Chapter 37

Previously

"You know…it seems that not only you required some humbling Ichigo." Yoruichi said with a sad expression. "My arrogance almost got me killed." Ichigo moved and took her hand, rubbing it with his thumb. "I underestimated my Brother completely."

"Yoruichi what happened?" Tia asked, worry written all over her face.

"My Brother's gone insane."

Silence fell on the room as Yoruichi uttered those words. She gripped the sheets tightly and shut her eyes.

Tia and Ichigo exchanged worried looks. They already knew that Yoruichi's Brother was insane, but what could he have possibly done to cause her to have that expression.

"Yoruichi what happened?" Ichigo said gently, wrapping his arms around her. The Goddess of Flash leaned into his embrace. She looked at him weakly a haunted looked in her sad eyes.

"I guess I should start from beginning…"


Flashback - A Week Earlier

Yoruichi was running through the wildness of the western Rukongai. She left District 80 behind her a few good hours ago, and was now in a unmapped areas. The place was one large thick jungle, with enormous trees and spanning hundreds of miles. A few days ago a messenger from Elder Kenji had delivered her a message. He wrote that her Brother was moving many wagons, contents unknown, to the far west.

Yamazaki was planning something big, and she needed to see what her Brother was up to. That's why she struggled through the thick bushes currently. She already noticed a few scouts on her way, meaning she was closing in. Elder provided her with the vague location of where the event would take place. He wrote that he hadn't managed to squeeze the details out of Yamazaki, but he was certain that if this particular operation succeeded, he would manage to consolidate his iron grip over the clan, forever.

At that was something that Yoruichi couldn't allow.

After a few hours of traveling through the thick jungle, she finally found what she was looking for. Or rather what she expected, but as usual, these days her Brother managed to surprise her.

'HE BUILD A FREAKIN FORTRESS HERE?!' And indeed Yamazaki Shihoin did. In the middle of nowhere, stood a fortress.

And Yoruichi begrudgingly had to give her Brother a credit. It was made in a way, that without a specific location, you wouldn't be able to find it. The inner walls were colored a dirty brown, and the plant life was allowed to grow on it, making it melt into the jungle scenery. The roofs were covered in large leaves, but Yoruichi had little doubt that beneath was solid stone. The building itself was placed between two large trees, and had three floors. The outer walls were made in a way to mimic rock formations, and were also covered in plant life.

The only thing that betrayed the complex as made by man, were the to straight lines to be anything natural.

Yoruichi crept closer to the outer walls, and pressed herself to them. For this mission she specifically wore her special uniform, as with all her clothes, it was skin tight. Knowing the terrain she choose a brown-ish, green version to merge with her surroundings. Her face and hair were covered by a mask of the same color, leaving only her eyes visible.

She expanded her senses, and felt dozens guards in and outside the complex, with one particularly powerful presence inside a few floors underground.

'Yamazaki..' She growled in her mind. She swiftly moved up to the wall and hung on the edge, waiting for a guard to pass. Then she jumped over the outer wall, and hid in the nearest bush. That was a minus of letting the plant life grow as it pleased. It gave potential infiltrators a lot of places to hide. Crawling through the bushes, she managed to get to the gate of the inner fortress undetected. Now was the tricky part, how to get inside without anyone noticing?

Easy, create a diversion…

BOOOM!

A large explosion shook the ground. Shooting masses of earth and plants into the sky, just below the outer walls. An alarm sounded through the fortress, and the gate opened with contingent of Yamazaki's goons shooting out of the building to investigate. With a sly smile Yoruichi went inside and moved towards the place her Brother was. She soundlessly maneuvered through the maze of gray corridors and many doors to various rooms.

After few minutes of traveling undetected, she decided to go into one of the doors that was almost above Yamazaki's reiatsu. She carefully slipped in, and noticed that it was just a utility room. Smiling at her luck, she used a Shiba Clan spell, and created a tunnel for herself by turning the concentrate floor into sand. Then she re-created the floor above her head, closing the hole so no one could follow her.

"Ok, I have air for about fifteen minutes." She mumbled, and began melting through the rocks at an agonizingly slow pace. She could go faster, but she hadn't wanted to bust into Yamazaki's room. So centimeter by centimeter she checked the rock's thickness, to gauge how much she had left till she reaches the ceiling of the room.

At the point when her air supply almost ran out, she made a small circular hole and took a deep breath, filling her lungs with fresh air. Looking around she saw that she screwed up her directions a little, and instead of the ceiling, she ended a few centimeters below the place where the rooms walls connected with the ceiling.

Then Yoruichi saw Yamazaki. He was standing alone on the increase in the large room full of some sort of transparent canisters. They were filled with bubbling green-ish liquid, and lit by the light of the yellow-ish shade. They were dozens if not hundreds of them. Upon closer inspection, Yourichi noticed that something was floating inside.

Weapons, all the canisters were filled with weapons.

'Why the hell's he keeping weapons inside - oh sweet Kami no…' Her blood went cold as she realized that something was horribly wrong with these weapons.

Normal weapons didn't have eyes.

She was terribly wrong, the canisters weren't lit by light. It was the glow coming from a single, lidless, yellow eye staring into nothingness. Those weren't normal weapons, those were…

"Bakkōtō." She breathed.

Instantly images of horrible mutations caused by those swords flashed through Yoruichi mind. The Kasumioji assassins turned into empty husks that craved nothing, but power and slaughter. The sight of them being devoured by the very swords that gave them power. And now all these men were replaced by her clan, her family. Her heart ached painfully, and she imagined Shinpachi with empty glowing yellow eyes.

