Hello all. Guess what? I'm alive. Shocking, I know, but nonetheless it's true. And I'm here with another new piece to add to my collection.I know what you all really want, but bear with me. Please. That's all I'm gonna say. Yelling at you all to be patient and to stop pestering me to update is pretty much a pointless exercise by now. For now, enjoy this new piece.

Now then, this particular piece is going to be more than one chapter. Five chapters total actually. It's not IchiHarem, yet it will be. You'll see what I mean as I post more. This particular piece is basically just an introduction to set the ground for what I have planned, yet it will give you a pretty good idea of where I'm planning for this. It should be fairly obvious fairly quickly. That said, y'all enjoy now.

Disclaimer: Bleach. Not mine. Now read.

Back when everything had begun, Ichigo had never expected that things would happen the way that they did. Then again, Ichigo hadn't expected anything to happen at all. Not after the war. Not after the sacrifice that he'd made to stop Aizen. He'd thought that his life would be normal, but that wasn't the case. And above all else, he hadn't expected them to come into his life…

But then, things are getting ahead of themselves. Perhaps it would be best if we looked back to when everything had started. After the war had ended…

Aizen had been defeated.

Even as Ichigo had lain unconscious in the living world, the man had sat in the Central Forty-Six chambers, where the new batch of blustering, bickering bureaucrats sentenced the would be god to no less than twenty thousand years in the Maggot's Nest. It was the first thing that Ichigo had learned of after he woke up.

As far as he was concerned, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Aside from that, when Ichigo woke, he was greeted by the smiling faces of all of his friends. Even Ishida had managed to paste on a small smile at seeing the strawberry come to after nearly a month. His hair and height had returned to normal, before his time in the Dangai precipice world, and for all intents and purposes, everything was back to normal once again. It was at that thought during his conversation with Rukia that he remembered…

He was going to be normal again.

Or at least, he was going to be nothing but a human again. No more Shinigami powers, no more Hollow powers. Nothing. Even as he stepped outside of Urahara's shop, he could feel it. What was left of his reiatsu was leaving him. He couldn't sense the presence of the spirits in the town anymore. And then he looks back at Rukia. It was getting harder and harder to see her. Even as he thought it, he could almost see through her. And that's when he realized.

This was goodbye.

As soon as she sees the saddened look upon his face, she mocks him by saying that even if he can't see her anymore, she'll still be able to see him. His response is playful and a bit annoyed, where he says that fact doesn't make him happy at all and that he wasn't being sad. But as her form begins to completely disappear before his eyes, he knows that he's only lying to himself. He is sad to see her go, but there's nothing that he can do to stop it now. That in mind, he tells her to give his best regards to everyone and says goodbye. Just as she disappears completely, he managed one last thing.


After that, Ichigo got on with his life. He started going to school every day, and stayed put in all of his classes. The grades that had started to drop because of his Shinigami activities had started to go back up again and his attendance record had fewer unchecked boxes on it. After a few explanations, he'd managed to make up all of the work that he'd missed because of the war. Within the span of a few weeks, everything was back to normal for him. It was only after that normality returned that he realized how bad he felt.

For all intents and purposes, Ichigo hadn't just given up his powers. He'd given up everything. Gone were the days of hunting Hollows… and gone were his friends.

After everything had returned to normal, Uryu had all but started ignore him, just as things had been before Ichigo became a Shinigami. The only times that the two of them had any interaction was when Uryu ran off to destroy a Hollow. And even then, it was an almost imperceptible nod in Ichigo's direction. The orange haired boy should have expected as much from Uryu. It's not that they weren't friends anymore, but the distance between them as friends was back to how it used to be.

Orihime and Chad had all but disappeared from his life as well. Orihime had gotten a part time job working at a bakery, and Chad just had just basically started to disappear after school let out. It wasn't until Ichigo actually asked that he learned of Chad's own part time job. He said that he worked in a warehouse moving boxes. Considering the boy's size and strength, it wasn't really a surprise. They had explanations for their disappearances though.

As to the Soul Society, Ichigo had learned through Orihime, who had been told by Uryu, that they were gone. It wasn't just a matter that Ichigo couldn't see them anymore. Even if he could, they weren't there at all anymore. Not even the foolish Shinigami that had replaced Rukia as the overseer of Karakura was around anymore. Urahara was still in town, but even he didn't make an appearance anymore. And Ichigo had a pretty good idea why that was the case.

