Although Jushiro had warned him about the increase in his paperwork, he was not prepared for the sheer amount of it that he found quickly flooded his desk. It seems that what stacks had first found it's way to his desk were little more than a trickle before the breaking of the dam. Deciding to forgo dinner and instead choke down a handful of hardtack, Kenzo plunges into the mounds of papers some of which are dated as far back as the start of the year. Tier had even come by during this time to inquire about his absence and then congratulate him on his promotion to Lieutenant.

After dismissing herself from the office, Jushiro and Kenzo ignore the time rapidly slipping away from them until a small black butterfly flutters through the window of the office. Jushiro receives it, extending a hand in it's direction and allowing the Jigokucho to land on a finger before conveying it's message. With a firm nod, Jushiro watches it flutter back out the window and stands.

"We have a meeting to attend, Kenzo," Jushiro says.

"Understood," Kenzo says, standing and hefting his Zanpakuto from it's resting place against the edge of his desk. "Allow me." He grasps the tsuka of his Zanpakuto and with two practiced swings, draws two thin lines in the air of the office which seems to almost shudder. While the young Shinigami carefully sheathes the weapon, Jushiro watches as the lines almost seem to fray at the edges and the sound of cloth ripping fills the office as they widen to reveal a world of muted and shifting grey scale beyond.

"Hooh! So, this is how you get around."

"Yes, Captain. Once we step beyond the thresh-hold, it is imperative that you stay close. The proximity to the Void distorts one's senses if they do not possess the 'Right' to walk this path. A lesson learned with Tier-san. So, if we should become separated...well, it would be best if that doesn't happen." Jushiro nods in understanding as they step through into this world. His senses assaulted immediately, Jushiro closes his eyes and raises a hand to rub at them with a wince. He's barely managed to assuage the pain stabbing at his eyes before his ears are assaulted by a chorus of strangely warped and chilling baying calls. "Please remain close, Captain."

"What are those?"

"Echos...harmless to us so long as you remain close."

"If I were to get lost?"

"...I do not know if they would remain harmless to YOU." With that the two begin walking, passing through areas that by Jushiro's estimation should be walls and even across the pond surrounding the Ugendo Quarters as if they were not there. The occasional muted voice hammers against the experienced Captain's ears as they walk, and by listening carefully he's capable of picking out the odd word here and there. Vaguely humanoid silhouettes pass them, and though Kenzo calmly strides through several Jushiro steps aside as they move. "They cannot interact with us here, Captain, as we cannot interact with them."

"I see." The world continues to shift as they pass, exchanging the Thirteenth for the Seireitei proper and after several long minutes the somewhat distorted walls of the First Division, and several humanoid silhouettes walking in the same direction. Kenzo comes to a stop and raises his Zanpakuto in front of him before waving it as though drawing back a curtain with his tsuka. Jushiro winces from the change in light before stepping through with Kenzo on his heels. The headache that had been pounding at his temples since entering that world seems to fade immediately and Jushiro breathes a slight of relief.

"Yo!" calls the voice of Shunsui, and both men turn to face the approaching Captain and Lieutenant. "That was a pretty cool entrance. Your handwork, Kenzo-kun?"

"Yes, Captain," Kenzo says, sliding his Zanpakuto under his obi. "One of my Zanpakuto's abilities." Shunsui nods in understanding, and Jushiro begins walking in step with him. Kenzo walks several steps behind with his Lieutenant Nanao Ise if he recalls correctly. "Good evening, Lieutenant Ise."

"Good evening, Lieutenant Ishioka," Nanao says, adjusting her glasses. "Although Captain Kyoraku didn't say it allow me to express our congratulations on your promotion."

"Thank you." A silence falls between the two as they follow their Captains to the First Division meeting hall.

"Oh, my," calls a voice from behind the two, and Kenzo glances over his shoulder quickly. Unohana approaches with Isane in tow, quickly covering the distance between herself at the two. "I wasn't expecting to see you accompanying Ukitake-san. Congratulations on your promotion, Ishioka-kun."

"Thank you, Captain."

"How are your ribs?"

"Healing wonderfully thanks to you and Lieutenant Kotetsu."

"I'm glad to hear that. In the future, make sure to visit the Fourth Division in the event of injury...rather than attempting to render aid to yourself, Ishioka-kun. It's what we're here for after all." Her tone, although relaxed, carries far more force than if she had shouted at him and he nods firmly in understanding. Although, he also understands that at times rendering self-aid may be a more prudent course of action he isn't foolish enough to voice that belief in front of her.

