Author's note: I didn't really add anything new to this story, just fixed mistakes and also I did something I should have done at the very beginning, broke up the text into chapters! 27K words is just way to much to have as one long one-shot so I have broken it up into slightly smaller chapters for easier reading and a more enjoyable experience overall.

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach nor any of its characters.


~ Soul Society, Seireitei.

Lifeless brown eyes stared out over the once proud city of Seireitei now completely unrecognizable, every structure was reduced to rubble and dust, the very ground the city once laid on was uprooted and ripped apart. The supposedly impenetrable walls of seki seki stone had been blown apart in the final battle between Ichigo, Aizen and Yhwach, destroying parts of the Rukon districts and killing innocent souls.

The Royal Realm had been completely thrashed and the status of the Spirit King was unknown to him, he wasn't sure how many Zero Division members had survived either, if any, he was hoping they did, they were good people if a little eccentric.

Everywhere he looked more pain filled his eyes, all of the innocent souls that came her thinking this to be some sort of heaven only to find out it couldn't be farther from the truth. Most people didn't even have proper clothing or a roof over their head, and if they did it most likely leaked.

Out in the Rukon, unless you were in the first twenty or so districts – and that was being generous – then it was a struggle to survive. Then to make it worse they all got dragged into a war they had no business being a part of.

It wasn't right, all of the Quincy who served under Yhwach, who believed themselves to be the messengers of god and bringers of righteousness, each one of them that perished would be reborn, given another chance at life, yet the Shinigami who fell to a Quincy arrow were lost forever. That was perhaps the cruellest irony known to the young man sat atop a broken pillar.

His once warm, fiery brown eyes were now filled with a deep sadness, the knowledge of all that had been lost, all of the lives he couldn't save, but even more then that, they were filled with a tiredness not fit for a man as young as him. It was the fatigue that came with old age, with fighting more battles then any one person should.

'War.' that word kept echoing throughout his head, Ichigo thought he knew what war was after the whole debacle with Aizen and his army of Arrancar, how wrong he was. Sure there were battles, a damn lot of them, but not true war, not like this. There were no deaths on the side of the Shinigami, and the only damage done had been to the fake Karakura town, something that in the end didn't matter.

It was when he first arrived back in Hueco Mundo to help Nel against the Quincy that he started to understand, truly understand that he didn't have a clue what war was, but he was about to find out.

Seeing that massacre of hollows, all of the bodies strewn out over the white sands being stained red by their blood, it hit him hard. It didn't matter that they were hollows or corrupted souls, they were still alive, still felt pain. After further exploration he came across the Arrancar, groups of them lined up against a wall being mercilessly beaten and killed, and for what? It didn't matter that they were once his enemy, he swore right there that he would put a stop to it.

Sadly it only got worse from there.

It really told him how bad the situation was in Soul Society when Urahara tossed him a phone saying that the members of the twelfth division were calling for him. He was told that in such a short time there had already been over two thousandreiatsu signatures which had vanished, that was just a dressed up way of saying they were getting slaughtered by the Quincy. The fact that their Bankai's could be stolen and used against them didn't make things much easier.

Of course even when things were already looking bleak he still couldn't catch a break, just as he was about to finish crossing the Garganta so that he may provide aid to his friends and comrades the exit sewed itself shut and he was surrounded by blue bars of energy that just wouldn't break. He would admit that he felt despair at the situation, why wouldn't he? The Soul Society was getting thrashed, people were dying and he couldn't help them. No matter how many times his Tensa Zangetsu clanged off their surface, no matter how much energy he forced into his Getsuga Tenshou, the bars holding him just would not break.

Then he heard them, the voices coming through the phone which Urahara had handed him, their screams of terror as they were cut down without hesitation, their cries for help, for someone to come and save them before it was too late. It was as if something broke inside of him, he honestly couldn't remember the last few seconds he spent inside of the jail, he just blacked out and only regained his senses as the light of the Soul Society shone through the small crack he had made in the Garganta.

When he first stepped foot through the break shock would be the only word to describe his emotions, it was worse then he could have ever imagined. There was so much destruction, but even worse were the countless bodies of low ranked and unseated Shinigami sprawled out everywhere, there were even some he recognized from his trips to the soul society in the past. Worst of all though, was seeing the unconscious bodies of Renji and Rukia, and the brutalized body of Byakuya, barely clinging to life.

Yes, this was war.

Ichigo shook his head lightly, 'I can't dwell on it now.. we won, that's all that matters.' even though he said that, it was hard to really believe. How could someone call all of this a victory? This was a loss for the Shinigami just as much as it was for the Quincy, the only difference being the Quincy lost just a little bit more then they did.

