Author's Note: Ok, how long has it been since I last updated?! -whacks myself-

I changed a bit of their past in the academy. Initially, it was just supposed to be Hitsugaya and Hinamori who saw the girls in the library, and the reason why they disappeared was mainly because they ran out of the school campus when they weren't supposed to. But as you can see, I've made some changes due to the movie. For the second half of that (the running away part), it'll only be revealed in the sequel.

Disclaimer: Read previous chapter.

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Chapter 23 – Purge the Enemies with the Blades of Darkness

When they forced the doors opened, they thought that they had gone through a portal leading to the North Pole.

Iciness sunk deep into their bones, numbing them to a frozen position. Snow and ice were hurled in their direction, guided by the strong gusts of the blizzard winds. There was no way they could block their faces from getting covered with frost when their arms were practically stuck to their sides, unmoving, due to the immense reiatsu building up in the room. The plain of ice beneath their feet both soothed and annoyed them greatly. The coldness was something which they would describe as 'thrilling to experience', but now wasn't the good time to be enjoying the exposure to such wintry reiatsu that wasn't even near the benchmark of full release. What the hell.

Fists clenched by her sides, Kage closed her eyes and concentrated. Releasing a portion of her reiatsu, she shifted about in her position until she managed to gain full control over her movements and grabbed her sisters' wrists, bringing them out of the way of the Fuyu no Yuki attack launched by the robotic Koori just in the nick of time, otherwise they'd be suffocating under the thick snow by then. Aizen was smiling that I-am-the-almighty-Aizen sadistic smile, watching the 'interesting' fight unfold as it just got more and more interesting while more people got themselves involved.

Kage muttered a curse under her breath as she mustered up a bit of her reiryoku and formed a misty shield around her and her sisters before landing gracefully by a panting Hitsugaya's side, sharing the protective powers of her shadowy shield with him and blocking off all incoming attacks by the dull blade of Fuyu no Hana. With a relieved sigh, she let go of her sisters' hands and fell on her butt. With a raised eyebrow, she stared at the frozen arm of Hitsugaya's.

"…Is that a frozen Tou-chan I see?"

With a glare, said ex-captain of the 10th Division twitched.

"To be more precise in your statement, Kage," Merenaito spoke. "it's his hand that's frozen solid right now."

Meian grinned childishly. "Mm…yeah…Imagine the irony behind that."

He might have lost his captaincy, but he sure didn't lose his pride. And he wasn't going to ever let his pride get destroyed by three little devils of the opposite gender. Oh hell, no way. "…Would you three please…" A vein popped. "…stop dwelling in my embarrassment and tell me exactly what the hell are you all doing here?!"

<ブリーチ>

"…Ne…"

"…"

"…Ne…!"

"…"

Giving out a frustrated sigh, the two-ponytailed Meian pouted a little before she leaned over and moved closer to Kage's ear. "Ne, Kage-chan!"

With a popping vein, the short-haired Kage turned to face her, sending her a death glare. "What?" she demanded, voice low and waning. "Can't you see I'm reading here?"

Meian rolled her eyes. "Duh. That's why I called your spirit back from the land of books," she answered sarcastically. "I'm so bored…Why are we here in the first place?"

"Because your sister wants to have a bonding session with the books," Kage motioned to her left, pointing a thumb across her shoulder to a corner where a totally concentrated Merenaito was reading the book she had picked with gusto.

"Hey, isn't she your sister too?"

Pause.

"Yeah. Your point?"

The most bored out of the Kurayamis only sighed and rolled her eyes again. "Never mind. Anyway, what are you reading?"

Kage blinked at how quick the subjects had been changed, but later paid no mind to it and glued her eyes back to the kanji of the book. "Something about zanpakutous and zanjutsu."

Her younger sister stared at her like as if she had grown an extra limb. "Kage. You hate zanjutsu."

"So do you," came the calm reply.

"But I'm not the one reading an entire book about it."

