I do not own either One Piece or Bleach.

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Beta read by the wonderful lincoln time, mellra, BlantonM, and MasterQwertster. Could not have done it without you!

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Guest Review answers :-D

All of your fics

Yes, my rate of publishing my different stories varies depending upon inspiration and real life stuff.

Here is the latest chapter, and I hope it was worth the wait! Looking forward to hearing your newest thoughts! :-D

Thank you for your Review and Support! :-D

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Paradox

Hope the reread went well :-)

Oh yes, you know Orihime could restore every serious injury, and I know so, but she currently has no idea just how immense her talent is. She only figured it out because Aizen threw it in her face, and up until now has not had an 'impossible' healing task to complete.

I would say the biggest flaws for most crossovers are how authors fail to properly track the 'ripple effect' of the changes that would happen in-universe. Including that just because Universe A is changing things, the members of Universe B would not take it laying down, nor are stupid. Unless that is your intention from the start, in which case you should make it funny.

Here is the latest chapter, and I hope it was worth the wait! Looking forward to hearing your newest thoughts! :-D

Thank you for your Review and Support! :-D

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Evil Reviewer

Child, you have no concept of what Darkness you court. The challenge you have bellowed out to foul fiends, all in the name of standing opposed to me . . .

Beware.

That said, here is the latest chapter, and I hope it was worth the wait! Looking forward to hearing your newest thoughts/declarations of hostilities! :-D

Thank you for your Review and Support/Attempted Vendetta! :-D

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Guest (please choose a name/nickname next time)

LOL yeah, how could I resist that happening to Aizen!?

Here is the latest chapter, and I hope it was worth the wait! Looking forward to hearing your newest thoughts! :-D

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DragonBob

Oh yes, I have EVER been so looking forward to this with Chopper!

Here is the latest chapter, and I hope it was worth the wait! Looking forward to hearing your newest thoughts! :-D

Thank you for your Review and Support! :-D

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Guest (please choose a name/nickname next time)

LOL yes, the cute Straw Hat Moments are such a treat!

Here is the latest chapter, and I hope it was worth the wait! Looking forward to hearing your newest thoughts! :-D

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Seas of Souls

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Chapter 12: Smells Like Mean Spirit

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Previously: The Straw Hats returned Nel to her adult Nelliel self, while the spiritually aware locals of Karakura continue to take stock of the evolving situation. Meanwhile, members of the Gotei 13 seek to involve Ichigo and his friends in the upcoming war, even as those same teens prepare to head home, believing their role in the conflict is over.

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Note: This portrayal of Don Kanonji is based more upon the Karakura Defense Force stuff we see in the Bleach manga during the rescuing Rukia arc, as opposed to the anime fillers.

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"Huh, y'know, I can't remember the last time we did this."

At his friend's statement, Chad tilted his head in a silent inquiry, to which Ichigo elaborated, "Just sitting down and having lunch together. Like normal."

They were sitting on the patio of the restaurant Rukia had introduced Ichigo to yesterday, and they were now trying out some more food, her treat. He had tried to insist otherwise, only for her to shove the money straight in his face, demanding to know how he would pay. Orihime and Uryu had been nowhere to be found, but thankfully he had found Chad.

Instead of answering, the big Mexican took a moment to pointedly look around them at the buildings and people dressed like they were straight out of Feudal Japan.

"Yeah, yeah, I get it," groused Ichigo, even if he enjoyed the faint twinkle in the big guy's eye, and slight twitch of his lips.

Noticing a lack of bandages on Chad, as opposed to his own body, Ichigo had to ask. "You recovering alright?" he asked next.

"Yes," nodded Chad. "I was nearly healed up before we were broken out, and some of the 4th Division took the time to finish my healing. How about yourself?"

"Nearly there. I still figure I can do some light sparing."

Once more, no words were exchanged, though Chad's raised eyebrow gave the impression of saying, "Like you know how to do things lightly."

The answering furrow to Ichigo's scowl conveyed, "I can so! Watch me!"

Knowing there was no point in trying to talk his friend out of it, Chad went back to observing the people going by. It was interesting, as before his interactions with the people living here were mainly with the Shinigami. Now though he was seeing the civilians who lived here as well. It was also clear at a glance, that they lived much more comfortably than the people of the Rukongai.

He was also curious as to why they all appeared to be predominantly Japanese. It was almost like being back home. Oh, sure, there were exceptions. That dark-skinned traitor, white hair for younger men, that admittedly gorgeous blonde fukutaichou, yet they were in the minority. While he did not want to press the matter, it was still curious as to how the Seireitei was supposed to represent souls from across the globe. Why was the afterlife styled after Japan? And why not more like Shinto or other religions?

Deep down however, as interesting as it may seem, he suspected he would not like the answer, and that it might sour their time remaining here, so he let it go. Hopefully Rukia would be able to drop by to see Ichigo though.

Hmmm . . .

"Ichigo," he said quietly, "you're wanting to get stronger, right?"

"Huh!? Oh, well . . ." Ichigo trailed off while scratching his head awkwardly. "It's just, we're all safe now, so that's good. Plus there's no way any Hollow back home'll be a threat to us now, especially with my bankai. But at the same time, we've seen how strong these people can get, and that Aizen guy took me down without even trying."

"And you like to win," Chad said frankly.

"What? No I—"

"You're not competitive or ambitious," he calmly cut in, "but you like to do your best, and prove what you're capable of."

With that, he turned his attention back to his meal so as to let Ichigo wrap his head around that.

"Okay, maybe. Why're you asking?"

With a shrug, Chad turned his attention back to his best friend. "You mentioned Rukia keeping you from fighting those 11th Division guys until you've fully recovered. Why not ask to spar with her instead? You're both recovering, but also won't take resting easily, so it'll give you two something to do without being able to really exert yourself."

