Hello everyone. It's me again, for the last time in this story (unless I decide to make an epilogue that'll come in like, 782y452822p9 years, if ever).
Well, I did it. I finally finished it, the dreaded chapter. AND, before the New Year. Bonus~ Although I would have appreciated finishing this before New Year's Eve, too. With all the work I have, I don't know if I could have made it earlier, though.
Anyways, for the very last time, I would like to thank all the lovely people who reviewed. All their comments gave me inspiration and the will to write. Thank you so much, Kakushi Miko, Razzer, GryphonWonder14, PCOrigami, Caty starcatcher, COOL ULQUIGRIMM FANFIC. LOVER, CoolGirl150 and Yamapikarya. I really would've liked reaching a 100 reviews with you, but seeing as this is a practice fic with pretty much no specific plot, I didn't expect it to, in the first place.
I made this chapter super special awesome and LONG so that you guys can leave the story with a satisfied note. And so, without further ado, I present to you the 9000 last words to this story.
Warning: Cursing cause Hiyori is there D:
Time flies fast when you're fighting to evolve. A minute can feel like a second. A day could feel like an hour. A month could feel like a couple of weeks.
To all three of the young teenagers, it only seemed like they'd been fighting, training arduously for about three weeks. Sweating, bleeding and struggling for three weeks. Then again, you lose all notions of time when you're holed up in an underground training cave where it's always sunny. And so, according to their own senses of time, they trained for three weeks. Who knows what duration of time they actually were in there, but that is something that will never be known.
The sound of metal clashing together rang out in the air, echoing slightly before disappearing, quickly replaced by another clash between two weapons. The two zanpakuto clashed a couple more times at neck-breaking speed, and the two opponents retreated to their sides to recover a little.
"How long..." Ichigo panted. "Have we been at this...?"
"I don't know..." Ulquiorra was trying to hide the fact that he was out of breath, but the slight slouch in his shoulders was enough to say he was almost as tired as Ichigo.
"Long enough, when is it gonna be my turn?" Grimmjow whined from below them, launching a Bala at a rock in the distance, making it explode.
"You can take my place if ya like." Ichigo suggested.
"Gladly." In less than a second, Grimmjow was at his side, tapping Pantera idly against his shoulder. "Now, where do we start?"
"Anywhere you'd like, dear Grimmjow." Ulquiorra simply answered, instantly going into battle mode with Murciélago drawn and pointed.
"Well then... We can start here."
And he was gone. Ulquiorra whipped around just in time to block an attack from behind and jumped back as the blue-haired Espada sped into a series of sonido, reappearing to his sides and back, forcing Ulquiorra to drop into a defensive series of manoeuvres. Ichigo simply eased himself down to the rocky ground and sat down with a sigh, dropping on his back and watching the two Ex-Espada's airborne fight.
"You've certainly gotten faster, that's for sure." Ulquiorra commented between breaths as he spotted Grimmjow incoming from his right. He quickly turned around to greet him with the tip of his sword, but just before impact, Grimmjow disappeared again, reappearing on his left, swinging.
The Cuatra could only duck completely to the 'ground' and then twist around to swipe at Grimmjow's legs. The Sexta, wearing his trademark grin, sonido-ed and reappeared a little further away, roughly pushing Pantera in his palm.
"So, you've finally learned how to double-step, huh?" The Cuatra commented, turning around to meet his amused gaze.
"Don't say it like you're the expert. You only just learned it, too." Grimmjow grinned, a blue glow appearing in his outstretched palm. "Now watch this. GRAN REY CERO!"
"Childish technique. You should already know that I, and even more so Aizen, are all too familiar with this technique." The emotionless Arrancar simply raised his hand in anticipation for the bright blue Cero coming his way. His finger's tip lit up with black light, its sides crackling with green energy. "Cero Oscuras."
With a deafening noise, the black Cero shot itself out of Ulquiorra's fingertip, making a wall in front of its user to protect him from the incoming Cero blast. The two Ceros fought to overpower one another quite fiercely as they met, making Ulquiorra sigh.
"Grimmjow, your Cero is still weak. You need to work on it."
"Whoever said I was aiming to hit you with that?"
If the Cuatra's eyes widened, they only did so by a mere fraction as the two Ceros finally cancelled each other out, letting in the impressive sight of the Sexta Espada, barrelling through towards Ulquiorra. He quickly swung Pantera in a horizontal arc to try and cut Ulquiorra at his face's level, making the Espada gasp.
At the velocity at which the zanpakuto was arriving, there was no way in hell he could dodge now. And if he took that hit directly to the face, there's no way he'd survive. He didn't even have time to raise Murciélago to block.
So instead, he opted for falling back. It was a crude movement and had too many holes in it to be used during a serious battle like this, but it was either this, or being cut up on the spot.
He opted for the dangerous option then, legs immediately crumpling beneath him, sending him on a crash course on his back. Grimmjow's zanpakuto passed so swiftly, so closely, that Ulquiorra even heard the sizzling noise of air being cut as it came towards him, the light crunching noise as it cut through a couple of strands of black hair that were unfortunate enough to stand in its way, and the cold bite of the metal as it lightly graved his forehead, making a small, shallow wound on its surface.
Ulquiorra continued his fall unhindered, letting himself impact with the fake ground they'd made themselves and roll, flipping back and sonido-ing a safe distance away.
Both Arrancars panting, they examined each other for a moment. Ulquiorra slowly brought a hand to his forehead and wiped some of the blood welling on his cut, bringing his pale hand down and staring at the vital substance lodging itself within the crooks and folds of his skin.
