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Century Old Plans Wake Up To The Beautiful Smell Of Witchcraft In The Morning

Chapter Text

The Kurosaki are a different bunch, both as individual Humans, and for a Quincy Clan. There are stories about a family of spiritual experts living a black half-island of death —Hei Dao in the Chinese Empire, MavroNisi in Ancient Greece, Kurosaki in feudal Japan—  throughout time, long before they become a clan of Quincy, before even than the creation of the Sternritter. They are a force of nature, it’s in their blood, and both folklore and mythology attest to that— even when history cannot.

And Kurosaki Masaki? She truly is exceptional amongst her kin of exceptions; for having an impressive comprehension of every spiritual art the people of Black Peninsula have been perfecting for centuries, for her unbelievable control of her powers Quincy and otherwise, not to mention her truly marvellous choice in breeding. Her children are Human, Hollow, Shinigami and Quincy; a particular composition as perfect as any mortal creature gets, even if her people are no longer around to acknowledge it.

She knew what choice she was going to make from the moment she laid eyes on Isshin— strong and determined and Shinigami before he became funny and romantic and love. Her kind are, after all, very much collectors at heart.

Sadly, it’s that heart of greed that curses them in a truly ironic twist of Fate, after all the laughs they had over Middle Age accusations on their kind and deals with the devil. Their ancestors have gone and accepted parts of Ywach’s soul, no doubt because it was interesting, because it was different and rare— selling their, every last one of their, people’s souls to the devil. The Kurosaki, the Hei Dao, all of her people across the globe; they wanted their own parts from this truly unforeseen spiritual being, and they paid for it with their own lives when he called that debt back.

After all, the Quincy might have thought them pure, but her kin has never been just Quincy, just as they had never been just Human.

None the less, she is glad the call of the Quincy’s king comes when it does because her children and nephew are still too weak, too young to register on Ywach’s senses. She has already taught her son all that can be taught of their Arts. The rest he will have to find in his soul, as is tradition, and she has no doubts that he will. The legacy of the people of the Black Peninsula will be carried by her small child, but she couldn’t have been more reassured.

It is well entrusted, is her last thought as she dies by the force of the Call, under a demon and on her terrified son. Their Clan will live and die by Ichigo and when he decides to take his sisters under his wing, as she knows he will, they will be a sight to see.

It is well entrusted.

Isshin has fallen for a truly exceptional woman, who fell for him in return, and has been granted three just as —if not more— exceptional children. He just doesn’t know how exceptional.

As well he shouldn’t.

Masaki has known and taught as she has been taught: All children are born with locked boxes full of secrets in their hearts and to whom they will give the key is up to them, not their bearer. Unless he earns the honour, the secrets of their powers are her children’s treasure to keep from Isshin.  That is the way of Masaki’s kind, as a witch from the Black Peninsula.

Chapter Text

“No no no no no, Karin stop!” Ichi-nii yells, rushing over to her iron pot, but it’s in vain; Karin has already let go of the stalk of dark purple flowers and the mix is now bubbling dangerously on the stove.

“Dammit, Karin you can’t put Astrantia in a volatile curse!”

“…” She pauses looking at the overflowing now-lavender-coloured concoction, “…Sorry?”

Ichigo swiftly grabs her by the neck, catches Yuzu, and pulls them both behind the counter. Karin spends maybe three seconds wondering whether he is over-reacting, but then an echoing boom rocks their house and a shower of sparks explodes in a pillar from the pot.

Are you alright there, my clumsy children?!” Goat-face’s silly voice comes shouting from upstairs while she’s still in a daze, and Ichigo sighs in honest pity at their father.

She can sympathise; no matter how well Mom deceived him, Dad really shouldn’t believe that a ‘cooking accident’ can make so much damage. But, well, things that end up with them crying ‘it’s common sense’, ‘there’s no way you could have lived your life on earth and not heard of this’, ‘come on, Goat-face, they teach this at elementary school!’ has always eluded their father. They are an odd family, all together.

She startles out of her thoughts when Ichigo ushers them back to the stove and hollers upstairs at the same time. “We’re fine Goat-face! Cooking accident!”

The muffled babbles of Oh Masaki our children have all grown up to take after you! go ignored as her Ichi-nii puts the scorched pot in the sink and checks over Yuzu’s mix. The liquid shimmers a greenish metallic grey and it’s almost completely transparent. Karin grudgingly admits to herself that she will never be as good at mixing Magick as Yuzu is.

Ichigo also seems to agree with her on the perfection of Yuzu’s curse, patting the brunette’s head with a “Well done, Yuzu. Couldn’t have cooked it better myself.”

Yuzu beams. Karin kicks at the ground in frustration.

Ichigo turns to her this time, all disappointed frowny-faced like he was when they sicked angry spirits at the new kid who won first place in the science festival. She knows what he wants but still crosses her arms in silence in an attempt to preserve her dignity.

Karin.” There it is. The stupid ‘I’m the big brother, I taught you everything you know, you better listen to me young lady’ tone. But he has used it too much, she is already immune to it.

She is.

Really!

…It still works every time.

“…sorry, Ichi-nii.”

There is an aggravated but undeniably fond huff up where she can’t see through her bangs, and Karin already knows she’s forgiven. Still, Ichigo doesn’t relent until she looks up and he can pointedly ask her; “And why are you sorry?”

“Because I was daydreaming about who to use my curse on while you were giving warnings and probably told us not to use the Astrantia.” Karin recites and stops. At more pointed looks though, she continues with an awkward; “…and because I endangered both myself and you two.”

He stands unrelenting for two seconds at most, before his composure cracks and she also gets a pat on the head. “You are forgiven.”

And Karin wants to grin at that, make sure Ichigo knows she doesn’t hate him for scolding her because he is an idiot like that, she wants to smile and let this go. But… This is one more disappointment that really comes at a bad time, right when she’s swimming in self-doubt about her prowess as a witch.

Because it has always been like this, even when they were small and Mom was alive, when only Ichigo was old enough to learn witchcraft, it was always Karin who seemed too— human.

The witch hunts rightfully targeted red-heads, like their Northern brethren were. The Kurosakis and all their other Asian counterparts had shock-orange hair, like Ichigo. Yuzu has their mother’s soft ginger-brown colour. Karin? The black of their useless father.

