090. See You Under a Firework
091. KING OF FREISCHÜTZ
092. Masterly! And Farewell! [Reprise]
093. Steer For the Star
094. Gaol Named Remorse
096. BLOODRED CONFLICT
097. Talk About Your Fear
089. Masterly! And Farewell!
090. See You Under the Fireworks
091. DER FREISCHÜTZ King
092. Masterly! And Farewell! (Reprise)
093. Steer For The Star
094. A Jail Called Remorse
096. BLOODRED CONFLICT
097. Talk About Your Fear
098. A Star And A Stray Dog
A STAR AND A STRAY DOG is the eleventh volume of the Bleach manga series.
Ichigo successfully defeats Ikkaku of the Eleventh Division and is rewarded with a valuable piece of information--the location of where Rukia is being detained as she awaits execution. However, Ichigo's companion, the pyrotechnics-wielding Ganju, is having a much harder time with his Shinigami opponent. Meanwhile, Orihime and Uryū confront the younger brother of the gargantuan gatekeeper whom Ichigo defeated a little while ago. It's time for Uryū to put all his training to the test and prove to everyone (and himself) how much more powerful he has become.
In the Seireitei within Soul Society, upon hearing an explosive sound from the area behind him, 11th Division 5th Seat Yumichika Ayasegawa asks a battle-worn Ganju Shiba if he thinks the fight which was taking place there has ended, though Ganju merely points out that he has no way of knowing this. Claiming that this is a rude response, Yumichika decides that they should finish this and releases his Shikai, Fuji Kujaku, prompting Ganju to call him arrogant as he lights a smoke bomb by scraping it along the length of his left arm gauntlet before throwing it to the ground. Engulfed by a cloud of smoke, Yumichika wonders how it can be stinging his eyes like this as Ganju explains that it is a chili pepper smoke bomb called "Tears of Blood" developed by Kūkaku Shiba, only to begin coughing profusely while realizing that the bomb got him as well. With a confused Yumichika preparing to resume his attack upon noting that Ganju's plan backfired, Ganju runs out of the smoke cloud and away from Yumichika, who is astonished by his response and curses him as unsightly.
Meanwhile, 11th Division 3rd Seat Ikkaku Madarame opens his eyes and questions why he is not dead, and when Ichigo Kurosaki greets him while sitting on a piece of rubble nearby, Ikkaku asks him why he is still here. When Ichigo holds up Ikkaku's sealed Zanpakutō and admits that he did not know a Shinigami's Zanpakutō returns to this state when its owner loses consciousness, a shocked Ikkaku demands that he give it back, which leads Ichigo to assure him that he does not intend to steal it and only wanted the styptic substance contained in the handle before observing that he used it all up and that it is very effective as Ikkaku realizes that his chest wound has been completely sealed up with the styptic substance. Angered by this, Ikkaku claims that Ichigo does not know what he has done, though Ichigo assumes he is referring to not being asked permission first, and asserts that he knew the wound should have killed him. With Ikkaku detailing how having his life saved has shamed him and proclaiming that he would kill Ichigo if he could move right now, an annoyed Ichigo states that he would have let Ikkaku die if he knew the latter would be so belligerent about it.
Standing up, Ichigo explains that he does not care how Ikkaku feels about this and just wants some answers, prompting Ikkaku to note that this is just his luck before sarcastically inquiring if Ichigo wants to know his birthday. However, Ikkaku is shocked when Ichigo asks him where Rukia Kuchiki is, and when Ichigo reveals that he plans to save her, Ikkaku demands to know how big his team is, only to be further dumbfounded when Ichigo flatly states that it is composed of five people and a cat. As he laughs in disbelief at the apparent hopelessness of Ichigo's situation, Ikkaku reopens his chest wound from laughing too hard, to Ichigo's bemusement, and instructs Ichigo to head south from here in order to reach the Gotei 13 barracks. Though Ichigo is bewildered that he is learning this so easily, an irritated Ikkaku asserts that he will not continue his explanation if Ichigo does not listen without interrupting before informing him that he will find Rukia in a white tower at the west end of the barracks.
Ichigo is hesitant to believe this information, but Ikkaku declares that Rukia means nothing to him and that he has no reason to prevent Ichigo from rescuing her. Upon being told by Ikkaku to leave before the others find him, Ichigo thanks him for his help, which leads Ikkaku to request that he not get sentimental over this. Suddenly, as Ichigo begins walking away, Ikkaku realizes something and asks him who the strongest in his team is. When Ichigo confirms that he is the strongest, Ikkaku warns him to beware his captain, Kenpachi Zaraki, because the latter will likely go after Ichigo and ignore his weaker friends. With Ichigo noting that he must be tough, Ikkaku asserts that he will find out if Ichigo lives long enough to face him, prompting Ichigo to nervously inquire what Kenpachi's name is.
Elsewhere, Kenpachi is angered to find himself standing in front of another dead end, and when his lieutenant, Yachiru Kusajishi, criticizes him for having no sense of direction while clinging to his shoulder, Kenpachi reminds her that it was her hunch which brought them here. As Kenpachi runs off to another location with Yachiru, Orihime Inoue and Uryū Ishida poke their heads over the ridge of a nearby roof before expressing relief at them being gone. With Orihime observing that Kenpachi and Yachiru did not notice them despite seeming strong, Uryū theorizes that they are strong with low spiritual detection abilities like Ichigo as he wonders where they should go now. When Orihime points toward the Senzaikyū in the distance and suggests that they go toward the tower, Uryū turns toward her while picking up on her mention of a tower, only to be shocked upon seeing 7th Division 4th Seat Jirōbō Ikkanzaka standing behind Orihime and swinging his Zanpakutō toward her. Smashing his Zanpakutō into the section of the roof where Orihime was standing, Jirōbō realizes that she is no longer there and looks behind him to see Uryū holding a stunned Orihime, which prompts Jirōbō to praise Uryū's reflexes in saving her from such a close-range attack before proclaiming that he will give them time to feel regret for encountering him because they would have lived much longer had they not.
