On The Bonding: I have the next chapter about half finished, but I'm stuck at the moment, so I'm posting this even though I'd prefer to get them both out at the same time. I figure my profile has been quiet long enough. I have several other stories started on my computer, and may start posting one of them soon.
On this story—here's something I didn't notice until it was pointed out via review. I never gave proper physical descriptions of the Royal Guards living with Ichigo! Um, oops? So, despite the fact I would have preferred to integrate them into the story, here they are:
Mai Katsumi: 5'2'' Blood-red hair and eyes. Hair a little longer than shoulder-length. Slender and, barring hair and eye color, not physically intimidating at all. Mainly a kido-user when fights turn serious, though she has the ability to use Shikai and Bankai, like all of the Royal Guard. (Former Shinigami Captains, after all.) Shikai produces a silvery armor across her forearms capable of deflecting energy attacks such as kido or kido-type Zanpakto attacks. Shikai name: Karasu-aojiroi (Pale Raven)
Jou Honda: 5'5" Short brown hair, brown eyes, some European descent appearance-wise. Though not the tallest, most wouldn't want to take him on in a fist-fight without a darn good reason. Serious about training, quiet, polite. Hakuda user in a serious fight, Shiki produces fist-weapons rather like spiked brass knuckles set into gloves. Shikai name: Kobushi-heishi (Fist Soldier)
Kanda Peirce: 5'7" Medium-short black hair, dark blue eyes. Though the weakest in the group when it comes to raw reiatsu, his Shikai compensates. Shikai changes his blade slightly, making it a more ornate katana. Capable of draining reiatsu from a target on contact with the target's reiatsu and modifying the drained reiatsu to replenish Peirce's own. Shikai name: Katami (Memento)
Hades Nico: 5'1" Medium-long steel-grey hair, matching eyes. The member of the group with the most reiatsu (and the least height), Nico is a well-rounded fighter, competent in all areas and specializing in none. Shikai produces a glaive (sword-bladed spear) and the ability to manifest a single aiding 'dog' made up of solidified reishi. The dog acts independently of Nico, though it will follow his commands. Shikai name: Banken (Watchdog)
"Here~," Urahara sing-songed almost as soon as Ichigo had entered his shop, handing Ichigo something that appeared to be a brand-new cellphone.
Ichigo blinked, flipping it open and glancing at the screen, "Thanks?" he asked.
"It's merged with a Soul Pager. Soul Society and the Royal Guard can get a hold of you if they need to, now. The red light will blink if it's an emergency."
Ichigo nodded, "Thanks, that's really useful."
"Anyway, was there something you needed, Kurosaki-dono~?"
Ichigo rolled his eyes at the tone and form of address, but nodded. "I was wondering if it was possible to make gigai a little more capable of handling reiatsu-use. Sometimes Nico and Peirce have trouble keeping up with me when I use Shunpo in my body, and I'm going pretty slowly—I still need to train my body to be able to handle more."
"Well, now," presented with a challenge, Urahara's sing-song vanished. "I should be able to come up with something. A normal human body was the initial base for a gigai, but I don't see why I shouldn't be able to make them a little more versatile. Give me a few days and I'll have a better idea of what they'll be able to do—I can't make them capable of utilizing reiatsu as well as a spirit, obviously, but even so…"
Ichigo repressed the urge to smirk as Urahara trailed off into a scientific mutter. Looked like he'd given the man something to do. Something that wasn't likely to cause too much trouble, although you never knew, with Urahara.
School again, and Ichigo rolled his shoulders, working out the kinks that bending over a desk inevitably created. School sometimes felt so mundane compared to everything he'd been through and everything else he was dealing with.
It was, oddly, almost nice.
Then his badge started to chirp it's alarm for a Hollow—which ended quickly as Katsumi took care of it.
Ichigo blinked—there was something… pulling at him. Not a physical tug, but a strong desire to leave the classroom, to go towards the city center.
And the Hollow alert started up again, only to be silenced.
Ichigo frowned, glancing sideways at his bodyguards, wondering what was going on. Sure, Ishida hadn't shown up today, down with a bad case of the flu, but he wouldn't be wandering around helping Katsumi take out Hollows.
