The Red Sun Sets, The Black Sun Rises
Here's the next chapter of my second story's revision. Also the first chapter was edited again.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.
"Kido/Zanpakuto Attacks/Quincy Techniques"
As the Captains and Lieutenants continued to stare at the young substitute before them, their thoughts ranged from shock to disbelief, and if Ichigo was correct…outrage. Then again he really shouldn't have been surprised. Seeing Byakuya's face contort as if he was sucking on a lemon was amusing enough to him to forget the others for now though. Well at least it was until…
"Outrageous!" Sui-Feng cried, drawing Ichigo's gaze to her as she stood out from the line of Captains, her steel grey eyes glaring at him with undisguised hate. "Captain Commander surely you're joking? There's no way this boy could possibly hope to take up such a role. He's neither trained, nor even a true soul reaper!"
Glancing at the substitute out of the corner of his eye, Genryusai could see he had an 'I told you so' like look on his face and sighed internally.
"You would normally be correct Captain Sui-Feng, but there are compelling reasons for my choice, some which I am currently unable to relay to you at this moment." His words had the desired effect as most of the Captains gained a thoughtful look on their face as they contemplated the situation they found themselves in. "As for whether he is a true soul reaper…his body being destroyed last night puts him one step closer to that title."
Now that revelation certainly surprised most of them, and led a few to look down at the ground shamefully. He couldn't blame them for reacting like that since he was still coming to grips with the truth himself. Glancing down the line of Captains and Lieutenants though, his eyes zeroed on the woman that had started him down this path in the first place and was unsurprised to find her face downcast, while she clenched her trembling fists.
"If there is nothing else…?" Genryusai asked, his question hanging in the air as an invitation for those assembled to speak their mind. "Very well then, this meeting is adjourned. Return to your regular duties." Watching the majority of his soul reapers depart, he was unsurprised to see his oldest students approaching him. Turning his head to dismiss Ichigo, he was unsurprised to find the teen heading after Rukia, the latter trying to disappear as quickly as possible. Sharing a pointed look with Sasakibe, his Lieutenant gave him the briefest of nods, before herding the stragglers out of the room. "Shunsui, Jushiro…I understand you have questions…"
"Hey Rukia wait up," he called, trying to catch the Lieutenant of the Thirteenth Division before she could disappear. To his annoyance though, she pushed on, flash stepping away towards her barracks. Growling he flash stepped after her, startling her as he reappeared in front of her. "Hey I was talking to you," he growled, catching her by the wrist, before she could disappear again. Hearing her mumble something under her breath, his signature scowl appeared on his face as he stared down at her. "If you want me to answer, could you at least look me in the eye when you talk to me?" When she finally did look up at him, the defeated look in her eyes caused his breath to hitch in his throat.
"Why aren't you cursing me? Why are you still worrying about me despite everything I've done to ruin your life?" she implored him, tears beginning to pool in her eyes. "If I had never entered your room that night, none of this would have happened and you wouldn't be forced to abandon your human life." Feeling his arms wrap around her and gently pull her into his chest, she openly sobbed into his body, her tears staining his clothing. "You should be cursing me, not consoling me you idiot!" she ranted, but nevertheless returned the embrace.
In his own mind though, Ichigo was freaking out as he struggled to come up with a plan to console the weeping girl. Hell with his little sisters it was fine, since Karin rarely cried and Yuzu's optimism meant that she brushed off anything like it was the most insignificant thing in the world. Heck, give him a bloodthirsty hollow and he would take it down no problem. The female kind and their emotions though…well you'd probably get better results from a box of tissues and a tub of ice-cream than him.
"You know…I was set on this path long before we even met," he began slowly, hearing her sobs die down a little as she listened. "During my fight with Aizen, he gloated about how he had been the one responsible for everything that lead up to our battle; from sending you to Karakura Town…to being the one who ordered my mother's death." Feeling her look up at him, he stared off into the distance to avoid the look of pity he was sure that she was giving him. "So don't you dare think that you're the one responsible for all this Rukia. We were all just pawns in his game after all."
Hearing her finally calm down, he let go of her and took a step back, grimacing internally at the wet spots on his clothing. 'The tailors are going to have a fit' he thought, remembering how this material was supposed to be worth its weight in gold in Soul Society. Seeing a Hell-Butterfly floating towards him, he held out his finger to it, sighing as he listened to the message from Genryusai. "The Captain Commander has summoned me, are you going to be okay or am I going to have to have someone beat the melancholy out of you, like you did for me?" he asked with a smirk on his face.
