Bleach: Words of the Copper Chain

Sea of Sand

ICHIGO WAS surrounded by the raven-haired woman and several uniformed men.

Ichigo slowly grabbed the hilt of his Zanpakutou and the uniformed men grabbed their dagger-shaped ones simultaneously.

"Hold it," the woman said to the uniformed men.

The men let go of their Zanpakutou hilts.

"Where is Yoruichi Shihoin?" the woman asked.

The woman looked around, waiting for something. Ichigo looked at her, confused, but still battle-ready.

"I'm waiting," the woman said as she got impatient.

Chad looked at Yoruichi. She hissed and hesitated to move.

"Crap, fine," Yoruichi said.

Yoruichi ran up to Kuukaku.

"Stop, Kuukaku," Yoruichi said.

"And who might you be?" Kuukaku asked.

Yoruichi sighed and her shut her eyes. A white energy swirled around Yoruichi and her body contorted. Ichigo stepped back, surprised at what was happening.

"What is this?" Ichigo said, frightened.

Chad stepped back as he could not believe his eyes either. Yoruichi slowly stood on her hind legs and her body began to elongate. The fir on her skin retracted and her limbs straightened. Breasts grow from her chest and her hips widened. Her feline body turned into a human body. Her face changed from feline to human and purple hair grew from her head.

Yoruichi had turned into a voluptuous black woman with purple hair and yellow eyes.

"What the –" Chad said, shocked.

Ichigo screamed and ran for his life. He ran as fast as he could, despite not knowing where he was going. Yoruichi stood before Kuukaku in the nude, but did not seem to mind. The uniformed men became uneasy, some covered their eyes, others stared and Chad turned away.

"It's been a while, Yoruichi Shihoin," Kuukaku said.

"Kuukaku Shiba," Yoruichi said.

The two women smirked at each other.

"Well, well, give me a good reason not to kill you this time, Yoruichi," Kuukaku said as she walked around her.

"We're in private business, we're not here to fight," Yoruichi said, looking at Kuukaku cockily.

"Neither am I, but as you know me, I don't want any Shinigami, least of all you, around my compound," Kuukaku said.

"We can strike a deal," Yoruichi said.

"Now we're talking," Kuukaku said.

"Help us get into the Sereitei and in exchange, I'll help you invade the Kuchiki grounds," Yoruichi said.

Kuukaku gestured to her men to stand down. Kuukaku grinned.

ASHIDO AND Takeshi walked further into the forest. The trees became thicker and thicker and the forest became an obstacle course. Jumping over logs, climbing branches, cutting leaves; it was exhausting. Takeshi for one was now tired of the mission as a whole.

"Man, I wish this was over," Takeshi said.

"Don't become impatient," Ashido said, "we need to be careful and stealthy,"

Ashido pulled out his Zanpakutou and swung down, cutting a tree. The tree fell over and knocked others down like dominos. Ashido had cleared a large path for them.

Takeshi walked up to Ashido, confused.

"And what was that?" Takeshi said.

"I got impatient," Ashido said.

Ashido sheathed his Zanpakutou.

"C'mon," Ashido said.

Ashido jumped onto the tree and ran up it. Takeshi followed suit. Ashido and Takeshi ran on the tipped over trees, covering larger distances than they did on the ground. A clear path of sand came into view a few metres before them.

"I see the end of the forest," Ashido said.

Ashido and Takeshi ran to the end of the forest and jumped off the tipped trees. Ashido and Takeshi landed on the sand and it was freezing cold.

"What the hell?" Takeshi said as he jumped from the sudden change in temperature.

"This is new," Ashido said as he hoped simultaneously with Takeshi.

Ashido steadied himself, still feeling the effects of the cold.

"C'mon," Ashido said, "let's get going,"

Takeshi shivered as he followed Ashido who treaded the sand.

"This is why we should've worn winter gear," Takeshi said.

"You didn't say anything," Ashido said, shivering.

"Oh, yeah ...," Takeshi remembered

Ashido and Takeshi continued on. Takeshi tripped and fell into the sand. He hopped up, covered in a thick blanket of sand from head to toe.

"Do you wanna build a snowman?" Ashido playfully sang.

"Not funny," Takeshi said as he shook the sand off himself.

"Or is it a sandman?" Ashido said, chuckling.

Takeshi shook the sand off himself.

"How do you even know that song?" Takeshi asked.

"What?" Ashido asked, "it's a good movie"

Takeshi shrugged and the two continued on.

"Hey, look at that," Takeshi said as he pointed forward.

Ashido looked and saw an enormous building up afar. The building was so large that looked like a 200 ft skyscraper up close, but it was far off.

"I thought you said there was no life here," Takeshi said.

"I did," Ashido said, gripped with shock.

"What built that thing?" Takeshi asked.

