A/N: Oh my god. Is it possible? Did I actually update with reasonable speed? What kind of twisted alternate reality have we fallen into?! Ah well... in the short period before the apocalypse that must be coming, enjoy the new chapter.
Also, I apologize for any grammar mistakes there might be in the story. My OpenOffice program is spazzing out. There shouldn't be any, hopefully, but just in case.
As always, many thanks to my reviewers. shadowgouf, Blindfold My Heart2727, Magdalen Beller, and Mephistophilisthemartyr, along with Nami-san625 and Kathryn J. Blair who reviewed my earlier chapters. Seriously, you have no idea how much of a miracle a quick update is with me. You have all contributed to breaking the laws of reality. And, Mephistophilisthemartyr, don't think I didn't catch the ShamWow reference.
Disclaimer: Actually, I do own bleach! I own lots of bleach! But I don't own Bleach. Or Buso Renkin.
Ichigo didn't have much time to ponder the nature of the monster in front of him. On reflex, he barely managed to raise Zangetsu in time to stop the clawed hand thrusting at his chest. Even having just entered the fight, Ichigo had already been forced onto the defensive. "This bastard is fast! He's on the level of an Arrancar... but why the hell can't I detect it's spiritual pressure?"
The Hollow, or whatever it was, grinned maniacally. "To stop my hand... well, that's quite a Buso Renkin you've got there. Big. Destructive. Even pretty fast. Goes without saying, though, that no pathetic Alchemist Warrior is about to take me down."
Ichigo blinked. "A... what? Buso Renkin? Alchemist Warrior? What the hell are you talking about? What are you?!" More and more, it was obvious that whatever this killer was, it wasn't a Hollow. Not an Arrancar, Vizard, or Soul Reaper, either.
"What? How stupid can you be? You've got a Buso right there in your hands! Now -" the monster lunged at him again, grazing his shoulder and drawing blood. "Use it. Slice me to bits. Killing us is what your kind does, isn't it? Besides, we can always use one more kakugane, and I figure I'll just take it as soon as I'm done playing with you."
Staggering back, Ichigo attempted another strike. Zangetsu was turned away by an outstretched arm, barely slicing his opponents jacket over where his heart or Hollow hole ought to be. Instead, what was revealed was some sort of emblem – two purple intertwined teardrop shapes. He gritted his teeth; he was getting backed into a corner. With those two kids in the room, he couldn't risk firing a Getsuga Tensho, much less releasing Bankai or hollowfying. On the other hand, this guy could fight with abandon. He sidestepped another wild strike.
"Dammit! I've gotta risk it!" With a quick flash step, Ichigo took his opponent's back, placing himself between him and the children. Raising Zangetsu to his release stance, he called out "Bankai!"
Outside the Burger Shop
"Buso Renkin!" shouted Kazuki, for the first time since his showdown with Papillon. The Sunlight Heart Plus materialized in his hand, bathed in radiant light. He leveled the lance at the beast in front of him.
Gouta shot him a look. "What do you think you're doing, activating your Buso in the middle of the street?! There's not even any enemies around! Maybe you forgot we're supposed to be subtle?!"
"Wha – no enemies? But... can't you see it? This homunculus is huge!" Kazuki glanced from the Hollow to Gouta, and back again – only no longer to see it there. An instant later, it entered his vision again... little more than three meters away. A gigantic limb swept up. Although Kazuki managed to block the impact with the Sunlight Heart, the sheer force of the blow knocked him airborne.
The four Warriors left standing were dumbstruck by the attack of an apparently imperceptible enemy. Suddenly, a shrill beeping from Shosei's belt startled them out of their daze. The Great Warrior Chief pulled out a small handheld device. Checking the readout, his eyes widened in shock.
"This is... there is a huge concentration of homunculus transformational energy here! It is exactly the same reading as was gathered from the sensors of the attacked building! Weapons out, everyone!"
Even as the battle cry was being raised below, Kazuki – still in midflight – regained his senses. Whirling in midair, he brought his lance to bear on the monster rampaging below. "Pierce through!" A discharge of golden light sent him cannoning toward the Hollow.