As he sat there he could feel the other Shinigami that survived rushing around doing who knows what, he noticed that they were keeping a wide radius around him that no one seemed to enter, maybe they had realized he wanted to be alone for a while? He wasn't sure, but he was thankful. He really didn't want to talk to anyone right now, he didn't know what he would even say, he had just fought in his second war at the young age of seventeen.

He couldn't help but keep questioning if it really was finally over, Yhwach had been so powerful, even before he absorbed the Soul King, the Mimihagi and most of his remaining Sternritter he was almost unbeatable. If all of that wasn't enough he then 'opened his eyes' as he put it, awakening his Schrift, 'The Almighty' and it got even worse. To be able to see and change the future on a whim to fit his needs, Ichigo couldn't fathom how such a broken ability could exist.

To have his full power, his true Bankai and complete Hollowfication broken so easily by the King of the Quincies, to be brushed aside as if it were nothing to him was shocking because he knew that his true power wasn't just nothing. When his training had finished in the bald monk's palace and it was time to return, the monk had told him that with his full potential finally released, Ichigo's current state was greater then what he had been after the Dangai training, and it showed when Yhwach destroyed his Bankai, deeming it to be too dangerous to even try and fight.

Not even teaming up with Azien and his Kyoka Suigetsu after his own Bankai was restored by Inoue and Tsukishima had it been enough to defeat the man. Then Ishida came along and pierced his heart with a special arrow, temporarily stopping his powers for just an instant, an instant Ichigo didn't waste in finally killing the man. After all the fighting he had done, for it to end so suddenly, so simply, it honestly left a bitter taste in his mouth. It made him wonder what the whole point ever was for all of this, all of this death, why couldn't they have just used the arrow from the start, then maybe all of this could have been avoided.

"Hindsight is 20/20, Ichigo.." the low, baritone voice of the Quincy side of his Zanpakuto rang out through his head, the old man like always was right again. There was no point in dwelling on what could have been because there was no such thing as travelling in time, what had already happened would never change, all he could do was look forward and keep moving.

Deciding that he had sat alone for long enough he stood, stretching his aching body, his muscles protesting every step of the way. As much as he wanted to comply with their wishes and find a soft spot to lie down on it wasn't time to rest yet.

Ichigo couldn't help the annoyed grunt he let out after attempting to 'sheath' his two Shikai blades only to remember that the upper half of his Shihakusho had been completely destroyed and he had no where left to actually rest them, and he wasn't really in the mood to carry around a couple large blades right now.

"Che, dumbass, why don't ya just seal our Shikai."

The teens eyebrow twitched at the insult however just decided that it would be best just to leave it be, instead he focused on what Zangetsu had actually said, "Seal it?" he asked in confusion, "I thought that I couldn't?" Ichigo could just picture his Zanpakuto shaking its head right now in exasperation.

"I forget how stupid ya can be sometimes, the only reason ya couldn't before was because ya didn't know anythin' about yurself or yer powers, ya can't control somethin' that ya don't know tha origins of, right?"

Ichigo nodded his head, it made sense now that he thought about it for a second, ever since he had reforged the true Zangetsu he had been subconsciously controlling his reiatsu a lot better. "So how do I seal it then?"

"Hah? What tha hell happened to all those words about us not needin' ta babysit ya anymore, weren't ya gonna fight with yer own power as a true Shinigami now? Figure it out yerself." and with those words the connection was cut."

Ichigo wasn't mad, he did say when his blade was reforged that he would learn to stand on his own two feet from now on, he had always relied on Zangetsu to hold his hand through everything, but not anymore. It only took a couple of moments of his considering how to seal his Shikai before he gave up, there was no use thinking about it, Zangetsu had always told him to trust his instincts and so he cleared his mind and just let those base, primal feelings guide him.

With a small flick he sent the shorter of the two blades, the one held in his left hand spinning up into the air, gracefully falling back down only to sink into and merge with the longer of the two which was held in his right. With one more small flick of his wrist the single, larger blade morphed shape, reforming into quite the simple Katana.

He had only seen it briefly however his sealed blade looked almost identical to his fathers Engetsu, they even shared the same elongated hexagonal guard. The only real differences between the two was that firstly, his hilt was black instead of his fathers red, and the tassel which dangled from the end of his hilt was red, opposite of his fathers blue.

Honestly it was nice, he never disliked simplicity, his powers had never been very flashy or extravagant, just an elegant lethality which let him fight at speeds and with strength's unmatched by most with the exception of a small handful of people.

