(Spoiler Alert: Chapter 409!)
"Kisuke…." Isshin inquired to his friend, who was standing right next to him. Nothing outwardly had changed, but the biggest reason they didn't like coming here-
"Yes?~" Kisuke replied, in a singsong way.
"Too late." Isshin grumbled, walking out. He was clad in Engetsu's own cloak, similar to that of Zangetsu's, but a bit more frayed. His sword was a copy of what everyone took to be Ichigo's Bankai, but Isshin knew that Zangetsu and Engetsu were a pair, and thus shared many outward characteristics. Now he just had to find his s-
"UNOHANA!" Urahara explained as she passed by and picked him up in her dancing about.
"…. Have fun, Kisuke…" Isshin bid him farewell for now. When they saw this footage later in life, someone was going to have a bad case of embarrassment. The worst part, however, was that Kisuke had absolutely no idea what he was doing- it was usual happy-go-lucky Kisuke hyped up on drugs and Sake. He felt his own Zanpaktou merge with him on the way in, but it just mellowed out his attitude a bit. Now, back to finding Ichigo. He'd mastered Zangetsu during the winter war, so it was now a much longer, generally bigger blade. He saw his son laying on his back not to far away, sleeping soundly. Tensa Zangetsu lay at his side, unmoving. Heh. Time for a wake up call. Isshin used Shunpo to get high in the air, and then began.
Ichigo heard this. Wait? What? Why was his father here!
Uh oh. Dodge Duck Dip Duck Dodge- Ichigo got up as fast as he could, attempting to ready himself.
Ichigo felt his fathers foot line up perfectly with his scalp, driving his face into the ground. Many Shinigami had stopped to watch this, snickering, but Ichigo was less than amused. A lot less than amused. In fact, being stomped on was so outside of Zangetsu's code of conduct, it pretty much enraged him. Ichigo swung Zangetsu in an arc that was certainly meant to harm his father before managing to stand up and attempting it again.
"Oi!" Isshin complained, dodging the first but barely getting out of the way of the second. Right. Zangetsu was the crabby brother. "Nice to see you to!" Isshin called as Ichigo swung out again at him.
Ichigo only had one thing on his mind- this guy had just stepped on him, and seriously needed to learn some manners. Who goes around stepping on people? When they're sleeping? The thought that it was Isshin hardly passed through his conscious.
Isshin eventually pulled his blade out to counter Ichigo's, which seemed intent on cutting him at least once. "Ichigo, you there?" Isshin asked, knowing that sometimes the merge cause interesting personality quirks. "Isshin here-" He deflected another jab for him, "Your father? Yeah, that guy."
Whoa. Ichigo stopped for a second, getting over the trampling. This was Isshin- his dad. Oops. Shouldn't have forgotten that. "Uh… don't step on me, ok? I don't like… being… touched." Ichigo informed him. Isshin pretty much cracked up, but Ichigo continued, "Shut up, Eng!"
"…" Isshin ceased his laughing for a moment, "Heh! If you get to call me Eng, I can call you Zang!" He retorted, slipping into the personality of Engetsu a bit more. Zangetsu and Engetsu were like brothers, and thus had some rivalries, one of which was having those stupid nick names.
"…." Ichigo scowled at his dad, "Look, I was up all last nig-" Kisuke passed him, stopping right in front of him. Ichigo took a step back, and he took a step forward. "Urahara…."
"ICHIGO! It's so nice to see you again!"~" He pretty much sang, "We got caught! In CHINA!~"
"…." Ichigo backed up further, and Urahara took another step forward. "Space…"
"Who needs space?" Urahara inquired, taking another step forward so they were only like an inch apart.
"PERSONAL SPACE!" Ichigo demanded, using Shunpo to get away. Isshin was cracking up because of this-
"You'll never get away from 'em! I betcha if you give him a hug he'll go away!" Isshin called to him, knowing it to be completely false.
"SHUT-" Ichigo used Shunpo to avoid Urahara again, "UP-" Another flash step, "EN-ISSHIN!"
It would make sense, as Ichigo had been here for two days, to call him Eng. The longer you were here, the more you became like your Zanpaktou- they'd probably be at each other's throats within the next few days, or pranking each other with some seriously dangerous jokes, but it was temporary. After a good 30 minutes of pure hilarity of Kisuke trying to do who knows what to Ichigo, Isshin caught up to his old friend to restrain him. "Kisuke, why don't you take a breather?" Isshin suggested, keeping him in a headlock. Urahara smiled and freed himself before going to talk to Matsumoto. "Those two will hit it off, dontcha think?" He asked to Ichigo, joking.
