Who is Zangetsu?

Chapter one

Ichigo looked at the zero squad member, Ōetsu Nimaiya in shock. Sure his bankai had been broken, but no way in a frozen hell was he going to just say sayonara to Zangetsu. The old man had been by side since his first, true fight as a Shinigami. Zangetsu was literally a part of his soul!

"No way!" Ichigo told Nimaiya vehemently. "Why would you even suggest that? How am I supposed to just throw away a part of my soul?"

"You're panicking, Ichigo!" Nimaiya scolded the Shinigami daiko. "Take a deep breath and listen. The 'old man' as you call him isn't going away, you just need to let go of Zangetsu as your zanpakuto." He sat back to observe the boy's reaction. He knew that Yhwach had a hand in the boy's panic.

"Explain," Ichigo ordered coldly, scowling deeply at Nimaiya. Honestly, he was confused at the panic that had leapt up when this crazy 'god of the swords' had suggested throwing Zangetsu away.

"Zangetsu is broken and will never again attain bankai," Nimaiya explained gently, watching out for signs of Ichigo's well known temper. "Your blade is broken and Zangetsu would never want you to fight with a blunt weapon. At the moment, both you and Zangetsu are lions without teeth, wolves without fangs!" he paused, waiting for a response from Ichigo.

Ichigo knew he was right, even he could sense Zangetsu broken reiatsu, but wasn't prepared to give up his most loyal comrade. It had been Zangetsu who taught him how to fight and how to overcome his inner fears. Just abandoning Zangetsu felt so very wrong. He nodded, reluctantly.

Nimaiya took that as a sign to continue. "Zangetsu was never an asauchi, which would have been impossible if he was in fact a Zanpakuto." At this point Ichigo interrupted.

"What do you mean? How could Zangetsu not be a zanpakuto? Aside from the fact that it would mean that the old man lied to me, wouldn't all the Shinigami I've fought have noticed? Besides, he has both a Shikai and a Bankai. Normal blades can't morph." Ichigo wasn't sure how he felt, but he was certain this big haired guy was slightly insane.

"A Zanpakuto is the sword a Shinigami wields. You are not a Shinigami, you're a Quincy-Shinigami hybrid. Besides, a Zanpakuto must be created from an asauchi. Your blade was not and therefore isn't a zanpakuto. Now all you have to do is dig up your real zanpakuto and then we can get started! So get going to your inner world man. The sooner you do the sooner I get to make some magic!" before Ichigo could protest, or ask any of the numerous questions that were revolving around in his head, Nimaiya knocked him out. Unknown to Ichigo, the crazy dresser had plenty of experience knocking out his 'victims' so that they woke up in their inner world.

"It saves all that meditating and stuff, so boring!" Nimaiya muttered to himself. "Besides, this is gonna take a while."

Ichigo was falling really fast. He naturally tried to use his reiatsu to slow his fall but it wasn't working. He kept on expecting to go 'splat' at any time but the fall seemed endless. What had that crazy, insane loco told him? He had to 'go to his inner world and dig up his real zanpakuto? How was he supposed to do that? The only time he had actually planned on going to his inner world had been that time in the Dangai.

He tried meditating and failed miserably. He also tried talking to Zangetsu, he even tried to get a response from his inner hollow. Nothing worked. Ichigo was getting really feed up with 'adults' shoving him headfirst into stuff and not explaining what to do.

Ichigo tried to examine that world he was falling through. At first is seemed that he was falling through pitch black darkness, but sometimes his eyes caught sight of strands of red. For some reason the colour seemed important, but he couldn't remember what was so special about the colour red.

It was the colour of the attacks hat 'n' clogs had used while training him, it was the colour of Renji's hair, colour of Renji's Bankai attack, the colour of the blood that he had so often spilt, both his own and other wise. It was the colour of the reverse side of his bankai robe, it looked terrible with his hair, his bankai reiatsu was tinged with it, I've gotten hit with so many red ceros. God, it was driving him insane! What was so important about the colour red?

He started again. There were a bunch of red kidos, like that one that Renji had used that had blown up in his face. God, that had been funny! He chuckled to himself. Uryuu had teased him without mercy about that, going on and on about the superiority of Quincy's over Shinigami.

Wait, Uryuu had once said something about red and Shinigami that was important. What was it? Blah, blah, blah, Quincy's are superior, Shinigami suck, hate them, you're useless, didn't even notice me in your class, I knew as soon as you became a Shinigami. How did he know? It had been over two years ago and it had been right when he first gained the powers of a Shinigami. Not his own powers that had come later. He spent a moment being mad at Urahara for the torment the stupid candy shop owner had put him through. He still hadn't completely forgiven him; having his soul chain eaten away at had really hurt!

