*edit: fixed a couple of things that were really bothering me :/
Happy Halloween everyone~! This entire thing really just reads like a giant prologue and it isn't exactly far off from my norm...but it counts as what I wrote for Halloween anyway, ok?
Long ago, a war began. The battles were beyond human comprehension, waged mostly in the heavens and other realms the human race had no access to. When they ventured to Earth, devastation and destruction was left behind, fore the commanders were gods and the soldiers were angels. One god sought to become the only god. He saw the potential in the short-lived human race, and he also saw their weaknesses. Gullible, the mortals were easily blinded by his words and his parlor tricks until they were fooled into believing that there was only one true god. A book preaching his rule was written and passed down to the humans. They revered it as the gospel of God and it became known as the bible.
With the help of mankind, the god began attacking the others, binding and destroying their soldiers and killing his adversaries. The dead gods were reduced greatly in power but couldn't truly die. They descended into hell where the devil took over and made them his minions and soldiers. But two among the devil's angels stood out. Two were destined to be more than just soldiers and with death, they were reborn into power. They were fated to fight back against God.
The devil saw this but so too did God. He turned his fanatical, limitless human army upon them. The two angels were far too powerful to be killed, so God armed his humans with the necessary tools to bind them for all eternity. Eventually they were captured and hidden away. Only the highest members of the church kept the knowledge of where they were and what their punishments had been. The secrets were passed down by word only for generations, the knowledge of great importance, fore should one break it's bindings, the other would be set free as well and they would wreak havoc upon the god that had killed and bound them, upsetting all that God had worked for.
Centuries passed and a library was built in the name of God. It held a vast collection of knowledge but it also held secrets, even the church's secrets. Layer upon layer of protection and wards surrounded the building. An ageless man, the very same that built it, was appointed to watch over it's collections for as long as he existed. Over his decades of service, he built upon the original collection of books until it was the largest library in the country and the largest collection of the church's secret work, of the war and their prisoners, in the world.
He did the work of God and he even helped in the war, binding and hiding the fallen angels within his books, but his work was an abomination of his nature and he couldn't remain blinded by a forced faith forever. One day, a child fated to set him free would be born. One day, he would learn who he truly was.
"What day is it?" The voice was deep and rough, on the edge of a growl, but that was the man's normal tone and so the other that he spoke to was unfazed, nor was he surprised by the question.
"Sunday, Master." An older man in white robes answered as he gazed down at the seated young man before him. His hair was still dark for his age, worn in a single, thin braid that hung down his back. His intelligent, calm eyes flickered over the pile of books closed and organized on the desk top before raising just slightly to meet vivid, otherworldly blue eyes. "The clergy will be here soon. They'll be bringing the apprentice you chose last week."
"Ah, yes...Sunday." The master and creator of the vast library stood from his desk, laying down his quill pen but leaving the book he'd been working in open. His brows creased as he thought, trying to decide if it had really been a week since he had chosen his apprentice. Shaking his head, he gave up. Keeping track of time was never a strong suit of his, not since he had built his library and had been given purpose at any rate.
Every few years he would choose an apprentice to pass on his knowledge to and perhaps one day replace his aging assistant, perhaps even himself if it came to that. But he usually couldn't keep one around for more than a week or two, or so he was told. He didn't really pay attention to how long it took him to get fed up with them. The church was unhappy about it, but he told them he refused to teach a child the secrets meant for a man; the library's secrets. He would find the right disciple in time and he would pass on his knowledge and teach him or her of what his library truly housed.
But until that day, his secrets would remain secrets. "See them in, please."
"Of course, Sir." The older man bowed slightly before leaving the large, rounded room of the library proper to enter the winding hall that would lead him to the front, chapel style doors of the building.
Upon throwing the doors wide, before their guests could knock upon them and shatter his master's peace, he was greeted with the sight of young man no older than his early twenties. Orange hair stood out in a chaotic kind of way, like he had just climbed from bed. His eyes were a deep and fathomless brown, wide with the wonder of youth and a small, almost nervous smile adorned his boyish features.
The two clergymen that had escorted the new apprentice ducked around the doorman and disappeared inside to begin their daily business. The elderly man in white smiled at the young man and bowed slightly, but didn't move from the doorway to allow him entry as well. "Welcome, Mr. Kurosaki. The Master waits in his library, but I'm afraid I must delay you for a moment more."
"Oh, uh, alright." Ichigo Kurosaki had been born to one of the city's most well known doctors. All his life, he'd listened to the teachings of God and followed in his father's footsteps as a devout believer. He could hardly believe his luck when it had been revealed that he had gained the attention of the Master of the Church's Library.
He had no idea why the man had done such a thing or what made him stand out from the other young people of the church. As far as he knew, he'd never met nor even seen the Master. It was said the man never left the confines of his vast library, never once taking a step outside it's fortress like walls since he had built it. But perhaps those were only tales, rumors spun by curious onlookers. After all, the library had stood for more than a hundred years.
The library it's self was massive and stood in the very center of the city, directly across the street from the city's largest and most prevalent church. The walls were made of rough stone, carved in a castle like fashion. The stained glass windows were tall and arching, covered in a sturdy and protective wire that wrapped in the shape of a holy cross in the center of each window. The roof was high with tall peeks and deep valleys, each peek holding a large, gothic styled bronze cross. The enormous double doors were carved of a black wood, sturdy and impossibly heavy looking. Banded in bronze stamped with the mark of the cross, it seemed they were made to keep monsters out, or perhaps in if you listened to the rumors.
A winding drive led to the library building, surrounded by a vast yard of the greenest grass, elegant statues of angels and more crosses lining it. A tall and imposing wrought iron fence kept people from entering the grounds unless the gates were opened for them and access had to be granted by the clergy.
The man dressed in white, priest like robes held out his hand as Ichigo stood in the doorway. Ichigo looked up at him, confused and wondering why the man wouldn't grant him access.
"Your cross, Mr. Kurosaki." The man pointed to the silver cross pendant, affixed to a silver chain that wrapped around Ichigo's neck. "You cannot have it within the walls of the library."
"What? How does that make sense?" Ichigo made a face at the man, his brows furrowing in his confusion.
"All of Master Jaegerjaquez' rules have purpose. It shall be explained later."
Ichigo wrapped his hand around the cross, feeling it's smooth metal press into his palm. He shook his head, still looking unsure. "It was my mothers...I can't give it up..."
The gentleman of the library seemed to understand. He nodded and held up a single finger before closing the doors, leaving Ichigo even more confused where he stood outside. Hardly a moment later, the doors were thrown open once more. The older man presented Ichigo with a small jewelry box made of black wood, it's surface unpainted and unmarked. Using a key, the man unlocked the box and handed it to Ichigo.
"Put the necklace in here. You can keep the box and I shall keep the key. This way, you can keep your cross but it will be hidden from view and protected."
Ichigo hesitated, but complied and unclasped the necklace. He nestled it in the rich crimson padding of the box and closed the lid, allowing the man to lock it before he pulled it close to his chest. What a strange tradition for a man of God to practice...
The doorman stepped back and finally allowed Ichigo to enter as he tucked the key away in a pocket of his robes. The heavy doors shut with a dull thud, plunging the hallway they opened into in shadows. It wasn't particularly dark, but there was still something a bit foreboding about the interior of the library.
As Ichigo was led through the winding corridors, he looked around, taking in his surroundings and realizing something was missing. The walls carried the same, heavy stone feel as the outside of the building and everything was decorated in different shades of grey, but not a single cross adorned the walls. No paintings depicted angels or heavenly scenes. The low ceilings of the hall were adorned with stained glass light fixtures, but even those lacked the holy feel that the outside had held.
By the time they made it to the heavy doors of the library proper, built much like the ones that led outside, Ichigo scowled his confusion. The elder man halted outside the doors and turned to look at Ichigo. He smiled knowingly before he spoke.
"Master Jaegerjaquez is a bit odd, but he's a kind enough man and he does good work. Before you meet him, there are a few things you should know." The man spoke quickly, hardly giving Ichigo time to agree to what he said. "Firstly, he will not be what you expect. Secondly, he will likely ask you the same questions several times a day, it's nothing to be alarmed by. And finally, never go against his commands."
"Oh...uh, alright..." Before Ichigo could fully comprehend and take in the few simple tips to follow, the doors to the library itself were thrown open and Ichigo was rendered speechless as he was ushered in.
He stared in awe. The library proper was beyond large, so much so that he could hardly see beyond the shelves to the back nor side walls of the room. It's floor was of black marble, polished until it held a mirror quality and nearly looked like black glass. The shelves were made of the same dark wood as the doors and held books of every shape, size and color. The rows were aligned in an odd pattern, branching out from the center in five different directions, creating five different sections; the northern, which Ichigo now faced upon entering and was guarded by the Master's large work desk, the eastern section, south eastern, south western and western, all of which branched out away from Ichigo and left the very center of the room more open.
Sconces lined what he could see of the rounded walls, the flames flickering gently and letting him know they were real. The entire room smelled marvelous; of warm wax, old books and ink. The high, arching ceilings were painted in a rich silver, chandeliers of crystal hanging on long chains, but still nothing to show the library was holy ground. Just like in the halls, there were no crosses, no paintings, not even a statue of a heavenly figure.
"Kurosaki Ichigo." A deep, velveteen growl of a voice snapped Ichigo's attention toward the center of the library and the man that stood there; the Master he was to apprentice under.
Eyes widening even further, Ichigo didn't even register that he nodded in answer as he took in the man. Unlike his assistant, the Master of the library wore black, form fitting clothes that looked like they belonged to an expensive three piece suit. His black shoes were polished, his pants and shirt perfectly pressed, the top two buttons undone to reveal the golden skin over his prominent collar bones and thick neck.
Standing several inches taller than Ichigo, the man was large and imposing, making Ichigo think of the enormous doors that locked him away in his library. His shoulders were broad, his stature showing off his heavily muscled physique and his stance alone whispered of a well earned confidence. But the thing that held the young man's attention and astonished him all the same was the blue. His hair danced like blue flame, chaotic and messy but perfect and his eyes... They shone as if by their own light, a spark from a star littered night sky. His eyes were so blue they put the heavens to shame and they were piercing in a way that made Ichigo wonder if the man could see his very soul.
"Yes...I'm Ichigo..." The man was not what he had been expecting at all.
The elderly assistant nudged Ichigo forward before bowing and turning to leave the library once more. Ichigo looked back at him as he stepped forward and neared the Master.
"My name is Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez. You may call me by Sir, Master or Master Jaegerjaquez. That last one's a mouthful, pronounce it correctly." The man's deep voice seemed to caress the inside of his library with a fondness that helped to put Ichigo at ease. It was booming and powerful, a deep rumbling growl, but it was quiet and low, lacking the volume one would normally expect. "The rules of my library are simple. Most importantly, you have access to the entire building, save two locations. My private chambers are off limits, as is the northern section of the library. Everything else, you are welcomed to. If you wear a watch or carry a cellphone, you can leave it in your rooms, they'll be useless within the first six hours of your stay. And the second most important rule; be quiet. I hate loud noises and this is a library."
"Um... Of course, Sir..." Ichigo said quietly. His volume made a charming smile cross the Master's handsome features, white, perfectly straight teeth peeking from between his full lips. It was enough to make a woman swoon and perhaps even weaken Ichigo's knees a bit.
"Excellent. Any questions before I show you to your rooms?" Mr. Jaegerjaquez asked, his tone, while still deep and rumbling, pleasant to listen to and friendly enough.
Ichigo thought for a moment, the small chest with his mother's cross clutched tightly in his hands. He ran his fingers over the wood grain and frowned. "Just one."
Grimmjow arched a single blue brow and Ichigo quickly amended. "Just one, Sir."
That easy smile was back on the taller man's face. "Ask away, Ichigo."
"Why don't you allow crosses in your library?" He was almost timid to ask, but he was always a curious young man and even though the Master seemed capable of being rather intimidating, he had said Ichigo could ask.
A smirk tilted one side of the man's lips, his eyes sparkling in a mysterious way. "I don't like them."
"You...don't like them...?" Ichigo was throughly confused. He furrowed his brows and looked up at the taller man as they exited the large library and entered the hall through the doors he had entered from, the only way in or out of the library room. Instead of turning right and toward the exit, they went left and Ichigo assumed they were moving toward the personal quarters that the library building held.
"Right. They make me irritable and uncomfortable." Grimmjow told the younger, his voice a quiet rumble, even now that they had left the library proper.
