Jushirō could feel it.

Soul Society is about to be under attack again. Though they are preparing an invasion of their own, the best choice for Aaroniero to make would be to keep them from ascending.

So he let Mayuri prepare, so that when they were ready, they could leave on a moment's notice. Kisuke would help with any additional technical support.

In the meantime he had everyone else gear up with the intent of repelling an invasion.

He stood at the balcony of his office, staring up at the sky. He saw a flicker of light emerge across the horizon. He figured out what was to happen next.

A pair of feet touched down next to him.

"I don't think I have the pleasure of meeting you," Jushirō says cordially, turning to his right.

There stood the King of Quincies, Jugram Haschwalth. Covered by a white cloak with gray fur lining along the shoulders, the blonde haired man looked youthful and fair; like a prince from Fairy Tales.

Yet, when his eyes turned to look at Jushirō, their emerald shine was cold and devoid of warmth.

"Captain Commander," He greeted, his hand grasping the handle of his broadsword, drawing it from his scabbard in a smooth gesture. "I've come to take your life."

"That's a problem," Jushirō says, grasping the handle of his own blade, drawing it slowly from its own sheathe. "I don't plan on dying for a long time, your Majesty."

"Plans change," Jugram replies coolly. "You and everyone in the Gotei 13 are going to die."

"I don't think so," Jushirō says calmly.

The pair stared at one another as distant sounds of light emerged from the sky and the ground.

Both warriors coolly meet eyes, their hands gripping their blades.

And, in a single moment, they clashed.

Sparks flying around them as the horizon fills with fiery explosions.


A Predator Among Us

Chapter 47

Death to the Holy


WhirrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRRMMMMMM!

The sudden sound of the laboratory lighting up with a surreal shine. Scientists all around stopped their work, stood up and looked at the elliptical ring projecting a luminous pool of golden light that radiated from the tanks of energy fed into the platform.

As they all awed, hollered and basked in joy, Mayuri's golden grin could be seen by Akon. He reveled in this triumph.

The portal to the Reiōkyū has been activated!

Breaking out of his revelry, Mayuri turned to his nearby Lieutenant.

"Quickly, Nemu!" He orders with an exaggerated wave of his hand. "Contact the Captain Commander and tell him we're ready to begin the operation!"

"Yes Capt-"

WHRRRR! WHRRR! WHRRR!

The once golden lit laboratory became a sea of blinking red over an assortment of devices. Stunned scientists immediately hunkered down and began to decipher the blaring sounds and rapid feeds of information.

"What's going on? Is the gate destabilized?" Mayuri asked himself.

"Captain, the gate isn't the issue," A short female researcher said, looking up with wide eyes at him. "A gate has opened up above the Seireitei!"

Mayuri's hands clenched into fists. A bead of sweat came down his head, his pharaoh headpiece lowering as he sagely chuckled to himself.

"Well played, Reiō," He says. "It seems you planned on this happening, hm? So be it."

"Captain?" Nemu asked.

"Don't dawdle!" He snapped, spinning around in place, grasping his Zanpakutō as he walked away from the others. "Use Tenteikūra to contact all Captains that the gateway is active."

"Yes, Captain!" She nodded, rushing off to get the proper scrawling ink required for the ritual

"Once you're done, stay here to protect the portal," He says after her, turning his head to face the Mod Arrancar idly staring at him. "Crisol, with me. We're going to be busy."

"Yes, Master Mayuri."


All the Gotei 13 mobilized at the transmission of danger to all of their minds. The luminous rift in the sky over the Soul Society made it obvious where from, but to their dismay the Reishi repulsion field was completely bypassed by this special gate.

It's shaped akin to a brilliant five pointed star, an ocean of fluttering white covered figures drop from the Star. They all descended, glistening blue cascading across the ranks of invading soldiers. Bows of azure formed, arrows of reishi pulled back

All at once, amidst the storm-covered heavens, another type of rain fell towards the Shinigami.

A rain of light.

BA-BA-BA-BA-BA-BA-BOOM!

A cacophony of explosions spread across the Seireitei. Undulating blooms of bright teal flames wafted upwards, cascading shockwaves bristling the air across the massive city.

Amidst their descent, their handiwork could be seen. Over half of the Divisions were covered by a thick layer of destructive reishi, cast down from the heavens above like righteous retribution from up on High to the sinful souls of this Afterlife Society.

Vvvvvmmmmmmmmm!

"What's that?" A Quincy asked aloud, his words unheard by the whipping air of his skyfall.

A large field of shimmering liquid is stretched across the Seireitei. Encompassing an area impossibly broad it had the qualities of water and had been steaming in areas of the most concentrated firepower.

This is the spell craft of the Kidō Corps Lieutenant, Ryūten Kyōkō. Though Shūtara Senjumaru was able to circumvent it by weaving special fabric into its seams and undoing it from the outside, conventional brute force is less likely to break this type of barrier.

On cue, hundreds of crimson fireballs and streaks of blue flames roared up from the water straight into the sky.

