Darth Disclaimer: No Luke...I DON'T own Bleach.
Luke: No...that's not true...that IMPOSSIBLE!
Darth Disclaimer: Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
Chapter 8: Snow Girl's Requiem
Ichigo didn't know what to do. It had been nearly a month now, since Aizen had given him the details of his mission, and the timeline of when it was to be done. The date was coming up...tonight in fact. Tonight...that Shinigami girl would be as good as dead. Not that he particularly had any probelm with killing the Shinigami, because he didn't, it was just the method that irked him. She would die because she would be accused of something that she did not do. Punished for merely existing, rather then because of a true crime. Wasn't that what they did to Hollows? When she died, he wanted her to pay for her crimes. This was a cop-out, in Ichigo's opinion.
On the other hand, dead is dead, and they needed this to happen for the sake of their mission. The ends justified the means. Ichigo would live with it.
Yoruichi was a patient woman, truthfully she was. She understood that most people in this world were neither as powerful, nor as intelligent as her. She enjoyed her new, reletively tranquil lifestyle, seeing the world through a feline's eyes, occasionally visiting her close friend Urahara for tea or simply discussions, taking down a hollow now and then just to keep herself from getting too rusty, it was a good life.
But there were times when she just felt like she wanted to pull her hair out.
This girl, Tatsuki, was simply NOT gaining any more strength, no matter what she did. The girl clearly had fighting skills. She clearly had the drive to succeed. In those respects she was improving daily. But her raw power...her spiritual pressure...it wasn't even blipping.
It had been almost a full month now, since Urahara had come to her with the request of teaching the girl. She had agreed, of course, as she would for almost anything that Urahara requested of her, although he refused to give her a straight answer as to why she had to do this. All that he had told her was that it was vitally important that the girl be capable of competing with Vice-Captain level foes as soon as possible. He would give her no deadline or any other information, only that it was urgent and needed to be done as fast as possible.
When Kisuke Urahara had that worried look on his face, she knew to take it seriously.
"PUSH HARDER!" she yelled out as the athletic girl continued to try and fight against the whirlwind that she was currently engulfed in.
"I'M TRYING!" Tatsuki called back as she held her open hands in the opposite direction of the wind, trying in vain to throw enough power into her blasts to at least stop the whirling air for a brief moment. The wind was billowing so strongly that they could hardly hear each other, even if they yelled at the top of their lungs.
Yoruichi sighed and turned her head away. Part of her wondered if a human, even one as special as this girl, could ever truly generate the kind of power that she would need. That was another thing that Urahara refused to give her a straight answer about, what exactly the girl was and where her powers came from. She did however know what the girl's powers appeared to be. The girl could wrap a small cyclone of wind around her hands or feet, increasing the strength of her blows, as well as greatly enhancing her hand and foot speed. She also could create a current of wind that flew across her eyes which somehow improved her vision, allowing her to take in much more data from her eyes at any one time, as well as slightly slowing down the happennings of the world around her, or perhaps speeding up her own perception (which Yoruichi couldn't tell). Finally, she could fling the cyclones which she created around her hands and feet in the form of small air blasts, though these were increadibly weak at the moment and had the problem of momentarilly slowing down her speed until she generated a new cyclone.
All in all, it was rather underwhelming, but Urahara insisted that there was more to her. Hidden skills which she could access with enough training. Yoruichi had seen no signs of anything of the sort yet, but Urahara had not once led her astray. She had to trust him.
"STOP TRYING!" the dark-skinned woman finally yelled at her charge, after a moment of thought, "STOP TRYING AND JUST MAKE YOURSELF DO IT!"
Tatsuki looked angry, "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? YODA? IF I CAN'T DO IT THEN I CAN'T DO IT! I'M NOT STRONG ENOUGH YET!"
Yoruichi glared for a breif moment at these words. She said nothing, but vanished into the air, immediately reappearing in front of Tatsuki and slamming her knee into the younger girl's abdomen. Tatsuki's concentration immediately broke and she stumbled back as the whirlwind began pushed back harder then ever against her. Impressively, she was able to find her footing before she fell over, but was given no repreive as Yoruichi landed a punch on her side, underneath her arm, and then another blow to the crook of her neck.
Tatsuki tried to fight back, but with the heavy wind pushing against her, she couldn't even yell out in pain lest she be suffocated.
"TALK LIKE THAT," Yourichi yelled at her, not letting up her pummling for a moment, "AND YOU WILL NEVER BE STRONG ENOUGH! YOUR FRIENDS ARE COUNTING ON YOU! MAKE YOURSELF STRONG ENOUGH TO DO IT NOW!"
Tatsuki stopped trying to push the wind back, devoting all of her efforts to blocking her teacher's blows, but it was for naught. At the speed Yoruichi was moving at, she might as well be trying to deflect a swarm of bees with a wooden club.
