Disclaimer: I do not own Fairy Tail or Bleach… or any of its respective characters; they belong to the one and only Hiro Mashima, and the magnificent bastard Tite Kubo.
I do own the idea for the fic though.
Previously on… "In Death's Best Interests".
"They are inside one of the lost spells of my guild," Mavis started to explain, moving a few steps away from the place. "Its effects should run out in 7 years, if I'm not mistaken."
"…" Having heard enough, the Soul Reaper shoved his hands inside his pockets. "That's good."
"What are you going to do now?" She asked a bit curious, her eyes looking in the distance at the source of an ancient evil that was the reason for the fights in her guild's sacred ground.
"There are still some of those guys in that place," Ichigo told her referring to Magnolia and the guild now left without its core members. "I guess I'll look after them while the 7 years pass…"
And he disappeared in the sound of a whisper, leaving Mavis alone with her thoughts while he reflected on what happened when he arrived to that dimension.
7 years ago…
In Death's Best Interests
Part 2: A World's Protector.
(A I.-.-.I Kuroyagi I.-.-.I original fan-fiction story.)
"Where the hell am I?" Ichigo asked out loud. He had no idea where he was, but he could tell that it was somewhere where his spirit form wasn't going to be harmed in any way. He reminisced about what happened a few minutes ago. He bid farewell to his friends and those in Soul Society, he stepped inside the rift and saw a bright flash of white before he felt a strong pull to its insides. And now, he was standing in the middle of an all too normal and seemingly harmless forest.
This place which he was in didn't look any different from his own world.
There were trees, grass, foliage, animals, air, a sky with stars, and a moon.
It was dark. It was cold. And it didn't have a single trace of being touched by human hands at all.
"Did I really go to another dimension?" He continued to wonder out loud, taking some steps forward to see if he was really in a place and not some kind of illusion. He stomped the ground a few times and found it real; he was indeed in another dimension.
'I wonder…' He closed his eyes and concentrated on the surroundings, his inability to sense anything nearby forcing him to open them after a short moment. 'I cannot feel an inch of Spiritual Power… I must really have travelled to another world…'
With his initial doubts answered, he wandered the forest which he was in, walking calmly to see everything in this new environment. He saw nothing weird, nothing out of his own knowledge or new to his eyes, but he could feel the difference.
'I should do this faster,' He thought to himself, preferring to stop talking out loud. It made him look like a crazy man. 'Let's see…'
Gathering Spiritual Power beneath his feet, he jumped high in the sky, noticing with some surprise that he could still use his energy to stand in the air as in his dimension. There was some kind of energy in this new world as well, otherwise, his own energy wouldn't be enough to propel him and support his body in the middle of the sky.
'Test one… done…'Ichigo reached for the sword on his back, its wrappings falling off and letting the edge shine in anticipation. 'Test two…' He raised the sword up above his head, holding the hilt tightly with both hands and starting to gather energy in the blade. His eyes narrowed when he felt that the space around him was also adding its own energy to the strike. Like the Spirit Particles scattered all over Soul Society and Hueco Mundo, and the World of the Living in a less concentrated quantity. "Getsuga…" He slowly swung the blade down and a thick line of blue energy revealed itself on the edge of the sword. "…Tensho!"
The blast went out and pressed forward the direction in which it was aimed to go, disappearing a few instants before reaching the horizon. He was still able to use his Soul Cutting sword's techniques.
'Test two, done…' Ichigo let out a sigh of relief; he will be able to defend himself in case something happens. This new world was like his own in the end, except for the lack of spiritual presences around.
'Test three… wait a damn second… why the hell am I calling them "test" in the first place?!' He mentally scolded himself; he spent so much time with the crazy shopkeeper and his weird lectures about what to do in the new dimension that his way of thinking almost rubbed onto the young Soul Reaper. He sheathed his sword and looked around, discerning with some gratitude that the sun was already coming out. It was morning. 'So they have a sun too, huh?'
Deciding on a path to start his exploration, he nodded to himself and disappeared in the sound of a whisper.
First thing to do: Find out if there were humans in this dimension or find out just who the hell was in charge of the place.
"Do you want to talk with them?" Mavis asked him with some worry. They were floating above the new building belonging to Fairy Tail, outside Magnolia, watching powerlessly at the state of things after 7 years without the most annoying group of people Ichigo ever saw.
"No," Ichigo answered her dryly, hiding his clenched fists inside his pockets. Why would he want to face those people? What could he tell them? It was not a wise decision. If he was to appear before them and explain that he was watching over them for the past 14 years, they will start asking questions regarding Tenrou Island and their lost friends. "It's best to remain like this…"
"But you know the 7 years are almost over," Mavis continued to push the matter. She didn't like to see the young man that gave so much for her beloved guild and members in pain, even if it was an unfounded kind of pain. "I can make you physical…" She saw a small reaction from him at hearing the possibility of being able to communicate with them besides the Bridge. "…so you can greet them back with me and the others."
"Are you…?" He stopped and shook his head, preferring to not get his hopes high. The conversations he had with those people were to be forever lost in the Bridge. Even if he had the chance to talk with them in the Living's Realm, there was no telling if they would be able to remember him. He looked for the sword on his back, unsheathing it to give a strong slash down at his side. The rift to the other plane opened instantly. "Forget about it."
"The spell on the island will wear out by the end of this week, Ichigo," she told him before he crossed the rift, halting his retreat and getting his attention. "If you change your mind, I'll be waiting where Tenrou previously stood."
He heard the words and gave a short nod of acknowledgement, continuing his way to the Bridge, where he went straight for something to do, something to distract his mind out of its thinking.
'Damn this…' He cursed as he cleansed a soul, sending it back to the Living's Realm so it could be reborn. 'Why would I want to talk with them? They gave me nothing but trouble! And I wasn't the best ally they could have anyway; I let that damn dragon take them out like nothing!'
He rushed to the next soul nearby, waiting a moment to let it see a bit more of its past life before moving in to do his job. 'Fuck this! I'm not going to meet them…' Returning his attention to the job at hand, he noticed with some surprise that the soul was already sent back to the Living's Realm.
"You seemed thoughtful, Kurosaki Ichigo," a cool voice addressed him, the owner of it walking a few steps to stand before the first Soul Reaper of Earthland, thus the one in charge of this world. The figure sheathed its sword and met eyes with the young man, noticing instantly what caused the lack of reaction to its previous arrival. "Is it related to the organization you are watching over?"
This other Soul Reaper came to this world shortly after the incident with the island and the black dragon, in search of the missing youngster to deliver some news and bring some new orders from the Head Captain himself.
The news: Urahara and Kurotsuchi confirmed that the anomaly opened itself every 7 years, allowing the passage of just one being at a time and nothing more. But they found a way to keep it open permanently; they only needed to work on a few more details before moving in and wait for another 7 years to pass to have the anomaly in good conditions to start the process.
The orders from the Head Captain for the Soul Reaper stationed in that dimension were: the scouting was to proceed as it was planned originally. The Soul Reaper, along with the new arrivals, will have to start the settling of a base of operations and consolidate relationships with factions of that world in preparing for the arrival of more Soul Reapers.
The final order was: Ichigo himself was to be considered the Head Captain's equal in this dimension. Being that he was here the longest and knew the place better than the Soul Reapers that would follow after him. An honorary title that meant something in Earthland but it was nothing more than a normal Captain in Soul Society.
Shocking, indeed, but a serious decision like that was not taken by the Head Captain and the 13 Court Guard Divisions alone.
The order came from the top.
"Byakuya," the orange-haired man acknowledged, shaking his head out of its shock and thoughts to talk with his working partner. "Yes, it does…" He sheathed his sword and shoved his hands in his pockets, looking around to see if there were any more souls to cleanse. He didn't feel like talking right now and least of all with the uptight nobleman. "…but why are you here? Weren't you supposed to be on the other side of this world?"
