Good lord, I thought I'd never finish this. There were just too many loose ends! But, this was written as more of an experiment to me...just to see if I could do it. I mean writing like this is quite difficult, especially when the main character had a sense cut off from him. It's quite difficult to paint a world through only sounds, sensations and tastes alone.

This is a result to all the voting that had been done on my poll, so I hope that I managed it well enough. It's been a while since I've pushed myself to do something like this. Anyways this story has quite the dangerous content and I am sure that there will be many cringing at what's been written so I'll make all the warnings very clear to you.

This is yaoi, M/M lemons. Torture in the first part, manipulation (if you can see it) and a seriously rare pairing of Juha Bach x Kurosaki Ichigo. I think I'm the first to actually try it. There will also be hints of spoilers for those who do not keep up to date with the if you're not please proceed with caution.

I didn't want to turn this into capture the enemy and then rape them scenario, so I am sure that you will find this story a bit strange but I want you to keep in mind Ichigo's state of mind (a human's) when all your hope has been lost and there now only exists a single person who is willing to take you in afterwards.

That's all that I can think of for now. Written as a possibility of what could have happened when Ichigo had been kidnapped from Soul Society after crossing blades with Juha Bach instead of the Quincy King shattering Zangetsu and leaving Ichigo behind.

Anyways my honeys, please enjoy! Don't forget to turn around and leave should the warnings put you off! I'm not forcing you to read this!

Written to Angel in Disguise by Cinema Bizarre, I recommend you listen to it when reading.

Shingetsu: The New Moon

~The new moon is rightfully an emblem of everlasting shadow. The world only chooses to symbolize it as a new beginning, a time of hope. But one can only re-grasp a touch of fleeting faith once the moon and its inherent darkness has already ate away and consumed the ruler of the Inner World. Shuttering a soul away in despaired darkness, bitter despondency, complete hopelessness and until acceptance truly comes ...hope simply no longer exists for the blind... ~

Darkness, mental obscurity, pitch blackness, uncontained despair, fear, desperate anguish...there were many words and sensations to describe exactly what Kurosaki Ichigo was experiencing within that moment grasped in time's fleeting hands. But truly...time no longer mattered when he himself could not distinguish a second from an hour when enveloped in complete darkness and the constant pain of torture he was put through day for day, hour for hour, second for second. He was shutting down, losing himself piece by piece the deeper he was thrust headlong into true despair.

Accepting pain and hopelessness had become like second nature to him now. Just like it had been ever since the moment they had stolen his sight from him permanently. Everything seemed to have lost its lustre, even his will to continue onwards and face forward. Ichigo's incredible strength of will had waned and buckled beneath the crushing force of reality. The last of his resistance, his pride...his iron resolve shattered and rent asunder by an injury that left him crippled, propelled into immortal darkness and helplessly lost within desolation right in the middle of enemy territory.

Nothing mattered anymore...his time spent within these incomprehensible tunnels and cells of a bloody dungeon all bled into a sticky mess of pain, dripping blood, unfathomable passages of time and eternal anguish that only served to confuse Ichigo's already struggling mind more. He was ashamed to admit that he knew nothing more and nothing less than what happened as it came. Hope to him had become a word that meant nothing but sweet promises that created its own force of crushing misery. Because the more he hoped for someone, anyone to come and save him from this one ever did and they never would. His allies, friends...beloveds...they no longer stood at the top of the world.

They no longer had the ability to muster an infiltration force to retrieve a single lost cause from enemy hands.

'Where ya drifting off too, lost little lamb?' A sickening voice sing-songed and Ichigo frowned deeply, the skin of forehead stretching tight against the dried blood and grime that clung there headily. It was her again. The one that sounded like a petulant, spoiled brat. Her methods of torture, Ichigo knew intimately, were decidedly more sadistic than the others that rotated around in shifts to try and break the last of his will. And true to her nature, she barely left Ichigo with enough time to bite back a scream; unable to keep the deep shuddering gasp rustling past cracked and bloodied lips the instant a razor sharp blade dug deeply into the flesh of his shoulder and twisted.

The sickening touch of the blade forcing its way through his flesh, severing tendons and muscle in its wake, left Ichigo's head spinning with agony. His breath was hitching painfully in his heaving chest, his body struggling in desperate self-preservation to orient itself so that the blade did not dig deeper into his shoulder as the simple action alone affectively pinned Ichigo further against the wall of torture where his hands were already shackled above his head and his feet barely touched the ground at all. was all done to drag out and increase his suffering. Ichigo wasn't stupid; he knew that he was down here, crashing through pain caused by their hands because that man needed him for something. But whatever it was, they had better do it quickly because Ichigo was truly losing his fight to keep on living.

'Ah, ah, ah! No sleeping, little know the rules. So wake up, pet!' The splash of stinging, ice cold salt water thrown over his defenceless form had Ichigo hissing in agony as his wounds were aggravated and his mind was forced once again into a semi-awareness where only pain existed within him. How long had he been here? How long had it been since his sight had been stolen from him? Ichigo's heart was shutting down one beat at a time as the endless assaults of pain and humiliation left him helpless and useless as the protector he promised those he loved, and himself, he would forever be.

'Ugh...' He grunted, wildly jerking his head back against the wall the instant sharp nails raking down his shredded back - a gift left behind from an untamed whip - before those same fingers covered in his own blood, so child-like in their touch, traced down his cheek in mockery of a gentle touch. A pained whimper of fear bubbled past parted lips unknowingly, leaving Ichigo desperate to get away from the caress in terrified fear of what it would do to him. This touch was too good to be true...they never comforted him. There was only ever one person that did but he rarely showed up anymore; leaving Ichigo in his own world of eternal darkness and pain.

But this touch he knew. This one would never do anything but hurt him and his baser instincts told to fear her mannerisms more than the matter what she did.

'Shhh, lost little one. You are truly admirable, troublesome lamb.' She praised cooingly. 'So headstrong that you can still keep silent and unwavering even when we have stolen your sight...your ability to fight and pushed you to become the worthless creature that you are.' Ichigo had no reaction to those words...he didn't need one. This woman and the many others that followed after her were merely hired guns...subordinates. Someone to do the dirty work. They were preparing him for something, something he didn't understand. But if there was one thing that Ichigo did understand it was that the man they worked for, he would easily have the ability to break Ichigo into a thousand pieces with his mere presence alone.

But that man had disappeared to his throne a long time ago. He only visited occasionally, always coming with the same message. Offering the same gentle comfort Ichigo craved but never received long enough for him to begin to heal emotionally as well as physically. Those words, once more reverberated through his head as Ichigo whimpered pathetically at the sudden stinging slap ringing hollowly throughout the room in show of his torturer's more sadistic streak.

' shall be taught the very meaning behind the word, Kurosaki Ichigo. However, even as you delve into the darkness of your own soul and rediscover pure anguish...I want you to remember that redemption and salvation still exists. I shall be patiently waiting for your answer, child. Sleep now and remember this small mercy I grant you. The next time I ask: do you submit...I hope for a favourable response. But hurry, sweet child. My patience is running thin.'

When those words were spoken in that hypnotic tone of promise, it was the only time that Ichigo was allowed a little time to sleep, even if it was on the cold floor. And he was grateful for that because it was the only time that he was granted time to regain some of his lost will. But that offer: day by day, hour by hour...was getting more and more tempting as Ichigo crumbled inside. The next time that man...the Emperor, His Majesty...the Quincy King came...Ichigo would consent because he was after all only pitifully human. His fear of death, true death within a world bathed in darkness, coupled with this endless sphere of pain and suffering...such a small ray of salvation was the only hope he had left.

