To Save Rukia

Rocking the Boat

Byakuya felt a twinge in his left hand. Looking down, he watched in slight irritation as his compromised hand reached up towards his face. With no hesitation, his blade sliced the tendons below his elbow. His own blood splattered his cheek as his arm fell limply to his side.

Hanatarou cried out in shock, taking a step forward. "Ku..Kuchiki-taichou! What are you-"

"Step back, Yamada Hanatarou. See to the shinigami girl."

Hanatarou looked at the captain for a moment, still baffled, then finally at Rukia laying facedown nearby. "H…Hai!" He ran towards her.

"How terrifying. Such a cold decisiveness towards parts of your own body that you have lost sovereignty over." Zommari speculated aloud. "However, in my eyes, your decision seems a little careless."

Byakuya continued to patiently stand in place as Zommari rambled.

"Of your four limbs, only your right arm and leg remain. Challenging an espada such as myself with only one leg and arm is quite arrogant. Don't you think?"

"The difference in our power is separated by as much as heaven and earth. It must be a distressing affair that though I fight with just two limbs, you are still very far from being my equal." Byakuya calmly spoke.

Hanatarou stopped to stand near Rukia, his eyes showing alarm as he took in her numerous injuries. "Poor Rukia-san…" Hanatarou crouched next to her still form. "Rukia-san, let me move you to a safer location so I can treat your wounds." When he received no answer, he rolled her gently onto her side, her hair hanging over part of her face. "Rukia-san?"

A frown grew on Zommari's face at Byakuya's statement. "Such a pity. You have less comprehension than I thought. There is one thing I have forgotten to tell you." Zommari watched with satisfaction as he caught a glint of annoyance in the captain's eyes.

Fearfully, Hanatarou bent his head towards Rukia's face and, to his relief, saw she was still breathing. Suddenly, Rukia opened her eyes and tilted her head a bit to look at Hanatarou. Her eyes looked unfamiliar, almost vacant, giving him a slight start of surprise. "…Rukia-san…it's me, Hanatarou…" She continued to gaze at him without a sign of recognition, making him begin to feel uneasy. "I'm here to heal you, Rukia-san…it's ok now..."

"These eyes of mine control one target each. Earlier I used two eyes when I attacked." Zommari continued to look pleased with himself as he saw Byakuya give a slight hint of a frown. "This means that there is something else that I have taken control of."

Byakuya's eyes widened with realization as he spun around just in time to see his fear become reality as Rukia swiftly stood and sliced a bewildered Hanatarou across his chest with his own sword, blood flying. Byakuya flew towards her.

"Don't move!" Zommari commanded.

Within an instant, Rukia was holding the blade to her own neck. Byakuya immediately halted a few yards in front of her.

"It's true that one eye can rule only one location. However, if I rule the head, then my reign extends over the entire body."

Byakuya had been looking solemnly at Rukia, and now turned to look over his shoulder at Zommari, a look of disapproval on his face.

"You have lost. Throw down your weapon, nameless captain."

Still with his back to Zommari, Byakuya gave a second's pause, then released his sword from his hand, letting it drop to the ground.

"Bakudou number sixty-one, Rokujou Kourou." Byakuya's incantation sped towards Rukia, the rods of light enveloping her form before Byakuya's sword had even clattered to the ground.

Zommari clenched his jaw in anger as he tried to exert his control over Rukia, causing her sword to shake in her hand, but he could not make her move. "What is this?! How dare you!"

The voice of the name-less captain came from behind him.

"Your "reign"? In my presence, such a thing holds no meaning. Bankai. Senbonzakura Kageyoshi."

Zommari looked around in growing apprehension at the swirls of petals surrounding him, blocking his view of his surroundings. "You swine! Is this all?! I…I shall control them with all of my eyes!"

A small opening appeared through the petals, revealing for a moment where an apathetic Byakuya stood. "Enough. The number of eyes on your body is fifty. With those mere fifty eyes, just which one of these hundred-million blades that blot out the sky do you intend to take control of?"

Zommari looked above in wonder at the infinite mass of blades surging around him. He felt like he was standing in the center of a funnel.

