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"He won't die, 'cause I won't let him."


Nine Lives

By Curiosity Killed Kristy

[Chapter 18: An Army of Me]

The man in front of him laughed. It was sinister, and it made Grimmjow's stomach churn. Grimmjow growled. "I said tell me where the fuck he is!" he demanded yet again. The man halted in his laughter, and focused heartless sepia eyes into electric-blue ones, a look of apathy and arrogance mixed in one plastered on his face.

"Hmph," he scoffed, sitting closer to the window and allowing air in by pushing it open. The moonlight flooded without any barricade, and that's when Grimmjow grew absolutely sure that this man was not Ichigo. The light hit this suspicious male's left eye, and it shown blue like what he had first expected. "We underestimated you, Grimmjow Jeagerjaques." The orange spikes atop his head began to fade into silver from the roots, the fine hairs growing till it reached his lower back. "You know Kurosaki Ichigo better than we thought you did."

The ex-Espada narrowed his eyes at the silver-haired stranger tugging at the clothes he was once wearing. When the man opened his eyes, he finally recognized who he was. Grimmjow's eyes widened from the astonishment, feeling his heart slightly sink. A blue eye and purple eye stared at him, a smug grin making its way upon the man's porcelain face. "I gather you remember who I am, Grimmjow Jeagerjaques." The transformed male stood to his feet, flipping a section of his silver hair behind him. "I am Chujit Shimo, a Fallen Angel second-in-command."

Grimmjow stared at this magnificent creature bathed in moonlight in complete and utter shock. It was that Fallen Angel who had stopped Sengoku's boomerang sword from ever cutting him that one night they had invaded Karakura Town. In merely a second, Grimmjow had Chujit pinned against a wall; a venomous glare pointed straightly at the Tenshi no Namida's indifferent face. "What did you with Ichigo?" he pressed.

"It wouldn't matter if I told you either way. Kurosaki Ichigo has simply… disappeared…" Chujit whispered softly, his breath fanning against Grimmjow's lips.

"What the fuck do you mean by that?" Grimmjow tightened his grip even further around the Fallen Angel's neck, irritated by the fact that the angel barely looked like he was suffering a tiny amount.

"It means that the mission is complete." Abruptly, Grimmjow was thrown against an adjacent wall, Chujit's foot pressing harshly against his core. The blunet coughed from the sudden impact, and the digging ankle boot against the middle of his chest. "Our master wants you, Grimmjow Jeagerjaques. I'm sure you're already well aware of that. And nothing would make him happier than to receive you this instant. But… the fact of the matter is that you're in a Gigai, and I cannot just simply grab your collar and take my leave with you."

Chujit grabbed hold of Grimmjow's chin, turning his head so they could stare eye to eye. "Know this, Sixth Espada, wherever your precious Shinigami has gone, keep in mind that he is neither here nor there, and that he will not be treated with the kindness you and the rest of your friends have been showing him…" Chujit Shimo eased his foot from the hacking Espada, the shirt he wore ripping from the back as his wings began to take form and unfold.

Black feathers drifted around him and showered him, the Tenshi no Namida edging closer to the window and taking a step foot beyond it. With one last glance at Grimmjow, he flew into the sky, leaving the arrancar with himself and his processing thoughts.

XXXX

Grimmjow rubbed at the spot where Shimo's foot had been shoved against, hoping that it would erase any remnants that the Fallen Angel had left on him. Hoping that it would obliterate the feeling of being beneath someone's level and rank. He balled his hands into fists, punching a nearby wall in his annoyance. He massaged at his eyelids and forehead, feeling the creases smooth out.

And yet, throughout all of this, minutes had ticked on by, and he still couldn't quite register everything that had occurred. Or rather, he just didn't want to believe it.

