Shadow of an Echo
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. This story is purely for entertainment purposes and no money is being made.
Summery: At Rukia's failed execution Aizen was stopped and Ichigo thought his mission complete, but soon dark secrets surrounding his own origins come to light. Can the Gotei 13 teach Ichigo how to walk the line between power and humanity? Yaoi/Yuri with a plot. This story was inspired by the Skillet album Comatose, if you want the full effect listen to it while you read, but it isn't necessary.
Featured characters: Jyushiro Ukitake, Kenpachi Zaraki, Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, Coyote Starrk, Retsu Unohana, Karin Kurosaki, Kisuke Urahara, and Shunsui Kyouraku. These characters will have the most influence on Ichigo as he matures. There are no original characters in this story; I am using canon people for bad guys.
Warnings: The story will contain canon modification (all of Bleach up to S3 has happened the way it does in canon, but after that some motivations and back stories will be changed), action violence, psychologically disturbing concepts, homosexual sex of both varieties (yaoi and yuri); sex will involve but won't be limited to: S&M, bondage, voyeurism, and Dom/sub. Don't know what one of those is? Please ask before you read something you might not like.
Spoilers! This is set after season three, there will be spoilers for non-filler arcs, but I am twisting canon quite a bit. If you haven't watched passed season three you won't know what is my imagination, and what is a spoiler.
Japanese Terms and Names: I only use extremely common Bleach terms, and I don't use Honorifics. When I do use a Japanese term, I define it in the context of the story. I have a tendency to switch between English and Japanese to break up passages where I repeat the same term multiple times so I don't feel like a broken record writing. Let me know if I need to clarify my contextual definitions.
For the Romanized names, I use whichever spelling I think looks better, not necessarily the official one. Sticklers to the official spellings will not like this story, but to me it is more comfortable to write the story with a spelling I think looks good.
A/N: This story is going to delve deeper into the characters intentions and desires, to me violence and sex are both expressions of the same emotion: passion. In order to learn about one, a healthy fifteen-year-old boy is going to be learning about the other. Each captain is going to have a different lesson, as well as method, to teach Ichigo. There is not going to be a set pairing with Ichigo, he will have encounters with several people, some more intense than others. This is going to be a fairly long story, so despite all my warnings about sex, it won't be wall to wall smut, there is going to be a slow progression over time.
Ichigo Kurosaki was lying on his back in his bed, staring at the uninteresting ceiling above his head as if it held all the secrets of the universe. This was his first day back from his adventure saving Rukia. The brunette Shinigami had wormed her way into his family, he owed her so much, she had saved his life, now he had returned the favor. He wondered what was going to happen now, Aizen's plot had been foiled, Yoruichi and Soifon destroying the insane Shinigami, Ichimaru and Tousen were apprehended and awaiting trial. Ichigo had received the Substitute Soul Reaper position, officially due to his help in stopping Aizen
The Soul Society was keeping something from him, a secret about his powers that the captains of the 13 squads knew, but hadn't told him. The fifteen-year-old boy was angry that they had kept something from him, when it concerned him so intimately. At least Ichigo had a good idea of who might be willing and able to tell him, he just wasn't sure if he wanted to deal with his mentor so soon after the Hougyoku nonsense. The man had used Rukia to try to eliminate the powerful object, without her knowledge let alone consent, and it had almost cost Rukia her life. If Ichigo hadn't stopped the execution and forced Aizen to reveal himself sooner than he had planned on, Yoruichi and her protégé wouldn't have been able to disable him so easily.
Ichigo was a bit apprehensive about knowing what was going on. He had barely survived the last encounter with the Soul Society, something told him the next meeting wouldn't be any easier. Aizen was powerful and manipulative; there was no way of knowing if he had built in a backup plan, or if he was only the puppet to a larger scheme. Either way more worry was on the horizon.
At least he didn't have a girl living in his closet anymore. Certain impulses were hard to control, such as his dreams, which admittedly weren't always pure. At least before Soul Society got involved Rukia didn't know half the names he may have uttered. He would be mortified if she was around for the dreams he would surely have now that he met all the interesting people in the world after life. He wondered where a living Soul Reaper fit into their plans, because he was not naïve enough to think he was given the badge purely out of gratitude. No Soul Society wasn't done with him yet, and only time would tell what he would be called into duty for.