"You told me it was "pointless". That in the end, I could do nothing." Byakuya continued coldly. "I shall enlighten you. Situations like the one you are in now are what are known as "pointless"."

The hole in the funnel of blades closed, obscuring the captain from Zommari's view. Zommari's eyes widened as the direness of his situation began to sink in. Not knowing where the captain was outside of the wall of shards, he began to shout curses at the captain.

"Be swallowed by the throat of blades and disappear." Byakuya spoke over the sound of the whirling steel petals, finality in his tone. "Goukei, Senbonzakura Kageyoshi."

An explosion rocked the area as the blades pounced on their prey.

Inoue gasped as she steadied herself, her shield rumbling with the shocks of Byakuya's attack. She had brought Nel back over to Ichigo, and had nearly finished with healing Nel when Ichigo had yelled for her to bring up her shield. His warning hadn't been a moment too soon.

As the force of the attack died down, she glanced over at Ichigo, who was laying on his stomach, an arm over his face as he squinted to see beyond the thick dust and sand to where Byakuya, Rukia, and Hanatarou had been.

Removing her shield, she looked back in the same direction Ichigo was, clasping her hands to her heart. "Everyone…please be ok…"

Ichigo heaved a sigh of relief as he saw Byakuya's figure alight on the sand, and a box of light surrounding Rukia and Hanatarou; evidently Byakuya's strategy to protect them from the oncoming onslaught he was about to unleash on the espada. Looking at Rukia, Ichigo saw she still stood with the rods of light in her and the sword next to her neck.

With a sudden realization of a pain in his hands, Ichigo inspected his palms and gave a short humorless laugh when he saw that he had clenched them so tightly that his nails had drawn blood. "Guess I got a little tense back there with Hanatarou and Rukia almost getting killed..." He had watched helplessly in growing anger when Zommari revealed he had taken control of Rukia and caused Hanatarou to be hurt. Now looking back up towards Byakuya, he couldn't help but admire the captain. "Much as the guy rubs me the wrong way, he sure does know how to fight to protect…."

Byakuya gazed at his left hand, noting the sun-shaped mark had not disappeared. "Such obstinacy." He turned to look at a ball of flesh that enclosed Zommari within it. Blood seeped down its sides and was pooling around its base.

A lone hand suddenly burst out of the top of the ball. Breathing heavily, the top half of Zommari slowly appeared.

Sakura petals came to swirl around Byakuya's blade as he sternly eyed Zommari.

"You swine…you swiiiine…I will not stand for this!" All of Zommari's fifty eyes opened and turned black, combining themselves into a single launched attack to gain complete sovereignty over the captain.

"Bakudou number eighty-one, Dankuu."

Zommari stared in disbelief as his large attack collided with a barrier of light, stopping it in its path.

"This is a protective wall that completely shuts out any hadou numbered eighty-nine and under." Byakuya calmly stated. "Based on the fact that I was able to halt Rukia's movements with Rokujou Kourou, I determined your power was akin to kidou." Byakuya's eyes flickered menacingly. "It would seem I was not mistaken."

"Curse you! Curses! Take my attacks! Take them!" Zommari began to wildly fling his attacks at Byakuya, all of them failing to break past the wall of light. He suddenly flinched and became completely still as he felt a blade at his neck.

"Your impatience has narrowed your vision. Your reputation as the fastest espada suffers."

Zommari slowly tried to turn his head to look at the grim captain behind him. "Have mercy..."

Met only by hardened eyes, Zommari began to tremble. "What is with those eyes…? Are they saying you will not pardon me? Or that you will cut me down? Or…that you will judge me? Do you still not understand that is what is known as arrogance!?"

Zommari launched away from the sword and created some distance between himself and the captain. Byakuya's face wore a blatant lack of concern over the espada's escape, adding to Zommari's rising feelings of desperation.

"You shinigami cut us down as if that were the natural thing to do! Do you believe that you have become gods!? Just whose permission did you get to kill us hollows!?"

Met by silence, Zommari took it as a sign to continue his tirade. "Is it because we consume humans!? If so, who gave you the right to protect them?! Not a single person gave you that right! Shinigami judging hollows to be evil and cutting them down! It's nothing more than conceitedly believing that justice lies in their hands! You are all-"

Zommari stopped short as the captain appeared at his shoulder, walking past him as though they were merely passing one another by.