With a bored sigh, Kage spoke, trying to be as calm as she could, "Meian, I may be the only one in the entire class who is desperately trying to ask kidou out for a date…"

Giggle

Twitch

Smack

"…but that doesn't mean that I can't be an unfaithful boyfriend slash girlfriend," she continued, flipping to the next page. "And besides, it's about time we venture into the world of the other shinigami skills. We have to be well-versed in all four aspects if we want to be captains."

"Wait, who said anything about being captains? I definitely don't wanna be one! I'd be stuck with the paperwork all day!" Meian complained, folding her arms. "I thought we agreed that we won't ever have the desire to become captains!"

The diamond-eyed Kurayami gave her younger sister a little glance before her dazzling eyes rolled in all directions warily. The chair's legs dragged along the ground, breaking whatever daze Merenaito was in, and Kage went towards the door, closing and locking it to make things safer than they already were. Wary eyes darted across the room once more before Kage moved back towards her seat and settled down, giving Meian a hard, dark stare. The youngest of the three sisters blinked confusedly, unsure of what was going on with her elder sisters who seemed to have darkened stares for no apparent reason. Casting Merenaito a baffled glance, the oldest sighed.

"Meian, you probably weren't aware, but…" Merenaito looked around, voice turning into an abrupt whisper towards the end. "…Yamamoto-soutaichou paid a visit."

Opal orbs rolled. "Yeah. So?"

"He paid a visit. To look for us," Merenaito added carefully, voice getting softer and softer with every word.

"Huh? That sounds pretty lame, even for him…well, whatever for? We're not worth his time anyway."

Kage would've had slapped herself in the forehead at the comment but restrained herself and remained as calm as she could. Closing the book in her hands delicately, she rested her head against her arms on the table, giving a small yawn. "That's the problem, Meian." With another yawn, Kage continued, "He looked for us, because he wanted to do something."

Yawns seemed to be very contagious…

Meian wiped the tears from her eyes and sat down next to Kage, following her actions. "Do…? Do what…?"

Merenaito closed her awfully cool and calm golden orbs, resting her head against the shelf of books positioned behind her and closed the book in her hands, bringing it closer to her chest as if it were her precious treasure. "He wanted us…" she whispered, her sleepy mind dragging her in and out of consciousness. "He wanted us…to be captains…"

And then, they completely blacked out.

<ブリーチ>

Black energy crackled as the shield dissipated into waves of energy, the whiteness rushing towards the exposed foursome like an avalanche moving downhill towards a bunch of snow mountain hikers. With a sharp gasp that she could not contain, Meian grabbed the collars of the shinigami around her and dashed out of the way with shunpo. Moving into a corner, Kage pressed her palms against the frozen floor and formed a shield that was larger and duller than the one before it.

It might've had been an illusion, and yet it might not had been, but it seemed dangerously eerie to Kage how every attack from Fuyu no Hana's blade seemed to be getting more and more powerful…

Taking in a sharp intake of oxygen, she heaved a long sigh and slumped against the wall, bringing her legs towards her chest and burying her face into her knees, brows furrowing in concentration. Hitsugaya arched a silvery white eyebrow but it was gone as soon as it came before he stole a glance at the deranged Koori, and tossed Aizen a death glare. "I am going to kill Aizen for all that he's done…" he snarled under his breath as he tried to get the ice around his hand to defrost.

"Don't be rash, Toushirou-san," Merenaito commented quietly, keeping Kage's shield together by adding her own reiryoku into it.

"I'm not being rash, Merenaito," he retorted coldly, yet with a tinge of childishness to it as well. "But when this disappears again, I'll go over and separate Koori from the Hougyoku first. That's my objective of the moment…"

Kage's head snapped up, glaring at him with blazing diamond eyes which had begun glowing brightly. She narrowed her eyes and groaned a little. "To hell with that!" she yelled, but refusing to get up from her sitting position to give Hitsugaya a smack on the head for being a so-called genius. "Tou-chan, Hougyoku has completely taken over Koori-kun's mind! It'd be useless to try anything to snap him out of it!"

