Disclaimer: I still do not own anything from Bleach
Yes, it isn't a Saturday. It's a Monday. I'm well aware, but I couldn't leave my story at just one measly chapter that didn't even have the main action going on. It just felt wrong, so here's an early upload. I should still be on schedule for next Saturday, so this isn't replacing that or anything.
Anyway, this bit is during Ichigo's battle with Aizen in the Soul Society, when Aizen transforms into a butterfly. Enjoy!
Aizen stood before Ichigo in all his twisted glory, his wings spread wide and his purple eyes glaring. Ichigo had effortlessly blocked Aizen's swing, but now the two were standing still, momentarily paused in the eye of the storm of battle.
"What an odd coincidence," Aizen said calmly, his white sword pressed against Ichigo's black daito while the two stared each other down. "It seems we have both reached a similar evolution, which I see as the truest form of the Zanpakutō. Through introspection, our right arms have almost completely fused with our Zanpakutō."
Aizen smirked, seeming to find the thought amusing, despite the tension that seemed to almost thicken the air.
"What's so funny?" Ichigo asked, his voice containing slight notes of annoyance, as if he found the whole affair boring. His amber eyes never showed even a flicker of emotion other than sheer determination.
"You know, I just realized something while we clashed," Aizen replied, still smirking, "it's clear your evolution and mine are at very different levels. If I decide to, I have the power to shatter your Zanpakutō with one swing!"
Abruptly, Aizen disengaged and brought his sword back, preparing to end Ichigo's futile resistance.
Ichigo's expression remained unchanged, his bright orange hair swaying slightly in the breeze. Then, as Aizen's sword came down, Ichigo's eyes narrowed just fractionally, and the substitute shinigami brought up his hand and caught Aizen's blow with absolutely no trouble at all.
Aizen's expression went from confident to shocked in less time than it took for the energy of his attack to pass Ichigo without hurting him.
Behind him, Ichigo could hear the earth roaring as the ground split and was blown away in pieces from the force of Aizen's attack. However, Ichigo's expression and demeanor remained unchanged, even as he held Aizen's blade in his bare hand.
Impossible, Aizen thought, unable to believe what he was seeing. He caught it? I could understand moving out of the way, although with my sword coming at him at such a speed he shouldn't even be able to do that. By just dodging my slash, he would've eliminated the risk of getting hurt, but he chose to do this instead? He caught it with his bare hand!
"You look surprised," Ichigo commented, the slightest notes of sarcasm audible as he spoke. "Was it really such a mind-blowing thing to you? Yes, I did catch your sword." Ichigo paused for a moment, and Aizen felt the first tremor of - no, it's not fear, it's - confusion reverberate through his body. "Are you scared," Ichigo queried softly, "that something you can't comprehend happened right before your eyes, and you couldn't stop it?"
Aizen hesitated, and then his confidence flowed back as he realized that this boy, this human, was attempting to play mind games with him. He chuckled, eyes narrowing. Ichigo, seeing this, glanced up to look Aizen in the eyes.
"Very funny, Ichigo Kurosaki." Aizen stated, pulling his sword out of Ichigo's hand and jumping away from his opponent. "'Something I can't comprehend or stop', you say? Don't talk as if you've already won this fight. What just happened was simply a moment where your physical strength temporarily exceeded mine. Miracles like that do happen from time to time, but I am a being that surpasses even the miraculous. I will make sure that an anomaly like that never happens again by crushing your bones in Kidō!"
Even as Aizen was enveloped in purple spirit energy, Ichigo maintained his uncaring expression. He didn't move, just watched Aizen talk himself out with hard eyes.
"Oozing crest of corruption," Aizen intoned, raising one hand to the sky, "the arrogant vessel of madness, deny the seething urge to let things stun and flicker. Disrupt the sleep, crawling princes of iron, the eternally self-destructing ball of mud, unite, repulse, fill the earth, and know your own powerlessness! Hadō number ninety, Kurohitsugi!" As he spoke, Aizen's spiritual pressure gradually increased, as did the amount of visible purple spirit energy around him. When he spoke the final words, black boxes topped with spear-like protrusions began to rise out of the ground. Aizen continued speaking, reveling in his own power.
