Actions

Work Header

A Requiem for the Lost Ones

Chapter Text

 

 

 

         The sun rested delicately on the tips of the trees. Despite the wispy clouds dotting the darkening sky, rain was not on the menu for Karakura Town this day. Ichigo sighed and ran his hand through his rapidly greying hair. He left his palm on his head as he looked towards the sky instead of letting it rest at his side. He studied the clouds before his gaze was drawn towards the moon, visible at the late hour even though the sun was still present.

         He remembers all the movies and cartoons he watched with his younger sisters years ago. The moon was always made bigger and more beautiful in them. He didn’t understand why they bothered. It was much smaller with the naked eye in reality, but no less beautiful, if much more radiant in the night sky than dusk. Either way, observing it soothed something inside him, and helped keep his tears from falling when he tried not to cry.         

         Like now, as his wife was sobbing enough for both of them, and needed him to be strong. Avoiding looking at the framed picture of a smiling young man, he let her cling to him and bury her face in his chest – one of his arms wrapped around her waist, and the other tangled in her orange locks. There had been plenty of tears from the both of them already, but this was the final send-off.

         Kurosaki Kazui only lived to be 20 years old. Both he and his wife had known that the worlds were a dangerous place, and had accepted long ago that an old enemy, or a new one, or even a lucky hooligan could snatch the life from their loved ones. Knowing this, and accepting that their son’s human life could be cut short with his fragile body, they took solace in his shinigami half being much sturdier.

         Only, Kazui hadn’t wanted to be a shinigami. While surprised, Ichigo had been tentatively pleased, happy that his son felt safe enough with his father around and able to remain solidly in the living world, instead of living with one foot in each, as his father had. Even without seeking training or searching for strength, he was half shinigami by birth, after-all. His wife was only too happy that her child would only have to deal with his studies and finding love. They both were.

         However, after an average day after work, Ichigo had gotten a call from Orihime while grocery shopping. In his second year of university, Kazui had left early from a party. On his way to his dorm, he had come across two drunk lovers in the middle of a very heated argument. While he denied training from his father or even Tatsuki, Kazui was a Kurosaki, and stepped in after a knife was pulled. Neither his son, nor the other man were trained fighters, so instead of a clean kill, Kazui was stabbed several times in the arms and torso and lost his left eye, but made it to the hospital alive.

         Orihime was visited by police, informing her of what had happened. Desperate to save her son, she let Ichigo know which hospital Kazui was taken to, and left immediately. By the time he arrived at the hospital and found his family, it was too late.

         Kazui was smiling apologetically and rubbing his mom’s back as she hunched over with her head in her hands in the waiting room. Catching his father’s gaze, he tried to smile, but it came out as more of a grimace. Ichigo stopped and stared at the chain attached to his chest, and the diagram of the human cardiovascular system that his son was standing in front of.  Silently, he pulled both of them to into his arms and kissed the tops of both their heads. He hadn’t cared how weird he must’ve appeared when interacting with dead souls in years, and he definitely wasn’t going to start now.

         Strangely, his son wasn’t in his wispy shihakusho, and his zanpakuto wasn’t around either. He just stood there in his bloody school clothes. Ichigo didn’t care to question him now, not when his wife needed him, and his son would definitely need help now that his life was going to be irrevocably changed. That was a mistake.

They took the next few days slowly, savoring every second left with their son, and their bonds had never been stronger. Orihime couldn’t prevent the shrinking of his chain of fate, but could slow it down, and even numb the pain. Eventually, though, the chain of fate got dangerously small, and Ichigo told his son he had to preform konso. Kazui wasn’t worried, and made it a party, all of their spiritually aware friends and family still in the living world showed up; they spent one last night as a group. When people started leaving, he asked his dad to konso him to Soul Society, and the worry that Ichigo felt in the absence of his son’s shinigami attire resurfaced.

         Ichigo had “died” multiple times in his youth. When Urahara cut his chain of fate before the shattered shaft was the first. Ulquiorra blowing a hole in his chest was the second. He had died many times in Hell at Hokuto’s hands. Ichigo counted the Final Getsuga Tenshou as well, but knew that no one else would. But he had never been konsoed. He always just carried on like nothing had happened.

         Not wanting to worry his son, he simply smiled and gently placed Zangetsu’s hilt on his forehead, and in a flash of blue light, a black swallowtail butterfly floated gently up into the sky.

He would never see his son again.

         He waited, in Seretei itself. Orihime was the manager of her bakery, but Ichigo wanted to escort his son to the Shibas personally. So, he quit his job, and travelled to Soul Society to wait for Kazui to arrive. The first week, he stayed with the Abarais, and they caught up while Ichigo spent every day at the entrance of Seretei with Jidanbo, eagerly awaiting the familiar orange mop of his son. The second and third week soon passed, with Ichigo growing worried, placated only by Rukia’s theory that he must’ve arrived in the lower districts, further away from the heart of Soul Society. Before long, a month had passed, and he left waiting at the gate to Jidanbo, and went out himself into Rugonkai.

         Orihime joined him around that time, and they both went out deep into the districts to search for their missing son. They tried to ignore the pity in the eyes of their friends, as the months went on. A year to the day that Ichigo arrived in Soul Society, Urahara showed up with his hat in his hands, and his head bowed.

         Ichigo remembered how his blood had frozen at seeing the man so uncharacteristically solemn. For good reason, apparently, as the older man had quietly informed them both that Kazui must have lost his memories in his passing from the living world to Soul Society. His shinigami powers had gone unused, and as he lived as a human, he died as one, too.

         Fast forwarding through the denials, the imbittered arguments, and the damaged friendships while Ichigo and Orihime struggled to accept the loss of their only child, they finally returned to the human world for Kazui’s belated memorial service. They had already buried the body, but at the time they had been happy, Kazui with them and amused at the morbidity of attending his own funeral. Ichigo’s eyes were wet, but he was pretty much out of tears. Snot was gathering on his shirt but he ignored it since the warmth of his wife in his arms was comforting.

         Before long, his wife pulled away, rubbed her face clean, and hugged herself. With voice weak and cracking, she told her husband she was going home, and going to bed. He stayed for a while, acknowledging the plea for solitude in her actions. He didn’t want to return home yet anyway. Kazui had left for college two years ago, but he had visited frequently, and always for holidays. Ichigo huffed a wet laugh, glad that somebody appreciated Orihime’s cooking, even if he still didn’t. He couldn’t go home to a house filled with memories of his son right now.

         He said goodbye to his sisters, who were teary-eyed themselves after only recently learning what truly happened to their favorite nephew. He pulled on his jacket from the back of the lawn chair, and started walking.

         After an hour of walking in the vague direction of his home, he realized he was near Urahara Shoten. He mindlessly walked on, before seeing it down the street, as shady as ever. He stepped back to walk away, before remembering the harsh words and vitriol aimed at his mentor. He had been hurting, knowing the truth but not wanting to accept it, since the second week, really. That didn’t excuse his actions. Urahara had done a lot of bad things in his long life, some of those things might have deserved the words spat at him all those weeks ago. But delivering a harsh truth did not.

