Chapter 1: The Winter War (part I – Demise of the God)
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.
'Inner hollow/Zanpaktou speech'
"What in the world...?" Ichigo stood still as he looked at the slightly changed form of Ulquiorra Cifer, the Quatro Espada.
The battle between the two of them wasn't going well for Ichigo. He was getting trashed, even his triumph card, his hollow mask wasn't helping at all. He didn't think it could get worse.
How wrong he was.
Seeing that Ichigo was stubbornly refusing to give up, Ulquiorra decided that it was time to end things.
"Behold, Kurosaki Ichigo. This is the form of true despair." Ulquiorra stated and dramatically raised his reiatsu, holding his sword in front of him.
"Resurrección, Segunda Etapa." The world around the Quatro Espada exploded in a heavy black reiatsu and from within emerged Ulquiorra in his final release, shocking Ichigo.
'Shit.' Ichigo thought. He was aware that with this, his chances to win dropped even lower. Nevertheless, he got up once again, mildly confusing the Espada.
"...After witnessing this form, do you still have the will to fight?"
There was no response coming from Ichigo's mouth. He only stared at his foe, unblinking and unwavering.
"Very well, in that case I shall make you understand, even if I have to grind your body into dust."
In a flash, before he could even realize what was happening, Ichigo was flying through the air and crashed into the stone pillars. He shook himself from the impact and quickly donned his hollow mask.
"You are a fool Kurosaki Ichigo. You challenge an opponent whose strength terrifies you and think that you can win. It is beyond my comprehension."
To prove his point, the Espada used the Sonido and without losing the momentum, smashed Ichigo through other pillars, showing him just how great the difference in their power was.
After a few more minutes, he finally understood that no matter what he would do, Ichigo would never give up. It forced Ulquiorra to finally lose his patience and grab him around his neck.
"If it is due to what you humans call a "Heart", it is because of that hear that you suffer injuries and it is because of that heart that you will lose your life."
When Ichigo shakily raised his head, a thin stream of blood was flowing out of his mouth but he still gritted his teeth.
"You think, that just because you are stronger than me, I'm just going to stop fighting and accept my fate? I knew how strong you were even before we started this. I can see that you don't understand so I'll make it clear to you. I'm not fighting you, because I think I can win... I'm fighting you, because I have to win!" After a brief struggle he managed to break loose from Ulquiorra's grip.
It only aggravated the Espada further.
Ishida & Orihime
'I hope that Kurosaki is alright, but that reiatsu from just now... I have never felt something like that before. It's not just the strength of it...its very nature is so overwhelming and terrifying... . I'll just have to believe he can win. If not... I don't think that Inoue-san could recover from that. That's why I beg of you, Kurosaki... don't die.' Ishida thought with grim expression.
He glanced at his side, at the girl who was barely able to withstand the pressure of the reiatsu around them. Slowly, he was regretting that he agreed to take her above the dome with him. They rode the reishi platform in silence and after a few minutes they finally reached the top of the dome.
"I don't feel Kurosaki-kun's reiatsu, where is he?"
Orihime was frantically looking around when her eyes fell on the silhouette on top of one of the pillars.
"So you came, woman." Ulquiorra impassively stated, staring down at her. He was strangling the beaten body of the substitute with his tail, keeping him slightly above the ground. Orihime stared at it horrified.
Damn it, Kurosaki. I didn't think it would be this bad. We need to help him.' Ishida wanted to move, but the bizarre scene happening in front of him was keeping his limbs numb from fear and despair.
"Perfect, pay attention to the moment when the man you've entrusted your hopes to, seals off his life." Ulquiorra said and aimed his finger at Ichigo's chest. He charged a black energy at the tip of his black fingernail.
"No! Stop!" Orihime yelled. But there was nothing she could do and the black energy, the Cero Oscuras pierced Ichigo, ripping through his body, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of his chest. Ulquiorra spared him one more stare and then proceeded to throw his limp body from the top of the pillar.
"Noooooo!" Orihime screamed in agony with tears in her eyes. She raced to Ichigo's falling body, stopping him with her shield a second before it hit the ground. Ulquiorra went to intercept her, however Ishida finally managed to move his body and prevented him from doing so.
Ichigo was tired. Very tired. He was so tired, he couldn't even lift his fingers.
In the corner of his consciousness, in that small piece that still resided in his body he realized that he was dying.
He helplessly watched as his friends tried to stall the moment, but got overpowered almost instantly. It was painful just to watch. But what saddened him more was the look in Orihime's eyes when she kneeled before him and stared at his body.
She looked helpless...hopeless. It was as if her eyes died right at that moment. There was a snapping sound and she jerked her head towards it. She saw Ishida's arm being broken and cut off. Eventually, it became too much for her and she broke down, crying her eyes out. In between her sobs, she was desperately repeating Ichigo's name, hoping to get saved.
Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun. Kurosaki-kun... Kuro... her voice gave out.
But he heard her.
He could still hear her.
'She's calling me.'
The sound of her voice touched his soul.
'I can hear her.' He thought and focused on his remaining strength, trying to feel his body again.
'Stand up!...Stand up!'
And with his very soul he screamed into the darkness.
"I WILL PROTECT HER!"
Ishida was feeling hopeless. He knew that Ulquiorra was strong, but this was ridiculous.
'How in the hell has been Kurosaki able to fight him for this long? His reiatsu alone is suffocating me. Not to mention it took him only a few seconds before he made a bleeding pulp of me.' In that moment, his respect for Ichigo rose a little. He had to admit. If he had been in Ichigo's feet, he would have given up long ago. It was truly admirable from him.
'Or stupid...that would be more precise in his case.' He thought sadly.
Just when he was deciding to spare a glance at Ichigo, he was hit with the biggest amount of reiatsu he has ever felt in his life. It topped even the reiatsu of the Quatro Espada. Every person in the vicinity turned his head around to see something absurd to happen.
They watched together as Ichigo's supposedly dead body suddenly glowed in crimson red and slowly, bizarrely got up. When they took his appearance in, the sight startled even the stoic Espada. Before them stood... a grotesque creature in the tattered shihakusho, with white skin, long and sharp black claws, hole in its chest and the chest itself covered in a tribal tatoo. On its wrist and around its neck was orange fur. Its hair was long, going at his waist. But the most frightening thing was its head. It was covered with a skull-like mask with a pair of horns protruding from it at its temple. They were curved, pointing straight ahead. Its eyes were glowing crimson red. It was a scene straight out of the book of Hell with the creature posing as the Hell Knight.
"Impossible." Stated the Espada in disbelief.
"You were dead just a moment ago. You cannot be alive. Who are you?"
'Is-is that Kurosaki? Wha-what is going on here?.' Ishida barely suppressed the urge to scream. This situation was becoming too much even for the stoic Quincy.
"K-Kurosaki-kun?" Orihime whispered in shock.
The creature stood still, looking at those in front of it without blinking.
"I asked who are you. Do you not understand me? Answer me!" Ulquiorra demanded. It was evident that he was slowly loosing his cool.
The bizarre being turned its head and pointed its sight firmly at the Espada. It moved its hand backwards and Tensa Zangetsu flew from the ground right in its hand.
It slashed the air around him while pointing the sword down. The results were devastating.
The pressure from the slash alone shattered the ground around it, turning the solid stone into tiny particles of dust. It roared and released even bigger amount of reiatsu, forcing Ishida and Orihime on their knees, leaving them breathing heavily while even Ulquiorra had to fight to remain standing straight.
"It seems that words are lost on you." Ulquiorra stated with narrowed eyes, a little bit surprised at the creature's reiatsu. He pointed his finger and formed the Cero Oscuras opting to finish the creature in one attack. But what truly surprised him was what the creature standing in front if him did after that.
It bend itself, pointing its horns at him and quickly formed a bright red orb of energy that flew right at him soon after that. Ulquiorra quickly released his Cero, deciding that he didn't want to test his Hierro against that attack.
There was a huge explosion when the two energies met, the red easily overpowering the black.
'Impossible. That was undeniably a Cero. And one capable of scattering a Cero Oscuras at that...This cannot be, no matter how similar he may be to a hollow, a human firing off a cero is-' He didn't have the time to complete his thoughts when with a buzzing sound the creature appeared behind him. He turned around, but the creature grabbed his arm and with a quick slash cut it off, kicking him to the ground in the process.
Ishida and Orihime just stared at the scene happening before them dumbfounded.
The Espada got up from the ground grimacing at his lump of an arm.
"Tch." He muttered in a slightly irritated tone and a new arm formed before everybody's eyes.
'High-speed regeneration!' Ishida thought.
"My greatest capability isn't offensive strength, it's regeneration.I can regenerate almost anything, besides my internal organs and brain. I don't know how you acquired that form, but even with your power-up, you cannot hope to defeat me if you stop and stare after tearing off a single limb." He explained and almost invisible smirk appeared on his face.
"Come, creature, I shall show you how insignificant you truly are."
Ichigo was floating through the darkness. He was nowhere and yet everywhere. After a few moments, without warning he fell on the ground, swirling dust around him.
'Where am I?'
He blinked, trying to clear his sight, when he suddenly felt a presence and an imminent danger behind him. He jumped and narrowly dodged a thin white sword that threatened to cut his head off.
"O-ho Kingy, so you managed to avoid it. Oh well, I have plenty of time. But I think I'll stop calling you King, for now... you pathetic loser." What started as a laughter ended as an angry sneer.
Ichigo turned around and for the second time in a short amount of time he was shocked. In front of him stood something akin to a hell knight in a white shihakusho with a long, white zanpaktou.
"Who are you?"
The one in white just tilted his head.
"I'm hurt Ichigo, you don't even remember your stronger and more handsome partner? Boo-hoo, I think I'm gonna cry." But he didn't and jumped at Ichigo, trying to cut his head off again.
"Hollow? What happened, why are you here and why do you look like this?" Ichigo parried the slash but his arms were pushed back almost instantly. 'Fuck, what's with him. This felt even stronger than Ulquiorra.' He jumped a fair distance to the back.
"What happened? You are lame, that's what happened. You got yourself killed Ichigo. Surely you remember what I said the last time we met. 'If you'll give me an opportunity I'll seize this body for myself.' Does this ring any bells?" Hollow said while slowly walking around Ichigo.
