Chapter 35: Just Stay Alive
Recommended Song: “Never Too Late” by Three Days Grace
Shinji laid face down on the ground, his entire body aching as he had used all his willpower to keep his inner Hollow inside of him… He groaned as he struggled to stand up, brushing dust off of his slacks. He looked around, familiarizing himself once more with Rimen’s world.
He had only been inside Rimen’s world once before, and that was over a hundred years ago, when he had to first overcome his inner Hollow in order to become a Visored. Being back here felt, strange, wrong…and most definitely…unwanted.
“Shit!” he cried, as his ears were met with the sound of screeching music. The Visored immediately covered his ears and fell onto his knees, shaking his head. The sound unfortunately did not go away, and only became louder… However, as Shinji listened more closely, he realized that he heard the sound of familiar instruments…trumpets, saxophones, a cello…
The screeching music was…jazz. Only the music was being played backward, which was why it sounded so unpleasant to the ear.
Shinji frowned. He should have known everything was going to be backwards, upside down, and topsy-turvy in Rimen’s Inner World, just like Sakanade’s.
Rimen’s world was vastly different from Sakanade’s, however…instead of it being a desolate desert with a single upside down pyramid, Shinji looked around and saw that he was standing on the sky, and above him was the town, buildings and skyscrapers jutting down.
The entire world was flipped upside down… Shinji began to walk around, his hands shoved deep in his pockets, his lips pursed… He paused, however, as he noticed that the clouds beneath him began to darken, as did the entire sky. The music stopped and was replaced by the sound of thunder, booming throughout the empty world.
Shinji let out a curse as a bolt of lightning shot out of one of the clouds. He jumped forward to dodge it, only for several more to pop out. What tha hell…? He thought. He began using flash stepped to quickly dodge the lightning bolts. Clearly with this brooding atmosphere, some misfortune was bound to arrive…
Shinji heard a wicked snicker behind him and turned around, his eyes locking with Rimen’s.
Just as Hollow Ichigo looked nearly identical to Kuroskai Ichigo, the same was true for Shinji and Rimen. He was the same height as Shinji, though had pasty white skin, yellow pupils over black sclera, and long white hair, same as Shinji had when he had initially been captain, before becoming a Visored. His fingernails were painted black, and while he possessed the same Cheshire grin, Rimen’s smile was much more devious and cruel.
Having been in a Gigai, Shinji was still wearing Human World clothes (which he preferred anyway). While he wore a black collared shirt, one of the ties Mari had given him (the flamingo one), and gray slacks, his Inner Hollow wore just the opposite. Rimen wore a gray-collared shirt (though with half-sleeves), and black plants. He also wore a white tie that had blood splatter print over it.
The minute Shinji’s eyes landed on Rimen, a blind fury rushed through him like never before. He fisted his hands in his pockets and his body trembled slightly with his rage, and it took all of his strength and willpower not to slice him in two that instant.
“Well, lookee, here,” Rimen chuckled in his distorted voice. “I’ve been graced with my master’s presence…welcome ta my world, Shinji. I’ve gotta say, I’m surprised ya were able to keep me in this time…but it was a fuckin’ douchebag move.”
Shinji clenched his teeth. “Yeah? And why’s that?”
Rimen smirked, “Because…ya probably would’ve had better chance if ya allowed me ta come out and let that sexy cat woman and tha douche in green take care of me.”
The blonde Visored frowned and shook his head. “I don’t like people fightin’ my battles.” This was between him and his Inner Hollow, and he wasn’t going to let his close friends involved in this, when they could get hurt.
Plus, Shinji thought, his anger rising along with his spiritual pressure, this is personal. It became personal the moment the bastard laid a finger on Marise.
“Well?” Rimen snorted. “Are ya gonna come at me, or what?”
Shinji pulled out his Zanpakuto, and pulled down his Hollow mask. “Yer gonna regret the moment ya came into existence,” Shinji said darkly.
A maniacal grin spread from ear to ear on Rimen’s face. “Now that’s what I like ta hear!” he screamed, sticking his tongue out maliciously. Craze and bloodlust overcame him and he used to sonido to move forward at an incredible speed, bringing his blade up against Shinji’s.
