There was no fanfare or idleness from the beginning. Instead, from the moment that Aizen had made his move, and the Espada rallied, there were no questions necessary to be asked. All that mattered was to defeat the enemies before them.

There were five, not counting Yhwach himself who were viewed as targets that were wordlessly divided between combatants.

/-/

Apacci clicked her tongue while using Sonido to step across the sky, gaze frowning while staring at the people around her. All of them were surrounding one enemy fully cloaked in a white robe that hid all discernable features.

Pursing her lips, Apacci inwardly sighed at the situation.

It was to be expected that Sung-Sun and Mila-Rose all had similar opinions, but fighting in this large of a group always felt stifling. There was no way Apacci thought herself weak, but it was more out of habit if anything. She'd always fought alongside Mila-Rose and Sung-Sun, and didn't question why they'd all move to attack a single enemy together, but what about him?

"Aaroniero, the hell you doing here!?" Apacci snarled indignantly at the one unexpected tag-along.

It was bad enough to have three people attack a single person, but four? Wouldn't they be bringing disgrace to Lady Harribel?

Aaroniero who'd appeared alongside Apacci, Mila-Rose, and Sung-Sun hummed while readying himself for battle.

"You three looked like you'd need the most help," Aaroniero replied, pronged trident soon resting over his shoulders.

"Oh, piss off!" Mila-Rose grouched at the insinuation.

"Indeed," Sung-Sun's eyes narrowed into slits, not at all pleased as long sleeves covered her mouth. "You belittle us."

Aaroniero sighed, giving his allies the stink eye. "Dammit, shut up already and think! Do you really believe the others would want my help?"

Sung-Sun, Apacci, and Mila-Rose paused at the same time, the three subconsciously nodding in consideration.

Lady Harribel wasn't one to readily accept help, and neither were Espada like Baraggan, Ulquiorra, and Grimmjow. Then there was Coyote, but her strength was already difficult to describe as an assimilation of Starrk, Lilynette, and Coyote herself. Not to mention, she wasn't an official Espada like Nel who would have accepted Aaroniero's help. Thinking further, people like Baraggan were extremely likely to perceive Aaroniero's presence as a slight and may grow confrontational instead. As such, who was left if not the weakes- oh fuck off!

Apacci perked up moments after Sung-Sun came to a frustrating deduction and whispered into both Apacci and Mila-Rose's ears.

"Wait a second- you bastard!" Apacci gnashed her teeth.

"Oh, what now?" Aaroniero picked at his ears, eyes still carefully trained on the enemy before them who'd yet to make a sound or a move.

"Were you implying that we're weak?" Mila-Rose grimaced.

"…" Aaroniero looked away from the harping women without another word. "Focus." He really couldn't understand how Harribel could put up with these three, especially when they started bickering.

"Focus? It's not like this guy's done anything," Apacci gestured with her chin towards the white-robed member of Yhwach's Schutzstaffel. "Doesn't even look like he can talk, let alone put up a fight."

A pause occurred between combatants as they silently assessed each other. Even Mila-Rose and Sung-Sun put off glaring at Aaroniero in favour of watching their adversary's reaction.

They weren't fools. To be one of the few Quincy allowed to fight by Yhwach's side meant that this person was formidable. Would he or she show confidence? Scorn? Apprehension?

The answer, was nothing.

Blowing wind was the only sound that came in response to Apacci's provocation. That, and a hair-raising rasp that sounded like high-pitched laughter.

The cloaked man's name was Pernida Parnkgjas: 'C'-The Compulsory.

His was a unique ability of thought and control, that no one present could have truly imagined. Then again, the air he suddenly began to give off was enough for Apacci, Sung-Sun, Mila-Rose and Aaroniero to tense.

A pair of horn-like curved swords appeared in Apacci's grip; chakram with three blades protruding from each one.

Mila-Rose hefted her bastard sword while Sung Sun revealed the Sai hidden within her sleeve.

Najibana roared to life in Aaroniero's grasp, torrents of jetting water creating a fluid platform around him.

In response, Pernida merely zipped down the top of his robe to reveal the figure beneath.

An enormous pale-skinned left hand.

Two pupils and golden irises were visible in the large eye at the center of the palm, a feeling of eeriness swelling from around it. It was no wonder it couldn't speak. There wasn't even a mouth in sight.