"I'll be fine," she said with a slight chuckle, swiping away at her tears with her fingers. "Go, it's never a wise to keep the Captain Commander waiting."
Minutes later Ichigo arrived at the entrance to the Yamamoto estate, striding through the red wooden doors as the guards made way for him. Walking along the cobblestone towards the mansion, he noted that there were various orchards in the distance, all being fed by a river that flowed through the estate. It was a pleasant change when compared to the forest of sakura trees that littered the Kuchiki estate. Just as he turned the corner to head towards Genryusai's chambers, he almost bumped into the man himself as he was talking to an elderly gentleman with crisp grey hair and a short goatee, whom he recognised as the Chief Clerk of the Yamamoto clan.
Dismissing the man, Genryusai turned to face Ichigo, "Good you've finally arrived. Come with me." Dutifully obeying the older soul reaper, Ichigo trailed after him as they were lead deeper into the estate, leaving all the opulence and splendour behind and arriving at a pair of stout wooden doors. Holding a palm up to the door, Genryusai muttered a quiet incantation under his breath, causing a shimmering barrier to reveal itself and shatter.
"Where are we going?" Ichigo asked, as he was led further inside. When they finally reached the end of the corridor though, he was struck dumb at the area they were standing in. It was courtyard roughly 250m by 50m, covered in lush green grass, except for the area furthest away from them that had several brilliant white dummies lined up along it.
"Welcome Ichigo to my private training grounds, an area I've used for over a millennia to hone my skills," Genryusai began as he walked further into the area, ignoring Ichigo's surprised look. "The targets you see in the distance, as well as the walls around us are made of sekkiseki stone, making them almost impervious to all damage, kido based or otherwise."
"Targets made of sekkiseki? But isn't that the stuff that forms the wall round Seireitei? I thought it was as rare as it is expensive Jii-san?" Ichigo asked as he continued to inspect the area.
"And as I said I have used this place for well over a millennia. To acquire such targets was well within our reach given enough time. Now then," he began coughing slightly to clear his throat. "Today I have set aside for determining exactly what you know when it comes to being a soul reaper, your various skills in the arts and so on. Once I know what I am working with, then we can begin planning your training schedule. Now then, what conclusion did Kisuke Urahara reach with regard to your Bankai?"
"He basically agreed with my zanpakuto that the transformation was permanent. I was supposed to lose my powers in exchange for using the technique, but that didn't happen."
"And the strain on your body from maintaining the final release, how bad is it for you?"
"Almost non-existent as far as I can tell. I spoke to Toshiro and Byakuya about it briefly once and they told me that after a while they simply can't keep supplying it with energy to keep it going. I've been like this for months now and I've yet to feel the strain."
"Hmm, you will need to keep us abreast of the situation. If at any point you feel that you will collapse from energy depletion, I want to be informed immediately. This does present a problem though as the standard protocols would not apply to you."
"Well that's me in a nutshell, ignore all the basics and jump straight into the advanced stuff," Ichigo muttered with a sigh, scratching the back of his head in frustration.
"Then it's time we corrected that problem." And so the day went, with Ichigo being drilled on each aspect of his skills, along with giving a demonstration of them, until finally Genryusai called a halt to it all. Despite his near inexhaustible stamina, Ichigo found himself collapsing from fatigue, his mind utterly wiped out from the endless questioning and concentration needed to perform the exercises.
"Humph, adequate for the first day, but you're far worse than I expected. It's a wonder you even managed half the feats you've accomplished."
"Hey, considering how long I've been a soul reaper, I think I did okay all things considered."
"It is still not enough," Genryusai stated, thumping his cane into the ground, kicking up a puff of dust. "Now come, the evening dinner bell has rung."
"Already? But we've only just started," Ichigo muttered as he got to his feet and dusted of his shihakusho.
"We clearly need to work on your concentration first, it's been several hours since we started," Genryusai murmured, a hint of reproach in his tone, as he led them from the training area, back to the manor proper.
Leading them into the dining room, Ichigo stumbled slightly at the fact that there were only two places set out on the immense dining room table, while a troop of servants stood around the room. As they both sat, the servants leapt into action serving the food and placing it before them. While he knew that some nobles would only recognise their servants when they needed something, an act which he would refuse to follow, he was surprised when Genryusai spoke to each of them by their first name thanking them for their hard work. Unwilling to appear any less respectful towards them, he quickly followed suit, trying his hardest to not forget their names. Once they finished dinner and were leaving the room, he was rewarded with a smile and small nod from the women that had been serving him, getting a sigh of relief from him.
