The Red Sun Sets, the Black Sun Rises.
*Yawns* Hmm almost a month since I updated this story, they can't be that mad can they? *Gets flooded in howlers demanding another chapter* Guess they are, so without further ado, please read on and enjoy. *Passes out again*
PS. Sorry that I've been late with answering your review questions, I'll get to it asap.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, but I do own this wonderful pillow known as a keyboard. Oh sweetest keyboard, guide me on this dream-like adventure.
Chapter 21: The Cat, the Strawberry and the…Manta Ray?
From her position in the Captains Box, Sui-Feng stared down in disbelief as Ichigo's aura dissipated, followed by him driving his zanpakuto into the ground, leaving little more than the hilt visible to them. Bowing to each other, she watched Unohana place her hand on the hilt of her zanpakuto, while Yoruichi and Ichigo slipped into a guard stance.
"Why is Ichigo-kun forgoing his zanpakuto?" Ukitake asked in curiosity, while they waited for Tessai and Hachi to confirm that the barrier was stable and allow the match to begin.
"Ah, if you'll remember the state of the battlefield from both Ichigo-kun's fight with Aizen and the Gatekeeper, I think it's a matter of damage control more than anything," Kisuke piped up, recording the slew of bets that he had received.
"Perhaps he's a bit too confident in his abilities though," Kyoraku said as he tilted his hat up slightly. "After all, Unohana-chan is rather scary with a blade."
"I think we're all forgetting that he has no state other than his zanpakuto's final form though," Sui-Feng whispered quietly, drawing everyone's attention to her. "If he was to use his blade, it probably wouldn't even be considered a fair fight."
"Begin!" they all heard Tessai shout, causing their eyes to snap to the fight before them. As their figures blurred away in a flash step, Kisuke and Mayuri shared a look, before the demented Twelfth Division Captain pressed a button on a remote concealed within his shihakusho. Almost immediately, several projectors scattered around the arena lit up and directed their beams of light to covered the arena, highlighting the signatures of the combatants and revealing them to those without the skill to watch them.
Momentarily blinded by the colourful spectrum of lights around him, Ichigo blinked owlishly and shook his head, clearing his vision just in time to lean back and avoid a horizontal slice from Unohana, her nodachi cutting away a few fine hairs.
'Remind me to have a word with Mayuri about activating that before the match starts and not during it,' he said to his zanpakuto, as he continued to dodge and weave around Unohana's blade, before sliding it away with his left palm and delivering a bone-jarring fist to her gut, sending her skidding backwards. Spreading out his senses for Yoruichi, he grunted as a heel slammed into his skull, sending him barrelling towards the ground. Slamming into it on his feet, he shook his head to clear it and scanned the area again.
"I wasn't the Commander of the Special Forces for nothing Ichigo," she said as she whispered into his ear, before twirling and delivering a devastating a roundhouse kick aimed at his temple. To her surprise though, her foot slammed into his palm, stopping dead in its tracks.
"I never forgot Yoruichi-san," he whispered back, closing his fingers around her leg and slamming her into the ground with enough force to crack the sekkiseki stone. Feeling the wind being driven from her lungs, Yoruichi caught a glimpse of his foot speeding towards her sternum and rolled out of the way, watching as the ground crumbled under his foot.
"Hado no. 73, Soren Sokatsui!" Unohana chanted, both palms facing outward and firing a two waves of concentrated blue flame at Ichigo. As the waves approached him though, he flashed away, appearing in front of the serene faced Captain with his fist drawn back. Feeling a whisper of wind behind him, he leapt to his side, avoiding the throwing knives that Yoruichi had sent at him.
"You know…I didn't have to dodge those," he said with slight disappointment, staring down at the former Commander of the Special Forces.
"Come now Ichigo-kun, it isn't polite to belittle your opponents," Unohana said from behind him, her palm placed against his lower back. "Hado no. 88, Hiryugekizokushintenraiho!" Seeing his eyes widen in surprise, the crowd watched as Ichigo was engulfed in an explosion of crimson flames, with vibrant blue arcs of lightning interspersed in it. Landing on the ground again and watching the cloud of smoke for any hint of movement, the two women leapt back as two medium-sized Shakkahos flew out of the smoke at them, exploding on contact with the ground.