"Don't pay any attention to my attacks." Yoruichi spoke, her voice softer now, and almost imperceptable in the heavy wind, "I'm not striking you with enough force to really harm you. Let my blows land, and ignore them. Ignore the stinging pain, and focus everything that you have into pushing back against the wind. Force yourself to cut out everything else except for the job at hand."
Tatsuki wasn't usually one to take orders well, but at this point there really wasn't much else that she could do, and so she allowed her eyes to close. Yoruichi's hits coninued to land, at the rate of what felt like it had to be hundreds of blows per minute, and Tatsuki attempted to ignore them as best she could, focusing only on the wind, and using her powers to force it back.
It was surprising how easy it was, really, to drown out the stinging blows from her sensei. They truly weren't that painful, just extremely annoying. Tatsuki tried to pay as much attention as she could to the wind, whirling rapidly and without any let up. It whipped her hair about wildly and stung her eyes.
She tried to use the energy which fueled her powers to push against the wind, gently at first but continually building more pressure. It would have been easier if her sensei would just stop striking her! But no...she couldn't think about that. She would never get anywhere if she kept thinking about that. She continued to focus totally on the wind and only the wind. It was cold, aggresive, powerful, and unrelenting. Yoruichi's attacks were moving to the back of her mind.
She pushed harder against the wind. She could hardly feel Yoruichi's strikes at all anymore. She pushed harder. Still nothing. She pushed harder still, but the wind absolutely refused to let up. This was wrong. The wind was her power, and she was supposed to control it.
"Stop it." Tatsuki whispered, so quietly that you couldn't even hear it over the spinning air around her.
"Stop it." She spoke again, slightly louder.
"Stop it!" Now with some force behind her voice.
"STOP IT!" There was a quiver of power in her tone and the wind seemed to falter for only a split moment. But Tatsuki had had enough.
"LISTEN TO ME!"
And all of a sudden, it stopped. The air stood still, Tatsuki's dishevelled hair falling around her eyes. An aura of power radiated off of her. Somewhat frail, and more then a little untrained, but certainly present.
Tatsuki glanced around her, stunned. Somehow, she had done it. She had completely beaten back the wind, bending it to her control.
It took her a moment to realize that Yoruichi was not in front of her anymore, and no more light strikes were being landed on her. She glanced around the training area that the cat-woman had set out for them, and saw her sensei sitting, cross-legged, on a small mat, sipping what looked like tea out of a small cup.
Yoruichi smirked and glanced upwards, "You see?" she stated, "You can do it."
Chad's chest heaved and his right arm burned with a pain that, while a moment ago had been stronger then any he had ever experienced before, now was merely a dull ache. Orihime stared down at her companion's arm with something akin to distress as she used her healing energies to attempt to reattach his hand to the stump that was now his arm.
"Now, now Yasutora!" the joyous voice of Kisuke Urahara spoke, "I did tell you that I wasn't going to be holding back, so you really should have been more careful then that!"
Orihime placed her hands on her hips and glared at Urahara in a dissaproving manner, "You should apologize to Chad! That was very mean of you to do, to hurt him like that!"
Urahara rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, "Well now, come one Orihime, you know I don't like to hurt people. But hey, think about it this way! This means that you get to practice your powers as well!"
Orihime's expression changed from reprimanding to insecure in a moment, "I...I don't know. I've healed up cuts and bruises before, and even did a bit to help Ishida when he was injured in the fight with Ichigo-san, but this...this is so much harder."
"Inoue?" a burly voice from beneath them spoke, "I don't want to pressure you, but I would appreciate it if you would try to reattach my hand. I'm no good to the team if I can't throw a punch."
The red-haired princess dropped to her knees, a wave of unease flowing through her stomach at the sight of her friend's bloody stump, "Yes, of course Chad." she murmered, "I'll try harder."
Urahara placed his hand on her shoulder and for a moment his goofy demeanor changed into one of serenity as he watched the young girl redouble her efforts in vain, "Don't worry Orihime. I have complete faith in you. I know that you can do this."
Unseen to anyone, the shop-keeper reached into a fold in his jacket and retrieved a small onyx vial. The same vial whic he had used to procure a sample of Kurosaki Ichigo's hollow energy. Smiling his knowing smile, he released the cork which held the contents in place.
Inoue Orihime's eyes opened wide in shock as a wave of inner strength rolled through her, and suddenly, without warning, the elliptical energy field which covered Chad's arm flashed as bright as a sun, bliding both the healer and patient for a brief moment. When the light died down, and their vision had returned to them, the two teens glanced down and saw that Chad's hand had been completely reattached, without even a scar or any remnant of blood to show where an injury had been.
The large mexican boy slowly rose to his feet and stared at his wrist in a bewildered fashion. After standing stunned for a moment, he fell forward, catching himself with his reattached hand and did a set of 10 one-armed push-ups.
"That was increadible Orihime. I am forever in your debt."
The young girl was just as stunned as her patient, "Don't...um...don't mention it. I'm glad to help."
