Warnings: Bad language and violence for sure. Pairings unknown if any.
Beta work by the awesome FrozenLights & Darasu Uolt. thank you.
Angel with a Shotgun
Ichigo squinted as he did his best to stand at attention. He was desperately trying to keep his eyes open, but they were red and bleary from a lack of sleep and this meeting was proving just as mind numbing as any other. Every time he blinked, he wrinkled his nose at the sensation of sand paper just under his eyelids. He glared with disgust at Shinji, who stood across from him looking fresh as a daisy despite last night's bender. Not one hair was out of place on that man.
Absently, he found himself starring down the line of Taichos once more. Things had changed considerably since the Quincy War. The roster of Taichos for the Gotei 13 had changed the most.
Old man Yama had died in the first assault against Soul Society and had left Kyoraku to become his successor; the man was doing a pretty good job considering his general dislike for actual work. Although many gave that credit to Nanao and Genshiro, all the ranked Shinigami knew that when the situation demanded it, Shunsui was more than capable of making the tough decisions.
Kenpachi, Komamura, Ukitake, Soi Fong, Hitsugaya and -to Ichigo's disappointment- Kurotshuchi, had all survived the Quincy war and had retained their positions over their Divisions.
Of course, Shinji, Kensei, and Rose had taken back their former squads before the war had started and had managed to survive.
The loss of Momo had been hard on everyone. They had almost lost Izuru as well, but the man had managed to pull through after spending several weeks in a coma and had only recently returned to light duty. To everyone's surprise, Hiyori had come back right in the middle of the war and had been Shinji's Fukutaicho ever since. They fought a lot, and Hiyori constantly complained about being in Soul Society, but Ichigo was fairly certain it was all a front and that she was actually happy to be back.
Isane, having achieved Bankai near the end of the conflict, had been promoted to Taicho of the 4th Division after the war. Yasochika had been promoted as her Fukutaicho and Hanataro had advanced to 3rd Seat much to his dismay.
Then there was Byakuya. The 6th Division Taicho had yet to fully recover from his injuries, so it had been decided that Renji would take over. However, it was proving difficult to get the man to agree.
Ichigo understood why his friend was less than pleased about the situation; the tattooed man had wanted to best his Taicho by his own merit, not by a technicality.
As it stood, Renji was stubbornly retaining his Fukutaicho position while completing all of his Taicho's work on top of his own; much like Izuru, Shuuhei and Momo had done after their Taichos had defected all those years ago.
Having come back down the line of Taichos to himself, Ichigo's eye unfocused as he thought about his own current position as the newly minted Taicho for the 8th Division. Ichigo's Fukutaicho was none other than Lisa. As he stood there, amongst new and old Taichos, he continued to let his thoughts wander back to the ridiculous circumstances of his death.
While he had been busy fighting against the Quincy in Soul Society, he had left his body at Urahara's place. Unfortunately, one day, while the kids and Tessai were out getting supplies, one of the neighboring stores had caught fire. The blaze took out Urahara's Shotten and several other buildings on the block – as well as Ichigo's body.
He had only found out months afterwards, and it had been really creepy to visit his own memorial. Once he'd gotten over the shock, he had been angry about everything he'd lost – the opportunities and experiences that he'd inevitable miss. He knew he'd never have had a truly normal life, but he had wanted the chance to try.
At least he still had a purpose with the Gotei 13. Moreover, he still had contact with his family and friends, and he still had his whole afterlife ahead of him.
"Alright then, I guess that's it for today, unless anyone has anything new to bring up?" Kyoraku's voice drew Ichigo out of his reverie. and Shaking his head lightly, he took a peak around to see if anyone would speak up. When the silence continued to stretch, the Soutaicho smiled from under his straw hat and dismissed them all.
Ichigo had only made two steps towards the door when Akon came bursting through, appearing rather dishevelled and out of breath. There were a few groans from various Taichos.
Whatever had caused the normally dour Akon to frantically burst into a meeting, couldn't be good.
Giving a hasty bow to the group in general, Akon faced his Taicho and bowed lower. "Kurotsutchi Taicho, we're getting some disturbing readings. We need you and the Soutaicho to come down to the 12th lab right now." Ichigo frowned at the poorly hidden panic in Akon's voice. The man wasn't the type to get ruffled or break protocol – especially as Kurotsuchi's assistant.