As he runs down an alley in the Seireitei, Ichigo Kurosaki questions where Ganju Shiba has run off to and vaguely recalls 11th Division 5th Seat Yumichika Ayasegawa's face while noting that Ganju will need help because he likely cannot handle someone of his rank, which he was informed of by 11th Division 3rd Seat Ikkaku Madarame. Angered by his continued inability to find Ganju, Ichigo loudly demands to know where he is and instructs Ganju to fire a rocket into the air if he can hear him, only to realize that Goteitaishi and three other members of the Eleventh Division are smoking and playing cards a few meters away from him. With Goteitaishi and the other Shinigami abandoning their game to pursue him while proclaiming that they will kill him or die trying, an embarrassed Ichigo runs away and admits that he forgot how he is being chased as well before resuming his calls for Ganju, which Goteitaishi interprets as him expressing fear for his life while promising that Ichigo will not escape him.
Nearby, Yumichika stands over a bloodied Ganju, who is sitting against a wall, and notes that he must be exhausted as he praises Ganju for evading running away for such a long time, which Yumichika considers doing well even though it was in an unsightly manner. When an irritated Ganju calls him annoying, Yumichika brushes this off as the natural response of the unsightly envying the beautiful before inquiring if it is Ichigo whom he can hear calling out to Ganju. With Ichigo continuing to run away from Goteitaishi and the other Shinigami nearby, Yumichika asserts that he is no less unsightly than Ganju because he is only attracting more Shinigami while looking for Ganju, whom he decides is a little slow. However, Ganju claims that Yumichika is the slow one and reaches behind his waist as he points out how Ichigo being here means that he must have killed Ikkaku.
Shocked by this, Yumichika declares that this is impossible due to Ikkaku being the 3rd Seat of the strongest division in the Gotei 13 as Ganju pulls out a series of wrapped tubes bound together by a fuse, the end of which he scrapes along the length of his right arm gauntlet before throwing the tubes at Yumichika. With the tubes detonating in minor explosions in front of Yumichika's face, Ganju begins running away once more, prompting an irritated Yumichika to observe that Ganju's only skill seems to be running away. As he pulls several small bombs out of his vest, Ganju unleashes them on Yumichika as he uses Senpen Banka, only for Yumichika to slash his Shikai, Fuji Kujaku, through them while calling this a childish trick. Upon reaching the edge of another execution pit, Ganju moves his hand across the ground in a circular motion before Yumichika kicks him in the chest, sending him flying across the ground to the wall at the other end of the pit's edge. Questioning if Ganju ever learns and if fleeing and scratching the ground are the extent of his abilities, Yumichika theorizes that he intends to use one of his spells to kill them both by causing the ground to crumble, which leads Ganju to assert that killing himself to take out Yumichika would be a waste while moving his hand in a circular motion across the section of ground he is crouching on.
When Ganju dodges his subsequent slash that cuts through the wall behind where he was standing, Yumichika commends him for having enough stamina to still move this well after spending so long dodging and responding to his attacks. However, as Ganju mentally notes that he only needs a little more preparation and will have to catch Yumichika off-guard for this to work, Yumichika angrily claims that Ganju would have been one of his favorites had he been born beautiful and appears behind Ganju before slashing him across his back, resulting in Ganju being sent hurtling over the edge of the pit. Upon seeing Ganju manage to stop his fall by grabbing onto the edge of the pit at the last second, Yumichika sarcastically states that his will to live is inspiring and walks up to him as he explains how Ganju should at least die beautifully rather than continue to live an unsightly life, only for Ganju to assert that they have different concepts of beauty because he was taught to survive no matter what. With Yumichika shocked to see him making another circle with his hand, Ganju uses Seppa on the portion of the ground he is standing on, and when Yumichika grabs onto the edge of the pit as well after slipping down the sandy slope, Ganju leaps back up onto the ground by pushing himself off of Yumichika's head.
As Ganju makes one more circle on the ground with his hand, Yumichika attempts to leap back up while berating Ganju for daring to place his unsightly hand on his head, but Ganju proclaims that it is over and slams his palm onto the ground as he unleashes Renkan Seppa Sen, causing a large chunk of the ground in front of him and below Yumichika to be severed from the rest of the ground and begin sliding into the pit. Though he manages to escape falling into the pit by leaping high into the air and criticizes Ganju for thinking this would end it, Yumichika is surprised to see Ganju standing beneath him with a large firework in his hand as the latter throws it at him, resulting in a screaming Yumichika being defeated as the firework explodes in his face. Upon seeing the resulting firework in the air above him, Ichigo realizes that this is where Ganju is and berates him for not launching it sooner as he stands over an unconscious Goteitaishi and the other Shinigami.
On another rooftop, 7th Division 4th Seat Jirōbō Ikkanzaka stares down Orihime Inoue and Uryū Ishida as he counts to ten while holding his Zanpakutō horizontally in front of him. Upon realizing that Uryū is still holding her, Orihime assures him that she is okay, which Uryū acknowledges as he lets go of her. Orihime looks at Uryū and notes that his expression is different before recalling how he briefly disappeared from her senses and saved her from Jirōbō before she even knew he was there. As she observes that he has undergone such a drastic change just from facing a Shinigami because they are still the enemies of the Quincy like Yoruichi told her, Jirōbō finishes counting to ten and inquires if they were able to regret sufficiently. With Uryū noting that the battle is about to start, Jirōbō proclaims that they will soon have all eternity to regret as he swings his Zanpakutō down at Uryū and Orihime.
