The first time that he ever met Kurosaki Ichigo, was ten years ago.
When she had been eleven years old and shyly hiding behind his master Nana while eyeing him suspiciously from around the woman's side. He eyed her in much the same manner. But he was far too curious to bother eyeing her suspiciously.
After all, it wasn't everyday that his master came to train him with a pretty doll-like child in tow.
"Uh...w-who is your friend?" He asked curiously as he bent down a little bit to get a closer look at the girl. She made a cute little squeaking sound upon having his face so much closer to her own and quickly moved around to Nana's side. Trying to put the woman's body between them.
Nana merely watched the small interaction between the two with an amused grin. Noting how her student was tracking Ichigo's movements much like a hawk would.
It was on the tip of her tongue to warn him not to put his face too close to the girl's- mainly because if she felt intimidated or scared of him, she'd lash out. And the girl could be an absolutely vicious little thing when she wanted to be. So if she lashed out, she'd probably go for his eyes.
However she didn't get the chance to before she heard him yelp loudly and quickly stand to his full height as he rubbed at his eyes almost frantically as Nana bopped the girl on top of the head with her hand in retaliation as she growled. "Ichigo! What have I said about lashing out?"
"To do it when there's no witnesses," The girl deadpanned as her student made a strangled sound that seemed half laugh/half choke as the girl hesitantly asked her, "D-Do I plant a knife on him now?"
Causing both of them to goggle at her in bewilderment.
"W-Why would you plant a knife on him?" Nana asked in a slightly bemused tone. Suspecting that the girl's question had to do with her dad's latest lesson.
"Dad said that I should plant knives on my victims-" Yup, the knife planting thing was Issun's work. I'll have to break her of that before I send her home again. Nana thought tiredly as her student finally dropped his hands away from his eyes to look at the girl with an unfathomable look.
"Well, you're dad is wrong. You don't plant knives on people." Nana said in a chastising tone. Ichigo made an O with her mouth and soberly nodded her head in understanding before Nana turned her attention back to her student with an slightly apologetic look. "Are you okay there, Toshinori?"
"My eyes burn." He said automatically as he continued to stare at the girl with a frown. Probably wondering where the hell she came from and what she was doing there.
"Sorry. I should have warned you not to get too close. She tends to poke people in the eyes when she's feeling intimidated and frightened. Now, let me introduce the two of you. Toshinori, this is my adorable little goddaughter- Ichigo. Ichigo, this is my precious student, Toshinori. The two of you will have to refrain from killing and seriously maiming one another. Okay." Nana said as she settled a gloved hand on top of the girl's head and ruffled her strawberry blond hair in an affectionate manner.
"Hi, Mr. Toshi. S-Sorry...about poking you in the eyes." Ichigo said politely if a little bit bashfully. Poking her little head out from around Nana's body to look him in the eye.
He made a humming sound, not quite convinced that she was sorry at all about nearly blinding him. But let the incident slide since she was still young. And small kids tended to often do strange things without thinking of the consequences. Besides, it wasn't like she'd permanently blinded him or anything.
So no harm, no foul.
"That's alright little one. Just...try not to do it again. Okay?"
She nodded her head again and he smiled a little bit. Despite having her poke him in the eyes a few minutes ago, she really was a cute little thing. He mused to himself as he heard Nana say, "Ichigo will be staying here in Musutafu with me until the end of the summer due to...a family crisis."
He cocked his head a little bit, his eyes flickering to his master as a questioning look crossed his face. A crisis? He wondered as the girl said in a saddened and slightly hurt tone, "Mama died. And daddy needed some time alone to figure things out."
He blinked as realization hit him and he gave the girl a sad look of his own. "I'm very sorry to hear that little one."
He'd lost his own mother at an early age as well, so he could understand the hurt that she was likely feeling right now. He wanted to ask her what had happened- if her mother had died of a sickness or if she had been in an accident.
But he knew that doing so would be inappropriate and perhaps even a little bit cruel. So he didn't bother asking. Instead he bent down a little bit again and asked very softly, "Is it okay if I give you a hug?"
The girl hesitated for a few seconds as she seemed to think over his question before slowly inching herself into his personal space and allowing him to wrap his arms around her and pick her up. Once that was done, she laid her small head on his shoulder and wound her little arms around his neck and just let him hold her as Nana pulled out her cell phone and cooed. "Aww. You two look so cute!" As she took their picture.
Toshinori sat up in his bed and blinked bleary eyes as he took a moment to glance around his bedroom before his eyes landed on the small digital print out of the picture that his late master had taken of him and her young goddaughter that fateful day, barely a year in a half before All for One had fought and killed Nana.
The day that he'd almost killed him and Ichigo as well.
He blinked as he reached out and absently picked up the picture frame that he'd used for the image of the two of them and stared down at it fondly.
It had been a long, long time since he'd last dreamt of that day and the young girl that he'd become so attached too. Nana's dying request burned in his ears as he stared at the photo for just a few scant moments longer.
"T-Take care of my god kid, Toshi. I love her just like I love you."
"I will Nana. I promise..." He whispered to himself as he set the picture back down on his bedside table and then glanced over at his clock to see what time it was before deciding that it didn't really matter. And climbed out of bed to go about his morning routine while he had some time to properly think and plan.
After all, it wasn't everyday that he got to see Ichigo. And in the recent letter that she'd sent to him several weeks prior, she had made plans to move to the city to live. So naturally, he was feeling excited to see the girl again in person.
He'd been wanting to reconnect with her for some time now, but...had felt badly- about several different things. One of which was about pushing her away after Nana's death, just to try and protect her from further harm at another- possibly more vicious- villain's hands.
Which...was perhaps one of the few regrets that he had in life. Pushing her away and not keeping a closer eye on her like he'd promised his master that he would.
He'd worried and worried and fretted over whether or not he'd done the right thing by her. And hadn't realized it until years later- that she'd paid for the distance between them in blood.
Blood, and bone, and organs.
In large strips of flesh that had been literally peeled from her body.
She'd paid for his choice in pain, and sorrow. And though he had gone to check on her upon receiving word from her father and some of his more well known colleagues that had been based in her hometown, that he'd asked to keep an eye on her for him.
He'd been beyond pissed when he had learned that she was being hurt.
That someone- multiple someone's rather- had tried to destroy her and the fragile link that remained between himself, her and Nana. And that had been, and still was to this very day; something that he couldn't and wouldn't allow.
Which was just another reason for his excitement. Reconnecting meant that he would have a chance to get to know her all over again. His colleagues from Karakura had reported that she'd grown up into a wonderful young woman. Beautiful, intelligent, kind, compassionate, fiercely loyal and protective of those that she considered hers.
He'd be lying if he said that he hadn't been thrilled to hear that. To know that whatever he and Nana had taught her as a little girl was still somewhere inside of her, being made of use to her in her day to day life.