Caught off guard by an attack from above, it roared in pain as the Sunlight Heart severed one of its limbs. Kazuki touched down on the ground as it disappeared from view once more. Assuming a tight defensive stance, he tried to figure out where the next assault would come from, as the other Alchemist Warriors looked on, virtually helpless.
Wherever Ichigo Is
Ichigo swept his sword in front of him as his Bankai formed. "Tensa Zangetsu." Wasting no time, he charged the homunculus. Shocked at the sight of his release, it was unable to evade as Ichigo sliced a large gash across its shoulder. Cursing, it leaped back – only to be met again by Ichigo where it landed. Raising an arm to shield itself from Zangetsu only caused its hand to be amputated at the wrist.
"What kind of Buso is that...? Not only did it transform, but your speed and strength are enhanced?!" On its knees, the homunculus scowled. If Ichigo had been paying enough attention, he might have noticed the smirk that was suppressed underneath.
"You keep saying that word. What is this Buso Renkin thing you're talking about Tell me now, and I'll cleanse you quickly. Otherwise this'll get ugly." Ichigo rested the point of the katana against his opponent's throat.
No longer did the homunculus bother to suppress its grin. "Whaddya mean 'cleanse'...? Ah, who cares. An Alchemist Warrior has their fighting style. But... we homunculi have our ways of fighting too." With those words, it rose – too quickly for Ichigo to react – and made a mad dash away from Ichigo.
At first he didn't know how to react. Then, as Ichigo's eyes tracked the homunculus's path, its target became clear: the kids still hiding in th corner. He charged as fast as he could straight for them, swinging Zangetsu hastily.
His zanpakuto struck something impossibly hard. The monster had parried with some kind of handheld, hexagonal metal plate. There were roman numerals across the front: XCII. Tensa Zangetsu didn't penetrate even a single centimeter. The next words out of the homunculus's mouth were uttered in a feral growl. "Buso Renkin."
The kakugane activated, reforming around its hand. When the light faded, it was armed with a savage, mechanical-looking claw over its one remaining hand. "Buso Renkin of the Bladed Claw: Razor Wind!"
Once more, the homunculus dashed away from Ichigo. In the blink of an eye, it was nearly ten feet away, making a wild swing with its claw. Ichigo gasped in pain as four long gashes opened along his chest. When he looked up, the bastard had picked up one of the kids in its clawed hand.
"Ha ha ha ha! Like the taste? My Razor Wind carries its slashes across the air, not dissipating in the slightest. In other words, I can kill you just as well, or better, from here as from two inches away. Now stay put while I finish my meal. You interrupted me right in the middle of dinner."
Ichigo was cornered. There was no way to attack without most likely killing the kid along with his enemy. If he did nothing, this guy was going to eat all three of them. There were no options left.
Outside the Burger Shop
Out of the corner of his eye, Kazuki spotted the monster phasing back into his visible spectrum. He couldn't help but give a small grin; it had likely chosen the worst possible target in the group.
"Bravo, behind you!"
As he spoke, the Hollow struck. Its long arm connected with the Silver Skin. It didn't get any farther. Absolutely failing to inflict any damage, it tried to pull back, only to be met with- "Smash Bravo Chop!" Even if he couldn't see it, the Warrior Chief's honed senses – along with getting struck in the back – was plenty enough to place a good strike.
The Hollow flew back. Steadying itself, it opened its jaw. Kazuki watched as a nimbus of blood-red light began to gather in its mouth. Not knowing what was coming, he could only stand and watch as the cero charged.
At that second, Kazuki heard a voice from behind him that he didn't recognize: calm, drawn-out, even bored-sounding.
As Ichigo cast about his mind for any possible situation, he heard snap behind him followed by a voice that he knew he'd never heard before: smug, arrogant, flamboyant.
A/N: Hmm. Another cliffhanger. Why can I not finish with anything else? Your guess is as good as mine. Then again, if I didn't end with a cliffhanger, I'd probably never write another chapter. The thing is, in a write-as-we-go thing like this, the author is as anxious to find out what happens next as the reader. I DO NOT have everything planned out, although a few major plot points are already more or less determined. So please; read and review, and let me know you want the next chapter as much as I do. If you do so, there will be cookies.
By the way, the roman numeral on the homunculus's kakugane is 93. For no particular reason.
- Shadowed Bankai