"A full incantation Kurohitsugi, performed by one who transcends both hollow and soul reaper; its power unleashes enough gravity to warp time and space, the likes of which you could never even hope to comprehend! Perish, Ichigo Kurosaki!"
Ichigo was surrounded by black walls, which were quickly engulfing him. He did not move or even blink, just watched. Aizen's maniacal grin twisted his face as the demented being imprisoned his opponent.
Even as the black closed in around him, Ichigo stayed completely still, until he was completely covered.
As soon as the creation was complete, the devastating spiritual pressure lifted and the darkness fled from the sky. Aizen stood before a massive black structure that stretched to the clouds, completely hiding Ichigo Kurosaki. Slowly, a smirk appeared on Aizen's features.
Before Aizen could turn away, he sensed a sudden change in the spiritual energy around him. As he watched, the Kurohitsugi, one of the most powerful Hadō spells, was shattered by a single swipe of Ichigo's arm. Black shards rained down on a dumbstruck Aizen while Ichigo remained an island of calm.
"You still haven't realized it, have you?" Ichigo said, his hair obscuring his eyes. "The power I have is greater than the power you possess even right now." Finishing that statement, Ichigo began to walk towards Aizen, who was incapable of even speaking for a few moments.
"That huge force," Ichigo continued, "that erased that entire mountain?" Aizen remembered that; remembered how exhilarating it felt to know his own strength was growing and multiplying even faster than he had expected. "That-" Aizen's body went cold- "was my sword."
Aizen's eyes went wide as the sheer meaning of that simple statement struck him and he could not speak.
"Now it's my turn, Aizen."
Faster than Aizen could even blink, Ichigo launched himself at him, aimed at one particular target, one that Aizen had left too open, too vulnerable in his ecstasy.
Ichigo's pitch black Zanpakutō, Tensa Zangetsu, sliced its target with terrible accuracy before Aizen could hope to block the blow or even move.
A single sound echoed throughout the decimated landscape, one that caused Aizen's thoughts to momentarily halt.
The silence that followed was deafening.
"NO!" Aizen suddenly yelled, forcing an unperturbed Ichigo away and retreating rapidly, staring down in shock at where the Hōgyoku was suspended in his chest. There, barely visible on the object's surface, was the tiniest crack. "It's not possible," Aizen whispered, his whole body trembling. "It's not possible! A mere human like you could never damage the Hōgyoku! It's inconceivable!"
"What an odd reaction," Ichigo called, something approaching satisfaction coating his words. "When I moved away from you in our last battle, you stopped and asked me why. Now you're doing the exact same thing. So let me ask you the same question, Aizen." Ichigo looked up at the winged man, his eyes flashing. "Why did you back away just now?
"I get it now," Aizen hissed back. "You're pleased that you stopped my sword, aren't you?" His sword began shaking in his hand. "I assume, that you're pleased that you overcame my Kidō. I suppose that you're equally pleased that you put a tiny mark on my Hōgyoku!"
Ichigo watched dispassionately as Aizen worked himself up, though his grip on his Zanpakutō tightened just barely.
"Well don't be so full of yourself, human!" Aizen yelled, throwing his head back as his spirit energy flared and the third, vertical eye on his forehead opened with a sick noise. For a moment, nothing else happened besides a tiny stream of blood dripping down Aizen's face. However, cracks rapidly spread through Aizen's features as the man's head fell to one side as if his neck had been broken. Aizen's eyes flared and Ichigo was buffeted by a massive blast of wind and purple Reiatsu as dust was blown into the air. Aizen was enveloped in a glowing purple beam of Reiatsu, and his yelling was slowly building in volume.