The Quincies retaliated, some dodging with Hirenkyaku in bursts of aerial maneuvers of incredible speed. Others fired their Heilig Pfeil into the Kidō, dispelling a good majority of the counterattack before it could make contact.

Some did make contact, resulting in the deafening explosions that blotted out screams of pain and terror. Even as they could counter, their elevated positions gave them a cause and effective consequence.

True, they had air superiority, with plenty of room to evade and defend. But with a barrier as elegantly designed to defend against attacks while enabling counterstrikes gave the Shinigami a superior recourse.

But this only applies to the regular troops.

A host of white cloaked figures dive past the halo of arrows and flames, all but ignoring the obvious crossfire that could incur damage.

Cleaving through several dozen Shakkahō fireballs came Bazz-Bee, his eyes alight with visible contempt as his sneer came across what ordinarily be a gleeful expression for carnage. Spiraling down with a waft of crimson fire behind him, he forward flipped to slam his feet first into the liquid barrier.

Krak-KOOOOOM!

A massive amount of flames erupted from the point of impact, spreading out across the barrier with wide waves of rippling liquid. He pierced through, his cloaked figure emerging the other side to the shock of two dozen Shinigami and several Kidō Corps members.

His boots slammed into the body of one Shinigami, reducing him into a bloody smear in one lancing impact. The others drew their blades, swinging to hit him.

He moved in a blur, black gloved hands grasping two Shinigami and slamming them into the ground. Twisting around he fired off a volley of reishi from his handheld crossbow of bluish light. Eliminating the in seconds, Bazz-Bee pulled back his hood and looked around his environment

He saw that, unlike him, he didn't see dozens of Sternritter dropping with him on the other side. Instead he viewed a handful of bluish pyres of flame that rose up crackling against the liquid barrier.

I don't sense their reiatsu signals. Did they somehow get displaced?

As he contemplated this he kneeled down to the floor and jumped up to as high as the barrier allowed. Nearly twenty meters up and he could count five other fiery landings apart from himself. That meant it was likely that the others were actually displaced elsewhere.

Was it by Kidō or a Zanpakuto? He didn't have Daten on this phenomenon.

"Hello there," Bazz's ears perked up as the soft purr graced his neck.

Twisting around, his bow scraping faint violet-black hair as a curvaceous form dropped to a crouch. His eyes widened as he saw something whip towards his chest.

THUUM!

Bazz felt a spasm of pain explode across his chest, his body throttled forcibly across the air that left a sonic boom in his wake. Slamming into a distant pillar of white, Bazz's body erupted aflame and propelled him back the way he came in a burst of speed.

He saw her, standing proudly atop another white pillar's amber colored roof. She is dressed in a one piece suit, skin tight across her bodice down to her pelvis, leaving her arms and legs mostly exposed save for a pair of slim black coverings with white plates wrapped around them.

He recognized her straight away. The Daten had described her in vivid detail.

Yoruichi Shihōin, the Flash Goddess. Exiled Head of the Shihōin Noble House, she is documented as a Hakuda and Shunpo Master with expertise in utilizing Kidō in combination with her broad skill set of close quarters combat. She even surpasses her protege, Suifeng of the Onmitsukidō, who is frighteningly swift with a deadly proficiency in assassination and Kidō herself.

In other words, a good match for him.

"You got stones throwing a punch at me, Noble has-been," He crowed with a jeering smile, his body emitting waves of potent heat around himself. "Try it again and see what happens!"

A mischievous smirk adorned a soft oval face with a glint of fierceness escaping a pair of glowing golden eyes.

"'Kay," She says, leaning towards him, her body appearing weightless as if she is going to fall face first off the tower.

SHFT!

Manifesting above him, half spinning above with a muscular leg coiled back, she threw the foot at him.

His Blut Vene activated, his hand blocking the foot with a palpable shockwave emitting from the contact. The air wave fanned his flames, her slipper hissing while her reiatsu hummed around it to keep from burning at contact.

He hoisted his crossbow to fire an arrow only to see her flicker away. His senses flared causing him to whirl around and brace himself for another powerful stroke of her leg, this time coming in a set of six successive strikes.

"Burner Finger Three!" He yelled out, releasing a powerful eruption of lava from his vicinity outwards.

Even as the curtain of flames spouting from him poured to the ground indiscriminately of what it scorched below, he was fixed on the defensive as he looked around for her again.

Feeling her behind him, he swung around his unarmed hand first, utilizing Burner Finger Two, releasing a pair of fiery curved blades to make contact with her. Leaned back, letting the two searing hot reishi swords fling harmlessly over her.

As Bazz turned to point his crossbow at her, he witnessed her pull her knees up to her chest.

KRAK!

Both feet slamming into his reflexively arched bow wielding arm.

Igniting with a crackle of lightning.

KOOM!

"HNGH!" Bazz grunted, his sleeve exploding as his body became engulfed in a powerful blast of electric reiatsu. Thrown away from the pair of feet, his body soared over the sky, the flash of lightning releasing a potent thunderclap; following a cascading series of impacts as he smashed through a line of structures in the horizon.