"Well, I'd be more than happy to fully confirm that, trust me, I really really do. But not exactly. Your spiritual body is dead, it's just your freaking mind that doesn't wanna go away. You are way too stubborn for your own good." Hollow deadpanned.
"So it's just like the last time we met? I beat you and I'll go back?" Ichigo smirked.
"Oh, that confidence doesn't suit you Ichigo. No, it's not like last time. Because this time you won't beat me. You. Are. Outmatched."
Hollow sped to him and slashed at him again. Ichigo barely had time to raise his sword and was blown away to a building behind him. He walked from the rubble soon enough, but winced with every step he took. His whole body hurt like hell.
'This is impossible. It's like he's even stronger than Ulquiorra..' He shook his head.
'Why? Why is even he so much stronger than me? Am I really that weak?'
He stopped his thinking when he had to dodge a jab. He sidestepped it and struck at the hollow, who only laughed and caught the blade in his right hand. He slapped him with the remaining hand and Ichigo was blown into the building again.
"You are weak Ichigo! Look around! Do you see any skyscraper in this place? It used to be full of them. But your inability to do what was needed to be done made you pathetic. Look at yourself. With two strikes you look dead on your feet. Do you know why? I'll answer your unasked question. I'm stronger that you because I know who and what I am. I know my strength, I know my weakness. You are just a loser with a great Zanpaktou. You should have been equally strong as me, if not more. You have Zangetsu, the best Zanpaktou, but you never try to unleash its full power. You cower in fear and can't even hollowify for fuck sake." Ichigo looked at the ground, ashamed.
The hollow stared at him hard.
"You know what? I'll give you your last chance. If you'll give me answers, good answers, I'll release your body. But if you won't, I'll really erase your existence."
Ichigo looked at him confused.
"Why are you being nice? Last time we met, you were trying to kill me without giving me any room to breathe, but now you're talking to me, even trying to help me. I don't get it. What changed?"
His hollow frowned.
"You may think of me anything, and in most cases you are right. But I'm not stupid Ichigo. I'm confident, but I'm no fool. I can't kill Aizen alone. I could just forget about the war and go somewhere else. But if that damned shinigami of yours are dead and Aizen would win, there would be nowhere, where I could run away from him. So I need you, but I refuse to be a partner to someone lame. Now, think hard."
Ichigo opened his mouth but stopped himself from speaking. The look on his hollow face told him everything. There would be no second chance if he'd screw this up. He had to think, he had to speculate, to analyze so that he could figure out the right answer. And so he did. It took him a while, forcing his hollow to walk around in boredom but then the right answer hit him like a truck. It has always been in front of his face, he just wasn't able to admit it.
'I was a fool. I should have known better.' He chuckled sadly, confusing his hollow.
"What's so funny?"
"I think I know what you wanna hear and I laughed because I realized that you are right."
His hollow frowned. Ichigo has never admitted he was wrong before.
"I remembered the time when the old man talked to me. He told me to look forward. To abandon my fears. But ever since I found out about you, I was afraid. I was trying to suppress you because I feared you. Thought I'd turn out like Kenpachi, that I'd turn to be a psychopath. I was thrown into despair when I couldn't protect my friends and that despair dulled my blade. My resolve was broken, my instincts supressed, my will was wavering."
His hollow just stared at him.
"Now I realize what I did wrong. You once told me that you and Zangetsu are both my powers. But till now I only used Zangestu without fear. Even that was done wrong. I only talked to him when I needed help. I never tried to actually get to know him. I thought that I was the one who was in control. But I know what you're trying to tell me and I understand. Without Zangetsu I would be nothing. Zangetsu is a part of me and he's the one I should listen to. With his help I can be strong. Just using him as a tool is wrong. Same thing with you. You were a crazy maniac and still are, but you're also a part of me. If I can't accept this fact, I'll never be able to defeat strong opponents. As you said few times, you are my instinct and I refused to use it. But I shouldn't be afraid of myself. I have to accept who I am. After all, what being doesn't use its instinct?" Ichigo stopped his monologue and looked at his hollow who was now grinning.
"You're too close for me to disagree. So, the point is whaaaat?"
Ichigo grinned too.
"Point is, you are a part of me. Zangetsu is my strength, you are my instinct and with the two of you, I am complete."
Ichigo had to cover his eyes when a small explosion engulfed the hollow. When the air cleared, next to him was a young man in black, smiling slightly.
"Hello Ichigo. I'm proud of you."
"Zangetsu?" Ichigo asked confused. The man in black sighed and shook his head.
"What is the name of your bankai Ichigo?"
"T-Tensa Zangetsu?" Said person nodded.
"Soooo what now-gah!" Ichigo was interrupted when a white sword pierced him through his stomach.
"What...the... hell?" Ichigo panted. He looked down and saw his hollow grinning at him.
"Now we'll see if-." He was cut off when he started to disappear slowly. He raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"Huh, guess he really did it."
"What?" Ichigo looked at him confused.
"It means, that you truly accepted your hollow as a part of you." Tensa Zangetsu explained with a smile.
"So long, sucker!" Hollow smirked and disappeared.
Ichigo wanted to ask more, but he felt a burning sensation growing within. It slowly turned into a sharp pain. He fell on the ground, clutching his stomach. The pain was great, but it only lasted a few moments before an explosion engulfed him.
Ichigo watched in disbelief as all of his wounds were being healed at a rapid speed, his muscles getting more profound. Not on the level of Kenpachi, but it was still an improvement. He felt his hair growing and falling on his shoulders with a mixture of red and black on its ends.
Next, he felt something on his chest. He looked down and he saw black markings spreading on his chest and reaching to his neck. An amazing surge of reiatsu surrounded him. His eyes widened when he felt it being absorbed into his body. He could feel his own reiatsu raising to an unimaginable levels. When it was over, he shakily stood up.
'Damn, this feels good.'
"What happened?" Ichigo asked the only person standing in front of him.
"You merged with your hollow." Tensa Zangetsu simply said.
"It feels good." Ichigo admitted.
"Of course it feels good. We are now what we should have been long time ago. We're badass." Hollow voice echoed around them making Ichigo jump in surprise.
"Woah! What the hell?"
"Don't worry, it's just my beautiful voice. My handsome body isn't here anymore." His hollow laughed.
Ichigo facepalmed. He was glad that they weren't fighting anymore, but it seemed that his hollow was still crazy.
"I think I should give you a name. It's strange always referring to you as a hollow. What do you think about... Shirosaki?"
He could almost picture the surprised face of his hollow.
"Heh, you surprised me there Kingy. I think I can live with Shirosaki, being white and everything."
"So, anything I should be wary of, now that we are merged?"
Tensa Zangetsu answered for Shirosaki.
"Well, you can already feel that your reserves of reiryoku increased greatly, and along with that the rest of your basic abilities. Since you have all the memories of Shirosaki, you probably understand that you can use your hollow powers too, but in a different matter. Just don't use it yet and reserve it for Aizen as a triumph card. As with your bankai, you'll have to train to gain all of the abilities it offers, but that's a given."
Ichigo smiled apologetically at his Zanpaktou.
"Yeah, about that. I promise that after we deal with all of this, I'll train hard, so that I could use your powers to the full capability too. I hope you can forgive me for my ignorance Tensa."
His zanpaktou smiled at him.
"Yes, I'm happy that you realized it. And it only took a little bit of ass-kicking from Shirosaki."
Ichigo looked at him incredulously. Did his Zanpaktou just make a joke?
"You should go Kingy. But don't forget...with great power comes great responsibility." Shirosaki said , trying to sound serious. But the sound of his laughter destroyed his hopes.
"Bwahaha. Sorry, I always wanted to say that, but it's really a cheesy line. Screw it, just kick ass Kingy." He laughed again as his voice slowly faded away as well as Ichigo's sight did.
'He may be alright after all, but he certainly is crazy.'
Ishida & Orihime
Ishida was scared. He hated to admit it, but he was scared as hell. The creature before him has mercilessly beaten the Espada who thought, that he still had the upper hand in the situation.
"He ... beat him..." Ishida said in disbelief.
From the ground Ulquiorra glanced at the creature.
"To think that I... would be defeated by a human who had transformed into a hollow..." He stopped talking as he felt a leg with claws pushing his head into the cold stone and saw a red orb of energy forming above him.
"I see, no mercy huh? How very hollow-like. I don't mind. I have lost to you, I no longer have any meaning...Do it."
Orihime and Ishida closed their eyes as a huge red explosion from the creature Cero tore through Ulquiorra and even through the dome itself, blowing stone debris everywhere.
Ishida stood behind Orihime's shield, that protected them from being hurt. He watched terrified as the creature threw the remains of Ulquiorra on the ground.
But the creature didn't stop there. It walked towards the Ulquiorra's body, raising its sword and pointing it at his head.
"That's enough Kurosaki." Ishida said as he quickly ran to him and caught the creature's hand.
"It's finished. He's an enemy but there's no need to carve up his corpse. So that's enough Kurosaki..." The creature tried to move its hand.
"Can't you hear me Kurosaki?! I'm telling you to stop...! If you do that...you truly won't be human anymore!" The tip of the blade moved closer to Ulquiorra's throat.
"Kurosaki!" Ishida yelled, but he found himself blown away as there was another explosion.
Area around the creature exploded in red and Ishida and Orihime were hit by a monstrous reiatsu so large it knocked them unconscious.
Last thing Ishida saw before he fainted was a black dust being blown away, from the space where Ulquiorra's body laid.
When he came to, he saw a pair of concerned eyes looking at him. He jumped in surprise.
"Whoa, calm down Ishida, it's me." He heard the unchanged voice of Ichigo.
"Kuro...Kurosaki? What, what happened? Where's Ulquiorra, where's Inoue-san...is that a tattoo?" Ishida asked rapidly. Ichigo just raised his eyebrows.
"Just breath and wait a minute and I'll explain everything. You don't have to worry about Ulquiorra by the way. He won't come back." Ichigo said and moved to Orihime.
She was looking at him with tears in her eyes.
"Is that really you Kurosaki-kun?" She asked, her voice trembling in fear.
He looked at her in concern. He seemed to ponder about something and then he surprised both of them.
He hugged her.
Orihime immediately blushed deeply and begun to stutter.
"K-k-k-kurosaki-kun? Wha-what are you doing?"
He rubbed her back.
"It's alright Orihime. I'm sorry for everything that I put you through. But all is fine now. You don't have to be scared anymore. And you can call me Ichigo, like all my friends do... aside from the weirdo here?" He smiled at her encouragingly and ignored The Quincy's protests
She took a deep breath and nodded shyly.