         With a shuddering sigh, Ichigo walked into the candy shop. Jinta and Ururu had moved out years ago, but Ichigo half-thought he’d catch them visiting. The man behind the counter was not Urahara, or Jinta.

         “Ah. Tessai-san.” Was the only greeting he could manage at the moment.

         “Kurosaki-kun. Welcome.” Tessai returned, softly. He grimaced, before asking Ichigo, “Are you here for the Boss?”

         With that, Ichigo knew Urahara told him of the… inelegant way he and his wife had taken the news. The answer was yes, but even though Ichigo could never get a read on Urahara, he had no intention of forcing the man to take his apologies if he didn’t want to see Ichigo. He had caught Tessai’s face when he considered that possibility.

         “Only if it isn’t too much trouble.”

         “Ah! Kurosaki-kun~” Hearing his name sung from behind him, he turned to see Kisuke in full Hat ‘n’ Clogs attire, fan and hat brim covering most of his face. “How can I help you today?”

         Watching the shopkeeper flutter his fan after his sentence, Ichigo made sure to keep his arms at his sides, in a non-threatening posture. After a moment’s hesitation, he put a momentary pause on his apology.

         “My body’s older than yours, Kisuke.” He smirked.

         “Ah, but Kurosaki-kun will always be Kurosaki-kun to me~” He gripped the handle of his fan with both hands, held it to his chest, and started squirming in place. “And I never knew you had such an interest in my body.” Shit-eating grin in place.

         Scrunching his nose in disgust at that thought, Ichigo decided to cut to the chase before Kisuke’s… Kisuke-ness made him regret coming to say sorry. “I came to apologize.”

         “Oh?” Kisuke froze, and his fan snapped back open to cover his face. Ichigo could really only see his eyes now, but they were both laser-focused, and bit confused. Years ago, Ichigo would have thought Urahara was making fun of him, baiting him for the apology, but years of knowing him and fighting by his side gave him the insight to the true Kisuke Urahara.

         Which pissed him off even worse, because he saw that he didn’t even expect an apology.

         “You came to tell us we would never see our son again.” He didn’t dance around the issue. He could tell how Kisuke retreated into himself he was remembering that conversation and dreading continuing it. Ichigo looked at the floor of the Shoten, ashamed. “After a year of lying to ourselves, you gave us the cold truth.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Kisuke stopped trying to hunch into himself, and tilted his head and furrowed his brow at Ichigo. “But comfortable lies are hard to get rid of, and both my wife and I took that out on you. I didn’t mean anything I said, but I shouldn’t have said it anyway. We just wanted to make you hurt like we were hurting, and that was wrong of us.” Ichigo was never formal enough to bow during apologies like Urahara once had, but was starting to wish he did so he didn’t have to see the wonder in the man’s eyes.

         Ichigo didn’t think someone should look so awed by an apology they more than deserved, but according to Yoruichi, Kisuke had always been too hard on himself. He was starting to see that now. “I’m sorry, Kisuke. Please forgive me.”

         Urahara held the fan in front of his mouth for a few more seconds, but his wide eyes betrayed his surprise. Blinking out of it and straightening up, his fan snapped shut and was slipped into his pocket. The smile reached his eyes for once, and he rested a hand on Ichigo’s shoulder.

         “Mah~, Kurosaki-kun. You’re forgiven.” His smile dropped and his hand gripping his shoulder gave it a comforting squeeze. “Considering the circumstances, I didn’t blame you.”

         With that both men separated, although Kisuke wasn’t so tense, and Ichigo leaned against the wall. “Was there anything else?”

         “Not really, no. Why?”

         “Well if you would follow me to my Lab, I might have something that interests you.”     

         Ichigo looked at the man, again. Thought he tried to hide it; he could see that Kisuke was excited about something. That explains Tessai manning the fort, at least.

         “Um, I dunno. It doesn’t really feel like the right time, ya know?”

         If Ichigo thought the reminder of the ceremony he just left would deter him, he clearly forgot some of the more irritating aspects of his mentor’s personality. Namely, his lack of tact.

         “Nonsense, Kurosaki-kun, come-come-come.” He hustled behind the counter to the back rooms.

         Ichigo heaved a heavy sigh, trying to expel his annoyance before shouting at Urahara and souring the newly repaired relationship. He glanced at Tessai, whose glasses sparkled while he gave a thumbs-up. Realizing he’d get no assistance there, he reluctantly followed after the excited blond.

         Coming to a room he could hear Kisuke rummaging inside of, he opened the door and walked inside, trying to avoid the bits of metal and technology littered on the floor.

         “Good. Kurosaki-kun. Please stand here.” Pointing to a purple and white circle in the center of the room. Kisuke smiled at him. Ichigo looked at the older man and saw the only thing that could still scare him. The manic gleam in Kisuke’s eyes that meant he was probably going to do something awful or terrifying or stupid. Or amazing. Ichigo remembered laying on the ground with hardly any strength left after the Final Getsuga Tenshou, as Kisuke calmly explained to an incredulous Aizen how he had been defeated without even knowing it.

         Remembering the awful words said to his friend, Ichigo walked to the center of the circle without complaint. “Okay, so.” Kisuke began, before stopping and taking a moment to explain himself. Ichigo’s uneasiness doubled. “After the visoreds and I escaped Soul Society, I was more than a little mad. Angry, too.” The uneasiness tripled. “I didn’t get very far, until a few years before we met.” Quintupled. “But throughout our own acquaintance I was inspired and made many breakthroughs.”

         He paused and sent a grateful smile to Ichigo, ignoring his growing horror. “I considered using this during your unfortunate stint powerless, but before I finished it, you met Ginjo, and shortly thereafter regained your powers.” He paused again, and looked contemplative as he drummed his fingers on his chest. “Then the War happened, and there wasn’t enough time to finish it.” He looked back at the four-foot-tall contraption that must be a control panel, walked over to it and rested his hands on either side of it. “I completed it only a few years ago. The quincies’ various abilities spawned many ideas. Some even worked.” Ichigo was slowly walking backwards off the circle in the floor, but Kisuke noticed and pressed a button on the control panel.

         Feeling his back bump against something, he turned to see a transparent, flowing barrier keeping him in the circle.

         “Urahara.”

         “I’ve just never had a reason to use it until you came by, reminding me of your situation.” Kisuke looked back at Ichigo, and his excitement was very much on his face, wild eyes and very nearly panting.   

         “Kisuke”

         “You see, Ichigo-kun, this is my Eighth-Dimensional Direct Interaction machine.” Kisuke held his arms up for applause.

         “What?” Ichigo shouldn’t ask, but couldn’t help it.

         “I’m glad you asked!” Kisuke dropped his fan, and replaced it with a ruler from… somewhere. “It is impossible to send someone back in time.” Kisuke said, pointing the ruler at Ichigo. “But not impossible to send them sideways in time.” He gestured to the circle on the floor Ichigo was trapped in. “So, this beauty pulls two timelines together, and lines them up so different points in time are parallel, and pushes them together until the barrier between them becomes permeable at one point.” At this, the man points to the circle Ichigo was still trapped in. “Although a body could never survive the passing, so it will only transport your soul.”

