Here's another chapter for you to peruse. I honestly don't know how long this story is going to be. I've currently got it plotted to chapter sixteen, and that doesn't cover half of what I want to do so... who knows? We'll see, I suppose. Anyway, enjoy!
Chapter Eight: Decision
He feels as if he has just spent the night binge-drinking, bottle upon bottle of sake. Ichigo stirs, a low groan rattling in his chest as he shifts on the bed. One hand flops out as he twitches, landing against something warm and partially soft. There is a feeling of skin and fabric both, and it is only then that he registers the presence of another beside him.
It takes several fleeting seconds for him to recognize the sleeping reiatsu – Benihime. It is only Urahara behind him. His muscles tensed before that realization, Ichigo breathes out a sigh of relief. But then, he remembers.
He is no longer Soul Society's captive. He's been rescued. And the manacles are gone. If he concentrates, he can feel both Zangetsu and Shirosaki near to them. The discomfiting sensation of being closed off from a part of himself is gone. He is, in no better terms, free. Ichigo can't help but wonder for how long.
He doubts Soul Society has given up on him. They must be furious for his escape, ruthlessly questioning underlings for who must have been betrayed them again. He finds it interesting that for such a righteous place, they have many traitors.
Ichigo's mouth is dry and tastes like sandpaper. And if he doesn't get some water soon, his empty stomach will protest mightily. The hunger has returned along with his reiatsu, for now laying quiescent within him but still damaged by the confinement. It surges against the tattered confines of the barriers he's been taught.
Groggily, he pushes off layers of blankets that seem a bit superfluous and tries to slip from the futon. He belatedly realizes that his arm is trapped under Urahara and his fingers are going numb at the ends. Ichigo wonders how that happened as they are on opposite sides of the covers and frowns as he tries to extract himself. There is a pressing need in his bladder, and he'd rather not have a damp awakening.
He carefully eases his arm free, the blond barely stirring, and Ichigo slips off and up without making a sound. He pauses as he stands on shaking feet, feeling as if he's been trampled by a dozen angry Grimmjows. Urahara looks tired, as tired as Ichigo feels, definite lines of fatigue in his usually youthful face. No wonder he is still asleep. The thought that the older man must have stayed by Ichigo's side as he slept is comforting. Warming even. It makes Ichigo relieved and perhaps a tad embarrassed. No one has cared for him like that in a long time.
Once his legs finally feel like holding up his weight, he creeps to the door and peers into a darkened hallway. He does not recognize this building, but he's pretty sure he can find the bathroom on his own. It doesn't exactly take rocket science.
The doorway to his left is recognizable as the kitchen, sunlight pouring through open blinds and illuminating the clear countertop and tiles. Beyond it, the hallway dumps into a main room, the edge of a couch just visible. To Ichigo's right, two more doors are visible, one wide open and the other cracked slightly. He assumes one to be a bedroom, and as he steps towards the second, he is relieved to find the bathroom. His bladder is thankful for it.
He has a moment to breathe easily as he takes care of business, and somewhere in the back of his mind, the truth of what has happened waits for a moment to pounce. Ichigo ignores that for the moment. He isn't ready to confront it just yet, so he concentrates on something else. Anything else really. He wonders where he is and realizes he owes a debt of gratitude to so many people. A debt he doubts he can ever repay.
The sound of splashing water fills the bathroom as he washes his hands, and then, Ichigo steps back into the silence of the hallway. The other doorway is shut tightly still, and he glances towards it, wondering what is beyond the closed wood. He thinks he remembers someone else with Urahara, but that memory is cluttered with the sensation of having his reiatsu suppressed and increasing fatigue.
Bah, it will come to him sooner or later.
Ichigo still feels weary so he turns back to the original room. His stomach clenches with hunger, and he has the urge to find Zangetsu. It's been a while since he's managed to talk to ossan and that pale bastard. The disconnected sensation lingers, and he won't feel right until he's certain they're fine.
When he walks in, Urahara is awake as well, looking around with a mixture of worry and persisting fatigue. Ichigo rakes a hand through his hair, an expression of gratitude on his lips. But before he can even voice it, the shopkeeper rises to his feet and crosses the room, pulling Ichigo into a tight embrace. Surprised, Ichigo doesn't even resist, unable to deny the welcome familiarity. Stretched thin, he needs it.
“Thank you,” he manages, surrounded by the scent of confectioneries and explosions, two things he has always associated with the blond.
