Disclaimer: I do NOT own bleach, Tite Kubo is not my name and I hope it never will be.
Tendrils of terror clearly radiated from the previous segunda espada, the other arrancar just stood stunned in place along with the present shinigami as they all stared at the imposing figure before them; the bone chilling form that brought goose bumps forth with the bull-like horns and pale white skin, the unfocused brown eyes that looked like that of a dead man but this person, this being was anything but dead, he was very much alive and that terrorized those present even if they were somewhat able to recognize the newcomer.
The cuarto espada hanging limply under a pale white arm did nothing to ease the self-imposed king of hueco mundo, it did nothing to appease the terror that kept on bubbling up; and it obviously did not relax the orange head's comrades because he looked unforgiving and aloof of everything.
"Barragan Louisenbairn…. You don't change do you?"
"What… do you mean….?"
The sudden smirk that graced the pale white features only made the goose bumps increase, the unease and uncertainty just seemed to elevate to new levels and make the powerful Segundo want to submit and fall to his knees because this being looked as if he knew every single thing about him while he knew nothing.
"Always hiding like a coward behind an innocent. How far the mighty have fallen."
"C-COWARD YOU SAY! HOW DARE YOU! I AM YOU'RE KING ARRANCAR YOU MUST-!"
The sudden pressure on his shoulders made him stop as he looked once more into the others face, all hint of amusement gone as he only had a cold gaze.
"You take me as an arrancar? Well that's fine by me but a coward is still a coward, past present and future… always…"
The Segundo was gas ping now, feeling a sudden fear that he had not felt before fall completely on his shoulders and he was rather sure that it was not reiatsu it was something completely foreign… it was sheer presence.
All of a sudden a groan came from the limp figure of an arrancar everyone had taken for dead. The orange head glanced down to look at the raven head and shifted his arm to get a better grip since he had started to move and might fall if the movements continued. The cuarto moved once more and this time lifted his head to send a cold glare to the other, gaining nothing in response since they were both kinda similar when it came to cold stares.
"Did you have to carry me all the way down?"
"Well we didn't exactly have time and you're still not regenerated enough to go at my speed so yeah, I did have to carry you."
Upon hearing the other complain Ichigo could hardly suppress the smile that threatened to show on his face, completely eradicating the previous aloof demeanor that had Barragan subdued and everyone else in a trance.
"Oh really? I beg to differ… can you stand now?"
Ulquiorra gave a roll of his eyes upon hearing the slight concern in the orange heads tone but said nothing of it, only sparing him a court nod so that he would know that it was okay to let go and also let him concentrate on the only espada left of the resistance.
As Ichigo placed the cuarto down he turned to look at the still tied fraction of the tercera espada, giving them the kindest smile he could muster while in his current menacing form to put them at ease before kneeling by their side while completely ignoring the rising rage of the segunda and the obvious nerves that were radiating from his comrades.
"Don't worry, everything will end soon."
The next thing that occurred was too fast for anyone to even realize what had. The three espada –and ex espada- along with the two shinigami captains all widened in eyes as Nel yelled to warn the orange head of the upcoming danger that came from behind. They were all frightened for Ichigo and the fraction along with the cuarto espada seeing as the segunda was no longer restrained by fear and was charging an attack, ready to eradicate the five of them and being very close to doing so only for the attack to collide with thin air.
Barragan, completely surprised turned to look behind him to see where his pary ahd gone to, coming to a complete halt as he shuddered from the bone chilling voice that was heard from his side, so close by he quickly turned to make sure no attack came his way but at the same time too far for it to have been a whisper since he heard it loud and clear.
"Coward. I told you didn't I? Attacking the enemy from behind; if that's not a coward than there must be something rather off here."
Barragan quickly turned his gaze back towards the group of three arrancar and two shinigami, seeing that four had been added to the team and the only one out of his sight just so happened to be the most dangerous one.
He tightened his grip on the bundle that he was still carrying, causing a low and muffled whimper to escape his hostage as he tried to look around for the orange head, fear and apprehension quite obvious in his stance and posture, his bones almost shacking from the terror he felt in the inside which was hidden beneath rage.
"HOW DARE YOU CALL ME A COWARD?! I AM THE KING OF HUECO MUNDO AND YOU SHALL ALL BOW DOWN TO ME!"