Before he could ask questions which he had a burning desire to ask, Merenaito cut in, "And to carefully add on to that, if you ever wake Koori up before he does on his own, he'll never bring himself to give you his forgiveness."

Hitsugaya arched another eyebrow. "Why?" he asked, tone of voice trying to sound as calm as possible. "He had no intention of following the teme Aizen, but he has to because of the Hougyoku. Don't I have to separate the two so that he'll be able to fight Aizen?"

Meian shook her head. "No. What we mean is…since the Hougyoku was created from the core of Koori-kun's memories…"

"…the merging of the two separate entities is a complete fusion of the mind…" Kage continued, trailing off for Merenaito to continue.

"…and thus, separation is impossible, unless you want to break Koori into half."

"There's a catch to it, though," Kage added with austerity in her voice. "The Hougyoku was created as Koori's memories bear most of his spiritual powers; they're so powerful that they can destroy the bridge connecting one's shinigami soul to its inner hidden hollow soul and merge the two separate but equal halves of the soul together, forming either arrancars or vaizards."

"With this power, merged back together with its original body and konpaku, Aizen thinks Koori can be the very weapon that will destroy all of Soul Society…" Meian trailed off.

"…but this is, however, not the case," Merenaito ended. "If Koori manages to acquire complete lack of concentration and willpower, the fusion between he and the Hougyoku will be harmonious and perfect." Before Hitsugaya could add in any comments, she continued, "And when that happens, he will finally regain all of his memories in his past life…and will no longer need to be haunted by lack of reiryoku and the nightmares that plague him at night, pestering him…engulfing him…voices…everywhere…telling him to search for his memories…"

Hitsugaya's eyes widened slightly but he hid his shock. He spoke, hiding the worry in his voice, "How do you know all of this anyway?"

"Sometimes, Toushirou…" the long-haired sister glanced away, eyes gluing themselves to the icy floor. "…empathy can be a very complicated ability."

With a reaction quicker than anyone else's, Kage jumped in front of Hitsugaya and her sisters, resorting to kicking the white-haired boy genius away before unsheathing her zanpakutou, the sheathe and sword band around her waist dissolving into black spirit particles that merged together with the blade of the sealed dagger, extending the length to a regular length of the standard katana blade. In awe of the unnamed release, Hitsugaya remained silent. Merenaito and Meian nodded to each other, staying in their positions behind Kage.

Diamond eyes glanced around warily, the katana trembling slightly in her grasp. A sharp gasp escaped her lips as she brought her zanpakutou up as a shield, shutting her eyes tight in the process.

"…Bloody…shit."

Snow had begun to engulf her.

<ブリーチ>

The heavens above were dyed a deep ocean blue, and the surrounding air was cool and refreshing. Glossy black strands of hair flew around wildly yet smoothly, the contradicting actions of the flowing hair giving her the impression of being underwater. As she felt the currents around her getting faster and more out of control, her blurred vision made one thing clear: if she were truly in an underwater cavern of some sort, she had been in the worst of luck to enter one which was infested with underwater volcanoes.

No…wait…

She wasn't underwater…

If she had been truly been underwater, then why in the name of hell were there shooting stars in the sky?

'Where…am I…?'

"You're in our world, of course."

With the voice coming from all directions, Merenaito couldn't tell exactly where the calm and serene tone was coming from. She had never heard such a soft, lonely voice speaking like as if she was right behind her and whispering the words in her ear, and Merenaito could feel with a tingle what the other was feeling: emptiness.

Sorrow, loneliness, and all of the negative emotions crumpled together.

The unbearable pounding to her head distracted her from her thoughts as she pressed her palms against her temples, trying to bring the headache under control. With eyes shut tight and the unfamiliarity of the air pressure overwhelming her, she couldn't deduce what was really happening to her. When the pain finally went away, she opened her eyes with a surge of courage and sucked in a gasp.