"Heh, he's just a hand," Apacci snorted, letting out a small sigh of relief. She'd seen Hollows far more fearsome in appearance.

Almost as soon as Apacci had spoken, she felt the hair on the back of her neck raise when Pernida's pupils focused on her. Quickly, the index finger and ring finger curled, the thumb pulling back in a drawing motion before a Quincy bow and arrow formed.

Spiritual energy in the vicinity was all drawn towards the notched arrow, the power condensing to lethal levels that would surely pierce through any hardened Hierro.

Swallowing, Apacci, Sung-Sun, and Mila-Rose glanced at each other before immediately releasing their sealed states. They knew better than to be arrogant against a member of Yhwach's Schutzstaffel.

"Resurrección."

"Thrust, Cierva!" Brown fur covered Apacci's arms and legs, leaving only the skin of her navel and chest areas exposed. On her hand were prominent deer antlers several times sharper than when she was only an Adjuchas. Blue and red stripped tribal markings formed curves on the underside of her breast and expanded out across her stomach.

"Strangle to death, Anaconda!" A pink glow surrounded Sung-Sun before hissing snakes emerged through the haze. A humanoid body was revealed, shoulders, forearms, and legs plated with gleaming reptilian scales. Where once, the entirety of her lower body was that of snakes, now, only a robust snake-head tail hissed from her back. Long sleeves still covered the base of her arms while three pink dots were lined beneath her left eye.

"Devour, Leona!" Sturdy bone armour lined with a flowing lion's mane appeared over Mila-Rose's head before extending to the rest of her body. Robust muscles and toned skin, gave her the uncanny resemblance of an Amazonian warrior woman. An orange cross-shaped mark had also appeared over the bridge of her nose.

Only Aaroniero remained in his sealed state out of consideration for his size in this sort of battlefield. Instead, Nejibana flowed with more currents of water that formed a protective shroud around him.

"Careful."

All traces of ease left Aaroniero's features, Kaien's experiences and honed battle senses leveling into a tranquil calm.

"As if we need you to say that!" Mila-Rose growled, lowering her stance and holding her sword in front of her.

Apacci and Sung-Sun lowered their center of gravity to move at a moment's notice.

Apacci felt her heart racing, her blood pumping furiously within her.

The sooner this battle was completed, the quicker she, Sung-Sun, Mila-Rose and even Aaroniero could provide support for Shirou. Their presence may not do much to change the situation, but even the smallest variables can become major.

"Kick his ass!" Apacci roared before a buzzing echo revealed her speeding forward, pivoting with her feet in a circular maneuver.

Sung-Sun was quick to follow up, a pink glow revealing several large snakes that shot out of her sleeves.

Mila-Rose was more straightforward, choosing to engage in a melee, while Aaroniero began setting the stage with Nejibana's control of water.

All of it, it was all meaningless.

Heilig Bogen.

The amassed power of Pernida's spiritual arrow diverted to its finger tips, revealing five smaller bows that attacked consecutively.

Craning her neck to the right, Apacci winced from a small cut on the side of her cheek. She didn't want to believe it, but even against four people, Pernida's accuracy was monstrous.

It was as expected of a bowman, but it didn't mean that Apacci didn't feel a chill travel down her back at the close shave.

She startled, inwardly clapping herself to focus.

Gather, mold, condense.

A red cero began building at the center of her forward-facing horn, swirling with malefic energy.

"Sung-Sun, Mila-Rose!" She called out, knowing that the other two would understand her intentions. Only one needed an audible cue. "Aaroniero, block him!" She growled.

Almost instantly, orange joined Apacci's red cero, followed by pink from the heads of the snakes Sung-Sun had launched forward.

Around Pernida, the water that Aaroniero was releasing, ballooned into a hardened cage.

No one thought it worth noting why Pernida wasn't even bothering to move. All that mattered to them was attacking.

Aiming their cero towards Pernida trapped in a prison of water, Apacci, Mila-Rose, and Sung-Sun had little consideration for anything else.

"Stand in place and die you damn cocky bastard!"

Apacci leveled her aim on Pernida, followed simultaneously by Sung-Sun and Apacci.

"Cero!"

