(Author's note:

I realize that from this point, my story and Kubo's are going to diverge. Hopefully not too much. But for the time being, let's assume that this story is taking place 200 years after chapter 400. What Kubo is going to do with this next season, I can only guess. Please continue to enjoy this fan-made story. In the interest of finishing it within another year, I don't believe I can wait for Kubo-revelations much longer. Sumimasen in advance for any inaccuracies to Kubo's work from this point on.

Finally, to all loyal readers, forgive me for the late update. Between work, video games, a novel, and uncertainty on just how to proceed with Bleach 200+, I procrastinated horribly u_u *bows head in shame*. On the brighter side, I have basically the next two chapters planned out so I won't have an excuse to procrastinate so long. Only my new job can detain me…_)

Chapter 11:

Takashi hailed a taxi. He hadn't ridden one in awhile and didn't wish to use his own car. Anyone tracking is plate number would easily find the dark blue sports car parked on a seemingly average bridge. But it was what was beneath the bridge, or more accurately, what was beneath the earth the bridge covered that caused the young Quincy to take such precautions.

After a quick glance around to see if anyone was near, Takashi inserted a coin into a crack on the left wall. It wasn't just any coin of course, but a sigil that only the highest level Quincy from around the world possessed. So rare, in fact, that there were only seven, one of each kind. On Takashi's coin was his emblem, a spear with the name Azazel engraved on the back Sanskrit.

The wall slid back silently, just wide enough to let him through, and quickly shut. Only several floor lights illuminated the small room he now stood in. Takashi faced the opposite wall. With a voice activated command, a retina scanner flipped out for a third identification. Takashi had personally installed these, as well as designed the base below to where this elevator would carry him. Before Takashi, the Ark would meet in unsecured locations all over the world. It was likely because of his expertise with technology that Takashi had quickly risen in the Quincy ranks. Being an Ishida had nothing to do with it, of that he was certain.

After several minutes of the slow descent 30 stories below, the door final slid open. Takashi blinked several times before he stepped out into a well lit room. He smiled a little at the underground paradise. The floor was paved lapis luzil and black marble cylinders held white trunk sakura trees that were in blossom year round. Their fragrant smell filled the room. Overhead were white high arches designed to replicate the style of those found in Norte Dame. A stain glass window surrounded the upper level of the room depicting the history of the Quincy. At the front of the room hung a standard silver Quincy cross with the words in Latin: Rise and Conquer. Below it, a white obelisk stood with an oath engraved in the stone. Every leading Quincy over the past 100 years had his or her name chiseled into it after they died.

Takashi rounded the angelic waterfall that stood in the center of the room to sit at a spotless, white, and perfectly round table. He was the last to arrive. Already the Holy Guardians of the Ark had assembled. Each was a representative of the most prosperous Quincy sects around the world. Each was a leader in his or her own right. And each possessed a secret indentifying coin. Takashi's own was waiting at his seat.

Around the table starting at Takashi's left sat Samiel from Africa. He was a solidly built man of about 30 years old with a clean-shaven head and sunglasses. Takashi didn't not recall ever seeing the man's eyes and wondered what secrets they had seen. A scar ran down the length of his right arm, likely from a Hollow. Next sat Ariel from China. Her real name wasn't Ariel, but that didn't matter here. Her round innocent face belied her 25 years as well as her deadly accuracy with any weapon. Takashi had seen her fight once. The fight lasted mere seconds before her enemies fell. She smiled at him gently and nodded. Then there was Ishmael from India. In his mid-30s, he was never seen without a suit and tie and his neatly cut beard. Golden brown eyes glanced intelligently at Takashi before returning up to the ceiling as if memorizing every edge of the stain glass. Next to him, Daniel from the European Union twiddled his thumbs. He always had a cocky half smile. Likely because he was, out of every European country, announced as the best. He was of German heritage from a famous family known to be one of the founders of the Quincy symbols. Now he sat with his hair pushed back with a band. He was the first to speak with a chuckle in his voice, "You're late to your own party Azazel." Next to him sat Raphael, a young Brazilian who represented South America. He was a walking paradox, being shy did not seem to be enough to stop him from being an international model. Only 18, Takashi was impressed by the young man's time management skills. He was likely squeezing this meeting in between a photo shoot and a date. As long as it didn't interfere with his skill, no one commented. After all, Raphael once said, being able to travel freely to different countries allowed him to kill as many Hollow as possible. No one could argue with that. Finally, on Takashi's right, a sleepy looking man of 25 years cast a lazy glance as Takashi sat. Michael, the only one who's code name was the same as his real name, rubbed his ice-blue eyes with a yawn and pushed up his trim glasses. His clothes were the most casual of the group. One could assume the jeans and t-shirt combo was his idea of business-casual. He leaned back with a yawn and scratched his thick brown hair, "Better late than never right?"