Shinji gained much more strength after donning his Hollow mask, though as his blade hit his Inner Hollow’s, there was a slight struggle in strength…his eyes widened, shocked by how strong Rimen had become after the last time they faced off.
There was a clash of metal and the two jumped back before going forward again. Time after time Rimen brought his blade down, swift movements and a lot brute force with each hit.
However, Shinji was much more calculating and a lot less reckless than Rimen was, and easily held his own against him.
“Gggh…!” Rimen cried, when Shinji had found an opening. He sliced across Rimen’s chest, and instead of blood pouring out, a viscous black liquid came out instead.
Rimen stumbled backward a few feet, his arm over his chest, pressing against the wound. “Looks like ya like to play dirty…didn’t think ya had it in ya.”
But Shinji didn’t respond. He wasn’t in the mood to talk; he just wanted to end this. Shinji flashed forward, and quickly moved behind, landing another hit across Rimen’s back.
Rimen flew forward, falling on his chest. The impact sent a searing pain through the wound on his torso, and black humor flew from his mouth as he coughed. Instead of crying out or groaning from the pain, however, Rimen merely wiped away the black liquid with the back of his hand and stood back up again, grinning wildly. His thirst for blood and dominance was only growing stronger than ever...!
Feeling this pain…it only proved that he was alive. It felt incredible.
“More…” Rimen cackled, holding his hands up like a madman. “Give me more…!”
Shinji shook his head, disgusted. His Inner Hollow was a complete psycho, a twisted and dark version of himself. Shinji hadn’t taken any severe hits, and felt he had an upper hand in this match…he felt a little more confident, but Shinji was sharp. He knew never to underestimate one’s enemy. And he also knew that Rimen didn’t like to play fair…he played dirty.
The entire world began to shake as the storm continued to brew…darkness fell upon them, everything bleak and grey… The rumbling of thunder grew louder, and flashes of lightning were the only source of light they had to see.
“Shit’s getting’ much more interestin’, eh?” Rimen asked.
Shinji clenched his teeth. Fighting half in the light and half in darkness was no easy task, and not one he was too familiar with. He had never been in such a situation before. He concluded that as Rimen’s bloodlust and thirst for revenge grew, the storm became worse…
It began to pour rain from beneath them up to the town above, and the wind blew hard. Shinji felt himself becoming drenched, and knew that this would slow down his movements, but he was not going to let it stop him.
Another flash of lightning came, and Shinji looked to see Rimen one moment, and then he was gone the next. Shinji let out a grunt as he was kicked from behind and skidded forward, his body burning from the impact.
“Bastard…” Shinji muttered, standing up. He immediately lifted his sword as Rimen came at him. As Shinji blocked Rimen’s attack once more, he conjured up a cero and fired it, illuminating the entire world in a blinding red light.
Rimen just barely managed to dodge it, the ends of his hair seared with flames. “Now look what ya did…” he muttered. “Just because ya lost yer hair, doesn’t mean you can just burn off mine.”
Shinji felt disgusted. He was fighting for his life and this monster was making jokes. But that was just like him.
The fight continued for several minutes, and it appeared pretty one-sided as Shinji had the upper hand. While at first Rimen had been excited and crazed for the battle, was now becoming frustrated, and needed to find a weakness…
In another flash of lightning, Rimen noticed Shinji’s outlandish tie, and his lips curled into a grin.
Shinji was about to launch another cero, though was stopped dead in his tracks by Rimen’s next statement.
“So…Mari-chan got ya that tie?”
Shinji froze, his eyes turning wide. “Ya lil’ fucker…” he seethed, his blood beginning to boil. “Don’t ya dare even say her name…!”
Rimen chuckled. Got ‘cha. “Seems ta be a touchy subject for ya. And she tasted so damn good, too,” he murmured, licking his lips lecherously.
That last statement pushed Shinji off the edge. He let out a scream as he released all of his spiritual pressure, the storm around them growing more and more violent. Without thinking, his eyes only seeing blind fury, Shinji went after Rimen, launching cero after cero.
Unfortunately, due to his rage, Shinji’s attacks were filled with force, but lacked coordination, and he became sloppy. This led to an opening for Rimen, and he flash stepped behind Shinji, thrusting his sword into his back.
