*** Only a few hours after I originally put this up I went and read it for my self... and realized it was riddled with grammatical and structural errors... so I went and fixed as many as I could find.

Beaten But Never Broken Chapter 2: What is lost can always be gained. All peace must come to an end.

Faint images and broken sounds speed through Ichigo's head, providing only a name, rank, and faint impression of the fuku-taichostanding agape across from him. There was no doubt in the hybrid's mind that the shinigami in front of him had earned his post but, sadly, it wouldn't be enough.

In fluid movements the cleaver on his back is released from its confines, its edge glinting eerily in the light. Renji's eyes widen at the sight, and his mouth opens to vehemently question the action, but before he's able to mouth a simple 'what', Ichigo is upon him, blade swinging in an arc to bifurcate the stunned soldier.

Training kicks in faster then the tattooed man can comprehend and his hand drops to the red hilt of his sword, practically ripping it out of the sheath. A metal clang resounds through out the clearing, the impact kicking up dust and debris.

Rust and tawny clash, the emotions of one warring against the other.

Anger and betrayal against guilt and curiosity.

The possibility of expending the pent up hurricane of emotion is almost overwhelming for the newly inducted Espada.

Sparks fly as swords collide again and again, with only one remaining pair of eyes to observe the spectacle.

Renji, swiftly becoming overwhelmed, begins to strike franticly with his defenses rapidly crumbling.

Block. Counter. Block. Block. Dodge. Counter. Damn it! Think Renji! Block. Dodge. Counter.

Ichigo on the other hand had begun to rapidly suppress the desire for battle and replaced it with the task of evaluating his partner in this lethal dance. His opponent was strong, too strong to be a simple fuku-taicho. But his speed was severely lacking, something the speed-oriented vizard planned to fully capitalize on. To the untrained eye both participants were no more then a blur, with gusts of wind and waves of power washing over the sole remaining observer. Yet to the seasoned eye, the battle for the right to live is a harmonious warring of instincts.

A simple feint, a complex series of strikes and lunges, the sound of blade tearing through flesh and sinew, the muffled tapping of straw sandals on dirt, the ear shattering clang of steel against steel, a fine sheen of sweat over inky black tattoos, the taint of crimson on clothing and skin. The art of battle is a beautiful thing, yet when a life hangs in the balance, it becomes a dance of deadly proportions.

As they continue to cross blades, Ichigo is assaulted by memories.

". . .That's unexpected you even remember my name. I'm really surprised... I thought that you had been killed by Kuchiki-Taicho's attack."

'What the hell...'

"Getting so arrogant after only a slight improvement? Who the hell do you think you are!. . . Roar! Zabimaru!"

'Damn it I can't dodge!'

'Why am I. . .'

A quick sidestep, a lazy counter. A measured intake of breath. The tang of sweat and the bite of blood fill the air, invading the senses and heightening the body's state of awareness.

"When shinigami ranked at or above a fukutaicho are sent to the Living World, their power is drastically sealed to prevent any damage to the surrounding area. So right now, I'm five times stronger then when we last met! It won't matter how strong you might've become, it will be impossible for you to defeat me!"

"It's a good idea to attack when your opponent has to break in between attacks, your timing was perfect. But why couldn't you hit me? The answer is simple. You are too slow!"

"Please... You have to save Rukia!"

'Why are these memories...'

Suddenly the fiery-red head changes tactics, going from close-quarters to attempting long-range.

In a sweeping move that causes both opponents to leap away in order to avoid injury, Renji immediately takes up a stance so he can call out his zanpaktou.

"Howl," His hand glides down the weapon as a wave of red energy begins to distort the blade itself.

"Za-" A sudden pressure in his chest halts the command as it fades into a wet gurgle.

Dark eyes widen as his head slowly, almost mechanically, tilts down to stare at the appendage lodged in his chest.

With a sickening squelch Ichigo removes his hand, idly removing the coating of blood with a simple flick of his wrist.

