Under the Lonely Moon
What is this world that we wander in?
What is this great wasteland around us?
Why are we forced to endure it?
It is a cruel world. It is a world where you are forced to kill in order to survive and gain power. The ever-constant crescent moon hangs in the empty sky, its light reflecting off of the white sands. The tips of the great luminescent trees of the Menos Forest break through the sandy surface, like claws reaching for the heavens. This is Hueco Mundo, the Land of Hollows.
Hueco Mundo is a world based solely on evolution. Hollows are the souls of the dead who were not cleansed by Soul Reapers and who allowed their Soul Chain to break. Hollows require spiritual energy and their source are either the souls of the dead in the Realm of the Living, Soul Reapers, or by devouring each other.
Over the course of time, a number of regular hollows may become attached to each other and become the Gillian. Each Gillian is essentially nothing more than a mindless beast, having no personality of their own. However, sometimes one soul may gain control over the others and their personality becomes dominant. In order to evolve further, this rare Gillian will continue to feed on other Hollows and even other Gillians.
If a Personalized Gillian has devoured enough Hollows, then they become Adjuchas. Adjuchas have a lower population than the Gillians however they are able to control Gillians. However, Adjuchas can revert back to Gillians and lose any chance of further developing. As a result, they must continue to devour other Hollows. However, if any part of their body is consumed then they are unable to evolve further and probably will not revert back to a Gillian state. As such, very few of them will evolve into the most powerful beings in Hueco Mundo: the Vasto Lorde.
We walk down this road
Illuminated by the light
Of the Lonely Moon
The figure walked alone. Even though he looked human, he wasn't completely human. His Hollow mask resembled the face of a wolf with two horns coming out of either side and crimson markings decorated the mask around the eyes, his long brown hair flowed from the back of the mask. His body was mostly silver fur with black fur running from his arms to his shoulders and he had a long silver tail. He heard the roar of a Hollow from behind. He turned around and was not surprised to see the last Adjuchas that he encountered miles away begin to weaken and collapse. He watched in sorrow as his last companion was crushed by the much stronger spiritual energy he radiated.
He knew that this would happen. He had already lost countless such groups in such a fashion. He left behind a trail of broken corpses. He knew that he should be used to this, but he wasn't. He only wanted a pack, but he was too powerful.
He could remember that one of the first groups he encountered was a group of weaker Adjuchas. When the Adjuchas saw him approaching, they rushed at him, preparing to devour him. However, when they were less than a mile away, the Adjuchas at the front began to slow before collapsing. However, this did not stop the other Adjuchas from getting closer, but they also collapsed. He rushed towards them, wanting to know what their fate was. However, he could no longer feel their Reiatsu.
At first he was confused by their sudden death. However he didn't think much of their deaths, because the desire for a pack was stronger. He searched for others who were strong and could handle his Reiatsu, but the search was always in vain. Sometimes the Hollows would die in mere moments, but at other times it would take much longer, but the results were always the same.
Now, as he gazed down at the corpse of his last remaining companion, he understood the despair that came with loneliness. He felt tears coming into his eyes, remembering the companions that he lost. This one Hollow that he stood over had lasted the longest. However, he was still alone.
"I want to become weak. If I became weak, I could stay in a pack. If I became weak, they wouldn't keep on dying. I…I don't want to be alone anymore."
He looked up into the eternal night sky. The ever-crescent moon stared down. To the Hollow, the moon seemed to mock him. It was as though the moon knew that his desire for companionship were in vain. In pain and sorrow, the Wolf howled at the moon.
We are all born
With a desire to protect what we hold dear
Even if it means Sacrificing ourselves
The female Adjuchas raced across the sands and the male followed.
"COME HERE," the male Adjuchas screamed.
"NOT A CHANCE, MORON," the female screamed back.
The female Adjuchas used her deer-like body to its full advantage. The male Adjuchas, which had a serpentine torso with many arms, each ending in a claw-like appendage and a thick lower body, used its many legs to pick up speed. The female saw the male coming closer and ran even faster. Ahead, she could see a drop-off. Her only chance of escape was to try to jump it.
She did not notice the male Adjuchas closing the gap and getting ready to drive its claws into her. She only saw the jump. She reached the edge and launched herself. The male Adjuchas saw her jump, his eyes widened in surprise. He had not expected her to try to jump across the gap.
However, she did not jump far enough. Her front hooves scraped on the other side's edge, but she had no way of hanging on. Instead she fell back into the 100-foot drop and managed to maintain her composure. Instead of panicking, she allowed her body to fall naturally and then rolled into a position where she would land on her hooves, facing the side she had jumped from. She knew that the male Adjuchas would follow her into the chasm.
She landed on the sand and stood her ground as the male Adjuchas landed on the chasm's floor. The male Adjuchas laughed and made his forward. The female expected that and lowered her head until the horn on her forehead released a beam of crimson light. The male saw the cero coming at him, but was not able to dodge it in time. It struck him in the head, but the cero was too weak to do anything. The female stood still, the realization that she was helpless paralyzed her.
"Well now, this is better," the male said, approaching her. "You have nowhere to go."
This was the way things were in Hueco Mundo. The weak were devoured and became part of the strong. She could not believe that she was going to be devoured by a creature like this. However, the laws of nature were clear: only the strongest survived. She did not want to admit that this creature standing before her was more powerful.
"I see that you've decided to accept your fate," the male said. "That's good. No matter how much you try to resist, I will devour you. If you don't want your death to be in vain, then pray that I will live on and become an even greater Adjuchas, maybe even a Vasto Lorde, after I consume you."
He approached her, but stopped when they heard the sound of falling rocks coming from above him. The two looked up and saw the figure of a woman standing above them. She looked down at them and jumped, landing in between the two figures.
The woman's face, with the exception of the area around her blue-green eyes that also revealed darkly-tanned skin and short blonde hair at the top of her head, was completely covered by her Hollow mask that looked like the face of a shark. Her body was mostly covered in white bone-like armor and a silvery-blue leathery substance that acted like leather. The back of her armor resembled the back of a shark. Her right arm, from the elbow down, was covered in the white armor and was formed into a long, broad pata while her left arm was covered in the silver-blue substance with plates of the white bone running to her hand.
"Who are you?" the male Adjuchas asked. "You're kind of small. Oh well, I guess I can eat you as an appetizer."
He completely ignored any idea that she could be of any threat, thinking that she was weak. Unfortunately for him, his male chauvinism proved to be his undoing. As he charged at the woman, she suddenly vanished. His eyes widened in horror as he realized his mistake, but it was too late.
"You…you're a…" he began, but before he could finish his body fell into two pieces.
The woman appeared close to the female Adjuchas and she allowed her Reiatsu to flow slightly. The female Adjuchas' eyes widened at the strength radiating from the woman. She knew that it could not possibly be the same level as an Adjuchas. Then it dawned on her, the woman in front of her was a Vasto Lorde. The Vasto Lorde looked at the Adjuchas.
"You're a Vasto Lorde," the female Adjuchas said, lowering her head. "I…I would rather be eaten by you than by anyone else. To be devoured by you would be a greater honor than being devoured by another Adjuchas."
The Vasto Lorde suppressed her Reiatsu and turned.
"Come with me," the Vasto Lorde said.
"What…what did you say?"
"I said, 'Come with me'. I have no intention of devouring you."
The Vasto Lorde then proceeded to walk towards a trail that led out of the small enclosure. The Adjuchas stood still for a moment and then proceeded to follow her. They walked away from the gap and made their way to a tall spire of stone, casting its eerie luminescent glow across the desert sands.
Inside this spire two other Adjuchas waited. One was a violet serpent, her white hollow mask shaped gracefully on her head with strands of smooth bone hanging down. The other was a golden lioness with white bone on her limbs. They heard the sounds of footsteps approaching and looked in the direction of the smoothed steps leading from the entry. They saw the one whom they were waiting for walking down the steps.
"Welcome back, Mistress Harribel," the serpent replied.
"Did you have a safe journey?" the lioness asked.
"Ladies, I am pleased to see that you kept things well."
"Thank you," the two replied.
"Oh…and who is this?" the serpent asked, noticing the deer-like Adjuchas standing on the steps.
"This is our new comrade," Harribel replied.
"Me? Are you calling me a comrade?"
"Of course," Harribel replied.
"Do you even realize what you're saying? I mean, sure you saved me from that male Adjuchas. But, I'm not exactly bursting with gratitude."
"Who do you think you are?" the lioness asked, shouting as she spoke. "The Mistress was so kind to rescue you and you're talking shit. Perhaps she shouldn't have bothered with you, you walking piece of venison."
