It took countless clocks to crawl back
Ooze through darkness, these black sands
Inching forward, shoved constantly back
Souls screaming, my heart demands
Instantaneous beating, heart draws me back
Take back the clocks, Rewind the hands
“CERO!” Gulo’s orange mouth flapped open and a beam of light erupted past several Shinigami, scorching them alive; their screams instantly silenced. The bloated Vasto Lorde waddled across the ground. The sight alone would be humorous, had the advanced hollow not proved to be a handful with his spouting of light every few seconds.
The Shinigami forces were scattered. Byakuya and Yoruichi were tangled with fighting the King of Hollows, Leviathon, who was proving to be as slick and stealthy as Yoruichi, and just as good at avoiding attack as Captain Kuchiki. The other forces of the 6th and 8th Divisions were fighting Menos and other large hollows on the grounds. Vice Captain Iba ran towards Layla Kamaguchi, who was trying to secure a barrier around her brother, Lyall, as he fought off the Menos several hundred feet in front of her.
“Madame Kamaguchi!” Iba’s voice bellowed, his black sunglasses somehow still perched perfectly on his head.
“Vice Captain,” Layla nodded, though it was apparent all of her energy was being poured into her main task of protecting her brother.
“Divisions 9, 11, and 13 are headed this way,” He informed the noble. “I am assuming all captains will work to take care of the Menos before arriving to fight the advanced hollows here.”
“Of course,” Layla muttered, and Iba could have sworn he detected a note of sarcasm as she struggled to maintain her kido barriers, “What are you planning to do?”
“Your sister is in the care of those assisting Captain Komamura.” Iba noted, “I plan on helping you, Madame,” and this made Layla crane her head back to him. “After all, you are the sister of Leta. It is the least I can do.”
Layla seemed to consider this; Iba wasn’t a useless Shinigami. He was a Vice Captain, and one with several resources available. “Very well,” she said after a pause. “Assist me in protecting my brother and we can fight off any hollows that try to stop or break through the barrier I’m putting up to protect our Shinigami!” She held up her hands to show where she was creating Kido barriers to stop the Menos from attacking them. Iba nodded,
“I’ll try to fight off the Menos at the edges of your barriers, then,” and with that he leapt to the nearest one and started waging war against a smaller menos firing low-level ceros at her Kido shield.
Meanwhile, Ichigo was trying to figure out a way he could trick Grimmjow or at the very least stall him. The feline hollow was much stronger than him at this point, there was no denying that now that Grimmjow was a Vasto Lorde. Ichigo’s shikai was in order, but with no Bankai, he was a sitting duck...and an obvious one with a head full of orange hair.
The hollowfied creature took another strike at Ichigo and barely missed him, threads of his orange hair sliced neatly in the air. Ichigo had only his speed benefitting him at this point. And he was bound and determined to keep as much space between him and Grimmjow as possible.
“Kurosaki!” Grimmjow spat, growing more and more angry at Ichigo’s dodges, “Stop moving for ten seconds and fight me! Where’s your pride?” He growled.
“It’s somewhere back in Karakura town, probably,” Ichigo replied, “Alongside my Bankai most likely.” He hated this sense of powerlessness. Every inch of his being wanted to lunge at Grimmjow and give exactly what he wanted, but the “shred of brains” his sister Karin joked he had kept reminding him what a terrible idea that was. If only I could use Grimmjow to help us right now…”It’s also a little distracting with all of these Menos attacking everyone,” Ichigo taunted, noticing Grimmjow’s eyes flicker back and forth along the battlefield that the Soul Society had become. “It would be nice to have them all out of the way; then we could fight without me hesitating.” Ichigo held his breath and waited for his adversary’s response.
Grimmjow seemed to consider Ichigo’s words; his eyes glanced at the fight surrounding them. Then he let out a bold laugh, “Nice try, Kurosaki! You’re just a coward; afraid to fight me now that I’m stronger than you!” The cat’s eyes narrowed and gleamed, “Well, isn’t that too bad. I’m not showing you any mercy, Shinigami!” He started to race towards Ichigo again.
Damn, Ichigo thought, almost sighing to himself as he jumped away from Grimmjow as far as he could, Almost had him.
While Ichigo was struggling to keep Grimmjow at bay, Yoruichi and Byakuya were having the opposite problem. Leviathon, his spidery arms and legs jutting to and fro, was proving to be a hard target to keep locked onto.
Leviathon’s right sleeve was completely torn off of his outfit, thanks to Yoruichi’s lightning attack. The arm was revealed to be skeletal to match the rest of his body. Byakuya waved an arm and a flurry of pink petal blades assaulted the Vasto Lorde. But the Hollow King was able to stretch and bend his limbs to escape the blade’s clutches as he ducked lower, meeting with Yoruichi, whose Shunko was charged and ready.
