It was at the point when one became two.
Coyote Starrk and Lilynette Gingerbuck, stared off across the distant moon of Hueco Mundo surrounded by the bodies of their own kind: Hollows, souls who for whatever reason, failed to cross to the other side.
What purpose did it serve to be strong when everything slips away from you through your own hands?
There was no purpose at all, but to fuel the loneliness of forced isolation.
An immense being of power had become two, yet unexpectedly their power was still too great.
It was a curse that Starrk and Lilynette were well aware of, their presence alone enough to suffocate and crush any weaker soul. Thus, was the sheer might of a Vasto Lorde: Great hollows at the pinnacle of their evolution taking on the shape of humans. But yet they were different. One had become two by breaking the mask present over every hollows face and releasing an absurd amount of power. Nonetheless, their strength was still too great, and the two had neglected to eat ever since, in hopes of growing weaker by the day.
Starrk was tall and somewhat lanky, but still well muscled nonetheless. A hollow's lower jaw surrounded his neck; it being the only remains of his previous Adjuchas form, the second step in his evolution, as the rest of his body was bare. He had long locks of brown hair that fell just past his neck, and bangs that parted at his forehead. His eyes were drooped, his mouth set in a firm line that accentuated his prominent narrow jaw line and high cheek bones.
Lilynette on the other hand, was short, roughly a pubescent teenager's height with green hair grown to match Starrk's length. The only remains of her previous form, was the hollow-bone helmet that protected her head and covered her left eye. Her face was round, her cheekbones barely visible, but still enough to contrast nicely with her jawline.
The two stood up, and once again began their eternal journey, no true purpose or direction in mind. The loneliness of isolation was agonizing, yet still they persisted across the vast white dunes of Hueco Mundo in nothing more than brown rags, fur they had taken from another hollow that died. No matter who they met, no matter where they went, it was all the same.
However, it was a chance coincidence, a twist in fate, but the two met a certain Vasto of White, atop a hill in the middle of nowhere. Humanoid yet completely pale, their fellow Vasto Lorde only had a pair of hollow-bone grieves and vambraces covered in blue tribal markings to show off his previous form. Short tufts of red hair sprouted from his head, and his face was oval, and disarmingly peaceful for a hollow. His eyes the colour of amber, glanced over them before closing.
The Vasto of White opened his eyes and did not stir in their presence, only inclined his head slightly to acknowledge their existence.
True to his lazy nature, Starrk, brushed back his brown hair, and sat a short distance away from the peculiar hollow, content to be in another's company. Lilynette soon followed after Starrk's example, except that she merely blew her green hair away from her one exposed eye. Neither talked, both just stared intently at the Vasto of White. Both expected that the moment would be short-lived, after all, they had met other Vasto Lordes, and the only difference between them and other hollows was how long it took before they died. Yet nothing happened to the lone Vasto.
As the weeks dragged on and on, tears could be seen glistening down Lilynette's face. She sniffled, and turned her face away as Starrk directed his eyes towards her. He could feel her emotions through the bond the two shared since they had evolved from the same hollow, but he was man enough not to show it.
The Vasto of White stirred, spurred by Lilynette's tears.
"Why do you cry?" The Vasto asked. His voice was pleasant, carrying a gentle tone.
Starrk shrugged, and laid back to sleep against the sand.
It was then that an unsuspecting lizard hollow erupted from below the sand a few meters away from the group. Near instantly, it died due to the spiritual pressure, a soul's energy, their reishi, that Starrk and Lilynette emitted uncontrollably.
Lilynette's brows furrowed as Starrk sighed deeply.
"I see," The Vasto of White said before unexpectedly placing a gentle hand over the hollow-bone helmet Lilynette wore. "You were lonely."
Lilynette Gingerbuck starred up at the Vasto of White's face. His eyes weren't cold nor narrowed like most other hollows, but rather they were patient and calm.
"Trace on." The Vasto of White muttered.