With a whispered Tenran, the smoke was cleared from the arena, revealing Ichigo with nary a scratch on his body, except for a medium sized red burn where Unohana had fired her spell point blank. Looking over his shoulder at his damaged haori, Ichigo chuckled and looked down at the two smiling Captains. "Fine, I fell for your little trap," he said in a joking tone, "but here, let me try now." Vanishing from sight, he appeared behind them with his fingers shrouded in purple energy. "Hado no. 90, Kurohitsugi," he whispered, adding little under a quarter of the power into the spell and shrouding them in his version of the Black Coffin. It was no surprise to him when they burst out of it, with nothing more than a few bloody scratches. Watching them land, he noted their panting and the hardened look in their eyes.
"It was a weak Kurohitsugi," he told them, watching their eyes widen in shock, "so don't go getting mad at me for using such a high level kido on you."
"Perhaps it's time we take this a bit more seriously then, Ichigo-kun," Unohana said in an even tone, holding her palm out to Yoruichi. To the stunned spectator's eyes, both Captains were enveloped in a glowing green box, hiding them from view. When the box disappeared, it revealed them without a single injury to their person.
"As to be expected of a Master Healer," he said quietly, ignoring the twinge in his lower back as he slid back into his guard stance again.
From her spot in the judge's booth, Hitomi Shihoin idly twirled a lock of her hair, watching with interest as her daughter renewed her assault on the Captain Commander. She watched with pride as her blows proved to be lightning quick and precise, always pushing the young man back and denying him the chance to retaliate. As she was about to comment on this to her fellow judges though, the young commander caught her fists, stopping her dead in her tracks. Seeing him rear his head back, she winced as the sound of bone cracking was heard as he slammed his head into her own, causing her to sway on her feet, while blood poured from her broken nose. Before he could take further advantage of her though, Unohana appeared behind him, swinging her blade in wide arcs as she sought to cleave into him. No matter how elegant or skilful her strokes were though, she couldn't land a blow to his body.
"Your grandson's performance is admirable Genryusai-dono," she said in an even tone, drawing the former Captain Commander's attention. "His attitude is completely different to what I have been told of before."
"I fear that, that change might be due to his training period with me," the old man explained as he stroked his beard with his remaining hand. "He was brash and rushed in constantly, only to be rewarded with several bruises for his troubles. It is…heart-warming to see that he was taken his lessons to heart."
Hearing another crunch on the battlefield, they turned their attention back to the arena, where Ichigo was sent skidding across the ground, before crashing into the barrier around them. Looking back at what had sent him flying, they could see Yoruichi wreathed in arcs of reiatsu, her completed Shunko bathing her body in pure white radiance. Not allowing him to get a moment to recover, Unohana sent a full incantation Hado 88 at him, bathing the ground in a raging inferno as it detonated. Emerging from the flames with his haori in tatters and his gi hanging loosely from his shoulders, Ichigo stood covered in burns and bruises from the blow and spat out a globule of blood, before smirking at them. Hearing Genryusai sigh, everyone turned their attention towards him again.
"I fear that his more…bloodthirsty side is about to emerge," he said quietly, watching as his adopted grandson cracked his knuckles menacingly. "At times he really is like Kenpachi with his love to fight."
On the arena floor, Unohana winced as Ichigo's fist connected with her blade, the blow being powerful enough to crack her blade along the middle of it. Feeling a sharp pain erupt from her abdomen, she felt herself being thrown backwards, straight into the barrier wall. Raising her head, her eyes narrowed in anger as Ichigo casually traded blows with Yoruichi's Shunko enhanced limbs.
"Devour him, Minazuki," she whispered as she stood, causing her blade to dissolve into green mist. As the mist gathered into a solid form, it revealed the familiar one-eyed manta ray. Unlike her more timid and endearing form, she now bore a fierce visage. Her teeth her no longer blunt and flat, but ragged and razor sharp, while her normally smooth tail now resembled a jagged edged blade on either side. "Play time Minazuki," she whispered to her zanpakuto, pointing to Ichigo and sending her zanpakuto after him.
Hearing the wail behind him, Ichigo looked over his shoulder at the sound, only for his eyes to widen in surprise at the creature speeding at him. Feeling Yoruichi land a particularly stinging blow to his ribs, he growled and turned back to face her, only to blink in surprise at her vacant spot. Cursing his foolishness, he turned around, just in time to catch the manta ray's gaping maw as it tried to swallow him whole. Seeing it carry him into the air, he suppressed a shudder as a gurgling reached his ears, moments before he was bathed in a sickly green slime which burned his open wounds fiercely.
'Well this is new,' he thought as he continued to wrestle with the creatures tongue as it tried to drag him into its jaws. Feeling their direction change, he chanced a glimpse over his shoulder and cursed at the rapidly approaching ground below.
