It has been a while since I updated and for that I apologise, my mum was in hospital so I was spending most of my time visiting her and running the house while she was away. Hopefully now I will be able to update more often again.
Please review D:
Chapter Nine: Society under Siege:
Ichigo sliced through the petal blades of Byakuya's Shikai with ease and flash-stepped towards him swiftly; watching the noble's eyes follow him like a hawk focused on his prey.
From the corner of his eye he saw Stark release his Resurrection form and dodge the extended blade of Zabimaru's Shikai before he fired a large blue cero at his red headed opponent.
To his left, Pantera was ripping into Senbonzakura's leg, drawing blood and hisses of pain from the stuck up Zanpakto. But in a moment the tables were turned and Pantera was being forced to retreat by a horde of petals.
"Pantera!" Ichigo yelled, while still keeping his utmost concentration on Byakuya, "Go into your Resurrection! Speed is the only way to combat the petals!"
A blast of Arrancar reiatsu later and Pantera had taken on a humane form, looking scarily like Grimmjow who fought even further on Ichigo's left against Zabimaru.
Said former Espada, was right in there with the thrills of passionate battle; he was finally free to fight how he liked. Dirty.
A manic grin was etched permanently on his feral face; fingers wrapped tightly around the hilt of his Zanpakto as every strike he received made his lust for battle grow.
With an inward shudder Ichigo considered what it would be like if Grimmjow and Kenpachi ever trained together... Or Nnoitra and Kenpachi... Or Nnoitra and Grimmjow...
It wasn't a happy thought.
Ichigo narrowly dodged a sneak attack from Byakuya as he used his fastest possible Shunpo to get behind him. He turned and countered with an attack of his own, growling as he was met by thin air.
"What is the matter, Kurosaki Ichigo?" Byakuya asked from right behind him, the noble's lips near to his ear, "I thought you were going to fight me with everything you've got this time?"
"God, you always were a pompous git..." the strawberry murmured in response before he lifted a hand slowly before suddenly ripping on his Vizard Mask and stabbing Byakuya from under his arm; cutting through his own haori in the process.
His now black and gold eyes narrowed as Byakuya disappeared, leaving only his haori behind; he tracked him with his eyes and watched the noble appear several metres back, "Shihou Black Ops Step Technique: Molting Cicada."
Ichigo's eyes narrowed further before he brought his katana down sharply, "Getsuga Tenshou!" he roared and fired the flickering mesh of black and red energy towards the Sixth Division Captain mercilessly.
Byakuya flickered out of existence again, but this time as he touched down he was met by Ichigo; the ginger swung a second Getsuga Tenshou at the man, followed by a firm kick to the abdomen.
They continued to flit in and out of combat, secretly taking glances at their comrades to see how their battles were ensuing before they met again in a tango of steel and strength, swirling reiatsu and cold metal glares.
The essence of former comradeship was a distant memory as they went at each other, with the instinct and intent to maim, or even kill. They had both lacked that last time, the will to kill to get what they desired; regardless of Byakuya's confidence in his ability to kill Ichigo, whom had stood in front of his very pride, he had not killed him when he had been presented with the chance; instead he had injured him and weakened him. But this time, the raw murderous intent which rolled off the two battling Shinigami rippled through the air and clashed in a very similar way to how they did.
While they fought, no one had their eyes on Muramasa and Koga; the Zanpakto Spirit made his way closer to his master, brushing long nailed fingers over his slightly wrinkled cheeks, pleasure glimmering in his eyes at having finally found his master once more. Having freed him from an imprisonment he had never deserved.
"Koga..." he breathed, "Koga it is time to awaken. Everything has gone as you planned it... Now you must wake and seize the moment."
He stepped even closer and cupped his master's face in his hands, resting their foreheads together before he closed his ice blue eyes and sighed softly, willing his master to wake with every ounce of his soul. Surely it had not been so long that Koga couldn't wake. He had worked towards this moment for many years, more years than he cared to count. He could not lose him now. He would not lose him now, after everything he had done, it would not go to waste.
Eyes flying open suddenly, a gasp of surprise left his lips as he found himself staring back into Koga's cat green ones. His eyes widened slightly as he started to fade from sight, being reaccepted into Koga's inner world like an old friend.
Koga's eyes sharpened and in the moment that he was reunited with the soul of his Zanpakto, his appearance reversed, and he grew younger once more. The years which he had spent incarcerated faded from his face and left him looking as young and as fit and healthy as he had done before his imprisonment.
Stepping away from the object which had been both his coffin and his prison cell, Koga summoned his Zanpakto and observed the group fighting just a short distance away from him.
"What is this Muramasa?" he asked his Zanpakto with a frown of confusion.