"Congratulations, Grimmjow." He solemnly announced, making the Sexta's grin grow larger at the praise. "Your technique is very well coordinated and thought out. Your only problem would be your mouth. Don't announce what you're doing next time, just do it." He wiped his bloody hand on his pristine white Espada uniform and sheathed Murciélago. "
"Well then, what's my newest rank?" the Sexta asked, not paying attention to anyone else than Ulquiorra as Ichigo flew up to their side to hear it.
"Well, I do believe that with all the training we've undergone, our techniques are still the same, yet our reiatsu, speed and zanpakuto control have evolved to reach about five times higher than our time with Aizen."
"That would put you two in what place?" Ichigo inquired.
"That would make our current abilities large enough to rival Starrk's, if he were still alive." Ulquiorra pronounced the words without a hint of sadness, and Grimmjow grinned, not a hint of despair in his eyes. Ichigo smiled. After so long... they'd finally learned to move on.
"Primera Espada, then?" the Sexta grinned. "I like that title. Call me Primera from now on." He laughed his trademark psychotic laugh.
"I cannot do that for it is officially unsure if we have reached, or even surpassed that level yet. Therefore, I will continue considering you as the Sexta Espada, and I expect to be treated like the Cuatra Espada." Ulquiorra explained, turning around and slowly easing himself down to firm ground. "That is all."
"Pffff, killjoy." Grimmjow sighed and sheathed his zanpakuto, following his comrades down to the rocky ground.
"Well, I do believe we're done for now. It should already be dark outside." Ulquiorra commented as he landed on his feet with a soft thud, faltering only slightly with exhaustion before straightening again.
"Yeah, let's go home. I bet Yuzu's gonna be really mad if we don't get home in time for dinner again." Ichigo rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly as the three of them moved towards the ladder that led out.
"Even more imposing than Aizen are your little sisters, Ichigo." Grimmjow shook his head amusedly. "And scarier than Aizen is your dad."
"I agree with the statement about my dad." They made another effort to sonido and shunpo all the way to the top and closed the trap once they were out. "He can be scary at times. But my little sisters? Imposing?" he laughed, heading for the gigai and his human body put against the wall.
He gently touched the shoulder of his human body and returned into it promptly, a gesture mimicked by the two Espada. He stretched his tired limbs, and finally smirked when Grimmjow and Ulquiorra got up too, dusting themselves off.
"My little sisters are far from imposing."
Grimmjow never had the chance to tell him how wrong he was because that's when the orange-haired teen's cellphone vibrated.
"Excuse me." Ichigo checked caller ID and sighed, swiping his thumb on the touch screen to answer. "Hello?"
"ICHI-NII, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
"Holy hell, Yuzu!" he cursed into the phone, holding it away from his ear. "What's wrong?"
"YOU'RE LATE FOR DINNER ICHI-NII! YOU! AND ULQUIORRA! AND GRIMMJOW!" she yelled, making Ichigo cringe and the two Espada snicker.
"You three better bring your sorry butts over here right this instant or I swear I'll kill you for making us wait. It's been over an hour, you know, idiot." Karin's voice added to Yuzu's scolding.
"An hour?" Ichigo panicked, checking the time on the wall. "Listen, Karin, Yuzu, I'm sorry, I-" he cringed as the two sisters said something to him. Grimmjow grinned. At least they weren't yelling anymore... "Listen, listen, we'll be there in ten minutes, okay? Yes, I-" he winced again. "Yes, sorry, sorry. Yes Yuzu. Yes. No, don't worry. Yes. Okay, bye. Yes, now bye." He sighed, closing the phone with a long, tired sigh and hanging his head.
"Now, you were saying something about your sisters not being imposing, I believe." Ulquiorra quipped with a small smile, making Grimmjow burst out in laughter. Ichigo simply glared at both of them and slipped the cellphone into his pocket, heading for the front door to Urahara's shop.
"You're leaving?" suddenly came the voice of said shopkeeper as he came down the stairs that led to the second floor.
"Yes, Yuzu and Karin will skin me alive if we don't get there soon. Thanks for the training cave again, Urahara." Ichigo winced, opening the front door.
"Yeah, thanks." The two Espada nodded to his as acknowledgement and stepped out into the darkness of the falling night.
"Ah, the joys of being house guests." Grimmjow snickered, following Ichigo.
"You're not that much of a house guest, you know." Said carrot-head muttered. "You have chores to do and have to take rounds helping us at the clinic, too." He smiled lightly. "It's like... you're part of the family already..."
"Us?" Grimmjow's brow raised in surprise. "Hey, your sisters still believe we're friends of yours who have lost their parents and have come to crash with you until we find our other relatives. They just consider us as passing guests, that's all."
"You kidding me? Karin and Yuzu are practically begging you to act as a part of this family, not that you aren't already..." he sighed. "We should seriously clear some space in the storage room and furnish it to give you guys a room soon."
"You don't have to. We came this long crashing at the foot of your bed, so we can go forever like that." Ulquiorra shrugged as they got onto the main street, walking hurriedly home.
"No, no, you'll be staying forever with us, right? As much as I love having you two hogging the space in my room, I think it's time we gave each other some space." He winced amusedly. "Don't worry, the storage room's comfy. You'll sleep upright with the brooms, won't that be nice?"
"Yes, so very nice." Ulquiorra rolled his eyes amusedly.