Aizen leaned forward, clutching his face as his back split open with an explosion of blood, accompanied by white heads on stalks erupting out of the same area, mouths opening and closing. The whole pillar of Reiatsu suddenly solidified, obscuring the ex-captain, and then cracked like glass, with blood forcibly pouring out of each crack. Then the entire thing simply imploded, sending a wave of blood and fading Reiatsu to the ground.
A changed Aizen was revealed, blood sliding off of his six white wings, each of which contained one white head at midlength and a strange eye. Aizen's hair had grown longer, and as Ichigo watched the thing stand up, he could see that a second and third hole had opened beneath the one that contained the glowing blue Hōgyoku. Aizen's face was that of a hollow, with pointed teeth, black skin, and three eyes, the top one being white, a stark contrast of the black on his head, shoulders, lower arms and legs.
When Aizen spoke, his voice was raspier, grating on Ichigo's ears.
"Yes, it's true. This is an inexcusable breach, isn't it, Hōgyoku, that I, with my power, should allow a human to get the better of me."
As Aizen finished with his statement, one of his wings flared, and by that head's mouth a purple ball of spirit energy quickly formed. The head launched it at Ichigo, who still hadn't moved from his position.
The resulting explosion shattered several nearby mountains as a red ball of sheer destructive power formed, reducing the already damaged landscape into something completely unrecognizable. The blast sent up a mushroom cloud and the shockwaves even reached Karakura Town, making those that were conscious shield themselves from dust and flying debris.
A giant pillar of flame completely enveloped where Ichigo had been standing, obscuring him from sight as Aizen slowly walked towards it, the two eyes located on his lower wings wide open, the white irises staring.
Seeing a surviving Ichigo as the flames cleared, Aizen spoke.
"I see you were able to withstand my attack with very little damage. However, your left arm is no longer useful." True to Aizen's word, Ichigo's left arm was red and blistering from the blow it had just taken. Launching himself at the injured boy, Aizen propelled both himself and Ichigo out of the flames and held Ichigo in the air as his wings spread around the substitute shinigami, all of the eyes - one on each wing - opening as the heads opened their mouths. A ring of concentrated purple Reiatsu formed around Ichigo, who appeared to be unconscious. The spirit energy that pulsed from the ring Aizen created quickly put out the remaining flames, revealing the massive crater that the attack had made. As the smoke cleared, three white rings became visible. One was directly around Ichigo, another, larger one located slightly higher, and the largest above that.
"Can you hear me, Ichigo Kurosaki?" Aizen asked condescendingly. "I have to give you credit; for one brief moment you broke the boundary between hollow and soul reaper to become a transcendent being, but that power is no more! It has completely dissipated and not a trace of it remains. You're not even worth trying to understand anymore; now it's my turn! I am the true transcendent being who caused your death! I must say, it will be quite a victory; by eliminating you I will completely break free from soul reapers and hollows alike!" Tightening his grip, Aizen declared, "It's over, Ichigo Kurosaki!"
"Is it, Aizen?" Ichigo managed over the hand around his throat. Shifting so that he could look Aizen in the eye and show him how completely unconcerned he was, Ichigo said quietly, "This the best you can do?"
Moving more quickly than any eye could follow, Ichigo struck with Tensa Zangetsu, hitting Aizen right where the Hōgyoku hovered. With a scream like a thousand suns going supernova, the Hōgyoku split as Ichigo's sword was lodged into it. Aizen cried out as purple spirit energy enveloped both him and Ichigo, shooting off in all directions as the elements responded to the situation, calling up a fierce gale that ripped at the air. The three white rings imploded, sending shards of solidified spirit energy flying through the sky.
A pillar of Reiatsu shot up into the clouds, purple with flickers of black outlined in red. The two figures were completely obscured as the Hōgyoku screamed, taking back all of the spirit energy it had granted its master to heal itself.
Eyes narrowed and teeth clenched, Ichigo tried to remove his Zanpakutō from the broken crystal, but found that he could not, even with all of his strength. Aizen desperately clutched at Ichigo's blade, but neither of the two could separate the blade and crystal.
More and more spirit energy poured out, reaching a point of blinding intensity.
