The race to save Rukia from the Soul Society is officially on, and Ichigo and company have come to their first roadblock, a very, very big roadblock. Jidanbō, the monstrous, fez-sporting gatekeeper hasn't let a single soul enter the Western Gate he guards in over 300 years, and he isn't about to change his mind about it just because Ichigo's crew wants to go through either. But, in a where-the-rubber-meets-the-road kind of way, Ichigo wasn't expecting his assault on the Soul Society to be a piece of cake either. After all, that'd just be boring.
The group makes its way through the Dangai to Soul Society.
The Shinigami in the Soul Society are alerted to the presence of intruders.
Uryū, Orihime, Chad, Ichigo, and Yoruichi are making the way through the Dangai, with the Kouryū flowing around them. Uryū gets caught in the Kouryū, due to the cape he wears. Ichigo moves to help Uryū, but Yoruichi stops him, telling him that the Kouryū would trap them all there if he uses his Zanpakutō. Chad, though, is able to quickly remove Uryū from the current and they continue running through the area. As they continue running, Uryū, who is still being carried by Chad, notices something moving in the Kouryū, which Yoruichi identifies as a Kōtotsu that goes through the Dangai every seven days.
Though the group has neared the end of the Dangai, the Kōtotsu has quickly caught up. Orihime uses her abilities to repel the Kōtotsu. They then burst out of the Dangai, and Orihime uses her abilities again to catch them. While Orihime celebrates, Yoruichi lectures her for ignoring what Yoruichi had said about the Kouryū earlier.
As the smoke clears, they realize that they have landed in the Soul Society, and Yoruichi explains that they are in the Rukongai. As Ichigo spots some nearby homes, he heads toward the area, but Yoruichi warns him to stop. As he approaches, a large wall with a gate appears in front of him and a large man appears, stopping his path.
Ichigo is attacked by Jidanbō, the guardian of the area where the group arrived.
As the dust settles, a group of Shinigami realize that the intruders have fallen outside the walls of Seireitei, and that Jidanbō would deal with them. While Jidanbō invites Ichigo to attack him, Yoruichi tells the others that the giant Shinigami is one of Soul Society's elite, and has been the guardian of Seireitei's West Gate for three hundred years. Yoruichi reveals that he has never been defeated in that time and that his strength is legendary. Yoruichi calls on Ichigo to retreat, so that they can develop a strategy to defeat him, but Sado and Orihime run to Ichigo. Jidanbō uses his axes to smash the ground, creating a wall from the debris which prevents the pair from reaching Ichigo.
Jidanbō tells them that in Soul Society, duels are one-on-one affairs only and that he will fight Ichigo first. Sado tells Orihime that he will create a gap in the wall, and that she should shoot Tsubaki through the opening. However, Jidanbō hears him. Ichigo tells them that he is fine and to wait outside while he deals with the Shinigami. Despite protests from Orihime and Uryū, Ichigo feels that he can fight the giant. Ichigo explains that he recovered his Shinigami powers more quickly than expected and he used the extra time to practice fighting with Urahara.
Ichigo tells Jidanbō he is ready to fight, and that he never asked the guardian to wait for him. As he fights, Sado realizes that it was not battle skills or tactics that Ichigo learnt from Urahara, but rather he had gained combat experience, something he previously lacked compared to other Shinigami. Jidanbō is surprised to find that Ichigo has able to block his first attack.
Ichigo continues his fight against the giant Shinigami, Jidanbō.
Jidanbō is glad that Ichigo was able to block his first attack, as it has been some time since he last encountered an opponent who could do so. He says that he will now use his full strength, and that only three people have previously survived his first attack. He states no one has survived his second strike before, but Ichigo blocks it, becoming the first person to do so. Jidanbō launches into a combination attack which he calls the "Jidan 10-hit Festival", losing count of how many times he strikes Ichigo in the process. Ichigo blocks his final attack, causing Jidanbō to wonder how he could still be standing.
Ichigo asks if the giant is finished yet, then it is his turn to attack. Jidanbō, however, pulls out a second axe and prepares to use his final attack, "10,000 Year Hit Festival". As he attacks, Ichigo shatters the Shinigami's two axes with a single strike from his Zanpakutō.
