Ichigo entered the throne room with Ryuuken and Ukitake under a cloud of doubt. This was where he had utterly failed to protect his friend, where he had failed to save the world. That failure lay heavy in his chest making it hard to physically breath.
Yhwach sat serenely on a dark, high backed throne with the Wandenreich symbol of the five pointed star embossed above his head. He gazed steadily at the three of them as they walked the length of the room. Jugram was kneeling as if in prayer at the base of the dias raising the throne above the rest of the room. Uryuu was standing to the right of the throne staring down at the broken body of the Soul King. It's wide pupil-less purple eyes staring back at him.
Ichigo understood immediately that in his absence during the take over Uryuu had been the one forced to kill the Soul King. Uryuu looked completely broken. They had come too late; Ichigo had failed to save his friend again. He swallowed heavily even as he tried not to show the storm of guilt raging inside him.
"Welcome Ichigo," Yhwach said with a thin, knowing smile. "I see you have come once again in a vain effort to kill me. Do you believe that you have a chance this time?"
Ichigo stayed silent, not at all certain that he was strong enough and hating that Yhwach knew it. He glared at Yhwach in defiance anyway.
Ukitake and Ryuuken glanced at Ichigo questioningly. Ichigo ignored them both, refusing to take his eyes off Yhwach. At least now Ichigo knew from experience that any attack, even one made by another, started with him.
"He isn't the only one here to stand against you," Ukitake said having decided that Yhwach was only trying to unnerve the group. He drew his zanpakutou, ready to fight.
"And yet her is the only one who matters," Yhwach said leaning back in his throne. He stared into the distance ignoring Ukitake's threat. "But his own vision of the future is clouded with failure while my victory remains clear."
"Don't listen to him Ichigo. In the end his words mean nothing, as do his promises," Ryuuken said glaring his hatred at Yhwach. The last was said for his son's benefit. Uryuu flinched at the words, but he refused to meet his father's gaze.
"Replacing your lost son so soon, Ishida, Ryuuken?" Yhwach said. He eyes slid to the side to gauge Uryuu's reaction.
Ryuuken stepped forward angrily. His thin lips pressed into a scowl. "An all knowing God dispenses his wisdom," He sneered. "And it is all lies!"
Jugram shot to his feet in indignation. He turned on Ryuuken with his sword drawn. Without thinking Ichigo was between them with Zangetsu ready. He almost dropped his blade when he realized that it was his bankai. He couldn't remember when he had activated it. Still he held firm and stared Jugram down. He knew that he could win against him at least. It would be so easy...
Ichigo stopped frozen when he saw Yhwach smile at him again. Suddenly Ichigo couldn't move. If this was some trick from Yhwach.
"You are nothing but a heretical fool!" Jugram screamed passed the blade point seeming to completely ignore Ichigo in his rage though he stayed out of lunging range. "You could have had power beyond beyond your dreams and revenge on the Shinigami for what they did to your father. You were the one who threw it all away for a Gemischt. You were the one who threw away your God!"
Jugram drew his sword and in his indecision Ichigo didn't react fast enough. Jugram knocked Zangetsu to the side and lunged passed him at Ryuuken. Then Ukitake was there. His shikai slipped between Jugram and Ryuuken. Jugram halted before he was impaled on one of the blades.
"It would be very rude of you to let your emotions get ahead of you and start a new fight when you have yet to finish ours," Ukitake said in a tone so coldly polite that it shook Ichigo out of his spiraling thoughts. He had never heard that that tone from his taichou before.
"If I remember correctly, you were loosing," Jugram said dismissively.
Ukitake smiled all friendly-like. "The sad thing is Shunsui's little game works against me just as much as it does against you. You have yet to see what I can do."
"I see quite clearly that you are dying," Jugram said swing his blade to force Ukitake to back up.
Ichigo and Ryuuken quickly backed up to give the two space as Ukitake dropped into a guard stance with his right blade pointed directly at Jugram and his left hand blade crossed horizontally under it. The long red rope that connected the two blades seemed to flow on its own wind, and the charms sparkled brightly even in the unwavering light of the room.
Ichigo called out to his Taichou. He knew that Ukitake was too weak due to his sickness to take on someone of Jugram's skill level. He stepped forward with Zangetsu ready to prevent Ukitake from fighting.