"Like you're allergic to them?"
"Hmm... Something like that, I suppose." Master Jaegerjaquez grinned as they walked, his vision trained ahead of himself. "That was more than one question."
"Oh... I'm sorry, Sir." Ichigo said a bit sheepishly.
"No need. You were the one that put a limit on your questions, not me." The man's vivid gaze drifted toward Ichigo for a second before returning to look straight ahead. "You shouldn't do that, you should always have questions. Questions are important, perhaps more so than answers, fore they shape our lives and the way we live and lead to more. Answers simply halt progress and exploration."
Ichigo was quiet the rest of the way to his designated rooms, thinking about what he had been told. It was in that moment that he began to realize nothing about his stay at the library would be boring or normal. He was shown to his rooms, which consisted of a private bedroom and washroom. The room was relatively bare, like the rest of the library, holding only a bed, a half filled bookshelf of texts from various genres, and a chest of drawers for his clothing. He placed the box containing his mother's cross on the top of the bookshelf and didn't miss the way Master Jaegerjaquez' eyes narrowed on it before he left Ichigo to his own devices.
Before he left, Grimmjow announced he would call upon Ichigo with the next evening to begin and that he may do what he wished with the rest of his day and most of the next. The Master claimed they had time. Contrary to what the older man had told him, Ichigo was allowed to explore the small castle that was the library over the next several days, wondering the vast, winding halls and opening up various doors. He even walked through the library a few times, never catching sight of the man he was apprenticing under nor the man's assistant.
Finally, on the morning of his fifth day, Ichigo made his way to the library once more, his brows creased with slight unease as he searched for the blue haired man. He had been told he'd be called upon during his second day and that he had yet to receive word from either the Master, nor his elderly assistant made worry and slight suspicion begin to crawl up into his mind.
Having been told he had full access to most of the building, he didn't bother knocking before he quietly entered and upon peeking around the large doors, he found who he was seeking.
Grimmjow was seated at his desk, located near the back of the library proper, though visible by the center isle that ran most of the room's length. His head had been bent over a book while he worked, whether reading or writing, Ichigo wasn't sure, but he looked up with impossibly sharp eyes as the door closed with a soft bang behind Ichigo.
The apprentice flinched at the noise and at the look he received before slowly edging his way toward the bigger man. "Master Jaegerjaquez, you had said you would send for me..."
The man sat up straighter, leaning back in his seat and stretching his long legs out beneath his desk. "Of course. What day is it?"
Ichigo's frown deepened at the inquiry. "It's Friday morning, Sir. Nearly five days after I arrived."
"Oh, well I guess we should get started then, shouldn't we." It wasn't really a question and Grimmjow stood from his chair, stretching out in a fluid motion that pulled the hard lines of muscle along his body taut to flex against the fabric of his tight fitting, black shirt.
Ichigo followed along behind the odd man, through rows of shelves and countless books. They paused at a particular shelf and Grimmjow pulled a book from it, hardly even needing to read the titles to know which he was grabbing for. He handed it to Ichigo and as Ichigo looked down at it, turning it over in his hands so that he could read the cover, a white shape jumped from a nearby shelf to land upon his shoulder.
Jumping in surprise and barely stifling a frightened sound, he looked over with wide eyes to come face to face with large, green eyes. Swallowing, Ichigo realized it was only a cat and gingerly reached over to stroke behind it's ears as he chuckled quietly at himself. The cat purred and refused to relinquish it's perch upon his shoulder.
"If it's alright to ask, why do you have a cat, Sir?" Ichigo looked at the man still walking as he got over his surprised. He quickly followed after Grimmjow, wincing slightly as the small creature's sharp claws flexed against his shoulder for purchase.
"Of course it's alright. Questions should almost always be asked, they're wonderful." The Master said as he paused and turned to look back at his apprentice. He smiled at his feline companion, already knowing this young man would be different from the others, since she seemed to like him upon their first meeting. "And to answer; she's a familiar."
"Uhhh... That's witchcraft, Sir..." Ichigo blanched. Witchcraft and the like was clearly against the church and God.
"It is?" Grimmjow frowned at the young man. "Since when?"
"Since like the fourteenth century." Ichigo raised his brows at his Master. The man just got stranger and stranger the more he spoke to him.
"What century is it now?" Grimmjow seemed genuinely curious and Ichigo really had no idea how to handle the man.
Of course, when he had first arrived, the elderly manservant had warned him that Mr. Jaegerjaquez would be nothing like he expected and that he tended to ask the same questions over and over, but it was still a bit unnerving. "The twenty-first, Sir..."
"Huh." Grimmjow dismissed the new information like it was nothing of consequence and began answering his apprentice's original question. "Well, anyway. She's been with me since I built the library and cats come in handy for all sorts of things, including but not limited to hunting down and eradicating pests that would eat at my books and detecting beings of the paranormal or supernatural type."
"Since...you built it...? Umm... I thought this library was at least 100 years old..." Ichigo's confusion only got worse the more they talked. The little details didn't seem to quite lock up and never mind the reference to ghosts and the like.
"It is. One hundred and thirty-two years, actually." Grimmjow answered as he continued walking. He tilted his head slightly as if in thought, though Ichigo couldn't see his features now that the man's back faced him again. "I think..."
"But you can't be older than your early thirties..." Ichigo was astonished, to say the least. He couldn't help but question the man's sanity. Silently, of course.
From no where, the older man that Ichigo had met when he first arrived spoke as he walked around the end of a shelf. "It was your grandfather that built the library, Master Jaegerjaquez."
"My grandfather? Hmm, I could have sworn I remembered drawing up the plans for it's construction..." Grimmjow shrugged as he turned back toward Ichigo. "Ah well, my grandfather, then."
Ichigo sent an almost horrified look toward the old man. The assistant sent him a knowing smile. "I told you he was a bit odd." The man said in a whisper as Ichigo passed by him and he fell in line behind his Master and the apprentice.
"I heard that, Shawlong." Grimmjow's voice was a low rumble, but there was little heat in his words, more of a friendly banter. It seemed as though the two had known each other for quite some time.
"I'm unsurprised, Master. You're hearing has always been divine." The man folded his hands behind his back and walked a pace behind Ichigo as they continued to traverse the library. "Sir, if I might make a suggestion. Perhaps one subject of study would be sufficient for the time being?"
Master Jaegerjaquez paused once more, his head tilting slightly before he nodded and turned back to study Ichigo. "Yes, you're probably right, considering I'm staring him out with Latin."
"L-latin?" Ichigo questioned as he looked back down at the book in his hands. True to the blue haired man's words, Ichigo couldn't read a single word on the cover.
"Yes, Latin. You'll be learning how to read, write and speak it. Then we might move to greek. I'll decide later." Grimmjow waved it off.
"Latin..." Ichigo mumbled. Well, at least it wouldn't be a boring subject that he could learn in no time. He cracked the book open and flipped through a few pages where he stood, missing the pleased smirk sent his way by Grimmjow.
Ichigo spent the next several days trying to understand what he was looking at while he flipped through pages in the book Grimmjow had handed him. When he finally gave in and admitted to himself he would need help, he returned to the library to find his strange Master. As was the case before, he found the blue haired man seated at his desk in his library, where he always seemed to be whenever Ichigo needed to find him.
Master Jaegerjaquez gladly set aside his work, whatever it was that he did, and began tutoring his apprentice. Throughout his time with the older gentlemen, Ichigo came to realize that, while decidedly odd, Grimmjow was a very intelligent man and there always seemed to be a method to his madness. An abstract method, but one nonetheless.
Ichigo learned to simply speak his mind, to ask whatever questions he had and whatever came to mind. And Grimmjow always answered. Sometimes he would recite the facts to a question from memory and it would seem as though he had his entire library memorized, other times he would answer with another question that ultimately led Ichigo to finding the answer he had sought. And of course, any question involving dates or time was generally answered by Grimmjow's mysterious assistant, who seemed to have a knack for disappearing and staying out of sight.
Each morning, as the sun rose from the horizon, a group of two clergymen from the church would enter the library. They made their rounds, inspecting the building, mainly the forbidden northern corner, and speaking briefly to the Master of the library before disappearing to speak with the assistant. Grimmjow never seemed too fond of them, but it wasn't an open hostility, it almost seemed more of an ingrained reaction, an instinctive thing that the man himself didn't quite understand and so fought it and tried to stay civil while the clergymen were around.
Ichigo also learned to stay quiet, but not silent. Low noises were fine, soft voices, but the Master had extremely sensitive hearing, nearly like the cat that wondered the library, and he didn't take kindly to loud interruptions. Fortunately, the apprentice had yet to see the man's temper flair and it was as though he was generally calm. Over all, Ichigo and Grimmjow got along quite well.
The young apprentice only saw the bigger man's calm facade even so much as waver once and he truly had no desire to see Master Jaegerjaquez mad. After nearly two weeks under Grimmjow's tutorship, Ichigo wasn't quite speaking Latin, but he was reading and writing it quite well and learning more with each day. And what better way to practice on his own then begin going through some of the extensive library's books?
The only problem was that it seemed most of the books with Latin titles were located around the northern vicinity of the large collection, the corner of the library Mr. Jaegerjaquez had declared off limits upon his arrival.
Ichigo hadn't been attempting to snoop about, he hadn't really even realized where he was at as he wondered through the labyrinth of shelves. He had picked up the first tome with Latin characters on the spine and turned to lean back against the sturdy shelving he'd pulled it from.
As he studied the cover for a moment, working out what the elaborate title said, a very small sound rang through the shelves he stood between. Nearly inaudible, the sound carried the same rhythm and pattern as speaking, chanting or whispering almost and somehow rippling, but it was so quiet he wasn't sure he had heard anything at all and when he looked about, he found nothing. Pausing, Ichigo strained his hearing, waiting to see if he'd hear the sound again. When nothing presented it's self and no one walked around the shelving to enter his field of view, he shrugged it off. The building was over a hundred years old, after all, it was bound to creak every once in a while, no matter it's fortress like structure.
Leafing through the pages, yellowed with age, Ichigo paused when he turned to an old, black and white, etched style drawing. A slight frown marred the young man's brow as he curiously studied the picture; a tall, lanky creature with cloven hooves and a forked tail bared sharp fangs in a grin as a woman cowered in the corner of the page. It was the kind of illustration that made him think of cheesy horror scenes in bad movies about kids trying to conjure spirits and the like, yet it seemed infinitely creepier and somehow more real. After a few moments, Ichigo turned his gaze upon the ancient writing he had been learning over the past couple weeks to begin reading about the creepy picture.
He didn't get more than a few paragraphs in, his slight frown deepening to consume his features as he read about things that shouldn't exist and demons that walked among men, before a low rumbling caught his attention. It wasn't the same sound he had heard before, but perhaps just as unsettling. Ichigo glanced up, almost expecting nothing again only to lock eyes with the impossibly blue orbs of his Master. Startled by the man's sudden and oppressive presence, Ichigo nearly dropped the book.
It took him no time at all to realize the rumbling was a growl and that Grimmjow wasn't happy. Fumbling the book around a bit, he managed to snag it before it hit the ground and oh so slowly closed it, his eyes wide and still locked with the angered, cyan one's before him. They held a heat that seemed impossible for their cool color.
"I thought I made the rules clear when you first arrived." Grimmjow's deep baritone was so low it sent shivers down Ichigo's spine, edging on threatening and down right frightening. It spoke of something more, something that wasn't quite what he could see.
"You did, Sir..." Ichigo turned slightly to place the book back exactly where he had gotten it from as he hastened to explain. "I didn't venture any further into this corner...I was only looking for a book in Latin to read from...It was the first one I came across..."
The bigger man's eyes narrowed on Ichigo's form, a single brow quirking slightly as Grimmjow leaned forward and toward his apprentice. Unsure what to expect, Ichigo stood frozen in place as he watched. In that moment, as the man's big hand slowly rose from his side, Grimmjow seemed to hold an aura of menace, of brute strength and raw, unbridled power.
The Master's hand went passed Ichigo to pluck the book he'd been reading from away from it's fellow tomes. Straightening and stepping back again, Grimmjow didn't bother looking down at it as he almost gently brushed his thumb across the inlaid text of the title. His eyes still trained on Ichigo's, holding his gaze with a searing and scorching heat that seemed to look right through the apprentice, Grimmjow finally nodded slightly and his deep and frightening scowl melted away.