"What did you say?" the deer-like Adjuchas asked.
"That's enough, you two," the serpent said rising further off the ground. "You two are very much alike, especially in rudeness."
"What was that?" the other two Adjuchas shouted.
"Damn you, Sung-Sun," the lioness said. "How dare you talk to us as though you're looking down on us?"
"Well, Mila Rose," Sung-Sun said showing off her full height. "That's because I AM looking down on you."
"YOU BITCH!" Mila Rose roared.
"That's enough you two," Harribel said.
"Yes, Mistress," the two said, lowering their heads.
"I'm sorry about that," Harribel said turning to the Adjuchas whom she had saved. "Do you have a name?"
"Why can't we just call her 'Bambi'?" Mila Rose asked.
"Enough, Mila Rose," Harribel said. "Tell me. What is your name?"
"My name is…Apacci," the newest recruit said.
"A very good name and I am Tia Harribel. You don't need to worry. I do not have any ulterior motives in bringing you here. I only brought you hear because it is safer this way. It is unfortunate that in Hueco Mundo, women like us can become easy prey for the males. Therefore, it is safer to act together as a group than alone."
"I see," Apacci said.
"I have come to the realization that it if none of us can achieve victory alone then we must achieve it together," Harribel said.
"But, you're a Vasto Lorde," Apacci said.
"Does that make any difference? In Hueco Mundo, and especially within the Las Noches plains, everyday is a struggle. As a result, we must continually struggle to survive. That is the way of the world. It is easy to surrender when you don't have anything that you wish to protect. However, when you have comrades standing by your side and watching your back, you realize that you have something to fight for. You would do whatever it takes to keep them safe, even if it means sacrificing yourself."
We are all born alone
We all die alone
Our lives are spent trying to escape the Loneliness
The Wolf made his way across the empty lands. The tips of the trees thrusting through the ground were a perfect reminder of every Hollows goal: to reach the absolute top. Like the trees growing in the Menos Forest, every Hollow dreamed of gaining more power and evolving into a greater being and reach greater heights. However, as he knew, it was lonely at the top.
Even though far below the surface, the trees were huddled together in a great forest, when they reached the surface, there were great distances between them. Each tree top that broke through the sand found itself alone. He could no longer understand the desire to evolve further. He knew that he once was like the other Hollows, devouring each other in order to progress.
"When you reach the top," he whispered, "what do you find? Do you find glory or do you only find isolation?"
He remembered a time when he was able to run in a pack. They were strong together and they evolved together. However, at a certain point, he progressed much faster than the others. While his progression only sped up, theirs became slower. Then, when he awoke from a nap, he discovered that his entire pack was dead. He was the only one left standing.
However, his search for companions did not begin then. At first, he only stared down at their corpses and left them where they laid. He hardly noticed how some Hollows were drawn to him, only to die, and others fled from him whenever he came near. He did not think anything of it, at first. Then he remembered the pack. He remembered how they would run and hunt and play and he found himself missing it.
He realized his desire to have those days back and so he had begun his search for a new pack. However, each potential pack were soon overwhelmed by his Reiatsu and died as a result. Now, he sat alone, running his fingers through the sand.
"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" a high-pitched voice asked from behind.
The Wolf turned slightly and saw a group of three large female Adjuchas standing over him. The Wolf sensed their Reiatsu, hoping that they would be able to withstand his spiritual energy. However, he found that even though they were strong, they were not strong enough.
"It's best that you leave," he said.
"What was that?" one of the other Adjuchas asked, rage building.
"I don't want you to die. It's best if you leave, now."
"You don't want us to die?" the third Adjuchas asked, unable to believe what it just heard. "Who are you to threaten us? You don't look like much."
Please, just leave, the Wolf thought. If you don't, then I'm afraid of what will happen.
However, it was too late. The weakest of the three Adjuchas suddenly began to convulse. Its companions looked in horror at their companion beginning to suffocate. It roared in pain and fear. They began to back away as their companion screamed a final scream and died.
"NAOLY!" one of them cried out, it then glared at the Wolf and rushed at him.
"Loly, don't," the other said.
"Tell me why I shouldn't kill him, Menoly? He killed, Naoly," Loly said.
"He's too powerful. You'll be killed too," Menoly replied.
Loly didn't listen, but only went closer to the Wolf. However, she suddenly stopped when she felt his tremendous Reiatsu. Menoly grabbed her and dragged her away from him.
"What…what are you?" Loly asked.
"You…you're a monster," Menoly cried out.
The Wolf watched as the two ran away from him. His sorrow increasing.
"Am I a monster?" the Wolf asked. "Maybe I am. Maybe I'm doomed to wander this world alone."
His grief became great. His pain became more than he could bear. He looked up at the crescent moon and began to weep.
"I…I DON'T WANT TO BE ALONE!" he shouted.
That was when the physical pain began.
What are you willing to do?
Out of desperation to escape
Would you be willing to Sacrifice everything?
Tia Harribel looked up at the moon. Her three companions stood around her, wondering what she was looking at.
"Mistress Harribel," Apacci said.
"Yes, Apacci, what is it?" Harribel asked.
"What are you looking for?"
"I heard someone crying out," Harribel replied.
"It was probably a Hollow being devoured," Mila Rose said.
"I don't think so. I'm going to see what it was. You three are to stay here."
"But, Mistress Harribel, why do we have to stay behind?" Apacci asked.
"I don't know," Harribel said and using her sonído, rushed away.
"We should follow her," Apacci said.
"No, Mistress Harribel told us to stay here," Sung-Sun said.
"I know, but we have to help her. What if she gets into trouble with Skeletor?" Mila Rose asked.
"Who's Skeletor?" Apacci asked.
"That would be Baraggan Luisenbarn, the self-proclaimed 'God of Hueco Mundo'," Sung-Sun replied.
"Yeah, that bastard's been giving Mistress Harribel a very hard time," Mila Rose growled. "He even tried to make her his 'Queen'; as though Mistress Harribel would have anything to do with him."
"Then we need to help her," Apacci screamed. "What if it's a trap?"
"You know, she does have a point," Mila Rose said.
"I know, but Mistress Harribel can take care of herself," Sung-Sun said, although she wasn't as sure.
"I can't let anything happen to her," Apacci said and jumped onto the sand below. The other two looked at each other and followed.
Tia Harribel could feel the tremendous Reiatsu ahead of her. She saw a high pillar of blue Reiatsu rising into the sky. She didn't know what was happening, but she now knew why she didn't want her three companions to follow. They would not have been able to withstand that much output of Reiatsu.
"MISTRESS HARRIBEL!" someone cried out.
Harribel turned and saw her three companions racing after her.
"STAY BACK!" she yelled.
The three stopped and felt the tremendous Reiatsu coming ahead of them. They took a few steps away, although they still felt extremely weak. Harribel looked to where the Reiatsu was coming from and decided to see what was going on. She had never felt anything like it before, not even from Baraggan and he was supposed to be the most powerful Hollow in all of Hueco Mundo. She made her way slowly up the dune and looked over the side.
As a result, she witnessed something that, as far as she knew, had never been seen before in Hueco Mundo.
To escape this Loneliness
I am willing to become
The Wolf howled in pain. He felt his Reiatsu burst into the sky. The nearby crystalline trees shattered and the sand rose up into a maelstrom. The pain became even more intense and he felt his mask begin to break. He knew that he should stop, but he didn't want to. If this pain would help relieve his loneliness, then he would endure it.
He felt himself being lifted off the ground. The maelstrom around him intensified with his pain. When he felt that couldn't endure the pain anymore, his mask shattered. He felt a part of his soul leave him and saw a flash of light-green fly from him.
The maelstrom around him ceased. The sand and remnants of the crystalline trees crashed to the ground around him. He felt his body fall to the ground and felt his body crash on the sand. He didn't know how long he was unconscious, but he was awakened by a soft breeze. He slowly opened his eyes and struggled to sit up. His body felt different, weak and aching, and he was covered in sweat.
He looked around and saw that his fur was lying around him, tattered as though he had burst through it. He looked at his body and realized that it was a human's body. The only part of his mask that remained was the lower jaw that hung around his neck like a necklace. He felt his face and felt smooth skin except for a patch of brown hair on his chin.
He looked ahead of him and saw the light-green Reiatsu particles flowing together and began forming another figure. He watched as the Reiatsu's glow intensified and become a physical being that was hidden in a cloud of sand. When the sand dissipated, he saw a young girl kneeling before him. She had light-green hair and she wore the top part of what was once his mask, except that the left horn was reduced to a smooth stump and her left eye was covered by the mask. Her body was also covered in sweat.
