Spiritual wind blew from around Aizen in whitish blue wisps surrounding him in a funnel-like shape amidst the eyes of all.
This was it. It was done. After all these years, he'd reached this point.
Opening and closing his left hand, space distorted around his fingers as a blackish hue tinged the spiritual wind around him, giving it a sense of desolation. However, within that desolation and contrasted by the soft glow, was the power of the King. A power of renewal to make the world anew.
A low chuckle escaped Aizen's lips, the man dropping his arms to his side and merely basking in the glow of his achievement. In contrast, everyone else's features were dark. None more so than the Zero Squad, Quincy, and Shinigami.
Kisuke who had appeared with his fellow Captains supported by the domain of his Bankai arrived to see this moment before their eyes. It was less than pleasant, the Vizard, Captains, and all those directly affected by Aizen's machinations glowering in futility.
This was just how it is.
In the grand scheme of battle, the victors often aren't those who contribute the most or earn the most honours, but instead, it's those who can profit amidst the chaos of rival factions.
In this instance, Aizen was the chief profiter, having bided his time away from the senses of everyone else until an opportunity presented itself before him.
The aura surrounding Aizen was practically no different from the natural pressure Yhwach exuded, but then again, they were drawing their power from the same source.
A single pool had now given rise to two outlets, granted one had had more time to draw in more resources.
Aizen hadn't been able to obtain all the power, but it was substantial enough to elevate him to the required threshold…
Harribel and the rest held an air of apprehensions in regards to Aizen, but It was only natural as they weren't as trusting as Shirou was, or as confident in suppressing Aizen as him. Be that as it may, Shirou treated the man as an ally, so they extended the same courtesy and tacitly moved to surround Aizen against the Zero Squad, Quincy, and Kisuke.
Aizen paid no mind to outside external factors any longer.
Standing within the space of his own domain meted out through suppression of a higher being, he was beyond the reach of those who'd yet to reach this level.
Needless to say, when spiritual arrow took the opportunity to pass through the blockade made up of Harribel and the others and struck Aizen on the head, he merely frowned. The arrow spilt into crackling arcs of lightning that sought to fry and seer his flesh, but they hardly did anything to his clothes. He didn't so much as flinch before glancing in the direction of the shooter.
"But that's impossible," a woman uttered, faltering as she took a staggering step back from the weight of a stare alone. It was a Quincy with light-green hair writhing with tendrils of electricity.
Aizen tilted his chin up, regarding the Quincy around him with an air of contempt. Personal research and his interrogation of Giselle, a member of the Sternritter, allowed him an idea of the Sternritter's abilities and weaknesses.
"How foolish," he said, shaking his head before narrowing his eyes and shooting back the electricity dancing over him towards the shooter.
The woman buckled, raising her arms up to form a spiritual shield, but even then, she was blasted with a far greater intensity than her own attack. Tumbling over the ground, the woman barely stopped at the edge of the Soul King's podium.
Upon hearing the derision in Aizen's words, many Quincy grimaced, knowing that they weren't directed solely on the attacker, but on the Sternritter as a whole.
"Oh, do you not agree?" Aizen's lips curled into a condescending sneer. "The variety of your abilities and strengths may vary, but they all possess an aspect that is above a mere weakness. It is a fatal flaw."
"Bullshit!" A Quincy with a purple Mohawk and arms suffused in flames screamed in anger.
"How crass," Aizen smirked. "Though I suppose it's only natural that drabble gifted with power too weak to pose a limitation would scream the loudest."
Haschwalth, the leading figure of the Sternritter frowned, lips thinning at the words. The fact that he didn't speak up in reply spoke volumes that he'd understood what was being hinted.
Aizen shrugged in silence if only to prove a point before continuing. "You see, you Quincy are interesting in that aspects of your power drawn from your King contradict each other. For instance, a specimen I came upon within Hueco Mundo had an intriguing ability to lock down space and cage enemies within a barrier of spiritual energy. Supposedly, it was to be inescapable, and yet interestingly enough, it broke. Why is this? Further interrogation of another captive revealed that 'The Jail' couldn't affect fellow Quincy. How intriguing, yes?"
"That means nothing!"
