Page 1

The coldness of night had enveloped Soul Society. Despite this, the Shinigami were extremely busy. New Captain of the Third Division in the Gotei 13, Seireitō Kawahiru, walked up the narrow path towards the First Division's Headquarters. He had been summoned by Captain-Commander, Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto, apparently for a new mission. Upon reaching the giant gates of the First Division's HQ, the young Captain merely flicked his hand, causing the large wooden doors to swing open. "Ah, Captain Kawahiru." said a young man in a western-like outfit, "Welcome. The Captain-Commander is awaiting you in his study."

"Thank you, Lieutenant Sasakibe." Seireitō replied politely.

Seireitō was then ushered down the hall into a large library-like room with Captain-Commander Yamamoto seated behind a large mahogany desk with several books opened upon it. Remembering his military etiquette, Seireitō bowed upon entering the study. Yamamoto then looked up from his books, "Ah, Seireitō, please come in." the old man said, standing to his feet. Seireitō did as he was told, shutting the study door behind him. The old man's face looked grave as he walked over and looked out the large window on the right side of the room.

"So, why'd you call me here Captain-Commander, sir?" Seireitō asked, getting impatient with the old man's silence.

"We have an issue on our hands. A new threat." Yamamoto replied, still looking out the window.

"With all do respect, sir, we have issues and threats to our organization and the Soul Society daily. Nothing our troops can't handle right?"

Yamamoto shook his head, "This is not just any threat. This threat may just be on par with Aizen and the Espada."

Seireitō was shocked, "A threat on par with Aizen? Uh oh...something's cookin' in Hueco Mundo again, isn't it?"

"It's an organization of Hollows and Arrancar, just like the Espada, called Los Cinco Arrancar." Yamamoto continued.

Seireitō's eye twitched, "They aren't too good with pickin' a name for themselves, are they?" the young captain mused.

Yamamoto ignored him, "That's not all." he began, "Arrancar, just like their dangerous Vasto-Lorde counterparts, are solitary creatures. Aizen's Arrancar were an exception because they were artificially made. For this many Arrancar to gather means someone is probably leading them."

Seireitō nodded, "So, what would you like me to do about it?" he asked.

Finally, the old captain turned to face him. "I want you and your lieutenant to go to the Human World and contact Kurosaki Ichigo. He needs to be alert. While you are doing that, I will inform the other Captains of what I have told you here." the old man explained.

Seireitō almost complained but decided not to, given the circumstances. He bowed to the old general, "Yes, Captain Commander, sir." he said respectfully, and left.

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Meanwhile, in Hueco Mundo, under the tattered dome of Aizen's old fortress, Las Noches, an orange haired Arrancar. named Lucio César, lay in the sand, staring up at the fake sky that was the ceiling of Las Noches. He'd made the fortress his home shortly after Aizen and his men were cleared out of it during the Winter War with the Shinigami. Since then, he had been the only resident of the giant fortress and he liked it that way. Alone and in complete peace and quiet. "Today is the day..." he thought to himself.

For weeks now he had planned to pay a visit to the site of the War, Karakura Town. He wanted to see where the monster, Aizen, had met his brutal end. But more importantly, he wanted to take a shot at that mop headed Shinigami named Kurosaki. Unlike most Arrancar, he didn't hate Shinigami. Instead he viewed them as an Arrancar's equal, though he did find them peculiar and quite enjoyed fighting them. This was also the case with Kurosaki. He had heard that Kurosaki had defeated Dordonii, a Privaron Espada in Aizen's Army like he himself had once been, as well as having fought on par with Grimmjow and Ulquiorra, who were two of Aizen's Espada. To him, Kurosaki would be the ultimate fight.

Slowly, he stretched out his hand and, with a quick slicing motion, a Garganta portal opened up. Lucio grinned, "This fight is gonna be fun." he mused to himself as he leaped into the portal and it shut behind him.

Back in the Human World, Ichigo Kurosaki had just gotten out of school. He was now eighteen years of age, and was nearing high school graduation. He had been summoned after school by Kisuke Urahara, who wanted to speak with him about some urgent news from Soul Society. He didn't bother worrying Inoue, Chad, or Uryū because they were too busy preparing for finals. As he entered Urahara's Shop he immediately noticed one of the guests. "Izuru-san!" he yelled, happy to see his old comrade.

"Yo, Kurosaki." Izuru replied with a smile.

