Chapter 8: Madness

"Say what? The execution date has been moved to tomorow?" Naruto exclaimed.

After the tragic incident at the 5th Division, Naruto, Hinata, Sakura and Lee decides to continue on to have breakfast since they'll probably need to keep up their strength for what was to come.

On the way to the teahouse, they met the 10th Division's busty lieutenant Matsumoto Rangiku who decides to join them as well. She then informed them of the decision to move Kuchiki Rukia's execution a week earlier.

"But it was supposed to be next week. Why would they do that?" Hinata asks.

"Aizen Taichou's death must've shaken them." Sakura concluded. "I don't blame them. A captain was killed after all and it all started when the Ryokas appeared."

Lee nods his head. "Indeed. They must have moved up the execution date to prevent any rescue attempts."

"Isn't there something strange about this whole situation?" Naruto said with a frown. "If Central 46 is doing this, then they must believe that the Ryokas are somehow responsible for Aizen Taichou's death. But from what we've seen so far, the Ryokas haven't killed anybody yet and they only seemed interested in rescuing Rukia. Besides, I don't think anyone among them has the capability of actually killing a Captain of the Gotei Thirteen."

"That's what Hitsugaya Taichou argued." Matsumoto stated. "But sadly, he was outvoted on the issue and the execution is pushing through tomorow."

"Come to think of it, when was transferring your powers to another being considered a serious crime?" Hinata asked. "Especially when it was probably an act born out of desperation?"

"It's not supposed to be." Sakura replied curtly. "But then again, Central 46's decisions are not really making a whole lot of sense."

"NOTHING is making sense these days." Naruto spoke up. "And I STILL don't understand why Kuchiki Taichou wouldn't lift a finger to help his sister."

"It's a clan affair Naruto Kun so we can't interfere with that." Lee answered. "Though I agree with you that a lot of unyouthful things are happening here in Soul Society right now."

"I agree with Naruto though. Kuchiki Taichou isn't really the most sociable captain I know but for him to condemn his sister to death like this." Matsumoto said. "Hitsugaya Taichou's doing everything he can to try and delay things."

Naruto let's his eyes travel to the Repentance Tower at a distance. "Well whatever your captain is planning, he better do it quick for Rukia's sake coz he's only got twenty four hours to do so. But then again, One day is still a lot of time & anything can happen between now and tomorow."

Ichigo was cursing himself as he runs deeper into Seireitei with an unknown pursuer hot on his heels. He thought he had managed to give the ones after him the slip but a whizzing mettalic object which he narrowly manages to avoid changes his mind.

So now, he was wasting his time running away from an unknown enemy who constantly attacked him from a distance and frankly, he was getting sick of it.

Timing it just right, he knocks aside the whirling metallic object with his zanpaktou and shouts out. "Oi! Stop flinging that thing at me! Come out and fight me like a man, dammit!"

Light feminine laughter can be heard around the area. "That's funny. So you honestly think that the only ones who can kick your ass are male? How typical."

Ichigo whirls towards the source of the voice and much to his surprise, sees a female shinigami with her hair done in two buns. In her hands, she held a length of cable with what seems to be one of those fuhma shuriken he's seen in movies attatched to one end and a small hoop which serves as a handle on the other.

"So which Ryoka are you? The one who beat Ikkaku Sempai or the one who beat Yumichika Sempai?" The female shinigami asked.

"Ikkaku? Is he alright?" Ichigo asked despite himself.

"If you're the guy who beat him, then all I've got to say is better men have tried but failed to kill him." The girl answered as she starts twirling her unusual weapon with a predatory smile. "But that would also mean that you're someone worth fighting and seeing that nobody else is here, we might as well get it on. My name is Higarushi Tenten, 6th Seat of the 11th Division."

"6th Seat? No offense lady but if your third seat Ikkaku couldn't beat me then a 6th seat can't..." Ichigo blurted out before he stopped himself and realized what a terrible mistake it was to voice out his thoughts to the female shinigami. "Ummm... I didn't really mean it to sound..."

"You know..." Tenten started with a tick mark on her forehead. "...I WAS gonna play with you for a bit before I turn you in. But for that thing you just said, I think I'll just cut right down to the chase and kill you here and now."