Approaching the meeting hall a swirling mix of Reiatsu greets them as they cross the threshold and take their places in line before the Head Captain. Kenzo stands several steps behind Jushiro in line with the rest of the gathered Lieutenants many of which fix him with a strange stare. Kenzo reasons that Shunsui and Nanao must have known about his promotion simply as a result of Jushiro's close friendship with Shunsui, and such news must not have circulated the Seireitei yet. The doors to the room slam closed, and the rap of Yamamoto's cane against the floor draws the attention of all present.

"Attention," calls Yamamoto. "We will now begin our meeting...!"

Arriving back to their shared office well sometime after sunrise, Jushiro and Kenzo find themselves seated in a silence, digesting the information of the meeting. Tomorrow would mark the start of their operation against Aizen, his traitors and his Espada. Four Captains to assault Hueco Mundo and assist Ichigo Kurosaki and friends who have apparently launched an attack on Aizen's forces while the rest would set out to a fake Karakura Town to challenge Aizen. Many of the Lieutenants would be involved in the operation but, unfortunately, Kenzo would remain behind here in the Soul Society.

Before Jushiro could interject, however, the Head Captain had surprised them all by giving Kenzo a task to be carried out. He would remain behind at the Soul Society with Tier more or less attached to his hip. In the event of attack of the Seireitei, the Division's would mount a defense and he would be there to ensure that she did not cause harm in any way. Kenzo stares at the paperwork in front of him, half finished before their departure to the meeting with the Head Captain, and then glances at Jushiro. The two men stare at one another for a few moments before Kenzo actually smiles and the two begin to chuckle. Laughter follows as they recline in their chairs, and after several long moments it finally tapers off.

"Aah...a glass of bourbon or scotch wouldn't go amiss right now," Kenzo says.

"I've never had bourbon or scotch," Jushiro tells him.

"You've never had scotch, Captain?"

"I can't say that I have. I'm not much of a drinker."

"I see. Well, that certainly won't do." Kenzo stands, hefting his Zanpakuto. "Please, wait a moment, Captain." With two practiced swings, he once again cuts open the fabric of reality and disappears within. Jushiro blinks in surprise as the quickness of his action, and after what seems to be no less than a minute, Kenzo once more reappears. In his right hand he clutches a pair of glasses and has a bottle tucked carefully under an arm. For a moment, Jushiro considers if perhaps Kenzo had run to the World of the Living, and sensing that he quickly puts such fears to bed. "My grandfather has an avid interest in Western Culture; from cuisine to reading material to spirits." Kenzo places the glasses on Jushiro's desk and uncorks the bottle. "He won't miss a bottle." He pours two glasses and places one in front of the experienced Captain along with the bottle.

"Macallen," reads Jushiro, staring at the label. "Twenty five years."

"A scotch whiskey. My grandfather's favorite brand."

"Haha~. I'm not so sure he won't miss it, Kenzo," laughs Jushiro lifting his glass.

"He'll forgive me." Jushiro takes a sip, and coughs slightly in response while Kenzo laughs a bit. "It's not to everyone's taste, Captain."

"No. It...It's good." Kenzo lifts his glass as well, taking a sip from it before sighing softly. "Are you worried?"

"Not for myself, no. But I am worried for the new recruits. None of them have faced a real Hollow in combat before so their odds of freezing up are-"

"Then, we'll just have to do what we can." Kenzo nods and takes another sip from his glass. "We should make the announcement to the Division...and let them have the day." The young Shinigami nods in understanding, quickly finishing the contents of his glass and placing it on the surface of the desk. Before either can move, however, the voice of Tier announcing her presence at the office door draws their attention and Jushiro bids her entry. The Arrancar steps into the office, eyes finding the bottle and glasses on the surface of Jushiro's desk for a moment before turning to the men. Oddly, Kenzo finds himself sliding his glass out of her direct line of sight as she approaches. "Good morning, Harribel-san."

"Good morning," Tier says. "Am I interrupting?"

"No. We were just discussing last night's meeting. I'll make the offical announcement after breakfast, but the Division will be taking the day off." Tier's brow furrows slightly and Jushiro clears his throat before explaining more or less what's to come the following day, including her attachment to Kenzo during any potential attack on the Seireitei. When he's finished his explanation Tier nods in understanding, her arms slowly crossing.

"Understood." Jushiro stands, sliding his glass in Kenzo's direction. He picks it up, considering it for a moment before tossing it back and placing it on the desk once more.

"Let's gather the Division..."