"So nice that I'll surely insist you come sleep with us in our beautiful storage room. We can imitate broomsticks together." Grimmjow snickered, making the entire group crack a smile.
"Not but seriously, guys. Ever since you got here on the very day when I took you in... You've been a part of this family." He turned around and flashed them a brief smile before turning back and speeding up again, making the two Espada jog to catch up to him.
"You know you're very melodramatic with your words?" the Sexta, of course, was the one to comment.
"I know, I know." Ichigo laughed, turning a corner. "Oh good, we're almost there. Hopefully, Yuzu won't eat my head right off my shoulders as soon as we get in."
"Hmmm, I think I'll just stand by and watch. Maybe point and laugh too, for a few kicks." The Sexta grinned psychotically, making the youngest teen roll his eyes amusedly.
They went the rest of the way in silence, simply enjoying the small pleasures like the sound of whooshing wind trough the leaves on the blooming spring trees, the sound of cars passing by them, the smell that rain leaves after its decent wafting around them...
These were pleasures of life that the Espada had never learned to appreciate, and now, with their time in the real world, they'd finally learned to enjoy little things that made life worth living.
And once they defeated Aizen... they'd have all the time in the world to stop and gaze at the bright stars.
Ichigo opened the door with a small creak and quickly stepped inside to let his friends come in as well. They all wiped their boots on the front carpet and removed them, setting them neatly next to the door, and then strode inside.
"Hey guys, we're ho-"
He suddenly yelped in a non-manly way and ducked just as his father came sailing across with a kick, missing him by only a hair and crashing into the table, moaning.
"What the hell, dad?" Ichigo yelled. "What are you trying to do, break my nose or something?"
"No, Ichigo dear, I'm just trying to hone your reflexes, AND punish you for making the girls and I wait for dinner again!" he faked sobbing and pulled out a picture of his deceased wife, cuddling it. "Masakiiiii, why are your sons so cold to me?"
"Sons?" Ulquiorra finally spoke, mildly surprised.
"Of course, sons, Ulquiorra. What other term would I use to define you, Grimmjow and Ichigo. Daughters?" he asked, then turned to his picture again, kissing it affectionately. "Masakiiiii, your boys are so adorable!"
"Uhhh..." Grimmjow inched towards Ichigo a little, creeped out. Did Ichigo's dad just call them his... sons?
"Like I said, guys." Ichigo smirked triumphantly and strode into the kitchen, his friends immediately following suit. "Welcome to the family!"
"Ah shit." Ichigo turned his head and froze when he saw the glare his little sister was drilling him with. "Y-Yes Yuzu...?"
"Ichi-nii, you're LATE!" she yelled "I called you SIX times and you didn't answer! You're one hour late for dinner and we had to wait for you!" she yelled, then turned her glare to the Espada, who stopped snickering and started cowering in front of her imposing presence. "And you two! Why didn't you remind him he was late?" she crossed her arms and pouted angrily.
"Ah, s-sorry, Yuzu-chan." Grimmjow blushed and rubbed the back of his neck guiltily. "We never saw the time pass..."
"Fine..." the girl sighed and finally pulled a chair to sit down. "Ichi-nii, you're lucky you have Ulquiorra and Grimmjow to defend you. Now come on everyone, dinner is served!" she smiled as if nothing had happened, freezing the three teens in place at her sudden mood swings. They only moved when Isshin came barrelling through the door and practically jumped in his place, yelling on the top of his lungs that he was hungry as hell. Yuzu was only too happy to oblige.
They all ate in semi-silence, only answering to questions thrown to each other. The teenagers, exhausted from the entire day of sparring, simply ate and decided to retire early to get lots of sleep. Tomorrow being a Sunday, they'd have time to spar again before Ichigo having to go to school on Monday.
"Hey Ulquiorra, have you seen my toothbrush?" Ichigo scrambled as all three of them cramped themselves in front of the mirror to brush their teeth after having taken turns in the shower.
"I'm sure I saw it lying somewhere here..." said Espada muttered, spitting out the pale blue toothpaste and fumbling through all the toothbrushes in the small cup on top of the sink where everyone kept their toothbrushes.
"Isn't it there?" Grimmjow answered instead, pointing at the windowsill next to the bathtub. Ichigo's attention turned to it and his eyes brightened once he spotted an orange toothbrush just lying there, wet from the previous uses of the shower.
"Thanks." He simply nodded, grabbing his toothbrush and the toothpaste just as Ulquiorra stepped out of the bathroom and Grimmjow spit into the sink, gargling with water before spitting that out too and wincing.
"God, this human paste for cleaning teeth tastes bad." He complained.
"S'nat s'possed ta be yummeh." Ichigo muttered through his toothpaste as he spit out and winced as well. "But you're right. It is repulsive."
"I find it quite intriguing." Ulquiorra butted in, popping his head through the doorsill and nodding along with his claim.
There was a small, awkward silence as everyone stared incredulously at Ulquiorra, who looked back confusedly.
"Well then." Ichigo finally sighed and filled his cup up with water to gargle. "That solves the case of the missing toothpaste."
"Oh? My apologies, I never meant to finish the entire tube." He muttered semi-apologetically.
"Ulquiorra, you're not supposed to eat toothpaste. You're supposed to brush your teeth with it, nothing more, nothing less." Ichigo put a hand to his forehead in exasperation as Ulquiorra's eyes slightly widened in comprehension.
"I see then. Thank you for the additional information, Ichigo." He bowed. "I will be in our room."
