Sorry for the wait on this chapter. You see, my country has a little something called National Service, which basically means I have to join the military for two years, which is the reason my writing time has been cut down so much. Thankfully, I now have a week of leave so I hope I can at least finish this chapter and get it out to you guys. As promised, here is the opening chapter of the first (possibly only) original arc.
Just a reminder, I have no idea how long this arc will last. It definitely isn't short enough for me to compress into one or two chapters, that's for sure.
Akuma-Heika: Sei means both Holy and Sacred, which are pretty much the same thing in real life. The difference between them in DxD and Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance is that Holy also refers to an element like Holy Sword, a sword that uses the Holy element, while Sacred still appears to retain its original meaning.
On a side note, Est isn't actually a Holy Seirei, but a Steel Seirei that possesses purifying properties similar to Holy powers as well.
I don't know much about hotels because I don't travel much, so I have no idea whether or not Japanese hotels have a time at which they no longer accept check-ins. But, the context is that Sirzechs isn't familiar with the human world, so he has no idea if he could still get a place to stay at that time of night. This is also in the original light novel.
He didn't destroy it so much as he used his power to temporarily negate it. The main shrines appear to be located in Kyoto which is why the special pass is needed for Issei and the others to enter, so I guess as long as none of the main shrines are affected, the Shinto Faction lets Sirzechs do whatever he wants? They didn't complain when Rias bought an entire shrine temple for Akeno to live in.
Like I said, I originally intended to switch to third person, but then I changed my mind. I must have missed some parts when I was correcting them. Sorry about that.
The carefree part isn't referring to the Gremory males, it was referring to the Maous.
I don't think it was mentioned in the original light novels whether Asia was embarrassed as well, but considering Isshin's, Sirzechs's and Valdemar's antics in this fic, she definitely would be.
Yeah, that was what I thought too. 'Homo'sapien, 'Homo'phobia. But no, the correct term is xenophobia. Homophobia is a fear of homosexuals.
Since an enhanced wide area effect Forbidden Balor View can be countered by those who possess enough power, I assume the normal one can be countered in the same way.
That's what it did, it continued on its path until it hit the ground. Sorry if I didn't make that part clear.
True Dragon Slayer Holy Sword? I'm pretty sure Ascalon doesn't have a fancy title like that. Compared to the other legendary Holy Swords introduced in canon, Ascalon appears to be the weakest.
Can she do that? I don't remember that being said in canon. I always thought the reason Issei never noticed she had a Fallen Angel wing until Volume 4 was because the author never fully decided to make her half-Fallen Angel until he got started on Volume 4.
True, but being an experience fighter, Kokabiel should have at the very least attempted to avoid being caught by Vali again, not flailing around like an idiot. Also, while Vali is strong, he doesn't appear to have inherited Rizevim's power since there are a few below God level characters who can kick his ass.
Profanities do get censored in reviews and PMs. And apparently 'Azazel' is one of them.
From what I've read, there are mentions of Italian Gods who aren't actually the Greek Gods. They aren't very famous, and there's next to no information on them, which makes them prime candidates to be faded Gods.
I also found that to be strange. In real life, Christianity is still spreading even today, but Kokabiel claims the number of followers have fallen since God's death. I guess the author is talking about atheism?
The Soul King does appear to be a God of some sort, but Aizen? Godlike maybe, but an actual God? Definitely not.
Maybe in canon, when Trihexa's seals inevitably break, the power God used to create them will combine with God's will to revive him. That seems to be a popular theory among fans.
I also thought Xenovia had left of her own accord until I reread Volume 4.
I think Yamamoto is currently more or less at the same level that he was in his prime. When he was younger, he was physically stronger, but lacked the mastery over his powers he has now, while now he is physically weaker, but has fully mastered his Zanpakuto and possibly the four Shinigami combat arts as well.
I don't think it's been said whether or not Katen Kyokotsu's abilities can extend to others, but yes, if Kyoraku's allies knew the rules, they could aid him quite effectively. The problem was that very few people know about its ability, not to mention they were initially heavily outnumbered, so his ability could have been turned against him instead.
Sogyo no Kotowari is indeed risky to use when surrounded by other allies, and since Ukitake cannot predict his allies' movements with 100% accuracy, Sogyo no Kotowari's ability is largely useless in large scale battles. Not sure about his Bankai though, whatever its ability may be.
I assume while Ophis is naïve when it comes to social skills and the like, her knowledge and combat capability must be extremely high considering how old she is.
Yes, Fafnir is the Dragon that the original Siegfried slew.
Ichigo can use continuous Divide, not as fast as Vali's Juggernaut Drive, more like the Balance Breaker speed.
I'm sorry to say this, but you, and almost everyone else are wrong in your assumptions of the identity of the enemy leader. Didn't I repeat that Yhwach was dead many times throughout the fic, especially the beginning chapters? Or is it because he's named Balthasar in this fic, since I started this fic before Yhwach's name was known?
imran102: I understand where you're coming from, but Ichigo is still going to gain one or two more new powers before I stop giving him anymore.
Personally, I think I've used Ichigo's Shinigami powers quite a lot. I agree I haven't used his Hollow powers much though, but that's because Ichigo is going to gain his true Zanpakuto in this arc, and I'm still not sure whether the mask will no longer exist because Hollowgetsu's powers will be contained in the real Zangetsu, or if I'll separate Ichigo's Shinigami and Hollow powers so that Ichigo can still use his mask and potentially train to use Resurreccion.
Sorry, but I don't really like Orihime, so even if I do add her to the harem, it's unlikely that she'll be a central member of the harem.
As for Rukia, sorry, but I really can't picture her in a romantic relationship with Ichigo. As Kubo put it, those two are more than friends, but less than lovers.
Stoic Chaos: Yes, I understand. I meant to say that Ichigo would eventually become strong, not be strong right off the bat. It's my fault for not making that clear. I'll change the tag.
Also, on the subject of the Kokabiel vs Ichigo thing, I admit I really screwed that up. I stand by what I said about Kokabiel being stronger than how he was portrayed in canon, but because I was so eager to show that, I ended up powering him up way too much. When I reread the latter half of the Kokabiel fight, I went 'Fuuuuuuuck, what the hell did I just do!?'
animecollecter: You are correct! Not bad, but can you give me his name before you start reading this chapter?
GiratinaZero: Congratulations, you are the only person who has figured it out before his identity was actually revealed. Have a virtual cookie.
Also, since I'll be switching POVs a lot during this arc, I've decided to write this arc in 3rd person POV, to make it a lot easier on myself and to write faster. Hold your opinions until after the arc is complete. If you don't like the change, I'll switch back to 1st person after this arc. If you like it, then I'll stick with 3rd person from now on, though I probably won't have the time to revise the earlier chapters.
On with the story!
Ichigo wasn't quite sure what to make of his situation.
On the night of the last day of the semester, the same day the Gremory group moved in with him, he returned to Karakura Town to spend time with his family and friends over summer vacation. Of course, the Gremory group tagged along.
Now it was the morning of the first day of summer vacation, and Ichigo woke up in his bed to find himself pinned down, unable to move any part of his body other than his head.
He turned his head to the sides to find Rias and Restia, each hugging one of his arms as they slept. He looked down to find Asia tucked between his arm and his body, her arms wrapped around his waist. Put all of that together, and it meant that Ichigo couldn't get up without waking them up. And seeing their peaceful expressions as they snoozed away, he was rather reluctant to do so.
Well, those three explained why he couldn't move his arms or torso, but it didn't explain the weight on his legs that prevented them from moving. Was it one of the girls' legs? No, it was too big.
Ichigo jolted when the weight started moving up towards his torso.
Ichigo heard a familiar giggle, and got an idea as to what, or rather who it was pressing down on his legs.
The blanket was lifted off of him, revealing Akeno underneath, confirming Ichigo's suspicions.
"Good morning, Ichigo-kun." Akeno said in a sultry voice as she pressed her body closer to Ichigo's, causing him to blush. It was already bad enough that she was wearing an almost paper thin yukata that did little to cover up her voluptuous body.
"I've arrived." Akeno leaned in and whispered into Ichigo's ear seductively, causing an involuntary shiver to run down his spine.
Ichigo jolted again when Akeno started tracing his chest with her cold fingers.
"Wha-!?" Ichigo yelped as Akeno started suckling on his neck.
"Ufufufu, Ichigo-kun's body is quite sturdy. A man's skin certainly feels a lot better than I imagined. Or maybe it's because it's your body? Ichigo-kun, what do you think of mine?"
"Er, it's really soft and…Wait, that's not the problem! What are you doing!?"
"I want to get to know Ichigo-kun's body even more…or, I would, if there wasn't a scary Devil lady next to us. Then again, the risk of getting caught is also quite an enjoyable experience." Akeno giggled, her face inching closer to Ichigo's, which was beginning to redden due to their proximity.
"It'd be nice if time could stop like this, but I suppose that's too much to ask…"
"Akeno? What are you doing? When did you enter the room?"
"Stealing a march on us isn't good, especially this early in the morning."