“Stop it,” Urahara returns, and if he is shaking, Ichigo pretends not to notice.
Ichigo allows a small smile to tug at his lips. “I was being polite.”
Snorting, Urahara withdraws a step, gaze flickering over Ichigo's face, noticeably pale and drawn. “You should be in bed.”
“I don't want to be,” Ichigo replies, feeling particularly stubborn. Even if his knees still wobble and his nerves are frazzled and raw. He thinks that if he stays in bed, he will feel caged, and he's had enough of that the past few... hours? Days? Ichigo really doesn't know.
The choice is taken from him. A subtle push that Ichigo has no strength to resist, and he's directed back towards the futon, body glad for the relief as he lowers himself down. He thought himself recovered from the reiatsu-sucking chains. Apparently, he has overestimated his own strength.
“Stubborn brat,” Urahara teases affectionately. “You can't just walk around after those things. It'll take a few days.”
Ichigo snorts but obediently lies down, pretending like his body hadn't been demanding the rest. “Perverted know-it-all,” he counters, and his head tips to the side, finally laying eyes on his zanpakutou. Relief courses through him at sight of the black and silver blade, and he feels the sword give a thrum in response.
He reaches out, half-expecting to be stopped, and drags his hands across the surface. There is an answering pulse like a buzz of power across the tips of his fingers. He can feel both Zangetsu and Shirosaki, tired and annoyed but alive and well.
“Where are we?” Ichigo asks, and it's probably belated, but his mind is in so many places right now that he can't seem to focus.
“Not far from Karakura,” Urahara assures him, and he wanders around the room, rearranging and cleaning but not doing much at all. It seems restless of him, though Ichigo is still too out of it to think deeply on the matter. “Where better to hide than right under their noses?”
Ichigo is reminded that he has to do that now. Hide. He can't exactly run back home. He can't finish his paper and hope to get that internship. He can't do any of it. He's a wanted man now. Soul Society will be even more furious that he's slipped from their grasp. How quickly his allies have turned to enemies.
“I'm glad to see that you are well, Kurosaki-kun.”
And how quickly his enemies have become his allies apparently.
Ichigo's eyes pop open. He finds Aizen standing in the doorway. Surprises of all surprises. He hasn't thought that he would ever see the disgraced man again. Ichigo wants to say something to that effect, but he just can't get past the swollen and bruised mark.
“What the hell happened to your face?” he blurts out, completely lacking in tact but too surprised to hold it in.
In the midst of whirling towards the aperture, as bothered by the sudden voice as Ichigo, Urahara snickers under his breath. Ichigo wonders about that, too.
Aizen, for his part, fidgets in the doorway, a sour expression taking over his features. “I ran into a door.”
It's strange because Aizen doesn't seem the type to twitch. But then, he doesn't seem the type to come begging in his own way to Ichigo for help. There's a lot of things that Aizen didn't seem likely to do before that he is apparently doing now. No wonder Ichigo feels a hint of vertigo. Everything he's supposed to know as an absolute, as black and white, has now flitted into the unknown territory of grey.
Hell, even Ichigo can tell that is a lie.
He stares. “I'm not an idiot,” Ichigo retorts, annoyed that Aizen would try to pass him off as one. He shifts his gaze to Urahara. “Who broke his nose?”
“It's not broken,” the former overlord attempts, but Ichigo ignores him.
Urahara can't seem to control his mirth as he smirks. “Your father was... perturbed with little Sousuke's arrival. As was your sister.”
Not for a single second does Ichigo think Yuzu was the one to inflict damage. “Yeah, Karin's got a mean punch,” he agrees musingly, though he's shocked as all hell that she would just up and hit Aizen like that. He's damn proud of her.
“So I noticed,” the man mutters, almost without thinking about it. His eyes shift to Ichigo, appraising and weighing. Worrying?
No, Ichigo must have imagined it. He doesn't want to know what kind of hell he resembles right now. He can feel it in the fatigue deep in his bones. His mouth is still dry, and his stomach is clenching. The image in the bathroom's mirror hadn't even resembled the medical student Ichigo is supposed to be.
Or isn't anymore. Dammit, he keeps forgetting that.
Ichigo puts a hand over his eyes, thinking. “Will Soul Society go after them?” he asks in a spark of worry. He dreads to think of the Shinigami using his family as some sort of hostages for his return, especially if he's not there to protect them.
Someone should be looking after his body. Kon perhaps. Urahara's here, so it can't be him. And what about Tessai and the others? What would they think?
