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The One that Protects

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Summary: Xander dresses as Ichigo and acquires a zanpakuto. What would a sword made from his soul be like? How would it change the course of the series? Contains elements from Arthurian legend. Buffy timeline is moved forward a decade to match with current events.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anime > Bleach
Literature > Fantasy
(Recent Donor)ElSantoFR15524,816186018,88022 Jun 1213 Feb 13No

Death and the Zeppo

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I quote a large scene from the Bleach anime and a brief portion of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this chapter. Though they are not clearly marked, they are not my property either. A large future portion of this story is taken from common knowledge Arthurian legend, though I think that may be in the public domain as I don't reference any specific works. There is a single line taken almost directly from the Arthur and the Knights of Justice cartoon that almost everyone will recognize when I use it. I don't own that line, either, but it was far to poignant not to use here.

Chapter 1 – Death and the Zeppo

The two figures stared at the third, who was staring back in shock.

"What the hell?" said the tall titian haired teen dressed in a black long coat with a red inner lining. A black Japanese long sword with a manji-shaped hand guard was held casually in his gloved right hand. His right sleeve was torn off and revealed that the chain that ran from the pommel of his sword was wrapped up his right arm.

The teen next to him stared intently at the teen opposite them. This teen was dressed in a flowing white coat. His skin and hair lacked any color at all. His coat had a large black ruffle along the collar and half of a black helmet rested on his head. The helmet had a twisted horn on it that pointed forward. The most unnerving part of the young man was not his lack of color, but that his eyes were black with golden irises.

"Oh my god," breathed the third teen. "You're Ichigo," he said to the titian haired teen. This teen was as tall as Ichigo. He had short black haired parted haphazardly on one side. His eyes were the same shade of brown and Ichigo and the two teens shared the same slim yet strong build. They also shared the same clothes, though Xander's coat did not have a torn sleeve. He wasn't holding a sword, either.

"Who are you?" asked Ichigo sharply. "What are you doing in my inner world?"

"My name's Xander," he answered. "And what do you mean your inner world? This is my body!"

"What do you mean this is your-"

"Ichigo," interrupted the unnamed teen. His voice had an odd echo sound to it. "Look around you."

"What are you talking about? This is-" Ichigo stopped in shock as the landscape they were in seemed to waver. Instead of being the reproduction of Ichigo's hometown at the bottom of a deep ocean it became a series of cracked towers built open a desert of wet sand. The towers were sinking into the desert. The tallest one, in the center of the landscape, was broken down and blasted apart until only the foundation remained.

"Your name is Alexander," said the odd teen. Xander slowly nodded. "Do you know my name?"

"It's Zangetsu, Tensa Zangetsu, if I had to guess from your appearance. Why do you look like a hollow?"

"You know about hollows?" asked Ichigo sharply. He seemed to do that a lot.

"The world I live in is not your world, Ichigo. In the world I live in, you are a fictional character. I dressed as you for Halloween."

"I'm not real?" asked Ichigo in disbelief.

"I, uh, I don't know."

"I look like a hollow because I combined with Ichigo's inner hollow. Or, rather, this is my true form. Ichigo's hollow and I are the same. We are his power."

"Oh, that makes sense. You look different though," said Xander curiously to Ichigo.

"I've been training for almost three months in the Precipice World," answered Ichigo automatically. He wasn't real?

"Oh yeah, you're trying to learn the Final Moon Fang Piercer of Heaven!" said Xander excitedly.

"He's already learned it," said Tensa Zangetsu sadly.

"Oh. The manga isn't that far along yet."

"There's a manga?" asked Ichigo in surprise.

"And an anime!"

"Who carries the manga?"

"Shonen Jump."

"That's awesome! I'm totally the main character!" said an oddly excited Ichigo. Well, oddly for Ichigo's normally stern personality if the wary look Tensa Zangetsu was giving him was anything to go by. Ichigo's face suddenly fell. "I'm the main character in a shonen manga!" he cried almost angrily.

"Uh, yeah?"

"That means I'm completely ignoring some babe I could totally score with!"

