Ishida stood facing the Shinigami in front of him. The wind ruffled his hair and mantel of his Quincy outfit as he studied his opponent. He wasn't a big man, but his stance was imposing and there was a massive amount of reiatsu lurking deep inside of him. His shoulder length dark brown hair also ruffled in the breeze as his green eyes stared down the Quincy. Ishida didn't let it show, but he was slightly surprised at the amount of potential energy that he could sense coming off of this guy. If he didn't know any better, he would have suspected his to be at or near captain level.
"Your move, Quincy," the Shinigami said as he brought up his Katana.
A short time before, Ishida had sensed a new power had entered the real world and had decided to go and check it out. He had been hopping from roof top to roof top, trying to pin point the new energy source without much luck, when suddenly a Shinigami descended on him. He had managed to avoid the Shinigami's first strike and now he was trying to figure out what was going on. As he looked at the Shinigami across the roof from him, he could see that this guy was here to kill him. For whatever reason, he was going to have to fight this guy or die.
Ishida held his hand out to the side and allowed his web-like bow to form from the spirit particles around them. He always hated facing this level of opponent in the real world because there was so much less spirit particles to draw from. In places like Soul society and Hueco Mundo there was an endless supply.
The Shinigami grinned at the sight of the bow. "So, you're going to fight me then? I thought you might actually have the brains to try and run away. Apparently you're not as intelligent as I have heard."
"I see no need to run from you," Ishida said calmly as he pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose, even though they really hadn't moved. "I am curious though, why do you wish to fight me?"
The Shinigami's grin grew as he said, "Because you are powerful and I want that power…"
Ishida narrowed his eyes, wondering what that was supposed to mean.
"Devour, Akiyo," the man spoke as he reach out with his left hand and touch the blade of his Zanpakuto.
The blade glowed a brilliant white and transformed. It grew in both width and length and looked to be a clear crystal but Ishida didn't think for a second that it was as fragile as it appeared. From the hilt a long chain appeared with a large, metal ball attached to the end. Ishida could feel a massive amount of power radiating from that ball. "May I at least know your name?" Ishida asked.
"Fourth seat of 5th squad, Makoto Tadaaki. And your name?"
"I was under the impression that you already knew who I was," Ishida said calmly.
"I know that you are a Quincy, that much is obvious." He said glancing at the bow. "I also know that you are a friend of the substitute Shinigami, Kurosaki Ichigo… But I never did hear you name."
"Ishida Uyru, Quincy," Ishida responded as he pushed his glasses up reflexively.
The two stood, facing each other, each waiting to see who would make the first move.
Suddenly, simultaneously, they both leapt into action. Ishida ran to the left, bringing up his bow and firing off a volley of about twenty arrows. Makoto countered to the right, swinging his Zanpakuto and deflected all the arrows before suddenly vanishing from sight to reappear at Ishida's left shoulder. As he brought his sword back for a swing, Ishida used his Hirenkyaku to make it to the other side of the Shinigami, reappearing just behind his right shoulder as the swing carried through.
Ishida shot off another volley at close range, but the Shinigami had already changed locations and swung the ball at Ishida as he did so. Ishida dodged the attack and waited for Makoto to reappear. Ishida sensed, more than saw, Makoto now directly behind him. He ducked as a swing of the sword came across, aiming for where his neck had been. Ishida moved to turn, but as he did so, the ball on the chain whipped out and wrapped around Ishida's leg, entangling them and sending him falling from his slightly airborne position into the roof a few meters below.
The Quincy was quick to get back to his feet, but not quick enough to avoid the punch to his chest that sent him flying back. Ishida was forced to use his hand on the top of the roof to stop his momentum before he was sent off the edge.
As he stood upright again, he found the Zanpakuto swinging down for his left shoulder. He managed to dodge enough so that when it contacted, it wasn't very deep. But something still felt very wrong when the sword bit into his flesh.
