A/N: Hey there peeps. I hope everyone's fine given the current situation around the world. Hopefully, this will be over soon. We don't want the return of bleach delayed any further because of this ;). Just kidding. That shouldn't be our top priority now. Let's get down to business now. First of all, I apologize for yet another delayed update. I know I promised more frequent updates but...I honestly have no excuse other than life. Yup. Second, I made a change in the first chapter, a minor one. I just had to remove a couple of sentences which won't affect the plot of the chapter in any way. I had to remove it because I realized how fucked up the aspect of time in the Bleachverse is. Lastly, this chapter doesn't pick off from where I left chapter 2. Read it to find out. Check the endnotes if you still feel confused. Dive in!
Yoruichi had her hands folded under her bosom which just further accentuated the already well-endowed bust she possessed. But one look at her face and their arousal would be least of their concerns. She looked like she would erupt even with the slightest of the nudge to her rising temper. He needed to choose his words carefully. Not just him. He was glad that even Urahara was here and god knows the blonde man needed to learn restraint with his words, especially with Yoruichi. Thanks to that, maybe the dark-skinned bombshell might explode on Kisuke instead of ripping him apart. 'Great. Now I'm wishing to pit my caretakers from childhood against each. Mama would be proud of you boy' Ichigo thought, mentally scolding himself for it. 'This is so fucked up. Dammit!'
"Speak up Ichigo. Defend yourself. Say what you have to save that shameless butt of yours from this shit storm cuz I'm sure as hell that Yamamoto Sou-taicho won't be this patient to listen to your story. He'll just barbeque your ass straight into the Shin'ōchikadaikangoku." Yoruichi snarled.
"No need to scare him more than he already is Yoruichi-san, don't you think?" Kisuke sheepishly chimed in. But a death glare by her immediately shot his protests down.
Ichigo sighed internally. 'Looks like even Urahara-san can't save me now.' He shook his head in annoyance. Not at Yoruichi or the situation he's in but at himself. When did he start seeking help from others instead of standing up for himself?
"I apologize for what happened in the human world. It was unintentional and I most definitely didn't expect that to happen. But I'm not gonna make any excuses for myself. I will take full responsibility for what happened and face any punishment deemed necessary." Ichigo blurted out. He usually never blurts anything out. He speaks. But this time, it was different. He was ashamed and probably for the time in a few years, he was nervous. The last time he was this nervous was before his first meeting Aizen.
"Apologize? Responsibility? I don't think you any idea of the gravity of the situation here Ichigo? People could've died. Your actions not only put Abarai-kun, Kuchiki-san and the students at risk, but you could've also harmed the humans around. The very people you are supposed to protect." Yoruichi lashed out. Her chest was heaving in and out from the breathlessness. She looked furious and outraged. But most of all, Ichigo saw the disappointment in her golden eyes.
He just hung his head low in shame. He could understand her frustration, her anger and her disappointment. He let her down. He let Urahara down. But the blonde didn't say a word to reprimand him. In fact, he actively tried to save Ichigo from Yoruichi's infamous wrath. It frustrated Ichigo in a way. He knew he screwed up and he was ready to take on anything. But why was Kisuke not condoning what he did? He appreciated Urahara's support but he just didn't understand why he was being supported.
Kisuke watched Ichigo's reactions to Yoruichi's words. He observed the change in the orange-haired teen's demeanour shift from determined to confused. He understood why Yoruichi was so upset. She was the one who looked after Ichigo the most during the latter's earlier days. She was like a mother figure or a responsible older sister in a way. She had many expectations from the boy and Ichigo's genius and exploits throughout his adolescence did no good to lower them either. All it took was one blunder to for her to go from a proud mama to a prowling tiger on the hunt. And why was he constantly comparing Yoruichi to a mother figure? Was it because of her big and possibly supple... 'Now's not the time for that Kisuke' he mentally slapped himself back to the more pressing issue here.
"Ichigo, look up. Tell us what exactly happened. What, when, how, why, all of it. Ok? Be precise about it as well. Throw me a bone here now, will you?"
Urahara's words kind of surprised Ichigo. Everyone knew what happened. Well, everyone who needed to know knew that. The rest of the Seireitei was blissfully unaware of it. But no one bothered to ask him why it happened. Well, they knew why it happened, from a technical standpoint. He fucked up. End of story. But no one bothered to ask him why he fucked up. What exactly led to him to fuck up so bad. Everyone was just happy to know who to blame for it and be done with it.