"You can read this one." He said as he handed the book back to Ichigo. "But do not go looking for new books in this section. If you wish to find more Latin texts, ask and I will retrieve appropriate ones for you."
"Y-yes, Sir..." Ichigo clutched the book close and stared up at the library Master's features. Grimmjow said nothing more and turned about, disappearing between the rows of shelves once more, his steps as quiet as the ticking of a clock.
That very next morning, Ichigo decided to go find Master Jaegerjaquez' assistant and see if he could perhaps get a few answers. Something seemed very off about the blue haired man and it settled strangely in Ichigo's mind. His words were too gentle for his growling voice and he spoke with a wisdom far beyond his years. His actions were too smooth and his body too honed for a man that spent all his time closed within the walls of a library.
After spending an hour searching the round building's corridors, Ichigo finally rounded a bend and paused as voices reached him, the tones hushed but none were that of the Master's. Ichigo crept forward, careful to remain silent, until he reached the entrance of a room. The door was just barely ajar, letting him hear what was said.
"No, Father, the boy's still here. Master Jaegerjaquez seems to have taken a liking to this one." The voice of the assistant was quiet and polite but there was an almost strained tone to it. "I believe he's finally found an apprentice he finds worthy."
"Good. Lord knows he's gone through enough." Ichigo frowned as he listened, tempted to turn away and come back later. "And what about Master Jaegerjaquez?"
Shawlong, or so he had been called by the blue haired man, sighed and Ichigo hesitated in leaving, feeling the slight undercurrent of exasperation in the small sound. "He is the same as always. He has shown no signs in regaining his memories, why must you bother him every morning? I could simply call for the clergy if his condition changes."
Scowl deepening, Ichigo dared to peek around the edge of the doorframe and through the crack of the opened portal. Two men stood with their backs facing him, their clothing that of priests from the church. The assistant stood facing them and consequently the door that Ichigo hid behind. His dark eyes slowly drifted toward the door and Ichigo's eyes widened, knowing he'd been caught. To his surprise, the older man said nothing and smoothly directed his attention back to the men before him.
"You know we cannot take the chances that he would get to you before you could do so. You've been his assistant since you were but a child, you know full well how dangerous he has the potential to be." One of the clergymen said.
"Yes, Father, I do, but he's harmless as he is now. And even should he remember, he cannot leave the library, it was built with that little detail in mind." Shawlong crossed his hands behind his back as he spoke, his gaze steely and his demeanor calm. It seemed this had been a topic of debate before.
The other clergyman spoke up for the first time since Ichigo had arrived. "We're sorry, Shawlong. We know you've grown fond of the Master since your arrival here, but things will stay as they are. We cannot be too careful."
"If we must, we will replace you and Master Jaegerjaquez will be assigned a new assistant."
"No, that wont be necessary. I understand." Shawlong nodded slightly and the conversation seemed over.
Ichigo, mind racing with curiosity, straightened and quietly hurried away from the door. Not long later, he watched from near the front entrance as the clergymen left, smiling benignly and bidding everyone a good day. Grimmjow showed them out, as he usually did, but this time Ichigo paid closer attention. The blue haired Master didn't touch the large door with it's bronzed and stamped banding, the assistant did. Nor did the Master edge any closer to the door than a half dozen feet, always maintaining that short distance, even as the doors swung open. He also never crossed that minimum distance when around the two clergymen but it all seemed like an instinctive thing, like Grimmjow hardly even realized he did it.
As the clergy members left, the morning sun glinted from the heavenly crosses they wore, making Ichigo think of what he'd been told upon his arrival and the Master's strange habits.
The assistant swung the heavy doors closed behind the clergymen and turned to the blue haired man, his long features impassive and calm. "Master, would it be too much trouble to borrow young Mr. Kurosaki for a few minutes?"
Ichigo swallowed and fought down a slight rising in his stomach as his gaze darted to the aged assistant. Then he looked toward Grimmjow, almost pleading for the man to not allow it. His pointed look went unnoticed as Grimmjow shrugged, forcefully fighting the sneer that wanted to cross his angular features.
"Not at all." He said, his tone edging on a growl and his words sharp. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and hunched his shoulders, his aura taking a turn toward menacing as he struggled to control his irritation. Not giving the two a second glance, he turned away from the doors and made for the sanctity of his library.
As soon as he was out of sight, Ichigo turned toward the tall, older man. "I-I apologize...I didn't mean to listen in on your conversation..."
A knowing smile crossed the assistant's features but his dark eyes held an almost sad gleam. "I do not blame you for your curiosity."
He motioned for Ichigo to follow him as he made his way down the hall as well, but he wasn't headed toward the library. Ichigo glanced up at him but followed and waited for the man to elaborate.
"You were seeking me out, yes? So I would speak with you about the object of your curiosity, child."
"I'm not a kid..." Ichigo mumbled as they walked, his face tinting a slight red.
Shawlong chuckled and nodded. "No, I suppose you're not, but compared to me you are quite young and even I am no more than a child compared to Master Jaegerjaquez."
"What...?" Ichigo frowned, his steps faltering. "You two are pretty strange sometimes..."
"The world is a strange place." By this point, they had reached the room Ichigo had originally found the assistant in. They entered and the older man sank into a chair before Ichigo as though he was suddenly very weary, the weight of his situation settling upon his lean shoulders. "I'm sworn to the church and to secrecy. I cannot tell you much, Ichigo, but I believe you here for greater purposes than a mere apprentice. Master Jaegerjaquez is a good man, no matter what they should ever tell you about him. Should they choose to remove him from my watch and me from his library, please do take care of him."
"I-I will." Ichigo furrowed his brow and nodded, realizing how true it was. As strange as the man was, there was something about Grimmjow that drew Ichigo toward him. There was a misplaced innocence there, something that made what should have been a large and powerful man seem somehow softer and more vulnerable. Ichigo's voice was quiet, grave almost, as he spoke next. "Why would they remove you? What were you talking about?"
The assistant sighed again, shaking his head slightly as he sat, somehow managing to look his age. "Master Jaegerjaquez has been here for as long as he can remember. He doesn't remember anything before the library, about his past, about who he is and the church wishes to keep it that way, so they're very careful to keep a close eye on him."
"He-he doesn't know...? Why would they wish to keep such things from him?"
"Fear. They're afraid he would be dangerous..." The older man said as Ichigo stood before him.
"Would he be?" Ichigo had seen nothing to make the man seem dangerous. Sure, he certainly looked like he could be, but he somehow knew the danger the church feared wasn't the potential strength and prowess Ichigo could see just from looking at the bigger man. It was something deeper than that, something ingrained and primal.
"He would be, yes."
"Why?" Ichigo frowned his confusion, his voice nearly a whisper in the otherwise silent room.
"Now that, I cannot say."
"You don't really want him to remember either, do you?" Ichigo looked down at the man, at the slight gilt and even pain that resided in his normally apathetic eyes.
"I do not..." Shawlong said quietly. Then his dark gaze rose to meet the younger man's own. "But I do not wish Master Jaegerjaquez to suffer and those clergymen invading his home daily is taking it's toll on him. Their presence is unneeded and it only serves to anger him and make him irritable. He may not remember who he is and he may not be able to remember the date, but he remembers everything else. He has been devout in his work and though he says nothing, I can see how it bothers him that the church does not trust him."
Ichigo remained quiet for a few moments, thinking about what he was told. The mystery that was his tutor only deepened the more he learned about the man. Ichigo had suspected quite some time ago that Grimmjow had his library memorized, and the assistant's words only helped to solidify that. Yet the blue haired man couldn't remember what time it was, or keep track of days? Nor could he remember anything before the library he now lived in, the library Ichigo had never seen him leave in the weeks since he'd arrived.
Then Ichigo realized he didn't even know why the man was in the library in the first place. He hardly even knew what he was apprenticing for. "What does Master Jaegerjaquez even do?"
A small smile crossed the older man's features. "Book keeping, mostly. Finances and statistics and the like."
"Is that what's in the northern section that is kept so secret?" Ichigo thought back to the book he'd been reading the night before, the Latin one about demonology. That certainly had had nothing to do with counting and keep track of finances.
"No, most certainly not...but I cannot tell you what the northern section holds and it is off limits for a very good reason. Only Master Jaegerjaquez and a select group of the clergy have clearance to enter. The Master is sworn to be it's guardian..."
Ichigo spent the rest of his day wondering about all that he had been told. He had hoped that speaking with the mysterious assistant would clear things up a bit and perhaps give him some answers. Instead he was left with even more questions and the library and it's unique occupant seemed even more of a mystery than before.
Back in the library proper, Grimmjow was bent over his desk as usual, doing the work the clergy bid him to finish. So caught up in his work, he hardly realized as the temperature in the large room seemed to rise a few degrees. The flames of the candles that lined the room flickered gently, making the shadows dance about the room. Finally, a subtle sound caught the Master's attention and he slowly raised his head, his sever blue brows furrowing and his eyes narrowing as he listened.
The sound was hardly there, like a breath on the wind but still it was a foreign sound, one that didn't belong and was out of the norm, so his keen hearing picked it up. Slowly, with calm and silent motions, Grimmjow straightened in his chair and let his icy gaze slide about the room, taking in the shelves and the aisles between as he laid his pen down and closed the book he'd been working in.
A small white shape darted out from behind one of the large bookcases and Grimmjow shot to his feet as the cat hissed and took off down the row, headed toward the southern end and fleeing the northern. A sneer crossed the big man's features as he sprinted into motion, headed in the direction the cat had come from. He didn't fear what his library housed, but he knew how dangerous the majority of them could be. Without hesitation, he rounded shelf after shelf in the most direct route he could, finally reaching the forbidden section, where he slowed his pace.
His footsteps were silent as he stalked through the rows upon rows of ancient, heavy books that the forbidden section housed. He passed a rounded clearing in the shelves, vaguely noting that the desk made of dark wood that sat there remained empty, only the four candles that sat unlit at each corner to mar the desk's carved surface.
Like a wraith, he disappeared as he hunted for what may have been lurking about, blending with his library in an almost unnatural way. His sharp eyes flashed in the dark shadows and lit upon every surface, scanned every empty row and scoured the deep corners and even darker shadows. No books seemed out of place, none scattered on the floor or pulled from their places on the shelves. His considerable hearing strained to pick up anything out of the usual but for all his searching, he found nothing.
Sitting in his room, buried in the Latin demonology book he had borrowed from the Master's library, Ichigo attempted to distract himself from the maddening curiosity that ate at his mind. It didn't seem like something he could just walk up to the man and ask about. He was fairly certain Master Jaegerjaquez either wouldn't know what he was asking about, or wouldn't take too kindly to it. Neither case would get him anywhere.
Sighing, Ichigo grit his teeth and once more pushed his thoughts aside. Picking up where he had trailed off with his thoughts, he read about demons that took on human forms and how they often possessed people, requiring exorcisms to banish them back to hell. He read about creatures that tempted humans to do all sorts of things they wouldn't normally, illegal things, sinful things. He read about demons that came to people in there sleep, about tricksters that took on the shape of something else to lure people into believing them and still others that granted wishes with a heavy price.
It shouldn't have surprised him that the church's library would contain books about this sort of thing. The library was incredibly vast after all and it surely held just as many holy texts as it did unholy. Still, it settled oddly with Ichigo and he wasn't sure he could actually bring himself to believe some of the things he read. But it was only for practice anyway, to help him learn and become more fluent in Latin.
"Kurosaki...Ichigo..." The tone was low, hardly a whisper. Through the door, it held an odd quality to it, making it into an almost chanting or singsong sound. Just like the sound he had heard in the library.
Ichigo frowned at the whispered voice and looked up from his book and toward his door, expecting someone to open it. When no one entered, he slowly closed his book and laid it on his bed, an odd sensation washing over him.
Standing, he made his way to the door and pulled it open. He found no one and upon looking down the hall in both directions, found that he was completely alone. He swallowed, his mind instantly going to what he had been reading about only moments ago.
Almost as if hearing his thoughts, a soft whisper of laughter echoed to him from inside his room and he spun around, eyes wide as he jolted with surprise. No one stood behind him and he was still alone in his room. Letting out the breath he had sucked in with his surprise, he scanned the shadows of his quarters, unease whispering in his mind louder than the whispered voices.
That faint laughter reached him again, drifting on the still air and hinting of an eerie madness. Frown firmly in place, Ichigo pulled his door closed behind him as he exited his room and headed down the hall toward the library proper.