With a gasp Renji falls to his knees, grasping at the wound in his sternum. His vision begins to fade as his heart pumps erratically while his lungs fill with fluid.

Kneeling in front of the fatally wounded god of death, Ichigo places a glowing palm over the hole, ensuring his immediate survival.

"Abarai, summon a Senkaimon, if you don't you'll die with in the next two minutes." Ichigo commands into the dying mans ear, his voice a mere whisper.

'And yet you're only staving off the inevitable.' The orange-haired Vizard thinks darkly.

A crimson stained hand shakily reaches into an equally stained shihaksho, extracting a white box then crushing it within the next instant.

The air hums with power as a pair of traditional japanese doors opens up behind the duo, bathing them in an ethereal light.

"Aizen-sama's orders were to send the leader of the group back with a message. He is unable to do so with out aide. In order to fully complete the task assigned we must accompany Abarai Renji, back to Seireitei." Ichigo intones as he heaves the slowly fading man over his shoulder with out so much as a sound.

Taking a few steps toward the blindingly lit gate Ichigo turns to face the stoic Espada.

"You're coming with Ulquiorra." Ichigo orders, empty brown eyes meeting inquisitive green.

With a curt nod, the fourth falls into step behind his superior, following him through the doors,and leaving the dead or dying bodies to the horrors of the Menos Forrest.

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Soul Society

Unohana Retsu prides herself on her analytical skills. The ability to make split second decisions about how to save someone's life come as naturally as breathing. Yet when a Senkaimon, developed especially for those on missions who needed immediate medical attention, opened up in her office revealing a once-though-dead and drastically changed man with the bloody body of the lieutenant of the sixth division on his shoulder accompanied by the fourth Espada, Retsu could say in complete honesty that she was baffled.

"Taicho-san, this man is on the verge of dying, and is in serious need of medical attention." The carrier of the body stated, the complete lack of emotion in his tone causing an involuntary shiver to work its way down her spine, as she swiftly moved from her seated position behind her desk to stand in front of. . .

'Is this really Kurosaki Ichigo?' She thought as the gears in her mind began to turn, albeit sluggishly.

As he almost gently places the dying body of Renji at her feet, the wizened captain systematically took in the condition of the blood soaked torso. Almost immediately her warm gray eyes widen, training on the gaping hole in the younger man's chest then immediately shifting over to lock onto the noticeable spatter marring the bright white cloth of the reversed shihakshou. But before she could open her mouth to inquire about the anomaly that was quickly forming a cold lump in the pit of her stomach, lifeless honey met her own worried coal, freezing her to the spot.

"Your time of peace is over." He murmurs as he stands to his full height, easily towering over her, then promptly vanished right before her eyes into the light of the still open gate.

For a few moments the healer could only stare at the place where the strikingly different Ichigo had once been. Her mind was running a mile a minute, but a pained groan brought it to a screeching halt.

' I'll have to inform the rest of the captains about this.' She thought morosely as she knelt down to begin the process of taking the bloodied lieutenant away from death's cold grasp.

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The trek back to Las Noches was almost identical to the initial departure, blanketed in silence. Yet, this time the silence seemed to radiate tension instead of quiet curiosity, something Ichigo would've preferred.

Renji, had turned out to be a disappointment when Ichigo expected so much more from a high ranking officer in the Gotei 13.

With a frustrated sigh the frayed Espada forced the emotions and railroading thoughts back into the cage he had created for them not to long ago.

'I'll have time to think on them later.' He mused darkly as both he and Ulquiorra slowed to a stop in front of the immensity known as the North Gate.

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A scant few hours later found the now edgy hybrid sitting on the edge of one of the many aged buildings in his inner world, staring at the bright blue sky marred by thick grey clouds, who occasionally let lose peeling roars of thunder, warning of the immanent rain. The elegant cleaver lay almost forgotten off the the side, its blade free of its usual cloth-wrapping.

