Author's note: Well. To all those that read this, that are fans of it, I present the long-awaited, much anticipated climax to this story, Vulnerable Europa. However, I feel I need to, given that it has indeed been so long, offer an explanation to you. I never intended on discontinuing this story, and I won't, but I wanted the climax to be done right. So, this is my best attempt. Let me just say that when you're splitting time between college and your original fiction, some things tend to get put aside. Perhaps for a bit too long. I am sorry it has taken so long, as I have made that critical mistake once before. I hope I have not done it again.

I do need to give a thank you to two very talented authors that serendipitously motivated me to get my act together and write because I enjoy it. To Yemi Hikari and Evilhumour Author, both fantastic authors in their own rights and to whom I am a fan of their works. I thank you both.

Disclaimer: Ownership of BLEACH resources and Characters goes unwaveringly to Tite Kubo. The organization Canopus, and its members, belong to me.

I thank all that take the time to read my work. Reviews are appreciated. Don't worry. I have some fluff in this.

Chapter 17: Grinning Cheshire Cat

August 18th

The dragon roared, crossing its horn with the unicorn's as they bellowed their respective warcry. With his heart fuelled by a twinge of worry, a pinch of desperation, and gallons of unadulterated hatred, Toshiro Hitsugaya pushed his weapon forward, intending brute strength to solve the matter quickly.

He could not see the albino's eyes, but he felt the pressure lessen slightly. Then he thrust forward.

His blade crashed into the ground, freezing it almost instantly.

The next sensation he felt was a slice to his back, a mocking nip. Blood dripped and crystallized on the ground.

"How boring. Lets pick up the tempo."

Toshiro felt the blade twirl towards him; in this regard, he was fast enough, rolling under the blade. The cold, analytical mind that made him the prodigal captain already took into account the revelations left in his style. In the past, Bloodswerth had always fought with two blades-those were easily discarded. However, he was only using a single blade, and so the danger he typically displayed was cut completely in half.

The Seven-Sealed Devil, perhaps in the madness of his hedonism, swung too far. Toshiro saw counter-attack opportunity before him, jumping in to slice and end the battle.

"Not so soon."

Like a ballerina he kept spinning with the momentum. Toshiro saw a window open to attack his spine, before he felt a hard shoe slap him in the head, dropping him to the ground.

Toshiro rolled as best as he could. He could not detect the reiastsu of this man, and so needed to hear his movements and see his dances to be assured of safety.

His eyes widened as he witnessed his boot hurtle towards his nose.

Toshiro rolled, allowing the full force of his foot to slam on the ground. He saw him stumble slightly, not compensating for a miss. Hyourinmaru reared up suddenly, lashing at his leg.

The blade of Bloodswerth quickly intercepted the mammoth Hyourinmaru, holding it at a perpendicular angle.

"Ah. You Soul Reaper capitans know nada about technique. How a much weaker hombre, who by all accounts should falter and be eradicated by your supreme might…can so effortlessly and consistently deflect your fatal blows. Perhaps against one such as Kyoraku or Yamato, I would fall. But I can exploit the brute force of Zaraki and Komamura. I can penetrate the strategms of Tousen, Fon, and Ichimaru. And you…you lack either strength or will. So what made you great? Personal will? Desire? The ability to crack mountains before your determination? If so, I shall break you like a cabarallo."

Toshiro shoved the newer blade of the Seven-Sealed Devil aside, regaining his posture, allowing himself a bit of breathing room.

"Are you going to hit me, dragon pequeno?"

"I'm going to shut you up."

"Whenever you're ready."

And, perhaps in the greatest display of arrogance, the Seven-Sealed Devil removed his hat, and bowed, as if baiting him to strike.

Toshiro took it. A single shun-po brought him within striking ranging, allowing the cold aura of his blade to freeze the very ground below him. His head was still lowered, revealing his kempt crop of ebon hair, as if begging in humility for decapitation. The boy captain swung his blade downward, intending to take shoulder and neck whole.

And again the blade cracked through the icy concrete.

And again, as the blade was buried in the shattered rock, he received a punter's kick to his ear.

Before he could regain his footing, the Devil remained on top of him, kicking him in the ribs. Then kicking him again. And again. And again.

And then he felt the blade penetrate the ground in front of his face. Cold eyes widened in surprise, as a face, solid white and masked eyes, looked at him.

