Juushirou immediately looked up from his paperwork when the door slammed open and went shut again, signifying that someone entered. He blinked as he stared at the figure of the young man who entered his office with much hurry.

”Ichigo-kun, is there something wrong? ” He asked, looking at his sons scowling feature.

”Chichi, can I hide here for a while? ” Ichigo asked. When Juushirou gave him a raised eyebrow, he continued. ”Kenpachi has been trying to attack me relentlessly ever since this morning and the Shinigami Womens Association keeps on pestering me for an interview. Those women even sorted out to using bakudo against me… ” He was muttering now and Juushirou couldn help but smile.

It had been a week since Ichigos first meeting with the others and by now the older male was already used to Ichigo trying to hide from everyone. Kenpachi had been trying to gage him to a fight ever since that day and had been attacking from almost anywhere, day or night. Ichigo measured only up to the huge mans chest and everyone feared for the teens safety. And then theres Rangiku and the other powerful Shinigami women trying to at least take a picture of his son to make it on the front page of the weekly magazine. There were also other Shinigamis wanting to at least take a look at him. Shunsui wanted to make the teen a drinking partner too even though he already had Juushirou for that role.

The white-haired male already refused Shunsuis offer for his son many times before. His reason wasn because he never trusted his friend, but because he saw what happened to Ichigo when Kaien tried to make him drink sake one time.

The boy had a low level of alcohol tolerance and it was a bad thing when combined with the fact that he loses all control when drunk. That time had been the first and the last time he let Ichigo drink until he was drunk. The teens massive reiatsu suddenly flared up that time, attracting too many Hollows, when he unconsciously lost his control over it. Thankfully, Kaien and Juushiru were not that drunk and were both able to kill all the attackers. Now, a cup or two was the limit he set on the boy.

Aside from Shunsui though, other shinigamis also wanted to make him their friend, clearly enamored by the fact that Ichigo was popular among the other Shinigamis. Juushirou had complained about it to soutaichou once but the old man merely dismissed the matter casually.

”Your aloof and solitary attitude is attracting them to you even more, you know. ” He said as Ichigo sat in a near table, making himself comfortable.

”Im not aloof. ” Ichigo scowled. ”I just don like crowd. ” Juushirou shrugged as he smiled, letting Ichigo win the argument.

A loud explosion of walls followed up by a massive reiatsu that could make an unseated officer faint was felt in the Division, and Juushirou immediately stood up in order to put a stop to the annoying habit of the 11th Division Captain.

He walked over the room and slid the door only to come face to face with the person he was about to scold. ”Wheres Ichigo? ” Kenpachi grinned. On his back was Yachiru clearly unfazed by the massive reiatsu that her Captain was emitting at the moment because of too much excitement.

”Zaraki-taichou, please learn to control your reiatsu. You
e giving harm to my subordinates. ” Juushirou said as he immediately turned around only to see that he was alone. Ichigo had already escaped. He beamed. ”And Ichigo-kun isn here, by the way. ”

”Ichi keeps on running away, Kenny. ” Yachiru spoke.

”Where did he go, Yachiru? Lead the way. ” Kenpachi seemed undeterred by the situation at all. In fact, it seemed that his enthusiasm knew no bound at all.

”Of course! ” Yachiru answered happily. ”Im sure he went there! ” She pointed at the pathway where they came from and Kenpachi followed immediately.

Juushirou sighed. Kenpachi sucked at sensing anothers reiatsu that he always relied on his lieutenant to do it. Didn he know that Yachiru sucked at giving direction?

Ichigo, on the other hand, had managed to get at least a kilometer from just three or four steps and was now heading directly towards the forested training ground beside the Soukyoku Hill where Juushirou said that criminals were executed.

He made sure that no one was in a two or three-kilometer radius before he sat down and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he was already in his inner world.

Its been a while since you were last here, King. Shiro grinned, his arms crossed over his chest and was sitting quite comfortably on one of the buildings. Zangetsu, who was merely standing straightly with a solemn expression, gave him a nod.