"He will not be treated with the kindness you and the rest of your friends have been showing him…"

He ran a warm hand through his teal hair. They could do whatever they wanted with Ichigo. They could even kill him. The mere thought nearly ripped the skin where his nails met, and caused his vision to redden. He wouldn't allow any of those bastards to touch Ichigo. Hewas the only one permitted to touch Ichigo; the only one able to kill him. With his mind made up, he charged to his feet, grabbed a random shirt and pants, and raced downstairs and to the door.

He vaguely heard Yuzu call out to him, but there was no time to explain where he was going, nor did he want to explain. He knew where he had to go, and what he needed to do.

"Kurosaki Ichigo has simply… disappeared…"

Ichigo wasn't gone. He wouldn't be gone as long as Grimmjow was involved.

XXXX

Urahara approached Tessai, examining the feather he was holding between his fingertips. Tessai handed the delicate evidence over to him, Urahara twirling the feather in his hand. There was no doubt about it. This was a Tenshi no Namida's feather. "Tessai-san, I think it would be best if we took this in for closer inspection." Tessai nodded in agreement, and just as they were about to enter his homely abode, Urahara heard his name being desperately called out by yet another familiar voice.

"Hmm?" he inquired, spinning around only to be met with a speeding Grimmjow headed in his direction. The blunet quickly wrapped two hands into the shopkeeper's clothes, shaking him about as if he were a ragdoll. "G-Grimm-kun!" Urahara gasped.

"Ichigo was taken by those bastards!" Grimmjow informed, continuously shaking the former 12th squad captain.

"I assure you that I know already, Grimm-kun!" Urahara raised his index finger to explain, but still, the Espada repeatedly shook him.

"Then fucking do something, and find him!" Grimmjow ordered.

"I will, but first you must unhand me, Grimm-kun!" Tessai quickly made a beeline towards Grimmjow, and unpeeled him from his boss with a shove that he probably put too much force into. Grimmjow thrust the assistance's palm away from his body, his anger flaring.

"Don't fucking touch me! And you!" Grimmjow pointed an accusing finger at the blonde shopkeeper who looked mildly confused. "What the hell are you doing examining a feather when you could be looking for Ichigo right now?" Tessai remained standing between the two of them, Urahara now slightly surprised, the shock evident in his eyes.

The two stayed silent, one staring with astonishment and the other with fire burning in his cerulean eyes. The silence was only disturbed when Urahara let out a fit of giggles, Grimmjow's eyes narrowing even further in fury. "What the fuck's so funny, hats-and-clogs?" he asked with venom in his voice.

Urahara wiped a feigned tear from his eye. "Oh nothing, Grimm-kun. It's just that…" Urahara began, turning to walk towards his house. "It seems that you have just begun to worry for Kurosaki-san's sake… Or maybe you started worrying a long time ago." Urahara had expected that Grimmjow would retaliate with some sort of denial, some type of rude comment on the ex-Substitute Shinigami. Or maybe even say that he only wanted to kill Ichigo.

But instead, Grimmjow stood there, brows stitched together in his usual scowl, eyes lit with flames. "Does it fucking matter?" Grimmjow took a step forward, and in one swift movement, had Urahara's shirt bundled in one fist. "You heard me say it before. Ichigo won't die 'cause I won't let him." For a moment, Urahara actually saw raw fear in Grimmjow's eyes but yet this fear was something else… It was a fear only few men had. Bravery. Because without fear, there would be no thing such as bravery. No such thing as determination. No such thing as strength.

When the message finally woke in Urahara something he hadn't felt since Ichigo was willing to save Rukia Kuchiki from Soul Society, he picked the sixth Espada's fingers off of his shirt. "I understand," he said softly. With this, Grimmjow's shoulders slightly relaxed, although the tenseness was still evident. "There is a way to find Kurosaki-san. But I ask you one thing, Grimmjow Jeagerjaques…" Urahara turned his grayish-green eyes over at the arrancar, searching for any hesitation whatsoever. "Are you willing to sacrifice everything for Kurosaki-san? 'Cause if you aren't… I'll be forced to stop you. No matter how much you want to go after him."

