This article, What Once Was, is property of Northstar1022 and cannot be utilized without the creator's permission.

PLOTLINE: This story deviates from the main storyline immediately after the war against Sōsuke Aizen, creating a parallel timeline where the Thousand-Year Blood War does not take place. As such, there will be inconsistencies.

What Once Was follows after the Whispers of War and involves the shinigami as they travel to the Human World to investigate the disappearance of 13th Division Captain, Gan Ojima. While there, Kenzō Takeshi and 3rd Division Lieutenant, Shingo Miyamoto, discover a haunting truth that could shake the very foundation of the newly formed Soul Society. What happened to Captain Ojima? What new enemy lies in the shadows? And who is Tyrell Nishiki?

Part I: Traveling to Akabira City - Welcome to the World of the Living

Somewhere, deep within the forest area surrounding Akabira City, a Senkaimon appeared out of thin air. It's doors slowly slid open and two men stepped out into the woods. Kenzō Takeshi was the first to come out, followed by another young looking Shinigami.

"Aww man..." 3rd Division Lieutenant, Shingo Miyamoto, whined as he swept back his brown hair and placed his hand over his brow to shield his eyes from the rain.

The Senkaimon shut behind them, and as quickly as it appeared, it vanished. The two Shinigami stood there for a moment and scanned the area. This place was reported to have had a spike in Hollow activity and their presence could have drawn unwanted attention. Kenzō reached into his robes and pulled out a small brown rubbery ball.

"Are you ready?" Kenzō asked the other lieutenant. Shingo reached into his own robe and pulled out his pellet. They both gave them a squeeze and threw them into the air. With a poof of smoke, full-bodied vessels appeared and crumpled to the floor. They appeared casually dressed, each sporting clothes typical of the World of the Living. Kenzō's Gigai (義骸, "Faux Body") wore black boots under dark colored jeans, a white t-shirt and black jacket that had a hood attached to it. He stepped into the Gigai, both bodies fusing into one another, and the vessel now animated with Kenzō's soul.

Shingo's was dressed in brown shoes, black slacks, a white buttoned shirt untucked with a tan blazer over it. He stepped into his Gigai just as Kenzō did and the two were now up and moving. Shingo dusted his pants and patted the shoulders of his blazer. He raised a hand and fixed his hair, though the rain merely allowed him to slick it back once again. "No one said anything about it raining." Shingo continued to complain as he popped up the collar of his blazer to try and cover the back of his neck. "This stinks..." and he grimaced as they both began walking towards to the outer city limits. Kenzō smiled and merely pulled the hood of his jacket over his head.

"Do you do anything else besides complain?" Kenzō asked while looking forward, not really listening for an answer.

"Well, yeah... I can..." Shingo began to reply but Kenzō quickly interrupted him.

"It was a rhetorical question."

"Ouch. No need to be so mean." And just then Shingo stepped into a mud puddle. "Oh, c'mon!" Shingo exclaimed loudly as he tried to shake off the mud from his shoe. He let out a sigh and carried on towards the lights off in the distance. "I don't see why Captain Miyazaki wanted me to come with you. I'm sure you can handle finding Captain Ojima without me. Besides, there was this really awesome party going on in our barracks that I'm missing."

"Life isn't always about parties, Shingo." Kenzō said coldly. "Let's try and focus on the mission."

"Yeah and do you have any idea where we're going?" Shingo still holding his hand like a visor over his eyes.

"Yes, we're going to visit an ally of ours who, hopefully, has some information." Kenzō said as he peered back towards Shingo through the edges of his hood.

"I don't understand why we needed to wear a Gigai. Why couldn't we just move through the Human World as spirits? It would definitely be quicker." Shingo wondered as they stepped over the guard rail, onto the road that led into the city.

"Because we don't want to attract Hollows. They're still pretty active out here and we need to blend in. I don't want our mission interrupted by needless confrontations. Not until we find out what happened to Captain Ojima."

"Fine, fine. So who's this ally we're going to meet?" Shingo asked.

"His name is Tyrell Nishiki." And the two Shinigami stared off into the distance, setting their sights on Akabira City.

In the slumps of the city, A brown-haired young man, his equally brown eyes downcast to shield them somewhat from the rain walked with a quick step down a dimly lit street; cars whizzing past him quickly, splashing water over him and causing the young man to growl. His name was Tyrell Nishiki, and judging by the way he walked and held himself, it was easy to see he was quite confident.

"Just my luck," He thought with a grimace. He had just taken a shower not twenty minutes ago to rid himself of the sweat he had worked up training at his local gym, and didn't really like the idea of getting thouroughly soaked through again.

"Good evenin' Tatsumaru" Tyrell said in a friendly tone at a brown-haired man walking across the street whose black leather coat hid the majority of his body from view. He was huddling in on himself in an attempt to beat the cold.

"Evenin' Tyrell," He replied casually. "Bad day, eh? I'd stay to chat, but I'm working the late shift. Catch ya later tomorrow, alright?"

Watching him go, Tyrell shook his soaked through hair and slicked it back out of his eyes with his left hand. "Damn weather," He grumbled as he continued to walk towards the small house he owned nearby.