"The world of humanity does not need Soul Reapers. Rather, it seems you Soul Reapers need us. I am proof of that right now. So what, Toshiro, if you've killed me before? I only need to kill you once."

Toshiro reached for his sword, but the seals of the Devil seemed to trump even that. Before he could reach for his blade, the purplish sword of Bloodswerth speedily impaled his hand, stopping any sort of deception.

"Where's your spirit? Are you simply going to writhe on your belly like the snake in the garden of Eden, where I must cut your head off? Or will you bite an angel? Course your venom through my pale veins? If you do nothing…"

Toshiro didn't say anything. Blood was freely slipping from the wound on his hand. With a jarring, painful pull, Bloodswerth pulled the blade out.

"Stand. Get your sword."

Toshiro did. He looked as the tuxedoed dandy stared with apathy, awaiting him to pick up his blade. He could feel his hand shriek in protest as he gripped the handle.

The dandy did not smile. Perhaps for the first time frustration was entering his otherwise stoic visage.

"I see you are worthless. Pitiful. A tin god amongst charlatans and asuras. You are still imprisoned within the mind of a feeble-bodied child. You are fed as breakfast, lunch, and dinner the gospel according to the Soul Reapers. You follow their pretty orations as if they were the auguries of a benevolent God, meant to bask in your unconditional love and unrealistic gratitude. Angels form from the hardened words of your fat, headless, bureaucrats, stuffing themselves into your own mouths, while you failed over and over to see the opaque stings jutting out of your knees and elbows. You think you are kindly guardians to humanity. In reality, you are merely saving your own hides. All it takes is one, to demonstrate resistance. What then, dragon pequeno? What do you think happens then?"

"I've killed you before-"

"You idiot. Have I pierced your memory as well as your body? I was killed three times, but it wasn't because of you. The first time, I gave you the necessary power. The second time, your lieutenant pierced me in the heart. The third time, I was impaled by an over-developed female and a feminine man. You did not strike the killing blow twice, and even when you did…it was circumstantial. I put the revolver on your hands and made it easy."

Toshiro readied his stance. He looked over the shoulder of the dandy, overlooking the three-armed contraption holding the Kurosaki's in thrall, as if they were sacrifices.

"You want to erase me? Come forward."

Toshiro did. He analyzed the man in his jabbering. Something was trying to penetrate the pattern. What it was, he wasn't sure.

His hefty zan-pakuto soared at Bloodswerth's head, attempting more so to crush it than to slice it off. Easily, Bloodswerth swayed, bringing his own blade to parry and twirl it to the ground.

Toshiro anticipated successfully. His small hand reared up, with a spell of his own.

Briefly the swagger behind the otherwise emotionless man faded into concern within his pupils. But he was moving to quickly with his own parry to evade the kido spell. A blast of fire surged from Toshiro's hand, eating at the tuxedo of the Seven-Sealed Devil.

The reaction was far too quick for a man feasting on confidence. As soon as the fire leap on him, his foot slammed into Hitsugaya's mouth, kicking him away. Then, with a speed similarly acquired from their past duels, he cut his jacket off, allowing the flames to sterilize on the concrete before fading to ash.

"Fire and ice? Excellent show. I'll have to be quicker then."

Toshiro saw his fault and immediately readied another spell. Bloodswerth was upon him instantly, however. Like some demonic ballerina, he spun on his heel, introducing foot to cherub chin, and blade to haori. The 10th captain staggered, his equilibrium upset, before he registered a minute hop, and a second feast of dapper shoes to his teeth.

Hyourinmaru struggled to get up, only to have Gallant Unicorn's thin frame cross it to the ground. Toshiro's other arm was restrained by Bloodswerth's off hand, holding the spell-cast in check.

Then Toshiro felt the gentleman descend into a brawler, as the dandy slammed his head into the captain's skull.

Obviously, neither expected the recoil. Bloodswerth stumbled backwards, his brain apparently more suited for weaving pretty sermons. Toshiro did not fair any better, as no matter the cushioning effect of his reiatsu, he still had the body of a child.

Still, Toshiro was not a living being either. He recovered first, and took the fight back to his opponent. Hyourinmaru twirled over his head, intending to smash the dandy into oblivion.

His eyes widened in shock as the blade flew unheeded through the air, not striking skull or skin. Instead, his eyes caught the dandy inside his range, the Gallant Unicorn now rushing to pierce his heart.