Ichigo nodded to both before he sat as well. Sometimes he wondered why his inner spirits had a very opposite demeanor. Zangetsu was quiet and calculative, poised and elegant. Shiro, on the other hand, was loud and brash, strong but creepy.

Hey, I can hear that! Shiro exclaimed from his seat. Ichigo merely grinned. Why do you always favor Zangetsu? Don you know that Zangetsu and I are just one and the same?

Ichigo arched an eyebrow at that and Zangetsu closed his eyes and cleared his throat, still wearing a serious and solemn expression, implicitly giving his dissent. Ichiro laughed at that and Shiro scowled.

It rains lesser these days, Ichigo. Zangetsu changed the topic. Shiro nodded and Ichigo looked relieved.

”Im glad to hear that. ” He answered.

It looks like those annoying pests have their use after all. Shiro said in his usual guttural screeching voice. Then, as if remembering something, he suddenly looked thoughtful, quite unlike him. Hurry up and get stronger so you can use my power too, King. And then you can make that huge brawl-addict see who the superior one is.

Ichigo chuckled before his eyes narrowed and his smile disappeared. ”Someones near. ” He closed his eyes and when he opened them again, he was already back in the forest. He stood up and looked around him for the source of the three reiatsus that he could feel nearby. They were all quite strong, but not quite taichou-class just yet.

A rustle of bushes made his eyes narrow. And before he knew it, a figure had immediately charged at him from behind using a shunpo. Ichigo was not trained by a lieutenant for nothing though. He used his speed and used his opponents strength against him. The moment his opponent reached him from behind, Ichigo grabbed his garment and tossed the attacker over his shoulder and onto his feet, giving Ichigo a full view of the figure. But Ichigo didn wait for the figure to recover. He immediately put his palm over the figure.

”Hado No. 31– ”

”Wait, Ichigo!! ”

Ichigo looked down fully at the opponent and blinked when he saw red spiky pineapple head scratching his butt from the fall. ”R-Renji? ”

”Yo! ” Renji raised a hand half-way and grinned before he stood up and dusted himself off. Ichigo scowled when he realized that Renji was still taller by at least a foot than him, and more muscular too. And he held the urge to arch an eyebrow when he noticed that Renji had way too many tattoos on his body now. ”Man, Strawberry. I didn think youd be this brutal to your friends! I thought you don remember me anymore, man! ”

Ichigos eyebrow twitched. ”And who told you to just go and attack me from nowhere? ” His eyes narrowed before he looked at the two figures that came out when he attacked Renji. The two were still on the position of defense. One of them was a skinny blonde male while the other was a short raven female.

Renji saw this and grinned. ”Ah, Ichigo. These are Fukutaichous Izuru Kira of 3rd Division and Momo Hinamori of the 5th Division. Kira, Hinamori-san, this is Ichigo Kurosaki, the friend from Rukongai I was telling you about. ”

”Oh. ” Kira said as both of them relaxed in their stance. ”Uh, nice to meet you, Kurosaki-san. ” He gave the orange-haired teen a meek smile.

”Nice to meet you. ” Momo bowed politely before she beamed.

Ichigo nodded to both of them. ”Nice to meet you too. ”

”So, what are you doing here? ” Renji immediately exclaimed. ”I was wondering earlier if I was imagining things when I saw you taking a nap here! Are you studying in Shinigami Academy now? ”

Ichigo scratched the back of his head as he chuckled. ”Ah, no actually. Chichi, I mean, Juushirou-san formally adopted me a year ago and two weeks ago he decided that I should just live here with him. ”

e the one they keep talking about! ” They all turned to Momo who immediately covered her mouth with her hand and blushed. ”Uh, sorry for being rude. ”

”Its okay. ” Ichigo turned to Renji. ”Wheres Rukia? ”

Renji sighed. ”Shes dispatched to the living world for two weeks now. I was about to surprise her with my promotion too… ” He muttered the last part.