It was because he didn't have his powers anymore. Even he couldn't deny that it sounded conceited in his mind, but that was the only true explanation that he could come up with. From the amount of times that he'd seen Uryu actually run off, he'd have to say that Hollows only turned up about once every few days or so, rather than two, three, or even the usual four times a day they had back when he still had his powers. Without his powers, or reiatsu at all, he wasn't the usual walking buffet that he was before, leading to fewer attacks, if any at all. And with those numbers, Uryu, Chad, and even Orihime were likely more than capable of handling any Hollows that came calling. But it wasn't just that. He knew another reason why they would leave. Soul Society didn't need to keep an eye on him anymore.

As a Shinigami, the most apt nickname for Ichigo would have likely been "The Walking Power Battery." When he had spiritual energy, Ichigo leaked it like a faucet. It spilled from him day and night, without pause. But when that was the case, all that happened was that he soaked the air with his presence. No one close to him had developed any powers, or any abilities of the like, Uryu being the obvious exception with his own training. Then Ichigo had become a Shinigami. Even if it had been through Rukia's borrowed powers, he was still a Shinigami, and then the energy that his body leaked had true side effects. Chad and Orihime's powers developed because of him. Karakura may have been a spiritually charged area before all of this, but Ichigo's powers had been the turning point for the whole city. As far as Soul Society was concerned, even in his mind, he needed to have an eye kept on him, thus Soul Society's continued presence.

But now that he couldn't affect the people around him, there was no need to stay anymore. Uryu, Chad and Orihime may have their powers, and a handful of others may have been spiritually aware, but if Ichigo had to guess, Soul society didn't have a vented interest in anyone but him.

He'd contemplated the idea, staring up at his ceiling about a month after he had lost his powers completely. And after he had thought it over for a while, he had to wonder to himself if it wasn't just the ramblings of a bored teenage mind. No matter how he tried to look at it, the idea did hold merit, and at the same time, it was the most ridiculous thing that he could have contrived. Even as Ichigo ran a hand over his face in exasperation, he had to wonder if this was what other people did when they were bored. Then again, if Ichigo could really admit it to himself, he wasn't actually bored.

Ichigo's had locked onto a specific part of the ceiling and his eyes went half-lidded. It was just as he'd thought before. He'd given up everything. His powers, and most of his friends, were pretty much gone. Before his eyes, his mind flashed to images of Renji and Rukia. Urahara and Yoruichi followed soon after, along with Toshiro and Rangiku, Ikkaku and Yumichika. Kenpachi, Byakuya, and many others followed. Ichigo might not have wanted to admit, but he wasn't just bored… He was lonely.

He wasn't sure when, but sometime during his thoughts, sleep had overcome him. He had slept the whole night through, until his father had seen fit to try and wake him the next morning with a kick to the stomach. He'd been thrown out the window rather easily, just as Ichigo was sitting up. The boy had rubbed the back of his head, his scowl already in place, not only from his father's antics, but also from a dream that he'd had.

For him, it was rather strange. Normally, Ichigo wasn't the type of person who remembered his dreams very well, but for some reason this one had been as clear as a sunny day. He'd been in the ocean, deep beneath the surface and close to the bottom, where rainbow coral and white sand filled his view. His breath came to him as if he were swimming in the air. All about him, life teamed as schools of colorful fish swam by him, some flashing silver as they swam, others with colors as bright as the rainbow. And almost as if on command, they had scattered and deserted him. He twisted and turned in the water, spotting nothing save for coral and sand. Then, with one final twist, he nearly went into cardiac arrest, his eyes having widened considerably as he spotted the massive figure that had swum toward him.

A Great White Shark. Its size was indiscernible, but if Ichigo had to guess, it had been at least five times as long as he was tall. Like a missile, it glided through the water with ease, its fins slicing the water as a blade does flesh. In his fear, Ichigo did not take the time to admire it, focusing entirely on the rows of sharp teeth. He had little doubt that those teeth would rip him asunder if he so much as twitched. He did not move, trying to remain unnoticed by the massive predator of the deep. It had been for naught.

The powerful creature had jerked in the water, its path diverting directly towards the orange haired teen. Ichigo panicked, a stream of bubbles escaping his throat as he moved, his fight or flight response kicking immediately to flight. His arms moved and his legs kicked as he tried to swim away from God's oldest killing machine. But this was a creature that lived in the water, ruled it. Even on his best day, Ichigo could not hope to outswim this sleek gray and white missile. It was proven futile when the shark rocketed forward and crossed his path, bringing his movement to a stop. He tried to keep his eyes on it as it circled him, slowing enclosing on him like a tasty fish. As it grew closer, all he could do was close his eyes and pray it ended quickly.

