In light of recent events, I dedicate this fic to one of my awesome betas, AmaltheaLuchiaAizen. I hope this cheers you up during this time~!
Byakuya was worried. Nearly thirteen years ago, he sent his only child to the World of the Living in an attempt to save her life. It had been Hisana's idea after they barely negated an assassination attempt on her life.
Certain factions of the clan were still angry over his marriage to a commoner, particularly when Hisana learned she was expecting. Those factions didn't want him to lead the clan, even if it was his birthright.
So they took their child to a couple that Byakuya knew in the World of the Living. When the unrest over Hisana died down enough, Byakuya would bring her back.
Hisana died before that happened. Byakuya was heartbroken, but he couldn't retrieve their daughter...because roughly a week after Hisana died there was an accident.
As far as he knew, his child was dead.
At least...that was what he thought.
Kurotsuchi seemed a little too smug for his tastes...but the news he dropped on him was more than enough to quell any murderous thoughts towards the creepy captain.
He had found his daughter.
"Where is she?" he asked, trying to mask his emotions.
"Near the Tokyo district. Her spirit energy was fluctuating until recently, but for some reason it appears to have settled."
Byakuya didn't waste any time going to the district. He would be alone, because no one knew about the child except the Kuchiki clan.
What greeted him was something that shocked him.
His daughter had reverted to infant form, when she should have been at least 13 by human years.
"Tomoe...What happened to her?" he asked quietly.
Souichi looked up, startled. He should have expected her real father to show up.
"After the accident... Something possessed me and took possession of Hotaru."
Byakuya looked at his daughter. Hotaru was a fitting name, considering who her parents were.
"After the thing possessing her was destroyed...her past self came out and took care of the monster who tried to kill us both. I'm not sure if it was something on your end or not."
Past self control was rare, but under the right circumstances it did happen. Particularly if the spirit was powerful.
"So what do you intend to do now?" asked Byakuya.
"I...I screwed up big time. She would be safer with you than with me at this point."
Byakuya took his daughter, and bid Souichi a farewell.
Over the next three months, something startling happened. Little Hotaru didn't grow at a steady rate, but in steady bursts. She seemed confused by Byakuya, but he learned rather quickly that the girl had inherited his intelligence and Hisana's kind nature. Rukia absolutely adored her niece, and had quickly corrupted her with rabbits and bunnies.
By the time six months had passed, Hotaru had jumped from a year old child to a seven year old girl. Unohana, after a quiet investigation, speculated that the girl would stop growing once she reached her natural age. She further suggested that it was the rampant amount of spirit particles which caused her rapid growth.
The only upside was that her step father at least explained who Byakuya was, and why they had to send her away, so she didn't try to run away.
Hotaru rather liked the Soul Society. People didn't look at her like a freak for being able to heal without medicine. If anything, Unohana seemed eager to help her work with it and learn how to use it without passing out.
It seemed whatever was possessing her (and there was still traces of it that were disappearing more each day) had blocked her natural healing ability. She detected another ability as well, but it seemed to feed into her zanpakuto, which Hotaru had yet to release.
When she reached thirteen, she seemed to slow down in growth. In the span of a few months, her body seemed to take a week in order to reach a month older, which could only mean she was reaching her natural age.
This created a bit of a quandary for Byakuya, because he didn't have a clue how to raise a teenage girl. In the end, it was Hotaru who came up with the solution that he could agree to.
He would allow her to live in the world of the Living during the week and go to school like a normal girl, which would allow her to socialize with others her age...but on her days off she would return back to the Soul Society and visit with her family.
Hotaru did want to learn more about her real father, but it was clear neither of them knew how to react to each other. Plus she really didn't want to be stuck in the Soul Society...she wanted to see Chibiusa again.
As long as Unohana could monitor her condition until her age stabilized, she allowed it. In order to protect his daughter, Hotaru was taught enough kido to keep her safe, and a soul pager in case of an emergency.
"Everyone, I would like to introduce our newest transfer student from Mugen Gakuen in Tokyo."
Hotaru walked in, surprising most. Her current age was around fourteen, which put her barely a year younger than most of the Scouts. She wrote her name and took a proper bow.
"Hello. My name is Kuchiki Hotaru."
"Miss Kuchiki, can you sit next to Kurosaki and Sado please?"
Both boys indicated stood up, and she took the only open seat. To her relief, she wasn't too far behind the classwork. She noted that she felt most comfortable around Ichigo, but she had no idea why.
"So Hotaru-chan, what do you like to do?" asked Orihime.