Plus it would give them some time together, and someone who would refuse to continue if it was hurting Ichigo.

"Oh, hey, that's a great idea! Thanks."

Stoically Chad accepted it, and knew his friend received the message.

"Sooo . . . how do you think things back home are doing? Hope nobody's missing us."

More missing Ichigo. Chad did not have anybody waiting for him aside from some flatmates, and Orihime only had Tatsuki, who she had already spoken to. He did not know about Ishida.

It made him remember though the day he had first unlocked the power in his arms. "I wonder how Karin and Yuzu are doing."

"Oh, I'm sure they're perfectly fine. 'Sides, they've got Kon to keep an eye on 'em."

Seas of Souls—

Yuzu delicately sniffed at the oden she had prepared to check how the flavour was coming along, all the while discretely observing her twin.

Karin was afraid.

Karin was never afraid.

Off to the side, Ichigo-nii was pretending to be calm, yet it was blatantly transparent by the nervous tapping of his foot that it was a lie. Even more so since her big brother never tapped his foot like that. Never had that sort of a slack worry poorly hidden around his sisters when it might upset them, and so many other 'nevers.'

She hid a sigh by letting it out like she was blowing on the spoonful of soup before her to cool it down, and accepted the horrifying truth she had just recently learnt.

That was not Ichigo.

The way 'he' acted though, she was sure he was not a threat either. The way he acted remained protective of them ever since the other night. When the powerful monsters had come. Or 'Hollows' as Karin had told her. Nothing like the ghosts which sometimes bugged Yuzu's sibling, while only hazy blurs to her eyes. No, what had come to their town was something which grates at her nerves all hours of the day, and she instinctively knew it was the sensation of a predator prowling about your home.

Even worse was knowing at the time that Karin had been out there at night, doing something or other (although now she knew what), and fearing her twin/other-half would be killed while rushing home.

Thankfully nothing had happened, and now they were just sitting around waiting. Neither of them had slept that night, sharing a bed and hugging each other close, while Karin whispered out everything she knew and had been doing.

Daddy . . . was of no help. He was not really around yesterday, and even if he was, what could he do to help? Sure, he believed his kids when they talked about ghosts, and he was too open to ever be a liar or hide anything, but the stuff Karin had told her about? What Don Kanonji had said about Ichigo, and Karin had seen? That was the sort of stuff which got people committed to asylums.

And even if Daddy did believe them, what would he be able to do to help?

No, it was better to leave him out of this, rather than have him worry about their sanity and/or safety.

Only . . .

"Karin," she said softly, yet she saw her sister perk up, "what're we supposed to do?"

"Well!" chimed in the fake-Ichigo, a fake smile plastered over his face to hide his panic. "I say we all stay indoors here—"

"Cram it!" snapped Karin as she leapt to her feat. With no surprise and a touch of awe, Yuzu watched her cow someone with her sheer presence. Then taking a deep breath, her twin visibly steeled herself for something. "Yuzu, that done?"

"Uhm?" she took another sniff, and decided the oden would do. "Yes."

"Good. Shove it in the fridge while I make some calls." With that she stamped off.

Seas of Souls—

"Hello."

Mentally he winced at the sheer unoriginality of it, yet Ishida Uryu could not think of anything else to say.

Lying on the 4th Division's hospital bed, covered in bandages, Kurotsuchi Nemu glanced at him. The slight widening of her eyes was the only emotion she showed.

"I . . . was a little surprised to overhear you were here," he managed. "I assumed you wouldn't be permitted to be examined by anyone outside of the 12th."

Of course, with the complete destruction of the Shinigami's R&D, there were probably complications to that.

". . ."

"How are you?"

"I will be functional in a few days," she finally said. "Work is needed immediately to rebuild what was lost."

"I'm glad you're going to be healthy soon," he said delicately. "What about your . . . Taichou?"

"Are you planning to kill him?"

". . . No," Ishida said bitterly. Although without his powers, and the assumption of guards around the various taichou, it was not like he had a choice in the matter.

The stoic young woman stared at him for a moment, and he feared how obvious his condition was. ". . . He is in recovery as well." Nemu cocked her head, and while her expression did not change, he had the impression she was thinking of something. "I see your injuries are nearly recovered. . . . How has your time been here?"

"Alright. I've been staying here in the 4th mainly. They're letting me use the sewing room. I've no interest in exploring the city."

"That would be best."

He cocked his head, and idly asked, "Because I was a Ryoka, or because I'm a Quincy?"

"Souls are considered what Humans might deem as 'holy,' and that to disrupt the cycle of reincarnation is an atrocity," Nemu answered. "Most won't have remembered your people though."

Brows furrowed, Uryu nodded in acceptance of that. Indeed, it had been truly galling to learn what the Shinigami had chosen to bury and forget. However, here and now was not the place to shove it in their faces.

Recreating his uniform was still a must though.

Not that he wanted to throw this in her face though. He owed her his life for one thing. Plus, well, she had enough going on. If she cared about it even.

After a bit, he realized he had been just staring at the Fukutaichou without saying anything. What should he say!? This is why he hated interacting with people.

Unless it was about schoolwork or crafts.

". . . I'll see you later," Uryu managed, hastily standing up.

"Why?" she asked, tone and expression unwavering.

The last Quincy stopped, his back to her and nearly at the door, trying to sort out a satisfying answer. "Because I want to," he said, without turning around. "Is—is that alright?"

". . . Yes."

Gently he closed the door, and walked back to the sewing room, while he tried to understand why he had gone in the first place.