Urahara examined the feather in his hands, turning it over and over between his fingers. "The Tenshi no Namida want you, Grimmjow-san. Not Ichigo. From all the events that have just happened, from me seeing Kurosaki-san captured and with you meeting with one of 'em, I would say that they planned this all out so that when Ichigo noticed he was being followed, he would run here. And knowing that you two have a strong bond, they would use him against you. Do you realize that everything here was set up so that you would follow them?

"If you truly want to save him, you will put your life on the line… because if they capture you… you will be putting everyone on the line. Do you understand that, Grimmjow-san?" Grimmjow stared with the same scowl, unperturbed by everything that was just laid out in front of him.

"I don't fucking care what I have to do. Do you seriously think that I'd allow Ichigo to die? That I would actually get captured by those motherfuckers? HA! You underestimate me, old man," Grimmjow chuckled. "I'm going to get Ichigo back and I'm going to be alive while I'm doing it." Urahara analyzed his figure, trying to catch any sign of reluctance. But there was none. There stood Grimmjow Jeagerjaques, ranked sixth in the Espada, personifying exactly that of violence.

Urahara sighed. "Very well then. I will let you save Kurosaki-san, but on one condition." Urahara held up a finger in demonstration. "You will give me thirteen days."

"Ah?" Grimmjow asked, rather dumbfounded.

"Three days to locate Kurosaki-san, seven days to open the Precipice World, and three more days to train you," Urahara explained.

"I don't need to be fucking trained!" Grimmjow protested.

"Oh, don't you? You do realize that you still have the Tamishi Sutabiraiza," the shopkeeper reminded.

"And?"

"And, that means that you will be going weaponless. Even if you swing Pantera around, it won't do you any good. As long as your spiritual energy is compressed into that bracelet, you'll only be swinging a regular sword, akin to that of a wooden sword against a Fallen Angel. I am going to teach you how to fight without swords. I am going to teach you… how to use to Kido."

XLXLXL

He hadn't thought it would've been so easy.

"Do whatever you want; so long as Ichigo stays alive."

That arrancar really had grown to care. It had been two days since that conversation in front of his shop, and since then, Urahara had been trying to trace whatever small amount of reiatsu he could detect from Ichigo, and Grimmjow had been training below his shop. Although Ichigo's spiritual energy was nearly nonexistent, that small session they had with his new invention had to have somehow returned some of his spiritual energy. The computer in front of him scoured for Ichigo's last trail, and he was beginning to think that the Fallen Angels might've taken him to a different country altogether when the computer bleeped back at him. Red and clear.

It was blinking over a shrine.

And this little piece of information told him everything. He knew what to do next.

XLXLXL

Mayuri Kurotsuchi was not pleased. He had been so flooded with his searching in the Precipice World that he wasn't able to keep an eye on the Espada. Each time he checked updates in the Dangai, it was only nothing. By now, he really would've thought that it was nothing. But something felt strange. He knew that even though he couldn't see what was passing through the Precipice World, something still was. Something that no one could detect, not even him.

His reverie was interrupted by a series of rings. "Nemu, hand me the telephone." His daughter bowed and quickly made to retrieve it. When the device was finally in his hand, he raised it to his ear.

"LONG TIME NO TALK, KUROTSUCHI-SAN!" With the fit of outburst on the other end, he knew exactly who had called him.

"Urahara Kisuke! You have some nerve calling me! Are you finally admitting defeat and allowing me to kill you?"

Urahara chuckled nervously over the phone. "No, no, nothing of the sort. I just called to tell you something…" Hmm? Mayuri thought. He listened in intently. "Your research on the Precipice World. I have a feeling you'll be pleased with what you'll hear."

Mayuri had immediately taken to his feet when Urahara had told him everything. If everything that man had said was true, the Gotei 13 had to take action. Those Fallen Angels were close. Closer than everyone thought. Closer than he had thought. And now they have Kurosaki Ichigo. Not to mention that his lover, Grimmjow Jeagerjaques, was going to go after him. That would endanger everyone not only in the Soul Society, but also in the World of the Living. And if the sixth Espada was caught… his studies would be ruined.