Jirōbō's attack cuts through the roof in a torrent of force as Orihime and Uryū leap away on either side of him. Summoning Tsubaki, Orihime fires him at Jirōbō and attempts to use Koten Zanshun, but Jirōbō contemptuously slashes through Tsubaki mid-flight, sending him flying back with a gash in his shoulder as Orihime frantically calls out to him. Upon being caught by Orihime, Tsubaki merely criticizes her for her poor attack power and returns to her hairpin, which leaves Orihime confused while Jirōbō appears behind her and admits that he has never seen such a move before stating that he could not sense any murderous intent behind her attack. As he asserts that Orihime cannot kill a Shinigami with such an attack even if it works on Hollows, Jirōbō mocks her for thinking this is a playground and declares that she cannot accomplish anything with an attack that lacks murderous intent as he brings his Zanpakutō down onto her, only to be interrupted when a Heilig Pfeil slams into his hand, pushing his blade away from Orihime and wounding the back of his hand.
With Jirōbō stunned by this, Uryū informs him that he can find plenty of murderous intent in his bow as he stands with the new version of his Heilig Bogen, Kojaku, formed and with steam trailing from his fingers. Seeing this, Jirōbō inquires if Uryū is a Quincy, which the latter confirms as Orihime mentally observes how much his Heilig Bogen has changed in its physical appearance and Reiatsu. As Orihime realizes that Uryū trained by himself in order to learn how to handle the Sanrei Glove that Kojaku is attached to, Jirōbō chuckles and claims that it will be fun to face a Quincy and a girl with mysterious abilities, which he considers a happy coincidence of fate to have both of as his opponents, before proclaiming that he will show Uryū the true form of his Zanpakutō while releasing his Shikai, Tsunzakigarasu, causing the blade of his Zanpakutō to separate into dozens of spinning, radially symmetrical, dual-edged blades that begin whirling through the air around him as he places the hilt of his Zanpakutō into its scabbard.
Jirōbō tells Uryū and a shocked Orihime to feel regret and introduces himself as well as his moniker of Kamaitachi, which he explains is the mark of the ultimate weapons master because no one other than him has ever seen these blades flying through the air and lived. However, while Jirōbō asserts that Uryū must regret meeting him as a fellow weapons master due to how terrifying Tsunzakigarasu is, Uryū instantly destroys all the flying blades of Tsunzakigarasu with dozens of individual Heilig Pfeil fired all around Jirōbō, who is left stunned, and observes that the weapons masters of Soul Society like to make long and boring speeches unlike those in the Human World. Though Jirōbō nervously claims that this was just luck and begins to recreate his blades by pulling his hilt back out of his Zanpakutō's scabbard, Uryū states that he still does not get it and fires another Heilig Pfeil that shatters the newly-formed blades and part of Jirōbō's hilt as it tears out a chunk of his hand, leaving him to scream in pain as Uryū explains that Jirōbō will no longer be able to call himself ultimate after today because he is far superior in weapon mastery before noting that he does not like the way Kamaitachi Uryū sounds.
With a chunk of his left hand destroyed by a Heilig Pfeil from Uryū Ishida, 7th Division 4th Seat Jirōbō Ikkanzaka clutches his damaged hand by the wrist and screams in pain while a stunned Orihime Inoue notes that Uryū is completely different from the young man who fought Ichigo Kurosaki before. As Jirōbō pants and sweats heavily, Uryū approaches him and inquires if Jirōbō is feeling some regret now as a weapons master who had the misfortune of meeting Uryū. Angered by this, Jirōbō turns to Orihime and moves to grab her while reiterating his claim that Uryū is the one who will feel regret, only for Uryū to move between the two of them and question if Jirōbō planned on attacking Orihime or taking her hostage due to being unable to fight Uryū himself.
Drawing back another Heilig Pfeil in his Heilig Bogen, Kojaku, Uryū observes that Jirōbō has been after Orihime from the very beginning and dismisses the idea of him endangering her by accident due to being clumsy before asserting that no one with a shred of honor fights in such a manner. Uryū bids Jirōbō farewell while noting that it would be a waste to allow him time for regret, and as Jirōbō screams in terror, Uryū shoots him in the chest with two Heilig Pfeil, sending Jirōbō flying back. As Uryū retracts Kojaku and stares at his steaming Sanrei Glove, Orihime thanks him and finishes his sentence when Uryū begins to bashfully claim that it was nothing, leading her to smile at his surprised stare. When Orihime asks him if Jirōbō is dead, Uryū denies this and explains that he simply destroyed Jirōbō's Saketsu and Hakusui, which will allow him to live but result in him losing his spiritual powers forever and likely never be a Shinigami again. After declaring that the battle is over, Uryū tells Orihime that they should go, and the two begin walking away as Orihime recalls Yoruichi Shihōin's explanation of how Quincy fight by gathering Reishi and observes that Uryū's Sanrei Glove must increase his ability to gather Reishi. Orihime realizes that Uryū trained alone because he did not want to hurt them in the process of learning to control such power, and as she expresses amazement at him being able to control this power and fight so well after just ten days of training, Orihime somberly wonders what she accomplished in those ten days because she does not feel any stronger at all.