But Kisuke was different. He always knew that. He was different from the rest, including Yoruichi. Yoruichi had a tendency to give in to her emotions some times which spells trouble in the upper casing. But Kisuke was always objective towards him. Not that he didn't care or their relationship isn't an emotional one but Ichigo noticed he would always get a benefit of the doubt from him. This time, he didn't try to question or understand it. He didn't want to insult Kisuke by asking why he bothered when no one else did. Kisuke always sees things and does stuff that nobody else would or could.
"It starts with me staring certain death in the face." Ichigo started.
Back in the human world
"Bakudo #81: Danku"
Ichigo cast a Danku without any incantation with the last of his reiatsu expending into the barrier. He knew it was a futile effort since he was certain that the barrier won't have enough reishi for a perfect Danku. It was pretty unstable and would most likely delay the ceros for a couple of seconds at best. He wasn't counting on it to save his life. They needed a miracle to get out of here alive.
As if the heavens just agreed with him, a huge thick wall of ice rose up just before his barrier collapsed. The ceros didn't move an inch forward and dissipated into the air along with the wall at contact with a huge blast. The sparkling ice crystals showered all over the place making for a majestic view in the dark night. Had it not been for the Gillians still lurking around, Ichigo would've taken a moment to appreciate the surroundings. Unfortunate for him, he wasn't blessed with that luxury. Even the heavens could grant him only so many wishes.
He cleared his eyes to see a short, petite girl in the standard shihakusho standing in front of him with her back towards him. She had black hair and a pale lilac coloured Zanpakuto which caught his attention. He had to agree that that was the most beautiful looking sword he ever laid his eyes. He couldn't take his eyes off of it for a while. It looked divine, radiating in the dark night. Maybe it was symbolising how it was the shining ray of hope for them to leave this place alive.
"R-Rukia?" Renji stuttered in disbelief. He never imagined he would run into Kuchiki Rukia of all people, after so long, here in the human world, while he was on his butt looking a pathetic wimp. He didn't know whether to thank or curse his luck for this fateful encounter. 'I wish I was rather dead than being seen by her in such a pitiful state.' he thought.
"Are you planning on gaping with your ass stuck to the floor until you swallow the gillians whole Renji?" Rukia spoke as she slowly turned her head to look over her shoulder towards Renji.
'Tch. She's as cocky as ever if not more. I'm gonna kick her ass.' Renji thought as he tried to get up. But the exhaustion has really got to him and he barely managed to support himself on one knee with the help of his sword. 'Maybe not today. I don't think Zabimaru can be released anytime soon either. Going Bankai really had its toll on both of us. I still need to train more to perfect it.'
Rukia shifted her gaze towards Ichigo. "You're Kurosaki Ichigo of Aizen taicho's squad, correct?" She inquired, going stoic in a flash.
Ichigo just nodded in response. He didn't want to waste any energy in small talk now. The enemy is still at large after all.
"Imagine a fuku-taicho and a 3rd seat who is hailed as a prodigy throughout the Seireitei grovelling on the floor. That wouldn't make a good impression on the Gotei 13. In front of Shino academy students no less. Great way to set an example, you guys." Rukia said facing the gillians who were still processing the fact of a newcomer entering the battle fray.
That statement really has gotten to Ichigo and Renji because both of them were up on their feet, standing firm, blood coursing their veins more than normal, completely charged up and right up in Rukia's face.
"What the heck did you just say, you chibi?" Ichigo yelled with his forehead almost smashing Rukia.
"I'm gonna kick your ass Rukia. I don't care if I use every bit of my being to do that. Hollows be damned." Renji was spewing flames while he said that.
"Good. If you have enough to yell at me, then you can provide me with support to finish them off. Let's show those poor kids what a seated officer is capable of, alright?" Rukia said as she just diverted her attention back to the gillians.
"You don't need to tell me twice, Rukia. I'm a fuku-taicho for a reason ya' know." Renji said he gripped his Zanpakuto in it's sealed form. 'I need to do this without Zabimaru. I'll show those brats what it takes to reach the level of a fuku-taicho.'