Byakuya ignored the blatant use of his first name and the fact that the man was trying to change the topic; he had a reason for meeting him again after years of scouting and taking note of whatever he found worth the reading about the new dimension which they were in. "7 years had passed, as you may know, the anomaly connecting this world to our own will open up again soon."
"So what?" Ichigo asked in sincere cluelessness. He didn't remember having to do something when the anomaly opened its gates again.
The noble shook his head in disappointment. He expected the man to adapt a bit better to his new position in this world. He was supposed to be aware of whatever was happening or was going to happen, and this piece of news was something of which he was informed of as soon as Byakuya found him.
"Urahara Kisuke promised to have the gate opened on a permanent basis for this time," the 6th Division Captain reminded him, not surprised at seeing the change of expression on the man's face as the memory dawned on him. "In one week, the rift will be opened and the dimensions will be connected permanently."
"…" Ichigo thought about that for a moment, remembering the issue that he left for later thinking at the time. So much time passed since that day and so many things happened that he forgot about it.
But now that the issue was brought up again he wondered, did he really want to have this dimension connected to his own? This world will be linked with the others then, and everything that happens in this place will affect the others… as well as the other way around. Soul Reapers will start to appear constantly, looking forward to know this new place, the insane Captain of the 12th Division among them.
Did he really want that?
Along with the army from Soul Society, Hollows will start to appear as well and that wasn't good at all. He alone was a huge change in the world, he accelerated the process and souls moved forward at a speed never seen before. But what if more like him were to be added? What if Hollows lurked from his world and Hueco Mundo to that place?
The balance of this dimension will be broken. Not changed slightly or in a way that could be later compensated. It would be completely broken. Hollows and Soul Reapers were not supposed to be on Earthland in the beginning. The whole system he witnessed that worked at its own pace in the last 14 years would shatter if the anomaly was to be kept open permanently.
Ichigo looked at the expecting nobleman in front of him; he was sure that if he told the man about his thoughts regarding the matter, he would hear a long boring lecture about how unfounded his reasoning was…
…but he could always try, right?
"I see," Byakuya said after hearing the thoughts of the young Kurosaki's mind, closing his eyes to think about his choice of words before voicing his own opinion. It seems like the young man really adapted to his role in this world, better than what he originally thought. "This of which you speak of holds truth, Kurosaki Ichigo."
Suddenly, said orange-haired man felt like he was in a bizarre dream. He blinked one, twice, thrice and then he blinked again. Here he was, in another dimension with the most unlikely of people telling him that he was right? Was Kuchiki Byakuya really telling him that he was right about what he was speaking?
"This world has never suffered from the likes of Hollows or Soul Reapers. As you say, the balance in it will be broken if our presence is intensified." He gazed at the endless ocean around them, narrowing his eyes at the mere thought of imagining those vile Hollows starting to break havoc around the place. The wizards of this world were strong. Strong enough to fend them off, but, how can you fight against that which you cannot see? It was not a wise decision. "Our interference in this world will not be for the best if the gate is opened permanently."
"U-uh…" A loss of words was understandable. "T-that's what I mean."
"You have grown, Kurosaki, beyond my first expectations." Byakuya told him unemotionally, turning around to leave the place and not see the flabbergasted face of the former substitute. "Remember this talk we had, when the moment comes. Your decision will be the ultimate deciding factor to say if this world will head into a new dawn, or will continue the way it was."
And he disappeared in the sound of an almost inaudible whisper. His Flash Step was as good as always.
Ichigo stared at the previous spot where his comrade stood a few moments ago, thinking over what he left behind as parting words.
He was sure he heard them somewhere else…
"You." The voice boomed everywhere around the Soul Reaper, making him halt his Flash Steps completely. The space around them stopped, birds were stuck in midair, the wind couldn't be felt, the trees were bent on the last position they were in before the voice started to speak. "Who are you, spirit?"
"Uh?" Spirit? Ichigo was never called that before, and this huge soul towering at his side was the first to call him as such, and the first to notice him too. He slowly moved a hand to the sword resting on his back, watching through the corner of his eyes at the expecting presence. "I'm a Soul Reaper…"
"A Reaper? Ha! I haven't seen one of them ever since the Evil Wizard slain the last of them over more than 400 years ago." The humongous spirit commented with a dry laugh, ignoring the part where Ichigo repeated that he was a 'Soul' Reaper and not a normal Reaper. The spirit released its power and made the Soul Reaper kneel on the ground when it spotted him trying to reach for the sword on his back. "I'm not here to engage in a fight, young Reaper. I'm here to speak."
"W-what do you want to know?" Ichigo choked out, trying hard to fight the Spiritual Pressure on him with his own, his head moving to get a better look of the owner of such powerful pressure. He saw a huge man wearing some sort of samurai costume, with a very long white moustache, blue skin and red eyes deprived of pupils.
"All and naught, young Reaper." The Spirit King told him, earning a confused look from the small human. "Why are you here? What made the Afterlife take so long to bring another Reaper to this world?"
"…" So he was still set on thinking that he was from that world? Plus, there was another Reaper before him? Ichigo decided it was best to hide his origin for now and gather as many answers as he possibly could. He was still in unknown territory, so, when the pressure was lifted off his body, he straightened and answered with the first thing that came to his mind. "I'm here to cleanse souls, nothing more; I don't know why it took the Afterlife so long to bring me here… I only know what my duty is."
"The system worked perfectly without a Reaper during all these centuries." The Spirit King crossed his big arms. "Your presence will help to accelerate the process, yes, but why?"
"…I told you, I don't know!"
"Watch your tone, young Reaper, and be respectful for I do not show myself lightly to every single spirit in this world." The pressure fell upon Ichigo once more. The Soul Reaper clenched his teeth and nodded weakly, feeling the pressure being lifted… a bit, he heard the spirit continuing with his rant. "If you don't know, then the workings of the system are starting to move on their own accord again. Something will happen that will need your intervention, as it was required when the system was in peril the last time."
"Explain, please, I don't even know where I am!"
"You're in Earthland, young Reaper, and your duty goes far beyond the simple task of cleansing souls." The Spirit King's presence started to vanish, as well as his corporeal body. The chat with the new Reaper was fun in his opinion, but he had other places to be at the time. "You were brought upon this world for a matter that most being wouldn't be able to understand, not even me. The workings of the system are strange and no-one knows what purpose all of this serves."
'Great, I'm in another world and yet again another crazy adventure follows…' Ichigo groaned and rubbed his aching head. Couldn't he get a few days of normality once in a while?
"I believe you're too young for the task that has been bestowed upon you, but, if the system chose you…" the Spirit King grinned, letting a few cackles escape his huge mouth much to the Soul Reaper's surprise. "…I will have faith in it, as always. Farewell, young Reaper. May we meet again another time."
'I certainly hope for the contrary…' Ichigo nodded and watched as the strong presence disappeared completely, letting the flow of time continue as it was before its appearance. He saved the memory of the encounter and the information he got from it in his mind and moved to continue with his exploration. This world was big, and as he witnessed, there were many things in it to know about and be careful of before actually starting to do any kind of job as a Soul Reaper.
"He lied to you, why did you let him go?" A young man clad in a black tuxedo and wearing tinted glasses asked to the Celestial Spirit King, watching with narrowed eyes at the young orange-haired man moving from here and there, scouting the new world he was in.
"As I said, Leo, the workings of the system are strange." The King of Spirits sat in his throne, watching at the same thing. "If the Afterlife brought him to our world, there must be a reason, and I will not interfere unless I'm proven wrong."
"Whatever you say," Leo turned and walked off, waving a hand in good-bye. "I'll tell the others to be watchful of that guy, just in case."
"Do as you wish."
