Ichigo sat in his room reading through a book for some of his choices in University. He was trying to not think about anything related to Soul Society. He was really, really trying not to remember the events over the last few months. He felt betrayed still. To actually spy on him and measure his power and what he did… In a way, he guessed he understood. The way his powers worked was a bit scary, he supposed. Now that he knew about Kugo, he supposed that it made sense. He put down the book and looked at the badge where it sat on the desk beside his bed. He sighed. He still wasn’t sure what to think of everything that had happened. He was grateful that Soul Society gave his power back to him, but he still felt strange about it. There was something in the back of his mind.
King. You know, if something feels wrong it is. But if it feels right…
Shut up, Shiro, Ichigo said with a sigh. I just don’t know any more what I think about anyone.
There was a giggle in his head. I do. Fuck ‘em. We should just take off on our own. Why don’t you just drop out and we’ll just go on forever. I just got you back, King. I don’t wanna lose you again.
Shiro… he thought with a deep sigh. The words that Shiro had said when he had given up his power rang in his head like bells. “The only one I wanted to protect…was you.”
King, I don’t like what I feel.
What do you mean? Ichigo said with a deep frown.
Something…something’s not right. I just… Shiro’s voice paused. King. I’m afraid.
Ichigo realized the weight of that statement. The hollow? Afraid? Of what? The only time he’d been afraid was when he knew he was going to give up his power to defeat Aizen. Ichigo had no idea what else could make Shiro afraid. Shiro was a reflection of himself, of course.
“You’re scared…” he whispered out loud. “Of what?”
King…I’m sorry I couldn’t do a better job. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you more. I’m…so sorry.
Ichigo nearly jumped out of his skin when the door opened with a bang. He looked up to see his father was staring at him with a look that he had never seen. It was somewhere between fury and sadness. There was no trace of the light that normally lit up his eyes when he looked at his son.
“Pop?” he asked, confused by the look.
“What did you do?” Isshin said with a deathly calm to his voice.
Ichigo blinked and shook his head. “What? What do you mean? I haven’t been doing much but getting ready to start classes…” he said looking at him with a sinking feeling in his stomach.
“I can’t protect you, Ichigo. You’ve…you’ve crossed the line. I…I don’t know you anymore. I can’t intervene,” he said and turned and left with no other comment.
Ichigo stared at the doorway and wondered just what the hell that had been about. He started to stand up and then felt the sensation of someone pushing his soul form out of his body. He stumbled and turned to watch his human form fall back onto his bed and he was staring at Rukia, a different glove on her hand. He shook his head, feeling odd when she did it. It was like it drained his power this time. It was like nothing he’d ever felt when she’d done it before.
“Hey, what was that for?” he asked as he looked at her. “Wh-what’s wrong with me…” he muttered and shook his head to try and clear the dizziness that came from his power lowering rapidly.
“I can’t believe you’d do this, Ichigo,” she said with deadly calm. She had a completely blank look on her face and he didn’t know what to think of it.
Ichigo shook his head. “What…what’s going on?” he said, looking at her and feeling the heaviness of several captain level reiatsu coming toward the house.
“We trusted you. We gave your power back, and you turn on us like this? You would do something so vile to us?” she said and her face twisted into something that Ichigo recognized as hatred. “How could you let this happen? To do this. I watched you, Ichigo. I saw what you did, every second of it. Don’t deny your guilt.”
Ichigo looked up as Byakuya and Renji stepped down into the room, the same look of disgust and hate on their faces.
“What…I didn’t…I haven’t even stepped out of my human body since I got back from Soul Society the last time I saw you!” he said, looking between three accusing stares. His head still felt weird.
“Your lies will not save you, Kurosaki,” Byakuya said. “What you have done…there is no redemption for you. I knew that when I saw the creature the first time we fought that this day would come. I regret that we did not take preemptive action sooner.”
Ichigo just stared as Renji took a step forward and snapped a collar around his neck. Ichigo gasped, choking, as his shihakuso faded into white, his powers fading into the background. He heard Shiro screaming in the back of his mind before he was silenced.
Sobbing quietly, Shiro’s voice rang clearly. I’m so sorry, King…so sorry…I loved you, know that…
Ichigo choked a sob back himself as fell forward and felt the world fade away.
Ichigo woke up alone, in a place he remembered vividly from when he had rescued Rukia. He turned to the wall and stared out the slit onto what used to be Sokoyu Hill. And he was alone. He couldn’t hear Shiro. He couldn’t hear Zangetsu. He couldn’t feel anything. He reached tentative hands up and felt the stone collar around his neck. Seki seki stone. The same thing this place was made of. It blocked all reiatsu. He tried to reach for his head and found his wrists were chained to the floor in rings on either side of him. He started when he heard a voice behind and above him and saw Renji standing at the top of the stairs.
“I don’t know you, you are nothing to us,” Renji said with a flat, dead sound to his voice. “There is nothing but suffering in Soul Society for you now. You would be strung up and destroyed on Sokoyu Hill if it hadn’t been destroyed. So instead, you’ll stay here until his services and memorial are finished. What you’ve done…death is too good for you. Your name will be profane in the mouths of all in Soul Society. None will remember you with anything but scorn.”
Ichigo looked at him with wide eyes. He pulled on the chains and they rattled loudly in the empty room. “What…what are you talking about? I haven’t done anything!” he screamed at him. “Why am I here? What happened?”
Renji snorted. “You were my best friend. But I would gladly end your life right now if the Head Captain hadn’t decreed that you would stay here and rot until you are forgotten. At few years of solitude should encourage you to explain yourself and stop this act of innocence. The fact that you will not admit to your deeds is worse than what you’ve done. You will fade from all memory.”
Ichigo shook his head. “What…I don’t…what do you think I did?” he screamed at him. Renji was his best friend. He was the one person he trusted more than anyone. What could he possibly think he’d done?
“You murdered Captain Jūshirō Ukitake, and there is never going to be forgiveness for you here,” Renji said and turned and left him.
Ichigo fell to his knees and stared after him. He didn’t kill anyone. He hadn’t even left his human form in almost two months. He sat there and tried to understand what was happening to him. How could they think he killed Jūshirō? How? He couldn’t have done that. There was no way. He hadn’t left his human body. He couldn’t even get to Soul Society by himself, anyway, he never had been able to do that. Not only that, but the vasto lorde form was impossible to control. It wasn’t something he could make happen; he’d been dead the last time. He licked his lips, staring at the bracers with the chains and nodded to himself.