He stood up and looked at them.
"I assume you have many questions but the time is short so I'll give you a shortened version. Okay?" Ishida looked at Orihime and they both nodded. He sighed and rubbed his temples.
"As you could probably see, my fight with Ulquiorra was hardly a fight. He started trashing me just after he released. Even with my hollow mask I was no match for him. I still thought, however, that I could win somehow. But then he released for the second time. I don't know how is that possible but... well, afterwards it felt like I was back at the Sokyoku Hill fighting Aizen. Like an ant fighting an elephant. You saw the ending, he caught me and...killed me." He heard a gasp from Orihime.
"Don't worry, as you can see I'm very much alive. It seems that I'm more stubborn that even you thought, Ishida. Even after my spiritual body died, my mind didn't want to leave. I heard Orihime crying for help so I pushed myself to fight. But I wasn't in control. Well, I woke up in my mindscape and from my hollow I found out that I'm dead. He was going to take over my body so we fought. But the fight was over even faster that with Ulquiorra. He overpowered me with two strikes." Ishida raised his eyebrows.
"Yeah, I couldn't believe it too. But surprisingly, he didn't kill me. He...told me something and I realized that I was weak."
"Kurosaki-kun...I mean I-Ichigo is not weak." Orihime objected quickly.
He smiled at her.
"Thank you Orihime, but he was right. I was weak. He made me realize why. I won't go into details but... well, we came to a mutual agreement and...Ishida, please refrain from shooting me ... and we merged?" There was a silence and Ichigo nervously glanced at his friends. Orihime was confused and Ishida narrowed his eyes.
"Basically, I'm still me, but I finally accepted who I am. I accepted that my hollow is a part of me. I am now complete and I can finally fight with my full strength.
Ishida was staring at him with a dangerous glint in his eyes.
"What do you mean 'accepted him'?" He asked sharply.
Ichigo sighed and ran his hand through his hair.
"Look. I know it's hard to accept but it's the truth. When I regained my powers I somehow managed to get a hollow inside me. I didn't do it on purpose. I don't even understand how it's possible. So, ever since I found out I tried to fight him, suppress him... simply block him. But how can you be complete while trying to suppress part of your own soul? It was hard for me to accept that I was a part hollow, but he's part of me. I just hope that you'll someday understand it."
Ishida grimaced and sighed.
"I won't lie to you. I don't like it. That...thing that fought Ulquiorra was terrifying but if you say it's under control... just, just give me time, okay?" Ichigo nodded, he was expecting it.
"Is that why you have longer hair ... I-Ichigo?" Orihime asked shyly.
"Yeah, with me accepting my hollow...sorry, Shirosaki, that's his name... came some changes. Nothing major, it's just that I'm stronger and I have this cool tatoo, look." He opened his repaired shihakusho and showed them his chest. Orihime's eyes looked as if they wanted to bulge out and she quickly turned away. Ishida raised both his eyebrows and his lips twitched.
"Enjoy explaining that to your father, Kurosaki."
"Crap. Goat-chin will kill me." Ichigo groaned. Orihime giggled and wiped the rest of her tears while Ichigo looked away.
"I'm really glad that both of you aren't scared of me."
"To be honest, I'm still little bit freaked out about you decimating Ulquiorra...but well. Speaking of whom, I don't see his body."Ishida looked around confused.
Ichigo's smile lessened a bit.
"Ah...yeah, I'm not proud of how the fight ended. I never wanted to kill him...but I can't forgive him for what he had done so I'll try not to mope about it much. It was me or him. About his body...well, after I merged with my hollow our reiatsu combined and the pressure was probably too much for his weakened body and he turned into dust. By the way, when you prevented that...well my hollow form from cutting Ulquiorra's head off, you weren't doing very logical thing."
"What? I didn't want you to do unneccessary thing!" Ishida exclaimed.
"Remember one thing. Ulquiorra said he had amazing regenerative abilities. My ... hollow form reacted on pure instinct and it just wanted to prevented him from regenerating. It wasn't doing it for fun."
"Oh...right." Ishida remembered.
"It's just...it looked horrible. Nevermind. You said that when you merged, your reiatsu and your hollow reiatsu combined. So that monstrous reiatsu was yours? If yes, why I can't feel it anymore...well, at least not that strongly at least." He continued.
"Yep, mine. You can't feel my reiatsu that much because I have better control of my reiatsu. Before my control was extremely poor because my hollow side and my shinigami side were in conflict. Now that they are combined I leak only a little bit of my reiatsu."
Ishida looked at him in disbelief.
'He calls this a little bit? It's not that monstrous, but it still feels like a reiatsu of a Captain of Gotei 13. And he's saying he's preventing from leaking more?...I don't even want to know how much reiatsu he now really has.'
"What, something on my face?" Ichigo smirked when he realized what Ishida was thinking.
"Well, it looks like merging with your hollow increased your sense of humor." Ishida deadpanned.
"Nah, it's because I trust myself more and I feel relaxed. What do you say Orihime, isn't that an improvement?"
Orihime looked at him and averted his gaze.
"I think that Kurosaki-k...I-Ichigo is improved in more ways than just sense of humor." She said quietly and averted his gaze.
Ichigo just opened his mouth to say something but he quickly closed them. He looked at Ishida who was staring at her in shock. He quickly regained his senses.
"So does your better control mean, that you can seal your zanpaktou?" Ishida asked.
Ichigo glanced at his cleaver-like sword.
"Nope. Zangetsu doesn't like to be sealed and truthfully it doesn't really matter if I have better control. I have too much reiatsu to be able to seal my zanpaktou."
"Nonsense, even Captain Commander keeps his sword sealed."
"Well, maybe I have more reiatsu than jii-san." Ichigo joked. Ishida just raised both of his eyebrows.
'Could it really be true?' He mused.
"For now I think I should go down and help the others. I felt a strong reiatsu from below. You two take care of your injuries first and then come down. You can rest for a while too. It's been a long day." They both nodded and with that Ichigo stood up and went to the hole in the roof.
"See ya later." And he jumped.
"Do you really think we should stay here Ishida-kun?" Asked Orihime nervously.
'Haaah, I really wish she'd call me by my first name too.' He caught himself thinking and immediately turned away, embarrassed about his own thoughts.
"Yeah, I think we should rest. Kurosaki will be just fine. If not, I'll kick his ass and then I'll bring his father to help me." Orihime giggled again.
"Okay Ishida-kun, now show me your arm..."
Rukia & Renji & Chad
"Damn it, what's going on up there?" Reji yelled. Just a few moments ago they were all pushed to the ground when an extremely heavy reiatsu hit them.
"Whatever that was, we must trust Ichigo to take care of it." Rukia said with a slightly shaky voice.
"I agree." Chad replied.
Suddenly there was a loud crash and a huge figure emerged from the debris.
"What the..." Renji yelled again.
"It's him. Yammy." Chad exclaimed.
"Huuh? Yammy? Well he certainly doesn't look yummy. He is the one Captain Hitsugaya mentioned, right?" Renji said.
"Yeah, but something is wrong here. I remember him. He was big back when I first met him, but he certainly wasn't this huge." Chad pointed at the figure that menacingly stood before them.
"Tch, that damn four-eyes. I'll never forgive him!" Yeammy roared.
All three were hit with the pressure of his roar and skidded a few inches. Just then Yammy spotted them.
"Huh? What is this? Some worms are at my feet? Bah! You won't be enough to even warm me up." He tore off his shirt and let them see his number. It was 10.
"Guys, did you fight an Espada before?" Renji asked.
"Yeah, but not for long."
"Well, it's not like I won either, but his number is ten. He should be the weakest one. If we concentrate together, we should be able to get him down and then we'll go get Ichigo." Renji stood into a stance, firmly grasping Zabimaru.
"Huuh? What are you flapping about you piece of shit? Get me down? You? You're just pissing me off very nicely. Get pissed, IRA!"
With an explosion Yammy released his sword., Before their very eyes his number began to change. The 1 from 10 erased itself and only 0 remained.
"What the flying fuck is going on?" Renji yelled.
"Who said that the numbers of the ten Espada went from 1 to 10? They go from 0 to 9. After I store my power I can fully release. Say hi to your death."
"I am Zero Espada Yammy Ryialgo." He smashed his fist into the ground and sent all three of them flying into different directions, painfully hitting the ground in the process. He looked around and saw Rukia slowly getting up. He flashed to her and grabbed her.
"Well that was pathetic. You didn't last nothing. And you especially are so tiny, I can hardly hold you without squashing you. Bah! Fly like the bug you are!" And he threw her against the ground.
'Gah, what insane strength, I can't even move, the pressure of the air alone is too much.' Rukia thought and was mentally preparing for a crash.
Yammy looked down when a little boom was heard after Rukia hit the ground.
'What the...I'm not dead?' Rukia looked up and her heart almost stopped. Before her stood Ichigo in his intact shihakusho, leisurely holding Zangetsu on his shoulders. It was almost like a deja vu from the time he saved her at the Sokyoku Hill.
'Snap out of it, Rukia. But is this really Ichigo? He didn't have such long hair...and he looks ... bulkier?'
Without turning to her, Ichigo greeted her.
"Yo Rukia, I thought that a shinigami of your caliber can at least land on the ground without help, huh?" He said cheekily.
Rukia attempted to kick him in the shin and fumed.
"Y-you fool! I was alright, you didn't have to save me you know. Hmph!"
Ichigo smiled a little under his nose.
"YOU! Kurosaki Ichigo!" Yammy roared.
"Oh? You've gotten bigger since the last time we met. And a lot more uglier I must say." Ichigo smirked.
"I'm gonna kill you, you piece of shit." Yammy charged and released a Cero at Ichigo.
"Look out!" Rukia screamed at him.
Ichigo turned his head to Rukia a moment before the Cero hit him. With a cheeky grin, he gripped his zanpaktou tightly and stopped the attack, barely breaking a sweat.
"Aw, don't tell me you are afraid for me. I'm touched midget. Don't worry though, I got this. You just go and help Chad and Renji. Get them somewhere safe and wait. Orihime and Ishida will get here soon." He deflected the Cero and jumped to greet Yammy with his sword.
Rukia stared at him dumbfounded.