Both Xander and Tensa Zangetsu found themselves toppling over in absolute shock. Xander started laughing at the utter ridiculousness of Ichigo Kurosaki crying in despair like Keigo. Tensa Zangetsu quickly got up and slapped Ichigo in the back of the head.

"You fucking idiot! It took you getting pulled into another reality before you realized that there were girls chasing you!"

Ichigo rubbed the back of his head as he glared at Tensa Zangetsu. "What do you mean, girls?"

Xander laughed harder until a kick knocked the breath out of him. "And you are not helping!" yelled Tensa Zangetsu as he stood over Xander. Xander quickly recovered his breath.

"Sorry, sorry!" he said as he stood up. "It's just," Xander shook his head before he turned his head away for a moment, "it's just frustrating when he\ can get the girl so easily and I can't." It began raining. "Uh, what's going on?"

"You are hiding your emotions," said Tensa Zangetsu. "But this is your inner world. Everything you want to hide on the inside is expressed in here."

"Oh," said Xander shamefully.

"It rains in my inner world when I'm sad," murmured Ichigo, uncomfortable with the realization of the rain's meaning.

"Why are you sad, Alexander?" asked Tensa Zangetsu.

The world around them vanished momentarily as images of a blonde girl flashed all around them. Xander shook his head and the landscape returned. Even though the sun was now shinning the rain still continued to fall.

"Who was she?" asked Ichigo.

"That was Buffy," answered Xander as he looked at everything except the other two people standing in his mindscape.

"You love her," stated Tensa Zangetsu. Xander nodded. "She does not return your love," he added softly. Xander shook his head.

"I'm sorry," said Ichigo. Standing in the midst of Xander's inner world, the rain falling hard on them, Ichigo was acutely aware of how much Xander was hurting from his unrequited love.

"It's okay. You can't help who you fall in love with," said Xander. As he spoke the rain stopped and the sun shined warmly from a clear blue sky. Flowers began to sprout and bloom from the earth before it all vanished again. Ichigo and Tensa Zangetsu watched a beautiful blonde girl walk up the steps of a school. The perspective spun wildly for a moment before they found themselves looking up at the sky and the railing on the stairs. The focus immediately returned to the blonde girl who walked away, oblivious to the watcher's plight. "That was the first time I ever saw Buffy," said Xander softly.

"She's really important to you," said Ichigo.

The scene changed again to show a darkened apartment.

"She's gone. She's gone to face the Master."

"He'll kill her."

"Rumor has it. Only we're not going to let it happen."

"Well, what do you propose we do about it?"

"Look, I know you can find this Master guy. He's underground, right? Take me to him."

"He's way out of your league. He'll kill you before you can even breathe."

"How can I put this? I don't like you. At the end of the day I pretty much think you're a vampire. But Buffy's got this big old yen for you. She thinks you're a real person. And right now I need you to prove her right."

"You're in love with her."

"Aren't you?"

They now stood in a cavern with a body lying in a pool of water.

"Buffy!"

"Shes dead. I can't hear her breathing."

"Maybe she drowned!"

Ichigo and Tensa Zangetsu watched as Xander resuscitated the girl he loved.

"You saved her life," said an impressed Ichigo.

The scene changed to show a dark club. Soft music was playing in the background. None of that was as important as the girl that dominated the scene. Her very essence filled the memory.

"Did I ever thank you for saving my life?"

"N-no."

"Don't you wish I would?"

"What! What an ungrateful-"

"Ichigo!" snapped Tensa Zangetsu sharply.

"She'd died, alright! That'll mess with anyone's head!"

"Tch, whatever. What was wrong with that guy's face?"

"He's a vampire."

Ichigo and Tensa Zangetsu stared at Xander. "Vampires are real?" they asked in unison.

"They are in this world," answered Xander. Several memories of the groups battles with the undead played through his head before it stopped on one memory in particular.

"Who was that?"

"He was my best friend. Jesse."

"He was a vampire?"