“They’ll come back. They’ll realize they’re wrong. They have to. I didn’t do anything. I trust them,” he said emphatically as he sat back on his heels. “They’ll investigate it. And they’ll figure out what really happened. Renji and Rukia wouldn’t let me stay here if I wasn’t guilty. There’s no way. I’ll wait,” he said and looked up to the door. Four days passed before it opened again, and he waited.
Ichigo believed that they would realize they were wrong, and that was okay. He’d be fine with it, and he’d go home and carry on with his life, or he’d stay in Soul Society to figure out what happened to Jūshirō. Something had happened to him, and he knew he didn’t do anything, so he had to find out who did. He knew they’d figure it out. Of course they were. They were his friends and family. They wouldn’t believe he could do something so terrible. Renji and Rukia were upset, that’s all. They didn’t mean what they said, neither did his father. It would all be fine.
There was a bang and he looked to see his father in his shihakuso, Kurotsuchi, Orihime, Uryū, and Chad walking down with the Head Captain.
The head captain stood in front of him and looked at him.
“Ichigo Kurosaki. You are summarily charged and convicted of the murder of Captain Jūshirō Ukitake. You have done this with no honor and after Soul Society has instilled trust in a second substitute Shinigami. Without the Sokoyu, you will not be executed. The Gotei 13 have decided that for such a terrible crime, death would be too kind. You will remain here, alone, for a period of no less than five years. At the end of each year, you will be offered an opportunity to confess your crimes. If you choose to do so, you will be mercifully executed and allowed to return to the cycle. After five years, if you choose not to unburden yourself, Captain Kurotsuchi has be requested time to examine your unique physiology to understand what has caused this terrible turn of events. It is with great sadness I deliver the verdict.”
The head captain turned and left, leaving the others there. Ichigo looked at his father and his friends franticly. “I didn’t do this! I didn’t kill anyone!”
Kurosuchi smiled at him and held up a device that projected an image of the koi pond where Ukitake often sat. To Ichigo’s horror, he watched as his own image appeared behind him, wearing the Vizard mask, and stabbed the captain of the thirteenth division through the back. He watched as his form dropped to his knees behind him and gasped as the hollow mask expanded and shifted into the vasto lorde form that he’d held to fight Ulquiorra. He consumed Ukitake’s soul entirely. The image winked out and Ichigo stared at the space for a long time. He looked at his father.
“That…that wasn’t me! I didn’t do that! You know I haven’t left home in two months, Pop! How would I even get here? How? I don’t have the ability to open a senkaimon!” he yelled.
Isshin shook his head and turned away and waited with his back to Ichigo.
“Pop! Please! I wouldn’t do something like this! I can’t! I can’t use that form at will!” he begged as he tried to get his hands free, but he was so weak without any of his reiatsu. “I wouldn’t let anything like that happen! I’d kill myself before I let the hollow control me! You know that!”
He looked up as Orihime came forward, tears streaming down her face. Her lip quivered and she slapped him. He looked at her and couldn’t believe they would think this of him.
“I loved you, Kurosaki. I loved you. To think, you are the monster you swore you weren’t. You will get what you deserve,” she whispered and went to stand beside Isshin with her back to him and he could hear her sobbing.
Ichigo looked at Chad with pleading eyes as he stood quietly facing him. “Chad…you’ve known me for so long, you know I would never hurt someone! I don’t even kill the people I fight!”
“I would not have though you capable of being corrupted. I know that Ichigo would not hurt anyone. The creature inside you, however, had no such restraint. I am sorry it has corrupted the person that was my friend,” Chad said and turned away as well.
Ichigo’s eyes went wide. “No! You know that! Uryū! Please, I can’t do something like this! You…you know that! We’ve fought back to back how many times? You know I can’t do this!” he said and he felt tears starting to slide down his cheeks.
Uryū looked for a long time at Ichigo then shook his head. “I hated all Shinigami, and I hated hollows, and right now, all I want to do is put an arrow between your eyes, Kurosaki. But I won’t because destroying your soul is too good of a punishment for you. That thing corrupted you. There is nothing of the person that was my friend left, is there?” he said quietly.
Ichigo shook his head. “No! Ishida! You know me! I can’t do such a thing! You know…” he stammered but Uryū moved and punched him across the face, sending him to the floor as blood dripped from his lip. Uryū shook his head and spit on him as he turned away.
Kurotsuchi smirked. “You will be mine, Kurosaki. We’ll take you apart and find out why that created hollow of Aizen’s managed to corrupt you so completely. First, though, the head captain wants to give you a chance to think about your actions and admit to them.”
They stood there for a moment and Ichigo couldn’t help. He pulled himself up to his knees and sat back on his heels, hands laying limply in his lap with the palms open and up toward them. “Please! I didn’t do anything…but I’ll give up my power, all of it! I’ll go back to being human again, I don’t care, just don’t leave me here alone! I’ll give it up, all of it, you can take it all away! I’ll never even fight again, whatever you need me to do, just let me go home! I want to be with my family, my sisters, you, Pop! Please, I’m your son and you’re just going to leave me here like this?”
Isshin turned back and looked at him as he stared at him. “I no longer have a son. He’s dead. His ashes have already been laid to rest by his mother. I was proud of my son. He was a good boy and would have made a good man. I’m sorry that I never got to see my son grow up. My daughters will remember the son I used to have, not the monster that is locked into this tower.”
Ichigo’s breath caught and he felt more tears sliding down his face as he watched them walk up the stairs and leave. None looked back at him again. He didn’t want to cry, but he couldn’t help it. His heart was breaking into a million pieces and everyone abandoned him there. He didn’t care what they’d said, he didn’t, he would have forgiven them in a second if they’d just come back to him and took him home. The door slammed with a bang and he flinched violently at the sound.
“No…please…don’t leave me…don’t…don’t leave me alone….” He sobbed as the chains released, leaving him free to move around the small room. He simply sat there for hours, staring at the door, willing it to open again and someone, anyone, to come in and tell him it was all a mistake.
The door didn’t open again.
“Yo, Aizen-sama,” came a voice into the nearly empty conference room.
“What is it, Grimmjow?”
The chair turned and Sōsuke Aizen set his eyes on the sixth Espada. Grimmjow grinned at Aizen as he sauntered up and sat in the chair to the left of him. He kicked his legs up and leaned back, running a hand over his blue hair.
“You were fucking right, they turned on him without a second thought,” he said with a shake of his head. “Never thought it would be so fast. Shit, it was like what, two weeks?”
“They didn’t kill him; I hope? You were to retrieve him if they were planning to execute him,” he said with a sigh. “Please tell me that you didn’t make a mess of this.”
