The climax of the Final War of Revenge Arc! The end fast approaches!
The Captains Stand
Several tomoe formed between the four arms of his giant Bankai, before being hurdled off into the ruins of the Seireitei beneath him. Next to him, still attached to the giant Hollow they had summoned, Sōsuke Aizen was also making his move.
"Hadō #88, Hiryū Gekizoku Shinten Raihō!" the traitor to Soul Society roared in unison with Akujin's own attack.
A tremendous blaze of blue, electrical energy rocketed off the head of Kotoamatsukami, joining Akujin's own assault, tunneling down towards the nine captains who awaited an opportunity to counterattack below. A massive explosion ensued, dwarfing the Seireitei in height, but paling in comparison to the enormity of Kotoamatsukami. The thickness of the smoke was such that it didn't immediately dissipate, leaving the weakened, bludgeoned, and bloodied captains enshrouded by it.
"Anymore of this... and we're done for." Shinji Hirako wheezed through the smoke.
Suddenly, in a gust of tremendous wind, the smog was blown away, revealing Sajin Komamura's immense Bankai, Kokujō Tengen Myō'ō shielding the captains from what would have been an immense bloodbath, should either of the attacks struck.
"Komamura!" Shinji cried out, spotting the canine captain, who also looked very tired, floating just beneath his Bankai.
"Stand, Hirako Shinji!" Komamura bellowed back, silencing him. "We are Soul Society's last hope. We cannot fall here!"
Suddenly, a battle cry pieced the sky. Shinji's head snapped in the direction of the voice just in time to see Suì-Fēng leaping out of the remaining clouds of smoke — her red spiritual energy enshrouding her petite body as she charged forward.
"Bankai!" she declared furiously. "Jakuhō Raikōben!"
Another explosion tore the sky asunder, enshrouding Suì-Fēng in her trademark Bankai. Shinji went to yell at her to calm down, but his voice was drowned out by the sound of her own roar of fury.
"Take this, you shits!" she roared in a rare display of rage.
Flames and smoke licked her pale skin as the rocket attached to her Bankai screamed off through the sky, throwing her back with tremendous force. The next explosion was no less impressive, hitting the gigantic Hollow right below its neck, causing it to roar in pain and stagger. The very ground of the Seireitei trembled as their battle continued. High above, on their perch atop Kotoamatsukami, Aizen and Akujin plotted their next move when suddenly, a furious spiritual pressure which seemed to drop out of nowhere, enveloped the air around them, violently arousing their attention.
"Who—?!" Aizen stuttered, furiously looking around to find the source.
Akujin, however, had his eyes turned towards the sky, "Raian!" he hissed angrily.
"But you said they were in the Royal Palace!" Aizen spat, craning his head in Akujin's direction. "There is no way to sense spiritual pressure all the way in that dimension, especially not this thick."
"He's still there. Which makes me wonder what the hell is going on up there." Akujin groaned. "We need to finish this now. If he and his entourage reinforces the captains, the tide will turn quickly."
"No need to panic." Aizen's calm demeanor suddenly returned. "The Hōgyoku has finally decided to do its job. After this, we can finish them, destroy the heart of hearts and complete our plan."
The Hōgyoku burned with a deep violet light, which illuminated all below it as if it were a sun within the night. Suddenly, Kotoamatsukami began to roar violently, as if it were under great stress. And then... its body, to the great horror of the captain spectators, began to morph. The monster Hollow sprouted nine appendages, which spread out like tails. Its head shrunk, becoming more fox-like, and it grew four paws — now appearing to be a nine-tailed fox demon, while retaining its immense proportions.
"Damn..." Shinji cursed beneath his breath. "The Hōgyoku's begun changing the Hollow. Its becoming hard to sense its reiatsu, just like that time with Aizen. We need to act fast."
Back on Kotoamatsukami's newly transformed head, Aizen grinned menacingly, "Now, we definitely can decimate them." he declared.
"Then let's finish it now!" Akujin roared, holding out his palm towards the group to initiate his next attack.
With a roar the chilled Shinji's very blood, the now transformed Hollow lashed out with its nine tails, obliterating the nearby structures in one strike and throwing back even Komamura's giant Bankai. The monster Hollow then opened its mouth, forming a tremendous sphere of midnight-black spiritual energy between its jagged teeth. With a shout, the beast unleashed a monstrous Cero blast, decimating everything in its path. Far off in the distance, wherever the blast had struck, a mountain-sized explosion tore through the land, raising up high enough to be seen by all within the crumbling Seireitei. In that instant, a captain's spiritual pressure vanished.
"Hitsugaya!" Shinji roared, running through the debris towards the location of the vanishing.
Komamura was already there, tearing boulders of debris off of whatever lie beneath it. There, in a pool of his own blood, lay Tōshirō Hitsugaya. By Shinji's estimates, he was barely alive. He had been sideswiped by the Cero and the damage was apparent.
"Hirako....san..." Hitsugaya weakly managed.
