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This article is about the event. For the manga volume, see goodbye, halcyon days..
In the wake of the Arrancar Invasion, Soul Society operates under the false assumption that Sōsuke Aizen and Hueco Mundo won't make their move before winter. Captain Tōshirō Hitsugaya and his subordinates are ordered to train and prepare for the upcoming invasion. Orihime Inoue is put in charge of bringing her Human friends up to speed. When she arrives at the Urahara Shop, Kisuke Urahara asks her not to take part in the battle, since she had lost her means of attack. Offended, Orihime confides in Rukia Kuchiki, who promises to help her find a way to be useful during the battle. Surprisingly, Orihime is able to get help from Hachigen Ushōda, who restores Tsubaki for her. Rukia takes Orihime with her to Soul Society, where the two start training in preparation of the coming battle.
The Smokescreen: Abduction
Lured into a false sense of security by their own misconceptions, The Gotei 13 members sent to Karakura Town as a front guard do their best to follow the orders they were given - to hone their powers for the battle ahead. Little do they know that a nefarious plot has begun to unfold right under their noses. While they are busy meditating in the park, a large Garganta opens in the sky above them, and four powerful Arrancar exit from it: The recently demoted 6th Espada, Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez; his replacement, newly appointed 6th Espada, Luppi Antenor; 10th Espada, Yammy Llargo and the strange newest creation of Aizen, Wonderweiss Margela.
The two groups soon split into three separate battles: Grimmjow fights Ichigo, who's being helped by Rukia and Shinji Hirako. Luppi takes on Hitsugaya and three of his subordinates; Lieutenant Rangiku Matsumoto, Ikkaku Madarame and Yumichika Ayasegawa. While Kisuke Urahara, relieving Lieutenant Renji Abarai, challenges Yammy who gets some assistance from Wonderweiss.
When the Arrancar arrive, alarm bells start ringing in Seireitei. At the control center of the Shinigami Research and Development Institute it is Rin Tsubokura who first spots the intrusion. To his horror he sees that the intruders are Espada level Arrancar. Rukia receives the news through a Jigokuchō. She is ordered by her captain to head for the Senkaimon. Inoue intends to go with her, but Rukia stops her, saying Orihime could not pass safely through the Dangai. Ukitake says he already made the arrangements to get her through as soon as possible, and she agrees to wait.
Once her safe passage through the Dangai is secure, Orihime sets off post haste. Ukitake sends two Shinigami to accompany her and protect her should she need it, but as she is making her way through the Dangai, the true nature of the invasion is made clear: While all her friends and allies are busy fending off powerful enemies, and Seireitei is preoccupied with monitoring the many fights unfolding simultaneously, Ulquiorra makes his move. A Garganta suddenly opens within the Dangai, whose protective qualities were neutralized to allow for Orihime's safe passage. Ulquiorra steps peacefully out of the Garganta and makes short work of Orihime's Shinigami bodyguards, forcing her to use Sōten Kisshun in order to keep them alive. Ulquiorra orders Orihime to come with him, threatening to kill her friends if she does not. Stressing out that it is Lord Aizen's wish to use her power, he repeats his order one more time. Ulquiorra gives Orihime a special bracelet. While she wears it, she will be invisible to everyone, but the Arrancar, she will also be able to phase through solid objects at will, she is not to take off the bracelet for any reason. He gives her 12 hours to choose one of her friends to say farewell to, warning her that if that person notices her she will have disobeyed his orders. Once she has said her farewells, she is to meet him at a designated location. With that he leaves her to her own devices.
Having completed his mission, Ulquiorra arrives in time to halt Grimmjow before releasing his Resurrección, and all five Arrancar pull back to Hueco Mundo via Negación. Yammy is disappointed for not having finished his enemy, and Luppi, who was on the brink of defeat, promises to crush Hitsugaya when they next meet. The Shinigami and their allies are left puzzled by the unexplained appearance of these powerful Arrancar, months before they should have arrived, and by their equally unexplained withdrawal. Hitsugaya for one is left wary about the future of Soul Society, after having witnessed the power of an Espada and realizing how outmatched the Shinigami are.
Five Lifetimes, One Love
After Ulquiorra's departure Orihime spends some more time in the Dangai, finishing the healing of her bodyguards. Rukia tries to enlist Hachigen to Ichigo Kurosaki's help, but the Visored tells her that due to the nature of Ichigo's injuries and the nature of the one who caused them, the Reiryoku of himself and the other Visored would damper Ichigo's healing process. The best thing would be to take him home and let him rest. Rukia tries to reach Orihime, hoping her healing powers could assist Ichigo, but a mysterious problem in communications, that prevents Hitsugaya's front guard from reporting back to Seireitei, also stops Rukia from reaching Orihime.