But then her dread morphed into fury. She needed to deal with her Brother before it was too late.

"Wonderful isn't it?" Yamazaki suddenly said, startling her.

'I'm hiding my presence! How does he know?!' Yoruichi started to panic.

"Come out of your little hidey-hole Yoruichi, I know that you're here." He said looking straight at her. Having no other option she made the hole larger, and jumped, landing a few meters away from him. Both siblings eyed each other in silence, as if probing one another, sizing each other up.

"Have you really fallen that low?" Yoruichi asked.

"Pardon? I don't know what you are getting at?" Yamazki smirked.

"Stop playing the fool, you know exactly what those things do to their users!" She spat, furrowing her eyebrows. "They are our family! How can you even think of subjecting them to something like that!"

"I thought I've told you… the Shihoin's are mine, and you're no longer a part of this clan." He casually walked to one of the canisters and caressed it's glassy edge. "It was meant as precaution, in case I needed more fire power…and sadly your foolishness has forced my hand." He glared darkly at her. His golden cat-like eyes staring into hers.

"Why Yamzaki?! Why are you doing this?!" She exclaimed with hints of despair. How could her own flesh and blood be so different.

"Because of you." He said calmly. "Everything, is because of you."

This allegation made Yoruichi speechless.

'But how? What had I ever done to him?' Her eyes widened.

"See? You don't know even what you did to me…Typical, you were always so focused on yourself." He shook his head. "I pity Kurosaki and his other girlfriend, wondering when you will cause them grief, if you hadn't already done so." His comment hit a nerve. Deep inside she still felt guilty for making Tia share Ichigo with her like that.

"At the least I hadn't killed my own wife-" She hadn't even managed to finish that sentence, and Yamazaki was on her already, blatant fury written all over his face. He dropped his purple Kimono, with the Shihoin crest to the ground, revealing the clothes he had beneath it. He wore a black, army style pants with heavy boots, and a black sleeveless T-shirt, that showed his muscular arms and shoulders.

Yoruichi had to admit that she was having hard time keeping up with him. His attacks were precise and lighting fast, not to mention strong as hell.

She deflected a right hook to her face, and spun around, sending a kick to Yamazki's throat, but he caught her by her foot.

"Let's take this somewhere else." He growled, and with one strong throw he sent her flying out of the room...through the wall.

Yoruichi gasped in pain as she hit the stone wall in the corridor. She couldn't remember her Brother being this strong, and ever pushing her back like that. That didn't matter though, he needed to go down and she would be the one to do it, Yamazki was her responsibility.

Jumping to her feet, she took her stance and waited for him.

"Let's take this outside." He said coming through the hole. "I don't want to damage this place anymore."

"So you can surround me with your goons, not on your life!" She snapped.

"You're under the impression that I need them to defeat you…Besides open areas would be more suited for your style." He shrugged and walked down the corridor.

Cautiously, she followed him outside. They hadn't exchanged any words on the way. A few times Yamazaki stopped his men from attacking her, but a small crowd already gathered following them, solidifying Yoruichi's suspicions about him. When they were outside she was greeted by a sight of almost fifty men, from Shihoin, Omaeda, and Fon clans.

"Shihoin-sama, forgive me for letting her slip in undetected." One of Shihoin clansmen fell to his knees, his forehead touching the ground. "I'll accept any punishment!"

"Never mind that. Her skills are way out of your league." He said in a dismissive tone. "As punishment, clean the mess in the Bakkoto room." He passed them and walked outside the fortress. "All of you, this is my fight, do not interfere no matter what." He ordered.

"HAI!" His men shouted, but remained to observe the fight.

"I'm surprised you kept your word." Yoruichi stated, pulling off her mask.

"I always keep my word…and now I promise you that I'll murder Kurosaki if you ever accuse me of murdering Kagura again…" He growled with hate filled eyes. "So mind your words, bitch."

That made Yoruichi pause. This time the hatred in his eyes weren't directed at her, but at someone else.

'He hadn't done it? But Elder Kenji said otherwise…He must be lying, his men are watching after all.' She glared at him. "Let's end this once and for all, Brother!" She snapped and jumped at him, using the open terrain to her advantage. Bringing her heel down on him, she wanted to end it as soon as possible.

Yamazaki, seeing her attack, dodged to the side, but Yoruichi anticipated this. She landed on the foot that supposedly she wanted to kick him with, and sent a powerful kick with her other leg at his side. Yamazaki, wanting to protect his side, leaned sideways, taking the hit on his left shoulder. Enduring the pressure and pain, he countered with his right fist to Yoruichi's stomach. Milliseconds before his fist connected, Yoruichi moved backward, so the hit only came out as strong shove.

Using her momentary retreat, Yamazaki charged in, and undercut her legs, but Yoruichi back flipped, and landed on her hands and then again on her feet. As soon as she same out of it, she had to bend backwards to avoid a nasty hit to her chin from below. Doing another back flip, she attempted to hit Yamazaki's chin with her foot, but her Brother was faster, and managed to move his head back while simultaneously delivering a brutal frontal kick to her unprotected back, sending her flying and crashing into the nearest tree.

"You're slipping." He stated, crossing his arms.

"Lucky hit." Yoruichi snapped back, but she started to feel threatened. It was like she as fighting another man. The Yamazaki she remembered was impatient and hot-headed, and his skills, while superb, were still a far cry from hers. But now the man standing in front of her, was calm and composed, and his skill was on par with hers. 'He's changed.'