She was no longer in the world of hills and landforms. Instead, she was in a world of blueness all around her where the air was fresh and pure. Closing her eyes once more, she took in a deep intake of the clean air and gave a peaceful sigh. She had never felt so…so contented before. It was like as if you had an elephant placed on your shoulders, and someone so kind and daring had helped you chase it back to the zoo. It was both refreshing and satisfying for her soul as she allowed herself to smile and open her eyes, her wish for the scene before her to never ever change coming true.

A twinkle of light attracted her as she literally flew towards the source of the light, completely forgetting about the voice that had spoken to her earlier. Reaching out, she tapped the orb glowing with light, only to find her palm burnt beyond any form of healing. With a soft hiss, she withdrew her hand and brought it close to her heart, hiding the tears that were beginning to form in her eyes.

"That's what happens when you touch something you're not familiar with," the voice spoke once more, except this time, there weren't any more migraines coming about. "You could've amputated your own hand by touching that star. Please be more careful the next time you come here, Merenaito."

The shoulder-length haired girl spun, having heard the voice call her name right behind her, but found nobody there. For a split second, she could've sworn…no, she was sure; there was definitely someone behind her and talking to her. She felt the other party's breath coming upon her neck. She was sure…but who could it be?!

"Who are you?"

It took a while before the voice spoke again, "You, who have yet to hear my name, are already curious about my existence. Your curiosity, which should have been curling within you before our encounter, will be satisfied soon enough."

"Who are you?" Merenaito asked, repeating her question. "And where are Kage and Meian?"

"Do not worry. They are safe in the hands of my sisters, and they shall come down to join you in a short moment," the soft, lonely voice assured, taking a pause as if to bow if Merenaito could actually see her. "I am pleased to meet you, Merenaito. And I know you are too. Now, if only you can see me…that would be what we both call bliss…the bliss that will finally fill the gauge of sorrow and emptiness…"

Merenaito's heart softened as she rubbed her burnt hand and sat down on her knees. "Then now I ask of you to show yourself to me. I wish to know you; I wish to see you; I wish to help you fill your heart and rid of its sadness." With a moment's hesitation, she added, "Please let me…whoever you are."

"…Then help, you shall…Merenaito."

The distant cries of two distinctive voices caused Merenaito to turn around. The diamond-eyed sister and the opal-orbed child appeared right next to her, blinking as if confused as to whatever mix of events that had happened to them earlier on. Merenaito could only guess that her situation could've had been similar to theirs.

"Meru?" Kage and Meian chimed, rubbing the back of their necks.

"You heard it too, I suppose?" Merenaito asked, only to receive a slight nod from each of her sisters. "She sounds very…lonely, doesn't she?"

"Lonely?" Kage scoffed, raising an eyebrow. "Are you kidding, Kana? Whoever spoke to me nearly killed me! I thought I was never going to ever see the light of day ever again…" she briefly explained with a slight shudder.

"Well, for me, she sounded like me!" Meian exclaimed gleefully, jumping up and down. "Whenever I'm happy, she'll sound happy! And whenever I'm sad, like when I started thinking about you guys, she sounded sad too."

"…I think we're talking about three different people here, Kage," Merenaito stated emotionlessly, rubbing her hand continuously. "Who do you suppose they are?"

"…We are…" three different voices chimed as light began to engulf the room before dimming and revealing three different worlds at the same time. "…We are…you…"

The Kurayami kyoudai searched high and low for the sources of the three voices that spoke as if in a choir, but found no one. In an eerie coincidence, each of them had been separated to a different part of a different world. Wherever Merenaito was, it appeared to be a garden with blades of grass so green and fresh that felt smooth and wonderful to the touch, and a large pond in the middle of the garden, with the skies above blackened and not even a hint of a star there. The diamond-eyed middle child couldn't make out where she was; it was far too dark for her to see. She could barely even see the outline of her own fingers. Meian's was a mix of childishness and maturity; bright blue skies with a literally smiling sun that wore a pair of shades and a gorgeous rainbow hung in the skies, but below at the earth, it was dead and lifeless where not even a single blade of grass could be grown.