Standing on top of a roof of a nearby home, a black shape watched Tyrell intently as he continued to walk towards his home. The rain bounced off it's indescribable form. If looking at it from below, it appeared as a lumbering pure black silhouette with a large hole in its center. It growled as its sight changed to Tatsumaru, watching him closely. When Tatsumaru turned the corner, the shape reeled back. Its form started to bubble, expanding and contracting violently, the sounds of what would be considered bones snapping. The black form continued to distort into vile shapes, before starting to condense into something smaller. Human arms followed hands as they came out of its darkness. Its highest point began to shape itself into a head before and brown hair appeared. The blackness finally settled into a black leather coat, a shirt appearing to cover the whole in its chest.

Now standing above the busy streets was something that looked exactly like Tatsumaru. He continued to stare directly at Tyrell's home and without hesitation, it walked off the roof and disappeared into the shadows below.

Kenzō and Shingo managed to find a train station and Shingo relished in the fact that he was no longer in the rain, letting out a sigh of relief and continue to shake off droplets of rain soaked into his clothes.

Kenzō stood quietly on the platform, looking down each of side of the tracks, waiting for the train that would come in and take them the rest of the way towards the city. Shingo sat on a bench under the station's roof. His complaining had finally gotten to Kenzō and decided that the train would save them the most time, as well as shut up the 3rd Division lieutenant. The rain continued on, the pitter patter of drops hitting the roof overhead.

Besides the two Shinigami, the rest of the platform was empty. There were a few houses off in the distance, spread out among the trees and roads surrounding the area.

Shingo ran his fingers threw his damp hair in an effort to dry himself. "So what do you think happened to Captain Ojima?" he asked has he shook off the excess water from his jacket.

Still looking down the tracks, hoping the train would arrive, Kenzō responded. "I don't know, Shingo. That's why we're on this mission."

"Yeah, but you can still make a guess." Shingo replied as he laid back on the bench, laying his arms stretched out on the top of it. He leaned his head back and stared through the skylight above him. "Hey, do you think we have time for a drink?" Shingo shot back to looking at Kenzō with enthusiasm.

"No." Kenzō replied in an instant, almost in anticipation of the question, which caused Shingo to immediately frown.

Just then the two heard footsteps coming from the other side of the platform. Shingo continued to lay back with his arms spread out on the bench, but tilted his head towards the source of the noise. Five larger men came stumbling out of the doorway, one kicking over the nearby garbage can. They were dressed primarily in leather, their pants tucked into big combat boots. They looked like they belonged in a heavy metal band, with their fingerless gloves, long hair and chains all around them. The scrawniest looking one of the group carried a bat that he banged against the metal pillars supporting up the roof.

"Oh, these look like upstanding citizens." Shingo said sarcastically. Kenzō just peered through the side of his eyes.

The group quickly set their sights on the two normal-looking men and began walking towards them, whispering to themselves, causing them all to grin.

"This should be good." Shingo said as he went back to staring off into the distance.

The one in front of the group was covered in tattoos. They sprawled out from under his shirt like vines wrapping themselves around his arms, upper chest and stopped right under his chin. He had bull ring pierced through his nose and black eyeliner. He stopped next to Shingo, putting one foot up on the bench and resting his elbow on his raised knee. "Excuse me, sir. My friends and I were wondering if you could help us out." He said, traces of a sinister undertone in his words, holding back a grin while the others behind him made no attempt to hide theirs. "See, we're a little short on cash and were wondering if we could have some of yours." The tattooed thug leaned in, giving off a devilish smile.

Shingo, for the most part, seemed like he wasn't paying attention to the man. He reached up with one hand and cleaned his ear with a pinky as he let out a yawn. This caused the tattooed thug to lose his patience. "Listen, man. I'm not gonna repeat myself!" He was now angered.

"Oh, thank god." Shingo said as he wiped the air in front of his face. "I don't think I could deal with that breath any longer."

The tattooed thug grinded his teeth as he stood back, caught off guard by how the Shinigami wasn't taking him seriously. The scrawnier one with the bat walked around him and pointed it directly at Shingo's head. "Stop screwing around and hand over whatever cash you got or I'm gonna light you up."

Shingo remained calm. He looked up at the bat handler unimpressed and not intimidated as the thug looked down at him.

"THAT'S IT!" The scrawny one reared back the bat and delivered a powerful swing directly towards Shingo's head. The thugs all stepped back gasping. The scrawny one gulped down a big ball of air as he held the bat. Shingo continued to grin. There stood Kenzō holding the bat with one hand, unfazed by the thug's swing. The thug began to sweat and quickly jerked back with his hands. Kenzō remained completely motionless, the bat nor his hand ever moving. The scrawny one continued to grunt and strain against the bat but it wouldn't budge. His feet slid as he tried to pull away. Without warning, Kenzō let the bat go and it snapped back, striking the thug directly across his nose and forehead, immediately dropping him to the ground, holding his face as blood poured out through his fingers.

"What the...!?" The other thugs shuffled their feet, with some bringing up their fists, while the front thug pulled out a switchblade. Shingo reacted instantly, and he brought up one foot to kick the weapon out of the thug's hand and then flipped back over the bench, striking him right under his chin with the front of his other foot simultaneously. The Shinigami landed on his feet behind the bench while the thug came crashing down on his back away from the group. The others hesitated for a moment, gasping at the sight of their supposed "leader" on his back, unconscious. Finally mustering the nerve, they lunged at the two Shinigami. One ran up onto the bench and leaped into the air. Shingo smiled, stepped forward and clipped the thug's legs, causing him to flip forward, landing hard on his shoulder blades and rolled into a garbage can.