The only response he gained was a sudden and very much impossible to dodge, punch square on his skull, sending him flying all the way back into the throne room, leaving everyone wondering what the hell had happened while turning from the place where the king of hueco mundo stood to where Ichigo was standing next to them since the only thing they had been able to distinguish was an orange blur.
"What the hell just happened?"
The one that actually voiced out everyone's thoughts was in fact Stark that was still quite worried for his still captured fraction even if he knew that the attack wouldn't have harmed her since Barragan had taken the full impact but was still apprehensive and wanting more than anything to get his other half back at his side.
"Well that was gemelos sonido. I think you two might know it from the now dead septima espada but who knows, you espada were always so stiff around each other."
The two espada seemed taken aback by the newfound information, knowing what gemelos sonido was even if Zommari was never someone social or that boosted about their skills but being a high ranking espada had its advantages.
Hallibel had already gone to untie her fraction along with Nel's help so that the rest could stay alert waiting for a certain coward to come out and play. Ulquiorra which everyone had thought was dead up until now was standing as aloof as always while Kyōraku and Stark were relaxed but very much paying attention.
Ichigo on the other hand had closed his eyes and was stretching out his senses to make out their current situation; happy to sense that all the fighting was over and that some of them were even making their way towards them –everyone except Kenpachi that was still pretty far off.
"He's not coming out."
"No… he's planning something. I'm sure of it."
Soifon turned to look at their commander –even if she didn't really recognize him as such- and couldn't help but feel disgust for the hollow appearance Ichigo had even if he was still wearing the 5th squad haori. She just couldn't get used to the idea of having a hollow in the ranks even if said hollow saved them from a great war. She tried to push her feelings aside and gave a neutral expression, wanting to gain some answers as to what he had meant.
"Why do you think he's planning?"
Ichigo on the other hand still had his eyes closed as he concentrated on the flicker of reiatsu in the building, following every single thing he felt and trying to decipher Barragan's intentions.
"He's moving in there."
As the orange head said this everyone was now looking at him, even the impassive cuarto held a shimmer of newfound curiosity as Ichigo's eyes opened once more to reveal gold against black, his white skin and menacing hollow, bull-like horns disappearing and returning to his normal state with the exception of his eyes that looked hollower than before.
"Ichigo-kun? I think now is not a good time to drop your transformation."
Upon being called he turned to look at the 8th squad captain, understanding his apprehension but not being able to do anything to ease it as he was only able to give a small understanding smile.
"I can't really maintain it too long. It'll only deplete my reiatsu reserves if I keep it on, but don't worry I still have access to my hollow side only weaker."
All of a sudden the sound of flash step was heard behind them, signaling the arrival of their comrades but at the same time distracting them from their current situation as they really weren't expecting what happened next.
"Don't look away shinigami."
The sudden appearance was all but expected for some and completely surprising for others as Kyōraku was more than ready to make the segunda back away with a blast of kido without incantation to give them a moment to breathe and get everything back in control. The bastard had been waiting for the perfect distraction and he had moved when he had found it.
"Shit. Where is he now?"
The next thing everyone noticed was the still form of the skeleton like figure, finally being able to see the crack on his right had increased and was now missing a big part of said side.
"Ichigo, how hard did you hit him?"
"Well Nel remember I had my hierro at full force when I punched him so I'm guessing somewhere around very hard."
The answer honestly made all those present sweat drop and turn to look at their leader, thinking that it was a very vague answer and wanting to question –for some not for the first time- their commander.
"O… kay… that was an accurate answer."
The new and unfamiliar voice –to some- startled them and made those present turn and look in the direction where the raspy and a little strained voice came from, finding it rather hilarious to see the previous 10th squad captain carrying the mighty sexta espada and apparently being rather comfy as if they were all buddy buddy.
"And you were burnt to a crisp by goat face's getsuga tenshou so shut up."
This only made Grimmjow glare at the orange head, not being able to do anything else as he could barely stand as is. But as soon as their attention was brought to the newcomers it was gone as Stark decided to growl at Barragan's form that was once more coming out of the smoke all calm and collected which looked weird since he was pissed off mere minutes ago.
Upon hearing the rather hostile noise radiating from the primera Barragan couldn't help but laugh, enjoying the leash he had on the powerful espada and not feeling threatened at all.
"You're fraction? Well she's rather comfortable inside of a barrier I made using respira. I could no longer afford to leave my defenses down and was in need of my senescencia (1)."