'Did he just casually stop a Cero from the strongest Espada like it was nothing?' She watched him flash towards Yammy and sighed.
'I should get those two...'
Meanwhile Ichigo jumped up to meet Yammy's gaze. When he was sure he got his attention he sped away.
"Stop running away you worm!" Yammy yelled at him.
Ichigo turned his head and stared at him in mid-flight.
"Running away? You wish ugly. I'm just getting away from where my friends are... now I can beat you down with raw power." He flashed around the huge body of Yammy.
"Getsuga...Tensho!" He sent a huge blast of crescent energy at him giving him no time to react and hit him with full force.
'Huh, I remember puting the same amount of reiryoku into that attack as the last time, but it seemed to be a lot more bigger. Interesting.' Ichigo noted.
"Gaaargh! I'll kill you!" Yammy roared.
When the air cleared, they all could see that Yammy got his right arm cut off at the shoulder.
"Aargh! You piss me off greatly Kurosaki Ichigo!" An explosion of reiatsu later and Yammy stood before him even bigger than just a few seconds ago.
Ichigo raised his eyebrows, he didn't expect this.
"What the hell just happened?" Renji asked after he was helped to his feet.
"I don't know." Rukia said worried.
"Aaah. This is good. I guess you are surprised, huh Kurosaki Ichigo?" Yammy laughed at him.
Ichigo just stared at him quietly.
"My ressurección is Ira, the anger itself is my strength. The more I get pissed, the stronger I become. You are done." He tried to punch him, but Ichigo flashed behind him.
'Now that's an irritating release.'
'The more you cut him the bigger he gets. Just cut his head off and be done with it. He's not worthy of our attention.' Shirosaki said.
'Yeah, I know. I didn't want to be that brutal but it seems I have no other option.'
"Don't move around you worm!" Yammy boomed at him.
"Sure." Ichigo replied and flashed even faster behind his neck. He gathered a little more of his reiatsu and poured it into Zangetsu.
"I'm sorry but I have no time for you. GETSUGA TENSHO!" Ichigo yelled and released a huge Getsuga at his neck. The force of the impact blew even Ichigo himself back a little.
"That should have done it." He muttered.
The trio was silently watching him.
"Do you think...he won?" Renji asked tentatively.
"I doubt it. Ichigo is strong but this is the strongest Espada. It would probably take at least two captains to defea-." Whatever Rukia wanted to say was interrupted when they saw as Yammy's huge head crashed into the ground with his body still standing.
'No way...that's impossible.' She turned her head to Renji and she found him gaping at the head too. Chad looked indifferent, but his eyes looked surprised. She squawked when Ichigo flash-stepped next to her.
"Well, you seem to be wide awake. With that ugly thing down you can finally take your time to rest and wait for Orihime to heal you." He said nonchalantly.
"What in the fucking hell just happened Ichigo? How could you have beaten a Zero Espada like that and what of Ulquiorra?" Rukia rapidly fired questions.
"Oi. Calm down midget. I could beat him because I'm simply stronger and he was quite stupid and Ulquiorra is done for." He missed their shocked faces and turned to Chad.
"You okay Chad?" Said giant nodded lightly.
"Wait wait wait. Ichigo, I know that you're strong but there's no way you were this strong before." Rukia looked at him suspiciously.
"I know but we don't have the time to-" He suddenly side-stepped and narrowly missed a sword that seemingly to came from nowhere.
"Yo Kenpachi, I didn't think you'd come here. And you even brought Byakuya." Ichigo grinned as he turned to face equally grinning Zaraki Kenpachi and scowling Kuchiki Byakuya.
"What's this Ichigo, you already beat him. Come on, leave some for the rest of us too." Kenpachi whined, looking at the body of Zero Espada.
"When will he stop calling me by my first name?" Byakuya muttered under his nose.
"Nii-sama!" Rukia exclaimed. Byakuya glanced at her.
"Calm down Rukia, you have injuries that need to be treated." He replied stoically and turned to Ichigo.
"Kurosaki Ichigo, you have no other business here. Depart to the world of the living. You are a protector of the Karakura Town. Go there. We will take over from here."
"Yeah, it's not like I took down 3 members of Espada in a few hours for you myself, huh? Would it kill you to at least acknowledge me a little? But, that's just you so I guess no harm done."
'Did I hear him say three Espada? That can't be right.' Byakuya looked at him with surprise in his eyes.
"And I know I need to get to Karakura Town but Aizen sealed off every Garganta and without Urahara-san's hel-"
"Enough with Urahara Kisuke already." A new voice interrupted him.
Ichigo jerked his head around.
"Hmph, a lowly class shinigami addressing me without honorifics? But since you call these two clowns with their first names I should consider myself lucky for that." He waved his hand.
"Oh? Such leniency. Would it be related to that wagon?" Byakuya nodded towards the small vehicle pushed by Nemu, the Vice-Captain of the 12th Division.
Mayuri grinned wickedly.
"Ah yes, I'm in a very good mood, I acquired many samples and other... things during my stay. Also I had the time to study the structure of the Garganta and without failures I must add. Hmm, I'm in a such a good mood I'll let this orange haired monkey to even be my first experimental victim. Nemu!" Ichigo nervously watched Nemu preparing the equipment.
"Experimental victim? What do you-" He was interrupted for the second time.
"No need to worry Kurosaki-san. I shall go with you." From behind him came a voice of Unohana Retsu, Captain of the 4th Division.
She flash-stepped next to him and looked at him with speculative eyes.
"You look quite differently Kurosaki-san."
Others raised their eyebrows in question too, as they took in his new appearance.
"Right, well... I guess I had a sudden growth spurt. Don't worry I'm fine." He assured them.
"More than fine." Mumbled Unohana quietly with a glint in her eyes. Others looked at her in shock, while Rukia was scandalized.
Ichigo looked at her in shock and swallowed nervously.
"Isane." Unohana called.
"H-hai?" Her Vice-Captain came from behind her with pink cheeks, avoiding everybody's eyes.
"Stay here with Captains Kurotsuchi, Zaraki and Kuchiki. Me and Kurosaki-san will go to the Karakura Town."
"Wait, I'm not sure I trust him to open a safe Garganta." Ichigo protested quietly.
"Oh, don't worry. I'm sure it will be fine. After all, if he came to Hueco Mundo and used an Arrancar scientist's research material to analyze a Garganta, only to have it fail, Urahara Kisuke would surely have a laugh at his expense, isn't that right, Captain Kurotsuchi?" She asked sweetly. Mayuri's eyebrows twitched.
"Think carefully before you speak. The fact that I've analyzed it means that I can also close it midway." He threatened.
"As I would expect from you. Off we go Kurosaki-san."
"Oh...okay. See you guys."
Nemu and Mayuri meanwhile opened a Garganta. From the pillar he stood on, Mayuri said.
"I won't explain to you the small things, just beware of your footing. It takes only one bad step and you will fall into a void between the Human world and Hueco Mundo unable to get out... well that would make a good research material though...What?" He asked irritated when he saw Ichigo chuckling.
"No, nothing. I just remembered that Urahara-san, when he sent us off to the Soul Society the first time, also stood somewhere high and talked to us."
"In fact, you are a second director of the Technology Development Bureau, so that means that some time ago you must have been his student. That's why you guys have some similarities." He grinned cheekily.
"You swine...!" Mayuri growled.
Ichigo just saluted and jumped in the Garganta with Unohana after him.
"I see. Fufufufu, you're an interesting man Kurosaki Ichigo... I will find a way to install a fear so great in you, that you'll think of today as a pleasant memory, just you wait." He grimaced evilly.
"Understand Mayuri-sama, I'll think of a plan." Nemu said with a plan already forming in her head.
Byakuya glanced at the wierd duo.
'I almost pity the fool...'
Ichigo & Unohana
Ichigo was sliding through the darkness with Unohana behind him. He glanced back at her when he heard her speaking.
"Kurosaki-san, there was something I wanted to ask. You confronted Aizen Sousuke on the Soukyoku Hill, right?"
"Yeah, but it wasn't too much of a battle. He decimated me without an effort. I couldn't do a thing to him." He muttered darkly, but Unohana smiled.
"Well, I'm glad to hear that. The fact that there was such a big difference in power between you and him...that's most fortunate. I'll tell you one thing Kurosaki-san. Right now you are probably the only one in whole Soul Society who can defeat Aizen." Ichigo looked at her confused.
"What are you-?"
"Kurosaki-san, do you know what the power of Aizen's Kyouka Suigetsu is?" Unohana politely interrupted him.
"Not a clue."
"His main ability is an illusion, or should I say in his words, a perfect illusion. Just by seeing him release his sword once, he is able to completely control all of your senses, making you see or hear only what he wants you to. We, that means me, other Captains and Vice-Captains, saw him release his sword a long time ago when he became a Captain. Since that time, we cannot fight him effectively."
Ichigo's eyes widened.
"Well...damn. That really is a hax power. So I just have to keep him from releasing by quickly overpowering him, right?"
"Overpower him? Now, now Kurosaki-san. You're far too lucid to be saying this kind of nonsense you'd mumble in your sleep. I know that your reiatsu is that of a Captain, since I can feel it even now, but overpowering Aizen? Now Kurosaki-san, get real." She smiled at him sweetly.
"Hey! Don't you think you've been a little too harsh lately? Besided I'm not joking or talking nonsense. What you feel right now is only a fraction of my full reiatsu. I'm keeping it as low as I can. Besides I'm in my shikai. My full reiatsu is a lot more than this." He closed his eyes for a second and raised his reiatsu.
"See, this is still only about a quarter of my full reiatsu."
He saw Unohana's eyes widen and jaw dropping.
'It cannot be. This is not even a quarter of his reiatsu? And I misjudged his total reiatsu to be on a par with that of a Captain? Impossible. If that's really true...then he can not only become our triumph card against Aizen...'
Unohana couldn't believe what she heard. In her eyes, Ichigo was still a kid, a newborn. If he could gain so much power only after a few months and without proper training... there was no way of telling what he could become after a hundreds of years, or even a millenia. She herself was several hundreds years old, but she never saw someone with this much potential. It was ridiculous, preposterous... improbable...and it was also making her heart beat faster.
Her cheeks gained a pink colour when she thought about it. During her long life there were only a few men that could gain her attention. She was strong, even by Captain standards. She only joined 4th Division after a certain incident. In a match she was certain she could take down most of the current Captains. But this boy, only 16 years old and still living, was already showing a potential to beat her? If only he would enjoy his battles a little more... She shook her head, this was not the time for this.