It didn't take him long to traverse the winding halls as he followed the small, almost inaudible sounds. Orange brows furrowed, Ichigo laid his hand against the smooth, heavy wood of the double doors that led into the main library. Pushing it open a few inches, he paused, still listening for whoever had called his name.
When no sounds were heard, he pushed the door open far enough to squeeze through before pausing again. "Master Jaegerjaquez?" He called quietly, looking around for the blue haired man. He wasn't seated at his desk like normal, though there was still a stack of books upon it's surface and Ichigo didn't hear him moving about in the library.
A little confused and a bit of trepidation beginning to creep up in his mind, Ichigo gently closed the large doors behind himself and began walking through the main row of the library. All seemed quiet but this time the silence of the massive room held an eerie feel, like something held it's breath in wait, watching from the deepest corners of the library or hiding amongst the shelves.
"Master, are you in here?" He called again, his voice quiet in the even quieter room. A barely there, breathy chuckle made it's way back to him like an echo that shouldn't have carried in the vast room.
Breathing beginning to pick up in his growing unease, Ichigo crept forward as quietly as he could. He jolted as he rounded a shelf, nearly stepping on the Master's white cat. The feline growled in a way that only cats can, her tail poofed out with aggression but her large eyes were directed toward the northern section.
"Master?" Ichigo crept forward, sparing the cat a single glance as he edged passed it, his vision scanning the rows of shelves behind the Master's desk in search of vivid blue. He stepped passed the desk and rounded a shelf, paranoia making his heart beat heavy. An unmistakeable shiver crept down his spine and he swallowed, nearly groaning out loud as he felt eyes tracking his movements and knew he was being watched.
Pausing, standing stock still, Ichigo took a single deep breath to fortify his resolve, an aggressive sneer crossed his boyish features, making him look stern and determined. With sift, abrupt motions, he spun on his heal, bracing himself for what he may find but rationally expecting nothing. Instead of nothing, he came face to face with a well built chest and nearly fell backward as he drew a quick breath in surprise, his eyes widening.
Grimmjow reached out, snagging hold of the smaller male before he could trip himself and helped Ichigo to regain his balance. The older man's features held an almost harsh scowl, concentration and thought creasing his brow and wrinkling the bridge of his straight nose. Ichigo had never seen the man wear such an expression, his handsome features twisted into a truly frightening visage, but it still somehow fit the man.
Ichigo let out his surprised breath in a slow, controlled puff and placed a hand over his racing heart as he looked up at the bigger man. "Uh...you called for me, Sir?"
Blue brows creased even further, nearly making the man look angry, something that Ichigo suddenly realized was a very scary prospect.
"I didn't." The blue haired man rumbled in a rough voice.
"Oh, you didn't?" Ichigo stared up the library's keeper. The bigger man said nothing and simply shook his head slightly while his intense gaze strayed about the library. A sinking sensation took over Ichigo and he knew something very terrible was about to happen. Hoping he was wrong, convincing himself it was only paranoia, Ichigo glanced around the library as well and did his best to ignore the unpleasant feeling the vast room suddenly gave him and more specifically, the haunted and unhappy feel the northern section he now stood in seemed to give off. Even having never actually stepped foot into it until that moment, Ichigo could tell something was different. Unlike the rest of the library, the forbidden section seemed to take on a life of it's own, a darker, maddened undertone coloring it.
It didn't take long for the library's Master to escort them out of the forbidden northern section and Ichigo was able to pick up on the man's unease. Without actually laying a hand on the younger man, Grimmjow guided Ichigo away from the danger he knew potentially lingered in his library, the secrets the northern section held.
"Must have been my imagination..." Ichigo mumbled as the two headed back toward the front of the library once more but he couldn't shake that feeling and even as he sat down before the bigger man's desk, silently watching as Grimmjow reopened his book and began working once again, Ichigo wondered if maybe there was a bit more to the library and it's strange mysteries.
What could have been so important that the church, an organization that promoted honesty and virtue, a group of people that did the work of God, had to keep it a secret, that they had to hide it behind a man that hardly knew who he was? And that's exactly what they were doing. The assistant had said as much. Grimmjow was being used to keep whatever the clergy didn't want the public to know about buried. Who better to safe guard secrets than a man that never stepped outside the walls of the library, that couldn't keep track of time and so therefore didn't notice as the weight of those secrets settled upon his shoulders with time.
But Ichigo didn't know the whole story and he had been raised to believe in the church and God and to have faith. There must have been a reason for all the secrecy and surely the Master's assistant only worried as old men tended to do. Nothing the church kept hidden could have truly been so terrible.
"You have never sat and watched me work before." The Master's deep and rumbling voice, the sound of pen on paper accompanying his words, pulled Ichigo from his thoughts. A slight smirk adorned the older man's chiseled features, sinful in a way a holy man's shouldn't have been.
Ichigo stared for a split second longer, just long enough to notice the man's gorgeous blue eyes raise to glance at him before that smirk widened a tiny bit further. Then the orange haired young man averted his gaze to glance down at the Master's book for a brief moment, though he hardly payed attention to what was scrawled across it. "Should I not be, Sir?"
The bigger man's chuckle was grating yet smooth, river stones churned by a gentle but steady current. "No, your company is a welcomed change."
A slight but amused smirk tugged at Ichigo's features, lifting one corner of his lips as he dared another glance at his Master. The mysterious library keeper probably didn't share company with others often. As far as Ichigo knew and if all the rumors were true, the man never left his library, never step foot outside the building's enormous doors and in his recent experiences, Ichigo wondered if Grimmjow even could leave.
"You really don't seem like the library type..." Ichigo shook his head and leaned back in the chair he had sat down in. His gaze wondered the enormous library and the masses of books adorning the dark wood of the shelving. It truly was an incredible collection, but it just felt wrong somehow, like Grimmjow didn't quite fit within it's collection.
Grimmjow set his pen down and leaned back as well, stretching his muscled arms across his chest, his tight fitting black button up shirt outlining the rigid muscle of his abdomen. "Oh? Then what sort do I seem?"
There was curiosity swimming in crystalline pools, a hint of amusement, so Ichigo indulged and knew he wasn't overstepping his bounds. "Well... You just don't seem like the type to sit around...you seem like you would enjoy, I don't know, working out, jogging maybe, something active I guess."
The blue haired man snorted a short laugh, his grin consuming his features. "Perhaps I did before." He said with a shrug. "When I was younger, your age."
Ichigo did well at hiding his frown as he spoke, watching the man's reactions from the corner of his eyes. "You mean before you built the library?"
Ichigo could see it in his eyes. There was nothing to suggest the man wasn't genuine. He truly thought he had built the library, a building that had been standing for over a hundred years. Even after the man's assistant had told them that Grimmjow's grandfather had built it, Grimmjow still believed himself to be it's creator. "What sat here before the library?"
Grimmjow tilted his head ever so slightly in thought, his eyes taking on a far away look for a moment as he attempted to sort through the scattered images that made up his memory. Then he shrugged again and shook his head slightly. "A field probably, empty land. I really don't know."
"Empty land? In the middle of the city?" Ichigo knew he was baiting the poor man, pushing buttons he probably shouldn't have been, but everything about this situation was off, strange.
"It wasn't a city when last I was outside these walls. I believe it was only a small town when the library was under construction." Grimmjow said quietly. He simply shrugged like none of it bothered him as he put his pen to use again. His lack of temper was almost unnerving. It seemed unnatural. Fire simmered within the big man, visible for anyone who happened to catch a glimpse of the library's Master, yet it never flared to life. It was like a leash that kept a dog in line, eventually leaving the dog more docile than it should have been.
"Doesn't any of this bother you?" Ichigo honestly felt kind of bad for the man. He didn't think anyone should have been subjected to what the blue haired man dealt with, yet he hardly even knew what that was. All he knew was that something wasn't quite right with the library or Grimmjow.
"What? That I can't remember?" Grimmjow shrugged again, not really waiting for a response from his apprentice. "It probably used to, you'd have to ask Shawlong, but I've long since grown used to it."
Ichigo shook his head slightly, his brows furrowing as he pulled his lingering gaze away from the larger man. Too much of what he was slowly learning about his place of apprenticeship didn't fit and the biggest piece of all seemed to be the man sitting beside him.
The apprentice wouldn't have to wait much longer for things to start falling into place. He may not have known it, but his questions would receive their answers and even more would be asked. With the setting of the sun that evening, the Master would disappear into his personal chambers but he wouldn't find rest. Nor would Ichigo as the library began to awaken, impatient and growing desperate.
As sleep took hold of the mysterious blue haired man, images of a war he couldn't remember flashed behind his eyes. Blood was spilt, people were killed and soldiers murdered. A nameless and faceless figure was thrown back and to the ground, teeth bared in frightened rage, as Grimmjow fought and snarled against their captures. That figure was dragged away as searing pain lit in the library keeper's mind.
Grimmjow fell from his bed, twisted in his sheets as light flashed behind his eyes with enough force to awaken him. Panting, he sneered and clutched at his skull as he struggled to put together the images he had seen in his dream but before he could begin to remember the dream, he lost the memories it had contained and he was only left with a feeling of loss and old pain as he sat on the floor of his chambers.
At nearly the same time, Ichigo jerked awake from a restless sleep and stared with wide eyes as he looked about the darkness of his room, straining to listen to a voice he knew shouldn't have been there. The echos of an inhuman snarl rang faintly in his mind, a frightening fury laced with the barest hint of fear in that nearly silent sound of anger.
On impulse, Ichigo reached for the silver cross he normally wore around his neck as he cast his gaze about the darkened room. His hand came away empty above his bare, heaving chest and his eyes instantly darted to the top of his shelf where the small chest the necklace was locked in sat. The brass of the lock should have faced him, shimmering dimly in the shadows. Instead, the front of the chest faced the wall, turned around and pushed as far from the bed as it could be without falling from the top of the shelf.
The young man's breath caught in his throat for a moment as fear gripped his heart. Taking a deep breath, he forced it away and slowly climbed from his bed, still searching the room for anyone other than himself, but he was alone in the dark of his room and what attempted to call to him resided in the library proper.
Ichigo didn't know that in so many words. He didn't even know what was going on or if what he had been hearing was real, but he knew that everything revolved around what the library housed, hiding amongst the books and a man's missing memories. Brow furrowing into a determined scowl, Ichigo quietly slipped from his rooms. The tile of the hallway was cold beneath his bare feet and the air was chilly against his sleep warmed skin but he hurried along, hardly feeling the cold.
The building seemed deserted and he assumed the only other two occupants were deep in slumber at the late hour. He made it to the library proper without being noticed and he quickly glanced over his shoulder before pulling the doors open wide enough to slip through, feeling strangely like he was intruding upon the Master's privacy by entering the rounded room without him. But he had to know.
Cautiously, taking his time and being as quiet as possible, Ichigo made his way toward the back of the large room, passing the Master's unoccupied desk to near the entrance of the forbidden section. Nothing moved, nor made a sound. The area seemed dead but not quite empty.
Ichigo stalked down a couple rows of books, glancing at a few titles as he went. Most were written in Latin and all of them seemed to have a common theme; creatures and beliefs that went against the teachings of the church. Some of the titles were made up of only a single word, words that Ichigo had never heard before and carried an odd ring to them.
Rounding another tall shelf, Ichigo paused, his scowl deepening as he came to a small clearing amongst the dense shelving. A desk made of dark wood, nearly a match to the Master's work desk, sat in the very center of the area. Four candles sat upon it's surface, one at each corner but that wasn't what held Ichigo's attention.
Also sitting upon the desk's surface, an old book had been carefully laid out. Unopened, it's cover carried a thick layer of undisturbed dust, not even showing the fingerprints of where someone had pulled it from it's shelf. Below the coating that showed it's age, the cover it's self was dark, more than likely black when it had been first acquired, but it was faded slightly now, looking a very dark greyish blue.
Ichigo rounded the desk to stand behind the chair that had been pushed in at it's front. Glancing down, he gently trailed his fingers along the single word that marred the ancient book's cover. Before he could begin making out what it said, a low sound seemed to emanate from the vast room and he jerked his hand away, sending his wide eyed gaze about the room in quick sweeps.
The sound, a low and distorted rumble, something similar to a cat's purr but some how colder, melted away as his fingers left the book's surface. Ichigo frowned and shook his head, wondering if he was beginning to loose his mind from all his time with the Master but as he let his fingertips brush the book once more, it seemed to radiate an unnatural chill, even colder than the black marble below his feet. It was like the book had been locked in ice only moments ago.