Takashi bowed his head politely before he began. "Forgive me. I had some other matters that held me. I know many of you were likely expecting my father to meet you, but he has hence forth passed most duties onto me."

Samiel said in his deep accented voice, "We knew you and he would make the final transition soon. What I am more concerned is why would he call an emergency meeting, but send you alone in his stead."

Takashi pulled out a slim black leather binder. "That I can't say for sure. But he has informed me of everything he wished to say and," Takashi pushed a recording device in the center of the table, "he will definitely know everything that is said here."

Ishmael raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Takashi continued setting up. He pushed a button on the table's panel in front of him. A screen to his right rolled down and device he had set on the table started transmitting images of destroyed coastal towns.

"I'm sure everyone of us has been affected some way by the recent disasters happening around the world. The news reports are saying it's 'Mother Nature' having her revenge after centuries of pollution. But we know better. What's causing this devastation isn't natural, but supernatural. Battles between the Shinigami and Hollow have intensified and the damage, the countless loss of human lives, is written off with memory manipulation."

Ariel spoke slowly and languidly, "So…what does this mean for we Quincy? We've been handling every Shinigami and Hollow that we find well enough. Yet it seems more just take their place. It is not as simple as increasing our forces to counter them either."

"No?" Takashi smiled. "I suppose not so easy. But I'll get to that in a moment. Has anyone wondered why there is a greater presence of these Shinigami?"

"Easy. Stronger Hollow are coming through the veil," Daniel piped.

Takashi shook his head. "That's what it would appear to be. However, that's not quite the case. It's more like, weak Hollow here are becoming stronger without the need to take souls."

An eerie silence crept over the room.

"I don't think the Shinigami fully realize this, but their response is the same. Stronger Hollow means stronger Shinigami will come to our world. How these Hollow are getting stronger is something I've been researching for over a year. The answer lies within the veil itself. I noticed an increasing rate of spirit particles between our world and the other two. It's as if the three worlds are combining. By doing so, the Hollow can gain strength from the very air. But, that is not all. I suspect something is guiding them to obtain this power. Lately my sister was attacked by an organized group of Hollow and Shinigami."

The others glanced at each other across the room, then their eyes focused on him.

"The Shinigami, sneaky as they are, wouldn't side with the Hollow," Michael said, awake now.

Ishmael agreed. "Though we disagree on how Hollow should be dealt with, the core of our philosophies are the same. Hollow need to be exterminated."

Takashi frowned slightly. "Just as there are Quincy who would act independently of the Order, there are Shinigami who would seek other ways to get stronger. It isn't so strange that a Shinigami would team with Hollows now is it? It's been done before, likely more times than our ancestors would know."

"You're referring to a specific time though aren't you? And a specific ancestor," Ariel mused.

Takashi adjusted his glasses. "Yes I am. Uryuu Ishida believed himself to be the last of the Quincies, yet he still had hope that more would come. His detailed records are preserved in my father's library. He also included some observations of other unscrupulous Shinigami, including the one responsible for diminishing our ancestors' ranks."

"That aside, what I want to draw your attention to is his mention of a Hougyoku."

Takashi flipped to an image of a crystalline dodecahedron with a blue sphere swirling inside it.

"This is the power that Shinigami sought. It was with this that he almost destroyed Soul Society. In order to do so, he needed to take the lives of the thousands living in Karakura. I wouldn't agree with his methods in the least, but his intention to bring Soul Society crashing down is something I can relate to."

"Are you siding with a madman Azazel?" Michael said with a bored tone.

"Hardly. That very same madman wanted to follow through with his plan by becoming the new leader of soul society. Besides, it is not the innocent souls I have issue with, but the forces that rule over them.

"Still…I cannot ignore the power this Hougyoku had over the lives of those back then. A power capable of closing the gap between Shinigami and Hollow to reach a new level could likely posses even darker secrets."

"What do you mean by a gap?" Samiel leveled.

