Categories > Anime/Manga > Bleach > The Rise of the Hollow King

Chapter 14

by Karasu-Tenka 0 reviews

The War comes to a sudden end with an unexpected arival.

Category: Bleach - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Fantasy - Characters: Arisawa Tasuki,Inoue Orihime,Kurosaki Ichigo,Kurosaki Karin - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2017-11-14 - 5728 words

It was quiet. That was the first thing that she noticed. For what had felt like an eternity, there had been voices. Begging, crying, angry, and everything in between. But now... Silence... I wonder where everyone is?

Then her memories began to play behind her closed eyes once again. The man she loved, dead, a hole the size of her head through his chest. One of her best friends, close to death, his arm hanging useless from injury. The demon who had made her life hell since she had met it standing over them all, preparing to kill them. And then... the impossible, terrible miracle.

Kurosaki-kun... you came back... but you didn't. He had risen, the hole still in his chest, his inner Hollow now fully realized and unleashed. It was great and terrible to behold. A beast that seemed to think only of Ulquiorra's destruction. Then it spoke. And she learned that the man she had loved was gone forever. Destroyed by the winged beast who had killed him, and replaced by this... thing.

And it's my fault. I know that now. She had begged him to save them. Refused to believe that he was dead. And a part of him must have heard her, and clawed its way back to life in order to save her. She had created that thing. And this darkness around me is my punishment.

For an eternity she floated through the darkness, oddly blissful in it's silence. The dark oblivion a welcome change from the horror of reality. Slowly however, she became aware of something new. There was someone who now sat beside her for what must have been hours at a time, alone, speaking quietly to her. She couldn't understand what they said, but she knew that she wanted to.

With a conscious effort, she willed herself towards that voice. There was another voice that appeared sometimes as well, one that was familiar and warming. I need to know... She realized, I need to know what they are saying.

During another stretch of silence, she made one final effort, and pushed herself once again into the light.

And in the depths of Las Noches, Inoue Orihime's eyes opened.


It was quiet. That was once again her first observation. But this was a different silence, there was a hint of wind to this. As her eyes once again adjusted to reality, she cast out her senses, trying to discern just where she was.

After a few moments, she felt her breath catch in her throat. I'm still in Las Noches! Horror rose in her chest like a massive serpent. Finally daring to look around with her eyes, she found herself in a massive bed, covered by luxurious silk-like covers. The room in which she found herself could probably have fit her apartment on earth with ease. Slowly, she pushed herself up, moving to the edge of the bed. As she moved, she realized she was dressed in a Shinigami's kimono and hakama. Strange. Why would the Arrancar dress me like this?

She made her way through the room in which she found herself, investigating. It was considerably larger than her prison had been previously, and it connected to another, equally massive room. The second room also contained a massive bed, one that looked as though it had been used recently. A door, which she assumed led to more rooms. A wide assortment of furniture including a table, several chairs and other little things. And a massive balcony where the wall opposite the bed should have been.

Inoue stepped out onto the balcony, finding herself in the blue skied interior of Las Noches' dome, it's seemingly endless sands stretching out around her. They put me in one of these towers this time? How strange...

As she stood looking around the desert, the telltale sound of a Garganta ripping reality open erupted behind her, causing her to whirl around, bringing her hands up to her Soten Kisshun hair pins, ready to strike should she need to.

"God damn that fucking Shinigami!" A voice sounded from the Garganta as three figures stepped out of it beside the bed within the room. "Giri, put him on the bed. We'll get him to the infirmary once we've got the Palace staff properly mobilized." The figure speaking directed another who was dressed in a maid's uniform and carried the limp form of Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez over her shoulder. "Then I need to figure out... just..." The speaker trailed off, her eyes locking onto the human woman standing on the balcony, "O-Ori...hime...?"

Orihime felt her eyes widen in both horror and shock as she realized that she knew the speaker. "Tatsuki-chan...?" Her arms fell limply to her side as her friend's appearance became fully clear.

Behind Tatsuki, the maid seemed tense, gaze flicking between her mistress and the human who had been unresponsive for months. On the bed, Grimmjow groaned as he slowly stirred.
"Tatsuki-chan...'re a..."

