Many thanks to SeraphinaDonna, xSodeNoShirayukix, Tsukiyomi No Miko and Aizawa Ayumu.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.
Zeke turned to the child who entered the room with a basin of water. They were always cautious with their surroundings. Even if they knew that their spirit energies are carefully masked away from Aizen's keen sense, they knew they have to take extra precaution still. They could not risk it especially when Aizen learned that they just betrayed him.
And they are certainly no match for the traitorous Shinigami. And the two of them could not fight him. If there is someone who could…it would be the Primera who was Rukia. But what they thought was a minor injury turned out to be something fatal. And it even surprised him to learn that even people like them…spirits like them…death god or hollows…could also get sick.
"How is she?" Pollux asked in worry as he glanced at the shivering woman on bed. Beads of sweat trickled down her face.
The child Espada sighed. "We are not healers and we could not just grab some Arrancars from Las Noches or he would sense our presence around. What should we do, Zeke?"
Zeke mulled over it. "There is one final battle left…Aizen is strong and he creates strong fighters from Hogyouku…but with that thing gone…all who was left was him…how about we go and send her to the transient world?"
The suggestion earned a furious glare from the child Espada. "Are you nuts? They see her as an enemy and she just killed what she called her nakama. Do you honestly think they would willingly open their arms to treat someone who had turned her back on them?"
"Did she really?" Zeke asked wisely then raised his brow towards him. "You among people should know that Pollux."
Pollux bent her head down. "Yeah I know that but…"
"Do you think you can open a garganta without him noticing it?"
"That's impossible. In fact I know he sensed us the moment we returned. He just could not find us."
"That's what I also think," Zeke nodded his head then glanced at the Primera. "But I never would have thought the wound from the Quincy did much damage to her. I always thought she is invincible with Death beside her. Yet it only proves that she could die…"
"It bugged me…" Pollux said and took a seat. "She could have dodged that arrow. I know she could. I even thought she saw it coming…yet…"
"The realization came after the ryoka boy was pierced by the fake Aizen. It was too much for her to suddenly contain in her mind that she did not get the full meaning of it until the Quincy said something about making her pay for killing…what was her name again?"
"Who knows…I hardly pay attention to their words or to their names at that," Pollux answered with a shrug.
"Oh? But you seem to have enjoyed playing tag with that captain."
Pollux just grunted. Then they both stood up, alerted at the unwanted presence. The two exchanged glances and drew their weapons out. He found out about it? But they thought they were successful in hiding their reiatsu while recuperating?
Zeke stepped forward. "Pollux…protect her with everything you've got."
"What does that supposed to mean?" he shot angrily. There was no time for an answer when the door opened to reveal four faces. Pollux's hand moved to the hilt of his sword, ready to fight them at all cost.
"I thought we'd find you in a place like this…this kind of place is only known to renegade Hollows…" the female former Espada spoke kindly. "We did not come here to fight."
"What do you want then?" Zeke asked carefully. With the two of them against four, he could not see the odds favoring them. Three former Espada who were able to hold their own against the other Espada some time back…and a former captain who stood by Aizen's side for quite a time…if anything else…they proved to be the troublesome enemies…
"It is not for us to decide but for her," he stated. "As you can see, she is suffering from a high fever which I never even thought is possible to our kind."
"With the cloak from Syazel, I think we can move freely from his keen sense for a while. We'll try to find some medical Arrancar."
Ulquiorra studied the two. "How long did the three of you figured it out? That he was not Aizen after all?"
The two exchanged glances. "From the start…she knew it…she had a cunning ability to sense it…guess it came from that orb of destruction…but nevertheless, she knew the moment the Hogyouku took over her."
"It does not make us any different, does it?" Ulquiorra muttered.
"The remaining Shinigami and the Vizards will be preparing for a counter attack," Gin spoke seriously with no trace of his creepy grin. "It's best we join forces with them to defeat Aizen's hypnosis."
Zeke and Pollux lowered their weapons but they were still on guard judging from their stance. "I'm afraid we'll have to decline the offer. The Primera will not ally herself with anyone else especially from the Shinigami."
Gin raised his brow at the claim and flicked a glance towards the sleeping woman. "That sight of her reminded me of how Byakuya's wife died. To think she looks exactly like her sister when she was dying…"
The tip of a sword was on his throat and he raised his hand in mid-air. "Be careful with what you say," the child Espada said with warning.
