Finally! I've finished the God of War arc!

I know I've been saying I'm trying to shorten my chapters, but this arc has been tough to write - particularly writing the fight scenes. And when I'm stuck with a writing wall I find it easier to just write and write or else I'll never break through that wall. Which while it does let me get passed writers block it also results in rather large chapters. But I promise, now the arc is over, I've given myself a small break, my desire to write and passion for this story is slowly coming back and with that my skill and writing smaller more condensed chapters will hopefully return. So to all those who've stuck with this story through this bloated arc, I thank you for your patience and promise to do better in the future.

I originally wrote about roughly 60% of this chapter way back in June, tried to shorten it which just bogged down my enjoyment of writing and stuck with so much writers block and loss of passion that I couldn't bring myself to write or edit a single word for months no matter how hard I tried. It was only after I gave myself over two months break and just saying "Screw trying to shorten it with mass editing, just finish it and be done with it" that I was able to finish the chapter.

I originally wanted to get this chapter up before the anime started but a combination of my own writers block and loss of passion as well as my beta reader being busy meant it sadly couldn't be. Hope you guys are enjoying the anime. It's removing some content from the manga but hopefully that just means they can flesh out more from the later chapters of TYBW Kubo had to rush due to ill health.

Shout-out to my beta reader Tireless Traveler, his help has been invaluable.

Be sure to review the chapter, any and all feedback is appreciated.

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or Devil May Cry.

Blade And Blood

The members of the Gotei 13 were honed warriors that had experienced their fair share of horror from countless battles. But even they couldn't help the twinge of fear stirring inside them now from the immense demonic power which shrouded the battlefield in its vortex of chaos. It felt like bony skeletal fingers were clenching their throats, their cores, their very souls. They felt like they would never know happiness again. That all the love, hope and light was being purged and swallowed up by the primordial darkness Nero and Yoruichi gave off. Had any normal mortal - like a human or none-Seated Shinigami - felt this miasma of evil assault them, their minds and souls would certainly break, falling into endless terror and despair.

It spoke of just how highly the wills and warrior disposition of the Shinigami present on the battlefield were that they could not only withstand, but brush off this effect that was inherent in all mortals when faced with such immense demonic power raining down on them. Though some of the younger and less battle-tested members of the Gotei 13 like Rukia, Rangiku. Izuru, Momo and Hisagi all felt cold sweat running down their backs. At first, the Captains likewise all felt that pit of dread within them when they first sensed the demonic power, but quickly accustomed themselves to it as easily if the power were Shinigami or Hollow in origin. However, one feeling all Shinigami felt, from as low in rank as Rukia to the Captain-Commander himself, was a heavy sense of unease for one specific reason...

The Shinigami present all knew they owed Nero for what he did at Sokyoku Hill, and for stopping Arkham from raising Hell on them. Yoruichi was once a respected member of their organisation herself and still held in high regard for her strength and cunning to this day. Many of the Shinigami here would go so far as to use the word 'friend' to describe Nero and some had even served alongside Yoruichi during her Captain days.

But they couldn't help the unsettling thoughts they had.

Now, whenever they thought of Nero and Yoruichi, all they could think of was this sinister power, and what repercussions there may be when the rest of the Soul Society hears of it… No matter how guilty such emotions made them feel…

'This power… It feels like there's a noose around my neck. It's so… dark… repulsive. If I weren't using my own Reiatsu to negate the ill effects, I'm certain I'd be puking my guts up right about now.' These dreary thoughts clouded Ukitake's mind, but his sword arced through the air driven by centuries of battle instinct, thus he was unhindered by his inner turmoil which all other Shinigami likewise shared. 'I can't help but feel disgusted by this sensation. Even if the two it's coming from are…'

The swordplay of Katen Kyokotsu was precise and deadly, cutting down any Hollow or Dragon that her wielder took to slaughter. Upon seeing a small Hollow sneak a few feet behind the long, silver-haired Captain, Shunsui appeared by the man's back and decapitated the Hollow in one foul swoop. "You're getting sloppy in your ill health, Jushiro."

Ukitake turned his neck toward Kyoraku, flashing his 'saviour' a dry smile. "I knew it was there. Give me some credit."

"Then you're getting slow." Ukitakes flashed a small smile, but Shunsui knew him well enough to see his cheery mask was just that. "You're distracted." It was a statement, not a question.

"Of course I am," Ukitake admitted honestly, a hint of guilt in his sombre tone. "We all are." He gestured towards the rest of the Shinigami, all of whom wore expressions of unease, inner conflict, fear, disgust and above all: guilt.

"Yeah, I hear ya'. I know Nero said demonic power makes mortals feel uncomfortable, but after the whole Temen-ni-gru mess I thought we'd grown accustomed to it. Guess it shows just how strong those two are." Kyoraku rubbed the back of his neck. He kept up his laid-back easygoing persona with his trademark chilled smile, but it was a hollow facade. "Now I know how Nanao felt when old man Yama let loose his spirit power. Even the Hollows and Dragons are freaked."

Since the sudden burst of demonic power, the Hollows and Dragons had been fighting with frantic vigour. Desperate to break through the Gotei's defensive line and escape the battlefield to be as far away from the wretched power as possible, like rats scurrying to flee a burning building.

"I'm not even sure why. I've sensed demonic power before but never this much, nor so… thick. Being part of the Great Noble Families always meant Ms. Yoruichi's power was far greater than but a handful of Shinigami such as us could achieve," Ukitake said to Shunsi, "but for one so young, Nero's power is terrifying indeed."

"Incredible," announced Renji, Zabimaru in Shikai form slicing and dicing all the Hollows in his vicinity, "I know Nero once said he had an ability which boosted his power akin to Bankai, but I never imagined this. He's stronger than even Ichigo and Captain Kuchiki, as far as I can tell."

Like the rest, Rukia was trying to keep her mind focused on battle, pushing back the tide of despair from the demonic tsunami as her snow-white katana danced through the air in pure white streaks. "Brother…" Her purple eyes found Byakuya, himself busy carving fleeing Hollows to ribbons with glistening petals. 'His expression may be as hard as stone like always, but I can tell he's on edge. Byakuya… you're worried for Lady Shihoin and Nero, aren't you? You may act pragmatic to the point of apathy, but Nero saved both of us from Aizen, and Lady Shihoin was once your teacher for whom you owe much of your Hoho skill. Yet not even you can ignore their power.'

Soi Fon sentenced the Hollows she duelled to death, using what few moments of rest she had before targeting more to catch a glimpse of Yoruichi. Her former mentor fought with the grace of a dancer and ferocity of a leopard. Amagai was helpless, being toyed with by the feline predator as she pounded him with lightning-enhanced punches and kicks so powerful pockets of air exploded around them and the very ground shattered from the force, and with such speed the only visible trace of her to see was blue electrical streaks she left in her wake as she moved. She was a cat, Amagai was her mouse, and Yoruichi was playing with her food.

'Lady Yoruichi, you truly are amazing,' Soi Fon praised her idol. 'With this new version of Shunko you have, I can barely keep up with your movements and keep losing sight of you. Even after a hundred years without fighting or training, you're still unrivalled when it comes to speed.'

Back during her tenure as a Captain, Yoruichi was always considered among the upper echelon of the Shinigami in terms of power, martial prowess and of course speed. In terms of raw Reiatsu, she was still somewhat below Shunsui and Ukitake, but the more she fought and trained she was getting ever closer and still powerful enough that if either man were to ever fight her in a true battle they'd have to go all out – Bankai and all - to win. And even then, it would be a close thing.

But after over a hundred years of slumming it in the Human World without any fighting or training, Yoruichi had become sloppy, her skills rusting to a shadow of their former heights. To the point that she nearly collapsed from exhaustion after she saved Ichigo from Byakuya due to using Shunpo too much for her current out of shape body to handle. Additionally, she could only just barely match Soi Fon during their fight, being forced to turn to Shunko to give her the edge, and at the time Soi Fon had only used her Shikai.

After gaining her demonic power and this new hybrid Shunko form, Yoruichi had already become much stronger than she was when she fought Soi Fon, but she was still weaker than what she'd been during her Captain days.

'But if she's this strong while not even at peak physical condition as she was a century ago with just her Shinigami powers alone, who knows how powerful she could become now. She could very well surpass even Captains Kyoraku and Ukitake.' Soi Fon couldn't help but feel some pride swell inside at that thought. 'Your elegant grace and deadly martial skill combined with your humble manner in your abilities is what made me worship you so.' Unlike the rest, Soi Fon knew of Yoruichi's demonic power beforehand, so it didn't come as a shock. Yet… 'Which is all the more reason I hate myself to admit but… You're terrifying me. That power of yours and Nero's. It makes me feel sick to my stomach. I'm sorry, Lady Yoruichi. I'm so sorry. Please forgive me.'

Yamamoto himself remained quiet, steadfast in rendering all Hollows and Dragons unlucky enough to try and get past him into the forest to ashes. Despite outward appearances, something was nagging at him. 'Lady Shihoin was always powerful, as to be expected by those of the Great Noble Families. But her newfound powers have opened a pathway to levels of strength and abilities some may consider unnatural.

Then there's the boy. If he is capable of this level of power now then just how strong will he be in a year, or ten? As the blood of Sparda, is it possible he may one day reach the Dark Knight's level?' The grizzled veteran released a pent-up sigh. 'Lady Shihoin and young Nero may be our allies, but when word reaches Central 46 and the other nobles of their demonic power… Unless I can prevent her clans fall and exile, the Shihoin's and Nero may go the way of the Shiba's. I owe them that much at least for all they've done.'

The Shinigami were all elite warriors. Both body and mind. They held the line against the terrified fleeing Hollows and Dragons. But regardless of their staunch warrior discipline, honed from countless battles, they were still mortals no matter how much Reiatsu they possessed. Mortals were birthed from the Light and demons from the Darkness at the dawn of creation. They were opposites. Intrinsic enemies. It was hardwired into mortals to fear and hold disgust towards demons so much so that even among many of the Shinigami present, despite the immense guilt weighing on them for feeling such thoughts, they weren't sure whom the true monsters fighting were.

In the gaps from when the Shinigami killed one Hollow or Dragon to the next, they spared what glances they could at the two Reiatsu signatures which emanated an oppressive feeling.

Given Nero and Ares' battle was happening high on the mountain, and within the now ruined castle, they couldn't see much. But what fleeting glimpses they did, compounded their respect for the teen who could fight at such level for one so young compared to them. A blue ghostly monster was draped over Nero like a second coat, its movements following his reminding the Shinigami of Kokujo Tengen Myo'o. The young Devil Hunter and the God of War were locked in a deadly dance of death. And while most wasn't visible to the Shinigami from their position, they could still make out beams of red light and what looked almost akin to distorted waves of silvery-blurred streaks. The former was a Cero, the Shinigami having seen enough in their lives to recognise them. The latter was unclear to them, it almost looked akin to tangible slashes from a sword?

And though Yoruichi and Amagai were visible to the Gotei members, to say they could 'see' and 'watch' the battle would be a gross overstatement. Yoruichi moved so fast even the likes of Byakuya and Soi Fon had a hard time following her movements. But when they did see her, they were treated to the sight of the dark-skinned woman's back, arms, fist and feet coated in a veil of blue lightning. Even the tiniest of movements she took caused the air around her to crackle with blue electricity, leaving trails of it behind her like a bolt of lightning had become sentient with a vengeance. Her speed blitzing beyond all Amagai's fleeting attempts of his pathetic offence, dodging every slash of his sword like it moved in slow motion and moved so blindingly fast that at various points there appeared to be nearly two dozen of her fighting him. Be it a brutal punch, wicked kick, blinding slash from her sword, mastered Kido spell or obscenely rapid Shunpo, Yoruichi displayed that her legendary status of an unrivalled fighter and confidence she held herself in wasn't born from arrogance, but from martial prowess and skill earned from countless years of rigorous training.


The Shinigami all took their eyes from either focusing on the Hollows and Dragons, the lights show coming from the Shihoin Castle on the mountain, or the brutal blitzing beat down Yoruichi was dishing out on Amagai, to the sound of a pained groan. The prolonged battle had caused the wound on Momo's chest she'd received courtesy of Aizen which had yet to fully heal to open, blood pouring onto the floor and staining her black Shihakusho dark red.

"Urrghh." Her legs became jelly and her eyesight wobbling and foggy. She collapsed to her knees on the ground and dropped Tobiume with a clatter. 'N-… No… Not now… Just hold out a little long-', "Uggkkkh!' She tried her best to rise, but her gaping wound only stretched. "I…I must help. I must-"


Momo's eyes widened in horror. Only now noticing she'd become surrounded by Hollows. She tried to move, but it was impossible. She tried to grab Tobimue, but it was out of reach. "M-…My body won't respond…" Paralysed by an unhealthy mix of both blood loss and demonic power, Momo was helpless to stop the Hollows which pounced at her from every angle.

The sight of one of their comrades collapsing in a pool of their own blood and left a sitting duck amid the Hollows that encircled her caused even more despair to fill the Shinigami than Nero's and Yoruichi's accursed demonic power already had.

"Hinamori!" Cried Rangiku. 'Blast! I knew I should've just removed her from the battlefield by force.'

Up in the air battling the Dragons, using the icy wings his Bankai bestowed was Hitsugaya. The moment he heard Rangiku's worried cry, he tensed. He turned his head to the ground and saw…

"Momo!" The sight of his childhood helpless and weak stung deep in Hitsugaya. 'No! I won't fail her again!'

Hitsugaya dive-bombed towards Momo, who'd become somewhat separated from the rest of the Gotei 13's line. He flew at her with all the speed her could muster but with how close the Hollows were to her and how far away she was from the rest of the Shinigami, only Shunpo masters like Byakuya Kuchiki and Soi Fon would have been able to reach her in time.

"Momo!" High wind kicked Hitsugaya's white hair back as he sped towards his childhood friend. His heart in his throat as he came to the stark realisation: He couldn't reach her in time. "MOMOOOOO!"

"…" A meek paralysed Momo whispered. The Hollows were less than a few feet from her now, jaws gaping and claws brandished. She closed her eyes, accepting her fate. "I'm sorry… Toshiro…"

…She didn't even notice a large puddle of pure black grow around her on the floor.




The Hollow's guttural roars ended abruptly. A sound akin of flesh being punctured echoing instead.

"…Uhh?" Momo opened her weary eyes, wondering why she hadn't been swallowed by a Hollow, and bore sight to something most gruesome. "W...What is this...?"

All the Hollows which had tried to jump her were frozen in place mid-air, held aloft by the multiple pitch-black skewers impaling them, making them look like gargoyles typically seen in gardens. Gargoyles that had been used a voodoo pincushions.

"But… how…?" Hovering in mid-air, a puzzled Hitsugaya surveyed the graveyard of Hollows, their blood corpses twitching from the spikes jettisoning out the ground.

All the other Shinigami were likewise just as perplexed by this.

"Hey," Renji exclaimed, "who just killed those Hollows? Was that some Kido that made those freaky spikes appear?"

"No. No Kido can do such a thing," replied Izuru.

"Also, look at the ground around her." Shuhei pointed to the ground around Momo. "It's all pitch-black."

"Black?" Rangiku scrunched her brow. "Like a… shadow?! Oh, was that you're doing, Captain Kyoraku?"

Shunsui shook his head. "I'm all for saving a pretty damsel but I can't take credit this time."

"Not from Captain Kyoraku? Then who…" Rukia tried to think who Momo's saviour could be, going through the list of those she knew with shadow-based abilities and those in the general area, before a lightbulb went off. "Then if not the Captain, could it be…?"

Rukia got her answer when the dark spikes pierced into the Hollows flesh retracted into the shadowy pool beneath Momo. The black mass began to shift, congregating into a small swirling puddle of shadow and smoke from which a canine emerged. Fur so black the sunlight seemed scared to touch it, with smoke shrouding the dog as if it were afire. Scolding red eyes which bore into the Shinigami's skulls when it found them staring… Baskerville.

"That's…" Ukitake realised, "that Bount Doll of Nero's. His 'Devil Arms'."

The closed eyes of Yamamto opened ever so slightly, focused on the black hound which stalked around Momo as if protecting her from any other Hollow that sought to try their chance for an easy meal. 'Mmmm. He's been watching us this whole time; I've felt his presence. Strange that it chose only now to appear to assist. Does it have some ulterior motive other than rescuing Lieutenant Hinamori?'

"Y-You… You're a demon." The dog sent her a vacant yet hard stare. "I, I mean, you're one of Mr. Nero's devil weapons. Your Reiatsu is just like his." Demonic power was inherently foul to mortals, and weakened as she was, Momo's own Reiatsu and willpower could barely keep the bile from her throat at now having three sources of demonic power squeeze her soul. Thankfully, it appeared Baskerville was intentionally masking his as to not cause her any unnecessary suffering. "Th-Thank you for helping me."