…But the end never came. After several minutes, Ichigo opened his eyes slowly. The shark was still there, swimming around him. When his eyes found it again, it swam back towards him. And then something completely unexpected happened. The massive creature passed within a foot of him, its movements slowing somewhat as a fin brushed against Ichigo's arm. From what Ichigo had learned of sharks in his younger years, he knew that their bodies were covered in scales called dermal denticles, basically meaning that their scales were made up of sharp, tiny teeth. Most would say that it was akin to having skin like sandpaper. But from what Ichigo felt, its skin was oddly smooth.

The massive creature circled and made another pass, brushing fully against Ichigo's body with its own and sending the strawberry into a slight spin. The boy quickly righted himself though, realizing that the shark did indeed have smooth skin. He turned his eyes back on it again, noting as it circled slower again, coming back to him and turning. A wide, white belly was exposed to him. Ichigo reached out slowly, the tips of his fingers brushing along the creature's underside. Again, he felt oddly smooth shark flesh against his own. The creature swam away from his touch once again before it came around to swim directly at him once again. Its snout aimed for the very middle of his chest, but this time, Ichigo did not panic. In fact, when the creature's body came close enough, he held his hands up, his hands making contact with its snout.

Ichigo felt himself being pushed back by the enormous creature, gliding smoothly through the water, almost leisurely. The shark didn't open its mouth or thrash to bite at his hands when he touched it. Ichigo shifted himself, hands moving him to the side where he slid along the side of the creature's body. As he did, he caught a glimpse of one of its eyes. He was fairly certain that he'd seen a trick of the light or something, or maybe it was the water. The eye wasn't black like he'd expected it to be.

It was a bright forest green. The eye contact was quickly broken as he slid back, hand grasping onto the killer's dorsal fin as he moved. In that instance, he had heard something, but he didn't know what to make of it. It was a woman's voice, a beautiful, lilting, sensual voice speaking to him when he'd made eye contact with the shark.

"You interest me, Kurosaki Ichigo."

Almost immediately after, his father had woken him from the dream. He ran a hand through his hair, standing and gathering his things for his shower. The fact that he remembered the dream so well surprised him, and even disturbed him a little. What's more, he didn't just remember it. He could still feel it. He could feel the water surrounding his skin, smell and taste the sea in his nose and mouth, and he could almost feel the massive creature under his hands. He brushed the feelings off quickly enough though and went to the shower. He didn't want to be late for school after all.

He got another surprise that day when Uryu had decided to actively speak to him at lunch, asking him if everything was back to normal, and if there was anything he should know about. It had made Ichigo raise his brow at the Quincy, wondering just what the hell he was talking about. When he voiced the question, Uryu's response was rather clipped.

"Never mind. It's nothing."

Ichigo watched him go with a bored interest before he himself headed back to class. However, he did notice that Uryu seemed to be casting him several rather long glances throughout the course of the day. Orihime and Chad were as well, when he took the time to notice. He had no idea what the hell was going on with the three of them, but dammit, he had other things to worry about. Like math class.

Orihime and Chad had approached him as well before they headed off to their respective jobs. He voiced the same question to them as he had to Uryu, only he was a little more understanding and courteous to them than he was the spirit archer. He chalked their wonderings up to mild concern over whether or not he'd adjusted to normal life again, but otherwise he didn't give it any real thought. They were his friends, but they had their own lives to worry about. Besides, it wasn't like there was anything really going on in his anyway. Okay, so he'd had the oddest, most real feeling dream that he'd ever had before, but so what. It was just a dream. Not like a dream could hurt anyone, and it was probably a one-time thing anyway, right?

Wrong. Ichigo was once again awoken by his father the next morning, and once again he found himself contemplating a dream that was still appealing to all of his senses. There hadn't been a shark though, and he hadn't been in the middle of the ocean either.

This time, he'd been in a forest. The air had smelled of springtime, and he'd felt cool dew beneath his bare feet. It was a little cool, but the sun had been shining. Goose flesh had erupted over his bare torso anyway. It had been serene…for all of a minute. The only warning that Ichigo had to jump aside was the pounding of something particularly heavy running towards his back. He slipped a little along the wet grass, but he didn't hit the ground, stabilizing himself to get a good look at this would be attacker. And once again his eyebrows shot up in surprise.

It was a deer this time. The thing slowed and turned back to him, an antlered head turned to the side as it stared at him with a fiery orange eye. Ichigo would have stopped to admire the woodland animal, had it not been acting more like a bull than a deer. In fact, just after it had gotten a good look at him, it had pawed at the ground irritably before charging back at him, its head lowering to actually gore him. Ichigo was plenty quick enough to dodge it. In fact, he allowed it to try again for several more times, only moving enough dodge but not tire himself out. Then he let it try one last time.

