THE BLOOD WARFARE is the fifty-fifth volume of the Bleach manga series.
The peace is suddenly broken when warning sirens blare through the Soul Society. Residents there are disappearing without a trace, and nobody knows who’s behind it. Meanwhile, a dark shadow is also extending itself toward Ichigo Kurosaki and his friends in Karakura Town...
3rd Seat of the 12th Division, Akon, reports on the recent disappearances of Hollows in the Human World. After conferring with Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi, he proclaims it can only be the work of "them". Meanwhile, new recruit Ryūnosuke Yuki is snapped out of a daydream by Zennosuke Kurumadani. Kurumadani chastises his laid-back nature for not listening to his instructions, explaining that he is going to replace him as Karakura Town's resident Shinigami. Ryūnosuke is then slapped across the head by Shino, who tells him that the two of them will be heading out on a mission in the afternoon.
Ryūnosuke asks whether she is frightened, revealing his fears of entering Karakura Town after hearing news of its high Hollow rate. Shino shouts at him for being too cowardly, telling him to understand that the top brass have acknowledged his abilities. Later at night, a mysterious individual appears upon a rooftop shortly before heading out. Kurumadani, Shino, and Ryūnosuke arrive in Karakura Town via Senkaimon. Before leaving, he wishes the two well in exterminating Hollows and returns to Soul Society. Shino tells him that they are going to split up and cover more ground. He begrudgingly accepts and almost instantly comes across a Hollow.
Ryūnosuke frantically flees from the Hollow, trying to locate Shino. He eventually discovers that Shino has been captured by a group of four large Hollows and vows to rescue her. However, Ryūnosuke is knocked to the ground before he can react and realizes that Shino is unmoving. Before Ryūnosuke is killed by the Hollow, it is defeated by Ichigo Kurosaki. Ichigo identifies himself and tells Ryūnosuke that he has to improve if he is to be the replacement for Kurumadani. The mysterious figure looks on from the shadows.
Yuki and Shino have recovered from their injuries, but as they are chatting, a stranger suddenly appears.
Hiyori Sarugaki finishes her bath and demands to know why no one is replying to her. Lisa Yadōmaru tells her that Love Aikawa went out to buy Jump and coffee milk. Hiyori then asks why she didn't reply. Lisa tells her that she doesn't have a key; Hachigen Ushōda does, but he isn't there either. Hiyori then comments that she can smell Shinigami and looks at a ripple in the air and questions it.
Ryūnosuke wakes up in Ichigo's room and is told that he can leave. Orihime Inoue arrives carrying some bread, which she claims is delicious. Ichigo asks if it's really delicious if they're throwing it away. Uryū Ishida and Yasutora Sado arrive, adding that Ichigo has no etiquette. Ichigo asks how they all got into his house. Uryū replies that they ran into Yuzu Kurosaki, and adds that Ichigo should make himself useful and get plates for the bread. Ryūnosuke screams, noticing that Ichigo is the person he met the other day. Ichigo informs him that he has been asleep for an entire day.
Ryūnosuke then has a flashback of Ichigo and the others defeating the Hollows. Uryū tells Ichigo that his attack was reckless and Ichigo says the same of his attack. Orihime informs them that she finished Shino's first aid treatment.
Ryūnosuke thinks of how quickly they defeated the Hollows. Ichigo hands him some bread and tells him to get in his Gigai. As Ryūnosuke tells him that he shouldn't be doing this, Shino shows up with some cola and tears up when she sees that Ryūnosuke is okay. As the two of them bicker with each other, Ichigo and the others begin eating.
Ichigo remembers that Ryūnosuke never told them his name. A tall figure standing on Ichigo's bed tells him he's right and introduces himself as Asguiaro Ebern. He asks if there's any other questions. Ichigo responds that he doesn't know who he is, but to get off of his bed.
As Asguiaro reveals his identity to Ichigo, Ikkaku and Yumichika investigate disappearances in Rukongai.
