Trials of the Shattered Shaft is an event marking the end of The Death Trilogy Overture: Death & The Strawberry and leading up to the Ryoka Invasion. During this event, Ichigo Kurosaki first converses with his Zanpakutō, Zangetsu, but is also burdened with an inner Hollow who threatens to take control of his soul.
When Rukia Kuchiki failed to return to Soul Society in due time, two high ranking Shinigami were sent to retrieve her. Ichigo went for her defense, but was eventually defeated by Rukia's adoptive older brother, Captain Byakuya Kuchiki. Rukia was subsequently taken back to Soul Society by Byakuya and his lieutenant, Renji Abarai. During the fight Byakuya sliced Ichigo's Zanpakutō into a mere stump and cut his Chain of Fate so that whatever Shinigami powers he had would be removed. Ichigo was found on the brink of death by Kisuke Urahara and taken to the Urahara Shop where his wounds were dressed. Urahara tells Ichigo that there is a way for him to reach the Soul Society and save Rukia, but says he'll only reveal what it is under one condition: Ichigo is to train for ten days under Urahara's tutelage. Ichigo is reluctant at first, saying he has no time for training. Urahara knocks Ichigo down with his cane and holds it against his face, giving Ichigo the uneasy feeling that he is facing the point of a sword. Urahara tells him that if he goes into Soul Society in his present condition, he will die. He says the Soul Society usually allows a one month grace period. Ten days of training plus seven more days to open a passageway to Soul Society would leave Ichigo 13 days to try and rescue Rukia. Ichigo agrees to try, seen as if he won't do it, no one else would. 
Lesson 1: One Strike
The next day, Ichigo returns to school for the last day of the school year and finds that Rukia's seat occupied by another student, Tetsuo Momohara. Urahara provided him with a bottle of pills, instructing him to take one every hour. The pills should heal his wounds by supper time; which will be the time Ichigo's training will commence. Ichigo is somewhat skeptic about the pills - as there is a skull on the label - but they indeed heal him at an incredible rate. However, Ichigo finds it even more incredible that nobody in class remembers anything about Rukia. When the school day concludes, Keigo Asano pulls Ichigo into a game of "Find the Watermelon", but instead Ichigo finds Keigo's head. Later on, Keigo tries to lure the others to a 10 day trip to the ocean, however, one by one his friends turn him down, much to his chagrin.
As the introverted Ichigo makes his way to the Urahara Shop, he encounters Orihime Inoue who has been waiting for him. She surprises him by asking where Rukia is and why all the others seemed oblivious to her absence. After Ichigo tells Rukia's story to Orihime, she asks him if he will be going off to save Rukia now. When Ichigo confirms it, Orihime asks if Ichigo believes going to Soul Society, Rukia's home world where her friends and family live, and dragging her back to the Human World is the best course of action. Before he can reply Orihime changes her tune and reveals that she knew, even before she asked, that Ichigo's mind was made up. Impersonating Ichigo she says, "as long as you're alive you can always meet your family. Once you're dead it's all over". She encourages Ichigo to go and save Rukia. Ichigo thanks her and rushes off to the Urahara Shop. Orihime asks him to be careful, but after he's gone she phones Yasutora Sado and starts making plans to join Ichigo in his mission so she can make sure he is safe.
When Ichigo arrives at the Urahara Shop, Urahara asks him if his wounds have properly healed. Ichigo exposes his torso to reveal all his injuries from the previous night have scarred up. Before they begin, Ichigo bows before Urahara, asking him to train him well. The surprised shopkeeper asks if there is anything wrong, and Ichigo replies that all is well. Summer vacation has begun.