“Nah, they’ve put him in solitary for a while,” Grimmjow said with a smile. “Fucking locked him in that white tower of theirs. I was at the ‘trial’, whatever you want to call it using that device that Octavo gave me. Here, I got a recording Aaroniero made.”
Grimmjow tossed a disk in the center of the table and it projected an image above it.
The captains stood in their positions with their lieutenants standing behind them. The Head Captain spoke up first. “Present the evidence.”
Rukia stepped up. “I witnessed Ichigo Kurosaki enter the grounds near Ukitake-Taichou’s koi pond. He impaled him from behind and…and…he fell down to his knees. Ichigo…or whatever the thing is that used to be Ichigo…knelt down and…consumed his soul form. He then left in a sonido. The sound was not a Shunpo. The reiatsu was tightly controlled, something that Ichigo Kurosaki has never been able to do. It felt hollow and very powerful. There is no doubt, however, that it was Ichigo Kurosaki’s reiatsu.”
Rukia stepped back behind the two lieutenants for the thirteen division and looked down. The head captain looked around. “Confirmation has been made by Kurotsuchi-Taichou?”
Kurotsuchi stepped forward. “I retrieved the memory from Kuchiki-san’s mind and was able to record it. I have the disk here to submit as evidence,” he said and moved forward to hand it to the head captain. “No other confirmation was possible at the location of the attack.”
The Head Captain played it as everyone watched. “The evidence is damning. Is there anyone that wishes to present any doubt?”
Zaraki shook his head. “No. Something happened. That was not something Kurosaki would do.”
“Do you have any evidence, Zaraki-Taichou?”
“I know he would not do something like this, he’s a fighter, not that thing, that’s enough,” he said and glared at them.
Everyone else was quiet. The Head Captain spoke up again. “Very well. We will vote for or against conviction.”
The vote was unanimous save Zaraki. “Now, the punishment for this crime.”
“He should not be executed and returned to the cycle,” Renji said from behind Byakuya. “That is far too good for him.”
Byakuya looked up. “Sou-taichou. I would suggest that we give him time in confinement and then allow him to admit to his deeds. If he can admit to his deeds, then he should be allowed a merciful execution. He may not, however. I saw the creature and it is possible that he did not do it while in control of himself. That does not matter, however. If Kurosaki cannot control the creature, he must be executed as a clear and present threat.”
“Very well. We shall deliver the verdict to the prisoner,” the Head Captain said. “He will be remanding to confinement for five years. If during that time he confesses, he will be executed to return to the cycle. If he does not…”
“Pardon me,” Kurotsuchi said with a grin. “If I may, if he does not confess, he may not remember the deed, as Kuchiki-Taichou suggests. It may be honest on his part that he does not recall the event, instead the hollow having taken him over without his knowledge. If he cannot confess after five years, I recommend allowing me to try and extract the hollow from him, or at the very least, understand how this has happened. Either I will be able to remove the hollow, and let him free once we are certain he is not a danger, or I will not, and we can execute him at that point.”
The head captain nodded. “Agreed.”
The recording faded out. Grimmjow snorted. “They didn’t even fucking pick up on what you did to prove he was innocent. I mean, damn, I could have put that together, and I’m not a fucking captain.”
“You see that, my dear friend?” Aizen said and looked at the other end of the table where the white haired Jūshirō Ukitake sat with a thick collar of seki seki stone and glaring at Aizen. His shihakuso was white and his swords were encased in a vault of the same stone that was around his neck. “You swore that your people would give him a fair trial to prove his innocence. I left so much that they could have seen, and only Zaraki refused to believe it. Of course, only because he sees him as good fighter. That was not a trail, it was a confirmation of what they had already decided. They didn’t give him even a chance to speak.”
“Why?” Jūshirō said as he shook his head. “Why would you do this to Ichigo?” He chose to ignore the fact that Soul Society had just did what he had feared the most. After what happened with Rukia, and the other substitute Shinigami… They had not learned.
“To show him that his friends are not his friends. Do you have any idea how difficult setting up this ruse was for me, Jūshirō?” Aizen said with a sigh. “Putting those Arrancar in place to make it look like my Espada died to your people. Then Gin turns on me? That was perhaps the only thing that really surprised me. Tōsen’s sacrifice was appreciated, however. It was an excellent distraction. And then, the poor sacrificial lamb that is now housed in the maggot’s nest with my face.”
“Hey, I didn’t let no underling take my fucking place,” Grimmjow growled. “Most of us, anyway. I finished my fucking fight, and Barragan, Zommari, and Yammy went down before you got them out. Szayelaporro had that stupid regeneration device, still can’t believe that damn thing worked. Then you pulled Ulquiorra’s broken ass back before it got obliterated, anyway. You did a good job with that, too. That stupid Quincy and woman never noticed when he disappeared and reappeared. I don’t fucking miss Yammy, though, fucking asshole,” he muttered. “Zommari was just fucking creepy.”
“I know, Grimmjow, I know. At least I was able to heal Starrk and Hallibel’s fraccion when we came back from the World of the Living. As luck would have it, I managed to save Nnoitra before he perished completely,” he said with a sigh. “We did suffer losses, of course. All but a few that you saw die, did. Barragan’s fraccion, Grimmjow’s, the others that were sacrificed like the priverion. Szayelaporro wasn’t too difficult, he had a way to resurrect himself infinitely in place already. And all the ajunca that died in the siege. So in all, the only illusions I maintained were replacing Ulquiorra, which was easy since Ichigo hadn’t seen my Shikai, however, in that state, he didn’t care what he destroyed. It looked somewhat like the monster he was fighting, but not quite…you never realized that the woman had viewed my Shikai. And the Quincy? He wasn’t paying attention enough to notice the change.”
Aizen smiled again. “Then, of course, my own illusion of death, again. I really, really am shocked that you fell for that twice. I did use the hypnosis when Nnoitra fought Zaraki, of course, only at the very end so he would think him dead. Nnoitra wasn’t about to pass up on a fight like that. You all underestimated my abilities, greatly.”
“I can’t believe your Zanpakutō was able to do this much,” Jūshirō said as he shook his head. “We knew, even after you feigned your own death, what it could do. And we should have seen your ruse for what it was.”
“It took a while to restore my forces, Jūshirō, that’s why it took so long. But my real aim was the Kurosaki boy. He has my greatest work inside him, and I will have it returned,” Aizen said with a shrug.
“You never really wanted the King’s Key,” Jūshirō said with a sigh.
