Aizen was tempted to say something.
Tousen had paused in an abundant meadow- not the most fitting habitat for two super villains and the natural beauty was wasted on the blind one- and had stated that he sensed the approach of his zanpakuto.
Sousuke observed the tiny white cricket balancing on a tall blade of grass. It swayed dizzily with every breath of wind. He maintained a straight face, as Kaname could hear a person smile even when they didn't speak. Tousen had been standing stock-still for an hour, frowning fiercely with every ounce of his concentration...
"Any luck?" inquired Aizen mildly, pretending to be very interested in a daisy and not in the least aware of the insect's teasing presence.
Murder pounded the ground between them, flinging chunks of steaming earth into the air, reversing its grip and swinging black scythes at neck- height. Caught unarmed, heaven's invader took one calm step backwards. His last surviving ally had blocked both strikes without hesitation. The sword hummed gently in his hand as if it had never left.
"Regrettably premature," Kaname condemned the attack coldly. He knew this aura well. Once upon a time it had been unflinchingly loyal, yet face to face it was nothing less than viciously rebellious. Once upon a time, he had had a faithful lieutenant, and it was finally time to pay for his crimes. The zanpakuto spirit had none of its partner's morals.
Kazeshini grinned, a white crescent in a dark silhouette. "Hey, Captain! Have we been introduced? Don't get me wrong, I don't blame you for betraying Hisagi. Spineless sucker had it coming – 'n fact I prepared you a little congratulatory gift for doing what I ain't capable to... " The scarlet-edged demon held out a beautifully wrapped bottle of alcohol, his personal secret blend known as Red Rum that was exactly as deadly as it sounded. "I ain't jealous," sniggered the apparition. "More like admiring."
Tousen did not lower his guard. "I seek no rewards for my treachery. Only a pilgrimage to higher justice in a senseless world."
"I don't give a damn what you're after," the spirit interrupted cheerily, balancing the rum on the blind man's head; "now Shuuhei...he's too ashamed to let it show, but he holds grudges like a mothering psychopath. He didn't always shun me..."
He looked thoughtfully at the gift. I could smash it over his skull instead... That would be more fun than poison. Two scythe blades scraped together idly, causing sparks.
"But what I really hate is this smarmy bastard sauntering into the spirit realm expecting to lord it over me..."
Aizen shrugged. "Does it bother you who your king is?"
"You think we have kings ?" repeated Kazeshini incredulously, and Kaname chose to derail this dangerous train of conversation.
"I will not begrudge you a fair fight," Tousen declared, casting the bottle down where it leaked and wilted the wildflowers; "however fairness dictates that you must also fight in absolute darkness, as I do." He was curious how much stronger his bankai could grow in its natural environment.
Kazeshini flung his head back, a mane of shadowy hair shaking with the force of his laughter. "I am the dark!"
The ghoul pounced, scythes blurring, the grim reaper's shadow – and missed completely, rolling head over heels into the damp alcoholic grass and spitting out a mouthful of dead daisies. His hands were suddenly empty.
"DAMN IT HISAGI!" Kazeshini bounced to his feet and growled, now his power was split between two dimensions and the brat hadn't even asked permission! "The Gate is still open right?"
"Indeed," replied Sousuke cordially. It was of interest to see how the sword spirits were affected by their Soul Society counterparts. He felt no need to interrupt.
"Then if he wants me he's gonna fucking well get me!" The kami cracked its knuckles and broke into a run, forgetting all about retribution in favour of tormenting Shuuhei.
"Fascinating." The trespasser smiled at the blind man. "Shall we continue?"
Tousen nodded unhappily. Misgivings were corroding his sense of righteous sins, of sacrifice and martyrdom. He had hoped to stall the final encounter for longer...
"I suspect Kyouka Suigetsu will not be easy to find. What escaped prisoner would seek his jailor, after all?"
"…You seem confused as to which of your many pretences is true."
"My pretences became truth at a whim. Perceived reality will be no different to true reality for as long as we are all trapped in the mirrors of our senses, like…you."
And the words were said so gently, Tousen could barely believe the air around Aizen burned so furious...
The blades of Kazeshini whirred through three Hollows consecutively, deadly circular saws, razing the ranks of panicking, terrified monsters to the ground. They fled the destruction of Hueco Mundo and the red flames that still danced across molten white sands and draped the branches of crystallised trees: they raced from death into the arms of the grim reapers.
And then the scythes were plucked from his hands – a Huge Hollow loomed overhead – Shuuhei shouted in panic and the words were blue fire crash down. A blue rosette bloomed, a gas explosion in the Huge Hollow's face, the beast was thrown back several metres.
"Aw, you don't need my help at all," cooed a silhouette, a black shadow with none to cast it. It perched comfortably atop a heap of fallen Hollows.
Hisagi choked. "Why are you here?!"
Kazeshini pretended to pick dirt from under his talons with the sickle tips. "I distinctly heard my name called," he said nonchalantly. "Besides, doors swing both ways. I used to come to the so-called human world all the time." His bright white eyes glanced around scathingly. "Who let them forget all their gods and demons were real? I should teach them a lesson."
The fukutaicho hissed that the mass invasion of maddened Hollows was slightly more important.
"Sometimes bedlam is necessary," grinned Kazeshini; "they do say the cure is worse than the disease!" He beheaded two Hollows with a single flick of his wrist, narrowly missing another shinigami. "Is this glorious carnage happening everywhere, O Master mine?"
"All over Karakura, surrounding towns and Soul Society too. Anyone with Plus-side experience was deployed here and the rest are defending Rukongai. The walls around the Court have been activated." Hisagi delivered a punishing blow to a Hollow that shattered its mask. The creature dissolved into the blue sparks of rebirth.
"Keep venting that pent-up rage," the zanpakuto encouraged him warmly. "It's good for your mental equilibrium."
"I AM NOT A PSYCHO LIKE YOU!" screamed Shuuhei, kicking a shorter monster straight through a public phone booth.
"Denial and anger, the first and second stages..."
"Is there any way I can pay you to go away and annoy me when there isn't a war on?"
"Bargaining, third stage," Kazeshini sighed theatrically, clearly feeling a death god should be past this by the second day of school.
"Please," sobbed Shuuhei; "just give me the weapons and go back to the circle of hell you rule over..."
"Grief," grinned the zanpakuto, always blessed with a taste for schadenfreude.
"Ok, ok, I can handle this. I'm a highly trained lieutenant. Ashido-taicho survived five hundred years in Hueco Mundo barely using his shikai, I can last a single battle." He squared his shoulders and raised his fists.
"And acceptance. Finally. You want my blades back?" The chained scythes hit Hisagi on the head handle first. He didn't pick them up.