Yuzu has always loved sewing Voodoo dolls and cooked like a master, no one ever saw Ichigo without a horde of lost spirits following him like trained puppies and Mom was scary-good at gardening. Karin? She loves football and beating up bullies. Could she even find hobbies more human than this?

Ichigo is friends with half the ghosts in Karakura, Yuzu trains every day to see more than a fuzzy outline and Karin knows that even their useless Dad can see a blur at least. Meanwhile, she acts like she can’t see anything to get along with her ever-human friends.

She's too much of a coward to be a witch.

The hand mussing her hair stops in an almost-question and Karin mumbles miserably. “Can’t I stop already Ichi-nii? I can’t even make a basic curse. I can’t sew voodoo dolls or garden or anything. I don’t even like making charms. I don’t want to train witchcraft anymore. Maybe I'm just not—”

“You know what, Karin?” Ichigo interrupts suddenly, crouching down to look her in the eye, “You’re right.”

Yuzu gasps behind her but Karin’s just too shocked to say anything.

“Mom liked herbalism and voodoo best, while I really like paper charms. Yuzu is good at all of those but you’re, well, not. Maybe this just isn’t for you. Maybe, witchcraft as a whole just isn’t for you, Karin—”

She won’t cry. She won’t even tear up. She won’t.

“—except.” Ichi-nii stops to hug her because she is "not tearing up" spectacularly, and Yuzu just naturally jumps into his arms. “Except, you are a physical person. You have good coordination, great reflexes and the making of a warrior. I never even expected you to be as good at the slower magicks that we’re currently doing as you actually are.”

“But—” Yuzu protests, “But Karin is—”

Ichigo quells her with a soft look before continuing, “But, Karin, you aren’t anywhere near finished at trying your hand at every spiritual art there is. Maybe the ones I already taught you are just too soft for you. And you know what? I think I know just what you will be great at.”

“…What is it?” She asks almost automatically.

“Familiars.” He says.

Karin opens her mouth, closes it, actually thinks about what she knows of contracting familiars and finally, all she can manage is; “Oh.”

“Yup.” He nods, a faint smile appearing on his face— no doubt at her dumbfounded look. She shoots him a brief dirty look.

None of them has bound a familiar to themselves yet; it’s a hard choice when the blood-contracts necessary for it stay active for life. But thinking about it, she does have just what it takes to catch herself a strong familiar, to maybe even bind a demon. It would take a lot of work, demons are masses of clashing souls and the ones with even a shred of coherency are insanely strong. But… ‘strength, will, perseverance and spiritual sense’ as it says in Mom’s books. She has everything necessary.

“Mom didn’t like demons and spirits didn’t like her, so she didn’t have a familiar.” He continues with a secretive smile, “Yuzu says that she wants something small and useful, like a cat or a bird. You just might be the only one to contract a demon in the family, Karin.”

“What about you, Ichi-nii?” Yuzu pipes up now that the heavy atmosphere is gone. Karin nods her agreement.

“Animals don’t like me.” He admits, “And every human spirit is entitled access into the afterlife, so that’s also out. Unless I somehow come across a demon that’s human enough to like me, and that’s not going to happen, I’ll be familiarless.”

Karin snorts at that and Yuzu catches her eyes in amusement because with her big brother it is all too possible that he will meet a human demon. Even if no one has ever seen one in known history. It’s Ichi-nii.

But she does feel better now, in a warm hug with the two most important people in her world —with Goat-face in third place— and reassured once again of her place in the world. Even though she will never admit it.

So, she just keeps quiet, hugs Ichigo tighter and leaves him to his delusions of normalcy.

Like hell can her trouble and spirit magnet brother stay familiarless.

Chapter Text

When Masaki dies, Ichigo loses his guiding light. Not only for heart, but also for mind.

Witchcraft is hard to learn; hard in a clan of masters, harder yet with only one instructor —no matter how great she is— and near impossible alone. Thankfully, his Mom has already taught him the basics, and even if she was still around the rest would be his to muddle through, as per tradition.

But it’s always somewhere in a corner of his mind that if he fails too hard one day —if he injures himself mixing Magick, if he attracts the attention of a demon like the one that killed his Mom, if he even just misinterprets something and learns it wrong— there is no one to correct him in the entire wide world. And that hurts. Ichigo has lost his sole pier in the harsh sea of life and the even harsher oceans of witchcraft. He feels like he’s drowning.

It’s a long time before he eventually realizes that he has to pick himself up pieces by pieces; there are two more little witches coming a generation after him, and he wants there to be somewhere they can rest their wings after a fly through this wild ocean.

So, he tries to become an island, instead of another sailor lost in sea.

It’s hard. The first two years, he doesn’t dare glance at Mom’s books, doesn’t even make the charms he loved so much to create with Mom, the only Magick he dabbles in is the soothing teas he brews for Dad and his sisters and those aren’t so much witchcraft as they are plain old concoctions. But as with everything else, it gets easier with time.

And when some parts don’t —like reading the Daemon Encyclopaedia to Karin and Yuzu the way Mom used to do before bed, teaching them how to read Mom’s tarot cards with their mind’s eye, cooking for the family because Dad is crap at it, teaching Yuzu how to cook when she asks him just as Mom taught him and teaching the girls how to mix Magick because they have to learn someday and he won’t let his pain drag them down—  well…

Ichigo makes it get easier.

He owes that much to his precious little sisters.

(Not to mention, eventually, he learns to love witchcraft again. It is a beloved part of himself, and he doesn’t think he will ever manage to thank his little sisters enough for making him go forward even through pain and misery. He sinks when he stops to look behind, and Ichigo has now learnt this all too well.)

Chapter Text

 

Kuchiki Rukia —currently unseated, but resolved to soon to get promoted, member of the 13th squad— is hunting an errant Hollow when she first comes across the bedroom of Kurosaki Ichigo. Not that she knows who it belongs to, just yet.

The thing strikes her immediately as odd when she enters the weirdest Human room she has ever seen is the giant columns of ancient books covering it. They instantly remind her of the Clan library, especially with only the odd number of candles lighting the dim room. The second thing she notices, scrunching up her nose, is the overpowering smell of old paper and sharp spice. And… Flowers? Or maybe herbs.

The bedroom gets odder the more she looks around —stones of all colours, potted or dried plants, bottles and jars of various stuff all stacked fitting in between the books— and she decides that she will get to know the owner, or at least ask about their taste in decoration, even if she has to endure that abominable pervert to get a gigai.