The one stupid emotion he just couldn't throw away matter how dark the world had become and how strong he thought he had been before all this had begun.

'Such a filthy soul,' His captor suddenly hissed. The sharp tip of her blade tracing a path of pain and stinging cuts across his abdomen. 'I simply do not understand what His Majesty sees in you. The living spawn of a tainted Quincy and a are truly a child of darkness considering everyday you are getting closer and closer to becoming an Arrancar than what you were before. Disgusting, filthy, son of a whore—!'

'S-shut up! S-shut u-up! S-shut u-up! DON'T YOU D-DARE IN-INSULT HER!' Ichigo bellowed in a sudden flare of ragging anger. Finding the last of his breath in defence of the only woman that he truly loved. Drawing upon his fading strength to somehow magnify his hate for this woman, a pressing reiatsu so dark, thick and overwhelming that he heard even her gasp in fear as it swirled around him and forced past the barriers they had placed upon his neck like a collar, brought him satisfaction like no other. How Ichigo loathed this child...she was definitely the one he remembered the most.

She was after all the one who had blinded him with the tip of her sword and quick, precise slashes that had altered his entire outlook on life in an instant.

'You still have some fight left in you?' She sang with glee. 'Oh excellent! I cannot wait—!'

'Enough!' A powerful voice suddenly boomed throughout the room from the direction of what Ichigo assumed was the top of the stairs leading out to freedom. But the last of his semi-coherent thoughts left him in a rush as he tugged in a sharp breath at the angry reiatsu suddenly pushing and ragging powerfully against his own, wildly pulsing power. The sensation was digging almost pleasurably warm into his over sensitized and shivering skin as Ichigo slumped in his bonds almost instantly submissive. The sheer power behind the overwhelmingly powerful reiatsu was like a dagger twisting within his very soul, causing him to choke back a gurgling cough as Ichigo heard the reverberating clatter of his torturer's current toy hitting the floor in surprise as well.

'I have forgiven far too much of the liberties you have been taking 'E'.' The voice rumbled threateningly, its source coming ever closer as booted feet echoed ominously upon the stone floor. 'I remember clearly saying that no permanent damage shall be dealt and you go and blind him. I said you could attempt to break him with whatever method you chose but you had to look after his health in return. Can you not see that your treatment has let his body degenerate into sickness and shock? And right at the beginning I explicitly pointed out...never once shall mention of his parentage be made and yet again, you disobeyed me. So whatever will I do with an arrogant child that never listens to its master?'

Ichigo shivered under the touch of that deadly reiatsu as it was raised another notch. He could hear pathetic cries, begging for mercy but Ichigo just shut it out and drifted back into himself. It was strange, the man's reiatsu was so suffocating and yet to Ichigo, it was seemingly gentle. Especially the way it was now almost enveloped protectively around him. Inadvertently causing his entire shivering form to heat up as blood roared deafeningly loud within his ears. He was unable to hear the words and actions that were rumbling on the outside of his consciousness...unable to make sense of what was going on as his heart stuttered painfully in his chest and his spinning confusion was chasing far too much adrenalin through his veins.

Ichigo let out another shuddering cough that turned into a pained whimper. Suddenly snapping away from his suffering as the beautifully dangerous presence that had come to his aide crept ever closer until Ichigo felt the warmth from the man himself come to stand somewhere in front of him. That heady reiatsu was reigned in and once again back under control, leaving the seventeen-year-old with the ability to breathe through his rasping breaths once again.

'I should have come back for you sooner, child.' The deep voice said regretfully, sightless chocolate brown eyes now stained milky white under the damage that could no longer be reversed, fluttered open painfully at the gentle call of his name. Calloused fingers gripped Ichigo's chin in a firm reassuring hand as a warm palm cupped a fever flushed cheek gently. And this time Ichigo knew it was not a mockery of gentleness, he could feel it. The genuine regret that was staining those apologizing words that were pouring so lovingly over his form. Ichigo whined pitifully. The first beginnings of painful, salty tears tracing down his cheeks and damaged eyes as a frightful wail started build within his chest.

He was breaking, crumbling to pieces on the inside at the small, reassuring touch.

Ichigo was tired, so unimaginably tired and this man with his felt so familiar, like it had always been a part of him. And whenever he got close like this so that Ichigo could smell his scent, bask in the warmth his body gave was like coming home. Something Ichigo didn't understand, feared all the same but now that his hope had been lost to all but this man's salvation, Ichigo would desperately cling to the last of the comfort this powerful King offered him.

'P-please.' He begged softly. Begging for everything, his pain, his anguish, his fear to stop. 'I-I'm s-s-sorry...s-so s-sorry...p-please fo-forgive me...' Ichigo finally wailed and wept just like the lost child that he was before this man. His entire world now engulfed with heady warmth as a body wrapped around him the moment his chains and restrains fell away with a deafening click. Ichigo's body crumbled into warm arms instantly as his trembling, swollen hands blindly sought out and twined in a coat, mantle...cloak, whatever it was, and long, soft hair that he knew reached down the man's back in long pitch black waves. The strands tickled his cheeks pleasantly as it fell over the man's shoulder when they fell to the floor gently with the King's larger form curled protectively around Ichigo.

Ichigo shuddered. The feeling of being enveloped so protectively was warm and familiar, just like the entirety of this man was a catalyst to Ichigo. With a tender and swollen cheek resting against a strongly beating heart, lulling the soothing sound that thrummed through his own veins now...Ichigo felt his awareness slipping away from him again.

Had he found a life to cling to that was not his own suffering, pitiful existence?

Yes, yes he had.

'Do you submit, Ichigo?'



Had Ichigo still possessed the ability to see, he would have frowned in confusion at the satisfied smile that spread across the Quincy King Juha Bach's lips with frightening accomplishment the moment he stuttered the final answer that would seal his fate for eternity. But he did not, could not see it. So instead the Substitute Shinigami revelled headily (like a lost child having found its parents once again) instead in the relief of loving comfort and warm, gentle arms holding onto him so tightly and assuredly as if he were something special that ought to be treasured. Ichigo loved it, felt needed...protected...appreciated...right in the place where belonged and would stay forever more. A fevered forehead pressed against sweet smelling clothes, unheeded by the press of uniform buttons digging into his sensitive skin as he breathed a soft, relieved 'thank you'.

'Hush now, my son. There is nothing to forgive but your own stubbornness. Will you disobey me again, fight my will, child?' The deep rumbling voice purred in his ear and Ichigo shook his head in the negative rather vigorously despite the blinding, throbbing headache splitting his mind in two now that his body was drained of its constant adrenalin rush and his tensely coiled muscles no longer had need to protect his life so seriously. There was even a small smile pulling at Ichigo's split lips when he felt warm lips press against the top of his head tenderly and warm fingers carded lovingly through his hair.

'I forgive you, Ichigo.' That was all Ichigo wanted to hear; that he would no longer be punished. 'Sleep now, my child. I shall stay beside you from now on so do not despair. You shall not want for anything or fear anything. When you wake next, your wounds will be healed and you shall have new purpose standing beside me regardless of your disability and what they have done to you.' The teen whined a bit in pain when his weight was shifted against the man that was keeping him from falling apart at the seams.

'Close your eyes and fall away into the darkness. You shall heal, Ichigo. Trust me.' And Ichigo obeyed, sightless eyes (not even knowing that they had been exposed to the outside world from behind their scarred lids) shut once again as Ichigo's painful sobs were muffled against a warm shoulder and strong arms picked up his body without much of an effort. A swirling shadow engulfed the both of them in cool air as they travelled through the darkness of the Vandenreich Fortress that Ichigo had only glimpsed limited sections of before. But this time, the guiding shadow that the older being seemed to control, led the two of them farther and deeper towards the centre of the palace where less and less people were allowed to enter.

