A/N: I've been sitting on this chapter for months. I'm sorry. I'm terrible. I understand if you're upset with me. ( u m u ) If there's an inconsistency in any terminology I used in previous chapters, let me know. Also, any constructive crit would, of course, be great!

Disclaimer: Non-profit work. Just having fun no harm meant to anyone's rights.

Most dialogue in italics is English as spoken or heard by a non-native English speaker. Don't assume that the italics are understood by the POV character, however.

Culture Shock
A crossover fanfic by MidnightResWri

Ichigo's POV

Chapter 4: Lose the Barrier

The boy Danny stared at us from the room's entrance. Yoruichi and Urahara casually walked in the room as if nothing was wrong with kidnapping some kid off the streets. From my experiences with the man, this latest stunt seemed less unbelievable for him to do than anything else. He was crazy sometimes.

The shinigami in the room narrowed their eyes on the kid. Orihime tilted her head in confusion, though I figured she was already piecing things together. Chad didn't move. I sent him a reassuring smile. "Hey Danny," I said.

Danny fixed his big eyes on me, pupils small and he had folded in on himself from all the attention on him from the others. He was a lot different like this than he was in his other form. He raised a timid hand and waved at me in return for the greeting. He bit his lip and then shifted his eyes to each person around the room, shivering despite the summer heat.

"Well, now that everyone is here," said Urahara from behind Danny, "I suppose we should begin."

Orihime nodded her head toward Danny and asked, "Does he speak Japanese?"

Urahara laughed, waving a hand. "No, of course not."

"Then what's the point of bringing him here?" Renji scowled. "Is he just gonna be for show?"

Urahara hid his face behind that fan of his and I could practically see the Cheshire smile behind it. He chuckled and from the corner of my eye I caught Danny taking an involuntary step back. "He'll be telling us about himself, Abarai-kun," he said.

"Well this will be useless, then," said Toshiro. "Unless there's someone fluent in his language and is willing to interpret what he says, of course." The little captain pinched the bridge of his nose.

"None of us speak English that well," I said. Orihime might have one of the highest scores in our English class but we certainly hadn't covered enough to get us through the topic we'd be talking about now. Chad would have been perfect if Danny spoke Spanish and Uryuu wasn't around for this. I didn't even know if he would have been a better choice as an interpreter.

I looked at Urahara, sure that he would have a plan to get around the language barrier. Otherwise, he probably wouldn't have brought Danny here in the first place. Well, I was mostly sure about that. Rukia said, "If you're going to do something, then do it, Urahara. I'm sure the caption doesn't appreciate time being wasted."

Urahara folded his fan with a flick of his wrist and withdrew a syringe with his free hand. Danny took an involuntary step back when he happened to look at the needle. I raised an eyebrow at that. He hardly flinched when fighting that Arrancar, but the sight of a needle set him on edge. What did he expect Urahara to do to him, I wondered. "I'm sure he wouldn't, Rukia-san," said Urahara, waving the syringe around. "I've developed something special in the event our worlds should cross. Yoruichi-san, if you would do the honors?"

"Wait, hold on," I said. "What do you mean, you've developed something?" I pointed to the syringe. "What the hell is that gonna do?"

Urahara's smile never dropped. "It'll give him everything he needs to communicate with us in modern Japanese and understand what he's saying, of course," he explained. "I haven't tested it yet, though, and I can't remember if I added the reading patch to it or not…"

He trailed off, hand on his chin trying to recall what he created.

"You…haven't tested it?" I deadpanned. I was pretty sure there would be no stopping the mad scientist when he got his mind on something. Still, I worried about Danny and how he'd turn out if he didn't just bolt right then and there. I was pretty surprised he stayed this long considering how nervous he looked.

Danny's eyes, however, were fixed on the Urahara and the syringe. He didn't notice Yoruichi flashstep, taking the needle from Urahara, behind him with syringe in hand and quickly jabbing the point into his neck.

It would have been a lie to say that no one in the room made a noise and watched without doing anything. Orihime was already across the room with a hand on one of her hair clips beside Danny. The kid cried out when the needle was removed and Yoruichi back in her place against the wall. Toshiro stood with his hand near his zanpakuto's hilt (Did he think the kid would attack?). Yumichika made a grimace and muttered something about ugliness. I didn't try to understand what that was about. Most everyone else watched warily from the sidelines.

Danny, after the initial shock wore off a minute or two later, blinked in surprise that nothing about his body had changed. He stared at his hands like he had back in my room, but they didn't disappear. "What was that?" he whispered in perfect Japanese. He frowned and looked around the room. "No, really, what did that stuff you put in me do?"