“Not at all. I wanted the boy. But first, I had to see his true power and potential. And now, I’ll show him his friends and family are not who he believes they are, and then he will come to me willingly as I actually retrieve the oaken and get to the Soul King,” Aizen said with a smile. “I may have not wanted it then, but I will take it eventually. I have patience, Jūshirō. Much patience. And everything is going according to my plan.”
Jūshirō shook his head and felt the deep dread filling him. There was no hope now. If they truly believed he was dead, and Ichigo was the cause, Jūshirō knew that Rukia and Renji would not intercede on Ichigo’s behalf. They wouldn’t listen to reason unless Jūshirō could return to them. They would not want to think that he wasn’t dead after what they saw. And then, the idea that he was actually imprisoned would be beyond their imagining.
“How did you manage to convince them that Ichigo killed me?” he said.
“That was simple. I went with Ulquiorra, used the hypnosis to show Rukia a different scene, and he and I returned with you,” Aizen said flippantly. “You didn’t even feel our presence. The one thing having Szayelaporro around is great for is his ability to invent things.”
Jūshirō shook his head. He had nothing to say for that. Aizen smirked and looked to Grimmjow.
“Sexta, take our friend to his new accommodations. I’m sure he’s quite exhausted with his power sealed like that. Oh, and Jūshirō, don’t try anything. I’d hate to have to actually kill you, and then simply destroy the boy,” Aizen said as Grimmjow pulled the powerless Shinigami to his feet and took him to his tower prison.
Aizen smiled to himself in the quiet of the white room. Oh, they would have no idea what was coming, he thought to himself.
The first year was easier than he expected. He focused on dealing with what had happened. He rationalized that their grief clouded their judgement, of course it had. He knew that his father was just trying to protect his sisters. If he sided with Ichigo, he took the chance that Soul Society would turn on them. He’d stare out the slight slit in the wall and see the Shinigami move around their lives. Now and then, he’d catch sight of someone he knew, but doing so only tore at his heart even more. But surely they would realize that they were wrong. His mind would repeat the horrific images from what they’d shown him. He hadn’t done that. He couldn’t have, could he? Maybe he did do that. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t get to Soul Society alone. How could they believe that he could have done that?
Surely. He was hopeful. He had to be to make it through this.
When the head captain came to him at the end of the first year, he’d begged him to think about how he could have done what they accused him of. He told him that he couldn’t have done it, and begged him to just try to figure out what really happened because Ukitake’s real murderer was still out there. The Head Captain said nothing as he listened to Ichigo until he asked the question.
“Will you confess to the heinous murder of Captain Jūshirō Ukitake?”
Ichigo had told him no. He had left Ichigo without a word. He stood in the room for a long moment before he fell to his knees. That was it? A year and that was all he got? One question?
The second year was worse. He was having trouble holding onto hope. He would stand and stare out the slit in the wall and just stare. He paced around the room, and knew exactly how many steps it was in every direction. He could find his way without looking. He knew how many steps and how far. His clothes were beginning to tatter, and he was wondering if they would give him any more. He would break down and cry now and then, mostly out of desperation. He just wanted to hear someone’s voice, anyone’s voice.
At the end of that second year, Ichigo had broken down and sobbed, begging him to please let him go home. He begged him to strip his powers away, do anything, render him human, anything, he just wanted to leave the confinement.
“Will you confess to the heinous murder of Captain Jūshirō Ukitake?”
The head captain left without comment once again. He had sobbed into his arms until he passed out afterward. Another year. Another year alone…
The third year he couldn’t help but feel like he was never leaving the small room. He was so mad, though. He would scream at nothing and punch at the walls until his hands bled. When the did he’d just stand and watch the blood drip from his knuckles onto the floor. It reminded him of rain. He’d always liked the rain. It was so very pretty. He shook it away and felt the anger build. How dare they? How dare they think him capable of doing something like this? They didn’t even talk to him before he was convicted! And Rukia, that bitch…how dare she stand there and tell him that he did such a thing. And when he saw Renji again, he was going to pull all that obnoxious red hair out of his head for what he’d said. How dare they!
The end of the third year, Ichigo was still so very angry. He screamed and yelled at the head captain. He told him how much he had given to Soul Society and how mad he was that they could simply abandon him like this. He raged and told him how terrible they were.
“Will you confess to the heinous murder of Captain Jūshirō Ukitake?”
Ichigo had screamed at him that he didn’t kill anyone, he didn’t even kill people he beat in battle, otherwise Kenpachi, Ikkaku, and Byakuya would be dead! But then, the head captain had simply walked away, leaving Ichigo gasping for breath on the floor after his tirade of anger. Ichigo couldn’t make the voice in his head that kept cackling and screaming stop after that.
The fourth year stretched on endlessly. Time became ephemeral for him. The voice, the one he started calling Shiro because it sounded like the hollow, kept telling him things that made him wonder if he was worth saving anymore. It would laugh and talk to him and sometimes he’d talk back to it. In a way it was comforting. He knew it wasn’t real, though, so what was the harm? It was just his mind coping with the loneliness. Then, as time passed, he simply would lay on the floor and stare into nothingness, talking to “Shiro” now and then. There was no point. There was nothing in him anymore.
That fourth year, he simply sat against the wall and looked at the head captain. He said nothing to him until he asked the question Ichigo knew was coming.
“Will you confess to the heinous murder of Captain Jūshirō Ukitake?”
Ichigo just told him that they didn’t kill anyone. The head captain turned and left him again. The head captain didn’t comment that he had used “we” when speaking of himself.
The fifth year seemed to phase in and out. He would scream and rage at nothing, then fall to the floor and sob until he started laughing. That was when he started trying to kill himself. He’d dig into his flesh and watch the blood flow and laugh until he passed out. He would wake to find his body mended. They wouldn’t let him die. Of course, they wouldn’t let him die. The second voice would chastise him for doing something like that. Zan, he called this voice. Slowly, though, the idea that these two voices were in his head and not real began to lose purchase in his thoughts. He would have whispered conversations with Zan and Shiro, and then they’d fight with each other, which that was annoying.
The end of the fifth year loomed. The sound of the door unsealing frightened him into yelping in surprise. He looked up and scrambled to his feet. Even though he had told himself to stop hoping, when that door opened each year, he held onto the barest shred of hope. He hoped they had realized their mistake. He hoped they had figured out that he hadn’t done what they said he’d done, what they’d seen him do. He watched as the head captain and his lieutenant came down with Kurotsuchi. Five years. If they didn’t believe him, Kurotsuchi was taking him. They approached.
