Bit concerned by the lack of love for this story *weeps* please keep reviewing, it makes it so much easier to update knowing people want to read it.
This chapter is a little dark and has my first real attempt at angst, please don't get your pitchforks out just yet, for the story is not yet ended and there are many twists and turns yet to come.
Chapter Ten: Pride... Shattered!
Explosions of vibrant colour radiated across the sky in the wake of the slowly declining number of battles between Master and Companion as the Shinigami and Former Espada began to stand on equal footing against their Zanpakto's Souls.
Szayel panted heavily, leaning against the decimated wall of Division Fourteen, his katana held loosely at his side as he looked across at the purple haired creature that was his inner power and the soul of his sword.
Blood dripped from the pink haired Arrancar's lips as his left lung was crushed by the power of Fornicarás; even while feeling his organs and bones being crushed he couldn't stop the overwhelming sense of pride he felt towards his power. He had been the Octava Espada, a narcissistic; selfish and arrogant pig, both beautiful and ugly at the same time. Perhaps... Perfection wasn't everything it was cracked up to be.
He looked skyward and let out a wet sigh, wondering where his blue haired panther had gone.
Arching as four of his ribs were suddenly snapped, he fell forward, onto his knees and panted hard; shaking weakly as he spat blood onto the wooden walkway. His whisky-gold eyes glistening with unshed tears of fear and joy.
Joy at finally seeing his power with his own two eyes and realising that it had made him worthy of his Octava position and fear at the prospect of not seeing his panther's face again, not being able to touch him or run his fingers through those coarse locks of azure hair.
A soft chuckle escaped him at the contemplation of how utterly weak he had become thanks to Grimmjow's hidden tenderness; had he not discovered the Sexta's hidden side - a side caressed in warmth and softness - he would undoubtedly not be here. The most shocking thing in his eyes was that he didn't care. His time with Grimmjow had shown him a great many things about himself and about how he treated others.
He had scoffed at monogamy for so many years, enjoying his promiscuity and his unequalled lust for sex. But Grimmjow had torn it all down and ripped open his defences, bearing him for all to see and bathing him in light. He had changed him, for the better, and he was glad. In the end, Grimmjow had been the only man for him; the only one who could keep pace with him in bed; the only man who could make him feel like no one else mattered in the world; the only man who had reached his heart - the organ he had believed himself long since detached from.
Looking up slowly at his Zanpakto, Szayel watched as the purple haired being walked towards him slowly, the pink haired doll in his hands and a small colourful piece between his fingers. He got close enough that the scientist could see what piece he was holding.
A chill ran through Szayel and he knew... He was done.
A crunch resonated around the silent walkway and the shattered fragments of the piece crumbled to the floor where Szayel now lay in a growing pool of his own blood, his eyes dulled and wide as his heart lay crushed within his chest.
"Was this really my Master?" Fornicarás flicked his hair over his shoulder and scoffed, turning on his heel and walking away slowly, "What a waste of space."
Across into the adjoining World of the Living, Grimmjow gasped suddenly and leaned forwards, resting his hand over his chest as his blue brows furrowed.
"What's wrong Grimmjow?" Stark asked from beside the panther.
"I..." he frowned harder and shook it off, "A strange feeling of emptiness suddenly struck me. It... Was very strange but for a moment I suddenly saw a flash of Szayel's face in my mind before there was nothing."
Stark frowned slightly as well and rested a hand on the man's back, "I am sure it is nothing to be concerned by-" he broke off suddenly when Pantera's hackled rose and he released a snarl into the air, "What's wrong with him?"
Grimmjow's eyes widened and he stared ahead, one of his hands reaching out blindly into the empty air as though he was reaching for someone. Stark watched him with concern, also getting Ichigo and Renji's attention.
"S-Szai..." the blue haired man breathed before he started shaking slightly, his eyes hidden by the shadow cast by his rebellious hair as his head fell forwards and his hand clenched into a fist.
Ichigo moved over with Renji beside him and together they tried to make Grimmjow look at them, to no avail. It was like a light had gone out in the man's eyes and he was drifting.
"What the hell's wrong with him?!" Renji asked, looking at the giant blue haired panther beside the Arrancar, seeing that the animal was now laid on the floor with his head rested on his paws and his eyes closed; his expression remorseful.