"Kurosaki-san... as I remember, you said that you fought 3 members of Espada today. Are you sure you are at 100%?" She asked Ichigo, making him ponder about it.
He was watching her face earlier, since he told her about her reiatsu. He was sure she wouldn't believe him. It made him almost wish he could read her thoughts. But when her cheeks got pink he threw that idea away quickly.
His father taught him only one clever thing about women. 'Never try to understand a woman's mind. Your head would just explode.'
'Yep, true that, goat-chin.'
"Well, after I got my...growth spurt, my wound healed but I guess you're right. I'm not at full power."
"Alright then Kurosaki-san, you go ahead and I'll restore your reiatsu to your maximum while we are running."
He looked at her in genuine surprise.
"You can do that? Amazing." He was thankful. There was no time for stopping.
"Thank you. But, Kurosaki-san. You do realize what you have to do, once we reach the end, don't you?" She looked at him with a sad smile. She would never want for someone this young having to kill.
"Yeah...I know. I realize that many lives depend on me and I won't let anyone die because of him. I don't think I can kill him with one attack, but I hope it can weaken him at least."
And with that, they continued to run.
Fake Karakura Town
"So, this is supposed to be the might of the great Gotei 13? I'm disappointed." Aizen stated while looking down at the broken bodies of Captains and Vice-Captains of Gotei 13.
He defeated them shortly after he decided it was time to move to the real Karakura Town instead of the fake. It was really boring, watching some of the Captains struggle against his top three Espada first. There were, however, bright moments. He was fascinated when Captain Sui-Feng cut off her arm to prevent herself from being killed by Barragan's Respira. He was almost certain that the cold female Captain would sacrifice her fat Lieutenant, but surprisingly, she didn't let him.
Harribel against Captain Hitsugaya was a main disappointment for him. He expected more from the young prodigy. Even with his bankai he was useless against her. Maybe it was because of the elemental match-up, where she just had to use his frozen water and turn it into her attacks. Aizen thought that maybe the Captain was holding back and that he would use Kido at least, but after the small prodigy tried to freeze Harribel, what left him breathing heavily from exhaustion, Aizen knew that it was all he could get from him.
The final battle, Starrk against Captain Kyoraku was as he expected. Both of the fighters were strong but quite lazy. They took turns to attack each other in-between their small talk. Even after Captain Ukitake joined the fight, Starrk was able to hold his own while being lazy, which didn't surprise Aizen. He knew that Starrk was his strongest Espada, even if he made him Primera and not Zero.
It was when the group of people he thought long dead (but suspected them to be alive), the Vizards came, the fun begun. They all tried to help and interfere in other fights. For Aizen, it was the perfect chance to taunt them a little, to make them do rash decisions. Little Hyiori came right after him after a few taunts, getting herself caught by Gin. That was the signal for the real battle to begin. Hirako Shinji, his previous Captain tried to catch him off guard by using special ability of his Sakanade.
Of course, that was a mistake. Aizen was a master of illusions and the little trick with confusing directions was nothing for him. It was only after he took him down, that the old Captain Commander finally joined the fray.
Aizen actually laughed when he saw the look in Yamamoto's eyes after he let Wonderweiss seal off his Ryuujin Jakka. It was true that the old man was a force to be reckon with, even without his zapanktou, however after learning that Wonderweiss held all the fire of Ryuujin Jakka in himself... old man trying to contain his own fire was an amusing sight.
Although, he impressed Aizen. To live after an explosion like that, Yamamoto truly was fit to lead the Gotei 13. Even Aizen wouldn't want to face him one-on-one without some backup plan.
Commander then tried to use the sacrificing Kido on him, but with a luck, he managed to got away only with light injuries.
In that moment Aizen decided to end this charade. He quickly dispatched his Espada, who were starting to get overwhelmed (Vizards joining their fights were proving too much for them...well not for Starrk though. He smirked, when he told them that he alone was stronger than the three of them combined. He proved that by defeating all the remaining forces of Gotei 13.
"Well, I'd like to stay and chat but I nee-."
His speech was interrupted by an explosion.
'This is it. The end of Garganta. I'm now strong, stronger than ever. I have to strike Aizen as soon as I can. I must not think about it.' Ichigo was muttering to himself.
When he got to the end, through the small hole he made, he heard and saw Aizen making some kind of speech.
'A perfect timing.'
And he tore through the barrier and silently sent out a huge Getsuga at Aizen's back.
Fake Karakura Town
Everyone looked up as they saw the orange haired boy jump from the Garganta and send his attack at the back of Aizen's head.
'Striking from behind as soon as he could. Heh, So he's not hopeless.' Sui-Feng thought. She never warmed up to the boy, he was after all hindering her 'Yoruichi-sama'. But when she saw him attacking a clueless Aizen, she noticed that something was different about him.
'Well, I guess I could try to be nicer to him.' Suzumebachi only laughed in her head.
The others just watched as his Getsuga hit some kind of a barrier, that Aizen put at the back of his neck.
When Aizen felt Ichigo's presence behind him, he smirked, expecting his barrier to repel the boy's attack. But he quickly raised his sword to defend himself, when he noticed the barrier shattering against the force of the strike. He was engulfed in an explosion and sent flying to the building across the street.
"Huh, what do you know, it actually worked...whoa, dammit, what happened here!?"
Ichigo looked around dumbstruck. Captains and Lieutenants were all lying in rubble, some injured more lightly than others. When he saw Hyiori he quickly turned to the Garganta.
"Unohana-san, screw the plan, you need to come out. Quickly, we have some serious wounds here!"
He flash-stepped to Hyiori and Hacchi that was trying to stabilize her.
Ichigo grimaced at her injury and turned to Hacchi.
"Shit, what happened here?" Hacchi only shook his head, desperately trying to keep Hyiori alive.
"Kurosaki-san, go. You'd be only a hindrance here . I promise I'll put her back together." Unohana was already kneeling next to Hyiori with green light of healing Kido glowing on her hands.
Others were just looking at Ichigo in surprise.
'He was able to struck Aizen?'
"Ichigo... you're late you dumbass." Shinji breathed from the ground.
"But you brought Unohana. I may forgive you." He twitched a little from the pain and clutched his shoulder.
"Shinji...shit, I'll talk to you later. I think Aizen is getting up." He waved the Vizored and jumped away.
'Yeah, kick his ass.' Shinji thought with concern. Ichigo was their last hope to defeat Aizen.
"I'm impressed Kurosaki Ichigo. You were able to do something that a whole Gotei 13 could not. You managed to strike me. And your reiatsu is simply...thrilling." Aizen said, while coming up from the rubble. He was bleeding from the deep cut on his back. It seemed that in the last second he managed to deflect Ichigo's Getsuga from his neck.
"Oi, Aizen, that sounded so wrong. You know I don't swing that way." Ichigo grimaced in disgust.
Aizen's mouth twitched in annoyance.
"Your personality seems to have changed during your stay in Hueco Mundo. Tell me Kurosaki, what happened? Since you are here I assume you somehow defeated Ulquiorra. It seems that your reiatsu is changed. Even your hair seems longer, not to mention your body gained some weight. Interesting."
"I won't repeat myself. I don't swing that way and it almost sounds like you are trying to flirt with me. Should I be scared Aizen? I heard that you never once looked at any woman with interest. So straight to the point... are you gay?" Ichigo backed a little and laughed in his mind when he noticed flash of anger that went through Aizen's eyes.
"No, women are nothing but just a hindrance for a God."
"But really now Kurosaki, you truly behave differently from before...?" It was a question and Ichigo struggled with an answer.
"Well... you can say my... other partner's behaviour finally rubbed on me." He didn't want to admit before the whole Gotei 13 that he had his inner hollow yet. But he also wasn't sure if they didn't already know.
"Ah, I see. So what happens now Kurosaki? Surely you don't want to fight me? You are here, which means you have saved the girl and your friends are fine. What other reasons to fight me do you have? Tell me." Ichigo raised his eyebrows.
"What happens now? I'll kick your ass, that's what's going to happen. That my friends are fine is great, but that's not relevant right now. You have done things to them, you made them see things that no 16 years old kid should have seen. You are threatening my family, you want to destabilize Soul Society. Even if I didn't care for Soul Society now, it's still the place when all of us would go after our deaths. Besides, I consider most of the members of Gotei 13 as my friends. I may be naive, but for now I believe them. Should they turn on me..well that's not the time for that is it, huh? So what I'm saying is... get ready for the beating of your life, Aizen!" And he flashed to him swinging his sword at him.
The members of Gotei 13 were listening to them through the whole time, trying to find out why was he fighting too. Some of them were surprised that he considered them to be friends. Few of them however frowned when he didn't finish his sentence. What would happen if they would turn on him?
Aizen was surprised. Not by his speech, but the speed of his attack. He barely had the time to raise his sword to block him and he almost buckled against the force of the strike.
It was just wrong. Few hours ago, the kid could barely handle Grimmjaw, his Sexta Espada. Sure, he expected him to grow quite rapidly, the boy had an amazing growth rate, but this was almost impossible. What infuriated him was the fact, that Ichigo was openly mocking him with his smirk. He gritted his teeth.
"What gives Aizen? That's all you got? You don't seem that strong now." He suddenly bend himself and kicked Aizen in the stomach,, sending him flying through the stone wall. He sent a wordless Getsuga after that.
Aizen managed to get up, but he was holding his stomach. He wiped the blood from his mouth.
'His kick felt like getting shot with a sword.'
He touched his shoulder, where Ichigo's Getsuga hit him and felt residual reiatsu from the attack.
"I will repeat myself, your reiatsu is well developed, even beyond my expectations, but still, just as planned."
"What are you talking about?" Ichigo had a dreadful feeling that Aizen was going to drop something heavy on him.
"You encountered Kuchiki Rukia, and through your fight with Ishida Uryuu, you became aware of your power as a shinigami. Then, in your fight with Abarai Renji, you learned the power of your own Zanpaktou. You gained a foothold towards the bankai in your battle with Zaraki Kenpachi and you advanced down the path to hollowification during your confrontation with Kuchiki Byakuya. In your battle with Grimmjow, you mastered hollowification and it seems that, during your battle with Ulquiorra you have gained a power even greater than that. Kurosaki Ichigo, all your battles thus far have played out in the palm of my hand." Aizen watched as Ichigo has gone silent.