Adroitness trumped brute force. Toshiro felt blood temporarily gush into his throat. The blade missed his vitals, but he felt it scrape bone.

"A touch of viscera and a touch of plasma…you Soul Reapers are all spirit. And you have none any more."

Toshiro didn't say anything. He could feel a crazy idea form in his head.

"Well? Do you except absolution? Shall I pray for your soul, so that God may accept it into Heaven?"

"When you freeze over."

"Interesting banter."

"Look at your feet."

The dandy did. His voice did not betray emotion. "Oh. A change in the pace."

Toshiro had thought perhaps instinctively more than cognitively. Placing his sword to the ground, the blade would freeze almost any liquid, even his own blood. As he had bled, the crimson fluid had drenched the dandy's feet. Not what he had been used to, but he could still use it.


Toshiro took his advantage. Hyourinmaru raised up, piercing into the man's abdominals, intent fully on crystallizing his insides. With his feet held by frozen blood, Bloodswerth could not escape.

"Got you."

"Intertwined like Eve and the Snake in Eden, we may be. But God will pull me out."

Quickly, he removed on of his gloves by the teeth, and then slammed his free hand on his wound. His hand seemed to radiate energy, both upon him and onto Hitsugaya's sword. He spoke quietly, in his foreign tongue.

"Dios O, Cuyo atributo es de siempre tener misericordia y para reservar, presentamos humildemente nuestras oraciones a Le para el alma de Tu sirviente que Usted tiene este día escatimó de este mundo, implorando que Le no entregarlo en las manos del enemigo, ni para olvidarselo siempre, pero para ordenar Tus a ángeles santos para recibirlo, y para soportarlo en paraíso; eso como Ha creído y ha esperado en Le puede ser entregado de los dolores del infierno y hereda la vida eterna por Cristo nuestro Señor. Amén."

With that, both swords flew out of their opponents, as Bloodswerth leaned back. More blood continued to spill, freezing by the potency of Toshiro's renewed aura. Toshiro was already in mid-swing, his eyes intent on taking Bloodswerth's head completely off but his instrument on the back-swing. The exorcist's blade was more akin to a subtle syringe, twirling straight and under, seeking interception between rib and flesh. Toshiro's eyes widened at the sight, but he was already jumping back and could not dodge quick enough. Fortune smiled only enough to avoid a vital pierce. His shimigami robe sliced to a piece by the whim of the Gallant Unicorn.

Toshiro wanted to instinctively grasp his shoulder, as the blood of his own began to drip. Instead, he pointed his hand at his opponent, his own blade in the back-swing, and fired a kido blast at close range.

The flame hit its target. A sudden burst indicated that he had struck something, but a whizzing sound told him that another matter had taken route.

"Ah. You shouldn't employ the same trick twice. A decoy can stop it."

Hitsugaya was unable to counter, as the seal of the dandy once again aided his speed. A furious kick at frightening pace slammed into the back of the prodigy's neck, bouncing him on the ground. Before he could touch the concrete a second time, he had already ran to him, kicked him into the air, striking the wind clean out of his sternum. Briefly in free-fall, Bloodswerth flipped in grace unexpected for a priest, and stomped again his solar plexus, sending him on a one-track course to the ground.

Toshiro's face grated from the concrete, now freckled with ice and shattered fragments. He heard, as he laid there, the soft steps of the Seven-Sealed Devil near him, muttering in his native Espanola. He reached again for his blade, but Bloodswerth put his blade on it, having learned not let his blood near that blade.

"You still have bankai. Why not use it, Niño?"


"First, your arm…I don't think you can lift that blade with one arm…"

Bloodswerth neared his arm quietly, looking down from his head. His mane of black hair now freely shown, no longer hidden by his hat. Apparently, his hat had been burned to cinders by his kido blast.

Toshiro felt a jarring pain, stopping all frivolous cognition, as he felt the Gallant Unicorn slide into his shoulder joint.

"See how easily I can pop you bones apart from here? Maybe you will stay and listen? And don't try that freezing trick on me again. The moment my feet are numb, I'll just twitch, and snap."

Toshiro only gritted her teeth.

"Ah. What dot yonder break. It is the East. And she, is the sun. Am I right, dragon pequeno?"

Toshiro said nothing. A strong hand, radiating with power, grabbed his white hair, and forced him to look up.

