It's been forever again! I have no excuse except for working in the retail business at holiday time XZ Man, I'm so tired! But my hours have dropped back now, which means more time for me to write! So here is the long awaited penultimate chapter (of this arc! Fear not!), and I can only say how sorry I am to have kept you waiting this long!

Disclaimer: Not mine, never has been, never will be.


Ichigo stood slowly, blinking his eyes open after his night of real-life sleep beneath the trees, which he had quickly found necessary upon his return to the waking world. In this world his clothes were still torn, still caked with the dry blood of hundreds which crumbled and fell to the ground around him as he shifted.

Standing tall, he looked down at his hands to find them even more stained than they had been in his inner world, the healing rain not having the chance to purge his spiritual body.

Setting his eyes on the distance, he squared his shoulders and smiled thinly; this day would end as he planned it, and it would be the first of many.


Renji glared up at his captors, his hands bound tightly behind his back with chains his reiatsu had no chance of breaking. It had been one night, one single night since the carnage ceased, thanks to him no less, and they had already skipped ahead to his trial and consequent execution.

Most of the captains weren't even present, three quarters of them in recovery, or aiding those who still needed to be cared for. Yamamoto, by some miracle of fate, had survived through the night, and returned to duty that morning to ensure that all of the rules were once again strictly followed.

So Renji knelt, his knees sore and scabbed, clothes still clammy and wet where they had been soaking in pools of blood, the weight of the old man's reiatsu pressing heavily against him, forcing him to bow forward in a way that had every muscle in his body aching tenfold.

Suddenly there was a bang, the sound reverberating around the chamber as the few captains jumped to attention, only to fall back, panic clear in their eyes.

Renji couldn't see what was going on behind him, but like a healing wave, the oppressive reiatsu was lifted, allowing him to slowly raise his head, and look up.

Standing before him was Ichigo, stood proud and tall, still cacked with drying blood, his clothes hanging from him in a way that only served to make him look more fearsome.

Unlike the others, Yamamoto would not be cowed, and looked as though he would have stood in indignation, if only his wounds allowed. 'Kurosaki Ichigo! How dare you step within this court! You will be killed for this disgusting show of violence and hatred!'

Ichigo waved a hand at him dismissively, all but ignoring the outbreak in favour of turning and kneeling before his friend.

Gently placing curled fingers beneath the redheads bowed chin, Ichigo turned his face up kindly to look into his eyes. 'Ahh, Renji, you've been done an injustice. The only person who's stood by me through it all, and you would be punished for your loyalty.'

Renji's eyes listed gently up to Ichigo's face, his brain tired and fogged after the long night of battle and carnage, yet he was still awake enough to register the look of love and adoration in those eyes, and of companionship.

'Please tell me Renji, will you stand beside me still?'

Renji swallow, and grinned sluggishly, 'Of course, forever.'

Ichigo nodded, a touched smile gracing his lips for mere seconds, before the angry and bitter mask returned.

Pulling Renji to his feet with a sudden movement, he jerked the man into his arms, fingers sliding against the chains keeping his hands tied behind him back, making them dissolve as if they'd never been there.

With a relieved sigh, Renji fell into Ichigo's strong arms, limbs shaking as he slowly pulled himself together.

Ichigo held the other man quietly, as he waited for his strength to return, and with a pleased sigh, Renji pushed against him and stood on his own.

Grinning his victory, Ichigo turned once again to the elderly man, who was sat with mouth agape as he stared at the goings on before him. 'Yamamoto Genryuusai, you will never again find an ally in me, and I will never again be used. Should you try again to bend me to your will, the fatalities will be many, and this time I assure you, I won't be so careful about how closely I miss your heart.'

Turning his eyes on the few captains in the room, he couldn't help but snicker, 'you would do better to serve yourselves, than to serve him. Either way, pray we do not face each other again.'

At that Renji grinned, 'I told them not to face you the first time, but they wouldn't listen.'

Ichigo smiled, 'You've always known me the best Renji, perhaps even better than I know myself.'

'So where to now then?'

Ichigo grinned and waved cheekily to the inhabitants of the chamber, before striding out of the front door, Renji following close behind him.

'Where to now? Why, from here we go to Hueco Mundo.'

Renji didn't even seem shocked, 'Something tells me I should have seen that coming' he laughed.

Ichigo smiled knowing, 'If you want to follow me, and always remain by my side, you're going to have to do a little training with me.'

Renji groaned, 'It's going to hurt, isn't it?'

Ichigo laughed, 'Perhaps, but you'll learn to enjoy it. Even the most painful things can contain pleasure.'

The redhead simply shook his head, 'I don't know what use I'll be to you there, I wasn't any use here as it was.'

Ichigo laughed in a way that sent shivers down Renji's back, 'oh trust me, you'll gain power.'

Renji looked at him questioning, but Ichigo just shrugged, 'All of your questions will be answered with time, but know this; to rule in a world of hollows, first you must know and understand them.'

They lapsed into silence as they set to building their way out.

King, do you really intend what I think?

Ichigo smiled, Well Shiro, that really depends on what you think…

Don't joke King, he's your dear friend, I wouldn't want for you to lose him as soon as he's been gained…

Ichigo sighed, He's not as weak as you think, I have faith he'll live through it.

But will he like what it brings him?

At that Ichigo chuckled aloud, bringing a questioning gaze from his friend, which he waved aside.

I have the feeling it will bring him only good.

Shirosaki's next words dripped with sarcasm, As it has brought us?

Ichigo sighed, Regardless, to rule with us, this is what he must do.

Shirosaki's tender words met his earns with solemn tones.

Then let us hope that for his sake, you are right…


Well, there you are! I hope you liked it!

One more chapter to go, and then this arc is all done and finished! But fear not, in its place will come the Hueco Mundo arc, which will contain lots of violence, foul language, sex and most of all, awkward hilarity :D

So please leave me a review and let me know what you think! Or even give me some ideas for what should come next!

You've come this far, is it really that hard to push the button?