So named, because I had no other ideas, and this is the name of a piece of music on the Bleach soundtrack. I was stuck okay? It kind of fits... As an obscure metaphor...
Welcome to chapter 36! I’ve managed to get a fair amount done over the Christmas break, so it hasn’t been that long since the last update. However, it’s short. I don’t by any means think that people will go into withdrawal because of these teeny updates, but I can see how it might be frustrating to have to read lots of little updates without anything happening- not that anyone has to read them obviously. Gah, I’m going to move on. So, last time, Iris gave birth to a lovely baby girl named Elyssia, Isildur surprised everyone by falling in love and Iracebeth also started a relationship with Mitch Indie. Ichigo learnt that he and Susan had the potential to become Soul Reapers and that Ani Mei would be their teacher. Dylan, Isis and Gabriel fell in love and Ichigo met the mysterious Kisuke Urahara and his staff. Ichabod grew into a knowledge sim and Iago continued to be horrible to him- and to all his family, apart from Iracebeth. Urahara had an ominous conversation with a talking cat by the name of Mr Yoruichi.
One more thing before we get started. The first few slides have the potential to be boring for readers who are not familiar with Bleach (A.K.A that which I’m ripping off- lovingly) Furthermore, it’s perfectly likely that I’ve made some hideous mistake that will enrage Bleach fans. My advanced apologies. Just try and make it to the end of those slides and pray that the rest is better. :D
“This... Makes... No sense ... At all.” On their first day of training, Ani Mei had lead them back to Urahara Shoten, down a ladder that protruded from a dark cavity in the shop floor, down a bit more, and then quite a lot more, then down again... ...and then out into- well, Ichigo wasn’t sure where they were. Logic told him that they should be underground. But they quite obviously weren’t- well they were, but then how could they be?- and were did logic get you anyway? Perhaps it was best to push science aside when one was training to fight malevolent spirits using supernatural abilities.
But still... “It’s raining,” Susan sounded equally confused, and she wasn’t even technically human. “How... How can it be raining?” “Yeah, sorry about that,” said Ani Mei, looking around with a slight frown. “I’ve asked Urahara to try and sort that out, but it could take a while knowing him and we need to make a start.”
Fortunately it soon brightened up... Somehow... “Okay,” Ani Mei began “ Soul Reapers are not immortal. They can age and die of natural causes, or injury, but they have a far longer lifespan than a human. However, it takes considerably greater injuries to kill a soul reaper. You will alternate between your Shinigami form, and your mortal body, which we call a Gigai.” “So is this the same for you or-” “I’m... A bit of a special case- not meaning to sound arrogant. But y’know, simselves will be simselves. Anyway,” she said, readopting her teaching voice “Soul Reapers harness their spiritual energy and to perform their duties. Kidō, refers to focusing spirit energy into... Spells of various types. Hohō, is training in techniques associated with movement that is essential during battle. Then there is the Zanpakutō*.” *Zaan-pak-toe
“All Shinigami have a Zanpakutō, although they do not all carry it with them. It is a soul reaper’s most prominent supernatural power and takes the form of sword, generated from the shinigami’s soul. Zanpakutō are physical manifestations of a soul reaper’s power and spirit energy, and each is different.” She stroked the edge of her blade slowly. “This is Natsuhiboshi, my Zanpakutō. Each has a name, and you must not treat your Zanpakutō as a mere object. You cannot hope to fight well without achieving a strong link between yourself and your blade.”
“So...” began Ichigo, watching Ani Mei swing her sword slowly in elegant curves. “when will we get our-” Ani Mei’s laugh cut him short. “You don’t think I’m going to let a couple of inexperienced teenagers run around with supernatural weapons do you?” “It was worth a shot.” Ani Mei smiled. “It won’t be too long, after all, you won’t be teens for long.”