"Do you…have a name?" he asked the girl as she looked up at him.
"I'm Lilynette. What's your name? After all, you were once me."
"I'm Starrk," he said and threw a part of what had once been their fur at her.
"Starrk," she whispered, trying out the name. She caught the fur and wrapped it around her and then sat facing the moon. Starrk did the same. "What should we do now?"
"We can do anything we want."
"Then, where should we go?"
"We can go anywhere, but…" Starrk paused, thinking of what he wanted to say. It didn't take him long to realize that he wanted to say something that he always wanted to say to someone. "But let's be together, forever."
Lilynette looked at him and smiled. Starrk looked at her and smiled. Both smiled up at the moon, knowing that they would never be alone again.
When you Sacrifice your wholeness
For the sake of gaining companionship
Do you truly have companions?
Tia Harribel stared as she saw the separation of the Wolf into Starrk and Lilynette. The Reiatsu was still intense, but it was somehow becoming suppressed. She looked at the two figures sitting on the sand, one male and the other female. She suddenly remembered rumors of a kind of Menos, one that shed its mask and actually gained the powers of a Soul Reaper. They were called "Arrancar" and these were the first Arrancar she ever came across. She heard footsteps behind her and turned and saw her three companions approaching.
"Mistress Harribel, what is it?" Mila Rose asked.
"Yeah, what the hell's going on?" Apacci asked.
"We felt that spiritual energy decrease," Sung-Sun said. "Did a very powerful Hollow die?"
"Come and see. This is something that I've never seen before," Harribel said.
The three approached the dune's crest and looked over the edge at Starrk and Lilynette. The three looked confused.
"Okay, but…I only see two Hollows," Apacci said.
"They were once one Hollow. He divided into those two down there. They look…more human than I do."
"How's that even possible?" Mila Rose asked.
"Hollows that look exactly like humans?" Apacci asked, confused.
"Hmm, this is unique," Sung-Sun said.
"So, are you four just going to stand there? Perhaps you would like to join us," the man said, not even looking around.
Tia Harribel's eyes widened in surprise and her three companions jumped. They looked at the two figures, but only the girl was looking at them. Tia Harribel looked at the two and made her way towards them. Apacci, Mila Rose, and Sung-Sun looked at each other and followed. Harribel couldn't feel their spiritual energy and knew that as long as the two didn't release their Reiatsu, then her companions would be alright.
"Mistress Harribel," Apacci whispered, "are you sure this is alright? I mean, that Hollow's a male."
"I'm sure that we have nothing to worry about. These two are still getting used to their new forms. If either of them tries anything, then we'll make sure that they regret it," Harribel said.
"I doubt you would need to," Starrk replied. "I would rather have no one else die. I've caused too many deaths already."
"You see, he even admits to being a threat," Mila Rose said.
"Then why would he also say that he would rather have no one else die?" Sung-Sun asked.
"It's a trick," Apacci said.
"It's not," Harribel said. "He means everything that he's said."
"Your pack is kind of jumpy," Starrk said. "It's obvious that they care about you."
"Would you try to kill them if you ever got the chance?" Harribel asked.
"No," Starrk replied.
"Why would we want to?" Lilynette asked. "Are you an idiot or something?"
"What did you call Mistress Harribel?" Apacci screamed.
"You're dead," Mila Rose growled.
"Quiet, Lilynette. We don't want to get into a fight," Starrk said. "I'm Coyote Starrk and the girl is Lilynette Gingerback."
"I'm Tia Harribel. These are my companions, Apacci, Mila Rose, and Sung-Sun."
"Companions," Starrk said, tasting the word. "It must be…nice to have companions."
"It is," Harribel said, thinking. "Would you like to join us?"
"WHAT?" Mila Rose and Apacci shouted, shocked.
"Mistress Harribel, I thought that we agreed that we would not allow any male Hollows to join us," Sung-Sun said.
"I wouldn't want to intrude," Starrk said.
"BAKA," Lilynette shouted, hitting Starrk on the head. "She wants us to join her group. Why should we refuse her offer?"
"Because, what if…what if we release too much spiritual energy? I would hate for any of them to die just because they were too close to me."
"Is that your only worry?" Harribel asked, coming closer and sitting next to Starrk.
"I would hate to be responsible for any more deaths," Starrk said.
"I understand," Harribel said and looked at the moon. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
"What is?" Starrk asked.
"Don't you see how beautiful the moon is? It casts its light on our world, causing it to glitter like diamonds," Harribel said.
"Sometimes, I feel that the moon mocks us. Sometimes, I feel as though it takes delight in our misery. Other times, I feel that it is just as lonely as we are. I think that it pities our loneliness," Starrk said.
Harribel looked at him, surprised.
"What do you mean by 'our loneliness'? I'm not lonely. I have Apacci, Mila Rose, and Sung-Sun. What do you have? You only have a part of your soul. That's not true companionship."
"Isn't it? It's better than being the only one on a road going nowhere," Starrk said. "Besides, you must feel lonely at times."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about Loneliness. Have you ever felt as though no one truly understood you? Have you ever felt as though your only companion was the shadow walking besides you?"
Harribel could not say anything. She had felt that way sometimes. Even with Mila Rose, Sung-Sun, and Apacci, she still felt that way from time-to-time. She saw Starrk and Lilynette looking at her and then to her three companions who had gotten enough courage to sit next to her. She then looked up at the moon. That was the first time that she noticed the eternal night sky of Hueco Mundo for the first time.
"There are no stars," she whispered.
"That's right, there are no stars," Starrk said. "The moon is all alone."
You look at the Lonely Moon
The Lonely Moon looks back at you
Both understanding Loneliness
Starrk kept the fur wrapped around him, fighting the cold. Harribel stood beside him. He was glad that he followed her. He finally had a pack. Lilynette was also happy and was playing a game with Apacci and Mila Rose on the desert floor below them. Sung-Sun watched them, sometimes laughing when one of the three more energetic Hollows did something foolish or got tripped.
"They're having fun," Starrk said.
"I know. I've never seen them having so much fun," Harribel said, talking about Mila Rose, Apacci, and Sung-Sun.
"I'm glad that they're having fun," Starrk said. "Lilynette deserves to have someone to play with."
Far below, Lilynette threw a sand-ball at Apacci who beat it back with one of her antlers towards Mila Rose. Mila Rose was caught it in one of her paws and threw it back to Lilynette who ducked to make another sand-ball. When she was done, she threw it at Mila Rose who was unable to dodge it and was hit in the muzzle. Mila Rose began to cough up sand that managed to find its way into her mouth and Lilynette and Apacci laughed.
"What's wrong Mila Rose?" Apacci shouted. "I thought you said that a little bit of sand couldn't hurt you."
"Shut up, Apacci. I'm not seeing you trying to be hit by sand-balls."
"Oh, so you got hit on purpose?" Sung-Sun asked.
"Stay out of this Sung-Sun," Mila Rose shouted.
"Aww, come on, stop fighting," Lilynette said, still laughing. "Come on, let's play some more."
"I don't know, Lily, it looks like Mila Rose is growing tired," Apacci said, chuckling.
"Shut up, Apacci. I'll show you," Mila Rose growled.
That was when a tall, male Adjuchas jumped from a nearby cliff. The four looked at the cloud of dust and Lilynette backed away. Starrk and Harribel looked down. Starrk was about to interfere, but Harribel put her left hand on his shoulder. He looked at her in surprise.
"Wait and see," she said.
"They'll be fine. I trained my comrades to protect themselves, and I had them give Lilynette some training too, enough for her to protect herself if she must."
"Are you sure? I mean…I just can't let them…"
"I appreciate your concern for our comrades, but they'll be fine."
Below, the tall male Adjuchas stood. He looked down on the four figures below and was shocked to see that one of them looked human. However, he didn't think anything about them, after all, they were only four female. For him, female Hollows made for easy prey.
"Well, now, where should I start?"
"How about we start with kicking your ass?" Mila Rose asked.
"What was that? Are you joking?" the intruder asked.
"Hey, didn't you hear what she said?" Lilynette asked.
"Yeah, no shit, we're gonna kick your ass and bite off your dick!" Apacci shouted, laughing.
"Oh my, your tongue is as filthy as your appearance," Sung-Sun said.
"What was that?"
"Ha, she completely burned you, you worthless bitch," Mila Rose said.
"I suppose I should say the same to you, Mila Rose," Sung-Sun said.
