Chapter 10

The burdens of the strong

Hueco Mundo - Las Noches

Ulquiorra Cifer walked the empty halls of Las Noches on his way to the enigmatic Szayel Aporro's lab. Apparently he will be given a weapon called an Artificial Sacred Gear to take advantage of its unique properties and abilities that he as an Espada cannot use with his power alone. He did not care quite frankly but if Aizen-sama has commanded it then he was compelled to obey. Ulquiorra noticed metal sheen of his left arm and clenched his fist. He would have died on top of the dome on that fateful day if it wasn't for their ally's quick and decisive thinking. Having his organs decimated and summarily destroyed in that fierce battle with Kurosaki Ichigo's full Hollowfication, he can never again regenerate what he has lost. However, just about when he was about to meet his end, a massive energy came down from a mysterious circle in the sky and that's what made Hollow Ichigo initially back off.

The enormously powerful lightening magic punched a gaping hole on top of the dome and the thick smell of ozone permeated the eternal night of Hueco Mundo. Hollow Ichigo, instinctively vanished and protected Inoue Orihime from harm, shielding her with his body. But apparently the lightening strike was a distraction that gave their ally enough time to conjure a magic circle that teleported him to escape. When he came to, he was surprised to be alive but he knew that something was wrong as he couldn't feel his torso, and both of his arms. He was also inside a chamber filled with liquid and he guessed that it was the only thing that was sustaining what was left of him and keeping him from becoming particles of reiatsu and be scattered to the 4 winds…

Through the haze of the mineral bath or whatever it was and the distortion from the thick glass that contained the liquid that was keeping him alive, he saw two figures. One was Szayel Aporro and the other was their ally. They seemed to be discussing a few things before they noticed that he woke up. Ulquiorra tried to understand what they were saying but he was losing consciousness again. The only thing that he could perceive from what they told him was that the two of them can make him whole again. They just needed his permission to start and without realizing it, Ulquiorra nodded his agreement and immediately succumb to oblivion. The next thing he knew he woke up again not knowing how much time passed. When he has become coherent enough, Szayel explained what was done to him and he listened with the same detached manner as if Ulquiorra didn't know how to react to the situation at hand…

That meeting was over 6 months ago….

Returning from his thoughts, he clenched his mechanical left fist that he asked Szayel not to cover it with artificial muscle and skin. It was a reminder of his failure and fueled his hatred for Kurosaki Ichigo even all the more. Nearly all his entire body is mechanized -with the exception of his right arm which regenerated - half of his left arm, and his torso are all comprised of wires and metal parts. The energy source that makes it all run was a mix of his own enormous power and from what he understand as magic runes. How that wily Szayel ever came up with the idea of grafting what is essentially a soul with spiritual steel and magic is only something that bastard could cook up and succeed without fail! But Ulquiorra knew that the mad scientist had help in putting him back together - literally speaking! He is sure that their ally had a hand in reconstructing his body.

Ulquiorra quickly got acquainted with his new body and found that the material it was made from absorbed some reiatsu and thus adding to his own power. The metal itself was nearly as efficient as his own hierro and was somewhat surprised that in many ways his mechanical body was far more durable than his natural armor ever was. The Cuatro Espada found out really quickly that he was faster, stronger, and more powerful than he was when he had his real body if that was at all possible especially when he released Murciélago and Segunda Etepa. Still the knowledge that Ichigo's full Hollowfication has beaten him at his most powerful gnawed at his nerves. He didn't know how well his new body will hold up in the battles to come but if he can get an edge with this new weapon. Then perhaps it will be the thing to turn the tide in their rematch. Still he knew that he'll get his shot at Ichigo when the time is right…

Ulquiorra arrived at Szayel's lab and he entered without ceremony…

"Ulquiorra, I see that you are up and about." Szayel said as he was tinkering with something. "How do you like your new body?"

"It's a body. It will serve just as well as my old one did…" Ulquiorra replied tonelessly.

The pinkette scientist eyed his fellow Espada and nodded in understanding….

"What is this about a new weapon?"

"To the point I see. Very well, behold your Artificial Sacred Gear!"

Ulquiorra's eyes noticed a large spear Szayel was apparently finished working on. It was long perhaps 7 feet in length. The blades at the business end twisted like a corkscrew in parallel of the other. Szayel tossed the spear towards Ulquiorra and he caught it lengthwise. The Cuatro Espada then expertly twirled the elegant weapon around and was pleased of the light weight and incredible balance for such a massive weapon. He slashed one of the large pillars in Szayel's lab and was impressed that the 30 foot column literally shattered to dust.

"Impressive, what else can you do I wonder…."

Ulquiorra then tried to pump reikyoku into the weapon and it began to glow ominously. Calmly, he used Sonido to quickly go outside the hole on the roof of Las Noches. Hundreds of feet into the air, the Cuatro Espada had a feeling that he had accidentally activated one of the spear's abilities as he noticed writing - that he couldn't discern nor understand - began to etch itself on it's white glowing surface. Curiosity got the better of him and he hurled the spear thousands of miles out into the white sand desert of Hueco Mundo. What he didn't expect was the bright white flash before the horizon ignited and for the first time eternal night turned to day. Massive tremors and gigantic shockwaves that originated from ground zero shook the entire world it seemed. A tsunami of sand that was displaced erupted and swallowed everything. When the brightness did finally fade and the darkness returned, Ulquiorra saw a massive plume thousands of feet into the air. He returned down to Szayel's lab, empty handed.

"Where's the spear?"

"I do not know what happened to it after I hurled it into the desert." Ulquiorra said shrugging.

Szayel smirked…

"Lift up your hand and call it back…"

Ulquiorra did so and was astonished to see that a glowing light began to pool at the center of his cupped hands and the spear slowly reformed itself before his eyes.

"From what I understand, the original Sacred Gear your weapon was copied from was able to be summoned as you just did. It was said that the original had the ability to slay gods…"

"Interesting…"

"So how do you like your new spear?" Szayel asked.

"It will do…" Ulquiorra replied. "Tell me, what was the name of the spear this was copied from…"

"I'm glad you asked. I was told that it was knows as the True Longinus."

Vizard's hideout - the next day

Having mastered the Hollow powers in such a short time; Ichigo took his training to the next step and endeavored to fully Hollowfy this time. He never would have pursued such an extreme method in the past but times are a changing. The Shinigami knew that if he was going to survive and to protect those he deemed important to him, then he had to get over his hangups with his Hollow side and accept them as a part of him. He didn't have to like it but it was something that has to be done. Was it a necessary evil? Ichigo couldn't tell nor imagine what something like this might entail but he needed this form's power. Was he ready for the consequences that it may bring? He has to be or all his efforts would have been in vain. Now to figure out how the hell to trigger the transformation without losing his mind and wrecking havoc in mindless rampage…

"Oi, Ichigo. You got a visitor!" Shinji called out.

What the hell? Who could it be at this time of hour? Ichigo sighed….

"Sure, thanks. Send them in…"

The woman who came to visit wasn't someone who he would have expected…

"Raynare? Well this is a pleasant surprise…." Ichigo said.

Raynare tried her best not to blush so obviously but her efforts in doing so failed but it seemed that Ichigo didn't notice. It was embarrassing enough she actually made the effort to see him (which was true ) and that was a stretch even for her. Now that Raynare thought about it, visiting anyone just to see them was a rarity for her anyway considering the company she keeps. She wouldn't care less about her so called friends but when it came to Ichigo though now that's a whole different ball of wax! Seeing him right now calmed her nerves a bit. But as much as she wouldn't mind ogling him half naked for a few hours (he didn't have a shirt on for the moment and it was making her drool), this wasn't entirely a social visit.

"Good morning Ichigo-sama." Raynare replied curtly. "I hope that your training is going well?"

"What did I say about dropping the honorifics and just call me Ichigo?" Ichigo said growling. "And yes, good morning to you as well."

"If that is what you wish…Ichigo."

"Good. Now what can I do for you this morning?"

Raynare liked a man who was decisive and to the point….

"I came to warn you that my idiotic associates might attack you." Raynare said carefully. "They are doing this on their own and I have no control over their own actions nor do I condone such rude behavior. I have already warned them not to do so but I doubt that they will listen to me."