“Shinigami operations are based at the Soul Society- it’s, well... Let’s say it’s a parallel reality.” she sheathed her weapon. “Usually, soul reapers are trained at the Shinōreijutsuin, also known as the Spiritual Arts Academy, for six years wherein they learn the necessary skills. After graduation, many shinigami join the Gotei 13- the 13 Court Guard Companies. Their headquarters is the Seireitei, the centre of the Soul Society and they are the primary military branch of Soul Reapers.” “As the name suggests, there are thirteen companies, each of which has a captain and a lieutenant. Several of the squadrons have specialised areas. For example, Squad 4 traditionally specialises in medicine and Squad 11 are specialised in melee combat. The command of the divisions is largely left to their captains, but the Captain-Commander has statutory authority over the Gotei 13. There are other routes for shinigami, such as The Stealth Force or- Anyway, you don’t need to know all of this yet.” She lessened the distance between herself and her pupils, smiling slightly. “What we need to do right now, is get you out of your Gigai.”
“Unfortunately, Urahara is waiting for a certain shipment, so we’ll have to go about this a different way.” Ichigo crashed backwards as his reactions failed him for the first time since before he had started martial arts lessons as a young child. He was aware of Susan tumbling down beside him and wondered dimly if he should be flattered or offended that Ani Mei had sent him flying first. His brain told him that she was much stronger than she possibly could be... and then remembered that she was in her shinigami form. Ichigo opened his eyes and pushed himself up from the ground.
“What the hell Ani Mei?!” he yelled as he sprang quickly to his feet. “Yeah!” Susan fumed in agreement. “What the frack was that for?!” “Look down, and then behind you.” Ani Mei replied calmly.
“So... That’s-” said Susan “I mean they’re our....” “Gigai” finished Ichigo. “Yes,” said Ani Mei. “You are now in your spirit forms and can only be seen by other spirit beings as well as a very small number of humans who possess the required level of spirit energy-such as yourselves.” “So you’ve punched our souls out of our body?” asked Susan incredulously. “Pretty much.” “And is that something all soul reapers-” “I’m afraid that’s another simself perk, although I dare say you could pick it up if you really wanted to.” “And the outfits...?” “Your training robes. Now we can get started.”
And that’s precisely what they did. For the first few sessions, Ani Mei largely concentrated on physical exercise to build strength and stamina. Ichigo had always been somewhat freakishly strong and fast for his age and frame, but he found that, in his spirit form, both these and his endurance were far greater. Exercises that would have left him exhausted in his human body had barely broke a sweat in his spirit form. However, they soon began to practice focussing their spirit energy and this was far more draining.
Occasionally, Kisuke would drop in on their training, sometimes bringing Tessai or Jinta and Ururu with him. They would watch in an amused sort of way and almost always proved quite irritating before long had passed. At the beginning and end of each session, they would practise a series of slow Hohō exercises, similar to the Tai Chi Ichigo had done with his mother. Urahara found these particularly entertaining and Ichigo was glad Yaeko had provided with some past experience- Susan had no clue what she was doing-
Ani Mei also used drawings as visual aid to her teaching. “I have a question.” said Ichigo during his first encounter with her artwork. “Okay, go ahead” Ani Mei replied “Why do your drawings suck so bad?” “Shut it.” she snapped. “They’re cute.” “That’s one way of putting it-” Ichigo began, but Ani Mei waved her hand and he felt his tongue roll backwards suddenly, rendering him unable to make any sound except a peculiar gagging noise somewhere between a quack and a hiss. Susan and Ani Mei laughed heartily as he flailed around them. Eventually, Ani Mei removed the Kido and Ichigo toppled off balance in surprise as his voice reappeared. Ani Mei walked over to him, still laughing, and helped him up. “Never.” she said “Insult my drawings again.” She winked at him before walking back to Susan and Ichigo smiled despite himself.
Soon Ichigo joined his older siblings at Shiz University. Iago went too, leaving Ichabod the only child still at home. They shared their dorm with numerous friends and relatives, such as Benedict [slap dancing to the right], Gail and Hamlet’s son and Ichigo’s cousin. Ani Mei had assured Susan and Ichigo that they would have no trouble continuing their training whilst they were in University. If anything, they would pick up knowledge likely to help them in their careers as soul reapers. She had also told them that she would make sure she saw them often as it was a delicate stage in the development of their spirit energy. But he hadn’t expected this.