Elsewhere in the Seireitei, Ganju Shiba screams as he runs from several Shinigami and frantically questions why they always chase him. When the Shinigami call him ugly as they tell him to halt, Ganju admits that the man he fought prior was attractive before claiming that all the Shinigami chasing him are just as ugly as he is, only to begin crying and note that he is not going to win this argument as the angered Shinigami continue calling him ugly. Upon seeing Ichigo running out of an alley intersecting with the one he is running down and happily assuming that he has come to provide backup, Ganju is shocked to see several more Shinigami chasing after Ichigo, who nonchalantly waves to Ganju as the latter berates him for being chased as well. Though Ganju tells him to stop waving because he is angering the Shinigami behind him as they decide to kill Ganju as well for being Ichigo's friend, Ichigo continues running toward him and leaps into the air to kick a Shinigami behind Ganju in the face as Ganju punches another Shinigami approaching him in the face. Landing behind Ganju, Ichigo draws his Shikai, Zangetsu, and tells Ganju to duck before defeating several more Shinigami.
Nearby, as he runs through an alley with members of his division, 4th Division 7th Seat Hanatarō Yamada hears the noises of battle and wonders what is happening, prompting 3rd Seat Yasochika Iemura to berate him for talking because this is not a drill, and while Hanatarō meekly apologizes, Iemura informs the Shinigami engaged in combat that the first, fourth, and sixteenth relief teams of the Fourth Division will arrive momentarily as he leads Hanatarō, 8th Seat Harunobu Ogidō, and several others through the alleys.
Back at the scene of the battle, Ganju stands with Ichigo in the middle of several incapacitated Shinigami and criticizes him for swinging Zangetsu around without warning like this. When an irritated Ichigo points out how he told him to duck, Ganju claims that he did not get enough time and could have been killed before questioning what they are going to do now due to the remaining Shinigami not seeming like the type to retreat and Ichigo having only taken out the others with the element of surprise. As he approaches the cluster of Shinigami from the outside, Hanatarō looks around for the members of his division and bemoans having lost track of them after simply stopping to tie his sandal before deciding to ask the assembled Shinigami for directions, only to trip on a raised tile and crash headlong into two of the Shinigami, who begin berating and beating him up as he apologizes. With Ichigo and Ganju wondering what is going on, Hanatarō falls into the center with them, and as a grinning Ganju reveals that he has just though of a way out of this, Ichigo notes that he just had the same though while Hanatarō nervously greets them.
Lying on the ground in front of Ichigo Kurosaki and Ganju Shiba, 4th Division 7th Seat Hanatarō Yamada nervously picks up on their mention of getting out of here and inquires if they are the Ryoka, only for Ichigo and Ganju to pick him up and hold Ichigo's Shikai, Zangetsu, to his neck while demanding that the other Shinigami get out of the way before they harm a screaming Hanatarō. However, the Shinigami merely stare in silence at this before two of them question what Ichigo and Ganju are doing, and as a confused Ichigo states that they have a hostage, one of the Shinigami observes that they are not Hanatarō's friends. As Hanatarō tells Ichigo that he is with the Fourth Division while they are with the Eleventh Division, another Shinigami details how the Eleventh Division is the ultimate combat unit of the Gotei 13 while the Fourth Division is only fit for relief work due to being weak, and the assembled Shinigami begin laughing hysterically while proclaiming that they hate the Fourth Division and urging Ichigo and Ganju to kill Hanatarō because it will be a bonus for them. Shocked by this, Ganju declares it would be totally heartless for them to kill Hanatarō, who screams in terror while Ichigo agrees. With the Shinigami rushing toward them, an exasperated Ichigo asserts that they will just have to fight their way out.
Suddenly, the Shinigami approaching them from the front are engulfed in a large explosion of force that knocks down part of the wall next to them. Though Ganju questions what this was as Hanatarō is left quivering in fright, Ichigo admits that he does not know before proclaiming that this is their chance because half of the enemies are gone as he begins attacking the Shinigami behind him with Ganju carrying Hanatarō behind him. While Ichigo fights his way through the remaining Shinigami, Yasutora Sado steps through the hole in the wall and looks over the incapacitated Shinigami as he wonders if he missed Ichigo despite feeling his Reiryoku here earlier. Upon being confronted by more Shinigami from the Eleventh Division who demand to know if he is one of the intruders, Sado confirms this and responds to their subsequent promise to kill him within five minutes by apologizing and asserting that this will be over in two minutes as energy begins flaring from his Fullbring, Brazo Derecha de Gigante, to their shock.
Meanwhile, at the Sōgō Kyūgo Tsumesho in the Fourth Division barracks, 12th Division Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi blasts a small hole into the wall as he stands with his lieutenant, Nemu Kurotsuchi, and angrily observes that 11th Division 3rd Seat Ikkaku Madarame is refusing to talk while the latter lies on a bed with multiple bandages and looks away from him. When one of the nurses pleads with him to stop due to such post-combat interrogation being forbidden within the Sōgō Kyūgo Tsumesho, Mayuri blasts a hole into the door frame next to her and orders her to shut up before threatening to break Nemu into pieces again when she begins to speak up, which she meekly apologizes for. Seeing this, Ikkaku clarifies that he is not refusing to talk and asserts that he does not know anything about the Ryoka's destination or objectives, and when an irate Mayuri inquires if Ikkaku is saying that he lost and came here without obtaining any intelligence, Ikkaku confirms this as he claims that he also did not see the enemy's face or hear his voice, meaning that he has nothing to tell Mayuri.