"Phew," Yoruichi sighed, flipping backwards to land on the floor below. She winced at the scorched marks left over her modified boots, these and her gloves are more advanced than the Anti-Hierro Kisuke crafted for her.

"They look intact, thankfully," She mutters to herself as she inspected herself for any potential injuries she missed. "Kisuke certainly made these even better than the large gauntlets and greaves. I wonder what he made these out of?"

A flash of red.

That was all the warning she had as a beam of molten heat crossed the gap between herself and its origin point.

She twisted her upper body, escaping with her life as a melting bolt slashed through her left shoulder and up her clavicle. Her left arm spasmed with agony, her chest contracted with the feeling of swelling heat made from the piercing heat. Seared all the way through the other side, she grit her teeth as she mentally blocked out the pain.

Her gaze cast from her injury to the other side, seeing a pillar of crimson reiatsu form where it once was. Arching wings of flames sprouted from the back, akin to that of a dragon's with jutting reishi spikes formed within a thin web of energy bubbling with flames.

"You really are fast, Yoruichi Shihōin," Bazz says with a smile, floating above her, embroiled in a coat of flames that extended to the uniform he wore beneath. His left arm looked bloodied and purple, his eyes dilated as his smile gleefully shone as he gestures her way. "I've never seen someone who dodged my Burner Finger One. I was aiming for your heart, or whatever passes for one you have."

"You're quite good, I'll give you that," Yoruichi remarked with a smile of her own, ignoring the sweat that trailed her brow - a response not to the pain, but to the massive increase in temperature she felt in the air.

This heat. I didn't think there would be a fire user among the Quincies. He must be one of the elites Kirinji spoke of.

"Are you one of their Sternritter? You seem like you're quite strong, perhaps stronger than most," She probes, trying to gauge how powerful her enemy is.

If Bazz noticed, he didn't seem to care what she was doing.

He grinned nastily.

"You must've heard from the traitor, but I'll introduce myself to you for being such a good target practice," Bazz says with a jeer, waving his mangled arm in dramatic effect. "I am Sternritter H, bearing the Schrift of The Heat. I don't think I have to tell you what I'm all about."

"Yeah, I heard about you guys," Yoruichi says, coolly narrowing her eyes at him. "I also know that Aaroniero had kicked your leadership and made you swear allegiance to them."

Bazz's smile twisted into a sneer.

"You really know how to spoil the mood," Bazz hissed.

In a flash of swift movement, he slammed his fist into the ground, her body already leaped up and backwards from him. Throwing out a bunch of debris, caked in flames, Yoruichi kicked them away with a sparking whip of one foot.

Slashing the air with his bad arm, he took aim with the dominant hand, cocking it into a finger gun.

Another flash of red. Yoruichi Shihōin's chest is pierced through, a look of surprise crossing her face as eyes go blank and mouth spitting blood.

"Gotcha," Bazz snarked.

KRAK-KOOM!

Blanching with shock, his body is throttled forward by a powerful shockwave of electrical reiatsu.

That bitch! He thought as he forced himself to stop with a fiery stomp, She tricked me with a Shunpo!

Feeling her rapidly approaching from his back caused him to whirl around in a blaze of flames.

Her eyes, inches away from his, give him pause. Wide rings of yellow with pinprick pupils, her bangs arched with coiling electric gold in the shape of horns as her whole body exudes an aura shaped with a ring of crackling energy connecting with five drums behind herself.

POW-POW-POW-POW-POW!

"YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" The Shihōin screamed out a battle cry, her fists assaulting the Sternritter in hundreds of blows in a matter of seconds. His face, chest, and arms are all peppered with thunderous impacts, the rest of his heat abated by the storm of electric reishi attempting to shock him.

My Blut Vene is barely holding on! It took an absurd amount of reiatsu for the Arrancar to get past my defenses. What kind of striking power does this Shinigami have?!

A pause in the constant bombardment of electric punches is made. He watched as much as senses a surge of reiatsu output, brimming from the Shinigami's back.

Thrusting her palms, he leaped back instinctively as she let out a fierce battle cry.

"Shunkō: Raijin Senkei!" She yelled out, a trail of crackling energy emitting from her palms.

And then, everything surrounding her, flashed in a massive burst of golden reiatsu. Buildings crumbled to dust, the earth burning up and the air sizzled in the halo of plasma borne from reishi.

The cityscape, for several blocks, became leveled into an ashen disc large enough to be an arena ring.

Still coated with electricity, Yoruichi's senses were all heightened. She could tell, even past the thick haze of steam and smoke she created around the leveled area that Bazz-Bee is still alive.

Sparks flickered through the haze, a persistent aura of flames spouting electric gold current in a circumference around himself. His halo gleamed , the ground and air swirling into his holy form.

Though his face is dripping blood, and bruises a thick array of blue veins enamored parts of his exposed chest and sleeves where his uniform couldn't be protected by his flames.

His Blut, I recognize but this Aura…did he absorb my Shunkō?

"Nice try, Shinigami," Bazz's voice jeered out, rough and echoing the empty space separating them.

Until his next step brought him behind Yoruichi.

Hirenkyaku-! Yoruichi perceived, twisting around to throw a swift electric jab.