"He and Willow were kidnapped the same night that Buffy showed up. I'd overheard her talking to Giles about vampires. We managed to save Willow but they got Jesse."

"Buffy knew about vampires before you did?"

"She's the Slayer."

Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.

"One girl, that's it!"

"I know! That's what I said! It's not just Superman, there's Batman and Wonder Woman-"

"Goku had Piccolo, Tien, Yamcha-"

"I really want to know what idiot thought dumping all this on one person was a good idea so I can kick his ass!"

"You and me both!"

"As interesting as this is, perhaps we're getting off the subject," said Tensa Zangetsu.

"There's a subject?" asked Xander and Ichigo blankly together.

"We were talking about the girls you keep ignoring," said Tensa Zangetsu slyly to Ichigo.

"Like who?" demanded Ichigo. Immediately images of a busty woman with green hair wearing a skull-shaped helmet the color of bone came into view.

"Nel?" asked a startled Ichigo before he rounded on Xander, "she's just a little kid!"

The image of Nel changed to a full body shot of the voluptuous woman gazing longingly at Ichigo. The bottom of her breast were clearly visible from the bottom of the torn shirt she wore.

"That's your definition of a little kid?" asked Xander with a raised brow. Ichigo blushed.

The image then changed to someone Ichigo was far more familiar with. "Orihime?" he whispered softly.

Xander concentrated as hard as he could on the show, on one episode in particular.

Orihime stared down at a bracelet on her wrist.

"I'm giving you this."

"Hey, I know that voice," said Ichigo softly.

"While you're wearing this, it'll place a special spiritual membrane around you that will prevent anyone but us Arrancars from detecting you." The viewpoint changed from Orihime holding the bracelet while standing in the precipice world to the one speaking to her.

"Ulquiorra Cifer!" snarled Ichigo.

"At the same time, you'll be able to pass through objects at will," continued Ulquiorra. "Wear it and don't take it off."

"Yes," said Orihime resignedly.

"I'll give you a twelve hour reprieve." Orihime's eyes widened in shock at Ulquiorra's words. She looked up to see Ulquiorra walking away into a garganta. "During that time, I'll allow you to say goodbye to only one person."But, if that person realizes what you're doing, I will consider it a violation of my order. Your time limit is midnight."

The scene changed to show Orihime looking at her wrist. "Settle everything by then and go to the place I told you to go," continued Ulquiorra's voice."Don't forget, you can only say goodbye to one person."

The scene changed to show Ichigo's room. Ichigo's full attention turned to the three sleeping forms in his room. He looked from his two younger sisters to his own sleeping form, lying on the bed.

"There we go," muttered Orihime as she phased through the window. She landed next to Ichigo's bed. She chuckled nervously. "I came here," she said to herself as she continued chuckling nervously. She smiled down at Ichigo's sleeping form before a sad expression came over her face. "Well, Kurosaki-kun, I came say goodbye."

"What," whispered Ichigo softly as he watched.

"Actually, I wanted to say goodbye to Tatsuki, Sado, Ishida, Kuchiki and many other people, but…" Orihime continued staring down at Ichigo when a sudden noise startled her. She looked over Ichigo's bed nervously and spotted his younger sisters sleeping on the floor. Yuzu's head was propped up on the side of Ichigo's bed. Orihime smiled as she spotted the dirty dishes. "I see, Yuzu and Karin ate dinner here today. I suppose they'd want to. They were sad that you weren't around for so long. They wanted to eat dinner with you in your room." Orihime began to blush. "Kurosaki-kun's room?" she muttered to herself before she began to look around. "Come to think of it, this is the first time I've come to Kurosaki's room alone. It smells like him," she said to herself as she stared around the room with watery eyes. Tentatively, Orihime's hand reached down and slipped into Ichigo's bandaged hand. The crescent moon could be seen shinning through the part in the curtain's as Orihime leaned over ichigo's sleeping form. Slowly she leant down, coming over closer to pressing their faces together. A soft and melancholy melody began to play.

"Music?" asked Tensa Zangetsu softly.

"It's an anime, remember?"