"I'm not sure I want weapons built to reap life itself," snarled the vice-captain rebelliously. But a tornado of shadows was wrapping around the kami, the wind of death, power pouring out of the trickster like evil crawling out of Pandora's Box.
"Well what else would they be for dumbass? Listen, leave this to me and get your squad back to Seireitei!" laughed the devil, half tamed, half feral. "Only fools save all the peasants and leave the castle undefended. And of course if you get in my way, I won't hold back..."
"You can't! You'd kill the humans too!"
The dark hurricane whirled on him, livid. "I was reaping lost souls before your grandparents were born! Now fuck off and let me bring in the damned harvest!"
Shuuhei faltered long enough to hear Kazeshini cackle Bankai, then fled for his life without even hearing the rest of the incantation. That lauded ability, and the resulting closeness to Kazeshini, were actually things he never, ever wanted to have. He grabbed his team members on the way, hauling them through a senkai gate from the chaos of Karakura to the chaos of Soul Society.
Jinta slid open the shop door, barely a three inch gap, and drawled that the Urahara shouten was closed for business. Tatsuki punched a hole through the screen, her knuckles grazing his nose with perfect control. Focusing on her fist left him cross-eyed.
"I'm heavily armed, you know," the kid said uncertainly. Of course, he was only allowed to hit the undead, but pushy customers wouldn't know that.
"I want to be. Let us in...Karakura Red. We're friends of Karakura Yellow and Karakura King."
Jinta's face turned as crimson as his hair and he asked overexcited, "Is she with you?! Uh, hah, I mean, I need some more evidence than that! Anyone could have seen the TV show." I am a star!
Kon scrabbled through the gap sideways, crawled up the shop assistant's leg and screamed into his face hysterically. "THERE'S HOLLOWS EVERYWHERE AND IF YOU DON'T FIGHT THEM THEY'LL MAKE ME DO IT! GIVE THESE LUNATICS SOME WEAPONS AND LET KON-SAMA HIDE IN THE BASEMENT!"
"If you're here, where is Ichigo's body?" accused Jinta.
"Who cares? I think Isshin put it on a respirator in the clinic. But seriously, the chances of him coming back are zero-"
Tatsuki stamped on the plush toy, shunted the door open and walked into the deserted shop. A tall shape stepped out of the shadows.
"We've been expecting you," boomed Tessai, holding up a cardboard box full of Urahara's failed experiments. "Merry Christmas! What is your weapon of choice?"
"Molotov cocktails?" asked Mizuiro hopefully.
"Hiding behind Ichigo!" gabbled Keigo, tripping all over the darkened shop floor. "There's monsters right behind you! Why aren't you stopping them? Aiyiieee!"
Tessai paused whilst handing a pair of reinforced red gloves to Tatsuki and looked behind. He was about to explain there was nothing there, when the air began to ripple like a drop of ink expanding in water.
"Early warning system?" said Jinta in disbelief, he'd never heard of anyone seeing garganta before they opened.
Tatsuki pulled the gloves on, flexed them, admired the flaming skulls on the back, and dropped into a ready stance facing the rip in reality.
And then she scissor-kicked the emerging Hollow in the face.
"OW!" she yelled, falling over clutching her foot.
"If you wish to kick things, perhaps Ururu will lend you a set of her pink mushroom training gear..." rumbled Tessai. He wrestled the Hollow to the ground calmly and intoned a short kido spell that blew its head off. "I must also warn you, those gloves will force a human soul out of its body on contact, so please do not wear them to your tournaments."
Keigo was throwing up behind the reduced items counter, he'd never seen such grisly things before. Most disturbing was the way the dead body did not have real insides and disintegrated into light completely against physics.
Ururu appeared beside him with a mop, bucket and an unsettling expression. "I bet Urahara-san would love to dissect your eyes and see how you did that. If you clean your mess up, freeloader, I won't tell him about your secret power."
Keigo whimpered and snatched the mop from her. She hefted a giant multi-barrelled machine gun onto her shoulder and smiled shyly.
"So, where are the Hollows coming from next?"
The Hollows caught in Benihime's explosion had all died, of course. Only those on the outskirts of the desert or deep beneath the forest had been able to flee, and it was a long time before they filtered into Karakura's town centre, Rukongai's upper districts. It was a long time before the muddled shinigamis realised that the enemy was flooding into the real world from all directions.
The Fourth and Fifth divisions, still scattered out performing emergency aid and clean up, were the first to report the situation. Minutes later hundreds of reapers were pouring into the battlefield, before the last reprieve had even been felt. They mingled invisibly with the living soldiers and emergency services thronging the buckled streets, all responding to a supposed earthquake. To those humans not devoured by Yammy, it was a natural disaster, one of Japan's devastating catastrophes no one could predict or control.
Ishida Ryuuken was in high demand, one of the city's leading surgeons as well as the director of Karakura's biggest hospital. He glared at the gigai with plain distrust. He had no desire to leave vulnerable patients in the hands of a glorified biocomputer, but there was more at stake than hospital regulations had bargained for. He'd already played absentee when Uryuu battle Zommari Leroux, this time he would need an alibi or else lose his job.
Urahara had claimed it was a perfect replica of him and his skills, knowledge, training. Ryuuken knew beyond a doubt that it was the most shameful gamble of his life, to let a mod soul run a hospital.
But the Hollows were overrunning reality, and if he didn't abandon his post and morals here there may be nothing to return to.
This modern, scientific world surely could not survive the truth: that the dead fought wars over who would consume the living.
"Well?" he asked icily.
The modified soul in a false body shrugged into a white coat, picked up Ishida's hasty plans regarding the rearrangement of wards to cope with the influx of emergency patients, and strode purposely towards the elevator with a phone pressed to its ear and terse commands streaming out in Ryuuken's stolen voice.
The real Ryuuken climbed onto the window ledge and launched himself over the city on white wings, hoping nobody would look up until he was obscured by the evening clouds.
Uryuu was kneeling on the edge of the highest roof he could find, sniping the Hollows on the streets below. He had removed his glasses, being incredibly longsighted, and currently needing that advantage. A strange flapping noise made him turn, but he only saw his father, arrived with no clue as to how.
"Once again, you've forgotten yourself so easily."
"You seem to think I am stupid, Father, but-"
Ryuuken raised a black-gloved hand to silence him. "Genius does not make us wise, or right, or just. It only makes our mistakes more dangerous."
"...Is that a Sanrei Glove?" The young man let his pentagonal bow flicker out of sight. He put his steel-framed glasses back on in confusion, because he really couldn't believe the blur he was seeing.
"Not one you would recognise. Not a thing I ever wished to teach you. But I'm sure my father never told you I only acted for your protection, as he trained you against my wishes."
