“I don’t understand why the factions exist. People are more complex than this system seems to acknowledge.”
“Yeah, but the factions aren’t about the complexities of a person. It’s about root traits.” Ichigo plucks at the blue of his t-shirt absently. “Finding people who believe in similar ideals and working together to help the community… That’s the reason for factions. And anyway, it’s not like before. There’s less separation between the factions, now that divergents aren’t immediately executed, and it isn’t so unusual to see two-faction families anymore."
He glances at Rukia, who seems confused. He lets out a sigh and waves his hand.
“It doesn’t really matter, anyway. Not for you.”
“No, but I’m curious,” she says. “Your father… He’s an Erudite, right? He wears blue.”
“… Yeah. A lot of PhD people in the medical field are. Same with professors and stuff.”
“And…” Rukia hesitates. “And what was your mother?”
Ichigo can’t help the flinch. He looks away to hide it.
“Abnegation,” he tells her. “She wore gray.”
“Gray?” Rukia wrinkles her nose. “That’s such an awful color to wear.”
“Abnegation is the faction for the most selfless,” he tells her. “It means putting other needs before everyone else’s. Dressing simply is a part of that.”
The girl hums in understanding, brow knitted together in thought.
“Where do you think you’ll go?” she inquires. “Erudite, like your father? You’re smart enough, right?”
“Maybe. I’ve never really thought of it. Don’t want to get my hopes up, you know, if my test says I belong somewhere else.”
“Surely you have some idea.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll be happy wherever I end up.”
Ichigo gives her a strange look.
“Of course. Now, c’mon. We’ll be late for class.”
Ichigo’s birthday comes and goes in the Seireitei, and when school starts up again after the summer break, talk of testing starts up.
“I’ll be sixteen just in time,” Ishida remarks. “The cut-off is November thirtieth, this year.”
Which means the test will be December first. They all will have finished their initiations by the New Year, and will have the freedom to return to their families if they wish to.
Ichigo feels a little bit better when he realizes this. Initiates aren’t always so lucky.
On the day of the test, Ichigo wears his parents’ colors— gray corduroy for his Abnegation mother, and a blue button-up for his Erudite father. He stands in line like everyone else, trying to quell the nervous shivers that make his fingers clumsy and his tongue thick.
He doesn’t talk to anyone after the exam. He goes home and he goes to bed.
Rukia’s there for the ceremony, all dressed up and grinning from ear to ear.
“This is so exciting!” she tells him, hugging him tightly. “I’ve been reading up, you know— the factions are all so interesting!”
People are starting to look in their direction. Delicately, Ichigo extricates himself from her hold.
“Sit tight,” he says. “It’ll be boring, I’m sure.”
“I doubt it,” she answers. “You and our friends are all taking part, after all— oh, I’ll be sitting with your father and the girls. Look for us!”
Ichigo can’t help the small smile that graces his face.
“Yeah. I will.” He glances at his watch. “But I need to go. I’ll see you after, okay?”
“Okay.” She hugs him again. “Good luck!”
She scampers, and Ichigo takes his place in line.
The ceremony begins.
Tatsuki goes to Dauntless, and so does Chado. That isn’t surprising.
Naturally Ishida goes to Erudite. Mizuiro follows him.
Orihime is the first who chooses Amity, much to the delight of the congregation waiting for her. Ichigo watches with keen eyes, fingers twitching as he waits his turn.
“Kurosaki Ichigo, step forward.”
Slowly, he steps up to the stage, peering at each respective bowl thoughtfully before taking the knife resting on the altar.
He slits his palm quickly, holding it out over the bowl of soil.
There’s a pause, and then a cheer erupts from the yellow-and-red clad group. He’s chosen Amity.
As he walks, he catches his father’s eye. He looks surprised, frowning slightly as he watches Ichigo move to meet his faction.
Rukia looks confused, as do a number of his classmates, but he doesn’t care, allowing himself to be pulled into the arms of strangers.
“I wasn’t expecting that, Kurosaki-kun!” Orihime whispers as he takes the seat beside her. “But I’m happy!”
Of course she is. Ichigo would be hard-pressed to find a girl happier than Inoue.
The rest of the ceremony moves quickly enough, and with a final speech, the new initiates are led away, off towards the compounds that would be their homes for the next month and more.
One of the Amity representatives— an older girl, maybe five years above Ichigo, takes his hand.
“I remember you, Ichigo-kun,” she greets, coffee eyes peering up at him from under a brownish fringe. “You fought off a bully of my sister’s two years ago, do you remember?”
Ichigo shrugs awkwardly.
“Ah… I fight a lot,” he admits.
She clicks her tongue.
“Fighting won’t do you much good here,” she tells him. “But then, you seem like a good sort. I bet you’ll do okay.”
Ichigo nods again, and she grins.
“You’re a shy one, aren’t you?” she asks. “That’s okay. My name’s Sayuri.”
Ichigo gives her a long look.
“… It’s nice to meet you, Sayuri-san,” he says finally. “Please take care of me.”
Her smile gets wider and she pulls him close enough to give him a one-armed hug.
“You’ll like it here,” she says. “I can tell.”