Read the comment pinned to this paragraph before reading the chapter, thank you.
'Is the battle over?' Toshiro Hitsugaya was having one hell of a bad day. The captain meeting was boring enough for him, there was also the discussion that he had managed to overhear just before the captain meeting was postponed.
He hadn't been able to hear too much about it, but Aizen did appear to imply that the ryoka's arrival was almost too convenient for Gin Ichimaru.
'This is no time for that.' The white haired captain forced himself to keep his mind on the task at hand. His lieutenant had been the first one to make contact with the intruders, and engaged them in battle shortly after that.
''You.'' He made a gesture with his head towards one of the many soul reapers behind him, addressing him while still keeping his own speed at bay in order to not overrun his own subordinates.
''Y-yes, captain Hitsugaya?'' Said soul reaper being no one more than an unseated officer ended up stumbling over his words. It was not a common occurrence being addressed by a captain after all.
''Call someone from squad four just in case, it appears that the battle is over.'' Toshiro ordered, not even bothering to take a look back at him.
''B-but… Does that mean that the lieutenant lost?'' This time, one of his seated officers couldn't keep his mouth shut at the implication of his captain's remark.
''… I will go on ahead.'' The young captain announced, furrowing his eyebrows at the thought of his lazy lieutenant being defeated by the ryokas. So, without so much as a second thought, he increased his speed until he was nothing but a blur, distancing himself from the rest of his squad.
. . .
''Now, I will be needing some answers from you.'' Ichigo looked down, his gaze landing on the form of his defeated opponent, Ikkaku Madarame. ''Where is Rukia Kuchiki?''
''… So that is what you wanted.'' The bald soul reaper gritted his teeth, unable to lift even a finger due to the wounds he had been inflicted during their battle. ''I guess you have earned that much after defeating me.''
Truth be told, he was only alive because Ichigo had decided to use the healing ointment that Ikkaku stored inside his sword, more precisely on the hilt's pommel.
''Where is she?'' Ichigo repeated, he had no time to waste. Their long battle had been more than enough to catch the attention of more than one nearby soul reaper, and he still needed to help Ganju finish his own battle too.
''If you head towards the center, you will find her inside a big white tower called senzaikyū.'' Contrary to what Ichigo had been expecting, his opponent did offer an answer. ''Now leave, it already is bad enough you allowed me to live after defeating me.'
''… Thanks, Ikkaku.'' The substitute soul reaper thanked him, turning his back away from him. ''I will be leaving, then.''
''Wait, just one more thing.'' Ikkaku told him, a sudden thought now crossing his mind. ''Am I right in assuming you are the strongest in your group?''
''Not really.'' Ichigo confessed, gaining the attention of the bald man. ''I should be the second strongest, though.''
''Oh, isn't that interesting.'' Ikkaku muttered, he had expected his own opponent to be the strongest one, but it appeared that these intruders had quite a few things to offer still. ''Then this warning is both for you and that person if you do find him. You two better watch out for my captain, he has no interest in weaklings, so he will surely be searching for the both of you.''
''… What is his name?'' Ichigo frowned, it didn't feel to him like Ikkaku was exaggerating the strength of his own captain, which meant the man was just that much of a problem.
''He is the captain of squad eleven, Kenpachi Zaraki.''
. . .
''I presume the path forward is cleared out?'' Kuromiya landed next to a black cat that appeared to have been waiting for him on one of the roofs from the many houses inside the Seireitei.
Both of them had masked their spiritual pressures once again, the two having a tacit agreement in regards to avoid more fights until the boy was able to recover all his energies.
''We should be able to run without interruptions for a while.'' Yoruichi replied to his words with a quick nod, although she did add while taking a look towards the direction from where the blue eyed boy had arrived. ''Though that does depend on how much of a mess you did back there.''
''I didn't kill her, if that is what you are asking.'' Kuromiya replied, not bothering to further explain himself. ''Plus she was a lieutenant, it's not like I would have been able to contain myself even if I wanted to.''
''… I suppose you are right.'' She agreed after a moment of silence. ''Can you deal with that injury? Or do we need to make a stop to heal it?''
Yoruichi was referring to the slight cut he had sustained during the battle against Rangiku, which was a cut on his forehead, just above his left eye.
''Nah, shouldn't be a problem.'' He replied while cleaning the trail of blood dropping from said wound. ''I just underestimated the range of her shikai, next time I will be prepared.''
It was unfortunate that he had been inflicted this wound just a few seconds before activating Bookmark, if that wasn't the case then that wound would have disappeared too.