"Yes..." Ukitake paused as he absorbed a Cero from a Hollow with Sogyo no Katawari before firing it at a group of them. "You have all our gratitude."

Derogative crimson eyes fixed onto Ukitake, before Baskerville turned his head from the Shinigami and spoke to them all in a disparaging tone. "It is not me that you owe gratitude to. Master Nero and Miss Yoruichi tasked me with watching over you all. They knew Ares was plotting something and likely luring everyone into a trap. Thus I was asked to keep watch, lest any of the younger and less experienced members of your group need assistance."

"They did?" Renji sputtered. "If you've been watching us the whole time, why not just help from the beginning?"

Baskerville's mood took a colder turn. "Because they both knew how badly you would all react to having me - someone who exudes demonic power - by your side. It is for that apprehensiveness they've both held themselves back from using their true power up until now, whether they know it or not. They knew your archaic prejudice would result in you fearing them… hating them. Condemning them for no other reason than they possess demonic power. That they are 'different' than what is considered social norms in your world." His expression hardened on them all, staring into their souls. "From where I stand, I'd say their assessments were well founded."

A wave of guilt and downcast looks were exchanged by the Shinigami. None said anything to the contrary for they knew the hound's words were harsh but correct.

Baskerville shook his head in contempt. "For warriors as wise as you, I expected more. You are but naive children." Some of the Shinigami aimed glares at the Devil Arm in offence, while most were filled with too much guilt for their disgust at Nero and Yoruichi to care much. Offended or not, they all knew the Devil Dolls words rang true. "How many times has Master Nero fought to protect your world? How long have many of you known Miss Shihoin? You've stood alongside them. Bled alongside them. Formed bonds of friendship and trust. Yet you'd squander all of that so hastily solely because their Reiatsu is different to your own."

Baskerville continued. "Mortal spirit power, demonic power, having one or the other or both doesn't cement one as being good or evil. Fire can be used to burn someone at the stake or to fend off the cold. Tools, weapons, power. It's how one chooses to wield them that determines if they are just or foul. Right now, those two are using that power you all despise to put their lives on the line to save everyone in this world from disaster. Demonic power may be naturally repellent to mortals, but each one of you possesses the willpower and strength to fend off such effects if you truly tried. 'Evil' isn't exclusive to demons. Nor 'good' to mortals. My own former Master viewed and used me as little more than a slave – to take orders and attack. But Nero freed me from my chains. He treats me as not a weapon, but an ally. And from my time with Miss Shihoin, I know despite her lazy facade, she would risk everything to protect those she cares about. They both would. They both are. Little knowing those 'friends' they are fighting to protect have turned their back on them out of something so small and petty."

The words resonated with the Shinigami. They were all supposed to be elite warriors, unhampered by emotions in combat. Yet, the overwhelming tide of demonic power coming from Nero and Yoruichi had turned them into a discontent gaggle of paranoid children. So quick and eager to turn on two of their closest allies. As Baskervile said: power is power, mortal or demon.

Yamamoto, Kyoraku and Ukitake all felt reminded of another group of people the Soul Society had turned on purely because they possessed 'unnatural' powers. They'd done nothing to stop Shinji and his lot from the death sentence imposed on them then, would they stand by and watch as yet more allies became outcasts despite all they'd done for them for such a superficial reason? Especially when they'd served alongside Yoruichi during her Captain days for several decades.

For Rukia, she owed her life to both Nero and Yoruichi just as much as she did Ichigo. Renji likewise owed them a debt of gratitude for savung Rukia's life, something he himself failed to do. Byakuya similarly owed Nero and Yoruichi for his sister's life, but he also owed Yoruichi far more for all the training she'd given him growing up. It was only thanks to her help he was so skilled at Shunpo.

The others, Hitsugaya, Rangiku, Hisagi, Shuhei, Momo and Izuru weren't as close to either Nero or Yoruichi as the rest, but they too knew how much they'd done for the Soul Society despite the former being a total foreigner to the world and the latter having been exiled for the crime of saving a framed man and victims of Aizen's machinations.

Needless to say, Soi Fon felt like dirt. Worse than dirt. Yoruichi was everything to her. Sister, mentor, idol, role model, you name it. She'd turned her back on Yoruichi once before when she fell for Aizen's lies as the rest of the Gotei 13 did and even tried to kill her - something she'd never forgive herself for even if Yoruichi already had. She'd sworn she'd never doubt or betray the trust of Yoruichi ever again… a promise she'd broken when she first sensed her former mentor's dark power. 'I'm a fool. One unworthy of Lady Yoruichi's trust. She trusted me with the knowledge of her demonic power and yet when I sensed it a part of me wished Amagai would make her lose her powers again, so I wouldn't have to experience it. What a shameful fool I am. If this power belongs to Lady Yoruichi then it must be magnificent. I shouldn't fear her, I should admire her. Demonic power or not, she's still the same woman I've always revered.'

"Your words are harsh, but true." Ukitake finally spoke after a long cast of silence. "Indeed, an individual should be judged on their character, not whether their power is Shinigami, Hollow or demon in origin... A fact I wished we'd have recognized a century ago…" That remorseful comment went over the heads of the younger Shinigami who knew little of the events 110 years ago. "Alas, you cannot change past mistakes. Simply learn from them for the future. And I for one have no intention of betraying the trust Ms. Yoruichi and young Nero have earned from us. I think I speak for everyone when I say we shall repay the faith they placed in us revealing their true power by forever standing by their side. As allies. Friends."


"Damn right."

"But of course."

"Only scum like Aizen would cast his allies aside like that."

Were the declarations from several members of the group.

"Mmmmm…" Baskerville's stiff upper lip remained unreadable. Then, but for a moment, his lips curved into what might have been a smile. "Welcome as I am to hear that, I think it best we wrap up this heart-to-heart. Master Nero and Miss Yoruichi are still battling their opponents while we chatter like gossiping hens. What's say we mop up the last of this rabble?"

Thunderclaps and electrical charges were the soundtrack coming from the far-left corner of the devastated battlefield. Coupled with the sounds of a man grunting and wheezing in pain.

A storm and flashes of blue lightning lit the area up like a rave were going on. The proverbial and literal eye of this tempest was Yoruichi. Speed was her forte, her skill in Hoho was unmatched, rightfully earning the moniker of 'Flash Goddess'. No one could beat her in test of speed, not Byakuya, not Soi Foin, not Ichigo, nor even Yamamoto. Her speed was legendary as is, but with the boost provided by her demonic power enhanced Shunko form, she moved at speeds that surprised even herself. Her physical attacks had similarly increased in power and strength, even a punch she put little exertion into would leave small craters in the ground and rupture air pockets.

'Shunko naturally increases a user's physical abilities and attacks similar to Shikai and Banakai. But my normal Shunko from just my spiritual power – immature and incomplete admittedly – is nothing in comparison to this.' Yoruichi astounded in her head, blitzing through the air leaving trails of blue electrical steaks behind as she pummelled the helpless Amagai with unrelenting force. 'If this spiritual-demonic Shunko form was a Zanpakuto in Shikai, then my normal, purely mortal spiritual powered incomplete Shunko would be but the unreleased blade.'

'As you say, your Shunko naturally boosts your abilities severalfold. By awakening your demonic power your base power is now even greater than before, making that boost greater still. And my blade likewise increases its wielders powers multiple fold, which you are using as a conduit. It's hard to put an exact number on it, but your power in this form transcends what you could achieve through just your normal mortal capabilities. Though,' Alastor's words which rang in Yoruichi's head conveyed praise, 'I must admit, I never expected your power to rise this much. You've only just unlocked this form and are already accustomed to it. I knew I chose well in picking you as my Master.'

'You talk to all the girls that way or am I just special? Don't answer that, I know I'm special.' A playful Yoruichi somehow felt Alastor roll his eyes, despite being just a voice in her head.

Upon activating her new power, Yoruichi been just as shocked by her abilities as Amagai. After every punch, kick and Kido attack she threw at him, she'd taken a moment to pause to note-down the power of her attacks and speed so she could accommodate for them. The first time she'd used Shunpo she'd even overshot her intended location and became disorientated due to her speed. Being the master fighter she was, it hadn't taken her long to get accustomed to her Shunko: Akuma Raiden Senkei. Unfortunately for Amagai who bore the brunt of that knowledge.

"You think you're some paragon of 'justice'. Ha! What a load of crap. You're just another sad little manchild throwing his toys out the sandbox screaming that the rules aren't fair. If the Seireitei's gone to shit..." Yoruichi moved liked a blur, utilising her newly mixed power to move from several yards away to right in Amagai's personal space in less than the blink of an eye, pulling back her fist and ramming it into his jaw. "…you're just another maggot crawling in the pile!"

"Grraaaagggh!" The nasty uppercut from a fist laced in blue electricity sent Amagai cascading into the air at breakneck speeds. His foe, that wretched shrew of a princess who wore the most cheery and sassy smiles since this new power of hers activated, crouched down before launching herself into the air, the ground shattering beneath her feet from the force. She was a comet, a blur of blue, white, black and orange, far too fast for Amagai to register and before he knew it, she was above his head. She balled her crackling hands together and thrust her balled fists down towards him with a roar. He managed to raise his Zanpakuto to take the brunt of her hit but the power behind her attack still launched him down to the ground like a missile where he slammed hard into the rock which exploded out into a crater.

Amagai struggled to one knee, the bones in his arm he held his Bakkoto tingling from her strike. 'Th-This… This isn't how it was supposed to go… My Bakkoto should have the power to negate even Head-Captain Yamamoto's Reiryoku with me feeding my Konpaku to it like this. So how. How is she able to use her powers?! And just what type of sickening power is this? It makes me want to puke.'

Amagai was a mess. In the short time she'd awakened this odd power which left Amagai stumped, she'd beaten on him with reckless abandon and all the mercy of a wild lioness. He was covered in blood and bruises. Parts of the armour on his left arm and chest from his Bakkoto was dented and chipped from where she'd broken it with her bare hands. His right eye was black and lip puffy, several teeth were missing. What remained of his mock Shihakusho was in tatters, and stained red from blood, brown from mud and black from the variety of Kido and electrical attacks she threw at him. Aside from the bruises, his flesh was also marred by her fury. Red and black patterns resembling trees branching out ran along much of his chest, neck and right side of his face. As if her unnaturally strong punches and kicks from someone of her size and build wasn't enough, since her hands and feet were laced with blue electricity every time she landed a punch or kick that lightning of hers would strike him, travelling along his body and rupturing his capillaries.

'Unless…' An epiphany came to Amagai. 'The power coming from her. It feels somewhat similar to what I'm feeling from the one Ares is fighting, the halfbreed. And the despair-inducing effects I feel in the presence of her power, it's just what Ares said it was like when he fought the demons three-thousands years ago.'

Yoruichi landed gracefully on the ground, several feet from the crater where Amagai was buried. She cracked the bones in her neck, blue electrical demonic lighting sparking off her back, arms, fists and feet. 'Oops. I didn't mean to hit him that hard. I guess with this power I'm too strong for my own good.' She spotted movement in the smoking crater through her crimson-coloured reptilian-like eyes. "Hey! You're not dead yet are you? I'm still getting to grips with this boost and I'd be real upset if my punching bag quit so soon."

"So that's it."

"Huh?" Yoruichi perked a brow.

From the smoking crater came Amagai, his wounds by no means superficial. "Now I get it. When you first activated this power, I was overcome with bone-chilling fear. I wasn't sure why, your Reiatsu may be greater than mine but not even Yamamoto could make a Captain-class fighter paralysed with fear with the weight of his Reiatsu alone. Then there's the fact that my Bakkoto which can neutralise all spiritual power no longer works on you."

"Performance issues are common for men your age when faced with a woman as hot as me," was Yoruichi's cheeky taunt.

Amagai ignored her, continuing, "The reason is because you're no longer using spiritual power, not exclusively at least. This disgusting power of your is demonic." His gaze narrowed into daggers and lips curled into a snarl. "You've allowed that halfbreed filth to sully your very soul. What pitiful trash you are to sink so low."

Yoruichi crossed her arms over her chest, a wry smirk on her lips. "If you think Nero and I are devils on the battlefield, you should see us in that bedroom. We've "sullied" each other so much we could write our own Kama Sutra."

Her blasé attitude only caused more anger to stir inside Amagai, which combined with his own high amount of spirit power was all that kept him sane being so close to such immense demonic power. "A corrupt noble, accomplice to the Seireitei's poisoning, tool of Yamamoto and now worse of all a devil. You and your brother truly are as rotten as that old castle of yours."

"And you're as ugly and grotesque as that Bakkoto of yours," Yoruichi shot back with a hint of venom. Insulting her was fine, bringing Yushiro into this after what he'd done? She wouldn't stand for it. "I did plan on playing with my mouse for a little longer. But on second thought, just the sight of you pisses me off, and hearing your naive bull-crap on politics is the icing on the cake."

"Make all the threats you like. I've gotten used to your power now. I won't cower in fear anymore. If my Bakkoto cannot cancel out your Reiryoku, then I'll just have to slice that pretty head of yours off your shoulders." Amagai flexed his Reiatsu, getting into a fighting stance. He wasn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. "Demonic power or not, you're just a pathetic little black cat I'll put down!"

A sinisterly sickly sly smirk crossed Yoruichi that would send a shiver down the most ardent men, her pearly white teeth which seemed to have become sharpened to that of a dragon. "You should be. 'Cause this "black cat" has claws, and you've crossed my path." She got into a fighting stance, spiritual-demonic lightning dancing over her body. Her own Reiatsu which was significantly greater than Amagai's and even Ares' displaying her superiority over him no matter what he said.

The exiled Shinigami and turn-cloak Shinigami exchanged glares. Amagai scanned for any sign of an opening against the Flash Goddess but came up empty. He focused his malice into her glowing red eyes in hopes of gleaning a reaction, but she was an indomitable fortress of confidence. Yoruichi's eyes were a mix of vengeance and playfulness. She stared at him not like an enemy, but prey.

Drops of sweat rolled down Amagai's forehead under her aura of cold fury. When he gulped down the lump in his throat, Yoruichi pounced.

A blur. That's all she was. No. Not even a blur. Yoruichi moved so fast if it weren't for the streaks of blue lightning cutting through the very atoms as she moved, Amagai would've thought she'd gained the power to teleport. Yoruichi appeared behind Amagai who couldn't anticipate or follow her movements. Upon noticing her, he swung his energy bladed Bakkoto out to slice her torso in half but the hellcat leapt a few feet in the air above his blade. In a crouched position, she landed her feet on his armour-clad arm and used his arm as a diving board to launch herself over his head and thrust an axe-kick into his skull. Amagai was left dazed by the attack but instead of seeing stars he saw another foot crackling blue coming at his face.

The kick which broke his nose sent Amagai flying across the landscape that was already devastated by Yoruichi's early attacks on him. While careening through the air, Amagai looked forward to see Yoruichi appearing and disappearing, coming in his direction. Knowing he stood no chance trying to match her in speed, Amagai opted for an area-wide attack in the hopes he'd land at least one hit. He stuck his feet into the ground to come to a stop and slashed at the air in front horizontally, launching out dozens upon dozens of fireballs. Instead of dodging – which she easily could have – Yoruichi made a point to punch and kick away every single fireball like they were bubbles to play with and pop.

'Two can play that game.' Yoruichi took a deep breath and concentrated, focusing her mixed Reiryoku into her fists making the lightning around them surge. 'Just like Alastor said.' She extended open palms in Amagai's direction, the electrical energy began to spark and crackle violently, glowing brighter and brighter as if out of control. 'Focus your power… and… RELEASE!'

Amagai's eyes widened in shock when Yoruichi shot out two bolts of lightning from her hands. He managed to block one with the wide side of Raika but the second hit him head on, eliciting screams of agony as every cell in his body coursed with enough electricity to stop an elephants heart. It was like every nerve-ending in his entire body was being set on fire as he spasmed uncontrollably.

'Hey! That worked!' Yoruichi excitedly exclaimed. 'Sweet, I've never been able to shoot lightning like that in my normal Shunko. And even when I could do it using my Devil Arm it wasn't anywhere near as powerful as now.'

'Most astute, Master,' Alastor spoke to her. 'As I told you, your demonic power is a pathway to many abilities. My old Master called this one "Air Raid". Though you have yet to learn how to create wings and fly when using that ability as he did. With time, perhaps…'

Yoruichi blinked comically, '…Uhh. I'm sorry. Did you just say I can "fly"?'