Starrk felt it first, the sudden change in Lilynette's spiritual pressure. Eyes flashing open, Starrk near instantly turned towards Lilynette's direction. She was there standing exactly how he had last seen her, but her spiritual pressure had dropped unimaginably low. It was then that Starrk took notice of the area. Thousands of blades lay scattered in every direction, all of which Starrk realized were produced from Lilynette's spiritual pressure.
The Vasto of White soon came over to Stark and reproduced the same result.
"Now neither of you will be lonely," the Vasto of White stated as he resumed his position sitting atop the sand. He turned his neck towards a surprised Starrk and Lilynette. "Besides, I'm not going anywhere."
"Lady Harribel, have you heard of the Vasto of White?" Sung-Sun asked. She was an Adjuchas type hollow taking the form of a pale white snake covered in hard exoskeleton. Her snake hollow form was currently coiled in a relaxed position as she stared at her leader and other group members.
"No," Harribel replied. She was another Vasto Lorde and leader of the group of Adjuchas class hollows gathered around her. Her humanoid form was almost entirely covered in hollow-bone exoskeleton and modeled after a shark, her face above her lips was the only exception. Teal eyes remaining vigilant of her surroundings, a narrow cliff over-looking a distant canyon, she sighed before motioning to the others that the area was clear and for Sung-Sun to continue.
A steady wind blew past, ruffling Harribel's mane of neck length blond hair as she waited.
"The silent hollow, the immovable hollow, he's a legend in these parts," Sung-Sun began to elaborate. "His strength is something th-"
"-Get to the damn point already." Apacci muttered from her position sitting on the sand, her deer like form leaning against a protruding rock. "We don't need to hear how strong this guy is, Lady Harribel is stronger."
"No taste in conversation as usual Apacci." Sung-Sun huffed back.
"She has a point though Sung-Sun. Just get on with it." Mila Rose said. She, like the others, was sitting on the sand. She raised her paw up to her mouth and began licking it clean, displaying her sharp claws; a trait only made possible due to her lion-like Hollow form.
"Oh fine." Sung-Sun uncoiled her form and revealed a fragment of a twisted sword. "Apacci, come here and touch this sword."
"Huh, why the hell would I do that?" Apacci asked in confusion.
"Just do it." Sung-Sun said as she shook her head in exasperation. "Not like it's going to kill you, but I have underestimated you lately."
Apacci brow twitched, but she wouldn't fall for such an obvious ploy. "Get the oaf to do it," she said after a moment, staring at Mila Rose.
"The hell you callin an oaf?!" Mila Rose, stood up from her position and prowled towards Apacci.
"Well this oaf has a really strong bite," Mila Rose growled, teeth bared and ready for confrontation.
However, Harribel stood up, ending all activities. Slowly, she walked towards the twisted sword and knelt down to inspect it. She reached out a hand and touched it against the rough metal.
Everyone was silent.
Harribel's eyes widened, a single thought coming to her mind.
"Reishi," Harribel muttered, picking up what was left of the twisted sword in one motion.
"Exactly," Sung-Sun said. "Its extremely dense for just a fragment. In fact, it gives more Reishi than any average hollow; I would know since I've been eating away at it for a while now."
Harribel eyed Sung-Sun curiously. "And?"
"Similar fragments can be found throughout the Vasto of White's entire territory, the territory we have just wandered into."
"So, your saying we fight the bastard and take the territory for ourselves?" Mila Rose said before smiling. "I like it."
"That," Sung-Sun spoke. "Would be suicide. Maybe for Lady Harribel it would be possible, but for us...the probability is nonexistent. 'The all seeing hollow,' like the name says, sees everything and strikes down all those with hostility- all without ever moving from his perch."
"Bull shit, that's impossible." Apacci said.
Harribel's eyes narrowed before turning back towards the fragment in her hand, the fact that it was fragmented rung warning bells in her mind. This had used to be a sword, and to have been reduced to this state spoke of an explosion. A projectile?