Oddly enough, upon sealing his blade the remnants of the white cloak which was secured around his waist dispersed into his red and black reiatsu as well, perhaps it was somehow linked to his Shikai much like his old coat was when he released his Bankai, though that didn't fully make sense too him considering the cloak was something originally made and gifted to him by Senjumaru. After a brief second he just shook the thought from his head, he wasn't really in the mood to question why things were as they were, especially something so trivial.

With the scabbard of Zangetsu held loosely in his had he stepped up towards the edge of the pillar he had been sat on and closed his eyes, now that he had found harmony in his soul much like controlling his own reiatsu he could also sense it a lot easier as well. He quickly noted that all of his friends and most of the Shinigami who went up to the Royal Realm to combat Yhwach had now returned.

The high ranking officers had gathered together, most likely setting up a base of operations so that they may organize things more smoothly from now on, they wouldn't be getting rest anytime soon. A little ways away he could feel the reiatsu's of his Karakura gang, Chad, Inoue, Urahara-san, Yoruichi-san, her brother Yushiro and even Ishida was there, upon sensing that last person he made his decision. Only the slightest sound of high pitched static could be heard as he blurred from sight, with the new speed he gained after unlocking his full potential it was likely that he had usurped everyone in terms of raw speed, even the Goddess of Flash herself, Yoruichi Shihoin.

This was further confirmed when everyone present, including Yoruichi and Urahara jumped in surprise at his sudden appearance between them, he covered the distance so quickly that they were unable to even sense his arrival. "I-Ichigo?" she questioned to herself, she could see him there and sense his reiatsu however for his speed to outclass even her by such a large margin that she couldn't even sense his arrival! it was shocking.

"Yo, Yoruichi-san," he replied with a lazy wave before moving onto greet the others, "Urahara-san, Chad, Inoue, Yushiro.. Ishida."

"Ah, Kurosaki-san, How good to see you!" the eccentric shopkeeper called out in reply, both his hat and fan were no where to be seen, something Ichigo would admit made him happy, there was nothing more annoying than when Hat n' Clogs tried to be mysterious by hiding behind those two items.

"Hn." was the simple response he got from Chad, the man of very few but impactful when spoken words.

The auburn haired healer greeted him next, eyes glossy with unshed tears at seeing him, "Kurosaki-kun.."

Yushiro who didn't know him particularly well just smiled and waved.

Lastly it was the Quincy, Ishida who addressed him, who looked like he had just ate a sour grape if his scrunched up face was anything to go by. Quietly he let out a small sigh and pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose before fully turning Ichigo's way, Ishida usually looked serious but this was even more so then usual. "Kurosaki," he stated, voice sounding kind of unsure, "I plan on apologizing to everyone when I get the chance, however to you, I owe the biggest one of all." to only further cement his words the prideful bastard actually bowed right there, right in front of Ichigo without a single care that other people could see as well.

"Kurosaki, ever since we met, even though I was an overly prideful and arrogant bastard who made some less then wise decisions, you were always there for me, always considered me a friend and you wouldn't hesitate to raise your blade in my defence. It was wrong of me to abandon everyone, to abandon you, you who have always come through for all of us, no matter how difficult the challenge was you always won. I should have had more faith that you would do so again, I'm sorry for not believing in you." surprisingly the Quincy's voice had risen during his little speech, for Ishida to lose his composure like this, it just showed how serious he was right now, how much the need to convey this meant to him.

As they each looked toward Ichigo, he like the rest of them was wide eyed and speechless, however there was also a hint of annoyance flashing through his eyes as well which was to be expected, they couldn't blame the protector for being mad, and it wouldn't even be surprising if Ichigo couldn't find it in himself to forgive Ishida just yet.

However like always Ichigo just never did as anyone expected and thus with a heavy sigh he closed his eyes only to open them again a moment later, with a swift strike he smacked the Quincy upside the head with the blunt end of his sheath, causing everyone to drop their jaws in shock. Ishida could only stare dumbly as he held the sore spot on his skull.

"Che, what the hell's all this? Why are you acting so out of character. I know you never do anything without thinking about it a damn lot and so you must have had your reason's for going to Yhwach's side right? And besides, your alive, I'm alive, you just apologized, isn't that all that matters?"

If anything Ishida looked more agitated then Ichigo did, for once the Quincy would like to see his rival not be so forgiving, he was always to lenient with everyone, that was why he always got walked over and used without him even knowing it. The Quincy merely stopped, letting his face go back to neutral as he let out a sigh, 'but that's how Kurosaki has always been,' he mused to himself, letting a tiny smirk cross his face.