"That's it, what is it with you and looking down on me each and every day? Do you get off on it?"
"My…how unrefined. Both of your behaviors make me wonder if it's even proper to call you 'ladies'."
"That does it, you bitch. After we finish beating this prick, I'm so going to knock that ugly face of yours in," Mila Rose said.
"Now you're talking," Apacci said. "But first, let's kick this cocky bastard in the ass and bite his balls off."
"Oh…" the Adjuchas said and attacked.
The fight did not last long. After facing four ceros and Lilynette kicking it between the legs, the Adjuchas had enough. It fled, crying, into the desert. The four chased after it.
"Ladies, that's enough," Harribel called out to them. "Let it go."
"Lilynette, come back here," Starrk said.
"Alright," the four said, sounding disappointed.
"Hey Starrk, did you see how I kicked that Hollow's ass?" Lilynette asked, excited.
"Lilynette, where did you learn that kind of language? Come to think of it…where did you learn to kick a male Hollow in the balls?" Starrk asked.
"Oh, I learned those from Mila Rose and Apacci," Lilynette said, grinning.
"Why is it that I have a bad feeling about this?" Starrk asked.
"What do you mean, Starrk? We beat the Hollow back."
"I meant you learning such things from Mila Rose and Apacci."
"Come on, I would never use those moves on you, Starrk," Lilynette said, smiling.
Later, the group of six sat in the open desert. Lilynette, Mila Rose, and Sung-Sun were curled up, sleeping. Apacci looked at Starrk and Harribel who were looking at the moon. She wondered why those two were spending so much time together. She found it interesting that Harribel never told them why she allowed Starrk to join them. Lilynette made sense, since she was a female who seemed defenseless, but she did not understand why she allowed the male in her group.
She looked at the remains of the group of Adjuchas they killed after the group tried to ambush them. She saw that the shares for Lilynette, Starrk, and Harribel were left untouched. That was another thing she didn't understand. Even though they killed Hollows who threatened their group, those three didn't eat their share.
"Can't sleep?" Harribel asked, as she turned and saw Apacci.
"Well…I…I was just wondering something," Apacci said.
"What is it? You can ask us," Harribel said, gesturing to Starrk who stood beside her.
"Well…I was curious about something. You kill the Hollows who attack us, but you don't devour their corpses. It just doesn't make any sense. In Hueco Mundo, the only way for a Hollow to defend itself is to grow stronger. Because of that, the stronger feed on the weaker Hollows and Adjuchas, so that way they can become stronger. I've noticed that you, Starrk, and Lilynette don't eat your share. Why is that?"
"Starrk, please tell her the reason you told me and then I'll tell her my reason."
"Are you sure? I mean, I'm not exactly the most popular one here," Starrk said.
"I know, but it might help."
"Alright, even though I would rather not. I'm not good with sharing this kind of thing with anyone."
"That didn't stop you from telling me," Harribel said.
"Yeah, and I'm beginning to wonder why I didn't hesitate when you asked," Starrk said with a sigh. "Very well, the reason I don't eat my share is because I'm afraid that if I do, I might trigger an increase in my Reiatsu."
"Well, isn't that the point?" Apacci asked.
"I guess you wouldn't understand unless you've seen the corpses of those who travelled with me. The first pack I travelled with, we grew together, but somewhere along the line, my growth accelerated while their growth slowed. It got to the point that my power was so great that they were unable to handle the strain on them and they died. It's been like that for…I don't really know how long. I find a pack that I think I can travel with and either suddenly or gradually, they succumb to my spiritual energy and die. I…I don't want that to happen anymore.
"So, I made a promise. I promised that I would never eat another Hollow or another soul. That way, I can remain in a pack. At least, I hope I can. I don't know if I'll still have the problem of my Reiatsu becoming so great as to become lethal for any of you. However, as soon as I can sense that my Reiatsu is becoming hazardous for any of you, I will leave with Lilynette."
"Starrk, I…" Apacci muttered, unsure of how to continue. She hated to admit it, but she found herself viewing Starrk as a member of their family.
"My reasons are simpler," Harribel said. "Apacci, you mentioned that we kill and devour Hollows in order to grow stronger. However, while we may kill lesser Hollows, I don't believe that the power that we gain from their sacrifice truly makes us stronger. Starrk understands this. He understands that the only thing that makes us stronger is having a pack, a group of others. Even though he gained so much power over time, it cost him the ability to be in a group. He realized that having a group is far more important than having power. After all, if you encounter a foe that you can't take down alone, you'll just have to take it down together. That's all."
"It's true," Starrk said. "Even if you become so powerful that you can become a god, it means nothing if you don't have someone there to help you. When I became so powerful that all my comrades died, at first I didn't feel anything for them. However, later on I began to miss the times we spent together, playing, sleeping, hunting, or just howling at the moon. That was when I realized that having a pack is far more important than having power."
"Well…you have a pack now," someone said.
They turned and saw Lilynette, Sung-Sun, and Mila Rose standing behind them. Harribel looked at Starrk and saw that he was smiling a little, tears rolling down his cheeks. She never knew that an Arrancar could cry.
If we force others to make Sacrifices
Then one day we will be forced to Sacrifice
There's no such thing as a world without Sacrifice
Time passed. Lilynette hung out with Apacci, Mila Rose, and Sung-Sun. Not only was she learning basic fighting and dodging techniques, but she was also learning a wide variety of methods of beating up Hollows. Starrk and Harribel were growing closer together. They would spend long stretches, with their group, in the desert. Every night, Starrk and Harribel would separate themselves from the rest of the group and look up at the lonely moon.
"It's strange," Starrk said on one of these outings.
"What's strange?" Harribel asked.
"Even though the moon is constant here, it's still so beautiful. Have you ever been to the World of the Living?"
"No, have you?"
"No, but…I wonder what kind of night sky they have."
"Maybe one day, we can see," Harribel said.
"I would like that," Starrk said, smiling at her.
However, Hueco Mundo is cruel. Power is impersonal. It does not care what you want, it only cares about being. Starrk didn't realize just how much danger he was beginning to put the three weaker Hollows in. At least that was until Lilynette came running up to him.
"Lilynette, what's wrong?" Starrk asked, seeing Lilynette rushing up to him, afraid.
"Starrk, something's wrong," Lilynette said.
"What is it?"
"Apacci, Mila Rose, and Sung-Sun…they…they all collapsed."
"WHAT?" Starrk cried out, afraid. "What about Harribel?"
"She's fine. She's with them now."
"I need to see her."
"Starrk, what's wrong? You look…scared."
"I am, Lilynette."
"Do you know what's going on?"
"I have a good idea, and I hope I'm wrong. Now, go get Harribel."
Lilynette rushed to where Harribel was kneeling besides her three friends. Starrk closed his eyes and looked at the moon. If he was right, he knew what he had to do. He didn't want to leave them, but if it would make sure that they would survive, he would be willing to sacrifice what he wanted.
When Harribel entered the chamber, she looked at Starrk as he looked at the moon. She approached him and immediately felt the Reiatsu rising from him. Her eyes widened in surprise.
"You feel it too, don't you?" Starrk asked.
"Your spiritual energy…it's…it's returning to its full strength."
"I think it's always been at full strength, even after I split my soul in two," Starrk said. "It just lied dormant for a while. Now…it wants to awaken, and I can't suppress it."
"Starrk, what are you trying to say?"
"Harribel, I want to stay with you, but I can't do it if it comes at the price of your three comrades. If I stay here any longer, then they will die. I don't want anyone else to die. So, if it means sacrificing what I want most in this world, then I will gladly do it."
"But, I want to be with you," Harribel said.
"But at what price? Are you willing to have your three comrades die just to be with me? I know that you'll suffer from their deaths, and I don't want that for you. I'm used to suffering and so, if someone is to suffer, it should be me."
"I know, but there's no other choice. This is the only way to ensure that they survive and they need you."
"Will…will we meet again?" Harribel asked.
"I don't know, but that's something that we all must face. We all must face uncertainty. Remember, I'm willing to sacrifice my own happiness for the sake of protecting your happiness. I don't want you to have to do the same and I will never ask you to do so."
"I…I understand. I'll get Lilynette."
"Thank you, Harribel. I'll be waiting at the mouth of the valley."
Starrk didn't have to wait long. Harribel approached the valley's mouth with her left arm around a weeping Lilynette. Her blue-green eyes were filled with sorrow. Starrk looked away, not wanting to see her cry. He looked out into the wasteland beyond, knowing that his exile from her was necessary. However, he felt a yearning that he could not comprehend. A part of him wanted to ask Harribel to come with him, but if he did that then her three comrades would most likely die.