My face dropped in surprise. "Danny?" I said, testing this new comprehension. "Uh, can you understand what I'm saying?"

"Of course, I can—" he cut himself off when the realization hit him. He touched his face, as if confirming he was in his own body. "What is going on? Am I speaking Japanese? Is that what I'm doing?"

He backed himself against the door, breathing heavily. Danny grabbed his head, pulling at his hair and chanting that it couldn't be happening. He slid himself down to the floor and Orihime went to his side and embraced him, telling him that it would be okay.

Ikaku made a noise of displeasure and turned his head away. I think Rangiku glared at him from her place at Toshiro's side.

All the while, Orihime managed to calm Danny down from his breakdown. He didn't look happy with sudden fluency in another language. He probably wondered if he'd be able to speak English again. "So," he said after a while, "am I going to speak Japanese for the rest of my life?"

He looked down, pointedly avoiding both Urahara and Yoruichi. Urahara answered, "Ah, no. Maybe. The way I designed it was to utilize the brain's natural processing of language for you to be able to distinguish and automatically be able to respond to a Japanese speaker and understand what they tell you. You can speak in English or Japanese at anytime you want, but you have to make the conscious decision about which language you prefer depending on the which language of the two is more prominent around you."

"So, while I'm in Japan," said Danny, rubbing his temple, "and I want to speak to my family, I'll have to think that I want to speak in English?"

"Ah, allow me to clarify," Urahara chuckled. "If you're speaking with an English speaker, that is the language you will use. When speaking with a Japanese speaker, you'll be speaking Japanese. At least, in theory. Does that make sense?"

"That…wait," Danny glared at the man. "Theory? What is this some untested tech you put in me?"

Urahara waved his fan, smiling and remaining silent. Well, I didn't think that would go over too well. Danny's eyes were glowing green and I didn't think that was going to be any good. I stepped forward to prevent fighting. Sure, there are times I want to punch the man in the face, too, but there were more important things to do while everyone was together. "Danny, calm down for a second." I scratched the back of my head. "We did this so we could talk with you."

"It's true," said Toshiro. "We don't know anything about your kind of spirit. Whatever he injected in you allows you to communicate with us and that's all we need."

"Spirit?" Danny laughed. "I haven't heard that used to describe ghosts. Specters, spooks, ghosts, protoplasmic scum, sure. But spirit? That's a new one."

The shinigami exchanged looks with one another, confused. I wasn't sure I got it either. Urahara broke the silence. "Ghosts," he said, faking enthusiasm. "How wonderful that we get to learn about them!"

"Uh, my ghost sense has been going off like crazy since I got to this place and you guys tell me you aren't ghosts?" asked Danny, incredulous. He crossed his arms and looked away from the group. "I'm not buying it."

"We are shinigami. We protect Soul Society and the spirits who live there as well as those souls of the living," explained Toshiro. "Our main purpose is to purify Hollows."

Danny's eyes widened at the mention of Hollows, probably remembering the night before. "Wait…so that guy last night…Ichigo said something about it being a Hollow. What exactly does that mean?"

Rukia pulled out her sketchbook and cleared her throat. She hadn't changed her pictures since she explained the basics of hollows to me so long ago. She flipped the images as she explained to Danny, who was, apparently, listening attentively. He nodded and then asked why the Hollow from last night didn't look like a monster and didn't have much of a mask on its face. So she told him about the Menos Grande and then the Arrancar and how they removed their masks, or at least parts of their masks, to gain more power. Then, he asked why her drawings sucked earning him the sketchbook to be thrown at his face.

Surprisingly, the book didn't go through his head. It hit him right on the head and he rubbed the spot where it landed on. Then, he raised his arms in surrender and smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, sorry, I won't do that again," he said.

With that, the conversation about spirits and Soul Society continued. It was hard for him to wrap his head around certain concepts like reishii and reiatsu. He kept referring to something called ectoplasm as a comparison. Odd, considering he should be made of the same stuff as souls, right? He did eventually decide that comprehending that part of spirits could wait and moved onto the next topic. He also asked why no one saw the Hollow when he first encountered me and Rukia. So we had to explain that spirits were invisible to most humans unless they were spiritually aware to a sufficient degree.

"Okay, you're definitely not ghosts," concluded Danny at the end of that. "I don't understand a lot of things, but I guess that's because I'm not like you guys."

"Okay, now that we've got you caught up on us, what about you and ghosts?" asked Renji.

"Well, ghosts are made of ectoplasm," said Danny. "It's like this green…gooey stuff that's not from the real world. And, well, the ghosts come from the Ghost Zone. That's pretty much varying shades of green and lots of doors. Sometimes there are landmasses floating around. Every ghost has the basic powers of flight, intangibility, invisibility, overshadowing and some have more unique powers. That's really it, I guess."