"Didn't you find it strange? The fact that, in all your life, you had never so much as seen a hollow and then you encounter Kuchiki Rukia and are immediately attacked by one. Or the fact, that the bait the Quincy use in the extermination of rank-and-file hollows caused a Menos Grande to appear? Or the fact that, around the time you started to become accustomed to fighting as a shinigami, Kucihiki Rukia, whose reiatsu wasn't even locatable, was conveniently discovered and deported to the Soul Society? Abarai Renji, Zaraki Kenpachi, Kuchiki Byakuya. The fact that you fought with each of them when your power was only slightly rivalling theirs moments before the actual clash? Did you not once find any of it to be strange? Did you think that your encounters were fate? Did you think those attacks were mere coincidences? Did you think that your victories were a result of your efforts? Who do you think that sent Kuchiki Rukia on a tour of duty to the Human World? Who was it that added the ability to detect reiatsu to Abarai Renji's equipment? Who was it that added information concerning the directions of your progress to the report the vice-captains received? And do you think that I was really unable to ascertain the location of the Hougyoku in the more than 100 years since its completion?"
Ichigo was starting to sweat. He was right, what he was hearing wasn't pleasant.
'Don't let him mess with your head Kingy. He's just afraid we are kicking his ass so he's trying to mind-fuck you.' Shirosaki said to him.
'I have to agree with Shirosaki. It doesn't matter how you got where you are right now. The only thing that matters is the fact, that thanks to all of your encounters you got stronger. Aizen may have been the one to bend the fate, but even he didn't think we would get so far in such a short time. Do not listen to him. It will only confuse you.'Zangetsu added in his deep voice.
"You don't believe me do you? I was watching you for a long time. Since the time you were born actually. You were special from the moment you were born, after all you are the offspring of-mmph!" Ichigo didn't let him finish and flashed to him and kicked him into the ground.
"Enough. All you do is spurt nonsense. Do you really think that your mind tricks will work on me? It doesn't matter if what you're saying is true. I don't need to hear that you were playing a pedophile on me, watching me since I was born. I'm not stupid. I know that I'm not normal. Never once I heard have I heard about someone who was still alive but was able to be a shinigami. Not to mention having a naturally born hollow inside of him. Of course I knew it was strange. From what I heard, the moment I started to hollowify during Urahara-san's training, I shouldn't have been able to stop it. So you can save yourself the trouble and stop talking. Nothing you'll say will make me change my mind." Ichigo stared at him and completely forgot about keeping the information about his inner hollow a secret but he didn't care anymore. It was bound to get revealed and he had to stop Aizen from trying to mind-fuck him.
Aizen was getting up from the ground, profusely bleeding from his wounds.
He gritted his teeth when he suddenly felt a warm feeling within him and he smirked.
"Very well,... oh, it would seem that my limit has finally come...as a shinigami, that is. Behold Kurosaki Ichigo, my soul will undergo a metamorphosis. It seems as though the Hogyoku's will has finally begun to understand my mind."
"You're talking nonsense again Aizen and I'm getting tired of your shit."
"Oh, but you really should listen. Do you know what Hougyoku's true power is? Why I sent Kuchiki Rukia to you so that it's power could awaken? I'll tell you one thing, Urahara Kisuke thought that Hougyoku was a tool to erase the boundary between shinigami and hollow. He was wrong, otherwise Hirako Shinji and others should not have become complete 'Vizards'. Their hollowification was merely my experiment to determine its power...then I, armed with a hypothesis about the Hougyoku's abilities, sent Kuchiki Rukia in your direction. Hougyoku can manifest what's in the minds of those around it, but its not without limit. It will not happen unless the subject possesses the power to fulfill their desire."
"Blah blah blah, all I hear is nonsense after nonsense. Why don't you talk about it with someone who actually cares?" Ichigo replied but was mentally taking notes. What Aizen said could actually prove useful.
"Don't worry, I was just finishing up." Aizen smirked as his injuries rapidly healed and from his chest, where Ichigo suddenly saw a purple orb, erupted a weird white substance that covered Aizen's whole body. After a few moments Aizen emerged looking like he was in a cocoon.
Ichigo frowned as he felt Aizen's reiatsu becoming heavier.
'Well, shit just got serious.'
"What has he done to himself?" Ukitake gasped loudly in shock when he saw Aizen in his new form.
"Well he definitely got ugly." Kyoraku replied smugly.
"Shunsui! This is not the time for being laid-back." Ukitake scolded him.
"This is not the time for you to even move." Came a threatening voice of Unohana. Both men looked at each other and gulped.
"R-right. Do you think you can get us up so we can help Ichigo, Retsu?" Kyoraku asked nervously.
Unohana gave him her sweetest (and most creepy) smile.
"I don't think that Kurosaki-san requires any help Shunsui."
"But we're talking about Aizen!" Ukitake protested making Unohana turn to him.
"Yes, but I assume that you are in the same position as me in this moment ... since his transformation I can no longer feel Aizen's reiatsu and I must admit, it makes me nervous. Or can you feel it?"
Both men shook their heads.
"No and it's creepy. I can see him, I can hear him, but I cannot sense him... it's weird. I wonder what happened to him..." Kyoraku said.
"Yes... it is weird. But did you notice Kurosaki-san? He doesn't seem to look troubled...I suspect that he is still able to feel Aizen. I don't know how is that possible. Maybe it's because he has more reiryoku than any of us but I'm not so sure..." Unohana pondered aloud.
Ukitake looked at her in disbelief.
"What are you saying? I know that Kurosaki-san always had more reiryoku and emitted more reiatsu than an average shinigami. It felt more like a reiatsu of a Captain, but what you're saying is impossible. I would understand if he had more reiatsu than me, but you two? No." He shook his head again.
"That was true when he first invaded Soul Society, Jushiro. His reiatsu was still developing but he still managed to defeat Lieutenant Abarai and day after that even Captain Zaraki. Remember, during his invasion he unlocked his Bankai, and that was only after two days worth of training. He stopped Sokyoku with his Zanpaktou. The boy seems to have done the impossible many times already. And while he was fighting in Hueco Mundo something happened to him. I don't know what, but as you probably saw, his appearance changed and during our travel here I was trying to find out just how much reiatsu he has...it seems indeed impossible but I think he may posses the reiryoku levels and reiatsu capable of equalling Captain Commander." Unohana finished in one breath.
Ukitake and Kyoraku looked at her with wide eyes.
"But that's impossible! He is not even 17! No one can have the amount of reiatsu as the old man has. And surely not one so young. You must be mistaken Retsu." Kyoraku stuttered and Ukitake just silently nodded in approval. A flash went through Unohana's eyes, making them flinch.
"Oh? I must be mistaken? Just wait long enough and I think you'll see that I am indeed right."
"So Aizen...care to explain what the hell happened to you? You're creeping me out with that outfit." Ichigo asked, swearing silently. He berated himself for allowing something like this to happen.
'I should have beaten him to the ground quickly. I'm not sure what just happened, but my gut is telling me he just became a bigger pain in the ass.'
"Ah Kurosaki, but I already told you. Hogyoku understood my will...or should I say it differently? Well, since it possesses a will of his own, you can say I subjugated it. Now I'm on a road to be the greatest. I will transcend both the shinigami and the hollows. Let me show you Kurosaki, just what I mean." He flash-stepped to Ichigo trying to cut him.
'Shit he's fast.' He managed to block him with Zangetsu but was pushed a little.
'Damn, he's even stronger.'
"I see, so you are still able to fight me. How interesting. It seems I underestimated you a bit Kurosaki Ichigo. No matter, it's only a slight dent in my perfect plan."
He suddenly stopped pushing and instead kicked with his leg, forcing Ichigo to jump away. He came at him again trying to catch him off-guard.
'No wonder he was able to beat the whole Gotei 13 practically alone, this guy may be a freaking genius at tactics but he's also good with his zanpaktou. I have to thank heavens that his style is quite predictable. If he wasn't , with his speed he probably could have caught me.'
Ichigo blocked, parried or dodged an attack after an attack. When Aizen brought his sword at him especially harshly, Ichigo swiftly avoided him by stepping back a few steps and quickly raising Zangetsu.
"Getsuga Tensho." He muttered as a bright blue light emerged from Zangetsu, surprising Aizen and striking him almost at point-blank range.
As Aizen became clouded in dust Ichigo quickly wiped a little sweat that formed on his forehead. He wasn't exactly tired, but he became nervous as Aizen came a little too close to hitting him. Not even five seconds passed when Aizen emerged from the cloud of dust. He had a small hole on his head and a weird blood-like substance came out of it.
"What the hell is this? What's going on with him?" Ichigo said in shock when he gazed inside the hole and saw nothing but black darkness.
"That was a good slash...I understood that attack. But I feel that this isn't suff-" He was walking towards Ichigo when his mask started to break. Ichigo stepped back.
It felt like Aizen's reiatsu was getting even heavier. 'Shit, it seems I can no longer fight him like this. Zangetsu, what is going on here?'
'It seems that the Hogyoku is forcing him to undergo some sort of transformations. It's somehow making him stronger. Probably step by step he's coming close to something greater. I fear that if this can go on, there will be a time when even your greatest power won't be enough to stop him. Or...his soul will come across its limit. It can go both ways Ichigo.'Zangetsu replied.
He was glad that Ichigo was taking his promise of talking to him more a little bit serious.
'Yeah, I may feel confident, but I am not really sure his limit will come sooner than mine.'
'We'll see won't we?'
Just as he finished his talk, Aizen's mask shattered and revealed Aizen with long hair and dark purple eyes with a smirk on his face.
"Ah, it would seem that the chrysalis period has ended. Fabulous, now I can watch with my own eyes your demise. Kurosaki Ichigo, I think this is your end."
Ichigo tilted his head.
"End? I think not."
"BAN-KAI!" He yelled and a great surge of reiatsu engulfed him
"Now, where were we?"
"Oh my god!" Unohana almost squealed when the force of Ichigo's reiatsu hit her. She was forced to bend a little under the pressure and she was breathing faster, with her cheeks coloured in pink.
Kyoraku and Ukitake, still injured, were too feeling the pressure that reminded them of their short fight with Captain Commander shortly before Aizen betrayal. Their jaws dropped in realization that Unohana maybe wasn't as wrong in her estimation as they thought she was.