RUKIA SAT in her cell, staring blankly at the wall across from her. Thoughts raced through her mind, but thoughts of death overshadowed them all. Would it hurt? Hanging? Decapitation? She was scared to death, and ironically, would soon meet her own. She felt angry at Byakuya for not stepping in to help her. She was sort of angry at Renji, but he said he would try to help her and he was doing so. She was at least thankful for him. Soon after, her thoughts drifted to Ichigo.

Who knew a simple day of Hollow slaying would turn into two months of bunking with a total stranger? It turned into something more than that and she grew close to Ichigo. He was so helpful and spent some of his money on clothes she could wear. They were good friends, but that kiss to her seemed to come out of nowhere. Was she in love with the guy? She wasn't really sure, but didn't regret kissing him either. She now worried whether she would see him again and if she did, whether things would get serious between them. She then thought of Renji whom she'd dated, but broke up with before going to Karakura Town that day.

Rukia snapped out of her thoughts when two Shinigami walked up to her cell.

"What is it?" Rukia asked.

"Central 46 has moved your date of execution," one guard said.

"You will be executed in 14 days," the other guard said.

Rukia looked away from the guards, now becoming depressed. One of the guards opened the cell door.

"We're taking you to your new cell," a guard said.

The guards stood Rukia up and escorted her out of the cell.

THE GUARDS walked Rukia down a bridge in the middle of a small river. The bridge led to a large tower on a small island. The guards walked up to the tower's main entrance and entered codes in a keypad next to the door. The door slid open and the guards entered the tower.

THE GUARDS chained Rukia to a wall. Her arms were spread apart and her neck was chained in a brace. The guards left the room and locked the doors. Rukia tried to move, but failed. The chains were tight and movement was very restricted. Tears welled up in Rukia's eyes.

YORUICHI, CHAD and Ichigo sat on mats in a large room. Kuukaku sat before them on a beanbag chair. Yoruichi was dressed in form-fitting black pants and an orange, short-sleeved jersey with a beige scarf. Her hair was in a ponytail and she had wore beige leg warmers over purple shoes. She also loose, cotton arm guards with purple stripes.

"Sorry, I've spent such a long time not wearing clothes I forgot," Yoruichi said to Ichigo who was still a little on-edge with what happened.

"How did you do that?" Chad asked.

"Oh, I'm a type of Shinigami we call the Transcendent Ones. I can change between a humanoid and feline form," Yoruichi explained.

"And what is your original form?" Ichigo asked.

"This one of course. What, you thought I was a cat?" Yoruichi chuckled.

"Well, I -,"

"Cats don't talk, Ichigo," Yoruichi said, "use your head,"

"Wait a minute, I was told that Shinigami are dead humans – ghosts – that trained to fight Hollows," Ichigo said, "if that's the case, how are you a Shinigami? Were you once human?"

"Well, I -," Yoruichi tried to say when Kuukaku interrupted her.

"Okay, I didn't bring you here to chat, alright?" Kuukaku said, "What do you want in the Sereitei?"

"We came to get a Shinigami out of prison," Yoruichi said.

"How long ago?" Kuukaku asked.

"Couple days," Yoruichi said.

Yoruichi pressed a button on the ground and some tiles slid open between Kuukaku and the others. A two-sided monitor slid out of the ground and the screen facing Kuukaku lit up. Kuukaku slid icons on the screen and typed on it. The screen facing the others lit up, showing a schematic of the Sereitei.

"Things may have changed a little since I got this, but the Sereitei's design stays relatively the same over the years," Kuukaku said.

"Where could she be held?" Yoruichi asked.

"Well, if she was arrested when you said she was, then she should be in the 11th Division Prison Grounds," Kuukaku said as she slid her finger on the screen, zooming the image in on a portion of the Sereitei's east wing.

"You're sure?" Yoruichi said.

"That is protocol and I know how arrest procedures," Kuukaku said.

"Okay, then," Yoruichi said.

"First thing we need to do is to penetrate the force fields that guard the Sereitei," Kuukaku said as she got up, "follow me,"

Yoruichi, Chad and Ichigo followed Kuukaku out of the room. They walked down a hallway when a man stepped into the hallway. The man wore a black kimono top with a green jacket and black pants with high boots. He had a Zanpakutou in a sheath that hanged around his lower back.

"Kuukaku, what are you doing with these Shinigami?" the man asked.

"Relax, Ganju, we're working with them," Kuukaku said.

"But, sis, they're our enemies," Ganju said.

"Not today they're not," Kuukaku said.

Kuukaku proceeded and the others followed. Ganju gave Ichigo a murderous gaze as he walked passed.

Kuukaku lead Ichigo and the others into a large room with weaponry and advanced tech.