When the deer charged him this time, he dodged and then did something completely stupid that would have likely never actually worked in real life. Just as it passed him, Ichigo managed to grab its antlers at the base, where they met with the creature's head. Its head and neck were jerked back, throwing its body weight forward. It stumbled over its own front legs and rolled onto its back, its legs kicking at the air for a moment before they fell to the side. It would have gotten back up again, had Ichigo not made another move. As soon as it had hit the ground, he moved to pin the thing, one hand under its neck and holding down the front legs, both of his own legs locking the back ones, and his other and holding down its head.

Ichigo breathed a sigh of relief, glad that the deer was actually smaller than him. Otherwise, this probably would have never worked. It was doubtful to have worked outside of a dream either, but hey, it didn't have to. He locked a gaze onto the deer, staring into the eye he could see, surprised to see a pale blue staring back at him. The thing snorted beneath him before he heard another voice. This one had been female as well, but the tone slightly different.

"You win this time, but next time, I'll kick your ass!"

Ichigo only thought about it for a minute before he headed to the shower. The most that he could come up with on these dreams so far was that, apparently, his subconscious was female. Or maybe he needed to get a girlfriend. He had no idea what it was, but damn it, those dreams had both been odd. Why the hell was he dreaming about animals, of all things? Was his mind trying to find some way of coping with the small spark of loneliness that he was feeling at the moment?

Don't get him wrong, Keigo and Mizuiro were his friends as well, and so was Tatsuki, but he just wasn't as close to them as he had been to everyone else. Keigo just kind of hung around, and while he did deny it from time to time, Mizuiro was more Keigo's friend than Ichigo's. As for Tatsuki, they were still friends, but the two of them had grown apart a bit over the years. The warm water of the shower only seemed to help his musings. He was brought out of those musings when he felt a shiver run through him. He had no idea why, but for some reason, he'd felt like he was being watched.

After more than a week of some of the most vivid dreams of his life, Ichigo had to wonder just what it was that they were supposed to indicate. He found himself staring up at his ceiling again, all other thoughts pushed from his mind, and any possible distractions had been dealt with.

Every night he found himself having one of those oddly realistic feeling dreams. After the first two had occurred, he wasn't surprised that he'd woken up the next day, or every day since after having one of these vividly real dreams. On the third night, he'd found himself dreaming of the arid savannah. If he'd had to guess it was probably Africa. As soon as that dream had begun, he'd been pounced on, and then landed flat on his back. He had the wind knocked out of him, and had no real problems drawing it back in, despite the weight of the creature laying atop the length of his body.

The fact that he'd found himself looking up at a lioness sniffing at his face was no real surprise. It just proved his guess was right. The fact that there was no weight or pain was no surprise either, since it was a dream. He was surprised by the stunning emerald of its eyes when it stopped smelling to look at him though. They had a human quality to them that he truly couldn't place. The fact that it had gotten particularly comfortable on top of him was another surprise, and the final one came when a rather wide tongue had slipped from its maw and licked his face. It was surprisingly gentle. The voice he'd heard was simple curiosity.

"I wonder… just what did you do to gain her attention?"

He had no idea what it meant, or what the voice was talking about, but dammit if he wasn't curious.

The next night's dream actually made him surprised he hadn't been eaten. That time it'd been the rainforest. He'd woken to the smell of dampness and foliage, the ground beneath him wet along with the trunk of the large tree that he sat against. Considering where he was this time, he could only guess just what he was in store for. He didn't have to wait long, for he could hear the shifting of something in the leaves and plants next to him. When he gave that a look, he was glad that his bladder was empty.

The head of a white anaconda was level with his own, pale pink eyes staring at him as a rather long tongue flicked out and tickled at his nose. It moved slowly, wrapping around him, trapping his arms at his sides. Good lord, even by anaconda standard that thing was big. If he had to guess, the thing could have probably swallowed him twice and still have room for more. The fact that it was nearly twice as thick as his own body really made him nervous. It wouldn't have any trouble in crushing his bones, that's for sure. It finally stopped though, settling part of its weight on his shoulders and bringing its head around to look him in the eye again. And another voice sounded.

"If this is what she wants…"

Ichigo couldn't explain them, and he really wished that he could, even more so given the fact that they were recurring. Every night this week, he'd been in those dreams. There was no rhyme or reason to any of them, but he did notice something. Of the four creatures and environments that he saw within his dreams, the one that showed up the most was the shark and the ocean floor. The giant creature interacted with him like it was playing, almost as if it was getting to know him. He swam with it, touched it, finding himself fascinated beyond anything that he had before. In his dreams, it was a mystery for him, a new experience beyond anything he could imagine in the waking world. When he woke, he almost wished to jump back into his dreams.