This time Yamazaki initiated the fight by disappearing in Shunpo, and reappearing above her mid air. Yoruichi jumped forward, avoiding his kick. Yamazaki's leg hit the ground, and literally tore it apart by the sheer of force.

Yoruichi looked at this with wide eyes. It wasn't because of the size of the hole. She could make one ten times bigger, but because of the amount of Reiatsu he used….or the lack of thereof. He managed to create a crater fifteen meters in width, just with his pure psychical strength. Even she wouldn't be able to do that.

"Don't look so surprised." Yamazki said, dusting himself off. "You think I spent the last one hundred and ten years sitting on my hands?" Then in a lighting fast move, he appeared in front of her. Yoruichi knew he wanted her to jump back, but she deiced to surprise him.

She head butted him, cracking his nose, but at the same time she felt like she'd hit a wall.

'Maybe that wasn't the best idea.' She thought, massaging her sore forehead.

"Clever." He commented with a bleeding nose. Yoruichi flashed him a grin, and jumped forward with her fists filled with Reiatsu. It was time to get serious.

"Raiōken!" A volley of ultra-fast punches fell on Yamazki. Yoruichi knew that with the amount of Reiatsu she put into her fists it would be lethal, but she had to stop her Bother's madness.

"I hope that you will find peace in ne-" She paused when she noticed….that he was blocking them. Every single one of her punches were being blocked. Not even one slipped past his guard, not a single one! He was actually starting to push her back with rapid counter attacks. His eyes were focused and his mind was set. The first one to hit would win this fight.

Luckily for Yoruichi, she managed to finally slip past his guard, and hit him in the stomach. Again she felt like she hit a concrete wall, but it still had the desired effect. He grunted in pain and curled back.

She was ready to end it with one chop to the neck, when suddenly he roared in fury, and kneed her in the solar plexus, kicking the air out of her lungs. Yoruichi bent forward, but was quickly snapped straight when Yamazaki caught her by her hair.

"Don't underestimate me, bitch!" He growled and viciously backhanded her. "You think you can defeat me like that? You think that I've done nothing in all these years!" His voice raised an octave. "I've been training to the point of exhaustion every fucking day! Just to catch up with you! The golden egg! The prodigy! The star of Shihoin! But I tell you what, hard work beats talent! I have surpassed you! I am the true head of the Shihoin, not you!" He shouted to the sky, his voice echoing through the jungle. "I am no longer that pathetic excuse of a man you knew! I AM YAMAZAKI SHIHOIN! 23rd CLAN HEAD OF SHIHOIN!" He started to glow with a dark blue Reiatsu.

Yoruichi stood shakily from the ground. She couldn't believe how much her Brother progressed. His posture, the power he emanated, the authority, those were the true attributes of a leader.

'Pity he's so twisted.' She shook her head. "It's time to end this, Brother….For all it's worth, I'm impressed with your progress…You would've made a great clan head." She said with regret.

"You always thought of yourself as all knowing and superior." He spat. "I am the clan head…Better than you ever were."

"Not from what I've heard." She gathered her Reiatsu.

"And have you ever bothered to listen to the other side?" He said in a patronizing voice, Yourichi remained silent. "Thought so."

Yoruichi, in response, started to glow white with ribbons of crackling energy around her.

"Ahh the famous Shunko, looks like you're finally getting serious." He looked at her mockingly. "Guess I shouldn't dissappoint." He started to glow white too, but unlike Yoruichi, his white aura seemed as if it was aflame, emitting heat.

'Why I'm not surprised?' She thought dryly.

Yamazaki grinned in excitement. This would be the most exciting battle since the end of the last rebellion, and to add that, his Sister was his opponent. Oh how long he had waited for this day to come, to finally crush her and prove his worth.

But he waited. Over a century of training, patience was the skill he honed the most. Looking back it was always what he lacked. He used to rush in without thinking, wanting to take the glory of quick win…and that used to damn him in the end.

But those times were long gone. He was now a different man. His body was a well-oiled machine, tempered by rigorous training, and hours of meditation. It was not the time to gloat, because the final round had just started, and he could still lose.

That thought made him grit his teeth to the point of cracking, but he controlled his anger. It would be arrogant of him to think that Yoruichi hadn't had a few aces left. His Sister was cunning and dangerous, so one misstep would cost him his life.

Both siblings stared at each other for a second, white energy tearing the ground between them apart. The irony of the sight was staggering.

As soon as both of their auras connected they disappeared in a burst of high speed Shunpo. Now Yamazaki's men could only see a burst of white in random places. It was like watching a light show.

But for both siblings it was a death match.

Yamazaki sent a front kick to Yourichi's chest, but she used her acrobatic skills, and jumped on his extended leg, elbowed him in the face, sending him flying sky high. Yet Yamazaki was quick to regain his footing, and charged down at her, sending a volley of super-fast punches to her. Yoruichi deflected every one of them, and twirled around, sending a powerful spin kick at his face, but missing utterly as he ducked below and caught her other leg between his legs. Using the motion he spun around, and make her plummet, crashing to the ground painfully.

Yoruichi ignored the pain and wriggled out of his grasp, making some distance between them.

"Hadō #63. Raikō-" She hadn't managed to finish, when her Brother was on her. Feeling a burst of Reiatsu, Yoruichi felt her spell disrupted. 'Hell you even know the Hanki.' She thought grimly, and kicked him in the chest, sending him back.

