Sup everyone, Grimlock here! Since there were…many of you that seemed to not be aware, despite my authors note a few chapters ago, To Undo it All on AO3 was hidden from the public a while back. Upon asking Policy and Abuse, I was informed that was due to the self-promotion of my book and other stuff. It was actually supposed to be deleted, and only wasn't so by accident. Entirely because of that error, I was given the opportunity to remove all the promotion and get it back to being public again. Since it is a few chapters behind this, I will be uploading the new chapters every two-three days or so there until it is caught up. If everything goes according to what I have planned, by the way, there should be 12 chapters left after this one for To Undo it All. In my outline, I have one more arc before TYBW, which will be done over three massive chapters, and then I have three chapters planned out for CFYOW. I will have a reminder notice when we get there but do expect a significant wait time for TYBW. I want to write it in its entirety before posting it all at once, so when the chapter right before it is released, expect a big wait with a big payoff. Enjoy the show!

Beta'd by: Miruko-The-Stallion

In a way of breaking the monotony that I certainly wasn't going to complain about, Starrk was not in Las Noches when I went looking for him for training. Or even Hueco Mundo. Or the World of the Living. After going on what felt like a wild goose chase for over an hour, I managed to track him down, and I admonished myself for not considering it sooner.

He was in Squad 13, with the reiatsu signatures of Kyoraku and Ukitake. I was tempted to smack myself in the face. I had even mentioned that I wanted to introduce them, but then I stupidly sent the Arrancar back to Hueco Mundo after first bringing them to the Soul Society without bothering to follow through. It did leave me to wonder who brought him, though. Starrk couldn't muster up the effort to stay awake during a meeting, let alone open a portal to the Seireitei to talk to strangers. Lilynette would possess the desire and stubbornness necessary to force Starrk to do something like that, but she also didn't know who the two Captains were. Halibel, perhaps? Yamamoto, Kyoraku, Ukitake, and Unohana had all mentioned in their monthly reports that the Queen of Hueco Mundo made it a habit to spend some time helping at least one of them with their paperwork every week. Neither Unohana or I could discern if that was her continuing efforts to make Shinigami more comfortable with Arrancar or a way to get away from Las Noches to preserve her sanity. After all, it was one thing to manage three attendants who constantly bickered amongst themselves, and it was another entirely to keep over a hundred Arrancar with nothing else to do from killing each other. It was reasonable to assume that she would see the laidback cordiality Kyoraku and Ukitake possessed and understand Starrk would become best friends with the pair.

After entering Squad 13 and passively wandering towards where the three of them were lounging, I eventually discovered they were overlooking the pond. The Primero Espada and the Captain of the Eighth were on opposite sides of a Go board. The Arrancar lounged on his side with his left arm propping up his head, his right knee up, and his left foot languidly dangling off the wooden walkway, the grass tickling his sandal. Kyoraku was leaning back on his right hand, his right leg crossed and his left knee up, his left arm currently resting atop his knee. A bottle of sake with a half-filled saucer was to his right, and I saw his contented smile from the angle I approached them from. Ukitake was sitting to Starrk's left and Kyoraku's right, his own placid smile across his face as he simultaneously watched the two play their game as well as enjoyed the scenery. There was no need to say anything for the silver-haired Captain to notice my approach and scoot closer to his longtime friend to make room for me to sit. I happily took my place between him and Starrk, my legs crossed so that my knee was brushing against Ukitake's. As I looked over the board to get a feel for how the game was progressing, the Arrancar lazily put down a stone, capturing several of Kyoraku's pieces. The flowery Captain seemed to treat that as no issue, and I couldn't tell if it was because he was expecting the move or because he was simply embracing the atmosphere.

"So where's the Terrible Two?" I asked, keeping my voice gentle.

"They, along with Kuchiki-san, are entertaining Gingerbuck-chan." Despite that it was the first time this version of him had heard me calling them that, Ukitake instantly understood who I was talking about. "Last I heard, they were plotting to report their game of Hide and Seek as a training exercise as a way to 'get back' at you. They cited that they would never have played with such a 'tireless demon' had you not gotten the Gotei 13 and the Arrancar on such good terms." He chuckled, which I joined him in.

"How is that, by the way?" My curiosity rose. "I rarely spend my casual time in the Soul Society nowadays. I know that Halibel comes by relatively often, and that's only due to reading reports."

"Halibel-san often helps with the paperwork of a select few Squads." The gentle Captain nodded. "With Unohana-taicho's support, Yamamoto-soutaicho approved her assisting with paperwork. She very quickly rooted out which Squads she didn't want to spend time around. She's told me in confidence that she's neutral to most of the Captains, but several of the Squads she would rather not be around for various reasons. Outside of Starrk-san and Gingerbuck-san, the only Arrancar she has ever brought with her are Nelliel-san, Ulquiorra-san, and Sun Sun-san." He leveled a knowing look my way. "They've mentioned that you are the one to first suggest holding off bringing the more aggressive Arrancar until later."

"That I did. I'm not exactly wrong on that front, though I wonder when will be a good time to do so."

"Oh, I think that might be pretty soon." Kyoraku chuckled as he made his move on the board. "The Gotei seems to be eating up your recordings. A podcast, I believe Hisagi-kun called it? The retellings of your past are getting many Shinigami quite invested in the Arrancar." An amused smirk was sent towards me. "Having an entire week to gossip with each other between the release of each part is giving them quite the imagination." That immediately had dread-filled anxiety forming in my gut.

"Oh god, what are they saying?" I didn't want to run the risk of being caught off guard if someone felt confident enough to confront me about whatever nonsense they had come up with. "They don't think the Arrancar perceived Aizen like their adopted father or some insanity like that, do they?" The two ancient friends shared a laugh while Starrk lifted a mildly curious eyebrow, now as invested as he could be in listening to our conversation.

"No, nothing like that." Ukitake said it reassuringly, which meant he was about to say something far more alarming. "They've come to the conclusion that your and Jeagerjaques-san's rivalry stemmed from suppressed romantic feelings for one another." I think I preferred it when they thought I was the Harbinger of the Apocalypse.