“Ichigo Kurosaki. The period of five years ends of your solitary confinement for contemplation has passed. You have the choice to admit to and ask forgiveness for your deeds and be executed with compassion, or you will be remanded to the Research division to understand what has caused your descent into hollow behavior. Four times you have continued to deny your actions. Will you confess to the heinous murder of Captain Jūshirō Ukitake?”
Ichigo shook his head. “We…” he coughed as his voice cracked from disuse. “We didn’t…I didn’t kill Jūshirō!” he said despite planning to admit to it.
He had tried to make the choice to just tell them he did it so they’d kill him and release him from this torment. But he couldn’t admit to something he never would have done in his life. He couldn’t do it. Shiro laughed in his head and called him weak.
The head captain nodded. “Very well, Captain Kurotsuchi, he is yours to do as you will. I will continue to check in to see if he decides to confess each year,” he said and he left.
Ichigo’s eyes went wide as he felt something, some sort of kido, warp around him and the world faded from existence for a while.
When he woke, he found himself strapped to a table that was tilted halfway up and blinking into the bright lights of Kurotsuchi lab. His mouth was gagged and there were people running around and talking. He looked up as Kurotsuchi came up in front of him.
“Hello, Kurosaki,” he said and gave him a look. “You see, I’m slightly insane, I’m sure you know,” he said. “So now, we’re going to find out what makes you who you are.”
Kurotsuchi leaned forward and whispered in his ear. “For what it’s worth, I don’t believe that you killed Ukitake,” he said. “But I voted to convict you, making it almost unanimous, because I wanted to get ahold of you to experiment and research on this created Hollow that Aizen made.”
Ichigo’s eyes widened as he stepped back. “Now, this will hurt. A lot,” he said as he injected something into Ichigo’s arm. Ichigo didn’t know when he stopped screaming. He didn’t think he ever did.
The first year with the crazy scientist was the easiest, of course. The first year mostly was comprised of Kurotsuchi testing every aspect of him. He mostly spent it in incredible degrees of agony. Within the first few months, after the testing, Kurotsuchi had come up with ways to dampen Ichigo’s powers without using seki seki stone. This was a great breakthrough for his research, for one. He found that by injecting certain serums, he could artificially block the flow of spiritual energy in the body. Doing so was incredibly painful, excruciating, in fact, because it was something that was not tolerable by a being fueled by spiritual energies completely. It took time, but Kurotsuchi began to fine tune the procedure, and instead of knocking Ichigo unconscious for days at a time, it would only cut access to one area of his spiritual energy. But by the end, he sat in the cell he’d been given and glared at the head captain as he asked the question again.
“Will you confess to the heinous murder of Captain Jūshirō Ukitake?”
Ichigo shook his head violently and ran at the clear barrier. He screamed at him. “No! No! We…I never killed him!” He beat on the clear wall and continued to scream at him even after the sound was turned off to the outside. He slid to his knees and watched him leave again.
The second year was worse. Kurotsuchi was trying to rip his soul apart, he knew it without being told. The serums were less incapacitating, but no less excruciating. Kurotsuchi would suppress Ichigo’s hollow reiatsu in an attempt to separate it. He said he was trying to remove the hollow. Considering the hollow was his Zanpakutō spirit, that had been more than a little complicated, and horribly painful. He was barely able to think. Shiro and Zan kept him company though. The feeling of being ripped apart inside and out had become so familiar that he had begun to wonder if there was any other way to feel. By the time the head captain came back, he sat on the cot in the corner of the room with his arms wrapped around his knees and rocking back and forth.
“Will you confess to the heinous murder of Captain Jūshirō Ukitake?”
This time, he just shook his head and muttered, “No, no, no…” until he left. He knew he was losing his mind. Granted, he was already half gone. He heard Shiro and Zan all the time now. Now and then, a moment of clarity would hit him and he’d think how crazy it was to be talking to them when they were sealed, then it slipped away like water dripping from his hands. He didn’t know what to think of it. The voices had been easy to ignore while he was in the tower, but they were harder and harder to ignore as he stopped being able to push them back.
The third year was brutal. Kurotsuchi had decided to cut and dissect him to test the limits of his regeneration, or really, if he could regenerate at all. He grew used to the sight of his own blood cascading down his body. He had removed his fingers and limbs and reattached them or regrew them several times. He watched as his hand bled again, the fingers missing as Kurotsuchi discussed if the regeneration would take effect this time. He giggled suddenly. It was kind of pretty, the way it ran from his hand and puddled into the floor. He laughed again, and he didn’t stop for a long time.
“Will you confess to the murder of Captain Jūshirō Ukitake?”
Ichigo laughed at him and waved him off. He was amused by Shiro at the moment. He’d mentioned that when the blood puddled it looked like a painting. He thought it was hilarious. He turned and stared at the head captain. “I bet his blood was pretty.”
At the end of the fourth year, Ichigo sat on the floor in a cell staring at the ground below him. Blood was flowing steadily from his mouth and eyes and he just watched it. The burning in his veins had faded a little while ago, but it had burst veins in his throat and eyes. He’d been quite for a long time now, after he stopped screaming. Now and then a laugh would escape his lips. He leaned over and started drawing in the blood that was on the floor. He dropped onto his elbows and laid there, drawing into the blood slowly. He laughed and made designs.
Look, look, it’s a birdy! Came Shiro’s giggling voice in his head.
“I know,” Ichigo said out loud, his voice bubbly from the blood still leaking from his throat. “Pretty…” he muttered as he moved and started drawing something else.
Why do you draw something like that, Ichigo? The other voice, Zangetsu, or Zan, the one that didn’t like to have fun, said. Ichigo looked at the picture he’d drawn as it started to morph back into the puddle. It had been a stick figure being eaten by another figure. He drew another of someone violently hurting a figure.
“Why not, Zan?” he muttered again, coughing as blood sprayed everywhere over his hand. He held it up.
Don’t think about what they’ve done to you, Zan said in his head.
“But they like to hurt us,” he muttered. “They all come and hurt us.”
I know, Ichigo, but you have to stop this. You’re going insane.
“I think it’s too late, Zan,” Ichigo said, tilting his head to the side and then drawing a long jagged nail down his leg as blood beaded. His hair was dripping his own blood and fell down onto his chest now. His hair hadn’t been cut or cleaned since the day he was shoved in the tower and now drug the floor easily.
He giggled for a long time. “It’s pretty!” he shrieked as he fell forward into the bloody puddle. He sat up suddenly a second later.
“Shiro! What should we do now?” he gasped.