"Look. And just a little longer, and the wicked ones will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. Do you understand? They…that family up there…they are the pagans, they are consorts and the bargainers of ghosts, those that have fled the circles of Hell and the gates of Heaven. I hate those that regard vain idols, but I trust in the Lord. You and your fellow captains are nothing more that clay idols elevated on a pedestal. But before the righteousness of God you will be incinerated by his fury. And I shall be his left hand. But…I must make you see the results of your sins. Look there. Look. Three lives, which I could've painlessly sent to heaven…and you have had to stop me. Now. I must send them to an place which you, Soul Reaper, will never retrieve them. I know of the path…Oh yes I know. Those that die here are reborn there. Recyclable soldiers, you could argue, for is that not what happens to them? And Ichigo Kurosaki's long been drafted already…how long do you think it will take for little Karin to be just another expendable soldier in Yamato's faceless armada?"

Toshiro could feel the anger welling on his face. At the same time he fought, aware of what would happen if he lost control.

"Do you care for her?" Bloodswerth asked, his voice and face a curtain of emotionlessness as he inquired.


"Not what I was seeking. Are you so guilty of sloth that you feel nothing? Place the sufferings of others as you would endure them."

"…before this is over, I will kill you."

"Ha. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for thou only, Lord, makest me dwell in safety."

His flat monotone did nothing to precipitate his next attack. Without a word, he slammed his foot on his arm, allowing the sudden crack to emanate throughout the room. Bone shattered in a surgical fracture, and Toshiro's scream of pain eliminated the memory of that snap. Bloodswerth noiselessly withdrew his blade, a dandy step to his walk as he moved away from Toshiro.

"…Forgive me, Lord…for I must sin anew."

He looked to the gigantic, three armed contraption, said by the mad exorcist to intend on destroying the trio of Kurosakis. Toshiro stood up, his arm, hanging uselessly to the side.

"Well, capitan decimo? What shall it be, what shall it be? Un homicidio y treis? Shall I kill you and let them be recycled for the greater good of humanity, as el medico gordo Kiiromori intended? Or will I save your Soul Society's anonimia, and let them break their bones from this height? It is time, before God and Heaven, for you to make your choice. Embrace your wickedness? Or give your soul to a more worthy cause? You can't have it both ways."

"Bloodswerth…ugghh…" Toshiro grimaced, his arm slapping his side. He could still wield Hyourinmaru, but he was limited. A healing kido would not be difficult, but Bloodswerth wasn't giving him the opportunity.

"I will send them to earth…unless you stop me. But as a priest…I must pray for their souls."

"No! You can't-"

"I can and I will, as is the instruction of my Lord. I do not enjoy killing children. But I know that Satan is a master of deception, and will employ any means to befuddle me. If I must kill children to save them…so be it. Now. Excuse me. I shall grant you absolution momentarily."

And the exorcist turned to the contraption, bowing slightly, before raising his free arm up, as if to regard the Kurosakis and Heaven both. His sword arm never let go of the Gallant Unicorn, a mild curiosity that Toshiro shuffled away for further interest.

"Dios, padre de misericordia-"


"-mediante la muerte y resurreccion de su hijo ha conciliado-"

"Why are you doing this?"

"-el mundo a si mismo y envio el Espiritu Santo entre nosotros para el perdon de los pecados;-

"Bloodswerth…they're innocent-!"

"-mediante elministerio de la Iglesia que Dios le dan perdon-"

"I said stop!"

"-y la paz, y me exime de sus pecados-"

"Stop, dammit! I don't want them to die! I don't want her to die!"

"-In the name of the Father-"

"Are you listening!"

"-and the Son-"

"Bankai: Daigeru-"

"-And the Holy Ghost-"



Blades pierced flesh once again, intertwined by emotions and discipline. Toshiro aimed at the back. Bloodswerth, as if anticipating the move, turned his to his blindside, as if to intercept the attack. Toshiro's blade penetrated the Seven-Seal Devil's shoulder blade. Bloodswerth's had expertly intercepted his frost-manufactured wing.

"You don't want her to die. Is that what you said?"


"And why is that? She's just a mortal to you."

"I-" The words caught in his throat.

"…You pierced my right shoulder blade. Very good. But you should have aimed for my legs. Or my sword arm. As it stands…you're too late."