He and Genryusai then walked back along the path to Genryusai's chambers when the old man stopped at a room two doors away from his own. "This is your room. I've had the servants prepare the basic necessities, but you may speak with them should you require anything else. Goodnight Ichigo," he said as he walked off to his own room, getting a reply in kind from Ichigo before he was too far away.
Staring at the door, Ichigo sighed and hesitantly opened it, taking in his new home. Needless to say, it was far grander than anything he had, had before. The first thing he noticed was a large mahogany desk directly across from the door, along with a high backed wooden chair. To the left of the door were a few stairs that led to the actual living area of his room. Along the one side was a coffee table, surrounded by two large sofas that felt like heaven as he brushed his fingers over the fabric. Across from them was a King sized bed with a blue duvet and black pillows and matching end tables on either side of it. Curious as to what was on the other side of the door in his room, he pulled it open and gasped at the walk-in closet and en-suite bathroom he found. Whilst he hadn't really brought anything with him to the Soul Society, the shelves were already stocked with various articles of clothing he'd need.
Too tired to explore any further, he retreated to the bed and slipped off his socks and the top of his shihakusho and crawled into bed, before slipping into blissful oblivion
When he woke up what felt like minutes later though, he was confused to find himself standing in a park he and his sisters visited frequently when they were younger. Before he could try and make sense of his surroundings though, his thoughts were interrupted by a pair of voices.
Turning around he was shocked to see Yuzu and Karin flying at him arms outstretched. Before he could shout a warning or dodge them they had engulfed him in a hug, their faces ecstatic one moment, before disappearing the next as their bodies were ground to dust from his power.
Stumbling backwards in horror, he felt a group of hands reach out to steady him saying, "Ichigo?"
Following the hands he was horrified to witness the last look of pain on his high school friends faces as they too were turned to dust. Screaming his lungs out he felt himself descend into darkness.
Opening his eyes once more he found himself staring up at the ceiling of his room at the Yamamoto estate. Sitting up he felt several tears fall to his chest and realised it was all just a nightmare. Tossing the sheets away, he walked into the bathroom and splashed some cool water over his face, wiping away the sweat and tears and leaving him somewhat calm. Deciding against trying to fall asleep again so soon after such a nightmare, he slipped out of his room and headed down the hallways of the estate pausing occasionally to examine some heirloom or photo of the family. Entering one particular garden he was shocked to find Genryusai sitting on a bench next to a pond filled with koi. Making his way over, he silently sat down next to the old man.
Feeling a weight on the bench next to him, Genryusai cracked an eye open to see who had joined him and was surprised to see Ichigo there, the moonlight glittering off his torso highlighting the scars to his body. "Rough night?" he asked knowing that it could be nothing else from the bloodshot eyes of the youth.
"Just a nightmare," Ichigo said as he rubbed the back of his neck, "You?"
"Reminders of the past," Genryusai said as he looked into the koi pond.
"Ah," Ichigo said as they continued to sit. After a few minutes of silence Ichigo asked a question that had been nagging him at the back of his mind, "Sorry Jii-san, but why don't you have any sons or daughters? Out of all the photo's I've seen on the estate, they only show other members of the clan and their children. I don't believe I've even seen one of you married."
As the silence seemed to stretch on forever, Ichigo thought the old man had fallen asleep while sitting there. He was proven wrong thought by the old man's soft whisper. "My wife passed away during childbirth over two millennia ago. The child itself was a stillborn."
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to pry," Ichigo replied, hanging his head in shame at prying into the older man's life.
"I do not regret my life Ichigo. I raised Shunsui and Jushiro like they were my own sons and I am proud of the men they are today," he explained as he looked to the sky, his tone proud. "I know that while I may seem displeased and disappointed now, you too will also make me proud, no matter what may happen in the future. You will stick to the values that made me choose you as my successor and that is all I can ask for." Rising to his feet he bade Ichigo goodnight once more and padded back to his room.
Ichigo sat on the bench for another hour as he digested the old man's words, trying to understand some of the pain that the old man undoubtedly had to go through after outliving his wife and unborn child for over two thousand years. It was a scary thought considering how long his life as a soul reaper would last. Would he outlive the current roster? As far as he knew Ukitake, Kyoraku and Unohana were the only people that had lasted more than a century as a Captain. Would he eventually be left alone by the friends he held near and dear now? Shaking his head to clear it of such thoughts, he headed back to his room, determined not to think on the topic any longer.
Oh my and update for this after so long…but all I can say is I finally feel inspired to write for this one again.