Unexpectedly, said owner soon walks in, perfectly capable of seeing her. It is unfortunate that she is first distracted by explaining Soul Society to the annoyingly indulgent looking teenager, and then the fight for her life and that of the boy, ending up spectacularly badly with her giving up all her powers to the Human. Through the subsequent weeks while Rukia is busy with her duties as a mentor-to-the-bumbling-Shinigami-trainee she gets used to life in this odd house.

Sometimes though, sometimes she remembers her initial questions. She remembers when she walks by Karin-san’s door only to glimpse her stabbing an intricate doll with vicious glee. She remembers when Ichigo brings her a set of school books and when she asks how he knew, his only answer being an enigmatic sentence of “Fortune.” that reminds her inexplicably of the previous afternoon Ichigo spent away playing with his ‘tarot cards’. She remembers when she notices how Yuzu-san cooks in two pots every dinner —one smelling of meat and vegetable, while the other usually just looks inedible— but they only ever eat one. She remembers when Kurosaki-san wakes and greets his son with a violent dropkick, but that’s the least incomprehensible one among these. It really goes to show how weird the children are when this father is not the weirdest in the family.

Although the answers she gets are always short and vague, she tries to make the time to ask these things. Ichigo is an automatic dead-end, she learns, so are his sisters, but the father is always willing to drop teasing leads and explain the more trivial of habits. He… also doesn’t know much, is Rukia’s polite opinion. Most of his explanations start with their mother also used to do that or end up being a variation on they sure are unique children are they not?

She has gotten used to it, Rukia realizes with a start one evening. She has adapted so easily, these days, the weirdness known as the Kurosaki family never fazes her. She is lounging on Ichigo’s bed, trying to read her new mystery manga with the meagre candle-light because the boy refuses to use the lamp when he works on his nonsensical hobbies, while said teenager is at his desk— burning feathers covered in sparkly dust as he chants what sounds to Rukia like the bastardised mash-up of a Kidou incantation and a story. And she finds absolutely nothing wrong with this situation.

“—and disperse into the thirteen high heavens. Wind feet, storm hands, air wings; the swan takes flight into the thirteen blue oceans.” Ichigo finishes with a sigh, blowing his too long bangs out of his face. They fall back. He grumbles, pushes them up again —in vain— as Rukia watches feeling more bemused than really interested.

It feels normal. It isn’t, of course not, but it feels like it.

To be honest, she’s more curious about the hair than the chanting and burning.

“Why don’t you cut it if it bothers you so much?” She asks, not really expecting an answer. She doesn’t get many answers these days. Honestly. Nii-sama is more open with his secrets than the children of the Kurosaki household.

Ichigo pauses for a second, gathering up the left-over ashes of the feathers and throwing them out the window. He then turns towards her to lean against one of the better-supported columns of books with his arms crossed. Rukia sits a little straighter; this feels too much like an evaluation to be anything but. The teenager cocks his head, fingers the ends of his orange hair at the shoulders and —if she looks sideways and squints— there might be a faint smile on his face.

“I’m trying to grow it out.” He says finally, and she blinks. The response is surprising, yes, but more so is the fact that she did get a response at all. “Mom always wanted me to; I’m the Kurosaki Head you know, the long hair shows that.”

“Oh,” Rukia answers neutrally, trying to hide her surprise. “I didn’t realize the Kurosaki were a clan.”

Ichigo throws an annoyed scowl towards the door and —if she has learned anything about him in her stay— aimed at the father, “Yeah, we don’t really act much like a clan, do we?”

She snorts. Not really. She can’t even begin to compare the Kurosaki family to the Kuchiki. The ‘I wouldn’t even want to imagine a whole clan of carrot-top fools like you’ almost forces its way out of her mouth, but Rukia keeps it silent. Who knows when Ichigo will ever be so open again? She won’t waste this chance.

So, after a few seconds of awkward silence, she asks; “So why long hair for you? I noticed your father has short hair.”

“It’s tradition.” He explains, “Goat-face isn’t a Kurosaki, he was inducted into the Clan. And so long as Yuzu and Karin respect my claim to the family, they will keep their hair short. Except maybe Karin. She’s the next in line so she can also grow her hair.”

“Is it a Human tradition…” Rukia muses quietly, thinking of the Windflower scarf of the Kuchiki and the golden kanzashis of the Shihouin. Noticing Ichigo cocking his head, she elaborates; “In Soul Society, most of the Noble Clans use accessories to denote their Lords and Ladies. I’m surprised that just growing your hair is enough of a claim for you Humans.”

“It’s not a Human tradition.” A solemn Ichigo shakes his head, much to her confusion. “Long hair symbolizes power. Power, capability and dominance. My clan is founded upon symbolization, so they decided this was the best way to show their Head’s prestige without wasting on over-priced heirlooms.”

“How stingy…” She blurts out and he laughs.

“Yeah.” The ginger agrees, “Mom always said that the people of Black Peninsula are incorrigible collectors. We use that money to grow our collections so nobody wants to spend a penny more than what they absolutely must.” He pauses, gives Rukia a wry smile and corrects, “Nobody wanted to spend a penny more.”

Breath caught in her throat, she forces out; “Ichigo, your clan…”

“All dead,” Ichigo says, no inflexion. “There were still a few left in hiding back at my Mom’s generation, but even they’re gone now. Yuzu, Karin and I are the last three members alive. And Goat-face is an honorary member, so I suppose we officially have four members.”

Rukia swallows. She grabs in her mind for something —subtle or not, anything— to change the subject over. “So, Ichigo— you said it wasn’t a Human tradition?”

He offers her a nod in thanks for what she supposes is her tact, but the evaluative gaze is back. It lasts a few seconds —a few seconds too long— and she sighs in relief when he drops the look in favour of watching the rising moon outside. “It’s not. Mine wasn’t a Human clan after all. Not just a Human clan at least.”

“…Huh?”

He smiles, sharp and secretive; “The Kurosaki are a Witch clan.”

They stay silent, both looking at each other. Ichigo waits for her response as she blinks up at him in gradual understanding.

“I see.” She says, “This is like those weird Human beliefs, isn’t it? Like the bird-winged-Shinigami and the six-armed-Sprit-King. I’m surprised Ichigo, I didn’t take you to be someone who believed in such superstition.”