"I changed my mind." Ichigo started rather awkwardly, trying his best to avoid getting annoyed by the grinning blonde girl standing in front of him. He had to meet them, even a single time. If things with Soul Society went down after he talks with the Head Captain, he wanted the bunch from Fairy Tail to know who was guarding them during their past hardships. And let them know about what was going to happen.
But first, he needed to tell the news to the other person in Earthland that cares for that guild as much as he does.
"I understand," Mavis nodded after the explanation was over, closing her eyes to feel the presence of the other Soul Reaper her friend spoke about and that was wandering the other side of the world at the moment. "And I'll help you when the moment comes, if you need it."
"Don't, it's something I have to deal with myself," Ichigo raised his open palm and shook his head. He didn't want to get anyone from this world in the affairs concerning him and the dimension from which he came; he knew there were going to be more troubles if he let that happen. "For now, I want to talk with them once before anything happens."
"Okay, whatever you say, I'll still help you." She chuckled when he tried to convince her of doing otherwise and motioned for him to follow her. "Come, the process to make you visible for them is not easy, and it will take some time."
"Then let's be done with this, I have many things to say to those idiots."
Mavis wondered then if it really was a wise choice to give the man this chance.
The end of the week came. The Trimens went to Fairy Tail, and they let the remaining members of the now weakest guild in Fiore know there were strange activities flashing on their scanners of the ethernano, all of them coming from the previous spot where Tenrou Island once stood. This meant that there was a possibility of meeting their lost friends again, after so much time and trouble.
And so, they set sail to look for them.
Meanwhile, in the Bridge, Ichigo needed to get a few things in order before Mavis could move on with the second part of their plan.
And that was organizing the souls of those they wanted to bring back to Earthland.
"Can you all shut up already?! I'm trying to talk here!" Ichigo's voice roared in the Bridge, getting the attention of the core members of the guild and making their mouths close almost instantly…
"Why, huh? It's not like you will say something good to us!" Natsu spat back angrily, not liking to be commanded by someone he doesn't know very well. Besides, if all of them were here, that meant they were dead. And that didn't settle well with the Dragon Slayer, not by an inch.
Still, Ichigo took his time to answer him appropriately, and his answer was a strong binding Kido constricting the boy's movements and covering his loud mouth.
"Anyone else wants to be with him?" Ichigo asked coldly to the group around him, sitting on Natsu's back to rest the edge of Zangetsu close to the boy's neck. All color drained from the pink-hair's face and many nodded dumbly at the Soul Reaper's question, not wanting to face the anger of the ruler of this plane. He let out a tired sigh, gazing at the crowd one by one until he met eyes with the Master. "Someone you haven't heard about in a long time saved you all."
"And who is this person, boy?"
"I cannot tell you, she'll butcher my ass if I do." He replied, giving a weak smile. He stood up from his human couch and slashed the air above the bound Dragon Slayer, earning a frightened squirm from the boy. He pointed to the opened rift and nodded to the Fairies. "Listen and listen well. This might be the last time we see each other, so be careful next time."
"What do you mean?" Makarov continued to talk in behalf of his group, casting an inquisitive eye on the Soul Reaper.
"I mean that, gramps, I won't be here next time." He motioned for the rift again. "Take this chance I give you and do your best to not die again."
"Hey, we know you're the ruler among souls, but," Gildarts raised his prosthetic arm to clench his new hand, remembering how he lost his limb and got that replacement. "We got hit by Acnologia's roar. Our bodies probably don't exist anymore, so would we return to the world as souls?"
"That's true, even if I like the idea of going back, I don't want to do it if it will be as a spirit." Lucy muttered in between Cana and Mirajane, both women nodding in agreement.
"I know 10 people that'll not be happy to hear that." Ichigo reminded her of her Celestial Spirits, thus, making her flinch at her comment. He was going to explain why they shouldn't worry about their bodies at all, but it looked like all of them were on a depressed back-talking mood.
"What of the others?" Cana mused about Macao, Wakaba and the other guild members that stayed in Fairy Tail, and how they were reacting to their deaths.
"I don't want to return and watch our funerals with the rest of our friends crying our demise." Erza whispered sadly, remembering the vision she had when she fused with the lacrima at the Tower of Heaven.
"I want to see if I can find my teacher in this place." Gray shouted to the Soul Reaper, turning around to the leave the gathered group, if not because a figure stood in his way.
"Gray-sama!" Bickslow, Elfman and Juvia shouted in warning to him, watching the arrival of a new entity that the departing wizard failed to notice.
"I recommend you listen to Kurosaki Ichigo's words and cross the rift, wizard." Byakuya stated sharply with his sword resting close to the Ice Alchemist's throat, the guy too shock to do anything but stare at the new arrival with astonishment. Until he got over his shock and they decided to do a cold-glaring match with each other until Ichigo stepped in between, separating them to avoid a possible confrontation.
"Stop and listen!" Ichigo growled, tired of all the trouble they were causing him. He was giving them the chance to return and they get all sappy and gloomy? Not a wise move in his opinion. "You can go back! Your bodies are fine!"
"How do you know?" Laxus asked him, sitting close to his grandfather.
"I was there when Acno-something hit the island! And I can assure you, your bodies are fine!"
"Why are we here then?" Freed asked curiously. It was his first time in that place, so he didn't know how the Afterlife worked.
"You are all on the verge of death, true death, but not for long," he bit his tongue, the name of their savior in the Living's Realm almost slipped from his mouth. "Someone is taking care of your bodies; she's surely done by now, but to return to life, you must all cross the damn rift!"
"Why are you doing this?" Evergreen asked him with narrowed eyes, not believing Death to be so selfless. There was probably a catch to the entire friendly act, and the second Reaper that appeared threatening the Ice wizard only set her suspicions to the double.
"What's the catch, carrot-top?" Gajeel snarled suspiciously, not liking Death's charity either.
"Hupf agh mgh brt!" Natsu mumbled from his position on the ground, earning several sweatdrops and a dark grin from the Iron Dragon Slayer.
"Like hell, Salamander! I'll be the first to fight him!"
"I still don't know how he gets what he's saying…" Lucy sighed, Mira and Lisanna smiling nervously next to her.
"It's an idiot's language!" Happy chirped in at the chance of making fun of his foster father.
"I get nothing from this! I-!" As for Ichigo, he was getting angry. Now they thought he was up to something for helping them? That was understandable, yes, they didn't know him well and, for them, he was Death. And one doesn't make deals with Death, not even in his world. He was going to answer why he was protecting their guild when he felt a presence he hadn't felt in 7 years. Both Byakuya and he looked at one point of the Bridge, completely disregarding the confused and expecting Fairies near them. "You felt that?"
"Yes, the portal is opening." The nobleman sheathed his sword and walked in the anomaly's direction, stopping only to give the Soul Reaper in charge of this dimension a glance that clearly told him to not delay much. "I will go ahead."
"Where is he going?" Lisanna watched the calm and stoic Reaper leave the place through a rift opened with a single hand. She turned to look at Ichigo with confusion; the man looked troubled by the mention of that portal's opening.
"He… he's heading to our world." Everyone's eyes widened at the mention of another world; the world in which the Reapers lived, from where they came. Such a thing even existed?
"Reapers have their own world?" Mirajane asked him, he nodded. "Where is it?"
"You didn't tell me that, boy." Makarov was also confused; among the gathered souls, he was the one with the most knowledge about the Afterlife. But Ichigo never told him he came from another world.