After the greetings and Ishida's heartfelt apology were done Ichigo ungracefully fell back onto one of the rocks, leaning the sealed Zangetsu against it as well, he couldn't help the heavy sigh that unconsciously escaped his lips drawing many worried glances towards him.

"K-Kurosaki-kun.. are you okay?" timid as ever, Inoue asked if he was alright.

The orange haired teens mouth opened right away, prepared to just give his usual 'I'm fine, you don't need to worry about me,' but really, he wasn't fine, and he figured that after everything this group had been through, it was time to start opening up a little more, they deserved that at the very least. "I'm tired, Inoue, physically and mentally. I've been in two wars now since becoming a Shinigami, both of which I had to play a large part in, and while I don't regret anything that I've done so far, any of the decisions I've had to make, it's taken a lot out of me."

A calm silence fell over the group, no one really knew how to reply to that, Urahara and Yoruichi both had guilty looks in their eyes, it was their fault just like the other elder Shinigami that Ichigo ever had to take part in the Supernatural before his official human death. All because they couldn't figure out that Aizen was playing them like fiddles for over a hundred years.

Chad and Inoue were cursing their weakness, sure for humans they were strong but Inoue was only limited to healing due to her inability to hurt someone and though in terms of power Chad was equal to a Lieutenant he was still stuck at the human level. He couldn't hope to beat a Captain, Espada or a Sternritter, and certainly not Aizen or Yhwach. Ishida was easily the second most powerful in their Karakura group however like Chad he couldn't take out the higher tier fighters like Ichigo could. Ichigo had always been in a league of his own and that forced him to carry the heaviest burdens.

The peaceful if not slightly awkward silence was thankfully broken by the loud voice of Renji who was running towards their position with a large grin and his right arm held high in a waving gesture, the much shorter Lieutenant of the thirteenth, Rukia was right behind him a small smile on her face as well.

"Yo, Ichigo! When I came back from the Royal Palace I sensed you all by yourself, are you finally done moping now?" he finished with a cheeky grin before turning to greet everyone else while Ichigo silently fumed to himself at the moping comment. Though even as Renji greeted the others with a smile his mind stayed on Ichigo, and with a quick glance at Rukia he could tell she seen the same thing.

As soon as his eyes had met those of Ichigo's he could see what the teen was going through and right now what Ichigo needed was not someone asking him how he was feeling or babying him, what he needed was laughter and lightheartedness, something to get his mind off of everything, if even just a little.

No matter what though, Renji would be there for him, he wasn't kidding when he had said Ichigo was a brother to him, after everything they'd been through, after all Ichigo had done in reuniting him with Rukia, Renji would always have his back, be it against an endless army of Arrancar or for just a chat to clear his mind and lift his heart. He knew Rukia felt exactly the same way as well.

Speaking of the short Shinigami, she knew that Renji's comment about Ichigo mowing wasn't exactly true, it was just meant to distract him. She had spent a lot of time with Ichigo, all those months living with him, sleeping in his closet, all the battles fought together. She was proud to say that she was closer to him then most and she understood him deeply. Rukia had never really believed in the red string of fate, however with Ichigo it was different, from the moment they met they just clicked, they understood each other without even trying.

Was there something romantic between them? Maybe, however Rukia wasn't in a rush to find out and she knew Ichigo wasn't either. Even the weakest Shinigami lived long lives, and that's why there weren't many relationships in the Gotei, because there just wasn't a need to rush when you live for so long. She had reached Bankai and thus would probably live for at least a thousand years, and Ichigo.. well Ichigo with his never ending amounts of reiatsu would probably live for thousands, they had no need to jump head first into such things.

Breaking out of her thoughts she gave the orange headed war hero a smack upside the head causing him to round on her with a deep scowl, "What's this about you moping?! I swear every time a turn around you start crying like a baby!" she yelled with a fake glare.

"Huh?!" the nerve of this girl, "Listen here, I wasn't moping! I was just.. resting! Fighting Yhwach wasn't exactly easy you know?!" during his heated reply back his face had slowly inched itself closer to Rukia's, leaving only a small gap in between. Both of them were glaring but they held no real malice, and after only a few seconds they both broke apart, laughing lightly.

Ichigo couldn't help but smile warmly, it was just so easy with Rukia, she always knew how to pick him up whenever he was down. Though he figured it was best to get back on track and thus asked them a question he figured would be on most of their minds, "So what have you two been doing all this time?"

