Hello again, all my honeys! Thank you so much to everyone who has so graciously offered me a review! I'm sorry that I'm a bit late in my post but I've caught the flu and I've fairly sick over the last day or so. I even wrote most of this story during a fever and a migraine so I apologize if the standard is a bit poor but I cannot spend another day on this, I'm running behind on my other request fic.

Other than that, this is the first chapter of Dancing In The Dark, my request list fic for KrazieKat.I seriously hope that you enjoy, this chapter may seem a bit unproductive but it's an exploration of my characters mindsets as I've said. Chapter 1 for me usually starts out a little boring. Anyways there are some warnings for this chapter so please heed them now:

This fic contains a lot of violence, blood, an implied non-con lime between Juha Bach x Kurosaki Ichigo, a Blind!Ichigo and Soutaicho Shunsui! It is a set pairing of Kyōraku Shunsui x Kurosaki Ichigo and Isshin also makes an appearance at the end of the chapter, which will end on a bit of a cliff-hanger as I cannot get anymore out of this fic. I apologize for that.

I'm too sick to add more, I should probably go to bed rather than posting this at 2:00 AM in the morning but I wanted to get this done before tomorrow as I have to start on Candied Innocence. Right, I think that's all I got to say, I'm too tired to think anymore.

I hope you enjoy KrazieKat, I apologize if there are any mistakes I may have missed but I cannot spend more time on this. I'll fix them later. Please enjoy for now, I'll see you at the end of the chapter.


Chapter 1: Dark Moon Stroke

Large, fat, drops of rain were falling continuously from a despairingly pregnant sky. Soaking through the flutter of a torn black and white cloak-like kosode in mere seconds; the sun's previously scorching heat was turned icy cold by dark clouds that scattered deeply into the unseen horizon. Unaffected by the strikes of lightning that raced across the ruins of a once vibrant white city; two fiercely clashing figures were abruptly enveloped in an overwhelming explosion of deadly pitch black reiatsu. Taking the form of an exceptionally large crescent moon, the powerful attack raced into the indiscernible distance as the owner's rage and welling hatred seemed to increase its potency and deadly accuracy. Left panting for breath several seconds later though; haunted chocolate brown eyes gazed in absolute disbelief at the unscathed shadow that walked calmly out of the rising smoke, flying concrete and swirling wind his full force Getsuga Tenshō had left in its devastating wake.

Tanned skin was scored with several deep cuts and bruises from his travels through the Dangai (1*) from Hueco Mundo; his Bankai cloak torn and dishevelled around his form as rivulets of blood now traced a sickening crimson across his exposed torso and dripped down his forehead to flow across dazed eyes constantly. Lighting those vibrantly, powerful orbs in a darker, much more menacing light; messy orange locks adhered irritably to the sticky red liquid as one Kurosaki Ichigo never once allowed himself to drop his strict guard around his new found enemy. In those few moments, where the tipping scales of power in their battle became startlingly obvious, a stubborn Ichigo still refused to give up in this fight when his opponent had just shown his incredible skill in avoiding his attack with the mere flick of a sword tip. But not only that, the man only referred to as 'Heika (2*)' by his blonde haired subordinate, was nearly straining Ichigo's already wavering consciousness with his uncontainable reiatsu that flooded the ruined battleground around them alone.

'Such a potent slash! You nearly made me draw on my true strength, child. It's just a shame that there's no more left in you. Your Zanpactō is damaged enough with the fracture Haschwalth created in the blade. It'll shatter at the next attack, right?' The dark voice purred mockingly; leaving Ichigo to groan softly in dizzying pain as he struggled to draw a proper breath into his heaving lungs. His vision was already distorting at the injuries he had picked up before this battle, an elegant pitch black daitō raised defensively in front of him, swimming and out of focus, as Ichigo shifted his weight apart into a more solid stance. The man was right, Ichigo thought despairingly. Tensa Zangetsu's blade was strained, already shattered by that blonde haired man earlier when he had first encountered them. But it wouldn't stop him, Byakuya had asked him to protect Soul Society and he was going to protect Soul Society. No matter how painful it would become for him in the end...not with the world so shattered around him already.

Black gloved fingertips were tightening around Tensa Zangetsu's hilt to hide their subtle tremor; the orange haired Substitute Shinigami struggling to keep his balance in the enemy's mere presence as the tall figure approached him leisurely from the short distance that separated them. With every step that he took closer, Ichigo could feel his heart threatening to burst in his chest with panic. Long dark locks were descending down a strong back in thick waves, weighed down by the heavy torrent of rain now, as menacing dark eyes gazed down at the orangette with a smirking expression that was filled with utter fascination. But that was not what frightened Ichigo; it was something else that he had glimpsed in those unreadable eyes...something indiscernible he had picked up the first time their blades had crossed. The odd 'familiarity' he felt towards this man was making it very hard for him to concentrate on the fight as he truly should be doing―.