"So you're saying you are washing yourself of their actions?"

"Yes, I would gladly gut and relieve them of their entrails for you if you so desire…"

Ichigo looked at the Fallen Angel and sweat dropped. My, she's certainly a blood thirsty for someone so delicate looking (she was in her Yuuma Amano disguise after all). It made him wonder if the rest of the Gregori were a bunch of hardcore battle maniacs like that freak Kenpachi. Thinking about the crazy 11th Division Captain sent shivers through the strawberry's spine. He recovered quickly and replied…

"Uh that won't we necessary. Thanks for the tip though. I'll keep a look out for them, ok?" Ichigo said smiling.

Raynare couldn't help but blush. Ichigo didn't know her very well enough so it was kinda difficult what to talk about. Well this was certainly awkward. The black haired Fallen looked at the young Shinigami and she could sense something that was akin to hesitation by the looks of him. She quirked an eyebrow. Now this is interesting. Ichigo is usually brash and reckless. He always had this cockiness that she found so hot for some reason and she did not like this reluctant look he's giving her as if weighing something. Her eyes widened. Did this mean that he's about to confess his undying love for her?

"No Raynare, don't be so silly!" Raynare chided herself. "As if I would fall for stupid shit like that!"

In all her life, she had never experienced what the humans called love. Maybe once upon a time when she was one of Kami's angels, she received that emotion from the Father. She was a naive young angel then and she would talk about it with her friends about the subject all the time. However, since she has Fallen and was now with the Gregori, she never had time for such silly and unnecessary emotions. Love conquers all they say? Raynare thinks it's all utter bullshit! If the Kami was such a loving Father then perhaps, He would have accepted that she and her fellow Fallen were not as perfect as he thought they were. That's why she despised humanity - well with the exception of one of course. But the point is, how can He love such flawed and imperfect creatures, that lie to each other and their love ones, covet and steal each other's possessions, destroy the very world that He given humanity to look after, and kill each other for no other than the fact that they coveted something that the other did not. Humans were greedy, violent, distrustful, and her list of how truly imperfect they are so long that she could probably write her own novel about it! He has abandoned the Fallen who like humanity were also once were His children. Why was humanity given a free pass while she and her fellows were cast out of Heaven? It was not fair!The bitterness of such betrayal in the hand of the Father returned in full force and Raynare was surprised by it. Yet, she looks at this Substitute Shinigami - who twisted her world upside down- and because of him she can believe in such fantasies such as love again. She certainly didn't mind it if it was with Ichigo….

"WHAT THE FUCK AM I THINKING!" Raynare mentally shouted. "He has feelings for that Gremory girl! Why would he have an interest in me?"

It didn't take a rocket scientist to know that Ichigo likes that Akuma girl. It was disgusting, yes and she hoped that he had better taste in women but he was human after all! Akuma women had the reputation of being alluringly seductive after all but Raynare can boast that she can be as equally beguiling and she doesn't look too bad herself! It was an insult that Ichigo would even look at that little hussy and ignore her. What was she chopped liver? But to the Gremory girl's credit, Rias had months to work her magic to the couple of days she was granted with him. It was frustrating to say the least! Still, the strawberry has treated her and the Akuma girl and her cohort equally. Raynare would have never imagined in countless millennia of hatred for the other two Factions that she -a Fallen Angel - would work with her hated enemy -the Akuma- to take down a creature of her own making. She sweat dropped and tried to sweep that unfortunate mishap under the carpet….

"Hey Raynare…"

"No I don't want to hear it. La, la, la, la!" Raynare thought. Out loud she replied. "Yes, Ichigo?"

"I need to ask you a favor…"

Raynare blew a sigh of relief but she was puzzled why she felt so disappointed for some reason…

"If it's within my power then yes. Azazel-sama has instructed me to do whatever it takes help you in your endeavors. So what can I do for you?"

Raynare observed him and Ichigo's eyes met hers and was pleased that hesitancy she sensed earlier was now gone and was replaced by fierce determination. For some reason she found his confidence so hot and made her wet all over. She was taken off guard when he replied.

"I need your help with something."

"Ok what will you have me do?" Raynare replied who was now puzzled.

"I need for you to bind me in the strongest spell you got."

Ichigo's looked at her and the fierce gaze of those gorgeous brown eyes made her tingle all over and she blushed furiously. She turned around to hide her embarrassment and chided herself to calm the hell down! Once she calmed down a bit and cleared her throat, she faced him again and said….

"I could but considering your strength I might have to put several layers of spells to bind you in the way you had in mind. But may I ask why?"

"I'm trying to do an experiment as part of my training and I think I won't be able to do it alone." Ichigo replied.

" I see…." Raynare said. "But I still don't understand. Why ask me of all people?"

"Because I will jump on a leap of faith because I need to be able to trust you…" Ichigo replied. "What better way to test that than to entrust my life in your hands?"

Raynare didn't know how to react to that. Their relationship after all wasn't what anyone would call a good start. She did attack him in the beginning and to her credit, she regretted that decision ever since. The black haired girl will admit that she thought since Ichigo was human then therefore he was as flawed and corrupt as the rest of humanity but he has proven her wrong time and time again and was glad for it. Raynare has done countless misdeeds -killing that hentai Issei being one of them - and for him to give her a chance to prove herself to him was an honor.

"So are you going to help me?" Ichigo asked. "If you're busy then I guess I'll can ask someone else."

Raynare knew that he was observing her and to refuse him now would jeopardize her mission. She blinked and realized a few things. One of them was the fact that the mission didn't matter anymore. Yes it was important but it certainly took a backseat from her priorities. She WANTED to help him not because Azazel-sama wanted her to but because SHE herself wanted to. Raynare didn't know when that changed but she genuinely wanted to assist him to the best of her abilities because anything short of helping her Savior was blasphemy! And the other one was anything to one up that Akuma bitch and gloat to her face when Raynare sees her next time! The Fallen would certainly relish her reaction and to make her realize that she doesn't have a monopoly of his time and affection that she thought she did! That would be fun times!

"Yes, I will help you."

"Good, lets do this…"

"What! Now?" Rias said surprised.

"A good time as any…" Ichigo shrugged.

Raynare sighed. The impatience of youth! She transformed in her usual manner and giggled as he blushed and looked away embarrassed from her half naked body. Her attire did accentuate her assets and left her belly in the open which left little to the imagination. She deliberately dressed like a slut and she was proud of her body after all! But no one but Ichigo gave her respect by looking away and it made her feel like a woman. She appreciated his sentiment that he respected her honor that much but then again it looks like Ichigo would have a nervous breakdown whenever he sees a half naked woman. Kami, he would probably have a meltdown when he sees her naked. Was it wicked of her to think that she wanted him to see her in all her glory only to gauge how he reacts? Well she can fall on the fact that she IS a Fallen Angel as an excuse! She and the Gremory girl at least had one thing in common and that is torment their favorite strawberry with tempting curvaceous flesh! She then began to chant and a large magic circle wrote itself on the ground.

"Tell me when you're ready…" Raynare said.

The black haired girl didn't expect him to thrust his zanpakuto on the ground right in front of her…

"What are you doing?"

"I'm giving myself a handicap. Besides did you want to contend with me fully Hollowfied with no control whatsoever AND having my zanpakuto in hand?"

Raynare gulped the large lump trapped in her throat. Hell no she didn't want to face something monstrous as that!

"Well shouldn't we put it somewhere safe then?"

"Good idea. Let's put it by the stairs or something."

Awkward silence as they walked to the stairs and Ichigo plunged the razor sharp blade on to the concrete with ease. Then they walked a couple of feet and faced each other...

"So are you ready?" Raynare asked nervously.

"As ready as I'll ever be. Let's do it..."

