The Ryoka Invasion is a major conflict revolving around Ichigo Kurosaki, Orihime Inoue, Yasutora Sado, Uryū Ishida, and Yoruichi Shihōin breaking into Soul Society to save Rukia Kuchiki from her execution.
The conflict begins when the Ryoka enter the Rukongai and are prevented from passing through one of the four gates encircling the Seireitei, leading them to seek help from Kūkaku Shiba, who fires them through the Shakonmaku surrounding the Seireitei. Having been split up across the Seireitei by this, Ichigo and his friends begin fighting their way toward Rukia's location.
Multiple captains and lieutenants are defeated by the Ryoka in their charge, and 5th Division Captain Sōsuke Aizen is found seemingly assassinated, fracturing the Gotei 13 and leading to several additional conflicts over both this and Rukia's execution while the captains are given permission to confront the enemy themselves, which results in the Ryoka suffering losses and pyrrhic victories.
The conflict ends on the day of Rukia's execution, where Ichigo, having grown considerably stronger from completing his Bankai training, rescues Rukia from the execution and defeats 6th Division Captain Byakuya Kuchiki. However, Aizen reveals that he is not only still alive, but has been masterminding the events of the invasion for his own ends. After retrieving the Hōgyoku, which had been hidden within Rukia, Aizen retreats into Hueco Mundo alongside 3rd Division Captain Gin Ichimaru and 9th Division Captain Kaname Tōsen, leaving the Gotei 13 and the Ryoka to prepare for a much bigger conflict to come.
After an altercation with the Kōtotsu within the Dangai, which results in them being shifted backwards in time by seven days, Ichigo Kurosaki and his friends crash-land in West Rukongai, alerting the Gotei 13. While he and his friends examine the surrounding area, Ichigo sees the seemingly unprotected Seireitei nearby and attempts to run inside in order to begin the rescue effort, but is interrupted when the Sekkiseki wall crashes down around the perimeter, leading to him being confronted by Jidanbō Ikkanzaka, one of the Gatekeepers.
When Orihime Inoue and Yasutora Sado attempts to run to Ichigo's aid, Jidanbō separates Ichigo from his allies with a slash of his ax that creates a barrier of upturned earth between them. However, Ichigo remains unconcerned and assures his friends that he can handle Jidanbō alone before revealing that his training with Kisuke Urahara concluded five days earlier than planned, allowing him to spend the remaining five days constantly fighting Urahara himself. With Jidanbō initiating the battle by attacking with his giant axe, Ichigo effortlessly blocks the strike with his Shikai, Zangetsu, to Jidanbō's shock.
Initially stunned by this, Jidanbō begins laughing uproariously at the prospect of his first true challenge in decades and begins attacking Ichigo rapidly with Juppon Jidanda Matsuri, only for Ichigo to continue blocking each strike without any visible strain. Left unnerved as Ichigo prepares to make his move, Jidanbō pulls out a second axe and attempts to use Banzai Jidanda Matsuri, but Ichigo responds by shattering both axes in a single blow before they can reach him.
After realizing what happened, Jidanbō begins sobbing over the loss of his axes, and when an embarrassed Ichigo halfheartedly apologizes for unnecessarily breaking them both, Jidanbō interprets this as Ichigo feeling sorry for him despite their status as enemies, causing him to concede victory to Ichigo and agree to open the gate for them. However, when Jidanbō manages to open the gate with great effort, he is approached by 3rd Division Captain Gin Ichimaru, who cuts off his left arm as punishment for opening the gate.
Despite a heavily bleeding Jidanbō explaining that he only opened the gate because he lost to Ichigo, Gin claims that gatekeepers are not meant to open gates and are meant to die if they lose, only to be attacked by Ichigo before he can finish off Jidanbō. Upon recognizing Ichigo as the one he was warned about, Gin uses his Shikai, Shinsō, to push Ichigo and Jidanbō out of the Seireitei, causing the gate to crash down.
With Ichigo having survived this unscathed, he and his friends are approached by denizens of the Rukongai, from among whom emerges Yūichi Shibata, to Sado's shock. While Orihime reattaches Jidanbō's arm and Ichigo is told that the villagers are grateful for him protecting Jidanbō, Sado spends the day with Yūichi and learns of the sorting system for Souls in the Rukongai that has prevented Yūichi from reuniting with his mother thus far. That night, Yoruichi Shihōin gathers the Ryoka to explain their next steps, but the meeting is interrupted by the sudden arrival of Ganju Shiba.
Confronted by Ganju over being a Shinigami, Ichigo casually punches him away, prompting Ganju to introduce himself and tackle Ichigo outside. While Ganju's Gang prevents the others from intervening, Ichigo refuses to heed Yoruichi's instructions to back down and has Zangetsu tossed to him by Sado before clashing with Ganju, who traps Zangetsu in the ground with Seppa. However, Ichigo simply uses his martial arts training to continue fighting Ganju, and after withstanding a brutal assault from Ichigo, Ganju is alerted when the clock on Taichi Miyamoto's back begins ringing.
After realizing what time it is, Ganju calls Bonnie and departs while vowing to come back and settle this fight tomorrow, to Ichigo's chagrin. The next day, as the Ryoka prepare to head out, Ichigo stubbornly refuses to leave the village until Ganju returns, but is convinced otherwise by Yoruichi, who guides him and his friends to Kūkaku Shiba's house. There, Kūkaku meets the group and agrees to help them enter the Seireitei on the condition of sending one of her men with them, due to not trusting them as she does Yoruichi just yet, before bringing out Ganju, who Ichigo and his friends are astonished to learn is Kūkaku's brother.
In the Seireitei, 6th Division Lieutenant Renji Abarai and the Kidō Corps transfer Rukia from her cell in the Sixth Division barracks to the Shishinrō within Senzaikyū, where Renji informs her of Ichigo and the other Ryoka entering Soul Society the previous day. Soon afterward, as he ruminates on Rukia's stunned reaction to this, Renji is pulled aside by 5th Division Captain Sōsuke Aizen, who points out the strange circumstances surrounding Rukia's execution before being interrupted by the announcement of a captains meeting. Back in the Shiba Clan household, Kūkaku violently quells the conflict between Ichigo and Ganju as she brings the Ryoka to the Kakaku Taihō.
With Ichigo and his friends shocked to learn that she is a fireworks expert who will be launching them into the Seireitei, Kūkaku has Koganehiko and Shiroganehiko raise the Kakaku Taihō above-ground and brings out the Reishūkaku. While Ganju uses the Reishūkaku to create a barrier around his body, Kūkaku explains that the Sekkiseki wall surrounding the Seireitei creates a spherical barrier called the Shakonmaku that disintegrates spiritual entities on contact, but can be bypassed with the barrier generated by the Reishūkaku, which she has them begin training with under Koganehiko and Shiroganehiko. As Kūkaku brushes off Ganju's protests about helping a Shinigami, the lieutenants gather in the Seireitei and discuss recent events.
Though his friends can create stable barriers of various shapes and intensities with the Reishūkaku, Ichigo finds himself unable to properly form one due to his inexperience with channeling Reiryoku and quickly grows frustrated. After his friends leave to eat dinner, Ichigo continues struggling to use the Reishūkaku, and upon learning of Ichigo's motivation to save Rukia, Ganju decides to share his visualization technique for channeling his Reiryoku into the Reishūkaku and leaves Ichigo to try it himself. Meanwhile, in the First Division barracks, Gin enters the captains assembly hall, where the other captains of the Gotei 13 stand to question him.
Back at the Shiba Clan household, though his vast Reiryoku initially causes him to make an extremely dense barrier that damages his surroundings, Ichigo successfully shrinks it to a manageable size and density, to his delight. At the captains meeting, when 11th Division Captain Kenpachi Zaraki demands to know why Gin let Ichigo go without killing him, Gin claims to have not known he survived, only for 12th Division Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi to accuse him of doing this on purpose. Annoyed by this, Captain-Commander Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto tells Kenpachi and Gin to stand down before ordering Gin to explain himself. Gin asserts that he has no excuse, and before Aizen can question this, an intruder alarm sounds.
With Kenpachi running off to confront the intruders, Yamamoto declares that the questioning of Gin will be paused for now in order to address this threat and has the captains move out. Some time later, Ichigo wakes up and follows Uryū Ishida upstairs to the Kakaku Taihō, where he learns that he bent Yoruichi's tail in his sleep. Suddenly, Ganju arrives in a new outfit and confronts Ichigo. Revealing that his older brother was killed by a Shinigami, Ganju explains that the former never hated Shinigami despite this and wants to learn why, which is why he plans to help Ichigo. After giving her blessing for this, Kūkaku prepares to begin the firing process.
Confirming with Ganju that he can help perform the second launch method for the Kakaku Taihō, Kūkaku has Ichigo and his friends get inside the cannon and begins making preparations outside. While the Ryoka form a collective barrier with the Reishūkaku at Yoruichi's prompting, Kūkaku initiates Kagizaki, creating a surge of flame that fires the Ryoka and their barrier high into the sky above. Suddenly, the barrier begins moving sideways, leading Ganju to reveal that he will be controlling their trajectory and acceleration. However, Ichigo accidentally interrupts Ganju's incantation, causing the cannonball to crash headlong into the Shakonmaku.