When he was awake though, everything was beginning to feel different again. He hadn't noticed it at first, but he was starting to notice it again. It was gradual those first few days, but he quickly realized that he could feel his reiatsu again. His friend's reiatsu almost blared in his senses, and he couldn't help the grin that spread across his face every time that he looked at them. He knew that they were watching him even more than he did before, for he could feel their reiatsu fluctuating and pulsing, trying to sense what he already knew was there.

His reiatsu. His power was returning.

By the time that the next week rolled around, it was already getting harder for him to sense anyone else's energy over his own. And while before it had been a burden, now the thought made him grin. He could see it in class. All he had to do was do the spiritual equivalent of an arm flex and he could see everyone who was spiritually aware begin to sweat. He actually almost laughed when Orihime, Chad, and Uryu's eyes nearly bugged out of their heads. He could see spirits easily, and every part of him almost felt electrified. Despite all of this though, he still could not feel his Shinigami powers. Not yet.

His friends did ask him if he knew how it was happening, but even he couldn't answer them. He had no idea himself after all. He hadn't thought that his powers would come back at all, or if they did, then they were going to take as long as his Dad's powers had; upwards of about twenty years or so. That they were already on the return had him excited. However, even he had to wonder just what had brought about their abrupt return. What's more… he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being constantly watched anymore.

That first time the feeling had come to him in the shower after his first dream, he hadn't really thought anything of it. He'd thought maybe his dad was being creepy again, and was watching him with plans for another sneak attack. He wouldn't have put it past the man actually, and it wasn't as if it didn't happen every other day. This though… This had really started to irk him. He had that feeling everywhere that he went. In his home, his walks to and from school, during class, everywhere. He knew that ghosts and spirits were abound in Karakura Town, but the fact that he couldn't see or sense any of them nearby made his senses go on alert, if only out of sheer instinct. Whatever was causing the feeling really wanted to keep itself hidden, but it wouldn't be long before he found out what it was that was doing the watching.

Halfway through the second week, Ichigo finally received an answer for both what was causing those dreams of his, and what it was that was watching him. How the knowledge was relayed to him was the biggest surprise of his life though… or at least the biggest surprise that he would receive from those weird dreams of his. Given how the dreams had been going up until that point, he had expected things to remain out of the ordinary. The shark had shown up soon after he fell asleep, and they had swum together as they had before. He never expected the massive killing machine to turn on him. The last thing that Ichigo saw before snapping awake was a mouth filled with several rows of large, serrated teeth. In the real world, his eyes snapped open and he shot forward to sit up on the bed. "Holy-!" The next thing that he felt was blinding pain throughout his forehead, and he fell back to the bed, clutching at his skull.

He hadn't expected to slam into someone else's skull when he woke up either.

"Son of a bitch!" Ichigo almost didn't register the muffled voice of a girl, still worried about his forehead. "Fucker's got a skull like a piece of rock!" He picked up the sounds of someone sniffing. "Damn it, he bloodied my nose!"

"That's what you get for standing so close to him like that." This one was a girl's voice as well, but it sounded deeper, and a little huskier.

"So you're saying it's my fault!"

"No." Another girl's voice, this one much higher than the other two. "What's she's saying is that you should have had at least a little caution. After all, you had no idea how or when he was going to awaken."

"You'd think I would after watching him for the better part of two weeks!"

Okay, now Ichigo was really confused. Why the hell were three women in his bedroom? Was he still dreaming? He scratched that thought as soon as it came, since pain is pretty much non-existent in dreams. He tried to sit up again, but this attempt proved fruitless as well, mainly because something was straddling his stomach. He took his hand from his head to get a better look at whatever it was and found himself short of words.

Scratch the other thoughts too. There weren't three women in his bedroom. There were four. The three who had spoken were standing around his bed, still quietly arguing with each other, while the last one was straddling his stomach. That was the first thing that Ichigo noticed about her. The second thing was that there was a rather fantastic pair of breasts staring him in the face, their upper half and nipples concealed by a tight fitting white shirt. Although many would call him a prude, he could appreciate a good pair of breasts when he wanted to, despite the strawberry blush that usually overtook his face

He had with Yoruichi, and if he had his way, that would go with him to the grave. Otherwise, the Goddess of Flash would never let him hear the end of it.

After a moment or two, he managed to tear his eyes away so that he could look at her face. The bottom half of it was concealed by the collar of her half shirt, all the way up to her nose and high cheeks. He could just barely see a bit of bone peaking up from behind the collar. Her hair was the color of spun gold, and glowed just like it in the pale moonlight filtering through his window. It was a bit like his own, short and sticking up in some places, save for three ponytails that hung down around her head. Her eyebrows and lashes matched the color strand for strand, standing out beautifully against her milk chocolate skin.

