One thing that interests me about this scene is that Yhwach refers to the Soul King as a "God" - an "imperfect God" in Yhwach's words, but a "God" nonetheless. I find it to be an interesting contrast to Hachigen and Barragan's fight, since Barragan declared himself to be the "God of Hueco Mundo", but Hachigen is the one who said there are no beings in Soul Society who bear the title "God" outside of the Shinigami themselves.
I also recollect Shutara stating that Aizen's goal was to "become God" by killing the Soul King. So while Hachigen states there no being in Soul Society with the title "God" other than Shinigami, it seems that the Soul King is seen by a number of people as a "God". Given how Ichibei described the Soul King, it is not surprising how he would be seen as "God", since he seems to be the one who maintains the existence of all the worlds. The question is whether or not this is truth, since Yhwach seems to have no issues with killing the Soul King...Unless he intends to take the place of the Soul King as "God" of the world.
Another thing that has been clarified from the last chapter is that the Soul King does indeed possess the power to see the future, just as his son does. It makes one wonder if his ability to see into the future could relate to whatever interest he was stated to have in Ichigo.
The Chrysalis of the Soul King
One thing I must bring up is the Soul King's chrysalis. While the chrysalis has a dull colouring through which you can see the Soul King's figure in this chapter, I recall that the chrysalis looked like this in chapter 519:
In chapter 519, you could only make out the silhouette of the Soul King and it seemed to be glowing white, and there were starburst shapes around the Soul King's when we got the close-up of his eyes. In that chapter, we saw one of his retainers ask if he had awakened, so it is entirely possible that the chrysalis looked like that because the Soul King was awake, while it has a dull colouring now because he is asleep.
All that said, this scene also shows clearly why the Soul King needs a Royal Guard - perhaps, while he is maintaining the existence of all the worlds, the Soul King is entirely powerless to defend himself. As Yhwach stated, he cannot even move from his chrysalis, so he needs a group of powerful individuals to defend himself from any possible intruders.
I do not think that the Soul King's death is certain at this point, because there are a number a things we do not yet know: 1) what made Aizen want to kill him; 2) his interest in Ichigo; 3) his relationship with Yhwach.
I guess we will just have to see what goes on in the next chapter.
Reunion of Comrades
For now, we cut back down to the Seireitei as we see Rukia and Renji meeting up with Shinji at the place where the 12th Division (and Urahara) is currently sequestered. As Renji comments on Shinji's wounds and the latter brushes them off, Omaeda interrupts them, and goes on a brief rant at Renji and Rukia about how "they" (which means Shinji) were able to fend off Bazz-B's attack with "their" (Shinji's) Zanpakuto power.
It is clear from Omaeda's behaviour during this rant that he's heaping all praise on Shinji for saving his lovely little body from becoming lava-cooked pork and bacon. It is also clear that it was Shinji who saved them all because the drawing effect in the flash-back panels is similar to such an effect seen on Shinji when he used Sakanade against Bambietta, which likely means Bazz-B was under the effects of Sakanade when he attacked but didn't know it.
While Renji takes Omaeda's behaviour in stride, he asks why Omaeda brought his little sister along. At this Omaeda starts off on another angry response, only to be interrupted by Sui Feng, who explains that Mareyo and her wounds have only now just healed thanks to Hinamori, who greets both Rukia and Renji happily, and states they couldn't just leave Mareyo unattended in the midst of the battle. Renji seems quite surprised at how nice Sui Feng seems to be acting, while Rukia retorts that Sui Feng was kind to begin with.
Sui Feng then states it is time for them to go inside as Renji asks Shinji if everyone has arrived yet. Shinji does not know, although the order was for all Captains and Vice-Captains to assemble immediately, even if it means abandoning their current battles in order to do so, so he assumes everyone will be coming over shortly.
Sui Feng then opens up the door to the 12th Division HQ, but the only people present there are Urahara and Yuushiro, and Byakuya and Nanao. No clue where Ookikiba is if he's not with Nanao - (AIZEN!!! ) - but we do see that Urahara and Yuushiro have set something up.
