A/N Surprise! It's here a few days early, if only because I finished this a lot earlier than I thought I would. Alright, guys/gals, I'll start things off with the results from my asking people's opinions. In the end, there was a clear and rather sizeable advantage for the DxD crossover among people who replied, though it also seemed that nearly half of those people had not yet watched Fate. I expected that much, though. In the end, it really came down to which I felt really needed one of the stories completed. As far as I'm concerned, that story, regardless of which one it is, will probably take around a year or so to write. It's also the case that, afterwards, I'll likely choose to write two stories simultaneously—those stories being the one that I did not choose to do here, and the sequel to this story as a whole. I feel that, by that point in time, I may as well do it and give it a good try. Well, now onto my reasoning for the choice that I made. So, it was clear to me that both of these respective crossovers deserve to have a good and complete one in the lot, and I'd shoot for the #1 spot straight from the start with both of these stories just so that the best one can be complete. I feel that it's a travesty that the most popular ones are slow to update, and I never miss an update due to lack of the chapter being done, and I'm aware that this is probably half the reason that people like me as an author, the other half being that my updates are consistent. HighschoolDxD is the more popular of the two, but I also felt like it would have more potential, given what I intend to do/change. For DxD, I'd need to take a sledgehammer and do some serious remodeling before I can make it good, but that's perfectly fine because I know I can do that. Potential is built off of having to do stuff like that, and it's really just the effort that goes into it. That's what it really came down to, and so I have decided that the crossover I will be doing will be BleachxHighschoolDxD. It is important to note that the 'plot' of DxD, overall, is not something I am 100% familiar with at this current point in time. I've never read the LN's, I have seen season 1, and slightly more than half of season 2. While I will be watching/re-watching everything in the downtime between now and when the story is written (and c'mon guys, it's me. I'll nail the characters down 100%), it doesn't matter all that much because the plot of DxD is probably mediocre at best—I'd honestly be surprised if it wasn't and I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that it's actually pretty bad. So don't go into this expecting a huge emphasis on the DxD plot line. The universe, the characters in it—that's stuff you can expect to see prevalent, but stuff like dragons being the main plot point or something (this is what I remember was a big factor in DxD) is probably just better left as 'yeah, I can make cooler shit happen, so we're gonna stay clear of that as a big plot point…' That's not to say they won't ever be relevant, just not the end all be all. Also, to anyone who's actually sad that Issei as a character doesn't exist in this story… I'm literally looking at you confusedly through my monitor right now xD. I mean, I respect your opinions… but I don't understand them, lol ;)).
Besides, if I write the F/SN one in a year, the Heaven's Feel movie should hopefully be out, and then maybe I can get a better sense of a specific few characters' personalities. Regardless, this is the choice I've made, and I want to reassure people that both stories will eventually be written. Also, just fyi, after this story is done (meaning ITROM), I will be taking a few months' break from writing, just like I did at the end of my first story. Expect the DxD crossover to come out in December or early January at the latest. That's all I really have to say beforehand, so now onto the real story. Closing thoughts will be at the end, as should be expected.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or Fairy Tail, or any of their characters, and I make no money off of this.
"It's been a while, hasn't it… Ichigo Kurosaki?" Aizen asked.
The addressed teen couldn't even begin to muster a response. Seeing what he was, that was perfectly understandable. A thousand questions shot through his mind, and none of them had obvious answers.
"Who… who or what is it?" Mira uttered confusedly, not even necessarily looking for an answer.
"I don't know, but…" Erza began. "But he was powerful enough to wound that dragon instantly after appearing. Leaving that aside, Ichigo's reaction… It has me worried."
No one else could really articulate their concerns, given the current situation. Regardless of that fact, there wasn't a single one of them that had a good feeling about the new arrival.
"You appear shocked to see me. Well, I suppose that's to be expected…" Aizen mused.
He took a single step towards the still shell-shocked Substitute Soul Reaper, though he was given pause as a result of a certain dragon that had yet to actually back down.
"Raaaaaa!" Acnologia roared, his dragonic-cry filled with sheer rage.
The winds whipped and the earth seemed to shake at the sound, which had the added effect of brining Ichigo back to reality. Aizen, however, dispassionately kept his back facing the black dragon and merely chose to peer behind his shoulder.
"So it's more towards the instinctive side of things, is it?" Aizen wondered aloud.
The massive creature swatted at the white-clad man with as much speed as he possibly could. The hand slammed down into the ocean, appearing as if it may very well have captured his intended target. It was soon shown that this very clearly wasn't the case, as a moment later yet another large wound crossed Acnologia's chest.
The pain-filled roar was coupled with a momentary retreat on the part of the black dragon. It took further back towards the oceans in the skies, after which it stared off at its front. It looked, almost cautiously, at its most recent opponent, who had a hand in his pocket as the other gripped his sword, which currently rested at his side.
"Interesting…" Aizen thought aloud. "It would appear that, contrary to my initial impression, you aren't entirely a beast. I can sense it, if only faintly: the presence of a human."
In an instant, the black dragon charged forward in a fit of rage. When it neared Aizen, said former Soul Reaper captain merely extended his hand. Acnologia was quickly sent shooting backwards, having come into contact with some kind of an invisible force that erupted on contact.
A light glow of green seemed to emanate from Aizen's front, which shattered somewhat quickly, though still clearly did its job. The Black Dragon of the Apocalypse then glared angrily at the form of the seemingly carefree man, awaiting some kind of opening.
"Well now, this is rather ironic. Should I call you a dragon, then?" Aizen inquired, a small smirk tugging at his lips. "Regardless of what I call you… you're intelligent enough to realize it by now."
Acnologia seemed to lightly growl in response, in addition to simultaneously readying himself for what appeared to be yet another charge. At this, the white-clad man that acted as his clearly intended target released a slight sigh.
"While I now realize that I most certainly have the time to deal with you, I haven't the desire to bother with a creature such as you. Beforehand, I was being rather merciful." Aizen said. "However, if you choose to continue, then I will have no issue teaching you of the difference in our power."
The black dragon seemed to pivot backwards in wake of the threat. However, that may very well have been due to the fact that the pressure emanating from the man who gave it had started to increase.
His wounds still bleeding and his anger still seething, Acnologia turned his back and started to soar high into the sky. He looked back down at those who were below him on the island, and he seemed to consider taking some form of action for a short time. However, it became clear that he didn't have the intent of doing anything but retreating.
As the beast flew away, those on the ground felt a small bit of relief. In spite of that, there were those who understood the implications. It was true that a powerful threat had just left them, but in turn it seemed that a potentially far greater threat took its place.
"A dragon… how whimsical." Aizen remarked. He turned around once again to look back at the orange-haired teen. "Just a few short seconds in this world and I've already seen something rather interesting. It almost makes me curious about this quaint little realm."
"Aizen…" Ichigo uttered in disbelief.
Beyond and shadow of a doubt, the man that stood in front of him, holding the zanpakuto that he thought to be destroyed and bearing the same appearance that he remembered, was none other than Sosuke Aizen.
"So… what do we do?" Levy asked curiously.
"That's a good freakin' question." Cana replied.
"Well, he's probably going to need backup." Mira reasoned.
"Yes, so in that case we should—" Erza began.
"No, we'll do nothing for the time being." Makarov stated. Everyone seemed to look back at him with surprise written on their faces, though this didn't last long after he explained himself. "We don't really even know who this man is or what his intent is. If he simply wishes to talk, then we've no reason to antagonize him. Should he choose to fight, however…"
"Then we'll be ready to jump in." Gildarts finished. "We should wait until we get an opening, if that ends up happening. The last thing we need to do is charge in like morons against someone like that."
'Ichigo…' Ultear thought worriedly. 'Just who the hell is that?'
'That guy's power is monstrous. He scared away that dragon like it was nothing, and he wounded it without looking like he gave it any effort. Even Ichigo couldn't do that…' Mira thought.
'That man's strength is incredible.' Erza internally commented. 'I also didn't even see any of his movements. Even Ichigo's were somewhat visible to me, and yet he… There's no way that this man outclasses Ichigo to such a degree.'
The redhead's thoughts, though, were more of an internal denial of what she believed to be true. No matter how she chose to look at the current situation, she couldn't manage to find anything positive about it. If everything were to turn violently, she was hard-pressed to say that they even had a chance against someone that so easily turned away a monstrous creature like the black dragon.
"I see you've been doing well." Aizen pleasantly uttered.
"DON'T GIVE ME THAT!" Ichigo shouted. "What the hell are you doing here?! Wait, there's no way… Bastard! If you've done anything to hurt—"
At the sight of the brown-haired man raising a lone finger, Ichigo ceased in his speech. It was more for the reason that he was stricken with a flashback to one of the last conversations they'd had, which almost told him exactly what was about to be said.
"You're voice… there's no need to raise it." Aizen said, after which he place his hand at his side once again. "You're worry about 'what I've done' is rather unnecessary. It's quite clear that I've been released from my bindings, but I've no intent of so much as laying a hand on any of the Soul Reapers, or hollows, or humans for that matter. Well, from what you'd call our world, at least."
"But you… You're supposed to be—"
"Imprisoned?" Aizen asked, almost amusedly. "Yes, I suppose that I should be."
"Tch, so you expect me to believe that you're no longer restrained, and you just so happen not to want revenge on the people who put you there?" Ichigo asked in a tone of clear agitation. "Maybe it's just that you want to get back at me, then?"
"Hmph, if I had wanted to do that, I could have done so quite easily by taking away those you care about in your absence. It'd be far more effective way of making you suffer." Aizen countered. "However, you also seem to believe that I'm here as a result of desiring vengeance, but that's far from the truth."
"So then I guess that means you're here to sit down and enjoy the sun, am I right?" Ichigo sarcastically shot back.
The brown-haired man just chuckled slightly in response. He then started to look around the immediate area. His eyes even briefly fell on those who stood below, which caused his small smirk to increase in size. Subsequently thereafter, he redirected his sights to Ichigo.
"I must say, I was quite agitated with your presence here before actually arriving. However, this world is quite convenient for my purposes. In a way, that will make this far easier, I suppose." Aizen said.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Ichigo asked in a tone possessing a clear edge. He jostled his sword and tightened his stance. "You were agitated because I was here? This world is convenient for you? What is that even supposed to mean?"