Raynare certainly didn't expect him to Hollowfy and she found herself face to face with a menacing skull mask that would be welcome in anyone's worst nightmares. She certainly approved of its fierce and spine tingling visage. She welcomed his glaring yellow eyes which was a contrast to beautiful brown ones the he normally would have in his human form. Hollowfication such a mystery and yet she felt an affinity to the dark power that it generates even if she would personally slaughter ever disgusting Hollow she sees! She cast two layers at first and a glowing rope appeared and tied him up. Ichigo tested his bindings and exerted a quarter of his strength. The spell broke as he freed himself easily enough. Raynare doubled her efforts but he was able to break through them as well. After some trial and error, Ichigo was bound so tight by 50 layers of spells that even his Hollow strength couldn't break through.. Or maybe she needed to get stronger and he was only sparing her feelings which is kinda sweet of him really. Though Raynare had the notion that if he used Bankai in conjunction with Hollowfying then intricate layers of spells binding him would easily crumble like glass despite her efforts. Now that was depressing...

Raynare blushed furiously as her gaze met Ichigo's and started paying attention when he addressed her...

"You ok?"

"Y-yes...I'm alright."

"Good. Now as soon as you feel that it's getting out of hand, I recommend you cut the horn off as quickly as possible if I were you!"

Raynare blinked...

"Cut the horn off?"

Then Raynare's eyes widened in fear as she connected the dots. He was going to fully Hollowfy now of all times? Is he stark raving mad? She was about to protest the folly of this experiment but she found herself kissing the ground as his spiritual pressure crushed her! Quickly her mind raced to ease the suffocating and intense aura and she cast a spell. A glowing shield enclosed her voluptuous body and she felt some of the pressure ease if not slightly so. She grew alarmed as Ichigo was swallowed by a gooey substance coming from the hole on his chest. His muscles began to enlarge and his hair grew longer and terminated at his the mask slowly formed her shield started to crack and if she didn't do anything then she will be doomed. With a newly found determination she concentrated all the power she had left and quickly made her way to him. Just as Ichigo finally broke free from her binding spells, he was distracted enough that she was able to go behind him and cut the horn off. The crushing pressure immediately eased and she fell to the ground not caring that she was kissing dirt the second time during the day.

"Damn I guess it didn't work huh?"

"Really?" Raynare said sarcastically. "And you should have warned me you were going to attempt something so dangerous, dammit!"

"I'm sorry..." Ichigo said scratching his head. "I didn't realize I lost control that easily. If it wasn't for your quick thinking we would have been in deep trouble."

Raynare glared at him...

"Oh come on Raynare, don't tell me you didn't have fun?" Ichigo asked chuckling.

"As much fun as playing fetch with Cerberus!"

"Well thanks for the help though..."

"What are you going to do now?"

"I have no idea. But I have a feeling it involves talking to the bastard!"

Raynare looked at him confused and then he realized she didn't know who he was talking about...

"Huh?"

"Never mind it's not important..." Ichigo explained. "I might have to involve the other Vizards with this after all..."

"Ah gee ya think."

Ichigo went tumbling head over heels as a blond headed girl with pig tails dropped kicked the strawberry in the face. He got up though and marched up to the weirdo and butted heads. Raynare was too dumbfounded to giggle as she sweat dropped...

"What the hell was that for snaggle tooth!" Ichigo growled.

"Ya dumb ass, what the hell were you doing!" Hiyori snarled.

"I was trying to fully Hollowfy!"

"Oh I see fully Hollowfy. I get it."

Awkward pause. Then Hiyori exploded...

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? DO YOU KNOW HOW DANGEROUS THAT SHIT YOUR DOING? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR FUCKING MIND?"

"Nope, I'm of sound of mind and body. Am I right Raynare?" Ichigo asked her winking.

Raynare got the signal to play along...

"As my Ichigo-sama has stated I have found no evidence that he is losing his mind as you claim miss. I find this insulting to him and you should promptly apologize!"

"NOBODY ASKED YOU S&M LADY!"

A large tick mark appeared above Raynare's forehead…

"W-what did you say?"

"You heard me!"

Ichigo got in between the two before the impending cat fight could commence. Not that she was complaining and it was nice being near him so close. Raynare then looked into his eyes and asked seriously...

"Can I kill her? I promise I'll be nice and clean about it!"

Ichigo sweat dropped...

"No you can't do that to snaggle tooth as much as a pain in the ass she is Raynare." Ichigo replied blandly.

"Well if I can't do that then can I at least cut her or something?" Raynare pleaded. "Please with sugar on top?"

"W-why you...wanna fight?"

"Hiyori go and cool off...now!" Shinji said intervening.

At that point Hiyori screamed bloody murder and stomped off while Ichigo snickered at her expense. She got the last laugh however when she kicked her unofficial team leader in the shins. Raynare couldn't stand it anymore and she burst out laughing. It was a surprise really, she hasn't laughed like that in ages! She took a peek at Ichigo who was chuckling. Then their eyes met and she found herself blushing. Being able to be the receiving end of that rare smile felt truly special considering he was scowling most of the time...

"Seriously Ichigo what is your reason for trying to fully Hollowfy?"

Ichigo's mood changed and he looked so serious that made her heart flutter...

"You know that Aizen is still out there, right? Coz no one in their right mind would press their advantage when he has the enemy cornered on the ropes. If given the opportunity and the roles were reversed, you and I would have went for the kill. You know this Shinji..."

Raynare didn't know who this Aizen person was but she didn't like how this bastard affected him so much that it made her frown...

"That is true. Go on..."

"I'm sick and tired of being reactive to his shit. Well I'm being proactive so the next time when he shows his ass in my town again, he'll get a nasty surprise from me! If I'm going to be a pawn in his little games then this little "pawn" will fight him tooth and nail and bite him in the ass!"

Ichigo paused for a moment before he continued...

"I understand if you don't want to help me with this. To tell you the truth I'm scared all to hell about it but if fully Hollowfying gives me every bit of edge against that bastard's forces then I will do what is necessary."

"Even if it turns you into a monster?" Shinji asked.

"Like I said whatever it takes..." Ichigo replied. "But regardless, you and I damn well know that this isn't over not even by a long shot! Aizen's going to come back and there's nothing you and I can do about it. That's why I want to do this so that without a reason of a doubt that I have done the best I can to prepare for the inevitable and to protect all of you."

Ichigo began to walk away and Raynare followed. She looked back and saw Shini staring at their backs but she can tell that he was deep in thought.

"Ichigo..."

"Yeah..."

"Come back tomorrow. We might be able to help you achieve your goal. And maybe you can help us get stronger too..."

Ichigo waved back and went upstairs and out the door. There was silence for awhile before Raynare broke his reverie. She was curious about something and wanted to ask a question...

"Why did you share all this with me?"

"I need allies in this coming war and I can't afford to be picky who my friends are at the moment so I chose reveal this stuff to you in order to build trust. I trust you, Raynare. Because despite your "sunny" disposition and this weird rivalry with Rias, I think that you are a really good person."

Raynare was so shocked that she was speechless...

"I don't know what you will do with this information but I'm trusting you to do with it as you will. Know that you can trust in me too, ok?"

The black haired Fallen nodded numbly...

"Well I'll cya around and I'll talk to you later..."

Raynare could only wave back as he vanished in shunpo. When she was sure that he was gone, she slid on the wall to do the ground and couldn't help her tears from falling. For the first time in a long time, someone actually deemed her - of all people - as someone who was worth their trust. Yet why was her heart breaking? Why did she feel so guilty? Oh she knew deep down why she is feeling this way. It had something to do about that priestess and her Sacred Gear and what she was about to do to that girl. Will Ichigo hear her out if she followed through with her plan to kill her so that she can get her Sacred Gear? And her only justification for the heinous act was because it was all for his sake? The battle with that Hollow and his near death experience trying to save them shook her to the core. She felt helpless and Raynare didn't like feeling like an extra body that takes up space and not be able to do a damn thing!

Initially her plan was to kill the girl, extract the Sacred Gear, and surely Lord Azazel would shower her with praise because it would make her an indispensable asset to him. Now, she felt that Twilight Healing would be of more use to Ichigo instead. Kami knows that boy is so damn hard headed and reckless. Any guardian who was in charge of protecting his life or a girlfriend for that matter would inevitably get wrinkles and pull their hair out in frustration from constantly worrying about him getting in harm's way! And she knew that he will die a million deaths only so that he can protect those who are important to him. That battle proved it and she doubts that any threats of flashing her boobs from her (though she didn't mind ), tying him up and stringing him up a tree from that masochist girl, or some compelling convincing from the Gremory heir would change his mind! But she also knew that Ichigo would be very angry if she did this. Raynare could only imagine the breath and depth of how royally pissed he will be if he finds out that she killed someone for his sake! Imagining it only sends a shiver down her spine and chided herself to stop scaring herself.

