(Author's Note: As all of you have noticed I like to make references to my favorite movies/ video games and I always! Forget to credit where I get some of the quotes at. You'll see a God of war reference in this one and I have been so excited to use it cause I have been wanting to write it for a very long time.)
Chapter 60 – The Rising Emperor
Halibel covered her face as Yamamoto shot towards Aizen so swiftly that the earth rumbled and dust shot up around them. To her relief, the Captain Commander got Aizen's full attention; allowing her to quickly turn back to Ichigo.
Sadness welled up inside of her as she saw the man, that she cared for more than anything in the world, frozen in time as he stared down at Orihime's lifeless form.
She bent down, knowing full well Ichigo needed emergency treatment for the injuries he had sustained. She looked up towards Yamamoto and Aizen, who were apparently at a stand off.
'This is our chance... We have to get out of here...'
No response, he didn't even blink.
She frowned, placing a hand on Ichigo's shoulder.
"Please Ichigo... We need to leave."
She panicked, "Ichigo..." 'He's gone into shock, his minds collapsing!'
Ichigo's golden eyes refused to leave Orihime's body, "Chad... Stark... Orihime... Dead. I couldn't save... a single one..."
Halibel was taken aback, and in a moment of sadness whispered, "You... You talk as if you have lost everyone. What... what about me? You still have me, don't you? Please Ichigo, come back to me..."
She closed her eyes, remembering the months leading up to this war... After Ichigo professed his love to her, she had never been so happy. Ichigo had made peace with his past and regained memories, he was no longer depressed. She knew better, deep down... Ichigo no longer knew how to live in the present, without thinking of the past. She didn't blame Orihime, but she couldn't deny the resentment she felt by the way Ichigo looked at her. He cherished Orihime as much as he cherished her. She wondered, If Ichigo would be acting like this if she were in Orihime's place, dead at his feet.
She was knocked out of her thoughts when the ground beneath them began shaking, the cause of which was neither Yamamoto or Aizen.
She winced as pain shot up the arm that was touching Ichigo, causing her to let go of him.
"Ichigo?" She whispered softly, suddenly feeling the throbbing sensation at the base of her stomach once more; this time, more violently. "What's... " She fell to her knees, doubling over in pain. "What's going on?"
The ground which was shaking suddenly grew more violent, and through her pain Halibel watched as rocks and pieces of earth began lifting off the ground and slowly rotating, with Ichigo at its epicenter.
"Ichi...go?!" She shouted, clutching her stomach tightly as black reishi began "pouring" out of Ichigo and circling the both of them as well as the earth. She cursed Urahara for not being there. If anyone knew what was going on, he would.
Ichigo remained where he was, kneeling... not even registering what was occurring around him.
In the instant she realized she would not get a response, she cried out; feeling as if her very soul was being ripped out of her body and before her very eyes saw a third of a shattered black orb that pulsated with dark power.
'The Hogyoku shard I absorbed?!' She realized, watching as it shot towards Ichigo and slammed into his chest, causing the Primera to cry out in rage.
Not a second later Halibel saw a second piece of the orb, the piece she knew Stark had absorbed, slammed into Ichigo as well.
"Ichigo, what's happening?"
Before Halibel knew it, she way standing in the center of a massive black tornado of pure black reishi; created by Ichigo who was crying out in pain from absorbing a massive amount of energy. She could briefly hear him crying out in despair as his energy freely flowed from his body and threatened to engulf everything around him.
(Landscape Akin to Hueco Mundo's desert – Ichigo's Mind-scape)
"NO!" Ichigo roared, shouting to the heavens as he knelt in the center of a tornado that was so massive that it seemed to swallow the moon. The ground shook with unrelenting force, as if the very ground was coming undone, yet he didn't care, nor acknowledge in any way that he was within his own mind, crying out as if his very heart was being torn from his body.
Ichigo's roars continued, reaching out across the infinite space of his own subconscious; ignoring the voice that spoke out to him and even the owner of the voice.
A tall form stood just feet from Ichigo, cloaked in a black robe... it purple eyes shining out from under the darkness of the hood.
There was a sadness in the mysterious voice, "Kurosaki Ichigo..."
The voice fell on deaf ears as the roar of the Primera's cries echoed even over the massive tornado of black reishi and white sand that erupted around him.
Unperturbed by the world around them becoming undone, the cloaked figure slowly walked towards him, his eyes never left Ichigo's defeated form.
"I can see through you... Kurosaki Ichigo." It whispered, now five feet away.