"How are they?" he asked.
"They're slowly recovering," Harribel said, knowing what it meant.
"Why are you glad? I don't want you to leave. I want to be with you."
"Harribel, I know you do, and I want that too. However, think about your comrades. They respect and admire you. How do you think they would react if you weren't there? Didn't you promise that you would remain with them?"
"I did, but…"
"No, you made a promise to them and they're your friends."
"They're your friends too."
"I know, and that's why I have to leave. I don't want them to die. I've seen too many of my friends just die from being around me. I know the pain that it causes. I don't want you to experience that. That's why…I have to leave."
"I…I understand, but I don't like it."
"I don't either," Starrk said. "Come on Lilynette."
Lilynette walked towards Starrk, who leaned down and hugged her. Lilynette allowed her tears to flow. It was a sight that Harribel couldn't quite understand. She didn't understand how an Arrancar could cry. The sight of their tears made her realize just how she felt about him. In all of their time together, she never understood her emotions, until she saw him weeping with Lilynette.
"Starrk, I…I love you," she said.
"I…I love you too," Starrk said, looking at her.
Harribel felt something inside her shatter. She felt something wet fill her eyes and spill out. Their moist trail on the skin not covered by her mask felt hot. She suddenly understood how a Hollow could cry. She looked up and saw Starrk and Lilynette walk into the empty wastes of Hueco Mundo. She went to her knees and began to weep. She thought she understood what sacrifice was, but realized that she didn't truly understand sacrifice.
When she got herself pulled together, she returned to the rock spire where she and her three comrades were. When she arrived, she saw that they were stirring and she felt a smile come onto her mouth, hidden by her mask. When she entered, she saw that they were up, and, despite being weak, were arguing with each other over who should go out and find Harribel, Starrk, and Lilynette.
"I'm glad to see that you're all better," Harribel said.
"Mistress Harribel, where were you?" Apacci asked.
"Are you alright?" Mila Rose asked.
"Where are Starrk and Lilynette?" Sung-Sun asked.
"Yeah, where are they?" Apacci asked.
"One moment we were playing with Lilynette and then the next we suddenly got very weak and collapsed," Mila Rose said.
"Starrk knew that this would come," Harribel said.
"What do you mean, Mistress Harribel?" Apacci asked.
"He knew that his spiritual energy could become dangerous for you. He said that if that happened, then he would leave along with Lilynette," Harribel said.
"So he's…he's gone?" Apacci asked, shocked.
"Why…why would he do that?" Mila Rose asked.
"He figured that our collapsing was proof that his spiritual energy was getting extremely high. He left so that we would survive," Sung-Sun said.
Harribel only nodded and walked away. Her three comrades looked at her and then at each other. Out of all of the male Hollows that they encountered, Starrk had been different. He didn't view them as potential food, but rather as comrades. When his spiritual energy became hazardous for them, he willingly exiled himself from them so that he would not be responsible for their deaths.
"I know he was a male," Mila Rose said, "but I wish we could see him again."
"You never know," Sung-Sun said, "maybe we will."
Starrk and Lilynette wondered the empty wastes of Hueco Mundo until they came to a completely desolated area. Starrk saw a few cliffs nearby, but did not see any Hollows around. He gestured to the sandy surface and both sat down. They looked at the moon.
In the distance, they heard a Hollow roar and come in their direction. They saw the Hollows approaching them. Either because they wished to form a group, or they just wanted to devour them, Starrk did not know. He only knew the consequences of them getting too close to him.
"Go away," he whispered as the Hollows approached.
However, the Hollows kept coming. Like flies are drawn to an open flame, the Hollows were drawn to his Reiatsu. Starrk and Lilynette looked at them, both knowing what would happen, but were powerless to prevent it.
"Go away. I don't want you to die."
But he knew it was futile. No matter how hard he wished for them to go away, they kept on approaching. Even though he wished that they would not die, they kept on dying. Starrk did not watch as they kept dying around them. Instead, he looked up at the lonely moon hanging over Hueco Mundo. He began to wonder if Harribel was looking at it.
As the Hollows began to scream in pain, Lilynette looked up at Starrk. Starrk looked down at her and embraced her. Both wept.
What is at the end of the road?
Is it a different tomorrow?
Or is it a similar yesterday?
"Lord Aizen has given you orders," a rather short and slim Arrancar said. His emerald-green eyes showed no sign of emotion and his pale face was smooth as glass. The turquoise markings that traced down from his eyes made him look as though he would never be happy.
"Hey, Ulquiorra, so, what does Lord Aizen command?" Starrk asked, running his fingers through his shoulder-length brown hair.
"Lord Aizen has ordered that you show our new recruit around."
"Fine…it's not like I have anything else to do."
"Very well, I will show you to our new recruit. She is with Nelliel Tu Odelschwank right now."
"Then why not have Nel show her around?"
"It is rather odd, but our new recruit asked for you personally."
"Huh, I wonder how she knows me."
"I do not know, nor do I care. The important thing is that Lord Aizen gave strict orders on this matter."
"Fine, whatever," Starrk said, yawning.
Ulquiorra led him to Nel's palace and knocked on the door. One of Nel's fraccion opened the door for them. Starrk saw that it was the thin blonde, Pesche.
"Ah, Master Starrk," he said cheerfully. "Mistress Nel has been expecting you. Thank you Master Ulquiorra for making sure he got here."
"I was only following Lord Aizen's instructions, trash," Ulquiorra said before using his sonído.
"Anyways, Master Starrk, Mistress Nel is waiting for you with our latest recruit. I'll show you to the sitting room."
"Thanks, Pesche, how is Nel doing, anyway?"
"She's been busy fighting duels with Nnoitora."
"I'm not surprised."
In the sitting room, Nel sat with Harribel. They were both drinking green tea, the top of Harribel's mask was up so that she could drink, and looked out through the large opening to the palace's terrace. The faux sunlight glimmered on the smooth floor. It was warmer than the cold night outside, but a slight chill still ran through Las Noches.
"So, anyways, I think you'll like it here," Nel said. "Aizen is pretty nice, Gin is pretty creepy, and Tosen is always going on and on about justice. I think you'll like most of the people here."
"Are there any males who I should be on the lookout for, especially among the Espada?"
"Well…let's see here. Pretty much most of the male Arrancars present should be avoided. Yammy is kind of rude and loud. Oh, and don't let Szayel Aporro get his hands on you, otherwise you might become one of his little 'experiments'. Zommari and Aaroniero keep to themselves for the most part, so I wouldn't worry about them too much. Then you have Grimmjow, he's always looking for a fight, but he always prefers to fight other males. Then you have Nnoitora, I would watch out for him if I were you. He hates women, especially women who are ranked higher than he is. Baraggan's always going on-and-on about how we should all bow and worship him, so he's just a pain-in-the-ass."
"Are there any male Arrancars that I can trust?"
"Well, Tesla, Nnoitora's fraccion, is pretty harmless. He just stands by and watches Nnoitora fight, but when he's alone he's actually a decent guy. Ulquiorra is just…well…he's just Ulquiorra. He won't try anything, unless Aizen orders him to or if he thinks that you might be a threat. Then there's Starrk. He's a good guy, although he does sleep a lot."
"You know Starrk?"
"Well, sure, we've hung out a few times. That little girl he brought with him is something else. She's extremely energetic and we always have fun when she comes over. May I ask how you know Starrk?"
"We…met a while back. Anyways, what do you think about Starrk?"
"Oh, he's a good guy. He's calm, very intelligent and observant. When he sees that I'm having a bad day, he always takes the time to listen. Even though he sleeps a lot, he always finds time to help his friends."
"I'm glad he has friends," Harribel whispered.
"I mean, there was this one time when Nnoitora was threatening me and Starrk saw it. He came right over and got Nnoitora to leave. I was surprised. He doesn't like to fight, and so he tries to stay out of any fights, except when it's absolutely necessary. When I asked him why he stood up for me, he just told me that it's what friends do."
"That's something that he would say," Harribel whispered.
There came a knock at the door and Pesche entered with Starrk behind him. Starrk looked at Harribel and his eyes widened in recognition. However, he regained his composure rather quickly, but Harribel knew that he recognized her. She dropped her head a little bit.
"Oh, Starrkey, how are you?" Nel asked, grinning.
"Tired," he said, and yawned.
"You're always tired," she said, laughing. "Well, here's our newest recruit. Starrk meet Harribel. Harribel meet Starrk. Of course, you already know each other," she said with a chuckle.