A shockwave burst out with them in the epicenter, adding to the mayhem of the spatial distortions already plaguing the battlefield.

Covering her face from the debris with her arms, Apacci peeked over once the smoke cleared, and felt as if someone had just punched her in the gut. This blast had been the attack of three Vasto-Lorde level Arrancar. Logiacally speaking, there was no way anything could have survived especially if it was arrogant enough to not even try to dodge?

"H-How is that thing still alive?" Mila-Rose's exclamation was the noise that broke the tentativel silence.

"What, scared Mila-Rose?!" Apacci swallowed in alarm.

"Who's scared?! You're the one whose teeth are chattering so loud that I can hear them from all the way over here, Apacci!"

Apacci's mouth clacked shut, choosing not to comment any longer.

Sung-Sun in comparison to the other two, appeared paler than normal, her eyes dilated. "T-That's disgusting…" she sneered.

Aaroniero swung Nejibana and cleared the water obscuring the area round him.

Pieces of Pernida lay floating in the air. Some were charred and singed, while others resembled charcoal. However, all of them were squirming and pulsing like living flesh that collapsed in on itself and reformed into smaller hands. Not even Hollows had this level of regenerative ability.

Rather than high-speed regeneration, it was more like…Clones, equally powerful.

Perhaps to begin with, it was never them that outnumbered the enemy, but the other way around?

Sung-Sun, Apacci, Mila-Rose, and Even Aaroniero felt dazed at the implication.

"Apacci!" Sung-Sun perked up and suddenly called in alarm.

The searing feeling of bile running up her throat nearly had Apacci heaving, and this before the pain began to kick in. A severed finger had pointed in her direction and fired a condensed arrow through her stomach and out her back. Blood was seeping from her chest, dripping down over her furred legs, as she grudgingly realized the impact was moments away from making her fall. It was through sheer willpower that she remained in place, but not for long.

"Apacci!" Sung-Sun called out again.

There was a second in which Apacci blinked, and in the next, the same finger that had fired a spiritual arrow at her was inches away from her face.

"…Shit."

The severed digit crashed against her and sent her careening through the sky under everyone's eyes.

It was just too fast. No one had been able to react. No, it was their incredulousness that provided an opening.

"Damn, Apacci just got fingered- I mean fuck, finger!" Mila Rose called in warning, but again it was too late.

Another severed digit streaked violently across the air and made impact.

"!?"

Aaroniero was blasted back in Apacci's direction, the look of scathing indignation he sent Mila-Rose evident of how he felt for her slow warning. However, none of his frustration was voiced in favour of coughing out globs of blood.

Only Sung-Sun and Mila-Rose were left behind to contend with the monster before them.

Numerous reformed hands quickly covered Mila-Rose and Sung-Sun's field of view, each drawing closer and closer with notched spiritual arrows on each finger tip.

Both women resisted the urge to shiver as they wordlessly glanced at each other and stiffly swallowed.

Was it too late to switch opponents?


Did she…fail?

Apacci blearily tried to open her eyes in the strong winds of her descent, but her injury shot down her ability to concentrate and control her spiritual energy to form a platform beneath her. As the winds blew fiercely over her face and swept up bangs of her hair, she was keenly aware that she was accelerating faster and faster.

This fall was going to hurt.

Shutting her eyes, she tried to sprawl her body in instinctual effort to use her own surface area to mitigate the speed of descent, but to no avail. She was going too fast, and was too hindered to make much of a difference.

Red filled her vision, followed by an all-consuming black.

What kind of monster had she been facing?

Apacci knew that she was far from the strongest of Arrancar in the lands of the Vasto of White, but she wasn't a pushover either. Her Hierro would never be easily pierced, let alone broken by ordinary means. The spiritual energy contained in that one arrow hadn't even felt that overpowering. At most, it should have been able to wound her, not pierce her chest all the way through.

It could have just been her, but glancing at her wound, pieces of flesh and mangled bone revealed more of a twisting motion than a penetrative one.

Ah, dammit.

None of what had happened made any sense. Balling her hands into fists, Apacci noticed her eyelids steadily closing until the embrace of unconsciousness eventually took her. At least she wouldn't feel the crunch of impact…

Her world went dark, traces of what looked like orange light causing her brows to furrow when next she began to stir. The pain she should have been feeling over the new hole in her chest was oddly absent. Instead, a warm feeling was soothing her and calming her thoughts.