And now that he is making the effort to reach out to her and to give her his trust was the final straw. Thus her crisis of faith was even more evident. Should she kill the girl for her Sacred Gear and so that she can become an asset to him? Or not. And if she did go through with her plan, would he hate her for it? Her confusion on the matter was stressing her the hell out and she hadn't slept very well in a couple of day because of it. She finally found someone worth protecting but was killing an innocent girl justified in order to help her most important person? Raynare couldn't even imagine Ichigo hating her just as a bond was forming between them. She sat there on the ground crying bitterly as if the world have ended…

Somewhere in Hell

Sirzechs was confused to say the least. He paid Serafall Leviathan a visit and when he arrived at her residence, the servants told him that their mistress was not available at the moment. Further inquiring out of curiosity, he finds out that she's been visiting Ajuka Beezlebub lately for the last 50 years or so. The red headed Maoh frowned at this. Why would Serafall started seeing Ajuka for if they had NOTHING in common? Serafall was the sweet and youthful optimist of their little group. In fact the former Sitri heir was the Underworld's unofficial number 1 idol and celebrity considering the runaway success of her T.V. show Miracle Levia-tan was any indication of her popularity. She certainly likes entertaining people which was a far cry from his friend and rival Akuja who was for all intents and purposes the biggest nerd in Hell!

"Curiouser and curiouser." Sirzechs thought.

Well he won't find out if he didn't ask right? So with a change of plans to his schedule, he drew a magic circle and went to his place. When he arrived, the staff immediately got a hold of their Master to receive him.

"I apologize for not announcing my visit Ajuka but I was led to believe that Serafall was here so here I am." Sirzechs said.

Ajuka Beezlebub was a tall and skinny devil with short black hair, brown eyes and a pointed chin. He had the tendency to wear square rimmed glasses that he constantly adjusted and then pushed with his forefinger so that it would sit comfortably in his handsome face. He entered with what looked like an apron and mittens on his hands which he removed and gave them to a servant. He wasn't much for words and nodded and signaled that Sirzechs follow him. Adjuka then lead the red headed Maoh to an elevator which then took them down 200 feet to his friend's laboratory. Sirzechs quirked an eyebrow, he never realized that Adjuka had an underground lab hidden under his residence but he wasn't surprised in the least that the man had one, he is a scientist after all. They emerged from the elevator and found themselves in a well lit hallway. After a lengthy walk, they arrived at a heavily armored and magically enforced door and entered. The room was vast, with hundreds of egg head scientists running around with trying to complete various tasks and assembling contraptions that Sirzechs had no idea what it would be used for. Having cleared that zoo of chaos they arrived in another door and Adjuka punched in his code and they both entered another room with more scientists sitting in rows of computers and were busy with their individual tasks. In front of them was a large reinforced window overlooking a large training ground of some kind down below. There was a large screen in the middle of the room and apparently there was someone down there, a woman….

"Serafall…" Sirzechs said. "What is she doing down there Adjuka?"

"She came to me Sirzechs. Ever since she heard rumors that Gabriel has reemerged from her self imposed exile, she just went nuts!"

"Gabriel, you mean Michael's little sister?" Sirzechs asked.

"Yes…my spies has confirmed that she has returned. She was spotted at the Vatican and then mysteriously disappeared."

"I see…so what does this have to do with Serafall down your training ground?"

"Just watch and make your judgment…"

Sirzechs turned and watched the screen…

"Serafall-sama are you ready to begin?" a woman asked.

"Yes" Serafall said seriously.

The red headed Maoh frowned. Serafall is the epitome of bubbly and to see his fellow Maoh so serious was kinda nerve wracking. He looked at Adjuka and he shook his head and prompted him to watch the screen and to see for himself, what exactly?

"You may begin when you're ready."

Sirzechs felt it. It wasn't her usual power output but it felt different, chaotic even. It almost felt like…

"You know how she considers Gabriel her biggest rival right? When Serafall found out that she has acquired a zanpakuto, she was determined to even the odds and close the vast power gap between them…"

"I see, so Gabrielle achieved Bankai has she?"

"Correct and considering Gabrielle is a very powerful Archangel in her own right, you can imagine how that made Serafall feel…"

"That her biggest rival has surpassed her…."

"Exactly…."

"So why did she come to you? How are you connected to all this Adjuka?"

"Now watch and see the fruits of our labors!"

Sirzechs' eyes widened as Serafall raked her left hand over her face and a massive explosion occurred. As the smoke cleared, the culmination of Adjuka's experiments and Serafall's voluntary sacrifice was at forefront and center for the beautiful Serafall Leviathan was wearing a Hollow mask! The menacing skull reminiscent of the the Beast's mask was covering her face albeit with a few differences. The large horns similar to a bull's were attached at the side of her temples. The upper portion was white while the jaws were solid black. Three solid red lines were streaked across the left portion of her mask. The telltale signs of black scleras and the glowing yellow eyes were present and he can feel Hollow spiritual pressure intermixing with her demonic powers as well as making her astronomically stronger!

"What have you done to her?" Sirzechs said angrily.

"She chose to do this to herself Sirzechs! I only gave her the avenue to fulfill her wish!"

"Hollowfication successful and stable ma'am!"

"Excellent! Now Serafall-sama, how do you feel?"

"I feel kinda weird but at least I'm in control this time. Thanks for asking Miyumi-chan!"

Miyumi blushed with the Maoh's praise….

"She wasn't in control before?" Sirzechs asked with concern.

"The Hollowfication process took a toll on her powers and her mental endurance. I had to visit a friend and asked his help in the matter. We were able to stabilize her condition with his years of expertise in the subject. He advised that she needed to beat the Hollow inside of her and you know our Serafall, she might not look like a blood thirsty battle maniac but she does love a good scrap once in awhile!"

"Now Serafall-sama let we are testing how comfortable you are moving…"

"Ok..let me see how did it go. Oh yes now I remember!"

Sirzechs watch in astonishment as she vanished and appeared on the other end of the training ground. She vanished again and returned to her original position seconds later…

"How is this possible? Isn't that…

"Sonido yes. Serafall seems to be adjusting to the energy requirements in order for her to use it efficiently. Last week she was very clumsy, her reaction time was something less to be desired, and her endurance was pitiful but she figured it out somehow and this is the first time I saw her use Sonido smoothly without any incidents. From what she tells me, she actually likes the exhilarating feeling moving at a rapid face. It's the closest thing that an Akuma would feel being a Hollow I guess."

"What do you mean by accidents?"

"The first time she used it, she actually ran literally smack dab into the wall…" Adjuka explained. "You should have been here, it was actually funny as hell."

Sirzechs looked at his friend and sweat dropped….

"That would have been great black mail material…" Sirzechs said blandly.

"I know right…"

They both returned their attention on the screen and witnessed Serafall stringing rapid fire Sonidos as she gracefully dodged an omni-directional lasers that were fired her way. Sirzechs' stomach did a 180 when she made a mistake and was blasted from behind by one of the lasers boring a nasty hole on her shoulder and flinging her through a column. He sighed in relief as she got up and the hole rapidly closing and healing in an instant….

"She knows how to rapidly regenerate as well?"

"Fascinating isn't it?" Adjuka replied as he adjusted his glasses. "Like with Sonido, she has adapted very well with this power. The only explanation I can think of is the fact that Hollows and Akuma are more closely related to the other than what we first thought. It's like her compatibility with her Hollow is very high. Do you not feel how her aura and it's spiritual power is not separate but nearly one and the same?"

"Yes I do recall that her powers felt like a mix of both actually…" Sirzechs replied. "So does this mean that she has absorbed her Hollow's powers completely?"

"I guess you can say that…"

"I see…"

"So I take it that she can use Cero as well?"

They again turn to the screen and observe….

"Very good Serafall-sama, now I would like to test your use of Cero if you please."