Akeno's advance was interrupted by two displeased voices. Ichigo looked to his sides to find that Rias and Restia had woken up and were both glaring at Akeno.
And despite all of the animosity being directed at her, Akeno continued with her antics and wrapped her arms around Ichigo.
"Ufufufufu, this is skinship. I thought it'd be nice to have a good morning with my Ichigo-kun, so I came in. Staying in bed by myself is so lonely."
Rias's and Restia's eyes narrowed at her words.
"'My'? When exactly did you become Ichigo's master?"
"Even if I'm not his master, I'm his senpai. It's a senpai's duty to be affectionate with their kouhai, right?"
"Senpai…so that's your excuse…you intend to intrude on us with that kind of reason…" Rias said in a low, angry voice.
"I agree. Please don't try and force yourself into our relationship. Well, that goes for Rias Gremory too."
"Hey, I've known Ichigo longer than you, the one who should butt out is you!"
"You've only known him two months longer than me! And my relationship with Ichigo is much closer than yours!"
"What!? And why is that!?"
"Both of us share a master-servant relationship with Ichigo, though our roles are reversed! But, Ichigo wields me in battle as well! And we have a mental connection at all times because of our contract, small and limited as it may be!"
"Nghhhhhh…!" Rias gritted her teeth and abruptly stood up, revealing her naked body.
"B-Buchou!? Your clothes, your clothes!" Ichigo exclaimed as he tried to force his eyes away from Rias's bare body, though he was ignored as Rias turned to glare at Restia.
"Then, let's settle this right here and now! Just who has the closest relationship with Ichigo!" Rias declared and released a crimson reiatsu from her body.
"Agreed! I'll crush you right here like always and prove that I'm closest to Ichigo!" Restia also stood up, revealing that she was dressed in purple lingerie, and let out her own dark purple reiatsu that took the appearance of dark miasma in response.
"Agh! Why does this always happen!?" Ichigo screamed in frustration.
"Ara ara, I suppose I'll also join in the fight. I intend to prove my relationship with Ichigo-kun is the real deal as well." Akeno rose and released a yellow-gold reiatsu that had occasional sparks of lightning.
"And now a third person is joining in!?"
"Fuaaaaa…why ish it sho noishy in the morning?" Asia stirred from her sleep and asked drowsily.
"Er…it's okay, Asia. You can go back to sleep." Ichigo said as he patted her head. A three-way catfight wasn't exactly the best thing to wake up to.
"Ichigo-shan…? Okay, I will asshept your offer and go back to shleep while hugging Ichigo-shan…" Asia said as she drifted back to sleep, her arms still wrapped around Ichigo's waist, though he noticed the grip was now considerably looser, so he could probably wiggle out without waking her if I needed to.
*WHAP* *WHAP* *WHAP*
Ichigo turned back to the catfight when odd sounds reached his ears…and promptly had to resist the urge to facepalm when he saw the way the three girls had decided to fight. With the way they had been flaring their reiatsus earlier, Ichigo was sure they would be duking it out with their powers. Instead, they had chosen a more juvenile style of fighting: pillow fighting. Ichigo wasn't sure whether he should be glad they weren't destroying the house, or be embarrassed by the childish fight that was apparently over him.
"To begin with, I hate how you two try to immediately lay hands on my important person!" Rias exclaimed as she threw two pillows with great force in rapid succession, hitting both Restia and Akeno dead in their faces. Restia and Akeno retained their smiles as the pillows they were hit with fell back to the bed, though they had become slightly strained.
"Ara ara, it should be fine if it's only for a while. Rias really is stingy."
"That's right, don't try to monopolize Ichigo. Being selfish isn't a good personal quality."
Akeno and Restia retorted and threw their own pillows at Rias, hitting her at the same time. Rias's eyes watered as the pillows fell from her face.
"This house was just renovated! I won't let you two do as you please!" Rias shouted and threw more pillows, all of which were skillfully evaded by Restia and Akeno, who then started their counterattack.
"Sirzechs-sama said that we should live together and get along with each other!"
"This is my and Ichigo's house! All of you are standing in the way! I can't take it anymore!"
"The one who can't take it anymore is me! And this is the Kurosaki residence, not your house!" Ichigo screamed in his head.
"You intend to ignore Sirzechs-sama's wishes!? So you value Ichigo-kun more than Maou-sama then! Lend me Ichigo-kun for a bit as well!"
"No! Absolutely not!"
Ichigo shook his head. The two idolized Onee-samas of Kuou Academy were having such a childish argument…if anyone from school saw this, their Onee-sama image would be ruined in an instant.
"Ufufufu, while those two are caught up in their argument, I'll have Ichigo all to myself."
Restia bailed out of the fight and started crawling towards Ichigo, positioning herself on top of him.
"Hey, what are you-!?"
"Now now, settle down. I'll make this a pleasurable experience for both of us…" Restia whispered into his ear with a sultry voice. The close proximity allowed Ichigo to smell the scent of lavender coming from her hair. That, combined with the situation, caused his cheeks to heat up even more.
But before she could go any further…
…Two hands landed on her shoulders.
"What are you doing?"
"Didn't you say stealing a march wasn't good?"
Rias and Akeno tightened their grip on Restia's shoulders, showing their displeasure towards her.
"Tch, just when it was starting to get good…" Restia clicked her tongue in annoyance and then rejoined the fight.
Ichigo sighed as the squabble grew louder and more intense. Then, he paused as he thought back to Rias's words.
'This house was just renovated'…He was pretty sure that was what Rias had said.
Ichigo glanced down and felt a growing sense of unease when he noticed that his bed was a lot bigger than he remembered, being able to fit a male, a sleeping female, and a three-way catfight comfortably and still have plenty of space left. Plus, as he had noticed from the catfight, the number of pillows on his bed had increased as well.
Ichigo looked up and found that it wasn't just his bed, his entire room was a lot bigger than he remembered, not just in terms of length and breadth, but even in height!
Ichigo surveyed his inexplicably expanded room, and found it vastly different from what he remembered.
There were two huge, expensive-looking sofas in the center of the room!
His old wooden, one-person study desk had been replaced by a big, round metal desk that could easily seat a dozen people or more comfortably! His old wooden chair was replaced by numerous cushioned office chairs!
A 52-inch plasma TV was mounted on the wall opposite his bed! All of the newest game consoles were on the floor beneath it! And off to the side was a shelf that held all of the latest games! Ichigo wasn't much of a gamer, but even he recognized some of the more famous titles like Final Fantasy and Dynasty Warriors.
His room suddenly had 3 doors located on the three adjacent walls, one leading out into the corridor outside as usual, but the other 2, Ichigo had never seen before. They appeared to lead into the adjacent rooms, but if Ichigo remembered the layout of his house, the door next to his bed led to his sisters' room, while the north door didn't lead anywhere, since his room was the first room on the second floor. Then again, since his room was vastly different from what he remembered, maybe that meant the same for the rest of the house?
Ichigo gently removed Asia's arms from his waist and went outside to check, ignoring the ongoing catfight as he did.
Ichigo paused as he opened the door that led out into the corridor. The corridor outside, as well as the entire floor, like his room, was much spacious than he recalled.
Ichigo made to go downstairs, but stopped and did a double take when he saw a new flight of stairs leading up to a third floor that did not exist just yesterday. And when he took a better look, it wasn't just one extra floor, there appeared to be a fourth and a fifth floor as well. There might have been more, but Ichigo's vision didn't see them.
Ichigo rushed downstairs to find himself in an immensely expanded first floor. Even the entryway was much bigger!
Ichigo dashed outside and turned to look at his house.
"What the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-!?" Ichigo's scream echoed through the neighborhood as his jaw dropped at the sight of his house.
Somehow, overnight, his normal modern two-storey terrace house had been renovated into a massive six-storey building that took up more than twice of its original land area!
"Hahahahaha! I was really surprised to wake up and find that the whole house had been renovated in our sleep! Sirzechs's servants are pretty skilled, completing the renovation in a single night and not waking any of us up in the process!" Isshin laughed as he joined Ichigo and the others in the expanded dining room for breakfast.
Their six-seat wooden dining table and wooden chairs had been replaced by a massive long rectangular glass table and cushioned chairs of mahogany that made it look like the grand dining room of a typical rich person's mansion, though Ichigo supposed that his new house now qualified as one of said mansions. A glass chandelier hung on the ceiling overhead. And the floor now had royal purple carpeting, completing the image.
Ichigo had only looked into the kitchen briefly, but it now looked like a restaurant kitchen, complete with massive ovens, grills, stoves and a pantry. Not to mention the vast arsenal of kitchen appliances, some of which Ichigo was sure even Yuzu would not know what they were for.
The rest of the Gremory group and his little sisters had woken up shortly after Ichigo and the three fighting girls, none of whom looked satisfied. It appeared that their fight had not reached a conclusion.
None of the Gremory group seemed very surprised when they saw the renovated house. For the senior members of the group, it was probably because they were already used to the Gremory Clan's extravagance. And as for Asia and Xenovia, they seemed to have accepted it as the norm for Devils.