"Normally I would just use some of my gear and blast a hole in the Sereitei's shields," Kuukaku said as she lead Ichigo and the others, "Unfortunately, the Sereitei has beefed up their tech with reiatsu so it will not be the walk in the park that I would want,"

Kuukaku walked up to a shelf, opened it and pulled a large orb out of it. Kuukaku showed Ichigo and the others the orb.

"I call this a Crane Orb," Kuukaku said as she paced around the room, brandishing the Orb, "Over the years, I have been working on different types of weaponry, but I've found that those powered by reiatsu are the most potent. So I invented the Flower Crane Cannon,"

Ichigo was confused.

"Wait, so you're gonna fire that at the Sereitei's shields using a cannon?" Ichigo asked, "that's stupid,"

"I wasn't finished," Kuukaku said angrily, "you will pour your reiatsu into these Orbs and create a force field sphere around you that you will be shot with at the Sereitei's shields using the cannon. If you maintain the right amount of reiatsu, the Orb's force field will be able to penetrate the shields and you will be able to enter the Sereitei with ease,"

"Alright, let's get started," Ichigo said impatiently.

Ichigo walked up to Kuukaku to grab the Orb and Yoruichi cut him off.

"Hold on, Ichigo; let her finish explaining," Yoruichi said.

"Actually, I'm done," Kuukaku said and she tossed the Orb at Ichigo who caught it.

"Nice," Ichigo said as he looked at the Orb, "now take me to the cannon,"

"Whoa, heh, you are impatient. You have to learn how to maintain your reiatsu in the Orb first," Kuukaku said, "Ganju!"

Ganju entered the room and walked up to Kuukaku.

"Yeah," Ganju said.

"Teach this kid here how to use the Crane Orbs," Kuukaku said, "I'll teach the others myself,"

"Sure," Ganju said.

Ganju walked up to Ichigo and held his hand out to him.

"Hand it over, rookie," Ganju said.

"Sure," Ichigo said.

Ichigo tossed the Orb at Ganju and he barely caught it.

"What the hell, man?" Ganju asked angrily.

"Now, now, let's not waste any time acting like idiots," Kuukaku said.

Kuukaku grabbed two more Orbs from the shelf and walked to a spot in the room that had mats laid out.

"Follow me," Kuukaku said.

Chad and Yoruichi followed Kuukaku.

"Hey, why do I have to learn from this guy?" Ichigo asked.

"From your reiatsu, I can tell that you'll need someone to handhold you through it," Kuukaku said bluntly, "and I'm not that patient,"

Ichigo murmured angrily.

"C'mon," Ganju said as he walked to another spot that had mats laid out.

Ichigo followed Ganju and the two sat down.

"Now watch me," Ganju said.

Ichigo nodded absentmindedly, pissing off Ganju. Ganju held the Orb in his hands. Ganju sighed and focussed on the it. The Orb began to glow, slowly becoming brighter and brighter. A force field formed around Ganju and he sat suspended in it.

Ichigo, though impressed, didn't show it, simply to spite Ganju. Ganju frowned angrily and stopped pouring his reiatsu into the Orb, thus dissipating the force field.

"Since you look so calm," Ganju said, "you try it,"

Ganju tossed the orb at Ichigo the same way he did earlier. Ichigo barely caught the Orb and smirked.

"This'll be easy," Ichigo said.

Ichigo held the Orb in his hands and focussed on it. The Orb glowed, slowly brightening, but began to flicker. Ganju smirked as a force field formed around Ichigo. The force field was shapeless and wiggly, not completely forming. The Orb began to steam in Ichigo's hands and he quickly dropped it.

"What was that?" Ichigo said as he held his hands painfully.

"You put in too much reiatsu, so it overheated," Ganju said.

Ichigo looked at his hands, which were a little burned.

"Crap," Ichigo said.

"Are you gonna cry, you little baby?" Ganju said.

Ichigo was infuriated and he punched Ganju.

"Son of a – " Ganju tried to say when Ichigo punched him again.

Ichigo and Ganju exchanged blows and Ganju kicked Ichigo away. Kuukaku noticed the fracas and stood up.

"What the hell are you two doing?" Kuukaku said.

Ichigo kicked Ganju in the gut and Ganju gave Ichigo an uppercut. Chad ran up to the two and pushed them apart.

"Ichigo, what are you doing?" Chad asked.

Ichigo panted angrily, not answering Chad. Kuukaku and Yoruichi walked up to them.

"If you fools start fighting, we're gonna waste a lot of time here," Kuukaku said angrily.

Ganju and Ichigo stared down.

"I'm sorry, Kuukaku," Ganju said.

Kuukaku turned to Ichigo.

"And you?" Kuukaku asked.

Ichigo didn't answer and simply panted angrily.

"I hope this won't happen again, Yoruichi," Kuukaku said.

"No," Yoruichi said as she looked at Ichigo, "it will not happen again,"

"Good," Kuukaku said.