Serafall nodded and pointed her forefinger and middle finger like a gun and gather energy and when she dropped her thumb to the side of her hand, the massive black Cero fired and obliterated the target in front of her. Another target soon appeared. Mayumi ordered 30 layers of magical barriers put up inside the facility. Serafall then bit into her thumb and made a fist the blood seem to float in-between her cupped hand as spiritual energy that rapidly gathered there….

"Grand Ray Cero!"

The massive cerulean Cero warped the very space around her as the ground exploded and a deep trench followed the energy projectile in it's path to the target as it turned to dust and continued to the far wall and caused a catastrophic explosion. All the magical barriers held long enough for the Cero's energy to dissipate and Sirzechs found the entire far wall had a massivehole despite the barriers...

"Excellent Serafall-sama. That was a success!"

"Thank you and I still have enough to fire the big one as well but I think I would rather not with us being confined in such a tight space…"

Mayumi paled as she said that….

"T-that's a good idea…."

Sirzechs turned to Adjuka for him to explain….

"She knows how to use Cero Oscuras as well. Good thing she showed some restraint because the last time she fired one, she made a gigantic hole on my other lab and wiped out several thousand miles of the surrounding area once." Adjuka explained. "It seemed that Hollow inside her was a very powerful one indeed."

"That is it for today Serafall-sama. Thank you for your cooperation."

Serafall dismissed her mask and bowed to them. A few minutes later, she arrived at a private room where Sirzechs and Adjuka were waiting for her. The redheaded Maoh observed her and she seemed to be same bubbly Akuma but there was something else about her but he couldn't quite pinpoint it at the moment. She seemed more reserved as if there was a burden that she needed to shoulder alone. She brightened somewhat as she entered the room and suddenly she became the Serafall that everyone knows and loves….

"So Adjuka-chan, how did I do?" Serafall asked.

"You did very well Serafall. I think that you finally grasp your new powers and adjusted to them really well."

She smiled brightly at his praise and then she noticed Sirzechs and jumped in delight….

"I didn't know you were here too Sirzechs-chan!"

"I didn't expect to be here as well. You surprise me though Serafall. Why did you subject yourself to this."

Sirzechs already knew the answer but he wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth if only to confirm it. He didn't expect what she replied to him however….

"It's because Gabrielle-chan is taking this Aizen-chan fellow seriously. How can my biggest rival pay attention to this man? I did my research and he's not a very good person at all. Yamamoto-ojiichan certainly didn't think so and was a torn in Soul Society's side. If ojii-chan and Gabrielle-chan thinks he's a very bad apple then I agree that he's not good as well! And since this Aizen-chan person and his army are very strong then I needed to get strong too! Besides, I will not let Gabrielle-chan one-up me, we are rivals for a reason you know!"

The simple reason made Sirzechs roared in laughter. It was certainly what Serafall would do. How she knew Captain-General Yamamoto was something be explored later. The three of them talked the night away as he discussed his plans with his fellow Maohs of the bright future…

Soul Society-1st Division barracks - the next day

Ichigo finally arrived at the 1st Division barracks and he was standing outside the door. When he got home Rukia dragged him back to Soul Society to report on the strange Hollow he encountered several weeks ago. He accompanied the midget for a bit before they split so that she can report back to Ukitake-san and she told him to wait for her before the meeting started. Patience was not one of the strawberry's virtues and he wanted to get this thing done already since this little side trip was taking up his training time! He was about to knock at the door before he stopped and turned around and said…

"Ok you two come on out!"

"Dammit, he found us…."

"Fu, hu, hu, that's Ichi-kun for you!"

Ichigo sighed as Rias and Akeno emerged from the shadows. Before he knew it, he found himself in boob heaven as his head was in between two sets of big breasts! He should be used to it by now but their shenanigans always manages to embarrass him despite the fact that he expected the move even before the two of them thought about doing it themselves!

"Can I have my head back now?" Ichigo asked tightly.

"Aww why don't you like my boobs Ichigo?" Rias asked rather innocently.

"That's beside the point dammit!"

The two of them reluctantly let him go but Rias had other ideas and got her hug and kiss as Akeno giggled all too loudly to Ichigo's taste….

"How about my hug Ichi-kun?" Akeno pouting. "It's not fair that you only pay attention to Buchou!"

Rias huffed in protest and Akeno squealed in glee as Ichigo rolled his eyes and gave the black haired queen what she desired. The red head didn't like the fact that Akeno was hugging her Ichigo all too closely and the hint of a blush on her queen's cheeks could be interpreted as something heinous!

"I think that's enough Akeno!" Rias said glaring.

"Oh my, I didn't know that I have a hug time limit!"

Rias and Akeno's gazes ignited a spark between them. Ichigo sighed and let Akeno go. He then turn to Rias and asked her….

"What the hell are you two doing here?"

"It wasn't my idea Ichi-kun. Buchou insisted on following you." Akeno replied.

"And you are with her because…."

"To keep the both of you from consummating your love for one another. In other words, so I can keep you two lovebirds from doing something naughty! Oh my, can I join in on the fun too?"

Ichigo and Rias blushed simultaneously while Akeno started giggling. Then Ichigo turned again to the red head to explain herself….

"I needed ask you something and since I hardly see you with all this silly training that you've been doing lately, I thought this was my opportunity to do so." Rias curtly replied.

"And this couldn't wait because…."

"And because I wanted to see you so badly…" she said shly.

The two of them blushed again. Akeno in the meantime was "aww-ing" in the background…

"Look I missed you too..." Ichigo replied as he lifted her chin.

Ichigo was telling the truth when he said that he misses her. He found that training was a lonely endeavor and as much as he actually got along with his fellow Vizards and is taking advantage of picking Zangetsu's and the Hollow's brains for some tips, he found that there was something missing and came to realize she wasn't there at his side. Ria's' face lit up and smiled at him happily...

"Really! Yay!"

Ichigo found himself buried in curvaceous and delicate breasts again. It happened often enough that he found himself getting immune to it...

"Aww that's so sweet!" Akeno said gushing.

Ichigo and Rias realized that they had an audience and they both reluctantly let each other go. The strawberry cleared his throat while Rias straightened up her shirt and skirt to a semblance of decency. They then looked at Akeno who was still smiling at them. A large tick mark appeared above Rias' head however as her Queen grabbed Ichigo's arm and they walked in together inside the barracks. Rias puffing her cheeks in frustration, followed them and managed to snake his arm around her shoulders and enclosed his waist with her arm. The red head having assured her victory sticked her tongue out at Akeno who strangely enough didn't seem like it didn't bother her one bit.

"You know that walking like this is kinda awkward right?" Ichigo said blandly.

"Oh come off it Ichigo, you know you like it!" Rias teased.

Ichigo then looked at Akeno and he didn't like how the black haired girl's purple eyes twinkled in mischief…

"So Ichi-kun, which one of us do you like to be near more? Me or Buchou?" Akeno asked casually.

"Well that's easy, me of course right Ichigo?" Rias asked.

"That would be me right Ichi-kun?"

Ichigo looked at the girls and sweat dropped. Dammit Akeno, why the hell do you have to make things so awkward all of a sudden? Either way he will be screwed if he answered one or the other so….

"How about I don't answer the question coz I actually like hanging out with you both?"

"Aww you're so cute Ichi-kun!" Akeno gushed.

"I knew that you couldn't live without me!" Rias said smiling while pinching his cheek.

"Dammit, can I have some space please!" Ichigo growled.

Rias and Akeno giggled and they eventually let him go…

"So like where are we exactly?" Rias asked puzzled.