"When did I say that I would cut you down as a shinigami?"

A burst of blood sprayed from Zommari's chest as he stared in stupefaction behind himself at the captain.

Byakuya kept his back to the espada, looking instead at Rukia with the blade still stopped at her neck. "I am only cutting you down because you turned your blade at my pride."

"…Ba…Banzai!" Zommari threw his hands into the air, yelling and raving. "Banzai! Banzai! Banzai! Banzai! Aizen-sama! Aizen-sama! BANZAIIIIII!"

Zommari's body abruptly began to melt away.

Byakuya turned and watched in silence as the last remnants of the espada disappeared, eventually leaving no trace of having ever existed. "It's over. Come closer, Kotetsu-fukutaicho."

Isane flashed into appearance behind him, kneeling.

"Is this an order from Unohana-taichou?" Byakuya inquired, his proud back still to her.

Isane lifted her bowed head to look at him. "Yes sir. She sensed the injured seventh seat Yamada's reiatsu and ordered me to head to where you were…"

"I see." Byakuya could hear Kenpachi's fight in the distance. "This area is not safe. We shall relocate the injured to a more favorable place to be healed."

Isane peered across the sand dunes to where Inoue was currently healing a small green-haired child near Ichigo. "Shall we also take Ichigo and the human girl with us?"


By his short answer, Isane feared she had irked the captain with her question. Looking again in Ichigo's direction, she recalled that the former ryoka girl had considerable defensive and healing powers and decided they would be fine. She also did not wish to question Byakuya further and risk angering him. "Yes, Kuchiki-taichou." Isane bowed her head again, then stood to begin procedures to promptly transport their small group.

"You're making me repeat myself! My hierro is the strongest out of all of the espada in history! There's no way that your zanpaktou can cut it!"

A jagged sword slashed through the air at Nnoitra. Just as he moved to let it pass him by, a hand came at his face and roughly pushed him flat down onto his back, sand spraying up from the force of the impact.

Nnoitra knocked Kenpachi's hand from his face, leapt up, and jumped backwards. He glared at Kenpachi, catching his breath.

Kenpachi yelled over to Nnoitra. "…You dodged? Dodging that attack means it was dangerous to you, right?" Kenpachi slyly grinned as Nnoitra's face grew dark. "It seems that there are places where you can be cut."

Nnoitra jumped into the air, his weapon raised above his head as he flew down at Kenpachi. "Quit talking nonsense! It's instinct to avoid attacks during combat! You can't cut me, and that's all there is to it!"

"I've had several encounters with guys who wouldn't shut up about how my sword couldn't cut them. But…I have yet to meet someone whose throat or eye I couldn't cut!"

Kenpachi thrust his blade straight at Nnoitra and plunged it through his eye patch. Nnoitra hung in the air from the sword that he was skewered on, his mouth open in surprise as Kenpachi watched him, waiting.

Nnoitra looked down with his single eye at Kenpachi and scoffed in disgust. "Sheesh. How many times you gonna make me say it before you're satisfied?" Still hanging on the blade, Nnoitra plunged his arm into Kenpachi's chest. Kenpachi grunted and staggered to his knees.

"Well, you're right." Nnoitra's voice was full of amusement as he drew his hand out from Kenpachi. "There's never been someone who could survive a sword through the head. But then, your sword didn't pierce my head." Nnoitra took the sword out of his socket and, with a flourish, drew back the flap of his eyepatch, revealing a hole that went straight through his head. His hollow hole. "You see? It passed right through it!"

Kenpachi silently got back on his feet.

"Get it? This is the best you can do, shinigami."

With a short snort, a smile grew on Kenpachi's face.

"What are you smiling for!?" Nnoitra angrily aimed a kick at the shinigami.

A large hand grasped Nnoitra's ankle, stopping its trajectory. "Sorry. I got happy and a smile slipped out."

"You got …"happy"…" Nnoitra repeated, annoyed.

"It's no fun if you can't be cut and don't even die when you're cut. At the very least, I know you'll die if I cut you." Kenpachi let go of Nnoitra's ankle, who took his leg back with a frown. "That's enough for me. Just knowing that makes it fun to cut you!" Kenpachi brandished his blade and started to lively rush at Nnoitra.