“Ani Mei? What are you- why are-” he stumbled most uncharacteristically. “Ichigo!” Ani Mei squealed as she noticed his incredulous figure.
She turned back to the girls she had been talking to, and in the same aberrantly girly voice said “I have to go and say hi to Ichigo now, but I really hope we can be great friends!” Ichigo watched in utter bewilderment as she and the other dormies hugged and giggled childishly. She practically skipped over to Ichigo, who stood stunned as she threw her arms around him. “It’s so good to see you Ichigo!” Finally, she released him and he was able to speak. “Can, I er- have a word Ani Mei?” “Of course you can! Byeeee girls!”
“What the fuck was all that?!” he cried, once they had made it to his room. “What was all what?” she asked, returning to her usual voice and giving him a familiar smile. “You know what I mean.” “Oh that,” she said, standing up “That was me being a peppy college student- I thought my cover was working rather well.”
“Your cover? Why are you even here?” “Aren’t you glad I’m here?” she teased dryly. “Don’t try and pull that on me.” he said angrily, and yet found a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Well it’s like I told you before,” she smiled “You and Susan are at a very delicate stage of your development. It’s potentially very dangerous- I’m here for the protection of your peers as much as that of you two. So I’m a student now.” “How the hell did you- no, wait. Simself perk, right?”
“Yes.” “Oh alright then.” “Aww Ichigo, you’re adorable. As if I was going to leave if you weren’t okay with it.” she laughed. “I am not adorable.” he growled. “Are you going to come and play pool?” she asked, ignoring his glare. “No.” “Too bad.” she left the room and Ichigo followed her, shaking his head in frustration.
“See you later Ichigo-kun!” Ani Mei called after him, readopting her college persona and receiving great amusement at the thought of Ichigo’s internal reaction.
Ichigo sat down with a sigh, next to his cousin Arren (Benedict’s twin). It’s not that I don’t want her here- If anything I’m happy about it... But it’s not- “Hey, Ichigo,” Arren interrupted his thoughts in that worrying tone so often used by those between the ages of ten and thirty-something, that is usually accompanied by an eyebrow raise. “I saw you disappearing into your room with the new girl.” Ichigo decided to interrupt him before the inevitable wink. “It’s nothing like that.” he said firmly, knowing that this would not be sufficient to make Arren drop the matter. The whole Soul Reaper business was not something it was wise to let too many people in on. His parents and siblings knew of course, but not his extensive collection of cousins. Besides, even if it could be explained to Arren, it would be unlikely to override the basic settings of the young mind. “Sure it isn’t” smiled Arren. “It isn’t.” growled Ichigo. “I don’t know why you think-”
“Ichigo!” Ani Mei had appeared in the doorway. “You should really go to bed. You need lots of rest for your busy day tomorrow.” “I’ll go in a minute.” he said, trying to ignore Arren, who was repeatedly nudging his arm. “It really is important that you get lots of sleep tonight Ichigo-kun.” She smiled and walked away. She’s enjoying this, thought Ichigo grimly. “Oh yeah, cos there’s nothing going on there.” smirked Arren. “Just shut it Arren or-” “Methinks the Ichi doth protest too much” “I don’t know why you’re complaining.” said the girl to his right. “Ani Mei’s really nice, plus you make a very cute couple.”
“Yeah, Ichigo.” said Susan dryly as she passed through the room, smiling at the increased insight she had into the situation. “And if you’re worried about your... Image, being seen with Ani Mei won’t exactly hurt it.” “I’m going to bed.” he yelled, quickly striding moodily from the room. “Awww, he’s blushing!” cried Arren. “I AM NOT!”
