Yuzu awoke to somewhere much different immediately after. Considering past experiences, she expected this to be her inner world. Everything pointed to that, considering she remembered blacking out and was currently looking at the sky while standing perfectly straight. However, instead of a sideways city, she was currently on a sideways forest fullof bright flowers. That was new. Not to mention, old man Zangetsu couldn't be found anywhere.
"Zangetsu!" Yuzu yelled to the scenery, causing a large echo. "Zangetsu, where are you?!" This question was met by a hard slap on the back of her head.
"The hell that was that?!" the girl cried out.
"Well, it's about time you got here, Yuzy," a voice resembling a young girl's called out from the trees. This was then met with an unexpected headbutt to Yuzu's stomach. After some momentary disorientation, she was finally able to see the source of the attacks: a girl that barely looked older than herself with platinum hair and a purple jacket above a white, frilly skirt. Also of notice were the purple boots this girl wore, since Yuzu got a good look at them after getting kicked in the face with them.
"OW! WHAT THE FREAKIN' HELL?! Who are you anyway and what are you doing in my inner world?"
"Wow, you really are off, Yuzy," the mystery girl taunted. "I expected more from the girl who used to be Ichigo Kurosaki himself."
"Wait, what?! You know I'm Ichigo?" Maybe this was finally his chance at solving everything! "How do you know who I really am?"
"What is this, twenty questions?" the girl mocked. "Seriously, I think I've counted seven already. Got to admit, that is a pretty good start. Though, I can only answer one at a time. So, I'll start with the first one, to which the answer is 'here'."
"The hell is that supposed to mean?"
"You asked where Zangetsu was, so I answered 'here'. Seems pretty straightforward."
"Of course he's here. I just wanna know where he is!" Yuzu was practically steaming by now.
"Man you just have to have everything spelt out for you, don't you? This is your inner world, where a soul can communicate with parts of their spirit. And I'm pretty sure I'm not an inner hollow."
"Wait," Yuzu stammered. "Are you saying you're...No. No, no, no, NO! Don't tell me you're..."
"That's right!" the girl said proudly. "Zangetsu, the Slaying Moon, in the spiritual flesh!"
Yuzu was speechless. She had come to accept some of the wierder things today. Transformation, time travel, alternate reality, Soul Reaper Yuzu. But this was by far the most disturbing. Zangetsu was now a little girl that was playing games with her. No stranger fact had ever been known to her. This was completely out of the blue.
"Wait, even if you are old man Zangetsu, how do you know who I really am?"
"And that's now nine questions, I believe. Which one do you want first?" Zangetsu smirked. Yuzu put her hands over her eyes. One thing was certainly the same; this Zangetsu beat around the bush as much as the old man.
"Tell. Me. Why. You're. Here," Yuzu emphasized each word in that sentence. Zangetsu just smirked before jumping on to a tree branch, swinging her legs back in forth.
"Ha ha ha ha! Okay okay, let's just calm down and handle this like civilized people," Zangetsu giggled. "I suppose, first and foremost, as your zanpakuto spirit, it wouldn't' be very sporting for me not to know about you."
"But how can you know about me? Everything recently has been topsy-turvy."
"Well, of course. What do you think happened? After all, you just fainted fighting Grand Fisher again," smiled Zangetsu.
"Well....I had assumed some kind of combination between time travel and some alternate reality." Zangetsu clapped her little hands.
"You're definitely right on the alternate reality part, because that's exactly what this is. This is an entirely different dimension, one where Yuzu became a Substitute Soul Reaper instead of Ichigo Kurosaki."
"How does that even happen?" asked Yuzu. "Yuzu could barely even see spirits where I came from."
"That's kind of hard to explain. Anyway, Yuzu is the Soul Reaper here. Understand that much?" asked Zangetsu. Yuzu nodded, although a bit hesitantly.
"So, why am I here? You know that I'm Ichigo Kurosaki, but why am I here in some alternate universe. And if Yuzu is the real Soul Reaper here, why isn't she here?" asked Zangetsu suddenly hardened her gaze a bit, surprising Yuzu that a stern look could come from the little girl.
"Because this world's Yuzu....is dead."
Her wielder gasped at the words. Yuzu was dead in this world? How could that be? No one noticed anything strange. If Yuzu was dead, wouldn't they have noticed that?
"Because," Zangetsu started. "You may or may not know, but there was a near collision of worlds some time ago. Specifically, between Soul Society and the World of the Living. Like I said, you probably don't remember, but trust me, it happened," she giggled.
Yuzu raised an eyebrow but didn't say anything.
"That near collision was so huge that other dimensions were affected by it as well. The Yuzu of this world got caught up in one of these disruptions and ended up getting killed while fighting the Grand Fisher," explained Zangetsu. Yuzu gasped a bit after hearing that. She didn't want to believe it, but Zangetsu seemed dead serious about it.
