A/N: About a year ago, I made an account under the name TheTurneyvore. I started two stories and started to integrate myself into the FanFiction community. Unfortunately, real life got in the way. For reasons I don't care to discuss, I wasn't able to keep up with those stories and didn't feel like visiting this website much. Anyways, my life has quieted down enough that I feel comfortable in attempting to restart one of the stories that I started writing. It's been about a long time since I've tried to write anything like this and I've changed as a person, so the style may be different from the original. Hopefully I can get back in the swing of things.

So, hi :D I'm TheTurneyvore, obviously. I got the urge to write this after looking at somestunningGB art over on the good ol' DA and I couldn't resist, lol. I spent all of a beautiful,sunny afternoon cooped up inside rewriting the first few chapters of Bleach from Fem!Ichi's perspective. There are also a bunch of other gender switches too butnoteverybody. Isshin is still the ol' goat-faced Isshin we all love :D Although I guess the punks who knocked over the flowers and Fishbone D are the only other characters that get to keep their original parts. So I guess I should say that, I'm moderately pleased with the results of this afternoon :D The story sticks to canon pretty much exactly except for some of the things people say and their relationships with each other. And by relationships with each other, I mean IchiRuki... duh.

Anyways, I don't own Bleach. Just in case any of you thought I did.

Storytime :D

There's a river inside all of us, baby girl. For some it's just a trickle and for others a great crashing waterfall. What you've got, Ichiko, is a flood. You remember last spring when we had all that rain, right? How the Karasu swelled up so big and you almost fell in? Your river is like that but a thousand times bigger. It'll sweep you away if you let. No. No. Don't cry baby girl. I know it's scary but you've gotta be strong now. Strong for Karin and Yuzu… and for Mom too. Mom wouldn't want you to be afraid. But it's not as a bad as it sounds. Baby girl, I want you to meet someone. He's gonna help us with your little problem…

Even if anyone walking the darkened streets below him had bothered to look up, they wouldn't have seen him. The tall boy stood on seemingly thin air, contemplating the sleeping city with deep violet eyes. Slight night breezes shifted the black Shihakusho draped over his lanky frame. A black butterfly, larger than most of its earthly kin, drifted lazily around his head. Something suddenly drew the boy's attention and his gaze snapped towards something only he could see lurking in the town below him. A moment later his focus dissipated and the boy sighed.

"Gone again… What the hell is emitting this strange spiritual pressure?" The boy spoke softly despite his voice being inaudible to humans. Casting one last quick glance about the panorama spread out beneath him, the boy gripped the hilt of the sword at his waist and dropped down towards the streets below. He landed with a whisper, barely seeming to feel the impact of the ground at all. "No matter, there are more pressing matters for now."

Ichiko Kurosaki had always hated people pointing at her. It just rubbed her the wrong way. Bad things happened to people who rubbed Ichiko wrong, very bad things.

The squash-faced punk thrust an accusatory finger at Ichiko and screeched, "What the hell is wrong you, bitch?! You just appear outta nowhere and kick over Yama-bro! Now you're tellin' us to get outta our turf? That ain't happenin', sweetcheeks. See me and my boys are gonna-"

"You're pointing at me." A vein popped in Ichiko's forehead. The squash-faced punk seemed surprised that the tall red-headed girl who had shown up from nowhere had interrupted his terrifying speech instead of cowering and begging for his forgiveness. In fact, she didn't seem scared at all. Furious seemed to a word more suited to describing her demeanor. But that was impossible. No one little girl would stand before him and not be shaking in her boots. The squash-faced punk decided that his eyes must be playing tricks on him. He sneered and opened his mouth to put the uppity bitch in her place.

A swift roundhouse kick to the side of his head shut the squash-faced punk up before he could get off another word. Ichiko's icy brown stare shifted slowly towards the other punks who had taken up residence on the corner.

"T-toshi-bro's d-down, man," one stammered out.

"She's one of them, man. One of them! I dunno what's going on here but if we fight her, she's gonna straight up kill us! We're dead, man! Dead!" One sputtered, barely coherent.

The third just let out a high-pitched squeal of terror. The three looked ready to bolt but afraid to move. If they moved so much as an inch, the crazy redhead might suddenly attack. Ichiko took all doubt out of the situation and suddenly attacked. The straight kick she snapped into the squealer's solar plexus sent him flying off his feet. "Geez," Ichiko complained as she stalked towards the two remaining punks, "squeaky over here might have been even more irritating than Mr. Pointy. The two of you aren't gonna give me any more problems, are you?"

"N-no, ma'am" one managed to say after a few seconds.

Ichiko's fake smile was the most terrible thing he had ever seen. Under most circumstances, Ichiko Kurosaki was considered very attractive, albeit in a frosty way. She was tall with rich brown eyes and a natural tan complexion that was the envy of many of her fellow classmates. Years of sports and martial arts had made Ichiko's body lean and flexible, filled with a coiled power that many secretly found captivating. But when she fought, all of her charms were restasked to a single purpose: scaring the ever-loving shit out of her opponents. The smile seemed to be a flimsy cage holding back a beast of incredible violence.

"First question," Ichiko drawled with mock sweetness, "what is that?"

One of the punks followed Ichiko's eyes. "Ummm… a broken flower vase?" The girl was obviously insane. The punk's estimate of his chances of escaping without at least major concussion dropped into the low teens.

Ichiko's smile cracked a bit at the moronic answer. Of course, it was a vase. Did they think she was blind? The red that had slowly began to tinge the edges of her vision intensified into a ragged crimson. What you've got, Ichiko, is a flood. Her father voice spoke clearly in her head, as it always did when the rage started to come on. But it's not as bad as it sounds… The old words calmed her and the fog of anger receded. Her freezing smile returned intact "Could you be a little more specific, please. Why is the vase here?"