I don’t know. Cut off your finger again, that was fun, huh? Shiro’s voice answered. I like watching them regrow it, the way it kinda oozes out and reforms…
“Oh yeah!” he said and sat up, blood now dripping from his front down to the floor. It wasn’t like he had any clothes on. He couldn’t remember the last time he had clothes. It was a moot point because they got bloody so quickly. His hair fell in front of his eyes, matted and falling to the floor where it drug through the blood there.
He stared at his right hand and then put his right index finger into his mouth and started slowly chewing into the flesh and bone, giggling now and then. Finally, after a long while he spit the digit to the floor and stared as blood ran down his arm.
“Pretty,” he said as he stared at it.
The head captain stood outside the cell and watched. Ichigo looked up, seeing him there and crawled over to him and put two bloody hands on the clear barrier and grinned at him.
“Will you confess to the heinous murder of Captain Jūshirō Ukitake?”
Ichigo tilted his head to the side and licked at the blood on his still bleeding hand. “I wish I had seen his blood, so pretty on the white…” he muttered and then set into a fit of giggling. The head captain turned and left again. He would return again the next year.
After the Head Captain left Kurotsuchi sighed. “I think he’s completely gone in the head,” Akon said beside him. “That’s the fourth time he’s bitten one of his fingers off in the last week. Didn’t he try to claw his throat out last night?”
“Hmm, yeah,” Kurotsuchi said as he watched as Ichigo rocked back and forth and laughed between muttering random things as though he was talking to someone. “He seems to have started hearing that voice more. He looks to talk to someone almost all the time. Give him the third serum,” he said with a nod.
“You sure, sir?” Akon said. “Last time you had to revive him after the second one.”
“Yes, yes, I’m sure. I want to see if it can pull that created hollow out of him one last time before I proceed to the secondary tests.”
Akon nodded, pressing a button and flooding the observation cell with a gas that knocked their subject out. He fell with a splat into the blood puddle and Akon went in, dragging him out by the arm into the lab again. He put him up on the table again, taking a moment to secure him with the restraints. He sighed and injected the third serum. Ichigo gasped and yanked hard on the restraints on before he started to thrash and scream. He turned and went over into the other area to wait for the serum to complete its work.
After a couple hours, he sighed. No luck. He injected a healing accelerator and watched as the finger started to reform that he’d bitten off and the blood staunched from his throat and eyes. Akon sighed. Every experiment yielded more confusing answers. He looked up as Kurotsuchi came back.
“Well?” he demanded.
“No luck, sir. Just seems that the hollow signature is integrated fully into the rest of his soul. I don’t think we can separate them. Trying to just causes the soul to become more damaged. I don’t think we can do it, and if we did, I don’t think there would be anything viable left,” Akon said with a sigh.
Kurotsuchi nodded. “Put him back in the observation cell. Pump in some of that gas that Rin was working on.”
“The hollow pheromones?” Akon asked.
“Yes, let’s see how susceptible to hollow specific drives he is…” he said as he left. “The lower hollows we’ve discovered have at least three different base drives. They are driven like animals to consume, to destroy, and to procreate. Let’s see if we can’t activate those drives in him. Since I can’t separate the hollow, I might as well use this opportunity to have one in a controlled environment. Go ahead and release some of the seals on the hollow reiatsu and increase the sealing on the Shinigami powers. He acts like an animal already, no harm in treating him like one,” Kurotsuchi said with grin as he left.
In the cell, Ichigo giggled again, having woken up and started ramming himself into the walls randomly, falling down and crying in pain then laughing. The blood had been cleaned up while he had been out, but he started to gnaw on his hand again, this time at the wrist. It was so pretty.
Time wasn’t consecutive. Time was skipping and moving and there was nothing he could do about it. He was screaming. He was sobbing. Blood, bone, pain…it mixed together and his whole being seemed to be assaulted with his very existence. Hollow screams and nightmares filled his senses, and there was no such thing as reality. It faded into and out of existence, and he wanted it to stop, all of it to stop. He couldn’t, though. No matter how hard he tried. He wanted to feel again, and then when he did, all he felt was pain. He was dying each day but it never ended…
[Year 11, Month 1]
“Sir, you might want to hear at this,” Szayelaporro said as he dropped a disk with the surveillance on the table in front of him.
Aizen nodded and watched the latest reports from his Espada that had infiltrated Soul Society. Aaroniero was still inside Kurotsuchi’s lab and had been particularly valuable. He had only been able to get monthly updates, sometimes with a clip of someone talking or someone doing something. This one had Kurotsuchi talking to one of his underlings and discussing ways to dispose of him. He had been with him for five years, and honestly Aizen was surprised that he had made it that long before his usefulness declining.
“I think his usefulness has reached its end for Mayuri,” he commented. “Extract him,” he said with a sigh. “Send Primera through Sexta, full resurrection. Let’s make sure they realize what’s happened. Have Grimmjow get ready to return dear Jūshirō. Remind him to put on a good show.”
“Yes, Aizen-sama,” Szayelaporro said with a smirk as he headed out to relay the messages. He honestly wanted to get his hands on the Shinigami as well, ten years waiting had been a lot for him.
[Year 11, Month 1]
The heavy and powerful sudden reiatsu that crashed over the Serietei was surprising to say the least. No one expected Arrancar, especially not Espada level Arrancar, to suddenly break through into Soul Society. Over two years had passed since the fight with those from Hueco Mundo, and they hadn’t heard from anyone related to that fight since then. Honestly, in the twelve years since then, things had been rather quiet. No one questioned it, however. A peaceful time was a good thing. Of course, it should have made the Shinigami wonder why.
Grimmjow landed in the center of the Seireitei with the small black box in his hand, in full released form, something only some of those present had seen. He looked around to see himself surrounded by most of the Captains in less than five minutes, all with Shikai ready.
“You! How did you get here?!” Rukia said as she stepped forward. She wore a captain’s white Hiyori now, apparently having taken her captain’s place.
Grimmjow grinned as above him Ulquiorra, Starrk, Barragan, Nnoitra, and Hallibel appeared. All six of them were in their released forms.
“What?” Rukia said as she stared at the six Espada, most of which should be dead.
Grimmjow smirked. “Go get our package, Starrk. I’ll take care of the delivery when you come back.”
Starrk yawned. “Ah, yes,” he muttered and disappeared in a sonido with several Shinigami on his heels.
“I asked you a question!” Rukia yelled, cold roiling off her body.
“Ice Princess, just chill the fuck out,” he said with a smirk. “I’m waiting on Starrk before I give you the present I brought. I mean, you’ll love it I’m sure,” he said as the other Espada landed around him. No one said anything, none of the Espada even moved.