"It isn't surprising that you don't understand what I'm referring to, but…" Aizen began, directing a slight look of condescension towards the substitute. "But I had hoped that you'd at least possess a mild awareness of it."
"What do you mean by that?" Ichigo pressed.
"You're quite slow, but I'll explain myself." Aizen replied. "Tell me something, Ichigo Kurosaki… Just how was it that you found yourself flying into this world?"
"As if that even—"
"Oh, but I assure you that it does matter." Aizen interjected. "Although, since I already know the answer, I haven't the need for you to tell me. You fell into the restrictive current and as a result were sent into this world."
"Tch…" Ichigo scoffed. "What of it? How is that even supposed to matter in the first place?"
"You know, I feel as if I'm repeating myself, but it really is quite surprising that you haven't figured this out as of yet. After all, I've managed to do so with just a few moments' time within this dimension." Aizen replied. "Hmm, though perhaps my senses are just keener than your own. In any case, it's still clear that you haven't felt it."
"Sensed what?" Ichigo asked in an agitated tone.
"You're well aware, Ichigo Kurosaki, that the Dangai is a very unique existence." Aizen began. "It links the Soul Society to the world of the living, yes, but it has another function, without which the ability of the Soul Reapers to react to given events would be exceedingly limited. I'm referring, of course… to the ability of the Dangai to distort the flow of time in order to bridge the gap between the world of the living and the Soul Society."
Simply hearing those words caused Ichigo's eyes to widen. In all the time that he'd been present, nearly for half a year, he'd never once considered something like that. However, a brief second of thinking on it caused a realization to flood through is mind.
"Didn't you find it odd that, all this time, not a single person was able to track you down or make an attempt to rescue you? You no doubt believed that the Soul Society was aware of where and when you disappeared, so did you ever once consider why, given that information, that they weren't able to find this world? You stumbled into it by accident, or likely believe that's the case, so do you really find it plausible that the greatest minds of the Soul Society couldn't figure it out?" Aizen said. "That is, unless there was an underlying reason for their inability to find you. It just seems that you failed to consider what the explanation for that may be."
There wasn't a single thing Aizen had listed off that Ichigo could find it in himself to refute, either internally or externally. It caused everything to suddenly make sense: why Kisuke and the others weren't able to find him, or rather, why they seemed to have not even started looking.
The three months that he'd spent in the Dangai when he initially defeated Aizen equated to barely half an hour in terms of time in the Soul Society, which amounted to even less in the world of the living. As far as his world was concerned, his departure may as well have occurred as if time itself had stopped entirely. That, however, left one glaring question.
"But if that's the case…" Ichigo began, glaring heavily at the brown-haired man. "Then just how the hell is it that you're here?! Answer me that, Aizen!"
"A fair question, and one with a rather simple answer." Aizen replied. "You see… a short while ago, at least from my perspective, I had sensed your soul from within the Dangai. Naturally, I had assumed that this meant you'd regained your Soul Reaper powers and were simply leaving for the world of the living. However… it was also clear that your soul was not present within the Dangai itself. It exuded from it, yet it wasn't specifically located within it. No matter what conclusion I was brought to, this presented a problem, and one that needed to be addressed exceedingly quickly. So, to actually answer your question… I'm here to bring you back to where it is you belong."
Hearing this caused Ichigo to take a slight step backwards out of fear-induced shock. He wasn't sure what aspect of it was more surprising. Aizen's presence was most definitely something he hadn't expected, but then again, so too was the fact that he seemed to know what had happened to him even while being buried in whatever dark pit the Soul Society shoved him in.
"A task of this importance is not something I wished to leave to others. Therefore, I took the necessary risk of escaping my bonds and coming after you personally." Aizen continued. "At first, I was worried that my absence would be noticed were I to be gone for an elongated period of time. My zanpakuto would allow me to move about freely, but maintaining my Kyoka Suigetsu from a dimension away is rather impossible. Moreover, I had to exhaust a great deal of my power to rid myself of the chains the Soul Society placed on me. Were I to be discovered, they'd simply find restraints that would make it far more difficult for me to escape. I haven't the time to bother with such a trivial thing."
"Yet you make it sound so easy." Ichigo sarcastically stated.
"Oh please…" Aizen scoffed. "Do you really find it altogether plausible that the likes of me would be incapable of figuring out some manner of escaping those bindings after such a long period of time? Surely I don't need to remind you that my power is still quite potent."
The brown-haired man gestured to the center of his abdomen, which was clearly aimed at the Hogyoku, which could be seen shimmering through his clothes at Aizen's instruction.
"As for my zanpakuto… well, it was ludicrous to believe that a part of my soul would be outright destroyed against my will. The seal that Kisuke Urahara used on me seemed to have simply sealed of my powers of all aspects, causing my blade to shatter. It's quite convenient that it wasn't destroyed." Aizen stated pointedly. "In the end, however… my purpose here is to take you back. Your memory will, naturally, be an issue, but that is far from an impassable barrier."
Ichigo released a slight grunt upon understanding the implication of Aizen's words. He was well aware that the former captain was privy to techniques that he'd never encountered, and there was a strong possibility that memory modification was one such thing.
"One thing I don't get, Aizen…" Ichigo began, glaring heavily at the man. "Just why the hell are you going through all this trouble?"
The way that he saw it, Aizen was better served with his being out of the way. Having one less enemy to deal with, and one that defeated him beforehand, could only have been perceived as a good thing.
Moreover, Aizen, if he were to be believed, had put a great deal of effort and took on big risks to enter earthland. Unless he had a good reason, naturally he wouldn't bother with such a thing.
"Although I detest having to admit such things, you are quite necessary for what is to come in our world." Aizen replied. "In case I'm not being clear enough, a great conflict is quickly approaching, and one that will turn the Soul Society on its back. Even your friends in the world of the living will be dragged into the war, regardless of whether or not they want to be."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Ichigo questioned disbelievingly. "A war? The Soul Society being turned on its back? Just how the hell do you even know all this?"
"Given that what I've just shared with you concerns your friends and comrades, does it matter how I know, or simply that I know?" Aizen countered. When there was silence in the wake of his question, he continued. "I can see you understand… Well then, if that's the case, then this will be simple. Willingly come with me, Ichigo Kurosaki, and I will take you back to our world."
For a minute, no response was given. However, when one finally came, it presented itself in the form of an attack that Ichigo had decided to mount by way of his Bankai. Aizen effortlessly leaped backwards in the air in order to dodge, not even making the effort to raise his sword. He looked back plainly at his attacker, clearly being unamused.
"That's not going to happen, Aizen." Ichigo growled out. "In fact, after you told me that you exhausted so much spiritual pressure in simply getting here, the only thing I have the intent of doing is taking you down."
"Oh, is that so? Do you not believe me, or is it simply that you don't realize the sheer devastation of the coming storm?" Aizen asked with a quirked brow.
"Even if I were to believe you, I'd still refuse to come back with you." Ichigo replied, much to the surprise of the brown-haired man. "Simply give myself up to you and allowing you to screw with my head for the sake of that kind of crap? Dream on, Aizen."
"You're remarkably foolish…" Aizen sighed, after which he raised his sword. "Very well, then so be it."
Ichigo gripped his sword more tightly in an attempt to further ready himself for battle. He was still far from unshaken due to Aizen's entrance and presence, but he still found himself looking at the small silver lining that presented itself.
'Judging by his spiritual pressure, he wasn't lying when he said that he needed to exhaust a great deal of energy to break free from whatever bindings the Soul Society had placed on him.' Ichigo thought. 'If his power is that far from when he initially fused with the Hogyoku, then I've got a chance at beating him. Unlike last time, I won't lose my confidence.'
Without any further delay, the orange-haired teen charged forward with his sword wound back and poised to strike. He neared Aizen's form, at which point he started to mount his offensive.
Contrary to what he had expected, Aizen didn't choose to actively parry his attacks. He just chose to simply sidestep each and every slash, not even making to move his sword from his side.
Ichigo continued to stab and slash his zanpakuto, but to no avail. Realizing that his current offensive wasn't getting him anywhere, Ichigo started to circle around Aizen with the full speed that his Bankai offered him.
"Please…" Aizen uttered, an amused smirk gracing his features.
He made to attack one of the afterimages at his side, effectively forcing Ichigo to block his sword. The collision of blades caused a shockwave to shoot through the skies, though the attack itself did little else.
'He saw through my attack so easily…' Ichigo thought, sweat dripping down his cheek.
"What, why are you so surprised?" Aizen inquired. "Was it really so shocking that I was able to track your movements?"
"Shut up!" Ichigo shouted.
He swept his blade off to the side, ending the stalemate and allowing himself to jump backwards in the air in order to create some distance between himself and his clearly deadly opponent.
"Keeping your distance? Now I had thought I informed you that such a tactic only works on someone of similar or lesser strength." Aizen mused. "What could have possibly given you the impression that such a tactic could be applied against me, given your current level of power? Perhaps, though, you simply have a bad memory."
"I said shut up!"
"So quick to raise your voice in anger…" Aizen uttered. "Regardless, the fact that you're fighting this battle as if we're equal in terms of strength only goes to show that your arrogance is a quality you've been able to hold onto."
"Tch…" Ichigo scoffed. "You're one to talk, especially since your powers are as weakened as they are."
"Hmm, well then that at least explains your behavior."
The brown-haired man dropped his sword and took a singular step forward. Ichigo didn't falter, but he did raise an eyebrow out of curiosity.
"Come at me, Ichigo Kurosaki. Give me your best shot." Aizen said, his voice holding a noticeable taunting nature to it.
"You're that confident, are you?"
"It's only natural for me to be." Aizen replied. "After all, no matter how much of your power and speed you push into your attack, you won't even be able to land a hit on me."
As if to prove the brown-haired man wrong as quickly as was possible, Ichigo charged at him as quickly as he possibly could. In a split-second, he arrived at Aizen's front, after which he attempted a diagonal slash directly across his opponent's chest.
Almost effortlessly, Aizen blocked the obsidian blade, though he made no attempt to do anything more. Ichigo started to attack again and again, though the same sequence of events would repeat itself.
After some time, Aizen then chose to dodge an attack outright by leaping off to the side. Ichigo, seeing this, believed it to be some form of an opportunity.