         “That’s crazy, Hat ‘n’ Clogs! Why would I want to go back in time!” Ichigo shouted, now officially worried. Kisuke dropped his hands to look at Ichigo in surprise.

         “Don’t you want to save your son?” Kisuke asked, genuinely curious where this reluctance came from. Ichigo leaned back from the barrier in between them, his metaphorical hackles lowering now that he had the crazy scientist’s attention.

         “Kazui chose to be a human. We don’t know when his powers disappeared, or exactly why. If I get there after it happened, I’m not gonna just drop him into the shattered shaft for my selfishness.” Ichigo remembered the agony of hollowfying. He didn’t hold it against Urahara, and would do it again in a heartbeat to save Rukia, but he was NEVER going to force that on his son. “And then this will be for nothing, and Orihime will be all alone.” Ichigo reminded him.

         Kisuke gaped, as he had actually managed to forget the grieving mother. He recovered himself quickly though, a plan in mind already.

         “I’m sorry, Kurosaki-kun. I can’t stop it after the start, but I managed to make it remember the frequency of this upcoming timeline. Unless the EDDI machine destroys this timeline, I’ll send your wife to the same timeline, at the same point, so you should never notice she didn’t come with you today.” Ichigo calmed down, able to accept this outcome. Until he registered what the shopkeeper said other than what pertained to his wife.

         “Unless what?” He usually had better control over his hollow side, but he was emotional, and the vibrations had started getting violent, although it looked like Urahara couldn’t tell.

         “Ah, forget what I said, the chances are there, but astronomically slim.” At that, Ichigo could only stare in bewilderment at him, before angrily gesturing to himself. Urahara coughed, embarrassed. “Well, um, everything will probably be fine.”

         “Where are you sending me!” At that Kisuke smiled his Hat ‘n’ Clogs smile, which only meant bad things for Ichigo.

         “Sometime between 1995 and 2005.” He smiled winningly. Ichigo was silent as he tried to parse the words in his head and see if they sounded as stupid there as they did from Urahara’s lips.

         “You don’t have something a bit narrower than that?!” Ichigo asks, incredulous.

         “Kurosaki-kuuuunn~” Urahara whines, still apparently unable to detect the wildly vibrating floor below Ichigo. “Timelines are LONG, ten years is the best I could do when dealing with billions of years.” He paused, looking at Ichigo with a raised eyebrow. “I doubt you want to be conscious while in your mother’s womb, or especially… conception.” He gave Ichigo time to be properly disgusted. “And after that would be in danger of your son already having lost his powers.” Ichigo looked up like that, and Urahara paused at the look on his face.

         “Kisuke.” Urahara grew concerned at the horror and sorrow in pupil’s voice. “That… I could still arrive before Kazui is conceived.” Urahara nodded. Thinking rapidly to figure out why his favorite pupil looked so terrified.

         “Yes? Surely you don’t have any problem conceiving him again” He tried to joke, to tease, anything to wipe the look of loss from his pupil.

         “Kisuke. That’s not how biology works.” At that, Kisuke’s gaze sharpened.

         “What? What are you talking about Ichigo?”

         “Kisuke. I trust you know how insemination works?” Ichigo could tell when Urahara realized his point. He dropped his head, but he could see the blond trying to think of a way fix the problem. “It doesn’t matter if I pull the impossible and do every. Single. Thing. Exactly the same until the night of conception.” Urahara looked back up at him, and Ichigo started losing feeling in his legs. “It’s a one in a million chance that a single sperm impregnates an egg cell.” Ichigo remembered rattling off the same information to his students in his biology class. The feeling, it wasn’t numbness, as he remained standing, crawled further up to his waist.

         Urahara swallowed heavily. Still fiddling with the console of the “time machine”.

         “Ichigo, I ca- I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Kisuke threw his hat off his head and to the ground while glaring at the console. “Please, remember this number, it’s long, but maybe I can send you back from the other timeline with the another EDDI machine if you arrive too early.” The feeling spread to his chest, and was rapidly climbing now.

         “Ok, hurry.” Ichigo croaked, desperate for a chance.

         “45552-…” Kisuke’s mouth kept moving, but his ears started to tingle and he couldn’t hear anymore. He wanted to let him know, but the feeling had already been to his mouth and he couldn’t move it, couldn’t move anything but his eyes.

         Then they were gone too. The feeling reached them and he could even see blackness rise up in time with the feeling, even though he knew eyes didn’t work exactly like that. Soon he was blind, deaf, and mute. He couldn’t feel, and he couldn’t tell at the moment but he was pretty sure his sense of smell was gone too. He tried to panic, but he couldn’t move, so he just waited, panicking internally.

         Finally, it reached the tip of his hair, and his sense of reikyou dissipated like the wind. He was never good at it, but the familiar presence of Kisuke, and the stoic solidness of Tessai were gone, and he was alone. He didn’t know how long he was stuck like that, until all of his senses popped back to him, almost painfully. Similar to when an ear finally un-popped after a decrease in pressure.

         He was sitting on a wooden floor, young voices that should be background noise deafening after only just regaining his senses. His body had some damage. Not anything near what he was used to, but to go from no injuries to many bruises instantly triggered some flashbacks of enemies too fast to touch, and too arrogant to finish him off. It smelled like dried and fresh sweat, and he was taken back to the days at his childhood dojo, learning karate with Tatsuki.

         “You’re okay. You big baby.” Nevermind, he was literally taken back to the dojo with Tatsuki.

         Even knowing what he would see when he raised his head, he was still dumbfounded when Tatsuki’s young face looked at him with badly disguised concern. He forgot how cute she was as a kid. Still somewhat in shock, he made a note to himself not to pinch the adorable cheeks of all his new baby-fied friends.

         “Ichigo? Are you okay sweetheart?” The voice of his dreams, nightmares, and past spoke from behind him. He had time to watch his friend roll her eyes and back off, obviously expecting him to end the fight with a charge to his mother.

         Finally making himself turn around, he saw her. Slightly confused by his silence, but her expression as sweet and gentle as he remembered. He had years to grieve, and had even reached a somewhat healthy place in regards to her death. None of that meant anything when he had her in front of him, in terrible danger of being hugged by a strawberry.

         She didn’t seem to mind, and he tried not to cry as her perfume filled his nose. He failed.

 

-

 

-

“4555284538328002” Kisuke finished. But Ichigo wasn’t looking at him; didn’t seem to be paying attention. “Ichigo?” Even as the words left him, he could see Ichigo’s soul form leave him, being dragged from below. There was nothing he could do, but watch as the silent soul, staring into nothing, vanished into the circle.

For a moment he waited. And nothing happened. No Ichigo jumping from the circle to punch him in the face. No miraculous appearance of Orihime to console him, and let him know it wasn’t his fault.

         Because it was. He wanted to offer Ichigo a chance to see his son again, but most likely ripped that very possibility away from him immediately after giving him hope. He also probably killed or destroyed Ichigo, judging on the comatose state of the soul as it was transported away. He also will have widowed a recently childless woman who was quite dear to him if he doesn’t get her to the same point as her husband. With that motivation, he picked up his hat and made to leave the room, before a sound stopped him.