Furious, Mayuri raises his hand and declares that Ikkaku's punishment shall match his failure, only for 11th Division Captain Kenpachi Zaraki to appear and grab his wrist as he observes the irregularity of Mayuri being authorized to punish Shinigami from other divisions. Mayuri frees himself from Kenpachi's grasp and decides to retreat due to the latter's presence before ordering Nemu to leave as well, which she complies with. Watching this, Kenpachi turns back to Ikkaku, and as the latter greets him, his lieutenant, Yachiru Kusajishi, pops up from behind his shoulder and greets Ikkaku, who expresses surprise as he returns the greeting. With Yachiru asserting that they were worried about him and calling him "baldy", Ikkaku calmly reminds her that he instructed to not call him this as Kenpachi observes that he seems to have lost his fight.
Affirming this, Ikkaku admits that he knows it is shameful to lose and return alive, but Kenpachi brushes this off and inquires if the one he fought was that strong, which Ikkaku also confirms. Upon being asked to describe Ichigo, Ikkaku details how he has orange hair and a sword as long as he is tall before noting that he was heading for the Shishinrō in Senzaikyū, leading Kenpachi to realize that he is after Rukia Kuchiki. Ikkaku explains that he warned Ichigo to be wary of Kenpachi and observes that the latter should enjoy a great fight when he meets Ichigo because his strength is still growing despite how strong he already is, meaning that he should be quite powerful by the time he meets Kenpachi. Intrigued by this, Kenpachi asks Ikkaku for Ichigo's name.
Elsewhere, as they all hide in a storage room, Hanatarō introduces himself to Ichigo and Ganju, who simultaneously declare that his name is so ordinary that it is hard to remember. Flustered by this, Hanatarō claims that those around him say his name is good and easy to remember, but Ichigo merely lists similar-sounding alternatives that would sound better while Ganju wonders why Hanatarō is introducing himself even though he is their enemy. When Hanatarō admits that he does not know, Ichigo questions why Ganju brought Hanatarō along, prompting Ganju to explain that he was distracted and dragged Hanatarō with them without thinking. As they look over a hand-drawn map of their location within the Seireitei, Ichigo inquires which road they should take to reach Senzaikyū if they know Rukia is in there, only for Ganju to admit that he does not know before asserting that they do not want to encounter any of the captains while Ichigo realizes the map does not have and roads and bemoans his own stupidity.
With Hanatarō picking up on their mention of Rukia, Ichigo tells him to shut up because they are in the middle of a strategy meeting and Ganju assures him that he can leave because he is of no use to them anyway, but Ichigo whirls around in astonishment when Hanatarō asks them if they are referring to Rukia Kuchiki. Identifying Rukia as the sister of 6th Division Captain Byakuya Kuchiki and the prisoner in Senzaikyū, Hanatarō reveals that he knows a secret path to Senzaikyū.
4th Division 7th Seat Hanatarō Yamada guides Ichigo Kurosaki and Ganju Shiba through a massive network of canals located underneath the Seireitei as Ichigo admits that he never would have guessed such a thing was down here. As Hanatarō explains how the canals span the entirety of the Seireitei and allow those who enter the network to go anywhere they want to unimpeded, Ganju questions if the other Shinigami do not know where the entrance to the canals is since they simply lifted a flagstone to enter, and Hanatarō confirms this before stating that he does not think they will be caught because only the Fourth Division knows the network well due to specializing in supplies and relief, leading Ganju to assume that this is a supply route and only the supply unit knows the layout. However, an embarrassed Hanatarō clarifies that the Fourth Division is simply in charge of cleaning it because they get assigned a lot of menial tasks due to not being very strong, and while Ganju observes that the Fourth Division is somewhat pathetic, Ichigo asks Hanatarō why he is helping them. Though Ichigo inquires if he is leading them without asking any questions because they want to go to Senzaikyū, Hanatarō reveals that he has heard a lot about Ichigo from Rukia Kuchiki and knows him well before expressing his desire for Ichigo to save Rukia.
Sitting with Ichigo and Ganju in an alcove along one of the passageways, Hanatarō explains how Rukia was held in the Sixth Division's prison ward before she was transferred to Senzaikyū, where he was assigned cleaning duties, and admits that he was initially afraid of Rukia because she was an aristocrat, only to be relieved when she kindly asked him to call her Rukia after he first referred to her as Miss Kuchiki instead. As he notes that he could not wait to clean her cell each day from that point on, Hanatarō recounts how Rukia told him lots of things, many of which were about Ichigo, and relays her observation of feeling able to trust Ichigo completely despite only spending two months with him before recalling how Rukia claimed Ichigo's fate had been twisted because of her, which left her thinking she had hurt him terribly and could never make up for what she had done to him, and always looked sad when she spoke of this. Stunned by this, Ganju expresses confusion at Rukia being such a strange Shinigami, and as he affirms this, Ichigo declares that this is why he came here to save her and begins briskly walking away, prompting Hanatarō to wonder if he said something wrong while Ganju states that he does not know. While he continues to walk ahead of them, Ichigo thinks about Rukia's trust in him and guilt over what happened to him before proclaiming that he will not let her die because he is the one who owes here.
Meanwhile, at a lieutenants meeting, 4th Division 7th Seat Yasochika Iemura stands before 10th Division Lieutenant Rangiku Matsumoto, 3rd Division Lieutenant Izuru Kira, 5th Division Lieutenant Momo Hinamori, 6th Division Lieutenant Renji Abarai, 9th Division Lieutenant Shūhei Hisagi, and 7th Division Lieutenant Tetsuzaemon Iba as he reports the defeat of 11th Division 3rd Seat Ikkaku Madarame and 5th Seat Yumichika Ayasegawa in battle. Upon learning that the Eleventh Division has been nearly wiped out, a stunned Hisagi wonders how the Ryoka could inflict so much damage so quickly while Renji internally expresses shock. With Iemura detailing how they have confirmed three Ryoka so far and revealing that two of them are advancing in this direction with a member of his division taken hostage, Iba notes that he has not heard from 7th Division 4th Seat Jirōbō Ikkanzaka for a considerable period of time and requests that they search in the area of twenty west for him before affirming Rangiku's identification of him, prompting Hisagi to express astonishment at the Ryoka defeating Jidanbō Ikkanzaka's little brother as well. However, when she nervously turns to Renji in search of solidarity over how strange these events are, Hinamori discovers that he has left through a nearby window.