Grunting in pain at the immense amount force of the creature used slammed him into the ground, Ichigo whispered under his breath, "Hado no. 45, Ikazuchiken (1)," covering his fists in lightning and electrocuting the creature above him. Hearing it release a high-pitched wail and leap off of him, he let loose a relieved sigh. Wiping the blood away from his mouth with the back of his hand, he could see their eyes boring into him as he stood again. "You know…I never would have guessed that you would have such a sinister zanpakuto Unohana-san," he said, releasing a wave of his reiatsu to rid his body of the slime it was covered in.
"Minazuki is only as sinister as I want her to be Ichigo-kun," she explained with a smile. "But come now, we've been fighting long enough and I really would prefer that neither of us end up in the Fourth Division overnight," she said as she gestured at his injuries, while they were healed yet again.
"Ah, but Retsu I was hoping that we could go on a bit longer," Yoruichi said with a smirk, her Shunko arcing even higher as her reiatsu flared. Hearing him chuckle again, both women turned to see his shoulders shaking with mirth, while his hair hid his eyes from view.
"Yeah I guess that you've had more than enough time to show off now," he said with a smirk, revealing a pulsing red orb within his hand. Flash stepping away; he reappeared in front of Unohana, with his hand placed over her chest. "Hado no. 31, Shakkaho!" he chanted firing the fireball point-blank at her and engulfing her in a small explosion. Hearing the whistle of wind behind him, he ducked as Minazuki's bladed tail whipped over his head, grabbing it as it passed him. Tightening his grip on the limb, he swung it with all his might at Yoruichi, watching the Flash Goddess dodge out of its way with ease, before charging at him with her fist drawn back.
Drawing his own fist back, their blows connected with a blinding flash and a thunderous roar, causing a rippling shockwave to rip across the arena floor, kicking up dust and debris around them and forcing Hachi, Tessai and Yachiru to retreat out of the field from the force of it. All around the district, spectators could see repeated clashes of a shining white light in the night sky, accompanied with the clap of thunder, illuminating the land in a cool white glow.
Back in the arena, the light show became even more spectacular as Unohana leapt back into the fray, her proficiency as a kido master showing as she sent a barrage of Soren Sokatsuis at Ichigo, adding a bright blue glow to the already blinding white glow. With the spectators unable to discern anything, other than those Captain-class or higher, it came to an end with a sickly black flame causing a cataclysmic explosion, the heat of the attack even being felt through the reinforced barrier and sekkiseki stone shield. As they waited for the flames to die down and the smoke to dissipate, a few onlookers watched Ichigo leap out of the smoke, zanpakuto at his waist and each of his opponents, unconscious and slung over his shoulders.
"Winner…Ichigo Kurosaki!" was the call heard from Tessai over the smouldering arena floor. Walking over to the edge of the barrier and slipping out of it, Ichigo chuckled inwardly as he saw Isane and the other members of the Fourth Division waiting anxiously to attend to their captain.
Walking past them and into the relief tent, he finally addressed them. "She's fine, just knocked out," he explained as he handed Unohana to one of the groups, revealing her singed shihakusho and soot covered skin. "I don't think she expected me to literally force my own reiatsu into her spell, causing it to overload in her hands and follow up with another high level kido almost immediately." Placing Yoruichi on a separate bed, he finally sunk into his own, while the others began a diagnostic on the Flash Goddess.
"Her entire body is heavily bruised Captain Commander…might I ask what you did to her?" Hanataro asked timidly, his hands unshaking as he began to heal one of her arms.
"While Shunko is supposed to enhance your limbs and body with compressed kido," he started, wincing ever so slightly as the remnants of his haori and shihakusho were stripped off him, "if you encounter someone with an even denser concentration of reiatsu, it's like going up against an arrancar's hierro barehanded (2)." Hearing the tent flaps shift and footsteps shuffle in, he looked up to see Sui-Feng, Kisuke, Kyoraku, Ukitake, Hitomi Shihoin and his grandfather slip in.
"Don't you think that you went a little overboard in the end Ichigo? After all we almost didn't see how it ended," Kisuke said with a chuckle as he moved to stand next to Yoruichi's side.
"Tch, they were ones to escalate it most of the time," he said with a smirk as he gestured at his unconscious opponents. Seeing Hitomi and Sui-Feng move to Yoruichi's side, he watched as the Shihoin matriarch ran her hand through her daughter's hair and over her minor cuts. Turning away from what was a private moment, he turned to his grandfather, noting the glint of pride and amusement in the old man's eyes.