While the Shinigami within the Seireitei stare in shock, Ichigo and his friends find themselves tangled up in the melted cannonball, which begins to swirl around in a vortex of energy. As Yoruichi instructs the Ryoka to hold onto each other, Ganju grabs onto Ichigo and Sado grabs Orihime, but is unable to reach Uryū, leading him to leap off of Orihime and throw Uryū back to her before falling to the ground below. With Ichigo and Orihime unable to reach each other, the vortex explodes, sending the remaining Ryoka flying across the Seireitei in three other directions. Sado manifests Brazo Derecha de Gigante, Orihime moves to catch herself and Uryū with Santen Kesshun, and Ganju cushions his and Ichigo's impact with Seppa, only to be confronted by 11th Division 3rd Seat Ikkaku Madarame and 5th Seat Yumichika Ayasegawa.
With Sado having hidden himself in a tree after cushioning his fall with an energy blast, Yoruichi, who remained alone during the split, evades some Shinigami with Shunpo and moves to a rooftop. Elsewhere, Orihime regains consciousness and learns that she and Uryū landed in a deserted area of the Seireitei, to her relief. Back at the sandpit, Ikkaku performs his Lucky-Lucky Dance to give Ichigo and Ganju time to climb to solid ground, and as Yumichika asserts that they do not have time to waste since others will arrive soon, Ganju runs away, leaving Ichigo to face Ikkaku alone as Yumichika pursues him. Ichigo and Ikkaku begin fighting, each wounding the other's opposite temple.
As Yumichika continues to pursue him, Ganju uses Seppa to pass through the wall at a dead end, only to find himself standing at the edge of a deep pit on the other side. After catching up, Yumichika explains that this is an old execution pit where they made criminals fight Hollows as he draws his Zanpakutō. Back in the street, Ikkaku applies a styptic to his temple wound and comments on the disparity between Ichigo's behavior and skill level before inquiring who taught him how to fight, only to be shocked to learn that it was Urahara. Releasing his Shikai, Hōzukimaru, as a sign of respect, Ikkaku attacks and briefly overwhelms Ichigo with its unique fighting style, but the latter quickly adapts, wraps up his new wound, and counterattacks.
Amused by Ichigo's claim that he will be the one unable to hold his sword by the end of this, Ikkaku resumes his attack and seemingly overwhelms Ichigo once more with Hōzukimaru, the movements of which he believes Ichigo cannot follow. However, Ichigo reveals that he can see them now and opens his hand to drop the tassels from the end of Hōzukimaru, which Ikkaku realizes were ripped from his weapon when he attacked. Ichigo leaps into the air and comes down on Ikkaku as he instinctively releases a small Getsuga Tenshō, which cuts Hōzukimaru cleanly in two and leaves a long slash on Ikkaku's chest, but Ikkaku refuses to give up and prepares to attack once more, leading Ichigo to unleash another Getsuga Tenshō that cuts deeply through the length of Ikkaku's arm. After calling himself unlucky, Ikkaku collapses.
In a nearby street, Yumichika seemingly corners Ganju, only for the latter to unleash a smoke bomb that blinds both him and Yumichika, giving him the opportunity to run away once again. Shortly afterward, Ikkaku regains consciousness and realizes that he is not dead, as Ichigo has sealed up their wounds with the remainder of Ikkaku's styptic. Though initially angered by this, Ikkaku informs Ichigo of Rukia's location upon being asked and warns him to watch out for Kenpachi, his captain. Elsewhere, on a rooftop, Orihime and Uryū hide from patrolling Shinigami and discuss where they should go next, but are interrupted by 7th Division 4th Seat Jirōbō Ikkanzaka, who attacks them.
After leaving Ikkaku, Ichigo runs through the streets and attempts to instruct Ganju to detonate a firework at his location if he can hear Ichigo's voice, which draws the attention of Goteitaishi and three other members of the Eleventh Division nearby. On the other side of a nearby wall, Yumichika stands over a wounded Ganju and mocks Ichigo for drawing attention to himself. However, Ganju points out that Ichigo doing this means he must have killed Ikkaku, and as a shocked Yumichika refuses to believe this, Ganju detonates more small explosives to distract him and begins preparing several seals on the ground. Though Yumichika wounds him further, Ganju manages to complete the seals and uses Renkan Seppa Sen, forcing Yumichika to leap into the air in order to avoid falling into a pit, before finishing off Yumichika himself with a firework.
While Yoruichi notices the multiple clashes occurring around the Seireitei, Jirōbō finishes counting down the allotted time for his foes to regret and resumes his attack on Uryū and Orihime, the latter of whom attacks him with Koten Zanshun. Contemptuously slashing through Tsubaki, Jirōbō admonishes Orihime for lacking killing intent on a battlefield, but is prevented from attacking her further by a Heilig Pfeil from Uryū. Jirōbō releases his Shikai, Tsunzakigarasu, and proclaims that his flying blades make him the greatest weapons master in Soul Society, but Uryū instantly destroys all of them and destroys the hilt, injuring Jirōbō's hand in the process.
With Orihime awed at Uryū's development, Jirōbō angrily attempts to attack her one last time, but Uryū appears between them and exposes Jirōbō's misogynistic cowardice before firing two Heilig Pfeil into his chest, destroying his Saketsu and Hakusui. After Uryū assures her that Jirōbō will never be a Shinigami again, Orihime ponders her own lack of development compared to his. Meanwhile, Ichigo and Ganju reunite while being chased by hordes of Shinigami and manage to defeat several of them, but realize that they are surrounded and need an escape plan. Suddenly, 4th Division 7th Seat Hanatarō Yamada is thrown on the ground in front of them by the Shinigami.
Ichigo and Ganju take Hanatarō hostage in order to get out, but the Eleventh Division Shinigami reveal that they hate the Fourth Division and have no problem with Hanatarō dying. However, before they can attack, an energy blast from Sado blows a hole in the wall nearby, incapacitating them and giving Ichigo and Ganju a chance to run off with Hanatarō, as Sado steps through and prepares to deal with the remaining Shinigami. In the Sōgō Kyūgo Tsumesho, Mayuri's attempt to interrogate Ikkaku is interrupted by Kenpachi, who is told about Ichigo by Ikkaku. Elsewhere, in a warehouse, Ichigo and Ganju discuss how they can get to Senzaikyū and learn that Hanatarō knows Rukia.
Having brought Ichigo and Ganju to the canal network running underneath the Seireitei, Hanatarō guides them along one of the walkways and recounts how he tended to Rukia during her initial imprisonment, which led to him learning of her relationship with Ichigo and her guilt over his fate. Meanwhile, the Gotei 13 lieutenants are informed of the Eleventh Division being nearly wiped out and Ichigo and Ganju heading in their direction with a hostage, which leads Renji to surreptitiously leave the meeting. Outside the steps leading up to the Senzaikyū compound, Ichigo, Ganju, and Hanatarō emerge from the canal network, where they are confronted by Renji.
As Ganju and Hanatarō express shock at his presence, Renji reminds Ichigo that he will kill the one who stole Rukia's power, but Ichigo retorts that Renji planned to kill Rukia himself and clashes fiercely with him. After managing to push Renji up against a wall, Ichigo promises to crush anyone who gets between him and Rukia. However, Renji berates him for believing that acquiring Zangetsu has made him stronger and releases his own Shikai, Zabimaru, which he slams Ichigo into a building with. Renji proclaims that he is five times stronger now than he was in the Human World due to the Gentei Reīn being released, prompting Ichigo to claim the other lieutenants will not be a problem if they are at Renji's level of strength as he emerges from the damaged building with a head wound.
With Ichigo internally noting that the cumulative blood loss from this battle and the earlier fight with Ikkaku has left him lightheaded, Renji resumes his attack, and the fight moves to the nearby rooftop after Ichigo dodges a downward slash. Elsewhere, 5th Division Lieutenant Momo Hinamori informs 3rd Division Lieutenant Izuru Kira of Renji disappearing and leaving behind his lieutenant badge, to their shared concern. Back at the stairs, Ichigo finds himself further overwhelmed and wounded by Renji, but uses Urahara's advice to exploit an opening in Renji's attack pattern. However, Renji simply dodges Ichigo's subsequent attack and slashes him across the chest.
After detailing that Ichigo's attack only failed because he was too slow, Renji prepares to deal the finishing blow. Mentally, Ichigo recalls his training with Urahara and learning what it means to have resolve and killing intent, which allowed him to fight Urahara on even ground instead of constantly running from his attacks, before forcing Renji back and firing another Getsuga Tenshō that shatters Zabimaru and grievously injures Renji. Upon realizing that he has lost, Renji thinks of his past with Rukia, whom he grew up with as a child and attended the Shin'ō Academy alongside, only to part ways with her when she was adopted by the Kuchiki Clan. With great effort, Renji stumbles over to Ichigo and begs him to save Rukia in his stead because he is not powerful enough to defeat his captain, Byakuya Kuchiki, which Ichigo promises to do.
Ichigo loses consciousness after Renji collapses, forcing Ganju and Hanatarō to carry him off upon realizing that other Shinigami are approaching. Shortly afterward, Izuru and his subordinates are shocked to discover Renji's defeat. In the canal network, Hanatarō has Ganju lay Ichigo down in a room and prepares to administer medical treatment, which will take a full night to complete, while Izuru brings Hinamori to an unconscious Renji. Though Byakuya arrives and demands that they imprison Renji for his failure, Gin assures Hinamori that he will have the Fourth Division tend to Renji, though Hitsugaya warns her to not trust the Third Division. Some time later, Yamamoto assembles the captains and authorizes them to use their Zanpakutō within the Seireitei to wage war on the Ryoka.
