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Reptiles of a Scale

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Ichigo paces around his room, stretching.

Something’s up.

He’s back on summer vacation from university in England, and there is something going on, not in a someone-plotting-surprise-birthday-party, and more in a possibly-another-Aizen-out-for-world-domination kind of way.

First, there’s that guy, whatshisface. Ichigo doesn’t remember his name, but he remembers his stink from three-four years ago when he came around Karakura, evidently for some reason, but left after stalking Ichigo for a couple short weeks.

And now, for whatever reason, he’s back.

...No, but that’s not really what is bothering him.

He takes a deep breath, and the air from outside carries the distant smell of unfamiliar dragons.

Unfamiliar dragons on his clan’s territory.

And not those from the Gotei, who he’s not even sure know what they are, or know of each other, but real, living, unfamiliar dragons who have apparently been dropping by. Recently, though, because nobody else has been in Karakura recently enough to chase them out - Orihime and Chad and Uryuu and Tatsuki are all away studying, and none of them are on break right now.

And Yuzu and Karin were waiting for him to show up and deal with these guys, since they’re not exactly fully grown yet, and don’t have the backing of extra powers on top of being dragons.

And that’s the limit of their small clan, holding the territory around Karakura for their own, protecting the land and the humans in it from hostile dragons. Not that humans know anything about dragons these days, or they’d have hunted them down like kitsunes for their pelts.

Yeah, he’s not going to sleep until he sorts these guys out.

Maybe they’re just stopping by, and this won’t end up in a fight, trashing half of Karakura in the process, because dragon fights are not small, neat things.

Somehow, he doesn’t think he’ll be so lucky.

He should probably get some backup.

Hm, is Kisuke-san awake at this time of night?

He’s set up an emergency portal thing that Ichigo’s clan put in an abandoned warehouse that they sort of own, and asked no questions about why Ichigo wanted to be able to connect it to several places at once. (With them all studying in different places… well, having a quick way back home seemed prudent. Just in case.)

He’s reliable, and if things turn nasty, probably won’t be too shocked by Ichigo turning into a dozen or so meters of angry lizard.

“To what do I owe the visit?” To his credit, Kisuke-san doesn’t seem to be interested in messing around when Ichigo’s skulking up to his place in a clear huff that he doesn't feel like hiding. He looks a little tired, but not like he just woke up.

Late night, then.

Ichigo wonders how much to say, and settles on something close to the truth.

“My sisters are worried about some pretty creepy guys hanging around the town who’ve been kinda bothering them. I wanted to go check them out. I thought I probably should get some help.”

Kisuke-san’s probably raising an eyebrow under his hat, but he shrugs, and closes the shop door behind him, locking it.

“My, my, and here I thought you were just wanting to take me out on a moonlit stroll.”

Ichigo’s pretty sure Kisuke-san’s eyes are not yet sufficiently adjusted to make out the face Ichigo makes at him, but that doesn’t stop him from making a face just in case.

Dragon courting plays by different rules.

It starts with offerings and proof of powers, first, gifts and aid, and Ichigo sure as hell had no idea what he’d be able to offer to Kisuke.

(Kisuke, in return, would be unknowingly excellent at the whole affair, with his fondness for pulling miracles out of his ass for anyone he feels he owed something to, and being a proven powerful fighter already. From Ichigo’s seventeenth birthday, when the whole affair with Soul Society found him, in the shape of Rukia needing help against the Grand Fisher. Since then he’s been so annoyingly, relentlessly good at giving Ichigo exactly what he needs when he needs it.

It’s so irritating.)

Kisuke follows him unquestioningly as Ichigo tracks the annoying invaders by scent, all the way to an abandoned building on the outskirts of town.

The trespassers are already there, waiting for him, clearly sensing his intent from a long distance away.

There’s three of them, and yeah, Ichigo is glad to have backup because all of them are older and definitely more experienced.

If not, necessarily, stronger.

“Why are you here?” he calls out, keeping his tone neutral as he approaches. They could be just injured and taking a rest, or passing through.

The tall, buff lady in the middle eyes him, and takes a sniff. Her eyes narrow.

“Are you really telling us to get off your lawn, kid?” Derision drips from her voice, and he can tell she must be over a hundred, two hundred, at least. Old enough to underestimate a twenty-year-old human-raised, he supposes.