Just as Yoruichi began to formulate a picture in her head of herself in her black cat form with dragon-like wigs raining lightning down on a pack of smelly unwashed dogs led by Baskerville which kept her prized tuna fish in a cage, her overly imaginative daydream ended when Amagai roared in anger now the pain of her lightning attack had subsided.

"I'll burn you to hell where you belong, you BITCH!" Amagai thrust his oversized Zanpakuto into the ground and poured his dwindling Reiatsu into it. 'I can't let this fight drag on much longer. By feeding my Bakkoto my own Konpaku I'm on a timer before my entire soul is devoured. I swore I'd kill Genryusai Yamamoto even if it meant my own death. I'm not about to die to some prissy princess before I get my shot at justice!'

Pillars of raging fire erupted from the ground all over the battlefield. Once again, Amagai knew trying to aim at the single position his foe was at would be useless as her unrivalled speed meant she'd be gone from that spot before his mind could account and readjust his attack. And so, he opted to bombard the area with as many pillars of fire as he could, his hope being that by trying to dodge them, Yoruichi would inevitably become trapped by several pillars allowing him to catch her.

What he didn't expect was for her to appear right in his face, so close her nose was almost touching his. He could make-out his own stunned reaction in the reflection of her red eyes.

"Meow," gleefully chirped Yoruichi.

Amagai reacted on instinct and slashed at her with the energy blade of his Bakkoto. Instead of dodging, Yoruichi stood her ground. She extended her right arm and opened her clenched fist a slight, a thunderclap sounded and that accursed sword of hers appeared in her hand. A loud 'clang' rang out when Yoruichi used the Alastor to block and stop the energy blade with one arm. Her lithe yet well-built toned form wasn't as physically imposing as the muscle-bound Kenpachi Zaraki, but her physical strength was almost as fierce as her speed.

'Don't want you feeling left out, do we, Ali.' Alastor groaned in her head. He should've known letting her know the nickname bothered him would result in her using it all the time to bug him.

Zanjutsu wasn't what Yoruichi was renowned for but her skill with a blade could match most every Captain, she just preferred to pound her foes with her fists and feet – she found that personal 'touch' far more satisfying than a blade. But if Amagai was hoping he could best her with a sword, he was mistaken. The Alastor danced on the wind so quick it was but a silver streak that Amagai could barely manage to block. She could even dismiss her blade in one hand and instantaneously summon it in the other, heralded only by a clap of thunder. Making it impossible for Amagai to take advantage of any openings in her defence he found as her reactionary speeds and ability to instantly swap her blade to any hand and even feet of all things meant she would always knock any swing he thrust at her with ease, and slash and stab at him with any limb from any direction. And to Amagai's surprise, she wasn't using just Zanjutsu techniques, but ones he'd never seen before too. Swordmaster Style techniques. Ones Nero had taught her just as she's taught him Kido, Hakuda and Hoho.

Where Zanjutsu was elegant and refined, Swordmaster Style was gaudy and brash, which fit Yoruichi to a T and put Amagai on constant defence as her wild moved proved too outlandish and untamed for him to ever figure out the kinks and anticipate the next attack.

Yoruichi spun the Alastor in her right hand like it were a Catherine wheel – 'Shredder', it was called – a move which nearly cost Amagai his left arm when it cut into his flesh. And when Amagai jumped back a few feet, Yoruichi thrust herself at him with the tip of Alastor pointed towards him like a stinger, he raised his Zanpakuto in front of himself as a shield when she thrust what must've been thousands if not a million rapid stabs at him in less than a second. Just when Amagai thought the barrage of jack hammer-like thrusts were over, she ended the macabre dance by coating Alastor in her Reiatsu, making the blade glow red as she swung it like a baseball bat, shattering Amagai's defence and sending him careening across the dirt.

Yoruichi dismissed Alastor from her hand and blue, violently crackling electricity danced over both her fists. She punched at the air with both fists, and to Amagai's wide-eyed horror, two eastern-styled dragons made of the same blue lightning were sent flying towards him. Once the dragons reached him, one snapped its jaws on his Bakkoto armour-clad right arm, specifically on his elbow, the other bit into his left leg. Yoruichi then punched at the air once more, this time both her hands together. A dragon made of a mix of spiritual and demonic power much larger than the previous two surged from her hands and towards Amagai who was pinned by the two smaller dragons. As the dragon flew towards its pinned prey, chunks of rock beneath it were torn from the ground as it carved a deep trench from its flightpath purely from its intense power. When the dragon got close it opened its gaping maw, letting out a deep synthetic roar it snapped its jaws on the man's chest. A brilliant explosion coupled with agonising screams filled the battlefield.

'Nice! That actually worked!' Yoruichi excitedly exclaimed in her head. 'Now if only it looked like a cat and not a dragon…'

'Interesting,' commented Alastor offhandedly. 'It took my previous Master many decades to learn how to do that. How is it you managed it with such haste?

'It was just instinct', chirped Yoruichi honestly. 'Or maybe I'm just that amazing.'

When the smoke cleared from Yoruichi's attack, it was clear Amagai was no longer in fighting shape. His clothing was charred and in tatters. His skin covered in electrical burn marks and third-degree burns from where the lightning had literally fried his flesh to charcoal. The black armour of his Bakkoto littered with cracks and several chunks having already broken off, the green energy sword flickering on and off unstably. The cracks grew and grew until entire Bakkoto crumbled into pieces which clattered onto the floor, the sickly yellow eyes writhing like a fish out of water before their movement stopped completely.

"…Y-…You… You think this is over?" A furious Amagai tried to act otherwise but his bravado was betrayed by his quivering body. It took all his might and will to not keel over there and then.

Yoruichi gave off an aura of cockiness, her hand on her hip. "What I think is that cheating little knock off Zanpakuto of yours is as dead as your ideal paradise. Even if I let you go, without that Bakkoto of yours your shot at defeating the Head-Captains dropped from nigh impossible to flat out fictional. I'd say surrender, but even with the Bakkoto destroyed you've fed so much of your soul to it your life-force is on its last legs either way…" Her eyes narrowed and an edge bled into her voice making it clear that despite her Cheshire Cat-like grin, she wasn't in a playing mood. "Not that I'd grant you mercy after all you've done."

Amagai's clenched his fists in unbridled rage. "I won't lose. I can't lose! I'll have Yamamoto's head even if it kills me! No one will stop me from bring justice to my father! NO ONE! Certainly not you! I'll burn you to ashes where you stand, you silver-spooned bitch!"

"Kiss your momma with that mouth?" In his fit of rage, Amagai began to swing Raika wildly, spitting out fireball after fireball. In a display of agility and speed, Yoruichi effortlessly sidestepped and ducked all that came at her, holding a bored expression. "If only I had some marshmallows, at least your fire attacks would have some use."

When a much larger fireball came at her, Yoruichi opted to Shunpo out its path. Then…

Instead of normal Shunpo 'step', which Yoruichi was more than accustomed to, the fast movement technique she'd just used was different. It got her from point A to B but it felt… strange. Instead of vanishing and reappearing as if teleporting like normal Shunpo, when she'd moved just then she'd left purple-pink streaks in her path.

'W-What was that?' Yoruichi came to a stop, confusion traced onto her brow. 'I know all Hoho techniques better than anyone and that wasn't one. It almost reminded me of Nero's Tri-'

"Got you!"

In her confused stupor, Yoruichi had momentarily forgot she was locked in heated battle. Allowing Amagai to send a large ball of intense fire at her. When Yoruichi saw it, her crimson eyes widened. Knowing it was too late to try and dodge, she held her ground and put her palm out in front with the intent to cancel the Kido based attack out with Hanki. But when the fireball hit her hand, she realised Hanki was impossible as Amagai's Reiatsu was fluctuating wildly in his injured state so she couldn't match her own in time to negate the Kido. Though instead of the fireball exploding in her face, her hand began to glow a purple-pink colour and the attack simply vanished, and she felt as though the power within the fireball had been added to her own?

'…Eh…?' Her blood-red reptilian eyes blinked upon seeing the ball of fire vanish in thin air. 'What the hell's going on? Did… Did I do that?'

'Interesting…' Alastor murmured sagely. 'I thought it possible, but seeing it now confirms my hypothesis.'

'Wanna share that with the rest of the class,' an exasperated Yoruichi grunted, not liking being left in the dark in matters relating to her.

'Don't play the fool, it doesn't suit you. You know as well as I do what that movement technique and energy absorption powers you just used were,' said Alastor. 'Just as your lover Nero has an affinity for Shinigami abilities you yourself excel at given his spiritual power was awakened when your souls linked, it appears you too gained something more than just simple demonic power from him. The demonic power of his which merged with your soul appears to have 'memories' of its former owner's abilities.'

Yoruichi began to catch on. 'Wait. Hold up. Are you saying I might be able to use…'

"GRRAAAGGGHHH!" Amagai's yell broke Yoruichi out of her pondering. His Reiatsu was roaring around him visibly as he summoned every last ounce of power he had for one final assault. "This isn't how it was supposed to be! I was supposed to fight Yamamoto! Fight for vengeance! For JUSTICE!"

A stern Yoruichi scoffed. "Justice? Please, don't make me laugh. I thought being a former member of the Onmitsukido yourself you'd have realised the world isn't defined by what's 'just' or 'unjust'. 'Justice' means something different to each and every person. One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. What gives you the right to say your beliefs on what is 'justice' are better than everyone else's? You think you're the only one who's suffered loss and betrayal? People suffer every day, lose those they love, become victims of 'unjust' actions, but most don't use that as an excuse to go around killing innocent people because their feelings are hurt. Go around beating on helpless little kids," she spat the last part with poison on her tongue.

Having to listen as one so privileged as her speak to him like he was the villain made Amagai snarl something nasty. "Oh I know all about what happened to you. You and your friends being framed for Sosuke Aizen's crimes and having to flee to the Human World. So what? You had to live outside your comfy palace for a hundred years and now think you know what it's like to be us 'little guys', to be stepped on by the corrupt system your family helped prop up. You're no victim. And you certainly don't fight for any honourable cause."

"Never said I did," Yoruichi shrugged indifferently. "I know how privileged my life was compared to most. Being a member of one of the Great Noble Families had its hardships sure, but nothing compared to those that live on the streets of the Rukongai. And I don't claim to be some righteous hero of justice and honour. I know what I am. As former Commander of the Onmitsukido and 2nd Division I signed off on, and even carried out myself, more assassinations that I can count. My hands are by no means clean. I don't fight to clean the bloodstains from my hands either, I know I have to live with the sins I've committed, and I've made my peace with that.

"But," her crimson eyes hardened as did her tone, "anyone that dares to threaten my family and friends will know just how little mercy I have. You say I'm evil, that this demonic power of mine is evil? Then so be it. I'll use any means necessary no matter how 'evil' to destroy those that hurt the people I love. So that those that have yet to lower themselves to my level don't have to muddy their morality."

She didn't drop any names, but it was clear she was talking about Nero and Ichigo. Despite the brash attitude of those two, they were white knights compared to someone like her. Yoruichi didn't talk about it much, but her time having to play the ruthless game of nobility and commanding the Soul Society's black ops organisation meant she had done more than a few things in her life that she wasn't proud of. Yet unlike Amagai, she owned that.

"Tch," Amagai clicked his tongue. "Enough! I'm not about to listen to someone like you who fights with no honour. I know what true justice is! I came here to kill Genryusai Yamamoto to get my justice and that's exactly what I'll do! Even if I have to take everyone else with me!" Fire erupted from Raika like a volcano, combining and blending with the visible aura of Amagai's Reiatsu, making it look like he was shrouded in a raging blaze.

Yoruichi's draconic eyes narrowed in vigilant suspicion, her hair being blown back by the gale her opponents rising spirit power bore. 'This rise in Reiatsu. He can't possibly be thinking to…' She grit her teeth. "You cowardly fool! You're planning to pour all your remaining Reiryoku and life-force into your Zanpakuto and cause it to explode from the pressure?!"

The torrent of wind created by Amagai's rising power meant he had to shout to be heard. "I told you! I'll do whatever it takes to get my justice!"

It was a little-known fact but a Shinigami could destroy their own Zanpakuto. It required Captain-level Reiryoku and mastery over controlling ones Reiatsu but it was possible. By pouring literally all they had, spirit power, spiritual pressure, Hakusui, and their own life-force into their Zanpakuto they could overload the soul-cutting blade with power, like a lightbulb being fed too much wattage. It would cost the Shinigami their life, but the resulting overload of power would be akin to human nuclear bombs. Only given even the weakest Captain held more power in their finger any human weapon could hope to match, an explosion caused by a Captains-level Shinigami's Zanpakuto would be enough to devastate the entire Seireitei.

In the aura made of fire, Amagai jumped up and took off into the sky, using the fire shrouding him to hold him in place mid-air like a jetpack. His blazing aura grew and grew in size and intensity, making it seem like a small miniature sun had been birthed in the sky. Amagai screamed out in pain and concentration as he forcefully fed his Zanpakuto everything he had to overload it.

Yoruichi looked up at him in the sky and clucked her tongue in exasperation. 'Damn fool. Every Captain here will be easily able to outrun or block that explosion with a simple Kido shield. It's only the Lieutenants that he'll be able to take out.' The immense build up in power around Amagai caused countless fireballs to be jettisoned off his aura, Yoruichi displayed her great speed by dodging them all. 'I can't let that happen. I allowed this fight to go on long enough, I won't let my stubbornness mean the death of innocent people that came here to help my brother. If I could use wings like Alastor said it'd make reaching him up there easy. On top of that I've got to watch out for all these annoying fireballs… Wait… The fireballs…' A lightbulb went off in her head, and a devious smile tugged at her features, and she chuckled at her own genius.

To the stunned amazement of the Gotei 13 members watching the fight from afar, Yoruichi chose not to dodge one of the fireballs coming at her, but to jump atop it! Using Hanki via her feet to negate any burns, the dark-skinned woman jumped from fireball to fireball in the air, using them as makeshift stairs to ascend the sky towards the man casting them. Vanishing from view one moment in a blur before reappearing the next atop another ball of flame.

Watching the woman's mad antics, Amagai was left mouth-gaping. "Wh-… What madness is this?!" His eyes darted back and forth, trying to keep up with her movement which was impossible given her ludicrous speed. Then, she vanished from view again. "Where'd she go no-… Uh!" Amagai was greeted by the grinning face of the purple-haired woman, but a metre away from him in mid-air.

"You should've sliced my head from my neck the moment you blocked my spirit power. I'm not near as merciful to show my enemies the same leniency." Yoruichi extended both her arms akimbo, then rotated them in a semi-circular motion until her left was pointing straight in front of her chest and her right down towards her waist, both palms open and crackling violently with blue electricity. "Orochi Rakurai!"

The thick, cloudy grey sky which had loomed over the battlefield since Yoruichi activated her Shunko: Akuma Raiden Senkei began to rumble, like war drums heralding a devil. The clouds lit up in a net of blue lightning, and out from the clouds came a beast's head made of lightning. An eastern-styled dragon made entirely of a mix spiritual and demonic power so large it could swallow an elephant in one gulp in its maw aimed its piercing gaze at the terrified Amagai who stared at the beast with a pale complexion and slack jaw.

The monster made of Yoruichi's Reiryoku let out a mighty roar and made a beeline for Amagai, thrusting its long neck and snake-like body out the clouds like divine judgment from the heavens with the speed of a comet. Even if he wasn't paralysed from shock and fear, the beast moved far too fast for Amagai to dodge. The dragon snapped its jaws over his body as if to eat him, before it exploded with gargantuan force. A giant column of electrical energy spanning from the ground to the clouds engulfed Amagai's body. The force of the mighty explosion so great that it dug a massive canyon into the ground where it hit and sent rocks as large as boulders flying like leafs on the wind for miles around.

The force of the electrical explosion was so great even the Shinigami fighting on the opposite side of the battlefield were forced to take shelter for protection, the Captains casting Bakudo shield barriers and the Lieutenants taking cover behind them. Even Nero and Ares briefly paused their battle to witness the attack, the former swelling with prideful awe.

When the pillar of condensed spiritual and demonic power relented and faded, the form of a man falling from the sky toward a small island of untouched rock among the massive deep chasm in the ground the lighting had dug was evidence enough that Amagai was finished.

He landed hard on the ground with a thud in a kneeling position, almost as if seeking penance. Smoke trailed off him like cooked meat on a barbecue. His entire body was charred red and black from electrical third-degree burns. His clothing burnt to tatters. Most his hair was gone and what patches did remain on his charred and peeling scalp were standing on ends due to the electrical force. Out the corner of his eye he saw Raika, but when attempted to grab it, he found it impossible. 'I… I can't move… I can't feel anything. My entire body is unresponsive. But I don't understand. That attack of hers just now could've killed me. Did she intentionally weaken it to keep me alive?'