But it was her eyes that really got to him. Like a pair of forest green ocean pools, Ichigo's own amber orbs locked with them, where he found himself lost in their depths. They gave nothing away, betrayed no emotions. And yet, every little flicker that he could see within them would likely tell him something immense about their owner. What he could see when he locked stares with her told him something when her own widened only slightly. She was surprised.

Ichigo and Halibel stared at one another for a moment while Apache, Mila Rose, and Sun-Sun bickered amongst themselves. It was only when Halibel held up her pointer finger that things got going between them. As she moved the finger from side to side, and then down in front of his nose (making him go cross-eyed to keep it in view) he noticed that the tip of the glove like covering was a little torn, and the finger itself was a little bloody. He wondered about it for a moment before Halibel broke him from his reverie.

"You can see us, can't you Kurosaki Ichigo."

The silence that settled over the three by his bed was so absolute that one could almost hear the buzzing of the molecules in the air. Before any of them could make so much as a sound though, Halibel held up a hand to keep them silent. Although Apache looked like she wanted to explode, she did manage to hold her tongue. Mila looked only somewhat anxious, and Sun-Sun watched them impassively. Halibel turned back to Ichigo, her own eyes locking with his once again.

"Kurosaki Ichigo," she started, her voice a point of authority. It did not stop his patented scowl from finding his face though. "It seems that a development beyond my original plans has surfaced." She did not miss the deepening of his scowl, or the tensing of his muscles beneath her form. He was anticipating having to retaliate against her. She leaned closer to him. "We are not here with malicious intent, of that I can assure you. If that were the case, then we would have already taken the chance to harm you. That in mind, I'm sure that you have questions. May we take a few minutes to answer them for you?"

Ichigo did not speak for several moments, but Halibel could see the tiny movement of his eyes very clearly. He was considering it. There was no doubt in his mind what they were. Even glancing at her Fraccion, their mask fragments were glaringly obvious. That in mind, there was no way that he was going to do much more than what he was now. High reiatsu or not, they had him at a disadvantage with his powers missing. The fact that they were here also put his family at risk. If he didn't go along with it, then they might hurt his sisters and father. She said that they meant no harm, but there was a chance that they could still turn hostile. That in mind…

"All right, fine. We'll talk." He kept his voice level and fairly controlled, despite the little bead of sweat running down the back of his neck. "But first, would you mind getting off of me? If we're gonna talk, I'd like to be sitting up."

A few minutes later, they were all situated comfortably. Ichigo stared at the four women in front of him quietly. He did glance at the door once or twice, wondering if his father would come bursting in at any moment. Given that there were Arrancar in the house, he figured that his dad would have been here immediately, rather than not.

"Your father does not know that we are here, Kurosaki-san," Halibel said smoothly, her arms crossed beneath her bosom. His eyes flew to her. "At the moment, even if he were standing directly in front of us, he wouldn't even be able to see us, let alone sense our presence."

"And why is that?" Ichigo's question was wary, but that was unsurprising. He could sense the truth in her words. Even now, he could just barely feel their reiatsu. Halibel merely held up her arm, indicating a little silver bracelet about her wrist.

"This bracelet. It was designed to both completely suppress our reiatsu and make us invisible to even the spiritually aware, while allowing us to remain visible to other Arrancar." She crossed her arm back under her bust again. "They were a standard piece of equipment for the members of Aizen's army, though they were mostly regarded as unnecessary."

Ichigo looked even more wary now. "You were a part of Aizen's army?"

"Yes. Forgive me for my rudeness. I have yet to introduce myself. My name is Tia Halibel, former Tres Espada." She moved to indicate the other women with her. "And these are my Fraccion, Emilou Apache, Franceska Mila-Rose, and Cyan Sun-Sun." Mila-Rose gave him a small smile and a tiny wave, Sun-Sun gave a small bow of her head, and Apache all around refused to look at him. Ichigo didn't really relax all that much, but his scowl did let up a little bit. After all, despite the fact that they were all Arrancar, they were all still women. And Ichigo's innate sense of chivalry wouldn't him be completely cold to their presence.

"You said that they would invisible to anyone but other Arrancar, right?" he asked, his voice a little less hostile than before. "I'm not an Arrancar. So why can I see you?"

"Truthfully, I do not know. It is something that I am not able to comprehend at the moment." She paused for a moment, considering something. "I do have a theory, but there is no real way to prove it at this time."

