The Final Straw
He sat and stared into nothing, words echoing round and round in his head. Somewhere beyond his sight but within the house, he could hear a television. There was a shower running. And Yuzu doing the dishes in the kitchen, humming under her breath, pretending that everything was fine even if it wasn’t.
They had tried to kill his son.
It echoed in his mind.
Seireitei. They had tried to kill his son.
Isshin knew that he should have expected as much. Ichigo wasn’t exactly on their favored son’s list anymore. Not after what the Shinigami had planned to do beforehand, what they had run away to escape and why Ichigo had fled to Hueco Mundo. But to do something so callous, so cowardly as attacking during the night. As applying some sort of twisted poison.
It made his blood burn. Boil. A haze of red filling his vision until he could feel his reiatsu sizzling at his self-induced shields.
For the first time in so many, many years, Isshin was angry. Beyond furious. He felt his fingers drawing into fists, felt his reiatsu swirl and collide against the barriers that held it tightly to his frame. He felt the urge to draw his zanpakutou again, to see blood stain the hilt and blade. And to finally – finally! – enact something like revenge. He wanted to see Seireitei burn and not for himself.
He had thought that he had left it all behind him. But he should have known that leaving didn’t necessarily mean he had escaped. The breadth of the reiatsu in his son, the rising power in his daughters, it was only a matter of time before his connections to Soul Society caught up to them.
Pushing himself to his feet, Isshin rose from the back porch where he had been staring into nothingness and turned back towards the house. He tucked the envelopes that Yoruichi had given him under one arm and stepped through the sliding door into the living room.
Sado-kun was watching something on the television, and though his dark eyes met Isshin’s, he didn’t ask. Isshin rather liked him for that, his understanding silence. The boy was a good friend to Ichigo, and he was glad that his son had met someone like Sado-kun. Isshin tossed the teen the letter Ichigo had written.
He moved on, passing quickly through and down the hallway. By the kitchen and the bathroom door where the shower was still running. Probably Orihime-chan, unless she was still out shopping. He opened his senses briefly, recognizing Karin. Okay, his daughter then. No surprise there.
Stopping by the twins’ shared room, he left the letters Ichigo had written them on their dresser. He eyes flickered briefly to the picture sitting next to the formerly empty space. A family photo that Yuzu must have grabbed before they had fled. Masaki smiled lovingly back at him, holding Ichigo in her arms as Isshin cradled newly born twins, looking flustered. Kisuke had taken that picture for them, he remembered.
Twisting his jaw, Isshin left the room and moved down the hall. He tossed Orihime-chan’s letter onto her bed as he passed. The bubbly girl was probably still at the store, hopefully obeying the list they had written and not trying to spice it up with her own sense of flavor. Perhaps Yamada-kun would help rein her in. Isshin held onto the letter for the healer, who now stayed in a neighboring house with Kisuke’s staff.
At the end of the hall was his own bedroom, and Isshin stepped inside, closing the door behind him. He was looking for something specific, a small and latched box under the bed, right beneath the headboard. In a few minutes, he had it out, covered with dust despite the fact that it had recently been moved from their house to this place. The mattress squeaked as Isshin plopped down on it, momentarily running his hands over the lid and sides.
No one could see it unless they had spiritual powers of significant strength. He’d had Kisuke create this for him not too long ago, though he didn’t say why he had needed it. He assumed that Kisuke had his suspicions, but the shopkeeper had never been able to fully figure it out.
It was simple and plain, a small box of dark wood with a dark-metal latch on the front. Even in his gigai, he could feel the power pulsing over the surface. The power that it contained with no small amount of struggle. Taking a deep breath, Isshin flicked the latch with a thumb and pushed the lid open.
There wasn’t much to it. The box wasn’t lined or anything spectacular. And only one item rested in the bottom against the grain of the wood. A silver key that seemed rather innocuous were it not for the purpose that made it so important. The very thing that Aizen Sousuke was seeking at this moment. And the very thing that bastard Yamamoto probably didn’t even realize was missing.
It was one of the few things that Isshin had taken with him when he’d left.
There was no love lost between he and his father, and Isshin could now admit this without stirring surges of anger. That emotion inside him had turned empty after the first few decades. Now, he just passively disliked his father and left it at that. He had no energy to spare for hatred of the old man. The captain-commander would never know that Isshin had taken the key. At least, not until it came back to bite him in the ass. As he so richly deserved.
Isshin might have left Soul Society sooner if it hadn’t been for his mother. If there was one person that he had truly loved from Seireitei, it was her, Yamamoto Mikan. She’d been the light of their lives, and he never understood how she had fallen for a man like Yamamoto Genryuusai Shigekuni. She’d been the only reason Isshin had put up with the old bastard for so long. And when she had died, her son didn’t bother trying sticking around.