         He froze, hoping he had heard wrong. But no, crackling sounded from behind him. He finally looked to the machine, but saw only what he feared.

         From the circle placed on the ground of his lab, a dark energy was creeping from the circle and eating everything it touched. “Ah.” He didn’t run. Tired of running from his mistakes. “Looks like I should have gone with the Ninth-Dimensional Direct Interaction machine.” He sighed as the energy reached his shoes, and huffed as his legs disappeared without pain or any feeling, really. “Looks like I’ve made my last miscalculation.” He allowed the blackness to eat him to his neck calmly. “Sorry Everyone.” And he ceased to be.

         He would be followed by everyone else in this timeline, shortly.

Chapter Text

         Ichigo clung to his mother more on the walk home than he ever had as a child. Fortunately, his mother didn’t seem to mind the limpet attached to her hip. She never did. Perhaps even more fortunately, his adult soul seemed to take priority over his underdeveloped 9-year-old brain and hormones, so he was able to keep from outright bawling on the way home. He had wasted no time in asking the date, thankful that no one would think twice about a kid not knowing it.

         May 3rd, 1995. He had over a month before his mom would lose her powers and be consumed by Grand Fisher in an attempt to save him. He had over a month to come up with a plan to save his mother’s life. If he even wanted to.

         No, he definitely wanted to. He just didn’t know if it was worth changing the timeline so drastically. It was different than with Kazui, for whom he would be erasing a huge chunk of his life and overwriting it, this was a chance to save a life. His mother’s life. He didn’t even know everything that had changed by having his soul being placed in his younger body. He didn’t even know what happened to the younger Ichigo’s soul. They could have combined, or he could’ve been erased. Or even displaced. It would be very awkward if he had to live in this timeline and out of nowhere a pissed off Ichigo tried to kill him for stealing his identity.

         “Ichigo?” He snapped back to reality at the sound of his mother’s voice. And wasn’t that a goddamn miracle, he could feel the rain in his inner world – present since he the first week in Soul Society – being shoved aside as the sun, missing for years, finally came back and shined as brightly as ever.

         “Yes, Mom?” He winced just the slightest bit, remembering too late how he had called her ‘Mommy’ to the day she died. It seemed that she noticed too, but shrugged it off.

         “Tatsuki-chan didn’t hurt you too badly, did she?” Tatsuki, who would one-day be a master of karate, had joined around the same time as Ichigo, and was still nine. So no, she didn’t hurt him.

         “It’s nothing.” The rest of the walk home was filled mostly with silence, but more Masaki asking occasional questions about his day. Ichigo knew that he used to monopolize his mom’s attention as much as possible, so being so closed-off was making her worry. At the moment, however, he was too emotionally drained to make the effort.

         Arriving home, Ichigo made his excuses and went upstairs to his room. Noting that it was dark already, he knew his parents would never allow him outside. He’d look for Orihime tomorrow at school then, as it was still a school night. On second thought, he didn’t know if she and her brother had arrived to Karakura Town yet.

         He also completely forgot about Sora. Orihime didn’t have a problem talking about him, exactly, but with what they’d seen, it seemed safer to let the dead lie. Luckily, saving her brother would be far easier than his mom. If Kisuke managed to send her back as well, then just the changes that made would probably change more than enough that a random car accident wouldn’t happen at that time.

         Although it’s not like Ichigo could be around to save him from every potential car crash. With that, he rested his head on his pillow to sleep. Except sleep didn’t take him like usual but instead it felt like something yanked his consciousness from him. Or someone.

         The someone in question was grinning maniacally as Ichigo got up from his laying position on the roof. His inner world was very different from before. Everything was in the same place, and there were no strange additions to it, but it was much brighter. A radiant sun showered the sideways Karakura town in golden light, with dark rainclouds in the horizon being kept under its heel. The new lighting really didn’t compliment his off-color twin.  

         “Ugh. You’re shining like the goddamn moon, ya pasty asshole.” Ignoring the outraged squawk, he dodged the viscous jab and pulled him into a headlock. They both still looked seventeen in their soul form, probably since that was when he regained his age-slowing shinigami powers once more. The younger – and in Ichigo’s very biased opinion – cooler Ywach was smiling from his pole. Speaking over all the curses and writhing from Zangetsu, he spoke to him.  “What do you think of all this, Old Man?” Dropping his smile for a thoughtful frown, he answered.

         “Urahara-san wasn’t being malicious with his idea. I believe he was even trying to help you, in his own way.” Continuing despite the scoff from Zangetsu, he stepped off his pole. “He thought to reunite you with your son, but failed.” Waiting for the rainclouds to begin encroaching at the reminder, he paused when they did not. He turned quizzically to Ichigo.

         “I already know that. Kazui is dead, and I’ll never see him again.” Ichigo sighed and released his captive, who had the decency to read the mood and simply scowled at him. “What Urahara tried to do, it wouldn’t have been my Kazui anyway. I’m kinda relieved he failed. I wouldn’t want another son wearing my firstborn’s face and name, but growing up to be a different person.” What he didn’t say was that he didn’t want to replace Kazui. That’s what Urahara didn’t understand. Or maybe he did, and just assumed Ichigo wouldn’t. That thought pissed him off more than he expected. He thought Kisuke would’ve realized by now that he wasn’t just a muscle-head. It didn’t matter anyway, he was just guessing at this point, and this timeline’s Kisuke hadn’t done anything yet. Although, knowing him, he’d probably do something to deserve a good punch in the time it took to introduce himself.

         His quincy side seemed embarrassingly proud of his reasoning, and thankfully Zangetsu addressed the elephant in the room.

         “So whatcha gonna do now, partner?”

         “First, we are going to find Orihime. If she isn’t here yet, we’ll wait for her to move here.” His spirits seemed to accept his decision, so he continued. “If we have to wait, I’ll need to see what power I have available and… figure out what to do about Mom.” That got a reaction. A bad one, apparently, for Ywach frowned at him and Zangetsu grabbed his head with both hands.

         “Fuck that. You see this shit?” Forcing Ichigo’s head to move, he angled it at the sun. Ichigo had to scrunch his eyes shut from the brightness, but he got the point. “Hat ‘n’ Clogs’ fuck-up did ONE thing right, and you wanna, what, throw it away? Throw her away?” Zangetsu snarled at him, more hollow than zanpakuto. “What happened to that ballsy fuck who invaded the afterlife to rescue some chick he knew for a few months?” Zangetsu let him go, and Ichigo just stared at him, letting him finish. “That Guy, he wouldn’t think twice about saving his mom. No matter the consequences.” Ichigo was already pretty much convinced just from the walk home, but sensed that his other half had planned this speech from the moment he arrived to this time. His spirits hadn’t gotten to give him one of their special “pep-talks” since he proposed to his wife, so he wanted to spoil them a bit. “So, fuck the timeline, fuck your doubts, and SAVE YOUR MOTHER.” Ichigo took a breath to respond, before Old Man spoke up.