"You stole the words right out of my mouth chibi. Renji and I will cover the flanks while you take care of the bulk in the middle. We don't have any reiatsu to expend so we can only support you using zanjutsu." Ichigo said he unsheathed his Zankaputo. It was a typical katana with a steel blade and a black hilt and blood-red rhombus markings on them. Renji watched Ichigo hold his sword and was marvelled how good Ichigo's form was. It was as good as a captain's. Not any captain's. It was as good as Kuchiki Byakuya himself. The angle, the grip, the positioning, everything was exactly as the textbook dictated. He looked like a master swordsman, a guy who practised with it for centuries. 'Why the hell does this guy doesn't use his sword more? I can tell just by looking at his stance that he's confident in his abilities with it. Then why?' Renji contemplated before getting ready to charge at the giant hollows in front of him.
Even Rukia had notice Ichigo and to say she was awed would be a total understatement. She knew zanjutsu was one of the areas she could improve her skills but her short and petite frame made it rather difficult to handle her zanpakuto as easily as a master swordsmen. Heck, even Renji was better at zanjutsu than her and she still wonders how did a blockhead like him become a fuku-taicho. The whole frame of Ichigo standing tall and holding his sword in front of him reminded her of one person. 'Byakuya nee-sama,' she wondered internally. Something Ichigo said before suddenly struck her. "Don't call me a chibi you jerk."
Ichigo just smirked and charged ahead without a word to take care of things on the left flank. Renji followed Ichigo's actions and went straight for the right flank. The gillians saw this and started to prepare for a counter-attack. But Ichigo and Renji were too fast for them. With the little bit of reiatsu they recovered from the tiny recess, they Shunpo'd their way through the hollows, ripping a couple of them each in their charge.
Rukia used this opportunity to close the deal on this whole thing. "Sode no Shirayuki: Tsugi no mai, Hakuren." Rukia called out the name of the dance and punctured the ground once, creating a large ice circle. She then went onto puncture the ground in front of her four times in a semi-circle. Ice particles began to flow up from the punctures she made in the ground and she took a battle stance to finish off her move. The particles built up at the tip of Sode no Shirayuki were released as a large, powerful avalanche of cold air. It flash-froze everything it came in contact with and encased the hollows in ice.
Renji and Ichigo just stared at Rukia almost gaping in disbelief. 'She finished it in one move.' Both thought incredulously at the scale of that attack while being in Shikai state. But Renji's disbelief disappeared and smirked. 'She's grown stronger.' he thought with a shake of his head. Ichigo just smiled and thanked the heavens that his fellow 3rd seat from squad 13 came to their rescue. They gathered around the barrier Ichigo set up to protect the students. It was slowly starting to fade and there were tiny cracks here there, indicating Ichigo's almost depleted level of reishi. With a snap of his fingers, he released the barrier.
There a collective sigh of relief from the students when the confining barrier was released. Worried glances were roaming all the over the place among them. Some just gave appreciative smiles while the majority of them flocked towards Ichigo, especially the girls. The guys split themselves among two groups and headed for Renji and Rukia.
Ichigo was overwhelmed by the appreciation he was receiving but it soon turned into annoyance when a couple of girls openly started to flirt with him. He tried to suppress his annoyance under the pretences of a sheepish smile but it was becoming rather difficult for him to dodge their advances.
Rukia was in a similar place, except the guys were hitting on her with the cool dude acts. One of them went as far taking her right hand to kiss on it only to be denied by the fingerless white tekkō gloves. But she seemed more confused by the flirting rather than being annoyed. Like she didn't understand why these guys were trying so hard to capture her attention.
Renji looked pissed. He wasn't sure which reason pissed him off more. Was it the fact that Ichigo had women flocking to him while he was surrounded by the lame dudes who were arguing whether his Bankai was a mummy dragon or an undead snake? Or was it that Rukia was being hit on?'
Ichigo and Rukia finally managed to brush off the admirers and headed towards a scowling Renji. "I already notified the soul society. Reinforcements to escort these students and you two back should be here soon." Rukia stated.
"We don't need anyone to escort us back. We can take care of it by ourselves." Ichigo grumbled feeling looked down upon. He didn't need anyone to babysit his ass back to the Seireitei.
"What about you? Are you not heading back with us?" Renji asked, looking worried.