"There are even bets going around that the next episode will have Jeagerjaques-san reveal that he kept his scar from your Getsuga Tensho due to perceiving it as you marking him like a mate." The flowery Captain continued. "And, what's more, that you are going to nervously announce to him that the truth behind your mastering your Hollow was to make you more physically compatible with him as a mate." There was too much in that pair of sentences to tackle individually.

"But…" My mouth flapped uselessly as my brain struggled to comprehend the information just given to me. "I'm dating Unohana and Yoruichi?" The sickly Captain maintained his calm upturn of the lips.

"In the face of Kotetsu-fukutaicho's and Soi Fon-taicho's firm confirmations, the Shinigami have begrudgingly accepted your relationship is not a front to hide your homosexuality." I don't know who, but someone was going to die for initiating such a stupid belief. Ignoring everything else, if I had been gay, I certainly wouldn't have pretended otherwise. "Instead, they've unanimously agreed that the only conclusion is that you're courting all of them." His eyes slid upwards and to the right for a moment in recollection. "As well as a few others."

"Who?!" I couldn't help but demand.

"The full list is different depending on who you ask." Kyoraku spoke around a sip of sake. "Some of the constants are Kenpachi-taicho," I wanted to retch at the thought, "Yamamoto-soutaicho," I did retch at the thought, "Ishida-san," What. "and Halibel-chan."

"WHY?!" Was all I could get myself to ask.

"Kenpachi-taicho is the most universal." The man who possessed a god instead of a pair of lungs had a sympathetic expression for my pain. "In their minds, it's impossible to mistake the relaxing of his savage demeanor as being anything other than finding a romantic partner in both yourself and Unohana-taicho. You could easily find someone willing to give an entire speech citing all of the 'evidence' for why that must be the case. Yamamoto-taicho is largely similar, many would bring up how you both are beleaguered by the trauma of war, how he's given you a position of power all but equal to his own, and how you are the only one even comparable in power to him amongst the Gotei 13." My skin crawled in revulsion. "Ishida-san is almost entirely headed by how you two bicker, both in your retellings and when he appears as a guest in the episodes. Halibel-san is frequently assumed due to you acting as the bridge between herself and the Gotei. Some even have concluded that the entire reason she is so willing to cooperate with us is due to wanting to appear more responsible and mature to you. The fact that she's confirmed her training stems from being too similar to yourself did not help matters much." I dreaded to ask, but I would think of something far worse if I did not know the answer.

"How involved is the SWA in this?" I sighed defeatedly. Ukitake's cheeks pinked slightly.

"They have released several," he coughed into his hand meaningfully, "adult publications with yourself as the protagonist. To my knowledge, there are quite few public figures that do not star in those publications with you."

"They're making money selling porn of me?!" I shouted.

"Considering they are the ones who do all the work," Kyoraku tipped his hat, "I'm astounded at how many members of the SWA appear in those raunchy comics of theirs."

"I'm not." My shoulders slumped in resignation. "I have no doubt that Yoruichi is the one fueling the fire. She and Unohana are no doubt the ones convincing everyone that 'it's just drawings' because they know the more they'd have by the time I inevitably found out about this, the funnier they would find my blow-up."

"Being the center of attraction ain't all that it's cranked up to be, eh?" The flowery Captain teased.

"I never thought it was." I groaned. "I hate being the center of the gossip storm. It's all misinformation and assumptions." Once again, the longtime friends laughed good-naturedly at my complaints. Kyoraku refilled his cup as Starrk performed another move, prompting Ukitake to lift a hand to his chin to consider the play. I took advantage of the lull in conversation before it could pass. "Anyway, the reason I'm here is for Starrk." The Arrancar shifted his gaze to look up at me but made no move to adjust himself.

"Did Halibel-san request my presence or something?" Those were the first words he had spoken since I came.

"There's no use in pretending you're clueless." Was my responsive hum. "If anything, you know far better than any of the other Espada." I could tell both of the veteran Captains raised their eyebrows in interest. The conclusion was easy to reach, and above that, they were smart. All four of us knew I was here for Starrk's training to achieve Segunda Etapa. Two of us knew exactly what that training was supposed to be, and we both knew why. The Primero focused his gaze on the board, despite the fact that his opponent had not taken his turn yet.

He was remarkably good at putting out the airs of someone who was completely disassociated from the rest of the world. But I knew the truth. He slept far less frequently than anyone, even Lilynette, could realize. So much more often, he simply absorbed what was happening around him, maintaining awareness of everything and only breaking the illusion when he couldn't afford not to. Nearly constantly vigilant of potential dangers to the other half of his soul, and not exclusively direct ones. The man always had an ear out to listen if anyone happened to have any gripes with Arrancar they might be willing to act on. There were many, I knew, who were grateful that Starrk and Lilynette 'coincidentally' never crossed paths with them. From my time, I was aware of the jokes people had, about how the two must've shared a soul for how often Starrk would 'wake up' and drag Lilynette off right before people lost their patience with her. So many had thought that his lingering around certain Squads was simply because they were the quietest places to sleep, rather than the places which most easily accepted them. Even the girl herself didn't know of the passive protection he provided her. The Primero was incredibly intelligent and just as observant. I knew that he was thoroughly aware of the Espada training, as well as the method we had figured to achieve it. And, most importantly, I'm certain he had long since figured out exactly what his training was meant to be.

"I don't think I do." He muttered, but he also knew I would only allow him to dance around it so much. "I don't have Segunda Etapa, isn't that a pretty clear indicator that I don't have it figured out?"

"You don't sound too horribly beat up over it." Kyoraku's pondering analysis made me grateful that I had the company of two of the oldest, most mature, and most intelligent members of the Gotei with us. "Juushiro and I have had some wonderful conversations over tea with Halibel-chan the past few weeks. We're aware of the theory Arrancar zanpakuto function in parallel to Shinigami zanpakuto. Personally, I think I'd be at least a little frustrated if I were unable to unlock the equivalent of Bankai."

"Especially if its release hinged on understanding and working at a fault in myself." His brother-in-all-but-blood furthered.