Over at Seireitei, Renji - on a day off - goes to the 6th Division's detention center to visit Rukia, his childhood friend. She is guarded by Rikichi, one of Renji's subordinates, who informs him that the prisoner has been sitting in her chair motionless since she's been brought there the night before. Renji tries to tell Rukia she should eat to keep her strength up, but she claims she's simply not hungry and proceeds to give him grief about his recent appointment as a lieutenant. She then settles down and asks Renji if he thinks she would truly be executed. Renji replies that they probably wouldn't even wait before killing her, but when Rukia agrees with him he explains that he was joking and that Byakuya surely wouldn't allow her to die. Rukia insists that she knows Byakuya well and that he would kill her without hesitation. She says Byakuya has not truly looked at her even once since her adoption, 40 years ago.
The Urahara Shop has been closed for the day as Urahara shows off his secret training ground to Ichigo. Ichigo is impressed with the facility, but finds the bragging annoying. He urges Urahara to begin the training. Urahara concurs and separates Ichigo's soul from his body with the tip of his cane. Ichigo's soul is now a normal Plus linked by a Chain of Fate to his body. When he tries to confront with Urahara he immediately staggers and falls on one knee. Urahara explains that since Byakuya destroyed Ichigo's power boost, the Saketsu, and his power source, the Hakusui, he no longer has Shinigami powers and must learn how to move freely in the form of a Plus; when he has regained his freedom of mobility as a Plus, it would be a telltale sign that his Hakusui has healed. Ichigo doesn't understand and asks what exactly it is that Urahara wants him to do. Urahara replies that instead of explaining, he will demonstrate and calls upon his employees to get ready.
Ichigo finds himself facing Ururu Tsumugiya who curtsies and greets him. To Ichigo's astonishment Urahara says fighting with Ururu would be his first test. The rules are: the moment one of the fighters can no longer move, the session is over. Ichigo protests, saying he cannot fight a little girl. However, Urahara says he would find it quite difficult in his current state. Ururu drops protective headgear and gloves on the ground for Ichigo as she puts on her own gear. She asks him to make sure he puts them on, otherwise he would die. Before Ichigo can properly respond to any of it, Ururu attacks. She reaches him within an instant and punches him into the ground.
In the dust cloud that emerges from the attack Urahara, Tessai Tsukabishi and Jinta Hanakari, who are standing nearby watching, wonder if Ichigo survived the attack. After a few seconds though Ichigo rolls out of the cloud, gets up and runs back towards Ururu, except he does not attack and instead picks up the protective headgear. He frantically asks Urahara how to put on the headgear. Urahara motions to him to put it on his forehead and then shouts to him that he must chant the following incantation: Take this! The powers of justice! Justice armor, justice headband! Attack! Ichigo initially refuses, sensing a hoax, but when Ururu takes another swing at him and misses Urahara manages to persuade him. However, Ichigo's instincts prove to be correct, as the incantation does nothing.
Ichigo nonetheless dons the protective gear and immediately feels worlds better about his condition as he turns over to face Ururu. He challenges the young girl to attack, but when she does he promptly finds himself on the run again. Suddenly, it dawns on Ichigo that if he is able to outrun Ururu and dodge her attacks he must be able to counterattack as well. With this, he stops and waits for an attack. Once Ichigo dodges Ururu's first punch he moves on the offensive, throwing a series of blows which Ururu evades. Ichigo tries desperately to avoid hurting Ururu, aiming his blows at her headgear, however, when he lands a hit, his fist connects with her face and grazes her cheek. The hit really isn't very serious, but is enough to send Ururu into her genocide mode and she jumps onto Ichigo's hand and kicks him with all her might.
Ichigo is sent tumbling, despite the fact that Urahara blocked most of Ururu's thrust. The burly Tessai catches Ichigo and prevents him from crashing into a cliff side. Ichigo believes he had lost and asks for another round, but Urahara refuses, saying Ichigo has passed his first lesson. He explains the object of the lesson was to hit Ururu before she hits him and that at his present condition he had no hope of winning. Urahara then points out that Ichigo no longer has problems to breathe or move in the Plus form; he explains that Ichigo was able to raise his Reiryoku, which allowed him to dodge the blow and pass the lesson. Next, Urahara suggests that to celebrate they should proceed to the second lesson, as Tessai cuts Ichigo's Chain of Fate with a large axe. Meanwhile Yoruichi Shihōin approaches Orihime and Sado and informs them that they must train with her if they want to travel to Soul Society.