"No." This word was deafening. "Unfortunately, it means everything. Your power stems from Yhwach, and Yhwach's power stems from the Soul King whom I now share a similar source of power with. In the same vein, the energy coursing through me might as well designate me as a Quincy, or Yhwach himself. In which case, could the power granted upon you, be used against the source? Of course not. This, in essence, is why Quincy aren't permitted to fight amongst themselves. Why else could 'the Jail' be rendered ineffective when trying to restrain a Quincy? Why else would none of you ever hope to stand a chance at rebellion-"
"All this to say…" Kisuke continued his own explanation on his side in the same vein as Aizen, a sour expression over his face contrasting the steady calm of Aizen's.
"I am your God/ He is their God."
Like minds think alike, especially with fellow rivals.
Aizen's back straightened, a hand combing back his hair in the face of oppressive silence exacerbated only by the panting breath of Ichibei who'd abruptly swung his brush over Aizen. Unexpectedly, black ink had failed to splatter out from the hairs of the brush. Instead, the strike was unbearably slow even by Adjuchas standards.
Ichibei was pale, his breathing hoarse. There was a kind of unnerved disbelief clouding his features so black that the jovialness he was known for was entirely absent.
"What have you done?!"
A smile crept up Aizen's mouth as he replied.
"I took what's mine. The power you laud as your own was never yours to begin with, Smiling Monk. No, you too are tied to the Soul King's power of your own volition. You will only die when the Soul King's power perishes, but in the same vein, you're linked. I who has tapped into the power of the King can take away the energy stored within you."
Saying this, Aizen raised a palm up, wisps of spiritual energy tied to Ichibei and the others congregating into a sphere.
"You see, different from the Quincy who were gifted their abilities through Yhwach as a medium, the energy of the Royal Guard is a source that I need not wrestle Yhwach for control over."
"Impossible, it makes no sense!" Nimaya was the first to protest, but he immediately became unsure at the sheer confidence Aizen exuded.
"Impossible? The power you possess as Royal Guards is but a fraction of the greater whole. Yhwach has been in sole possession of the Soul King's power all this while, but why is it that the very power that fuels you wasn't taken away? Amusement perhaps? Some feeble resistance? Or at the bare minimum, disregard?"
Nimaya, Senjumaru, Hikifune, Ichibei, and the rest appeared distinctly unsettled, glancing at each other with varying expressions of doubt and disbelief. None of them were fools or slow-witted, they understood what Aizen was hinting, but could say nothing even in protest.
"No matter, I must take what I can with Yhwach hoarding the vast majority. Therefore, Tosen, as promised?"
Tosen who'd been loyally by Aizen all this time shuddered in anticipation, as he suddenly appeared by Aizen's side. Obviously, Aizen had been keeping his presence shrouded in Kyouka Suigetsu's illusions.
"Understood. To think that this day would finally come. Old friend…I will give you justice." Tosen stepped towards the weakened members of the Zero Squad and unsheathed his sword.
At the same time, Aizen used his newfound power to shatter apart the walls of the Soul King's Palace, and expose the inner sanctum to the fighting outside.
Almost instantly, the aftermath of the clash between Shirou and Yhwach became apparent to all. Deep trenches lay scattered upon barren land, fires flickering in the horizon. Black spatial cracks had formed in the air no different from Gargantas, but volatile and pulsing with chaotic spiritual energy.
Most noticeable was the stark change in Shirou's form. He was bladed in all senses of the word. His skin had taken on a metallic sheen, seemingly made out of a mesh-like lattice of miniature sword fragments. Circuit patterns flowed up and down his body like tribal markings, pulsing with a foreign energy no one could have ever imagined was fueled by magecraft.
Smirking, Aizen flash-stepped into the heart of the confrontation, putting an end to a long-since propagated deadlock.
"Aizen. Took you long enough," Shirou's tone was metallic, sounding more like ringing steel than proper human vocals before he shifted his attention back to Yhwach. "I win," he stated.
"Naturally," Aizen interjected. "Obviously, you've chosen the winning hand from the beginning."
Frowning, Yhwach turned his sights from Aizen, to the Soul King's Palace, then to the Zero Squad. Truly, with his senses he'd been able to perceive the happenings within the palace up until the point Aizen intervened with whatever the Zero Squad had in mind. If Ichibei had succeeded, Yhwach had surmised that half the problem would be settled, as the damn monk wouldn't have hesitated to put down Barragan and the others after funnelling the Soul King's power into himself. However, Aizen's unexpected reversal changed the scenario entirely.
Aizen had created an illusion to hide his presence that had even been enough to subtly influence Yhwach.
