The Promise He Made
The most important of promises are never made to the person themselves; they are made to one's soul, for that person, whether they are aware of it or not. Ichigo has only ever made two such promises in his life time. One was to save Rukia; the other was for the person who made him who he was before he met Rukia...
Ichigo leaned against Zangetsu, panting from the day's training. Urahara had stated that in ten days, he'd make Ichigo battle-ready to fight in Soul Society. Right now, they were on day six of his training. It was at this point that Urahara decided to inform him of some shocking news.
"WHAT?!" Ichigo shouted at Urahara. "Urahara-san, you can't be serious!"
Urahara simply laughed, opened his fan, and covered his mouth with it in that familiar manner. "Come now, Ichigo," Urahara said happily, "did you really think that all your spiritual activities would have no effect?"
Ichigo could barely believe what he was hearing. Just now, he had been told that Inoue Orihime, and his best friend, Sado Yasutora, had also developed powers, and an associate of Urahara's, Yoruichi-san, was training them.
Ichigo shouted back. "Of course not!"
"Hey, I can't help it if you can't control your own spirit energy," Urahara commented, "since it's because of you they got powers in the first place."
It was a very complex thing for Ichigo to wrap his mind around. Even so, it did have some sense to it. For some reason, Inoue-san had previously asked him what happened to Rukia, when there was no one else who seemed to remember her. He had to admit, the encounter made Ichigo relieved, but only slightly so. Yes, there were people who remembered, and also cared about what happened to Rukia, but Rukia's words still echoed inside Ichigo.
"Don't even try to move one step from there. If you try to follow me... I'll never forgive you!" Those are the words Rukia had said to Ichigo. All she wanted was to protect, and she did so by handing herself over to be executed for the crime of helping him, for allowing him to save his family with her power. That time, in the rain, was so much like when his mother died.
Now, someone close to his heart was going to die again because they were protecting him. He knew that he wasn't going to let that happen; he wasn't going to let Rukia die because of him. Still, he considered how she would feel. How would Rukia feel if he went against what she ordered him to do, and went to save her? Was it right of him to just...?
He shook his head, and pushed such pessimistic thoughts aside. What wasn't right was that she was being executed for giving him the power to protect his family, and later his Nakama. He was going to go to Soul Society, and he was going to defeat Byakuya, and the "pride" that led him to allow his own sister to be executed.
"Kurosaki-san," Urahara spoke, interrupting Ichigo's thoughts, "these two have made the choice to go with you to Soul Society. I didn't force them to; I merely offered them the choice."
"Is that right," Ichigo said, and sighed. "I never wanted to drag anyone else into this, but if those two chose it of their own will, I can't stop either of them."
A thought then hit him. "Urahara-san," Ichigo asked, and looked straight at Urahara, "what about Tatsuki?"
"Hm," Urahara's eyes widened, as if in surprise, "do you mean...Arisawa-san?"
"Yes," Ichigo pressed on, "she was there when Inoue was attacked by Sora when he was a Hollow. She was hurt, and if what you said is true, then she should have been exposed to my reiatsu as well. Maybe she-"
"No, Kurosaki-san," Urahara said bluntly, "Arisawa-san has not developed any spiritual abilities."
Ichigo's eyes widened for a moment, and then softened. He wondered why, but a part of him felt relief. "I see," Ichigo said softly, "so it was only those two?"
Urahara's eyes focused on Ichigo. He knew that he had told Ichigo a blatant lie, but Ichigo seemed to accept what he was told as truth. It was for the best; he could know yet about the Hogyoku inside Rukia. He already had other plans set in motion...
"Yes Kurosaki-san," Urahara stated, and turned to walk away. "You better get some rest, Kurosaki-san", he say joyfully, "We've got another fun-filled day of training tomorrow."
Ichigo chuckled nervously. What Urahara considered fun, Ichigo considered to be like Hell; this training was harder than anything he's ever been through. But he had to endure if it meant being able to save Rukia.
Ichigo then turned his thoughts to Sado and Inoue. He knew that Sado's powers would be strong, and through all the time Ichigo knew Sado, he had never lost to anyone in a straight fight when they were together. He could trust Sado to take care of himself.
Inoue, on the other hand, was an entirely different case. Just looking at her at times would wear Ichigo straight out, and cause anyone to worry. The fact she had powers, and was now coming to Soul Society, was quite a shock to Ichigo. But he shrugged off that worry; considering what he heard her say, he knew that Inoue was going to Soul Society to save Rukia as well. Why else would Inoue-san go to Soul Society in the first place?
"Good grief," Ichigo told himself, "I'm just worrying too much. She can't have been Tatsuki's friend for two years and not learned how to defend herself..."
His mind then drifted to Tatsuki as he said that. She probably doesn't even know, Ichigo thought to himself. It is likely she doesn't know anything about the spirit world, the way things are...
He reflected back on his childhood friend. Would she have been proud of him? They knew each other since they were kids, and she helped him many times through the years. Yet that night...he wasn't fast enough to protect her from Acidwire.
Back then, I wasn't fast enough, Tatsuki. Even if I didn't know you were there, it doesn't change the fact you still got hurt.
And now, your best friend has developed spiritual powers, just because she was near me when I was in my Shinigami body. I'm not even sure if she knows how dangerous it is going to be. Byakuya...he struck me down in an instant. And there are more guys like him, and like Renji in Soul Society.
I closed my eyes. I made a decision, and placed Zangetsu on my back.
I don't know what I'll do if either of them got hurt, but if it is Inoue who gets hurts, even killed...I don't know how I'll explain it to you, Tatsuki, though I have no doubt that you'll never forgive if it does happen.
I already know it is my responsibility to bring them both back home. I am the one they are following into Soul Society after all. I'll save Rukia, and after that, I'll bring her, Sado, and Inoue-san back home safely.
I'll make sure to bring Inoue back home to you. You two are friends, and you've always been her protector. Since you won't be able to protect her the moment we set foot in Soul Society, I'll make sure that nothing happens to her, or anyone else.
Tatsuki...For this, I swear on my own soul. I will make up for being unable to protect you.
I swear on my soul.