"Where do ghosts come from?" asked Toshiro. "How are they made?"

Danny rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, sometimes they're dead people, other times they just kinda form in the Ghost Zone. I don't really understand how that works, to be honest."

"Well," came a voice from nowhere, "I might be of some use, then. After all," swirl of blue appeared in the middle of the room and a cloaked figure emerged from it, "I know everything." It felt a lot more powerful than Danny was last night.

Most everyone stood up, if they were sitting, and prepared for a fight with the stranger. Danny, I noticed, didn't look worried at all. In fact, he was smiling and walked up to the figure, who changed shape to the form of an infant wearing a purple cloak and carrying a relatively enormous staff. I blinked to be sure that I wasn't seeing things.

Urahara also looked unconcerned for the uninvited guest.

"Clockwork? What are you doing here?" asked Danny. "Is this whole meeting going to mess with the timeline or something? I'm not going to…you know…from this am I?"

There was fear in his eyes when he asked that last question. I filed that away for a later conversation. It reminded me of what I saw in the mirror after my 'conversations' with that thing.

"Thankfully no, Daniel," replied the floating thing—Clockwork—as he changed to a form of a man. "I'm here because I'm officially the liaison for the Ghost Zone to Soul Society. The Council was smart in their decision of appointing me, at least. Not that they had much choice." He smirked.

"Council?" asked Toshiro. "Your Ghost Zone is governed then?"

Clockwork turned his attention from Danny to Toshiro and chuckled. "I wouldn't go so far as to say their rule is absolute. The Ghost Zone has a High Council of Observants, but they really only observe. Rarely do they interfere and if they do it's to imprison ghosts who cross too many lines for their taste. The Zone edges on chaos rather than the order perceived by Soul Society. You would probably liken it to Hueco Mundo even if the comparison is rather flawed."

"Hm, that sounds like Hitsugaya-taicho's worst nightmare," said Rangiku, side-eying her captain with a devilish smirk. Toshiro, for his part, seemed to ignore his vice-captain's comment.

"You mentioned you're the liaison for the Ghost Zone to Soul Society," said Toshiro. "Why is it that we haven't seen you with the Seireitei's walls, then?"

Clockwork nodded his head, changing form again into a frail looking elder with a very long beard. I was starting to wonder if he aged and deaged on purpose or if that was just something he couldn't control. "Yes, it's been a long time since I visited Soul Society. Our worlds don't necessarily collide like this. Ghosts and spirits tend to remain in their separate spheres so there isn't much use for me to cross into Soul Society or for a Shinigami to visit the Ghost Zone."

"So, why are there two afterlives?" I asked. "Danny mentioned that some of your ghosts come from the dead and it's the same for the spirits."

"Ah, Kurosaki Ichigo," said Clockwork, "that is an excellent question and one that should be answered should everything be understood. Earth is, indeed, residence to two afterlives. They don't typically collide with one another in terms of Earth geography and spiritually they never touch. But why, indeed, is there that division in the first place?" He closed his eyes for a moment before continuing. "There are, for as long as humanity's been around, two types of souls. It's because of their different construction that they require different needs in the afterlife. They both emerged around the same time.

"One type was formed in areas where reishii was prominent. These would become residents of the three spiritual planes that later became known as 'Soul Society', 'Hueco Mundo', and 'Hell.' These souls can also recycle themselves, creating a balance between the living and the dead.

"The other would rely on the powers of emotions to carry on their consciousness. The concentration of ectoplasm also helped. Not every living person becomes a ghost. If one is content with life, then they will not have the emotional strength to remain on as a ghost. Life is more final with this type of soul. We don't have the ability to reincarnate. Death is a bit more permanent with the ectoplasm-based souls."

Questions then directed towards Clockwork about the Ghost Zone and the Ghosts. I kept out of it, settling for listening and taking in the knowledge. Danny noticed most his role in the discussion had been taken over by Clockwork, who at some point explained he was the Ghost of Time. He made his way over to me and sat down at my side.

Clockwork talked at length about the three different types of ghosts that existed. The dead, the neverlived, and the Manifestations (as he called them). There were few Manifestations, but they were ideas and forces of nature and the strongest beings of the Ghost Zone. Things like dreams and weather had a ghostly Manifestation in the Ghost Zone. Clockwork told us that he was one them, which explained why his spiritual presence felt so powerful in the first place. The neverlived were the natives of the Ghost Zone, having formed in a particularly denser area of ectoplasm inside the Zone itself.

