Then Hei’s words hit, and Ichigo froze.
I pulled us out.
Like it’d been another mission. When Ichigo knew Hollows. Knew how they fought, what they wanted, how they hungered. He’d gone to the Vizards and demanded help not so much for himself, though he’d been terrified, but for his sisters.
A Hollow’s first target was family.
His sister became a Contractor, and she killed – god, who knows. Their parents? Anyone else there? The whole damn neighborhood? Hei can do lightning bolts; a Hollow with that power wouldn’t have held back. And Hei – Tian – he picked up the thing that killed their parents and ran….
And the worst of it was Ichigo couldn’t blame Hei at all. If Karin had changed one day, and he hadn’t know about Hollows… oh hell, even now, knowing all he knew, he’d have done the exact same thing. Because Karin was his sister. And big brothers protected their little sisters. Always.
Only he’d have tied her up and run straight to Urahara. Because if anyone on the face of the planet could fix a mess like that, Sandal-Hat would.
Tian hadn’t had an exiled shinigami to run to. Just his own wits, and barely-teenage guts. Against a living monster.
Wait. That doesn’t make sense. “How are you alive?” Ichigo demanded.
“All Contracts have their price,” Hei shrugged. “She needed to sleep. I watched over her. She knew I would.”
Chalk one up for Ryuuken, Ichigo thought, trying to ignore his goose-bumps. Living Arrancar was right. A Hollow wouldn’t have been able to think that far ahead.
“The Syndicate found us a few months later.”
“A few months?” Mao’s ears went up. “How did you keep the body count that low?”
“Arguing. Rationally.” Hei didn’t blink. “I told her, leaving bodies in the street made it harder to keep her safe.”