“AAAAAHHHH!” Shinji shrieked. His mask began to disappear and he crumpled onto the ground. His entire body was numb with pain and he could barely move.
No…this couldn’t be…had he been…defeated? Shinji squeezed his eyes shut, clenching his teeth. He curled his fingers so tightly; his fingernails made his palms bleed. He had let his anger get the better of him…what kind of a captain was he, to let his emotions take over him so easily? He was disgusted with himself.
The storm finally blew over, and the brooding clouds cleared away, leaving again a bright blue sky and puffy white clouds. Rimen sauntered over to where Shinji laid and knelt down, turning the final Visored over. Shinji looked at Rimen with disgust, and wanted to spit at him.
Rimen chuckled, and grabbed Shinji’s face with his hand, squeezing his cheeks tightly. “I’ve finally got ya,” he said. “And now it’s time ta let tha real you out…instead of livin’ the half-assed life ya have. Don’t worry,” he then whispered, leaning in. “I’ll take damn good care of yer precious Mari-chan. I’ll fuck her better than ya ever did.”
Shinji tried to get up to take a stab at Rimen, though the Hollow grew impatient, and slammed Shinji onto the ground, knocking him out. Rimen then placed his entire hand over Shinji’s face, and allowed his Hollow’s power to take over…though instead of sinking into Shinji…this time, Shinji was going to remain locked inside Rimen.
Shinji’s entire body convulsed as he and Rimen combined into one. From his toes all the way up to his face the transformation began…Shinji’s face began to turn the pasty white color Rimen’s skin was…his hair became longer and white, and his eyes turned black and yellow...
While his eyes began to change, the last part of Shinji that still remained, in his mind he screamed:
“Kisuke!” Yoruichi shouted, as she saw Shinji come to. “He’s waking up!”
Kisuke removed himself from his work and stood beside Yoruichi. His eyes widened in horror, however, when he saw the white hair and pasty skin. “No…it’s his Inner Hollow! He’s taken over!”
Yoruichi’s jaw dropped in astonishment. Hirako Shinji…had been defeated? “There’s no way…” she whispered.
“Yoruichi-san, stand back,” Kisuke ordered, stepping in front of her. He placed his arm in front of her, as though to hold her back.
Yoruichi narrowed her golden eyes, and she pushed his arm away. “I am not going to let you face this alone,” she stated, adamant.
Kisuke tried to send her a glare, though it didn’t work on her. He sighed, and pulled his sword from his cane. “All right then…but be prepared.”
“SHUNKO!” Yoruichi shouted. Her orange top disintegrated into the wind, leaving her back bare. An Inner Hollow was definitely something not to be underestimated, especially when he took down a captain…
“He’s getting up…” Urahara murmured.
Rimen stood up, straightening himself, and looked around. “This place is a shithole,” Rimen scoffed. He turned to Urahara and Yoruichi, and eyed the purple-haired woman for far too long. “I’d love ta stay here and play with ya, kitty, but I’ve got other plans.”
Her eye twitched slightly in the disgusting pet name, though she remained her composure. “Cancel them,” Yoruichi replied smoothly. “You’re stuck with us.”
Rimen frowned, though it quickly turned back into a creepy grin. “If ya say so, kitten.” He sprung forward, bringing his sword down as he prepared to land a hit.
Yoruichi wasn’t nicknamed the Shunpo Queen for nothing. She flashed behind Rimen and struck him in the back of the neck, creating a butterfly tattoo.
“One more hit,” she whispered in his ear as she flew down. “And you’re done for.”
Rimen’s eyes widened. He didn’t know what her ability was…however, after sifting through Shinji’s thoughts, he discovered it. “Shit,” he muttered under his breath. He wasn’t going to let that happen again, unless he was asking for an early death.
Kisuke went after the Hollow, bringing his blade against his. They went back and forth, with neither giving an inch.
Yoruichi jumped behind Rimen again, though this time, he sensed her coming and was prepared. Rimen turned around and shot a cero from his mouth, hitting her directly.
“Ugh…!” Yoruichi cried, falling to the ground.
