A/N: Sorry for the wait, I've had to battle my fiance for the laptop all week. Damn facebook. I can't really blame him though, cause I was the one to get him hooked on some of their games. Oh well.
A/N: Thank you so much for the awesome reviews guys! And a huge hug and thank you to fansick, link, rubylove, and sweet for the recommendations!
"Ichigo, go home. She'll be fine," Urahara said in exasperation to the teen pacing just outside his front door. He had started by circling the dinning room, much to the annoyance of everyone gathered, so he had been banished to outside.
"But, when will she wake up?" Ichigo asked stubbornly from the doorway.
Urahara sighed as his gaze rested on the seemingly peaceful red head laying in the next room, "When she's ready."
Willow felt weird.
Fuzzy and lightheaded.
And she couldn't see a damn thing.
There was nothing but a black void surrounding her.
"Hello?" she called out, but her voice sounded muted and underwater, so she tried a little louder, "Hello!"
"Willow," a soft voice whispered.
"Hello? Is someone there?" she responded.
She looked all around her, but didn't see anything but blackness. "Oh, come on, where and who are you?" she muttered.
"Call out?" she asked in confusion. "Call out what?"
"... name.. me.."
"What?" she demanded, but only silence greeted her. "Name you, huh? What the hell does that mean?"
There was a pulse of pressure at her right calf, and she looked down to see what it was. Willow cringed to see herself still in her school uniform, but she put that out of her mind when she saw her athme sticking up just above her boot.
Nonplussed, she reached for it. She could have sworn she had left it at home that morning, so what the hell was it doing here?
As her hand wrapped around the smooth hilt and she pulled it free of its sheath, the black void around her began to shimmer with colors.
Swirls of brilliant green and rich browns started to mass below her as eddies of soft blue filled the space above her.
Between one blink of the eye and the next, she was standing in a forest, with a clear robin's egg sky stretched overhead.
Willow couldn't do anything but gape at her surroundings for a moment.
She frowned as she noticed that all the trees were muted shades of gray and brown, and they had no leaves on their bare skeletal branches.
"Hello?" she whispered.
An answering pulse came from the almost forgotten dagger in her hand.
"...name...me..." a soft voice ghosted around her.
"How?" Willow asked as she gazed at the athme in wonder, she somehow knew that the voice came from the blade.
She frowned, but shrugged her shoulders and closed her eyes.
There was a soft wind blowing through the dead tree boughs, but other than that, she didn't hear anything.
Obediently, she blocked out the wind and trees, listening for the faintest of sounds.
"...amat...era..su.." she heard ever so faintly.
"Amaterasu?" she asked hesitantly.
"Amaterasu," she said stronger, the athme gave a pulse in response.
"AMATERASU!" she called forcefully and the blade in her hand sent a shock of awareness up her arm and into her chest. Willow gasped as the sensation of pulsing warmth spread through the rest of her body.
A purplish and gold mist swirled along the ground out of the trees, and began to mass in front of her.
"Greetings," came a feminine voice out of the mist.
"Um, hello," Willow responded nervously. "Why can't I see you properly?"
"You are bound," the woman in the mist said and gently touched Willow's wrists. "You must break your restraints to see and hear me properly."
Willow looked down at her wrists and was surprised to see that there was a thin band of some type of metal encircling them. She raised them up to get a better look, and gasped in horror when she saw that the metal had little mouths gnashing their teeth all around her wrists.
"W-w-what are they?!" she all but shrieked. "Get them off me!"
"I can not. You must, or we will begin to fade," the woman said in remorse. "Now go, free us both."
Willow sat bolt upright and gasped, "Amaterasu."
She looked around, but didn't recognize her surroundings. Her heart was beating erratically, and she still felt dizzy. "Where am I? What happened?" she whispered in the darkened room.
Willow bit her lip in thought, she couldn't seem to think past the mist lady. She concentrated on slowing her heart and took deep breathes to try and calm her sudden panic. But, all she could think was that she had to get free, she had to get those disgusting mouths off of her.
She closed her eyes, shutting out everything around her , and forced her mind to quiet. She focused on her breathing and dispelling her panic.