"It's okay, Ichigo. I have never started a fight I didn't finish," Ukitake said. His eyes closed for a second. "It is my fault Shunsui got hurt. If I had killed him sooner," He flicked the tip of his right blade at Jugram, "the Shunsui may not have gotten hurt."
Ichigo shook his head din denial. Then he heard Yhwach's voice behind him as Jugram used his bow to fire at Ukitake in rapid succession. "Is that the decision you want to make? You want to save your superior from himself? Interesting. I would think that you would want to correct your past mistakes, not ignore them."
Ichigo stopped short from his head first dive between Ukitake and Jugram. Ukitake stopped the arrows with some quick blade work with his left hand, no longer paying any attention to Ichigo. There was a flash of light from Ukitake's right blade speeding toward a startled Jugram. Jugram dived to the side more on instinct than with any plan. As Jugram rolled smoothly to his feet Ichigo turned away from the fight to face Yhwach once more.
Yhwach was studying Ichigo closely with his dark eyes. "Your Taichou seems to have things under control," He said as Jugram manifested a shield to block Ukitake's lighting fast retorts. "So the logical thing to do would be to engage me." Yhwach leaned back in his throne. "You want to fight me, don't you? But you are afraid."
Ichigo scoffed, but his stomach twisted painfully belying his actions.
"But without your Quincy abilities you are at half the power you usually wield. You threw it aside to prevent yourself from becoming my pawn this time, but are you certain that you can kill me hindered as you are?"
Ichigo swallowed. He wasn't sure at all, but he refused to let it show. Instead he buried his fear deep, where it belonged and charged at Yhwach. He skidded to a halt as Uryuu leaped between them. He lifted his bow and pointed it at Ichigo.
Sweat stood out on Uryuu's brow and his hand shook. He scowled heavily as he stared at his own hand like it was a traitor. He was trying to drop his bow; he was being controlled.
Ichigo snarled at Yhwach and used shunpo to side step Uryuu and attack Yhwach. A split second later Uryuu was between them once again. Ichigo ground to a halt just short of impaling him.
"It seems that you wont be making that mistake again, at least," Yhwach said looking Ichigo dead in the eye. In that moment he looked so much like Ossan challenging Ichigo to find an answer to a question he didn't even know.
Uryuu stepped back far enough to draw his bow once more. This time it wasn't pointed at Ichigo. It was pointed at Ryuuken. He looses his arrow with unerring accuracy. Three sharp gunshots filled the air. A bullet made of reishi knocked Uryuu's arrow out of the air. The second and third embedded themselves in Yhwach's shoulder and his side.
Yhwach staggered for a second before pulling himself upright and unharmed. "An enviable finesse, but you are not nearly powerful enough to hurt me," Yhwach said. Then he frowned for a second before shaking it off.
Ryuuken ignored him. "Stop this now Uryuu. Break away from his power now before he consumes you. Surely now you realize that this was a mistake."
"I didn't make a mistake," Uryuu shouted in defiance even as he fought for control of his own body. He couldn't even drop his bow, but he was too mad to give in to his father's good sense. "I wont become a powerless coward like you," He spat at Ryuuken. He tried to keep from raising his bow again. As if he would succeed on willpower alone.
Ryuuken gazed sadly at his son. "Is that what you really believe? You think I have spent all these years hiding? From him?" Ryuuken said pointing at Yhwach. "You will never be strong enough to achieve your goal, especially if you rely on his power. Yhwach already knows that you want revenge for your mother's death that you want to kill him, and he doesn't care."
Ichigo watched Uryuu hesitate for a second, his resolve breaking. He made to jump between father and son to stop the impending fight.
At that moment Ichigo heard Ukitake's gurgling breath behind him and skidded to a halt. He glanced behind him to see his taichou struggling to stay upright with both swords locked with Jugram's broad sword. He glanced back at Uryuu indecision written on his face.
Nodding to himself as if he had expected this turn of events the whole time Yhwach said, "It is time to prove your loyalty to me above all else, Uryuu. Kill your father."
Sorry for the late update. I was moved to the early morning shift for a couple of weeks and my brain turned into a potato, so no update last month. I know this one is really short, but I am behind my self imposed scheduled here so I broke it off early to get an update out. Anyway the next chapter should be the last fight between Yhwach and Ichigo, and the last chapter of this story. I would like to thank anyone who stuck around this long. This little hobby turned out to be a lot bigger than I thought it would in the beginning. *cough* ten chapters*cough*