"I am but a lonely lunar gone unnoticed by the human eye…"

"Who…?" Merenaito turned around, hoping to find someone there, but found no one.

"I am but a reflection of the shadowy truth that no one else can see…"

"Where…?" Kage blinked, willing for her world to be lit so that she could find the missing piece of her life that was speaking to her in her mind.

"I am but a life form having the need to disperse the sorrow within me…"

"Oh, but how…?" Meian, out of sympathy, tried to offer help to whoever had been speaking to her, only to find the barren land full of death and nothing else.

"Can you help me achieve what I strive to achieve? Can you help me show myself that I am weak alone but strong when with you? Can you prove yourself worthy of knowing my name? If so, work together and become one in body, soul and mind, and speak of the name that has been flowing through along with your blood in your veins ever since you were born, and we shall purge forward…together. Together…always."

"…Always…" they repeated in a robotic tone.

As if mesmerized by the choir that sung the song they had been deaf to but longing to hear, the Kurayamis closed their eyes and played around with their fingers before placing their palms to certain parts of their bodies. Pressing her palms on her temples, Merenaito sighed as she felt the emptiness fill her soul. Placing her palms against each other as if a freeze frame of a mid-clap, Kage tried hard not to make a sound as she felt power flowing through her veins. Over the area where her heart laid, Meian let a tear slide down her rosy cheek and wished for the dead lands to bloom with life again.

When they opened their eyes, they finally found the missing pieces of the puzzle that they had been fumbling and troubling themselves for.

With a smile that dawned upon each of their lips, tears had begun streaming down their cheeks.

<ブリーチ>

"No, Toushirou! Stay away, and let me and Kana handle this! Toushirou!!" Said icy white-haired prodigy, however, refused to listen to whatever reason Meian had to keep him away from the pile of snow that Kage had been buried under. Teal eyes narrowed slightly at the sight, mind bringing back the quick memories of Kage protecting them from the snow attack while her sisters dragged him away just before the snow could reach them.

It had been all too quick for him to register, but it was still noticeable nonetheless. The avalanche had been a surprise for them, but it was Kage who discovered it first and she had acted quickly. Why hadn't he noticed it? Why hadn't he noticed the odd change in the reiatsu level in the room just as Kage unsheathed her zanpakutou? If he had noticed it first, then he wouldn't have had the need to bother the people around him…

He still strongly insisted on helping Kage, but Merenaito and Meian wouldn't let him. "Look, your main priority is to get Ichigo and Orihime, as well as yourself, out of here safely. We'll be able to hold Aizen and Koori off for you for a while, but if Ichimaru or Tousen or anyone else tries to stop you, do whatever you can to kick their sorry butts," Meian explained as-a-matter-of-factly.

"But, Kage…"

Sensing his concern, Merenaito decided to interrupt him. "Don't worry about her, Toushirou. We know Kage more than anyone else does." Taking a pause, she eyed the shifty pile of snow, and continued thereafter, "I can feel your worries about our welfare, but you shouldn't waste your thoughts about us. We're not exactly…worth being cared about." He had blinked; she knew, even though she had turned away, her back facing him. "…Just leave, Toushirou. And don't come back."

Darting his eyes back and forth from the sisters to the enemies, Hitsugaya held back a sigh and shunpo-ed out of the room reluctantly. Muttering 'let's go, Kurosaki' incoherently, the white-haired genius led the two orange-haired humans behind him towards the direction of the exit. He had turned around countless of times, and Ichigo thought he was making sure that there weren't any enemies following them even though it was his and Orihime's job to make sure.