Tatsuki blinked in surprise, before seeming to remember how to move. Stepping forward slowly, she sealed away her Ressurecion, becoming the young woman who Inoue had been friends with for so long once again. "Yeah..." She said, scratching the back of her head sheepishly, "It's been a weird couple of months since you up and vanished on me." She smiled then, "But it's ok! I'm not some monster or something. It's still me."

"How? How did this happen?"

"Well... it's because of Shiro-sama. He-"

"Shiro? You mean Kurosaki-kun?!" Orihime's voice seemed to break, "He... he did this to you...?"

By this point, Tatsuki was close enough that she reached out and took Orihime in a large, powerful hug. "Oh gods I've missed you Orihime!" She sobbed into the young human's shoulder, tears forming in her eyes, "You have no idea how scared I was when you disapeared. Then when I found you again... you.. you were... broken, it looked like."

As her friend spoke, Orihime felt her own eyes begin to tear up, slowly her arms lifted up and she embraced her oldest friend as well. For a few minutes, the two did nothing, they just stood there, embracing each other and crying silently, each finding a comfort in the other's presence that they hadn't realized they had been missing.

From her spot near the bed, Giri watched on in surprised silence, uncomfortable and unsure whether she should do something.

After another minute, Orihime broke their embrace. "Where is Ichigo?" She asked with a suddenly serious tone. "I cannot believe that he would do this to one of his friends."

"Orihime, I'm alright." Tatsuki said, smiling, "I'm stronger, faster, and healthier than I ever could have been as a human. Shiro's given me one of the most incredible gifts in the world by making me into an Arrancar, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

"Tatsuki-chan." Inoue's eyes flashed with a force and strength that Tatsuki had never seen. "Where is he?"

For a few moments, Tatsuki was quietly stunned by her friend's apparent anger, then finally she sighed. "We're at war with Soul Society. He's still there, fighting with some freakishly strong old man."

"What?!" Orihime pushed Tatsuki back, horror filling her features. "No... no..." Suddenly, her eyes locked onto Tatsuki, fixing her with a force that the Espada had not expected. "Take me to him. Now."

Something in Orihime's eyes warned Tatsuki that arguing with her would be pointless. "Fine." She turned back to her Fraccion, "Giri, get the medical teams ready, and get Grimmjow into the infirmary as quickly as you can. Then be ready for my orders."

Giri curtsied low, "Yes mistress." She said before vanishing away.

"Follow me." Tatsuki said as she opened a new Garganta, and offered Orihime her hand.


"I won't allow any more death!" Inoue shouted, feeling the shocked stares of everyone present.

In front of her, the man who had once been Kurosaki Ichigo gazed at her, his eyes unreadable, and slowly lowered his fists. "So you're awake..." His voice sent shivers down her spine, but she refused to back down. "Why did you bring her here, Tatsuki?"

Behind her, Tatsuki seemed to jump at his question. "Well... I..."

"I asked her to, Kurosaki-kun." Inoue shocked herself by how strong her voice seemed, even before the terror that the Arrancar in front of her exhuded. "I won't allow you to kill anymore of my friends."

Shiro stood, shoulders slumped, clearly exhausted from his battles, "'Friends'?" He chuckled coldly. "Is that what they are...?"

Inoue nodded firmly, her eyes fierce. However in her mind, she wondered silently what the Arrancar meant with his words. "Yes."

For what felt like an eternity, Shiro simply stared at her silently. Then finally, he straightened himself, inhaling deeply. "Fine." He said, "As a present to celebrate your waking up, I'll spare the rest of Soul Society. For now." With that he turned away from Yamamoto and began to limp towards his Espada. "Consider yourselves lucky, Shinigami," He said over his shoulder as he reached his subordinates, "You now owe Inoue Orihime your lives."

Yamamoto coughed violently, only now standing because of Captain Unohana holding him up, "You think I'm just going to let you escape!?"

Across from the Shinigami, Baraggan scoffed incredulously, "Shiro-sama! We are on the verge of annihilating them forever! And you wish to simply abandon the field?"

"Enough." Said Nel, having retrieved Shiro's blade and now standing beside him. "Shiro-sama has given the order, we will obey it."

