Hello and welcome my story. I hope you enjoy it; and if you feel like it, a review would be awesome. My Author's Notes are at the end.

Edits: A lot. I'd almost call this a rewrite, but the story is generally the same, so it's technically a rework. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story, it should make more sense and be a lot easier to read now.

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or make money from this fan made fiction.

Speaking out loud – "Hello, how are you?"

Thinking – "I wonder how you are doing."

Out of The Bag:

It was finally over; the quincy were defeated with the fall of Juha Bach: known as the Yhwach. The fight was intense but after seven straight days of fighting, Ichigo Kurosaki ended it with an attack he had never unleashed before... to quite the devastating effect. Despite the original location of the fight—in the Soul King's dimension—Juha (who was slowly dissipating) now lay face-down on one side of a massive gash that cut through the middle of the white stone buildings and orange roofs of Seireitei. On the other side of the newly formed ravine was Ichigo Kurosaki, who was unconscious and on his back.

Despite the tensions being just past their peak, nearby soul reapers had already begun to flock to either side of the ravine, including a man who wore a large straw hat and a pink haori with a flowery pattern; he was walking along side his assistant, Nanao Ise.

"That was quite the fight, eh Nanao?" The man's name was Shunsui Kyōraku, now captain commander of the Thirteen Court Guard Companies. "Kid sure knows how to make an... impression."

"Captain." Nanao replied, scolding the man for the pun. She then looked over to the young man with bright orange hair, "Shall I call for the fourth division?"

Shunsui contemplated for a moment before giving his Vice-Captain the go-ahead. "Also, please gather Kurosaki's friends and bring them to the captains' meeting hall, we have some difficult things to talk about."

"Yes Captain." Came the curt reply.

A few miles away stood an infuriated... man-like creature named Mayuri Kurotsuchi. "My labs!" he exclaimed. Captain of the Twelfth Division and second head of the Research and development department, he had white and black skin in various patterns and a hat that looked like part of his head... or maybe it was? Nothing about the "man" was normal, not even his screechy voice. "Those fools ruined my labs!" Facing the gash that had cut through some of the Twelfth Division's upper and lower laboratories, his voice was more strained than usual. "Do those buffoons have any Idea of the importance of this research? Nemu!" He called out. "Where are you?"

"Right here sir." she replied in monotone. Nemu Kurotsuchi was the vice-captain of the Twelfth Division as well as vice head of the Research and Development department, but her emotions were almost non-existent; if she had any feelings about the destroyed research facilities, they weren't apparent.

Mayuri stormed off. "Get this cleaned up, I'm headed to the first division!"

"Right away sir." she responded.

Mayuri walked into the meeting hall, going past the group that came from the living world—his course altered by a message courtesy of a hell butterfly—and walked to his place across from Rukia Kuchiki. Rukia was the vice-captain of the thirteenth division: a short woman with black, chin-length hair and purple eyes; next to her stood the towering Kenpachi Zaraki, "battle-crazed" captain of the eleventh division, though he had been very different since his vice-captain had disappeared in the war against the quincy.

The spot directly to Mayuri's left was empty, as the entire tenth division had been either wiped out or 'zombified', so the next person to his left was actually the third seat of the eighth division: Tatsufusa Enjōji. Across form the eighth division's representative was Vice-Captain Shūhei Hisagi; the other Vice-Captain not available for some reason; to his right was Tetsuzaemon Iba.

Across from Tetsuzaemon stood the ever stoic Byakuya Kuchiki, who was somehow intimidating the taller Vice-Captain of the fourth division: Isane Kotetsu. Tetsuzaemon could tell because her fidgeting and fleeting glances toward the Captain of the sixth division, though slight, were rather noticeable; especially to the Kuchiki noble.

"Calm down Miss Kotetsu, the meetin'll start soon enough." The voice came from the person directly in front of her in the row across and belonged to Shinji Hirako, the once former and now current captain of the fifth division. He had long blonde hair with straight bangs and spoke with an accent.

"Y-yes" she timidly replied.

The diminutive captain to her left, Suì-Fēng, captain of the second division (and the Onmitsukidō), just rolled her eyes patiently as the last person to enter rushed into the hall and stood next to Shinji.