There was a moment where it felt as if the sword had gone much deeper than it really had and as it pulled back, it had the strange sensation as if it had both stuck into him and pulled smoothly free at the same time. Ishida felt himself being dragged forward even as he knew that the sword had released from his body. A moment later, he found himself on his hands and knees on the rooftop, feeling extremely disoriented and gasping for breath.
As he panted, he looked down and saw an iron plate attached to his chest with a chain trailing from it. His eyes doubled in size as he realized what that sight meant and he looked back behind him in time to see his own body begin to fall backward just like a marionette puppet that just had its strings cut. The chain that Ishida had seen from his chest ran up to an identical plate on the chest of his body. Somehow, that Zanpakuto had just dragged Ishida's soul out of his body.
"Why do I have to come to this stupid meeting?" Kon complained in Ichigo's body as Ichigo, in Shinigami form, led them into Urahara's shop.
"Because I want to keep an eye on you. I might have let you use my body while I'm out, but you have a tendency to get into trouble with it."
"Oh, come on, Ichigo! I'm bored. Do you know how dull it is being stuffed in your closet all day as a plushy! I just want to cut loose from time to time."
"Fine, I get that, but can't you be a little more reserved while cutting loose? It is my body that you are using." Ichigo led them through the shop and into the back room where Rukia, Chad, Urahara and Matsumoto were already gathered around the table.
"Ah, welcome Ichigo," Urahara called and gestured for Ichigo to take a seat. Kon didn't feel that he was really a part of this meeting so he slunk off and sat down in the corner and pouted.
Ichigo took his place and glanced around the table again. "Hey, where's Ishida?" he asked.
"I couldn't get a hold of him," Urahara said.
"We'll just have to start without him," Matsumoto said. "I've come with some important information from soul society.
"Yeah? What they mess up now?" Kon grumbled from the corner.
Ichigo sent him a glare but Matsumoto waved her hand and said, "Actually, Kon isn't that far off. We believe that a Shinigami of the fifth squad has gone rouge and may have fled to the real world."
"Rouge?" Inoue asked. "What do you mean?"
Matsumoto sighed and said, "We think that he attacked several other members of his squad before opening the gate and fleeing to Karakura town. We have no idea what set him off or what his motives are, if he has any."
"So what? You want me to track him down for you?" Ichigo asked.
Matsumoto shrugged, "That's actually what I was sent to do. I was also asked to recruit Rukia's help as well. As for the rest of you, I just thought that I should warn you about him?"
"Why, Matsumoto-san?" Inoue asked.
"Because of his Zanpakuto's…unique… abilities."
"What kind of a threat would this sword's ability pose to our little group here that would constitute a special warning?" Urahara asked from behind his fan.
"Makoto Tadaaki's Zanpakuto is quite unique. It effects different entities in different ways when attacked."
"For example?" Urahara pressed.
"For instance, if it were to cut a Hollow in its Shikai form, all of the energy in the hollow that makes it a hollow would be sucked and consumed by the sword itself. When that happens, the Hollow is returned to its original human form and a soul burial can be performed."
"I can see where that would be a useful weapon for a Shinigami to have," Inoue said.
Matsumoto nodded but Urahara knew that wasn't all, "And if it were to cut a Shinigami…?"
"Most, or sometimes all, of there reiatsu is absorbed by the sword, giving their power to its wielder."
There was a slight gasp from Inoue as the others remained in slightly stunned silence for a moment. As that sunk in to them, Matsumoto pressed on. "That's not all. If the sword were used on a human it has the ability to draw their spirit from their body. If their spirit chain is then severed, the sword can absorb their soul as well."
"I see," Urahara said after another pause of silence.
"So this guy could be after humans and Shinigami?" Ichigo burst out. "If they are able to give him more power, he may have gotten addicted to it and is searching for more!"
Matsumoto nodded her head again, "That is what Soul society fears as well."
"If that is the case, than those humans that have higher spiritual energy will be more likely targets," Urahara said.