Ever so slowly, Ichigo takes his face in his hands and lets out a long weary sigh. Rukia, curiosity satisfied, returns to her manga.

Chapter Text

 

Meeting Inoue Orihime, really meeting her— without any of that stuttering stuff, is one of the most surprising moments in Ichigo’s life. It ranks around suddenly receiving some random Shinigami’s powers and the rug that is his life being pulled out from under him when his mother died.

He vaguely knows the girl, as much as he knows any other classmate, so the introductions between a sickly-sweet-stiffly-polite Rukia and a completely baffled Inoue play along just like he might have imagined. They talk a little as the sun sets down, Inoue conversing about her accidents and Ichigo being in a constant state of partial horror and partial amusement as he listens.

When she mentions having bought onion, butter, banana and gelatine for dinner, all he feels is confusion and a little bit of disgust. He offers to walk her home, just casually, and she refuses and that’s that.

That’s not that.

Inoue has just left for her home, and it takes Ichigo remembering his own grocery list for that one curse he wants to concoct tonight for his mind to spark. Instantly, the food and the accidents and the girl’s seemingly perpetual clumsiness all connect. All the other things —the hair colour, the rumours of Inoue’s wild delusions, Tatsuki’s complaints of her attracting trouble— everything follows that connection in a rush of realization. And when the epiphany fades, it leaves Ichigo staggering on his feet.

“I’m going to walk her home, anyways.” He says hastily to Rukia, running after the ginger, “It’s dangerous. I’ll see you later!”

He ignores Rukia’s teasing sighs of ‘Ah, young love.’ because if he is actually right, that would be honestly creepy. Thankfully, after a three-minute search at full speed, he reaches a surprised Inoue at the crossroad, trying to get his breathing back in order.

“K-Kurosaki-kun?” She blurts out, Ichigo nodding in greeting.

“Hi again, Inoue.” He says, straightening now that his breaths have evened out. “I decided I should walk you home, if you don't mind. I kind of have something to talk about.”

“Oh,” Inoue nods fast, ducking her head, “I— well— I wouldn’t mind at all!”

Ichigo huffs in amusement, wondering what she has to be embarrassed about. “Okay then, lead the way.”

They walk in somewhat awkward silence as he tries to find how to best ask what is on his mind, and she seems to be dazedly steaming up next to him. He gives up after a while though; there’s no good way to phrase something like this. Best be blunt.

“You should probably take out the onions.” He suggests, and Inoue blinks up at him in confusion. He rakes a hand through his hair, sighing. “Onions. They bring bad luck.”

“Erm— what?” She flounders, “But I like it?”

“You would.” Ichigo agrees, “Magick usually tastes good to the maker.”

“Magick?” She parrots and she now sounds majorly confused.

“Have you heard of the Black Peninsula, Inoue?” He asks, deciding to take a different approach. “From the parent that you get your hair from?”

She fiddles with said hair in silence as they keep walking, before admitting uncertainly; “I— I don't really know my actual father. Only that he had my hair and was called Kiyoshi. I just know my mother and stepfather.”

“Kiyoshi…” Ichigo mutters as he comes to a stop on the side of the road. Inoue also stops with him, looking nervous, but he ignores her for a second in favour of thinking, “Kiyoshi. Kurosaki Kiyoshi. No, I can’t seem to remember him. I’ll check the family tree, though.”

Inoue doesn’t answer him, but she has this empty look in her brown eyes so Ichigo isn’t surprised. She’s watching him wide-eyed and confused.

Blunt, Ichigo tells himself, honest and straight-forward is the way to go.

“Did he leave anything, for you to read, a message or anything about your lineage?” He asks, then winces because that was a little blunter than he had aimed for. “I just, I need to know if you’ve heard anything about the Black Peninsula…”

“I— I don’t really,” Inoue tries, hesitant, and Ichigo kind of wants to punch himself for the expression on her face, “I don’t think he knew that my mother was pregnant… It was kind of— something like her job, so… I don’t know anything about that umm, black something.”

Damn. He thinks.

How is he even supposed to test for something like this…

“Ah.” Ichigo exclaims, suddenly. Inoue startles in place, but he doesn’t see it because he’s already turned his face to dig for something in his pocket. It’s far deeper and more cluttered than it has any right being.

When he finally finds his prize and looks up, Inoue is biting at her lower lip in hesitance. “What’s going on Kurosaki-kun? I don’t understand why—”

“I’ll explain,” Ichigo interrupts, sounding more excited than he thought he was, “I’ll explain everything in a second so just hold this paper for a while. Please, Inoue.”

He’s probably coming off as a huge creep to the girl. To her credit, Inoue barely hesitates before taking the thin strip of kanji-cluttered paper from Ichigo. “O-ok.” She nods.

He made that paper charm a few days ago because a basic fire charm seemed more useful than carrying around a bunch of matchsticks. It’s a simple charm, so simple that even an inept witch could activate it— and just by imagining a fire even, no practice needed.

“So,” Ichigo says, “you’re going to be cooking those things you’ve bought, right? With a big flame, I imagine, or really high heat. You could even try a bonfire, one of these days.”

The paper in Inoue’s hands promptly bursts into flame, right in front of her eyes. “Wah!” She squeaks before dropping the completely unharmed piece of paper, her eyes wide and face pale. “But— But how?”

Bingo.

Ichigo laughs, giddy. “The Kurosaki were a big family.” He says, knowing that it’s the understatement of the century, “We are not as big anymore but—” he smiles looking at her, “—I guess we aren’t as small as I thought we were either. Welcome to the family, Inoue Orihime.”

“I— We’re related?” Inoue gapes.

He points to the paper charm still on the ground. “That proves it,” He explains, “you’re a Kurosaki, no doubt. Any siblings you have too.”

“And my brother?”

“This, Kiyoshi, was he the father of…”

“Ah, no. I guess not, then.” She says, “Sora-nii was my step-brother; from my step-father.” She smiles a little smile when Ichigo fails at not looking apologetic about his lack of phrasing skills, “It’s fine Kurosaki-kun. I’m perfectly fine with it. My brother is my most precious family, and he’ll always be so; half or not.”

“Well.” Ichigo says, “He might be your most precious family, but he’s not your only family now.”

Inoue blinks after him, following Ichigo as he grabs the charm back from the ground and starts walking once again, “…Kurosaki-kun?”

“None of that anymore, Orihime.” He scolds, “We’re family now.”