"In another dimension, I come from there." He started to explain. Maybe, the knowledge of his origin would clear any doubts about him lingering in their minds. "My world is not different from this one, except for the lack of actual magic. That's something we only see in books or movies, wizards don't exist in my world…" he pointed a thumb to his chest "…there are only people that have the power to see spirits or souls, if you like it better. They have what I have, that's called Spiritual Power… there are 3 dimensions in my world." He counted with his fingers up. "The Living's Realm, where normal humans live and souls wander. Soul Society, where the purified souls go and can choose between living the Afterlife normally or as Soul Reapers, purifying more souls or killing Hollows. And Hueco Mundo, that's where the Hollows hide, taking shelter in the endless night and desert to avoid being slain by Soul Reapers." He watched the uncertain nods of understanding and continued, wanting to get to the point before an angry blonde came to scold him. "I'm a human with powers that enable me the ability to see ghosts. I've got them from my father's side… he was a Soul Reaper as well, and my mother was a normal human…"
He took the bittersweet time to tell his story as a Soul Reaper to them; going from the death of his mother to the moment he recovered his powers, thanks to the only other Substitute Soul Reaper he ever met. It was a long story that he had to resume, not wanting to delay their or his stay much longer. Many people were expecting them, and so was the same for him.
"When I came here, I was 21," he concluded with the part Makarov knew, his eyes looking around the Bridge one last time before he had to leave to meet with the Soul Reapers coming from his dimension. "I explored Earthland's every corner until I found your guild and stayed close to it, watching over you guys… you remind me a lot about my friends and myself… fighting without a care, protecting those precious to you…" his eyes seemed distant when the image of the ones he hasn't seen in almost a decade and half flashed in his mind, and that was something everyone around him noticed. "Don't tell me that's not reason enough to help you."
"No-!" Gajeel was going to answer so he could fight against the Soul Reaper, but he was stopped by both Mirajane's and Erza's hands. The 2 women were glaring silently to keep his protests down. Couldn't he read the mood?
"Of course, it is more than enough, Ichigo." Makarov answered calmly, Gildartz nodding to his side while Laxus locked eyes with the Soul Reaper to see if he was lying or telling the truth. He still had his doubts. "I believe we all understand now why we had Death on our side and we're grateful for your help."
"Do you always speak for them, gramps?" Ichigo stared at the group and heard their protests, laughing quietly at how riddle up they've gotten by his simple mock. "Okay, sorry, I was messing with you guys."
"So you are from another world?" Evergreen asked.
"And you came to explore ours?" Cana followed.
"Pretty much, yeah."
"But you ended up protecting us this whole time?" Laxus also had his own question, mainly because it was hard to believe even if the man's story seemed realistic enough.
"For 14 years, I did just that." Ichigo shrugged, noticing with some relief that they didn't have any more questions to ask him.
But a black cat raised his small paw to call his attention; he seemed to have a question.
"Are you sure it's been 14 years?" Pantherlily asked a bit puzzled, his question letting the presumed miscalculation on the Soul Reaper's part clear to everyone. "You said that when you came here, it was the year x777…"
"I said that, yes, and I wasn't lying." He pointed to the rift that remained open all that time, his eyes resting on the bound down Natsu to free him from the Bakudo and make his point clear. They had to leave to their realm, now. "Go and see for yourselves, what happened in the blink of an eye."
Some left shortly after he gave them the head's up, some others took some time to give a farewell and thank the man properly, but Makarov stayed behind because he knew something was up. And he didn't reach his age for letting life or death matters slide.
What he heard from the Soul Reaper was shocking.
More of them were coming, pretending to expand their authority into Earthland, no matter what the actual habitants had to say about it.
If they had anything to say to an organization made of souls they cannot see or feel.
"I'll do my best, gramps, they won't remain here." Ichigo reassured the old man with his eyes narrowing in determination. He would do whatever it was needed to protect this dimension and those he grew fond of, living in it.
"You included." To Makarov's sharp words, the Soul Reaper nodded gravely.
"When I said that Soul Reapers don't belong to this world, I was adding myself, gramps." He turned his head around to see in the direction of the portal. He knew Byakuya and Soul Society's committee were waiting for him to show up; their Spiritual Pressures were standing still in the same place and from the sudden spikes, they were getting impatient. "It was good while it lasted."
"Go home, boy, and keep your friends and family safe," the old man turned around as well, raising a hand with his index and thumb extended, saying good-bye while walking to the rift that was waiting for him. "As a wizard of Fairy Tail would do."
"Isn't that the same, old man?" With that said, Ichigo saw the rift close.
The last talk was over.
Now he had to make sure it was the last one.
'I hope they make it easy.'
Ichigo has traveled for 5 years exploring every little corner of this world and its workings, getting to know its history and secrets, doing the job he was ordered to do with nothing more in his mind that the obligation bestowed upon him.
Until something caught his attention when he was looking around the last place in the world he needed to explore.
He saw many guilds in the past, and wizards as well, but this group called his attention.
"Wanna go at it again, pansy?!"
"You're looking for it, huh?!"
'Annoying.' He concluded instantly, hovering over the group of wizards brawling in the middle of the room. The fight escalated from a fire wizard and an ice alchemist just glaring at each other, to the entire group of people beating the lights out of everyone inside the place, breaking whatever furniture in their wake. 'Is there no control here?'
"Stop, you fools!"
'Seems like there is.' He watched calmly how a red-haired woman entered the hall and levelled everyone with her shout, followed closely by another one, this one coming from a short old man that was appalled at the sight of the place looking like a battlefield of sorts.
"You will all clean this place! Immediately!"
'Weird bunch.' He concluded it was like any other place he previously saw; nothing new for him, just another band of reckless wizards enjoying the benefits of their strength over normal people.
Boy was he wrong.
He continued to visit the place and its occupants despite his first thoughts of it being a waste of time.
He witnessed their struggle, their bonds, their resolve and their will to walk forward no matter what evil befell them.
He didn't notice and a year already passed since he first arrived to what was known as Magnolia.
A year since he started to watch those brats and their adventures.
A year since he started to watch over Fairy Tail.
And it didn't surprise him when he noticed why.
The guild and its members were a resemblance of Ichigo's own attitude towards life.
He could easily picture himself doing such things in the same situations.
'Still…' he would have been happy if they were less destructive and rash when doing their missions, or when they were dealing with everyday tasks. Was there a special need to overdo every little thing they faced? '…I will never understand.'
Again, contrary to his own thoughts, he continued to watch them closely.
This time interfering when he knew they wouldn't be able to get away unscathed from a battle.
He didn't like it when the trio of siblings lost their little sister, and he didn't want to see another thing like that happening again.
So he lent his power…
To the Take Over wizards.
To the Gunners duo.
To the Card Magic user.
To the Lightning user and his bodyguards, even if they didn't settle well with the rest of the guild.
To the Fire Dragon Slayer whenever he went overboard.
To the Ice Alchemist when he took things seriously.
To the Knight when she still had unresolved businesses with her past.
To the Celestial Spirit wizard; he had to appear before the Spirit King to ask for direct help.
To the Master; even if he was already strong, he couldn't do the same as when he was younger.
Another year passed in less time Ichigo could have noticed.
And despite his initial thoughts, the annoyance he felt whenever they were in danger again, or the task he was sent to do in Earthland 7 years ago…
…he never left their side.
"Kurosaki Ichigo." Head Captain Yamamoto greeted him sternly, standing before the portal leading to the Dangai and their dimension with Captains Soi Fon, Muguruma, Komamura and Kyoraku flanking his sides a few steps behind. He wasn't amused for having to wait for the young man to make his appearance, even if Captain Kuchiki told him what was delaying the first Soul Reaper of Earthland.
"Gramps." Ichigo greeted in return, standing next to Byakuya, giving the nobleman a nod in gratitude. He was sure the man had something to do with keeping the Head Captain there and not launching a search party for his head.
"Where do I start?" The former substitute asked faking trouble to organize his thoughts, shooting quick glances near the portal and the Captains to see how they were keeping it open. He spotted 4 support pods keeping the edges of the anomaly spread and passable, the pods being fed with the present Captains' Spiritual Energy. Kyoraku noticed this but remained quiet; wanting to know what the youngster was planning to do and why. "To resume it, this world is not different from our own."
