Chapter One: This Is All A Part Of My Plan.
Aizen Sousuke sat upon his throne in the main room of Las Noches, with his chin propped elegantly on the back of his hand; his elbow rested on the arm of the throne. He sighed inwardly and contemplated the recent events, wondering how he could once and for all put an end to Kurosaki Ichigo. That boy had become more than an interest and more of a problematic enigma.
He glanced out of the window, towards the false sky he had had Szayel create and watched as the sun began to set across the horizon, shoot various shades of pastel colours into the sky, illuminating it in several moment of brilliant glory before it passed and darkness fell across the sands.
He looked away and closed his eyes in thought, his ears pricking as he heard his second in command, the ever sly Ichimaru Gin, approaching from the left.
He tilted his head slightly, "What news Gin?" he asked as the other came to a stop a short distance away.
"Eh Aizen-taichou… How did you know it was me? I was bein' real quiet too…" the silver haired former captain complained playfully.
"Exactly Gin… You are always exceedingly quiet when you approach. Unless, of course, you are feeling reckless or stupid." He replied with a slight smirk.
Gin thought about this for a moment and felt a slight pout form on his lips before he eradicated it and replaced it with his usual fox-like smile, "Eh well… I will just have to think of another way to vex Aizen-taichou."
"You will not. If you're wise." He said in sharp response, playful under the surface, of course… He did enjoy Gin's meagre attempts at entertainment, "However, I believe I asked you a question Gin. Do not make me repeat myself."
The silver haired fox winced inwardly and cleared his throat, "Ulquiorra has just returned." He replied.
"Ah, excellent. Send him to me, I wish to hear his report."
"Of course, Aizen-taichou." He said before he flash-stepped from the room to collect the stoic number four Espada.
Only a few moments after Gin's retreat, the door of the room opened again and the Espada in question walked forwards, stopping before Aizen and bowing lowly to him.
"Aizen-sama. I have returned. You wished to see me?"
Aizen opened his eyes and looked down at him, "Welcome home, Ulquiorra. Yes, I wish to know of your report."
Ulquiorra nodded and slowly got to his feet, he lifted a hand and gouged his eye from its socket, pulling it free and closing his lids over the empty hole before holding his hand up and crushing the green orb.
Aizen settled back; closed his eyes and watched as the optic memories Ulquiorra had perceived washed over him.
Kurosaki Ichigo at his local school with friends, Sado, Inoue and Ishida; the walk home to the clinic his father Kurosaki Isshin ran; the entrance this received from said man including an aerial assault of testing kicks and punches; the stubborn refusal of eating dinner with his family, and instead choosing upon alone time in his room. Later, upon sensing hollows nearby the application of the substitute seal Ukitake Jushiro had given to him upon his departure from Soul Society after rescuing Kuchiki Rukia from her execution; followed by a hasty hunt for hollows which were easily dispatched.
Aizen opened his eyes and looked down at Ulquiorra, "You have done well." He said simply and got to his feet, "Call a meeting, I wish to speak with the Espada. I have a mission for a few of you."
Ulquiorra bowed, "Of course, Aizen-sama."
That night, Aizen sat at the head of the table, watching the ten Espada, plus Tousen and Gin piled into the meeting room and took to their usual places. He took a sip of tea and remained silent for a long while. Then, when he had finally finished comprising what he wished to say he set his cup down, as if a signal to all present a deathly silence fell upon the meeting room.
"As you have been informed, I hope, I have a mission for a few of you which is to be carried out without question." He began sternly, "It occurs to me that the shinigami's only real ace in the hole is Kurosaki Ichigo-" he noticed a couple of ears prick at the sound of his name, 'Of course,' he thought to himself, 'That boy has made a couple of grave enemies here already.' He chuckled inwardly, "So I believe the best course of action to make the shinigami panic and become unstuck… Is to remove their ace as quickly as possible. That is to say… We are going to kidnap Kurosaki Ichigo."
All eyes were on him as he revealed the plan to them, Grimmjow ground his teeth together and similarly Yammy balled his dustbin like hands into fists.
"Kidnap?" Grimmjow finally couldn't help himself, "Not kill? Kidnap?"
Aizen smirked inwardly, "Yes Grimmjow… We are going to kidnap him. If he is killed that simply will not do that will be an end to the whole sordid affair. However if he is kidnapped… We will hold a power over their heads which will make them stressful and they will begin to make mistakes."
"Aizen-sama," Ulquiorra said politely, "What if he does not mean as much to them as we are led to believe… What if there is another who could easily take him place?"