"We'll discuss this later Baraggan." Shiro said, shiething his sword, "For now, find any of our ranks who've survived, and get them out of here. Starrk, you're covering our retreat." He turned to consider Orihime for a moment, "Ulquiorra, Tatsuki, please escort Orihime back to Las Noches."

"Hold it Shiro!" Yamamoto struggled to once again move to attack his foe. "I will not allow you to have Inoue Orihime!"

Shiro's glare shifted to Yamamoto, "I don't remember asking your permission old man." He snarled, "The only reason you are still alive is because of her. So have some dignity, and go and lick your wounds like a good dog. I promise that I'll kill you properly next time."
As Inoue glanced nervously between the two arguing leaders, a hand closed on her shoulder, "Come on Orihime," Tatsuki said with a small smile, "Let's get you out of here." Behind them, Ulquiorra opened a Garganta and gestured for the two women to enter.

"Inoue Orihime," The voice of Unohana reached them, "If you go with them like this, Soul Society will have to consider you a threat." Her eyes were cold and angry as she spoke. "You understand what that means don't you?"

Orihime looked as though she were about to cry, "I just wanted everyone to stop fighting..." She said quietly, "Why did the world have to get so broken...?" Squaring her shoulders, she locked eyes with the angry Captain, "I'm sorry miss Unohana-san. I really wish that I could make everything like it was, but this is the only way that I can stop anyone else from dying." She bowed low, "I hope that you'll understand."

With that, the Garganta closed around her, and the young woman was gone once again. Yamamoto let out a deep sigh, collapsing to his knees, "I never expected that boy to become so powerful..." He wheezed as Unohana began to see to his many wounds. After a few minutes, he looked up at her, "How many did we lose?"

"We don't know yet sir." Unohana said quietly. "I have my squad running recovery efforts all across the Seireitei as we speak, but initial estimates put us at well below fifty percent of the strength we had even this morning."

"Then we have completely lost this battle." The Commander sighed with a note of resignation in his voice. "At least half of his Espada are still alive. And I suspect that you and I are the only two here in Seireitei that can defeat at least three of them." Unohana's expression darkened, "Enough with healing me. I'll survive for now." He said, "Go and see to the rescue and recovery operations. I want a full report by tomorrow morning."

Unohana nodded and vanished. After several moments, Yamamoto sighed once more. "I know you're there."

"Shame, I had hoped that I wouldn't be noticed." Shiro said, appearing beside the old man. "You're an observant old bastard." The Hollow King still bled from his many wounds, but he seemed to have already recovered enough strength to move with ease once more.

"Here to try and finish me off?"

"Don't flatter yourself old man. I don't actually give two shits about you, besides, I've given my word that I won't kill anymore Shinigami today."

"Then why are you still here?" The old man asked, looking up at the Arrancar.

"Couple of reasons actually." Shiro sat down cross-legged in the dust of the crater, "First off, I wanted to let you know that I'm genuinely impressed with how strong you are. I actually didn't think that there was anyone that would be able to fight me on equal footing." Yamamoto snorted in soft laughter. "Second; While I am more than happy to annihilate Soul Society, I do still have Kurosaki Ichigo's memories. So I know what that would do to all of the worlds, my own included."

Yamamoto's eyebrow rose in curiosity, "What do you intend to do then?"

"I will allow you to live. Do not attempt any future hostility against Hueco Mundo, and do not interfere in my affairs, and I will leave Soul Society in peace." Shiro locked eyes with the ancient Shinigami, "I am not asking. I'm telling."

"Hmph..." Yamamoto scoffed, "Not much of a negotiat-"

His voice died away, and his eyes widened in shock, as the glinting point of a sword appeared from the center of his chest. Behind him, a figure covered in a reiatsu-hiding cloak had appeared, and gazed down at the two leaders, sword in hand.

"Shit!" Shiro swore, rolling backwards and coming up, sword drawn. The figure stood, pulling it's sword from Yamamoto's back, "You..." Shiro felt his anger begin to rise as he recognised the face beneath the hood, but before he could say any more, the man vanished.
Yamamoto slumped forward, blood spilling from his mouth. Shiro seemed genuinely stunned by the sudden event, "Fuck..." The Arrancar said, finally moving over to the Commander, "You'd better not let this kill you old man," He carefully moved the old man to lie down, using the Shinigami's kimono as a makeshift bandage. "I'll be fucking pissed if I don't get to kill you myself."

