I'M BAAAAAAAAAAAACK!

DID YOU MISS ME?

yeah, sorry but i've been really busy since school started. i barely cranked this chapter out because i've been focused on so much other stuff.

HERE'S A NOTE: THE MORE REVIEWS I GET, THE MORE I PROMISE TO WORK ON THIS. because i spent a lot of time getting internet distracted. SOUND FAIR? all you guys need to do, is flood me with revies! (i'm greedy, what can i say?) also, thank you to that one reviewer who's name i don't have write now that finally gave me a teensy bit of criticism. that's the kind of things that i look for, ways to improve.

though, i apologize because i received that after i wrote the majority of this chapter but had not yet finished it, so i didn't really make any changes. i just couldn't. i was perezosa. (lazy. sorry, i'm in the mood for gratuitous spanish)

well, here it is. hope you like it, so ENJOY!

Chapter 23: Inked

Slowly, Ichigo meandered his way over to Urahara's shop, the list in his hand. Urahara had requested a list of how he was going to rank his squad, since they didn't have as many members as the others. He also requested an order of succession, in case something happened to both Ichigo and Eris, and Ichigo did not wish to have his third seat take over, for whatever reason. Eris knew what he was doing, but had decided to hang back, in favor of a short chat with Rikka, who had finally stopped bowing whenever he saw Ichigo. They were still trying to break him of Kurosaki-sama. Ichigo slipped inside the shop, and knocked lightly on the screen to the room down the hall.

"Come in." Urahara said cheerfully, and Ichigo slipped in, to see Yoruichi and Urahara waiting for him. "Good evening, Ichigo-kun! Eris did not accompany you?" He inquired. Ichigo shook his head.

"Nah, Rikka showed up, asking about something and Eris said she would take care of it. She wanted to talk to him anyways."

"You want Rikka in your squad, don't you?" Ichigo nodded.

"But only if he finds that he likes it in the human world." He admitted. "Anyways, I have the list." Urahara nodded, and Ichigo slid the list onto the table. Urahara scanned it quickly. The list was numbered like this;

1. Ichigo

2. Eris

3. Shinji

4. Ishida

5. Neliel

6. Urahara

7. Yoruichi

8. Gin

9. Isshin

10. Kukaku

11. Kensei

12. Lisa

13. Hiyori

14. Akira

15. Kazuma

16. Ryuuken

18. Ashido

19. Chad

20. Grimmjow

21. Mashiro

22. Love

23. Rose

24. Hachi

25. Inoue

26. Ganju

Yoruichi crossed her arms and pouted.

"Why am I below Kisuke?" she whined.

"Taicho-kun did not rank these people solely on their power-level, right?" Urahara asked. Ichigo nodded.

"When they're all captain class, it's pointless trying to judge the nuances between two people. Most likely, they're on the exact same level. So I judged on different reasons. That's why even the older, more experienced people are ranked lower." He explained. Urahara looked down on the paper.

"What is this, a healing and defense unit?" The bucket-hatted man wondered, looking down at the paper again. "1. Tessai, 2. Hachi, 3. Inoue 4. Yuzu, 5. Ururu, 6. Karin, 7. Jinta." Ichigo nodded again.

"Yuzu and Karin are very close to accessing their own brand of abilities. In fact, Karin has already utilized her reiatsu to damage hollows. Yuzu isn't as close, but she's a good nurse and since her sight is developing, and will begin to develop even faster, she'll want to help too. These people can stay back and heal, and most likely defend your shop if needed. Because I know Ururu can probably punch a hole in a Menos Grande." Urahara smiled to himself, and nodded.

"This is actually a very good idea, Taicho-kun. Do you have an order of succession though, one that varies from this?" Ichigo nodded and handed him another, one that said;

-Eris

-Shinji

3. Shinji-Nel or Ishida

4. Gin-Nel or Ishida

- Nel or Ishida

6. Yoruichi- Nel or Ishida

7. Kensei- Nel or Ishida

.

9. Ishida

10. Lisa

-Akira, Kazuma, or Hiyori

12. Isshin

"I decided to choose some lieutenants for some people. They're the ones who I think would temper them out and make them better leaders. The only reason I put them specifically is because I think that they would be tempted to choose someone else, and I don't want that. But I trust Nel, Ishida, Lisa, and my dad's judgement enough, or at least while making a serious decision for my dad." Ichigo explained. Urahara frowned at how long his order of succession was.

"You're expecting something bad to happen soon."

"I'm expecting a situation where we may not all be able to get in touch with each other. If we're separated into groups, we have a next in line and second-in-command to take over and correctly lead everyone else." Urahara and Yoruichi nodded. They could understand that.

"You put Grimmjow in line." Yoruichi noticed. Ichigo nodded.

"Yeah. Regardless of everything else, I think that he has the potential to lead. He wasn't the 6th Espada for nothing. And from meeting the Privaron Espada, and the order of Espada, it's obvious that Aizen didn't rank them solely on power level. Otherwise, Ulquoirra would have been the Primero Espada." Urahara inclined his head.

"I see your thinking, Taicho-kun. You really do believe in Ishida much more than you let on, don't you?" Ichigo nodded. "Well, thank you for this Taicho-kun, and unless you have something else you need from us, we don't have anything we need from you." Ichigo stood up.

"Bye guys. But before I leave, I don't care if you let people see the first two lists, but I'd prefer if you kept the last one safe." Urahara nodded.

"Good night, Taicho-kun." He tipped his hat.

"Bye Ichi!" Yoruichi chirped. He snorted and rolled his eyes, but made his way back to his house. He jumped up through the window, hoping no one would see, since he was in his human body, and found Eris and Rikka sitting on his bed, legs folded. Ichigo slipped in through the window, and tilted his head.

"What's up?" He wondered at the solemn looks on their faces. Rikka's head immediately jerked up, the frightened look of a rabbit on his face. He always seemed to tremble in Ichigo's presence, like he could sense something about him that others could not. Ichigo had a feeling that the young boy was demonically sensitive, and could feel his nature as a demon. Being demonically sensitive was INCREDIBLY rare. Not impossible, not the results of some weird heritage, but the ability came with a certain personality. Perhaps he would reveal his nature to him...once he managed to kick Yamamoto's ass and get the kid on his squad.

"Uh...er..." Rikka tried to speak, but the words seemed to be dying in his throat. Eris whacked the poor boy on the back of the head, nearly knocking him off the bed and turned to Ichigo.

"He was wondering if we could train him." Rikka shot back up from the floor, eyes widened.

"No, no, no Kurosaki-sama! I would never be so forward as to ask for training from you...perhaps another member that isn't as busy?" Ichigo snorted.

"Busy? Hell, none of us are really that busy. At least everyone else has to train like hell and I'm probably the only one who doesn't need to. Even Eris could improve a little."

"WHAT DID YOU SAY, STRAWBERRY?" Ichigo nimbly dodged a sharp kick. Rikka's eyes widened at the treatment of the captain from his lieutenant.

"Crazy bitch." THWACK! "Ow..."

"Sh-shiba-fukutaicho are you sure you should be doing that?" Rikka stuttered. "I mean, he is in his human form and not as resilient to attacks as..." He trailed off. Eris shrugged.

"Nah, he'll be fine."

"Thank you for your confidence." Ichigo groaned, picking himself off the floor. Eris shot him a cheerful smile. Ichigo kneeled next to the bed lazily, his head set on his folded arms. "So, when can you start, Rikka?" Rikka flushed a little.

"Um, anytime, killing hollows isn't really that hard of a job, not with so many spiritually aware people often taking them out as warm-ups. Though since it is getting late and I'm sure you guys will be busy tomorrow I can wait, it's completely fine Kurosaki-taicho..."

"So we'll start afterschool." Ichigo said enthusiastically. Rikka looked alarmed, but managed to nod. "You know where Urahara Shouten is, right?" Rikka nodded again. "Just meet me there after my school ends. In fact, if you went there a little early, you could always get some training from Urahara, Tessai, and maybe Yoruichi. As long as you're polite about it, I'm sure they wouldn't mind helping. Urahara can help you out with Zanjutsu, Tessai will help you with kido and Yoruichi can help you with hoho and hakuda, but I'll show you how to train your Shikai, and how to combine all of those techniques. Sound fair?" Rikka gave a small smile.

"I would really like that, Kurosaki-taicho."