Ichigo looked down at the taller man. Ichigo immediately knew the man was a Captain based on his clothes, but couldn't recognize him from the Captains he had last seen in Soul Society. "I believe some introductions are in order." said Kisuke as he entered the room.

"Ichigo, this is Captain Seireitō Kawahiru, the new captain of the Third Division and of course you know Izuru Kira, his lieutenant." Urahara explained.

"Nice to meet you, Seireitō-san." Ichigo said bowing politely.

Seireitō gave Ichigo a comical look and then leaned over to Izuru, "This one isn't too big on etiquette, is he? Callin' me by my first name and not Captain Kawahiru."

Izuru smirked but didn't comment.

"Now then, down to why I brought you-" Urahara started to say, but was cut off by the appearance of a dense reiatsu nearby.

Seireitō and Izuru became alert and Ichigo quickly changed into his Shinigami form, "It's Arrancar reiatsu." Ichigo said in a tense voice.

"Looks like we may get some action today after all, Captain." Urahara said to Seireitō.

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Lucio stepped out into the lush air of the Human World. He was standing in the middle of a large pond in Karakura Park. As he stretched, he began to scan the area with his Pesquisa ability. "Hmmm, I may have company here soon after all." he said to himself, "I've got two captain-level energies, one lieutenant-level, and one above captain-level heading my direction." Within seconds, the four Shinigami stood before Lucio. One of them, he almost immediately recognized as Kurosaki Ichigo.

"What do you want here, Arrancar?" Ichigo shouted.

Lucio couldn't help but smirk, "To fight you, Kurosaki is it?"

This caught Ichigo off guard, "Fight me?"

Lucio nodded, "You see, like you, I'm no fan of Aizen. In fact, while I'm at it, allow me to thank you for killing him. He was becoming quite the annoying little cockroach. However, I can't ignore the fact that you've beaten several high level opponents and you see, I love fighting strong opponents myself so I decided that one day, I'd hunt you down and fight you." he explained.

Seireitō drew his zanpakutō, "I'm afraid you will die here at my hands, Arrancar. That is, after you tell me more about your organization, Los Cinco Arrancar."

"Never heard of 'em." Lucio replied, frowning. "Now don't butt in."

Ichigo drew his giant cleaver blade from it's resting place on his back. "Look, I don't know what this whole Los Cinco Arrancar thing is about, but you'd better tell us what you know before I have to kill you." he threatened.

"Bring it." Lucio taunted, smirking. "But just you. You're the only one I'm interested in fighting."

"Guess there's no avoiding it." Ichigo grunted angrily.

Urahara took this opportunity to turn to Seireitō, "You guys might want to put up a strong barrier around this park. We don't want innocent people hurt by the recoil." he said.

Seireitō nodded and sheathed his sword, followed by putting his hands up towards the sky, "Bakudo #73, Tozanshō!" he declared. A pyramid shaped barrier appeared around the park. "That should keep the locals out. It's a good thing they can't see Shinigami or Arrancar." he muttered to himself.

"Alright Ichigo! Let him have it." Urahara shouted once he saw the barrier up.

Ichigo nodded and Flash Stepped to Lucio, swinging Zangetsu down at him. Lucio slid his hands into his pocket and blocked with a swift roundhouse kick. Ichigo gritted his teeth, "Dang. His hierro is tough. He can kick Zangetsu without being cut!" he thought and he attempted another slash.

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Once more, the attack was deflected by a kick from Lucio. Lucio then kicked Ichigo in the chest, hard. The latter was sent flying through several trees and finally face first into the hard earth. Slowly, Ichigo got to his feet. "Holy...! With one kick he can do that?!"

Ichigo lifted Zangetsu and began to charge energy into it, "Let's see how you handle this! Getsuga Tenshō!" Ichigo roared, releasing a blue crescent wave at Lucio.

Lucio grinned with excitement, "That's it!" he exclaimed as he used Sonído to leap out of the way. He reappeared above Ichigo's head, kicking down with extreme force and causing a sizable blast in the process.

Ichigo flew out of the smoke, blood running from his forehead, "Gah..He's the real deal." he thought, frustrated.

The smoke cleared revealing Lucio standing where he had landed, a grin on his face. Ichigo held Zangetsu in front of him, pointing it at Lucio, "Bankai, Tensa Zangetsu." he said softly. Black and red energy erupted from Zangetsu and Ichigo's body. From below, Lucio was becoming more and more excited. The usually lazy Arrancar got excited when he fought powerful opponents and the force of Ichigo's Bankai greatly impressed him, which further excited him.