Urahara placed a hand on Orihime's shoulder, "There, see. I told you that you could do it." He jestured to an area somewhere behind his underground training area, "Come with me for a moment, I have something that I would like to talk to you about."
Orihime nodded, "Yes, alright."
Urahara Kisuke had brought the young girl to a room that was unlike anything that she had ever seen before. In every corner there were gadgets and gizmos, the purpose of which she couldn't begin to guess at. Although...that one in the corner just had to be an automated, fire-breathing battletron. She knew this to be true because it looked like nothing of the sort, and no-one would ever make such a make it look like what it was. Although she supposed that by this logic, anything in this room could be an automated, fire-breathing battletron.
The firey-haired girl glanced at Urahara who was looking over a large beaker, the kind of which that you would expect to see in a laboratory.
"What was it that you wanted me for?" Orihime asked.
Urahara smiled, "Do you know anything about the nature of reiatsu, Orihime?"
"Ummm...no, not really."
The shopkeeper nods, "Well, it is an energy of course, given out by all things that have spirits or souls. In things that are alive, of course, this energy is usually contained by the physical body, but if your spiritual pressure is strong enough, it can bypass this limitation. That is why Shinigami can use Gigai while still having some use of their abilities, even if only a little. It is this energy which allows us to increase out speed and strength to superhuman levels, combat hollows, use kido, and a veriety of all sorts of other things."
Orihime nods, "Ummmm...okay. I think that I understand that. It's also what allows me to use my own powers, right?"
Urahara gives her a gesture in the affermative, "Now as to the actual nature of reiatsu, there are a lot of technical things which I doubt you would be able to understand, but very briefly, it acts similarly to the electro-magnetic spectrum."
"You mean light?"
"Yes, as well as radio-waves, micro-waves, infrared and ultraviolet light, and gamma-rays. It has certain properties of a wave and a particle, and all those other things which you know about light. But what is important to this conversation is that reiatsu has a certain frequency and wavelength, although unlike with light, this has little to do with the actual strength of the energy itself. For each indevidual, this frequency is unique, much like a snowflake. This is how we are able to tell two indeviduals apart, as we develope the ability to instinctively sense the subtle differences in wavelengths between two different sources."
Orihime looked pensieve and she placed her head on a slight tilt, "So, then that's why I can always recognize all my friends even before I see them?"
Urahara nodded, "There's more to it then that, such as the nature of reiatsu, but for now, let's focus on the wavelength. You see, I have a bit of an experiment that you might be able to help me with. It will only take a moment, would you agree to that?"
Orihime nodded and smiled, "Yes, I'd be glad to help you Kisuke-sensei."
Urahara grinned, "Excellent! You see on top of all this, there is a bit of a phenomenon that no one, not even myself, has been able to adequately explain, that being that if you take a sample of reiatsu, and seperate it from the source, then no matter what you do to it, no matter what sort of tests and mutations you attempt to cause it in, the one thing that never ever changes is that frequency. If you observe a sample and compare it to the original source, you will never be able to tell the difference. It is as though the sample is still connected to the original despite time and distance. Every pulse and occilation will continue to match perfectly." Urahara reached into the sleeve of his jacket and retrieved the onyx vial, "And I just happen to have with me a sample of reiatsu from a one Kurosaki Ichigo."
Orihime's eyes opened wide in shock, "Ichigo-san! But how did you get that?"
Urahara waved off her question, "It doesn't matter. What I am curious about is how your own reiatsu compares to our young Ichigo's. You see, I have a theory that needs vindicating, and the only way that I can do that is with a small sample of your reiatsu. All I need," he spoke, pulling out a second, empty vial from his jacket, "is for you to release a small amount of your spiritual pressure into the air."
Orihime nodded, "Alright, um...I'll try."
The young girl raised her hands in what she assumed must be a rather ethereal manner, and tried to will her energy to be released into the air.
Urahara smiled as he felt the soft caresses of Orihime's healing energies, quite different from the crushing and opressing force which Ichigo's reiatsu had been. The scientist uncorked the second onyx vial and allowed a portion of Orihime's energies to flow into the tiny container.
Later the same day, Urahara sat down at his tea time, sipping his brew with Yoruichi across from him.
"So, did you find out what you wanted about that Orihime girl?"
Kisuke nodded, "It was just as I expected."
Orihime looked down through the device which looked very similar to a microscope, at two different slides, one of which, Kisuke-san told her, contained a miniscule portion of Ichigo's reiatsu, the other her own. What she saw was two windows, behind which were floating thousands of tiny glowing orbs which whirled around and seemed to flash bright and dim in perfect union. Or at least, each window was in pefect union. Oddly, the two windows seemed to be exactly the opposite of each other. When one was bright, the other was dim, and vice-versa. They both flashed so quickly that it was sort of hard to see, but there it was.
"Does this mean anything special, Kisuke-sensei?" The girl asked.