That left two thugs for Kenzō to deal with. One lunged forward with a punch aimed at Kenzō's head. He twisted his body and caught the thug's arm. Continuing with the rotation, Kenzō lifted him off the ground and flipped him over his shoulder. Before the thug hit the ground, the other came up behind Kenzō in an attempt to bear hug him. Before his arms could wrap themselves around the Shinigami, Kenzō ducked and spun around, placing him directly behind the thug. Kenzō reached out and grabbed the back of his collar and yanked him back off his feet. The thug's back and head hit the ground hard, making a loud thud. And before he could react, Kenzō delivered a quick stomp to his midsection, knocking the wind out of him. The other thug got up and charged directly at Kenzō. He coiled back his fist and before he could strike the Shinigami, Kenzō delivered a lightning fast jab that was almost imperceptible to the human eye that connected under his chin. The thug's face seemed stunned as he stared straight ahead and continued to move forward, past Kenzō, before finally collapsing to the ground.

The scrawny thug managed to get back to his feet, bat in hand, blood gushing from his nose. "You're dead!" He screamed and swung wildly at Kenzō, who dodged them with ease. Finally, Kenzō just stopped and stood there when the thug raised the bat high in to the air and swung down towards the top of Kenzō's head. The bat collided with the lieutenant, snapping the wood in half as Kenzō continued to stare at the skinny thug, unfazed. Splinters of wood shot up in the air in what seemed like slow motion. Kenzō's eyes never left the thug and he watched as wweat ran down the sides of the thug's head and he froze in fear. A second later, Shingo was watching the thug flying through the air past him and he crashed into the bulletin board behind him.

"Well that was fun." Shingo said as he fixed his jacket.

Kenzō heard something off in the distance and stepped over one of the thugs as he walked to the edge of the platform. "Train's coming."

Part II: The World As We Know It

Not much is known about the catastrophe that occurred here in the human world nearly a thousand years ago. It had happened so suddenly and without warning. Earthquakes swallowing major cities, oceans swelling and drowning whole areas of continents, the human race on the verge of extinction. Two thirds of the all life on the planet lost in the blink of eye. It was unimaginable, unthinkable... yet it still happened.

The souls of all those that died wandered into the spirit world, crossing the barriers between life and death. Some eventually found themselves in Soul Society where the Shinigami guided them to the hereafter. Others, many others, were not so lucky. They became corrupted, losing that part of their souls... leaving something behind that was hollow. The number of Hollows increased, and so did the threat to Soul Society. The Gotei 13 of that time, brave and powerful Shinigami stood against the growing number of Hollows, leading up to what is known as the War of Souls. They fought until their last breath and in a sign of ultimate sacrifice gave up their lives to ensure Soul Society remained safe.

Now, a thousand years later, this is the world as we know it. It took a very long time for the humans to come out from hiding, to rebuild and to get back to what civilization looked like before the catastrophe. It's strange to see the world, not as the futuristic utopia depicted in movies. Instead, cities looked as they did in the early 21st century, from the technology present to the way people dressed.

The train moved down the tracks, heading towards one of the few sprawling cities that exist in the world. Kenzō stared out the window, watching the small homes turn bigger and bigger, until finally becoming large buildings. The lights of the city turned the nighttime sky into day. But the rain continued on as it ran down the glass. Shingo just sat there, eyes closed, head leaning to the side, snoring loudly. Kenzō just shook his head in annoyance as he caught sight of the train station off in the distance. He could feel the train slowing down until it finally came to a complete stop.

"Now arriving at Akabira City Station" - the computerized voice announced overhead and the doors opened.

Kenzō nudged Shingo who reacted as if he had woken up from a deep slumber, yawning and stretching his arms out. "Oh, we're here." Shingo said at the end of a long yawn.

"C'mon, we're wasting time." Exclaimed Kenzō and turned and walked out into the somewhat crowded platform.

"Atleast we're covered from the rain." Shingo took a little longer to get up and out of the train, scratching his head. He dodged past the pedestrians making their way onboard. Most likely people heading out to enjoy the nightlife. "So, where are we heading now?" Shingo asked, continuing to make his way past the crowd.

Kenzō reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. He carefully opened it revealing it to be a map of the area. There were a few spots marked on it, one of them labeled as Tryell's residence. Kenzō pressed his finger where the station was located and traced a line to Tyrell's home. "He doesn't leave too far from here. Just a few blocks." And he folded the paper back up and put it in his pocket.

The pair continued their walk through the city, Kenzō focused on his objective while Shingo was clearly distracted by the sights and sounds of the Human World, particulary the women dressing their best for whatever club they were going to. There were quite a few times where Shingo turned his head to watch them walk by, causing him to collide to whatever was in front of him. "Man, oh man, I love the Human World." He quickly gave Kenzō a light tap on the arm. "Hey, you think after we're done with our investigation we can stay a bit longer and admire..." Another crowd of attractive women walked by, "... the scenery." Shingo said with a smile, never breaking eye contact with the lovely ladies.