During the healing process in the canal network, Ichigo regains consciousness and attempts to leave despite Hanatarō's protests, but is knocked out by a single punch from Ganju, who points to this as proof that Ichigo is not fully healed yet. While pulling Ichigo back, Hanatarō ponders the Hollow-like mask that protected Ichigo from a fatal blow. In the Fifth Division barracks, Hinamori is informed of Yamamoto's special wartime orders and visits Aizen, who eases her worries about Renji and the ongoing conflict. After Aizen leaves while she is asleep, Hinamori wakes up late for a lieutenants meeting and takes a shortcut near the East Holy Wall, only to discover Aizen seemingly assassinated.
With Izuru, 7th Division Lieutenant Tetsuzaemon Iba, 9th Division Lieutenant Shūhei Hisagi, and 10th Division Lieutenant Rangiku Matsumoto having discovered the body as well, Gin appears and inquires about the commotion, leading Hinamori to remember Hitsugaya's warning about Aizen walking alone at night and furiously accuse Gin of killing him. When Hinamori attacks Gin, Izuru intercepts her strike to protect his captain, and the two of them release their Shikai and briefly fight each other, only for Hitsugaya to move between them and stop the clash before having them arrested by the other lieutenants as he warns Gin to not harm Hinamori. Soon afterward, Ganju wakes up in the canal network and realizes that a drooling, sleeping Hanatarō has healed his wounds in addition to those of Ichigo, who prepares to head out.
Having dreamed of his first encounter with Ichigo in middle school, Sado wakes up in a warehouse and prepares to face the Shinigami assembling outside. In the canal network, Hanatarō takes a stamina pill to rejuvenate himself, but it has no effect, to Ichigo and Ganju's bewilderment. After the three of them return to the stairs leading up to the Senzaikyū compound, which they presume is deserted due to the Shinigami assuming that they would not come back, Ichigo assures Ganju and Hanatarō that they do not need to worry about the other Ryoka, especially Sado, who rapidly defeats all the Shinigami and learns of the location of Senzaikyū from the sole remaining conscious one. Ichigo, Ganju, and Hanatarō manage to reach the top of the steps, but suddenly experience the crushing sensation of Kenpachi's Reiatsu.
In the Fifth Division's Special Confinement Gaol, a frazzled Hinamori is approached by Rangiku as she sits behind bars. Given a letter addressed to her that was found by Hitsugaya in Aizen's room, Hinamori opens it after Rangiku leaves and is shocked by its contents, pertaining to a conspiracy which Aizen had uncovered. Meanwhile, in the Senzaikyū compound, Ichigo tells Ganju and Hanatarō to run as Kenpachi looks each of them over in search of the Ryoka whom Ikkaku told him about. After deducing that Ichigo is the one he is looking for, Kenpachi confronts him and introduces himself, leaving Ichigo terrified and stunned by his killing intent.
As he realizes that Kenpachi is the source of the monstrous Reiatsu he has been sensing, Ichigo sees that Ganju and Hanatarō are unable to stand in Kenpachi's presence, with Hanatarō losing consciousness, and demands that they leave to rescue Rukia while he handles Kenpachi alone. Though reluctant, Ganju agrees and carries Hanatarō off. When asked by Ichigo why he is not pursuing them, Kenpachi bluntly states that he only has interest in fighting Ichigo and offers him a handicap in the form of letting Ichigo attack him first on any area of his body. Despite considering this to be dishonorable, Ichigo relents and brings Zangetsu down on Kenpachi, only to find Kenpachi completely unharmed while his own hand begins bleeding. Unimpressed by this, Kenpachi pushes back Zangetsu and begins drawing his own Zanpakutō.
While Ganju explains to a freshly-awakened Hanatarō that they need to honor what Ichigo has been fighting for by saving Rukia in his stead, a shocked Ichigo leaps back from Kenpachi and wonders how he could be wounded by his own attack while Kenpachi remains unscathed, leading the latter to reveal that this is the result of his own unfocused Reiatsu being stronger than Ichigo's concentrated power. Elsewhere, in the Eighth Division barracks, Sado incapacitates several more Shinigami with another energy blast, and when he is confronted by 3rd Seat Tatsufusa Enjōji, Sado defeats him in a single blow. Suddenly, Captain Shunsui Kyōraku lands on the ground before Sado.
Shunsui introduces himself to Sado as his lieutenant, Nanao Ise, sprinkles cherry blossoms down onto them and dumps the remaining load onto Shunsui when he asks her to stop. Slightly embarrassed by this, Sado requests that Shunsui move, and after learning that neither of them will back down, Shunsui suggests that they drink sake together instead, to Sado's surprise. However, when Shunsui inadvertently reveals that the other captains are on the move and hunting down the Ryoka as well, Sado fires an energy blast in an attempt to force Shunsui to move, only for Shunsui to deflect the blast with a single hand. As he proceeds to dodge each of Sado's subsequent blasts, Shunsui sends him flying with Tsukiyubi and warns him to stop fighting before he kills himself by draining his life force with his energy blasts. Despite this, Sado explains that he is putting his life on the line for Rukia because Ichigo wants to save her, and after Shunsui acknowledges his resolve and draws his twin Zanpakutō to fight Sado seriously, Sado rushes forward and recalls his past with Ichigo. After remembering the promise he made with Ichigo to fight for each other to avoid breaking the vow he made to his grandfather, Sado prepares to unleash one final blast, but is cut down by Shunsui.
As Shunsui looks over the destruction left by Shunsui's last attack, Nanao frantically runs up and relays the news of Aizen's assassination, having been informed of it by a Riteitai. When Nanao attempts to finish off an unconscious Sado, whom she believes may have killed Aizen, Shunsui stops her and requests that she have the Fourth Division tend to him. Back in the Senzaikyū compound, Ichigo finds himself pressured by Kenpachi due to his inability to cut the latter and senses Sado's defeat from afar. However, upon determining that Sado is still alive, Ichigo finds resolve in his duty to save his friends and confronts Kenpachi, whom he successfully cuts across the chest.
Despite his new injury, Kenpachi grins broadly and compliments Ichigo for living up to his expectations before renewing his assault in a surge of Reiatsu as he instructs Ichigo to not lose focus. At the Sōgō Kyūgo Tsumesho, 7th Division Captain Sajin Komamura and 9th Division Captain Kaname Tōsen visit 4th Division Captain Retsu Unohana, who tells them that Aizen is definitively dead, after which they step outside and are met by their lieutenants as they prepare to join the battle. Back in the Senzaikyū compound, Kenpachi continues to clash fiercely with Ichigo, who Ichigo assumes that Kenpachi is mocking him by not releasing his Zanpakutō. Kenpachi claims that his Zanpakutō is always in Shikai, and when Ichigo concludes that this means he will not get any stronger, Kenpachi pushes his Zanpakutō through Zangetsu into Ichigo's chest and admonishes him for letting his guard down like this.
With a disappointed Kenpachi turning and walking away while Zangetsu snaps in two, Ichigo mentally urges his body to move despite his blood loss. Suddenly, time comes to a halt as Zangetsu appears next to Kenpachi and approaches Ichigo, whom he asks if he wants to fight, win, or live. Ichigo immediately declares that he wants to win because fighting and surviving are meaningless on their own, prompting Zangetsu to draw him into his inner world, where he finds himself standing on the side of a skyscraper. Tossing a surprised Ichigo an Asauchi, Zangetsu refuses to give him Zangetsu and throws it off the side of the building, where Zangetsu leaps forward and catches it.
Immediately attacked by Zangetsu, Ichigo is send skidding back by the clash and stares in awe at Zangetsu's intense Reiatsu, which leads him to envision his own sword as a useless stick by comparison. As he initiates Deadly Darts to attack Ichigo from afar, Zangetsu berates Ichigo for not realizing he could draw on Zangetsu's power in addition to his own. Ichigo realizes that Zangetsu is right and requests that he be allowed to fight alongside Zangetsu once more as he and Zangetsu clash again, resulting in him and Zangetsu swapping weapons at the last second. In the real world, Ichigo gets to his feet while his Reiatsu surges, leaving Kenpachi stunned.
In Ichigo's inner world, Zangetsu promises to take over Ichigo's body and power one day as he returns to Zangetsu, who promises to lend Ichigo as much power as he needs in return for his inner world no longer raining. In the real world, Kenpachi is astonished by Ichigo's revitalization as the latter slashes through both of his shoulders before he can react. However, Kenpachi merely responds to Ichigo's assertion that he does not have much time by declaring that they should make it last as long as they can while leaping forward, allowing himself to be cut by Zangetsu, and nicking Ichigo's cheek as Ichigo expresses shock at him not falling despite his injuries. With Ikkaku and Yumichika discussing the fight elsewhere, Kenpachi decides to finally remove his eyepatch.
As his lieutenant, Yachiru Kusajishi, intimidates a Riteitai sent to relay the news of Aizen's assassination, Kenpachi stands before Ichigo while his Reiatsu surges around him. An unnerved Ichigo assumes that he is hiding a secret within his right eye, but Kenpachi clarifies that the eyepatch seals a large amount of his Reiryoku and demonstrates his increase in power by slashing through a nearby building with a casual flick of his Zanpakutō. Manifesting behind Ichigo, Zangetsu assures him that they can win because they rely on each other's power while Kenpachi has no communication with his Zanpakutō, and Ichigo and Kenpachi rush forward with Reiatsu auras in a final clash that levels the surrounding buildings. When the dust clears, Ichigo, having been impaled by Kenpachi, falls as Kenpachi concedes victory and collapses while bleeding heavily.
