Phew what a chapter! It's a whopping 15 pages long! I apologise for the wait in uploading this chapter, I was suffering with influenza and a sinus infection, and then it was Christmas and before I knew it I was too busy to write anything! But at last it has arrived!
Thank you all for your lovely reviews and favourites, I really appreciate it and I hope you will continue to review and tell me your thoughts, I need feeding good will to keep me going haha.
Chapter Seven: Doom on the Horizon:
As Stark appeared beside Yoruichi and Soi-Fon, looking down at the surrounded group on the ground his first thoughts were of Ichigo and where he was. Looking around for him, he saw one of the holes in the roof of the hospital; he sonido-ed over and looked down, feeling his blood boil as he saw his husband laid on the bed unconscious.
Slowly turning his gaze back towards Byakuya and Senbonzakura, the brunette drew his katana and pointed it at the foursome, "Kick about, Los Lobos." He growled.
The ground trembled under the weight of his reiatsu as he released his Resurrection form. Disappearing into a tornado of thick grey-blue reiatsu his uniform altered and when he re-emerged he was clad in a grey fur coat and boots with two guns at hand.
Stark stalked forwards slowly, dropping down from the rooftop and striding confidently between the Stealth Force members unheeded; he stopped in front of the four traitors and lifted a gun, pointing it straight between Byakuya's eyes.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't blow your brains out, Kuchiki Byakuya." The wolf-man growled.
"I cannot." The raven haired nobleman replied calmly, eyeing the barrel which was aimed at his head with interest.
The brunette stared at him evenly and his grip tightened, "Then there is no reason for me not to pull the trigger."
And with that his finger snapped against the trigger and he fired the brilliant blue cero. His smoky eyes narrowed as a tidal wave of pink blossoms erupted around Byakuya and shielded the man from his attack and Stark's eyes flicked to where Senbonzakura was stood, hand raised, petals originating from him.
His free arm shot around and he pointed his second gun at the troublesome Zanpakto spirit. He would avenge Ichigo's honour.
"Stark!" a voice yelled out from behind him.
The brunette sighed as he sensed Yoruichi move from the rooftop and a moment later a dark hand rested upon his outstretched forearm in warning.
"I am not going to explain to Ichigo, when he wakes up, why his husband went out and got himself killed." The former Division Two Taichou hissed.
"And why would I be dead?" he growled.
His eyes widened as she grabbed his hair and yanked his head around and he saw, to his immense surprise, that Senbonzakura's blade was level with his sternum and only a few inches away from his body. A warning stance but one of deadly intent nevertheless.
Growling under his breath, Stark sheathed away both guns.
Byakuya breathed a sigh of relief and glanced at Senbonzakura before there was another explosion of pink blossoms which swamped the ground and concealed them all from sight and sense.
When the blossoms finally dissipated, Byakuya and Senbonzakura were gone.
Stark let out a feral snarl and his hands fisted into tight balls before he jerked himself away from Yoruichi and sonido-ed into the hospital building and into Ichigo's room.
He sat on his husband's bedside and stroked from strands of hair from his eyes, checking his waning injuries over for himself before he sighed and realised Zangetsu wasn't with him.
Making him jump, Shirosaki fizzled into existence at the end of the bed, breathing heavily and sweating slightly.
"Shiro? What's wrong with you? You look like you've been fighting..." the brunette frowned.
"It's Tensa! Muramasa used 'is weird old power on King, 'nd now Old Man Zangetsu's soul has escaped just like the rest of the Zanpakto... Tensa 'as joined the Rebellion!" the albino exclaimed, brushing his long white fringe out of his eyes, "'nd now shit's going down in our inner world 'nd every second I spend in there feels like I'm gonna drown."
Stark stood up and handed the albino a glass of icy water, "Is that why Ichigo is unconscious? Because of whatever is going on in your inner world?"
"No... He fought both Byakuya and Renji at the same time and he was injured. He is merely suffering exhaustion. He will wake as soon as he has recovered." Shiro sipping the water and released a long pent up breath.
Slightly reassured, but still fuming, Stark released his Resurrection form and sheathed Los Lobos as his guns returned to their sword state. He sighed heavily and stroked Ichigo's cheek gently, tenderly and lovingly.
