A/N: A small group to thank: AnimeFreak134, novicestar, Revolation, KitElizaKing, hollownature, MaN6A10v3r, Assault Godzilla, and Rukia's Reflection. And thank you to everyone who added this or its author to their lists. It's the last day of "Obon" folks, and thus the last of this story.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Bleach characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Tite Kubo et al.
Obon of the Daiko
July 15th: Sending Forth
The "Substitute Group" was once again whole and Ichigo felt better having his friends at his side again. Being able to help them was even better, knowing that although being "normal" had been okay, having the power to protect was even better.
"So, you have been up to something, Kurosaki."
"Yeah, you have a problem with that?" Ishida merely answered Ichigo's query with a smirk.
"I suppose this means that eventually I will have to put up with a Shinigami who can't control his reiatsu getting in my way." The archer pretended to sigh in resignation.
"Count on it, Quincy."
Masaki glanced at the two boys before leaning over to Rukia who had taken up a seat on the arm of the couch. "I thought they were friends."
"They are but they like to pretend otherwise. The whole Quincy vs. Shinigami thing makes for interesting arguments. Don't let them fool you, Kurosaki-san, they'd go to hell and back for each other."
"I see. I'm glad my son has such devoted friends. Ishida-kun's father is Ryūken Ishida, is it not? I seem to remember a colleague of Isshin's by that name."
Ishida looked over at the woman sitting next to the ex-captain and sighed out loud. "Just when I think your family couldn't get any stranger. I thought your mother was eaten by a Hollow."
"She was but after Dad killed the Hollow that ate her, her soul and all the other souls it ate were sent to the Soul Society. By her dress, I guess she developed powers and is now in the Academy." Ichigo shrugged and turned to Chad. "Thanks for coming, Chad."
"Aa," the gentle giant murmured and continued his vigilant watch.
"Sado-kun, what's wrong?" Masaki asked, rising to see what he was staring at.
"A feeling." The Kurosaki mother waited, expecting to hear what he feeling he had but when he said nothing more, she turned to her son. Ichigo shrugged, used to Chad's half-finished and cryptic remarks.
"I see. Orihime-chan, have you known my son long?"
"No, ma'am. I went to middle school with Tatsuki-chan and met Kurosaki-kun, Sado-kun, and Ishida-kun when we entered high school. And then, we all met Kuchiki-san when she came to Karakura." Orihime blushed, a little unnerved to be talking to her former crush's dead mother. Why that was so was a mystery because she had no problem talking to Rukia or any of the other Shinigami.
"Tatsuki-chan? Oh, that's nice. So you're all friends, I'm glad." Masaki would have continued further but Chad's sudden tensing brought the conversation to a thankful end. "Sado-kun?"
With only a glance, the others spread out, concealing their reiatsu so as to surprise Tsukishima. Ichigo lounged on the sofa, Rukia still on the arm and his parents moving to the kitchen. Karin and Yuzu watched their brother, seeing a side of him that they had only caught glimpses of in the past.
The doorbell rang and Yuzu went to answer it, finding it hard to be cordial to the man on the front step. "Yuzu-chan, how are you this evening?"
"Fine," she said softly. "Please, come in, Shuu-chan." She hadn't needed to be told that she had to keep up the pretense.
"You don't seem your usual self, Yuzu-chan." Dark eyes narrowed on her, wondering if she had somehow been released from his power.
"It's Obon, Shuu-chan."
"Ah," he murmured, pretending to be concerned. "You miss your mother."
"Yes," she admitted, following him. "Have you come to see Ichi-nii?"
"I have. I think he owes me an apology, don't you?"
"He did say that he had something to tell you." Yuzu opened the door to the living room and stepped back so that he could enter first.
The first thing that told Tsukishima his scheme was falling apart was the petite Shinigami sitting on the arm of the couch next to Ichigo. The former daiko had an arm flung over the back of the couch, his other resting in his lap. "Good evening, Tsukishima. Surely, since you are a member of the family, you know Rukia. She's a close family friend and the girl who changed my world."
Color blossomed on Rukia's cheeks but kept her gaze coolly settled on the intruder that had hurt the girls she thought of as her little sisters and her friends. Since the look was often seen on Byakuya, she knew it would make the Fullbringer uncomfortable.
"Of course," the dark haired man tried. A death god sitting calmly in someone's living room was not an everyday occurrence. The Soul Society was not supposed to be involved. He had wanted to isolate Ichigo from everyone and make it appear that he had become a traitor. The girl's presence was throwing a rather large wrench into his plans.
"You know, it occurred to me shortly after your last visit that you reminded me of someone else that I utterly despise. A coward that used others to do his dirty work." Slowly, Ichigo stood, taking his Combat Badge out of his pocket, he held it out. "I took Aizen down, and I can do the same to you. You know Aizen, don't you, Tsukishima? In fact, I'm betting you know him real well."