This made those present widen in eyes as they actually knew of Barragan's ability thanks to Ichigo's report. His respira being the purple miasma he uses to age and eventually kill that around him at long range and his senescencia being his defenses as anything close by or anything that makes contact with him also ages.
Ichigo –and those calmest in the current situation- tried to keep their defenses up while searching for the purple barrier the fraction was most likely trapped in, only to be spotted in between the rubble and not that far away.
"Any false move and she dies remember? She is the only restrain I have left and I will use it!"
The new variable made those still able to fight tense. Nobody wanting to risk moving and making the fraction die and at the same time not wanting to stay still and do nothing or else the mission would have been for naught and nothing would have been able to be done.
"If any of you are alive it's because I've let you live until now but that ends. She moves, she dies, anyone else gets near they die as well so don't even try. I-"
That was all he got to say before an orange blur passed right by him, passing completely his defenses and not being able to do a thing as his eyes followed the after image of what he suspected to be the 5th squad captain, only widening in eyes as he saw his destination and not being able to believe he would be as stupid as to approach his respira when he had just gave out a warning.
Everyone else was also surprised at this, barely even having time to yell out Ichigo's name in fear for his most probable death, wanting more than anything to follow behind but knowing the segunda would do anything to stop them since it was apparent that Barragan would let Ichigo get to the barrier to teach the rest a lesson –if his sudden smirk was anything to go by- but what surprised everyone was the sudden bala that Ichigo fired at the side of the purple miasma and how he suddenly reached in through the small whole that he had created; surely getting in touch with the miasma but looking as if it were not of his concern.
As Ichigo reached inside he was able to grab the still tied fraction and pull her out without letting her touch the segunda's technique even if he didn't have the same luck, quickly turning back to his awaiting comrades as he dodged the miasma that had started to go after him and arriving just in time with the rest to be protected inside a barrier that the newly arrived 6th squad captain placed.
"Ichigo, are you alright?!"
"I'm alright just… wait a second."
The orange head shifted the arrancar in his arm to pass her to the awaiting primera, earning himself a thanks before glancing to look at the barrier and then back at Byakuya.
"That barrier won't last long. It will rot away any minute now."
"At least it'll earn us sometime. Your arm wasn't damaged?"
The 5th squad captain bit his lip as he finally lifted his left arm to see the rapidly disappearing skin and bones, thanking whatever god out there that his rapid regeneration was slowing down the process and most likely preventing it from going further than his fingers.
"It's slowly aging but I'll do something about it."
"Son what do you have in mind?"
Ichigo turned to look at his father, trying to ignore the feeling slowly disappearing from his hand and trying to concentrate on Isshin that was still supporting a battered Grimmjow. He looked back from his father to his hand and without even thinking he cut it off, surprising even the segunda espada that was about to eradicate the barrier as the blood dripped out of his newly self-created injury.
"What the hell!"
Ichigo turned to look at the blunet, feeling amusement upon seeing those shocked expressions that came from everyone except Ulquiorra that already knew what the orange head was about to do. Surprising everyone further when his hand started to re grow and replace his previous dying one.
"See? Problem resolved."
"You're insane just like your dad."
"I would never cut off my hand like that."
The orange head just shrugged at that, not feeling anything upon being insulted as he thought it was nothing compared to being called monster in his own time. It gave an empty feeling and was not something to enjoy, almost as if he was hollow.
How ironic is that.
"S'kay, I can go with insane. But for now we have to leave out the insane part and concentrate on killing this bastard."
"Any plan Shiba-Taicho?"
He turned to look at the 6th squad captain and future brother in law, giving a lazy smile as he said his next words that in a way shocked them all but at the same time made them wonder why in the world they were following the guy in the first place.
"You're kidding right Ichi?"
"Nope. My best plan right now is win so that's what we're going to do."
"I take my previous comment of you being as insane as your dad back. You're worse than him, and that's saying something."
Ichigo just turned to look at the rest of his companions, knowing full well that the barrier was about to crumble down as he could see the kido reaching its limit and having to jump away the next second but wanting to say something else before.
"Like I said. I can go with insane."
And then the unbelievable happened; he jumped out of the miasma's way along with everyone else and threw his sheathes along with zanpaktou to the flustered 2nd squad captain and Nel, giving one to each before charging at the segunda and hitting the skeleton like figure head on and barely showing sign of being affected as his rapid generation healed just as fast as the miasma affected him. Being able to throw the other man into the rubble once more thanks to his reiatsu induced kick.
"Well that's a plan I guess."