But it was hard, she still felt lightheaded and a little dizzy.
Swallowing back an inpatient sigh at herself, Willow rose from the soft pallet she had been resting on.
There was a twinge of pain from her right hand and when she looked, she saw that it was wrapped in a bandage. A spot of red was starting to seep through on her palm. Wondering what had happened, she crept as silently as she could to the door.
She looked into the next room, but only saw a low round table with some cushions.
Once she made her way to front room, she recognized Urahara's shop. How had she gotten here?
She absently rubbed where she had seen the creepy manacles as she ghosted through the silent shop to the front door. As far as she could tell, there wasn't anything physically surrounding her wrists, but she couldn't forget the sight of all those little mouths as they gnashed their teeth and flicked their tongues.
Willow shuddered at the memory and fought another wave of panic. She had to get out of here, she had to feel the air on her face, because right now she couldn't breathe.
She fumbled with the latch on the door and gave a low growl of frustration. Cursing her bandaged hand, she finally slid the door open enough to slip out.
She stumbled a few steps away from the house and took a gulp of the cool night air.
The sky overhead was turning pale at the edges, but the stars still twinkled high up above her.
The pre-dawn sky swirled suddenly in her vision.
Why was she so dizzy?
With a hand pressed to her forehead, she started to make her unsteady and tired way home.
It never occurred to her that she should stay at Urahara's, that she could have gotten the answers and healing she needed there. Her mind was too fogged to think rationally.
She had no idea how long it took her to get there, but surprised was a decent way to describe how she felt when she found herself at her front door.
She couldn't remember the walk from Urahara's.
Trying to get the cloud of exhaustion and dizziness to lift for a second, Willow shook her head sharply. Which didn't really help, she found as she lost her balance and had to lean against the solid wood of her door.
She rested there for a few moments and her mind cleared a little bit. Grateful for the reprieve, Willow reached for the doorknob, so she could get inside and go to bed.
Crap, she had forgotten that she had left her keys in her backpack.
Where had she left her book-bag?
Too muzzy-headed to remember, she stumbled her way around to the back of the house. She could swear that she had left the back sliding door unlocked.
When she pulled on the handle, the door obligingly slid open, and she nearly wept with relief.
Barely thinking enough to close the door behind her, Willow staggered over to the nearest couch and fell onto it.
She was asleep before her head hit the cushion.
The sun had only been up for a little over an hour, and its rays shined gently on Urahara as he stood over the empty pallet where Willow should have been still resting. After Ichigo had left, they had given her a healing remedy that should have had her sleeping until morning.
But there sat the pallet. Empty.
There was something else that shone softly in the morning light.
A tiny trail of droplets that started at the pallets edge and he followed them to find that it went through the dinning room, into his shop, to the front door.
The open front door.
Outside, the red droplets were spaced erratically and further apart, which meant the girl had staggered her way to the street.
Suppressing a groan, Urahara followed the macabre breadcrumbs, fully expecting to find the red head collapsed on the side of the road.
When he reached the main cross street, the trail ended and he couldn't find any traces of the girls blood. He peered this way and that, but again he didn't see anything.
There were too many possible ways she could have gone.
He'd have to go back to the shop and wrangle Tessai and the kids into helping to search for the missing and obviously still injured red head.
Hopefully they'd be able to find her before anything else horrible happened.
The house was quiet and warm.
Late afternoon sunlight streamed in and bathed the sleeping red head in a soft glow.
Her face should have been peaceful in slumber, but there was a slight frown twisting her lips downward, as well as a little line between her brows that showed she was in pain.
There was a rush of displaced air and a loud smack cracked sharply.
Willow gasped as she was slapped into consciousness. Her cheek stung at the harsh treatment and tears blurred her eyes.
When she turned her face back to look at who had hit her, she was blinded with the sun shining into her already clouded eyes.
There was a scrap and a hiss as a sword rang free from its sheath, and when she opened her eyes to identify what was happening, a flash of white light blinded her again.
She finally managed to fling up a hand tiredly in front of her eyes and groaned at the punishing bombardment of light.