A third alarm, then a fourth in quick succession. The desire to leave grew stronger, and was now backed up with a reason. Ichigo stood, pulling out his phone as it began to buzz, red light flashing.
Ochi-sensei nodded to him, a worried frown on her face, and Nico and Peirce quickly moved to follow as their liege strode to the door.
Chad and Inoue shifted as though to stand, but stayed in their seats at a gesture from Ichigo, understanding. If there were so many hollows appearing—and Ichigo's badge had begun to put up a constant shrill, thankfully unnoticeable by non-spiritually aware humans—someone should be there to protect the school.
Ichigo stepped into the hall and shunpo'd off, Nico and Peirce scrambling to keep up.
"Who the hell broke Hollow bait?" Ichigo snapped to Katsumi as he flashed to her side, his body left behind on a rooftop under the care of the other two Royal Guard.
"Is that what happened?" She asked, sounding surprised, even as Honda shunpo'd in to their left, slashing at Hollows with an unsheathed blade.
"What else could it be?" Ichigo demanded, sending a crescent of blue energy through a cluster of Hollows in the air. "And something sure as hell was making me want to come here."
The desire actually had grown stronger as he neared the city center, where most of the Hollows were gathering.
Katsumi frowned, lowering her guard a little.
Ichigo snapped off another wordless Getsuga, aiming for an opening Garganta. The Hollows waiting to step through were purified before they even entered the Living World, the Garganta collapsing upon itself with nothing left to sustain it. "Pay attention!"
Katsumi blinked, remembering herself. "Hai, Kurosaki-dono!" A quick burst of Kido took down another advancing Hollow.
"Damn it," Ichigo thought franticly for a moment, then yanked out his phone and hit the speed-dial for Soul Society.
An unsurprised Yamamoto answered, "Kurosaki-dono," the title was given grudgingly, "we are sending reinforcements."
"Do you have anything to reverse the effects of Hollow bait?"
A pause, "I will contact the Twelfth."
"Good," Ichigo sidestepped a clumsy attack from a newly-formed Garganta behind him and let his reiatsu return to its natural state, then turned and sliced the presuming Hollow down the middle, returning his phone to his pocket to keep it from getting broken.
The Hollows swarmed.
In moments a Senkaimon opened at ground level, several Shinigami running out with drawn Zanpakto. He recognized most of them—Toshiro and Byakuya leading, Rukia, Renji, Ikkaku, Matsumoto, and Yumichika among them—and it was a relief to have Hyorinmaru and Senbonzakura immediately join the battle.
Byakuya stayed on ground-level as Toshiro took to the skies, Hyorinmaru's main attack, like Zangetsu's, unsuited for street-fighting.
Matsumoto followed the Captains' lead and unsealed Heineko, she and Rukia sticking to the ground as Renji flashed up to join the others in warding off Hollows from the multiple Garganta that crowded the sky.
Then Ichigo saw a flash of blue—a single arrow that he was not happy to have seen. If Ishida was only shooting one at a time like this, he really was in bad shape.
"Yo," a Cheshire grin had Ichigo smirking back.
"Hey, good to see you."
The Vizard joined the fight.
Ichigo left Shinji and Hiyori to take his place for the moment, flash-stepping down to where Ishida stood, wavering, pale and clearly unwell.
"Damn it, Ishida, we've got this covered! Get home!"
Not much to Ichigo's surprise, the Quincy stumbled—Ichigo caught him with no difficulty.
"Honda," Ichigo returned, glancing consideringly at the clearly unfit-to-fight Quincy. "Take Ishida back to my place, and if it looks like he's not going to stay put, sic my father on him. Then go make sure my sisters' school stays safe." It was far enough away that it would probably be ok, but better safe than sorry.
The Guardsman saluted, fist to heart, "Hai, Kurosaki-dono!" He slung Ishida's arm over his shoulder and flash-stepped away to only a mild protest from the Quincy.
Minutes passed with Hollows being decimated by the hundreds before another Senkaimon opened and Kurotsuchi Nemu stepped out, holding something blue. She paused as Ichigo flashed to a halt in front of her, blinking as three Hollows were purified before she had even known they were converging on her. "Nemu," he greeted. "That it?"