"Yeah." Ichigo sighed in desperation, putting his toothbrush back in the cup and rinsing his glass before putting it back in its place next to the other's cups.
"Ulquiorra sure does a number." Grimmjow snickered as they stepped out.
"Oh shut it, Grimmjow. It seems like only yesterday where you mistook liquid soap for shampoo and rubbed it all over your hair. It itched for a while after that, didn't it?" Ichigo snickered, shaking his head in amusement at Grimmjow's embarrassed scowl. "It's funny. I've lost track of the time you've been living with us... but it does look like you're finally picking up on human traditions."
"Why wouldn't we? You humans are interesting." The Sexta Espada snickered and shoved his hands in his light blue pyjama's pockets as they strode inside the room, where Ulquiorra was already lying on his mattress, reading a book Ichigo had lent him a while ago.
"So, where have you gotten to?" the orange-haired teen inquired as he crashed heavily on his bed.
"The second victim's crime scene investigation. Where the Naomi girl realizes what's going on with the BB and QQ's in the situation." He slipped his bookmark in and clamped his book shut, setting it on the night table. "It's quite an interesting read, I must say. You must provide me with more literature of this style once I am done with this one."
"Of course, I have a lot of books like that you might like. And maybe when we have more time, I can show you some mangas that I like. I'm sure you'll like them." The human teenager yawned to accompany his statement, rolling into his covers snugly.
"Oi, Ulquiorra, shut the light. I think we all deserve some rest tonight." Grimmjow yawned as a follow-up to Ichigo's yawn.
"Alright. Good night everyone." Ulquiorra nodded and reached up to turn off the small light he was using to read.
The room was instantly plunged into darkness.
There was some shifting as the three boys made themselves comfortable. After that, silence reigned. Not a single sound was heard, maybe the crickets chirping outside, but even that was drowned out.
And yet, through all the silence and darkness, Grimmjow couldn't sleep. He noiselessly tossed around a bit before realizing it was hopeless.
It was then that his tired brain, almost on impulse, perked up when orange hair came into his view. Seeing as none of them were obviously asleep, he might as well inquire...
There was a shifting movement as the teen tiredly turned to meet Grimmjow.
"What?" he snapped tiredly.
"What's up with your dad and your mom...?" he asked gently, almost hesitant.
Ichigo's eyes immediately sobered, and he got up into a sitting position, looking down at Grimmjow and Ulquiorra.
"Well... You did tell me your secrets, so... I guess it'd only be fair to reveal mine..." Ichigo whispered, looking down at his mattress.
"It would quench our curiosity, to say the least." Ulquiorra immediately butted in, interested.
"Well... When I was small... My mom... Well, basically, she died." He gulped down, receiving no reaction from the Arrancar.
After all, they pretty much figured she'd died seeing as she was never there and his father held a ritual shrine for her in their living room.
"She died, but that wasn't the thing... I was with her when she died, and... it was all my fault..." his voice was laced with pain. "If only I hadn't been so distracted... I could've done something... She was attacked by a Hollow and practically took her last breath right before my eyes..." there were no tears in his eyes, but the Espada could tell how much the issue hurt him.
"If it was a Hollow, then there's nothing you could have done..." Ulquiorra whispered.
"Good job, Captain Comfort." Grimmjow sighed hopelessly. "Way to give him a pat on the back."
"No, no, it's okay... I'm over it... I was kinda closed for the two years that followed, and I had a lot of trouble with bullies at school..." the Espada's eyes widened, not being able to imagine Ichigo being harassed by bullies. The picture just didn't match. "And my father had to raise the twins, who were very young at the time, plus take care of me and work at the clinic... It was a tough time to say the least." He suddenly smiled, a sad, melancholic smile, but a smile nonetheless.
The sadness hidden behind that smile was almost excruciating, even for the Arrancars, who had seen it firsthand. It made them wonder if Ichigo too had suffered a lot and had grown to become stronger because of it. That smile, that simple twitch of the face muscles, it revealed, and yet hid so much...
"But we made it. Dad adores mom because he knew that she wanted him to love us like he did and still does, and he prides himself with the fact that he hasn't let her down." He suddenly turned to the two Espada. "You two... mean a lot to him... Almost as much as I do..."
"We do?" Ulquiorra blinked, surprised. "Why?"
"He's getting more chances to redeem himself in front of mom. Taking care of people and loving them, and protecting them is in his nature. He practically considers you two his sons because he took it upon himself to take your lives in his hands. He wants to protect you now, and nothing makes him happier than the knowledge that he's succeeding." He smiled and finally flopped back down in bed. "Sorry, I'm getting emotional over things."
"Pfff, you're saying it as if it's not cool to go emo over things like that sometimes." Grimmjow snickered and dropped back into bed as well, pulling his covers up to his bare shoulders.
"Yes, emotions are what give you a sense of living. You should not be afraid of letting them go loose." Ulquiorra agreed silently, closing his eyes.
"Oh please, Ulquiorra, shut up. You really do crack me up, Mr Emo." The Sexta snickered.
"Well then, Mr Violent Psycho, shut your mouth and get some rest." Said Emo-Arrancar yawned and nuzzled deeper into his covers. "Tomorrow's a new day, and I'm eager to see what will happen next."
Ulquiorra woke to the sound of shuffling feet. He groaned as he got up and rubbed his head, his first sight being Ichigo, in his shinigami clothes, running around to do... something.
"What's going on?" he croaked out tiredly, rubbing his eyes. Ichigo stopped in his frenetic run and stared at him seriously. There was a small silence and then...