He willed his spiritual energy to gather in his blade, at which point he slashed it off to the side towards Aizen. The wave of darkness tore through the sky, eventually passing over the air where the brown-haired former captain had been standing. The very second that nothing revealed itself to be present within that location, Ichigo knew his attack had missed its mark. However, he was far from done.
Upon sensing where his opponent was retreating to, Ichigo brought a hand up towards his face and whisked it across, black energy following in its wake. With his hollow mask proudly showing, Ichigo once again charged Tensa Zangetsu with an immense amount of spiritual pressure
When Aizen appeared at his front a fair distance away, Ichigo slashed his blade forward, clearly believing that the attack would result in a hit.
His blade was near half-swing before he realized that the former captain had already used flash step to dodge. Ichigo could sense him zooming past his side, causing his eyes to widen out of surprise.
'Dammit!' Ichigo inwardly shouted.
He jerked around as quickly as he could in order to redirect the remaining power in his attack towards Aizen. He successfully did so, though in response, Aizen simply extended a hand and shoved the attack off once he had come to a stop.
Several waves of Getsuga shot off to the side, landing in the ocean water or at some point on the coast of the further sections of the island.
"Dammit, he's still uninjured…!" Ichigo quietly seethed.
"I must say that your spiritual energy has somehow improved since last we met. I suppose that your confidence isn't entirely misplaced in that sense." Aizen mused. "However, you've seen the end result. Conservatively, I estimate that my power is only slightly greater than it was before I fused with the Hogyoku. If you believe that your current level of power is even remotely comparable to that, then I'm afraid you need a reality check."
"You talk too much, Aizen." Ichigo stated.
He charged at the brown-haired man and struck at his torso. His attack was easily blocked, resulting in a stalemate, each blade clashing against the cold steel of the other.
"If you need to be further shown the difference in our powers, then I'll gladly enlighten you." Aizen said.
He swept his Kyoka Suigetsu off to the side and ended the stalemate, though the force he used was enough to send Ichigo flying down towards the ocean.
The substitute stopped himself from crashing any further towards the sea of blue, and subsequently attempted to mount a counteroffensive. His blade roared with black red-laced energy, which all but spoke the name of the attack he was about to fire off.
A wave of dark spiritual energy shot straight at Aizen, who in response appeared to do nothing. Once again, the attack seemed to simply pass through empty air, which prompted Ichigo to search for where his opponent had headed off to.
"You may want to pay closer attention." Aizen said.
The tall white-clad man's voice sounded off from directly behind Ichigo, which caused said orange-haired teen to leap forwards in the air. He turned himself around in the interim so as to face Aizen directly before landing, though the former captain clearly had no intent of following through.
"Just to clarify, I'm not using my Kyoka Suigetsu. I haven't even the slightest need to do so. Much like our last battle, what you're seeing is nothing more than my basic speed."
Ichigo released a grunt of frusteration and pivoted backwards. He couldn't help but feel slightly shaken at the outcome of their battle thus far, though he still resolved to stand tall.
"Why do you continue to resist with such futility?" Aizen inquired, sounding almost curious. "Given that your friends, comrades, and family are the most important thing to you, I question why it is that you would resist seeing them again. Oh, unless perhaps…"
The vision of the brown-eyed man shifted towards the beach of the coastline, landing directly on the gathered Fairy Tail wizards.
Seeing him do so left Ichigo with only a single reaction. He readied to charge, but was stopped upon hearing the voice of the very man he wished to divert the attention of.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Aizen stated, eliciting a surprised gasp from the substitute. "Charging in like you were about to is a foolish decision, especially when you're fighting against someone whose strength is far superior to your own. However, your reaction of clear anger and desperation when my sights shifted to them at least provides me with the answer to my previous question."
"If you lay a single finger on them, Aizen, I swear I'll—"
"Oh, I can assure you that I've no intention of killing them." Aizen remarked. "Doing so would hold no purpose. All that I desire is to return you to our world, though now I see that doing so peacefully is out of the question."
Aizen realized, at that very moment, that Ichigo was currently anchored to whatever world he found himself in. Even if the manipulation of his memories was a nonissue, it was unlikely that Ichigo would ever willingly go back if he had to be verbally convinced by him of all people.
"My, my… such a pity." Aizen thought aloud. "Your emotions truly do add far too many complexities to your decisions."
With that, Aizen vanished in the blur of flash step. Ichigo's eyes shot wide open upon seeing him appear at his front, though he was by no means quick enough to outright parry his blade.
Seeing an attack aiming directly for his head, the substitute leaped backwards in the air. His feet skidded across the air until he came to a complete stop, at which point he entered a combat ready stance in case Aizen opted to attack again.
Ichigo felt his hollow mask slice in half, which caused him to release a quiet gasp. Before he knew it, however, Aizen was once again slashing his blade directly at him.
This time, Ichigo managed to block the attack with his own zanpakuto. The end result was for the two blades to enter a stalemate, each shaking as a result of the pressure that each warrior applied to their respective weapon.
"Well then, I suppose it's time I show you the difference in our powers." Aizen said.
With that, he broke the stalemate and subsequently sent Ichigo flying down to the surface of Tenrou as a result. His body slammed into the surface of the coast, causing a great deal of sand to shoot up into the air due to the impact.
"Ichigo!" Erza exclaimed.
The redheaded knight, among others, started to rush towards their presumably injured comrade. However, they halted their advance upon hearing a slight disturbance of air, which signaled the arrival of the white-clad man that happened to be the cause of Ichigo's descent.
"Hold up, everyone!" Gildarts bellowed, extending his hand out to his side as a further sign for the others to stop.
Everyone seemed to follow the orange-haired man's lead, though the man that he was attempting to prevent others from attacking merely smirked.
"Well, this is quite interesting. Do you believe that stopping yourselves from moving forward will be in any way effective?" Aizen asked, sounding amused. "I suppose that Ichigo Kurosaki isn't the only person here that needs a reality check."
"Ghh…!" Erza grunted angrily, restraining herself from charging in head-first.
If nothing else, Aizen's words had succeeded in agitating the Fairy Tail wizards. Erza was far from the only one that wanted to charge right in at him.
"Am I to presume that you're Ichigo Kurosaki's comrades? It would appear that he's made quite a few, though I suppose that's to be expected of him." Aizen thought aloud.
He took a step towards the group of gathered wizards, though before he could take a second, Ichigo lunged at him from behind. Aizen turned to block the attack, the resulting shockwave of which caused his guild mates to stumble or fall backwards altogether. He kept up the pressure on Aizen's blade, making completely certain that its sole target of focus was himself.
"And here I was, merely about to introduce myself." Aizen replied, a taunting smirk crossing his lips as he looked down at the substitute. "Is the thought of me associating with your new comrades so horrible?"
"All of you get the hell out of here!" Ichigo shouted. "Run as quickly as you can!"
Those present couldn't believe what they were hearing. It was less the words that Ichigo had said and more the tone, which no one had missed. There was a sense of urgency and worry in his voice that none of them had heard before, at least coming from him.
The two started exchanging blows, though it was clear that their attacks had distinctly different undertones to them. The brown-haired man's attacks were calm and collected, while Ichigo's was overflowing with a sense of desperation. There was simply no way around it; he was afraid.
In spite of realizing this, those wizards of Fairy Tail present had yet to heed his words and turn tail. Whether they simply refused to hang him out to dry or whether they were too shocked to move was tough to say.
Ichigo sent a horizontal strike directly across Aizen's body, to which the latter responded by ducking out of the way. In the process of doing so, he sent his left hand and held out his palm a small distance away from Ichigo's side, charging it with golden-yellow spiritual energy.
"Raikoho." Aizen uttered.
A large wave of lightning-like spiritual energy shot directly towards Ichigo. A sizeable explosion ensued, which had the near-immediate effect of bringing his comrades back to reality.
With concern in their eyes, they looked into the cloud of smoke that resulted from the Kido spell. It was Mira who chose to take the first move in heading towards the ashen cloud, though she was quickly given pause as a result of Ichigo's opponent walking out of the dust towards the crowd of gathered wizards.
"I wouldn't move in so unquestioningly if I were you." Aizen calmly stated.
"Bastard!" Mira hissed.
She prepared to take on her Satan Soul in order to properly charge into the fray, but a wave of pressure slammed into her body far too quickly for her to do so. It was not only her, but every one of her comrades that felt the weight of the force.
While the anger and simultaneous desire to attack of Ichigo's comrades was practically visible in the air, not a single person had taken it upon themselves to move forward. The immense energy emanating from the singular man that stood at their front paralyzed nearly all of them with fear.
"W-What the hell is this…?" Natsu uttered, feeling cold sweat drip down his cheeks.
"It ain't like Kurosaki's. It's… it's on a whole different level…" Gajeel remarked, unable to keep the fear out of his voice.
'This isn't possible. There's no way!' Wendy internally roared.
The pressure continued to mount, resulting in the passing out of several of those present. Those who were more injured then others were quick to fall, though they clearly still fought to remain conscious.
"Can't… breathe…" Levy whispered.
Almost in unison, Wendy, Carla, Happy, Pantherlily, Elfman, Levy, Lisanna, Lucy, and even Juvia fell to the ground. They all reached out as if it would make any difference, but the end result was inevitable.
"Y-You guys!" Natsu exclaimed worriedly.
"Their injuries made them quite susceptible to what is simply my presence. I suppose, though, that they should be grateful. Were I at my strongest, your bodies would likely disintegrate within seconds after being this close to me."
Those that remained conscious pivoted backwards out of fear, and they couldn't deny that this was the reason. Rather than a boast, it seemed as if what was just said was simply a statement of concrete fact.
'If this man's power is truly that great, then there's no doubt about it… This man is…' Erza thought, feeling a cold chill echo across her body. 'But he's supposed to have been imprisoned, right?'
"Allow me to formally introduce myself. My name is Sosuke Aizen; it's a pleasure to meet your acquaintance."
Simply hearing the name caused Erza to release a stifled gasp, all the while her eyes shot wide open and her pupils started to shake out of fear. No one else seemed to have that reaction, though that was simply because it was likely that none of them knew.
'Still, I know I can't afford to lose my resolve.' Erza thought. 'Even so… even so… why can't I stop myself from shaking?'
"Satan Soul!" Mira exclaimed.
The demoness donned her most traditional form when it came to combat, which caught the attention of Aizen and all others present. Her determination to fight, regardless of what she'd just heard and seen, was rather clear.