         “Remember, Ichigo. Abandon your fear. Look forward. Move forward and never stop. You'll age if you pull back. Your mother will die if you hesitate." Ichigo didn’t know how he managed that with a straight face, but if he felt like joking, then he must’ve already felt Ichigo’s resolve.

         “I cannot believe you actually said that. Yeah, yeah. Don’t make it sound so easy. I’ll do it.” Zangetsu finally caught up with everyone else and realized Ichigo already decided to save Masaki.

         “Bastard. Ya coulda just said you were plannin’ to save her from the get-go.”  His poor complexion highlighted his embarrassed blush, something Ichigo planned to tease him about later.

“So. Saving Mom.” Ichigo waited, and his spirits just nodded at him. “… Any plans?”

         “Yeah. Kill that fucker Grand Fisher.” Zangetsu grinned, bloodthirst bleeding into his every word.

         “No need. Except of course, for vengeance.” His quincy side spoke up. He looked ashamed, so Ichigo had a pretty good idea where this was going. “She could have easily handled a hollow of that caliber. What killed her was her powerlessness from my Auswälen. You must instead kill me. That way, she can save herself from any hollows that appear, and your friend’s mother won’t die, either.” Ichigo just blinked at him, unsure if he heard correctly.

         “Um. I’m nine. And I don’t have soul reaper powers.” Stating what both should know, but apparently didn’t. “Ywach is in his super-secret special quincy dimension guarded by nearly thirty captain-class and above fighters and it took me, Aizen, Renji, Uryu, and our dads to kill him. When I had all my powers.” When the older man smiled, Ichigo figured he was missing something.

         “Surrounded by nearly thirty captain level quincy, yes. But Ywach himself is still ‘asleep’. As you both are now, killing him will be trivial if you can reach him. Also, he could remotely empower his sternritter during the war, and asleep he will lack that ability.” The quincy looked thoughtful for a moment. “He and his special ability were significantly strengthened by consuming the Soul King and most of his army, if you remember.” He nodded to himself and grinned at Ichigo. “His soldiers will be weaker, he won’t put up much of a fight, and I shall guide you to Silbern.”

         “All you gotta do is keep up with their sheer numbers, their freaky ass powers, and blondie.” His zanpakuto spoke up.

         “And can I? As I am now?” He definitely didn’t have any spirit energy as a kid, and he did now. But without his shinigami power or combat pass, he was just an untrained quincy with an inner hollow.

         “Tell me, Ichigo. Do you remember what I confessed to you, before Zangetsu took his rightful place as your zanpakuto?” Thinking back, no. Not really. Something about inhibiting his natural progress. “I became the base of your power by pretending to be your shinigami power.” Understanding dawned on Ichigo. “All those fights of yours, against the Gotei 13, against the Espada, against Ginjou. All of them were done as a quincy.” He stood aside, revealing a white box on the roof with a familiar wrapped handle sticking out. “Take your power, and while you may not be a ‘traditional’ quincy, the power in your blood will not be so easily dismissed.” Ichigo barely heard him, staring longingly at the hilt of his old sword. His “real” Zangetsu felt more natural from the moment he grasped it than the Khyber knife or the small black sword of his “bankai”, but that form hadn’t saved his life and lives of his friends nearly as often.

         “And you know I’ll help, King.” Nodding at his hollow powers, he strode forward and grasped the hilt. Nearly overcome with nostalgia, he pulled out his sword. Smoke and light came out with the sword, and obscured his vision for several seconds. Swinging the flat of his blade in front of him, the smoke was rapidly chased away from all of them.

         In his hands, his very first shikai reflected the light of the sun. Unable to help his grin, he looked to Zangetsu, who was smiling even more. The pale zanpakuto spirit pulled out an inverse version of the same sword from… somewhere. He was already leaping at Ichigo before he could ask. They met with a sharp crack of metal on metal. Only, Ichigo’s arm collapsed with a sickening crunch, and he was violently launched away by the force of Zangetsu’s swing. Smashing through several skyscrapers, Ichigo wondered if this was what Aizen felt after getting slammed into the ground at the speed of sound by Ichigo all those years ago. Finally, he met a skyscraper he didn’t smash through; instead slamming into the concrete and only going partway through. His hands and feet not having the same weight behind them as his torso, he hung halfway out and could barely see Zangetsu as a speck in the distance. Not that he wanted to fight anymore, even as a manifestation of himself in his inner world, his arm was ruined. He really hoped that wasn’t the case outside as well. “What the fuck was that, King?”

         “That’s my line, bastard.” He could barely speak. All he wanted to do was scream.  

         “I believe I have a theory.” Both turned to looked at the quincy. One with a scowl and one with a wince. “Ichigo hasn’t awoken his shinigami powers that lie dormant inside him. But that doesn’t change the fact that you are his hollowfied zanpakuto.” Zangetsu stared. “You have all the power of his hollow abilities and his shinigami power from the past, and while Ichigo’s soul remembers his strength, his body doesn’t. Quincy powers originate from my blood; thus, they originate from the human body.” Zangetsu had the audacity to pout at that. Taking in Ichigo’s scowl, he hurries to assuage his worries. “You won’t remain this weak for long. Even taking that hit has your body awakening to its reiryoku reserves.” He chuckles and waves his hand, causing both swords to disappear. “You need to rest now. Later, we will spar, and work on acclimating your body to your new power. For now, get some rest.” With that, Ichigo found his inner world fading to black and he succumbed to slumber.

        

 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

       

         Both Masaki’s husband and son were acting very strangely. Her husband usually lavished his affection on her even more than Ichigo did, just to get a rise out of him for stealing his mommy. Today though, he only greeted them, staring into a cup of what must be coffee. Her little boy didn’t talk much at all on the way home from his karate practice, and immediately went to his room once they got home. Even Isshin noticed how subdued their son was being. He quietly asked if Ichigo was in trouble for some reason. Nevermind that her son was an absolute angel for her, if even her husband noticed, it must be bad. She loved her husband very much, but she was aware of his emotional intelligence, specifically his lack of it.

         She told him that Ichigo must not be feeling well, and began work on dinner. If her son felt too awful, he would definitely let her know. Besides, her girls got grouchy if she took too long to make dinner.

         Once dinner was ready, she had Isshin get the girls to the table, and went upstairs to get Ichigo for dinner. When she opened the door though, he was already asleep. She sighed in exasperation; he hadn’t even got under the covers. She carefully maneuvered him under the covers, kissed his forehead, and quietly closed the door as she left. Arriving at the dinner table, she caught Isshin’s gaze.

         “He just tuckered himself out today. He’s already asleep.” Isshin nodded, appeased, and went back to trying to feed Karin her food. Masaki smiled at Yuzu and fed her little girl her dinner, and ignored her husband’s squeals when Karin flipped her plate onto his lap after he tried to play airplane.

          Once they finished their meal, Isshin went to clean up and Masaki took the girls to the couch and turned their shows on while she picked up a book she was in the middle of. She soon had a lap full of five-year-olds, though, and settled for cuddling with them while they all watched cartoons. She looked up when Isshin returned to the room, to see him looking at her seriously. He glanced to the door, so she turned to her daughters. “Alright girls, Mommy and Daddy need to have a talk, okay?” They giggled and nodded, knowing that usually that meant Daddy was in trouble.