"Not everyone's is obvious." The lounging man defended, though not due to being self-conscious. "Halibel-san and Nelliel-san both have to work on aspects of themselves they didn't think were holding them back. Faults they incorrectly believed were strengths." I sensed the two Captains turn to me, allowing me to lead the conversation since they did not have the knowledge necessary to reach the answer.

"That's true, but there's a poignant difference between the other Espada and yourself." I kept my words gentle, emphasizing that I was actively trying to not be accusatory. "The others had to understand that the behavior they adopted was harmful to themselves. You have the unique circumstance where you know the reason you exist is because of your problem." The three around me fell silent at my words. The two Shinigami were contemplative and observing, clearly attempting to resolve the answer using what they were given. Starrk, in contrast, had withdrawn once more into himself, again seeking to paint the illusion that he had stopped paying attention.

"…We've fixed that since then." The wolf spoke quietly once he realized I was content to wait for his response.

"The reason you don't have Segunda Etapa, then?" All I needed was to raise an eyebrow questioningly alongside my counter. The eyes of the Captains ping-ponged back and forth between the two of us, aware that they needed only one crucial piece of information to piece the whole puzzle before them. I decided to help them along. "Kyoraku, Ukitake, in case you weren't aware, Coyote Starrk and Lilynette Gingerbuck are the only naturally occurring Arrancar amongst their number." They nodded, patiently waiting for the clincher. Thankfully, Starrk seemed to take no issue with me announcing it. "As you know, Arrancar are the result of high-level Hollows breaking off their own masks to give themselves more power. Starrk and Lilynette is just that, only taking it a step farther." To my great unsurprise, it did not take them long to understand from there.

"You broke off part of your own soul." Ukitake breathed. "Why?"

"Companionship." The man was forthright with the information. "We were too strong as a Hollow, too strong even after we split. Our reiatsu was so great that it killed anything that even entered a certain vicinity of us. We were despairingly alone, unable to find someone we could even talk to. So we ripped ourselves into Coyote Starrk and Lilynette Gingerbuck." Kyoraku tilted his hat down to block his face from us while Ukitake's shoulders sank in mournful empathy.

"I see." The silver-haired man's voice was woeful. "When you discovered that the theory to unlocking Segunda Etapa hinges on resolving lingering issues, there's really no other conclusion to reach." What that conclusion was did not need to be verbalized. I was sure both of the Shinigami with me understood it might be too painful for the Arrancar. The Primero nodded mutely, his eyes unwavering from the board.

"…I'm sure you've been faced with this argument before," the wolf's voice was soft, "but why do we need more strength?" With everyone present aware of his circumstances, he clearly had stopped bothering with referring to himself and Lilynette as truly separate beings. I couldn't blame him for asking, not for something like this. Not for someone like him. In the face of that, I couldn't bear to be anything but straightforward with him.

"I'm sorry to say the main reason is simple strategy." As expected, he withheld his reaction, waiting for me to completely explain myself. "If you're preparing for a war, you don't stop at what you assume is 'good enough'. Your only restrictions are the resources you can use and the time you have to use them. In the face of war, fighters are a resource indistinguishable from weapons and fortifications." The Espada placed down another piece on the board.

"If you can sharpen a blade, that's what you do." He hummed his understanding. "You don't want to find out in the middle of a fight that your negligence is the reason you're going to die. I'm not going to fault you for that, not when the reason we're in this situation is because we weren't sharp enough before. Especially when you've lost previously, it's better to overprepare than under. How did we die before?" My wince pulled at my face.

"…Coyote Starrk died against Aizen in the final year of the Winter War." His eyes snapped onto me, blue-grey pools hard. I would not do him the disservice of stopping there. "Lilynette Gingerbuck was killed in the middle of the second year. It was an experiment made by Aizen, he wanted to know what would happen to you if one of you died." The two Captains cringed at the mere thought. Starrk remained silent for a long, dense moment, which we let him have. His eyes closed as his head tilted downwards, his mind no doubt a storm of grief and pain.

"…So we weren't part of the war with the Quincy." Past the obvious pain, the man sounded oddly reinforced in his beliefs.

"I wouldn't put money on you not needing the boost just because we don't know how you would fair as-is." Kyoraku was the first to understand where the Arrancar was going with that.

"When Yhwach took- or takes- Hueco Mundo, he does so himself." I supported. "Even without him using The Almighty, that's not a fight you're going to win. Even if all of the Espada had Segunda Etapa, I still don't like the odds of your success." The wolf's eyes slid open, peering up at me while his head was till pointed down.

"If Hueco Mundo falls regardless of our strength, what is the point of this?" There was demand in his voice, barely-there embers of rage simmering in his tone. "No Quincy would let Arrancar live, and no conqueror would let the people they have conquered remain at full strength."

"Kisuke and I are still figuring that out." I winced, aware of how unsatisfactory of an answer that was. "Our biggest struggle is the fact that they have so many alternative plans that we don't have the time to counterplan for all of them. Our best bet is to ensure they repeat what they did in my time and accommodate for that, which demands we let them occupy Hueco Mundo. But both of us are working to ensuring that no one dies."

"I understand your problems." His expression did not change. "However, you've not told me anything which would change my mind. You're working to keep everybody alive, but you don't know how to accomplish that. You have to let certain things play out a certain way in order for your knowledge to remain useful, which I don't disagree with, but it means we have to be put in a highly dangerous position. You want us to be stronger to better face our enemies, but tell us that we're going to have to lay down and bare our throats when the time comes to use it." The Primero was focusing on the external problem rather than facing the issue, but unfortunately he was doing a damn good job of it.

"In a situation like this, war is not unlike this game we're playing." Kyoraku once more picked up. "Pick your enemy apart one piece at a time, and you give them the opportunity to do something you don't expect, or to figure out what your plan is and work around it. Tip your hand too early and you might damn yourself by the end."

"Would you accept the risk that the Arrancar might be sacrificed in order to achieve your victory, Captain?" The flowery man's features pulled down, a deep, empty frown taking over his expression.