Isshin looked down at his research and smiled, finally he was finished, years of patient study, both on his own and with assistance from an old friend, had come together at last. A cure for the gentlest man he had ever met. It would take time, and the help of his son, but it should work. His years in the living world were paying off, it helped ease some of the pain he had been in since Masaki's death.
He did have to face one problem. He couldn't hide his secret any longer, the moment Ichigo had come into his powers, Isshin had been racing time to keep things quiet. He wasn't sure how he was going to break it to his children, but this cure would only work with Ichigo's power, he would have to say something soon. Though in truth, he wouldn't have been able to put it off much longer anyway, the girls were already showing signs of their power. When those two awakened, he would lose any ability to hide himself from his children. Karin was the stronger at the moment, but he knew Yuzu wouldn't be far behind, his youngest child having a different but still potent power.
He knew Ichigo had returned the evening before, Isshin had been expecting the confrontation to happen as soon as his son returned, but no the Gotei 13 had to make it hard on him by forcing him to come clean all by himself. After all Isshin was still in technical exile, after choosing Masaki over his duties, he would need Ichigo to take back the news of his cure. He wanted his old comrades to know he had made his choices, but he hadn't forgotten all the time spent backing each other up on the battlefield.
He wondered when the other shoe was going to drop, a person didn't endure what Ichigo had gone through without changing, Isshin knew these changes weren't simply in the mind. When his son had a chance to settle from the high of his first major victory he would realize that battle was only the first in a string of fights to come, good thing that boy was tough, or Isshin would be even more worried.
Two people were sitting around the low table sipping tea, each waiting for the other to gather their thoughts. The woman spoke first with her cat like eyes gleaming, "Bet you a bottle of sake he chickens out and we have to tell Ichigo."
The man raised an eyebrow at the bet, a move mostly covered by the green and white stripped hat sitting low on his forehead, "I'll take that bet, he had a reason for keeping Ichigo in the dark. If I know Isshin he's concerned but probably just as relieved that he can finally share such a large part of his life with at least one of his children."
The woman chuckled a bit, "Yeah, I can see that, but even after the Kuchiki girl showed up he said nothing, there was no more golden an opportunity to talk to Ichigo than when he had a Shinigami living in his closet."
"You do have a point, oh well we will just have to wait and see. The medicine should be ready soon, Isshin has a deadline now, so we shouldn't have to wait too much longer." The man explained, having faith in his old friend.
Yoruichi shook her head briskly, "I know how overjoyed Ukitake is going to be, he will finally feel useful again despite all of us trying to tell him he earned the rest. Though I wonder how the two of you will survive Unohana, this is her domain you're stepping on."
Kisuke grinned, "Oh don't you worry about that, Retsu may have a bit of a grudge against me from my experiments giving her the occasional overload of patients, at least I'm not as bad as Mayuri got. Plus, she always had a soft spot for Isshin, he was her Lieutenant before he got promoted."
"I sometimes forget that, I didn't start talking to Isshin much until you two got closer when he became Captain of the 10th squad." Yoruichi admitted.
"Those were the good old days, he was head of the investigation squad, knew how to patch up his soldiers, and I was just starting up the Research and Development unit. Our squads working together made quite a few inventions possible," Kisuke paused for a moment, "You know when I think about it, I'm not surprised we got ourselves into trouble, more I'm shocked it took us so long."
"You should have known better than to experiment on Hollows where the squads could discover it." She admonished.
"I thought we were doing a good thing! It did work, I'm just sorry we weren't able to keep the secret longer. If it hadn't been stolen from us, we wouldn't be in this mess. We were able to save Ichigo because of it, remember?" Kisuke defended himself. As far as he was concerned the experiments the three of them had carried out worked fine. It was when greedy hands got a hold of the research and tried to create super soldiers that things went wrong. They took the knowledge, used it on themselves, and tried to take over. They left him to take the blame for the original research, and he would never forgive the thief for ruining his hard won reputation. At least Isshin's part in the study was kept confidential, allowing the other Captain to remain in Soul Society. He helped round up the idiots who abused the research, herding them out of Soul Society. Though he soon met Masaki and joined them in the living world, he at least left with the Head-Captain's blessing, not without a price though. Everything came with a price when dealing with that man.