Outside the steps leading up to Senzaikyū, Hanatarō lifts up a flagstone-covered hatch and looks around before telling Ichigo and Ganju that it is safe for them to come up. While Ichigo and Ganju climb onto the stones outside and express relief at being able to breathe fresh air again, Hanatarō explains that the canals do not go all the way to the base of Senzaikyū and that this is the closest exit as he directs Ichigo's attention to Senzaikyū itself, where he observes Rukia is located. Suddenly, as Ganju admits that it looks forbidding and likely means that their journey will only get tougher from here on out, Ichigo grows serious and steps in front of Ganju, who questions what is wrong. Holding a hand out in front of Ganju to keep him back, Ichigo informs him and Hanatarō that someone is on the steps leading up to Senzaikyū as the mist in front of them clears to reveal Renji, who pushes up his visor and inquires if Ichigo remembers him after such a long time as Ichigo identifies him.
As he descends the steps from Senzaikyū toward Ichigo Kurosaki, Ganju Shiba, and 4th Division 7th Seat Hanatarō Yamada, 6th Division Lieutenant Renji Abarai praises Ichigo for remembering his name, and when an unnerved Ganju wonders who Renji is due to his strong Reiatsu, a shaking and sweating Hanatarō identifies him, leaving Ganju shocked at being confronted by a lieutenant. Admitting his surprise at Ichigo surviving what he believed was a fatal attack from his captain, Byakuya Kuchiki, Renji compliments his tenacity and unsheathes his Zanpakutō while asserting that it ends here because he promised to kill the one who took Rukia Kuchiki's powers and she cannot get them back as long as Ichigo lives. However, Ichigo merely points out that Renji was willing to kill Rukia just to bring her back here and draws his Shikai, Zangetsu, before telling Renji that he will either let him pass or be forced to kill Ichigo while running forward. With Renji claiming that they will let strength decide, he and Ichigo clash in a shockwave of force.
Pushed back by the force of their clash, Ichigo and Renji press forward and cross blades once more, resulting in another shockwave emanating outward from them. From afar, Ganju watches this in astonishment and asserts that there is no way for Ichigo to win against a lieutenant despite how strong he is. However, Hanatarō denies this and instructs Ganju to look closely at Ichigo, who pushes Renji back to the wall next to the base of the steps with the force behind his strike. A stunned Hanatarō observes that Ichigo is overwhelming Renji and wonders just what he is, leading Ganju to admit that he would like to know this as well. While continuing to hold back Ichigo, Renji inquires how he plans to save Rukia, and when Ichigo expresses confusion at this, Renji details how there are eleven more lieutenants and thirteen captains to deal with even if Ichigo defeats him here, all of whom Ichigo will have to defeat in order to save Rukia. When Renji asks him if he really believes that he can do this, Ichigo proclaims that he has to and pushes Renji's Zanpakutō back further while declaring that he will crush anyone who gets in his way regardless of who they are.
Questioning where this bravado comes from, Renji tells Ichigo to not delude himself just because he escaped death a few times and berates him for thinking that his Zanpakutō changing made him stronger before sending Ichigo flying backward into the air with a slash from his Zanpakutō. With Ichigo shocked by this, Renji releases his Shikai, Zabimaru, and sends it toward Ichigo, who blocks its end segment with the broad side of Zangetsu as he lands on the ground, only to find himself unable to stop it as Zabimaru continues to extend and smashes Ichigo into a building next to Hanatarō. As Ganju and Hanatarō express concern for Ichigo, Renji retracts Zabimaru and theorizes that Ichigo thought he knew Renji's power because they fought before. Renji approaches the hole he left Ichigo in and reveals that Shinigami of lieutenant rank or higher have their power suppressed when they go to the Human World in order to avoid harming the Humans nearby before declaring that he is five times stronger than he was during their previous battle, which leads him to believe that Ichigo cannot defeat him no matter how much stronger he has gotten. Despite this, Ichigo merely that this is Renji's real strength and asserts that it is not enough before emerging from the hole in the building with a bleeding head wound, and with Ichigo claiming that he might just have a chance if all the lieutenants are at this level of power, a grinning Renji calls him a fool.
With Ichigo Kurosaki standing with a bleeding head wound after withstanding an attack from 6th Division Lieutenant Renji Abarai's Shikai, Zabimaru, Ganju Shiba expresses concern for him while 4th Division 7th Seat Hanatarō Yamada asks him if he is alright. As Hanatarō expresses amazement at Ichigo remaining standing after this, Ichigo mentally notes that he is dizzy due to a combination of how powerful Renji's last attack was and him losing too much blood against 11th Division 3rd Seat Ikkaku Madarame, and as Ichigo orders his body to stop swaying, Renji observes that he can barely stand despite his confident speech and leaps into the air before slamming Zabimaru down onto Ichigo, slicing through the length of the building behind him while he declares that he is finishing this.