A small smile formed on Bloodswerth's face. The effects of the absolute cold were taking effect. Despite the prodigious technique and amplified talent of the exorcist, despite the fanaticism that drove him, he was still as human as Ichigo. What color the albino had was beginning to drain out of his face. Already he had endured a blade or two from his attacker, but he didn't have Toshiro's constitution. Or was it something else? Even now…with the cold gripping him, he refused to let go of the Gallant Unicorn.


"No. Combinan Sellos, Primero y Tercero y Septimo: Azure Smiting Boomerang."

His hand-his free hand-pulled back like a competent discus player. Blue sparkling lights began to form at his fingertips, reminding Toshiro of a whilom attack that had been employed on him. His eyes looked at where the projectile would go…and the color drained from his own face. Not at Isshin, nor at Ichigo, but at-


Bloodswerth let his arm fly, let the energy boomerangs fly.

He could hear them whistle in the air. He felt his hands jerk Hyourinmaru where it laid. He felt his wing jerk as it ripped away the blade that was embedded in it. He shun-poed through the air, intent on either interceptions or retrieval. The boomerangs had a head start, curling slightly…Toshiro breathed slightly, seeing that the blades would not hit Karin…then he noticed where they were going…

The blades cut easily through the metal coil holding her suspended in mid-air. A creak, and a lurch later, and gravity did the rest.

He moved to turn his flight, as Karin…still in the throes of unconsciousness, blissfully unaware of the drama around her, numb to the sudden plummet from the zephyr-laden airs…he reached his arms out to grabbed her.

Pain intercepted him, just as his body shielded Karin. A whole wing, softened by the Gallant Unicorn, fell, sliced clean off by another array of his boomerangs. He grimaced, but he kept his consciousness whole. His arms pulled Karin close, and he turned her slightly. Flight was impossible with one wing, and so he committed to crashing while protecting his precious cargo.

The wind once more was knocked out of him. His other wing tried to cocoon them both under its protective cold. Toshiro rolled up, holding Hyourinmaru andKarin in his one decent arm. He felt blood begin to roll from the top of his head.

"Ha. Ha. Ha. So…you aren't beyond redemption, after all," Bloodswerth said. His voice was haggard, but he kept his smile plastered on his albino face. Apparently, that wound to the shoulder blade had been worse than Toshiro expected. He was shuddering furiously from the cold, and the veins on his visage were down-right obvious. But he was still standing and he was still armed.

"…You must kill me again, dragon pequeno. And Again…For I will keep trying to kill them…the pagans above and the one in your arm…"

"No! I'll protect Karin as long as I have to."

"And why…is that? Why does a mortal girl mean that much to you?"

"Because I-" Again the words caught in his throat.


"…I'm not going to say it to you."

"Really? Oh well. Actions speak…louder than words." He pointed up with the Gallant Unicorn, tossing out his own challenge. Toshiro, eyeballing his spasm-laden posture, put his own hypothesis together.

"You're dying, aren't you? After all your bluster you're still human."

"'Glass cannon' is the proper vernacular, I believe. But…you're missing the point. You shouldn't be concerned with me dying…that I accept and that I embrace. Perhaps you should be more concerned about something else."

"Like what?"

"…like whether or not you can kill me before I kill that package in your arms."

Toshiro's had to hold a bit of effort in order to keep himself from showing just how much that bothered him. His eyes twitched at the revelation. Could Toshiro take his head off? Affirmative. He had stabbed him twice and already he was losing steam. But the thing which allowed Bloodswerth to compete on his level was his speed, first and foremost. Could the exorcist sneak in a surgically fatal stab, ending Karin's life just before Toshiro ended his? He gulped at the cold realization that yes, he could, and he would.

"Of course…if you let me kill her…then you will have a clear shot at me. Long enough for you to put the nail in the coffin on old me. That is what you Soul Society types are like. Victory at any costs. Well…here's your chance. Your amigos up top have all but eradicated Canopus. My end will come in one form or another. But I will take one life with me to Heaven, before I let you blasphemers, you cheep mockeries, before I collapse. So…again, I test your sin, Toshiro. If that girl means absolutely nothing to you-as she should-then let her go, let me save her, and you will have my head like a predator. But make no mistake, dragon pequeno. I will slit her throat and warm my dying body in her nubile blood, if you simply stand there and watch."