"You owe me for saving your original experiments for you, they would have been killed the first chance Old Man Yama had." She reminded him. "Though he did finally allow them to continue surviving, as long as they stay in Heuco Mundo, serve as Hollow population control, and leave the Pluses alone." She paused again, before musing, "I wonder how much trouble Ichigo is going to have with this?"
Kisuke thought about it, "Knowing that boy he already has half the Soul Reapers in the Seireitei wrapped around his finger. The kid has a disturbing tendency to impress his opponents, even as he fights them. I think in his case as long as he can control himself he should be fine. I am curious as to what kind of fireworks show he is going to put on when all this comes together, he can be rather temperamental when people keep secrets from him."
"I'm thinking a lot of his reaction is going to depend on how he learns about it. He functions much better when everything is laid out for him and he knows what is expected from him. If he is spoon fed a little at a time he will probably be ready to explode from impatience before we can tell him the important bits," Yoruichi theorized from her time overseeing his Bankai training. "I still bet that bottle of sake that Isshin will want to coddle Ichigo by saying as little as he could possibly get away with. I have a feeling that would just backfire. Some one has to do it eventually, Ichigo is a powder keg, and he needs to know that quickly"
"You may be right, except I think Isshin will do the right thing by Ichigo and get him ready. He wouldn't want to see Ichigo lose to that any more than we would. He is Isshin's son after all." Kisuke responded.
A rip opened in the celestial cloth that separated the worlds. Two figures stepped out of the rip, one tall and broad shouldered, his confident bordering on arrogant carriage could almost make you overlook the slight male standing next to him. A fatal mistake commonly made, making these two into the most formidable team that could be unleashed on the living world.
"Wow this kid is spilling his spiritual pressure all over the place. How long do you think it'll take till we find the brat in this swamp?" The bigger one asked.
"Grimmjow, if you can't manage such a simple task as tracking down a single boy, obnoxious amounts of spirit pressure aside, you should turn in your number now." The smaller man was feeling a bit snappish towards his companion, spend day after day of dealing with that overeager Arrancar and you'd be irritable too.
"Oh lighten up Ulquiorra, it's been ages since we could leave Heuco Mundo. Yah I can track the whelp, but I'm in no hurry to finish the job." Grimmjow had no problem admitting that to his stoic partner.
"We are here to do a job then leave that is all that should matter." Just because they were a deadly team didn't mean their personalities went together.
"It's a good thing we are just the opening act, if it was only you and me until the kid learns enough I think I might run myself through with Pantera." Grimmjow gripped, not being able to stop himself from winding up Ulquiorra, for all his standoffishness a good brawl with him always got his blood up.
Ulquiorra couldn't resist the dig the feline Arrancar had opened himself up for, "What makes you think you will survive me long enough to run yourself through?"
"Cause you are going to be too busy bashing the lessons into the boy's skull, literally knowing you." Grimmjow replied, used to Ulquiorra's digs from all the time they spent working together.
Ulquiorra shuddered at the thought, but a job was a job and they couldn't disobey a request from the person who saved their hides. "I'm only doing this because I have to, the brat better be worth all this nonsense."
"Well, he is Kurosaki's son, that amounts for something, hopefully he can fight at least half as well as Isshin does." Grimmjow countered, not fully convinced of his own words, but continuing anyway in order to get Ulquiorra worked up.
"Urahara wouldn't ask this of us if he didn't think it was worth the risk, but I have seen him be wrong before." Ulquiorra refused to rise to Grimmjow's bait, it was way too public a place to start one of their grappling matches, no matter how tempting it was.
"I wonder if any one has bothered to tell the boy what exactly was done to him?" Grimmjow mused.
A hint of disgust flickered in Ulquiorra's eyes. "They couldn't possibly expect us to break in a complete greenhorn? I thought the point was to make sure the brat survives the ordeal." If Isshin and Kisuke intended for them to baby sit they may find themselves short one son and protégé, quickly. The thought made him cringe.
"The boy may not be completely clueless about Shinigami, but Kurosaki always did have a soft streak in him. I doubt he would tell the boy the whole truth unless forced to. We are liable to be dealing with a very frustrated, and powerful, Vizard running around on half-truths and not much else." Grimmjow predicted, feeling like he had a good grasp on the situation.
