Chapter 4: Incentive

The sun was rising over Karakura town the day after the return from Hueco Mundo. Standing on the front porch of a little known candy store in one of the back-alleys of the town was an oddly dressed man in a long white coat looking up at the sky.

"Nice Morning, wouldn't ya say?" he asked turning his head towards the door of the store.

Out popped a covered head from behind the door, followed by the rest of the odd clog and hat wearing man. "Oh, I hadn't noticed."

Grunting Ardi replied "First time I've been able ta see the sky in many years. Well enjoy lookin' at it."

Someone turned the corner at the end of the alley and began walking towards the store. "Urahara, I'm curious, could this Hogyoku, be impervious to that girls power to some degree? I can't see how he could prevent her from destroying it if she really wanted to."

"Oh, so you have been doing more then staring at the clouds all morning." he chuckled before continuing "Her ability appears to rely on her moods to an extent, but the actual effectiveness of the ability can be limited by outside factors such as spiritual energy or reiatsu interference, at least from my observations. The Hogyoku itself contains an immense amount of latent spiritual energy, which could interfere with her rejection of the object. I have some theories of how he may have used her powers on the gem though."

When it became apparent that he wasn't going to continue Ardi turned his attention towards to girl who was nearly at the entrance of the store. "Morning, Tatsuki-chan! Yoruichi is downstairs already!" chirped the hat and clog wearing store-owner.

"Hello Urahara-san" she said bowing her head towards the shop-owner. Looking at the Arrancar she just nodded mumbling a "Hello" before passing by them into the store.

"Happy girl" remarked Ardientes, Urahara just nodded.

---

The crescent moon hanging over Hueco Mundo provided an eerie unearthly light for the bone white desert forever shrouded in eternal night. Nothing moved in that desert for as far as the eye could see around Las Noches. In truth from a distance it would be impossible to tell that there was recently a great battle inside the halls of the building. Even those battles were limited to just a small area inside the palace leaving much untouched, such was the size of the building.

Walking through the halls was a young appearing man, with half of a horned mask o the left side of his head. His dead black hair framed a face with piercing jade coloured eyes, and green lined markings giving the impression of tears. However Ulquiorra had no time for tears, or any petty emotion. Emotions were for the weak, and those that succumbed to them little more then trash.

Approaching the room with the one who was worthy of his loyalty Ulquiorra could sense his masters crushing reiatsu at work. Entering the room still strewn with some rubble of the battle he beheld his master dealing out punishment on one who had stupidly succumbed to his emotions for the petty reason to fight a Shinigami.

Grimmjow Jeagerjaques was crumpled on his hands and knees. Breathing and sweating heavily, he could barely move under the crushing force that surrounded him emanating from Aizen. Looking from the man crumpled on the floor Aizen turned slightly to regard the new arrival.

"Welcome Ulquiorra," the man intoned quietly "I was just informing your brother about the need for restraint. Isn't that right, Grimmjow." He turned back to the man on the floor. "Despite your actions during recent events, the rescue of Miss Inoue is not a loss in my plans. No quite the opposite in fact, as you may live to see. The seeds of doubt have been planted, the time will come to harvest the fruit soon enough."

"Aizen-sama he disobeyed your orders, not only that he aided in the rescue of the human girl. He has gone to far this time and should be punished." Stated Kename Tousen

"No Kename, he still has his uses, he isn't useless to us just yet." Aizen replied, turning to Ulquiorra.

"What have you to report, Ulquiorra?"

"The representative has arrived Aizen-sama, recent events have piqued their interests." He replied in his usual monotone. "They are awaiting your presence in the main hall."

"Excellent." He replied softly, releasing Grimmjow who collapsed to the floor, he started towards the door. "Come, Gin, Kename, let us greet our guest."

They walked quickly through the alabaster halls of Las Noches, arriving soon after at the main hall.

"Welcome to Las Noches ambassador, I am Aizen Souske."

The hooded representative regarded him for a moment, before raising bony white hands to lower his hood to reveal a very human looking mask devoid of emotion with golden glowing eyes.

"What would you have of the Vasto Lords" It hissed with voice that sounded like crumpling dry skin.

Aizen regarded his visitor with a slow smile.

---

Tatsuki couldn't focus and it was annoying her. She was distracted by all that had happened in the last day or so. After learning what had happened to her friends she was annoyed that she couldn't do more to help them, particularly Orihime.

Making a frustrated grunt in the back of her throat she took her position again, and tried to focus. She focused on herself and began directing the energy in her body towards her limbs as Yoruichi had been teaching her.

She started to move in her training forms, punch, punch, punch, kick, block and turn, repeat. It was a slow repetition that was supposed to help her with focusing but she just couldn't do it today.

Sitting on a flat rock jutting out of the ground not far from the practising girl sat the two Arrancar.

They were watching the girl with some mild interest, but it was mostly because in the entire house, this was currently the most interesting thing to be doing. Urahara was nowhere to be found but no doubt near by. Orihime had disappeared with Ichigo, Rukia, Chad and Ishida. The Captains had disappeared back to Soul Society, and their replacements were on the way. Lastly Yoruichi had disappeared somewhere to check on something leaving Tessai and the two kids to watch the store, like they ever got any business.