"I mean no offense. I was just reminiscing from a distant past. But seriously, pride is not everything else. She really needs to be tended or she'll die."
Zeke placed his hand on Pollux's head. "It's alright kid…"
The last word earned an annoyed look from him but the older Espada paid no mind. "Then I am in your debt."
It was a gamble they would take, Pollux thought.
"So what's the plan?"
"Kidnap one nurse from Las Noches," Grimmjaw suggested.
"You really have a brain of a cat," Ulquiorra muttered.
"We'll have to get Unohana," Gin said. "I can get to her. Even better if we go to her."
The words came from Rukia who forced herself to wake up.
"Oi, oi, you should not force yourself," Grimmjaw commented at the woman who had tried to encase him once in her ice prison.
Her eyes were devoid of emotion as she raised her head to meet his gaze. Pollux walked towards her. "Are you sure you are fit to move?" Zeke asked as he looked behind his shoulder.
"Yes." She stood up forcefully while Pollux watched.
Gin stepped forward. Rukia was immediately alerted. She would never forget this man who managed to instill fear in her heart before. Gin stopped at the warning look from her. He knew better than to challenge a person who has the power to defeat Aizen.
She glanced at the former Espada including Grimmjaw. Then she glanced at Pollux and Zeke. There was a silent communication among the three. Pollux's eyes were shining with determination and approval while Zeke sighed…actually there is one way to regain her strength faster without having to worry about the fever. It was just that the Primera refused to
When Pollux nodded his approval, they noted a different look on Rukia's eyes. It was dead cold…a look promising death…
"What are you going to do?" Neliel asked with a frown. "You can't even move on your own with the fever wearing you down. Don't be stubborn."
Rukia did not listen to her. She reached for her katana which looked entirely different now. "We have to make haste, Rukia," Zeke pointed out. He turned to the newcomers. "We fight by ourselves and you fight with your allies. That is how this would go."
"What is she planning to do?"
"Regaining her strength back."
They watched in mute surprise save for Zeke as Rukia extended her katana towards Pollux. "Bear with me for a while Pollux."
"Oi…" Grimmjaw called the attention of the two as a simmering light seemed to have started…
"Those freaking Espada left without a word and Gin too," Renji hissed as he watched over his wounded friend. "How long are you going to sleep Ichigo? Time is not an option for us now."
He sounded like an idiot as he spoke to no one in particular except to the sleeping human. Well, to start with there was no one else in the room anyway…
"We were so close…so very close…" he continued with a sigh… "Yet…we still were unable to get through her…'"
The door opened to reveal the Vizards. "He still has not woken up yet?" the blond guy asked with a 'tsk'.
"Tomorrow we will go to Hueco Mundo for the counter attack…Aizen has no one left at his disposal save for the three…"
"You're saying if he does not wake up soon, he'll be left behind…"
"But Shinji…" the green-haired asked with a whine. "He's too deep in his world now…"
Renj heard from Shuhei, Kira, Momo and the rest as they recounted the battle between the Vizards and the Espada so he knew they were not just talk…they are like Ichigo…powerful…
"He does not want to wake up so that's his problem," Shinji muttered but Mashiro shook her head. Despite being childish it was rare for her to offer her insights.
"It's not about not wanting to wake up…as I have said…he's too deep in his world…as if trying to forge a connection…"
The others gave her a puzzled look but she ignored it. "Forge a connection?"
Kensei scratched his head. "Do you remember what Kisuke had told us when he approached us before? About the impending blah and blah?"
"What about it?" Hiyori asked.
"He mentioned once that there was a Shinigami who had given her powers to him so he could protect his family…"
"Oh I get it…" Rose said. "That woman…"
"But I never heard such a thing…" Hachi muttered.
"But it's the logical supposition here. Think of it this way…who else would he try to forge connection with? He already bonded with his inner self…so there's got to be someone else…"
Shinji sighed. "Still…he's losing it. Get a bucket of water Hiyori."
"Ah??? Why the hell are you ordering me??" she asked dangerously as a slipper flew towards Shinji who ducked in time to avoid the thing.
Renji scratched his head as he watched the little commotion then he looked down at his friend. So you are even capable of doing that eh? You're indeed someone…
"You look lost again, boy…" the man in black commented as he stood above the building and looking below at the orange head kid.
"Why can't I reach her?"