“Yoruichi-san!” Urahara was about to go down to check on her, when Rimen slammed his sword against Kisuke’s back.
The scientist went flying to the ground, landing flat on his face. He struggled to get up, and was about to launch a Kidō attack, but Rimen had already escaped out of the Urahara Shoten.
“Damn!” Kisuke muttered, pounding his fist onto the ground. He looked to see Yoruichi lying on her back, her breathing ragged. He forced himself to get up and went over to her.
“I should have seen that coming…” she panted, her chest heaving with each labored breath.
“Shh…” Kisuke whispered pushing her purple bangs out of her eyes. “What’s important right now is that you get healed. You’re not doing anything until then, understand?”
Yoruichi’s eyes widened slightly in hearing such a serious tone…it was rare for Kisuke. She then smiled. “Yes, sir.”
Marise woke up with a start, gasping for air as her entire body trembled. Had she just heard…Shinji’s voice? She was frightened, but knew she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep again…and she felt something…strange going on outside.
She threw the covers off of her and got out of bed, slipping on some flats as she quickly ran out of the house, careful not to wake the rest of her family up. She ran through the empty town, as it was in the middle of the night, still dressed in her long pink nightgown…but she didn’t have time to change…! Something was wrong, terribly wrong, and she feared it had something to do with Shinji…
Mari winced as she felt a menacing spiritual pressure weighing down on her. It felt similar to Shinji’s…but she knew it wasn’t the same.
She bit her lower lip, her fears only growing even further. What was going on…?
Mari stopped running as she saw a pale figure beneath the moonlight, long white hair flowing in the breeze…it would have been a mesmerizing sight had her blue eyes not met the ones of yellow eyes...cruel and sinister.
This was the first time Marise had seen Rimen in his full Hollow form…the first time Rimen had taken over Shinji, he had his Hollow mask on, and yesterday, she had only seen his face change…but to see him entirely different…what happened?
Marise began to tremble in fear. Had Shinji gone to Kisuke…and this ended up as the result? Oh no…was this her fault?
She looked to see Rimen pull out his Zanpakuto, opening a gate to Soul Society.
The Hollow looked down at Mari, grinning devilishly at her. “I’ll come back for ya later, Mari-chan,” he said wickedly, his pierced tongue licking his lips.
Marise was horrified by the sight, seeing Rimen in his full form, and before she could even react, he disappeared into the gate.
Why was he heading to Soul Society? And what had happened to Shinji?
Although Marise felt terrified, and wanted to panic, run away, and hide, she instead tried to think quick on her feet, and ran to the Urahara Shoten.
She barged into the shop without knocking and ran in, and found Urahara and a bandaged Yoruichi in his private office, analyzing multiple screens.
“What happened?” she cried, placing her hands demandingly on the desk.
Kisuke and Yoruichi turned to the blonde girl with surprise at first, though Kisuke’s eyes grew sad, guilt washing over his face.
“Sit down, Marise…” he said softly.
However, the Fullbringer shook her head, her body trembling as tears fell from her eyes over her rounded cheeks. “No…” she whispered, trying to fight her tears back. She wanted to appear strong, but the thought of losing Shinji… “Please…I want to help! Tell me what happened.”
“Shinji came to me earlier,” Kisuke explained. “With the intent of bringing out his Inner Hollow so he could take care of it once and for all.”
“We thought,” Yoruichi continued. “That he was going to let it take over him and that we would be able to fight it, but Shinji had other plans. He fought Rimen hard enough to keep him inside, and was instead transported to Rimen’s world.”
“We don’t know exactly what happened there…” Kisuke murmured. “Except that somehow Shinji had lost, and Rimen took over completely.”
“So is Shinji…gone?” Mari whispered, horrified.
Kisuke sighed heavily, turning back to his screen, scanning for information. “Not necessarily. Like how Rimen was before, Shinji is just locked away. He must be incredibly weakened now though, so fighting to take control again, is well…it won’t be easy, that’s for certain.”
“I saw him…” Mari began, hugging herself tightly, trying to provide herself some comfort. Although all she wanted was Shinji’s arms around her, his reassurance and his protection…she wanted it so badly… “Rimen…he opened a gate to Soul Society.”