Lesson 2: Shattered Shaft
Uryū Ishida, travels to the secluded area where he used to train with his master, believing no one would bother him there, so that he could focus on his training. However, as soon as he finishes this thought Orihime and Sado arrive to pay him a visit, accompanied by Yoruichi. They inform Uryū about their plans of training before going to the Soul Society, and they have come to invite him to join them. Uryū says that he noticed their Reiryoku suddenly increased, but wonders who their master would be. Yoruichi catches Uryū by surprise when she speaks to him, identifying herself as the aforementioned master. Uryū is somewhat freaked out by the presence of a talking cat, but quickly regains his composure. Orihime suggests Uryū joins them in training under Yoruichi's tutelage. Uryū declines, saying that he wishes to be alone as he trains and that he isn't training in order to rescue Rukia, but because he cannot stand the fact that he lost to a Shinigami. Hearing this Yoruichi decides to leave, taking her disciples with her, however, before leaving, Orihime tells the Quincy that if he changes his mind he should tell her at any time. Once the three have left, Uryū apologizes to Orihime and says the training he is about to undergo cannot be seen by anyone. As he opens the box he brought with him he turns to the spirit of his master for guidance.
Ichigo is pinned to the ground by Tessai's weight as he angrily laments his Chain of Fate being severed. Urahara annoys him even further when he calmly announces he knew this would be the outcome of cutting the chain and that Ichigo can no longer return to his body and is sure to die. Urahara continues to explain that once the Chain of Fate is broken, the remaining links will undergo a process known as Encroachment, at the end of which a hole will form in Ichigo's chest and he would turn into a Hollow. However, there is one way in which Ichigo can avoid becoming a Hollow and continue living - becoming a Shinigami. Ichigo's second lesson would be to reclaim his Shinigami powers, the name of the lesson is "Shattered Shaft". As Urahara points forward and gives the command "go", a great hole pries underneath Ichigo and Tessai and they both fall to its bottom.
When Ichigo tries to collect himself after the long drop he finds that Tessai used Kin, a powerful Kidō, to bind his hands behind his back. Urahara informs him that his trial in this lesson would be to climb out of the shaft. Ichigo tries to protest, saying climbing with the restraints on is impossible. Urahara replies that Ichigo is in no position to protest and turns his attention to the fact that the Encroachment already begun.
In his panic, Ichigo tries to stop the Encroachment by crushing the links beneath his body, however, all he achieves is some nasty bites delivered to his stomach by the links. He begs Urahara to stop the process, but the shop owner says if he tried to stop the Encroachment he too would be eaten alive. Urahara explains that the Encroachment usually lasts months or even years, but that the bottom of the Shattered Shaft is filled with a gas that speeds up the process until it would last only 72 hours. Ichigo has, but three days to transform into a Shinigami and climb out of the shaft. If he does not he would transform into a Hollow instead at which point Urahara and his crew would be forced to kill him.
Sado and Orihime's training isn't going very well, as they attempt to access their abilities by overworking their vocal cords. Yoruichi is less than pleased. She tells them this way of training is useless and adds that if they don't manage to summon their powers at will, going to the Soul Society would be suicide. Summoning the powers should not be very difficult, all they need to do is remember what prompted the release of their powers and build from there; the beginning for anyone is the urge to protect something. Thinking back, Orihime recalls she felt the need to save Tatsuki Arisawa. For Sado it was the need to save Karin Kurosaki, but since he doesn't remember her face clearly he imagines Ichigo's face with Karin's hair, and is forced to shut down the image. He then notices Orihime's hairpin glowing.