She turned her gaze on Sung-Sun.
"I see lady Harribel has caught on." Sung-Sun said with a nod. "Now if only you idiots wou-."
"Don't goad them Sung-Sun." Harribel interrupted, her voice serious.
Harribel turned and stared off into the distance, straining her eyes until she caught a glimpse of a white hollow sitting perched above the highest dune of sand. It wasn't easy even for Harribel to catch his form due to the distance, but somehow, she knew he was watching.
"Stay on guard," Harribel said. "We're in the enemies strike zone."
Apacci, Mila Rose, and even Sung-Sun was caught off guard with Harribel's statement. There was no enemy to be seen in several hundred kilometers. Nonetheless, they obeyed Harribel's command.
"Sung-Sun, this fragment is probably a projectile weapon."
"Yes, I do believe so."
"Then why didn't you inform me of this earlier?" Harribel asked.
"There was nothing to be seen in the distance, verified by you only an hour ago,." Sung-Sun replied hesitantly.
Harribel had to admit, if she hadn't been actively searching for the Vasto of White across the distance, she wouldn't have found him.
"Sung-Sun, what do you know of the Vasto of White?" Harribel inquired.
"Nothing of his abilities, just that he never attacks unless provoked," Sung-Sun said with a tilt of her head. "His territory is also a haven for all the weaker hollows."
"Explain?" Harribel asked as some of the tension faded from her muscles.
"He doesn't attack, nor has any hollow ever seen him feed. He keeps all hostilities away while the weaker hollows feed on the fragments of his power that are left behind. Most Adjuchas in the area evolved because of the Vasto of White and many hold great respect for him." Sung-Sun cleared her throat. "What I was proposing before was to harvest these fragments so that we no longer have to hunt to sustain ourselves. Or maybe just stay in the area."
"We can become stronger without devouring and sacrificing others." Oddly enough, it was Apacci who muttered the phrase.
Harribels brows furrowed in thought, Apacci's phrase echoing inside her mind. They had lived too long under the constant danger of kill or be killed, but here in front of her was an alternative. To live without sacrifice, no, Harribel shook her. There is always some form of sacrifice. Why would the Vasto of White sacrifice his own power for the need of others?
Finally, she stared up at the Vasto of White's form and made her decision. She needed to verify something.
"Return to the cavern, I will meet with you all later." Harribel disappeared in a burst of speed in the direction of the Vasto of White.
Over distant hills of sand, Harribel could feel the eyes of multiple hollows eyeing her as she drew nearer to the Vasto of White. They weren't predatory gazes, nor were they truly hostile; cautious yes, but not hostile. They were gazes of apprehension, fear, disinterest, and curiosity. It was the kind of look one would have when someone threatened their home. Harribel was a Vasto Lord like the Vasto of White; it wouldn't be surprising if she was able to kill him.
Be that as it may, the resident hollows, though wary, realized that the Vasto of White had not shot her down with an un-ending rain of fire. Therefore, she was a non-hostile. As Harribel proceeded further and further into the Vasto of White's territory, the number of sword grew larger and less twisted; they were no longer fragments. Her calm eyes analyzed that no other hostile Vasto Lord had probably made it this far into the territory. She didn't understand why it was that the swords became so twisted farther out of the territory, but she knew it wasn't coincidence.
It didn't take long for Harribel to reach the Vasto of White, his form relaxed and staring off into Hueco Mundo's dark sky. She pointed her shark fin sword at the Vasto, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
Harribel's eyes widened as Lilynette Gingerbuck appeared to shield the Vasto of White, her green hair offsetting the glare she held in her one visible eye. Her speed wasn't what surprised Harribel, it was the fact that a hollow would protect another hollow. In Hueco Mundo, it was always eat or be eaten.
"Take a step closer and Starrk will pound you!" Lilynette threatened.