"I already told you that I can't be cut, idiot!" Nnoitra shouted with a matching maniacal grin. He was beginning to enjoy himself.

"…Thank goodness!" Isane said with a relieved smile.

"She's awake!" Hanatarou exclaimed.

Laying on her back, Rukia looked between the two relieved faces that hovered above her. "Kotetsu-fukutaicho?!... Hanatarou?! Why…When did you…?" She stiffly moved to try and sit up.

"Ah! We're still in the middle of healing you. Please stay still!" Isane pleaded as Rukia sat still, a hand absent-mindedly held to her heart as she took in her surroundings.

"Byakuya Nii-sama!"

Byakuya stood at a distance, his back to her. "Silence. Did you not hear Kotetsu-fukutaicho's instructions? Do not move until you have fully recovered."

Rukia's face changed to concern as she spotted blood on her brother. "Nii-sama…your robe!"

"Do not worry about it."

"…you're hurt!"

"I told you not to worry about it." Byakuya chided with a trace of gentleness, turning his head slightly to look back at her. "For now, just lie there and wait until you are fully recovered." He turned his head back to the horizon, where Kenpachi and Ichigo still were. "The true battle still lies ahead."

Rukia obediently lay back down, then gasped, turning a face etched with apprehension towards him. "The battle! Nii-sama, where's Ichigo and Inoue? Are they-"

"They are where we left them with Zaraki Kenpachi-taichou. You may return to them as soon as you are healed."

Rukia considered him for a moment, then nodded in understanding. "Yes, Nii-sama."

Relaxing, Rukia turned to her thoughts as Isane commenced healing her wounds."…Nii-sama's right. I must trust in their abilities. Help each other, Ichigo, Inoue…"

"Forget any feelings I had of admiration towards that arrogant son of a…! I can't believe Byakuya just left like that, and left Inoue and Nel here to top it off!" Ichigo gritted his teeth in irritation.

Inoue looked up from dispelling the healing dome from around Nel, who was peacefully resting, and saw Ichigo looking lost in thought, a deep scowl on his face.

"Um…Kurosaki-kun, I can heal you now if you'd like…"

Ichigo blinked at the sound of her voice, finding himself once again aware of his current surroundings. He turned to look at her, wincing a little at the movement. "Ah, sorry, I must have spaced out."

Inoue smiled as she kneeled next to him, the bright dome quickly appearing around him. "That's ok! It's a good idea to imagine about things to forget about a pain you're experiencing! Like when I burn myself on a hot pan, or stub a toe, I like to sometimes imagine that I'm riding a lion through space on a quest to find aliens who make the famed ice cream curry burritos when I need a good distraction!"

Ichigo looked at her quizzically, unsure of how to answer. He was saved from figuring out a decent reply as they heard Yachiru, who was standing beyond them nearer to Kenpachi's battle, give a loud cry of delight.

"You got it, Ken-chan!"

Ichigo and Inoue both looked curiously toward the fight.

"What's the matter? Scared yourself because you could cut me all a sudden?" Nnoitra taunted with a frown, a small trickle of blood dripping from a slice on his chest. "But don't get the wrong idea cause you got lucky!"

The Captain's jagged blade, its edge sprinkled with bright red blood, gleamed in the sun. Kenpachi raised his hand and motioned for Nnoitra to come at him. "Bring it. One more time."

"Don't get too full of yourself!" Their blades met, grinding against one another on initial impact. However, Kenpachi's sword slowly cut through Nnoitra's. Nnoitra gave a yell as he saw his blade get halved and fly off to the side, and Kenpachi's sword continue its path towards his head.

Nnoitra flew back as he cursed under his breath, a hand to his face where a bleeding cut ran across it.

"Eh, that was a close shave! Looks like I've finally started to get used to your hardness."

"Did he really say he got used to it? Is that all it takes for him to be able to cut me!"

"Lately I've been getting kinda rusty. It seems my muscles cramped up and I forgot how to get things done…" Kenpachi said as he gave his sword a practice swing. "Thanks. You made for a good warm-up." Kenpachi advanced with a yell. "Allow me to pay you back with this!"

