[Bleach] The Butterfly Effect 02

Chapter Two – Something in the Aftermath

Sliding the towel over his head, Ichigo slipped out of the bathroom and fought back a yawn. Above him, the rain was steadily falling, an annoying cadence on the rooftop. It hadn’t let up at all in the past few hours, growing stronger and stronger. The sky rumbled loudly, inspiring another flash of lightning that was just visible beyond the window. He hoped no Hollows were about tonight. It would be a bitch to fight in this mess.

Ichigo let the towel slide down around his shoulders and turned down the hall, bare feet padding quietly across the wooden floor. It was unnaturally still in the house at the moment. Yuzu and Karin were studying most likely, and Jinta was helping Tessai-san clean up the dinner dishes. Ururu was probably reading in a quiet corner since Jinta was too busy to tease her.

And his dad, he was-

“Ichigo!” His father’s voice poured down the corridor, coming from an open doorway. “Ichigo!”

Growling under his breath, Ichigo rolled his eyes and hurried. If he didn’t, his dad would keep calling.

“I’m coming!” he all but shouted back, finally sliding into the doorway. “What is it?” He scowled on principle alone, not appreciating the summons.

His dad smiled brightly, that damn fan of his waving through the air as he reclined in his chair. His desk was covered with stacks of messy paperwork, scribbles and equations, and the occasional insane muttering.

Ichigo could remember so clearly in that instant when he had awoken to this face. Shadowed by an ugly hat and chin covered in coarse whiskers but a bright if sorrowful smile on his lips. He remembered crying with his sisters clinging to him as he lay in bed, arm unable to move because of the thick wrappings. At the time, he’d only vaguely recognized this man as Isshin’s friend. He’d only met Urahara once or twice, and in his fright of earlier, Ichigo had not recognized him. In fact, he hadn’t even remembered until the man had reminded him.

Urahara had promised to take care of them, that he would make sure they weren’t alone. And despite the odds, he had. He’d taken Ichigo and his sisters into his home without asking anything in return and treated them as if they were his own. Even when Ishida-san – Ryuuken – had protested, Urahara hadn’t budged.

“That Shinigami woke up,” his dad commented. “You should go talk to her.” He raked a hand over his hair as he returned his hat to its proper place. He had never explained his reason for caring about the ugly thing so much, and Ichigo hadn’t asked. Though he strongly suspected it had something to do with his mother.

“Is it really smart to let her stay here?” Ichigo questioned as he lifted one corner of the towel to wipe away a bead of water that slithered down his neck. “I mean, wouldn’t that be dangerous for you?”

The blond shrugged in his usual casual way. “She should be grateful, ne? And if I have to, we have ways of making people forget.” His pale eyes gleamed with a certain mischief, and Ichigo really wasn’t surprised.

The teen rolled his eyes, turning back towards the hall. “Why doesn’t that reassure me?” he asked rhetorically, even as he fought back another yawn. His hand clamped to his shoulder, squeezing the sore joint. The shower had done much to help, but it still ached.

His father’s laughter followed him out of the room. There was a thunk as the chair legs hit the floor once more, the blond most likely returning to his complicated calculations. He had been working tirelessly on some big project lately. Ichigo hadn’t asked because he doubted he would be able to understand even if he had. He did know, however, that it had something to do with Hollows, including the one within him.

Shaking his head, Ichigo continued down the hall and towards the spare room. The door was cracked open a few inches, and Ichigo paused just beyond it, hearing the woman’s low voice. He couldn’t make out what she was saying nor could he feel anyone else in there with her. Slightly suspicious, he peered through the opening to find that she was sitting up in her bed. The Shinigami had one hand lifted, and balanced on her finger was a black butterfly. Wings fluttered slowly as the woman spoke to it. Her brow was furrowed in concentration, lips pulled into a frown. But seconds later, the butterfly was flitting away, its dark wings taking it to the window. It passed through the glass easily and fled into the dampness of the evening.