         She followed Isshin to the door and let him open it for her, and as soon as he followed her out and closed the door, he talked.

         “Ichigo is okay?” Slightly worried now, Masaki confirmed it.

         “Yes, he was sleeping in his room.” Isshin looked both relieved and confused. “Honey, what’s wrong?” Isshin looked at her and swallowed.

         “My powers came back today. Not a trickle either, all of it at once. Do you feel any different?” Eyes wide, Masaki waited a moment to get a feel of herself. None of that deep internal ache she felt as her soul began to dissolve to the parasitical hollow. She’d never forget that feeling, and she’d never not notice it if it happened again.

         “No. When did it happen?” Isshin looked a little better at the knowledge his wife was okay, but no less confused.

         “Today after you left, probably around the time you picked up Ichigo.” She remembered how solemn Ichigo was today, but…

         “You think something happened to our son? What?” Isshin was already shaking his head before she finished.

         “I don’t know what happened. Urahara said that my powers kept the hollow locked down. If they’re back, then the hollow is dead, or loose.” They both knew they weren’t lucky enough for the hollow to die on its own. And if Masaki wasn’t being poisoned from the inside out then that could only mean one thing.

         “You think that THING is free in my son?!” Masaki was already through the door. Making sure her son was okay was the only thing that mattered. She was already taking the stairs two at a time, before a huge spiritual pressure slammed her down. It didn’t feel hollow though, it felt like her son. Isshin felt it too and was beside her in an instant. The girls started crying from the living room and but she ignored it for the moment. They were safe from a hollow, at least. They got to his room and threw the door open only for Masaki to stop short. Behind her Isshin gaped audibly.

         The energy was definitely coming from her son, and it was nearly as powerful as her husband had been when she met him. What caught her attention was the myriad of injures covering him. Injuries that weren’t there just half an hour ago. Scrapes, gashes, bruises, and more.  “ICHIGO!” His right arm was completely purple, covered in blood, and had bits of bone emerging from his forearm. He was still unconscious, and while she wanted to make sure he was okay, she also didn’t want him to wake up with his body so damaged.

         “Let’s get him to Kisuke.” She hadn’t seen her husband so quiet in a very long time.

         “Urahara-san?” She remembered him, of course. He was the reason Isshin had been able to save her. That didn’t mean they met often, or even spoke to him. They didn’t want to drag their children into the problems of the afterlife when they had the chance to be normal, happy kids. Looking at her son, positively spewing reiatsu everywhere and covered in spontaneous injuries that could have only come from that monster.

         “Yes, he’s the only one who could help Ichigo with this; he knows healing kido if nothing else.” Isshin very carefully swept Ichigo into his arms, making sure to support every part of him. He strode out of the room, leaving Masaki. She wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to give Urahara access to her son, even if he could help. She knew, deep inside her, that this wasn’t going to be a problem to solve in a single night. Heading to Urahara Shoten just seemed like the final nail in the coffin of their normal human lives.

         She heard the car start in the driveway. She was never before so glad Isshin was around to make the hard decisions. They might lose their mundane lives, but doing nothing would cause them to lose Ichigo. She flew downstairs and grabbed up her girls, who were still calming down. She barely slipped her shoes on before she was outside, and saw Isshin in the passenger seat, still cradling their son. She opened the back door, quickly buckled up Karin and Yuzu and shushing their cries.

         “It’s okay, girls. We are going to a candy store; don’t you want some candy?” They quieted down at that. Masaki got in the driver’s seat, and checked behind them before peeling out. Sue her, but it was late and her son was in danger. The girls asked a few questions about the candy store, but the drive was mostly quiet.

         They arrived after only a few minutes. With the headlights illuminating a figure in green, she realized that everyone in Karakura town who was spiritually sensitive must be able to sense Ichigo, now. Isshin was out of the car before she completely stopped it, and both men went inside while she got the girls out. Taking their hands, they all walked inside the shop.

         A large man in glasses was behind the counter. She remembered him from before, but didn’t quite remember his name. Knowing that her husband was getting Ichigo help at the very moment, she reminded herself of basic manners. “It’s very nice to meet you again, but I don’t think we have been formally introduced. I’m Kurosaki Masaki.” She gave him the best smile she could considering the circumstances. The man abruptly stood and bowed deeply at her.

         “Tsukabishi Tessai, ma’am. You look even more beautiful than when I saw you last.” Noticing but not acknowledging the warming of her face, Masaki’s polite smile grew into something more genuine. She didn’t remember the man who worked with Urahara being so polite and charming.  He turned to look to the empty hallway, where her boys must have gone. “Ichigo-chan is in very good hands. However, I can watch over these two if you want to go to him.” Accepting the children thrust at him, he pulled two lollipops from behind the counter.

         “Listen to Tessai-san, girls. Mommy is going to look after Nii-san.” Smiling briefly at the man, she hustled over to the hallway, before stopping short.

         “Second door on the left, Masaki-san.”

         She reached the room and opened the door to see her husband in a hushed conversation. A transparent green cube surrounded her son, who was placed on a table. His arm had been set, and no longer had bone showing, but the shock was wearing off. Her eyes burned looking at him so hurt, and she wiped them as dry as she could. Crying wouldn’t help Ichigo.

         “Masaki-chan! How very good to see you again.” She looked to where Urahara was healing her son. He was smiling, but his eyes were focused on Ichigo. “If only the circumstances were better.” She nodded at him, but her gaze was locked on the shrinking wounds on her son.

         “What happened to Ichigo, Urahara-san.” She felt Isshin’s hand land on her shoulder. It was heavy, but warm, and she appreciated his presence.

         “I dunno.” Masaki and Isshin both turned to him at that. The lack of care in his voice sparking righteous fury in them both. But he spoke up before they could. “Ichigo-chan is awake though. Maybe we should ask him?” Jerking her head back to her son so quickly she felt her neck pop, she saw Urahara was correct. He was wincing, but didn’t look to be concerned with his arm, or the green cube he was still inside of. Instead, he was pouting adorably at Urahara, who was watching him just as intently.

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

         “I dunno.” Ichigo heard Kisuke as he woke up. His arm felt loads better, but still sore as hell. He blinked the sleep out of his eyes and saw that he was in a healing kido. His parents were looking at Kisuke, pretty angrily, he realized. His parents must’ve been shocked that his arm got busted in his sleep, but why take him to Urahara instead of using the clinic? Did they suspect something? He tried to figure out the situation, but wasn’t given enough time. “Ichigo-chan is awake though. Maybe we should ask him?”

         Damn Kisuke. Giving him one of his best glares, Ichigo looked him over. Same bucket hat, same hideous coat, and he couldn’t see his feet from what he was laying on, but he’d bet anything he still wore his geta sandals. But the warmth in his eyes were gone. Oh, they weren’t cold, after all, Ichigo was a nine-year-old boy to him. But there was no familiarity, no amusement at a new idea to piss Ichigo off; instead he looked at him like a problem to be solved. And his parents were now entirely focused on him again. Great.