The punk, who had been silent up to that point piped up, excited to know the answer, perhaps assuming that it would save him. "They were an offering to the kid who got wacked here!" He smiled smugly.

"Great answer!" Ichiko closed the distance between them, faster than the eye could follow. Her entire body's weight and eleven years of rigorous martial arts experience went behind the punch she leveled into his jaw. Against such force, the human skeletal structure wasn't really much of an obstacle. The smug smile twisted grotesquely as his jaw shatter. The mockery of a grin stayed on the punk's face as he hit the asphalt, already unconscious as he fell.

Thug three had wet himself. Ichiko hid her disgust and turned to him with grim purpose obvious in her eyes. "Last question, friend," Ichiko drawled, "Why is the vase knocked over?" Of course, she knew the answer. She had watched this one knocked it over with his skateboard. She had watched the others laughing. But she wanted him to say it. She wanted him to know what he had done and why he was being punished. Otherwise, how would he learn?

Okay… so maybe Ichiko wasn't completely calm but the most important part was coming up and she needed control for it to work. Ichiko barely heard the punk's stammering confession as she marshaled her rage. What you've got inside of you, Ichiko, is a flood. It was as hard as always. Exactly like the blond man had explained it would be all that time ago. It was like changing the course of a raging river with her bare hands. But Ichiko had plenty of practice and her hands were strong. The furious energy swarmed around her, straining against it but under control.

As the punk finished, Ichiko expelled it, channeling it towards the spirit of the little boy who was hovering nearby. The force suffused his body and, for a moment, he was visible to everyone. Horror movies have nothing on the real thing. The ghost was a small child in her elementary school uniform. Her fine blonde hair was styled into twin pig tails that could only look good on the very young but are sometimes attempted by the very slutty. Her single big brown eye stared balefully at the assembled punks, the too-dark bags under it corrupting the innocence that had once shone there into something terrifying. Worst of all, the little girl's entire form was awash in fresh, crimson blood. It pumped down from an injury concealed by her fringe of hair and obscured half of her once-pretty face. Carmine red dripped down her cheek and chin, staining her uniform with lurid gore. It was too much for him to handle. The remaining teen screeched and fainted. Ichiko felt slightly disappointed that her foot hadn't been needed to put her last adversary to sleep.

"You really don't think they'll come around here anymore?"

"I'm positive, kid," Ichiko reassured the ghost as she propped the limp punks against a nearby wall. She wasn't going to leave them where some innocent bystander could trip over them. That would be a public danger. Ichiko turned to the little dead boy who was floating inches behind her and gave him a genuine smile. The ghost smiled back, still cute despite the wounds. "The way you scared 'em, they're never coming back."

The ghost giggled happily, "I didn't do nothin'! You were the one who beat 'em up for me!"

"Yeah, well you were really good at doing nothing, sweetie." Ichiko wiped off her hands on her jeans and stood up. She reached out and ruffled the boy's blood-matted hair. Anyone watching would have seen a tall redhead talking to no one and petting thin air but Ichiko was far past the point of caring what other people thought about her. Sometimes it crossed her mind that she was better at dealing with the dead than the living but she really tried not to think about it that much. "I'll bring you some new flowers tomorrow, okay? But you gotta promise me that you'll try and go to heaven right after that, okay?"

The ghost screwed up his face and thought about it for a moment. After what seemed like fairly intense deliberation the spirit finally responded, "Okay, I'll try! But you'll definitely bring me those flowers, right?"

Ichiko smiled at the little dead boy, "I definitely will." Why couldn't the living be this easy to please? The dead were mostly easy to understand. All they ever wanted was a little peace and respect or someone to listen to their stories once and a while. What was it about a beating heart that made everyone go crazy? Ichiko suddenly noticed the setting sun bathing the skyline in crimson. Crap, I'm late, Ichiko realized, Speaking of crazy, dad is gonna shit bricks at me missing curfew. Again. Patting the spirit's head one last time, Ichiko turned towards home.

Home for Ichiko Kurosaki was the neighborhood clinic which bore her family name. Home was also pretty much a war zone. From the outside, the Kurosaki Clinic looked normal. It was a large three story building painted white with a green roof. The front had two entrances, one for patients and one for the family. Ichiko cautiously approached the family entrance. With excruciating care, she turned the handle and peeked her spiky orange head inside.

All was suspiciously quiet. Goat-Chin's distinctive shouting was conspicuously absent. If her dangerously unstable father was unaccounted for, that could only mean one thing: he was positioning for ambush. Ichiko eased herself into the forier and checked her blind spots. To her right, the closet where the family hung their coats was empty. No one was hiding behind the large potted plant to her left. Directly ahead of her, Ichiko could see into the kitchen where Karin and Yuzu, her two younger brothers, were eating dinner. Noticing his older sister's presence, Yuzu looked up and waved happily. Tentatively, still wary of ambush, Ichiko waved back.

There were two empty places at the table, Ichiko noticed. Did Goat-Chin not come home today? Ichiko wondered as she began to take off her shoes. Probably not, she decided, it's weird enough when he leaves the house at all. Hell would freeze over before he stayed away from this place for a whole day. He's gotta be around here somewhere… hiding… waiting for me to… a realization struck Ichiko. She had checked every direction. Every direction but one: Up.