"Captain Miyazaki warned me about how lousy you were at taking orders." Kenzō scolded Shingo. "We're here on a mission. Not to stare at girls. Once we're done with our investigation, we're out of here." A expression of sadness formed on Shingo's face.

It wasn't a long walk, but with Shingo's insistent whining about the rain and his constant distractions, it felt like eternity for Kenzō. He was glad to see that they had reached what was Tyrell's street. His home was only a few more houses down. They reached the small home, Kenzō suddenly turned his head to look down the street.

"What's wrong?" Shingo asked, shaking the rain off his jacket.

Kenzō stood their quietly, staring off into the darkness. After a few silent moments, Kenzō replied. "I guess it was nothing." He turned back towards the door and knocked.

A little earlier...

Fumbling on the three-seated couch in search of his betting slip, Tyrell cursed aloud when he failed to find what would help him pay this months rent. His 32in TV was blaring in the background, the sport presenter rhyming off today’s winners at the horses. “Got you,” Raising his right arm in triumph, Tyrell twisted and slumped into the couch, listening absently to the voice from the TV. He was still delighted that he wouldn’t need to beg and plead and apologize for not making the rent, a fool grin plastered across his face.

His home was relatively small and plain. The walls were a stark white colour and the floor was simple pine. Two rooms branched off from the living area; the door on the far left closest to the TV was the kitchen, aroma’s floating out that drew a hungry Tyrell. The other door, dented from an earlier fall not a week past led to his bedroom, which was as plain as the living area. The brown walls gave a sharp contrast in colour though, and his bed was unmade with clothing lying everywhere but in their proper drawer. Closing the door quietly, an annoyed look about him, Tyrell stepped into the kitchen to check on his supper.

His meager pasta meal was simmering, with garlic herbs for flavour giving the aroma that had drawn him. He hadn't been fit to afford meat this week. “Ready? Great!” He guessed aloud, stroking his week old stubble as he finished the meal without a care for the speed he took. He didn't really care for the taste either. The kitchen, strangely enough, was clean and welcoming. The walls were a bright cream, the floor yellow tiles and spotless; the worktops black and recently cleaned of dirt. The colours made it look larger than it was and set against the left-hand wall was a dining table that would easily hold four people. Behind it was the back door, white, which Tyrell soon locked tightly.


"I'm coming!" Shouted Tyrell, face angered.

Lifting the phone, Tyrell no doubt thought his face just fell. It was the landlord. "I expect your rent tomorrow, Tyrell. No excuses."

"And I'll give it to you. Got lucky on the horses, you know?" Tyrell answered in a familiar tone. They'd had this conversation a few times now.

"If you weren't such a handy man with tools..." The landlord maintained.

"I know. I'd be out on my ass. Well, I'm gonna go lift this money so its ready for you tomorrow. Usual time?" Getting his answer, he set the phone down and looked at the state of the living room. "This place is a dump."

The chime of a grandfather clock reached his ears, signalling the late hour. Reckoning the bookie would still be open so he could lift his money; Tyrell walked over and scooped up his denim jacket lying across the right-side of the couch, actually remembering to switch off the TV this time. Damn neighbors complaining about noise. Running a quick hover over the floor and throwing dirty clothing into a clothes bin, Tyrell suddenly raised his hands in exasperation and sighed as the doorbell rang.

“I swear, if your girlfriends threw you out again Ryouta I’m gonna…!“ He trailed off; opening the door to permit two men. “Not Ryouta then. Now there’s a switch.” He said sarcastically. “Can I help you?” He barely took the time to look at their faces, concerned solely with the fact two unknown men were knocking on his door this late in the night. He had silently and rather stealthily grabbed the poker at the door in his left-hand, the motion hid by the way he leaned on the door frame.

Part III: The Lion, the Stampede and the Yellow Flame

The two shinigami stood at door of Tyrell's home. The rain still hitting them, though Kenzō seemed more comfortable with his hood pulled over his head. Shingo, on the other hand, stood there with his hands pulling his jacket awkwardly up over his head with his shoulders squished around his neck. His face and hair were soaked as his jacket offered very little protection.

Although they were standing in the rain, Kenzō remained well mannered and polite in addressing the man standing in front of him. "Is this the home of Tyrell Nishiki?"

Tyrell put the poker back and motioned them inside, knowing this was something that would be better discussed in the kitchen. Of all the things that could have happened tonight he was not expecting people he knew to be Shinigami knocking on his door at almost the dead of night! "Make yourselves at home," Tyrell said lazily, leading them both to a seat in the kitchen. Taking the chair opposite the two; arms resting on the tabletop as his right hand stroked his stubble. He was considering and weighing them with an upraised eyebrow and a disgruntled twist to his mouth when Tyrell finally asked the needed question. "Well? What's up?"

The two shinigami walked over towards the kitchen, careful not to trek too much water on the floor. "We apologize for any inconvenience we have caused for coming this late at night, but we have some... "otherwordly" business that we would like your assistance on." Kenzō said as he pulled out a chair and sat, hands resting on his knees. Shingo stood in the background still padding himself dry. "My name Kenzō Takeshi and I'm the lieutenant of the 11th Division in the Gotei 13. That over there..." and Kenzō pointed back towards Shingo with his thumb, "... is Shingo Miyamoto, lieutenant of the 3rd Division. We're here because one of captains who was stationed out here is missing. Captain Ojima. And before we began our investigation, we wanted to find out from you if there had been any unusual activity around here, such as disappearances or increased hollow attacks."