His Hollow was just nearby…quietly listening to the conversation…
"Death owned her…"
Ichigo gave the old man flabbergasted look and shook his head. "You can't be serious."
"What do you mean owned her?"
"It means…" the Hollow butted in. "The dominant power inside her now is Muerte and not Shirayuki…the ice maiden is already tucked into the deepest corner of her world…with Muerte dominant over Shirayuki…you can't reach her…"
"Is still existing…but barely…she'll only emerge when Rukia herself would call her."
"Then all the more we need to get to her…to rescue her…"
The remaining strong fighters of Soul Society gathered with the Vizards as Gin appeared with the Espada behind him. They still have a baffled look on their faces.
"What's the situation there?" Yamamoto asked.
"The three our not on his side…they fight on their own…"
"Is that a good sign or a bad sign?" Shunsui asked.
"What got you so dumbfounded?"
The question snapped the four back to their senses before Gin shook his head to clear his mind. "Nothing…we were just reminded that she owned every aspect of death and all abilities of the former Espada…"
His eyes fixed on Love and Rose. "You fought the Primera. You know what I mean."
The two nodded while the others frowned. "So what do you mean?" Kenpachi asked as he twitched his ear.
"Oi…" Grimmjaw started as a simmering light seemed to have started.
"Muerte…" Rukia spoke and when smoke cleared away…she stood there with a healthy form…but with Pollux gone…
"What happened to him?" Nel asked in shock. "You did not kill…right?" she asked.
"Pollux is back to where he should be," Zeke answered. "He is part of Muerte. That is why his ability is a bit different from all of us."
"She's the extension of the Hogyouku which the Primera created right after she was made the first…but Aizen does not know about that since she had worked on her plan thoroughly. He just thought he found him and made him the tercera…"
"You mean…when he…"
"When he goes back to her…it means…she had reached her maximum power…more terrifying that what she showed you in battle…"
Love and Rose exchanged glances. Then one of the Shinigami gulped. "She's that strong?"
"So…what now?" one asked.
Since the garganta did not close yet, Zeke emerged and everyone else was alerted as they all readied their zanpaktou. Zeke did not mind them at all. Gin's eyes opened and gave the current Espada a knowing look.
"She had gone on her own, had she?" Ulquiorra voiced the question as Renji and Ichigo emerged from the door and caught the question. All eyes turned to Zeke.
"Ah. I came here not to fight you and not to ask you either since I am aware she can fight Aizen at par now however I came here for…" he scanned the room and fixed his eyes on the orange-head. "…him."
"What does Ichigo have to do with it now?" Shinji asked with a raised brow.
Zeke wore a formal look as he remained standing just outside the garganta. He reconsidered everything before he came. "I care for the Primera or Rukia…whatever form she was…"
"Don't tell me you came here to tell just that?" Kenpachi asked.
There was no answer as there was a heated look between the Espada and Ichigo before Ichigo finally spoke. He understood. "I will go."
"Of course we will go…there is no way we could allow Aizen to die without us lifting a finger towards him first," Shinji spat.
"Around Las Noches is a barrier she created on her own and no one else can enter that," Zeke spoke. "I told you she can fight on her own but the problem would lie just after that."
"Rukia, don't be stubborn and regain your energy," Zeke insisted at the conscious woman who was drifting in and out of consciousness actually.
"If I do…it would mean the end…"
There was a questioning look on the other Espada. Pollux is nowhere in sight as he went for a short recon to make sure they are not yet found.. "Elaborate."
"If I do, Pollux would cease to exist and there is no way I would allow that. I have given him a glimpse of this world Zeke. And I will not take that away from him."
"So basically, she just does not want Pollux to disappear is that it?" the sotaichou asked as he rubbed his long beard.
Zeke sighed as he prayed for patience. "If she merged with Pollux to regain her maximum strength, she would tap on a greater power that would finish Aizen in exchange for her life. That is the deal she had with Muerte."
There was a baffled silence before Ichigo broke it again as he moved towards Zeke. "I will get through her. I will get her back. I promised her that."
Without any other words, he jumped towards the garganta while Zeke was left with the others. "He left without waiting for my further explanation."
"There is something more?" Renji asked as he was about to follow his friend.
"Next to her, Ichigo can fight Aizen as well…they are still connected after all and he could and he might be able to tap inside her power using that forged connection they had together. Rukia…this is her first time trying this one and though I said that she has the power to defeat Aizen it is still not guaranteed because she has yet to master that power well."