I better get back on track with these things.
The Unceasing Miracles
Continuing off from the last chapter, Byakuya assaults Gerard with Ikkasen Jinka, completely obliterating Gerard's head (there isn't even an icy mist left), and losing his head causes Gerard's frozen body to fall apart leaving only his legs intact. Meanwhile, Toshiro is about to collapse from exhaustion from using his Bankai, leaving Byakuya to support his junior Captain.
It really does seem that Byakuya is taking the role of a mentor or senior towards his younger companion, and it is a side of him we've rarely seen before. He has shown a stronger relationship with Renji, and we know how much he values Rukia as his sister, but this is one of the few times where we see him interact with a Captain whom he isn't in a polarizing relationship with (said Captain being Zaraki).
Either way, it is clear now that Toshiro having been aged into an adult and using the true power of Daiguren Hyorinmaru has taken quite a toll on Toshiro's body, to the extent that he's barely holding it together.
...But miracles do not stop for the weary, as what I was concerned about before the chapter came out comes to fruition: "The Miracle" recreates Gerard's body. Based on the panels, it looks like reishi is being pulled from the surroundings to recreate Gerard's body in a new form, but it could just as easily be the power emanating from Gerard's new form that is falling to the ground.
Either way, I was still as surprised as Toshiro by this. Before the chapter came out, I speculated that Byakuya's Ikkasen Jinka wouldn't kill Gerard because he only aimed for Gerard's head, whereas Gerard is the Heart of the Soul King. As a result, I figured that destroying Gerard's heart would be the only way to kill him. However, that seems to be false, because Gerard's body collapsed shortly after Ikkasen Jinka obliterated his head, and Gerard recreated himself FROM HIS LEGS. We know Gerard is the Heart of the Soul King, but I'm almost tempted to think that Gerard took the Soul King's legs with him when the Soul King was dismembered.
The Power of God
While some people would be annoyed by this, I see this as fitting with the overall theme of the original three Schutzstaffel so far. While Lille was the only normal Quincy among the trio, all three of them possess the power of a God - Pernida and Gerard are aspects of the Soul King, while Yhwach's Schrift made Lille into one in his Vollstandig. A common theme among these possessors of the power of God is their insane survivability; Pernida's "Progression" allows him to regenerate from being blown apart (only cancerous cells seemingly killed him for good); Lille Barro possesses intangibility, and was able to regenerate into a more powerful form after his head was blown off; "The Miracle" has allowed Gerard to recover from virtually everything the Shinigami have thrown at him, and he keeps on becoming more powerful with each recovery.
If there is something that the three of them collectively remind me of as well, it would be Aizen in "Deicide". He fused with the Hogyoku back then, and we saw that inflicting injury upon him after the Chrysalis stage led to Aizen evolving further and further in power in response to the injuries. When Gin "killed" him, he evolved into his Seraph form, attaining a form and power "transcending both Shinigami and Hollow"; when Ichigo struck him, his subsequent anger caused yet another transformation and increase in power.
In a sense, Aizen was all three of the Schutzstaffel rolled up into one: regeneration from any injury, no matter how severe (Pernida), the power of teleportation (Lille displayed this in Vollstandig), and he progressively became stronger with each injury he recovered from (Gerard). This is not counting the Hogyoku's ability to "manifest the heart's desire", a very similar trait also shared by Gerard's "The Miracle": everything "The Miracle" has allowed Gerard to do was in response to the emotions of his adversaries.
I suppose that explains how Gerard was able to regenerate from just his legs: freezing and shattering Gerard was a last-ditch effort on Byakuya and Toshiro's part, so there was likely a tangible fear in both of their hearts that it would not work. "The Miracle" took advantage of that, and recreated Gerard as a colossus of light.
Frankly, the "Miracle" in this circumstance would be one that would take Gerard down for good. He's gotten so powerful with this power that I'm shocked he hasn't broken the boundary of Transcendence yet. But we can't focus on Gerard right now, because there are other threads of plot to attend to.
A Wonderful Dream Can Be a Nightmare
One of them being Yhwach's dream.
Now this is the strangest part of the chapter. In Yhwach's dream, Ichigo is before him and cuts him down, but this is Ichigo as he appeared in the Soul Society arc and the Arrancar Saga when "Quincy Zangetsu" was still posing as his Shinigami powers. Moreover, if you look closely at Yhwach in this sequence, his face is that of his current self, but his hair is as short as it was 1000 years ago, and as short as "Quincy Zangetsu's" hair. On top of that, Yhwach seemed happy he had such a dream, with one of the scariest smiles I've seen in Bleach to date.