He wouldn't allow it. The doors swung open when he arrived, all of the twelve captains in the room, and the Head Captain staring straight at him. "Kurotsuchi-taichou, what was so urgent that you had to call upon this meeting?" Mayuri's painted eyebrows knotted together, the corners of his lips forming a deep frown.

"The Fallen Angels are closing in on Soul Society."

XLXLXL

Grimmjow was working his ass to the bone. That stupid shopkeeper had told him to build up his stamina and shit. As if he needed to. He was already strong enough. But who said that getting stronger was such a horrible thing? He hurled another rock into a builder, the boulder cracking in the middle and finally collapsing. He heaved through his mouth, wiping some sweat from his forehead.

Urahara had taken him out of his Gigai, and he had to admit, it felt great to be walking around without any restrictions. He felt less heavy, somehow. He rotated his shoulder, preparing himself for another punch. Once he did so, blood wept from his knuckles, but he chose to ignore it and continue on. He had to get Ichigo back. He couldn't really explain why that was so.

Every time he thought of Ichigo, he would remember that night where the Fallen Angel was talking shit about how they'd treat Ichigo. His mind would wander and he would see Ichigo getting beaten up, helpless and pathetic. He had never seen Ichigo like that. Even while he was stronger, faster, and just all out better than Ichigo while being an Espada, the boy had beaten him. And as he had lain there in the sand of Las Noches, his mind would wander to that kid. The one with orange hair. Ichigo Kurosaki.

And that's when he had realized it. Grimmjow respected him. Looked up to him. And that's why he loathed him so much. He vowed to get stronger. So much stronger that he would surpass Ichigo Kurosaki. And Ichigo would be the one looking up at him. He would be the one to protect Ichigo. It wasn't gonna be the other way around ever again. Not like when Ichigo allowed him to live and didn't finish him off. Not like when he defended him against Nnoitra. Not like when he put the Tamishi Sutabiraiza on him and looked with sympathetic eyes. Never again.

"RRRAH!" The boulder smashed in different directions with his fist alone, his knuckles bleeding even more than before. As his chest puffed with every breath he took, he stared at his own hand and with clear promise; he vowed that he would save Ichigo with this very hand. The hand closed into a fist, the conviction ringing clear in his mind. As he was going in for another lunge at a rock, he was interrupted by a few claps behind him.

He rotated with an irritated glance, his eyes landing upon the shopkeeper. "What?" he asked with annoyance clear in his tone. Urahara just smiled at him, and seeing that the man had nothing to say, he returned to his training, smashing rocks yet again.

"I see that you've been putting your all into all of this…" Urahara gestured around the training grounds. Grimmjow continued ignoring him, each punch heightening in strength. "Soul Society, no, the Head-Captain wants to speak with you, Grimmjow-san." Once the arrancar heard his name being called with that honorific, he stopped; turned around.

"What for?" he questioned with suspicion.

"He knows what they want… and what you want." Urahara paused to let Grimmjow soak it in. Grimmjow inhaled and exhaled with great effort to calm himself down.

"Who the hell gives a fuck?" he gritted through his teeth as delicately as he could, though it only worsened the intensity he was trying to diminish.

"Grimmjow-san, you do realize that if you deny this meeting, Ichigo is much closer to death," Urahara stated. When Grimmjow halted in that instance, Urahara knew he would agree. And as much as Urahara could see that Grimmjow did not want to go back to Soul Society, he could also see that Grimmjow knew that he had to, his fist shaking by his side.

"… Fine," Grimmjow seethed.

XLXLXL

After the preparation for the Precipice World was finally accessible, the morning straight after, Grimmjow was standing in front of the gate, Zanpaktou in hand, and Shinigami attire donned on him. Urahara had insisted that he wore Shinigami robes instead of his Espada ones to state that he was no longer an enemy. Grimmjow, of course, felt otherwise. But in the end, he knew he it was the best thing to do, as much as he hated it.

