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Who to Trust

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Looking down at his son, Isshin grimaced. This was never a place he wanted to be at, sitting at the bedside of another loved one as he waited for a wizard to arrive.

Last time, his beloved Masaki did not survive.

As he sat at Ichigo’s side, Isshin wondered if Urahara would have better luck this time.

His son laid under a curse, sleeping as magics flickered around his body. Isshin was not one who was really talented with magics, and could really only barely feel the pressure of the Tradition trying to work out some solution that followed a story path that it approved of. Such powerful, if mindless, power loomed heavily over royal families, and Isshin was used to feeling the weight of stories trying to push him around.

He hoped that it wouldn’t find a way until Urahara arrived. Even if the thought of having to trust the man made him uneasy at times.

The man was only barely a good wizard, tinkering in things that were probably more dark magic than light. But he was the closest thing they had to a protective magic user in the kingdom. They had no Godmother here, and Urahara was the strongest magic user who wouldn’t rip magic out of people.

As a King, Isshin had been taught a lot about the Tradition. The mindless force of power that tried to make fairy tales and stories come true over and over. Any royal with a good magician around usually knew some bits about it. So many stories happened to princes and princesses, both good and bad. Being taught some of the possibilities were nearly required in some Kingdoms, just so the royal families could survive.

So when an old man showed up at the palace, he had made sure Ichigo was on his best behavior. It was Ichigo’s birthday, so it was a dangerous time.

But good behavior was not enough.

When the withered old man had straightened, power actually visible around him as it swirled through a transformation. Afterwards, Aizen stood there. As dark a wizard as any. He accused Ichigo of rudeness and brought down his magic on Isshin’s only son.

He cursed Ichigo to turn into a beast, smiling as he did. Isshin never hated anything as much as he hated Aizen at that moment.

For a moment, his child had cried out, a mask of white and red ripping into reality over his face. Then there was a flash of light, and Isshin and Aizen had been knocked back by a wave of sound. In the center of an unexpected thunderclap was Ichigo, who looked groggy and confused.

Aizen recovered first, and slammed his staff against the ground. There was another ripple of something around Ichigo, then the redhead swayed and slumped to the floor. He was already asleep.

This was not a Tradition path Isshin was prepared for with his son. He couldn’t recall a single story with a sleeping prince. Sleeping princesses, yes. Sleeping princes, not so much.

There was a snarl from Aizen, as he reached for Ichigo and was repealed by something. His eyes narrowed, and Isshin watched, even as he worked on getting up himself and going to protect his child.

“Urahara,” Aizen snarled, obviously seeing something that Isshin couldn’t. Hearing the other wizard’s name said with such anger did nothing to help Isshin’s state of mind.

Then Aizen looked at him. “One year,” he said. “One year, and your child will wake up as a beast.”

His words had so much Traditional power behind them that Isshin felt himself rock back from the force of it. He was no magic user, so he could rarely feel magic that witches, wizards, and the like used.

The fact he could now was horrifying.

Before he could do anything else, Aizen slammed his staff again, and vanished.

For a moment, Isshin froze, looking at the spot where the wizard had stood. Then he roared for the guards, moving to check on his son.

Ichigo seemed fine, just asleep. Around his throat was a burn, and Isshin realized a charm that Ichigo always wore was still radiating heat. He tried to pull it off, but hissed as it sparked at him. Something else to ask Urahara about, as he could see the symbols that made up the man’s name in small engravings on the metal charm.

The guards arrived, and Isshin had them take Ichigo to his rooms. Then he hurried to his own quarters. There was a mirror there that would reach Urahara.

He almost hesitated.

Urahara wasn’t always trustworthy. He hadn’t been able to save Masaki when she had been cursed herself. He had an interest in Ichigo that worried Isshin as well. There were a lot of times he caught Ichigo talking to the man on the mirror when he should have been busy doing other things.

The wizard was a white wizard, approved by the closest Godmother. But he was constantly interacting with that group of magic users who were darker.

But his son was more important than his small crisis of trust with a man who had more power than he should.

Pushing open the curtains that covered the mirror, Isshin called for the only person he knew could go toe to toe with Aizen in cleverness. Once he left a message with one of Urahara’s people, he checked in on his daughters, and went to sit with his son. The girls joined him, Yuzu fussing some as she tried to make sure he was comfortable, even asleep.

She reminded him of her mother.

Isshin felt helpless. All of his hope had to rest on a man he didn’t fully trust, but had to accept.

What sort of world was this?