A few minutes later, after a series of explosions and much yelling, Starrk landed beside Grimmjow with a bundle wrapped in a black cloth. It was moving.
“Hurry up, he’s rather hard to hold onto,” Starrk said with a yawn.
Grimmjow tossed the cube into the air and there was a subtle explosion and everyone gasped as someone they didn’t expect stumbled down to his knees coughing madly out of the smoke. It cleared slowly around the figure and he stood.
“Ukitake-taichou?” Rukia said as she dropped to her knees in front of him. She was shocked slightly as there seemed to be a clear barrier that had dropped around the Espada when Grimmjow dropped the box. Outside, the rest of the captains had appeared as well as most the lieutenants. Everyone stared in utterly stunned silence.
Grimmjow laughed out loud. “Damn you people are so damn stupid. Lemme see the brat, Starrk,” Grimmjow said with a sigh.
“Sexta, I’m not sure you should let him out…I think he’s completely mad,” Starrk said as he passed the dark bundle to him. He’d had a hard enough time getting clothes onto him before he knocked the rest of the twelfth division flat. Except, Aaroniero, of course. He’d headed back by way of a different garganta that was disguised well by some os Szayelaporro devices.
“I ain’t gonna let him out there, not fucking stupid. The barrier Szayelaporro gave me’s up. Remember, we’re supposed to put on a show?” Grimmjow said as he yanked the black cover off the top revealing that it Ichigo who was wrapped in black cloth.
“Grimmjow…” he breathed and started giggling madly. “Pretty blood?” he muttered and giggled again.
“Yeah, yeah, fucking you and the pretty blood,” Grimmjow said as he bit down on his finger and held it dripping in front of Ichigo’s face. His eyes locked onto the dripping blood freely and he giggled again. “He said you’d like it if I bled for you. One sure way to get you to come alone peacefully.”
“Pretty! See…see…Shiro…look…pretty!” he gasped out, his head following every move Grimmjow’s hand made with wide bloodshot eyes.
Ukitake was still coughing as he turned to stare at Grimmjow and Ichigo. “No,” he whispered. “Oh, no…Ichigo…what did they do to you…why?”
Ichigo giggled again, tearing his arm through the black cloth easily and grabbing Grimmjow’s hand suddenly. He smiled and breathed in deeply before he bit down on his finger where it was bleeding.
“Fuck!” Grimmjow yelped and backhanded him with the other hand. “Fucking hell, try to take off my damned finger, bastard,” he muttered as Ichigo rolled head over heels and bashed into the clear barrier. “Go bite another one of your own off! Fuck,” he muttered licking at the much larger wound now. “Mother fucker, when he said he was insane, he wasn’t fucking kidding. Shit.”
Starrk sighed as Ichigo struggled out of the black covering as it had wrapped all around him. “I was afraid he’d break the binding woven into it. I warned Octavo that as soon as he got the idea to move he’d break such a weak thing,” he said as he yawned. “No matter,” he said with a sigh. “I doubt it would matter how we transported him.”
Ichigo had crawled out of the black mess and was sitting down on the ground cross legged and rocking, eyes distant from the others. He seemed to be taking in everything around him with wide, curious eyes. It was obvious to the Espada that he hadn’t been outside in a very long time. He was wearing a tattered looking yukata and was barefoot. His hair was long and matted with blood and dirt, falling down almost to the middle of his back. His eyes were wide and both bruised. Where the yukata fell off his shoulder, stripes of scarring and bruising covered his skin. His legs were a pattern of red wounds and deep bruises. His wrists, ankles, and throat were all red and raw. Rukia stared at him in somewhat shock then back at Ukitake. To be honest, she’d avoided even mentioning Ichigo’s name since the day he was locked away. She’d remembered something about Captain Kurotsuchi doing some research on him…
“But he…he killed you!” Rukia gasped as her eyes went to Ukitake’s face on the other side of the barrier.
Ukitake walked over to Ichigo and knelt down, pulling his face up to him. His eyes wouldn’t focus, seemingly moving at every angle rapidly.
“I’m so sorry, Ichigo, so sorry,” he whispered.
Ichigo moved suddenly, leaping over and knocking Ukitake on his back. He crawled over him and sat across his thighs and planted his hands on Ukitake’s shoulders. He looked down into Ukitake’s face and giggled. Blood dripped from his mouth, both from Grimmjow’s hand and where his lip had split. “You’re dead,” he said quietly, but loud enough that everyone in the utter silence that surrounded him could hear. “You’re not here, you can’t be here,” he paused and looked away from him, looking around at all the captains around the outside of the barrier. His voice changed. “I didn’t though, I didn’t kill you, I know I didn’t…they told me I did…left me alone…and I couldn’t…couldn’t tell the I did…to make it stop, just to make the pain stop, I tried to tell them I killed you!” he said in a more normal voice. Another giggle escaped him. “But I did! I had to kill you, they said I did so I did, right?” the higher pitched voice this time. “Stop, stop, I can’t…I didn’t…I wouldn’t…you’re not dead…you aren’t!” he gasped and suddenly dropped down on top of him and clutched Ukitake to his chest. He wrapped his arms tightly around his neck and Ukitake put his around Ichigo’s back.
“Sorry, sorry, I love you all but I’m gonna kill you all,” he said as he suddenly giggled and bit Ukitake’s shoulder where it met his neck. Blood exploded out from the bite and started running down to the ground.
Ukitake didn’t do anything other than sit up and hold him to his chest as he rocked him. Ichigo held onto the flesh of his shoulder, pulling back now and then as if to rip the flesh out. No one outside the barrier moved as Ukitake just held him there. It wasn’t like they could get through the barrier anyway. Ichigo suddenly leaned back, letting go, and stared at the blood running down Ukitake’s white Haori. Blood dripped down his chest from his mouth. He reached out and ran his finger over the wound and giggled again. Then he leaned up and licked it until it stopped bleeding profusely. Ukitake just stared at him with a look of deep sadness.
“Pretty,” he whispered. “Wanna give you pretty, you gave me pretty, pretty…” he muttered and put his hand to his own lips and ripped his thumb off at the joint roughly with his teeth. He growled and held the hand up over his head, watching his own blood pour out of the wound. It ran down and splattered over his head and down onto Ukitake’s lap.
“Pretty for you, pretty, pretty for the one I did and didn’t kill…” he muttered. “Dripping down, pretty like the rain…glistening…dripping…sparkling…”
Ukitake put a hand up on his face. “Oh, Ichigo, I am so sorry,” he whispered as suddenly Ichigo was hefted up off Ukitake’s lap by a six armed Nnoitra.