Ichigo wondered who she had contacted. Perhaps the captain of her division. Maybe she was just reporting in. What all had she said? And why wasn’t his father more concerned?

Urahara Kisuke could be so damn nonchalant at times; it was annoying.

Taking a breath, Ichigo pulled in the escaping tendrils of his reiatsu, effectively masking his presence. No need to let her realize just how strong he was. With that, he lifted a hand and briefly rapped his knuckles against the wooden frame. Without waiting for a response, he slid the door open fully to catch her in the middle of startling in surprise.

“You’re awake,” Ichigo said, pausing in the doorway and leaning against the frame. Another trickle of water crept down his neck, and he swiped at it with the edge of his towel with an annoyed motion.

She smiled up at him, but it was thin at best. One that definitely didn’t reach her eyes. The girl looked him over, something flickering over her expression before she dipped her head at him.


He waved a hand, hoping to dispense with all that annoying formality. “Yeah, that’s me.”

Gold eyes flickered over the girl, who didn’t look much better than earlier. The blood was gone, but she was still frighteningly pale and fragile. Like a piece of stained-glass. He hardly believed she was a Shinigami. She barely seemed older than him, though he knew looks were often deceptive with spirits.

She folded her arms in her lap, eyes never leaving him. “Urahara-san said that you were the one who destroyed the Hollow. I didn’t realize there was another Shinigami on patrol around here.”

Ichigo winced internally. Obviously, his father hadn’t explained anything to her. He was going to strangle the old man for foisting off the explanations. That was just like him, too.

“Karakura’s a big town,” Ichigo replied, searching frantically for an explanation that held a lot of truth but was based on a complete lie.

The Shinigami inclined her head in agreement but didn’t lose sight of her initial line of questioning. “I don’t recognize you, Ichigo-san. What division are you from?”

Damn, she had to be one of those tenacious ones, didn’t she? And here he’d gotten the impression that the other Shinigami were a hearty collection of fools and idiots. His father’s words and not his.

“Shouldn’t you introduce yourself first?” Ichigo shifted in the doorway, frantically changing the subject once more. He wasn’t good at lying believably, and it pissed him off that his dad hadn’t thought to make something up.

She flushed, eyes widening at what was an obvious and very impolite foible. “Kuchiki Rukia of the thirteenth division,” the woman introduced and attempted to sit up straight, wincing when the action pulled at one of her many injuries. “This is my jurisdiction.”

“I know. I’ve seen you around,” Ichigo responded before his mouth completed communication with his brain. That might not have been the best thing to say.

Kuchiki latched onto that mistake, however, proving once again that not all Shinigami were morons. Damn.

“If you know that, then why are you here?” She peered at him again, that strange look passing through her expression once more.

“Like I said, it’s a big town,” Ichigo returned. “And I’m not from a division. I don’t work for the Gotei 13,” he corrected vaguely.

She tipped her head to the side, as if considering his words. “I see,” Kuchiki responded slowly and attempted one of those small, broken smiles again. “Thank you for the aid then, Ichigo-san. The Hollow was much stronger than it seemed.”

“Ichigo,” he suggested, not really wanting all that formality. “And I’ve noticed that myself. Karakura really attracts them.”

This, at least, was a topic he could feel comfortable with. Sorta. At least, it wasn’t directed at who and what he was. It was just like his father to foist the dirty work on him. Everyone knew how terrible of a liar Ichigo was!

“I noticed,” she agreed, and her blue eyes raked over him again. In fact, she had hardly looked away from him from the moment he walked into the room.

It made Ichigo just a bit uncomfortable. Or actually, really uncomfortable. His hand unconsciously lifted to his shoulder, squeezing the sore joint. And his cheeks heated under her intense stare. More so because he couldn’t tell what she was looking at. The discomfort turned to annoyance, and he twitched.

“Why the hell do you keep staring at me?” he demanded perhaps a tad too harshly, but he didn’t like this. He felt like a specimen on display.