"What can we do?" Stark asked to whoever might be listening.
"Well... Ichigo isn't completely defenceless, 'e still has a sword 'nd I can provide 'im with power enough to handle most foes. But my power won't last forever, not without Tensa. So, as soon as Ichigo is awake and ready 'e and I need to go, find Tensa 'nd kick his ass back into touch." Shiro shrugged, "I think, considering Grimmjow's case, tha' as soon as we defeat Tensa 'e will go back to normal. As would be the case with the rest of tha Zanpakto."
"Alright... Can I assist you in anyway?" Stark asked with the faintest of frowns.
The albino raised an eyebrow and grinned widely, "Yea! Wake 'im up."
The brunette rolled his eyes and looked down at the sleeping strawberry; with a sad smile he leaned over slowly and pressed his lips to his exposed ear, "Ichigo, I need you to wake up." He whispered softly, pulling back and kissing his forehead.
When he heard a familiar groan, he looked down and smiled faintly as Ichigo's coffee shaded eyes flickered open restlessly. The strawberry groaned a second time and winced, pressing a hand against his stomach where he worst injury had been.
"What... Ouch..." he sat up slowly and looked around, "Fuck it! Tensa!" he swore.
"Cool it King." Shiro said, "We're gonna get 'im back so sit back and don't 'ave a fit."
"Shiro? Ugh... Only you could give me decent advice but sound like a prick while doing it."
"Oh you are welcome." The albino rolled his eyes.
Stark chuckled and shook his head, "Anyway, if I might interrupt this wonderful family squabble and remind you both that Tensa is on the loose with Muramasa along with the rest of the Zanpakto population and Byakuya and Renji in tow."
Ichigo's attention snapped to his husband straight away and he smiled wistfully at him before clearing his throat, "What happened after I passed out?"
Shiro stepped up and perched on the bed, "Muramasa ordered Byakuya to bring you here... I don't understand why considering it would have been easier for him to let you die. But regardless Byakuya brought you and Rukia found you while he was trying to escape."
"Byakuya would never betray Soul Society... His pride wouldn't let him. Surely." The strawberry frowned for a moment and rubbed his forehead restlessly, "There has to be something else going on, something under the surface of this... Something..."
"I am afraid there is no other outcome Ichigo..." Stark rested a hand on the other's shoulder, "He has betrayed us, and he nearly killed you! You need to face facts... He is a traitor."
Ichigo frowned, something about this whole thing struck him as wrong, but perhaps Stark was right and maybe he was just trying to avoid the truth because Byakuya and Renji had been his friends. In that event all he could do was to defeat them both himself, for he would show mercy whereas others like Soi-Fon or Nnoitra would not.
"Alright, then I am going to need to get Tensa back... Any idea where he is?" he asked his albino counterpart with a sullen expression.
The other nodded, "I can sense his presence in a cave near to where you found Byakuya."
"Then we are going to that cave." Ichigo slid off the bed and groaned quietly; glancing over his slightly torn uniform he grabbed his Zanpakto from the wall where it had been propped up; the Captain of Division Five paused and looked at Stark, "You coming?"
"Of course." The brunette replied but glanced around as several others Shunpo-ed into the treatment room.
Yoruichi was the first to arrive and she strode forwards confidently, "You're going to need back up. Before returning here Soi-Fon and I detected the Head Captain inside that cave."
"Then we'll have to rescue him as well." Ichigo said simply.
"Yeah, but considering that Yamamoto is he captive of Muramasa, the inside of the cave is going to be greatly protected. It's going to take an assault force to get inside. Much less get back out."
"Then what would you suggest? Or rather who?" the strawberry said impatiently.
"You, Stark, myself, Grimmjow and Harribel."
"She just returned from the battle field and together with Barragan and Aaroniero. All three of them have defeated their Zanpakto and have regained control of their powers."
"Truly?! That is great news. That is two of the strongest Arrancar we have back at full strength." Ichigo smiled slightly before shaking his head, "Alright, we should pick Grimmjow and Harribel up and get a move on."
"Agreed." The purple haired woman said.