She was, alive?

Blinking slowly, her heterochromatic eyes stared dumbly at the optimistic blues of what she could identity as a big-boobed, orange haired human.

"What?" She blurted out before shaking her head and abruptly sitting up, shattering the orange barrier that had admittedly been healing her.

The moment the barrier shattered, the wounds not yet closed up, began bleeding once more. The only positive was that the new hole through her chest had been effectively sealed.

"Uhm, are you okay? It will take a bit more time for the other injuries you sustained to heal- ah, uhm, sorry, never mind. You can leave if you want."

Apacci could care less about what the human was saying about her condition as she pushed herself away. She was too busy taking in the fact that her trajectory had careened her into landing on the Soul King's podium.

The only two people she recognized as friendlies around her were Ichigo and Silent. The rest were either human or Shinigami, and with her opinion on them, she'd never feel comfortable in their care.

Besides, there was no time! There was still a fight to get to!

All too suddenly, a new figure came tumbling past, kicking up dirt and debris before the butt end of a trident was stabbed into the ground in a bid to slow momentum.

Aaroniero, did he get done in too?

Apacci could no longer shake her feeling of unease. If Aaroniero was launched here along with her, then what about Sung-Sun and Mila-Rose?

Lady Harribel would be sad if any of them actually ended up dying. Needless to say, but obviously she couldn't care less if those two bitches died. Seriously, this was the truth, so why was she forcing herself?

Whatever. The bastard just pissed me off.

Limping, Apacci didn't bother glancing at Aaroniero in order to focus on herself. With the primary injury to her chest healed, she could use her remaining spiritual energy as a crutch to keep her moving.

Besides, anywhere was better than here where she could feel the eyes of the Shinigami bastards.

The pitter patter of blood droplets trickling down her skin before falling onto the tiles beneath her, echoed distinctly. She trudged on regardless, swaying somewhat with each step.

Kisuke and the other Shinigami around him hardly paid attention to Apacci in favour of staring blankly at a panting Aaroniero trying to steady himself. However, the same couldn't be said for those who actually knew and interacted with her prior.

"Hey-Hey wait!" Ichigo called out, spurred out of his inaction at the sight of someone he knew practically on death's door. "Be careful you're bleeding! You should have seen your state before Orihime started healing you!"

Apacci ignored Ichigo, teeth gnashing at the though Ichigo believed he'd ever get her to agree to stay here.

When Ichigo moved to support her when Apacci nearly tripped, rather than appreciate it, she rounded on him.

"Get out of my face, you asswipe!" Apacci butted her head against Ichigo's, the horns of their mask fragments clanking in audible protest.

"Owe," Apacci cradled her head in silent regret, blood tricking down from a gash over her left eye. The further pain only served to further aggravate her more. "The hell you trying to stop me for!? At least I'm fighting! You're strong, aren't you? Lady Nel vouches for you, and here you are doing jack shit! I don't need your pity, or your concern you coward!"

Apacci shoved Ichigo away, panting deeply before glaring int eh direction she'd been blasted away from.

-Buzz.

A burst of Sonido, and Apacci was gone, leaving a brooding Ichigo with an ache pulsating over his forehead, and Silent who was shaking her head at her son's waning resolve.

In any case, only Ichigo could find the answer, a reason, to fight for himself.

With Apacci gone, this left only Aaroniero who wished to be anywhere else but here. Of course, the sight of Ukitake being healed under the Zanpakuto spirit's light left him warm hearted and relieved, but it was precisely because of these feelings that he refused to stay.

Honestly, he'd been avoiding interacting with Kisuke and the others for a reason, and one of them was stubbornly rearing its head.

Before Aaroniero could even think to Flash Step away, his actions were seen, interpreted, and then effectively denied.

"Kaien, wait!"

A pair of arms wrapped around Aaroniero's waist, anchoring him down in a way that no spiritual pressure ever could. Ignoring the sting of his injuries, Aaroniero could feel the wetness of tears staining the white Espada attire he was wearing.

A woman was clinging to him. Having seemingly moved at a speed faster than even a Captain's, she was the first to arrive in a blur of motion. Following her, but too unsure of whether to join, was a rugged faced man wearing a green bandana.