Cloaking himself in his Fullbring, Ichigo waited for his opponent to say something. His parents and Rukia were looking at him with questions in their eyes. "Ichigo…"
"Think about it, Rukia. Aizen experimented on Shinigami, regular souls, and even Arrancar during his betrayal. Why would he have stopped there? Why wouldn't he have done it to humans as well? Maybe not at first but there have been way too many Fullbringers for something odd not to have happened."
"That's my son!" Isshin said, knowing that Ichigo was on to something.
"For once Kurosaki, I did not have to think for you," Ishida said, stepping up behind Tsukishima. Orihime and Chad surrounded him on the remaining sides so that with everyone there, the rogue Fullbringer didn't have an escape route. "I would not be surprised if Aizen recognized something of himself in this guy. Or maybe…" Dark blue eyes became considering. "Maybe the reason Tsukishima's Fullbring is like Aizen's Zanpakutou is because he's Aizen's son."
"That…!" Rukia started to object but closed her mouth when she remembered that Ichigo was the son of a Shinigami as well.
"So you figured all that out in only a few days," Tsukishima said, dropping his act. "How did you escape my Fullbring?"
"It didn't work on me," Orihime answered. "You had already attacked Ishida-kun and when I healed him, anything you did to him was reversed. I did the same for Sado-kun, the Xcution group, and Yuzu-chan and Karin-chan. Karin-chan had freed herself from it mostly but I finished the job. You never got to try your powers on Kurosaki-san and Kuchiki-san hasn't been in the World of the Living for you to try to." Tsubaki appeared next to her head, ready for action. "I don't like it when my friends are hurt."
"Say, Rukia, since he killed one Shinigami daiko already, I guess that means Central Forty-Six could pass judgment, huh?"
"Yes, I suppose." Digging out her phone, she sent a message asking for instructions. "In the meantime, we must do something about that Fullbring of his. It is way too destructive to exist."
Derision colored his voice and Tsukishima snarled while summoning his power. "You think you can get away with this. All of you act like I'm not a threat. Yes, Aizen was my father, are you happy with your deduction?"
Staring at him with boredom, Ichigo drew his sword and held it with the same pride as he'd always held Zangetsu. "Next to Aizen and the Arrancar, you aren't one. You thought you could isolate me and make me appear a traitor to my friends." Amber orbs narrowing in resolve, Ichigo moved forward with the speed of shunpo. "You thought wrong."
Like a well-oiled machine the "Substitute Group" fought Tsukishima while Isshin and Masaki protected the twins. "This is going to be hard to explain to the neighbors," Masaki murmured.
"Not really, between Rukia-chan's memory modifier and Inoue-san's ability to "reject," everything that gets destroyed should be good as new within a matter of moments." Isshin fired off a small burst of kido to keep the flying debris away from his girls.
Masaki nodded although she wasn't as convinced as her husband. She watched as Tsukishima tried his best to defend himself, using every trick in his arsenal to win. Up against five angry teens bent on capturing him, he didn't stand a chance. At the Academy they taught their students to fight one on one but in this case, the almost-Shinigami figured even her teachers would make an exception.
A large crash signaled the end of the fight and she watched as Ichigo raised his sword to plunge it into Tsukishima's heart. "Ichigo, no!" Her voice stilled his hand and he looked back at her. "It is not your place to decide whether he lives or dies."
"Your mother's right, Ichigo," Rukia said, laying a hand on his arm. "We've been given no orders to eliminate him. Let Soi Fon-taicho take care of that if that is the decision of Central Forty-Six. In the meantime, we can destroy the source of his Fullbring."
"Just because we destroy it, doesn't mean his powers are gone, Rukia," Ichigo returned.
"He's right, Kuchiki-san. He'll still be able to create a new one if we give him the opportunity." Ishida raised his bow, ready to eliminate the two things that would prevent Tsukishima from ever using spiritual powers again. "Shall I destroy his chain link and soul sleep?" he asked. "Regardless of what your superiors decide, that will prevent him from ever using spiritual powers again. I have done it once before, a second time would not bother me. He is a coward for hurting women."
The Quincy looked at his friends, their heads bent in discussion. When Ichigo put away his sword and stepped back, he had his answer. "Have at it," the orange haired teen said and picked up the innocuous looking bookmark from the floor.
Making sure that Tsukishima was watching, he ripped it into tiny pieces before passing it off to Rukia. She used a burst of kido to turn it to ashes. "Your solution is acceptable, Ishida," she said. Chad and Orihime remained quiet, choosing instead to begin picking up the living room and kitchen. They had no need to see what was happening behind their backs.
"That's it?" Karin asked. "I thought you were going to destroy him."
"We did," her brother answered. "Being without powers that you've probably had since birth and knowing that you can't protect yourself without them from Hollows and Shinigami assassination squads is punishment enough for now. Tsukishima abused his gifts just as his father did."