Yoruichi asks Orihime why she wants to go to Soul Society and Orihime replies that she wants to protect Ichigo. Having said that, her hairpins break apart and turn into the Shun Shun Rikka. Her joy at seeing the fairies again is cut short when Tsubaki attacks her for summoning them without a reason. Yoruichi commends her and says the next step is learning how to control her powers. Yoruichi then turns to Sado and asks him what's his reason for going to the Soul Society.
Down in the Shattered Shaft, the fifth cycle of Encroachment is finished and they seem to come at fixed intervals. The Encroachment cycles are far too painful for Ichigo to even move and he can only try to climb between one cycle and the next. Ichigo gets to his feet and attempts to run up the shaft's wall, but fails and falls to the bottom. Jinta and Ururu are not impressed by his method of climbing. Jinta asks Ichigo if he is hungry, but Ichigo says since he is now in Soul form, he is incapable of feeling hunger. Jinta says snidely that if Ichigo does ever feel hunger in the Soul form, it means the Encroachment is about to end, but if he is only thirsty, it's still alright, since he can drink Jinta's drool. With this Jinta proceeds to drool down the opening of the hole and onto Ichigo, ordering Ururu to join him, which she willingly does.
Several hours later Jinta drops down to visit Ichigo at the bottom of the shaft. He brings him a basket of fruit, thinking Ichigo must be hungry. Ichigo denies that he is and says the Chain of Fate is still quite long. Jinta sets the food down and tells Ichigo he's already spent 70 hours in the shaft, so he should start his Hollow transformation soon. He adds that the last cycle of Encroachment is much stronger than those before. To Ichigo's horror, all the remaining links in the chain undergo the Encroachment and after a few seconds it reaches the link to Ichigo's chest and opens the Hollow hole beneath it. Ichigo screams in pain as a Hollow mask begins to form over his face.
The Urahara Shop staff watches in awe as Ichigo begins his transformation. Ururu gets ready to destroy Ichigo, but Urahara stops her, saying there is something out of the ordinary with Ichigo's transformation. Souls will usually dissipate and later recomposes in a different location and only then will the mask appear. In Ichigo's case, the mask was first to appear. This indicates that Ichigo is resisting the Hollowfication, so there is still a chance for him to become a Shinigami; Urahara asks his underlings to wait and see.
Ichigo wakes up and finds himself in a bizarre looking world - he seems to be seated on the side of a skyscraper. Looking around, Ichigo sees a grim and gruff looking figure, balancing himself on a pole not far from him. Ichigo asks the man who he is, but when the stranger tries to reply Ichigo fails to hear his name. The stranger is surprised to find Ichigo can't hear him, saying he didn't think anyone in the world would understand him better than Ichigo. As he talks, the stranger moves to stand on the bottom of the pole, seemingly defying gravity. Ichigo asks him how he does it, but the stranger says he is surprised Ichigo can sit where he is. All of a sudden, gravity shifts back to "normal" and Ichigo begins falling towards the streets below. As Ichigo falls, the stranger follows him and tells him there is a way for Shinigami to stand in mid-air, using their spiritual power. He then reveals that Byakuya only destroyed the Shinigami powers that formed due to Rukia's intervention and that Ichigo still had latent Shinigami powers of his own.
The stranger says only now, when this world is collapsing, is the proper time for Ichigo to find that power. The skyscrapers around him begin to disintegrate into thousands of boxes. The stranger says one of the boxes contains the power of a Shinigami. Ichigo has to find it before the world disintegrates completely, or he will turn into a Hollow. Ichigo's fall continues as he falls through the street level and into a dark space, littered with falling boxes. Ichigo desperately tries to focus and remembers something Uryū told him once - that the color of a Shinigami's Reiryoku is red. Ichigo picks out the red ribbon out of all the others and when he pulls it the box attached to it opens. Inside it he sees the handle of a Zanpakutō. The stranger reappears behind him and says he can now let him know his name. When Ichigo dallies the stranger shouts at him to pull the sword out of the box.