For a man in his mid-forties, Isshin Kurosaki was extremely fit. Despite the fact that his children almost never saw him leave the house, let alone use the gym, Isshin retained the physique of a much younger man. His limbs were thick and strong. Not even his hair had begun to show signs of greying. In fact, Isshin was still athletic enough to suspend himself against the ceiling using the strength of his arms alone. As their eyes met, Isshin dropped like a vast, unshaven spider descending on its prey. "YOU'RE LATE!" He roared as he dropped on top of his hapless daughter.

Ichiko had no time to dodge. Goat-Chin crashed on top of her, sending them both to the ground. Her father was up in a moment, fists self-righteously planted on his hips and shouting at his daughter. "What time do you think it is, errant wench? You know that dinner is at 7PM sharp every night!"

Ichiko snapped back up to her feat almost as fast as her father had. She rammed an indignant finger into his breastbone. Admittedly, locking foreheads with her bat-shit crazy parental unit would have been more impressive but Ichiko still needed to grow a few inches before would be capable of doing that. And she was damn angry. "What the fuck, Goat-Chin?!" She roared up at him, "You can't hit a girl! Especially not one who also happens to be your daughter?! And definitely not when she just happens to be coming back from a damn exorcism!"

"Silence!" her father roared, completely ignoring everything Ichiko said and completely substituting his own reality. It was a skill Isshin Kurosaki had mastered long ago. His version of Ichiko seemed to have a tendency to stay out late snogging vagrants. "I don't care how many strangers you've been playing tonsil hockey with!" Isshin declared with his typical level of rationality. "The rules of this house are iron-clad! There is one punishment for those who dare to disturb the harmony of this sacred domain! The punishment of blood!"

Ichiko knew what this was all really about and it just made her all that much madder. How the hell did I come out of this overgrown child? "You're just jealous that you can't see ghosts like me, old man!" Ichiko roared back. She punched him in his scraggly face too; just to make extra sure she got her point across. Still convinced that she had articulated herself fully, Ichiko continued, "C'mon admit it, Goat-Chin you wish you were special like your kids"

"Am not!" Isshin exclaimed actually responding to what Ichiko had actually said for once. The spark of lucidity only lasted for a moment. As if he had had a sudden revelation, Isshin gasped. "My daughter is taking lovers from the spirit realm now?" Ichiko's father accused. "Bleed for the shame you bring upon this house!"

"Stop it!" Yuzu shouted at his father and big sister who were wrestling violently on the welcome, seemingly trying their hardest to pull each other's heads off. Seeing that his shouting had failed to even momentarily distract the embattled pair, Yuzu switched to a different tactic. "Come on," he pleaded," the food is getting cold!" He waved his spoon ineffectively at the last two bowls of rapidly cooling noodles set out on the table.

"Leave 'em, Yuzu. They've never listened to reason before." Said his dark-haired brother. Where Yuzu was small and fair, his twin brother Karin was large, at least for a boy of ten, and dark. Much like their appearances, Karin and Yuzu's personalities were like night and day. The raven-haired twin leaned over and snatched up his father's unattended bowl from across the table. Promptly he began to drain it of its contents.

In the forier, Ichiko seemed to have prevailed over her father. She stood over him, one foot pressing down on his crossed wrists which she'd somehow managed to get behind his back. She pointed an enraged finger down at the struggling man trapped underneath her small foot. "First off, Goat-Chin, you got some weird ideas about what a girl can and cannot do! Where do you get off, setting my curfew at 7 P.M.? That's barely even enough time to walk home from karate! I'm a high schooler, ya know? I need a damn social life!"

"Ichiko," came Yuzu's timid voice from the kitchen. Ichiko's blonde, apron-wearing little brother had a spoon in one hand and was pointing at something with the other. "You've got a new ghost haunting you, Onee-san." Yuzu's voice turned conspiratorial and he whispered as if that would prevent the ghost from hearing it, "He looks like a real creeper."

Ichiko's angry tirade was completely rail-roaded. Silently, Ichiko prayed that, when she looked, there would be nothing there. She had had more than enough excitement for today. All Ichiko wanted was scarf down whatever Yuzu had made for dinner in a distinctly unladylike manner then stomp upstairs and take a long bath. Ichiko crossed her fingers and turned to look over her shoulder. Ichiko's was beginning to get the impression that the universal had a personal interest in ignoring her prayers. A sweaty office-drone type with thick glasses and stress lines was hovering just over Ichiko's shoulder, obviously trying to get a glimpse down the top of orange-haired girl's strawberry print blouse. Even less attractively, his gaping chest wound was dripping blood all over her front. As soon as I ditch this creep, Ichiko resolved, nothing is gonna get between me and that bath…

The vein that had been slowly pulsing in Ichiko's forehead was threatening to burst. Like it always did when she got angry enough, her father's mantra began to sound in the back of her head. Ichiko had had enough of her father's voice for one night and she immediately blocked it out. As soon as she did, something invisible she couldn't quite describe began to trickle out of her. Ichiko ignored the sensation, choosing to focus on the current situation instead.

Across town, the tall boy froze. Every one of his spiritual senses seemed to be on fire. Something had entered the Living World. Something enormously powerful, terrifyingly so. Even though he was no expert in Reiatsu Telelocation, anything with even the slightest dribble of sensitivity would have been able to find their way to the source of the disturbance. As easy as finding a stab wound.

The boy hesitated for a moment. He'd been on his quarry's trail for the past few hours and breaking off pursuit now would set him back greatly. It might even cost a few innocents their lives… still whatever the source of the newly appeared spiritual pressure was it was far more powerful than what he had been chasing before. If left unchecked, it could surely cause a great deal more damage. Besides, with a flare that powerful, it was a safe bet that his prey would also be drawn there as well. Fell two foes with one stroke, the boy gripped the hilt of the sword tightly, let's just hope we're up for it, Kama.