She looks very conflicted about this. Ichigo flicks the paper charm, makes the ensuing fire twist into the shape of a witch hat and shows the end result off to his newest cousin. He grins before continuing;

“Now, what do you know about witchcraft?”

Chapter Text

This day, Orihime concludes a little hazily, is bent on being weird.

Her crush of almost a whole year is her cousin. She is apparently a witch. Currently sitting before her is the giant snake monster that tried to kill her and her friends and is also her deceased brother who came back because he was jealous. The chain tying her to the other her is heavy on her chest and there is a blurring around her vision and a slick gliding feeling of liquid on her arms that she attributes to the wound around her shoulders.

She just wants this day to end.

Her brother twitches his long tail, and Orihime’s eyes snap back onto the circle of light around him, but he thankfully stays asleep. Whatever Kurosa— Ichigo-kun spilled over him is powerful. She wonders whether the shiny purple line that encircles her brother is also his work.

“Are you sure about this?” Ichigo-kun asks out of the blue, making her look up at him in confusion. The Ichigo-kun she knew from school seems so different from the one standing in front of her now with the ghostly magic circle lighting him up, a calm confidence and control on his face as he deals with the uncanny situation as if he was born to do so. She wonders whether he frequently looks like that.

She wonders if she will one day look like that.

Orihime blinks. The hazy exhaustion weights on her like a wet blanket. She looks back at her brother curled around like an actual snake inside the purple light. “A-am I sure about what, Ichigo-kun?”

“That’s a diabolic circle around the demon, Orihime.” He explains pointing at her brother, “It’s used for familiar binding. If it activates, the demon will become your familiar. That’s a permanent contract.”

“But I didn’t put it there?” She tells him, though it sounds more like a question. The only thought echoing back to her in her head is my brother, permanent, I can get him back.

“You did,” Ichigo-kun declares. There’s a thin trace of purple light starting from the circle in his line of sight and when she follows it, it twists and turns on the floor like a purple road only to end up below her arm where her blood drips and glows.

So she did.

She can’t remember when.

She wonders whether she hit her head before, while Ichigo-kun and Tatsuki-chan were being thrown around by her brother. Her best-friend is unconscious on the floor right now. There is a hole in her walls.

Her brother snuffles and tightens around himself and Orihime wavers; she really wants to let her brother stay but… “Will he attack you and Tatsuki-chan again?”

Ichigo-kun watches her face for a moment. “No. If you do the contract correctly, he will be nothing but helpful.”

“…if I don’t,” She starts, feeling so very small. Although it’s hard with the way shadows fall through his bangs, Orihime manages catch Ichigo-kun’s eyes. “I don’t want to risk you two, Ichigo-kun.”

“You won’t.” Ichigo-kun says. He walks up to her and —faint or not— that’s a smile on his face. “I’ll help you. We’re Coven now.”

Orihime watches brown eyes reflecting purple, looks at the monster that her brother has become, touches the wound on her shoulder and finally nods decisively. “Thank you Ichigo-kun. I’m sure now. I want my brother back.”

Barely three minutes later, a glaring explosion of purple light illuminates the room.

Orihime loses consciousness to the heady feeling of relief ringing in her mind and the blurry sight of Ichigo-kun’s reassuring smile moving around words she can’t hear.

The morning after, Orihime wakes up fully healed in her repaired house. She can only remember bits and pieces of the night. But they’re more than enough. As she stretches under the sunlight beaming on her bed, a black snake as tall as her slithers onto her bed.

“Good morning, Orihime.” He greets with a content bob of his bone white head and she pets the line of black fur going down his body.

“Good morning, Sora-nii.”

It’s all great in Orihime’s life.

Chapter Text

Ichigo is in the kitchen one morning, humming and cooking Magick, when Yuzu and Karin enter still in their pyjamas and still not fully awake.

While her twin just carelessly drops into a chair, Yuzu startles awake fast enough to be surprised. Ichigo is not an early riser when he can avoid it, and to find him up and around before Yuzu —who likes the dawn and cooks breakfast— or their Dad —who has made kicking his son awake his mission in life— is very unusual.

And he is devising quite the mix too, Yuzu muses as she walks around her brother look at the half-liquid maroon slime simmering in the pot. There are the remains of crushed yew and the stalk of a whole bundle of stinging nettles left on the counter. As she watches with interest, Ichigo slices onion and pokeroot —for discord and strife— into the pot making the maroon become a dark blood red. She suspects she knows what this potion will do but the deciding factor for her is the almost mischievous sadistic glitter in her brother’s eyes as he throws a whole lot of tormentil and Spanish moss into the mix before standing back.

Distress and bad luck. Yuzu wonders what this curse is for, because it is no doubt a curse, and what the recipient did to anger his brother so.

She gets her answer when he takes the buds of a snapdragon —ongoing deception— and crushes daisies —stability and reliability— in lavender —distrust— to stuff them all in what must be a photo, but that she can’t see of whom. Yuzu knows pretty well that her brother doesn’t like being lied to and for someone, someone who he had apparently trusted to be reliable, to break that belief is inconceivable for her.

Ichigo ties the photo up, drops it into the potion to represent this person falling under the curse, whoever he or she is, and turns off the oven.

“Who is that for, Ichigo?” Karin grumbles from where she is propped up against the kitchen chair. Yuzu too looks up at the ginger for an answer. He sighs, mischievous sadism retreating back where it came from, motioning for Yuzu to sit down at the table and putting a cup of warm tea in front of everyone.

“As you two know, Goat-face isn’t from our culture, so Mom always said to give him a little leeway. And since she already told us all what he was and how they got together, I haven’t tried to make him talk. He sure keeps quite a bit of secrets to himself— even from his children.” Ichigo says these mildly, but the reproach is clear; one doesn’t lie to their children, “It’s been a week since Rukia came here, and I have been waiting for him to finally come clean. He hasn’t.”

Yuzu can only sigh in frustration while Karin grits her teeth next to her. This is why Mom always told them that Dad doesn’t understand their ways. He never tells them anything.

Their brother smiles at them over his teacup; reassuring, because at least Ichi-nii will never lie to them. He’s their older brother, their teacher in the Arts, and he is well aware of his duty to give them every bit of information he can.

“I’ve waited long enough,” He declares, “So we won’t wait for Goat-face any longer.”

Yuzu exchanges confused glances with her twin. “Why now, Ichi-nii?” She asks.