"I had to find some replacement, so I sent the special zanpakuto to another dimension that had a half-human/half-Soul Reaper that could become her. Though, I have to admit, it was kinda fun watching you replace her," she cheekily grinned. Yuzu got mad at that comment.
"So you whisked my away from my dimension? Why about my friends back home?!" blurted Yuzu.
"Oh, don't worry. I think another you has appeared there. I dunno how it works. I'm not an expert," Zangetsu smilled as she flipped and landed on the ground. "So that's the facts. Your world will be fine and this world needs Yuzu, especially me."
"Well what can I do? I can't fight like Yuzu. I don't even know how to fight like this!" said Yuzu a little exasperated.
Zangetsu giggled again. "There is one way. Another reason why you're here. I'm going to help you fight like her."
"By becoming her."
"What do you mean 'by becoming her'?"
"You'd have to forget you were ever Ichigo and be filled with the memories this world's Yuzu. My Yuzu," she solemnly added.
"It's the only way. I hate to ask such a sacrifice for you, Ichigo, but this universe needs Yuzu as much as your universe."
"But I already know what's going to happen! I know what happens after this!"
"Yeah, after this, you're going to get killed again because you're a teenage boy inside his little sister's body. Then, so well Rukia, then the rest of your family. So what's it going to be?"
Yuzu thought long and hard. Was her memories worth sacrificing? Well, at this rate, she was almost certaintly going to die trying to fight the least favorite of all the Hollows she'd ever fought before. Yuzu was going to die. Yuzu did die. Only he could keep Yuzu alive in this world.
"Would you hurry up?" Zangetsu asked impatiently. "There's kind of an evil clown-gerbil outside."
Yuzu couldn't help but chuckle at her zanpaktou's description of the Grand Fisher. Maybe she already had a little bit of the real Yuzu in her all this time. Well, maybe this Yuzu wasn't too different from her old self, also. No matter what, she was still her family and friends' guardian. Her universe still had their Ichigo. This universe needs their Yuzu.
"I'll do it," Yuzu said bluntly. "Bring it on."
"Cool! Thank you, Ichigo Kurosaki. We're going to have so much fun together! now!"
"Can't wait wait," Yuzu responded dryly.
"Well, time for the fun part!" Zangetsu then brought out a long Naginata from behind her back that began to glow at the blade. "Don't worry, this won't hurt at all."
"It never does," her master grinned. "Thanks, Zangetsu."
"Thank you, Yuzu Kurosaki," Zangetsu smiled back. "Just keep my name in mind even after everything changes. You'll probably need it to fight Scruffy Butt out there."
"I didn't need shikai last time."
"I know, but imagine how much cooler you'd be with it! Go make Rukia jealous." She then proceeded to jab the glowing blade right into her wielder's forhead.
Yuzu suddenly fell into a dreamlike state and could only stare up at the sideways sky while her entire life was flashing before her eyes. Well, Ichigo's life, anyway.
Playing with a younger Karin and Yuzu, karate lessons as a child, his mom dying in his arms, his first meeting with Rukia, becoming a Soul Reaper, all the acinine things that happened after that, everything. Especially how much things escalated after the Grand Fisher, who used be her hardest opponet. She sure was going to have a lot on her plate.
One by one, certain memories started to disappear like a burning piece of film. Soon enough, Yuzu had no memory of anything beyond her latest trip to her mother's gravesite. Just as soon, she couldn't remember the first four years of her life, or at least Ichigo's. It was then that these memories started to change rapidly.
Ichigo's fourth birthday became little more than a subconscious memory and most of the two years following that became a blur, though she did remember playing with her younger brother and twin sister. These memories became consistantly clearer as Yuzu's memories became more vivid. By the time she was remembering when she was five, they became crystal clear. She recalled her mother's death, but forgot what it was like being there when she died. Any feeling of anger at herself for the death was replaced with pure sadness and the need to feel a void in her family.
This was followed by a great knowledge of how to cook and clean and anything to keep her family together, even basic medical proceedures. She rembered tiny details like everyone's birthdays, favorite foods, how to read emotions, knowing what buttons to push with certain people at certain times, and which to never push.
These were memories and feelings any Yuzu would have no matter the universe, but with one small difference: for as long as she could remember, Yuzu could see ghosts. She wasn't sure how, but it was a definite fact. Her twin, Karin could see them a little, but always denied their existance. Her brother, Ichigo, could only see faint signs of them, though he could barely see them.
And, of course, she started to remember the events of barely a month ago.
"You must take my zanpakuto and run it through the centre of your being, so that I may pour my powers into you. I can't gurantee you will live, but if it doesn't work, it won't matter," the beaten up raven haired girl said to her.
"Then give it here," Yuzu responded with a rare look of intensity on her face while accepting the blade. "I sure hope this better works, Ms. Soul Reaper."
"My name is Rukia. Rukia Kachiki."