Ichigo however, had no idea what was happening around him except for the cool air rushing against his face as they moved at unknown but steady speeds. Breathing shakily and shallowly through his cracked ribs, he somehow managed to relax once again at the warm scent swirling around him protectively. He was soon falling away into blissful unconsciousness as the warm mantle he had seen only a few times before he was blinded, enveloped him in a gentle touch that smelled of home. No, it was home. So before Ichigo completely lost the war with his subconscious, there was fleeting moment where he thought he was once again standing close to Zangetsu Ossan and nothing could reach him where he was.

He had reached the pinnacle of his being within the arms of this man and there was only one thing to remember, there was no more turning back. The incessant pain and guilt he felt for not being able to do more to protect his friends and family, to protect all those he loved from another painful war had all melted away as he fell into the cooling shadow he couldn't even see engulfing his form from all sides as a warm palm rested upon his forehead. This way of thinking defeat, it was cowardly. His father Isshin would probably kill him if he saw him now, but Ichigo had finally been pushed past his limit of tolerance. He was giving up and as he drifted in a new world of eternal oblivion, there was only one soul connected to his...only one being that was now guiding him ever forward.

Juha Bach, one half of his powers whispered in his mind and Ichigo sighed softly at Zangetsu's warm touch and familiar words whispering within his mind again. This was relief, salvation and redemption and these newly growing powers, he would only use them for this man. It would be three weeks later that Ichigo would once again regain consciousness, his wounds all healed as promised except for the one irreversible one that was eating away at his newly found control and was just waiting to drag him into sheer panic again.

Ichigo had been jerked awake in terror as his frightened consciousness was thrust back into reality at the phantom touch ghosting teasingly against the skin of his forehead. A warm voice whispering words in his ear from a far away language he did not recognize but made him shudder all the same with its lilting sound of promise. It was difficult to move, Ichigo noticed as he scrambled to get away from the unknown presence hovering so close to him as a scream built in his throat. He could feel that person's body heat and powerful reiatsu washing over him as they leant over him...trapping Ichigo against luxuriously soft sheets of an unknown bed as his panic escalated. He couldn't see, he was lost in a world of darkness and pain and the one leaning over him...even though they had cool, gentle fingers that were forcibly trying to calm him, Ichigo was breathing heavily in building hysteria.

'Calm down, Kurosaki Ichigo.' The voice said sternly, this one smoother and gentler than any of the others Ichigo had heard since his blindness, but it also came with a presence that Ichigo didn't recognize. One that only spelt fear within his mind. So Ichigo did the only thing he could, shaking his head from side to side frantically as his voice got stuck in his throat with every hitching breath. The teen was in pain again, the bandages across his eyes pulling tight against the healing scars at his actions as this time his building scream was chocked back when strong fingers forced themselves over his mouth and he was pushed back into the bed. Falling into a spread of feather pillows he only now realized had nestled his head while he had been unconscious.

'W-who—.' He whimpered though muffled fingers as Ichigo's body stiffened in preparation for the pain was coming, that his mind told him was hovering right above him. He could barely take it anymore, his heart was beating erratically against his chest as he feared for his life. Without him present, who is to say that his subordinates would not kill him? After all that girl had disobeyed her master to 'have some fun' at his expense. So what was stopping this one, this threatening presence from murdering him right where he was. They didn't seem to like him much, especially his shinigami half. Through his ragging fear though, Ichigo could hear two voices frantically ringing through his head, urging and pushing him to calm down and relax, telling him that he would never allow Ichigo to be hurt again. But it wasn't helping, this unknown element resting so close to him, forcing reiatsu into his veins painfully was only making his state worse.

'Really now, Haschwalth, you are terrifying him.' A deep voice murmured from somewhere across the room with the distinct timbre of disappointment and Ichigo's head instinctively snapped towards the direction in which the sound was coming from. 'You may step away now, before he loses control of those residing within his soul.' It wasn't even a second later before that presence withdrew and Ichigo clenched his fingers in the sheets uncertainly as the excruciating headache that man had been keeping back burnt anew behind tightly clenched lids. The throbbing ache reverberated ominously with every beat of Ichigo's heart when the controlled footsteps the teen had come to recognize as belonging to Juha Bach, came ever closer to where he was.

'It still hurts?' The man Ichigo dubbed as his protector asked tenderly, the bed dipping by Ichigo's side as the warm familiar presence settled itself there. Warm fingers, calloused but gentle, followed in the wake of a deep rumbling voice to press against Ichigo's forehead in a bid to lessen the pressure building there and restore the Substitute Shinigami into a more coherent state once again. The soothing sensations of warm reiatsu saturating his entire being had Ichigo almost instantly sinking back into soft pillows. Taking several long minutes of forced tranquillity before Ichigo stopped shivering at the panic still licking at his heart.

'Better now?' Juha Bach asked and Ichigo nodded dazedly as the heightened sensation of the world and his connection to it became clearer and clearer. His voice stuttered a hoarse 'thank you' before Ichigo settled further into the softness surrounding him when warm blankets were tugged up to his chin again and his large range of pillows were resettled around him. He was about to apologize for his reaction when those warm fingers were back on his head and pushed tickling strands of bright orange from Ichigo's creased brow in a soothing manner.

'I apologize for Haschwalth, he can be a bit forceful when healing. His technique's a bit frightening but he was only trying to help. You have been drifting in and out of awareness for nearly three weeks now, Child. I'm surprised that you even managed to survive. We had a few near misses there, Ichigo. But fear not, all's well and stable. I even managed to separate and restore the powers within you again. It was practically eating you up from the inside, but with proper training it will be stronger and far more potent that any of powers even the top most of my Stern Ritter's possess.' Ichigo, drifting in the newly haunting sensation of the Emperor's presence only listened half heartedly to what was being said. He was weary to believe the man had restored his powers out of kindness and what did he mean by separating them? There were still many doubts and fears lingering within his mind, but it was quickly squished when Ichigo remembered that it didn't really matter anymore.

He, by all intents' purposes, belonged solely to this man's will.

'W-what about my eyes?' Ichigo eventually asked, dreading the answer he knew was coming. 'I'm not going to be very useful to you, no matter how strong I get.' The teen was startled when a firm hand ruffled unruly strands of bright orange to bring Ichigo back to himself. Strangely, it worked because Ichigo, who had been depraved of all loving touch for a long time, even when still wary of it coming from the Quincy King, leaned eagerly into it. Stretching out like a cat beneath the warm sheets, even without his sight, to get closer to the warmth settled so close by his side. He heard the older man chuckle at his reaction, even twitching his nose in irritation when long strands of dark hair tickled Ichigo's cheeks and face when he somehow managed to worm himself onto the older man's lap to rest his head there instead.

'You should not worry yourself too much about the technicalities now. We may not be able to reverse what has been done to your eyes, and I mourn that, but there are plenty of ways to control your immense power without them. It's much too early for you to even be thinking of anything that does not include healing, child. But then again, there has always been a restlessness within your veins that even I can sense.' The orange haired teen nodded against what he assumed was a warm thigh; it was uncommon for him to find so much comfort in another person, especially in the wake of what had been done to him. But there was just something, like a soul deep connection, that bound him to this man and no matter how he tried, Ichigo could not escape its twining and twisting bonds.