Kuukaku picked up the Orb and gave it to Ganju.

"Let this not repeat itself," Kuukaku said.

"Yeah, it won't," Ganju said.

Kuukaku looked at Ichigo who was still angry.

"C'mon," Kuukaku said.

Kuukaku, Yoruichi and Chad returned to the spot they sat at. Ganju walked passed Ichigo and bumped his shoulder.

"Let's continue," Ganju said.

Ichigo groaned and reluctantly followed Ganju.

ASHIDO AND Takeshi had been trekking for what felt like a million years. No matter how far they walked, the building didn't seem to come closer. Takeshi wished there were portable Garganta so that he could just portal out of there. Unlike other Shinigami, Takeshi never felt that sense of duty, the unwavering heart, the desire for justice and heroism that drove them to get up and fight Hollows. Unless it attacked him, Takeshi didn't give a damn. What kept him going? Well, it was a different story with him. He liked the praise and admiration from the Shinigami in his squad. The feeling of being on top was thrilling.

One would assume that he disliked Ashido because he usually got more praise than he did, but that was not the case. Takeshi appreciated Ashido because of his leadership and guidance and wished he could be like him.

But right now, Takeshi would give anything, his Zanpakutou, his lieutenant rank, just for a glass of cool water and a day at the beach. Now that he thought of it, he at least had half of that right now, though the sand was as cold as hell and there was no water in sight.

Takeshi chuckled at the 'as cold as hell,' line when Takeshi called him.

"Look alive!"Ashido shouted.

Takeshi hadn't realised it, but the sand started moving on its on, gathering to one spot. It was pulling him with it.

"What is this?" Takeshi asked.

"Hold on," Ashido said as he reached out to Takeshi.

Takeshi held Ashido's hand and Ashido pulled him. It was no use as Ashido was caught as well. The sand pulled the two in as it gathered, forming a pillar. Ashido reached into his belt.

"What are you doing?" Takeshi asked.

"Saving our lives," Ashido said.

Ashido pulled out a grenade and threw it at the pillar.

"Brace yourself," Ashido shouted.

Takeshi crossed his arms in front of his face. The grenade exploded and the wave blew Ashido and Takeshi back, freeing them from the sand's grip. Ashido and Takeshi landed on sand that was still stagnant. They got to their feet.

"What is that thing?" Ashido exclaimed.

"Oh man," Takeshi said.

The sand pillar was still forming and reached a height of around 90 feet. The sand formed a grim looking face with no eyes and formed two huge arms. It was a Hollow made of sand.

"Is this just some kinda sand Menos?" Takeshi asked, blankly

"Guess so," Ashido said

"Lame," Takeshi said.

"Yup," Ashido responded.

The sand Hollow threw a punch at the two and they jumped out of the way.

"Stay out of the way," Ashido said, "I got this,"

Ashido ran around the Hollow, avoiding punches it threw. Ashido drew a grenade and turned a knob on it. Ashido dodged a punch and threw the grenade at the Hollow. The grenade exploded and the Hollow began to break apart. The sand Hollow smacked Ashido into a tree.

Takeshi rubbed his hands together and an orange energy erupted from them. Takeshi placed his hands in the sand and the Hollow started to fall apart.

"I told you not to interfere," Ashido said.

"You need my help," Takeshi said.

"Fine," Ashido said.

Ashido pulled out a grenade and set a timer on it. He teleported to the Hollow's head and stuck the grenade in its neck. Ashido jumped off the sand Hollow and the grenade exploded. Ashido landed on sand and he began to sink in it.

"Ashido!," Takeshi yelled.

Takeshi ran toward Ashido, but the sand Hollow smacked him away. The sand Hollow reformed again. Ashido struggled to climb out, but he sank even quicker. Ashido was buried in the sand. Takeshi ran up to the sand Hollow and placed his hands on its arm. Orange energy erupted from Takeshi's hands and the Hollow's arm disintegrated.

"Yes," Takeshi exclaimed.

The sand Hollow's arm reformed again and it grabbed him. Takeshi struggled to break free, but failed. Orange energy erupted from his arms and he broke free from the Hollow's grip.

Takeshi held out his arm as he fell.

"Hado 32, Okasen!" Takeshi yelled.

A yellow energy blast shot out of Takeshi's hand at the sand Hollow's chest. The sand Hollow's chest exploded, but was unaffected in its structure.

"Oh, come on!" Takeshi exclaimed.

Ashido struggled to move inside the sand. He had been holding his breath and worried that be might end up unconscious. Sand gathered around his head and moved toward his nose. Ashido quickly grabbed a grenade from his belt and detonated it.

The grenade exploded and the sand was burnt. Ashido fell limp out of the sand as the explosion burnt half of his torso.

"Ashido!" Takeshi shouted.