"Great. Just lovely," Ichigo sighed with resignation. He leaned back a bit, only to lean back onto someone. Someone with a rather full set of tits. He glanced back at Mila-Rose, a playful grin about her face, while her arms wrapped around his neck. He visibly blushed when she pushed herself against his back.

"Are you complaining?" she asked, somewhat surprised. "Four hot pieces of eye candy and you're the only one who gets to see us." She pressed her finger at the tip of his nose before giving it a tiny flick. "I figured a guy like you would be drooling to the point of drying up." Her grin widened a bit. "Gotta admit though, you are pretty good looking."

"Just get off of him already Mila-Rose." Eyes turned to the blue haired girl standing next to the bed. Her hands were at her hips, and an irritated sneer on her face. Ichigo was fairly certain that look was meant for him. "You keep flirting with him like that and who knows what he'll do. He might just toss you down and rape you." Righteous indignation was not a strong enough word for how Ichigo felt about that comment. He didn't get out the words he'd been planning to though before Mila cut him off.

"Let him bring it on then. Unlike you little miss tsundere, I actually like it when my partner's a little rough with me."

Both Ichigo's and Apache's cheeks colored marvelously. The latter was quicker to throw off the words though. "Hmph. I should have known. A slut like you would take any man that throws himself at her, wouldn't she?"

And Mila was up and steaming. "Oh, you did not just go there, half-pint."

"Sure did, gorilla bitch. You wanna make something of it?"

"How about I rearrange that boyish mug of yours?"

Sun-Sun cut in. "You're both acting childish."

"Stay out of this Sun-Sun!" The stereo effect was almost perfectly executed.

"All of you stop bickering." Almost if they'd been struck mute, the three girls hushed and looked rather sheepish before settling back into their places either on or around the bed. When Halibel gave an order, there was no argument. Ichigo could tell that immediately.

"They always like that?"

Halibel turned her eyes back on him. He could just barely see a trace of exasperation there. "Unfortunately, yes. Since the day that they met. Please forgive them, as I am sure that you have more questions that you wish to have addressed."

A little taken aback at the request of forgiveness, Ichigo could only scratch a cheek. "Don't worry about it. I only had one thing left that I wanted to ask anyway." His hand went down and he looked a little more serious. "Why are you here?"

Halibel had expected that question to be out of his mouth immediately. Forget wondering whether or not his Shinigami father could sense them, and forget who or what they were. She doubted that he really cared about their identities much before her introduction, and of course he knew what they were. The question of why though was an easy one to answer, especially for her. She leaned forward onto her knees, hands uncrossing from under her breasts to support her weight. Ichigo couldn't help the flush that reached his cheeks when she leaned in close to him, finding himself leaning back just a bit to keep just a little distance between them. He failed when his back hit his headboard.

She leaned forward until the two were separated by mere inches, and he found himself staring into those deep jade eyes again. He barely noticed the growl that escaped Apache's throat for the quiet solitude of Halibel's eyes. As he stared though, he noticed the true solitude in those eyes. Calm, quiet, and almost haunting, the dark orbs seemingly empty of any emotion as they stared unblinkingly back at him. Seemingly like those of a predator. Like something he knew about. Something familiar… Something like…

"You interest me, Kurosaki Ichigo."

He couldn't stop his eyes widening, nor the disbelief and shock that hit his mind like a ten pound sledge. He knew that voice. He knew those words. He'd only heard them once before, but they were unmistakable. He couldn't stop anything from escaping unbidden from his lips. "You…?"

Halibel raised a blonde brow, her head tilting minutely. "Me?"

"The shark? That was you?" Then he glanced at the other women, taking in their features a little more closely now, his mind racing. "You were the deer," he said, pointing at Apache, making her blink heterochromatic eyes. Then he did the same with Mila-Rose and Sun-Sun, their eyes giving them away. "You're the lioness, and you're the anaconda."

Mila managed a small smirk. "Got it in one, strawberry."

Ichigo ignored the remark at his name, looking back at Halibel. He was shocked, but curious. "How?"

Halibel leaned back a little, giving him just enough space to sit up straight. "Tell me Ichigo-san, do you know what occurs when spiritual beings share their energy, or have it taken by another?" At the slow shake of his head, she continued. "A connection is formed. For the briefest time, the one receiving the energy is pulled into the inner world of the one giving it. And when the experience is concluded, the receiver returns to himself, almost feeling as if he has been in a dream. However, the feeling of the world remains until the energy adjusts to the new vessel." Her eyes became a little more serious. "You have felt it from us, have you not? Perhaps it is the taste of salt from the ocean, or feeling of water pressing down on your body?"