All of them looked around the table before Ichigo suddenly jumped up and called out, "Ishida!"
Before anyone else could do anything, Ichigo was out the door and running towards Ishida's place. But even as he started that way, the pressure of Ishida's reiatsu suddenly struck him. It came from the general direction Ichigo was headed, but not quite at the young man's home. It seemed that Ishida might have already encountered their rouge Shinigami.
Suddenly Ichigo noticed that Kon was running beside him. "Go home, Kon," Ichigo told him. "You'll just get in the way."
"Eh? I am a mod soul after all. I was created to fight."
"Yes, fight against Hollows, not against Shinigami. I've had quite a lot of experience in that area."
"And did you notice that Matsumoto-san didn't mention what would happen if that sword of his cut a mod soul? I might be the only one not effected by that Zanpakuto of his."
Ichigo frowned at Kon, not wanting the mod soul to come along, but seeing that Kon might actually have a point. "Alright, but make sure you keep out of the way. I don't need you getting my body damaged!"
Rukia and Matsumoto stayed back just a moment to make sure that Inoue and Chad were going to be all right. "Urahara-san," Rukia said. "Please watch over these two…" she said nodding to Inoue and Chad.
"We want to help!" Inoue said, jumping up.
"Yes," Chad said simply also standing and flexing his right arm to show that he was ready for action.
"It's too dangerous for humans to confront this Shinigami," Matsumoto said. "If he is looking for more power, quickly and easily, he will be targeting the humans with the more spirit pressure. You two would appear too good to be true."
"Vice-captain Matsumoto is correct," Urahara said as he lowed his fan and tucked it into his sleeve. It would be best if you stayed behind this time." He turned to the two Shinigami women and said, "We'll be down in the practice grounds when you are finished."
With that, he escorted the reluctant Chad and Inoue down the hatch into his basement practice grounds and Rukia and Matsumoto took off in pursuit of Ichigo.
Ishida stared for a moment in stunned silence as he watched his body fall as if in slow motion. Impossible, he thought to himself. How could such a small cut have killed me?
He heard a laugh from the Shinigami and looked back just in time to see the Zanpakuto coming toward him again. He rolled out of the way, narrowly missing its cutting edge. As he stood shakily again, he realized that the last swing hadn't been directed at him, so much, as it had been for his soul chain.
His eyes followed the chain again and confirmed that it was, in fact, still attached to his body. So he hadn't been killed yet.
"No, Quincy, you're not dead… not yet anyway," Makoto said with a grin as he suddenly appeared behind Ishida again, aiming another strike for the soul chain.
Ishida quickly used his Hirenkyaku to avoid the attack, but he didn't want to get too far for fear that that would give Makoto an even larger target if he was in fact aiming for his soul chain. The further from his body that he got, the longer the chain and the more places the Shinigami had to attack.
He appeared just on the other side of his body and reached out with his hand to form his bow, but he realized that he was no longer wearing his Quincy charm. Apparently it was a purely material item and didn't transfer with his spirit form. That meant that he was powerless like this.
Makoto laughed at him again as he lunged after the soul chain. "Can't shoot your arrows like that, can you?" he said.
Ishida grabbed the chain and swung it out of the reach of the sword and then swung it back so that it entangled the Shinigami's legs. Makoto hadn't expected such an attack and so he was tripped and sent flying off the side of the roof.
Ishida took that moment to jump back inside his body. He had seen Ichigo do it many times and it looked quite easy. But when he felt himself realigning with his body he felt a sharp pain as if all of his joints had suddenly locked.
He felt incredibly cold and he was gasping for breath as if he hadn't breathed in the last few minutes. Apparently his body could not last indefinably without his soul like Ichigo's could. His body had already begun to shut down in just those few short minutes that he had been absent from it.
By the time he was able to move, Makoto had appeared on top of the roof again and was aiming another strike at Ishida. The Quincy rolled, just barely missing the slash. But he was too weak from having been essentially dead for a few minutes to avoid the next strike.
