After returning from Soul Society, Ichigo Kurosaki resumes his everyday life as a high school student in Karakura Town. Soul Reaper lieutenant Renji Abarai arrives in Karakura, however, and Ichigo claims that Renji is his cousin to the surrounding onlookers. Later that night, Orihime Inoue has a dream about her brother Sora, and is drawn into a large gate while three mysterious people observe.

After a clip show in which the events of the arc are recounted, Ichigo and his friends return to the human world. However, Rukia decides to remain in Soul Society rather than leave with Ichigo.

Aizen defeats Komamura with an extremely powerful kidō spell and continues his explanation. He expresses his desire for the Orb of Distortion, an artifact that would allow him to gain hollow powers. He extracts the Orb of Distortion from Rukia, where Kisuke Urahara had hidden it. When he orders Ichimaru to kill Rukia, Byakuya saves her. The majority of the Gotei 13 then arrives to restrain Aizen. Aizen and his accomplices manage to escape when several hollows pull them into Hueco Mundo. Afterwards, as Byakuya recovers, he explains to Rukia that he married her sister, Hisana, and adopted Rukia into the Kuchiki clan due to Hisana's dying wish. However, he broke the clan's rules in doing so, and swore to his parents to uphold rules regardless of the circumstances from that point forward, and was torn between following the rules and allowing Rukia's execution or breaking them to save her.

At Unohana's command, Isane Kotetsu informs all high-ranking members of the Gotei 13 of Aizen's duplicity. Aizen arrives at Rukia's execution site, where Tōsen has brought Rukia and Renji. When Aizen asks Renji to leave Rukia, he refuses and begins to fight Aizen. Ichigo also arrives, and the two fight in unison against Aizen. Aizen defeats both of them, and begins to explain his reasons for betraying Soul Society until he is interrupted by Komamura.

Hitsugaya and Matsumoto enter the Central 46 Chambers to find all of its occupants slain. Kira arrives, and Hitsugaya and Matsumoto pursue him. Hitsugaya returns when Kira tells him that Hinamori has entered the Central 46 Chambers. Ichimaru meets Hinamori and takes her further into the chambers, where she is reunited with Sōsuke Aizen. Aizen impales Hinamori with his sword, and Aizen and Ichimaru leave the chamber. Hitsugaya arrives, and is enraged at Hinamori's state. He uses his bankai, but Aizen effortlessly defeats him. Retsu Unohana appears, denouncing Aizen after discovering that he is a traitor. Aizen then informs her that every Soul Reaper has been under the hypnosis of his zanpakutō, with the exception of the blind Kaname Tōsen, Aizen's other accomplice.

Byakuya uses the second form of his bankai, summoning several rows of swords. As he and Ichigo continue to fight, Ichigo becomes progressively weaker as the strain from his bankai increases. His inner hollow takes over his body after Byakuya wounds him, and he starts to overwhelm Byakuya. However, Ichigo manages to surpress his inner hollow, and regains control over his body. Both Ichigo and Byakuya focus the remainder of their powers and clash in a final strike, with Ichigo the victor. Byakuya reveals that he wished to execute Rukia to fulfill an oath to his parents, and admits defeat, claiming that Ichigo has convinced him not to execute Rukia. Elsewhere, Hitsugaya and Matsumoto enter the Central 46 Chambers.

Byakuya uses his bankai and overwhelms Ichigo with millions of tiny blades. In response, Ichigo uses his own bankai, which makes him incredibly fast. Ichigo evades Byakuya's bankai and stabs him with his sword. Meanwhile, Tōshirō Hitsugaya and Rangiku Matsumoto head to the Central 46 Chambers, the highest authority in Soul Society.


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