Disclaimer insert here: I don't own or have ever owned Bleach or High School DxD. Please buy their stuff so they don't go home poor and destitute. Thanks.

All characters belong to their rightful owners, all OC are for entertainment value only. As usual an M rating is for future violence, dismemberments, gore, language, very foul language, and of course mature scenes will be in, but don't expect a ton of them. Again, enjoy your time here.


Beta and co-creator: Okami Princess, don't forget to include her in your reviews or send a PM to her with your thanks. But don't bother her on plot; she won't answer just like me :)

Also, please read AN for any important news or information. Now an important message, this chapter begins the darker aspects of this story, you have been informed. Now on with the show folks.

Edited and co-writer: regfurby September, 2018.





"Tensa Zangetsu / Zanpakutō"



"Are you kidding me Ichigo!? Of all the people your damn Evil Pieces choose, they have to choose her! Why!?"



"Release us now Devils! You have no right to hold me or my niece!" Sahiye Shihōin's screams causes Ichigo to jerk his head towards her, his Pawn Piece returning to its place within his armor.

Anger races through Ichigo's blood once more after hearing Central Forty-Six's representative continue to scream her demands. The same Central Forty-Six who had sentenced him to death, the same Central Forty-Six that threatened to kill his family and friends if they tried to help him after they handed down their judgement out of fear that he wouldn't follow their orders like a good little soldier. How ironic that their very actions have created the situation that they fear so much. Glaring at the Shihōin woman as she continues to struggle uselessly against the Hell Chains keeping her trapped, Ichigo agrees with the silent sentiment he feels from Zangetsu, and takes an single step forward.

As his hand begins to lift his Zanpakutō however, someone presses his arm back down, and he turns his head slightly to glare towards the man whose hand is firmly resting on his arm.

"A clear mind will always be the sharpest edge you can use in battle, Ichigo Naberius. Do not let her words cloud the judgement I know you are capable of administering." Yamamoto says quietly, his eyes still focused on the struggling Sahiye Shihōin.

Frowning in thought, Ichigo finally nods once in thanks and understanding before he returns Zangetsu to his Hell Armor. Yamamoto releases his arm as well, giving him a brief nod of acknowledgement.

Stepping forward again and glaring at Yoruichi's former Clanswoman, Ichigo begins to speak, gaining all of their attentions. "You are in no position to dictate any terms to us, Shihōin-san. You broke into our holding cells, tried to free our prisoner, and tried to flee with her before justice could be rendered for her crimes. What makes you think that you, a criminal we caught red-handed in the act, have any right to tell us what to do with you!? Kimi, take Chiyoko Shihōin back to her cell. No less than a dozen Elves are to be stationed outside of her room. Nia, bring Central's representative here, so I can show Head Captain Yamamoto what our prisoner hinted at during her interrogation."

"Yes Lord Naberius." Both Mai'ryl Elves respond as they follow their young lord's orders.

"Aunt Sahiye!" Chiyoko screams as Kimi separates her Hell Chains from her twin's and Ichigo's before binding the hands and legs of the screaming Shinigami assassin. "Aunt Sahiye..!"

"Chiyoko!" The Shihōin Elder screams as she watches her niece disappears in a circle of magic.

As the light fades, Sahiye snaps her head towards the orange-haired Devil. "You bastard! How dare you! You have no right to judge one of us! I demand her immediate release as she is a Shinigami and under the terms of the Treaty she can only be judged by Soul Society!"

"And she was…last night." Ichigo remarks with obvious vindictiveness as he gesturing towards the Captain from Squad Zero. "Captain Ōetsu Nimaiya-san was gracious enough to listen to our evidence along with Head Captain Yamamoto and Lieutenant Sasakibe as witnesses. If you doubt the validity of our findings, I shall be more than happy to demonstrate exactly how we obtained her confession. Sasha! Now!"

Sahiye realizes too late that the blind Elf had moved silently to stand behind her, when the Elf's darkly tanned hand reaches around to touch her forehead, instantly stilling the bound Shihōin noble.

"Speak." That single word reverberates in Sahiye's consciousness, and the floodgates of her memories are opened.

The assembled Shinigami listen with growing disbelief as the semi-catatonic Shihōin begins to speak; words flow from her mouth, forming complete sentences that detail her crimes, the crimes of various nobles and the crimes of their Clans. For almost half an hour, Sahiye Shihōin reveals the long-hidden secrets that countless prominent members of Central Forty-Six had conspired to commit over the last few centuries, with many of those named powerful, influential Elders from all four current Great Noble Families, the newly reconstituted Central Forty-Six, and even the Judges who are meant to remain impartial towards sentencing. Eventually, Sasha removes her hand and steps backwards, leaving the exhausted Shihōin elder swaying lightly.

"What-what happened?" Sahiye utters out in fatigue, her head pounding as her body lags against her restraints. Looking around her in an attempt to figure out what just happened, her eyes latch onto the visible expression on Head Captain Yamamoto's face.


For the second time in as many days, Yamamoto is staring at the last person he wants to see. Unlike the first day however, the person, no, the scum in front of him today nearly causes him to forget who and what he is, his hand flexing around the Tsuka of his Zanpakutō in a very real desire to kill the woman in front of him right now. However, he knows that killing her before she is officially questioned about her crimes in front of the new government he intends to form will only tarnish the justice he intends to bring to Soul Society, which causes him to push down the bitterness that wells up in his soul. Stubborn though he may be, after hearing the list of crimes and co-conspirators known to Sahiye Shihōin, he is forced to acknowledge that his original ideas for Soul Society cannot move forward with the current Central Forty-Six ruling over the afterlife. He can, however, start the road to reformation and justice for those who would demand it of him, and his very first decision is this: Chiyoko Shihōin is no longer his concern.

"Upon our return to Soul Society, you, Sahiye Shihōin, are to be remanded into the custody of Squad Two. You will be publically stripped of your privileges and the protections of nobility. You will stand trial for your crimes, and if you are found guilty, an appropriate punishment will be exacted from you and your co-conspirators. As for your niece, Chiyoko Shihōin, I have made my decision in regards to the Naberius Clan's claims, and I deem them to be acceptable. Therefore, Chiyoko Shihōin will be left here with Lord Amyntas and Lord Ichigo to be judged by Devil Society. Captain Suì-Fēng, upon our return to Soul Society you will begin your investigations into the crimes we have heard from the prisoner."

"Hai…" No one misses the cold smile that forms on Suì-Fēng's face as she answers.

Sahiye's face had continued to pale as he spoke, and now she is clearly on the verge of a panic attack. "You have no authority over me, Head Captain! I speak for Central Forty-Six and his Majesty, the Soul King! You can't decide anything without his permission!"

"But, I can."

Her building rant is cut off by those words, and she directs a shocked look towards the speaker who moves to stand beside Ichigo and the Head Captain, his normally cheerful disposition replaced by the grim expression of one of the most powerful Captains of the Royal Guard. Eyes still hidden by his sunglasses, but his expression radiating his displeasure, Ōetsu Nimaiya looks down at the trembling woman. "My orders were to fix Zangetsu and to speak on behalf of his Majesty in all matters that the Head Captain Yamamoto would not be in a position to negotiate. After hearing your confession, Sahiye Shihōin, I am now the only Shinigami permissible to speak for the Soul King. Head Captain Yamamoto's actions will be seen as favorable upon our return to Soul Society, where he and I will journey to speak to his Majesty privately. As of this moment until a council is formed for a new government, Head Captain Yamamoto will be in charge of Seireitei. As for Central Forty-Six...I suspect a number of prominent members will shortly be removed from their positions due to their criminal activities. Activities which you have brought to light with your confession before us today. Kisuke, I will need you to accompany us back with the proof she has provided us."

Sahiye stares at Nimaiya with clear shock, not noticing the former Squad Twelve Captain walking up to stand with Nimaiya. "C-Confession? Proof? I haven't said any…"

She is cut off when Kisuke Urahara pulls out a strange device from his Haori and presses a button. Words begin to flow from it, Sahiye hears her own voice speaking, and to her growing horror, a list of crimes and co-conspirators are revealed by her in damning detail. When the blonde-haired Shinigami stops the recording a few minutes later, she can only stare ahead with a ghost-white face as she realizes that her life, her place in Soul Society is at an end. Twitching as she hears footsteps approaching her, she finds herself looking up at the murderous rage on the face of the Head Captain.

"H-Head Captain…"

"Say nothing Sahiye Shihōin. I do not wish to hear your lies. When we return to Soul Society, you will be held by Captain Suì-Fēng and her Squad until I return from the Royal Realm." Pausing, the Head Captain turns towards Ichigo. "Lord Ichigo Naberius, I ask that Sahiye Shihōin be incarcerated by your Clan until our departure for Soul Society later today."

Ichigo replies formally. "Of course, Head Captain Yamamoto. Nia."

The teenage Elf wraps her Hell Chains around the stunned Shihōin elder and they disappear in a flash of magic.

Glancing at Yamamoto, Ichigo notes the weary expression on the aged Commander of the Gotei Thirteen. He winces inwardly at the brief look of defeat on the older man's face, though the Head Captain shakes his head a moment later and a strange smile forms on his face when he speaks.

"The offer you proposed earlier Ichigo Naberius, does it still stand?"

Nodding his head, Ichigo responds. "Yeah."

"May I ask for one other condition to your offer?"

"Sure, what do you need?"

Seeing the Head Captain motioning towards him, Ichigo steps closer to Yamamoto and creates a barrier for privacy; a minute later, the shield drops and the orange-haired Devil begins smiling. "It'd be our pleasure Head Captain."

Placing his hands on top of his sealed Zanpakutō, the Head Captain turns towards the four Maou who had been watching silently. "I request for a Devil envoy to accompany us back to Soul Society to act as an ambassador between our two worlds until a formal arrangement is reached, Maou-dono."

Lifting one eyebrow in surprise, Serafall replies for them. "Have you thought about what the Angels and Fallen Angels may think of your proposal, Head Captain?"

"I have." Yamamoto looks at his current and former officers and then towards the younger Devils of Ichigo's peerage. "I cannot stand by and allow Soul Society to fall even further behind, as I can now admit that we have failed the souls awaiting their reincarnation. I have means of contacting the Angels of Heaven, and will do so when I return, but I have no idea of how to contact the Fallen Angels."

Amyntas casts a subtle glance towards a person standing within the crowd, and seeing her slight nod, he speaks. "Perhaps in a few days Head Captain Yamamoto, I shall be able to make arrangements for you to speak to someone who can give that opportunity."

"While you're at it Uncle, arrange a meeting for me so I can kick this Fallen Angel's ass for letting a murderous bitch loose in Isehara, I really, really can't wait to hear the reason why they didn't come and stop her." Ichigo adds.

Yasaka stifles her laughter as she imagines how that meeting between Ichigo and Azazel would unfold, a sentiment that is unknowingly voiced by Ichigo's Quincy cousin. "Lord Amyntas, please ensure Ichigo is nowhere near that meeting. I believe I don't have to remind everyone here that the last time he met someone he held a grudge against; we wound up razing Las Noches to the ground. I have grown rather fond of Isehara and I do not wish for a repeat performance." Uryū requests.

Ichigo scowls at his cousin. "Pftt, Tier told me that none of the Hollows give a crap about us destroying Las Noches because it was claimed by two of the biggest assholes to walk the sands of the Eternal Night."

"If you two are done now, I think we've have quite a bit of business to finish before the Head Captain and the others return to Soul Society." Yoruichi states as she glares at the younger men, both of whom gulp nervously as they nod their heads in answer. "Good, I'm getting hungry and you need a bath Ichigo. Head Captain, you and the others are invited to join us at the Estate."

"We accept the offer Yoruichi Naberius." Head Captain remarks as he and Ichigo share a quick look.

"Good, I'm looking forward to trying out one of those hot springs Jūshirō and Shinji were talking about last night." Captain Kyōraku adds innocently.

"Yes, I'm sure your Lieutenant will be pleased once she learns of what takes place during those baths Shunsui." Ukitake says with a smirk.

"What…goes on?" Nanao Ise asks as she looks between her Captain and the Squad Thirteen Captain.

"N…nothing my beautiful Nanao. Juu is talking nonsense, don't listen to him!"

Shinji barks out in laughter. "What wrong Shunsui? Don't want your Lieutenant to know you'll have your own squad of lady Devils helping you with your bath?"

Nanao begins glaring at her Captain as she grits out two words. "Explain. Now."