Ichigo defeats Jidanbō but then comes face to face with Gin Ichimaru.
Jidanbō is shocked as Ichigo destroys his axes and causes him to stumble backwards and fall. Chad, Ishida, and Orihime marvel at Ichigo's strength and wonder if Ichigo knocked Jidanbō out. Jidanbō is clearly surprised at finding himself on the ground, but quickly gets up and pretends to have slipped. He tries to make it seem funny that Ichigo thought he was the one who knocked Jidanbō to the ground, but then notices the destruction of his axes. This causes him to start weeping profusely, prompting Ichigo to apologize and try to comfort him. Jidanbō is very touched by this agrees to let them through. The others ask if they can pass as well, Jidanbō says they can, as their leader defeated him. Ishida denies that Ichigo is their leader, this prompts Jidanbō to query Ichigo's name. Ichigo gives Jidanbō his name and Jidanbō comments that it is cute, annoying Ichigo.
Jidanbō tells Ichigo to be careful, saying that he doesn't know why Ichigo wants to go to Seireitei, but that there are some very mean guys there. Ichigo says he knows. Satisfied, Jidanbō starts to lift the gate. Ichigo and his friends are amazed at Jidanbō's feat and do not initially notice that he is now very frightened. When Ichigo approaches to thank him, he notices that Jidanbō is shaking with fear. In front of him is Gin Ichimaru. Ichigo asks who Ichimaru is and Jidanbō explains that he is the leader of the 3rd Division. Ichimaru says that this won't do and cuts off Jidanbō's right arm, but he does this so fast that it is unclear what exactly he did. Ichimaru goes on to say that this won't do at all and that a gatekeeper isn't suppose to open gates.
With Jidanbō defeated, the group is granted passage into Seireitei by the giant. However, somebody stands in their way.
Jidanbō flies off and hits the ground. Ichigo and his friends are shocked and wonder what Ichimaru had done as Ichimaru's movements had been too fast for them to follow. Jidanbō screams in pain and falls to his knees. However, he still manages to keep the gate open. Ichimaru is impressed, and comments how Jidanbō is Soul Society's strongest giant. Yoruichi thinks that they have been careless and that they didn't expect someone like Captain Gin Ichimaru of the 3rd Company to be at the gate. Going on to think that while the teenagers from Karakura are strong, the power of a captain is beyond their comprehension. Yoruichi decides that at all costs, they must avoid fighting Ichimaru now.
In the meantime, Jidanbō points out that he lost and the losing gatekeeper opening the gate makes perfect sense. Ichimaru says that is not so that that a gatekeeper who is defeated just dies. But before Ichimaru can kill Jidanbō, Ichigo intervenes and pushes Ichimaru back. Much to the shock and annoyance of Yoruichi. Ichigo asks Orihime to take care of Jidanbō's arm and tells Ichimaru that he'll cut him up. Ichimaru comments that Ichigo is a funny kid and asks if Ichigo is afraid of him. Ichigo starts to reply that he isn't, but is interrupted by Yoruichi, who demands to know what he is up to and telling him that they must retreat. Hearing his name, Ichimaru starts to go through a description of Ichigo in his head. He then asks if he is Ichigo Kurosaki. Ichigo is surprised and asks if Ichimaru knows him. Ichimaru starts to walk away, saying that it is as he figured. He goes on to say that, that is more reason why he can't let Ichigo through. He then pulls out a wakizashi, causing Ichigo to wonder why Ichimaru moved such a distance away, asking if he is going to throw the wakizashi. Ichimaru explains that it is not a wakizashi, but in fact his Zanpakutō. He then gets into stance and releases his Zanpakutō: Shinsō.
Ichigo sees Shinsō coming and manages to block with his own Zanpakutō, but the thrust of Shinsō pushes Ichigo into Jidanbō and sends them both flying back into Rukongai. As the gate slides shut, Ichimaru bids them a mocking farewell.
After Inoue heals Jidanbō, Yoruichi plans the group's next move.