There was still one question that bothered Ichigo though, one that had been niggling at the back of his mind for a long time and when there settled a warm silence so completely around him, Ichigo found his mind drifting off again to that deep and dark place inside of him that he promised he would not revisit, not now, not again. But that one question bubbled forth from his mouth without his permission, instantly making him stiffen once those words spilled into the air.

'W-why have not killed me yet?' There was a long pause as the entirety of the room seemed to take a collective breath before a low and rich chuckle drifted deeply throughout the tensed atmosphere. Causing Ichigo to frown at the pleasant sound he had unwittingly caused, quite surprised that this man could laugh with such mirth when Ichigo had perceived him as such a dark and dangerous villain before. He still was...Ichigo sternly reminded himself, but something within him had shifted that he couldn't quite understand and for some reason he trusted Juha Bach now.

'You never cease to amaze me, son. No one has ever dared to crawl on top of me like a cat and then proceeded to ask such bold questions out of the blue. But then again, you wouldn't be any fun to keep beside me if you weren't so unpredictable. Why have I not killed you, Ichigo? Do you want to die?' At Ichigo's timid shake of his head the older Quincy rested warm fingers at the back of Ichigo's neck. 'It's quite simple. You have a purpose beside me, one you may not be able to see now, but fate dictates it even now. You'll start understanding soon enough. For now though, I suggest you sleep some more.'

'You are almost healed, so just a little more and you can truly come to my side.' Ichigo didn't even warrant those confusing words with an answer, but there was one thing that he was frightened of. Would this man use him to kill his friends one day? No, he couldn't think like that. He had found a new life, a new purpose and the King himself did not seem as bad as Ichigo had first thought. Perhaps he had been too quick to judge the one side of this war. But then again there were two sides to every justified cause...he just happened to find himself in a position to now have seen both sides.

If he had been the Quincy's ally from the very beginning and the Shinigami had captured him in a twist of fate, Ichigo was sure that he would have been treated with even less mercy than the Quincy King had already shown him. So Ichigo closed his eyes and hoped that what his heart was telling him was not wrong, that he had not made a mistake he would regret in choosing to live rather than to die like a dog.

'Come, Ichigo.' That deep voice seemed to rumble through the very foundations of the room the very second Ichigo's geta clad feet crossed the threshold into the large open space. He had come to know many places within this vast castle throughout the three months since he had awoken, and even if he still had his sight, Ichigo was assured that he would have gotten lost many times over if it was not for someone guiding him around most of the time. 'Don't make me wait, child.' Juha Bach spoke again and Ichigo gave a small bow of apology as he entered the throne room, feeling hundreds of curious eyes training directly on him.

A traditional yukata was draped sensually across his form in flowing black and red silk to match his reiatsu colours, or so Haschwalth had told him that morning when he had gotten dressed. But he would never know, he had just begged the Quincy King to not dress him in white or in complicated, buttoned uniforms...he didn't think his hastily learned skill at adapting to his disability had grown far enough for that just yet. Besides he absolutely hated white, he was just lucky Juha Bach had agreed to his request to keep his clothing simple and manageable.

With every step Ichigo took forward though, he could feel and hear the shifting ranks of the Quincy as they parted before him like the red sea. Milky white eyes were always hidden behind scarred lids as Ichigo refused to open them to display his biggest vulnerability, but with surprising ease he moved forward as if he truly could see even through his blindness. It had been Juha Bach himself that had taught Ichigo how to manoeuvre and orient himself in any size room by wrapping his reiatsu around him like a cloak and then by using the blood connection that existed between the two of them. The Shinigami had easily learned how to find the older male anywhere within the castle and used his presence as a beacon to guide his movements forward.

It had been surprisingly easy to learn, he reminisced briefly. The more difficult part however, had come when he and his terrible inability to sense reiatsu completely had to be retrained so that he could start moving freely throughout the castle without running into other people and stray objects littering his path. He still struggled with it now, where his easily induced state of panic when the older Quincy was not close to him, threatened to always drag Ichigo under pained recollections unless he pushed himself forward one step at a time with Zangetsu's calm whisperings ringing out through his mind or sometimes even his hollow screaming profanities at him for his uselessness.

Ichigo was drawn from his thoughts however, when his feet found the steps leading up to the raised dais. Nearly stumbling up them in his haste to reach the place where Juha Bach's presence was the strongest and thrummed happily through Ichigo's veins, Ichigo forced himself to calm down. Through the strange connection they shared, Ichigo could tell that the older man was already pleased with his progress so there was nothing to fear. They had been preparing and practicing for this day for weeks now and Ichigo had come to accept that there would be no escaping it, he had to do it. With Zangetsu and even his inner hollow restored to him through the older man's incredible power, Ichigo was just glad that he could still protect...even if it was no longer those he wanted to protect the most.

He had found a new purpose though, and as he dropped to his one knee before the rising throne, head bowed in sworn fidelity, Ichigo did not resist the warm fingertips that tilted his chin upwards and to the side a little as a familiar and heady sensation started swimming through him again. Forcing Ichigo to unconsciously open his damaged eyes (just as the older man always implored him to do whenever they were in private). This sort of reaction though, where the world engulfed them in their own pace, placing them at the epicentre of every breath, every shift in clothing, every ripple of sound ringing out through their little cage of understanding, left Ichigo headily aware of the older being's heady presence close to him. Not a single soul could penetrate these little moments of madness between them, not even the hundreds of men standing below them.

Ichigo breathed shakily, barely suppressing the shiver racing down his spine, whether from unrestrained rapture or fear Ichigo could not tell but it left him breathless with awe all the same.

'Do you swear that you shall serve me and only me, Kurosaki Ichigo, no matter the circumstance? Tie your life to me as I to yours?' This was all for show, Juha Bach had said so himself to Ichigo a while ago. This was so that the lower ranks of the army knew what Ichigo's constant presence by their leader's side meant and hopefully to ease their dislike of the Shinigami's presence beside him. But Ichigo knew it was a useless wish. They would still hate him for his inheritance from his father, if not more so now that he had taken up the position of their King's left hand. But to Ichigo it didn't matter anymore, with the help of this man and his direct subordinate, the one whose name Ichigo always stuttered over, the teen had once again been granted permission to carry Zangetsu upon his back and was allowed him to swing his blade to protect once again.

'I do, Heika (1*).' He said without a single stutter, ignoring the outraged gasps ringing out behind him. Ichigo's shoulders never once drooped or sunk in fear in the heady din of indignation as the onslaught of angered reiatsu poured into the room and lashed out against the walls to ring unpleasantly within his ears. He was momentarily deafened by the rising shouts but remained proud and unruffled.

Squaring his shoulders as he was presented with fingers tracing his lips, Ichigo grabbed a hold of that out stretched hand expertly and serenely pressed a kiss to the back of the roughened skin. It had become a limb he had come to know intimately over the last few months as either being gentle and calm, quick to comfort or fast and mercilessly deadly with a sword in pushing him into new heights of understanding the powers resting dormant within him. The skin was rough and calloused, portraying a man that was not idle in his seat of power, but the sheer satisfaction the small action sent through Ichigo's veins at the man's reaction had Ichigo stifling a pleasured moan when the remainder of that restrained power suddenly wrapped around him headily in a double layer of reiatsu.

'Then I welcome you to the ranks, my child. From now on you shall be known as our unknown element: 'Zero'.' That was it, his fate was sealed but Ichigo felt not even a flinch of foreboding. Merely rose to feet gracefully after the King himself had stood and slipped in step beside the King's right hand, Haschwalth. Ichigo's fingers curling in the crook of the man's familiar arm as they made their way deeper into the fortress once again and away from the rising commotion breaking out through the entirety of the Throne Room. For the first time since waking that morning, Ichigo relaxed minutely and followed Juha Bach's powerful presence step for step with his newly found friend's leading hand guiding him through his settling exhaustion.

