Author Notes: Hello, everyone! This one shot came about after my daughter and I squealed over a certain epic scene in Episode 361... and then got to wondering what if things behind the scenes... weren't as epic. Best enjoyed with a large pinch of salt :)
Warnings: Spoilers for Episode 361 (A New Appearance! The Gotei 13, Arrives!) & 362 (Revival! Substitute Shinigami: Ichigo Kurosaki!). Words in italics are taken directly from the anime.
Disclaimer: Bleach belongs to Tite Kubo.
- Story Start -
Urahara Kisuke knelt before the Captain Commander, a glowing katana enclosed in a cylinder of light between them.
"I understand the situation. You may bear the katana here, Urahara Kisuke," said the Commander.
"Sir, do you mean...?" Unohana asked in shock.
"Strange though his actions have been, Kurosaki Ichigo saved our lives," stated the Commander. "Now, it falls to us to repay the favour. Though we may have to turn our backs on millennia of custom, better to do so than to bring eternal shame on the Gotei 13 by forsaking our debt."
He slammed the end of his walking stick on the floor and stood up.
"This is my order as General! Let all Captains and Vice-Captains of the Gotei 13 pour their reiatsu into this sword! Let us return the powers of a Shinigami to Kurosaki Ichigo!"
With that proclamation, the Captains and Vice-Captains gathered at a large clearing in a nearby forest with the glowing katana resting on a tree stump. The only absentees were Zaraki Kenpachi and Kusajishi Yachiru who were away on a mission, although Madarame Ikkaku and Ayasegawa Yumichika were standing in their stead; and Mayuri Kurotsuchi and Nemu who were... probably still at the Twelfth Division Barracks.
"Hmph! Trust Captain Kurotsuchi to not show up for something that doesn't directly benefit him," Soi-fon muttered under her breath to Omaeda Marechiyo who just shrugged and continued munching on cookies.
"Let us begin. I will add only a little of mine," said the Captain Commander and picked up the sword.
Despite his words, everyone immediately took a few steps back.
- o -
A couple of hours later...
The katana was once again lying on the stump while everyone else was either leaning against a tree, like Kuchiki Byakuya and Hitsugaya Toushiro; sitting slumped on the ground like Hisagi Shuuhei and Kira Izuru, or flat out unconscious like Omaeda and Hanatarou. The latter, despite not being of Captain or Vice Captain level, had overheard Ichigo's name as they passed him earlier, and insisted on contributing as well.
All of them had poured their reiatsu into the katana, but despite their best efforts, the reiatsu indicator embedded in the hilt showed it was only... half full.
"How can this be?" Byakuya muttered, trying to keep upright and not list to the side.
"Heh, betcha somethin's wrong with that katana," Hirako grumbled, lying sideways on the ground, head propped on one fist.
"Perhaps the indicator is... faulty?" Toushiro wondered. He was leaning against another tree and starting to slowly slide down it.
"Sit down before you fall over, Shiro-chan." Sitting up against the same tree, Hinamori tugged on his sleeve until he sat down down suddenly with an 'Oof'.
"Well, I'm beat," Hisagi admitted from where he was sitting on the ground and leaning against Kira's shoulder, Rangiku leaning heavily on Kira's other side.
"Same," Renji confessed, sitting a couple of feet away with Rukia almost asleep against his shoulder.
"It is just as well the Captain Commander and his Lieutenant already left," Komamura said, slowly pacing up and down.
"Perhaps there's been a mistake?" Kyoraku mused and reached out a hand to his Vice Captain. "How are you feeling, Nanao-chan?"
"I'm fine, Captain Kyoraku." Nanao brushed the hand aside. She was also sitting on the ground, on Hinamori's other side.
"Like Captain Hitsugaya said, there could be something wrong with the indicator," Ukitake suggested, sitting back to back with Kyoraku.
"That must be it! We've already given that damned sword our all," grumbled Ikkaku, glaring at it. "What more does it want?"
"Wait." Yumichika sat up straighter and looked around. "Isn't that Captain Zaraki's reiatsu approaching? And Vice Captain Kusajishi's too?"
There were looks of relief all around, the Captains adopting a more alert pose as Captain Zaraki appeared in their midst, Yachiru on his shoulder.