Stark shook his head, "I... I don't know." He replied, "I've never seen him like this before."
The ginger swallowed slightly, "I have." He whispered.
"What?" Stark asked, looking at his husband with widened eyes, "When?!"
"After he killed you." He replied quietly before he reached forwards and rested a hand on Grimmjow's head, "A depression fell over him like I had never before seen."
They looked at the panther again in the wake of Ichigo's words and Renji and Stark shared a look, "So... What's happened to make him like this this time?" the redhead asked.
"I don't know..."
"He mentioned Szayel." Stark offered.
Grimmjow's eyes slid closed suddenly and he pushed Ichigo's hand away, still trembling slightly as he seemed to hold his breath, containing something deep within himself. And then, the man suddenly threw his head back and relinquished a Hollowfied roar which shook the ground around them and almost deafened them all; Pantera's form disappearing and transforming into a blue hilted katana impaled in the mud.
The blue haired panther staggered to his feet and staggered away from them, towards the bank of the lake surrounding the small island. His eyes declared a maddened realisation and his sharp teeth were clenched in a tight line as he sagged and let out a softer cry.
Ichigo, Stark, and Renji looked at each other before looking at Grimmjow, each concerned for their friend's behaviour.
Suddenly a voice echoed between them, transmitted through their Zanpakto:
"Fornicarás battled Szayel." They recognised the voice of Pantera, "Grimmjow has just sensed that... Moments ago... Szayel's reiatsu disappeared."
Ichigo's eyes widened at the news and he slowly raised a hand to his mouth, feeling Stark's arm around his shoulders as he was pulled into the man's arms and embraced comfortingly.
Szayel was so stubborn... He never gave up on anything! He never... Surrendered... Not for anything or anyone... It went against his pride... He couldn't be... He couldn't be gone...
The ginger closed his eyes, feeling grief for his friend and for the loss of an ally. He had never really spoke all that much to Szayel, except for when it was necessary for the man still made him nervous but he knew what he meant to Grimmjow, he knew what his loss would do to him, and he felt grief for his loss.
Stark wasn't in much better shape, Szayel had been around longer than he had in the Espada; the pink haired narcissist had been one of the first Arrancar he had spoken to after being branded the Primera. He had been an annoying bastard and he wouldn't have trusted him as far as he could have thrown him... But he had also been funny and intelligent, and Grimmjow had loved him. Szayel had and always would be in his eyes, the Octava Espada, and they were comrades, brothers to an extent. He would mourn his passing. As would the rest of the Espada.
Grimmjow gritted his teeth, stopping himself from shedding the pathetic tears which had welled in his eyes; refusing to show weakness. He straightened his back and walked back over to them, picking up his sword, pleased that he had his power back in his head rather than running beside him.
He sheathed the blade and looked at the others, "I am sure you will understand, but I must return to Seireitei at once."
Ichigo stood up slowly and reached out to touch the Sexta's arm, flinching as his hand was slapped away by the man, "G... Grimmjow."
"I do not require your pity or your sympathy, Shinigami." The blue haired man snarled, his eyes feral and tempestuous "Save it for yourself and your own troubles."
"Grimmjow..." Ichigo said again, hardly believing his ears, "It's alright to be-"
"SHUT UP!" the panther roared, grabbing the strawberry by the scruff of his kosode, "I AIN'T INTERESTING IN YOUR FUCKING OPINION ON HOW I SHOULD FEEL OR ACT! JUST FUCK OFF!"
Ichigo's eyes widened slightly but he made no move to stop the man's yelling; instead he looked straight back at him and tilted his head, "No matter how much you try to hide it... You have humane feelings Grimmjow... You can't lock them away or pretend that they don't exist. You will destroy yourself."
"DON'T COMPARE MY SITUATION TO YOURS! THIS IS NOTHING LIKE WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU! YOU HAD THE HOGYUKU! YOU BROUGHT HIM BACK! SZAYEL IS... SZAI IS..." he trailed off and shook slightly, "... I can't... Bring him back... Like you did Stark... I have to face the facts... He is gone."