Blood sprayed from the espada's shoulder. "No way…!" Nnoitra gasped out. A cero quickly shot from his tongue.

Kenpachi didn't move as the cero came at him. Using only a hand, he held back the blast, then pushed it off to the side. The subsequent explosion rocked the area.

In frustration, Nnoitra leapt at Kenpachi, who dodged, but a bit too slowly that it allowed Nnoitra to grasp and tear the Captain's eye patch away.

Kenpachi immediately slashed his sword from the middle of Nnoitra's head down to his torso.

Looking surprised, Kenpachi put a hand to his bared eye and clicked his tongue in disgust. "Idiot. I wasn't able to restrain myself because you ripped my eye patch off."

Nnoitra warily eyed Kenpachi as he haggardly panted, blood dripping from his new wound. "What is with that eye patch of yours?"

A grin surfaced on Kenpachi's face. "It seals and suppresses my reiatsu so that I can thoroughly savor my fights."

Kenpachi looked skeptically at Nnoitra as he wavered, blood still pooling at his feet. "You alive? Ya seem to be cheating death there."

"…Like I…would die…by the sword…of a bonehead like you…" Nnoitra spat out a wad of blood from his mouth. "I ain't…gonna die!"

Nnoitra lifted his staff into the air. "Pray! Santa Teresa!" A storm of sand flew around Nnoitra, hiding him from view.

Kenpachi waited with eager anticipation.

Ichigo watched, aghast, as Nnoitra appeared through the dust he had stirred up during his transformation. He stepped forward, revealing four giant scythes, one held in each…

"Four arms?! His arms doubled!?" Ichigo exclaimed. "They can do stuff like that…?" Looking again, he noticed that Nnoitra's wounds were even closing up. "No way! Those were wounds made by Kenpachi without his eye patch!"

"Yay! Kenpachi will have fun now!" Yachiru yelled with glee, waving her arms at Kenpachi.

Ichigo raised a perplexed eyebrow as he looked at the pink-haired girl. "I don't think I'll ever understand those two…"

"…Yo. What's it like? Seeing an espada's sword release for the first time?"

Kenpachi remained silent, his face not giving a hint of emotion.

"Say something, shinigami."

"That's such a nice reiatsu. It's been a long time since I've felt something like this." A bloodthirsty glint grew in Kenpachi's eyes. "It's like my blade is being sharpened by your reiatsu."

"Is that right?" Nnoitra said in a mocking tone. "In that case, try and cut me with that so-called "sharpened" sword of yours!"

Kenpachi enthusiastically charged towards Nnoitra, his blade colliding with two of Nnoitra's scythes. His sword pushed down on the opposing scythes, but did not cut through them as before.

"What the…"

Seeing an opening during the Captain's momentary surprise, Nnoitra slashed his scythes deeply across Kenpachi's chest, making him take a step backwards.

"Is that your best shot?" Nnoitra glared as Kenpachi's blood splattered the sand. His eyes wide, Kenpachi fell onto his back.

Nnoitra wore a face of contempt as he moved to stand over the shinigami. "That's a pretty light sword you've got there, shinigami."

Kenpachi lay motionless on the sand, his eyes closed.

"Che, not even a twitch! Done already?" Getting no reply, Nnoitra snorted and turned to scan the area, sneering as he spotted Yachiru, Ichigo, and Inoue nearby. "No choice then. Guess I'll clean up the leftovers."

Yachiru had stood closest to where the fight had been. Nnoitra made his way towards her first.

Inoue's face paled. She quickly got up from her kneeling position by Ichigo's healing dome and frantically ran towards the pink haired girl. "Yachiru-chan!"

"Wait! Inoue!" Ichigo, already sitting up, hit the barrier with his arm as he moved to step outside of the dome. "Gah!" Ichigo felt a searing pain in his arm and quickly withdrew it, rubbing it ruefully as it continued to twitch involuntarily. "What the…!" Ichigo felt bewildered. "That was like an electric shock! Just now, I was repelled…?!" Ichigo looked at Inoue as she continued to run toward Yachiru. "This ability…is it really from Inoue's shunshun rikka…?"