Kuchiki’s eyes widened, and he was surprised to see that she blushed to the roots of her hair, turning her fair skin a cherry-tomato red. “I apologize,” she stammered, delicate hands twisting the sheets around her fingers. “You look like someone I used to know.”

Used to know? Well, either the guy was missing or dead, though Ichigo suspected the latter from her reaction. He considered it, faintly recalling that she had called a name in her brief second of lucidity.

“Kaien, right? You said his name earlier.”

Uncountable sadness that seemed all too familiar to Ichigo glimmered in her eyes. This was the grief of loss. He was certain of it now. Whoever this “Kaien” had been, he was certainly deceased now. And probably meant more than just a casual friend. A boyfriend maybe. Nakama?

Kuchiki nodded, releasing a slow breath. “Yes. You resemble him greatly.” She paused, and the corners of her mouth twitched. “But only in appearance. Your personalities differ.”

Ichigo wasn’t sure if he should take that as an offense or not, so he let it pass. He shrugged dismissively and raked one hand through his still damp hair, glancing around the room pointedly.

“Well, you can stay here until you’re healed,” he redirected the conversation because it had gotten uncomfortable and he was all for escaping.

“Thank you.” She tipped her head into a shallow bow, full of proper manners and the like. But she couldn’t quite cover up her subsequent yawn, body no doubt needing to recover from her injuries.

Still, it was strange. Ichigo had recovered from worse himself and much faster. What he could feel of her reiatsu, however, was a barely moving stream beneath the surface. Sluggishly stirring within its banks. The icy bite he had sensed earlier was missing, leaving only a chill wind behind. Whatever had happened between she and the Hollow, it had zapped at her reiatsu and left only remnants behind.

Just what kind of creature had it been?

He shifted back to the door, stepping out and hesitating with one hand left on the frame. “Get some rest,” Ichigo added, and well, that was the extent of his comfort. He didn’t know why his dad wanted him to talk to her. He supposed that it was to accept her gratitude face to face.

Ichigo waved goodbye over his shoulder and closed the door behind him to give her some privacy. She didn’t seem suspicious of anything, which was good. But he still didn’t think it was a good idea to keep her so close. Their continued existence depended on Soul Society not paying too much attention to them. Ichigo’s current form – for lack of a better word – was enough for the judgmental bastards to send down an assassination squad. Much less all the other stuff that was going on behind the scenes. Shinji and his gang. Yoruichi-san’s mischief. His own father’s experiments.

The teen wandered back towards his dad’s room, a frown pulling deeper on his lips. He needed some explanations, though it was never easy to understand the man’s thoughts processes. The scientist thrived on being mysterious, and he always had something up his sleeve.

Perverted shopkeeper. But it was thought fondly.

Dad was still in his messy office, tapping a pen against his chin as he stared thoughtfully at the ceiling. He was tipped back in his chair and watched the fan lazily rotate, hat missing from his head and perched on the desk instead. If it weren’t for his impeccable balance, he would have already fallen.

“Getting lots of work done I see,” Ichigo commented dryly, not bothering to announce himself any other way. No doubt his father had already anticipated his visit.

The pen paused in its rhythm briefly as the blond hummed low in his throat. “I’m contemplating,” he responded back before dropping his seat with a heavy thunk. “And how is our guest?”

“Suspicious as hell.” Ichigo shot him a sour, aggravated look. “Thanks for explaining things, by the way. Made everything a lot easier for me.”

“The sarcasm, it wounds me, Ichigo. Don’t you love me anymore?”

Teasing glinted in grey eyes, and Ichigo shook his head, very used to his dad’s antics. “This and that are two different things. So go ahead and tell me why she has practically no reiatsu.”

Sighing in defeat, Urahara took on a serious expression, lifting his eyebrow in Ichigo’s direction. “She drained herself fighting that Hollow. It had some sort of ability to leech reiatsu. I’ve had to place her in a gigai temporarily.”