Ichigo emerged from the energy blast holding a thin, black, daisho and wearing a new black robe with ragged ends. From below, Kisuke whistled with amazement, "Dang. Ichigo's Bankai has gotten a lot stronger." he mused.

Seireitō and Izuru also looked impressed as they watched the fight unfold.

Ichigo quickly flashed next to Lucio and made a slash across the Arrancar's chest. A small cut was shown where the blade had impacted. "Wow, you managed to get through my hierro!" Lucio said, surprised.

"His hierro is even tougher than I thought. It's like I'm fighting Ulquiorra all over again!" Ichigo exclaimed in his head.

Black and red energy gathered on Ichigo's blade, "Getsuga Tenshō!!!" he declared firing off the energy in an even large blast than the previous time.

Lucio held out his right hand and pointed it at the oncoming Getsuga, "Cero!" he yelled as the familiar red energy blast fired from his palms, colliding with Ichigo's attack.

The blast that ensued cracked Seireitō's barrier, alerting the Captain and Urahara.

Ichigo only seemed to get angrier, "Fine then, I'll have to go all out now!" he yelled in frustration. He then put his hand over his head, as if preparing to put something on.

"That's...!" Lucio began to exclaim.

"Sing, Benihime!" declared a voice from the side. A red energy wave rushed between Ichigo and Lucio, knocking both back a few feet.

Urahara was standing closer now with his sword drawn and released into it's Shikai. "Ichigo, you know doing that would destroy this barrier and damage Karakura Town extensively." he said in a hushed tone. "I'll finish this Arrancar."

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"Now hold on." Lucio said. "I didn't come here to start a war. I'm no Hollow. I'm an Arrancar, which means that you Shinigami have no reason to gang up on me unless I'm eating humans. Right?"

Kisuke gave Lucio a sideways glance, "That's a peculiar logic. I thought you Arrancar saw yourselves as merely powered up Hollows."

"Tch, typical Shinigami and Arrancar logic. You're right. Most Arrancar do. At least, that is, most of Aizen's old Arrancar. Then again, they were artificially made." he droned on.

"Weren't you made by Aizen?" Kisuke asked, intrigued.

"Nope. I'm a naturally made Arrancar. When Aizen first came to Hueco Mundo, he made me his original Number One, the Primera Espada. I hated that guy from the get go, but I saw it as a way to fight stronger opponents. After I refused to show him my powers, he replaced me with some guy named Starrk who was also a naturally made Arrancar. So I remained a Privaron Espada." Lucio explained.

Ichigo looked shocked, "Privaron Espada? I fought one of those guys back in Hueco Mundo!" he exclaimed.

"Yep. You fought old man Dordonii, the former Cuatro Espada." Lucio replied. "I never fought simply because I was too lazy. That, and I wanted Aizen to rot anyways, so I wasn't about to fight any one of his enemies."

"We're getting off topic here." interrupted Seireitō. "You came here to kill Ichigo, why should we leave you alive?"

"Kill Kurosaki? No, I came here to fight him. Nothing more. You still going on about that Los Cinco Arrancar bullcrap?" Lucio asked, becoming annoyed.

Seireitō looked over at Urahara and back at Lucio, "No. I think I'm starting to believe that you really don't know anything about them."

"Hueco Mundo is a pretty vast place." Ichigo said, re-entering the conversation. "They could be anywhere."

"Still, we have to take you back to Soul Society." Seireitō said to Lucio. "Naturally made Arrancar are rare and I can't just let you leave now that I've found you."

Lucio sighed, "You Shinigami are way too uptight."

"You won't be killed unless you are deemed a threat." the ever silent Izuru told him as he walked up behind Ichigo. "Which won't be likely if you cooperate."

"Fine." Lucio said, sighing again. "But only because I've never been to Soul Society before. Had I been and I would've bolted on you guys already."

Ichigo returned to his normal state, "Well then. Now that that's settled, I'm going to study for finals. Call me if you need anything, Urahara-san." he said as he ran off.

"That child.." Urahara said shaking his head. "I'm gonna head off too Captain. You know how to reach me if anything comes up." And then, he was gone.

"Time to head out then." Izuru said, calling on his Hell Butterfly to open the Senkaimon.