Beware of characters being somewhat OOC.
What an AMAZING response to the first chapter! I am completely bowled over by the reviews I got so THANK YOU! I hope this chapter is just as enjoyable!
Ichigo's room was surprisingly lavishly decorated. The walls were christened white with large red dots which meandered the walls in elaborate swirls; there were also splashes of orange swirls, and Ichigo immediately came to the conclusion that Renji and Rukia had been in to redecorate before his arrival. For no one else would have dared to put orange on the walls of a room which he was going to live in. However, it was elegantly in its integrity and he found that he rather liked it.
It was a larger room than the one he had had in Division Five, there were more rooms for a start; better furnishings and a bigger bed - in his old room as soon as he walked in he was in the bedroom; there was a cubbyhole of a bathroom and a kitchen just large enough to swing a small kitten. Yet here, the front door led to the lounge area; the bedroom was through a door over the far side with an en-suit bathroom with a both a luxurious shower and a bath; the kitchen, which was on the other side of the lounge, was large enough to squeeze six or seven people in which room to swing a tiger.
He liked it.
He didn't bother to examine the other rooms too closely; he knew that if Rukia and Renji had been around and decorated he wouldn't have anything to worry about. Even though he had barely seen either of them since he had begun to work for Aizen, they knew his taste in colours never changed.
He sat down and ran his fingers over the leather seat and sighed, he felt spoiled. He had practically been handed the position of Third Seat on the whim of Aizen's plan to place a spy in Division Six; his former two best friends had redecorated without letting him worry over it and he was little more than willing sex on legs for the former and a traitor to the latter two.
He had distanced himself from Rukia and Renji as soon as he had slipped under Aizen's control; he knew he couldn't continue a true and honest friendship with them when he was really plotting to assist another with their downfall. Aizen had found him in the Academy in the same year as Renji, Rukia, Hinamori, and Kira; on the occasion that he had question the man, Aizen had said that the thing that had drawn him to Ichigo hadn't been his hair, but the dead look in his eyes. He had played dumb on that occasion, pretended to be confused by his statement but in reality he knew what Aizen had been referring to.
Ichigo couldn't remember why his heart had disappeared, but it had happened and he had been left without it ever since. There was a hole in his memory, a blank space which refused to be filled by any kind of acknowledgement or recollection and it was at that point, when the blankness had come into being that his heart had vanished. He often wondered if something had happened to him that he had blanked out, something which had rendered him incapable of true feeling.
Naturally he felt fear, panic, pain, lust, and desire; sometimes he even ventured to believe that he felt something akin to trust, but that was a wishful thought. He felt a link to the people he had once called 'friend' but at the end of the day he felt no real sense of loyalty to them, no sense of love or reliance. The only person who had ever dragged a sense of loyalty from him was Aizen Sousuke, and in that man's eyes he was a beautiful; loyal; attractive; willing killing machine.
He had yet to be ordered to kill someone, but he knew it wouldn't be long. Gin had killed for Aizen; Tousen had killed for Aizen... Even Aizen had killed for Aizen, as strange as that sounded. But Ichigo, for some reason he was being kept back for something; Aizen had dared to tell him that it was something important. He longed to know what it was, but the man had refused to tell him - teasing him no doubt.
Ichigo got to his feet and paced the lounge for a few moments before he sighed and walked out, looking around the Division curiously before he sensed out Kuchiki's reiatsu. He wasn't in his office; he seemed to be over at Division One in fact.
A small smirk twitched at his lips and he headed through the Division, this was his best chance to search his new Taichou's office for the evidence he had which had made him suspicious of Aizen.
He arrived at the door to the man's office and glanced around before attempting to open it; frowning as he discovered that it was locked. Kuchiki really was distrusting of his subordinates it seemed.
He crouched down, making another sweep of the surrounding area for reiatsu before he pulled out an elegant lock picking kit, provided courtesy of Gin. That man was a damn legend!
Ichigo deftly began to pick the lock, slipping different instruments in and out of the lock, twisting a couple of times in one direction before grabbing another tool and using it to twist in the opposite direction.
A triumphant grin appeared on his face as he heard a satisfactory click; Ichigo hastily packed his things away and stood back up, glancing behind himself before sliding the door open and heading inside. He shut the door after himself and turned to face the empty room before him.