Something flitters through Urahara's reiatsu before he can completely clamp on it. He hasn't considered that possibility, Ichigo realizes. And it both bothers and warms him that though Urahara has obviously planned in some manner to help him, he hasn't considered all possible outcomes.
“I don't think they will,” Urahara answers slowly, as if carefully choosing his words. “They are smart enough to not get those involved who have nothing to do with the situation. They may poke around, but they won't hurt them.”
Aizen snorts but wisely doesn't comment.
The gnawing in Ichigo's stomach is more than worry. And a loud growl announces the other half of his emotions. He wonders how long it's been since he's last eaten. Where is that lost time? He can't get it back.
Just like the life he once thought he would be able to have. And it keeps circling back to that. Everything. Gone. Because of them. And well, Aizen, if he wants to think about it that way. Maybe he'll feel better if he has someone to blame. Somewhere to direct his anger.
“You're hungry,” Urahara comments needlessly, and Ichigo slides his arm down from his forehead to look at the shopkeeper. “I'll get you something.”
His eyes are shaded, impossible to read. Somehow, he's replaced his hat when Ichigo wasn't looking. There is a note in his voice, however, that suggests he knows Ichigo needs a minute alone. Possibly more. This is a suddenly heavy weight atop the chains of war that had already bound him.
Aizen glances at Urahara, and Ichigo watches them have some sort of quiet battle with their eyes. Hostility is there. It seems like something more than the both of them having fought on different sides in a war. Deeper. Darker even. Personal. And Ichigo can't claim to be an expert on either of their pasts.
“Anything's fine,” Ichigo says and closes his eyes again.
“Good. I can't claim to have stocked much,” Urahara replies, and it's very light and very fake. Cheer where a situation won't really accept it.
He hears them leave more than sees them and is sort of glad that Aizen hasn't lingered to talk to him. He just wants a moment. He breathes in. Out. In again. Feels the tension radiating throughout his body. And thinks of a cell in Soul Society where they'd planned to rip out his powers and confine him for the rest of his existence. It had all been for a threat he may or may not have become.
Ichigo can't help but think that things wouldn't have been like this if the war hadn't turned so ugly. If so many hadn't died. If he hadn't failed to save so many. That's part of Aizen's fault, too. He should probably hate the man, but that loathing is lost somewhere in the disgust and fury he currently feels towards Soul Society. Towards those who promised to be his friends but dropped him at their earliest convenience.
The silence of the room becomes all the more telling now that he's alone. And despite his fatigue, Ichigo feels overcome by a feeling of restlessness. His mind is scattered in even more directions now. “How could this happen” battling with “what should I do?” He knows that Aizen's right, and a part of him wants nothing more than to pay Soul Society back for what they're putting him through. Another piece of him is so goddamned sick of fighting. It just wants to turn back the clock. To erase everything back to the time he made a decision, back to when he decided to help Rukia in this war. No, back further than that. Back to when he chased after her, fought battle after battle to save her soul.
He honestly thinks he would’ve been better off to have just left her to die.
Swiping a hand over his hair, Ichigo rises unsteadily to his feet and takes a breath. He situates his robe closer around his body, only belatedly realizing that it is not what he was wearing before. He wonders if there are any of his clothes about and spies a bag near the door. Rummaging about it in it produces some of his own attire.
He feels marginally more gathered once he's dressed in his own clothes. Agitation stirs again. He's only had a glimpse of their new location – not his home, not the home he remembers. He thinks to explore more but feels Zangetsu calling to him, the zanpakutou thrumming with his same restlessness.
He really needs to reconnect with his sword, with himself. Ichigo is glad for the solitude they've given him. He doesn't much like witnesses.
Dropping back down to the bed, ignoring the bout of dizziness it produces, Ichigo reaches for his zanpakutou. He pulls the blade towards him, resting it across his knees. His fingers skim the surface, and he closes his eyes, taking a deep breath.
His concentration has improved since he was a reckless teenager. It doesn't take much to go deep inside his own mind, to find that world where all the parts of him gather. He feels it before he sees it, sun on his face and the strange sensation of orientating to a different position. He's always thought that a sideways world is a strange representation of himself. But then again, maybe he's just like that – sideways.
“I am here, Ichigo,” the zanpakutou spirit responds patiently, sounding just as tired as his master. He materializes behind Ichigo, black cloth fluttering in the wild wind whipping through Ichigo's inner mind.
Relieved, Ichigo turns to greet him, glancing around pointedly. “And the bastard?”