"I have considered that as well Ulquiorra I assure you. However when I encountered Kurosaki in Soul Society I was led to believe he is very unique. Everything about him is unique in fact. He has enormous potential but lacks the means of accessing it. I do not believe there is another shinigami, or human, like him around."
There was a long pause while the Espada soaked in this information, several wondering who would be chosen to face this powerful foe.
Aizen didn't leave them to dwell too long and cleared his throat the regain their full attention, "I have decided that four of you will go." He said, "Yammy, Szayel, Grimmjow and Ulquiorra. Ulquiorra will be your mission leader and if any of you disobey an order that he gives you rest assured… I will know about it." He said darkly before his lips twisted into a smirk, "Now, you will leave immediately. Your mission is to capture not kill and if he dies the best you should hope is that I kill you quickly." He got to his feet, "One more thing, and this is by far the most important order. Szayel, take that new serum you have been working on, when you capture him inject it."
Szayel swallowed, "Yes Aizen-sama." He said with a small bow of his head.
"Good. Any questions?"
Ulquiorra nodded, "What if we encounter any of his… Acquaintances?"
"If it is the humans… render them unconscious. If by chance you happen across Urahara Kisuke or Shihouen Yoruichi, you may kill them. Although, Yammy, you should be more careful, in your current state I rather think they could kill you."
Yammy stared at the Lord of Hueco Mundo and growled under his breath and shuffled his fee under the table at the obvious insult.
"Yes Aizen-sama." He confirmed.
"Good. Dismissed." He told them with a wave of his hand before he left ahead of them with Tousen and Gin.
"Is this what'cha have been mullin' over Aizen-taichou?" Gin asked as they walked onto one of the many balconies.
"Yes Gin." He replied with a small smirk as he looked across the sands.
"What are ya plannin' to do with Kurosaki?"
Aizen replied only with an amused glance in Gin's direction, and the former captain knew better than to question any further.
Meanwhile, Ulquiorra led the other three Espada to the now open Garganta.
"I just don't get why we can't kill the little bastard…" Grimmjow complained for what must have been the twelfth time in ten minutes.
"I can't believe Aizen-sama has ordered me to leave the laboratory… What about all my precious experiments and research!" Szayel whined.
"Shaddap!" Yammy and Grimmjow snapped together, making the Octava Espada jump. Ulquiorra sighed and glanced back at them, shaking his head slightly before the four of them walking into the Garganta, towards Karakura Town.
The greatly desired orange haired substitute shinigami in question was currently running down the deserted street towards a cluster of hollows. He gritted his teeth and leapt into the air "Getusuga Tenshou!" he yelled; a burst of bright blue and white light shooting from the blade of his Zanpakuto, Zangetsu. He dropped back down to the ground as he watched several of the hollows dissipate. He looked at the three remaining hollows and lifted the large blade again, running forwards before he skidded to a halt upon hearing the yell of his fellow shinigami, and friend, Kuchiki Rukia, "Tsugi no mai, Hakuren!" the younger sister of the sixth division captain cried, they watched as the hollows were frozen and then destroyed by the raging cold ice she had fired.
"Rukia!" Ichigo exclaimed and ran over to her, "What are you doing here? I thought you were staying in Seireitei with Byakuya…"
"Ichigo…" she greeted before continuing, "I was going to, but we had some news that some Arrancar might be coming to Karakura town and so the Head Captain ordered a small group to come here to help you safe guard everyone."
"Arrancar?" he asked, "Have there been any sightings of them yet?"
"No, not as yet. But there are five of us and we're dotted over the town keeping look out."
"Who did you bring?"
"You mean who brought me…" she corrected, "Matsumoto-fuku-taichou, Kira-fuku-taichou, Renji and Hitsugaya-taichou." She told him, "I've been looking for you so we can regroup and figure out a plan to protect the town. But you've been damn difficult to locate."
He sighed, "I've been kinda busy myself fighting off these hollows that have been hanging around." He told her, "Do we have any idea why or when they are coming?"
"Not yet… But we know that they could be here any day."
"Fantastic…" he grumbled.
She ignored his comment and pulled out a blue mobile phone, she dialled a number and put the phone to her ear. Simultaneously, four other mobiles rang and were answered by the respective shinigami they belonged to.
"Hitsugaya-taichou, I've found Ichigo. Where should we regroup?" she said.
"About time Rukia!" Ichigo heard Renji exclaim down the receiver.
"Good work Kuchiki-san," the more dulcet tones of the tenth division captain silenced Renji instantly, "We'll come to your location, stay put until then."
"Understood Hitsugaya-taichou." She replied before hanging up and looking around at Ichigo, "They're coming to us."