Ichigo tries to pull the sword out, but it doesn't move. The Urahara Shop crew are still watching warily as Ichigo's transformation continues. When Ichigo begins to break free of the Kidō, Tessai tells Urahara he has no choice, but to destroy the boy. He uses Bankin, the more powerful version of his previous Kidō to bind Ichigo. Jinta warns him that this could be fatal to Ichigo, but Tessai insists that he must restraint Ichigo and destroy him before he Hollowfies. Ichigo begins to tear through the Bankin as well, with the mask now complete over his face. As the final seal falls onto Ichigo, a large blast explodes through the shaft. Something appears to fly out of the shaft and lands before Urahara and the children. When the dust clears they see before them a strange sight: Ichigo, wearing a Shinigami uniform and donning a Hollow mask. Ichigo pulls out his stump of a sword and the children prepare themselves for a fight, but instead he uses the handle to break the mask and then removes it from his face. Urahara claps his hands and commends Ichigo for passing his second lesson and successfully becoming a Shinigami. However, Ichigo shuts him up by hitting him in the face with the handle of his sword, saying since he made it out alive, Urahara will soon be dead.
Lesson 3: The Blade and Me
Ichigo exclaims that he made a vow to kill Urahara if he made it out of the shaft alive. Urahara is unfazed, saying this attitude of Ichigo is just what he'll need for his third lesson. This lesson will have no time limit, if Ichigo could use his Zanpakutō to cut the hat off of Urahara's head, he would pass the lesson. Ichigo slashes at the hat and manages to live a nick in its brim. Urahara commends Ichigo for being able to inflict this damage with his broken sword. Ichigo boasts that once he gets serious he would do even better and says 5 minutes would be all it takes for him to finish off Urahara. Hearing this Urahara agrees and says he'll give Ichigo 5 minutes to finish him off; as he speaks, Urahara draws a sword out of his cane.
At the 6th Division's holding cells Renji and Rukia learn that she has been sentenced to death by the Central 46. She will be executed within 25 days, at noon. Byakuya tells Rukia this would probably be the last time they talk. The next time they'll see each other would be at the execution. Renji tries to console Rukia, but she claims she is alright. The Central 46's decision is irreversible and she's always known things would end up this way. Trying to change the subject, Rukia begins to ridicule Renji's tattooed eyebrows. She manages to annoy him so much that he leaves, slamming the door angrily behind him. Outside the barracks Byakuya runs into two of his colleagues, Captains Gin Ichimaru of the 3rd Division and Kenpachi Zaraki of the 11th. Gin comments on how relaxed Byakuya seems, given the fact that his younger sister was sentenced to death. Kenpachi remarks that the only Shinigami afraid of death are Gin and the captain of the 9th Division. Byakuya ignores their banter and points out that they came without their lieutenants. He asks them what they want of him.
Gin continues to provoke Byakuya, asking him if he is sad and depressed following Rukia's sentence. Byakuya says those are his private affairs. Kenpachi then says Byakuya must be depressed, as no noble family could stand for a criminal in its midst. Byakuya says he did not know a commoner like Zaraki could see into the souls of nobles. Kenpachi replies that he cannot, but he is bright enough to understand these things. He then suggests that since he is so bright, Byakuya allows him to kill the criminal. Byakuya retorts that he had no idea Kenpachi was able to actually kill people at his level. Kenpachi invites him to try and see, but before things can deteriorate any further Gin ties up Kenpachi and drags him away, kicking and screaming. Before departing, Gin apologizes for Zaraki's behavior and sends his best regards to Rukia. Byakuya turns and walks the other way.
Tessai climbs out of the Shattered Shaft, uninjured, except for his glasses being broken. Jinta tells him that he should put them on anyway, since he won't want to miss Urahara's fight with Ichigo. Ichigo dodges an attack that raises a small hill in the ground when it hits it. He compliments Urahara's capability with a sword, but Urahara says he won't go easy on Ichigo because of it. As he is running away, Ichigo recalls that Urahara's sword came out of his cane, and is therefore not a Zanpakutō and cannot harm him. Before he can finish this thought, Urahara knocks off the remains of his Hollow mask off the side of his head. He mocks Ichigo as he traces his train of thoughts to the letter and remarks on Ichigo's naivety. He then proceeds to release his Zanpakutō, Benihime.
