When Rukia first steps into the Human World, she's just vaguely aware of how the Humans act and how their society is built like.
But even so she's pretty sure that having foxes following you around is an anomaly.
And that the hardened, scarred men of the local yakuza aren't supposed to fund an animal shelter, to worship Inari or to use a high school boy as an errand boy to give Inari various gifts.
All said boy has to say for himself is, “well foxes have always liked me, and this is far better than having the yakuza committing crimes so I don’t mind.” With a shrug even as foxes sniffed around the most recent gifts. “And I only receive them on Sundays so it’s okay.”
Rukia isn’t too sure how to answer that.
But she can deal with foxes in the vicinities, and she even grows used to it, and then Soul Society comes to take her back for committing the crime of helping a very desperate Human boy.
The same human boy that appears at her execution and single-handedly saves her.
The same boy that turns around after having everyone pardoned and managing to force Aizen to flee into another realm and enters the senkaimon back to his home and Rukia is staring at his behind as two very fluffy tails unfurl from within his hakama.
She doesn’t think twice.
In the astounded silence that follows, Rukia lunges after him.
“You have tails,” Rukia says, much redundantly.
Ichigo was faster than her, and he had skipped over to his house before Rukia even finished passing through, but when she does catch up, she drags him to his room and tries thinking coherently (without much success).
In her manhandling, Ichigo's forced out of his body, his tails unfurling again, and they just stare at each other, Ichigo’s dead body between them.
She stares with confusion from Ichigo, to Ichigo’s tails. “Why didn’t you mention this?”
The very infuriating boy just shrugs. “It just never came up.”
Rukia has a thousand arguments against that ridiculous excuse but she breathes in and just asks, “How long have you had them?”
“In my defense, the white one is new. Hadn’t seen it myself.”
In face of his utterly blasé behavior she has to clarify. “Do humans normally have tails?”
There is silence.
“I thought this was a Shinigami thing?”
“Wha-You fool!” Rukia exclaims after punching him in the gut. “Do you see me with tails?”
Ichigo bends over his stomach, more out of dramatics than real pain. He grunts and huffs, “well I wouldn’t know, god damn it woman. They only appear on my spiritual body. I got the first one just after meeting you, actually.”
“And you didn’t think of telling me this??”
“Look, I was too busy saving your ass. You’re welcome, by the way.”
In hindsight, maybe the next punch to the gut is deserved.
His subsequent fall and his head slamming against his bed a bit too hard for his exhausted body probably isn't.
“That’s why foxes follow you around.” Are the words he wakes up to.
Ichigo looks around and Rukia is sitting by his bed, her legs tucked under her. His body is still collecting dust by the door.
“Did you seriously knock me out?”
“Can you talk with foxes?”
“They listen? I guess? We used to get a couple foxes stealing food and whatnot, and convinced them not to.”
“So it is true that foxes follow you.”
Ichigo hums. “Well, sometimes? Hermione is the only one that sticks, but at this point she’s basically family.” He sees a very familiar glint in her eyes and hurriedly tacks on before certain doom happened. “And no, before you ask. She’s not named after Harry Potter. Has nobody read Shakespeare, seriously?”
(Rukia frowns and pouts. “Who even is Shakespeare?” To which Ichigo makes an utterly appalled face, and insists that he’ll teach her everything she would need to know about the greatest poet of all times.)
“So that’s why people give you offerings for Inari.” Rukia concludes after a pensive silence, her feet swinging back and forth as she sat primly on his bed.
“They think I’m some sort of errand boy for him, but it makes the foxes happy. And I don’t really mind. They respect my rule of only offerings on Sundays, after six.”
“I thought you went off with the Yakuza.”
The teenager doesn’t deny it. “They are the ones who offer the most. Actually, they are in charge of sheltering injured foxes.”
Rukia stares at him, probably regretting her words even before they come out of her mouth. “The yakuza. The Japanese mafia.”
“Not sure if to go to a healer, or drag you to one.”
Ichigo is quite honestly a little excited to learn to transform into a cat, because not only would that help him achieve better control of his reiatsu, he would be able to get away with so many things as a cat. Yoruichi had offered him while he was still recovering in Soul Society and he had just waited a couple days to get back on track with his life before seeking her out.
So of course, Ichigo being Ichigo absolutely fails at turning into a cat.
Kisuke who has just entered bringing tea and news, freezes on the doorstep, greeted to the scene of a wide-eyed Yoruichi staring at a large, slender auburn fox.
With two tails.
“Yoruichi-san,” Kisuke calls, calm and poised. “Weren’t you training with Kurosaki-san?”
The two-tailed fox spins around and barks at him, in a very distinctive voice. “Oi, getaboushi, I’m here.”
Kisuke takes in a fortifying breath, lest he spills his tea. “Pray tell, Kurosaki-san,” he addresses the fox like it was no big deal. “When did you become a mythological creature?”
“Wait, mythological? Aren’t I a cat?” He asks, even as his two –two, Kisuke’s mind shrieks– tails swish in response to his unrest. Yoruichi gets out of her shock long enough to run in search of a mirror, cackling all the way.