Yachiru approaches the two combatants and cheerfully thanks Ichigo for giving Kenpachi such an enjoyable fight before leaping away with Kenpachi hoisted over her shoulders, leaving Ichigo to lose consciousness. After recalling his first encounter with Yachiru, who was an infant at the time, Kenpachi regains consciousness on a rooftop and is admonished by Yachiru for conceding victory to Ichigo even though the latter was being aided by Zangetsu. As he thinks about the pain he felt when he did not have a name, Kenpachi asks his Zanpakutō to tell him its name, but does not receive a response. Meanwhile, Ganju and Hanatarō finally reach Senzaikyū.
Within the Shishinrō, Rukia wonders why people are shedding blood for her and asks Kaien Shiba what he would do in her situation. While Yoruichi reaches Ichigo and prepares to transport him elsewhere, Ganju and Hanatarō incapacitate the two guards stationed outside Senzaikyū and discuss Hanatarō's role in the rescue as they open the shutter door to Rukia's cell. However, Ganju is mortified upon seeing Rukia for the first time and identifies her as the Shinigami who killed his brother, Kaien. Rukia confirms that she killed Kaien and gives Ganju permission to take his revenge, but they are suddenly interrupted by an approaching Byakuya's Reiatsu.
With 13th Division Captain Jūshirō Ukitake being informed of Aizen's assassination by a Riteitai, Ganju and Hanatarō are shocked by Byakuya's arrival, and when Ganju suggests that they beg for their lives, Hanatarō reminds him that Ichigo wants them to save Rukia, but Ganju refuses to due for her sake. Upon hearing this, Hanatarō acknowledges that he would not do so either in Ganju's situation and attempts to face Byakuya alone to buy them time, prompting Ganju to overcome his stubbornness and take Hanatarō's place. Meanwhile, in a hidden room inside Sōkyoku Hill, Ichigo wakes up in a healing field and is informed by Yoruichi that he was saved from a fatal injury by the Hollow-like mask in his pocket. After Ichigo reveals that he threw the mask away at Hanatarō's insistence after his battle with Renji, an astonished Yoruichi decides to keep it away from him before revealing her true, human form to an equally astonished Ichigo. During Yoruichi's explanation of how she transported Ichigo to this location with a bone wand, they sense Byakuya's Reiatsu and realize that he confronting Ganju and Hanatarō, which leads Ichigo to fly off with the bone wand. Back on the bridge, Byakuya grievously wounds Ganju with his Shikai, Senbonzakura, but is prevented from attacking Hanatarō as well by Ukitake. Suddenly, everyone experiences an intense Reiatsu as Ichigo arrives and reunites with Rukia.
Ichigo proclaims that he is here to save Rukia and will not be listening to her objections, leaving Rukia astonished. After bickering with Ichigo about the nature of his rescue attempt, Rukia observes that he has not changed and thinks of Kaien when Ichigo smiles back at her. Assuring Ukitake that Ichigo has no relation to Kaien despite their similar appearances, Byakuya exerts his Reiatsu and admonishes Ichigo for not taking the chance to live peacefully in the Human World before attempting to attack him from behind, only for Ichigo to successfully block his attack. As a stunned Byakuya prepares to release Senbonzakura once more in response, Yoruichi arrives and binds the blade.
In his cell, Renji is confronted by Zabimaru, who berates him for lying around when they could be fighting Ichigo once more; however, Renji reveals that Ichigo is no longer their enemy. Back on the bridge, Ichigo asks Yoruichi to stay out of the fight, but Yoruichi swiftly jabs her hand into his stomach wound, knocking him out, as Ukitake deduces that she shoved anesthetic into his organs to achieve this. When Byakuya asserts that she will not be able to escape this place, Yoruichi inquires if he believes that he can catch her now and outmaneuvers Byakuya's subsequent Shunpo maneuver with Utsusemi before promising to make Ichigo strong enough to beat him in three days.
After Yoruichi runs off with Ichigo, Byakuya claims that he has lost interest in the situation and departs, leaving Ukitake to call out his 3rd Seats, Sentarō Kotsubaki and Kiyone Kotetsu, whom he has return Rukia to her cell and contact the Fourth Division for medical attention for Ganju before assuring Hanatarō that he will not be harmed for helping Ukitake's subordinate. In a different part of the Seireitei, Uryū and Orihime impersonate Shinigami, having borrowed uniforms from two Shinigami whom they incapacitated, and when 9th Division 20th Seat Toshimori Umesada propositions Orihime, Uryū steps between them and coldly rebukes Toshimori for his unprofessional behavior. While an angered Toshimori is called away, Orihime and Uryū leave in search of Senzaikyū while Mayuri watches them from a nearby wall.
Having brought Ichigo back to the hidden room to learn the true power of Zangetsu, Yoruichi is confronted by him when he wakes up over her abandonment of Rukia, but explains that she saved him because he is the only one who stands a chance of beating Byakuya. Yoruichi brings Ichigo to the Study Chamber, where she explains the concept of Bankai to him and reveals that he will be achieving it in three days. Elsewhere, Orihime and Uryū are confronted by Makizō Aramaki, who deduces that they are not really Shinigami. When four members of the Twelfth Division arrive and welcome them, Uryū realizes something is amiss and warns Orihime as Mayuri blows them up.
With one of the detonating Shinigami recalling Mayuri approaching them for this mission and instructing them to simply escort the Ryoka back to the barracks, Mayuri is surprised when the smoke clears to reveal Orihime protecting herself, Uryū, and Aramaki with Santen Kesshun, which shatters as Uryū proclaims Mayuri is the one who needs to feel regret for this rather than Orihime. Intrigued by Orihime's technique, Mayuri offers to grant her several accommodations if she agrees to become his test subject, only to suddenly find himself confronted by Uryū with his Heilig Bogen, Kojaku, aimed at Mayuri's head. However, Mayuri dismisses Uryū as uninteresting due to having already completed his research on the Quincy and introduces himself, prompting Uryū to threaten to shoot Aramaki if he does not run away with Orihime. An intimidated Aramaki complies, and when Mayuri attempts to catch him with Jabarakaina, Uryū destroys his extended hand.
As he runs away from the battle, Aramaki initially refuses to let any harm come to Orihime by letting her get involved in the fight, but quickly changes his mind and knocks her out with a chop to the neck when she bites his shoulder in an attempt to make him let go of her. Back in the street, Mayuri severs his injured arm and regenerates it from the stump with a Hojiku-Zai, to Uryū's shock, as he observes that it does not matter if Orihime runs away because he can easily track her down. After deducing that he should attack Mayuri first since his lieutenant, Nemu Kurotsuchi, does not seem to present a threat, Uryū fires a Heilig Pfeil at him from behind. However, Mayuri dodges this with Shunpo and releases his Shikai, Ashisogi Jizō. Before Uryū can formulate a counterattack, Nemu restrains him, allowing Mayuri to slash them both.
Mayuri notes Uryū's lack of vocal reaction to being cut despite the pain it is clearly causing him and sarcastically commends him for having a wealth of experience. When Nemu requests a Hojiku-Zai to heal her injuries, Mayuri instead viciously stomps on her and demands to know if she is mocking him. With Uryū shocked and outraged by this as he finds himself unable to move due to Ashisogi Jizō, Mayuri reveals that Nemu is his artificially-created daughter and decries the Quincy pride that Uryū is acting on, to Uryū's confusion. Recounting the various atrocities he inflicted on his Quincy test subjects as he studied their kind, Mayuri takes out a picture of the last one's remains and tosses it to Uryū, who sees the bloody head of his grandfather, Sōken Ishida. Though Mayuri cannot remember the name Sōken kept screaming, Uryū informs him that it was Uryū's and gets to his feet with Ransōtengai before swearing on his pride as a Quincy to kill Mayuri.
Internally, Mayuri details the effects and usage of Ransōtengai, which he believed to be a lost technique due to none of his subjects knowing it, and praises Uryū as a genius for knowing it. After recalling his past with Sōken and his father, Ryūken Ishida, during which he learned of Ryūken's disdain for the Quincy and received the Sanrei Glove from Sōken, Uryū apologizes for disobeying Sōken one last time and removes the Sanrei Glove, resulting in a surge of energy that activates the Quincy: Letzt Stil.
While Uryū remembers Sōken's warning to never take off the Sanrei Glove because it will briefly grant him immense power at the cost of permanently losing his Quincy powers, a stunned Mayuri watches as the structures near Uryū begin disintegrating into Reishi, which is channeled into the flame on his back, and realizes that Uryū is bending Reishi to his will. Uryū fires a Heilig Pfeil at Mayuri, and as the latter narrowly evades it, Uryū appears above him and fires another Heilig Pfeil downward that slams into Mayuri, destroying his left arm and damaging the left side of his face. However, Mayuri refuses to concede victory and activates his Bankai, Konjiki Ashisogi Jizō, before sending it hurtling toward Uryū, who fires one last Heilig Pfeil that collides with it and explodes.