"See ya, hats-and-clogs," Grimmjow muttered beneath his breath, although sincerity was not detected anywhere in his words. As he stepped forward, Urahara stopped him with his cane tapping on his shoulder. "Ah?" Grimmjow turned his head to see what the old man wanted.

"Do you want to know the easiest way of unlocking the Soul Stabilizer?" Grimmjow's eyes thinned a considerable amount in curiosity. "If you ever encounter Ichigo and have to fight a Tenshi no Namida… tell him…"

Grimmjow blinked, and then nodded in understanding. He knew that Urahara was almost always right, so there was no need to question it further. With one last wave over his shoulder, Grimmjow stepped into the Precipice World. Time to greet that old fart that brought me into all of this shit.

XLXLXL

When he had stepped foot into Soul Society, he half expected everyone to ambush him. Instead, two familiar men were standing in front of him, both of them looking as displeased as he was. "Heh, baldy and feather boy. Haven't seen the both of ya in months. I was hoping that I never would again." Grimmjow trudged between the two of them, said two glaring at him.

"Ahh? Who do you think you are, runnin' your mouth off like that!" Ikkaku shrieked.

"That's right! And these are not feathers! Anyone with a fashion sense can see that!" Yumichika objected.

Grimmjow stopped in his tracks, and tilted his head back to look at the sky, and then towards them. The two waited impatiently for an apology but instead, they were presented with an "I don't give a damn." Grimmjow sighed, and scratched at his scalp. "I only came here for one reason… and that's to get this stupid meeting over with so I can save Ichi," and with that, Grimmjow was off towards the Head-Captain's office.

Yumichika blinked in surprise, while Ikkaku scratched at his head. "Damn, stupid shit like this piss me off the most…" he mumbled beneath his breath. Yumichika remained silent, watching the sixth Espada's back retreat further and further away.

"Ikkaku…" he called out. The 3rd seat turned his eyes over at his best friend, Zanpaktou patting his shoulder. "He seems different… somehow," he commented. Ikkaku raised an eyebrow, and followed Yumichika's eyes over to the arrancar, and tried to see what it was that was so different. He sighed, following behind Grimmjow.

"I don't see shit."

Yumichika stared with slight disbelief, but followed nonetheless. Meanwhile, Grimmjow was treading onward with irritation creeping up his skin yet again. He really didn't want to be here. He just wanted to go kick some asses and take Ichigo back. But, Urahara told him to just hear the Head-Captain out, and then once it was over, he would return to the World of the Living, and Urahara would tell him what to do next and where to go.

But the bastard hadn't given him an inkling of where those Fallen Angels were hiding. And the way he was now- he steered his eyes towards the bracelet on his wrist- he wouldn't have the luck of finding Ichigo at all. So he had to cooperate. When they finally reached the Head-Captain's doors, the two Shinigami allowed him inside, and waited in front of the doors to probably escort him back later like a child. When he entered, he felt the immediate static in the air, and how it would've pushed him down if he were not so used to Aizen's spiritual pressure from back then.

They stared at each other, Yamamoto and Grimmjow, thoughts roaming their minds. And the first to break it was Grimmjow. "So, what'd ya call me here for?" The Head-Captain continued to stare at him, and after a while, he nodded.

"So you are the infamous sixth Espada in Sousoke Aizen's army. The one who battled against our Substitute Shinigami, Kurosaki Ichigo." Grimmjow turned an angry glare at Yamamoto who didn't acknowledge it.

"Yeah, what about it?"

"You are aware that the Fallen Angels want you, Grimmjow Jeagerjaques?"

"So what?"

"And you also want to save Kurosaki Ichigo from them, correct?" Grimmjow only continued to stare in answer, affirming Yamamoto's beliefs. "In that case, you are not prohibited to find Kurosaki Ichigo. Not until more information has been collected." In that moment, Grimmjow's body stiffened, and finally, the anger within him unclasped.