"S-sorry for being late, I-I'm not normally here." the late newcomer said. The girl was of average height with long black hair, brown eyes and looked to be in her early twenties in human years. "My name is Rosuto On'nanoko, I am the fourth seat of the third division and am currently in charge." She bowed her apology before the Captain-Commander spoke up.

The Captain Commander, who was sitting as he watched everyone walk into the meeting, got up and quickly did a count to make sure everyone was present. Of special note were Ichigo Kurosaki's "entourage", all people who had come from the world of the living despite only two of them being "alive".

Kisuke Urahara: former captain of the Twelfth Division and founder of the research department that had taken over most of his former division. His most defining features were the wooden clogs and green and white striped fisherman's hat.

Yoruichi Shihōin, former Captain of the Second Division as well as head of the Onmitsukidō (a hidden police organization). The woman had a naturally dark tan skin, long purple hair, yellow eyes, and a figure to that showed how she was slender, flexible, and yet filled out.

Orihime Inoue: a kind young woman and brilliant healer. She had long, auburn hair, grey eyes, and a notably large bust.

Yasutora "Chad" Sado: classified as a "fullbringer", he was Ichigo's best friend. The young man was very tall, heavily built, and had dark, tanned skin due to his half Mexican heritage.

"Good morning everyone," the Captain Commander started, "we have a few things to talk about but I want to keep things simple so we're not kept too long. As everyone by now knows, Ichigo Kurosaki is currently resting in the fourth division—with surprisingly light injuries—after defeating the leader of the quincy: Juha Bach." He paused a moment to let the words sink in before his tone took a more serious turn. "Now lies the only problem I can foresee: Central Forty-six wants to keep him in soul society."

There was an audible gasp from Orihime, Rukia, and Yoruichi, while Byakuya's eyes widened.

"Are they mad!?" Rukia shouted. "He has a family, and he's extremely protective of them. Not to mention he still has his body back in the world of the living."

"I agree with Vice-Captain Kuchiki," Byakuya stated. "I have come to know him to a degree and agree with Vice-Captain Kuchiki: He will most likely insist upon returning to his family."

"They can't do that, can they?" Orihime questioned.

"Yes and no," Shunsui said, "While they can't force him to join the Thirteen Court Guard Companies, they fear his effect upon the living world if he should return. He may distort reality within the world of the living as things stand."

"So we are at an impasse." Suì-Fēng said. "We would be troubled to stop him if he refuses to stay."

"And that is what worries me. If he refuses Central then they will likely try something underhanded. The consequences of those actions would be something best avoided." Shunsui knew he needed to avoid making an enemy of Soul Society's saviour.

"He would tear apart Central and all those in his way should they try certain tactics the previous council had been known to use," Byakuya added.

There was a silence before Kisuke walked forward spoke up, overshadowed by his had in an ominous fashion. "I assume you have a plan Captain-Commander?" Most of the others could see that Kisuke had more than an inkling of understanding but were more than willing to ignore the conspiratorial look in his eyes.

"I do." Shunsui said, looking right back at those eyes. "I would give him an offer to have him join us temporarily as the captain of the Eighth Division."

"Captain-Commander," spoke a curt, female voice to the captain's left; it belonged to to Suì-Fēng. "He is a human of 17 years, how could he properly lead a division?"

"I think Ichigo would be a great captain, Suì-Fēng," Yoruichi spoke, stepping beside Kisuke. "He's strong enough, skilled enough, and has the instincts necessary to lead. It also helps that he's got that... certain charm that others tend to follow." Her finger was tapping her chin as she filled out the last few words.

"Lady Yoruichi, while I do not doubt your belief, you have not known him very long. He defies orders to do what he thinks is right; he might divide the Thirteen Court Guard Companies."

"And he has saved soul society twice now. The only thing he's missing is kidō and some... experience." Her face now sported that infamous Cheshire-like grin; reminiscing had brought up the memory of her teasing the young man in the healing hot spring.

Suì-Fēng wasn't sure what Yoruichi's smile was about but she knew she didn't like it. "L-Lady Yoruichi-" indignation was clear in her voice until she was interrupted.