"I get rid of perverts like this again and again," she shouted as she swatted at the ghost who was floating obnoxiously just out of reach, "but they keep coming back!" Ichiko leapt into the air and finally managed to connect with the ghost. Her fist landed right in the center of his sweaty face, shattering his glasses. The force of the blow sent the spirit careening towards the kitchen wall and then straight through. Ichiko couldn't decide whether to be glad that she had finally gotten rid of the spirit or frustrated that she no longer had a convenient outlet to vent her frustrations on. Choosing neither, Ichiko made a noise halfway between a sigh and a growl. "Be grateful that neither of you have to deal with crap like this, kidlets," Ichiko told the twins, definitely not sounding even a little bit bitter.

"Oh, cry me a river," Karin grumbled from his place at the table. He had just finished Isshin's noodles and was now starting in on Ichiko's. "Ghosts aren't even real," her brother declared with as little emotional inflection as possible. "Everybody knows that."

"But you can see them, Karin!" Yuzu protested, wiping his hands on his apron, "Dad's the only one who can't see anything, right? How can you not believe in something you can see?"

Karin gave his effeminate brother a frosty look, "They. Don't. Exist." He ground out, "End of conversation." Yuzu shook at little bit.

As the twins bickered, Ichiko had been making her way towards the table. She plopped down unceremoniously into her usual seat. Ichiko was in a rather foul mood. That was hardly unusual. The pleasant glow that she'd gotten from wrecking the idiots and helping out the little boy's spirit had been squelched the second her father attacked her. And after the ugly lunatic had opened his mouth, Ichiko's scowl had decided it just might take up permanent residence on her rather pretty face. Noticing that there was no longer a bowl full of noodles in front of her place at the table was doing nothing to improve her mood. "Where's my food you little turds?" Ichiko growled at the twins. Yuzu's shaking increased.

"I'm eating it," Karin said calmly, not even bothering to look up from Ichiko's bowl as he slurped down noodles. "So you don't get fat," the pre-teen explained unnecessarily. Not that there was really any danger of that. Any fat that dared to stick to Ichiko's frame was quickly burnt off by three hours of karate every night with her best friend, Tatsuki. How Ichiko managed to have any boobs at all was a mystery to everyone who bothered to think about it.

Whatever furious response the orange-haired high schooler was about to spit out was cut short by her father's cry of "AN OPENING!" On the edge of her vision, Ichiko caught a glimpse of her father careening wildly through the air towards her. The orange-haired girl was in no mood to play around. There was a reason the flying body check wasn't a popular move in any widely accepted martial art and beside, Ichiko had already been caught off guard by the technique once that day. This time she was ready for it. Ichiko grabbed her father's wrist and twisted, redirecting his flight path with one fluid motion Isshin Kurosaki slammed face-first onto the dinner table, crushing several plates and bowls under his bulk. Ichiko leaned over the prone, groaning form of her father. "Looks like you let Karin eat my dinner, Goat-Chin. So what do you say I carve some steaks out of you, huh?" She hissed in his ear.

"My daughter is threatening to kill me," Isshin sniffed happily, "she has finally become a woman. Masaki, you would be so proud…"

Disgusted, Ichiko got up from the table, "Aw, I forgot, you'd taste crazy. No way would anyone want to eat that. I'm going to bed." And with that, Ichiko stomped up to her room and slammed the door.

"Did I say something?" Isshin asked in a perplexed tone from his position on top of the dinner table. No one bothered to respond.

Ichiko lay on top of her bed and stared at the wall. She had calmed down significantly over the past few minutes. The weird trickling sensation had stop but calm wasn't a word that could be used to describe Ichiko. The temptation to call Tatsuki and vent all of her troubles was building in Ichiko's chest but that was something Ichiko would only ever do as a last resort. Tatsuki had been Ichiko's best friend and sparring partner since they were four years old. Still, Tatsuki had never exactly been described as an overflowing font of sympathy and sharing her feeling with Tatsuki was likely to be just as therapeutic as sharing them with the wall. Which was exactly what Ichiko had elected to do.

"Stupid dad…" she growled at the wallpaper. In response, the wall spat out a black swallowtail butterfly. Ichiko sat up in her bed. "What the hell-" Ichiko began to whisper incredulously but what came through the wall next stopped the rest of her sentence in its tracks.

At five feet and eleven inches, Ichiko was taller than a lot of boys she knew. The boy who walked through the wall and into Ichiko bedroom did not fall into this category. Ichiko didn't bother to figure out his exact height it was obviously well over six feet. Another thing about the stranger: he was absolutely gorgeous. Silky midnight-black hair brushed his shoulders and a single strand hung down across his forehead and between his deep, vibrant violet eyes. Strangely, he was dressed in a black warrior's kimono. Despite the heavy garb, Ichiko could tell by the way the boy held himself that he was both physically fir and a trained fighter. But the strangest thing about the boy's appearance, beside the fact that he was there at all, was the sword hanging from the expertly tied around his waist.

Ichiko could do nothing but stare at the stranger as if in a trance. Conversely, he seemed completely disinterested in her. His eyes scanned the room, obviously looking for something. A confused, slightly frustrated look spread across his regally handsome face. "I swear it was here but a moment ago…" The words tore Ichiko from her hypnosis. Ichiko didn't understand how he had walked through the wall but he was an adolescent male who had snuck into her room. She always dealt with those the same way: violence.