When they noticed her pink cheeks and rapid breathing they realized what it meant and could think of only one thing.
'Poor Kurosaki-san/Ichigo, now he'll be her prey.'
Not so far Captain Sui-Feng was having troubles under the pressure of Ichigo's reiatsu. Unohana gave her first medical attention, but it was only enough to stop the bleedings. She couldn't fight at the moment anymore.
She was pissed at first, but when Aizen emerged in a cocoon and she realized she couldn't feel his reiatsu anymore she felt a little apprehensive. But now, when his cocoon shattered and Ichigo released his bankai, she felt she would be useless.
'This isn't a fight where I could be of any use anymore. This boy ... how could he have gained so much power? It seems that Yoruichi-sama may have been right at becoming his teacher. Maybe if we survive this I should make up with him.' She heard Suzumebachi, her zanpaktou spirit, giggle and after that her short comment.
Her cheeks burned.
'I DIDN'T MEAN MAKING UP LIKE THAT YOU STUPID BUG!'
Yamamoto Genryusai, the Captain Commander of Gotei 13 couldn't believe what he was feeling.
When Aizen came out in that white mask, he got worried. Aizen's reiatsu became thicker and almost unreadable. He didn't think that there was anyone who could face him other then himself. But Kurosaki Ichigo wasn't even slightly fazed.
When Aizen emerged for the second time, even he couldn't feel his reiatsu anymore and he desperately looked at the boy. He became more worried when he noticed the boy frown. But the the boy released his bankai and Commander's eyes got wide.
The amount of boy's reiatsu was bigger than even he ordinarily released in his shikai. This feat alone was something only his students, the senior Captains Kyoraku and Ukitake or Unohana came close to. Maybe even Zaraki Kenpachi but one couldn't be sure of that man's actual reiatsu. But this boy already surpassed them and he has been a shinigami for only a few months.
Yamamoto saw a big potential for Gotei 13 but also a threat. He often boasted that no shinigami stronger than him was born in one thousand years. Now, this fact was starting to crumble.
He was however sceptical about the boy. Kurosaki Ichigo was still a rash and naive boy. But, with a proper guidance he could be molded into a proper part of the Gotei 13.
He was still desperate to join the fight but Unohana firmly told him that he would be out of a combat state for at least a few days.
'Bollocks. I am too old for this shit.'
Aizen just stared at the person in front of him. Kurosaki Ichigo in his bankai didn't look that different than before, maybe aside from the red lines that went along his bankai clothes and a faint red glow that surrounded his zanpaktou. He was expecting anything.
But he certainly didn't predict the amount of reiatsu the boy would posses. He was aware that he still wasn't a transcendent being, but still, to be able to surprise him with reiatsu was ridiculous. Something really big must have happened in Hueco Mundo.
'I'll find out later, when I'm done with him and my business.'
"What's the matter 'Aizen-sama'. Can't keep up?" Ichigo jabbed at him cheekily.
Aizen frowned once again. The boy's new attitude was getting on his nerves.
"Not at all Kurosaki Ichigo. I think I can manage. Can you?" He flashed to him and swung his blade at Ichigo, expecting him to buckle under the pressure of his strike. Once again he was surprised when Ichigo blocked his sword. He pushed him a little, but his sword never wavered.
"I can too, thanks for asking."
He released his own barrage of strikes and thrusts. He jabbed, slashed, stabbed. He even attempted to punch Aizen but the former Captain of 5th Division held his ground, albeit with drops of sweat forming above his eyebrows. Ichigo started to sweat again himself. They parted after Aizen blocked another one of Ichigo's vicious attacks.
"It seems we are almost equal Kurosaki Ichigo." Aizen commented nonchalantly.
"True, if you can do better we'd be equal." Ichigo smirked.
"Amusing." Aizen said but Ichigo could see frustration in man's eyes. He prepared to block another attack when he noticed someone coming at him from behind.
He side-stepped the sword that would otherwise probably cut off his hand.
"Ah, Gin. I wondered where you went." Was the greeting Ichigo heard.
"Sorry cap'n, I was taking care of Matsumoto, she wanted to talk about something." Gin Ichimaru, the former Captain of 3rd Division replied.
'He's the last thing I need right now. This guy gives me creeps.'
'Be wary of that man Ichigo. I can't read his intentions. Don't let your guard down.' Ichigo heard Tensa Zangetsu's young voice.
"And what did you do with her, Gin?"
"Killed her." He said, making Aizen to look at him suspiciously and then to concentrate for a second.
"Indeed, her reiatsu vanished. I am surprised, Gin. I thought you held some feelings for her? Aren't you the cruel one?"
"I ain't nothing like that. I already told you. My skin is cold, I ain't got no feelings. I'm a snake. I slither around, looking for prey. And when I find one, I swallow it whole. That's the creature I am." He replied without hesitation. Aizen nodded.
Just then Gin moved in front of Aizen.
"Here, let me take care of him for you. You just stand there and do nothing." Gin slowly said while lightly touching Aizen's blade.
Ichigo readied himself, prepared for anything.
Gin then gave him almost nonexistent wink and raised his left arm.
Ichigo was expecting the same attack when their first met.
But then, the unthinkable happened. Instead of pointing his blade at Ichigo, he pointed it backwards and shot his sword, piercing a shocked Aizen. Ichigo just stared at him in surprise.
"You once told me, after a few long decades, that the only way to escape the effects of your Kyouka Suigetsu, is to touch it. No one knew that, so when they thought that they can defeat you...I got nervous. Because I knew I was the only one who can do that." Gin stated and retracted his sword from Aizen, who staggered a little.
"I knew...I knew your objective when I brought you along...I wanted to see, how you'll do it, but I'm disappointed Gin. Do you really think that this is enough to kill me?" Aizen smirked, despite the bleeding injury.
"No, but I lied to you when I explained the abilities of my bankai to you. Look at my blade." He pointed to his Zanpaktou which now held a small hole. He pointed at the wound he gave Aizen.
"I left that piece in you."
"What?" Aizen asked in shock.
"The true abilities of my bankai...all it does is to turn into dust for a second when it expands and contracts and ...there's a deadly poison inside the blade that dissolves and breaks down the cells... Looks like you figured it out. Yes, that poison is inside you and you will die with a hole in you. So if you want to say something, do it now...you fucking bastard!" Gin said with hatred.
Aizen just stared at him in disbelief. Gin raised his hand and pointed at him.
"Kill, Kamishini no Yari."
Ichigo watched in shock as a huge hole slowly formed in Aizen's chest, slowly disintegrating his flesh. Gin looked at Aizen with satisfaction.
"This is as I always wanted you to end, Aizen. Now I'll take what I want." He reached inside the hole and took out the Hogyoku.
He turned around to the still shocked Ichigo.
"Now I can finally make it so you'll never cry again Rangiku." He said softly.
Ichigo's brain froze from the information overload. Not only Gin, Aizen's most trusted subordinate turned on Aizen, he just displayed an emotion...towards Rangiku-san! He then noticed that as Aizen was falling down, he swung his blade and he reacted on instinct.
"Look out!" He yelled at Gin, who turned his head and instantly flashed aways, escaping with only a slight gash on his arm.
"Thanks." He nodded at Ichigo gratefully.
"But I thought you just said you killed Rangiku-san!" Ichigo managed to blurt out.
Gin grinned at him wickedly.
"I only told him what he wanted to hear. Don't worry, I've put her in a special sleep where her reiatsu becomes untraceable. I could never hurt her."
Ichigo tilted his head.
"You love her?" He asked simply.
"Yeah, she's the big'ol sis I never had. But don't tell her that, she would just beat me for saying old."
Ichigo chuckled. He could see her doing that.
But just then they both heard Aizen screaming and they turned to him with dread.
Both of Yamamoto's eyes were bulging out of their sockets when he saw actions of his former subordinate Ichimaru Gin.
'Foolish boy, for a simple revenge sacrificing almost whole Soul Society! What was he thinking?!'
Commander was a wise old man. He knew, that if the circumstances were grave enough he could maybe justify his actions. He was sure however, that the Central 46 will probably call for his execution.
He frowned. After Aizen's betrayal, his belief in Central 46 was shaken.
He made up his mind. If he could he would try to save Ichimaru Gin. Maybe he was being foolish, but the boy had a great potential and if he truly was against Aizen, maybe he would lose only two Captains this day.
His thoughts were interrupted by Aizen's screams.
Ichigo was feeling rather nervous.
He saw as Aizen transformed again. It wasn't his look that made him nervous (as a matter of fact it almost made him laugh). What got him swearing was the reiatsu he felt from Aizen.
It was so heavy, it was almost suffocating him and making him sweat a lot.
'If this goes on for any longer, I'll be in big trouble. His reiatsu is becoming hard to read.'
Aizen finally stood up and looked at himself, then smirked.
"I must thank you Gin, thanks to you I finally became a being that transcends both shinigami and hollows."
"Damn it. He should be dead. I already took the Hogyoku from him." Gin swore loudly.
"That was an unnecessary action Gin. I already subjugated it and it belongs to me, even when it's not in me." Aizen replied smugly and pointed at the orb in Gin's hand.
It started to glow and slowly disappeared.
Ichigo was watching the scene carefully, when suddenly Aizen somehow dissolved. He felt him just a millisecond before he tried to slash Gin. He flashed as fast as he could to him and tried to block his sword.
"What the-?" It caught Gin by surprise. He wasn't fast enough and didn't notice Aizen's sword in front of his face.
He was startled when Ichigo appeared in front of him, trying to block Aizen from cutting him in half. He parried Kyouka Suigetsu, but the force behind the strike sent him flying through the nearby building.
"Oof!" Was the only sound Ichigo made just before he was blown away.
Aizen smirked and looked at Gin.
"You should thank Kurosaki, Gin. If it weren't for him, you would be now in two pieces. Now, it's just the two of us. I think we can take our time."
Gin's mind was in overdrive. Firstly, he never thought the boy would try to save him. It was now the second time he did it. Secondly, he couldn't even blink before Aizen's and Ichigo's swords met. They were too fast.
'I'm sorry Rangiku, it seems I can't do it after all.'
He readied himself for the inevitable, when he and Aizen both jerked their heads towards someone laughing.
"Oh, that was funny Aizen. It almost sounded like you thought I was dead." Ichigo came from the rubble, supporting himself on the wall. He was bleeding and winded, but he certainly wasn't dead.