"Kukaku, Ganju," the names escaped Aaroniero's mouth, something that he'd been fighting with from deep within him, slowly coming to the surface.

"Kaien! It's you! I-I don't know how Aizen's forcing you, but you don't have to fight anymore Goddammit!" Kukaku grouched, sniffling while glaring all the same, daring him to protest or contradict her.

Under Kisuke's lead, many Shinigami had followed the path to the Soul King's podium. It was safer here from all the fighting, and under Unohana's instructions, the patients she was caring for were also brought over. For safety's sake, this also included those seeking refuge with the Shinigami, hence the presence of humans and ordinary souls present. Hence, Kukaku and Ganju's presence. In fact, they were better off than normal pluses that stumbled under Shinigami rescue from the Rukongai.

"Kukaku, I need you to let go-"

"Bullshit! Not happening! Ganju, get his legs!"

"Ganju, what did I tell you about indulging your sister!"

"Ganju!"

"Ganju!"

"Ganju, I'll skin you! Hurry and listen to me!"

"Ganju, bros or hoes?"

"The fuck you just call me!?"

A strange feeling of dejavu occurred between Ichigo and Karin while watching the scene of the Shiba siblings squabbling while looking as if they were on the verge of crying. They glanced at each other, thought of their own situation where they thought Ichigo had died, huffed, and then looked away.

Aaroniero's mouth closed when he realized he was getting nowhere. This was stupid. He too had reached Vasto Lorde level in the time he'd spent in the Land of the Vasto of White. This should have meant better control of his abilities and power, but instead, the purity of the spiritual energy he'd absorbed, further stirred the changes already within him.

Feeling helpless, Aaroniero's gaze wandered towards a familiar face in the haziness of the memories he'd absorbed from the Shinigami known as Kaien Shiba.

"Is that you, uncle?"

Isshin didn't know how to respond, but it didn't end up mattering as he was unceremoniously pushed aside by his own daughter. "Hey, hey he looks like Ichigo," Karin muttered while pulling on Isshin's sleeve.

"That's because he, and his brother and sister, are your cousin," Isshin replied stiffly. "I was the one who took care of them when I was still a Captain in the Seireitei."

"And that's why you know us best uncle," Aaroniero flashed a shaky smile with Kaien's face. "Mind helping me? Kukaku always did listen to you after the old man and woman passed on."

"As if the words of an uncle who ran out on us mean shit to me anymore," Kukaku pursed her lips and fought against Aaroniero trying to pry her off. "You're not going anywhere, Kaien. I listened last time, but not this time! Aizen has no hold over you- dammit stop fighting me!"

Half-heartedly, a stream of water flowed its way between the gaps of Kukaku's hold, and eventually pried her loose.

Not expecting 'Kaien' to go to the extent his Zanpakuto on her, Kukaku stared blankly.

"Kukaku, Ganju," Aaroniero muttered, his thoughts indiscernible. "There's something I still need to do, so I can't stay here. I'm just thankful that my Captain seems like he'll pull through."

"Jushiro's a tough one, rest at ease," Shunsui spoke up, tipping his hat. Now if only Ukitake were awake to see and talk with former lieutenant thought dead.

"That I will, but for now, I must go." Aaroniero didn't feel like staying any longer. The way he was being stared at, and more importantly, the unknown feeling swelling from within him, wasn't something that he wished to indulge.

He was the one in control- he Aaroniero! Not some absorbed personality!

Suddenly, he winced, Nejibana's waters caressing his side almost comfortingly.

Don't think about it. Just get out. Leave.

Aaroniero steeled his resolve and began walking. Kisuke and the other Captains didn't stop him. They couldn't say that they understood Kaien's motives, but they didn't question him either. The look on his face was one that Ichigo often made when he was determined.

Something that the present Ichigo was surely lacking at this moment.

Aaroniero paused, noticing Ichigo at the corner of his eyes and recalling him to be someone affiliated with Nel. Low and behold, a recuperating Nel was being watched after by him. Still, did it excuse not joining in on the decisive battle?

Ichigo was clearly hesitating, and the Shiba within Aaroniero began to act up.

"Let me give you a tip, little cousin."