"…." Ichigo had literally fallen over backwards and was snoring. The sun was still high, however, and Isshin didn't approve of his son's sleeping patterns until he realized he'd probably taken the night shift. Last time he'd been here, they'd been stuck here for weeks, and mass chaos had broken out on the 4th day. It seemed, however, that these guys had it under control to some degree. Most Shinigami were walking about or just talking to one another. A battle was taking place a bit upwind of where he was, but it was nothing more than a friendly bout- maybe they could get through this Census without to much issue.
A While Away-
Grimmjow had slipped through the dimensional rip that joined this dimension and Huceo Mundo, having felt a familiar and hated reiatsu. Kurosaki Ichigo. What he was doing there at that moment, Grimmjow didn't know- he just knew that this was going to be the last landscape that Ichigo ever saw. He was determined to gain his honor back- no way would a lowly human- or whatever freak halfbreed Kurosaki was- beat him. Not again.
As he walked towards the strong reiatsu, a plan began to form in his mind- the reign of the Espada was far from over.
"Rukia…" Ichigo muttered, sitting up from his brief but sweet nap. He'd been dreaming that she was trying to wake him up-
"BAKA!" Rukia told him, shaking his shoulders, "What are you, a rock?"
Oops. Not a dream. "Today I am." Ichigo replied smartly as he yawned profusely. Her white hair shocked him for a moment, along with her eyes- very, very pretty. "What's up?" Rukia grumbled something, and then waited for him to notice. Nothing came to mind- everything was still the same. "What?"
"It's night-time! Our job starts now." Rukia explained to him, standing up and dragging him up as well.
"It's not night yet." Ichigo debated- he could see everything perfectly… unless he looked up, in which case it was dark. "…?" That was confusing.
"Are you blind? It's pitch black out here." Rukia informed him, squinting to get a better look at the landscape. "Mayuri should've at least given us a place to stay! It gets cold out here!" She observed. Ichigo muttered an 'mmhhmmm…' as he tested out this newfound vision. It was the glasses!
"Rukia, try this!" Ichigo ordered, taking off Zangetsu's glasses and letting her use them for a moment. She was reluctant to give them back- they let the wearer see perfectly in the dark- no green static or anything. "I'm sure there's a better place- I mean, we haven't really explored at all yet." Ichigo observed, obviously about to volunteer to do so. "I can take Renji." He compromised, as Rukia didn't like him going out by himself.
"Ok. Come back by morning again- try to find a place thats sheltered and grouped." Rukia instructed, looking about for Renji and waking him up in a similar fashion. After he grumpily awoke, he was informed of his mission: "Go with Ichigo and look for a better place to stay while we're here."
"Ug." Renji complained, standing. He cast a glance at Ichigo, "And it never did rain, by the way, proving that you are afraid of Zabimaru's awesome power!" Renji brought the topic up.
"You need to shut up." Ichigo retorted, beginning to walk. "You'll be lucky if you can keep track of me." Ichigo told him, pretty much blending into the blackness. Renji snorted,
"Zabimaru had great nighteyes, unlike you."
"Night vision." Ichigo replied, smirking to himself. "At least you don't have to worry a-" Ichigo turned to look- Renji was right next to him. He took a step to the right, and Renji followed him. "…."
"About what?" Renji asked, about to poke him.
Ichigo walked faster now, attempting not to get infected with rabies. "Getting lost." Ichigo finished as he batted Renji away. "What part about no poking the administrators did you not understand?" Ichigo inquired loudly, his cloak seeming to fragment a bit more as his reiatsu rose. No touchy.
"Eh." Renji grunted.
"I mean you, Kisuke, those stupid other Shinigami- why do they insist on poking me? Its not that fun!" Ichigo reasoned, getting into the topic, "It's not like I'm wearing a sign!"
"…" Renji was trying not to laugh. It was absolutely fun- Ichigo reacted differently every time. "It would be faster if we split up, go two separate directions." Renji pointed out, serious once more. "More ground and less time."
"Good plan." Ichigo agreed, taking a sharp right. Renji took left- this place couldn't be that huge.
Grimmjow took a right also, remaining in the shadows. He could pick up every movement and sound made in this darkness- all the easier to track what he was after. As soon as Kurosaki was far enough away, he'd strike down, and they would finish their battle, once and for all.