The office was unchanged, save for the in tray and out tray, the latter of which was full to the brim while the former was as barren as the Hueco Mundo wastelands. Kuchiki was a man who believed in order, believed in getting things done. And on this occasion, Ichigo was happy to compare himself to the nobleman.
He strode over to the immaculately kept desk and sat down, searching through the drawers for anything which might link back to Aizen or his plans. He paused as he found a shiny disk which was in a plastic case and pulled it out of the bottom drawer; the strawberry haired young man looked it over curiously, pausing as he saw the word 'evidence' scrawled across a label on the front of the case. He slipped the disk into his kosode and stood up, carefully putting everything back how it had been before he made his way towards the door.
The sound of his new Taichou had him freezing in his tracks and he sucked in a breath, sensing the nobleman's reiatsu on the other side of the door. Swearing inwardly, Ichigo dove over the desk and slipped beneath it, hearing the door slide open.
"It was extremely forgetful of me to leave behind my paperwork, Renji, I apologise. And I must admit that my mind has been elsewhere." The raven haired noble announced as he entered the office.
"It's alright Taichou, everyone is allowed an off day every now and again, it isn't like you make a habit of it after all." The redhead answered as he followed him.
"Thank you," Kuchiki answered simply, walking towards his desk, "Have you seen Kurosaki yet?"
"No, Taichou, he is supposed to be moving into his room today but I haven't seen him yet, I'll probably drop in and see him later." Renji sighed.
"You still are uncomfortable with my decision to keep him in the dark aren't you?" the noble asked, his back facing his Fuku-Taichou.
"I..." Renji sighed and looked down, "Yes Taichou, I can't help but worry about him. If everything is as you've said and Aizen is... Ichigo is strong and influential amongst the Divisions and I... I think that Aizen might target him in an attempt to... Win him over."
"What?" Byakuya turned to face him suddenly.
Ichigo raised an eyebrow at Renji's astute declaration. It was impressive in his mind that the man had even considered such a possibility, even if he was somewhat late with it.
"Well, what I mean to say is that: Ichigo is young; he is strong and he had friends in all Thirteen Divisions, he is very influential and if Aizen realises that then I fear that he will use Ichigo for his goals." Renji said softly, frowning weakly at the thought of it.
"I see... That is quite the theory Renji..." Byakuya frowned faintly as well, "Leave it a little longer but keep an eye on him, if you can try and limit the amount of time that he is on his own and report to me immediately if anything suspicious happens."
"I will Taichou." The redhead nodded once.
The nobleman turned back to his desk, slightly troubled by what Renji had just told him; he gathered his paperwork up in its file but paused for a moment, picking up a roll of sticky tape which he was certain he had put in his top drawer before leaving. A frown passed his gaze before he shrugged lightly and walked around to his chair, looking at Renji as he put the tape away again.
"There is one thing which troubles me Renji," he said, closing the drawer again and walked over to his Fuku-Taichou, "What if Aizen has already got to him?"
The redhead stared for a moment before he swallowed, "I... I don't know, Taichou, he's been in Division Five for eighteen months now, and if Aizen's already been dripping poison in his ears then..."
"Then it's likely Kurosaki was transferred for the purpose I feared. To gather information and recover the evidence I had on Aizen's actions." The raven haired male sighed, "I have no proof of this; it is mere speculation, however, I will be watching him very closely from now on. When you see him later, tell him I want him to come to the training grounds, I will begin assisting him in achieving Bankai."
"Is it wise to help him with that, when we aren't sure that he is on our side?" the redhead questioned his expression troubled.
"I am uncertain, however I cannot be seen to be suspicious, or else we could all be in greater danger than we first realised."
Ichigo held his breath as he listened to them discussing him so freely, hardly believing his luck that he had been present to hear their conversation; he could prepare for their questioning, their watching with ease if he knew that they were planning to do it. Luck was on his side it seemed, as Kuchiki then left with Renji, without locking the door again.
He left it a few moments, ensuring that the two had actually left the room, before he climbed out from under the desk and released a breath that he had been holding since he had been forced to hide.
The strawberry haired young man brushed himself down and checked that he still had the disk in his uniform before he headed over to the door and slid it open; he glance out before he scurried out, shutting the door behind him before he darted off in a burst of Shunpo.
Aizen rested his chin on his knuckles as he watched the recording play out, his eyes narrowing faintly as he saw himself, Gin and Tousen disappearing through a Garganta in the middle of the night; followed by footage of several experimental Shinigami deaths and Hollowfications.