Tensa Zangetsu nodded and continued to watch Ichigo, who was entranced by what he was seeing.

Orihime's lips drew ever closer to Ichigo's lips. Her hand tightened its grip on Ichigo's hand.

The scene changed suddenly to show Ichigo in shinigami robes as he blocks Sora's hand. Soundlessly, he turns and speaks to Orihime, who blinks up at him in surprise.

The scene began to change rapidly as Orihime remembered each moment.

Orihime crosses her arms over her chest, performing the Don Kanonji laugh. Ichigo looks at her in horror before he points into the ceiling as he speaks to her. Orihime quickly mimics him a moment later.

Orihime worriedly tries to calm down Tatsuki who was sticking her tongue out at a tense Ichigo.

Ichigo, Sado, Mizuiro and Keigo run away from one of the teachers.

Orihime turns and spots Ichigo behind her. She smiles before saying something that shocks him.

Ichigo charges against Byakuya. In the distance his friends are watching. Orihime has climbed a tree to get a better view. As Ichigo's spiritual pressure explodes, washing the landscape with white light, everyone else covers themselves from the onslaught. Orihime watches unflinchingly with a smile on her face.

Orihime kneels next to prone Ichigo. She clutches at the shinigami robes she is wearing as Ichigo looks at her with softened eyes.

Ichigo blockes Yammy's punch. His eyes are resolute as he stares back at his opponent. Orihime's eyes are shinning as she stares at Ichigo.

Rukia forces Ichigo to apologize to Orihime. Orihime stares into Ichigo's determined gaze.

Orihime is kneeling next to a sweaty Ichigo. Dressed in his shinigami robes, he speaks to her as he stands. He makes a fist as he speaks before he turns a confident gaze on her.

Orihime's tears fell onto Ichigos cheeks as she leaned over his unconscious form. "It's no good," she said as she cried, "I can't do it."

Ichigo reached up and touched his cheek.

"I'm no good," she said as she wiped her tears, "I'm doing this even though it's our goodbye." She stood up and leaned into Ichigo's window. "Kurosaki-kun, I had a lot of things that I wanted to do. I wanted to become a schoolteacher. I wanted to become an astronaut. I wanted to be a cake maker. I wanted to go to a doughnut shop that had all kinds of doughnuts and say I wanted everything. I also wanted to go to an ice cream shop and say that I wanted everything." Orihime sighed, "I wish I had five lives!" She smiled and raised four fingers. "I would be born in a different town each time. I'd fill my stomach with different things each time. I'd have a different job each time. And each time," she trailed off as she looked back down at Ichigo with a watery smile. "I'd fall in love with the same person. Thank you, Kurosaki-kun."

The scene faded into white as the camera zoomed into the crescent moon that shone through the window.

"Goodbye," came Orihime's voice.

A light rain began to fall. Tensa Zangetsu frowned at the sky for a moment before he stepped toward Ichigo.

"She never said anything," said Ichigo hollowly as he heard Tensa Zangetsu approach.

"She always did," said Xander. Ichigo whirled on Xander, tears in his eyes.

"When!"

"Whenever she looked at you," said Xander as the rain grew in intensity, "whenever she touched you, whenever she said your name. When she cried for you to stop fighting because she couldn't bear to see you hurt!" The rain grew into a torrent as Xander yelled. "Whenever she put aside her pacifist ideals in order to protect you! Her love for you is written into her every action!" The rain beat down on the three figures like a relentless hammer. The sands flooded until the water reached their kneecaps. The center tower began to crack and several stones fell from it. "The only time I've seen love in someone's face is when she is looking at you!"

Ichigo stepped back as if struck. Tensa Zangetsu stared at Xander in horrified realization.

"But they're your parents," muttered Tensa Zangetsu in disbelief.

"His parent's?" asked Ichigo in confusion, "what do they have to-"

Ichigo watched as the scenery changed yet again.

A five year old Xander proudly held up a drawing before an older man balled it up and bounced it off his head.

An older woman slapped the back of his head and pushed him toward the kitchen. He returned with a beer bottle he meekly offered to her.