Ichigo leaned against the desk. “How long is temporary?”

“It’s hard to say.” His dad shifted in his chair as the wind gave a great and angry gust, rattling the windows with a harsh spray of rain. “Until then, we’ll just have to keep up false pretenses.”

The teen scowled, not liking the idea of having to fake his entire existence for an indefinite period of time. “What am I supposed to do then? Keep her locked in the room?”

“That’s not suspicious at all,” his dad put in dryly, obviously amused. “Don’t worry! Tou-chan will think of something!” This was said brightly. Not that it encouraged Ichigo in the slightest.

He harrumphed and turned out of the room, stomach reminding him that he hadn’t eaten yet and was past time that he should do so. He didn’t like this one bit. He had the oddest feeling that things weren’t going to be as simple as his dad believed. There was something hanging in the air, and it wasn’t just the bad weather. It was almost tangible, like a charged warning. The thunder rumbling seemed to agree with him.

He would have to keep a close eye on that Shinigami.

Kisuke sighed and rose to his feet, frowning. The Shinigami slept soundly, and her wounds were healing very well. He supposed that was something to be relieved about. But he couldn’t help the stirrings of guilt. Even if it was something he had to do.

Gathering up his various utensils, Kisuke grabbed his hat off a nearby table and placed it back on his head. The girl murmured something in her sleep that he couldn’t quite make out and turned over. She didn’t seem distressed, so he didn’t worry and quietly left, closing the door behind him. It would probably be another day or so before she would be able to move on her own. And then, things really would become complicated. A lot of lies would have to be born.

He hoped that she and his son did not become too close in the coming weeks. Whether or not Ichigo would understand about the Hougyoku, Kisuke wasn’t sure. It was not something he was particularly proud of, but it needed to be done. He couldn’t let that bastard get his hands on it. And it wasn’t just his own safety at stake. Or even the lives of his family. It was everything. Kisuke rarely regretted anything, much less his inventions. He sincerely hoped he wouldn’t be given reason to regret this one.

The former captain wandered back towards his lab, senses soothed by the feel of all five of his children present and in good health. Yuzu had received a small cut on her forehead, and Karin was bruised, but they would be fine. Kisuke wouldn’t be able to face either of his now dead friends if he had let something happen to their children. They were just as precious to him, too.

He placed his kit on his cluttered desk amidst other projects in progress. Kisuke dropped down into his chair, the metal squeaking beneath him. A headache threatened to stab behind his eyeballs, and he felt inexplicably tired. He sighed, reaching for the Shinigami equivalent of extra-strength aspirin.

“I’m getting too old for this,” he muttered to no one in particular, popping three of the pills and swallowing them dry. The uncoated capsules were bitter on his tongue.

“If you’re old, then I must be ancient.”

The teasing voice, appearing out of nowhere, nearly gave Kisuke a heart attack. He whirled around in his chair, causing it to spin before his feet halted the movement. There, perched on his windowsill despite the rain coming down in sheets beyond the awning, was Yoruichi.

She grinned at him, golden eyes sparkling as she dripped on his floor. “Hey, Ki-chan.”

“Yoruichi!” he exclaimed in unexpected surprise and happiness. He leapt to his feet and grabbed for a mostly clean towel. “Get in here. You’re going to get sick.”

She easily caught the cloth, immediately pulling it over her head as one eyebrow lifted. “Too many years as a father, Kisuke. Need I remind you who the elder sibling is here?” Yoruichi lifted a fist, lightly knocking him upside the head, though he stood a good bit taller than she.

“You’ll understand when you have children of your own someday, kami save us all,” he returned, reaching up to make sure his hat had not slid askew. Kisuke looked down as she continued to drip on his floor. “I still have some of your clothes in my room. Change before you really do get sick,” he added with a push towards the door.

Yoruichi laughed at him, willingly going along with his demands. “Ah, but a life of responsibility is just not for me.” She squeezed water out of her hair as she preceded him to his room at the very end of the hall.