Aaroniero suddenly patted Ichigo by the shoulder.

"Questioning yourself will just lead you nowhere. Is this where I belong? Am I in a nightmare? Who are my enemies? What grudges are worth holding onto? Who am I? In the end, what matters is instinct. Yes. That's it exactly. It's enough so long as it's worth lifting your sword up."

For the life of him, Ichigo couldn't tell if the advice was spoken more for him…or for 'Kaien' himself.

Aaroniero let go of Ichigo's shoulder and moved to Flash Step after Apacci, yet paused at the last second.

"Kukaku, Ganju. Don't look at me like that. I can tell what you want to say even without looking," 'Kaien' said in passing. "Big bro can't kick the bucket yet. Ganju, watch after your sister. She's only as tough as she wants you to think, and…I'm proud of you both. The Shiba name will live on. Enemy or ally, I at least know where this trident is pointed."

Ichigo stilled at the words, and suddenly Aaroniero was gone while a past conversation absently flittered through Ichigo's mind.

"Nel, what do you think of the Vasto of White?"

Glancing in the direction of his own sword, Ichigo frowned.

"Heh. For Hollows with no heart, his would no doubt be bigger than most."

Without taking into account future repercussions, in what direction was his sword facing?

"Please help him if you're able. All this, this land of blades in Hueco Mundo, it was all thanks to him."

He sucked in a breath, trusting Nel with Orihime.

"I believe in you, Ichigo."

These words were enough.


"This bastard isn't even taking us seriously!"

Mila-Rose cursed while cutting a hand in half, only for said hand to split into two smaller hands pointing spiritual arrows at her. This had occurred so many times already that she had long since lost count.

"The more you cut, the worse this gets," Sung-Sun complained, shifting through a hail of holy arrows and opting to swallow the formed hands with her snakes. "That's why your style lacks class, Mila-Rose."

Snorting, Mila-Rose didn't have the heart to snap back in the way she normally did at provocation.

Seeing Mil-Rose not rise to the jab, it made the two almost miss Apacci. However, the two were too occupied trying to remain alive to search for the outcome of their friend.

"This is never going to end…" Mila-Rose felt her muscles screaming in fatigue, cuts and bruises lining her skin while Sung-Sun was no better.

All around the two, more and more hands just kept forming while Pernida simply remained aloofly in place, paying more attention to where Yhwach, Shirou, and Aizen were fighting.

"Complaining already?" A voice caused both Sung-Sun and Mila-Rose's ears to perk up. "You'd disappoint lady Harribel," finished a panting Apacci, blood staining her form.

"Apacci! I knew a cockroach was tough to kill." Mila-Rose chuckled, eyeing Apacci up and down and noticing that the hole she'd seen through Apacci's chest had miraculously healed over.

"Say, that again! I'll kill you, you stupid cat!"

The two ignored Apacci's rebuttal and focused on her instead.

High-Speed regeneration? It was unlikely, neither Mila-Rose or Sung-Sun knew Apacci to have that ability, but they wouldn't kick a gift horse in the mouth.

"Cutting and destroying these things isn't worth it," Sung-Sun grimaced. "We need to blast this bastard all at once! Apacci, Mila-Rose, lets do it."

"Yeah. Fine."

"You think this bastard would let us?" Apacci narrowly dodged several spiritual arrows that had immediately shot at her, many ignoring Sung-Sun and Mila-Rose. "I think he hates me," she complained.

Then again, Apacci was the one who had been antagonistic from the start.

"Idiot, pay attention, Apacci!"

A finger arrow was pointed at her once again.

Apacci clenched her jaw, recalling how familiar this situation was and immediately diving forward to dodge, uncaring of her image. However, the weakness of her injuries dulled her reaction speed. Despite moving, the arrow would still hit her kidney area.

No matter how she thought about it, there would be no second miracle of a human nursing her back to a fighting condition. Shit. She really should have just left her mouth shut and hope that she wouldn't draw the monster's attention.

Right now, though, it was too late for regrets.

She shut her eyes, and braced herself for more pain, only to stare dumbly at the figure who'd speedily arrived and hoisted her away like a sack of potatoes.

"Who were you calling an asswipe? Look who's getting their ass wiped instead."