Takeshi ran toward Ashido and was caught in the sand. Orange energy spewed from Takeshi's hands and he placed them in the sand. The sand still continued to gather around him. Sand began to encase Ashido and Takeshi was unable to reach him. Takeshi began to sink into the sand and became desperate as his captain and friend was about to die. Takeshi rubbed his hands together and orange energy spewed out them violently. He placed his hands in the sand. The sand around him began to solidify. Takeshi drew his Zanpakutou and broke the sand with it. Takeshi jumped toward Ashido and grabbed him before his entire body was sucked in.

"What do I do?" Takeshi asked.

Orange energy spewed from Takeshi's Zanpakutou and he slashed the sand that came to him, solidifying each portion he sliced.

"Sir?" Takeshi asked once more.

Ashido didn't respond and Takeshi panicked.

"Crap," Takeshi said.

The sand Hollow stood tall over him, moving closer and closer. Takeshi continued slashing, but the sand began to move faster than he could hit it. Takeshi looked at the Hollow as it descended upon him.

"Wait a minute," Takeshi said, exhilarated, "I got it!"

The sand Hollow moved its head toward Takeshi, opening its mouth. Takeshi slashed the Hollow across its face. The sand Hollow's head began to solidify and so did all the sand around Takeshi.

"Phew, that was close," Takeshi said.

Takeshi's arms and Zanpakutou stopped spewing energy and he slashed the Hollow's head again. The sand Hollow broke into several pieces and Takeshi trudged away. Takeshi sheathed his Zanpakutou and shouldered Ashido.

"Let's get to that building," Takeshi said.

Takeshi trudged a few feet and bumped into something absentmindedly.

"Huh," Takeshi said as he looked up.

Takeshi stood at a large gate.

"Whoa, I'm already here?," Takeshi said excitedly.

Takeshi realised something and looked around.

"Wait a minute, what is this?" Takeshi asked, confused.

The gate was large and was suspended from the ground. He looked around, wondering what it was protecting as he could see under it and behind it.

"The hell," Takeshi said.

The gate creaked open and a bright light shone out of it. Takeshi looked behind the gate, but could not see the light from the other end. Takeshi took a closer look at the gate and noticed broken chains hanging from it.

"Is this ...? "

RENJI WALKED down the courtyard of the Sereitei central living space. He greeted several Shinigami, like the bald guy and the guy who always wore shades and used a tiny Zanpakutou. He was nervous because he thought he'd get in trouble for trying to help a convict get out of jail. It was funny that even though he was a lieutenant, he still felt like a low-ranking Shinigami.

Renji walked up to the Task Force building, which was a large building in the middle of the courtyard. He walked up to a display case that showed a digital list of Shinigami and which sections of earth they would be guarding from Hollows for the period of one month.

Renji was suspicious of Rukia's involvement with Karakura town in the first place. It was the Twelfth Division's turn in Asia the time Rukia was in Karakura town. Her Division, the Thirteenth, was supposed to be covering Europe. Aside from that, Rukia was not skilled enough to take down most Hollows in the first place. Places like Asia and parts of the Americas and Africa drew the attention of stronger Hollows and those could only be dealt with by Shinigami of seats 1 to 5 and not those towards the 12th. Rukia did not even occupy a seat yet, so Renji was very suspicious indeed.

Renji's suspicions were intensified when he did not find Rukia's name on the list. He decided to enter the building and search the Deployment Logs for hard evidence of the discrepancy.

Renji entered the building and knocked on the Shinigami Deployment office. There was no answer so Renji entered. There was nobody in the room.

"Must be out for lunch," Renji said.

Renji closed the door behind him and sat at the desk. He searched the Deployment Logs on the computer and went through the names of Shinigami deployed to Asia over the past six months. Rukia Kuchiki's name was not there.

"I knew it," Renji said.

Renji looked up the name of the Deployment Logs' hard copy on the computer then turned it off. Renji opened a shelf and pulled out the folder. He pulled out a paper from it, placed it back in the shelf and closed it.

Renji left the Shinigami Deployment Office and came out of the Task Force building when Shinigami from the Stealth Force suddenly surrounded him. Their Kimonos were more like ninja outfits and they wore hoods that were attached to their kimono's top and masks. They might as well have been called the 'Cliché Ninja Force,' for all Renji was concerned because they even packed ninja weapons. Renji folded the paper and pocketed it.

"Hey, guys," Renji said, "what are you doing here?"

The Shinigami did not respond. Renji become uneasy.

"What do you want?" Renji said, looking at each of the Shinigami.

He got an eerie vibe as they did not answer him again. There were six of them in total surrounding him. Renji wondered if he could just teleport away, but then decided against. The Stealth Force were masters at Shunpo and would easily find him wherever he'd appear.