Ichigo slapped his forehead, he was too busy fending off the two girls that they got themselves lost! And as big as this damn place is, somebody should have put up signs so people could have navigated the maze that was the 1st Division barracks but he didn't even see that! After going around a corner, the three of them emerged found themselves what seemed to be a training ground with a lone person doing her katas on the brown sand. The woman had her long curly blonde hair tied up into a pony tail and from what Ichigo could see, she is one of the most beautiful woman that he has ever seen in his life. Her beauty was different from Rias. Whereas the red head had this aggressive sexiness to her, this woman's beauty was ethereal. She was elegant, graceful, and calm to Rias' energetic, sensual, and seductive. Rias had a sexy curvaceous body. The blond on the other hand was obviously physically fit from the way her well toned muscles strained on her clothes. Rias was a girlie girl and he was sure that she and Orihime would get along because of said interests. The red head was good support but from what he observed she didn't have much experience in battles and he highly doubts that she will go toe to toe with an opponent. On the other hand, Ichigo could tell that this woman was strong - a warrior - by the indication of her calm demeanor and the skill in which she handled her blade. It was fascinating how two gorgeous women could be so different! And her swordsmanship was mesmerizing. The sword strokes were smooth and crisp. The movements accurate and precise. He can tell that she's a master by the she handles the beautiful blade she has in hand. Ichigo blinked and felt embarrassed about it. He didn't realize that he was staring but he couldn't help it for some reason. Then turned towards Rias and sweat dropped as there was an ominous aura surrounding her…

"Ichigo, why are you cheating on me and eyeing that woman for, huh?" Rias said grinding her teeth.

Damn, what to say, hmm. He quickly looked at Akeno and who seemed normal enough and was still smiling and all until….

"Oh my, shame on you Ichi-kun for looking at another girl!" Akeno said smiling. "I think I'm jealous!"

Well dammit she might not seem like it but Akeno was annoyed with him too. It actually reminded him of Unohana-san who comes across as a sweet woman in the outside but Kami help those bastards that crosses her and gets on her nerves! Why the hell does this shit always happen to him, anyway?

"Uh, yeah…." he said lamely.

"Well, come on, I think we shouldn't bother her don't you?" Akeno said.

"Why, that's a brilliant idea Akeno! It would be rude of us to interrupt her training after all!" Rias said growling.

The two girls went behind his back and pushed him towards the doorway protesting all the while. The ruckus broke Gabriel's concentration and looked at the three strangers exiting the training area. She was so focused on her katas that she was oblivious to the three people who entered and then exited. Gabriel shrugged and thought nothing of it and continued as if nothing has happened though she had this nagging feeling that something wonderful is suppose to happen her today….

"Oh well, can't afford to be distracted right now!"

Gabrielle returned to her training and was soon lost in the sword dance with her imaginary opponent...

Three hours later...

Coincidentally, Raynare was summoned to Soul Society to turn in her report on that Hollow incident a few weeks ago as well. Normally she would have ignored such a summons as she didn't recognize Soul Society's authority but Azazel puts her in her place and insisted that she personally deliver the documents herself. Hollows were after all under their jurisdiction and she was involved in this mess whether she likes it or not. When she emerged from being grilled for three hours she was especially pleasantly surprised when she met a familiar face...

"Well duh, of course I'm going to see him around here! He's a Shinigami after all!"

When she realized though that he's not alone and found herself being glared at by two Akuma, she wasn't too pleased that those two bitches were there! And the feelings were mutual apparently as the 3 of them glared daggers at the other. If she had to share her Ichigo time with them then that's fine! Sharing is caring after all and it was better than nothing! Ichigo felt his hand slapped his forehead again a second time today...

"Why Ichigo-sama fancy meeting you here!" Raynare said smiling and ignoring the fuming Akuma.

Ichigo shrugged and asked the obvious...

"And what are you doing here Raynare?"

"Yeah you stalking my Ichigo or something huh?" Rias demanded.

"To turn in a report on that Hollow incident awhile back." She replied. Then she turned to Rias. "And you, whether I stalk Ichigo-sama or not is none of your damn business!"

"Well when it comes to Ichigo EVERYTHING is my business!"

Really they're picking on each other again. Ichigo happened to look at Akeno who looked like she was in spectator mode. She noticed him gazing at her who blushed for some reason and she casually said...

"Oh my, don't you feel lucky Ichi-kun?" Akeno asked.

"And pray tell why is that?" Ichigo asked blandly.

"Buchou is trying to save you from the clutches of the evil one!"

"Bitch what did you say to me?" Raynare growled.

"You don't have the right to call my best friend a bitch, you bitch!"

"Will you'll give it a rest!" Ichigo deadpanned.

"Ichigo do something about this, this WHORE!" Rias exclaimed.

"Ichigo-sama this Akuma slut is being so mean to me!" Raynare pouted cutely.

Ichigo looked at then both, shook his head and walked off...

"Common Akeno let's leave them both to their petty arguments..."

"Yay I finally get to have Ichi-kun all to myself for a little while!"

Akeno grabbed Ichigo's muscular arm and kept it close to her breast. The two arguing girls followed in protest and ran after them. They walked for a few minutes before Ichigo asked Akeno something...

"Hey Akeno..."

"Yes, Ichi- kun!" Akeno in a seductive manner. "Anything for you!"

"Aww gee thanks. So anyway, is there something going on with Rias? She's I don't know...been acting weird lately."

Ichigo looked at her and was greeted by her ever present smile...

"Oh my, that's telling Ichi-kun! A girl has to keep her secrets you know!" Akeno replied. Then she pouted cutely. "Besides you don't want me to get in trouble with Buchou now do you?"

"I wouldn't do that to you. How dare you say accuse me of something unscrupulous as that Akeno!" Ichigo said chuckling.

"You're so cute!"

Akeno stopped as if trying to rearrange her thoughts and replied...

"But seriously, all I can say without Buchou skinning me alive is that you're going to have to ask her yourself. It's up to her whether she'll say anything but you may never know what little secrets she's willing to spill for you. "

"Ok I'll talk to her later then."

"Real talk for a little bit. She does miss you a lot Ichi-kun and maybe you should spend more time with her for awhile."

"I know but…

"Yes, yes you're too busy being a superhero trying to protect us and all that right?"

"You know me so well." Ichigo said jokingly.

Akeno giggled then she got serious again…

"That's really sweet of you but Buchou and I can take care of ourselves. We are Akuma in case that you forgot!"

"And in case that you forgot, my reason to fight is to protect you, Rias, Raynare, and all the people who are important to me. It's ingrained in my being and I won't stop until I get stronger so you guys won't have to get in harm's way. I can't help it…"

Akeno looked at him and sighed…

"I guess I can't argue with that too much if you put it that way. I now see why Buchou has taking a shining to you so much." Akeno said sighing. Then to herself. "It's because you're so selfless and your consideration of others that I have grown so fond of you as well. That's why I li…"

Akeno blushed and shook her head to clear her thoughts. BAD Akeno! She let her dangerous thoughts go unfinished as it would only feel awkward and depressing. Ichigo looked at her funny and his scrutiny managed to embarrass her even further. When she calmed down a bit and recovered, her signature Akeno smile returned although there was a little bit of bitterness in it that the strawberry didn't manage to catch…

"I but humbly try my dear!"

She giggled…

"Just promise me that you'll make some time for her, 'kay?" Akeno said. "And more serious talk, if you hurt my Buchou's feelings you will answer to me, understand?"

"Yes ma'am!"

"Fu, hu, hu…I almost wish that you break your promise though. So I can punish you most thoroughly! Thinking about putting you in chains as I whip that naked muscular body of yours would be a dream come true. Oh my, you're so naughty Ichi-kun!"

Ichigo sweat dropped….

"That was like T.M.I. but I'll try not to disappoint you too much!"

"See that you don't!"

Then they both started laughing. Meanwhile Rias and Raynare were staring at the two of them…

"I wonder what those two are talking about." Raynare said out loud.

"Dunno but they're having too much fun though and it's starting to get on my damn nerves! I think it's time to crash in on the party." Rias said growling.

"You know that's probably the most sense that came out of your mouth…like ever!"

"Well, do you have any better ideas smart ass?"

"No but you're right they are having too much fun and it is irking the hell out of me too." Raynare said. She looked at her counterpart critically. "So temporary truce until we get things straightened out?"

"It's disgusting but it make sense. But don't think that we're like getting along and being friendly or anything. Once we break those two up it's every girl for herself agreed?"