Ichigo nodded and sat down on the pavement, putting Zangetsu into the bandage sheath on his back as he waited patiently.
Rukia checked her phone about ten minutes later and frowned, looking around for any sign of them. Ichigo noticed her concern and got to his feet, walking over to her and resting a hand on her shoulder, "They might have run into some hollows." He offered. She nodded, though her expression obviously showed she was unconvinced.
Another five minutes passed before she shook her head and dialled the number again, putting the phone to her ear as she waited for someone to answer it. Ichigo watched as her expression went from concerned to sheer fearful as someone answered and he took the phone from her, holding it up to his own ear. His eyes flew wide as he heard screaming and clashes which sounded like swords meeting forcefully.
He frowned and opened his mouth to speak before hearing a familiar ripping sound above them; he spun on his heel and looked up towards the sky as the Garganta opened, revealing the black space beyond.
He shoved the phone into Rukia's hand and grabbed her, throwing her over his shoulder before he began flash-stepping towards Hitsugaya's reiatsu as quickly as he possibly could.
"Can you see who it is?" he called back to her as he continued running.
"N… No… No one's left yet… Wait…" she went silent for a moment before she let out a shaky breath, "It's that blue haired one…"
"Grimmjow." He breathed.
"… And there's a dark haired one… he's very pale…"
"Ulquiorra." He cursed.
"… A pinked haired one…"
"Szayel." He frowned in confusion.
"And… the big one!"
"Yammy." He finished, "Shit!" he said and sped up.
"I… Ichigo… They're all coming this way!"
He glanced behind them and saw indeed the four Espada were heading straight towards them. He swore as he watched Szayel and Grimmjow jump into a sonido and looked ahead, he rounded a corner and saw Hitsugaya fighting with a lower level Arrancar, glancing around he also saw Matsumoto, Renji and Kira in their own fights. He swallowed and ran towards them before skidding to a stop as Szayel appeared in front of him and blocked them from view. He turned and went to run back but was blocked by Grimmjow's abrupt appearance.
He swallowed and set Rukia down on her feet, moving his hand to the hilt of his Zanpakuto. He glanced between the two Espada and gritted his teeth.
"Ye lord! Mask of flesh and bone, flutter of wings, ye who bears the name of Man! Truth and temperance, upon this sinless wall of dreams unleash but slightly the wrath of your claws!" Ichigo looked around at Rukia as she fired the blue kido at Grimmjow and took the moment of surprise for grab her and run from between them, drawing Zangetsu at the same time as he sprinted towards the others who had paused their battles when they had heard the explosion.
"Kurosaki!" Hitsugaya yelled, "What's on the Earth was that?"
"ESPADA!" he bellowed back at him and saw his expression change instantly.
He glanced over his shoulder as the dust settled and his eyes widened as he watched a thick coil of something shoot towards him. He turned and raised his Zanpakuto to strike it but was taken unawares as it changed direction and coiled around his ankle, tripping him up and forcing him to drop Rukia as he was dragged up into the air upside down with a startled cry.
There were abrupt shouts of, "Ichigo!" and "Kurosaki!" from the other shinigami, as well as one curse of, "Shit!" from Renji. He ground his teeth as he forced himself to reach up and grab the coil around his ankle, he yanked at it but swore as it stung his hands and watched his palms redden slightly. He cursed and let himself drop vertically again as he looked at the others below him; he took several breaths before grabbing Zangetsu and hurling himself up again, letting out a roar as he sliced at the bind with the Zanpakuto. His eyes widened as the blade was deflected and felt his arm go a little dead from impact, "What the hell…" he muttered to himself and attacked it with his hands again, regardless of the stinging pain in his fingers and palms.
He froze as he heard a laughed from the still settling dust plume where Grimmjow and Szayel had been and felt his insides churn. He swung down again and turned slightly as he tried to see the cause of his entrapment.
"I told you it would be more than easy to capture him, Grimmjow." He heard Szayel's voice and clenched his jaw tightly, "After all… Much like you he is all brawn and no brain."
"Damn you!" he heard Grimmjow snap.
Moments later there was a gust of wind and the last of the dust settled revealing the two Espada. Grimmjow had mild scorch marks on his chest but was otherwise unharmed from Rukia's kido. Szayel was also totally unharmed, and had in fact seemingly used the distraction of the kido to enact some plan. He had an arm raised in Ichigo's direction; from his hand was a thick rope which was currently holding Ichigo over a hundred foot in the air. The scientist seem pleased that his invention and worked and threw his arm out, slamming Ichigo into a building before slamming him to the floor.