"How. . . How well did I know Abarai Renji. . ." Ichigo whispers seemingly to the sky above, desperate to understand why he is filled with so much sadness, so much guilt.

"He was almost like a brother to you. Together you fought like a well oiled machine." Zangetsu answeres honestly from somewhere behind the teen, apparently keeping watch but also giving his wielder the space he so desires.

An agonized gasp sings in harmony with a low growl of thunder, catching the attention and concern of the zanpaktou and hollow present. Realization stung like the unforgiving kiss of blade against flesh. He had sentenced someone who had been so very close to him to death, giving him only weeks to live.

Ichigo hunched over, gripping at his head and chest in an attempt to stave off the steadily building hurricane of tumultuous emotion. But, he couldn't stop the few tears that escaped his closed eye lids, marking his cheeks ans dripping onto his white hakama pants.

"Damn you Aizen." Ichigo snarls suddenly, each syllable punctuated by a frightening rise in malicious reiatsu, startling both onlookers.

"Damn you to the farthest pits of hell you slimy bastard."

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Walking out of his quarters Ichigo, inwardly seethes. Not even a lengthy, and bloody, spar with his inner hollow had quelled the rage burning like a thousand suns in his chest.

Instead he's deigned himself to mindlessly walking the halls of Las Noches, his mask firmly back into place.

It is only by pure chance that he runs into the Espada he had been hoping to avoid.

"Well if it ain't Kurosaki." Grimmjow sneers.

Slowing to halt, dulled honey absently rake over the scared appearance of the sixth Espada.

"It's good to see you to Grimmjow." Ichigo replies with only a subtle hint of sarcasm, feeling the bloodlust roll off of the neon-haired hollow.

"Shut up. I want a rematch. Now. It doesn't matter where." The sixth bites out, muscles tensing in anticipation.

A faint whisper of cold energy brushes against Ichigo's own, and that sun flares to incomprehensible proportions. A hand clenches at his side and the muscles in his jaw grind his teeth against one another.

"Grimmjow, it would be very unwise to follow that course of action." Aizen calls smoothly from behind the Vizard, placing a hand on his white shihaksho clad shoulder.

Instantaneously his form goes rigid under the touch, eyes losing any of the fire that had been there moments before.

Grimmjow visibly flinches but scoffs and stalks past the pair, sending a hatred filled glare toward his rival and leaving the brown-haired ruler and the seemingly lifeless youth alone in the corridor.

"Don't forget Ichigo-kun, you have a lesson in control with Ichimaru and myself tomorrow." Aizen remarks, like a father talking to his son.

"I won't forget, Aizen-sama." Ichigo replies in a whisper as a wave of dizziness threatens to floor him.

A contented hum grates on his ears as the Lord and Ruler of Las Noches glides away, taking away that sickening chill that had settled over the now paler Espada.

Turning on his heel, he launches into a near-desperate shunpo arriving at his room in mere seconds. And it only takes a few seconds more for him to enter the monotone box, then to rocket into the bathroom and empty the contents of his stomach into the toilet.

"Why do you fear someone you can easily surpass?" A lazy drawl asks from the door way.

"It isn't a personal choice, Starrk." He replies, idly coughing in an attempt to rid his taste buds of the acid coating.

"Whatever, when you decide to get over that just call me and Halibel." The primera Espada comments with a yawn as he exits the younger man's room.

With a sigh, the remaining occupant gets to his feet and sets on ridding his mouth of any lingering bile, content to let his thoughts whirl on the thought of another ally to add to the ones he has already acquired.

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"This emergency meeting has been called on behalf of Yonbantai Taicho Unohana Retsu. Let us begin." Head Captain Yamamoto booms.

When the captain in question took a single step forward all of the members in the room immediately shifted their attention towards her, as a sign on respect and interest. It was of the rarest occurrences for the peaceful woman to call a meeting of any sort.