Now that young-adult Susan has entered the chapter, I should mention her relationship with Edmund, the son of Helena and Demetri, and the twin of Isis. It was matchmaker arranged when they were teens, around the same time that Isis started seeing Gavin. Yes they are related. But they’re so cute together. I once again claim Wincest. “WINCEST!” The Wincest Dance (Closed fists)
Over the last couple of months, Gotham had been struck by a series of increasingly frequent disappearances. Ichabod, much to the chagrin of the Gotham Police Force, had taken a keen interest and was eager to investigate the unexplained vanishings. He began to devote every second he had to it, sure that there was more to the case than the police were prepared to believe. They saw what they wanted to see; they would find one explanation of some of the facts, rather than an explanation of all of the facts. Jennifer Wilson, Beth Davenport, James Fillamore, Alexander Shorter... What had happened to them? -BEEP- A small pop up in the corner of the screen informed Ichabod that he had a new email. He did not recognise the address email@example.com , but opened it anyway.
You are investigating the disappearances. Meet me at 154 Northumberland street at 9.00 PM. That was all. No name, no real hint of what he could discover... And yet Ichabod felt his heart racing. The investigation had ground to a halt, a complete dead end. And here was a lead. “Iago, come and look at this!” he cried excitedly. “What is it?” asked Iago calmly, without getting up. “It’s... I’ve got a lead!” “Well then you should follow it.” “I will!” Ichabod jumped up from his seat and left the room, elatedly muttering to himself about preparations for later on. Iago waited for him to pass out of sight before allowing himself a small, satisfied smile.
Now that Susan and Ichigo were older, they were finally able to manifest the Zanpakutō.
“I’ve never seen such anyone with such a HUGE Zanpakutō!” Urahara spluttered with laughter. “Well Boss, have you ever seen a bigger Zanpakutō than that?” asked Tessai, watching with confusion as Kisuke crumpled into a shaking heap of mirth on the ground. “But I’ve never seen any other Soul Reaper with a Zanpakutō as massive as that, have you?”
SIMILAR INCIDENTS THAT FOLLOWED: “Don’t just wave it around Ichigo!” “That’s what she said!” “I see you’ve drawn your Zanpakutō.” “Just like at the movie theatre!” “Stop playing with your Zanpakutō Ichigo,” “Take out your Zanpakutō and move into your usual position.” *splutter* “You sure know how to handle your Zanpakutō.” “That’s NOT what she said!” “Grip your Zanpakutō tightly.” “He’s used to it!” ETC.
Ani Mei worked them hard, but they continued to invest all of their effort into each training session; Ichigo did so out of his characteristic desire to perfect his skills, and Susan didn’t want him to show her up.
And when the time came for them to exorcise their first hollows, they were more than ready.
Ani Mei couldn’t believe how far they had come in such a short space of time. Ichigo in particular was showing signs of extreme potential. “Ichigo,” she asked him as they sat on a bench after Ichigo’s first battle. “Why do you do it?”
“What do you mean?” “You’re so... Motivated. What is it that’s driving you to work this hard?” Ichigo thought for a moment. "I'm not Superman. So I can't say anything big like I'll protect everyone on Earth. I'm not a modest guy who will say it's enough if I can protect as many people as my two hands can handle either. I want to protect... a mountain-load of people. Y’know?“ “Yeah,” she said quietly, “I know exactly what you mean.”
Ichabod was running late, but only by a few minutes; he’d spent too long looking for his torch, and to no avail. Resolving to go without it, he had hurried across town to the address the anonymous email had specified. It wasn’t an area he could remember ever having been to, but thanks to a little thing called Google Maps, he had been able to locate his destination easily. It was silent save for sound of cars a few streets away and an alarm going off somewhere in the distance.
“Well...” he said to no one in particular as he stared at the tired, grubby building in front of him” I suppose this is it then.” Ichabod wasn’t sure what the building might have been before- well, just before. It wasn’t an especially residential area and mostly contained dilapidated offices, questionable take-a-ways and abandoned buildings such as this one.
He knocked cautiously on the rotting wood of the door an waited. There was no answer, so he tentatively tried the handle. The weary door opened easily, and Ichabod stepped inside. “Hello?” he called, his voice bouncing off the filthy tiles of the almost empty room.