"So, kid, how good are you?" Eris asked. Rikka took a moment to think.

"My kido is good enough. I can go up to 33 for both, but I have difficulty with higher spells, naturally." Rikka admitted. "I'm pretty fast, and my Zanjutsu is good too, I believe, enough to last a few minutes in a spar with Kyoraku-taicho, though I'm sure I can improve and employ more hoho in my spars. But I don't know much beyond the basics of hakuda, and have never used a combination of hakuda and Shunpo." Rikka said this perfectly evenly, and Ichigo appreciated that he had finally met a Shinigami who would admit their own shortcomings outright. He laughed inwardly, reminded of all the times he'd had an incredibly low-powered Shinigami brag about their "skills". Ichigo considered this.

"Well, sounds like you have a lot of potential. What about your reiatsu level?" Rikka blushed a little.

"Low-taicho at its highest point." He admitted. Ichigo got a Zaraki-style grin, one that sent shivers down both Eris and Rikka's backs. It was hollow-reminiscent.

"Excellent."

XXXX

Rikka collapsed against a rock, his muscles aching, and a light sheen of blood covering his body, making him sticky in many places. He took several deep breaths, and Ichigo frowned, standing in front of Rikka in a way that he cast a shadow over him. He shouldered his cleaver lazily. It had really only been a quick spar. He had even forced Zangetsu into a limited form. It was like his sealed form in the sense that it didn't emit reiatsu the same way, nor was able to stand against a captain. It just would have been overkill to break out his Shikai. Besides, this had just been to gauge Rikka's stamina.

"You tired already?" Ichigo inquired. Rikka nodded half-heartedly. Ichigo frowned deeper. "Your stamina is lacking. That's probably why you passed out against the Menos. Stamina with reiatsu will come over time, and it's best to learn through experience. However," Ichigo gave him a crazy grin and Rikka shivered. "Your physical stamina has to be improved immediately. Also, the better you get with your physical stamina, your stamina with reiatsu will improve too. So do you know what you get to do?!" He said cheerfully. Rikka suppressed a groan.

Please nothing too hard, please nothing too hard...

"Five hundred push ups! Begin!"

NOOOOO!

XXXX

After a long day, about one thousand push ups, another thousand sit ups, and one hundred and three laps around Karakura, Rikka collapsed on the floor of the training ground again, sore beyond belief. Ichigo stood over him, grinning like a lunatic. Rikka hadn't seen Ichigo do the push ups or sit ups, because while Rikka was doing them, Ichigo had been too busy doing crazy shit putting his feet on his back, or weighing him down with enough reiatsu to make Rikka feel like a truck was sitting on him. Thankfully, Ichigo had split up the push ups, sit ups, and laps over the day. Though the one exercise Ichigo did participate in was the running, and from what Rikka had seen, he could do one hundred and three laps straight, only breaking a light sheen of sweat as he did, not even panting. Rikka was sure that his new sensei could do much more than Rikka had done today, and knew that it was a miracle he hadn't forced more on him. Suddenly, Ichigo spoke.

"You're lucky that we just have to start building you up; once I think you're in decent enough shape, you're going to have to do over fifteen thousand push ups straight." Rikka sat straight up, jaw dropping.

"W-why?!" He cried out. Ichigo shrugged.

"Why not? I can." Rikka groaned, falling backwards.

"But you're insanely powerful!"

"And how do you think I got that way?"

"Experience." Rikka said. Ichigo nodded.

"People always learn things better when they have to figure it out themselves. So that's how this is going to work. But first, if you want to last two seconds with a Shikai like yours, you need stamina. A one-hit kill-all kind of attack won't work every time, and eventually you're gonna come up against something nasty enough to counter for a long, long time. And if you can't keep fighting even when you're bone tired, you'll die. Simple as that." Rikka winced. Then, as the voice of his zanpakuto echoed in his head, he sat up, and looked at his sensei evenly.

"What are we going to do now, Kurosaki-sensei?" Ichigo grinned.

"Good. I like your attitude. But thankfully, you're finished for today. I recommend some rest and some quality time with your zanpakuto. Don't worry about hollows; I put you through hell today, take a break. Then meet me here tomorrow and we'll start again." Rikka nodded, and slowly got to his feet. He was still out of breath and exhausted, but determined not to show it. He bowed.

"Thank you Kurosaki-sensei." Rikka said. Ichigo smiled as his new student walked away. He couldn't help but whistle as he walked in the other direction, pulling out his own zanpakuto for a few new technique practices. This was going to be fun...

XXXX

Things went like this for a while, and Ichigo slowly changed the training style over the course of a few weeks. For example, after he felt Rikka had built enough stamina, he started to make him do reiatsu releasing exercises, and began to make him learn hakuda. Slowly, he progressed to hoho, then hoho and hakuda. Eventually, Ichigo started to make him spar, rotating opponents, himself being the rarest one. Also, Ichigo made Rikka visit his inner world every night and keep a strong relationship with his zanpakuto. Naturally, Rikka was pretty much dying, but he was so determined to stay true to his training that he didn't even bat an eyelash upon the declaration that Ichigo wanted him to do fifteen thousand push ups. Naturally, Ichigo was just kidding, he hadn't forced him to get that far yet, but Ichigo was impressed with the boy's resolve. This is what it must have felt like training me, though I swore a lot more. Ichigo observed. After Rikka had succesfully drawn the spar against Urahara to a close (didn't win, but no one expected that), Ichigo walked over and clapped the boy on the back. Rikka jumped, but let out a relieved breath upon seeing his sensei. Ichigo grinned at the boy.

"Good job, Rikka. You're doing better than I was, when I first began to spar against Urahara." Ichigo decided not to inform him of the first one, the one where he nearly took Urahara's arm off. But that one just wasn't comparable to anything else. Rikka's eyes lit up and he smiled happily up at his new teacher. Ichigo couldn't help but smile back.

XXXX

"Yo, Ichigo!" Renji said, one lunch.

"Yeah?" Ichigo asked.

"Me and a bunch of the boys are going to go get a tattoo, for the whole Aizen fiasco. You know, a reminder. You wanna come?" Keigo spit taked, and Mizuiro did essentially the same thing, but without spraying everyone. Tatsuki's eyes were the size of dinner plates and a few girls fainted dead.

"WHAT?" Several people yelled. Ichigo gave Renji a shit-eating grin.

"Sure. I've been thinking about it for a while now."

"WHAT?!"

"Ichigo, you can't be serious." Tatsuki exhaled. Ichigo nodded.

"I am. There are a few that I've really been considering."

"What exactly consists of "the boys"?" Rukia asked coldly. Renji shrugged.

"Me, Ikkaku, Yumichika, Grimmjow, Gin, Ganju, Hisagi, Kira, Iba, and Shinji said he was comin' too. Actually, I heard Kenpachi wants one too. Chad, you wanna come?" Renji asked. Chad took a moment to consider, before saying in a quiet voice.

"Alright."

"What about me?" Ishida snapped.

"He thinks you'll wimp out when they start drillin' the holes." Ichigo admitted. Ishida looked horrified. Suddenly, the Vizard glanced over at Toshiro. "Hey, Toshiro, you're probably gonna turn me down, but why don't you come along too? If you don't want a tattoo, you can always get something else, like, I don't know, a sheath or something else that reminds you of what happened." Toshiro paused to consider, feeling kind of glad that he was being asked.

"I'll think about it."

"Hey, I think Kyoraku would be thrilled to come, and who wants to rope Hanatarou into tagging along?" Renji suddenly said. Ichigo grinned.

"Little bastard should definitely get one." Suddenly, Eris piped up, wrapping her arms around Ichigo.

"Well, you better come back with a badass tattoo or don't come back at all." She threatened, before kissing him on the neck. He snorted.

"Ichigo! Don't give in!" Rukia cried out.

"I can't believe you actually want to stain your body like that." Ishida said distastefully.

"Ichigo, maybe this isn't the best idea." Tatsuki said tentatively. Ichigo shrugged.

"Well, I'm going. Besides, I can't wait to hear Yumichika let out that girly scream of his. I'm bringing something to record him with." Renji laughed out loud and they slapped their hands together in a high-five. "When are we going?"

"Today."

"Today?" Rukia asked, horrified. Ichigo grinned.

"Sounds good to me. Eris, you don't mind taking care of Rikka's training for today, do you?"

"Not at all."