"You've been reading my old reports," he said, his voice slightly hoarse, while Ichigo ran a hand through his hair.
"Well yeah," he said in a sheepish tone. "You said that education begins from learning from others past mistakes. The idea for dealing with Minazuki came to me when you took on that Adjuchas-class Menos during an incursion into Soul Society."
Nodding his head in understanding, Genryusai looked over to where his students were gathered around Unohana's bedside. "The crowd has already begun to disperse and I had some soul reapers clear some of the more unruly patrons away. You should be proud of this day Ichigo. Never in my life would I have envisioned such a display." Bidding good night to the others, he left Ichigo and the others to be tended to. Feeling someone probing the burn on his lower back, Ichigo stiffened and glanced over his shoulder.
"And here you were acting so high and mighty, shrugging off everything they did to you," Sui-Feng said with a smirk, running her fingers over the burn again.
"I'll have you know that they were going all out to try and do this to me," he quipped back, wincing as she ran her hands over several more burns. "As much as I appreciate your touch, where's the healer and can I get a burn salve here?"
"I believe they went to look for some," she explained as she continued to trace over his injuries. "From the looks of it, only Unohana would be able to deal with some of the burns she inflicted on you. And she just so happens to be knocked out thanks to you."
Grunting his understanding, he gasped as an icy feeling spread across his lower back, courtesy of a healer applying one of their specialised salves to the area. Breathing deeply, he held still as it was applied to the rest of his body, before each of the areas was wrapped in bandages and he was cleared to go. Throwing his ripped and burned haori and gi over his shoulder, he paused at each of Yoruichi and Unohana's beds, quietly enquiring after their health, before disappearing out of the tent with Sui-Feng.
"You know," he said as he stopped a few feet away from the tent, "I'm starving." Hearing her chuckle behind him, he smiled and held his hand out to her, pleased when she took it and flash stepped away towards the Yamamoto estate. Poking his head into the kitchen, he was unsurprised to see that it was empty, especially considering that it was nearing midnight and most of the servants would have been at the arena or assisting with some of the catering. Leaning against the counter, she watched him dig through the cupboards for pots, pans, spices, carrots, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, rice and some deboned fish he found in the fridge.
Watching him look around in confusion, she couldn't resist riling him up a bit. "I've been lead to believe that men in the kitchen are a dangerous thing," she said with a smirk as he turned to glare at her.
"Well don't expect gourmet cuisine from me," he said in mock anger, "but contrary to popular belief I am not hopeless in the kitchen. I just don't know where a lot of the stuff is," he said as he continued rummaging around for knives and spoons.
Little over thirty minutes later and a small pot of curry was simmering away on the stove, the aroma causing Sui-Feng's mouth to water. Draining the rice of water and steaming it for a few minutes, he quickly plated up two servings and joined her leaning against the counter.
"Itadakimasu," they chorused together, before digging in. While Ichigo ate voraciously after his prolonged battle, Sui-Feng proceeded at a much slower pace. Seeing that he had finished long before her, he busied himself tidying up a bit, not willing to leave a mess for the staff in the morning. Finally done with the clean-up, he pulled her from the kitchen back towards his quarters.
"W-Wait this isn't proper," she gasped out as they crossed the threshold to his room, causing him to look at her with a brow raised.
"It's not like we haven't slept in the same bed together before," he pointed out, remembering the times at the secret spring and in his office. "If it really makes you that uncomfortable, I'm more than willing to escort you to one of the guest rooms."
"N-No, that won't be necessary," she said quietly, walking over to his bed and sinking down into it. "Oh this is too comfortable," she said mockingly, spreading herself out across its entirety. "I don't see how I could possibly share this with you."
Smirking at her antics, he stalked over and hovered over her body. "Oh I'm sure that you could be persuaded to share," he whispered into her ear, nipping at it gently. Leaving a trail of soft kisses down her neck, he felt her thread her fingers through his hair, before pulling his lips up to meet her own. Easing her haori off her shoulders, he tossed it over his shoulder at the couches, before returning to her hungering lips.
"You're being quite forceful tonight," she moaned in pleasure as they broke apart for air, his hands massaging the bare flesh on her back.
"Just…a little…" he explained, breathing out deeply across her exposed shoulder. "You can't blame me though when you're this irresistible." As his hand travelled down to her thigh, he felt her pull on his hair slightly. Seeing the warning in her onyx eyes, he quelled the urge to take it even further and rolled them over such that she was on top of him and covered them both with his duvet. Feeling her slide to his side, he contented himself to run his hand over her back soothingly.