After Asguiaro refuses to get off of the bed, Ichigo kicks him out the window. The group discuss Asguiaro's identity, noting that he looks like an Arrancar. As Ichigo changes to his Shinigami form to question Asguiaro and lead him away from the house, the others remain behind, promising to come after finishing the bread. Ichigo asks if he is an Arrancar and what he wants with him, stating that he does not appear to want revenge for Sōsuke Aizen. Asguiaro denies being an Arrancar and produces a Quincy cross, from which he generates a weapon.
In Rukongai's 64th Eastern District, Sabitsura, Ikkaku and Yumichika find an empty village. Ikkaku states that whatever is happening must still be in progress as the report he received indicated there were still some people in the village. A Shinigami reports that he could not find anyone, while another brings them to a series of footprints. They deduce that the villagers were gathered there by other villagers and then taken elsewhere.
As Ichigo battles Asguiaro, the group of strangers declare war on Yamamoto and Sasakibe is fatally injured.
When one of the group of strangers questions the level of security in the Captain-Commander's chamber, Yamamoto tells him that he himself is the best security there is.
In Karakura Town, Ichigo fends of an attack from Asguiaro and wonders just what Asguiaro is, noting that he has a bracelet similar to Uryū's, but yet has a mask fragment that only an Arrancar should have. Asguiaro continues to attack and repeatedly taunts Ichigo. Ichigo realizes this, but decides that he has little choice in the matter and activates his Bankai. Asguiaro is pleased by this and notes to himself that it will be the end of Ichigo's Bankai as he prepares a special technique. As Ichigo wonders what is happening, Asguiaro chants an incantation, damaging Ichigo's arm. However, the Substitute Shinigami quickly breaks free from the attack and fires a Getsuga Tenshō at a stunned Asguiaro.
In the Captain-Commander's chamber, Yamamoto witnesses Lieutenant Chōjirō Sasakibe being thrown across the room with a large arrow through his body. The stranger tells him to praise the lieutenant for showing him what his fate would be and states that after fighting and sacrificing everything, Soul Society will be destroyed in five days by the "Wandenreich".
As the masked strangers leave Seireitei, Ichigo's battle with Asguiaro comes to an abrupt end. Asguiaro and the masked group arrive at their headquarters.
One of the masked men states that Soul Society will be destroyed in five days by the "Wandenreich". Yamamoto frees Sasakibe and looks at the masked men. One of the masked men informs him that he can tell that Yamamoto wants to ask who they are and that they would never answer, although it is easy to figure out who they really are. They say farewell to Yamamoto and leave by using a shadow. Yamamoto tries to prevent them from leaving and releases his Ryūjin Jakka, burning a large area, before realizing that the men had already left. He notices that their Reiatsu has already disappeared from Seireitei, meaning that they are not affected by the Shakonmaku. Sasakibe wakes up and tells Yamamoto something about the masked men and Bankai.
Meanwhile, a heavily wounded Asguiaro furiously wonders why Ichigo's Bankai did not vanish, but is surprised by Ichigo from behind, pointing his blade at the side of his face. Ichigo states that he is taking Asguiaro back for questioning, but Asguiaro escapes by using a shadow and informs Ichigo that it only hides the "chosen ones".
Later, the 7 strangers arrive at their hideout and the one who spoke to Yamamoto takes off his mask. He notices Asguiaro bowing before him and starts an argument with him. A mysterious man, who appears to be the leader, cuts off the right arm of the man who is arguing with Asguiaro and says that he does not like them to fight in front of him, and demands to hear their reports for the sake of peace.
As Yhwach listens to his subordinate's report, Yuki is recalled to attend the funeral of Lieutenant Sasakibe and Tier Harribel is revealed to be a prisoner.
Luders Friegen is lying on the ground, panting after having his arm cut off by Yhwach. Yhwach says that he will allow him to speak while lying down, but that he would not need his legs, causing Luders to quickly apologize and say he would never be so rude to him. Yhwach then asks for a report.
Meanwhile, Yuki and Ichigo's friends have a conversation and Ichigo returns to his room. Orihime asks if anything happened and before he answers, Yuki receives word that the First Division's lieutenant, Chōjirō Sasakibe, has died. Yuki tells the others the news and returns to Soul Society for the funeral and Ichigo's friends leave. Thinking that he cannot just do nothing, Ichigo goes to patrol around Karakura Town. Then, out of nowhere, Nelliel Tu Odelschwanck falls on Ichigo. Before he can say a thing, Nel begs for for Ichigo's help and starts to say something about Hueco Mundo.