After gathering the Division to inform them of their day off, as well as the heightened alert they would be operating under the following day, most members had left to visit family or enjoy the day with friends. Kenzo, however, had made for his new barracks room which had apparently sat unused for quite some time given the fine layer of dust covering most everything within. After a bit of cleaning and transporting what few possesses he kept he'd bathed and was heading for the door when he'd found himself with an unexpected visitor in the way of Tier. Unsure exactly of what to do given the secrecy of the place he was planning to visit but...willing to extend her his trust he bid her follow and headed for the North Rukongai on foot.

As they walk, both make note of numerous souls that appear to be moving, heading away from the Seireitei towards the furthest reaches of the Rukongai. It seems that the Gotei 13 has ordered the souls to retreat from the surrounding walls for their own safety. Kenzo briefly wonders if perhaps it might not be a bad idea to ask Tsumugi to take the children and head further out for their own safety as well. In fact, it might be best to bring them into the walls of the Seireitei and temporarily place them at one of the Ishioka Clan's homes.

"Kenzo," begins Tier. "I hope that you are not planning to visit that man Nori."

"Hah. Just the opposite," Kenzo tells her. "I have another destination in mind. One that, until now, I've never revealed to anyone else within the Soul Society, Tier-san." With that statement, the two fall into a comfortable silence as the minutes tick away into hours, and the scenery changes around them. It slowly changes for neat, and perfectly maintained buildings to the more weathered and in some cases run down establishments that she had seen before in the further reaches of the Rukongai. The next time Kenzo speaks it is to confirm that they have nearly reached their destination as he leads her from the main road, and away from the congestion of the buildings towards a single outlying and surprisingly well-maintained building. Approaching the main gate of the large wall surrounding the building, Kenzo calmly pushes it open and strides inside.

"Aaah! Kenzo-oniisan~!" shouts an airy voice as Tier steps through behind him. A hoard of small children immediately charges in their direction one of which, a little girl with a shock of crimson hair, immediately leaps into his arms. He catches the girl with ease, supporting her with an arm while the others gather around, nearly knocking him from his feet as they hug him. "Obasan! Kenzo-oniisan is back!" The children take notice of Tier as she closes the gate behind her. She's not quite sure how to handle this information as she certainly hadn't expected anything of the sort. The little girl who calls him brother is clearly no relation to the young Shinigami, and clearly aren't any relation to one another. This place must be an orphanage. "Obasan, obasan! He brought a girl with him!" The little girl points an accusatory finger in her direction and Kenzo chuckles a bit.

"Emi-chan, it's rude to point," Kenzo gently chastises. "This is Harribel Tier."


"Tier is fine," Tier tells her, approaching. "You name is Emi?"

"Yup! I'm Emi! Do you work with Kenzo-oniisan?"

"I do. We'"

"So, you're a Shinigami, too?"

"N...No, not exactly."

"Children," calls a measured voice, drawing the attention of those present. An older woman stands several feet away, and Tier notes that despite age having weathered her face and streaked her hair with silver she nonetheless carries herself with an air of strength. "It is rude to congregate in doorways. Especially when we have guests." Several 'awws' sound as they droop their shoulders for a moment before returning to their game as if the two had never disrupted it. Kenzo gently sets Emi down but rather than return to the game she instead turns her attention to Tier, approaching and stopping in front of her. The little girl cranes her neck up to meet her eyes before flashing a gap-toothed smile. "Emi-"

"How come you're wearing that scarf? Did you get hurt?"

"Emi," Kenzo chastises.

"What? We know you have a bunch of scars, Kenzo-oniisan. You said they're nothing to be ashamed of."

"No, I said I'M not ashamed of my scars. However, it is still rude to ask others, Emi-chan." Tier considers the girl for a moment, her eyes burning with curiosity and then kneels down in front of her. "Tier-san."

"It's fine," Tier tells him. "Would you like to see, Emi-chan?" Receiving an enthusiastic nod in response, Tier reaches up towards her scarf. "As I said before, I'm not a Shinigami..." With a gentle tug she reveals the fragments of her mask for inspection by the little girl. "...I'm an Arrancar." What she was expecting from this reveal was perhaps some form of fear or perhaps even disgust...what she was NOT expecting, however, was for the girl's eyes to grow as wide as saucers as she steps closer.

"Ohhhh~! Tier-oneesan looks so cool~!" gushes Emi. For several moments the Arrancar is dumbstruck, and even more so when Emi actually reaches out and gently prods her mask. "Ohh~! It's feels warm even though it's so tough!" Regaining some semblence of rational thought, Tier glances in the direction of the other children who all stare in wide-eyed amazement at this new person who has appeared before them. Not a 'Shinigami' but an 'Arrancar' whatever that might.