Frankly speaking, Hitsugaya didn't know what to do from here onwards. Should they face anymore battles, they would make it out alive and the big-busted healer would instantly rid them of any injuries, but the problem was getting out of Hueco Mundo. No one in his current team had the ability to open up a garganta, and they had no means of any communication whatsoever to notify Urahara and get him to open the path back to the real world. There was no way of getting out of this place if a garganta couldn't be opened…

What was there to do?

"Ara, it's you, juuban taichou-han." Knowing that voice all too well, Hitsugaya stopped in his tracks and the other two followed suit. Standing in their paths were the faithful men of Aizen, donning their new choice of fashion. With a scowl, Hitsugaya glared at them, hand slowly traveling up to grab Hyourinmaru's hilt. In the next couple of seconds, the sharp clang of two blades could be heard, and dust and smoke began to gather. As they cleared, Ichigo and Orihime landed their sights upon the scene before them and gaped.

The white-haired ex-captain stood before them as he did just now, but they could see his shoulders moving up and down continuously, and heard his intakes of breath and pants. Blood was dripping onto the floor; blood that wasn't there before. And there, the extended blade of Ichimaru's zanpakutou, making a firm, steady position as its tip met Hyourinmaru's blade. The wielder of the icy sword had brought it up as a shield, protecting himself as well as the humans behind him with it, but he had not been fast enough; the blade had still managed to make a fine cut along his chest. If Hitsugaya had been any later, Ichigo reckoned, Shinsou might've had been able to pierce him right in the heart. He wouldn't have had survived, if that were to be the case.

"…Ichimaru…Gin."

The silver-haired traitor grinned. "Why, 'ello there again, Hitsugaya-han."

<ブリーチ>

"…Oi."

Nudge.

"…Oi. Wake up."

"…"

The white-haired figure sighed, rubbing the back of his neck in frustration. He craned his neck to the right, glancing at another figure standing behind him with knitted brows. His friend merely shrugged and casted him a baffled look. Hitsugaya Toushirou sighed once more, moving to the sleeping girl's side and bending down to reach her height position (finally, he's the one bending, not the other way round). He really didn't want to do this…

"Oi! Merenaito! Wake up!"

Heavy eyelids fluttered open, revealing the panic-stricken golden orbs. Said owner of glowing eyes turned to face the one who had just shouted in her ear before sending him something that was similar to a glare. "…Toushirou. What do you want?"

"Well, for one thing, you were sleeping in the library," the white-haired child retorted, scoffing a little. "Kusaka and I need to find some reading materials but you're blocking the shelf where the books we need are located…"

Merenaito arched an eyebrow, but it disappeared as soon as it came. The action gone unnoticed by the white-haired other, the black-haired girl gave a sigh and stood up from her sitting position before making her way over to her sisters who were still sound asleep. Hitsugaya and Kusaka shrugged as they bent down and grabbed the books that they needed.

"Hey, Kage, Meian, wake up. We have to get back to-huh?" Merenaito paused, taking in the sight before her. Kage and Meian, check. Sound asleep, check. Hair is of normal colour, check. Uniform, check. But something on the check list was extra, and it could be counted as redundant, even…

"…Toushirou, Soujirou," she muttered, gaining attention from the two named. White and purple turned, with emerald and sapphire orbs staring at the back figure of the black-haired girl, awaiting her response. "Both of you are the top students in this school, aren't you." That wasn't a question at all, but they both nodded anyway. To their surprise, Merenaito knew that they had answered even though her eyes were not on them, "I have my suspicions about something, but it wouldn't hurt if you two could help me confirm them."

"Is something the matter, Merenaito?" Kusaka asked concernedly, getting up from his previous position. Hitsugaya followed suit soon after.

"…Come here."

That was what they did.

And when they landed their eyes upon the sight before them, shock had completely overwhelmed them.

<ブリーチ>

'…Are you ready?'

It had taken a brief pause, but the answer came nonetheless. '…Yes.'

The soothing voice, which would remind one of the serene waves of the ocean, echoed, 'To fight alone is no easy feat for you; to fight together as one will prove to be more than just a challenge as well.'