Undeterred Yamazaki jumped forward again, preparing a strong right hook. Yoruichi caught his extended hand, and pulled him forward, wanting to make him stumble, but that was exactly what he wanted. Using the momentum he made a small forward jump, and bent his body in an angle, she thought was unreachable for men. His body was now placed horizontally with respect to hers. Before she knew it his heel slammed in her face, sending her flying.

She cushioned the fall by landing on her shoulder and rolling back. Her face felt like it was about to explode. Her bastard Brother really packed a punch.

'I need to end this now.' She felt her power starting to drop, and unless she used Kaminari Shunkō, she would be screwed.

Gathering her power she focused and brought her technique to another level. The ribbons of energy started to crackle more wildly, emitting a booming sounds, as if a storm was approaching. The ground started to crack around her in random places, as if struck by a lightning.

"Kaminari (Thunderous) Shunko!" She uttered, staring at him with challenge. "A perfect form of this technique." She let herself smile when she saw his surprise, but then his expression changed to contemplation.

That unnerved her.

"Correction…one of the forms." He uttered. "Looks like we both came up with different outcomes for the final state…interesting." His white aura started to shine brightly, emitting even more heat, and burning the ground around him. "Nenshō (Burning) Shunko." He stated, looking back at her with challenge. "Let's end this Yoruichi, once and for all." He stated, getting into a stance, and just for a second a stray thought entered his mind.

Could things have been different between them? He focused his mind, it was way to late for them. All bridges have long since been burned away.

"Farewell Brother." Yoruichi whispered, and gather her power, making the vortexes spin faster, as Yamazaki did making, the thunderous ribbons crack with further power. Now it was like a lightning storm was about to collide with a fire storm.

They simultaneously lunged at each other, shouting battle cries.

Yamazaki's filled with hate.

Yoruichi's filled with sadness.

The area exploded into tornado of white power. Stray lightning hit the trees, piercing through them, and powerful flame set them ablaze. The men on the walls were pushed back like a rag dolls, powerless against the siblings' power.

Inside a massive standoff was taking place. Each of them tried to overpower the other with their respective variation of Shunko.

They both had their mind set on ending the others life, and put everything they had into this last attack.

Putting forth massive effort, they finally exchanged end blows. Yoruichi managed to graze Yamazaki's shoulder…while he managed to rip her left side, tearing her tender flesh. In that instant she was thrown away from the center, and crashed into the nearest tree. She coughed out a large amount of blood, but instantly she started to mutter a healing spell, to at the least stop the bleeding. As soon as she finished she lifted up her head and froze.

Yamazaki was slowly advancing towards her. He was glowing with power, his eyes turned white as if they were lit with a white unearthly glow, contrasting sharply with his dark skin. They looked as if they were burning in white flames.

The unbearable heat he emitted started to burn her skin as he approached.

For a first time in a long while Yoruichi felt dread. Dread so deep that a small whimper escaped her mouth.

She was frightened.

'I can't defeat him…I'll die.' She started to tremble, as his Reiatsu went higher. Acting like a cornered animal, she jumped into the forest and began running for her life. 'I don't want to die!' She thought with desperation. 'I want to live!'

Yoruichi Shihoin just lost a battle, and was running…as fast as she could.

"Come back here you COWARD!" Yamazaki howled. "DON'T RUN FROM ME, YORUICHI!" He would have chased, but he was spent. Nenshō Shunko gave him a considerable boost that helped him overcome Yoruichi's Kaminari Shunko, but it came at a price. It was extremely tasking on the user. "Kill her and bring me her body!" He roared at his men. They instantly went into a mad chase after Yoruichi.

DRIP…DRIP…DRIPDIRPDIRP…

Rain started to fall as a result of the battle. Yamazaki looked up to the sky, and despite exhaustion, he smiled. A triumphant smile on his battered face.

"I did it, I finally did it…I beat her…I BEAT HER! heheheHAHAHAHAHAHAH!" He started laughing, no roaring with laughter, tears sliding down his bloodied face. He laughed at the sky, and his men, but most of all at Yoruichi. At the thought of her, it took a hysteric tone almost making him choke. But he hadn't cared, his maniacal laughter rose an octave, sounding through the jungle.

He won.

Then sweet unconsciousness took him, as he hit the ground unaware that Yourichi heard his laugh…and started running even faster, as fear gave her additional power.


Present,

Yoruichi gripped sheets of her bed tightly, with tears spilling out her eyes. Her shoulders trembled and chin quivered as she was hugged by both Tia and Ichigo.

"I-I-I…ran….like a pathetic coward." She mumbled. "And I couldn't do anything to stop him…He was better…faster…stronger…and I ran away…to save my own damn skin!" A wave of shame washed over her.

"Yoruichi…" Ichigo started gently, his heart breaking seeing her pain.

"No! I failed…I underestimated him…I couldn't save my family...Damn him and the Bakkoto…" Her throat tightened. "And damn me for being a coward."

"Yoruichi you're not a coward…fear is natural-" Tia started, hugging her tighter.

"I am!…I hadn't ran because I was afraid of him…I didn't want to die." Her voice finally broke. "I didn't want to die…I wanted to spend more time with you…I wanted to be with you a little longer…I'm the worst…I abandoned my clan for my own selfish reasons…Please leave me alone…I need to think." She pleaded, sobbing. Tia and Ichigo begrudgingly obeyed her request and left her, but not before Ichigo kissed her and told her that he loved her.