"Forgive me. I should clarify. Hollow and Shinigami are essentially the same. The difference lies in what path their soul chose to manifest their power. Unlike Quincy, neither has a physical body. Because of that, they are more susceptible to this Hougyoku's affect. However, it isn't to say that humans with a high level of spiritual energy aren't also affected by it. Uryuu Ishida referred to two of his comrades possibly being the result of that affect. Humans with powers that rival that of Shinigami and Hollow. Humans that are not Quincy that can still fight these creatures. And, I have reason to believe, the Hougyoku was not without its affect on my ancestor as well. He mentioned it has the power to materialize one's will. Ishida willed greatly that there would be more like him to fight for the Quincy's noble cause."

Daniel narrowed his eyes. "Are you saying that, because of your ancestor, we're hear today?"

"That is one speculation, yes. That's not all. The fight to possess this thing could have begun a slow deterioration of the veil between life and death, the effects of which we are seeing today."

"Impossible. Such a small thing in one location could do all of that?" Ishmael objected coolly.

"Perhaps. But who is to say there was only one? The Hougyoku was created by a Shinigami. It was, as far as Uryuu knew, the only one of its kind. But that doesn't mean another had not been made."

Ariel crossed her arms and legs and leaned back. "Azazel. Unless you're going to divulge the location of this second, I believe you're wasting our time with this emergency meeting."

Takashi smiled. "You said that we could not increase our numbers so easily correct? That's because Quincy can not be created like say a Soul can become a Hollow or a Shinigami. We are born from one of two ways, surviving a Hollow attack like the first Quincy which is extremely rare, or procreation. But with that," he nodded to the image of the Hougyoku, "with that the numbers can shift in our favor."

Raphael rubbed his chin. "Use the enemy's old tool against him. I like it. So then, it wasn't destroyed? You know its location?"

Takashi nodded. "I have an idea. But it won't be easy to obtain. After all, it's not in this world."

Kami had followed her brother on her bike up to the bridge. She had almost lost him several times while he was in the taxi. She was only able to tail him better after loading her gun with a tracking device and shooting it onto the taxi's bumper.

Kami flipped back her wrist watch and followed the blinking light as quickly as possible while staying out of sight.

She felt guilty for following him. It wasn't like she didn't trust him, was it? She kept telling herself that she was just curious. However, Kami couldn't shake the feeling that, as of late, his actions had been very strange. Not to mention, the appearance of these shinigami…her instincts told her it wasn't all just some timely coincidence. The earth felt like it was trying to destroy itself. Kami wanted answers. Whether she admitted it to herself of not, she felt like following Takashi would give her some.

Kami reached the bridge a minute behind Takashi and concealed her presence behind a wide, stone support beam. She waited and listened. All she could hear was a "swoosh" like an electronic door had opened. Strange. Kami waited another minute but heard nothing. She ventured to peer from her hiding place but saw nothing.

Impossible! Kami glanced around but saw no signs of her brother. He disappeared? She went up to the wall he had been facing and searched its fine crevices. There must be a trick to opening it, but without any kind of clue she was at a loss.

Kami decided to wait in hiding. Surely he'd have to come back this way, unless there was another exit. She wouldn't know until she tried. No matter how long it'd take, Kami kept hidden.

The sun had begun to set. Cramped and tired, the Quincy girl began to think that he must have left from another area. She stood to leave. Suddenly, another "swoosh" made her jump back into hiding. She concealed her presence once more, praying that he wouldn't sense her.

When she looked, she saw not her brother, but someone else, leaving. A brown haired man with glasses and blue jeans sauntered away with his hands in his pocket. He yawned for a moment and then glanced in the direction Kami hid.

She ducked down quickly, praying he didn't see her. After a moment of hearing nothing, she peeked over again. He was gone. The elevator opened a troupe of the delegates within exited. They muttered something to each other in a different language. Some left in one direction; the rest went the other way. Still, Kami saw no sign of her brother.

Who are these people? Are they Quincy too? What do they have to do with Takashi?

"Find what you're looking for Kam-kam?" a voice said behind her.

Kami's heart froze. She closed her eyes and turned slowly. "T-Takashi I—" she tried to come up with some excuse, an explanation for her presence.

He raised a hand to silence her. She glanced up at him, but the shadows that crossed his face made his expression unreadable.

"No Kami, it's my fault. I haven't been quite honest with you," he said.

Kami relaxed. He wasn't mad at her? "I'm sorry Takashi. I was just…I was worried about you."

"I know. Everything's alright though. Trust me. What you just saw were some friends of mine. We meet periodically to discuss how to deal with the Hollow and Shinigami threat."