"I'll leave instructions, but other than that, do what you want with him." Eris grinned.

"Excellent."

"Ichigo, I've got a formal request from everyone though." Renji suddenly said. Ichigo glanced at his tattooed friend, who was smirking, eyes dancing with mirth. Ichigo motioned for him to get on with it. "We don't want just any tattoo. We're planning on at least getting one tattoo that's the same, so we'll know what it means, but we want you to draw the symbol." Ichigo raised an eyebrow.

"Really?" Renji shrugged.

"There's no one better. Right, Chado?" Chad nodded.

"I want you to make the symbol." Chad agreed.

"Can you try one right now?" Renji asked desperately.

"I don't have any paper or a pencil." Ichigo said, not exactly wanting to show his skills in front of all these people. However, they were now all looking at him with great interest. Great...Renji produced a pad and paper out of seemingly thin air. He handed it to him cheerfully.

"Sketch away." Ichigo sighed, but reflecting back on the Winter War, he decided exactly what he wanted. When he slid the drawing forward, several people gasped. It was a snowflake, but it was splattered with red in some places, even some dripping off. It was a bloody snowflake, and the ends of it, the point, were sharpened, like spears or swords, and looked deadly. Ichigo chewed on his bottom lip absent mindedly, nervous about showing people his work. They all looked at him solemnly. "I can draw something else if you'd like-," He was quickly cut off by being slapped on the shoulder by Renji hard enough to knock him over, if he had been a weaker man. "Oof!" Renji grinned at him wildly.

"It's great, Ichigo, so don't make excuses.

"So what about that other tattoo you were talking about?" Eris inquired, interested. Ichigo winced.

"Anyone got a marker?" Eris had a black dry erase marker. Ichigo was thankful, because these were the type that came off with just soap and water. She handed him the marker and he drew a blocky 2 on the inside of his wrist, coloring it in black. He held it out to his friends, and everyone looked at it, confused.

"Why a 2?" Tatsuki wondered.

"Ginjo." Ichigo said quietly. Those who knew immediately went wide-eyed.

"Oh." Rukia said weakly. "I understand now." The symbol was to mark him as not the Substitute Shinigami. It was to mark him as the second Substitute Shinigami. It was his way of reminding everyone that Ginjo came first, and they had forgotten about him, and given him a reason to hate them. He wasn't the first, and once upon a time, he hadn't been alone at the occupation.

"Why a 2?!" Tatsuki shrieked angrily. "Who the hell is Ginjo?" Chad set a hand on the angry, black-haired girl's shoulder.

"Tatsuki, please don't ask. Just know that Ichigo getting this tattoo- it's something he has to do."

"Ichigo, you fool! It's going to hurt like hell!" Tatsuki snapped at him. Ichigo shared one look with his companions, before breaking out into laughter so hard his eyes began to water.

"I'll be fine." He finally managed to gasp out. "Don't worry about me Tatsuki; I have a pain tolerance so high, you'd faint before I even felt it." Tatsuki rolled her eyes, whipped out a metal fork and stabbed him in the arm so deep she hit a vein and blood started to flow freely. Her eyes widened.

"KUROSAKI-KUN!" Some of the girls shrieked. Tatsuki looked like she was having a meltdown.

"Oh crap! Ichigo, I'm so sorry, I swear that I didn't mean to do that! Just let me pull it out and I'll take you straight to the nurse's offi-what ARE YOU DOING?" Ichigo gave her a wild, crooked expression and she stared as he pulled the fork out himself, winking. When he removed the fork, he glanced over at Rukia.

"Can I have a water bottle?" Toshiro handed him one, and he uncapped it, and watered the blood off his arm. When he could see the cut itself, he glanced at Tatsuki. "Hey, Tats, you have some of the wrappings you use in karate?" Tatsuki managed to nod and hand him a roll of gauze. The normal students watched, horrified, as he casually wrapped it around the cut, tying it tight, using his teeth on some occasions. Tatsuki was the first to snap out of her daze once she was finished.

"ICHIGO YOU NUTJOB GO TO THE NURSE!" She screamed. Ichigo shrugged and tossed the gauze back.

"I'm fine. It doesn't hurt that much. I only had to wrap it up so I wouldn't get blood all over people." Eris ruffled his hair.

"That's my little Ichi, always thinking of others." Suddenly, she yanked his head to the side, and whispered, "You're lucky I'm not licking the blood off." He turned and said so that no one but her could hear;

"Sounds kinky."

"It's supposed to be."

"That's probably a real medical problem. Being turned on by blood."

"Only yours." He stared at her, before shivering in fear. She laughed, and everyone stared, wondering what she could have possibly said. He started to edge away from her.

"See Tats? A tattoo is hardly scary in comparison to my little nutjob over here." They all immediately realized the my in the sentence. Eris smiled happily and slid straight into his lap.

"Ichigo, you're insane." She told him, looking unbelieving of him. Ichigo shrugged.

"Are you really going to get a tattoo?" Mizuiro asked, sounding interested, but not like he had a problem with it. Ichigo scowled.

"Ever since that little fiasco, I seem to have lost nearly all of my scars, and honestly, it's kind of pissed me off." Renji blinked at him.

"You miss having scars?" He asked incredulously. Ichigo shrugged again.

"They may not have been pretty, but they were sort of a...reminder of what I've been through. I kind of liked how it showed people that I wasn't just some arrogant boy." Toshiro snorted.

"You sound exactly like Yamamoto. He could have had most of his scars removed, but he keeps them anyways, as reminders."

"So, since I told you to get a badass tattoo, besides the two and the snowflake, which is surprisingly not at all girly, whatchya gonna get?" Eris inquired.

"You mean he's going to get another one?!" Tatsuki shrieked. A smug look graced his lips.

"I actually have an idea..." He admitted.

"Can we see it?" Chad wondered. Ichigo immediately shook his head.

"Nah, you can see it after I get it." He said smugly, looking happy with himself, especially since Rukia and Tatsuki were just about tearing their hair out with suspense. They wanted to see it, but on the other hand, they didn't want him to get one at all, since they thought it was stupid. However, Eris wasn't helping by cheering on the irresponsible behavoir, Renji and Chad were encouraging him to, and Ichigo was already hard-headed enough.

"What's it going to be like?" Eris questioned.

"Meaningful." Was Ichigo's only answer. Hinamori sighed.

"Only naturally. You're not the type to get a tattoo that doesn't mean anything. Not like pineapple head." She said, with a mischevious look.

"Oi! Who you calling pineapple head?!" The person in question snapped angrily. Ichigo snickered.

"Aw, did someone get their feelings hurt?" Renji glared, looking peeved.

"Shut it, Strawberry."

"You want to reconsider what you just said?" Ichigo said, in a dangerously calm voice. Renji's eyes widened considerably as he edged away from the Vizard Captain, looking fearful. An expression similar to Shinji's piano-grin spread across his face, scaring nearly every living thing in a five mile radius. They could feel the malicious change in his reiatsu.

"You're a scary kid." Renji informed him.

"Good."

XXXX

Afterschool, Shinji, Renji, Chad, Gin and Grimmjow met up at a random point above Karakura, all in spirit form, with Renji ready to open up a Senkaimon. Once Ichigo flashed up to them, Shinji Shunpoed over, slung an arm across Ichigo's shoulders, and gave him his piano grin, pulling his cap over his eyes.

"Hey babe. Long time no see." He teased. Ichigo snorted as Shinji squeezed his shoulders in a one-armed hug.

"Good to see you too, Shin."

"Aw, look, he does care. I was beginning to worry that you'd forgotten about little old me, Dollface." Shinji teased. Shinji had an uncanny ability to say anything decidedly gay, even though no one believed he was for a second. "Looks like I'm taking over as Eris for bodyguard today, so be ready to get real friendly again, hun." Ichigo rolled his eyes at his close friend. He knew that the soutaicho had specifically assigned Eris to be the bodyguard for the Shihouin Prince, since she would be close to him anyways. None of his friends knew, but Ichigo did. Eris had come right out and told him, and considering they thought he had been kidnapped, and his political position, if something were to happen to him, there would be problems. But Ichigo decided not to mention that he already knew about the hordes of Onmitsukido that watched him, day and night, nor the Shihouin personal bodyguards, or demon servants, who could render themselves invisible to all six senses, reiatsu sense included. Ichigo had barely been able to contain a bout of insane giggles, when a new man had been introduced and he'd heard the awed noise of, "Kurosaki-ouji." and the noise of someone smacking him for daring to reveal himself. He could also swear he'd heard the growls of the devoted bodyguards whenever Eris hit him, but obviously, they accepted her, from the way he responded to her. It was kind of creepy to think he always had so many people watching him, but you got used to it.