The words, delivered in such a flat monotone, sparked a level of horror in Toshiro. How could a human speak like this, with a mindset almost befitting of the most depraved hollows? The youngest captain gritted his teeth, keeping her awkwardly held in his weakened arm, while turning to ready his own blade.

"I. Won't. Allow. It!" He all but roared.

"Then, redeem yourself of your sin, here and now. And stop me."

Toshiro wasn't given much time to think over this challenge. What calculations his mind could manifest were placed aside as the Seven-Sealed Devil lifted his sword quietly, saying only a few words to announce his motive:

"Combinan Sellos Primero y Tercero: Salvation Thrust."

And then he rushed forward, his feet a heightened funeral dirge.

Toshiro pressed the unconscious Karin to his body, eyeballing the speeding seconds as Bloodswerth closed in, the Gallant Unicorn shining hungrily. He could see the mask of death briefly on his face, but on his eyes, he saw almost a fanatical mania shimmering in his pupils. Briefly, two options flashed in his mind, which only one he could commit to in time. The future of each option stayed in dark clouds. He gulped, glanced at Karin's unconscious face, and then chose-Kill or protect.

The Gallant Unicorn struck home, burying itself easily through flesh. Blood splattered on the exorcist's black tuxedo…warming his passing body. He smiled briefly, his eyes closing, as his body had not felt a countering blow.

Then he looked up, and his smile dropped in a flat line of neutrality. His mouth opened in surprise.

"So…that is your answer."

Toshiro had shifted his body, moving Karin into the full envelop of his body. His blade was lowered, but he employed what he could in so short a time interval. Karin had been wrapped in the remainder of his other wing. Instead, Toshiro's torso took the full impact of penetration, the blade sliding through cloth and tissue and exiting out his back.

Toshiro's face was one of cold, righteous fury. His weakened arm grabbed the Gallant Unicorn, and pulled himself towards the exorcist, whom could easily escape, if he just let go. Instead, he did not. Toshiro's voice was one of disintegrating ice.

"…I will give you this one warning. If you ever threaten Karin again…I will bring your soul to the Seireitei myself. And let you see how merciful we are there."

Janus Bloodswerth, the Seven-Sealed Devil, only smiled. "Destined to die, you…and…I."

Toshiro Hitsugaya slammed the blade through the Seven-Sealed Devil's spindly frame, cutting end-to-end, before plopping down on his rear. He felt so tired.

His eyes began to flash to darkness…he felt himself become warmer…as the blade's pain began to fade…

"At least…she's…safe…"

The first thing Karin Kurosaki felt, when she woke, was the empowering warmth that encircled her body. Groggily, she blinked, trying to decipher from the darkness of the environment and the last veneer of unconsciousness. She tried to remember what brought her here…then with a furious panic, memories of her last waking moment bombarded her.

She remembered her daddy's face as his visage turned from curiosity to panic, as the burly giant had fired upon them. She remembered the blast striking the car, and her going swiftly into unconsciousness from that. However, she didn't remember much else.

"Oh…my…head…" Karin muttered. She tried to lift an arm to cradle it, only to find that her arm was pinned under something. She turned her body slightly…picking up a white cropping of hair.


She struggled, moving him as best as she could, so that she could get him off. He was not in his normal clothes, but dressed in the same way as Ichigo was, when he interacted with the hollows. His eyes were shut close, but her eyes fell upon something else. Being exposed to the hospital setting as much as she had been, she knew what an incision, a puncture, and a stab wound looked like. And Toshiro had that in spades. He had apparently fallen on her, unconscious.

"Toshiro! Are you-are you…" Fear mingled with worry. Her brain reacted to emotional noise, stimulated in spite of her own nagging pains to assist. Two fingers jabbed at his neck, checking for the sure sign of a pulse. A faint threading, a minute beat, answered her probing fingers. She checked his haori, noting how the pure white had been tainted to a murky red from blood. His wound was pumping, still gushing blood.


She was medically educated enough to know that the wound, while not definitely fatal, could lead him to bleeding to death if he didn't stop. His zanpaku-to had fallen to the side, also stained with blood, though whether it was his own or otherwise left another matter to her. Glancing briefly, she noticed a serrated three-piece suit, scattered around the dark room, but she paid no attention to it.

"Oh…Toshiro…if you…if you…!"

Karin grabbed and jerked his haori off, taking in her teeth and ripping it apart. A mediocre bandage to stop the blood flow would certainly help, but she had no idea how much blood he had already lost…

"No. No. Don't think like that. Don't think like that."