When Ichigo looks at himself he doesn’t really look surprised. “Well this is really not helpful if I want to hide.”
“Kurosaki-san. Why aren’t you surprised you’re a mythological creature? Why do you have two tails? How long have you been a kitsune? When did your second tail appear-?”
“It is at this point that Rukia appears, looking for them. At seeing the fox, she immediately connects the dots and ignores Kisuke to say, “I thought you said you couldn’t turn into a fox. You look really pretty too.”
Forgotten, the scientist just murmurs, “Nobody told me about this.”
So, now that he could voluntarily turn into a two-tailed, mythological beast, of course it had to be a Monday morning and by complete accident.
Ichigo's on his way to school with Mizuiro, Keigo and Chad when the former decides to be funny and in a moment of distraction, he presses his cold can of juice against the back of Ichigo’s neck.
What happens next would change their lives forever.
With an ungodly yelp that is definitively not human, Ichigo shrinks away from the cold …quite literally.
A few seconds later, there is no Ichigo on sight, just his clothes, his bag and the most beautiful twin-tailed fox anyone has ever seen.
Ichigo doesn’t seem to have noticed, since he turns to a shell-shocked Mizuiro to whine, “what the hell, Mizuiro, that was cold!”
The entire street is silent.
Not until a very quiet Chad picks up Ichigo’s things and after a moment’s hesitation he tells the fox, “let’s go to class, we’re running late.”
“Oh, okay.” Ichigo complies quickly enough and tags along, like a weird sort of dog.
Mizuiro and Keigo have no choice other than to follow behind in shocked silence, broken only by a snigger as Ichigo finally realizes that he's still a fox almost before they reached their school.
“Why did nobody tell me?!” Ichigo says, coming out of an alley with his pants on and hurriedly buttoning up his uniform shirt.
“We… we didn’t know you could turn into a fox.”
“Eh, it’s something new. Don’t worry about it.”
“Are you a kitsune?”
“No, I’m not. I’m human thank you very much.” Ichigo hastily denies, accepting his bag from Chad. “The transformation thing is more of a Shinigami ability.”
Ichigo should have expected it, but he's still surprised as Keigo and Mizuiro practically drag him to the rooftop to interrogate him on his new fox ability.
“The web says that kitsune typically are created when a normal fox lives to a hundred years.” Mizuiro says, a little threateningly, as he invades Ichigo’s space.
“Uh, two things. I’m not a fox and I’m not a hundred years old!”
“Glad to know.” Mizuiro says after a moment’s deliberation and smiles sweetly, backing off entirely. Keigo stares with mild confusion.
“What, just like that? Don’t you want to know how is this possible?”
“Well, I doubt Ichigo knows. And it’s not like it affects...” Mizuiro falls silent.
Reading his mind just perfectly, Ichigo rolls his eyes before smacking his head. “I’m not going to change and leave you guys alone. I promise.”
And then out of nowhere, a muffled voice protests, “and what about us?!”
Ichigo sighs into his hand as the rest of his human friends plus a pesky Shinigami all fall through the open door to the stairs, forming a big pile of human bodies. Even Ishida's here.
(Ichigo arches an eyebrow at the teen, who promptly turns red and denies any interest in the situation or foxes or Shinigami even though nobody has asked him.)
“Kurosaki-kun, is it true you’re a fox?”
This is going to be a long day.
Later that day, he tries getting back some semblance of normalcy as he goes to his usual meeting spot with Hermione and a couple more foxes tagging along, where several yakuza bow at him.
“Guys? What’s wrong? I’m here to pick up the offerings.”
Almost trembling, the first yakuza shoves several boxes of gifts at him. Followed by the next and the next until Ichigo can barely handle all of them. “Did you do something? This is more than you usually give to Inari and his priests.”
“I-it’s not for him, sir.”
“It’s for you, Kitsune-aniki-sama!”
Hermione doesn’t stop laughing but still helps Ichigo drag all the offerings back home– because he didn’t know what else to do at the moment.
“Onii-chan? What is all that?” Yuzu asks the damning question as soon as she poked her head into the kitchen. Ichigo just stares at the gifts with blank eyes.
“I don’t know, don’t ask me. They wouldn’t take no for an answer and I really had no choice after the kumicho began crying.”
“What are we going to do with so much food?”
“Probably give it away, I guess. Let’s go to a shelter tomorrow morning, Yuzu.”
“Oh, that’s such a good idea!”
Hermione prefers to tag along when there aren't so many people, but today's an exception. She's tightly curled around his feet as Ichigo continuously denies all of the yakuza’s offerings on a Monday morning.
“Guys, I thought we had already established it was a once a week thing, I have to get to class, please can’t you just move already,” Ichigo grumbles under his breath as hordes of men in traditional clothing block his way to school and they were all shoving different gifts at him for no good reason. “Also Inari’s shrine is probably already filled with half of these, can’t you just take them yourselves this time, please?”
“Do you want us to deposit the offerings at your house, Kitsune-aniki-sama?”
“Wait, what? No! I don’t need offerings, and don’t call me that! And can you move-“ It was at this point that Ichigo makes his first big mistake.
(First of many, if you ask him.)