He had departed Soul Society and never looked back.
Shunsui and Jyuushiro, they hadn’t understood, which was why he hadn’t told them. In fact, he hadn’t really told anyone he was leaving. Just up and vanished in the middle of the night. He had taken the key as one last “fuck you” to the old man and had laughed at the thought that it would be a long time before the bastard even noticed it was missing.
They probably thought he was dead. It was for the better that they did anyway. Shun and Jyuu-chan, they had always been Yamamoto’s favorites. Where they had and still received praise, Isshin had been chastised. While they were treated as sons, Isshin had always been compared to a stranger. But Isshin had never blamed Shunsui and Jyuushiro for that favoritism; it wasn’t their fault.
The old bastard had simply taken his fear of the appearance of nepotism to the extreme and not once could Isshin remember a moment when he felt his father had been proud of him. Rising swiftly through the Shinigami ranks hadn’t been enough. Promoted several seats then to vice-captain and captain and finally chosen for the Royal Guard. It had never been enough. It was never enough.
Yamamoto had always managed to find some fault in everything, until it got to the point that Isshin had stopped trying to impress him. Had stopped trying to even be his son or even an acquaintance. And often, Mikan had been the only barrier between them, preventing things from being completely destroyed. Father and son had never understood each other. And not even dear his mother had been enough to change that.
Argue and tease as he might, Isshin had always loved Ichigo. Love all his children. Not something his own father could claim.
Frowning faintly, Isshin traced a finger over the length of the key. He could feel the reiatsu in the metal, pulsing over it and pressing insistently against him. It was tired of lying dormant; it wanted to serve its purpose. A king needed to be chosen. That was what the energetic throb seemed to say.
They’d tried to kill his son. Yamamoto had tried to kill his own grandson. His only grandson. Granted, the captain-commander might not have known who Ichigo was. Ichigo looked too much like a Shiba, like Mikan’s family. But it wasn’t obvious that he was related to the old bastard unless the subtle hints of Isshin’s reiatsu within Ichigo were that noticeable. Hell, Isshin could hardly tell. And it was so vastly out powered by the feeling of Ichigo himself – and his Hollow powers at times – that it was almost impossible to sense.
None of that, however, explained why Yamamoto had taken measures to murder Ichigo and his friends. And then the most recent attempt, a so despicably cowardly attempt, was the worst so far. He had driven Ichigo to the one place that would accept him and then faulted the boy for it. True Seireitei logic at its best. They honestly believed Ichigo should have just accepted his death for the skittish caution it was. Agreed that it was in his best interest to die. Fools.
Isshin knew in that moment what it was he had to do. The key was right; a king needed to be chosen. That was the only way things were going to change, the only way Ichigo could be safe again. The only way his daughters would be safe. And Orihime-chan. Sado-kun. Ishida-kun. Everyone. Yamamoto and Chamber 46 had to fall, to be replaced.
It was the only way.
He made his decision then and there. It might have been selfish. But to Isshin, there was no one more precious than his children. And he would risk the world if it meant they would be safe. The key would go to Aizen. Isshin could think of no one more deserving, and besides, Ichigo would have wanted him to.
“So that’s where it was.”
Isshin nearly dropped the key in his surprise. He whirled around, finding Yoruichi crouched in his window, grinning at him. Her eyes still gleamed with a quite fury, much like his own he imagined. Isshin hadn’t even felt her coming. Damn ninjas. His fingers curled around the King’s Key, felt the metal bite into his fingers.
The former captain tilted her head to the side. “I never would have expected you to have it. Though I should have known.”
“The old bastard still thinks it’s safe in its hiding place,” Isshin returned with an almost-smile. “I’m thinking I’ll look forward to proving him wrong.”
Yoruichi’s lips twitched. “You’ll just give it away? It’s that easy?”
Inclining his head, Isshin felt that anger returning. Not that it had ever really gone away. “They tried to kill Ichigo. My son! That’s all the reason I need.”
She slipped into the room and landed silently on his carpet as she leaned back against the open window. “It’s reason enough. You wouldn’t happen to need a guide would you?” Yoruichi asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
As a matter of fact, he would. Since Sou-kun hadn’t exactly advertised his position and Isshin had no clue how he would get into Las Noches. He didn’t want Yoruichi to deliver the key; he wanted to hand it over himself.
“Yeah, I would,” Isshin agreed.
He wanted to give Aizen his victory with his own two hands.