''We should move on then; with a bit of luck we might be able to cover around half the distance we need to reach the senzaikyū.'' Trusting that the boy knew his own limits, she decided that the best course of action would be to continue their path towards the white tower.
''What are we waiting for, then?'' Kuromiya asked, jumping from one roof onto the other while being closely followed by her. ''It is a shame I can't use Bringer Light though, if not for that then we would be already there.''
''We would be there, yes, and so would the other thirteen captains.'' She pointed out, both of them distancing themselves from the place where the battle against Rangiku had been held. ''It doesn't matter if we can reach that place right now if we end up revealing ourselves while doing so.''
''I know, I know.''
. . .
''Now, go!'' Mayuri barked his orders to twelve of his subordinates.
''Yes, sir!'' All of them replied in unison, leaving the captain alone with his lieutenant. The street hat once had been full of soul reapers was now almost entirely empty.
''Hmph, I don't expect much though.'' Mayuri muttered after his subordinates were gone. ''Even if one of them managed to evade Ichimaru, at the end they are just humans.''
''Mayuri-sama.'' The feminine voice of his lieutenant Nemu Kurotsuchi called for him, managing to get his attention.
Nemu Kurotsuchi was a well-endowed woman with green eyes and long black hair pulled back into a long braid, with two bangs parted out framing her face. She was wearing a short kimono which reached just over her mid-thigh, making it quite a pleasing sight.
''What is it?'' Now looking towards her, the captain noticed that she was holding a black butterfly on her finger. This was no ordinary butterfly though; it was a hell butterfly which the shinigami often used as messengers. ''Oh, what was the message?''
''… Rangiku Matsumoto and Ikkaku Madarame engage in battle against two ryokas.'' Her eyes widened as she finished hearing the message, as if surprised by its content.
''That's unfortunate, now we have to less to look for.'' Mayuri frowned at that, he could only hope that none of the captured ryokas had been the ones with the interesting skill sets.
''No, sir…'' Nemu corrected him, wondering just how the man would react to this news. ''Rangiku Matsomoto and Ikkaku Madarame lost their battles, and have been taken to the Squad 4 General Relief Station. The whereabouts of both of the ryokas are unknown.''
''… Defeated by the intruders? My my, aren't those some interesting news?'' The captain smirked, it was promising enough that someone like a third seat had been beaten, but a lieutenant was more than enough to get his undivided attention. ''Before Zaraki or that brat from squad ten arrive, we have to get the information about these ryokas.''
He started walking through the streets, being closely followed by his confused lieutenant.
''Mayuri-sama, where are we going?'' Nemu questioned, walking right behind him.
''To see Rangiku and Ikkaku, of course.'' He answered in between laughs, the thought of finding this few interesting specimens was more than enough to amuse him to no ends. ''I will have these two ryokas in my lab soon enough.''
. . .
''… Can you feel it too?'' Ishida whispered to Chad, the group of three had been utilizing the top of the buildings in order to move while also going unnoticed, but it appeared that such was no longer the case.
Right now the three of them where on the top of a four stored building, which allowed them to speak without being noticed by anyone who might have been on the streets below them.
''I do.'' Chad replied, both of them taking a quick glance around them. ''He doesn't appear to be that strong, though.''
''Not necessarily, he could be masking his spiritual pressure.'' Ishida reminded his classmate, while the still unaware Orihime looked around with a confused look.
''Um… What is going on? Is there a problem?'' She asked, from the three of them she was the less trained in detecting someone else's spiritual pressure, which meant that the girl had yet to notice that someone was around them.
''Whoever you are, come out.'' The quincy called, deciding that it was better to get over with the situation before their stalker was able to contact any other soul reapers. ''Or else we will force you to do so.''
Nothing happened for a while, the wind being the only sound that was able to reach the group's ears while waiting for the person watching over them to reveal itself.
''Huh, it does seem that some of you are more perceptive than I imagined.'' The voice of a male answered after some time, and the figure of said person was visible to them shortly after those words.
The person in question was a tall and heavyset man, his height being almost twice to that of a regular human. The man short black hair wearing the standard shinigami robes, which meant that it wasn't someone powerful enough to be a lieutenant.
''I am Jirobo Ikkanzaka, fourth seat of the seventh squad.'' The man presented himself while drawing his blade. ''I thought I sensed a few weak spiritual pressures up here, and look what I find.''
''… Ishida, should we get rid of him before he calls for help?'' Chad whispered at the quincy, both of them had already realized that this man was no match for either of them.