He inhales precisely as the Kumicho proffers his flowers closer to his face and the minuscule particles of pollen enter his nostrils.
The following second, Ichigo lets out a very potent sneeze directly on the kumicho’s face.
Ichigo snorts, and rubs his nose and turns back to him to apologize while searching himself for a tissue when he does a double-take.
In the deadly silence that follows, the only noise coming from the merrily crackling fires on the aged man’s mustache, beard and eyebrows.
Ichigo scrambles now for water, not understanding what's going on, but already looking for a way to put that fire out while all the yakuza men begin screaming in panic at seeing their boss on fire and Hermione is yipping delightedly for some reason and before anything can degenerate into something even worse, the kumicho moves.
“Silence!” He yells, looking serene and almost… happy? “Worry not, my brothers. This fire… does not burn.”
Astounded, all Ichigo can think of saying is, “Yeah right, and I’m a god.”
Famous last words.
Since Rukia needed to leave to continue her duties as a Shinigami, one could say she passed the baton of eternally-confused-by-Ichigo to none other than Urahara Kisuke. But he won’t discover this until much later.
“Kurosaki-kitsune-san, what a pleasure to have you here!” Kisuke greets his guests with the same fanfare that he knew only aggravated the teen. But now it's also to keep his composure in the face of having a kitsune boy and a stranger with fire on his face both under his roof. “Perhaps you haven’t noticed it but, your friend is quite literally burning up.”
Ichigo slumps. “I need your help.” He says. “The fire won’t go out.”
The scientist goes from confused to excited to barely-able-to-contain-his-glee as Ichigo, the kitsune boy, finally allows him to inspect him up close, both in his human body and his kitsune one.
“Legend says,” Kisuke mumbles as he runs his hands through Ichigo’s twintails. “That Kitsune could provoke fires by rubbing their tails together. Was that what happened, maybe?”
Ichigo grumbles, his vulpine snout showcasing sharp and deadly teeth, although his overall fluffiness detracted from the intimidation factor. “I don’t think so. I literally sneezed in his face and boom. Fire.”
“I see, I see.” Kisuke says, even as he does not see at all, and is perhaps too distracted with the softness of the tails to be seeing much of anything at all.
By their side, the kumicho's staring at the fox-form of Ichigo with something like devotion in his eyes even as his hands twitch as if wanting nothing else than to run them through his fur, much like Kisuke was doing.
Now, normally Ichigo wouldn’t even think of sating such an inane desire but…
His face is still burning. And it's completely (if accidentally) his fault.
Ichigo tries to paw his way over to him, but he feels a soft hand on his tails and he turns around in time to see a sheepishly grinning shopkeeper keeping a firm hold on his tails.
Ichigo rounds on him, growling lowly more exasperated than anything else, but he turns around so suddenly he lifts a small cloud of dust.
It is like that how the second calamity happens.
Ichigo sneezes again and now it’s Kisuke who's on fire.
“I know I’ve called you a firecracker before,” Kisuke comments far too calmly, as his knees, arms and shoulders burn away, the golden fire crackling merrily. “But I would never have considered you would actually set fire to me.”
When Yoruichi is done with her latest date with Kuukaku and swings back into the shoten, she admits to being surprised by the sight she's greeted with.
Ichigo is in his cute kitsune form, looking like the grumpiest fox alive as Kisuke distractedly threaded a hand through his fur in a soothing motion, while he holds an open book with his other hand and he keeps mumbling something about, “every single piece of information I’ve found points that it’s up to you, Kurosaki-san. You must relax.”
By their side, with his knees to his chest like a child, a grown man with plenty scars on his person and very prominent facial hair is also petting Ichigo’s tails.
It would have been a weird but endearing sight on its own, but it so happens that all three of them, as well as the room itself has several dozens of little fires crackling merrily.
Yoruichi opens her mouth. Closes it. Opens it again.
“Well I wouldn’t have guessed I would ever say this, but damn you’re smoldering hot. Literally.”
In the end, Ichigo manages to calm down and slowly but surely the fires extinguish themselves. The dazed kumicho is urged home and a tired Ichigo shifts back to his human form and also drags his feet back home. Not before Kisuke urges him to come back if anything like that ever happens.
It is of course, the very next morning that it happens again.
Ichigo is startled awake by his father busting his door open to bellow good morning at the top of his lungs. Ichigo yelps, surprised, hits his head against the opposite wall as he edged away from his father.
This prompts his bad mood to appear first thing in the morning and he proceeds to kick his father into submission, sprawling him on his floor face-down, butt in the air.
His annoyance makes his tails bristle and flutter about in discontent, and Ichigo stares more resigned than anything as that somehow produced yet another batch of fire on his father’s unsuspecting ass.
Well, Ichigo thinks to himself as he makes his way to the kitchen without any word of warning to his father. Serves the bastard right.
Kurosaki steps outside his house.
And without breaking composure he turns right around and tries to go back inside his house. Unsurprisingly, he fails.
Two yakuza men swing their arms around his shoulders in a clearly friendly gesture but also boxing him in and making his retreat impossible.