"Thank you, SouTaicho. Approximately three weeks ago a medium sized platoon of twenty-one shinigami were sent on a reconnaissance mission to apprehend a single arrancar in an attempt to gain some insight on the actions of one Aizen Sousuke. Two weeks ago only one of the members returned." She paused, and only few moments after her last syllable faded the monstrous doors groaned in loud protest as they swung open, revealing the bandaged and haggard appearance of Abarai Renji and the flustered complexion of the shinigami at the injured man's side, acting as a living crutch.

"Our sole survivor, Abarai Renji, Rokubantai Fuku-taicho, yet not even I have the power to heal the full extent of the wounds instilled upon him. . . He has but a week to live until the conflicting reiatsu imbedded into his chest fully erodes the walls of heart." Unohaha states sadly

"Who did this to you, Abarai." Yamamoto asks, his voice notably lower and more solemn at the prospect of losing yet another officer, and a second seat at that, then what it usually is making his words seem more like a statement ,then an actual inquiry.

Fading dark brown brown eyes lock on to the Head Captain before lowering to stare unseeingly at the wooden floor.

"Kurosaki...Ichigo."

Shock, horror, and anger ripple across the room, almost palpable in the air. Looks of outrage, sorrow, and disbelief narrow on the slowly dying lieutenant.

"Aizen he... he had to have done something to him... his spirit's been completely broken. Ichigo's been changed entirely... there was no recognition in his eyes when he saw me. But he fought like a trained fighter., not the warrior we knew. He was merciless..." Renji paused his brow scrunching in thought, eyes never leaving the wood floor.

"Ichigo he... he has to be ranked higher then four. He was ordering the fourth Espada around, with an air of authority." Renji finished staring resolutely at all the Captains in turn, daring them to refute his statement.

A tense silence descended upon the room, and for the sole non-bankai user it was quickly becoming hard to breathe as reiryoku saturated the air.

"I see... Unfortunately this leaves us with only one course of action."

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Standing under the the warm spray of an impromptu shower, Ichigo grieves.

That trivial sliver of energy he had infused into his once-brother's wound had returned, stunning the youth into immobility during a spar with none other then Ichimaru Gin, gaining him a particularly nasty wound along his pectorals and ending the training session.

Tears fall in silent succession, mixing with the steaming water that languidly caresses his marred body. There is not an ounce of fat, an area that does not bore a scar. Power ripples around his form in an invisible cloak, carrying a tangible feeling of pain and heavy sorrow.

With Abarai Renji's death, every memory containing the pineapple-headed soul had been released. Wave after wave of emotion rolls through Ichigo, bombarding him with sensations he hasn't felt in over a year.

It was almost too much to bear, yet he stands resolute, gritting his teeth as each image flashes painfully through his skull.

With a shuddering intake of moist air, he cuts off the flow of water and silently exits the shower, slowly and unhurriedly redressing himself.

The injury on his chest twinges faintly as he pulls on his hakama, drawing his attention toward the still open wound. For a second he wonders whether or not to head down towards the medical wing to have it patched up, or to just let it heal, as he stares at the slow trickle of blood creating a vivid trail along one of his larger scars, only to have his hollow brush against his conscious.

'Wha' did ya' spend almos' a year doin', Aibou? Twiddling y'er thumbs?' Ogichi scoffs as he sends a small, almost unnoticeable, surge of reiatsu to the comparatively small gash.

The orange-headed youth can only watch in fascination as it instantly becomes covered in a white, shell-like, material.

'Shut up. I worked solely on shinigami arts, as well as the two stages of and endurance with your mask. Nothing more nothing less.' Ichigo retorts, without any heat. . . with out any real emotion.

'You do realize that we can become even stronger.' His other half adds uncharacteristically solemn, and deadly serious, momentarily stunning the young Espada.

'Yes, I do. Working as a team can do that for people.' Sarcasm practically dripping off those few words.

'But I will not let Aizen latch on to that idea, won't let him know just how much stronger we can actually become.' He finishes with a strong hint of finality.