The second Ichigo hit the floor Yammy appeared and stood on him with one foot, in his hands was his Zanpakuto and he looked straight at the other shinigami who seemed unsure what they were supposed to do in the situation.
Grimmjow let out a bark of laughter and used sonido to speed over to where Ichigo and Yammy were, he shooed Yammy off of him and picked the berry head up by his hair, holding him up almost like a trophy to the other shinigami.
"Grimmjow." Ulquiorra said in his usual stiff way, "Stop playing with him. Remember our orders."
Grimmjow made a small, 'tch' sound and glared over his shoulder at the stoic Espada, "Quit tellin' me what to do! I wasn't even doing anythin' compared to Yammy!" he growled.
On the other side of the street, Hitsugaya and his group watched in horror as the Espada argued over Ichigo.
"We've gotta do something Hitsugaya-taichou!" Renji hissed in concern, "They look about ready to rip him apart!"
"I agree sir… We've got to help Ichigo." Rukia nodded, looking at the white haired captain hopefully.
Hitsugaya sighed and nodded, "I know." He replied, looking at Rukia, "I need you to contact the Research Bureau, we will need our Gentei Reiin released." He ordered; she nodded and darted off to a safe distance before dialling the mobile a third time, "The rest of you… until then we'll have to do what we can to free Kurosaki." They nodded and drew their Zanpakuto.
Ulquiorra looked around as the shinigami prepared to charge them and looked across at Szayel; he caught the pink haired scientist's gaze and gave a confirming nod. Szayel shot towards Grimmjow and their semi-unconscious captive but skidded to a stop suddenly as the orange haired male shot a fist out and into Grimmjow's face, forcing him to release him from his grasp. Szayel tutted in distaste and quickly prepared the injection Aizen had prompted him to use.
Ichigo dropped onto his hands and knees as Grimmjow released him and coughed up blood from where he'd been tossed around and trodden on. He lifted his gaze to his friends across the street and glanced around at Grimmjow before reaching for Zangetsu.
"GETSUGA TENSHOU!" he roared at the top of his lungs as he swept his Zanpakuto upwards towards the blue haired Espada. The flash of light made contact and he scrambled away from Grimmjow only to have his wrist grabbed by the scientist. His eyes widened as he watched a syringe coming towards him and tried to break free. But in seconds Yammy hand grabbed his other arm and stopped him moving.
His breath hitched as the needle stuck into his arm and he gritted his teeth as he saw a vile green liquid being injected into his body. He threw his head back as a sudden burning pain rippled across his body and caused him to cry out, his eyes smarting slightly as he struggled against their grip. He let his head hang forwards as a wave of nausea washed over him and he started shaking and getting very cold.
Hitsugaya held a hand up to stop them as they watched the pink haired Espada inject something into Kurosaki's arm and frowned as he tried to figure out what was going on. He faltered as the substitute shinigami cried out in apparent pain and swallowed, hesitant to continue without knowing what was happening.
"Taichou!" Renji exclaimed, "We've gotta help him!"
"No." he replied sternly, "We don't know the situation or if there is more of that drug… We need to tread carefully. Don't forget who we're dealing with!"
"But Hitsugaya-taichou…" he broke off at the young captain's gaze and swallowed as he looked back towards his friend.
Ulquiorra watched what happened very carefully, noting that the shinigami had ground to a halt.
Ichigo arched his back and let out a broken roar of pain, a black hole forming in his chest which expanded greatly over the course of a few seconds before a huddle of cloth fell out and onto the ground, rolled a few times before grinding to a stop and becoming motionless. This happened a second time, a mass of black cloth tumbling from the black hole in his chest and collapsing beside the first. Then, the hole sealed and Ichigo was left drained and weakened greatly.
Szayel grinned proudly that another invention had worked as the two large bundles of black cloth began to move.
Ichigo's eyes widened as he watched the first lump of material get to its feet and felt his blood run cold as he saw the physical form of his Zanpakuto's bankai form stood before him, Tensa Zangetsu. He swallowed and his eyes widened again as he recognised the pale skin of his hollow as the second bundle of cloth, "Zan…getsu…" he breathed looking back at his Zanpakuto, glancing towards his hollow, "Shiro…saki…"
Ulquiorra glanced at Yammy and Szayel before looking back at Grimmjow, he nodded once to each of them before they yanked Kurosaki's arms behind his back and bound them there with reiatsu suppressing cuffs, they also tied a cloth around his mouth to silence him, as he and Grimmjow knew he had a foul mouth when he needed it.