The two rivals mustered enough courage to shake the other's hand and when they did so they pushed off Akeno and each of them claimed an arm. The black haired queen should have been upset for being unceremoniously dumped to the side but her time was up and it was only fair to get their turn. She stifled a giggle as Ichigo sighed as the two arch rivals glared nastily at each other. They walked for awhile until they returned to the same open area which was now crowded with people. As they all were about to exit, a hapless Shinigami flew their way and Ichigo and the others had to stop.

"Oh my, that must of hurt." Akeno said mildly. "Hey are you alive down there?"

The black haired Queen poked the poor guy who was twitching rather funny...

Ichigo quirked an eyebrow, he looked like he's out cold. His sparring partner must of been really strong to do a number on him. The strawberry looked at the guy's opponent and his eyes widen as it was the very same woman who was training here earlier.

"Ichigo is there something wrong?" Rias asked.

"Nothing. Though I never realized our mystery person was so strong that's all." Ichigo replied.

Rias didn't like that tone for some reason. It was as if Ichigo was actually impressed with this woman and that was unacceptable! She was the only one who's suppose to keep her Ichigo's attention, dammit! The red head looked at her competition and was confident that she wouldn't be able to compete in the looks department. But she ended up biting a forefinger as the woman -whom she can see clearly now - was absolutely stunning! Her silky blonde tresses were curled and was tied in a pony tail so that it would be out of her way. Her green eyes twinkled though at the moment Rias saw regret reflected in them. It was only understandable, she did wiped the floor with the guy after all! Then the red head's discerning gaze checked the woman's body and she clicked her tongue in displeasure as she was as stacked and as curvaceously sexy as she was and the only difference between them was that blond bimbo was physically fit as her well toned muscles rippled through her Shinigami robes. Rias looked down at her body and pinched her belly and wasn't pleased at all that she's getting flabby by the way her forefinger sank a few millimeters making her self conscious. Her eyes then wondered to Raynare's tummy and she started poking her for some reason….

"What the hell are you doing?" Raynare protested.

Rias didn't answer and with half lidded eyes continued poking at Raynare. Then her dull gaze went to Akeno who hid behind Ichigo saying.

"Oh my, the only person who's' swallowed to poke and prod me is Ichi-kun, fu, hu, hu!"

Rias ignored her protest and started chasing her queen all over the place trying to poke her in the belly.

"KYAH!" Akeno shrieked cutely.

Ichigo frowned at them and then sweat dropped…

On top of that, the blond's mostly male audience was captivated with her beauty, just as Ichigo was paying attention to her right now. This woman was good and Rias felt that for the first time in her campaign to win Ichigo's affections that she felt threatened by another that was as drop dead gorgeous as herself! Rias looked at her other rival Raynare and it would seem that she has come to the same conclusion as the red head did with the way the raven haired Fallen was gnawing at her fingernails! As disgusting as it was to even think of working together, they now had a common enemy to worry about….

The red head looked at Akeno who somehow still have a smile on her face. But in reality the Gremory Queen had the stirrings of jealousy gnawing at her heart. If someone asked Akeno did she like anyone and she would answer that she likes everyone but she would never admit even to herself that she has a crush on Ichigo. However, her King's happiness was the most important thing in the world to her because her best friend deserves it after all that the red head has done for her. As long as Rias was content and has fulfilled her wish of finding someone who will love her master truly then Akeno will step aside and be satisfied with just teasing Ichigo. Her Buchou's happiness was in danger. If Ichigo wasn't paying attention to Rias then by proxy Akeno felt that she was being neglected. In a way, she was living vicariously through her master's experiences. As long as Ichigo cared about Buchou, she was a newcomer has captivated Ichi-kun's attention and it has threatened that fragile promise she made to herself not to interfere. Or in other words Akeno wanted Ichigo for herself. But Akeno buried all those feeling under the deepest parts of her and concentrated on the fact that she really was jealous at the blonde that kept Ichi-kun's attention.

What's more, the three ladies felt an unusual power in their rival that they can't seem to pinpoint. Raynare in particular could have sworn that this woman seemed very familiar to her somehow but she can't quite remember where. It was actually getting on her nerves and that on top of her growing jealousy of this newcomer. Who was she that would wrench Ichigo's attention? It was hard enough trying to get him to look at her with that way the Gremory girl was hovering over him like a vulture. Now she had another damned rival to contend with as well and she had to admit that the blond was very formidable opponent indeed. Barring her little misdeeds, white lies and secrets that Ichigo didn't HAVE to know: yesterday was the first time that he made an effort to understand and reach out to her. She felt that she was gaining ground to even up the footing to close in on Rias but this situation changes things. In an instant a stranger has wiped out her efforts as Ichigo wasn't even paying attention to them anymore…

The mystery blonde then went through the crowd to see if the guy was alright…

"I'm sorry, Sanada-san!" the blond cried bowing. "I didn't mean to do that to you!"

All the answer she got from said person was a groan and another twitch...

"Man, you sure did a number on that guy." Ichigo said chuckling.

Gabrielle then noticed the boy of about 16 chuckling at her. The most interesting thing about him though was the orange color of his hair. He was accompanied by three beautiful women and she immediately recognized them for what they were with but a glance. So far they didn't get themselves in trouble but what were 2 Akuma and Fallen One doing in Soul Society first place? The more intriguing question was why haven't they slaughtered each other yet? It was no secret that Three Factions hated each other with a passion. The Akuma and the Fallen Angels in particular were more temperamental and as a result an altercation between the two were more often fatal than not. Sometimes individual fights were serious enough that turned to skirmishes which then escalates to battles and the next thing everyone knows there's a full scale war hovering over their heads. The Angels -ever the peace keepers - tried to intervene and to mediate between the two but they too ended up getting sucked into the chaos. She herself led armies that decimated Akuma and Fallen Angel ranks alike and thousands upon thousands has fallen from her sword. If those two races couldn't stand the sight of each other then what was this she was seeing? Was it because of this boy that they have not torn each other limb from limb? Could it be that he was the one keeping them from each other's throats? It was interesting to say the least….

"I-I d-didn't mean to…."

"Ah don't worry about it. That means that you are strong and this poor lump on the ground needs more training that's all!" Ichigo said.

Gabrielle's heart skipped a beat for some reason. She matched his smile with one of her own…

"Thank you…Tell me umm…I'm sorry I don't know your name."

"Kurosaki Ichigo but just call me Ichigo…alright?"

"I see…my name is Gabrielle."

"Nice to meet you Gabrielle."

"And a pleasure to meet you as well…Ichigo."

Ichigo was the first to extend his hand and Gabriel promptly shook it with her own. The strawberry then looked at his companions and sweat dropped as all three of them seem to have a cloud of gloom looming over their heads. He quickly introduced them and the blonde politely greeted them. Akeno was the only one who acknowledged the greeting while Raynare rudely snubbed her and Rias nodded and looked away.

"I know I have only met you Ichigo but I need a favor to ask of you." Gabrielle said.

"Alright, what do you need for me to do?" Ichigo asked.

"I am wondering if you could spar with me?" Gabriel replied. Then she whispered to him. "As you can see these gentlemen aren't up to snuff!"

Ichigo chuckled…

"Eh, why the hell not. This should make up for the lost time taken from my training."

"Oh goody. I'm excited!" Gabrielle said giddily. "Oh guild master, can you give Ichigo a practice sword please!"

"Yes, Lady Gabrielle…"

Ichigo quirked an eyebrow…

"Lady huh? So you're nobility I take it?"

Gabrielle smiled at him and evaded his question…

"You can say that…"

Ichigo got the hint and let the matter go for now. But before he went to the center of the training ground, the strawberry unsheathed his zanpakuto and gave it to the three stunned girls….

"Take care of Zangetsu for me will ya?"

"Of course Ichigo." Rias replied.

"I guess if it's you, I wouldn't mind baby sitting a sword." Raynare looking at him with one eye and then turning to the side blushing.

"Oh my, you know I'll do anything for you Ichi-kun!" Akeno said winking.

Then Ichigo met Rias' beautiful blue eyes and their gazes locked for a moment before she broke the silence…

"Ichigo, be careful." Rias whispered.

"What is this? Rias Gremory being a mother hen?" Ichigo said chuckling. "Who are you madam and what have you done with my friend?"