"As I'm sure Kurosaki-san is aware, there's quite a bit I would accept in order to achieve victory, Starrk-san. I even suspect that's why he has not gone to me for help in this matter." The wolf's eyes widened in shock. "As long as the Gotei 13 stands and can rebuild itself if need be, there is little I would be unwilling to sacrifice. I wouldn't be happy about doing so, make no mistake, but if I felt it necessary, I would not hesitate."

"Like he said, that's why I'm working with Kisuke and not Kyoraku or Ukitake." I quickly slipped in. "But checking all my boxes for the war is not the only reason I'm doing this."

"Then enlighten me." There was far clearer fury in his words, though it was still controlled. He had simply forgone hiding it.

"Regardless of this even does unlock Segunda Etapa or not, it's still a way to work through your issues." I began. "Ulquiorra is still getting better at understanding and appreciating emotions, Grimmjow is still working to improve himself, Halibel is still conscious of how vengeful she can be, and Nel is still coming around to the idea that violence does not mean savagery. If nothing else, it's doing good by people I care about."

"Are you sure this is doing good by me? By Lilynette?" There was no arguing that what had been done for the others was helpful to them, but the Primero had always been unique amongst them. Unfortunately, this was also not only delicate territory, but far more uncertain.

"None of us could know." Was the best answer I could give. It wouldn't be a good choice to be pragmatic about this, nor did I want to be. "…I know that your Resurreccion fits you and Lilynette back together, while still keeping you distinguishable from each other." The man silently nodded in confirmation. "You're afraid, if nothing else, that your Segunda Etapa might not stop there, aren't you?"

Another solemn nod.

The most difficult part of this entire situation was that Starrk and Lilynette didn't want to return to whatever they had been before they tore themselves in two. Ironically, the thing preventing them from unlocking Segunda Etapa was their fear for what would happen if they did. Worse, something I could see Ukitake and Kyoraku sympathized with me on, they could neither be blamed or even seen as in the wrong for it. There was no comforting them in the matter. Sure, their Resurreccion ability revolved around their splitting themselves, being able to split off miniscule crumbs in the shape of spirit wolves to fight alongside. But who was to say they would keep that ability in their Segunda? Who was to say they kept their separate minds when they entered that form? If they fused into one and ripped themselves in two once more, would they still be Starrk and Lilynette, or two completely different people?

I was grateful once again that those around us for Starrk's training were Kyoraku and Ukitake. Others, I was certain, would ask short-sighted questions that would only dance around the true issue. People that did not possess the worldly experience and wisdom the pair of ancient friends had would do what they thought was helping, but would only frustrate. I could easily imagine Rukia politely asking if Starrk's hesitance was due to fear of going back to his prior isolation. Orihime, innocently wondering if they were causing more damage to themselves keeping their soul split than they would returning to being one. It was due to centuries more experience that the relaxed brunet and his pale silver-haired companion could understand those questions had long since been answered. Starrk and Lilynette did still have a lingering fear in their minds for being alone, but it was from nothing more than how powerful the experience was to them. Though I personally couldn't understand how, the Primero truly saw the other Espada as friends, and the sight which had greeted me upon coming here was evidence enough for what he felt of the two Captains with him. And, while they had once asked themselves if it physically was okay for them to stay as they were, they both had long since agreed that they didn't really care as long as they were no longer forced into solitude. Whatever they had originally been had been more than willing to accept the risks of splitting its soul in two, and the two of them had become far happier in their current state than they likely could have as one.

Their original state had willfully forfeited its life to become them, and they were unwilling to lose who they were because of someone else's arrogant belief that was better for them. I leaned back on my hands and lifted my gaze up.

"This is all conjecture on my part," I breathed, feeling three sets of eyes on me, "but all of the others are dealing with issues that sincerely are issues to them. Ulquiorra isn't reacquainting himself with his emotions because he forsook them before, it's because the reason he threw them away was because he was harmed by them. Grimmjow stagnated, I'd wager, because he met some sort of roadblock and pretended he reached the peak because he didn't know how to go around it. Halibel is dealing with her vengeful qualities because she's afraid she'll become something so twisted that her relationships will shatter. Nel is being taught that it's okay to have a desire to fight because she would otherwise be pushing away and alienating a core aspect of herself."

"Starrk-san's issue is no longer his solitude." The pale Captain allowed a soft smile to greet his face once more. "Nor is he or Gingerbuck-chan harmed by their current state. You two are not disillusioned into thinking this is better for you when it is not, you are the result of a decision made that you seemingly have agreed with and accepted." The wolf cautiously nodded, watching the three of us carefully.

"If Segunda Etapa represents, as I've been told by Halibel-chan, the completion of a Hollow's journey," Kyoraku grinned while tilting his hat back, "then it simply doesn't make sense for yours to be going against all of that." I smiled once more as a thought returned to me.

"I think your training might ironically be the simplest to complete." The Arrancar locked his gaze onto me. "Technically, you already have resolved your problems, basically without anyone's help. My guess?" I leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees to better meet his eyes. "The reason you don't have Segunda Etapa is because you're afraid the result is going to be against your very nature." Blue-grey pools widened, clarity, and more importantly, relief filling them.

"But if it's for what is truly best for us, then it couldn't possibly be."

It was a typical school day afternoon. It was getting gradually easier to maintain focus in class, helped significantly by Yoruichi pawing my cheek whenever she noticed me drifting off. Still far more than I'd like, several times a class period, but I would overall only lose a few minutes of lessons throughout the day. Considering I had started as missing several hours, it was a major improvement. Especially once we reached the point when I had initially given up on school entirely for participating in the wars, and I was actually learning new material. I was leaving school with my friends, all of us sticking together since we did study sessions twice a week. Several of the other students complained about us maintaining exclusivity with each other, especially since we had three people who consistently scored top ten in our grade, being Uryu, Orihime, and myself. However, beyond simple friendship, a big part of why we kept that exclusivity was due to the goings on Chad, Orihime, Uryu, and I had. Didn't have to worry about making up an excuse when someone had to deal with a Hollow, or when I inevitably manifested Zangetsu, or when any of the countless spirits we all knew decided to pop in for a visit.