The orange haired young man looked back at him evenly and reached out, slowly pulling his fist away from his clothes and touching his bone shielded cheek, "I know what you want Grimmjow... And I am not going to fall for it. I won't fight you and accidently kill you. Go to Soul Society and reclaim his body before it is too late. Grimmjow."
The panther trembled at his words and hung his head, curling and uncurling his fingers restlessly before he nodded once and opened a Senkaimon. He looked at Ichigo once more before he turned and ran into the Precipice World without a backwards glance.
Ichigo turned around slowly and closed his eyes, wishing there was more he could do. His eyes opened suddenly as he heard Byakuya's voice calling out 'Bankai' and he hoped to whatever God might be listening that this Rebellion was ended quickly before anyone else died.
As the island flooded with blossom petals as the fight ensued ever more, Kurotsuchi Mayuri observed the scene of the fight between Szayel and his Zanpakto, Fornicarás.
The Arrancar had a most curious ability, he considered, holding the small doll replica of the corpse below in his hand, inspecting the broken pieces with interest before he dropped down from the rooftop and landed beside the pink haired man's body.
"Ahh... I want to dissect you..." the scary man with the blue mane smirked widely, revealing his golden teeth before he swooped down and scooped up the other's limp body, "As fellow scientist I am certain your brain must be marvellous..." he spoke to the corpse as he flash-stepped back to his Research Lab, "... But you can't help me much if you're a corpse can you? Szayel Aporro Granz."
The Senkaimon glowed a little brighter before Grimmjow's form emerged from within, he looked around, desperately searching for any remnant of his lover's reiatsu; he sensed a very faint resonance and took off towards it.
However, when he arrived he was greeted by a sight of one sided massacre, blood stained the walkways and spattered the back wall, shreds of uniform lay scattered on the ground and in front of the bloody pool he saw several crumbled pieces of Sekki Stone.
Walking over with heavy feet, he crouched down and picked up the pieces, slowly putting them back together and faltering as he read what it said:
He knew the pieces which went into the dolls that Szayel's Resurrection form created had Spanish written on them to tell him what they represented. He also knew that he didn't know a word of Spanish; however he had once asked Szayel what they said. And from that memory he clearly recalled, that Corazón meant heart.
So his heart had been crushed in the end? That meant things were very grim for having any hope of restoring his life force.
Grimmjow plopped down on the ground with a defeated sigh and laid back, careful not to lay in the blood as he looked up at the sky and felt his heart grow cold.
He wanted revenge. He wanted to make Fornicarás suffer. It no longer mattered that Pantera adored Fornicarás; it was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth... A life for a life.
Slowly getting to his feet, the panther allowed his reiatsu to pulse freely and wildly, he wanted Fornicarás to know that he was coming for him. He wanted him to feel fear and to know that he would strike him down in vengeance for the life of his lover.
Without a second thought and without even realising that Szayel's body was nowhere to be seen, he Sonido-ed away from the scene and followed the trail of reiatsu the murderous Zanpakto had left behind. He would put an end to him for this!
Byakuya hissed as he felt the bite of Muramasa's blade through his shoulder and he felt blood ooze from the fresh wound. He wouldn't give up however; he kept pushing hard, forcing Koga to retreat across the ground he had gained only moments before.
He had sensed Grimmjow's anguish and had a good idea of what might have caused it; he felt for the Arrancar knowing that if he ever lost Renji he too would be a murderous whirlwind of hysterical rage, his training to conceal his emotions be damned. If someone hurt his beloved, they would feel his wrath in exchange.
He lashed out at Koga and sliced at him with his petals, feeling successful as he saw several fresh cuts appear over the other Kuchiki's body. They were too well matched for this battle to end any time soon, in the end it would come down to whoever had the most stamina and reiatsu... And who's stubborn streak was stronger. He didn't usually fight his battles in that way, however on this occasion he would make an exception.
His eyes narrowed as he sensed several Hollows and Menos Grande appear behind him, trusting Renji; Stark and Ichigo to take care of it.
The three who remained instantly leapt into action, Zanpakto drawn as they rushed to face off with the Hollows which had appeared. Was this another message from Aizen or were they stragglers?
One by one, they fell under the power of the three who fought them, blades glinting in the light as they slew their opponents, taken aback when more appeared. Overwhelming numbers of lower level Hollows continued to appear, apparently drawn from all across the town by Byakuya and Koga's reiatsu.