For one heart-stopping moment, there was a peace, a stillness that completely froze everything, but then everything was enveloped in the Hōgyoku and Aizen's wild Reiatsu.
A massive explosion, not matching Aizen's attacks in size but dwarfing them in intensity, ripped through the area, completely obliterating anything left standing from the encounter and only stopping a few meters away from Karakura Town, though spirit energy still flew through the streets, knocking anyone not already unconscious out cold. In the center of the explosion, Ichigo and Aizen still faced off, though the latter was beginning to fade away.
Ichigo, nearly blind from the brightness of the surrounding Reiatsu, was still able to watch as a panicking Aizen began to fall to pieces. The explosion was rapidly engulfing Aizen's wings, breaking them away from Aizen's twisted body and becoming lost in the light. It felt like minutes, but mere moments later Aizen himself was disintegrating like sand, blowing away in the chaos of the Hōgyoku's screams.
As darkness began to encroach on Ichigo's vision, he could hear something in the back of his mind.
It sounded like someone yelling his name, but it quickly turned to pain cries that were swallowed up by the roaring explosion.
Agony the likes of which Ichigo had never experienced before suddenly engulfed Ichigo's body, causing the previously calm boy to yell in pain. As black, purple, and white Reiatsu swirled around him, Ichigo felt like his body was being ripped in two. The screaming in his mind returned, louder than ever, and for a moment Ichigo could feel something being pulled out of him by the Hōgyoku, but then his senses shut down from the fire tearing through his veins.
Skin red and blistering, Ichigo finally succumbed to unconsciousness and fell, the pieces of chain on his arm breaking link by link to be absorbed by the fading spirit energy around it.
Beside him, another being fell, a similar chain also breaking.
When the energy dissipated, an unsettling silence blanketed the area.
Tatsuki Arisawa groaned, feeling a painful throbbing in her head. Opening her eyes, she saw that she was face down on pavement. While she tried to think of what had happened, she slowly pushed herself into a sitting position. There was odd warmth on her forehead, and, reaching up, she felt wetness. When she looked at her fingers, Tatsuki saw blood coating the tips.
When did I hurt myself? She wondered groggily, blinking.
Suddenly, Tatsuki became aware of other people making pained noises around her. The fogginess fleeing from her mind, Tatsuki looked at her surroundings. She saw that she was still in Karakura Town.
Keigo Asano, Chizuru Honshō, Don Kanonji, Mizuiro Kojima, and that weird Afro guy were all around Tatsuki, groaning.
Oh, right. The guy's name is Zennosuke Kurumadani. Mr. Afro or whatever.
Each of the people was slowly getting up. Tatsuki immediately crawled over to Chizuru, whose glasses were slightly cracked.
"Hey," Tatsuki gasped, her voice raw, "you okay?"
Chizuru glanced up at the girl above her and nodded mutely.
"I'm okay too," a weak voice called. Tatsuki looked over at Keigo as he flipped onto his back and stared up at the bright blue sky.
"I knew you were okay," Tatsuki snapped. "That's why I didn't ask you!"
"Yo, what happened here, yo?" Don Kanonji asked, being the first to stand up and peer around. "I don't sense anymore spiritual energy, like, at all."
At Don Kanonji's words, Tatsuki's memories came flooding back. She remembered her overwhelming fear, her inability to move as the man in white came closer, and then that soul reaper dying, and then Ichigo-
"Oh my god," Tatsuki whispered, her eyes shooting wide open. "Ichigo!"
"Ichigo?" Chizuru repeated, pushing herself to her feet. Tatsuki followed suit, and the two girls steadied themselves while their world spun. Keigo and Mizuiro were doing the same thing, and the soul reaper was still on the ground, moaning.
Tatsuki, running out of patience, stalked over to the afro guy and kicked him hard in the stomach, sending him rolling away.
"Tatsuki, what the hell was that for?" Keigo called, leaning heavily on Mizuiro. Tatsuki ignored him, and instead crossed her arms while the shinigami recovered.
The soul reaper coughed up a small spray of blood, but moments later he had jumped to his feet.