Rukia shook her head in response. "I was given instructions to investigate this case. It's not a simple coincidence for so many menos grande level hollows to lurk around in the human world."
"Rukia, you shouldn't be doing this alone. This is dangerous. We barely managed to survive here. Who knows what will happen if you follow this trail now?" Renji said, the level of concern clearly rising.
"You can't tell me what to do and what not to Abarai. I'm not some damsel in distress who needs to be protected. I'm a proud member of Gotei 13 and the noble Kuchiki clan. I can take care of myself." Rukia shot back.
Renji clicked his tongue in annoyance. 'There it is again. The thing that drove us apart. The Kuchiki pride crap. Fuck this. If she wants to play the hero, fine.' Renji thought and started walking past her without a word, his face contorted in anger. Rukia was miffed by his attitude by decided to talk with the students instead. Ichigo just observed the exchange silently with raised eyebrows. 'These two seriously need to fuck' he thought with a glint of amusement in his eyes.
He suddenly froze in his tracks. His eyes widened, his hands quivering, legs weak and sweating cold. Similar was the case with Renji and Rukia although the same can't be said for students. They were on the ground, gasping for breath. Some managed to stay on their hands and knees while some were flat on the concrete, near comatose, sweating profusely.
The 3 full-pledged shinigami turned their heads towards the source of the reiatsu which put them in such a state. They couldn't clearly make out who or what it was, being so up in the air but they noticed it was gradually approaching. As the distance between them closed, the reiatsu intensified. The already exhausted Ichigo and Renji were struggling to stand their ground. Rukia was fairing better but she knew a confrontation isn't going to work in their favour.
The speed of descent suddenly increased and before anyone could react, Ichigo was dealt a nasty punch to his gut. He flew back and crashed into the nearby building at the impact. His shihakusho had a huge hole in the centre with a serious bruise on his torso right below his left ribs.
"Hi there. Looking for me?" A voice came above Renji. He was shocked to know the presence of their attacker changed. He didn't even notice when that happened. He saw a person with shoulder-length pink hair, bangs on the right side of his forehead, with two thin lines of missing hair on the left side of his head and amber eyes. He had a long shirt that covered his entire torso up to the top of his neck and white gloves. He had three stripes on his shirt, each starting at his collar with two running to each side of his chest and one down the middle. He wore the regular pants with a slight length taken away. His face was the only part of his body that's exposed.
'Who is he? A hu-' before he could finish his thought, he was kicked in the face, which sent him flying. The attacker had a nefarious grin on his face watching Renji bleed from his nose and mouth. He immediately disappeared from his place when Rukia tried to sneak up on him and slash him from behind. Rukia's eyes immediately landed on where he was. 'He's fast.'
"Who are you?" Rukia questioned him, standing her ground. She was ready to fight him but knew it was would be fruitless. The guy clearly has reiatsu levels comparable to that of a captain.
"Me? I'm Szayelaporro Granz, the Octava Espada." He said with an amused smile.
'Espada? Who are they?' Rukia thought.
Granz just smirked wider at Rukia's confusion. "I suppose you don't know about us? Well, they do say ignorance is bliss. In your case, it's a blissful death." He chuckled while trying to suppress it with his hand.
The communications department in the Seireitei was in a disarray. People were running around trying to make sense of the information they just received. The sudden spike in the reiatsu readings from Karakura town threw the whole department off balance. Kurotsuchi Mayuri was trying to figure out what caused such a steep growth. 'This is abnormal. Not inexplainable but definitely not something arbitrary. Interesting.' he mused.
"Akon, summon him here. He needs to be aware of this right now."
"Sir?" said a tall man with short, spiky black hair with a distinguished hairline running through it. He had three small horns protruding from his forehead. He wore a laboratory coat over the standard Shinigami shihakushō.
"Our delightful taicho of course." Mayuri replied, understanding Akon's confusion, sarcasm dripping in his words.
"I tried sending a Jigokucho but apparently, he's not anywhere in the Seireitei." Akon replied.
'HE DID NOT!' Mayuri groaned internally.
"The next thing I know, I was standing over him with my sword over his neck. That's when you came by and stopped me from killing Renji." Ichigo said with finality and sighed. Shame was written all over his face, his ears flush in embarrassment.
