The Protector's Temptation
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.
"Kido/Zanpakuto Attacks/Quincy Techniques"
Nine months. Nine months since the end of the Winter War. Nine months since he had defeated the traitor Sosuke Aizen. Nine months since he had sacrificed his powers, his purpose. Nine months of hell in his opinion. Walking home from school, he drew his jacket around him tighter as the rain started to pour down on him. It just had to be raining today, this one day out of all the others, July 15th. Seventeen years old and honestly, what was so great about today?
Sure his father hadn't attacked him since he lost his powers. Sure his sisters were glad that he was safe and relieved that he would no longer carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. His friends were also glad to have him back, feeling that the pressure of being the 'Saviour of the Spiritual World'; was a burden a teenager like him shouldn't have to bear. Everyone was glad, but him.
He tried to ignore when Uryu, Chad or Orihime would tense up because of a hollow being near them. He tried to brush it off when they made some excuse to hurry off and cleanse it. He tried to ignore the ache in his heart when they might sometimes come back with a scratch or bruise. He tried to do a lot of things that he just couldn't do.
Looking up at the area in front of him, he could see the clinic drawing nearer. Despite the fact that they had tried to keep it a surprise for him, he had noticed the party decorations and invitations they had been making and sending out over the week. He hoped that he could at least keep a friendly mask on while they were all here and watching him. Sighing to himself, he twisted the door knob and entered calling out, "I'm home."
"SURPRISE!" they all yelled out, watching as he faked a surprised expression at seeing them all there. Looking around the room, he could make out his father and sisters, Orihime, Chad, Uryu, Keigo, Tatsuki and Mizuiro. Smiling slightly, his mind inwardly slumped at the fact that none of the soul reapers he knew were here.
"Thanks guys," he said with a half-smile, walking in as his sisters hugged him and several people either clapped him on the back or punched him playfully. No prizes for guessing who did what.
"I made you a cake Onii-chan!" Yuzu said cheerfully, dragging him by his arm and forcing him into the seat at the head of the table, where a large double layered chocolate cake with seventeen candles, whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, waited for him.
"It looks great Yuzu," he said, seeing that she wanted his opinion on it and smiled once again, as he reached out to ruffle her hair. Hearing them start to sing, he tuned it out since his father and Keigo's off-key singing, was really making his ears bleed so to speak. Once he could see that they had stopped singing, he took a deep breath and blew out his candles in one fell swoop. Cheers abounded in the room as everyone started clapping, their smiles stretching across their faces. Reaching for the knife, he paused while Yuzu and Orihime hopped up and down in excitement so they could take a photo and sliced into the chocolate slab.
Slicing pieces for everyone, they passed the plates around and the conversation dropped into a soft murmur as they all savoured Yuzu's creation. The peaceful atmosphere was disrupted though, when Uryu's cell phone went off, drawing everyone's attention to him.
"Hello?" he answered tentatively, his expression darkening as whoever was on the phone replied. "Can't it wait Urahara?" he shot back, his eyes widening at whatever the eccentric shopkeeper wanted. "Of course I haven't!" he shouted suddenly, a hint of anger entering his tone. "Fine we'll deal with it," he grumbled and hung up, sharing a look with Chad and Orihime. "Sorry Kurosaki, but something's come up and we need to leave."
Seeing the saddened looks on everyone's face, he surprised them all by smiling at them. "That's okay Ishida; just make sure you guys stay safe okay. All of you," he added looking at each of them. Nodding they all thanked Yuzu quickly and left, heading out into the pouring rain again.
"GAME TIME!" Isshin yelled, jumping up and down as he tried to bring back the light-hearted atmosphere.
"Shut up old man!" Karin yelled, elbowing him in the gut. "What kind of seventeen year old do you know that still plays those childish games," she said, pointing to where he had a piñata and 'Pin the tail on the Donkey' all lined up. "Let them decide what they want to do."
Chuckling, Ichigo and the others sprawled themselves out on the couches and floor in the lounge, starting up his PS3 as they did so. Seeing that Soul Calibur 5 was already in, they began pummelling each other into oblivion, with Ichigo and Tatsuki dominating everyone else, while Keigo bawled his eyes out at them being mean and always winning. After a while they switched to Gran Turismo 5 and proved that no matter what game they played, Keigo would still be the loser.
"Aww we're all out of drinks," Yuzu said sadly as she looked in the fridge, making Ichigo's ears prick up at her distress.
"I'll go out and get us some more Yuzu," he said, standing to his feet and grabbing his jacket and wallet.
"But Onii-chan it's your birthday," she whined, making him smirk at her.
"Relax Yuzu, it'll only take me a few minutes anyway, plus those guys back there could do with some practice before I get back," he said with a grin.
"I HEARD THAT!" Tatsuki and Keigo yelled back at him, while Mizuiro chuckled.
Waving at them one last time, he headed out into the pouring rain once again, armed with an umbrella this time. The store was only ten minutes away and once he picked up a few soft drinks, he started to make his way back home. Unknown to him though, several shadows had grown interested in him and had begun to stalk him. Drool dripped from their jaws, as they closed in on him. When one of them knocked over a trash can in its pursuit, he paused and looked back. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary except for a knocked over bin, Ichigo couldn't quite help but feel that today just really wasn't his day.