Ichigo hissed as he was knocked aside by the tail of one of them and rolled onto his back, about to flit back onto his feet to return to fighting when one of the Menos Grande bore down upon him and charged a scarlet Cero in its mouth. Eyes widening slightly as the Cero fired, he lifted his arms in front of himself for protection.
"Bankai! Hihiō Zabimaru! Baboon Cannon!"
Ichigo opened his eyes to see Renji stood in front of him, his giant snake Bankai furled around them both, as the interconnecting joins of the sword lit up and a flash of red fired and met the Cero, negating it.
The strawberry let out a sigh of relief and stood up with Renji's help, "Thanks Renji."
"No problem, watch yourself though Ichigo."
"I will." He agreed and returned to the fight.
Renji released his Bankai again and was about to hurl his extending Shikai blade when he felt the sting of claws in his thigh; he let out a cry and looked down as a small monkey like Hollow clung to his leg and gouged it talons into his skin and muscle. Losing his balance, Renji toppled over and his sword fell from his hands, clattering beside him as he began to wrestle with the monkey like Hollow to stop it gouging his face off as his leg went dead.
Byakuya's ears pricked as he heard Renji's cry and, foolishly, he turned to try and see if he was alright his heart pounding in his ears as he located him and swept some of his petals towards him to help him.
His steel grey eyed flew wide suddenly as the bite of metal through his gut caught his attention and his head turned slowly back to his opponent.
"Haha! Kuchiki Byakuya indeed... You should know never to turn your back on an opponent in battle!" Koga howled with laughter as he forced his sword deeper into Byakuya's body, forcing the blade out the other side.
Byakuya arched and spat blood, gripping the blade impaling him with one hand as he tried to stop it being pushed any further, his other hand trembling slightly around the hilt of Senbonzakura. He looked back at his relative with slightly wide eyes before he saw his chance and he plunged his petals forwards towards Koga, who he had held in place thanks to his grasp on the blade of his sword.
Koga let out a roar of pain as he was pummelled by petals and he tore his blade free. Doing something Byakuya had not anticipated as he yanked the blade out sideways, ripping open his side in the process.
Byakuya swayed for a moment before he legs gave out and he hit the ground, his hand blindly holding his side as his blood gushed from the wound and spattered the green grass in crimson. He trembled slightly as the left hand side of his body began to go numb before he vomited over the ground, his vision blurring slightly as he began to get cold.
"BYAKUYA!" a voice howled from the distance and staved off his body's attempt to sleep.
He opened his eyes slowly and saw a blurred red pineapple shape hovering in front of his eyes, was it Renji? A faint smile found his lips and he reached up to cup the man's face.
"R-Renji..." he breathed, his voice hoarse and broken, "... Thank you..."
The redhead's eyes widened slightly and he held his hand against his face, "W-What for?" he asked shakily, his eyes welling up at the state of his lover.
"... Accepting me..." the noble murmured, his eyed half closed, "... Loving me for who I am... Regardless of my faults..."
"Y...You idiot... How could I not?" he stammered, "Byakuya... Don't close your eyes. Please... Stay awake..."
"Mm... It's cold..." he mumbled, "And I am... So very tired..."
"No! Don't you dare give in!" Renji yelled, his eyes spilling over, "Don't you dare!"
Ichigo ran over as the last of the Hollows were defeated and he looked at Byakuya's injuries, "Renji! We have to get him to the Shop! Only Urahara-san can help him now!"
"What about Koga?" Stark asked as he joined them.
"He went into a Senkaimon." Renji told them, still trying to keep Byakuya awake, "He took Byakuya's scarf for some reason."
"We can figure it out later... For now let us get him to Urahara's Shop, right?"
Renji nodded shakily and let Ichigo pick up his lover, knowing that the strawberry was faster than both himself and Stark he watched his best friend shunpo off with his lover. Flinching as his numb leg gave out under him; it was only thanks to Stark's supporting arm that he didn't collapse. With a grateful glance at the brunette, he was picked up and with a swift Sonido, Stark took off after Ichigo. Hoping that they reached the shop in time to save Byakuya... Surely they could not lose two comrades within an hour of each other.
A/N: Please review, I need motivation haha :)