Renji, after a good 30 minutes of using long-distance Shunpo, he did arrive at a series of caves- bit enough for a good 20 or 30 people to sleep in one- and there were tons of them! Time to go report to Rukia- he had to remember this somehow- Zabimaru! He summoned his Zanpaktou spirit out into the flesh, and instructed the large bone dragon to stay put- no way he'd miss that!
He left his Zanpaktou there and began his venture back- Rukia would be impressed, and Ichigo would be shown up. Not a bad nights work, if he did say so himself.
Ichigo used some long distance Shunpo, but didn't get as far as Renji. Walking was a better suited means of travel in the terrain he was attempting to traverse, which had become rocky and flat. The sky was a dark black, not a thing disturbing the night- not even a moon. Why Mayuri insisted on making everyone's life miserable, he had no clue, but they'd get through it- and then show Mayuri what they thought of his methods. It was absolutely dead quiet- not even the wind blew.
'Aww, come on, partner! We're best buddies.'
'When are ya gunna let me have my sword back? I'm gunna take it if you ain't goin' to share.'
"Shut up. It's mine."
"Ok, I'm gunn-"
"Talking to yourself now, Kurosaki?" Asked a familiar voice that Ichigo still wished he'd never heard.
"Yo, Rukia!" Renji shunpo'ed over, smiling, "I got a place."
"Great!" Rukia replied, honestly happy. "I'll get everyone up and we can move- where's Ichigo?" She checked behind him- "You didn't knock him out and leave him out there, did you?" She asked, seriously. Renji wasn't above that.
"N-No! We split up to cover more ground!" Renji insisted. Rukia bought it after a minute, and nodded.
"EVERYONE UP!" She shouted, clapping her hands. Renji joined in- time to round up and move out. As soon as everyone had been roused from their slumber, she instructed Renji to take everyone to the new grounds. She was going to wait for Ichigo to come back and then follow up. No wind or weather meant the trail couldn't be blown away, so it'd be easy to catch up with. Renji agreed a bit reluctantly, and then set off.
"…Are we there yet?"
Renji didn't look back to see who'd asked. "Of course not- we just started off."
5 minutes later.
"….Are we there yet?"
"No!" Still not caring who asked.
1 Minute later,
"How much farther?"
"Ok, how bout I tell you when we get there?" Renji asked, quite annoyed. Stupid rookies.
5 more minutes later,
"Are we there-"
"Ok, I am going to report you to your captain if you don't shut up!" Renji swore, finally checking to see who it was. "…C-Captain Byakuya…"
"…And who, exactly, would you report me to, Vice Captain?" Byakuya asked, folding his arms. Renji shut up for the rest of the way- that was not in his job description. Isshin was keeping tabs on Kisuke, who was skipping next to Yoruichi and asking a ton of questions.
"…What is wrong with you?" Yoruichi inquired as he got on the topic of cosmetics- "I thought you were straight! You shouldn't be talking about such womanly things!"
"…" Isshin sighed, explaining it to Yoruichi after he pushed Kisuke away, "His sword is Benihime you know. 'Crimson princess'. Why do you think we try to avoid this every time?" Yoruichi began to laugh harder than she had in a good long while-
"Kisuke's been merged with a GIRL Zanpaktou!" She asked, tears brimming in her eyes, "This is precious!"
"Not only that, but it's a young girl." Isshin added, how own garb floating about a bit. Yoruichi was overcome by a fresh bout of laughter and Kisuke came back,
"Yoruichi~!" He hummed a bit. Ukitake was walking not to far behind, however- Isshin knew what was coming. In a quick flash, Ukitake had Urahara's favorite hat in his hands, and he was flaunting it about like a kid would. "Ukitake! Gimmie it back!" Urahara demanded, running after him.
"At least that'll give him something to do." Isshin observed. "This is why we tried to get out of it- we get to watch the footage afterward, and Kisuke won't come out of his shop for like a week afterwards." He continued to explain, "Probably before you two really knew each other."
Rukia sat down, completely alone for the first time in a while. She took out her Bankai- "I wish I could keep you…" Rukia told it wistfully, knowing it would disappear eventually. "Talk to me a bit?" She inquired as she rested it on her lap in a mediative state. She had time, just a bit to waste- why not bond with her Zanpaktou? They were closer together here than they'd even been on earth, and what better a time to connect and maybe, just maybe, achieve Bankai?