A belt came down on a seven year old Xander again and again.

The woman waved dismissively as Xander held his stomach in seeming pain.

Hiding in a bush, Xander stuffed a Twinkie into his mouth ravenously.

A twelve year old Xander didn't dodge fast enough as the old man smacked him in the head with a bottle.

The two adults are yelling and fighting with each other as fourteen year old Xander retreated to the roof of his house.

"Who," began Ichigo before he swallowed then clenched his sword angrily. "Those are your parents!" he turned back toward Xander only to find him sitting on the ground, clutching his knees to his chest. His wracking sobs are obvious even though he tried to hide his face between his knees. It was no longer raining, although the ground still resembled a swamp. The sky was completely black. There was not even a single star in the sky.

A hand on his arm drew Ichigo's attention to Tensa Zangetsu, who stared at Xander sadly. "That is why all the towers are broken," he whispered hoarsely. "They are all that remains of his hopes and dreams."

"Xander?" came a voice from all directions. A blazing sun burst into life in the sky, blinding both Ichigo and Tensa Zangetsu for a moment. Once they recovered they saw that Xander no longer wept. Instead, he paced back and forth angrily as he looked around at the sky. "Xander!"

"That's Willow!" Xander snarled.

"Ichigo," began Tensa Zangetsu before Ichigo cut him off.

"I'm on it," he said as he faded.

"Hey, where's he going?" asked Xander.

"He's going to help your friend."

"Why can't I go?"

"Have you tried to return to your body?" asked Tensa Zangetsu pointedly.

Xander ducked his head. "Yes."

"Whatever has brought us here and placed us within your body has removed your control. Don't worry, Ichigo can handle things in your place."

"Yeah, I guess anyone could," muttered Xander. Tensa Zangetsu frowned at his statement. A window shimmered into view in front of them.

"U~iroo-san, watashi-wa zandaa wanai. Watashi-wa jissai ni-wa Kurosaki Ichigo-da," said Ichigo.

"What the hell is he doing?" asked Xander.

"He's talking to your friend," said Tensa Zangetsu in confusion.

"Xander?" asked Willow tentatively.

"But why doesn't he speak English to her?"

"He doesn't know English."

"But we've been talking in English all this time!"

Tensa Zangetsu looked at him in confusion before he realized the problem. "This is your soul, Xander. You're not actually speaking. We are talking directly to each other, spirit to spirit. No words are needed. Your mind interprets that communication as spoken words."

"Oh. Well he needs to speak English!"

"Then tell me what to say, dumbass!" came Ichigo's voice in his head.

"Ah, okay, think in English, think in English," muttered Xander to himself.

(]ooo((=============>

"Why are you speaking in Japanese?" asked Willow as she stared at her friend.

"Ah, sorry about that. I don't actually know English. I'm learning it on the fly right now. In any case, I'm not Xander. Or, rather, Xander is here but so are some other people. My name is Ichigo Kurosaki. Xander says you'll know who I am."

Willow stared at her friend agape. "Are you really Ichigo?" she asked softly.

"Yes."

"Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod," babbled Willow.

"Ichigo, you need to stop her now, otherwise she won't stop babbling. Tell her not to worry!"

"Don't worry Willow, everything will be alright."

"Tell her I'm still in here and that we'll figure this out."

"Xander is still in here. We'll figure this out." Willow stopped babbling at Ichigo's words. She moved to hug him when she passed straight through him.

"Whoa!"

"Is she a spirit?"

"What happened, are you dead?"

"N-no, I, I was dressed as a ghost and I became a ghost!" said Willow in realization, "and you dressed as Ichigo and you became Ichigo!"

"Tell her it's a good thing she wore the sheet over her clothes."

"It's a good thing you wore a sheet over your clothes-"

"Otherwise you could have become a hooker!"

"Otherwise you could have become a hooker-eh!" Ichigo stiffened as he heard Xander's laughter bubble up from the inner world. Willow looked at him in shock before she began ineffectually trying to slap him.

