Chapter 36 – The Utimate Tag Team!

I have VERY IMPORTANT news for you guys; please read the two A/Ns after the end of the chapter because it's VERY IMPORTANT!

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[Somewhere Over the Unnamed Plateau, Jōshō Kodoku District, South Rukongai Region. Soul Society]

Current Time...

As Naruto was fighting Aizen, Ichigo was racing to help his blonde counterpart in his fight. As he raced across the plateau he saw that the orange column of spiritual energy he was heading towards had dissipated before it was seemingly replaced by a massive tornado like vortex.

"I should probably go a bit faster, Naruto is almost done releasing his bankai," Ichigo said to himself before he picked up his pace as he drew closer to the battlefield... just as the orange-haired placed his left hand over his face...

[Naruto's Battlefield]



The column of spiritual energy surrounding Naruto suddenly dissipated, much to everyone's shock, while the windstorm began to swirl around Naruto before condensing into the form of massive vortex half the size of the column of orange spiritual energy that had preceded it. After Naruto was within the vortex, and out of Aizen's line of sight, for almost a minute Aizen tried to figure a way to stop Naruto... before another orange light suddenly appeared from within the twister. The traitor then heard the Uzumaki yell out something that almost made his "heart" stop.


The moment Naruto said that word the orange light that appeared within the tornado-like vortex burst into a powerful beam, with a diameter that was almost as large as some of the surrounding mountains, that forcibly dispelled the vortex and was fired high into the sky, making it visible for miles around its pathway. While the beam missed Aizen (this was intentional, however, as Naruto was trying to avoid hurting his friends and other innocent lives with his attack), the former captain was still shocked by the display, a rare reaction from the traitorous Soul Reaper.

"If that had so much as hit me... even it might not have been enough to save me," Aizen thought to himself as the trail of the beam finally ended, as the energy attack, having been fired into the sky, was flying to an unknown destination.

The former 5th Division captain then turned to the spot where Naruto stood just as the dust formed as a result of the blast and completely enveloped the young ninja. The cloud did not linger for long, however, as it was quickly dispersed by a strong gust of wind that burst from within the cloud itself just as he heard Naruto say the name of his bankai.

"Sora no Kenja (Roughly translates to "Sage of the Skies")," Naruto said. Aizen, who held, got his first good look at what Naruto's bankai looked like. It was a definitely different, to say the least.

Naruto was now wearing a plain sleeveless haori above his shihakusho that (unbeknownst to Aizen) was similar to Kenja's, except that Naruto's haori was orange as opposed to Kenja's yellow haori, as well as a large orange sash in place of the standard hakama-himo strap. The sleeves of Naruto's shihakusho were a bit shorter now, only reaching halfway down his forearms now, and the strap made of vertically stacked magatama beads that Naruto had worn over his chest had shrunk in size and was now wrapped around Naruto's right arm like some sort of prayer beads (though most of the magatama beads were now hidden from view by the sleeves of Naruto's shihkusho).

In addition to the changes in his attire, Naruto now had nine balls of orange spiritual energy that floated in the air right behind the ninja which formed a semi-circular pattern. Although it was hard to tell from the distance from where Aizen stood all of the nine orbs were encased in condensed spherical "shells" of very powerful gusts of winds. Basically the orbs were a variant of Naruto's Idai Bōfū attacks that were always floating by the Leaf ninja's side. The changes did not end with just his attire and the orbs, however, as Naruto's weapon had also changed.

Instead of the simple wooden staff with blunt metal ends that he wielded for his shikai, Naruto was now wielding an orange-colored shakujō (otherwise known as a monk staff) that was as tall as Naruto himself just like his shikai weapon. Unlike with his shikai weapon, however, Naruto's weapon in bankai was actually made up of the young Uzumaki's own spiritual energy which had hardened and shaped itself to take that form. In addition to it's color and composition, Naruto's new weapon, which he was holding in his right hand, greatly differed from the weapon of his shikai (and from other monk staffs) in many ways.