"Alright, alright." Shunsui said, his manner quite jovial. "Let's get back to the topic at hand." He paused to give everyone the time to settle down, the week had been hectic enough. "Offering him the position should keep him from feeling too trapped. And I have spoken with Sado Yasutora during his invasion of soul society and gained great insight into the loyalty Kurosaki inspires. It seems to me that any of the captain-less divisions would do well with his natural leadership." Yasutora nodded while grunting in agreement. "I also aim to restore a sense of normalcy within Seireitei. With this also in mind, we may stay on friendly terms with him while also giving leadership to one of our divisions while we look for a permanent captain."

"Excuse me, Captain Commander, about the open captain positions: I don't think we have enough talent, according to my current data." Everyone was a little surprised when Mayuri spoke, seemingly interrupting the Captain Commander's next words.

"Oh?" asked Shunsui, "Please continue."

"I was in the process of reversing the 'zombification' of Captain Hitsugaya, Vice-Captain Matsumoto, Captain Muguruma, and Captain Ōtoribashi. The process takes a while, but I am confident in the rehabilitation process." His face was rather smug and condescending until it became one of irritation and anger. "Well that was until a large portion of my labs were destroyed." he growled out. The next emotion upon his face confused all present, if only for a moment: disappointment and apathy at the same time. "I report the deaths of Captain Muguruma and Captain Ōtoribashi."

"Explain." stated Shinji; his concern and anger could not be missed: the loss of two "brothers" was not something to be taken lightly, and the tone conveyed by the Twelfth Division's captain was not the most respectful.

"That massive wave of energy eviscerated the majority of my hollow research facility, which just happens to be where I placed Captains Muguruma and Ōtoribashi for their treatment. Needless to say, a large cavern now exists in their place."

The persons in the room who knew Ichigo were as quiet as death which prompted silence from the others; for the next ten minutes nothing was said. Mayuri seemed oddly content as an unnamed lesson of some sort seemed to sink in from his perspective.

"I see..." spoke Kisuke; the silence finally broken with the most sombre of tones. "This is not something Kurosaki will take well."

"Son of a bitch!" Yoruichi spat. "He's already done so much, and now he has to learn about this!?"

"W-we don't have to tell him, do we?" Almost everyone at the meeting looked at Orihime and thought the idea seemed like a valid option. "If we don't let him know then he won't have to worry about it."

The room began to stir with an invisible wind of conspiracy when Rukia spoke up to crush it. "We can't keep this from him, he needs to know." The softness and seriousness of her voice deflating the sails of those who would consider it, save Orihime who once again tried to get the others on-board.

"You can't do that, you'll crush his heart. He can't take that kind of punishment, not like this!" Her voice was in rags as she began to cry; her sobs beginning to choke her words. "You can't... You just can't!"

"And how is that fair to him!?" Rukia shouted, startling the others. "He saves the universe and his closest friends pay him back by keeping secrets? If no one else will tell him then I will! He's stronger than that."

"I'll tell 'im," Shinji said, his eyes staring down an invisible enemy. "He's killed one of us, one of his own; he'll forgive himself faster if we let 'im know."

There was a short silence before Shunsui once again spoke. "It seems we have a solution. Now, let's talk about the other open positions that remain. Kisuke Urahara, Yoruichi Shihōin, would you like to take up the mantle as captain for the fourth, seventh, ninth, or thirteenth divisions?"

Kisuke was the first to respond. "While I am grateful for the offer, I believe my services would be best served in the world of the living with the freedom I have had. Human's are incredible and some serious science has started looking into the afterlife; while they do not have the technology to interfere with the spiritual realms, I believe it best if I still keep a finger on its pulse."

"I see," replied Shunsui, "And your decision Miss Shihōin?"

"Na, it wouldn't feel right without the Second Division, and Suì-Fēng is more than capable there. I'll just continue to do what I did beforehand; maybe play tag with Suì-Fēng and Ichigo once in a while."

There was a slight chuckle among the others present, most notably Byakuya Kuchiki, who perfectly understood the event. "I understand." Shunsui said, a touch of humour gracing his face and coming through his voice. "So that leaves us looking for new blood. Who is capable of bankai that isn't a captain?"

"I am." Rukia said in response. For any of those present who didn't know, if they were surprised, they didn't show it.

"I nominate Renji Abarai," Byakuya said. "He has achieved bankai and should be sufficient for the role."