The more Grimmjow spoke the higher the impulse was for Ulquiorra to indulge his urge to fight. Maybe the two of them could cause enough destruction and mayhem to be pulled off this task. Let Starrk and Harribel deal with the dire, but all too likely, prediction of impending doom.
It was a quiet day in the Seireitei, the sun was out, a few Hell butterflies fluttered aimlessly in the garden, his overeager Third seats had been successfully distracted from their smothering, and Jyushiro Ukitake was savoring the sound of silence; a rare treat for him. His moment of quiet was shattered into a million pieces as his old friend Shunsui Kyouraku came stumbling up the garden path, humming off key, a half-empty bottle of Sake loosely held in one hand. Jyushiro didn't mind his visits, he really didn't, but this was one of those times he hoped the other man was a bit more sober than he appeared.
"Hey Jyu, I heard through the grape vine that you were finally released from the Fourth, how ya feeling?" The fact that Shunsui was capable of stringing so many words together in a logical question made Jyushiro feel he had been right in guessing the pink clad man hadn't had as much as it looked.
"Much better," He answered Shunsui, "It wasn't that bad an attack, if Sentaro and Kiyone hadn't seen I doubt I would have went to the Fourth at all."
"Remind me to thank them later," Shunsui mumbled to himself, before going back to his normal voice, "Now Jyushiro we both know Retsu wanted you to come to her whenever you had any attack, no matter how minor. She can at least help with the pain through it so you can bounce back quicker." The Captain of the 8th division lost a little bit more of his drunk as he spoke, flopping bonelessly on the mat laid out near his friend.
"Besides the pain there really isn't much she can do, and for the mild attacks the pain isn't that bad. I can handle them so no one has to worry about me." Jyushiro protested adamantly, it really was just a light attack.
Shunsui shushed him impatiently, "Oh hush, a little worry never hurt no one, and I would rather you take care of your own pain before you start fussing over us."
"Why does it seem like we have the same argument every time I have an attack?" Jyushiro asked ruefully.
"Because you are stubborn and won't listen to reason," Shunsui teased, making the pal captain get a little red around the ears as the truth of the statement sunk in.
"You are just as stubborn, you don't seem to realize that I can recover just fine here on my own, as I can in the Fourth squad barracks. I get the sniffles and most of Seireitei thinks I am on my death bed, I don't want to cause that kind of panic if I can avoid it." Jyushiro tried to explain for what felt like the millionth time, and saw yet again that his protests had fallen on deaf ears.
"Your health comes first, Hell you taught half the current captains what it means to fight. They worry because they care, you will only worry them more by avoiding treatments that can make it easier for you to get through the day. So next time don't fight us, just take care of yourself." Shunsui also felt this was said for the millionth time, and he idly wondered what it would take for Jyushiro to agree to the treatment.
"They shouldn't have to worry," Jyushiro replied simply.
"All right, okay, I get it you're not going to change, but I have to try. Now off the depressing topics. I've heard they started the nominating process to get all those higher ranks filled. Old Man Yama is supposedly going to start with the Lieutenants first. I would think he would want the Captain positions filled first, but hey what do I know." He figured that was a safe enough topic, allowing himself to relax, he leaned back and took a sip from the bottle still grasped in his hand.
"I have a feeling there is a plan under way that the Head-Captain just may be instigating, the Kurosaki boy, that's not exactly a common name, he didn't look too much like Isshin but there was enough resemblance. In addition, that power he had was enormous. I have little doubt where he descends from. I want to know how much he has been told, when I gave him his badge he looked as shocked as the rest of us, grateful, but surprised none-the-less. If he didn't request it, why did Yamamoto suddenly have so much sympathy for a Ryoka trouble maker? I think there is something deeper happening. I only hope it doesn't blow up in our faces. I felt that young man's power and if that isn't harnessed correctly he will be a danger to himself and everyone around him." Jyushiro knew Shunsui had only brought it up as a distraction, but it was a mystery he had been puzzling over since his last encounter with the serious young Shinigami with bright orange hair.