Kisuke turned to her with wide eyes. “He did?”
“Quick, Kisuke,” Yoruichi said, leaning forward. “Pull up the Twelfth Division’s surveillance videos!”
“Already on it,” Kisuke replied, his fingers working furiously at the keyboard.
Marise stood idly to the side as she watched the rogue Shinigami work and her eyes lowered to the ground. She felt more hopeless than she ever had before…what could she do?
Shinji… She thought, her heart aching as she squeezed her eyes shut, as though it would make everything go away. But she didn’t escape to her fairytale anymore.
I want to help you!
Rimen entered Soul Society, and it wasn’t long before his presence through the gate set off alarms at the Twelfth Division.
Akon’s eyes widened as he saw the image of an intruder flash across the screen…it didn’t escape his eye that the appearance of the intruder was that of a Hollowfied Shinji. “Kurotsuchi-taichō!” he yelled out.
Kurotsuchi came forward. “What is it?” he barked. “Can’t you see I’m busy with my work?”
“Take a look at the screen, sir,” his subordinate replied.
The captain did so, and his eyes also widened in astonishment. “I knew that man was unfit to be hold the title of a captain,” Mayuri muttered. “NEMU!”
“Yes, taichō,” the woman said softly, stepping forward.
“Report this to the sotaichō immediately. I don’t know how he wants us to deal with this.”
“Of course, taichō.” Nemu grabbed a Hell Butterfly and whispered a message, and allowed it to fly over to the First Division.
Sasakibe-fukutaichō ran into the sotaichō’s office, the Hell Butterfly behind him. “Urgent message from the Twelfth Division!” he reported.
Yamamoto held out his hand and listened to the messages. “This is very troublesome,” he said gravely, standing up. “Gather all of the squads, and send them out. We must stop Hirako Shinji’s Inner Hollow at all costs.”
Sasakibe nodded and headed out, sending a message to every division.
Soi Fon’s eyes widened when she received it. “That Hirako…always causing trouble! Everybody, suit up, and prepare for battle!”
“Otoribashi-taichō, what do you make of this?” Kira Izuru asked, staring at the Third Division captain.
Rose shook his head sadly. “I can only hear the blues.” Don’t worry Shinji. We’ll get you back.
“Please prepare everything quickly,” Unohana ordered her squad members. She felt there would be quite a lot of bloodshed when dealing with a Hollow of this immense strength.
Hinamori Momo gasped when she received the news. “Taichō…” she whispered, her body trembling as tears came at her eyes. “NO!”
Byakuya and Renji gathered their squad, preparing to head out. Komamura Sajin and his lieutenant, Iba, did the same.
“Yare, yare,” Kyoraku muttered, pulling down his sakat. “Looks like we’ve got to deal with this, eh, Nanao-chan?”
“Yes, taichō. Although isn’t it a bit much for all of the squads to bring down a single person?”
Kyoraku smiled at his lieutenant. “I’ve always advised people to never underestimate Hirako Shinji…the same goes double for this Inner Hollow of his. He probably has the strength of an Espada, possibly even more so. Don’t let your guard down, Nanao.”
Nanao nodded. “Yes, sir. Everyone, move out!”
Kensei immediately felt fury at the fact that Shinji had allowed his Hollow to take over. “Damn him…” he muttered, slamming his fist onto the table. “What was he thinking?”
“Taichō,” Shuhei said calmly. “I’m sure HIrako-taichō did the best he could. It’s important that we restrain him immediately so he doesn’t wreak havoc across Seireitei.”
“I’ll do more than just restrain the bastard,” Kensei mumbled.
“Ohh…” Rangiku hummed to her captain. “It seems Hirako-taichō has gotten himself into a bit of trouble…!”
“It’s that Human girl…” Tōshirō muttered. “He should have cut off all ties to her.”
“Oh, don’t blame her! She was so cute with her pink bow!”
Zaraki left his squad behind as he went to search for Rimen himself, with Yachiru hanging over his shoulder. Kurotsuchi remained in the lab, making preparations to completely close off the gate to the Human World.
Kuchiki Rukia ran behind her captain as they made their way toward the Inner Hollow. “This can’t be right…” she whispered. It felt as if there were ten times the spiritual pressure than there should have been, even from Hirako Shinji’s Inner Hollow.