Once enough time had passed and no other name was called, Shunsui spoke his next words. "Then there will be no issue with an official demonstration?"

The reply was a quick "No sir!" from the current vice-captain; Byakuya responded with "I shall let him know."

"Then we will meet here tomorrow at one in the afternoon, along with anyone who is willing to oversee the process."

"Yes Captain-Commander!" was the response from all the captain-class soul reapers present.

Quickly changing gears, Shunsui was back to his jovial manner with one final question. "Now that everything else has been dealt with, do any of you have concerns?"

Shinji looked back and fourth, and when no one else – after Mayuri complained more about his laboratories – spoke up he quickly asked his own question. "Cap'n-Commander, may I speak with ya 'n Kisuke after the meetin'? I'm more 'n a little concerned with somethin'."

"Of course." Shunsui said, "And with that I say this meeting is finished. Thank you all for coming." He waved everyone off with a smile and let his shoulders relax.

After everyone else left, save Shunsui, Shinji, and himself, Kisuke spoke up. "So Mr. Hirako, what's up?" his tone also jovial.

"It's my vice-cap'n, Momo Hinamori. The other day she was trainin' one a' tha fith seats with shikai when..."

Early the next morning Momo Hinamori found herself sitting in one of the fourth division's examination rooms for a 'routine checkup', or at least that is what her captain said. And while the behaviour was strange was odd, so was her new captain.

"I suppose he's just making sure I'm fit for duty."

She wasn't sure what to make of this new captain. He was superficially dishonest on his feelings and his attitude kept her on her toes.

"That can only be a good thing."

It was the last thing she needed: a captain who doted on her. She was over Aizen, she had learned from that. But if her new captain was similar she would have transferred, resigned...

"I'd desert if I had to."

And that was it: she was thankful for the strange superior officer. But this was getting off-topic. She was here to make sure she was physically in top shape.

"I have been rather tired lately."

Though that was probably nothing serious. She probably just needed more sleep: she had been training harder lately to get up to par with her new co-vice-captain, Hiyori Sarugaki.

"I should get more rest, it won't do if I collapse one day."

"Good morning, you must be Vice-captain Momo Hinamori." The foreign voice, obviously not her thoughts, startled her a little. In walked a man who's most defining features were his green and white striped hat and the clack of his wooden clogs. "Kisuke Urahara, if I remember correctly," she thought. He sounded happy, maybe too happy.

"Good morning Mister Urahara, what are you doing here?" The man was obviously not from the fourth division.

"Oh," he said, pulling out a fan and opening it in front of his face. "Captain Hirako wanted me to run a little test I talked to him about previously. It can detect spirit energy exhaustion before it happens. He said he sensed something and wanted me to check it out, make sure you weren't hurting yourself." The strange man in strange garb then put the fan away and pulled out a breathing mask from somewhere in his coat and handed it to the slightly confused vice-captain. "Go ahead, put it on."

After an uneasy moment Momo placed the mask and adjusted the straps. "The air tastes different."

"Well you are breathing through a special filter so things ought to be a little different." Out of nowhere he pulled out a box with four wires attached to it and sat it on the unused portion of the bed. "I need to get to your right wrist, left shoulder, stomach, and also back." By now his voice was serious to prevent any misconceptions. "I need you to take the top of your uniform off; your undergarments can stay on."

Soon enough Momo was hooked up with wires and the 'box' was beeping with various numbers on the display. The cloth that served as a bra left her plenty modest so she wasn't embarrassed, especially since the man was too busy with the test to even notice her.

"Alright," Kisuke said, "the test is finished and I'd like you to stay here while the numbers are processed. Feel free to get dressed while I'm away."

Unhooking the wires took no time at all and once Kisuke had taken the mask back he was gone, all that was left was to wait for his return.

"Hopefully everything is fine." she thought. This didn't seem to be a test for anything too serious.

It was now five past one and Rukia and Renji had met at the captains' meeting hall and left with their soon-to-be judges toward the first division special training grounds. The large, open field was remarkable for the scars of earth which refused to grow grass—or anything else—and one could almost trace the movements of those who were responsible for it. Off to the side stood Shunsui Kyōraku, Suì-Fēng, and Byakuya Kuchiki as witnesses to the potentially new captains' proficiency test.