For one thing, Naruto's new staff actually had two large fixed rings (a normal shakujō only has one), one on each end of the staff with Naruto gripping the middle of the shaft fixed between the two rings. One of the fixed rings had six smaller rings, which were also made of orange spiritual energy, that were interlocked with it. The other fixed ring, meanwhile, was fitted with something more unorthodox (at least for a person wielding a monk staff): six bells attached to the ring with by strings, which were also made of the same spiritual energy as the rest of the weapon, that looked somewhat similar to those used by Kakashi when he had tested Naruto and the rest of Team 7 over the years. The last change in detail, and possibly the most intimidating, were the ends of the large rings which were tipped with sharp and deadly points, three inches long each, that only gave the weapon itself a more lethal edge.

As Aizen carefully eyed Naruto, while also noting that he still couldn't sense the blonde's spiritual pressure, Naruto held up his staff, now holding the weapon with both of his hands in a horizontal position. The young Uzumaki then opened his eyes (they had closed shut when he appeared from out of the dust cloud), his slitted pupils staring right back at Aizen as he spoke to the former Soul Reaper Captain.

"I hope you're ready for an ass-kicking, Aizen... because this fight ends right here!" Naruto confidently yelled.

Before Aizen could respond to his claim, Naruto began channeling some of his spiritual energy into his monk staff, which was now levitating a few inches in front of Naruto's outstretched arms. This caused a massive amount of wind to pool into the centers of both the staff's fixed rings; compared to the winds produced by his shikai, however, these wind were much more organized and far more powerful. The gusts of wind then began to form two massive tornado-like center centered in the two large rings. After a few seconds of this the vortexes suddenly dispersed before Naruto said the name of the new attack.

"Saikuron (translates to "Cyclone")!" Naruto yelled as he made a unspecified hand seal.

As soon as Naruto said this his levitating shakujō began spinning in place at insane speeds and after a few more seconds of spinning, and about 20 or so seconds after Naruto had initiated this technique, Naruto's staff generated a massive tornado-like vortex, ten times the size of the ones that had just dispersed, that barreled towards a shocked Aizen at near supersonic speeds. Acting on sheer instinct,

Aizen was barely able to evade the attack with his flash step before the attack then barreled on towards a large hill, around 600 feet in height, located several hundreds of yards away from the battlefield. The former captain looked on as the vortex, which looked like an VERY overpowered version of the Hado #58 spell (named Tenran) to the treacherous Soul Reaper, plowed right through that hill like an unstoppable drill. The attack caused the hill to suddenly collapsed in on itself as attack barreled on, as though the hill had done nothing to slow it down, before the vortex smashed into the side of the plateau and exploded in a burst of intense winds.

"Such power... it would seem that his bankai isn't just for show. This might be a bit tougher than I thought; seeing as he has reached a level beyond my own, however, it makes sense that he would be capable of this much," Aizen thought to himself. The former 5th Division captain the traitorous Soul Reaper being well aware that Naruto's spiritual pressure was simply at a level that was too high for even him to sense for the time being.

Aizen then turned to face Naruto again as he also held up his left hand, the palm of said hand pointed right at the young ninja who had just reactivated his KCM in case Aizen tried to use his zanpakuto's Complete Hypnosis ability (it looks the same as before and does not have visible effect on Naruto's monk staff or the orbs floating right behind him).

"So it appears you have some new tricks up your sleeve. But will it be enough to stop this?" Aizen asked rhetorically before he unleashed a new attack.

"Hadō #33. Sōkatsui," Aizen said before he generated a large torrent of blue energy in his open left palm and fired it at Naruto.

The young Leaf ninja easily dodged the attack using his flash step, which got a boost from both his KCM and his bankai (in the case of the bankai, however, the speed boost was not that much compared to his KCM), before he detected Aizen, who had used Naruto's focus on his Kido spell as a diversion, trying to attack him from behind. Naruto, who was now holding his staff with both of his hands, spun around to his right on the balls of his feet, quickly bringing up his shakujō up in front himself in time to block Aizen's attack, a vertical slash.