"Aizen's appeared in Soul Society."
"What?" was the Cuatra's first reaction as he practically shot out of bed to get ready. His numbed muscles practically yelled at him for being so reckless, but somehow, the adrenaline and slight fear pumping in his veins made up for it.
"Urahara's called us. He's opened the Senkaimon so that we can go help." Ichigo's eyes hardened. "Everyone's already there, and who knows... They're probably already fighting, too."
"Then we gotta hurry!" Ulquiorra all but yelled, running to the bathroom. He almost crashed into the door, though, and barely slid to a stop as Grimmjow came out, face dripping with water.
"What's the hurry? Aizen's not gonna kill everyone in the five minutes we're late. Calm down, Ulquiorra. Think about yourself for a moment and get ready." The Sexta smirked before leaving the bathroom to his companion, who rushed in without further ado.
"So, what's the plan?" Ichigo asked as he tucked his human body into the covers. He didn't even need to come up with a plan to justify the fact that we was sleeping for so long. If the need ever arose, Kon would probably just find someone to help him get into his body. At worst, his father was coming with them to Soul Society, so he'd find an alibi and lie to his sisters.
"Well, I'm kinda pissed we never got the chance to practice with our releases one last time, but hey, beggars can't be choosers." He smiled sadly, fumbling around for his Mod Soul candy dispenser.
"True... But I think we're ready. There's no way in hell we can make a mistake this time. We're much stronger than before, and we can do this." Ichigo smiled, looking out the window. There was a small indecisive undertone to his words, but he figured it was just the anxiety and anticipation speaking.
"Got it." Grimmjow huffed out in relief, grabbing his candy dispenser and popping one directly into his mouth.
With a small thumping noise, his body promptly detached itself from its gigai, standing up strongly while the fake body fell down to the mattress and rubbed his head. Grimmjow shifted his zanpakuto on his belt, then looked down at the gigai that was watching him, interested.
"Alright, now listen to me. Stay here, no matter what. You see that body there?" he pointed at Ichigo's dead form, lying covered in bed. "Protect it at all costs, and tell Ulquiorra too when he comes out."
"Yes sir." The Mod-Soul saluted seriously and nodded in acknowledgement.
"Alright, where the hell are his Mod Soul candies?" the Sexta muttered, looking around on Ulquiorra's side of the room, under the covers and mattress, around his pillow, or anywhere else he could keep his candy dispenser.
His answer was given when his hands curled around something straight and plastic. He lifted it up quickly to make sure it was the candy dispenser just as Ulquiorra, in his gigai, came rushing in.
"Ulquiorra." He called, throwing him the candy dispenser. The Cuatra quickly grabbed it and popped a candy in his mouth, separating with a light thump.
"Alright, Grimmjow's Mod Soul has the orders. Just stay safe and don't get out of this room!" Ichigo slid the window open, stepping out. "Let's go."
And with a flash, they were gone.
After a couple of minutes of shunpo and sonido, they made it to the front of Urahara's shop, quickly running in. They were greeted with a sleepy-looking Jinta, rearranging stock, and quiet Ururu, cleaning the shelves.
"Oh, Kurosaki..." the red-haired kid yawned. "What's gotten you here so early?"
"Urahara-san is waiting for you downstairs." Ururu quickly informed them, mildly surprising both Jinta and the three teenagers.
"Thanks, Ururu." Ichigo simply nodded and headed for the back, quickly locating the open trap and jumping into it without any hesitation. The Espada followed suit, and they all landed on the familiar rocky ground to the training cave in a very small amount of time.
"Urahara-san!" Grimmjow quickly spotted the blond man standing a bit in the distance, and a couple of shunpo and sonido steps were enough to reach his side.
"About time you got here, Kurosaki, Jaegerjacques, Cifer." He greeted, turning around. His face betrayed no emotion, somewhat scaring the teenagers who were used to his cheery, fun-loving demeanor.
"Sorry, we were kinda late during morning preparations. Is dad already there?" Ichigo asked.
"Yes. Everyone is there but you three, I, and Yoruichi-san. We'll be joining you a little later as we need to tie up some important loose ends here before leaving." He nodded, stepping back to show them a closed Senkaimon. "Now, enough chit-chat. I'll open the gates for you." He waved his hand, and with a craking noise, the gates to Seireitei started opening.
"Where will this send us?" Ichigo asked.
"I think it'll take you to Sokyouku Hill, where the battle is taking place." Urahara scratched his chin pensively.
"You think?" Ulquiorra raised a brow.
"Yes, but hey, it's better than landing in Rukongai, right?" Urahara laughed, back to his old cheery self.
"Yeah yeah, let's just hurry." Ichigo gritted his teeth. "We have ass to kick."
"Right." The two Espada nodded, hands practically twitching as they reached for their zanpakuto.
It seems time almost stopped the moment the gates opened in front of them, casting a bright light.
And without another word, they jumped fearlessly into the gates, immediately breaking into a run, leaving the real world, and Urahara, behind.
Once more, they were confronted with the problem of the Soul Train, but remembering last time they used shunpo and sonido in the precipice world, they opted for running faster.
"You guys okay?" Ichigo asked as the light at the end of the tunnel neared, the train right behind them.
"Who do you take us for?" Grimmjow snickered, his hand gripping Pantera's hilt.
"Oh forget I said anything. I'm just really unnerved about this all." Ichigo grimaced lightly.