Uryuu glared. Was nearly killing one's son's friends considered protection nowadays? "...He said, once, you wanted to protect our family...but I thought he meant paying the bills and appearing normal - not letting Mother know about the afterlife -"
Ryuuken let his mouth twist, it was not a smile. "What could I possibly teach her about being a Quincy? She was my Lehrerin. But I wouldn't let her teach you about the Vandenreich and Volstandig."
"Vo – That's why I never see her?! She's a Quincy?"
"Yes. Naturally. As if an Ishida would ever marry a plain human? Of course your mother is a Quincy! But I have never convinced her our heritage is a curse. And when I told her that you are in Soul Society, fighting shinigami and aiding ryoka and tearing yourself and your pride to pieces for mere friendship with outcasts...she could not bear to leave you defenceless and safe. So she forces herself to keep her distance. Thus you are still here, a living child, and not...a Soldat."
"Soldier? In whose army?! Aren't we the last?!" He caught his father by the coat, dragging him forwards. "Isn't our tribe extinct?"
"Not in my wildest dreams. Do you think Seireitei would have let you live if they knew Quincies were still a threat? To reapers, to Hollows, to the Balance of Souls itself?"
"I - I haven't been killing the Hollows...just incapacitating them until the shinigami arrive..."
"Like Souken. When did you begin to trust they would come? The dead and the living have not clashed in such numbers for thousands of years. Let the shinigami preach about protecting Balance - it is already undone. The real world cannot cope with monsters anymore, which is why the Quincy tribe existed at all."
Uryuu staggered backwards and very nearly tumbled over the edge of the roof. He caught himself on a railing, the air felt strange and deoxygenated, all reishi was bypassing him and being consumed by his pale-haired father.
"Juhabach named me R, the Renegat, before I lived up to my name and rebelled against them. And my Volstandig..." His father sprouted wings and a square halo, his eyes became chequered black and white, his clothes became a straight white robe with a mantel that obscured his arms and veiled the treacherous Sanrei glove. He glowed beyond white, ultra violet; the shimmer of Quincy blue in his sharp, serrated wings. "Is Erzengel."
Ryuuken was crying black and white tears from black and white eyes; he thought he had stopped sinning, finished casting souls outside the universe. "No, I will never let you become a true Quincy. I would proudly call you the last, I am glad you proved to be weak, because you might have been the best, and then..." He was still loathe to finish that sentence, to bare the horrors of his clan to his only child. He moved on. "Sadly the demise of our tribe is not under my control."
"I am not weak," argued Uryuu quietly. It was the only thing in all this revelation that he knew enough to judge. He didn't know where to start understanding the rest.
"Not for lack of foolishness. You weren't to know that the heavenly puppet strings are only used in Volstandig, nor that only the elite who survived the first stage of Sanrei became the strongest of our tribe. It has been difficult for me to restrain such instinctive talent. You should have been a Star Cross Knight. But the Stern Ritter are crazed, slavish tools of an imprisoned madman to whom their lives are worthless. It was kinder for us to lie to you, cripple you, and let you believe our kind were all dead. It is not exactly untrue…"
A vast Quincy cross appeared before Ryuuken, a six-sided star, and its points bent around him like a cage. He manipulated it without his hands, exact mental control. It soon bristled with arrows, aimed in all directions, his strange eyes having no blind spots. "Every one of these is a Seele Schnieder. Not so strong as the arrow I taught you, but enough."
"…What was the one you taught me called?" Seeing the full power a Quincy could attain made Uryuu suddenly realise he was wrong. He was weak. Pitifully so.
"Reue. Regret." He had certainly learnt regret the moment it was loosed.
"And- why are you telling me everything now?"
"Because it is almost too late, and I do not like the taste of Reue. Once the threat I pose is made clear, the Death Gods will doubtless kill me. And an unknown danger is the most deadly of all. Your mother will explain it all to you when I am gone. Don't ever let them know about her – unless you wish to see her on Kurotsuchi's operating table."
"You don't have to-"
"The Hollows are attacking whoever is closest, my patients, my paramedics, Uryuu! The lives I tried to save to repay the lives I took! I will not leave them to die! It is too late to say the souls of Hollows are worth more than those they massacre…"
Somehow he could believe everything his father said, because the man had been estranged, an enemy – but the alien, angelic Quincy standing before him was foreign enough that it did not relate to his untrustworthy parent at all. It was like being told tribal secrets by some ancient sage, nothing at all to do with family, just an old legend.
Just a horrific truth.
He should have been glad his tribe was still alive, but all he felt was fear.
"If we don't make our last stand here, today, Uryuu; this winter war may never end."
A storm of arrows flew.
"I thought you were in Karakura," said the illustrious Shiba, blocking his path with her new flesh and blood arm and a whole lot of flesh and blood bosom. She was dragging a huge over-stacked cart back from the Shinigami Academy on foot, since Ganju wasn't around to be her donkey.
"Shiba-dono," Hisagi greeted her formally. "Someone changed our plans."
"Kazeshini. It escaped from the King's Gate, and I didn't want to be responsible if it harmed any of my crew so..."
"So you pegged it like a sissy."
He coughed into the back of his hand, going red. "Well when the... zanpakuto spirit took on its bankai form, my weapons vanished..." The hand clenched unconsciously. That scheming little bastard…
Kuukaku pursed her lips. Calculatingly. This guy had been pretty friendly back when he and Kaien had been lieutenants together. Until her excessive brother took offence at (or pity on) anyone trying to chat up his little sister and put paid to that.
"Well since you're useless, you can come help me man the cannon! And then perhaps I'll return the favour... "
Shuuhei gulped. He felt a nosebleed coming on. "Yes ma'am."
Kurotsuchi Nemu was observing. Some might have wished she was fighting, but her asauchi, nameless zanpakuto had never lent itself well to combat. Instead she took a scientific position, recording and analysing the movements of the war, the reactions of the living, the strengths and weaknesses shown by fellow shinigami just in case Father wished to fight them later, and myriad other factors.
An unexpected factor had been the arrival of a non-human soul through the King's Gate. She had classified it as such after realising that it did not adhere to any state of humanity, either Plus, Minus or Super Plus, which was how Kurotsuchi-taicho privately counted the superior death gods. Nor was it an animal, as it could easily bicker with Hisagi-fukutaicho. When it declared the instant giveaway word 'bankai', she happily classed it as a zanpakuto spirit (subcategory: Kazeshini _ counterpart _ Hisagi Shuuhei _ fukutaicho/9) and resolved to make contact with it immediately.
Great scientific advances were afoot, not least research into how she could gain her own genuine zanpakuto and become a real person.
As she moved towards the elfin creature that might make her dream come true, she switched off her pain receptors. When she had reached an audible distance with losses of only 5.17% body mass in the razor-edged whirlwind, she called out.