It was an hour and a half before the rescue group, comprised of Ichigo; Stark; Yoruichi; Grimmjow and Harribel, as well as the latter twos' Zanpakto: Pantera and Tiburon.
They moved through the trees, following Ichigo's lead as he made his way back to the clearing where he had fought Byakuya. He was on high alert, determined not to be tricked or snuck up on ever again; he would give Byakuya a nice hard kick when he next saw the man, the noble owed everyone an explanation and if it took one hundred years, Ichigo would make sure that they all got the justification they deserved.
He stopped in the shadows of an old oak tree as he set eyes upon the cave opening. His eyes narrowed slightly and he sought Tensa's reiatsu, he couldn't locate it and assumed that the man was hiding it purposefully. There was another person he was going to deliver a good hard kick to... Bloody Tensa Zangetsu! He was going to kick him in the ass and make him see sense.
Ichigo glanced back at the others and nodded once, sharing a long look with Stark before he flash-stepped forwards towards the cave entrance. Sensing the others behind him, Ichigo slipped into the cavern silently, Zanpakto strapped on his back and his eyes narrowed with a battle hardened expression, determination racked off his body like a smell and a his will to kill whoever got between him and his Zanpakto reeked.
The rescue team hastened through the cramped and stalagmite ridden pathway, Yoruichi's muscles tensed as she began to sense strong reiatsu up ahead and a whisper in Ichigo's ear had the strawberry leader on edge too.
Bursting out of the tight entrance, they arrived in a large round space, stray boulders scattered across the ragged ground, stalagmites crawled across the ceiling and pointed downwards at threatening angles, ready to break off at any moment and spear whatever was below them.
Across the abyss stood five figures. The ever effeminate Fornicarás; his hair long and neatly brushed and his eyes sparkling with intelligence. The forever morbid form that could only be associated with Kira's constant expression of depression: Wabisuke. The constantly kinky winking woman with glistening pink hair and buxom chest which rivalled Harribel's and the tailed child with fiery red hair: Zabimaru. A gigantic leathered and feathered bat which resembled Ulquiorra and could be none other than Murciélago. And finally, the flaming haired, tribally tattooed Abarai Renji.
They were stood, blocking the next pathway, where Ichigo could now sense Tensa's reiatsu.
"I guess you are here to stop intruders?" the strawberry murmured as he walked into the centre of the spacious room.
"You guess correctly." Chimpette grinned, appraising Ichigo with a look of hunger.
Nodding once, Ichigo reached back and grasped the hilt of his giant sword, "Very well."
In a flash, Ichigo had vanished, reappearing above them and spinning down towards the ground like a tornado, both wild and fierce. Eyes widened, swords were drawn and Chimpette hurled Snaky towards the gyrating strawberry.
The child like creature hurled the extending blade of Zabimaru towards Ichigo but his blue eyes widened when the strawberry once again vanished from sight, appearing behind him and continuing his journey to the ground where Chimpette stood.
A vicious tug wrought the snake back towards the ground and the sword was swung again to no avail. Ichigo reached the ground and with a swift swing of his sword arm, Chimpette was struck and sent flying into the far wall. Crumbling dust fell as the stalagmites whined in protest of the shaking rock.
Ichigo wasted no time, lunging after Chimpette with the sole task of ending the woman. He cared not if it meant the end of Renji's abilities; he would kill anyone who got between him and Tensa. The black haired, blue eyed man belonged to him and he was going to get him back. No matter what it cost him. Life nor limb would prevent his goal from being realised.
Behind him, he heard the clash of metal and knew the others had joined the fray. He only hoped Grimmjow and Pantera had healed enough not to be burdened while fighting.
His finishing attack was blocked as Chimpette lashed out with the chains which bound her and Snaky together. Dismayed for only a moment before regaining his momentum, Ichigo kicked he woman before turning and dodging the supposedly sneak attack of Snaky.
Chimpette picked herself back up and brushed herself down, a few cuts and bruises littered her skin in response to Ichigo's attacks but otherwise only a slight breathlessness echoed any damage inflicted.
Summoning he extending blade of Zabimaru, the buxom pink haired woman growled like a feral cat cornered by dogs, she lashed out at him once again and sent the blade towards him in a curving; arching; slicing motion.