Ichigo grinned provocatively at Apacci.

Apacci grunted, but couldn't bring herself to admit that she was thankful for the save. "Shut up and just make yourself useful. Buy us some time." She pushed off Ichigo and drifted towards Mila-Rose and Sung-Sun.

Ichigo shrugged, but was inwardly confused.

Where was 'Kaien?' Didn't he leave first? He mulled to himself.

Focusing on the task at hand, Ichigo simply used his sheer speed and capabilities of his current form to intercept and block each arrow aimed at Apacci and the others until it was no longer necessary.

"Quimera Parca!"

Apacci, Sung-Sun, and Mila-Rose tore off their left arms in a manner identical to what they did in the Seireitei. The arms blurred and formed together in a rapidly expanding embryo that matured at a rapid pace.

A head appeared with two long antlers stemming from the deer skull at its center. Sleek and pale, those antlers jutted out from the left and the right and branched out into sharp ends. Pale yellow eyes could be seen just beneath the antlers, the entire head covered in a mane of thick and coarse fur.

There was a silence as the figure fully appeared, heralded by an explosion of spiritual pressure that flattened the area into level ground.

If Ichigo recalled from memory, then what would happen next was-

"Ayon! Blast em!"

A towering giant opened its mouth, gathering spiritual energy from all around it. Born through the combined strength of three Vasto-Lorde level Arrancar, the intensity of the cero it was forming rivaled that of Coyote's.

In a hair-raising response, Pernida finally perked up and shifted its gaze away from Yhwach, Shirou, and Aizen, and onto Ayon.

"Is…That…All?" Pernida finally spoke for the first time. Its voice was a strange mix of childishness and eerie chittering. "Size…Does…Not…Matter."

As if the Quincy was finally taking the matter seriously, Pernida pointed several fingers in Ayon's direction and launched a volley of something that clearly wasn't just some ordinary spirit arrow.

Confident in his strength and power, Ayon never thought of dodging to begin and focused on gathering power into its cero.

It was a fatal and tragic mistake.

To begin with, Pernida really hadn't been taking the fight seriously until now.

'C'-The Compulsory.

All at once, the objects Pernida had launched appeared to be squirming nerve cells. Stabbing into Ayon's flesh, they burrowed and created a branching network that wrestled control of bodily function from Ayon.

"Hmm?" Ayon seemed to hum in confusion as its body abruptly froze, the cero it was forming, immediately dissipating.

"What?" Apacci's stupor was mirrored by her compatriots.

"I thought you said you had this handled!" Ichigo grimaced.

"Ayon's stronger than everyone here, there's no doubt! That bastard's just cheating!" Mila-Rose grumbled. "Ayon, hurry and kill him before it's too late!"

An eerie laughter echoed as Pernida played with the notion of controlling Ayon to forcibly attack its own creators, but thought better of using something so barbaric. It was better to remove it from sight.

Ayon's lumbering body sagged, a howl of agony escaping its mouth as it began to forcibly bend and turn. Twisting as if wringing out a wet rag, Ayon was torn into shreds, large fragments splattering over the landscape.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

Apacci, Mila-Rose, and Sung-Sun glanced at each other with equal levels of growing panic.

Unlike Harribel, and the others, they hadn't unlocked a second release.

This level of an enemy…they couldn't handle it.

They really couldn't without Ayon. He was their trump card, but their enemy's power rendered it mute. Moreover, there was a chilling premonition that this wasn't even the best Pernida had to offer.

Unknown to the three creators, but Ayon was far from truly dead.

In a different time, if Ayon had been born from the powers of three Adjuchas level Arrancar, its power and regenerative abilities wouldn't have been enough to keep it conscious. However, in this case, Ayon was created through the offering of three Vasto-Lorde level Arrancar.

Despite its remains being scattered across a vast distance, some semblance of sentience remained in a glob of its brain matter which crashed into a hillside. Quickly, it condensed into a smaller eight-foot-tall humanoid form that retained much of Ayon's power.

Nevertheless, it remained sprawled in the hill of swords in which it had cratered into, roaring and howling in fury. The only motivation it had other than murdering its enemies, was the protective affection it felt for its mothers.

With almost child-like reasoning, it understood that it couldn't win without a weapon. The nerves launched at it, couldn't be blocked by flesh and bone.