“Oh, how sweet. I've got a pet name,” the damn Hollow drawls, stepping out from an unknown space beside Zangetsu. His eyes are rimmed in red, and he visibly slumps, looking for all the world as if he's been strung through a wringer. “I didn't know ya cared, aibou.”
Ichigo rolls his eyes, shielding his face from the frantic winds, a reflection of the chaos within him. He is glad that it hasn't yet started to rain. Though thunderclouds march on the far horizon, steadily descending on the calm blue.
“Next time, I won't bother,” he shoots back, just because that's how it always is with them now.
They've come to a sort of understanding, garnering a respect for each other that ensured they got along. To an extent. Shinji may be an annoying bastard, but he did teach Ichigo how not to destroy himself from the inside out. Still, Ichigo won't be singing his Hollow's praises anytime soon, and he doubts he'll ever see Shirosaki bow. But it isn't a struggle to hold his sanity anymore, and for that, he's grateful.
Shirosaki just grins at him then, determined not to show his weakness.
“We are both fine,” Zangetsu inserts, a hint of humor and endless patience in his old tone. “The fatigue you feel will pass.”
Sometimes, Ichigo doesn't understand how they can both be part of him. They are so different. It is hard for him to see himself in the calm and wise zanpakutou spirit. It is hard to see where Shirosaki is another version of himself since Ichigo has never known himself to be such a vicious person. And yet… here they stand. Reflections of himself.
In any case, it isn't really the fatigue that concerns Ichigo. There is something else, growing cold and bitter inside of him. But perhaps the fact that he doesn't really want to talk about it is the reason Zangetsu doesn't mention it. He doesn't expect Shirosaki to even notice.
“When we gonna get revenge, ne?” Shirosaki inserts, a look of manic glee entering his dark eyes. He licks his lips. “Show ‘em what they should really be afraid of.”
Zangetsu tips his head to the side, regarding the Hollow from the corner of his vision. “That would be counter-productive.”
“Or maybe it wouldn't,” Ichigo murmurs more to himself than the others.
He remembers what Aizen asked of him, and a part of him wishes he had agreed earlier. Soul Society was so quick to judge. Admittedly, they had faced some difficulties with allies turning traitor in the past. But to impose captivity on him for nothing more than the creature that existed inside him, there is no excuse for that. There is no excuse for Inoue. Or Ishida. Or anything else that Ichigo has bitten his tongue about because he is so very tired.
Shirosaki smirks. “That's right. King didn't like those shackles anymore than I did.”
Zangetsu sighs at the bloodlust practically radiating from the Hollow and shifts his attention back to Ichigo. “Urahara-san and Aizen are returning, Ichigo.”
Even as he says that, Ichigo can feel the familiar prickle of Urahara's reiatsu approaching, his senses much more tender after the removal of the collar. No doubt it will be hours before Ichigo feels like himself again. If that is even possible now that his whole life has been effectively ripped out from under him.
Dammit… but it keeps coming back to that.
He opens his eyes to find Urahara and Aizen staring at him curiously, though the former has some idea of what Ichigo has been doing. He understands more the connection between zanpakutou, Hollow, and human. Ichigo spies a plate in Urahara's hands, steam curling from the prepared food, and a cup. He dearly hopes it isn't tea.
Ichigo shakes his head. “They're fine,” he assures Urahara, letting Aizen draw his own conclusions about their discussion. He's too tired to explain things right now.
Urahara inclines his head and steps further into the room, setting the tray in front of Ichigo. The meal is mostly bland, but anything stronger would just make Ichigo's rolling stomach rebel. And the cup does contain tea. It smells good, but Ichigo doesn't trust it. He never trusts anything that the shopkeeper brews. Ichigo's learned his lessons.
Pulling up a chair, the geta-boushi sighs and tosses Ichigo an unamused look. “Don't look at it like that,” he says and then grudgingly admits, “Aizen made it. Not me.”
Mildly more interested than before, Ichigo dares curl a hand around the cup. It smells subtly sweet, and the warmth in the ceramic soaks into his fingers. He hadn't realized until now how very cold they feel.
“Well,” he prods, taking a sip and having to admit that it is very palatable. At least, compared to the acid that Urahara tends to brew. “What are we doing next?”
He thinks it'll make it easier if he has some sort of grasp of the situation. Even if it does drive home just how much has changed for him again. And he'd been the fool to think that he could walk away from his past.
