Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.

(A/N) This will be my first Bleach fic, the possibilities where to great for me to resist trying my hand at one I'm afraid. This will be set post-winter war, and will also have heavy ichiruki, so I hope you enjoy it!

And I know this is hardly an original or new idea, but there are so many possibilities post-winter war and involving Ichigo in the soul-society that I don't see a problem with doing it. :)

Arc One - Welcome to the seireitei

Two years.

Two years had passed since the defeat of Aizen, by the substitute shinigami: Ichigo Kurosaki. After the battle things returned to much the way they where before hand; the soul society started to rebuild and work without the looming threat of Aizen and the Arrancar. Meanwhile the human world continued on blissfully unaware of the forces at play all around them.

Water slowed his movement as he dodged the familiar blade that was swung at him. Feet struggled for purchase on the glass windows beneath and with a cry he swung a copy of the sword round to meet the next attack.

The twin blades connected with a sound that echoed through out the sunken city; both rattled against the other as they fought to break their masters.

"What you want to protect, Ichigo, is not what I want to protect..." The speaker looked into the eyes of his orange haired opponent and stepped forward, pushing the boy back.

"The hell are you on about, ossan?" His only response was for the blade to be sent towards him again.

Ichigo bought his black blade round and jumped out of the path of the attack, holding his sword with both hands as he landed and took a defensive stance.

"Tell me, Zangetsu! Teach me the Final Getsuga Tensho" Zangetsu stood in his new, half-hollow form and simply looked at him before replying.

"No, I will keep knocking you down until you realise it is futile." Ichigo just smirked back at him and leapt towards him.

"Well, I will always get up. I will not fail now."

Their blades continued to cross until the two stood at a stand-off, high above the slanted city of Ichigo's inner world. Ichigo panted heavily as he looked at his mentor: the reason for his power, which now stood between him and peace.

'Why wont he teach me. Dammit, everyone's counting on me, I can't fail!' Zangetsu looked at him with the same cool stare that he usually had, one eye obscures by the horned mask that covered the left side of his head.

"You are persistent, but I will not teach you what you desire. I cannot." In that moment Ichigo knew, and as Zangetsu charged at him to run him through, he could only stand there as realization flooded his brain.

There was no pain when the blade entered his chest. Zangetsu was right up against him, looking down rather than face the boy in whose soul he resided. Ichigo could only shudder slightly as a cold feeling penetrated his skin and spread around from where the Zangetsu had pierced him.

"I said I did not want to protect what you wanted..." Zangetsu started, his voice catching slightly as he spoke. "...I do not, Ichigo, I want to protect you!" His voice rose for the last part, and he raised his head to look at Ichigo.

Tears where running down his face as he stared into the eyes of his partner for what would be the last time, before, in one swift motion, he removed the blade and turned away from him.

"W-what do you mean, Zangetsu?" Ichigo choked out towards the back of the spirit.

Zangetsu turned his head slightly, tear marks sill visible on his face as he looked at him.

"My meaning and how to achieve what you desire was transferred through my blade. Once you use the Final Getsuga, you will lose all your powers and forgo your role as a shinigami." He turned his head and started to walk away from Ichigo. He already knew what decision would be made, he knew the outcome, and the results.

"Farewell." Suddenly Ichigo was plunged into darkness as he was drawn back to the real world, and the fight to determined the future of the soul-society.

Ichigo shot up in his bed, sweat rolling down him in the darkness. Looking around he saw his darkened room and lay back down, rubbing his eyes and putting his hands behind his head. The dreams never stopped, even after he lost his powers, every now and again his mind reminded him of all that he had lost.

"Normal life now, just like I wanted." He said to the darkness, in a bitter tone.

He had said that to his friends, to Rukia before he lost them. That this was what he wanted, and he was okay with living a normal life without his powers.

He had lied.

As the days passed he began to feel even more powerless than ever before. He could no longer even see spirits, but was surrounded by those that could, his friends and family; his father was even a fully fledged shinigami.

He couldn't help, all he could do was watch as his friends went out to battle with the monsters that where once men. Helpless. Weak. Useless. The thoughts echoed in his head, and ever so slowly he began to slide into depression.

It was not a noticeable thing really, no crying or moaning about how unfair the world was. He had seen enough to know that it wasn't fair. No, he simply stopped caring. He stopped working to try and get anywhere, and slowly the fire in his eyes flickered and died beneath his own depression.