Given dreams are considered to have some form of symbolism, there are many ways to interpret what we saw.
One possibility is that Yhwach dreamed of some form of the future to come. After all, we see a panel that almost exactly mirrors the dream later on in the chapter, but the question is why Yhwach would dream of himself and Ichigo in appearances akin to their younger selves in the present.
Another possibility that has been entertained is the idea that Yhwach dreamed of another timeline, an aspect of "The Almighty" not linked to its regular use. How would this be an alternate time-line? Consider, for a moment, if Ichigo had not met Rukia, had not been given Shinigami powers by her. Perhaps, in an alternate time-line, Yhwach was the one who took in Ichigo and was the one to awaken Ichigo's potential, since we know he has a vested interest in Ichigo. Because Yhwach awakening Ichigo's potential would be based on Quincy powers, the appearance Zangetsu takes would be its original form, when "Quincy Zangetsu" was in control. But, as the dream entails, this alternate Ichigo eventually rebelled against Yhwach for killing his mother, and cuts him down in cold blood.
But there is a third possibility, and one that I have been concerned about for a while: the dream is symbolic of Ichigo rejecting his Quincy side. That is why Ichigo is seen with his original Zangetsu, and why Yhwach was a mix of his current self and his past self: Yhwach in the dream represents "Quincy Zangetsu", and Ichigo striking Yhwach down is Ichigo subconsciously rejecting his Quincy powers.
I say this because Ichigo has not once drawn "Quincy Zangetsu" in battle ever since he cut down the Soul King. He used both Zangetsu against Bambietta's group of Stern Ritter, but he only drew Hollow Zangetsu when attacking Yhwach after he was made to kill the Soul King, when Grimmjow appeared and started picking a fight, when he confronted Askin, and when he came across Uryu.
That is four times Ichigo has not drawn Quincy Zangetsu since he killed the Soul King. Ichigo may have claimed that it doesn't matter if Yhwach's blood flows in his veins, but his subconscious refusal to use Quincy Zangetsu points towards him rejecting his Quincy side, and Quincy Zangetsu as a result. It is a really tragic down-turn for Ichigo after "The Blade is Me", and I think that is why Yhwach was so happy at the dream: without Quincy Zangetsu, Ichigo will be completely incapable of fighting evenly with Yhwach.
An Opponent to Not Make Mistakes Against
Since it is morning and Yhwach as woken up, "The Almighty" has returned to him and Haschwalth once again possesses his own power.
Now, this confuses me a bit. We know Bazz-B commented on night falling when he was confronting Haschwalth, and that was forty chapters ago. Now it is back to day, which means the second night passed while all the battles have taken place. What confuses me is how fast the morning seemed to come (even Yhwach and Haschwalth were surprised it was already morning), especially when Ichigo had only arrived in Soul Society in the early morning of the previous day.
Kubo really needs to work on how his time frames work at this moment.
Either way, Uryu isn't doing so well, as he's bloodied and bruised while Haschwalth doesn't have a scratch on him. This was to be expected, given Haschwalth had "The Almighty" throughout their fight, but I also suspect that this scene is also a portent of what Ichigo will suffer at the hands of Yhwach. Haschwalth even calls Uryu a beaten animal drenched in blood. But Uryu simply takes it as a compliment, since animals are brave, courageous, and without ill-intent in his mind.
Here is where I find something rather curious. Haschwalth claims it was a miscalculation to try to kill Uryu during the night, because Haschwalth's natural ability is more suited to combat than Yhwach's "Almighty", especially against someone (Uryu) he shouldn't be making mistakes against, and prepares an attack that looks eerily similar to Getsuga Juujisho.
I say again: Haschwalth says his own power is more suited to combat than "The Almighty". "The Almighty", a precognitive power that allows the user to see the future, "know" every power they "see", make that power their ally, and become unable to be killed or harmed by said abilities, yet Haschwalth's "The Balance" is more suited to combat than it.
While the idea is hard to grasp, I can see where it comes from. When Haschwalth's blade was stopped by "The Iron", "The Balance" caused the scales "to tip", and he proceeded to cut straight through "The Iron". The implication is that "The Balance" is an ability that allows Haschwalth to redress any "imbalances" against himself in combat, and tip the scales back in his favor. In other words, a reactive counter/nullification of an opponent's abilities and power.
On the other hand, when you look at the above, "The Almighty" is, ironically enough, a defensive ability.Precognition and power immunity are the central elements of "The Almighty"; the ability he used to consume the power of Mimihagi and the Soul King, and his concussive blasts, are extensions of Yhwach's own power, rather than the actual power of the eyes of "The Almighty", even if they are powers he can only use when his eyes are open.