"And I'm Yuzu Kurosaki. I hope we can talk again after this. If either of us can still talk, that is." Even while stabbing herself and receiving great power, Yuzu couldn't help but smile.
"You ready?" Zangetsu asked while snapping her wielder out of her trance.
"Yes, ma'am, Ms. Zangetsu," Yuzu smiled. "Let's teach that fuzzy monster a lesson in hurting my family."
"That's the spirit, Yuzy! Congratualations on learning my name, by the way."
"Thanks for helping me remember it."
Rukia walked back a bit as the Grand Fisher stomped on Yuzu.
"Too bad. It wasn't even a challenge. Oh well. Down the hatch!" laughed Grand Fisher as he began to converge on Yuzu.
"Oh no, Yuzu!" cried Rukia. This couldn't be happening. Yuzu was going to die and she couldn't do anything to help.
Suddenly, Yuzu's body began to glow, her yellow aura erupting as Grand Fisher got off her.
"W-What the hell is this?!" roared Grand Fisher. Just as suddenly, Yuzu began to move, slowly pushing herself off the ground. As she staggered to her feet, she glared at Grand Fisher.
"You've hurt my family too much! I won't let you get away with killing anyone else!" she cried as she brought out Zangetsu again. Grand Fisher just laughed.
"Ha ha ha ha! What can a little girl like you do? I'll kill you, just as I did your mother, and the same way I'll do to everyone else here!" he roared. Yuzu just gave a sweet smile.
"Sorry mister, but that's not happening," she said as her yellow spiritual energy spiked again. She concentrated her energy on her sword, hearing it speak again.
"You ready Ms. Zangetsu!"
"Just say the word!"
Smiling at her zanpakuto's confirmation, Yuzu gripped her sword with both of her hands.
Zangetsu glowed as yellow as her spiritual energy, beginning to elongate as Yuzu began to twirl it above her like a baton. The more she twirled, the longer it seemed to get until the energy vanished, revealing a long naginata blade. The long handle was light purple, like Zangetsu's clothes in the inner world with the blade seemingly brimming with power.
Rukia gasped as she looked. When did Yuzu learn her zanpakuto's shikai?
"Grrrrr, it doesn't matter what fancy tricks you have! I'll still eat you!" he roared as he began to charge once again. He lunged at Yuzu, who casually jumped away at the attack. Angered, Grand Fisher lunged over and over again, failing to land any blows on Yuzu.
"Curse you, damn brat!"
"You know, that's really bad language. You should know better," spoke Yuzu with an authoritative tone. Angered even more, Grand Fisher continued to attack. Just as he lunged, Yuzu used her sword to jump into the air, coming down with a deep slash through Grand Fisher's side.
"AHHHHHHHHHH!" the beast roared in agony. Still focused, Yuzu began twirling her sword again above and behind her, as yellow energy began to build inside. Soon enough, the blade of the weapon was fully charged.
"All right, time to put this to rest for good."
"Ready when you are!"
One last thrust of the pole weapon unleashed a wave of yellow energy, slashing straight through Grand Fisher's mask. In utter disbelief, the hollow thrashed in anger at the girl as it slowly crumbled into dust, ending the threat once and for all.
Exhausted, Yuzu collapsed to the ground, catching her breath.
"Ms. Zangetsu, we did it!" she cheered.
"Excellent! Freakazoid is gone for good. And that technique was super awesome!" cheered Zangetsu as she reverted back to sword form. Yuzu giggled along with her zanpakuto.
"Thanks for everything Ms. Zangetsu. You've done so much for me," she thanked with a grateful smile.
"Hey, no problem. I live for this kind of stuff. Oh, and I think Rukia's going to want to question you. Bye!" cheered Zangetsu as Yuzu felt the spirit get away from her a bit as Rukia approched.
"Yuzu....that was....amazing. When did you learn your shikai?!" asked Rukia, almost sounding like a proud mother.
"Just now actually. Everything just seemed to come at once. Ms. Zangetsu was very cooperative," her substitute smiled.
"Ms. Zangetsu. I hope the sword isn't making you call her that." sighed Rukia.
"Oh no, that's just me!" smiled Yuzu as the girls enjoyed a brief laugh.
"I hope you're watching mom," prayed Yuzu at the gravestone of Masaki Kurosaki.
"Wierd. Did something just happen? I feel like I missed something," Karin commented.
"Yeah, me too," Ichigo added.
"Oh, I'm sure it's nothing. Now let's go home. I gotta start on dinner," their sister said with a cherry smile.
"Sure. Come on dad, stop smoking and let's go!" called Karin to Isshin, who was indeed smoking one cigarette.
"Dad, you promised not to smoke anymore!" chided Yuzu.
"Oh, it's only one, and I only do it on this day. Sue me," the father laughed.
The whole family just groaned, but Yuzu was in a really good mood, so she let it slide. She felt like she had a boatload of things on her mind recently, but everything seemed natural now. Like a load had been taken off her.
And she could only wonder what was in store for her future.