Yoruichi and Kisuke exchanged worried looks but the latter looked more stoic. He gave Ichigo a minute before posing the next question. " Are you saying you don't remember anything that happened between his appearance and mine?" His tone was more inquisitorial than what Ichigo liked.
"You think I'm trying to avoid the consequences by lying?" Ichigo hissed with his teeth bared out like an animal on a hunt.
"ICHIGO!" Yoruichi lashed out, gaining a blanched look from the said boy. "Watch what you're saying and who you're saying it to. You should know better by now just how much Kisuke cares about you."
"It's alright Yoruichi-san. I'm not hurt that Kurosaki-kun here got angry. I was actually counting on him to react as such." Urahara said smiling towards Ichigo.
'Why? Why? Why? Why is Urahara-san so...kind? Why doesn't he shout in return? Why doesn't he reprimand me? Why doesn't he not give a shit about me? Why?' Ichigo thought with a baffled face. He couldn't understand how a person could smile back when he was lashed out at. But before he could respond, a Jigokucho came flying into the room.
Yoruichi extended her hand towards it and it landed on her index finger. Yoruichi seemed to receive the message before her eyes squinted in suspicion. She took a deep breath with her eyes closed before turning her head to look at Urahara. "We are being summoned to a captain's meeting. Just the two of us."
Urahara's face remained stern, his grey eyes lost in thought for a moment before he forced himself to smile at Ichigo. "Well, Kurosaki-kun, it's time we head out there now. As far as I can tell, you won't be in much trouble. When you're summoned to the meeting, just tell them what you told me. And remember, none of this is your fault."
The squad 1 barracks, a usually quiet place was eerily silent now. As Kisuke and Yoruichi walked through the wooden corridors that lead to hall, the latter could feel the tension that hung in the air. Not something she liked in the current scenario. She was being weirdly apprehensive about everything from the moment the Jigokucho touched her. Something very similar to the one when she enters a battlefield against a formidable enemy. ' Why does it feel like I'm going up an enemy when I'm just going to a meeting with my fellow captains?' She didn't know. She didn't try to figure it out now, right before such an important meeting. She also didn't understand why Ichigo wasn't summoned. But she decided against thinking too much about it. She trusted the Gotei 13 to judge this appropriately.
When she entered the meeting hall, she found all the captains lined up in their usual places, except for Zaraki. She wasn't surprised. He usually skips or makes an appearance right before the end of these meetings. She silently headed towards her place while nodding her head in greetings towards the other captains.
Kisuke, on the other hand, seemed a lot less anxious with a cheeky smile on his face. " Good morning my fellow captains." He greeted. All the captains except for Shunsui and Ukitake glared at him for his aloof attitude in such a situation. Ukitake suppressed a smile and tried to look reprimanding but failed while Shunsui had an amused smile.
"I thought you'd take this more seriously, Kisuke-san."
"I am serious about this Kyoraku-taicho. I sensed the tension in the air and wanted to start off on a lighter note before things start to get heavy around here." Urahara replied to Shunsui.
"That's enough!" Yamamoto roared. Well, not so much as roared but spoke. His deep voice and his seriousness about the issue on hand made it sound like that. Nevertheless, it had the desired effect. Silence reigned the room for a couple of moments before he spoke again.
"We are here to discuss the disturbances in the living world caused by Kurosaki Ichigo, 3rd seat of the Squad 10."
'Disturbances? More like an uproar.' Most of the captains sweat-dropped internally but knew better than to speak up.
"If I may interject Sou-taicho, I want to talk to everyone present here before a ruling is made over Kurosaki-kun," Urahara said as he stepped forward.
Everyone screamed internally at his stupidity to cut off the head captain of Gotei 13. The title aside, the person holding the seat was more to be feared. It can be argued that the man himself made the title scarier than it's actually supposed to be.
Yamamoto stared at Urahara through his squinted eyes before nodding his head in approval. Urahara bowed in appreciation in response.
"As everyone here might already know, Kurosaki Ichigo is being accused of attacking members of Gotei 13, namely Kuchiki Rukia-san of squad 13 and Abarai Renji-san of squad 6 in the living world a few hours ago. By the reports of both the victims, I don't think I have to mention what's the most disturbing thing about the whole incident. Kurosaki-kun donning a hollow mask during that attack. But I want to address another thing before that. The sudden appearance of the Arrancar."