'That's not once, but twice that you've made me use my power to avoid getting hurt, Kurosaki Ichigo.' The King noted darkly, his impressive uniform of white not stained with a single drop of blood despite the orangette that was practically bathed in flowing crimson from his shallow wounds. A fluttering cloak of deep red was spreading around his tall form, phasing out of existence as he flew forward in a blur of inconceivable speed to force an unsuspecting Ichigo to the ground with a single push of his palm. A pained cry was instantly tugged from blood stained lips, brown eyes clenching shut at the force he hit the ground with as dazed orbs eventually snapped open to glare defiantly at his captor that was hovering above him restrictively now. The clatter of Tensa Zangetsu falling into the rubble from his loosened grip, rang deafeningly in Ichigo's ears as he blinked several times the see through the red that was trailing into his eyes. He had not even sensed the man moving, the orangette's entire being shuddering abruptly at the long haired Quincy's reiatsu that forced itself beneath his trembling skin in a dizzying rush.

'S-Shit! Let me go you bastard! LET ME GO, DAMN IT! What the hell do you think YOU are doing! I―!' Ichigo never got any further than that, his protesting words cut off with a pained moan as his head snapped back against the concrete at the humiliating sting an open handed slap seared across his left cheek. His heart was still stuttering achingly in his chest at the painful sensation that potent domineering reiatsu streaked through his very veins; brown eyes stubbornly blinking away the sting of humiliated tears as Ichigo renewed his struggles against the man's surprisingly strong grip. It was impossible! That reiatsu was seeking to deafen him with the roar of his own blood, leaving him shivering simultaneously at the restrictive palm that curled around both his wrists and successfully stopped his movements by pinning them above his head and against the harsh concrete slab he was sprawled upon. Stone was digging painfully into his back, his chest rising and falling with panting breaths as Ichigo attempted to arch away from those hands and dislodge the very real weight that settled across his thighs.

'Fuck!'

'Tsk, you should mind your manners, son. You are in my presence after all. I do not want to discipline one of my children more than I have to.' Ichigo instantly froze at those words; his pain hazed mind trying to comprehend their implication and if what he had heard made any form of sense to his mind. He must have heard wrong...perhaps he had a concussion that was worse than he had first thought because Ichigo was sure he was starting to hallucinate some really weird things. That warning however, still didn't stop the orangette from struggling against his captor. He couldn't fight this man on even footing if he was pinned so easily; so he had to break free somehow. But it was getting more and more difficult for him to do so because an unknown fuzziness was starting to descend into the depths of his mind; refusing to allow him to drag himself from the strong presence that was forcing him into the ground against his will.

He was twisting wildly in his bonds however, his legs kicking out to try and dislodge the form straddling his thighs as if it was nothing more than an arduous chore to keep him immobilized. Ichigo was trying very hard to ignore the rising panic the older man's actions were searing through his very heart and soul. He had never been in a situation like this before, but his mind was already screaming at him that he needed to create more space between them and quickly. He was in imminent danger and he had to get away...get away...get away...never look back... This wasn't a man he could take on his own yet. Ichigo's strength, no matter how vast now...it was not nearly enough to protect them from this―.

'You have good instincts to fear me, child. But it's too late. You're already caught in my trap.' The dark voice purred dangerously against the shell of an ear, leaving Ichigo to gasp in surprise and jerk his head away when a deadly satisfied gaze entered those previously unreadable dark eyes. The older man's free hand was reaching for his sheathed sword from the peripheries of Ichigo's vision, the orangette steeling himself for what was to come when a touch of heady bloodlust entered those cruel orbs. 'You've already shown me that you've awakened the 'memories' in your blood to protect yourself from my power. Your Blut Vene (3*) is particularly powerful for a gemischt (4*) child, but there are two places on the body the reishi protection can never reach. That's the eyes,' The Quincy King noted almost absently. Forcing Ichigo to flinch internally and still in fright when an icy cold sword tip rested against the skin of his cheek, digging into the skin right below a left eye, the orangette paled considerably when that hand drew back sharply in preparation to strike before it descended in a swift, precise, arc.

'And the hands.' A ragging howl was instantly dragged from the depths of Ichigo's throat; a shuddering breath of panic tugged into heaving lungs when that deadly sharp tip descended through both of his palms to pin him to the ground irrevocably. The act alone should have been enough to stun Ichigo, his gloved hands struggling uselessly against the steel that had sunk through his flesh as he felt his mind being overwhelmed by the pain and a brush of panic. What was worse however, was that his entire soul was abruptly flooded with the torrential power that was tied to the Quincy King's sword. He was completely numb to it, his awareness sinking into a dark and distant place as an overpowering reiatsu soaked through icy cold veins. A single tear of despair was tracing shamefully down his cheek, Ichigo's entire being saturated with shuddering cold sensations that was spreading slowly through him. He couldn't breathe, couldn't move...his limbs falling limp against the concrete as dark spots of black began to dance, unbidden of his permission, before his fading vision.

Ichigo was panting for breath, shuddering continuously as those hands, fairly tender and almost lover like, came up to swipe away at the trickle of his tears as Ichigo's chest rose and fell unevenly with several groans of pain he could no longer keep back. His heart was racing painfully in his chest, his entire being seeming to separate from his consciousness as no matter how he tried to dislodge the fog descending over him to force his body to obey his will, to move, to do something to protect himself...to protect all the others...Ichigo simply couldn't do it. He couldn't understand it! For a long while now he had felt it. The 'recognition' that the man's presence seared across his very soul. Only now however, did it become overpowering enough to steal even his senses to think straight.