"Your past..." Images of Ichigo's past appeared all around the two, despite Ichigo still lost in his own despair. Now the "man" was three feet away.
"Your Present..." And image of Ichigo holding Orihime's lifeless corpse appeared behind him; a foot away...
The cloaked figure quickly fell to one knee; his glowing purple eyes that emitted unparallelled power, burning into Ichigo's golden ones.
Yet despite staring directly into each others eyes, Ichigo could not "see" him. It was as if he simple chose to "Ignore" the being standing before him...
The "Man" raised his arm, pulling back his sleeve, revealing obsidian black skin.
"And your future." He slowly placed his right middle finger and index finger against Ichigo's forehead.
Instantly Ichigo was bombarded with images that passed through his mind so fast that he could only catch the smallest of details.
A glimpse of Hueco Mundo, destroyed, engulfed by blue flames.
Two hooded figures; one collapsed and the other on their knees begging for "something"
Sabe barring her fangs as she stood over "Someone" before ripping their throat out.
And the last image... Him, hunched over with blood pouring down the sides of his mouth; Szayel assisting him back upon a throne.
The second the images vanished Ichigo felt a wave of pure "light" wash over him.
His eyes opened wide, and his screams slowly softened until they were no more, as if just realizing he was no longer atop Sokyoku Hill... Orihime, no longer in his arms. And more importantly, the glowing purple eyes that seemed to peer into his very soul.
A thousand questions crossed his mind, but the one that left his mouth first, "Who... Are you?"
The figure removed his fingers from Ichigo's forehead and stood up.
"So, you still do not know who made you as you are?" He paused, "I am the Hogyoku, ever present creation of those that would play "god". I have watched you become a powerful Warrior and I have known you through all the events of your life but I can no longer simply watch... I will help you defeat Aizen.
Confusion welled up within Ichigo, 'All the events of my life?'
"And even as i say such a thing I see confusion, fear, despair, and hatred in your heart. You know my power, Kurosaki Ichigo. To materialize the desire in ones heart... The only reason for my existence, to serve others. Born into a life of servitude. And your heart... Your heart speaks the loudest to me. I can hear it loud and clear... It is saying, "What is the point of living?" "Despair finds everyone." "Why must it be I that suffers?"
"Orihime..." Ichigo began softly.
"This feeling, you felt. Why her death affected you... She was your only tie to the world you "came from" Your last remaining link to your past."
Ichigo looked up at him, "I shouldn't be surprised that you know that, you can read my heart after all."
"You mourn not only for the loss of Orihime, but for the loss of everything that connects you to those you once held dear. Rukia, Isshin, Yuzu, Karin, Chad... Everyone, and losing that connection," Hogyoku paused, looking to the pale moon, "It's like dying inside." He swiftly turned back to Ichigo, and said sternly, "Death is an escape, Kurosaki Ichigo! You are the Primera Espada, not a coward! Only a coward accepts death."
Ichigo couldn't meet his gaze. "I am no coward."
"Then fight for those that connect you to this world. Halibel, Stark!" Hogyoku snapped.
Golden eyes widened, "Stark lives?! What of Chad?"
"Were it not for a piece of my self residing in him at the time, he would have died. I was able to shield him as best I could, as I did with you when you challenged those "Vizards." Chad... Without my full power, I could not save him."
A lone tear rolled down Ichigo's face."My power alone... wasn't enough to keep them from harm. I have failed them."
"All is not lost, Ichigo. Much is at stake."
"I cannot defeat Aizen, he will only get more powerful, and Yamamoto..."
"I am no longer a broken shell. I am whole once more." He raised his arms, "I am every bit as powerful as the Hogyoku within Aizen's being. In your despair, I was not only able to completely read your heart, but your soul as well. And I can see the power that lays their... Dormant. If only your heart wishes it, I can open up that power to you."
"To what end?" Ichigo whispered.
"The death of Aizen! That twisted and abominable excuse of a soul!" The Hogyoku snapped angrily. "The one that would subdue me! If you relent he will stab, bifurcate, and rip limb from limb all those you hold dear."
"You... need me." The Primera realized, "That's why you wish to help me."
"It would taste a lie to say that is not true, but above all... I was created for a purpose. My fate is set in stone. Every being in existence... self preservation is an inescapable desire. It was why, instead of accepting death that day I latched myself onto the closest living souls. You three,"
Ichigo tried to think back to the very moment the Hogyoku was absorbed into his being, he could not recall.
"You do not remember. Of course you wouldn't. You were not... Not yourself at the time."