''Yeah, but leave him to me.'' Ishida's gaze was noticeably darker, since he had been defeated this was the first time he had the chance to fight a soul reaper, one of his sworn enemies. ''I will be sure to shut him up before he has a chance to do anything.''
''Shut me up? Aren't you a bit too confident, boy?'' Jirobo tried to say, pointing his zanpakuto towards the black haired teenager. '' Well, I should give you all ten seconds of repentance so… !?''
A single arrow was fired before the man could even finish his words, and pierced right through the soul reaper's hand that was holding his zanpakuto.
''Like I told you, I will shut you up before you can utter a single word.'' Ishida repeated, while holding in his hands his own new bow. No longer was there any sort of trace left of that spiritual pressure created bow, now replaced for an actual physical white and blue bow. ''… Although ten seconds of repentance seems a bit too much, I will finish this in less than five.''
. . .
. . .
''Shouldn't you be resting, Matsumoto?'' Ikkaku questioned, his gaze landing on the lieutenant of the tenth division who had just entered his own resting room. ''I doubt you are allowed to move with those injuries.''
''I am bored though…'' Rangiku pouted, although she did like to take time off work, the fact that she was supposed to spend all that time resting on a bed didn't seem quite entertaining to her. ''Besides I have so much things to think about, I doubt I could sleep even if I wanted to.''
That wasn't a lie, there were a ton of questions plaguing her mind, it was strange enough that she was still alive, after all. That alone had confirmed to her that his opponent avoided killing her more than a few times in that fight.
''And how does that involve me, exactly?'' The bald man inquired, furrowing his brows at the woman that was disturbing his own rest. ''Just go pester someone else, I can't be bothered to spend my own time entertaining you.''
''Mhm… Fine, be like that.'' She answered after a while, crossing her arms in front of her ample chest. ''I am sure that you will have a hell of a time all alone here, watching the walls.''
''... Actually Matsumoto, I have something to ask you.'' Ikkaku said just before the woman was able to leave the room. He remembered his own conversation with Ichigo, and that boy did mention that someone was stronger than him. ''Who was your opponent? Did you get some sort of name?''
''I… !?'' Right when the orange haired woman was about to answer, a sudden presence overwhelmed both of them just from outside the room.
''Yes, I would certainly like to know about that.'' The spiritual pressure of Mayuri Kurotsuchi was more than enough to make both of the defeated soul reapers sweat, the two of them doing nothing but look at the man as he entered the room. ''You two will be telling me all about these two ryokas, down to the last drop of information you have stored in those little brains of yours.'
''Captain Kurotsuchi…'' Ikkaku muttered, watching as the man walked towards his bed while his lieutenant followed him. ''What are you doing here?''
''What, you ask?'' Mayuri's smile widened, just thinking about getting his hands on these two before their captains were able to question them was exhilarating to him. ''I believe I already made my intention quite clear, so quit stalling for time and answer.''
''Please, sir! Kurotsuchi-sama, such interrogations are prohibited on these premises.'' One of the nurses taking care of the patients had been valiant enough to stick her head over the door and beg the captain to stop his actions. ''If you wish too…!?''
''Shut up!'' Kurotsuchi blasted a hole through the door with a wave of his spiritual pressure, barely missing the nurse that would have otherwise been killed.
''Mayuri-sama…'' Nemu attempted to calm her captain down, knowing that it wouldn't end well for either of them if Unohana just happened to be around the place.
''You be quiet too, Nemu.'' Mayuri added, looking towards his lieutenant. ''Or else I will pull you down to pieces once again.''
''… Yes, sir.''
''Captain Kurotsuchi, I will have to ask you to refrain from interrogating either of us.'' Rangiku was the first one from the two injured patients to talk. ''There are strict rules prohibiting anyone from interrogating patients inside here.''
''Matsumoto is right, furthermore… I didn't get to see a thing so even if I wanted to, I don't have useful information, nothing at all.'' Ikkaku added while glancing towards the lieutenant from squad ten, silently prompting her to do the same thing. ''That is why I asked her about it, I was just wondering if she was unable to get some sort of information too.''
''... It is the same with me, I'm afraid.'' Rangiku answered, though truth be told she didn't know what prompted her to lie either. The wound that she had inflicted to her enemy should be fatal, so that young man she had battled against might not even be alive anymore.
''You are telling me that a lieutenant and a third seat…'' Mayuri started, gritting his teeth in annoyance while he started to raise his hand. ''Weren't able to spot even the face of the opponent that defeated them?''