Death

The halo above Bazz's head widened, a brilliant ray of light shines with a shrieking whir of siphoning force. Flesh ripped from her skin, clothes tearing and reiatsu swirling forth as if shredded by an unseen blender of reishi enslavement.

The three abilities that Kirinji debriefed the Gotei of having that separates them from the Modern Day Quincy who were driven into near extinction.

Blut Arterie, the reinforcement of the blood vessels of reishi to increase offensive output to maximize the inherent Power of Destruction; this is what creates the blue flames that burn spiritrons.

Blut Vene, the hardening of blood vessels over affected areas of the body, creating an armor even more versatile than an Arrancar's Hierro.

And lastly, there is a technique that was only achieved before during the sacrificial Holy Form of Leitz Stil: Sklavrei, the power to dominate all beings who have reishi, ripping them apart and then absorbing it into the user.

Yoruichi's senses had told her to flee the moment she saw the halo's segments separate, but she reacted too slowly. For every passing second she felt an intense wave of pain, the light that washed over her tearing every facet of her being to its most basic components. Blood slurried into the air, her flesh grinded into sparks and her raiment of reiatsu flowed with her form.

And then, the remainder of her Shunkō flashed into Bazz's eyes. He winced, his eyes shutting and his halo halting the process of reishi absorption.

Past the pain, the savaged body of Yoruichi threw a palm forward, and words uttered barely audible.

KRAK-POW!

A brilliant wave of golden light blasts the Quincy point blank. His body staggered back, his mangled arm raised in defense now charred red with blood and hangs simply to his side.

The Kidō she used hit the mark, but she felt her body tremble with pain. Between her flesh being torn off from her face down her arms, chest and legs, she still had a hole through her that throbbed.

Through shuddering breaths, the former princess of the Shihōin Clan wonders if she was going to die?

"Like I said, Shinigami, nice try," Bazz's voice cuts into her lingering thoughts. His body thrummed with electric golden flames, wings sparking around him in flashing synapses. Despite his own wounds he looked more determined to fight than she felt like matching.

Yet, a sudden approach of reiatsu flicked her senses.

Even Bazz-Bee paused, his fiery crown turning to see a dark figure swathed in a cream cloak over similar black and amber fatigues.

"Who-?"

"Oh…no," Yoruichi dryly stares with a thin eyed glare.

Blipping out of view, the cloaked figure darted straight for a tackle at Yoruichi, revealing a smiling cherub face of identical resemblance to her own.

"BIIIIIG SIIIIIIISTERRRRR!" He cries out.

Despite her injuries, Yoruichi comically sidestepped the approaching figure, his effeminate visage crashing into the ground beside herself.

Undeterred, he bounced back up and began to leap at her, though she grasped him by ear as she appeared to his left.

"Ow-ow-ow!" He winces, squirming helpless under her grip as his shorter slender form bobs from her fingers like a snared fish.

"Yūshiro, what are you doing here?" Yoruichi asks with irritation.

"I-I came to see you, Big Sis," Yūshiro says, wincing with an unwavering smile. "I would have waited, I would have but I could feel your reiatsu being shaken up! I wanted to help!"

Yoruichi sighs.

She had anticipated something like this happening. She had written a letter to her brother a day before, explaining the stakes and why he should stay in the Noble Estate unless forced out to defend himself.

Yet he predictably decided to come chase after her.

I'm not in good enough shape to take anymore punishment, She thought, turning her gaze over to Bazz's person.

A flash of golden red fires out towards her…no, her and Yūshiro!

She instinctively leans back, pulling a shrieking Yūshiro back with herself. Rising back up Yūshiro rubbed his ear while narrowing a more serious expression at Bazz's irritated scowl.

"You're the one who harmed my Big Sister," He lowly sneers. "I'm going to make you pay for daring to touch my beautiful idol!"

"Doesn't matter what you or a hundred of you do," Bazz snarked, his body erupting in a wave of electric fire as he crows out at the pair of Shihōin Clan siblings. "I'll be the one to reduce you both to ash!"


Minutes before Bazz's feet crushed the barrier, around twenty Sternritter had seemingly disappeared from the battlefield. Their forms were displaced, finding themselves in a dark abyss, cut off from the outside of the Soul Society.

Liltotto Lamperd's countenance didn't waver, even as she plunged into a world devoid of light. She looked around, her surroundings not matching with any structure she read up in the Daten. With no ability to sense reiatsu beyond this enclosed darkness she concluded this space to be only one possibility.

Muken, an allegedly infinite space where darkness stretched beyond the scope of sight and sound. Here reiatsu couldn't escape, making any conventional power not viable.

"Where the Hell are we?" The first one to speak drew a dry stare from Liltotto.

Predictably, Candice Catnipp is the source. She raised her hand up, creating a crackling source of light in the darkness.

Ten. That is the number of Sternritter that are in their given space.

"According to the Daten, our surroundings match up with our reports of the infinite space prison known as Muken," BG-9 says, his metallic voice echoing the area around them. "There should be a gate for every level of the prison. If we can exit here we should end up at the base of the 1st Division Barracks, and the location of the Captain Commander."