"Don't worry, Ichigo. We'll beat Aizen without even breaking a sweat. We've trained a lot and we've become very strong. Coupled with the Goten Juusantai, we'll be undefeatable. Aizen has made his last mistake today by going to Soul Society." The Cuatra went for his sword as well, seeing as their journey in the precipice world had finally come to an end.
"Yeah, I guess..."
"Hey, there is no place for weakness and being unsure of your choices. Just put everything on the line, and fight your hardest, until your very last breath. It doesn't matter what goes on, you can't let your heart be deceived by the lies and illusions. You, Ichigo, are the only one out of all of us who has never seen Aizen's shikai. You are the one who will beat him for sure. We'll only help you deliver the final blow." Grimmjow smiled encouragingly as the sound of metal against metal resonated in the empty world they were running in.
"That's a hell lot of pressure put on a gamble like me..." Ichigo whispered, eyes downcast.
"Protect your heart, Ichigo. Cast aside the doubt. Only then will you be strong." Ulquiorra recommended, his grip on Murciélago shifting as they nearly reached the end.
"Yes.. Believe in yourself, and your power. Believe in your zanpakuto, trust in Zangetsu to give you the power you need just as I trust in Pantera to support me through whatever and just as Ulquiorra trusts Murciélago with practically his life. You have many people at your side, and we won't let you down, as long as you don't let us, and yourself, down as well."
"Right, thanks, Grimmjow." Ichigo chuckled, drawing Zangetsu and holding it firm. "Now, let's go show Aizen who really is the boss around here!"
And with those words, white light engulfed them.
They jumped out of the gate only a few seconds later, immediately spotting a whole mass of white figures, the Goten Juusantai, and one lone figure with billowing brown hair, their enemy.
"Aizen..." Grimmjow seethed angrily, his grip tightening on Pantera as all three of them came closing in on him. Halfway there, they shunpoed and sonidoed almost on accord, the sound of blades clashing as Aizen and the three teens finally met.
"Good to know you've finally accepted defeat, Aizen." Ichigo grinned, shaking with effort as he pushed Zangetsu against Kyouka Suigetsu, trying to break Aizen's hold. Next to him, Ulquiorra and Grimmjow were struggling to break through Aizen's hierro, swords pushing forcefully against his arm and side.
"Me, defeat? You're always as amusing, Ichigo-kun." The vile man smiled, looking up at Ichigo with contempt in his eyes. "But never as amusing as these two." His gaze trailed down to the Ex-Espada, his ex-underlings, who were doing their best to cut him.
"Oh hell, Aizen, when will you do the world the biggest favour you can and shut up?" Grimmjow snickered, grunting as he flared some reiatsu, pushing it against Aizen's enhanced body armour.
"Oh Grimmjow, always as impertinent." Aizen laughed a small laugh, turning to Ulquiorra. "And Ulquiorra... So submissive, so gentle, so calm..."
"Not anymore..." With one last effort, the Cuatra finally gave a definite push to Murciélago, and blood finally spurted out of Aizen's arm. Almost as if reacting, Grimmjow pushed again, and this time, Pantera cut right through Aizen's hierro, making a sideways gash on his side.
Aizen raised his brow and broke his contact with Ichigo, letting him swipe Kyouka Suigetsu to get the Espada to back off, and shunpoed a little ways away.
"Well then..." he commented calmly, wiping some of the blood on his cuts onto his fingers and staring, as if entranced. "At least I know this battle won't be a total bore."
"I fail to see what you find fun in the fact that you'll soon be defeated." Grimmjow retorted as the three teens reappeared next to the Thirteen Protection Squads' members.
"Kurosaki..." Hitsugaya was the first to call.
"Yeah, sorry we're late." Grimmjow answered in his stead, turning around and greeting the shinigamis with his usual smirk. "My fault, really, for hogging the bathroom this morning."
"That is interesting and all, Grimmjow-kun, but now that you're here, let's all put our strength together and defeat Aizen so that later on, you can tell me what you had for breakfast." Shunsui laughed, not stressed at all, as usual.
"Over a cup of sake?"
"Over a cup of sake."
"Oh, I'm in." Grimmjow grinned and brought his zanpakuto up to his chest horizontally, grinning madly as he drilled his vicious gaze into Aizen. "Grind, PANTERA!"
There was a large whooshing sound as the first out of all of them released their strongest form, a loud roar emanating from the dust picked up all the way from the ground below their feet and swirling around him. When it dispersed, all eyes were on Grimmjow, who was finally released and grinning as he dropped on all for and roared, breaking some of the buildings that were all the way on the ground.
"Well, if Grimmjow gets to release, I do too." Ichigo decided, and pointed at Aizen. "Ban-KAI!" there was a rush of wind all around him, bringing smoke and dust to mingle with it. Once it cleared, Ichigo emerged, pointing his black Bankai at Aizen. "Tensa Zangetsu."
"In that case." Ulquiorra raised his zanpakuto, as calm as ever. "Enclose. Murciélago."
There was a burst of black and green energy that shot out of his zanpakuto, and promptly fell back as reiatsu-like droplets, mimicking rain. Once he emerged, he flexed his long fingernails and looked up at Aizen, secretly enjoying the confused expression that quickly faded from his eyes.
"Resurreccion, Segunda Etapa."
"I never knew you had a second release, Ulquiorra." Aizen commented, amused. "Let's just hope it'll put up as much of a fight as your first release."
"You'll see perfectly once I show you the full extent of my power."
"Well then?" Ichigo finally broke through the awkward silence between the Shinigami, who were staring at the Espada's released forms with fascination. "Do something! Release your Bankais! It's time to fight!"