Since he had just been with Ichigo fighting against Yhwach, Renji figured it was best he start. "Well, as you know when we confronted Yhwach he destroyed my left arm and blasted me away, "everyone could sense the anger in Renji's tone as he said that, it must have hurt his pride to be batted away so quickly. "He actually did some serious damage to me and I was knocked unconscious. Thankfully I was found by some nearby Ninth Division members and they brought me to the fourth Division where Kotetsu-fukutaichou was able to save my life, though she couldn't bring back my arm." he noted, shooting a glance to his left side.

Inoue perked up at this, finally another chance for her to help, "ah!, Renji-kun, if you'd like I could heal it for you?" she asked with a smile.

Renji returned it with one of his own, "I was actually going to ask you to help me with this, but since you beat me too it I accept the offer, thanks." he could only stare in fascination as the orange shield enveloped him, it was one thing to watch it as a third person, but to have your own body part being rejected back into existence right before your very eyes was something he couldn't quite describe.

Rukia took this as her cue to jump in, "After you and Renji left after Yhwach, Inoue used her powers to heal herself as well as me and then with the help of Ginjo and Tsukushima we got to the task of finding any allies we could and healing them. Shortly after starting I noticed the weak reiatsu signatures of Urahara, Yoruichi, Yushiro, Nel and Grimmjow."

Ichigo's eyes narrowed at the last name, he knew that Grimmjow was technically their ally right now but he still didn't trust him completely, Nel on the other hand he considered to be a good friend he knew that she would keep Grimmjow in line, thus he let it go. "What happened to Nel and Grimmjow after that? I see that you all returned but I can't sense them anywhere in the Soul Society."

Rukia nodded at his question before continuing, "Well even though they were healed they hadn't regained consciousness and because we didn't know what the current state was down here or if everything was over we stayed by their sides just in case there were still enemies lurking around. Thankfully Hyosube-dono showed up and brought us all to where the other Shinigami and members of the Royal Guard were resting.

Thanks to the combined efforts of Inoue and Kirinji-dono everyone was healed completely and allowed to go back to the Seireitei. The only one who stayed behind was Kyoraku-soutaichou and Ise-fukutaichou."

Ichigo nodded at that, he was happy to know that the Royal Guard members survived everything. He briefly wondered why Kyoraku-san stayed behind but considering he was the old man's replacement he most likely had things to talk about with the Zero Division and thus let the thought slip away. With the teen up to date and Renji's arm restored the group fell into a comfortable silence.

Rukia and Renji had been given some time off to seek out Ichigo however soon they would need to head back to work, Urahara and Yoruichi, though more so Urahara would likely also play their own part in rebuilding the Seireitei once more. The Senkaimon had been destroyed so until that was repaired the teenagers would be staying in the Soul Society, most likely at the Shiba manor with Kukaku.

~ Seireitei, One Hour Later.

Ichigo stiffened slightly as a certain reiatsu pricked against his senses once more, one that he thought he wouldn't feel again.

Urahara and Yoruichi obviously had noticed it as well, and they discretely shared a worried glance when they noticed Ichigo gaze off in the direction of that man, they really didn't think it would be wise for the two of them to meet once more. Surprisingly the teen didn't just up and leave right away however as the minutes passed even the rest of the group noticed how impatient and fidgety the war hero was getting.

Just before they could ask what was wrong he grasped Zangetsu's sheath firmly in his hand and vanished, the sound of static marking his departure. Everyone heard Yoruichi curse under her breath before vanishing right after him. Urahara who remained seated where he was found himself under the scrutinizing gazes of the people before him.

"What's going on? We all noticed Ichigo getting tense for the past while, why did he leave so suddenly?" Rukia demanded.

Urahara merely dragged a tired hand down his face, before gazing off in the distance, "It's faint, but you should still be able to feel it. Tell me who's reiatsu signature is in the direction Kurosaki-san just ran off too?"

Ishida's gaze hardened and Rukia and Renji grimaced. Inoue and Chad were the only one's unable to sense who it was however Urahara made it known for them too. "Let us just hope that Aizen-san can keep his sophistry to a minimal."

That comment earned him a glare from the two Shinigami before him, "You don't honestly think Ichigo would be swayed by his words do you? Ichigo isn't the same naive kid he once was." Renji noted, displeasure clear in his voice.

"No, no, of course not. He is much more calm and mature, that is something we can all agree on, however I wouldn't put it past that man to say something which would set Kurosaki-san off." he replied, voice far too calm for what he was implying.

That really was a terrible thought, a fight between Aizen and Ichigo would be the final nail in the coffin so to speak for the Soul Society. They were on a level far above even the Captain Commander, and the only person who would even be remotely strong enough to stop them was Kenpachi, and well he was more likely to turn it into a three way free for all then to stop it all together.

~ Seireitei, First Division Courtyard.