Exiting the room, the duo exchanged painful looks.

Tia bore witness to how Ichigo's face changed from sadness, to worry, to deep fury, as if he would run to the Shihoin Clan, and murder their leader, then it changed to frustration.

"Ichigo…" She started gently.

"Now I know exactly how Byakuya felt when they wanted to execute Rukia." He said in a tight, controlled voice. "I want to murder him…To put him through the worst pain possible…but I can't!...My squad would suffer from my actions, you would suffer…Kami, I respect Byakuya on whole new level…To think that he managed to keep a straight face all that time…when he was so frustrated…so powerless…" He gritted his teeth. "Like a dog on a leash."

Don't let them put a leash on you, in one way or another.

Aizen words never sounded more bitter in his ears.

"We haven't lost yet…Yoruichi is alive, he just won this round." Tia said, a fire in her teal eyes.

"I agree. Now we know what to expect, and we'll be ready for it." Ichigo's eyes lit with his own determined fire. "And as soon as Yoruichi gets better, we will move on that son of a bitch."

The pure determination in Ichigo's voice made Tia believe Yoruichi will get better for sure.

"I envy you your faith Ichigo…It will take time for her…she was broken badly." Tia sighed.

"As was I at one time, but with your help I came through it. Now it's time to return the favor." He pulled her closer. "She'll grow stronger from that…every scar makes you stronger."

"And with every scar comes wisdom." Unohana's voice came from behind, startling them. "Pardon my intrusion, but Yoruichi needs a checkup." She said gently.

"Retsu-san, can you check on her later…She needs some time alone." Ichigo pleadingly asked.

"I suppose I can delay it for an hour or two…but only if you promise me to not do anything rash Ichigo." She said in stern voice.

"I won't. I'm past charging in head first…but he will get what's coming to him." Ichigo said darkly. "I can't let that slide."

"I understand, but be cautious. Yamazaki Shihoin is known for his skill in both combat and politics. He's a dangerous opponent, with many supporters." She warned him. "And in this battle, swords aren't the most dangerous weapons."

"I'm aware of that…That's why I'm still here." He said humorlessly. "But I know exactly the right person to help me." Ichigo grinned.

"Who?" Tia asked.

"Kuchiki Byakuya."


6th Divison HQ,

The Captain of the 6th Division was calmly filling out his share of paper work…and Renji's. His Vice-Captain was better suited for training the men than writing. But in moments like this Byakuya could enjoy the serenity of his office…Until a pair from the Kido Corps destroyed it completely, by just entering it. He instantly knew that whatever they wanted to say to him would cause him a headache.

"Yo Byakuya, got a minute? We need to talk." Ichigo asked, greeting him in his own unmannerly way.

"I'm in the middle of work Kurosaki, unless it's important…" He started.

"It is, Yoruichi woke up." Ichigo stated.

That grabbed his attention. Like everyone in the S.S., he felt her desperate attempt at signaling her presence, and moved to the location only to see it swarmed by 2nd Squad, and got told that she was almost killed. And while she irritated him beyond any boundaries, he did not wished her dead. Quite opposite in fact, she always brought…entertainment to his life.

"Is that so? Has she told you the reasons why she was in that state?" He inquired, motioning them to sit.

"Yes, that's why we're here." Tia said. They summarized what Yoruichi told them. This made Byakuya concerned. As this was one of the clan heads, and to make matters worse, they broke one of the most important laws in the S.S..

"That's disturbing, but without solid proof-" He stared.

"Yeah, we know G14 can't do anything…and by now that bastard has probably wiped the place clean." Ichigo said. "That's why we came to you with this. You're the only one who can help us. You have the necessary experience and pull, to at the very least, make him reconsider what he is doing."

"Please Captain Kuchiki, Yourichi's clan needs help." Tia pleaded. "We need your help."

"What are you planning?" He asked, putting down his pen.

"By now we need to stall him in using the Bakkoto, then I plan to contact Rurichiyo, and ask her if she knows about this, and maybe gather some info about the living blacksmiths able to make those accursed swords. If we press them, they could testify against him." Ichigo told him.

"You are aware that that's exactly what he expects you to do?" Byakuya replied. "Those connected to Kasumioji family are probably dead, with new apprentices knowing their secrets…It would be wiser to not speak with Kasumioji Clan Head right now…In a month the Okimasa of the south will hold their Autumn Party, and surely they will be there." He said in his usual stoicism. "I'll speak to Yamazaki Shihoin, while you speak with Rurichiyo Kasumioji about her involvement in this matter…As I said before you picked a dangerous opponent."

"It doesn't matter who he is…He hurt a person I care about, and I won't let it go until he's brought to justice." Ichigo said firmly, crossing his arms.

"And what will you do if we fail to gather the evidence?" He asked, but he already knew the answer.

"You once said that that free spiritedness of mine shattered your sword…I'm not going to abandon it." He said with a smile. "This time I'll try to do things your way, but if it fails…" His smile widened even more when he elicited a faint smile from Byakuya.

"It's unusual how much you have changed, and yet how little at the same time, Kurosaki Ichigo." He stated. "Almost to the point of surrealism."

"I will take that as compliment." Ichigo growled. "But it's thanks to this situation that I know what you were going through with Rukia, at the time." Byakuya's eyes softened. "Despite everything, you had my respect for holding to you principles back then. No matter what…even more now, because I'm just a step away from storming the Shihoin mansion…To have my sibling sentenced and executed…I wouldn't have had the strength to stand by and stick to my beliefs."