The slight widening of his eyes was all she needed to continue. "Hollows go through this process every day, but the process is slightly different. The energy and reishi that makes up the devoured soul adjusts easily to the new body, but in the process, the mind of the devoured joins those of the devourer. The overload of memories and minds quickly drives most Hollows insane, for they cannot discern themselves from their victims." She looked at the girls for a moment before she glanced back at him. He knew those eyes. Those were the eyes of experience looking to him, the voice of experience speaking to him. "Only those with the greatest mental fortitude manage to keep it from happening to them… and even then the others still claw at the back of their minds, trying to drag them down into the dark, insane hunger of Hollow existence."

Ichigo almost had a heart attack when Halibel reached and pulled upwards on the zipper of her shirt. Again he tried to back away from her even as the gothic styled number three came into view. When the zipper finished his journey upward though, he froze and stared at the site before him. He didn't doubt that she had mask fragments, but this was beyond what he had expected, given what he saw of the other three and had seen of Grimmjow and others. From just below her eyes, extending down and around her face and neck, and finally extending down to cover her nipples, she was covered in a layer of bone, fitting together like intricate pieces of armor. Across her mouth and cheeks, two rows of rather sharp looking teeth interlocked with one another like razor edged puzzle pieces. It was more like a true mask than fragments.

"To become Arrancar," she said, indicating the bone appendages, "is the only way to truly become free of that danger. As we are, regression is impossible." She narrowed her eyes more. "To become like our enemies is the only true solution."

To become like their enemies… Ichigo did not need to ask what she meant. Though he did ask a question. "Then the animals I saw…those were your Zanpakutou?"

"Yes, but not as you would call them," Halibel stated. "Unlike you Ichigo, our weapons are not separate entities with their own minds. They are truly pieces of us; our powers sealed in solid form, with connections to our very consciousness. Those creatures were very representations of us."

Ichigo remained silent for several moments, looking between each of the women in turn. The explanation was easy enough for him to understand, but that wasn't the thought flying through his head. The fact that the dreams had been going on every night for the better part of two weeks was. They'd been here every night for the entirety of that time, giving him their spiritual energy. It was because of them that his own reiatsu was on the return.

"Why?" The question came before he could even think about it. He looked back at Halibel. This was obviously her decision. He doubted that the other three would even consider it. After all, powers or not, he was still a former enemy. "Why would you give your energy to me, when you know that it will eventually bring my powers back to me?"

In asking the question, he hadn't actually been expecting any kind of response. At least, he hadn't been expecting anything that wasn't outrageously ridiculous, or easily explained. The little shuffle and growl that came from Apache he did expect. The cocked eyebrow he got from Sun-Sun he did expect. Even the embarrassed little smirk that he got from Mila-Rose had been expected for him. What he had not expected to see, in any way at all, came from the look that Halibel had given him. In her eyes, she had given nothing away in the entirety of the conversation. They had been empty. However, what he had seen then truly confused him. He wasn't sure what he'd been seeing, be he could have almost sworn that she was looking at him with…admiration.

"Tell me Ichigo-san. Do you know of the old saying 'Never look a gift horse in the mouth'?" At his confused reply of the affirmative, she asked, "Then why would you with this one?"

"Because I can't see how the ones helping me would benefit from the recovery of a former enemy." He scratched the back of his head, glancing away from Halibel. There may have been a bony covering, but the fact that her upper body was entirely on display was still enough to draw his eyes. "I mean, I don't have anything against you personally or anything, but I figured that one less Shinigami out of the way would at least give you better chances of survival.

There was a moment of silence, save for Apache's grumble of 'Damn right it would,' but it ended quickly when Halibel leaned closer to him, lightly pressing the gloved finger with the torn tip to his lips. The end of it was glowing a light yellow. "Then consider this a thank you from us, for defeating Aizen." Almost immediately with the copper tang of her blood, he could taste sea water and feel it on his skin. He felt warmth sliding down his throat, but he wasn't swallowing anything. He felt himself lulling back to slumber rather quickly. He would have fallen forward had Halibel not moved to support him against herself. Just as he was about to completely fall to sleep, he heard Halibel whisper in his ear.

"To one who would give up what you did, how could I not…"

I know you guys want more Panther King, but I do hope that the want for more of that didn't get in your way of enjoying this. That in mind, I do check my email for reviews and messages often, so I do get those requests for updates. However, I work at my own pace guys, and that's not going to change anytime soon. Real life and work doesn't help either. Like I said earlier guys, just please bear with me.

That said, I'll catch you all later. Bed beckons me, and I gotta get to work in the morning. See you Space Cowboys! Bye for now! SnK.

P.S. To my familiars, since I know you're here somewhere, I do hope you all enjoyed this. Fifth, I'll get back to you on that post you made to me soon. Later gentlemen.