“Then, it is a good thing I’m here to make up for your lack of,” Kisuke teased, tugging at the end of her damp ponytail.

She winked at him. “Grow a few feet and you think you’re the top of the world. I still remember when you only came up to my chin.”

“And may that forever only be a memory.” Kisuke chuckled, recalling those days as well. He would never forget the day he’d met her, discovering that he had a sister all along who he’d never known about; it had been a surprise but a welcome one. “You don’t need to be superior to me in everything.”

“Just the things that count.” Yoruichi pushed open the door and moved into his bedroom, proceeding to rifle through his closet for something warm and dry to wear. The towel was dropped to the floor as she tossed out various articles of clothing, making it appear as if his hamper had thrown up.

Kisuke shook his head, watching as she selected a plain t-shirt and some loose pants, scowling at the color but choosing them anyway. And then, he turned his back as she unashamedly stripped out of her wet clothing and dropped them with soggy plops onto the floor. Honestly, she had no shame. Yoruichi was his sister, and he had no desire to see the goods that many men in Seireitei had lustily desired. It had taken him forever to break her out of the habit of wandering around the shouten in just her underwear. Poor Ichigo had suffered a week of blushing so badly that his friends thought he was sunburnt.

“Not that I’m complaining,” he began as more articles of wet clothing were flung hither-thither in his room. He examined his fingernails patiently. “But you braved the rain just for a visit? I know how much cats hate water.”

Yoruichi snorted in a very inelegant fashion. She had never been very ladylike, which baffled Kisuke since he knew she had been raised better.

“For my kawaii nephew, of course I would venture out of my den!” she declared loudly.

“Ichigo?” Kisuke guessed with a lifted brow.

“Who else?”

He heard the rustling of fabric before she chuckled.

“You can turn around Ki-chan.” Yoruichi clucked her tongue. “Honestly. You need to get laid.”

It was a credit to how long he had known her that he didn’t sputter gracelessly. And it was thanks to knowing her that he could easily connect her statements.

“I think five children is enough, my dear,” he returned as he shifted back around, his sister managing to make a plain shirt and partially ripped pants look stunning. Really, he envied her.

“No one said you had to actively procreate,” Yoruichi countered, rolling her eyes as she snatched the towel from the floor and pulled her hair into a messy, dripping pile on top of her head. “But as I was saying, I felt Ichigo’s reiatsu across town and decided to investigate.” She paused, eyes now serious. “Since when have you decided to take in Shinigami strays?”

“Since Ichigo brought one to me barely alive and bleeding,” the blond answered, mentally frowning. If Yoruichi had sensed all that, perhaps someone else had as well; he would need to stretch out his feelers and see if anyone had noticed Ichigo. “Besides, Yuzu and Karin were distraught. They asked me to help.”

She twisted the towel skillfully around her hair before being satisfied with it. The wet clothes were left in various clumps around his room. Kisuke sighed before resigning himself to picking up, just as he did for his children. So much for elder siblings.

“You as a father is too adorable for words,” Yoruichi teased, flopping down onto his bed and stretching out like a cat. “You couldn’t resist those big, shining eyes.”

“Perhaps. But that wasn’t the only reason you came, was it?” Her clothing was damp and clammy, and Kisuke hurried to dump them into the laundry basket.

She folded her arms behind her toweled hair. “Other than the fact that nearly anyone could feel Ichigo projecting? You really have to work on that, otouto.”

“I’m trying,” he retorted with a hint of impatience, not for her reminder but for himself. It was frustrating. “Not even my training is capable of teaching him to keep his reiatsu completely contained. The human body was not built to carry Shinigami abilities for an indefinite length of time.”

“He needs Retsu-san or Shunsui.” Yoruichi pursed her lips as she considered, forehead drawn tight with seriousness as her playful look shifted away. “Or better yet, Jyuushiro.”