There was something that tied him to this man, or tied the older man to him but Ichigo couldn't figure out what it was. It was breaking him to pieces now, a slow spread of panic flooding through him as those cruel and nonchalant dark eyes became the focus of his entire world. Leaving Ichigo to jerk instinctively when a calloused forefinger and thumb tipped his chin back so that the orange haired Shinigami could not look away from the deadly smile that was curling across the older man's pale lips, Ichigo whimpered softly in fright. The Quincy King was shifting his weight, kneeling over Ichigo's form with his knees resting on either side of Ichigo's left thigh as he manipulated the orangette's stunned form without him able to fight back or defend himself. No matter how hard Ichigo was protesting on the inside however, everything was becoming heavy and unresponsive. He could barely part his lips to speak...

'Is it painful, child? Can't you move?' The older being purred gleefully, leaning forward so that their noses were nearly brushing together as Ichigo groaned deeply in distress. Chocolate brown eyes were spitting fire against the new restriction as much as he could but Ichigo couldn't even summon enough breath to spit out his violent retort or curse this man to hell and back. He could just lay there and take it as it came. 'Those are good eyes, Kurosaki Ichigo, but I'd advise you to not keep tempting me to destroy them. I really hate being looked at like that.' Ichigo said nothing to that, not even shuttering his eyes in fear of those words. In fact, his glare only intensified as their eyes collided fiercely. He refused to show his fear, his own weakness now that he found himself in such a difficult position. Inside, however, Ichigo felt helpless...utterly overpowered and completely at the mercy of his enemy. And he hated that feeling.

He wanted to break free...to destroy this man if it was the last thing he ever did.

Ichigo...

'No matter how you struggle, how you scream in your mind, Ichigo, you won't be moving until I say you'll be moving. The reiatsu of an echt (5*) Quincy is quite powerful isn't it? Out of all my children; you, who were born in the darkness of this world with the filthiest of blood, has a soul that is purer and more powerful than anything I have seen before. The numb feeling you are getting in my presence, little one, subduing you through my reiatsu alone, proves to me that you know absolutely nothing of the power that flows through your veins. About your own mother, Ichigo. It's such a shame, I would have wanted nothing more than to take you to the Shatten Bereich (6*) to retrain you from the very beginning but unfortunately I'll be running out of time soon―.' The dazed Substitute Shinigami, only having been half aware of the world around him and the words that had been spilling in the air around him, felt something shattering inside of him at the mere mention of his mother.

All the ragging hatred and anger he had been feeling in this man's presence since before, was welling up in a swell of uncontained emotion as Ichigo tugged a shuddering breath into his straining lungs before his own reiatsu lashed out powerfully around him in a rising potency that couldn't be controlled. Pitch black and deadly powerful, it was swirling around his form, seeping from his very skin as Ichigo watched with no small triumph as those eyes widened at his display of strength before a burning fire of hatred began to saturate his eyes in a golden more instinctual glow. A spread of black was beginning to creep into his eyes, colouring the white of his left eye in a menacing darkness as the numbness previously having sealed his words and protests, snapped unexpectedly as he lurched forward to slam his forehead against another's. Not even flinching as sickening blood spilled into his eyes and a rush of dizziness nearly threw him into unconsciousness, Ichigo defiantly brought up his leg to try and force the older man's form from him.

'What the FUCK are you talking about?! Blood, Quincies! I DON'T CARE! W-what has my mother got to do with anything! DON'T YOU DARE―!' Ichigo's words trailed off abruptly with a pained cry when a palm suddenly rested across his chest, smearing across the blood that was staining his torso before digging into broken skin unexpectedly. The orangette threw his head back at the unexpected sensation it poured straight into his skin, an overwhelming reiatsu saturating those fingertips and forcing it wildly into his heart with a new and utterly overpowering strength. He was shuddering deeply; the previous numbness he had been feeling, fading away to be replaced by an inherent warmth that was reverberating with every beat of his heart and soul. Spreading almost pleasurably through his veins and forcing a reaction out of him, Ichigo moaned deeply at the unwanted response his mind and body was having to the older being's presence. A dark flush of shame was colouring his bloodied cheeks, his heavy limbs once again falling uselessly against the harsh stone as the burst of power he had dragged from the depths of his soul vanished back into him without a trace.

Ichigo-kun...

'Hn...such strength to defy your creator's will, I'm going to have to make do with shattering your soul and will, I see. You are very stubborn, child, but still so very weak at the same time. You can never face me the way you are now. The constant conflict in your soul, one power trying to suppress the other and succeeding in locking away more than seventy-five percent of it...you are bound to make this far too easy for me.' Ichigo shuddered in trepidation, blinking frantically against the pain that was starting to spread through him from the sword that was thrust through his hands. He was struggling for breath, his mind reeling at those words as the subtle warmth he had felt entering his blood became an overwhelming torrent of uncontained rapture that was both icy cold and scorching hot against his skin. He was now whimpering against the unwanted sensations, his instincts once against screaming at him that he had to get away but he couldn't move. That reiatsu was far more powerful than before, flowing through his limbs as Ichigo felt tears of frustration clinging to his blood stained lashes. His heart was threatening to break as harsh nails scratched against his chest and dragged deliberately against his sensitized flesh before soothing the ache with a gentler touch instead.