Ichigo struggled weakly, unable to find any of his usual strength as his Zanpakuto fell from his hands as they were bound. He stared at Tensa Zangetsu and Shirosaki in front of him before his eyes widened and he was suddenly in the air with the Espada.
"Kurosaki!" Hitsugaya exclaimed in surprise as he was suddenly flashed up to an opening Garganta.
"Ichigo!" Renji, Matsumoto and Kira yelled and looked at Hitsugaya for orders.
Rukia rejoined them and stared up at Ichigo before her eyes widened as he was taken into the Garganta which began to close.
"After them!" Hitsugaya suddenly bellowed and went to flash-step to the Garganta before they were over taken by the pair which had been dragged out of Kurosaki's body.
Shirosaki swore as Tensa took off towards the Garganta and their King, following in hot pursuit however. They both stopped dead as the Garganta closed before they could reach it and looked at each other.
"Great… Now wha'?" Shirosaki snapped at the younger, bankai version of Zangetsu, "The King's been kidnapped and we ain't with him!"
"It won't do us or Ichigo any good to argue with each other." Tensa replied coolly, "We need to figure out why we were separated from him and how to get back to him.
"Obviously!" he half exploded back at him, before faltering and folding his arms in a huff, "All I remember's a light and a burning back before it felt like I was being yanked by meh stomach. Then I was on the ground there."
He sighed heavily, "That is exactly as I felt it." He agreed, looking at where the Garganta had been sadly.
"Well…" Shirosaki paused and faltered at the other's expression, "Quit actin' like he's dead! He'll be fine!"
They both looked around as they were joined by the shinigami from the ground and eyes them suspiciously before remembering each of them from Ichigo's thoughts.
For the shinigami triage it wasn't quite the same, they had no idea who the two were, despite the albino one looking oddly like Ichigo.
"Who on Earth are you?" Hitsugaya asked, becoming weary as they both fixed him with a stern glare.
"… And Shirosaki Hichigo." They said together.
Hitsugaya blinked and frowned slightly, "And I will say again… Who on Earth are you?"
Tensa frowned and sighed, "I am Ichigo's Zanpakuto, Zangetsu. And this is Shirosaki is the source of Ichigo's hollow power."
He was certain he wasn't alone when his eyes widened at the introduction, he glanced at the other around him and saw the same expression of shock and disbelief on all their faces. He looked back around and opened his mouth to speak before he closed it again and thought for a moment.
"Taichou…" Matsumoto said quietly and rested a hand on his shoulder, "We should report back to the Head Captain.
He glanced at her and nodded, "You're right. Kuchiki-san, Abarai-fuku-taichou, stay here and try to contact Kurosaki's close friends, the ones who came to Soul Society with him. Leave Orihime to us though, we still have the equipment at her house to contact Soul Society." He ordered.
"Yes Taichou!" they both said and flash-stepped away quickly.
Hitsugaya looked back at the pair, "What are you going to do?"
"Go afta' 'im of course." Shirosaki replied with a light hearted shrug as he glanced at the dark haired young Zanpakuto beside him and saw him nod.
"Of course, I expected you to say as much." The small captain sighed before looking back at them both, "I would like you to wait until I've spoke with the Head Captain and we will see if we can offer you some help in returning Kurosaki to his rightful place."
There was a moment's silence in which the pair stared at each other, almost as if they were communicating silently. Then, the dark haired Zanpakuto looked back at Hitsugaya and nodded. The captain let out a breath and led the way to one of Ichigo's friend's homes.
While Hitsugaya and Matsumoto led the Zanpakuto spirit and hollow to Orihime's home, and while Renji and Rukia sought out other allies, Aizen Sousuke sat back in his throne and watched as Ulquiorra, Yammy, Grimmjow and Szayel dragged a semi-unconscious orange haired shinigami towards him.
He rested his chin on his hand as the drained Kurosaki Ichigo was dropped to the floor at his feet and nudged him with his foot, smirking widely as the orange haired teenager raised his head slowly and looked back at him with those large, determined, hazel colour eyes. He felt a shudder run down his spine as he considered the countless ways he could kill this boy and smirked wider still as he ordered his Espada to confine him to one of the rooms on the top floor.
He chuckled to himself, "Szayel." He said and watched as the pink haired scientist froze and looked over his shoulder at him, "Was the separation a success?"
The Octava-Espada turned around and looked at him, "Yes Aizen-sama. The Zanpakuto Zangetsu and the hollow Shirosaki Hichigo are separated from their host and remain in the World of the Living with the shinigami."
"Good. Dismissed." He said and looked away, smirking as the beginnings of his plan began to unfold.