As the dust clears to reveal Mayuri with a large hole in his torso and Konjiki Ashisogi Jizō cut cleanly in half by his attack, Uryū stands with his arms bleeding and his bowstring snapped. Enraged by his humiliation, Mayuri stabs himself in the neck to initiate Nikushibuki, transforming the remainder of his body into a green liquid that seeps below ground and leaves Uryū to die from the poison unleashed by Konjiki Ashisogi Jizō. Suddenly, Nemu gives Uryū a flask of antidote to the poison that she keeps on her person as thanks for sparing Mayuri's life, though Uryū denies doing so intentionally. After departing, Uryū makes his way to the Senzaikyū compound, only to encounter Tōsen, who knocks him out with his Shikai, Suzumushi.
Meanwhile, in the Study Chamber, Yoruichi brings out the Tenshintai and explains to a confused Ichigo that it will forcibly manifest his Zanpakutō Spirit so he can battle against it in order to achieve Bankai at an accelerated rate. As Yoruichi begins to warn him of what will happen if he fails, Ichigo embeds Zangetsu into the Tenshintai and declares that he has no intention of failing. The Tenshintai bursts apart, causing Zangetsu to manifest behind Ichigo. After confirming that he is aware of the situation, Zangetsu manifests dozens of Zangetsu-like blades, only one of which can defeat him, and tasks Ichigo to find that sword before he is killed as the two of them begin clashing. Across the Seireitei, Renji breaks out of his cell, Hinamori reads Aizen's letter one last time, and Izuru is approached by Gin, who offers to release him from his cell.
While Unohana prepares to punish Hanatarō for his assistance of the Ryoka despite Ukitake's request for leniency, Uryū wakes up in a cell and is surprised to learn that he is still alive. Popping his head out from the bunk above a startled Uryū, Ganju identifies himself as Sado, who is sitting nearby, details how they are being kept alive because one of the captains was assassinated, making them primary suspects, before asserting that all they need to do is wait for Ichigo to come. With Ichigo continuing to fight Zangetsu, who shatters two more swords, Kenpachi meets with Orihime and agrees to help her rescue her friends because he believes he will meet Ichigo again this way.
Having dreamed of her first encounter with Gin as children, Rangiku wakes up in Hitsugaya's office and discovers that he has completed almost all of the Fifth Division's paperwork. However, before Rangiku can discuss Gin's culpability with Hitsugaya, 10th Division 7th Seat Kōkichirō Takezoe informs them of Renji, Hinamori, and Izuru's escape from their cells. In the Study Chamber, Ichigo successfully outmaneuvers Zangetsu, only for the latter to dodge his subsequent strike, shatter Ichigo's sword with his own, and backhand Ichigo across the cavern while berating him for taking his eyes off the enemy. In the Fifth Division prison ward, Hitsugaya speaks to the cell guard and deduces that Hinamori knocked him out with Hakufuku prior to blasting a large hole in the cell wall and bars. Outside, Hinamori runs along a walkway and identifies Aizen's killer.
Back in the Study Chamber, Ichigo continues to battle Zangetsu, and though she notes that he has been using the same sword for almost five minutes, an exhausted Yoruichi stops channeling her Reiryoku into the cord in her hand, causing Zangetsu to revert to the Tenshintai. At Yoruichi's instruction, Ichigo bathes in the hot springs contained within the Study Chamber and finds his wounds rapidly healing in the process. After joining Ichigo in her cat form, Yoruichi reveals that she and Urahara used to train here when she was a member of the Onmitsukidō and he was part of the Gotei 13, shocking Ichigo. Meanwhile, in the Third Division compound, Gin and Izuru are confronted by Hitsugaya, who prepares to kill Gin. Suddenly, Hinamori lands on the platform between them, and as Hitsugaya cautions her against fighting Gin, Hinamori levels her Zanpakutō at his head and accuses him of killing Aizen.
Hinamori relays the contents of Aizen's letter, describing a conspiracy to take control of the Sōkyoku via Rukia's execution and pointing to Hitsugaya as the man behind the strange events leading up to it, as well as the one who will have murdered Aizen if he is found dead. As a screaming Hinamori attacks him, Hitsugaya points out how this does not sound like the Aizen he knew, but Hinamori tearfully reveals that the letter was written in his handwriting and continues to pursue Hitsugaya even as he moves to attack Gin for orchestrating this. With Hitsugaya forced to knock out Hinamori with a blow to the head, Gin admonishes him for using excessive force, but an enraged Hitsugaya reminds Gin of his prior promise to kill the latter as he rips his Zanpakutō out of its scabbard.
After ordering Izuru to run away or risk being killed, Hitsugaya releases his Shikai, Hyōrinmaru, and attacks Gin with a torrent of ice and water that freezes Izuru's arm. Managing to evade this, Gin is attacked once more and has his left arm frozen and bound by Hitsugaya, prompting him to attempt to kill Hinamori with Shinsō. However, Rangiku intercepts the attack at the last second and warns Gin to stop. As dawn breaks on Sōkyoku Hill, Yoruichi ruminates on the Ryoka's time-shifted entrance into Soul Society giving Ichigo an extra eight days to train if necessary, though it will be dangerous. Within Senzaikyū, Rukia is informed that her execution will take place tomorrow.
As they stand over a hospitalized Hinamori after having been forced to let Gin escape in order to tend to her, Hitsugaya and Rangiku are informed of the change in Rukia's execution date and move out to stop Gin's machinations. Within the Study Chamber, Ichigo is startled when Renji crashes through the entrance and informs him, Yoruichi, and Zangetsu of the date change as well before making clear his intention to join Ichigo in his Bankai training. Though Yoruichi does not believe Ichigo can achieve Bankai by tomorrow, Ichigo simply proclaims that he will achieve Bankai today. Inside the Shishinrō, Rukia lies on the floor and recalls her past with Kaien.
While Ukitake confronts Byakuya over his lack of emotion regarding Rukia's impending execution, Rukia remembers the day she joined the Gotei 13 and how Kaien was the first person to ever treat her normally there, as well as the tragic death of his wife at the hands of Metastacia, whom she, Kaien, and Ukitake set out to confront. Ruminating on her failure to stop Kaien from confronting Metastacia alone, Rukia recalls him fighting Metastacia valiantly, but ultimately being possessed by the Hollow, which forced Ukitake to intervene and protect her until he was impaired, ultimately resulting in Rukia freeing Kaien from Metastacia by impaling and killing him with her Zanpakutō, an action for which she has never forgiven herself.
On the morning of her execution, Rukia is escorted from Senzaikyū by the Kidō Corps. In the streets of the Seireitei below, Kenpachi interrupts two of his arguing subordinates as he rushes past with Orihime and Yachiru on his shoulders and Ikkaku and Yumichika behind him. With conflicting directions from Orihime and Yachiru leading him to rely on his instinct, Kenpachi eventually finds and breaks into the cell containing Sado, Uryū, and Ganju, who are shocked to see Orihime with him. Meanwhile, in the Study Chamber, Renji prepares to leave as a bloodied Ichigo faces off against Zangetsu, who has sped up the process by creating multiple clones of himself for Ichigo to fight.
In the Sixth Division barracks, Byakuya visits Hisana Kuchiki's shrine prior to departing for the execution. In the Seventh Division barracks, Komamura reaffirms his certainty about the execution due to the debt he owes to Yamamoto and is joined by Tōsen and Hisagi as he prepares to head out with Iba. In the Second Division barracks, Captain Suì-Fēng brushes off the complaints of her lieutenant, Marechiyo Ōmaeda, about the unrest regarding the execution and warns him to not become her enemy unless he wishes to be slain. Nanao finds Shunsui on a rooftop, and after she promises to follow him no matter what path he chooses, Shunsui decides to go through with the plan he has formulated. Elsewhere, Kenpachi, his subordinates, and the Ryoka reach an empty pavilion on the roof of a building and are confronted by Komamura, Tōsen, Iba, and Hisagi, whom Kenpachi decides to fight by himself all at once.
With Kenpachi reiterating his intention to fight all four of the Shinigami at once, Yachiru leads the others away as Kenpachi promises to catch up with them soon. However, Ikkaku and Yumichika double back and rejoin Kenpachi to confront Iba and Hisagi, who had intended to fight Kenpachi first. Realizing that his subordinates want to fight as well, Kenpachi allows them to fight the lieutenants elsewhere, leading all four combatants to move away with Shunpo. Despite this, Komamura merely declares Kenpachi to be arrogant and attacks with his Shikai, Tenken, as Tōsen follows up with Suzumushi Nishiki: Benihikō, but Kenpachi withstands both attacks and remains standing.
Renji rushes through the Sixth Division compound, incapacitating any Shinigami who gets in his way, including Rikichi Yuki, as he heads toward Senzaikyū. Upon passing underneath an archway, Renji finds himself confronted by Byakuya, who orders him to stand down. When Renji refuses, Byakuya attempts to attack him with Senka, but Renji manages to predict his movements and intercept Byakuya's stab. After Renji explains how this move will not work on him because he has seen it so many times, Byakuya decides to use Senbonzakura instead, only for Renji to silently release Zabimaru and wrap it around Byakuya's blade. With Byakuya realizing what this means, Renji activates his Bankai.