She propped the unconscious boy up, trying to get him to a position to which she could properly bandage him. Hastily she removed his robe, exposing his wounds. Hastily she curled and tightened the wraps on his body. But…he was out of it still…

"C'mon Shiro…I don't know what you did, while I was unconscious…but…I'm not going to let you croak. No I'm not. Ichigo's in the hospital…He's always putting his neck out there…Don't go on me…Don't go on me like Mom."

Faintly, she became aware of a slight beeping noise in the background. She tried to ignore it, more focused on Toshiro's predicament. A more pertinent noise came, as footsteps clamored down a set of stairs.

Meeting her was another Toshiro.

"What the-?"

"Oh. Relax. I'm not Toshiro. I'm just holding his false body for the time being and-Holy toledo! What happened to him!"

"Shut up and help me…can you help me carry him out?"

The false Toshiro looked at her incredulously, as if she was missing an impertinent point. Then he opened his mouth, an air of snootiness on his face. "You know, he could jump back in me. That'll take care of some of the pain…but I think he'll be in so much shock he won't be able to fight."

"…and you haven't done this-why?"

"Girly! Can't you feel it outside?"

"I was knocked out!"

The false Toshiro cringed, but huffed out in annoyance. "Captain Hitsugaya's comrades were winning a rout, a moment ago. Everyone of Canopus-Roku and especially Ortiz-were dropped not long ago. That left that blind guy Warunabe. Then another came out and pleaded with the Soul Reapers to surrender."

"Then what-"

"It…uh…went all to fudge." The false Toshiro finished lamely.

"Look. You can tell me this later! Help me with Toshiro! Please!"

"Darn. I was liking this body." The false Toshiro remarked, taking Toshiro in his hand… "Uh…I think he has to be conscious for this."

"Let me." Karin, becoming more fearful at the consequences of this parody's reluctance, promptly soccer-kicked him in the abs.

"Ok! Ok! Lets carry him! Just don't kick me again!"

They took a shoulder apiece, the false 'Shiro complaining about the dead weight. They didn't get too far, before the door at the top of the stairwell was kicked open again. The darkness hid the face of the new interloper, instead, leaving room for the noise of vicious growls, furious stomps on each step and the subtle snapping of fingers.

The false Toshiro's eyes widened suddenly.

"You." Karin turned. "What exactly did you mean when everything went to fudge?"

"Uh…well…We'll laugh about it later-"


Standing in front of the door was the unkempt, ochre-clothed, bum that was Tamashi Warunabe. His clothing, normally of that disgusting ochre color, had been stained completely red, as had the unruly mane of brown hair covering his face. Over his shoulder rested a heavy, indistinguishable load.

"The Dragon must die! The Dragon must die! They all must die! I can't see anymore! They all must die! Die! Die! Die!"

Her eyes picked up a single dagger, twirling in one of his hands. The other was securing his bundle.

"Where is-Where is-Where is-Ah! Hear his breathing! Hear it! Do you hear it little brother! Soft! Soft! Soft! So soft and faint! I heard his heart beating! Soft! Janus finished it! Almost! Not quite! I see…I hear! There you are! Dragon! Broken Dreams! I make them for you! I make them for you!"

The blind psychopath stomped forward, his intent on murder apparent by body language alone. His dagger twirled maliciously, intent on finishing the job that the Devil himself couldn't do. Karin was struck by a sudden fresh odor, one she was familiar with due to her job at the clinic-the stench of the dead. Whether it was coming off of him or heaven forbid somewhere else…

Karin acted before she thought. Toshiro had already done so much for her. And now…was she going to stand by, as this new monster stomped forward as proud and crazy nutcase?

No. She would not. She slipped Toshiro's arm away from her and stood in front, spreading her arms out like a shield to her winter-themed friend.

Tamashi Warunabe had raised his blade up intent on, a bloodstained dirk aimed blindly forward. He was not snapping his fingers; instead, he was breathing haggardly, excitement mingling with a depraved jump towards the irredeemable. The blade lurked high about his head, seeing only the boy and not the girl standing protectively in front of him. Karin winced at the inevitable conclusion, her knees knocking together. But she did not budge.

"I dream broken dreams…I make them come true….I make them…for you!"

The blade jumped forward, intent on ramming through Karin to end Toshiro.