He snapped his own blade out and shoved the attack aside before flash-stepping forwards, dodging the next three attacks as well as he got closer to the woman. Ichigo's eyes were alight with a fire of determination – his resolve had never been stronger. He knew Renji's Zanpakto's mechanisms from all the times they had trained together, he knew how Zabimaru worked and he also knew that in the hands of the Zanpakto spirit herself the workmanship of the sword would be flawless. They could go into Shikai and Bankai easier than Renji could and the attacks would be stronger.
He would crush this Zanpakto Rebellion. He would reclaim his Zanpakto. He would destroy Muramasa and seek answers from Byakuya and Renji. He would not falter, he would not stop moving forwards, he would keep going until his dying breath, ageless and strong, that was who he was. That was what he was. And he would continue to be so, no matter who was against him, no matter what the cost was. He would remain victorious until he died.
And when he died... He would rise again and slaughter those who had tried to put him in a grave.
"King... Ya alright? It's pissing down with rain in 'ere..."Shiro murmured inside his mind.
"Yes. I am fine. Just thinking a few dark thoughts. Don't worry about it. Find an umbrella or something."
"Reassuring... Very reassuring."
Ichigo reached Chimpette and lifted his cleaver like sword, slicing down towards the woman's body mercilessly; he watched scarlet rain burst forth from the gouge across her stomach. It rained down upon him like a gory scene of massacre, but no heed did he pay it, that shallow wound would not be enough to finish her off.
Renji's voice was pained, but he was held up elsewhere, fighting Stark who was almost as vicious as Grimmjow when he really had to be. His strength and confidence were well placed and vibrant redhead would not last long against the former Primera Espada.
Fornicarás was being battled by Grimmjow and Pantera, the former Sexta and his Zanpakto would be no match for a Zanpakto whom had former belonged to the Octava. They were worlds apart in strength. Grimmjow was determined to get Szayel's Zanpakto back to him and he would do it.
Yoruichi, Harribel and Tiburon were combating Murciélago. The bat certainly had the upper hand considering how he could attack from the sky, or transform into a human form and attack from the ground, but the three strong women were no pushovers and they would fight until they could fight no more, as they had been trained to do.
Ichigo let out a roar as he shot towards her again, slashing and slicing madly, his arm numbing due to the weight and the constant jolts running up and down his nerves. Ignoring the dull aching pain he continued, pushing himself to his very limits in order to snag the little minx who kept evading his attacks so skilfully.
Reaching out with his free hand, Ichigo snagged a fistful of her hair and yanked her back towards him, his expression fixed in the form of an angel of death as he lifted his sword and plunged downwards, impaling her thigh first before he ripped the blade free and aimed again.
Snaky appeared out of nowhere and knocked Ichigo aside, sending him flying into a boulder which shattered into fragments upon contact. Ichigo groaned and sat up slowly, rubbing his back where he was certain he would have a bruise by tomorrow. He watched as the child like creature helped Chimpette to her feet despite the hole in her thigh and the slash across her gut.
They grasped the hilt of the extending sword together and pointed it at Ichigo, who already knew what was now coming his way, and together; as one they cried, "Bankai! Hihiō Zabimaru!"
There was a gust of reiatsu which made Ichigo shudder to his core and when the dust and dirt settled, Chimpette was stood within the midst of a giant snake, Zabimaru's bankai was a ferocious sight to behold, even more so when at full strength in the hands of the pink haired woman.
Ichigo was suddenly hit with the thought that he could not enter Bankai without Tensa's soul being within his sword.
"Don't worry King I got enough power to knock that bitch to hell and back." Shiro's voice whispered to him again and sent a welcome shudder down his back.
"Don't feel the need to hold back Shirosaki." Ichigo encouraged.
"In exchange for my power... You must not use your Vizard Mask." The albino smirked within his mind and Ichigo saw that look as clear as day.
"What do you mean?"
"If you want my help then you must not use it. I want to feel this battle, I want to feel my success, my victory."
Ichigo swallowed and hesitated slightly, yes they got on better, yes Shiro loved him, yes they had mutual trust but that didn't man Shirosaki couldn't still take control of his body as he had done when Stark had been killed by Grimmjow and Ulquiorra. If he let him, Shiro would change him beyond measure.
