This story is set shortly after the Winter War. Ichigo is powerless, and Aizen is locked away.

Chapter 1

Death and Rebirth

He had failed his friends. Souji Seta lowered his sword, as he watched Yosuke being the last to be dragged down by Izanami-no-Okami.

I can't...give up.

"In the end, hope always deserts those who seek the truth. May the knowledge of this go with you to the next world. Thousand Curses."

The dark hands began to rise up, but Souji wouldn't go down without a fight. Using the last of his strength, he charged forward and stabbed Izanami-no-Okami with his sword, then crushed his card, focusing all of his power. "Izanagi, Megiadolan!"

As the hands began to drag Souji down, the energy exploded inside Izanami. "What, what have you done?"

"I've saved humanity, even if I go with you."

Izanami was aghast. This, human, had wounded her grievously. Already she could feel her strength fading.

"I will not be beaten by a mere human! Go to your grave!"

Souji felt the hands pull on him, and faded into the darkness. I'm sorry.

As Izanami watched Souji fade, she pulled out the sword, and grasped at her wound, but it wasn't healing. What must I do?

"Perhaps you require some help."

Izanami looked over at the smooth, deep voice. Standing to the side was a tall man wearing a white robe. He had brown hair, and a hole in his chest.

"Who are you?"

The man smiled. "My name is Sosuke Aizen." Then he held up a small orb. "And I can give you power. Will you serve me?"

Izanami scoffed at the offer. "Serve you? I am Izanami-no-Okami. I am a goddess. Who are you to make any offer to me?"

"I am the one who can save your life, goddess. Or would you rather vanish into the mist?"

Knowing she had no choice, Izanami returned to her human form. "What do you need of me?"

Her only answer was a smile on Aizen's face.

Souji felt someone shaking him, and did his best to ignore them. He just wanted to sleep.

"Leave me alone."

"As much as I'd like to do that, partner, you might want to see this."

Souji opened his eyes at Yosuke's voice, and stared in shock at the people around him. Leaping to his feet, Souji whirled around to see the faces of his friends. "But, I saw you die."

Kanji laughed. "Hate to break it to you, Senpai, but we did."

"But that means..."

Yukiko nodded. "You died too, Souji. We lost to Izanami. We're all dead."

Souji looked around at their surroundings. They were in some kind of village, filled with people. A few were staring at them through the windows of their homes, but most were ignoring them.

"If we're dead, then where are we?"

"You're in the Rukon District."

Souji whirled at the voice, and looked to see an old man, leaning on a cane. "Rukon District? Where's that?"

The man smiled sadly at them, as if he understood. "You must be new. Well then, allow me to explain." He motioned to the area around them. "This is the outer district of the Soul Society, outside of the Seiretei. This is where souls go after their deaths."

A bell sounded, and the old man motioned to them. "Come on to my home for now, until we can find you somewhere to stay."

Souji looked to the others, then nodded. "Thank you. What was your name?"

The old man walked off. "My name is Aoi, and you?"

The group introduced themselves, and followed after Aoi.

Once they were set up, the group all relaxed.

Yosuke looked around, and nodded. "You know, death isn't as bad as I thought it'd be."

Naoto fiddled with her hat. "I'm worried about Inaba. If we didn't defeat Izanami, then what's happening there?"

Souji ran a hand through his silver hair. "Don't worry. Before she took me, I hit her with everything I had. I know I wounded her mortally. She doesn't have the power to do anything."

Rise looked up, hopeful. "So, we won?"

Souji looked at her and smiled. "We won."

She lay back, smiling as well. "Then that's alright, I guess. Though I'm sorry I'm not going to be able to continue my career."

"Nor mine," Naoto said, putting back on her hat.

Nanako, Souji thought, thinking of his little cousin. Though, throughout the year, he came to see her as a little sister. He didn't know how his disappearance would affect her or Dojima.

His uncle had been obsessed with finding his wife's killer. Though he had talked to him about that. But he knew that this would drive him over the edge, trying to find out about his disappearance.

"I just wish I could let my family know what happened. This is going to kill Nanako."

"Awww. Do you miss your family?"

Souji looked up at the gruff voice mocking him. Standing in the doorway was a tall, wide man wearing green. Behind him were several other men.

Aoi looked shocked and ashamed. "Ganju, what are you doing here? You know to never mock the fears of the recently arrived."

Ganju smirked. "You gonna do something about it, old man?"

Sneering, Kanji went to his feet and got in Ganju's face. "You know, I hate guys like you. Punks who try to look tougher than they are. And I enjoy proving punks like you wrong. Who do you think you are?"

Ganju stepped back. "Who am I? I'm Ganju Shiba, the Self-Proclaimed Toughest Guy of the Rukon District. You wanna make something of it?"

Kanji's response was a quick fist to Ganju's jaw, sending him back into his buddies.

Ganju got to his feet, and drew his weapon. As he went to strike Kanji, a hand suddenly grabbed his arm.

"Hey, who do you think..." Ganju's question stopped as he saw the person attached to the hand.

"Everyone in the house, get out now."

Souji and the others went outside at the sound of the gruff voice, and stopped short as he saw who spoke.

Standing well above even Kanji, the man was huge with a ragged white coat and an eyepatch. His hair was long and in several spikes, with bells on the ends.

"To think I came all this way to find several new, powerful souls, and instead I find some punk who thinks he's strong. Now get lost, before you piss me off."

Stammering, Ganju took off, followed by his gang.

The giant man turned to look at Souji, and had an insane smile on his face. "You the ones I was sent to find?"

"Of course," a new voice added, and another person suddenly appeared next to the giant. The newcomer also wore a white coat, though hers was intact. She had a kind face, and her long hair was braided in front of her.

The woman studied them with a smile. "My name is Squad Four Captain Retsu Unohana. And this is Squad Eleven Captain Kenpachi Zaraki. We've been sent by our leader to bring you to the Seiretei."

Souji tensed, eyeing the two of them. "Why?"

Kenpachi smiled wider. "Because you eight have enough power to be felt through the Sekkiseki rock of the walls. Yamamoto wants to find out why. So are you gonna come quietly?" He placed a hand on the hilt of the sword at his side. "Or do we have to do this the fun way?"

With no weapons, Souji knew he had no choice. "We'll come quietly."

And that was just the first chapter.

Yes, yes. I have Aizen here, even though he is locked away. I assure you, I am aware of that. There is a method to my madness, and it will be explained.