'I'll give you more pleasure than you have ever thought existed, my dark son. And that alone will shatter you. Your shame and humiliation is going to break you after this, Kurosaki Ichigo. Because I can already feel your pleasure in response to my power. I'd say it's only natural that every Quincy has a response to my power like this, because to them it's like returning to the one that created them. It strengthens their power, their will...but for you...it'll break because you have no idea why you are responding to me.' Ichigo flinched internally, chocolate brown eyes clenching shut against the flowing sensations that only seemed to be intensifying with every second that passed. He was breaking, just as the older man had said because Ichigo could feel none of the pain that had numbed him before. It had completely been replaced by pleasure instead and he was afraid of his own responses, he could already feel himself start to respond as a ragged cry of despair spilled past his lips when sly fingertips trailed up the inside of his thigh and parted his legs unwillingly. Tracing the outline of his hardening arousal, the orangette felt his entire world screeching to a halt around him, shattering to pieces as his mind sought to separate itself from the flow of this situation.

He didn't want this...He didn't want to feel like this, it was...

Ichigo! Ichigo!

'NO! S-stop it! P-please! NO! I don't want―!' Ichigo cried despairingly, several tears tracing freely down his cheek as fingertips toyed with the tie in his hakama's white sash before giving a sharp tug.

ICHIGO!

'You can cry and beg all you want, child. No one will come here to help, they're too afraid to step close to this place because I just took out the most powerful man in the Gotei-13.'

ICHIGO! DAMN IT! WAKE UP! PLEASE! YOU NEED TO WAKE UP!

...

A ragging scream of utter terror abruptly died in the wake of a gasping inhalation. Before it could tumble past parted petal lips in a cry of despair, several ragged breaths of sheer panic spilled into the air instead as an orange haired Substitute Shinigami felt his exhausted consciousness snapping back into harsh reality once more. The unwanted, flickering images of what had happened before that man had not only taken his sight but shattered his soul as well, were all dancing behind bound eyelids in utter shame. Leaving Ichigo with a throbbing headache that skittered painfully across his furrowed brow and his own reiatsu flooding the unseen room around him with a push of defensively lashing power; the orange haired teen valiantly attempted to still his frantically beating heart from its panicked state when he slowly became aware of a soothing presence that was pressing inherently close to him now. Bowing around his form and enveloping him in a comfort Ichigo had not allowed himself to feel for a long time, the orangette could sense his entire consciousness beginning to centre around the warmth that was spreading around him so irrevocably.

There were tender, cool, fingertips curling around his shoulder to keep him steady; another palm resting against his forehead soothingly when several coughs of strain forced itself from struggling lungs and Ichigo leaned more fully against a warm, silk clad thigh to burn into his skin the feel of soft flowing material that was resting against a fever flushed cheek. Completely surrounding him in a gentle reiatsu and calming sensations that were very different from the Quincy King's that had created this anxiety within him in the first place, Ichigo still couldn't help but feel sick to his stomach at the lingering dregs of memory that were saturating the depths of his mind. He was shuddering at the ghostly touches he could feel tracing sickeningly across his flesh, forcing his pleasure out of him against his will as bile rose in his throat despite Ichigo's immense self control that was managing to keep him from losing his mind. It was difficult enough not to confuse the very recognizable presence of Kyōraku Shunsui with that man's in Ichigo's panic hazed mind, but for some reason, the orange haired Shinigami found himself not reacting so violently to the Hachibantai-Taichō's presence as he did to the all others that had tried to come close when he had awoken from his ordeal several days ago.

In fact, Kyōraku Shunsui seemed to be the only person that Ichigo's power would allow this close to him without lashing out defensively in fear to protect himself. And with Zangetsu shattered in his Bankai state during a last attempt to destroy the Quincy King after he had taken Ichigo's sight; the orangette's unleashed reiatsu now had nowhere to go to seal itself off like it usually did. Instead, it left him struggling to control his uncontained anxiety and utter fear that plagued him incessantly whenever he was awake to be bathed in a world that was only coloured by the eternal darkness that his sense crippling injury created. The short periods of time that Ichigo managed to stay conscious without the influence of Unohana-san's medicines or the overwhelming press of his own exhaustion dragging him into an oblivion of terror, it felt like he was trapped in an all consuming nightmare where the last thing he had ever seen was seared into the back of his eyelids for eternity...and it would never again leave him in peace as it sunk into his every conscious thought irrevocably...

It's such a shame that I'll have to punish you for that. You really do have very beautiful eyes, Ichigo...

A bandaged hand instantly shot up in distress, pressing over his left ear haphazardly where those resounding words sunk through the barrier of self-control Ichigo had constructed around his heart and he was inadvertently left gasping uselessly through the climbing panic they constructed. He could remember every single second vividly; burning the words and images into his hazed thoughts as the orangette felt his stomach twisting itself into knots at the mere reminder of what had happened. That deadly, cruel, smirk that had tugged at pale, chapped, lips; the taste of his own blood flooding his mouth, the flick of a dark sword dragging swiftly across his temples and eyes before everything had gone as black as the night and Ichigo's entire world had become bathed in an excruciating pain of all consuming fear that could never again be lifted... All of it now suspended him in what felt like the eternal play of the technique Ichigo had used against Aizen two years ago.