Dropping the last bit in the hamper, Kisuke pulled his mouth into a line, sitting down tiredly on his bed. “I don’t think either of them will be able to do much. He can’t help that he is still somewhat human.” His hat fell from his head, landing beside him.

“Somewhat,” Yoruichi agreed, and there was sadness in her voice. “Have you noticed then?”

He fell back, stretching out across the bed perpendicular to his dear sister. “You mean, the fact that he’s leaking – for lack of a better word – into his friends?”

“Precisely that. Their powers are already stirring.” Her hand dropped to his hair, affectionately running her fingers through it. After so many years, they had grown comfortable with each other, an interesting camaraderie of brother and sister.

“I know. Tessai agreed to train Sado-kun, and the boy has already been here several times.” That incident with the parrot and the Hollow after it had pretty much sealed the need to teach the boy something. “Karin watches them occasionally. I think she wants to become a Shinigami.” He fought the urge to curl his fingers into fists.

“His sisters adore him.” Yoruichi smiled fondly. “It’s hard not to. At least, you don’t have to worry about that Quincy boy. Is Ryuuken still making a nuisance of himself?”

Kisuke snorted, thinking sourly of the pale-haired doctor, who had tried to take the Kurosaki children under his wing out of some misguided sense of duty to Isshin. No doubt he would have raised them to despise Shinigami – not that Kisuke was in love with Soul Society himself – and Ryuuken would not have known how to handle Ichigo.

He closed his eyes and let the soothing motions of her fingers chase away the lingering migraine. “He has given up. I’m more stubborn than he. At least in some things.” He considered for a moment. “I’m at a loss for what to do about Inoue-chan. Might you be willing to offer your services?”

Again, with the busty female, it had been a case of circumstances beyond his control opening their eyes to the spiritual world. Kisuke never would have expected Inoue’s brother to return as a Hollow and then subsequently try to consume her. It had been a difficult experience for Ichigo, who had never had to cleanse someone he’d known before. That had been only a couple of weeks ago, not long before Sado-kun acquired the possessed parrot.

Yoruichi laughed. “My dear otouto, you never did learn how to handle females. I suppose that means you don’t know what to do with Tatsuki-chan either?”

Kisuke bolted upwards. “Her, too?” he repeated in surprise, having not realized that she was affected as well. It had always been harder for him to sense these things in women. Perhaps Yoruichi was right.

Golden eyes danced in amusement as Yoruichi sat up, towel losing some of its tight coiling. “You haven’t noticed? Oh, that’s too funny.” She laughed, ignoring Kisuke’s unamused look. “I suppose I can take her under my wing, too. You’ve enough on your hand with Ichigo.”

He didn’t really need that reminder. He loved Ichigo dearly, but sometimes, even he was confused by the teen’s advanced growth and strength. And he couldn’t forget what he’d been forced to do to save Ichigo’s life. The changes the Hougyoku had made to him could never be reversed. Ichigo had never expressed anger over it, but Kisuke did wonder. And worry.

“What’re you going to do about Kuchiki-san?”

“Kuchiki?” Kisuke was horrified.

A noble? He had a noble Shinigami in his possession? And he’d stuffed her full of the Hougyoku? Hell, exile was looking like a walk in the park compared to what the Kuchiki would do to him.

“You didn’t recognize her?”

“I didn’t know I needed to!” He felt sick on the inside. “But now that I think about it… Dammit.”

There was no turning back now. Why hadn’t he recognized her sooner? He knew most of the Kuchiki cousins on sight thanks to his time in the second division, and he’d believed Byakuya-bo was an only child. Unless he’d had a kid when Kisuke wasn’t looking. He did recall hearing that the man had gotten married. Was he missing something?

Kisuke racked his brain and recalled with dawning clarity that Byakuya-bo had not only lost his wife but had adopted some brat from Rukongai as well. Ahh, so this was she.

His head started to spin just a bit.