Seas of Souls—

"I can't believe you!" screeched Kuchiki Rukia, and by that familiar throbbing vein by her eyebrow, Abarai Renji-Fukutaichou knew she was a hair's breadth away from violence.

(Was it weird that he kinda anticipated that with eagerness? The sensation of them having fixed their friendship enough for her to do it?)

(. . . Maybe. Eh, who cares?)

"I told Ichigo we wouldn't be involving them in our messes! Ichigo's not even a full Shinigami, and the others are just Humans! Children!"

Rubbing his forehead in frustration, Renji went, "I know, I know! Trust me, nobody's happy with this, but it's not just me. All the other fukutaichou are in on it, and you weren't on the receiving end of getting stomped into the ground by those 'children.' You know how saw how bad it's gonna get before this is over Rukia. Besides, they've gotta know that Aizen needs to be taken care of too. If they don't help us, all the worlds are in danger!

"And," as unpleasant as it was, Renji projected some of the authority he had been forced to develop as he rose through the ranks the hard way, "he's immune to Aizen's shikai. He's the only taichou-class fighter we've got for that. I wasn't conscious enough for it, but everyone's agreeing that until we find a workable counter for that, Ichigo's our last, best chance of actually seeing him, much less killing him!"

Seething, Rukia could only glare at him, failing to come up with a counter argument.

"As for his friends, again, they're monsters for Humans. Who knows what they'd be capable of with some more training?"

She continued to glare at him, struggling to find the right words, yet from the look in her eyes he knew he had already won. Unnecessary words had never been her thing, and it was obvious she could not come up with a counter-argument.

"Hey, Rukia! Rukia!"

Blinking, they turned to see the carrot-top in question jogging towards them, waving his hand.

"Ichigo! Don't overstrain yourself!" she barked.

"I wasn't! Hey, you're still recovering, right?"

"What of it?" she said defensively.

"Well, how about a light spar?"

"Huh?"

"I need to do something, so why don't you show me what you're capable of now that you've got your strength back, and I'm still recovering."

"You could hurt yourself, you idiot!"

"So we stop if it starts to go too far!"

"This sounds like an excellent idea!" beamed Renji, patting them both on the shoulders. "In fact, if you do it with a fukutaichou around, they can maybe give you some pointers or whatever. Somebody who's not me that is. I'm still in recovery myself. How about the 10th?"

Before they could say anything more, he turned on his heel and headed off, his job done. He really had too much work to do still, and he had enough self-awareness to know if they started duking it out, he would want to join in too, and he still needed to heal more than them. Man, Ichigo was a monster for how fast he was back on his feet and looking for some action. Although maybe that Orihime chick deserved the credit.

Regardless, dependable friends like them were great to have around!

Seas of Souls—

Urahara Shouten

"Gaaah! It makes no sense!" Isshin half-snarled, snatching up his teacup and downing it in one gulp like a barbarian. "Why would Aizen send in an incomplete Arrancar if it could later become a taichou-class one? Why have them use stealth gigai now instead of from the beginning? Why!?"

Idly Kisuke thought out his options some more, weighing the pros and cons of revealing more of his thoughts at this stage, given his friend's reaction.

Finally, fan firmly before his face, he said, "They're not here from Aizen. In fact, I'd wager he has no idea about them."

". . . What."

"They're not here from Aizen. In—"

"I got that! What do you mean!? How could they not be from him!?"

"Ruuuude~!" he pouted, before sharpening his eyes like knives. "Well, given how they were wearing the sort of outfits I'd attribute to him, I'd say they're deserters."

Blinking, Isshin rubbed his chin in thought. As much as he acted the goofball, the man had a keen brain when he stopped to use it. "So them frolicking all over town like tourists is because they actually are ones?" he mused aloud. "They stole some of his stuff, and are now trying to play at being alive again?"

"Precisely."

Seas of Souls—

"I TOLD YOU THEY WERE TOURISTS!" screamed Mashiro right in Kensei's ear.

"SHUT UP!" he shouted back.

Seas of Souls—

Urahara Shouten

After thinking it over a little more, Isshin lowered his hand and nodded. "Alright. So do we kill them ourselves then, or wait for Aizen to hunt 'em down?"

"It wouldn't surprise me if he's hoping they'll lure us or the Visoreds out," admitted Kisuke. "That said, right now I'm more concerned about making something to communicate with the Seireitei. This complete silence from them at such a critical juncture cannot be a coincidence."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" protested Isshin. "What about when they start eating people?"

The doctor's concern was of no surprise, given how his own wife's soul had been consumed by a Hollow. Until Grand Fisher was purified, by all accounts his victims were currently trapped within an endless torment with the beast.

"Look, even if I haven't gotten my powers back just yet, it's too dangerous to leave them running around. Especially since more and more of these Hollows are disappearing, and you won't risk getting too close with your spy stuff."

"Ah ha! This is true," Kisuke said cheerily, despite the situation being anything but. "Except they won't! After all, why have fast food, when patience will win you a five-star meal?"

With a curse, Isshin slammed down the cup, and let it go before it broke in his grip, as he finally accepted the unpleasant truth he had been trying to ignore. As usual. "That's what they're doing, isn't it?" he said, looking sick. Indeed, despite all the things Kisuke had done which would horrify any 'normal' person, even he had to agree.

It made terrible sense really.

Ever since becoming a Shinigami, Kurosaki Ichigo's abnormally high reiatsu had been changing those he was closest to, classmates even, making them spiritually aware as well. Making their own pitiful, if average for Humans, Reiryoku awaken and start to grow, if only in self-defense. Except even then, the power Ichigo had been unconsciously leaking had been a pittance compared to a fukutaichou's, even when blanketing an entire town.