Restia hadn't seemed surprised either, but Ichigo figured that at her age, very few things could genuinely surprise her.
Ichigo, on the other hand, almost had a heart attack when he saw his new house, and how it was occupying land space that originally belonged to his neighbors, who had apparently moved away after being offered a better deal elsewhere in town. Ichigo guessed that meant the Devils had used hypnosis magic to make them more compliant.
"Well then, here is the layout of the renovated house." Rias said as she laid out the blueprints of the mansion on the dining table.
"On the first floor are the guest rooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, a bathroom and washitsus."
Ichigo looked at the living room. Other than its obvious expansion, its changes included a massive plasma TV bigger than even the one in his room, gigantic couches that looked like they could seat a dozen people each no problem, and a chandelier of all things hanging from the now higher ceiling. If the furniture were removed, the living room could be mistaken for a function hall or a ballroom.
Ichigo hadn't gotten a chance to check out the other rooms on the first floor other than the living room, the dining room he was in right now, and the kitchen, but he imagined they were just as grand.
"On the second floor are Ichigo's, my, Asia's and Restia's rooms. The four rooms are constructed in a straight row and therefore structured to be connected to each other through doors."
Ichigo snorted. Rooms? More like room, considering the three girls always came into his room to sleep.
"On the third floor are Otou-san's, Yuzu's and Karin's rooms, plus a study and a storeroom. Since we've expanded the house and increased the number of rooms, Yuzu and Karin can have their own rooms."
"Hm, I don't really mind though. Yuzu and I have been sharing the same room for so many years, it doesn't really matter if that arrangement continues a while longer until we graduate." Karin said as she shrugged, Yuzu nodding her head in agreement behind her as the two of them cleaned up the dishes.
"Well, this is just in case something happens that requires you two to get separate rooms. Your rooms are connected to each other, and the beds are big enough for both of you to sleep on together if you still want to share the same room." Rias explained, and the two of them nodded in understanding.
"On the fourth floor are Akeno's, Koneko's, Yuuto's, Xenovia's and Gasper's rooms. The fifth and sixth floors are empty right now, since we don't have any use for them yet."
Ichigo nodded. So that was the gist of his new house…
"Next, in the basement floor one…"
"There's still more!?"
"Yes, there are three basement floors. The first basement floor is a training room that can also be used as a movie theatre if we move the equipment in. The strongest isolation spells were used in its construction, so even if we go all out in there, it won't affect the town. There's also an indoor hot spring. The second basement floor is a giant indoor pool that can be heated up. The third floor has a library with books from the Gremory Clan's personal library, and a large storeroom for heavier equipment. It's where we put the movie theatre equipment when we're using the first basement floor as a training room. There's an elevator that goes anywhere from the third basement floor to the sixth floor, so we don't have to waste time climbing stairs."
"…All of this was completed in a single night? The Gremory Clan is seriously scary…"
"Fufufufu, don't underestimate the Gremory Clan's prowess. Not only is this house extravagant, it's built to be able to withstand a war!" Rias declared proudly.
"What do you mean 'withstand a war'!? Did you convert the whole house into some kind of fortress!?"
"Not just this house, even our apartment building! It's a complete replica of this house!"
Even the apartment building had been renovated!? Ichigo wondered just how they had relocated all of the tenants.
"Well, all of that aside, there's something we need to discuss."
"For summer vacation, let's take a training trip to the Underworld."
"Huh, the Underworld?"
"Yeah, since the meeting between the young Devils is coming up soon, we have to make a trip down to the Underworld anyway. Since we're there, we should take the opportunity to train."
"If it's training, couldn't it be done at the mountain villa like last time?"
"The problem is that it's pretty cut off from civilisation. If we run out of supplies, it'd be a hassle to get more. We'll be staying in my family estate in the Underworld, so supplies are more accessible."
Ichigo nodded, that certainly made sense.
"Speaking of my family's estate, it'll be the first time going there for Ichigo, Asia and Xenovia, right?"
Ichigo, Asia and Xenovia nodded in affirmation. Technically, Ichigo and Asia had been to the Underworld before, but it had only been to a Rating Game battlefield.
"Y-Yes! I-I never thought I would be visiting Hell while I was alive! I-I thought I would only go there after I died!"
"Asia, calm down." Ichigo said as he patted her head.
Ichigo felt a chill run down his spine as sudden bursts of murderous intent were directed at him. He turned to find Rias, Restia and Akeno staring at him, strained smiles on their faces.
Then, Ichigo's eyes shifted towards the entryway when he felt a familiar reiatsu, though it was faint as though being suppressed, approaching and entering the house. Out of the corner of his vision, he noticed Restia and his father also glancing at the entryway, having sensed it as well. However, no one else other than them seemed to have noticed.
Ichigo's eyes met Azazel's as the latter walked into the dining room. Azazel smiled and put a finger to his lips, signaling Ichigo, Restia and Isshin to not say anything. He pulled up a chair and sat down at the table, and still no one else noticed him. Ichigo smirked as he realized what it was Azazel was doing.
"Hm, I've been interested in the Underworld for a long time. But, I served the Lord for the sake of getting into Heaven. Though, I suppose now that I'm a Devil, there's no chance of me getting into Heaven after I die. It's rather ironic that a believer like me will be setting foot in the realm that the souls of the wicked are condemned to for their sins. I guess it's fitting for a believer who became a Devil." Xenovia said with a bitter smile.
"I guess I'll tag along too. It's been a while since I visited the Underworld." Isshin added as he listened to our conversation.
"Oi, what about your job? And who's going to take care of Yuzu and Karin if both of us are gone?"
"Don't worry, I don't intend to stay any longer than a day. I'll be back by nightfall on the same day we leave."
Ichigo nodded, that seemed to be okay.
"I'll also be going to the Underworld."
Azazel finally spoke up after sitting in silence and masking his presence from everyone else.
Aside from the three who had noticed him from the beginning, everyone jumped as they finally noticed him sitting at the same table as them.
"Y-You…!? How did you get inside!?" Rias asked in shock.
"Hm? Through the front door of course. Where else?"
"…I didn't sense your presence at all…" Yuuto said with a hint of disbelief.
"That's because you guys lack training. I only masked my presence a bit and walked in through the front door. Though, Ichigo, Isshin and the little missy over there in the purple dress noticed me from the beginning. More importantly, you're returning to the Underworld, right? So, I'm tagging along too. I am your teacher, after all."
"Ah, now that he mentioned it…" Ichigo thought as he finally remembered Azazel's role as their teacher. And boy did he do a good job. He had only been around for a few days, but the Sacred Gear possessors of the group, including Ichigo, already felt like they had learnt a lot. Ichigo thought that he would make a better teacher than a faction leader.
"Let's see…the schedule is a meeting with Rias's parents first, then the introduction of the new members of the peerage to the current head, and after that is the annual meeting between the young Devils. Then, it'll be training all the way. I'm mainly going to help with your training, but while you're at the Gremory estate, I'll be meeting Sirzechs instead. Geez, it's so troublesome." Azazel sighed as he took out his phone and check his memo.
Ichigo felt that the reason he found it so troublesome was because his subordinates usually did most of his work for him. Ever since Azazel decided to stay in the human world, he was periodically visited by his Fallen Angel subordinates, all of them saying things like 'You need to decide on a secretary!', 'Please mind your personal appearance in the human world!' and 'You need personal bodyguards while in the human world!'
Though, every time, Azazel would send them back with the same words, 'I'm fine, now go back, that's an order.'
"Then, Otou-san and Azazel…sensei, should we make travel reservations for you two?" Rias asked.
"Yeah, but I also need to make it back on the same day."
"I'm looking forward to it. This will be the first time I'm travelling by the Devils' route-"
Azazel cut himself off when a massive reiatsu appeared and pressed down on their shoulders.
"This power…it's at the level of a High…no, Ultimate-Class Devil." Azazel said as he stood up and gazed in the general direction the source of the reiatsu was in.
"This reiatsu is…an arrancar's? Is it a survivor of Aizen's army? But for it to be this strong…An Espada? Ichigo, do you recognize…Ichigo?" Isshin trailed off as he turned to look at his son.
Everyone looked at me in concern when they saw Ichigo's expression. Ichigo imagined it looked pretty scary. But, he couldn't help it. After all, he recognized this reiatsu.
"It can't be…he's supposed to be dead…!"
"I-Ichigo? What's wrong? Do you know who it is?" Rias asked her Pawn hesitantly, but he ignored her. He had to go. He had to make sure.
Ichigo took a deep breath and concentrated on locating the source of the reiatsu. It was coming from…Karakura High.
"I'm going." Ichigo said as he pressed his Substitute Shinigami badge against his chest. His body fell back and went limp on the chair he was just sitting on as he entered his Soul form.
Ichigo leapt out of the window and took to the rooftops, intending to take the shortest route possible to Karakura High.
"Wait, Ichigo, we're coming with you!" Rias said as she and the others landed on the rooftop. Ichigo took a deep breath and calmed himself down.