"We have weathered powerful students like him before, remember Toushiro freezing the entire Academy dorm on accident? It took several squad Four teams to deal with that mess. Oh and the first time Kenpachi fought without that eye patch of his, we lost a good portion of the buildings in Seireitei." Kyouraku agreed the boy was dangerous, but he wasn't the first they had taken under their wings and made excellent officers for the 13 court guard squads.
Jyushiro had to chuckle at the memory of those mishaps, adding one of his own. "And the first time Byakuya released Senbonzakura in public? I think he was playing 'tag' with Yoruichi Shihouin at the time, it took you, Retsu, and me to stop him. I don't disagree that we have made good Soul Reapers out of dangerous people, but this one felt different, there was a point when he was up against Byakuya's Bankai that he claims Ichigo's spiritual pressure changed to be almost Hollow like, and it was as if his body had been possessed by a demon. How do we deal with that?"
"You don't" The words were spoken so calmly it was comical how fast the two Captains turned to greet the new party, the Head-Captain himself Yamamoto Genryuusai. "I have the problem under control, by the time you two see the boy back here he was be under control."
The Head-captain was subject to two penetrating stares. "Just how likely is it that the boy will make it through this plan of yours?" Shunsui broke the silence to ask.
"And who exactly has the duty of teaching him?" Jyushiro added on, usually if someone had a student with that much potential the rest of the officers knew through all the bragging.
The gnarled old man paused, as if deciding whether or not to answer, before responding. "It will be difficult, but he survived everything thrown at him so far, as to who, the boy already had a mentor before he started causing trouble. I am leaving the matter in his hands until the Substitute is more useful for us."
"Why all this fuss over one boy?" Jyushiro asked, remembering a similar conversation when Hitsugaya's name was first put forward for the Captains exam.
Another pause, but if he couldn't tell these two he shouldn't be playing with this kind of danger. "The boy's mentor is Kisuke Urahara, and from that the boy is half-Hollow. When Captain Kuchiki came back from encountering the boy in the living world, he reported he had destroyed the Soul Sleep and Soul chain. The human boy is dead, he just doesn't know it yet, he needs to be in control of the Hollow before his body gives out, or we will have a monster on our hands that cannot be given Konso because he is a part of both the living and dead realms, with equal access to Soul Society and Heuco Mundo. I would rather have him fight with us with his bloodline, than having to execute him before his body passes into the stage where the Soul Burial doesn't work. I gave him the Substitute badge so we can keep better track of him, if the boy fails to subdue his Hollow a team will be sent out and the boy will be sent to his final death.
"Wait, if he is already dead, how do we kill him? Also how can one soul be both alive and dead at the same time?" Shunsui vocalized his issues with the situation, while Jyushiro sat back absorbing it all.
"I said the human boy is dead, but his spirit never passed through the gates of Soul Society until he awakened his power and received his Hollow, and with the two spiritual beings inside of him reinforcing his body he safely passed through our gates without crossing over into death. He is essentially a Plus soul with an organic gigai, but his spiritual sides can only maintain that body for a temporary time before it will fail and his soul will be at the mercy of whichever side of his persona is in charge. We can only hope his Shinigami side emerges victorious. There are two ways to kill him, one is to throw him through the gates of Hell, as they never return a soul, living or not, and the other is Captain Mayuri's discovery after his research into the Quincys. All Konso does is purify the soul and send it to Soul society, it can't kill, but a Quincy kills the spirits they conquer, we are working quickly to replicate the technique." Yamamoto explained.
Both Shunsui and Jyushiro didn't know what to say to that. It sounded so outlandish it couldn't possibly be true could it? Shunsui thought of how well Ichigo had fought in the past, and couldn't help but agree that he hoped the Soul Reaper side of Ichigo won out. Jyushiro thought there were some holes in Yamamoto's logic, like there was a piece of the puzzle missing. It sounded plausible as far as the theory went, but there was something still nagging the white blond captain, if Byakuya really had destroyed the boy's Soul Sleep and Chain, then why hadn't he crossed over immediately? At that point the boy wouldn't have been more than a normal human, he shouldn't have stuck around long enough to unlock his powers. No, he was sure of it the more he thought, Yamamoto was wrong. There was something else about Ichigo that let him conquer death, but what could it be?
"Well I can't say things around here are going to be dull." Shunsui replied dryly, while Jyushiro nodded weakly, shocked at the new information.