"I didn't go anywhere, you perverted bastard! I'm right here!" she roared as she kicked the kimono-wearing freak directly in his unprotected ass. With a startled squawk, the boy tumbled off his feet and face-planted into the floor. Ichiko jabbed a furious finger at his sprawled form, oblivious to the completely baffled expression that twisted across his face. "I'm not an 'it' either, retard! I'm a hell of a lot more of a girl than you can handle! Even if you are freakishly tall!"

In familiar fashion, most of when Ichiko said to the boy went completely ignored. The confused look stayed rooted on his face as she collected himself into a seated position. However Ichiko seemed to have gotten his attention because his violet gaze locked directly on her the moment that he was composed again. His eyes were bold, staring at Ichiko and assessing her like she didn't know he was watching. Ichiko just glared back. It seemed to take him a moment, but the boy finally realized that Ichiko's glare and furious tirade directed at him. "Y-you can see me?" he sputtered. "I mean, d-did you just kick me?"

"Hell yeah, I kicked you! What? You thought you were just gonna come in here, do perverted shit and leave without anyone noticing? Pick your victims better next time, asshole because I'm about to do a lot more than kick you…" Ichiko growled at the intruder and stalked towards him menacing. What she had done to the punks earlier that day was nothing compared to what Ichiko was planning for this misfortunate soul.

Fortunately, Ichiko planned ultra-violence was interrupted by the timely appearance of her father. "Who's in here with you?" Isshin Kurosaki yelled as he hurtled through the air to plant both his knees in his daughter back. How he had managed to get into the room without Ichiko noticing was a mystery. However solving mysteries was usually lower in Ichiko's order of priorities to defending herself from her dearest father's surprise assaults. The pair of them crashed to the floor but this time Ichiko was up first. She hammered a swift kick across her father's rising face. Isshin groaned and tried to collapse but Ichiko grabbed him by his lapels and dragged him to his feet.

"You blind, dad?" Ichiko yelled at her father. How he had managed to miss the presence of the boy was strange but Ichiko didn't have time to think about it. She had important shouting to do. "You must be losing your eyesight cause the pervert who snuck into my room is sitting right there!" Ichiko jerked her chin towards were the dark haired boy was sitting.

Isshin followed his daughter's gesture but his eyes passed over where the intruder was sitting without even a passing spark of recognition. Ichiko's grip loosened. If dad can't see him but I can, that must mean he's a… Taking the slack in Ichiko's deathgrip as his cue to leave, Isshin pulled free and started towards the door. "Doing such dirty thing by yourself… you truly bring shame upon this family, daughter" Isshin lamented just loudly enough for Ichiko to hear him as he disappeared from view.

"I'm not doing anything dirty, damn it" Ichiko shouted out the door if her father heard there was no response. Angrily, Ichiko whirled on the kimono-dressed freak to find that he had repositioned himself and was now sitting on her bed. "Look, spirit" she ground out, trying her hardest to be reasonable and keep her emotions in check, "I'm really not in the mood to deal with this right now. If you come back tomorrow, I can exorcise you then."

The boy sitting on her bed made a noise that couldn't decide if it was amused or offended by Ichiko's comment. "A human exorcise a Shinigami? Please? That you can see me at all is extraordinary for a human but a banishing is fundamentally beyond your species' capabilities. But since you can see us, there are a few things you should probably know…"

Ichiko sat on the edge of her desk, glaring at the tall dark boy who seemed to have declared her bed as his territory. Ichiko's arms were crossed defensively under her chest. The boy had one hand on the hilt of his katana, obviously ready to draw if Ichiko attacked again; something the tall redhead had considered doing several times over the past few minutes. Her fiery brown gaze clashed with his icy violet one for a solid minute. Finally, Ichiko broke the silence that had followed the stranger's so-called explanation. "Let me get this straight, pervert, you're a shinigami, a god of death. You came from a place called 'Soul Society' and you're here to exterminate an evil spirit… I think you forgot one part of your story, though."

The boy's level gaze became slightly confused. He cocked his head slightly to one side and frowned a little. Under any other circumstances, Ichiko would have found this extremely attractive but instead it just seemed irritating, "Really? I don't think I forgot anything…" he mused before Ichiko cut him off.

"You forgot the part where you're a perverted spirit that gets off by sneaking into girl's rooms and watching them sleep! Like I'd believe this 'shinigami' crap!" Ichiko yelled and she chucked her alarm clock that the kimono-wearing stranger's head. Without changing the incredulous look on his face, he snagged the flying object out the air easily.

"You can see ghosts but refuse to accept the existence of shinigami?" he asked as if believing in one and not the other seemed like the most improbable notion possible. The condescending tone made Ichiko want to beat him into a bloody pulp. She settled for articulating her opinion on the issue by chucking a paperweight at the dark-haired boy's head. The second projectile met with the same amount of success as the first. The boy's hand shot out like a whip and grabbed it from the air. Third time's the charm, Ichiko thought dryly as she threw a stapler. The boy seemed to hesitate for a moment, with both hands full, catching the stapler was impossible. A look of consternation crossed his face moments before the stapler crossed it as well.

"Enough!" he kimono-wearing intruder spoke, "foolish girl, you will cease throwing objects at me immediately!" Something Ichiko couldn't really describe rose up into her awareness as the boy raged. She could somehow feel a complex pattern of intent and energy weaving itself together before the boy. It felt familiar yet somehow totally alien. Ichiko might have tried to study it further but the boy made a sign with his hand and pressed into the form flowing before him, shouting "Bakudo #1: Sai!" at the same time.

Something surged from the form and suddenly, a force wrapped around Ichiko's body. The computer mouse she had been prepared to chuck at the "shinigami" dropped from her hands as they were slammed together behind her back. Her knees snapped up to her chest of their own volition and Ichiko toppled off the chair, landing squarely on her face. Surprise at her body's betrayal quickly gave way to anger. "What the hell was that, you kinky bastard?" Ichiko shouted at the stranger indignantly.