Liltotto sighed. She appreciates having someone with a functioning brain - even if you could call what's inside of BG-9's head a brain.

"Someone else is here," Cang Du says, his hooded face looking at Candice. "Can't you feel it? Their reiatsu feels immense, almost endless."

The small woman felt unnerved.

Cang Du has sharp senses, so it's not like she should discount what he has to say. But she felt this overwhelming cold chill wash over her, as if walking through a cemetery filled with bones.

She chalked it up to the gloomy atmosphere of the prison, but, if what he says is true…

"I see you have arrived, Quincy."

Everyone froze at not just hearing but feeling the voice. The Bambi swiveled her head, finding her eyes darting hither and thither across the suffocating blackness just beyond the flickering light Candice provided.

It felt close.

Very close, yet, almost imperceptibly far away.

"Ten of you. All with impressive reiatsu. The Captain Commander wasn't jesting. You lot are quite strong. Perhaps this will be more than an exercise."

"BG," Liltotto drawled out calmly to the stoic armored Sternritter. "Can you pinpoint where that's coming from?"

"My sensors indicate that sound is being produced through reiatsu and not sound," BG-9 explained as it looked over at Liltotto. "The source of the reiatsu is beyond my ability to calculate due to the anomaly of the Muken's environment being near infinite."

"That's not possible," Another Sternritter says, "No Shinigami is that strong. Your sensors must be on the fritz."

"My sensors are still working on adapting to the environment," BG-9 says. "It'll take time for me to pinpoint the source."

The man huffed and stomped away, past Liltotto. She could see his hair had a shape of a pluming disc of blonde tresses jutting up from his crown. His uniform is an officer's uniform with the lapel wrapped over his right breast with the insignia of the Sternritter placed over it.

She recognized him from the ceremony as one of the newly anointed Sternritter.

I think his name is Max Schmeling. I forgot what his Schrift is. I don't think it'll help much in this situation…

"No need to keep searching," A soft voice spoke, now from a pale man draped in a Haori and Shihakushō uniform, standing between them all. "I'll come to you."

Liltotto twisted her upper body, her eyes wide with surprise. She didn't even sense his approach, his appearance akin to that of a ghost.

A pair of thin bangs framed his soft yet angular pale face with thin eyebrows over even thinner eyes. Black tresses are adorned into a ponytail that rests over his back with an elegant hairpiece holding it in place. He didn't seem to look at anyone in particular, his face swiveling from side to side to gaze at each of them.

"My name is Soya Azashiro, formerly Kenpachi of the 6th Division of the Gotei 13," He introduced himself briskly to them all, his voice still soft spoken as it carried across the empty void. "Make peace with your remaining time here, in this pitch black Hell, before I send you all to the next life."

Former? Liltotto thought with a raised brow. Does that mean he's an inmate here?

The majority of the Sternritters paused with hesitation. The brazenness matched only by the cold confidence of his sudden appearance brought the confused elites to heel.

None of them were stupid. They knew the first one to attack will be subject to the inmate's unknown abilities.

Liltotto noted most of the gathered here weren't heavy hitters. Apart from herself and Candice, none of the other Bambis are in this section of Muken.

BG-9 is a maverick but she herself didn't understand what made the seemingly inhuman Quincy special. She saw Najahkoop's lanky body standing in the background, nervously shivering in place at what he saw.

"His body…has no weaknesses!" He muttered out.

Despite his alarming speech, one Sternritter launched himself at his foe.

"There's no such thing as a man with no weaknesses!" Max Schmeling yelled out mid-dash, his arm coiling back to strike as he got within distance to hit Azashiro.

His Schrift, J the Jab allowed him to always make contact with a target no matter what he punched at. Veins of blue flashed across his upper body, throbbing over the knuckles of his silver outlined weapon.

He moved with a swiftness that would surprise any other Captain of the Gotei 13's history. He threw his punch at Soya's face.

SHRRRRRREEEEED!

To most of the Sternritters, it was instantaneous.

Max's arm is slashed repeatedly, torn apart by razors that seemed to appear out of nowhere. His eyes widen as his head splits open, his skull exploding from shredding arcs that tear his body down to cubes of meat till only his legs up to a waist remain.

But to BG-9, he saw arcs of something resembling curved blades appear in the air itself. The force aimed for his vital areas with a swiftness few could see, nor have been prepared for.

"SHIT!" Nanana cried out.

"He killed him in an instant!" Another Sternritter said with outrage.

Candice flickered towards the Shinigami, even faster than could see. Regardless of what some may say she considers herself among the fastest of the Wandenreich.

Coiling electric reishi flowed off her arm as she sprung it down towards Soya's head. A palm raised towards her, sprouting from his shoulder like a grotesque flower. The sight of it surprised her, as did the sudden whirring light that bloomed with the opening palm and fingers.

"Hadō 88," Azashiro uttered, one eye coldly gleaming towards her. "Hiryū Gekizoku Shinten Raihō."

vrrrrrRRRRRROOOOOOOAAAARRRR!