Standing up, he looked around. They were alone, but that was unlikely to remain the case, "Unohana will definitely notice that your reiatsu is suddenly failing... Bet you that she'll blame me for this..." With an angry sigh, Shiro flickered away from the scene, reappearing on a rooftop in an area that he sensed no Shinigami. He then cast out his senses, searching the Seireitei. "No way am I leaving them here now..."

As he searched, Shiro noted with some interest his level of concern. I must truely still feel for them... He marveled silently, Even if i hate him for lying all my life... I guess Kurosaki's love for his sisters really was strong enough to survive my birth.
"Hmm... No Karin..." He noted with a hint of worry. "Shit. We'll deal with that later. We're on a clock here."

With that, he vanished once more, reappearing above the now silent Shiba mansion. Not sensing Isshin anywhere nearby, Shiro slowly lowered himself into the courtyard. If Unohana and the rest of the Shinigami do end up blaming me for what just happened, then it's eventually going to come around to aiming blame at Ichigo's family, since most of them probably still see me as Ichigo... He thought quietly as he quietly made his way into the house.

After a few minutes of searching, the Hollow King found his objective, and stood over the sleeping form of Kurosaki Yuzu. "I won't allow that sort of backlash to reach you..." He murmured quietly, kneeling down and gently lifting the young girl, hoping not to disturb her sleep. "Iishin is useless, he won't be able to protect you. Not like I can."

In his arms, Yuzu stirred slightly, causing him to stiffen. "Ichi-nii..." She mumbled in her sleep, unconciously taking hold of his shirt, a small smile on her face.

With a smile, Shiro turned, and willed a Garganta open. "I'm here Yuzu..." He said softly as the gate closed around them, leaving the Shiba Mansion empty and deserted.


Baraggan paced angrily across the Throne room. "Where the hell is he?!" The Tres Espada roared incredulously, the others gathered in the throne room simply shrugged. "For our King to vanish at a time like this... Unacceptable! Neliel, weren't you supposed to be watching him!?"

"Enough Baraggan..." The elevator to Shiro's personal chambers slid open, revealing the Hollow King, wearing a clean change of clothes. "I could hear you from the top of the tower." Looking around the room as he sat down at his throne, he sighed, "I take it that you all are unsatisfied with my decision to end our attack?"

Starrk simply shrugged, once more seeming lackadaisical as ever. Ulquiorra said nothing, and Nel shook her head. Hallibel spoke up, "I am not unsatisfied Shiro-sama... merely confused. I believe that only Baraggan is angry about the decision."

"You're damn right I am!" Baraggan roared, "My king, we still had easily half of our fighting power, your Cero through to your Tres Espada were practically unharmed! We could have annihilated the entirety of the Soul Society! Why did you order our retreat!?"

"Baraggan, do you recal what I told you and the others the day I proposed the invasion?"

Baraggan paused, thinking back to what felt like an eternity ago, but had in fact been little more a week. "Of course, y-"

"I said that we were going to cripple the Soul Society." Shiro interrupted him, an edge to his voice that caused even the proud Espada to go silent. "Cripple. Not destroy." He looked around the vast chamber, "I do not expect you all to understand immediately but, unfortunately, the continued existence of Soul Society is a necessary evil. At least until I can figure out a way to remove that necessity."

Baraggan scoffed incredulously once again, but said nothing. Nel and Hallibel both bowed in acceptance of Shiro's words, and Ulquiorra simply stood, eyes unreadable once more. Starrk nodded a few times before yawning, "Ok, so we've crippled them. Now what?"

Shiro sat back in his throne, steepling his fingers, "Now we turn our gaze inwards. Hueco Mundo is a desolate wasteland, with Las Noches as it's only real form of civility. I want to change that, I want to give Hollows a civilization beyond the brutality of what it is now." The others blinked in surprise, clearly having not expected that. "However..." Shiro sighed tiredly, "Our progress is going to be hindered by a few things."