“Because, Yuzu, what happened to our house a week ago was not a truck crashing in.” He says, teacup clanking on the table with an odd finality. “And Goat-face has constructed elaborate lies for you two, just to further protect his deception. What’s happened is far greater than a mere truck.”

“GAH!”

Goat-face falls right on his face seven times in the two days after Ichigo cooks a very effective Magick. He crashes into something ten times, he gets chased around the town by rabid dogs four times and the weather somersaults from sunny to heavy rain the instant he goes out without an umbrella. Karin laughs herself silly every time she walks into her harried father clinging to The Poster and whining about his horrible day.

Karin sees that there’s an unfamiliar kind of satisfaction in her twin’s eyes too, though Yuzu’s never been the vengeful type, and her brother’s solemn mask cracks all too many times into a smirk these days.

Goat-face is getting what he deserves for all the years he didn’t tell them of their heritage, made his son train his younger children lest they all be weak and fragile.

Karin snickers when Goat-face falls flat back down while trying to go up the stairs to wake Ichi-nii up and wonders whether her brother will be willing to teach this curse to her when she undoubtedly begs for it.

Chapter Text

 

“My grandfather told me all about your people, Kurosaki.” Uryuu declares, one hand holding his Reishi bow, the other righting up his glasses, “So do tell; what is one of your people doing playing Shinigami?”

It grates that the head of one of the mightiest Quincy Clans would turn traitor this way. In a way, Uryuu had fancied them similar; the last of their own peoples, struggling with unique powers and without anyone to teach them. He had… imagined that they might have come to an understanding. Maybe even nurture some sort of companionship.

But then one day, Kurosaki came to school with his aura reeking of Shinigami, and the girl Shinigami followed him by transferring into their class.

It is a betrayal of the highest degree.

So Uryuu stages a confrontation. A challenge to teach the now-Shinigami of the superiority of the Quincy that he has abandoned. There is no way for Kurosaki to win, not with how well-suited Quincies are to fighting multiple opponents; it’s clear from the very start that Uryuu and his arrows are killing more of the gathered Hollows than Kurosaki and his butcher knife. It is the perfect plan.

…If one doesn’t include the blue sky suddenly cracking up in a line of black abyss— with a pair of white-clawed hands forcing the crack further open.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Uryuu mutters to himself as he, Kurosaki, his Shinigami girlfriend (and the odd group of maybe-Shinigami middle-aged people that came to the ginger’s help) all look up at the bulky, enormous hollow stepping through the slice in the air. Uryuu almost forgets his shock in the onslaught of horror and disgust he feels when the thing grabs a literal handful of normal hollows and devours them.

Kurosaki tries his chances, slashing madly at the gigantic hollows feet. He gets thrown right back, of course. It’s almost funny, if one forgets that they are about to be eaten the fuck up.

“How are we even supposed to defeat that thing?” The Shinigami grumbles.

Uryuu agrees, but only in his mind.

He takes a step towards Kurosaki, still watching the Hollow. There’s a time and place for every disagreement. He starts saying; “We need to rethink our pl— Aah!”, right before he trips over air and falls.

“Ishida?” He hears an amused but mostly confused voice ask. Kurosaki shuffles his feet in Uryuu’s line of vision, comes forward, and he too falls flat on his face. Or rather, on Uryuu’s back.

“Wha— Kurosaki get off!” He flails and tries to get up from under the Shinigami even as Kurosaki tries to obey his order. He fails. Uryuu has never in his life felt so uncoordinated. Doing anything feels like trying to walk with his shoelaces tied together.

Then suddenly, Kurosaki stops his attempts at trying to get off only to end up slipping back down. The Shinigami has frozen in place. There’s a murmur so quiet Uryuu’s probably the only one who heard. “…Karin?”

He looks ahead, as much as he can when his face refuses to get off of the road, and sure enough, he glimpses the small black-haired sister of his rival jogging calmly towards the enormous Hollow from the other side of the clearing. He watches horrified as it opens its mask to blast her into non-existence and she just stands there, taking out a knife and slashing her left arm.

His eyes snap shut when purple light flares with a burning intensity, and he opens his eyes to the sight of the gigantic Hollow thrashing under magenta chains that rapidly pull it down. He notices the girl shout something incomprehensible at it, and the Hollow stills, stopping its resistance and letting the chains tighten.

Kurosaki shifts above him, and again, only Uryuu hears his shaky laugh. “Promise it to silence its souls. Of course. She’s learned well...”

Another flare of bright light makes Uryuu wince, so he misses the resolution. However… He doesn’t miss the black-haired girl walking away with a black raven perched on her shoulder. He doesn’t miss the raven turning around to look at them, its pure white beak and face looking striking between its black body and hollow eyes.

…Kurosaki better have a good explanation, or he’s telling every single one of the Shinigami —who luckily fell down the wrong way and missed the show— just who exactly it was that actually brought down the giant Hollow.

Chapter Text

The Tower is lying innocently between Death and The Seven of Swords. Ichigo furrows his brows, thinks about big changes, conflict and reform, and decides that this arrangement he has with Rukia couldn’t go on forever anyway. It just took him the cards pointing it out to notice that this is but the prelude to…

He flips around the next card. The Ten of Swords. The prelude to a great betrayal.

The four cards look ominous under the shadows of a flickering candle flame. Ichigo isn’t sure he wants to see the rest of the message. He sighs. He is aware, in the end, that whatever they might be saying— it is always better to know than to not know. It was his mother’s first teaching; an unprepared witch is a dead witch.

He leans back on his desk chair, takes a deep breath of the clove incense that Rukia hates so much and he hopes that she will be busy with her sandal-and-hat wearing friend for a long time. He wants to do this slowly, because something is going to happen, soon, and it’s going to be big. And his role in this ‘something’ will be…

The Hierophant Reversed.

Ichigo almost laughs out loud.

His role will be to rebel and bring down traditions. How suitable.

Now then, he thinks to himself as he brushes a hand over the rest of the burnished tarot cards, what about my loved ones.

 

Chapter Text

 

“—-…—-.hea-—-…——……—..-……..-…Ka…!….”

Karin squeezes her eyes harder, bites her lip, and tries to understand the muffled murmuring in her mind.

“-…..m-—-……………—…..-……………………!!….”