"It's nice to meet you. Nel has been telling me such nice things about you," Harribel said, playing along with Nel.
"It's nice to meet you too," Starrk said, playing along.
"Well, you better get a move-on if you want to get settled."
"Thanks Nel," Starrk said.
"Oh, hey, when's Lilynette coming over?"
"I can send her over later today."
"That sounds great, thanks Starrkey."
"Sure, well I need to show Harribel around. After all, orders are orders."
"Alright take care, Starrkey, Harribel," Nel said waving to them as they left her palace.
When they were away from Nel's palace and walking across the sands of Las Noches, Harribel turned to Starrk and hugged him.
"This is a pleasant surprise. I never thought that I would see you again."
"Harribel, I…I never expected to see you here."
"I know you didn't. I have a lot to tell you. Oh…where's Lilynette?"
"She's back at my place," Starrk said.
"That's good. Apacci, Mila Rose, and Sung-Sun will be glad to see her again. They've been so bored that they started arguing among themselves just to keep themselves entertained."
"Lilynette will be happy to see them. Although, I hope that they don't teach her any more methods to torture me."
"Why is she torturing you?"
"Well, ever since I first got here, all that I've really wanted to do was sleep."
"Why is that?"
"I don't really know. I guess it has to do with all of the practices that Aizen puts us through. He wants us to be able to fight Captain-level Soul Reapers. I don't understand it. What is the purpose of going to war, especially against those whom Aizen used to call 'Comrades'? I just don't understand."
"Maybe that's why you sleep so much. Maybe you do it so that way you don't have to think about fighting."
"Maybe, but I would rather not fight against anyone. I've seen the results of such slaughter. I've seen my own comrades die and I remember the pain. If I can, I would rather not kill anyone, even if it's my opponent. Do you want to know what I think?"
"What do you think?"
"I think that war is one of the greatest carriers of loneliness. It doesn't matter who's right and who's wrong, if two sides go to war, they are both wrong. Both sides are responsible for the suffering that they cause, and I don't want to cause anyone to suffer."
"Then why don't you just leave?" Harribel asked.
"Aizen gave me a pack. I now have a pack that I can travel with, and I am grateful to him for that. However, that does not mean that I trust him. I know that he's just using us as tools and that he would probably throw us away if we become useless to him. However, my gratitude for him giving me a pack holds me to serve him."
"I see, but don't you think that at least it's different from the other times? I mean, your comrades aren't dying around you."
"They're not, but the war has not yet begun. Anyways, do you think Apacci, Mila Rose, and Sung-Sun can withstand my spiritual pressure? I would like to see them again."
"I think so. After all, it seems that just about everyone in Hueco Mundo are Arrancars and none of the fraccion members have died from being around you."
"Hmm, no they haven't," Starrk said with a grin. "Excuse me. I'll have to find Lilynette. She'll be happy to see you again."
Lilynette was happy to see Harribel again and as they took the tour, she even showed Harribel some of her favorite spots. After he finished giving her the tour she brought him to her fraccion. Apacci, Mila Rose, and Sung-Sun screamed in delight and raced to embrace Starrk and Lilynette. At first, Starrk didn't recognize them. They no longer looked like the Adjuchas that they once were. Now they looked like three gorgeous human women, but their attitudes didn't change.
"It's wonderful to see you again," Sung-Sun said to Starrk while Mila Rose and Apacci went out into the vast inner desert of Las Noches to play with Lilynette.
"I'm glad that you three aren't collapsing around me," Starrk said.
"Well, we're stronger now," Sung-Sun said. "I wish that you could have stayed with us."
"Yeah, I wish that I could have stayed with you. Oh well, we're together again," Starrk said.
"Yes, maybe we should go outside sometime and look at the moon, just like we used to," Harribel said.
"That sounds good."
Years later, after the meeting with Aizen where Aizen informed them that three intruders had broken into Hueco Mundo to rescue the human girl that Ulquiorra brought back, the two snuck out of Las Noches. They returned to the rock spire where they had stayed so long ago. They walked through the sand-covered halls. Memories came flooding back to them. They remembered how Lilynette trimmed Mila Rose's claws and said that Apacci did it with her cero and how Mila Rose chased Apacci throughout the caverns. They remembered Sung-Sun telling Lilynette stories as she rocked her to sleep in her serpentine body. They also remembered how they would sometimes play in the valley.
Starrk and Harribel went to their favorite spot to watch the moon. They sat with the cliffs behind and the great emptiness ahead. They looked at the moon of Hueco Mundo for the last time out and for the first time, their hands touched.
At the end of the road
I see another road begin
Hand-in-hand, we walk down this road together
Starrk felt his body ache. He opened his eyes and looked up at a ceiling. He found that he was lying in a bed, the sunlight streaming through an open window, a fresh breeze brushing gently against his face. He sat up and looked to his left and saw Lilynette sitting straight up in her own bed, looking around. He then looked to his right and saw Harribel sitting up, rubbing her hair, her hollow mask gone, showing just how beautiful she was. Starrk realized that it was the first time that he truly saw her face.
He heard three pairs of footsteps approaching their beds and he looked ahead of them. He recognized them as three of the Captains who were present at the Fake Karakura Town. One had long brown hair that was tied back and the other two had silver hair, although one looked as though he was just a child.
"Well, I'm glad to see that you're awake," Captain Kyoraku said, smiling.
"Indeed," Captain Ukitake said, also smiling. "I'll go get you some tea."
"Where…where are we?" Harribel asked.
"You're in the Soul Society," Captain Hitsugaya said, still frowning.
"How did we get here?" Starrk asked.
"Well, you were purified. Oh, and you're not gonna believe who else made it here," Kyoraku said, stepping aside.
They saw Apacci, Mila Rose, and Sung-Sun standing behind him. Looks of joy spread lit up their faces.
"Mistress Harribel, Master Starrk, Lilynette, it's so good to see you," Sung-Sun said, smiling.
"MISTRESS HARRIBEL," Apacci and Mila Rose cried out, rushing to hug her.
"You're…you're alive, but I saw you die," Harribel said.
"Yeah, but I guess even get burnt to a crisp counts as a method of purification," Mila Rose said.
"No shit, that old man explained it to us when we got here," Apacci said. "He said something about admiring our courage and when he killed us, he also had us purified or something like that."
"But then, why were we purified?" Lilynette asked.
"You know, how did you end up here too? We're part of the same being," Starrk said.
"Don't you remember? She was in those wolves and I destroyed those wolves first," Kyoraku said. "So, she wasn't a part of you when she died."
"That's…that's right," Starrk said, remembering. "But, why were we purified as well?"
"It's because neither of you were exactly evil," Hitsugaya said.
"That's right," Ukitake said, returning with a tray full of tea. "After all, you were tricked by Aizen into joining his army, but the reasons you joined were not evil. In fact, in many ways, they're reasons that us Soul Reapers can understand. Starrk, you joined only because you wanted to have friends and you thought that joining Aizen would allow you to be around others who wouldn't die around your spiritual energy."
"How did you know?" Starrk asked, surprised.
"You see, when we purify a Hollow, our Zanpakuto sees into their past. It's what decides whether a Hollow should be purified or sent to Hell. The wielder also has the final opportunity to decide whether a Hollow should be purified and sent to the Soul Society or sent to Hell, especially a more experienced swordsman like Yamamoto, Kyoraku, and myself," Ukitake said.
"That's right," Kyoraku said. "When I saw the relationship that you and this lovely lady had," he said gesturing to Harribel. "I knew that both of you deserved to be purified and sent here. So, when Aizen cut you down, I made a quick trip to finish you off. That was when I saw that the only reason why you joined him was because you only wanted your friends to become stronger and for you to continue to protect them."
"YOU KILLED MISTRESS HARRIBEL!" Apacci and Mila Rose screamed.
"Now, now, it's not like she wasn't going to die anyway. Besides, we're talking about Aizen dealing the blow. If she died, she would have been lost to wonder the In-Between. I merely finished her off so that way she could be purified and sent here."
"I…I thank you," Harribel said, smiling.
"Why are you thanking him?" Apacci asked, surprised.
"It's because, if he didn't do that, I would not be here."
"So, did any of the other Espada make it here?" Starrk asked.
"Only three others made it here. Kenpachi decided that he wanted to keep the one called Nnoitora with him…'for fun' he said. We don't know the other two," Hitsugaya said.
"Perhaps you can help us with that," Ukitake said.
"Well, I don't see why not. What do they look like?" Harribel asked.