Only this time; Mugetsu was turned upon himself and the moonless sky of the Saigo no Getsuga would never again fade away from around him. It was an utterly hellish nightmare, threatening to break him into more pieces than he already was as the only reprieve Ichigo ever seemed to find these days, was in the tender kindness of the man that was holding onto him so reassuringly now. He could feel Shunsui shifting above him; pulling an injured hand away from Ichigo's ear before laying it against the soft sheets as the resounding breath of an exasperated sigh tickled the top of an orange head thoughtfully. Infinitely warm and soft locks were tumbling over the older man's shoulder to pass across Ichigo's cheek, the brown haired Shinigami's steady hand keeping Ichigo from moving too quickly the instant that the orangette tried to push himself to sit up to better draw a breath into his struggling lungs and his distorted senses attempted to find the lay of his surroundings.

'I'm s-sorry! I didn't...' A stuttering apology which quickly spilled forth from Ichigo's lips, barely concealed the whimper that was part of his words before the spiky orange haired Shinigami twisted his bandaged palms in the soft comforter that was settled around his trembling form as a way to ground himself. He didn't even know what he was apologizing for! Was it for his own weakness? Or for allowing that man to bring this plane into the ruins it was now? Or was for his own stupidity? It was impossible, Ichigo mourned deeply. Everything stretched into a vast oblivion of darkness around him now, his hearing not even able to pick up anything but the rush of his own panicked breaths as the orange haired teen felt impossibly alone in a sinking blackness that was almost succeeding in drowning him with despair. There was a soft palm rubbing across his back to settle his fears though, seeming to know that Ichigo needed another being to tie him to this plane as warm fingertips trailed through his hair soothingly and slowly but surely offered the young orangette enough strength to drag himself from the deep terror that had encircled his entire soul so completely in the last few seconds.

He was still trembling in shock however, feeling a scorching heat streak across his forehead in a growing fever that was only intensifying his pounding headache more than before. But in the distance of all these sensations, some more overwhelming than others, Ichigo could hear the tender lilt of a deep baritone speaking to him softly. Calling out to him and keeping him tethered to reality; Shunsui somehow managed to establish a connection to Ichigo's fading awareness to keep him remarkably calm for his panicked state. The only problem the orangette found, was getting his mind to make sense of the words that were being spoken as an overwhelmingly powerful but familiar reiatsu washed over his form continuously. There was also a tender palm resting against the back of his neck in support, rubbing the skin there with calloused fingertips as Ichigo simply allowed himself to be taken away by the affectionate sensations. The power that had been spilling around him erratically, flowed much more freely and evenly the moment that the orangette let go of his internal anguish with a ragged gasp of pain.

'Ichigo-kun! You really need to calm down, please.' A soothing baritone breathed from somewhere behind him in concern. 'I know that it's very difficult to do so at the moment but I need you to pull your reiatsu back into your core. You're going to exhaust yourself if you keep this up. You've blacked out this entire room and the Kaidō barrier is starting to strain under it. I don't think Unohana-Taichō will be very happy with me if I worked you into such a state that you destroyed all her hard work in setting up this room for your recovery.' The words that were spoken almost in a playful, scolding tone; served as a gentle coax to recall his uncontrolled reiatsu from around him as Ichigo breathed shakily in return. Warm fingertips were reaching upwards to card through messy orange locks, offering him a moment of reprieve as Ichigo nodded dazedly in agreement. Perhaps if he had enough breath to spare, he would have chuckled at the man's ability to take the blame for his own uncontrolled responses but Ichigo didn't. So instead, he searched for a catalyst to concentrate on before reaching towards his wildly fluctuating reiatsu to seal it into himself.

He quickly found it, though, in Shunsui that was kneeling by his side. The warmth of another body that was pressing against Ichigo's shoulder, acted as the distraction he needed when a warm palm rested over one of his hands and the orangette gradually began to drag his responding power back into himself that was spread so vastly into the unseen room around him. He was once more sitting up in his futon, instinctively bent forward with his head down turned under the press of pain that was building across his injured eyes as Ichigo found his clarity of mind snapping into more manageable levels. His fingertips were trembling under the strain it took to keep himself balanced, white bandages pulling tight across the still healing wounds when he tilted his head slightly to follow the rustle of the newly instated Soutaichō's clothes when the older Shinigami moved behind him. There was a soft lilt in that rumbling baritone as it washed over him now, praising him when Ichigo successfully forced himself into a more calm state as it became like cool water pouring over the orangette's fevered form.

He was shuddering softly under the sensations of the man's constant presence, all leaving Ichigo reeling at their close but comforting proximity―.