Just before anyone could wonder who would start, Shunsui spoke to the two candidates."Vice-captain Kuchiki, please come over here. Vice-captain Abarai, please show us your proficiency from where you feel it is safe."

Rukia quickly joined the other captains and watched as Renji took a stance before calling, "Bankai: Sōō Zabimaru!" A wave of energy erupted causing dust to blind the field for a short while, eventually revealing Renji with his zanpakutō's bankai. On his right arm, covering his hand, was the top half of a snake skull with glowing eyes and a blade extending from between the fangs. A red tuft of fur covered the joint to a spine which extended up his arm and hung loosely around his waist. From the back of his left shoulder, a thick fur hung down. Renji immediately began attacking an invisible enemy, transitioning between attacks with his blade and cowl: revealing a bone hand which resembled the shape of a baboon's arm. Cycling through the different talents he was fluent in didn't take long and he promptly ended the demonstration, standing straight in front of the captains and Rukia, awaiting his assessment. A few more scars added to the field.

Shunsui was the first to speak. "I suppose a sparing partner would have been better to show off your abilities, but I definitely feel the power, and your swordsmanship looks good. What do you think Captain Suì-Fēng?"

The short captain gave Renji a look that made him feel shorter than she was. "His flash-step needs more work and no demonstration of kido was given. But his power is appropriate and his swordsmanship is... adequate. He has much to learn but will do for now assuming he continues to train himself."

"And what do you have to say Captain Kuchiki?"

The noble captain thus spoke. "I believe Vice-Captain Abarai has shown he is capable of leading a division; his power is sufficient for that of a captain, more than I recall when he last faced myself."

"Well," Shunsui said, "I believe that settles it. Congratulations on your promotion, Captain of the Third Division, Renji Abarai."

Renji sealed his zanpakutō and bowed to the other captains. "Thank you Captain-Commander Kyōraku, Captain Suì-Fēng, Captain Kuchiki." He then turned to Rukia, "See, it's easy. I'm going to pack up my stuff while you show off. We'll save the celebrations for when Ichigo wakes up." With nothing else to say he disappeared with flash-step.

Nodding, Rukia entered the very centre of the field and looked around, letting out a breath before waving her hand and calling out to the other captains. "I do not wish to be rude, but do we have a larger field?"

Shunsui raised his eyebrow with bit of a twinkle in his eye while Suì-Fēng looked on with a straight face; it was Byakuya who spoke up, sounding a little disappointed. "Can you not control your bankai properly?"

"Not completely, it's release is dangerous to anyone too close."

"I see." Suì-Fēng responded.

Fearing the contemplative look upon the face of the captain of the Second Division, Rukia quickly spoke up to clarify her concern. "It is not that I cannot control it's release: it is an area of effect centred around myself. My trouble controlling it has to do with a different aspect of my zanpakutō."

Suì-Fēng waited silently for the Captain Commander to make any decisions.

"I guess we can do that, follow me."

Using flash-step the group quickly entered a new field with small, blackened stone tiles upon the ground. Looking around, Rukia noticed that the new field was the same size as the previous one, though the blackened pillars that surrounded it looked rather intimidating as they climbed to form arches that met with the other side.

"This field was designed for the personal use of the previous Captain Commander." said the current Captain Commander.

"I see. Is there a place where you won't get caught up in my bankai?"

"We will stand just outside of the pillars, it should be fine. Is that everything Vice-Captain Kuchiki?"

"That is all, thank you." She bowed.

The observing captains quickly moved to the space between two pillars on the outside of the field and awaited the reveal of Rukia's bankai.

Once Rukia situated herself in the centre, she brought her zanpakutō out to her right side; her left hand elegantly supporting it from below. "Bankai: Hakka no Togame." Immediately the entire atmosphere of the field exploded a bright white, which soon fell to the ground revealing a completely white Rukia Kuchiki now dressed exquisitely in an all white kimono with a high collar of many ribbons. The front seam of her new attire was sealed by three ribbons which reached to her back before they separated, creating multiple, individual loops of ribbon. Her detached sleeves were also crowned with three layers of ribbon and an ornament of ice was in the left side of her hair; another ornament hung off the bottom of her collar of ribbon. Her zanpakutō was now as clear as crystal, yet the detail was still visible; truly it was the most beautiful zanpakutō in Seireitei.