"Well, you see Lieutenant Ise…" Shinji Hirako begins with a grin.

Ignoring her spluttering Captain and listening to the Captain of Squad Five, the Squad Eight Lieutenant turns towards Shunsui once the explanation is over, her eyes hidden by her downturned head as her voice begins to fill the air. "Seeping crest of turbidity…"

"Shinji, Juu, I'll get you for this!"


Captain Retsu Unohana watches as Orihime Naberius creates several overlapping magic circles around two futons that will be used later in the upcoming ceremony, a ceremony she has been asked to witness. When the young Devil healer finishes inspecting her magic, she moves to kneel next to the Squad Four Captain, who wordlessly hands her a cup of steaming tea. After thanking the older woman and blowing on her hot tea several times, she takes a tentative sip, and the former Kenpachi asks her an unexpected question.

"Do you regret your life Orihime?"

Startled by the question, the burnt-orange-haired healer responds the only way she can. "Ano? I don't know what you mean Captain Unohana?"

After taking a sip of her own tea, Retsu rests her hands holding her cup on her lap. "Do you ever regret learning the truth about the Afterlife? Do you regret how much your life was made to change and the horrors of what you were forced to witness?"

Orihime begins to understands her question clearer. "Regrets? No, I have no regrets Captain Unohana. I have since learned that regret is for those who don't seize the chance to change their life for the better. I admit I was afraid of the choice I made at first, but after everything I have witnessed starting with rescuing Rukia from her execution to the end of the Winter War, when it was finally over, I finally found what I didn't know I was missing. I found myself surrounded by people who have now become my family, and I treasure them greatly. After what I have gained, despite everything I have faced, I can honestly say I have no regrets for the life I now have."

Remembering her own life in the Rukongai and the reprieve she had been given by the Head Captain when they first met, Unohana does not feel completely surprised by the younger woman's answer. "I see. Orihime, thank you. I am happy that you can move forward in life without needing to look back on it with regrets."

Before she can ponder on those words, the door to the room opens and Ichigo enters with the four Maou following in behind him. Both she and Orihime stand and give the four powerful Devils respectful bows, only for Serafall to rush forward and glomp the burnt-orange-haired healer.

"Now, now Orihime, as long as we are not in the company of other nobles, I will not tolerate such behavior from you young lady." The female Maou chides teasingly.

"But-but Leviathan Maou…"

"No buts or do I need to make that an order?"

Orihime stares wide-eyed between the Lolita dressed Maou and her snickering older adoptive brother. "I-Ichigo?"

Ichigo saves his younger sister by pulling her away from his older cousin. "Forget it Hime, but Serafall is right, family in private don't have to be so formal with each other. Now, are you ready?"

Now back on a familiar topic, Orihime quickly regains her wits. "Yes, we're ready."

Ichigo turns towards Unohana and motions to a cushion outside of the drawn circles. "I'm glad you'll be here to witness this Captain Unohana. He told me you remember him from the founding days of the Gotei as well as Captain Ukitake and Captain Kyōraku, so you'll be able to vouch for them when we are done."

Retsu Unohana smiles as she looks at Ichigo and Orihime standing together. "I can. Before we begin, I wish to apologize to you Ichigo, and to you Orihime, on behalf of Soul Society for the actions we took after the Winter War. We had no right to decide your future without asking what you intended to do once the war was over, especially after what Orihime said to me moments ago. We almost destroyed a family for no reason other than our perceived fear...We should have known that you would have continued to do what you have always done Ichigo. Protect your loved ones."

Ichigo just smiles at her. "I can safely say that in an hour or two, that won't be a problem I have to worry about ever again."


Sahiye Shihōin moans as she wakes and finds herself in a sparsely furnished cell; her captor had rendered her unconscious with a single blow to the head when she tried to fight her way to freedom after those damnable Hell Chains were loosened. Running her hand along her forehead to see if there are any wounds from where her head was slammed against a wall, the Shihōin Clanswoman is momentarily relieved to find that there is no blood or indication of injury on her face. Her relief is short-lived however; as she looks down, she becomes aware of a slight burning sensation in her arms, and when she lifts up her right arm, her eyes widen when she sees the faint glow of linked metal underneath her skin.

"What…what is this!?"

"Hell Chains."

Snapping her head, Sahiye head throbs from the violent movement, indicating a possible concussion as she glares at the speaker with her best effort. "You! You bitch! What have you done!? Have you betrayed your oaths to our world, Captain Suì-Fēng!?"

Standing outside of her transparent cell door, the Squad Two Captain just gives her a sour look, and Suì-Fēng's next words shock the Central Forty-Six representative to the core of her being.

"Betrayed my oath to our world? You accuse me of betrayal, when it is you who has betrayed her oaths?" Sahiye steps backwards when the cell door disappears and petite Captain steps inside, her Reiatsu starting to pour out from her. "I am ashamed to admit I have taken the lives of innocents, executed them because I was ordered to by Central Forty-Six, ordered to eliminate perceived criminals who turn out were never a threat against us. I have innocent blood on my hands because I never questioned my orders, never thought about the consequences of my actions, and never started to think until Yoruichi came back into my life and opened my eyes."

Clenching her fists tightly, the Squad Two Captain steps closer to Sahiye, her eyes gleaming with murderous fury. "Once we return to Soul Society, you and I will have numerous conversations as to how deep the corruption runs throughout the nobility of the Clans. Once we are done, I'm not certain as to what you will face after being found guilty for trying to undermine the authority of the Gotei Thirteen, allowing the destitute conditions of the Rukongai to advance as much as they have, and the other numerous crimes you have admitted to, but I have confidence that your punishment will be... fitting. I will not lie to you, Sahiye Shihōin: I will enjoy watching your last moments as your life and hopefully your soul is ripped to shreds for your many crimes. As Lady Yoruichi stated yesterday, you should have made every effort to find out why she disappeared; something which you didn't do, and something I am ashamed to admit I am also guilty of…" She pauses, before stating with cold finality. "I will never forgive you or myself for that."

"Do you honestly think any Shihōin cares about her now!?" Faced with her impending demise, Sahiye's composure completely crumbles and she starts to scream her true feelings for all to hear. "I certainly rejoiced when she disappeared, leaving the Clan in her younger sister's care! My branch of the family would have been poised to take over and bring back our honor that Yoruichi stained by her defection! Yukiko would have been forced to marry a noble of my choosing and then the Clan would have been ours by default! Now everything is ruined because of her, her and that piece of shit Devil!"

"I warned you about insulting Ichigo again, didn't I?"

Both women gasp and turn to see Yoruichi standing just outside the cell, with Kisuke and the current head of the Naberius standing behind her.

"Kisuke, Amyntas, could you give me and Shaolin a few moments alone with Sahiye?" The golden eyed woman asks as she begins to remove her formal kimono, revealing a form fitting black bodysuit underneath. "It appears a lesson in manners is needed to instill a proper amount of respect when speaking of my Clan."

"Of course, Yoruichi." Amyntas replies courteously as he takes the kimono from her.

Kisuke simply nods his head before turning away and leaving the cell, his voice filling the hallway behind him. "Don't kill her Yori; I still need her to testify when I go back to Soul Society with the Head Captain."

The werecat grins viciously. "I won't Kisuke, I want her to witness the downfall of the system of corruption she has spent her entire life upholding, a system we were all once guilty of partaking in... a system that is going to crash and burn before her very eyes."

Sahiye steps backwards frantically, and her eyes nearly bug out when she sees the purple-haired woman reaching behind the small of her back and withdrawing a tantō sized Zanpakutō.

"T-That Zanpakutō! Impossible, I thought it was lost!"

Her eyes softening, Yoruichi twirls the Zanpakutō fondly. "Not lost, just hidden by Yukiko much to my surprise. Now, please hold still; I haven't used Tengoku no ōjo for some time and I would hate to kill you by accident. Bankai! Tenmetsu Hime!"

Outside of the cell, Amyntas Naberius watches in awe as the woman he has fallen in love with transforms before his eyes and reveals a sight he will never forget when the pillar of Reiatsu finally dies down, safely contained by the reinforced prison walls. Only one word comes to mind as he gazes at the transformed Yoruichi.



Tōshirō Hitsugaya walks hesitantly towards the room that he hopes will give him some long overdue answers. Ever since he discovered Isshin Shiba was still alive after his disappearance over twenty years ago, the young Captain had yearned to learn the reasons behind why his Captain never returned. The shock of seeing the former Shiba Captain show up in his blurry vision and continue the fight after his and everyone else's defeat at the hands of Aizen had renewed his determination to find out the answers; unfortunately, it was easier said than done. Even after the war was over, Isshin Shiba, now known as Isshin Kurosaki, proved to be as difficult to pin down as he used to be when he was the Captain of Squad Ten. Tōshirō had made numerous attempts to contact his former superior, only to be rebuffed by the self-exiled Shinigami at every turn. Eventually he gave up in hopes that one day Captain Shiba would return to Soul Society and tell him just why.

Next to him, Rangiku seems unusually quiet, which makes him grow uneasy as to why his normally talkative Lieutenant chooses now of all times to keep her opinions to herself. He knows she too has wanted answers, and that is why he had asked her to accompany him to see their former Captain together, in hopes that the both of them would be enough to force Isshin into accepting a meeting finally. As they draw nearer to Isshin's room, Tōshirō speaks to his junior officer.

"Do you think he will turn us away, Rangiku?"

Startled by the anxiety she hears in her Captain's voice, the strawberry-blonde-haired woman answers him truthfully. "I don't know Captain. He has every right to turn us away after what was done to Ichigo, but I hope that now Head Captain Yamamoto and Ichigo have settled their differences, Captain Shiba might be more willing to speak to us finally. We can only hope."

"I do hope so Rangiku." The white-haired Captain replies as he and his Lieutenant stop before the door that their host had informed them belongs to Isshin Kurosaki.

Before he can lift his hand to knock however, the door swings open and standing before them is the very man they have come to see. Turquoise and blue eyes stare into brown orbs; Tōshirō is surprised to see sadness at first, then regret, and finally a look of pride in Isshin's eyes before the other man places his hands on his and Rangiku's shoulders and speaks to them.

"I won't answer your questions, and before you decide to argue with me, listen carefully. It is too long of a story as to why I left, so we are going to see an Elf who can help me explain things to you properly. Now follow me and do not say a word otherwise. Oh, and when we're done, you and I are going to have a long talk Shiro, about you and Karin."

The sudden offhand comment catches Tōshirō off balance, and his face turns an alarming shade of red. "W-What!? I didn't know she was your…well…help me out here Rangiku!"

"Me!? I think you and Captain Shiba's daughter would make a cute couple, Captain!"



"I despise you Juu. And you Shinji…there was no need to tell my Nanao about what takes place in the hot springs…" Kyōraku Shunsui sighs before he drains his sake, then holds out the cup to be refilled by the grinning Devil woman kneeling behind him on the heated stone floor.

Jūshirō and Shinji smirk in response, the younger Captain's grin is wide as he replies. "Well, considering all the times we have been on the receiving end of your pranks, we felt it was time for a bit of paybacks. Besides, Nanao-chan didn't have a chance to actually follow through with her Kidō, unfortunately or in your case, thankfully."

Shunsui glares at his best friend and his accomplice. "Stop rubbing it in, she's going to be hell when we return...I mean she even threated…all my stashes…some of it are centuries old Shiba and Mizuki sake for crying out loud! Don't laugh you two, this all your fault!"

Shaking his head at his best friend, Jūshirō chuckles as he accepts another saucer of sake from the young Devil maiden attending him. "I'll talk to Nanao when we return to Soul Society; in fact, I'll see to it that she turns over your sake to me so I can safeguard it properly."

Shinji nearly falls over laughing at the look of feigned betrayal on the darker-haired Captain's face. Once their laughter has ceased however, Jūshirō reminds both men of the event that occurred during the apprehension of Sahiye and her niece after Ichigo and the Head Captain's duel.

"Do you think Hiyori Sarugaki will accept Ichigo-kun's last Pawn Piece Shinji? If he was able to enlist the services of the former Arrancars, I do not doubt he will be able to reincarnate your fellow Vizard without too much trouble."

The Squad Five Captain smiles at the image of Hiyori and Ichigo meeting each other once again. Despite everything done by Central Forty-Six to cover up the post war orders, the blonde-haired Captain had gotten his hands on them, and after reading through the wording carefully, he didn't think those orders legally extended to the Vizards who remained behind in Karakura after Ichigo's disappearance. Hiyori, and uncharacteristically enough Hachigen, were the most vocal in their disapproval of those orders and would never follow them anyway, but now that he can openly reveal Ichigo's status in the Underworld, the unofficial leader of the Masked Army knows what Kisuke's former Lieutenant will say.