Urahara and Aizen do that annoying argue-with-their-eyes thing, and Ichigo is almost fascinated by it. Aizen stands, while Urahara sits by his side, almost protective. And again, Ichigo wonders what stands between them. He wishes he knew a bit more about the past, especially since it seems so relevant here.
“We should hide out for a while,” Urahara suggests, reaching up to scratch a finger over his chin. The look he tosses Aizen dares him to argue otherwise. “Let some of the heat over your disappearance cool.”
The former overlord snorts. “That is very unlikely to happen, and you know it. Soul Society is not going to give up because finding him has been difficult for a few days.”
“And I can guess your suggestion,” Urahara retorts scathingly, a sneer twisting his lips. It's a much more serious Urahara than the one Ichigo is used to seeing, but somehow, that is comforting.
“You want me to go after the throne,” Ichigo inserts quietly and around a small mouthful of rice. It takes great effort to swallow. Though he's hungry, his stomach is also in knots of unease and roiling emotion.
Brown eyes flicker to Ichigo, something flashing in them. “I have not changed my wishes, despite the circumstances. And now, you can see why I intended as I did.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” Ichigo snorts, popping another stickful of something into this mouth. He barely notices the flavor. Not amongst the bitter taste of betrayal that lingers on his tongue.
No, he won't think about that. Not now.
He can feel Aizen's eyes on him, can practically feel the debate in the man's stare. Urahara's also. Watching him carefully.
“Have you considered my offer?”
Ichigo's brow furrows as his stomach twists. And though he's hungry, he thinks he's done with the meal. He sets down his chopsticks, making motions to get off the bed. He feels a little trapped in this room, beneath their steady stares.
“Yeah,” he mutters and slides off the futon to their surprise. “I still don't know what I want to do.”
The sense of bitterness and betrayal he feels for Soul Society battles against the thought of working with his former enemy. He has a lot to blame Aizen for – blood and Renji and death and Shunsui and pain – but that is also past. Ichigo doesn't know if he can put that behind him. Aizen is no hero; he is not a good man. Even Unohana-san's words about what have driven him are not quite enough to clear Ichigo's conscience.
And Soul Society has proven to be not much better. But then, are they not much worse?
“You don't have to do anything,” Urahara says.
Ichigo's not surprised that they are following him. Maybe they think he's going to collapse or something. He does feel a bit peaked still.
“And you especially don't have to listen to him,” the blond concludes, voice vaguely fierce and hands hovering inches from Ichigo’s shoulder. As though he wants nothing more to grab on. Or perhaps pull him farther away from Aizen.
Ichigo already knows this fact. He won't be convinced of anything he doesn't want to do. He sets his dishes in the sink, listens to them clatter a bit, and turns to face the two older men. He barely catches the disgruntled look Aizen tosses Urahara before it's smoothed over by placidity again. That man has an excellent game face; Ichigo can give him that.
“What makes you think this is going to work?” Ichigo asks much to Urahara's disappointment. But he has to know. If he's even going to consider this, he needs to know why Aizen thinks the risk is worth it. He needs to know that there's more than just petty revenge, even if part of him would be convinced by only vengeance.
Aizen seems pleased, glasses catching the light in a devious manner. Or perhaps Ichigo's just tired.
“It's you,” he replies simply, and at Ichigo's confused stare, he chooses to elaborate. “I must say that your very existence has always been a miscalculation for me. I would be very hard pressed not to believe that the world is already on your side.”
He sounds so very confident that for a moment Ichigo believes. Until he is reminded that Aizen has failed once before, and there's really no proof of anything. He wonders if the risk is great enough. But even more, Ichigo wonders if he will ever be free to live as he wants. How long will Soul Society keep looking for him?
Ichigo can't undo what has happened. Is it pointless to consider anything other than Aizen's plan? Could Ichigo do that? Fight against his former allies with his former enemy at his side to take a throne he doesn't really want?
He could change so much. There is a whisper in the back of his mind, wheedling and reminding. He could fix things. If he really is what the world is looking for, he could do so much. He wonders at the limits of the king, if they even exist at all.
“And if it isn't?” Urahara inserts perhaps a bit testily. “What will you do then?”
“Are you saying you can't believe Kurosaki-kun capable?”
“Don't turn me into a villain here, Aizen,” the geta-boushi practically hisses, though it's so carefully restrained that Ichigo barely recognizes it. “This is his life you're talking about. Haven't you ruined it enough?”
Ichigo wonders if his life could get any more destroyed than the shambles that currently sit around him. His bright and shiny medical future is gone. His days of ignorance – perhaps not peaceful but good enough – have vanished.