"In the World of the Living from which I come, they would be somewhere in the Medieval era…" he explained how he saw many people wearing costumes varying from those times to more modern days, detailing how they used magic to power almost everything and they lived with it during their everyday lives. The organizations they had, how they were classified, the different kinds of magic and lost powers. Everything he knew about Earthland, from dragons to evil wizards was reported.
It all sounded too confusing and unbelievable for the Head Captain and his committee.
Probably because it all sounded like something pulled together from different fantasy books into one.
Luckily, Byakuya, who was known for not staining his honor with lies, confirmed each and every one of Ichigo's findings in Earthland with his own reports; which helped them to give credibility to the reports… in a narrowed way.
But now that the debriefing was over, the hardest part was going to start…
"This world never saw Soul Reapers or Hollows, and it has a system that works to cover that."
…the moment to decide if Earthland will continue the way it was or change forever.
"And what do you have to say about it?" The Head Captain asked with squinted eyes, feeling the seriousness in the young man and foretelling what he was thinking. The others had a mild idea of what was about to happen.
"I say we leave this world, return to our own and close the portal…" Ichigo strengthened his resolve; this was for a greater good. "…forever."
He wasn't surprised when everyone around, except for the man next to him and the Head Captain, made an astonished expression.
Or the sudden rise in Spiritual Pressure over him.
"Soul Society owes you, Kurosaki Ichigo." Yamamoto gave a hard step forward, his power fighting against the former substitute's, who was now having troubles to keep himself floating in the air. His voice was filled with disbelief and his eyes wide open to glare at the man in charge of this dimension. "But do not push your luck. Soul Reapers will establish themselves in this new world. No matter what you say, your concern for Hollows is unfounded; Soul Reapers will make sure they do not taint this world as in our realm."
"Y-you and I both know that's a lie!" Ichigo stood his ground and glared. He would rather die than fail to accomplish what he promised to those he cares about. "Our world sees Hollows everyday and Soul Reapers are not enough to keep souls or people like me from being eaten!"
"This realm holds only one entrance, Kurosaki." Yamamoto said annoyed. He gave another step and even if he was trying to negotiate, his power continued to pour restlessly over the orange-haired man. "There will be guards posted close to it, if that's what worries you."
"And what if someone like Aizen or worse tries anything?" Ichigo knew beforehand just how the Head Captain and Soul Society dealt with problems. "Will you send a Captain or a Division to guard this world?!"
"Those matters are of no relevance to you, Kurosaki!" The old man raised his gruff and now angered voice, shutting the youngster's mouth and protests. "Soul Society will move in and settle into this world, regardless of your position as this world's main authority and your opposition to our final decision."
"Yama-jii…" Kyoraku tried to intercede but he was silenced by the pressure as well. He couldn't force the pressure off of him, even if he wanted to. He had to concentrate most of his own Spiritual Power on the pod keeping the portal open.
"T-this…! I-is…!" Ichigo slowly reached for Zangetsu on his back, hunching even more when the old man put more pressure on his shoulders. He grabbed the handle and unsheathed it in one swift motion, feeling his power going up thanks to his spirit's help. "T-this IS of my concern!"
He was going to prepare himself for the unavoidable fight by calling forth his Bankai, but the appearance of someone next to him brought him to a stop. Even the Head Captain lowered his power when the new presence made itself known, stepping in between its friend and those coming to claim what was not theirs.
"Stand down and be kind enough to listen to me." Mavis said gently to the gathered people, her eyes locking with the Head Captain's wide eyes. The power behind hers alone proved to them she was not someone they could mess with, despite her innocent form. "What your comrade says is true."
"Who is this soul, Kurosaki? And why hasn't it being cleansed?" Yamamoto recomposed himself and went back to normal, curious of this little girl standing before him with such a significant power around her.
"M-Mavis, I told you not to interfere!" Ichigo was not happy to see her at the moment, even if she stopped the old man and himself from fighting.
"She's a soul bound to one of those organizations called 'Guild' in this world," Byakuya explained, he stood aside the banter most of the time, wanting to see how Kurosaki dealt with the problem by himself. "She cannot be cleansed, no matter the strength or the experience of the Soul Reaper that tries to."
"Is that so?" Yamamoto raised one of his long eyebrows at the information. He never heard of bound souls that couldn't be cleansed in all his time as a Soul Reaper.
"Your 2 subordinates tried many times," the blonde commented nonchalantly, tilting her head to a side with her eyes still fixed on the older soul. "You can try as well if my presence is a bother to you."
"Do not be so arrogant, girl." That one sentence she said made his annoyance return. The Head Captain could feel she had a great power within her, but it was still too young to do any real harm to him or to be cocky about, especially when she was getting in the middle of a conversation that was supposed to be of no concern to her. "And leave this place; this matter concerns Soul Reapers, not wandering souls."
"Oh, but it does concerns me, you see." She stepped forward and floated to be at eye-level with the oldest soul she has ever seen. "Your presence alone is already making changes in this world."
"My power alone is keeping the world from collapsing as we speak." Another entity let itself be known. Its towering presence calling the attention of everyone gathered. "Your presences are not welcomed, Reapers. Leave now before an irreparable damage is done and the balance shatters."
Ichigo noticed then, the clouds around them, the trees below…
…time was stopped.
"…" Yamamoto could feel the power emanating from this humongous new presence. He stared at it with the rest of his forces, expecting for it to talk again. Now 2 souls from this world, besides the Soul Reaper in charge, were telling him that the dimension was in danger of collapsing because of their presences. It was not a matter he could ignore anymore.
"If the flow of time restarts its motion, Reapers, everything will disappear in an endless void." The Spirit King bellowed with his power now felt around the smaller beings; he was truly keeping the dimension in place. "What your young subordinate and this girl are saying is true. Our world is already suffering changes from the energy that portal, your Reapers and you yourself are leaking. As we speak, it is barely holding itself together."
'So I was… right?' Ichigo knew something bad would happen to Earthland if more Soul Reapers came. But to the extent where time itself needed to be stopped to avoid the world's destruction?
"I order you and your kin to leave this dimension and return from where you came, old Reaper." To his words, the rest of the Celestial Spirits came, all looking ready to fight if necessary to protect their dimension. The Captains prepared themselves as well, expecting to hear from their leader if they had to attack or retreat. "Avoid such foolishness as fighting against enemies you know nothing about and leave now with your servants in peace."
"Genryuusai-dono." Komamura eyed the spirits around them, not liking the idea to start a fight when they all needed to focus their energies on the portal's pods.
"They are more and unknown; fighting will be stupid of us." Kensei had his hand pressed tightly around his sword's hilt, keeping an attentive eye around in case they tried a sneak attack.
"Yama-jii, listen this time, okay?" Kyoraku, now with the pressure of his mentor off his back, tried to reason with him. One didn't need to have an intellect like his own to know a conflict was not the best course of action right now. "Kurosaki-kun is right after all, our presence is only endangering this new world, we cannot continue if our decision will put it and us in danger."
If Earthland collapses because of their presences and with them inside, forget about going back to Soul Society or even hoping to continue alive.
"I cannot accept this, but they are right, we cannot fight in this condition." Soi Fon glared at the presences that dared to go against them, but relented to reason. Destroying another dimension was not what the 13 Divisions were made for.
"Head Captain." Byakuya Flash Stepped in position to leave through the portal and guard the group's back. "Kurosaki Ichigo is right. Not hearing his request when not only him but the spirits of this world had made clear that our presence is harmful would be a bad decision."
"Come on, gramps." Ichigo walked carefully to stand in front of the old man and next to Mavis, hearing him grunting absentmindedly to acknowledge his presence. He was in deep thinking. "Not a single Soul Reaper will stay. I want to go home too, with my family and friends, and I'm sure Byakuya wants to see what Renji made of their Division while he was gone."