"Are you gay?" Grimmjow muttered curiously. It was then that Ichigo finally noticed how everyone was staring at him. He blinked at them, eyes blank. He had already checked for Urahara's interference with his haori, and other than having the sleeves shorter, as if Urahara predicted the orange-haired captain wouldn't like long sleeves, he had done nothing to it. So why were they looking at him like he'd dropped from the sky and started breakdancing? He planted his hands on his hips and glared at them.

"What?" He demanded. Renji just shook his head.

"Dude, it's just weird seeing you in a haori." Shinji agreed.

"Weird, but somehow fitting." Ichigo glanced down and shrugged.

"Looks good on you, Taicho." Gin commented. Grimmjow just smacked him on the back, giving him a feral grin.

"Well, congrats, Kurosaki-taicho." He mocked. Suddenly, he added, "Eris and Chad shared some of their memories of you with me. So don't think I'm going soft or anything, but you deserve it...more than me." Grimmjow admitted.

"Do I dare believe my ears? Is Grimmjow, the King of Hueco Mundo actually saying this to me?!" Ichigo gasped overdramatically. Grimmjow just snarled and Ichigo stuck his tongue out at him childishly. Grimmjow lunged at him, a speed so fast no one besides Shinji saw it. Ichigo didn't dodge. He didn't need to, because Shinji reached forward, kissed his palm, and blew a Cero at Grimmjow. Grimmjow's eyes widened and he quickly dodged the deadly blast. Shinji shot off another creepy smile.

"Sorry Grimmy-kitty, but you know, I just can't let you attack him. Besides, you'd much rather get into a tussle with me, rather than Babyface over here." He jerked a thumb at the orange haired captain in question. Ichigo flared his reiatsu, as a reminder, and while it wasn't a lot, every one of them sensed the vast ocean behind the front he was showing them. Grimmjow managed to stammer out,

"Just what the hell are you?" The orange-haired Vizard grinned.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Suddenly, he looked to Renji. "Hey, Renji, while you're opening up a Senkaimon, care to tell me how? I mean, I get the general idea, and I can always rip open a Garganta, or use...another technique, but I kinda need to know how." Renji shrugged, and started to open up the Senkaimon, explaining as he did, with input from Shinji and Gin every so often.

XXXX

Needless to say, the moment Ichigo appeared in the Seireitei, there was a group of people waiting for him, all of them friends. They started to gape at him immediately, not used to seeing him in a haori.

"Ichi-er, Kurosaki-taicho!" Hanataro exclaimed, looking up at him shyly. Ichigo resisted the urge to facepalm. This was partly why he refused to inform his friends of his status as a demon. A demon of royalty. Well, Eris knew, he had told her, but he got the feeling she had known before, or had a general idea.

"Nothing has changed, Hanataro. My name is not Kurosaki-taicho. It's Ichigo." He reminded his friend. Hanataro gave hima small smile and nodded.

"Yo, Ichigo, Yamamoto requests a meeting, just 'cause you're not around that often. He said it'll take five minutes, he just needs a general idea of what's goin' on." Ikkaku called out. Ichigo nodded.

"Right now?"

"Yup. You better get your ass in gear, or you'll be late." The captain glanced at Shinji. They shared a silent connection, that he would be fine in the five minutes he would be out of Shinji's sight, and that Shinji would willingly let him go.

"'Kay then. Bye guys. I'll meet up with you soon. But where?"

"Go to the area where you first landed, where Ikkaku and you met." Ganju said. Ichigo nodded.

"See ya." He flashed away, at such a speed, with his own technique, and so silently, that it left others wondering if it was even Shunpo. He slipped into the meeting room. The moment he stepped in, Yamamoto boomed,

"Kurosaki Ichigo! Please take your place next to Ukitake-taicho. We have not initiated our fourteenth division captain yet." Ichigo gave a sharp nod and did so silently.

"So," Kyoraku broke the ice. "Ichigo-kun, I see you have a new wound." Ichigo glanced down at his arm, which was still wrapped in bloody gauze, him having forgotten about it, since it would have healed beneath the gauze in his spiritual form.

"Yes, I do wonder where you might have gotten that." Unohana said carefully.

"Oh. It's nothing. It's actually healed, I just kind of forgot about it. My friend Tatsuki stabbed me in the arm with a fork. It didn't really hurt, but I was in my human body and people would have freaked out if I started to get blood everywhere." He explained.

"Who's this Tatsuki?" Soifon asked with narrowed eyes, wondering why her forces hadn't protected him. "Why would he do such a thing?"

"She has been a close friend since I was seven. Evidently, she reserves the right to damage me in any way she sees fit. I'm used to it. She's the second strongest martial artist in the country, so she could have done much worse." He admitted.

"That doesn't exactly answer why she would do something like that." Byakuya pointed out.

"Renji brought up something about tattoos in front of her and she assumed I was being stupid and getting one. Her only real reason she could use was that it was going to hurt a lot. I said I had a much higher pain tolerance than her, and she tried to prove me wrong. The look on her face when I started to bleed." He said with a smirk. Toshiro tried not to snort at the brief recollection of events, and the way Ichigo worked his way around obvious points that would draw out questions, such as the tattoos.

"So, how are things going in the living world?

"Kinda boring. I've been training Rikka though." Kyoraku and Ukitake were immediately interested.

"How is it going?"

"So far, I've had to force him to just build up stamina, because he had next to nothing. We haven't even started Shikai yet, but now he can use kido, zanjutsu, hakuda, and hoho, in a combination, and he couldn't do that before. He also has a lot more reiatsu control and can fight while still being pressured with massive reiatsu. It's better for him to learn this first, because if he ever desires to learn Bankai, he needs to be able to fight without his zanpakuto's abilities, as if he was simply a melee fighter." He explained.

"But you had no training." Toshiro pointed out. Ichigo shrugged.

"That was before I even knew the name of my Getsuga, so Zangetsu didn't use it against me. Besides, my zanpakuto...isn't quite a melee type, nor a kido type, but melee is its focus. That's how I fought and fight, so fighting Zangetsu wasn't much different from fighting, say, Zaraki or Ikkaku." He finished. "I would have been grateful to know kido properly at that point, and maybe I wouldn't have gotten my ass kicked as badly as I did, but since Rikka can learn it, he will." He rubbed the back of the neck. "He probably thinks I'm the teacher from hell though." He admitted. Kyoraku burst out laughing. Which is really not that far off from the truth.

"What did you do to the poor boy?" Ukitake wondered.

"Nothing too bad! I haven't even hit the level of my Fullbring training yet!"

"Which was what?" Soifon asked.

"Fifteen thousand push ups in a row, to give you an idea. Ginjo kept telling me to do them to match my name. The man was a fricking demon! He could do even more than that, in his human body!" Everyone noted his casual tone in regards to Ginjo. Even though Ichigo had killed him, he had liked him before. Ginjo had been his friend, which was partly why he needed to get the tattoo. It was also why he killed Ginjo. Why he needed to be the one to do it. Suddenly, Soifon started.

"Wait- you mean the fifteen thousand push up training was in your human body?" Everyone stared at Ichigo expectantly. He confirmed it with a nod.

"Well, I wasn't a Shinigami. Ginjo had to make me build up a ridiculous amount of stamina so I could properly use my Fullbring. Mine was a essentially melee type, like my zanpakuto so all the damage is focused on me. If I hadn't done the training, like with my Bankai, it would have snapped my bones like they were twigs. I'd built up resistance in Shinigami form, but not in human form."

"And you're making that poor boy do that?" Unohana asked incredulously. Ichigo shook his head.

"Not yet. I'm just threatening him with it for now." He defended.

"He must be terrified of you." Kyoraku observed.

"Nah, it just scares him that I can do everything I'm making him do without really breaking a sweat. Besides, I left Eris with him today and she'll scare him much more than I can..."

"Eris isn't here?" Komamura asked abruptly. Ichigo shook his head. Soifon began to panic, realizing he was unprotected. Ichigo noticed, and sighed, seeing how everyone looked a little worried.