"I have worked hard to seek your place of incarceration, and to do so I turned Soul Society on its very head. I released the Zanpakto from their Shinigami masters and... Persuaded them to fight in a rebellion."
"I see... This is most interesting. However... I am observing several Arrancar fighting on the side of a lone Shinigami. Why is that?"
"Much has happened since your... Disappearance; the Shinigami now have an alliance with several high level Arrancar. I will explain everything at length when we have a chance. However, there is one here who should be of great interest to you. His name is-"
Koga silenced him as his eyes fell upon the black haired man wearing a white windflower silk gauze scarf around his shoulders and neck; kensaikan in his hair and fingerless silver gloves. There was no mistaking the classical attributes to a member of the Kuchiki Clan, for each of the higher; purer members of the Clan wore such accessories. He himself had been permitted to wear a single kensaikan as he had risen up in the ranks of the Clan thanks to Ginrei and his own blood red windflower scarf had been presented to him upon his graduation from Shino Academy.
So... The Kuchiki line had continued since his imprisonment. How curious. Thus, this could only be the Grandson of Kuchiki Ginrei, whom he had met only once before while he had been supping tea with the elder. Kuchiki Byakuya was now a fully grown man, by the looks of it, and he appeared to be most powerful. Fighting another Shinigami with bright orange hair and a terrifying mask.
"Why is Kuchiki Byakuya fighting those who appear to be here to stop you, Muramasa?" he asked.
"I cannot fathom his true intentions, however he has been nothing but helpful thus far. So I brought him with me, even if it was us for you to end the current Kuchiki line yourself." Muramasa replied.
"Mm... That is a most attractive idea, I have another idea but first I will see if he is worthy of it. I don't want to waste my time on some pathetic Kuchiki want-to-be. I have had years to contemplate what I would do if I was ever to feel sunlight on my face again; considering it appears that Kuchiki Byakuya is now the Head of the Kuchiki Clan and Ginrei has moved onto bigger and better things... This younger model will have to be the target for my frustrations. Are you ready, Muramasa?"
"I have always been ready to serve you, Koga."
The older Kuchiki raised an eyebrow, flash-stepping forwards as the broken blade of his sword healed and repaired itself; he shot towards the younger Kuchiki, whose back was to him and raised his sword.
Ichigo's eyes widened as he saw the man from the coffin flash-stepping towards them and he broke off his attack at once, narrowly avoiding behind speared through the gut by Byakuya as he shot forwards, his free hand reaching out to try and pull the Division Six Taichou out of the way.
Byakuya's eyes snapped around as he sensed the reiatsu move and he knew even he wouldn't be able to avoid the oncoming blow; as it happened, he didn't have to try.
Senbonzakura disengaged Pantera and appeared, a mass of swirling petals blocking the path of the older Kuchiki's blade. The pair shared a look before Byakuya swept a hand to the side and allowed his own katana to disintegrate into flowing pink petals.
"Renji." Byakuya called over the din of clashing metal, which ceased upon the mention of the redhead's name.
In the same moment, Renji appeared beside Byakuya and Chimpette and Snaky appeared beside Senbonzakura; both slightly worn from their battles but nevertheless ready to fight beside their lovers.
Ichigo took a step back and frowned, his overall confusion of the situation growing each second which passed. Just what the hell was going on? Stark, Grimmjow and Pantera appeared beside him, each wearing a similar look of confusion.
"What the fuck is going on?" Grimmjow asked, as only Grimmjow could.
"I am sorry for deceiving you, Ichigo," Byakuya said from in front of them, his back still turned as Senbonzakura's petals continued to guard them from Koga's attacks, "It was all for the sake of my pride, and the pride of Kuchiki Ginrei. I had to find out where Kuchiki Koga had been imprisoned. So I could extract the highest echelon of punishment, from one Kuchiki to another, in my Grandfather's place."
The strawberry's eyes widened slightly before he released a sigh of relief, "I knew it..." he breathed, "I knew you would never betray us."
Byakuya let out a soft chuckle, glancing back towards him, "You do have that ability... Believing in someone so hard and so guiltlessly, I could never betray you if I tried. You have the power to change people Ichigo, me; Yamamoto-Taichou; Soul Society; Las Noches and Aizen... You guided the Shinigami into the contract with the former Espada and you keep changing things for the better. I cannot help but think... You were born for this reason."
Swallowing, Ichigo looked down and felt his face warm slightly in embarrassment. He knew his words were at least to some extent true, his... Impromptu arrival in Seireitei had started the wheels of change and his determination to stop Rukia's execution had made him the enemy of many; at the same time it had earned him respect and had forged him friendships which he had never even imagined.
