Author's Note: First things first; this story is set in the same AU I established in my previous stories, starting with Winter War. If you have not read any of these prior works, you may be confused as to who new characters are and how they got to their current places. Yes, there will be a few OCs. There. Now, with that said, I was highly disappointed with the Hell Verse movie; great action, but the plot never really made any kind of sense. Their plan to escape Hell was to...escape Hell, kidnap Ichigo's sister, return to Hell, wait for him to come rescue her and go berserk so he could destroy the gates and chains of Hell and then they could finally escape Hell...wait, what? So here we are, ladies and gentlemen, the revised Hell Verse for my little AU.

Welcome to Hell

Eternity.

A simple word whose true meaning was often misunderstood or ignored by the average person. It was a simple word that was so easy to dismiss by those who did pause to consider it because the very notion of something being timeless or never-ending was ludicrous; everything, absolutely everything, had a beginning and an end, after all.

It was certainly a word that Kokutō had never given serious consideration to during the course of his life. Like so many others, it had been a pointless word, a lie that held no meaning because nothing was eternal.

He had a different opinion now, of course…

Try as he might, Kokutō couldn't recall just how long he'd been trapped in this infernal pit of damnation and suffering; a thousand years, maybe? Two? All he knew for certain was that it had been a long time, far longer than anyone else he'd encountered.

On some level, he recognized that his extended stay was his own fault; bucking the system was always a sure-fire way to earn the ire of those in charge, and few had raged against the powers that be harder than Kokutō.

He had the scars to prove it, with the right side of his face and body horribly burned beyond repair, a constant reminder of how he'd foolishly tried to fight his way free of the pits.

To challenge the Kushanāda, the titanic guardians of Hell, was to lose.

Their power was unmatched and the only thing that had saved Kokutō from total annihilation had been that the great beasts lacked any sort of speed whatsoever, making it comparatively easy to escape them.

Of course, the problem was that there were thousands of them guarding Hell and what one Kushanāda saw, they all knew about it. They seemed to operate like some sort of hive mind, and while it was easy to outrun one, you would soon find yourself cornered by another.

The few who had fought harder than Kokutō were all gone now, some devoured by the great hell beasts while others had been cast into the fiery pits where their souls were incinerated into nothingness, never again to re-enter the cycle of reincarnation.

For those who kept quiet and endured their suffering in silence, their stay in Hell would come to a merciful end when a Kushanāda could come to an individual and, with a surprising gentleness given their fierce power and great size, extend a single finger to touch the chosen soul on the head. With a sigh of relief, the soul in question would begin to glow a faint blue and then slowly fade out as they exited Hell and re-entered the living world as a reincarnated being.

For Kokutō and others like him, however, they had long ago forfeited their right to ever be forgiven and reborn.

Eternity finally had meaning.

Eternity was his sentence in Hell.

Eternity was unacceptable.

He had given up on open conflict with the Kushanāda some time ago; centuries ago, most likely, but time was impossible to judge in Hell. He had given up fighting, but he had not yet given up his hopes for escape.

He was on the proverbial shit-list with the Kushanāda, he knew that; if they were to ever find him, he would be destroyed like so many others before him. It had become necessary to keep a low profile, to stay hidden in shadows and cover his face in scavenged bandages, black as night, to hide his unmistakable burns. He kept his head down when any of the great guardians were near, pretending to be one of the broken and despondent masses who had lost all hope.

In truth, he was nothing like the majority of the souls in Hell; his hope still burned bright and he was determined to escape the underworld and know freedom once again, freedom on his terms, not by playing nice and hoping to one day receive absolution for his sins.

Since his last great battle against the skull-faced Kushanāda, he had begun to study the dread beasts in detail: how they moved, how they fought, how they acted, how they regenerated, how they responded to riots that may or may not have been incited by a shadowy figure hiding in the background.

He had begun to seek out other souls who had knowledge that he lacked, knowledge of the realms beyond Hell and Earth. He'd learned all about the Soul Society and of Hueco Mundo, about the Seireitei and Los Noches, and of shinigami and hollows. He'd learned of the war with the hollows and the destruction of Los Noches and an idea had formed in his head.