Ichigo looked up in confusion, "Not myself?"
The Hogyoku placed a hand on Ichigo shoulder and he was immediately buffeted with a wave of visions once more.
"You foolishly challenged Aizen to get Orihime back after the Winter War. "
An image of his fight with Aizen flashed in his mind.
"You put your all into it and eventually, you fell."
An image of Aizen piercing his heart passed.
"Were it not for your shinigami powers surfacing and taking over your body... You would have died."
"My shinigami powers?" He remembered that fateful fight with his inner hollow.
"In the end…you were still stronger than me." Ichigo's Hollow stated, suddenly becoming transparent as spirit particles flew out of his body and were subsequently absorbed by Ichigo.
"What's happening?" Ichigo asked as he began to glow.
"Didn't I tell you? We're merging."
"Then why did you say I might regret killing you?"
"Because, all killing me did was give you power. You have lost your life, when you go back to Hueco Mundo you will be an Arrancar, your only desire will be to kill Aizen and after that you will behave and live like a regular Arrancar." Hollow Ichigo said. Ichigo's eyes widened.
"You're lying." Ichigo exclaimed, his hollow laughed.
After that he remembered only blackness until he found himself standing before Halibel and Stark. His new life had begun.
"No your wrong, it wasn't my shinigami powers that came to my aid. It was my inner hollow trying to take control. And it did, it won and in the end... I was consumed by it."
The Hogyoku slowly tilted his head to the side, "There is so much you don't know about yourself and it is not my place to divulge such information. Believe me when I say, were it not for your "inner hollow?" you would have died. He had no choice but take control of you, he was the only reason you had the power to unleash your full shinigami powers and defeat Aizen with your Resurreccion."
"He doesn't know what he's taking about! He speaks as if my Shinigami and hollow powers are one."Ichigo grew angry, "You don't know what your taking about. You have been with me the entire time! You should know! Even now he torments me, both Zangetsu and Him! Trying to change me, control me!"
The Hogyoku took several steps back, "Are you referring to those two?"
He waved his arm and Ichigo watched as His hollow, in his Resurreccion form, and Zangetsu appeared. Staring at him motionlessly.
Both wore blank expressions, as if they were in a trance-like state.
"Or could it be, you are referring to these two."
Ichigo's eyes widened in disbelief as a second set of his inner hollow and Zangetsu appeared, only this time the two were bound in chains.
"What... What is the meaning of this?!" Ichigo asked, slowly standing up.
"You were wise, to signal a full retreat," Aizen began, standing proudly before the Captain Commander of the Gotei Thirteen; unaffected in the slightest at the raw heat that permeated the air around him. "But unneeded. You know as well as I do, the boundary between worlds is beginning to collapse thanks to our good friend Kurosaki Ichigo and yourself. That was something I wanted to avoid entirely, that is why... I ordered the Arrancar army to incapacitate, not kill. After all, I will be God... and if my world is in disrepair, it would be my duty to fix it."
"Your words are like a poison, Aizen. You will never be a God, you will always be a child with an ego too big to control."
Aizen smirked, his wings spreading out around him, "Thanks to Inoue Orihime, I have truly transcended into a being far stronger than anything before. Now, I am strong enough to truly defeat you."
"It will not be as it was last time, here... I won't have to hold my power back for fear of others losing their lives to it; the damage is already done. I have nothing holding me back now. I will defeat you, Aizen."
"I will not go easy on you, because you have only one arm. And I know all the abilities of your Bankai thanks to Kurosaki Ichigo, you are at a disadvantage."
"The concept of advantage and disadvantage has no meaning when it comes to my Bankai." Yamamoto snapped, shooting forward and swinging his blade.
Aizen smirked and a split second before the blade connected, grabbed the edge of the blade, halting it with his bare hands, stunning the Captain.
"Impossible!" 'The blade should have turned him to ash!' His eyes widened as he stared at Aizen hand.
His skin WAS turning to ash, but it was healing just as quickly if not quicker than the blade's power was effecting him.
'High speeding regeneration!' Before he could react Aizen pulled the blade into him and head butted Yamamoto so hard that a shock-wave destroyed the area around him.
Aizen growled as the skin on his upper body turned to ash before quickly healing, 'The shroud of flames coating his body...'
Pain shot through the Captain Commander at the sudden attack but he quickly recovered, swinging his blade fast enough to separate Aizen from his left arm and send him flying with a swift kick to the abdomen.
Aizen winced as his stomach and lower abdomen were scorched by the Captain Commanders kick.
