They covered his eyes.
That was almost the worst part.
Not truly, but it was the fact that they had taken his sight along with everything else that made him rage.
Kisuke wondered if anyone had any idea of where he was. Of how long he’d been here. Everything ached. His arms and legs had been bound, and they had slipped a hood over his head. To ‘contain’ him, according to the guards that put him in this cell after his sentencing.
A ridiculous claim.
Even after sealing his powers, leaving him a soul with very little in terms of reiryoku, the Central 46 feared him. At least the group of them that had arranged for Kisuke’s arrest and trial.
They had to fear him if they were taking such extremes to keep him bound. Not that he blamed them. Even trapped like this, Kisuke was turning over plans and ideas about what to do next. Eventually, he would get out. Being trapped just gave him more time to think.
To forget what being around another person was like.
It helped. A distraction from the aching throb in his body. When they had sealed him, they had not been gentle. It left him empty, the dull pain like a sprained muscle that beat in time with his heart.
A pain that echoed in his mind.
They had taken Benihime.
It hurt to think of that at times. When he could do nothing but feel an emptiness where his princess had once lived.
He was alone.
That, more than anything, made Kisuke want to weep.
He would never give them the satisfaction of that. Instead, he focused on his rage, anger tearing at him as he sat quietly in the corner of his cell. Not that he had much choice. As tightly as they bound him, they had constrained him even more by keeping him secured in the cell itself.
Anger beat in his chest, and fear. He understood why they were scared of him. He was too smart, too clever. Part of his charges was for creating the Hogyoku in the first place, for breaking barriers that they wanted to be kept intact. After all, look at those who did break them. Aizen. The Visored. The Arrancar. Ichigo.
Fear was the only thing as strong as his rage at the moment. Because they could never contain Ichigo.
If they could not contain him, they would kill him.
Ichigo dead was….
Kisuke knew they would try going for the redhead eventually, simply because Ichigo would never stop being who he was. He would never be an obedient servant of Central 46. The power he had, both being a hybrid and being as charismatic as he was, would make him an enemy they would eventually wipe out.
They would eventually move again Ichigo and his friends, and Kisuke was sure that it would fail. But at what cost? Ichigo had already given up far too much for a place that did not deserve his goodwill. What else would they steal from him? His friends? His family?
Kisuke burned to warn him.
He knew that was not likely to happen.
They had sealed him.
They had eviscerated him.
They had ripped out what made him a shinigami. Torn the core of his powers right out. Left him bleeding spiritually, no better than a plus soul, one scraped clean and empty.
But they had forgotten something.
He was abandoned, alone. As far as he could tell, there was no monitoring on him. They had thrown him in this cell to die. Alone and empty of everything that made him spiritually strong. A husk of who he once was, a shell of a soul.
Hollows came from plus souls that had lost that core of themselves.
Kisuke ached. The pain gnawed at his bones, and he felt himself starting to slide into a state of mindlessness that terrified him. He just wanted something, anything to help fill that spot that used to have his powers, that used to have Benihime.
He could feel himself breaking down. It was slow at first, but his body was devouring itself. It needed more than what he could give it, and Kisuke wanted to howl. It hurt.
Was this what Ichigo had gone through in the Shattered Shaft, when his chain dissolved?
Kisuke was a monster, he knew that. Still, he owed Ichigo a better apology than he had given. It was a shame it would never be given.
How long had he been here? Transforming usually took a bit, but he had no idea how quickly it might have sped up from the trauma they had caused his soul.
He wondered if they had ever conceived of this result? Kisuke knew it was a possibility. All hollows were born from regular souls that couldn’t or wouldn’t move on. Who avoided Shinigami until the inevitable happened and their chains faded. Then they became hungry monsters, wanting to fill the void in their souls. How the hollow came back varied. Some were very much as they had been in life.
Those, Kisuke had theorized, were the ones most likely to eventually become menos class hollows, that sense of self allowing them to keep their intelligence. That in turn kept them in charge of all the souls they consumed.
Others became mindless monsters until they devoured a soul who then became the one in charge.
Would he be one of those?
In any case, they started off as humans before corrupting into what they were. With the removal of his powers, Kisuke was as empty as the souls that lived without hunger in the Rukongai.
He should never have started to change. Not into a hollow. But the way they sealed him, making sure he could never repair his Shinigami powers as he had repaired Ichigo’s….
They had practically carved a hole into him. That destabilization was enough for the change to start. Once it started, he felt something trickle in, a taste of power. Not enough to heal the damage they had done to him. But enough to feel the change that was starting in his core.
He was going to hunt down those who did this.
Pain flared across his chest, and he bit down on the urge to scream.
