A King's Feast
By Arisu Nikouru
A gleeful roar rang down the destroyed and deserted street, followed immediately by a sickening, wet sound. Then that of a hitched breath. The pregnant silence that fell over the quaint neighborhood was disturbed only by a perpetual dripping and the howl of a strong wind passing between the modest houses.
The breeze threw debris around like a petulant child demanding attention. It did not, however, deter the Arrancar from taking his gaze off of his enemy's ragged, trembling form before him. A satisfied grin splayed across his face perfectly expressing his revelry. The feel of thick, hot blood coating his left forearm from the torpid organ in his hand. Those once strong hands grasping at his bicep as if to cling to a lover. It was enough to make the Espada euphoric and thank whatever gods may exist that he was whole again. All that coupled with the sound of loud, desperate gasps for air turned his grin into a full-blown psychotic smile.
It was more than he could have asked for.
What stayed his predatory gaze, however, was the pain and despair that showed on the young man's face; unable to conceal his anguish any longer. The already bloodlust-darkened blue eyes widened and roamed the shorter man's features in order to drink in as much detail as he could, a hungry gleam shining in their depths. He licked his lips.
"How long do you think you'll live," he drawled, "with a hole in your chest and your heart in my hand?" A sneer now pulled his top lip up and away from dangerously sharp teeth as he leaned forward for emphasis. He was pleased to see blood-rimmed teeth when the Shinigami released a gurgled hiss of pain. "Do you think that bitch," he jerked his head in the direction of an apricot-haired girl but not enough to take his eyes off the dying man in front of him, "can fix an injury this severe?" The Shinigami's face contorted in obvious discomfort at the feel of the Espada's forearm muscles flexing. Tilting his head up and to the left, Grimmjow's sneer turned feral as the fingers of his left hand twitched as the relentless urge to taste Kurosaki's dead heart surged through him.
Ichigo opened his eyes for the first time since that clawed hand so effortlessly tore through his flesh and bones. His half-lidded eyes met first the Sexta Espada's hollow hole. Now I have one too, he thought humorlessly. The orangehead groaned at the flashback the sight caused.
"I'll rip a hole in you, too," Grimmjow had said after doing just that to Rukia. It was a promise, the Substitute Shinigami now realized.
Attempting to make eye contact, Ichigo lifted his head a little higher, settling on the scar he himself inflicted. The flawed skin now elicited a flash of memories to rush through the young man's mind. Taunts, insults- these he was used to in any battle he fought, no matter who it was against. Swords slashing, fists flying- yeah, those too. But blood spilling- that caused him pause. Never before had his clashes been so bloody. Why, he questioned despite being fully aware of the Arrancar's volatile nature. Why did their encounters have to be so… violent? Vicious, animalistic, sadistic, bloodthirsty; everything that not only described their battles but also embodied the beast that was now literally playing with his heart. Characteristics that Ichigo once thought would be the Arrancar's downfall, especially his insatiable blood thirst.
Ichigo knew, though, that the blue-haired Espada was not the only one to shed blood. The river of crimson that flowed after a hollow-masked Getsuga Tenshō was enough for any normal hollow to perish instantaneously and to obscure the hole in the Arrancar's abdomen. Too much.
Then, suddenly, an image of Grimmjow missing his left arm presented itself front and center, clear as day in Ichigo's head. The very arm embedded in the left side of his chest. He let a small smile tug at his chapped and split lips and a strangled, coughing chuckle racked his slouched frame as he recalled the bluenet's reply to the inquiry made about said arm. "I threw it away. I don't need two arms to kill you." Ichigo ignored the confused grunt issued by the man in front of him and the slight pain his resigned snot caused. Heh, he mused to himself. I probably would have said the same thing.
Overwhelmed by irony and the onslaught of unbidden emotion, the young Shinigami swayed. Or perhaps it was just the blood loss. And his missing heart. He took a small step forward to steady himself, but was unable to keep his weak body from leaning too far. His forehead rested on the closest solid object to him; Grimmjow's chest. Ichigo could feel a pounding heartbeat make itself know behind ribs broken from a well place kick made only moments ago. After painfully forcing air in through his nose and down into his torn lungs, he let out a tired sigh and finally looked up.
If the Espada was unprepared for the sudden contact of a head to his pectoral, he certainly was not expecting the look in Kurosaki's eyes. When brilliant blue oceans finally met molten chocolate, Grimmjow could not hold back an ill-boding snarl that conveyed his disgust and outrage at seeing that look again. Goddamn those fucking eyes. He wouldn't dare give me that look again. Not now. Despair, maybe resignation? Yes. The thought of losing your friends and your life would do that to you. Disappointment? Certainly. He was clearly overpowered; skills less than competent. Possibly even jealousy towards his subduer's still beating heart. All these were welcomed and even probable emotions Grimmjow thought he would see and yet none of them were reflected in those fading brown eyes.
Focusing on the victory mere seconds away, the Espada straightened his spine to have a somewhat regal appearance, despite his scuffed and weeping skin and his disheveled, crimson-stained hair. "Say it, Shinigami," he bit out, trying to temper his anger so he could fully enjoy this moment. Grimmjow was anxious for Kurosaki to finally be put in his place. "Say it," he repeated. "Let me hear those words pass your lips and I may consider letting her heal your broken, pathetic body. Although," he chortled, "I would have hoped you had stopped depending on that weak woman to save you."