"What?" she gasped as rough hands gripped her up and flung her over someones shoulder, making her lose her breath.
Willow had no time to get her air back or to see what was going on, before everything around her blurred into incomprehensible nothingness.
Wind streamed her hair into her eyes, as whoever had taken her seemed to move faster than light.
After what seemed like only seconds, the man who had treated her so roughly stopped moving and dumped her off his shoulder unceremoniously.
She tumbled to the ground, smacking her forehead on the cracked cement of the floor.
The man chuckled coldly as he watched her press a hand to the small gash in her head.
Willow grimaced at the pain and glared up at the man, only to gasp when she recognized Kisuke Urahara. "W-what?" she stuttered in confusion.
Kisuke shook his head at her and tutted in reproach. "My, I had no idea you were so stupid," he said condescendingly as he raised his sword up and pointed it at her.
"Why?" she asked desperately and held up a hand to ward him off. "Why are you doing this?"
"Because I need you and them out of the way, and this will help accomplish both tasks quite well," he informed her almost nonchalantly as he thrust his sword towards her chest.
The blade pierced her chest and a hot pain radiated from her sternum, making her cry out in agony.
"Shouldn't take long, the chain has already been severed, so that should have sped things along nicely," he said and turned to walk down a flight of stone steps. He threw over his shoulder, "Come and get me if you can."
Willow lay there, pressing her hand between her breasts, trying to stem the blood flow. Shock and anger warred within her.
What the hell was going on?!
She gasped as pain lanced through her.
It felt like her chest was going to explode.
What the hell did he do to her?!
Willow groped at her boot, feeling for her dagger.
Sighing in relief, she grasped the athme.
Gritting her teeth against the pain, she pushed herself into standing up.
She clenched the dagger in her fist and stumbled to the stairs.
It looked as if a section of the floor had risen up, exposing the hidden steps.
She stepped down into the gloom and began to make her way slowly. She had to brace herself against the wall so she wouldn't tumble to her death.
Willow snorted at that.
She knew she was going to die regardless.
Might as well try to take her killer with her in the process.
Rage bubbled in her chest, which made the bleeding wound throb in eagerness.
It seemed to take forever to descend.
She felt like she had been walking for hours, when she saw the gloom begin to lighten.
The last ten steps were an agonized blur.
When she stepped onto the sandy floor she nearly fell on her face, but was able to put her hands out in time to catch herself. Still, the impact jarred up her arms and tightened her chest. Unable to stop, she cried out at the pain.
Hunching her shoulders against further outbursts, she pushed to her feet and made her way to the hazy and distant figures ahead of her.
Her eyes focused on a black robe... blonde hair... stripped hat..
Her fingers tightened around the hilt grasped in her trembling hand.
The lust for vengeance fueled her steps, and she found she could use that seething hatred and forced herself to run.
She raised her arm to strike and was about to plunge the blade home, when she was struck in the stomach.
There was an odd ripping and she flew backwards.
She lay on the ground trying to breathe past the pain in her chest. Just trying to breathe really.
She glared up at Kisuke and would have spit at him if she could have.
He just stood there staring at her in shock, his cane held towards her.
When he had felt someone rushing up to attack, he hadn't expected it to be his missing red head.
He had thrust his cane back and apparently he had knocked her soul from her body as his eyes flicked to her collapsed corpse and her gasping on the ground ten feet from it.
He looked for her Chain of Fate that linked her to her human form, but didn't see the metal links that should have been there.
His gaze traveled to her gasping form and he lost his breath to shock as he saw how short her chain was. There was even a gaping wound in the anchor plate!
He hadn't hit her that hard!
He could hear noises of shock and curiosity from the group behind him, but he didn't take his eyes off of the girl.
Willow felt like there was a great pressure pressing on her chest, keeping her from taking a deep breath. That coupled with pulsing agony of her stab wound had her trembling.
Her rage had not diminished though.
No, it burned.
White hot and fierce.
Agony erupted in her chest and she found the breath to scream as she looked down and saw horror like that which she had never seen before.