Sighing as he slid the empty seat beside him out so he could rest his feet on its top, Tyrell continued stroking his stubble; eventually cursing beneath his breathe when he pulled a few strands clean out. Tutting, he cast them aside before rounding on the two Shinigami with a loud sigh. He went on to describe several people, all of whom Kenzō shook his head at until Tyrell started voicing the name aloud. "Ojima, Ojima... The name rings a bell." He maintained for about the sixth time. "He's the guy with the tattoo on his right arm, charm bracelet on the left and the dreadlocks, right?" Waiting for Kenzō's brisk nod, Tyrell continued, content he'd recalled the correct person. "Your best bet would be the slums to the north end of the city. All that hang out there are the drunks, crack heads and the Hollow infestation." That caught the Shinigami duos attention. "So if he went anywhere, it would probably be there."

Not wanting to waste any time, Kenzō stood up and gave Tyrell a slight bow in appreciation. "Thank you for your time." He signaled Shingo that it was time to leave, but he was immersed in watching the television screen off in the background. He nudged his arm to get his attention. The pair walked towards the door, Shingo already sighing that he's going to have to walk in the rain again. Kenzō opened the door, the sounds of rain hitting pavement and cars driving by filled the room. He pulled the map from his pocket and examined the distance they would have to walk.

Shingo peered over his shoulder and watched Kenzō trace their route. A few blocks up north. "Crap..." Shingo said dryly.

"Suck it up." Kenzō said, his patience running a bit thin with Shingo's attitude. "Thank you again for your time, Tyrell."

And the two shinigami stepped out into the rain and began their walk. As they walked farther away from Tyrell's home, you could still make out the faint complaining of Shingo about the weather.

Off in the distance, a figure stood in the shadows watching the shinigami walk away. Once they left it's line of sight, it turned it's attention to Tyrell's home. "Tatsumaru" just stared from the shadows that covered most of his face, his eyes glowing an unnatural red.

Watching the two leave with a slight itch between his shoulders, Tyrell finally turned and locked up; heading off towards the bookie he prayed would still be open. Complaining much like Shingo was about the rain, Tyrell turned the corner, completely unaware of the figure above who had watched the scene unfold below. "Grab the money and then go and..." The rest was lost as the wind kicked up, blowing the rain in a slant into his mouth. Cursing loudly, fist shaking in anger at the heavens, Tyrell finally sighed and moved on at a reasonable run until the lights of the bookie - still open he thanked - loomed before him.

"Tatsumaru" followed silently behind Tyrell, remaining stealthfully hidden from him. "He" kept to the shadows, "his" expression lacking any sort of emotion, as if "he" were numb to the world, a mere shell that looked like Tatsumaru. "He" waited until Tyrell was in front of the bookie's before stepping out from the shadows allowing himself to cast a reflection in the large glass window in front of Tyrell.

Jumping a little as a figure appeared in the window, Tyrell calmed himself before his features smoothed over; going from anger at being surprised to a welcoming smile. "Tatsumaru?" He asked, somewhat confused as to why his friend was here in the first place. "Shouldn't you be working?" As he made his inquiry, Tyrell took a leaning position against the wall of the bookie, just to the right of the doorway. If it hadn't been for the light of the lamp glowing on the opposite side of the street or that which spilled out through the bookies' window, Tyrell wouldn't even have known it was Tatsumaru.

"Tatsumaru" just stood there silently, staring at Tyrell with dead eyes that peered out from under his wet hair and rain washed over him. His eyes cast an unnatural glow to them as it jerked its head to the side, making a cracking noise with its neck, never breaking eye contact with Tyrell.

Horror-filled eyes gave way to anger in seconds, Tyrell clenching his right fist tightly as the fingers of his left hand slicked back his rain-soaked hair. "Tatsumaru...? What did you do to him...!" He swiped his right arm though the air, finally grabbing the figure by his jacket with the same hand. "Answer me, damn you! Where's Tatsumaru!?" He attracted the eyes of those unfortunate enough to be outside this late and in this weather. Thankfully they were walking on the opposite side of the street and were much too frightened to walk over and intervene.

"Tatsumaru" opened its mouth and let out a hollow groan that echoed throughout and began lashing its arms violently. It smacked Tyrell's arm, causing him to loosen his grip and it jumped backwards through the shadows. Its eyes still glowing eerily through the darkness. The eyes lowered and then shot upward as its form jumped to a nearby roof. It groaned again once more, hunched over and still staring blankly at Tyrell.

"You dare wear my friends skin!?" The words were finished by a very different looking Tyrell. His physical body smacked the ground before rising again, nodding, and then ducking into the bookie; intent to be about Tyrell's business. It was a mod soul. One gained not too legally during the War of Souls and Tyrell's partner ever since. Either that or the poor guy was gonna be incinerated without a chance.

But a figure still stood in the street, his large form unseen by passersby. Lifting his head, the wind blowing the ends of his red belt wildly, Tyrell met "Tatsumaru's" gaze; eyes heavy. Posture rigid. An average katana slid free of its sheath, with Tyrell inching towards the light; revealing his new form. He wore a samurai-like dress with simple black-colored hakama, his left arm protected with an elaborate arm guard. His chest was exposed to both the rain and the nights chill, though none of the discomfort showed on his face. With a leap, followed by Shunpo to slow his descent, Tyrell was beside the Hollow, attempting to strike it; care for the environment be damned!