The only response is a distorted cackle that slowly fades into the back of his mind. Holding back yet another sigh, Ichigo swiftly finishes reapplying his clothing and deftly grabs Zangetsu from his perch against the wall to settle him across his back, red chain materializing out of thin air and settling across his torso.

Hair still damp and dripping he exits the large room and finds a single number kneeling a few paces outside the door.

For a moment Ichigo just stands and appraises the arrancar in front of him, taking in the shoulder-length raven-colored hair, the proud and lustrous green eyes , the large and powerful frame, the mohawk-like mask fragment adorning the top of his head, the black hilt, and the equally black sheath of his weapon at his side.

"Who are you, and why are you here?" The hybrid asks, voice unyielding and commanding, betraying none of the curiosity and vague irritation swimming around his insides.

"Arrancar number eleven, Gergovia Vergentorix. I have been assigned as one of your fraccion, Ichigo-sama." His tone is even and distinct, with heavy undertones of French coloring the sound.

For a fleeting moment Ichigo wonders just where all of these hollow come from, most are obviously not Japanese. But that moment is ripped to shreds as realization quickly follows, freezing him to his core with outright rage. But he shows no outward sign of his inner thoughts, facial features schooled into a practiced emotionless mask.

"Are there any more I should be expecting?"

"No, at least none I was informed of." Short, sweet, and to the point.

'I just might like him... If I don't kill him for being Aizen's informant.' The orange-haired youth muses idly.

With only a curt nod in response, Ichigo begins striding down the monotone hallway, only giving a slight wave of his hand in gesture for his new fraccion to follow. Something Vergentorix doesn't miss as the slightly taller hollow falls into step behind him.

Their destination?

The expanse of sunlit sand outside the immediate castle, but under the dome of Las Noches itself. Getting to know his subordinate's strength's and weaknesses, his style and attitude in battle.

They walk in silence, and Ichigo can practically taste the fear and anxiety rolling off the number in waves.

Upon arrival they are greeted by blissful silence, not even a breeze to disturb the almost perfectly set dunes running haphazardly along the pseudo-desert.

"Enter your Ressurection." The top Espada's command pierces the air, and the arrancar jumps slightly at the notion as Ichigo turns to face him, an unreadable expression morphing his face.

With a nod the dark haired hollow draws his sword, the sound of metal scraping against wood filling the area as a low rumble accompanies a drastic rise in reiatsu.

Ichigo only watches on, rolling his shoulder as he feels the shell covering his wound simply crumble and disappear.

"Conquer-"

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Rukia was sure she was at her breaking point. She was just starting to get over the loss of Kaien followed by Ichigo. . . but now this. She knew she couldn't handle any more, lest she lose what sanity she has left.

The raven-haired shinigami let loose a heart-wrenching sigh, something she'd never let her Nii-sama witness. No, she is still a Kuchiki, still the heir to the Noble line.

The funeral had been drenched in a cold downpour, matching the hearts of those who had personally known the fiery lieutenant.

He had died in his sleep, denied the chance to die on the battlefield.

It had been so sudden, so fast, that no one really had a chance to think till several hours after the fact. Only the day before had he been walking around, and looked as if his soul would reverse the damage being done to his vital organs. I

Hatred, Remorse, Sorrow.

Emotions she's known all to well.

Hatred towards her self for not being able to do anything. . . towards Ichigo for killing his best friend, his brother-in-arms. . . for killing her lover.

Remorse. For letting Renji go on that mission, for letting him volunteer knowing it was in a nut-shell a suicide mission. For leaving Ichigo behind.

Sorrow. Losing part of her heart. Knowing that someone whom she had considered a best friend. . . maybe even more then that at one point. . . had been taken and twisted into a monster.

Renji that bright spot in her grey existence, the force that pushed her to acquire the second seat under Ukitake-Taicho, gone in an instant.