We were leaving the campus, myself hearing some idle chatter from people around us about the construction the school was undergoing. As per usual, Unohana was by my side, reading a biology book, while Yoruichi sat on my shoulder, tail happily swishing over my back. Chad was at my side opposite Unohana, and the rest of our group more or less trailed behind us, each of them having their own conversations. Pointedly, I smiled at hearing Orihime and Uryu discuss sewing techniques, the girl having learned the basics herself to maintain her plushies and clothes.

Which, of course, is right when everything went to shit. As far as I could tell, a trio of reiatsu signatures appeared out of nowhere in our vicinity a second before the scaffolding for the construction collapsed. Several dozen students screamed, but none were close to it and it didn't seem to be intentional. It seemed to be more of a byproduct of the giant, hunched-over cloaked figure bursting through it with a fist the size of a family van cocked back. Simultaneously, another cloaked figure, closer to human-sized but also inhumanly round, appeared in front of us, pink bullets of energy firing out from its body. To complete the trifecta, a third cloaked figure zipped towards us from the opposite direction of the giant, lugging a hulking black blade with a cross-pointed tip behind himself.

The reaction was instantaneous, and almost drew a proud tear from my eye. Chad's right arm transformed to its shield state in an instant, and he blocked the oversized fist, the only falter being his heels being dragged back a couple inches. Several bright blue arrows flew past me from behind, perfectly meeting each of the pink projectiles with a few arrows extra soaring directly for the portly cloaked figure. The one with the sword swung at us, only for his blade to spark against an orange triangular barrier that had manifested the instant he moved his arms, before the barrier sparked and repelled him back several meters. Chad's left arm then transformed, his fist crashing into his opponent and throwing them back into the scaffolding they had ruined. The one that had fired the pink blasts darted out of the way of Uryu's arrows with surprising speed, and the three figures all paused for a moment. At the same time, I did a quick check of everyone's reiatsu levels, and was pleased by how little of a gap there was. A delighted smile took over my face as I slid my hands into my pockets.

"Consider this a preliminary for what you guys have been training for." I announced, to ensure my intentions were clear. Uryu deliberately shouldered me as he walked forward, his bow in hand as he kept his eyes on his chosen opponent.

"How grateful we are for your permission." He sneered, though I could tell there wasn't any true heat behind it. There was gratefulness within him, for the knowledge that I wasn't going to interfere. You could only acknowledge so much of your growth when your only sparring partner was someone who was so ridiculously outside of your capability that you knew you would never be able to win. Chad hardly even seemed to register the interaction, charging for his opponent with clear intent to destroy. Orihime was far more hesitant with stepping towards the man with the sword, her hands touching her hairpins, but I knew the awareness that we were but feet away gave her comfort.

"So who are we dealing with this time?" Unohana asked, closing the textbook around her thumb as she joined me in watching the three fights occur around us. "Their reiatsu signatures are quite muddled, I imagine it is those cloaks of theirs keeping me from understanding what they are." Yoruichi bobbed her head, keeping silent since a few students were still scrambling to leave the area.

"Yeah, that's been nagging at me, too." I hummed. "Not the fact that their cloaks are screwing with my senses, but the fact that those cloaks are familiar to me. That guy's sword, too." As the fights continued, I also paid careful attention to the fact that the cloaked figures all seemed determined to attack me. The giant displayed his ability to fire his fists on tethers by trying to hit me, only for Chad to be ready to stop it, usually by just grabbing the tether itself and yanking it. The rotund one regularly attempted to slip his shots past Uryu, only for the Quincy to be all too happy to prove his superior skills and shoot them all down. The one with the sword possessed incredible speed, being able to dart past Orihime and hunt for me too frequently for it to just be trying opportunities, only to be continually repelled back by her shields.

"They seem oddly focused on you." Yoruichi muttered. "To the point that they don't seem to think it worthwhile to finish their fights first before dealing with you."

"Yeah…" My brain was working a mile a minute as I tried to figure it out. "It's almost like they want my-" Everything snapped into place and my eyes widened. I didn't need to check with my senses, with a tensing of my chest, I fired out from my body already in shunpo. Streets and buildings blurred beneath me as the hilts of my zanpakuto found their home in my hands, seething fury already boiling within me. Not five seconds after leaving my body, I was above my house, Shiro's blade slicing through the tentacles holding Yuzu and Karin. I bundled them up under my left arm, which squeezed them a bit, but by their expressions, it wasn't a concern at the moment. Two more cloaked figures were in my line of sight, standing before a portal edged in blue flames. One of them was groaning in pain, hunched over while holding out the stumps pouring blood which used to be his arms. The other was standing stiffly, most of his expression difficult to find underneath a cloak and mask.

"B-but the others are-" The currently unharmed Sinner stumbled over his words.

"Touch my sisters again and you'll wish you stayed in Hell." I snarled. The other Sinner stiffened as well.

"So you know who we are." I forgot all of their names, but the one that I knew used fire was the one who spoke. "But do you know why we are here, Kurosaki Ichigo?" If he thought he would catch me off guard by revealing he knew my name, he had another thing coming.

"You want me to destroy the Gates of Hell because you morons think that will free you." It was hard to win a game of 'I know more about what's going on than you do' against a time traveler. As evidenced by the fact that both of them visibly tensed even further. "But you should be more focused on my desire to see how many times I can break every bone in your bodies."

"You should know pain is meaningless to us Sinners." The fire guy did his best to sound unperturbed. He really did.

"If I hadn't gotten here in time, you would have dragged my sisters to Hell just to piss me off enough to get me to do your dirty work for you." Black reiatsu lined the edge of Shiro's blade. "Good news is you succeeded at making me fucking angry. Bad news is I've been getting better at focusing my rage." I let go of the twins, the two of them shrieking as they fell only for a moment before Dad caught them both, his own livid expression on his face as he glared at the two Sinners. My arm whipped around, a wordless Getsuga unfurling from the spirit metal that crashed into the duo faster than they could react. I succeeded in causing them as much damage as I could, as well as the bonus of pushing them into the portal. It automatically closed after the person who opened it went through.