"Zanpakuto!" she shouted against all her programming. It was the only thing she wanted. Besides confusing biochemical impulses towards the last Quincy, of course, but father had given her antivirals for that.
Kazeshini looked up at her, jeered, and realised that the dark tornado shrouding him had become studded with blue stars.
The flaming reishi arrows hummed upwards, hovered at the height of their arc and, holding their breaths; hissed downwards, searing the evening twilight.
They sliced through the mayhem, thudding into the backs of ten thousand Hollows with unerring accuracy, silencing a cacophony of war cries, fizzling out whilst erasing the Minuses alongside their fading glow.
A second volley sizzled out of the sky, shooting stars burning up in the atmosphere. When they hit, the Hollows should have screamed. Instead an eerie silence rang out.
Nemu frowned. "Ah, but we are no longer collecting data," she recalled with relief. "This Quincy evolution is irrelevant to our current studies."
"But they're fucking dangerous!" yelped Kazeshini, ducking a stray arrow whistling past his head.
"Shut up!" hissed Nemu, another glitch in her behaviour.
The targets began to shudder. The Balance was not collapsing through rips and portals, but the spaces between dimensions were shrinking, the worlds layered upon each other, blurry after images slowly drifting into sharper focus.
"Hey," said Kon slowly, blinking his cotton eyes. "I can see the Garganta too." There were Hollows in them still, scrabbling at invisible walls in the pitch black, gradually being flattened.
As the divisions between the real world and the afterlife collided, passageways between them less than an atom wide; dead hell butterflies tumbled from the sunset sky in a soft dry rain.
From the hole of every Hollow, from every wound white roses bloomed. Crumpled white robes unfurled as the dead died again. Ruthless Quincy light scoured them of their memories and forms. Pushed their remnants outside the universe. But the universe had lost its boundaries, and the ghosts of ghosts gathered noiselessly in the real world.
"Stop," croaked Uryuu, trying to obstruct his father's armillary bow with bare hands and only burning his palms. "Stop, you've gone too far!"
"I've barely started. We should at least earn our tribe's massacre."
"Open your eyes!" shouted Uryuu, throwing his scorched fingers towards the crumpled air, the glimpses of other worlds all around them. "This is what those bastards wanted to prevent!"
The Quincy cross began to bend and warp, the centre of the quantum shift. A pale human hand stretched out from the centre, chased by an arm, a shoulder, a purple- haired head. Ryuuken's patchwork eyes widened in alarm, he tried to drop the bow but it hung in midair, twisting unnaturally.
"Quincies," growled a young voice; "are the stupidest species known to mankind."
Uryuu stammered. "Wh- what- who... how is this... wha..."
Ryuuken glared, tight lipped. "Some kind of anti-Quincy task force."
The mysterious girl looked down at her black shihakusho, wrapped around the waist with a wide red sash matching the bow in her topknot. "No," she disagreed. "This is just a memory I – Hey, haven't we met? Aren't you Ichigo's friend? For Pete's sake I didn't realise you were a Quincy!" She started rolling up her sleeves, tucking a monk's staff under her arm. The brass rings jangled.
"Ichigo!" fumed Ishida. "Accursed apocalypse magnet! Ow!"
She had punched him. It was a good, meaty, satisfying punch. She started winding up another. "This one's for the heavenly choir reject," she grinned, huffing on her fist. "You know I take it back, being an anti-Quincy task force sounds great."
"Who are you, and why are you here?" asked Ryuuken frigidly. He wasn't open to having strange women crawling out of his archery equipment.
Her fist collided with his face and the Erzengel staggered, his nose bleeding. He had not readied Blut Vene.
"I don't know," she growled through gritted teeth. "Why don't you tell me why, Quincy?" She shattered the Quincy Cross with clenched fingers. "The dimensions are collapsing everywhere I look and you seem like an excellent scapegoat to me!" She pointed angrily at the rifts opening in the sky, flashes of Hueco Mundo, Soul Society and the King's Realm slurring in and out of sight. "I only just fixed this! Why am I back here again? Why am I even Senna again, I mean, we all moved on, and the only thing I ever owned that wasn't stolen from Blanks was this…" She slowed down, running out of steam. "This red ribbon," she finished, shoulders shaking with confusion and anger.
Senna pulled the ribbon away from her purple hair, and looked at it. It had been a grudging gift from Ichigo. Someone only she had known, an experience not formed from stolen lives. After a moment she looked out across Karakura, up and down, admiring the high vantage point. "I guess that was the first time a Shinenju had its own real memory?"
Then she looked closer, finally seeing the real chaos beyond the shoals of Blank souls that had sprouted from every Hollow Ryuuken killed. In all her borrowed memories, she could not remember seeing such pandemonium.
Her attention skipping away again, she whirled on Uryuu and hooked the circle of the monk's staff over his head. He was drawn in close.
"Why do you Quincies keep doing this?" she asked very clearly. "Did you think the souls you shoved outside of existence just, just vanished? I remember so many Quincy arrows... they burn."
She thumped her hand against her chest. "They burn like nothing on earth. They burn right through memories and souls and Chains of Fate. But these things – we don't just fade away?" She looked from father to son and back again, pleading them to understand. "What did you just forget me? Did Ichigo and Rukia forget me? Where are they?"
"I, I've never heard of you," admitted Uryuu; "Ichigo and Rukia have never mentioned you once, or Blanks, or – "
"The Balance of Souls?" she interjected. "Net movement of souls across a barrier from a high concentration to a low concentration, it's simple osmosis." Her fingers fluttered in mime. "You little crusaders should know that already. The Valley of Screams doesn't exist to catch your victimsanymore, either, so the Blanks you created have nowhere to go." She puffed out her cheeks, twirling round to study something in the sky the Quincies were blind to. But as all the bubbles of reality were bursting, it would be visible soon. "The Dangai is packed like a sardine tin. There's souls rushing around everywhere. What have you lunatics been doing?"
"What are you?!"
"I'm Senna," she stated the obvious.
Her staff whipped out to threaten Ryuuken. It was the memory of a zanpakuto that had once been lost in the Dangai between the real world and Soul Society, and fallen into the Valley of Screams. Where the strays, the Quincy prey, and anyone too slow to outrun the Cleaner all ended up. A barren wasteland composed entirely of Blanks stripped of their memories. Yet the memories, like energy and matter, were never destroyed, only transferred and transformed.
With jabs of her false zanpakuto, the slight girl forced the Renegat closer and closer to the edge of the skyscraper. The metal rings chimed in warning.
"The Hollows may have died, but I can never forget who they once were," she vowed. "I am every person your cancerous clan ever murdered."
"I am the Memory Rosary."
"Shiba-dono?" called Hisagi from the top of the giant stone cannon. "You need to come see this!"