Those very friendships had been tested and strengthened since the beginning, but they had never faltered; he had always been certain that Byakuya and Renji were not traitors and he had known from his heart that he was right.
Now Byakuya's true pride was revealed to the world, and he was more than determined to help him achieve his goals.
Ichigo stood a little straighter and smiled at the raven haired Shinigami, "You honour me with your praise, Kuchiki Byakuya... But perhaps you had better save it for when you are reinstated as Division Six's Taichou."
"You really think they will forgive me just like that?"
"If they don't..." Ichigo looked stern, "I will make them see."
Byakuya's eyes widened momentarily before they returned to normal and he felt amusement wrack his body - he should have known Ichigo's answer. It was always the same; he never stopped moving and he never looked back. He was a warrior of the highest calibre and he would continue to grow.
Looking towards the thick wall of brilliant pink petals which had protected him from Koga's attack, the Head of the Kuchiki Household sighed inwardly and wondered what his relative planned to do now that he was free again.
He could only do one thing in order to discover the answer to that...
"Senbonzakura," the steel grey eyed male murmured, holding out his hand to the samurai clad Zanpakto Soul, "Are you ready?"
The garishly masked man glanced towards his Shinigami master, "Of course, Byakuya-sama."
The Kuchiki Head nodded once before dropping his katana, as it hit the ground it shattered into too many pieces to count or repair, "Good; I was tired of using that concave shell."
Senbonzakura chuckled before standing a little straighter, his hand lifted to his face and his fingers deftly clung to his mask, and as he moved to remove the mask, only a glimpse of pale skin was revealed before he burst into a million delicate blossom petals; reforming in Byakuya's outstretched hand in the form of a katana.
Byakuya lifted his newly reformed katana, watching from the corner of his eye as Chimpette and Snaky whined at the disappearance of their lover; a small smile tugged at his lips before he watched as Renji slapped them both around the back of the head and they transformed in a beam of red light into their released Shikai form.
The red headed Shinigami lifted his Zanpakto and smiled at the full return of his comrades.
The pair shared a glance before Byakuya lowered the wall of petals and found himself face to face with the other Kuchiki. Byakuya's flint grey eyes narrowed slightly as he glowered into the luminous green eyes of his kin.
"So... You're Kuchiki Byakuya!" the older of the two smirked widely, "You sure have grown since I last saw you, boy."
"And you, Kuchiki Koga, have changed little since my Grandfather told me the story of your imprisonment." The younger replied coolly, his thin eyebrows nearly knitting together in the form of an unusual scowl, unusual to the noble's expression at least.
That cocky smirk widened, "Did the old man finally clock off?"
"If you are asking, whether Kuchiki Ginrei has joined the resting place of his son Sojun, then the answer is yes. My Grandfather has joined my Father, and as his final request to me was to ensure that if you ever broke free I would send you to meet them both... This conversation may be considered terminated."
"Ah, you even sound like him now. What became of that child who had such a rambunctious lust for life and a foul temper?"
"If you continue speaking of times long since passed... You will find out."
"Tch... So moody, Byakuya." Koga scoffed at him and ran his free hand through his hair.
Byakuya's expression remained unchanged, "I would prefer that my name not be sullied by the likes of you, few are privy to the use of my forename, and I do not believe that you are one of them."
The overconfident attitude of Ginrei's Grandson was beginning to grate on Koga, his left eyebrow twitching in response to the overly 'high and mighty' manner of the longer haired male. Kuchiki indeed.
He snapped suddenly and shot forwards, his katana meeting Byakuya's in a flash of sparks; the two Kuchiki's faced off, darting back and forth in front of the crowd of Shinigami and Arrancar.
Byakuya tensed and hissed as he felt he bite of metal in his arm, followed by the metallic scent of blood; his eyes narrowed further than before and he shot out of the way of a secondary attack, countering with one of his own before he released his shikai and swarmed Koga with blossom petals.
He felt a defiant sense of smugness as he saw several thin lines of blood appear over the other Kuchiki's exposed torso; he believed utterly in Senbonzakura's abilities to see him through this battle and they had come this far together, why not go a little further?
Ichigo watched from the sidelines, inwardly wanting to rush in and help Byakuya, but something told him that that course of action wouldn't be taken too well.
Instead he looked around at Renji who was sitting on the grass with Chimpette and Snaky sat beside him, watching the battle with a concentration he had never before seen on the redhead's face; he walked over to them and sat down slowly.
"So... You wanna explain what the fuck has been going on?" the strawberry asked quietly.