The nobleman gave a small nod in answer. It was true. He wanted to see what his Lieutenant did of the 6th Division during his 7 years of absence.
"If you do not want to leave in peaceful terms," the Spirit King uncrossed his arms, signaling the group at his command to get ready. "We will give you the fight you are looking for."
3 months later…
"Yay! Go Fairy Tail!" Mavis cheered for the members of Team A and B, sitting calmly over the railing separating the arena from the spectators. Her reappearance shocked the members of her guild standing behind her.
"F-first! What are you doing here?!" Makarov asked, looking around to see if anyone else could see her. For what it seemed, only the members of the guild could see her.
"I'm here to cheer for our guild! Why? Is there something wrong?" She pouted cutely, faking a few tears to scare the sixth Master and the others listening to her. After receiving several negatives, she changed her expression to a serious one and jerked her head forward, remembering her other reason for being there. "Besides, I'm not cheering alone, I'm doing it for a good friend's stead as well."
"W-what do you mean?" The sixth Master questioned, curious to know about this friend of hers.
"You'll remember him when you see what he left as a good-bye gift for us!" She yelled and pointed to the sky, jumping to stand over the railing before going back to her previous position.
"A-and," obviously, he almost had a heart-attack when she gave that ear piercing shriek. "What did 'he' give us?
"Oh, you'll see when the games start!" And she was back to her usual cheerfulness.
Her mood swings were making the group around her nervous.
But the games started, and as she said, they were witnesses to what she was talking about.
Juvia and Gray were first.
"First…?" Makarov and some others tried to call her attention when they saw something weird on the screens showing the game of Hidden from closer captions. There was a black crescent moon tattoo on the back of both Juvia's and Gray's left hands. "I-is that what you were talking about?"
"Yes." Mavis watched calmly as the other participants of the game took notice of their wizards' presences with those unique tattoos, and tried to attack them. Only for Gray and Juvia to disappear in the sound of a whisper and reappear a few paces away.
Everyone went silent when that happened.
"W-what was that?" Gray asked aloud, exchanging glances between the tattoo and his legs until something clicked in his mind. 'W-why does it… feel…so familiar?' He shook his head and focused on the game, seeing Juvia on the screen doing the same. "I don't know what's going on, but I will take advantage of it!"
The game ended with Gray and Juvia winning 7 points each for their teams.
They didn't want to lay a hand on the other.
Next was Lucy vs. Flare Corona from Raven Tail…
"Hey, blondie?" Flare stared at the Fairy Tail wizard standing shakily a few metres away, seeing the same weird tattoo appearing in the back of her left hand. She remembered what happened during the game of Hidden and how Narpuding and the other wizards were defeated by the water woman and the ice boy with that sudden rise in speed. "You think moving faster will help you?"
"First. It is happening again." Makarov muttered to the small girl, watching how she seemed thoughtful again. "And I don't think speed will be enough to help Lucy now."
"His gift was not only his incredible speed, Sixth." She answered with her eyes fixed on the battle and the blond girl.
Makarov only nodded dumbly. She still didn't tell him who left those powers for Fairy Tail's use and he couldn't remember anyone having that kind of speed, but he was grateful, those gifts were turning the tables to their favor. And now, Lucy was about to show another of those gifts to them.
Everyone narrowed their eyes to see the screens better when they saw the blonde's mouth moving slowly.
But Mavis was able to see it with her own eyes, without needing the screens over the arena or her eyes partly closed to discern what was going on.
Lucy was chanting.
"Carriage of thunder, bridge of a spinning wheel." The Celestial Spirit wizard didn't know from where the words were coming, she never even heard them before but it looked like they were in her mind all along; in a corner she couldn't help but feel familiar with in a way. She even knew what to do next. Her arm raised and she pointed her index finger to Flare. "With light, divide this into six! Bakudō #61. Rikujōkōrō!"
6 sparks of yellow energy shot out from Lucy's finger and chased after the dodging Raven Tail wizard, one of them hitting her on the waist and stopping her long enough to let the other 5 complete her imprisonment.
Flare tried to break the spell holding her but found out with utter shock that she couldn't even move the parts of her body that were not touched by the thin rods of light. "W-what is this?!"
The Raven Tail woman tried fruitlessly to break free from her bindings for 5 minutes, until a strong beeping sound echoed in the arena.
"W-we don't know what happened, but the result of the match is clear!" The announcer's voice echoed in the quiet stadium, startling everyone back to reality. "Fairy Tail's A, Lucy Heartfilia wins the match! 10 points for them!"
And the last match of the day, Mystogan vs. Jura Nekis from Lamia Scale…
'This battle is going downhill,' Gerard thought grimly, looking at Jura standing tall after the small exchange of spells they had. He would have to resort to that, even if there was a possibility of his identity being discovered for using it. 'I must win, for them, for her.'
"Now, let's see if he manages to control this." Mavis talked again after staying silent for a long time, calling Makarov's attention and of those around her. "He told me that I could try to use it on him."
"He's not a member of our guild, are you sure it will work?" The blonde girl tilted her head and smiled down to the old man.
"He might not be a member of Fairy Tail, but he's a friend of him!" She informed cheerfully, turning her eyes to the fight and getting serious again, concentrating on the power she had to give again.
'You still didn't tell me who he is, First.' Makarov sighed deeply, keeping his thoughts to himself and continuing to see reluctantly this weird show of new powers.
"W-what's this?" Gerard felt something on the back of his hand, and indeed, just as he saw that it happened with the others, he had the black crescent moon tattoo and a sudden surge of power running through his being.
As well as something else…
'Hey there!' A warm-boisterous voice that sounded familiar echoed in his mind, making him stop to listen to it. 'Seems you're all better now!'
'Who are you?' The wizard asked carefully. The last time he had a voice talking inside his head, he built a tower to revive a dark wizard and almost offered the woman he loves as a sacrifice. 'Are you the one helping Fairy Tail?'
'So you don't remember me, huh? Well, don't blame your amnesia for it; you'll surely remember me later.' The voice seemed to be in a hurry. The words it was saying sounded recorded in the guy's opinion. So, it wasn't going to answer his questions, it was just trying to leave a message for him to hear. 'Listen, I left most of my abilities available to you, since you look like a nice guy and the kind that can adapt quickly to new styles. So… use them well.'
'…I will.' Gerard felt a strange gratitude towards the voice, but he still couldn't tell why, or how the voice knew him.
'Oh, and try not to do any more crazy stuff, okay? If not, Erza won't forgive you, and she won't allow you to use my powers again.'
The man quirked an eyebrow at that last part.
The voice knew of his affections for the Knight?
And who was she? About whom was the voice talking? Was it someone from Fairy Tail?
Could the voice be talking about Erza again?
'Look after those you care about, and remember! No more crazy stuff!' The voice stood silent for a moment before groaning. 'I said that already, dammit!'
'I will do as you say and try to not do any more crazy stuff.' Since the voice didn't say anything else, he returned his attention to the battle in front of him. Jura didn't move an inch after seeing the crescent moon tattoo appear, surely expecting to see what new abilities the strange mark will grant to the Fairy Tail wizard.
Will it be increased speed? An unknown spell?
"Sorry to keep you waiting," Gerard spread his legs and stood ready to continue, power coursing through his body and new abilities he haven't seen in his entire life flashing in his mind. He could now fight and keep his identity a secret. "I was… trying to adapt to this new power."
"Is that new power a spell from your guild?" Jura asked warily, wanting to know more about the black tattoo.
"Truthfully, I don't know." He narrowed his eyes. 'If it is, then I should not be able to use it.' "But I will see its capabilities now."
"So he can use it too?" Natsu mumbled under his breath, frowning slightly. Everyone was getting a chance to use those awesome powers while he has to wait for a chance himself? That was not fair!