'You did well, Ichigo.' The voice Ichigo was fast becoming addicted to, purred somewhere ahead of him and Ichigo smiled softly. The fingers that were not gripped around a leading arm, rose to trace Zangetsu's hilt for comfort as the small tinkling chain from his weapon's newly formed hilt rang out pleasantly through the endless passageways that twisted and turned into what seemed like eternity.

Ichigo's perception of the world may have narrowed into an eternal black tunnel, but it came so easily to him to draw upon Zangetsu's infinite calm and control to keep himself steady and not floating helplessly in despair. He tilted his head to the side slightly to better perceive the change in the man's booted footsteps as they became heavier with the ringing echo they usually adopted when encountering stairs. So in retaliation, Ichigo took a deep breath and slowed...his guide adjusting quickly as Ichigo took the stairs one at a time. Their lengthy climb bringing with it the warm and familiar sensation that told him they would soon arrive in the room he spent most of his time within, if not in the training grounds or navigating the dark castle bit by bit to learn its ins and outs.

It was the room that Ichigo remembered first waking up in, the room he later realized belonged to the Quincy King himself.

'You may stay for sake if you wish, Haschwalth.' Juha Bach called once they crossed the threshold, causing the two trailing behind him to still at the call of his voice. There was a whoosh of air and a rustle of cloth from the direction of the large divan Ichigo knew was spread in the middle of the room that rang in tandem to the man's pleasant voice, causing Ichigo to relax almost instantly once he found himself on familiar ground once again. The teen hummed thoughtfully as he disentangled himself from his guide's arm and headed in the direction of the thrumming reiatsu beckoning him forward.

Feeling more confident with himself, Ichigo's outstretched fingers instantly reoriented himself with a location in the vast space once they touched the back of a soft couch.

'I'll be taking my leave now, your Majesty. Please call if you need anything.' It wasn't even a few seconds later that echoing boot steps were retreating into the distance and the soft click of the door shutting echoed throughout the room. Ichigo could hear the King's annoyed sigh as the clink of porcelain echoed through the air and the scent of sake wafted in his direction with potent sweetness. 'He never stays for a drink.' Came the disgruntled reply and Ichigo chuckled at the words. He had come to realize that Juha Bach's right hand man, 'B' as he called him was quite the unsociable man. After carefully tracing the edge of the empty seat in front of him, Ichigo pulled Zangetsu from his back and rested him there before counting his footsteps towards the other side where that powerful presence pulsed the strongest in calling.

'You are getting rather good at finding your way to me, Ichigo. Even when I'm hiding my reiatsu.' Ichigo beamed at the praise, smiling brilliantly at the compliment before he yelped suddenly. His outstretched hand, which had previously been searching for the empty part of the couch, was engulfed within the palm of a bigger hand as he was tugged forward rather unceremoniously. His knee catching against soft cushions as Ichigo fell forward, managing to balance himself several seconds later where he was too late in realizing he had somehow managed to sprawl over Juha Bach's lap again. Had a thoughtful hand not shot up to catch his momentum, the orangette was sure their foreheads would have collided painfully several seconds later. Instead though, Ichigo found himself gasping through rasping breaths at the brief adrenalin rush. His hands somehow having buried themselves in long black locks and the bunched material of a dark mantle to keep himself steady at the new position.

'W-what'd you do that for?!' Ichigo cursed, flushing beat red at the implications of just where he found himself. But the older man said nothing in return, merely chuckled when Ichigo tried to squirm out of his hold. The arm around Ichigo's waist tightened and kept him firmly in place, a reminder to the teen that no matter how old the man was, his strength had not waned at all. The Substitute Shinigami however, could feel his breath hitching within his chest at the close proximity. A soft rush of air brushing sweetly against his lips was undoubtedly the older man's own breaths mingling with his own. But even with the sweet scent of sake messing with Ichigo perception, he could still detect the scent of the man beneath it all.

He groaned softly, there had always been something addicting about it. Something that Ichigo now found himself leaning towards to get more of.

'You are bold, child, but sometimes you still maintain your innocent shyness. It's not the first time we've done this...I-chi-go.' The voice pulled out the name in a dark sensual purr and Ichigo shuddered where he sat, tilting his head back a little to try and recapture his fading sanity. No, this wouldn't be the first time but it still felt like it to him. God, he could still remember it, the time when things between the two of them had escalated from a mentor-student relationship to this, whatever it was that they shared now. Ichigo had been the first to initiate it two months ago. Growing more bold in his trust and gratitude, he had felt the need to repay the man for everything he had done and it was the only way Ichigo could think of how. But now, he internally cursed himself, they were more like lovers than anything else and Ichigo was getting caught up in a tangled web of self-deceit and a love so profound he was sure he would never deserve it.

'I—.' The orangette's doubts were instantly sealed with chapped but soft lips brushing tentatively against his own. Ichigo's doubts hushed within his mind as a groan echoed together with the clatter of one of his geta slipping from his feet. His hands fell to tighten around strong shoulders as the world suddenly tilted and shifted in a dizzying rush the instant Ichigo was guided to rest back against the couch cushions with the warm and familiar presence settled above him. A whoosh of air left straining lungs, the atmosphere suddenly saturated with a dark and heady tension Ichigo had come to realize was sheer desire, and it wasn't just coming from the man above him.

No. Ichigo felt it was hard not to.

'What is it that you want, Heika?' Ichigo's whisper was strained, a tongue darting across his lips to gather the taste lingering there that was just touched with sake. Back arching slightly to settle into a more comfortable position as Ichigo's control on his breathing broke little by little the closer he felt his lover drawing. His frown deepened even further with the feel of warm lips playfully touching the crease on forehead in an attempt to smooth it out. All the small actions, the gentle touches...Ichigo was a having a hard time keeping his moans to himself. Especially as a creeping palm came to rest on the inside of his thigh where his yukata seemed to have parted in the tumble over the divan's cushions Ichigo had taken.

'Nothing you don't, Denka (2*).' Juha Bach teased and Ichigo's fingertips curled against a mantled back at the nick-name. Blunt nails digging into strong clothed muscles and a splay of long hair that fell around them at the pull of gravity. This time the Quincy King's brush of lips was anything but chaste and Ichigo did not resist for a second, why would he? He was usually the one that walked away with the most pleasure from these situations and it only helped that despite the man's seeming cruelty, he was an extremely tentative lover. The bite of teeth against his lip, the slip of a tongue into his mouth had Ichigo shuddering headily against a warm torso as he pulled the taller man closer to him in a sudden flare of need.

'F-fuck.' Ichigo swore as they broke apart, he was sure his nose was dyed a bloody red by now and it was all the older man's fault because those teasing fingertips were still lazily tracing patterns upon his inner thigh. But before Ichigo could realize his trespass in swearing, a sharp cry echoed throughout the room at the tug of teeth against the shell of his ear and a tickling beard scratching pleasantly against flushed cheeks that left Ichigo whining for more instead.

'Swearing already, child?' At the orangette's brilliant flush of embarrassment, Juha Bach merely chuckled. 'It's rude to show such manners in front of a parent but since you're already like this, I'll forgive you. I'm just sad though,' The older man said, causing Ichigo to frown. 'We probably won't even touch the bottle of sake the rest of the night and I had it brought up especially to celebrate. I find it a waste, Denka.'