"Jeez, don't get so worked up about it. Shinji's filling in, and I doubt I'd even need him anyways, with all the Onmitsukido you have watching me." Soifon's eyes widened.

"How did you know?!" She spluttered. He snorted.

"Oh, please. Did you really expect me not to notice? I get why you're worried, but honestly, I haven't needed them so far, and anything that could challenge me is a serious threat to the Seireitei." They looked down, some captains seemingly a little ashamed.

"Kurosaki," Byakuya started. "I'm curious; usually you're using your Bankai every five minutes, but you haven't had to use it in a long, long time. Is that simply because you are powerful enough to the point where you don't have to use it?" Ichigo paused.

"Did any of you see my fight with Aizen, on video or something?" they all nodded.

"Well, the part where my hair was still orange wasn't the Final Getsuga Tenshou. That was my Bankai." All their eyes went wide. "It was just on a completely different level from the Bankai I fought you with, Byakuya. Besides, both were corrupt, and a few hundred times weaker than the real version."

"C-corrupt?" Toshiro stammered out. "That Bankai was corrupt?" He nearly screeched. Ichigo nodded.

"However, now that I have my real soul chain and soul sleep back, I worked out the kinks with Arashi and Zangetsu, so my Bankai is fine now. Just pray that you won't ever have to see it." I hope we never have to. Every captain thought.

"What exactly is your Bankai, if you don't mind telling?" Kyoraku wondered. Ichigo looked at him seriously.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you. But trust me when I say that if you ever did manage to see it, you would wish that you hadn't."

"Manage?" Ukitake asked carefully. Ichigo grinned.

"I'm pretty sure a famous aspect of my Bankai is my speed." And he left it at that. Soifon shivered. Truly, God of Flash is a title that belongs to this man.

XXXX

"ACHOO!" Yoruichi rubbed her nose, wondering what could have possibly brought on such a violent sneezing fit.

"Neko-chan, are you getting sick?" Urahara wondered. Yoruichi shrugged.

"I don't think so; because I've just developed this overwhelming urge to train. I wonder why..."

XXXX

"Kurosaki." Yamamoto boomed. "We need to fill the positions for third, fifth, fourteenth and ninth. We have had several people in mind, please share your thoughts on the matter." Ichigo paused, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Ikkaku for fourteenth, Renji might do well in third or ninth, especially ninth. You know, bringing his own "brand of justice" to the squad, which would be a good follow up after Tousen. If Momo ever got Bankai I'd say that third would be good for her, now that she's got the whole "despair" thing down cold. She'd need to be a little more aggressive to get Bankai, but if someone trained her to fully master her Shikai, she would be fucking scary without her Bankai anyways. But you would have to move Kira, most likely to sixth if Byakuya doesn't mind. Hisagi won't talk about it, but I'd say he's got the potential for Bankai, would probably hit it in about four months, maybe two or less if he had help. He'd be well suited for fifth, I think." Ichigo rattled off without really stopping to think about it. A few people blinked at him.

"It sounded like you were saying Ikkaku already has Bankai." Soifon said, sounding miffed. Ichigo blanked at her.

"He does. I've seen it. It needs a bit of training, but it's pretty badass. Also, he says he won't leave Kenpachi yet, because he can't fight with him and say they are equal opponents, so I suggest getting the training to him before anyone attempts to give him a position, or even tell him about it. Well, actually, I only know what his Bankai was like two years ago, so I think he's improved by now, but if I got a chance to see it, I could tell you what he needs to do with it. Renji should be put it as soon as the whole Kuroi Ryuu thing is over, because he's beyond ready, despite not showing it." Ichigo said as if it was obvious.

"Is he really ready?" Kyoraku wondered.

"I do not know for sure." Byakuya admitted. "But I trust Kurosaki's judgement on this matter." Yamamoto and the other captains pondered this.

"What about Eris?" Toshiro asked.

"Not ready." Ichigo admitted. "And not just because she doesn't want the position. She doesn't have Bankai, but the thought of it scares me. She just won't stay in the Soul Society, doesn't like any of the squads that are open, and I think she's enjoying her life in the Living World, and I'm not going to take that away from her. Besides, I'll let my lieutenant out of my squad when hell freezes over." Ichigo made a mental note to never let Toshiro into Hell.

"Any other suggestions?" Ichigo paused.

"Actually, yes. Not immediately, but maybe Nel."

"Nel?" Soifon asked, confused. Ichigo nodded.

"Yeah. Neliel tu Odershvanck. She's an Arrancar, and the former Espada Tres, but...she's not like the other Espada. She doesn't live to fight, is actually a pacifist most of the time. She's powerful, powerful enough to take down Nnoitra, the Fifth Espada with one blow when she was in her released state, and I think she could have defeated Harribel too, maybe Barragan, and with some effort, Starrk. Honestly, I don't know how you guys feel about Arrancars, but she's the sweetest girl I've ever met, aside from Inoue. She would make a good captain. Well, not immediately because she's still not that comfortable around Shinigami, but she would love it here, and you would all like her." To his surprise, they actually seemed to be thinking about this.

"This Neliel, would we be able to meet her?" Byakuya asked. Ichigo nodded.

"Yes; anytime would be good, really."

"What squad would you have in mind?" Ichigo paused.

"Fifth. Without a doubt. She's probably the best option for the job. And Momo would absolutely love her."

"Could we meet her next month?" Kyoraku asked. Ichigo nodded. Suddenly, Unohana spoke up.

"You seem to have another person in mind." Ichigo nodded again.

"Yeah, but they are nowhere near ready. But they would be a good captain once they were." He admitted.

"You're actually picking up cryptic techniques from Urahara." Toshiro said without thinking. Several people, including the orange-haired Vizard in captain, burst out laughing. Toshiro looked alarmed. "What? Did I say something funny?" He quickly grew irritated with the close-to-tears captains and stomped his foot, a dark aura forming around him. "SHUT UP!" He roared, crossing his arms and drowning out all hysteria. Ichigo managed to look Toshiro in the face, working his features into a serious expression, before he doubled over, laughing again.

Ichigo, this is rather strange, but the sun is shining so brightly in here it melted two buildings already...Upon that comment from Zangetsu, Ichigo almost tripped backwards, choking on air while he tried not to go into the mode of hysteria where he couldn't breathe, his laughter was silent, so he just stood there, clapping like a retarded seal. Toshiro frowned, along with several other captains, noticing that it wasn't just Toshiro that was making Ichigo laugh anymore.

"Kurosaki, is something else funny to you?" Ichigo managed to nod, getting his voice back. When he spoke, his voice cracked a few times.

"Yeah, actually. My zanpakuto...said something funny without meaning to." He admitted.

"Like what?" Kyoraku asked. All the color immediately drained from Ichigo's face. "Kurosaki-taicho?" The flowery man prodded. Ichigo just shook his head.

"Uh, sorry. I'd tell you what's going on in my head, but you don't want to know. No offense." Toshiro, who had asked before, immediately did not want to know about the latest antics or discoveries in Ichigo's head, and quickly shook his head, a frightened look in his eyes.

"Don't ask." He assured the captains. They all felt a little scared as they turned heavy gazes to the newest captain.

XXXX

When he was let out of the captain's meeting, Kyoraku and Kenpachi accompanied him, Kenpachi attempting to goad him into a fight the entire time. Ichigo just ignored him, and made his way back to his friends.

"Hey guys." He greeted them. Ikkaku jumped down from a roof, grinning.

"Good afternoon, taichos!" Gin said cheerily. "Now, would you like to show your design to the rest of us, Kurosaki-taicho?"

"Design?" Hisagi wondered. Ichigo nodded.

"Renji asked me to design the tattoo. If you don't like it, I can do something else. It was just an idea." He said with a shrug, before handing his notebook forward. Those who hadn't seen it, viewed it carefully, awed by the design.

"Quite beautiful." Yumichika remarked.

"Yeah, it's really cool." Hisagi and Kira agreed.

"You've got a lot of skill." Iba commented. Ichigo did his best not to blush. It was taking all his effort not to run, hide, and hyperventilate. He wasn't normally shy, but when it came to his art, all bets were off.

"Thanks." Shinji slung his arm around Ichigo's shoulder again.

"You did good, kid. Now lets go get this fucker needled in."