Kami sighed with relief. "A meeting? Is that all?"

She let out a chuckle. "Now I really feel stupid for sneaking. Can you forgive me?"

Takashi smiled and hugged her. "That isn't necessary. You can sense it too can't you? The cries in the earth?"

His grip around her tightened.

"Ta-Takashi?"

"This world, no the souls throughout this world. They're all dying. And we're the only ones who can stop it," he continued. "You'll help me won't you?"

"Takashi you're hurting me!" fear nudged at the back of her mind. This voice, these words, was this really the same person as her brother?

He suddenly released her. "I-I don't know what just came over me…I'm sorry."

Kami looked at him warily, but all she saw was a tired young man. Was preparing to become head of the Japan's Quincy faction, and the figure head of all Quincy around the world taking it's toll on him? If she could help relieve the burden, even just a little, she'd be glad to.

"I'll help you," she promised after she caught her breath. "Just tell me what you need me to do."

A thin smile crossed his face. He rested his arm on her shoulder and guided her back to the road. "I've decided to end it all. Soul Society, Hueco Mundo…I've discovered a way to destroy Shinigami and Hollow once and for all," he said suddenly.

"What?" Kami turned her face to him, eye widened with shock. She knew her brother was a genius even by the Ishida line's standards. But a way to destroy two worlds? Was it really possible. Kami had considered the battle between the three forces to be endless.

The weight of Takashi's words made her shake with anticipation. She couldn't read his expression from this angle, the difference in their height was too great. Sweat gathered on her brow. "How?"

"When? Isn't that the more pressing question? I told the Order just a few minutes ago. There is something we need to collect first. I had pinpointed it's location here on earth. However, it moved. I wasn't able to track it again until those Shinigami attacked your troops a few nights ago. We have to move fast before it moves location again."

"So…where is it?" Kami pressed. She also wanted to know what "it" was.

Takashi turned his head up to the heavens. "Soul Society. The heart of enemy territory."

Kami lost her breath for the second time in the past five minutes. How could they possibly get something from Soul Society? Did he intend to draw it to Earth? And how could she possibly help him and the best Quincy around the world undertake such a task? Kami felt she was already in over her head.

She remembered Yoruichi's warnings. "Something is happening in Soul Society" and "Tell the Quincy to lay low." Did it have anything to do with what Takashi was planning? Not to mention what she said about something being unleashed in the world. Kami sorely wanted to tell her brother of the other night. But she couldn't shake the feeling that she needed to keep that a secret.

This was her first real secret from her brother. Normally, that would be unsettling. However, for some reason, Kami felt relieved.

"How are you going to get there? Only souls are allowed, right?" Kami finally asked.

Takashi was still looking toward the sky. "You mean we. We are going to Soul Society. That's why I need your help."

He turned his face toward her. "You know about the Senkaimon shinigami use to get here correct?"

Kami nodded, silenced by her alarm.

"There is a way humans can use it, but I had to be sure it was safe. Reishihenkanki. These spirit exchangers work to convert solid matter like humans into spiritual particles. I've invented a way to harness them and allow us to pass through. But it seems the path between this world and Soul Society is dangerous to traverse without the use of a Jigokucho. Unfortunately, only Shinigami can use the hell butterfly."

"Either way," he continued. "To activate the device and uphold the Senkaimon, I need you to add your strength with ours. You've grown Kami, and father has to stay here. Only you can do this for me, for everyone."

He patted her on the head. "It's dangerous, but I know you can do it."

Kami came to her senses. She smiled and nodded with delight. "Yes. I'll do my best."

On a jagged precipice, beneath the everlasting night sky of Hueco Mundo, a slender figure in the shape of a 12 year old boy gazes up at the gray clouds. His clear blue-gray eyes are vacant, as if he is looking into a world beyond…a world from his fragmented memories. Fragmented…like the clouds.

A slight breeze rustled his thick curiously brown curls. They brushed his furred ears and caught around the ram horns that curved along the side of his head.

Karnero Ramses, the name he took when he could no longer remember his real one, raised a quartz flute to his lips and struck a solemn note. The wind carried it over the sands and for a moment, it seemed the sound brought every grain into a dance.

"I am here master," a pale man with deep blue black hair pulled back into a ponytail appears at his side already bowing. Slung on his back is a thin lyre cut from the same quartz as Karnero's flute.

"Report," Karnero demanded. His voice is as empty as his eyes, barely above a whisper.