His friends had tried to speak to him sometimes; asked him if anything was wrong, or if they could do something to help him. But there was nothing wrong, and nothing to do about it to him: he was simply adjusting to normal life.

And it was killing him.

"Hey, you want to come out to the arcade later Ichigo?" He turned at the voice, and saw Keigo and his other friends standing behind him.

"Nah, I've got things to do." That was all he offered for an excuse before walking away from the group.

"O-oh, all right then, see you tomorrow, Ichigo..." the voice trailed of as he got further away and stopped paying attention to it.

The truth was that he had nothing planned as always, but he didn't feel like going out. Something seemed so tedious about having to go and play a bunch of games and waste time standing about at the moment.

It wasn't the only thing that he was putting off though: he had still not decided on a collage to study at, or what he wanted to do for a job. He supposed that he would go and study medicine like his father and continue the business or work in a hospital. Even then he couldn't bring himself to be excited over the prospect and had barely started his application.

A black butterfly caused him to stop in his tracks and watch it as it flew about the flowers. A pang of longing echoes within him as he compared it to a hell butterfly; they where so similar and yet so different.

His thoughts turned to the soul society and his ever-present scowl depend just a bit.


He had not had any contact with them since he lost his powers and was condemned to his life as a human for saving them. Not even Rukia had sneaked a visit in a gigai, and somehow that made the feeling of betrayal that much more profound.

'They could at least have sent a thank you card' He thought humourlessly, before he turned to walk down an alleyway: taking a short-cut to his house.

As he got to the end he felt something odd, something trailed down his back. Turning round and raising a fist he prepared to stop whatever it was, by force if necessary.

But there was nothing, just an empty alley behind him. Walking forward slightly he kicked a can down the path to vent his frustrations on whatever had managed to touch his back and get away so quickly.

However, the can met resistance mid-air and stopped, floating, in the middle of the ally.

"What the hell..." He started before he was suddenly lifted of the ground and crushed against a wall. His legs dangled uselessly and he felt something holding him by his neck against the rough bricks of the wall.

Ichigo flailed around with his arms until he felt both slammed against the wall and he cried out in pain.
Realisation finally made it though his shock-addled and oxygen deprived brain as he started to feel the thing clutch around his neck. He could only widen his eyes and stare, at the empty space in front of him, fear worming its way into his mind.

"H-hollow. Damn-" That was all he could make out before the hollow proceeded with it's plan of choking the life out of him and he could only think of how ironic it was that this was how he met his end, at the hands of some lowly hollow in an ally.

As he started to fade out of consciousness something familiar seemed to gnaw at the edges of his dying brain. Something insistent and unyielding, something raging to find a way out. To take control.

'Hello, King.'Was all he heard before he was thrown into darkness, and not for the first time in his life, found himself falling through it.

"So, is this dying?" He thought out loud, it sure seemed like it, he having had the pleasure of the sensation when he fought the fourth espada: Ulquiorra Cifer. "At the hands of a hollow after all the, just great.."

He was bout out of his thoughts by a sudden influx of speed and a sudden pain in his back. Opening his eyes, he looked around and was shocked at the surroundings.

Though the skyscrapers where now slums and the sky was overcast, there was no mistaking it. It was his inner world.

"Welcome back, it seems my farewell was premature." Ichigo scrambled to his feet and turned, wildly looking for the sound of the voice. At last his eyes found it, and all he could do was stare at the sight which he had longed for.

On a pole stood Zangetsu: his sword and his teacher. His black cloak flowing in the stiff wind and his now younger face looking down on him with a mix of amusement and seriousness. Ichigo took a few steps towards him before stopping and shouting out at him.

"What is going on! You said I would never recover my powers. Yet you've been here all along!" Zangetsu hopped off his pole and walked up to him, his face serious until he stood directly in front of him, where he surprised Ichigo by giving a small but rare smile.

"Indeed that was what I believed, because I merged completely with you, and gave you everything; which you then used to defeat Aizen. However, it seems something, or rather should I say somebody was not willing to leave you, or I think is more likely, couldn't leave you."

It took Ichigo a few seconds before he came up with the answer, and when he did he could only blink in surprised and question Zangetsu further. "My hollow?"

"Yes." Ichigo scowled at the one word response.