"Alright, but whatever you do, don't try to fight him. The only ones strong enough to fight him are me, dad and Azazel." He warned them as they moved towards Karakura High, causing most of them to start and wonder just who this mysterious person was.
"So, it is one of Aizen's Espada?" Isshin asked.
"The reiatsu certainly suggests it. But, it's not possible. I killed him two years ago. His body disintegrated in front of me. There isn't even a remote possibility that he survived."
"Is this one strong?"
"Very. What we're sensing right now is only around a fifth of his real power."
"Only a fifth!? Then, at his full power, he would be..!" Rias exclaimed in shock.
"Almost Maou-Class. You actually defeated someone like that two years ago?" Azazel asked.
"I wouldn't exactly say I defeated him. During our first fight, I could barely scratch him at my full power. During our second and last fight, I was finally able to overpower him, but then he stopped holding back and trashed me. And then…he killed me."
Everyone stopped in their tracks.
"Maybe, I phrased that a bit erroneously. However, he blasted a Cero right through my chest, disintegrating my heart and most of my lungs. There was no doubt I should have died." Ichigo said as he clutched his chest at the exact same spot that had been carved open with a Cero two years ago.
Everyone looked positively ill as they imagined a great hole in the center of Ichigo's chest.
"That's thanks to my inner Hollow. He really saved me that time. He forced me into my fully Hollowfied form to save my life. But, I couldn't control its power, and I ended going berserk. In that berserk state, I defeated him and wounded his body beyond what his regeneration could heal. That was basically why he died." He said as he continued moving, everyone following behind him.
"Kurosaki!" Someone called out to him from a rooftop to my side. He turned to see Uryu floating towards them on a reishi platform, Chad and Orihime in tow.
"Ishida, Chad, Inoue, you guys feel it too?"
"Of course we do, how could we possibly miss such a massive reiatsu? And its texture…Kurosaki, is it really...?"
"Yeah, I can't believe it either, but there's no mistaking this reiatsu…!"
The school finally came into view.
"One of Aizen's artificial Arrancars, evolved from a Vasto Lorde Class Hollow, The Cuatro Espada, though his full power that he hid from Aizen could have easily made him the strongest…"
They landed on the rooftop, and were greeted by the sight of an average-sized man dressed in a white jacket, a black sash and a white hakama, with messy black hair, a broken horned helmet on his head, and a katana sheathed in a green scabbard at his side. His back was turned to them as he looked up at the sky before finally turning around, revealing a face with ash white skin, a sullen expression, green eyes, a black upper lip and green markings resembling tear tracks running down from his eyes to his chin. But everyone's attention was drawn to the Hollow hole at his sternum. There was no mistake, no matter how much Ichigo wanted to believe otherwise.
"It's been quite a while, Kurosaki Ichigo. You appear to have grown stronger since we last met."
Yamamoto Genryuusai Shigekuni, the venerable Captain Commander of Gotei 13 and one of Soul Society's founders, looked upon Seireitei's reconstruction efforts from the balcony of his office in the wake of the Quincy Invasion just a few months ago. Thought the invasion had only lasted a few hours at best, the battle between Gotei 13 and the Wandereich had done a splendid job of reducing all of Seireitei to rubble, which was why even now, less than half of Seireitei had been fully reconstructed.
"Mm?" Yamamoto was shaken out of his thoughts when a minor tremor hit Seireitei. Below him, down in the citadel, the foot soldiers and workers working on the reconstruction effort paused in their work.
An even stronger tremor rocked Seireitei, knocking many people on their asses. Yamamoto easily kept his balance and turned his attention towards the Red Hollowed Gate, the southern gate of Seireitei, where the tremor originated from. Unfortunately, even with Yamamoto's superior sensory abilities, honed through almost two millennia of training, it was impossible to sense any reiatsu outside of the Sekkiseki walls and the spherical barrier, Shakkonmaru, surrounding Seireitei, so he had no way of telling what the cause of the tremors was.
He got his answer in the next instant when the Red Hollowed Gate shattered into countless wood splinters, the Sekkiseki walls it was built between cracking and fragmenting. The massive body of Higonyudo, the gatekeeper of the Red Hollowed Gate, flew through the opening and crashed into the center of Seireitei, covered in gashes and blood, not moving an inch.
As the alarm signaling that Seireitei had been breached sounded, echoing shrilly throughout the citadel, Yamamoto's eyes shifted back to what was once the southern gate of Seireitei. What on earth could have been strong enough to shatter one of the legendary gates that barred entry into Seireitei, let alone crack a thick wall of pure Sekkiseki? While the walls didn't seem like much, they were crafted to protect the Reiokyu itself. They weren't invincible, but even Yamamoto himself would be hard-pressed to shatter it at anything less than his full physical power back in his prime combined with his current skill in Hakuda, since the Sekkiseki walls and the Shakkonmaru instantly destroyed any reiryoku that came in contact with them.
That meant that whatever broke the gates possessed immense physical strength or force that rivalled, or even exceeded his own power. Yamamoto frowned at the thought, and then realized that now that the wall had been breached, it was now possible for him to sense for reiatsu signatures through the hole, though the area he could search was limited.
Yamamoto reached out with his senses and his eyes widened when he sensed hundreds…no, thousands of Hollow reiatsu signatures, all at least Gillian level, outside Seireitei, storming into the citadel. The sounds of battle rang out as they were met by the forces of Gotei 13, intending to repel the invaders.
Yamamoto silently cursed under his breath when he sensed five, five Vasto Lorde level reiatsus entering Seireitei. The 13 Captains would have to be mobilized to deal with them.
*BOOM* *BOOM* *BOOM*
Yamamoto froze for an instant when the other three gates were similarly destroyed, thousands of Menos-level Hollows pouring into the Shinigami's stronghold through the openings. And worse, within each group breaching Seireitei, there were five Vasto Lordes, making for a grand total of twenty Vasto Lordes entering Soul Society without anyone noticing before the fact. Had their security become that lax? Or was something else going on?
Yamamoto prepared to move out in response to the twenty Vasto Lordes. They were powerful, that much was true, but he wasn't the oldest and strongest Shinigami in all of history for nothing. He could make short work of all of them even if they attacked him at once.
Then, an even greater pressure pressed down on his shoulders, causing even him to falter. No, it wasn't one, it was perhaps a dozen individual reiatsu signatures that on their own, would not have even made him flinch, but when combined, had enough power to rival his own reiatsu while Ryujin Jakka was still sealed. And worst of all, each of them were above Vasto Lorde level.
Each felt different from a typical Hollow's reiatsu, they also held traces of Shinigami-like reiatsu.
Arrancars? The remnants of Aizen's army, perhaps? …No, if that were true, Aizen would have brought them out when he invaded the human world. And while it was true that the reiatsu signatures he was feeling resembled that of Aizen's artificial Arrancars, they were still a bit different. The reiatsus that Aizen's artificial Arrancars gave off felt…forced, for lack of a better word, as though the Hollow and Shinigami reiatsus were forcefully welded together like slabs of iron. The reiatsu signatures he was feeling right now felt more natural in their mix of Hollow and Shinigami reiatsus, like two fruits blended perfectly together into a drink.
Yamamoto felt a deep sense of foreboding as he registered the reiatsu signatures. He had felt a similar reiatsu before in his distant past, but he just couldn't put his finger on it.
Then, his eyes trailed down to the scars on his gnarled hands, barely visible past his wrinkles, and he finally remembered why, and promptly wished he hadn't.
"It cannot be…"
"It's been a long time, Yamamoto Shigekuni, or is it Genryuusai now? You've certainly grown old since I last saw you."
Yamamoto looked up at the sky above him when he felt a hauntingly familiar voice speak and an immense reiatsu that almost caused his knees to buckle. He was greeted by the sight of a lanky turquoise-haired, yellow-eyed young man dressed in white robes, green and red energy wings sprouting from his back, a katana at his side, a Hollow hole just beneath the base of his neck, and what appeared to be a right half of the upper jaw with a crest attached to the side of his head. He smiled, staring down confidently and condescendingly at Yamamoto, who paled at the sight of him. He looked a bit different, more human-looking, from before, and his reiatsu was much greater than it was the last time he saw him, but there was no mistaking his identity.
"I have returned to declare war on Soul Society once more." The Arrancar known as Arturo declared with a smile and raised his arms to his side as a massive invasion of Soul Society began below.
In the next instant, the First Division Barracks exploded in a blaze of red and green flames.
Ichigo felt a bead of sweat roll down his face as he stared at his nemesis who he was pretty damn sure had died that day two years ago.
"You seem quite surprised to see me." Ulquiorra commented as he looked at Ichigo's expression.
"…You could say that. You did die in front of us two years ago."
"Two years…I see, so that's how long it has been."Ulquiorra commented, and then looked back up.
"You were not mistaken. I most certainly died that day, that much I am sure of. However, I was revived about a month ago."