"I'm getting mine on my-," Kyoraku started, but was promptly shut up by a whack on the back of the head by Nanao, who just happened to be passing by. Ichigo rolled his eyes.

"Where are you getting yours anyways?" Renji asked Ichigo. Ichigo paused.

"I didn't really give it much thought, but probably here." He said, tapping his bicep.

"But no one will see it!" Ikkaku whined. Shinji nodded his agreement.

"Yeah. Ichigo, you should get it tattooed on your hip. At least then, if you're shirtless, which you are a lot more often than is reasonable, people will be able to see it." Shinji explained.

"You just think Eris will think its sexy when the two of them do the naughty." Grimmjow remarked. Ichigo's face promptly flamed.

"Well there is that too." Shinji concluded.

"Shut it." He muttered. Grimmjow let out a psychotic laugh.

"Oh, have you two done it already?"

"No! Shit...I answered that..."

"So take advantage of the time you got! I would have thought that she would have already-"

"DON'T GO THERE." Several people laughed, and Grimmjow held up his hands defensively, his shit-eating grin plastered all over his face. "Grimmjow, stop smiling. Or I will make you stop." Grimmjow quickly lost his cockiness. Shinji laughed.

XXXX

It was quite funny, really. The moment Renji walked into the tattoo shop, the one he usually went to for this kind of thing, they dropped to their knees.

"Abarai-fukutaicho!" Some of them cried out. "How are you?!" Renji barely managed to blink at them, confused. Then they looked up and spotted the group of Winter War heroes. Namely, one of them. They practically flattened themselves to the ground, shouting,

"KUROSAKI-DONO!" Ichigo winced and rubbed the back of his neck nervously.

"Um, please get up and please don't shout?" All of the Winter War heroes found his innocent, wide-eyed look highly amusing. They all got to their feet, but their heads were still bowed, and they said in hushed whispers,

"Kurosaki-dono!"

"Uh, er, just Ichigo or Kurosaki is fine."

"Sir! We could never do that!" It was taking all of the group's self restraint not to burst out laughing.

"Then you can just use san if you like."

"That is disrespectful, sir!"

"Fine then! Kurosaki-taicho is completely fine too!" Apparently that was one that they would accept. They gave a sharp nod to confirm this, and Ichigo resisted the ever-growing urge to facepalm. "I have to deal with this way too often." He muttered. Grimmjow was beginning to twitch with the effort of containing his laughter.

XXXX

They all got their tattoos finished quickly, Ichigo by the actual manager of the story, one who was actually a little more comfortable with higher up Shinigami. He actually "stooped so low" as to call him Kurosaki-san, but adamantly refused to go a title beneath that, saying it lacked respect for the customers in general. He was, however, highly impressed by the designs Ichigo brought forward, and started to berate him when Ichigo got his "nervous, artistic, rejection" attitude. He even gave Ichigo a sly smile and a suggestion of designing for the shop. It took all of Ichigo's willpower not to blush madly and deny his talent. Naturally, his tattoos took a little longer, and by the time he got out, mostly everyone was hanging around outside the shop, waiting for a few more members.

"Yo, Ichigo!" Renji said. "Can we see 'em?" Ichigo shrugged and showed them the two he got on his arm.

"I got the snowflake on my hip, and the other one on my back. I'm not about to start stripping but I'll show you guys sometime."

"You save the stripping for Eris-," Grimmjow started but was quickly silenced by Ichigo's foot.

"Jesus Christ, Grimmjow. I've already got one insane, perverted hollow that usually gives me commentary on every aspect of my life, I don't need a second." He snapped.

"MHM?" Grimmjow wondered through a face full of foot.

"Arashi." Ichigo explained. "Though he's napping for a bit, so I get silence, for the first time in a long time. Don't ruin it for me." He moved his foot off of Grimmjow's head, who managed to get back to his feet, trying to discreetly hide the foot-shaped mark on his face. Everyone promptly burst into laughter. Grimmjow groaned.

"Freaky basta-," Ichigo's wooden sandal lashed out again, in a similar fashion to Hiyori, and Grimmjow just about screamed in pain as he was sent flying by the head. Ichigo crossed his arms, smirking proudly.

"Hiyori taught me that one." Shinji clapped cheerfully.

XXXX

"So, who do I get to tortue, this fine evening?" Akira and Kazuma just about jumped out of their skins, as they spun around, eyes wide, to face a member of their squad. His hair was a bright orange, and long enough for him to pull back and still have some hang in his face. It was in a long, vibrant ponytail. A pair of dark gold eyes flicked over them, and his presence just felt...powerful. They panicked, realizing that they hadn't sensed him at all. They were joining Squad Two, and were known for good reiatsu sensing skills. How come they couldn't sense him? He gave them a huge grin.

"Torture?" Akira asked, close to hysteria. The man snorted and rolled his eyes.

"Just kidding. It's only torture if you classify it like that." The two sweat dropped.

"Uh, er, we're kind of new here." Kazuma finally managed to stammer out. "I'm Suzuki Kazuma."

"And I'm Tanaka Akira." The bright-haired man nodded.

"So, just out of the Academy, I presume?" Akira nodded. "And you wanted to join second division?" Akira nodded again.

"We haven't gone through the initiation yet, but I heard it's scary. Is it?" Akira asked the man. Obviously, he wasn't a lieutenant or captain, so he felt a little bit better talking to him. The man looked like he was about to burst out laughing as he admitted,

"Yup. It'll test you in many ways, physically, mentally. But the good thing is, it wears you down to who you really are, so we get to fling out all the douchebags. Keeps the squad awesome." Kazuma choked with laughter, and Akira grinned.

"You know, we were sent here because of our excellent Hoho, Hakuda, and Reiatsu Control and Sensing. But I didn't sense you at all when you first appeared. Hell, I still can't sense you. Is Squad Two really just that powerful?" The Shinigami shrugged.

"More or less. The Reiatsu Control and Sensing you'd learn a lot better if you got some experience with the Onmitsukido. But thankfully, every Squad Two member gets a little bit of Onmitsukido training, without actually having to join. You can always request more though."

"What's your rank?" Kazuma wondered. Suddenly, a woman appeared out of nowhere next to the man. Before anyone could response, she delivered a harsh, roundhouse kick to his head. He took it, and scowled, rubbing the side of his head.

"What the hell was that for?!" The woman, the new recruits realized, was the lieutenant. However, much like the man, instead of the looser Shinigami uniform, the pants were tucked in to a pair of black boots, and the top of the Shihakusho was a little bit different, more ninja-like, to allow more precise hakuda movements without fabric getting in the way. The woman, while extremely short, was shockingly beautiful, with delicate features, white hair clipped back, and luminous, midnight blue eyes. She crossed her arms, before flinging something white in his face. He pulled it off his head and held it up.

"Wear your fucking haori!" She snapped. "You're the captain! Deal with it!" Akira and Kazuma almost fainted cold, but their taicho just gave his lieutenant a big eyed look. She sighed and his head snapped back from the force of a blow. He rubbed his jaw and grinned.

"Nice punch."

"Flattery will get you nowhere, Sora."

"Sh-shihouin-dono?" Akira managed to stutter, extremely pale. Kazuma couldn't speak at all, immediately overwhelmed by their taicho's presence. Sora crossed his arms.

"I'll tell you now," He started, slipping his haori on. It had the sleeves ripped off, to allow for more arm movement. "I don't respond to a title like that. You can call me Shihouin-taicho, and I fully expect you to. No -dono, no -sama, I'm your captain, and will be unless you get kicked out for not passing my exam. Got it?" He asked, his eyes suddenly dead and cold. Feeling dizzy, the two of them nodded weakly.

"Now please go to the training grounds, where the rest of the new recruits are. And try not to tremble too much." Shiba-fukutaicho added to them, before she turned, beginning to bitch at her captain before pulling him off, leaving the two pale newbies stumbling off, doing their best not to shake. They couldn't believe they'd already met their captain, and that they had spoken to him in such a casual manner.

When they got to the training grounds, their captain and lieutenant stood before them, matching scowls, and a presence powerful enough to make some people shiver. However, there were still some cocky bastards in the crowd glaring back. Their captain started to speak.