But it was quicker than he gave it credit for and the shadow that wore Tatsumaru's skin was off across the rooftops quickly, the angry Shinigami behind it seemingly forgotten for a time as that same katana ate not but air. "Where are you going!? Get back here!" Anger was clouding his judgment, making him act in haste. Bounding after the fleeing shadow with Shunpo aided leaps, Tyrell began to close the distance.

It hopped from rooftop to rooftop, heading towards a more sparsely lit area where few houses lived. It looked back over his shoulder towards Tyrell as he was quickly approaching. It let out another howl and leapt high into the air, flipping his body over until it was completely upside down. It brought its arm back with a clenched fist at the end of it and whipped forward. In an instant the arm stretched out several meters, the fist coming directly at Tyrell with amazing speed.

Coming to an abrupt stop, movements slow as he inched around the outstretched fist after it had connected flush on his right cheek, Tyrell dropped to one knee momentarily. "Damn it...!" He roared, returning to his feet. Laying his hand upon its arm just as it began retracting, Tyrell held it firmly in place. "Now thats one you're gonna pay for!" With two twists, he released, the shadow flying into the nights sky high above. "Chikara Yashi," He stated simply, punching the air with his right arm - a bullet of spiritual energy flying forth at speed!

The spiritual energy flew through the air directly at "Tatsumaru" and as it was about to collide with its stomach, it convulsed and a hole opened up allowing the projectile to fly harmlessly through him and into the night. It let another howl and twitched the arm that Tyrell held firmly. And with a quick flinch, spikes sprung from under its skin around Tyrell's hand.

Cursing as the spikes dug into the palm of his hand, Tyrell leaped backwards and then upwards, using Shunpo to float casually in the wind as though he were a leave caught in an upwards draft. "Just what the hell are you?" He asked, receiving no answer. Shaking his head after taking the time to rip a segment of his trouser leg near the bottom to bind his hand poorly, Tyrell once again hefted his zanpakutō. The will to kill was clear to see, as was the resolve to carry through with the action. "So you don't wanna answer me, eh? Not a problem." Surging forward with a Shunpo-aided jump, Tyrell was in front of the creature. He refused to think of it as Tatsumaru, even as the blade descended towards its skull.

It recoiled at Tyrell's attack and raised its other arm in an attempt to block it. The blade dug into its skin, a spirt of dark red blood shot out from around Tyrell's sword before finally being sent down into the streets below with such force and speed that the impact shook the ground and sent a large plume of smoke into the air. It spasmed as it got back up slowing, its body bloated, twisting the image of Tatsumaru. It's only form of communication was the howls that it let out. Both arms stretched out once more like whips, while spikes burst out the other arm. It whipped its arms around, smashing them into the ground, kicking up dirt and dust. It sent one of his arms wizzing through the air directly at Tyrell.

Part IV: The Hunter and the Prey

Meanwhile, north of the city...

"Man, this place stinks." Shingo said as the two shinigami walked through the slum neighborhood that Tyrell pointed out in their earlier conversation. "The sooner we get out of here, the better."

Kenzō tried his best to drown out Shingo's complaints, but his patience was wearing thin and he finally broke out. "The sooner we get out of here, the sooner I can stop listening to you."

"Oooooo, aren't we grumpy." Shingo said as he poked Kenzō's arm. Suddenly a shadow flew above them with unnatural speed. The two shinigami halted instanty. "What was that?" Shingo now alerted.

Kenzō was actually surprised to see Shingo alerted and ready to act. Immediately, Kenzō's spirit form burst from his Gigai, arcs of electrical energy stretching from it. His gigai fell to the ground, lifeless. Shingo followed suit and both spirits leapt into the air and began following the shadow. The two shinigami tried their best to close the distance, but the shadow was moving at incredible speeds. They jumped from rooftop to rooftop and then finally the trees. The shadow moved with such speed and grace that it was getting difficult for the pair to stay behind.

It suddenly jerked back and changed direction, flying down into the streets below. Kenzō signaled for Shingo to keep following up high while he would go down below and persue it through the alleyways. It twisted and turned through buildings, over walls and then finally back up into the sky. This time Shingo was their waiting. It zipped past him and he quickly followed. The shadow then turned and said something too low to make out, and without warning, an oblong blast of purple spiritual energy flew through the air directly at Shingo. He only had enough time to gasp as the blast came closer and closer. Kenzō appeared instantly next to Shingo and shoved him out of the way as the blast wizzed in between them. It connected with a nearby rooftop, incinerating a part of it instantly.

"What the hell was that?!" Shingo exclaimed as he stared back towards the shadow.

"That was Kidō!" Kenzō said, surprise clearly in his voice. And when he set his sight back on the shadow, it disappeared instantly. "Where did it go?" Kenzō shouted out towards Shingo, and they both looked around.