Ichigo recalls on his fight with Renji and the latter's comment on the name of his Zanpakutō. Urahara explains that every Zanpakutō has its own name; he introduces Benihime to Ichigo and proceeds to blow up a rock next to Ichigo with an energy blast. Ichigo is blown away and is only able to block Urahara's next attack at the last second. Urahara commends him for blocking when he could have run, but says blocking Benihime with his sword is futile. He then slices another piece off of Ichigo's unnamed sword. Ichigo turns away and runs, unable to believe his eyes, however, Urahara easily catches up to him, forcing him to dodge another attack as he explains that Ichigo's power has only increased slightly - not enough to produce a hardened Zanpakutō. With another slash Urahara cuts off the tsuba of Ichigo's sword, leaving Ichigo with only a hilt in his hand.
Urahara asks Ichigo if he still intends to "finish him off" using only a hilt. He tells Ichigo he can no longer count on his courage to win the fight for him and that if he insists on fighting on this way, Urahara would be forced to kill him. Ichigo turns to run in panic. Urahara gives chase, forcing Ichigo to frantically dodge his attacks. As he runs, Ichigo ponders on the humiliation of his situation. Urahara grabs Ichigo by the collar and pulls him down, forcing him to roll in the dirt to avoid the attacks. Desperate to escape Urahara's onslaught, Ichigo stumbles forward; suddenly the grim-looking stranger he met earlier stands before him. The old man asks Ichigo why he is running from just a single opponent and reminds him that he hasn't called on him yet. He tells Ichigo only fear blocked his hearing before, but he should be able to hear him now.
Tessai, Jinta and Ururu are puzzled as they see that both fighters have stopped running. The stranger urges Ichigo to forget his fears, look forward, walk forth and never stop; he warns him that quitting will weaken him and cowardice will kill him. He then demands of Ichigo to say his name: Zangetsu. A great surge of energy blows through the training grounds. Tessai and the children cower behind a big rock. When Jinta peeks out he sees a strange vision; Ichigo's sword has changed shape and is now only a long blade without a hilt or a tsuba, the handle of which is wrapped with white bindings. Jinta comments that Ichigo's last sword looked better. Urahara, however, remarks that as Ichigo's Zanpakutō finally made an appearance, it's time to officially begin the third lesson. Ichigo apologizes to the shopkeeper, saying he won't hold back now.
As he raises his arm, the remnants of Tessai's Kidō evaporate; when he lowers it again, a blast of energy is released. Urahara manages to block it at the last second, but only partially and the hat flies off of his head - in two pieces. Urahara says if he hadn't blocked the attack he would have lost an arm; he laments the damage to his hat, but says he never expected such a force from a single swing. He tells Ichigo he is a very scary individual and that he has finished his third lesson, only Ichigo cannot hear him as he has fainted while still holding his sword. Behind Urahara a large chasm has opened up in the floor of the training grounds due to Ichigo's attack.
In his training area, Uryū too has finished his training. He thanks his master as he allows his bow to dissipate. On his right hand he is wearing a glove adorned with a Quincy cross. A great crash tears through a peaceful Karakura Town neighborhood as the exhausted Sado finally manages to release his power; he too is wearing a glove covering his right arm. Yoruichi is shocked to see a great portion of the wall has disappeared. She urges Sado and Orihime to run through the back door as alarms go off and police sirens begin to close in.
The Last Summer Vacation
Keigo is overjoyed to see Ichigo after his ten day absence. His enthusiasm is brought to an abrupt end when he feels Ichigo's shoe in his face. Mizuiro Kojima too has returned from a 10 day long vacation in Phuket, but the jealous Keigo is far less welcoming towards him. Ichigo wonders why Keigo wanted to gather everyone in the afternoon, since the main event of the day, the Spring Fireworks Festival, won't happen until much later. Keigo, who spent the last ten days playing video games on his own, was so starved for company he wanted to schedule the get together even earlier. With Tatsuki, Orihime, and Sado arriving, Keigo's complaint gets cut short. Tatsuki, who's left arm is in a cast, has come up second at the national high-school karate championship; she could have been the champion if she hadn't broken her arm in an accident before the quarter-final.