"Gr-Grimmjow?" Ichigo asked, turning around slowly, shock on his face. True to his guess, the blue haired menace stood, looking down upon him from above.
"You're face is great- pure shock." Grimmjow reasoned, cackling. "I'm 'ere because you didn't have the guts to kill me back then, remember?" Grimmjow asked, his smile stretching beyond his mask. "Betcha do!"
"I didn't have the heart to kick something that was already down." Ichigo corrected, readying Zangetsu. "Especially a kitten."
"Panther, disrespectful brat." Grimmjow corrected, undoing the sheath of his own katana. "I'll just kill ya', less…." Grimmjow seemed to smile a bit. "I'll letcha know once it's over."
"You really hold a grudge, you know that?" Ichigo told him, Zangetsu increasing in size and length, much to the interest of Grimmjow. (Tensa Zangetsu from 409)
"Gotten better, eh?" Grimmjow laid his hand on Pantera, "Well, news flash, Kurosaki…" He moved his hand over the blade, and his reiatsu began to build higher and higher, "So have I."
Grimmjow morphed into his panther-human form, along with a loud screech that Ichigo knew he would never forget. This espada was tricky- he wouldn't have beaten him if it wasn't for Inoue and the other Espada. No time to be stingy with reiatsu, either. Ichigo watched as the gray dust settled once more, and as Grimmjow leapt at him- when had he gotten so fast? Ichigo barely had time to put his blade up. Grimmjow literally grasped it and bent Ichigo's arm back in such a way the pressure would snap it. "Aarr-" Ichigo winced, dropping the blade that was giving Grimmjow the grip. Ichigo leapt away, paranoid that Grimmjow would use his own blade against him- instead, he kicked it away.
"One on one, Kurosaki. No swords."
Think. Think. Think. How does a Shinigami, trained and only skilled in swordplay, beat a madman with all his assets?
'Easy, if you think about it my way….'
Ichigo blocked one of Grimmjow's claws, but was scratched deeply in the process- using his Zanpaktou was his only chance- why had he allowed himself to be disarmed to easily? "You fight with claws, I fight with a sword- unless you just want to slaughter me." Ichigo tried, knowing that Grimmjow wanted to have a good, thrilling battle. Grimmjow simply smirked at this,
"Take it as a challenge- think you can get it back? Get past me, it's yours." Grimmjow assured, "You pass this line…" He scratched it in the dirt, "I won't touch it or you until you have you're precious Zanpaktou back- then we can really get started." Ichigo knew he had to take it- otherwise, there was no way he'd get this over with. All he had to do is pass that line? No problem.
Grimmjow had seen the carnage left by the Menos Grande the night before, and felt Ichigo's reiatsu along with it- it was certainly a Hollow's, and certainly a Hollow that had had a lot of fun messing it up. Grimmjow didn't believe it was Kurosaki until he recalled something Aizen had said- Ichigo was an unstable Vizard, meaning that his Hollow half was most likely still prominent. Of course, he wasn't one for thinking- all he'd done was charge Ichigo's blade with his own, Hollowfied reiatsu- if it was still there, that would provide it enough energy to break through for a good minute or two.
Ichigo's forearms had been demolished by the time he'd made some headway- trying to dodge was next to impossible with Grimmjow's new speed, and without his blade to counter it, there was nothing left to defend against the claws besides his arms. There had to be some way to get him off guard for a second- just a brief second to use some Shunpo- he was a cat- what did cats like? Mice? Yarn? "Oh my God, a mouse Hollow!" Ichigo pointed, acting like he was really surprised.
Grimmjow's eyes flickered for a brief moment to the area where Ichigo had pointed- after all, mouse Hollow were rare in Huceo Mundo because he insisted passing the days by hunting them down- but as soon as he realized there was nothing there but a bit of grass, he turned his eyes to where Ichigo was- or had been a moment ago.
"HA!" Ichigo taunted from behind the line. "I win!" He announced, reaching for Zangetsu.
"You think so." Grimmjow muttered quietly, smiling evilly. Lets see if his muse would work-
I know you're mad.
I'll give you a question to ponder while you wait.
What would happen if Hollow Ichigo and Grimmjow joined forces to resurrect the Espada?
Sorry about the SEVERE shortness. I thought it was good place to cut it off... ^,^;; Next chapter will be LONGER!