His questioning was met with nothing more than silence, managing to make the man's rage go past the breaking point.
''Then you two shall receive punishment befitting of your failure!'' He attempted to strike with his hand, but the very second his hand moved, something stopped him.
Mayuri's two yellow eyes glanced downwards, were a sword was pointing towards his unprotected neck. That wasn't all though, his hand that had been just about to strike at the two wounded soldiers was now being crushed under an iron grip from the two newcomers.
''Don't even think about it, Kurotsuchi.'' Toshiro Hitsugaya was the one pointing his sword at the man, his cold glare aimed at the captain that had just been about to harm one of his closest subordinates.
''Yeah, since when have you so much authority that you can punish people from other squads, huh?'' Kenpachi added, his hand still holding Kurotsuchi's wrist.
''Hitsugaya… Zaraki!'' Mayuri was fuming, he had been so close to getting vital information and was interrupted due to the arrival of their respective captains. However, he wasn't a dumb man, and knew when to retreat. ''Fine then, I suppose if their captains are here I shouldn't be interrogating them.''
Kurotsuchi didn't attempt to make some sort of excuse regarding the whole situation and promptly left, along with his lieutenant.
''Captain!'' Rangiku smiled, pulling the little boy into a hug. ''Talk about arriving just in time, I thought we were about to get hospitalized again!''
''Hmph… Enough with that, if you have all that energy then you might as well get back to work, Matsumoto.'' Toshiro replied while pushing the woman away from him. ''Now, do you have some information about the ryoka you faced?''
''…'' Kenpachi made a pause on his own conversation with his subordinate, hearing something that interested him for once.
''Uh…'' Rangiku's was confused by his captain's words, she was almost a hundred percent sure that Haineko had dealt a fatal blow. ''The thing is, captain… You should have seen the body somewhere, right? I pierced his chest with my shikai.''
''… That just confirms that the person you faced has some sort of special ability, then.'' Toshiro replied after a few seconds of silence, remembering all the details that his own subordinates had reported after scanning the whole area. ''Forget about finding a body, we almost couldn't locate even a few drops of blood.''
''Oh, isn't that interesting!'' Kenpachi interjected, jumping into the conversation with a smirk plastered all over his face. ''So that person is alive, huh? Was he strong, Matsumoto?''
''To be honest…'' Rangiku glanced towards her captain, waiting for his permission to give an answer. Noticing what his subordinate wanted, Toshiro gave a slight nod to the woman. ''He could have killed me almost at the start of the battle if he wanted to do it… I don't know what happened, he dominated the fight.''
''Then that guy must be their leader.'' Ikkaku added, gaining the attention of the other three people inside the room. ''The person I fought was named Ichigo, and he told me he was the second strongest, which means…''
''This other dude that Matsumoto fought is the strongest one, then?'' Kenpachi ended, the excitement he was feeling growing for each word that his ears managed to pick up. ''I am leaving, Ikkaku.''
''Wait a second, captain.'' The bald soul reaper called, he still had a few more things to say to him after all. ''I can't speak for Matsumoto's opponent, but mine still had ground to grow even stronger.''
''That is good news.'' Zaraki replied, he already had two objectives to hunt and both showed quite a lot of potential.
''Did either of you manage to get some information regarding their objective? What are these intruders looking for?'' Toshiro questioned, this information was far more valuable than a few mere guesses about their powers.
''Yeah, he did mention a few things about it.'' Ikkaku confessed, recalling his conversation with Ichigo from earlier. ''He asked me about Rukia Kuchiki's location, which means…''
''It can't be… They intend to rescue her?'' Toshiro asked in disbelief, their mission sounded outright suicidal. ''Zaraki, we need to inform this to the captain commander… Zaraki?''
Toshiro looked around, but was unable to find the figure that had just been standing next to him not even a minute ago. Kenpachi was long gone, heading towards the senzaikyū with just one single objective in mind.
To hunt the ryokas and fight them to the death, nothing more and nothing less.
. . .
Two figures sprinted across the Seireitei, both too fast to be perceived by your ordinary soul reaper. This two figures belonged two Yoruichi and Kuromiya, who were still making their way towards the white tower.
While running alongside the black cat, Kuromiya felt a sudden cold run through his spine, now suddenly feeling more than a little bit nervous for some reason.
''Are you alright, Akihiko?'' She questioned him, noting his sudden discomfort.
''Heh.'' He chuckled. ''I am in danger.''
End of chapter fifteen.