“Ah, Kitsune-aniki-sama! Our boss wanted to give you a small demonstration of his devotion.” The first man says in his gravelly voice, his cheery tone at odds with his bald, scarred head. At this close proximity, Ichigo couldn’t help but stare at the remainder of his ear, missing the entire earlobe.
On his other side, the sunglasses-wearing thug laughs briefly, before excusing. “We know you’ve never been too into flashy things, but aniki was just so excited. Hope it’s alright?”
Without giving him a chance to say anything at all, they drag him outside his yard, where a mob of local gangsters's waiting for him. And when he steps outside, they all bow as one, leaving just one man standing –the kumicho.
“As you know, Kitsune-aniki-sama, ever since you changed our ways and made us see the correct path, we have devoted ourselves to the foxes you protect as well as honoring Inari and protecting both the shrine maidens and the foxes alike. It has been an honor to do so, but now that you have revealed yourself as a kitsune, nay, a fox deity, we shall devote ourselves to you as well!”
After that grandiose speech, the kumicho smiles at him expectantly. Ichigo looks at him dead in the eye and mutters.
“Excuse me, what the fuck?”
Ichigo had been hesitant, but in the end he makes the whole mob enter his house, makes them sit down on the living room –filling the couches and the coffee table and the ground all the way to the kitchen– and claps his hands together.
“Okay,” he says. He nods to himself, putting his thoughts in order. “Okay, yes. Uh, I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings. “First,” He raises one slender digit so everyone can see it (out of the corner of his eyes he catches a glimpse of Hermione’s beautiful fur coat as she invites herself in). “I am not a god.”
For some reason, he earns skeptical glances, as a murmur breaks out. Ichigo wants to facepalm or scream into a pillow but he contains himself. He looks down and is surprised at seeing a white pup nuzzling against his leg. He looks around and finds an amused Hermione elegantly perched on the loveseat he was sure had been occupied seconds before.
Despite not knowing what the kit's doing inside his house, he gives him a little scratch behind the ears before continuing, raising another finger. “Second, I am not a fox. If you saw my transformation, that was, uh, another type of magic. It’s not my original form or whatever.”
“And third, while I might have some kitsune blood in me –because not even I can deny the fact that there’s something not quite normal in me– I am just human.” Ichigo looks at the sea of skeptical faces and deadpans. “This has been a PSA, now please everyone just leave. I have school, I’m already late.”
He still wonders why he even expected to get anywhere like this.
Hermione's laughing at him from the side, easily keeping pace with him as he runs away from his very enthusiastic ex-yakuza friends and hordes of foxes that had appeared out of the blue and were not helping his case of him not being a fox deity.
What had ultimately unleashed this insane persecution was that his fox tails had decided that they too wanted to manifest in his human body and that fact had made the Yakuza people riot– they had begun talking over themselves to try and profess their undying loyalty and love towards such a humble god.
Ichigo had gently moved the kits trying to climb up his leg out of the way and sprinted out.
Which led to the current situation.
He arrives at his school in record time and prays to whatever god exists that the security in his school would stop actual yakuza gang members from entering as he climbs up the stairs, three at a time, to arrive panting and sweating to his classroom.
He has a staring contest with his teacher, not having completely entered the room, because he can feel his two tails still waving around in his human body.
So without any greeting other than a hurried, “I’m going to the bathroom,” Ichigo slams the sliding door to his classroom so hard it bounces back open but he'd already disappeared from sight.
He ends up not returning to class and Mizuiro and Keigo find him on the rooftop. They politely don’t comment on his overly puffy pants and just hand him a melon bread as they take a seat by his side. Chad enters a moment later and they all sit in relative silence with Mizuiro staring at Ichigo as he sipped his milk.
“So,” he begins. “I heard a rumor.”
Ichigo is already scowling in his direction, as the boy continued smiling in an overly sweet way. Both Chad and Keigo are looking between them curiously as Mizuiro waited a dramatic moment before dropping, “so the yakuza think you’re a god now. Whatever did you do?”
“I am not a god.” Ichigo says right off the bat, feeling his face hot as Mizuiro tries to smother his laugh. “Just putting it out right now. I didn’t even do anything! I just had them sit down and tell them this, but they won’t listen!”
“Yeah, well, probably being able to transform into a kitsune, having tails as a human and being followed by a horde of foxes… it probably doesn’t help your case.” Keigo says, listing them off with help of his fingers and not even Ichigo’s death glare was enough to even dampen his grin.
“Do you know what that means?” Mizuiro smirks, like the devil he is. He puts on an innocent face before crying out, “Oh no! Whatever shall I do?! Ichigo-sama please help me-!”
Chad sighs as his tailed-friend lunges for Mizuiro (tails snapping free of his pants) and they both roll around with the dark-haired boy laughing all the while. The big teen let them be for a while as he finished his lunch and not until then did he stand up and picked Ichigo off like a misbehaving cat.
“You should eat before the bell rings,” Chad reminds them gently and Keigo is just mildly surprised when Ichigo grumbles but goes back to sitting, while a ruffled Mizuiro began patting his uniform back into a more presentable shape and accepts his lunch back from Keigo.
Ichigo thinks that's the end of the issue.