Mayuri sneered, "What is it that you simpletons could not handle on your own, let alone barge into a Taichos' Meeting?" He glared down at his 3rd Seat, deeply annoyed at the prospect of another problem.
"Now, now Kurotsuchi-san. No need to get upset. Poor fellow obviously rushed over here because it was important. What seems to be the problem?" Kyoraku stood, just as relax as ever. His calm demeanor, however, only seemed to irritate the 12th Division Taicho further.
"I'll question my own subordinates!" He snapped. Stepping directly in front of Akon, Mayuri motioned for him to speak up.
"We've gotten some worrying readings from Hell." Akon paused to see if he would need to elaborate. When Kurotsutchi just continued to stare at him like he was a particualarly vexing specimen jar, he swallowed. "If the readings are correct, the first seal has been broken. We've sent a message to Squad Zero, but have yet to hear from the Imperial Dimension…"
The hall of the First Division remained silent for several minutes until Ichigo finally burst. "Um, I have no clue what you guys are on about. But if it means those weirdoes have to get involved, it can't be good, right? So what the hell is all this about?"
Kyoraku sighed deeply. "Kurotsutchi-Taicho, go back to your Division and keep me apprised of any changes." He patted the 12th Division Taicho on the shoulder. Ignoring the look of disgust he received, he directed his attention to the rest of the group. "Everyone else, go about your day. You will be updated as soon as I know more. Ichigo-kun come with me."
Wrapping an arm around Ichigo's shoulders, Kyoraku led him back to office, waving a casual dismissal over his shoulder to the remaining dumbstruck Taichos.
The Soutaicho sat at his desk and reached underneath to grab a bottle of sake and two cups. Flipping both cups over, he set them on his desk and motioned for his youngest Taicho, who had been scowling deeply the whole way, to take a seat.
"How much do you know about Hell, Ichigo-kun?" The brunet asked while pouring the drinks casually.
"Not much, to be honest. I've only seen the gates open a few times." Ichigo admitted easily, while fighting down the nausea that rose at the pungent smell of alcohol. It reminded Ichigo that he didn't want to even see another drink for a very long time.
"Are you familiar with the Christian concepts of the afterlife; God, Heaven, and the Devil?" Kyoraku took a sip of his cup and regarded Ichigo seriously.
"Yea, a bit," Ichigo licked his lips in hesitation, before letting out a short breath. "I've got an idea, but all this," he waved his hand at the room around him, "makes that kinda irrelevant, right?"
Kyoraku chuckled gently. "Actually, they're not far off. You see, the afterlife is rather complex. Soul Society is so vast because it is so old. But in reality, we mainly cater to Asia. There are, in fact, many different dimensions that supervise the various areas of the Living World. The Soul King, whom you are familiar with, serves as the ultimate authority over all of those." He paused and finished his cup, smiling at the young Shinigami's stunned look. "So for Westerners, God is actually the Soul King. 'Same difference', I believe the saying is for you youngsters."
"Similarly, Hueco Mundo is their Purgatory and hosts more than Hollows. The residents of the Royal Dimension could be considered Angels and Arch-Angels. Lastly Lucifer, or the Devil, does in fact exist." The Soutaicho smirked into his cup.
"What! Why wasn't that mentioned before?" Ichigo growled in irritation, he'd thought by now he knew all the ins and outs of the afterlife. Why hadn't anyone talked to him about this, even just in passing?
"You really think Aizen was the first to betray us and make an attempt at the Throne? Actually, Aizen was a pussycat when compared to Lucifer." Kyoraku's expression darkened briefly.
"But that was a very long time ago. The abridged version is that the Soul King locked Lucifer in Hell for his mutinous ways. He then created a series of seals, or locks, to keep him there. And now if Akon is right, and we both know that's most likely the case, then the first seal has been broken. Someone is trying to free dear old Luci-chan from his prison."
Ichigo Kurosaki scowled deeply; he really didn't like the sound of this. Things had finally started to settle down but now it seemed like it was one shit storm after another. And he just knew, he knew, that he would somehow get roped into this mess and have to save the world.