Renji was also afraid to attack first because the Stealth Force were fabled to be so exceptionally skilled that even one of them could kill a captain. They were sent in for special cases in the Sereitei and human world. Having six at once put him at a distinct disadvantage. Renji also took in the possibility that these Stealth Force Shinigami were just playing a prank on him as they were known to enjoy doing so.

"Okay, guys," Renji said as he laughed uneasily, "you got me; I am scared. You can go back to your barracks now,"

The Stealth Force Shinigami looked at each other and nodded. They drew daggers and ran toward Renji. Renji teleported out of the way and a Stealth Force Shinigami appeared behind him when he reappeared. The Stealth Force Shinigami #1 tackled Renji and stabbed toward him. Renji blocked with his Zanpakutou and rolled out of the way as the other Stealth Force Shinigami tried to stab him.

"Roar, Zabimaru!" Renji yelled.

Renji's Zanpakutou glowed and turned into a blade double its normal length and size. The blade was demarcated into smaller blades with hooks. Renji swung his Zanpakutou and it stretched out into a large whip with the blades acting as hooks. The Stealth Force Shinigami teleported out of the way. Before Renji could retract his blade, the Stealth Force Shinigami appeared around him.

Renji jumped into the air and shoot his Zanpakutou at the Stealth Force Shinigami who teleported out of the way. Stealth Force Shinigami #4 appeared beside Renji in midair and kicked him in the ribs. Renji fell towards another that kicked him in the back. Renji was kicked around like a football as he fell to the ground.

Renji landed on the ground and began to run. Stealth Force Shinigami #6 appeared before Renji and stabbed towards his arm. Renji teleported out of the way and cut down the Stealth Force Shinigami with his Zanpakutou. Renji swung his Zanpakutou down at Stealth Force Shinigami # 4 who teleported out of the way. Stealth Force Shinigami #1 threw ninja stars at Renji and he teleported out of the way. Stealth Force Shinigami #1 appeared before Renji and punched him. Renji jumped away and Stealth Force Shinigami #3 kicked him in the back. Renji fell on the ground and Stealth Force Shinigami #3 stabbed toward him. Renji teleported out of the way and appeared behind a building. Renji tried his best not to pant and hid.

A female Shinigami walked towards the Shinigami Deployment office and the Stealth Force Shinigami teleported away from the vicinity. Renji looked out from his hiding space and saw that the Stealth Force Shinigami were gone.

"Phew, that was close," Renji said.

Renji turned his Zanpakutou back to normal, sheathed it and looked around. Nobody was nearby and Renji tried to think of where to go.

With those Stealth Force Shinigami trying to kill him, walking out in the open would definitely be a bad idea. Teleporting to his Division's barracks would be an even worse idea, so Renji tried to think hard. He wanted a place no one would expect him to go to. Renji thought hard and then had an idea. Renji teleported away.

ICHIGO HELD the Crane Orb in his hands. It glowed and brightened slowly. Ganju looked closely, anticipating his failure. A force field formed around Ichigo in an sphere. Ichigo sat suspended in the force field sphere and it was stable.

"Whoa," Ichigo said excitedly, "I did it,"

"Hmm," Ganju said smugly, "guess you did, carrot top,"

Ichigo growled at him and the force field sphere dissipated, causing Ichigo to fall back. Ganju laughed.

"You're supposed to concentrate," Ganju said.

"You're the one who distracted me!" Ichigo shouted.

"Well, with your puny mind, you'd be distracted by birds while we're launched," Ganju said smugly.

Kuukaku threw a Crane Orb at his head.

"Enough," Kuukaku said.

"Hey! Why hit me?" Ichigo asked angrily.

"I missed," Kuukaku said.

Ichigo sat up, holding the Crane Orb and rubbing a bump on his head. Kuukaku stood up and walked up to Ichigo. Yoruichi and Chad followed. Ichigo handed the Crane Orb to Kuukaku.

"I'm impressed," Kuukaku said, "nice work, Ichigo,"

Ichigo smirked at Ganju who got up and walked away.

"I'll get prepped," Ganju said as he left the room.

"Yeah, get to it," Kuukaku said, "you guys should get prepped too. We'll launch in an hour,"

"Got it," Yoruichi said.

Kuukaku left the room. Yoruichi smiled deviously and turned to Ichigo.

"Hey, Ichigo," Yoruichi said.

"Yeah," Ichigo responded, a little uneasy from the look on her face.

"I wonder," Yoruichi said, "was that the first time you saw a woman naked?"

"What?" Ichigo asked.

'Well, you ran away like a five-year-old when I transformed," Yoruichi said, "I thought you'd be excited,"

"You were a freaking cat," Ichigo said, "How was I supposed to react to that?"

"You tell me," Yoruichi said.

Ichigo looked at Chad who stepped back, wanting nothing to do with whatever was going on.

"I'm outta here," Ichigo said as he began to leave.