Then, the question that had been bothering everyone cropped up. Danny curled his knees to his chest and buried his face in his arms. "Which one is the kid?" asked Renji, gesturing towards Danny. "Far as I can tell, he's still alive."

Clockwork turned his red eyes on Danny and said, "That is for Daniel to answer. His case is almost unique."

Danny sighed and stayed curled in on himself a little longer before standing. He didn't look at anyone but asked, in English, "Do I have to? I haven't told my parents yet."

"Daniel, it will help them understand that you are not a threat to them. You are also not completely alone in your hybrid stature here," replied Clockwork and he glanced at me. I tilted my head in confusion. Were they talking about me? "Either way, it will be to your advantage if this group knows who you are."

Danny looked away and then nodded. "OK." He glanced around the room, took a deep breath. "I'm not part of the three categories of ghosts Clockwork talked about. Well, not yet, I guess? I'm alive, but I'm dead at the same time. I, uh," he paused and ran a hand through his hair. He took a deep breath and slowly breathed it out. "I had an accident in my parent's basement lab. They were building a ghost portal to the Ghost Zone and it didn't work when they powered it up.

"Well, I went inside and accidentally pressed the ON button—kinda silly to put that on the inside, right?—and the portal activated with me still inside. So, I gained my ghost form and the powers of a ghost. One ghost I met about a month after that called me a halfa: half ghost, half kid. Someone else called me a human-ghost hybrid. That's really about it."

We stared at him. That was a lot for someone to say in a short amount of time. He was in an accident that should have killed him from the sounds of it, but didn't. Not completely. Danny ducked his head and fiddled with his fingers, looking more uncomfortable than he had when he was kidnapped to the meeting. I cast a quick glance around the room. Most of the faces were somber, feeling sympathy for the kid. Orihime was nearly crying for him.

Clockwork smiled at Danny and rested a hand on his shoulders. He said something to him in English which seemed to make him feel a little better because he had a small smile on his face.

The ghost then turned to Urahara, "You seem well Kisuke. But, you are worrying a little too much."

Urahara shook his head, "There you go being cryptic again. Can't I get a little sneak peek of what's to come?"

Clockwork smirked. "I'm afraid I can't do that. It's not within my rights. I do have a timeline to protect."

"Of course," Urahara smiled. "Well, then I suppose you should go back to your watchtower?"

Clockwork bowed his head and disappeared in the same kind of portal he arrived through. With his departure, the shinigami began to converse about how the revelation of ghosts' changed the existence of the world as they knew it. Some of them still wanted to deny that ghosts and spirits were different despite the evidence in front of them.

I turned to Danny, who looked like he wanted to ignore the conversation. "You okay?" I asked him.

"Oh yeah, just revealed my greatest secret to a bunch of people I don't know," he scoffed. "I'm just fine."

"I understand why you'd want to keep it a secret," I said. "It's not something you can really tell people. I mean, I leave my body behind when I become a shinigami."

"My parents are ghost hunters," said Danny. "They actively try to kill me when I'm in my ghost form. At least you don't have that problem. You also have the added bonus of being invisible to normals." He paused and then looked at me, "Wait, do all of you leave bodies just lying on the ground? Ew."

"Just me," I told him. "I'm not dead, either. I'm just able to leave my body behind when I need to. Rukia and the other shinigami are using false bodies when they're not using their power. When they leave, they eat these things that put in like, another personality to keep people from getting suspicious. How no one notices the changes in personality is another story altogether."

"Huh," he said. "That's even weirder." He glanced at his wrist like it had a watch on. "Well, I've had a blast meeting all of you, but I think I should get going. I think my—" he shuddered "—chaperone would have noticed my absence by now."

"Yes, yes," said Urahara, "you're free to leave whenever you'd like, Danny-san. If you'd like Yoruichi would be more than happy to return you to the shrine she found you at?"

Danny shook his head. "Nope, no way. I'm not gonna let her anywhere near me again."

Yoruichi smirked at the raised challenge and flashstepped behind him. She touched a hand to his head and Danny jumped up, transformed to that other form in midair and flew through the roof. He didn't even say goodbye. We watched him go and then returned to the discussion at hand. No one seemed to question Urahara knowing Clockwork.

That felt like one of the only things that happened in the last few hours that made any sense. He always knew more than the rest of us about whatever it was that was going on. Knowing about ghosts and the Ghost Zone just seemed obvious.

But, now, the shinigami had to make decisions regarding their new knowledge about ghosts and the second afterlife. Just when we needed to prepare for a war against Aizen and his Arrancar, we got another thing to worry about. Wonderful.

A/N: I'm sorry, I had to create fanon to smooth these two out had to happen and it's really just my own musings on how they could possibly coexist.