"Santenkeshun!" Lights darted out from Inoue's hairpins to create a barrier wall in front of Yachiru.

"What's that? Looks weak." Nnoitra yelled as he continued to walk towards Yachiru.

Yachiru simply pointed a finger towards Nnoitra. "You might wanna look behind you."

Nnoitra froze as a mass of thick reiatsu bore down on him from behind. He started to turn around, but too slowly. An arm was severed from Nnoitra's body in the blink of an eye.

"Hmmm…one down."

Yachiru smiled as Nnoitra cursed. "Be careful. Ken-chan gets mad if you attack me."

"No I don't, you dumb brat." Kenpachi huffed.

"Pretending to be dead, huh? You little…"

"Shaddup. I was thinking. With four arms, you're bound to block my sword with one of them, and that's no fun. So I thought about what to do so that you couldn't block me. But you know, not a single good idea came to me. That's why I decided I would cut off all your arms, one by one."

"But he won't be able to fight if you cut off all his arms, Ken-chan." Yachiru chirped.

"What? Oh. Yeah. I made a mistake. I'll leave you one arm."

Nnoitra gave a snort. "You'll leave me one arm? Don't even bother. Besides, that's the last arm you're gonna cut off." A stump of new flesh started to grow from the missing arm. "Actually…" The stump grew longer until the shape of an arm, and then a hand, could be distinguished. "…You're gonna get cut down by these four arms, without having cut even a single one off. Cause you're weaker than me, shinigami!"

Nnoitra appeared by Kenpachi and pushed his scythes into him, sending him sailing back into a boulder. Pieces of the it broke on impact and buried Kenpachi under the rubble.

"Hah! You flew away so easily! Are you too weak?! Running away cause you're scared!?"

A foot burst through the rocks from below, then more debris flew into the air as Kenpachi emerged a moment later, looking unscathed. Without wasting a second, Kenpachi slashed his sword at Nnoitra. Nnoitra grunted under the strain as Kenpachi pressed down.

"You're gonna die this easy?" Kenpachi snorted.

Nnoitra plunged his hand completely through Kenpachi's chest. Kenpachi looked in surprise as he saw that Nnoitra now possessed five arms.

"Idiot. I told you. You can't cut off even one arm. You're just gonna get cut down by these six arms of mine."

Blood spewed from Kenpachi's mouth.

Nnoitra withdrew his arm from Kenpachi while a sixth arm grew from his body. Two more scythes also formed from his hands.

"It's over, shinigami."

Kenpachi gave a short laugh. He let out another. Soon he was laughing hysterically.

"What's so funny!?"

"This is excellent!" Kenpachi yelled with another laugh, bits of blood flying from his mouth. "This is the best! I wouldn't have it any other way!"

Each of Nnoitra's hands gripped their spear tighter in anger.

"What's "over"?! Now that I've got a hole of my own, we're finally on even ground!" Kenpachi raised his sword. "Let's get this started, espada."

The two warriors collided, their blades ringing with each stroke. Nnoitra dealt several wounds on Kenpachi, but the shinigami kept swinging his sword at him with a grin as though unaffected.

"What the…I'm the one cutting, and he's the one bleeding! So how is it that I cut and cut him, and he keeps fighting back!? I'm the strongest of the espada! The strongest!"

"Hurry up and die!" Nnoitra landed a deep blow on Kenpachi's shoulder.

Some blood spurted into the air from Kenpachi's shoulder. He nonchalantly laid a hand over the slash. "…tch. At this rate, I really am gonna die…and dyin' would be a real pain…"

"Ken-chan…" Yachiru murmured.

Kenpachi brought his sword up to his chest level. "…Guess there's no choice. It's been awhile, but it seems I'll have to give that "Kendo" crap a try."

"What are ya talking about?" Nnoitra spat out.

"It was something the old man badgered me into when I joined the thirteen squads. But it's not my style. I couldn't stand that "way of the sword" junk, so I didn't use it. But it did convince me of one thing. Did you know that a sword is more powerful when you swing it with two hands instead of one?"

Nnoitra scowled. "You really are a blockhead. Something like that is totally obvious!"

"Nah, it isn't obvious at all. Don't you know just how big the difference in power is?"