So, while Haschwalth and Yhwach are both Quincy with the ability to "share power with others", it appears their unique abilities apparently contrast with one another: "The Almighty" is the ultimate defensive ability, whereas "The Balance" is an offensive ability.
While Uryu has most likely been holding something back (he was given the Schrift "A", after all), I have a feeling that "The Balance" may give Uryu more trouble even if he uses whatever his Schrift turns out to be.
To end off the chapter, Ichigo and Inoue finally arrive at the doors to Yhwach's throne room, where they sense Yhwach's power from within (yet another point that demonstrates Yhwach is still not at the level of power we saw in "Deicide", IMO). Ichigo says that 2-on-1 would be unfair, so he leaves Inoue in charge of defense and tells her to not let him down. Predictably, Inoue is elated that Ichigo said this to her, as she flash-backs to previous moments in the past, and thinks about how she'll finally be able to fight alongside and protect Ichigo. They open the door, and Yhwach is there waiting for them, calling Ichigo is "child of darkness".
As the header for this section should tell, I do not believe that this will go well. Ichigo has already tried to take on Yhwach twice before, and both times he wasn't able to do much to Yhwach. Particularly the second time, since Ichigo actually managed to burn Yhwach's arm with a Getsuga blast the first time they fought, and that was when he was tired from trying to break out of Quilge's "Jail".
The second time around, a Getsuga Tenshou from Ichigo's true Zangetsu didn't so much as put a scratch on Yhwach, who at that time possessed "The Almighty". Now, Ichigo hasn't grown stronger than he was in their second confrontation, whereas Yhwach now possesses the power of the Soul King, a power which holds the three worlds together. If Ichigo doesn't draw Quincy Zangetsu when he goes to fight Yhwach in the next chapter, that will confirm what I mentioned earlier, and essentially seal Ichigo's defeat.
In regards to Inoue...I am genuinely sorry to say this, but she does not stand a chance in this fight. Not just from an offensive standpoint, but even from the standpoint of defense. Ichigo doesn't know Yhwach's "The Almighty" allows him immunity to any power he has seen and "knows", and Yhwach has already seen Inoue's Rikka (and has likely already seen the rest of the shields in the future). Given what he did to Ichibei's seal after their battle, "The Almighty" likely extends to defensive abilities just as much as offensive abilities. As a result, Yhwach would most likely easily shatter any shields she puts up to protect Ichigo with contemptible ease.
Even not considering that, a lot of people I have seen here and elsewhere have seen death flags for Inoue after her reminiscence of the times she couldn't protect and fight alongside Ichigo, or have at least commented that something will happen that will keep her from being able to fight alongside and protect Ichigo.
Do I believe that Inoue may die in this battle? While I do understand the impact her dying at this point would have on her friends, I have to say no. No, because this is not the final battle of the series; no, because there are still some loose ends in regards to her character (none of them to do with any theories regarding her being connected to the Soul King, since I don't believe any of those); no, because death would be a mercy in these circumstances.
Why do I say a mercy? Because when a character dies, that is the end of their character development in the main story, with any remaining chances to expand on their character taking place in flash-backs. If Inoue were to die, it would be in an act of protecting Ichigo, and that would be a wrap on her character development...
If that was all there was left to her character. We still have that business with the Hogyoku that I'm begging for resolution to (if only Kubo can shut down that line of discussion permanently), and there is at least one other thing I want to see addressed, but I won't get into that in the review.
But here is where I say death would be a mercy in this case: because of how powerful Yhwach is and what abilities he possesses, Inoue's resolution to fight alongside and protect Ichigo in battle is likely going to fail. Even if the only thing she can do is heal Ichigo's injuries, she can't do that fast enough in the middle of a fight against someone like Yhwach, and none of her shields would likely be able to deter him in any shape or form, since I doubt he'd allow Inoue the chance to heal Ichigo at all.
In other words, Inoue will have to bear the fact that she failed to fight alongside or protect Ichigo in the one moment where Ichigo trusted her specifically to fight alongside him. That is going to hurt a lot more than anything that has happened before.
While I fear the occurrence of "The Lust 2.0", I am afraid that may be what happens here. While I can appreciate the fact that Ichigo is more trusting of his Nakama to fight alongside him (a major of his in the Arrancar Saga), this isn't exactly the best of times or opponents to do so.
As I said earlier, Uryu couldn't lay a scratch on Haschwalth when the latter possessed "The Almighty"; now that Ichigo is fighting Yhwach himself, who has also absorbed the power of the Soul King, while Ichigo may be subconsciously rejecting his Quincy powers...Things are not going to be pretty.