And these 'tourists' had three fukutaichou-class doing this.

In truth, Kisuke had to do something before everyone in Karakura became able to see Pluses, Hollows, and Shinigami.

What the two of them were truly afraid of though, was that the more spiritual power people had, the tastier and more rewarding they became. At this rate, nearly 150,000 defenseless Humans would become a smorgasborg of blood and terror beyond anything the Gotei 13 could ever conceive of, while empowering these Arrancar to even greater heights.

Now this level of threat would be enough to get Shinji and the gang off their rears and help out, no matter how much they claimed to hate Humans and Shinigami. Because this was something not even they could ignore.

It was always tiresome when dealing with Hollows capable of stopping to think and plan beyond their immediate appetites. Although this was a record for them, so far as Kisuke knew.

(He would not be surprised if his former employers had reflexively classified and suppressed any knowledge of previous attempts at this, even from their own taichou.)

However, Isshin had failed to take this to the next logical step.

For when you included the tidbit of how the Shinigami were failing to do anything, it meant that as much as these deserters believed they had escaped, they were really Aizen's way of forcing a confrontation of some sorts. If these Arrancar were not stopped in time, who knew what they would do next? A perfect, additional diversion for the Gotei 13, especially as it would require repositioning at least several taichou to put down the threat, with the possibility of losing some even. So Kisuke and his associates had to stop them first, since he refused to play Aizen's games.

Far better to pull out a few tricks he was sure the madman was unaware of, and speed up his contacting of the Gotei 13, risking exposure or no. In fact, he should be getting some useful test results regarding that in another 20 minutes, 38 seconds.

Obviously he could not wait too long though. Rather he had a deadline before more overt action became necessary in Karakura.

"You might want to talk to Ryuuken," he suggested. His guest was a Shiba through-and-through, and being a military defector and head of his own business had left him far less interested in following anything which sounded like an order. "If they get too close to his hospital, he'll feel compelled to act. If you can reassure him we've got plans in place, and will be acting in the near future, he might be willing to stay his bow."

"If they actually go to the hospital, he'll act," Isshin needlessly warned. "And I can't blame him with everyone so vulnerable there. He might be willing to wound them if he's confident we'll handle it, though."

"Which will draw in most of the rest, while the Visoreds hit their home base," Kisuke offered. Of the plans he had devised, two hundred and forty-six included some variation of Shinji and the others doing so.

"Good." With a sigh, Isshin poured himself some more tea, and this time took it slower. "What a mess."

"Well," Kisuke pointed out with a slight if genuine smile, "just think of it as being like a Shinigami again, even if your powers aren't fully back."

Despite the grim mood, Isshin could not help the rueful snort of agreement. "True. Fighting Hollows, and saving Souls. Nothing wrong with any of that. And with Aizen or not, that's exactly what we'll do."

Precisely. Because Hollows that strong must be made of hundreds, if not thousands of souls. Each. Consumed and entrapped within creatures of pure misery, possibly in torment.

(Not even Kisuke could bring himself to verify the common belief of what those eaten Souls experienced.)

So one way or another, these invaders would be purified, and the Souls within them released back into the cycle of reincarnation for the better.

"Plus," Isshin added, after extending his senses to double-check something. "At least Karin and Yuzu aren't getting into trouble." He frowned. "Even if I'd wish they'd stay home more." Except of course that as strict as the man was with his daughters, there was no way he could justify suddenly ordering them to do so without raising serious suspicions.

For all his faults, the man was dead serious about keeping the girls out of this life as much as possible.

"Too much like their father," he teased.

"Ah! Now if only they'd taken after Masaki some more! Speaking of which—"

"No. Even if the girls end up staying here for a while, you can't put up any posters or pictures of your wife to wail over."

"How cruel!" Isshin sobbed, all the while keeping a loose sense on his girls to be sure they were not in any trouble.

Seas of Souls—

Elsewhere, a fuming Kurosaki Karin finished (gently) dragging her twin sister along to their destination at the local park.

She was so upset, she had completely overlooked a much better way to get Yuzu here. Up until they saw who was waiting for them at least.

"Oh!" gasped Yuzu, before dashing forward so hard she nearly yanked Karin's arm out of its socket.

"Don Kanonji!" gushed Yuzu.

"Ah ha!" he loudly welcomed her. "So nice to see my cute little fan again!" Then he became his most deadly serious, making the little girl stand at attention. "Unfortunately this is no time for frivolity! Your sister has informed you of what's happening?"

"Yes I have," snapped Karin instead. "There's no point in staying home, and I'm not going to hide out for the rest of my life in that creepy shopkeeper's place. We need to learn how to fight!"

The TV celebrity soberly nodded. "It will be dangerous, as our growing power might draw these Hollows to us. Yet for the sake of the innocents here, we must do our best to protect them when the beasts finally begin to try and devour us.

"We can do no less as heroes!"

Yuzu had stars in her eyes at being an actual hero, while Karin scoffed and rolled her eyes. No matter what though, she would see to it that Yuzu only learnt what she needed to help stay safe. No way was the most innocent member of their family getting hurt.

"Where's Ururu and Jinta?" she asked.

"Ah, they couldn't make it today, but I found two new disciples to aid us in the fight against evil!" He flourished his hands towards the park bathroom he had told them to meet up by. "Ta da!"

With wild cries, two small figures jumped out from behind cover, and struck up poses as ridiculous as Don Kanonji's regular displays.

"Presenting," he introduced, "Lilynette Gingerbuck, and Tony-Tony Chopper!"

"Huh," managed Karin, surprised to see more kids involved in this. Where were the adults? Nah, they would be useless. Weird names though, and outfits, even if she was too polite to say as much.