Twirling through the air as she descended was Yoruichi, who landed far more gracefully on the ground on her feet, like any self-respecting cat would. She was perched on the edge of untouched rock where her attack hadn't reached, a good distance away from Amagai. Her emotionless eyes bore into his skull.

She was silent for some time as she just stared at him, before letting out a deep exhale of air and powering down, returning to her base form as the wedding veil of blue lightning left her and her eyes returned to their normal gold. "Pheeew, I'm beat. That last attack really took it out of me. I need to train that move if I don't want to blow my load on one attack." She ran a hand through her hair, peeking one eye at Amagai and noticing his lips were twitching a slight. "If you're wondering why you can't move it's simple. I can use the electrical energy in my new form to channel said power into my opponent's body, thereby messing with the electrical currents in their bodies which are sent from the brain and control movement. In other words, I paralysed you by overloading your own electrical signals sent from your brain with my own. As for why you're still alive… Like I said, I'm no saint, not by a long shot. But I'm not a heartless bitch either. I thought you deserved to know the truth before you die."

Amagai managed to just barely sputter, "What truth?" His voice was in as bad a shape as his body, if not for Yoruichi's feline-enhanced hearing she'd never of heard his croaky, mousey voice from that distance.

Yoruichi crossed her arms over her chest. "Like I said before, after I met you and heard your name back in the World of the Living, I did some digging into your past wondering why you'd side with someone like Ares. And what I found what quite the bombshell…"

She told him everything. That his father had been working for Yamamoto on a private mission only they knew of to investigate the claims the head Steward of the Kasumioji Clan, Gyokaku Kumoi, was involved in the creation of illegal weapons called 'Bakkoto'. But that his father had been captured by Kumoi who forced a Bakkoto on him and with his mind and soul being devoured by said weapon he sought out his trusted leader Yamamoto to end his suffering, which Yamamoto did with a heavy heart. That Ares knew of this as she'd found evidence Ares and Kumoi were in league at one point, but Ares had Amagai dispose of Kumoi once he wasn't useful any more.

Disbelief and denial bled from Amagai's expression. "No. That's not true. That's impossible!"

"It is the truth," countered Yoruichi calmly. "Deep down, you know it."

"No…" The dejected Amagai would've collapsed if he could move. Everything he'd believed in was a lie. "All this time… I thought I was fighting to bring justice to my father when I was working alongside the man who played a hand in his murder. My entire purpose has been a lie… No… Not yet. I still have a few hours before my Konpaku fades. I'll kill Ares! The Kasumioji's! All of them!"

"Enough," Yoruichi said sternly, having no sympathy for him after all he'd done. "It's over. You chose your lot in life and chose poorly. You can't fix your sins in the final hour. Ares will die, I have no doubt Nero will see to that. But as for you, you're done. I granted you this single kindness of the truth because I've seen first-hand what it's like to have people's lives your care about destroyed by a lie," she meant in relation to what Aizen's lies of her and Urahara's 'crimes' did to Soi Fon. "But that's as far as my mercy stretches."

"Your "mercy"," Amagai spat. "Your mercy is as hollow as that tainted soul of yours. You think telling me this changes how I feel about you and that demon freak you've allowed to sully you! The demon freak, you, your tainted family, and all the other corrupt ruling class of the Seireitei are still guilty of more sins than I! I despise Ares for his treachery but at least he has a vision. What of you? You who fight for nothing unless told. You who are an assassin, a tool of those corrupt elite. What's your vision? What do you believe in! What do yo-… Uhhh…?" Amagai's increasingly frantic rant was ended when he felt a searing pain in his chest. He looked down to see the tip of a western great sword covered in blood, his blood, sticking out from where his heart was located.

"I believe if you mess with a cat's 'pride'…"

The Yoruichi that was standing many yards away on the other side of the chasm Amagai had been conversing with disappeared leaving just a single piece of orange fabric which fluttered in the breeze.

"...Get ready to feel her 'claws'," a voice whispered in a low hiss into Amagai's ear.

Amagai turned his head and was greeted by the sight of Yoruichi, standing behind him with that devilish sword of hers in hand which she'd just thrust through his back. 'That was her after-image I was talking to? Then…'

He thought back to what she'd said at the outset of their battle: "You don't even recognise an Utsusemi clone when staring one in the face. That may come back to bite you one day."

'This woman…' Amagai thought, blood leaking from his mouth. 'I see now why the name Yoruichi Shihoin sparks both admiration and fear in the hearts of those within the Onmitsukido even today.' His body grew number and more weightless by the second, be it because of her electrical attacks on his nervous system, or the amount of blood oozing from his wound was unclear. Likely both.

Yoruichi met Amagai's milky gaze, her expression as frosty as a winter lake covered in ice. "There is no honour in battle. Only victory or death. Use whatever tactics you can to win. Nothing is dishonourable if it results in victory. And when you have the enemies focus, stab them in the back. That is the way of the Onmitsukido." She spoke the mantra she had drilled into her when she was younger. She leaned closer and whispered into his ear in cold venom, "The moment you attacked my brother you signed your death sentence. Consider this my 'justice'."

When Yoruichi yanked Alastor out from his chest, Amagai's body crumpled to the floor in a pool of his own blood. Through flickering eyelids and blurring vision, he swore he could make out a certain grizzled old man wielding a flaming sword looking at him, his ancient eyes filled with a mix of remorse and regret. '…Genryu...sai …… Fa...ther… Forgive… me…'

Amagai's Reiatsu dropped to zero, his Bankai reverting to its sealed state. He breathed his last.

The rhythmic and frantic tapping of keys on a keyboard echoed within a cramped, messy and dimly lit laboratory. Several monitors displaying varying images: some were of Shinigami battling Hollows and Dragons, others were diagrams of Dragons with labels on, one was of a long string of text nonsensical to all but its writer, another was of a map of the Soul Society and Human World with various symbols and patterns on them. There were several other images, diagrams and blocs of text on other monitors but the man sitting on the chair in front of them devoted all his attention to but a handful of them.

The man sitting at the desk watched the live-feed of the battle provided via the surveillance bugs he had sent to follow the vanguard squad with a disappointed sneer.

"Hmph. Look at them. Bunch of short-sighted, selfish, barbarian animals! Think of all the data that could've been discovered had I been able to thoroughly explore and entirely new realm and dissect this "Draugr" species! But do those apes have the intellectual foresight for their tiny minds to comprehend such matters of scientific breakthrough? Of course not!"

Only to a man like Mayuri Kurotsuchi was the sealing of Purgatory thanks to Nero slicing the Yggdrasil in half thus depriving Ares of his army he sought to use to conquer the Soul Society and then the rest of the Mortal Universe a negative.

The man adorned in so much acentric makeup he resembled a cross between a skeleton, mime and clown rolled into one leaned back in his chair and exhaled and shook his head in exasperation. "I suppose if I should be angry at anyone it should be myself. That I actually put stock in those buffoons to value the preservation of unknown knowledge rather than just swing their swords wildly like cavemen is a grievous error on my part. Ah well, no point dwelling on the past now. Not when the future holds equal opportunity for new breakthroughs," he said that last part with an evil pervertedness as he zoomed two cameras in on the Shihoin princess and the human-devil hybrid respectively as they battled their foes with diabolical relentlessness.

He rubbed his hands together, his twisted grin stretching ever more. He resembled a starved man man salivating at the mouth staring at a juicy steak. "I wonder… If I could somehow get my hands on the devil boys sperm and the Shihoin woman's eggs, perhaps even infuse in the DNA of Hollows and Quincy into the embryo… Oh think of the creation I would birth! It would make even Nemu a pale outdated imitation in comparison. I would finally surpass that cretin Kisuke Urahara!" His giddy daydreams died down when he came back to reality, biting at one of his overly long fingernails. "But how to extract what I need from those two? I could always just ask politely, but I somehow doubt either one would see the greatness of the opportunity I'm providing… Hmmm… Those two are lovers, if the rumours circulating the Seireitei are true. Perhaps I could create Gigai identical to them and have those Gigai's act as the real thing and bed the other…"

Whilst deep in thought as to how best go about this plan, Mayuri nearly fell out his chair when a voice cut in.

"If you're looking for a Yoruichi Gigai, I've got you covered. I made one one-hundred percent identical to her body in every way, for uhm… research purposes. As for Nero, it shouldn't take me that long to make one. I'll just need to ask Yoruichi is Nero's packing an odachi or tanto, if y'know what I mean."

The mysterious voice that crackled as if coming through poor reception was oh so familiar to Mayuri. His blood to boil at the sound of it. The Captain of the 12th Division scanned all around his lab but saw no one. "Show yourself! You dare make a mockery of me!"

"Wo-ho, easy there, Mayuri my old buddy, old pal. Scowl any deeper and that vein on your head with burst."

One of the computer monitors lost its current picutre displaying a certain part of the battlefield out in the Wildlands, the picture cutting in and out with distorted with static. The screen changed and through the hazy, broken picture the barely discernable visage of a man could be made out, along with something green and white on his head. As the picture and voice coming from the screen grew more stable and clear, Mayuri's mood soured.

"…You …Kisuke Urahara…" Mayuri hissed in disdain. "How did you access my equipment! My network is the most secure in the Soul Society and Human World?!"

On the screen was Kisuke Urahara, lounging back in a chair in the living room of his shop in the World of the Living, wafting his fan about him. "Even the strongest of firewalls have their 'cracks'," he shrugged. "Speaking of humans, you gotta love their ingenuity. 'Facetime' they call this. It's great! So many people to see and chat to across the world. Just the other day I was having a riveting conversation with this woman from Brazil. The things she does with ping pong balls for just ¥10,000-"

"Keep your vulgar filth to yourself, you deviant," Mayuri interrupted, growing more impatient at his crude goofy attitude. "I care not to think what you get up to in you spare time."

Urahara just stared blankly up to the left. "How could she even do that. The way she had to contort her legs behind her-" At the sound of faux impatient coughing, Urahara blinked rapidly as is waking from a daydream, much to the annoyance of Mayuri. "Oh, sorry. I just can't stop trying to figure out how she could do that with ping pong balls those size… Anyway, where were we? Oh right. We were discussing how you wanted to see Yoruichi's body naked. Can't say I blame you. I've seen tried to take her picture many a time when she transforms from her cat form but that accursed speed of hers I tell ya'. Even before the flash goes off she's gone. But don't tell Nero. He's actually quite the chivalrous knight when it comes to his fair princess. If he heard us talking about her like this he'd-"

"If you're going to play the fool then leave me be! I don't have time to play with children." Snapped Mayuri, eye twitching and cheeks reddening under his makeup, not that they could be seen. He got up from his chair intent to unplug the monitor Urahara had hacked.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Wait! I actually had a reason why I got into your network." Urahara frantically waved his arms to plead to his former underling. Mayuri hesitated, clearly juggling his options. After an excruciatingly long few seconds, Mayuri let out a long exhale and dropped back in his chair. "Excellent! You won't regret it."

"Too late for that," Mayuri drawled.

"Sheesh. Some people have no sense of humour," Kisuke muttered quietly behind his fan. Speedily crying "Nothing" when Mayuri spat "What was that?".

"Well," began Mayuri, his patience growing thinner by the second, "what did you wish to discuss?"

Urahara returned to his more casual demeanour. "I'm curious as to why you didn't go with the others. You never were one to turn down the chance to get new 'test subjects' even before I got you out of your cell to join my Division."

"Don't try and play the fool, I won't fall for it. You know precisely why I opted to stay here," challenged Mayuri.

Urahara hummed cryptically. "Take it you figured out what Ares was after." Mayuri's stony expression answered that. "Suppose it doesn't matter now anyway, what with that portal of his closed and his ally Amagai dead."

That caught Mayuri's suspicion. "How are you aware of what's happening on the battlefield from the World of the Livi…? Don't tell me…" Urahara put on the act of a child being caught with the cookie jar open trying to wipe the crumbs from their mouth. Mayuri's lips quivered in rage. "You've been hacking into my network this whole time and watching the feed from my bugs?!"

"Would you believe me if I said no?" Urahara tried to calm Mayuri, but secretly enjoyed watching him rage. "If it makes you feel any better I think those camera bugs you have are real neat. I've been watching the whole fight with a bag of popcorn. I know Nero told me his Devil Trigger was strong but seeing him against Ares is something else. And Ms. Yoruichi is as nasty as I remember. Talk about a power couple from hell, am I right?"

Mayuri just rubbed his forehead. "Spare me your meaningless chatter. I know you're really here to see if I've discovered the truth behind the Dragons." Urahara suddenly got very serious. "Since Dragons were first discovered a few millennia ago, they've been one of the greatest mysterious of the Soul Society. For when a human dies their soul either enters the Cycle of Reincarnation or if they refuse to pass on and linger in the Human World their Chain of Fate slowly rots until they become a Hollow. Yet, for some odd reason some deceased humans that refuse to pass over become Dragons, mostly in Europe for some odd reason. No one could figure out why… Until now of course, thanks to that white-haired friend of yours. By cross examining his DNA with the Reishi makeup of a Dragon it proves that all Dragons have some demonic essence within them-"


"What?" Mayuri bit.

"It's demonic miasma," Urahara corrected. "After helping rescue Rukie I too studied Nero's blood and Reishi composition, though unlike you I had his permission… more or less. I discovered a few things, including that Nero's demonic power was somewhat similar in structure to Dragon's Reiatsu. After some more research I discovered that certain parts of Europe have what Nero called "demonic miasma" contaminating the lands. Likely left over from Ragnarok since most of the fighting happened on that continent, akin radiation contaminating the land after humans detonate one of their nuclear weapons. When a human soul is exposed to too much of that miasma their soul becomes 'tainted'. Upon their death they became a Dragon rather than a Hollow. The more you know, am I right?"

"Thank you for that exposition but as I already said I knew that," Mayuri said.

"Well…" Kisuke began, wafting his fan about him, "I figured it out before you..."

"Grrr," Mayuri grit his teeth, about to launch into a rant when Urahara became very serious.

"There's something else," the hat on Urahara cast a dark shadow over his eyes. "According to my calculations, the amount of demonic miasma in not just Europe but the rest of the world should result in at least a few thousand Dragons being 'born' every year. But the true number is barely a fraction of that."

Mayrui waved it off. "Wing Bind most likely. Dragons are their jurisdiction after all."

"No," Urahara shook his head. "This is beyond them. It would take someone, or someone's, with extensive knowledge of demons to contain this. And whomever this is, they've been doing it for thoudands of years without the Soul Society realising."

Mayuri understood what was worrying Urahara. "Are you trying to say there may be some force out there that's been aware of demons this whole time? Operating in the World of the Living with impunity?"

Urahara shrugged, his severe visage softening somewhat. "Maybe. Or maybe I'm just being paranoid. But if it's true, then Aizen and his forces may not be the only ones we need to be wary of. There may be anoth-"

"Oi! What's the big idea of leaving me out of a fight?!"

Mayuri turned to see none other than Kenpachi Zaraki standing at the doorway to his office, having just kicked the door of its hinges.

"You mindless buffoon! Is your brain so small it doesn't even know how to knock!" Mayuri shouted as he got up from his seat to confront the intruder.

Coming in from the doorway just behind Kenpachi was Nemu, who retained her wistful expression. "Apologies, Master Mayuri. I told him you were busy but he refused to listen."

"Nem-nem!" From behind Kenpachi's shoulder, out popped Yachiru who waved to her fellow Lieutenant. Oblivious their respective Captains were glaring through the others skull. "Did you get the proposal I sent out for the next Women's Associate's meeting to be held at Byaky's home?"

"Indeed. But perhaps now isn't the best time to discuss such matters," Nemu reasoned.

"You bastards," grunted Kenpachi. "A massive battle going on against some 'god' and no one invited me! I swear, when the others get back they'll have some explaining to do!"

"What are you talking about you moronic moneky," Mayuri shouted. "A message was handed out to all Lieutenants. You were ordered to go but you never arrived in time and the rendezvous point so the others were forced to leave without you!"

Kenpachi blinked. "…Huhh…" He shifted to eye his Lieutenant on his shoulder. "Hey, Yachiru. Y'know what he's talkin' about?"

Yachiru put her finger to her lip and scrunched her features in deep thought. "Hmmmmmm… I don't remember."

Kenpachi then noticed the live feed showcasing the battles going on in the Wildlands. He looked like a kid who'd learnt he'd slept through Christmas day, on the verge of tears and tantrum. "Just what the hell is that! No one ever told me that Shihoin woman had power like that! And what's with that weird ghost thingy around that Nero kid, it's like that wolf guys Bankai but doesn't suck as much. Why'd he not use that on me when we fought?! He think I'm too weak or something?! Grrr! That little bastard. When he gets back I'll make him fight me again. In fact, I'll make them all fight me at the same time! It's the only way I'll forgive them for abandoning me!"