Tears begin anew as she curls gracelessly on her now eternally cold futon, gripping at the sheets that still smell like him, sobs wrenching their way out of her throat as her own chilly aura spreads out like a blanket, coating the room in a thin sheet of frost.

Sode no Shirayuki can only look on as her wielder slowly breaks, can only hope that she will come to her for the guidance she needs.

But no, so wrapped up in her sorrow is she, that all attempts at helping the fuku-taicho are batted away with a painfully strained smile and grief-stricken violet eyes.

With a shuddering sigh the zanpaktou spirit merely adjusts her position against the tree as the winds begin to pick up violently in her glacial world.

"Please come to me Rukia, let me help you." Her pleas fall on deaf ears, and the sounds of silent wails pierce the ever-darkening sky.

"This has been in the making for just over a month now. You know what needs to be done. Don't disappoint me." Aizen announces, and he is met with silence.

The espada all kneel in the face of their Lord, showing their utmost servility, their loyalty to the one who created them.

The sound of warped tearing echoes through out the room and as one the ten swords stand.

The Supreme Lord and Ruler of Las Noches waves a hand towards the ninth espada, a stocky little fellow who looks more like a mid-evil guardsman then a hollow, with his hole residing in his left shoulder, hidden beneath long tresses of bleached white hair atop eyes of malevolent red.

With a nod the lowest ranked Espada pads over to the Garganta and steps through and is soon followed by the rest, with Ichigo and his fraccion bringing up the rear. And as he passes by Aizen an all encompassing feeling of fear and foreboding crashes over him and his stride falters just a hair.

While this seemingly goes unnoticed by the three reigning beings in this desolate world, V absorbs every last nanosecond and a look of worry flashes across his face before it is squashed.

Ichigo is quick to recover, however, and continues on like nothing ever happened passing through he gaping black maw in a few strides with his seemingly ever-present companion right on his heels.

Stepping on the air just past the abyssal opening, the orange-headed hybrid blinks a few times to adjust to the bright haze of the warm sun above him, immediately drawing his gaze to the large bright sphere hanging lazily above them all.

Slowly he turns his gaze to take in the sight of the town below him, and a feeling of nostalgia brushes past with the the subtle breeze. Dead copper eyes never once stray over to the large group of powerful souls standing parallel to them, only a hundred or so yards away.

Swords are drawn on both sides and the strongest Espada allows a melancholy sigh escape his lips.

Even he knows that this is a suicide run.

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FINALLY! God nine solid pages of writers block and hell.

BUT HERE IT IS IN AALLLL IT'S GLORY!

-pants-

****If ya' see any more grammar errors please let me know so that I know where to improve.

I can't believe how many reviews I received on the first chapter. Sixteen total.

I have to thank:

anonymous reader

KawaiiBerry-chan

Persistence

ichigos future wife

ShotgunWilly

Jessnia-chan

WhiteW12-0

Oreramar

DiamondGoddess

ejsoul

Eldar-Melda

PaperNPencil

Skilts

raae

OfeliaWolf

Meshik(thank's for your review by the way it made me smile while I was cooped up in my computer applications class)

And

for all of the subscriptions and favorites I received.

Honestly guys you are amazing! I couldn't ask for a better audience.

So 9 solid pages. It was originally 13 pages... but a lot of those pages made this seem more like a quilt.. and made it seem almost as if this had been written by a five year old child... And I feel awesome!

IMPORTANT! Gergovia Vergentorix. Look up the second name. It brings up a French Military leader in.. I think 52bc... The first name is the area he was governor of.

Also Last chapter I said the ninth espada had survived... at the time I hadn't bothered to research the espada ranks... I had intended for the eighth.. the weird scientist...

Though it honestly doesn't matter... we don't see him.. or hear of him at all... or the other Espada for that matter.. they really don't have a part... ah well

Hope you enjoyed chapter 2 of Beaten But Never Broken!

Please leave a comment! I live on them!

Much Love

~Animelover