The young man's curiosity quickly got the better of him and he took one last look around the library's forbidden northern section as he slipped his fingers under the dust coated front cover and pulled the heavy book open. The cover banged against the desk's top with much more force than it should have, echoing through the empty room with a resounding thud that sounded more like a slamming door than an opening book.
Ichigo jumped at the unexpected noise, glancing down at the book. He didn't notice the shadows that seemed to manifest around him until the already dim light of the night darkened library seemed to grow even darker. Almost afraid of what he'd find, the young apprentice swallowed and slowly raised his gaze away from the time weathered pages to the figure attempting to manifest before him.
The shadows slowly converged in the room, blocking out his view of the bookshelves that should have stood around him. As dark as they were, they seemed both more solid and somehow lighter in the very center. Something stood directly in front of Ichigo with only the desk standing between him and whatever was trying to show it's self. Even before it became visible, power rolled off it on an almost purring breath.
And then the thick shadows drifted from in front of it and Ichigo stood in shock, his body frozen and his eyes wide. Fear coursed through his veins and invaded his heart. It made him feel as though his legs would give out on him at any moment, yet he remained rooted to his spot, unable to so much as draw breath. He no longer stood in the library, or so it looked, but a room filled with shadows and dark shapes, a room with smoke and the smell of burning paper and the creature before him could not have been a person.
While clearly male, Ichigo wasn't so sure calling it a 'he' was the right word. It's skin was of the purest, unmarred white, so pale the blue of it's veins could very nearly be seen in some places. It's long hair hung limp and almost greasy down it's pale back and over it's lithe shoulders, equally white. Naked other than a single strip of dark cloth that covered it's private regions in a loincloth fashion, it was thinly built but in a wiry, powerful way. It's build spoke of endurance and speed rather than brute strength. The only color to mark the creature was it's eyes. Dark shadows ringed it's strange eyes like it no longer slept. The whites were blacker than the night sky, only making the effect stand out all the more. Swimming in the black abyss of it's sclera, golden irises burned with a maddened fever, trained unwaveringly on Ichigo's form.
It didn't move. It simply stood, it's shoulders hunched slightly, arms at it's side and head tilted in an almost questioning manner as it stared at Ichigo, but it radiated a dark and powerful aura. This was not something to mess with. This was why Master Jaegerjaquez had forbidden him from coming into this section of the library. This was what the church had been hiding.
"W-what are you?" Ichigo questioned, his voice quiet and almost meek. The creature before him reeked of petulance and aggression, of strength that had been pent up for too long and the need for a release.
A smile slowly slid across the creatures colorless face, parting it's white lips to show white, human looking teeth. Still it remained motionless, not a single muscle moving. It didn't even blink. "I'm an angel."
It's voice took Ichigo by surprise. It emanated from everywhere yet nowhere, hissing through the air and curling around the dark wood of the shadowed and almost impossible to see bookshelves. The tone was odd, high pitched and warbling but still distinctly male, a match to the sounds Ichigo had heard before.
And then it's answer sank in and brown eyes widened even further. "An angel?"
The creature nodded slightly, the first real motion it had made, it's grin never leaving it's frightening features.
"You don't look like any angel I've ever heard of."
"An' how many angels have ya ever known, Kurosaki Ichigo?" It's lilting voice creased the air and seemed to steal the light. It drifted to Ichigo in a slow, calm manner, unhurried and at ease. This creature had all the time in the world, as long as it wanted.
Ichigo shook his head, fore he'd never actually seen an angel, only heard of them and read about them. Still, he knew the basics, or at least what the bible taught. "Is that why you're so white?"
The creature's grin took on a dark feel, despite all the light colors and the figure suddenly seemed darker, more malevolent than the shadows that swallowed the room.
"White's never been a pure color." It said as large, black wings slowly revealed themselves and unfolded. It remained unmoving, it's arms still hanging at it's sides and it's head still tilted, those sickly eyes trained on Ichigo's every reaction. The edges of it's wings seemed almost wispy, like thick black smoke, but the wings themselves were what made Ichigo's breath catch in his throat. Made of oily black feathers, they bubbled and dripped like molten tar, thick and sticky in a sickly way. The dark oozing substance dripped from the wing tips to patter on the floor in thick, sludge like puddles, where it sizzled and steamed as though it tried to eat through the marble of the floor.
"You're not an angel..." Ichigo stared, frozen in place where he stood before the creature. He could hardly force the words passed his tongue and they came out breathy and quite. "Y-you're a demon..."
The creature's smirk dropped into a snarl for a split second. It's teeth seemed to sharpen and lengthen for just a moment before it's grin spread across it's features once more, all traces of it's anger gone just as suddenly as they had come. "No. I'm an angel, jus' not of the god yer talkin' abou'. Of a different god."
Ichigo shook his head, still staring at the creature, the angel.
It seemed to take a deep breath, it's chest hardly moving, and released it as a sigh yet it still didn't move. It was almost as if the creature couldn't move, or perhaps didn't have the energy to do so.
"Humans an' there stupid beliefs..." It's strange eyes rolled before settling on Ichigo again. "Jus' like there's more than one type a animal, there's more than one type a god, different species. An my god's been waitin' a long time fer me ta come home."
"I don't understand... Why are you in the book?" Ichigo asked, his fingers tracing the edge of the giant, ancient tome where it sat open on the desk. The creature before him flinched slightly, it's wings twitching behind it and sending more sticky, black ichor spattering over the floor.
"Yer master isn' what ya think he is. He hunts angels, traps us in the books." Ichigo's brows rose, a look of shock crossing his features while he tried to find the words to deny what it told him. The creature continued, seeing he was pushing the human toward the goal he aimed for. "All the books in this section of his library contain somethin' more than jus' words. Each book has a angel trapped inside, but none a them quite like me."
"What..? But he... Master Jaegerjaquez is a good man, he does the work of God."
"An' yer human god wan's ta be the only god. He tries ta kill off the others by stealin' their soldiers, their angels, so tha' they're defenseless. Yer master helps him seal us away."
"What...happens when a god is killed?" Ichigo's burning curiosity demanded to be sated. Nothing of what the creature said made sense, Ichigo knew there was only one god, he'd been taught that all his life. It was a sin to believe in other gods. Perhaps the creature had been sealed in it's book so long that it had lost it's mind, but still... What if it hadn't? Why else would it be a sin to worship other things?
"It's cast inta hell where it either becomes a demon or a soldier a' the devil." The angel's burning eyes flashed and swirled with a life the rest of it didn't seem to show. "All ya gotta do is read from my book, an I'll help ya release the rest a them...and get away from yer evil master...so that they can keep fightin' fer their gods."
Ichigo was young, perhaps even a bit naive, but he wasn't stupid. His orange brows furrowed as he listened, choosing to ignore the creature's request. He needed to know more before he did anything. "A soldier of the devil...so an angel of the devil..." He mumbled as he thought aloud. "Did your god die?"
The creature's smirk took on a cruel glint as he slowly tilted his head in the opposite direction, his lanky, dirty hair shifting across his shoulders and back, before he became motionless again. Even his wings stood motionless as they spread out behind him, aside from the bubbling and dripping tar. "He did."
Abruptly, the book that had been sitting in front of Ichigo slammed shut with a resounding bang. The angel faded from view, taking it's shadows with it and letting the rest of the room, it's rows and rows of bookshelves, come back into view. The smell of burning paper melted away like the creature Ichigo had been talking to and a barely there, lilting chuckle echoed between the shelves. Now Grimmjow stood before Ichigo and the young man nearly fell backward as he jerked away in shock and surprise.
Breathing like he had just gotten back from running a mile, Ichigo looked around in confusion before turning his deep gaze onto the frigid blue of his Master's. "What was-"
He hadn't heard the bigger man, not the sound of the heavy doors opening, nor Grimmjow's footsteps as he approached the desk Ichigo stood at. Ichigo hadn't even seen him as he had walked around the front of the desk in order to slam the book on it's surface shut. But he stood before Ichigo at that moment, very solid, very real and very angry.
"Ichigo." Grimmjow practically seethed, looking nothing like the kind man Ichigo was apprenticing under. His voice was deep and dark, too calm and too smooth. It whispered of something dark, of something dangerous. His shirtless form was hunched over the desk, muscle rippling beneath smooth, golden skin and his face nearing Ichigo's as his weight settled on the closed book. "I told you to stay out of this section."
Ichigo looked around them, at the shelves upon shelves of books in the forbidden section alone. Each looked old, dusty, like they hadn't been opened in ages. Most had leather covers and bindings, with swirling, inlaid script for fonts, when they were marked at all. Some of the titles and words were in languages Ichigo couldn't understood, some so ancient he had never seen their characters before. Glancing down at the closed book before him, he read a single word that he could understand, it's print in an immaculate silver, script-y and curling in an almost beautiful way; Shirosaki.
"Was he right?" Ichigo's voice was nearly a whisper. If all these books held others... There had to be hundreds, maybe thousands of tomes in this section.
"He lies, Ichigo." Grimmjow pulled the book away, placing it back in it's place on a shelf of dark wood, careful to put it back in the exact place it had been pulled from. "That's all he does; lies. I don't know what he said to you, but he's here for a reason. You must never open his book again. Never."
Ichigo edged back away from the desk, reeling from his experience. He had believed in angels and demons, in god and the devil for as long as he could remember. He was preached to and taught about mortal souls and sins, about what was right and wrong. He had even chosen to apprentice under a man most well known and devout in his faith, yet he had never once seen such a thing. For all he heard about angels of heaven and the demons of hell, he had never seen proof.
Then a creature of questionable origin, locked away in a book for who knew how long, was claiming that everything he believed was wrong. It was ludicrous, insane and ridiculous. But the look in the angel's burning eyes had held only truth.
"Why do you have him? Why's he trapped in a book? What is this library really for? You should have told me about these things!"
Grimmjow turned to his apprentice, his eyes chilled even more than their cool color usually looked. He walked the few feet distancing him from the younger man, his face deadly serious, his expression controlled and giving away how grave the situation was.
"Come." Was all he said as he passed Ichigo and rounded a shelf to leave the forbidden section. Confused, Ichigo followed and was led from the library and into the corridor that wound around the library proper.
Ichigo knew they were headed toward the dormitories, and more specifically, his own room. "Why aren't you answering me? Is what he said true?"
As Grimmjow paused to open the door to Ichigo's room, he turned to the fiery young man. "Listen to me, Ichigo. I will answer whatever questions you have in time, but I must take care of very important matters first. STAY HERE. Do you understand me?"
When Ichigo said nothing and simply stood in the hall, staring up at the bigger man, Grimmjow reached out and grasped hold of Ichigo's upper arms. "Ichigo! This is not a game, do you understand? He is dangerous."
"Yes, Sir." Ichigo said as he allowed himself to be pushed through his doorway. He wasn't surprised when the bluenette pulled out a master key and locked him in.
Grimmjow heaved a heavy sigh as he turned the skeleton key and pulled it from it's place. He had held high hopes for Ichigo, and still did. He hoped to make the young man his successor should anything ever happen to him, a very likely possibility in his line of duty, even without leaving the library. He had hoped to give the younger a copy of his key and access to his library and all it's secrets. All his plans would still be possible, but it would take work and he didn't think that Ichigo had been quite ready to have his world shattered and rearranged quite yet, but it seemed he had little choice now. The decision had been made for him.
Ichigo had made contact with one of the church's most dangerous and closely guarded secrets; a manipulative and intelligent creature, even in it's madness.
The blue haired man turned and sprinted back down the hall. He rounded the bend in the corridor at a speed that would have been dangerous had one not walked it everyday, and made it back to the library proper. Throwing the imposing double doors wide and letting them bang as they shut, he stormed through the isles of shelving and into the back corner, only stopping once he stood at the very desk Ichigo had stood before.
With a snarl on his angular features, showing the fire his personality shouldn't have lacked for the first time in a very long time, he yanked the book of the creature Ichigo had spoken to from the shelf and laid it upon the desk's top. Pulling a matchbook from his pocket, he lit the four candles of protection that adorned the desk, each in turn with practiced and easy motions, mumbled words in Latin escaping him as he did so.
He opened the ancient looking tome, his sever blue brows furrowed as he casually took a seat and waited while the shadows of the large, circular room began congregating around him. A watery, manic laughter echoed through the room as a shape took form and soon enough he was staring at the pale specter of the creature known as Shirosaki.