"Now, I'm sure that by now you've all heard about the "horrors" of my entrance exam. And I'm here to assure you that it is as scary as you've heard." A few people winced. "I'm going to drive you into a corner, and keep driving you into a corner, until you've got my basic principles down so well it hurts. Those of you who survive this training program without breaking down or leaving, let's just say that whether or not I think you would do well for my squad, it will open doors for you in other squads. Speaking of my squad, during this training program, I don't want ANY of you messing with each other. I'm not going to stand for sabotage, personal attacks, and other kiddie shit. This is serious, and you're in no position to act like you're better than any other recruit. It's my squad, not yours, and you'll do well to remember that, or you'll remember your lesson with scars, I promise you that. Also, keep that attitude in check to EVERY squad member, and EVERY member of Omnitsukido. If they made it in, that means that right now, they have more power in their little finger than you can possibly imagine. I don't care if it's an unseated member. You fuck with them, and they have full permission to beat you until you bleed."

"Now, mainly, it'll be my lovely lieutenant, Shiba Zusa, who is standing right next to me, that will carry out your punishments. Pray that I don't ever see fit to punish you myself, because I cannot promise you that you will survive it. Now, like some of you are prone to do, no Shihouin-dono, -sama, or -san. Shihouin-taicho is the only title I will accept. Understand?" The frightened recruits nodded. "Excellent. Now, a squad member will show you to your barracks. Dismissed!" He barked out, and they scrambled away. Zusa turned to her captain.

"At least you didn't swear at them as much as you did last year." She observed. Sora shrugged, and a crooked smile spread across his face.

"Let the games begin." He said, a dark, slightly maniacal aura just radiating off of him. Zusa smacked him in the back of the head.

"DON'T YOU DARE." He winced as she brought her foot down on the back of his neck. "DON'T GO TO THE DARK SIDE, DUMBASS!" Obviously, she was alluding a little bit to the darker side of his zanpakuto. His zanpakuto was Kuro Tsuki, and the dark side was Shingetsu. Kuro Tsuki was...calm. Shingetsu was...crazy. VERY crazy. And technically a hollow.

"Stop hitting me!" That earned him a kido that very nearly set his hair on fire. He barely managed to dodge, and then a tenran knocked him flat on his back. "Perhaps that was poor word choice." He groaned. She loomed over him menacingly.

"BAKA!" She yanked him up by the front of his shirt, and glued her lips to his, stunning him, and dropping him back down.

"You're so bipolar."

"You want to repeat that?"

"Not really."

"Good. Now go do your paperwork, or I'll be back." She marched off, leaving a very confused captain behind.

"Damn." He muttered, not sure what else to say.

"PAPERWORK!" The shout came. He surged to his feet.

"YES MA'AM!"

Ichigo snapped awake.

He very nearly sat straight up, eyes wide, but then he realized that Eris was lying on his chest. They were on the couch, having been watching a movie and fallen asleep during it. The screen was just a blank blue, letting them know that they were supposed to stop the movie. He didn't dare move and wake the sleeping dragon, because she was not a morning person.

That dream...

He couldn't fathom where it had come from. It had been placed in the Soul Society, Squad Two, with Akira, and Kazuma. And the strangest part? The captain Shihouin Sora? Ichigo had been in his place during the dream, but his thoughts hadn't been his own. He could still swear he felt Zusa's leg coming down on the back of his neck. He absent mindedly rubbed it, and thought it was pretty funny how much Zusa reminded him of Eris. Opinionated, spoke through actions, bossed him around because she thought he was too slow, but at the same time just as caring and compassionate as his mother had been. She just didn't show it the same way. That was probably the only reason he could take her kicks and punches so easily. Because everytime she smacked him in the head, it was her way of saying, I was so worried, please don't scare me like that.

He couldn't ever explain just how much her concern meant to him.

But that dream...it was too...thought-out, too vivid to be real. Usually, dream worlds were just a mish-mash of things, that felt real at the time, but afterwards, you had questions about them and you realized just how corny it had been. Besides, he knew that Shihouin Sora really was a captain of Squad Two, but that didn't explain why Ichigo could tell you the names of everyone in his squad-er, Sora's squad. Ichigo shook his head. He wanted to ask Kazuma and Akira, but something told him not to. With a sigh, he shut out any thoughts, deciding that he'd think about it in the morning, with a clear mind, and went back to sleep.

XXXX

When meeting Rikka for training underneath Urahara's shop, he was surprised when the boy threw himself at Ichigo with a cry, hugging him. Ichigo raised an eyebrow. He didn't care, but he was curious for the sudden change in treatment. When Rikka looked up at him, dark eyes huge, Ichigo asked his student,

"What's wrong?" He cocked his head to the side. Rikka shivered.

"Please don't leave me with Eris ever again, Kurosaki-sensei." Ichigo burst out laughing and brushed some of Rikka's hair back from his face.

"What did she do to you?" He was finally able to ask. Rikka shivered again, shaking his head, eyes wide.

"She was...scary. You're a good teacher, Kurosaki-sensei! Your methods are effective, and however hard the training may be, you are not too hard on me, and I truly do appreciate that." Rikka just about cried out. Ichigo laughed again, and Rikka stepped back from him, eyes huge.

"Next time I'll send Yoruichi or Shinji. They aren't as scary as Eris." He promised. Rikka sighed with relief. "Now, I heard about you from Eris yesterday. So how do you feel about a spar to start things off?" Rikka nodded.

"With whom?"

"With me, of course." Rikka started to sweat, eyes wide again.

"Ah, crap." Was all he managed out. Ichigo snorted as he unsheathed his katana.

"I'll go easy on you, don't worry." Rikka realized that Ichigo wasn't kidding, and quickly unsheathed his own katana, settling into a stance. And thus, the fight began.

XXXX

Not very long afterwards, Rikka collapsed. He had a few light cuts on the skin, the types that Ichigo used to mark where he'd been hit. However, Ichigo had started hitting with the flat of the blade and attacking with hakuda, kido, and hoho, so Rikka was bruised and slightly charred all over. He leaned against a rock, breathing heavily. He had just been overwhelmed from every direction, and it scared him a little to think that his sensei was probably going beyond easy on him. Ichigo stooped next to him.

"How're ya feeling?" He asked quizically. Rikka gave him wide eyes.

"I didn't even hit you." Ichigo shrugged.

"It's not your fault. My reiatsu was unconsciously making you slower. You've built up past collapsing underneath it, and being able to do physical exercise, but exercising and being in the middle of a battle are two very different things. It strains you differently." Ichigo explained. "Besides, even if you could touch me, you couldn't cut me. Not only is my Hierro tougher than ever recorded, but I also have an extra layer of reiatsu unconsciously protecting me from being cut, like Zaraki Kenpachi." Rikka sighed, and Ichigo scowled. "Rikka, remember, you are doing incredibly well. My training forces your growth rate to increase, and its good that you already have a decent one. Most people would not be able to come this far, so have some pride in that. You may not be able to defeat me now, but sometimes, its good to be repeatedly beat down. It drives lessons in hard, and when you do get to taste victory, you'll like it so much that you'll try all that much harder to refrain from losing. Because honestly, it sucks."

"Oh thanks." Rikka muttered.

"All good fighters have known defeat. You have to, sometimes you get to thinking you're at such a high place, and being torn down hurts worse than anything, but you'll never forget it. People need it. You can't win everytime. So sometimes, you just have to suck it up and try again." Rikka stayed silent for a moment, before asking,

"How long did I last?" Ichigo checked his watch.

"I'd say a little bit more than a minute or two." Rikka groaned. Ichigo grinned. "Cheer up, kid. Just think of it this way; if you keep training, you may eventually be on my level!"

"That doesn't make me feel much better. It's an unattainable goal."

"No such thing."

XXXX

In class on Monday, Ichigo was absolutely swarmed by his friends. He was overwhelmed by the amount of people pressing in on him, and simply refused to answer until Tatsuki kicked everyone but the Shinigami, Chad, Ishida, Inoue, Keigo, Mizuiro, Chizuru, and a few other girls that had gotten close to them, away from the group. Tatsuki stared her friend down.

"You didn't really get a tattoo." She said with narrowed eyes. "You wouldn't get a tattoo." Ichigo grinned.

"No, you're right. I didn't get a tattoo. I got three." Tatsuki almost fell over, and planted her hands on her hips.

"Show us." She demanded. Ichigo pushed up the sleeve of his hoodie and flashed the two at his friends. Tatsuki poked it, as if to make sure it was real.

"Holy shit, you actually got a tattoo." Mizuiro said with awe. Ichigo nodded.