“Here!” Yoruichi sent a blast that ripped through the Hollow’s side. Leviathon let out a roar of anger and pain as the lightning attack echoed across his bones. The blast sent him flying below Yoruichi, who was being met with Byakuya above her.
“That was far from destroying him,” She let out an exasperated sigh. “If anything, I just made him angrier.”
“We need to end this Vasto Lorde as soon as possible, “Byakuya noted with a steely ring in his voice, “The moment we cut off the snake’s head, these lesser menos will fall--”
A red blast barely missed the feline femme and the Captain Kuchiki, as they separated in time to dodge the Cero from below. They looked down to see the bony Hollow rising in the air to catch up to them. The sinowy fingers grasping cloth and tearing the shreds of his upper coat away. Leviathon now looked like a skeleton with black slacks on and pieces of black cloth clinging to his ribs. His red eyes glowed menacingly from within the skull perched between his shoulders.
“Fools,” He hissed at Yoruichi and Byakuya, both on their guard, “You cannot cut this ‘snake’s’ head off! Your wasting your time before your imminent demise!”
“Do you ever shut up?” Yoruichi thrust her arm forward, sending another Shunko blast at the Hollow King. But this time, he dodged it quite easily, landing in front of Yoruichi in time to smack her backwards.
The Hollow roared, “I am the King Leviathon! King of the Hollows! Son of Barragan and heir to his throne in Hueco Mundo!” Byakuya had sent a wave of blades at Leviathon, but he swatted them away with his white bone arm. “No Shinigami on this plane or any other has the power to destroy me! I am--”
The moment was cut short as a red blast flew towards Leviathon. The Vasto Lorde dodged the beam, which continued on several hundred feet before crashing into a herd of Menos and destroying them.
The Hollow King wheezed as he looked to find the origin of the Cero. His red eyes widened as he finally traced its location above him.
It was a large white hollow worm with a rounded mask and several horns jutting from its front. Atop the worm stood an Adjuchas with flowing teal hair and a white battle suit similar to those worn in the days of Aizen Sosuke’s reign over Hueco Mundo. A human with caramel hair stood next to her, of similar frame and build.
But it was the three standing at the front of the Hollow worm, in front of those two, that made Leviathon let out a roar of fury.
Toshiro Hitsugaya, his haori flapping in the wind as they descended, stood next to Karin Kurosaki, her black battle suit dirty from their ride through the desert and Dangai. Both had intensely determined looks on their faces.
And then there was the figure behind them.
The Vasto Lorde’s athletic, toned legs were longer than Captain Hitsugaya was tall. The skin of the hollow was a creamy pink, covered in golden and crimson armor, with long flowing red hair that cascaded in waves to the creature’s ankles. The Vasto Lorde was almost all legs, a short torso with a subtle chest to barely prove it was feminine and then a white mask with long, twisting white horns extending horizontally from either side of it. The Vasto Lorde’s glowing eyes were boring into Leviathon with an expression that could only be described as: finally.
“Rosemerta Unoumbria,” Leviathon hissed after a moment’s pause, disgust lacing each syllable.
The Vasto Lorde’s cherry lips were all that was visible under the mask that covered the creature’s nose and eyes and the rest of its head. “Oh ho,” she hissed back, “Did you miss me?”
Rosemerta leapt from the hollow worm’s back and flew towards Leviathon, grabbing his head and tossing him backwards like a rag doll. She bounded to catch up with the Hollow King as Yoruichi and Byakuya met up with Karin and the others.
“Karin!” Yoruichi’s face spread into a cheshire grin, “Glad to see you alive and well!”
“Thanks,” Karin smiled back, and then looked at Byakuya, “Captain Kuchiki,” She bowed her head slightly.
Byakuya gave her a stern glance, then looked to Toshiro, “What is the meaning of this? Who is that hollow and why was she with you?” His eyes suddenly darted to Orihime and Nelliel, “Why are they with you?”
“That hollow is a Vasto Lorde,” Nelliel gave Byakuya a stern look, crossing her arms at her chest, her cheeks puffed out. “Treat her with some respe--”
But Orihime had already pressed herself in between Nelliel and Byakuya, giving a very nervous glance at the two of them. “Nel! Be nice!” She gave a highly unamused Captain Kuchiki an anxious grin, “That hollow is on our side!” Orihime glanced at Nel, “They both are!”