"It means, Orihime, that your reiatsu and Ichigo's have the exact same frequency, but with perfectly opposing occilations. It means that Ichigo's reiatsu is the perfect negative of yours."
Orihime's eyes scrunched up in confusion, "So...what does that mean?"
Urahara smiled and waved her off, "Oh, nothing of much importance really. Just a curiosity of happinstance."
"So then, what does it mean?" Yoruichi asked.
Urahara smirked, "It means that their energies are prefect complements of each other. Because of that, the energies are not only capable of occupying the same space at the same time, because while one has flashed out of existance, the other will be flashing into existance, but the two energies will actually pull themselves towards each other though any means that they can. Because the two energies have perfect compatibility, the presence of one can greatly increase the strength of the other as well, which is why I was able to give Orihime's healing powers a temporary boost by exposing her to the sample of Ichigo's reiatsu that I had aquired earlier."
Yoruichi nodded, "That is quite a fascinating phenomenon. I've never heard of anything like it before."
Kisuke nodded, "I have. It has happened no more then 4 times in the history of creation, not including this time." Kisuke glanced upwards, "There is one other thing that this means as well..."
Ichigo glanced down from his high vantage point atop a Karakura skyscraper, lookind down at the human celebration or festival or whatever the heck this was. Supposedly this thing was featuring a showing of a pompous and increadibly rediculous human named Don Kanonji. He didn't understand the point of it all really, and in fact it was somewhat insulting to him that these ingorant humans were taking his world and making such a collosal joke about it.
Not that it was really any sort of big deal. He was just feeling somewhat angry about most everything because of this macabre job that he was assigned to do.
Knowing that he would never find his target just by scanning the crowds with his eyes, Ichigo allowed them to close and focused instead on his highly sensitive hollow ears. He could hear every single sound that the people below him made, every scream and wail, every whisper and hiccup.
"You know, I really think that she is cheating on...", "...wants me back before midnight...", "...I'm gonna get Don Kanonji's autograph if it's...", "...hey man, I found this great...", "...dude, you know that I'm only here because...", "...Karen, I wish that you would just try to enjoy yourself."
Ichigo's eyes shot open and his head swivled over to where he had heard this last voice. Two tiny points stood out amongst the enormous crouds, one yellow, the other black. He recognized them immediately.
Deftly he took a single step out into the air and allowed himself to start falling to the ground. A moment before he hit the ground, he pushed a small amount of energy downwards and landed as light as a feather amongst the masses of people. No one turned their heads or gave any other sign that they noticed his sudden appearance.
Except for one person. Kurosaki Karen swung around to stare directly at Ichigo, but the look of apprehension on her face dissapeared as soon as she saw him, "Oh, it's you. I didn't think that you'd show up here."
Ichigo nodded, "Hello Karen, find this whole thing as repulsive as I do?"
Ichigo was no longer a stranger to his biological sister. After Aizen had transformed him into an Arrencar, the first thing that he had done was to return to Karakura and seek out his family again. This time there had been no urge to kill, no monsterous instincts forcing him in a direction that he did not want to go. The father and Yuzu didn't seem to be able to see him, but Karen could, and he had developed a sort of rapport with her with astonishing ease. It was as though she wanted little more then to meet him and talk with him.
The way that he understood it, she was a quiet sort, strongly reclused from her father and sister and having almost no friends, getting into fights and and rarely taking the time to converse with anyone. But she talked to him. Oh how she talked. She talked about how she felt about school and her family, and her connections to the spirit world via Rukia, and how she tried to to everything that she could to help but felt that, esspecially since the other children from school had developed spiritual powers as well (Ichigo assumed that this was the group that he had encountered before), she was useless.
She even showed him some of her color and paper creations (she called them "arts", though Ichigo wound't know much about that). He thought that she must be pretty good at it, as she showed him a picture of himself that she had drawn after he had first met her in his hollowed form, and she had increadibly been able to capture every single detail of his old Vasto Lorde mask in her drawing.
He didn't know why she spoke with him so fervently. Perhaps because she liked the idea of having a brother who had such an otherworldy quality abouth him, perhaps because she didn't know him well enough and so she could make up her own idea of him however she wanted him to be, or perhaps because he was good at just listening and not telling her what to do, only offering advice if she asked for it. Whatever the reason, she responded to him very well.
"What are you doing here Ichigo?" Karen asked, "This doesn't seem like your kind of thing. Heck, the only reason that I'm at this stupid showing is that Yuzu and Isshin are big fans of this Kanonji guy and I had to come along for the ride."
Ichigo nodded, "I have a reason for being here, but I can't tell you what it is. If you can, you might want to get yourself and the others out of here, because this isn't going to be the safest place in the world for long."
Karen's eyes narrowed, "What are you talking about? What's going to happen."
Ichigo shook his head, "I'm sorry. I hope that you can forgive me, but I'm going to do something bad tonight. I'll keep as many people safe as possible, but it's something that has to be done." He started to dissapear into the crouds.