Before Ichigo knew it, he was dodging the shinigami's chained shuriken. A moment later, he'd regret ducking his head as Tenten was already in front of him and connecting with a knee to the face and sending him flying back.

"Touken Sanshiki: Byakko (Cold Steel Third Stance: White Tiger)." Tenten intoned. Her weapon changes into another cabled weapon with a thick three pronged dagger and a weighted cable. She then throws the weighted cable and manages to catch Ichigo with it by the arm.

"Get over here!" Tenten yells as she pulls Ichigo towards her with surprising strength before attempting to stab him with the dagger. The strawberry haired teen manages to block her attack with Zangetsu and tries to counter her but she jumps back ,swings him around and sends him crashing against a building.

But the momentum of the swing frees him from her chains and he quickly gets back on his feet to avoid getting caught off-guard.

"Her Zanpaktou has two released forms?" Ichigo mutters to himself as he warily studies his opponent. This lady was no slouch and the way she handled her weapon indicated that she was a pro.

"But I can't lose here." He said, gritting his teeth as he prepares to attack. He didn't like the idea of attacking a girl but he had to save Rukia no matter what.

He charges at Tenten whose eyes widens at Ichigo's sudden aggressiveness. Ichigo swings his sword at the female shinigami with the full intent of cutting her down and finishing the fight with one stroke.

Luckily, Tenten had a counter for that.

"Touken Ichisiki: Seiryu (Cold Steel First Stance: Blue Dragon)." Tenten's released zanpaktou then transforms into a spear-like weapon with a cross like blade on one end and a small metallic sphere with a tassel on the other. Ichigo is forced to retreat to dodge a swipe by Tenten and as he jumps back, the sharp pain on his cheek from a cut indicated how close it had been.

But Tenten wasn't done yet. She spins around and jams the metallic sphere of her weapon to Ichigo's stomach and sends him stumbling back in pain.

"Wow. I've NEVER had to use more then two stances in a fight before. Guess you're really as good as Ikkaku Senpai said you are." Tenten said before narrowing her eyes. "But that would mean that you're still holding back on me Ryoka. You sure you want to do that considering that your life's on the line?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Ichigo denied. "I AM taking you seriously."

Tenten shakes her head in frustration. "You stubborn..." She suddenly stops as a familiar and immense spiritual pressure floods the area. "Aww damn... He's here." She mutters with a sigh.

Ichigo watches in confusion as the female shinigami re-seals her zanpaktou to it's jian-like default form and sheaths it before turning around. "Oi! Where are going? We're not finished here!" He calls out.

Tenten looks back at Ichigo. "What's the point? Now that HE'S here, he's gonna want to fight you and you'll be as good as dead anyways."

"He? Who are you...?" Before Ichigo could finish his question, a massive eyepatch wearing man wearing the tattered haori of a captain with bells on the tip of each of his spiky hair appears in front of Tenten.

"Th-This guy is the s-source of that monstrous spiritual pressure. What power..." Ichigo thought to himself, warily noting the insane grin the man was sporting.

"Yo Tenten." The man greets as he sized up Ichigo. "This one of the Ryoka?"

"Hai Zaraki Taichou. He's actually the one who beat Ikkaku." Tenten replied.

"Is that right?" The identified Zaraki said, giving Ichigo a closer look and noticing the cut on his cheek. "Is that your handiwork? Lemme guess. He didn't want to go all out on you, didn't he?" Tenten's only answer was to glare at Ichigo. "Well I guess that he'll have to now coz if he doesn't, then I'll make him regret wasting my time."

"Teehehehehehe... Ken Chan's gonna play again after such a long time." A pink haired little girl with a lieutenant's badge who pops up from behind Zaraki's shoulder laughs.

"That I am so both you and Tenten better stay back." Zaraki stated. His pink haired lieutenant nods and together with the bun haired Sixth Seater, leaps away. The hulking Eleventh Division captain then turns his attention back to Ichigo with a big smile. "Now then... Let's dance punk."

After accompanying his wife to her division HQ, Naruto was about to report in to his own division when he suddenly senses a massive clash of two reiatsu signatures.

The first reiatsu signature was easy enough to identify. Nobody could copy the oppresively powerful reiatsu of Zaraki Kenpachi.