Instantly, something appeared in between them. A foot collided with Shingo's midsection, knocking him back. Kenzō turned to see their attacker and a spear head was inches from his face. He reacted with amazing speed, bring his hand up to slap the flat end of the spear away. Their attacker, a dark skinned man wearing black cargo pants, orange puffy vest, and black sneakers, quickly turned his spear to try and hit Kenzō with the other end. The bronze sphere struck Kenzō's forearm, but he managed to hold his ground and pushed the weapon away. Kenzō rushed into the attacker, watching his weapon twirl in his hands with amazing grace and fluid motion. He noticed a series of tribal tattoos that covered the top half of his right arm. The attacker's long black dreadlocks swayed in the air as he repositioned himself and launched a series of thrusts towards Kenzō. He managed to dodge each attack, inching himself closer. But the attacker was agile enough to distance himself from the shinigami. The dark skinned man twirled the spear around his arms, then neck and finally behind his back as readied himself for Kenzō to approach. His face was cover by mask that covered his nose and mouth, while goggles covered his eyes.

And then he disappeared again, just as Shingo's sword swiped the air where their attacker was. This wasn't Shunpo, Kenzō though to himself. He would be able to follow it if it was. This was something else.

"Where did he go?" Shingo said as he stood in a defensive stance with his blade.

"I don't know." Kenzō continued to scan the area. There was no sign of the attacker.

"Bakudō # 4. Hainawa (這縄, Crawling Rope)" and from above them, their attacker unleashed a crackling yellow energy rope directly towards Kenzō.

This guy uses Kidō... Kenzō thought to himself and he unsheathed his sword to strike the energy rope, severing it before it could entangle itself around him. The attacker appeared again behind the shinigami, again Kenzō surprised by how this guy could move. Kenzō blocked the spear's attack on pure instinct, as the attacker offered him no means of tracking his movements.

Shingo circled around, getting behind the dark skinned man, before he vanished once more. Once more, Shingo swiped the air with his blade. "Alright, this is starting to get annoying." The attacker appeared directly behind Shingo and brought down his spear toward's Shingo's head. The lieutenant brought up his blade to intercept the attack, but the force behind it launched Shingo down towards the streets below. The attacker again twirling the spear behind him as he waited for Kenzō to come at him.

Kenzō paused for a moment, a picture flashing in his mind for a brief moment. "Captain Ojima?" He asked out loud. For a moment, the attacker seemed taken back by Kenzō's question. He suddenly lunged at Kenzō with his spear once again. Their weapons colliding with one another and they dodged and flipped, sparks shooting out as their weapons grazed each other.

To Shingo's defense, he managed to recover quickly and flew back up towards to the fighting pair. The attacker switched stances, trying to always keep one of his opponents between the other. He was going on the defense, as both Shingo and Kenzō were proving too much for him to handle on his own. The only times he seemed to catch the other 2 off guard was when he disappeared and reappeared. Kenzō, a master of Shunpo and one of the most proficient users of this skill, was having a hard time following him. The lieutenant was relying on instinct to intercept their attacker. Shingo was just trying to not get in the way.

Finally, the attacker leapt back and away from the pair, appearing to be a little winded from the long exchange of attacks. Kenzō and Shingo kept their eyes on him, their swords still at the ready. The attacker just stood there and waited. Kenzō lowered his blade and then finally decided to sheath his sword.

"What are you doing?" Shingo asked, surprised by Kenzō's action.

"Quiet." Kenzō ordered Shingo. "Captain Ojima!" This statement confused Shingo. "It's me. Lieutenant Kenzō Takeshi." The attacker remained quiet and motionless. "What's going on?" He shouted out towards the dark skinned man.

"What are you talking about?" Shingo whispered towards Kenzō.

"That's Captain Ojima." He shot back.

"How do you know? So far this guy seems to be hell bent on killing us." Shingo exclaimed, never lowering his weapon.

"It took me a while to figure it out. It was the way he moved. His weapon looks a bit different now, but the ability is the same. Captain Ojima is known for his skill in tracking and hunting, as well as infiltration. His Zanpakutō, however, offers an invaluable ability. Teleportation." This last statement seemed to cause a subtle reaction in their attacker. "Captain Ojima's Zanpakutō is Daikonran (だいこんらん, Pandemonium). It offers its wielder the ability to teleport over great distances. That's why I couldn't read his movements."

Shingo just stood there, taking in the fact that they were fighting the captain that they were looking for.

The attacker raised his hand to pull down his mask, and then lifted the goggles over his head. Even in the night, Ojima's vibrant purple eyes are unmistakenable. "Lieutenant?" He finally said back towards Kenzō.

"Yes, Captain." He signaled Shingo to lower his weapon and they both bowed before Captain Ojima. "What's going on?" Kenzō asked.

Captain Ojima began to walk over to the two shinigami, their bodies still high above the city below. With each step, Ojima tried to explain his situation. "A few weeks ago, I was investigating some hollow activity in these parts. At first it seemed like nothing unusual. Typical hollows. Then one day, I come across a group of shinigami who appeared in the area. Four of them. All dressed in the Gotei 13 attire. When I went to meet them, they began attacking me. I tried to ask what the meaning of this was, but they ignored my words. I finally put one down, while the others watched. But he didn't stay down. Instead they all began to swell up and morph into some kind of creature. Their bodies were pure black with partial remnants of hollow masks on. They attacked me again. This time their arms changed into long whips with spikes at the end of them. I had used Hadō #54. Haien (廃炎, Abolishing Flames) to incinerate one completely." Kenzō remembered the first attack that Ojima has fired at Shingo. He remembered the shape and color of the attack, realizing he had used the same spell previously. "I took out the rest shortly after that. Ever since that night, there have been more of these hollows taking on appearances of shinigami to draw me out. I couldn't go back to Soul Society for fear of bringing one of those things with me. So I stayed here, continuing to find out what was going on."