Mayuri felt like slapping his head into a brick wall.

"Weeeelll," came Urahara's mirthful voice from the monitor, "been real nice speaking with you again Mayuri my old buddy, but I can see you've got your hands full so I'll leave you to it. Bye bye now."

"Kisuke Urahara you-"

The monitor cut off before Urahara could hear all the crude remarks Mayuri bellowed.

Most of the once pristine and elegant temple was reduced to rubble. The entire ceiling and all but one wall left standing, the mighty clash between devil and god destroying all in their wake from a combination of Kido spells, Cero blasts, charged gun shots and boulders of congregated metal. The area around the ruined Shihoin Castle was thick and heavy, polluted by a mix of mortal-demonic and Olympian Reiatsu's.

The power coming from Nero was equal to that of Ares, but Ares was able to negate any ill-effects being in such close proximity to overwhelming demonic power might have on any lesser mortal due to his ironclad will and having fought against demons of equal and even greater power than Nero.

Not to say it was easy for the Olympian. Similar to the likes of Kenpachi Zaraki Ares was a warrior who put all his stock in physical prowess. As such, aside from his ability to manipulate metal and shape his weapon into whatever form he desired, he had nothing else in his arsenal. Whereas his foe had an abundance.

He'd use that accursed sword of his to teleport sword cuts to where Ares was, or send out tangible distorted waves wherever he slashed which sliced through anything in their path. He'd shoot out Cero's or use variable Kido's, one to bind Ares ankles and another to shoot a beam of blue fire at him when he was downed. He'd even summon a pair of gauntlets and grieves which radiated demonic energy to batter Ares with the force of a sledgehammer.

"You're a short-sighted fool! What I'm doing is for the benefit of all mortals. I'm the hero of this story!" Using his Olympian speed technique Ares avoided a sphere of slashes that appeared where he stood as the demonic hybrid used Slash Dimension. "Demons are the true threat to mortal life. They are the dark and we are the light. Light they wish to snuff out. Trying to convince yourself this farce of 'peace and harmony' between your Shinigami friends will be enough to save us is as if a rabbit thought it could talk the wolves out from eating it. Don't you understand?!"

"Of course not. Don't forget, you're talking to a rabbit." Nero rebutted with his trademark snark. Stood in his Dark Slayer Style stance pulling out the Yamoto from its sheathe and slashing out in front of himself before re-sheathing it so fast it appeared he only pulled the blade out from the sheathe but an inch, and teleporting those slashed where Ares was, only stopping when an assortment of knives and blades came flying towards him in a pincer manoeuvrer. Several curved, two-pointed shuriken glowing light blue materialised around Nero and met the weapons head on.

Leaving the confines of the temple, Ares took position on a partially collapsed roof of one of the buildings in the Shihoin Castle courtyard, or what was left of the courtyard which was now marred by battle scars.

"That's all this is to you isn't it? One big joke," snarled Ares. His body was a gallery of bloody cuts, burns and bruises, but rage fuelled his body like a conflagration overshadowing any sense of pain. "See if that sense of humour of yours still lasts when the legions of hell slaughter everyone you care about. Or maybe… maybe that demon half of yours is feeling lonely and wants the demons to come. Do you even care at all for anyone in this universe?"

"Of course I care." Distorted and eerie Nero's voice was in his Devil Trigger, it was evident he was filled with passion and determination. "I may have only known the people here for just a few months, but they're my friends. My family. I'll never let anything bad happen to them."

Ares sighed condescendingly. "You may have Sparda's blood, but you don't have his power. Not even you can stop the armies of hell when they come. And rest assured, they will come. Sparda may have fixed the 'wall' which separates our realm from the demons, but walls don't just keep things out. They keep them in. Temen-ni-gru wasn't the only remnant of the Demon World to remain here…" He commented offhandedly.

Nero perked a brow. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Ares shook his head disparagingly. "It doesn't matter anymore. The Wild Hunt was our only hope. Without their numbers, when hell's legions come it'll mean doom for mortals. It was only with the Dark Knight's aid that we survived the last war. But Sparda's dead. And not even the Soul Society's Captain General nor its Monk can hold a candle to his power. Mortals are doomed. Everyone you've ever met since arriving in this universe will die screaming in agony and you've only yourself to blame!"

"Bullshit!" Nero bellowed passionately. "You said yourself, the strongest mortals in the universe are right here in the Soul Society. If any demons come crawling outta their hole, then we'll make 'em see what 'hell' really is!"

Ares was silent for a moment. He just stared at the fiery passion evident in the young man's posture, it was clear he truly believed those words he said were truth. It reminded Ares of himself long, long ago back when he was younger. And dare he say, he almost smiled. But that fleeting emotion was quickly subsumed by the bleak present.

"You're just a naive little brat that refuses to see the truth. Reality is a universe of shit. You either sink or you swim. I tried to build a raft for what few I could but that ship's sunk thanks to you and your selfish arrogance. There was a time when I hoped you'd join me and see things my way. Though I suppose it had to be this way. Today is the day you put the final nail in the coffin for mortals everywhere… and the day…" He flexed his Reiatsu in a show he was about to make a move. He raised his arms high and formed a magnetic orb which pulled countless amounts of metal objects to it like a black hole, until the sphere of debris was almost a two-story house in size and threw it at Nero. "…the God of War showcases his title!"

Nero copied Ares and increased the amount of power he was releasing, tightening his grip on the Yamato. "What's a 'God'…" When the ball of debris got close, he pulled his right arm back and balled a fist. A large ghostly version of his Devil Bringer bigger than himself formed beside him, and as Nero swung out his fist, the ethereal one followed. Both connected with the ball of metal and shattered it to pieces with great force. "…to a devil."

A cloud of smoke and debris billowed out from the shattered sphere. Ares rushed out from the grey veil using it to conceal his movements in a bid to catch Nero off-guard. But having trained under the Flash Goddess herself, the hybrid was able to react in time to the Olympian's movements which were slow motion compared to Yoruichi's and use the Yamato to block the golden longsword. His spectral familiar leaving him, but his body still coated in a hue of blue as standard when in Devil Trigger.

Nero and Ares each pushed against the other, their blades locked, sparks spitting off them. Ares' heated, aged eyes bore holes into Nero's skull, but Nero's cocky, glowing red eyes gleamed back, full of drive to protect and avenge those he loved.

"You know nothing. You're a dumb kid. A kid that doesn't understand the severity of the situation!" Ares and Nero were so close they could feel each other's strained breathes warming their faces. "I was there for Ragnarok. I saw billions of people, good, innocent people get slaughtered by the hordes of the Demon World. My family. My entire race. Even my planet was destroyed by the Prince of Darkness with a mere wave of his hand. Over half the entire mortal population was butchered. I was trying to bring hope and salvation. All you've wrought is fear of inevitable extinction."

Nero's face was furrowed as he pushed against Ares' great strength. The Olympian was physically strong no doubt, enough to match him, but Nero had once fought Kenpachi Zaraki and Dante so this was nothing new. "People should fear demons. My own home was nearly destroyed by their ravenous bloodlust. But you can't force people to submit to your rule just because you think yours is the best way!"

The Order of the Sword did that to Fortunna, and Nero had lived through the disastrous consequences for what happens when mortals fuelled by fear of demons try to force their will on others.

Nero broke the lock their swords were in using his great strength granted from his Devil Trigger to break Ares' hold. He swung the Yamato's scabbard and hit the older man in his cheek, sending teeth and blood splattering on the floor. Ares ducked under another tangible wave of the Yamato's slashing power and transformed his sword into a thick mace laden with spikes. Ares swung his mace at Nero, but a yellow barrier of Kido stopped the hit. Nero threw the Yamato into the air and aimed an open palm at Ares, an orb of red formed as he fired a Cero at the 'God'. To Ares credit, he was able to form a shield using various scraps of metal he enhanced with his own power. He might not be able to use his magnetic powers on those demonic weapons of the boys, but all other metal was still fair game.

The Cero deflected off the shield, hitting the dome which was now marred by cracks due to all the strikes it had taken from the Yamato's cutting power.

Through ragged breathes, Ares wiped the blood from his mouth. "It's not the "best" way. It's the only way! For all their faults, demons are a united species whereas us mortals find every aspect we can to divide ourselves: from ethnic origins to gender to religious and political beliefs. Even here in the Soul Society, those highest in society trample on the lower class. Shusuke is but a by-product of that system. When the demons do come, if we mortals aren't ready to face them as one single united front, we're dead. If I have to unite us by force then so be it! You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs."

'That's just what the Order thought,' Nero recalled with negative memories. "That's not your call to make! The universe doesn't need someone like you to protect it. The Shinigami and I stopped the demons when Temen-ni-gru sprouted, we'll stop an army if we have to."

Ares shook his head, a humourless chuckle escaping him. "I once shared that same fallacy as you. As did my father and General Odin. You want to know what it got us? Death." He didn't sound condescending; it was more like he was in remorse for Nero truly not understanding why he was doing what he was doing.

"This isn't some fairy tale story. This is real life where the strong win, not the 'good guys'. Holding hands and dancing in the daisies under a rainbow with your friends won't win the day. Not through morality and teamwork will the infinite legions of the Demon World be defeated - that was the mistake my father and Odin made which nearly resulted in all mortals' deaths – but by blade and blood."


It was over.

After such brutal, gruelling fighting it was done.

Peace. At long last.

But while the rest of the Mortal Universe celebrated their victory, one man remained devoid of any sense of jubilation. The Mortal Universe had won. Yet he had lost everything.

Ares walked aimlessly on a field covered in more blood and corpses than grass and mud. Corpses of various mortal species stacked atop of each other so high they made hills. And the macabre mounds stretched for miles. The thick black clouds which once covered the continent of Europe had begun to part, allowing the sun to embrace the land. Which only made the smell of rotting flesh baking in the sun all the more pungent.

'Is this what victory looks like? These humans call me the 'God of War' because of my prowess in battle, but what God would ever wish such a tragedy upon their creations? This war has cost so much yet all it has done is delayed the inevitable. The demons will return. Mundus will return. And without Sparda what hope do we have?'

He reached a lake of red. Blood. So deep it ran up to his thighs as he waded through its viscous form. A child's toy floated to the top. Ares stared at it blankly for some time before moving on.

After several hours of walking across the ocean of the dead that stretched the horizon, he came to an abrupt stop when he saw the glint of the light catch something by his foot. He bent down and gingerly picked up a helmet: his father's. Half of it was missing, scorch marks along the severed edges. Dried blood lay caked on the inside. Ares dropped the helm and rose to full height, surveying the ocean of corpses with an expression harder than stone.

He said the two words that would define his life for the next three thousand years.

"Never again."


"Those Shinigami you put so much faith in will only let you down in the end. They share the same stubborn pride my father and Odin did which caused countless mortals to die." Ares swung his golden longsword in a wide arc.

Nero countered the attack with his slim katana. The Devil Hunter sensed something stir and instinctively used a combo of Shunpo and Trickster to get some distance from Ares, narrowly avoiding the wave of red fire birthed from his sword which vaporised the brickwork of the castle upon impace. 'Never seen him use fire before. He's pulling all his tricks out his sleeve. Good. Means I've pushed him into a corner and he's using all he's got to get out. Not that I'll let him.' Even inside his own head his mind thought in the same visceral tone as his vocal cords when in Devil Trigger, something which never sat well with Nero.

"Their 'Soul' King is the most powerful mortal to have ever existed. His power may not be on the same level as the Dark Knight's, but it was still our best hope. Yet, when the war against the demons seemed lost, when almost all the best mortal warriors we had had been killed, I went to visit the Soul Society's Monk and asked, begged him to let us use his King's power to save what of us remained."

"Oh, he used his Kings power alright. But only after the war had been won, to banish and block all none-Tornitiwarudo mortals from entering his Reio's three realms. Why do you think no other mortal from outside the Reio's Realms has been seen since Ragnarok? Because it's impossible for any to enter. Or in my case: leave. It was only by chance that I was on the Human World at the time he cast the spell, so I became trapped here. But instead of falling into despair I swore to myself I'd never let anything like Ragnarok happen again," cried Ares as his sword clashed with the Yamato.

The Yamato moved in Nero's hand as if it weighed nothing. His strikes weren't as fast as Dante's when he wielded the dark-forged blade, but to anyone other than the likes of Byakuya, Soi Fon, Yoruichi, Ichigo and others who were similar in speed as them, all they'd see is a silver blur dancing around the teen. His blue coat tails fluttering behind him like twin tails. The ghostly spectre matching his every move when manifested, just as quick and just as ferocious.

Ares ability to change his weapon to any he saw fit saved him from Nero's blitzing, brutal attacks, be it from the Yamato or those gauntlets and grieves of his. When they were up-close, Ares would change his weapon to a short sword, when there was some distance a longsword to take advantage of the longer reach, and when the white-haired teen used Beowulf Ares brought forth a war hammer to counter the brutal strikes with his own blunt weapon.

The two were as evenly matched as two opponents could get. Their Reiatsu's so even the only way for the Shinigami outside the castle to tell the difference was that Nero's gave off a dark demonic aura. He had the better physical strength, was somewhat faster, and could fire out Kido and demonic-spiritual powered shots from Blue Rose to keep Ares on his toes, but Ares could morph his weapon into any weapon he'd even seen. And though the epithet of 'God of War' wasn't literal - just as Yoruichi's moniker of 'Flash Goddess' paid homage to her speed and skill in Shunpo – Ares' skill in combat rivalled even Dante's.

Yet, despite the balance between them in power and skill, Nero seemed to be gaining more of an edge each passing second. Breaking Ares' guard more and more and landing hits, while Ares himself hadn't managed to strike Nero once since he activated his Devil Trigger. Where Nero stood tall and unscathed, Ares was a tapestry of red blood, purple bruises and black charred flesh.

Unlike Nero whose mental fortitude was as solid as his combat, Ares' mind and emotions were failing him in the deadlock against the Devil Hunter. The plan he'd spent over three-thousand years setting in motion had failed. Stopped by a descendant of the very devil he admired as hero and saviour. All those emotions he'd sealed away since losing everyone and everything he held dear in his heart during the Demon War were surfacing. All that sorrow, despair and rage were causing his movements to become sloppy.

"Without the Soul King's power mortal extinction was certain. It was only thanks to Sparda joining our side that we survived. With Sparda dead the Soul King's power is the best weapon we mortals possess to use against the demons. The Monk would never allow it himself but if I convinced the Great Noble Clans to join me, he'd have no other choice than to accept it, for even he must bow to their authority."

He used his Olympian speed movement technique to rapidly dodge a series of Dimension Slashes. Getting right up in the teen's face where they locked blades once more. Gold and silver swords grinding at such force a shower of sparks lit the battle-worn courtyard up like fireworks. Their glares duelling just as much as their swords.

"Why do you think I never wanted to kill or make an enemy out of your lover, the Shihoin princess? Unlike other nobles of this world her rationality isn't blinded by ancestral pride. No doubt she'd see I'm right and help- Urrgghkk!"

The mention of Yoruichi's name sparked a fury in Nero at the audacity of Ares to assume too much of her after what he and Amagai had done. He buried his combat boot into the Olympian's exposed chest with such force he swore he heard a crack. The surprise and pain caused Ares to tumble back. Nero swung the Yamato's scabbard, knocking Ares' golden blade from his hand. He dismissed the Yamato and summoned Beowulf in the blade's stead. He threw out a series of rapid, ultra-high-speed punches with both fists at Ares' unguarded front. The move – Raioken - was one of many Hakuda moves Yoruichi had taught him. His punches weren't as fast as hers, but he made up for it with the sheer brutality of his hits. Made even worse by how his spectral twin copied each of Nero's punches on Ares with its own.

The force of Nero's ferocious assault caused portions of the already unstable castle and temple to collapse, kicking up dust and smoke. If not for Olympians sharing similar skin density to Arrancar's Hierro, Ares was sure all the bones and organs in his chest would be crushed to dust and mush. Nero ended his barrage of deadly punches by bending his right knee, going into a crouched position, channelling power into his right fist which caused Beowulf's right gauntlet to glow bright, before launching himself up like a rocket and burying his right gauntlet into Ares' chin in a nasty uppercut, the ground cratering from the pressure.

Following his Rising Dragon attack, Nero followed Ares into the air. He moved his right arm and his ghostly companion followed suit. The large blue spectral claw grabbed the limp Ares in its iron grip, with a gesture from Nero the ghostly appendage began to rapidly and brutality slam Ares repeatedly into the ground like a jackhammer, digging crater after crater from the sheer force and sending chunks of rock flying. He then threw Ares like a rag doll into the air, summoned the Yamato and channelled his mixed spiritual-demonic power into the blade. The demonic katana became veiled with blue energy.