'It will be…difficult, Meian,' an emotional tone continued, speaking every single word slowly as if having difficulty with her choice of words. 'Are you…sure?'

'Of course I am!' the sunny voice brightened, the owner smiling inwardly. 'Don't worry. You've been with me – us – for as long as we can remember. We can always count on you, and you can always count on us.'

'But…' Sniff. 'But…you will be…hurt. I don't…want you to be…hurt.'

'At ease, Tane,' a slightly sympathetic voice comforted. The sniffing seemed to have died down, but the presence of tears was clear and evident. The same voice sighed as if in defeat, but soon overlooked the matter and spoke, 'I agree with Tsuki, Mezura. You have not trained your zanjutsu recently; even Merenaito's skills are not up to standard. To ask of you to fight together…it is too much as of now.'

'I don't care about that,' Kage replied solemnly. 'All I know is that if we don't release you all at the same time, we will never be able to defeat Aizen.'

'Our full potential is brought out when we work together, as one mind. You, of everyone else, should know that very fact, at least,' continued Merenaito, narrowing her eyes slightly. 'We don't have much time.'

The three spirits of the blades casted each other dry yet concerned glances before they sighed simultaneously, eyes boring into their wielders' own.

'Very well,' they chimed.

In a blur of glowing gold, silver and sapphire orbs, the three respective owners of said eyes dashed away from Yuki no Houou's attack before it came crumbling where they used to stand. The ice zombie held the hilt of his zanpakutou with both of his hands before swinging the blade swiftly, bringing about another phoenix manifestation of snow and ice that came towards the three sisters. Sensing the icily unbearable reiatsu plunging towards them, they split up and went in three different directions without the need of having had a word to be spoken. Meian dashed towards the huge pile of snow, distracting Koori so that her sisters would have the chance to plan their attack.

Merenaito and Kage met in their paths, stretching out their arms and curling their fingers around each other's. They turned to face the speedy Meian, giving a nod of their heads as if in approval of something they had sorted out. Their sister smiled and instantly shunpo-ed away from the phoenix just in the nick of time, joining up with her elder siblings and grabbed Kage's free hand. That was when Aizen had noticed the uncontrollably high reiatsu that suddenly showed up in the room like a surprise bomb attack from a terrorist. He smiled, obviously amused and interested to know more about the reiatsu's origins.

To their expectations, Koori had unleashed an attack of Yuki no Kirimomijoutai. The particles of snow and ice struck them like bullets but they paid no mind to the numbing pain, resuming their run together. As they reached half a round surrounding the white-haired child, they leapt into the cold, mist and released their hold on each other's hands, stretching their arms out instead. The reiryoku gathered at their palms, forming a big ball of blue energy. Koori immediately changed the direction at which his attacks were aiming at, but the combined reiryoku simply nullified Fuyu no Hana's technique. Words of the incantation ran at their mouths before the yelling of the hadou's name as the kidou spell struck its target.

Stepping out of the smoke was a slightly battered Koori, eyes still blank and lifeless, with the raven-haired Kurayamis shunpo-ing out of the mess together hand-in-hand. The atmosphere had gotten much thicker to the point whereby even Aizen himself found quite challenging to bear. The cycle of the heightening and dropping level of the reiatsu in the room was continuous and starting to take its toll on everyone who was present at the moment. He had already figured out, however, that the key to the fluctuation in reiatsu was the holding of hands amongst the triplets. The reason behind that was currently beyond his level of explanation, but he knew, somehow, that he will definitely unravel why…

Without saying a word, the close sisters nodded once more as the allowed their dominant hands to travel to the hilts of their zanpakutous. The action had gone noticed by Aizen's eye, but unnoticed by Koori as he had his back turned against them. The brown-haired sadist said nothing, letting the scene before him unfold by itself without any interruption. The white-haired celestial guardian, however, recovered quickly and had sent his targets an attack of Fuyu no Yuki. As the reiatsu died down drastically, the triplets broke apart from each other once more, making another narrow escape. Voices began to reverberate in their minds, and they had merely nodded back mentally.