Ichigo understood immediately. Of course, that would explain why Renji was together with other fukutaichous. ”So you
e a fukutaichou now? ” He looked amazed before he grinned. ”Wow, Renji! Im sure Rukia will be happy to hear that! You can tell her when she comes back. ”

Renji seemed to have recovered and grinned too. ”Of course! I was exactly thinking of that! ”

”In what division are you fukutaichou of? ” He asked again.

Renji scratched the back of his head before he grinned sheepishly. ”Rukias nii-sama, Byakuya Kuchiki, the Taichou of the 6th Division. ” Ichigo scowled again. So it was the man he saw that other time… The guy surely looked like Rukia, and also had the same air, not to mention the description that Rukia always told them – cold and stoic, aloof and quiet, and very, very powerful. ”I see youve perfected your scowl even more. ” Renji grinned.

Ichigo growled. ”Shut up, Pineapple head. ” Kira and Momo looked amused as Renji started lashing verbally. It seemed there was someone out there after all who could make the redhead lose control, and that someone was the stoic son of Juushirou Ukitake.

The two started their daily verbal assault before Kira tried to interrupt them. After a while, they were all seated on the ground and eating Momos homemade packed lunch. Ichigo and Renji shared because Momo only brought three, of course not knowing that they would meet someone else today. They chatted comfortably, though Ichigo rarely joined in the conversation and was contented in listening to the three fukutaichous talking animatedly to one another.

”Anyway, when and how did you learn kidou, Ichigo? ” Renji asked after a while when he noticed that Ichigo wasn participating in the conversation. ”I still suck at that, you know, even though Im already a fukutaichou. ”

Ichigo looked at Renji but his eyes were distant. ”I had a great mentor. ” Renji stopped midair from eating and glanced at the friend that he hadn seen for over four years now. Ichigo had a faint smile on his lips, though it was pained.

”Hado No. 4: Byakurai! ” Ichigo immediately dodged to the left, barely avoiding the pale lightning shot that immediately incinerated the grassy spot where he was just a few moments ago.

”Hey, what was that for!? ” He shouted.

”You suck!!! ” Kaien shouted back as he smacked Ichigo on the head. ”How many times do I have to tell you to hide your reiatsu!? ”

”Thats easy for you to say, stupid Kaien! ” He shouted and immediately regretted his words when several Byakurai were shot in his direction. ”He–Hey!! Watch it! ” He ran using shunpo. He was already fast enough to dodge it, but his eyes were not yet used to the blurring vision in front of him, causing him to trip. He immediately cursed under his breath as he sat.

”You impolite snot!! ” Kaien appeared above him. ”Learn to control your stance too! You
e fast but you
e reckless. And you have poor posture! Make sure not to trip pathetically next time you want to run away! And make sure to remember all the incantations I told you. You have to memorize them. We will train with kidou next time. ”

”Thats too many to do at once, Kaien! ” He whined.

Kaien narrowed his eyes. ”You will not play until you do it. Remember that you have a very strong and unusual reiatsu, making the Hollows attracted to you. And because of that, you have to at least know how to defend yourself. Understood? ”

Ichigo half scowled half pouted. And Kaien arched an eyebrow, barely containing his amusement. ”You
e a slave driver, Kaien. ” And with that, the fukutaichou immediately laughed out loud.