"I have no doubt she'll accept his offer; with certain conditions perhaps, but she will accept. The Vizards weren't very happy to hear of his disappearance, 'very displeased' would be the kindest way of describing their feelings."

"And of the others, those who choose to stay behind in Karakura? Central may not realize, but I know that they don't actually follow our orders, even if they do help out from time to time when the Shinigami we assigned there become too overwhelmed by Hollow intrusions, even more so since our young human friends are no longer cooperating with my subordinates after the Winter War and Central's actions." Jūshirō states as he looks at Shinji. "I should have seen their unwillingness to help those stationed in Karakura as an indication then that we were losing them as our allies in the World of the Living. Now, we have truly lost them…"

The door to the hot spring slides open, letting in someone who is intimately familiar with Karakura town. "…Not necessarily Jūshirō. Oh, don't get me wrong, the kids are pissed, but if Head Captain can pull off what he has planned, perhaps, just perhaps things will return to normal between them and Soul Society." Isshin Shiba says as he joins the three soaking Captains in the steaming water, with Byakuya and Renji following in behind him.

Kyōraku exchanges a look with Shinji and Jūshirō. "Have they indicated they are willing to…?"

Byakuya cuts off his obvious question. "No, their home is now in the Underworld; however, if the situation changes in Soul Society, we believe they will ally themselves to the Gotei Thirteen once more. Only if the situation changes though."

Shunsui tips his head down in acknowledgement as he lifts his sake saucer to his lips. "And what about you and Renji?"

The former head of the Kuchiki Clan sends a glance to his future brother-in-law, and seeing the slight nod from him, Byakuya answers truthfully. "We will of course join with the Naberius Clan if they ask; however, Renji and I have…other goals we wish to pursue now that the opportunities have presented themselves to us. It seems that my Imouto and Otouto have been approached by Karin Naberius with an offer to become members of her Peerage. It seems that Ichigo's Evil Pieces are not the only ones that have the ability to choose their hosts: Yuzu Naberius's Evil Pieces have also indicated the same properties, as she has already asked my former Sixth Seat to become one of her Pawns."

Renji sees the look of dejection on the Squad Thirteen Captain and hurriedly speaks up. "Rukia wants nothing more than to continue serving as your Lieutenant, Captain Ukitake, as does Momo with Captain Hirako; Nemu however has decided that she does not wish to return, and I think we all know why. I personally have no wish to return because I don't think I could serve under anyone besides Captain Kuchiki."

Byakuya chuckles, much to the other men's surprise. "I think you have forgotten that there is another option open to you Renji, one I think you have already demonstrated the qualities needed."

Jūshirō is the first to recognize what Byakuya is speaking of, Shinji's eye widening next as the white-haired Captain begins to speak excitedly. "That's right! He can apply for the position of Captain; he has Bankai and has served effectively as your Lieutenant for a number of years! The Squad would not be unfamiliar with him and many have spoken highly of the actions Renji took when Aizen revealed his traitorous ambitions. Why didn't I think of that!? Why didn't you Shunsui!?"

"Because you think fine enough for the both of us Juu." Shunsui remarks as he accepts yet another refill of sake and gives the smiling Devil maid a wink of appreciation. "Byakuya, are you sure this is the course of action you want to pursue? I mean, it does look like you are following in the footsteps of your old Sensei…"

Isshin and Shinji both chuckle when they see the slight narrowing of the other man's eyes, but his comments however surprise even them. "That day when I found out the truth that Kisuke never erased Ichigo's memories, Yoruichi approached me later that night and informed me as to the many reasons why she had made the choice she did. In the few days that I was a guest of the Naberius, I could see the attraction she discovered by becoming a member of their clan. It became my reason as well the moment Central arrested Momo Hinamori and my sister upon their return to Soul Society. I had already suspected their plot, and when I finally had proof of it earlier that week, I decided in my heart that I too had to break away from my Clan. The only true family I have to worry about are Rukia and Renji; I have never considered anyone in my clan other than my Grandfather as family, and I knew he would accept my decision once he witnessed that farce of a trial."

Pausing to take a sip of his sake, Byakuya stares at his faint reflection from the alcohol's surface before he continues. "He truly has the power to change those around him. When I spoke out against his execution, I knew then that he had changed me. I never thanked him for how much he had helped me and Rukia become the siblings we are now, the siblings we should have been long ago."

Jūshirō lifts his saucer. "Neither have I thanked him for helping Rukia become the Shinigami she has become today."

The six men share a silent toast to Ichigo.


"I've been expecting you, Rukia Longoak." Tia says as she opens the door to her room before the other woman can even knock.

Startled, the violet eyed Shinigami asks her why.

"Karin approached me when she felt her Queen Evil Piece reacting to you during your time with Ichigo. She asked me for my opinion and I gave it to her. Do you wish to hear my thoughts as well?" Tia remarks as she steps aside, allowing Rukia to enter her room.

Nodding her head, Rukia walks inside the former Espada's room and pauses when she finds the room to be barely furnished. All that she sees is a small table with four chairs and a door leading to what she can only believe is the bedroom. Looking around awkwardly, she moves towards the table and takes a seat as the door closes behind her, Tia following suit and sitting across from her. Once they have settled in, the former Queen of Hueco Mundo speaks.

"I can feel that you are growing stronger Rukia; even now I can feel how much you have grown since you began training with Grimmjow, Nelliel and Zangetsu. I can only assume that you have a very powerful and deadly Bankai, and your other skills are increasing in lethality during your training as well. But those are not the main reasons why I told Karin to speak to you. I told her to speak to you because of who you are to Ichigo."

"Ichigo? I don't understand…"

The blonde Queen smiles at her. "You stopped the 'rain', his reference to the turmoil of Ichigo's soul, did you not?"

Rukia stiffens at those words. "I…I didn't do anything…"

"Really? You were there when he confessed what you, Orihime and Yoruichi mean to him. You were the first who helped him to begin the healing of his heart, his soul, and that means more to Ichigo than you can imagine. You set him down the path to become the man he is today, and on several occasions when I spoke to him, he thanked you for giving him the power to help him protect his family and friends each and every time. He loves you just as much as he loves his sisters; you might as well see yourself as his sister now that you have left Soul Society and taken the Longoak name. Karin doesn't just see you as a powerful Queen piece, Rukia. She sees you as the person who changed her brother's life forever, and by asking you to become her Queen she is honoring what you have done for all of them."

Tia waits for her words to settle in Rukia's thoughts before she continues. "Becoming a Queen means you will be Karin's right hand in her Peerage, just as I am in Ichigo's. Ichigo has given me no order except for one, I am to always be myself. That is all he has asked of any of us. He doesn't want mindless obedience or platitudes; instead, he demands an equal partnership with us, wanting us to be free in our thoughts and to voice our opinions whenever we believe he needs to hear them. He believes that only by working together as a Peerage can we truly get stronger. Karin, being his sister, has decided to follow in his footsteps, to seek those same traits in her peerage. You do not have to fear being mistreated or sidelined as Queen of Karin's peerage."

Seeing that Rukia is close to being swayed, Tia smiles and offers her last point. "The last reason why I told Karin to go ahead and offer you the Queen Piece is because I want to see how powerful you can become, Rukia Longoak. You possess great talent, and I want to see if you can become one of the most powerful Queens in the history of the Underworld. If your growth is already this remarkable without the aid of an Evil Piece, I truly believe you can and will become the strongest Queen if you accept Karin's offer to become her Queen."

Rukia can only stare at the blonde-haired woman in awe when she finishes speaking, her Zanpakutō adding her own feelings. "She is correct Rukia-sama; you can become one of the most powerful Queens to ever exist once you obtain your Hell Chains. If the Head Captain succeeds in his plans, you can also return to Soul Society and resume your duties as a Shinigami while upholding your duties as a Devil. Think of what you can accomplish for those souls in the Rukongai. Once you decide to retire from the Gotei Thirteen, you will also have a home waiting for you, a home that will welcome you back with open arms. You and Renji-sama will be surrounded by those who want you to be a part of their Clan. Accept the offer, Rukia-sama, and become the woman Kaien-dono would have wanted you to become."

Swallowing hard, violet eyes latch onto calm sea-green orbs. "Is there... is there something personal you can share with me, why I should accept Karin's offer Tia?" Something beyond mere personal power or glory, she doesn't say.

Smiling gently, almost as if she heard the unspoken question, Tia leans forward and takes Rukia's hands into her own. "The greatest gift Ichigo gave to me when I became his Queen, was not increasing my potential power to what I have now, but restoring to me what made me a Hollow to begin with. When I am ready and I find a suitable mate, Rukia, I will be able to have children."


Issei lies on his back, panting hard as he stares up at the never-ending blank slate that composes the training dimension's sky. He twists his head when the sounds of his new mentor's boots stop next to his head and a bottle is placed next to face.

"Drink up Issei-kun." Nelliel says as she stares down at the young Devil. "It is important that you replenish your energy as soon as possible."

"Hai, Sensei." Struggling, he uses his arms and then his hands to push himself upright.

Grabbing the bottle, he twists the cap off and begins to drink the cold, sweet energy drink that the turquois-haired reincarnated Devil had given him. "Thank you, Sensei."

"Don't mention it Issei." As the Pawn begins to drink again, he sees Ichigo's Knight kneeling down next to him. At first she says nothing as she studies him, but then she shakes her head once and a small smile forms on her lips.

"You admire him, don't you Issei-kun? Ichigo. Is that why you asked me to train you today?"

Flushing slightly but nodding once, the Gremory Pawn answers. "I do now. I'm sure everyone knows by now what happened between us the first time, but since then, I have seen him do incredible things. S-Senpai isn't afraid to fight for what he wants, I mean look at what he did to win against Riser Phenex to save Buchou from her marriage to him. He…I don't know what or know how to express what I feel when I watch him or see him when Yuuto and him train together. I guess he is what I want to be someday."

Issei sees Nelliel smile again as she moves to sit next to him. "He believes in you Issei-kun."

Wondering what she means, he isn't made to wait long when the older Devil touches his left hand in clarification. "He knows you will become someone special once you figure out how to come to an agreement with your Sacred Gear. I think he knows what it is and has yet to share it with the rest of us…well, maybe Grimmy knows, but my husband isn't telling me."

Issei lifts his left arm and looks at his hand. "I want to get stronger Nelliel-sensei."

"Then finish your drink and we will begin again. We have thirty minutes left before we need to clean up for lunch."

Finishing his drink quickly, Issei feels around and finds the wooden handle of the bokken he had been using in his first lesson with Ichigo's Knight. Getting to his feet, he feels refreshed from the drink and gives Nelliel a small bow.

"I'm ready Sensei." Raising the wooden sword reflexivity when he feels her power rising in predatory anticipation, he braces himself to begin the fight once again.

"Begin!" Nelliel shouts as she charges him with a smile.

Neither combatant notices the smirking former Sexta watching from afar, or the small blonde-haired former nun standing next to him and watching their duel anxiously.

'Please be careful Issei-kun.'


Rias is among the first to notice Ichigo and Orihime joining them in the study, she smiles when the former makes a beeline to her and places a kiss on her cheek.

"How did it go?" She asks as her husband slides into the empty chair next to her with a sigh.

"Hime did great once again, Rias. I can't wait to see Ukitake-san and Kyōraku's face when the Head Captain and Lieutenant Sasakibe join us for lunch." Ichigo replies as he opens his book bag and pulls out a sheet of paper. "Captain Unohana promised to have Captain Suì-Fēng and Squad Two film the nobles' reactions when he 'brings the pain' to Soul Society after his meeting with the Soul King. Those videos will prove to be some interesting entertainment for us to watch."

"What did you and Orihime do?" Candice asks worriedly as the young healer sits between her and Apacci.

Ichigo and Orihime share a secretive grin before he answers the question. "I don't want to ruin the surprise, but I'm betting one or more of the Captains might have a brain aneurysm when they see them next."

"Them?" Uryū asks, his uneasiness is shared by more than a few others. "Ichigo, Orihime, what did you do!?"

"Nothing harmful if that's what you're thinking. We might have…given them a helping hand in a roundabout way. Seriously guys, stop worrying and just enjoy the moment when it happens, it was all done by their request anyways." With that said, Rias feels Ichigo's hand touching hers under the table, a small smile playing on his lips as their fingers intertwine and he begins his homework.