He hoped that Ichigo was all right. That it was only Kiuske the group had moved against so far. Because if they had been bold enough to move against him, it was only a matter of time before they went after the others. Another of his charges had been the corruption of living souls.
Sooner or later, they would claim that such corruption needed to be cleaned.
Blood filled his mouth as he bit the inside of his cheeks, pain flaring through him again. Along with the taste of blood, bitter rage lingered there as well.
Let him cause enough havoc when he changed to give the others a warning. He wouldn’t last long once he transformed. Not in the heart of the Seireitei, where the Gotei 13 resided.
But at least one of those who would take him down would recognize him, he was sure of it. And they would warn Yoruichi and Ichigo. Who would take care of keeping everyone safe?
Kisuke screamed with all the rage that built into his chest as something inside of him… broke.
He didn’t want to change.
When they got home, however, it was to a worried Tessai who had informed them that Kisuke had gotten a summons from Soul Society, and then vanished. Tessai hadn’t known what the message was about, but Kisuke seemed more annoyed than worried. He mentioned talking to some idiots about something that came up that he needed to explain some more.
Heading through to Soul Society himself after hearing about this, Ichigo had headed straight to the 5th. Talking to Shinji, the first person Ichigo had gone to, told him that nobody had been aware of the message being sent. Not even Kyoraku, who, as the guy in charge, should have at least been informed.
Yoruichi had popped up at that point, and she settled down to brainstorm with the pair of them. She had been able to find out that Kisuke had, in fact, made it to the Seireitei. Some of the younger people from the 12th had run into him and happily picked his brain for an hour or so as he had totally ignored whatever had brought him to Soul Society.
Not a surprise, as Ichigo was amazed that Kisuke had gone at all. Meandering off to chat with people when he knew it would annoy someone else sounded just like him. Especially since they seemed to annoy him first.
After that, however, Kisuke had simply vanished.
There were no traces of his reiatsu around, and no matter how often they showed up to annoy Mayuri, he didn’t do or say anything that implied he might have had a hand in Kisuke’s disappearance. In fact, the Captain of the 12th seemed more annoyed that Kisuke had vanished so thoroughly. He spent a lot of time muttering about ninja and their ability to be more annoying than anyone else.
Sometimes Ichigo really understood how Kisuke and Mayuri could have worked together.
When everything else had dried up, Ichigo went to Kyoraku. The man was apologetic, but he had no idea of what would have brought Kisuke to Soul Society. While the blond visited from time to time, he had made a home in the Living World. One he had stayed with when the offer had come to have exile rescinded and he could return.
Ichigo could only think of a few times that Kisuke had gone back. And most of them were to help Ichigo in some way.
Besides, like hell was Ichigo going to lose Kisuke like that. They had promised to have a talk after Ichigo came back from the trip. After months of chasing, he was not going to give Kisuke a chance to escape him like this.
Worry churned in Ichigo’s gut. Kyoraku hadn’t said anything in the first few visits, but as Kisuke continued to be missing, the man had finally sighed and invited Ichigo for a drink.
Holding the sake cup, Ichigo simply stared at Kyoraku until the man started to talk.
It turned out he didn’t know where Kisuke was, or why he had come. But he knew what group of people might have been able to send a request that the somewhat rebellious scientist would have listened to.
When Ichigo went to Shinji, that was confirmed by his second teacher. Turned out that Shinji was already, carefully, trying to send out feelers for if Kisuke had gone to meet with the Central 46. So far, there was nothing that had come up, but Ichigo hoped that was due to how careful Shinji was being.
Not that Ichigo blamed him. The previous incarnation of the Central 46 tried to have him put down like an animal. He could understand Shinji’s wariness.
Yoruichi was trying to do some digging of her own. But she was working through the 2nd, and they seemed to shut that line of inquiry down every time she started getting some traction. Hard.
When she informed them of that, Ichigo and Shinji had shared a look but stayed quiet.
Both knew how SoiFon felt about Kisuke. If Ichigo found out she had something to do with this, he and Yoruichi were going to have to talk about the fall out from that. Though he hoped that the woman would be on his side in this situation.
Months had passed, and Ichigo was exhausted. But he had no plans on giving up, and so found himself in Kyoraku’s office again.
This was a common occurrence, and it didn’t take long for the pair of them to be settled, cups of sake in hand.
“We still have not seen any signs of him,” Kyoraku said with a grimace, though it faded as he sipped at his alcohol. “I have asked Lisa-chan to do some digging of her own. The 8th is particularly well suited for such jobs, after all.”