"We don't have forever you know..."
"Alright. Lend me your power Shiro." He decided suddenly.
The albino's smirk widened, "Excellent."
Ichigo lifted his sword and let out an animalistic roar, charging the Bankai clad woman with passion overflowing, overrunning, overwhelming. His body began to enflame with white and red reiatsu, pulsing over his skin and clothing; charging to new dimensions and ricocheting around the cavern like a caged beast.
Chimpette's eyes widened slightly and for a moment she found herself wondering if this Bankai would even be enough to defeat such a monstrous power as this child possessed.
The strawberry sped up, flash-stepping forwards and slipping passed the giant snake's defences. He stopped dead and lifted his sword, Shirosaki's power washed over him like a bucket of hot water and poured out of him like a hurricane on a rampage.
With a cry, echoed by his inner hollow, he arced his sword down in a sharp line, hurling a mass of energy akin to a Getsuga Tenshou towards the woman and her Bankai.
There was an explosion as the giant snake let rip a taste of its Baboon Cannon and the brilliant red light met the fantastical white light, the mesh of explosions met midway and curled around each other before being blasted apart.
The cavern shook under the force and several stalagmites fell from the ceiling, crunching painfully on the floor as an almost earthquake like force made it feel like the Earth was moving.
Ichigo watched as Chimpette fled, rushing back towards Renji and scooping him out of the way of Stark's attack. They abandoned Fornicarás and Murciélago and disappeared deeper into the cave.
The strawberry Taichou snarled like a caged beast and he readied himself to pounce, "Stark! Come with me! Yoruichi, Harribel, Grimmjow take those two outside and defeat them before following us!" he ordered before he shot after Renji and his Zanpakto.
He sensed Stark at his side, keeping pace with him as best he could; they followed the thundering sound of the Bankai crunching against the thinning tunnel before they burst out into another open space. It was smaller than the first, and they found themselves stood at the top of a set of stairs which had been carved out of the stone wall.
Ichigo saw a river flowing wild and free up ahead. He also sensed several presences down the stairs, including Tensa's.
"Ready?" Ichigo asked.
"Of course, I've got your back." Stark hissed in response, he drew his sword again and gripped the hilt firmly.
They descended the stairs together, Stark just behind Ichigo, making sure that they were not assaulted from behind and without warning. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Ichigo's eyes met those of his missing Zanpakto, across the room, shielded by Renji and Chimpette, Byakuya and Senbonzakura and most noticeably, Muramasa.
Behind them, behind Tensa, was a large green triangle, kidou, and within it sat Yamamoto Genryusai. Ichigo's eyes narrowed in on that small piece of information in surprise. He had not expected them to hide him so close to the entrance of the cave, that didn't make any sense at all. If they had taken him prisoner then they should have hidden the Head Captain as deep underground as possible to limit the chance anyone had of finding him again.
"You still good to fight Shiro?" Ichigo asked his inner hollow as he lifted his sword again, "Tensa is straight ahead, ripe for the plucking."
"I need a few moments to recover my strength enough to let you let rip another attack like the last one."
"Alright, but don't take too long, Tensa looks like he means business."
"So you have come." Muramasa announced from his place beside Tensa, "I didn't think it would take you long to find this place. But I must admit you recovered faster than I had anticipated, Kurosaki Ichigo."
"I have a habit of being surprising." The strawberry replied coolly, "I am here for Tensa."
The Zanpakto who had caused the rebellion smirked knowingly and glanced at Tensa before looking back at Ichigo, "Tensa is free of you now, Shinigami, but if you think you can reclaim him, then try it and find out."
"I do not need for you to tell me what to do. Muramasa." He growled, "Tensa was never a captive... He was my friend, my most trusted ally. And if he wants to return to me then I will happily have him. But I cannot let his unbridled power roam around to cause whatever devastation you have in mind."
"You will have to fight me if you desire to stop me, Ichigo." Tensa called across, he stepped away from Muramasa and passed Renji and Byakuya, drawing his own sword, a sleek black katana, already in Bankai form.