It is then that Orihime notices Issei and Rukia are missing and asks if anyone has seen them.

"Rukia-nee is with Tia." Karin volunteers for the Shinigami Lieutenant.

"Issei-san is with Nelliel-san, Grimmjow-san and Asia-chan in one of the training dimensions." Yuzu answers for Rias's Pawn.

Rias snaps her head towards her youngest sister-in-law. "Why is Issei with Nelliel and Grimmjow!?"

Tatsuki shrugs. "He asked if she could show him how to use a sword." Pointing her pen at Ichigo, the martial artist smirks as she elaborates. "Seems like Berryhead here rubbed off on him more than any of us thought. Don't worry; Issei will be okay as long as he keeps his inner-lech in check. If not, Grimmjow is probably going to enjoy eating him, maybe."

Rias is torn between palming her face and standing up to go check on Issei, only for Asia and Issei to both enter the room together, each sporting blushes that are beet red.

"Ah, what happened?" Ichigo asks as he notices their entry. "Did Issei do something again?"

"No!" The Pawn immediately retorts, supported by the petite blonde shaking her head vehemently. The two younger Devils then share an embarrassed look before Issei manages to stutter out an explanation. "Ah…Grimmjow-sensei told us to 'beat it' when Nelliel-sensei and I finished our training. She also told us to get lost. Grimmjow-sensei then pounced on Nelliel-sensei, and we almost didn't make it out in time when they…they began…"

Rias gives in to the temptation to palm her face when several of the former Hollows begin snickering in amusement, Ichigo sighing to himself and uttering softly. "I hope they get it out of their system before lunch…"

Able to guess what happened, but dreading to find out why, Rias finally looks at the closest Arrancar member of Ichigo's Peerage and asks what is going on.

The snake Arrancar Sung-Sun happily gives her the answer. "It is a leftover from when we were Hollows, Rias-sama; when Hollow mates become…stimulated by certain physical activities, they become…"

"They get horny." Apacci huffs out. "Grimmjow never could keep his hands to himself once they became mates. Some of the Arrancar would complain loudly to Tia-sama about the noises that sometimes escaped their tower."

"Oh." She turns towards Ichigo and sees him trying not to look at her, then quickly puts together the reason for his embarrassment. 'OH!'

"It's not fair that Buchou and Nelliel-san are the only ones getting any." Akeno growls out, oblivious to her discovery.

"Well, if you'd stop playing tiddlywinks with yourself, you'd get some from Uryū..." Mila Rose snorts out before her mouth is hurriedly covered by Sung-Sun's hand; the remaining members of Ichigo's Peerage worriedly turn to look at his newest Pawn. "Shit…"

It happens too fast for Rias to react: Nemu lunges for Akeno without warning, Ichigo snaps out several Hell Chains and catches the enraged Pawn, several of his chains pulling the former Miko away from her, then he grabs Rias by the waist and pulls her out of her chair.

"Rias and I will be right back!" He shouts before teleporting away.

Karin is the first to break the silence when her older siblings, Nemu and Akeno all disappear in a magic circle. "Am I missing something?"

Apacci and Sung-Sun glare at Mila Rose who is staring at Uryū in silent chagrin, the snake-like Hollow finally sharing what they know. "It seems that Uryū-san has two suitors vying for his affections, and one of them reacted very poorly to the discovery of the other."

There is a faint clatter as Uryū pushes himself to his feet, Chad, Tatsuki and Orihime looking at their friend in worry as he quietly excuses himself. Candice is the only one who sees the growing smirk on his face as he exits the room.

'Well, what the hell was that?'


"Calm down Nemu!" Ichigo shouts moments after they reappear in a large clearing, the Skeleton Tower barely breaking the horizon to indicate how far he had transported them. "I didn't know anything about this, so let's just find out what the hell is going on!"

He shares a quick look with Rias, who nods and moves towards her Queen. Seeing his wife standing next to Akeno and keeping her away from Nemu, he pulls his struggling Pawn closer to him so he can speak to her.

"Nemu." He begins quietly. "Nemu, look at me."

When the former Shinigami's head snaps towards him, he nearly flinches back at the tears leaving trails of moisture down her cheeks. "He's mine! I want him Ichigo! I saved him twice! She, she hasn't done anything for him! I HAVE!"

The vehemence of her emotional outburst slams into him as he suddenly remembers the words spoken to him by Kisuke after Nemu's reincarnation.

'She's a Devil now Ichigo. Make sure you and your Peerage watch her closely.'


'She has never had to express her emotions before. You may have done more to change her soul than you realize.'

That brief conversation between him and Kisuke replays itself in vivid detail as he stares into his Pawn's anguished face.

Pulling his newest Pawn into a tight embrace, he slowly releases the chains around her while rubbing her back comfortingly. "I need you to calm down Nemu, please. I know what you did for him, and I know Uryū hasn't forgotten that either. Before you jump to conclusions, let's find out what is going on and maybe, hopefully, we can find a solution to what you want, okay?"

She throws her arms around him and hiccups into his chest, her words coming out as sobs. "I…I don't know what to do Ichigo-sama. I…I…"

"Shhh, it's gonna be okay, Nemu. We'll figure this out together, I promise." Looking over his Pawn's head, he sees Akeno glaring at them as Rias begins to pull her Queen a further distance away.

"What is going on Buchou?" Akeno demands as she stares at Ichigo and Nemu. "Why would she care whether or not I have a relationship with Uryū?"

Rias sighs as she pulls her friend and Queen further away from her husband and his Pawn, knowing that Akeno has already figured out Nemu's jealousy, but not the reason behind it. "Nemu Kurotsuchi saved Uryū's life when they infiltrated Soul Society to save Rukia. She then helped her former Captain save him and Renji Abarai during their invasion of Hueco Mundo to save Orihime. Ichigo told me after Nemu's reincarnation that she expressed a desire to form a relationship with Uryū, it seems she developed feelings for him after their first meeting in Soul Society, but was unable to understand it until she was reincarnated. Honestly, if it was not for her, Uryū may have died from the poison that he was exposed to when he fought the Squad Twelve Captain."

Akeno shoots her an irritated look. "So? That doesn't mean he has feelings for her or he owes her…"

Rias cuts off her irate Queen. "…But she does have feelings for him, Akeno. Considering her past, her feelings for Uryū are likely one of the few things that keep her anchored, which is why she reacted so badly when it was threatened..." The Gremory heiress sighs and rubs her forehead. "After seeing this, I think we need to hear from everyone what each of them experienced during the Shinigami Winter War, or what parts of it they were responsible for."

Frowning slightly, Akeno nods her head, then looks over at Ichigo who is hugging his crying Pawn tightly. Sighing to herself, she takes and squeezes Rias's hand gently. "Let's go over and talk to them then. If I'm to find out what is going on with Nemu-san, this might be a good time to hear her side of the story first."

Rias eyes her doubtfully. "Are you sure you want to do this now?"

"Better out here where there is no one to get in the way, than fighting in your great-grandfather-in-law's estate if things get heated beyond reason."

"Good point." Rias draws her friend into a quick embrace. "Ichigo and I will stay with you two, just in case."

Akeno snorts in amusement. "I'm jealous by the way, if he is that quick with his Hell Chains, I can only imagine what you two have been doing…"

"…You have no idea." Rias tries to fight down the blush on her features. 'I never knew he could be so…dominating…or…'

Back with Nemu, Ichigo feels an inexplicable chill go down his spine.


Yoruichi grins when both Nemu and Akeno enter the room again, giving apologies to the occupants for their earlier display of emotions and bowing to the older Devils. Her grin only grows when the two reincarnated Devils make a beeline towards the main cause of that outburst, taking the not-so-surprisingly empty seats on either side of him; Uryū on the other hand gives both women a nod of acknowledgement when they greet him, but doesn't say a word about their earlier disagreement. Wondering what kind of bargain was struck, she gives Amyntas a hidden glance and sees that his earlier worry is diminishing once he realizes that the animosity between the two women seems to have been resolved by his great-grandchildren. Touching his leg under the table, she gives him a warm smile when he turns to look at her, and he returns her smile, both of them having worried about what the situation would become once the two women realized they were chasing after the same prize.

Now that the mess is settled, she can't wait for the best part that is yet to come, and right on time the doors leading to the dining room swing open together as two servants enter and bow towards the occupants of the room before stepping aside to hold the doors open for the last of the arriving guests. The first to enter is Captain Unohana, who quickly steps to one side to give way to the Devil that is following behind her. No one had expected Ajuka Beelzebub to follow her in, and the Devil renowned for being a super genius and the creator of the Evil Pieces simply waves for everyone to sit when they stand up to greet him. Moving to one side, he smiles as Rias and Ichigo enter together after him, both of them walking hand in hand and sporting large smirks as they offer their greetings to the room. To everyone's surprise however, they split apart next, Rias moving to stand with Captain Unohana and Ichigo moving to stand next to Ajuka as the four of them turn to face the doors. As Ichigo begins to make his announcement, Yoruichi can't help but feel incredibly giddy inside.

"It pleases me to announce our final guests for lunch: Head Captain Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto, and Lieutenant Chōjirō Sasakibe!"

Yoruichi barely muffles her snickers as the collective jaw of the older Gotei Thirteen officers, both past and present, drop open as the two named Shinigami stride into the room. The Elves and servants in the room are already filming their reactions as she had instructed, and she observes their shocked expressions with great satisfaction.

"W-What the hell did you do Ichigo!?" Kyōraku shouts as he hurriedly gets to his feet. "He…they…shit!"

Jūshirō isn't fairing much better, slowly getting to his feet beside his best friend. "Sen... Sensei..? Ichigo-kun, Orihime-chan…what…what have you done!?"

The two men are undoubtedly the Head Captain and his Lieutenant, but the two ancient warriors have undergone what can only be described as an extreme rejuvenation of their youth. Chōjirō Sasakibe now looks to be in his late twenties, his silver hair slicked back neatly and his youthful face bearing an uncanny resemblance to an older Captain Hitsugaya. His lean but powerful frame stands proud and tall beside his Captain, whose changes are so great that even Yoruichi has to blink twice before she can truly register them.

Gone are the white hair and long beard that for so long have marked the Head Captain's age and wisdom. Gone are the wrinkles, the weary stoop of his body from accumulated years of worry and leadership. Gone is his old and wiry frame, replaced by a youthful body that ripples with muscles like steel, both arms visibly present. Jet-black hair is pulled back into a topknot on his head, with his moustache neatly trimmed and his lower jaw cleanly shaven. The cross-scar on his head still holds great prominence, yet it seems somehow fainter than before. Narrow eyes brim with power as they take in the reactions from all of his subordinates, both former and present, and crinkle faintly with mirth, yet does not detract from his aura of power, command and authority. Despite looking to be in his early forties, the man who has the haori of Squad One draped over his shoulders is clearly in the prime of his life, the unmistakable feeling of his burning Reiatsu identifying him to all the Shinigami in the room as Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto without a doubt.

Shinji stares hard at the gnarled staff being held by the Head Captain, the presence of Ryūjin Jakka silencing any doubt that this is a setup somehow. The Squad Five Captain slowly shakes his head in disbelief as he turns to stare at the grinning Ichigo. "How..? You didn't, did you?"

The young Naberius Lord understands his question despite the vague wording. "No, I didn't Shinji, and I didn't do anything other than supply Orihime and Ajuka-san my energy so that they could accomplish our goals. Since it's pretty obvious that none other than you, Kyōraku-san, Jūshirō-san and probably Geta-Bōshi and Nimaiya-san understand what we did, I'll explain for all of us present." He clears his throat and speaks up loudly, quelling the faint babble of voices coming from the Shinigami who are finally starting to question what they are seeing. "Before anyone gets the wrong idea, we did not reincarnate the Head Captain or Lieutenant Sasakibe as Devils. What we have done is, well…you could say we may have given them a gift of a few centuries of renewed vigor. Something to help them in achieving their ultimate goals once they return to Soul Society."

Hearing that, Tōshirō Hitsugaya regains control over his hanging jaw. "That's... that's the Head Captain and Lieutenant Sasakibe!? How did you do it!?"