When he had discovered that while the 2nd was the assassins and saboteurs with a bit of spying on the side, but the 8th was the actual intelligence division, Ichigo had been surprised. But it worked. Nobody suspected someone like Kyoraku of being able to organize a massive spy ring. Or Lisa, who currently ran it, of doing the same thing.
One day, Ichigo was going to meet a shinigami over a certain age who wasn’t wearing a mask and promptly freak out. Because it seems once one got old enough, they all developed one.
Ichigo scowled at the lack of news. “Have we gotten any details of where he headed after he left the 12th?”
That got him a sigh, and the man’s shoulders slumped a bit. “As far as we can tell, he headed to one of the buildings that Central 46 does some work from. But not the main one, and they won’t share who used that building at that time.”
“So we know that at least part of Central 46 had a part to do with this,” Ichigo said, eyes darkening. “Let me guess, a lot of nobles are part of it again?”
Kyoraku opened his mouth, but both of them froze as a curl of power curled up, spiking through them. That was a hollow.
It was also Kisuke.
The feel of Kisuke in the reiatsu was weak, barely there. But it was enough. Ichigo had a better taste for Kisuke’s reiatsu than anyone else’s. Plenty of time clashing against it over the years as they sparred and trained.
With a curse, Ichigo threw himself onto his feet, Kyoraku right behind him. “What is that?” Ichigo snapped, already trying to pull on Old Man’s skills to hunt down the feel of Kisuke.
“That’s from the prison,” Kyoraku muttered, frowning. “Nobody is supposed to be put there without telling me. Come on.”
He grabbed Ichigo’s arm and pulled the younger man along with him. Given that Ichigo had been ready to slam a Getsuga Tensho down into the floor to do this the quick way, it was probably a good idea that Kyoraku had grabbed him like that.
With a blur of flashstep, they found themselves at the cell the pressure was coming from.
In the room was a single form. A slim body wrapped in ragged green clothes and straps of leather, unreadable kido sigils glowing on them. A hood of some sort was wrapped around the top part of the man’s head, but Ichigo recognized the ashy blond ends of hair that curled out from under it.
He probably would have recognized the lower half of Kisuke’s face, but all he could see now was a bird-like beak of white, which opened to let out another shrill shriek that made Ichigo’s bones vibrate.
Inside, there was a moment of icy calm, and then rage boiled up in him.
He could feel his eyes burning, sliding from regular vision to that odd variant he had when he was wearing his mask. Turning his head towards Kyoraku, he bared his teeth. It wasn’t Kyoraku’s fault, but Ichigo’s rage was….
He didn’t let himself feel true rage often. There was a reason for that.
He felt it now. And he wouldn’t be able to control what he lashed out at if anything he decided was a threat got too close. Given that someone in Soul Society had done this to Kisuke, everyone in Soul Society was a danger.
“Run,” he said, voice already doubling as he felt himself sliding sideways. Hadn’t been conscious last time Zangetsu had reacted to his fear and rage like this, but he wasn’t going to fight it now.
They had come to an agreement long ago. Ichigo was trying to be better about working with his zanpakuto and all of their talents. But the sort of rage he felt now? Well, Zangetsu was better at handling it.
He didn’t trust anyone here at the moment, but there was still one thought that pointed out that Kyoraku was his friend. So Ichigo gave the man a chance to run.
Turning back to Kisuke, he let himself fall back, and Zangetsu roared out his rage and anger, claws coming up and shredding the bindings that held Kisuke.
For a moment, the blond tried to fight, but the pressure of Zangetsu’s reiatsu slammed into him, and the other man crumpled, going limp.
They caught him before he hit the ground, and Ichigo found himself snarling again, even mostly buried behind the dual person of Zangetsu. Kisuke had always been thin. Both of them were. But now he barely weighed anything.
Had he been here the entire time he had been missing? Had he eaten at all in any of that time?
They screamed out their rage as they carefully collected Kisuke in their arms. One arm carefully cradled Kisuke against their chest, and they tilted their head. There was something that would help Kiuske, they just had to collect it.
Tilting their head down, a glowing ball of red spun into existence between the tips of long horns. With a snarl, they flung the cero out, destroying the floor under them. A curl of reiatsu kept their support in the air steady, then Zangetsu let them drop.
They landed in front of a startled Aizen, shredding the wards that had kept him secured.
Then Zangetsu reached and ripped the Hogyoku from Aizen’s chest. The item came free easily enough, Aizen having lost full control over it years ago.
The noise Aizen made caused Zangetsu to rumble, pleasure in the sound. They had hurt the man. Good.
Before Aizen could say anything or even react, Zangetsu reached out and tore open a hole in reality, showing the swirling nothingness of Garganta.
Then Zangetsu flung himself forward, and out of Soul Society.
Perhaps for good.
