Neither Ichigo nor Professor McGonagall could coax Karin from the group of boys to which she instantly attached herself. They were crowded around a shop window admiring the newest broom and she had fallen into a deep and serious discussion of the rules of Quidditch. So they left her there for the moment, since McGonagall seemed really anxious to get Ichigo to Ollivander’s for this ‘wand’-thing she kept harping on about.
Despite having slogged through a lot of the material she’d left him yesterday, Ichigo was still struggling to understand the idea of a 'wand.' That was, until he set foot inside the store. He stopped so suddenly at the threshold that Professor McGonagall bumped into him with a, “Oh my, are you quite all right, dear?”
“It’s your zanpaktō,” he said, breathlessly, feeling almost crushed by the presence of so many living souls. The reistsu inside the small, dusty shop reminded Ichigo of the crazy, overwhelming pressure of someone like Kenpachi. The whole place seemed to be vibrating, but unlike with Kenpachi, it wasn’t a singular presence. It was like there were thousands of tiny slivers of souls all crying out, desperately trying to have their names spoken.
Apparently, Ichigo thought to himself, a wand is born in England with every wizard, just like there's a zanpaktō for every shinigami. It's a peice of them, awaiting reunion.
From behind the counter, deep in the stacks, an older man stuck his head out. His white hair stood up in all directions, like someone who was so focused on their work that they forgot to comb. “My, my,” he muttered coming to the front with a curious expression on his face. “This is certainly unusual.”
McGonagall cleared her throat. “This young man is in need of a wand, Mr. Ollivander.”
“Is he?” Ollivander said, looking directly into Ichigo’s eyes.
Ichigo’s first impulse was to shake his head and to try to explain to the shopkeeper that even though it was a sword and not a stick, his zanpaktō, Zangetsu, functioned almost the same way to direct his spiritual energy. He opened his mouth, but stopped when it occurred to him that maybe it wasn’t exactly the same, after all. “Well,” Ichigo said, trying to find the right words in English. “I guess I need something to use when I’m—“ he patted his chest, “in this.”
Zangetsu was only available to Ichigo in spirit form, when he left his body behind and became a shinigami: something beyond human, beyond death -- that walked between the worlds. The British wizards, however, seemed to be able to somehow be tap into their reistsu more like Quincys could—while still alive, while still human.
“Ah, yes,” Ollivander said, nodding as though in understanding. He started sorting through boxes, while tapping a finger against thin lips. “Finding a match for you may be difficult, however.”
“No, I got this,” Ichigo said, vaulting over the counter and striding into the stacks. “I just have to listen.”
“Ichigo!” McGonagall shouted. “You’re a very rude young man! Get back here!”
Behind him, Ichigo heard Ollivander say, “No, no, it’s all right. This is fascinating.”
Standing deep in the backroom stacks of Ollivander’s shop, Ichigo closed his eyes, searching for his inner landscape and the part of his soul that lived there.
Oi, Ojiisan! Ichigo called out once he felt the world tilt under his feet. In his mind’s eye, Ichigo saw the sideways universe that was his dreamscape. He stood on the widow of a skyscraper that, as long as he didn’t think about it too hard, was the ground beneath his feet. He waited, expecting to see the dark, ragged cloak of Zangetsu approaching from somewhere. Instead, someone else came. Someone who looked… dangerous, wild… and like a photo-negative of himself as a shinigami, in spirit form. Instead of a black shihakushô, the uniform of the shinigami that always looked like samurai cosplay to Ichigo, this creature’s was dressed in white. Ichigo shivered just looking at that, as white was a color he always associated with death. However, the most disturbing part of this ‘other,’ was his eyes—its irises were a stark white, while the pupils were pitch black.
Go away, creep, Ichigo said. I need to talk to the old man.
The thing with a distorted version of Ichigo’s face hissed. That’s no way to treat the king.
King? Screw that. You’re not the boss of me, Ichigo said, though with less conviction than he might have hoped. Look, anyway, I don’t have time for this. Where’s Zangetsu?
Here, came the deep, masculine voice of Zangetsu from just behind Ichigo’s shoulder.
Despite himself, Ichigo breathed a deep sigh of relief. Feeling Zangetsu’s power literally at his back comforted him. Listen, ojiisan, Ichigo said, without taking his eyes off the other-Ichigo, who stood, smirking just out of of striking range, do you think you can work inside the constraints of one of these wand things?
I don’t need to. Little sister is already here, can’t you hear her? Her name is the same as mine. Remember when you pulled me from all the falling boxes? Reach out, do it now.
How could Ichigo forget that moment? It was part of why he was saddled with this creepy-other self, after all. That crazy Urahara, Hat-and-Clogs, had… well, nearly killed him, as far as Ichigo could figure. At any rate, he was becoming a Hollow, and would have transformed completely, if he’d not been able to find the part of himself that was Zangetsu and bring it out into the world.
But what had been the key?
Something Ishida had taught him. Gods how he hated having to rely on something that smartass four-eyes had been so smug about. But it was important then and it was important now—
--find the red ribbon.
All of a sudden, Ichigo was falling again, into the darkness. All around him were the boxes of wands. Streaming behind each of them were ribbons. But instead of being the white as Ichigo had expected, they were a rainbow of colors—gold, silver, blue, black, green, yellow, orange—and every shade and tint in-between.
Which one is mine?
Then, Ichigo saw it—a ribbon that was blood red, like Zangetsu, but with a black line cutting through the center. Seeing that blackness, Ichigo almost didn’t want to accept the truth. Was that thing always a part of him now? Worse, was it really his center, his core?
Ichigo almost refused, but then he heard the whisper. It was the old man, only not. It had a little girl’s voice, but her name was the same.
“Zangetsu,” Ichigo repeated, and the box opened. In his mind, he could see the ribbon attached to the hilt of a small dagger. He gripped it in his hand, and pulled it out. Blinking away the spirit dream, Ichigo found himself up on a ladder, holding up a dusty box.
Both Ollivander-san and McGonagall-sensei were staring up at him with stunned expressions on his face. “I think I found it,” Ichigo said with a little smile, coming down the rickety ladder, a little surprised at himself for having climbed up it somehow in a dream-state.
“Oh, I see,” Ollivander said, looking over the box Ichigo presented him with. “You’re sure?”
“A hundred percent, why?”
“It’s one of my most unusual. I was young, experimenting, you understand. It’s bamboo, very inflexible -- brittle, in fact. The core,” he gave an almost embarrassed glance at McGonagall, “Is human hair.”
“Human?” she breathed, clearly scandalized.
“Well,” Mr. Ollivander coughed, “Technically, ‘former human,’ I suppose. It’s ghost hair.”
“Makes sense,” Ichigo took it in his hand with a shrug. He lifted the wand in both hands, as though raising his guard, and brought it down sharply, pointing the tip at the floor, “Getsuga Tenshō!”
McGonagall stifled a scream as a focused red-black beam of energy blew a strip of flooring into smoldering splinters.
Ichigo nodded, tucking it into his jeans at his left hip, “Yep. It works.”