Naruto was unable to identify the second signature though which meant that it probably belonged to one of the Ryokas. But what perturbed him about the Ryoka's reiatsu was how tainted it felt.

Almost similar to that of a hollow.

Without a second thought, he rushes towards the site of the conflict and finds his old friend Tenten and her division's child-like vice captain intently watching the titanic battle between the Ryoka and Zaraki.

"Tenten! Kusajishi Fuku-Taichou!" Both females look back and sees the blonde haired fourth seater of the seventh division appear behind them.

"Naruto." "Foxy-Kun." Naruto chose to ignore the nickname given to him by the Eleventh Division's lieutenant and looks at the battle below. "Is that the Ryoka that's been causing all the ruckus around here?" He asks.

"Yeah. He's the one that Ikkaku Sempai lost too. And judging from the way he's fighting now, I would've lost to him too eventually if Zaraki Taichou didn't catch up." Tenten answered, earning her a raised eyebrow from Naruto.

"Well it's a good thing that Zaraki Taichou caught up when he did." Naruto said, focusing his attention on the Ryoka. "There's something off about this guy's reiatsu and I've got a feeling that if you had pushed him too far, it would have ended badly for you."

"It won't happen anymore though coz it's over." Tenten stated as she and her companions watched in amazement as Zaraki's worn looking blade actually penetrated the intruder's massive sword and stabbed him through the heart. The Ryoka collapses as Zaraki withdrew his blade and started walking away. "He did well lasting this long against Zaraki Taichou but in the end, the difference in ability was too large."

Naruto chose not to point out that it was the same case when he fought against Neji and instead, carefully observed the Ryoka as if expecting something to happen.

And something DID happen.

Despite the grave wounds that has been dealt on him, the Ryoka stood back up as his body started expelling dark reiatsu.

"The tainted reiatsu's more prominent now." Naruto mutters as Zaraki engaged the Ryoka in combat once again and going all out until, after one final attack with a power backlash so strong that it nearly blew the observers off their feet even from a distance, both men went down unconscious sporting various injuries.

"Ken Chan!" Yachiru cried as she rushed towards her captain while Naruto and Tenten went for the Ryoka when a familiar looking figure suddenly pops out and ran towards the unconscious intruder.

"Is that... Ganju?" Tenten asks.

Naruto nods his head. "Looks like it. I never expected that he'd be helping the Ryoka considering he looks like a shinigami in that getup."

The said man's head suddenly whips back upon feeling the presence of a couple of shinigamis and growls as he reaches for the blade strapped to his back.

Tenten shook her head at the sight. "Even you're not dumb enough to try and take on TWO seated officers of the Gotei Thirteen are you?"

"Bring it! I'm not scared of any of you." Ganju said threateningly. Tenten could only stare at him before shrugging her shoulders.

"Your funeral buddy." Tenten said as she started to draw her zanpaktou when a hand from Naruto stops her. "Naruto?"

"Tell me something Ganju. Why are you helping the Ryoka? You DO know he's trying to rescue a shinigami don't you?" Naruto asks.

"I do. As a matter of fact, it's the same shinigami who is the reason why my brother Kaien is dead." Ganju confirmed. "But neither am I the type of guy who'd let someone die for all the wrong reasons like you shinigamis."

Tenten bristled at the insult but was held back by Naruto who studies Ganju before coming to a decision. "Today's your lucky day then Ganju coz I'm letting you and the Ryoka go with a warning. Stay out of shinigami affairs coz we're more then capable of handling our own problems."

"Naruto. I don't think..." Tenten started but was stopped by Naruto before he continued. "But this is gonna be your ONLY warning Ganju coz the next time you cause this kind of trouble, there WILL be consequences. And also, tell your Ryoka friend to leave Soul Society while he has the chance. Enough blood has been shed and there's no need to shed any more for this."

Wordlessly, Ganju picked up the strawberry haired invader and ran off, leaving Naruto and Tenten behind.

"I hope you know what you're doing Naruto." Tenten said.

The blonde gives his friend a look before answering. "With all that's been happening these past few days, I'm not sure anymore."

Author's Notes: Managed to update this story. As usual, R&R