Kisuke did not deserve their rage.
They could not trust him yet, however. So the three of them needed to work together.
Which was just as well. As soon as the hood was off, there was a shriek and Kisuke flung himself forward, body twisting as it continued to try warping. Something about was keeping it from fully happened, but there were changes.
As Kisuke curled forward, Zangetsu could see some sort of limbs uncurling from his back. Later, he’d check it out. His legs were extending, feet twisted into talons. Those matched up with the birdlike mask that covered Kisuke’s face.
Though their eyes dropped to where the man’s top gapped open, showing an empty hole that sat in Kisuke’s lower sternum.
Something went tight and hot and painful in their chest.
Someone had hurt their Kisuke. They were going to repay the favor ten times over.
Zangetsu slammed him to the ground with pure reiatsu again. Kisuke shrieked, struggling against the pressure, and Zangetsu grabbed the Hogyoku. Ichigo felt of a question, but Old Man was certain about this. So they shoved Kisuke onto his back and tore open the man’s top. One clear of the fabric, they dropped the glowing orb into the hole that was open there. As they did that, they also leaned in and bit at Kisuke’s throat.
It was due to instinct. That instinct said to pin him down and make a claim. Kisuke was powerful, clever, and theirs already. The power that he was giving off was already bringing in weaker hollows, who disintegrated when they hit the edge of Zangetsu’s reiatsu. Fools. Kisuke was far too good for any of them.
If Kisuke was willing to submit….
That idea was tantalizing.
Their teeth sank into Kisuke’s skin, drawing blood even as they pressed his body down against the sand. For a moment, Kisuke went limp under their teeth. Which was very nice indeed, as it let Zangetsu brace properly before power slammed into the blond. Kisuke’s body twisted and arched as the Hogyoku poured power into him, and Zangetsu used his weight to keep the man still.
The feel of Kisuke twisting and moving under him put interesting images into Zangetsu’s mind. Something to play with later. When they were both more aware and Kisuke could fully appreciate them being on top of him like this.
Around them, violet light started to curl out across the sand as it poured off Kisuke’s skin, and Zangetsu purred.
Then the world exploded into crimson touched violet fire as the mask on Kisuke’s face shattered.
Zangetsu soaked it up, teeth digging more into Kisuke’s skin. Theirs.
How much time passed, they had no idea. But under them, Kisuke spasmed, and Zangetsu felt the man’s power spike upwards. Kisuke had been a strong Shinigami, able to stand up with one of the Espada. As a hollow, he had been weak, to the point that Zangetsu had worried for him under the rage.
Now, though, he was strong. Inside him beat the power of the Hogyoku, which had grown full of power after so long merged with Aizen.
Zangetsu purred, and finally let go of the bite, licking up the blood that trickled from the mark. Lifting their head, they looked down at Kisuke. He had two lines of the mask left, one along the underside of each eye, a streak of white against pale skin. From the corners of his eyes was a sweep of a pale color that continued that path of white to his hairline.
Feeling his mask fracture, Ichigo found himself in charge as he looked down at Kisuke. The blond looked up at him, pupils blown wide, cheekbones sharp in his face.
“Kisuke? Are you with me?” Ichigo wasn’t actually sure. The man’s eyes were dangerously blank. Ichigo touched Kisuke’s cheek, absently aware that he still had red fur around his wrist, fingers tipped with claws.
At the touch, Kisuke jolted, then he flung himself up, wrapping arms around Ichigo. It was almost bruisingly tight. His face pressed against Ichigo’s throat, and Ichigo felt something warm and wet trickle against his skin.
Pressed again Ichigo, Kisuke started to shake.
Ichigo realized that he was crying.
Ichigo was definitely going to murder someone.
He just wrapped his arms around Kisuke and held him as tight as Kisuke was holding him.
First, though, first was to focus on Kisuke. The new Arrancar needed the support. He would get Kisuke settled and calm. Then they could plan on killing whoever had caused this.
There was a shaky breath, and Kisuke shifted to press closer to Ichigo. “Kill people later,” Kisuke said, voice rough and raw. Ichigo realized he must have thinking out loud. But he was distracted by Kisuke’s voice. How long had it been since the man had talked to anyone?
Ichigo was getting a sinking feeling the last time Kisuke had spoken to anyone was when he had been put in that cell.
Given the way Kisuke was clinging, it was probably the last time he got to interact with anyone, period.
That had been months.
With Zangetsu sitting just under his skin, ready to come back if they found they needed to fight, Ichigo focused on holding Kisuke. This was what the man needed now.
Later, they’d get revenge on who did this. Once Kisuke was ready to plan it.
He deserved to be able to do that.