Having blocked the brunt of Renji's blow with his own Shikai, Zangetsu, Ichigo leaps into the air with a new wound on his left shoulder and jumps onto the roof of the building next to the one Renji just slashed through, prompting Renji to slice diagonally through the roof of that building and the corner of the roof next to it as Ichigo runs along it. With Renji jumping onto the roof behind him, Ichigo turns around and clashes with him once more, resulting in an explosion of force. As he watches this from the ground with Ganju, an astonished Hanatarō expresses disbelief at Ichigo fighting a lieutenant while the two continue to struggle.
Elsewhere, 3rd Division Lieutenant Izuru Kira expresses shock upon being informed by 5th Division Lieutenant Momo Hinamori that Renji is missing and inquires where he is, which leads Hinamori to admit that she does not know because he disappeared during the lieutenants meeting before revealing that she found his lieutenant's badge in his room when she looked for him there. Further shocked by this, Izuru asks Hinamori if she informed her captain, Sōsuke Aizen, of this, but Hinamori denies this and explains that she did not do so because she did not want Renji to get into trouble, though she quickly clarifies that she does not believe Aizen would be unfair to Renji. Affirming this, Izuru assures Hinamori that she did the right thing because they do not know why Renji is missing and questions why he would disappear at a time like this before noting that it must have been urgent if he left his lieutenant's badge behind while under orders to wear it and expressing concern at Renji getting himself into trouble over his concern for Rukia Kuchiki. With Izuru promising to look for Renji as well and ensure that his captain, Gin Ichimaru, does not find out, Hinamori thanks him and looks up to the sky as she wonders where Renji is.
Back outside the stairs leading up to Senzaikyū, Renji slams Zabimaru into Ichigo, who blocks with Zabimaru and is sent crashing backward into a wall. A panting Renji sees Ichigo pushing himself to his feet by using Zangetsu as a crutch and admits that he is tough before questioning if he really wants to save Rukia, only for Ichigo to clarify that he is going to save her. Angered by this, Renji brings Zabimaru down on Ichigo once more, slicing into his right shoulder, and demands that he be silent because his theft of Rukia's powers is why she was condemned to begin with. As he continues to attack Ichigo, Renji berates him for having the audacity to show his face in Soul Society and say that he is going to save Rukia even though she is going to die because of him, but Ichigo merely informs Renji that he knows Rukia is going to die because of him before proclaiming that this is why he is going to save her as he pushes the segments of Zabimaru away.
After retracting Zabimaru, Renji angrily extends it toward Ichigo once more as the latter mentally notes that Renji can only perform three consecutive attacks with it. Ichigo recalls Kisuke Urahara explaining that an attack can be employed fewer times in succession in direct correlation to its power, with a revolver being able to fire six times and a missile only firing once, and asserting that the number of consecutive attacks is always pre-determined. As he observes how Renji can swing Zabimaru once in its normal state and strike two more times while it is extended for a total of three attacks before being forced to retract it after the third attack, Ichigo remembers Urahara instructing him to determine the maximum number of attacks because a desperate opponent will always strike the maximum number of times, which will allow him to attack while the opponent is vulnerable and defenseless between the end of the first series of attacks and the start of the second. Dodging Renji's first two strikes, Ichigo blocks the third with Zangetsu and rushes toward a surprised Renji while the latter is still retracting Zabimaru. However, as Ichigo declares that it is over, Renji dodges his subsequent slash with Shunpo, leaving Ichigo stunned, and reiterates his assertion that Ichigo has no chance of beating him before slashing Ichigo across the chest with Zabimaru.
As blood spurts from his wound, Ichigo Kurosaki collapses against a broken wall and wonders how 6th Division Lieutenant Renji Abarai dodged his last attack. Assuming that Ichigo is wondering how he evaded this attack, Renji commends Ichigo as having a good plan to strike between consecutive attacks and perfect timing before asserting that Ichigo was unable to kill him because he is too slow. After declaring that he is simply and brutally far out of Ichigo's league, Renji raises his Shikai, Zabimaru, above his head and proclaims that Ichigo cannot save Rukia Kuchiki because he is already dead as he brings Zabimaru down onto him in a powerful strike, to the shock of Ganju Shiba and 4th Division 7th Seat Hanatarō Yamada.
In the past, while training with Kisuke Urahara in his underground training space, Ichigo narrowly dodges an attack from the former that shatters a rock behind where he was standing, and as Urahara flatly states that he cannot run away, Ichigo angrily points out that Urahara tried to kill him just now and that he would have been killed had he not run. However, Urahara reveals that this is the point and explains how he is trying to corner Ichigo and drive him to the edge so he can learn to deliver the killing blow at any time. With Urahara indicating the massive chasm in the ground left by his unconscious firing of a Getsuga Tenshō, Ichigo claims that this was due to luck and not something he can perform on command, but Urahara insists that he has to be able to do it on command because he is on the verge of learning how to fight by activating the true power of his Zanpakutō. Describing Ichigo as having talent but the strength of a 3rd or 4th Seat at best, Urahara informs Ichigo that the enormous strength of Shinigami requires him to master this attack in order to be their equal.
Ichigo concedes this but admits that he does not even remember how he performed this attack due to how desperate he was at the time, only for Urahara to conclude that he is driving Ichigo to the edge in order to make him remember as he leaps forward and jabs at Ichigo with his Shikai, Benihime, which Ichigo blocks with the broad side of his own Shikai, Zangetsu, before sending him flying backward, where he crashes into the top of a large rock formation. Though Tessai Tsukabishi and Ururu Tsumugiya attempt to move to Ichigo's side in order to tend to his injuries, Urahara appears before them and instructs the two of them to hold back for now as he ascends the side of the rock. As he tries to catch his breath, Ichigo is stunned to see Urahara appear in front of him and attack once more, resulting in Ichigo crashing into a second rock formation nearby after being sent hurtling off the top of the first one, to Jinta Hanakari's astonishment.