"Seems like he can." Gray answered, watching the mark with curiosity. When he received it, he felt a familiar power inside of him, and a strange memory telling him how to use that increased speed.
"I thought it was for Fairy Tail wizards only." Lucy was still trying to discern what happened in her fight. She remembered the mark appearing on her hand and the next second, a strange chant came to her mind and out of her mouth, giving her victory without having to finish off her opponent.
"Whatever it is, it seems like even he can use it." Erza told her thoughts to the others, not saying Gerard's name out loud for fear of someone hearing her. The mark was strange. At first, she thought it was like the other lost spells from her guild, but if it could be used by those not belonging to Fairy Tail, then the case was another one altogether.
Back to the fight…
"Come; let me see what it does." Jura stood defensively and ready to see what other abilities the tattoo could give, all the experienced fighters in the stadium keeping their eyes glued on the cloaked man from Fairy Tail.
"As you wish." Gerard disappeared at the sound of a whisper, but this time, his body could be discerned in between the changes in his movements, showing his location to everyone despite the incredible speed. Still, it was so fast that it looked like he was all over the place, afterimages of his form confusing the Wizard Saint and forcing him to wait for a moment to strike. 'I need to get use to the speed first, and then move to the offensive.'
"First, can you tell me who left this strange magic in our power?" Makarov was surprised by the abilities Mystogan was using to fight against Jura. Increased speed, unknown spells that ranged from strange bindings to blazing blue-fire balls and huge black boxes with spears, a huge sword… "What's with that sword?!"
Everyone stopped and stared at the sword floating horizontally before Mystogan, even the man himself stopped his running to see it. It was a cleaver-like sword with a cloth wrapped around it. It was leaking a power of its own that was beyond the imagination of anyone present.
"T-that sword…" Natsu watched it with wide eyes, rubbing his forehead instinctively; he didn't notice that his next words escaped from the mouth of all of the members of his guild at the same time. "…I have seen it before."
Everyone, from the 2 teams to the members watching from the public stands eyed the blade with a feeling resembling gratitude. Not understanding why, but thanking the sword for something it did in the past for them.
"That sword holds the power capable of killing a god." Mavis commented with her eyes fixed on the blade, her words shocking the people around her and drawing more of their attention to the object floating in front of Mystogan. "If he let it come out, then, he trusts this man."
The sword glowed blue for a second and later, its wrappings untangled themselves in front of Gerard. The sword was positioning itself to let the hilt at the man's grasp to try and take it.
The cloaked figure stared at it and then moved a tentative hand to reach for the hilt, a strange pulse from the blade calling for him.
'Abandon your fears.'
"What is he doing?" Outside the city, in a cliff close to the stadium where the games were held, Ultear asked her question to the pink-haired girl sitting next to her. Meredy shook her head and gave a blank stare as an answer.
"Jura! Don't let him take that sword!" Lyon yelled from Lamia's team balcony. He had a bad feeling about the strange artifact, and it was enough to warn his strong teammate out of worry for him.
'Move forward and never stop.'
'That voice again…' Gerard recognized the voice as the one that spoke to him when the mark appeared on his hand. But this time it was encompassed with an older voice, a voice that held a deep wisdom in it.
'You'll age if you pull back…' He finally grasped the sword in his hand, feeling even more power pouring inside of him and letting a blue aura surround him, to everyone's astonishment. '…you'll die if you hesitate.'
The energy continued to surge through him, letting more memories flow inside of him until it stopped and he stood tall with the sword in his hand.
'Speak my name! And bear witness of true power!'
The voices gave one final shout and faded from his head, the aura gone along with them, but he could still feel the mysteriously familiar energy coming out of the blade.
He was going to try its abilities with Jura and win the match for Fairy Tail…
"So he accepted you, huh?"
…but that voice he heard inside his head spoke again, this time to his side.
Turning his head to see, he came to face an orange-haired man wearing black garments, a red strap across his chest showing from where the sword came and to whom it belong. "To be honest, I didn't think it would work, after all, that's only a portion of my power." He smiled approvingly to him. "But if it worked with you, then the others won't have a problem."
"W-who is he?" The wizards from Fairy Tail and the rest of the stadium all but shouted at the new arrival, not knowing how that man appeared in the middle of the battlefield and who he was.
"P-participant Mystogan from Fairy Tail grabbed the sword that appeared out of nowhere and now a strange man shows itself in the arena! What's this bizarre chain of events?!" The announcer, who was shocked as the others, kept on doing his job.
"Y-you…" Gerard whispered in a daze, recognizing the man from somewhere. "…I know you, don't I?"
"Yeah, you do." Ichigo snorted at the confused faces he was receiving, looking around to see everything. "So they can see me now, huh?" He tilted his head down, shoving his hands inside his pockets. "That's good."
"D-does anyone else...?" Mirajane started the question but couldn't get the strength to finish it. Either way, the others knew what she was going to ask, if Laxus', Gajeel's and Juvia's nods in answer meant anything.
"That man," Erza narrowed her wide eyes to see the orange-haired man better, her teammates doing the same next to her. "I believe I… know him from somewhere."
"First, is he the one you were speaking about?" Makarov looked at the young man with a raised eyebrow. Something was telling him that he was like any other member of his guild.
"Yes, he is." Mavis nodded, but she did not show a cheerful expression this time. "But he's not, at the same time."
"What do you mean?" Was there an end to the mysterious answers and dodging questions?
"I will explain after the day is over." Seems like there will be.
"Thanks for lending me your sword… and your abilities." Gerard called Ichigo's attention, giving a determined nod to the black-clothed man. "I will make good use of them."
"Yeah, I'm sure you will." Ichigo smirked and turned to the stands. "Anyway, I'm not here to chat, I'm here to see how you fair with them." Before anyone could notice, the man was sitting next to Mavis on the railings in front of the Fairy Tail crowd, grinning openly with his arms crossed over his chest. "Show me a good battle!"
"I will do my best."
Later that night…
"First, can you now explain to us who this young man is?" Makarov asked anxiously with the rest of the guild behind him; all of them staring at the tall figure sitting on a stool of the bar with a permanent scowl in his face.
The day was a success for them. They were at the top of the board and with great advantage over the rest of the teams and guilds. A great return from the former strongest guild in Fiore. But now they wanted to know about the cause of such victories, the one to give them the powers that won those battles and events.
And so, they were eyeing the Founder of their guild and her friend with obvious curiosity, which annoyed the orange-haired man in black garments and earned a small laugh from the blonde sitting next to him.
"Can you stop your staring? I'm not a book or something you can read with your eyes!" He made his point clear by grabbing hold of the sword in his back, his scowl softening when he saw them nervously redirect their eyes to other points of interest inside the room. "That's better."
"Don't be so childish, Ichigo, they are only curious." Mavis said cheerfully, waving her hands around.
'Look who's talking…' Luckily, she didn't notice the collective sweatdrop her words received or she would have cried.
But it was quickly forgotten when the name she mentioned clicked something in the assembled wizards' minds.
They heard it before.
"I-Ichigo?" Some hollowed whispers were heard, and some foreheads were rubbed by their owners.
Again, that feeling of gratitude came from somewhere deep inside their minds and hearts.
"It looks like you still don't remember," Ichigo frowned at the setback, but shrugged nonetheless. He knew it was to be expected, so he didn't get his hopes high. "Ah, doesn't matter. There's a lot of time for that…"
"What do you mean?" Makarov, having recovered slightly faster than the rest, asked to the young man. Something was pushing his mind to get answers.
"You'll all know when the time's right," Ichigo got up from his seat and walked to the exit, his movements being followed closely by those inside the room. "Mavis can explain a bit if you have questions. I'm going to do some sightseeing."
And he left.