Fight. Fight. For mother.

Ayon's sleeker form gradually pushed itself up onto its feet, sensing the fear building up in Apacci, Sung-Sun, and Mila-Rose's hearts through their blood connection.

Crush enemy into dirt.

Suddenly, a rock-like obsidian sword fell towards Ayon from the edge of the crater it had formed on its landing.

From a glance, the stone-sword didn't appear to be anything special, but it just so happened to be the right size for Ayon's current height.

Ayon didn't know what came over it, but it saw a weapon, and it didn't care if it was ownerless or not. However, the moment Ayon's hand grasped over the hilt, everything changed. For all it's power, it suddenly felt small, dwarfed by an even larger presence shrouded in potent rage.

To begin with, no sword that existed within this space was ownerless, and in some manner, the sword began to resonate.

Within Ayon's bleary and simple consciousness, the image of a towering stone-skinned like giant appeared; a mane of long flowing hair at its back. Those eyes appeared to be staring right through Ayon's core, testing him, scrutinizing him, until finally, a nod.

Then, hazy blackness blurred Ayon's sentience as the clarity of the giant's eyes soon reflected over Ayon's.

The giant seemed to relate with something about Ayon.

More than anything, beyond the murderous rage shrouding everything in madness, the will to protect remained.

This alone was enough to lend its aid.

-The towering obsidian sword was drawn from the hill.


Pressured by the aura and incomprehensible manner in which Ayon was torn into bits, Apacci, Mila-Rose, and Sung-Sun gradually backed away.

Ichigo warily raised his own sword up in defence, and yet the impossible occurred.

A boom reverberated in the distance, followed by supersonic winds that abruptly halted directly in front of Apacci, Mila-Rose, and Sung-Sun.

An eight-foot-tall giant wordlessly appeared, much to Pernida's inner disbelief. It thought that it had killed this thing already.

"Ayon?" Sung-Sun called out softly.

No response.

If not for the connection Sung-Sun and the others could feel tying them to the figure shielding them, it was really too hard to relate this sleeker figure with Ayon's original towering form. At the very least, the snake tail, deer fur, and lion's mane on the figure's body were distinct enough markers.

Was that an axe-sword? Where did he get that?

No. That wasn't the point right now, Sung-Sun mulled.

Sung-Sun's pupils dilated when she noticed Pernida absently point its fingers at Ayon to launch the same nerve cells again.

Knowing how stupid or absent-minded Ayon could be, and that Ayon was their only chance at victory, Sung-Sun and the others could hardly keep still. What was the point of him coming back if he just died from the same attack?

"Watch out!" Sung-Sun yelled in warning. "Don't let those touch…yo…u…" her voice trailed off.

Clang!

Faster than the eye could blink, the sword wielded in Ayon's hands batted aside all projectiles without fail.

Was it a coincidence?

The pupils within Pernida's eyes focused on the peculiar change in its adversary. This time, Pernida's nerves weren't simply shot from itself, but also from the finger tips of its clones flying around, leaving no room to maneuver.

Bang! Clang! Ting!

The same result occurred. A solid defence. Not a single nerve managed to penetrate through Ayon's web of sword strikes.

Slack-jawed silence ensued, broken only by the sound of sudden unbridled pride and excitement.

"That's my boy! You all see that? All from me!" Apacci murmured in a daze. "I made that- I made that!"

It went to show just how affected Sung-Sun and Mila-Rose were that they didn't even register Apacci's unfounded claim. If anything, they had just as much of a claim.

The change was all too surreal.

"Make mommy proud!"


Thanks for reading! For the most part, I'm recovering pretty well from the fever I had a few days ago, but please excuse a few typos if you find them. I got a bit tired near the end.

Thanks for all the support and thanks to my newest patrons: Vb, Leaored, Baeu D, and Anthony!

Next update: Hero and Sword (It was a competition between Fate Stay Cooking and Hero and Sword this time in the polls which was surprising since Sword Order has been winning for a while)

P a treon. com (slash) Parcasious

Book links:

Fatedlegacydark. ca

The Lonely Peak

New Book: Out on Amazon (Remove dash on link)

Survivor's Log Reflection: Amazon.c-om/dp/B08VDDGN7Z?