“We’ve got more than just one Hollow to deal with,” Ukitake murmured. Up ahead there were at least a hundred grotesque Hollows.
“How did they get here?” Rukia gasped, her violet eyes widening.
“Rimen must have gathered them here,” Kensei stated, pulling out his Zanpakuto. All of the other squads had arrived, and wasted no time in going after the Hollows, before they caused harm to innocent souls.
While the Shinigami were distracted by the growing number of Hollows entering Seireitei and swarming into the first few districts of the Rukongai, Rimen snickered, and swiftly jumped from building to building. He masked his spiritual pressure and remained in the shadows, his pale complexion easily hiding him from being viewed.
He looked back and knew he was safe as the Shinigami were preoccupied with the Hollows. Rimen made it to the first Division. Firing a cero, he broke the lock to the stairs to the underground prison, which held the most dangerous and treacherous criminal in the history of Soul Society.
He flew down the stairs and found the prisoner still strapped to his chair, a single light bulb swaying above him being the only source of light.
Beneath his bindings, Aizen smiled, his single brown eye glistening with glee. “Ah,” he breathed. “I had a feeling you’d pay me a visit.”
In all of the confusion, no one had realized what Rimen’s true intentions were, or where he had even run off to.
“Where is that bastard?” Kensei growled, whipping his head back and forth. Goddamn it, there were still so many Hollows! His eyes landed on the Fifth Division Lieutenant, and he furrowed his brown in confusion. “What’s wrong with you?” he asked, when he saw her horrified expression.
“A-A-A…AIZEN-TAICHŌ!” she shrieked, pointing up to the sky.
All of the Shinigami turned in shock and horror to see the traitor, and behind him…Rimen.
“What?” Kuchiki Byakuya asked. “How did he escape?”
Before any of the Shinigami could react, Aizen simply stated simply, “It’s time to finish what I’ve begun.” Lifting both of his arms, he sent a shockwave of enormous pressure, easily blowing through all of the Shinigami. “Let us depart, Rimen.”
“Aye, aye, cap’n,” Rimen chuckled wickedly, following after the man who was set free, though still wrapped in his bindings.
“Damn!” Tōshirō coughed, forcing himself to get up. “They’re heading to Karakura Town…!” He turned to a fallen Kurotsuchi Nemu. “Has the Twelfth Division sealed the barrier between Soul Society and the World the Living?”
Nemu shook her head, wiping some blood from her face, her eyes lifeless as always. “It’s impossible, Kurotsuchi-sama needs a little more time…”
“There is no time!” Kensei cried. “Aizen’s already opening the gate!”
Several captains who were able to stand flash stepped forward and jumped up in an attempt to stop Aizen and his plans, but the gate already closed.
They were too late.
It was nearing noon in Karakura Town the next day when Soichiro emerged from underneath the car he had been working on. He grabbed a rag next to him and wiped the oil off of his arms. His brown eyes widened when he felt a shiver go up his spine. Something wasn’t right.
Despite having lost his Shinigami powers, Soichiro sensed what was happening…Aizen. An overwhelming feeling of guilt came over him, and he stood up, throwing his rag to the side as he sprinted to the Urahara Shoten.
When he got there, he saw Isshin and Urahara were sitting in the office, with Yoruichi in her cat form sleeping on the floor.
The two men stood up upon seeing Soichiro come in. “Soichiro-san, what’s wrong?” Urahara asked, concerned.
Panting, Soichiro held the door open and gasped, “I know what Aizen Sōsuke is really planning to do here…!”
At the same time, Mari was coming home from community college. She held her brown case in both her hands as she walked along, the wind blowing through her long blonde curls…
She kept her eyes on the ground, her face fallen. She had wanted to stay last night and help Urahara somehow, but he had advised her to go home and get some rest.
“It’ll take me a while to track down Rimen, and even longer to find out what he plans to do. There’s not much you can do now, Mari-san. It’s best if you head on home and get some sleep. I’ll call you immediately if anything comes up.”
Mari bit her lower lip…she felt so helpless, so useless. What was going on?