Kenpachi brought his other hand to rest on the sword's hilt as Nnoitra charged. Raising his sword above his head, he slashed it downwards. A wall of power rushed at Nnoitra and hit him head on and burst into an explosion.

Walking towards Nnoitra, Kenpachi slowly made out through the dust that the espada was on his hands and knees, bleeding from several serious wounds and gasping. Only three of his arms remained.

"Wow. You're still alive." Kenpachi nonchalantly swung his sword over his shoulder. "You're as tough as a cockroach." Spinning around, he started to walk away with a hand up in a wave. "Later."

"…Hold it!" Nnoitra screamed.

"What? You're getting irritating."

"Where do you think you're going!? This isn't over yet!"

"You stupid? I ended it right there with that attack. I don't have any obligation to deal the death blow to some little espada that can't fight anymore."

"…Is that right…" Nnoitra grunted as he slowly got to his feet, more blood pouring from his wounds at the movement. "…Then…that's all the reason…why this isn't over…cause I can still fight!"

Kenpachi stopped and raised an eyebrow as he looked over his shoulder at Nnoitra.

"…What's the matter? Say something….you scared…? Say something…! You scared of me, shinigami!?"

Kenpachi scoffed as he turned to face him. "Such a pain. No choice then. Bring it."

Nnoitra gave a battle cry as he used the last of his strength to attack the captain.

Calmly, Kenpachi brought down his sword.

Nnoitra fell on his knees, new wounds on his chest, and with only one arm remaining. With one last cry, he fell flat on his face, dead.

"That was a helluva good time, Nnoitra."

Turning away from Nnoitra's body, Kenpachi strode towards Ichigo's group.

Ichigo silently watched with his mouth hanging open as Kenpachi raised his foot into the air and kicked the dome surrounding him so that it broke.

"Uuoaah!" Ichigo hollered as Kenpachi grabbed him by his collar and flung him into the air. Being fully healed now from Inoue's powers, Ichigo landed easily on his feet with a scowl as he yelled at Kenpachi. "What the hell are you doing!?"

"Your sword. Pick it up."

Ichigo blinked as he realized Kenpachi had thrown him to where his sword was laying on the ground. He stooped to pick it up.

"Then take it and the girl and hurry home. Your job is done. We'll handle things from here."

Ichigo stood up as though he'd just been struck by lightning. "Wh…What are you talking about!? I've come this far! I'm go-"

"Just what are you?"

Ichigo shut his mouth, taken aback.

"You're a substitute shinigami. Your job is to protect that town. Right? You should be satisfied with having saved that girl. If you get it, then hurry up and go home." Kenpachi looked Ichigo in the eye. "Besides, you've enjoyed your fair share of cutting and getting cut up."

Ichigo was still a bit confounded by Kenpachi's words and couldn't help but stand with what he knew must have looked like a stupid expression.


Inoue stood at attention. "Y..Yes?"

"Heal my wounds!"

"Yes, sir!"

Inoue began running towards Kenpachi when an unfamiliar man suddenly appeared between her and the captain. He put a hand on her shoulder as he bent down to her eye level. "Sorry. Truth is, I don't like doing troublesome things like this."

Both Ichigo and Kenpachi were running towards Inoue as the unknown man straightened up. "I'm going to borrow her for a bit."

Ichigo and Kenpachi each landed their swords on the spot that the man and Inoue had just been standing, but they hit nothing more than air.

"They're…gone!" Ichigo exclaimed.

Inoue gasped as she found herself no longer in the dessert, but standing inside a dimly lit building, a steep staircase towering before her.

"Welcome back, Orihime."

Inoue felt stark fear shoot through her body as she looked to the top of the stairs and saw the owner of the voice that greeted her.

"What's wrong? Such a sad expression." Aizen remarked in a soothing tone.

Inoue froze as she felt him suddenly standing over her, his hand gently cupping her chin, a thumb sliding along her bottom lip.

"Smile." Aizen softly coaxed as he moved in closer, his mouth just inches from her face. "Everyone is saddened when the sun darkens. All you have to do is smile and wait here for a short while. Just until…" Aizen stepped back as a large opening appeared at the top of the stairs, revealing a blue sky. "…we return from destroying Karakura town."

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