While Ichigo was speaking, Byakuya's eyes were widening with every word. He was not aware that the boy held him in such high regard.

"Kurosaki Ichigo…you truly have matured since we first met." He looked into his eyes. "I'll aid you in whatever way I can."

"Thank you Byakuya." Ichigo stood, and extended his hand. "It means a lot to me."

"Think nothing of it." Byakuya stood too, and shook his hand firmly. "Now go, I have a lot work to do." He sat again, and took his pen in hand.

"See ya around." Ichigo waved to him.

"Thank you for your aid Captain Kuchiki." Tia bowed. "It means a lot to me too."

"Keep him in check Vice-Captain Halibel, don't let him do something foolish." He said for a goodbye, and Tia silently promised to him that she'll keep an eye on Ichigo.


Shihoin Mansion

Elder Kenji walked nervously to Yamazaki's office. The news of Yoruichi's defeat spread like a wild fire. Kenji couldn't believe that Yamazaki managed to finally beat his Sister, and to make matters worse, Yamazaki realized that he had a mole. One he was very keen on finding and killing.

Kenji gulped and knocked on the doors.

"Come in." Came the response. He walked in and saw Yamazaki at his desk. His office was placed at the top of the circular tower, and took a whole floor, making it quite spacious. All the walls were replaced by glass, so it looked like he was sitting in mid aid. The furniture was made of creamy white wood, and the carpet on the floor was in a light brown color. His desk stood in the middle of the room, and the bookcases and shelf were placed near the walls. All in all the room hadn't looked like it belonged to a power hungry maniac.

"Yamazaki, you called for me?" He asked keeping his voice causal.

"Ah yes Ken, I did." He said in an eerily calm voice, validating Kenji's suspicions…he knew. "You know, I think I've found the traitor that ratted me out to my damned Sister…To think such a person was right under my nose." Yamazaki cut to the chase. "But before I order your execution, just tell me why? You supported me all the way till now."

"It's because of the Bakkoto." Kenji lied, maybe there was a shimmer of hope for him.

"I remember that we fought fiercely over that…so that was why you betrayed me?" He asked raising an eyebrow.

"You know what those abominations do to the users…Please Yamazaki, if you ever valued my advice, don't do it! You will destroy our clan! Please…I did it because I hoped that she would destroy the Bakkoto."

"And not kill me?" He asked, surprised.

"No…I never wished for your death…I just wanted to stop you from committing the gravest of mistakes…And I knew that Yoruichi would not kill you." He hung his head in shame. "But I was wrong…For all it's worth, I'm sorry…I love you as my own son, but I couldn't let you do it Yamazaki."

"Then you're lucky, because your betrayal actually worked in my favor…That's why I will overlook this one blunder…but I'm warning you, I'll be not so forgiving next time."

"Thank you Yamazaki…I will never betray you again… Are you still going to use Bakkoto?"

"As I said…her defeat in front of crowd worked like a charm, the dissent calmed down, and my position is now stronger than ever. So no, I don't need to use them in the near future, and there will be more time for testing."

"I see…I'm really happy to hear that Yamazaki…Once again I apologize for what I have done." Kenji bowed.

"Good, now go, I need to finish my work." He said dismissively. Elder Kenji bowed again and left the room, happy that he managed to live to see another day. It was rare for Yamazaki to be this forgiving.

But it looked like his victory over Yoruichi soothed his character a bit.

Meanwhile Yamazaki was finishing his work. Today he planned to release his son, Han from the prison. The situation was stable enough for him to safely go outside. He venture to the underground prison, and walked towards his son's cell.

Two of his most trusted and skilled men were guarding the doors, but he dismissed them since his son was going out today. He opened the doors to his cell…

But calling the room a cell wouldn't be giving justice to it.

A luxurious apartment would suit it better.

The four-room apartment, that was luxuriously furnished. The furniture was made of finest wood, with silk carpeting. The apartment had a small training room, where Han could train to burn time, and also a well-equipped library.

Currently Yamazaki found Han lying on sofa, reading some sort of book. Noticing his entry, Han lifted his head from the book. Like every Shihoin, his son had yellow cat-like eyes. What's more he was basically a carbon copy of Yamazaki, in almost every aspect. The height, dark hair, facial structure, everything was his…

Except for Han's heart.

That thing he inherited from Kagura. He was a gentle soul, with a passion for books and art, unlike Yamazaki, who valued strength and combat prowess. But that hadn't meant that Han was a push over. His father took care of that, and while he knew that his Son hated the brutal trainings, he also knew that he understood the danger he was in.

"Welcome, Father." Han said neutrally.

…And yet their relations were cold at best these days, Yamazaki suspected that the forced imprisonment had something to do with it.

"Hello, Son…I have good news for you…You are free to leave here." He said with a small smile. Han actually gaped in surprise.

"Really?" He exclaimed, shutting the book.

"Yes, you can go and see that gardener girl you are so fond of." He grinned when his Son started to sputter.

"Father! She's just a friend." Han shouted.

"Of course, but later we will train. You've sat on your ass long enough." He announced.

"You seem, strangely happy….is it because you defeated Aunt?" Han asked, making hos Father scowl at the word Aunt.

"She's not your Aunt." Yamazaki chided him. "And yes, it's lessened the dissent, and all wannabe rebels have lost their motivation."

"You know if you would be kinder to other people they wouldn't try to overthrow you." Han said, knowing what would come next.