When he arrived everything stopped and all eyes turned to him. There were about ten or so oddly dressed people with their hands together surrounded by reiatsu, obviously they were part of the Kido Corps Ichigo had heard of. One of the ninth division Lieutenants, Hisagi, he believed his name was looked furious as SoiFon was escorting him away, their eyes briefly met and amazingly there was no more dislike or hatred held in them which had always been directed towards him in the past. Now she just looked worried that he was currently there, obviously they didn't want him to talk to the man, he understood that, but he had no plans to start anything.

Just before she was completely gone he flashed her a smile one which she returned though it looked a little strained, it was likely that she didn't smile very often unless Yoruichi was around. Next his gaze met the one visible eye of the current Captain Commander, Kyoraku Shunsui, who was giving him a critical gaze. The man didn't look displeased that Ichigo had come even though he probably wished that he hadn't. It was more a gaze that said, 'I understand why you are here, and that's fine, but please keep it peaceful.'

Ichigo merely nodded his head towards the man, hopefully assuring him that he understood.

Last but not least his gaze met the one visible brown eye of Aizen Sosuke who looked as smug as ever even as he was completely bound in his current chair. Ichigo knew that right upon his arrival the mans gaze landed on him and hadn't once shifted, now as the world became tense around them they just continued to stare at each other, almost in silent challenge, but also just for the simple purpose of seeking answers and to try and understand each other a little better.

Finally Ichigo broke the silence, though the tension only seemed to go up, "I thought you were dead, Azien. When you were overtaken by Yhwach's power your reiatsu vanished."

"I think you would agree that much like yourself, I am not so easy to finish off." Aizen replied, smirking further.

Ichigo couldn't help the one side of his mouth that twisted upwards at that comment, "Yeah, I learnt that the hard way when you stood back up just moments after being hit by my Final Getsuga Tenshou." It was minute, but Ichigo caught the small twitch of annoyance in the mans eye at the reminder of that loss.

He could feel Yoruichi walk up behind him and place her hand on his shoulder, he had noticed her follow him immediately however upon seeing SoiFon she detoured shortly to speak to her old protege. He could see the uncertainty and worry in her eyes as she gazed up at him, though the calmness in his own must have reassured her. Though it didn't last long until her, Kyoraku and everyone else was once more on high alert when Ichigo spoke again.

"Kyoraku-san," he started, drawing the man's cautious gaze towards him, "I'd like a moment to speak with Aizen please, alone."

Yoruichi's grip on his shoulder tightened to an almost painful state as she glared at him, she couldn't believe what she had just heard. Kyoraku looked just as alarmed as he gazed into Ichigo's brown eyes searchingly, thankfully however he seemed to be considering it. Aizen had merely rose his one eyebrow curiously, surely they wouldn't be so foolish as to leave the boy alone with him. Then again, different head or not this was still the Shinigami that he had lead around as puppets for over a century.

After a few seconds Kyoraku let out the breath that he didn't know he was holding before snapping his fingers to draw attention to him, "Alright. Everyone clear out, no objections." at his words multiple reiatsu's flared in displeasure but a strong pulse of his own silenced everyone's complaints and one by one each Shinigami flashed away leaving only Ichigo, Kyoraku, Yoruichi and Aizen.

The war hero glanced at the tanned Goddess to his left, looking straight into her eyes before whispering out, 'trust me,' and as much as she hated the current situation she did trust Ichigo, greatly. So with much hesitation she flashed away in search of her little bee who was still stationed a short distance away keeping an eye on things.

Kyoraku was the last to leave, however before doing so he took over Yoruichi's former spot, hand on the teens shoulder and gazes locked, "I don't know what it is you have planned Ichigo-kun, but you know more then any how dangerous that man is, don't let his words lead you on." his words earned a determined nod from Ichigo and then he too flashed away leaving only two standing in the courtyard.

The soft crunching of grass could be heard under Ichigo's feet as he stepped forward, leaving him only a few feet away from Aizen now.

The Shinigami traitor merely shook his head in amusement, he couldn't believe the current situation in front of him right now. "Fascinating, Kurosaki Ichigo, even after all this time it seems I cannot yet predict you completely."

Ichigo ignored the comment, he had more pressing matters to attend to, he doubted he would get very much time alone with this guy. "There's something I've wanted to ask you ever since out last fight, I have my own theory but I'd like to hear it from you."

"oh? And what makes you so sure I would answer?"

Ichigo just gave a nonchalant shrug, "I just don't see a reason for you not too, I'm not one for sharing secrets, and besides, what I want to ask you is purely to sate my own curiosity, the only other person who would care is Urahara-san, and even if I was right, I doubt he'd believe me."

