The attack on the family was an unexpected opportunity and it came at the best possible time, but Isshin was in pain. It hurt so much that his body threatened to completely stop functioning even as he ran for his life. He couldn’t use Kidō or Shunpo to make the run easier; after so many years of torture, he was weak. In the state he was in, he was as frail as a newborn. Yet, he didn’t stop. He ignored the pain that shot through his entire being and just kept running. If Isshin didn’t keep going and find a safe place, he’d be taken back to that awful place. It wouldn’t happen. Isshin would never allow it. So, for his sake alone, the shinigami would endure all the pain that the universe itself had to offer.
“You’re not getting away!” The captain had just enough time to draw Engetsu and use it to deflect the strike of his attacker’s blade, the collision of metal causing the Zanpakutō to wail painfully. “Give it back, you filthy thief!”
The shinigami glared at the red-haired woman with hatred and defiance, his reiryoku flaring with more power than he should have. The very thought of her demand angered him beyond belief. As if he would ever give in to that demand of his own free will.
“I would never do such a thing. Even if I die, my grip will not weaken.”
“Then I’ll just have to kill you and tear off your arms. What you’ve stolen is mine!”
“You do not deserve this honor!” There was just enough power built up for Isshin to strike and, hopefully, kill her. If not, then injuring her to where she couldn’t move would be just fine. “…Getsuga Tenshō!”
The woman was too shocked to react as the blast shot from his sword, hitting her point blank and sending her flying. Isshin didn’t stick around to see what happened to her. He sheathed Engetsu, apologizing to the rusted and chipped blade for causing him harm, and used the cover of dust kicked up from the sand to continue running. It was all he could do now. The rest of the family was busy fighting off their assailants and Isshin’s opponent appeared to have taken heavy damage from his Getsuga Tenshō. With no one left to worry about, he could focus solely on escaping and finding shelter.
“Don’t worry. I’ll find a safe place for us. I’ll use whatever power I have left to make a barrier. We’ll be fine. I know that, eventually, Soul Society will come for us. At least….I can only hope they will.”
How long had he been moving? The blazing sun that scorched the land had set quite some time ago, leaving cool air and a lightless sky behind. But, Isshin was exhausted and he couldn’t tell how many hours had passed. He didn’t even know if this realm worked the same as Soul Society. There was one thing Isshin did know, though, and that was that he’d done it. They were safe for the time being. The family’s territory had disappeared in the distance some time ago. For the first time in a long time, the captain felt hope. There was a chance they’d make it after all.
“You and I will survive, and we’ll go back to Soul Society. One day….One day there’ll be a path out of here. When it opens, we’ll leap through it and go home. Together.” Isshin smiled. It was a tired smile, but he was truly hopeful. “What a fine day that will be.”
Isshin sneered a bit when light broke the horizon, signaling the beginning of another day. He covered his eyes to watch the rather swift sunrise and failed to notice he was standing in a shadow as the red sun rose to the highest point in the sky. It was only after the sunrise had finished that Isshin observed his surroundings, his mind not sure whether to be in awe or relief at the sight in front of him.
There were trees. Well, maybe they were trees. It was pretty obvious they were made from some kind of stone. But, regardless, there was an entire jungle of stone trees in front of him. It was such a unique sight that was oddly beautiful in a realm where pain was like currency, but it also provided a chance. They could stay there. Isshin could make a shelter for them and they could use the trees for cover. It was perfect and he wasn’t going to pass up the chance. With his mind made up, he headed for the jungle. There was a sort of jump in his steps as he started to pick up speed. It was hard not to keep his hope contained, though any sensible mind would know not to give in.
Reaching the jungle within minutes, Isshin saw the trees had branches only at the top that formed crowns for them. He wondered for a moment if that meant the area in the center of the branches was empty and, more importantly, inhabitable. But, his focus shifted when he heard a sound. It was such a small noise, almost like a muffled whimper, and he looked down.
Mocha met caramel and, without even realizing it, a gentle smile formed on Isshin’s tired face.
“Awake?” There was a laugh from the infant he held and Isshin beamed at the sound. It was so…rejuvenating. “What do you think, little one? Looks like a place where a child can have lots of fun.”
Isshin brought his other hand up to gently stroke the child’s cheek, his tired eyes widening a bit at the strong grip that latched onto his thumb. But, he laughed and brought the bundle up to kiss the orange-topped head.
“Yes, we’ll be fine here. And, one day, you’ll have a family and friends that love and adore you. I promise, my son.” That grip left his thumb so small hands could explore his hair and Isshin laughed again. “Just you wait and see, my little Ichigo.”