"…It is time."

Although they had been at a distance from one another, Kage and Meian could hear Merenaito's command perfectly. With their approval by nodding their heads once, the raven-haired kyoudai leapt into the mists once more, forming the three points of a triangle. Their grips on their zanpakutous tightened as they stayed balanced in the air, keeping themselves there by using the spirit particles present. Dramatically, they slid the blades out of their sheathes as if they were playing the human's game of sticks, and just as the tip of the blades were about to leave the sheathes, their simultaneous fight had begun.

"Yuuhei suru, Utsuse, Waratte ite!"

The blades slowly turned midnight, glossy black like black ink filling up a gauge. The reiatsu had been so drastic and powerful that it nearly blew Koori off his feet; the strong winds that occurred to the imbalance in the pressure had been the cause of that. And as the blades became totally unsheathed, the names of their zanpakutous left their lips quickly.

"Kuratsuki! Kurokage! Kanatane!"

Merenaito's zanpakutou slowly took on the form of the released blade earlier, but the prongs had been much more evident, and the blade seemed to have extended in length with energy curling about it, showing the growth in power. Kage's, on the other hand, had absorbed the spirit particles which her sheath and sword band were made of, lengthening the blade to a regular katana size. An ominous aura surrounded the two known shadows, darkening the area on which she had been standing upon. Meian had completely ripped the back of her haori as she brought out her zanpakutou, leaving only the sleeves behind. They were insignificant as of now, she figured, and used the strengthened blade of her released zanpakutou to rip the rest of the haori apart. It had resembled Kurokage to some extent, however, but it still had its differences. The guard was one of them; the length was another.

With narrowed eyes, they ran their fingers down their released blades tenderly before curling their fingers around the cool blackened steel which began to draw blood from their palms. The choking reiatsu could've had sent any ordinary shinigami tumbling to his knees or falling limp or even dead. Unfortunately, neither of them was ordinary. A black ball of reiryoku distracted Koori for two fine lines to appear on his chest as he turned to look, and it was definitely a big mistake to look.

Midnight smoke escaped Kurokage's blade, while drops of fresh warm blood dripped onto the icy grounds from the tips of Kuratsuki's and Kanatane's blades. The wielders of the latter stared at their blood-stained blades intently before tilting to face the ice zombie. "You should be more careful, Koori," they chimed emotionlessly. "You know, we could've had pierced right through your lungs if not for the shred of humanity left within us."

From above, Kage merely smirked.

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Yuki no Houou – Snow of the Phoenix. Basically, it's just like Hyourinmaru's shikai, except that it's snow and takes on the shape of a phoenix. Koori can create as many as he wants.

Yuuhei suru – The release command of Kuratsuki. It means 'imprison'.

Utsuse – The release command of Kurokage. It means 'reflect'.

Waratte ite – The release command of Kanatane. It means 'please smile'.

Kuratsuki – Dark Moon; Merenaito's zanpakutou.

Kurokage – Black Shadow; Kage's zanpakutou.

Kanatane – Sad Seed; Meian's zanpakutou.

A/N: The real hiatus starts now, I'm afraid. -scratches head sheepishly-

What do you think of this chapter this time round? I rushed it through to keep it posted in time but it ended up late anyway…

Oh, and to add on to my treat of evil, there are no previews this time round. But! I will reveal something very juicy that will happen in the next chapter and the concluding chapter. I hope that's good enough because I don't wanna be too evil.

In the next chapter, you can expect the following to happen: Aizen invading Soul Society with Koori on a rampage and destroying nearly everything, but don't worry, there's a surprise at the end.

In the concluding chapter, you can expect the following to happen: the truth behind Koori's existence, his past, Hitsugaya's future, and of course…

The bankai of Fuyu no Hana.