"Young lady," he started, "that was entirely unnecessary and completely uncalled for in this situation. In fact, if you should have kicked anyone you needed to kick- ow!"
The Afro shinigami was interrupted by Tatsuki's fist to his face, which sent him reeling.
"He talks too much," Mizuiro commented, habitually pulling out a small device. Seeing that it was cracked and useless, he put it back in one of his many pockets. "Keigo, could you stop leaning on me so much? You're going to push me over."
"Sorry!" Keigo snapped back. "It's not like I'm seriously injured or anything! I think I'll just go run a marathon and-"
Keigo Asano abruptly stopped as a sound drifted over to the group.
Someone was crying.
Instantly, everyone's attention switched to a slab of rubble. There, two soul reapers lay. One was an exceedingly attractive woman with bright red hair, and the other was a man with white hair and a serious wound.
The woman was sobbing, clutching the man.
"Gin," she whispered, her voice cracking, "Gin! Wake up, please!" The woman's voice fell back to incoherent sobs while tears streaked down her face. Her hair fell over the man's face, but it was clear even then that the man would not be getting up.
Tatsuki, Keigo, Chizuru, Zennosuke, and Mizuiro were all frozen in place by the scene before them. Even Don Kanonji was still.
For a minute, no one dared to move, not willing to interrupt the woman's grief. Eventually, however, the cries died down to silence. Slowly, the woman disengaged from the man beneath her and stood up, staggering slightly. The amount of despair in her face and body language sent a pang through Tatsuki's chest, and even Chizuru's eyes were watering.
Tatsuki blinked, and the soul reaper was next to her, standing with her hands clenched by her sides. Her hair obscured her eyes and her voice was shaky when she spoke.
"We should find Kurosaki," she stated, just loud enough for those assembled to hear.
"What about-" Keigo started, looking at the unconscious man, but Mizuiro slapped a hand over his mouth before Keigo could finish his statement.
"I don't mean to be rude, lady," Don Kanonji said, "but may I inquire what your name is?"
The woman took a few seconds to reply.
"My name . . . is Rangiku Matsumoto. I am the lieutenant of the Tenth Division of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads." She raised her head, pride flashing across her face despite how broken she looked. Her bright blue eyes were not the eyes of someone about to give up, though she glanced at the man she was about to leave behind and some of her bravado vanished.
"You're a soul reaper, right?" Tatsuki asked quietly, holding her arms. Rangiku nodded, and it was plain that she was steeling herself.
"Yes. However, we need to save the questions for later. Right now, we should find Ichigo."
"How do we know that the 'substitute soul reaper' even won?" Mr. Afro asked, his bushy brows drawn together. Matsumoto fixed him with a glare so strong it made him take a physical step back.
"Because he isn't an ignorant slacker like you," she hissed dangerously, leaning forward and revealing her substantial cleavage. Mr. Afro reddened considerably and backed off.
"Guys?" Chizuru said quietly, hugging herself. "Do you think that Ichigo's okay?"
"Well, we're not dead," Mizuiro replied amiably, somehow being calmer than anyone else present, "so I'd say the odds that he won are pretty high."
"Still," Chizuru pressed, "we shouldn't just be standing here."
"I agree!" Keigo announced. "We should head over to where he is!"
"Which is . . . where?" Tatsuki asked, raising an eyebrow.
"He went far away," a new voice coughed. Everyone turned and saw a man dressed like a soul reaper slowly walking over, holding his side and limping slightly. He vaguely resembled Ichigo.
"Isshin?" Matsumoto whispered, her eyes going wide. Don Kanonji's eyes darted between the two.
"Yo, is there something I missed?" He asked of no one, only to be ignored by everyone.
"Rangiku Matsumoto," Isshin said warmly, despite how exhausted he looked. "It's been a while. Though, could we save the reunion for later?" A serious look that Tatsuki didn't recognize had come over Ichigo's father's face. "I have to get my son."
Despite how many questions were swirling through Tatsuki's mind, she trusted Ichigo's father.