"'Sup," grinned the girl. "Call me Lilynette!"

Black slacks, with a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up past her elbows, complete with a brown vest. Finishing it was a red cap, which made her think of England for some reason, worn at an angle so it and her lime-green hair covered her left eye.

"You can call me Chopper," chirped the little guy, who she had to admit looked cute. While she did not recognize which one, that outfit had to be a private school uniform despite it being summer. Darkish blue pants, neat, collared, white shirt, and a fine blue vest. Throwing it off was the pink top-hat with a white 'X' in the middle of it, yet he looked so cute that it would be a rare teacher heartless enough to make him take it off.

"And they are the perfect new recruits for our new mission!" proclaimed Don Kanonji loudly, waving his arms in a series of ridiculous poses which Yuzu loved, and Karin tried to pretend were not happening. He was wearing a ridiculous blue, long coat, with shoulder things like he was a military officer, a blue crown with his initials, and all in all standing out in the park like a nutcase despite how he was probably trying to be 'incognito' again. "For we must be able to protect ourselves and the people of this town from the Evil Spirits!"

Before he could go on, Lilynette shoved her way in front of him, preening as she jabbed a thumb at her chest. "He saw us finishing off one of the small ones still left, and practically begged for us to join him!" she boasted.

"You killed a Hollow?" asked Karin.

"But I thought you were already doing that?" pointed out Yuzu. At least that is what her twin had said.

"Hah! Like this!" beamed Lilynette. She reached under her red cap, and pulled out a curved sword which seemed as tall as she was. Wow, was that a cutlass or something? Karin did not know swords. Despite the length though, the other girl waved it around with ease.

"Okay, that's pretty cool," admitted Karin.

"That's amazing!" gushed Yuzu, wondering if this was like what allowed her big brother to summon a massive sword.

Were oversized swords the norm for fighting ghosts?

"Lilyneeeette! Careful with that!" cried Chopper.

"Oy! I do what I want!"

"But you can't be seen with that! You know what'll happen!"

"Tch! Fine!" Carelessly she shoved it right back under her cap in a way that was as terrifying as it was awesome.

Okay, yep, these were people to know. Already they were more interesting than Jinta and Ururu.

"Indeed," said Don Kanonji solemnly. "I would be a poor hero to let you wave that around casually. Now," he coughed delicately into his fist.

"YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! UNTIL YOUR BROTHER RETURNS HOME, IT FALLS TO US TO PROTECT THE BOY AND YOUR'S HOME! AND THUS I FORMED OUR SPECIAL UNIT TO FIGHT THE EVIL SPIRITS UNTIL THEN!"

Karin patiently waited out his wild gestures and lame talk, as he had promised her on the phone he had a plan. Yuzu unfortunately was eating it up, as was Chopper. So she found herself sharing a commiserating look with Lilynette before both pointedly glanced away and back at the celebrity.

Okay, time to get things back on track.

"However," and the intensity of Don Kanonji's gaze glued her mouth shut, and sent a shiver down her spine. "If we do so now, we. Will. Die."

Yuzu gasped, and Karin's nails dug into the palms of her hand.

Lilynette and Chopper seemed a little confused, but she was, what, ten? While he looked barely older than the other girls.

"To defend the innocent people of this city, and survive ourselves, we need to train. Become stronger."

"What if doing so attracts their attention though?" asked Yuzu, and Karin wished she had a good answer for that.

Gently Don Kanonji got down on one knee on the dirty ground with his designer pants, and took the blonde's hand. "My child, I fear they may come for us anyways. We must either stand our ground and prepare, or flee. And as a hero, I cannot retreat from this dire threat, so my choice is clear, while preparing others to fight against the darkness."

Even as her sister's eyes lit up with stars, Karin could not help but think the crown on the man's head fully and absolutely fit a world-class drama king.

Not that he was wrong.

It was just that Ichigo would have said it in a way that was shorter and cooler.

"Well don't you worry!" cried Lilynette, "because I'm here!"

Scoffing, Karin shook her head. "Like some sword's gonna be enough against these monsters! 'Sides, you're the rookie!"

"Haah!? You think I can't take you!? What can you even do!? Run around screaming for help!?"

Oh you did not go there. So Karin dropped the soccer ball out of her arm, and kicked it mid-air.

Hard.

Chopper snagged the black and white blur out of the air a centimeter from Lilynette's face, and brought it to his own, peering at it closely.

"Cool! You're imbuing your reiatsu into the ball for increased power! All within that brief moment of contact as well. How long've you been training to do that?"

"Uhm . . . a little while," she managed.

"Karin!" scolded Yuzu. "Were you trying to hurt her?"

"Not really," she grumbled, before lowering her voice so only her sister could hear. "That still had enough force to knock over an adult though." Nothing like her 'Karin-Style Death Shot.' "And he treated it like nothing."

"NO! NO! NO! NO!" cried the adult of the bunch. "THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO BE HEROES!"

"She started it," huffed Karin. Briefly she considered apologizing, but given the death glare she was receiving, complete with visibly grinding teeth, she doubted it would be accepted anyways.

(Privately, Don Kanonji shelved the idea of having his disciples train by fighting each other. He had an uncomfortable suspicion it would end in one or both of them needing a hospital.)

(Followed by himself when the boy returned home.)

"And I'll end it!" snarled Lilynette, reaching for her cap,

"Lilynette!" cried Chopper waving his hands frantically. "Wait, no! We're here to be heroes!"

"So I should let her think she can just attack me!?"

"You challenged her first," Chopper insisted. "She can't let you walk all over her either, can she? Besides, she proved she's not weak, so at least she can keep up, and that's what matters, right?"

"Tch! Fine!"

. . . Huh.