Shirosaki had once been an entity of vast power, a creature both alive and dead, something that could claim heritage of both demons and angels. He lived by no rules and he had been granted freedom by his god, gifting him with free will as well. With the freedom that most soldiers of a god weren't given, he became even more powerful, more dangerous and unpredictable. He held no loyalties, other than to a single other creature, or so it was told, but his partner, an angel of the very same god that had also been granted freedom, had gone missing when Shirosaki had been bound and had yet to be seen since.
It seemed the creature's partner didn't hold the same loyalties as Shirosaki. It never came back for the captured creature and it was told that the twisted angel had only spoken nonsense when questioned before his entombment within his book. Since that time, nearly four hundred years ago, Shirosaki had spoken to no one, not that his book had been opened often.
What really made Shirosaki so different from other angels was his god. As he had told Ichigo, his god was indeed considered dead, though he had never really been considered alive to begin with. Shirosaki had been an angel of the devil himself, and only dead gods could become a soldier to the devil.
Contrary to what most of the human population believed, what the church told them, being in servitude to the devil did not make him a demon. Demons were creatures all of their own, but they were just that; creatures. They were the animals of the supernatural world, the wolves and lions, the sheep and deer. Some where meaner than others, some stronger and more intelligent, but none of them could compare with an angel, let alone one of Shirosaki's level; one that had been granted freedom, one that had been born a god.
"Hey there, Grimm, long time no talk. Or see. Or hear. Or smell... It ge's pretty lonely in tha' book. Why ya so cold ta me all the time?" Shirosaki asked in his lilting, watery voice as his pale form solidified before the library keeper. His words were easy, his tone friendly, but his strange eyes narrowed as they landed on the candles around the book binding him.
Much as he had appeared to Ichigo, he stood slightly hunched, his arms limply at his sides and his body motionless. He didn't bother unfurling his wings and they settled almost out of view behind him, nearly sweeping the floor as they created a thick, sickly puddle that pooled around his bare feet but never touched him nor marred his porcelain flesh.
"Do not call me that, nor speak to me in that manner." Grimmjow grit his teeth. "What have you told Ichigo? Why did you speak to him at all? You and I both know you are powerful enough to have killed him, even bound in your book."
The angel purred, a lewd smirk sliding onto his features as his head tilted in an almost lolling way. His nostrils flared like he was taking in the boy's scent and his strange eyes rolled back in bliss. "Oooh... I like 'im..."
Grimmjow growled and slammed his fists down onto the desk's top with enough force to shutter the book and make the flames of the candles flicker and dance. The wood of the desk below his fists groaned in protest to his strength but he hardly noticed. "Answer me!"
"Tch. You an' I used ta be friends, ya know. Oh wait. Ya don' know. Ya've been bound." Shirosaki sneered, baring his sharpened teeth, no longer human looking, and rolling his crazed eyes in an exasperated and sarcastic way.
"What are you talking about?" Grimmjow questioned, his eyes narrowing as he glared at the creature before him. He was ignored as Shirosaki continued.
The entity chuckled at the look being thrown his way. "Fine fine, Grimm, I'll answer ya. Kurosaki Ichigo is a child of destiny. Born of faith, he is as dark as we are, his heart jus' as black, he jus' don' know it yet. He'll see the errors of his way, of the church's and humanity's ways.
After centuries of madness fueled sleep, I finally reawaken to the scent of freedom. Kurosaki Ichigo is fated ta release us, ta set us free."
Shirosaki's grin was in danger of consuming his face, even as he stood utterly motionless before the blue haired man. Not even his chest rose and fell to show that he breathed. He continued with a maddened glee in his lilting and manic voice. "He'll read from the book. It calls ta him, it whispers and tells him truths that everyone else hides. Unlike you, he won't ignore my calls. He'll read from the book, an' he'll set me free!"
"He will not." Grimmjow cut the angel off.
"He will!" Shirosaki hissed, straining forward against the invisible threads holding him still. He didn't make it far and only the top half of his body moved at all as he bent slightly at the waist, his long hair falling around his face, the dark shadows around his eyes looking even deeper, but the thought that he held enough strength to move even an inch was frightening, let alone enough to lean forward and toward his book, toward the holy candles around it. All the while, he smiled and bared his sharpened teeth. "You cannot stop him an' nothin' ya say will deter 'im. It's his fate!"
"I will not allow it. I will speak to him and he will understand the error of such an action."
"Ya know as well as I tha' ya can' cheat fate like tha'." The creature hissed back, his lilting voice snaking through the room with venom. "You'll have ta kill 'im! Bu' ya won' do that, ya can'! It's impossible, because he's fated ta set ya free 's our key."
Grimmjow sneered at the angel and shook his head. Like all angels of evil gods, this one lied. It fed upon the confusion and chaos it created, reveled in mayhem. He should have slammed the book shut and silenced the creature, burned his book and banished him to the deepest pits of hell where he would never climb his way free again, but he didn't and his hands seemed frozen upon the desk's top, still clenched into big fists.
"Yer jus' like me, Grimm. Yer name is so damn fittin', ain' it? We're two of a kind; reapers, partners. I know ya can' remember. They sealed yer mind away when they sealed my body, but I remember! And when Kurosaki Ichigo sets us free, you'll remember too! We'll be partners again an' we'll be free."
"You lie." Grimmjow told the creature, his voice a deep, low rumble. "We are nothing alike and you will never be set free."
"I don'!" The angel shot back, more life in his voice then there should have been. "Why d' ya think the church comes every mornin'? Why d' ya think ya've looked the same since ya built this place more 'en a century ago? Or why d' ya think ya always gotta ask what day it is all the damn time? Ya don' age coz yer jus' like me an' the illusion they feed ya fucks up yer perception a time! And yer church keeps tabs on ya ta make sure ya continue ta think yer human! They got ya fooled an' ya don' even know it, don' even question it!"
The creature threw his head back and let loose loud peels of maniacal laughter, his mirth and his rage shaking his lithe frame. The lilting sound rang off the high ceiling and through the library, forcing a shiver down Grimmjow's spine.
"You don' remember, bu' I do... I remember the way ya hissed and snarled and fought agains' 'em when they were tryin' ta catch us. I remember bein' helpless ta fight back as my body was bound ta this damn book and I had ta watch as ya fought alone, an' I remember the way ya screamed as they cut yer wings from yer body..."
By that point, Shirosaki's voice was a low hiss of a sound, rasping and distorted and seething. His golden irises flashed and burned and more tar dripped and spattered to the floor behind him as his wings trembled with his fury, oily black feathers bristling. He strained against his invisible bindings but it looked more like he would sink to the floor than charge forward, like his screaming rant was draining him of the energy he could conjure while trapped.
"I'll make ya remember, Grimmjow, if it's the last damn thing I do! And Kurosaki Ichigo will be the one ta help me! Fate's workin' in our favor! Ya even taught 'im the language needed ta read from my book!"
"Enough!" Grimmjow finally found his will to move and he slammed the heavy book closed as distorted and manic laughter rang through his library again. He sat frozen, staring down at the book's cover but not seeing the silver script or the faded black leather of it's cover.
Locked in his room, Ichigo paced the small space, his mind hard at work. A whispered thread of crazed laughter met his ears through the locked door but he had to wonder if anyone else would have heard it or if it was meant just for him. Just as the angel had claimed; it called to him, drew him in. All of it.
He didn't know what it was about the strange creature that claimed to be an angel, but Ichigo found that he wanted to know more, wanted to speak with it. What the angel had said hardly made sense to him, but then, neither did anything else about the library and it's Master and he could no longer deny that the church was hiding something. The strangest thing, perhaps the scariest thing of all, was that what the angel had told him would almost explain what was going on.
After a few minutes of pacing, Ichigo stopped before the locked box containing his mother's cross. He let his eyes trace the dark wood, the brass lock that once more faced forward. As important as religion was to him and everyone that lived in the city, the cross was less about God and more about his mother.
He gave in to impulse and picked up the box to inspect the lock a bit closer. The box was old and sturdy, like everything else that could be found inside the library building, but it was small and so therefore not indestructible. His boyish features twisted into an angry scowl as he lifted the box above his head. With all his strength, Ichigo smashed the wooden box against the hard tile of the floor, splintering the joins and twisting the hinges.
With it damaged, Ichigo was able to pry the hinges in the back apart and open the box. Pulling the silver necklace from where it had been safely nestled in rich crimson fabric, Ichigo tenderly inspected it before fastening it about his neck. Finding a shirt, he quickly dressed and tucked the pendant under the collar and out of sight as he crossed his room to the locked door that stood between him and the answers he sought.
He attempted to twist the doorknob but already knew it was locked and so wasn't surprised when it rattled but didn't budge. Letting his temper get the better of him, he jerked on the door knob and slammed his closed fist into the solid wood a few times but the door was much sturdier than the box. Like the other doors of the library, it was meant to keep things in as much as it was out.
He could have stayed and waited for Grimmjow. He told himself that's what he should do; sit tight and wait for the library Master's return. Then he could get a few answers from the man, as Grimmjow had promised. But that's not what he did and while he didn't realize it, Shirosaki whispered in the back of Ichigo's mind and helped to convince the young man that he needed answers directly from the source.
Ichigo grit his teeth and stepped back from the door, resting his hands on his hips as he studied the heavy barrier standing in his way. "You want my help so bad, maybe a bit of divine assistance is in order." He mumbled under his breath.
As Ichigo stood there, staring at his door and pondering a way to get out, a faint groan of protest reached him. It was the sound of wood scraping against metal as the door began to push inward with enough force to bow it. The lock didn't unlatch, the doorknob didn't turn. It was as if the door was simply pushed open and the bolt part of the lock that held it closed bent as it was forced from it's place in the door frame.
Ichigo stared for a moment as the door ceased it's movement and the low noise became silent once more. Walking up to it, he pushed it the rest of the way open, shaking his head as he stepped out into the hall. As an after thought, he reached behind himself and pulled the door closed again, though it wouldn't latch shut anymore with the way it had been forced open.
He hurried down the hall, very aware that he had no way of telling where the Master or his assistant lurked. As he navigated the halls, he had to wonder just why he was going back to talk to a creature trapped in a book but he couldn't seem to convince himself it was a bad idea either.
He made it back to the library proper just in time to hear Master Jaegerjaquez' deep voice ring through the room louder than Ichigo had ever heard it before. A loud thud followed it and Ichigo knew it to be the sound of the creature's book being slammed shut. So Grimmjow had gone back to speak with the angel... Ichigo's mind raced as he stood outside the doors but Grimmjow's snarling as the big man drew nearer the doors from the other side snapped Ichigo into a more alert state and he scrambled back to hide in the opposite corridor, further toward the front doors and in the opposite direction he was sure Grimmjow would go.
True to Ichigo's prediction, Grimmjow stormed out the doors and turned toward the hall that held the personal rooms, a viscous snarl on his features and his blue brows pulled into a deep frown. The expression seemed foreign on the normally pleasant man, yet it seemed to fit his appearance far better than it should have. It made him look as fierce as he should have.
With the bigger man out of sight, Ichigo quietly crept back to the library proper doors and slipped inside. He knew he'd have to be quick, doubtful that it would take Grimmjow long to realize he wasn't in his room any longer.
The moment the doors closed behind him, a silvery, distorted chuckle reached him, quiet and almost not even there, like it rode the motionless air. It sent a shiver down Ichigo's spine but he edged forward anyway, nearing the Master's work space and creeping into the forbidden section of the library. It took him hardly a moment of searching to find the book titled Shirosaki sitting back on it's shelf and he slid it from it's place.
Studying the cover, the plain, faded leather and the curling font, he made his way to the desk that hid amongst the shelves in the northern section. He laid the heavy tome upon it's surface, hardly sparing the candles around it a second glance and so missing that they had been lit only minutes before.
Like before, the book's cover was frigid in an unnatural way and Ichigo frowned as he slowly, cautiously pulled it open. A sighing breath rode the air as the shadows began converging between the aisles of shelves in front of the desk Ichigo stood at.
When the angel manifested, he looked even more worn out than when he had first shown himself. His head hung forward, eyes barely peeking up far enough to look at Ichigo. His white hair hung in his face and around his shoulders and he didn't even bother folding his turgid wings behind him. They hung down, arching low to sweep upon the floor like it took too much energy to hold them upright where they should have been.
Finally, as Ichigo studied him with wide eyes, unsure what he was doing, the creature spoke, his voice lilting and watery. "Ya guys'er killin' me wit' all this summonin' and banishin' yer doin'."