"What up?" she asked, quickly hauling herself up the cannon's external ladder, and happily dusting off her two hands. They had stacked the enormous chimney full to the brim of paper scrolls that would at a single command from the noble turn into homing rockets, targeting only Hollows. She'd informed him that the Shiba Clan had always kept the demon magic practice and exam papers of the Shinigami Academy and Kido Corps, and this was her genius plan to get rid of the entire backlog at once. "And jeez, lighten up and call me Kuukaku, or I'll push you over the side." She slapped his back with her newly restored arm.
He pointed up at the sky, and her jaw dropped.
"Does this mean Aizen has already defeated the Spirit King?" he asked grimly, but not missing the opportunity to take some stunning photos for the Shinigami Gazette, which he was convinced would be back in business soon. If civilisation didn't crumble.
"So that's Karakura?" replied Kuukaku with great interest, as she'd never been to the real world. "I don't think we're missing out on much. Oh hey, isn't that one of my little intruders on that roof? HEY! RYOKA! ISHIDAAAA! OVER HERE, RYOOOKAAA! Man, that's a great view, d'you think it'll stay like that? RYYYOOOKAAA!" She waved wildly, then nudged Shuuhei with her hip. "I know how to get their attention."
"You should be more worried about this, Kuuu…" he trailed off. "Oh no."
She placed her hands on the lip of the cannon and red reiatsu raced away from her to form a scarlet loop around its mouth. Every kido scroll inside began to sizzle before blast-off.
"FIRE IN THE HOLE!"
Ryuuken discarded his Volstandig, there was no more point in wearing a power that had been exactly as damaging as he'd always feared. The irony grated on him: the sole Quincy to disown his clan for the sake of preserving the Balance, had also been the only one ever to break it.
"Do you know how we stop this?" he questioned the self-proclaimed Rosary.
She leaned Mirokumaru, the staff, across her shoulders and shrugged. "By not being stupid Quincies?" she proposed. Nodding her head towards the swarms of Blanks, white robed ghosts with tapered red helmets; she added, "And not making them?"
"The fabric of reality is distorting beyond repair: there's no time for blame! Leave that till after. Tell us what we have to do now."
"I…won't be here, after," confessed Senna, leaning Mirokumaru against a wall and retying her ponytail with the crimson bow. "When there are no Blanks, there is no Shinenju." She picked up the zanpakuto again in a bluster of wind and autumn leaves. It was one benefit to the Blanks, that they could fit any template, and even imitate the shikai of the original. With her shihakusho flapping around her legs and the tails of the sash snapping in the gale, she hopped over the barrier on the building's roof and let the wind whisk her away like a leaf.
Closer to the tears in the evening sky, she darted from one to the next, an ever-growing crowd of Blanks floating up to tail her every movement. They were drawn by the memories she embodied, the only link the lost souls had with their true identities. They budded from the air without forming gates, as the boundaries had grown so weak.
Far below, platoons of reapers were sprinting around the city, a nest of black ants fighting, healing, and flailing at the Blanks which sprouted like mushrooms from the evaporating Hollows.
Senna made a full circuit and skidded back onto the rooftop, her mass of pursuers huddled around it in waiting.
"Listen to me," she commanded, sweeping a swathe of Blanks away with a tornado. It unravelled from the tip of her zanpakuto, thundering past. "I'm not even meant to exist. The Memory Rosary is a symptom of things going horribly, horribly wrong with the Balance and the cycle of reincarnation. You've killed some smart people, and some of those Hollows were death gods once. So I can kinda see what's happening. Usually when you push things outside the universe they create a space to exist in. The Blanks and me, we were the Valley of Screams. But the gaps, the senkai and Dangai and Garganta and whatever else, they're collapsing; so there's no place the Blanks can escape to."
Grudgingly, she gave the two Quincies their Get out of Jail Free cards. "It's not…" she closed her large brown eyes, huffed, and started again. "You were the last straw, but it's not entirely your fault. The Balance is haywire today anyway. This sandy place over here," her memories were erratic, being a patchwork of so many people; "has totally gone kaboom and ejected a good third of all its inhabitants, they're either whooshing to Soul Society or here to reincarnate, meanwhile people from here and Rukongai are getting munched or dying and zooming back the other way," she pointed with a hurricane; "and some of these ones are freaking out and becoming Hollows way too fast and materialising back into sand land. And now Blanks. And killing…Espada, is it?" She squinted as she trawled through her lucky dip of lives for all the information, clucking her tongue. "Who are formed of a gazillion compressed lives. Makes a mess. Tch."
"So the world is ending," croaked Uryuu. "And you said I had no talent. Well that's simply spectacular, Ryuuken. Well done."
"If it is lacking the natural ability to destroy the Balance and receive the blame for it that worries you," growled his father; "I will happily refer you to one of my psychiatrists before the Gotei execute me and dissect me into jars. You never cease finding new lows to disappoint me with, Uryuu."
Senna's mouth twisted unhappily. "Why were you always so strict on him, Master Ryuuken?" she asked in a voice far softer than before. "Can't you just be honest?"
Ryuuken stalled, every silver hair on his head prickling. "Don't talk like that!" he warned through gritted teeth. "Why for the love of sanity would you call me that?"
The Shinenju seemed distracted. "I told you already. I'm a lotta people, and your beloved tribe killed most of them." She vanished, reappearing on the tower block's lightning rod, clinging on with one hand. "When I say I hate Quincies it's because I know them too well."
The Blanks surged up like a frothing ocean wave, she rebuffed them with a blast of wind. Shouting above its howl, and the discord of the city below, the girl confessed. "I could exorcise all these Blanks in an instant – but I don't want to save murderers like you!"
The last Quincies reacted very differently, despite both jerking forwards to argue.
"You can't let this continue for the sake of making two people suffer!" was Uryuu's rejoinder. He did not try to deny that Quincies, himself included, had been the architects of this disaster. The evidence was every way he looked.
"She's not even dead!" shouted Ryuuken, visibly distraught. "How dare you steal her voice?"
"We will never use our powers again, just – " vowed his son, then his father's filtered through and made him backtrack in confusion. "…W-Who's voice?"
"How could she possibly be a part of you?!"
"Murderers," repeated Senna, beckoning a single Blank out of the throng and placing her small hand on its red mask. "You really don't listen do you? I already got rid of all the Blanks months ago, it was this big thing. There were exiles, and shinigamis and massive fights and Ichigo helped save me. It was impressive stuff. So I saved him back, y'know, but looks like the big lump just forgot the whole thing… How's that for gratitude. Hah. So even if you made masses of Blanks today, the number is still much higher than it should be. And who's to blame for that? Well it's goddamn Quincies."