"Place your bets…" Nero diagonally slashed the Yamato in front of himself twice in rapid succession. "All in!" Sending two blue crescent waves in the shape of an 'X' at Ares.

The move Nero dubbed 'Maximum Bet' worked in essence the same as Ichigo's Getsuga Tensho. Something which was a source of great ire for Ichigo who had already had a go at Yoruichi for doing the same with launching waves of lightning from Alastor. The two lovers just knew the ginger was salty his one and only signature move wasn't exclusive to him.

The brilliant explosion sent a shockwave across the battered castle, causing the already cracked energy shield around the structure to crack even more so. By now, the dome-like shield was laden with so many snaking cracks it seemed all it would take is a simple tap from one finger to shatter it like glass.

From the plume of black smoke hanging in the air from the explosion came Ares, hurtling through like a meteor, where he landed with a hard thud on one of the few remaining castle towers overlooking the courtyard, smoke streaking off his body.

"Cry me a river." Spat Nero as he landed back on solid, though shattered and uneven, ground. "I don't know who this "Monk" is, nor do I give a shit about your beef with him. The Soul Society and the Gotei 13 ain't perfect. Hell, it wasn't that long ago I was fighting against them. But they're people just like you and me. Flawed and all. And I know that they'll all put their lives on the line to fight any enemy that threatens the Soul Society or the Human World. We don't need you to 'lead' us. You're not our king, and we'll never be your horses."

Nero was overcome with unbidden memories of his time serving the Order of the Sword. Its leaders' selfish goals they justified as "for the greater good" had caused so many unnecessary deaths of those who might still be alive today if Nero had seen through their BS quicker and acted to stop them. Credo had died because of Nero's willingness to remain idle on the side-lines ignoring the Order's dark deeds. He wasn't about to let history repeat itself with Ares as he had with Sanctus.

When Nero first went after Ares, all he wanted was revenge for what the Olympian had done to Yoruichi and Yushiro. But it had evolved into so much more now. This was a battle of ideals. Of redemption. What those like Sanctus, Aizen and now Ares stood for was a direct threat to Nero's own philosophy: That fighting and dying a free man was better than serving and living as a slave.

Atop the tower, Ares limbs trembled just as much as his resolve. His entire body was caked in wounds and blood. But he couldn't give up now. He grit his teeth through the pain and wobbled to full height. Looking down on Nero both in direction and dogma. "You're living in ignorance. Pain. Agony. Loss. Blood. Those are the prices your naive notions will earn you if you want to fight the demons on your terms."

"Maybe…" Nero conceded softly. Before saying heatedly, "But it will be our terms! One thing mortals have demons don't is free will. Demons are hardwired to inflict pain and suffering. Mortals like you, Sanctus, Arkham and Aizen chose that. But my friends and I? We do things how we want! Maybe your way is the more pragmatic option, but I'm sure by now you've realised no self-respecting Devil Hunter or Shinigami ever choses the 'smart' decision. Where's the fun in that?"

A rather sombre and melancholic visage bled onto Ares puffy face. "Heh heh… It's funny... The way you talk. How you fight with that sword. You remind me a lot of him... Sparda... For someone so powerful he was shockingly unpretentious. In a cutting way. He was oddly optimistic for a devil… An optimism I shared once too…" His red eyes began to show his age better than his youthful appearance did.

Nero's expression moved into a pointed frown. "I'm no saint. I've done a lot of messed up shit in my life. Ichigo always tells me that we should give someone a chance. I couldn't care less about the things you've done to me but for what you put Yoruichi and her brother through, I want nothing more than to use this sword to cleave your head from your neck… But… I can only imagine that 'parental look of disappointment' on Ichigo's face if I told him I did so without giving you a chance. He's too soft for his own good, that kid. Though I guess that's why everyone likes him. He's not as bitter to the world like the rest of us…" His glowing bloody eyes bore intently on Ares. "So? What's it gonna be?"

A long silence passed across the courtyard. Only the sound of a fleeting gust echoed across the empty space. A single cherry blossom leaf danced across the courtyard on that breeze, which suddenly fell to the ground. Dead.

Closing his eyes, Ares took a deep breath before speaking. "By my honour as a warrior that fought side-by-side with the Dark Knight and whom I owe my life to, I would gladly swear fealty to one of his blood had we met under different circumstances…" He opened his eyes, now harder than they were before and straightened his limp shoulders. Yet there was no hate when he addressed Nero now. "But… You and I both know; we're too far gone for that now."

Nero remained silent. But his steely expression spoke that he too knew Ares was right.

"You and I are the same," Ares allowed. "You're just like me. Trying to protect civilization from the demons. And maybe you're right. Maybe what I want is 'evil'. But who's to say one man's beliefs on 'right' and 'wrong' are more correct than another's? In the end, war is war, no matter how you wage it. We're all 'Gods of War' now." He looked resolutely at Nero with a hint of respect. "I made my bed and you yours, we must lie in them. It must be this way, Nero."

Nero held an emotionless face, shaking his head. "Foolishness, Ares. Foolishness. It's not a bed waiting for you… it's a grave."

An indifferent Yoruichi stood motionless over Amagai's corpse. Feeling neither sympathy nor enjoyment upon taking in his lifeless body. 'He hurt my brother, and for that I hope suffers in Hell… But in the end, he was just another victim of the Seireitei's archaic system which enables those of high birth like me to prey and feed on the lower born without a care for any consequences. In a way, Shusuke Amagai was just as much a victim of my family as we were of him.'

She turned on her heels and began to walk away from the man's remains, retying her purple hair which had become somewhat loose from its ponytail during the fight. She only got less than ten steps when she suddenly froze in place and felt a tingle down her spine, her golden eyes widening.


Yoruichi spun around and faced Amagai's corpse. But it wasn't his corpse which she focused on. Zanpakuto are linked to their respective Shinigami. When the Shinigami dies, so does the Zanpakuto. Which is why Yoruichi's brows were peaked in bewilderment and shock as the katana which should have been as dead as its wielder began to pulsate with power, jumping and jerking on the ground like a fish out of water.

Ever cautious like a cat, Yoruichi braced herself for another nasty surprise and fell into a battle stance. But all the Zanpakuto did was jump and jerk with even more force, as if the fish grew more desperate for water each passing second. Yoruichi relaxed after sensing no hostility, narrowing her eyes and chewing her lip in deep thought.

'I can feel Reiatsu coming from the Zanpakuto – Raika, I believe Amgai called it. Only problem is, it's not Amagai's Reiatsu. It's pure, unmastered spirit power. Like that of an Asauchi. It almost feels as if it's calling out like Alastor did… No. Can't be. Zanpakuto's are part of a Shinigami. In essence, they are a Shinigami as much as that Shinigami's hand it wields the blade is. Surely it cannot be possible for a Zanpakuto to become a Dev-'

'I was under the assumption you had abandoned your self-doubt now. I thought cats embrace their curiosity and always sought new territory? Are you a cat that takes what she wants without fear, or a mouse that hides in the gutters in terror?'

Yoruichi's eye twitched at Alastor's scathing remark. 'Don't make me come in there, Aly-boy. I rather enjoy using you as a sword, but I'm not opposed to treating myself to a nice dragon-leather coat.' That seemed to shut the devil-dragon up. She focused back on the convulsing Raika. She took a deep breath, straightened her posture and readied herself. 'Here goes nothing.'

She held out an open hand and waited...

And waited….

And waited…

Yoruichi's famous moodiness and Shihoin lack of patience began to show as a heavy pouting frown moulded onto Yoruichi's features and a tick mark appeared on her forehead. "1. 2. 3? Hey, this thing on?" She hit her empty hand as if it were a faulty microphone. "Performance issues are one thing but it's never good to keep a girl waiting."

Be it coincidental timing, or Yoruichi's words, the sword called Raika sprang to life. It floated several feet off the ground, still a few metres from Yoruichi. The kodachi then combusted into flames, from the bottom of the tsuba to the tip of the blade. And not as in it became covered in flames, it literally became fire. The small levitating inferno burned hot and bright, but soon began to morph in form. The blaze grew long and thin in shape and curled into several loops, resembling a chunky rope made of pure fire.

Yoruichi squinted her eyes and held a hand in front her face to shield herself from the bright light. When the light began to fade, she lowered her hand and stared at the weapon floating before as if willing her to take it, with wide, eager eyes.

Raika, which when owned by Amagai in its sealed state resembled a plain kodachi, and in its Shikai took the form of some ugly fish-hook-like blade wasn't something that Yoruichi would ever desire to or find use in wielding as her forte was all about quick, agile and deadly combat. Which went about as well with a hefty Shikai like Raikai's as oil and water, and its overly clunky Bankai would have been almost as detrimental to her in battle as Soi Fon's was to her. Whether Raika knew this and had changed accordingly to mould itself to her liking or it was just luck was unclear.

But the reason Yoruichi stared at the levitating Raika with beaming golden eyes and a hungry excited smile was that it wasn't a kodachi, nor a fish-hooked blade or an overly large and hefty pouldron-like shell with a blade sticking out of it, but a thin, elegant yet brutal, streamline whip.

There was a hilt to hold it like a sword had, with a red ruby at the bottom and a small yet spiked guard at the top. Attached to the hilt was the whip itself, spanning some six feet when fully stretched. The thin tempered metal thong of the whip glowed a deep orange-crimson, like the blacksmith forging it had only just got it from the furnace. Running along the thong in segments were razor-sharp, protruding double-sided blades. Attached to the tip of the whip was a thin, lightning bolt-shaped knife.

It was a weapon that managed to look both brutal and vicious, yet beautiful and graceful at the same time. A perfect match for the likes of Yoruichi Shihoin who fit that description herself to a T.

"A whip, eh? Now that's unique… and kinda kinky." Yoruichi edged closer and gingerly clasped her hand around the whips handle. "…!"

She felt a wave of power rush over her very soul. Penetrating her very being. When she felt Alastor do the same weeks prior, it caused her to collapse from the sheer shock to her system. But she knew what to expect this time and had resisted the pain at having another sentient being invade and nest inside her soul.

She took a moment to adjust to having Raika bond itself with her , becoming her latest Devil Arm. She brought the whip closer to her face, getting a better look at it and drinking in all its finer details and memorising every strength and weakness she saw in it. Even at a distance she could feel the heat the whip radiated on her skin. She channelled her Reiryoku - both spiritual and demonic as even out of her Alastor-Shunko form her powers were now forever mixed as one like Nero's – to get a feel for the weapons abilities. She gave the whip a single belt to test it. A sharp 'whitsshh!' echoed as the sleek weapon carved the air particles in two. A spark and a few embers licking the tip of the lightning knife as it carved a chard line in the ground.

A crooked, coy smirk showing teeth etched onto her face.

She channelled more power into the whip and gave it a practice run. She whipped the weapon around in belt-like strikes, slicing the air in pieces and leaving trails of orange light as fire traced along the weapon. The whip seemed to grow in length and shorten at Yoruichi's mental command, ranging from as long as twenty feet to as short as two. She spun the fiery whip by her side so fast it resembled a Catherine Wheel. The whip moved so fast it left after-images of the fiery windmill pattern like sparklers. She then spun the whip in the air above her head in circular motions like a lasso, as she continued to do so the fire that covered the whip began to coalesce like a blazing whirlpool. As the lasso-like whipping motion continued and Yoruichi focused more of her Reiryoku into it, the whirlpool of flame grew until soon Yoruichi had a several foot tall tornado of pure fire raging above her head. With one quick motion, she sent the tornado at a nearby boulder which was engulfed in the combusting cyclone and rendered to ash by the blazing heat before the vortex itself exploded, sending chunks of scorched rock across the land.

Yoruichi continued to play with her new toy, spinning it around in a graceful martial dance until soon it became a natural extension of her body just as Alastor had become and her own Zanpakuto before it.

She ended her practice, eyeing her whip with an elated grin. "Nice. Nice. I can think of even more neat little tricks I can use you for. Both on the battlefield and in the bedroom."

With a mental command, the whip Devil Arm Raika faded into embers on the wind as she dismissed it.

'A bit more practice and I'll whip into shape with Raika,' joked Yoruichi in her head. She could feel Alastor roll his eyes. 'All I can say is it's a good thing Nero can heal, because I'm gonna 'practice' my whip on him all night after the day I've had.'

Picturing Nero's cheeky and handsome grinning face in her mind with that ever present breezy smile of his and laughing crystalline blue eyes gave Yoruichi the first sense of peace she'd had all day. Not only being with him, but just thinking about Nero gave her a sense of serenity and belonging the likes she'd never had before. His smile made her smile. His jokes made her groan on the outside but cheeks warm on the inside. His touch made her heart warm and his kisses made the butterflies in her stomach-

Her spiritual sensory receptors were overwhelmed when she felt both Nero and whom she presumed to be Ares spike their Reiatsu's to their respective limits.

Though Yoruichi had every faith in Nero, she knew it was possible he may lose her against a foe so equal to him in power. She'd already nearly lost her brother today, and thought she'd lost Nero when his Reiatsu dropped earlier. She couldn't take that kind of heartache much more in such rapid succession lest her heart burst from the pain.

"Nero…" She gazed at her family's former seat of power atop the mountain, a shattered shell of its former glory. She felt her heart beat like a piston at the idea of losing Nero for good and having to go back to being on all alone as she'd been for over 110 years before meeting the brash and cocky man that changed her life for the better, and whom she hoped would be in her life for as long as she drew breath.

Yoruichi took off, going as fast as she could to reach the castle, not caring for the cracked shield around it. She'd break it to smithereens if it kept her from the man she lov-

"Nero! I'm coming!"

The ground, foundations and very Reishi particles around the Shihoin Castle shook with a cold terror, as if scared by the massive weight of the two mighty Reiatsu's roaring like wild animals loose from their chains.

Ares stood atop the lonesome tower; his hands raised above his head as he channelled all his remaining power into one final attack he knew would be his last. His deep red aura of visible Reiatsu coursed over him like a rabid tide.

Swords, spears, daggers and axes from the castle armoury, knives and tools from the kitchens and gardens, gates, girders, and rebar from the building's foundations and all other metals were torn from the castle and temple. Even what looked like dust was pulled from the ground, but the glinting of the dust in the sun revealed it was in fact minute flakes of metal buried in the ground mixed with the soil and rock. All manner of metal in the surrounding area was pulled above Ares like a black hole sucking them in. The ferrous assortment smashed into one another, bending and curving to fit until soon, what might have been mistaken for a meteor save its varying colour scheme of silvers, blacks and golds, the size of a large building hovered in the air above Ares' head. And with one squeeze of his open hands into balled fists, Ares used his powers to set the entire meteor-scrapheap-like conglomeration ablaze. So hot was the fire the metal glowed a bright white-orange, some bits even melting as if the meteor of metal was turning to magma.

"Too late to grow some balls now, Ares." Nero joked, but internally he steadied his own Reiryoku and fell into a battle stance as he focused his power.

Sweat dripped off Ares' forehead. He was overexerting and pushing himself to his limit, but he had to give it his all. Honour and pride demanded it. "This is the apex of my power. I suppose you could consider this attack my 'Bankai' if I were a Shinigami. I once used this attack to kill one of the Demon World's strongest and most feared generals – Furiataurus. Let's see, Nero, blood of Sparda. If you have inherited more than just Sparda's blood!"

"Wha… What the hell is that!"

Renji's cry of utter astonishment was shared by all the other Lieutenants and Rukia, whom all wore visages of wide eyes and gaping jaws, sweat trickling down their skin.

"Tch. Typical. We just took out the last of the Hollows and Dragon Lady Shihoin just dealt with that traitor Amagai. I thought this was over for sure." And just when Hisagai had been planning the headline for his piece on the battle.

In contrast, the Captains were far more reserved in their reactions. But they still gazed upon the burning meteor of metal which roared bright over the ruined Shihoin Castle like a star with a twinge of unease.

"Geez. That Ares sure is one scary guy. Glad it's not me up there." Kyroku's dry humorous tangent may have been a sarcastic comment, but he couldn't help but feel some worry for the Devil Hunter whom he found decent and entertaining company, if a little prudish at times.

'Ms. Yoruichi sings praise of your skill, Nero. Let's hope she wasn't blinded by her emotions for you. I'd hate for you to die here…. It's your turn to buy the next round.'

"Fret not," Ukitake said in a reassuring voice to calm the nerves of the lower ranks, "the shield around the castle should be enough to contain the blast of that meteor. And in the event it doesn't, I'll be able to cast a Kido barrier strong enough to protect you all."