Having carved a trench into the top of the rock with his crash, Ichigo coughs as Urahara criticizes him for falling apart after being pressed only a little and expresses disappointment in Ichigo's condition before asserting that his blade only resonates with fear. Urahara details how Ichigo's every move revolves around his fear and declares that this will not bring him victory in battle because nothing is born of fear as he tells Ichigo that his actions should revolve around his resolve to kill and not let himself or others be killed. When Urahara points out how Benihime is filled with the resolve to kill him, Ichigo gets to his feet and raises Zangetsu above his head as his Reiatsu surges, and while Urahara notes that he is capable of resolve after all and instructs Ichigo to never forget this feeling, he fires an energy blast at Ichigo as the latter unleashes a Getsuga Tenshō.
In the present, Ichigo catches the end segment of Zabimaru with his bare hand, shocking Renji, and apologizes for keeping Renji waiting before revealing that he has resolved to kill Renji. Leaping backwards, a stunned Renji wonders how Ichigo recovered like this. Upon seeing Ichigo raising Zangetsu above his head with his Reiatsu surging, Renji attempts to slash at him, only to find Zabimaru shattered by Ichigo's subsequent Getsuga Tenshō. With his visor broken and his hairband destroyed, causing his hair to flair out around him, Renji is cut down the length of his chest.
Bleeding from his massive wound as his hair comes undone, 6th Division Lieutenant Renji Abarai wonders how Ichigo Kurosaki got him and mentally admits that he has been defeated as he stares at Ichigo, who stands several feet away while also bleeding. As he realizes that his arms and legs will not move, Renji questions how he could have lost like this and screams in anguish while thinking of Rukia Kuchiki.
In the distant past, in the Inuzuri district of southern Rukongai, a young Renji and his friends flee from an old man wielding a sickle while carrying jugs of water. Threatening to kill Renji and his friends for stealing the water which he stole first, the old man gives them ten seconds to stop, only to skip straight to ten and proclaim that he will kill them even if they return the water as one of Renji's friends nervously asks him what they are going to do. Suddenly, with Renji observing that the four quarters of the Rukongai divided into 80 districts each were safest at the center next to the Seireitei and extremely dangerous at the outskirts where he was, Rukia appears and trips up the old man, and while Renji's astonished friends ask an equally surprised Renji if he knows her, Rukia stomps on the old man's head repeatedly before running past Renji's group while telling them to follow her. Though Renji initially protests, upon being asked by Rukia if he wants someone to steal the water he is carrying away from him, he and his friends quickly begin running after her as he observes that Rukia was their center from that day on.
Renji describes Rukia as being a strange girl who was bossy and talked like a boy but whose elegance showed in everything she did. As he recalls how only he and Rukia had strong spiritual powers within their group, Renji notices his friends staring in awe at Rukia's demonstration of her natural affinity at channeling her Reiryoku and hits them for getting soft over a girl while noting that they were a family drawn together by their hatred for Inuzuri and all the people living in it. After recounting how all the adults were criminals and their kids were stray dogs, leaving them surrounded by human garbage, Renji asserts that there was only one way to escape, Renji stands with Rukia ten years later as the latter tells him that they should become Shinigami so they can live inside the Seireitei where life is better. Agreeing with this, Renji reflects on how they had formed a surrogate family due to coming to Soul Society alone and observes that the Rukongai was hard on children while he and Rukia stand in front of three graves, where their other friends were buried.
After remembering how he and Rukia were accepted into the Shin'ō Academy due to having some talent and rose through the ranks despite being surrounded by arrogant nobles, Renji runs through the halls of the academy to Rukia's room one day and slides open the doors while confidently announcing his passing of the secondary class, only to find Rukia standing with Byakuya Kuchiki and the Cleric of the Kuchiki House. Seeing Byakuya's kenseikan, a stunned Renji realizes that he is a noble as the Cleric observes that they have been interrupted and departs with Byakuya while telling Rukia that they hope she will accept their proposal. Left unable to move by Byakuya's intense Reiatsu as he walks past, an astonished Renji wonders who he could be, only to be brought back to reality by Rukia saying his name.
Upon being asked by Renji what this meeting was about, Rukia reveals that she is going to be adopted into the Kuchiki Clan, to Renji's shock, and sadly explains that she will be graduating soon because they have arranged for her to enter the Gotei 13. However, as Rukia begins to express her doubts over this, Renji merely claims that this is great, to Rukia's bewilderment, and points out how the Kuchiki Clan is an important family that will prevent Rukia from ever going hungry again should she join their ranks. With Rukia staring at him, Renji wonders what nobles eat and proclaims that he is jealous over Rukia getting to graduate early as he claps a hand onto her shoulder, only for Rukia to somberly push away his hand and thank him for his words as she leaves. Reflecting on this, Renji recalls his motivation of not getting in the way of Rukia having a real family and letting her go so she could be happy.
In the present, Renji begins staggering forward and continues to bleed as he admits that he may have simply been afraid at the time. After asserting that he will always be a stray dog and cursing his own lack of courage, Renji reaches Ichigo and grabs him by the collar while explaining that he has never been strong enough to beat Byakuya even after training every day since Rukia left. Declaring that he is not strong enough to save Rukia, Renji begs Ichigo to save her as he acknowledges the shame he brings upon himself in doing so, leading Ichigo to somberly promise that he will.
Maybe it's because I've been so busy lately, but I constantly find myself thinking, "I wish I could draw without worrying about time." But in reality, when I do get some free time, I'll probably piddle about and do nothing. I guess you always want what you don't have. Tite Kubo