Rias who felt scandalized playfully hit him on his shoulder while Ichigo laughed at her. Pouting cutely she turned around and looked up while she crossed her arms underneath her bosom. Ichigo poked her on her belly and she started giggling…

"I'm serious Ichigo. Gabriel-san might look innocent but there is something dangerous about her. Don't under estimate her that's all."

Ichigo gently reached out and held Rias' face with his strong hands and that gesture made everyone who witnessed it blushed in embarrassment….

"Has anybody told you that you're so cute when you worry?" Ichigo said.

"Ichigo I'm serious!" Rias said pouting.

Ichigo ignored the "aww" from the crowd. Akeno was clapping in delight and was smiling as usual. Meanwhile, Raynare was making audible gagging noises…

"It's only a friendly sparring match." Ichigo replied. "Nothing's going to happen!"

Ichigo would come to regret saying that fifteen minutes later as he cursed so much that would make a pirate proud and blanch simultaneously...

The two of them reluctantly let each other go. The subtle gesture didn't escape Gabriel's womanly intuition and made her frown a two opponents then went in the center of the training ground and they were handed their respective bokken. They bowed and Gabriel went to her usual stance where she had both her hands on the handle and the practice sword pointing at him. Ichigo simply had his bokken at his sides. The blonde haired girl frowned at this but this must be how he fought as reckless as it was but she wasn't judging. Gabriel said something to Ichigo before they started…

"Ichigo do me a favor and don't hold back." Gabrielle said.

"Uh, okay. If you say so."

"Go Ichi-kun, go fight!" Akeno cheered.

Ichigo happened to turn where Rias and the girls were and he sweat dropped as Akeno somehow managed to get herself into a cheerleading outfit. Rias held Zangetsu while Raynare was slightly a few paces away from the two Akuma. The Fallen One grumbled about being cheated in janken and complained under her breath. The red head however, cheered him on and not to be outdone Raynare was doing the same.

"My they are certainly rowdy bunch!" Gabrielle observed.

"You should hear them argue about stupid crap. It's kinda hilarious really."

Gabrielle couldn't help but giggle…

"Shall we begin?"

"Sure let's go…"

The crowd looked on in anticipation and when the match began they weren't disappointed with the show that everyone will talk about for years to come...

Hueco Mundo - location unknown...

Time in Hueco Mundo is very different from other dimensions. While the time in the World of the Living and Soul Society had about approximately a 24 hour delay on average depending on when you actually entered the Senkaimon and the conditions in Dangai. However the time difference in Hueco Mumdo is extreme. For every day that passes on Earth, 6 months would have passed. The week and a half that passed on Earth, 5 and half years has past. A Menos with a dragon mask lumbered through the Menos Forest. Normally a Hollow would take centuries to evolve however due to how H. Issei was born this process has been altered quite significantly. As soon as H. Issei escaped from the World of the Living and emerged from the Garganta he made. All he did thereafter was voraciously eat anything that moved and he did so his first week until he evolved into a Menos. For the next five years he hunted his own kind in their forest and ate so much of them that he dwindled their population in half. Today, will be the last Menos he will eat as his entire body glowed crimson and he began to evolve into an Arrancar.

When his transformation was complete, he emerged from the crater he gouged out of the forest a changed Hollow. A humongous reptilian clawed foot appeared out of nowhere from the smoke and crushed the incinerated ground underneath its its weight. Another foot emerged and the rest of its enormous armored crimson body. The mighty dragon roared that shook the endless night. Hollows and Menos alike sensed the powerful entity and instead of being attracted to the strong spiritual pressure they surprisingly stayed away...

"W-where a-am I-I?

Ddraig seized the opportunity and dragged Issei into his mind. Issei found himself looking at a massive red dragon…

[ I see that you have awaken at last, Ryoudou Issei! ]

"Who are you and who is this Ryoudou Issei you speak of?"Issei demanded.

Ddraig wasn't surprised with this latest revelation. The Heavenly Dragon was relieved that he's able to communicate with the boy again. If dragons had hair, Ddraig would have pulled them by now frustrated as he was. Reasoning with a ravenous beast was like talking to a retarded rock he couldn't get through to him. He wasn't alarmed at all that the transition from human soul to Hollow to Arrancar must have messed with his memories nor the change in his personality. The traces of the perverted Ryoudou Issei that he observed and knew was now gone replaced by this cold and heartless individual. In fact he never expected to get stuck with a host that actually died before he could introduce himself or before the kid could become strong enough to sense his presence but that option became pointless the minute Issei turned to an Akuma/Hollow hybrid. After countless centuries being reborn in a different hosts, Ddraig figures it would be same song and dance but this could actually be a blessing in disguise! Maybe…

[ Have you forgotten your own name boy? ]

"Maybe so but that name has no meaning to me no longer.."

[ Then how may I address you then? ]

Issei paused…

"I do not know…"he admitted.

[ Then perhaps you should be addressed with the name that you were given since birth? ]

Issei nodded and agreed. Another pause…

"Still you haven't answered my questions. Who are you and where am I?"

[ Some know me as the Welsh Dragon. To others I am the Red Dragon Emperor. Gods and Akuma fear me for I am one of the Heavenly Dragons. I am Ddraig.]

"It is nice to meet you Ddraig."

[ Likewise. So tell me, what will you do from now on? ]

Issei thought about it for a moment and honestly replied...

"I don't know..."

[ Don't you want to become stronger? ]

As soon as Ddraig finished what he was saying, memories began to flood in Issei's head. The mighty dragon outside roared in pain as images flashed before its mind's eye but pictures were jumbled but the ones that made an impression were the memories of his last days in the World of the living. Images of a cruel black haired girl with black wings laughing at him as his life's blood pooled on the cement. A red headed girl looking down on him smiling and he couldn't remember what she asked him. But most of all, the image that made Issei flinch and involuntarily growl in anger was the ominous soulless black eyes of the the horned beast that beat him and was forced to retreat to Hueco Mundo. This actually made the dragon's spiritual pressure rise to crushing levels as the intangible force pressed and causing massive fissures on the ground. An oppressive crimson aura surrounded the dragon's body as arcs of electricity jumped from one place to another. The dragon roared an ear piercing roar. It was as if the area was in an epicenter of a category 5 hurricane while in the middle of a magnitude 8 earthquake! If resident Hollows were wary of the massive dragon before now they stayed away.

[ No use going on a tantrum now that it happened. ]

...

When Issei didn't respond, Ddraig used a different tack...

[ Do you want to defeat all your enemies? ]

"Yes..."

[ Then trust in me and I will lend what strength I have! ]

"So be it!"

Massive amounts if spiritual energy began to gather around the dragon's body and compressed itself until it formed into a cocoon that shrank until it became man-sized. For one year it floated in the air of the Menos forest absorbing any Hollow foolish enough to come within the boundaries of it's influence. A red flash ignited within the cocoon and ever since it would glow bright and then fade in a rhythmic pattern similar to a heartbeat.

Szayel of course was observing and studying the Hollow cocoon with interest. He has set up shop far away enough for him to be able to conduct his study without being consumed by power hungry cocoon. He knew going within the boundary was a death sentence as he once observed a dozen Menos disintegrate to spirit particles and was absorbed by the cocoon within seconds! The mad scientist estimates that by the rhythmic beat of the red flash and the ravenous "appetite" of the cocoon, that it will someday hatch. What will emerge, Szayel was not sure but he will be there when the time comes and offer Issei Ryoudou a means to exact his revenge. The pinkette smiled. With the new Espada about to emerge and Aizen-sama about to awaken, it was interesting times indeed…

to be continued...

A/N Giving Serafall Hollow powers, YES I went there...lol...I think it balances out Gabriel having a zanpakuto. Because after all Gabriel is Serafall's rival...well at least in her mind...lol

-Thanks for PirStaley for giving me that sparring idea. Frankly I had no idea how I was going to introduce Ichigo and Gabriel but he gave me the idea and I ran away with it. Thanks man that helped out a lot...lol

-Gabriel or Gabrielle?

-So read and review as usual...I keep saying that I'm going to end the first novel finally but I keep going on tangents so I'm not even going to bother this time. I'll get to the end of the novel when I get there...lol

-Well that's it for now kiddies until next time...