'Hmm…' Aizen hummed in thought. 'That's a rather unique ability. Although, their powers are quite different than what I had initially believed. It seems that even in spite of not having what can be called raw spiritual energy, they are still able to manifest powers and comprehend my existence.'
"So let me ask you something, Aizen…" Mira venomously spat. "Did you think we were going to back down after seeing you turn up the heat?"
"Oh?" Aizen amusedly responded, his smirk mirroring his tone.
Seeing Mira's iron resolve in the face of someone so powerful, Erza found herself at a loss for words. She, at first, wondered if Mira could sense the vastness of his power, and then she perhaps believed that she simply couldn't and her bravery was simply the result of ignorance. Regardless, Erza quickly came to the conclusion that it didn't matter at all.
Simply put, they needed to fight, and the power of their opponent was not something that could stop them. Even if this man was exactly who she knew him to be, the scarlet-haired warrior couldn't back down. Thus, giving inward thanks to Mira, she Requiped into her Black Wing Armor and readied herself for battle.
"You're completely right, Mira." Erza stated in agreement. "And you, Aizen, shouldn't be so quick to look down on a Fairy Tail wizard."
"Wizard?" Aizen asked, still sounding rather amused. "Is that what people with abilities exceeding that of a normal human are called in this world? My, my, then this world truly is rather whimsical."
The former captain was then attacked from the side by none other than Ichigo. Aizen simply leaped off to the side, resulting in Ichigo's vertical slash crashing into the ground over which he previously stood. A sizeable uproar of land ensued, but no damage was ultimately done.
Aizen then looked back at Ichigo, taking note of his clearly injured appearance. The attire of his Bankai was torn on the side that his Hado had hit, and burn marks took their place on the skin that showed. In spite of that, he didn't appear tired in the slightest.
"You recovered more quickly than I thought you would." Aizen remarked.
"Bite me!" Ichigo shot back.
Aizen then prepared to attack, though once more another individual present beat him to the punch.
"Fire Dragon's Roar!" Natsu exclaimed.
A wave of fire headed directly towards the brown-haired man, causing him to extend a hand towards the flames. When they reached his body, they split off towards his sides, dealing no damage to him whatsoever.
With that done, Mira, Erza, and Gildarts charged at him in unison. Aizen then jumped into the skies in order to dodge, though he was attacked yet again.
"Iron Dragon's Club!"
"Ice Make: Lance!"
The two attacks fired off from Gajeel and Gray respectively. However, they hit absolutely nothing, as Aizen used flash step to appear directly in front of them with his sword cocked back and prepared to slice them in two.
Before the former captain could follow through, his blade locked with that of Ichigo's, who sped towards the location and engaged Aizen without delay.
Aizen soon backed away and distanced himself from the orange-haired teen, resulting in what appeared to be another standstill. However, this didn't last long as yet another section of Fairy Tail wizard had opted to mount an assault.
"Give him all you got, you three!" Laxus shouted. "Raging Bolt!"
"As you wish!" Freed exclaimed., launching a barrage of dark purple magical bullets from his sword.
The attacks of Laxus and his former subordinates slammed into Aizen's from, coating his body in smoke, or at least appearing to do so.
"Alright!" Laxus cheered, pumping a fist up in the air. "Now that's what I'm talkin' about!"
"Just what the hell are all of you guys doing?!" Ichigo shouted. "I told you to get out of here! There's no way you're a match for him!"
"That doesn't matter, Ichigo." Erza said, walking up to the substitute with her Black Wing Armor still gracing her figure.
"Yeah, what she said." Mira added.
"For the last time, you guys need to—"
"You wanna know something, Ichigo; you talk way too much." Cana stated, readying several of her cards to throw on a moment's notice. "Just accept that we ain't leaving you alone to fight this guy."
"You should know by now that not a single one of us has the intention of leaving." Ultear remarked. "If you want us to, then you'll have to remove us by force."
Ichigo looked around to see the determination in the eyes of his comrades. He briefly considered saying more, but instead, he found himself smiling warmly. Even if he didn't want them to be hurt, it was nice to know that they no longer cared what happened just so long as they fought by his side.
"If it can't be helped, then fine." Ichigo replied, gripping his sword more tightly. "But get ready, because there's no way that he's even scratched."
"What the hell are you—" Laxus began.
"A very perceptive observation." Aizen's voice called out.
The cloud of smoke soon dissipated, revealing Aizen to be standing in place with his zanpakuto lazily hanging at his side and his other hand nonchalantly in his pocket of his coat.
"N-No way…!" Freed quietly uttered.
"He really didn't even get a single scratch." Cana whispered in disbelief.
"Hmm, then it would appear that this will be a battle against both you and your comrades. Well, that's perfectly fine." Aizen replied, aiming his sword down at the gathered Fairy Tail members. "Come at me, then."
"With pleasure!" Natsu shouted.
The Fire Dragon Slayer propelled himself forward, lighting his fists with flames as he soared towards his intended target. Aizen caught the flaming fist with a single hand, after which he threw the dragon slayer into the rocky side of a nearby cliff.
It was then that he turned to block a series of sword attacks that were mounted by Ichigo. Shortly thereafter, Erza came flying at his side, roaring angrily as she continued her offensive.
Aizen continued to block attack after attack, not even bothering to mount a counteroffensive. His cocky smirk only serviced to illustrate that he felt no need to do so.
After a short while, he swatted his hand off at his side, sending it crushing into Erza's stomach and thereby causing the scarlet-haired warrior to shoot towards the surface of the island.
"Erza!" Ichigo shouted.
He picked up his pace and further gained the attention of the former captain, making entirely sure that he couldn't capitalize on Erza's current inability to defend herself. Ultimately, the two warriors entered a stalemate, their respective blade pressing against the others'.
"So typical…" Aizen sighed. "Your choice in redirecting my focus is predictable. Simply speaking, I'm allowing you to do so."
"Heh, predict this." Ichigo said tauntingly.
The substitute vanished in the blur of flash step, causing Aizen to release a slight gasp of surprise. At the sight of a very large shadow quickly looming over his body, he looked up to see a titanic hand slamming down towards him.
Aizen used flash step to appear on the surface of the coastline, thereby dodging the attack. He turned his sights towards those clustered off to his side, aiming the palm of his left hand directly at them.
"Raikoho." Aizen uttered.
A wave of lightning-like energy burst forth, raging towards the wizards without delay. Somewhat to Aizen's surprise, the energy dissipated, in the aftermath of which Gildarts was revealed to be standing tall with a lone hand outstretched and a smirk crossing his lips.
"Heh, nice try." Gildarts said.
Before the former captain could make another move, several cards were thrown at him that came courtesy of Cana. Aizen turned and smirked amusedly at the gesture, though the three cards that were thrown at him quickly multiplied into over two dozen, and they were at his side far more quickly than he had expected.
"What?" Aizen uttered in disbelief.
He looked back to see Ultear standing at Cana's side with her arms outstretched, which caused him to scowl. It was all too clear that this was simply a trick that he hadn't bothered to predict.
A series of chains quickly circled around his torso, while several of the cards simultaneously started to glow with destructive yellow magical energy. Yet again, however, a shadow loomed over his body, causing him to look up and see the form of none other than Mirajane Strauss shooting towards him with a large mass of dark purple magical energy gathering in the palm of her right hand.
"Evil Explosion!" Mira shouted.
"Ice Make: Lance!"
"Iron Dragon's Club!"
"Fire Dragon's Roar!"
An explosion of incredibly proportions erupted around Aizen's body, all the while a seemingly endless ray of dark energy washed over his body. As Mira's attack still raged on, Aizen leaped out of its center, revealing himself to have taken a slight few number of burn marks as a result of the damage that he'd recently taken.
"You're mine!" Ichigo exclaimed.
Aizen turned to block the Getsuga-infused blade the orange-haired teen, doing so with such force that the gathered spiritual energy started to shoot off to the sides of their collision. They continued to exchange blows, though once again they came to a stalemate in which they just continuously applied pressure in an attempt to get the other to back down.
"Your efforts are admirable, but futile in the long run." Aizen said.
He sent a kick to Ichigo's ribcage that sent him flying off into sand at his side. In spite of the fact that he had been warded off, all Ichigo could do was smirk.
As Aizen retracted his foot, he saw none other than the redheaded wizard known as Erza Scarlet charging towards him sporting nothing but bandages around her breasts, a pair of elongated fiery-looking pants, and a sword reminiscent of a katana in her hands.
She charged towards him with her blade primed forward and aimed directly at the center of his chest, something that caused Aizen's eyes to widen out of both worry and surprise. Erza appeared out of seemingly nowhere, though perhaps directly behind Ichigo was a more accurate assessment. He attempted to leap backwards, a gesture that was by no means unnoticed by his imminent attacker.
'I'll not let you slip away so easily!' Erza shouted in thought.
Without missing a beat, she lunged towards the former captain, and her sword quickly came into contact with the center of his chest. The blade pierced through, drawing blood immediately and rendering its target completely motionless.
"Ghhh…" Aizen lightly moaned, bringing a lone hand up to the blade in what appeared to be a reflexive attempt at removing it.
The hand fell to his side a moment later, though his eyes remained open and he continue breathing, albeit through strained breaths. In the aftermath
"Then it's… over?" Gray wondered aloud, sounding rather confused.
"Looks like it." Gildarts happily commented.
"Heh, seems a bit too easy." Cana said, a clear smirk crossing her lips.
"You say that as if it's a bad thing." Ultear jokingly remarked.
"Great job, Erza!" Mira exclaimed, rushing up towards the redhead as she did so.
"Yes, with this, it looks like he's finished." Erza thought aloud.
She actually couldn't quite understand what the source of her worry had previously been. It seemed that this man was far less powerful than she was led by Ichigo to believe, or perhaps his powers had somehow diminished as a result of his arrival in earthland.
'Well regardless, it looks like this threat is behind us.' Erza mentally sighed.
"You appear to be quite content with your victory." Aizen commented.
Everyone present heard the sound of his voice, causing each and every single one of them to quickly look at what they presumed to be his defeated form. It was still seemingly unconscious, yet they had undeniably heard him speak.
"You may wish to observe the current situation more carefully. Take a good look at what's in front of you."
In that instant, the eyes of everyone present widened to the maximum degree that they possibly could. Erza, Mira, and several others started visible shaking as a result of the cold chill that came with seeing what they had.