The tip stopped right in front of her face. Her eyes, shut instinctively from her fear, opened just a tad, as the blade delayed.

Tamashi's other hand had jumped from its bundle, and grasped his own wrist, stopping himself from delivering the final blow.

"No…no…We can't kill you. Little brother would be sad. Made us promise. Made us promise! What does it matter? Brother is dead! But brother keeps us aware. He is the constant light. He is the constant SUN! Answer me, little girl…your full name. Full name. Full name!"

"…Karin Kurosaki…"

"Grrrhhh….He made me promise not to kill Kurosaki. I can't kill Kurosaki! He made me promise! He made me promise while he died! That ape killed him…I'll kill them all…"

The mad hobo faced the little girl as best as he could, his entire face still hidden under his brown hair. He turned slightly, twirling his dagger. Growls trilled through his tongue, as he sheathed his dirk.

"Say hello to Yuzu. For my brother Takumi. He has gone to your land."

"What do you-"

"Tell Hitsugaya this…when he wakes…grrrhh…I will bring the Soul Society crashing on its head. I dream broken dreams. I make them come true. And I will raze that land…to get him…All will die! All will die! All will die! So soft! So soft! So soft! Even you Janus! When I find you again!"

Insanity reclaimed the blind Tamashi, lost in a world of imagined phantasms and primordial emotions. He walked past Karin and the two Toshiros, his mind feeding on perhaps another matter entirely. Seeing him walk away, grasped in his broken world, Karin let out a breath she had been holding in. These images seared in her brain…combined with an attachment to the unconscious boy captain.

"C'mon Toshiro. I'll get you to safety…I promise."

Karin looked above, seeing for the first time the endless rows of pods around her. The beeping noise had resumed onward, ignorant to everything that had happened. She also noticed her daddy and Ichigo suspended above in the oddest, sci-fi contraption she had ever seen. It stood inert, unable to function without a finger to press a button or a hand to manipulate a switch.

Karin briefly saw her family, then saw Toshiro, and felt a conflict of interests. Then she turned to the false Toshiro.

"Hey, can you get those two down?"

"Are you kidding? Do monkeys love bananas? Anything to get dead weight here off my back."

Karin rolled her eyes. "Go get them down, please. I'll get Toshiro up to safety…to a medic."

The false Toshiro beamed, taking the load off of his back so he could do an easier task. Karin took Toshiro over her shoulder. His breathing was beginning to return, and he was smiling, as if in a dream. What exactly had he done while she was unconscious, to warrant his wounds?

"Thank you, Toshiro."

With the false Toshiro clearly busy, she quickly pecked the unconscious Toshiro on the cheek, a small token of gratitude for whatever trial he had braved. Far from it she would allow him to go down on her watch.

She hobbled with him quickly through the path, with the endless line of pods in the dark. She hoped someone was up there to help them.

She barely noticed the beeping sound, emanating from one of the pods, which was now open, and empty.

Karin ignored it in her haste.

End Chapter.


-Dios, padre de misericordia, mediante la muerte y resurrección de su hijo ha conciliado el mundo a sí mismo y envió el Espíritu Santo entre nosotros para el perdón de los pecados; mediante el ministerio de la Iglesia que Dios le dan perdón y la paz, y me exime de sus pecados en el nombre del Padre, y del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo

-"God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Sonhas reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among usfor the forgiveness of sins;Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace,and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

-Dios O, Cuyo atributo es de siempre tener misericordia y para reservar, presentamos humildemente nuestras oraciones a Le para el alma de Tu sirviente que Usted tiene este día escatimó de este mundo, implorando que Le no entregarlo en las manos del enemigo, ni para olvidarselo siempre, pero para ordenar Tus a ángeles santos para recibirlo, y para soportarlo en paraíso; eso como Ha creído y ha esperado en Le puede ser entregado de los dolores del infierno y hereda la vida eterna por Cristo nuestro Señor. Amén."

"O God, Whose attribute it is always to have mercy and to spare, we humbly present our prayers to Thee for the soul of Thy servant which Thou has this day called out of this world, beseeching Thee not to deliver it into the hands of the enemy, nor to forget it for ever, but to command Thy holy angels to receive it, and to bear it into paradise; that as it has believed and hoped in Thee it may be delivered from the pains of hell and inherit eternal life through Christ our Lord. Amen."