"How could you say something like that! I am not a hooker!"

"I-I'm sorry, Xander made me say that!"

"Xander would never say that you big doo-doo head!"

"I said I'm really sorry, stop that it's really freaking me out!" yelled Ichigo as Willow settled for waving her hand in his face in lieu of slapping him. Willow stopped, but she still frowned at him. "Look, I'm going to perform Jinzen for a second." Willow said nothing and continued to glare at him. "I'll be right back," he said as he closed his eyes.

(]ooo((=============>

When Ichigo entered the inner world, he found Xander rolling on the ground laughing hysterically.

"You got me in trouble dumbass! Now she's gonna think I'm a jerk!"

"You shoulda seen the look on your face!" yelled Xander through his laughter.

"Will you stop acting like a buffoon and get serious, Tensa Zangetsu help-" Ichigo stopped as he stared at Tensa Zangetsu. There was a small but definite smile on his zanpakuto's face. "You're laughing at me," said Ichigo dully.

"The expression on your face was quite humorous, Ichigo."

Xander laughed harder.

(]ooo((=============>

Ichigo opened his eyes. "Baka," he cursed.

"What was that mister?"

"Nevermind. Xander was playing a joke on me. I didn't mean what I said earlier."

"Oh, that does sound like Xander," said Willow as she calmed down. "If everyone became their costumes we need to figure out how to change every- Buffy!"

The laughing in Ichigo's head immediately stopped.

"We need to find Buffy!" cried Willow as she looked around wildly. "Buffy!" she yelled as she spotted the Slayer wandering warily down the street toward them. Ichigo began to run after hem when he realized his right sleeve was no longer torn.

"Oy, Zangetsu, why are you back in your old form? And why does it feel weird?"

"That sword is not me, even though it is."

"Eh?"

"You know, that really doesn't explain anything," chimed in Xander.

"Nevermind that! Ichigo, go help Buffy."

"Che, whatever."

Ichigo rushed forward to were Willow was trying to comfort Buffy.

"Listen, you're not yourself right now."

"When my father hears about this he will surely have you locked up for accosting me! You sir knight! This trollop is accosting me!"

"Trollop!"

"Look, just calm down!"

"I am calm!"

"Dude, she thinks you're a knight, use it!"

"How am I supposed to do that, Xander!"

"Here just repeat what I say."

"And I'm supposed to trust you now?"

"Just do it!"

"Fine!"

"My lady, if you could give me your name?"

"I am Elizabeth, Lady of Buffdom, daughter to the Duke of Buffonia. And who are you sir knight?"

"I am Ichigo Kurosaki, a captain of the thirteen court squad guards."

"You are a foreigner, sir knight?" asked Elizabeth with a raised brow.

"So are you milady. It seems that we have both been pulled from our homes through some form of witchcraft."

Elizabeth crossed herself. "Witchcraft? Are you certain?"

"Yes, I am. But know this, milady, I swear upon my honor that I will protect you this night."

Elizabeth calmed immediately, "oh thank you. I will make sure Father rewards you handsomely for this."

"The honor of aiding you is more than enough for me."

"Oi, no flirting with my girl!"

"Xander, please, let's focus on finding a solution to our problem."

"He's just jealous."

"Ichigo!"

"Screw you, strawberry!"

"Why you-"

"Ichigo! Focus! Xander, stop goading him."

"…fine!"

"…che!"

"Willow, we need to find out what's happe-"

"Demon!" yelled Elizabeth. Ichigo burst into action and spun around Elizabeth, pushing her behind him as he spun forward, ready to battle whatever threat was present. A single SUV sped down the otherwise empty street.

"There's nothing here," said Ichigo.

"There! There is the demon!" yelled Elizabeth again.

"That's a car Buffy," said Willow dully.

"What does it want?" she whimpered against Ichigo's back.

"It doesn't want anything, it's just a car," said Ichigo.

"Tell her it's a contraption known as a horseless carriage."

"It's a contraption known as a horseless carriage."

"A horseless carriage?" asked Elizabeth tentatively as she stepped back from her cowering position. "Whoever heard of such a thing?"