How long had he been asleep this time without being awoken by that horrifying memory? Ichigo could vaguely remember that Shunsui had come to him earlier as well; when he had woken himself with his own screams and most likely Shunsui as well. The dark brown haired Shinigami had then promised to wake him should he experience another and Ichigo was eternally grateful that he had kept his promise to the letter. Shunsui had awoken him just in time, leaving the orangette in a less panicked state than he could have been had he not snapped back into consciousness before the worst of the memory could have started. It was something that Ichigo thanked the older man for now, leaving the teen just a little puzzled over his own reaction to Shunsui's presence that was so close to him. It was a small wonder that he had not snapped completely, Ichigo thought absently. Especially because of the brown haired man's impressively controlled reiatsu that was just as vast and overwhelming as the Quincy King's had been.

It was not something which Ichigo could understand himself but he was fairly appreciative for the older Shinigami's constant presence beside him, because he somehow managed to keep Ichigo's consciousness from sinking into the utter darkness that his new found world threw up around him constantly. Especially with the comfort he seemed to offer so readily, even when Ichigo was still very reluctant to accept it into himself so quickly. This was a side of Kyōraku Shunsui the orangette had not yet seen before, the very serious but still eternally gentle side that constantly sought to soothe away Ichigo's panic as if it was his sworn duty to provide him comfort and protection when Ichigo himself felt nothing more than a burden to the older man and the rest of Soul Society. All he could do was curse himself for this because on some level what had happened, had been his fault. If only he could have been stronger, could have known that he would be―.

'Ichigo-kun? Oi, Ichigo! Where are you drifting off to? You're about to fall over!' Shunsui cried in exasperated concern. Startling the messy orange haired Shinigami from his inconsistent thoughts when he felt an arm hooking around his, Shunsui took Ichigo's weight more supportively as cool fingertips brushed messy orange locks away from his sticky forehead and a calloused palm rested there for several long seconds instead. Still feeling a little out of it and dizzy with the pain that was searing across his bound eyes now, Ichigo breathed shakily as he allowed his fingertips to curl in the soft sheets of his futon and he leaned away from the older man's grip when he had found his fading balance. He could smell the blood that was permeating the air headily, scrambling his senses when he realized that it was probably coming from him. Ichigo could feel it sticking the bandages to his still healing wounds, where every shift of his head spread a new and alarming numbness across his cotton hazed thoughts.

'S-Shunsui-san? I-I think there's something―.'

'Hmm, I see. You're very warm, a lot warmer than you were a few hours ago. Retsu left some medication here with me if you got like this, I think she said it was something to do with your body rejecting the reiatsu that's buried in the wounds.' The older man noted concernedly. Forcing the orange haired Substitute Shinigami to drag in a startled breath when the presence that had been close to him for the last few hours and tethering him to reality so irrevocably, suddenly shifted away from his side and stood in a rustle of silky cloth and steady footsteps. In that single instant, Ichigo felt his entire world narrowing in on him in a claustrophobic rush as the Soutaichō's presence started to draw further away from him than Ichigo could perceive. Creating a new rush of panic that entered trembling limbs, Ichigo was left shuddering when a crushing force of utter loneliness sought to overwhelm him wholly. It now raced heatedly through his blood, intensifying the fear he had been struggling with for a while now as it sunk into the very depths of his soul without restraint.

'I'll just go get it for you, it's just in my room. Do you think you'll be okay by yourself for a few minutes whilst I get some water and washcloth?' Petal pink lips instantly parted in a rush, seeking to scream 'no' but instead Ichigo caught himself just before the words could tumble past his lips in a panic. He didn't need to be overwhelmed by his own fears so much anymore, or to keep depending on others when it was clear his presence here was becoming a burden to everyone. So instead, Ichigo nodded softly in consent. His head was turned down however, messy orange locks descending in shadow across bandaged eyes as blunt fingernails dug deeply into the skin of his palms to still his climbing fear when assured footsteps retreated and the shoji doors shut behind Shunsui's presence with a hallow clack of finality. Sealing up the intricate Kaidō barrier set around the room and Ichigo himself in a whole new world of rising anxiety, the orangette soon found himself struggling to breathe normally in a situation that was very hard to grasp onto.

He knew that he had just blatantly lied to himself and Shunsui because Ichigo would be far from alright for the next few minutes by himself. This would be the first time, in the short periods where he felt lucid enough and awake to perceive reality, that he would be without someone close enough to sense their reiatsu or sitting in the room with him since the four days he had awoken from his fight against the Quincy King, Juha Bach. The orange haired Shinigami didn't think he could keep himself back from the utter panic that was swimming through his veins anymore, it was difficult enough not letting go of the thrumming reiatsu that was singing restlessly beneath his skin. Where it was just waiting to explode out of him in a rush as Ichigo desperately searched for something familiar that could possibly offer him a life-line to the overpowering darkness that was pressing down upon his form from all sides.

It was fairly understandable though, that the orangette found his small reprieve in his now silent, shattered Zanpactō. The broken black form that had been placed on the right side of his futon was calling out to him as searching fingertips, reaching out beyond the small space of his bed tentatively; desperately curled around the open blade of the one thing in this room that wasn't so indiscernible and distant as his own thoughts and existence seemed to become. The tinkling of a chain was the first indication that he had reached Zangetsu's shattered form before Ichigo decided to drag the pitch black daitō towards him and completely disregarded the warnings Ukitake-Taichō had given him that he may hurt himself because he couldn't see what he was doing anymore. At that moment in time, Ichigo simply didn't care anymore. Not with his breaths hitching painfully in his chest and his reiatsu becoming an unbearable torrent that could not be kept locked within himself.