"Emi," Tsumugi says. "You cannot touch others without their permission." Perhaps realizing her mistake, or perhaps because Tsumugi is clearly the disciplinarian to the children rather than Kenzo, Emi steps back and offers her a small bow.

"I'm sorry, Tier-oneesan."

"It's alright," Tier assures her as she stands.

"Tsumugi-san, may we come in?" Kenzo asks. "We have...something to discuss." The older woman nods, and motions towards the large home. As soon as Tier begins to follow, however, a small hand grasps the sleeve of her kosode tightly and she glances down at Emi. The little girl does her best to appear pathetic and Tier feels a strange pang of guilt as she stares at the girl's face. Turning her attention to Kenzo he nods in understanding and follows after Tsumugi while Tier allows Emi to pull her towards the other children. What occurs next is a whirlwind of activity as the children encourage her to engage in their games ranging from hide and seek to tag and even a small game of soccer. This is, of course, broken up by the bombardment of questions from the children...but there's one that gives her pause more than the others.

"Tier-oneesan, what's an 'Arrancar'?" Emi questions.

"It's...something bad," Tier tells her.

"It's bad?" asks a little boy, confusion appearing on his face. "Tier-oneesan isn't bad?"

"I am. Just not as bad as the others. If you think you see another Arrancar like me then you should hide until a Shinigami comes or...until Kenzo or I find you."

"Do you fight Hollows?" Emi asks, and Tier's brow furrows slightly. "Kenzo-oniisan doesn't want us to know he does but..." He raises a hand and points her thumb at her chest with a grin. "...I know he does! Kenzo-oniisan was the one who brought me here, after all! I know exactly what he does!"

"Kenzo brought you here?"

"Yup! He saved me from a Hollow and brought me here! He doesn't think I remember but I definitely do!"

"Yes, Kenzo is a good person like that. Speaking of..." Tier glances around for a moment before turning her attention back to the house. "...I should find him." A collective groan sounds from the children as Tier heads for the large house. As she reaches for the door it slides open slowly, and Tsumugi gasps softly in surprise. "Tsumugi, is Kenzo-" The woman raises a hand, gently pressing a finger to her lips in a shushing motion.

"My apologies, Harribel-san," Tsumugi tells her. "We had finished our conversation, and I was preparing tea when...well, it is best to see." Motioning for her to follow, Tier trails after the woman through the home to a small sitting room. Kenzo sits seiza with his back to the door in front of small table with his head lowered. Deciding to entertain Tsumugi's warning, Tier carefully circles around and sighs softly when she notes his closed eyes. This man seems to have well and truly fallen asleep sitting up though his Zanpakuto remains within grasp on the floor beside him. Her brow furrows slightly as she examines the Zanpakuto she's seen countless times before.

To her memory, it should possess an orange wrapped tsuka and a square brass tsuba. Though now, it's changed to a grey color and possesses a black oval tsuba. Briefly pondering what could have caused this change, Tier kneels at his side before she reaches out and gently grasps his shoulder.

"Kenzo." His brow furrows and his head snaps up immediately as he scans his surroundings. The quickness of his movements catches her off guard for a moment, and she releases him as his eyes fall upon her. "Easy. You fell asleep." Kenzo processes the words through the cobwebs of sleep, and finally nods in understanding as he reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose.

"I see," Kenzo says, voice slightly hoarse and lacking its usual strength. It's a decidedly vulnerable tone, and one Tier had only once before heard from him. "My apologies for making you wait, Tier-san. We should return to the Thirteenth." He retrieves his Zanpakuto, the weapon seeming to hum and change under his touch before it once more resembles the form she'd become accustomed to. Along with this change, Tier senses a subtle shift in his Reiatsu as it rises before he seems to suppress it. "Tsumugi-san, thank you for having us. Please consider what I've said."

"Yes, Young Master," Tsumugi tells him as he stands. "Please, do not hesitate to return. The doors are always open." The woman bows as Kenzo leaves the room and Tier makes to follow. "Harribel-san...thank you for taking care of the Young Master. This old woman's heart feels more at ease, now."

"Kenzo," begins Tier, stepping past her with the older woman following. "Has done far more for me than I have for him."

"I believe that perhaps your presence does more good than you could imagine. Truthfully, I have not seen the Young Master smile so brightly in quite some time, Harribel-san. This old woman was sure that such things would return to visit her only in her dreams." The Arrancar remains silent though a small pang of some emotion races through her missing heart.

"I...shall do my best, Tsumugi..."