"Hello, everyone!" she cried, waving a hand.
"What's all this then?" Zaraki asked in suspicion. "Y'all all look whipped. Wait - I didn't miss a fight, did I?"
"Never mind that," Soi Fon said impatiently and pointed at the sword. "The Captain Commander has ordered all of us to fill that katana with our reiatsu. It will give Kurosaki Ichigo back his Shinigami powers."
"Ichigo, huh?" Zaraki's uncovered eye gleamed. "Fine with me. Been a long time since I fought him."
The instant he picked up the katana, it glowed brighter. Everyone flinched, shutting their eyes or turning away from the light.
"Ken-chan, look!" Yachiru cried out, pointing at the hilt. "The indicator is full!"
"Huh, already?" Zaraki asked in surprise. "I ain't done nothin' yet."
Then the hilt cracked.
"Zaraki, put that down!" Byakuya's voice was sharp.
Too late. The crack zigzagged into the blade and all the way up to the tip. A loud, high pitched humming filled the air.
With a curse, Zaraki threw the katana high into the air and grabbed Yachiru from his shoulder, crouching over her protectively. Renji did the same with Rukia. So did Toushiro with Hinamori, and Kyoraku with Nanao. Ikkaku, Yumichika, Hisagi, Kira and Rangiku all huddled together. Komamura shielded Soi Fon, Iba and Ukitake with his bulk. Omaeda tried to hide behind a quaking Hanatarou, until Unohana pulled the latter close to her, her other arm around Kotetsu Isane.
The katana exploded high in the sky, the sheer volume of reiatsu slamming down over them.
When the smoke finally cleared, everyone - looking dusty and rather the worse for wear - turned to glare at Zaraki who just glared back at them.
"Is everyone still alive?" asked a familiar, amused voice. "It looks like we came too late; we could see the fireworks the moment we arrived."
Everyone turned to see Shihouin Yoruichi with a sheepish Urahara Kisuke beside her, holding another glowing katana.
"Well?" Yoruichi said, elbowing Urahara in the ribs who coughed.
"Ah yes," Urahara gave an ultra bright smile. "It looked like the katana I gave the Captain Commander earlier turned out to be... eh heh, the unstable prototype. This is the real one."
In the stunned silence, he placed the katana on the ground.
"Uhm, Yoruichi-san and I, and a couple of our friends have already added our reiatsu into it. All you need to do is, well, repeat what you did earlier!"
When everyone stood up, still without speaking, Urahara gave a squeak. He fluttered his fan furiously, cupping his other hand behind an ear.
"Oh, I think I hear Tessai-san calling me, must be dinnertime! Toodle-oo, everyone!" he cried and vanished.
Left alone, Yoruichi sighed and shook her head.
"At least he brought the correct sword this time," she said.
That didn't stop everyone's voices from rising in a wave of complaints, curses and grumbles. Unohana whispered something to Isane who nodded and sent off a Hell butterfly.
"That's enough, everyone," Unohana said. Despite her mild tone, everyone stopped talking, some looking sulky, others resigned.
"What do we do now, Captain Unohana?" Captain Ukitake asked.
"Help is on the way," she replied and gave her usual serene smile.
In less than five minutes, Captain Kurotsuchi appeared with Nemu who was carrying a large box.
"My my, what's this?" asked Mayuri, looking around and shaking his head. "I can barely sense any reiatsu from any of you, save for Shihouin, Zaraki and Kusajishi."
"Now is not the time for that, Captain Kurotsuchi," chided Unohana. "Did you bring what I asked?"
"Of course. Nemu! Stop dawdling and set it up!"
"Yes, Mayuri-sama," Nemu replied and turned the box upside down. Everyone stared at the two dozen or so glass bottles that fell onto the ground with resounding thuds and rolled in all directions. They were filled with different coloured flickering lights; some red, some blue, others yellow or green.
"Unbreakable glass, not to worry," Mayuri said, waving an airy hand. "Otherwise the combined reiatsu would explode and that would be the end of all of you, seeing as how low your levels of reiatsu are."
He paused, looking around at all the startled faces. "What?"
Byakuya's slate grey eyes narrowed.