Koji Arpa smiled thinly and bowed lower, his ponytail fell over his shoulder as he did. He looked to be in his mid twenties. The only thing that stood apart from his human visage was the remnants of his hollow mask, three slivers of bone rested on his chin.

Even in Hueco Mundo, the appearance of a child commanding an adult was peculiar. However, Koji had his reasons for serving this boy that looked half his age and was his polar opposite in personality.

"There was a disturbance in the eastern planes. I believed it to be the rebels, and sent a small squad to investigate," his tawny yellow eyes blinked slowly before he continued.

"Well?" Karnero's voice grew impatient and his eyes flicked to Koji.

"They have yet to return. It confirms my suspicions that the rebels have drawn near our location," Koji stated.

A sharp pain crossed his face. Koji didn't flinch as his young master sliced his cheek with a flick of his flute. Karnero's back stood to him and though he could not see the angelic face, he could tell from his voice that Master Ramses's countenance had suddenly changed from that of a wistful boy to one of a determined hunter.

"Fool," Karnero said passionlessly.

"Those troops were under your training, correct?"

Without waiting for a response, the boy continued. "Their failure is your own. You will wear the scars of each life on your back."

Koji bowed. "Of course young master."

Karnero turned back to contemplate the sands. "I have no more patience for these wretches. It is time to end this," a smoldering rage lurked at the edge of his monotone voice.

Koji had not changed his posture. "What will you have me do?"

"Find their base. Kill them like dogs."

Koji nodded. "It will be done exactly as you say," he said and disappeared as quickly as he had come.

Rebels. Over countless cycles, Karnero Ramses had begun to amass a small army of hollow to build a kingdom. He had never wanted loyalty. Only obedience. Through his subjugation of the countless tribes, he become known as the Desert Emperor, or even the Beast King. To think, it had all began with just himself and Koji. Now they numbered in the thousands.

The rebels however did not wish for someone to rule Hueco Mundo single handed. Many were false arrancar, formed by the hand of a shinigami. They feared a new leader. They feared no longer being the most powerful. Disgusting, they cling to their past as if it holds the key to their future. They deserved extinction.

His eyes returned to the moonlit sky. Never changing.

I will change the future with my own hands.

As the winds blew violently over the desert, the air in the Menos Forest was dead.

Three small figures hunched over a low fire watch as two larger ones battle an onslaught of menos grande.

The shortest, a child with green hair yawns, tears of sleep form at the corner of her eyes.

"Thiysth ith getting boring," Nel started out at the two with her round hazel eyes that kept drooping as she'd nod off.

"How long are they going to keep this up?" Pesche, her skinny purple clothed brother lay on his side, propped on an elbow. He scratched his butt beneath his loincloth with free hand.

"Oi this is a battle of a man's pride, ya know?" Dondochakka raised a shaking fist as his eyes filled with tears.

Pesche picked his nose with his pinky. "Pride huh? It's gonna wipe out the entire forest at this rate. Don't they ever get tired?"

"Iyts not like earlier. Those guys were dangerous. But the Menos…" Nel looked downcast.

Pesche and Dondochakka rushed to cheer her up.

"Oi oi! There there lil' sis. Don't cha go crying, ya know?" Dondo was already weeping.

"Listen to your big bros," Pesche jumped in. "Because those two are working hard to keep us safe. What if the Menos decided a couple of raggedy arrancar aren't a threat? We'd be in a fix."

Nel's round eyes grew larger. "Iys that so? They tryin' ta keep Nel from experiencing weird thyings crawling on her when she sleeps?"

"Yes, that's right!" the two said simultaneously, sensing that their former leader was already warming up to the thought of a midnight encounter.

"And that theys fighting for the heart of a young maiden?" she continued. Her eyes glowed with odd fascination as her imagination grew more perverse.

"Of course!" the two agreed.

"Okay! Then theys can keep goin'." She stretched her short arms out and closed her eyes, puckering her lips as drool formed around them.

"Wiyth my body, I'll accept whoever gets the most points," she shouted as loud as her childish voice could to the two battling figures.

Her voice echoed clearly over the black forest. With a punch, another menos fell slowly to the ground. The impact made the cavern shake.

"That kid is pissing me off," Grimmjow Jaggerjaques grumbled. He cracked his knuckles before landing a kick on a Menos that was unsuccessfully trying to attack him from behind.

"I should have killed her the first time I saw her…" he continued.