The rug under her is itchy, the meditative pose feels uncomfortable and however much her mother’s books recommend them, the incenses never seem to augment her spiritual awareness. She shifts. Her leg itches. She shifts again.

“ARGHH!”

“What’s wrong, Karin?” Ichi-nii asks from where he’s sitting in a similar pose before her. His brown eyes are distant and cloudy, and Karin resents the fact that he has succeeded already. Four years of training ahead of them or not, it’s not fair.

“This isn’t working! I can only hear him murmur incomprehensibly!” Karin rages and her brother is probably listening but he looks like he’s long flown out of his body into some different plane of existence and that just makes her more angry. “This meditation is pointless.”

“Come on, Karin.” Mentos chides in her mind, “Ichigo usually has a reason for telling you to do something.”

She throws a dirty look at her shoulder where the demon raven is perched. She doesn’t need her familiar to tell her about her own brother. She knows that much already, the useless bird.

The raven cocks its head. “You do realize that I can hear your thoughts?”

Damn.

Indeed.

Her brother slowly blinks his murky eyes— his every movement continues to lag, “It’s not pointless. You learned that your spirit guide is a he, did you not?”

She did, actually. She hadn't known anything about him before now. This fact, while true, doesn’t make her feel very enthusiastic about spending hours ‘concentrating on her soul’.

“Uuugh…” She hears Yuzu whine next to her, “Nothing! I hear nothing. There’s only silence, Onii-chan. Are you sure I don't need spiritual sense for this? You know I can still only see spirits as human shaped blurs.”

Ichigo sighs in a sluggish exhale, blinks a few times and the dullness recedes from his eyes. “My spirit guide might be the manifestations of my spiritual powers, but that doesn’t mean yours will be the same.” He assures at his normal speed of speech—thankfully— instead of dragging the syllables like he does when he’s deep in meditation. “All witches are capable of hearing their guides. You just need a lot of practice.”

“What about you, Onii-chan?” Yuzu asks eagerly and Karin can’t decide whether she’s trying to get out of more useless meditation or feeling actually curious, “You never told us about how your spirit guide looks.”

“Well,” He smiles fondly, “Spirit guides only show themselves on your times of need, so I hadn’t really met mine except for helpful nudges and telepathic reassurances when I felt sad, until that whole situation with Rukia. I mean, I don’t think my spirit guide was even in two parts before my Shinigami heritage got a boost. But I’ve been in some sort of communication for years, so it’s different for me compared to you two.”

Communication. That really understates the reliance Ichigo has on his guide, Karin believes. She still remembers the hours and hours of meditation he used to do back when they were all small and already motherless and both she and Yuzu needed someone who understood to help them go on. They had latched onto their brother, obviously, but Karin knows now how much of a burden they were. She has only just started to realize that Ichigo needed someone too —someone mature, someone to rely on, someone who didn’t brush him and his questions away with laughter and childish antics— and that he had found that someone in the form of his spirit guide.

“They are named Zangetsu,” He goes on, “I learned their name a few weeks ago. That’s also the name of my power, but it might be different with you. I call one of them Ossan, he is an old man—”

Ichigo stops abruptly, before starting to snicker and Karin can guess who he is hearing, “Yeah yeah, whatever. One of them is a ‘middle-aged man’ with horrible taste in clothing and sensitive eyes. He’s the manifestation of my Quincy powers. We had a bit of a confusion at first; he was senile and he thought he was my Shinigami powers in his middle-age, but we solved it.”

Karin is not nearly as surprised as she should be when her brother ducks and rubs at his head as if he was hit. She would have hit him too.

“The other one is my Shinigami and demo—Hollow powers,” Ichigo continues unbothered, “and, well, I usually call him ‘Hey you’ or ‘What the hell are you doing stabbing me first thing in the morning you psycho’ but he claims his only name is Zangetsu. We’ll compromise on something one day. Hopefully. He is a major idiot though, so I’m not counting on it.”

Random cuts appear on his cheeks as he grins. He kind of deserves that one too.

“What does he look like, Nii-chan?” Yuzu asks ignoring the infighting occurring right before their eyes. Karin really admires her mental fortitude against the insanity that is their brother.

“He looks like me, only painted white from head to toe. And uglier. And insaner.” Ichigo answers cheekily, a bruise slowly darkening on his neck. “Oh, and he has a grin that disobeys every single biological law in existence.”

“It stretches from here,” He says as he pokes Yuzu’s left cheekbone and she giggles, “to here.” He traces a smile right upto her right cheek.

Huh. That does sound insane.

“..-——…—ri-…….-—!.-——-…..-ike—-t--at too.”

Karin gasps. That was her Spirit Guide! And she heard the last part almost completely! But then… Wait… She thinks horrified, ‘like that too’? Oh my god, my guide is also insane.

“…I.-l—o-ve yo-..—t-….oo.”

Not only is he insane, he is also sarcastic. Great. Clearly, Karin takes just about too much after her brother. To add insult to injury, Mentos cackles in her mind just like the giant birdbrained hollow it is; “Isn’t that great, Karin. You can hear your spirit guide now.

Too busy fighting with her familiar and her supposedly-guide-likely-to-be-cause-of-death, she hears only passingly Yuzu chime in with an enthusiastic “How about ‘Haku’ then? You know, for ‘white’?”

“Huh.” Her brother mutters, “He liked it. I still say let’s go for Shiro though. Haku is too sophisticated for a muscle brain like him.”

Chapter Text

 

My name is [/—-—\\-—\/].

Ichigo tries. He can see that clearly. But so long as Ichigo cannot even hear so much as the name of his power, he will never be enough of a Shinigami to get through a whole army of them.

But he wonders, with the vain hope that only the sentient manifestation of something as fickle as spiritual powers can hold, whether Ichigo would not rather give up on his Shinigami training and instead take up his Quincy heritage. Or, failing that, his Witch heritage.

Do you know what I am, Ichigo?

His holder —master, really, but he is as much a reflection of Ichigo as the actual Zanpakutou and the title revolts him— looks contemplative, somehow managing the serenity to sit down with his legs crossed as he answers with the greatest of convictions; “You must be my spiritual guide.”

Spiritual Guide. He wants to laugh. He wants to cry. He is no guider of the lost souls, nor is he helping Ichigo access their combined potential. No, he’s here to arrest that momentum and to make his holder weaker, to make his holder falter.