"Special War potential indeed," Yhwach murmured to himself inwardly. Outwardly, he stared coldly at his Sternritter. "How useless…" He mouthed before clasping either hand into fists and funneling spiritual energy into two identical spheres.
Upon sighting what Yhwach was doing, many Quincy panicked, taking steps back in trepidation.
"My King, no wait! We can still fight!" They called out desperately.
The protests were to no avail.
"Auswählen," Yhwach declared, taking back the power he'd granted to his Sternritter and redistributing it to the worthy.
Holy Selection was enacted again. With this power, even Quincy who'd been killed could be resurrected using the energy of the other Quincy. Of course, those Quincy whose powers were taken would either die from depletion, or were rendered mere humans.
Flickering spiritual energy of the entire Sternritter was channelled into a select few, elevating their strengths beyond that of their individual means.
The only ones of the original Star Knights were the Schutzstaffel, Yhwach's protective echelon, and Haschwalth.
The response to Yhwach's actions were swift.
"Espada!" Harribel called out, Barragan harumphing at being ordered, but appearing by Shirou's side anyway along with his compatriots.
Appearing in a row were Coyote, Baraggan, Harribel, Ulquiorra, Grimmjow, Apacci, Mila-Rose, Sung-Sun, Aaroniero, and Brans. Excluding Coyote who saw no need to be ranked, only Nel was missing. The full lot of them had undergone transformation into Arrancar at the Vasto Lorde stage, elevating their powers beyond their peers.
Their job would be to defeat Yhwach's Royal Guard while Shirou handled Yhwach.
Haschwalth glanced at Aizen's direction, clearly goading him into confrontation on the side, but Aizen didn't budge. The silence between the two stretched, but it meant little in the chaos ensued by the immediate clashing of the Espada and the Schutzstaffel.
The only ones left remaining in their original places were Aizen and Shirou, and Yhwach and Haschwalth.
"What's wrong, you seem nervous?" Shirou readied himself into a stance.
"Nervous? No," Yhwach shook his head, a spiritual sword buzzing to life in his grasp. "Merely annoyed. Perhaps if you'd actually succeeded and destroyed the root of the Soul King's power, I would feel different, but all I see now is that it's been transferred to a new vessel I need only reobtain."
"A feat not so easy," Aizen replied firmly.
Yhwach rolled his eyes, focusing on Aizen in disinterest. "What makes you believe you have the right to speak on this level?"
"What gives me the right?" Aizen echoed mirthlessly. As the power swelled within him, his veins popped over his skin and his sclera shifted into a vibrant blue.
He chuckled before it turned into a full-blown laugh.
The time had come.
Everything had reached this point, a culmination of all his efforts achieving fruition. Through patience he'd planned out each and every action. Through betrayal, he severed any lingering attachments or relationships.
All of it was for this single moment.
What did he want? What did he aspire for so strongly that he'd use anything at his disposal?
To stand at the top? To usurp all the power for himself in order to dictate everything? Or perhaps was it simple vain glory?
No. Not at all.
For a man as driven as him, as motivated, as farsighted, what he wanted was something simpler than a villain's coup de grace against his enemies.
The sound of Aizen's bones grating echoed in his ears, but he hardly even reacted, too immersed and focused on the matter at hand. However, the pressure he exuded was enough that Yhwach shook his head at Haschwalth and signaled for him to aid the Schutzstaffel.
Grimacing, Haschwalth complied as the energy surrounding Aizen began to compound at an accelerated rate.
He was no savior or liberator.
He would be no one's puppet, nor did he expect anyone to be.
Yhwach's intention of blurring the world lines was only a partial step towards the true goal. Even if the worlds were bound back together, and the 'balance' maintained by the Shinigami undone, the new world would simply fall under Yhwach's discretion.
It would be no different from trading the current system of an inert Soul King with a fully conscious one.
Rather than hording the power into a single source, he'd much rather disperse it freely into the world.
Was this single concept not what any sentient being yearned for?
From the moment he was born, the limitations of what he'd become were already set. There was nothing to be done, no resistance to be made. It was only through innovation and research that something was born out of the stagnant waters that destabilized the order from the common mold.
What made Hollows different from Shinigami? What made humans the medium of both in the world of the living?
Such questions always had roots in similarity. For example, the peak of a Hollow's power, a Vasto Lorde, more and more resembled the likeness of humans and the bladed weapons of Shinigami. In the same vein, a Shinigami's Bankai released the wild untamed elements of a Hollow's chaotic energy to destroy. There was no such thing as a weak Bankai.