"And what are those?" Ulquiorra asked, speaking for the first time.

"Firstly is Soul Society itself..." Shiro lowered a hand to the arm of his throne and almost unconsciously began to crush the stone beneath his fingers. "We have a small problem with them. Baraggan, you asked where I had gone after I gave the order to retreat," Baraggan nodded, "I stayed in Soul Society for a little bit. In fact, I sat down and had a chat with their Commander."

His revelation caused several small gasps, "You WHAT?!" Baraggan snarled.

"I offered him a temperary cease fire." He explained, "Told him to stay out of our way, and we would allow their continued existence. Unfortunately, that is where our second obstacle entered the equation." The arm of his throne exploded in a shower of dust and rubble as his hand fully crushed it in anger. "Kaname Tousen is still alive."

"Tousen? How?" Hallibel asked, suddenly on edge.

"I don't know. But he appeared behind Yamamoto and stabbed him." The others blinked in surprise, "And I will bet you anything that the idiots in Soul Society will somehow trace the old man's wound back to me. They'll think that I tried to assassinate their commander after ordering a secession of hostilities. Which means that they'll come after me with all the righteous fury that they're capable of."

"If Tousen is alive... do you think that means..." Starrk felt the color drain from his face.

"I'm loath to admit it." Shiro snarled, "But Aizen is probably as well."


Gin lead the way through the forest, picking his way carefully so that his new companion could keep up easily enough. "Not much farther now lil' missy." He called over his shoulder with his usual smile.

Karin let out a small sigh, starting to feel the exhaustion of her flight from the Seireitei at last. "You really live out here in the middle of nowhere?"

"It's not the easiest to get groceries or such I admit," He chuckled, "But it keeps away those pesky neighbors. Not to mention that Soul Society and my roommates didn't exactly part on the best of terms last time we saw them. So this let's us stay out of their way."
"Roommates?" Karin blinked, unused to people in Soul Society using such a modern saying.

"Ah... here's one now." Gin grinned as he flickered out of view, reappearing beside Karin with wakazashi drawn and blocking the blade of a sword that suddenly stabbed in towards her.

Karin fell backwards with a startled scream as the two blades clashed. Looking up, she found herself looking at a dark skinned man wearing a visor over his eyes, dressed in a long flowing cloak and a strange white outfit beneath it.

"Why did you stop me Gin?" The newcomer asked, his voice a strange almost monotone, "You know that outsiders are not allowed here."

"Easy there grumpy." Gin said, his smile suddenly turning viciously sadistic, "This here is one Kurosaki Karin. You get what I'm saying now?"

The newcomer seemed to stiffen at the mention of her name. Slowly he lowered his blade, "I suppose I should apologize for startling you, Kurosaki Karin." He said, sheathing the weapon and offering her a small bow of greeting, "I am Kaname Tousen." He offered her a hand to help her back up.

Karin blinked in surprise at the man's sudden shift in demenur. "Uhhh... no problem?" She said tentatively, accepting the man's hand.

"Tousen here's always been a bit of a stickler for rules and such," Gin said chuckling and patting Tousen on the back jovially, "But he's a good sort."

"I...see." Said Karin, still very much confused. "Is my name really that influential around here?"

"No." Tousen replied bluntly, turning to make his way into the woods, "But our leader will be very interested in speaking with you."

"Huh..." Karin shook her head confusedly, glancing over to Gin curiously. The platinum haired man simply grinned and gestured for her to follow after Tousen, and quickly fell into step behind her.

Several minutes later, the three of them found themselves at the entrance of a small cave. Stepping inside, Karin was shocked to find the interior was actually more remanicent of a house than a natural rock formation.

"Ahh, home sweet home." Gin said with a happy sigh, "Hey boss! We brought home a friend. Hope you don' mind.~" He chuckled as he threw open a door at the far end of the main room.

"I can sense that Gin..." A quiet voice floated to Karin from the door, "You had better have a very good reason for this."

"Oh don't be like that." Gin teased, "Just wait till you meet her, eh?"

Karin made her way across the room and peeked into the doorway. What her eyes fell on almost made her scream in horror. "Do not be afraid child..." Said the man lying on the large bed within the small room, "I have no way of harming you."