Once the leader of the Sinners and his second-in-command were forced through the portal, the underlings similarly retreated, surely mistakenly believing their mission accomplished. At least, that was what had been relayed to me when everybody met back up in my house. Currently, we were all in the living room, Karin and Yuzu nearly drowning in blankets and tea for them sitting on the table. I had just finished giving them a rundown of my original encounter with them, as well as Kokuto.

"Of course you of all people would somehow get the residents of Hell to be interested enough to try a stunt like this." Uryu rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"I'm mostly just confused as to how you got their interest." Yoruichi leaned back in her seat, her chin resting on her knuckles.

"I think I might have an answer for that." The voice of a particularly traitorous Sinner spoke, everyone turning to watch his form peel out from one of the shadows in the room. It was clear he just arrived, as I was sure he would have given up all pretenses of politeness if he knew his gambit was already revealed. Everyone but me tensed, but he clearly assumed it was because we had just dealt with the other Sinners rather than perceiving him as the greater threat. It was obvious by how he lifted his hands in surrender.

"Before you attack, I swear I'm not with the others!" He rushed out. "I actually hate them all, and I want to see them suffer as much as you likely do!" While I knew he was speaking the truth in hating the others and wanting to see them lose, he severely underestimated how much my loved ones being threatened pissed me off. But I would hide that fact for now.

"And why should we believe you?" Yoruichi narrowed her eyes, playing her part perfectly as always. "For all we know, you're just trying to lower our guard again to attempt kidnapping his sisters one more time."

"Not unreasonable." He admitted, his shoulders sagging in what others would perceive in admittance. We knew it was frustration at one of his plans being axed. The sinner was an adaptable little shit, though. "How about some information as a peace offering, then?"

"Out with it, then." Uryu pushed his glasses up, his Quincy cross glinting in the light as an implied threat. "We'll decide if it's sufficient to let you live." Thankfully, just like Yoruichi, Uryu knew how to play on expectations. Kokuto was certainly expecting a Quincy to find a Sinner abhorrent and was unlikely to find anything suspicious about it.

"That other group you just dealt with? They think Kurosaki is the key to breaking out from Hell." He wasted no time in elaborating. "They saw that Hollow form of yours throw around that group of Shinigami in Hueco Mundo like they were nothing, and thought that strength might be enough to obliterate the Gates of Hell." This time, our reaction was far more genuine. Unohana and Yoruichi turned to deadpan at me while I dropped my face into my hands and yelled in frustration.

"I thought we were done dealing with the fallout of that!" I growled.

"How do you know about that?" Our resident glasses-wearing skeptic questioned.

"If you know enough about Hell, you pick up some tricks that allow you to peer through some cracks. Similar to how we've all managed to creep out by putting together reiatsu muddling clothes and hiding our faces, we're able to peek at goings-on in Hueco Mundo." He turned a bit embarrassed as he spoke the next bit, looking off to the side. "It's kinda like sneaking into the living room to watch TV when your parents are asleep. Only there's one channel, and if you get caught, you get mutilated." It was time for my section of the act.

"Great, I'll let Halibel know that Sinners in Hell probably watch her shower." I drawled with an exaggerated roll of the eyes. It took great effort to ignore that Kokuto stiffened and sweat a little bit. Well, that was no longer a joke. "We kicked 'em back into the holes they crawled out of, why do we have to care about all this?"

"You don't think they'd stop at one attempt, did you?" The Sinner asked rhetorically. "They're already residents of Hell. They don't exactly have a reason to not keep trying." I crossed my arms over my chest.

"So what's your suggestion, since you seem to be the expert in this?"

"Until their soul is ground down into nothing, a Sinner will always regenerate." The man who was half-covered in bandages announced. "But it's not like it's a quick process, and it gets slower the closer you are to turning to dust. But there are ways of artificially extending that. The more horrifically they're damaged, regardless of to the mind or body, the longer it will take to recover."

"The plan is to go down there and completely ruin them, then?" Yoruichi raised an eyebrow.

"I certainly have no complaints about that." Dad spoke for the first time in a while, his face having not shifted from barely restrained fury. I nodded in agreement.

"If everything you've said is true, then there's no point in wasting time, is there?" I spoke as I stood, having not returned to my body yet. The Sinner gleamed at our responses.

"No, I suppose there isn't. Who is coming with?" My gaze passed over everyone in the room.

"Yoruichi, Unohana, my Dad, and myself. Everyone else will keep guard over my sisters." It was easy to feel the pride radiating from Chad as he cracked his knuckles, clearly pleased that I would entrust him with something so important to me. Uryu nodded as he once again fixed his glasses, and Orihime smiled sunnily.

"Alright. I'll be opening the portal now, then. We'll be stepping out into the first floor of Hell." With the whipping of an invisible chain, a flaming opening manifested. Like me, Dad was still outside of his gigai, and Unohana swiftly left hers as the four of us gathered in front of the portal. Before we stepped through, we all exchanged a silent look. It had passed no one's notice that Kokuto had neglected to mention his own reasons for helping us.

While the first floor of Hell wasn't exactly familiar territory, it was something that slowly came back to me the longer I was there. We stepped out into one of the 'roads' that made up the environment, notably a smaller one that was the equivalent of an alley. My girlfriends looked around in passive interest while Dad and I simply watched Kokuto, waiting for him to take the lead.

"Okay, I know what areas of Hell they like to linger in, so we'll be going straight there. We can't afford to take it slow, Hell will notice there are outsiders quickly and send Kushanada to investigate." He warned as he broke into a slow run, each of us easily falling into step with him. "I'm sure you've all already noticed, but the air of Hell is tainted. It draws on all of the worst aspects of yourself. This is a place for suffering, so it will pull it out from you." Oh, right, forgot about that. I slammed my feet down, demanding everyone else to stop with me.

"That means it's going to force my Hollow side out." I spoke in faux-realization, meeting the eyes of my companions. "I have an idea to lock that down, but you're going to need to brace yourselves." My girlfriends understood instantly, their eyes widening. They huddled together without hesitation as Unohana stabbed Minazuki into the stone beneath us. Though confused, Isshin copied the action, trusting that they wouldn't do that without reason. Kokuto was the last to follow along, positively lost as I drew Zangetsu and held the two blades flat against each other in front of me.