"'Revived'? I wasn't aware it was possible to revive a soul that had been destroyed. At least, not by any method I've ever heard of." Azazel commented as he narrowed his eyes at the Arrancar, who he could tell possessed incredible power.
"It shouldn't. Only two fates await a Hollow when they're destroyed. When slain by a Shinigami's Zanpakuto, the souls that they're composed of will be sent to Soul Society. Anything else, and they're completely obliterated." Isshin said with a frown as he thought about it.
"And yet, here I stand. In all honesty, I do not understand it either. However, I do know that I've been given an order, and that I cannot disobey."
Ulquiorra unsheathed his Zanpakuto and pointed the tip of the blade at Ichigo, who tensed and prepared to draw Zangetsu.
"Kurosaki Ichigo, fight me." Ulquiorra declared.
"…Is there no way out of this?"
"I'm afraid not. Even if I'm unwilling to carry out my new master's orders, the technique he used to revive me has an added effect of making it impossible for me to disobey his orders." Ulquiorra revealed, spitting the word 'master' with an uncharacteristic amount of venom.
Ichigo felt a momentary stab of pity when he heard his formerly deceased nemesis's words, but shook his head and cleared his mind of such thoughts. He couldn't afford to fight carelessly, especially not in the middle of a town filled with humans.
"…I don't mind fighting, but let's switch locations first. I'd rather not destroy the entire town in the course of the fight."
"…Very well." Ulquiorra sheathed his Zanpakuto in compliance.
"Do you have a location in mind?"
Ichigo thought about it…and could honestly only think of one location.
"One. It's isolated and wide enough for us to use our full power without restraint."
"Very well then, lead the way."
The look on the face of Urahara Kisuke, a former Captain of Gotei 13, now a humble candy shop owner, a genius inventor and Ichigo's primary mentor, when their group had entered his shop suddenly with one of their former enemies in tow was a memory that Rias would keep stored away in the back of her mind for a very long time. But that was nowhere near as important as what was going on right now.
Rias, along with the rest of her peerage, Ichigo's friends, Restia, Isshin, Urahara, Shihoin Yoruichi, Tsukabishi Tessai and Azazel stood at the edge of the massive wasteland-like training ground Urahara had constructed beneath his humble shop, Urahara and Tessai maintaining a barrier around the training ground to contain the inevitable damage.
Atop two massive rock pillars stood Ichigo and Ulquiorra Cifer, facing each other, with their Zanpakutos drawn. Normally, Ichigo would be using Boosted Gear and the Vorpal Sword as well, but this time, he had insisted on using only his Shinigami and Hollow powers.
"Well then, shall we begin?" Rias heard Ulquiorra ask her beloved Pawn, who simply tensed and held Zangetsu in a battle stance.
Ulquiorra drew his Zanpakuto at an almost painfully slow pace and pointed it at Ichigo.
In the next instant, the spectators were forced to shield their eyes when a huge dust cloud was kicked up as the two combatants moved towards each other at unperceivable speed and clashed.
The dust cleared, and Rias lowered her hand to find both combatants locking blades in midair, struggling to overpower the other.
"Incredible. Just two years ago, you needed both your Bankai and your Hollowfication to fight me in my sealed state. Now, you can keep up with me with just your Shikai. You truly have grown, Kurosaki Ichigo." Ulquiorra commented.
The revelation shocked Rias to her core. To her, and to the rest of her peerage as well, Ichigo had been like a titan, mighty and unmovable. The revelation that he had required his full power to fight his opponent's 5% two years ago was one that caused her no end of shock…and distress. Ichigo was certainly stronger than he was two years ago, but he was limiting himself to only two of his powers. Could he win?
Ulquiorra pulled away from the blade lock and landed on another one of the countless rock pillars scattered throughout the training ground.
"In that case, there's no need for me to hold back."
Ulquiorra unexpectedly cut his own left hand with his Zanpakuto, startling Rias and the other spectators. However, Ichigo's expression suggested that he knew what Ulquiorra was trying to do.
Ichigo held Zangetsu up and a familiar buildup of red light around the blade told Rias that he was preparing his signature technique, Getsuga Tensho. At the same time, a ball of dark green energy started rapidly forming in Ulquiorra's hand, and Rias realized it was a Cero, though much more refined and powerful than the ones she had seen Ichigo occasionally use. The combined pressure building from the two attacks was beginning to affect her, even from a distance, and Rias struggled to stay on her feet.
"Gran Rey Cero."
The two released their attacks, and the spectators were forced to shield their eyes once more when a massive red beam of light and an equally massive rotating dark green beam of light clashed.
The light died down and Rias opened her eyes to see Ichigo standing amidst a dust cloud, not even the least bit winded. But, Ulquiorra was nowhere in sight.
Then, he burst through the dust behind Ichigo and stabbed his blade towards his opponent, who sensed his approach, but was unable to do anything other than turn around to get stabbed in the shoulder.
Rias forced down a scream when she saw that her beloved Pawn's opponent was the first to draw first blood, though Asia and Orihime weren't quite as successful. Then, she caught sight of the triumphant smirk on his face as his free hand shot out and grabbed a subtly startled Ulquiorra by his shirt.
"Got you." Ichigo smirked as a ball of electricity started building up in his hand, causing Ulquiorra's eyes to widen and his efforts to escape from Ichigo's grip intensify. But, Ichigo wouldn't be having any of that.
"Raikouho!" Ichigo shouted as the Kido exploded at point blank range. Ulquiorra jumped out of the smoke cloud produced, revealing his destroyed shirt and his charred torso. As the smoke cleared, Rias saw that Ichigo's left arm was untouched, aside from the destroyed sleeve.
"Kido as well? Your repertoire of techniques certainly has increased since we last fought." Ulquiorra said as he examined the extent of the injuries he had received. Despite how severe they looked, they appeared superficial at best to Rias, something proven when the burns suddenly receded, replaced by clean, unblemished skin. A powerful regenerative ability on par with even Ichigo's, Rias realized.
Ichigo held up his left arm, revealing that his regeneration had gotten of his own burns as well.
"My Shinigami powers are not the only thing I've been training in." Ichigo said, causing Ulquiorra's eyes to narrow.
"I see. Your mastery over your Hollowfication allows you to use Hierro and regeneration even without your mask."
Ulquiorra flipped his katana in a reverse grip, holding it in front of him.
"In that case, there's no need for me to keep up this farce. I will use my Resurreccion."
Ichigo's eyes widened and he immediately pointed Zangetsu forward, his left hand gripping his right upper arm, a stance Rias recognized from the battle with Kokabiel.
In the same instant, two distinct massive pressures crushing down as dark colored expanding auras coated the two combatants, a dark red aura around Ichigo and a dark green aura around Ulquiorra, bursting forth from their blades.
"Mm?" Rias perked up when she felt a droplet of water splashing down on her forehead and thought for an instant that it was raining before remembering that they were underground. She looked up…and found the cause. It really was raining, but it wasn't water. It was dark green energy. Ulquiorra's energy, Rias realized. Like how Ichigo's release of energy when using Bankai resembled a flash of reddish-black light, Ulquiorra's took the form of dark green rain.
The two dark auras faded. Ichigo stood tall, dressed in a white undershirt under his long, coat-like, Shihakusho that ended in numerous coattails, held open and together by 3 black X-like strips of cloth. He wore long black gloves that were covered in white Xs that extended up to his forearms. In his right hand, he held a long, serrated black katana that had a long black metal chain, one end attached to the pommel of his katana and the other end to his right glove. This was the pinnacle of Ichigo's Shinigami powers, his Bankai, Tensa Zangetsu. It was only the second time Rias had seen it, but she knew that beneath its somewhat plain appearance was an immense power that allowed Ichigo to match the top-brass of the Three Factions.
Her eyes shifted to his opponent and Rias found herself momentarily stunned when she saw his new appearance.
Two massive bat wings, bigger and much more intimidating than even the wings of Devils, sprouted from Ulquiorra's back. His hair had grown wilder and longer, extending down past his shoulders. His shattered helmet-like attachment atop the right side of his head had repaired itself and now fully covered his head, with two great horns pointing outwards and slightly towards his front. The tear track-like markings on his face had grown broader, thicker and triangular. His fingernails had grown longer. His white garb, formerly a three-piece get up was now, closed at the top, more form fitting and looked like a white robe. Altogether, Ulquiorra looked more Devil-like than most Devils.
The two combatants faced each other as their transformation ended, and Rias felt an immense pressure pressing down on her shoulders, causing her to stumble, unable to stay upright. Around her, she noticed her peerage having lost their balance as well. Everyone else looked to be fine, though they had sharp expressions on their faces, and Ichigo's three human friends looked rather inconvenienced.
The two combatants then vanished from view, moving so fast that they only reappeared when they clashed. Sparks flew as Ichigo's Tensa Zangetsu grinded against a green energy javelin Ulquiorra had created.
The two pushed each other away and landed atop stone pillars and Ulquiorra immediately threw his javelin at Ichigo, who immediately countered with a silent Black Getsuga that negated the powerful javelin, creating a vortex of energy at the point of impact.