Uryuu was desperately counting in his head how many Hollows he had snuffed out. His first competition with Ichigo alone had a pretty high toll. He'd also been rather brutal in Hueco Mundo after they gave up on a sneak entry. "Is it my fault?" he assumed automatically, unable to drop the idea of being the Last Quincy so fast.
She laughed at him. Actually laughed. "NO! Haha, no, you're like, one guy; Uryuu! There's six billion people in the world, just counting the living, and it takes hundreds of thousands moving at once to make a mess like this, even in an area this small!" She gestured expansively, and was conveniently lit from behind by an enormous volley of fireworks rocketing out of the Shiba cannon visible beyond Karakura's sky. Senna turned to watch it for a moment, whistling. Two tiny figures waved, and she waved back. After all, why not? She didn't know they were waving at the guy behind her.
Losing his temper, Ryuuken formed a new bow and pointed a Reue straight at the ludicrous girl. "If you don't explain yourself to my satisfaction this second I will kill you as many times as it takes."
Senna sneered at him, implying with a raised eyebrow that wouldn't work twice, but answered regardless. "The Vandenreich, you idiot."
"But Quincies wouldn't kill Quincies," insisted the senior Ishida. "We have the Gotei 13 for that. Our very natures are poisonous to Hollows, and vice-versa, so they couldn't have become the Hollows I just killed either!"
"Hence why I call it murder rather than extermination," said the Rosary yet again in irritation. She hopped down from her perch and walked towards them. Dropped Mirokumaru and placed both hands on the scarlet, teardrop-shaped head of her chosen Blank. Senna scrunched her eyes shut, clenched her teeth in concentration and shuddered. A sharp red light rimed her. "I don't think you'll believe this from my mouth," jibed the Shinenju, as if what she did next was a joke and not a distressing miracle.
Skin crawled as deep-hidden forces were invoked. An eerie rattling noise echoed as dozens of Chains of Fate stretched like cobwebs between the Rosary and the wandering spirit. The mask cracked open, and a dark-haired woman gasped for breath, clinging to her summoner as her knees gave way in shock at being born. Senna held her up with a little laugh. "Yeah, I'm surprised that worked too! You okay?"
The woman looked around, and Uryuu choked.
"Ryuuken," she breathed, reaching out for him. "Master Ryuuken?"
Ryuuken took her hands with more emotion than Uryuu had seen him display in a lifetime. "K-Katagiri? Katagiri, I thought I'd gone mad when that thing sounded like you. What the hell happened to you? You haven't contacted me since last year!"
"Harsh! Don't call me a 'thing'! And sheesh cut some slack, the poor lady was dead."
Uryuu felt compelled to sit down on the concrete, all the wind had been knocked out of him. "Great," he said bitterly to himself. "You only just tell me Mother is a Quincy, and you didn't even notice she died because of arguing over my upbringing. And now she's here for no logical reason at all, because, ah yes, you broke existence." He buried his face in his arms and shook it slowly, shoulders trembling. "I think," he wavered, a hitch in his voice; "I need to apologise to Kurosaki for mocking his nervous breakdowns because I have no idea what is going on or," a sob escaped the raven-haired teenager; "what the hell your pride is worth if you can just let this happen to your own wife!"
The ghost of Katagiri was leaning on her husband, too weak and disorientated to stand unaided. She stared at her son with eyes full of tears.
"But Ryuuken, Uryuu was Gemischt, how is he still alive? How did you save him?" Her fingers dug into the doctor's arms, all formality between them erased by shock. As the sun set, she smiled and burst out crying. "I don't understand it, but thank you. I th-thought he had been culled too as I lay dying. I was so scared for him. Perhaps my blood was not too polluted for yours, perhaps the Ishida line was strong enough to make him Echt? Thank you."
Her spouse was unnerved. "Katagiri…I… I cut all contact with the Vandenreich. I didn't even know this had happened to you. In fact, because that boy was still alive, I assumed you were fine. I even started to think the Auswählen had been a myth."
He felt guilty for his ignorance even as he held her tight. "I am so, truly sorry, Katagiri."
Sitting alone in the Kurosaki Clinic's living room, Chad glanced up through his wavy fringe as half a dozen small Hollows clambered in through the broken windows. They moved gecko-like, clinging to the walls, tasting the air with long thin snake tongues. When he stood up, every flat head swivelled, red gleams fixed on him.
But Chad had always been strong. Before Hollows, before Ichigo, before Japan. Before he knew how to hold back, before he learnt how to grow up.
His coffee-skinned arms moved slightly, bulged with mere human muscles, the tattoo he'd had done in Mexico stretching, a winged heartbeat. It caught their attention.
"Been rumours..." hissed one of them; "there's La Muerte hiding in one of the prey..."
"La Muerte died hundreds of years ago!" spat another. They were all stunted and simple-minded, none wanted to make the first move just in case Sado turned out to be a sadist. "It's just a scrawny weakling!"
"...Been said we don't even know what Hollow is next to La Muerte."
"I eaten my mother, brother, pet cat and neighbours already!" piped up the skinniest cannibal at the back. "What do they know?"
Sado Yasutora stepped forwards quietly, a tiger's prowl. He crouched down to stare at them, a hunter's calm. They cringed, something undefinable in his manner made them scrabble backwards like cornered sheep. The human didn't appear empty, or insane, or evil. Simply still. It was legend in Hueco Mundo, insofar as the desert could sustain such a thing, that to be eaten by La Muerte was to fall into torment a thousand times worse than your own, as sinister as Hell itself...
"... ... ...Boo," said Chad softly.
They tore each other to pieces just to be the first to escape.
Behind Chad, Morff the tiny Hollow stopped growling at them and curled up to sleep.
"Come now, Zaraki," smiled Unohana, an eerie light in her eyes. "You have power greater than ever and still use it so clumsily. You're a volcano that never erupts, never collapses the mountainside and never drowns the screaming city in magma. A waste of potential."
Zaraki scowled and tried to ignore her. She spent all her time wiping nosebleeds and cleaning the bed pans of weaklings that ended up in hospital. She hadn't even defeated an Espada, and all manner of losers had managed that!
"I was planning a small wager with you," continued the doctor; "for the title of Kenpachi."
Zaraki nearly choked on his laughter. "Ya can't possibly think yer'll win!"
A pitiless aura cloaked her and she raised her eyebrows ever so slightly. "The name was never truly yours. You can't possibly think I'd let you flaunt it for so long without proving your worth?"
It was not her blade at his throat, but a soft touch of her little finger, gently placed. It felt like she could drive it straight through his neck at whim.
"There can only be one Kenpachi in an era," whispered the healer sweetly, as if to a dear friend. "My era never ended. But the Gotei is a magnet for criminals and butchers -a challenger had to come eventually... So challenge me. I've waited for you."