"Tell her the spell must have pulled you through time as well."

"You must have been pulled from the past," said Willow before Ichigo could. "What year is it?"

"The year of our lord 1797," answered Elizabeth.

"It's 2010," answered Willow.

"Impossible," muttered Elizabeth.

"2010? It isn't 2007?" asked Ichigo in spurprise.

"No, it isn't."

"Huh, how strange," muttered Ichigo.

"You are from the year 2007?" asked a wide-eyed Elizabeth.

"Yes," answered Ichigo, "it seems that I was pulled to the past instead of from the past. I wonder why that-"

"Demons!" yelled Elizabeth as she pointed behind Ichigo and Willow.

"Oh, what now?" muttered Willow. Ichigo and Willow turned slowly only to see several small demons charging down the street at them. Ichigo charged forward faster than either girl could follow and was about to bring his sword down on the lead demon's head when Tensa Zangetsu's voice stopped him.

"Stop! Those are not demons!"

"What the hell are you talking about?" said both Ichigo and Xander in their head at the same time.

"Feel their spiritual energy, they are children!"

As soon as Tensa Zangetsu finshed speaking, Ichigo realized that he felt human spiritual energy in all the demons. It was muffled somehow.

The lead demon, a gremlin looking thing, leapt at Ichigo with a snarl. Ichigo grabbed it out of the air and tossed it into the group, bowling over the other monsters. When they had all recovered enough to try and make it to their feet, Ichigo raised his arms and yelled, raising his spiritual pressure at the same time. The monsters fled in terror.

"You saved us!" cried Elizabeth in relief.

"That was great Ichigo!" said Willow happily as she instinctively moved to hug her best friend.

Elizabeth watched the girl pass through Ichigo's body completely. This was certainly too much. Her Father would hear of this nonsense and deal with it accordingly. In the meantime, Elizabeth fainted.

"Um, she just fainted," announced Ichigo blankly to Willow.

"Well, pick her up, we need to get out of here!"

"We need to go home."

"Xander says we need to go home."

"Oh! That's good, let me think," said Willow as she looked around. "Buffy's house, it's the closest. Come on, it's this way."

A few minute's trek later found the three travelers walking into 1630 Revello drive.

"Mrs. Summers?" called out Willow as she walked in. "Mrs. Summers!" There was silence in the house. "Good, she must not be home. Come on in." Ichigo helped escort the recently awakened Elizabeth inside.

"What happened?" she asked groggily.

"You fainted," Ichigo told her.

"We should be safe in here," said Willow right before a monstrous hand burst through the glass on the front door.

Willow and Elizabeth screamed. Ichigo calmly turned and bashed the arm in the elbow with the pommel of his sword. The monster yelped and pulled its arm back before retreating.

"You saved us again!" exclaimed Buffy happily.

"I swore to keep you safe didn't I?" asked Ichigo rhetorically. A piercing scream came in from outside. "Nani?" Ichigo ran out the front door.

"Where's he going?"

"Surely to help whoever screamed. Do not worry, he will return for us. He swore to help us."

"Yeah, he does that," agreed Willow. She turned to Elizabeth and found her examining one of the pictures on a table.

"This girl, she could be me," muttered Elizabeth.

"She is you," exclaimed Willow before she amended herself, "Well, that is, the person whose body you are in right now. We have to figure out a way to end this spell so that everything goes back to normal."

"Will I return home once the spell is ended?"

"Well, if Ichigo really did get pulled from his world to here, I can only assume you did as well. Breaking the spell should send all the summoned spirits home. I think."

"You do not know?"

"I haven't really studied a lot of magic."

Cordelia burst into the room. "Why the hell was Jo-Jo the Dog-faced Boy attacking me? Look at my costume!" she cried as she fingered her torn sleeve, "I'll never get my deposit back from Party Town now!"

"Cordelia!" cried Willow before she stepped in front of the girl. "Okay, your name is Cordelia, you're not a cat, you're in high school, and we're your friends." She considered that statement for a moment before scrunching up her face and adding, "Well, sort of."