"Well, one has blue hair, and when he woke up, he was itching to fight Ichigo for some reason. He got purified because of the wounds that Ichigo gave him were more severe than the wound he got from Nnoitora. When he woke up, he almost destroyed the room he was in. Kenpachi figured that he would be a great asset to Squad 11," Kyoraku said.
"That would be Grimmjow," Starrk said. "Yeah he's always trying to get into fights."
"Hmm, then I guess Kenpachi picked a good one," Kyoraku said.
"The other one, is shorter than this…Grimmjow, right? Anyways, he's shorter than he is and he has these markings coming down from his eyes that look like tear marks. He doesn't get along with most people, and even calls some of them 'Trash'. However, he seems to get along Izuru," Ukitake said.
"Makes sense, they're both always depressed," Hitsugaya said.
"That sounds like Ulquiorra," Harribel said. "How did he get here?"
"Well, technically, Ichigo killed him, but it was that Orihime girl who purified him. I don't know exactly how it happened," Kyoraku said. "The first thing he said when he woke up was, 'I see, her heart was always there, in my hand'. It was kinda weird. I asked Ichigo what happened and what he told us only made it even stranger."
"I have a theory about that," Ukitake said. "It could be that when Orihime reached out to him, he understood what being human was. You see, any evil that he did was done out of not truly realizing the harm he was doing to others. However, when Orihime said that she was not afraid of him and reached out to him, he understood the pain he caused and felt remorse."
"Sounds like a very crappy theory," Apacci said.
"I hope that you're not disturbing my patients," someone said.
Starrk saw a rather lovely and kind-looking woman with her long black hair tied in two braids that hung over her shoulders walk into the room. She smiled at the group surrounding the beds. The six surrounding the beds looked frightened when they saw her smile. Starrk, Lilynette, and Harribel only looked confused.
"Uh, no, Captain Unohana," Sung-Sun said, sweating.
"We…we were just seeing how they were doing," Apacci said.
"That's right," Mila Rose said. "If we were keeping them from fully recovering, then we apologize."
"She must be some captain to make them afraid," Starrk whispered and Harribel nodded.
"Yeah, we were just seeing if they were awake," Kyoraku said.
"I see, well, I think that my patients would appreciate some rest. They're not fully recovered yet," Unohana said.
With that the six left the room while Unohana checked on her patients. With her patients she seemed to radiate kindness, unless they were causing problems. By the point they were recovered, Grimmjow and Ulquiorra were afraid of getting on her bad side. Sometimes, other captains would come in to visit and Lilynette quickly became friends with Yachiru, the Lieutenant of Squad 11. Starrk was afraid of what kinds of trouble those two would get into.
Sometimes the captains would see how they were doing and other times they would ask questions. They answered any and all questions to the best of their abilities. However, it quickly became apparent for the captains that Aizen never told any of the Espada of his true intentions and that they were all deceived.
In a few days time, Unohana said that they could leave.
"I wish that all of my patients would be as well-behaved as you two," she said smiling kindly at them.
They had seen her give her other smile to patients or visitors who were troublesome. The now understood why no one wanted to get on her bad side. They were just leaving the Squad Four barracks when they saw Kyoraku and Ukitake standing outside.
"Old man Yama wants to see you two," Kyoraku said. "He's already met with the other three former Espada as well as your three friends, Harribel. He also had a little talk with Lilynette while she was playing with Yachiru, so you're the only two left. I'll take you to his office."
"Oh, alright," Starrk said rather nervous.
Kyoraku led them to Yamamoto's office and knocked on the door. Yamamoto's Lieutenant opened the door and gestured for Starrk and Harribel to enter. They saw that Yamamoto was standing up and didn't know what they should do, so they slightly bowed. Yamamoto bowed to them in return.
"I'm glad to finally get a chance to talk with you," Yamamoto said.
"Uh, thank you, sir," Starrk said.
"Thank you, sir," Harribel said.
"The reason why I called you here is because I wanted to welcome you to the Gotei 13."
"You…you mean that we…" Starrk began.
"That's right. I have decided that you and your fellow companions should become part of the Gotei 13. However, I understand that since you were Arrancars, you would only be able to enter your Resurrección, as opposed to mastering a Soul Reaper's shikai and bankai. I have talked with the Royal Family and the sword smiths from the Royal Court and they have agreed to make you new Zanpakuto that would enable you to release your Resurrección and you could achieve a shikai level, which would be the equivalent to your regular release, and a bankai level, which Ulquiorra referred to as 'Resurrección Segunda Etapa'."
"But…what about Lilynette…you're not going to…I won't allow you to take away her individuality," Starrk said.
"I talked with Lilynette about this, and she was more than willing to comply…" Yamamoto said.
"But, I…we were companions for a long time. I don't want her to become nothing more than a sword."
"Starrk, allow me to explain," Yamamoto said. "She was willing to comply with having her spiritual signature duplicated into a Zanpakuto, which you will receive. She will remain herself and will be given her own Zanpakuto that will allow her to enter her own Resurrección. It will look very similar to your own, Starrk, since you were the same form."
"You mean…you mean she won't have to disappear?" Starrk asked.
"That's correct. Captain Kyoraku told me about your relation with Lilynette. We found a way to make sure that both of you will retain your separate identities. Again, this came with the approval of the Royal Family."
"Thank you, Captain-Commander. You have no idea just how relieved I am," Starrk said, tears filling his eyes.
"I am glad that we could set your mind at ease. Now then, I wish to hear your thoughts on your new home."
"This place is much better than Hueco Mundo," Starrk said.
"True, but it doesn't have the memories that Hueco Mundo has," Harribel replied.
"Maybe it's for the best. After all, we can make new memories."
Harribel smiled and knew that he was right. They could keep the old memories, but she knew that the new memories had the chance of being even better. Seeing the two smiling at each other, Yamamoto could not help but smile himself. He was glad that these two were saved and not just because they would become valuable assets to the Gotei 13, but also because they reminded him that even Hollows could regain their humanity.
We no longer have to suffer Loneliness
We no longer have to Sacrifice
We can just be our true selves
"Come on, Mila Rose, these aren't too bad," Sung-Sun said.
"Easy for you to say, Sung-Sun, you always liked to dress in these dressy clothes. I hate it, these clothes feel so stifling," Mila Rose.
"Yeah…that's what happens when you hardly wear anything," Apacci said.
"I don't know, I kinda like it," Lilynette said.
"Well now, what are you four ladies talking about?" Harribel asked, already knowing the answer.
"Oh, Mistress Harribel, we were talking about these uniforms," Apacci said.
"Hey, you're not going to believe who we saw," Lilynette said.
"Oh, who did you see?" Starrk asked, already knowing the answer.
"We saw Grimmjow and Nnoitora sparring at the Squad 11 barracks and we saw Ulquiorra sitting with Squad 3," Lilynette said.
Starrk and Harribel looked at each. Out of all of the Espada, only Grimmjow, Nnoitora, and Ulquiorra made it to the Soul Society with them, although they thought they saw Tesla one time, but it was hard to say. They definitely saw Baraggan's former fraccion on account that Cuuhlhourne was still dressing in anything showing off his "beautiful figure". They also heard that there were talks about having Nel, after healing her to where she would back to her former self, and her fraccion enter the Soul Society as well.
"Well, did you talk to Captain Shunsui yet?" Lilynette asked.
"As a matter of fact, we're going there to ask him," Starrk said.
"Would you like to join us?" Harribel asked.
"Nah, I'm gonna play with Yachiru for a while," Lilynette said.
"Alright, but make sure your back to the barracks on time," Starrk said.
"Alright," Lilynette said.
"And no candy," Harribel said.
"Yeah, the last thing we need is for you two to be on a sugar-high," Starrk said.
"Fine, whatever," Lilynette said, before running off to find Yachiru.
"What do you ladies have planned for today?" Harribel asked.
"Well, we're going to do some shopping and then meet up with Rangiku and her friends for drinks," Mila Rose said.
"Don't worry, Mistress Harribel, I'll make sure they don't challenge Rangiku to any drinking games, or accept any drinking games from her. They'll only lose," Sung-Sun said.
"What was that?" Apacci and Mila Rose shouted.
"I can beat that Butter-Face at anything," Mila Rose shouted.
"Oh yeah, well I can beat you and Rangiku at any drinking game," Apacci shouted in return.
As the three marched off, continuing their fight, Starrk and Harribel laughed. They realized that in the soul society, their laughter was free and true. As a result, the two tried to laugh whenever they could.
"So, what did you want to ask Captain Kyoraku?" Harribel asked.