Evidently, Rukia's concerns weren't for her own life, but for two others as she spun on her heels to meet Ukitake's fatherly expression with her own frantic one. "What about Ichigo and Nero? They're both still inside that shield. I'm not even sure Nero's healing powers will be able to allow him to survive such an attack, and Ichigo's Reiatsu dropped to near nothing earlier. There's no way Ichigo can survive an attack like that if he's already severely injured!" Panic crept into her trembling voice.

Ukitake went to speak but was beaten by Byakuya. "Concern for one's allies is admirable, yet a moot point when we are unable to assist said allies. The shield around the Shihoin Castle may be weakened but so long as it remains, we are unable to pass through and help Ichigo Kurosaki or Nero. All we can do is put our faith in them that they will survive."

Rukia knew her brother's words were true. She grit her teeth and clenched her fists, turning back to face the castle on the mountain. 'Nero's Reiatsu has increased beyond its normal level. He's certainly stronger than even Ichigo was when he fought my brother. Perhaps he can do this after all. I put my faith in Ichigo at Sokyoku Hill, now I must believe Nero will win today.'

Standing quietly on the side was Soi Fon. A complicated, deeply contemplating expression etched onto her stern but pretty face.

'Nero… I'll admit, I've never been overly fond of you. Hated you even in the beginning. And not just because of how close you were with Lady Yoruichi. Your facetious disposition, devil-may-care attitude, and complete lack of regard for proper etiquette reminded me all too much of Kisuke Urahara… But… I know now you're more than that. An indifferent fool you may act on the outside, a good, honourable man lies within. A man Lady Yoruichi would be utterly devastated and heartbroken to lose. So don't die here, Nero. I don't wish for Lady Yoruichi to be forced to go through such pain of losing you. I know how she feels for you, maybe even better than she herself knows. Why she has such feelings for one as raggedy as you I'll never know but it's not my place to judge her tastes. Beat this insolent fool who had the gall to dare to attack Lady Yoruichi and her brother, Nero, or else I'll kill you myself for the pain you'll put her through.'

While Soi Fon wasn't too happy at first with the revelation of her sacred Yoruichi being in a relationship with Nero - especially knowing how he 'sullied' her Lady's purity – she had come to accept it. And over time, was even, dare she say, glad for it? Soi Fon knew Yoruichi well. To the rest of the world Yoruichi always displayed herself as a cheerful, bubbly, carefree and independent woman. But her duties as Head of one of the Great Noble Clans weighed heavy on her shoulders. All the expectations and traditions society had for one of her family name caused Yoruichi more misery and depression than people realised. Despite mingling with hundreds upon hundreds of the Seireitei's high society elites, Yoruichi had only ever had less than a handful of real friends. And when she was forced into self-exile in the Human World following Aizen's machinations, she lost all but two of those friends.

'And even then, Lady Yoruichi told me herself she was forced to split from Urahara and Tessai not long after going to the Human World as having hers and Urahara's high Reiatsu's in the same place might allow Aizen to locate them. She was on her own for a hundred years… like me…' Soi Fon sympathised with Yoruichi's plight, realising her mentor must've been as alone and miserable as she herself was all that time, only Yoruichi hid the pain it caused her better.

'She may laugh off those years as "peaceful alone time", but I know her. It must've been agony for her to be away from everyone whom she held dear. Unable to see even her brother. But now she has you, Nero. From what you told me of your childhood, and on how you came to be in our world, you know what's it's like to be alone. So long as she has you, she's never alone. She'll always be with someone whom she… she…" She fought the word out, "loves."

The Shinigami were instantly accosted by a mighty gale of wind and dirt, created by a blur of black and purple that shimmered in and out of existence, moving so fast each time the person 'stepped' via Shunpo it created an air-pocket explosion. Wind and dirt were flung about as they moved in such speeds even a handful of Captains could catch only a blur.

Rangiku coughed up a fit as some dirt had entered her mouth before she waved her hand out in front to waft the rest of the smoke and dirt away. "What on Soul Society was that?! It-… gggrrraaaahhhkk! My hair! My hair got all dirty and tangled by that wind! And after I went through such effort to keep it nice and tidy while fighting those damn Hollows. Humph!"

Kneeling down beside the unconscious Momo was Toshiro. A sweat drop formed on his head as he gave his underling a dead stare.

But Soi Fon was more concerned with the one that birthed the cloud of debris.

"That's…" Soi Fon knew of only one person who could move that fast in Shunpo. "Lady Yoruichi…"

The blur that was Yoruichi was heading on course for her family's ancient castle. She knew Yoruichi would only have one reason for heading there in such a frantic state.

"Hold on, Lady Yoruichi! I'm comin-… uh…?" The hand which rested on her shoulder belonged to none other than the Head Captain himself, who wasn't even meeting her gaze but rather watched the battle unfold at the castle with his small beady eyes. "S-Sir?"

"Captain Kuchiki's words were wise; do you not think so?" Yamamoto's eyes flickered from the Yoruichi racing off in the distance to the scene atop the Shihoin Castle. "This is a matter for the Lady Shihoin and the young Nero lad. I think it only polite we not interfere in their personal and private affairs. We owe them that much."

Yoruichi's golden eyes gleamed wide with trepidation upon seeing the metallic meteor plummet towards a target she could only guess was Nero. A foreboding sense of dread building in her gut that permeated her very soul. She ran, using Shunpo to move as fast as she could. Her relentless emotions overpowering the fatigue she felt from her battle with Amagai.


Just thinking his name normally elicited a smile and warm fuzzy feeling in her stomach, like butterflies on the first day of summer. But now she felt her chest clench, like a vice of terror squeezing her heart, threatening to crush the light she'd found to fill the void in her life after a hundred years of miserable isolation.

'Nero…' Her unusually timid voice in her mind hardened, as she grit her teeth and tried to think positive, 'Kick that bastards ass to Hell and back. I know you've got what it takes. I've always believed in you from the moment I first saw you in that alley… Don't you dare leave me alone in this world, Nero...' Her brash confidence in her love's abilities faltered for just a moment, her meek whispery thought pleading, '…please…'

A burning meteor so large and bright it was as if the sun itself was descending from the heavens to incinerate him to ash. That's how the scene appeared from Nero's blood-tinted eyes. The heat radiating from the amalgamation of metal was enough to dry his throat of moisture, and so bright had it not been for his healing factor his retinas would surely have fried and skin turn from pasty white to charred black. A trail of fire licked at the metallic meteor, despite its enormous size it moved at an alarming rate.

But Nero was as resilient as they came, bordering pinheaded in his course brashness. He dug his combat boots into the ground, stiffened his posture and flexed his demonic-spiritual power.

'The Yamato ain't gonna 'cut' it here. Not with my skill with the blade. And with the power behind his attack if it hits the ground and explodes it'll cause serious damage. The Captains down there'll be fine but the others… I've gotta stop this meteor before we go the way of the dinosaurs. And if a sword won't do the trick, then I'll give Ares a little kiss…' Power began to coalesce around Nero's Devil Bringer, the scaly appendage glowing so bright it was like his right arm were bathed in royal blue flames. '…from a 'Rose'!'

The ground shook around Nero's feet. Pebbles and gravel rising inches off the ground, levitating in the air. The atmosphere became a thick, roaring miasma, a crucible of demonic and spirit power. Had any mortal weaker in power and fortitude than a Lieutenant-rank Shinigami been within Nero's vicinity they would have broken, falling prey to primordial fear and madness from the wretched dark power he possessed.

The blue light around Nero's Devil Bringer pulsated. Deep red sparks of light flashing amid the myriad of blue. His spectral familiar melting away, the blue light which formed its body shrouding over Nero like a fiery blanket.

"You brought the disco ball, Ares. I'll bring the lights show to close the party!"

Nero whipped out Blue Rose from its holster on his left thigh. He channelled both his demonic and spiritual power he'd been charging into the dual-shot revolver lacing the two bullets in chamber with his Reiryoku. He aimed the barrel at the comet of metal hurtling towards him - such a big target, it was like shooting a blue whale in a barrel for someone of his gunslinging skills.

Prior to coming to this world, a demonic powered Charged Shot from Blue Rose was the pinnacle of Nero's ranged attacks. But with all the powers, abilities and skills he'd picked up since coming here and having honed those skills with Urahara, Tessai and of course Yoruichi's teachings, Nero was packing more up his sleeve than a simple 'Charged Shot' now.

He raised his Devil Bringer, still pulsating with red and blue light, and aimed a closed clenched fist at the metallic meteor along with his gun, rays of red light breaking through the gaps in his fingers of his closed fist. Then, simultaneously, he pulled the trigger of Blue Rose and opened his demonic hand. A brilliant beam of blue energy with two bullets at the forefront came from the twin barrel of Blue Rose, along with a violent red beam from his Devil Bringer. The blue beam of condensed Reiryoku from his Charged Shot and red ray from his Cero hurtled towards Ares' meteor with blitzing speed. As the two separate beams got closer to the metallic sphere, they converged on the other inch by inch, until soon the two beams began spiralling around the other before merging into one single dark purple beam, almost the same colour as Yoruichi's hair which made Nero chuckle fondly.

This… Charged Shot Cero? - Nero could think of a name for it later - moved at a far greater speed than either separate attack did and was packed with far greater power. It wasn't quite on the level of a Gran Ray Cero which according to Kisuke only Arrancars like Alvaro could use, as he needed an Arrancar to teach him how to use one as Kisuke said, but it was close enough that when the beam of condensed demonic and spiritual power impacted the metallic meteor head-on it caused a mighty explosion so great the flash was akin to a nuke going off, and the boom just as deafening. A small mushroom-like cloud rose from the ruined castle and a tsunami of dirt and dust created by the shockwave swept all in its path down the mountain ripping trees from their roots. Pieces of metal rained down from the sky from the shattered meteor.

The immense blast was so great the Shinigami on the ground were sure none inside the confines of the castle could survive it. And made Yoruichi's already heavy heart sink ever more so in an ocean of gut-wrenching despair.

The shield which encased the Shihoin Castle and Erine's Temple – which were both now little more than rubble thanks to Nero's attack – already weakened by the loss of the Ygdrassil which powered it and several slashes from the Yamato, couldn't withstand the force of the blast and shattered to pieces.

Surrounded by thick smoke, Nero was coughing up his lungs. Waving his hand in front to clear some of the smoke. "Damn… Talk about ending the party with a bang. Think I might've overdone it a little. Ah well, like they say: Go big or go home."

Having used up most of his power with that final attack, Nero's Reiryoku dropped to the point he could no longer sustain his Devil Trigger. His ghostly brother dispersing like snowflakes on the wind, his eyes returning to their soft blue and guttural voice that would make even a man who'd been chain-smoking fifty a day for sixty years feel inadequate left him.

As more smoke began to clear enough for Nero to see the damage he'd caused. He spotted Ares several feet away standing feebly atop a pile of rubble that must've been the tower he were atop which had collapsed in the blast. Just looking at him, covered in wounds, blood, and grime, his legs trembling to the point he could only keep his balance by using his golden sword as a crutch, let Nero know the Olympian was done for without need to sense his near empty Reiatsu. The red aura and eyes of his conflict-enhanced power were gone. Leaving only a frail, battered, and beaten man in its wake.

"What's wrong? Was that the best you got?" Nero joked through panted breathes, he felt just as exhausted as Ares looked but refused to let the Olympian see his weakness.

But Ares downcast, almost wistfully accepting expression let the Devil Hunter know the 'God' was past playing along with his taunts.

"It's over, Ares. You've lost," Nero stated directly. "I'd tell you to surrender, but I get the feeling that's not the type of man you are. So… What'll it be?"

Nero locked eyes with Ares. Nero's narrowed own glinting with resolution and Ares devoid of anything but rue. The once proud Olympian now resembled a beaten man, both in a literal and figurative sense.

Ares was silent for what seemed like an eternity, before taking a deep breath and speaking in a voice which was just as weak and trembled just as much as his body.

"I think you already know the answer." The Devil Hunter gave him what might've been a respectful nod. "Before that, indulge this old warrior's curiosity one last time, will you?" Nero waited. "There will come a day when you and all your Shinigami friends will be happiest, and that joy will turn to ashes when the demons come. All those you care for will die. You and the Gotei 13 have the power, yes. But you don't have the numbers. We needed the Wild Hunt. We needed to unite what few mortal worlds still exist beyond the Reio's Realms. You didn't fight Arkham because you sought the power of the Force Edge, nor for glory. You did it because you knew if the 'wall' separating the Demon and Mortal Worlds collapsed and the demons came pouring in then every mortal on every world would die. Yet you refuse to accept my truth because of what? Pride?"

"Pride?" Nero scoffed. "Fuck my pride. This has nothing to do with that."

Ares pressed on, ever intrigued. "Then what? Don't tell me the sole reason you're fighting me and dooming all mortals is because I injured the Shihoin princess you share your bed with."

Nero was silent for a moment, as if he himself wasn't entirely sure what his reason for fighting Ares was. Until he found his answer.

"I won't lie. The moment you hurt Yoruichi and sent your dog after Yushiro I've wanted nothing more than to rip that self-righteous head off your shoulders. But it's more than just that. Your idea of 'peace' is nothing more than slavery: Forcing everyone to bow down and do as you command. And maybe you're right. Maybe uniting all mortals is the best chance we have if the demons do return. And maybe it was a mistake for me to stop you." He adopted a look of absolute resolve. "But the freedom to make my own mistakes is all I've ever wanted."

Ares lips curved ever so slightly. "I see. I may not agree with your anarchistic philosophy, but I respect it. Now then, I believe it's about time we…"

"Ended this." Finished Nero, as he summoned the Yamato, getting into a fighting stance.

The Devil Hunter and Olympian gave the other a small nod. Accepting, and almost respecting, their honour.

The golden longsword of Ares' glinted in the sunlight as his raised it high, fighting just to keep his legs up. "You have proven yourself as Sparda's kin with your power. But Sparda was more than just a strong brute. He had a sense of justice and honour that bested any mortal. He was devil, a man that was willing to give everything to protect the weak and those he loved. That is what the Dark Knight was." He settled into a stance of his own.

The two men charged at the other from across opposite ends of the war-torn castle courtyard laden with rock and rubble. Droplets of sweat and blood ran off Ares in the wind as he darted towards Nero. Nero's signature coat fluttered out behind him like a cape. Once the two men were less than ten feet apart, each one raised their swords to strike…

When now, up close as he was to the young part-demon, Ares' eyes winded as memories of days gone by overwhelmed his mind. And he saw not a white-haired teenager wielding the Yamato, but the chivalrous Dark Knight in all his winged glory in the same pose he'd been when he'd struck down the Prince of Darkness.

'He truly is… the heir of Sparda…' That was the revelation which dominated Ares' mind as the Yamato cut clean through his abdomen, the rocks behind the last Olympian stained crimson from the spray of blood.

It was the darnedest thing. When Nero slashed the Yamato at Ares so fast it was but a silver blur cleaving the wind in two, Ares made no attempt to block or counter the move. In fact, Nero swore it looked like Ares had even lowered his guard, leaving himself open to the mortal blow.

Both men ran a few more steps, crossing paths before coming to a stop, their back to the other. The clatter of metal on rock echoed as Ares dropped his golden sword, before collapsing to the ground on his back with a thud. A pool of blood quickly spreading, his waist only held together by less than an inch of flesh and bone that hadn't been sliced through.

Throughout the long and arduous battle, Nero had been fuelled by adrenaline and willpower. Now that he knew it was over it suddenly dawned on him how exhausted and weak he was, and thus took a series of long breaths. He'd used up most of his Reiryoku and healing factor had been working overdrive. He dismissed the Yamato and wiped the cake of grime from his brow, running a hand through his tangled hair damp from sweat and blood. He could feel his body wobbling. He felt as though each of his arms and legs weighed as much as anvils it was so hard to move.

'Damn… I feel like shit.' Not since his battle against Sanctus had he been pushed this far. He'd even been forced to use his Devil Trigger, which burnt through his Reiryoku like it were dry wood to fire. And while his healing factor meant he could survive what would be fatal injuries to others, it had its limits. And its potency depended on how much Reiryoku Nero had it could use, which right now was near empty. It was for this reason the deep gash by his left ribs where a stray piece of shrapnel from the exploding meteor had impaled him wasn't healing even after he pulled it out. 'I really feel like shit.'

He gingerly touched his wound, a big mistake as he was overcome by a searing pain. But he grit his teeth and bore the exhaustion and agony. 'So, this is what it must feel when you don't have any healing powers.'