By all accounts, the shinigami were the true power in the afterlife, the ones who held real, genuine power over life and death. Unlike the world of the living, the Soul Society and the Seireitei were beyond the reach of the Kushanāda, and it was said to be a beautiful, peaceful place.

Heaven.

Kokutō had every intention of claiming it all for himself.

The war had cost the shinigami dearly, with some reports suggesting as much as half of their fighting forces had been killed by the hollows. If that information was even remotely accurate, it would take the shinigami several decades to rebuild their forces, which meant they were currently vulnerable to outside attack.

And every year, for one single night, they were more vulnerable than ever as they would send the majority of their forces to the world of the living in a futile effort to stymy a feeding frenzy of hollows.

New souls came into Hell on a daily basis and in order to keep track of what day it was, Kokutō had stationed a loyal underling near the central "processing area" where new souls appeared and his sole job was to question the fresh arrivals about the date of their passing.

The night in question was fast approaching, but Kokutō had been meticulously setting everything up for years now and he'd be ready when it finally came.

Halloween, the one night of the year when the forces that separated the world of the living from the various realms of the dead would be at their weakest…

He intended to walk straight out through the massive gates of Hell and back into the world of the living. With the weakened barrier, it should be possible for a small army to push open the gargantuan gates and escape.

The Kushanāda's jurisdiction extended to the human world, however, so that would be but a brief stop before heading off to somewhere safer, somewhere beyond their reach, a place where Kokutō and his followers could catch their breath for a minute before launching their attack on the Seireitei.

Hueco Mundo was, by all accounts, a bleak and dreary Hell that was barely any better than the fiery nightmare they currently resided in, but it was outside the Kushanāda's reach and currently beyond the range of the Seireitei's monitor stations. It was a perfect staging area for an assault against the Soul Society.

All the pieces were finally falling into place; Kokutō had spent years gathering like-minded individuals to his side, strong warriors who had nothing to lose by making one last, desperate gamble for escape. He'd even managed to recruit a couple of fallen arrancar to his side, including a former member of the famed Espada.

He'd even spent the last couple of years helping an old fool, a would-be king, establish himself as a "hero" or sorts to the other denizens of Hell, gently pushing him towards rising up against the Kushanāda in an all-out rebellion for control of the underworld when the time was right…

Ah, Baraggan Louisenbairn, the former God-King of Hueco Mundo….

Like Kokutō, the king had raged against the Kushanāda hard, had actually managed to kill one before others came to investigate the disturbance and put down the angry arrancar, and he had escaped by the skin of his teeth…well, that and his loyal followers, his "fracción" sacrificing themselves so that he could flee to safety.

Baraggan had been the first soul for hundreds of years to challenge the Kushanāda and survive, making him an instant legend among the downtrodden souls of Hell who began looking to him as if he were suddenly their king.

Kokutō himself had killed more than a few of the guardians in centuries past, but after his last encounter had left him scarred and nearly dead, he had seen the wisdom in laying low and letting people forget about him.

Baraggan was a miserable little piss ant, but his lust for power and attention made him valuable to Kokutō, who had managed to ingratiate himself into the king's court as the chief advisor.

It had been easy to fill Baraggan's head with the idea of destroying the Kushanāda and taking over Hell; so eager was he to be a king once more that Baraggan had neglected to even consider why no one had ever attempted such a feat before. He had blinded himself to the notion that his goals were completely and utterly impossible, no matter how many fools followed him and no matter how many of the great guardians they slew.

The Kushanāda never actually stayed dead; those that were slain were immediately reborn, crawling out of the nearest molten pit with renewed strength and vigor.

But Baraggan didn't need to know that little detail.

He was, after all, expendable.

Kokutō's loyal followers had been spreading Baraggan's story to the far corners of Hell, exaggerating it with each retelling to make Baraggan out to be a juggernaut who could help them overthrow the guardians and cast off their shackles. The hopeless suddenly had hope and they believed that if they served Baraggan when the call went out, that they could truly succeed.

Fools.

Kokutō wasn't concerned with the fact that the rebellion would fail or that countless millions of souls would be shredded into oblivion for daring to challenge the Kushanāda; all he cared about was that they dutifully play their part like good little pawns and provide a sufficient distraction for his escape.

Freedom wasn't free and if his freedom meant sacrificing tens of millions of ignorant souls, then so be it.