Of course, he's very wrong (again).
Ichigo wakes up the very next day and he fears for his life for the very first time.
There is a buzzing in his ears.
He doesn’t know what that is yet.
But he knows it’s bad news.
He tries to go on with his life as normal, but he realizes he doesn’t have a normal state of being anymore as soon as he walks out of his room. He just stares as his father walks around with his ass still on fire, the man looking nervous and jittery and carrying a fire extinguisher.
Ichigo feels like he should say something, but the man disappears upon catching sight of him, like a skittish animal and Ichigo puts it out of his mind for the moment .
There are no yakuza outside his house, so he counts that as a win and so he arrives at the school too early. Ochi-sensei sees him and his good mood sours.
“Ah, Kurosaki, may I have a word?”
Ichigo looks around at the empty classroom and just shrugs. “Yeah, what’s up. I haven’t been skipping lately. Other thank yesterday, I mean.”
“No, it’s not about that.” His teacher looks around as well, before walking up to him and leaning in to whisper. “While I do appreciate you pursuing cosplay as an activity, I must remind you that it is not allowed to wear it during school hours.”
“Cos-?!” Ichigo sputters, indignant. He blushes as he whispers back, urgently. “What cosplay Ochi-sensei?”
Please be the Shinigami outfit. Please be the Shinigami outfit.
“Well, the fox tails of course. They were really pretty though; did you make them yourself?”
Ichigo's overly thankful for the Hollow interruption crashing into the classroom.
This is all Mizuiro’s fault.
It had begun when Mizuiro along with Keigo had been on their way to the shopping center when they had caught Ichigo’s yakuza friends arguing with the police rather heatedly. The black-haired teen, being both Ichigo’s friend and an honorary yakuza himself, stopped to listen.
While Keigo shot everyone a worried look, Mizuiro learned that the yakuza had tried erecting a shrine in the middle of the mall, which not only blocked the way to three shops, it was also probably illegal.
Seeing as they were going to get in trouble if they insisted, Mizuiro decided to butt in. “Hello, gentlemen. I’m Mizuiro, Ichigo’s friend. What seems to be the problem here?”
“We want to honor Kitsune-aniki-sama’s name! And these-!”
Mizuiro doesn’t let him finish. “But why a shrine? Surely, as a god he must be the one to choose where they stand, right? Why not try a different approach?”
The scarred men looked confused. “Like how?”
This is when Keigo jumps in to his rescue. “Why not do good deeds in his name?”
“Good deeds? Well, certainly Kitsune-sama does good but… how can we direct those actions towards him? People might just think we’re from whichever religion or cult suits them best.”
Mizuiro finger guns them, “this is when you think about Ichigo’s most prominent feature. His scowl!” He does a cheap imitation of Ichigo’s impressive scowl to add to the demonstration which managed to crack Keigo up. The men ooh and aah as understanding settles.
(Ichigo sits up in his bedroom, an urgent feeling of dread pooling in his stomach as the buzzing in his ears grows and he can almost make out words from the weird static.)
All of this he discovers only after the rumors grow enough for it to become a hotly discussed conversation topic in his school.
Ichigo manages to go through the majority of the week until his scowling principal calls him to congratulate him in front of a hastily called school assembly for fomenting kindness and empathy and organizing several charity fundraisings.
Ichigo is confused and dumbfounded and he just manages to scowl at Mizuiro hanging by his side and whisper urgently while the principal was distracted. “I don’t know how, but this is your fault and you’re going to fix it.”
“Fix what?” Mizuiro has the gall to ask.
Ichigo doesn’t have the time to answer as the principal ends his emotional speech by urging the students to thank Ichigo. The entire student body begins scowling and sonorously shouts, “In the name of Kurosaki Ichigo, we shall continue to spread good will!”
While that would have been bad on its own fucking right, the real tipping point's the fact that the chorus hadn’t only echoed in the assembly hall, it had also resonated inside his skull.
He feels justified in his next move.
“URAHARA-SAN THERE ARE VOICES IN MY HEAD AND I THINK I NOW HAVE A CULT, PLEASE HELP ME!” Ichigo barges in the Shoten not even bothering with knocking. And yeah, he might sound a bit hysterical, but he was in his perfect right because nothing was making an ounce of sense.
Still, he can’t help but blush as a completely bewildered Urahara appeared from another set of doors, holding a vial of a dubious substance in his hands, clothes wrinkled and hair askew.
Kisuke meant, a hundred percent to smile and soothe his skittish student but the words that slip out of his mouth are, “Kurosaki-san, have you noticed you have another, or rather two new tails?”
Ichigo was so emotionally done he just transformed into a four-tailed kitsune right then and there.
(All Yoruichi had to offer when he found her friend sitting on the floor with a kitsune curled on his lap was, “well at least you’re not on fire this time.”)
Ichigo refuses to return to his Human form or his Human life until whatever insanity had befallen Karakura disappeared or something similar. Kisuke is still making plans on how to dismantle this organized movement of scowling and doing a good deed in Ichigo’s name. It wasn’t a bad thing, really, but maybe Kisuke would be able to at least remove his name and face from the whole propaganda. Meanwhile Ichigo has holed himself with a borrowed laptop, idly tapping away at google.