Aizen hummed in thought for a moment, "Interesting, what is it you wish to ask?"

"Why did the Hogyoku reject you?" he asked bluntly, 'ah, that seemed to have struck a nerve,' Ichigo mused and Aizen's face set into a small but still rare frown. "I don't agree with Urahara's theory that it simply rejected you because I brought you to a weakened state."

A small laugh escaped the bound man as his face went back to its usual, casual smugness, "I will admit that now I am most curious about what your personal theory is." which was really a nice way of saying, start talking, or I won't say anything.

Ichigo shifted on his feet, before speaking again, "My Oyaji told me back then that the Hogyoku's power was to help realize the wishes in the hearts of the people around it, which is why my friends Chad and Inoue were able to develop their own abilities after cursing their own powerlessness. The exposure to my excessive reiatsu gave them the base that they needed to start, and being near the Hogyoku which was in Rukia's body allowed that base to take shape into the powers which they have now.

So considering that, it doesn't make sense that the Hogyoku would reject you simply for being in a temporarily weakened state, one which wouldn't have lasted very long." he paused briefly, trying to chose his words carefully, "I think.. I think that you lost your powers, and the Hogyoku rejected you, because that's what you wanted it to do."

Aizen was still trying to play it cool but Ichigo could see the surprise which had started taking form within him, "When I finally gained enough power to fight you as an equal I was able to touch your sword, but, all I felt inside it was loneliness. If you were always incredibly powerful from the day you were born, I think that maybe you were just looking for someone who could stand on the same level as you, and when you eventually gave up on doing so, somewhere in your heart, you just wished you could be a normal Shinigami."

With slightly narrowed eyes Aizen just gazed into Ichigo's, the man didn't look angry, if Ichigo had to describe it he would say that Aizen seemed lost at the moment. Like he was searching for something in the orange haired teen before him, something that he needed to find but didn't know exactly what it was. Minutes passed with no words being spoken between the two of them, and just when Ichigo thought that was going to be it, the reiatsu hit him.

Even bound in his chair the mans reiatsu was immense, and if Ichigo wasn't as strong as he was he would have been on his knees gasping for breath, but instead he accepted the silent challenge, because during his time as a Shinigami he had learnt that sometimes a person's reiatsu could speak louder then their words ever could. Upon raising his own to match the man's before him the whole Seireitei started to lightly tremble, drawing shocked and frightened gazed from every Shinigami around the destroyed city no matter how far away they were, and unfortunately it didn't stop there.

As both of their respective powers continued to rise the light trembling had turned into a violent shaking that would cause you to lose your balance if not careful. The ground around them was shattering under the immense, yet invisible force. Even those out in the Rukon districts could feel the shaking deep within the grounds. The once blue sky of the Soul Society was dwarfed by the two clashing energies, one a deep purple, the other black with red tinted edges.

Those closest to the scene, Kyoraku, Yoruichi and SoiFon wanted to go over there and put a stop to this but they were frozen in place, their feet would not move as these two titans of unfathomable power clashed against each other. The scariest part of the whole situation was the simple fact that both men were in their lowest forms, no Shikai, no Bankai, just their base state, and yet still they had enough power to bring the Seireitei to ruin.

Then, faster then you could blink it stopped. The sky returned to normal and an eerie silence took over the city.

When their senses finally returned and they Shunpo'd back to Ichigo's and Aizen's location they were able to just catch the end of Aizen's sentence.

"-monster that they call the Soul King."

When the dust settled and silence returned, Aizen spoke again. "I have always been far to curious for my own good, always hungering to know more. Fortunately or Unfortunately, I learned of something I wasn't supposed too, the truth of the soul society, it's origins and what really sits atop the throne," he said, gazing upwards solemnly before once more looking at Ichigo.

"After learning what I had, I promised myself that no matter what it took, I would reach the Royal Palace and kill the monster that they call the Soul King." he gaze was brought to the three newcomers who were all glaring it him with no small amount of hate, Aizen just smiled once more as the Kido corps once more appeared around him. It seemed that time was up.

"Oi, Ichigo! What the hell was up with that pissing contest between you and Aizen?! We're suppose to be on the path to rebuilding not more destruction!" Yoruichi raged in the teens ear, though he wasn't paying full attention.

Ichigo's attention had shifted to the new Captain Commander who was looking far more troubled then he should, yeah it was irresponsible but he should understand what Aizen and himself were doing. Obviously it was what Aizen had just finished saying that brought him concern. Though that only made Ichigo more curious, what really was the Soul King, what secrets were hidden deep within the Royal Palace, could there really be such a darkness that would force Aizen to become what he had?