Ichigo smirks at the dumbfounded Squad Ten Captain. "Ah, you guys do remember Orihime can reject wounds, right? We figured out a way with Ajuka-san's help to reject their diminished levels of Reiryoku, and when we gave them mine to give them a boost, it ended up reversing the effects of their…ahem…age…"

No one misses the deadpan looks being directed his way by the two formerly-ancient Shinigami, and Head Captain Yamamoto clears his throat and speaks to them in a voice that is filled with far more strength than they are used to. "I do hope that you will teach him some manners during your stay Byakuya Longoak, Ichigo-kun's etiquette is severely lacking and his tact is horrendous at best."


"Shut it Berry. He's absolutely right; I have tried numerous times to correct you and your behavior but it never seems to stick." Rukia remarks as she gives Ichigo a smirk.

"I second that." Uryū chimes in with his own smirk as he sees the flabbergasted look on his cousin's face. "You're pretty much brawn over brains."

Seeing the antics of the youths that he is closer to in age now than he has been in centuries, Head Captain Yamamoto shares a smile with his students before he continues speaking. "As Ichigo Naberius has stated, he and his allies have given myself and Lieutenant Sasakibe a gift to help us with our coming struggles with the nobles of Central Forty-Six and the Elders of the Great Clans. I can admit to myself now that I had lost much of my former strength, and it was during my duel with Ichigo Naberius that I realized what I should have done after the Winter War. I should have followed Captain Suì-Fēng's example to have my arm healed by Orihime Naberius. I should not have allowed my pride to overcome my judgement. Requesting this healing for myself and Lieutenant Sasakibe is but a first step in this direction; while not permanent, our returned youth will serve us well as we rebuild Soul Society and Seireitei into the haven for those souls awaiting reincarnation as it was meant to be. We will rebuild the Afterlife together once I receive permission from the Soul King to deal with those corrupt nobles as I see fit, and I hope you, as our new allies, will assist us with this rebuilding."

Pausing for a moment, the oldest Shinigami in the room then looks over both serving and exiled Shinigami. "I believe that Ichigo once stated that he wants our officers to be able to return to Soul Society if they wish, and I want that for all of you as well. Under the current laws of Soul Society, those of you who have been offered positions within the Naberius Clan will find that almost impossible, but I have hope that this will change in the future. Just as Ichigo wishes for you to be able to return to your Squads, I also hope that you will return someday, even if it is just to teach at the Shinōreijutsuin. If the Winter War and the failed invasion by my old nemesis has taught me anything, it has opened my eyes to the fact that we are too far behind in our understanding of the new and modern World of the Living. That will change starting from now."

For several seconds the room remains silent, then Kisuke stands up and begins to clap. Soon Captain Unohana and Captain Nimaiya join him, and then the rest of the room stands to their feet and begin to applaud the Head Captain's declaration, especially the Shinigami contingent: for this is the first time in living memory that they are having the hope of a new regime, one that is not being held back by a corrupt nobility that seeks to preserve their power, but instead is willing to move ahead with the ever-changing times and seek out the best for its people. Once the clapping dies down, Amyntas steps forward and offers the two Shinigami a place at the main table, which they accept to a renewed storm of applause.

As Retsu Unohana and Ajuka Beelzebub head towards the main table and the two Devil servants finally shut the door to the dining room, Ichigo moves warily away from the main table with Orihime giggling behind him.

"Orihime and I are gonna eat with my Peerage, Head Captain." Ichigo states carefully as he avoids looking at the other members of their table. "I figure it will give you time to discuss your plans with Serafall Maou and Sirzechs…Maou."

Raising a curious eyebrow at his actions, the older Shinigami notices the silver-haired wife of the current Lucifer nodding in satisfaction. His lips twitch into a wry smirk.

"I amend my earlier statements about Ichigo's etiquette; I believe I should have included Grayfia Gremory to that list."




The powerful being hidden in a golden aura speaks to the restored Soul King. "I have grown weary of watching you and your Shinigami blunder about these past few centuries, my Son. As such, here is my command: you will give the Head Captain permission to do as he pleases with those moronic fools who believe themselves above the rules of law, and perhaps they will regain their common sense and decency, if they live through the coming purge that is." The golden light seems to gain a harsh tinge, and the Soul King visibly winces. "Oh, yes my Son, I have seen what, or rather who we have lost these past few years, and I am very, very displeased with your handling of Ichigo-kun. Your foolish nobles tried to murder the one whom I had chosen to lead Soul Society into a new age of prosperity, yet you did nothing to stop or discipline them. Make no mistake my Son: you and the Head Captain will make things right, or I will step in and personally restore Soul Society to the glory and promised land it is supposed to be for the souls seeking peace and waiting for their reincarnation. You may be one of the few who can truly maintain the balance, and the world can ill afford to lose you if the future holds true, but I will not hesitate to replace you if you refuse to uphold your duties: the Pillar that holds the Balance is shaky enough without having to deal with rot from within!"

If any of the Shinigami were to see the Soul King now, they would have been shocked horrified to see him prostrating in fear before the being clad in the golden aura. The fierce golden light dims and becomes softer, gentler.

"I do not wish to replace you, my Son, therefore I have given you fair warning and my command. The world at large is entering a new period of conflict; to this end, I have given your sister, Yasaka, the power to help guide my children to victory in the coming war, and I have hopes that your Soul Society will play a pivotal role in quelling the uprisings and restoring balance once again. When I leave here, I will seek out my Daughters and speak to them, as I have yet to learn of the fate of my lost children. When I next return, I expect to see Soul Society restored to its former glory. Do you understand?"

The Soul King prostrates himself further. "Yes, Amaterasu O-kami-sama."

The being sighs as she kneels down and cups the cheeks of her chastised son, guiding his head to look up at her. "We all make mistakes, my Son; it is only from learning how to avoid making the same mistakes that we learn how to move forward. Learn from this mistake; learn what has been done in your name, and give guidance to Yamamoto-kun so that he may make amends to the many lost souls of Soul Society, and to make a proper apology to the Naberius Clan for trying to kill their heir. Children should be allowed to make their own mistakes, but discipline is necessary when they refuse to acknowledge their mistakes. Learn this lesson well, and we will stand to gain much from our renewed relationships with the other pantheons."

Purple orbs gaze upon twin golden orbs, before closing and bowing his head in acceptance. "I hear and obey, Okaa-sama."

"I love you, my Son." The golden aura replies before it fades from the sealed chamber.

Smiling, the Soul King stands on his own two feet for the first time since his sealing, the light from his Mother having restored his body fully. Considering her message to him, the Reiō decides to seek out his personal guards for himself.

"We have much to do, and little time to do it." He muses to himself as he opens the doors to his chambers and strides out purposefully. "... I wonder if Ichibē and his friends will be shocked to see me once more?"


Ichigo stands with Rias, Yoruichi, Merti and Serafall as the only Devils present to see the Shinigami delegation return to Soul Society. Watching as Rangiku opens the Senkaimon, he gives the busty Squad Ten Lieutenant a wave and final departing promise.

"Once things calm down Rangiku-san, I'll let Orihime know that it's okay for her to go and see you." He calls out.

"Thanks, I'll hold you to that promise Ichigo-kun!" The strawberry blonde gives him a wink before she steps into the doorway with a backwards wave dragging a bound and gagged Sahiye behind her.

One by one, the departing Shinigami give the Devils words of thanks and promises to visit again, before they step through the Senkaimon. Finally, only the Head Captain is left in the clearing, and Ichigo steps forward to approach him alone.

The orange-haired Devil is the first to speak. "I'll send word back to you as soon as I find out how you can contact the Fallen Angels."

"My thanks, Ichigo Naberius. I look forward to speaking to them." Yamamoto replies, before he stuns Ichigo by extending his hand towards him. "I am truly sorry for what transpired after the Winter War, and I should have known you would never have turned against us. I allowed myself to be convinced because…"

"…Because you knew I wasn't a true Shinigami, and Central would never tolerate my existence." Ichigo finishes for him. "Head Captain. I think I understand your dilemma now, maybe not completely, but as I continue to help my great-grandfather rule the Naberius Clan, I'll undoubtedly learn the many things that I missed before. I'm just glad that you no longer have to listen to Central, and I hope we can both learn from this experience."

"I agree." As the men break apart from their hand shake, the Head Captain asks one last question. "Are you sure of our agreement?"

Ichigo gives him a confident smirk. "I am. I am looking forward to it actually. If I'm to learn what it means to be a Shinigami, who better to learn from than the man who created the Gotei Thirteen all those years ago?"

The Head Captain snorts in amusement, all too aware of the fact that he now looks like he once did when he first formed the Gotei Thirteen. "Until then, Ichigo Naberius."

"Good luck and safe journey, Head Captain Yamamoto." Ichigo replies as he moves back to his wife's side.

The Head Captain looks at Rias and smiles once more. "I look forward to having many more discussions with you as well, Lady Naberius."

"I'd be honored Head Captain." Rias bows gracefully towards him, before she and her husband both wave goodbye to the now dark-haired Shinigami as he steps through the Senkaimon and the doors slide shut behind him.

Once the Senkaimon disappears, Ichigo stares at the restored shrine for a moment more before he turns to his wife. "Rias, I'll be right home after we're done."

His crimson-haired wife wraps her arms around his waist as she lays her head against his chest. "It won't be like the last time Ichigo. Are you sure you want to do this?"

Rubbing her on the back, Ichigo looks over his wife's head and stares into Merti's green orbs. "I have to, Rias. Tatiana told me what one of the conditions of this execution is; I…I owe it to them to make sure they can move forward, and I think I need this for myself as well. You and I will one day control the Skeleton Tower when great-grandfather decides to retire, this is my first step in showing him that I can. Sooner or later, I am going to have to pass judgement on others for their crimes against the Clan and those who live under our protection, and I have already done so in the past. I have to show them that I can continue to do this."

Feeling Rias pulling away from him, he is pleasantly surprised when she places a chaste kiss on his cheek. "Then don't be long." She pulls his head down so she can whisper into his ear. "We still need to break in our bed."

"And the shower." He remarks with a small smile then remembers to his horror that he and his wife are not alone, as all three females behind them are now sporting large grins. It doesn't help matters when he sees his wife's cheeky grin and realizes that she was aware all along. Nor does it help when Yoruichi begins to clean her ear out with exaggerated gestures.

'Ah, shit.'


"He what?" Azazel asks of the smirking nine-tailed Yōkai as she sits in a chair opposite of him. "Ah, could you say that again Yasaka?"

The white-furred Queen of the Kyoto-based Yōkai smiles over her saucer of sake. "I said, Head Captain Yamamoto would like to meet with a representative of the Fallen Angels once he returns from the Royal Realm and has effectively taken full control of Soul Society Azazel."

Reclining against his high-backed chair, the current leader of the Gregorian faction quirks a disbelieving eyebrow at his guest. "Really? Why the sudden interest in meeting with us? Last time we tried to talk to that old man, he nearly blasted my messenger with his Bankai, so what could've changed…" He stops, then smirks in realization. "Ah, I see. Now I see. He and the Devils have come to an arrangement, haven't they?"

"Perhaps... or perhaps he now finds himself in a better position to bargain from, ever since someone helped him learn the truth as to why a majority of the human world's souls now journey to their spiritual plane instead of the paradise they had been promised." Yasaka replies calmly as she turns the saucer of sake in her hands, the faint smile on her face declaring who it was who had revealed the truth that all three major factions had tried to keep hidden from the other pantheons.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, the Gregorian leader sighs as he asks the one question he doesn't want to ask. "What does he want?"

Yasaka smiles at him. "Simple, resources when he moves forward with his plans to rebuild Soul Society. It will take more wealth and material then they currently have to fix the wrongs committed over the last thousand years. If you feel this is unreasonable, I will mention that the Naberius Clan has pledged the services of their skilled labor force to help train the souls of the Rukongai, and the Gremory Clan and Sitri Clan have also offered numerous goods and skilled workers to assist the rebuilding of Soul Society. I also know that the Head Captain plans on speaking to Michael when he returns from his meeting with the Soul King. So, if I were you, Azazel, I wouldn't refuse the offer of meeting with him. One warning though: if you do accept, make sure that Ichigo isn't there."

The Head of the Grigori frowns in confusion at her warning. "Why?"

"I am quoting here, but his exact words were 'while you're at it Uncle, arrange a meeting for me so I can kick this Fallen Angel's ass for letting a murderous bitch loose in Isehara, I really, really can't wait to hear the reason why they didn't come and stop her.', end quote." Yasaka peers at her associate expectantly, seeing his eyes glaze over in understanding.