"You have done exceedingly well to get this information so fast Ichigo," the brunet murmured, stopping the recording, and looking at his orange haired subordinate, "It will make it much easier to simply make this disappear."
"It was no problem, Aizen-Taichou," he responded, "It may become harder, they came back while I was in Kuchiki-Taichou's office and hid, overhearing them talking it seems that Renji has realised that you might make a move to get me on your side. I believe they are both going to be watching me more carefully from now on. Not that it is a problem, I can do my job."
"Interesting, I didn't believe Abarai possessed enough brain function to come up with something like that." The brunet smirked, "Don't worry, when the time is right you will be by my side where you belong, Ichigo, for now you simply have to keep them sweet."
The strawberry nodded and checked the time, "I should return to my room before I am missed, I'm to start my official duties tomorrow and today was to be an opportunity for me to get acquainted with the Division's layout."
"Of course," Aizen stood up and walked towards him, resting a hand on his shoulder, "I am very impressed Ichigo, if you continue like this I have no doubt you will have a glistening career with me when we leave this place. Well done."
"Thank you, sir." He smiled faintly, "I am glad I can be of service."
Aizen watched the young man as he left his room and smirked slightly as he sat back down behind his desk, he watched the footage Ichigo had collected for him once more before he took the disk and used his reiatsu to disintegrate it into nothingness. It would take Kuchiki more than a disk to capture him.
Ichigo re-entered Division Six and pondered Aizen's words, for some reason he felt a hint of reluctance to simply accept that he had done a good job, regardless of what the man had said. He knew, better than most, that Aizen's true nature was dark and twisted; he was a man of desire and aspiration who planned things to the very immaculate end, yet who also enjoyed the thrill of the chase and the possibility of being uncovered before he was ready.
If it was what it took, Ichigo would do whatever he had to to see Aizen's ideals realised. He had nothing else to do with his life, he cared little for the true meaning of being a Shinigami, and without true emotions he had weak bonds to the people who treated him as a friend.
He was about to open the door to his room when he sensed Renji's reiatsu approaching; he looked around and raised his eyebrows at the redhead's flushed expression.
"Yo, Ichigo!" he greeted with a grin.
"Hey," he replied as he looked at him, "Have you been Shunpo training again?"
"Yeah, how did you guess?"
"Aside from the fact you look like you've been running around Seireitei carrying Yamamoto?" the strawberry asked, "You're face is flushed at you stink like sweat."
Renji pouted and sniffed himself, "Right, sorry about that I haven't had a chance to grab a shower yet..."
"No problem, I'm used to it, you were always training too hard in Shino, trying to impress Rukia." He smirked.
"Whatever bastard," the tattooed Fuku-Taichou grumbled, "Anyway, Kuchiki-Taichou would like you to meet him at the training area."
Ichigo swore inwardly, he had forgotten that part of the conversation he had overheard in the office, "Alright, I'll just grab Zangetsu and then I'll head over."
"Alright mate; good luck." Renji clapped him on the shoulder and retreated towards his office to do some work.
Ichigo sighed and went into his room, picking up the large Zanpakto before he turned and headed back out again, now wishing he had spent longer out of the Division so that he could avoid this attempt at training with the nobleman. It was hardly his idea of fun.
He checked the smaller training area first and found it to be packed with Division Six members who had some free time; he realised quickly that his new Taichou wasn't there so he headed to the bigger area. He saw the man he was searching for stood in the centre of the circular fenced off area of sand, he stared transfixed as he saw elegant twisting; weaving whirls of vibrant pink rising and falling around Kuchiki's feet, twinning around his arms and hands when he lifted them; his lengthy locks of raven hair blew lightly around him in the breeze created by the rupture of his reiatsu.
Shaking himself, Ichigo vaulted the fence and started towards him, raising an eyebrow as he saw that the nobleman's eyes were shimmering with a soft white light. He remained silent for a moment before he cleared his throat.
"Kuchiki-Taichou," he greeted, "Renji said you wanted to see me."
The man's eyes flicked to his for a moment before they returned to their usual steel grey colour and the blossoms surrounding him rose up and solidified back into their katana form, "Thank you for coming so quickly, Kurosaki-san."
"I didn't have anything else on." He said simply.