At the sound of his voice, what Ichabod had mistaken to be a pile of dirty rags stirred slightly as it lay on top of an ancient, stained mattress in a corner. “Oh Gods,” he cried as the figure groaned quietly. “Are you alright? Should I ring an ambulance?” As he tried desperately to decide what to do, the figure- the woman, staggered to her feet. Even in the darkness, Ichabod could tell that there was something drastically and terribly wrong with the face that turned to him.
She- it, lurched towards him, the grey bruised flesh and milky unseeing eyes becoming clearer as he stood frozen in horror. As is from far away, Ichabod heard a dry, rasping scream try to escape his throat. It seemed horrifyingly similar to the laboured groans spilling sluggishly from that unnatural, diseased looking mouth, surrounded, he noticed with a fresh stab of revulsion, by smears of dried blood.
It was only when a second figure appeared from around the corner of the room, stumbling towards him faster than the first, that Ichabod managed to force himself to back away. But this only seemed to encourage them; they staggered nearer, trying to close the distance, and their wheezing moans grew louder.
A third appeared. Older, and yet less bloodied and congealing that the others. Older, and yet moving much faster.
Ichabod’s screams no longer struggled for freedom as he stumbled blindly backwards, unable to tear his horrified gaze from the nightmare that was unfolding before him. He seemed incapable of coordinating his limbs, such was his fear-such was his revulsion, and as the third decaying figure lurched towards him, with a speed that did not seem possible, his legs failed him, sending him crashing down onto the soiled tiles.
Just another college party. Booze, pool and slapdancing...
...groping students, dodgy take-a-ways... The usual. Not to forget the unsurprising presence of Kennedy Cox, here mingle with easy to drain, intoxicated students. It was a common campus scene.
“Hey Ani Mei,” Isildur fingergunned her briefly, but brilliantly, as he passed through the room on his way to meet Merrow, his girlfriend, for a game of pool. “Oh!” he stopped. “Ichigo, Ick called. He said something about...” they waited patiently as he thought for a moment. “Oh yeah, he’s gonna be late. He’s got an anonymous lead... Those disappearances y’know? He’s checking something out over at Northumberland street.”
“What?!” Kennedy, who had been charming a rather tipsy Mirana close by, instantly abandoned his previous activity. “Northumberland street?” his voice was urgent and tense. “Eck-scoose me,” slurred Mirana angrily “I waastalkying to yoou.” “Yeah,” said Isildur, both worried and confused. “That’s definitely what he said. One hundred and fifty something Northumberland Street.” “What is it Kennedy?” asked Ani Mei, concerned but able to keep her head. “We have to get over there now.”
Iago watched them go from the cafeteria window, listening to the sounds of the party continuing next door as rage and frustration rose inside him. They may not get there in time anyway. But still... Ichigo just has to get in the way. He was just going to have to get a move on.
Ichigo was indeed in the way. “Get the hell away from my brother you ugly bastards.” “Ichigo,” said Ani Mei gravely “Let me handle this.”
“This is what big brothers do.” said Ichigo as the three lecherous creature got up from their positions crouched over Ichabod, and began to move towards him. “There’s a reason big brothers are born before the siblings that come after them.” The creatures began to snarl and spit, moving in faster.
It did not take Ichigo long to reduce his enemies to a lifeless heap. Compared to hollows, these stumbling creatures were child’s play. In under a minute, he was kneeling beside the motionless form of Ichabod.
As Ichigo stared down at his brother, at the bruised and broken flesh, the cloudy film forming over his eyes and the blood that covered his face and neck, he felt a despair the likes of which he had never known fill his being. Ichigo had always protected Ichabod. He had always known what to do. But this time, this time it was too late. What could he do now?