"Hey! You can't just walk away! Tell me what you're going to do you jerk!"
Ichigo froze and glanced back over to her in a somewhat forlorn manner that stopped her in her tracks. She had never seen that sort of a look on his face before.
"Can you tell me where Rukia is?" he asked.
Karen looked surprised, "What-what do you want with her?" Rukia didn't know about their meetings, and both Karen and Ichigo wanted to keep it that way.
Ichigo shrugged, "It doesn't matter. I'll find her myself."
Karen watched him continue to walk away, but just before he dissapeared out of sight, she called after him, "She's near the edge of the area for the video set! She said that there was a soul ready to become a Hollow around here, but that she was going to wait until after the show was over to send it away!"
Ichigo smiled and turned back to her, "Thank you Karen. And again, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." and he was gone.
"BWA HA HA HA HA!" the Arrancar heard for what must have been the third time as he wandered aimlessly through the abandoned building. As annoying as this human was, he was starting to feel less bad about what he was going to be doing.
A deep and classically ghostly moan ripped through the walls of the building, and Ichigo turned his head in the vauge direction of the noise and progressed further down into the dead building.
It wasn't long before he found what he was looking for. There was a man standing there, clearly long dead, a look of sheer agony and blind rage across his face. Attached to his chest was a long, heavy chain, which lead to the ground beneath the man, his chain of fate.
Standing directly in front of the man was the most rediculous human being that Ichigo could ever remember seeing. From his tiny round sunglasses, to his dreadlocks, to his atrociously gaudy jacket, this human was an affront to nature if ever there was one.
"WORRY NOT FOUL SPIRIT! FOR I, DON KANONJI, SHALL FREE YOU FROM YOUR EARTHLY BONDS AND SEND YOU UP TO THE SHINING GATES OF HEAVEN! BWA HA HA HA HA!"
If Ichigo had thought that this man couldn't possibly be more annoying if he tried, he had been wrong.
"I am sorry to interrupt this riveting tale, but this is where I come in." Ichigo stated as he stepped foreward.
Kanonji swivelled around with much more flair then was absolutely necessary and pointed a dramatic finger at Ichigo, "You! Another wandering spirit! Worry not, spirit, once I have finished my job here, I shall attend to you!"
Ichigo rolled his eyebrows, "Sorry old man, but you're not going to be attending to anyone anytime soon."
The Arrancar slowly unsheathed his Zanpakuto, and pointed it directly at the insane scene unfolding before him. Even Don Kanonji, weak as he was in every respect, could feel the raw power radiating off of the steel blade, Ichigo's long white coat making a stark contrast to the darkness around him.
"You would challenge Don Kanonji! BWA HA HA HA HA! Little boy, you don't know at all whom you are dealing with! Now leave this place and never haunt the land of the living again!" The entire audience below crossed their arms over their chests and mimiced this man's inane laugh. Surely even humans couldn't be this stupid?
Ichigo dashed forward with alarming speed, slashing his sword in a deadly arc. Don Kanonji gave off a pathetic yelp and jumped backwards, but Ichigo had not been aiming for him. There was a breif ting of metal on metal and the chain which connected the spirit to it's eartly bonds was severed.
The grungy spirit let loose the otherworldly wail familliar to all those who have heard the passing of a spirit into Hollow form. The man's eyes opened wide in pain and drool was flung was his mouth as he writhed about. But almost as soon as it started, it was over, the man had faded out of existance. Ichigo knew that it wouldn't be for long.
Don Kanonji looked over the spot where the spirit had just vanished, "Ah, well...as decent a job as that was, I am the professional here, and an amateur shouldn't be getting himself into things like this."
Ichigo glanced at the obscene man and almost laughed. If anyone was a professional, it was the Shinigami, and quite frankly it was hilarious to hear anyone claim anything that would humiliate those black-robed cretins. Still, he had a job to do, and he couldn't break cover.
"This game isn't over yet, Kanonji." Ichigo stated, "There are worse things then chained spirits around here. A monster is coming, and a villain as well, and you're going to be right in the thick of it."
Almost as if on que, Ichigo heard the telltale high screech of a Hollow being wrenched back into existance, and he flicked his eyes upward. The Hollow was quickly shaping up to be a flyer, with a broad, flat head and a mouth full of teeth. Newborns are all pathetic of course, but this one looked just a tad bit stronger then the majority of them.
"WH-WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT!" Don Kanonji stuttered out.
Ichigo grinned, "That...is not the worst of our problems. It's just the beast. More important is the beastmaster behind it."
Kanonji twisted around and stared intently at the white-robed swordsman, "Beastmaster? Who could possibly command such a terrible creature?"
"KUROSAKI!" A noble sounding voice called out, again as if perfectly on que, "What do you think you are doing here?"