He needed something to tie him to his consciousness, to chase away the pain brewing across his entire form as the slide of slick blood dripped from his fingertips and onto the white comforter below. Unseen and unfelt by Ichigo himself; everything became centred around his stretching awareness that was searching for Shunsui's reiatsu and reaching out to the soul that should be present in the broken blade that was gripped harshly by his injured hands. Ichigo instinctively drew his legs closer to his body though, his forehead falling against his knees as he gasped for a proper breath when absolutely nothing came back to him. It was utterly sorrowful...the silent blade that he somehow managed to grip around the hilt after some uncertain, clumsy fumbling. It didn't feel right to him anymore as Zangetsu's broken tip pressed against the sheets now and laid against his side by accident.

There had to be something in the blade that he could draw on! But no matter how he searched, how he reached out...there was absolutely nothing. And the small realization scraped painfully at Ichigo's soul because this was also one of his biggest failures. He had hoped that he could mend Zangetsu somehow but when he had asked about it in a rare moment of rational thought, Shunsui had sadly told him that he should concentrate on healing up first before they would contact the Zanpactō forger. Who the Zanpactō forger was, Ichigo didn't know but he couldn't very well argue the brown haired Soutaichō's point when he himself could barely breathe after being left by himself for a single moment. It was impossible! What was to come, the utter loneliness he felt and the demons brewing in the depths of his soul...he didn't know how much more he could take and without his soul companion by his side, no longer answering his calls, Ichigo really was in a dark nightmare that would never dissipate from around his form.

Unbeknownst to Ichigo, though, the gentle call of rain was spreading through the depths of Seireitei. The eerily overcast, morning light creeping in from an open window where it ignited across his tanned skin in a tender brush, shimmering across a white yukata clad form as bloody crimson drops dripped in a steady stream from a cut on his right hand that he himself had not even felt Zangetsu make through the turmoil of his rushing thoughts. As the orangette tried his best to gather himself to face another day, there was absolutely no catalyst to calm his soul that morning or to provide a focal point in the darkness that descended down upon him from all sides... Ichigo was struggling internally and externally to find the hope to overcome both his injuries and the newly grown fear that had saturated the depths of his very soul at the hands of a cruel man and the sheer heartbreak at the loss of his own strength and usually unbreakable will.

Was this ever something he would overcome? Or was this but a dull hope that Shunsui and the others fed him?


At the same time; several miles away with the muffled morning light indicating the rise of the sun over Seireitei's overcast plane, a single shadow stood solitary frozen in the early morning sky outside of the Juubantai division as if the air was solid beneath waraji clad feet. A tall frame, dressed in a flowing black shihakushō that was tugged whimsically by the harsh wind and the white fabric of a ragged haori bound to his left arm, the shadowed being shifted restlessly as a hollow clack resounded throughout the morning sky from the official Shiba family Senkaimon slamming shut behind him. The hell butterfly that had guided him here, disappeared into the distance seconds later as Kurosaki Isshin erected a strong barrier around his form to conceal his overwhelmingly powerful reiatsu before the few guards the Gotei-13 could spare after the destruction of their city, noticed his rising presence and took his appearance here as another invasion to overthrow them completely.

Even when that was furthest thing from his mind or what he had come to do here in reality...

Large, tanned fingertips cautiously rested upon the red hilt of a bulky katana that was strapped to his hakama's sash by a winding blue string. Allowing concerned chocolate brown eyes to scan the distorted horizon critically, Isshin paid little attention to the two blue tassels, connected to the pommel of his sealed Zanpactō, that danced restlessly in the wind the more unsettled his emotions seemed to became within him. Stretching out his immense awareness to encircle the entirety of Seireitei in search of one familiar flicker of power that he could already sense easily, Kurosaki Isshin used high level shunpo to propel himself into the depths of the city once he recognized the overwhelming pressure that that single, unsettled reiatsu spread across a startling focal point in Seireitei. It was still a mystery to the older being what Ichigo would be doing there, but the concerned father simply didn't have enough time to solve the unsolvable at the moment.

He was hidden well by the shadows of the clouds as he moved forward in a blur of incredible speed; the spiky black haired male never once looking back as a crack of deafening thunder echoed abruptly into the distance the instant that a torrent of heavy rain fell from the pregnant black clouds in a rush. Soaking through his clothes and spreading icily across his skin in mere minutes, there was still not a single obstacle that existed which could stop him from completing his current task. It was odd for it to rain in Seireitei, he thought absently. Even odder for the entire city to be left in such ruins unless his son had something do with the rampage himself or the Soutaichō had been angered enough to release his own deadly Bankai. Both, he had been assured, had already happened and so far it did not look good to his sharp brown eyes. There were several distinct battlefields he could mark by reiatsu alone, Ichigo's and that man's was the most prominent he could sense as he desperately tried not to lose himself in the panic and fear he had felt when Urahara had contacted him that morning.