”Ichigo, ” Ichigo snapped out of his thoughts and looked at Renji. The latter had a worried and also pained expression. ”You
e not blaming Rukia for Shiba-fukutaichous death, are you? ”

Ichigo blinked at him. ”Wha–What are you..? Why would I blame Rukia? ”

Renjis wore a strange expression. He couldn say it. It was clear that Ichigo did not know. Kira watched as Renji struggled to tell but it was Momo who beat him in telling the orange-haired teen. ”Kuchiki-san was the one who put an end to his life. ”

Ichigo looked at Momo so sharply the small female visibly flinched at the sudden cold gaze. Renji noticed this and immediately went to the rescue. ”Ichigo, Rukia didn want to do it either. She had grown really close to Shiba-fukutaichou in the 13th Division. But he wanted to die as a Shinigami and she was the one– ”

”Renji, ” Ichigo voiced quietly. ”You don have to say it. I understand. ” How could he be such an idiot…? Of course, the Kuchiki that Juushirou was talking about could be Rukia, but it didn even enter his mind until now. He knew the story, and he knew that Rukia was not to blame. But it didn change the fact that Kaien was killed…

”Ichigo, I know I have no right to say it because you really loved Kaien. ” Renji said, remembering how Ichigo used to tell them how annoying Kaien was, though he had a very fond expression on his face every time he would tell them about the older male. ”But please, don���t blame Rukia. Shes already blaming herself enough as it is. Shes afraid to face you too, you know. ”

Ichigo sighed. ”I don blame her. Kaien will yell at me if I do. And besides, the one to blame was the Hollow. ”

”Anyway, Kurosaki-san, why don you go to Shinigami Academy? You have a zanpakutou, and a very big one at that, and you know how to use kidou. You will be a seated officer, you know. ” Kira observed, also effectively changing the topic. The blonde was sure that Ichigo was strong, maybe even stronger than Renji, just from the stance he saw the two did earlier. He was sure that if it was a serious fight, Renji would have been badly injured by now. That, or he was already suffering the sweet gaze of Unohana-taichou, the Captain of the 4th Squad.

”I don have any ambition of becoming a Shinigami. ” He shrugged. ”And I don like working in groups. ”

”You see, Strawberry is a loner. ” Renji grinned at his two friends as he patted Ichigos back a few times. Momo chuckled and Ichigo scowled at him, the most anticipated reaction, but he didn answer. Kira sighed.

”So, Kurosaki-san, what do want to be then? ” Momo asked, and Ichigos answer, if he ever would, was interrupted by a rather immense display of suffocating reiatsu. It felt like the gravity had tripled, pulling them down on their knees, and Kira immediately knelt beside Momo to cover her from the power. Renji was doing his best to not kneel and Ichigo immediately ran to the nearby tree where Zangetsu was leaned on and took it. The three watched him in amazement because hes the only one who could stand up even at the pressure of the immense taichou-class reiatsu.

”Sorry, guys. ” Ichigo voiced as he looked at his companions. ”Renji, nice meeting you again, but Kenpachi is on to me these past few days and it will be good if I run now. That bastard keeps on pestering me. See you. ” And he immediately vanished, leaving Renji, Kira, and Momo in shock.

”ICHIGO!!! ” A loud voice immediately snapped their attention from Ichigo and turned to the approaching gigantic reiatsu.

”Z-Zaraki-taichou? ” Kira voiced as he recognized the immensity of the presence. ”But… ”

And the Captain in question immediately appeared from behind the bushes and shunpod in front of them. The reason for his immense killing urge, excitement. Renji stared at the Captain of the 11th Division, not knowing if he would be scared for Ichigo or laugh at his friend for getting the attention of the most troublesome brawl-freak in the entire Seireitei.

”Kenny and I are chasing after our friend Ichi. ” Yachiru, who was still perched on Kenpachis shoulder, talked. ”Do you know where he is? ”

”And don you dare try to give a false direction, dimwits. Ill kill you! ” Kenpachi grinned.

The three of them gulped before they all shook their heads. Ichigo just disappeared from his spot without leaving any trace of his reiatsu behind, not even letting them know where he went. Renji bit his lower lip. ”Sorry, Strawberry. Youll be on your own for a while. ”

Kenpachi looked grumpy, but he didn interrogate them any further. It seemed the teen had the audacity to hide from him. And he immediately disappeared from his spot, using a skilled shunpo, one of the skills the Captain had but didn look like he was capable of.