Ichigo tensed and his teeth gritted, his drew his sword again and pointed it at him directly. This was his chance to reclaim his lost Zanpakto and to defeat Muramasa in one go.
Circling each other like animals, Ichigo and Tensa, chocolate met sapphire, a tempest of strength met an unbridled force of power. A low rumbling growl slipped from between the strawberry's pursed lips as he kept his gaze fixed on Tensa.
Ichigo felt familiar power beginning to pulse through his body again and he stood up straight, holding his sword out in front of him confidently as he stopped moving. His eyes shimmered with undisputed power as he faced off with Tensa.
Eyes narrowing slightly, Muramasa watched in interest as the two faced off, he was careful to keep an eye on the one who accompanied Ichigo though; the brunette was certainly strong and could cause problems.
The young Taichou raised a single orange eyebrow and his grip tightened around the hilt of his sword as he observed how Tensa had also stopped circling him.
"Look forward. Move forward and never stop. You will age if you pull back. You will die if you hesitate. That is what you once taught me," Ichigo put one foot behind the other, "I will not let you forget your own teachings. Tensa Zangetsu!"
That was the only warning he gave before he was off, he disappeared in a gust of dust and the next sound which arrived was the deadly ring of cold hard metal, clashed together with enough force to decimate a mountain.
Ichigo and Tensa meshed together in a flurry of metal and sparks, disengaging and meeting again with only a second and a hair's breadth between them and their attacks.
Sparks flew left, right and centre as they flitted around the cave, plunging heart and soul into their battle. Spins, drop kicks, rouge punches and sneak attacks. They threw everything they knew into their battle, and what a battle it was. Sweat rolled down their faces and backs, wetting them in the exertion of their feasting fight.
Before long they were mere blurs, for no one could see them clearly, merely a flash of orange or black as they met mid air and then bounced away from one and other again. The clash of their swords was all that could be heard above the thundering of the river beside them.
Though Stark worried for his lover, he knew not to interfere, this was Ichigo's fight and he would get no thanks for sticking his nose in. He watched, from the corner of his eye as the Head Captain remained perfectly still, not even seeming to note that there was a battle being fought right before his eyes.
He found it curious that the man wasn't even trying to get himself free, but perhaps they had done something to him; put him into a kidou coma or something like that...
Ichigo gritted his teeth and roared as he slammed against the dark haired, blue eyed Zanpakto soul, "Why did you allow him to pull you out?! What is your instinct Tensa?!" he yelled at the man.
"My instinct has and always will be... To protect you..." the other replied calmly as he pushed him back only to be reengaged and shoved against the wall hard.
"Then why are you trying to kill me now?! I don't understand!"
"I want to see which of us is stronger." He hissed, "I have taught you everything I have to offer... My name, my power, my Bankai, even the Final Getsuga Tenshou. I want to see if it has meant anything, if you are worthy of my power. The only way I can know for sure is for us to battle and for one of us to be defeated."
Ichigo's eyes widened in realisation as he was then kicked back and rolled across the ground, coming to stand once again.
"So that is what his heart desires, ne?" Shiro sighed softly, "The great lout..."
"He deserves to know. He is right after all; he has given me everything I asked for in order to protect the people I love." Ichigo replied, "Help me Shiro. Help me prove to him that I deserve his power. That we deserve his power."
"Alright. I've nearly recharged. Keep going and as soon as I am ready, you will be the first to know. Now go!"
The strawberry flew at Tensa again, their swords meeting between them in another flash of glinting embers. Spinning, turning, slicing, dicing, lashing, slashing, kicking, punching, hammering, slamming and pushing followed, fiercely embedded in the battle before them.
Neither would surrender, both would fight to the very precipice of death if it was necessary for that was the kind of people they were. Two sides of the same coin, sharing body; soul and mind. They would fight and one of them would win while the other lost, there was no middle ground for them, this was the only path they could take.
Ichigo lifted his sword above his head, holding it directly up towards the heavens. White misty energy cloaked him like a regal robe; his eyes shimmered and began to glow as reiatsu coursed through him, churning and growing to disproportionate levels.