Before their very eyes, the man on the receiving end of Erza's blade was shown to be Ichigo, whose eyes looked nearly lifeless and whose body was currently motionless save for his barely moving chest as he continued to struggle with breathing.
"What the hell?!" Cana shouted in disbelief.
"That's not possible!" Ultear shouted.
"I-Is that seriously Ichigio?!" Natsu roared.
"B-But how?!" Erza exclaimed.
"There's no way…!" Mira quietly whispered, her pupils shaking and her blood running cold.
When her current state of shock had somewhat subsided, Erza immediately withdrew the blade from Ichigo's chest. However, when he started to fall forwards, none other than Aizen appeared at her front, catching his body over his shoulder before vanishing yet again.
He appeared in the skies above the coastline a fair distance above the wizards, which immediately grabbed the attention of those still on Tenrou's surface.
"But I saw it… We all saw it…" Gray shakily began. "Erza stabbed you in the center of your chest!"
"Just how the hell did it end up being Ichigo?! You better give us a damn answer, otherwise you're in for the worst ass kickin' of your life!" Natsu roared.
"I don't see how you could possibly even bring harm to me, but I may as well explain myself." Aizen mused. "After all, I've no reason not to."
The former captain looked off to his side, after which a small green platform appeared. He rested Ichigo's body on it, at which point he vanished once more in the blur of flash step. He appeared directly at the center of the wizard that had previously attacked him, holding his sword out vertically.
"I'd imagine Ichigo Kurosaki never told you about what makes the swords that a Soul Reaper can use so special, did he?" Aizen rhetorically questioned. "Well, in any case, this is called a zanpakuto, and each has unique abilities tethered to it. Mine, for example, is the ability to control all five senses of those who simply gaze at my zanpakuto. It other words, it's the ability of complete and perfect hypnosis."
The weight of the former captain's words hit everyone present like a ton of bricks. The battle they'd just recently been fighting was all up for questioning as a result, but they all knew that the reality that was shown in the aftermath was Ichigo with a sword stabbed in his chest.
"You son of a bitch!" Cana shouted angrily.
"Regardless, I've gotten what I came for. You have my assurance that he'll be perfectly fine, so I will ask that you simply forget his existence. I will ensure that such a thing is mutual." Aizen stated. "You're all nothing but accidental memories, after all."
"HAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Erza shouted angrily.
Without any heed to the consequences, the redheaded beauty charged at Aizen. Rage shined in her eyes and breathed from her blade, though that was naturally understandable.
In spite of the clear openings that existed as she charged forward, Aizen chose to take advantage of none of them. Rather, he simply chose to outstretch his left hand in order to catch the blade that came crashing towards his torso. Predictably, he managed to do so, though Erza was by no means deterred. She simply chose to apply more pressure.
"That was very unwise of you." Aizen remarked. "Allowing your anger to rule over you when it will yield you nothing will never end well."
"You bastard!" Erza hissed. "I swear, if it's the last thing I do, I will kill you! Do you hear me, Aizen?!"
"Have I hit a nerve? Well, I truly apologize. However, surely you must have known from the start." Aizen began. In the next instant, a series of sizeable cuts appeared on Erza's body, causing her to stumble backwards and for blood to pour forth from her fresh wounds. "His leaving was an inevitable outcome. As I said, you're all just accidental memories."
"Erza!" Mira shouted urgently.
The demoness, too, charged in with rage fueling her advance. Unlike Erza, though, she didn't even make it half-way towards the former captain before he took action. Aizen appeared at her side, causing her gaze to peer off towards his form. She didn't even actually see anything more than the white of his coat in her peripheral vision before two large gashes appeared on her arm and abdomen.
"Ghh…!" Mira winced.
"That was equally as unwise of you, assuming that I would bother allowing you to get away with such a foolish attack." Aizen stated.
The demoness fell to the ground, blood flowing out of her wounds and around her body. She clawed at the ground, but it was clear that she didn't have the strength to immediately get up.
Aizen made to position his sword as if to ensure that Mira wouldn't be able to put up a fight any longer. Just the sight of such a thing pushed Makarov into sending a giant fist hurling towards the white-clad man.
Aizen vanished simply leaped up into the air, looking back down at the master of Fairy Tail as if unimpressed.
"I'll not let you bring any further harm to my children!" Makarov bellowed.
He took on his titan form, gazing down at Aizen angrily. In response, said former captain just closed his eyes and release an amused huff. Makarov, taking his arrogance as a sign that an opening was present, slammed his fists together right on top of Aizen's body. However, no body was crushed between his hands. His attack had hit nothing but air.
"As interesting as your powers are, you should realize that this battle is already lost."
The sound of Aizen's voice from behind his current position caused Makarov to make to turn and smash the man without relent. While this was his intent, a massive x-shaped wound crossing his chest wholly prevented him from doing so. With blood gushing from his wounds, Makarov started to fall backwards towards the surface, his titan form diminishing very quickly all the while.
"Hit him now!" Freed exclaimed.
As the master's body started to fall towards the beach, those formerly known as Laxus' subordinates rushed to his defense. They were a fair distance away and prepared to unleash a barrage of attacks, but their target vanished faster than their eyes could even see.
Freed, Bickslow, and Evergreen all received several large slashes across their torsos. While the location varied, each of the wounds themselves caused them to lose control over their ability to move. They attempted to fly or shift their limbs, but they couldn't even manage to do that. They, too, joined the master in falling towards Tenrou's coast.
"You bastard!" Laxus shouted angrily.
A large bolt of what appeared to be lightning shot directly towards Aizen. In response, he simply held out his left hand, forming what appeared to be a barrier of green spiritual energy that took a form reminiscent of a shield.
Laxus was revealed to be charging directly into it more and more with each passing second, though his attempt to break through was clearly in vein. Not even a crack appeared in the Kido spell, all the while Aizen's smirk shined clearly.
"How dare you lay a hand on my family?! You better be prepared to die, you son of a bitch!" Laxus raged.
"Amusing." Aizen remarked.
"Heh, you think this's funny? Well, laugh at this when you get to hell!"
Laxus catapulted himself backwards by way of his lightning form, effectively shooting himself back towards the surface. As he did so, he opened his mouth and started to gather an immense amount of magical energy, all the while his fellow dragon slayers mimicked his actions from their current position on Tenrou's beach.
The breath attacks combined flawlessly and started to rage through the air towards Aizen. It appeared that he had no intention of moving out of the way, which made his attackers all but sure that he wouldn't escape unscathed.
"Get a taste of what our family's real power is like, ya freak!" Laxus taunted.
The Lightning Dragon Slayer joined his comrades on the surface, at which point he stared up at their ongoing attack with a wide smirk on his face. That smirk, however, disappeared the very instant that he saw said attack change directions.
Before his very eyes, and just as the attack was about to hit its intended mark, Aizen simply slammed the attack with his left hand, thereby redirecting it in several waves right back towards the respective spells' casters.
"Dammit! Brace yourselves!" Laxus shouted.
As a portion of the attacks blowback hit the group of dragon slayers, a large explosion ensued. Not wanting to remain in the fire and ashes that resulted, the three Fairy Tail wizards instantly jumped out, gazing up at the still unscathed form of their adversary.
"Was that truly the best that you have to offer?" Aizen tauntingly asked.
"Ultear, now!" Cana shouted.
Aizen shifted his vision towards the source of the voice, at which point he was greeted with the sight of some kind of crystal orb heading straight for his current position. On top of said orb, he could see a card, one brimming with what was clearly destructive energy.
"Flash Forward!" Ultear exclaimed.
The crystals multiplied until nearly three dozen of them existed, at which point they all seemed to simply appear in the air around Aizen. Rather quickly, they began to glow with fiery-red magical energy, a clear sign of what was to come.
A large explosion of red engulfed the brown-haired man's body, eclipsing him from sight and sending an immensely powerful wind raging across the immediate area.
From the grounds below, Cana and Ultear started panting heavily. They nearly fell to one knee, though they managed to keep themselves stable in spite of the immense drain on their respective magical powers that resulted from mounting such an attack.
"We had to get him that time, right?" Cana asked, sweat dripping down her cheeks.
"With my ability to manipulate time, he shouldn't have been able to react properly. Theoretically, we—"
The dark-haired woman didn't manage to get out another word before the appearance of a large gash across her body cut her off. Cana rushed forward to come to her aid, but she didn't even get to take one step before a wound of the very same nature appeared on her own person.
"You guys!" Gray exclaimed.
He, too, started to make to help his injured comrades, but it was in the very same instant that he saw their wounds and ran towards them that he became aware of his own.
"N-No way…!" Gray weakly uttered.
"Your attack was good, but it was foolish of you to believe that such a trick would work on me after having used it once before." Aizen simply stated.
The two wizards looked off to their sides as they continued to near the ground, seeing Aizen standing right in front of them with his back facing them.
'B-But… how?' Cana wondered.
As the three Fairy Tail wizards lay on the ground, motionless, Aizen turned to look at the dragon slayers, each of whom was still standing on the opposite side of the beach. They stared him down with as much bite as they could, but the fear in their eyes was undeniable.
"I suppose that you're all that's left, then." Aizen thought aloud.
He took several steps towards those that he seemed to be referring to, putting himself a fair distance away from the three wizards he'd just recently dispatched. Yet again, he stopped upon seeing a shadow loom overtop his body. He looked up to see none other than Gildarts crashing down towards him with his fist held out and prepared to smash into the back of his skull.
"Guess again, monster. There ain't just three of us left!" Gildarts shouted.
His fist soon slammed into something, though it wasn't the back of Aizen's head. Rather, his attack hit the sands of the beach, causing a large crater appear.
'That's not possible! I didn't even see the guy move!' Gildarts thought, his eyes wide and pupils shaking.
An instant later, a large wound appeared across his back from his hip to his shoulder. Blood flowed out of the wound into the air, eliciting cries of worry from those of his comrades that still remained conscious and capable of fighting.
"Guh…!" Gildarts grunted painfully.
As he fell down into the center of the crater that he himself had only recently created, he could see Aizen standing at its top directly at his front, gazing down on him as if the orange-haired man were nothing more than an ant by comparison.
"Interesting that you pointed out that there were more than three of you." Aizen began. "Tell me: at what point were you under the impression that I believed there only were three of you left?"