“Come on, ain’t got all day for this shit, let’s get the crazy bastard back to Aizen-sama…” he said as he easily held onto the writhing form. “Glad he ain’t got his power right now, and glad I used my resurrection, bastard’s stronger than he looks. Shit, when he said he was crazy, he wasn’t kidding,” he added as the garganta opened. He disappeared inside with only the mad laughter following him.
Rukia stared in shock, along with everyone who stood around the area. “Don’t worry, Captain Whitey here can fill you in. But you people…you do this to yer friend, can’t imagine what you’d do to an enemy,” Grimmjow said as he walked into the opening. Tier sighed and reached behind her and tossed Jūshirō’s twin Zanpakutō at him, leaving as the others followed her.
Ukitake picked up the swords and swiped them through the barrier, shattering it. Aizen had said the barrier would only be broken by his swords. That was the intent. He looked up and around at the others, shaking his head.
“You didn’t think, did you?” he whispered. “After everything Ichigo did, everything he was, you just turned on him. “I watched it all, Aizen made me watch the surveillance,” he said quietly. “I didn’t see what happened after Mayuri took him, though, but Aizen knew. It was always about Ichigo, from the moment he faced him on the hill. From that moment,” he said softly. “He wanted him. He wanted his power to get the King’s Key, to destroy us. Now, he has him, and the hogyuku. All Ichigo has to do is accept Aizen’s, side with him, and he’ll have everything he needs to destroy Soul Society for good.”
“He won’t side with him…” Rukia whispered.
Ukitake looked at her. “After ten years? After you all turned on him? Rukia, don’t be naïve. I saw what happened at the mockery of a trial you held. I saw what you all said.” He looked around and shook his head at all of them. “How could you? I told Sōsuke that it wouldn’t work. I told him that you would give him a trial. I told him you would realize what was happening. I told him you wouldn’t do exactly what you did. I was wrong, so wrong, and I can’t believe that I have to say this, but Sōsuke Aizen was right,” he whispered and turned, leaving them all behind him.
[Year 11, Month 1]
“Fuck!” Grimmjow yelped again as he tried to catch the flying Shinigami as he jumped over him and bounced back from the wall. “I thought you said that that shit would calm him down, not jack him up!” he yelled, grabbing Ichigo’s ankle and slamming him down into the floor this time. Ichigo started laughing manically and tried to pull away but he was laughing too hard. “He’s worse than he was!” Grimmjow yelled as he managed to wrangle Ichigo to standing, or at least not using everything and everyone as a springboard.
“Sorry!” Szayelaporro said with a sigh. “I don’t know why it had the opposite effect…it was supposed to heal him and put him to sleep!” he muttered.
“Because he’s completely out of control of himself. We have to get him at least somewhat under control so we can reverse some of the damage Kurotsuchi did…” Aizen said as he came into the cell where Ichigo was wrapped around Grimmjow’s back this time, trying to bite the back of his neck while he had both hands buried in his blue hair.
Aizen reached up and yanked Ichigo off Grimmjow’s back by his hair. He hit the ground and tried to fight to get loose. Aizen grabbed him by the chin and held to the back of his head, bringing him in front of him eye to eye. He started laughing at him, arms scrabbling to get Aizen’s hands off his head.
“Stop.” He said and to his surprise Ichigo stopped and stared at him with suddenly focused eyes. Aizen smiled and let his reiatsu pressure him, hoping that it would settle him down somewhat. “Good. You are in there and realize where you are, huh?”
Ichigo looked to be trying to focus his eyes. “You…you…have…you aren’t…there…”
“Good, good, you’re thinking a little. No, I’m not in the maggot’s nest. I made everyone think I was. Remember my Zanpakutō, Ichigo? What it does? Perfect hypnosis,” he said and pulled Ichigo toward a bed that they’d put into the cell for him.
Ichigo moved with him, slowly, eyes rolling randomly now and again. “They drove you mad, didn’t they?” he said with a smile. “Your friends, huh? They turned on you so easily. It wouldn’t have been hard to prove your innocence, I left enough clues, but they didn’t look, did they? You knew what the clues were and you tried to tell them, didn’t you?”
Ichigo’s eyes clarified for a moment. “They left me alone…” he said. “All alone for so long…”
“Yeah, they did. Then they gave you to Kurotsuchi, didn’t they?” he said as he sat down, pulling Ichigo to sit next to him. He kept his hands locked on his head and chin.
Ichigo’s eyes went wide, the slight manic glint appearing. “So much pain…the blood…raining…it’s raining…so pretty…” he whispered. “I couldn’t think…Shiro is so crazy…Zan is so boring…then there I am in the middle of all this blood…” he said a smile creeping to his lips.
“Ah, shhh, stop,” Aizen said and Ichigo’s eyes locked on his again. “I saved you.”
Ichigo looked at him. “You saved me,” he repeated.
“I saved you from them. They aren’t your friends, are they?” he said with a softness to his voice that Grimmjow had never heard before.
“You saved me from them.” He breathed deeply and stifled a laugh. “They aren’t my friends.”
“Yes, that’s it, Ichigo. I’m your friend, remember? So are the Espada. We’re going to help you,” he said slowly again. Grimmjow realized he could feel the rise in reiatsu around them. He realized that Aizen was using some sort of kido as he spoke to him.
“Yeah,” he said as his breathing slowed down and his eyes began to flutter.
“Ichigo, there’s more than one of you there, right?” he said slowly. “You said you, Shiro, and Zan, right?”
“Yeah,” he said starting to blink a bit. “Shiro…says that he wants…to fight…Zan says that we need to rest…I don’t know where I am anymore…” he said.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, I’m going to take care of you now,” Aizen said and let go of him. Ichigo teetered and stared at him. “Come here,” Aizen said and Grimmjow felt the heavy reiatsu again.
Ichigo leaned forward, falling into Aizen and breathing heavily against his shoulder. “There,” Aizen said, threading fingers through his long hair as much as he could with it so matted and dirty. “See, I’ll fix it,” he muttered.
Aizen smiled. He hadn’t expected them to break the boy so thoroughly, but it would work in his advantage. It would be easier to mold him and get him to be who he wanted him to be. Of course, the extremely high level of insanity was going to be difficult to deal with in the long run. He hadn’t counted on that little tidbit. Still, as Grimmjow and Szayelaporro left, he almost didn’t want to get up. He shook it off, putting him down, the sleeping kido finally taking full effect. He wondered how long it would take to undo ten years of damage…it wouldn’t matter how long it took, though. He had forever, after all.