It was almost like he was fulfilling the same role as Yuzu. Did that make Karin like Lilynette?

Pffsh! Naaaah! She was so much better than that!

Deciding it was time to get to something more important, she turned her attention to the only adult present. Possibly the only useful one in town at that. "So what's your big plan then?"

"I'M GLAD YOU ASKED! FOR I SHALL BESTOW UPON YOU AN HONOUR NOT EVEN THE BOY HAD EARNED!"

He stepped back, and took a dramatic stance.

"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" he roared, raising a fist before him which crackled with lightning, before opening it to reveal a brightly glowing sphere. "KANONJI-STYLE ULTIMATE SECRET PRINCIPLE!"

". . . I've seen your attacks before," deadpanned Karin.

"Huuuuuh," said Chopper and Lilynette as one, leaning forward in interest.

"OH! DON'T YOU SEE KARIN!?" yelled Yuzu, somehow being even more excited.

"No?"

"HE'S GOING TO TEACH YOU IT!"

"Wait, what?"

"PRECISELY!" With that, the man dispersed his technique, and quieted down. Good thing too, as they were drawing some stares. "With this you'll gain some more variety to your techniques, and I believe you'll also learn to harness your own power as well. It will be the foundation of your own rise to true greatness."

"You got that from some shonen manga, didn't you?"

"So harsh," he said, looking like he was about to cry, before rallying. "No. Ever since I started acting as the stalwart protector of this fair city, using my powers more and more, it's become increasingly easier for me to unleash such ferocity! Including doing so more often!"

Well, okay, that sounded better.

"As well as learning how to do it faster as well. Besides, as your teacher, I believe I will be learning in turn from you, as well as from myself as I strive to express this ability."

Now that Karin thought about it, as much as this man was nearly as ridiculous as Goat-Chin, he must have been entirely self-taught. Guess that was kinda impressive?

Besides, the man was offering to teach her how to shoot death balls, how could she refuse?

"You're on!"

Seas of Souls—

"Karin, we should be getting home soon," warned Yuzu.

Huffing a little, and drenched with sweat, Karin shook her head. "Just a few more times."

"But you know how daddy will get if we're late. He might not let us out tomorrow, except for school."

"If he's restricting your freedom, you should cut him," said Lilynette sagely, for once being supportive.

"Eh, nah, I'll just kick his head in," Karin reassured the other girl.

The green-haired girl was also tired. While Don Kanonji knew squat about sword fighting, he had done his homework. His chauffer had brought over a bunch of expensive books on kendo, as well as a dozen more on all sorts of combat. Instead of his own training regimen, Chopper had latched onto those, and started flipping through them. At first it had been impressive to see someone her age read so fast, only for him to explain he was actually fifteen. Probably. His shortness made her suspicious, and he had been pretty distracted by those books.

As for Lilynette though, age ten, she —and Karin was not even trying to put her down— might be illiterate.

However, despite that, she definitely seemed comfortable with that sword. Only for Chopper to get all excited at some of the things he found in the books, and cajoled Lilynette to try them out.

"Look, just try this stance," he had said, "Lilynette! It won't hurt! No, not swinging it like that, like this! Almost! Yes! Like that! Isn't that better?"

To Karin, there had not been much difference, yet the sword girl had still gone, "Shut up and find me another!"

Moreover, as irritable as Lilynette could be, it was clear she was no slacker once she put her mind to something. She put her all into what she was doing. Now, if only she was not such a bullheaded tomboy with no sense of compromise, and too prone to violence.

As for Chopper, they had lost him to researching some stuff about combat medics while he jotted down various notes and ideas, with Yuzu helpfully going through the books to find other stuff about it. Which . . . Karin was conflicted about. Yeah, healing sounded nice, but she would prefer it if her sister could unleash a beam of destruction in self-defence. Kinda. Her heart clenched at the thought of her twin killing as bad as it did at the idea of her dying. It made no sense.

"Will it really be bad?" asked Chopper.

"Eh," grunted Karin. "He's weird. Doesn't matter though, he hasn't been home much, and this is more important. We'll sneak out if we have to."

"Weird how?" said the teenager.

"Well, he kicks and punches Ichigo a lot, and goes on about the rules for Ichigo to follow a lot, but doesn't really enforce them."

"The kicks aren't punishment?"

"Nah. I think he thinks they help? Anyways, with us, he's really easy going, but also really strict and enforces it. Like I said, he's weird."

"WE SHALL TAKE A BREAK!" boomed Don Kanonji, startling them all. "WORKING OURSELVES TO EXHAUSTION WON'T HELP US AT ALL!" Privately though, he knew he would be too distracted after hearing that . . . concerning news. He would have to tread delicately though.

As for Karin, she saw no issue with mentioning private stuff like that. Nothing ever came of it, and her brother could handle himself. Although that was a strange look Chopper and Lilynette were sharing with each other. Oooh! Food!

"Here you guys go," said Yuzu like the angel she was, pulling out bentos for everyone out of nowhere.

The hungry kids descended upon the food like a pack of starving wolves, and even Don Kanonji wept at how delicious the food was.

"Thank you!" gushed Yuzu. Don Kanonji loved her food! She had made friends! This was the best day ever!

"Yeah, Yuzu's been cooking since she was five," bragged Karin on her sister's behalf.

"Amazing! So young!" praised the star.

With a grunt and shrug, Karin waved a dismissive hand. "Somebody had to manage the house and keep us fed."

Hiding his thoughts like the actor he was, the adult dug into his genuinely delicious food while shelving his growing concerns for later. He also chose to go eat over to the side to give the kids some privacy to socialize, and so as to not feel overshadowed by his own awesomeness as he ate.

(Only Yuzu noticed him leave.)