Yhwach asks Luders if he is a prophet, as he said that five days is the required time to prepare for battling Soul Society. He denies this and the Leader says he does not want to hear about the future right now and kills him. He then says that Asguiaro has also done his job well, but kills him as well. Another member asks the leader if Arrancar are precious soldiers or not. The leader says that it does not matter and says that if he wanted Arrancar, he could get as much as he wanted, revealing Tier Harribel in chains, unconscious. The Leader then says that Hueco Mundo is already their territory.
As Ichigo and company are told of the situation in Hueco Mundo by Nel and Pesche, Sasakibe's funeral is held.
As Ichigo asks what Nel means, Pesche Guatiche tries to surprise attack him, but fails. Ichigo recognizes the Arrancar and tries to get him to explain what happened.
As Sasakibe's funeral pyre is readied, Yamamoto and other officers gather to pay their last respects. Captain Byakuya Kuchiki reveals to Lieutenant Renji Abarai that according to the records, Sasakibe mastered his Bankai before Captains Shunsui Kyōraku and Jūshirō Ukitake did, and yet he did not use his ability in front of others ever since the Gotei 13 was founded. He instead maintained his role as Yamamoto's lieutenant, declining vacant captain positions and even the temporary authority of a captain when such a position became vacant. Instead, he continued under Yamamoto's direct command, which he swore to serve as lieutenant for as long as he lived. Byakuya says that he used his Bankai in a battle for the first time, and died. He says that they are too young to understand the pain Yamamoto is experiencing. Yamamoto orders the pyre to be lit and Sasakibe's cremation begins.
Ichigo returns home with Nel and Pesche and invites his friends over to hear about the situation. Pesche states that after the deaths of Baraggan Louisenbairn and Coyote Starrk, Harribel was technically in charge of Hueco Mundo, but she was attacked and taken away by unknown forces who appear to be taking Arrancar to act as a vanguard force. When he notes that Dondochakka Birstanne has been taken too, Sado asks if they are going to rescue him. Uryū states that he cannot accompany them, as a Quincy's job is to eliminate Hollows. This prompts Ichigo to say that he knew that, but called him anyway so as to avoid him sulking. Kisuke Urahara appears on Ichigo's windowsill and offers to arrange their entry to Hueco Mundo.
One of the Wandenreich members picks up Asguiaro's medallion and examines it, noticing that it was used, but Asguiaro was unable to seal Ichigo's Bankai. The Leader states that they need a special way to seal it. His subordinate states that they expected as much, but having proof is better. The leader states that hot-blooded fools can be useful at times and orders him to instruct the Jagdarmee of Hueco Mundo to collect a few people alive. In Hueco Mundo, a group of hooded figures are marched under escort through the desert.
Ichigo and company arrive in Hueco Mundo where the Jagdarmee is gathering its captives.
While Urahara leads Ichigo and the others through the Garganta, Ichigo queries how he was able to arrive at such a convenient time. Urahara comments on the amount of unusual activity recently that had put him on alert, saying that it is all connected and is not a trivial matter. They arrive in Hueco Mundo to find ruined buildings and the sand itself burning. Members of the Jagdarmee hear something as the group falls from the sky, but dismiss the noise as their imagination.
The group note the dead bodies lying around the area. Pesche explains that it is their way and explains that the blue flames they can see are caused by the enemy's use of condensed Reishi. Ichigo asks what will happen to those that are being dragged away by the invaders. Pesche states that they will be taken to their camp and divided into groups to be killed or taken away. Ichigo decides to go save them, despite being told that Dondochakka is not among them. Urahara wonders if Ichigo realizes that he is going to help those that were his enemies just recently. Sado states that because Pesche and Nel know that Ichigo is that kind of person, they trust him to do something about the situation. The group follow Ichigo.