When Orihime, wearing Ulquiorra's bracelet, makes it to the Human World, she first goes home to leave a note for Hitsugaya and Rangiku, detailing the housework that needs to be done. She signs the note 'goodbye, halcyon days'. She chooses Ichigo as the one friend she will bid farewell to, over all her other friends, as Ulquiorra dictated. She is surprised to find Karin Kurosaki and Yuzu Kurosaki asleep on the floor next to Ichigo's bed. The twins, having missed their older brother, wanted to eat their dinner in his room, which Rukia approved of. Orihime realizes suddenly that this is her first time in Ichigo's room, which reminds her of why she is there. She leans in to kiss Ichigo, but can't bring herself to do it, since she believes she is about to leave forever. Orihime tells the sleeping Ichigo about her hopes and dreams for the future. She wanted to be a teacher and an astronaut and to open a cake shop. She wanted to go into Mister Donut or Baskin Robbins and ask for everything on the menu. If only she had five lives, she says, so she could be born in five different towns, and stuff herself with five different types of food, and have five different careers. And during all those lives, she wishes she would fall in love with the same person - Ichigo Kurosaki. After this Orihime leaves the Human world, and her presence disappears off the face of the map.
Eagle Without Wings
The next morning, Ichigo wakes up to find his wounds completely healed. He senses a familiar Reiryoku and is about to guess who it belongs to, but Tōshirō Hitsugaya finishes his thought for him, saying it probably belonged to Orihime. Tōshirō has come to pick him up to participate in an emergency conference with Seireitei. As Ichigo and Tōshirō arrive at Orihime's house, Rangiku has finished removing the spiritual interferences abrupting communication between the worlds, and the connection is made. Hitsugaya is surprised to see Jūshirō Ukitake, captain of the 13th Division instead of the Captain-Commander. Ukitake explains that he is replacing Yamamoto because he was the last person to see Orihime before she entered the Dangai. Seeing the reactions to his words, Ukitake concludes Orihime never made it to the Human World. Ichigo, visibly distraught, demands to know what Seireitei knows about Orihime's disappearance. Ukitake can only say what they think happened. Orihime's two bodyguards returned alive from the Dangai, they believed Orihime was either abducted or killed by the Arrancar. Ichigo and Rukia both voice their protest over this assumption. Ichigo presents his healed wounds as proof that Orihime isn't dead.
Hearing Ichigo's testimony, Yamamoto intervenes, referring to the new information as 'unfortunate'. When Ichigo and Rukia ask him to explain this determination, the Captain-Commander says that while the information does prove Orihime lives, it also raises grave suspicions that Orihime has committed an act of betrayal. If she had been abducted, she would not have been free to visit Ichigo and heal his wounds. Ichigo tries to protest, but Renji stops him. Renji volunteers to go to Hueco Mundo himself and retrieve Orihime as a traitor, but smiles at Ichigo to let him know his true intentions. The Captain-Commander forbids it. He recalls all of Captain Hitsugaya's front guard back to Soul Society, maintaining the life of a single person cannot be weighed against those of the rest of the world. In preparation, every Shinigami will count. Rukia informs the Captain-Commander that she cannot obey those orders, but Yamamoto, having predicted her reaction, sent two captains, Byakuya Kuchiki and Kenpachi Zaraki, to make sure all the members of the front guard follow their orders. The two powerful Shinigami inform everyone in the room that they will use force to impose their orders if necessary. Ichigo, realizing the situation, says he will go by himself to Hueco Mundo and save Orihime without the help of the Gotei 13, but Yamamoto forbids this as well, saying Ichigo's powers will also be needed during the upcoming battle and he is not allowed to throw away his life on a lost cause. With that the Captain-Commander ends transmission. The Shinigami of the front guard leave through the Senkaimon, Rukia is last to leave, apologizing to Ichigo before she does.
The next day, Shinji receives a package from Ichigo, containing his laundered bandages and a thank you note, indicating that Ichigo has no intention of going back to his training. Back in school, Ichigo is berated by his teacher about his recent absenteeism, she suggests his 'hospitalization due to an accident' story was just an excuse for ditching school. He is later approached by Mizuiro Kojima and Keigo Asano who ask him what he's been up to during the past month. Ichigo's answer is so clearly evasive that Mizuriro is left speechless for a moment, but decides not to press on the matter. Mizuiro gives Ichigo a ticket to a sneak preview of Bad Shield 2. The screening is on December fifth, and Ichigo states he'll be back by then and walks away. Mizuiro is about to call Ichigo back, but Tatsuki Arisawa precedes him.