Ichigo glanced over at Rukia, who had just jumped out of her Gigai and onto the stage, and gave her a respectful nod, "And here she is, the villain herself." He gestured non-chalantly towards her, "Here she is Kanonji, the enigmatic villain, all dressed up in the darkest of black, as all villains are."
Kanonji flicked his eyes between the three figures, Shinigami, Arrancar, and Hollow in the sky, a bead of sweat appearing on his forehead, "What is this! I demand to know what's going on here!"
Ichigo shook his head, "No time to explain! People are in danger, so meet me on the roof!"
Without another word, Ichigo dashed towards a window and kicked himself upwards towards the top of the tall hospital building. Without paying the bizzare man any mind at all, Rukia followed him.
"Why did you tell him that?" Rukia asked, her eyes narrowed in mistrust, "What does it give you for Kanonji to think that I'm the bad guy in this, when really you're the servant of evil? He is far too weak to make any sort of decent ally, so why?"
Ichigo rolled his eyes, "Stop being so damn presuptuous! What makes you think that you're not the villain here? What have I ever done? Defend myself? Fight you when you attack first? If it were up to me, I would leave you and yours the hell enough alone. If it were up to you, you'd exterminate all of us without a second thought."
Rukia's eyes narrowed, "You are a Hollow. You feed yourself on souls. I do not know how you transfigured yourself into this humanoid illusion, but you won't fool me. None of this changes the fact that you and your kind lives off of killing innocent humans and eating their souls."
Ichigo laughed, "Really? Well then, expain how it's possible that I've never killed a single human in my life. That in fact I lived all of my Hollow life trying to find a way to avoid having to do anything like that? You're an idiot, and like most Shinigami you've been brainwashed to follow orders without questioning them. At least I'm my own man. You're just a freakin robot!"
With astonishing speed, Ichigo drew his sword and charged. Before Rukia could even get her hand to her own blade, before she could even blink, the Arrancar's blade was at her throat. But never did his blade touch her skin.
Ichigo smirked at her, "Huh. Looks like the high-and-mighty Shinigami bit off more then she could chew again. Lucky you, I'm not looking to kill you today. Or maybe not so lucky, considering."
Rukia, to her credit, never backed down an inch, or showed even the tiniest modicum of fear.
Ichigo glared at her, annoyed, but removed his sword, "Right now, it would be better for my diabolical plot if Kanonji saw me slaying that Hollow."
With those words, Ichigo was gone, dashing up towards the monsterous flying creature and slashing at it with his Zanpakuto, leaving an intentionally shallow cut.
Without a moment's hesitation, the monstrosity attacked him.
The battle was clearly one sided, with Ichigo only barely holding back enough to not slaughter the creature. The Hollow attacked left, Ichigo swayed effortlessly to the right. It spat at Ichigo with it's glue-like saliva and Ichigo would incinerate it with a small Cero. The Espada dodged every attack that was aimed at him, and gave dozens of small attacks back, leaving the Hollow with innumerable, but superficial cuts all over it's body.
Ichigo kept his ears open, waiting for the sounds of footsteps outside the door to the rooftop, which would signal Kanonji's appearance. He didn't have long to wait, and as his sensitive ears picked up the sound of the knob of the door turning, he slashed wickedly at the Hollow's head, timing it so that the creature would begin to dematerialize just as Don Kanonji was slipping through the door.
The crazy old man adopted a look of amazement as he watched the huge manta ray-slash-bat monster break down before his very eyes. It feel to the ground below, slipping over the side of the roof before it had completely dissapeared, but he had arrived in time to see the boy in white strike the blow which downed the beast.
Kanonji grinned widely and crossed his arms over his chest, "BWA HA HA HA HA HA! Excellent job young boy, for slaying that monster. I could have done it myself of course, but I always appreciate a helping hand!"
Rukia turned around, a look of confusion on her face, "Don Kanonji, leave this place. I don't know what his plot is, but it isn't safe for you here at the moment."
Before the befuddled man could respond, Ichigo shouted out, "Don't listen to her Kanonji! She's the puppetmaster behind all of this!
Rukia turned her eyes to stare at the gaudy man, "Don't be fool enough to assume that you know anything about this world, Kanonji. I don't know what this Hollow's plan is, but I do know that it will be better for you if you run."
Ichigo smirked as he watched Rukia draw her blade as though in slow motion...as though she trying to move through a pool of gel. She dashed forward, her flash step not even ruffling his long white overcoat. She slashed downward at his head, the typical point of attack for any masked Hollow, and he lazily raised up his own Zanpakuto to parry her strike. Her blade hit his own square on...
...and his knee hit the ground.
Ichigo's eyes opened wide with shock as his arm shook with the effort of holding back her strike. She struck again almost immediatly, this time from the side, and again he deflected the blow. The sheer power behind the swing pushed his sword to the side and her blade grazed his arm before he was able to push himself out of the way. Ichigo's eyes flicked to the thin gash on his right bicep and he took in the thin stripe of red that was staining his otherwise perfect coat.