At the Jagdarmee camp, the unit commander Quilge Opie looks on as the captives are lined up, ready for selection. Quilge explains the selection process to the captives, and stabs one of the Arrancars for speaking out of line. but as he continues doing this, he is attacked by two of them. Quilge complains about how long it takes his subordinates to show concern for him before stating that their swords were supposed to have been taken. Loly Aivirrne and Menoly Mallia cast off their cloaks and introduce themselves, before being swiftly put down by Quilge. He tells his subordinates to beat them, but not kill them, as "his majesty" wishes to collect "idiots with guts". As he talks about the quality of Aizen's Arrancar, including Harribel, he is attacked by Harribel's Fracción.
Harribel's Fracción defeat a number of the Jagdarmee members before facing off their leader. Meanwhile, the Shinigami hold a captain meeting where they are informed about the new threat.
As Emilou Apacci and Franceska Mila Rose bicker, Cyan Sung-Sun challenges Quilge. Ichigo Kurosaki notices a commotion at the Jagdarmee camp and Nel tells him that it is being caused by the Tres Bestias. She explains that they are Harribel's three Fracción, and about their reputation, proclaiming that the enemy will be defeated swiftly.
Apacci and Mila Rose continue to argue as the three Arrancar make short work of the Jagdarmee troops. Quilge offers to allow them to surrender, saying that their strength would be of use to his leader. He states that he would prefer to take them alive so they can join their army and serve with Harribel. However, the trio dismiss this.
In the First Division's offices, the Gotei 13 captains assemble to hear about the Wandenreich assault. After listening to Akon's report to the captains, Mayuri states that the intruders call themselves the Wandenreich and that their attack is undoubtedly linked to the recent disappearances of Hollows. After stating that they are Quincy, he reveals that they do not know how they survived or increased their numbers. He comments on their ability to enter Seireitei so easily and on Sasakibe's dying words. Yamamoto asks him where their base is, but Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi replies that he does not know. The Captain-Commander orders the captains to prepare for battle immediately, as they cannot trust the word of the Wandenreich that it will be five days before the battle, and will not allow them to take the initiative again.
Ichigo arrives at the site of the battle between the Tres Bestias to find that they have been all defeated. Quilge notices him and states that they have many guests today.
The lieutenants discuss the disappearances in Rukongai. While Ichigo confronts Quilge, Yhwach plans to seize the opportunity to strike Soul Society.
Renji tells an impatient Lieutenant Rukia Kuchiki to relax and says the captains meeting will not end sooner if she keeps pacing. Lieutenant Izuru Kira asks if they think there is a connection between the invasion of the rebel army, the disappearance of Hollows and the missing people in Rukongai. He asks if anyone investigated outside of District 50. Lieutenant Yachiru Kusajishi says that Ikkaku and Yumichika went to District 64. As she describes the footsteps they saw, Kira notes that the sandal footsteps' owners are probably Shinigami, as all of the people in Districts 50 and above wear rags and have no shoes. He asks Nemu what her captain is hiding and says he'll report this to Captain-Commander Yamamoto. Nemu says she is sure that her captain has done nothing wrong.
In Hueco Mundo, Ichigo confronts Quilge and his remaining subordinates and is told that he is a "special war potential" and is to be dealt with swiftly. The Wandenreich members attack him, and Ichigo realizes that the members who attack him are using Hirenkyaku. He asks them if they are really Quincy, which Quilge confirms as he draws his weapon.
Meanwhile, a messenger reports to Yhwach that Ichigo has infiltrated Hueco Mundo and is fighting Quilge. Yhwach says that they shall go to Soul Society, saying that fighting Quilge will keep Ichigo busy for a while and that this is the perfect chance to occupy Soul Society He gives the order to notify all of the Sternritter that the Wandenreich is about to invade Soul Society.
In Seireitei, Mayuri admits that he ordered members of the 12th Division to kill 28,000 citizens of Rukongai to correct the balance of souls. Yamamoto asks him why he didn't ask for permission, remarking that he would have gotten it considering the level of emergency it was. Mayuri says that if the situation had gotten worse, he would take responsibility for it. Yamamoto then says that if the SRDI reported it faster, the situation wouldn't have gotten this serious. Mayuri says that he is wrong, claiming that Yamamoto is the only one responsible, because of what happened 1,000 years ago, when he failed to kill the man that is now the Wandenreich's leader.