His searches had gone from, “humans earning tails, kitsune myths”, down to “what is a cult”, “how to know if I have a cult”, “warning signs of a cult”, “how to dismantle a cult” and “are cults bad”.
Ichigo decides then to hide from his problems by spending the following days as a kitsune.
(At least Kisuke is having fun with researching that form.)
But the second time the buzzing clears up enough to be coherent words, Ichigo doesn’t really think much on it as he rushes out of the shop on all fours, blind to everything but the cry for help in his mind.
A little girl had fallen down a ditch, and had been just a broken branch away from tumbling down to the violent river below.
Ichigo arrives in record time and pulls her up without effort.
“Are you okay?” He asks the girl in his arms with some concern. The girl is clinging to him, but she separates long enough to smile teary-eyed and shout,
“Thank you so much Kitsune-sama!”
(Kisuke is mildly concerned of the five-tailed kitsune that pawed at his door to be let in, only to be nothing more than a flop of fur curled up in the corner for the rest of the day.)
Even if he was a miserable maybe-actually-becoming-a-god, the kitsune boy still needed to go to school at some point and when he can actually gather the nerve and energy to uncurl from his spot on Kisuke’s lap, he transforms back into his human self and mumbles a shy thanks as Kisuke helps him cover up his big fluffy tails.
(It results in a new fashion statement, with a decorative scarf wrapped around his midsection like those weird Idols Yuzu had begun obsessing over.)
It is when Ichigo is officially out of the Shoten that another “customer” knocks on his door and shuffles nervously before asking,
“Do you have any idea how to put off non-extinguishable fire?” Shiba Isshin in the flesh asks him, not meeting his eyes.
Kisuke is already amusingly sure what this was about, but still decides that a little more fun hurts nobody. “My, are you sure it’s not just kitchen fire? Fires started by oil can’t be put off with water.”
Isshin squirms. “Uh, yeah. I’m pretty sure it’s not. If you don’t have any other ideas, then…”
“Oh what about a chemical compound? You haven’t been sleeping around in labs are you?” Kisuke flaps open his fan, amused at the indignation written all across his face,
“Oh course not!” Isshin hisses at him, but before he can high-tail out of there, Kisuke leans closer, shrewd eyes locked on his.
“Then… have you ever heard about kitsunes?”
The shock on his face is far more telling than anything else he could have said.
“Um,” he laughs. Averts his eyes. “You don’t think that’s what this is?”
“May I see this famous fire?”
Kisuke is thankful he already has his fan out to hide his snort as Isshin just turns around and shows the fire crackling merrily over his butt.
“My, what a curious place to light a fire, Isshin-san!”
“Are you going to help me or just keep laughing!” Isshin hisses, spinning around while still sticking his butt out.
Kisuke has tears in his eyes from trying hard not to laugh in his face.
“Right, right. But if this was provoked by a kitsune then there’s nothing I can do to help. It has to be put off by the kitsune himself.”
Isshin says. “Ah, you think so too? And is there no doubt it’s not that?”
Kisuke cocks his head. “Well, considering your son is a kitsune already…”
Isshin catches the implied question and he just sighs. “So you know.”
Kisuke blinks all innocently, “I’m sorry, Isshin-san, but the whole town already adored Kurosaki-san as a kitsune.”
Isshin smiles as a reflex, expecting it to be a joke, but it disappears slowly as Kisuke doesn’t actually drop a punchline. In the end he just exclaims, “What?!”
“And I suppose an explanation as to why he has suddenly sprouted tails and sneezed foxfire is in order, right?”
Isshin laughs nervously, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. “Ah, well, if that’s the case then…”
"Ichigo,” Isshin says solemnly, they’re both back home and he had managed to drag his skittish son off to the kitchen for some man-to-man. Ichigo is hovering close to the exit while Isshin sat on the table. “I think it’s time I told you… your mother was a kitsune."
Ichigo, having sprouted his sixth tail just recently as they all waved and curled like fluffy seaweed behind him, laughs a bit hysterically before slamming his hands on the table. "I KIND OF FIGURED IT OUT SOME TIME AGO. I WONDER THE FUCK WHY."
“Hermione, no.” Ichigo whispers as he gazed at the hordes of foxes awaiting him just outside his home. His (un)trustworthy friend yips unrepentantly and the rest of the foxes echoed in, happy to be accompanying him.
“Oh my god. I don’t know what she told all of you. But you’d do me a great favor if you’d just leave.”
A very pretty silver-white fox pawed up at him, whimpering delicately.
“No.” Ichigo says, already used to puppy eyes. “Go home, don’t.”
“No, I don’t care. Don’t ask me, I don’t know.” Ichigo replies, his head adamantly buried in his arms as he tried ignoring the hordes of foxes that followed him to school.
With the apparition of his sixth tail (why did they keep popping up???) he had given up even trying to hide his tails and just accepted all the gifts he now found on his desk and either dumped them off at Inari’s or gave them to the foxes (after a quick google search). The student body was informed of this, yet they insisted of giving him offerings.