Behind him, a slash from a jagged rusted sword cut close by his ear. With one stroke, the Menos he had kicked split in two. Grimmjow froze as the power behind the blow whipped around his hair and clothes.

Grimmjow spun around to face the owner.

"Fuck Zaraki! I already had that one."

Kenpachi exhaled and rest his sword on his shoulder. "Tch…If you stopped talking so much, perhaps you'd finish faster."

Grimmjow sneered, a maniacal grin crossed his face as he said, "Why the rush? I thought you liked fighting."

Zaraki slashed at another Menos. It fell just as easily as the first. "Killing weaklings like this is boring and a waste of time. Move out of the way and I'll finish faster."

Grimmjow's hand flew to his sword. "Oh? Try saying that to my face! I swear when this is over I'm going to shred to you pieces."

Zaraki turned with a bloodthirsty grin. "So you're saying you've gotten stronger since the last time we fought? If so, then we can settle this here and now."

His yellow reiatsu shot like a pillar through the forest. What was left of the Menos in the area had fled or fallen. Parts of the ceiling began to crumble.

"Stop that you two! Keep it up and you'll give our position away to the enemy!" Nelliel Tu Odelschwanck appeared between the two. No longer in her child form, her long green hair flowed around her, barely concealing the full bosom that threatened to tear her rags.

Kenpachi eased up on his power and Grimmjow relaxed his stance.

"Like I'm going to take orders from some woman," Grimmjow grumbled. "Why the hell should we hide from them anyway? Why don't we just kill this Desert Emperor and be done with it?" the turquoise haired ex-Espada crossed his arms.

Nelliel kept her eyes on him, but she spoke to both. "We're together because we all have a common goal. This war has nothing to do with us. If we want to find Ichigo, we have to work together and not get distracted by senseless battles."

Kenpachi said nothing. His veteran face bellied little of what went through his mind.

Grimmjow seethed, but didn't pursue the subject. "And what makes you two think that punk is here at all? Last I heard he went back to the human world."

"Tch, idiot," Kenpachi turned aside. "Do you really think a human would still be alive after 200 years?"

"What the hell did you say Zaraki? You must really want to die!" Grimmjow clenched his fist, ready to fight again.

Nelliel sighed. She gazed up at the ceiling through the hole Kenpachi had created. It was too dark to see the sky. "Kenpachi-san already told me that the shinigami have searched the human world and Soul Society. I'm confident that if we keep moving forward, we'll see him again."

Suddenly, the air popped around her. She could no longer hold her true form and reverted back to Nel.

"Ah shoot!" Nel said. "I thought I'd hold out a lil' longer than that."

She fell down onto a nearby rocky ledge. At the impact, her eyes began to well with tears, but instead of crying she moaned and rubbed her bottom. "Ohhhuunnn! That hurt!"

"Jeez…how long is she going to keep this up?" Grimmjow muttered and dropped down to Dondochakka and Pesche.

The two fraccion cowered close to each other, but he ignored them like he usually did. Kenpachi picked Nel up and put her on his shoulder to carry her back to the fire.

"Oh? Ken-nii wants Nel's affectshuns? You gots the most it sheems so that makes you the winner of Nel's body."

"Stop being nasty," he scolded and dropped her onto her fraccion. After a few moments, Nel was fast asleep, worn from using her power.

"After all these years, she still can't keep her original form," Pesche mused as he watched the little girl snore peacefully.

"It's no so bad though, is it bro? Sis never liked fighting in the first place, ya know?" Dondochakka replied.

"I know…still…We can't seem to avoid fighting anymore."

Dondo whispered conspiratorially, "It's a good thing we found these guys then ya know? They can do all the fighting and we won't have to break a sweat."

"Yeah but they seem to fight each other more than anything else. I can't help but feel half of our battles could have been avoided if those two weren't here," Pesche whispered back the same.

A rock hit each of them in the back of their heads. "I can hear you just fine," Grimmjow's voice came from the shadows that the fire's light couldn't penetrate.

"If you want to leave and save your own hides, go right ahead. It's tiresome holding back so I don't accidentally kill you."

Pesche and Dondochakka panicked and bowed as they apologized profusely.

"Feh…worthless," Grimmjow ignored them. He gazed past them, focusing instead on Kenpachi.

It had been Nel who told Grimmjow that Zaraki had finished off that bastard Nnoitra who had blind-sided him while he was fighting Ichigo. Since then, Grimmjow vowed to kill Zaraki. Problem was, the shinigami was his key to finding the orange-haired punk he was so hell-bent on defeating. Thus, they entered into a fragile truce.