Ichigo frowned at the creature, not entirely sure what it meant and wondering if it was really dying.
"Not literally." The angel deadpanned. A slight smirk spread it's ashen lips as Ichigo's brows shot up in a surprised expression. "It was written all over yer face. Anyway, I jus' meant that it takes a lot a energy ta manifest every time ya open tha' book an then close it ta send me back. Tha's pretty tough on a angel tha's been caged for centuries."
"What's it like in the book?"
"Of all the things ya could'a asked, ya wanna know what a book's like?" The angel snorted a harsh but amused laugh as he stood motionless and weary looking, the dark circles around his burning eyes more pronounced than before. Ichigo just shrugged. "Tch. Fine. It's cold and smells funny. It's dark but it don' matter coz there's nothin' ta see anyway. The bindings that hold me there feel like meat hooks tearin' at my wings and my bones and they rattle and jolt every time someone touches my book. It's excruciatin' actually."
Ichigo jerked his hands away from the book. "S-sorry..."
"Nah, s'ok. Ya didn' know. Grimmjow don' know either. Only the clergy..."
"He thinks you lie..." Ichigo told the angel.
"Yeah I know he does." Shirosaki's features twisted into an outraged snarl, baring teeth that were far from human looking as fire made his golden irises flash. "Tha's not his fault either, though. It's part a what the clergy did ta him."
"What do you mean?" Ichigo's brows furrowed as he looked at the worn out creature. He had come back for answers and he was determined to get them. Luckily, it seemed the angel was more than willing to give them out.
"Grimmjow ain't wha' ya think he is, Kurosaki Ichigo... He ain't wha' he thinks he is." Shirosaki paused, his gaze never leaving the young man. "Settin' me free would do the same fer him. He'd regain his memory an' know who he was again. They've turned him inta a monster wit' their cruelty. He deserves to know who he is."
"I was told he would become dangerous if he remembered..."
The angel nodded. "He could be, sure. But so could anyone. You could be dangerous if ya wanted ta be, or that old guy wonderin' aroun', or maybe the kid ya went ta high school wit'. Even yer daddy."
Ichigo frowned but he understood what the angel was telling him. Everyone had the capacity to be dangerous or cruel, to do bad things.
"But they only tell ya he'd be dangerous coz they're afraid, coz they know what they're doin' is wrong."
Ichigo remembered what the assistant had told him, that the churched feared. In a strange, almost impossible way, everything the strange creature told him lined up with everything he had learned and figured out about the library and it's secrets. "What would you do if I set you free? I know that's what you want from me..."
The angle smirked, nodding slightly again. "Tha' is what I need, Kurosaki Ichigo, an' if ya freed me, I would flee."
That hadn't been what Ichigo was expecting and his scowl deepened. "You would run away? You wouldn't try to get revenge or anything?"
"Even if I wan'ed revenge, I'll be too weak ta fight fer long, so I will run."
"How am I supposed to know you're telling the truth?" Ichigo's deep, brown eyes narrowed slightly with his suspicion.
"I'm an angel, I don' gotta lie. Wha' I say is truth." When the young man just continued to glare at Shirosaki, the angel rolled his inverted eyes, still standing motionless in the middle of the aisle. "Has anythin' I've said so far been a lie?"
Ichigo frowned and thought about what he had been told by the angel. Most of it was so far beyond crazy sounding that he almost doubted someone could make that sort of thing up, and then there was the fact that he was talking to a creature that was trapped inside a book. A book, of all things.
Glancing down at said book, Ichigo curiously let his fingers just barely brush the corner of one page. He looked up in time to watch the angel's nearly bare body twitch, a wince crossing it's features as it seemed to cringe away from the source of it's pain. But being bound as he was, the angel couldn't get away, could hardly move at all and so he simply stood there breathing through pain bared teeth as Ichigo pulled his fingers away again. The young man's eyes widened slightly and he almost felt bad for testing it out.
"No...I guess not..." He mumbled. There was a moment where the two stood in silence before Ichigo spoke again. "What do I have to do?"
"All ya gotta do is read." Shirosaki told him. "Ya know Latin, don' ya?"
Ichigo nodded and looked down at the words written across the page, silently reading a few lines in his head.
"But yer ganna have ta do it out loud...and once ya start, don' stop. No matter what, please don' stop." Ichigo looked back up, frowning at the angel's almost pleading and desperate tone.
"Yer ganna have ta flip pages as ya go..." Shirosaki explained, a grimace on his pale features. "It's ganna hurt...a lot."
"Oh..." Ichigo looked back down at the book, finally understanding. Once he started, if he stopped, he would have to start over and put the creature in even more pain. Taking a deep breath, Ichigo nodded and hardened his resolve, determined to get it over with as quickly as he could, no matter how the angel reacted.
Trying not to think about what would happen once the angel was set free or what would happen if Grimmjow found him before he finished, he picked up the book and apologized when a pained breath hissed between the angel's teeth.
"Don' apologize...jus' read..." Shirosaki ground out as the wave of pain from the book being picked up subsided.
Ichigo nodded and began. At first, it seemed that nothing was happening and the angel simply stood as he had been, watching Ichigo with an almost crazed gleam in his strange eyes, but when Ichigo got to the end of the page and turned it, Shirosaki's pained grunt made him pause. Reminding himself he couldn't stop, he finished flipping the page and quickly began reading the next. The further into the reading he got, the more pain he seemed to be putting the angel in.
Soon enough, every line of lean muscle on the creature's body was rigid as Shirosaki struggled to remain quiet. His every instinct demanded that he fall to the floor and writhe in place but the book still bound him and left him helpless to move. For the first time, Ichigo could actually see as his chest heaved with the effort of breathing, forcing the air in and out on quick, panting breaths. His ashen features twisted as small sounds crept up his throat, groans and whimpers and muffled shrieks. But he wouldn't be able to stay quiet forever.
Just as the angel finally lost control and gave voice to his maddening pain, Grimmjow threw the damaged door to Ichigo's room open. His blue brows furrowed in confusion before a high pitched, distorted cry rang through the building and echoed down the halls. Freezing up for a split, Grimmjow listened to the cry before turning around and sprinting down the hall, back toward the library proper. Dread crept up in his mind, instinct telling him exactly what was going on.
Ichigo jerked in surprise as the heavy doors to the round room were thrown open with a bang. The extra motion to the book he held pulled a whimper from the pale angel he was attempting to set free.
"Don' stop...Kurosaki Ichigo..." Shirosaki grit out between heaving breaths. His body trembled as the bindings holding him pulled and clawed as if desperate to keep their hold on him. "This is as much fer his good as it is mine..."
Ichigo nodded and continued reading, doing his best to ignore the man he knew was quickly making his way to where he stood. Grimmjow's deep voice snarled his name, demanding that Ichigo stop before it was too late but he continued. He was nearly finished now, the angel was nearly freed from his prison.
"Ichigo! Stop!" Grimmjow rounded the last shelf at a sprint, doing nothing to slow his momentum as he ran full tilt into the smaller man. Ichigo finished the last word just as the book was yanked from his hands and he was thrown from his feet. Grimmjow slammed the book shut as they toppled and the angel vanished from view.
Ichigo and Grimmjow stared from where they sat upon the floor in a tangle of long limbs, looking for any signs that Shirosaki had been set free. A moment ticked by with nothing happening and the library Master let his held breath hiss between his teeth in relief. Just as Grimmjow turned his heated, enraged eyes to Ichigo, ready to flay him alive for what he had been attempting, a watery, distorted laughter sang through the library and Shirosaki thudded to the cool marble floor before them, a few black, oily feathers and singed pages drifting down around him.
Long, bare legs curled under him, the angel's chest and bowed shoulders heaved with the exhaustion of clawing his way free from the book once the bindings had been broken. His weight was supported on his trembling arms, his palms flat against the floor and his wings spread out around him, laying limply across the ground like black, bubbling pools, but a wicked grin was plastered to his ashen features, visible through the strands of white hair that rained around his shoulders.
"No..." Grimmjow shook his head, staring with wide blue eyes at the creature collapsed on the floor in front of him. He climbed to his feet, snagging Ichigo and pulling the younger man to his feet as well. The bigger man pulled Ichigo back, putting the desk and some space between them and the pale creature, knowing the angel could be dangerous even in it's fatigue. It had been trapped in it's book for a long time, since before Grimmjow had built the library and no doubt it would be angry.
"What have you-" A frown tugged at his features, a wince crossing his handsome face. "-done...Ichi-" Another wince tugged at his features as his frown deepened. Then, slowly the confusion began to lift and his eyes slowly widened with recognition and disbelief. "Shiro...?"
Another maddening chuckle escaped the pale creature's throat as he slowly nodded in answer, hardly lifting his head to look up at Grimmjow. A darkly colored tongue peeked out to wet his pale lips. "Ya...remember me yet...Grimm?" He panted, peeking at the blue haired man through the curtain of his hair.
"I..." Grimmjow shook his head in a motion that was barely noticeable, at a loss for what was going on or how to react. He looked from the pale angel to Ichigo and back again before he slowly released the younger man and edged around the desk, closer to where the angel all but lay on the cold marble floor.
The bigger man slowly dropped into a crouch before the angel, putting himself at eye level with hardly a foot separating them. Reaching out, burning eyes following his every movement, Grimmjow tugged at a few strands of the pale man's lanky hair, a grin slowly widening on his features. "The binding hasn't been kind on you."
Shirosaki snorted and swatted the man's hand away. "Tch. At least I didn' sit behind a desk an' play pet fer the clergy."
Grimmjow's lip curled to show off white teeth in a snarl mixed with a grimace. "To think that they kept us so damn close all these years...centuries, fuck, and I didn't even realize who you were. Even before I built this library, your book sat on a shelf in the church they kept me caged in..."
"W-what's going on?" Ichigo asked as he looked between the two. At his voice, Grimmjow rose from his crouch, turning back toward Ichigo in one too fluid motion. Two sets of inhuman eyes turned his way, freezing him in place; one of a burning gold and the other of a frigid blue.
It all suddenly made sense. All the strange pieces that made up the mystery that was the library's keeper began to fall into place, everything that the man's loyal assistant had told Ichigo, all the little details that never seemed to fit in place, even the reason why the church was so cautious all the time. "Y-you're..."
Grimmjow nodded, his crystallin gaze bright and a wicked grin spread across his handsome features to match that of his pale partner's. "I'm an angel, Ichigo."
As quickly as those two sets of eyes had snapped to Ichigo's form, they jerked to the side as the white cat that stalked the library jumped onto the top of the desk sitting between Ichigo and the two men that weren't quite human. A distorted snarl left Shirosaki's throat at nearly the same time as Grimmjow sprinted into motion.
"Ichigo, run, now." But as Grimmjow charged in the direction of his apprentice, the feline began shifting and changing, leaving another man sitting atop the desk's edge. Long robes shifted as the man dropped to his feet and seemed to appear at Ichigo's side.
Ichigo took a single step back before he was being held in an unbreakable hold, a had wrapped around his upper arm with bruising strength. He was jerked forward and nearly from his feet, his body being positioned so that he stood between an angry looking Grimmjow and the stranger that had once been a cat.
"Let him go..." Grimmjow snarled, his corded body tense with his fury. "He has nothing to do with this."
"Hah! Of course he does, he set you free." The man drew a dagger from the folds of his robes. "He must die for such blasphemy."
Ichigo caught sight of the glinting blade and attempted to pull away as Grimmjow lurched into motion once more. Behind the big man, Shirosaki staggered to his feet, his shoulders hunched and wings going rigid behind him. Both men glared murder at the stranger but the looks didn't seem to bother him.
Grimmjow pounced with speed that was far from normal but the man holding Ichigo hostage wasn't exactly a mortal either. Ichigo cried out as cold steel met his flesh, slicing through his shirt and biting into muscle with ease. A deep voiced growl rumbled in the air and Ichigo caught a flash of movement as he was dropped to the cold ground. The black marble below him shook with the force of Grimmjow and the stranger clashing.
Before Ichigo had the chance to roll over far enough to see the blue haired man, a cool hand was pressed to his side and he looked up to see the white silhouette of Shirosaki hovering over him. The pale angel's fevered eyes watched the other two as they fought, his hand smeared in Ichigo's blood where he put pressure on the stab wound.
"Grimm ain't ganna be able ta kill 'im..." He mumbled as he watched. His inverted eyes drifted away from the scene, down to glance at Ichigo. "He's to focused on ya instead a wha' he's doin'."