         “Ichigo, are you okay?! Tell mommy what happened. What hurt you?” His mother was in his face, not shaking him because of his wounds only. His dad was silent, but he was clearly worried, and was also staring at him. He didn’t know what to say.

         ‘Just tell ‘em a monster broke your arm in a dream’

         “A monster broke my arm in my dream.” His mother looked about to cry, and his dad slumped against the wall. Both of them looked to the floor instead of at him, clearly distraught. Ichigo looked at Kisuke, who didn’t react to the news.

         “What did it look like, Ichigo-chan?” At that his parents looked to him again, obviously expecting – but dreading – the answer.

         ‘Tall, black with small horns, and long white hair. And a creepy mask.’

         “It was tall, and completely black.” Ignoring the horror on his parents’ faces, he continued. “It had horns on its head, and long white hair. It also had a scary mask over its face.” Kisuke let the healing kido drop and hid his face behind his fan. At that, his dad grabbed Kisuke and dragged him to the corner while they argued quietly. His mom got back in his face.

         “It’s going to be okay, Ichigo. I promise. Mommy won’t let the monster hurt you again.” She was obviously trying not to cry, and grasped his small child hands in her shaking ones. He felt awful about worrying his parents, but besides what the monster looked like, he hadn’t lied to them. He had the beginnings of an idea forming.

         “It talked to me, too.” The hushed voices of the men were silenced. His mom still looked worried, but instead of desperate she looked curious.

         ‘Whatcha doin, king?’

         “Son. What did it say to you?” His dad asked, speaking to him for the first time since he arrived in the past. He remembered the story of how his parents met, so he was probably taking this personally.

         “It told me to get stronger. It said it wouldn’t work with someone as weak as I was.” He made sure to look down at that, to seem ashamed. When no one said anything, he looked back up at the adults. He blinked. They seemed frozen, his dads mouth gaping open, Kisuke not blinking, and even his mom with wide eyes. He hoped he didn’t make a mistake.

         “Hmm. Could you please explain everything that happened in your dream, Ichigo-chan?” Kisuke set his fan down, and took a seat on a cushion by the wall. His parents followed their lead, but his mom made sure to scoot hers beside him. Thinking fast, Ichigo finalized his plan.

         “I woke up on the side of a skyscraper.” Ichigo had never understood his inner world, but had never been embarrassed by it either. “Then, I talked to Old Man for a bit.” This was definitely risky, but he was not about to tell anyone he was from the future. The confusion on all three adults’ faces was actually pretty funny. Ichigo wondered if this is what Kisuke always felt like.

         “What old man? The monster?” Looking to his mom, Ichigo answered. He was an awful liar, apparently, but he knew how to tell truths in a convenient way. He learned from watching Kisuke.

         “The Old Man. He’s always been there.” He saw his dad’s hand move to his hip for a sword that wasn’t there. He knew he thought Ichigo found his zanpakuto spirit.

         “Always been where, son?”

         “Old Man says it’s my inner world.” Kisuke’s eyes gleamed and Ichigo tried to believe he wouldn’t experiment on a child. Isshin actually looked excited too, and stood up from the cushion.

         “Do you know his name, Ichigo?” He asked. Masaki didn’t look as happy, but curious anyway.

         “Yeah, he told me ages ago.” Everyone blinked at the non-answer. Ichigo didn’t know how he kept his face neutral, but he managed it. Kisuke rose from his seat as well, and spoke through his fan.

         “What is his name, Ichigo-chan?” Well, time to drop the bomb. Ichigo is a terrible liar, after-all. Kisuke and Isshin were very excited, though probably for different reasons. His mom just looked concerned.

         “Ywach.” Kisuke actually dropped his fan. His dad looked confused, so Ichigo realized Masaki hadn’t felt the need to tell him the legend. He must’ve been told by Kisuke after his mom died. Ichigo was struck by that thought. Isshin had known about the quincies before they attacked, but he didn’t know now. But he knew after his mom died. He knew what killed her for years, and he let Ichigo think he had killed her. Yes, Isshin had repeatedly told him it wasn’t his fault, but Ichigo hadn’t believed him. Hadn’t known what Isshin had known. Swallowing that bitter pill, he looked to his mom. He startled, as he had only seen his mother that terrified once in his life, on a rainy June day.

         Apparently, she got over her shock, because she grabbed both his shoulders and brought his face to hers. Biting back a yelp from his still injured arm, he was frozen by her gaze. It was harder than he had ever seen; she actually seemed angry. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea.

         “What did he tell you? What did he promise you? Ichigo, you cannot trust that man.” She very nearly yelled in his face. He swallowed some fear, having never seen his mother actually angry. Stern, from the very few times he had disobeyed her, but never angry. “What does he want from you, answer me!” Her voice rose as the sentence went on, until she was yelling. She jumped when Isshin placed a hand on her shoulder.

         “Masaki, what’s going on? Who is Ywach?” She ignored him.

         “Ichigo, answer mommy. What has he said to you?” She spoke quieter, and let go of his shoulders. Ichigo glanced over at Kisuke, who seemed just as serious, but was staying out of the family drama.

         “He doesn’t usually talk. I talk to him. Sometimes he gives me advice about fighting, though.” Masaki looked slightly less like a cornered animal then, so he continued. “That’s all. I tell him about you guys and what I do when I’m awake.” Masaki narrowed her eyes again and Ichigo wondered what he said wrong.

         “Did he ask you to tell him about us?” Oh. Yeah that would be concerning to her.

         “No mommy. I just get bored and talk to him.” His mom calmed down, but was still frowning. Ichigo decided to continue his plan. “I talked to him about today’s practice and Tatsuki-chan.” His mom sighed and nodded.

         “I’m sorry, Ichigo, he has the same name as a bad man Mommy knew about, is all.” She smiled at him, but it wasn’t one of her usual face-brightening smiles. “What happened after you talked with Yw… with the Old Man?” His dad looked more lost than ever, and a rather large part of Ichigo took satisfaction in it.

         “Well, then I saw him look behind me, and when I turned around, the monster was there.” Now Isshin was focused on the story again, but Ichigo could tell Masaki and Kisuke were still shaken over the reveal that Ywach lived inside him. “The monster laughed and told me I looked like a brat, and got mad when I told him I wasn’t one.” Ichigo felt Masaki get more involved in the present situation as her son spoke of angering the powerful hollow. “He told me to prove it, and then pulled a giant knife out of nowhere. The Old Man shouted my name, and when I looked at him, he threw a bright blue sword at me.” Masaki gripped his uninjured arm, so he decided to keep mentions of Ywach to a minimum. At this point he just told the truth, although making a conscious effort not to use vocabulary a kid shouldn’t know. “Then I caught the blue sword, and swung it at the monster, and he swung his at me. We hit each other’s swords, and he made me fly through several of the other skyscrapers and my arm really hurt.” His mom rubbed his arm to comfort him and his dad frowned. “I hit another skyscraper, but didn’t go through it, and the monster came up to me. I thought he’d hit me again, but he just threw away his sword and said that he wouldn’t work for someone as weak as me, and vanished.” He looked at his mom warily, for she wouldn’t like the next part. “Then Old Man told me not to worry, and that he’d make me stronger so the monster – he called it a hollow – couldn’t hurt me again.” All the adults looked wary at that, and Ichigo couldn’t think of a way to convince them. They all seemed to be thinking. He didn’t know if they were above sealing his powers away to ‘protect’ him. He would usually say his mom would never allow it, but she definitely didn’t want Ywach around her son.