“Well, she’s probably grateful more than anything. So long as you don’t lead her into who and what Ichigo actually is, everything should be fine,” Yoruichi stated dismissively, rising to her feet with a long and languorous stretch. Her towel slipped from her head and allowed the coil of dark hair free.

“Perhaps,” Kisuke responded faintly, wishing he hadn’t screwed up that badly. To put the Hougyoku in a Kuchiki. Not the smartest thing.

Yoruichi tossed him a sympathetic look before flouncing towards the door, having way too much energy on her hands. “Don’t worry, Ki-chan. Everything will be fine.” She winked and then disappeared out the doorway.

Down the hall, he felt her reiatsu move. And not but a few moments later, he heard Ichigo roar in annoyance and embarrassment.

“Ack! Yoruichi-san! Get off me!”

Her laugh echoed through the hallway. Kisuke could almost guarantee that she was glomping him, squeezing his face into her bosom.

“It’s oba-chan! Call me oba-chan, Ichi-kun!”

“Like hell!” he spluttered. “I’m too old for that.”

And there was the distant sound of a crash. Kisuke hoped that they hadn’t destroyed anything valuable.

There was a minute of silence where Kisuke hauled himself to his feet and snatched up his hat, heading out to make sure that they really didn’t break anything. Or that they didn’t wake up Kuchiki-san. And then, there was the laundry or dinner to start, either of which Tessai would do.

“No! Stop!” Ichigo shouted in a fluster from the end of the hall. “Put it back on! Fine, fine!

Kisuke couldn’t help but grin. Yoruichi always teased Ichigo like that. With her assets, nearly anyone would be bothered if she started to undress.

“You’re making him blush, oba-can,” Karin chided.

Her bored tone was audible as Kisuke drew near the main room. He could hear her clicking through the channels on the television, likely anticipating the moment Yuzu’s favorite show came on. The one with that fake spiritualist Don Kanonji.

“He’s a growing boy, you know.”

Yoruichi laughed. “But he’s just so cute when he blushes like that!”

As Kisuke rounded the corner, stepping into the doorway, he saw his sister pressing a finger to Ichigo’s cheek and nearly straddling him as he struggled to push her away. Indeed, his son was a brilliant shade of red, though whether from embarrassment or exertion Kisuke shouldn’t say. Karin wasn’t even looking at them. He didn’t see Yuzu or Ururu, which meant they were probably helping Tessai somewhere. And no doubt Kisuke would have to fetch Jinta from the back where he was hiding from the girls and their attempts to play dress-up with him.

“I am not,” Ichigo retorted, and with a great heave, he pushed Yoruichi away from himself, springing out from under her. He didn’t even cast his aunt a second look as he skirted around her sprawled form and headed for the door. “I’m going to my room.” He stepped by Kisuke and into the hallway.

Kisuke shook his head. “Teenagers,” he murmured under his breath and then clucked his tongue at Yoruichi, who had taken her tumble with a Shihouin’s grace. “You’ll learn to stop antagonizing him someday.”

“No, she won’t,” Karin corrected, idly rubbing at a bruise on her arm. “Ichi-nii’s too easy to rile.”

Karin had a point. Ichigo, for all his stern appearance, was pretty sensitive for a teenager. Sometimes, it had been tricky raising him, not that Kisuke was complaining or anything.

“She’s right,” Yoruichi agreed, curling up on the floor as though she planned on taking a nap then and there, heedless of her surroundings. “It’s too much fun.”

Kisuke sighed, shaking his head at their behavior. No doubt Ichigo would spend the rest of his night shut up in his room. That was, provided he didn’t sneak out for more Hollow hunting. It was fruitless to try and convince him to lay low. Ichigo simply couldn’t do it, not when he could feel the Hollows and their hunger. Perhaps it had something to do with the one he had inside him, a sort of resonance. Kisuke wasn’t sure, and he was hesitant to experiment on his own son.

He would simply have to wait and see. He could only hope that everything would be fine.


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