As the shinigami continued to talk, Shingo looked around the area. He began to notice people standing around. Some were down in the streets, while others were on the rooftops. Any other time, Shingo wouldn't have cared but the fact that they were all looking directly at the shinigami caught his attention. "Hey, does anyone else see this?" He called out to Ojima and Kenzō. They stopped their conversation and looked around, as well.

Ojima readied his spear again. "It's them!" He shouted. And just then the people below leapt into the air. They rushed at the 3 from all sides. The captain swung his spear and knocked several back, making sure that none would gang up on him. "Spread out!" He ordered.

Kenzō dodged one attacker's hand as it tried to claw at his face. He punched it square in the face, sending it into another group of attackers. Shingo dodged several attempts at him. He slashed at them with his sword, opening wounds where dark red blood gushed out like mist. They recoiled and howled from the pain. Shingo looked back over his shoulder to see Kenzō taking on several more attackers bare handed. Kenzō struck each one with crushing force, sending them flying into the air or crashing back down below. Captain Ojima speared a few and cut off limbs of others. Their attackers kept coming. For everyone one they killed, 2 more seemed to come from the shadows. They were being surrounded now.

"Shingo! Clear us some room!" Kenzō shouted out towards the 3rd Division Lieutenant.

Shingo nodded and knew what he had to do. He held up his sword above his head. Trample... HITONAMI! White spirit energy shot out of the sword and Shingo swept the blade towards a large group of attackers. At first, the blade just made a small arc of compressed force that rippled in front of him, but it quickly sped and grew as it flew towards the group. Eventually, the arc had become as high as 40 feet and nearly a hundred feet wide as it collided with the group of attackers. It pushed them all back hundreds of feet, effectively giving the trio enough room to manuever and get out of there. Hitonami (Stampede) has the ability to release a wave of force that quickly builds in both strength and size the more distance it travels.

The remaining attackers let out a massive howl and immediately rushed towards the shinigami. The trio seized this opportunity and flew through the ever shrinking opening before they were swallowed whole by lunging arms. Kenzō turned back and pointed his index finger at a line of attackers. "Hadō #4. Byakurai (白雷, Pale Lightning)", screamed Kenzō and a massive bolt of electrical energy fired from his fingertip. The energy collided with the first attacker, piercing it and then the next one behind it, and continued on until several of them had a hole in the middle of their chests. The force of the blast pushed back several more from their fallen brothers.

Captain Ojima paused, looking back at the slain attackers. "You've improved your Kidō, Kenzō." Ojima said with a slight tone of approval.

Kenzō merely turned, gave a nod and the three shinigami continued on. Using the buildings below as cover, Ojima, Kenzō and Shingo dropped down to the streets and continued to run on foot. The attackers crashed into the buildings around them, sending debris raining down on the shinigami. They hadn't even slowed down before the impact. Its as if they had only one mission and ignored any and all pain they incured. They emerged from the smoke, bloated and grotesque. Their bodies were pure black, their hollow masks partially there, cracked. Another bout of howls filled the night time sky and continued their persuit.

"What the hell are these things?!" Shingo yelled, gripping his sword. He swung it again, sending another wave of force into 3 creatures. The force froze them in the air as they pushed against the wave. But they couldn't hold it back and the wave washed over them, launching them back into the air, disappearing from sight.

"They have to be hollows." Kenzō grunted, dodging a giant claw that was aimed for his chest. He brought down his elbow to the back of its neck. Kenzō spun around, bringing the heel of his foot to the side of another creature's head, snapping it to the side with such force, a loud crack was heard. It flipped over, hit the ground, bounced up and then crashed into a wall.

A small group had converged around Ojima. Holding his spear in one hand, he brought his index and middle finger to his forehead. The captain closed his eyes, concentrated and a small orange flame flickered at his fingertips. "Hadō #6. Kirumuchi (切る鞭, Severing Lash)" and swiped his fingers in the air. The small flame expanded into a long whip made of condensed flame and swung it around. When it struck each creature, it sliced right through them. Their body parts separating cleanly as they fell to the ground, before bursting into black flame and fading away in clouds of smoke. Gan quickly assessed the situation, seeing too many for them to handle. He swung the fire whip once more, wrapping itself around the neck of a creature coming up behind Shingo. Shingo, startled by how close it had gotten, only had time to watch its head fly off its body as it burst into flames. "We need to get out of here.... now!" He yelled out to the two other shinigami. He held out Daikonran and ordered them to grab the spear. They ran towards the captain, now dozens of creatures pouring through the alleyways like ravenous animals hungry for a meal. Kenzō and Shingo managed to grip the spear just as the creatures were nearly on top of them and in an instant the three shinigami vanished completely. The creatures collided with one another. A sound like waves crashing onto rocks resonated throughout the streets. They howled and clawed at each other, angry from their escaped dinner. There were nearly a hundred of them, flooding every inch of the street and alleys around them, their howls reaching up into the night time sky.

<-- Previously in Whispers of War

Continued in What Once Was - Part 2 -->