A massive discharge of electric reishi flowed from the shoulder mounted palm. Candice became overwhelmed by the sheer volume of opposing energy, throttled up into black sky of the abyssal prison.

As she was thrown back, Azashiro blinked out of space. Due to the field of omnipresent reiatsu throughout this space of Muken, no one could detect him either.

No one, except BG-9 and Nanana Najahkoop.

The latter flinched, seeing Azashiro reach a palm towards his chest. He leaped back in time to see a strange thing.

Soya Azashiro's body glowing as the world rippled around him. His eyes saw differently with his goggles, a grid of reishi that is focused down to the smallest blocks of spiritual life that are spiritrons.

As it flowed like a wave over him, BG-9 witnessed what was happening beyond the physical aftermath. Sinews of spiritrons penetrated the walls of flesh, down to the core of reishi intertwined with the blood and straight into the heart and lungs. Like threads resembling long spindly fingers they flowed so thin that none but Najahkoop and BG-9 could see it.

But the speed of the next action is Instantaneous.

"Seitai Yūgō," Azashiro mutters out.

SHHHHHHRRRRRRKKK!

Nanana Najahkoop's chest erupted, blood and guts tearing themselves open from the center of his chest as branches akin to the shape of spindly fingers burst open from his body. His eyes bulge, goggles cracking as a flood of corrosive reiatsu tears apart his flesh and insides.

BG-9, after seeing what happened to his comrade, cataloged the effect of what he beheld. His body creaked beneath his cloak, already adapting to the visual stimuli he recorded.

Liltotto, however, had a much different reaction to what she beheld.

"Scatter!" She implored, her body already leaping backwards into the fleeting darkness. "Don't let him lock onto you!"

The other Sternritter moved, having no idea what to do to a powerful Shinigami like this.

Their efforts to separate themselves from the Shinigami, however, had only made them easier to target.

"Bakudō 61, Rikujōkōrō."

SHINK-SHINK-SHINK-SHINK-SHINK!

"Ngh!" Liltotto grunted with shock, finding herself and the rest of the surviving Sternritter impaled by golden rods of light. The binding Kidō would only hold them for a few seconds.

But it was more than enough time for the imprisoned Shinigami.

Beneath each Sternritter a hand resembling Nanana's blooms open, with a mouth muttering something out at the same time. During this instance, the flesh and bones of Najahkoop's corpse is ground up by an invisible force and vanished into the ground as these ground sprouting hands elongate into arms; all the while becoming charred black with glowing red veins.

"Gnashing my flesh, I offer up this sacrifice."

BG-9 and Liltotto acted as quickly as the others did, hurrying to free themselves with the literal ticking bomb about to detonate beneath each of their feet.

"Brittle become the bones of impiety, the wailing of impermanence become drums for the end."

Liltotto's mouth stretched out, devouring the rods pinning herself down. BG-9 shattered the binding prisms, an invisible field projected from himself.

"Gasping breaths fanning the flames. Flesh becomes coals of hate and fear."

Cang Du's body flashed into a sheen of metal, severing the rods embedded inside of his flesh and jamming into his spirit core.

"Break! Become mine in the flames of purgatory we share."

Several others also rushed to undo the binding spells.

"Hadō 96, Ittō Kasō," The hands rang out in chorus after a prolonged incantation empowered each spell.

SSSSHHEEEERRRROOOOOOM!

The darkness of Muken became illuminated by enormous blades of bright red erupting into the vast ceiling of the dimension chamber. Amidst the roar of burning reishi, screams had been cut short as some had been caught up in the blast of the enormous discharge of each Kidō, their breadth and height compared to that of a modern skyscraper.

Azashiro looked on at his handiwork with a cool gaze, sweeping his senses around to inspect each of his quarries. He had to be sure each of them had been destroyed due to the threat even one Quincy poses to him

In a flash of blue, something birthed past the veil of each enormous pyre of sword shaped Kidō. Rising up in towers of pure reishi emitted a divine reiatsu, beautiful as it was terrible, with pentacle crosses mounted on each top.

Shattering like glass, four angelic figures manifested in the sky above Azashiro.

Liltotto Lamperd, embroiled with a raiment blue with straps over her arms with glowing gloves and boots had wings of teeth splayed in a set of four behind her. She had slight singed burns over her face and arms but vibrant blue veins pulsed about those surfaces showed why she was able to resist the Kidō as she escaped.

BG-9's body, awash in its own holy light, has small fringes of his cloak burned at the hem but showed no signs of damage. Wings with written script flowed from his back, but little else changed in appearance.

Cang Du showed no damage despite visible waves of heat ebbing off his more than scorched cloak over his right side. Metal shone ominously in the light of his and the Ittō Kasō, his wings resembling something more armored than ghostly from his own back.

Candice herself, returned from being launched into a seemingly endless ceiling of blackness with her own holy form active. Despite her use of electricity to cancel out the Kidō, she sported burns across her arms down to her now bare palms. Jagged diagonal edged wings protruding from her back, electric reishi flickering angrily from her eyes as her bosom, pelvis, wrists and ankles all sport a brandishing flash of bluish lightning.