The "kinky bastard" smirked and squatted down next to Ichiko. She managed to shrink away a little as he reached for her but all he did was ruffle her hair. "Oooh… poor baby, you can't move can you," he snickered, "this is kidō. An advanced incantation that only shinigami can use. They may not be my specialty but this is more than enough to hold a mere human like you." Ichiko ground her teeth at the word "shinigami" and then again at "mere human." No way in hell am I ever going to believe a word this creep says, Ichiko resolved. Regardless of the dirty looks Ichiko hurled his way, the boy continued, "I may not look like it, but I'm ten times older than you are. It isn't polite to throw things at your elders, you little twerp. Usually, I kill people like you, but spiritual law dictates that shinigami cannot execute humans unless they have been ordered to do so. What I can do is seal your movements, twerp. That and…"

Ichiko's brown eyes widened to the size of dinner plates as the tall stranger drew his sword. "Wai-" she shouted but the sword was already descending...

And its hilt struck the forehead of the sweaty office-ghost that had phased up through the floor underneath Ichiko. The ghost looked nearly as surprised by this development as Ichiko herself.

"I-I don't wanna go to hell," he stammered but the kimono-wearing boy cut him off.

"You are not going to hell. Unlike hell, Soul Society is a peaceful realm." And just like that, the spirit was gone, leaving only a black swallowtail butterfly that flitted out through Ichiko's open window.

"Wha-" Ichiko stammered, not quite able to process everything that was happening at once.

"That was a Soul Burial," the boy explained smugly as if he had read the confusion on Ichiko's face. Carefully, he put his katana away before continuing, "As a shinigami, one of my duties is to perform them. You would call it, 'going to heaven.'" He took a look at Ichiko's stubbornly disbelieving face, "but you still don't believe me, do you? Very well, I have illustrations prepared for just this situation. Perhaps these will make it clearer. You look like the type who only reads picture books, anyways." He pulled out a sheaf of the most poorly drawn illustrations Ichiko had ever seen and tossed them on the floor next to the mostly immobile woman.

"There are two kind of spirits, twerp," he began as he crossed his arms over his chest, "The most common type is the plus. They are 'good spirits' for the most part. You humans refer to pluses as 'ghosts.'" Ichiko couldn't be quite sure but she thought that the stranger shivered slightly before continuing, "the other type is the hollow, the 'evil spirits.' They attack and devour the living and the dead indiscriminately. If you see a hollow, run. If you do not, you will die. Any questions, so far?"

"Um… yeah, one. Why do your drawings suck so bad?"

"Hmmm… you're right, of course," the stranger said as he drew a pen from his kimono and scooted closer. "Perhaps I should stick to drawing what I am best at:" he paused for dramatic effect, "mustaches." With two quick strokes a luxuriously curling mustache graced Ichiko's brightly-flushed face.

"What the hell, you creep?" she shouted indignantly, "I knew you were planning on taking advantage of a defenseless woman but this?" Ichiko promptly began to wipe the marker off on the floor. She met with moderate success.

"Humph, I will continue with my explanation if you don't mind, sir" he grinned mischievously and Ichiko bristled but she didn't say anything about the insult. The stranger took that as an invitation to continue, "We shinigami have two duties: to guide pluses to Soul Society and to extinguish hollow. My current mission is the latter."

A thought crossed Ichiko's mind. A thought she didn't like at all. "Wait a minute…" she asked slowly, "does that mean that there's a hollow around here?" If I can believe him, then hollows indiscriminately eat the living and the dead! Yuzu and Karin are in danger! Oh… and Goat-Chin too, but he isn't as important…

The tall boy nodded, "Yes, there is one nearby. I should think that was obvious from my presence here. Really, you should learn to pay more attention."

Ichiko wasn't even pretending to pay attention. Panic tinged thoughts raced through her frenzied mind. Shit! They ARE in danger and I'm lying here like some idiot! "Well what are you doing in my room, creep?" Ichiko shouted taking out her impotent rage on the dark-haired youth, "Get out of my house and take care of this thing!"

The boy sniffed and looked away, Ichiko had obviously stumbled upon a topic he'd been trying to keep secret. Instantly, the orange-haired girl's focus was completely on him. In her experience, secrets were usually a very bad thing. And in an already bad situation, secrets were more likely than not going to get someone killed. "You see…" he began hesitantly, "I was tracking something else, and it led me here. The hollow is sure to be after the same thing…" The youth continued but Ichiko got the distinct impression that he was no longer talking to her, "It was just here a moment ago, I could have sworn it was in this very room but there's nothing-"

Whatever the black-clad boy was going to say next was drowned out by a blood-curdling roar. Instinctively, Ichiko knew what it was. It was one of those things that no one has to be told, that is just known. One of those things that the deep, primitive part of you recognizes on every level. As soon as the first piercing note of its shrill roar reached Ichiko's senses, she couldn't mistake it for anything else. It was the desolate, starving cry of a Hollow on the hunt. Both Ichiko and the boy across from her stiffened at the same time. The boy was moving before Ichiko. His violet eyes widened and instantly his sword has in his hand, the light from Ichiko's light fixtures glinting unnaturally off the long, elegant blade. "That was a hollow!" he shouted unaware that Ichiko already knew, "you stay here! I will deal with it!"