"Shatter Fate, Tensa Zangetsu!" Did I need to do this? Almost certainly not. I had sufficiently practiced control that it was doubtful my Hollow powers would slip enough to do anything particularly nasty, and I definitely didn't need the overwhelming power of Bankai. But did I want to? Absolutely. I didn't call forth my Vollstandig nearly enough, as the harmonious fusion of my standard Bankai form was difficult to top. Entering either my Resurreccion or my Vollstandig was to focus all of my power into those particular aspects of myself. The trade-off was that, while I could only use the respective powers of the form, those powers would be amplified to the extent that I was utterly peerless. Granted, I had to learn the skill to utilize that power, but it was worth it. Both forms had less destructive power and defensive power than my balanced one, but they made up for it with their utility. My Resurreccion gave me exponentially greater physical ability, for example, while my Vollstandig provided dramatically greater awareness of my environment through reishi.

Once the hurricane of reiatsu cleared, those around me looked over my form. Like my false Bankai, my Vollstandig changed my clothes, wrapping my torso in a unique robe, influenced by all of the various outfits I had seen Uryu wear over the years while spinning my own style onto it. It was mostly black, a white undershirt with a closed collar visible underneath. Blue lines mimicking Blut Vene went from the collar down the center of my chest, underneath a trio of crossing straps that went down my chest. My right arm was wrapped in blue-outlined black ribbons from wrist to shoulder, while my left was covered in much tighter cloth that appeared melded to my flesh unless you looked closely. It encompassed my hand, leaving my fingers in pointed claws and almost entirely black save for the white swirl spawning from my shoulder and ending halfway down the forearm. A trio of black spikes rose from that shoulder, nearly hidden by the strip of white fur taking up the space between my shoulder and neck. Those aspects all came from the influence Shiro had over Ossan, that was, how much my Quincy side was willing to demonstrate his respect for my Hollow side. Hilariously, Shiro was even downtrodden over the fact that he couldn't change our Resurreccion like Ossan could tinker with our Vollstandig. Tensa Zangetsu was, as always, held in my right hand, its chain rattling happily. It was easy to feel the satisfaction from the Old Man portion of Tensa right now.

"You-you have Quincy powers?!" Kokuto restrained himself from screaming. Yoruichi and Unohana continued staring at me appreciatively, while Isshin's continuing look was far more inquisitive. I lifted Tensa Zangetsu over my shoulder so that it was at my back, wherein parts of the road we were standing on dissolved into raw reishi, vacuumed to my spine, and reformed into a strap to keep the blade secured there.

"Nope." I popped as I crossed my arms with a smirk. The present Shinigami's faces had all instantly shifted to far more stunned expressions, with my lovers' faces stuck having hollow grins and wide eyes and Dad's jaw dropping. The Sinner leading us deeper into Hell gulped as his skin paled. "I thought we were in a rush?" The half-burned spirit flinched into moving.

"R-right! A burst of power like that would be like a neon sign that something is wrong to Hell!" He stammered as he led the way, the rest of us keeping pace behind him.

"So how long are we gonna keep this up?" Yoruichi whispered while running next to me.

"Until we're looking at everyone who tried to kidnap Yuzu and Karin." I growled back. Isshin grunted in approval. My memories becoming clearer, I was unsurprised by the Kushanada that phased through the floor staring at us. This meant that, while Kokuto cussed and went to turn us down a different road, I held out my right hand. Black and blue reiatsu formed into a ball in my palm, an arrowhead drawing out from it aimed directly at the guardian's head. It fired with the force of a mounted anti-aircraft gun, disintegrating all visible parts of the creature and blasting a truck-sized hole through everything in its path. To his credit, the Sinner caught himself quickly, though I could spot the hidden gleam in his eye as he looked upon the display of power. It seemed that was the confirmation he had been waiting for, if my strength was sufficient to destroy the chains keeping Sinners locked away. There was a heightened eagerness in his movements as we reached the end of the road and jumped off.

We free-fell through the clouds and broke through to witness the second level, the wasteland filled with pits of acid. In no time at all, a gigantic fist fired at us. In no time at all, Yoruichi appeared in front of it with her leg snapping up to knock it off course. The one with the sword zipped next to her in a blur, clearly ecstatic by the belief he possessed superior speed as he swung. He was sorely disappointed as the werecat disappeared, manifesting on his back with her elbow sitting on his shoulder and her chin in her hand, happily mocking him through action alone. He flinched away from her, and she maintained her act by remaining in the same position before idly shooing us away with her other hand, her smile all teeth. While Kokuto stared with wide eyes, Unohana, Isshin, and I laughed and left her to it. The foolish giant Sinner attempted another shot at us, only for a bolt of lightning to turn his fist into char. Collecting himself, our guide drew his blade and released a purple slash of reiatsu into one of the acid pools, forcing out all that was inside to reveal a hole we continued to fall through.

Having not even slowed down, we soon were greeted by the sight of the ocean with pockets of stone flowers acting as the only salvation. I recalled that this was where we encountered the fat one, and I was not disappointed as a volley of pink blasts soared toward us. Holding out my right hand again, the volley coalesced into a single mass and followed the motions of my arm, circling around before firing down into the water to part it.

"Unohana, you wanna stay behind and keep this one occupied?" I shouted.

"As far as I could see, this one was the most skillful." She rolled her eyes and angled herself towards the flower the Sinner was waiting inside of. Kokuto nodded in approval at the decision. We all were certain it was because he thought that was making his plan easier. Unfortunately, after bursting out the other side of the ocean, the next layer of Hell did not grant us the ability to simply maintain freefall. I recalled that we had to go down a flight of stairs somewhere to reach the level the fire user was at. It was fine, though, because there was someone else waiting for us at this level, anyway. Once we landed, Kokuto batted away a tentacle with his sword while I disintegrated the one aimed at me. While there was a hateful, pained snarl, it did not last long as the tentacle reformed before our eyes. I patted Isshin's back, who did not shift his furious gaze away from the Sinner.