The damage and destruction that had rent asunder the world he too had belonged to over twenty years ago did not matter anymore, the untainted despair he could feel flowing into the air from the wounded and mourning were of little consequence to his mind even as he spared a single passing thought to their suffering. Concern for those things, he was sure, could come later with time. He had only come here for one thing after all, and by rain or snow he was going to find his flesh and blood before things could get much worse than what was suspected of Ichigo's current condition already. There wasn't time to waste on his part, not when the words Urahara had spoken so sombrely in his call earlier, rung so deafeningly and achingly painful through his very soul. Over and over again he could hear them; chasing up both his racing heart and his inherent speed through the city's ruined remains where the echo of Ichigo's reiatsu was the only beacon his entire being needed to focus singularly upon.

'I don't know how to tell you this, Isshin, but he fell in his fight against Juha Bach.' Urahara had noted despairingly a mere hour ago. 'Mayuri is refusing to tell me what happened except that Ichigo was injured quite severely and would be off duty for a very long time. Shunsui is unreachable and all other captains are refusing to say what happened. Yoruichi went ahead but I've heard nothing from her. They seemed much more concerned with the Soutaichō's death than anything else and the―.' The blonde haired scientist had gotten no further than that, Isshin having hung up abruptly before he had stormed down the Urahara Shoten without his gigai without a second thought or a second to spare. Of course they would be more concerned with the old man's death, Isshin thought bitterly. Ichigo was merely a Substitute Shinigami to them. No matter how adored he was or how powerful, he was not the entire foundation that the Gotei-13 had been built upon in the first place.

But to him, Ichigo was his most precious and irreplaceable son! Those words had been more than enough to get him to return to this place...to dare the consequences his leaving twenty years ago were sure to have created by now. It was what lead him forward now into the darkness without looking back, his son's hidden reiatsu his only guide as he continued onwards. Someone had hidden Ichigo behind a very powerful barrier, the location of which he knew intimately as the official home of the Soutaichō but why Ichigo would be there and not in the Yonbantai Division if he had been injured as severely as they said, was very puzzling to the former captain. Agh! But did it really matter that much? He could find out everything later, first he had to make sure that Ichigo was alright. That was all that he wanted and needed at that moment in time. Nothing more and nothing less.

It wasn't even a few minutes later before waraji clad feet stilled midair outside a large traditional Japanese mansion that was situated a few kilometres away from the Ichibantai offices. Tentative fingertips cautiously rested against the invisible barrier that was drawn across the state home for protection as Isshin allowed his senses to scan the reiatsu he could detect on the other side of the intricate weave of kido. It was meant to lock out even the toughest opponents, scramble their senses in reading the one's present on the inside of it but Isshin wasn't an average Shinigami or even an interloper in Soul Society. He had grown up here, visited this place specifically many times as both the Head of the Shiba family and the Juubantai Taichō. Overriding something like this was fairly easy for him, despite the flashy display of overwhelming power it would take on his part. Barriers like these only ever gave way when forced or the owner of the home allowed them access.

He only had one option though, however. Forcing it was going to take a lot more power than he would have like to display at his arrival, but he had no choice. Explanations could come later, concern could come later...he only needed to reach Ichigo in that moment in time before the drama could really start. Something he was not looking forward to himself but he would endure it if it gave him a scant few seconds to make sure his son's injuries were not fatal or that he had lost his first born child to the hands of a man that should have no business being unsealed from the eternal sleep he had been cast into in the first place. Without a split second of thought later, Isshin drew Engetsu and raised the blade in front of him decisively. The barrier he had kept around his form also fell away as he dragged a single breath into his lungs before reaching for the depths of his power.

'Moero, Engetsu (7*)!' He called out commandingly, a blinding flash of blue light encircling his blade, trailing in a perfect circle around his form protectively as the two blue tassels at the end of his hilt also became engulfed in a long stream of reiatsu that danced in the wind before he brought the blade down in a single, double handed slash. The repelling green flash from the barrier seemed to shimmer like water, straining under his rising reiatsu as Isshin dragged a large amount of his own reiatsu into the tip of his blade before a very familiar call rang out into the morning sky to announce the appearance of his arrival and the incredible power that Ichigo had inherited from him... Something he was sure many people would be surprised to find or kick themselves for not having figured it out sooner.

But more than that...it was just enough to shatter the barrier keeping him locked outside and to bathe his form in the overwhelming response of Ichigo's own reiatsu pressing against his actively...


1* - Dangai – Severed World

2* - Heika – Your Majesty

3* - Blut Vene – Blood Defence is a technique the Quincies use to strengthen their bodies against injury.

4*- Gemischt – Mixed Blood (Impure Quincies)

5* - Echt – Pureblood

6* - Shatten Bereich – Shadow Territory

7*- Moero Engetsu – Burn, Engetsu

Alright, that's all my notes. I don't think I missed anything but other than that, I thank you for reading, I really appreciate it. I hope that you enjoyed and that you look forward to the next chapter, which may take a while to post because I have so much to do. I'd be very happy if I could receive a little review for my hard work.

Otherwise, I'm going to go now, I'm about to pass out and there's still so much to do.

Chocolate Carnival