"I like that," she whispered as her head snuggled deeper into his chest. "Don't…stop," she said with a yawn, feeling her eyelids droop and slowly close.
Feeling her body relax completely, he continued for a few more minutes, before the sweet embrace of sleep claimed him too, his arm sliding down to wrap around her waist.
As the sun rose over the Seireitei the following morning, Sui-Feng sleepily cracked an eye open, taking in the slow rise and fall of her 'pillow'. Smiling to herself as the memory of last night came back to her; she traced her fingers over Ichigo's abdomen, the faint movement causing him to stir. Smiling to herself, she placed one last gentle kiss to his cheek, before slipping out of bed and into the bathroom.
Minutes later, Ichigo reached out for the familiar presence that had been next to him the majority of the night and frowned when his arm wrapped around empty air. Cracking an eye open and confirming the empty spot next to him, he sighed and tried to bury his head back into his pillow. Hearing a knock at the door, he tried in vain to ignore it.
"Excuse me Ichigo-sama," he heard Umeko say, "but breakfast will be served soon and Genryusai-sama wishes to speak to you."
"I'll be there soon," he mumbled as he rolled out of bed, hearing her footsteps echo down the passageway. Still bleary-eyed and sleepy, he shuffled over to his bathroom door, not heeding at all that it was shut. Peering into the cloud of steam in front of him in confusion, he felt his face heat up rapidly. Leaning back in his bathtub with her back to him, he could just make out Sui-Feng's petite form, her hands lathering up her nude body.
Swallowing past the lump in his throat, he found himself transfixed by the sight in front of him, his eyes growing even wider as she submerged herself completely, before rising from the watery confines and exiting the tub. Watching as a single droplet slipped from her hair and onto her cheek, he traced its progress down her neck, sliding down between the valley of her breasts, past her flat stomach and hips to her most private and sacred area and finally ending its journey at the bottom of her toned and lithe leg.
Wrapping a towel around her torso, she grabbed a second one and began to dry her hair, finally turning around to face the doorway. Freezing mid step, her eyes widened in shock at finding him standing there, her face beet red in embarrassment.
"Shaolin…I…" he began, but fell silent as she walked over to him and placed a finger on his lips to silence him.
"I…I don't want to hear your excuses Ichigo," she murmured in a low tone. "Just please leave and let me finish changing." Nodding his head, he quickly exited the bathroom, slumping to the floor as he shut the door.
"Smooth move Ichigo, smooth move," Tensa Zangetsu chuckled from within his inner world, causing Ichigo to bury his face in his palms.
'Oh god she's going to kill me when she gets out,' he thought, his mind already envisioning the pain she would put him through, not to mention the possible loss of a certain appendage for his transgressions.
"I don't know if she'd go that far Ichigo, nevertheless I advise you to protect them as best you can," his zanpakuto advised him. "That and preserve the images to the best of your ability."
Spluttering his protests in the face of his zanpakuto's behaviour, he yelped as the door was slid open and he fell backwards, his head connecting with the hard wood floor. Holding his head in pain, he cracked an eye open, staring up at Sui-Feng's blank face.
"Um…hi?" he ventured cautiously, wincing as she slowly began to flex her arms and crack her knuckles. "Now Shaolin let's not do anything too…hasty," he pleaded, crawling away from her. "I-It was an accident after…"
"Ichigo," she said, cutting him off and pinning him to the ground with her foot, "didn't anyone ever teach you to knock before entering?" she asked quietly, flames dancing in her eyes as she spoke.
Meanwhile in the dining room of the Yamamoto estate, Gin and Genryusai were quietly sipping their tea, waiting for Ichigo to arrive. Hearing a high-pitched squeal, they set their cups down, tilting their heads in confusion.
"What do you make of that Ichimaru?" Genryusai asked, stroking his beard in contemplation. "It reminds me of a pig about to be slaughtered."
"Eh, it reminded me of the time I decided to test how durable certain areas of Nnoitra's hierro were," the former traitor said nonchalantly. "That or the time I tried to give Grimmjow a haircut using fire. Odd I know, but the people in the Living World made it looks so easy."
Going to cut it off here, especially considering that I don't want to get into the next chapters content. Let this be a lesson to you, even if it's your own room, if the door is closed KNOCK FIRST!
I'm kind of rusty after not writing anything while I was away and right now it's a bit annoying trying to get back into it. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Till next time.
1 – Ikazuchiken – Lightning/Thunder Fist.
2 – Think of it like different strength steel. The softer steel will bend and break if it is hammered by even stronger steel. This was the principle idea behind my thoughts.