As the activation of Renji's Bankai causes his Reiatsu to surge over the surrounding area, Renji stands with his Bankai, Hihiō Zabimaru, and reiterates his intention to save Rukia and kill Byakuya if he interferes. Upon being told by Byakuya that Renji could not even force him to one knee, Renji attacks with Hihiō Zabimaru, which Byakuya evades by moving to the air. Forced to block Hihiō Zabimaru with his Zanpakutō when it crashes into him, Byakuya praises its power, but nonetheless declares it insufficient and seemingly destroys it with Senbonzakura. However, Renji effortlessly reassembles Hihiō Zabimaru by linking the segments with Reiatsu and destroys Byakuya's footing in the process, forcing him to one knee.
Despite this, Byakuya simply asserts that he will be the one to draw the curtain on this duel and fires Hadō #33. Sōkatsui at Renji, who shields himself with Hihiō Zabimaru. Seeing Byakuya in the resulting dust cloud, Renji sends Hihiō Zabimaru hurtling toward him, only for it to crash into one of its own segments instead. After explaining that Renji is not ready to use his Bankai in battle due to not having mastered its movements, Byakuya binds Renji with Bakudō #63. Rikujōkōrō and activates his own Bankai, Senbonzakura Kageyoshi, before instantaneously lacerating Renji's entire body and destroying his Bankai with it, leaving him to collapse in a shower of blood.
While Kenpachi senses the battle from afar and is excited by it, Byakuya details how it is impossible to mount an effective defense against Senbonzakura Kageyoshi due to its overwhelming offensive power and prepares to leave Renji to die. However, Renji begin struggling to get up, and when Hihiō Zabimaru reverts to Renji's sealed Zanpakutō, Byakuya points to this as proof that Renji is on the verge of death and pins him in place with several blades formed by Senbonzakura Kageyoshi as he continues to move regardless. With Byakuya asking him if he will still save Rukia, Renji envisions Ichigo continuing to battle Zangetsu and proclaims in unison with him that he swore on his soul to do so before destroying the blades and charging at Byakuya.
Renji stabs at Byakuya's chest with his Zanpakutō, but is unable to inflict more than a shallow wound with it due to the blade snapping in two upon making contact. As a large amount of blood spurts from his wounds, Renji collapses before Byakuya, who removes his bloodied scarf and throws it over Renji out of respect for the latter's fang finally reaching him prior to departing. Bleeding out on the ground, Renji recalls all his comrades who dissuaded him from reconnecting with Rukia and loses consciousness. On the bridge leading to Sōkyoku Hill, while being escorted to the execution grounds, Rukia is shocked to sense Renji's Reiatsu disappear and wonders what happened to him before being confronted by Gin on the bridge.
After Gin chides her for her bad manners in addressing him informally, an unnerved Rukia contemplates how uncomfortable Gin's presence has always made her feel, starting from the first moment they met many years ago. Observing that Renji is still alive, to Rukia's surprise, Gin notes that he does not have much time left and questions if Rukia is scared as he offers to save her, Renji, and all her friends. Though an astonished Rukia begins to believe that he might be serious, Gin reveals that he was just joking and walks off, leaving Rukia to scream in despair over the resolve she previously held in the face of her impending death being shattered. Meanwhile, at the pavilion, Kenpachi overpowers both Komamura and Tōsen with his raw physical strength, and when he demands that they at least use their Bankai before dying, Tōsen agrees to do so.
As he spins his Zanpakutō around by the ring on its hilt, Tōsen lists the three methods of becoming a captain of the Gotei 13 and asserts that he has consider Kenpachi to be a bloodthirsty monster ever since he killed Kenpachi Zaraki to become the captain of the Eleventh Division. With Kenpachi encouraging him to use his Bankai if he hates Kenpachi so much, Tōsen denies hating him and declares that he is doing this to restore the peace, prompting Komamura to leap away, before activating his Bankai, Suzumushi Tsuishiki: Enma Kōrogi, which deprives Kenpachi of all senses but touch. Slashing Kenpachi twice, Tōsen claims that the latter cannot possibly overcome the fear instilled by his sensory deprivation, but Kenpachi nearly hits him with a wild swing of his Zanpakutō and simply grins wildly.
On Sōkyoku Hill, as Rukia is brought to the execution scaffold, the captains and lieutenants of the First, Second, Fourth, and Eighth Divisions observe the proceeding as Byakuya arrives and turns his gaze away from a stunned Rukia. Upon being asked by Yamamoto if she has any last words, Rukia confirms that she has only one request. Down in the Seireitei, when Hisagi attempts to join Tōsen in the fight against Kenpachi, Yumichika stops him by revealing his true Shikai. Within the dome of Suzumushi Tsuishiki: Enma Kōrogi, Kenpachi allows himself to be stabbed so he can touch the handle of Tōsen's Zanpakutō, which restores his senses and allows him to slash Tōsen.
Though he does not know exactly why he regained his senses, Kenpachi lets Tōsen go and promises to catch his sword before he completes his next strike. As he bleeds profusely, Tōsen remembers his past with Kakyō and being motivated to become a Shinigami by her death as he attacks Kenpachi once more, only for the latter to catch his sword hand and slash him once more, causing his Bankai to crumble. With Tōsen refusing to concede defeat, Komamura intervenes in the fight by intercepting Kenpachi's next attack, which destroys his helmet, and activates his Bankai, Kokujō Tengen Myō'ō.
Before Kenpachi and Komamura can begin their clash, they notice the execution ceremony commencing on Sōkyoku Hill as energy surges around the Sōkyoku. While Hitsugaya and Rangiku depart for the Central 46 Compound, Sentarō and Kiyone alert Ukitake of the execution starting as he emerges from a room with the unsealed Shihōin Shield, which he plans to destroy the Sōkyoku with. As they see the energy surge on Sōkyoku Hill from the ground below, Yachiru tells the Ryoka that this probably means the execution has begun and rushes ahead to deal with any powerful enemies in their path, to the bewilderment of the Ryoka. Meanwhile, Renji regains consciousness to find himself being healed by Hanatarō, leading Rikichi to explain that he is helping Renji out of respect for his strong beliefs as he provides Renji with a fresh set of clothes. Back on Sōkyoku Hill, Yamamoto promises to honor Rukia's request that the Ryoka be allowed to return to the Human World, though 4th Division Lieutenant Isane Kotetsu observes that he is lying, and orders the Kidō Corps to begin the execution process.
The Sōkyoku is unbound as Rukia lifted to the top of the execution scaffold by cube-shaped restraints. With the Shinigami looking on from below and around the Seireitei, the Sōkyoku is suddenly engulfed in flame and transforms into Kikōō, its true form, while Yamamoto explains that he will pierce Rukia's body and destroy her. Thinking back on her life, Rukia thanks her friends, comrades, Byakuya, and Ichigo before tearfully closing her eyes as Kikōō hurtles toward her. However, Rukia is shocked when she opens her eyes to find herself unscathed and Ichigo standing in midair before her while holding back Kikōō with Zangetsu.
Casually greeting Rukia, Ichigo is startled when she demands that he leave her to her fate instead of interfering. While the captains and lieutenants below stare in shock at this turn of events, Kikōō rears back for another strike, but is interrupted when the Shihōin Shield cable wraps around its neck as Ukitake, Sentarō, and Kiyone arrive. After Shunsui joins Ukitake, the two captains slash their Zanpakutō through the Shihōin Shield and channel their Reiryoku into the cable, causing Kikōō to explode in a shower of flames as the Sōkyoku is destroyed. Upon seeing this, Ichigo moves to the top of the execution scaffold, embeds Zangetsu into it, and channels his Reiryoku into the stand, destroying Rukia's restrains and blowing a large hole in both the beam and the cliff below. As he stands with Rukia under his arm, Ichigo reiterates his vow to save her.
While the Shinigami below stare in astonishment at this feat, Ichigo responds to Rukia's concerns about escaping from this place with them present by claiming that he will simply defeat all of them first. Suddenly, Renji arrives and incapacitates the members of the Kidō Corps nearby, prompting Ichigo to throw Rukia to him so he can take her away from the execution grounds. With Renji running off with Rukia in his arms, Yamamoto, Suì-Fēng, and Unohana order their lieutenants to pursue him, but Ichigo appears in their path, embeds Zangetsu in the ground, and takes out each of them with a single strike of his fist before grabbing Zangetsu and clashing with Byakuya.
Byakuya maintains his blade lock with Ichigo as he inquires why the latter continues to interfere in Rukia's execution, and when Ichigo demands to know why Byakuya is not doing anything to stop it despite being Rukia's brother, Byakuya declines to answer and begins battling Ichigo fiercely. Nearby, as Kiyone attempts to run to Isane's side, Suì-Fēng incapacitates Sentarō with a single blow and prepares to attack Kiyone. When Ukitake attempts to stop Suì-Fēng, Yamamoto confronts him and proclaims that he and Shunsui must be punished for disgracing their ranks, which leads Shunsui to pull Ukitake away and off the side of the cliff as he assures the latter that an ally is coming to save his 3rd Seats. Back on the cliff, Yoruichi tackles Suì-Fēng off the cliff and into the forest below.
In the air above the Seireitei, Isane wakes up on the back of Unohana's Shikai, Minazuki, as it lands and spits out the wounded Shinigami and Kidō Corps members whom it had been healing with its stomach acid. After sealing her Zanpakutō and instructing her subordinates to tend to the wounded, Unohana tells Isane that she wants to go somewhere. Elsewhere, in the forest next to Sōkyoku Hill, Yoruichi and Suì-Fēng clash and move to opposite tree branches, where Suì-Fēng mocks Yoruichi as losing skill and social standing over the years. Upon being mocked by Yoruichi, Suì-Fēng calls out the Keigun to execute her, but Yoruichi rapidly defeats them all with a combination of Shunpo and Hakuda to remind Suì-Fēng that she is still the Flash Goddess. Meanwhile, in the Third Old City, Shunsui, Ukitake, and Nanao are confronted by Yamamoto.
