”Are you sure? ” Juushirou asked again, looking hopeful. He couldn believe his ears and he felt like a child who was given his birthday present in advance.

”Of course. ” Ichigo smiled. It had been a while since the older man saw that smile. It was already three months after Kaiens death, and since then, Juushirou had been trying to ask Ichigo to live with him as his adopted son. And right now, it was the first sunshine that reached his heart.

Ichigo was much too glad that he was able to make Juushirou happy with his decision. The older male had been sickly these past few months, clearly still grieving from Kaien and his other subordinates deaths. Ichigo was willing from the start to live with the older male. The only things that held him back were the same reasons why he didn want to be a Shinigami. Juushirous house was near his barracks in Seireitei… In Seireitei, there was…

But after months of seeing how Juushirou tried to cope up with the loss all on his own, Ichigo couldn help but feel awful with his hesitation. And thus, he decided to give it a try, living with those Shinigamis. He didn know how Juushirou convinced the soutaichou, whoever he was, to let someone like Ichigo live inside Seireitei even though he wasn a Shinigami.

Juushirou was so happy to hear that Ichigo finally agreed. It was a pain in the ass trying to convince the soutaichou to let his adopted son live in Seireitei after all. Many of his subordinates were really delighted to meet the boy but Kaien had always banned them from meeting Ichigo. Juushirou and Kaien both knew that Ichigo was a solitary person, someone who was wary of new acquaintances, especially after the death of his friends. And now Kaien too…

Juushirou promised the soutaichou that Ichigo was someone with strong spiritual pressure and awareness too even though he was not trained in the Academy. Soutaichou still had to convince Central 46 after that, and it was really a good thing that those people agreed.

And thus, the happiness he had right now knew no bound.

The two of them were welcomed inside the gates of Seireitei by a person named Jidanbou, who looked at Ichigo suspiciously, not wanting to let him in first. But when Ichigo used his natural charm unconsciously, talking to Jidanbou and assuring him that he was not an enemy or a ryoka for that matter, he was let in without much problem.

”There are only few people who can convince Jidanbou. ” Juushirou chuckled. Ichigo felt like it had been a while since he last heard it. And he found out he missed Juushirou more than he thought he did. For the past months now, Juushirou had buried himself to work and visited Ichigo lesser. The boy suddenly felt a pang of longing and he clutched his zanpakutou tightly for support.

Juushirou noticed this and spoke. ”Your zanpakutou… its as tall as you are now. ” Ichigo saw in the older mans eyes that he was remembering their first meeting, where the sword was twice Ichigos height.

The teen couldn help but smile too, though sadly because that was also the time when he first met Kaien. ”I have a question Ive wanted to ask. ”

”What is it? ” Juushirou asked kindly, and Ichigo hesitated a little. He didn want to make Juushirou remember everything again just when the older male was trying to cope up. But he wouldn be able to continue if he didn ask it now.

”This… this Kuchiki person… is she in the 13th Squad barracks right now? ” He asked. Despite his fear that Juushirou would get upset, he didn . The older male merely shook his head.

”Shes wallowing in guilt and anguish that I sent her in the living world two days ago. ” Juushirou answered sadly. ”I was trying to convince her that it wasn her fault, but she would only bury herself in depression more. So I decided to let her rest for a while. ”

”In the world of the living, huh… ” Ichigo mused. ”Where? ”

”In Karakura Town. ” And Ichigo stiffened visibly, making Juushirou stop in his tracks and look at his son with worry. ”Is there something wrong, Ichigo-kun? ”

”Ah, no… its just… Karakura Town sounds… familiar… ” He answered silently and Juushirou immediately understood. He knew about Ichigos background as a child in Karakura Town and also the details surrounding his death because he looked it up in Seireiteis records. He also saw the death of his mother two weeks before Ichigos own, and Juushirou didn look into the record anymore, not wanting to find any more depressing news regarding his adopted child.

”Karakura Town is where you lived your life. ” Juushirou quietly said, not wanting to hide that simple fact from the teen.

”I see. ” Ichigo answered. Juushirou ruffled his orange hair again and the teens stiff shoulder slowly relaxed. By now, Ichigo measured up to Juushirous jaw and it was not cool to ruffle his hair like that. But it seemed Ichigo didn mind so he still did it. It both reminded them of Kaien and it was comforting.

Juushirou sighed. ”Im actually worried about her. I first thought that Karakura Town will be something of a rest for her. But it seems there is a high level of Hollow activity going on in that place… Too many people with high spiritual energy perhaps… ”

Ichigo looked down. He now wondered what happened to his father and his younger twin sisters. He didn know what he could do. He could only hope that this Kuchiki girl would at least protect his family. Now that he thought about it, Kuchiki was also Rukias family name… He now wondered if this girl was Rukias sister or something, though she once told him that she only had one sibling, his stuck up nii-sama. A cousin perhaps..? Just as he was about to think about it, his gaze met the grandness that everyone called Seireitei.