Karin felt her eyes continue to widen as the details of the figure became clear. Whoever it was, he was covered in bandages, only about half of his face actually visible. However what shocked her was the man's limbs. One of his arms was missing at the elbow, while his other seemed to have been cut in half length wise, leaving him with only his thumb, index, and middle finger on the hand. She couldn't tell from where she stood, but she had a disturbing feeling that his legs had been similarly torn to shreds.

"If you continue staring like that girl, I may start to take offense." The man's voice was raspy and strained, but his single eye glimmered in the shade.

But his words were enough to startle her out of her shock. "s-sorry..." Karin bowed in apology. "I've never seen anyone so hurt before. It just caught me by surprise is all."

"Oh? You've seen many injured people have you?"

"Well my family used to run a clinic until not too long ago." She explained, "We didn't get the really bad cases, cause my idiot of a dad didn't have the equipment to handle them, but I saw some people come in really bad off."

The man on the bed narrowed his eye, "Would you step forward please?" He asked, "I cannot see all that well anymore." Karin nodded and took a few steps forward. "You..." The man's eye seemed to widen without moving, something that Karin found very strange. "What is your name girl? I sense something familiar about you..."

"My name's Kurosaki Karin. Gin and Tousen said you'd be 'interested in meeting me' for some reason."

"Kurosaki..." The man's eye seemed to harden in pure hatred, and Karin felt a sudden weight in the air pressing against her from all directions. "You are the sibling of Kurosaki...?"
Karin's eyes widened in fear, as she suddenly realized that she couldn't breathe. Her breath caught in her chest and the pressure that she felt seemed to only increase, making it even harder. Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the terrifying experience abruptly ended.

"Now now Captain," Gin smiled widely as he placed himself between Karin and the man on the bed, blocking the reiatsu from reaching her. "You'll only make your condition worse if you exert yourself like that."

As if to prove the point, the man began to cough violently, several of his bandages turning red within moments as wounds beneath them opened. Tousen seemed to materialize out of thin air at the man's side, placing a restraining hand on his shoulder to keep him from moving too much until the coughing subsided.

"D-damnit...." The injured man swore, a thin line of blood falling from the corner of his mouth. "You see this, Kurosaki...? This is what you have reduced me too..."

Karin felt her own anger rise, "I did NOTHING to you!"

"Not you..." The man interrupted her. Tousen had begun removing portions of his bandages, a box of fresh ones beside him. "Your brother, Kurosaki Ichigo did this to me," Karin's eyes widened in shock. "This body of mine, once one of the most powerful men in creation, was reduced to this... broken husk, at the hands of Kurosaki Ichigo."

Karin backed away slowly, shaking her head. "N-no way... My brother wouldn't... he wouldn't do this... This is..." Her words caught in her throat as she remembered the creature that now wore her brother's face. "He... wouldn't..." Her mind recalled the confrontation between Ichi-nii and her father.

"I won't have my sister watch me tear my own father's head off."

"He..." Karin's eyes rolled back, as the horrors fully caught up with her. She was unconscious before her body even fell.

"Woah there." Gin caught the young girl before she hit the ground. "Poor kid, guess she's all tuckered out from such an exciting day."

"Gin... why did you bring her here?"

"Seemed like a decent idea at the time." Gin shrugged, his customary grin spread across his lips, "Still may end up being one too." He rose, Karin in his arms and left the room.

"Kaname..." Aizen turned his gaze on his blind subordinate, "Keep them under observation. I don't trust Gin."

Tousen continued wrapping him in fresh bandages, "Of course Aizen-sama."


Kurosaki Yuzu groaned lightly as she slowly returned to conciousness. Her head hurt, but otherwise she felt remarkably comfortable. After a few moments, her eyes bolted open and she threw herself up and forward with a shriek. "Karin!"

Silence was all that answered the girl. She slowly registered that she was somewhere... else. Gone was the traditional Japanese style home her family had been living in, gone was the sound of birds chirping, gone was the blue sky outside of her window. In their place were white walls of some kind of marble-like stone, the quiet whistling of a soft, empty wind, and a massive balcony that opened out to a starless, pitch black sky.