'W-what? W-why?' Ichigo asked confused, drawing another of those delightful laughs from Juha Bach.

'You're going to have to make it up to me in other ways. So the bed it is.' As the older man pulled away from him, Ichigo instinctively followed the retreating heat but a palm stopped him from rising completely a few seconds later.

'Ah, ah...find me, Ichigo, like I've been teaching you. You have three minutes to reach the bed, pick up that bottle of sake and not spill a single drop. Don't make me wait, I-chi-go. I'm a very impatient man after all.' Ichigo knew that was a lie, Juha Bach was anything but patient (especially with things considering him) but Ichigo did not dare disobey. Awkwardly slipping his remaining geta from his left foot before reaching out for the depths of his reiatsu and spilling it into the large room at a controlled stream, Ichigo readied himself.

This was the more difficult side of using reiatsu to 'see' but with a delicious promise hanging in the air between them...Ichigo just couldn't let it go.


'Well done,' A voice breathed directly in his ear and Ichigo shivered, falling back onto the feather soft comforter of the large bed they shared as a warm presence settled between parted legs. 'Your shadow travelling is getting more refined, Ichigo. You even managed to bring the sake too, without spilling a single drop. So you can do it after all, when properly motivated. I'll have to remember that for our future lesson plans.' The teen said nothing, merely smiling gratefully when the bottle of sake was taken from his fingers to be put away on the nightstand somewhere. His yukata was in disarray around him, he could feel the silky material splay around his legs and fall open against his chest but since his lover said nothing against it, Ichigo made no move to correct it.

'Really now, Ichigo. You look positively debauched already.' The older man leered and Ichigo flushed instantly, head turning to the side as longish orange locks spilled into his closed eyes and tickled his nose as he tried to hide his growing embarrassment and climbing desire for more. He shivered when he felt a single fingertip trail against his cheek before taking hold of the tip of long bangs and giving a soft tug as body heat crept closer and closer into Ichigo's awareness so that a nose brushed against his. 'Scruffy long locks...what was it, three months since its been cut? Still so beautiful though, and your yukata...Ichigo. One so dishevelled and sensual should be illegal. It is always a beautiful garment on you, especially with such delicious peaks of tanned skin showing beneath flowing silk. The obi is barely even keeping it close around your waist, child. You are so very tempting, so corrupted but innocent at the same time.'

'You don't mind if I have a taste do you?' Ichigo shook his head, leaning into the tug of fingers that tilted his head upwards so that a kiss could be shared once more. This was where Ichigo was implored to let go of all his inhibitions, all his uncertainties and fears as a new sensation of warmth shuddered through his form and calloused fingers rested upon a neck to delicately caress sensitive skin. Ichigo's moan was muffled against a teasing tongue , his fingers desperately digging into soft clothes to ground himself as his body was overwhelmed with heady sensations from all sides. His newly found hypersensitivity only increased when exploring fingertips slipped beneath silk to tease his hardening nipples and trail a heated fire across an already trembling stomach.

At Ichigo's breathy inquiry as to why his lover had yet to undo his obi, he merely got a deep, sensual purr that a more beautiful sight was not to be had anywhere else in the world and the orange haired teen turned away his face in embarrassment. He never really took well to compliments. Ichigo arched his back though, when sharp teeth suddenly dug into the sensitive skin of his neck as a distraction. God, the man's voice...Ichigo could never get enough of it and Juha Bach never seemed to disappoint as he practically undid every one of Ichigo's defences and embarrassments in mere seconds and with words alone.

The Quincy King was a man that rarely talked at all, Ichigo had learned. His mere presence was enough to assure his followers of his position but when he did talk, it was with such controlled confidence, such humble promises and gentle words that Ichigo was instantly drawn towards everything that he said. He didn't sugar coat his words like Aizen did, he did not hide behind a facade and his intentions were always made clear. So when it came to seducing, Ichigo fell for it every single time. Loathe as he was admit it, Ichigo wanted to feel he was not a hopeless being as he thought himself to be and (god help him) there was still someone that wanted him and would not abandon him as he was now.

'You seem a bit distracted, Ichigo.' At his lover's voice calling to him again, Ichigo blinked open his eyes. Sightless milky white eyes stared at nothing in particular, having opened as a defence mechanism, as he looked towards the direction where Juha's Bach's powerful presence was hovering above him. With some uncertainty swimming though his heart, Ichigo untangled his fingers from the sheets and searched for his lover's form. Fingertips trailed up long strands of silky hair encircling them in their own little world as Ichigo breathed a soft apology. Leaning upwards to bring them closer together as straying fingertips mapped out serious features. There was a creased brow, probably from concern at Ichigo's actions, which tickled Ichigo's fingers with strands of wayward locks spilling over strong shoulders. High cheek bones, a straight nose, coarse facial hair, a strong jaw and lips that parted beneath his touch, all in all, it was perfection.

So Ichigo smiled reassuringly. Now that he had found his target he lifted himself to lean on his elbows in order to share an intimate kiss, sighing softly as his lips touched another pair fairly accurately and with enough force to make them slide together sensually. Ichigo could practically feel the smirk of satisfaction through the caress of their lips. Causing him to chuckle softly into a warm mouth, a play of tongues and nipping teeth soon increasing in intensity when large and warm hands found their way into Ichigo's dishevelled yukata again.

'Beautiful.' Ichigo moaned softly. This time there was no more holding back and the sheer pleasure from the caresses and gentle brushes of skin on skin had the orangette whining his need for more. Carelessly throwing his head back to break a harsh battle between tongues in order to catch the last of his breath, left Ichigo in a heady groan of increasing rapture.

The Substitute Shinigami was losing it, his entire awareness to what was happening around him outside of his lover's touches were fading. It was a sensation of sheer madness, leaving Ichigo unaware of the moment his obi was undone in a tumble of silk and fabric falling towards the crumbled sheets below. Maddening, intense, clawing pleasure was threatening to overwhelm Ichigo completely the instant cool air brushed against a now achingly hard and exposed arousal. Halfway aware that even though he was stuck in a world of pleasure, time moved onwards towards the pinnacle of their sensual act and its implications had Ichigo's heart beating frantically against his chest in anticipation.

It felt so good, the even strokes encircling the head of his hardness. Merciless fingernails digging into his slit and swiping an erratic rhythm across its head that had the teen drowning in the sheer feeling of it all. He was so sensitive, so hyperaware of everything the older man did, that it was nearly painful for Ichigo. But, as always, Juha Bach knew when to push him or pull away to give Ichigo time to catch his breath and then slowly rebuild all that bliss right from the beginning again.

With the cool touch of a sake cup brushing against his lips a few moments later, whilst Ichigo had writhed against the sheets and begged for more when the pleasure had stopped, Ichigo welcomed the burning kiss of alcohol that took over for his lover's warm lips and tongue instead. He thoughtfully swirled the bitter-sweetness around his tongue and revelled in the light headedness it was producing within his mind before swallowing headily. There was a brief moment where Ichigo was left lost in growing cold when the Emperor stepped away to get something; leaving Ichigo with the rapidly fading dizziness induced by the sake for several minutes before he was one again delighted by a warm presence hovering above him and easing him back against the spread of crumpled sheets.