"I just wish I could've done more today," pouted Yuzu slightly.

"Don't worry about it," chirped Chopper. "It'll take some more time before you can truly see spirits. Although," he squinted at her, "you already seem to be doing a bit better."

"Really?" she asked with excitement.

"Yep!"

"Yay! Wow, Chopper, you know so much!"

"Gah! Idiot!" squirmed Chopper with embarrassment. "Complimenting me like that doesn't make me happy!"

For anyone else, Karin would have hit the guy for saying that. Only his whole attitude there was too unreal for her to do more than stare befuddled.

"You know," smiled Yuzu, "this has been nice."

With a huff, Lilynette nodded. "Yeah, I guess it's been okay. Certainly better than I expected."

"I've learned so much!" said Chopper, almost doing a happy dance despite sitting and with food in his hand.

"It's cool being a part of this," admitted Karin.

"Of course it is!" grinned Lilynette with all teeth, clearly implying it was all because she was there. Man, was even her brother that confident as a ten year old?

"But seriously," said Karin, "it's a relief to be able to talk about this finally." Maybe she would do it with Ichigo when he got back from . . . whatever. She was pretty sure he was not in town anyways. "I always acted like I couldn't see ghosts, because, well, they were nothing but a pain. And since nobody else can see 'em, saying you can makes everyone look at you as a freak. My big brother had to keep beating people up to make jerks leave him alone. Must be the same for you guys."

Chopper sputtered a bit on his juice, and Lilynette froze. "Uhh . . ." she managed, before vigorously nodding. "Yeah! Yeah it is!"

"What about your families?" asked Yuzu carefully.

"Well, the truth is . . ."

Ah, whatever was going on with their home lives must be pretty painful if they were hesitating like this. Feeling bad, Karin was about to change the topic when Lilynette lit up. "The truth is that they don't know because my brother took me away from them and we met some other awesome people who can see spirits!"

"Really!? Can we meet them?"

"They're shy."

"Shy!?" gasped Chopper. "Since—oof!"

Did Lilynette just elbow him? The question was forgotten as Lilynette jerked her thumb over her shoulder. "My brother's over there though if you're curious. He's useless though."

Intrigued, Karin craned her head around, trying to see him. "Where?"

"Right there!" pointed the younger girl impatiently.

Standing up now, Karin frowned, before a shift of movement made her focus on something her gaze had already passed over a few times. How had she missed him? Even if he was lying on the ground asleep like a hobo.

Brown pants, suspenders, and a rolled-up, white shirt like his sister's, if a bit more beige. Clean clothes though, so it was more his whole general manner which made him seem like a homeless person. Between his scruffy brown hair almost long enough to reach his shoulders, and scraggly goatee, he looked as useless as Goat-Chin. Also as old as him. This was Lilynette's brother?

Before she could say anything though, despite being at least a dozen meters away, it was like he was suddenly watching her, and she was suddenly left with the sensation he would be as bad to cross as Ichigo was if anybody so much looked at her and Yuzu the wrong way.

Well, that answered that. Kinda.

(Privately, Starrk was amazed at the sheer lack of violence involved today despite how irritable his other half found the angry Human. Not even hair pulling! He attributed it, like so many other things, to the Straw Hats; particularly the examples of Sanji and Zoro, as much as they would vehemently deny it.)

"So why are you with Don Kanonji and not them?" Karin asked.

"Karin!" gasped Yuzu. "Because it's Don Kanonji!"

"Because!" growled Lilynette, taking an angry bite out of her food. "They're all being soooo busy right now!"

"Huh?" asked Chopper quizzically.

"So I figured I can find my own cool new friends to hang out with! See how they like that!"

The sisters glanced at each other, and by unspoken consensus decided to focus more on how apparently they were indeed friends now with these two.

"I was just with Lilynette at the time, and wanted to hang out with a hero! Also I get to help people!" said Chopper cheerfully, even if he seemed concerned about Lilynette. "You should meet them some time though. Like, Sanji would love to talk to you Yuzu about cooking."

"Oh yeah!" said Lilynette, bad mood suddenly forgotten. "He's the best chef ever! We've tried some other food around here, but everything sucked compared to his until yours! I bet you could even teach him a little."

"That sounds nice," beamed Yuzu. It would indeed be pleasant to be able to talk to someone else about cooking.

Just so long as daddy or Don Kanonji was around while she was talking with someone who was still a stranger.

Seas of Souls—

Off in another world, others were being confronted with their limits. For a man had awoken within the Seireitei to discover what Aizen's treachery had cost him.

Tears flowed freely down onto the bandaged stumps of his wrists.

Upon waking up and discovering his condition, Zaraki Kenpachi had broken through the nearest wall to escape the 4th Division.

Blundering about, he found himself in some pansy garden that was here for some weird reason. The ground seemed to be shaking, so he sat down on a rock until it passed. Just—just staring. Because . . .

HOW WAS HE SUPPOSED TO CONNECT WITH PEOPLE NOW!?

WHAT WAS THE POINT OF LIFE IF HE COULDN'T CUT PEOPLE UP!?

Distantly he found himself sucking in deeper and deeper breaths as the world went black around—

A stinging sensation rocketed his head to the side.

Shaking himself, he turned to glare at whoever had dared

Yachiru.

His daughter was standing on a bench beside his rock, glaring up at him with unshed tears.

Whywhathowwhenwherehowcould—

Grinding his teeth until it felt like they were going to crack, he shoved aside the useless thoughts, and stood tall.

As he shifted, she hopped back, looking up at him defiantly.

He sucked in another deep breath, and glanced to the side to see Ikkaku kneeling on the ground in a textbook pose of a dutiful subordinate. It did not fit his 3rd seat, yet he could tell it was genuine.