There was a fucking metal plate embedded in her fucking chest.
With a chain.
And oh boy, there was a chain.
Five links of 'metal', covered in gnashing, tearing teeth.
The mouths were fucking eating each other.
The mouths started screaming, their voices joining hers as the anchor plate began to crack and shatter, the chain following shortly after.
Willow arched her spine, tilted back her head, and howled in torment.
Her screams were choked off as white liquid began to pour out her eyes, nose, and mouth.
Unbelievably, she found she could still gurgle her misery out around the viscous fluid that pulsed and shuddered out of her.
He slipped silently through a small decorative forest, smug victory swelling his chest as he walk on forbidden ground.
He knew that girl was going to come in handy.
Her blood had been the key to getting into one of the upper realms.
Specifically, the Shadow King's realm.
Contrary to his title, the king seemed to enjoy a gentler beauty.
Confident in his zanpaktou's ability to hide him, he stepped out of the ornamental tree's and ghosted over a footbridge that spanned a koi pond that was more like a lake. The estate house loomed across the water.
He crossed the grassy lawn on the other side and crept up to a small, personal back porch.
His information had been correct, he learned as he peered in a large open window.
The king spent his afternoons in the library.
Searching the books.
For what, his source couldn't tell him, but there the king was, absorbed in his books, paying not a bit of attention to his surroundings.
He slipped noiselessly in through the window and approached the king.
The man had his back to him and didn't appear to sense him at all.
Apparently, those wretched little cuffs he'd had made, worked wonders.
He raised the specially anointed blade and moved like a shadow.
With one clean stroke, he took the kings head.
Willow knelt on the ground, her spine bowed backwards, shrieking her tortured cries to the heavens.
A sick, insidious evil was trying to overwhelm her mind.
Never mind the liquid pouring from every orifice of her face, there was a ravenous clawing at her mind, and she would NOT let it have her!
She fought with every fiber in her being, every ounce of magic she possessed, to not let that Thing take her over.
A roar of thunder cracked overhead, startling the group that watched in horror and astonishment as this slip of a girl turned into a hollow before them.
"Urahara, what the hell is this?!" a tall slim blonde man asked.
"I don't know, Shinji, I really don't," Kisuke replied. "She's fighting it, though."
"Hmm, so she is. Shinigami?" Shinji queried.
"I didn't think so. She doesn't have a very strong riatsu."
"What's that around her wrists?" a green haired girl asked as she bounced up next to Shinji.
The blonde looked down at the slim girl in the white cat suit, then over to where the red head screamed out her pain in transformation. "Good eye, Mashiro!" he exclaimed as he saw the weird cuffs that encircled the girls wrists. There were tiny little mouths all over them. Realization dawned and he felt sickened.
"They're eating her riatsu," Kisuke said gravely. "She'll turn into a hollow if she can't break them."
Their conversation was cut off as thunder rumbled overhead again, followed by a bolt of cobalt blue lightening.
The bolt struck Willow in her forehead.
Power swelled and pulsed as it surged out of her in waves.
Wind swirled around her, lifting her long red tresses to play in its wake.
She began to rise into the air, borne up on the wind of her power.
Her arms stretched out, and a sickly purplish flame sprang up on her hands and leaped to encircle the horrifying bands of mouths.
They screamed as she burned them.
The metal became white hot and exploded off of her in a shower of burning shards.
Her riatsu, which had been stifled and stolen for god only knew how long, swelled to fill the missing pieces of it's self.
Willow floated a good ten feet above the ground, power thrumming along every fiber of her being. She thrust a spear of raw energy at the beast that clawed and chewed at her soul and mind.
In her right hand, forgotten, but clutched all the same, her athme whispered, "...name... me!"
Willow tried to gasp a breath around the white liquid pouring from her mouth, and choked.
The desire to let one last scream pass her lips, the conviction that her blade would awaken and save her, the will to destroy this evil inside her, made her voice ring out like bell tolling in heaven's skies.
The dagger in her hand pulsed into awareness, and started to glow a deep purple, little bolts of blue and gold crackled around it.