With a single sweep, the devastation which Ichigo and Shiro, combined together, released, rocked the very foundations of the cave in which they stood; the arc of light that was relinquished by Ichigo's blade rocketed towards Tensa without any form of hesitation.
And thus, Tensa was enveloped by the brilliant spectacular white light, a single cry broke out in response before the lean body of the black haired, blue eyed man was gone, replaced by the sleek black katana which lay embedded in the ground.
The light died out and Ichigo walked forwards slowly, resting his hand upon the hilt of the katana.
"Ichigo!" Shiro exclaimed, "Tensa's just reappeared in our inner world! He's back!"
"It is true... Ichigo." The gentle and unmistakable voice of his Zanpakto came after, "I apologise for causing you so much trouble."
"Don't worry about it; I'm just glad to have you back my friend."
The strawberry, high from his victory, turned towards Muramasa and the others; pulling the katana from the ground and holding both his swords firmly. He raised an eyebrow and cast a stern gaze around those stood in front of the Head Captain's cage.
"Now then..." the strawberry murmured, "Who wants to go next?"
"Did you feel no regret, attacking your own Zanpakto?" Muramasa inquired, walking towards him slowly.
"Of course not."
"How beastly." The rebel stirrer growled.
He shook his head, "No, not beastly. It was his desire to know which of us was strongest, whether or not his teachings and the time he took to tutor me had been worthwhile. I couldn't just ignore his desires. Certainly I didn't like fighting with him, he is part of me, part of my very soul, but it was what he wanted."
Muramasa's crystal like eyed glinted with something which seemed to resemble confusion before they cleared and he scoffed at his declaration like an imbecile. The man summoned his sword and twirled it elegantly at his side before he looked at Ichigo, "Well... Seeing as how you so enjoy fulfilling the desires of Zanpakto perhaps you will do so for me too... And throw your strongest attack at me."
"What?" Ichigo blinked, "Are you serious?"
Ichigo sensed a lie on his tone but pushed the wild concern aside, he shrugged and lifted the katana and drew it back, charging a black and red Getsuga Tenshou. He growled and pumped more and more reiatsu into it as he charged the attack with more and more power. He let out a roar as he threw his sword forwards suddenly, released the attack with a cry of the technique's name.
At that moment, Yoruichi; Harribel and Grimmjow appeared at the bottom of the stairs, "Ichigo! NO!" Yoruichi yelled, "It's a trap!"
But too little too late, the attack was already flying towards Muramasa who side stepped and let the attack strike the green prison that held the Head Captain within, there was a mass explosion which sent everyone to the ground. Ichigo grunted as he was showered by rocks and winced slightly as some dust got in his eyes and blinded him slightly.
When he lifted his head and looked around his eyes widened in surprise, seeing that the kidou prison had crumbled and Yamamoto was on his feet. But why had Muramasa allowed his attack to hit?
The sneaky Zanpakto's plan was exposed when he stretched a hand out towards Yamamoto and pulled the strongest fire type Zanpakto's soul out of the Head Captain's body and soul.
The flicker of fire shot around the cave before igniting full force, enough force to throw the ceiling of the cave up, without any warning they were bathed in sunlight as the rock above their head was thrust up into the air, opening them up to the world above them.
Ichigo stood quickly and watched as Muramasa, Byakuya, Renji, Senbonzakura and Zabimaru shot out of the cave, leaving behind the scolding hot tempest of flames that was the one and only Ryujin Jakka. He watched in horror as Muramasa proceeded to open a Senkaimon and disappeared through it along with the others.
What was going on?!
He cast his gaze downwards to Yamamoto and he walked over slowly, "Yamamoto-Taichou? Are you alright? What's going on? Where is he going?"
"You..." the old man growled at the Captain of Division Five, "I locked myself away so that this didn't happen! I knew as soon as I saw Muramasa that if I let him he would steal away the location of a dangerous former Shinigami from my mind with his tapeworm power."
"In the World of the Living, a Shinigami has been held captive for many years, locked away so that he could not cause any devastation. Muramasa was his Zanpakto, and now he knows the location of the Shinigami's prison and intends to free him! That cannot be allowed to happen Kurosaki Ichigo!" Yamamoto half yelled at him.