Hotaru was eating lunch with Orihime, Tatsuki and a few other girls from class.
"I like to read and collect lamps. On my days off I go to visit my dad and aunt."
"You don't live with your parents?" asked Tatsuki. It was odd, but not too unusual. Orihime lived on her own too.
"I just recently found my birth father, and it was my idea to go to this high school. So long as I keep up my grades and go to see him regularly, he doesn't mind paying my tuition."
"So what's your birth dad like?"
"He's a bit old fashioned, but really nice once you get past his stuffy exterior. He really likes cherry blossoms and has this enormous fan club that likes to stalk him. I think he shocked them when they learned he actually had a daughter."
"What about your aunt?" asked Orihime.
"Aunt Rukia is totally rabbit obessed! It's hilarious, because if you mention the word Chappy she has this funny expression," grinned Hotaru.
Hotaru rather liked Karakura town. It was much more laid back compared to Tokyo. She had to hide a grin as they discussed the Sailor Scouts who had appeared over two years ago. They had no idea that one of Scouts was among them. She listened with rapt attention about a circus that had appeared without warning during the eclipse a week ago, and how attacks were once again taking place.
From the sound of it, her friend Chibiusa was still around. Wouldn't she be shocked once she found out that Hotaru was back, and fully grown to boot!
Hotaru loved Karakura, even if it did have issues with Hollows. She had come to a realization that she was close to bringing out her zanpakuto. Because she was still considered among the living, she had never needed a gigai to move around.
Which meant once she unlocked it, she would be able to use it at any time she wanted.
While she walked down the side street, she saw Ichigo beating up some punks who had knocked over an offering to a girl who had died recently. It took Ichigo a minute to realize Hotaru was behind him...and a good five seconds to realize she could see the ghost too.
"You can see ghosts too?" he asked, surprised.
"I always have. It's just a perk of my dad's side of the family. What about you? I know you have way too much spirit energy to be normal."
"What the hell is spirit energy?"
Hotaru took a deep breath.
"Spirit energy is the power of spirit or will inside each person. Under certain circumstances, people may have enough spirit energy can see the spirits of the death, both those who remember who they are and those who have fallen from the path. Others have a unique spiritual sense which allows them to see spirits, but their ability is unique to them. Like say the ability to heal, shield or shoot pure energy. If I remember right, there is actually a clan of people who train themselves to shoot spirit energy through bows."
"Seriously? You mean like that anime Inuyasha?" asked Ichigo incredulous.
"From what I heard, yes. Though due to a certain disagreement they were wiped out. When they destroyed bad spirits they completely annihilated them, when those spirits should have crossed over to the other side. Would you like a demonstration?" she asked.
She had discovered by accident that she could help spirits pass over without a zanpakuto by pushing a little of her spirit energy into them. She had learned the hard way that if she didn't regulate her energy it was painful for the spirit.
Since she didn't have anything to do that day, and Ichigo wanted to hear more about spirit energy, he invited her over.
Hotaru ducked while Isshin kicked his son. Once Ichigo did his usual retaliation punch, he introduced Karin and Yuzu to his friend. Hotaru had managed to get herself included in his small group of friends by being one of the rare people whose name he actually remembered.
"Hello. My name is Hotaru, it's a pleasure to meet you."
Karin gave her an odd look, because she was a tad too formal for this day and age.
Seeing the look, Hotaru shrugged.
"My dad is really old fashioned. I suppose it rubbed off on me."
Ignoring Isshin proved rather easy while he wailed to the poster of his dead wife. She sweatdropped.
"Is he always like this?"
"Unfortunately. So where are you from?"
"Tokyo. I came here because I wanted to get away from my old school. It blew up and I decided to pick another district."
"Your school...blew up?" asked Karin incredulous.
"Ever hear of Mugen Gakuen?"
"Isn't that the school that the Sailor Scouts destroyed during another battle against the aliens?" asked Yuzu.
"You mean you went to that exclusive school?" said Karin in surprise.
"My step dad was the director of the place. My birth father had been looking for ages since their accident, and it was only after the explosion that he found me."
Hotaru left, feeling rather happy. Ichigo's family was strange, but in a good way. It was certainly more welcoming than the life she had to deal with in the Kuchiki compound for six months.
The only friendly people there were Rukia and her father.
Hotaru was taking a new route to the school when it happened. Her soul pager went off, alerting her to a hollow nearby. It had saved her more than once from running into one, but this time the hollow was coming straight for her.
Her hands twitched, as if to grasp a sword.