"You think you're above it all but you would have killed me," the rogue Fullbringer shot back, his senses already fading.
"I'm not perfect, and I do have a Hollow. My instincts tell me to eliminate you permanently but Mom's right, it's not my place. Just like it wasn't your place to decide what those other Fullbringers did with their powers. And that Shinigami daiko you killed. If you think I'm in the wrong, take a look at yourself first." Ichigo went over to Yuzu who looked shell shocked. Ruffling her hair, he hugged her briefly. "I don't know what that guy's reason was for wanting his powers back were but mine… Mine are in this room. My friends and my family."
"Ichigo, perhaps you should turn him over to the police. If he killed a group of humans…" Masaki pulled her daughters close, uncomfortable with having a murderer around her family.
"Yeah, I'll call Ginjō; see if there's any evidence linking him to the crimes. Rukia, can you bind him until we can get him out of here?"
"Sure," she answered. Making sure that Tsukishima couldn't run away, Rukia then left to go use her memory modifier on the neighbors. With a nod from Orihime, she left the other girl in charge of putting things back together again.
"Well, this certainly has been an interesting visit," Masaki murmured. "Who wants dinner?" she asked, rolling up her sleeves.
"Mom, you don't have to…" It was unclear which Kurosaki child made the objection.
"Of course I do. Afterwards, we can go watch the Bon Odori dance at the festivities downtown. I haven't seen the folk dance performed in years." The dance celebrating those that had gone before was specific to each region, making each song that accompanied it unique. "And of course, all my son's friends will come along. The last night you should all dress up in yukatas to see us off."
The "Substitute Group" exchanged looks and gave in gracefully. There was no arguing with the ginger haired woman. Had she been taking lessons from Unohana-taicho?
Ichigo and Rukia walked behind the rest the last night of Obon, their family and friends far ahead of the couple. Although Ichigo did not have his Shinigami powers back, Ginjō had promised to keep his end of the bargain, despite Tsukishima's interference. The rogue had been handed over to the police, evidence of his misdeeds mysteriously appearing, thanks no doubt to Yoruichi. The Soul Society would pass down their judgment at a later date.
"It seems like you just got here," Ichigo said offhandedly.
"Obon only lasts three days, Ichigo. I was lucky that the soutaicho let me come." Rukia fussed with her shihakushou, wishing that she could have dressed in a kimono.
"Yeah, I know." The now eighteen year old rubbed the back of his head, unsure of what to say.
"Hey, look at it this way. You have probably just received the coolest gift for your birthday any child will ever get." Stopping in the middle of the path, she pointed to the rest of the Kurosakis. "Not everyone gets to have a true Obon visit."
"I'm not a kid, Rukia. In two years I'll legally be an adult." Scowling down at her, he pointed a finger at her. "Which is more than I can say for you, midget."
"Baka, I'm nearly ten times your age. And if you still have two years to go until you're an official adult, then I'll stop calling you a kid in two years." She gave him a superior smile, waiting for his reaction.
Predictably, he blew up.
Waiting for him to run out of steam, Rukia watched as people began to light lanterns. The tradition of floating lanterns, called Toro Nagashi, was meant to send the spirits back to the other side. "Are you lighting one too?" she asked, when he finally settled down.
"Nah, the girls and Dad can do that. Besides, Mom has you and two Hell Butterflies to guide her through the Dangai. She doesn't need a lantern floating on the river to send her back to the Soul Society." Ichigo grew pensive, sighing as the first group of lanterns was put in the water.
"What about me?" she asked softly. "Don't I deserve a lantern to guide my way?"
"What do you need a lantern for? Your very name means light. Besides, maybe I don't want you to go back." Color decorated both their cheeks and they turned away from each other quickly.
"I know, you have to go back, but I'll make you this promise, Rukia Kuchiki. The day I get my full powers back is the day I'll be entering the Soul Society looking for you." He touched her cheek gently, wiping away the single tear that fell from her violet eyes.
"Baka," she returned, pulling him down to kiss his cheek. "I'll hold you to that." Leaving him stunned, she pulled out Sode no Shirayuki and ran to catch up to Masaki.
Ichigo watched her leave in dumbfounded silence, the Senkaimon closing before he could produce a coherent thought. "It sucks to be you, Byakuya," he said grinning before catching up to his family. Very soon the noble was going to have one big headache.
Masaki watched the young Shinigami at her side as they reentered the other dimension. "Did Ichigo light a lantern for you?"
Rukia smiled at her orange haired daiko's mother and shook her head. "I don't need a lantern," she answered. "I have a Black Sun to guide me home."
The older woman nodded in understanding. Obon was meant to honor those that had gone on before. Now it held another meaning.
For every lantern sending a soul forth into the afterlife, there was a sun to guide them home.
A/N: And thus concludes the three-shot, I hope you enjoyed it. If anyone is interested in Obon, I'd check out the "Wiki" entry for it.