"Ichigo's right." Renji gritted his teeth. "Bankai! Hihio Zabimaru!"
"Dance, Sode no Shirayuki!"
"Bankai, Ryuumon Houzukimaru!"
"Bloom, Fuji Kujaku!"
"Bankai! Jakuho Raikoben!"
"Bankai! Kokujo Tengen Myo'o!"
"Bankai. Konjiki Ashisogi Jizo."
"Flower Wind Rage and Flower God Roar, Heavenly Wind Rage and Heavenly Demon Sneer, Katen Kyoukotsu."
"Raise your Head, Wabisuke!"
"Bankai, Daiguren Hyourinmaru!"
"Waves, Become my Shield. Lightning, Become my Blade! Sogyou no Kotowari!"
As all the smoke cleared, the impressive sight of the lieutenants, captains, and seated officers, all standing strong with either their shikai or bankai released, came into view. It was so impressive that Ichigo and his companions slightly flinched, feeling all the reiatsu emanating from the Thirteen Squads.
"Well well well, looks like the party's started without us."
Another surprise came into view as Urahara and Yoruichi appeared next to them, followed by Shinji and allt he Vizards.
"Sh-Shinji!" Ichigo gasped, surprised. The two Espada simply blinked, trying to remember. It looks like these people, Visored, as they were called, also were hell-bent on helping Soul Society. They sure didn't look like that a while ago when Ichigo had taken them to their hideout to introduce them to each other.
"Oi, Ichigo, sorry we're late. We were following Urahara around for a while before getting here." Shinji grinned his piano-teeth smile amusedly.
"Oi, baka, pay attention to the dickhead just standing there and smirking at us!" Hiyori's voice snapped from next to him, and all attention went to the little girl who crossed her arms angrily.
"Please, Hiyori, clean your tongue, you don't have to get so moody. The fight's just started, after all." Shinji sighed and pulled his zanpakuto out of his sheath. "Collapse. Sakanade."
"Oi oi oi, how come Shinji gets to release his Shikai and I don't? Fuck, Shinji, you're always first to do everything around here." Hiyori growled and pulled her zanpakuto from her back violently, pointing it at Aizen. "Chop Cleanly. Kubikiri Orochi!" she brandished her newly released zanpakuto while slipping her Hollow mask on, quickly imitated by the rest of the Visored.
"Well well well, it does seem like I'm the only one yet to release. Ah, gomen for making you wait." Urahara chuckled and pulled out his zanpakuto, still smiling as he did so. "Sing, Benihime."
"Shikai?" Ichigo's eyes widened. "Urahara-san, shikai isn't gonna cut it in this fight. Release your bankai!"
"Ne, ne, Ichigo-kun, I'm sorry to say that my bankai is not fit for group fights like this. Maybe someday I'll show you..." Urahara raised his zanpakuto to face Aizen, who was smiling, as if completely amused by the current situation. "But I'm afraid it's not today."
"Tch, fine then." The Substitute Shinigami shrugged and turned back to Aizen, who had simply stood back and watched as everyone released their strongest forms.
"I'm sorry, were you all done giving yourselves false hope?" he finally inquired, seeing as everyone was already done releasing.
"You, maybe, but we're done deciding on how we'll kick your ass." Grimmjow laughed, thoroughly amused by the calm facade Aizen was putting up in front of so many enemies.
"You do know the Hogyouku has awakened and is now fused with my body, right? There is no way any of you can come even close to defeating me." The defected shinigami smiled gently.
"You must be joking. Look at you, you pitiful creature. You hold onto the Hogyouku, your artificial source of power, because you acknowledge that you are not strong on your own. You amuse me so, dear Aizen-sama." Ulquiorra pronounced the last word with dripping contempt and sarcasm, making Aizen raise a brow.
"Well then, dear Cuatra, would you like me to give you the real meaning of pathetic? Look behind you." He smirked, nodding at the Shinigami, who stood unfazed by his insults and taunts.
If any one of them were going to reply, it never came, because suddenly, a large, gruff voice boomed, making the entire world shudder.
Everyone's eyes widened as they spotted the Head Captain and his lieutenant walk towards the battleground in the air, slitted eyes open enough to send glares that chilled Aizen to the very bone.
"Aizen Sousuke, ex captain of the fifth squad. You, as a defected shinigami, have no right to return to Soul Society. Under all laws and regulations of Soul Society, I declare your imminent execution." He suddenly dropped his cane, and everyone stiffened as the wood around it dissolved to show a zanpakuto.
"Well, then, I'm sorry to hear that, Jii-chan." Aizen mock bowed, heavily mocking Yamamoto's pet name.
"You, Aizen Sousuke!" Yamamoto bellowed, making a ripple of fear shudder through everyone. "Are hereby accused of treason and various attacks against Soul Society. You shall not go unpunished. Now, die! Reduce All Creations to Ash, Ryuujin Jakka!"
Eyes widened just as the fire spout out of the sword.
With the Head Captain's zanpakuto release, the signal to officially start the battle had been given.
No turning back now.
Grimmjow and Ulquiorra dropped into offensive position, ready to attack at any given moment. With everyone behind them, there's no way they would lose. They hadn't come this far, sweat so much, bled so many times, and fought so hard, only to fail now.
Grimmjow grinned psychotically, anticipation practically bursting out of his veins. He was fidgety, edgy, almost impatient to go and wipe that smug smirk off of his old master's face.