With Yamamoto approaching and exerting his Reiatsu, Nanao reasons that even two captains will have a hard time facing him and prepares to intervene, but is paralyzed and begins foaming at the mouth in fear when Yamamoto concentrates his gaze on her. Shielding Nanao from this with his body, Shunsui apologizes for getting her involved and performs a massive Shunpo leap to move her to a grassy knoll before returning to the battlefield, where Yamamoto praises his Shunpo skill and relays his respect for Shunsui and Ukitake as the two strongest students he ever taught, only to conclude with his disappointment in the path they have chosen as he reveals his Zanpakutō within his cane. While Renji continues to run away with Rukia and assures her that he and Ichigo can share her burden, Yamamoto refuses to talk things through with Shunsui and Ukitake any further as he releases his Shikai, Ryūjin Jakka.
On the broken bridge leading to the pavilion, Yumichika finds Kenpachi sitting alone. After recounting how Komamura ran off upon sensing Yamamoto's Reiatsu, Kenpachi is surprised to see Yumichika unscathed from his battle. Back on the rooftop where Yumichika was fighting, an incapacitated Hisagi pants heavily and complains about Yumichika's Reiryoku-draining power before noticing the fire raging in the Third Old City, where Yamamoto envelops himself, Shunsui, and Ukitake in a circle of flame. When Yamamoto encourages them to not turn to ashes without putting up a fight, Shunsui and Ukitake release their respective Shikai, Katen Kyōkotsu and Sōgyo no Kotowari, and the three clash in an explosion of flame.
In the Rukongai, Jidanbō tests his arm's strength and declares that he is fully recovered, to the delight of the villagers present. Suddenly, Kūkaku arrives and invites Jidanbō to visit Yoruichi with her. Back in the forest, Yoruichi and Suì-Fēng clash fiercely and rapidly with their hands and feet in midair, resulting in each taking a blow from the other before they separate. Yoruichi assumes that Suì-Fēng's Keisen Shōzoku is boosting her abilities somehow, but Suì-Fēng denies needing one and appears behind Yoruichi and releases her Shikai, Suzumebachi, which she stabs Yoruichi in the stomach with after the latter attempts to escape. With Yoruichi clutching her wound, Suì-Fēng proclaims that this is the price she must pay for her 100-year absence from the battlefield.
Suì-Fēng reminds Yoruichi of the special ability of Suzumebachi while a Hōmonka appears over the latter's stomach wound. As Suì-Fēng begins pursuing her through the trees after wounding her twice more, Yoruichi distracts her with Anken and attempts to attack directly, but Suì-Fēng restrains her mid-attack and manages to inflict another wound on Yoruichi's cheek. Deciding to finish Yoruichi off with her newly-created technique, Suì-Fēng activates her incomplete Shunkō, only to learn that Yoruichi is the true inventor of this technique. Shocked and enraged by this revelation, Suì-Fēng continues to attack Yoruichi while recalling their past together, only for Yoruichi to completely overpower her. With Yoruichi's fist held inches from her face, Suì-Fēng breaks down and questions why Yoruichi did not take her when she left 100 years ago before collapsing in tears.
On a cliff in a different part of the forest near Sōkyoku Hill, Ikkaku and Iba take a break from fighting to drink sake and discuss Iba's reason for becoming well-rounded in the four Shinigami disciplines, which Iba attributes to his desire to become a lieutenant. After the two run out of sake and prepare to resume their battle, Ikkaku and Iba notice the clash on Sōkyoku Hill, which Iba is intrigued by. Noting that Iba is still a warrior to the core, Ikkaku assumes a battle stance, and the two resume their fight. Meanwhile, on Sōkyoku Hill, Ichigo clashes fiercely with Byakuya and demands that he use his Bankai. Though Byakuya believes him unworthy of this and instead releases Senbonzakura, he is shocked when Ichigo counters his Shikai with a massive Getsuga Tenshō.
As the Getsuga Tenshō hurtles off the side of Sōkyoku Hill, Byakuya stands with a wounded arm and inquires if this is the power of Zangetsu, which Ichigo confirms before describing it as a beam of concentrated Reiatsu and recounting how he was not able to consciously use this technique until he finished training with Zangetsu earlier. With Ichigo once again demanding that he use his Bankai, Byakuya decides to do so and activates Senbonzakura Kageyoshi, briefly stunning Ichigo. When Senbonzakura Kageyoshi hurtles toward him, Ichigo leaps into the air and fires another Getsuga Tenshō at Byakuya, only for the latter to block it with a shield of blade petals as he masses Senbonzakura Kageyoshi behind Ichigo and slams him into the ground. However, while Byakuya asserts Ichigo cannot bypass his Bankai with a slow move like Getsuga Tenshō, Ichigo merely criticizes himself for thinking he could defeat a Bankai with a Shikai.
Byakuya is left stunned by Ichigo's claim to have achieved Bankai, and as he reiterates that he is nowhere near finished, Ichigo holds out Zangetsu and begins yelling as his Reiatsu surges. Internally, Byakuya refuses to believe that Ichigo could achieve Bankai due to the rarity of its occurrence. After ceasing his Reiatsu exertion, Ichigo swings Zangetsu forward and activates his Bankai, creating an explosion of energy that rockets off Sōkyoku Hill and clears to reveal Ichigo with his Bankai, Tensa Zangetsu. Assuming that Ichigo is mocking the Shinigami once more due to Tensa Zangetsu not resembling a traditional Bankai, an angered Byakuya prepares to attack, only to find the tip of Ichigo's sword at his throat.
When Ichigo withdraws his blade and steps back, Byakuya questions if he did so out of overconfidence and promises Ichigo that he will not get another miracle in this battle before attacking with Senbonzakura Kageyoshi. Suddenly, Ichigo leaps over the stream of blade petals and moves in as he strikes at a surprised Byakuya, who barely manages to block in time with Senbonzakura Kageyoshi. With Ichigo continuing to evade his strikes, Byakuya wonders if Senbonzakura Kageyoshi cannot catch him, and while moving fast enough to create afterimages around Byakuya, Ichigo claims that he can go even faster. Irritated by this, Byakuya begins using his hands to control Senbonzakura Kageyoshi, doubling its speed, and chases Ichigo into the air, where he believes that he has the latter surrounded. However, Ichigo responds by deflecting every single blade petal with rapid slashes and appearing behind a speechless Byakuya before stabbing at him. After catching the blade with his hand, Byakuya acknowledges Tensa Zangetsu as a proper Bankai due its compression of power allowing for hyper-speed combat and declares that he will crush this power along with Ichigo.
At the back of Sōkyoku Hill, the Ryoka run up the stairs and reach the edge of the forest, where they sense the intense clash between Ichigo and Byakuya. With Yachiru informing them that Rukia already escaped, the Ryoka decide to stay and watch the battle. On the other side of the forest, Byakuya uses the blood drawn by Ichigo's sword to activate Senkei, surrounding himself and Ichigo with four rows of swords that concentrate the offensive power of Senbonzakura Kageyoshi. Calling one of the swords to hand as he explains that he only uses this technique against those he has sworn to kill himself, Byakuya resumes his fierce clash with Ichigo, whose friends watch in awe from nearby.
Ichigo and Byakuya continue to clash fiercely within the rotating sword rows and manage to wound each other prior to separating. As he skids back, Ichigo notes that Byakuya has been moving faster ever since he activated Senkei and suddenly finds the tip of Byakuya's sword about to pierce his face. Dodging at the last moment, Ichigo barely catches a second attack from behind, prompting Byakuya to pin his foot to the ground with one of the swords before firing Hadō #4. Byakurai through Ichigo's shoulder. After revealing that Ichigo has actually been slowing down due to his body reaching its limit, Byakuya attempts to finish him off, but has his attack interrupted by Zangetsu taking control.
With Byakuya demanding to know who he is, Zangetsu proclaims that he is no one and slashes Byakuya across the chest. As he mocks Ichigo for using his Bankai so improperly that his bones are creaking, Zangetsu unleashes a black Getsuga Tenshō, fires another one at Byakuya from the side, and moves behind Byakuya to keep him in place while the two Getsuga Tenshō slam into him. As the dust settles, Zangetsu prepares to finish off Byakuya, but Ichigo manages to regain control by ripping the still-forming mask off his face. Agreeing to start over, Byakuya activates Shūkei: Hakuteiken and Ichigo channels his remaining power into one attack before clashing one last time.
In the aftermath, Ichigo and Byakuya stand apart from each other, facing in opposite directions, as large amounts of blood spurt from their wounds. As he recalls Ichigo's blade destroying his own in their final clash, Byakuya brings up Ichigo questioning why he did not save Rukia and explains that he has to set an example as a Noble by following the laws of Soul Society. However, Ichigo counters by asserting that he would have fought the law if he were in Byakuya's place, and after realizing the law was always Ichigo's enemy, Byakuya concedes victory to Ichigo and departs, leaving Ichigo to celebrate his victory, only to lose his balance due to blood loss and crash into Orihime as she appears behind him. While Ichigo's friends approach him, Orihime tearfully thanks Ichigo for not dying. Meanwhile, within the Central Underground Assembly Hall, Hitsugaya and Rangiku are mortified to discover the Central 46 have been massacred.
