's King by many names I would suspect; Kami-sama, God, the King of Soul Society… I am known by many names also, given to me by the humans of my dimension. Shinigami-sama and Jashin are just two of those."
The Shinigami then paused for a moment before continuing, "As for what your task is, you're probably getting a bad feeling, because it's going to be rather difficult." It deadpanned.
"Well then, what is it?" Ichigo asked, curious despite himself.
The being waved its arm to the side and a moving picture phased into being, a squalling baby being the focus of it. "The main focus of your duty will be to keep this child alive, and I assure you that that will be much harder than it sounds."
Still slightly skeptical, Ichigo took a closer look at the infant. Bright blond fuzz, closer to being yellow than any natural shade of the color covered the child's head. As it was naked, it was also quite easy to tell that it was a boy. His eyes were squinted shut with the force of his cries, and empty gums were shown to the world by the wide open mouth. The oddest feature on the boy's face though, was the three small whisker-like marks on each of his cheeks.
Other than that though, it seemed to be a perfectly ordinary baby. "Not seeing the difficulty here," Ichigo commented, "Other than the fact that I'm dead."
The Shinigami just smiled. It was a terrifying expression. "You are far more than just a dead soul, boy," the being said, amused again, "or have you not taken look at yourself yet?" as he said this he made a swift gesture again and a full length mirror appeared before the soul.
As he stood and looked himself over with shock and slight awe, he couldn't believe that he was looking at himself.
He looked to be several years older than he remembered being, clearly in his late teens or early twenties. His lower face was completely hidden from sight by wisp-like, but opaque black bandages. The bandages continued downwards to completely cover his neck and upper chest, but were eventually hidden in turn by the dark red trench-coat-like jacket that enveloped his form, extending past his knees to where it ended in tattered white-tipped spikes. The bandages then continued out past the sleeves of the garment to envelop his hands in coverage.
Black hakama, just as dark and seemingly fragile as the bandages that clothed his lower face almost floated around his legs. Dark red geta sandals rested on his feet, almost matching the jacket in color.
The biggest surprise to him in his appearance though, was in the remaining details he had been avoiding thinking about. Gone was his signature bright orange hair, the spiky hair-style replaced with a long mane of pitch black locks that seemed to absorb the light around him, partly concealing his eyes from view. He couldn't help but be reminded of the form he had taken when he had used the Saigo no Getsuga Tensho. Speaking of which, even as he looked himself over he couldn't help but miss the sword that had always been a part of him.
Just as he formed the thought, the thin pitch black form of a sheathed - and wasn't that different? - Tensa Zangetsu (Heavenly Chains Slicing the Moon) faded into existence at his hip, the chain attached to the guard of the weapon extending to wrap around his waist like a loose belt, securing the weapon to his side. At the feel of the sword on his hip he gave a smile that was invisible behind his make-shift face-mask and gently wrapped his hand around the hilt for a moment in recognition before making to let go. But then he noticed some differences in the sword itself.
The previously swastica-like hilt and solid guard of the katana had changed the most. The guard had become an intricate and shadowy thing, the material that made it up shifting even as he examined it. The hilt had maintained its shape, but other than that it was almost unrecognizable, the miniature chains that covered every inch of it certainly making a difference.
As for the rest of the sword, he was slightly apprehensive about drawing it. And that was still the biggest surprise. Tensa Zangetsu had always been just Zangetsu's Bankai form. It had never needed a sheath before. He couldn't help but wonder what had changed. Was it even still Zangetsu? The sheath itself was a relatively plain thing, decorated only with a linked twin crescent moon motif near the guard.
He hesitated for a second before drawing it, but when he did he couldn't help the widening of his eyes. It was longer than before, ever so slightly thinner, but seemed to be stronger than ever, an impression that was only helped by the soft crimson-black glow that emanated from the blade. He quickly sheathed the weapon before replacing it on his waist. He then quickly shook his speculations to the back of his head and returned to his inspection of himself.