No. No, this would not do at all. He was

Zaraki

The

Kenpachi!

The Taichou of the 11th did not sit around crying like a weakling over something! They tore out its throat and laughed with bloodied teeth!

Heart pumping once more with what others mocked and feared as 'madness,' he centered himself for what needed doing.

"Any chance of saving my hands?" Kenpachi checked, just to be sure.

"No, Taichou," said Ikkaku without hesitation. "By the time we had found your hands, it was too late to reattach them."

"Right."

He looked off to the side for a moment, before he groaned and said words he never thought he would. Ever.

"I'm sorry."

The sheer impossibility of it made Ikkaku's head shoot up in shock.

"To both of you. I nearly forgot what I told you back then." With a sneer, he repeated what he had said long ago, "Never admit defeat until you're dead. If you lose and you're still alive, then consider it your lucky day. Live, and dedicate yourself to killing the one who left you alive. Or whatever it was."

Yellow power erupted from his body, making Ikkaku quake, even as Yachiru beamed with joy, the tears blown away from her eyes.

"I'll kill Aizen and stick his head outside our division's gates even if I've got to tie my zanpakuto to my stumps!"

"YAAAAAAY!" cheered Yachiru.

"Of course, Taichou!" grinned Ikkaku with a wildness that was healthy to see in a real man.

"But tying it to your stumps is stupid," pouted Yachiru.

"Huh!? What then? Shove the hilt up my arm?" Actually that might work, if he took the wraps off. Would need some help getting it right though, and as much as he trusted her, he figured Ikkaku was more likely to get it straight. Of course the bones would be a problem—

"No, silly Kenny! Wait here!" She dashed off. In seconds she was back with his zanpakuto and eyepatch. It was a little awkward for her to scramble up his body like usual with something so long, but she managed. She also tied his patch around his neck so his vision was free, yet he was no longer leaking reiatsu all over the place. Probably for the best if he was still near the 4th Division.

(He totally was, as that was one of the patient relaxation gardens, and Yachiru saved him from Unohana's immediate wrath.)

('Immediate' of course being the key word.)

Then she stuck the hilt of his sword in his teeth.

"Whurt?" he asked.

"Kenny can swing around his sword this way, and feel cutting people up!" gushed Yachiru. "See! See! Give it a try!"

Feeling her familiar presence on his shoulder, he decided caution might be warranted for once, so did a few aborted twists of his neck to get a feel for it.

Satisfied, he let loose.

It was a terrible swing.

He only cut down four trees, halved that rock, and carved a line through that wall.

Except he had done it still.

Kenpachi could feel the release through his blade as he did all that with a single motion, cutting things like he was meant to.

Yes. Yes! YESSS! YESSSSS!

"AIGEN! M' COMN FREH YAH!" he roared through the hilt in his teeth.

". . . Kenny talks silly!" she laughed.

Spitting the sword out so it stuck in the ground, he cackled as well. Only to trail off as he remembered his earlier thoughts to communicate with his blade more. Right. Okay, he had to figure out how to handle it properly at least.

"It's going to take some work," he admitted, even if his smile never dimmed a fraction. "But I'll do it. In the meantime, I'm counting on the two of you to run the 11th Division, alright!?"

"Yes, Taichou!"

"Of course, Kenny!"

"That said," and now he scowled at them, "I also need you two to take this seriously." Without stopping, he bulldozed over their objections. "You have to get stronger, for whatever's coming."

"I—I understand, Taichou."

"Push yourself to your limits and beyond, because for this war," he barred his teeth in eagerness once more, "we'll have a whole load of people to cut up into pieces! And I'll need your help to fight against to get stronger too, so I'm counting on you!"

Puzzled, Yachiru cocked her head. "You want me to fight? But what if I take away from your fun?"

Kneeling down closer to his daughter, he softly said, "It's time for you to have your own fun killing people."

She stared at him wide-eyed, mouth open, before leaping up to hug him around the neck. "Okay, I will!"

"Yeah, yeah, just don't hold back."

"I won't!" She leapt down to give him some space. "So what're you going to do to train first?"

The ground rose up to hit Kenpachi in the face, only for him to realize he had fallen down.

Laying there unable to move, vision going grey, he heard a voice which sent shivers up his traitorous spine.

"Now, now, Zaraki-Taichou, you shouldn't be so reckless with your recovery," said Unohana-Taichou. "You might hurt yourself worse."

Seas of Souls—

Heedless of her panting and drenched in sweat, Karin held up a glowing ball of energy in triumph.

For a brief, unworthy moment, Don Kanonji felt jealous of how what had taken him years to learn, she had accomplished in only two days.

But such thoughts were unworthy of a hero, and he should be proud of what she had done. Truly she was his #1 disciple's sister!

To say nothing of how this was proof he was a fantastic mentor!

Together, they would protect the innocent people of this fair city, the entire world even, from these evil spirits!

Seas of Souls—

"Hey, Chopper?"

"Yes, Lilynette?"

"Do you think those 'evil spirits' they're talking about are us?"

"Huh!? Uhm . . . I don't think so?"

"Naaaaaah! You're right. Whatever. We should tell the others about 'em!"

Seas of Souls—

Author Notes:

My thanks to PokeKing Charizard for the help with brainstorming for this story!

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Lilynette's outfit is from the anime's 23rd ending credits clip, Stay Beautiful.

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Yes, that was an abbreviated version of Kenpachi's speech to Ikkaku. Also: "AIGEN! M' COMN FREH YAH!" = "Aizen! I'm coming for you!"

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Under no circumstances should you try and slap someone out of a panic attack. Yachiru is not a role model here.

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