Orihime and Uryū rush to where Ichigo landed, only to find him uninjured. Uryū is surprised that Ichigo was able to block the full power of Ichimaru's attack with Zangetsu. Yoruichi tells Ichigo not to worry about failing to get through the gate, as it would not have been possible to get past Ichimaru. The group notices that the residents of Rukongai, who had been hiding from them, were now coming out to greet them. Yoruichi explains that anyone who comes to Soul Society without the guidance of a Shinigami is considered a Ryoka and is viewed as trouble. Yūichi Shibata, the soul formerly trapped inside a parakeet, emerges from the gathered crowd and greets Sado, much to his and Ichigo's surprise.
As the Rukongai residents maneuver Jidanbō's severed arm into place beside him, Orihime uses her Shun Shun Rikka to heal his arm. Nearby, a soul explains to Ichigo that while many Shinigami are unkind, Jidanbō is from Rukongai and he always treated the residents well. As such, he was greatly liked. Seeing Ichigo defend Jidanbō from Ichimaru makes him believe that Ichigo is a good person too. Meanwhile, Sado and Yūichi are walking around the area talking. Sado is glad that Yūichi is happy here. As Yūichi mentions his family, Horiuchi Hironari, who claims their parents will be worried, tells him it is time to go home. Yūichi introduces Horiuchi, saying that he is like a big brother. Horiuchi explains to Sado that Rukongai is full of families that are not related by blood. People die at different times and places, and it is rare for a person to find their real family in the vast Rukongai. When a soul arrives in Soul Society, they are given a ticket and sent off in different directions. Even if two people were to die together, if they do not receive tickets at the same time, they will not know where the other is. Sado tells Yūichi that he should not be upset that he has not found his mother, as he will find her if he keeps looking.
While healing Jidanbō, Orihime thinks about how mature Ichigo seemed when fighting earlier, imagining him as a prince. She is startled by Ichigo, who gives her a drink. Orihime says that she should be finished healing the giant in a few hours, but Ichigo and some residents insist that she rests. Orihime reluctantly agrees, and they head inside a nearby building where the others are waiting. Yoruichi says that it is time to discuss their plan for that night and the next day. Yoruichi reveals that once the gate was opened, security would have been increased dramatically, making another attempt on the gate pointless. The other gates are at least ten days away, and it would be a wasted journey. Yoruichi plans to enter the Seireitei without using any of the entrances, and asks the elder of the region where Kūkaku Shiba is currently residing. As the elder reacts in disbelief, there is a noise outside and a man comes flying through the door, knocking it down. He is followed in by a boar. The elder asks him what he is doing there, telling him to go home. The new arrival notices Ichigo and demands to know what a Shinigami is doing there.
Ichigo is attacked by Ganju, a Rukongai resident who hates Shinigami.
Ganju grabs Ichigo's face and asks what a Shinigami is doing here, causing Ichigo to punch him. The two blame each other for trying to start a fight. The others question who Ganju is. Surprised that they do not know, Ganju introduces himself as the self-declared number one boss of west Rukongai, and greatest hater of Shinigami. Ganju attacks Ichigo and knocks him outside the building. Uryū and Orihime try to follow, but are blocked by Ganju's four underlings, who are riding on boars.
As he stands over Ichigo, Ganju tells him that he should leave, and that as long as he is alive, he will not allow a Shinigami to reside in West Rukongai. Ichigo kicks Ganju in the face and the two continue to bicker. Yoruichi tells Ichigo not to waste energy on a pointless fight, but Ichigo does not listen. Ganju draws his sword, prompting the elder to tell him to stop and that Ichigo is a good Shinigami. Ganju disregards his words, saying that all Shinigami are the same. Sado throws Zangetsu to Ichigo and the two clash swords. Using his foot, Ganju transforms the ground underneath Zangetsu into sand and pushes Ichigo's Zanpakutō down into it. The pair turn to hand-to-hand combat, with neither being able to gain the upper hand. Their fight is interrupted by an alarm, and one of Ganju's underlings tells him he has bad news.
After Ganju leaves, the group seek out Kūkaku Shiba in the hope of gaining entry to Seireitei.