Looking around, Yuzu found herself in an enormous four poster bed, like something out of a fantasy story. Silken white sheets gave the bed itself a luxurious comfort, while white, semi-translucent drapes hung from the posts, obscuring the room around her just enough to add an extra air of mystery.

"Where... am I?" She asked quietly, maneuvering herself to the closest edge of the bed. Vaguely she noticed as she moved, that she was still dressed in the same clothes that she had before she had collapsed. "What happened to Karin...? And to Papa? I remember feeling scared... hearing screams of monsters all around me... then..."

Slowly, she began to explore her new environment. It was an apartment, she decided after a while. There was no other way to properly describe it, however this was an apartment that seemed to either have been made for giants, or a king. She couldn't rationalize any other reason to build it so massive. Finally, her exploration led her out onto the balcony, and she felt her heart momentarily stop at the sight.

A white desert stretched endlessly out into the distance. Above it, a pearlescent white crescent moon shone impossibly bright in an otherwise pitch black sky. Looking down, Yuzu realized that she was at the top of an enormously tall tower, the base of which connected to a wide circular structure that stretched for what seemed like miles in every direction.

\As she took in the incredible, impossible sight, Yuzu realized that she could... feel... something. She wasn't entirely sure how she could describe it, even to herself. It was almost like she could feel heartbeats from down below, however she knew that was the wrong word for it. Standing there, gazing out into the endless night, Yuzu realized that a small group of... whatever it was that she was sensing, seemed to be approaching her from below and within the tower.

Panicking, she threw herself into hiding behind a large, plush couch, peeking out from behind it, unsure of what to expect.

"-And I expect that you keep this all in the strictest confidence." A deep, terrifying voice said as the wall seemed to slide open, revealing a small group of strange looking people and a small elevator. The lead figure stepped into the room, and something about him caused Yuzu to retract in fear even before she could get a good look at him. "You three are honestly the only ones that I trust with this at the moment. So I honestly need your advice and help."

"Of course Shiro-sama." A bubbly feminine voice said, the speaker moving into the apartment and towards the room where Yuzu had awoken. "Huh...?" She said after a few moments, "Shiro-sama, didn't you say that there was someone here?"

"Of course I-" The first voice broke off, Yuzu felt herself stop breathing for fear that the speaker could somehow find her. "She must have woken up..." The voice sounded... concerned, which confused Yuzu even more given how terrifying it was. "She's probably scared and confused, but she can't be far."

Yuzu felt her heart skip a beat, and turned to creep away to a better hiding place. However as she turned, she found herself looking into a bright pair of brown eyes. "Hey there kid," a woman said with a soft smile, "How ya' feelin'?"

A shriek of fear and surprise drew Shiro's attention towards the balcony as Yuzu leaped backwards from behind a couch, Tatsuki rising as well apologizing. With a small smile, he flickered across the room, appearing behind his little sister, and stopping her from falling over the edge. The young girl froze as she bumped into him, terror clear across her features. With a small effort, Shiro focused his reiatsu away from the girl, and after a few seconds the color seemed to return to her face.

"Sorry about that Yuzu-chan." Tatsuki was saying, still smiling, "I shouldn't have snuck up on you like that."

Yuzu blinked, her mind now somewhat clear of the terror that had gripped her, she realized that she recognized the young woman in front of her. "Arisawa-san?" Tatsuki nodded, still smiling, "What are you doing here? What's going on? Where are we? Wha-"

She was silenced by Tatsuki's finger, as she was shushed. "That's an awful lot of questions," Tatsuki chuckled, "How about I let him answer eh?" She gestured over Yuzu's shoulder.

Turning to look, Yuzu saw a man standing out on the balcony, gazing out over the desert. The first thing that she noticed, was his hair. She felt her eyes widen at the sight of that shockingly bright orange hair. After a few moments, the man turned, his mouth turned up in a smile, "Hey Yuzu."

Yuzu ran forward, throwing herself into the arms of her brother. "Ichi-nii!" She felt her tears already cascading down her cheeks. "Papa said that you died! He'll be so happy! Oh and Karin will feel so much better. And-"

"Yuzu..." Ichigo cut her off, his smile turning sad even as he hugged her tightly. "We need to talk..."
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