'Tell me what you want, Ichigo, and I will give it to you.' Juha Bach may have asked but Ichigo knew the older man already knew the answer that would come from his lips. He had been worked into far too much of a pleasured frenzy for there to be any alternative. 'Y-you...more. P-please...take me, Heika.' Sake, Ichigo had learned, even in small amounts was lethal in dissolving the filter that usually separated his brain from his mouth. He was just glad he was not too far lost yet to start swearing rather colourfully again. Oh, no. That wasn't quite right. A harsh wail of a surprised curse left panting lips as a single slicked finger pushed inside of Ichigo and teased a special spot that had him bowing his back in pleasure and the need for more and deeper...oh dear god, please! He was swearing violently now, pushing against another intruder following the first that brought tears into sightless eyes that were losing themselves deeply in bliss.

'Oh g-god...p-please...f-fuck! I can't take it anymore...t-take me...fuck me! Please!' Ichigo wailed desperately after a few minutes of teasing. Sweat trickling down his skin, spine and plastering long orange locks against a slick forehead as bliss washed through the blood that was pounding deafeningly in Ichigo's ears. The teen fought valiantly for a little of his self control and remaining dignity by shoving his hand over his mouth but with the climbing, out of control, sensation racing through him it was near impossible. He was losing it and losing it quickly. Never once did that sly hand that had left him before, stopped its relentless teases of fingers and tugs of expert pleasure around his now straining and quivering arousal to offer Ichigo enough friction to push him over the edge.

But it was close, oh so close.

And he was wailing for it, begging...screaming for it untill a tongue silence him by thrusting into his mouth as a distraction and a third finger joined its mates. Leaving Ichigo to notice the now more painful stretch that managed to put damper on his ragging pleasure. Effectively abating his cries with little moans of pain and a slow but erratically beating heart, Ichigo was left panting for breath. Even if he knew it would be better soon, he still dreaded this part the most. He wanted that pleasure to come back...wanted it to take him away from everything but it was the gentle murmurs in his ear of comfort and kisses to his sweaty brow that had Ichigo calming more and more as he finally forced himself to relax little by little.

'We'll have to work on that filthy mouth of yours sometime, Denka.' Juha Bach said against his lips after having pulled Ichigo's hand away from his mouth, causing the orangette to squirm instead when his fingers retracted from within him and left Ichigo quite undeniably empty. When fingers brushed away sticky strands of orange as a curtain of black cascaded around them again, Ichigo shifted his hips when his thighs were pulled to rest against a still clothed waist and soft kisses were peppered down his neck and chest. 'You are such a good child, Ichigo. Always listening to me, do you want me inside of you?' At Ichigo's hazy nod against the palm resting against his forehead, the teen had not even been given a moment to adjust his position before he was impaled rather harshly.

A hoarse cry, stuck somewhere between a yelp of pain and a drawn out moan of pleasure, was pulled from his lungs as he almost instantaneously clawed at a clothed back.

He only had a brief moment to wonder how had his lover had managed to get him so riled up without shedding a single piece of his impressive uniform that Ichigo could never undo on his own, at all despite loosening the appropriate parts. Ichigo was just about to curse about his inability to notice when a heady thrust directly burrowing into his prostate had Ichigo wildly throwing his head back with a deep reverberating moan as pleasure clawed at his gut and tightened a coil of want like a spring just waiting for release. Ichigo's coherent thoughts were silenced as the mind blowing rapture tore through his very being at the steady pace, the very feelings reaching into the far reaches of his soul to unsettle his controlled reiatsu so that it now exploded around him and leaked wildly into the room.

'F-fuck please!' He begged for it not to stop, to lose himself completely. And Ichigo's desperate pleas were silenced when he was given what he wanted. Toes curled in the sheets, back arching as his muscles coiled headily with every controlled thrust pushing in and pulling out...repeating the process untill a slow build of inevitability raked eagerly against Ichigo's flesh. His entire body was a tremble with keening want, where his quivering and shuddering fingers wound in the only thing that it could reach: long black locks that were tickling his chest.

Ichigo was tugging at black hair, face buried shamefully against a clothed neck as the heady scent of his lover curled around him, settling and mingling with his own as the unmistakable scent of sex and sake mixed in a potent combination. Ichigo instinctively tightened his thighs around ever moving hips and winced at the pain settling though him at the warning bite to his shoulder that he was tugging to hard on long locks.

'Easy, Ichigo. Let the pleasure come on its own, don't try to force it.' Ichigo would have been more disgruntled at his lover's composure whilst he was completely incoherent, but to string together a single connected thought was getting to be problem. However, were it not for the tell tale hitches in the Quincy King's breath indicating his own pleasured strain, the teen would have been inclined to get angry. Ichigo shivered when he felt a darker and more insistent reiatsu spilled into the room to wrap around his, suppressing it, subduing it but also allowing him to feel every touch of caressing power. God, it was like he was dying and he was willingly allowing this man to do it to him over and over again.

Ichigo's breathy cry and arching back spelled his impending release as a droplet of sweat trickled down his temple to trace his cheek and settle against his jaw before a rough tongue moved in to swipe it away.

'Come for me, Ichigo.' And come he did, it was like his entire being was rearranging itself as toes curled, muscles locked and his cry of rapture echoed throughout the entirety of the castle. Stomach painted pearly white in his release as uncontrollable shudders wracked his being, neck thrown back against the sheets where a blissful state of euphoria had Ichigo hanging in suspension between two different worlds of the living and the dead, he made quite the erotic picture that he himself could not see. His power in itself however, cried out inside of him too. No doubt feeling the same intensity of sensation as he did, causing sightless eyes to clenched tightly shut against the sheer and almost unstoppable onslaught of desperate and unadulterated bliss. In the distance of his haze, Ichigo was vaguely aware of the call of his own name rolling off of his lover's tongue in that sinful voice before a warm wetness painted inside of him too.

Reality had to be restored sometime again, so when everything came swimming back to Ichigo in a haze after a while, it was to the feeling of a warm mantle Ichigo knew only Juha Bach himself wore, curling softly around his shoulders protectively before his head was delicately laid back against soft pillows and the warm sheets and blankets pulled over his rapidly cooling form. Ichigo's breaths, heavy but settling back to a normal rhythm, still rang loudly throughout the room. His exhaustion was creeping up on him quickly now, threatening to drag him into a oblivion darker than his own word.

'W-why?' He asked sleepily, pulling the warm cloak to his nose to inhale the lingering it would be a part of him too.

'A gift for your hard work, child. I want you to wear it whenever I call for you.' Ichigo nodded, sighing softly in thanks as warm arms pulled him against a strong and familiar chest. He was just about to drift into a deep and restful sleep when he felt the King shift against him, drawing away and slipping off of the bed entirely a few moments later. There was a snarl of annoyance from his lips before he leant over Ichigo again, pressing a kiss upon a cooling brow before sighed himself. Warm fingers tugged the blankets up to Ichigo's chin as he whispered something sweet in a dainty ear.


'Sorry Denka, I can't stay. It seems there's been a breach in the castle.'

'H-huh? O-oh okay. You don't need me to come with you do?' Suddenly sobered by the words, Ichigo was about to sit up again but was glad instead when the older male brushed his hair from his face tenderly and pushed him back into the spread of soft pillows.

'No need, child. Get some rest, today's probably worn you out completely. I'll call to you should I need you.' And with those words and fading footsteps, Ichigo was pulled headlong into his unconsciousness with a sated happiness he could not explain and a frown of concern tugging at his forehead for some reason. He just hoped that the trouble wasn't too big...he was so very tired after all.

Several restful hours later, Ichigo stirred from his peaceful slumber by a jumping beat in his heart (like someone was tugging a string connected to it) and he threw an arm over his unseeing eyes in irritation before yawning loudly and stretching out beneath the sheets. When the sweet tugging came again, more incessant this time, Ichigo murmured softly and pushed the overly warm blankets away from him with a huff. The sensations were gentle, meant as a wakeup call and he smiled softly as it came again...his Heika was calling to him. So with a push of his own reiatsu across the connection, Ichigo let his beloved know he was already awake. The tugging on his heart, it was meant as a simple message...the more painful and incessant the tugs, the more urgently his presence was needed.