No answer came from Starrk, the hollow who lay motionless on the ground a couple meters away.
Lilynette's frustration grew.
"Starrk, my god! Get your ass over here!"
Starrk opened an eye and sighed into his hand, before sitting up and looking at the situation. Drool was running down his mouth, and his eyes were still half-lidded.
"...Give me a break Lilynette." Starrk collapsed back onto the ground.
"Don't go back to sleep!"
"That's enough Lilynette." The Vasto of White turned to face Harribel and placed a hand on Lilynette's shoulder to settle her down. "What is it that you want?" He asked.
"No." Harribel shook her head calmly. "It would seem that my suspicions were unfounded."
A hollow that has enough trust from other hollows that they are willing to protect him? Perhaps there was truth in Sung-Sun's words. Harribel withdrew her shark fin blade.
"You are an odd one, Vasto of White."
"Odd?" The Vasto of White inclined his head.
"There is no blood lust in your gaze, no desire to become stronger, or even to fill the void that makes us hollow."
"I did not wish to get stronger by sacrificing others." The Vasto of White peered off across the distance at a group of approaching Adjuchas. "No hero of justice would do that."
Wordlessly, Harribel turned her sights at the same direction the Vasto of White was staring at. "Their blood lust radiates all the way here," she said.
Rather than speaking, the Vasto of White stood up and outstretched an arm.
Lilynette ran back to take cover beside Starrk, confusing Harribel.
A bone white bow, larger than the Vasto himself, appeared in the Vasto of White's hand; the white exoskeleton shattered to reveal sturdy obsidian. Walking casually to a protruding sword, the Vasto of White muttered under his breath, and the sword twisted to an absurd level. Knocking the twisted sword onto his bow, the Vasto of White fired with unerring accuracy. Faster than any cero Harribel had ever seen, the twisted sword made contact with the group of Adjuchas.
...The world was dyed in a crimson glow, waves of sand traveling in every direction.
The twisted sword shattered, turning into multiple little fragments that scattered everywhere, the Adjuchas obliterated and fading into particles of Reishi. It was understandable, based on the amount of Reishi packed into the sword the Vasto of White had fired; each one had as much Reishi as a cero.
He is definitely strong, and there's still this many
Harribel once again took note of the sheer number of swords that lay around them. It was simply absurd that each contained the destructive output of a cero. How strong could the Vasto of White be to produce this many?
The Vasto of White dismissed his bow, and once again sat on the ever-shifting sand.
"You can relax," The Vasto of White said as if sensing how Harribel had begun tensing her muscles. "I won't attack unless necessary."
"I see." Harribel tentatively sat down. "What is your objective by choosing to remain here?"
It was a question that had been bothering Harribel from the start. Why would a Vasto Lord so strong not make a move against any of the other Vasto Lords in Hueco Mundo like Baraggan had? There must have been a motive.
The Vasto of White looked across his vast territory.
"I remain here to watch over those who can not defend themselves, to save them from those who would wish to do harm." The Vasto of White sighed. "I can no longer recall how long I have been in Hueco Mundo, but I could never stand how the strong would simply kill the weak."
Harribel sat in silence, faint winds sending tuts of her blond hair to press against her closed eyes.
"You are truly an odd one, Vasto of White." Harribel opened her eyes and made eye contact with the Vasto of White.
The Vasto of White scratched at the back of his head in a remarkably human gesture. His pale face, making the gesture look a bit off. His short red hair swayed as he returned his arm to his side.
"Uhm," The Vasto of White began. "My name isn't the Vasto of White. I would prefer it if you would just call me Archer, or maybe Shirou; it just sounds right to me."
"Then Shirou...You are truly an odd one." Harribel stood up and looked towards Shirou. "Tia Harribel." Harribel introduced herself. "This won't be the last time you'll be seeing me."
Shirou nodded, and Harribel left in a burst of speed.
It would seem Sung-Sun's idea wasn't so bad after all.