Zaraki swapped a bemused look with Yachiru. "The fuck're you on about? Didjer get sick o' sick buckets?"
"I thought you capable of higher understanding."
"I ain't got no higher anything."
"No... yes, I mean to say, a more fundamental understanding. War is not grief, it is... striving, movement... release, elation! It is pure and wordless. It exists only in itself, only in its own moment."
"Fighting," said Zaraki plainly, amazed that she could overcomplicate it so much.
She shone a loving smile at him. "You do understand me. I'm very happy."
And then her face grew yearning and merciless. "I have missed fighting so much..."
"So, Yachiru versus yer flying seafood…?"
Retsu sighed at a missed opportunity and gently pulled off his eyepatch. Zaraki blinked in surprise and Yachiru pulled on his dreadlocks with a grimace. No one had ever done that before. It was a little creepy.
"Regrettably, we are in the midst of a battlefield and it will have to be a race to the highest kill count for now. Later on, yes, I'd be glad to oblige you to a duel with any of hundreds of lovely swords I've collected, but Minazuki is…Minazuki is a tad too efficient." She patted him on the shoulder in sympathy. "Shall we adjourn to the Rukongai?"
And really, how could she explain it to him? It had been a long struggle to teach Minazuki, the most powerful healing and defensive zanpakuto in recorded history, to simply reverse its healing abilities and deconstruct its victims on a cellular level. Though Minazuki was now wonderfully good at doing so, the dear creature still wasn't suited to the clash of steel that Unohana Retsu so desired. She still wondered on occasion why the sword spirit had chosen her at all.
How to explain that to an unsurpassed idiot who hadn't even noticed the kami sitting on his own shoulder?
Uryuu felt very distanced, watching his strangely emotive father and his deceased, estranged mother cling to each other and talk in fast, panicked voices about portents and genocides; and so many words he had never heard of yet sounded so integral to their clan. Vandenreich and Auswählen and Volstandig and Kaisers and songs and prisons and wars.
Senna was talking at him too, throwing her hands in the air, flicking her purple hair from side to side as she ranted. She didn't care or notice that he was only half listening, trying to understand two conversations at once. Both spitting out revelations like they were going out of fashion.
In a way, I've had hundreds of years to think... to understand your natures. And I know first-hand how cruel and cursed the tribes of the Quincy are.
You got it so wrong! You thought your powers came from reishi? That would have been fine! Killing something with reishi is no different to killing it with a stick! I mean, a stick from Soul Society of course. It's the blue you guys like so much that breaks the Balance. Talk about poor fashion sense.
The blue light, that's Soul Burial. There's a seed of it in everyone, it's human nature- of course you could harness it. Turned it into a weapon, like a learnable Fullbring. You buried us too deep. You pushed us right out of existence, and cut away the memories that are only meant to be sealed. Yeah, it made you stronger, strong enough to fight back against the way the world is, but…you people never think. You're too busy being fanatics. You're all taught the consequences of your powers first thing, and then brush it aside like – heck I don't know – global warming, or something.
I really don't want to just vanish again, I've barely lived an hour. I still don't even know how I came back. And I'm just a side effect, she laughed shakily. Borrowed my life from a million murders. I'll... save you, then never have existed. No one will remember me. You already forgot me once. This was so much easier the first time, when I didn't realise I'd just… ahh…
And you Quincies, I don't want to bring those psychoes back! I know the devils, and if the worlds weren't tipping into each other I'd leave them Blanks! They sure as hell better reincarnate, or I'll need a revolving door. Ha, but that kinda implies the Memory Rosary has an afterlife. Nope; all she gets is a ribbon from some yankee-haired gangster shinigami.
"W-wait," said Uryuu suddenly, standing up and reaching out to the stranger. "What are you planning to do?"
Senna looked at the worlds, arrayed all around, that she would never get to live in. Sunset streaked the atmosphere with luminous colours. Her smile was quirky, unstable, eyes damp.
"Do you know how Hollows feel? Existence eats them alive but it's all they have. And even that's more than a Blank has!" Her eyelids fanned shut, salt rolled down her cheek. "I liked existing. Even though I was alone."
Spinning, a dancer, she twirled her ghost encryption of a zanpakuto and floated upwards.
"Goodbye. Tell Rukia and Ichigo, um… Tell those friends I met once- I- I said 'hi'."
"Can't you do something else?" begged Ishida in horror, not even sure what was about to happen.
"The Memory Rosary doesn't exist because it's alive, Quincy. It's just a tool to reset the Balance of Souls. I'm cute, I know," she said with a peace sign and her tongue sticking out, and her heart breaking; "but I'm not a real person. I didn't know that last time, but this time, I remembered." She tugged on the ruby bow in her hair. "I'm here to fix things."
We have no form, therefore we fear it;
and because we are formless, we revere it.
Thus, we are slain.
She faded before his eyes, a mass of spirit threads unravelling from her small body. They unfurled, white and red and blue for all the people, reapers, Quincies she had once been. Pearls of memory looped her in endless strings and chains, and the vapid Blanks turned to face her en masse, scarlet pixie hats tilting back.
They formed a vast lotus encircling her, every Blank a white petal, every spirit thread a stamen. The filaments snaked through the air, seeking their lost souls.
When she shrieked and snapped like a thousand elastic bands the red caps cracked on every single Blank, revealing dazed and alarmed human faces underneath. There rose an immense backlash of energy, a tidal wave that crashed against the encroaching dimensions and pushed them back into their proper places. The rents splitting the sky faded, the ozone healing as it darkened to night.
The reapers faltered. They didn't know what they were facing, and they had not heard the Shinenju declare herself to the Quincies on the buildings high above. But since Hollows also had human faces when their masks broke, the weapons remained raised.
"You've still got jobs to do," called Shinji, voice carrying like only a former captain's could. He mooched on an overturned car near the glittering golden portal. He was fairly sure he was forgetting something pretty mind-blowing he'd just witnessed, but at the end of the day there was only one way to deal with Plus souls. White robes and silly gnome hats notwithstanding. "Bury them all! And get ready for the next wave. I ain't complaining, but one Quincy can't exterminate every Hollow on his own. They're still everywhere snacking on the emergency services. I hear firemen taste like crispy chicken wings."
As if in agreement, Gillians were arriving, marching along the office blocks.
They sang of crimson ceros.
"Stop that," scolded a fat voice gently. It echoed from behind an ornate mask resembling a bearded Greek god, perched above an expansive green suit.
The Gillians quietened, swaying in their herds as the reborn Blanks stampeded between their giant white feet in mass hysteria, chased by reapers of all ranks brandishing the hilts of their swords and marks of konsou.
"Mmm," hummed Hacchi happily. "They really do obey any Adjuchas. I had to squeeze the secret to it out of my Hollow." He tapped his visor with a bandaged hand. "Not easy."