Another scream rent the air, this one decided more human. It was Yuzu's scream, sweet little Yuzu who never hurt a fly and was going and win Shin Dotchi someday. The bottom dropped out of Ichiko's stomach. A haze of red descended over her eyes. The mantra began to rise in her consciousness but now was not the time for restrain. Ichiko only had room for two thoughts: It's already here. It's already hurting my family. That and the roiling sea of anger that was rising within her. The strange combination of sickness and rage flooded her system, driving out all rational thought. Again, Ichiko felt the sensation of something leaving her body. "That's my goddamn family out there!" she screamed at the black-garbed boy. "No way in hell, I'm staying here! Let me out of this damn spell, NOW!"

The stranger stumbled. He looked as if someone had just punched him in the stomach "It's so strong…" he gasped. "How could it have hidden from me…?" Finally, Ichiko's words processed and seemed to give him a new well of determination to draw upon. The boy straightened and shot back, "There's nothing you can do! You'll just be another victim, fool! Stay here until I call!" As the door opened, he felt a wave of force sudden smash into him like he'd been dropped off a low bridge. The spiritual pressure tearing out of the hollow downstairs was absolutely monstrous!

The boy was so overwhelmed that he didn't notice as Ichiko flopped out the door, he also didn't notice the young dark-haired boy who was dragging himself down the hallway, leaving a vivid trail of blood behind him. When he saw Ichiko, a weak smile stretched across his bloody lips. "I-it didn't g-get you yet… that's… good…" His eyes closed and he went limp.

Karin… no… not… Karin… no… no… no… something was snapping in Ichiko. Dimly she heard the shinigami speaking in the background. His words sounded worlds away. It might have been something about Karin's soul still being attached. It was all meaningless. Nothing filled Ichiko's ears but echoes of Karin's last weakening words. Nothing filled her eyes but the sight of his crumpled form. Nothing filled her nose but the scent of her family's blood. And no thoughts filled her mind. None at all, just the wordless need to protect those she held dear. That, and overwhelming rage. A desperate howl tore itself from her throat. The binding holding her still was preventing her from helping her family. It would have to go.

Panic and disbelief filled the shinigami's eyes. The human girl was attempting to break kidō with just a human's power! That would… "Stop it!" he shouted, "It isn't possible for humans to break kidō! If you try your soul will be-" the sound of his kidō shattering interrupted him. Impossible… he barely had time to think before Ichiko had grabbed the bat leaning against the wall and sprinted downstairs.

The shinigami was left staring at empty space. Who… no, what the hell is this woman?

The downstairs of the clinic was in ruins but Ichiko really didn't see it. "Yuzu! Goat-chin!" she screamed as she dashed through the debris. There were splashes of blood and chunks of plaster everywhere. A buzzing filled Ichiko's ears but she wasn't quite certain where it was coming from. She spotted her father, bleeding from a gaping wound in his side but Yuzu was more important. Goat-chin could survive just about anything. Yuzu was delicate. Ichiko was not slowing down until her baby brother was safely in her arms.

The thing standing outside a hole torn in the wall of the clinic proved her wrong. Ichiko skidded to a stop. She could do nothing but stare at it. It was… a monster. No other words described it. A hideous amalgam of giant and fish with sickly green, polka dotted skin. Ichiko trembled. She couldn't take a step forward; the sight of the monster froze her in her tracks. It was…

Holding Yuzu's unconscious body in one of its massive, blunt-fingered hands. The trembling stopped. Rational thought stopped. Ichiko charged, swinging the bat with all the considerable speed she could muster.

She wasn't fast enough. The thing's other fist was nearly as big as Ichiko's torso and it smashed into her like a demented freight train. The force sent the orange-hair girl spinning into a wall across the street.

Even though the pain was blinding, she tried to get up. But something was broken and refused Ichiko's commands. And the hollow was coming fast. It's other fist blurring towards Ichiko, carrying bloody death on its pale green knuckles. It was going to squash Ichiko into paste using the very hand that was squeezing the life out of her brother. The irony just made Ichiko want to die.

A black blur sliced into the hollow's forearm, cutting to the bone with a flash of silver. The shinigami had appeared. The hollow howled and released Yuzu. In another blur of speed, he caught the airborne boy and tossed him towards his sister. "Don't lose focus, girl!" he shouted at her, "None of your family has been consumed yet!"

"But why is it here at all?" Ichiko screamed at the shinigami as if he had brought it. For all she knew, he had. His answer, however, was worse than Ichiko had ever imagined was possible.

"It came… because hollows crave spiritual energy. They are attracted to souls that possess it, drawn like moths drawn to a flame... You can see shinigami, you can touch us, your spiritual energy alone can shatter kidō. I was a fool not to realize it before. The spiritual energy I was tracking before was yours... I have never seen nor heard of a human with power such as you. Mostly likely, this hollow came here… to eat you."

"Me?" It came out as no more than a disbelieving breath, "It came because of me?" Ichiko's voice got stronger, more angry, "The reason that my family is teetering on the brink of death… is ME!" Ichiko was shouting now and the shinigami was looking at her, obviously distressed at how his words had been interpreted.

"I did not mean…" he began to protest but the hollow hammered its fist into him. The black-haired warrior was sent flying like a child's discarded toy.

"Me…" Ichiko whispered at the hollow that was slowly stomping towards her, literally licking its lips. Despite the screaming protest of agony from whatever had twisted wrongly in her leg, Ichiko staggered to her feet. She locked eyes with the soulless pits that burnt from behind the hollow's bone-white mask. "You want me, huh you piece of shit! Come and get me! Woman against beast! No one else has anything to do with this!"