"Oh, come on, Ichigo," Yoruichi said as she followed him.

"Get away from me," Ichigo said.

"Don't you think I'm pretty?" Yoruichi said playfully.

Ichigo groaned and walked faster. It only made things worse and Yoruichi continued following him.

Chad stood there, still trying to grasp how Yoruichi did what she did. He usually liked to ask few questions, and just roll with it, but there was only so much he could take. He could understand Hollows, Shinigami – well, maybe – and the possibility of a human gaining powers, but a human turning into an animal and back? Inconceivable! Yoruichi stuck her head into the room.

"Hey, are you coming?" Yoruichi asked.

"Oh, I'm coming," Chad said.

Chad followed Yoruichi.

ABOUT AN hour had passed and it seemed Yoruichi had been pestering Ichigo the whole time they sat in the hallway waiting for Kuukaku. Ichigo tried to ignore her, but that only made it more entertaining for Yoruichi. Are all Shinigami women like this? At least Kuukaku seemed level headed, though she didn't count because she wasn't a Shinigami. Ichigo was now having second thoughts on saving Rukia. For one thing, there was the strange way Shinigami – well, from what Ichigo had seen – loved to irritate people. The other, though sort of stupid, was the fact that Yoruichi seemed more attractive than Rukia at this point. What with her peppy personality, her voluptuous body and her tan, she was beautiful. Ichigo hadn't realised this, but he loved women with tanned skin. To top it all off, she was black. Ichigo didn't meet many black people in his area of Karakura. It would be around 1 black person for every 1000 or so. For all he knew, all of Japan was filled with Caucasians and Asians.

And, for probably the millionth time in this week, Ichigo drifted off in his own thoughts which became a blur of school, sports, videogames–

"Ichigo!" Yoruichi shouted.

"Huh, what?" Ichigo said as he snapped out of it.

"It's no fun when you're staring off into space like that," Yoruichi said.

"Well, heh," Ichigo said, trying to look for words.

Yoruichi stuck out her lower lip and folded her arms, looking angrily at Ichigo. Ichigo tried to guess whether she was angry or just messing with him, but couldn't tell.

"As I was saying, Ichigo," Yoruichi said, "when we're in the Sereitei, you'll need to keep your eyes open,"

"Huh?" Ichigo asked, blankly.

Crap. Ichigo found himself staring at Yoruichi's golden eyes.

"Oh, oh, sorry," Ichigo laughed uneasily.

Yoruichi smirked as she succeeded in messing with Ichigo. She liked making people around her uncomfortable, men in particular. Urahara on the other hand did the same to her which she found intriguing. It was nice to get back out there and start messing with men again.

"Pay attention," Yoruichi said, "the Sereitei is flooded with Shinigami and since we're gonna be infiltrating, it won't be a walk in the park. They will most likely put out a red alert to have the intruders – us – killed, so keep on your toes,"

"Got it," Ichigo said.

"You'll also need to suppress your reiatsu, you don't want to get spotted easily," Yoruichi said.

"Understood," Ichigo said.

"So that means no Bankai," Yoruichi said.

"What?" Ichigo said, caught aback, "Come on, Bankai is awesome,"

"Yeah, but since you're a newbie, you haven't mastered how to suppress it," Yoruichi said, "Your reiatsu was so explosive that it drew that Captain to the wall. Captains don't hang out at the wall, they're usually kilometres away from it,"

Ichigo realized the gravity of the situation.

"You do not want to fight a Captain," Yoruichi said, "although the standards have dropped since I was in the Sereitei, they are still powerful, especially for you, Ichigo,"

"I got it," Ichigo sighed, "Guess it's back to this huge lug of a sword,"

"Besides, you'll have to be adept in all forms of fighting," Yoruichi said, "you may be in a situation where you cannot activate your Bankai because of a spell or because your reiatsu is depleted or, like now, when stealth is paramount,"

Ichigo nodded.

"Pardon my asking," Ichigo said, "how do you know how to fight? Aren't you part cat?"

"Oh, I'm not in cat form usually. I was like this in my times in the Sereitei," Yoruichi said, "I only become a cat around Urahara. He likes cats, so I've been a cat for a year now,"

"Huh," Ichigo said, "didn't picture Urahara as a cat person; thought he was a casual pet owner,"

"The man adores cats," Yoruichi said, "I could swear that he had eight cats before I came along,"

"So you're dating?" Ichigo asked, though he realized that he may have become invasive,"

"Neh...," Yoruichi said, "yeah, but it's kinda loose. It's more of an on-again, off-again thing,"

"Oh, got ya," Ichigo said.

"But don't get any ideas," Yoruichi said, "I know Kung Fu,"

Ichigo laughed it off. He then wondered if he should have, maybe she was being serious. Ichigo became worried.

"Okay, let's get going," Kuukaku called out from the room down the hall.