The glow engulfed the petite form that floated above the ground, blocking her from view with a cocoon of power.
"Hacchi! Throw up a level five force field NOW!!!" Shinji hollered above the howling wind storm. The large man nodded his head emphatically and dropped into a cross-legged position on the ground. He slapped his hands together, palm facing palm and called out a spell of shielding.
The wind whipped his words away, but not their effect. A golden box surrounded the red head, hopefully it would help protect them from the nuclear blast of power that was about to rip towards them.
Willow nearly shriek in surprise as she suddenly found herself in a forest.
It was the same forest that she had met the mist lady in.
"Are you here, Amaterasu?" she called out.
The purple mist crept out of the shadows of the trees and stared to mass into a shape.
Into a woman that had pale ivory skin, long luscious locks of midnight blue/black hair, and eyes that burned a pure clear emerald. She wore a robed gown of creamy white and gold. The skirt of the robe had flowers and animals, and trees stenciled in abstract lines and pale shimmering colors.
"The tree's are still dead, Willow," Amaterasu said sadly. "You must wake them."
Willow squared her shoulders and lifted her athme into the air. She willed her power to fill the blade, and as it did, it began to stretch and grow in length. Until it looked like a proper sword.
The blade was a good two and a half feet long, it was slender and had a wicked curve at the tip. The hilt was long enough to grasp two handed if desired, and had a pummel cap, but no hand guard. Hematite still covered the hilt, but the silver wrapping had melted into the shiny black of the crystal.
Power danced along the blade, like liquid purple fire as she held the sword proudly in the air and called, "Life of my life, blood of my blood, limb of my limb, breath my breathe and live!"
"As above, so below," she invoked as she stabbed the sword into the ground and willed her power into the forest.
Energy crackled into the ground and found the root system that threaded all the trees together like one big entity, and proceeded to pulse into every limb, every branch, every nook and cranny.
Grayish-brown bark began to crumble from the trunks, leaving behind a rich earthy brown in its wake. Little green buds started to sprout all over thousands of branches, then burst into flower.
Soft lavender, blushing pink, and creamy white petals drifted on a soft breeze that gently blew around Willow and Amaterasu, making it seem as if it were snowing petals.
The raven haired woman smiled luminously at her and breathed, "Good."
Willow couldn't help but smile in response to the glowing warmth that filled her when she felt that smile grace her, and pulled the sword from the earth.
"You must go back now. Tame the shadow inside, don't let it tame you," Amaterasu advised, then she smiled and dissolved into the mist.
The purple and gold mist poured into the sword, which only confirmed what Willow had already known.
Amaterasu was her athme.
Her soul weapon.
This forest was the seat of her inner power.
She would not let it die again.
Willow came back to herself in a tornado of her own power. Flames the color of amethyst, boiled around her in a cyclone.
She thrust her sword high overhead and willed her power to fill the blade. Willed it to cease its path of destruction.
Kisuke wasn't sure what the others saw as they beheld the girl in front of them, but he knew, in his heart of hearts that this girl would be nothing they had ever experienced before.
She floated off the ground.
No longer in the school uniform, she now wore a black battle kimono. But it didn't look like a normal shinigami's robe. The material looked soft and was form fitted. There was a vague shadow of color on the skirt that resembled tree's and flowers.
The skirt was split up the sides to allow full movement in battle, but it also showed that the slim legs of the girl were encased in black leather boots that came up over her knees.
The material of the top stopped at her shoulders, leaving her arms bare. And to tie the robe closed a thick cobalt blue ribbon wrapped repeatedly and knotted.
But the most eye catching thing he noticed about her as she lowered her arms and began to drift down to earth, had to be her mask.
It was completely black, with a small red scar of red on the forehead. It had sharp little fangs, and a hint of horns at the top corner edges.
She met his gaze head on, and he couldn't help the shiver of fear that ran down his spine as he saw her eyes in the glassy black surface of her mask.
They were a silvery purple iris, framed in a sea of black.
They were breathtaking.
Even as she raised her sword and floated across the sandy floor that separated them, like an angel of death, he couldn't look away from those eyes.