Ichigos first reaction to the place was what the **? No wonder many poor people in Rukongai hated the Shinigamis. Everything looked elegant and perfect. Every path, every corner, and every infrastructure was magnificent and clean, grand and quiet. It was the total opposite of the crowded streets of Rukongai where some areas smelled awful and others smelled of other people. This place reeked of nothing but spirit particles, of pure and absolute power. It was too powerful that no normal people would probably be able to stand living here without collapsing every day from the intense spiritual pressure.

They walked in comfortable silence as Ichigo tried to remember the ways that they were walking in futility. Everything looked so damn similar that he wasn sure hed be able to get out on his own in the maze-like empty streets.

Juushirou glanced sideways at his adopted son. He was not-so-silently proud of Ichigos achievements as a very young person. The boy was a prodigy, a one of a kind prodigy. He had managed to beat Kaien in more than one sparring session without pushing his limits. He had mastered many kidou techniques and could now utter such power without incantation on lower number hado. And he also bet that Ichigos shunpo would not be a second rate either. And he was a master at concealing his reiatsu, now that Juushirou noticed. Ichigos presence was silent, so silent that no one would even think that Juushirou had someone with him right now…

Although, many of these achievements he could entitle to Kaiens great mentoring and caring, not to mention his boundless patience. Ichigo was way laid-back on his own even though his determination was unwavering.

Looking at his son now, he could feel his old age again. Ichigo was just a little child barely measuring up to his waist when Juushirou first saw him. But now, the boy, no, the teen measured up to his jaw that in a few years, maybe decades or centuries, the teen would probably grow as tall as him and finally become a man. His eyes were a combination of childhood innocence that made him all the more appealing but they already had the hint of maturation, from constant exposure to death and trauma that Juushirou wished he could erase. He felt that Ichigo was still too young to have eyes that looked haunted despite the warmth and kindness that they had.

Despite all those things though, Ichigo remained a handsome teen that Juushirou was so sure the Shinigami Womens Association wouldn get tired of drooling over. He had a slender physique, but not too much because of his constant training. He had sun-kissed skin, those bright spiky orange locks that he was sure female Shinigamis would love to touch and ruffle, just like Kaien had done. And those charming chocolate eyes overruling everything. He just wished those hungry women, and men, would leave his son alone so Ichigo wouldn have any more trauma… albeit a different kind.

While Juushirou wore his usual black shihakusho and white haori with the Chinese number thirteen on its back, Ichigo wore a simple black males yukata with intricate pink and red shapes – mostly little diamonds and branching lines – as designs. It was long enough to cover the sole of his feet and only revealed the geta underneath.

Juushirou was forced out of his musings when Ichigo looked at him, arching an eyebrow. By now, the older man already knew what that meant.

”Nothing, Ichigo-kun. ” He smiled kindly at the silent question. ”I just wish you can get comfortable in this place. ” Ichigo nodded in assent. ”And please don be scared when one or two… or maybe twenty Shinigamis try to jump you out of nowhere. It happens to all the popular souls all the time. ” He chuckled at the pale expression on Ichigos face. He knew that his son was not good at dealing with other people because of his solitary nature and he mostly had no experience in dealing with women. So far, the only woman Ichigo had to deal with in Rukongai was his Baa-chan, Kaiens wife, and the noble girl he sometimes talked about.

Ichigo cleared his throat as he scowled. His guardian was surely enjoying his reaction too much. ”Anyway, are we still far? ”

”We can use shunpo to get to the 13th Division but I don think you will remember much of the way if we did that. ” Juushirou chuckled, letting the previous topic drop off. Ichigo just smiled at him as he gazed at many things, or rather, at walls that looked the same no matter how many times they turn right or left. He inwardly sighed. He didn think hed remember it anyway even if they take their time walking, though the scene was somehow comforting, so quiet and calm.

After a while, they reached a different corner where a huge gate with two wooden doors bearing the Chinese number thirteen was located. Ichigo marveled at the grandness of the thing. The walls were higher and he could almost hear some noises inside.

”This is the 13th Squad Barracks. ” Juushirou introduced quite proudly. Ichigo thought that they would get inside but they didn . ”My house, from now on your home too, isn far from here. ” Ichigo smiled at that and Juushirou chuckled once more.