Ulquiorra took a deep breath, calming his impulses that dictated he only jumped on Aizen and clawed at his face until he was no longer recognizable.
Together, they stood by Ichigo's side, behind Yamamoto, showing the entire world that they intended on standing by the Shinigamis' side until the very end. They wouldn't let up on that. Because that was a promise they couldn't afford to break.
"Let's go?" Ichigo finally offered in a small whisper, turning his head only slightly so that the Espada could see the excitement, anticipation, and yet slight fear dancing in his chocolate brown eyes, reflected off in the glint that Ryuujin Jakka's flames created in his eyes.
"Of course. There's no way we'll lose this battle." Grimmjow comforted the younger teen with his soft gaze.
"No time to regret now." Ulquiorra nodded, tail swishing around lazily.
"Well then, whenever you're ready." Ichigo pulled Zangetsu closer to himself, hearing his sword's comforting words through his soul.
"Now." The two Espada turned to each other, smiled lightly, and nodded in unison.
Almost as if coordinated, the three main pieces of the chessboard jumped for Aizen.
No fear, no hesitation.
They couldn't have any of those hindering their thoughts and actions.
They were here to kill and that is all. To kill the source of their pain and suffering, to kill, to destroy, to wipe away from all the unclean memories.
They would have to make that effort and overstep their boundaries. No longer were they Hollows, and for a moment, they even felt like Shinigami. That strong, comforting presence around them that meant that they were surrounded and protected, it warmed their newborn hearts and gave them strength to survive.
Even through the toughest storms and worst injuries, they'd go on. They'd go on for the sake of the people who accepted them no matter what, and most of all...
They'd go on for Ichigo.
Ichigo, the Shinigami who saved their lives and gave them everything they'd never had without a second thought. Ichigo, the Shinigami who cared for you without caring who you were. Ichigo, the one person in their entire lives whom they'd die to protect. For he was the one who'd given them power, and he'd be the one who required their strength the most.
Ichigo was the center of their world. He saved them and accepted them, something they'd been dreaming of ever since the start of their lives. Ichigo was... important to them.
After all, in their entire lives, he was the only one who taught them the useful things they needed to live, and not only survive. All the time with Aizen, they thought he was the one who'd teach them that. But with Ichigo, even though they initially thought they were learning to die... in reality, they'd been Learning to Live.
CLIFFHANGER ENDING *is repeatedly shot until she is full of holes like swiss cheese* Sorry, that is all. I should tell ya that finishing fics with the title is kinda like my trademark. So yeah, don't be , the rest is up to you. Do they win, or do they lose? How?
The part where Ichigo told Grimmy and Ulqui about his mom was requested by PCOrigami. Thanks so much, I really had fun with the scene, and plus, it fits so well! ^^
Also, the first person to correctly name all the owners of the zanpakuto releases in ORDER will win a fabulous prize! A cameo in my next story (more info below)! You don't need to write the release commands and names of the weapon, just give me names. Ex.: Unohana, Sentaro, Kaien, Isshin... By the way, none of those example names are in there xD As for the releases, I simply used whichever version of the release I knew of. Some of them haven't revealed their bankai yet, so I used their shikai. Also, you don't need to tell me whose zanpakuto are the Visored's zanpakuto names. Just the Shinigami.
Well then, I now have 2 pictures to post on DA and 1 more I never finished coloring in time, so I hope I'll be able to finish it by the end of the week since it's Christmas themed. Also, I gotta scat now, I still haven't finished making my New Year's dress and the party is in about 3h30 D:
I just wanna inform you all that a new Bleach story is underway at this very moment. It's an AU high school fic called "Behind Tinted Windows", and I've written both the prologue and the first chapter already. Let me say it's... quite interesting, to say the least. Here's a preview, taken from the first chapter.
"Hey... Are those... tinted windows?"
"Tinted windows?" I asked, climbing on my bed to get a better view out of the window. "Where?"
"Everywhere, in fact. All their house. All their windows are tinted." He shuddered. "You think it's cause they don't like being disturbed? I'm sure old man Luisenbarn didn't have those."
"No, no, Mr Barragan had normal windows, I think, up until the moment he died. Then those people bought the house from Ggio, his adoptive son, and installed those windows, I guess." I shrugged.
"Maybe it's a family of serial killers and they don't want anyone to see the corpses they hang inside on the walls." Shiro marvelled.
"Oh Shiro, you can have such excessive imagination sometimes." I laughed. "Maybe they just don't like being spied on, which is exactly what you're doing at this very moment."
"You're right, I guess." He shrugged and finally turned to me. "Still, you do seem to have eccentric neighbours here."
"Come to think of it..." I put my finger to my chin pensively. "I've never seen our new neighbours. At all."
SOOOO obviously, the main characters are gonna be Ichigo, Grimmjow, Ulquiorra, and SHIRO (Hollow Ichigo) cause, well, he's awesome ._. So I hope you'll follow that as well. The first chapters should come up in mid-January.
And so, with that, I wish you all a very happy New Year 2011. My best wishes to every single one of you and your families and friends. May the New Year 2011 bring more happiness than 2010 :D I don't know about you, but we're about 7 hours away from the new year. Also, I don't think I'll be replying to reviews today, so yeah...
Once again, I'd like to thank everyone who read this far. I seriously have gotten so far without you. I hope we'll meet again soon, in another fic or so (: Thanks sooo much for all your support and constructive criticism, and I hope you'll have the niceness to write one last review for this story. I luff you all. Happy New Year 2011. And talk to you soon~