When the suffocating reiatsu vanished, Momo immediately fell on her knees and coughed while Kira and Renji barely managed to stand up. The blonde helped the girl stand up too.

”Man, Ichigo sure knows how to run. ” Renji said as he looked at the two. ”If hes able to hide from Kenpachi for some days now, then hes really far stronger than me. ” Kira chuckled, though nervously, still pretty much shaken by Kenpachis display of power.

”I wonder how strong Kurosaki-san is. ” Momo voiced when she recovered, which wasn really that long. Shes a fukutaichou after all. ”He can withstand Zaraki-taichous immense reiatsu and didn even look like hes affected by it. ”

”Like he said, he had a great mentor. ” Renji answered. And the three of them decided it was better off not mentioning Kenpachis name again, lest the devil showed up once more. Renji might have been part of his Division but he had had no chance of even sparring with the Captain. His only mentor was the third Seat named Ikkaku Madarame and not even that guy was managed to be beaten by the red hair in a fight. And the third seat had barely lived after fighting against the Captain once upon a time in a street of Rukongai. Kenpachi was that powerful. And the man didn even know the name of his zanpakutou…

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

”Its a nice night. ” Ichigo, who sat at the porch while watching the full moon, turned his head over his shoulder when he heard his guardians voice. Juushirou looked really relaxed and way younger in his kimono. Ichigo wore the same outfit, though with a different color. Juushirou inhaled the night air and sat beside his son. ”So you managed to get away from Kenpachi today too. ”

Ichigo snorted when the name was mentioned before he sighed. ”That man never even lets me relax these days. ” He looked at Juushirou and knew that the older male wanted to say something. He didn ask though. Juushirou would tell it if he deemed it necessary, even if its the demise of this world. He would never try to keep Ichigo uninformed and blind to dangerous things just to protect him because Juushirou knew that Ichigo hated not knowing.

”Ichigo-kun, the soutaichou wants to meet you tomorrow, after we finish with the meeting. ” His guardian said after a while. ”And the other Taichous too. ”

Ichigo furrowed his eyebrows. ”Why? ”

Juushirou sighed. ”It seems they want you to be a Shinigami too. ” He looked apologetically at Ichigo and the teen merely shrugged, urging him to continue. ”Rumor says that you
e strong enough to beat a Fukutaichou and… uh, they want to know how much of that rumor is true… ” He turned sideways to get a good look at his son. ”Ichigo, you don have to come if you don want to. ”

”But its the soutaichou, right? Ill go. ” Ichigo voiced as he looked at his guardian fondly. He, personally, had no sense of obeying someone based solely on their status, but he knew that it wouldn be the same for Juushirou because the man was part of Gotei 13. His guardian wouldn be able to disobey the soutaichou. ”But going doesn mean Ill join any of the Squads, or even go to Shinigami Academy. ”

”Of course. ” Juushirou smiled. He knew that Ichigo was only going because of him, but he still couldn help but feel grateful that Ichigo even agreed. The boy hated being ordered around after all.

Morning came and Ichigo was starting to regret he ever agreed. Juushirou just came back from the meeting and fetched him. He told the older man that he couldve just walked together with Juushirou earlier when his chichi went to the meeting, but the latter didn��t want him to wait for too long.

As he and Juushirou walked towards the Meeting Hall, he could feel himself getting more and more nervous. He didn bring Zangetsu because swords weren allowed to be constantly carried around in Seireitei except when in training or having a duel. But thats the least of his reasons. He was not that bad at shunpo, and not that bad either at kidou, based on his humble mindset. So there was no way he wouldn be able to defend himself somehow. The reasons for his nervousness… First, that brunette Captain who killed a subordinate would surely be there. Then, Rukias older brother would surely be there. And worst, Kenpachi would also be there. Not to mention Shunsui who wanted to turn him into a drunkard too. Who knew who else would be there, what with all those strange and scary Taichous that he knew? There were thirteen of them… and he only knew five. At least his chichi was sane.