"Hai, Kurosaki-dono," the lieutenant of the Twelfth stated, "It should be crushed as close to the place that the Hollow bait was as possible, but we have been unable to determine—"
Ichigo held out a hand, "No problem." He'd been wanting to go stand near that stupid street sign the entire fight.
The blue stuff started working as soon as it was crushed, much the same way that Hollow bait did. No new Garganta formed, and it was fairly easy to clear out the ranks of low-level Hollows that remained.
The smarter ones even fled back to Hueco Mundo with nothing drawing them closer but a bunch of—dangerous—reiatsu signatures. Reports came in from all corners as sections of the city were confirmed clear.
Ichigo shunpo'd over to Nemu, "Hey," he greeted, blinking as she startled. Then he remembered he had his reiatsu incomprehensible, and shifted it back to a level others could sense. "Sorry, forgot about that. Anyway, thanks for bringing that. Do you think it's possible to track down who activated the Hollow bait?"
Nemu considered for several seconds, "I'm afraid not, Kurosaki-dono."
"Eh, it was worth asking," Ichigo shrugged, "Thanks anyway. Look, I've got to go. See you around, Nemu."
"Goodbye, Kurosaki-dono." Nemu's farewell was to empty air as the young Spirit King combined Shunpo and Sonido, vanishing in a tremble of sound.
Ichigo halted in front of the gathered Vizard, noting their relaxed stances, even in the presence of half a squad's worth of Shinigami as Byakuya and Toshiro rounded up their forces as the last Hollows were eliminated.
That was good to see, if odd.
Shinji's Cheshire grin turned towards the youngest Vizard and Ichigo smirked in return.
"Yo—Hollow bait? A lot of it, too."
"Yeah," Ichigo rolled his shoulders, "Kinda sucks. The entire fight I was just wanting to go down where the stuff was activated."
Shinji's grin wavered into puzzlement, "I didn't feel anything like that."
"Neither did I," Hiyori volunteered.
Shaken heads from all the other Vizard. Ichigo only shrugged—he'd already known he was different in that his Hollow was a part of himself. The others had killed theirs. It would make sense that there were differences in how—or if—they reacted to certain Hollow-oriented chemicals. "Doesn't surprise me. Anyway, thanks for coming to help out—this could have gotten messy without you guys."
As it was, there was very little damage to the buildings and, while the people had understandably fled when the first set of Hollow-claws scored the ground, they were starting to gain the courage to peek out windows and doors all around.
Byakuya cleared his throat carefully, gaining Ichigo's attention. "It would be best if we returned to Soul Society," he gestured to the group of Shinigami, "There are enough of us here that our power may effect the humans nearby if we do not."
Ichigo nodded, "Thanks," his glance swept across the group at large, including them in the thanking. "See you guys later, then."
Toshiro opened the Senkaimon, nodding to Ichigo as he stepped aside to allow lower-ranked Shinigami to file through. In moments, the entire group had left and Ichigo sighed, glancing back to the Vizard. "I've got to get back to school. I'll drop in on you guys later."
Various Vizard grinned or smiled at him, offering farewells. Hiyori's was slightly less polite—she scowled, "You'd better, baka Strawberry!"
Ichigo couldn't help the smirk as he flash-stepped back to his body and the waiting Nico and Peirce, using his phone to check where Katsumi and Honda were.
He stopped in front of the three Royal Guard on the rooftop and called Honda. "Everything clear at the school?"
At the affirmative, and the elaboration that only one Hollow had showed—which was one Hollow too many for the school to have been left undefended—Ichigo thanked the man and told him the situation had been handled. "You can head home if you want," he added.
"Thank you, Kurosaki-dono," came from the phone, and Ichigo flipped it closed, ending the call with rolled eyes. They were never going to call him by his name. "Same for you, Katsumi. Feel free to head home."
She smiled, "Thank you, Kurosaki-dono."
Ichigo rolled his eyes again, slipping back into his body and glancing to Nico and Peirce, "We'd better get back to school while we can. At least we can get the homework assignment."
Murmurs of agreement reached his ears as he used significantly slowed-down Shunpo to head down to ground and started walking, Nico and Peirce moments behind.