Internally detailing the function and importance of the Central 46, Hitsugaya remains stunned by their slaughter and deduces that they were killed some time ago, which means the orders that the Gotei 13 have been following were fake. Suddenly, Izuru appears in the compound and runs off, prompting Hitsugaya and Rangiku to follow him out onto the rooftops. Upon being told by Izuru that Hinamori has been following him and Rangiku the whole time by concealing her Reiatsu, a shocked Hitsugaya doubles back to the compound, leaving Rangiku to face Izuru alone. Inside the compound, a confused Hinamori is approached by Gin as she questions what the massacre means.
On the rooftop near the Central 46 Compound, Izuru holds his released Shikai, Wabisuke, and observes that Rangiku does not know what it can do before attacking and repeatedly clashing with her. When the weight-doubling effect of Wabisuke takes hold on Rangiku's Zanpakutō, which becomes too heavy for her to lift, Rangiku simply releases her own Shikai, Haineko, to continue the fight while wondering what Gin has done to Izuru and where he plans to go. Meanwhile, within the Central 46 Compound, Gin brings Hinamori to the Seijōtōkyorin, where she is met by Aizen. Stunned by Aizen still being alive, Hinamori tearfully embraces him, and when Aizen apologizes for deceiving her and the others because he had to do something in secret, she assures him that it is alright as long as he is alive. However, Aizen concludes by bidding her farewell as he impales Hinamori with his Zanpakutō. After Hinamori collapses, Aizen departs with Gin.
Hitsugaya reaches the Seijōtōkyorin and is shocked to see Aizen alive and with Gin. With Aizen noting that he is back sooner than expected and stating that he sent out Izuru for the basic tactic of dividing enemy forces, Hitsugaya leaps past him and finds a grievously wounded Hinamori on the ground, which Aizen apologize for. When Hitsugaya questions how he could deceive his comrades and lieutenant like this, Aizen claims that Gin has always been his lieutenant and that the rest of the Gotei 13 simply never recognized his true personality. Enraged, Hitsugaya destroys the building and activates his Bankai, Daiguren Hyōrinmaru, only for Aizen to cut him down with a single slash.
After commenting on how nice it is to see ice at this time of year, Aizen is confronted by Unohana and Isane, whom he shows the true power of his Zanpakutō, Kyōka Suigetsu, by revealing it to be the corpse that Unohana had been examining. Elaborating that this power, Kanzen Saimin, takes effect permanently once seen and allows him to make its victims see and experience anything he wants them to, Aizen clarifies that the sight requirement means Tōsen has also been working for him. With Tōsen using Sentan Hakuja on Renji and Rukia, Gin performs the same spell on himself and Aizen to transport them to Sōkyoku Hill, where Aizen tells Renji to hand over Rukia.
While Aizen reiterates his demand to a stunned Renji, Isane prepares to tend to Hitsugaya and Hinamori as Isane locates Aizen and Gin with Bakudō #58. Kakushitsuijaku and contacts the rest of the Gotei 13 and Ryoka with Bakudō #77. Tenteikūra before informing them of Aizen, Gin, and Tōsen's betrayal, which they react to in different ways. Though most of the captains and lieutenants immediately move to confront Aizen over this, Ichigo is confused as to why the Ryoka were told about this since it does not involve them. As he stands with Ichigo and the others on the ground below Sōkyoku Hill, Uryū reminds him that Aizen being behind Rukia's execution means he wants Rukia dead, alarming Ichigo. Above, Renji refuses to hand over Rukia, leading Aizen to decide to kill him.
Renji is wounded by Aizen's subsequent attack, but manages to defend himself despite only have one arm available, which Aizen compliments him for. After Aizen explains his rationale for killing Hinamori and claims that the Aizen whom Renji knew never truly existed, an angered Renji leaps into the air and attacks Aizen with Zabimaru, only for Aizen to casually deflect it with one hand on his Zanpakutō, stop Renji's next attack with his bare hand, and cut apart Zabimaru with a single strike before slashing Renji across the back. When Renji still refuses to hand over Rukia despite this, Aizen attempts to finish him off, but has his attack intercepted by Ichigo.
Pushing Aizen back, Ichigo bickers with Renji as Rukia punches the latter for nearly smothering her. As Gin apologizes to Aizen for letting Ichigo through, Renji refuses to run away from the conflict since it will not accomplish anything against someone as powerful as Aizen and formulates a plan of attack with Ichigo, who agrees to team up with him. With Rukia standing back, Renji initiates Higa Zekkō to attack Aizen with the broken segments of Zabimaru, followed by Ichigo rushing in to attack. However, Aizen emerges from the barrage unscathed, blocks Ichigo's blade with a single finger, and slashes deeply through his midsection. After slashing Renji across the back and leaving both combatants to collapse, Aizen approaches Rukia. Despite his injuries, Ichigo attempts to get to his feet, but Aizen asserts that it is physically impossible for him to do so since only his spinal cord is holding him together now. Aizen proceeds to detail both his role in manipulating the Ryoka's infiltration of the Seireitei and his goal of acquiring the Hōgyoku for the purpose of performing Hollowfication before being attacked by Komamura.
Despite Komamura's strength, Aizen easily withstands his attack and grievously wounds Komamura with Hadō #90. Kurohitsugi. Returning to Rukia, Aizen reveals that he murdered the Central 46 as soon as she was discovered in the Human World and set up her execution by issuing orders in their place. After explaining that the Sōkyoku was chosen as one of two methods to remove an object embedded within a Soul, as Urahara had placed the Hōgyoku within Rukia through the Gigai he gave her, Aizen initiates the second method and pulls the Hōgyoku out of Rukia's chest with his hand. Though Rukia remains unharmed, Aizen orders Gin to kill her now that she is no longer needed, but when Gin complies and releases Shinsō, Byakuya removes Rukia from Aizen's grasp and intercepts the blade with his body.
As Byakuya collapses and Rukia calls out to him in concern, a smiling Aizen approaches them and prepares to draw his Zanpakutō. Suddenly, Yoruichi and Suì-Fēng restrain Aizen and threaten to decapitate him if he moves, only for Aizen to call in the other three Gatekeepers, which he believes not even Yoruichi can handle in addition to him. However, Kūkaku arrives on Jidanbō's back and defeats Higonyūdō with Hadō #63. Raikōhō while Jidanbō knocks out Danzōmaru with a single punch. Watching this, Gin finds himself restrained by Rangiku from behind as the other captains and lieutenants appear on Sōkyoku Hill, with Hisagi restraining Tōsen. Despite Yoruichi declaring that it is over, Aizen merely smiles.
Aizen responds to Yoruichi's confusion by stating that it is time as a Negación beam engulfs him, forcing Yoruichi and Suì-Fēng to leap back. While several Menos Grande open a Kūmon in the sky above and reveal an ominous figure lurking behind them, two more beams engulf Gin, who apologizes to Rangiku, and Tōsen, whom Hisagi leaps back from. When Iba moves to attack Aizen, Yamamoto stops him and details how Negación places its inhabitants in another world, which means that Aizen, Gin, and Tōsen are now beyond their reach. Accused of losing his sense of justice by Komamura, Tōsen claims that he is walking the path of least bloodshed as he always has. Meanwhile, as he destroys his glasses and slicks back his hair, Aizen reveals his intention to occupy the empty seat at the top of the world before entering the Kūmon.
As the sun begins to set, 4th Division 3rd Seat Yasochika Iemura directs the relief squads to tend to the injured Shinigami and is intrigued by Orihime's Sōten Kisshun, which she uses to heal Ichigo. Upon arriving, Unohana goes to Byakuya and informs Rukia that he wishes to speak to her. After Rukia kneels at his side, Byakuya reveals that she is the sister of Hisana Kuchiki, his wife who died 50 years ago, and that she was brought under his protection against his clan's laws at the latter's request. Explaining that he vowed to never break the law again after this and did not know what to do when her execution was announced, Byakuya thanks Ichigo and apologizes to Rukia.
A week after Aizen's departure, Unohana intimidates Goteitaishi and his comrade when they cause trouble at the Sōgō Kyūgo Tsumesho as Uryū makes clothes for the other Ryoka and Rukia to wear when they return to the Human World, which prompts Orihime to run off in search of Rukia so she can give her the dress personally. Meanwhile, Ichigo attempts to spar with Ikkaku, but is interrupted when Kenpachi finds him and attempts to start a real fight, leading him to run off. While Komamura and Hisagi visit Kakyō's grave, Izuru makes amends with Rangiku by drinking sake with her as Hisagi visits a hospitalized Hinamori. Elsewhere, Orihime runs up to Ichigo and frantically reveals that Rukia is missing. Ichigo learns that Renji does not know where Rukia is and deduces that she must be at the Shiba Clan household, where Kūkaku is punishing Ganju for his lack of prominence in the rescue effort. Approaching Kūkaku and Ganju, Rukia apologizes to them for her role in Kaien's death, which Kūkaku forgives her for. Upon being found by Ichigo, Rukia reveals that she has decided to stay in Soul Society, and Ichigo accepts this. The next day, Ichigo is given a Substitute Shinigami Badge by Ukitake and enters the Dangai alongside his friends. Returning to the Human World, Ichigo sees each of his friends dropped off at their houses before finally coming home.