"Alright, Kokuto, let's keep going. Dad's got this." The man who intended to betray us frowned.

"Gunjo is one of the strongest Sinners in Hell." He warned. "I don't expect anything to work on him unless he drops his guard, and he's not going to do that against someone wearing a Captain's Haori. We should fight him together." I pondered the decision for a moment, curious as to why he fought us on this particular matter. Isshin didn't appear to have even registered the man's words as he began slowly stepping towards the so-called 'Gunjo', drawing Engetsu. Ah, he likely wanted to have a family member of mine present to hurt and invoke my rage.

"Nah, Dad's got this." I waved off. "And he's got a zanpakuto perfectly suited for this."

"Burn, Engetsu." Flames erupted into existence around his blade to prove my point. "You dared to touch my daughters. You dared to try taking away my daughters. I'll make you fear fire for the rest of your pathetic existence!" He shouted as he charged at his prey. I kicked my guide to force him into moving.

"Okay, okay!" Kokuto flapped an arm to prevent another kick. "Let's go, Shuren is sure to be in the next level. It's a domain of heat and flame, it's practically his home turf." Unlike last time, where I questioned his reasoning, we spent the time running down the stairs in complete silence. It made him uncomfortable, which is of course why I maintained it. We entered the field of dusted remains, and I saw that the Sinner with me was going to monologue about what it was, so I propelled myself forward with reiatsu toward the land of magma and stone I saw in the distance. He scrambled to follow me, and though he didn't know it, he only managed to even out because I let him. The half-burned man made to continue his explanation, but he seemed to recognize my expression as one that wouldn't listen, so he closed his mouth. He seemed to think I didn't notice his excited smirk, how cute. Probably thought I was too far gone in my rage, and that he could take advantage once the time was right.

Shuren was waiting for us on a throne of bones, a confident smirk on his face as he watched Kokuto and I slide to a stop before him.

"Well, hello, Kurosaki Ichigo." He drew out. "While I admit that I wasn't expecting this sort of response, I'm happy that the chips have fallen in my favor."

"Good to know that you both are that stupid." While it would have been fun to see how long I could keep up the act, I also remembered that simply being present in Hell gradually turned you into a Sinner. I didn't want to have my lovers or father get infected by it, especially since I highly doubted that I had earned Hell's favor this time. Both Sinners present became confused.

"What do you mean by 'both'?" Shuren was the one to ask.

"Well," I pointed at him first so it was clear who I was referring to. "You're an idiot who doesn't realize breaking the Gates of Hell will do fuck all except release Hell's taint to the World of the Living." I shifted my hand to then point at my guide. "And you're an idiot who didn't realize we all had you pegged from the start." The bandage-wrapped man stepped back in shock while the other snarled in rage.

"Don't think you can fool me, Kurosaki!" The fire user shouted while standing. "You can't convince me that I am incorrect, I will be freed!"

"It's not the Gates that keep Sinners in Hell, you dumbass, it's the chains embedded in your goddamn body." I grunted. He paused for a moment, thought about it, and then turned to Kokuto, who couldn't help but smile embarrassingly as he guiltily lifted his arms.

"YOU LYING PIECE OF SHIT!" The fire user screamed as he formed a lance of flame and hurled it at his fellow Sinner's head. Before it could reach its target, I brought up my right hand, the blaze vacuuming to my palm as it reverted to raw energy. Kokuto's face filled with relief, for some reason. Shuren stared in disbelief at the ball in my hand.

"Now, now," my left hand came up to flap lazily, "he was acting in his own self-interest, like any other Sinner. Like you, he was banking on pissing me off enough that I'd Hollowfy and inadvertently free him by getting caught in the collateral damage. He just had a far more convoluted way of doing it that would ensure I was pissed at him specifically, and therefore more likely to focus the damage on him and break the chains." It was incredible watching the man grow more and more horrified with every word. "Moron, I've seen the kind of person it takes to be sent to Hell. Did you really think I'd just blindly accept that a Sinner would willingly help me because he had a protective instinct?" The drop of sweat rolling down his brow told me yes. "Well, sucks to be you, because you probably thought I entered this form because I was paranoid about Hollowfying, huh?"

"What, your Bankai?" Shuren asked, clearly having not seen any of the powers I displayed whilst in Hell. "I recognize the blade on your back, this must be what it looks like when you are not Hollowfied." Oh, the blissful ignorance of this man. It was funnier because his eyes had not detracted from staring at the ball of reiatsu I turned his fire into.

"Well, you're not wrong, but you're not right." I cryptically answered. "I'd explain just to see the looks on your guys' faces as you slowly realize, but I don't want to risk having my loved ones get chained to Hell because I wanted to enjoy the moment." With a twitch of my hand, I manipulated the reishi of the environment around us, the ground dissolving into energy and consuming the forms of the Sinners. "I'm sure Kokuto suggested slowly tearing you all limb from limb both because he really does hate all of you and because that would make us stay here for longer, so I'm not going to let that happen. Sadly, I have no idea how to wrap you in more of Hell's actual chains, so I'm going with the next best thing." Once I finished, the two in front of me were barely visible beneath the chains and shackles I covered them in. True to my word, I didn't have the ability to just shove supernaturally reinforced chains into their bodies, but I was able to cover every inch of those bodies in the densest and toughest shit I could form out of reishi. Kokuto screamed in seething hatred behind the mouth gag I wrapped around his face. Shuren's scream was closer to the frustration of getting close to achieving your goal only to have it ripped from you at the last second.

I nodded in satisfaction with my own work, a smile on my face. Leaving them where they were, I flew off to return to the higher levels, hoping I had given Dad enough time to get all of his anger out. It was doubtful, but he would see the logic in having to stop so he wasn't chained to Hell. That would prevent him from seeing his daughters, after all.

I am positively certain that many of you will recognize how rushed like two thirds of the Hell Verse portion of this chapter was. To be completely honest, it was a combination of not realizing how long the Hell Verse portion would end up becoming and Starrk's portion turning unexpectedly long. Trust me when I say that there will later be a payoff to any frustration.

Next Chapter: Crooked Mirror