Makoto moved directly from his last swing to just behind Ishida. The Quincy didn't even know that the Shinigami was there until the tip of the sword raked across his back, drawing his soul out of the body once again.
Ichigo stopped dead in his tracks as Ishida's reiatsu suddenly vanished from his senses. "Ishida…" he gasped, fearing the worse.
"Ichigo!" Kon called back from where he had run ahead, not realizing that his friend had stopped. "What are you doing?"
"He's gone…" Ichigo muttered.
"All the more reason to hurry. Matsumoto-san said that Makoto could only absorb the soul after the soul chain was severed. If you can't sense Ishida anymore, that means that he has been pulled out of his body, but not that Makoto has severed the chain yet!"
Ichigo was stunned at Kon's insight and nodded as he suddenly put on a new burst of speed, racing towards where he had last felt Ishida. Kon continued on beside him, occasionally casting side-glances at him, wondering if they were going to be able to make it in time.
I've never really liked that stuck up Quincy, Kon thought to himself. But Ichigo would feel terrible if anything happened to him and I owe it to Ichigo to help.
Ichigo was suddenly relieved when he was able to sense Ishida again. Maybe the Quincy had just done something to mask his reiatsu for a few minutes. They were almost there… just another corner to round.
Just as they rounded that corner, Ishida's reiatsu vanished again. Ichigo looked up on top of the building where he had just sensed his friend's presences and saw what was happening. Ishida's body was lying limply on his back, staring blankly up at the sky. Behind the body, attached by a chain in the chest, was an exact copy of Ishida, only ever so slightly translucent.
The spirit Ishida was also lying on his back with a Shinigami hovering over him, sword poised to slash the chain that connected spirit to body. "No!" Ichigo yelled as he leapt up into the air to stop the Shinigami.
But he was a fraction too slow. Just before his own sword found the Shinigami's back, Ichigo heard the sound of ringing metal against metal. He saw Ishida's actual body spasm and then still again just as his sword raked across the back of the Shinigami.
He cried out in surprised pain and dashed a short distance away to turn and face his new attacker. Ichigo didn't pay him any attention but looked down at the spirit form of Ishida at his feet.
The Quincy was staring with enormous shock and surprise at a place on his soul chain several links from the place it connected to his chest. Where the chain should have continued on to connect him to his body, there was a clean slice through the middle of one link, severing his connection.
Slowly he turned his face up to look at Ichigo. Ichigo's jaw dropped, realizing what that meant. Ishida couldn't return to his body. For all intense and purposes, Ishida was dead.
The Shinigami was laughing again. "You're too late, Kurosaki Ichigo!"
Ichigo snapped his head up and looked at the man in shock. How did he know his name?
"I heard about you and your group of friends… it almost sounded too good to be true, humans with such incredible powers, just waiting for me to snatch them up!"
Ichigo gripped his sword in anger and before he even knew what he was doing called out, "Bankai!"
There was an explosion of power and suddenly Ichigo was standing there with his black sword and in his tattered outfit that went along with his Bankai form. He stared down the Shinigami in front of him with murderous rage in his eyes. It was all he could do to not also call out his hollow form. But right now he wanted to kill this man as himself, not as a mindless hollow.
"It doesn't matter what you do, Kurosaki," Makoto laughed. "As I said, you're too late." With that, he pointed his sword at Ishida's spirit that was still sitting on the roof top just a few feet in front of Ichigo, stunned expression still painted on his face.
"Consume," Makoto whispered and a light shot out from the tip of his sword and struck Ishida's spirit in the back, attaching to him, and yanking him off of the roof.
"Ishida!" Ichigo called out as he reached for the spirit of his friend. Ishida reached towards Ichigo in return, hands just missing each other as he was wrenched out of range. Ichigo watched in horror as the light grew and engulfed Ishida. It pulled him back and into the tip of the sword. The last thing that Ichigo saw of his friend was his pleading eyes and outstretched hand towards him.