"My goodness," he exclaimed in mock exasperation, "It looks like it's time for you to return to the Muken."

If anything this only served to further amuse the bound man, it wouldn't hurt to cause a little mischief before being locked away. Turning to look at the Captain Commander he rose his one visible eyebrow, "Oh? I wonder what the sudden rush could be?"

Kyoraku's eyes narrowed slightly, but not enough to break his deceptively aloof image, he knew what Aizen was trying to do. "Hm, well you are serving a sentence right now, Aizen-san. We were nice and let you get some fresh air, but you can't stay out here forever, you know?"

"I don't think a few more moments should matter, thanks to this marvellous chair you have provided me with, I am unable to move freely.. Or perhaps, it isn't my powers that you are so concerned about." Aizen's grin only grew as Kyoraku sent him quite the glare under the brim of his Sakkat, the former fifth squad Captain couldn't remember ever seeing such a cold look on the mans face before.

'Perhaps Gin really was onto something with all the trouble he used to cause,' Aizen mused as the tension continued to grow around them, "If not my powers, then maybe it's the young and impressionable youth stood before us? It wouldn't be good if one of our tongues slipped and he came onto some.. unfortunate information."

At those words Kyoraku rounded on the Kido Corps, finally breaking his calm and aloof mask, "Seal him." he spoke flatly to the members behind him, immediately they started chanting, summoning more bindings for the already secure prisoner as well as a black gate which slowly started to take form behind the man.

The former fifth squad Captain couldn't help the small laugh that escaped him, this was too easy. "Struck a nerve did I, Captain Commander? I can't help but wonder what Ichigo-kun thinks of your suspicious behavior, once more he is being kept in the dark after saving you all, not a great way to show your appreciation I would think."

Ichigo tensed at that, Kyoraku didn't respond, instead he turned further away so that he couldn't see the young orange haired man that looked at him, hoping for answers, hoping to finally be told the truth, however it seemed the Kyoraku had no intentions of doing so.

It only took a moment for the gate to solidify and start to stretch out its darkness, consuming Aizen's form and returning him to where he would remain for the next twenty thousand years. You would think that upon his departure the tenseness would have for the most part alleviated itself, though you would be wrong, in actuality it got worse.

The sound of a muffled choke followed by an angry pulse of reiatsu was what brought reality back to the situation, affirming to them that yes, they did hear what they thought they had. It had only been a whisper but the traitors last words had been so clear before the darkness consumed him that he may as well have been yelling it.

'Will you tell him of your plan should everything fall into the worst case scenario? The one in which he gets no choice, and is instead forcefully bound to the throne of the Soul King, forced to take up that burden until everything ends?'

Yoruichi and SoiFon could only stare at the Captain Commander with varying looks of horror on their faces, they had not heard anything about this. Ichigo had already given up so much for them, for the three worlds, and if things deteriorated further they would seal him to such a fate?

Glancing at the boy in question, his head was tilted down and his bangs were obscuring his eyes from view though it was easy to see the thin line that his mouth was set into. His reiatsu after the initial burst had slowly begun to settle once more though it was feeling much more ragged then before. He was taking this surprisingly well, but then again he was no longer the brash, hot headed, temper tantrum prone teenager that they all once knew. Faster then they could keep track of he had grown into a magnificent young man.

Finally his head rose again, his shoulders slumping in unison with the breath that slowly escaped him. He wanted to be mad, he did, he wanted to scream at the man before him that refused to meet his eye. After everything he had done for them, they still couldn't trust him enough to tell him about their worst case scenario and plan to fix it, it was like they thought he would run away the first chance he got.

Instead he had to find out from Aizen, the man who he was supposed to hate, of the fate that awaited him should the 'worst case scenario' come to fruition, whatever that even was. After all of this, he just wanted to scream to the heavens, to let out all of his pent up frustrations that had built up over the years, but he didn't. He was just so tired.

Rolling his shoulders he turned to start walking away, however briefly locked gazes with both SoiFon and Yoruichi who were clearly still shocked over what they had just heard, he could also see concern in their eyes and thus he gave them as reassuring a look as he could at the current time, although it probably wasn't very helpful with how tired and drained he looked.

Just before he walked away he called out over his shoulder, mostly to the only other male in the area, "If you need my help with anything just come and fine me." and with those final words spoken he set out at a brisk but still slightly sluggish pace. Sure, he could just Shunpo to wherever it was he actually wanted to go, but really he didn't have a set destination.

End of chapter one, I hope you enjoyed, please leave a review with your thoughts and feel free to message me if you like, I always respond to messages. - Vertius