"Bastard! Why are you still alive?! Why are you pushing me back?! HOW?!"
At that all Ichigo could do was smirk, not really caring that the moment he depleted his reiatsu reserves he would probably die and not minding the idea so long as he was able to protect everyone else.
"That's what happens when the unexpected happens remember this for as long as you live which won't be long by the way. Strength is a product of the unexpected along with experience."
"So what happened in the end?"
"The leader of the rebels was taken down by Shiba-Taicho along with the rest of the invasion team with the help of the espada that were allowed to live and ended up making a peaceful treaty in the meantime. The discussion of the details was agreed to be held in a weeks' time once everything settled down and they were able to talk it off with their own side. Once everything was finished and any emergency treatment was given the team returned via garganta, arriving mere hours ago."
The one receiving this information sighed, reluctantly settling back on his chair as he gazed to the side to look beyond the first division barracks and to the never ending buildings that made up soul society and getting hi attention away from his white haired lieutenant, pinching the bridge of his nose as he turned back to look at his subordinate once more.
"And where is the team along with the team leader that should be here doing what you are doing?"
"The team is currently in 4th division and is awaiting clearance from Unohana-Taicho to leave the health ward and go back to normal activities. As for why I'm here instead of Shiba-Taicho would be because…"
"What do you mean you can't grow your arm back?!"
"Well I kinda depleted all my reiatsu reserves in that last attack and I don't have enough to boot up my instant regeneration so I'll have to stay like this until my reiatsu returns to a stable level."
"But you have a frickin ocean of reiatsu! That doesn't make sense!"
"And that just shows how close I came to dying… which I didn't do so don't look at me like that Rukes."
The raven haired midget just glared at his fiancé with the deadliest face she could muster, hopping to gain some sort of uncomfortable reaction from the orange head since he had done something stupid and she wanted to punish him but was currently unable to hit him thanks to the fact that he was lying on a bad in the fourth squad barracks, not really injured –if you didn't count the lack of a left arm- but still having to be still since the lack if reiatsu did some stupid things to your mobility and concentration, almost like if you were dehydrated.
She was rather glad that her glare had succeeded in doing its job once the Shiba head started to squirm in his place, enjoying rather thoroughly the idea of being his only weakness –since it looked as if nothing else unnerved him- and at the same time already thinking of all the things she could do with this newfound information.
Maybe she would ask for that new chappy T-shirt she saw in the chappy store last time she went.
But anyway, back to her idiot of a strawberry that looked a little bit to pale for her licking but still looked as strong as ever she decided to finally get that explanation she had not heard since she had practically jumped him the moment she saw him and not letting Ichigo so much as worn her of his lack of an arm to support them both.
"So… why do you not have an arm?"
Ichigo on the other hand just looked rather ashamed, almost as if he was thinking back to that moment and thinking it was rather stupid even if he knew it was basically the only way to win over the bastard's ability. He lifted an arm to rub sheepishly the back if his head as he looked anywhere but his soon to be wife while trying to explain the best he would and not sound stupid at the same time.
"Well… Barragan has this thing on his skin so as to say that protects him of his own ability but… well, he isn't protected from the inside and if you found a way to get his own respire inside the guy well… he would die."
The 5th squad captain turned to look at the raven head to see if she was following so far only to quickly avert his amber gaze as he saw that understanding look in her violet eyes accompanied with worry.
He didn't deserve such look damn it.
"So Hachi, one of the big shots that disappeared 110 years ago that was also one of my teachers taught me a way to take that guy down. He actually told me in the past… in my past how he had defeated him and well I used the same tactic… the team distracted Barragan while I let my arm rot as I deactivated my regeneration, letting it get eaten enough so that I could… transport it into the guys body and well… that's how I lost my arm."
Rukia let out a giant sigh as she stood from her place on the chair and went forward to hug Ichigo's lying form, wanting more than anything to make sure Ichigo was still there with het but wanting the man to understand that she understood and that she was just worried from the lack of arm and the injuries everyone came back with. They were not easing her in anyway.
"Okay… okay just… don't do that again. It puts me on edge and I don't like it."
The orange head just lifted and arm to embrace her in a half hug as best as he could as he was trying not to move and evade the dizziness and the blood that would surely come out of his arm of he moved around much, giving a soft smile as he tried to convey his next words and at the same time not worry her further.
To be continued…
Thank you for the continued support, hope it was of your enjoyment!