She lifted her head, her eyes widening when she saw Ichigo, Orihime, Chad and Uyru sprinting past her. “Where are you guys…?” she began, but they were already gone. Where were they headed and why were they so urgent to get there?
Marise froze, her body growing numb and her eyes widening and turning empty as she felt an overwhelming spiritual pressure come down on her. “Ugh…ah…” she croaked, the wind being knocked out of her as she struggled to breathe.
Where was the incredible spiritual pressure coming from…? She felt Rimen’s, but there was another one with it, one stronger by a thousand-fold…it was…terrifying.
Marise felt to her knees, her hands hitting the concrete as she struggled to keep herself up. No… She thought, shaking her head furiously. She was not going to let this get the best of her! She could fight this, she was strong enough…! Marise gathered just enough of her own energy to push away the enormous spiritual pressure, long enough to get up and run after the others.
She gasped when she reached the others, and looked up to see Aizen and Rimen standing in the sky, looking down at them.
“Looks like tha whole fuckin’ gang is gathered here,” Rimen snorted, looking around, his hands in his pockets.
“AIZEN!” Ichigo screamed. “What are you planning, you bastard!?”
Aizen merely smiled. He caught Mari’s eyes. “Ah…Marise,” he said in his smooth tone. “I’m thrilled to finally see you in person. So you are the woman who captured Hirako Shinji’s heart?” He then chuckled, shaking his head. “Only that man no longer exists…he has instead been replaced by a black whole of emptiness, named Rimen.” His smile then faded, his brown eyes darkening.
“Has your father told the story about him and I? He thought I would forget, but it’s been burning in the back of my mind for over a hundred years…he broke his promise, and now it is my turn to take what is most precious to him.”
Mari stood frozen with fear…this was the first time she had actually seen Aizen Sōsuke in person… She had heard of him from what Shinji had told him a couple of years ago, and from when her father revealed his secretive past…
However, every time Mari brought Aizen’s name up, Shinji would refuse to talk about it, and immediately switch the topic to something else. She realized it was a very unpleasant subject for him, and that this man had caused so much pain to him, the other Visored, and countless number of other people.
Tears sprung at Mari’s eyes and she shook her head, disgusted with herself. She couldn’t believe how at the time she had been interested in this man when Shinji mentioned him wearing glasses. (Thank god she lost that fetish.) Looking at him now, all she could see was a monster.
At the moment Aizen mentioned her father’s broken promise, Mari’s eyes widened. Was he going to take her right then…where to? And what would he do to her? Mari squeezed her eyes shut, afraid that it would be her.
“Mari!” Ichigo cried. He and the others ran forward to protect her, but grew shocked in seeing Rimen fly right past her.
Where was he going? In the next moment, Mari gasped when she heard her mother shrieking. She whipped her head around and saw Lucille thrashing in Rimen’s arms.
“Put me down!” she cried. “Who are you?”
“Quit strugglin’, annoyin’ bitch,” Rimen muttered. The Hollow took her to Aizen, who smiled deviously down at her.
Lucille, just being a Human, couldn’t take the overwhelming spiritual pressure emanating from the man, and felt herself growing weak. Her eyes closed slowly as she passed out.
Mari let out a strangled cry. “MAMA!” she screamed, running forward.
“Mari-chan, don’t!” Orihime cried.
She couldn’t just let this monster take her mother away! She wasn’t going to let him get away with it! Marise was about to pull her gun from its holder, which was around her thigh beneath her skirt.
Rimen looked down at her in hearing her cry, and grinned wickedly. “Say, boss…” he began. “Can we take her too?”
Aizen pursed his lips, thinking it over. Finally, he said, “It would be cruel to separate such a close mother and daughter, wouldn’t it?”
What? Mari thought, knitting her brows in confusion.
Uryu’s blue eyes widened and he pulled out his bow and arrows. He took out several and launched multiple attacks, but the Hollow was too quick. Rimen snatched Mari into his arms.
“I’m not letting you get away, you bastards!” Ichigo shouted. “Getsuga…TENSHO!” he cried, sending a black wave at Aizen and Rimen.
Aizen merely smiled, and transported himself, Rimen, Lucille, and Mari. Ichigo’s attack flew right on by and hit a nearby building, sending rubble down.