Even Ochi-sensei had come apologize to him for calling it cosplay and she gave him a gift as an apology which only made the students all the bolder.
“Hey, Ichigo,” Keigo says one day, nudging a small pocketful of cookies in his direction. They’re chocolate. Ichigo squints. “Can you maybe help me ace the test?”
“That is completely up to you.”
“Yes, well, but just give me a lil’ luck, please? For your friend?”
“I can’t do that! I’m not a god!”
Hermione had always been around him, some way or another. Sometimes one or two kits would pop up with her, play with Ichigo and disappear again.
There had been suitors vying for Hermione’s attention, but to Ichigo’s secret relief she never paid them any attention.
As his life descend into insanity, he had grown used to seeing up to twenty foxes a day, some days even more.
Which is why he finds it odd that he seems to be able to distinguish a certain fox from among the rest. He was a very light silver, somehow iridescent when light hit him in the proper ways.
He had been looking at everything he did with unnerving curiosity, never actually tried to get a pet or an ear-scratch from Ichigo despite the proximity unlike all the others.
All in all, he was a weird fox.
Ichigo pays him that much more attention for that same reason and he’s rewarded by witnessing this fox shimmer like a mirage and become a person of dubious gender.
(Ichigo just presses both hands together like a prayer over his mouth and whispered to himself, “shit”.)
Next time the fox prances over to his usual Ichigo-observing spot, Ichigo swims amidst a sea of hyper-active foxes to reach the unnaturally calm silver-white fox.
The creature sits primly, as if awaiting him. Ichigo stops a couple feet away from him and can feel the rest of the foxes staring silently at his back. He steels himself and clears his throat.
“Is there any chance you’re Inari- er, sama?”
A grin completely unsuited for a fox snout, stretches across his face. “Ohohoho? I’ve been given away?”
As he tries not to hyperventilate, Ichigo can’t help but think that his life was too crazy. He was done. Can he get a refund? A quit button?
“Why the fuck are you following me too… Inari-sama?” Ichigo’s voice dwindles as he corrects his rude speech with a hasty honorifics and a mumbled apology. He has the luck that Inari merely laughs, his form shimmering again and making Ichigo dizzy.
“Inari is fine, it’s fine! I’ve just been curious as to who my cute little foxes have been paying so much attention to! And I didn’t know I had yet another child! Aren’t you the cutest kitsune?” He exclaimed, looking more like a ten-year-old boy than a fox or a man.
“Y-your child?” Ichigo stammers. Followed by, “I’m not cute!”
Ichigo spends the rest of the day talking to Inari, and being surprised by kitsune arts the god shows to him. They revert from human to fox and back, as the god gives him a tour of all the shrines erected in Karakura or its vicinities.
“And this one is yours. Oh, I’m so proud of you! Having a shrine and not being quite a god, yet!” Inari gushes like an overenthusiastic mother, slender human form now resembling a woman. Ichigo sputters.
“Yet?” Ichigo hisses. “There’s no way- I’m human!”
Inari gives his tails a pointed look. “Uh-huh, sure you are.”
“Okay fine, there was a small malfunction along the road, but-“
“Kit, there’s no malfunction. Your mother was a very talented child of mine. And unsurprisingly her blood –my magic– was stronger than her mate’s. Although, you, glutton-child,” Inari presses a finger on his nose, making Ichigo go cross-eyed. “Took all the magic, all the power for yourself! Your sisters are also part mine, but I don’t think they’ll manifest a tail in this lifetime, the poor things.”
Ichigo tapped his fingers against his arm, feeling his six tails waving and twitching behind him. “Yeah, poor them.”
Inari –now looking like a young man, maybe a couple years older than Ichigo himself– took him to his main shrine, on the outskirts of Karakura. He sits down amidst cushions and offerings and drags Ichigo down with him. Once they’re settled, the god asks, “How do you feel about sake?” Producing a bottle and two floating cups out of literally thin air.
Ichigo doesn’t accept the cup. “Uh, I can’t drink. I’m a minor.”
Inari looks downright appalled. “Well what kind of successor are you?”
Inari immediately covers his mouth with long-nailed hands as if it had been a slip of tongue. Ichigo stares, more concerned by the second.
“What do you mean successor?!”
Kisuke is getting used to a certain kitsune-boy seeking his advice (god knows why), so he just walks out of his labs at the first panicked knocks on his door, and fetches a blanket as the door slams open and a jumpy Ichigo stalks in, his tails tense and fuzzy.
Kisuke intercepts him, throwing the blanket on top of him. Ichigo freezes and deflates a bit, before he scowls and says in the most indignant and childish voice. “Inari wants me to be a god after him, do something about it!”
Kisuke just blinks.
A mythical boy and a god sat in his house, drinking his tea and bantering over his table.
Kisuke sips his tea, wishing it was alcohol.
“So, Inari-sama, what has made you so sure Kurosaki-san is a suitable successor for you?”
The god, now bearing a long white beard and looking old and ageless at the same time, musses his beard and looks at the shopkeeper. The Shinigami can feel his skin crawling as he is pinned by his silver gaze.