Rukia swung again, and this time Ichigo deflected the sword at an angle so as that a major part of the force bounced off instead of being transferred to his arm. Ichigo's eyes opened wide in shock and his face broke out in a cold sweat.
"Quick Kanonji, I need you!" The Arrancar called out, "I can't hold her off on my own!"
Rukia kept her senses open, but otherwise ignored her foe's calls. She couldn't see how Kanonji could help the Hollow now, except perhaps as a cheap diversionary tactic, especially considering that Kanonji was weaker then either of them by a long shot. Still, her gut told her that there was something seriously wrong here. After her first defeat at this guy's hands she had devoted an obscene amount of time to her training in the hopes that when they met again she would be ready, but she knew that she shouldn't be at that level yet. This guy had been Captain class, at least, and she was nowhere near that at the moment. She could only assume that either he was putting on an act, or else his transformation into a human-like form had severely weakened him. She had to hope that it was the latter.
Meanwhile, Don Kanonji was dealing with his own confusing problems. His eyes followed the swordplay of the monochromatic warriors as he tried to decide whom he should trust. The girl's words seemed so heartfelt and it was just so hard for him to believe that such a small and cute looking young lady could be the villian of this tale. On the other hand, he had seen the boy in white slay the monster and also release the forsaken soul in the hospital. On top of that, it was the boy who was asking for help, and Don Kanonji was not the type of man who could ignore a cry for help.
In the end his choice was an easy one. The boy had been right earlier. Bad guys wore black and good guys wore white.
"HEATHEN WITCH! FEEL MY WRATH! BWA HA HA HA HA!"
Rukia slammed her blade once more into Ichigo's, knocking him totally onto his back. She turned to see the charging Kanonji just in time to twist out of the way of a wild and unruly swing of his cane.
"Kanonji, stop this! For your own safety, get out of here!" She flash-stepped roughly ten-feet back to avoid his next swing.
Kanonji seemed surprised by her fast movements, but wasn't disheartened, "NAY FOUL SUDUCTRESS! YOUR FEMININE WILES WILL NOT WORK ON ME!"
Rukia was flabbergasted for only a brief moment before raising her blade to slam her hilt into the charging crazy man. Quite frankly she didn't want to bring harm to him, but she couldn't afford these distractions while dealing with the Hollow. She would take him out of the game now for his sake as well as hers.
Just before Kanonji got within range, she felt a shift of the air behind her and the familiar hum of metal slicing through the air. Just in time, she twisted out of the way of Ichigo's blade, spun on her heels, and sliced at her foe. Her reach wasn't enough to do any serious damage, but her blade grazed across his chest, covering her face with a fine mist of blood.
Ichigo stumbled back, but Rukia was almost immediatly struck in the head from behind and stumbled herself. The blow hadn't really hurt, but it had been annoying, and as she twisted around to see Kanonji's cane raised up in preperation for another strike, she found her patience thinning. For a second time however she was interrupted before she could do anything about it. The heel of Ichigo's foot had just become very well aquainted with her head, and a moment after that, so did the concrete floor nearly 30 feet away.
Slowly, Rukia staggered to her feet, her head pounding and her vision foggy from the harsh attack. She couldn't see her own hand two feet in front of her face. A dark figure appeared suddenly above her and it raised up its arms in a motion that she recognized well. A powerful overhead swing. A shiver of panic ran over her as she realized that she would never be able to get out of the way in time. Screaming, she lashed out in a horizontal slash, her blade slicing directly through her attacker's abdomen. The figure coughed up a spray of blood onto the ground and collapsed like a puppet who's strings have been cut.
It took no more then 2 seconds for Rukia's head to stop swimming and her vision to return to her. When it did, her face blanched white with horror.
Lying on the ground before her was the unmoving body of Don Kanonji.
Ichigo sighed and turned away, as though he were ashamed of the whole thing, "Well would you look at that. I won."
Reviews, reviews GALORE!
darkmachines: Actually not a bad idea. Aizen might "request" (that's read: "demand") Ichgio to take a fraccion for his own nefarious reasons, and I could see Ggio being a good choice (I liked Ggio and have always felt that he was a bit of a waist of good potential). Not Findor though. I REALLY don't think that his character and Ichgio's would mesh. Ichigo'd probably rip his head off two days in.
RyumaOmega: First off, thanks for the support :D Secondly, as to your questions, the way that I see Ulquiorra's second transformation is, like you suggest, an Adjuchas and a Vasto Lorde level of power. However since Stark and Halibel and Barragan are all Vasto Lordes as well, and they only have one transformation, it obviously not all Vasto Lordes get two transformations. The way that I see it, the second transformation only comes along if you were an Adjuchas when you first became an Arrancar, but then advanced to the Vasto Lorde level. In other words, I think that Ulquiorra was an Adjuchas when Aizen first found him, but quickly increased in power until he reached the Vasto Lorde level. This doesn't replace his original release form, instead it just adds a second release to it. Because Ichigo, Grimmjow, Stark, and the like were already Vasto Lorde when they were turned into Arrancar, they won't have the first release, they will just skip right to the second, more powerful one whenever they release at all.