“What the hell?” Ichigo seethed, whipping his head around. “Where did they go?”
“I don’t sense their spiritual pressure anymore,” Chad said quietly.
“Oh no…Mari-chan!” Orihime cried worriedly, placing her hands on her cheeks.
Ichigo and the others turned around to see Isshin, Urahara, and Soichiro run toward them.
“Dad?” Ichigo asked, confused.
“Damn…” Urahara muttered, looking around. “Guess we came too late.”
“Where’s Mari…?” Soichiro asked, panicking.
Ichigo and the others turned away, unsure of how to answer.
“Well?” Isshin demanded. “The man asked you all a question!”
“Asahina-san…” Orihime began. “Aizen mentioned something about how you had broken a promise, and that he was going to take what was most precious to you…”
Soichiro’s eyes widened with horror. “He took Mari?”
“Well, actually,” Uryu answered. “It was Rimen, Shinji’s Inner Hollow, who took Mari-san. Aizen…took your wife.”
Soichiro felt the entire world around him spinning. His heart sank as he fell to the ground. This was all too much to handle…both his girls were taken…? “Damn, damn, DAMN!” he cried, pounding his fist on the ground as tears ran down his face.
Ichigo came forward and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “I promise we’ll get both of them back.”
Soichiro looked up at the boy, and wiped his tears away, nodding. Now was not the time for tears…he was determined to get his wife and daughter back through whatever means possible. Standing up, he turned to Urahara.
“I need your help.”
Mari had her eyes squeezed shut the entire time, wondering where she and her mother were being taken to. When she opened them, she gasped, eyes widening in seeing that they had ended up at the Visored warehouse.
“Think there’ll be a welcome-home party for me?” Rimen snickered.
Marise shook her head in disgust, refusing to humor him.
“Ah, c’mon, babe, don’t be like that,” he cooed, holding Mari closer to him, though that only made her try to squirm out of his grasp harder. It was no use…he was way too strong for her.
Well…he’s in for a rude awakening! Mari thought, trying to conceal a coy smile. What a stupid idea to come here…! These were the strongest people she knew! There was no way the Visored would allow Aizen to barge in and do as he pleased after what he had done to them.
When the four walked in, the Visored quickly jumped up in seeing Aizen.
“You bastard, how the hell did you escape?” Lisa cried, pulling out her sword.
The other Visored did so as well, preparing for battle.
At that instant, Kensei and Rose burst through the door. They had come down from Soul Society, determined to chase down Rimen in order to turn Shinji back to his normal self.
“Shinji!” Kensei shouted. “Get a hold of yourself! This isn’t you!”
Aizen turned around and replied calmly, “Oh no, he’s very much himself, Muguruma-taichō.”
“Don’t ya fuckin’ call me that…” Kensei said through grit teeth.
Aizen merely continued. “This is Hirako Shinji’s true form, though it is still incomplete.” He turned to look at the rest of the Visored. “Allow me to release your true forms as well.”
“What the fuck are ya talkin’ about, dumbass?” Hiyori seethed, her entire body shaking with fury in seeing this man again…after what he had done to her…and what he now did to Shinji! It took all of her strength not to go after the bastard right then and there, but she knew that would only lead to bad consequences, as it did the first time.
“Rimen-san,” Aizen said, turning to his subordinate. “Take Lucille-san to another room.”
Rimen grabbed Lucille, who screamed, “Let go of me!”
“Mama!” Mari shouted. She was about to run after her mother when Aizen grabbed her by the wrist. Although it wasn’t a tight grip, Mari still felt as though all circulation was cut off.
He placed her in a chair, and murmured a Kidō spell. Mari gasped as she was bound to the chair.
“Oh no, Marise-san,” he said gently. “You won’t want to miss this.”
Mari’s heart constricted, her eyes widening in fear. What was this man going to do to her dear friends…? Was he going to slay them all right then and there, in front of her eyes?
Tears slowly streamed down her cheeks as her body trembled. She didn’t want to lose those closest to her like those in Xcution.
“No…” Mari whispered, before she screamed, “PLEASE, DON’T!”
To Be Continued