Upon realizing that it is nine o'clock, Ganju and his underlings prepare to leave. Ichigo taunts Ganju for running away, but he replies that he just has to go somewhere and tells Ichigo to wait there until he returns. Ganju's group leaves on their boars. The following morning, Ichigo insists that he will not leave until Ganju returns, as he does not want Ganju to think that he ran away. Uryū resorts to trying to drag him outside. While Ichigo is distracted by Uryū and Orihime, Yoruichi slashes his face and asks if he has forgotten why they came to Soul Society. Yoruichi insists that this is no time for pointless fights and tells him to get ready. When Ichigo fails to respond, Yoruichi headbutts him.
After a long walk, Ichigo asks if they are going the right way, as they are now quite far from where they arrived. Uryū insists that they have followed the Elder's directions exactly. Orihime questions why Kūkaku would not live in a more populated area where he would be praised for possessing a way of entering Seireitei. Yoruichi responds that a quite place is more suiting to Kūkaku's personality. Yoruichi explains that while the address may change, the design of the house is always distinctive enough that they can be identified with a single glance. Ichigo and Uryū react in horror upon seeing the unusual design of Kūkaku's residence, though Yoruichi is impressed by the theme, which changes each time. Uryū notices a large chimney, the top of which is sealed.
The group is stopped from entering the house by two guardians, named Koganehiko and Shiroganehiko. Upon noticing Yoruichi, they let the group in. They open the door, which immediately leads down a flight of stairs to an underground room. Koganehiko announces the guests to his master. Orihime, Ichigo, Sado and Uryū are surprised to see that Kūkaku is a woman. Yoruichi tells her that they need to ask her a favor. Kūkaku says that that is usually the case with Yoruichi, and asks if it is complicated, saying she likes complicated things. She agrees to help, stating that since Urahara is part of it, she cannot refuse to help. Not fully trusting the other members of Yoruichi's group, she insists that one of her men accompany them into Seireitei. She opens a door to reveal her little brother, Ganju Shiba. Ganju, Ichigo and the others are stunned to see each other.
As Rukia is transferred to a cell overlooking her execution site, Kūkaku reveals how the Ryoka will enter Soul Society.
Renji tells Rukia that her execution will take place in fourteen days' time, and that he, along with four guards dressed entirely in white, are transferring her to the Shishinrō. With a veil over her face and four cords attaching to a collar securing her to the guards, they bring her to a tower. Once inside, they release her. Renji points out that through the window, she can see the Sōkyoku, which will be used to execute her. One of the guards tells her that she can stare at it for the rest of her days, which is why the tower is called the Shishinrō. The guard unties her hands and thanks Renji for escorting them. Renji tells Rukia that he heard that a group of five Ryoka tried to break into Seireitei the other day and one of them sounds like Ichigo.
After leaving, Renji wonders if he should have told her, as Ichimaru was the one who stopped them. Renji is distracted from his thoughts by Captain Sōsuke Aizen, who asks to talk with him in private. Aizen comments that he has not spoken much with Renji since he was transferred to Kenpachi's Division, and asks him if he is now in the Sixth Division. Renji confirms this and asks Aizen what he wanted to talk about. Aizen covers over the door and says that he heard that Rukia and Renji were friends since they were in Rukongai together. When Renji confirms this, Aizen asks him if he thinks her execution is deserved.
Aizen comments that her crimes were not enough to warrant a death sentence, and that the rapid retrieval and destruction of her Gigai, reduced waiting time for her execution, and the use of the Sōkyoku are all suspicious. Aizen feels that somebody is orchestrating a conspiracy. Their conversation is interrupted when all captains are called to an emergency meeting.
Meanwhile, Kūkaku scolds Ganju and Ichigo for starting to fight each other. She leads the group through a corridor. Uryū wonders how it is illuminated despite being underground and there being no signs of electricity wires. Kūkaku reveals that she planted light vines between the walls and ceiling. The enter a large room with a column in the center. When Ichigo questions what the column is, Kūkaku says that she will use it to send them into Seireitei, from the sky. She reveals that she is the foremost fireworks expert in Rukongai.
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