"Survive twenty four assassinations, and one coup d'état, and then we'll see how kind you are." Yamazaki deadpanned. "Now go, before I cha-" He hadn't even finished his sentence before Han was already gone. "Hyperactive, just like his Mother." He said with a small fond smile.


Kido Corps HQ – The Next Day

"…How long has she been doing that?" Ichiga asked, furrowing his brows.

"Six hours now… and it doesn't look like she's going to stop anytime soon." Tia sighed.

"You know…I can't really understand how one sibling can do something like that to another…" Ichigo shook his head, disgusted at even the faintest thought of treating Yuzu or Karin as such. "Especially to your younger Sister…It's a duty of the elder Brother to protect their younger Sisters."

"Not every family is as tightly knit as yours, Ichigo." Tia said with a gentle smile. Every time Ichigo mentioned his Sisters, his face softened and he gained a warm look, instead of his trademark scowl.

'Maybe I should make him speak of them more often?' Tia thought idly.

"But that still doesn't mean that he should try to kill her….To break her so badly." I'm gonna go check on her." He said with worry.

"Let me do it. Maybe she needs a woman's touch. You're little too rough at the times." She giggled when he blushed.

"Fine, you do it." He grumbled, going back to filling out paper work. "But make sure she rests a bit. Retsu-san will bite my head off if she hears that she's training already."

"Always worrying about yourself, aren't you?" Tia smirked, and pecked his cheek.

"Always."


Kido Corps Training Grounds

"HA! HA! HA!" Yoruichi punched her imaginary opponent repeatedly. For the first time, in a really long while, she was training. Truly training by revising the most fundamental katas of her style, and with shame she had to admit that she'd forgotten some of the training patterns.

She could see them in the way Yamazaki moved and fought. His style, while full of advanced moves, was filled with the most basics techniques….only repeated tens of thousands, if not a hundred thousand, times. Honing them to perfection, making hers look almost sloppy by comparison.

'He was right…Hard work beats talent.' While it burned her to admit it, her Brother was right. She could grasp new concepts faster, and execute them better than most people, but she never bothered to train too much. Since everything came so easily to her.

Yoruichi was a victim of her own talent.

"HA! HA! HA!" She could not forgive herself for being so arrogant in hoping that she could easily defeat him. Yamazaki changed and became powerful…surpassing even her. Not to mention he discovered another form of Shunko, which managed to overpower hers.

But what stung her the most, was her cowardice.

"How could I?" She muttered punching harder. Never before had she felt such shame. Such a horrible feeling of failure. Her mind was assaulted with horrible thoughts. 'What if Ichigo and Tia need help, and I run away?...What if I abandon them like I did with my family?'

She was so deep in her thoughts, that she missed Tia appearing on the field.

Tia saw Yoruichi standing with her fist clenched, and her head hung, as if staring into the ground. She couldn't see her face, but the whole posture emanated guilt and shame. Yoruichi's usual energy and happiness was gone.

And it was breaking Tia's heart. She was really glad that she insisted on coming here. Ichigo already had to much on his plate.

She silently walked to Yoruichi, and wrapped her hands around her from behind. The Goddess of Flash flinched at the sudden presence, but then relaxed.

"Hey Tia, what's up?" She asked, trying to sound cheerful but failing miserably.

"You can't push yourself like this…you need to rest." She said tightening the hug.

"I don't have time to rest…I've been doing that for far too long already." Yoruichi replied, and ignored her aching side. "I need to be stronger…I have to…"

"You're not alone, we'll help you." She said gently.

"That why I want this strength! To protect you! And Ichigo! And the rest of my family and friends!" She choked. "But what if I run again, and leave you two behind? I don't want that…I can't do that…" She felt her eyes watering. "I'm so pathetic….I'm not even half as courageous as you two…I'm afraid that I'll fail you…I don't want to do that…I can't let you down."

"Hush, it's ok to be afraid." Tia whispered into her ear, and tenderly lead her to the nearby bench and sat them down.

"How are you so fearless?...I was so afraid to lose my life…To never see you again." Yoruichi whispered.

"Tell me…have you ever lost someone dear to you?" Tia asked. "I mean in a tragic way?"

"No…I haven't…Those guys killed by Yamazaki only, but I was never that close to any of them…." Yoruichi felt really bad about saying it like that, but she wanted to be honest.

"Now to answer your previous question…no. Ichigo and I are far from fearless…quite the opposite in fact. We are always afraid…but the fear we feel is much more potent than the fear for our own lives." Tia closed her eyes. "You're lucky that you never experienced it….because we are much more afraid of losing someone we love than our lives…That fear motives us, make us push forward, and ignore our self-preservation instincts…"

"Sorry." Yoruichi mumbled, once again struck by how easy her life was compared to her other lover. And once again the felt mismatched, not suited to be with them.

"Don't apologize that you had a good life for most of it." Tia chided her. "I would never hold it against you. I'm happy for you…even more now, because it was what saved you…If you had experiences similar to ours, you would probably have died trying to take him down…Think what your death would cause, even if you succeeded…Ichigo would be devastated…I would be too." Tia looked at Yoruichi, a tender sadness on her face. "Not a thing in this world is without sacrifices, a sea of blood, covered in ashes…we refer to this hell as the world." She mumbled. "The hell for those who have to live with the sacrifice of others…So please Yoruichi, don't ever even try to make us go through something like that again. You have to live, if not for your sake, then for ours…for Ichigo's especially…You have to live because he would never forgive himself if he let another important woman in his life die."