"He needs to hear it from you Azazel. It's the only way he'll understand why you didn't stop her." The Yōkai Queen remarks when the Fallen Angel remains silent before he finally sighs in regret.

"She could have been something, you know…" Azazel lifts his goblet of wine and stares into its reflected surface. "She wasn't the only one who disobeyed me Yasaka. There were…still are others who want to move in a new direction. A dangerous direction. One that has no room for peace, or those of us who advocate it. I think we are only seeing the opening stages of what is to come, old friend." He turns to look out of his window at the wondrous sky of the Underworld. "...Set it up, I'll go myself to meet Head Captain Yamamoto. Ichigo should be there as well; if I am going to help, I might as well get that out of the way first. Then, then we can have some fun."


Amyntas watches with amused eyes as the chaos of the departing younger Devils grows as each of the three Peerages try to finish their homework, sort out their schedules and generally relax from the events of the extra-long weekend. Sitting next to him is his new Head of Household, Yoruichi, who is keeping half an eye on them while reading over her reports concerning the status of the Clan's vast holdings in both the Underworld and the World of the Living. Now and then he notices Yoruichi writing notes in the margins, mumbling questions to herself as to how Merti had done this by herself for the most part until the Elf had become his great-grandson's Head of Household. Deciding she needs a break, he slips one of his hands over hers.

"Take a break Yoruichi; you and Ichigo have something important to do yet tonight." He reminds her quietly.

Golden orbs blink a few times before she leans forward and drops the papers and pen onto the coffee table. "I do need a break. These past few days have been the busiest I've had in a century or more."

Noticing her glancing around the room, he wonders what she is thinking, before she slowly stands up and tugs his hand, motioning to one side with her head.

Seeing what direction she is indicating, he too slowly gets up and moves silently behind the woman as she slips out of the room, hiding her actions behind the loose curtains of the family room. The outer walkway leads to the private hot springs reserved for only those that belong to the Naberius Clan, and it is through the doorway of the hot springs that Amyntas sees her go through.

Following in after her, a smile appears on his face when he sees Yoruichi already slipping her shirt over her head, revealing a bare back to him.

'Well now…'


Issei is sitting across from Ichigo as he does his homework, Yuzu sitting next to him and also finishing her homework when he hears the younger twin speaking to her brother.

"Ichi-nii, why do you have to stay so late? I thought everything was done until we had to come back in a few weeks?" Yuzu asks of her older sibling.

Rias is the one who answers the youngest Naberius Devil. "Ichigo and Rukia have to stay and help Captain Byakuya finalize some unfinished work from Soul Society. They'll get home just a few hours after us Yuzu, I promise I'll have him visit you, Karin and Koneko before bedtime."

"I promise you as well Yuzu." Issei wonders if he's the only one who notices the slight hardening of Ichigo's eyes as he talks to his sibling.

Yuzu doesn't seem to notice, nodding her head and smiling at her brother as she stands up and stretches her body. "Anyone need anything from the kitchen?"

The majority of the table shake their heads as they concentrate fully on their homework, Karin being the only one who decides to walk with her sister to the kitchen. As soon as the twins are out of hearing range, Issei hears Ichigo sighing loudly before he speaks to Rias.

"Thanks Rias." He picks up her hand and lays a kiss on it. "I don't know when I'll ever be ready to teach them the harsher aspects of what I have to do, or even if I'll ever be ready for what great-grandfather has to teach me about the Tower."

Rias entwines her fingers with his. "They can wait a few years Ichigo; they are still young enough that they don't need to know yet."

"Ah, need to know what?" Issei can't help himself from asking.

Ichigo turns to look at him, and the expression on the older Devil's face is grim as he answers. "I'm gonna help Rukia and Byakuya get their vengeance on the Shinigami who murdered Hisana-san. She was Byakuya's wife and Rukia's older sister. Hisana-san and Rukia…they got separated when they first arrived in Soul Society, after they died in the World of the Living. Hisana-san later married Byakuya, but she got very sick while searching for Rukia. She died only five years after she and Byakuya were married. We recently discovered that she was actually poisoned by that Shinigami we took into custody earlier today, the one named Chiyoko. I ask that you keep that to yourself Issei, okay?"

Issei looks at him with an expression of horror, his stomach turning as he asks why Chiyoko would want to murder Hisana.

Merti leans down behind him and whispers into his ear. "Chiyoko wanted Byakuya for herself, not out of love, but due to greed for power and status among the nobles of Soul Society. She believed that the ends would justify the means, and her plan was only foiled when Byakuya-san refused to re-marry, having truly loved Hisana-san. When we confronted her about it, she was completely unrepentant for her actions. That is why Head Captain Yamamoto decided to leave her here, to face her judgment from those she hurt the most."

Seeing Issei lower his head in acceptance, the Elven woman straightens up and speaks loudly for the younger Devils to hear her. "Everyone returning to Isehara please return to your rooms and pack what you need to bring with you. We will be returning here in a few weeks for Sairaorg Bael's next Rating match, until then, anything left behind will not be retrievable. Once done, meet under the dome in an hour."

As the crowd of young Devils bustle about even more frantically, Issei hears a voice speaking in his head.

[You should stay and witness the execution Issei-sama.]

'What!? I…I can't ask that! Are you nuts!?'

[You wish to see what a higher-class Devil must do, did you not Issei-sama? This is one of those moments that you need to learn from. Now ask.]

'I don't know if I can…'

[You are remembering what happened to those humans who kidnapped Orihime-sama, aren't you?]


[You know now that they are Sinners Issei-sama. They were going to be interned in the Skeleton Tower the moment they died. This is no different. The Shinigami Chiyoko Shihōin has been found guilty of her crimes, and now she will pay what is due to Rukia-sama and Byakuya-sama. Ichigo-sama believes in you, now is your chance to prove that his belief has not been misplaced.]

"Hey, Issei, you okay?" Ichigo's question causes him to realize that he has spaced out for a while, and looking around him, he is alone with the married Devils.

Rias places a hand on his shoulder next. "Issei?"

Swallowing the taste of bile in his throat, he begins speaking in a rush. "I-I want to help! I want to do my part for you Buchou! Ichigo-senpai! Please! Please let me…let me see what it means to be a member of the Gremory and Naberius Clans!"

"Issei, what…" Rias pauses when Ichigo lays a hand on her shoulder. "Ichigo?"

"You can't interfere with the execution Issei, you understand this right? This isn't just my decision, this is Byakuya's and Rukia's right to deliver justice to the woman who murdered their wife and sister, Hisana-san. If you wish to follow, I need your word, your promise that you'll do nothing to stop or interfere with the execution, do I have it?"

"I promise Ichigo-senpai!" He bows deeply to the older teens. "I promise to listen to everything you tell me to do!"

Ichigo exchanges a look with Rias. "Stand up Issei, go with Kimi and Nia and wait for me with them. I need a few minutes with Rias." Ichigo says as his twin bodyguards seemingly appear out of thin air and beckon to Issei.

"Okay." The Pawn quietly replies then follows the twin Elven sisters who lead him to the hallway outside the family room.

As the door closes behind him and the two Devil heirs disappear from his sight, he finds the twins staring at him studiously. Kimi suddenly pulls out a silver flask from the inside of her loose jacket and hands it over to him.

"Drink Issei-kun. It will help settle the nerves you will have tonight."

"T-Thanks." He unscrews the top off and gulps down a large amount of the liquid only to start coughing as it burns his throat on the way down. "W-What the hell was that!?"

Kimi smirks and takes the flask back from him. Her sister is the one who answers him.

"Three-hundred-year-old scotch. Don't puke it up, its expensive."


"On your feet prisoner!"

Chiyoko Shihōin wearily lifts her head when the door to her cell slams open and four female Elves enter. She doesn't bother attempting to resist as two of the females grab her by her arms and drag her to her feet, followed by a fresh round of humiliation as she is stripped of her clothes. She is then forced to sit down in the chair that they had brought with them as one of the Elves moves behind her, pushing her head forward. She has a slight moment of panic as cold metal touches her scalp, before the first locks fall to the floor and she realizes they are cutting her hair; after watching her long locks fall to the floor for a few minutes, she feels the coolness of a metal ring being woven into the lengths of hair they had left untouched on top of her head, and wonders what its purpose will be.

She is then lifted from the chair by the same Elf who had cut her hair, before being given a set of white-cotton pants and shirt by another Elf. Taking the clothing and slipping her arms through the sleeves of the shirt, she feels bitterness rise again as she spies the faint blue glow of the Hell Chains that are imbedded just under her skin, the means by which the Devils keep her shackled and defenseless. She had tried to fight back and escape only once: the pain she was put through by the Hell Chains in her body then became something that she fervently wishes never to experience again.

Once she is dressed, two of the Elves turn her around and bind her arms and hands behind her back. When they are done, they turn her around once again and she nearly flinches back when she finds herself face to face with the cloudy eyed Elf who had ripped every memory of her past deeds from her mind. Gulping once, she wonders what is in store for her as the blind Elf turns away from them and the glow of magic appears under their feet.

When the glow fades away, she looks around and sees that she has been brought to the edge of a dense and foul-smelling forest, one that gives her a very bad feeling. The foreboding sense of dread and revulsion in her soul only increases when she finally identifies the coppery tang in the air, and her horrified gaze is drawn to the thick red liquid oozing out from beneath the bark of the nearest trees, the viscous fluid bleeding from the wood in thick, slow rivulets. Unable to take her eyes off the sight, she is once again startled when she hears the voice she has come to hate speaking to them.

"It is time." Sasha solemnly intones before she and the four Elves march her into the vile forest.

"...Where are we going?" The Shihōin assassin finally asks, doing her best to keep her calm after walking through the forest for several minutes, her anxiety building as the gloom around them seems to grow as they travel deeper into the forest.

The blind Elf doesn't bother to turn around to speak to her, but Chiyoko can hear her just fine when she answers.

"This is the Forest of Torments. It is a special place for special souls, souls such as yours Chiyoko Shihōin. Here you will face judgment for the crimes you have committed against those you knew to be innocent. Here in this place at the base of the Skeleton Tower, you will find a new home; a home that you will never be allowed to escape from to rejoin the Cycle of Life. Each tree you see around you sheds the blood and tears of those who are 'planted' here."

Chiyoko thinks back to the bleeding trees she had seen, and her face pales drastically as she comprehends what is going to happen.

"…What! No! You have no right to do this to me! I demand a proper execution! You can't…" Her mouth is snapped shut by methods she cannot see, only the lowering of the Elf's hand in front of her lets her know that magic has been used against her.

Another twitch of a hand and her head is forced to face forward. Eyes unable to do more than stare wildly around, Chiyoko glares daggers into the back of her interrogator's head as she is marched forward for an indeterminable amount of time before her group stops within a small clearing, one which is lit only by the light of ghostly lanterns placed around the perimeter. When Sasha steps aside, Chiyoko's eyes unerringly latch onto the sight of the man she had coveted for decades, standing before her with his younger adopted sister and her fiancé, Renji Abarai. Forcing herself to look away, she realizes that the younger Lord Naberius is also in attendance, the orange-haired Devil staring emotionlessly at her, along with his Head of Household and... and that cursed woman she had branded not only as a traitor to Soul Society, but also as a traitor and deserter to the Shihōin Clan, Yoruichi Shihōin! She barely notices the last person in the clearing, a young male she has never seen before, who stares at her with a nervous, but unwavering gaze.

As the group of people part before her, her gaze is unwillingly drawn towards the pit that is already dug in the center of the clearing, and her mind immediately latches onto the recollection of what her fate is to be. For the second time since her abduction from Soul Society, she tries to break free of her captors and flee, only for the Hell Chains in her body to flare up pre-emptively, driving her to her knees in searing agony. Two of the Elves grab her nearly catatonic body by her arms and drag her towards the hole that awaits her helpless body. Once she is dragged to the edge, the Hell Chains binding her from within are removed from her body, the pain of their removal returning her to consciousness, only for more Hell Chains to shoot out from the ground and bind her wrists and arms, the chains pulling her down until she is kneeling on the ground and leaning forward over the hole slightly, a single chain sliding through the ring in her hair and pulling tight, holding her head in place so that her neck is exposed and she is forced to stare down into what she knows will become her grave.