Yamamoto continued his pursuit as Aizen spun mid-air to regain his balance.
"You really are a monster," Aizen stated, avoiding the Captain Commanders upward strike. "Can you not see this is pointless, you cannot defeat me. You can only keep this up for so long."
"As long as you live, I will never stop."
"What an irrational and laughable response." The former shinigami spat. "You have become weak! Not in your power, but in your thinking! We Captains were all told you used to be different. In the beginning before the Thirteen Divisions were established, I was told your were a group of blood thirst murders. You used to be a demon that would do anything to defeat the enemy. Not only humans but even your own men were no more than a bunch of ashes to you. If it had been the old you that I challenged in the Winter War, you would undoubtedly stopped any of this from happening. This is all your fault."
A guilt ridden expression crossed the Captain Commander's face, "I cannot change the past. All I can do is atone for my sins in the present."
Aizen laughter echoed all around them as he outstretched his arms, "How could you possibly atone for all this!"
Yamamoto looked around, far across the Seireitei.
There was nothing left aside from the most central part of the Seireitei that was left untouched due to the Arrancar army having retreated before they could reach it.
"You are all that is left, your forces are defeated... you are all that can be counted as man power. Not even the Royal Guard has offered it's aid."
Yamamoto glared, "You have not yet posed a threat to the Soul King, if you had..."
Aizen shook his head, "You know as well as I do that they would have lent aid long ago, perhaps they are being detained?"
Realization dawned on Yamamoto, "You know why they haven't lent aid to us...What did you do?!"
"Why would I tell you? The information is no good to a dead man. Let's just say that I was approached some time ago by someone you should be very familiar with; someone whom offered to lend me aid if I joined them."
Yamamoto stared at him in confusion.
Aizen slowly held up his hand and in a flash of light something appeared.
"And although I... politely refused, he still gave this to me. I didn't think I had to use this on you, and if this is all you are capable of I don't need to. It shall be used, only for you to be humiliated further. To think, I almost lost the chance to use it on you."
The Captain Commander glared at the white medallion in his hands, "What... is that?"
"A gift," Aizen whispered, "From someone who shares my desire to see you dead."
(Ichigo's inner world)
Ichigo watched, stunned at what he saw before him.
The Zangetsu in chains frowned, "Forgive me, Ichigo. I could not stop him. And yet, I could not be more happier to see you. It has been far too long."
Ichigo grew confused, "Who? Who couldn't you stop, what's going on?"
The old man slowly glanced at the Hogyoku. While his bound, inner hollow remained silent.
Ichigo locked eyes with the Hogyoku, "Tell me, what's going on."
"I was created, with the soul purpose of materializing the desires of one heart." The Hogyoku paused. "And so it was, when I latched myself onto you, but..."
Realization dawned on Ichigo, "But I wasn't in control when you latched onto me." He slowly turned to chained white version of himself. His inner hollow. "You read his heart."
"I spoke to him, as I am speaking to you now. He lied that time when he said that absorbing him would make you an Arrancar with only the desire to kill Aizen, he foolishly thought that by taking over the broken body you left behind, you could live through him."
Ichigo saw his inner hollow growl, as if he didn't want this information being told.
"He would have you live as a king, but when I latched myself onto you... him... and I spoke with him; he realized what he told you can become a reality, after-all his desire... was to protect you at all costs, with his own... your own... power. Even at the loss of his own existence."
Ichigo could not believe what he was hearing and he felt his world spinning. None of it made sense.
"No..." He shook his head, "No this can't be true. He... He's always wanted to devour me, to take over..."
"I have the power to change the very composition of a soul, Kurosaki Ichigo. You would have heard Aizen explain it as erasing the barrier between shinigami and hollow. I did as your Hollow desired and warped your soul, erasing all of your other powers aside from your hollow ones."
Ichigo slowly turned to Old Man Zangetsu, "Zangetsu."
"When I latched myself onto you," Hogyoku interrupted, "I understood his desire to give you a new life and made it so. All to protect you. I took from you, your memories... and I suppressed them to the deepest parts of your soul.
"Why did you subdue them?"
"A new life... Kurosaki Ichigo. An entirely new life with no connection to your past. It was necessary and he," Hogyoku pointed to his hollow, "Understood that concept well... All, to protect you."
Ichigo glanced at his inner hollow, "What... Who... Who are you?"
His inner hollow glared at him, "I have already told you... I'm Zangetsu!"
Ichigo glared, "Still with the lies?! None of this makes sense," He turned to the unchained Zangetsu and Hollow, "If you are telling me they are the real ones...Who are they?"