         ‘Ichigo, your plan is sound, but I believe I could be of assistance. It will never work with you playing as my middle-man. They would assume I am manipulating you.’ The smooth voice of his quincy blood spoke up. Ichigo was a little surprised. His Zanpakuto wouldn’t shut up if you paid him, but Ywach was usually content to watch everything in stoic silence. He thought this was a terrible idea, but relented. Focusing his reiatsu, he felt the older man assisting in the technique.

         “He spoke up just now.” Ichigo inserted into the silence. His mother’s eyes widened for what must’ve been the fifth time that day.

         “He can speak to you when… nevermind, what did he say, Ichigo?” Ichigo saw Ywach forming behind them, but made sure not to look directly at him.

         “He wants to talk to you face-to-face.” Masaki leaned back after he spoke, confusion and fear plain to see. Even Kisuke looked decidedly uncomfortable at the idea.

         “Yes. I do.” Yelping, the three of them jumped and turned to the dark-haired man standing behind them. Kisuke had Benihime pointed at the intruder, Isshin stood in front of Ichigo, and Masaki formed a thin Heilig Bogen and aimed a Heilig Pfeil at him. With all eyes off of him, Ichigo studied his mom’s quincy bow. It wasn’t solid like Uryu’s silver one was, and thinner and dimmer than his first ones. Ichigo got the impression it was anything but weaker though, and he wondered how that worked. “I believe I can answer your questions better than Ichigo.” He didn’t smile, but his slouch against the wall and lack of weapons showed his intent to appear non-threatening.

         His mom didn’t care.

         “What do you want with my son?” She hissed out through clenched teeth. Ichigo thought that people who got tired of his over-protectiveness had never met Kurosaki Masaki. Kisuke seemed content to guard the two helpless Kurosakis and let his mom question him.

         “His happiness.” It didn’t look like she believed him, so he tried again. “You are under the impression that I am the quincy king. You are only half-correct.” Masaki lowered the bow only slightly.

         “Explain.”

         “Ichigo is one-of-a-kind.” His quincy half started. “A near-perfect mixture of shinigami, hollow, and quincy.” He tilted his head in thought. “And human, from your husband’s gigai.”

         “What does that have to do with you?” Masaki asked, obviously thinking that Ywach thought of him as an interesting experiment.

         “Urahara Kisuke.” The man straightened at the attention, Benihime still aimed at the male quincy. “Can you explain to Masaki how a shinigami’s inner world works?” Based on Kisuke’s widening eyes, the genius had only needed that clue to figure it out.

         “Ah, well, you see… a shinigami’s inner world is a mental manifestation of their soul. It is a pseudo-dimension where the manifestation of their power – also known as their zanpakuto – resides.” Kisuke side-eyed Ywach as he spoke, probably thinking about what he learned.

         “Yes. It is a part of all shinigami, and only shinigami.” Ywach spoke, looking at Isshin. “Quincies do not have anything similar, neither do hollows, nor humans.” He turned back to Masaki. “But all quincies have my blood and bits of my soul flowing through them, granting them their power.” Masaki’s grip on her bow tightened as she finally understood. “Because of your sons’ hybrid nature, I gained a consciousness.” He nodded to Isshin. “As did the hollow that was passed down from your soul, Masaki.” Masaki just gripped her bow tighter, and aimed between his eyes.

         “So you are him.” The Old Man just blinked.

         “No. I have his memories from until I created the quincies, and a very small portion of his soul.” Masaki just frowned harder. “Ywach himself would not be planning his own downfall.” At that, the bow did drop a bit, but only because of Masaki’s shock.

         “What?!”

         “I’ve already told you. My desire is for Ichigo’s happiness. I presume you have heard the tale?” At Masaki’s nod, he continued. “That time is nearly up. In just over a month, he will regain his intellect. And he will immediately take back his power from all impure quincies. Most won’t survive.”

         “Kanae-chan.” His mother breathed, saddened.

         “I am not him anymore, but I was. I know how he operates. You will be struck by the light of Auswälen just like the rest because of the hollow that infected you.” Masaki dropped the bow. Isshin gasped and allowed his worry of his wife to overcome his wariness of the quincy spirit.

         “How can we stop that? A month?” He gathered his wife in his arms; she let him. “Where can we even find him?”

         “I don’t know.” Ywach lied. “You can’t stop it.” Kisuke remained silent, but Ichigo saw that he doubted Ywach’s claim of ignorance. “Ichigo, however, can.” Ichigo look at him just as quizzically as the adults, but for a different reason.

         ‘What are you doing? My parents will never let me fight you!’

         ‘I’m aware, Ichigo. I know what I’m doing.’

         Masaki spoke up for the non-time travelers. “What can Ichigo do?”

         “He’s very strong. A quincy by blood, and the reiatsu of a captain-class shinigami without training.” Another lie, but they didn’t need to know that. “I can train him to protect against Auswälen. With his strength, he could protect the entire south-east coast within a month’s time.” Masaki didn’t look convinced, and voiced her doubts.

         “How can we trust you?” Ywach actually chuckled at that.

         “I can’t force you to. Trust your son instead.” Masaki looked to her son, and Ichigo stared back. She smiled, then frowned, and then grimaced.

         “Fine. You have a month, and then I’m training Ichigo. We’ll see if you are right around that time, huh?” Ichigo almost couldn’t believe it. He hadn’t even considered getting training from his mom. He was also a little excited. Then Kisuke spoke up.

         “What about the hollow?” Isshin tensed at his words, and Ywach just waved dismissively.

         “He also cares about Ichigo. In his… own way.” The others didn’t look like they bought it. “He is not exactly the same hollow you two fought. He is bits of it, that mixed with Ichigo’s own soul.” They did calm at that, flattering Ichigo. “Now, however, I must return. Materializing is taxing on Ichigo.” He disappeared abruptly, and all the adults looked to him. His mom put her hand to his cheek, and kissed his forehead.

         “Everything is going to be okay, sweetheart, let’s go home. We’ll talk tomorrow after you get some sleep.” She held his hand as he jumped off the table, said goodbye to Kisuke, and ignored his dad’s questioning glare. They reached the shop floor, and saw Karin and Yuzu sleeping o Tessai’s lap. The desk only had a few candy wrappers.

         “Ah. Kurosakis. I only let them have a few pieces, since it was so late. They fell asleep soon after.” He gave them to their grateful parents, before looking at Ichigo. “Would you like some, young man? It’s only fair.” Ichigo took the offered candy to be polite, and the family of five packed into the car. Ichigo, suddenly realizing how long a day it had been, fell asleep before they got home. Neither Masaki or Isshin had the heart to wake him, and carried all their children to their beds, before heading to their room for another long conversation.