"H-help him then." Ichigo demanded, his voice shaking slightly. The wound wouldn't kill him, but it was painful and it bled freely below the angel's hand.
Shirosaki nodded and grasped one of Ichigo's wrists. He pushed the human's hand against the stab wound, making sure he was keeping pressure on it before he stood unsteadily to his feet. Still recovering from being bound within the book for so long, Shirosaki wasn't up to full strength, but he was still a force to be reckoned with and if he could catch their enemy off guard, he could dispatch of the man before the rest of the clergy made it into the library.
As Ichigo did as he was instructed, pressing as hard as he dared on the wound in his side, he gingerly turned so that he could watch. Grimmjow clashed with the stranger, his teeth bared in a viscous snarl that Ichigo was almost happy to see, fore it fit the big man better than the emotionless mask he had worn before. True to what the pale creature had told him, it seemed the bigger man was distracted and while his motions were still fluid and his blows were still powerful, they all seemed less than they should have been.
Shirosaki drew Ichigo's attention as he quietly stalked closer. His bare body trembled with his movements and Ichigo had to wonder just how long he had been held within the book. Grimmjow had mentioned centuries...
The pale angel held his hand out slightly, his palm up, as he neared the stranger. In a barely noticeable flash of light, a wicked looking dagger of black steel appeared in his previously empty hand. Long, colorless fingers curled around it's handle. As Grimmjow noticed his approaching partner, the blue haired man's eyes lit with understanding and he timed his motions to keep the enemy's back facing Shiro. The two worked in tandem like they had always done so, like they had fought side by side in countless battles.
Grimmjow hissed a breath and barely dodged backward as his opponent's weapon sliced through his once perfect black shirt, hardly missing his golden flesh. Before the stranger was given the chance to correct his mistake, Shirosaki let out a lilting snarl and pounced. His blade sank deep into the muscle beside the man's spine, severing nerves and digging at bone.
As the man that had once taken the guise of a cat shrieked in pain, he spun about and threw the pale angel off. Shirosaki hit the ground and slid across the marble flooring, panting as his features twisted, but his strike had been decisive enough to give Grimmjow the upper hand and the blue haired man didn't waste his opportunity. He left the man laying in a pool of blood as he straightened above the dead body, truly looking fierce.
His blue eyes instantly darted where Shiro lay curled in on himself but the pale angel snorted and rolled his inverted eyes. "Go help yer damn human."
Grimmjow smirked and did just that. Rushing to Ichigo's side, he dropped to crouch beside the injured young man. As he did, wings of a smoky, pale blue began to materialize behind him, spread out and arcing through the air.
Ichigo's eyes widened as he watched them form. Unlike the other angel's, Grimmjow's didn't look sickly, nor dark in a twisted way, but they certainly looked powerful and nothing like what angel wings looked like in paintings. The feathers were narrow, almost sharp looking and the wings themselves ended in a jagged, torn looking line. Everything about them spoke of fighting and of power, of a brutal strength just like the man they were attached to.
"You...have wings now..." Ichigo shook his head slightly, hardly able to wrap his mind around all that had happened so suddenly. kneeling beside him, Grimmjow nodded slightly, folding the massive wings behind him like Shirosaki had done when bound. "Why didn't you before?"
"They were torn off while Shiro and I were being bound..." Grimmjow grimaced, a bitter look crossing his angular features as the memory of the event invaded his mind. It was one memory he would have been fine without. "They couldn't regrow without a reason to, without a need to."
"Oh..." Ichigo sucked in a breath as he tried to sit up, his brows furrowing as a trickle of red seeped between his fingers. "Why were you two bound in the first place...if your angels...?"
From not far away, where Shirosaki sat, his lilting voice stole their attention. "We don' really got time fer this."
Grimmjow smirked but the expression wasn't one of amusement. The pale man was right; they were running out of time and it wouldn't be long before the clergy came running, more spells and seals to bind them again in hand. It only made sense that they would have had a guardian to keep an eye on Grimmjow while the blue haired man attended the library. They had only kept Grimmjow around because of his strength and prowess, his ability to fight and help them bind other angels and demons and as long as Shirosaki was never released, he would never find out who he was and what he was doing.
"He's right." The big man told Ichigo, daring to let his fingers gently brush through orange strands. "We need to get going."
"Then go." Ichigo urged the man, trying to push him away so that he would quit lingering when it was clear the situation was dire.
"Not without you." A grin spread across the blue haired angel's features as Ichigo's brows shot up. "I'm going to heal you, but it's going to hurt and you probably wont stay conscious."
"Wh-what? But I'm just a person...and you two need to leave..."
Grimmjow ignored him, pressing his hand over Ichigo's. In much the same gesture that had made the dagger appear in Shirosaki's hand, a subtle light appeared below Grimmjow's. Ichigo gasped, his breath catching in his throat as burning fire shot through the wound in his side. The last thing he saw before blackness consumed him was the beautiful blue eyes that he should have known couldn't have belonged to a mortal man.
Grimmjow almost hesitantly lowered Ichigo to rest upon the black floor. He quickly inspected the young man's wound, pleased but not really surprised to see that it was nothing more than a healed scar, drying blood smearing Ichigo's smooth skin and soaking his shirt.
Standing, he turned to look at his partner. "Shiro, are you hurt?"
"Nah, jus' tired. I'm outta shape." The pale angel chuckled in his distorted, maddening voice. "So how are we ganna get outta here? Ya built this place especially ta keep us in..."
"I know." The bigger man growled, looking about the large room and it's rows of shelving. Then he tilted his head back, looking up at the arching ceiling as he thought about the library's construction and the plans he had drawn up for it. "We go up."
"Up?" Shiro cocked a single, colorless brow and craned his neck to look up as well.
Rushed footsteps from outside the library proper caught the angels' attention and both Grimmjow and Shirosaki swung their unnerving gazes toward the door. Very little scared them and there was only a handful of humans strong enough to harm them, but both had been bound for hundreds of years and neither were up for another fight just yet.
Grimmjow glanced back to where Shirosaki still knelt on the dark marble floor, his wings spread out behind him to lay across the floor and look like sickly puddles of bubbling tar. White nostrils flared as the pale angel attempted to regain his strength as quickly as possible. His lanky hair hung about his shoulders and in his face and his lean shoulders hunched forward as his limbs trembled from the mobility he was suddenly granted after so long but his fevered gaze was clear. When vivid, otherworldly blue found his own gold, the pale creature nodded to his partner. Wether it came to a fighting or fleeing, he would be ready.
Grimmjow nodded back and stooped to gently pull the human man from where he had laid him on the floor. Still unconscious, the young man remained motionless as Grimmjow effortlessly straightened, Ichigo cradled limply in his arms.
As the enormous double doors were slowly eased open, dusky blue wings slowly unfurled from behind Grimmjow to stretch to their full length, feathers bristled with protective aggression. Even standing in the main aisle of the library, in the very center of the room where all the sections converged, his wing tips nearly brushed the shelves around him. Behind him and very aware that the blue haired angel remained standing in front of him for a reason, Shirosaki let a lilting snarl fill the air with menace as he watched the door open.
The elderly assistant crept through the open doors and gently shut them so that they made hardly a sound, conscious of his Master's hate for loud noises. His normally apathetic gaze glanced about the room, taking in the dead guardian that had once been the library's cat, Shirosaki's colorless form, Ichigo held tight in Grimmjow's arms and finally the library keeper himself. A small smile crossed the assistant's features.
Grimmjow's head tilted slightly as his wings lost their rigidity and relaxed slightly. His piercing gaze landed upon his aging assistant and his stance relaxed into something less hostile and ready. Memories that he shouldn't have had assaulted his mind, things Grimmjow hadn't been allowed to remember while his mind had been bound. He remembered when his assistant had first been brought to the library and introduced to a blue haired man, but now the assistant wasn't a boy any longer. He had aged, grown old and spent nearly his entire life in a library in service to a creature that wasn't even human and Grimmjow still looked exactly the same as he had the day they had met.
"Shawlong..." His baritone voice rumbled from deep within his chest and filled the large, round room with a rough purr. "You knew all this time...yet you still stayed and acted as my assistant...since you were but a boy..." He shook his head, at a loss for words.
The assistant's smile remained in place. "Yes, Sir, I did.
"You're not afraid of me?" Grimmjow asked, his wings beginning to fold back behind him as Shirosaki's snarling growl went quite.
"Of course not, Master. I know more about you than anyone, even more than you knew for a very long time."
Grimmjow smirked, a small chuckle accompanying his words. "Thank you."
"It has been my pleasure, Sir." As Shawlong spoke, pounding erupted from the front entrance as the clergy finally arrived. The heavy doors were locked from the inside, curtsy of Shawlong's quick thinking, but nothing would hold the clergymen out for long as they sought to recapture and bind the escaped angels, fated to be their god's undoing.
The assistant's features grew grave as he looked upon the man he had been in the company of for most of his life. No matter what Grimmjow was, Shawlong believed him to be a good man at heart. "I will tell you the same as I told Mr. Kurosaki, Sir; do take care of him. Ichigo has been dealt a heavy hand by fate and I believe it's not quite done with him yet."
"I shall." Grimmjow told the man, his grip tightening on the still motionless young man he held.
Shawlong nodded and turned back toward the doors that led to the hall from the library proper. "Be on your way then, I'll give you as much time as possible.
The assistant didn't give Grimmjow a chance to say anything more as he rushed through the doors, closing them behind him, and headed toward the front of the building were men of the church were still trying to get in.
With a deep breath, Grimmjow pivoted to looked over his shoulder at his partner. Shirosaki was finally beginning to climb to his feet again, the lean muscle of his body stiff and ready. As he straightened, his sickly black wings lifting from their limp position on the ground and stretching out proudly, Grimmjow finally spoke. "Shiro...have you the strength to...?"
The library's fortress like structure wasn't simply for looks. It had been built with the purpose to hold the two captured angels and even if they broke passed the building itself, the grounds were holy and warded to keep them trapped. The only way out was up. They would have to fly high enough to leave the boundaries of the holy ground but if they weren't strong enough to make it that high, they would be pulled from the sky and thrown back to earth, then forced to once again face the clergy and their binding spells. Neither Grimmjow nor Shirosaki held the illusion that they were ready for a battle against those with the powers that had originally bound them so shortly after breaking said binds.
Shirosaki looked up at the vaulted ceiling and shrugged his shoulders slightly. "Eh, wha's a little stone. We'll make it."
"I know, I know. Don' worry, I can break it jus' fine an' ya can keep holdin' yer human." Shiro's lilting voice edged on a distorted growl as his head snapped around and his inhuman gaze latched onto the doors that led into the room they occupied.
Shouting voices and the movements of men could be heard and Grimmjow bared his teeth in vicious rage, knowing Shawlong must have been defeated.
"Time ta go, Grimm." Shiro snarled as he crouched, his gaze once more swinging upward. The muscle below pale skin flexed and grew taut as his wings raised high above his head. In a single, swift motion, he sprang up, his massive wings easily propelling him toward the ceiling of the library.
Grimmjow turned away, ducking and pulling his wings over his head as he pulled Ichigo close and the broken, crumbling stone of the library's roof and ceiling rained down around him. True to Shiro's promise, he broke through with ease and was soaring high above as Grimmjow spun on his heal and launched himself upward to meet him. He exited through the gapping hole the pale angel had made just as the double doors were thrown open and the clergy stormed the room.
Blue eyes closed in bliss as wind whipped around his body and through his tussled blue locks. The human hugged to his chest was warm and the evening air was cool. Shiro flew at his side for the first time in centuries and he had finally been set free of his own mind. Both of them had been released, and all thanks to a young human named Ichigo that held the fate of gods in his hands.
Twin grins pulled at the two angels' faces as they glanced over at one another.
"Where to?" Grimmjow asked, hardly any effort needed to make himself heard over the rushing wind.
"Home." Shirosaki answered with a wide, manic grin and a lively fire in his golden eyes.
Grimmjow nodded slightly, directing his attention to the young man he cradled. Ichigo had yet to regain consciousness, but that was probably for the better since the church below them was nothing more than a small dark smudge and they still climbed higher. Then blue brows furrowed slightly and he looked back over to Shiro. "You really think hell is a good place for a human?"
Shirosaki shrugged, his grin growing even wider. "I'm sure he'll be fine wit' a couple a unbound and free-willed angels ta keep 'im safe."
So what did you think?