"I'm sorry…I didn't mean to…I just wanted to help…" She said with a waving voice. Tia pulled her into hug again. "I wanted to save them."

"I know, but next time don't try to do it alone." She started to pet Yoruichi's hair. "We're here for you."

The two sat on the bench, leaning on one another, unaware that the third person in their relationship was watching them with small smile. He heard most of their conversation, while managing to remain undetected.

Tia perfectly hit the nail on the head with her assessment. Ichigo was constantly worrying for everyone, and every time that dread overwrote his fear for his life, pushing him to his acts of selflessness…but he was so happy that Yoruichi wasn't like that. He could not even image what he would do if she died in that godforsaken jungle…alone and scared.

He shook his head, chasing the darker thoughts away, and Shunpo'ed to the meeting he really wouldn't like to have.


2nd Division HQ

SoiFon looked blankly at the papers in her hand, not really seeing what was written on them. She visited Yoruichi yesterday, and was shaken to the very core by the broken sight of her mentor and friend. She heard the whole story from her, and was beyond livid. She wanted to go and personally murder Yamazaki Shihoin, but sadly if he was able to defeat Yoruichi, she wouldn't stand a chance against him…Well that meant that she would have to assassinate him.

Her pleasant thoughts were interrupted by a loud knocking.

'I swear if Omaeda wants another pay rise I'll…' She growled. "Come in!" To her even more unpleasant surprise, it wasn't her Vice-Captain, but Kurosaki Ichigo.

"Hello Captain SoiFon." Ichigo said politely. "…I'll cut the chase, I'm here to speak about the deal we made a few days back."

"As far as I'm concerned, the deal expired when Yoruichi-sama returned." She replied casually, folding her papers.

"Yes…but given the new circumstances, I believe that we should cooperate on this case…I take Yoruichi told you what happened?" He asked, sitting in front of her.

"She did. To think that Yamazaki Shihoin was that dangerous…" SoiFon swallowed her pride. "What do you propose?"

Ichigo doing the same, answered.

"We still exchange the information we have on him. and help each other out in the investigation. I'll press him from the outside, and you do it from the inside via your family. And when the time comes, we bring that bastard down, and bring him to justice for hurting Yoruichi, among his other crimes." He told her.

SoiFon rubbed her chin. His offer was good, she had to admit. Maybe he wasn't so completely immature and stupid as she painted him.

"So, have you done anything to press him from outside?" She asked, with only a small amount of spite.

"Actually, I did." He flashed her a grin. "I've spoken with Byakuya, and he agreed to help us out, and will "speak" to him about his concerns." Ichigo replied, crossing his arms.

"Sound decision on your part. Very well, I'll help you out." She stated. "But…"

"Yeah, yeah, this changes nothing." Ichigo waved his hand. "I get it, but for Yoruichi's sake, I hope that in future we'll at least not try to rip each other throats, while in the same room."

SoiFon rolled her eyes.

"That's next to impossible, Kurosaki." She replied with a sigh.

"Thought so."


ok guyes done! But it's just a beginning of the fight! the Grears are spinning faster and faster with every second!

Thank you for reading and as always don't forget to

Reivew&Review


OMAC001: Don't worry you will

InflatedChimpx2: uff you got me worried with your review for chapter 31, and to answer your question, let say that they've been waiting for a very long time.

Chris: sorry bout that but It needed to be done

VerticalForeverElevator: It's not called SOPA but it's basically the same it's called now Trans-Pacific Partnership or Notice and Staydown it's basically the same.

ShadowSentinel: better be safe than sorry.

LimeEmil: I have the same problem, but luckily the petition got the necessary amount of signatures.

d4rks3cur1ty: hmm need to update more often to not have people forget about it anyways I still hadn't decided with Chado and Inoue.

Chris: Nah Tessai and Ichigo are the only ones alive.

ElementalMaster16: Thanks and well Hichigo hadn't said the last world yet.

Adrian92: thanks

Guest1: thanks

Tronop04: Yep but much later

Diavolo: Don't worry I intend to finish it.

darkreaper 520: sorry about that but that chapter was un-beta readed you will notice that after 24 the spelling and grammar is getting better. And I brought that character just for kicks, to make Ichigo's school more interesting.

vic boss: thanks and sorry but Kenpachi won't appear for some time but I have something nice planned for him.

Youthat1kid: HMMMM….let me see…a human with shinigami powers...only happened once before…getting Bankai in three days…never before…shinigami with natural hollow powers never before…His being a Human, Hollow,Shinigami, Quincy hybrid never before so I don't get why you're getting so worked up.

SSJ3 Kyuubi Gohan: I guess you had a point…but I wanted to have a good start on next chapter but yeah now looking at it I could do it differently, anyways thanks.

Grimmjaw: haha good to hear

Arcangel1342:thanks

ThePhenakism: glad to hear it

Krazyfanfiction1: it was said in manga that Quinces destroy souls that so that's why they upset the balance…and who said that Peshe and Dondochakka are dead?

ChampThunderDick: thanks

FrozenSpectre: Oh trust me they will be very psychical, very very. And as for the fights they were easy since those Quince were weak except from Zok who still hadn't fought a full power but trust me they will get more brutal

xTwistedCupidx: Me too but everything that it good has to end one day.

Ghost132: Well maybe all of them at one could.

Arrankor: good to hear that

Kyassaru: Agree and totally inappropriate

Iskandar06: Well I'll try to follow cannon to some point so I'll see

Psudocode Samurai: I think that now they truly know about his madness