Grimmjow had to admit, the thought of a 3-way battle between them was exciting. But of course, there was still one more problem. So far, in all his bouts with Zaraki, he had yet to defeat the man. Albeit one thing or another had interrupted all their battles, the very first one they had, when they first met, barely lasted 10 minutes. Kenpachi overpowered him with ease.

Grimmjow glared at the shinigami's back. Unbelievable. This guy said he had lost to Ichigo, and yet he was able to overcome both Nnoitra and Yammy's zero-form without bankai. However, the past 200 years had given Grimmjow plenty of time to improve. The six on his back had long since vanished, but he didn't need a number to represent his level of power.

The ex-Espada's aura of bloodlust radiated past the fraccion. Thinking it was directed at them, they cowered and apologized profusely.

Mayuri Kurotsuchi glared at the package in front of him. After investigating Unohana's patients, he had not found any useful information. Now, the package Rin delivered sat before him on the computer's desk inviting him to open. Curious as he was, he despised anything Urahara Kisuke had to offer.

Yes, he knew it was from Kisuke the moment his eyes fell upon it. He even had an inkling what was inside. Their minds were more alike than either man cared to admit. Once again, Kisuke was a few steps ahead of him. Mayuri decided to take out his anger on Rin after he opened the package. That always cheered him up.

The box fell open at his touch, keyed to his spiritual energy. Kisuke wanted whatever was inside for Mayuri's eyes only. A roll of paper sat innocently inside. The bastard was playing games with him!

The captain snatched up the paper and read. As he read it grew longer. It was a program code to upgrade his computer's reiatsu test. A vial slid out from the bottom of the scroll and rolled by Mayuri's foot. A shining blue liquid settled inside.

So, Kisuke wanted Mayuri to do his dirty work?

Mayuri crumbled up the scroll and tossed it in the trash. Urahara was a bothersome man. But he knew how to play on Mayuri's curiosity. Mayuri entered the code to modify his program. But he made his own additions to Urahara's suggestion. He'll inspect the liquid in the vial, but he'll do it on his own terms.

The reprogramming was faster than the analysis. But Mayuri did not take a break while the computer compared the blue sparkling liquid to the dark sphere that contained the soul of the contaminated hollow. Instead, he went through his files under Hougyoku, trying to find anything he may have missed. Much of it were copies of Kisuke's work, banned from Soul Society. He had salvaged them from the library before the originals were burnt. There were also a few unnamed files that he could only assume had belonged to Aizen when the man was still a lieutenant. Some predated even that time.

The Hougyoku was a relatively new invention by Urahara Kisuke, but it was not the first. There had been Aizen's attempt at forming his own, but it failed. All assumed it to have been destroyed. From what Mayuri gathered, what made Kisuke's superior to Aizen's was not in the skill in which it had been formed. It was the substance used. Something entirely set apart from Soul Society. God Cells. The phrase was only used once in a text predating the mention of the Hougyoku. Mayuri had almost forgotten it until now. He had his suspicions that whatever was in that vial, and whatever had infected that hollow would prove to have the same properties as Kisuke's Hougyoku.

Mayuri's heart leaped in his chest with excitement. Sweat beaded around his head and lips as his roving eyes watched the program work. Match. Match. Match.

He didn't know how much time had passed. He had ordered Nemu to prevent anyone from disturbing him this time on pain of death. Finally, the program drew it's conclusion. The Hollow was indeed infected with a small amount of God Cells. The blue swirling liquid in the vial held the same atmosphere as the Hougyoku. However, it was "deactivated" and could not manifest the heart of those around it as Aizen had claimed. Kisuke must have withdrawn a specific strand…but from what? Where did he find it?

Mayuri banged is fist against the computer in frustration. He still didn't have as much information as that fool. Could it have possibly come from a creature's blood? What happened if it was consumed? Mayuri wanted to know desperately. But this was a research project he needed to proceed with extreme caution. The slightest mistake and he could be in trouble with the Central 46 like Urahara had been.

"Where you failed Kisuke, I will succeed," Mayuri cackled.