"Damn... damn, damn, damn...!" Shinji cursed, hot tears welling up in the corners of his eyes. Beside him, Komamura was doing the same thing.
"Please..." Hitsugaya gasped. "Protect...Hina...mori..."
"I will..." Shinji hissed. "I will, goddammit. But you have to stay alive!"
Hearing this, Komamura whipped his head around and spotted the Captain-Commander fighting in the distance.
"Unohana-taichō!" the wolf-like Shinigami roared in a deep, almost bloodthirsty voice.
Yachiru Unohana heard her fellow captain's call and flashed quickly to his location. Upon seeing the source of their dismay, Unohana's eyes shut, as she quietly said rites over Hitsugaya's dying form. She knew the truth and could only hope that both Shinji and Komamura did too. Hitsugaya was beyond healing. No amount of Kidō could reverse the damage. He was going to die. Soon, from the looks of it.
"Dry your tears, Hirako Shinji." Unohana finally said, eyes still closed.
Shinji's eyes snapped up, a blinding rage filling them, "What do you mean, 'dry your tears'?! You're the best healer in Soul Society! Piece him back together! He's one of your men and you'd turn a blind eye to his death?! Are you so lost in your bloodlust, Kenpachi Yachi—"
"Shut the fuck up!" Unohana roared, her rare display of rage breaking her usual calm persona, snapping Shinji out of his tirade.
When Shinji looked back at her, stunned amazement in his eyes. The Captain-Commander, who had shown her ruthless, bloodthirsty side just hours ago in the initial battle with Aizen, had let her soft, caring side back through. Tears were streaming down her own face, which was splotched with blood. Her hair was matted, flying wildly in the fire-scorched air. The look on her face was nothing but pure desperation, mixed with outrage.
"Do you think you're the only one who has lost someone in this war?!" she shouted again. "Many brave soldiers have died in this war. Even innocent Humans, who have nothing to do with the affairs of our realm have died because of the evil of these men! The brother of Getsueikirite Raian, the men, women, and children of Rider City, even our own Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto have lost their precious lives in this conflict. You must see it now. Hitsugaya's wounds are beyond even my healing. There is nothing that can save him! If you want to get angry, direct it at the enemy and avenge your fallen comrade! Stand up! Be a man!"
Slowly, from all over the battlefield, the captains emerged from the rubble, walking to where Unohana and Shinji were. Each captain knelt next to Hitsugaya, silently said their goodbyes, and stood, forming a wall in front of him, with Unohana at its lead. Shinji watched with bewilderment as his comrades silently prepared for the next round. Narrowing his eyes and looking at Hitsugaya's mangled form one last time, Shinji wiped his tears with his blood-stained arm, rising up to stand next to his comrades again. Komamura stayed by Hitsugaya until the last breath faded from the young Shinigami captain's chest. Then, with his giant fur-covered paws, Komamura closed Hitsugaya's eyes, dried his own tears and stood. Walking to the front of the group, even in front of Unohana, the great wolf-like Shinigami glared up at the monstrous Kotoamatsukami and his two riders.
"Captains of the Gotei," he bellowed, his voice echoing through the Seireitei. "Pick yourselves up from the rubble. Round two begins now!"
Without a word of planning after that statement, each captain retrieved their weapons, pointing them at the massive Hollow before them. As they did, light began to fill the horizon, as the sun peaked above the edge of Soul Society — a new day dawning on the broken spiritual world.
"Look at them. They're lining up to die." Akujin chuckled from atop Kotoamatsukami's head, unable to hear the conversation below.
As the sun rose, it illuminated the eight remaining captains, who had become engulfed in a white, fiery aura of spiritual energy. Then, in unison, and without any forethought, the captains all shouted together;
Just Before the Dawn
At the edge of Tenkyūden, high above the Soul Society in the Royal Palace, Raian Getsueikirite, Seireitou Kawahiru, Mashū Getsueikirite, Hake Getsueikirite, Jacqueline Getsueikirite, Hikaru Kurosaki, and Echo stood, gazing over the edge into the clouds below. The spiritual pressure coming from Soul Society was frighteningly large. One by one, they could feel the captains falling in battle. One had already died. The forces at the other battlefields weren't faring very well either.
Raian clenched his fist tightly against his fresh shihakushō, given to him by Kirio Hikifune several hours ago. Seireitou noted his friend's frustration, his gaze hidden by his abnormally long silver hair. Narrowing his eyes, he observed his rival for the first time since their sparing earlier, in which Raian had revealed to the group his Shukai.
"How you've changed, Raian." Seireitou noted silently, to himself.
Seireitou wasn't sure exactly what it was about him that had changed the most either. His spiritual pressure had gone from being wild and flailing with his every emotion, as it had so often in the past, into a strong, indomitable wall that surrounded his being. His eyes, which had so often bore the murkiness of sorrow, were replaced by eyes that glint in the sunlight, and seemed to pierce everything that they gazed upon. Moving over, Seireitou laid a hand softly on his rival's shoulder, drawing the attention of the black-haired man.