"Dammit!" Gildarts spat before losing consciousness.
From across the beach, Natsu and the others felt a cold chill echo throughout their bodies. They were the last of their comrades, and each and every one of the others had thus far been dispatched so easily that it was almost comical. Now the sight of the monstrously powerful man was focused solely on them, which undeniably terrified each and every one of them.
"C'mon you guys, don't back down." Laxus lightly scolded. "He's strong, yeah, but we ain't givin' up."
"You bet your ass we ain't." Natsu firmly stated, smashing a fist into the palm of his opposite hand. "Like hell I'm letting this jerk get away with hurting our family!"
"Then prove it." Laxus replied, causing the Fire Dragon Slayer to look at him confusedly. "We'll get you an opening no matter what, so just be ready to hit him hard."
"But Laxus, what if—"
"Shut it, Natsu." Laxus firmly ordered. "Don't worry about anything else except taking this guy down."
"You can stop talking amongst yourselves."
The sound of the man's voice echoed from right behind the group of dragon slayers, but they hadn't even registered his movement to such a position. Before they even really realized where Aizen currently was, all three of them started to fall to the ground, each having several slashes across their backs.
'What the hell? Why can't I move?!' Laxus wondered.
"It's quite obvious that you're making an attempt to move, but doing such a thing is futile." Aizen stated. He started to walk off back towards the center of the beach, quite literally leaving the dragon slayers in the dust. "I'm somewhat disappointed, too. Even though I made a conscious decision to examine your fighting capabilities, none of you were able to put up any substantial resistance."
The former captain looked towards the numerous bodies of the claimed 'wizards' that lay on the coastline. Not a single one of them showed even the possibility or rising once again for the time being, which prompted him to release an inward sigh.
"Nevertheless, I'll be taking my leave." Aizen thought aloud.
He readied to leap into the air next to where he'd left Ichigo's body, though a sizeable spike in an unfamiliar power caught his attention. He turned off to his left to see a blue aura coating the body of the pink-haired wizard he just dispatched of.
The feel of it was most definitely not that of magical energy, which from he gathered through introspection was what wizards used as the source of their powers. It was far closer to spiritual energy than he thought these beings to be capable of, and its feel was very distinct.
"Well, well… now isn't this interesting." Aizen idly commented.
"Hey, you…" Natsu began, catching the man's attention. He started to rise from the ground, the aura of pseudo-spiritual power around his body increasing in intensity with each passing second. "Just who the hell… said you could leave?!"
A large wave of pressure shot across the air, causing the wind to pick up and for the ground to quake, if only a slight amount. Predictably, the white-clad man was unaffected, but his expression implied that he had seen something worthy of interest.
When the energy finally settled in, a series of what appeared to be scales crossed various parts of the teen's visible body. His fingernails became claws, and his teeth sharpened.
"Spirit Flame Dragon Mode." Natsu uttered.
'Interesting.' Aizen thought. 'His body is making use of what appears to be spiritual energy, and a sizeable amount of it as well. It's not the genuine article, but it's potent enough to stem the flow of blood from the wound I just recently inflicted on him.'
"If you think for a second that I'm lettin' you get away with hurting my friends, you've got another thing coming. That goes double for tryin' to take Ichigo away from where he belongs!" Natsu roared. "Get ready, you smug bastard, cuz' I'm gonna show you just how strong our bonds really are!"
A wave of blue fire flared up around Natsu's body, which lightly whisked across the air of the coastline. Aizen observed the flames, holding a hand up to one of the passing embers, only for it to disintegrate upon coming into contact with him.
"How amusing… You really seem to think that the bonds you share with your comrades can somehow push you to overcome the difference in our powers." Aizen thought aloud. "Nevertheless, I'm rather curious about the capabilities of this form you've taken on. Show me just what it is that your 'bonds' can do."
"Heh, my pleasure." Natsu cockily replied.
The dragon slayer leaped into battle in an instant, making to smash a flame-lit fist into Aizen's torso. In response, his opponent just leaped off into the skies, though his sights remained on Natsu.
"You're not gettin' away that easily!" Natsu shouted. "Fire Dragon's Sword Horn!"
From his position on the coast, Natsu jumped into the skies using the immense strength he possessed to propel himself off at lightning speeds. Yet again, his attack failed to hit its mark, which was a direct result of Aizen once again rushing off to the side.
Natsu released an annoyed grunt, after which he willed fire to coat the bottom of his feet. With the solidified surface now being present by his own will, he crouched down and sprung towards the brown-haired man.
Believing that his attack wasn't expected, Natsu readied to pour forth as much strength as was needed to land a direct hit and make it sting. He flipped himself around with expert agility, simultaneously willing a great deal of fire to cover his left foot.
The Fire Dragon Slayer made to kick Aizen directly on his side, which he believed would work given that his opponent had yet to react.
'I've got him!' Natsu thought triumphantly.
In a split second, and far faster than he could even perceive, his foot was caught. The energy around his leg dissipated in an instant, and the end result was for the pink-haired wizard being held up by his leg, all the while Aizen just stared down at him amusedly.
"You'll have to do better than that." Aizen calmly taunted.
With that, he released his hold on Natsu's foot, thereby allowing him to retreat across the skies. Natsu felt his skin start to tingle as a result of his own sense of fear, though he ignored it in favor of focusing exclusively on the battle.
'This guy wants me to show him what I've got… and from what I've seen, he'll probably try to take it head on.' Natsu thought. 'Even if I'm not in the best condition, it's the only shot I've got. If I throw everything I've got at him, then hopefully he'll at least be injured enough.'
Natsu was perfectly aware of the risks to what he was doing, but he was in no position to try any other avenue of approach. He gathered all of the power he had, magical or otherwise, and started to pull it into what he knew would be the deciding attack of their fight.
"That's right… come on." Aizen quietly invited.
"Fire Dragon's…" Natsu began, his energy spiking higher and higher. "ROAR!"
A massive wave of blue, reminiscent of a fierier Getsuga Tenshou, burst forth, it's strength and intensity being so great that the wind picked up for miles. Even the ocean over which the two currently battled started to disperse outwardly in the shape of the attack.
'The attack isn't bad. However…' Aizen thought.
The former captain outstretched his left hand and slammed it into the attack as it neared his person. As a result, the energy of the attack was scattered at his front and off to the sides in every which direction.
Several of the nearby cliffs of the island were completely destroyed as a result of a portion of the attack being redirected into them, and large spires of water erupted from the ocean due to the very same reason. However, Aizen himself was still completely unharmed.
"N-No way!" Natsu uttered in disbelief.
In the midst of his shock, Aizen vanished from sight. Even if Natsu had managed to register that fact, he would have been unable to stop the kick that subsequently slammed into the side of his upper body.
Velocity rings formed around the young wizard's body as he shot into Tenrou's coast, and his landing prompted the creation of a sizeable crater. Aizen looked down as the sand had started to settle, seeing very quickly that Natsu was incapable of moving a muscle. He was clearly attempting to, but to no avail.
"Damn…" Natsu whispered angrily.
A moment later, Aizen appeared directly in front of the large hole that he found himself in. His sword was now sheathed and both of his hands were in his pockets, all the while he gazed down dispassionately at the defeated form of his most recent opponent.
"I have no intention of killing you…" Aizen said. He turned around and started to walk away, though he stopped shortly thereafter and continued in his speech. "In fact, I have no intention of killing anyone here. I'll even give you some advice."
"Go… to hell…!" Natsu hissed.
"Regardless, it's a fact that you and everyone else present have the potential for a high amount of growth—by your standards, at least. However, there's something you need to be aware of if you're all going to live long enough to realize your full potentials." He cocked his head over his shoulder, his stone-cold gaze meeting that of Natsu's. "The belief that one's desire to protect one's friends will allow them to overcome any obstacle is an inherently foolish notion. An iron will can only make up so much of a difference in ability, but there will always exist a threshold of power that such feelings can't surpass. Considering that threshold, my power far exceeds even that level. If I wanted to, I could have killed each and every one of you without so much as batting an eyelash."
Aizen then started to walk forwards, leaving the dragon slayer to his injuries and immobile state. He looked back up at the skies towards Ichigo, at which point he spoke once more.
"It's entirely unlikely that you will ever face one as powerful as I in the future, but I caution you to choose your battles more wisely. After all, I can't promise that mercy will be shown to you when the time comes."
Aizen quickly unsheathed his sword and blocked an incoming sword strike. He turned to see that the redhead who had been the first wizard he dispatched of was currently standing right in front of him with the same sword brought to bear.
Annoyance, however, gave way to curiosity the very second that he observed her appearance. He could see a slight aura of red flickering around her body, and the feeling of her sword had started to change; he could tell that much just by clashing swords with her. Moreover, the blood from her wounds had stopped seeping, which should most definitely not have been possible.
'What's this?' Aizen wondered with amused curiosity. 'So there not one, but two? No, that's not quite right… She's different than the other.'
"It's quite brave of you to attack me on your own after having seen what it is that I'm capable of." Aizen remarked.
"Who said I was attacking on my own?" Erza asked, her expression of determination and anger still holding strong.
The brown-haired man quirked an eyebrow, though he was quickly alerted to what she had meant. He brought up his left hand and extended it off to the side and called forth a barrier of green energy in order to block the incoming fist of none other than Fairy Tail's demoness.
Aizen's eyes widened upon sensing what it was that her powers felt like, coupled with the fact that her fist had actually managed to crack the Kido spell. Once more, he could see a flickering aura around the female's body, though hers, as opposed to the redhead's, was purple. Yet again, the wounds on her being had closed up.
Sensing the two's respective powers made Aizen smirk. He quickly used flash step to appear across the beach from the two, his posture holding no offensive intent.
"You gonna tell me just how it is that you got that kind of power?" Mira asked, looking off to her side.
"I could ask the same of you." Erza shot back.
The two were aware that, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that their respective powers were far from natural. Moreover, the changing presence thereof was continuous. With each passing second, it grew more intense and vibrant.
"Heh, well in any case, this is only recent on my part. I don't think I could explain it if I tried." Mira stated.
"It's much the same for me." Erza replied. "However, I highly doubt that we really need to understand it to take advantage of it."
"Very true." Mira stated, smirking cockily.
"Oh? Then these powers truly are recent additions to your respective energy compositions?" Aizen inquired. "Well, well, then aren't I the lucky one. This is quite a pleasant surprise."