"Are you saying," he said softly, "that all those bottles contain reiatsu? Our reiatsu?"
"Of course, Captain Obvious," Mayuri said with a disdainful sniff. "That's what Captain Unohana asked for, isn't it?"
As one, everyone turned to her. She gave another serene smile.
"I knew that Captain Kurotsuchi has a collection of all our reiatsu."
A collective roar of 'What?!" drowned out Mayuri's aggrieved, "And now I will have to start collecting them all over again. Pah! What a waste of time."
"When did you get mine?" growled Zaraki. "I sure as hell don't remember donating any to you."
Mayuri rolled his eyes.
"Yours was the easiest to collect," he scoffed. "Nemu didn't even need to get within thirty feet of you, not with you flinging your reiatsu all over the place."
"You mean... you just collected our reiatsu from... from the air?" Yumichika asked in disbelief.
"Tsk, not a hard thing to do with the recent skirmishes happening," Mayuri said. "Especially those involving the Eleventh Division fight loving meatheads."
Ikkaku's eye twitched. He opened his mouth, but Yumichika put a hand on his arm and shook his head. None of them had any energy to spare on pointless arguments at this stage.
They all watched in silence as Nemu took out a pair of clamps attached to a cable, with a sharp point at the other end. She clamped the katana by the hilt before grabbing the nearest glass bottle and sticking the sharp point into the cap. The katana started glowing as the liquid reiatsu from the bottle steadily drained into it. With no change in expression, Nemu freed the empty bottle, tossed it back into the box and reached for the next bottle.
It didn't take more than twenty minutes to empty all the bottles and then she held out the charged katana to Mayuri.
"The reiatsu indicator is full, Mayuri-sama," she said.
Mayuri's gold toothed grin widened, eyes gleaming as he reached for the katana. In a flash, Unohana was there and taking it from Nemu.
"Thank you for your hard work, Captain Kurotsuchi and Vice Captain Kurotsuchi," she said, smiling and ignoring Mayuri's dark scowl. "I'll be sure to tell the Captain Commander of your contributions."
"Hmmph! Come along, Nemu, I can see when we're not wanted." Mayuri stalked off.
"Yes, Mayuri-sama." Nemu bowed to Unohana before picking up the box and following Mayuri.
An awkward pause followed in which everyone avoided each other's eyes and tried not to think about how easily Mayuri had solved the issue. Finally, Rukia cleared her throat.
"Well, I guess the katana is ready for Ichigo now," she said brightly.
"I'll go with you," Renji offered.
"As will I," Byakuya added, not to be outdone.
"I'm in, I smell a fight," Zaraki invited himself.
"Ichigo might need a hand, I'll go too," Ikkaku did the same.
"After you all receive a reiatsu transfusion and clean up a bit," Unohana said, her face daring everyone to object.
No one did, not even Zaraki.
- o -
An hour later, in the Real World, after Rukia stabbed Ichigo from behind with the sword...
"Huh," Kuugo scoffed. "Don't make me laugh. You think making him look like a Shinigami means his powers are back? The first time, the transfer only succeeded because he already had Shinigami powers hidden inside him. But this time he has none whatsoever!"
Kuugo smirked and raised his sword.
"I've stolen every last drop from him. There's no way Kurosaki's powers can recover from zero with your reiatsu alone being poured into him!" he boasted, pointing his sword at Rukia.
"You moron! Rukia ain't alone!" shouted a familiar voice.
Lightning split the sky and an enormous Senkai gate materialised in the air, spanning a hundred feet long. A backdrop of purple light showed five silhouettes that were oh so familiar to Ichigo. Then the gates opened, white smoke pouring to reveal...
"Renji! Byakuya! Toushiro! Kenpachi! Ikkaku!" Ichigo uttered, his eyes wide with shock.
The five of them smirked down at the amazed Ichigo.
"That sword contains reiatsu from all of us!" Renji claimed. "Restoring enough for one little Ichigo should be a breeze!"
He stood tall, his posture every bit as proud as the four powerful Shinigami standing beside him. It was of utmost importance that they presented a strong and confident front to everyone.
No point in letting them know just how much of a 'breeze' it actually had been.
A/N: Thank you for reading! Please leave a review if you enjoyed :)