“Well,” he says. “My child has been through grievous trials, and has proven his worth time and time again. Not only in the mortal way, but.” And here he stretches out a hand and caressed Ichigo’s closest tail. “In a more spiritual way as well. Not many kitsune can boast of earning two tails within the same century. And look at you! You have six! I couldn’t be prouder!”
Ichigo still is not okay with the idea, but can’t help but duck his head and blush at such outstanding honesty and glee.
“Your child, huh.” Kisuke hums, seeing no way of making this god desist. “And is there no other suitable candidate?”
“I don’t think so.”
“And, doesn’t your child get a say in this?”
“Well of course he does!” Inari exclaims, aghast at Kisuke even suggesting that. Ichigo perks up –Kisuke could have sworn he saw a pair of fox ears rising as well.
“Oh, really? Then I don’t want to be a god!”
The god looks at him indulgently. “Oh, kit. When you reach nine tails you’ll be an immortal god anyway. Better make uses of it and be trained to be the next Inari.”
They’re still holding somewhat of a one-sided discussion when Ichigo suddenly bolts upright and disappears through the door.
Inari looks wistful.
“Look at him. Already way more attuned to this town than I am, and he’s only six tails in!”
Kisuke stares at his tea. “Did you really choose him?”
“I don’t go out of my way to pluck my children away from the life they led. The town chose him. The people chose him. He has it in his blood, the call to godhood.” Inari giggles as his beard recedes into his face and he looks like a mischievous teenage woman. “And besides, this is the perfect chance for me to finally take my vacations!”
“I suggest calling it punch-blessing.” Kisuke says, ever as helpful. By his side, his kitsune student groaned as he rubbed his face.
“We are not naming… whatever this is! It was an accident, it’ll fix itself.”
“But they are indeed blessed by your touch, kit. The method is certainly… unorthodox, but your magic is tangible.” A silver-white fox said by his feet, staring back at the unconscious men Ichigo had punched into seeing sense, after trying to rudely pick up some girls.
“And visible. This man is quite literally shining.” Kisuke adds, using his foot to touch the criminals.
Ichigo rubs at his temple, conflicted, mortified and with even more starry-eyed yakuza trailing behind him.
Ichigo decides that he has to put his foot down unless everything derailed even more. Sometimes he still wonders why he even tries.
“Look, Inari-sama. I’ve been having fun and what not but, I’m not god-material. And I just can’t be a god!” Ichigo tries to explain to no avail.
Inari just smiles at him and doesn’t actually reply.
Really, Ichigo should have known better given his luck.
It is now almost a year after Ichigo earned his first tail. Many things have changed for him, perhaps for the better.
Kisuke walks with an aimless gait, basket of fruits and books dangling from his arm as he made his way up the hill.
He reaches the shrine, bowing as he got within range and offering up a hello prayer and ringing the bell. That said he deposited the offerings in the proper place, amongst the never-ending supply the yakuza still left for the Fox Gods.
He stood back up and was not surprised at seeing the materialized form of the deity casually lounging atop his shrine as if he weighted nothing.
He looked anything but amused but Kisuke still smiled at him fondly. “Hello, Ichigo-sama.”
“We’ve talked about this before. No -sama from you. Ironically or otherwise. I’m not a god.” The orange-haired deity stated, almost like a mantra by itself. “I don’t even need you to bring me food. The yakuza already give me more than I can possibly eat.”
“I also brought books.” Kisuke counteroffers and Ichigo wastes no time making grabby hands. Kisuke laughs and hands them over before Ichigo tried lunging at him again.
“So how has divinity been?”
“Ugh, stop it. I’ve been picking up after Inari because he insists on being an absolute bum. I’m surprised rice didn’t go extinct before I came in.”
“My, that would be troublesome,” Kisuke laughs. In the end, Inari had only been allowed a short vacation, being reigned in by Hermione herself– heroic act that earned her the privilege of becoming a kitsune messenger for Ichigo. Inari had sulked, but in the end had agreed to the terms of them both sharing the duties that came with the name Inari, and were slowly being shared with Ichigo’s own name and power.
Ichigo tucks away the books for later and just floats idly as Kisuke tells him of the most recent mishaps of his friends and family.
He can still go visit them, but Ichigo still hasn’t gotten used to being ogled on the streets, so he’d rather they come visit whenever they can.
Kisuke has no problem being the messenger either. Besides that, “In other news I’m done writing your book.” He says, smiling when Ichigo stops drifting and plucks himself out of the air, nine-tails waving energetically.
“Really?” Ichigo accepts the manuscript and leafs though it with childish curiosity. He nods at some points, then arches his eyebrows at others and at the end he directs this offended look. “I do not need an official prayer!”
“But every god should-“
Kisuke sighs. “Anyway,” he proceeds, ignoring the indignant huff Ichigo gives, flicking his tails towards him. “I finally decided on a title for your biography.”
“Oh you did?”
“Yeah. It’ll be called, The path towards unwilling godhood.”
Ichigo stared at him far too calmly. “Kisuke?”
That is the story of how Kisuke got punch-blessed into having slit eyes and an eternally burning fire inside his belly he could command at will.
(Kisuke made sure to include that in the acknowledgments.)