Naruto flashed a smirk at Aizen as he pushed back against Aizen's blade with his monk staff.

"You're not going to get the jump on me that easily, Aizen!" Naruto said in an almost taunting manner.

Aizen, despite Naruto's attempts to goad him as well as the fact that he was figthing a losing battle, somehow managed to maintain his calm, smug demeanor as he opened his mouth to speak.

Aizen didn't even get to say the a word before-

"Getsuga... TENSHOOOOOOOOOOOO!" a very distorted male voice yelled, much to Aizen's surprise.

Aizen turned his head to his left, the direction from where the voice was coming from, and was greeted by the sight of a massive crescent-shape wave of spiritual energy that was black in color with a midnight-blue outline. Acting fast Aizen quickly ended his deadlock with Naruto, flash stepped away from the young Uzumaki (who likewise moved back several yards back) to avoid the attack which raced right past where Aizen stood moments earlier. Aizen, who realized that he was unable to sense anything from the attack even as he watched it pass by, didn't take long to realize what had just happened.

"That attack... this can only mean one thing... So you've decided to join us as well... Ichigo Kurosaki," Aizen said as he turned to his left.

Sure enough the orange-haired substitute had arrived and stood several yards from both Aizen and Naruto. While he was still wielding only his shikai he had activated his Hollow mask which had caused the change in Ichigo's Getsuga that Aizen had just barely dodged.

While keeping an eye on Aizen, Ichigo (who already noted the parts of Naruto's bankai not hidden by the ninja's KCM) flash stepped to Naruto's side. The young ninja smirked at seeing his orange-haired counterpart.

"Fashionably late as usual, eh, Strawberry?" Naruto quipped.

Though he was obviously irritated by Naruto's jab, Ichigo was able to remain composed as he turned to fact Naruto before speaking to the Leaf ninja in a deep, distorted voice due to his Hollow mask altering said voice.

"Very funny, Fishcake. Anyways... how are you holding up?" Ichigo asked to which Naruto shrugged before speaking.

"I was just about to try and finish this fight. So how did-" Naruto began until he was interrupted by a rise sudden rise in Spiritual Pressure coming from the direction where Aizen stood.

The two teenagers turned to face Aizen and saw that the former captain of the 5th Division was reciting the incantation for some a Kido spell but could not hear it. Ichigo narrowed his eyes when he realized what Kido spell Aizen was trying to use, having seen Aizen use this technique once before during his mission to rescue Rukia a few months earlier.

"Get ready, Naruto; he's about to make his move," Ichigo said.

Naruto raised an eyebrow at this but nodded in acknowledgment, realizing Ichigo knew what was coming, just as Aizen finished reciting the incantation for his attack.

"Hadō #90. Kurohitsugi," Aizen said as he generated a ball of black spiritual energy in his left hand.

The sky began to darken, though it was hard to notice as this was happening in the middle of the night, before the energy ball in Aizen's hand dispersed the black energy. The energy then began to expand, take shape, and multiply until that energy had taken the form of hundreds of black energy boxes, each of them topped with spears shaped in the form of crosses.

The black boxes suddenly fell upon our two heroes, merging with each other until the hundreds of boxes became one giant black box, with the hundreds of cross-shaped spears now surrounding and pointed towards the large box, with Naruto and Ichigo inside. Despite their current predicament neither Naruto or Ichigo appeared to be fazed by this.

Ichigo turned to Naruto, his Hollow mask still activated.

"Do you want to break this damned box? Or should I do it?" Ichigo asked the Leaf ninja as the boxes were in the process of merging with each other. Naruto replied by flashing a smirk at Ichigo.

"He's all yours, Ichigo. Just make sure to get out of there when its done, ok?" Naruto replied. A confused Ichigo narrowed his eyes until he saw one of the Idai orbs appear in front of Naruto.

If it wasn't for his Hollow mask blocking the view of Ichigo's face (minus his Hollowfied yellow eyes and the black sclera of said eyes), one would've seen Ichigo flashing his own smirk.