Tatsuki confronts Ichigo angrily about Orihime's disappearance. She searched everywhere for Orihime, but couldn't find her. She asks Ichigo if he knows Orihime's whereabouts. Ichigo denies knowing anything on the subject, acting as if he doesn't care to answer either way. When she hears his response, Tatsuki grabs the front of his school shirt and tells him that the presence she's always felt from Orihime has vanished as well. She demands again that Ichigo tells her what he knows, but Ichigo stands his ground and refuses to acknowledge her demands. Tatsuki tells him that she's seen him in his Shinigami outfit and fighting with the Shinigami and demands he confesses what he's been keeping from her. Ichigo replies callously that none of that is her business. In response Tatsuki punches Ichigo in the face. Keigo pulls her off of Ichigo, but she asks Ichigo what she is to him; she has been his friend and ally since childhood, and he is wrong to hide things from her. Ichigo apologizes to Keigo and Mizuiro, he asks them to take care of Tatsuki and tells them to keep their distance from him from then on.
That evening Ichigo arrives at the Urahara Shop and finds Urahara already waiting for him, having guessed that Ichigo will be seeking a way into Hueco Mundo. Urahara has already made the necessary preparations. He tells Ichigo his real motive for taking Orihime out of the battle was to deny Aizen the use of her powers, but his move was too late. His mistake, he says, was not removing her sooner, and to make amends for that, he will do all that's in his power to help. Ichigo asks if it would be alright for Urahara to disobey Seireitei orders, but Urahara replies that he's been disobeying them all along, which is the reason for his exile. Ichigo is then surprised to find Uryū Ishida and Yasutora Sado who want to join him in his quest. Ichigo intends to decline as Chad's powers have proved insufficient in the past, but Chad uses El Directo to show his advancement and asks Ichigo to put his trust in his friends. Urahara asks the trio if they're prepared. He comments that it appears that they are.
Urahara opens the Garganta, explaining first that within it there is no path and the three would have to create their footing from the abundant spirit particles there in. He instructs them to move towards the darkness, and they will reach Hueco Mundo. Before leaving, Ichigo asks Urahara to take care of his family, so that they don't worry about him. Urahara asks about his friends and Ichigo replies he will apologize to them when he returns. Ichigo Uryū and Chad enter the Garganta which closes behind them. Only then does Urahara call for Tatsuki, Keigo, and Mizuiro to come out of their hiding place. He tells them he knew they would be following Ichigo, which is why he left the shop door unlocked. He says Ichigo must be very naive to believe he can distance himself from his friends simply by shunning them. Now, he says, he has work to do.
Rejection of Events: Restoration
Having succeeded in their mission, the Arrancar return to Las Noches to face Aizen. As Aizen welcomes Orihime to Las Noches, and requests Orihime to demonstrate her powers. Orihime obliges, feeling as if all the power is drained from her. Aizen turns to Luppi who shows great discontent at Orihime's presence there. Luppi says he resents being sent to fight only to provide the smokescreen for the abduction. Aizen mockingly apologizes, saying he didn't expect Luppi to have such a hard time during the battle. Aizen turns to Orihime again and orders her to heal Grimmjow's absent left arm. Luppi protests aloud; Grimmjow's arm was reduced to ashes by Kaname Tōsen and Orihime is not a god to be able to heal something that's been completely undone. Orihime summons her Sōten Kisshun and begins work on Grimmjow's arm. Luppi, now hysterical, threatens to kill Orihime if her powers turn out to be false, but before his astonished eyes Grimmjow's arm is recreated out of thin air.
Luppi is completely at awe of Orihime's power and asks for explanations. Aizen then explains the nature of Orihime's abilities. He says Ulquiorra was wrong to think they were Temporal Regression or Spatial Regression. Ulquiorra accepts this and Luppi comments that no Human could posses such abilities. Aizen agrees and says her real power is the Rejection of Events: She is able to limit or negate any event that her target underwent. Such an ability can restore any target, no matter how severe the damage done to it was, a feat Temporal Regression or Spatial Regression could never achieve. Her powers defy the will of god himself, Aizen says. Grimmjow then speaks for the first time, asking Orihime to heal one more spot for him: his burnt off number 6 tattoo. Luppi becomes suspicious and asks Grimmjow what he is up to. Grimmjow responds by impaling Luppi through the chest with his renewed hand. Using his signature move, Grimmjow fires a Cero at the man who took over his position as Espada, obliterating all of Luppi's upper body. Delighted in the return of his powers, Grimmjow laughs manically and reclaims his title of Espada.
Ichigo, Uryū and Chad make it to Hueco Mundo, where their arrival is immediately noticed and start making their way towards Las Noches, in the desert they meet the mysterious Nel Tu and her brothers. They are soon joined by Renji and Rukia, who received permission from Byakuya to assist in Orihime's saving. Orihime is confined in one of the rooms of Las Noches where she is issued Arrancar uniform. Ulquiorra forces her to declare that her life and powers will be dedicated for the service of Aizen. When Aizen reveals the Hōgyoku to Orihime, she decides she will stay in Hueco Mundo until she is able to reject the very existence of the Hōgyoku.