Two hours earlier.
The Soul King Palace, Hyosube Ichibe’s City, Inside Ichibe’s Palace.
Jan was sitting cross-legged on the ground meditating while closing his eyes on the darkness that once seemed to be choking him. Now it was flowing around him freely as if he was part of it as if it had finally accepted him.
He didn’t know how many days went by, as the palace was overly dim. Ichibe didn’t have a single window in this place, darkness was everywhere; once you’re in, you’re completely separated from the outer world. Moreover, Jan never felt the need to sleep or eat, so he had no way to estimate how many days had passed. Nevertheless, it seemed like the promised day was finally drawing near, as Ichibe had lately come to visit him more than once.
“Still, that guy is truly cruel; he really made me stay here for seven days. I can feel I’m stronger than before, it’s real, I really miss the light!”
The few first days were really tough. After Ichibe controlled all the darkness in the room to smother him, Jan couldn’t breathe properly for two days. But later, he could tangibly feel his spiritual power getting stronger by the minute. Moreover, being in this place finally gave him a chance to think about his situation, what happened before, and what he should do going forward.
The only thing that he couldn’t precisely confirm is the time at which he landed in the Bleach world. He saw Kirio Hikifune before he was taken to this room, and he did hear Isane referring to Urahara as Captain. Back when he wanted to find the Kurosaki household in the world of the living, he couldn’t find it. This meant that he was at some point in time between Urahara’s promotion to the rank of captain and his eventual downfall.
Urahara was appointed as captain of the 12th division right after Kirio’s promotion, established the SRDI within a year, and kept his position for 9 years before the fall.
Therefore, the current time could be anything between 1891 CE and 1900 CE. This knowledge was key, as it allowed him to determine the one he should be worried the most about. Obviously, it was none other than Aizen. Knowing his potential enemy meant that he could prepare himself properly. Still, Aizen wouldn’t be easy to deal with. Strong Spiritual Power, speed, or hollow powers wouldn’t be enough to stop that man.
“If I were going to stand against him, I would need something else. Also, where’s my food? He ignored my request even though I’ve asked him to bring some many times. ‘You won’t need any’, he said… That bastard.” Jan’s thoughts were cut abruptly, so he opened his eyes slowly, just to find Ichibe grinning right in his face.
“You were thinking about me, right?” Ichibe said with widened eyes.
“Get off my face, baldie!” Jan was startled the moment he saw Ichibe’s white teeth inside that darkness, and couldn’t help but shout out loud.
“Baldie?! Me?” Ichibe was left dumbfounded while pointing at himself.
“You freaked me out!” Jan put his hand against his chest as he gasped for air heavily.
“Oh, sorry about that! I thought you were asleep.” Ichibe explained apologetically, then his eyes widened weirdly as he continued to say, “Anyway, only two hours are left on the clock, then you’re free to leave. You asked me to bring you food, but your friends are waiting for you at Kirio’s Palace. They are making another banquet to celebrate your return.”
“Another banquet?” Jan was surprised, “I’m choking to death in here, and they’re having banquets… Those bastards, I’ll beat you to death when I come out, Yamada!”
“Hahaha, they only had one before to lure me into joining them. They kept asking about you the entire night. It seems like you have some good friends!”
“Yes.” Jan couldn’t help but smile.
“So are you joining them there?” Ichibe said.
“As much as I want to finally have a decent meal…” Jan sighed sadly, then said, “I won’t be joining you.”
Ichibe was a bit surprised when he heard Jan’s answer, but then he grinned, staring at Jan with anticipation before he asked, “Why?”
“I want to go over there,” Jan said and pointed to the end of the hall, to the only room inside Ichibe’s palace.
“The Inner Room?” Ichibe said, his eyes widening, “You know about that too?”
“So you call it the Inner Room?” Jan smiled then stood up, “I don’t know anything beyond the fact that I’ve been sensing some strange energy coming out of it.”
“Strange energy you’re saying, huh?!” Ichibe said.
“Yes, I couldn’t sense it before since the darkness here was so overwhelming, but as I started to get used to it, I could sense this strange energy coming out of that room. I thought that the darkness there should be stronger, but judging by your reaction, it seems like I’m wrong.” Jan shrugged.
“You never fail to surprise me, kid.” Ichibe smiled, “There’s no darkness there. Quite the contrary, only light is trapped in there!”
“What do you mean?” Jan was a bit confused.
“Well… Since you could sense it, then it seems like you’re ready to enter the Inner Room.” Ichibe said calmly.
“Ready for what?” Jan asked again.
“You will know when you go in.” The door of the inner room was suddenly opened as Ichibe finished his words.
“B-But… You said that there are still two hours left…” Jan stuttered.
Ichibe’s eyes widened abruptly, then he couldn’t help but laugh, “Buhahaha, I almost forgot about that!” The door immediately got shut.
“And I’m still hungry, bring me some food, please!”
Ichibe turned around and acted like he didn’t hear him, then said, “Then I shall leave and tell your friends that you’re going to stay here for a while.”
“Ichibe-San! Ichibe-San!!” Jan called his name again and again as he watched him walk away.
Ichibe kept walking forward until he came out of the Palace to find Tenjiro, Kirio, Isane, who seemed to have gained a bit of weight, and Yamada, who was unrecognizable because of all the bandages wrapping his body. They were all waiting in front of the main gate.
Ichibe stopped, and with an inexplicable grin on his face, he said, “He’s not coming.”
“Why?! What happened to him?!” Isane exclaimed.
“Calm down, Isane-Chan, I’m sure he’s okay!” Kirio patted her head, “Captain, why isn’t he coming out?”
“He wanted to enter the inner room,” Ichibe said calmly.
“What, isn’t it a bit too soon?!” Kirio was surprised.
Tenjiro snorted coldly, and then grabbed Yamada from the back of his collar, and started walking away, “Come on, you’re going back to the Hot Springs.”
“µ¨£%*!” The bandages were wrapped so tightly that Yamada couldn’t even speak properly.
“Stop complaining already! I wasn’t satisfied with the result of your training anyway, you barely managed to block my punch even with me holding back! So get your butt back in there before I get angry!” Tenjiro shouted angrily, and before Yamada could even react, he kicked him in the behind, sending him flying all the way back to his City.
“ONIIIIIIIIII!” The kick was strong enough to push a scream through Yamada’s tightly wrapped lungs!
“Oh, so that’s what I thought I heard that day…” Isane tilted her head, watching the arc that Yamada’s butt drew in the starry sky.
“Humph,” Tenjiro snorted coldly, “Captain, I’m leaving too.” Tenjiro flicked his hand twice, then addressed his captain calmly.
Isane and Kirio were left dumbfounded watching what had just happened and wondering how this strange relationship between Tenjiro and Yamada came to be. Finally, Kirio came back to her senses when Isane poked her, and she asked Ichibe again, “Why are you letting him go into the Inner Room?!”
“He said that he could already sense it, so I gave him my permission to go in,” Ichibe said, and then started walking away. But when he saw Isane’s worried expression, he stopped again and said, “Don’t worry little girl, I’m sure that he will come out stronger.”
“That’s not the point, Captain!” Kirio said while holding Isane closer to her.
“Really?” Ichibe eyes widened yet again…