Grimmjow had punctuated his words with a menacing smirk and murderous look that did not instill any confidence in Ichigo that the Espada intended to let him survive this ordeal. He knew the powerful Arrancar had been waiting just as long as he had to see a finish to this unending war they had with one another.
Ichigo pushed himself up anyway, straightening his body almost to his full height; right hand still on Grimmjow's left bicep for balance. Zangetsu had been dropped and forgotten when an inferno of agony shot through his fractured sternum and flooded the rest of his body. A scowl of discomfort was etched deep on his face. The pain was numbing. He didn't have long. The need to swallow his pride and give this bastard what he wanted prevailed over all else. He needed to survive for the sole purpose of saving Inoue. "You," he started but stopped immediately, coughing up and spewing a splattering of blood across Grimmjow's already bruising chest. His jacket was so torn from the battle that had just ensued that it no longer reached even around the sides of his torso.
Grimmjow fisted his free hand in Kurosaki's hair, ever vibrant even so close to death, pulling the shorter man's face closer to his own. A deep breath sent the intoxicating smell of his enemy's blood straight to his head. He absently acknowledged how blood, sweat, and rubble had slightly matted the soft looking locks, briefly thinking his own hair probably hadn't fared any better. The kid had gotten in some decent hits. Like that last one that had sent him flying through a couple of houses, the sound of multiple ribs breaking and a second skull fracture echoing in his ears. His fingers tightened at the memory, easily catching in the tangles causing the young man in his clutches further suffering, proved by the sharp hiss and tightly scrunched face. He smirked. "What am I," he encouraged with a soft yet minacious voice.
Ichigo swallowed the blood pooling in his mouth and choked out the three words this crazy Espada had been demanding from him the entire fight, his voice never before so small: "You're the King."
Blue eyes narrowed and darkened to almost black. Top lip lifted in a triumphant and jubilant sneer, canines gleaming in Karakura's setting sun. Chest rumbled with a vicious growl that almost drowned out the 'schlup' of Grimmjow's left arm being ripped violently from the young Shinigami's damaged body, heart still held firmly in his clawed hand but now accompanied by muscle tissue, ligament fragments, and chipped bone. The Espada watched as Ichigo's body arched dramatically and his mouth opened in a silent scream before falling hard to the cracked asphalt below, blood steadily pooling under the pitiful form. The partial jawbone mask hugging Grimmjow's right cheek separated as he let loose a maniacal laugh.
Ichigo's dulling eyes locked onto Grimmjow's. They may have been a far cry from the fire that used to shine in them, but those orbs were still as expressive as ever. The Sexta Espada hid a scowl by bringing his left hand to his mouth and taking a savage bite out of Kurosaki's inert heart, unconcerned about the blood that squirted out of the organ and onto his face. He hated those eyes. Why is he still staring at me like that? Like he's better than me? Grimmjow growled loudly and returned the Shinigami's incomplete heart to him by throwing it to the ground. It landed to the right of his face causing Grimmjow to catch the miniscule movement of the orange-haired man's mouth. A breathy name reached Grimmjow's sensitive ears, Kurosaki's last word.
The victorious Espada tch-ed, shoved his bloody hands into the pockets of his hakama, and walked away from the pathetic sight, never to look back. "I am King."
An explosive sound caused Grimmjow to turn around, panicking when he could no longer see. A sharp pain shot through his chest and left clavicle. He squeezed his eyes tight, realizing then that his blindness was due to his eyes being shut. After a few failed attempts, bright light causing a headache to instantly flare up, he finally was able to ease them open. He took in his surroundings. Blue sky with a few scattered clouds. Tall, red structures, some partially demolished. Sand…? Then he heard it. That voice. It couldn't be.
Eyes going nearly impossibly wide, Grimmjow could hardly believe his senses. He was still in Hueco Mundo under the dome that was Las Noches. He remembered, now, his humiliating defeat and embarrassment at being saved from Nnoitra, both by that infuriating little shit. His delicious and most satisfying victory over the bright-haired Shinigami had never happened. He hadn't actually seen the life draining from those fucking eyes. Now that he thought about it, parts of his imagined fight had seemed oddly reminiscent of the ones that actually took place, pits and pieces from each encounter making their way into the illusion. Even in his very own dream-fight, Kurosaki's eyes haunted him. Why was his subconscious fucking with him?
Grimmjow released a sigh or resignation as he moved to get up, but pain the likes of which he had never experienced before halted his attempt. Relaxing as much as he could with deliberately slow and shallow breaths, he tried to lessen the agony burning through him like liquid fire. He lifted his right hand, bit around the fleshy part below his thumb to quiet the growl he knew he'd be unable to suppress, and forced himself into a sitting position.
Finally up, he noticed that the battle had moved. He had been forgotten; probably thought to be dead. Ichigo was being thrown around like a rag doll by that lanky fuck. Standing with his left arm hugged close to his body and a grimace on his face, Grimmjow made his way further into the desert to find a safe, secluded place to nurse his wounds. If he survived – if Kurosaki survived – he would seek his revenge. I'll make you pay, Kurosaki, he vowed. Next time I'll rip your goddamn eyes out first and then feast on your heart like the King I am.