Ichigo felt the answer just out of reach and relaxed. He knew that straining towards an answer would just make it vanish. After waiting patiently for what seem like forever, it hit him: Shinigami spirit ribbons were red! He had used this knowledge to regain his Shinigami powers by drawing Zangetsu from his crumbling inner world. Actually, now that he thought of it, that blade hadn't been Zangetsu because Zangetsu never had a sealed form. He remembered that blade, the one that Byakuya had snapped. It had been a ridiculously over-sized katana with a red, red hilt!

So a lost katana that was red, red spirit ribbons for a Shinigami and Zangetsu wasn't a zanpakuto. Man, this was complicated. Following a hunch, Ichigo tried to touch the red parts of the blackness around him. A strange sensation came over him, something similar to déjà vu. It was such a happy feeling that he almost dropped his hand in shock. Even in the beginning his reiatsu had been intense and powerful and it had only grown darker. This happy and peaceful reiatsu couldn't belong to him, could it?

/BAKA/ a voice yelled in his head. The red intensified and he had to close his eyes to keep his sight.

The falling sensation that he had gotten so used to, had stopped. He swayed, dizzy from the sudden change and the fact that he now had something solid under his feet. Ichigo opened his eyes and wasn't all that surprised to see himself standing on the side of a skyscraper. What did surprise him was the condition of said skyscraper.

The skyscraper was partially black, like it had withstood a tremendous fire, and there were cracks running all the way through it. His inner world looked bad. Normally there were steel skyscrapers reflected a blue sky but even though it didn't rain, the sky looked dark. What did this? Ichigo wondered.

/You're such a baka/ the voice said again, angrily. /You did this. You got all upset 'cause your bankai got broken, then you let the news that your mum was a Quincy shatter the foundation of your existence. I don't know why I bother, you haven't paid any attention to me in years!/

Ichigo whirled around, trying to find the source of this elusive, female voice. He didn't know how he felt with having a girl inside his head. It had been bad enough with Zangetsu and his hollow inside his head but now a girl as well. He was going insane, slowly but surely.

/How can you use a human method of judging insanity when you were never human to begin with?/ asked the voice.

"Even Shinigami only have one voice inside their heads: I have three," Ichigo retorted.

/Well, it's not like they're really all that sane either./

"What do you mean?" Ichigo asked. Now I'm having conversations, inside my head with a voice.

/Big Hair really has a few loose screws,/ replied the voice. /But at least he realised I existed, unlike a certain Strawberry./

"Hey, my names doesn't mean strawberry," Ichigo growled. The voice ignored him.

/and that Kenpachi./ she sighed. / doesn't even know the name of his sword. Not to mention that fact that he uses his powers all wrong, and he is so violent./

"Wait, how do you know about Kenpachi?" Ichigo asked.

/I'm the part of you that you locked away. I know everything you know. I know you better than Zangetsu ever could and yet you called that, that pretenders name and not mine./ the anger was evident in her voice. Ichigo swallowed, from his experience with females he knew that making them angry wasn't good for his health.

"I'm sorry?" he offered weakly.

/Ah, my silly Ichigo, I guess I can't really blame you. But when i get my hands on that Zangetsu I'll, I'll really make him regret taking my place!/ she finished, sounding very scary indeed.

"Is that why Zangetsu isn't here? He's hiding from you?" Ichigo asked.

/Given that I'm finally free, it isn't very surprising. Anyone sane would run from me in a bad mood./ she replied lightly.

"Are you my 'true' zanpakuto?" Ichigo asked, slightly nervous though he hid it.

/I was always by your side, back when you recognised my existence./ was her answer.

"Would I be wrong in assuming that is a yes?"

/No./ the voice answered cautiously.

"Then can you tell me your name? I really need to beat Yhwach." Ichigo asked politely. He was starting to get the idea that his zanpakuto needed to be treated carefully. If she could make Zangetsu run and hide, she was seriously scary.

/Why would I tell you my name why you haven't introduced yourself?/ was the reply.

Weird, Ichigo thought. If she has been by my side since I was born, why would she need and introduction? Suddenly something Rukia had said came to mind. "Manners are important, especially to a girl. Don't you know anything, baka?"

"My name is Ichigo Kurosaki, Shinigami Daiko. It is a pleasure to meet you?" he finished, unsure of himself. He had never been the social type.

He waited, and waited but he got no response. "Isn't customary to give the person who just introduced himself to you your name in return?" he spat out, angry at the silence.

/You don' think that it's that easy to learn a Zanpakuto's name, do you? Especially one you have been ignoring for 8 years!/ yep, she was angry. Ichigo's temper flared.

"What do you mean, 8 years? I've never heard you before-"

/-Y-you don't remember me?/she interrupted quietly.

"Ah, no,"

/I can forgive not realising that I was your Zanpakuto, but forgetting my existence entirely!/ she yelled angrily. /Go away. You aren't welcome here until you remember me!/

"Will you at least give me a hint?" Ichigo asked. He had messed up, bad.

/we played, we laughed and your mother thought I was your invisible friend. Now GO AWAY!/