Aizen squinted his eyes.
"You are quite resilient Kurosaki ichigo, but I won't correct myself, as you'll be dead soon enough. You helped me to achieve transcendence too so your death will be quick, however not totally painless."
Ichigo tilted his head again.
"We'll see about that."
'Damn him, he almost broke my arms with the last attack.'
'Use the force Ichigo.'He heard Tensa Zangetsu speaking.
'Huh? What?' Tensa Zangetsu sen him image of him facepalming.
'Ichigo...after this you should relax and enjoy life. Every kid would understood that reference. But no time for that. It seems we don't have any other choice. You must use ... it.'
'Do you think it's a good idea. What will the old man say?'
'Don't be a wuss Kingy. You really have no other choice. Or do you want to get you ass kicked again?' Shirosaki jabbed at him cheekily.
'Bastard, Fine.' Ichigo closed his mind link and gathered his reiryoku.
Aizen was watching him with mild amusement.
"I'm sorry Aizen, but you are forgetting one simple fact. You said it yourself, I'm not a normal shinigami. This will be your end."
"Doom them, Lucifer." He whispered menacingly.
There was a great explosion of smoke that surrounded him.
"What in the hell is this?!" Everyone still conscious screamed.
A great crimson red gleam was radiating from the smoke.
After a moment, a massive surge of reiatsu exploded in every direction, catching everybody in the area with its overwhelming pressure.
Who wasn't forced down before, now was. Most were laying on the ground. They were weakened from the battle and the pressure was so great it made them almost unable to move.
Even Unohana was supporting herself, trying to control her breathing.
Captain Commander was shocked, this reiatsu was maybe even stronger that what he could produce at maximal output...it was unheard of.
Sui-Feng felt it only for a few moments before promptly fainting. Her injuries mixed with the extreme spiritual pressure proved too much for her.
Gin had to sit down and tried to calm himself. The reiatsu felt almost like...
'Like something I don't want to get close to.' He thought.
Aizen was looking at Ichigo in shock. Even he felt the pressure. It wasn't restricting his movements, but it was still incredible.
Just then the smoke cleared and most of the people present gasped in shock.
Before them stood Kurosaki Ichigo, but he was transformed. And he was terrifying.
His shihakusho was torn, leaving him topless, showing his torso covered with a tatoo. On his wrists was orange fur, the same thing around his neck. But was was installing fear was his head.
There was a mask on it. It was so terrifying that even Aizen moved back a little. It looked like a sneering skull. Two eyes glowing red were staring at him from the two holes in it. The whole demonic visage was completed with two horns protruding from the top.. They were bended in the middle and pointing straight forward. His orange hair was longer, ending almost at his waist. A long and strong black tail was visible from his behind. Even his zanpaktou changed. It had now red outline on its edge and from its end was hanging about a half meter long chain.
"No smart comment Aizen?" Even his voice was different and sounded demonic.
Aizen made another step back.
"Wha-what is this Kurosaki ichigo? Are you really Kurosaki Ichigo?" For the first time in their exchange Aizen didn't sound so confident.
"Aizen, do I see fear in your eyes?" Ichigo asked.
Aizen stopped moving and managed to regain his senses after a minute. Then he shook in rage.
"Don't be so full of yourself you damn human!" He yelled but then his eyes widened as a huge red beam of energy struck him.
"Do not yell." Was the only thing Ichigo said after he released his cero.
Coughing, Aizen stood up, covered in burns.
"How can you produce a Cero? What is this Kurosaki Ichigo?" Aizen spat angrily.
Ichigo lifted his finger.
"If you are so smart figure it out yourself." He sneered and that only enlarged Aizen's anger and made him attack again.
This time however Ichigo held his own. Their clash produced a massive air pressure blowing everything , including Gin away.
The former Captain of the 3rd Division struggled to stabilize himself but he was buckling under the overwhelming pressure of Ichigo's reiatsu.
"Snake-face, you should go back. This will become rather messy. Go to Unohana-san. She is probably the only one who won't immediately try to kill you for your actions." Ichigo said with his head slightly turned to Gin. Said person nodded and flashed away.
He landed next to Unohana.
"S'ppose you wanna hear bout why I did it right?" He asked them as he noticed silent faces of Kyoraku and Ukitake, that were lying next to her.
"I'll explain, but later, this air is making it hard to even speak."
"Very impressive Kurosaki Ichigo, but you can't win. I am a transcendent being! You are nothing but a mere human and a bad product of nature! I'll show you the difference between us." He jumped back and started to chant.
"Seeping crest of turbidity, arrogant vessel of lunacy, boil forth and deny, grow numb and flick- oomph!" He was interrupted by a huge energy blast in form of black and red crescent strike.
"Getsuga Tensho." Ichigo muttered quietly.
"You talk too much Aizen."
The air cleaned up and it was clear that Aizen didn't escape unharmed. He was deeply cut from his shoulder to his waist and bleeding profusely. He was holding his head in his hands and was gritting his teeth in pain.
"What do you think now, Aizen?"
Aizen removed his hand from his face. His arm in which he held his zanpaktou trembled.
"I see...are you happy that you stopped my sword? Are you happy that you wounded my body?" Aizen lifted his head.
"Don't get so full of yourself, you damn human!" He roared.
In that moment the small cut on his head opened and a small black eye showed itself. Blood poured from it and Ichigo watched as it trashed and tore the skin on Aizen's face. Aizen screamed.
He erupted in a splash of blood.
In front of them stood a creature with long hair, deformed face and several artificial heads protruding from its back. Ichigo looked at him in disgust. What Aizen became was too much for him. Then he realized in horror that Aizen's reiatsu was flickering, practically unreadable.
'Shit. I need to end this. This is probably the last time I can do anything. I just hope it'll be enough.'
"I see, so you won't allow it Hogyoku. For me to lag behind a mere human." Aizen spoke to himself, but loudly enough for Ichigo to hear him.
Ichigo noticed that one of the heads at Aizen's back moved and he saw a small purple orb flying at him.
In an act of desperation he quickly charged and shot his Cero, trying to deflect the blow.
It worked only partially. He managed to shield the others from the harm, but he got caught in the blast.
The smoke revealed Ichigo kneeling with deep gashes and angry burns covering his whole body.
"I see, so you are still alive Kurosaki Ichigo. But this is the end, you can no longer move with that damaged body." Aizen commented in a weird voice.
Ichigo gasped and pushed himself up shaking all over the place.
"The end? Some shit like this will end me?" He grinned a little when he noticed his wounds rapidly healing. Ho noticed however that his reiryoku reserves were being depleted. He really needed to end this.
"High-speed regeneration? In the past I would be intrigued, but now...now you are just not worth understanding anymore, Kurosaki Ichigo."
Ichigo wasn't listening to him as he quickly tried to formulate some plan.
'Ichigo, I don't have time to teach you any new technique, but you can use what you already know and fuse it together.'Tensa Zangetsu proposed a plan to him.
'What do you have in mind?'
'Pour the cero into my blade together with getsuga. But be carefull, one is the attack of a shinigami while the other one a hollow. I'm not sure it'll work.'
Ichigo frowned. It was probably his best shot.
'Well here goes nothing.'
When Aizen turned his head to look at the other survivors Ichigo quickly formed his Cero carefully controlling the flow of his reiryoku, pumping as much of it as he could. After he got to the point of risking it blowing up in his face he grabbed his zanpaktou and poured his reiatsu into it, while keeping the cero formed.
'Now redirect the energy of the cero onto the blade.'
'Easier said than done.'
He did it slowly. The red energy of cero slowly travelling through his body into blade, lighting up his zanpaktou like a lamp and making it heavy.
'Here I come.'
He noticed that Aizen wasn't paying him any attention.
He flashed in the air with great speed and moved in front of Aizen.
"This is the end Aizen!" And slashed his sword down.
The force of the explosion that followed blew him back quite the distance. He stumbled but managed to stay standing.
His eyes traveled to the place where his attack struck.
It was a mess. There was a huge crater, tens of meters wide and inside was a crawling creature, almost cleaved in half and bleeding profusely. But then a white substance quickly formed around the wound, sealing it with great precision.
"Damn it, he can still regenerate?" Ichigo's legs shook with exhaustion and he stumbled on his knees after he flash-stepped next to Aizen who was slowly standing up.
"Kurosaki Ichigo ... I underestimated you greatly. You surpassed my every expectations." He said with a slight tint of anger in his voice. He turned his sight at his crumbling zanpaktou.
"Do you see this? Do you know what it means? It means that the Hogyoku realized that I no longer need a zanpaktou. Watch as I'll go even high-" His speech was interrupted when not only his zanpaktou, but everything on him started to crumble, his appearance returning back to what he looked before his transformations.
"Wha-what is this?" He asked scared.
Just then a red flash pierced through him.
Both he and Ichigo turned their heads.
"Urahara Kisuke! Is this your doing?!" Aizen spat at the new person on the battlefield.
"Hello Aizen-san, Kurosaki-san. Yes, I just sent a sealing Kido in you." Urahara Kisuke replied slowly, landing near them.
"This is nothing, your Kido is useless against...no, what's happening?" Aizen tried to move but he was being engulfed in a sealing energy.
Urahara looked at him sadly.
"The only reason I am able to seal you is because of young Kurosaki-san here. He pushed you to your absolute limits and now the Hogyoku is telling you, that it no longer recognize you as its master."
Aizen looked at him in disbelief.
"No no no, that can't be...that can't be...THAT CAN'T BE! Urahara Kisuke! I despise you! You posses such a great intellect. Why do you not act? Why do you let yourself be ruled by that thing?!" He screamed at Urahara.
"I see...so you've seen it...the Soul King. He is the lynchpin that holds everything together, if that lynchpin is lost, that everything would crumble away. That's just the way the world is." Urahara replied quietly.
"That is the theory of losers, the victors should always speak of the way the world should be, not the way it is! I-!" Aizen's screams were stopped as the seal finally did what it was meant to do.
Aizen was sealed.
Ichigo turned away from the scene and glanced at the shopkeeper, feeling older and more tired than he ever was.
The Winter War was finally over.
AN: This is a lightly edited version of the chapter 1 (let's call it a ver.2). I noticed that many of you stated that the first chapter had flaws and I decided to tweak it a bit. Nothing major, I just corrected few things so that the characters wouldn't act too much OOC.