"That's nice, Willow," said Cordelia sarcastically as she raised a brow at Willow. "And you went mental when?"

"You know us?" asked Willow in surprise.

"Yeah, lucky me," she said sarcastically with a roll of her eyes. "What's with the name game?"

"We've been turned into the people we dressed as," said Ichigo as he strolled back into the house.

"Since when did you become a samurai, dweeb-boy?"

"I saved your life just now," growled Ichigo. Cordelia flushed and turned away from him. Ichigo bit down on his temper. "Someone cast a spell. Xander dressed as me and somehow I'm in control of his body."

"He's Ichigo!" chirped Willow.

"From Bleach?" asked Cordelia in surprise.

"You know Bleach?" asked a stunned Willow.

"She knows Bleach?"

"Yeah, Ichigo Kurosaki. Nice to meet you," said Ichigo as he and Tensa Zangetsu wondered what the hell Bleach was. He waved at Elizabeth. "Buffy dressed as a noblewoman and now she's Lady Elizabeth."

"Lady Elizabeth of Buffonia, daughter to the Duke of Buffdom," she pronounced regally.

"Buffonia?" asked Cordelia in confusion.

"It's a thing, don't worry about it," muttered Willow.

"This is fun and all but we need to find Giles."

"Xander says that we need to find Giles."

"Oh, that's right, but, where would he be?"

"The library," said Xander.

"The library?" asked Ichigo.

"The library!" yelled Willow. "You guys stay here, I'll go get him!" she ordered before running through the wall.

"Whoa, what was that?" asked a wide-eyed Cordelia.

"She was turned into a ghost," said Ichigo distractedly as he examined the picture that Elizabeth handed him.

"This is all crazy! There are people turned into real monsters out there! What are we going to do!"

"It is not our place to do anything. This brave Knight will protect us."

"Okay, what's that riff?"

"She's from the past," said Ichigo as he turned to examine the rest of the house, "just roll with it. Come on, let's relax on the couch for now."

Ichigo slumped onto the middle of the couch, resting his sword between his legs. Cordelia flopped down into a corner, as far from Ichigo as she could manage. Elizabeth daintly set down next to Ichigo. She blushed as she let her knee rest against his. This was so daring, what would Father say?

(]ooo((=============>

"Keep watch Ichigo," called out Tensa Zangetsu as the window they had been looking through blinked out of existence.

"Will do."

"Uh, aren't we going to keep watch too?" asked Xander.

"No, we aren't," said Tensa Zangetsu. "You and I must have a talk."

"Um, about what?"

"Your despair."

"Come again."

"I can see what you could be, you know." Tensa Zangetsu waved his hard over the landscape. "Here in your inner world there is nothing that can be hidden, not even your potential."

"What the what now?"

"Stop that!" said Tensa Zangetsu sharply. Xander stepped back reflexively. "Stop acting like a buffoon!" he continued angrily before he took a deep breath to calm himself. "You don't need to hide who you are from me, Alexander," he said softly.

Xander turned away from him in shame. A light fog rolled in. "So, what of it?"

"You have been beaten down. Deconstructed from the outside in. Do you want to be strong?"

Xander turned so sharply his neck cracked. His eyes were wide and they burned with a strange intensity. "What?"

"Do you want to be strong?" Tensa Zangetsu asked calmly. "Do you want it to stop raining here? Do you want these towers to climb so high that they pierce the heavens? Do you want to be strong?"

"Why are you doing this?" asked Xander as he trembled with emotion.

"You opened Ichigo's eyes," said Tensa Zangetsu gratefully. "Even if he loses all his power against Aizen, he will now have her to sustain him. You have protected Ichigo, Alexander. You have helped me fulfill my greatest desire. And so I will help you fulfill yours, the only way I know how. Do you want to be strong?"

"Yes," answered Xander softly as he trembled with desire and hope, "yes I do."

"Then prepare yourself," said Tensa Zangetsu seriously," because this will be the hardest test you will ever have to bear."
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