They walked some more until they reached Juushirous humble home. It wasn huge and mansion-like but it was comfortable. They went inside silently and Ichigo sat in a seiza in front of a small table in the living room.

Juushirou went to the kitchen and when he came back, he was already carrying a teapot and two cups. The two of them drank tea silently and let themselves relax.

”This will be your home from now on, Ichigo-kun. ” Juushirou said after a while. ”What do you think of it? ”

Ichigo exhaled. ”It has a relaxing atmosphere. Where will I be training, by the way? ”

Juushirou chuckled before he stood up and opened a sliding door over-looking a small garden. ”Though its a lot smaller than your training ground in Rukongai, you can train here. ” The older male smiled sheepishly when he realized that fact. ”And if you want, you can train in the thirteenth Squad barracks. ”

Ichigo politely shook his head. ”No, here is fine. ” He took in the sight of the small but beautiful garden. The sun was already setting and the peaceful air was thoroughly relaxing.

”As aloof as always. ” Juushirou teased and Ichigo grinned.

”No, Im not! ” He answered in a playing tone. ”I just don want to be jumped. ” Juushirou laughed at that and Ichigo followed after some seconds.

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

”Juushirou! I heard your adopted son arrived here yesterday! Can we see him? ” A middle-aged looking man with long curly brunette locks tied in a ponytail was grinning at Juushirou when he opened his door. The brunette man wore pink flowery haori with a hat on top of his head that he tipped on one side with one hand. Behind him was a beautiful woman with orange hair and blue eyes, though those features were drowned by the most obvious one – the huge bosom. She looked gleeful. Beside her was a ragged-looking man with huge body and muscles. He had black pointy hair with bells decorating every tip. He had an eye-patch on one eye and wore a manic grin. He was also a Shinigami, with white haori indicating his position as the Captain of the Eleventh Squad. On his back was a little girl with pink hair and bubbly attitude.

”Shunsui, ” Juushirou sighed. ”And the others. ” It was so early morning and these people were already swarming in his house. Ichigo wouldn be so pleased to be surrounded by so many gawking people at once.

”I heard that hes pretty good-looking, Ukitake-taichou. ” The woman beamed in excitement. ”As part of the Shinigami Womens Association, I was assigned to at least take a picture of him! ”

”I heard that your son is stronger than a lieutenant, is that true? ” The brusque asked.

The girl on his shoulder giggled. ”Kenny wants to fight him! ”

Juushirou held back the urge to face-palm. And he thought that Ichigo could rest in this place… ”We have a Captains meeting, right? ” He tried to bring the topic away from his son. ”Shouldn we all be readying to go there now? ” He too was dressed in his Captain uniform.

”Ehh!? ” His friend Shunsui was being extremely stubborn today. ”But we want to see him now, Juushirou! ”

”Hes still asleep. ” He sighed again. ”You can visit him later. ” They all looked like they wanted to argue but Juushirou was quick. He was not a Captain just because of his looks. In that short time after he uttered the words, he was immediately outside the house and had already pushed the others away from the door and onto the road. ”Lets go to the meeting now. ”

And that was that.

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

He swung his sword once more, quite contented that he had found this place so easily in Seireitei. Who wouldve thought that there was such a huge forest inside the grand place? Ichigo swung his sword again. It had been a week since he first entered the place, but he had yet to see someone aside from his guardian.

It seemed such a nice place after all…

Of course, it was unknown to him the great lengths in which Juushirou tried to dissuade anyone whod try to even come across his path. He was doing his best every day just to make sure that no one would try to sneak in their territory and harass his son.

Ichigo saw the setting sun and thought that he already did enough for the day. He set down his sword and sat beside a trees roots while leaning on its wide trunk. It was quiet and peaceful. This was solitude. And it wasn that bad. He closed his eyes and drifted off into a memory that instead of bringing comfort had been bringing sadness and sorrow to him for a while now.

”Idiot!!! ” Kaien shouted when another explosion broke the peace and silence of the forest. He immediately darted down to the young boy who had managed to blow the kidou on himself instead of firing it.

”Don call me idiot! ” Ichigo shouted back. ”Do you know how hard this is? ”

”Thats what the training is all about, you strawberry brat! ” Kaien shouted again but was immediately using a healing kidou to treat the wounds on Ichigois right hand and arm. Ichigo scowled as he let himself be treated. ”Ichigo, how many times do I have to tell you, you don have to impress me by not reciting the incantation at all. You can do it once you get more experience. But for now, citing it is very important. ”

”Tch, Im not that weak, Kaien! ” He whined. He knew he was acting like a child, but this was Kaien and Ichigo knew the older man wouldn mind. ”And you do it all the time! ”

”I have years and years of experience behind me, brat! ” He answered just as he finished healing Ichigo. He stood up and helped Ichigo stand up as well. ”Like I said before, without citing the incantation, your kidou will not be powerful at all. Or worse, it will not have the desired effect that you want it to have. Kidou spells are triggered by incantation. You
e a beginner and your kidou will not be effective without the– ”

”Bakudo No. 4: Hainawa! ” A yellow colored rope immediately trapped a log not too far from their position and sealed its movement, not that it would want to get away.