She hears the voice of the Shihōin traitor, Yoruichi address her. "Chiyoko Shihōin, you have been found guilty of the murder of Hisana Kuchiki. You have also been found guilty of crimes too numerous to account for properly, but your name will be included in the official records of the Daireishokairō as the perpetrator of those crimes, and your co-conspirators will be arrested, investigated and sentenced. Head Captain Yamamoto has declared you an enemy to Soul Society, stripped you of your rights and rank as a member of the noble Shihōin Clan, and has issued a warrant for your death. Byakuya Longoak and Rukia Longoak have been assigned to carry out that order. Do you have any last words you wish to say before your sentence is carried out?"

Her eyes swivel to glare hatefully at the traitorous whore. "You bitch Yoruichi! I despise you! I despise everything you have done to become a Devil's whore! I hate everything you embraced by leaving your people behind for mongrels! Your true Clan! Soul Society! When my Clan finds you, I hope you die a long and slow death!"

She then catches sight of Byakuya's cold expression, the sight of his handsome face only infuriating her even more. "And as for you Byakuya, you should have been mine! You should have chosen me, not that upstart Rukongai whore! I hope you never find happiness in your life again, and that Rukongai trash you call a sister dies a slow and horrible death like her sister did! I hated every moment that you spent with that whore, and I laughed every minute that I watched your wife slowly die from the poison I gave her!"

Byakuya's face had steadily darkened as Chiyoko continued to spew vitriol, and when she brought up her murder of Hisana he takes a half step forward, his hand gripped so tightly around the hilt of Senbonzakura that his knuckles are white with rage. Rukia desperately grabs hold of his haori, holding him back and sending a pleading look to Ichigo which he catches.

"Enough!" The orange-haired Devil shouts as he commands the chains binding her to tighten, and a spell cast by Sasha cuts off her rant. "Just like your Aunt and so many others like yourself, when you are given the chance for redemption, you don't. Is that enough, Sasha? Merti? I don't think we need to hear anything more from her."

The green-eyed Elf and the blind Elf both nod their heads in unison to their young lord, who in turn looks to the former Kuchiki siblings. "Byakuya, Rukia. She's all yours."

Taking a deep breath, Byakuya relaxes his body and nods to Rukia, who hesitantly steps back from him. Both brother and sister then slide their Zanpakutō from their sheaths as they turn to approach the trussed up Chiyoko, who can only glare hatefully at them. Sode no Shirayuki slices out, cutting away the white-cotton shirt that covers Sahiye's upper body, leaving the assassin naked to her waist. Rukia then kneels down next to the woman and places the Kissaki of her blade against the side of Chiyoko's abdomen, waiting until her brother takes his place on the opposite side of the condemned woman, his face a mask of ice. Senbonzakura is raised high into the air, it's blade gleaming in the dim lighting. Chiyoko's eyes dart around wildly, but the spell keeping her mouth shut is still in effect and her body is bound too tightly to move at all.

'No!' Her mental scream is unheeded.

Steeling herself, Rukia thrusts Sode no Shirayuki straight through Chiyoko Shihōin's abdomen, suppressing her shudder as she then rips her Zanpakutō violently outwards, causing the intestines, muscles and internal organs from Chiyoko's body to tumble messily from the gaping wound.

Chiyoko is forced to watch with horror as her blood and organs noisily splatter down into her grave, the sheer pain that courses through her body so intense that she goes into shock almost immediately. Before her throat can cough out any blood however, she suddenly feels a sharp pain on the back of her neck followed by a feeling of vertigo, her vision of the open grave seeming to draw closer to her as she falls into it. Confused at first, her dimming mind quickly deduces what has happened when, in what she believes to be her last moments of life, she sees her headless body clearly, the chains being released as it falls into the pit behind her, her executioners watching on without mercy. As the fleeting sparks of her life and consciousness start to fade into the blackness of death, a chilling voice unexpectedly speaks to her.

"Welcome to my domain Chiyoko Shihōin. Welcome to the rest of eternity, an eternity in which I will make you suffer the likes of which you can't imagine. For my Lords, I will gladly see to your eternal punishment…personally."

Her wordless scream goes unheard a second time as her soul is seared by the punishing flames of the Skeleton Tower.


Renji Abarai swallows hard as he watches the decapitated body of Chiyoko Shihōin topple into the pit, his Captain and his fiancée quietly flicking away the blood from their Zanpakutō and returning them to their sheathes. He nearly jumps when a hand is placed on his shoulder.


Whipping around, the red-haired Shinigami realizes it is just his friend. "Ichigo?"

"See to Rukia; Issei and I will finish this." Ichigo says as he dismisses his Hell Chains with a mental command and starts to move towards the two adopted Longoak siblings who are still looking down at the body of Chiyoko Shihōin, motioning for Issei to follow him.

With the Boosted Gear wielding teen following him hesitantly, the Naberius Lord stops next to Byakuya and places a hand on the older man's shoulder. "Byakuya, Issei and I will take care of this…"

"I will help. I must see it to the finish, Ichigo. Renji and Rukia may return to the Estate and await us there, but I will see to this myself." Byakuya cuts him off with a tone that brooks no disagreement.

"We'll stay as well Nii-sama." Rukia replies quietly as she steps into her fiancé's arms, accepting his embrace and drawing comfort from his presence.

Nodding just once in agreement, Ichigo takes one of the shovels and hands it to Issei, then takes another and hands it to Byakuya before grabbing the last for himself to use. He notices Issei looking down at the decapitated body with a pale face before shaking his head jerkily once and stabbing his shovel into the mound of dirt that lines the pit, scooping his first load of dirt and throwing it down into the pit to cover the decapitated body. Nodding in approval, Ichigo joins him, followed by Byakuya. The three men quickly find a rhythm and fill the hole in less than half an hour, Byakuya stamping down the last of the loosened soil before stepping away from the newly covered grave and watching as Merti and Sasha walk forward with a gnarled and... physically writhing tree that is held captive between them.

After planting the strange sapling in the middle of the grave, both sisters use their Hell Chains to hold the sapling in place as they are joined by the escort of four female Elves, the six of them forming a rough circle around the thrashing tree. In moments, all of them witness the power given to the Elves as the six Elves join hands and begin to chant a hauntingly beautiful dirge in their native tongue, one that Ichigo alone is allowed to understand.

"Become the anchor and lock for the twisted soul of the corrupted."

"Become the everlasting tomb to ensnare and torment the guilty."

"Become the final place of penance for this unrepentant Sinner."

"Become the vassal of the soul for Chiyoko Shihōin."

Together, they raise their voices, chanting the final verse of the spell.

"'Til end of time and existence, exact the penalty of vengeance for the innocent!"

As the last word fades into the air, the writhing sapling seems to freeze, and its roots suddenly shoot straight into the ground. Mere seconds later, the Elves step away from the tree as it begins to grow exponentially in width and height, its roots anchoring themselves firmly into the grave and its branches spreading far above. Crusty black bark grows rapidly and for a brief few moments, Ichigo swears he sees the screaming face of Chiyoko forming in the middle of the rapidly growing tree before the image fades. Fresh red liquid begins to ooze from the bark, leaking down the tree in thick red rivulets and seeping into the ground around it, staining the surrounding dirt blood-red.

Grimacing inwardly as he looks away from the tree, Ichigo sees Issei staring at the tree with undisguised horror, and he gets the feeling that Issei had seen the former Shinigami's face in the tree as well.

"Issei, my great-grandfather told me that his grandfather was the one who first identified the uniqueness of the grounds surrounding the base of the Skeleton Tower. Over the course of numerous centuries, he and the Clan developed the magic that is now used to trap the souls of those who are Truly Damned within the grove of trees that we are now standing in the middle of. Uncle Amyntas also told me that the saplings that we use for these executions are taken from the same trees used by the Romans to crucify their opponents during their occupation of Jerusalem. I didn't understand the significance of this until Aisling told me the story of how Jesus of Nazareth, the Biblical Son of God was crucified by the Romans, and a sapling of the tree his cross was made of was brought back to our lands in secret. Uncle's grandfather planted that sapling in this grove, and it grew to be the tree which we took a sapling from and used in Chiyoko's interment today." Ichigo quietly says to the young Pawn.

When Issei's face shows confusion, Ichigo places a hand on the Pawn's shoulder. "Ask Asia to tell you the story of Jesus's crucifixion when we return to Isehara. It is a story from Christianity, something you and I probably don't believe in. Even now I still maintain my Shinto and Buddhist roots; despite Kaa-chan's family, my beliefs are still firmly rooted in Japan. It's probably why I don't and won't have an issue, now that I think about it, with being in charge of the Skeleton Tower, since it will allow me some leeway in what happens to the Sinners from now on. Not even the Tower will threaten the 'Balance'."

"When you say 'balance', why do you say it the way you do Ichigo-senpai? You make it sound different from normal usage." Issei asks as he looks at the older Devil curiously.

Byakuya is the one who answers, the former Captain still staring blankly at the newly rooted grave of his wife's murderer. "Shinigami also have another name by which we are known, Issei. We are called the 'Balancers', as it is we who maintain the delicate balance between the realms of the living and the dead. Without that balance, the worlds would collapse upon each other and all of existence would cease to be. That is why we fought several wars with the Quincy: their method of killing Hollows threatened that balance. A Shinigami's Zanpakutō purifies a Hollow's soul, returning it to the Cycle of Life, but a Quincy's arrow destroys the Hollow and every soul that was consumed by it forever. Countless souls were destroyed by Quincy over the years they have lived, but that will no longer be an issue as the last two true Quincy have vowed never to use their power to destroy a Hollow again."

As Issei considers this information, Ichigo sees Yoruichi and the Elves walking up to join them. "It's already been a very long and stressful weekend Ichigo, so let's call it a day and go home. You, Issei and Rukia need to get ready for school tomorrow, and I have to get your first test ready." The purple-haired werecat informs them.

Two despairing moans answer the smiling woman as she slaps a hand playfully on Ichigo's shoulder, the magic that will transport them back to the Estate already beginning to glow under their feet. "Besides, don't you and Rias have a couple of things to 'break-in' tonight?"



Sahiye Shihōin slowly blinks her eyes open and tries to move, only to find herself strapped to a large blocky chair made of Seki-Seki stone with Reiatsu suppressing cuffs shackling her wrists, waist and ankles. Struggling against her restraints, she whips her head up towards the door as it begins to swing outwards. Ready to scream at whomever is entering, her voice dies in her throat when she sees who is in the doorway. A Shinigami that she had hoped she would never have to meet blocks the light from the hallway as he enters the room, his former Lieutenant moving to stand next to him.

"No…no! Not you!" She screams as she realizes exactly how Captain Suì-Fēng intends to extract the rest of her confession.

"It pleases me to see that you still remember me, Sahiye Shihōin. This will make things easier for Lieutenant Ushōda and me." Tessai Tsukabishi remarks calmly as he and Hachigen Ushōda step aside, revealing the Captain of Squad Two as she takes her place between the two Kidō masters, a grin on her lips as she speaks to the bound prisoner.

"Don't worry Sahiye; you won't be alone for long. Captain Komamura is now carrying out his orders for those already sequestered in their private rooms of the Seijōtōkyorin. Soon, you and your fellow conspirators will be officially stripped of your ranks and privileges, by order of the Soul King. For the first time in my life, I wish I could be in the same room as Kisuke Urahara as he plays your recording of your partial confession made in the Underworld. Alas, this will have to do for now. Gentlemen, if you may, let us begin the rebuilding of Soul Society starting with this piece of trash."

The two members of the Onmitsukidō standing guard outside the room slowly close the door behind them, ignoring the frantic screams and pleas for mercy that pierce the air before they are silenced by the door clicking shut.


Iwao Kuchiki snarls as his meditation is interrupted by the door to his room suddenly opening. Standing to his feet, he is ready to berate his Shinigami guards for disturbing him, only to step back in shock when when he sees the large fox Captain of Squad Seven enters the room, several members of Squad Seven and Squad Two following behind him.

"A-Am I finally free to leave!? I demand an immediate meeting with Head Captain Yamamoto to protest my incarceration!" The Kuchiki noble manages to snarl out, his pride overwhelming his caution after being held against his will for nearly a week.

The Yōkai Captain's muzzle curls up in a vicious grin as he motions for the Squad Two Shinigami to move forward, his deep voice crushing the embers of Iwao's rage and filling the member of Central Forty-Six with dread as he speaks. "No Iwao. You are being transferred from our custody into that of Squad Two for interrogation regarding the numerous crimes committed by you, your Clan and this once esteemed body of nobles. The next time I or any other Shinigami outside of Squad Two will see you, will hopefully be on the day you are scheduled for execution. Take him and remove his corrupted presence from here."