The sound of metal scraping along the floor peeked Nero's ears. He turned and spotted the source of the noise. Ares' golden longsword dragged itself along the floor towards the demon-human hybrid. At first, Nero assumed it were Ares' doing, but the man's Reiatsu was empty and his life-force flickering out like a dying flame. The blade floated off the ground, standing vertically, the tip pointing to the sky. Once it got close enough that Nero could see his beaten and battered reflection in its shining surface, the sword was engulfed with a bright red light.

Once the light died down, the elegant golden longsword had gone. In its place was a brutal, barbarian-like oversized battle-axe with a black and red colour scheme. The long handle of the axe was pitch black metal, and taller than Nero by a head. The axe head itself was almost as large as Red Queen. It was curved like most bearded axeheads and had sharp saw teeth-like protrusions so that when it cut into a foe it would tear there flesh like a saw. On the opposing side of the head where the butt of the axe was normally found, was the head of a war hammer. Most of the axe-hammer head was a deep red, as if stained with dry blood, but the bit of the axe and face of the hammer were a silvery-black.

Having seen this rodeo before, Nero knew just what to do. He cracked a cocky smirk and reached out to grab the battleaxe-hammer with his right hand. "To the victor go the spoils." Upon touching the shaft, the weapon dissolved into a blue hue and was absorbed into the Devil Bringer. "So that's what I get for defeating the 'God of War'. A battleaxe-warhammer, eh? Talk about cliché."

"Subtly was never my forte." The weak voice was barely audible with how mousy the volume was. Ares was having to pause after every other word to take raspy breaths, through gurgles of blood flooding his throat. "We have that it common."

Nero faced the god, his expression unemotional at the sight of the dying man he both despised for hurting the woman whom he adored with all his heart and understood he did what he did out of fear of demons. "Never expected you of all people to freely give me a Devil Arm."

"Makes two of us…" Ares managed to mutter. "Know this: all I did, no matter how abhorrent, I did to protect mortal-life. The armies of the Demon World are legion, and near infinite in number. Many of your Shinigami friends may have power exceeding that of among the greatest of Hell's Higher Devils, but even the brightest of light can be subsumed by an ocean of dark…" The light began to fade in Ares' eyes.

"Upon my death, you and the Gotei 13 shall be the only ones left to fight the demons. Use my weapon I have bestowed upon you well and prove me wrong that you can guard the mortals your way. Become the heir of Sparda."

Silence drifted between the two men. When Ares took one final deep breath.

"Before I pass, I must tell you something you ought to know. Come closer. Consider this my final request."

"Hey now, you're not gonna ask me for a kiss of life, are you? Sorry pal, I'm spoken for." That managed to get a small smile from Ares, which made Nero realise something was different with him. "Alright. I'm all ears."

When Nero got to Ares, he crouched down to his knees to hear him better as the man's meek voice had fallen to but a whisper. "Heed my warning, Nero, heir of the Dark Knight. A grave threat to all mortal-kind lurks in the shadows, awaiting its moment to strike. That enemy is…"

The day she'd had.

Yoruichi had almost lost her brother and thought she'd lost Nero. The two most important men in her life. The two men she cared for more than any. The two men she lov-

A storm of emotions raged inside the frantic Yoruichi as she raced towards her family's castle. She didn't even pay any heed to the wall of condensed air and tsunami-like wave of debris that the explosion which she instinctively knew was Nero's doing caused – he was always one for doing things flashy.

She jumped headfirst into the blast wave of the explosion as it raced down the mountain side, displaying her speed and agility by dodging all the rock, metal and trees. With a wicked spinning kick, she splintered a tree in half and fired a Hado #58 Tenran to tear a path through the wave of debris. She continued up the mountains rocky face via Shunpo, her mind subsumed by the torrent of emotions she'd never felt before which turned the woman renowned for her level-head and maturity into a distressed schoolgirl fresh out the Shino Academy.

Her heart thumped so hard in her chest she could feel it reverberate across her whole body. Nearly losing two people near and dear to your heart on the same day and nearly dying yourself will do that to you.

It's a sad fact of life than people don't realise how precious someone is to them until they're lost. Or in Yoruichi's case, nearly lose them. It makes you realise and come to terms with the very emotions and thoughts that have been swirling inside your heart for the longest time, but you chose to remain ignorant to them. Be it out of fear of rejection, pain, or simple insecurity.

As bad as this day had been for the Shihoin princess, it had at least given her a clarity she sorely needed: She would no longer pretend.

"Nero!" With the shield gone, Yoruichi had been able to reach her families ancient castle unimpeded. Trudging through the ruins, she searched for the man who could make her heart sink in despair, or warm in adoration.

'His Reiatsu's close. But it's so feint. He's pushed himself to his limit and is suffering the consequences. Dammit, Nero! How many times have I told you, you're healing factor makes your harder to kill than most but you're still mortal. I swear, if you die on me, I'll hunt you down in the afterlife and smack you around like a mouse.'

After cresting a hill of rubble in what she assumed must've once been the courtyard of her family's old domain, her eyes widened and gleamed with calming serenity and elation at the sight of the sun glinting off white hair. 'He's alive. Thanks goodness.' She chuckled dryly in her own head. 'Listen to me. I sound like some soppy little girl in a cheesy pre-teen romantic drama.'

She may have joked, but in truth, Yoruichi didn't care if she was being soppy or not. She couldn't hide how happy she was to know he was alive and hadn't in fact left her alone in this world.

Unbeknownst to the Devil Hunter himself of the pain and worry his dwindling Reiatsu had been causing the woman who was his rock in this world, he remained kneeling beside Ares. A look on his face that could just as easily be mistaken for disturbed as it could confounded.

"Heed my warning well," managed Ares, in a voice so weak it was like a gentle wisp of wind. "And Godspeed, young Nero. You'll need it… for the darkness which looms ahead…" The final bit of light faded from Ares' eyes, his body limp. The last of the Olympians had breathed his last breath.

Nero remained silent for some time after the Olympian's passing, focusing on the words he'd said to him. "Adiós, Soldier Boy. See ya' on the other side." As Nero focused on Ares' Reiatsu fading to nothing, he felt an all too familiar spiritual presence approach him. One that always made him feel warm and fuzzy inside. "The sexy ladies are supposed to arrive before the party. Not after."

The purple-haired fighter ran straight to Nero, so fixated on him that she didn't even hear his joke, and only noticed him kneeling beside another person once she was less than ten feet from him. "Is that…"

"He's dead." Nero stood back up straight, a wistful expression on his face.

"What's wrong?" Yoruichi asked.

"Nothing… It's just… Ares said…" Nero's shoulders sagged, waving a hand dismissively, "It's nothing. Just the ravings of a mad man on his deathbed."

Yoruichi knew Nero well enough to know he was perturbed by whatever it was Ares had said to him before dying, but respected him enough to leave it be until he was ready to tell her. "Regardless, with Amagai and Ares both dead, it means this is finally over."

"You took out Ares little bellboy, eh? That's my sweet little kick-ass kitty," Nero praised playfully.

To which Yoruichi boasted a proud mischievous grin, hand on her hip. "Was there ever any doubt?"

Nero chuckled. "With them both dead, the Yggdrasil destroyed, and the Wild Hunt still sealed in Purgatory, I think we've earned a well-deserved break. Maybe the Maldives again. What do you think?"

Yoruichi just stared at him with bamboozled, blinking golden eyes. "Uhm… "Ygrawhatsil?"

"I'll explain later. Trust me, it's a long story we'll need at least a dozen drinks and strawberry sundaes to get through." The two lovers shared a laugh, which caused the gash on Nero's side to ache like a hot knife dug into him. "Grraayyhhh!" He gripped his side, tensing his face and muscles in the pain.

Startled and concerned, Yoruichi ran right up to him. "Nero?! What's wrong? Are you alr-…? That's when she spotted it. A deep crimson stain on his jacket which he'd been trying to cover from her with his coat. The stain was getting larger and darker, trails of blood running down his jacket to pants to the floor. She pulled back his coat and got a better look at his nasty injury. Being a veteran warrior herself she knew how bad the wound was at first glance, inches deep and wide and organs pierced.

"You're hurt. Come on," she took his wrist in her hand and went to lead him away, "let's get you patched up. Captain Unohana shouldn't be too far awa-"

Nero pulled his wrist free from her grasp, not hard, but enough to cause her to pause. "Relax. No need to make a fuss. I'm fine." He acted as carefree as ever despite the searing sensation in his chest. "This little scratch won't be the death of me. If I can survive how rough you and I like to 'play' I can shrug this off no problem." She didn't seem to find any humour in his jest.

Yoruichi stared at Nero with confounded, blinking eyes. Her expression began to soften, "Nero…" she uttered gently.

She raised a hand to his cheek, and just as he began to think she were about to pinch his cheek and toy with him as he was her, he was walloped so hard in the face it made Nero see stars and sent him falling to the ground.

He rubbed his swore cheek. He sat up, dumbstruck by the unexplained attack. "Hey! That hurt. If you wanna play rough lets at least find somewhere comfortable before we- urrghhk!"

Nero nearly choked as Yoruichi griped her hand around his collar and pulled him by the scurf of his shirt so close her could feel the warmth of her breath on his face. Normally such proximity to her beautiful face elicited passion in him, but the furious golden glower of her narrowed eyes and snarling gritting teeth caused sweat to pour from Nero in fear.

"Keep talking like that and I'll be the death of you!" Yoruichi roared angrily. She proceeded to punch Nero in the gut over and over, with enough force to knock the wind from him to emphasise her point but not enough cause him real harm.

Too exhausted from his battle to try and defend himself, he took the light blows. He also knew it probably wouldn't end well for him if he tried to stop her. He knew Yoruichi well enough by now to know that when she's pissed, you: Leave. Her. Be. Trying to stop a pissed Yoruichi with force was like trying to wrestle a manic lioness. It wouldn't end pretty. And right now, Yoruichi was PISSED.

"You think just because you can heal better than most, you're invincible?!" The throbbing tick mark on Yoruichi's head. "You have any idea the type of shit show I've been through today! As if some scumbag beating my brother half to death wasn't bad enough, on top of that I have to deal with some hotheaded, foolhardy, cavalier, frivolous clown who's always jumping headfirst into the fire and treats life and death battles like they're a theatrical play in the park!"

"…" Nero pushed his luck in an attempt to quell her with a joke. "Was that last sentence describing me or you?! Grraayyh!" His nose was crushed from her headbutt. Blood began leaking down his face.

In blazing fury fuelled by passion and emotions Yoruichi continued to yell. "I thought I'd lost Yushiro! When I felt your Reiatsu drop I thought I'd lost you! You have any idea what that was like for me?! Thinking I'd be alone again?!"

Nero didn't say a word. He allowed her to vent her bottled emotions, a twinge of guilt rising in him as it only now dawned on him that of all the people today it was Yoruichi who'd suffered the worst.

Emotions softer than rage slipped into her voice now, her scowl melting into an expression much more sombre. "It's taken me over a hundred years to have some semblance of a family again and I thought I'd lost it all in a single day… But if today's taught me one thing it's that time is limited. You never know when you or someone your care for may die. So I won't pretend any more. With the dangerous lives you and I live our lives may end any day. So, I'll live mine to the fullest, and treat every day like it might be me last." Her expression hardened once again as she yanked Nero so close their foreheads were touching to really drive it home to him. "You understand that, ya' dopey-eyed numbskull?!"

"Yes! Yes! Yes!" Nero nodded rapidly, to appease her. Then he began to think on what she'd just said. "Uhm… Actually… I have no clue what you're talking about."

Yoruichi released her grip on Nero's collar and placed a hand over her forehead, giving it a much-needed rub and releasing a heavy sigh.

"You're hopeless. Honestly, I don't know who's denser, you or Ichigo. But I suppose that childlike ignorance is one of the things that makes you you. And I wouldn't change anything about you for the world." She said the last sentence with a smile brighter than any Nero had ever seen.

"Y-…Yoruichi…?" Her smile moved him a way only she could. His stomach getting filled with butterflies at the sight. When he locked with her laughing molten gold eyes, he swore they were glistening in the sunlight. As if water were in them. "Yoruichi… What are you…?"

Without warning, she bent down and embraced Nero in a tight hug.

"Back when I was helping train Ichigo to learn Bankai, I told him we all might die trying to rescue Rukia, but that's what friends must do. He stared me right in the face and said I was wrong. He told me "You don't die for those you love; you live for them". It's sad that it's taken me nearly losing you and Yushiro to realise he's right. And I want to live with you, Nero. I've never felt more alive than when I'm with you. But before we can do that, I need to tell you something. Something I think I've known for a long time now but have been too big a coward to say it…"

Nero's cheeks were bright red. A master of the nuances of women and romance he wasn't, but he wasn't so dense as to not understand where this was leading. A warm, fuzzy feeling swelled inside him. Starting in his heart and soon flooding his entire body. "Yoruichi…" He whispered her name sweetly as if it were the most beautiful word in existence.

Yoruichi pulled back. Her face was less than an inch from Nero's. Her enchanting eyes of molten gold shone as bright as the sun at dawn, foretelling the rise of a new beginning. "I love you, Nero…"

She pressed her lips against his. She felt him stiffen at first, but soon enough he wrapped his arms around her slender waist and pressed her against him, kissing her right back. The two sank into each other as if it were their last day on earth.

All the pain and worry of the day gone as the presence and touch of the other soothed them in ways words can't describe.

The two lovers remained like that. Holding the other in their arms as they kissed with intense passion and affection like they'd been told this was their last kiss and so made it their best and to last as long as possible.

Finally, from a combination of exhaustion catching up to him and a Devil Arm bestowed to him by a 'God' which was still in the process of merging with his soul, Nero went limp in Yoruichi's arms, drifting into unconsciousness.

As he did, the Devil Hunter heard a voice which sounded like Kyrie's. Whether it was a hallucination or memory was unclear. "You're not a monster, Nero. Only you think so. You deserve happiness just as much as anyone else. So please, for me, be happy. When you find someone that brings light to your dark world, never let them go."

Yoruichi's fight was long but I needed to showcase all the powers she has so I can use them in the future. Incluiding all her new ones and hinting at ones she may get in the future if you payed attention. Also, I only realised recently but despite how big this story is and that Yoruichi is one of the main characters I've only given her one real fight, against Agni and Rudra, all her other fights were either really short or I skipped over them completely, so I felt she deserved some love. Regarding the dragons she shot out her fists, thats a move similar to the one Dante uses on Mundus in DMC1 when you're flying through space. Thought it fight with Alastor being a dragon and all. Orochi Rakurai translates to 'Dragon Lightning Strike' or 'Evil Dragon Lightning Strike', as rakurai translates to 'lightning strike' and Orichi is the name of an 'evil' dragon in Japanese myth. I thought it fits Yoruchi's Shunk: Akuma Raiden Senkei quite well, given she uses Alastor, a demonic dragon, as the conduit for her form.

Yoruichi's Raika Devil Arm is based off of the Barbs of Scorn from Darksidders 3 and the whips from Bayonetta. Nero's Devil Arm (which I have yet to name as I don't think Nero would be willing to call the weapon 'Ares' after the man who attacked Yoruichi and her brother) is based off the Arbitter from DmC with a mix of Mjolnir and Stormbreaker from MCU, and Takemikazuchi from Bayonetta. If you guys have suggestions for the name of Nero's Devil Arm them give me your suggestions. Same with Yoruichi's, I'm considering just having Yoruichi keep the name Raika but if you guys can think of a better one I may change it.

Be sure to review the chapter, any and all feedback is appreciated. Till next time.

Well... I say "next time". I'm honestly on the fence of whether I should continue this story or not. I feel like my passion for writing has waned which is pretty clear given recent chapters and it's becoming increasingly harder to writer. And as some reviews point out the story has become perhaps a bit too little DMC and too much a Nero-Yoruichi action adventure story. I originally based this story on Ultimate Fairy, only instead of Ben 10 and Fairy Tail it'd be DMC and Bleach, and instead of Ben and Erza as the main characters it would be Nero and Yoruichi. This arc was always intended to focus on Nero and Yoruichi's relationship and it as always going to be Yoruichi's arc, like how the Soul Society arc is Rukia's, Arrancar arc Orihime etc this God of War arc was Yoruichi's. But I think I went to hard on that and turned this fic from a DMC-Bleach story to a Nero-Yoruichi one. And the combination of how hard it'd become writing the story, how large chapters are becoming and other issues I'm not 100% sure I should continue to write this story. I at least wanted to finish this arc for you guys, but whether I continue with the rest of the story or not is up for debate. Please tell me what you guys think, and be honest. Don't hold back. If you don't like how the stories going and think I should just call it quits say so. Or if you like the story and don't mind how it's evolved then say. I'm on the fence in the future of this story and really want your opinions. Thanks.