"Shut your mouth before I shut it for you!" Mira exclaimed.
"Are you under the impression that you could do so if you wanted? I don't really think that's the case." Aizen replied, eliciting a small grunt of annoyance from the former barmaid. "Regardless, this is truly a marvelous occurrence. To think that during his stay he would inadvertently do something like this."
"What the hell are you rambling about now?" Erza sternly questioned, jostling her blade.
"Very well… Since you don't understand your powers, I feel at least partially obligated to explain it to you." Aizen answered. "You see, whether you realize it or not, your powers are starting to directly mirror spiritual energy. You two aren't like the pink-haired boy—no, far from it. The very essence of your being is starting to shift, and this change is distinctly Ichigo Kurosaki's doing."
"You seem happy about that for some reason…" Mira couldn't help but remark.
"That's only natural. After all, this is such a wonderful insight into how his powers are developing. Although, I find it odd that the two of you have clearly taken on two different sets of abilities." Aizen stated. "Perhaps it's simply a result of his very nature, or perhaps it's because of both of your respective natures. In any case, it's still quite fascinating."
Without saying another word, Aizen used flash step to appear directly between the two warriors. He sent a kick into Mira's side, sending her flying off into the ocean. Simultaneously, he swung his sword vertically at Erza, who managed to block the attack in time to prevent any semblance of damage. In spite of that fact, she was unable to move due to the pressure that Aizen applied to her blade.
"As expected, you're speed is far greater than it was beforehand." Aizen remarked.
He broke off the stalemate by swiping his blade off to the side, thereby forcing Erza to skid backwards across the sandy beach helplessly.
Aizen took a step towards her, though Mira came charging at him before he managed to take another. He turned and grabbed the incoming fist with his left hand, effortlessly preventing the demoness from inflicting any harm.
"And also as expected, you're physical strength is quite remarkable." Aizen thought aloud. "This truly is interesting. I only wish I had more time to observe."
"Observe this!" Mira venomously spat.
She brought up her left hand, opening its palm and charging it with a purple sphere that Aizen immediately recognized. However, before the attack could even manage to form, he vanished in the blur of flash step.
Mira felt the energy dissipate in her palm, all the while several large cuts appeared across her back and stomach. She managed to remain conscious, but her body had started to feel rather heavy once again.
She fell to her knees, still maintaining her pseudo-standing position. After a short few seconds, however, her arms and legs gave in, and she fell to the ground.
"It's impressive that you remained conscious for as long as you did. Those wounds I gave you would have been troublesome even for a captain to deal with." Aizen said.
His eyes widened a moment later when the form of the redheaded swordsman appeared directly at his side. Her movement was far quicker than he predicted, but he nevertheless found himself with time to dodge. He felt the wind resulting from the swing touch his skin, something that actually shocked him to no end.
Having seen that Aizen had barely managed to move out of her sword's path, Erza flipped the blade in her hand and prepared to swing in the opposite direction so as to catch him off guard. Before being able to do so, though, the very target of her soon-to-be attack grabbed hold of her forearm and held it in place.
"I must say, the two of you put up a surprising fight. However, there's something more than just the appearance of spiritual energy." Aizen uttered. "I can feel the anger in your soul and in your blade. Tell me, does the fact that I harmed your comrades and intend to take on away warrant risking your life like this?"
In that moment, Aizen felt more and more strength being put into the forward pressure of Erza's arms and thereby her blade. He was still able to hold it at bay, but the abruptness of the surge and the intensity of the power it brought were rather astounding.
"I told you, didn't I? I said I'd kill you!" Erza growled out angrily.
"Oh?" Aizen amusedly asked.
The brown-haired man vanished in the blur of flash step, thereby releasing his grip on Erza's arm. Her attack quickly followed through, which didn't hit its intended target but did successfully demolish the section of land that lay at her immediate front.
"And what, may I ask, has brought about this anger?" Aizen questioned, prompting the scarlet-haired beauty to turn around. "Do you have some kind of grudge against me or something?"
"Putting it mildly…" Erza replied.
"I don't really see why that would be the case. After all, I've haven't killed any of your comrades, and all I intend to do is bring Ichigo Kurosaki back to where he belongs. Objectively speaking, I fail to see any reason for the amount of hatred in your sword."
"You want a reason?!" Erza exclaimed. "Just the thought of you taking Ichigo away is bad enough, yet you also… Because of you, my sword pierced his chest. It was my sword that nearly killed him, and for that I will never forgive you!"
The sound of the emotion in her voice caused Aizen to raise a curious brow. He looked back over to the white-haired teen that proved to be worthy of interest, and he saw the same gaze of hatred, scorn, and determination that he saw in Erza's eyes.
"Hmm, so I see." Aizen said, ending on a light chuckle. "That's rather cruel of you, Ichigo. Although, this does further explain why your souls were so receptive to his powers—one way or another."
"No, cruel is what I'm planning on doing to you." Erza spat.
She prepared to charge, though she stopped upon feeling a press against her back.
A series of six wide beams of light slammed into Erza's midsection, the appearance of which accompanied a distinct inability to move her limbs. She couldn't even turn around to glare at her attacker.
'Dammit, why can't I move?!' Erza inwardly shouted. 'Just what the hell kind of spell is this? Ichigo's never mentioned any such thing before.'
"It's no use struggling." Aizen said calmly. "You won't be able to break free from my Bakudo."
Despite what he had said, Erza still struggled to break free of the restraint. When her limbs slightly winced, Aizen found himself somewhat surprised. He hadn't expected her to be capable of even that much.
"Such wasted effort…"
"It won't be wasted, and I certainly won't yield! Not until I kill you!" Erza shouted angrily.
As the scarlet-haired warrior continued to make her attempts at freeing herself, Aizen shook his head amusedly. He walked out in front of her, his back still facing her before next he spoke.
"Honestly, it's quite a cruel thing that Ichigo's done." Aizen began. "The human heart is such a fragile thing, yet he needlessly and knowingly toyed with both yours and evidently that other young woman that lay defeated and helpless on the sands of this island."
"He hasn't toyed with anything. Just what the hell are you even talking about?!" Erza exclaimed.
"I see… So you're unaware."
"What are you—"
"Let me ask you something." Aizen interjected. "You hold a grudge against me because you believe that I am standing between both you and your happiness, because I'm actively taking Ichigo Kurosaki away from you, am I right? That reality scares you, and it agitates you that you are powerless to say or do anything to affect the end result."
The fact that Erza started to struggle more so in a fit of rage to free herself acted as an answer. Despite that, the former captain didn't really need such an obvious non-verbal reply to know that he was right.
"While it is a fact that you're powerless to change reality, it's important to note that this occurrence… his leaving, was decided the moment after he arrived. It is simply an event of the past."
"Shut up!" Erza barked. "That's an outright lie and both of us know that!"
"Is that so?" Aizen asked amusedly. He turned to face the redhead, a stern expression gracing his features. "Well then, tell me this: why, exactly, do you think that I'm wrong?"
"He promised, is that right?" Aizen mused. "Yes, that would certainly be within his character to do so."
The perceived mocking in his tone earned a razor-thin glare from Erza and an accompanying Ichigo-level scowl, though no verbal response was given.
"Ichigo Kurosaki is not the type of person that is actually capable of breaking the heart of another human being. No, he'd rather all people be content, even at his own expense." Aizen began. "You've gathered that much, I take it?"
"Yes, I'm well aware. However, I fail to see your point." Erza replied.
"My point is this: even if Ichigo Kurosaki was aware that his returning to where he belongs was an inevitability, it wouldn't dictate his behavior. He'd act the same as he always had, never once bothering to consider the results of his actions."
"Again, I fail to see—"
"Very well, then I shall spell it out for you." Aizen said. "I'm saying that, from the very beginning… whatever feelings you perceived as reciprocated were nothing more than a fabrication on his part."
The level of anger that appeared on both Mira and Erza's respective faces alerted him to the fact that his words were not well received. If either of them could move, it was entirely likely that they'd make to strangle him.
"That's a lie!" Erza shouted defiantly. "His feelings were nothing less than genuine! Did you honestly think I'd believe that?!"
"The proof simply lies in who he is. Just think about it for a moment." Aizen stated. "Even if he knew that he was going to ultimately leave this world, would he have behaved any differently? I'd imagine that whatever relationship was had between the three of you that he was assuredly not the one to initiate it or actively respond to your advances."
"T-That's…" Erza trailed off. She couldn't quite find anything more to say.
"Moreover, do you think that he has even the slightest capability of emotionally harming another person if he can otherwise help it?"
"Even then, could you possibly see him doing such a thing out of guilt? Perhaps even pity? Do you honestly think, from the very bottom of your heart, that what was said by him was what he truly meant?" Aizen pressed.
"On top of all that I've just said, there's still the fact that he likely never intended to stay in this world, regardless of what he told you." Aizen began. "In our world, he has countless comrades, countless friends, and countless memories. Can you even say that from his personal standpoint that this world is even remotely comparable? You believe he just decided to abandon all that he knew and loved for a life here of all places? Even the depths of his pity and guilt aren't that vast."
"In truth, I feel sorry for you. Your heart has been toyed with, and even if the intent was good, the end result is just the same." Aizen stated. "You may not want to accept these revelations… but deep down, there's a voice crying out and saying accept it, it's the truth."
"SHUT UP!" Erza screamed, her voice wracked with pain and sorrow.
The scarlet-haired beauty's form started to slump. She no longer struggled to break free, nor did she even further scream defiantly at what Aizen was saying. Seeing this, the brown-haired man released the Kido spell that bound her, allowing Erza to fall to the ground.
She stayed on her hands and knees, clenching the sands of the beach weakly, though it was with as much strength as she could manage to muster. Her chest ached, and her very soul felt as if it was in pain. Tears started to stream down her cheeks, but she didn't even have it in her to sob.
"This is why I said it was rather cruel of him to toy with the emotions of another living being. He didn't even have the decency to kill you after creating such a strict emotional dependency." Aizen thought aloud.
"There's… no way… Ichigo, why…? Why would… How could…" Erza muttered, her voice filled with sorrow.
"Out of mercy, I suppose I should contemplate ending your life." Aizen mused. He reached for his sheathed blade, barely taking it out before pausing altogether. He then sheathed it entirely, taking his hand of the grip subsequently thereafter. "No, on second thought, I won't do so. You're far too unique for me to do such a thing."