"Of course," the man breathed before he swept his hair over his shoulder, "I will be straight with you, regardless of what Renji had told you it is unusual for me to train my subordinates personally; I am doing so with you because I believe that you have great potential and I would like to assist you in achieving it."
"I understand Kuchiki-Taichou." he responded mechanically.
Raising one perfect eyebrow at the obligatory response of the orange haired Shinigami, the Taichou lifted his katana slowly, "Very well, then... Show me at which level you are currently at. I want to feel your strength, Kurosaki."
"Yes, sir." The strawberry reached around and grasped the bandaged hilt of his Zanpakto, sensing the bindings around the blade loosening at his command as he drew forth his sword.
The two shared a long look before disappearing in a flicker of Shunpo, reappearing in a clash of metal and the flying of brilliant sparks; they parted only to meet again, dancing across the sand while kicking up a small amount of dust from the swift movement of their feet.
Ichigo met the gaze of his new Taichou unflinchingly, having trained alongside Aizen for many months he had resided himself to the belief that he would never encounter a more powerful, or terrifyingly strong opponent as that man; he hoped to whatever god existed that he never got on his bad side.
As they pranced on light feet around the arena, Kuchiki observed with keen eyes the movements and mechanisms of his opponent; he recognised a fair majority of the steps that the strawberry used, as he had seen Aizen fight on several occasions. There was no doubt about it in his mind, Aizen had been training the youth in the image of himself; Renji had, for once, been correct and Aizen had been laying claim to him.
"Kurosaki, show me your Shikai." He authorised in a calm voice as they met in another flourish of metal.
"I cannot." Ichigo responded, flitting away before turning and blocking another attack, adding a kick to his counter.
"Why not?" Kuchiki demanded, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly.
Spinning and ducking simultaneously as the other attacked him with more feeling, Ichigo maintained a cool exterior, meeting his Zanpakto again and pressing against him, his teeth lightly gritted as he looked him straight in the eye, "Because..." he dodged another blow, "I am already in Shikai."
Kuchiki's eyes widened momentarily at the admission before things started to make sense, "That is the reason for the haste of your progression towards Bankai, your reiatsu is immense, even I have sensed that. Aizen pressed you towards it because the size of reiatsu and it means that you have the potential to reach Bankai faster than other Shinigami."
"Correct," Ichigo flipped back and used a burst of Shunpo to propel himself back towards him, ducking his defence and kneeing him in the midsection, knocking him off balance as his eyes began to glow, his reiatsu rising in a tempestuous flurry as he placed deliberate and debilitating blows on his Taichou, letting him feel the full force of his reiatsu, "It also means, that I am capable of maintaining battles for a longer period of time without tiring as fast despite using powerful attacks."
The nobleman's eyes abruptly went wide as he felt his feet being knocked out from under him and he fell, grabbing a fistful of the orange haired Shinigami's kosode as he did so. He grunted lightly as he hit the sand and winced as he was landed on. His eyes opening after a moment and meeting Ichigo's chestnut ones as he came face to face with him.
"Your technique is certainly impressive, as is your strength and reiatsu." He murmured, "However you have much to learn."
"How so?" he frowned faintly.
"You believe as soon as your enemy falls the battle is over." The raven haired male breathed, "Scatter, Senbonzakura."
Ichigo's eyes widened abruptly as he was picked up by a flood of blossom petals and tossed away from his Taichou. He gritted his teeth as he hit the sand and rolled back onto his feet, remaining in a crouched position as he watched the other man also getting to his feet.
"It is hardly fair for you to be in Shikai when I am not, is it?" Kuchiki asked as his sword reformed into its solid form.
"I suppose not." The strawberry responded with a sigh, "That was sneaky."
"It was not, my pride would never permit me to do something 'devious'. You merely did not consider the probability that I would use my Shikai."
"Heh, I guess so..." he ran a hand through his hair before gripping the hilt of his Zanpakto again, "So... You're going to make this harder for me."
"Of course, you won't get anywhere if I go easy on you; considering size of your reiatsu and your strength you shouldn't be coddled." The noble announced, lifting his katana again and watching the blade disintegrate into hundreds of petals again.
"I'm glad we are thinking on the same lines." Ichigo murmured, "I hate being coddled."
There was a moment of dual pause before the petals swept forwards, and Ichigo leapt towards him, sword drawn back and eyes narrowed.