"First Master, forgive me but, who is that man?" Erza crossed her arms and tried to force the answer from the depths of her mind. She had a feeling she knew him, and that he helped her a lot in the past. But the answer wouldn't appear even if she concentrated on getting it. "Why does it feel like we know him?"
"Oh, that's because you do." Mavis hopped off the stool and walked to stand on a table surrounded by the members of her guild, intently watching and listening to her. "He was the one to save all of you from Death, many times, even if his job was exactly the contrary."
"F-from Death itself?" Lucy repeated what she heard, thinking that her friends and her might have heard wrong.
Mavis nodded and continued with her story, passing back and forth on the table with her eyes focused ahead.
She began to tell them who the man was.
And what did he do for them all.
In another place…
3 months ago…
"Kurosaki-san~!" Kisuke Urahara yelled brightly to the sky, lunging to tackle-hug his former student after not seeing him for 14 years. "You're back~!"
"Yeah, I am." Ichigo answered plainly to the shopkeeper, halting his lunge with a kick to his face. After the scolding Byakuya and he received from the Head Captain, he was not in the mood of tolerating the blond man and his antics. Not even if he hasn't seen him in a long time and truly missed him. He looked around the room and saw that almost nothing changed inside the small shop, except for Tessai's haircut and that Ururu and Jinta looked older. "How're you all doing?"
"We're fine, Kurosaki-san," The tall man, with an even weirder moustache and haircut on his face and head, answered with a polite bow. "Thank you for asking."
"W-we're fine, Kurosaki-san." Ururu was still shy even if she grew older. "W-welcome back."
"We were fine until you came back, punk." Jinta still had that arrogant attitude.
Despite the groaning Urahara, the fighting Jinta and Ururu, and the weeping Tessai (who Ichigo couldn't tell why he was crying for), the Soul Reaper smiled.
He returned home; to his home in his dimension, where all the people he knows are.
"I'm glad." The orange-haired walked forward and picked the man he previously kicked from the ground, narrowing his eyes at his fake tears and cries about how cruel Ichigo still was. "Where's my body, Getaboushi? It's been a long time and I want to see how my friends and family are doing..."
The shopkeeper turned back to his annoying easygoing attitude and led the way to the back of the store, where Kurosaki's body was kept sealed and protected from anyone that could try to do something with it.
It came as no surprise when Ichigo saw his own body lying motionlessly inside a tank with seals all over; he was expecting something like that.
But he was not expecting what he saw on the back of his body when Urahara pulled it out and laid it on a nearby table.
"Now this is strange." The blond man commented with his eyes inspecting the black mark on the back of the young man's body. "Do you have something to say… Kurosaki… san?" He was curious to know so he turned to see his former student with questions ready, but stopped himself. He was too shocked of what was in the face of the man to say something.
Ichigo was smiling.
And not his usual smile with a scowl.
He was smiling like any normal person would.
"This thing…" the orange-haired man whispered fondly, tracing the black mark's outlining with his fingers. He didn't expect to see the mark on his body. He believed it disappeared after he crossed the portal back to this dimension. How did it even reached his body before he got back inside of it? "…why is this here?"
"K-Kurosaki-san…?" Urahara found the strength to talk again. He looked at the mark and began to think where he saw something like that or close to that in his life, not coming with an answer this time. It looked like a creature, a small creature with wings and a tail. But it was something that surely existed in the dimension his former student resided for the last decade and a half. "What is that?"
"That's a fairy, Urahara-san..." Ichigo's smile widened. He had a lot of time to wonder how the marking came to his world and body before him; a lot of time to be thankful for it.
"Mind to explain further?" The blond raised an eyebrow in wonder. A fairy? Like the ones from the fantasy books he used to read when he was learning more about the World of the Living? The Soul Reaper found actual fairies in the other dimension?
"Sure..." Ichigo sat at the edge of the table, positioning himself to enter his body again after years of not doing such thing. "…but it will be a long story."
"We have all the time in the world, Ichigo."
Back in Earthland…
"Weren't you going to do some sightseeing, Ichigo?" Mavis asked to the Soul Reaper standing in the air, above the building where Fairy Tail was staying, chuckling; amused at the sight of his pissed off face after being inside the building explaining his story to the guild.
"You told them too much, Mavis," Ichigo crossed his arms and faced the city around them. "No wonder they're all pained from the memories."
"They'll be fine by the morning." She waved his complaints and floated to see the same things he was seeing. "It's such a shame you couldn't stay."
"True, but I had my friends waiting at the other side," he moved a hand to scratch the back of his head. "Anyone would have done the same in my place."
"Uh-huh, that's certain." She floated to another building, being closely followed by the man. "Still, it's good to have you here with us… in a way."
"I can't truly believe it." Ichigo raised his hands and looked at them with narrowed eyes. He spotted a pole on the next building and he floated closer to it to try and grab it only to see his hand pass right through it. He sighed. "Guess… it's not that good in the end."
"You're his essence, a part of his soul, what else did you expect?" Mavis didn't see what he tried to do, but knew what he was talking about. They floated to another building. "You can do as much as I can, Ichigo. Be thankful."
"Yeah, you're right." He continued to follow her lead, watching with his hands inside his pockets at what the habitants of Crocus did during the night. A doubt flashed in his mind. "How long will the lacrima last?"
"The power he left inside of it is more than enough," she explained, diverting her attention to several people on the streets that were talking about the matches of that day. "It should be able to replenish itself constantly to be used for eons. Nonetheless, I won't give its' abilities to our friends during the whole tournament, I will only share it when they're in need of such powers."
"That's good and all… but, if it replenishes constantly… I will stay here indefinitely?" She nodded at his question. That wasn't so bad in his opinion, but… "What about you?"
"I will remain here for as long as Fairy Tail exists," she looked over her shoulder to give him a bright smile, easing his worries. "So you will not get rid of me for a loooooong time!"
"That's just great…" He scoffed and turned to see other parts of the city, hiding his relieved smile from her. He didn't want to have her teasing him throughout the night for something this stupid.
He was scared to the bones when, 3 months ago, the Head Captain remained quiet at the Spirit King's threats. He could already imagine a big fight for something that wouldn't end well for this world or them. But he was shocked, as everyone else, when the old man turned back on his feet and gave the order of retreat to the people at his command; telling the spirits of that dimension that he will have the portal sealed from the other side to avoid disrupting Earthland's balance again.
Ichigo was relieved after hearing that, and happy to go back to see the faces he only held in his memories.
Though, he was also sad for not being able to see the faces he grew accustomed to see in this world.
So he thought of a plan, together with Mavis, to keep on aiding the wizards he has been protecting in the last 14 years.
A lacrima was filled with a quarter of his power, enough to give a normal Soul Reaper a stand against a Captain-class enemy from his dimension, and left it at the care of the blonde girl.
She was to keep it hidden in Tenrou Island and be the judge of those calling for the powers and abilities it contains before doing such a thing as granting his gift to someone who wasn't worthy of it.
It was a good plan to keep on helping those annoying brats.
But they didn't expect to see the lacrima materializing the Soul Reaper's essence after the original one left the dimension.
That was a miscalculation on their part.
A welcomed miscalculation.
He could help and still continue to see them…
…well, his essence would be able to do it.
And that wasn't bad in their opinion.
In fact, for Ichigo…
(A/N: What can I say? I really loved this ending, I hope you did as well. The story is over... or at least this one is. There's two more in mind and I'm planning to write them when I have the chance. One of them is half written so, don't worry, you'll read it shortly. *nods*
I would like to thank Epic Ebi again for his beta-reading skills and advices. They were priceless and made this story the very best for all of you. Check out his stories if you can, I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Not at all.
Something else: If you have any questions regarding the story, about something you did not understand, you can always ask. I'll be glad to answer any questions you have.
And now, time for me to leave. I hope to have the next story ready before the end of the year, since 2013 looks pretty busy for me.
See you in the next update.