"He's right," she announced, turning to the others. "We have to make sure that Ichigo's alright before we do anything else." There were various nods of agreement from the assembled humans and the two soul reapers.
"Matsumoto," Isshin whispered to his former lieutenant as they trailed behind the others, "the medical corps is coming. Gin will be in good hands."
Rangiku nodded gratefully, not saying a word.
Tatsuki was finding it difficult to walk. After leaving Karakura Town, the terrain had gotten considerably rougher.
"It's like someone took a knife and sliced up the planet," Keigo was saying to Mizuiro. Keigo then nearly fell, but Don Kanonji caught him.
"Watch where you're goin', kid."
Keigo's face reddened and he quickly walked ahead.
After what felt like hours, the group finally made it to an area that was so devastated the original landscape was unimaginable in comparison to the destruction clearly visible.
"There!" Chizuru called, pointing ahead. "There's a huge crater!"
Without needing further prodding, everyone picked up the pace. Even Isshin and Rangiku, who were injured, managed a half-jog.
When Tatsuki made it to the top, her hand flew to her mouth while her eyes grew to the size of saucers.
"Ichigo," she whispered. As the others were making it to the edge of the crater, Tatsuki was sliding down, not caring about how she cut her hands on the side to keep her balance. "Ichigo!"
There was that stupid, dumb, impulsive boy she'd always known laying at the center of the giant hole in the ground, face down and with a giant, cleaver-like sword a foot or so away from his outstretched right hand. He was wearing a now-familiar shihakushō, but it was ripped and torn. Even from a distance, Tatsuki could see that he was seriously injured.
There was no sign of the creepy other man who looked like a butterfly.
Soon, everyone had made it to Ichigo's side.
"Is he conscious?" Someone asked.
"No," someone else replied.
"He's burned," Mizuiro noted.
"And bleeding," Keigo added, worry written all over his usually carefree face.
"He'll be fine," Isshin muttered, sounding almost like he was reassuring himself.
"Hey, Ichigo's father dude!"
Isshin looked up and saw Don Kanonji crouched next to some object on the ground. Instantly, Isshin was pushing Don Kanonji away from it.
"Don't touch that!" He hissed.
This is the Hōgyoku, Isshin thought worriedly, looking at the strange, smooth, crystalline shape before him. Where's Aizen?
Carefully, Isshin ripped off a piece of cloth and wrapped the undamaged Hōgyoku in it, and then pocketed the whole bundle. He would let Kisuke Urahara handle it; he was more qualified. In the meantime, he needed to tend to his son.
Isshin kneeled next to Ichigo and examined his son critically.
"His Reiatsu levels are at their normally ridiculously high levels," Rangiku noted, her voice strained. "Minus his physical injuries, he seems fine."
"I'm not so sure," Isshin muttered. "There's something more at play here. Do you sense anything odd?"
Rangiku paused and closed her eyes, going completely still for a moment.
Suddenly, her breath caught in her throat and she coughed, eyes flying wide open.
"That spiritual pressure," she managed. "It's . . ."
"Like Ichigo's," Isshin clarified grimly. "But the opposite."
"Uh, guys?" Keigo yelled from a ways away, near a large boulder. "There's another dude here! And he's white!"
Quick note (7/2/14): Yes, I know that the Hōgyoku is supposed to be indestructible, and in a way it still it. Plus, Ichigo is by no means weak at this stage; he's even stronger than Aizen. Therefore, I took "indestructible" to mean that (if you are nearly invulnerable because you're so strong) you can damage the Hōgyoku, but it will always be able to fix itself before any lasting damage occurs.
So there you have it. I would like to thank the person who already reviewed my first chapter, Hylla. As for the IchiHime part, I won't explicitly ship any two characters, though some may be implied. I've never been good at romance and I don't plan on starting now.
Please, if you have the time and are enjoying my writing, review! It's great to get feedback, especially since this is the first time I've written about an anime. There's a lot of terms I'm not familiar with and help from other people would be awesome.