Ichigo tensed as he prepared for another attack and thus was able to shatter another javelin aimed for his forehead that burst through the energy vortex. But, in the instant that his arm was fully outstretched, Ulquiorra appeared above him and kicked him in the gut, sending him flying through the air and slamming through several pillars, shattering them in the process.
Ichigo quickly regained his footing in midair and launched another silent Getsuga at Ulquiorra, who halted abruptly in his charge as the beam of black and red energy slammed into him. He quickly flew out, his clothes frazzled and blackened from the heat of the attack, only to be hit by another Getsuga. And then another, and another after that.
Ichigo swung Tensa Zangetsu over and over, releasing beam after beam of silent Getsugas at his opponent who simply raised his arms to take the brunt of the bombardment.
Ichigo then stopped the bombardment after a while and started charging up a full-powered Getsuga.
The sound of crackling energy drew Rias's attention to the smoke cloud that Ulquiorra's figure was obscured by. The smoke cleared slightly to reveal Ulquiorra's right arm outstretched with the index finger pointed towards Ichigo, an expanding ball of black and green energy at the tip. Rias recognized the buildup as a Cero, though it seemed stronger than even the one that Ulquiorra had used earlier.
The two buildups of black energy, one tinged red and the other tinged green, stopped and the two titans unleashed their attacks.
A beam of black and red energy and a beam of black and green energy were unleashed and clashed with each other, creating a shockwave so massive that it rocked the entire training ground and caused most of the spectators to lose their balance as the ground beneath them shook.
The two beams continued to clash, not allowing the other to gain ground. And then, Ulquiorra raised his free hand and created yet another energy javelin and tossed it at Ichigo, who immediately removed a hand from his sword and slapped the javelin aside. But in doing so, his concentration had been momentarily disrupted and Ulquiorra's Cero overpowered his Getsuga Tensho and struck him.
The smoke cleared and revealed Ichigo with the top half of his clothes completely obliterated and his torso covered in burns. But even with those wounds, Ichigo didn't seem to be in pain at all.
"You took the brunt of my Cero Oscuras and only took that much damage…you truly have grown, Kurosaki Ichigo.
Ulquiorra landed on the ground.
"In that case…shall I remind you what true despair is?"
Then, a maelstrom of pitch black energy formed and swirled at Ulquiorra's feet, slowly crawling up his body to engulf him, and as it did, the already massive pressure boring down on everyone else in the area increased to the point where Rias and her peerage dropped to their knees, Ichigo's friends lost their balance momentarily and the oldest members of the group, including Restia, showed just the smallest signs of strain due to the sudden increase before they adjusted themselves and their expressions returned to normal.
The maelstrom of dark green dispersed abruptly, and Rias froze as she stared at Ulquiorra's new form, instinctual fear permeating every cell in her body as she did.
His white robe had vanished completely, and that would have left him naked if he didn't have black fur covering his lower body and his forearms that had also become claws. His legs had changed to resemble talons. A long slender black furred tail swished from side to side near the base of his talon-like feet. His bone like helmet had vanished, but his horns had elongated and twisted. His sclera turned black and the tear trails on his face grew even thicker. But the biggest change was his Hollow hole that had shifted down to the center of his chest, and had a black tattoo going from it all the way down to Ulquiorra's lower body, looking like a oozing trail of black blood.
But, most of all, was the terrible oppressive aura coming from him that struck fear and despair into her heart like never before. This…monster, his power could rival even the leaders of the Three Factions! Ichigo was supposed to defeat a monster like this!?
Ichigo stared at Ulquiorra's new form with a grimace before he held his hand over his face. With a flash of black light, his Hollow mask appeared over his face and his aura became wilder and heavier.
Ulquiorra's eyebrow quirked up as he took in Ichigo's Hollow mask.
"That mask…it's changed quite drastically since the last time we fought, hasn't it? Was it because of your full Hollowfication? Or perhaps you've gotten better at using your Hollow powers. Show me, Kurosaki Ichigo." Ulquiorra Cifer crouched over with one clawed hand on the ground as Ichigo readied his sword.
A dust cloud was kicked up when Ulquiorra vanished from view. Ichigo immediately swung Tensa Zangetsu to his side just in time to block Ulquiorra's claw, though he was knocked off his feet and sent flying right into a rock pillar a second later.
Ulquiorra landed and observed as the rock pillar Ichigo had crashed into collapsed. Then, his eyes widened and he barely tilted his head to the side in time to avoid a red ball of energy aimed for him.
"A Bala? So, your powers have already developed this far…Interesting." Ulquiorra commented as he raised his hand once more. Immediately, a familiar ball of crackling greenish black energy started forming at the tip of his finger, but at a much faster rate than before.
Ichigo's voice, distorted by his Hollowfication called out in response to his opponent's attack and a massive blast of black and red energy surged its way out of the dust cloud to collide with the green and black beam. The two blasts connected and halted as they attempted to overpower the other, but the power struggle quickly ended when Ichigo's Getsuga Tensho tore right through Ulquiorra's Cero Oscuras. Wide-eyed, Ulquiorra was so surprised that one of his most powerful techniques was defeated so quickly that he barely shielded himself with his wings in time to block the brunt of his opponent's attack. His eye twitched, the only obvious sign of the immense pain he felt as the energy blast burned through most of his wings, forcing him to land and regain balance.
Ichigo emerged from the smoke, though Rias had only dimly noticed, her attention mostly focused on Ulquiorra as his obliterated wings started reconstructing themselves rapidly, regaining their original shape in a matter of seconds. He proceeded to fold and unfold them, nodding slightly to himself in satisfaction, his wings apparently fully restored. He then turned his attention back to Ichigo who was quietly observing him.
"To be able to overpower my Cero Oscuras…It appears I don't have the luxury of taking my time with you, Kurosaki Ichigo. Prepare yourself."
Ulquiorra clapped his hands together in front of his. A green light appeared between them, lengthening rapidly as he separated them, taking the shaped of a rather crude looking spear not dissimilar to a Fallen Angel's spear of light. But despite its lack of aesthetics in appearance, Rias could tell that it was even more dangerous than Cero Oscuras by the sheer amount of energy compressed into it. Its power exceeded perhaps even the most powerful spear of light that she had seen Kokabiel or Azazel use. There was no way that Ichigo would take that head on and get out unscathed.
Rias was pulled out of her thoughts when the spear temporarily left her field of vision due to her being distracted, though she soon regained sight of it travelling at high speed towards Ichigo. Just as the spear would have impaled his face, Ichigo tilted his head and let the spear sail past him, eventually landing further away.
Rias was completely unprepared when the spear detonated itself, creating a massive pillar of green energy that kicked up a massive gale that blew throughout the training ground, forcing the observers to close their eyes, or simply shield them with their arms.
The gale began to die down, and Rias was able to open her eyes slightly, and what she saw almost would have caused her to go slack-jawed if she didn't have an image to uphold.
The spot where Ulquiorra's spear had landed and the surrounding land had been completely devastated, leaving nothing but a deep crater that Rias could not see the bottom of from her vantage point. Rias paled as she thought of what would have happened if the spear had managed to connect with Ichigo. While Ichigo had Hierro and Blut Vene, both powerful defensive abilities, she didn't think that even both of them together would be able to completely negate the spear's power.
"Hmph…as I thought, I still can't aim very well…no, has my aim actually deteriorated?" Ulquiorra sighed and muttered to himself, though not quietly enough that the observers could not hear him.
Rias paled as another spear, identical to the one he had just thrown, appeared in his hands. It was utterly inconceivable to her that such a powerful attack could be used multiple times in a row.
Ichigo was on the move before Ulquiorra could get into a throwing stance again, bursting out of the dust cloud and swinging down at Ulquiorra's head as he reached him. Ulquiorra grabbed Tensa Zangetsu's blade with a clawed hand, though he found himself slowly being forced down as Ichigo pressed his attack.
A frown creased Ulquiorra's brow before he vanished with only a buzzing noise left in his wake, causing Ichigo to fall forward as the resistance against his blade that had kept him stabilized disappeared, and was unable to react in time when Ulquiorra appeared above him and batted him aside with one of his massive wings.
Ichigo careened through the air, travelling several dozen meters before he was finally able to stop himself and regain his balance, only to find Ulquiorra already in his face, barely bringing up Tensa Zangetsu in time to block his opponent's claw. The force of the attack pushed him back as he struggled to put up more resistance, a feat rendered much more difficult since his arms were not in an ideal position to do so.
A black wave, not a beam like before, shot out of Ichigo's blade and pushed Ulquiorra away. Ulquiorra tumbled in midair before expanding his wings to stop himself to find Ichigo already swinging his sword down at him.
Ulquiorra raised his spear to deflect the blade, but was quickly forced to raise it again to block once more when an unfazed Ichigo simply swung his sword again.
Sparks flew through the air as Ichigo's sword clashed against Ulquiorra's spear, neither side showing any sign of yielding, until…
Black energy appeared around Tensa Zangetsu, a telltale sign of the buildup of a Getsuga Tensho. The energy-coated Tensa Zangetsu slammed into Ulquiorra's spear once more.