"What about the others?" Keigo asked anxiously.

"I'd have to take my shirt off for you to see, and I'm sure that Ochi-sensei doesn't want me stripping at school."

"What does it look like?" Rukia wondered.

"Yeah, I'm really curious." Renji admitted. Everyone looked at him.

"I thought you went with him to get a tattoo." Chizuru said, sounding confused. Renji shrugged.

"Yeah, but that split us up and there were so many of us. I know what the snowflake looks like, but I'm not sure about the other one. He hasn't shown us yet."

"I've seen it!" Eris chirped. "It's really cool." She confirmed.

"What's it like?" Rukia inquired. Eris smirked smugly, shaking her head.

"I won't give it away, but think of it like this; Zangetsu."

"Slaying moon?" Mizuiro repeated. "What do you mean, Slaying Moon?" A look of realization dawned on the Shinigami and Squad 15.

"Oh..." Inoue trailed off. "I think I have an idea of what it might look like." She admitted.

"When can we see it?" Chad asked his captain.

"I'll show you guys soon." He offered. Tatsuki jabbed him in the chest.

"You better."

"And you also better cover up that two before Miss Ochi sees it." Mizuiro added in. Ichigo looked down at his wrist, and immeidately shook his head. He crossed his arms over his chest, scowling.

"No. I'm not going to cover it up. If she thinks I'm a hoodlum, that's too damn bad." Tatsuki sighed.

"You and your stupid pride."

"Pride is a very important thing." Renji objected.

"For once, I agree with Abarai." Toshiro added. Ishida pushed his glasses up.

"I must consent too." He said cryptically. The girls rolled their eyes.

"Men." Rukia muttered.

"They never change." Tatsuki agreed. Ichigo stuck his tongue out and took his seat. However, he was interrupted by an unusual surprise attack from Keigo.

"ICHIIIGOOOO!" Keigo yelled and threw himself at the Vizard.

"Don't molest me!" Ichigo shrieked, and ducked away. Eris snickered and sat on his desk, crossing her legs.

When Ochi-sensei stormed in, she was very displeased to spot the black ink on Ichigo's arm. She planted her hands on her hips, fixed her gaze on him, and demanded,

"Kurosaki-san, what is that on your wrist?"

"A tattoo." He said tonelessly. Her eyes lit up with rage.

"Oh?" She asked dangerously. "Is that so?" He nodded, eyes distant. Next thing he knew, she appeared in the row, right next to him, and smacked him with her clipboard. "THAT'S NOT SOMETHING TO JOKE ABOUT!" She roared. He paid no attention, and just stuck out his wrist.

"Check. It's real." He said without looking at her. She poked it, and after some examination, hit him over the head again.

"WHY THE HELL DID YOU GET A TATTOO?!"

"You can point fingers at Renji." Renji threw his hands up into the air.

"I SUGGESTED! YOU AGREED! DON'T GIVE ME THAT SHIT, STRAWBERRY! YOU'RE STUBBORN ENOUGH WHERE NO ONE CAN FORCE YOU TO DO ANYTHING!" Renji yelled angrily. Ichigo twitched at the strawberry comment. However, he stayed composed enough to grin at Renji. Ochi-sensei rounded on Ichigo again, furious.

"So why did you get a tattoo again?" She demanded. Ichigo shrugged.

"Something happened recently and a friend of mine died. He didn't deserve to be forgotten." Ichigo said stubbornly, eyes fiery. Ochi-sensei sagged a little, and sighed.

"I think I understand, Kurosaki-san. But I'm going to have to tell your father about this."

"No need. He gave me permission." Ochi-sensei threw her hands up into the air.

"Kurosaki-san!" She simply exclaimed.

"It's the Kurosaki Effect." Toshiro confided in the class confidently. Ichigo raised an eyebrow.

"The Kurosaki Effect?"

"That's the name Kyoraku gave it." Toshiro said. "How you always seem to bring about insane and ridiculous situations whenever you're around, how you change everything, and the probably unhealthy obsession you seemed to have inspired in your enemies."

"Unhealthy obsession?" Ichigo wondered. Eris sighed.

"You're so blind, Ichigo. Byakuya, Aizen, Grimmjow, Ginjo, Tsukishima, Grandfisher, Shrieker, Oshima, Ulquoirra, in his own way, Yammy, Kenpachi. They weren't like, stalking you, well, Aizen and Tsukishima kinda were, but they all found this insane, unprecedented desire to kill you, torture you, and make you their bitch." Ichigo put his hand in his chin and pondered this.

"But I have an Effect?"

"Grandfisher? Shrieker?" Ochi-sensei asked, confused by the strange names. Eris nodded.

"Yeah, Grandfisher and Shrieker are both serial killers and part of the group of people that kidnapped Ichigo. Actually, Grandfisher killed Ichigo's mom." Ochi-sensei dropped her clipboard, eyes wide.

"I'm...sorry for your loss." She managed out. Eris spoke for Ichigo again.

"Oh, he doesn't mind anymore. Since to escape, he kicked the crap out of Grandfisher. Grandfisher almost died from the wounds he received on the way to the hospital. They had to shock him nine time to get his heart beating again, and even then he went into a coma for a few weeks. Ichigo almost killed him." Ochi-sensei's eyes resembled frisbees. She gaped at the orange-haired Captain.

"You...really did that to him?" She asked. He shrugged.

"I didn't mean to or anything. But I just hit him with a crowbar really, really hard and the amount of internal bleeding and head trauma...was just too much for him. I can't say I regret it, since apparently he liked killing women and children. He would go on the most disturbing rants about it too. He had it coming. Besides, I'm not charged with anything since he's received the death penalty from a court anyways. The whole coma thing...yeah, it did end a few weeks ago. But not because he woke up." Everyone in the room shivered, and Ichigo admired Eris's lying skills and her spur of the moment ideas.

XXXX

Afterschool, after Ichigo and Co. had made excuses to run off, Mizuiro found Keigo in the corner, looking depressed and upset. Tatsuki noticed too, and joined Mizuiro.

"What's wrong, Keigo?" Tatsuki asked, concerned. She had never seen Keigo this upset before. Keigo just shook his head.

"Why didn't Ichigo tell us about his mom being murdered? He never said anything about that before, or the fact that he was being held by serial killers. Hell, from what Eris said before, I think he's lying about what they did to him there. She said kill, torture, and that they wanted to make him their bitch. What the hell did they do to him?" Keigo let all of this spill out at once, before looking down, still upset. The realization dawned on Tatsuki, Mizuiro, and Chizuru.

"I...never thought of that." Mizuiro said out loud, looking almost as upset. "He knows he can trust us, right?" He asked no one in particular. Tatsuki was even more crushed by this news. Chizuru didn't have anything to say about it. But she noticed it first.

"Keigo, is there something else?" She wondered. Keigo just bit his lip, looking even more upset. With great effort, he shook his head, but they all knew he was lying.

XXXX

so, what's the secret with keigo? I'M REALLY EXCITED FOR THIS COMPONENT OF THE STORY. REALLY, IT'S KILLING ME.

now, i don't mean to advertise tattoos or anything, but i find something hot about ichigo having a tattoo.

also, i finally finised up my code: breaker manga, WHICH I RECOMMENT TO EVERYONE, ALONG WITH THE SHOW THAT JUST CAME OUT ONLY THE FIRST EPISODE IS OUT AND IT CAME OUT TWO DAYS AGO SO MY INNER FANGIRL EXPLODED, and now i have the insane urge to write a code:breaker fanfic, so you might be getting that soon.

so, review and such, i hope you guys like the lies that eris comes up with, i actually was coming up with it as i was writing, so i'm rather proud of it and the parallel it is to the truth. i kind of love rikka-in-training, and there's going to be a lot of father/son fluff between them...

BECAUSE OF A TWIST THAT HAPPENED IN ICHIGO'S PAST LIFE, YES YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED.

IS RIKKA HIS SON? MAYBE, MAYBE NOT BUT I'M SURE YOU WILL LOVE IT EITHER WAY.

i can't think of what else to say...

OH YES! now i remember! there's going to be some demon-ichigo stuff soon, so be prepared. i hope i have sated your need for a chapter. at least this one is long. you know what i mean, where you wait for months for one of your favorite authors to release a chapter and then it's a crappy 5 thousand word-er.

ADIOS!

WITH LOVE,

99000UO.