Ichigo stood there, hand still frozen out in front of him, staring blankly at the tip of the crystal sword that had just consumed his friend's spirit.
"Mmm," Makoto said quietly as his eyes closed in pleasure. "The powers of a Quincy are just as intoxicating as I had thought."
This snapped Ichigo out of his shock and reminded him that there was someone that needed to pay before he could grieve the loss of his friend. "You are dead," Ichigo growled as he planted one foot forward and brought his sword up, ready to launch into an attach.
A slow grin spread across the Shinigami's face, "Perhaps. I do have every intention of fighting you, Kurosaki Ichigo… but not just yet." With that he swung out the ball at the end of his sword that now had a faint white glow around it and smashed it into the roof just in front of Ichigo, sending up a shower of debris.
"Getsuga Tensho!" Ichigo called out, sending a black and red blast of energy through the rain of smashed shingles and dust. The wave burst through the debris, clearing it out of the way and barreled down the rest of the length of the roof. But much to Ichigo's surprise, there was nothing there to stop it. Makoto Tadaaki had vanished completely.
Kon also saw what was happening as soon as they rounded the corner. He also knew that there was no way for either of them to reach the Shinigami in time before he could sever Ishida's soul chain. He watched as Ichigo futilely launched himself up after Makoto, trying to prevent the now inevitable.
The mod soul witnessed as the chain was cut and Ishida's body jerked with the release of its soul. That was it, Kon thought to himself. There was no going back now.
Kon felt a wave of despair from Ichigo a split second before that despair turned into rage. Kon knew what Ichigo was about to say just before he did. "Bankai!" the mod soul heard his friend call out and the blast of power obscured everything from his eyes for a moment.
When it cleared, Kon saw that Ishida's spirit was still up there. Slowly, Kon started to wonder if there wasn't someway to repair the chain, even though it had been cut. The problem was, after a soul chain was severed, the body would die even faster than if it was still connected. There were only moments left if they were going to be able to reattach the chain and that was something that they would probably need Urahara to do.
Without another thought, Kon launched himself up to the top of the roof and grabbed Ishida's body and pulled it further away from Ichigo. Kon knew that in a second, the last place that anyone would want to be was close to Ichigo.
He didn't hardly even notice as Ishida's spirit was grabbed and consumed by the Shinigami's sword as he was too busy with his own scheme. Kon opened Ishida's lips and positioned his own open mouth just above him. Then, with his right hand, he slapped the back of his head with force, dislodging the green spirit pill that was him from Ichigo's throat.
The pill fell from Ichigo's open mouth and directly into Ishida's. Kon gave a gasp as he suddenly found himself in Ishida's body rather than Ichigo's. He was ever so slightly relieved that Ichigo's body had managed to fall across him rather than directly down on his still open mouth.
Kon could feel the damage that had been done to Ishida's body, both from the wounds that he had received and the period that it had spent without air or circulating blood. But now that he was in there, the body had resumed its normal functions. He could act as life support for Ishida until they could get it figured out.
He was feeling pretty smug with himself until he heard Ichigo's next words. "Getsuga Tensho!"
The backwash of energy from that move shoved Kon in Ishida's body and Ichigo's now inert body off the end of the roof and crashing to the ground. "Ouch!" Kon cried as he fell into a dense bush that had been just below him. "Ow, ow, ow, ow," he muttered as he struggled to extract himself from the shrubbery.
Above him, Ichigo stood stock still, staring off at the place that he had last seen the rouge Shinigami. Ishida is dead, was the only thought that he could force through his brain, and still he couldn't wrap his mind around it. Ishida… Ishida… I… failed…
"Ichigo!" Rukia's voice rang out suddenly as she and Matsumoto appeared on the roof beside him. "Ichigo, what happened?" she demanded.
Ichigo just continued to stare strait ahead, not able to bring himself out of his trance.
"Ichigo, where's Ishida?" Rukia demanded as he grabbed Ichigo and shook him.