She slowly thawed and the colour came back to her face as the frozen material at the edge of the field began to let off a few clouds of steam. The captains entered the frozen area and observed her stillness and silence for the next five minutes before her chest physically moved, signalling her new breathing.

"So, Captain Kuchiki," Shunsui asked, "what do you think?"

"Vice-Captain Kuchiki is certainly powerful, though it is dangerous to herself as much as it is her foes. With practice, she will overcome almost any who would stand against Seireitei."

"And what do you think, Captain Suì-Fēng?" Despite his personal surprise at the normally critical noble, Shunsui remained outwardly calm so his approval would not yet be visible.

"It's easily one of the more powerful zanpakutō, and since she was the vice-captain under Captain Ukitake, she most likely already knows how to lead a division."

Finally letting out a smile, Shunsui spoke to Rukia, who was taken aback at the compliments and observations of the other two observing Captains. "It seems you have great potential if the praise of these two are anything to go by. Let me be the first to congratulate you on your promotion, Rukia Kuchiki, Captain of the Thirteenth Division."

It took barely a moment for Rukia to process the words and she bowed respectfully to the Captain Commander. "Thank you sir! I will work hard to ensure a strong and peaceful division." She rose from her bow and used flash step to arrive at her quarters and give her first technical order: She would have Kiyone and Sentarō help her clean and organize the Thirteenth Division Captain's quarters and office. A sombre task in the least, as it had not been cleaned since the last time her former captain, Jūshirō Ukitake, died.

It was two days later when Ichigo opened his eyes to an unfamiliar ceiling and grunted as he turned his head only to see what he perceived to be medical equipment in a green walled room. "What happened?" he thought. "Oh, right." he said, giving a voice of recognition to the answer in his memory. Feeling fairly groggy he slowly sat up and stretched his arms before paying more attention to the room he was in.

"Good morning Mr. Kurosaki, how are you feeling?" a feminine voice said.

Turning his head and attention to the newcomer, he saw a tall woman with violet hair who seemed rather intimidated, though he wasn't sure why. "Good morning Miss..." he replied, not remembering her name from the few times he overheard it; he was sure something else happened as well but that was escaping him as much as her name was.

"Kotetsu, Isane Kotetsu. Vice-captain of the Fourth Division." She looked a little more nervous now. "Our first encounter wasn't under the best of circumstances."

Yup, something definitely happened. "I- I see." Ichigo was also getting a little nervous. "I'm sorry, but I don't really remember you."

"I- I guess that makes sense, it was over two years ago and a lot has happened since then."

"Do you mind if I ask what happened? I feel like it's something I should remember."

"Oh, it... wasn't too important. I was one of the three vice-captains you defeated before you fought Captain Kuchiki."

It took Ichigo a moment and Isane relaxed a bit when she saw Ichigo struggling to remember. "Oh, you were the ones who went to chase Renji and Rukia!" There was no anger in his voice, he seemed to be relieved about just being able to remember the scuffle. "Y-yeah, sorry I hit you so hard. I didn't want to kill anyone so I just tried to take you out of the fight. I hope there's no hard feelings, I was just trying to protect Rukia."

Isane smiled in relief, the man in front of her wasn't as hard to deal with as she feared he might be. "Oh, it's okay: it's been over two years and I wasn't really that hurt. I woke up after a few minutes and recovered nearly right away."

"T-that's good to hear."

A short, nervous laugh was shared between the two and soon an awkward silence made itself briefly present until Isane began the checkup, letting Ichigo know as she placed her hand upon his forehead. "Mister Kurosaki, your spirit energy is fighting mine and I'm having trouble checking your vitals."

Ichigo reached behind his head and rubbed the back of his neck. "Oh, sorry about that." He subsequently took a breath and released it slowly to help himself relax, he wasn't sure how to do that yet, but he would sure try.

"Thank you." It wasn't an instant calming like the other captains but after thirty seconds she was able to get a decent reading and feel that nothing was wrong, aside from the hollow feel she received from it. "Mister Kurosaki, are you like Captain Hirako by chance? I believe the term he used was 'visored'." Ichigo's look of surprise and concern was easily discernible as his spirit energy kicked Isane's hand away subconsciously. "Is something wrong Mister Kurosaki?"