She was about to duck when she saw someone jump past her and Ichigo, who had just arrived.
Her jaw dropped.
Rukia glanced at her, but said nothing.
Later, when she talked to Ichigo, she learned that he had seen Rukia as well, though he didn't know what she was.
Hotaru and Ichigo were studying for the test tomorrow when Ichigo felt something change in the air. He looked up, but didn't see a thing.
Until a black emperor butterfly came into the room, followed by a black haired, blue eyed girl in samurai regalia.
"Aunt Rukia, what are you doing here?" asked Hotaru.
Ichigo looked at Hotaru with disbelief.
"You know this nutjob?"
"My aunt. The one who likes rabbits."
"Hotaru, what are you doing here?"
"Studying with a friend. His father is downstairs and I mastered the first bakudo enough to keep him from trying anything," she said calmly.
"Can you two please not talk like I'm not here?" he complained.
"How strange...you look normal but you can see and hear me perfectly well..." said Rukia in surprise.
Ichigo twitched, and Hotaru coughed to attract her attention.
"Aunt Rukia, why are you here anyway?"
"I was assigned to this district until the usual guy recovers from the flu. There's been another hollow sighted in the area, so I've come to get rid of it...the only problem being that I can't sense it at all."
"It's because Ichigo has nearly three times the normal amount of spirit energy for a living soul. He might be blocking your senses."
"Are you sure?"
"I've noticed that constant contact with him at school has awakened three, if not four of his fellow classmates. It's a natural state for him, and he hasn't learned to control it to any degree yet. I think he's just now starting to awaken to his own power."
"Would you two please stop talking like I can't hear you?" said Ichigo in a near whine.
"Sorry. So what do you want to know?" asked Hotaru. She knew he would probably accept her explanation better than he would Rukia's. Hers included drawings that a three year old could have done.
Ichigo sat down and Hotaru explained about the Soul Society and Hollows. She kept it simple, but easy to understand. Finally the one question that had kept bothering him came to the surface.
"How do you know about all this?"
"My father is a Soul Reaper like my aunt here. But unlike her, he is a captain, which means he can't just come to the World of the Living whenever he wants. I'm allowed to live here because there are almost no soul reapers my age there, and it was easier for me to grow up here that it was there."
Hotaru turned, as she heard one of the girls running up the stairs. From what she could see of the girls, neither of them would run up unless it was urgent.
Karin came in, bleeding.
"Ichigo...Dad's back practically exploded... There's a hole in the wall..."
She fainted and Ichigo caught her.
Rukia left the room, and felt the cloying pressure of Ichigo's spirit energy. Suddenly she fully believed her niece when she said that Ichigo inadvertently awakened at least three of his classmates.
Hotaru was next downstairs while Ichigo made sure his sister was alright.
Rukia managed to cut the arm off, but that didn't stop the hollow from throwing her into a pole.
"Aunt Rukia!" Hotaru cried out. Ichigo distracted the Hollow while Hotaru checked on Rukia.
She never saw the claw coming towards her, or heard Ichigo's cry to her.
She felt the pain, but she was used to pain. Mistress 9 had never been a kind creature, and she often used to hurt her in a bid for control.
The sudden clarity she felt at that moment caused a reaction to her natural powers. Her zanpakuto finally awakened, and she could hear it's voice.
The irony was that the voice wasn't that of her soul, but of Saturn.
It's about time you heard me again. Perhaps now we can have a normal life.
How do I awaken you without alerting the other scouts?
Instead of saying the transformation words, repeat after me.
Hotaru turned, and called out "Breathe new life into my soul, Hoshi no Saturn!"
The effect was immediate. The light of her soul enveloped her into her usual Sailor Saturn outfit, but without the usual power rush she felt. Her scythe was once again in her hand, and she could feel a new power within it.
"Ho...taru?" said Rukia, coughing up blood. What she saw shocked her.
This wasn't Hotaru. This was the spirit that had possessed her before, the one that had saved her in the accident.
"Who...who are you?"
"My name...is Sailor Saturn. Don't worry Rukia Kuchiki. Hotaru knows very well who I am, and she accepts the fact that we are one and the same."
Ichigo went to Rukia. Since she didn't know what the girl's power was, and believed it was healing based (mostly because it was well known how good she was at healing kido) so she pushed her power into Ichigo to awaken his own.
The result was immediate. The effect, however, was unexpected. Instead of taking only half, Ichigo took it all.
By the time he passed out, Hotaru sensed another captain level spirit coming near.