"Alright then; I've been meaning to pay Aizen for all the shit he's pulled. Might as well do it now," the orange-haired Substitute said before he suddenly removed his Hollow mask.

Ichigo then gripped Zangetsu's hilt with both of his hands and held it up in front of him before he released his own bankai.

"BANKAI!" Ichigo yelled as a midnight blue-colored column, with a black outline, of spiritual energy bursted from the Substitute Soul Reaper, which easily shattered Aizen's spell, though Aizen appeared to be unfazed by this.

After the explosion of the column of spiritual energy and the envelopment of Ichigo by a mini tornado-like vortex (which soon dissipated) the young Kurosaki had entered his bankai state, which had the same that it had after Ichigo gained the Final Getsuga Tensho in the Dangai.

"Tensa Zangetsu," was the only Ichigo said before he then flash stepped behind Aizen, the black blade of his bankai's Daito sword (which he gripped with his right hand) ready to cut down the traitorous Soul Reaper.

Aizen was completely caught by surprise by Ichigo's new-found speed, which was at a completely different level from what his it was in their previous "battle," as the former captain tried to evade the downward chop with his flash step. He wasn't able to completely dodge the attack this time, however, as the cold blade of Tensa Zangetsu made contact with Aizen's flesh, cutting across Aizen's left shoulder and causing a large amount of blood to spurt to come out of his wound, before he finally flash stepped away. While Aizen avoided getting getting split in half the wound on his shoulder was deep, reaching down to his chest, and it was clear that Aizen would have a difficult time using his left arm for the rest of the battle against both teenagers.

Ichigo was only getting started with Aizen as he then charged at the leader of the Arrancar's leader and swinging at him, forcing Aizen to evade a flurry of slashes and thrusts. Despite all his skills and powers, however, Aizen was unable to dodge every attack and a few of Ichigo's attack eventually find their marks, with Aizen now sporting three large slash wounds as well as a stab wound that ran right through his gut. Ichigo tried to finish Aizen off with a powerful horizontal slash, forcing Aizen to block the blow before he was cut in two.

One would think Aizen would finally snap at this point... but such was not the case as Aizen kept his calm, smug, and "menacing" demeanor, despite being completely forced on the defensive, which Ichigo was quick to comment on.

"You're a hard guy crack, Aizen. I thought you would've snapped and gone on some rant by now," Ichigo taunted as his blade scrapped against Aizen's sword, the former captain being forced to grip his zanpakuto with both his hands (which was a rare thing to see Aizen do in a fight) just to hold Ichigo back.

Aizen let out a light, though pained, chuckle before speaking.

"Do not be so conceited, Ichigo Kurosaki. I am not so easily defeated... or did you forget what happened the last time we fought, back at Sokyoku Hill?" Aizen said in response, referring to how he had effortlessly crushed Ichigo almost three months earlier after he had revealed himself as the mastermind who had orchestrated the events surrounding the so-called Ryoka Invasion.

Ichigo merely smirked at hearing this.

"Yeah, I remember you beating me... taking that damned Hogyoku, and then running away like a coward when everyone showed up because you knew you couldn't win. Now we here fighting and I'm the one kicking your ass. If you know what's good for you, you might want to call it quits and run before something really bad happens to you. (brief pause before he notices something behind Aizen) Too late," Ichigo quipped.

Aizen opened his mouth to say a retort but was unable to say anything, one of many interruptions to the traitor's would be unending monologues during this battle, before he was stopped by a new sound.

The sound of loud chiming bells...

Next Time - The Battle of Jōshō Kodoku, Conclusion?!

A/N #1: There are only 3-5 chapters (I haven't decided how to group the scenes) left before this first half of "The Maelstrom and Deathberry", known as "The 1st Act", ends. Do not fear, however, as there will be a sequel, or a continuation to be more accurate, of this story known "The 2nd Act". So ready yourself for that.

A/N #2: I have just adopted a story from HurricaneGohan94, "Guardian Maelstrom". I plan to begin posting the chapters after this chapter once I've editted them a bit. I hope you enjoy the story!

Until next time, this is Rocker1600, signing out!