Ichigo quickly looked away, realizing he had reacted on instinct. He then looked back toward Isane. "No, nothing's wrong. I just didn't think too many people knew about that, sorry."

"I understand," Isane replied, "you were surprised." Isane's next words were an attempt to get things back to relaxed. "Y-you know, for someone Captain Zaraki holds in high esteem you certainly don't act like most of the men from the Eleventh Division."

"That's because those guys are crazy..." Ichigo's eyes suddenly went wide and he paled a bit. "they don't know I'm here, do they?" He began to look around the room and focused on the unopened window.

Isane giggled before recalling the recent development in the Eleventh Division. "Actually, Captain Zaraki has been spending his time looking for his vice-captain, she disappeared and hasn't been seen since." Her voice was sombre and seemed slightly distressed.

"That sounds bad, I hope they find her soon."

Meanwhile, in the world of the living, the Sahara desert: One Dr. Benjamin Leary was frantically writing notes with a large smile, one not seen on his face since he was a child. The tall but lanky scientist with greying hair worked with the fervour of ten men as he quickly filled out paragraphs of his new discovery.

"Doctor Leary," a female voice asked, "are you okay?"

"I'm more than okay Jessica!" he replied with glee, still filling his journal with new words.

"I'd prefer if you spoke to me more professionally, Doctor Leary." There was more than irritation in her voice, there was condescension.

Benjamin looked toward the woman and stared at her for a moment: She was around five and a half feet tall with dark brown hair that barely met her shoulders and had hazel eyes that never looked lost; she was only a few years younger than him at thirty-five years of age. "Sorry Je- Doctor Mare, I just got too excited."

The woman smiled slightly, "I can see that," she replied, "Although all we've seen is sand, even in that so-called 'treasure chamber'."

"Ah, but that is the treasure."

Jessica was confused, it was normal sand. "How is that the treasure? Maybe you really have gone mad." There were already rumours, maybe there was something to them.

"That hurts Je-Doctor Mare." He had publicly stated he would prove the existence of the spiritual. He could see ghosts, and despite the support he was given, he was no less aware of what some of his less enthusiastic colleagues called him. Dr. Jessica Mare was one of the more understanding and open-minded people to help him out, in his opinion. "Give me two weeks once we return to my lab and I will show you what I have seen my entire life. With my theory everyone will look at death in a new light."

With a look of disbelief, Jessica brought her hand to her forehead and tapped it with her fingers, it was a habit she'd developed when she was younger. "If you're theory is right I'll ask you out on a date."

At this point Benjamin barely registered Jessica's words as he began filling out his journals again, adding a few charts to them."

Ichigo was cleared to leave the next day and was picked up by Rukia and Renji. Apparently they were supposed to take him to meet Captain Kyōraku and Shinji; for what he wasn't sure.

Author's Notes

On the edits made to this chapter: I have reformatted some things and rewritten others, including my worst mistake: giving an active role to Tōshirō Hitsugaya, who should be unconscious at this point in time. Now on to the original notes:

Of note: The quincy invasion, while similar in some aspects, has proceeded differently than in canon; this helps me set up for the all new, original plot I have planned (I have yet to see anyone with this idea). While Ichigo is in it, and plays a large enough and significant role, I will focus on many of the other characters as they become relevant to key events in the plot. There will be original characters and canon characters that appear, with no real main character, aside from Ichigo—but only because he appears more often. This is a learning experience for me, so if I do something wrong let me know, I always seek to improve my writing.

This story is not about romance, though I will likely include it as a minor element if it makes sense. I will not stretch something I think hasn't had a natural enough progression, and that goes for everything else too.

(Edit: This story wasn't originally going to have a focus on romance... but the story has written itself in such a way that I feel it deserves a sub-plot status now (I let my stories write themselves, if that makes any sense). It's also allowed me to do something with a character I wasn't expecting, and hopefully it comes as a real shock... though I admit it's still beyond the scope of chapter 5, so maybe chapter 6-7? OCs will not be paired with CCs, just in case you're worried.)

Anyway, chapter 5 is in the works (nearly done). My health has made me lazy(er), so I apologize for the 1+ year delay... hopefully I can finish the story in its entirety before going on a long hiatus again.

Anyways, have a good day and God bless,