Trial and error proved that without the limitations between humans, Hollows, and Shinigami, a stronger being emerges. One need only look upon the Arrancar, the Vizard, and even the Soul King himself whose energies were a mix of all.
The Soul King was the epitome of what the limits of the world were, but it was nothing more than a lifeless puppet enforced by a Royal Guard that was the equivalent of parasitic wardens. Indeed, to create a Royal Guard, one must consume the flesh of the King…a King that was inert in all senses of the word.
Justice? Order? Balance?
How ridiculous. It was nothing more than lies propagated since the era of the Soul Society's Noble Families.
Aizen balled his hands into fists, his knuckles cracking as the spiritual energy around him reached its zenith and became unable to be sensed by Kisuke and the others.
There would be no Gods, no Kings, no Rulers that dictate the limitations of anyone.
Aizen could never accept it; could never tolerate the illusion of the natural order, and this was reflected in who he was as a Shinigami. His Zanpakuto, the extension of his soul, spoke it all.
Kyouka Suigestsu. Mirror Flower, or Water Moon, was a representation of a mirage of the normalcy of the world broken to reveal the truth hidden beneath the surface.
Right here. Right now.
The tranquil illusion reflecting the pale moon over a still lake would be shattered.
A cage would exist no longer.
Only be seeking the pinnacle of power could Aizen be able to enact what must be done…at any cost.
"Aizen…I'm sorry." A voice whispered into Aizen's ears as the power within him reached an unbearable high. It threatened to burst him from within and reduce his physical form into spirit energy.
Moreover, the one who'd been bearing the brunt of this pressure willingly was the very sword now fused to his hand. Second by second, Kyouka Suigetsu was losing its consciousness. With its fading, it would only be a matter of time for the rest of Aizen's soul to follow in its wake.
Goodbye, dearest friend.
Aizen figured that his body wouldn't be able to endure this overwhelming amount of spiritual energy. Possessing neither the blood of the Soul King, nor the constitution of the Vasto of White, his was a vessel of a mere Shinigami. Even with the supplementation of the Hogyoku, his body could only endure for so long, and yet it was in this state that he had no qualms releasing it.
He thrust the blade in his hand outward, turning it clockwise like a key that shattered the void between worlds.
"Bankai, Kyouka Suigetsu: Kyōmen, (Mirror Face/ Reflections mirror.)"
If Shikai could fool the senses of individuals, then Bankai could fool the senses of the world.
Fake can become real, illusion and fantasy into reality.
With the sound of shattering glass, the outcome of Aizen's body bursting into particles of spiritual energy under the strain of energy he was under was mitigated. He deceived the world into believing he had the qualification to act as a proper vessel.
The energy and cost of this endeavor was unimaginable. Death was the simplest outcome by the end of this, and therefore he'd never resort to it until now. Be that as it may, he'd reached his goal, and all that was left was to make sure that his actions couldn't be reversed.
Let no power fall into the hands of a single individual, trusting in the lack of ambition of the Vasto of White as a final fail safe, for the first time, he'd devote his all into the throws of battle.
"You-!" Yhwach's exclamation was cut off by the distinct screeching of spatial distortions.
The moon will shatter.
Aizen's eyes turned cold, his skin peeling to reveal blood bursting from the vessels beneath. Almost immediately, the damage was reversed, an illusion overlaid atop reality and forcibly altering it in a manner that was all too familiar to Shirou.
The world will enter its twilight.
Aizen had stepped onto the stage at the end of it all.
The gilded cage will fall.
Space fragments shattered, winds picking up into a storm.
The ashes of a former world order will shift into ruins.
Aizen's figure blurred between distinguishable and not.
And from the desolation-
Aizen stood with back straight, and with eyes clearer of any doubt than ever before, he nodded towards Shirou; trusting in the first partner he'd ever acknowledged as an ally in his life.
The world is made anew.
Sorry for smaller update, but I ended up getting torn over writing fight scenes that had no meaning in them other than acting as filler which I felt would take away from the build up, and hence, revisions led to a tiring process of scrapping already written work, and narrowing the fights happening everywhere into something manageable. This was the result, and it should be streamlined from here. As for Aizen's Bankai, the fact that he'd never resorted to using it even in a life or death battle left me with the speculation that it might have some severely detrimental effect.
Thanks for reading!
Next update: Sword Order
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