Kaien glared and Ichigo scowled even more. ”–incantation. You have to be able to view the words in your mind and etched them in your heart to be able to master it. ”

”But I already know how to do it without the incantation, Kaien! ” He whined again. ”I don like reciting nonsensical things during battle! ”

”You only have mastered it in single-digit spells! But those digits hardly have any effect on stronger Hollows, do you hear me? We will continue to spar while you recite the spells. ”

And Kaien immediately vanished, much to Ichigos annoyance. He was not good at tracking down reiatsu and Kaien almost always used it against him.

”Tch, Kaien, I hate you! ” He shunpod away from where he was just as a Byakurai hit the spot a second after. ”No, I despise you!! Do you want me to get killed!? ” He only heard Kaiens laugh from a distance and his scowl deepened. ”Kaien, you idiot!! ”

He woke up with a start when he realized there was another reiatsu in the place. The sky was dark now and he was sure he slept for more than an hour. Now, he was sure hes not alone in the forest anymore.

”Bakudo No. 61: Rikujokoro. ” Ichigos eyes widened just as he shunpod away from where he sat, barely avoiding the six thin beams of light that would have slammed into his midsection and bound him.

He narrowed his eyes when his sense registered a not-so-friendly Taichou-class reiatsu in the premise. Kaien drilled into him the fact that learning to read anothers reiatsu would be a very huge advantage in battle, not that he would want to try it right now.

”Who are you, boy? ” A low husky voice rang and Ichigo found himself immediately face to face with none other than a Taichou. He stilled as he gazed at the figure in front of him.

The man had a very cold and stoic demeanor, steel-gray eyes, and shoulder-length silky raven hair. He wore a shihakusho and a white haori on top, indicating that he was indeed a taichou. On his hair were white curlers? Ichigos eyebrow twitched at the thought that a Captain this cold and hostile would wear curlers. And whether he would admit it or not, the man surely had the looks. He had pearly white skin, and it surely looked really smooth and soft. And he carried an air of dominance and regality. And now Ichigo was sure this one was a noble.

The same air as Rukia, though a lot colder and superior.

”Sorry, but I don give my name to strangers. ” Ichigo answered after a while of scrutinizing. Although the man did not look like it, he could see that the noble taichou was irked.

”I believe you have no right to brag in this place, boy. ” The noble raven answered, colder than earlier and Ichigo had to fight back a shiver. ”If you know whats best for you, you will answer my question. ”

Just kill him, King! Shiro immediately sensed the annoyance of his King.

Ichigo, don listen to him. Zangetsu voiced. Shiro is just annoyed at the moment because its raining here.

”Sorry, Zangetsu-ojii-san, Shiro. ” He voiced inside his head. He heard his Hollow grunted in reply and he felt Zangetsus warmth. He couldn help the rain. He just dreamed of the happy times with Kaien earlier…

Ichigo sighed. He really didn want to fight anyone right now, especially a taichou who looked and felt really strong. Juushirou would get upset. ”My name is Ichigo. Ichigo Kurosaki, Juushirou Ukitakes adopted son. ” He answered the earlier question. He still used his original surname even though Juushirou had basically adopted him because he felt that it was the only connection he had with his biological family now. And the older male also didn want to take that away from him. It was a very precious surname… and he was thankful he was able to remember it despite his muddled memory.

The ravens eyes narrowed, as if doubting Ichigos words. The boy didn look like he was lying, nor did he look like he was saying the truth. The ravens cold gaze darted on the teens hair that was swaying with the slight breeze. It had a very bright color of orange and the raven had never seen anyone with that hair before. The boys chocolate eyes showed that the boy was irked at him, mirroring his current emotion to the orange-haired teen. He looked at the boy up and down before he spoke again, this time with less hostility but still unfriendly. ”You better go home, boy. You are not allowed in the Shinigami training ground because you are not one. ”

Ichigo scowled. Couldn the man ask him to leave in a more decent way? And from that moment on, Ichigo decided. This man was a bastard. ”Hn. ” He grunted before he immediately walked away, not wanting to prolong any stupid conversation with the annoying man.