"You heard her," Yoruichi said as she stood up.

Ichigo, Chad and Yoruichi walked down the hallway and entered the room.

ICHIGO, CHAD and Yoruichi were in awe as they entered a large control room filled with scientists working on computers. Through a large window on one end of the room, they could see the gigantic cannon which was aimed directly at the ceiling.

"Whoa," Ichigo said, then he wondered something, "wait a minute, with this tech and that cannon, do we really need these tiny Reiatsu Orb thingies?"

"Well, reiatsu is a powerful energy that almost nobody has probably been able to analyse," Kuukaku said, "it quickly dissipates outside its conduit and even if we can properly contain it, it's molecular structure is a tough nut to crack. All I have been able to tell is that it has effects on humans similar to that of radiation,"

"How'd you know all this?" Yoruichi asked, "from all I knew, you just dated Urahara,"

"Oh, I observed and learned things," Kuukaku said, "I wasn't just an accessory like you were,"

Yoruichi frowned at Kuukaku, but didn't seem that offended.

"Man, it's hard to annoy you," Kuukaku said lightly.

"Yeah, it is," Yoruichi said plainly.

"Good thing for me," Kuukaku said, "cuz I get to test out ways to annoy people,"

"I doubt that," Yoruichi said.

The two women laughed. Yoruichi and Kuukaku were somewhat similar, loving to spite people, though Yoruichi's motives were rather harmless in comparison to Kuukaku.

"Now, I will be coming along with you." Kuukaku said, "figured you'd need my help,"

"We don't mind, really," Yoruichi said.

"Yoruichi, you may be powerful, but you and these kids can't take down the entire Sereitei," Kuukaku said.

"Well, you do have a point," Yoruichi said.

15 uniformed men, armed with daggers and katana blades, entered the room. They stood beside Kuukaku.

"Shiba warriors," Kuukaku said, "you've met them. They'll be coming along,"

"The more the merrier," Yoruichi said.

"Let's get going," Kuukaku said.

Ichigo, Chad and Yoruichi followed Kuukaku and her men through a door that was near the window.

ICHIGO'S GROUP, Kuukaku and her men walked down the large silo where the cannon was. The cannon had a giant sunflower on its side.

"We'll all go at the same time," Kuukaku said, "and –"

"Oh, sorry, I'm late!" Ganju called out from the back.

Ganju ran into the silo.

"Good of you to join the party," Kuukaku said, "as I was saying, we will go in at the same time in the same force field,"

"How will we all fit at the same time?" Ichigo asked.

"The sphere's size changes depending on the amount of reiatsu poured in," Kuukaku explained, "so you and I will create the sphere,"

"Why me?" Ichigo asked.

"Because I can't do it by myself, duh," Kuukaku said.

Ichigo got annoyed.

"Come on," Kuukaku said, "time's-a-wastin'"

Kuukaku walked up to the cannon and typed in a code. The cannon door opened on its side and it was enormous. From where Ichigo was standing, it could fit a truck in. Everyone entered the cannon and stood on a large circular platform.

They all stood in a circle with Ichigo and Kuukaku stood in the middle. Kuukaku pulled out a Crane Orb from her kimono top and held it out to Ichigo. Ichigo held the Orb and Kuukaku held it as well, interlocking her fingers with his.

"Ready!" Kuukaku yelled.

The cannon door slammed shut and Ichigo nearly jumped.

"Calm down and focus," Kuukaku said sternly, "if we screw up, we're dead,"

Ichigo nodded. Ichigo and Kuukaku focussed on the Orb.

"Flower Crane Cannon launch in T-minus 10," a voice came on an intercom.

The Orb glowed.


Ichigo began to sweat as the Orb took long to glow.


The Orb glowed brightly and the force field began to form.


The force field wrapped slowly around everyone. The ceiling opened like two large cellar doors.


The force field was not forming properly.


"Ichigo, focus," Kuukaku shouted.


Fire exploded out from beneath the platform. The force field formed a large sphere and everyone stood suspended. The platform moved at high speed to the opening and launched the force field out of the room.

The force field launched high in the sky at high speed. Ichigo looked down at the Shiba grounds and it looked like the size of a small town.

A LARGE, built Shinigami captain, standing around 8 feet tall, walked down the streets of the Sereitei. His hair was raven and was split up in long spikes with small red, round bells hanging off their ends. He had a eye patch and a face filled with scars.

A small, cute Shinigami girl with pink hair sat on his shoulder.

"Ooh, what's that?" the girl said, pointing at the sky.


The man turned to where the girl was pointing, seeing a shooting star heading for them. It was the force field sphere heading for them.

"What is that?" the man asked.

The force field hit the Sereitei's shield and penetrated it. Huge automated laser cannons perched on buildings turned toward the sphere. The cannons fired at the force field sphere and it exploded.

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