"What can we do?" Stark asked as he joined them.
"Nothing until Ryujin Jakka stops burning." The older man replied curtly.
"We can't just sit here and wait!" Yoruichi cried as she joined them.
"Perhaps I could extinguish him?" Harribel offered.
Yamamoto fixed the woman with a look that froze her in her tracks, "Don't be ridiculous."
Ichigo licked his lips, not dry from the intense heat from the flames burning around them. How had he been so stupid? He had known that something wasn't right and yet he had ignored his instincts and acted like a Neanderthal!
Silence befell them for several long minutes before Ichigo sighed heavily and sat down near the river to think in peace. Stark watched him go, knowing that his beloved was undoubtedly blaming himself for this.
"Just how dangerous is this Shinigami?" he asked the Head Captain.
"It took me, and Byakuya's grandfather to imprison him because we could not kill him." The man replied, "His power is insane, I have no doubt that he would prove to be a dangerous enemy even for Ichigo."
"Shit..." the brunette ran a hand down his face and looked at the flames which encroached on their position.
"Cheer up King! At least we got Tensa back!" his albino counterpart cheered from inside their inner world.
"Yeah I know... But in the process I managed to endanger the World of the Living and there isn't a blasted thing I can do about it because of those flames."
"Do not lose faith Ichigo." Tensa's voice was a welcome warmth, "There is always hope."
"Somehow I doubt it this time Tensa... We're trapped with no hope of escape."
"You give up too easily-" Tensa broke off suddenly and went quiet.
"Tensa what is it? What's wrong? Why are you so quiet?!"
"Look skywards... Help is at hand." Came the simply reply.
Ichigo got to his feet and returned to the middle of the cave, looking up towards the sky curiously, ignoring the flames which licked at him in warning. At that moment, there was a loud ripping sound and Ichigo's mouth fell open as the sky ripped open, a Garganta forming above them and in a heartbeat the others were at his side, also looking up at the mystery Garganta; he could see distant forms approaching from within and his curiosity piqued.
The first to exit the Garganta was a woman with thigh length sea green hair and pale brown eyes; she was glad in a slightly revealing green dress with several rips and tears in it.
The next through the Garganta was a muscular and well kempt man with slightly wavy black hair and striking blue eyes; he wore a white uniform.
He was followed by another woman who had dark purple hair which was pinned up in two pigtails, her eyes were lavender shaded and she wore a white dress and stockings.
A man with shocking orange hair – brighter than Ichigo's and definitely fake – and a darker shade of skin, he was clad in a white uniform as well and he wore a head band on his forehead with a blue star encrusted on it.
Two final people emerged together, a short man with short black hair and a long sleeved white uniform, and a tall thin man with long blonde hair.
"I don't fuckin' believe it..." Grimmjow breathed.
"Who are they?!" Ichigo exclaimed.
The blue haired panther swallowed and licked his lips, "In order of appearance, Nelliel Tu Odelschwank; Dordoni Alessanadro Del Socaccio; Cirucci Sanderwicci; Gantenbainne Mosqueda; Luppi Antenor and finally, Ilford Granz."
Ichigo looked at the man, "Wait... Granz?"
"Yeah..." the panther's expression darkened, "Szayel's older brother."
"But he died! Renji killed him before I was taken to Las Noches!" Ichigo protested.
"Then our eyes are deceiving us and the dead have not come back to haunt us. I distinctively recall thrusting my hand right through that bastard Luppi's chest and killing him as well..." Grimmjow sighed, "Let's face it though... Aizen can do anything he wants and get away with it. It is not such an overstatement to suggest that he has brought the two of them back to serve him again."
"So... Aizen is involved." Ichigo sighed and looked upwards again.
"Who did you think was responsible for sending six Arrancar through a Garganta into Soul Society?" Harribel asked.
The Strawberry looked up again and stiffened as he saw the green haired woman, Nelliel, was looking down into the fiery pit at him; without meaning to, he gulped and hoped Aizen had sent them as friends and not as foes.
A/N:And there is the end of the chapter! Was anyone expecting help to come from Aizen?
I hope you enjoyed this chapter and that it was worth the wait, please review and feed the writer with your comments :)