At the same time, in a laboratory situated inside Las Noches was a profusely bleeding Szayelaporro Granz tending to his wounds. He staggered towards a rack and pulled out a vile filled to the brim with a dark blue liquid. He gulped the contents before they slipped out of his wobbling hands. He gasped and crashed onto the nearest chair unceremoniously, trying to get a grip on his life force before it abandoned him for good.
He knew his feelings and his rationale were at an impasse. His brain kept telling him that his feelings were only hindering his progress of recovery. He needed to take deep breathes and relax, allow his body to return to normalcy. He needs to rest, to sleep, to allow his brain to focus on repairing its container and nothing else. But his feelings didn't allow that. He couldn't relax. He couldn't sleep, breath and focus on himself. All his thoughts were focused on his excruciating revenge for one Kurosaki Ichigo.
'That bastard of an anomaly. He's no Visored. He's a freaking monster.' The mere thought of him made blood gush through his body which didn't help since he was sporting a huge deep gash on his torso, right from collarbone to his navel. "Ahhh! Fuck! Fuck!" Granz cursed in agony.
"Looks like you got more than what you bargained for huh?!"
Granz glared at the unannounced newcomer. It was common knowledge that Szayelaporro Granz had no love for his fellow Espada regardless of their strength or personality. People, in general, didn't really interest him unless they were deemed worthy as his research subjects. Since the Espada didn't fit into that, he had no viable reason to. But the person who disrupted his isolation was a different story. He annoyed Granz and ticked off all the wrong boxes. Be it the cocky and condescending attitude of his, or the sarcasm he displayed in place of the former two were just icing on the cake which is his personality.
"What are you doing here Grimmjow?" Granz hissed. In pain or displeasure was lost on the blue-haired Arrancar since his attention was on the bleeding wound of his peer. Well, calling Szayelaporro Granz his peer would be an insult if you asked him.
"Came down here to wish you a speedy recovery is all," Grimmjow said while he openly grinned with a glint of amusement in his eyes.
There it was, the sarcasm. It irked him to no extent. Maybe he should use Grimmjow as his test subject for the revenge he's planning on Ichigo. Nope. Ichigo was a special case. His revenge needs to be one of a kind, even if it means no prior experimentations. Kurosaki Ichigo was the only iteration he needed to perform to create the most harrowing vengeance in the history of man, soul or hollow kind. But for that to happen, he needed to think and Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez was only in the way.
"Get lost." Granz barked.
"You know, for someone who begged Aizen-sama to be the one to size up that brat, you're in a pretty bad state. He's gonna be disappointed."
Every word that left Grimmjow's mouth was an arrow towards Granz's pride and the former knew it. He was enjoying it. Revelling in fact that he was able to do that. Grimmjow never likes taking orders from anyone, Aizen being the only one who's orders he followed as begrudgingly as he might. But he jumped first chance he got when Ulquiorra asked someone to inform Granz to meet him as soon as possible. It allowed him to gloat at the wounded puppy.
Granz just bit his tongue. His time would surely come. Soon enough, he thought to himself. When that arrives, he would crush Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez like the bug he is, all the while sporting a maniacal laugh.
"What? Cat got your tongue?" Grimmjow asked in mock curiosity, the snide remark as clear as Las Noches's sky. "Well, I'll leave you to lick your wounds now. I just came down to inform you that Ulquiorra has asked you to meet him once you're done here. He's excepting a detailed report of your beat down...I mean, encounter." Grimmjow spoke as he left the Octava Espada alone.
'Fuck! That damn Ulquiorra! Acting all high and mighty, thinking he can order me around.' Granz cursed again. But he knew, he had no choice other than to comply. As much as he hated it, Ulquiorra has a higher standing when it comes matters like these in Aizen's absence. The top 3 Espada weren't involved in such subjects, much to the Segunda Esapada's charging.
"Arrancar?" Kensei Mugumura asked in a mix of curiosity and confusion.
"Yes. That's what he claimed himself to before disappearing. An Arrancar." Kisuke said piquing everyone's interest.
"What can you tell us about these Arrancars Urahara-taicho?" Aizen asked.
"You mean you let a threat like that getaway Urahara?" Kensei questioned, his disappointment unhid.