Back at the Kurosaki household, Isshin stiffened as he felt several hollows approaching his son. Knowing the boy was powerless, he found himself hurtling towards the door, fumbling for the Soul Candy he kept in his pocket, as he ran.
'Please not him, he's been through enough as it is,' he thought, agony flowing through his veins as he ran.
A sudden whoosh and Ichigo grunted in pain as he was knocked back into an alley, spots flashing in front of his eyes as his head connected with cold, hard, unforgiving stone. Staring up at his unseen foe, he grimaced as he could just barely see the silhouette of the hollows, the rain falling down over their heads, shoulders and backs.
'Figures that a hollow would get me on my birthday,' he thought as he tried to stand, finding that all he could do was lean heavily against the wall behind him. Staring back at his attackers, he could just make out that they were now fighting over who got to devour him. 'Anytime you're ready now Ishida,' he thought. 'Hell, I'll even be glad if it's old Hat-and-Clogs.'
At the Urahara shop, Kisuke was monitoring the almost constant inflow of hollows, sending a message to Chad, Uryu or Orihime when necessary, while Yoruichi tried to contact Soul Society for aid. Both former Captains felt their blood run cold though, when what little reiatsu Ichigo had, started to fade slowly.
"Ichigo!" Yoruichi yelled, dashing off in the direction of where she felt the fading signature, Kisuke hot on her heels.
Seeing a break in how the rain fell, Ichigo could just make out a hollow raising its arm to cleave him in two.
'Here's to hoping that it's a soul reaper that kills this thing and not Ishida,' Ichigo thought. 'Funny…there are no last minute flashes of my life before my eyes. No bitter wishes about lost opportunities. Nothing…'
As he closed his eyes in preparation for the blow that would end him, he heard the patter of rain fade away and felt his body fall back into an abyss. Opening his eyes, he found himself opening them to a strangely familiar sight. Looking around, he found himself in the underwater version of Karakura Town, the place he remembered as his inner world.
"You know I've been wishing almost every day and night to see this place again for over nine months," he grumbled, "and now that I'm about to die, I get to see it again."
"Strange…since this place is all I've been able to see these last nine months," an unknown female voice said behind him, startling him as he spun to face it. Standing before him, he was shocked to see Tatsuki walking towards him, clad in her typical summer uniform.
"Tatsuki?" Ichigo asked in shock, turning around to face her fully. The Tatsuki before him only sighed and looked at him in exasperation.
"I am not Tatsuki, Ichigo Kurosaki," the Tatsuki-doppelganger said as she approached him. "We have met before, or rather I have crossed with your blade once before. Tell me, where is Zangetsu? I've been searching for him ever since I woke up here, but I have not been able to find him."
His face gained a pained expression as he remembered Tensa Zangetsu fading away into the depths of his soul, his face in tears as he gave Ichigo the knowledge to face Aizen. Supressing his sorrow, he turned to the doppelganger, surprised to see Orihime in her place now.
"Who are you?" he asked, his mind reeling.
"I guess I can understand why you haven't figured it out yet since we have never been introduced before," the shape-shifter said, changing form once again as she took on Yuzu's appearance and curtsied. "You might remember me as Kyoka Suigetsu, a pleasure to meet you at last."
Out of all the things that she could've possibly said to him, this was the most earth-shattering, mind-blowing thing she could've uttered. Aizen's zanpakuto was in his inner world…speaking to him.
"H-How?" he stuttered, his hands shaking as he looked down at the image of his sister.
"I don't know really," she said with a shrug of her shoulders and walked past him to stand at the edge of the building. His protective instincts took hold and he instantly grabbed her arm and pulled her back to him. Seeing her look at his hand though, he remembered who she was and quickly let go. "All I can remember is feeling like my entire being was being ripped apart and floating in an empty space. In my desperation for something, anything, I awoke and found myself here. A place I recognised as your inner world once you woke up yourself."
"Torn apart?" he repeated, his mind flashing back to when he fought Aizen. "Wait you mean that the Hogyoku tried to destroy you?"
"I'm guessing so," she said shifting to look like Rukia. "Like I said, I found myself in unimaginable pain and then reached out for something to anchor me. Are you going to tell me what happened to Zangetsu though? I feel like I'm intruding here at the moment."
"Zangetsu…" he answered, his voice breaking with each word, "I don't know where Zangetsu is." This seemed to surprise her, evidenced by the fact that her eyes widened and she acquired a sad look on her face.
"My apologies then," she said, her head bowed. "Trust me when I say I know what it's like to feel like you've had a piece of your soul torn away."
"Sorry, but do you have a permanent form?" he asked as she shifted once again, resembling Yoruichi now.
"Oh this? Sorry but I do find myself changing to whatever I've seen before," she said, tossing her purple hair back similar to how Yoruichi would. "It's that part of me that loves being in someone else's skin, figuratively speaking of course."