"Good to see you're still alive, Candice," Liltotto said with a passing dry stare. "The others didn't make it."

"Fucking Figures!" Candice swore angrily. "And they were newbies too! I don't know why His Majesty even bothered?!"

"Who did we lose?" Cang Du asked coolly to BG-9.

"Nanana Najahkoop - Sternritter U, the Underbelly. Maximillion Schmeling - Sternritter J the Jab. Mary Madge - Sternritter Q the Quell. Xavier Klauss - Sternritter X the Xtra. Belis Kove - Sternritter V the Vex."

"Wait," Candice stops, pointing at BG-9. "Did you say Sternritter V? That's a damned puppet of Gremmy's!"

"Ah, I was wondering why I didn't recognize one of them," Liltotto says with a smirk. "Gremmy always acted through his proxies."

"And based on the Schrift name, that was likely a Clone of Xavier's that got stuck here," Candice sneered with contempt. "Of course he's likely hiding away like a coward while we're stuck with this nightmare to deal with."

"Even still," Cang Du cut in, narrow eyes glaring down at the stoic speck that is Azashiro far below them. "To kill five Sternritter so quickly, and force us to use Vollstandig in a few minutes? No wonder he used to be a Kenpachi."

"How do we fight someone like this?" Candice asks with frustration.

"I am working on a counter to his ability to fuse with us," BG-9 says aloud, bringing their attention to the caged visage of their comrade. "That's his power. Fusion, and as a result he has fused with his environment. That's why his reiatsu is so broad that we can't sense his movement. He doesn't need to use Shunpo as he is simply manifesting an avatar of his body to act in his stead while the rest of his entire spiritual power is fused with the cell of Muken. And given my own calculations his spirit power is so vast that he will likely not run out of strength for years while fighting us."

"So," Liltotto says, looking at the taller Sternritter critically. "What strategy do we have?"

"Maintain Blut Vene when possible. That should prevent him from fusing with vital organs," He advises, tilting his conical head to peer down at Azashiro's distant avatar. "As for how to defeat him, don't get close to his physical body. He has safeguards to prevent anything getting close enough to possibly damage his avatar. The best way to defeat him is either an attack of a broad range when he least expects it from a distance, or one other way."

"What way is that?" Candice asks.

BG-9 turns his head over to look over his shoulder.

Everyone flinched, seeing Azashiro appear suddenly, like a phantom behind them.

"It's Sklavrei," Soya says, his thin eyes staring at the four glowing Sternritter. "You're my natural enemy. I've been studying the spirit structure of your holy form for any weaknesses. I've deduced what they are."

Swinging his arm, a massive plume of reishi is released that sweeps the sky. Can Du is launched with Liltotto, both resisting the Kidō with their heightened Blut.

Candice deflects the massive discharge with one of her own, a cacophony of electric reishi flows from her palms over the wave. BG-9 evasively leaped up and twirled down towards the specter of Azashiro.

Spirals of blades manifest from around the space between Azashiro and the approaching Quincy. His cloak shredded, sparks flying as the blades came into contact with something harder than flesh. Gray veined matting more metallic than tissue interwoven with protruding white segments outlined from the center of the abdomen and wrapped around the collar over the shoulders.

A massive cylinder shaped weapon is raised up to point at Azashiro's face, its multiple barrels spinning in a blur.

CRACK!

The weapon shattered as a whirling force crushed it like a massive hand would conform around a can of tin.

"Bakudō 61, Rikujōkōrō," Azashiro mutters, watching six prisms of gold jab into the mechanical Sternritter. This time, however, he pulsed an invisible wave of reiatsu, shattering the Kidō instantly.

Throwing a hand out to grasp the Shinigami, he vanishes, manifesting behind while firing a bolt of lightning into his back. BG-9 grunts but the blast merely sparks, and leaves a scorch mark instead of piercing him.

"Did you not warn them not to charge head-on?" Azashiro mocked coldly. "You seem to be behaving contrary to your own strategy."

"I suspected you could hear us," BG-9 retorts, raising a mechanical hand up with emphasis. "You presume that Sklavrei is the only thing that could harm you. In theory, this is true, as it is a powerful weapon to be used against opposing spirits. However there's a flaw in using something like Sklavrei in the heat of battle."

Before Azashiro could ask, a thunderclap is ushered in the background.

He looked, seeing Candice brandish one of the jagged wings in one hand. In the moment his attention averted, a thin cord launched out from a protuberant socket along the collar of the mechanical Sternritter.

A whirl of manifesting steel deflects cord.

"GALVANO JAVELIN!"

Allowing the bolt of lightning to traverse towards him.

"Bakudō 90, Dankū," He mutters out, a transparent barrier rising up in the midst of space, blocking the lightning bolt.

vrrrrrrrrrrrr!

The subtle click and whirring sound of the halo separating brought a wide eyed look from Azashiro's face. Reishi began to be assimilated, particles taking in from the air, denying his ability to disperse into it.

"I have you now!" BG-9 says with dark glee, watching the Shinigami step back. Particles are torn from his clothes, his skin torn from his hands and face.