He went home using a shunpo and was surprised to see too many people inside his home for his liking. They were all circling a low table and were all seated in a seiza. Juushirou immediately caught his eyes and the older male looked really apologetic. Ichigo accepted the apology silently though he wasn really offended, just uncomfortable.

Juushirou could immediately see his sons discomfort at the sight of many people inside their humble home. But he couldn do anything anymore. He could only prohibit them for a week. After that, well, they decided that they wanted to go and see Ichigo whether Juushirou liked it or not. Currently present were Shunsui Kyouraku, of course, the Captain of 8th Squad, Rangiku Matsumoto, the woman from the last time and also the lieutenant of the 10th Squad, the other Captain from last time, Kenpachi Zaraki, and his lieutenant Yachiru Kusajishi, and of course, Juushirous two third seats, Kiyone Kotetsu and Sentarou Kotsubaki. The two didn want to be left out from seeing their beloved Captains attractive son.

They all looked at him and Ichigo slightly bowed his head, recognizing their presences in the living room, before he disappeared into the bedroom to change from his training clothes to a comfortable kimono.

”Hes not a very sociable person, is he? ” Rangiku pointed out, pouting. ”Well, after some time, Im sure hell open up to us. ”

”Taichou, your son is very handsome! ” Kiyone immediately blurted out.

”What? ” Sentarou immediately pushed her aside. ”Don steal my line! ” He turned to Juushirou. ”Taichou! Your son is very pretty! ” Everyone looked at him meaningfully. ”Of course in a manly way! In a manly way, Taichou! ” Kiyone growled and the two immediately started their daily banter.

”But I thought hed be stronger than that. ” Shunsui stated, holding a bottle of sake. ”I can scarcely sense any reiatsu from him, you know. ” Juushirou beamed, proud of his sons achievement. Ichigo used to be so incapable of hiding his massive reiatsu, to the point of drawing too many Hollows to himself, much to Kaiens annoyance and enjoyment. The two used to train with those Hollows too after all.

But now, Ichigo could control and hide his reiatsu almost unconsciously. If he willed it, no one would be able to feel his presence at all, even at close proximity. Kaien was really a great mentor, and with a talented student, things had gone the way it should be. Ichigo became a lot stronger, and would even get stronger after some time.

”You look happy, Juu-chan. ” Yachiru chirped. ”Is it because you think Shun-shun is wrong? ”

”Hey. ” Shunsui never really liked that nickname. He started opening the lid of the sake and poured an amount to each of the cups in front of them. Kiyone and Sentarou ignored it and continued with their bickering.

”As for me, I don care whether I can sense anything from him or not. If its true that hes strong, then Ill fight him! ” Kenpachi exclaimed with a wide grin.

”Oh no, you won , Zaraki-taichou. ” Juushirou warned. ”I will not allow my son to– ”

”Chichi, wheres my other geta? ” Ichigo appeared from the other room and Juushirou visibly blushed. He was still not used to Ichigo calling him that. He was Ichigos guardian for eight years now but it was only recently, about a year ago, that he decided he wanted to formally adopt the teen as his son. Even though Ichigo didn want to use his surname, because the teen thought that it would earn him some raised eyebrows, the boy was still very much happy to be his son. And Ichigo calling him chichi was always a good experience!

Shunsui arched an eyebrow as he grinned, not missing the reaction from his best friend. Ichigo didn look like he saw the blush that formed on his chichis face, though it could also be because he was already used to it.

”Its in the dojo, I think. ” Juushirou answered. Aside from the house, a small dojo was located at the backyard and Ichigo used it once when the weather wasn good.

”Thanks. ” He left. Shunsui and Rangiku immediately teased the white-haired taichou and Juushirou blushed even more. It felt good to be called like that even though Ichigo wasn really his son. But he had no son and he was happy to be called a father.

When Ichigo returned, Kenpachi immediately introduced himself, explicitly saying that he wanted to spar with Ichigo. The teen grinned before he refused. ”Maybe next time, Kenpachi. Im really tired from training. ”

Kenpachi grinned. ”You better remember that, Ichigo. ”

”Wow, Kenny gained a new friend! Ichi, you
e Kennys friend now so Im your friend too! ” Yachiru chirped happily as she sat on Kenpachis lap.

The rest of the group was formally introduced to Ichigo and the latter seemed a little more comfortable sitting with them at the table, much to Juushirous relief. Though Ichigo received a suffocating bosom hug from Rangiku the moment they were introduced, saying that Ichigo looked really cute much to his chagrin, the teen had managed to stay alive and had been wiser to sit at least two meters away from the overly enthusiastic female.

And Ichigo had, for once, momentarily forgotten the reason why he didn want to be close to another soul ever.

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