Rias momentarily saw Ulquiorra's eyes widen in shock at the sight of his spear shattering before Ichigo rammed his blade through his gut. Ulquiorra stared silently at the black blade jammed into his abdomen and then closed his eyes. At that moment, Rias could have sworn she caught a glimpse of a ghost of a fleeting smile on Ulquiorra's lips.
Ichigo finally released the Getsuga from his blade and a black beam slammed into Ulquiorra, whose figure vanished into a massive explosion that reached all the way down to the ground.
Ichigo landed a small distance away from the massive crater created by the explosion, keeping his blade at the ready for when his opponent rose from the crater. He tensed when a figure slowly and shakily rose from the center of the crater.
Ulquiorra was hardly in peak condition. Quite the opposite, in fact. Both of his wings had been vaporized, leaving little more than burnt stumps behind. His left arm and right leg had been destroyed. They had slightly regenerated into long, thin stick figure-ish limbs, but showed no other signs of recovering beyond that . His horns had melted, twisted into ugly masses of white bone-like substance that in no way was close to their original appearance. But, the most striking injury was the massive jagged hole Ichigo's attack had carved into his stomach. Just a quarter of an inch to either side, and Ulquiorra's torso would have been split in two halves.
And yet, in spite of all of his injuries, Ulquiorra showed no sign of pain, not even so much as a grimace. If anything, his expression was…peaceful, was the best way Rias could put it, as though a great burden had been lifted from him.
"Well done, Kurosaki Ichigo. I didn't expect you to have grown this much in just 2 short years. And…it didn't appear that you fought with everything you had."
"I did, I fought with every last bit of power I had…as Kurosaki Ichigo, the Substitute Shinigami who possessed an Inner Hollow, the same state I was when I fought you two years ago. With this, I can finally clear my regret from back then."
"Hmph. Still the same boy too soft to be standing on a battlefield...Well, it hardly matters to me anymore. I can feel the effects of that man's despicable technique leaving my body. In a few short moments, I will die, like I had two years ago."
Ichigo removed his mask and bowed his head slightly. Though he was an enemy, he was also a warrior that he could respect.
"That also means that his hold over me is weakening. That's why…"
Ichigo looked up when Ulquiorra unexpectedly continued.
"…before I am destroyed, I will tell you everything I know about that man. His name, his abilities…and his plans for Soul Society."
Ichigo felt a strong sense of foreboding when he heard those words.
Yamamoto breathed heavily as he stood among the pile of debris that was once the barracks of the Division that he was Captain of. Around him, the sounds of ongoing battle in every part of Seireitei reached his ears, even above the crackle of the flames surrounding the area created by his Zanpakuto, Ryujin Jakka.
He imagined he didn't look very good at the moment. His Captain's haori was missing, lost in the midst of the fight. His Shihakkusho was charred and tattered. Small streams of blood flowed down his face from a cut on his forehead, no doubt adding yet another scar to his bountiful collection once it healed. Fatigue was beginning to seep into his aged bones, his stamina nowhere near what it once was in his prime.
In all honesty, while he didn't look his best, he wasn't in terrible shape either, thus few people would think that Yamamoto could be losing. At least, until they looked at his opponent.
The turquoise-haired, yellow-eyed Arrancar that Yamamoto recognized as possibly Soul Society's greatest enemy, stood a short distance away from him. In contrast to Yamamoto's worn out state, he could only be said to be the picture of health. Granted, his robes were cut and burnt in some places, but other than that, there was no sign that he had even been in so much as a scuffle, let alone a full-blown fight with the legendarily powerful Captain Commander of Gotei 13.
Yamamoto analyzed the situation and didn't like what he had finally realized why the 12 abnormal reiatsu signatures had felt so familiar. While obviously different in terms of power, in terms of composition, they were practically identical to his opponents, which made for a grand total of 13 such beings. 13: the same number of squads in Gotei 13. If he didn't know any better, he could swear that this invading force was like…
"An anti-Gotei 13 force…" Yamamoto muttered to himself.
"What's wrong, Yamamoto Shigekuni? You look quite tired. I must say, this little scuffle of ours has been a bit disappointing. Have you grown weaker than you were 1000 years ago? Or perhaps I've grown stronger than you thought possible in the past millennia?"
Sadistic mirth dancing in his yellow eyes, the Arrancar known to Yamamoto as Arturo Plateado, spoke in a mocking tone, a smug smirk on his face, to his opponent, who broke out of his thoughts and narrowed his eyes.
"…What have you done to yourself, Arturo Plateado? Your reiatsu has completely changed and you seem very much like one of Aizen Sosuke's Artificial Arrancars." Yamamoto asked catiously, trying to gleam some information about his enemy that could help him in his battle.
Arturo's smirk faded slightly.
"I would thank you to not compare me to those failures. Aizen Sosuke believed that he was helping Hollows reach their full potential by converting into Artificial Arrancars with that little marble of his, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The only thing he succeeded in was crippling their potential."
Yamamoto could hardly believe his ears. True, Aizen's Artificial Arrancars weren't at the same level that Arturo was, not even close, but the strongest of them were strong enough at their full power to give his Captains a hard fight, even with their Bankais. And they were considered to be wastrels?
"You see, unlike them, my transformation into an Arrancar was a natural, albeit very slow, process after I had reached the peak of my power as a Hollow. During my first invasion of Soul Society 1000 years ago, I was still in the process of transformation and had only recently completed it two decades ago. However, as you can see, it was worth the wait. My power is now far beyond yours, Yamamoto Genryuusai. And twelve Natural Arrancars, just like me, lead my army to destroy Seireitei. The destruction of Gotei 13 is only a matter of time. And then…we will move on to Reioukyu." Arturo proclaimed with a gleam of madness in his eyes, a manic smile on his face.
Yamamoto scowled as he heard the outline of Arturo's plan. He would never allow this menace to step foot in Reioukyu while he was still alive!
"That will not come to pass, Arturo Plateado! Even if it costs me my life, I will not allow you to trespass in Reioukyu! Bankai!"
The flames surrounding the area and coating Ryujin Jakka's blade vanished instantly, leaving behind only a heavily charred katana. But, despite the absence of flames and the less than impressive appearance of the sword, the heat in the area seemed to rise dramatically, along with Yamamoto's reiatsu.
"Zanka no Tachi! Prepare yourself, Arturo Plateado! I will finish what I started 1000 years ago!" Yamamoto declared as he entered a stance.
Arturo's grin threatened to split his face as he brandished his Zanpakuto and his wings of prismatic flames expanded.
"Come, Yamamoto Shigekuni! My blade will not be satisfied until it has spilled your innards over this battlefield!"
The two combatants swung their blades and in the next instant, the area was vaporized by the force of the clash.
Ichigo watched with some apprehension as his nemesis opened his mouth to start speaking. Now that the battle was over, and one of his greatest regrets settled with it, he was able to regain some clarity of mind…and didn't like what he could now see.
In hindsight, he should have been more concerned about the fact that his dead-for-two-years enemy was somehow up and walking around than settling an old regret. Now that he could analyze the situation, he could see Ulquiorra's appearance and the resulting battle for what they really were: a distraction. Somewhere, right now, there was something so much bigger happening, and Ichigo was late to the party.
"Honestly, what I know is only very little. There are only four things that I can be sure of. The first is the name of the one who revived me. His name is…Arturo Plateado."
The name was unfamiliar to most of those present, but Ichigo would have to be blind to not see the shock that rippled through the four elder Shinigami present when they heard the two words that left Ulquiorra's mouth. His father in particular, had paled to the point that he was white as a sheet.
"Arturo…Plateado!? Impossible, he's reemerged!?" Isshin exclaimed with a tone of intense disbelief.
"O-Oi, dad? You're freaking out, which is kind of freaking me out." Ichigo said uncertainly.
He really was feeling kind of freaked out at the moment. He only knew two sides to his dad: his goofy side that he showed almost all the time, and the serious side that he only showed on occasion. He had never, never, seen him freak out like this before. It was frankly unsettling that this Arturo character warranted a response like this.
"It's a response that can't be helped, considering who Arturo Plateado is, which brings us to the second thing that I am certain of. Arturo Plateado's identity." Ulquiorra continued.
"Arturo Plateado…he's most likely the oldest active Hollow in existence…no, that's a bit inaccurate. He's most likely the oldest active Arrancar in existence." Ulquiorra said, confusing Ichigo.
"The oldest? So…what? He was the first Arrancar that Aizen created?"
"Perhaps I should have phrased it more clearly. Arturo Plateado is the oldest active Natural Arrancar."
"Natural? What do you mean Natural? I thought the Hogyoku was the only method by which a Hollow could become an Arrancar and a Shinigami become a Vizard."
"I had initially believed so as well, and evidently, so did Aizen-sama. However, Arturo is older than most, perhaps senior to even your Captain Commander. It would not surprise me if he had found another, more natural, if slower, method. And worse, the boost in power that he has received from his ascension from Hollow to Arrancar far exceeds that of those created by the Hogyoku. At this point, he may be far stronger than even Aizen-sama."