Ichigo dimly registered that Ani Mei was crouching beside Ichabod when she spoke. “Oh Ichigo,” she said softly “I’m so-” “He’s not dead.” They stared up at Kennedy, who stood watching them with a nervous frown. Ichigo could not speak, but Ani Mei did so for him. “What do you mean?” “They haven’t killed him. But he will change.” “I don’t understand- how do you-” “They were vampires.” “Vampires?” Ichigo managed to speak, but he did not take his eyes from his brother. “They were more like zombies.” added Ani Mei
“Did you think it was living forever, sparkly skin and grooming teenagers?” He said bitterly. “Mortals have no idea, and they just get further and further from the truth. They were thralls- a type of vampire. And that is a fate worse than that of a zombie. Zombies either have the same will and consciousness they had in life, or none whatsoever and are purely driven by instinct. Thralls...” he spat. “Are made by a higher vampire, and are forever under their maker’s control. They have no will left of their own. The souls are not free and yet they cannot be recovered. Mine is a cursed existence, but theirs... You cannot imagine. You mortals don’t write about that in your fucking Dark Romance novels do you?” “So what will happen to Ichabod?!” demanded Ani Mei urgently, as Ichigo sagged even further under the weight of Kennedy’s words. Kennedy sighed, and his voice became calmer. “He will become like them- and will be under the control of whoever created them.” “Is there nothing we can do?” Kennedy said nothing. “KENNEDY!” “I could change him.” he said finally. “And he would become like me, rather than like them.”
“What do you think Ichigo?” asked Ani Mei quietly. “But it should not be entered into lightly.” insisted Kennedy. “It may be better for you to allow him to change and then to exorcise him with your spirit blade as you did the others. It is not certain what would-” “Would he still be Ichabod?” asked Ichigo quietly. “Well, yes. Apart from obvious changes caused by his condition. It is not something that is easy to adjust to. And the transformation would be-” “Do it.” “I have to stress that-” “DO IT.”
“I’m really sorry to hear about you and Mitch Iracebeth.” said Iago with as much conviction as he could muster. “What do you mean?” Iracebeth was instantly defensive, just as he had predicted. “Well, you’ve broken up haven’t you?” “Err, no. I think I’d know if we had wouldn’t I?”
“Oh Gods,” he adopted mortification, letting his eyes widen and his mouth drop open. “I’m so sorry. It’s just-” “It’s just what?” Iracebeth had raised her voice. “I...I saw him with Jane Rewty at Rodney’s Hideout yesterday- or rather, I saw him all over her. And then tonight, I saw him making out with Mirana and I-” “What the fuck are you talking about?!” she shouted, then remembered that Iago had always been the sibling she had trusted most, the one who had pledged to support her as heir rather than try to take her birthright from her as she suspected the others did. “You’re sure about this?” “Of course! Oh Iracebeth I’m so sorry-” “Not as sorry as he’ll be.”
At which point (because there are conventions stronger than mere probability) Mitch strolled in from the other room. “Hey babe,” he said as he leaned in to place an arm around her waist. “DON’T TOUCH ME.” she growled, shoving him away. “What the hell Rass?” now Mitch was shouting too. “Oh don’t try that you wanker. Jane Fewty? Mirana? My fucking cousin?!”
“You are such a psycho!” Mitch yelled. “You know what? I don’t care whatever it is that your little schizo mind thinks I’ve done. I’ll be glad to be shot of you! I didn’t know how I was gonna last another day with a bitch as fucking demanding and CRAZY as you anyway. I might have given it another night to try and get one more ride- but fuck it!” “Well GO then!” “Oh believe me I am.” “And if you ever come near me again I will FUCKING KILL YOU.”
I would just like to say that this bit “There’s a reason big brothers are born before the siblings that come after them...” Was a direct Ichigo quote- well, I was paraphrasing a direct quote. But personally, I’ve always thought that big brothers were born first- BY DEFINITION. I realise that this chapter was pretty short. It’s the first time EVER that a chapter has been smaller than I imagined it would. But a shorter update means a quicker update right? *smiles hopefully* I’m now approaching the part of this generation that I really need to think through a bit more... But the heirpoll should be up relatively soonish. I hope this chapter was okay. There were some difficult things to stage... And some things that should have been easy to stage but just weren’t. God, it really was a short chapter wasn’t it? O.O But it felt like it needed to end here, if you know what I mean. Hope you liked it, comments welcome at boolprop.com. Namárië