They stopped in front of a huge door and it opened silently. The meeting was already finished so the Captains, it seemed, were chatting quietly. Their eyes all fell on him as he walked inside behind Juushirou.

”Ichigo!! ” Shunsui greeted and swiftly flung his arms around the teens shoulder. Ichigos nose scrunched up slightly at the smell of alcohol coming from the other man. ”Its been a while since we last saw each other! ” Juushirou sighed at his friends overly energetic way of trying to relax Ichigo in vain.

The teen immediately saw different faces. Kenpachi was grinning at him. Rukias older brother wasn even recognizing his presence, the prick! Or rather, the man with the curlers. There was a silver-haired child too, one with emerald eyes and a scowl that could rival against Ichigos. Then there was a huge Captain whose face was covered by a… a basket? Ichigo wondered if the guy was far too weird to have such a sense of fashion. Then there was a grouchy looking woman who was looking at Ichigo as if he shouldn be anywhere near her. All of them wore a Shihakusho and a white haori over it, though they obviously had different preferred styles.

”Heh, so this is the famous adopted son of Juushirou Ukitake-taichou? ” Ichigos eyebrow twitched at a Captain who had a strange hat and a white body, or was that paint? And hell, the way the man grinned was far too creepy for the teens liking.

”Kurotsuchi-taichou, I suggest you stop harassing the poor boy. ” Another Captain, one with bluish-silver hair and a slit for eyes, was grinning. He walked towards Ichigo and bent forward as he held out his hand. ”The name is Gin Ichimaru, the Captain of 3rd Squad. ” And his grin went wider. Ichigo looked at him and realized that the man was Kiras Captain.

”Ah, nice to meet you. Im Ichigo. ” He was about to shake hands with Gin when another voice stopped him.

”Ichimaru-taichou, you shouldn harass the poor boy as well. ” Ichigos whole body froze. He might have forgotten that mans face, his name, his position, and even the face of his victim, but Ichigo would never forget that guttural voice. He would never forget that reiatsu which immediately overwhelmed his senses when the man approached steadily.

Shunsui, whose arms were still on Ichigos shoulders, felt the boy stiffen when Aizen approached.

Aizen immediately saw how the boy stiffened at the sight of him and he wondered if he met the boy somewhere. ”Have we met before, Ichigo? ”

The other Taichous were already looking at them, clearly surprised at the reaction. Aizen was known as the most charming and the kindest Captain of Gotei 13. If Ichigo was someone who was able to withstand Kenpachi, Shunsui, Juushirou, and even Gins presence, there was no way he would cower at the sight of Aizen.

Ichigo didn answer, however. He just stared at the Captain, stoned-faced and withdrawn.

”Ichigo-kun, is there something wrong? ” Juushirou was immediately beside his son in a second. He was worried. He may not appear afraid to anyone, but Ichigo was clearly scared. His son was scared.

”N-Nothing, chichi. ” Ichigo broke the eye contact he had with Aizen when he gazed at his guardian before they returned again to the brunette taichou. ”No, I believe we haven met before. ” And with that, Juushirou knew that Ichigo had indeed met Aizen before this incident.

After a while, the soutaichou cleared his throat and stood up, asking Ichigo to follow him. Juushirou was about to protest but Ichigo smiled at him and shook his head before he followed the soutaichou.

”So, why do you think he was afraid of you? ” Gin looked partly amused and partly curious as he looked at Aizen. The other taichous also appeared interested in his answer.

Aizen merely chuckled as he shook his head. ”His reiatsu is familiar to me, but I don remember if I have met him or not. Though Im sure I haven seen him before… ”

Juushirous eyes narrowed at that. His son wasn even afraid of Kenpachi, the rowdy and freaky Captain of 11th Squad, and yet hes afraid of the calmest and kindest Captain. He would have to ask Ichigo later, that is, if the boy wanted to talk about it.

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