With that, he turned away. Erza heard his words, but she didn't pay attention to them in the slightest. Her mind seethed with anger, regret, sorrow, and any number of other emotions.
All of her memories with Ichigo seemed to be in question, but she could recall each of them with perfect clarity. The look on his face, the position of his lips, the tone of his voice—all of these things and more, she could remember as if it happened yesterday.
'All of what he said… what he did… was it all just a lie?' Erza wondered. 'But there's no way it was… Ichigo wouldn't do something like that.'
The more and more Erza pictured what it was that Ichigo had said, and how he said it, the more and more she couldn't believe it was a lie. For his part, Ichigo had told the truth; he wasn't nearly a good enough actor to lie to himself.
Given that, she realized the doubt that flowed through her mind and crushed her heart was her own. It was the doubt that Ichigo ever really felt anything for her, it was the doubt that he had ever really connected with her, it was the doubt that she would be able to live if she stood up to Aizen, and most of all, it was the doubt that she would ever see him again after a few subsequent moments.
Aizen had caused her to be swallowed by the dark storm that pulled in the back of her own heart, and it would cause her to give up on Ichigo altogether. The fact that she realized that, however, may very well not have been something he had counted on.
'No… that can't happen.' Erza thought. 'I won't accept it!'
With her willpower now forcing her forward instead of holding her down, Erza rose from the ground and grabbed the hilt of her katana. She charged towards Aizen with as much speed as she could muster, her blade nearing just inches away from the center of his back.
Right before contact with the man's person was made, he vanished. It felt as if time had halted, but Erza soon realized the presence of several large cuts across her stomach, legs, and back.
With a quiet gasp, she fell to the surface of the island once more. Above her body, Aizen sheathed his sword. He looked down at her, almost pityingly.
"You should have just accepted the mental release from your feelings that I offered." Aizen stated. "The anguish that you'll experience in the aftermath will only be amplified. Although, I suppose it doesn't affect me in the slightest. I merely wished to give you the opportunity after having forced you to be the one that incapacitated Ichigo Kurosaki and subsequently delivered him to the palm of my hand."
Aizen vanished in the blur of flash step. He appeared next to Ichigo's body, at which point he looked back down at the mass of defeated wizards. He grabbed Ichigo and hoisted him over his back, at which point he turned back to look at those that lay on the ground, helplessly watching him as he prepared to leave.
"As I said before, I won't end your lives. I'll at least leave you with that much."
Aizen flicked his wrist towards the air behind him, at which point the dark abyss known as the Garganta started to appear. He turned to face its contents and walked into it a moment later.
"Ichigo…!" Mira quietly exclaimed.
"Dammit all!" Erza hissed.
A light green aura started to coat the bodies of each and every wizard on Tenrou's coastline, which prompted everyone present to believe, if only briefly, that they were witnessing the fabled 'light' that one saw before dying. However, they quickly became aware of the fact that it wasn't even a hallucination of any kind.
'What the hell?' Erza wondered, her thoughts mirroring those of just about everyone else.
Sensing an odd presence behind him, Aizen turned. When he saw the green glow emanating from the Fairy Tail wizards, he quietly gasped. All he saw as the Garganta was nearly closed was a bright flash, at which point he winced. He saw nothing else before the portal closed altogether.
'Strange…' Aizen thought.
He couldn't feel anything differently within the Garganta, prompting him to move forward once again.
Dangai: Some Distance Away from the World of the Living…
The linings of the restrictive current gave way for a large Garganta, out of which none other than Aizen jumped. Immediately after his feet touched the surface of the precipice world, he laid Ichigo down on his back. Standing tall, he examined the wounds that he was inflicted with.
"Your wounds will be fairly easy to heal, and your memory will be easy enough to modify." Aizen mused.
He then bent down at Ichigo's side, examining him carefully. He placed a hand over his chest and started to heal the wound at its center, though his eyes widened a moment alter upon sensing something else.
"Well, well… it would appear that your living body was sent to that world alongside your spiritual form." Aizen mused. "Hmm, then that explains quite a bit. Was your presence there an accident, I wonder? It wouldn't surprise me if he of all people manufactured this situation out of fear."
Aizen continued to heal the substitute, his inward thoughts drifting back to what happened immediately before the Garganta closed. He didn't sense anything, yet he had this strange, sinking feeling that he hadn't seen the last of the Fairy Tail wizards.
"No matter. When I'm done healing you, I'll separate you from your body and return it to the world of the living. You'll wake up as if nothing happened; I'll make sure of that." Aizen said. "Then there's the ordeal of re-binding myself. Honestly, you're far too much trouble, Ichigo Kurosaki. Were you not my greatest creation, I'd have killed you long ago."
The purple orb at the center of his chest started to glow, which caused Aizen to chuckle. He brought his free hand up to it, causing the ethereal glow to die down.
"Perhaps I should clarify by saying greatest 'experiment'." Aizen mused. "Regardless, I need to move quickly. Since we're now in the Dangai, I no longer have the luxury of waiting an excessive amount of time."
Unknown Dimension, Unknown Place, Unknown Time…
"Ughh…" Natsu groaned.
He picked up his upper body, wincing as a result of the wounds that still plagued his torso. At first, he thought he had just passed out until nighttime, but he'd never seen a night quite this dark.
He quickly realized that the sands he was lying on were also not those of the beach on Tenrou Island. With wide eyes, he began to frantically look around.
"W-What the hell?!" Natsu shouted.
"Calm down, Natsu." Makarov ordered.
The young dragon slayer looked over to see that many of the others, among whom were Erza, Mira, Laxus, Gildarts, Cana, Ultear, and several others, were all crowded around Wendy as she was healing several of those injured.
"Wait a second, am I dead?" Natsu asked confusedly. He was slapped in the back of the head by his 'rival' a second later.
"We ain't dead, you moron." Gray chided.
"Though we nearly all were…" Cana muttered.
"Yes." Erza began. "Sosuke Aizen's power was far greater than any of us could have possibly imagined. It's a miracle that we got out of that fight with our lives."
"H-Hang on…" Natsu trailed off.
"We also lost Ichigo as well." Mira stated, sounding rather annoyed by that fact.
"He's not dead, Mira." Erza pointed out.
"We may not know where he is, but regardless, finding Ichigo isn't our top priority at the moment." Gildarts stated.
"Albeit begrudgingly, I agree." Erza replied.
"…same here." Mira grumpily added.
The shout of the Fire Dragon Slayer drew the attention of all those who were awake. He looked off confusedly around the barren wasteland, wanting to ask nothing more than a single question.
"Where the hell are we?!"
World of the Living: Karakura Town
The Senkaimon opened high in the skies of Karakura. Ichigo leaped out of the portal to the afterlife and landed atop one of the large buildings just outside the river. He landed perfectly, after which he took a deep breath of fresh air.
"Man, I feel a lot better…" Ichigo sighed out.
For the duration of his trip to the world of the living, he felt somewhat strange. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, either. He just simply felt off.
'Maybe it's an aftereffect of just recently getting back my powers.' Ichigo mused. 'I should really ask Rukia what the hell was in that sword outside of just spiritual pressure…'
"Hey, Ichigo!" Keigo shouted from the nearby riverbed.
The substitute looked down to see Mizuiro, Keigo, Tatsuki, Chad, Uryu, Orihime, his dad, Karin, Yuzu, and even Urahara and Yoruichi rushing up and gazing at him. He smiled warmly, being unable to do anything else in the wake of seeing his friends so glad to see him. He didn't know why, but it felt like an eternity since he'd last even spoken to them.
"Ichigo! Over here, big brother!" Yuzu girlishly cheered.
"Yuzu, Ichigo's over there…" Karin corrected.
The younger of the twins soon sifted her vision and started waving, which made Ichigo chuckle.
"Hey! Hey, Ichigo!" Orihime cheered, waving wholeheartedly at the black-clad teen.
"What took you so long, buddy?" Uryu questioned good-naturedly.
Uryu then adjusted his glasses and smiled slightly, while Chad just smiled and lightly waved. Urahara and Yoruichi were present and chose to stay silent as well, though the latter, being in cat form, wasn't likely to say a word to begin with.
Ichigo just looked on into the blue sky, a warm smile crossing his lips. Seeing his friends filled him with a great sense of joy, and in that very moment, though he felt odd, he could say that he was happy.
"See ya, guys."
A/N I can think of no proper ending than the final words of the Bleach anime—at least, thus far. Fun fact, the title of this chapter Into the Realm of Souls is actually what I have planned as the title for the sequel, because it takes place in the Bleach-verse. Clever, right? Just so everyone understands, the intent behind the Dangai thing was to illustrate the time difference between the Soul Society/Ichigo's world/Hueco Mundo and earthland. Since that's the case, how do you suppose the time-skip would be possible if, say, they were to ever go back to earthland after the sequel? That was the intended genius behind the idea, and I use that term loosely, but still. The OC's I introduced earlier in the story will still have a role to play in the future, so don't worry about that. I couldn't resist pulling an Aizen since I felt it brought together what I wanted to do so well, and I really wanted to show an instance where Fairy Tail couldn't pull a 'friendship powerup!' moment. So there you have it, everyone. This story has now ended, and it's time to go into my closing thoughts and thanks.
Final Thoughts: First off, I'd like to give an enormous shootout to those of you who have supported me as an author and this story. To everyone that has favorited and followed, I honestly thank you. Even if you just read it for fun, thanks to you, too, because I write this so people can enjoy it. This story has been met with amazing success, which doesn't honestly surprise me. I got interested in writing this story about a year and a half ago when I read the then top story and said 'huh, I can top this…' and so I did. That being said, the support I got is still what made it happen. Over 3100 reviews, over 1980 favorites, and almost a million overall page views. Cool stuff. As far as the ending is concerned, it was my intent from the start. I had the idea of bringing in the Tenou crew into the Bleach-verse, and then the time distortion there would be the reverse, allowing for a return by the end of all things which would result in the seven year time skip. It's essentially three birds with one stone. The memory loss on Ichigo's part, just so that you know, isn't something that will last very long on his part. It'll be a while before I actually write the sequel to this, probably one year from now, but it'll eventually get done. That's really all I have to say, other than that I guess I'll be seeing—hopefully—most of you when I post the DxD Crossover. Until then, everyone!