Yuushiro then jumps down to greet everybody and Sui-Feng is practically gushing (seriously, tears are welling up in her love-stricken eyes and she's blushing like crazy) at the sight of HIM (finally got confirmation of his gender) , with Urahara telling Yuushiro to not abandon her post, Sui-Feng giving Yuushiro pocket change, while Omaeda looks on with a very annoyed face at the scene. It looks like Omaeda just got dumped for Yoruichi's baby brother .
While this is going on, Shinji inquires as to where everybody else is, to which Urahara gives us a much-needed rundown on where everybody is. Urahara explains that the 7th Division will not be joining them at this point in time because they have their own matters to attend to due to Komamura's injuries (LIES!! HE'S A FREAKIN' WOLF NOW! ). Curiously, however, their request for a medical team dispatch was denied, and we see an image of Komamura and Iba facing off with the Soldat.
This just makes the Soldat as a whole more and more suspicious by the minute. Yhwach uses Auswahlen on the Stern Ritter, the elite fighting force of the Vandenreich, but the Soldat have been left completely intact - a number of Soldat even accompanied Yhwach to the Royal Realm. What does this mean for the Soldat? Did they know what would happen to the Stern Ritter not chosen by Yhwach? Who are they? It feels like one big mystery to me. I'm almost certain at this point that these guys are all "Clones" made by a still-unseen Stern Ritter.
Urahara further explains that Kensei and Rose will be moving alongside the 12th Division, and that they will likely be coming with Mayuri eventually, since Urahara states it'd be a problem for Mayuri as well if Soul Society were to disappear. Just "a problem", Urahara? It seems that Shinji is suspicious of what Urahara just said, since it is clear that mention of their deaths and zombification would undoubtedly make Shinji very angry. In the panel showing what Mayuri is doing, I take it those would be the containers which Mayuri is storing Kensei and Rose in. What an ignoble fate.
We are also updated on the status of Zaraki, Ikkaku, Yumichika and Hisagi. All four of them are in intensive care, but it is Zaraki who is in critical condition. Good to see that Gremmy lived up to his reputation and power, since virtually all of Zaraki's major injuries were caused by Gremmy's final onslaught - particularly the ruptured internal organ. Urahara goes on to state that Kyoraku is engaged with the Central 46, but he mentions that there has been no word on Toshiro or Matsumoto.
The explicit mention of their absence means that something is going on with Toshiro and Matsumoto, and I'm now certain that Mayuri tested a different drug on Toshiro and Matsumoto than he did on Kensei and Rose. While Kensei and Rose are now under Mayuri's control, it is clear now that Mayuri did...something else to Toshiro and Matsumoto. Whatever it is, I can only imagine that it is possibly even more irredeemable than what he did to Rose and Kensei. I'm almost certain we're getting a set-up for his demise. It is only a matter of time...
It is interesting to note that Ukitake has not been mentioned yet. This either means that Kyoraku and Ukitake are hiding something, or the lack of mention simply means that Ukitake complied and is already on his way.
The Tenshiheiso, Bestowed Upon The Shihouin Clan by the Gods
With the explanations on the status of everyone out of the way (all except Isane, Yachiru and Mashiro, that is), Urahara then explains why he called them all together: they are going to break into the Soul King Palace, which shocks everyone present. As Shinji asks how that is even possible, he explains that it is possible because of the Tenshiheisou that Yuushiro brought with him, which has been set up on top of Mayuri's pedestal. While not out-right stated, the implication is still there: when all of the Captains' spiritual power is amassed together, it power up the Tenshiheisou enough to allow all the Captains to head to the Royal Realm.
It is nice to see that all the prominent Shinigami (especially Rukia and Renji) will be going up to the Royal Realm shortly as well. I was wondering why they didn't go up with Ichigo and Co earlier (aside from the fact they were in the middle of a fight with Bazz-B), but I am glad to see they will be reuniting with the Nakama as well.
But it does make me wonder what Urahara is expecting to accomplish by sending all the Captains up there. Out of all them, the only ones with even a chance at standing up to the Elite Guard are Zaraki, Kyoraku and Ukitake, Rukia and Renji, and Urahara - and even then that is only a small chance, considering the Elite Stern Ritter took out Squad Zero.