More Vaizards strolled up to the King's Gate, a pathway opening before them through the hectic crowds of ghosts. There was a strange kinetic aura buzzing around them, a sensation of electricity fizzing just below the surface of their nonchalance.
They had been training.
"You stayin'?" asked Hiyori, jerking a thumb at the Menos Grandes now awaiting Hachigen's next command with rapt concentration. "Just remember what happened to Masaki in my old squad, yeah? If you cheat and let the Gillians eat each other, you'll end up with a buncha disobedient Adjuchas instead, baldy."
Kensei's army knife spun round his hand in a blur. "It's time to settle the accounts," he said calmly.
"Time to settle Aizen in his grave!" retorted Risa, donning her mask like a knight's helm and vaulting into the circular Gate.
Ishida pulled a pen out of his pocket, writing feverishly on his hand. Senna – Blanks – Balance – Soul Burial – Memory Rosary – Mother – Quincy – Auswahlan? – Blue light – reishi not deadly to B.o.S. – Sanrei glove – Volstandig? – Ryuuken lying bastard.
"Ha!" he finished, capping the pen triumphantly. "Really, Ichigo, how could you just dismiss something like that? I…"
He was waiting for his memories to corrode. For the hasty scribbles on his arm to stop making sense.
After a minute Uryuu frowned, almost moving to scrub the nonsense markings away. One glance at his mother's ghost brought it all rushing back, because he could not explain her presence without believing what already felt like a mad daydream.
A silk ribbon tumbled past him, caught in the breeze. He plucked it out of the air and wound it around the Quincy Cross still chained to his wrist.
"…If I show this to Rukia and the idiot, surely they'd realise you were unforgettable, Senna?"
Shinigami Cup: Golden!
"This is not in the database," gasped Nemu; watching the distant drama with enhanced vision. Her mouth hung open in awe. It was one of the emotions she had learnt while treating Ishida Jr. "I must not let my father find out. But I must write a research paper on it. Oh no. Perhaps – perhaps if I hide the paper after…" Her eyes sparkled, and her parentage suddenly became disturbingly obvious. "But vivisecting thousands of souls within a single person would be irresistible… And the central basis of the Quincy power…I could study more of these 'feels' from Uryuu. So many feels! They must all be documented."
Mizuiro, for some reason, was flinging his homemade incendiaries at the Hollows nearby. They worked much better when mixed with chemicals Urahara had brought back from Soul Society. "Wait," he interrupted her; "you learnt emotions from Ishida? He's the most inexpressive person I know! He's a robot!"
"Ah," blinked Kurotsuchi Nemu. "So I have misclassified the sensations. In that case," she flipped her phone open with clinical efficiency; "Father? Request immediate dispatch of a capture team to Karakura Town to apprehend new Quincy test subjects for dissection. Texting coordinates now."
"NEMU! I TOLD YOU TO STOP FLIRTING WITH THAT RYOKA! YOU CAN'T KEEP IT AS A PET! Now go to the King's Realm and spy for me, we will never have another chance to exhume its secrets, and all the other captains have vetoed my unethical research mission."
"U-understood," stammered Nemu, closing the device.
"Um, I was kidding. Ishida is like, full of emotions. He's a cornucopia of love. He's all about the saving lives and the charity and the sewing frilly, non-lethal dresses for plush toys. And he's totally against testing on animals and dissecting people. You should totes learn from him," said Mizuiro in a rush, backing away with a Molotov cocktail in each hand for defence.
"Oh," simpered the Mod Soul, pressing her hands to her cheeks. "All my feels…"
And then she took one of her antiviral tablets, because that behaviour was just silly.
Uryuu felt compelled to sit down on the concrete, all the wind had been knocked out of him. He buried his face in his arms and shook it slowly, shoulders trembling.
"I think," he wavered, a hitch in his voice; "I need to apologise to Kurosaki for mocking his nervous breakdowns because I have no idea what is going on, and," a growl escaped the raven-haired teenager; "and then I should just disown you for a heartless bastard, pack it all in and move to Hokkaido. After about 11 years of therapy I might recover enough to send you a terse greetings card at Christmas, but only the year before you die of some spinal disease that only I could have operated on. And I hope that satisfies you and your dick parenting; because that's all you'll ever get from me!"
It's been forever. The recap chapters are there for this reason. Go back and read them if you are confused- I was too.
When I watched Memories of Nobody (first Bleach film) and it said 'Blanks are souls stripped of their memories and pushed out of the world' I instantly thought Quincies. So here's some Senna goodness for you all. How can she possibly be back, if she's made of new memories this time? Loopholes and favouritism TBH. I say her time with Ichigo gave her unique memories to come back to, and looking the same is because she remembers the memories she used to have (LOGIC!). Maybe she will regenerate from that ribbon every time Blanks reappear from now on. Who knows. It would have been more confusing to make an OC to be the Rosary, and much less nostalgic. Oh and Ishida wasn't in the film but it's not too farfetched that she might have met him off screen.
German Quincy words: if you aren't up to date with manga these are spoilers (sorry), so wiki 'Vandenreich' and have fun. Renegat is renegade and Erzengel is Arch Angel, these are not canon.
I've changed some things from the canon about the Nazi Quincies, mainly when the things happen (about 9 years later than in the manga) and who they affect *cough not Masaki cough*. Katagiri is Ryuuken's wife, but the whole her teaching him part is made up. Lehrerin is German for teacher (feminine).
Also, Vaizards! Hooray! Why are they so late? And creepy Unohana is just wonderful.
Author notes: Dishonour on my family. A 10 month wait. But it was a busy ten months, I've returned from China (the backpacking was awesome), been to New Zealand, started my final year of uni, etc. Hence, procrastinating on coursework with HB. Also I have to admit, the final arc of HB is insanely complicated. It broke my actual brain.
The Vandenreich Quincies were only meant to be a throwaway reference so Ryuuken looked badass. Also because I'm pretty damn impressed with Kubo lately, even if Ichigo is a cliché storm, and I just wanted to acknowledge the manga is good again. And then Senna wasn't being very interesting and PLOT TWISTS were born.
Quincy War will not take place in HB. But, if you like, it can be referenced some more in a 'once Aizen's down we are so pre-emptively attacking Juhabach' hypothetical kind of way.
Finally I have been working on several chapters. Big things keep changing, so I have to write the whole thing and then edit it all for continuity. That requires me to write about 5 chapters ahead and work backwards before I can post. The long waits will sadly continue, since I also have a 12,000 word dissertation to do. But hey, November means NaNoWriMo means groundless optimism, riiight?
Happy Halloween, or should I say All Hollow's Eve? Don't let the Hell Butterflies bite! xxx