“Have ya tried evil?” Ichimaru asks with that oh-so-familiar smirk, his reiatsu prickling over Ichigo’s skin like a thousand little needles. “It’s not as bad as ya think.”
Ichigo, of course, responds with a fierce cry and a slash of Zangetsu, one that the former captain bats aside and dances to avoid with more than a little ease. It’s frustrating to fight Ichimaru for more reasons than he can count.
At least, Ichigo thinks to himself, they are trying to recruit him and not seduce him. Frankly, he’s not sure which would be more terrifying. Considering the methods Matsumoto had used the last time he ventured into Soul Society, well, Ichigo would have to think long and hard about it.
“We could talk about this, ya know,” Ichimaru continues, evading Ichigo’s attacks with that ineffable grace. “We could make ya an offer ya can’t refuse.”
Ichigo scowls, eyebrows drawing down, his reiatsu slicing into the air and against Ichimaru’s to no effect. “Not interested,” he growls out and feels his Hollow prickle at the back of his mind, perking up, interested in what Ichimaru might have to offer.
Tastes familiar, aibou, says Shirosaki with hunger in his tone. He’s one of us.
One of us. Ichigo repeats the words to himself. One of us? One of the Vizard?
Ichimaru chuckles at him. “That spike in yer reiatsu tells me otherwise.” His eyes open to mere slits, flashing at Ichigo, before he disappears.
Ichigo whirls, expecting the attack to come from behind. But then there’s a warm exhalation on the back of his neck and a swamp of massive reiatsu crashing down over him, nearly drowning him in heavy power. He drops to his knees, gasping for breath, taken by surprise and the sheer glee Shirosaki reflects.
One of us! the Hollow cackles.
The old man, Ichigo notices, is oddly silent.
“They’ll betray ya eventually,” Ichimaru purrs, fingers teasing coolly across the back of Ichigo’s neck, leaving a tingle behind. “When they find out what ya are.”
Ichigo reaches inside himself, demands and doesn’t ask from Shirosaki, and finds the reiatsu-strength to push himself back to his feet. He whirls around, Zangetsu bared, and finds Ichimaru staring back at him, nonplussed.
“We’ll be waitin’ for ya, Kurosaki,” Ichimaru says with promise in his tone and a retreat of that debilitating reiatsu. “Open invitation.”
He vanishes as quickly as he had arrived, leaving Ichigo standing alone in the middle of the street, wondering what the hell just happened.
Should listen to him, aibou, Shirosaki whispers. We’re living on borrowed time.
Zangetsu remains eerily silent on the matter though Ichigo can feel the old man ruminating.
“One of us,” Ichigo murmurs to himself before he shakes his head and leaps to the nearest rooftop.
It seems he has some thinking of his own to do.