The group spends the afternoon walking and chatting, and when the time for the festival draws near Tatsuki picks a spot to sit down and wait for the fireworks. Keigo objects, saying the whole point of the festival is to be among the crowd and watch girls in kimonos. Keigo keeps ranting until the arrival of Isshin Kurosaki, Karin Kurosaki, and Yuzu Kurosaki who all jump on Ichigo and cause him to roll down the riverbank. Yuzu tries to force-feed a chocolate covered banana to Ichigo, and grows upset when he refuses. It turns out the twins have drank some spiked juice and are inebriated. Their father attributes this to an honest mistake by the shopkeeper, though Keigo and Mizuiro suspect foul play. As it turns out Isshin and the girls have reserved seats at the festival early in the morning; Isshin invites the whole group to join them and Keigo, Mizuiro and Sado gleefully accept. Tatsuki and Orihime decide to go later and Ichigo half-heartedly bids them farewell and joins his family and friends. 
The spot chosen by Tatsuki bears a strong significance for the two girls, as they used to go there every autumn until the year before last. It was there, during their sophomore year, that Orihime went missing while chasing after some red dragonflies. Tatsuki spent two days searching for her; Orihime, on the other hand made it all the way to Yokohama, where a fisherman gave her sushi. Orihime's big brother used to be able to make the dragonflies sit in his hand, but Orihime was never able to do that. Orihime notices that Tatsuki is concerned and asks her what's wrong. Tatsuki asks Orihime not to wander off.
Orihime says she's only going to live with her grandmother for a while, and when she returns they'll go to the river again and chase dragonflies. Tatsuki agrees, but they are then forced to run, since the fireworks show has started. Orihime thanks Tatsuki in her heart and says she can go anywhere and feel safe that Tatsuki will come find her; and if her destination is a place where Tatsuki can't follow her, she promises to come back on her own.
Hours later, the Kurosaki family makes the hike home from the festival; Ichigo is forced to carry both his little sisters on his back all the way. After Isshin makes a tasteless joke about sexually abusing the twins, Ichigo informs him that he will be leaving for a while soon. He says this time he might not return until the end of the summer vacation. Isshin approves of this and only asks that Ichigo introduce to him any girl he might meet in his trip. He assures Ichigo that the house will be safe while he is away, although Ichigo denies being concerned.
At the Shinigami Research and Development Institute, Hiyosu is excited about the arrival of Rukia's Gigai and he reviews the footage of Rukia's apprehension over and over. Akon comments that Hiyosu seems obsessed with the Gigai, but he replies that since he was the one who found Rukia, he has dibs on her Gigai. The Gigai would have arrived sooner if it weren't for the intervention of a secret organization that asked to examine it first. When the Gigai arrives the entire present institute members gather around the Gigai to take a look. They can all tell it is of a very good quality and wonder who created it. Hiyosu then makes a shocking revelation; When Akon takes a closer look he claims that there is no one who could have built the Gigai to this level; if there were anyone with the skill to make such a creation, they would have been exiled from the Soul Society. In his secret training grounds, Kisuke Urahara is making the finishing touches to his Senkaimon.
Ichigo follows Urahara's orders to leave his bedroom window open at 01:00 AM, seven days after the festival, to receive his message. Ichigo has a bad feeling which soon proves to be accurate when a projectile flies through the open window and smashes on the wall. As the red paint trickles down Urahara's message is revealed: "Please meet at the Urahara Shop immediately. PS If you think this message looks like something out of a horror movie, you have no sense of humor'" Ichigo, who thought exactly that, throws a pillow at the message before leaving. As he exits the house, Ichigo is once more attacked aerially by his father. Isshin insists on giving Ichigo a mascot given to him by Masaki Kurosaki. Isshin insists that this isn't a gift, just a loan, to keep Ichigo safe during his trip. He has to give it back when he returns.
