Ichigo walked with is head low. His eyes were shadowed, seemingly empty voids which hid his true feelings and thoughts. Rukia knew enough not to disturb him, and Yohko along with her grandmother, instinctively let him be.
He was too lost in his internal mourning to even think about the problems resulting from Kon's death. He didn't even realize that he was effectively stuck as a Soul Reaper.
It was early dawn when they arrived at Urahara's shop, the sun just cresting over the horizon, striking it with a sharp golden glow. Rukia stepped forward and rapped her knuckles on the front door.
"It's early, yet," Madoka commented.
"They'll be up." assured Rukia, pausing a few moments before knocking again.
With a creak of un-oiled joints, the door opened, revealing a somewhat quaint shop. The walls were covered in shelves that displayed colourful candies and sweet little treats. Yohko looked around as the group stepped inside, and she almost found it within herself to smile.
"Thank you, Ururu." Rukia said as a little girl in pigtails shut the door behind them. "Is Urahara awake?"
The girl nodded, "I will tell him you're here," with that, she disappeared deeper into the shop.
Madoka explored the shop casually, and Rukia stood in wait. Yohko noticed Ichigo standing in a shadowed corner, face to the walls and back to the world. Quietly she walked over to him.
"Ichigo-" she began, but the young and hurt man cut her off with a sharp tone.
"Don't," he warned. Obediently, Yohko backed away.
Rukia noticed all this in her peripheral vision, but said nothing.
A moment later, the crisp sound of clogs hitting hardwood floor resonated in the room, and a man in light robes and a striped bucket hat entered.
"Visitors," he said. "I guess my shop has become a refugee camp now?"
Rukia pushed from the wall upon which she was leaning, and walked up to the man.
"Urahara," she began. "This is Madoka and Yohko, of the Mano family. Devil hunters."
Urahara looked at the two unfamiliar women from under the brim of his hat. "Those are things you don't see every day."
"Hollows attacked their family," Rukia told him. "They've also teamed up with demons. They set up traps for Yohko, taking her friend hostage. While Ichigo and Yohko tried to rescue her, they..." Rukia fell silent, and Ichigo's shoulders hunched heavily.
"They slaughtered my family," Ichigo said in a soft, but troublingly dark voice.
"We didn't have anywhere else to go," Yohko told Urahara quietly.
Urahara leaned heavily on his cane as he thought. This was unusual behavior for hollows, to be sure. He shook himself out of his reverie a moment later. "Ururu," he called, and the little girl came shuffling in. "Ready a shower for Yohko, and tell Tessai to make some tea and breakfast for our visitors."
Ururu nodded and bowed politely to Yohko. "Come with me, Ms. Mano," she said, and Yohko followed her, casting a backward glance at Ichigo as they left.
"Tell me everything," Urahara said.
Yohko, now fresh and clean, joined Ichigo in a small room. She could hear the murmurs of Urahara, Rukia and her grandmother conversing down the hall. A pot of rice, a steaming teapot, cups and plates were laid out on a mat on the floor. Ichigo sat over a cup, slouching and brooding. Yohko settled on the floor across from him, opening the pot and scooping some rice into a bowl.
"Smells good," she said, testing the waters. "Have you already eaten?" When Yohko received no answer, she began to eat her rice in a subdued manner.
Time past uncomfortably as Yohko ate breakfast, Ichigo's eyes constantly hidden behind a mask of darkness.
"Ichigo, I'm sorry for your loss." Yohko said, extending a compassionate hand to touch his own.
"Why?" he said, grip on his steaming teacup tightening. Yohko noticed his knuckles were turning pale with tension. "It's kind of your fault, anyway."
"What?" cried Yohko.
Ichigo's head shot up, his cold eyes starring at her with a level sort of rage, focused and deliberate.
"You said that if we fight, if we take on the burden, my family wouldn't have to." he yelled, pointing an accusing finger towards the girl. "And look what happened!"
"Ichigo, how could I have possibly known that-..." but he cut her off.
"And now they're dead! All because some demons have a plan and-"
Finally, Yohko put her porcelain bowl down with a firm clatter.
"You're not the only one who's lost people they love!" Yohko screamed back at him with hot tears in her brown eyes.
They were both standing now, fists clenched and stance firm, glaring at one another in misdirected anger.
"You're pissed off," Yohko told him. "I get that, I do. But don't take it out on me. I didn't do anything. Use it against the monsters that are doing this to you... to us."
"Ms. Mano is right, Ichigo," Urahara stated from his spot in the doorway. Madoka and Rukia were behind him, peering into the room. "This whole thing goes deeper than you, either of you, know." He stepped into the room, his easygoing aura clearing the room of the tenseness, if only a little bit. Yohko eased her battle stance and Ichigo commandedly snapped to attention. "Madoka and I've been trying to translate the text in the picture on Rukia's camera phone."
"And?" Ichigo quarried, impatiently.
"It's unlike any dialect I have ever come across. A bizzarr hybrid of both Hollow and demon. The format is ancient, predating even the Soul Society." Uruhara stroked his stubbly chin, and smirked ever so lightly. Apparently he enjoyed a mystery such as this.
"But this much is certain," Urahara said in almost a prophetic voice. "you two are irrevocably tied to whatever those words say. And, to each other."