Shiko Kenjyo and Yuichi Horiuchi where completely different personalities. As the Third Division lieutenant, Shiko personified despair. In fact, she enjoyed the theme of her division so much that it took much pleading to convince her to leave her position as fourth seat. She organized dramatic plays that some members of her squad would perform during special celebrations, wrote dark poetry, and mostly kept to herself in her vice captain corridors. Yuichi on the other hand was outgoing and lively. His cheerful demeanor coupled with his sense of honor and justice made him perfect for his division. He was also a close friend of Sado Yasutora, or Chad. The man had rescued him from a hollow attack a long time ago. Since then, Yuichi had vowed to protect the weak and innocent just like Chad.

Despite their differences, Shiko and Yuichi worked well together just like their captains. Thus, it came as no surprise that together they'd be leading a small force to search for an escaped convict. Their zanpakuto abilities were excellent for disabling a crowd of enemies. Even a swarm of ordinary hollows would stand no chance against them.

Yuichi glanced over his shoulder as he hopped across the rooftops. Shiko was keeping pace; her long dark hair floating behind her had life of its own. She had modified her Shihakusho to the likeness of a Heian period court lady's kimono. Her long sleeves trailed behind her as she ran. Yuichi marveled at how she was able to keep up without tripping over her extra long garment.

Shiko silently glared back at him, sending chills down his spine.

Yuichi turned back quickly and sighed. "Man oh man, why do I always have to work with this Oiwa?" he thought to himself.

"What was that Horiuchi-shi?" Shiko commented in a monotone voice. She often addressed people as if she were writing about them in a formal report. It was a habit she had developed from writing about people more than talking to them.

Yuichi's shoulders stiffened. Could she read minds? "Ah? What was what Kenjyo no Kimi?" he felt a bead of sweat on the back of his neck. He made the mistake of asking how to address her once before. Since then, he had been forced use such an old fashioned title for a court lady.

"Up ahead," she said simply and vanished only to reappear several steps in front of him.

Shiko dropped down to a field of white flowers. Yuichi came up beside her.

"What is it?" he asked stopping short of saying her name. Shiko's ability allowed her to sense changes in reishi more finely than any shinigami he'd met. Even when her sword was sealed, she was an excellent tracker.

The air was eerily still. Shiko could sense no sign of life in the vicinity. It was like there was a barrier setting this field apart from the rest of the world. However, she could not sense a barrier.

"We shall wait here," Shiko commanded. She removed a fan from her left sleeve and rested in the flowers, calmly fanning herself without explaining.

Yuichi gave up. Getting her to talk was like pulling teeth. He sat beside her with his arms and legs crossed trying to sense whatever it was that provoked her.

Shinigami Golden!

"A-akon-san? Hiyosu-san? Kurotsuchi-sama?" Rin cries out in a cage with closely wound bars. His face presses against them tightly as he pleas to a dark room.

"Please let me out! Please! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

Behind him, a jungle habitat hides a ferocious Nagi-Naga, an enormous female spirit with the lower body of a snake. Rin could hear her rustling in underbrush; her forked tongue's hissing surrounded him on all sides. She was hunting.

Cold chills ran down Rin's back. Any longer and he'd be dinner. Akon had warned him that Kurotsuchi-taicho would be angry with that box, but Rin didn't believe he'd be so swift and exacting punishment.

"Swallow this Rin," Hiyosu croaked from the darkness.

"Hiyosu-san? Hiyosu-san is that you?" Rin felt overcome with relief.

In answer, the green skinned shinigami stepped forward with a wide and devilish grin plastered across his face. He slipped a little blue pill through the bars, letting it fall by Rin's foot.

"Hurry now Rin. This will keep Nagi-chan from eating you," he whispered ominously.

Rin, overcome with far, did not hesitate to gulp the thing down or considered Hiyosu's suspicious tone. Before he could swallow, a tail shot out from the jungle and wrapped around his ankle. The Nagi Naga dragged him back to her nest.

Rin still had the pill clutched in his fist. He could no longer see Hiyosu, but he could hear the man's laughter. Rin forced the pill down his throat just as the Nagi-Naga prepared to swallow him.

Almost immediately, the snake woman dropped him. Rin sighed with relief once more. Was it some kind of biological repellent Hiyosu had developed? Rin glanced back at the Nagi-Naga.

Her attitude at completely changed from violent to…flirtatious? She curled up around him and flicked a tongue at his ear.

Rin panicked. "Hiyosu-san! Hiyosu-san! What was in that pill!"

Hiyosu cackled very similarly to his captain. "Oh just a little pheromone from a male snake mixed with some hypnotizing drugs. How else do you think we were able to capture such a rare specimen without harming it?

"Now have fun Rin. And watch out for her bites of affection. They're still quite venomous to a normal body."