"Ah, Ichigo..." Renji faltered for a moment and sighed, "Well... Koga was imprisoned for the murder of many Shinigami when he went on a revenge based attack; he had been framed for a crime he hadn't committed because people envied his powers and his continual growth in the hierarchy of the Kuchiki Clan. He was imprisoned by the Head Captain, and Byakuya's Grandfather, Ginrei and very long time ago." The redhead sighed again, "Before departing into a restful death to join his fallen son, Sojun, Ginrei told Byakuya of Koga's existence, and he told him that if one day he was released from his prison, it would be down to Byakuya to extract the highest order of punishment upon him... Death at the hands of the Kuchiki Head."
Ichigo frowned faintly and rubbed his chin, "So... Byakuya pretended to betray Soul Society so that he could find the location of Koga's prison; he must have recognised Muramasa's abilities almost straight away from the story Ginrei told him... Right?"
"Yes." Renji nodded once and looked back at his fighting lover, "It was hard for him to betray everyone... Even harder when he had to attack you. He respects you and I think to an extent he considers you like a brotherly figure. You are wiser than most people your age and... Sometimes you are wiser than people his age."
Ichigo flushed red at that statement and stuttered, "He thinks of me as a brother?"
"Why shouldn't he?" the other shrugged, "You've been there for him, you've given him advice that others wouldn't possibly have been able to; you've kicked his butt when he needed it and he has returned the favour on more than one occasion. I think, aside from Rukia and myself, you are the one person he would listen to the most if he was in trouble."
"Speaking of which... He told you about Koga?" the ginger frowned weakly, "Wasn't it more dangerous for him to have brought you with him?"
"I didn't give him a choice." Renji smirked faintly, "I told him if he didn't tell me what the fuck was wrong with him I'd post a picture of him naked in the Women's Association Magazine."
"You actually have a photo of him naked?!" Ichigo asked, trying not to laugh.
"Ichigo... I spend most of my evenings with him naked... It wasn't that hard to get a photo."
"Whoa! I didn't need to know that Renji!"
"Tch, you asked." The redhead blushed slightly but there was no mistaking the smirk on his face too, "Anyway, I threatened him with that and he told me everything. He even had the nerve to ask if I would stay behind and leave everything to him..."
"I bet tha didn't get a good reception."
"Too damn right," the Sixth Division Fukutaichou snorted, "I slapped him for it actually and told him that if he thought I was staying behind while he put himself in danger then he was a moron. We went over the plan many times, although it didn't always go like clockwork Muramasa finally brought us both here."
Ichigo looked towards the battling Kuchiki males and ran a hand through his hair, "What about Senbonzakura and Zabimaru?"
"What about them?"
"Well... I thought they had been manipulated by Muramasa's power?"
"They were..." Renji answered and touched the hilt of his Zanpakto, "We fought the very night that the Rebellion began and both Byakuya and I were victorious. Senbonzakura and Zabimaru have been acting ever since."
"Fucking hell... They are bloody good then," he shuddered, "Because they scared the crap out of me!"
Renji laughed softly, "Yeah, Senbonzakura is the worst, he even scares me. Of course, Chimpette loves his overly manly and aggressive side and Senbonzakura loves her foxy side. Kinda backwards to mine and Byakuya's relationship but still."
"What about Snaky?"
"Ah, they leave him behind whenever they get physical... That'd be awkward but who knows what goes on in their minds?"
The Fifth Division Taichou chuckled softly and watched the battle unfolding; the two Kuchiki men seemed scarily evenly matched as they fought tooth and nail against each other.
"How did you escape the cave after Ryujin Jakka was released?" Renji asked suddenly.
"Aizen." Ichigo replied simply.
"Meh... He came in handy this time around." The strawberry shrugged, "He has some new Espada. They came through a Garganta shortly after you left and rescued us."
"New Espada?!" the redhead stared at him, "You don't think he would attack Seireitei again do you?!"
"No." Ichigo said honestly, "I don't think that is his intention... I think... Hueco Mundo and Las Noches are huge places to live alone. I think, even a man like him can get lonely."
"Mm... You can't hate him can you Ichigo?"
"What?" Ichigo looked at his friend and faltered slightly at the knowing expression on his tattooed face, "I... I thought I did until we rescued him from Tsukishima. For eighteen months I believed that I hated his guts and I wished that I had finished the job of killing him when I had been given the chance. But... When we rescued him, he was so frail and raw that... I couldn't hate him anymore. I realised I had never hated him to begin with; it was what he had done that I hated. He... Has the potential to be a good man. But he lacks the means to achieve it."
Renji smirked faintly, "I think you're a bloody idiot."
"Yeah." Ichigo nodded and laughed softly, "That is very plausible too."
The two sat back, silence floating between them as they watched Byakuya and Koga battle; it was their turn to stand back and see which direction this battle took.