"Maa...I share your feelings Mugumura-san. But I have 3 unconscious seated officers of Gotei 13 and a bunch of Shino academy students on hand. I just couldn't leave them behind and chase after him." Kisuke responded a little too lightheartedly for the occasion. Everyone agreed with his reasoning but his tone made them think he was just using them as an excuse instead.
"Anyways, coming to Aizen-san's question. From what I observed, they are hollows. Very powerful ones that. Vasto Lorde if I'm right."
"Granted Vasto Lorde are powerful, they still shouldn't be that big of a deal for the Gotei 13 a Taicho or Fukutaicho. I don't see why we should discuss them instead and waste our time." Byakuya spoke, wanting to let know his opinion on his discussion. Never the one to hold back, the 28th head of Kuchiki clan.
"I agree, if they were mere Vasto Lorde Kuchiki-san. But you see, these are Vasto Lorde who have gained the powers of a Shinigami. A totally new race that transcended hollows and is extremely powerful." Kisuke said. More like stated with all the seriousness in the world.
Everyone was shocked at that. The usually stoic Byakuya, the ever smug Shinji and Kyoraku, the calm Unohana and Otoribashi, the composed trio of captains, Aikawa, Aizen and Ukitake, the stern Yoruichi and Mugumura, everyone. Even the head captain's eye widened at the revelation. The only one who sported a different look was Kenpachi Zaraki.
"Are they strong?" He asked, with excitement dripping in his voice, his bloodlust emanating through his aura.
"We might be in trouble if we are not careful," Kisuke replied austerely.
Everyone knew of Kisuke's rather aloof attitude for a captain. The only one who came close to that was Kyoraku. But Kisuke didn't make a captain without earning his peers respect. His intellect and perception was something which awed the captains of Gotei 13 from time to time. When he was serious, they knew he wasn't fucking around.
Zaraki's gleefulness knew no bounds at that moment. He was on the soul society's version of cloud nine, whatever it might've been.
"I have a theory to understand their origins. For a hollow to gain the powers of shinigami means to reach a new level in their evolution. A state which cannot be reached naturally. They were created by someone. They needed to have access to unfathomable amounts of energy to shatter the boundary between the existence of a hollow and a shinigami."
"What could possibly be a source for such powerful energy? I've never heard of something capable of doing that." Ukitake pondered out loud, ignorant of the three people who had knowledge of such an existence.
"A Hogyoku..." Yoruichi drawled in realisation.
Everyone raptly turned their attention towards Yoruichi who looked aghast. A million things started running through her mind. A million ways in which this situation could turn into the worst possible one. A million ways which would affect her, her close ones and the whole of soul society as well.
"A Hogyoku?" Unohana wasn't sure if she pronounced it right, but a swift nod from Urahara confirmed it for her.
"Yes. A project that I've been working on. I accidentally created one when I was working on stabilizing the souls of shinigami."
Why was Urahara bombing them with so many revelations today of all days, no one knew. They had a 3rd seat officer of Gotei 13 with potential to surpass the level of a captain, reiatsu already past that who recently turned out to be a Hollow. To top it off, the boy didn't even possess a Shikai despite having two Asauchi blades. It was only a matter of few more decades before Kurosaki Ichigo has surpassed the majority of the Gotei 13 captains. No one could see anyone surpassing Genryusai Yamamoto though.
Kisuke understood their feelings. He was just piling on their misery before the day even began. He was actually counting on it. The more they focus on this issue, the better the chances for Ichigo's case. But he also sensed a bit of confusion from them. A lot of questions seemed to be waiting for him. So he decided to make it easier for them explaining a few more things.
"I assure, there's another Hogyoku somewhere else out there, and someone with the understanding of its nature and behaviour. The one I created most definitely isn't cause of the creation of these Arrancars."
Something about Kisuke's words seemed strange. Although a few of them had a question or two about the relation between his creation and these Arrancars, no one questioned him or suspected him. Then why was he trying to defend himself? Something was definitely odd.
"Because...the Hogyoku I created, is right inside Kurosaki Ichigo."
E/N: This chapter is the set of events that took place between ch1 and ch2. I hope this isn't too confusing. Anyways, leave a review of your thoughts, compliments or flames. Just don't spoil the plot for others though. Special thanks to forgottenchildren for his kind words and appreciation. I hope to satisfy your expectations in the future. Thank you readers and have a good day. Peace out.