"Well, our gigais are ready and I thought we should try them out," Starrk said.
"You have something else in mind, don't you?" Harribel asked, slightly smiling at him.
"Maybe," Starrk said. "But that would ruin the surprise."
"Can we take some of the others with us?"
"I don't see why not. I think they might enjoy a trip to the World of the Living."
We are together
Laughing and crying
Healing in the balm of friendship
"Come on, you slow pokes," Lilynette cried out.
"We're coming as fast as we can, you little brat," Mila Rose said, even though she was laughing.
"Hey Sung-Sun, you can help carry some of this stuff," Apacci shouted.
"Why should I? It would be unrefined for a lady such as me to carry any of those bags. Besides, you bought most of those things," Sung-Sun said.
"Hey Captain, look who finally made it," Rangiku said.
"Yeah, I see," Hitsugaya said.
Ukitake sat under the tree drinking a cup of tea while Kyoraku lay on the grass, his hat in front of his face. Kenpachi and Grimmjow, who were not allowed to have a sword fight while in the World of the Living, realized that they could do other challenges and were eating large helpings of barbecued ribs. Ulquiorra sat at the bench, doing some of Third Squad's paperwork. Yachiru and Lilynette were playing a game of tag with Ikaku and Yumichika unwilling participants.
"Look at us," Harribel said, her hand in Starrk's. "We're like one big happy family."
"I know, this is far better than just a pack," Starrk said, smiling.
"So, this was your surprise?" Harribel asked.
"Part of it," Starrk said. "I talked with Kyoraku before our gigais were ready, and he agreed that this would be a wonderful idea. But, there's one more surprise to come."
"Hey Harribel," Rangiku said, smiling as she approached them. "Are you two getting all lovey-dovey on me?"
"Rangiku, you're making me blush," Harribel said, chuckling.
"Starrk's really lucky to have you," Rangiku whispered to Harribel. "I'm happy for you two."
"Hey Butter-Face, are you ready to do this? Or are you chickening out?" Mila Rose shouted.
"Yeah, come on, Cow Tits, let's do this," Apacci shouted.
"Well, I better get back. I can't believe that those two actually challenged me to another drinking game," Rangiku said, smiling.
Starrk and Harribel looked at each other and laughed and continued up the hill. Starrk set the basket down on the picnic table and saw a group of six new-comers arrived. He recognized four of them from his time as an Espada. He met the others, a short and thin girl with black hair and a muscular red-haired guy with tattoos, after he entered the Soul Society, and he found himself becoming friends with all of them.
"Hey guys," Rukia shouted.
"Oh, hey Rukia," Kyoraku said, taking his hat off his face.
"Rukia, Renji, I'm glad you were able to make it," Ukitake said.
"Are you kidding me, I wouldn't miss this," Rukia said.
"Yeah, after all, we're friends," Renji said.
"Hey, Ulquiorra, I'm glad to see you're alright," Orihime said, noticing Ulquiorra.
"Oh," Ulquiorra said looking up at her. "Hello, Little Girl, I never got a chance to thank you for teaching me what the heart is. Because of that, I have the opportunity of studying you humans even more."
"Ulquiorra, I…" Ichigo began.
"Ah, Ichigo Kurosaki, it is nice to see you again. There is no need to apologize. We were in a war after all and you were not yourself when you fatally injured me."
Ulquiorra held out his hand to Ichigo who looked surprised and took it. Starrk and Harribel went over to the group. Chad and Uryu merely nodded to them, but both smiled at them.
"Hey Starrk, hey Harribel," Orihime cried out when she saw them. She rushed to them and hugged each of them in turn.
"Hey, Orihime, how are you?" Harribel asked.
"Oh, I'm doing much better. I remember when I met you two in Hueco Mundo."
"Yeah, I still feel bad about recapturing you," Starrk said. "I really didn't want to do it."
"Oh that's alright," Orihime said, smiling. "You were such a gentlemen; unlike that giant spoon."
"Yeah, Starrk would never hurt anyone if he didn't have to," Harribel said.
"I can believe that," Ichigo said. "I remember feeling your Reiatsu. You could have killed me and Kenpachi, but you didn't. Once you had hold of Orihime, you just left."
"Well, I wasn't ordered to kill you, just bring Orihime back to Aizen."
"So tell me," Kenpachi said coming towards them, his food duel with Grimmjow ended in a draw. "If you were ordered to kill us, would you?"
"Not really," Starrk said. "I don't like killing anyone."
"It's true," Kyoraku said. "He could have killed me and Ukitake any number of times. Like when you shot me in the back."
"Yeah, sorry about that," Starrk said.
"I was surprised that you only shot me with a small fraction of your total power. You knew that you only wounded me slightly. That's when I decided that if I could, I would purify you."
"I thought that your ceros were very weak," Harribel said.
"Well, I didn't want to kill anyone," Starrk said, shrugging.
"Hey Wolfey, hey Sharkey" Yachiru cried out laughing and launched herself at them. "Kenny and I were hoping that you would be able to make it. Weren't we Kenny?"
"Yeah, Yachiru, I wanted to tell you two something," Kenpachi said, grinning.
"Are you sure that you just didn't want to challenge them to a fight?" Ichigo whispered.
"Uh…okay…what did you want to tell us, Kenpachi?" Starrk asked. He was a little worried because Kenpachi was known to challenge anyone and everyone to a fight at a moment's notice.
"We had a talk with the old man, and he agreed with us that you two and Ulquiorra should become minor nobles."
"Who said that we should become minor nobles?" Harribel asked.
"Well, my brother came up with the idea," Rukia said. "He approached some of the other Captains, including Hitsugaya and Kyoraku and Ukitake, and they agreed. Since you had the backing of two of the Great Noble Houses, it was agreed that you should become minor nobles."
"I knew that the Kuchiki family was one of the Great Noble Houses, but who was the other Great House to support us?" Harribel asked.
"That would be mine," a thin, dark-skinned woman said, coming up to them.
"Hey, Yoruichi," Starrk said, not really surprised that she was there.
"Hey," Yoruichi said, smiling at him and Harribel. "It's nice to see you again. Anyways, I agreed with Kuchiki that you two and Ulquiorra should become minor nobles. After all, you three were in the top four Espada, making you practically nobility in Hueco Mundo."
"Huh, I never viewed us that way," Starrk said.
"Well, it makes sense," Harribel said.
"So, have you heard any news about Nelliel and her two fraccion?" Ichigo asked.
"Yeah, they'll be arriving in the Soul Society sometime in a couple of days," Harribel said. "I can't wait to see her again."
"Aunt Nel's coming?" Lilynette asked.
"It would seem so," Starrk said.
Lilynette let out a squeal of joy and rushed to Yachiru to tell her the good news.
"She's…happy," Ichigo said.
"Yeah, she and Nel got along great together back in Las Noches," Starrk said.
"Gee, I wonder why," Ichigo muttered under his breath.
As the day began to become night, the group played games. The drinking contest between Mila Rose, Apacci, and Rangiku was cut short since they only brought three bottles of sake. Starrk and Harribel agreed that it a good thing that no one decided to bring anymore sake. As sunset came, the group sat on the ground to watch the sunset.
Harribel and Starrk sat next to each other. They could hear Sung-Sun, Mila Rose, and Apacci arguing with each other. Lilynette laid on her belly watching the sky take on the hues of a painting. Starrk couldn't help but remember the times in Hueco Mundo when the six of them would just sit on the sand and look at the crescent moon. They saw the moon high in the sky, and were surprised to see that it was full and not just a crescent.
"Do you remember?" Starrk asked.
"Do I remember what?" Harribel asked.
"Do you remember when I told you that I wondered what the night sky in the World of the Living was like?"
"Now I know," Starrk said, smiling as the sky darkened.
"So, was this the surprise?"
"No, this is," Starrk said and leaned over and kissed her on the lips.
Harribel returned his kiss. Lilynette snickered while Harribel's three friends stared in surprise. Rangiku smiled while Hitsugaya rolled his eyes. Ukitake and Kyoraku looked at each other and nodded, smiling at each other. Rukia and Orihime smiled and sighed. The others did not pay much attention to them. When Starrk and Harribel separated from their kiss, they smiled at each other.
"I love you," Starrk said, smiling.
"I love you too," Harribel replied.
They looked up at the night sky.
"Hey Starrk," Harribel said. "Do you notice something about the night sky?"
"Yeah," Starrk said, holding Harribel close to him. "There are stars."
"…the Moon is no longer alone."
On this new road together
We stand together and howl
Under the Lonely Moon