"Far stronger than Aizen!? Is that even possible!?" Ichigo thought furiously. Even Yhwach, the strongest person, apart from the transformed Aizen, he had fought up to this point, had only been marginally stronger than Aizen before he had fused with the Hogyoku. The thought of a being far stronger than that was frightening to say the least.
"As proof of his power…well, he was able to fully revive a being of my level, something that should have been fundamentally impossible considering I had completely disintegrated, with a single technique and with contemptible ease."
At that point, Ichigo and everyone else who hadn't already paled did just that. Revive Ulquiorra, who was infinitely close to Maou-Class, and not even be winded afterwards!? That sounded like…the power of a God.
"If you are thinking that he sounds akin to a God, you wouldn't be incorrect. Long ago, Arturo Plateado ruled over all of Hueco Mundo as the sole king before he stepped down and disappeared. One of the names that his subjects called him was…the True God King of Hueco Mundo."
Silence reigned over the ruined training ground as everyone processed Ulquiorra's words, one that was broken shortly after by Ulquiorra, whose breathing was becoming more labored. It was clear to anyone that he would die soon.
"The last thing I can tell you is something I'm sure that some of you have already realized. My arrival here was meant as a distraction. At this very moment, Arturo Plateado is launching a full-scale invasion of Soul Society with an army of Menos-Class Hollows, led by 12 other Natural Arrancars like him."
Shock morphed into horror as they realized just how dire the situation really was. Soul Society was still recovering from the Wandereich's invasion. There was no way they could hold out against a being far above Yhwach and Aizen's level, let alone 13 of them leading an army!
"Urahara-san, the Senkaimon!" Ichigo immediately called to his mentor, who nodded, understanding the urgency, and quickly brought out his personal Senkaimon. He and Tessai quickly got to work, preparing the Senkaimon for them to pass through.
"Do not expect it to be so easy. Arturo Plateado has already anticipated that I would not be able to stop you for long. I would hazard a guess that he's prepared a contingency plan to keep all of you here." Ulquiorra interjected just as the Senkaimon activated, and almost as though on cue, massive reiatsu signatures began to bore down on everyone present.
"These signatures…! Vasto Lordes!? And that's not all. At least two dozen Adjuchas and a small army of Gillians!?" Isshin exclaimed as he reached out with his senses to determine the strength of the enemy force.
"Dammit, if we fight here, Karakura will be reduced to rubble in an instant!"Ichigo growled as a strong sense of conflict emerged. He had to go help his friends in Soul Society, but if he left now, the invading army would obliterate Karakura! Dammit, what would he do now!?
"Urgh, why did this have to happen now!?"
"Arturo Plateado perceives you, and your allies in the Human World to be the greatest threats to his plan. Especially you, Kurosaki Ichigo. You have a tendency to turn the tides of any battle you join in favor of your side. Arturo Plateado would want to keep you as far away as possible." Ulquiorra said as though it was obvious and then looked down at his hand which was beginning to disperse into fine particles.
"My time is up. I wish you the best of luck, Kurosaki Ichigo. I don't think I need to tell you that you will need it."
With his last words spoken, Ulquiorra closed his eyes and his body disintegrated like it had 2 years ago, leaving Ichigo and the others in their conundrum.
"…Kisuke, how long do you need to prepare the Tenkai Kecchu?" Isshin calmed himself and asked his friend. Ichigo started when he heard his father suggest they use the same tactic they used against Aizen two years ago.
Kisuke looked sharply at him before replying.
"Around an hour. I already had the pillars restored in case something like this happened, but it will take time for me to place them and activate the Kido. But, the problem is…"
"If what Ulquiorra Cifer said is true, there's an army of Menos-Class Hollows in Soul Society right now. Rukongai has probably already been overrun by now. We can't send the real Karakura Town to the same place as before."
"In that case, why not send Karakura to the Gremory territory in the Underworld. The Underworld doesn't have any oceans, so our land mass is significantly greater than Earth's. We can easily accommodate a small town like this." Rias suggested, bringing everyone's attention to her.
"True, if it's in the Gremory territory, we won't have to worry about the residents coming to harm, but…" Isshin nodded, though with some reservations.
"Changing the destination coordinates from Rukongai to the Underworld will take time as well. At least another 30 minutes." Kisuke said grimly.
"One and a half hours, huh?" Isshin muttered as he rubbed his chin.
"I'll help out too. I have the map data for the Underworld, and I can help with the setting of the pillars, so we can probably cut down the time needed." Azazel said with an uncharacteristically serious look on his face.
That seemed to convince Isshin.
"Alright, until the Tenkai Kecchu is ready, the rest of us will hold back the enemy forces. I'll get Ryuken to help too. Ichigo, you head for Soul Society and join in the fight there."
"Wait, I should be helping out here too!" Ichigo immediately protested. As much as he wanted to go help his friends in Soul Society, they weren't weak. They should be able to hold out until they had defeated the enemy forces here.
"No, Arturo Plateado is a different kind of strong compared to Aizen and Yhwach. As strong as the Captain Commander is, he will inevitably lose. Yamamoto-soutaicho is the leader of the Allied Forces. We cannot afford to lose him. You have to hurry before Arturo kills him!"
"…Dad, you know this Arturo guy personally?" Ichigo asked, finally realizing why his dad had freaked out so badly.
"…Let's save storytime for later. Right now, you have to hurry!"
"Urgh…dammit, don't get yourselves killed! Restia, let's go!" Ichigo reluctantly passed through the Senkaimon with Restia right behind him.
"…Now then, even though I say we'll hold them off, the fact is we're heavily outnumbered. We can easily defeat the Gillians and Adjuchas, but since Kisuke and Azazel will be pinned down here preparing the Tenkai Kecchi, the Vasto Lordes outnumber us five to four. Even for us, taking on more than one Vasto Lorde at a time will be difficult…Rias-chan, sorry, but could you contact Sirzechs and inform him of the situation. We're going to need a lot of reinforcements."
"Understood, just give me a moment…" Rias created a small magic circle and contacted her brother.
"Akeno, I'll be busy preparing the transfer. I need you to contact Baraqiel and tell him what's going on. Tell him to inform Michael and the Seraphs too."
Akeno paled before reddening in anger.
"I will not…!"
"Akeno! I can understand your reluctance, but now isn't the time for that! Please!" Azazel pleaded with her.
Akeno gritted her teeth, but reluctantly created a magic circle of her own.
"Asia-chan and Orihime-chan will remain here as our healers of course…"
Asia and Orihime nodded in understanding.
"…And the rest of us had better get ready. This is going to be a fight unlike any other." Isshin said as he held his Zanpakuto, Engetsu, at the ready. The rest similarly prepared themselves physically and mentally for the battle.
Just as they rushed out of the shop to confront the enemy forces at the outskirts of town, a massive reiatsu signature approached the shop rapidly and before anyone could react, the ground above exploded, raining debris down upon them.
Ichigo rushed as fast as his Bankai would allow him through the Dangai, not even pausing to look at the place where he had once trained and obtained his strongest technique. Restia had already changed into the Vorpal Sword, since she wouldn't be able to keep up with his Bankai's maximum speed.
He almost stumbled when a massive gale of reiatsu blew at him from behind, a sure sign that the battle in Karakura had begun. And though he had left it to his friends to defend, he couldn't help but look back in worry.
"Stop worrying. It won't get you anywhere. They trust you to turn the tides of the battle in Soul Society. Shouldn't you extend the same trust to them as well?" Restia told him through their mental link.
"I agree with the Dark One. Didn't my older self say it before? Step back and you will age. Hesitate and you will die. Move forward and never stop." Zangetsu's…no, Tensa Zangetsu's voice echoed in his mind.
"…Yeah, you're right. Thanks. I have to keep going!"
His mind now clear, Ichigo picked up speed, heading the straight path towards the exit that had finally come into view.
Then, even more reiatsu struck him, this time from the front. If the ones coming from Karakura had been like a massive gale, the ones coming from Soul Society were like a gargantuan maelstrom.
Ichigo charged like a bull towards the exit, a rectangular block of light at the end of the path. He could only hope he was not too late.
And I'm finally done. The fight was pretty hard to write, which partly contributed to the slow writing speed. But, it's done. A bit dissatisfied with the way I wrote it, but hey, what's done is done, and I still have 4 other stories to work on.
So, the enemy leader has been revealed to be Arturo Plateado who, for those of you who don't know, is an actual Bleach character. Not a canon one, he's only shown up in two games so far. However, he was perfect for how I wanted the enemy leader to be, so I used him. The games portrayed him as a fairly weak character, but rest assured, he is going to be the greatest challenge Ichigo has ever faced.
Next update will be for Black Joker, so look forward to that.
Also, for those of you who are unaware, I've posted the prologue of my Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance fic, Butterfly Effect. Kinda late to be saying this, considering I posted it in April.
That's all I have for now. As always, please read and review.