I am also wondering if Ginjo and Co and the Arrancar will be showing up as well.
But I am also thinking that things may not go according to plan...
The Mask of the Monk Slips...?
The chapter ends back in the Royal Realm, with Ichibei saying: "Sorry...Sorry...Humans. Forgive me...But you cannot win against Yhwach."
This is going off the Mangastream scan at this point in time, but it is strange that Ichibei would say this right after entrusting the protection of the Soul King to Ichigo. Given the look on his face as he says this, perhaps Yhwach really did take the Soul King's place, and now the Royal Guard will be forced to serve Yhwach as they once did the Soul King, possibly because the Ouken also binds them to the King.
That is a possibility, but I am also wondering if it has nothing to do with Ichibei's allegiances now shifting to the new "Soul King", but Ichibei's "mask" coming off. In my last review, I talked about how Ichibei's behaviour towards Ichigo was odd when compared to his behaviour when fighting Yhwach, and his statement at the end of the chapter only makes it seem much odder. We know the Soul King has an interest in Ichigo, and we know what Ichigo's true potential can be via the events of "Deicide", so it is making me ponder what Ichibei meant by his words at the end:
1) The idea that the Royal Guard are now bound to serve Yhwach, the new "Soul King". I am not entirely sure about this idea (it kind of reminds me of Tsukishima's "Book of the End"), but it is possible enough for a number of people to have already suggested it.
2) Yhwach took the Soul King's power, and that is why Ichibei said they cannot beat him. If Yhwach did do this, it means that all the power the Soul King turned towards maintaining the world's existence is now in Yhwach's possession, and a force powerful enough to maintain all of creation in Yhwach's hands would make him unbeatable. Of course, this is assuming that Ichibei was able to perceive that Yhwach did take the Soul King's power.
3) Ichibei's "mask" has slipped off, and he is "apologizing" for sending Ichigo into a trap. In regards to keeping the Soul King safe, sending Ichigo down with the Ouken's Clothing, which the Royal Guard knows will leave the barriers open for 6000 seconds, was a bad idea. While the Royal Guard did have a plan in place for trapping Yhwach and Co, we saw that didn't exactly turn out so well at the end of the day.
Then there is Ichigo. We know that the Soul King is interested in him, and one of the things we have yet to figure out right now is how Ichigo is different in regards to why he was taken up to the Royal Realm. While the Soul King is interested in Ichigo, we must also consider just how powerful Ichigo can become. With a perfect balance of "souls" inside him (Shinigami and Quincy, Hollow and Human), Ichigo became powerful enough in "Deicide" to have his power become imperceptible to someone who was already in a higher plane of power than what the Shinigami are capable of sensing.
Now, wouldn't someone like that be seen as a threat to the Soul King's existence? We know the Gotei 13 saw Ginjo as a threat, and had originally intended to use the second Shinigami Representative to lure him out, and then kill both of them. While we know that the Gotei 13 changed from what it once was and gave Ichigo the chance to prove himself, who is to say the Royal Guard is being just as kind? Even if Ichigo cannot beat Yhwach at this point in time, who is to say that they are not using the opportunity to get rid of Ichigo?
But even if this might be one of the less likely of reasons why Ichibei said what he did, I can imagine it coming up eventually if it doesn't come up. After all, the Soul King has a particular interest in Ichigo - perhaps he might want Ichigo to be his successor - so who is to say the gauntlet won't come down when Ichigo refuses to be the Soul King's successor, or if he's deemed to have become too powerful?
But at the end of the day, who knows for certain what Ichibei's final words in this chapter meant. All we know right now is that this will not be the final fight of the arc, since Ichibei's words pretty much spelt it out that Ichigo is going to be defeated at this point in time.
You really have to appreciate how Kubo is able to set up major reveals or plot-twists with just one line of dialogue, and really set a person's speculation ablaze.
This chapter not only helped us to catch up on the status of all the characters down in the Seireitei and gave us a little more information about the Soul King, but it also sets up the Shinigami of the Gotei 13 arriving in the Royal Realm to help Ichigo and Co out, and the final line by Ichibei either sets up a major reveal or a plot-twist.