Because of that, he began to laugh. Laugh until it echoed right back at him and he heard the insanity and sarcasm dripping from it. "You're… Telling me…" he laughed. "That I can't go save Ichigo? Have you taken your nap yet, Grandpa? Your brain fried, 'r somethin'?" He continued to guffaw. "You wanna boss me 'round when you're not even my boss? That's fucking hilarious, old man! Your head's full of that shit, ain't it?" He gripped at his forehead, trying to control his fits of laughter. "I didn't think for one second that you guys were good. You're all just like that bastard Aizen was. Ichigo busted his ass and put his fucking life on the line, and even lost his goddamn powers for it, and you're telling me that I can't go and save him? Bullshit!" Grimmjow's mind filled with images of Ichigo crying on that sidewalk, how he looked so dead when he realized his powers were gone, and how terrified he was in knowing that getting his powers could very well kill him. "You can order me around and shit after Ichigo is back. Until then, don't fuck with me."

As Grimmjow began to turn around and exit, he felt something shake beneath his feet, and heard some kind of explosion in his periphery. At that moment, a Hell Butterfly swooped into the office, and Yamamoto heard its warning. Grimmjow saw it loud and clear when Yamamoto began to stand to his feet. A smirk emerged on the ex-Espada's face, his hand gripping his Zanpaktou. "Heh. Guess I don't need Urahara's ass to tell me where those Tenshi no Namida are. They're already here."

XLXLXL

Kenpachi walked along a dirt path towards the 12th squad buildings, disappointed in the lack of action inside Seireitei. He sighed. "Damn, it's so boring around here," he muttered to himself. Yachiru cocked her head to the side, hanging on his shoulder with little to no effort. "Yachiru, isn't that Espada supposed to be comin' today?"

She nodded. "Ai!" she answered. Abruptly, an explosion somewhere nearby caught both of their attention, and in one swift moment, Kenpachi's frown transformed into a smile, teeth and all.

"Yachiru, lead the way!" The pink-haired child saluted in understanding.

"That way, Ken-chan!" She pointed in a random direction, Kenpachi chuckling heartily as he raced off towards the sound.

XLXLXL

Renji really hated doing documents and papers. But he knew very well that he couldn't deny whatever his captain told him to do. He continued to sign paper after paper, hearing his own captain scribble down stuff on his own work. He wondered if Byakuya ever had any free time at all. And he also wondered if he ever had fun in his life at least once.

As he lowered his pen towards the next page, something exploded not too far away from squad 6's building, and Renji immediately took to his feet. Byakuya stood on his haunches, gliding out of the room. "Renji," he began as the red-head followed quickly behind him.

"Yes, Taichou?"

At that exact moment, the drums began to echo throughout Seireitei, communicating that Ryoka had arrived and that these were no normal invaders. "These Ryoka. They were the ones you fought?" Renji only steered his eyes to the floor, ashamed of himself. He had lost that battle lamely, and nearly lost his life in the process. But Byakuya didn't need any other word. "Renji… if you lose, don't bother returning."

To others, it may have seemed like it was a cold statement. But to Renji, he knew his captain all too well. That there, was motivation in true colors. He smiled with determination. "Right!"

XLXLXL

Toshiro had finally lost his lieutenant, who was no doubt still trying to find him. That woman just didn't quit. Matsumoto had been taking pictures of him while he was asleep for the Shinigami Women's Association, and if it were not for him hearing the flashes and her giggling, his pictures would be all over Seireitei. He had frozen the camera she was using, but she ended up taking out another one from underneath her Shinigami robes, and now he was running for his life.

Abruptly, his little chase with Matsumoto ended when he saw something land on a building and crash until dust swept the air above it. Matsumoto came bounding up behind him, snapping some pictures when she saw how serious he looked. "Taichou?" she asked. A Hell Butterfly suddenly flew by, and it landed on Matsumoto's finger. When she heard the news, her smile immediately disappeared. She followed where her captain's eyes were trained on.

Toshiro's hands balled into fists. "They're here."