Clearly, these guys are here to stay. Or try to, anyway. “You’ll have to make us.”

“Go big or go home,” her short companion snorts.

They want him to go big? Fine.

They’ve already directly challenged him, anyway, and the area looks completely deserted.

He runs, shifting in the middle of the leap, and the intruder meets him in her own true form. Ichigo crashes into her, knocking her over.

He gets a good slash at her right foreleg, before they end up in a mess of tangled limbs and slashing claws, trying to wrestle the other to the ground.

In the periphery, he can see Kisuke cast kidou, binding one of the other dragons, and then trapping him a barrier for good measure - both of them smaller than his opponent, that’s good - and trying to trap the other, more agile one.

He tears himself away from admiring Kisuke’s success in the face of unexpected enemies (no, fuck, he is not thinking about this ever again, it’s not Kisuke’s fault he’s just so appealing to a dragon) to distentangle himself from his opponent, avoiding a lunge for his neck, and headbutts her straight in the face.

They prowl around each other in a circle for a moment.

She’s bulky, sharp fins sticking everywhere, and she’s bigger, but she’s also slower.

Fighter burns brightly on her forehead, her word, the definition of who she is, and Ichigo growls and hisses. (The shine of a second word on her hip, her soulmate, is too dim for him to make out that word though.)

She’s in her element, here.

But his word is Guardian, and so is he.

Time for a different contest of strength, because grappling and wrestling will probably get both of them killed, and this is not a fight-to-the-death-feud.

Simultaneously, they draw deep breaths.

A torrent of lightning shrieks out from his mouth and meets what looks like… is that a laser breath? They collide in the middle and wow, that will be one hell of a mess here. He squints through the bright light of the explosion, and dredges up the meager amount of reiatsu he’s recovered since using Mugetsu.

The lightning surges forward, overpowering the other dragon and washing over her, filling the air with the smell of burnt skin and scale.

A moment later, she shifts back into human form, still standing but bent over, hands braced on her knees, breathing hard.

Behind them, both of her friends are incapacitated, although there’s streaks of acid burns all over the ground, and Kisuke’s mournfully turning his hat over in his hands, looking at the holes burned in it by stray droplets.

“We’ll be taking our leave from your territory,” she says in their shared draconic tongue, sounding like she’s taking him a lot more seriously now. “We shall pass on that this territory is claimed well.”

He almost wants to frown and offer to escort her out, but… They’re not humans or shinigami. A dragon’s word is enough, and implying otherwise would be an insult, as he does not know her well enough to say that she’s a word-breaker.

Kisuke shoots Ichigo glance, and Ichigo motions for him to release the dragons, letting them shift into their human forms, and scramble to their feet, following their leader into the night.

He’s still in his dragon form. Yeah, he could shift back, but… he probably owes Kisuke a good look, just for a bit.

Ishidas may lean towards the more traditional local depiction of dragons, and probably wouldn’t be that much to look at, but Kurosaki dragons lean towards the compact, short, and scaled, even if his Hollowfication gave him a permanent mane and tufts of bright bronze fur.

Kisuke looks… Ichigo knows that Kisuke is very difficult to surprise, but he was certain he hadn’t known about dragons. And yet the expression on his face is… while complicated, shock is definitely not there.

“I see why you were not worried about your ability to defend your friends after the loss of your shinigami powers,” Kisuke says, eventually. “Or… their ability to defend themselves, if my assumption that all of you are… like this, is correct.”

Ichigo gives him a fanged grin, and flops on the ground, letting his tail twitch like a cat’s. Kisuke’s reiatsu smells stronger in this form, woodsmoke and petrichor, and when else will Ichigo get the opportunity to memorise it so thoroughly?

There’s something… strange, about Kisuke’s scent, now that he’s paying attention.

“I would have appreciated a warning about our… temporary friends who are leaving, but I suppose you thought I may not have believed you.”

And then Kisuke shifts, and his scent is now undeniably dragon.

“I had not… known I was not unique, but I am not surprised to discover that is not so.”

Oh.

Ichigo’s heart soars in a way quite independent of his brain as he registers ‘Creator’ marked on Kisuke’s forehead between his horns, a match to the word curled around Ichigo’s wrist for the last two years - not a mandate, but a good potential match.

Oh shit.

He’s so behind on the courting.