On his way, he meets Orihime, who has also received the bloody summon. When they arrive they meet Sado who was not far from the shop when he got the message. Although Sado doubts that he will, Uryū arrive as well moments later. Uryū says he decided to come to redeem himself for having lost to a Shinigami and also to show Ichigo how strong he's become. However, Ichigo only comments on Uryū's strange looking Quincy attire. Urahara arrives to show the four inside and explain to them how they will get to the Soul Society. He urges them to listen well or else they will die before they even reach their destination. Ichigo meets Yoruichi for the first time a freaks out when he realizes the cat can talk and Orihime scolds him for this.
When she first enters the Urahara Shop training grounds, Orihime is quite impressed, and says the place looks like a secret base. Ichigo is somewhat skeptic about the reaction, but Tessai is thoroughly moved by it and thanks Orihime for her response. Ichigo ponders on how easy it is for Orihime to get along with strangers - in comparison to Sado and Uryū. He wonders if they would be any good once they go to the Soul Society. Urahara asks for everyone's attention and summons his Senkaimon. He then tells them to listen carefully so they'll know how to move through the portal without dying. With a jab of his cane Urahara separates Ichigo's soul from his body. His friends are impressed by seeing Ichigo as a Shinigami for the first time and physically inspect his body, much to Ichigo's discontent.
However, it is Kon who voices this discontent most loudly, saying he would soon be residing in Ichigo's body so they shouldn't mess around with it, except for Orihime, of course. Kon came with the intention of joining their journey, and while he and Ichigo are arguing about it, the others are busy being astounded by the presence of a talking toy. Sado is particularly enthralled. Urahara asks for the group's attention again and starts explaining the mechanics behind the Senkaimon. As Soul Society is the world of souls, one must be a soul to go there; therefore the only one who can freely move through the Senkaimon is Ichigo. However, Urahara's Senkaimon is fitted with a device that converts matter into Reishi, which will allow Orihime, Uryū and Sado to go through while maintaining their present form. The brash Ichigo wants to rush forward but Urahara stops him cold by jabbing him in his waist.
He then proceeds to explain that the problem with the trip to Soul Society would be their limited amount of time, four minutes to be exact. If they should fail to make the trip in the side of four minutes, the portal would close and they will be trapped forever inside the Dangai. On top of that, the Dangai is charged with a current known as Kōryū, intended to stop Hollows from going through. If they are caught in the current they will stand no chance of getting out within four minutes. What they should do to avoid this is to simply keep moving forward. Yoruichi, who joins them near the Senkaimon, adds that only a person with great resolve may follow her through the portal.
Ichigo replies that all of those gathered there have made up their minds and are determined to go forth. Yoruichi warns them that if they lose they can never go back, to which Ichigo says it's obvious losing isn't an option. Tessai and Urahara begin opening the Senkaimon with the instruction to dash in as soon as the portal opens. Before leaving Ichigo turns back to Kon, who's been bound and gagged by Sado, and asks him to look after his family while he is away. The four, led by Yoruichi, run into the Senkaimon. As soon as they enter the Dangai, the four freeze. Yoruichi urges them to hurry up or the Kōryū will grab them. Back in his training grounds, Urahara touches the surface of the open portal and burns his hand on it. Now, he says, it is all up to Ichigo and his friends.
Despite some difficulties, the group reaches the Soul Society and begins to try and find a way into Seireitei, where the headquarters of the Gotei 13 is located, with the intent to stop Rukia's execution at all costs. They each face many hardships as they go deeper into Seireitei and learn more about the ways of the Shinigami and the Gotei 13. During their assumed mission the bonds between the group members become ever stronger and they even make some friends and allies within Soul Society and the Gotei 13.