Sighing at her antics, he walked over to the side of the building and sat down, his legs swinging below him as he looked out over the city. Seeing her join him, he took a deep breath and brought up what would probably be the worst news possible at the moment.
"You know we're both about to die right?" he asked looking at her, seeing her eyes stare at him curiously. "There's a bunch of hollow about to eat me and well…I don't think anyone's going to get here in time"
"Perhaps not," she said with a nod of her head, resting it on her knee as she sat down. "But what would you do if you could fight back?" Not hearing an answer from him, she turned to look at him, seeing his eyes narrowed and a grimace on his face as he looked at her.
"If I could fight back I would," he began, looking out over the town once again. "But how am I supposed to do that without any soul reaper powers of my own."
"I could give them to you…" she whispered softly, causing his head to snap around to face her.
"Why?" he asked, this whole event sounding more and more like a twisted dream to him by the second.
"I just…I just don't want to die," she said hugging her arms around her tighter, her frightened form making it all the more worrying for him. "Would you rather die than be given my power?" she asked, fixing him with a curious look.
"I…" he cut himself off before he said something he would regret. Looking back at how his death would affect his friends and family, he couldn't in good conscience just give up when he was given a chance like this. Thinking back on his encounter with Muramasa, he couldn't hold her to blame for what Aizen did, she was just another tool to that madman anyway. Moreover, this was giving him the chance to protect everyone again, to regain that sense of purpose in his life. What kind of fool would he be, if he declined it? "I would seize the chance to fight again without a second thought," he answered her, a smile on his face.
Smiling back at him, she stood and gestured for him to do the same.
"This is the point of no return, for both of us," she said, a devilish grin on her face similar to Yoruichi's own. "We do this, we're stuck together with one another no matter what…can you accept that?"
"Quit your jabbering and tell me what to do," he grumbled at her.
"It's simple," she said holding out her hand to her side, her sealed state forming in it and proceeding to offer it to him. "Take it. Take it knowing that our separate souls meld together with one another. That we abandon all hope at ever being reunited with our old partner. That we stay together, no matter what fate deigns to throw at us."
"That simple huh?" he asked sarcastically, seeing her nod. All things considered though, it was hardly a simple choice. If he accepted her now, he was truly abandoning any chance he had to be with Zangetsu ever again. To his mind though, he was going to die if he didn't make this choice. Remembering the creed that Zangetsu had drilled into him, Ichigo reached out and gripped the hilt of the katana, feeling a sudden warmth rush through him, while a shockwave pulsed from him, shattering the windows in his inner world and churning the waters around them.
Arriving at the scene, Isshin panted heavily as he stared down the narrow alleyway, his heart heavy at what he might find. From the opposite side of the alley, Yoruichi and Kisuke arrived, their eyes widening at the scene before them.
Several hollows of varying sizes were currently fighting amongst each other, while Ichigo's body lay slumped against a wall on the far side. A lone hollow had broken off from the group and had now raised its arm to impale Ichigo through his heart.
"Ichigo!" Isshin screamed, just as Yoruichi and Kisuke charged forward. At that moment though, a wave of reiatsu crashed down on the three exiles and the hollows, causing them all to freeze in place. The hollow, that had been about to kill him, now fell back, its body cleaved in two from head to groin. Staring at his son, Isshin could see his body enveloped in light purple reiatsu, pulses of it running across his skin and turning him into a shining beacon in the dark alley. In his hand was a standard sized katana, with a green hilt, inlaid with gold diamonds and a hexagonal guard. His limbs shaking at the blade in his son's hands, Isshin watched as Ichigo turned to face the remaining hollows.
"You know this wasn't a really nice surprise for my birthday," he said with a grin. "But this gift makes up for it all. Would you like me to show you what it does?"
Seeing their meal turn into a perceived threat, the remaining hollows banded together, charging at the newly returned soul reaper.
"Shatter, Kyoka Suigetsu!" Ichigo called out, scaring his mentors and father far more than they had ever been before. To their amazed eyes, the horde of charging hollows burst into a shower of gore, their limbs severed with ease and their blood painting the walls around them. Amidst all the carnage, Ichigo slashed his blade to the side, ridding it off all the blood dripping from it and slipped it into its sheath in his left hand.
"Ichi…go…" Isshin stuttered walking towards his son, Kisuke and Yoruichi following suit.
"Ah so you finally made it here Dad," Ichigo said with a smirk. "And I see you're here too Urahara-san, Yoruichi-san. You know you're kinda late to do anything," he joked, gesturing to the dissolving corpses around him.
"Ichigo…what are you doing with that?" Yoruichi asked him, pointing to his left hand which held the sheath of Kyoka Suigetsu.
"What does it look like I'm doing Yoruichi-san," Ichigo said with a grin. "I'm protecting myself and others again."
"But Ichigo," Kisuke began, his tone completely serious as he looked at the boy. "Do you even remember who that…'thing' belongs to?"
At the shopkeeper's words, Ichigo lost his smirk, his eyes narrowing in anger as he gritted his teeth.
"Her name is Kyoka Suigetsu…" he spat venomously at Kisuke, "…and she's mine!"
End of revision. Let me know what you thought please.