"Hai!" The members of the Punishment squad immediately step forward and slap Reiatsu-suppressing cuffs onto Iwao Kuchiki's wrists, one of the masked Shinigami speaking as he does so. "By order of Head Captain Yamamoto and Squad Zero Captain Nimaiya, Iwao Kuchiki is hereby placed under arrest for treason. As of this moment, you are no longer a member of Central Forty-Six, all your rights of nobility have been rescinded, and by order of Ginrei Kuchiki, Acting Head of the Kuchiki Clan, you are no longer allowed to refer to yourself as a member of the Kuchiki Clan."

"No…no…no…NO!" Iwao screams as he is dragged from his room by the members of Squad Two and Seven, Captain Komamura speaking as he moves aside for the other members of Squad Two to enter. "Tell your Fourth Seat that she may begin her searches of their rooms, starting with this one."


In the Seventy-Eighth Western District of the Rukongai, a middle-aged looking woman and a boy looking no older than fifteen are sitting down for a simple meal of rice and pork when the woman jumps to her feet and stands in front of the startled boy, detecting numerous Reiatsu signatures suddenly surrounding their home. Sliding her Zanpakutō out from its holder on her waist, she readies herself to fight to the death to protect the boy with her as she faces the door of their home. However, she is thrown into confusion when a voice she hasn't heard from in a hundred years calls out loudly from outside.

"Hey, skanky whore, ya gonna invite me in!?"

Aimi Shihōin screams back reflexively at Kūkaku Shiba as she throws the door open. "You bitch! I told you I had nothing to do with…with…"

Her voice falters as she takes in the sight of Kūkaku Shiba, but not looking like the woman she remembers last seeing her as. The person before her has two complete and whole arms, the once missing arm holding a familiar pipe in its hand, the other hand resting casually on her hip. Aimi's Zanpakutō snaps out without hesitation, stopping just short of decapitating the woman, who barely flicks her eyes at the katana resting against her neck, nor does she bat an eyelash at the fugitive Shihōin woman who hisses out her threat.

"I don't know who you are, but you are not Kūkaku Shiba! Give me one reason, one, why I shouldn't behead you for using her face to deceive me!?"

The 'imposter' takes a puff from her pipe. "Easy, Yoruichi would kick your ass for killing her best friend. The best friend who volunteered to bring you back to Seireitei under the protection of the Shiba Clan, Squad One and the Royal Guards so you can meet with the Head Captain after he returns from the Royal Realm. Also, you did steal Makoto from me, which is why you are a whore; thanks for that by the way. It turns out he wasn't what either of us thought he was, so he and a large number of his noble buddies are currently being detained and taken to Squad Two for interrogation."

Golden orbs widen as the current head of the Shiba Clan continues speaking, and when she stops they stare at her in disbelief. "It…it really is you Kūkaku? But how!? And what the hell is going on!? The last time I saw a member of the Onmitsukidō who wasn't trying to kill us was when Kisuke Urahara helped us get away..."

Kūkaku reaches up and gently pushes Aimi's Zanpakutō away from her throat. "Things have changed since we last spoke, Aimi. A lot of things. I'll tell you all about them as we return to Seireitei and speak to the Head Captain."

Hesitating, the Shihōin woman finally sheathes her Zanpakutō and turns to look back into her home. Seeing worried eyes peeking out from the doorway, she motions for the person still hiding inside to come out. "It's okay Shin'ichi, we can trust her. She's an old friend and she wouldn't lie to me."

When the door opens to reveal a wary-looking young boy, Kūkaku begins to laugh lightly as she turns back to her escort of Onmitsukidō and speaks to them. "Better let the party looking for Shin'ichi Kuchiki know that we have found the Kuchiki Clan's next leader alive and well. Kisuke's information on his possible whereabouts were right on target, it seems."

"What!?" Both nobles yell, not having expected either of that.

Grinning, Kūkaku quickly updates them of the latest news. "Head Captain Yamamoto is on his way to see the Soul King so that he can gain the permission to remove the cancer that infests Seireitei once and for all. Both of you have been chosen to help him bring much needed change to Soul Society as a whole. You, Aimi Shihōin, are needed to help form the new government; and you, Shin'ichi Kuchiki, are going to be the next head of the Kuchiki Clan. Ginrei Kuchiki has decided to come out of retirement to become your mentor, so you can take over the Kuchiki Clan as quickly as you can. Byakuya recommended you once he found out that you were still alive and not dead, as was reported to the Kuchiki Elders who had arranged for your assassination, since they wanted you removed from the line of succession."

Rubbing her temple in frustration, Aimi Shihōin can't help but ask once again. "Just what the hell has been going on?"

The Shiba Clan Head drapes her arm around Aimi's shoulders. "Funny thing about Hell, it isn't the place we thought it was. I'll show you once things settle down. I'm sure my cousin won't mind letting you stay a week or two with him and Yoruichi in their Estate; considering Yoruichi is now the Head of Household for the Naberius Clan, one of the Seventy-Two Pillars of Hell, and is seen as the mother figure to Ichigo Naberius, the Hero of the Winter War and the newest Naberius Lord, it should be a snap for her to arrange. So, are you coming or what?" The grinning noble asks her friend as she stares at their two faces expectantly.

Aimi is the first to recover, turning to the young man she has protected ever since Kisuke Urahara placed him in her care over one hundred and twenty-five years ago. Seeing him nod in determination, she turns back to face Kūkaku. "I'm pretty sure you are joking, but I'll humor you and listen to your tale anyway."

Kūkaku gives her a deadpan look. "I'm not joking Aimi. The events that preceded the Winter War began shortly after I was introduced to my younger cousin, then ended up with him becoming a Noble of the Underworld. I'm sure even you guys have heard of him, the Ryoka known as Ichigo Kurosaki?"

"You mean the Ryoka who invaded Seireitei and exposed Captain Aizen for the traitor he was?" The young Kuchiki male asks as he wraps his arms around the waist of his Shihōin protector, preparing for their high speed return to Seireitei.

"Yep, the one and only Ichigo Kurosaki, who is not only my long-lost cousin but the newest Head of the Naberius Clan in the Underworld." Kūkaku laughs out just as they launch themselves into Shunpo, the Onmitsukidō operatives around them following in a defensive escort formation. Aimi's face scrunches up when she finally realizes why the name of Naberius sounds so familiar to her.

"Kūkaku, just what have you gotten yourself involved with!?"


Standing before his father, Ichigo gives the older Shiba male a tight hug. "Don't be a stranger Goat-Chin. You can use the train to get to Isehara or just send a Hell Butterfly to me, and one of us will come and get you."

Isshin steps away from his son, patting his shoulder and smiling in return, before picking up his bags. "I'll be pretty busy with the clinic, though your great-grandfather has hired two Devils to help me out so I should be fine. I'm sure my patients will be anxious to see me once again, now that my unexpected holiday is over with."

Turning to the other man returning to Karakura, Ichigo extends his hand to him. "I'll be sure to give you warning if I can Uncle Ryūken."

"I appreciate it Ichigo." The elder Quincy says with a roll of his eyes as he takes his young nephew's hand and shakes it firmly. "I still can't believe that this is what they agreed to. I guess I can't complain too much, at least they are not Shinigami."

"Hey!" Isshin shouts as Kimi and Nia take their places on either side of the two older men. "You do realize Masaki picked me right!"

"I do. And look at what it got me, you as an in-law, thankfully now a former in-law."

"Get them out of here before Goat-Chin can bitch anymore." Ichigo says quickly to his two bodyguards as he steps away from the magic circles that form beneath them.

The last thing Ichigo sees is Isshin complaining while Ryūken smirks at him, the Elven twins carrying out their young Lord's command. Once the light dies down, the newest Naberius Lord turns towards his great-grandfather, Yoruichi and Merti and walks over to them. Stopping before Amyntas, Ichigo extends his hand as he speaks.

"Thank you for everything Uncle. This has been one of the happiest and strangest weekends I've ever had in my entire life."

Amyntas smiles as he returns his great-grandson's handshake. "Remember to read the diaries I gave you Ichigo. Once you feel you are ready, I'll escort you for your first foray into the Skeleton Tower."

"What diaries?" Yoruichi asks them curiously.

Amyntas turns to look at his Head of Household and answers her with a smile. "Since the beginning of our tenure as the Wardens of the Sinners, each leader of the Naberius has written down their personal observations of what they did when they first entered the Skeleton Tower. They believed it would help ease the burdens of their future successors in their dealings with the Tower and its inhabitants that have only grown over the millennia. I gave Ichigo a copy of every diary that has been written since my grandfather became the first Naberius to command the Skeleton Tower. I've even made a copy for you to read Yoruichi, so you and Merti can assist Ichigo and Rias for the day I step down and leave it to them."

"Thank you as well Amyntas." Yoruichi says as she gives him a quick peck on the cheek before stepping towards Ichigo, Merti already with them. "I'll be back tomorrow night with Merti and Tatianna to discuss our options for what we can send to Soul Society."

Amyntas smiles as he waves goodbye, informs them that he'll send a message to Rias not to worry about their short delay.

"Tell her I will see her soon Ichigo." The Naberius Lord calls out before the three of them disappear in a circle of magic. Turning back to face the remaining Devils of his Clan, Amyntas Naberius looks over the eager group of Devils, a grim expression on his face. "Now we must prepare ourselves. They know I have heirs, and they will seek them out. This time, we will be ready for them."

As one, the assembly of Devils, Elves, and reincarnated Mythical beings roar out their agreement.


Yoruichi and Merti are both surprised when they find themselves not anywhere near their home in Isehara, though it only takes the former Shinigami assassin several seconds to realize where they are. It is a place she hasn't visited since they all gathered to mourn Masaki's passing on that sad day.

"Ichigo?" Yoruichi looks for her adoptive son and sees him beginning to make the walk up the small hill. Quickly catching up to him, she slips her arm through his and gives his arm a comforting squeeze.

The orange-haired Devil hybrid smiles sadly at her, before glances back at Merti and motioning for her to take his other arm. "I haven't seen her in over a year, Yoruichi; I think I owe it to her to let her know I am doing okay, and to fill her in on what I've been doing, don't you think?"

Merti quickly grasps who Ichigo is talking about and where they are heading, and she links her arm tightly with Ichigo's as well. "This is where Lady Masaki is buried?"

Ichigo nods at her solemnly. "Yes Merti, I figure you should meet her finally, even if it is only to see her grave. You are family to me, so that is why I wanted you here with Yoruichi and me, so she can finally meet you. Great-grandfather plans on visiting soon, but today I wanted us to come here alone."

Neither woman speak as they let Ichigo guide them to the place that holds the body of the woman who gave her life to save him from Grand Fisher. The long-lost granddaughter of Amyntas Naberius, who lived and died without ever knowing of her true heritage. As they approach the grave, Merti feels her eyes watering as she stops in front of the well cared for marker, engraved with the name of Masaki Kurosaki and the dates of her birth and death; it is the only writing that exists on the smooth stone surface. She slips her arms away from Ichigo, as does Yoruichi so they can both pay their respects to Masaki, the woman who had shaped Ichigo's life with her death. Ichigo slaps his hands together as he kneels down in front of his mother's grave, his eyes filled with sadness and wistful longing.

"Hello Kaa-chan. I have so much to tell you…"


AN: Well, first off, I apologize for the seriously long delay in getting this chapter out. I know many of you remember the fiasco from last year around this time. Well that was only one of the many problems I faced since that time, mostly personal again. I have been working on this chapter for quite a while now, but I was trying so hard to delay it until I could fill you all in on what me and regfurby have been doing. We have been re-editing every chapter from 1 to 23. If you want to see what we have done, I've been slowly posting my stories on AO3 under the same name. So, there you have it.

Liam & regfurby.


Response to Reviews:

Perseus Ruby Sendou: I will probably concentrate on all new material in regards to the DxD timeline. If anything, I will touch upon canonical material or change them because of how the plot has transpired up to this point with the inclusion of the Bleach universe.

Cloud Ex-SOLDIER: Hopefully you have seen a glimpse of what is to come from this chapter in regards to Soul Society.

For everyone else, I thank you for your continued support of reading this story. As a last bit of news, I am currently working on a possible double chapter release for A Ripple in the Pattern as well as good sized chunks for several of my other stories and maybe a new story that is an alternate version of Naberius Heir, one in which Ichigo learns who he is during the original time line that starts with the Grand Fisher attack on Ichigo and Masaki. Can't wait to read what you guys think of that idea.