He’s here to keep his precious holder ignorant in a selfish possessiveness unbecoming of a pure spirit of the mind.

Not quite. I’m [/—-/—\—/-\]. You’re here to find me.

Ichigo’s getting frustrated; he still can’t hear the name. “Here to find you… My Shinigami powers?”

His holder looks at him, gauging in a way that has always been in reverse. Seeing in a way that makes him tense. “You’re not my Shinigami powers.”

The conversation stills, an unmentioned conflict flowing beneath the silence. He is incapable of doing anything but freezing beneath that distrustful gaze, judging him, measuring him— condemning him for the most heinous of crimes. Condemning him rightfully.

He didn’t plan for this eventuality.

Suffering under the ever-present knowledge that he was destroying the bright light that was his holder’s potential was to be the worst of his punishment.

But he had failed to account for the other, more far-seeing parts of his holder.

He knows intimately the depths of his betrayal. But now so does Ichigo.

There is no doubt now: He will pay for making his holder ignorant, for making him weak, a crime found to be of the three biggest evils in a clan of power and knowledge. And he will pay for it by the dismissal of whom he has sworn to protect. Of whom he was born to protect. It is with a heartbreak that humans are incapable of ever feeling that he realizes that it is now his destiny to become the untouched, shadowy corner of Ichigo’s soul.

A play of fate, really, after he tried to do the very same thing to the other powers resting in this mix-match of a soul. It is perhaps poetic, thinking of the history of the very race, that the Quincy powers will be struck down for hating all the other spiritual prowess.

“What are you?” His holder asks in suspicion.

Why not? He thinks: He has already lost, Zangetsu is likely laughing himself to death, he has nothing more to throw away in a half-baked plan against his own soul. “I am your Spiritual Guide.

Ichigo smiles. It is perhaps the most confusing sight he has seen, though he has not seen much. It is not a smile of cruelty like he might have imagined— his holder is not one for them.

When this Witch smiles, he knows, it is because he is pleased.

That Ichigo smiles now is a hint, a spark of realization, and he flounders, mind still trying to catch up to the bells of absolution he can hear ringing in the distance.

His odd, odd holder is still not angry at the deception.

The boy levers himself onto his feet and spreads his hands towards the vast city of his mindscape. “Well, Mr. Mighty Spiritual Guide? Are you going to help me find my Shinigami Powers?”

Relief is a spring of soothing water bubbling in his chest, so bizarre to feel after how disappointed he had expected to be should his plan fail. So bizarre to feel after the crushing regret he had only just started to experience, the acceptance of his holder liberating after even a single minute into his penance.

A contradiction of exhilarated disbelief tangles his legs, but he forces himself to hurry after the Witch already searching around.

His name is [Za\-\g/—/\su].” He reminds and is more than a little surprised to find it doesn’t taste bitter on his tongue.

“And you, old man?”

He muses. “[Zan/-/getsu], too, I suppose. There is no other name on your soul and powers.

“Well.” Ichigo says, turning his head to nod at him, “Then you can be old man Zan-getsu.”

It is only the rush of being forgiven the worst of crimes by this soft-hearted, one-of-a-kind holder that has him agreeing to share a name with that abomination.

But it is not a decision he will yet come to regret. 

Chapter Text

Chad has known it for a long time now, ever since they met in a dark alleyway in bright daylight once upon a time. Ichigo is different. Chad learned just how different when they met once again, this time Ichigo protecting him, under the shadow of an old bridge. All it had taken was for the ginger to be angry enough, apparently, and the thugs beating Chad had spontaneously burst into flames, still unaware of their persecutor.

It’d be obvious to anyone who knows Ichigo that he is angry now, too.

His friend was taken. And Chad knows as well as he knows his name, maybe better, that Ichigo will never stand for that.

Neither will he, of course. Ichigo And any of his friends is Chad’s promise to protect.

However, the thing is; chaos and confusion appear so much faster —more dangerously— than a single person should be capable of making, with Ichigo. It might be in his blood or it might be one of his own personal traits. But it’s fact that Ichigo would topple a whole country if need be, if he willed it so, if his friends needed him to. He certainly has the power to do so.

Thinking about it, Chad is perhaps the only person alive who is fully aware of the real immensity to the powers his friend wields. Inoue is a witch, but she is new. She hasn’t seen anything. Ishida has only just come to know Ichigo. The only thing he has to go from are his old children’s stories and Chad has no doubt that those do his best friend no justice. Because people have seen Ichigo angry, certainly a rare few people but still people— while the one and only person who has seen him enraged is Chad.

He still remembers the vile, sinister shadow that passed over Ichigo’s face when Chad told him about how the stupider of the Yakuza had put his sisters in the hospital. He still remembers the dozens of muscly men dropping like flies with one wave of the witch’s hand, going down frothing, rot spreading on them like intricate tattoos, for the humans did indeed have reason to suspect the witches for the millions killed by the Black Death. He still remembers his silent panic when black blisters started running up his fingers an hour later, as well as the relief when Ichigo calmly sat him down to force a sparkly herbal tea down his throat and once again, his hands were back to healthy brown.

Chad is suddenly very glad that Soul Society hasn’t managed to truly awaken the wrath of the strongest witch he knows. And he will do anything he can to keep it that way, not only for his friend and their promise but also for the thousands of brain-dead Shinigami who would bring such a disaster on themselves.

“Chad.” He hears a low voice say, breaking him out of his thoughts. He finds the speaker in front of Urahara-san’s gate-like-arch, waiting for him to respond.

“Ichigo.” Chad says.

His friend hands him a short strip of paper, pats his chest and says; “Put it in your chest pocket. When you ever meet someone too dangerous, it will help.”

And Chad doesn’t ask how. He doesn’t ask about what it is or why Ichigo would think that prediction might happen or anything. He just nods, takes the paper noting only passingly the incomprehensible kanji stacked on it, and puts it where his friend said to.

He just says; “Thanks, Ichigo.”

And that’s that.

(Later on, when he comes across the pink wearing, sake drinking Captain, he trusts more than anything the slip of paper on his chest and the promise of friendship in his heart. Neither could ever let him down, of course, and this time too the two become the reason he lives through the day.

The Captain attacks, and the fight is already over. Chad flies head first into a pile of rocks only for his chest pocket to spark once, twice, before blazing in fire. When he crashes, it doesn’t hurt at all.

It’s good to have confirmation. His friend is one powerful witch.)