As for Ichigo's shinigami reiatsu, this is only unique before he became an Arrancar. All Arrancar (and all Vizard) have both Hollow and Shinigami reiatsu, but what makes Ichigo special is that he already had some Shinigami reiatsu when he was still a full Hollow. This doesn't give him any special powers. What it did do was make his transition from Vasto Lorde to Arrancar much more smooth, and it helped him to keep ahold of his humanity and human emotions even while a full Hollow (it could do this because Shinigami reiatsu is stronger then just human reiatsu).
And sorry, while I like the imput, I will definately not be doing a harem thing (more then one girl for one guy). I just don't personally care for them, and it is insanely difficult to apply it while making it seem like a natural thing for the characters to do.
Ultimate-Zelda-Fan (First off, I might have to steal your name :P ): I thought that it really fit, with Nell and Grimmy :D They'd be at each other's throats all the time, with his wild animalistic warrior personality and her strong sense of honor and justice (but still a warrior), but deep down he would have a deep respect, admiration, and adoration for her that he himself doesn't understand, and feel a strong desire to impress her and earn her respect. Of course when she doesn't give it to him right away, he gets pissed off and blows something up :P But that's Grimmy for you!
Livin'A-Chain: Thanks for the help with the names, I really appreaciate it :)
The Lord's Fallen Angel: Nell isn't weaker. She is just surrounded by more guys who are stronger :P Remember, in the original story, Grimmjow was a decent bit weaker and Ichigo wasn't in the Espada (I also figure that a couple other guys didn't show up until after Nell was attacked by Nnoitra, such as Ulquiorra, whom I think is one of the most recently found Espada, and perhaps Stark). So she's not weaker, there are just more guys who are a decent bit stronger for her to compete with, which is why her rank went down.
(Guy with no name): As pertains to Yammy, I really don't like him, I don't think that he made an effective plot device, and after he got curbstomped by Byakuya and Kenpachi I really can't see how he is supposed to be such an uuber strong guy. I might leave him out entirely or just make him into Ulquiorra's faccion (who perhaps, as you say, holds an emormous amount of power but can't use it worth beans).
Dragon's Wraith: Oh yeah. My Stark is as strong as I think Stark should have been (my explination for this being that since he now doesn't trust Aizen or feel such a need to "belong", he put more effort into becoming stronger). He might not be strong enough to beat Yamamoto or Aizen, but he would definately push them to their limits.
(Second guy with no name): I am sorry that you don't like my ships. I admit some of them are more just my wishful thinking (Grimmy x Nell, for example), but several of them I think are perfectly legitimate and reasonably thought out (like Ichigo x Orihime, which I would argue is the ship which is most supportive and central to the cannon, and Rukia x Renji, which also one of the most logical ships that there are, and I would argue is already cannon on Renji's side). As for the whole heart=mask and that's why they have a Hollow hole thing, I understand this, but that is the point of the Shinigami reiatsu which he got from his father. It was strong enough to allow him to keep his emotions, especially once he has reached the end of his evolution into an Arrancar (and like it or not, Arrancar are not all monsters. This is cannon, Nell herself gives a speach about it to Nnoitra).
Landon's Avatar: Personally, I'm not the biggest fan of Ulquiorra, though I understand why so many people are, and I will be putting him into the story. He is going to be the guy who Ichigo and Grimmjow both think that they are more then capable of handling because he is lower ranked then either of them, but of course they don't know about his second release, so he is a sort of an unexpected danger.
Napris: HA! Thanks a bunch for the glowing review! It's funny that you had reviewed my story before and didn't realize that you had ever read it before. I'm glad that you like the direction that I am going in so far (and you have gotten pretty much everything right so far). I also don't want to charge into the romance head first simply because it doesn't feel natural to me (Nell and Grimmjow will probably progress somewhat faster then Ichigo x Orihime, although they will also have their mountains to climb). I'm not going to manipulate my characters to make them do something OOC just for the sake of getting them to the "I love you, be with me" stage. It's a journy that is perhaps more wonderful then the destination itself. As for everything else that you touched on, well I suppose you'll just have to wait and see, won't you ;) Just know that I will be touching on everything that you mentioned.
As a side note also, I agree that Cuarto sort of suits Ulquiorra better and Sexta suits Grimmjow (although for me personally, if you are taking the name as meaning "Sexy" then Nell would take the cake), but it just didn't fit with my story. Don't worry, Grimmjow can make a good Cuarto as well :D You are right when you say I don't have a whole lot of author-affection for Ulquiorra, but I don't dislike him, and I promise to try and treat him right by his fans.
For everyone else: All you kind and beloved reviewers and readers out there, keep reading, and keep reviewing. You don't know how much it means to us authors :D Thanks a million.