But because it was gentle and calm, only coming though every few minutes, Ichigo knew he was being given time to dress before he was to meet up with the man wherever he was in his vast castle. Stumbling, with some uncoordinated footsteps towards the bathroom, Ichigo managed to make his way into the shower without banging his knee on the low table in his path too hard or walking straight into a wall as his reiatsu warned him of it before he could collide with it. With the delicious warmth from the water washing across his tired form and lulling him into a wakeful but peaceful state, Ichigo sighed softly to himself in sadness. It was strange but he always felt like this in the morning, before he was reminded that he still had a useful purpose somewhere.

Not the broken child that had been left behind in the depths of despair.

After a while Ichigo was humming to himself, his voice providing a distraction to the wandering thoughts that always plagued him whenever he was left alone. Finding his way over to the closet wrapped in a towel, Ichigo carefully felt for his section of closet that consisted only of silks before he tugged a folded yukata before throwing the silk over his shoulders. Sensitive fingers sought out the edges of the fabric before crossing them over his chest and tying them together with a hasty knot in the obi. Yukata was what he wore now because it was the easiest way to dress himself, and geta because the echoing steps on stone floors sometimes helped him to discern exactly how big the room was when he was entering or how narrow the hallways became that were often transversed. But that day, before Ichigo stepped out of the room, he smiled softly to himself in remembrance of last night.

That's right, he had been given a gift. Eagerly tugging the dark cloak over his shoulders that he had left on the bed, it took Ichigo all but five minutes to work the round medallion-like clasp into place over his left collar bone before he could revel in the familiar scent now curling around him so headily. A quick spark of his reiatsu across their connection told the Quincy King he was on his way before Ichigo gathered his reiatsu around him and began his journey through the endless twisting hallways with Zangetsu resting protectively across his back. He could feel and hear the servant (he thought it was one) that remained several steps behind him to act as guide should he get lost. But that rarely happened these days; Ichigo's ability to follow the connection to Juha Bach so perfectly was truly like a beacon of light in his now ever dark world.

'Ah, there you are, Ichigo. I was just about to come look for you myself.' The voice seemed to call out over a great distance once Ichigo crossed the threshold and the teen recognized the echo and foreboding sensation that meant he had entered the throne room again. So his Heika had been working, however by the way his voice resounded against Ichigo's skin, it seemed that everyone had already left for the day. It was echoing emptily, not even a trace of reiatsu besides Juha Bach's within the open Ichigo smiled softly as he walked over towards the same stairs he had climbed in fidelity the day before with much more confidence.

'I didn't oversleep again, right? H-Hasch...agh! Whatever his name is, wasn't there to wake me so I assumed—.' He was interrupted by a chuckle that was now much closer and lower than before.

'It's been three months, Ichigo, and you still cannot remember his name.'

'So? I've never been good with names.' He heard the older man shift before the beckoning call to his heart pulled him forward again. 'I know, I'm just teasing. But don't concern yourself so much, Ichigo. I let you sleep in. There's no harm done, you were very tired after all. It took you slightly to longer to find me this morning though, but I'm impressed you didn't ask for help from the servant I sent to guide you here.'

'I'm very proud, you've progressed so much since you've come to me. But enough of that, brunch will be served in a few minutes but why don't you sit for a bit. We can leave after I finish reading this report.' Ichigo nodded, his reiatsu reaching out towards his lover as he searched for the throne and eventually managed to grasp onto an outstretched hand before he settled himself on the floor by the man's feet as they often sat together when in private together.

'I'm very glad you wore my gift, it suits you perfectly. ' Ichigo flushed, head bowed slightly as he leaned back to rest his head against a knee.

'Thank you. But umm...Heika? You didn't have any trouble with the breach in the castle right?' There was a shuffle of papers above him and sightless eyes looked upwards with a flutter of lashes before warm fingers rested in his hair to card through the locks gently. It was a comfort and a reassurance and Ichigo took it as it came, a soft sigh flowing from parted lips as he smiled lazily.

'No, Denka. It's nothing for you to worry about.' The orangette nodded, eyes looking forward into nothingness as he allowed his mind and senses to drift. There was something intangible in the air, Ichigo could feel it. Something indiscernible. It niggled at the back of his mind. Tugging his bottom lip between his teeth, Ichigo concentrated more intensely than before and through his clarity of mind, he could hear a very faint echo of pained breaths and a different scent curling in his nose that did not belong to him or his Heika. He shifted in his seat again, head tilting back in the direction of what he hoped his lover was.

'Is there someone here besides us?' He asked curiously. Ichigo heard Juha Bach hum somewhere above him before the shuffle of papers were pushed aside and warm fingers were pressed against the back of his neck, urging him to rise so that his lover could stand too.

'Your sensing skill are improving immensely, child. Yes, there are some interlopers here with us. I'm still deciding what to do with them though, they managed to get through our defences quite easily. I think that killing them however, will be unproductive.' Ichigo nodded, standing to the side and resettling Zangetsu on his back before he listened to the fading footsteps of his King. He was just about to follow behind him when something in his gut lead him towards the other side of the dais instead. His footsteps were echoing quite ominously throughout the hollow space before his senses informed him that a suppressed reiatsu (probably forced down by the same collar he had worn a long time ago) was right before him.

Ichigo knelt down instinctively, reaching out a tentative hand. Surprised when it connected with a warm cheek, tracing a strong jaw line and the beginnings of a beard. It was a surprise the man did not pull away from Ichigo though. His apparent calm in the situation caused the teen to frown deeply when he could have sworn a single tear traced around his fingertip.

'I cannot help you, mister.' Ichigo said sadly, there was just something in his heart that was crying out to the man in front of him...something Ichigo did not understand but was poignant throughout his veins anyway. 'I can offer you some advice, I just hope you will take it. Whatever Juha Bach decides to do with you, please don't try to fight him.' Ichigo opened his eyes sadly as he stared into nothingness. His own tears now tracing a path down his cheek, making him frown in confusion when he couldn't understand where they were coming from and for what.

'This is what happens when you do. Pride, no matter how much, is a lethal problem when encountering his Stern Ritters. They do not stop when you ask, they do not listen to their master much, so your fate is sealed anyway. I do not want another to die because of something that can be avoided. Please look after yourself...this isn't a game anymore, mister, revenge will get you nowhere. This war is very real.'

'Are you coming, Ichigo? I'm sure you are quite hungry.' Ichigo stood at the call of his master and discretely wiped at his tears, turning his back on the man he had just knelt before. Sightless eyes closed behind scarred lids once again, never once seeing the familiar features that stared back at his retreating back as he walked away. Dark brown eyes, so much like his own colour before he had been blinded, were awash with a deadened sorrow that reflected the same shock that four of his allies now shared after seeing the orange haired Shinigami.

If his child had been so utterly shattered...why had he not been able to do more? Truly, there was no more hope.

1* Heika – Your Majesty.

2* Denka – Your Highness, used to tease Ichigo because Juha Bach doesn't like being called Heika when bedding a lover.

Well, I think that's it. Sorry it's so long but I just couldn't get all of my ideas down without stretching it out so much. Anyways, I hope that you enjoyed it. It was a nice challenge for me and I'd love some feedback. For now though, thanks for reading! See you guys in a few days for my late chapter for Requiem.