His skin was very pale where it could be seen, contrasting sharply with the dark colors of the outfit. Then he looked himself in the eyes and couldn't help the smile that crossed his face. Familiar honey eyes looked back at him, the same eyes that he could still remember so vividly staring back at him from both his mother's and Yuzu's faces. He was glad that that piece of home was still with him. He knew that this time, he wasn't going to be able to just go home at the end of the adventure.
Pushing aside the depressing realization that had come with the thoughts of his family, he quickly gave himself another once over, looking for any differences, but found none. Then he turned to the thing he had been trying so desperately to ignore, the veritable waves of crimson-edged shadows that seemed to practically emanate from his body as they absorbed what little surrounding light there was.
"What the hell happened to me?" he whispered to himself out loud as he stretched out a slightly trembling hand as if to touch his reflection.
Even as he did so, the almost forgotten King snapped his fingers, causing the mirror to disappear. "What you have become, is something that can no longer be entirely quantified with the name Kurosaki Ichigo, for that is no longer what you are. When you merged with your own former Zanpakuto to utilize the Saigo no Getsuga Tensho, that is exactly what you did in its entirety. Your mortal body could no longer handle your own power, and so you died and reformed into this. What you have become, is a Zanpakuto with a complete soul."
The void-like space that surrounded the two beings filled with an oppressive silence as Ichigo – no, what used to be Ichigo – tried to come to terms with his new existence. Then the full description of what he was finally absorbed by his stunned brain. "A Zanpakuto with a complete soul?" he couldn't help but repeat.
"Yes. Most zanpakuto are only a portion of an individual Shinigami's soul, and cannot exist without the Shinigami they are a part of. You though, are different. You are basically a whole, extremely powerful at that, soul that has been completely infused with the power of a zanpakuto, and as such are completely capable of existing by yourself." It smirked, yet another completely terrifying expression. "What that means, basically, is that you, Ichigo, your zanpakuto, Zangetsu, and your nameless hollow half have become a single entity. What that means for your personality even I can't really predict."
Another shocked silence filled the air between the two beings. The Shinigami was content to let it sit for a moment but soon became inpatient with waiting. "Moving on though, back to your task." At his interruption of the silence, as well as the subject of the interruption, the as of yet nameless Zanpakuto that had once been Ichigo once again gave the King his full attention. "You will become the zanpakuto of this boy when he is born." The Shinigami told the zanpakuto.
"How will I do that?" asked the man. "I thought you said that I don't need to be bound to anyone?"
"Yes, but that doesn't mean that you can't bind yourself to another soul anyway. And this," it tilted its bushy head towards the picture of the baby once again, "is one soul that will definitely need you."
The zanpakuto paused at the thought and then nodded again in response. "Are going to tell me anything else about the kid then?"
"No. As long as you wait and are intelligent enough to put together all of the pieces I won't need to tell you anything more. And even if I do, you aren't exactly alive even now so I'll tell you exactly what you need to know, when you need to know, and no sooner."
The soul slayer gave the King a glare, but eventually nodded his acceptance. "Fine. I'll do it." 'After all, it's not as if I have a choice…'
~ Author's Note ~
Well, as you might have guessed, this is why I haven't updated anything that I've already posted for a month. It was the plot bunny's fault *points accusingly at the prologue you just read*. It wouldn't leave me alone or let me write anything else, and well…yeah.
Hopefully though, this story will actually be rather epic. Or I at least hope it won't crash and burn. Cross your fingers everybody! Here we go…!
On another note though, the new zanpakuto(aka Ichigo)'s outfit is supposed to be a cross between Ichigo's Final Getsuga form and Bankai form with a bit more color and Urahara's awesome geta sandals, except in red. Also, how do you like the sword? Hopefully when all put together and whatnot it's just as awesome as it looks it my head. Hopefully.
Read and Review please!
~ Aljan Moonfire ~
P.S. The first real chapter of this will be out soon. I'll post it as soon as I can. R&R!