So they were more or less alone, and bored. So they had decided to watch the little human girl go about her thing.

"She can't seem to concentrate," mumbled Nel "she seems to be lacking focus." She leaned back and brusher her hair over her shoulder with one hand and looked at her companion.

"Yeah." Yawned Ardi.

"What that's it? That's all you have to say?" she asked.

"Well," he scratched the side of his nose "even with her spiritual energy, I still wouldn't want ta get hit by one of her punches, it'd prolly hurt if she got her focus right."

A few moments more passed by in silence.

Agonising silence.

"For the love of… what do you want me to do?!" exclaimed Ardi to his companion's puppy dog eyes.

"Go help her!" beamed Nel. Giving his friend a flat eyed stare, he hoisted himself off the rock and wandered over to where the girl was training.

"Oi, girl, oi, I'm talking to you. Yeah, you suck an-"

He raised his forearm just in time to block her round-house kick to the headwell seems she can put some spirit energy into those things. Nel was making choking noises behind him.

"What did you just say?" Tatsuki was glowering at this ass of a man standing in front of her.

"I said you-"

"I heard what you said!" she shouted.

"Good, do ya wana know why?" when she didn't say anything he continued "It's because ya lack focus and drive. Right now, you're distracted aren't ya? If ya wanna to fight then ya can't be distracted! Why do you want to fight?"

"Eh? Well, um, I. I want to help my friends."

"Ya friends seem capable of protecting themselves." He stated.

Her eyes narrowed "I want to be able to protect Orihime from danger when she can't protect herself!" she growled

"Be her knight in shining armour, eh?" he replied tilting his head to the side.

"What's wrong with wanting to protect her?"

"Did I say anything was wrong with it? Nope! But if that's ya reason to train, then why are ya distracted?"

"Because-"

"Because, what? Nothing else should matter when ya want to train. Ya have a goal, and nothing should get in the way of it." Tatsuki went to open her mouth "No buts! I'll tell ya what, if you can hit me I'll teach ya something you can use to help protect ya friend and ya better be focused to, if not you'll regret it."

Tatsuki smirked at the man for a moment, then fired off a quick right handed jab at his face, and hit nothing but air. What the hell?

"Haha, ya think it would be that easy, try again!" The annoying reply came from behind her.

Eyebrow twitching she spun again, feigning a left punch before spinning back the other way in a low ground sweeping kick that hummed with energy. Her opponent was on his feet about five feet away from her with some half cocky smile impressed on his face. God he was pissing her off.

She was pretty fast he noted, for a human. He was planning on patting her on the head when she spun around before, but the low kick had made him jump back. She was angry now, just like he wanted her to be. Give her a goal, then piss her off to draw out some passion for the cause, the rest was up to her she was doing well at focusing her reiatsu to, he had figured she'd have needed some prodding, but that didn't appear to be a problem! He felt his grin widen this was getting fun.

That infuriating grin was getting bigger and she wanted nothing more then to smack it clean off his face. Argh, calm down Tatsuki, he is trying to make you angry! Anger leads to mistakes. Fight with the passion in your heart… and take that smug-

She narrowed her eyes slightly before moving at him again. Swinging first with her left, then right, then left again. The man was backing up from her repeat attacks, dodging from side to side with his hands tucked in the top of his belt sash, every now and then using that weird move of his to get behind her. Feigning into a low kick she altered her path when the man crouched slightly to jump- do it!

He had sonido'd right behind her again, but this time instead of the kick he was expecting she had a surprise for him. Her fist, an uppercut aimed straight at his jaw. He could see the spirit energy coalesced around her hand like a pale blue nimbus, she had thrown everything into this punch, her body and spirit energy. Guess this has gone on enough. Leaning back slightly he felt her fist graze past his jaw and the residual energy of her attack made his skin tingle.

Tatsuki stopped attacking the moment her fist had passed his jaw line and looked at her opponent. "Nice one." He said. "Well I guess its time for ya reward, huh." A mischievous glint appeared in his eye, she blinked. "This…"

He removed his right hand from behind the sash and slowly raised it to the side pointing at Nel, or rather the rock she was sitting on. Suddenly she felt a strange surge and the air around his hand glowed red for the briefest moment-

BOOM

The rock Nel was sitting on had shattered and the girl herself was covered in dirt and pieces of rock.

"…is called Bara." Hanging in the air between his hand and the rock were faint expanding rings. "I'll teach ya this, or rather the method."

Tatsuki swallowed at the sight.

Nel threw a rock shard at Ardientes "God, you are so annoying." He just laughed.


Well that's chapter 4, hope you enjoyed it. I tried to make it a little more on the lighter side. Yay, some small plot advancement, evil Aizen! I had some fun writing the small 'spar' between Tat and Ardi. It was a bit of a test for later combat, so we will have to see how it goes.