Lightning tore across the Rukongai sky as a shadow stole through the night. While his movements were tense and furtive, he moved with a calculated grace that suggested he carried with him a certain purpose. He was headed directly for a point some distance outside of Chirijūjiro, the 72nd district of the south Rukongai, and did not hesitate as he flashed over streets that had been reduced to muddy rivers in the frigid downpour. As thunder roared through the heavens, the shadow shimmered into existence before a small, dilapidated shack that huddled against a jagged rock outcropping. The bramble that surrounded him shuddered as cutting wind lashed through its thorny branches, but the shadow seemed to completely ignore the storm around him as he focused on the dense point of spiritual pressure that lay somewhere within the ramshackle building. The energy was so palpable he could sense it drawing him in towards itself, an instinctive feeling in the pit of his stomach. For a moment he hesitated, pulling the dark hood of his Reiatsu-concealing cloak tighter around him as he checked over his shoulder to ensure he had not been followed. Then, reaching out delicately as if any sudden movement would cause a bomb to detonate, he undid the latch on the door and pulled it open to reveal a bright crack that hovered in the darkness. Light and energy poured from the opening, and it seemed to split open the very air itself.
It was a Senkaimon. One of the few naturally occurring gateways that had been coaxed into existence through an unknown, arcane ritual. And what it provided was a way to access the World of the Living without alerting the Seireitei. A smirk spread across the shadow’s face. No one would know he was here, and none could suspect where he would emerge next. Just as he had been instructed, he had operated with the upmost secrecy and had managed to slip through detection entirely. The skills he had honed over the course of a decade demanded no less. His standard was that of perfection. After all, he knew it was the only thing that would please her.
The shadow weaved an esoteric symbol through the air, unlocking the Senkaimon. White light flooded the small room, chasing away the darkness and revealing his wide grin. He chuckled, his excitement palpable as though he were about to pull off the heist of the century. In the next moment he plunged into the blinding abyss, and the Senkaimon snapped shut behind him.
The storm continued to rage across the Rukongai, but its herald had vanished.
Nearly a decade had passed since the end of the Thousand Year Blood War. While much had changed through the spiritual world, there was one constant: the Urahara Shop. Since the said war, however, business had been booming. Shinigami of all ranks had been stationed to portions of the Human World more frequently due to the necessity for reconnaissance, subjugating an increasing number of Hollows and the like. Being the man that he was, Kisuke Urahara undoubtedly took advantage of the increasing influx of Shinigami patrons to sell some of his more menial inventions for quite a price.
While today would have normally been the same, it couldn’t have been any different. The Urahara Shop had a rather interesting guest today: Ichigo Kurosaki. While formerly a resident of the Human World and, in fact, one of Urahara’s many “errand boys”, he had since been given training among the Royal Guard and been tasked as their messenger across the realms; obviously, his visits were rather infrequent.
“Yo, Urahara-san!” The orange-haired Shinigami spoke. Having just arrived from the Soul Society, he was still in his Shihakushō, and as he appeared in the doorway he might have noticed the wooden frame around him had shrunk. Either that or he had gotten taller since the last time he’d been here. Had it been that long? Despite no longer residing in the Human World, his body was kept preserved by Urahara. And so, while unusual, his presence was not an entirely irregular occurence. “Mind if I take my body out?”
“Of course, Kurosaki-san!” Urahara responded, waving his fan at his face. “Hope you don’t mind the tiny modifications, though~” He grinned.
“Modifications!?” Ichigo shouted with confusion.
“Of course, of course~ All I did was spruce up your hair a tad and gave you better-looking abs. That is, in my cardboard cutout of course!” Urahara pointed towards a row of Ichigo Kurosaki cutouts near the counter, clearly made as merchandise. They seemed to be tailored for women, given the open Shihakushou and rugged expression.
“Urahara-san…” Ichigo quietly gawked at the cutouts, sighing. “Are you really selling these?”
“Of course~ Your popularity has gone over the roof since that battle! Especially since you’ve been going around with all those important Royal Guard errands. Hey, hey, I’ll give you 20% of the profits too!”
“...” Ichigo sighed, “Fine, whatever. Can I have my body now?”
“Ah yes, that’s what you were here for in the first place~” Kisuke’s clogs stomped the floor as he reached the back of the store with Ichigo following along. Pressing a simple button, a small lab-like facility was revealed to hold Ichigo’s body encased in a preservation chamber. With the touch of another button, the chamber opened and Ichigo’s soul inhabited his physical body once again.
“I see you’ve been working out, Ichigo,” a female cut in from the background as soon as he had settled into his body, “I hope that means you can actually take some punches the next time we spar.” Yoruichi smirked as she leaned against the doorway behind him, her arms crossed casually over her chest. But it was obvious that she was glad to see he was back.
“Heh, I’ll take you up on that offer, Yoruichi-san.” Ichigo snidely remarked until he realized he wasn’t wearing any clothes. “Oi, Urahara-san, where are my clothes?!” He asked, his face burning red with embarrassment, before Urahara threw them at him.
Hurriedly changing, he breathed a sigh of relief as soon as he was fully clothed. “Well, then, time to go. Thanks as always, Urahara-san, Yoruichi-san.” Ichigo began to walk out of the store.
“Oh by the way Kurosaki-san, you should be careful of your left foot. The lever tends be a bit touchy.” Kisuke called after him as he tapped his fan against the side of his nose.
Ichigo stopped and glared back at Kisuke, being reminded once more of the ordeals he had undergone in the past at the behest of the man in the hat and clogs.
“Actually,” Kisuke continued, his tone becoming serious, “There is one thing you should know before you go. Why don’t you sit down?” he said as he gestured towards the room at the back of the shop.