“Captain Kuchiki,” Karin boldly stepped forward on Bawabawa, her eyes fixed on the tall stoic Shinigami, “That Vasto Lorde was alongside another that saved my life.” She noticed the eyes of both Yoruichi and Byakuya widen slightly, Yoruichi’s eyebrow raised curiously. “Leviathon is responsible for her partner’s death, so she is all too willing to help us now to stop him.”
Yoruichi seemed to be mulling this information over in her head. Byakuya, though he seemed to be doing the same, seemed less than convinced. “And how do we know she won’t ravage the Soul Society once she’s ‘put an end’,” he mocked the young human-turned-Shinigami, “to this Vasto Lorde, Leviathon?”
“Because she gave me her word and I believe in it,” Karin replied, her voice taking a defensive note, “Yes, she’s a hollow, and yes, hollows are the enemies of Shinigami, but there are some times in which both sides fight towards a common good. Stopping Leviathon is that common good, for both the hollows and us,” Karin could see Leviathon and Rosemerta firing Ceros at each other in the distance, “If she doesn’t keep her word, fine, I’ll deal with that later. Right now, we have to stop a horde of Menos from invading the Soul Society and protect those we care about! I think that takes precedence over everything else right now!”
Yoruichi looked proud at Karin and her speech, but Byakuya seemed barely convinced. He glanced with a long stare from Karin to Nelliel, “And this one?” He finally asked.
“Nelliel fought alongside my brother during Aizen’s siege,” Karin motioned towards the teal-haired hollow, whom Orihime was holding back. “She fights for the sake of justice, not just Shinigami or Hollows.”
There was a tense moment of silence; the sounds of Ceros firing and Shinigami screaming surrounded them. Finally, Byakuya sighed and closed his eyes, turning away from the group:
“Hollows having a sense of justice, keeping promises and honor; defending Shinigami…perhaps Captain Kurotsuchi would have been better off dissecting the lot of you.” He turned and eyed them all, “But then, where would the honor in that be? So be it,” He sighed, “Let’s end this swiftly.”
With that he flew down to help his fellow Division members fight off a pack of Menos that were assaulting them. Karin’s face broke into a sly smirk, “Did I just persuade Captain Kuchiki?”
Yoruichi was quick beside her, the tan skin close to Karin’s cheek, “Don’t ever let him think you know that,” She flashed a broad toothy grin and then followed Byakuya’s move and went below to help with the ground assault, bouncing and shooting Shunko blasts at Menos.
Orihime put some space between her and Nelliel, who was looking around the battle sight anxiously, “Where should I go? I don’t want to be attacked by the Shinigami on accident!” Her eyes were scanning the field, similarly to Orihime beside her, “Where’s Ichigo?”
“Trigger said Grimmjow came here first,” Karin responded, looking slightly apprehensive, “Probably with him.”
“That’s not good,” Orihime’s eyes were now drooping with worry, “Grimmjow will be fighting Ichigo, and neither of them will be able to help stop the Menos or Leviathon.”
“Not that Ichigo can help that much at the moment,” Toshiro added, his eyes scanning the ground below and then rising to meet Karin’s, “What’s your move?”
“You mean who do we fight first?” Karin’s dark blue eyes met Toshiro’s.
“You did just persuade a Captain to fight alongside a pair of Hollows,” Toshiro’s face let out a small ghost of a smile, “I assumed you had wise advice in this arena as well.”
Karin matched his smirk with one of her own, “Now, now, I’m doing good to not let that go to my head.”
“I think I’m going to head down to the actual ground level,” Orihime pointed to where Layla was; her tiny figure could barely be seen, “That Shinigami looks like they’re creating barriers with Kido; I could help her and start healing any of the wounded.”
“I’ll go with you,” Nelliel nodded, “I can help keep the Menos off of you while you heal everyone.”
“I’m going to find Ichigo,” Karin finally gave her input, causing the three to swerve their heads toward her. Karin shrugged, unaffected by their confusion, “If Grimmjow’s with him, I might be able to get him to listen to reason.”
“You?” Toshiro eyed her suspiciously, “Get Grimmjow Jaegerjaques to reason?”
“Worked with Captain Kuchiki,” Karin shrugged again, “I don’t see why it wouldn’t this time.”
“Those are two very different beasts,” Toshiro’s face was full of concern, “I thought we weren’t letting this go to our head--”
“It’s not that,” Karin frowned, “Trust me, I have a plan. But,” Her eyes settled on Toshiro, “I need you to do something for me.”
Toshiro blinked, “What? Me?”
“Yes,” Karin smiled, and Captain Hitsugaya could see a mischievous twinkling in her eyes; one he knew from years of experience being around Rangiku could only mean one thing: Trouble.