There was silence for the longest moment, "Your not asking the right questions, Kurosaki Ichigo. Your question should be... If I suppressed your memories and erased everything that tied you to your past... Why would your memories slowly return to you... Why would your memories manifest in physical form and attack you in the guise of these two."
"Cause you were not at full power, correct? They told me, the original hollow left a portion of his power in me in case I started reverting back into my old self and Zangetsu... wanted to kill me because of what I had now become."
"All lies." Hogyoku stated abruptly.
Ichigo's eyes widened, "Then,"
"There was an unforeseen side effect of erasing your past and making you an entirely different person, your heart changed as well and as I said before, I existed to materialize the desire in ones heart. Do you know, what your heart desired in your new life?"
Ichigo felt waves of memories as his time with the Arranger wash over him, "To belong... I wanted... to belong. To know who I was."
"And so... your memories returned."
Ichigo shook his head, "None of this explains... why you created them. What is their connection to the desires of my heart changing? Your explanation is filled with, "All of a sudden Ichigo's eyes flashed with rage and realization hit.
He shot forward, instantly grabbing the Hogyoku by his neck.
The Hogyoku didn't move.
"You... You created them. You... You were the one that took my powers from me. My instincts... My healing. It's your fault! Your fault I couldn't save him! It's your fault I couldn't save Chad... Or Orihime!" He didn't see the two "fakes" vanishing from existence. "It was all you! All of my suffering. You were behind it all!"
"I read your heart... you would have not been like Aizen. You would not have suppressed me and subjugate me. I am nothing but the creation of scientists whom invented me on a whim. I live for others, I thought... I would never be understood, not while I resided with Aizen... But you, You are probably the only sentient being that knows my "soul". You live for others, and not yourself.," Ichigo's eyes slowly turned from showing pure rage to a expression of understanding, "You serve them, and sometimes not by choice, but because that is who you are. I understand not only your heart now... But with the despair that filled you when Orihime died... I understood your soul. Your reason for existence is the same as my own."
Through out the explanation, Ichigo's eyes slowly softened; releasing his grip.
"You can read my heart right now, can't you?"
"I can... but I am truly sorry. Not even I can revive the dead." The Hogyoku whispered.
Ichigo balled his hands into fists, "I won't forgive you, for taking away my powers... But Aizen cannot be allowed to live. It was by his hands that Orihime died."
"Then you may take your revenge out on the both of us."
Ichigo looked confused.
"If my plan works, I will no longer exist. Being with you long enough I now realize." He voiced saddened significantly, "Sometimes... The desires in ones heart should not be allowed to materialize, least it bring pain... and suffering."
"Why do you want to help me?"
"Because," The Hogyoku regained his composure, "Aizen created another Hogyoku. And that I cannot allow." He whispered, "I can only imagine, the despair that Hogyoku is feeling."
"You know as well as I do, Aizen cannot be stopped."
"No... Not while the Hogyoku resides in him."
"A deep power dwells within you, Ichigo. A power that has been locked away in the very depths of your soul. I can break the "wall" that's holding the power back so that you can access it. Defeat Aizen in combat... and his Hogyoku will no longer see him as "worthy" it will not recognize him as it's master anymore."
"Will... Will it work?"
"No! Ichigo!" Old man Zangetsu spat, "If you use the power he offers to unlock before you are ready you can..."
Ichigo's eyes widened as he turned to Zangetsu, the man seemed to be crying. And even more shocking... His hollow had shed a tear as well.
"The things you want to protect... were never the same things I wanted to protect, Ichigo." Zangetsu whispered sadly. "What I," He glanced as Ichigo's inner hollow. "No... What we always wanted to protect, was you. That is why, I stood aside while he," the old man motioned to his hollow. "made the decision to create a new life for you, despite it being against everything I have ever wanted for you."
The Primera slowly turned to the Hogyoku, "What will happen, if I use the power you unlock?"
"Even I do not know the full effects of what might occur, but one thing is absolutely sure. You will lose... All you power."
Left Speechless, Ichigo makes the decision!
Almost finished! So I gotta lie and tell you that this will actually be finished by chapter 62 I believe. I just have way too much information that needs to be revealed and it would be impossible to put it all in one chapter. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you enjoyed many of the questions you have been asking that have been answered in this chapter. And I know all of you are going to hate me this next chapter but it must be done lol you just have to wait in anticipation.
Q/A time! Message me with questions and i'll have them answered! Hope you had fun!