Rukia gasped as Ichigo slowly turned and faced her. She saw from the dead look in Ichigo's eyes what had happened.
"No…" she breathed.
"Oi!" a voice came from the end of the roof. "What's the big idea throwing that kind of power around with me so close!"
The three of them turned and saw Ishida climbing back on top of the roof, bits of shrubbery stuck in his hair and uniform.
"I…Ishida!" Ichigo cried out, clearly completely shocked.
Ishida picked a few bits of bush from his hair and said, "Nah, it's Kon. I put myself in his body for now."
"Kon!" Rukia exclaimed.
Suddenly Ichigo was in front of Kon, grabbing him by the collar and lifting him up slightly, putting him nose to nose with him. "What do you think you're doing?" Ichigo growled at the mod soul. "You saw a dead body and you thought this was your chance to get one for yourself?"
"What?" Kon said, completely shaken by the sudden attack from Ichigo. "N…no. I saw that his chain was cut so I thought that I could keep the body alive until we could figure out a way to repair it…" he explained in a rush.
Ichigo's face suddenly went from one of loathing and anger to confusion. He slowly lowered Kon back to stand on the roof and backed off a few steps. "Didn't you see?" he asked Kon. "Didn't you see that sword devoured Ishida?"
"Ichigo…" Rukia said quietly as she came up behind him and rested her hand on his arm. She could hear the pain and sorrow that hovered behind Ichigo's words. She felt it too.
Kon stared at him blankly for a moment. "No… no I didn't. I just thought that if… if we could… if we could just…" but the pain in Ichigo's eyes was too much for Kon to continue.
"It was a good thought, Kon. Thank you," Rukia said quietly to him and looked up at Ichigo.
Ichigo was still staring at Kon, though Rukia realized that it wasn't Kon whom he was seeing, it was Ishida. "I failed him," Ichigo said softly. "I lost hope when I saw the chain had been cut and I failed him."
Kon's eyes got wider as he realized that Ichigo had thought all was lost when he saw the severed chain.
"You… you didn't give up on him, Kon…" Ichigo said. "I did…"
"Ichigo…" Rukia said again and reached up to turn his face towards her. "You didn't know… You did what you could…"
"Did I?" he asked her.
As they looked at each other, not sure what the answer to that question was, Matsumoto walked over to Kon and began to look him over. He looked back at her, wondering what she was up to, and trying very hard not to break the somber moment by reaching out for her incredibly ample bosom.
"Kon," she said to him.
"You're keeping Ishida's body alive?"
He nodded to her.
"And you can do so as long as you stay in it, right?"
"Ah, yes…" he was unsure as to what she was getting at.
"Ichigo!" she suddenly said as she spun around to face the other two Shinigami.
Both he and Rukia looked at her. "We might be able to save Ishida!" she said excitedly.
Ichigo's brow furrowed, wondering how she could say that. "But the sword…" he said.
"The sword absorbs the human's spirit. That means he may still be inside of it. And if we can get it out…"
"…And Kon keeps Ishida's body alive until then…" Rukia added as she saw where Matsumoto was going.
"…We might be able to save him…" Ichigo finished. He suddenly looked up at Kon and said, "It looks like you have saved the day, Kon!"
Kon grinned with Ishida's lips, which looked completely wrong. But that grin was short lived as he suddenly realized something, "Wait, that means I'm stuck in this body for a while."
"Yup!" Ichigo said as he walked over to him and threw his arm around his shoulders. "Looks like you finally get your wish and have a body to use for a while!"
"But…" Kon said, looking down at Ishida's body. "But…" he looked up at Ichigo. "I don't want this body!"
Ichigo laughed at him. "Hey, what would you rather have, Ishida's body, or the plushy?"
Kon was strongly considering the plushy, but he didn't say as much as Ichigo and the girls directed him to grab Ichigo's body and they all returned to Urahara's shop. Kon was not feeling quite so proud of himself anymore.