The hollow didn't seem to understand her words. Or maybe it did. Either way Ichiko wasn't prepared for what happened next. Without warning the monster's neck stretched, its head sped towards her, jaws gaping wide open, sharp flat teeth aching to dig into Ichiko's flesh. She tried to dodge but her leg twisted out from under her. It's going to eat me. Ichiko realized with grim certainty. The thought held no panic, just the regret that she hadn't been able to protect her family. So this is how it ends. Me, lying in the street with a shatter leg, slowly devoured by a monster. Damn it, this sucks.

For the second time that night, a black blur threw itself in front of Ichiko. Silver flashed, but it wasn't enough. Jaws closed over the tall boy's black clad form. Blood splashed Ichiko's face; its coppery tang invaded her mouth. The hollow reared back at the unexpected intervention, shaking its head and roaring.

The shinigami lay bleeding out on the ground scant feet away. "Idiot," he groaned through bloody, gritted teeth, "you don't have the power to fight it and now, neither do I. All that's left for us… is to become that thing's food…"

A single tear rolled down Ichiko's blood stained cheek. It wasn't all the things that Ichiko had never done which lay heavy on her heart. In those moments, Ichiko spared no thought for all the things she never had the chance to do. She didn't fight against the tide of darkness that was rising in the corners of her vision because she feared what the shadows would bring. Ichiko Kurosaki didn't struggle to her feet in defiance of the cruel hand destiny had dealt her. Karin… Yuzu… I won't let you die like this…

The shinigami watched the drop trail down the girls face. She really is beautiful, he thought sadly. Then, am I really considering doing this to her? One look at her face told him everything he needed to know. Though she was crying the steel had not gone from her eyes. The determination that lay within those rich chocolate orbs was so deep it might not have any bottom. Even if the hollow tore all the limbs from her body, the shinigami knew that the girl would die trying to kill it with her teeth.

"There's a way for you to save your family."

"Tell me," was all Ichiko growled. There was no hesitation.

"I will transfer half of my shinigami powers to you by…"

The orange haired girl laughed bitterly, the momentary hope dying in her eyes, "By kissing me or some fairy tale shit? Even for a perv-"

"By piercing your heart with my zanpakuto." The shinigami finished grimly.

"Oh," Ichiko's eyes narrowed. Somehow, the brutality of the solution seemed right. Or maybe it was just that she would rather die at the hands of this boy who at least appeared human than become food for some grotesque monster. Whatever the reason, Ichiko gripped the tsuba of the black-clad warrior's blade. She stared into his eyes and growled, "Do it, shinigami."

"It's not 'shinigami,' it's Rukio Kuchiki," he said a faint smile ghosting across his blood-stained lips.

"Ichiko Kurosaki," she smiled back. It was not a pretty smile, "just fucking do it already."

As one, they rammed the sword straight through her sternum. The blade tore out the other side.

Ichiko's eyes widened. Nothing had ever hurt like this. Ichiko had led a rough life. She'd been stabbed before. She'd been thrown through walls. Every day for the past eleven years of her life, she sparred for hours with the most brutal woman she'd met. And the sum total of every single scrape, bruise and cut she'd ever received wouldn't come close to the pain that blossomed throughout her entire body at that moment.

It felt like her soul was being torn apart. Like some great clawed hand had grabbed the most personal intimate part of her and was shredding it, twisting it into something foreign and strange. It was worse than being burnt alive. Through the haze of pain, one thought managed to swim to the surface and stick itself in Ichiko rapidly deteriorating consciousness: It didn't work…

And then, with a blinding flash of light, the pain stopped. And Ichiko felt wonderful.

Ichiko was standing and everything was clear. The creeping blackness that threatened to consume her was gone. The pain, fear and rage which had suffused her to her very core were gone, replaced by iron conviction. Most importantly, Ichiko simply felt right. It was like her skin had been slightly ill-fitting before and she only noticed it now that she was wearing something more comfortable. Karin, Yuzu, Goat-Chin… and you too Rukio, I'm here now. There's nothing to fear anymore. A true smile spread across her lips.

Sensing the appearance of a new opponent, the hollow roared and swung its massive arm. Ichiko watched the limb come at her in slow motion. Is it really trying to hurt me with that clumsy attack? Ichiko wondered. Using the hand that wasn't holding her wakizashi, Ichiko stopped the blow and twisted. Gargantuan bones snapped like tissue paper. Wakizashi? Ichiko looked down. Sure enough, a red-handled short sword rested in her left hand.

Where did you come from? Ichiko asked her sword as she easily flipped over the Hollows sloppy counterattack. In mid-air, Ichiko lashed out with the blade, nearly severing her foe's unbroken arm. The hollow screamed but the sound held no more terror for Ichiko. Ichiko almost felt bad for what she was about to do. Almost. The girl rushed forward.

Rukio stared in disbelief at the orange-haired girl. The shinigami had heard stories of transferring powers to human happening in the past but he'd never really believed them. But even if he had, Rukio could not have imagined they'd be anything like what he was witnessing. The transition was so perfect. The long black shihakusho draped over her lithe body fit perfectly. The blade she wielded, though smaller than most, was indistinguishable from any shinigami's blade.

It was almost enough to convince Rukio that the girl had been a shinigami in disguise all along. But Rukio knew what he'd felt inside her. Of course, there was the vast yet tightly constrained raw spiritual energy roiling inside her which had drawn him to her in the first place but there was something else as well. Something that drunk up the half of his shinigami powers he'd meant to give her then drained him of the rest anyways. Whatever meager energy he'd put inside her, it was nowhere near enough to fill up the great groaning abyss in the girl's soul. Frankly, it terrified him but as he watched her bifurcate the hollow with a single blow, he came to realize something.

It wasn't him that should be worried about the beautiful woman dressed in black before him. The ones who should worry were those who stood in her way.