It appears that he has nowhere to go as BG-9 continues a relentless destruction of his body in a conversion into reishi.

And then, a shout of surprise is heard.

The Battle Golem's obscured optics widen with baffled horror. A sudden displacement in space had transpired faster than he could process; one that replaced his target with another Sternritter.

Cang Du's body, covered in metal and wrapped in a coat of reishi, begins to be broken down and converted into reishi up in the light of Sklavrei.

Though the Sklavrei could be deactivated, the sudden reversal of positions with the threat of imminent death made Cang Du act on pure instinct.

A vicious shredder of two claws tore apart the chest and head of BG-9. The mechanical golem couldn't even let out a scream of pain as his Sklavrei is outpaced by the striking speed of his more battle hardened Sternritter. Metallic gore rains down as his holy form fizzles away.

"What the Hell-?!" Candice asks, her eyes barely comprehending what had just happened. "How did you get over there?!"

Liltotto's own mouth barely opened before feeling a white hot bolt rush over her head. She turned, seeing a similar bolt of lightning crack over Cang Du and Liltotto's own heads.

The sight of shattered halos told her all she needed to know.

Somehow, Azashiro had used Kidō to swap places with a part of space he was merged with and someone who was moving through it. He waited for someone to use Sklavrei so he could distract everyone long enough to take aim and destroy the source of their techniques.

"Now you're out of options," Soya Azashiro says, lowering his smoking fingers as he coldly eyes the three remaining Quincies. "Prepare to meet the end."

Candice lets out a defiant roar. Erupting with an enormous column of reishi, crackling with the quality of electricity, she raises a hand up and is ready to throw her biggest attack at the Shinigami.

Yet, Liltotto already knew what was going to happen.

"Candice-!" She barely gets out, watching the pillar of energy contort around her right arm in a jagged wave.

"ELECTRO-CUTION!"

As she throws the massive wave of lightning, Azashiro's person flickers again. Cang Du, still wounded and bewildered from his act of kin killing, is brought into the fore of a massive wave of electric reishi.

And with his Schrift active, it did him no service as it made him a conductor for the incoming lightning.

He let out an unheard howl as his body erupted in a white hot blaze of energy. Burning him away as it blazed hotter and hotter till he all but melted with the slag of iron he created, the Sternritter died an agonizing death.

Candice, grimacing at what she ended up doing, felt her body fizzle with a sudden lack of energy to utilize. She turned to sneer at Azashiro's face as he appears next to her, swiping a hand swiftly at her-

SHINK!

-causing her world to spin, her vision gazing at her headless body falling beside her.

"Dammit," Liltotto hissed, turning on her heels and dashing away from the site to find the exit.

If I can find the door, I can just eat my way through it! She rationalized in her head. It was a crude but effective way to escape this death trap.

SHUNK!

"Hngh!" She grunted, her body throttled to the ground with a crack. Craning her neck, she saw numerous hexagon faced rods pinning herself to the floor. Her mouth stretched out, chomping away the bars.

"That's a fascinating power you have."

Liltotto flips away from the man. Though in darkness, far away from the light of their battleground, her senses combined by the light from her Vollstandig allowed her to make out the nearby Azashiro.

"What's it to you?" Liltotto says, tensed up for a fight; even one she knew she had no chance of winning.

"Curious what the limits are," Azashiro says, his figure floating from the darkness into the light of her holy form. "Perhaps your plan was to find the door or wall of this place and, say, eat your way out of here. Can you do that?"

"I don't think it matters," Liltotto says, though she raises a brow. "Why?"

"I had a fleeting thought," Azashiro affirms, his black eyes staring at her own orbs with a chilling look of pure analysis. "I have my own plans. They are beyond these walls. Though I have an accord with the current Captain Commander I don't know if he'll keep his word if the problem with your people disappears."

"Maybe," Liltotto says, cautiously staring at him back. "Maybe we can work something out."

"There's only one issue," The Shinigami says.

"What's that?"

A sudden stabbing pain cuts off Liltotto's speech. Her eyes widen, her mouth expands to let out a wet gurgling croak. It felt like needles were diving into her brain, pricking it and changing it. She writhed in place for a few more seconds and then…

She stood straight, a compliant smile breaching her face as cloudy eyes looked up at Azashiro's stony visage.

"The procedure is complete," He says with a satisfied smile. "Now I don't have to worry about trust being an issue. Isn't that right?"

"Yes, Master Azashiro," She says with affirmation.


A/N: Sorry this one took so long. Yoruichi Shihōin's fight with Bazz-Bee was a fun bout that I want a Part 2 to wrap it up, but the second half of the chapter I took time to rewrite and get right.

Azashiro is a character I wanted to bring in for awhile and I wanted it to be true to his personality. With everyone putting their lives on the line I can definitely see Jushirō making a deal with a devil to a certain degree Shunsui did with Aizen; though in this case it's with a bona fide war criminal like Soya Azashiro.

What does he intend to do with Liltotto, and how will this better prepared Gotei 13 handle the Wandenreich? Find out in the next chapter of A Predator Among Us!