"I know you better than anyone." Seireitou spoke up. "You can't hide it from me. Your blood yearns to taste battle again."
Raian grinned. Seireitou was right. Raian was a warrior above everything. His blood was screaming to feel the clash of metal, to feel the rush of his spiritual energy, they adrenaline of battle once again. A part of this desire, though, was to protect his home. He hadn't been born in the Human world. Soul Society had shaped everything he had become. Its inhabitants were his comrades. And she was now under attack by the man he hated most; his uncle, Akujin.
"Don't get us wrong, Raian." Hikaru spoke up, sensing the need after hearing Seireitou's words. "We have no love for that world. Soul Society betrayed us. Betrayed Shōyō-sensei. But, then, you have always been unique among us."
"Yeah," Echo interjected. "Unlike us, Soul Society has always been your home. You should go. We'll deal with the other battlefields."
Raian said nothing. His old comrades' words were touching, but he didn't expect any different of them. They didn't care for Soul Society anymore. It betrayed them centuries ago. But, they had forgotten, it had betrayed him too. Following the first crisis with Akujin, Soul Society had also expelled him. For that reason, he felt slight anger at their reasoning, but let it go. Everyone had their reasons. Suddenly, however, the grip on his shoulder was tightened, and Seireitou stepped up, now standing directly beside him. Mashū, as if on cue, did the same on the opposite side of him.
"Have it your way." Seireitou said, aiming his remarks at the other Yonkō. "I will accompany you to the battlefield. I have no love of Soul Society. But... Raian is my rival and my friend. So, I will protect what he protects, regardless of personal conviction. That is what sensei would've wanted, don't you think, Raian?"
Raian only snickered, returning his gaze to the clouds below.
"I won't let Soul Society cease to exist." Seireitou said, murderous coldness taking over his usual comical voice.
"I'll go after Muramasa." Mashū declared without adverting his aim. "Defeating him should ease up the tension on our forces."
"We'll go with him." Jacqueline stated, stepping up with Hake to stand beside Mashū.
"Be careful." Raian said, finally speaking. His concern for his brother and his family was evident.
"Shall we go then?" Seireitou asked, stepping further towards the edge. "Towards the final battle?"
Without saying anything more, as if their spirits were synced, Raian, Echo, Hikaru, Jacqueline, Mashū, and Hake took off in unison; joining Seireitou in leaping off the edge of the disk. In a violent shockwave, all gathered unleashed their spiritual pressure, throttling down towards the Soul Society. At some point, Echo and Hikaru broke right, whilst Mashū, Hake, and Jacqueline broke left, leaving only Seireitou and Raian throttling towards the Seireitei which they called home.
The Dawn is Breaking
In Seireitei, the defeat of the Gotei 13 was complete. The captains that still lived were scattered across the battlefield — lying in, under, and on the rubble created by the climatic battle. Only Unohana, the Captain-Commander stood to face the unbeatable enemies that Soul Society now faced. She was beaten, sweating, and bloodied beyond recognition. From atop Kotoamatsukami, Akujin stared down at her, eyes narrowed, as if contemplating how to destroy her.
"Unohana Yachiru," his deep voice bellowed. "You are the final obstacle. When you fall, so does Soul Society. Now, may you die in vain... cursing your powerlessness."
Suddenly, a bright light of spiritual energy tore through Unohana's shoulder — sending blood gushing across the rubble beneath her, and sending the Captain to her knees. Akujin looked up to view the assailant. Draped in a tattered black cloak, landing atop Kotoamatsukami, was no other than Yhwach, the king of the Quincies, revived as a Naigai by Muramasa.
"Why have you come?" Aizen inquired, his voice but a hiss.
"Soul Society's end is my dream." Yhwach replied. "I was brought back to help you crush them. So I have come, in its final hour, to watch it end. Even if it means to be in the nauseating presence of you two, I will stomach it for now."
Akujin grinned maliciously, "Then you've come at the right moment. With our next attack, Soul Society shall die, the heart of hearts shall be shattered, and we shall revive Lucifer." he chanted.
Kotoamatsukami grumbled ferociously beneath them, gathering the spiritual energy it would need to inflict such a wound on Soul Society. However, it was interrupted by two new presences. Akujin was next to notice, followed by the other two villainous leaders. With an explosion that deafened the ears of all who heard it, the ground directly behind the mangled Gotei 13 erupted, sending debris flying in every conceivable direction. Suddenly realizing exactly who he was sensing, Akujin's eyes widened, half with fear, half with unspeakable outrage. Aizen narrowed his eyes, as if to analyze the newcomers. Yhwach tossed back his tattered robe and crossed his arms, his eyes also fierce. As the dust cleared, none other than Seireitou Kawahiru and Raian Getsueikirite stood, the sole opponents able to stand before the four terrifying menaces.
"You!" Akujin hissed angrily.
"So, they've finally come out of hiding..." Aizen murmured.
As the morning sun finally gives birth to dawn over Soul Society, so begins the final battle all throughout the worlds, to end Akujin's reign of evil...!