"The king gallops Shaking free from the shadow, Beating the armor, Kicking about the bones, Slurping the flesh and blood, The creaking increases. Smashing the heart He walks in alone Toward the faraway other side"
HOWLING is the thirty-second volume of the Bleach manga series.
Healing Ichigo Kurosaki's terrible wounds so that he can face the diabolic Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez at full strength, Orihime Inoue must watch from the sidelines as the two battle. Orihime tries to convince herself that Ichigo will be all right, but she can't help but be worried about him. And when Grimmjow taunts Ichigo into releasing his Hollow self, her confidence in her friend begins to waver. Has their time in the realm of the Hollows changed them both too much?
Grimmjow insists that Ichigo should not battle for his friends, instead just wanting him to focus on killing him. They then transfer to a different place. Meanwhile, Orihime and Nel worry about Ichigo, but Orihime assures Nel that Ichigo will win because he said so. Grimmjow reveals that he kept the scar from their first battle as a reminder to fight and kill Ichigo to prove that he is stronger.
During the battle, Grimmjow provokes Ichigo to fight him at full strength. Seeing Ichigo has no intention of fighting to kill, Grimmjow tries to provoke Ichigo into donning his Hollow mask by implying Orihime has been "hurt on the inside". In a last-ditch effort to provoke Ichigo, Grimmjow fires the 'ultimate Cero' at Nel and Orihime, forcing Ichigo to run towards their location, don his Hollow mask, and effortlessly deflect the attack. Grimmjow finally looks satisfied saying "you finally came out".
Ichigo frightens Orihime, as the mask held a faint resemblance to her now-deceased brother's Hollow mask, which displayed the same amount of cold emptiness every other Hollow possesses. This change of attitude worries Ichigo, prompting him to feel as if he had lost the trust/friendship of one of his companions, which ultimately causes him to remain unfocused for the duration of his fight with Grimmjow, and as a result of his hurt feelings, is considerably weaker than his rival, at this point. Satisfied at Kurosaki's decision to don his Visored mask, Grimmjow eagerly releases his Zanpakutō, Pantera, and proceeds to fight Ichigo in a ferocious one-on-one battle. Grimmjow's release augments his powers so much, that his scream alone produced a very powerful shockwave. As the battle continues, Grimmjow gains the upper hand, eventually smashing Ichigo into the ground. As he looks for Ichigo in the dust, Ichigo appears behind him and fires a Getsuga Tenshō at him. Grimmjow only starts to laugh maniacally and tells Ichigo how much he hates his "eyes".
Tier Harribel, as well as her Fracción, who were anxious, also observe the fight, equally interested in the outcome, with Harribel commenting that her Fracción should value their primal fear. Harribel then ponders that the struggle between Grimmjow and Ichigo is "more of a fight between two Espada".
As the fight continues, Ichigo momentarily gains advantage, but loses it when Grimmjow attacks Orihime. Ichigo then hurries to block Grimmjow's attack, saving Orihime.
Orihime and Nel cheer Ichigo on, giving him the advantage.
During the final minutes of their battle, Ichigo had most of his mask beaten off, and was on the verge of collapse, as Grimmjow prepared his finishing blow. However, after noticing Orihime getting over her fear of his Hollow self, and loudly cheer for him to win, he is now visibly saddened at his condition and regains his resolve, no longer worried at Orihime's 'opinion' of him, and effortlessly catches Grimmjow's hand without looking, gripping it tight enough to prevent him from moving away. Ichigo then managed to make a clean slash into Grimmjow, despite the fact he had lost most of the benefits from his Hollow mask, whereas before most of the damage that he had inflicted that actually made Grimmjow bleed was from 'Getsuga Tenshō techniques.
Grimmjow, however, survives and attacks Ichigo, injuring him badly. Grimmjow, angry at Ichigo's look, attacks him. He declares that he hates Ichigo's look because it shows he has hope of winning. Ichigo taunts Grimmjow, but Grimmjow stabs him again. Grimmjow then reminisces the time before he became an Arrancar. He was a panther-like, Adjuchas. At one point, he met up with Shawlong Koufang, Edrad Liones, Yylfordt Granz, Nakeem Grindina, Di Roy Rinker, and two other unnamed Adjuchas, while attacking the last two. Back to the fight, Ichigo is knocked back and Grimmjow uses his ultimate move, declaring he will kill anyone who looks down on him.
As Grimmjow uses his strongest attack, he recalls more of his past.
Grimmjow uses his ultimate technique, Desgarron, on Ichigo. His history is then revealed. After Grimmjow damaged Di Roy and killed the two unknowns from the group, Shawlong then suggested that Grimmjow should lead their group in their quest to evolve into Vasto Lordes, offering to follow him as their "king," should he accept.
When Shawlong realized that their evolution could go no further, he asked Grimmjow to "eat" them, which in context referred to only a piece of them being eaten. Grimmjow, calling them cowards, did as they asked. When they were all turned into Arrancar by Aizen, the five became as Grimmjow's Fracción.
Ichigo is unable to block Grimmjow's attacks at first, but through sheer determination, breaks the attack and attacks Grimmjow, badly injuring him. Grimmjow passes out and Ichigo grabs his hand and lowers him to the ground and turns to leave. Nel and Orihime celebrates Ichigo's victory. However, Grimmjow gets backup, much to everyone's shock. Grimmjow, badly injured and reverted back to his unreleased state, tries one more attack, which Ichigo again blocks bare-handed and tried to persuade him to "stand down". Unfortunately, another opponent arrives striking Grimmjow down.
When Hinamori left to become a Shinigami, he pretended to be happy to see her go. Her friends from next door were scared of him, though he had never done anything to them. "Granny" and Hinamori are the only ones in the district that weren't afraid of him. He was supposedly "cold as ice," or at least thought to be, and he often wondered if it was due to his appearance or attitude. After Momo had been in the Shinigami Academy for 5 years, he began to notice how he hadn't grown an inch, while Hinamori's hair grew longer and she visited less often, seeming to have a goal in life now, and "Granny" was getting skinnier.
While out at the market, he meets Rangiku Matsumoto. She yells at a shop keeper who was being rude to him. When Hitsugaya turns around, he is knocked down by bumping into her bosom. Later that night, he has a vivid dream of a gigantic, icy blue, serpentine dragon with large wings and an echoing voice. He wakes up in a cold sweat. Upon waking up, he sees Rangiku and is surprised to see her in his home. She immediately tells him to stop leaking his Reiatsu everywhere and sleep. She further explains that his grandmother looks pretty cold, which causes Hitsugaya, for the first time, to notice that the room is exceedingly cold and affecting his grandmother. Rangiku then tells him he should become a Shinigami, stating that kids with power as strong as his need to learn how to bring that power under control, which will save his grandmother. He then agrees with her and leaves for the Academy.
I put a short story in this volume about Hitsugaya that I wrote just before the movie was released, while memories of it were fresh in my mind. I was involved in creating the movie's original character Kusaka, right down to his psychological makeup, but because the idea came from the anime production side, I didn't put him in the short story.
The story is somewhat related to the movie and yet it's not, but if you read it carefully it kind of is. It's a bit strange that way.
I hope you enjoy this glimpse of Hitsugaya's past from a different perspective.