"But how! You fused with him before you fused with me, I took all his powers as well." Zangetsu gave another small smile and looked Ichigo in the eye before responding.

"Yes, the powers of the three parts of your soul used in unity, that is what we achieved in the end. However, we are exactly that Ichigo, parts of your soul, we cannot be destroyed. Just like a pane of glass we must all stay to ensure that the glass does not shatter." Ichigo growled in irritation; he had never much cared for metaphors to help explains stuff like this, it never seemed to help that much.

'At least it's better than Ruikia's drawings'He was brought out of his thoughts by Zangetsu motioning to the buildings and waste that lay around him.

"Can you see Ichigo? Look what has happened in our absence, you have slipped into depression because you felt your once complete soul was broken." He held up a hand when he saw Ichigo was about to interrupt him here. "You may not have thought you have, or may argue with the reason, but this is the truth of the matter."

Ichigo couldn't argue back because the immutable proof lay around him, the ugliness of his soul in his current state was repulsing him and he looked back at Zangetsu, his eyes almost pleading now.

"But how did you wake up then? Why now." Zangetsu sighed this time before answering.

"I could not regain your attention because your natural shinigami spirit pressure remained hidden from you since it had been spent and the link to you sealed until death." He stopped for a second for Ichigo to process this before moving on. " This is why I didn't want to teach you my final technique, I never expected to see you again, even after death it seemed unlikely, but I had not counted on your hollow." Ichigo started and took another step forward, finally being told why he was back here now.

"You see, he was sent into a sleep since there was nothing to keep him awake now, no power for him to act as a catalyst for his own, however, that changed today." He looked directly at Ichigo, who could only stutter at the gaze.

"T-today? Because I almost died right?" Zangetsu shook his head to the side before correcting him.

"No, you could die and he would stay asleep as always, however if you introduce hollow reiatsu to your inner hollow..." Ichigo's eyes widened and he finished of the sentence.

"That acted as the catalyst to bring him back." Zangetsu nodded, then walked towards him putting a hand on his shoulder and looking deep into his eyes.

"Now your soul is unstable and your body is under his control, however, your shinigami powers finally have a reason to return and maintain balance within your soul. You know what to do, Ichigo."

He could only stand there in shock as his dream was finally realised. After two years of desperation a hollow attack had (once again) given him a reason to live. His mouth curled into a smirk as he looked up at Zangetsu.

"I know what to do. See you on the other side, I've got a body to reclaim." With that he closed his eyes and spread out his mind like he had the first time.

Slowly they appeared, boxes lay all around him but he continued to spread his thoughts as they piled around him in the dark. Until something flashed in his mind and his eyes shot open. Moving quicker than ever before he reached out and felt his hand close around a thread. Looking down, a full grin appeared on his face and he yanked the red thread.

A box came soaring out of the darkness and Ichigo caught it and, wasting no time, opened it. The world around him disintegrated and he felt a rush of power until he suddenly stopped and felt uncomfortable close to something, a barrier, or a-

"Why hello there, king. I didn't expect you back you know, this is my show now." Ichigo snarled and pushed himself against the barrier, getting a cry of shock from his hollow.

"What the hell? You should still be weak you fucker!"This got him a smirk from Ichigo who was starting to take control of the fight.

"Sorry to disappoint you, but this is my body, and my power! Now,"He felt a rush of sensations as he began to take control of his body, but kept pushing and reached up to grab the half mask formed on his face.

"GET OUT!" He roared out, using all his power to push against the oppressive hollow. Then suddenly it was gone, and his power was free, raging like a fire around him. He was afraid to let go of it now he had it back and continued to push his body as hard as he could before he heard a smooth voice in his mind.

"It's over Ichigo, you have your powers back, rest."That was all the incentive he needed as he collapsed in the alleyway, still in his human body and fell into unconscious, but not before hearing his hollow sent a few taunts his way.

"Yeah, it's over for now King, but if you decide to get weak again, you know exactly what will happen..."The last thing that he thought was the, considering his hollow was an evil creature based solely on his instinct: that was actually nice...for him anyway.

Kisuke Urahara hummed slightly to himself as he laid back on his futon, gently fanning himself as he drifted in and out of thought. Idly wondering if he could up his prices any more and still keep the same amount of customers. He set the idea on hold as a more interesting thought popped into his head and a small smile grew on his face.