Is Urahara right? Is there a chance this might blow over? What would he have to do to prove his innocence? Turn Aizen in?
The thought of that strangely makes something quail inside of Ichigo. He remembers Unohana and the gleam in her eyes. He remembers her story. It makes him waver just a bit.
Ichigo looks, and they are having another one of their subtle glaring matches, arguing without words. Ichigo's not in a mood to hear it. Or not hear it as things may be. He turns away from both of them, intent on leaving both to their bickering.
“Where are you going?”
There is a feeling not unlike one that doesn't allow him to breathe gathering in his chest.
“For a walk.”
Hesitation is there before Urahara stops him, grabbing his arm and looking at him regretfully. “I don't have the disguises ready yet. It wouldn't be wise.” His voice is regretful, thumb rubbing over Ichigo’s skin.
But that doesn’t help at all.
It crawls up over his back and sits on his shoulders like a clinging demon, this sense of being in a cage. Even though he knows Urahara won't stop him if he's really serious about tempting Soul Society. Ichigo knows he's not up to par though. He's not ready to end up in their clutches again.
He can't leave. If he does, Soul Society will find them. And it will be back to the shackles before being carted off to some dark, dank prison. He is reminded again that his future has been stripped from him. And if Chamber 46 had its way, so would his freedom.
Frustrated beyond belief, Ichigo just sighs. “Yeah, whatever,” he mutters and slips out of Urahara's reach, arm suddenly cold at the loss of contact.
Aizen is watching them again, something telling on his face. And that scrutiny annoys Ichigo, too.
Things used to be so simple.
He rakes a hand through his hair, badly in need of a cut, and wanders back down the hall towards his – their? – bedroom. He only sees two in the house. Looks like he's probably sharing with the geta-boushi, not that it will be the first time. He remembers being crammed into all sorts of places during the war, and it was a rare, special moment when Urahara offered his own inner sanctum for Ichigo's use. He’s pretty sure that not even Yoruichi-san has ever been given that honor. Not that Ichigo can blame him for that one. No telling what she’d do to a person during their sleep.
Just beyond his hearing, Urahara and Aizen's low tones can be heard but not understood. No doubt they are arguing in their own way. Well, they can snap and growl at each other all they want. In the end, the decision is his. Even if he doesn't know what he wants it to be right now.
The silence is even more enclosing in the solitude of the room. Ichigo drops down onto the futon with a soft thump and leans up against the wall, hands dangling over his knees. He worries about his family, about his half-finished schoolwork sitting on his desk. He's probably missed a bunch of classes at this point. Though he supposes it doesn't matter anymore.
And he can't even leave the building because he might be recognized.
It's Aizen's fault. As surely as everything that happened to Ichigo before is Aizen's fault. Though he can't blame Aizen for Chamber 46's prejudice and their self-proclaimed justice. Or for Rukia turning on him. Or for Jyuushiro being such a weak-willed dick.
Still, Ichigo wants someone to blame. He thinks Aizen is just easier because he's there. But he also makes sense. Ichigo doesn't want him to make sense.
He breathes in sharply. Out again. He wonders when he'll get to see his sisters. Even Goat-Face just a little bit. The man's an idiot, but Isshin is his father. There's some affection there. And he is – was – supposed to meet with Tatsuki later this week. One of those “How are you doing… I'm still alive… awkward silence” lunches that she forces him to attend, even if he never has anything different to say. He knows he should ask her about Ishida. He never has the courage to actually say the words aloud.
Ishida. He doesn't want to think about the Quincy and everything he's lost because then it just reminds Ichigo of all the times he's failed. Of the war and all that he's suppressed. The years that he can't seem to lose. But like a song stuck in the back of his head, it loops around and around. Reminding.
His breath catches. His heart stutters. And the sound of his own blood in his veins is all too loud. Ichigo can hear distant echoes of screams and pain. He can taste the bitter flavor of ash and smoke, metallic in his mouth. He coughs on a whiff of dust-laden air. His hands are stained. He watches as his companions, his allies, his friends fall one by one.
And Ichigo remembers.
I know this story moves incredibly slow, but it is more character driven (at first) then plot driven. So it'll take a while to get to the awesome action and stuff that Bleach is better known for. Sorry! But thanks to everyone who's stuck with it so far, and those who'll continue to watch with avid eyes.
Lots more to come! I do hope you enjoyed!
On to chapter nine!