'I wonder if I can persuade Yoruichi to have some fun...she wasn't in the mood earlier but you never now with her.'Just as he went to reach for the phone and invite her over for some 'fun', a familiar spiritual pressure roared into existence.

Urahara stood there for a moment before a huge smile grew on his lips and he started jumping around his room, cheering like a schoolgirl. The racket bought the rest of the house to the door of his room and they all piled in to find him jumping about the room.

"Uh, Urahara?" He turned suddenly to see three people all giving him strange looks, two small children and one muscle bound man.

"Ah, Tessai, Jinta, Ururu. I just got some brilliant news." He seemed to calm down as they stood there, his excitement being drawn into the smile that was playing about his lips as he looked at them.

"Well? What is it?" Tessai asked expectantly.

"It seems our friend, Mr. Kurosaki has just regained his spiritual pressure, at full power I might add, maybe even stronger!" The three looked at each other then back to his beaming form and Tessai hesitated before questioning him again.

"Uh, no offence, but is that really why you where dancing about-"

"Like a fairy" Jinta interrupted, still giving him a weird look.

"I think you might make a good fairy ." Ururu said quietly, earning a snicker from Jinta and a surprised look from Urahara.

"Well, maybe. But no, I am excited because one!" He flipped out a new fan and spread it, revealing a large number one on it. "He is my student and I am glad he can realise his full potential: which I helped him achieve and two" He flipped the fan around and displayed a large two to the group. "Because even though he had the spiritual pressure of a cat before hand; its depressing nature was really irritating."

He finished lamely before he cocked his head as he felt the spiritual pressure drop back to Ichigo's usual, uncontainable signature. Just he was about to speak up a new voice interrupted him and he froze at the sound.

"Who has the reiatsu of a cat, Kiske?" He slowly turned at the deep, masculine voice to see the small black cat staring at him from the window-sill.

"Ah, Yoruichi, I was just thinking about asking you over actually-" What ever he was about to say was cut off as the car jumped onto his clothes and hung on by digging its claws into his skin.

Urahara let out a loud yelp and started to run about trying to pull Yoruichi off him, all the time apologising for comparing her species of choice to Ichigo before he had his powers back. It was a few minutes before she relented and hopped off him to go find some clothes to change into.

Urahara was left covered in scratches, and was still pouting by the time she came back, now dressed in one of the many sets she kept in his house.

"Now I'm going to go pick up Ichigo since he's decided to take a nap in in the street by feel of his reiatsu." Urahara nodded but remained obstinately looking away from him until she walked over and smacked the back of his head, knocking him, face first, onto the floor.

"Stop being a baby, it's just a few scratches, use some kido and heal yourself up." She leant closer to him now and purred into his ear. "So I can make some new ones later, under differentcircumstances" His perverted mind lit up at the possibilities and so did his face as he turned to her.

"You always know how to make it better Yoruichi." He chuckled before he stood up and went to prepare a room for Ichigo as she used shunpo to get to him.

The captain commander: Genryƫsai Shigekuni Yamamoto, stood watching over the Seireitei as the sun rose, signalling a new day in the Soul-society. A knocking at his door interrupted his vigil and he turned to the door.

"Enter." The two doors swung open to revel an exhausted, yet excited looking shinigami bearing a scrap of paper with some writing on it.

"Captain Yamamoto, Sir, I have been sent here to give you some important news from the world of the living. It seems substitute shinigami, Ichigo Kurosaki has regained his shinigami powers." The shinigami said the whole thing as quickly as he could and the room was plunged into silence.

Yamamoto was briefly shocked as the news hit him, but it wasn't like he hadn't prepared for this eventuality, and this was what he was hoping for after all. It was time to get one of their greatest advantages back from his self-imposed exile. Remaining stoic he looked back at the messenger and nodded his head in thanks.

"Thank you, you are dismissed." The shinigami instantly bowed and turned to run out of the room, closing the heavy doors behind him

The captain commander walked quickly to edge of his balcony and held up his finger; soon after a hell butterfly alighted on it and he started to relay his message into it. Once finished he lifted his finger and spoke the name of the recipient before it flew off to deliver the news.

"Deliver this mission to: Rukia Kuchiki."

With that the butterfly took of into the air of the dawn.

(A/N) Heh, longest chapter i've ever written, hope it was enjoyable.