The sexta sat on the edge of a building awaiting for the rest of his fraccione. Thanks to Sakura, he was down one man, but he wasn't concerned; Di Roy was the weakest out of them so he'll barely be missed.
"Oh my god. This chili dog is so good!" squealed the unwanted guest next to him. Half her mask was broken to allow food to be eaten. "Grimmjow, you have to try this. Here! I got another one just for you"
The sexta bristled in annoyance at the woman beside him. It was bad enough she butted in on his mission, but now she had to make him suffer her company? "Where did you even get this?" he said as picked up the chili topped hot dog.
"Remember when I rushed out of the garganta to explore?" she reminded. "I ran into a restaurant that was selling these stuff. I snagged these particulars sausages from two unlucky, distracted patrons."
The male simply grunted in response, apathetic about how she got the food. He ate, gaining some energy for upcoming fight ahead.
"I'm serious, you know. I intend to kill your 'little brother' when I see him. You better give him a fair well before I rip his head clean off!" Grimmjow reminded with a bestial grin.
"I heard you the first time" Sakura said as continued to eat. "When I'm done talking with him, I'll point him in your direction"
Grimmjow scowled. "...This hot dog taste like shit" he grumbled.
"Want me to make you something when we return back?" Sakura asked. "You enjoyed my gyoza before. How about I make you some with fish? Cats love fish."
Grimmjow blushed, embarrassed that the thought was appetizing and angry he actually wanted this bitch's cooking. "I'M NOT A FUCKING CAT!"
The two stopped as a garganta portal ripped open the air above them. Grimmjow's fraccione step out, all but the exception of the now decaying Di Roy. Grimmjow stood. "Did anyone see you?"
"Of course not" Shawlong said. "Grimmjow"
"On the journey to meet with you, I detected spiritual pressures. There were many and strong, contrary to Ulquiorra's report" reported the fraccione.
Grimmjow tsked. "Open your pesquisas!" he ordered
All arrancar present closed their eyes and focused. Sakura did so as well and within seconds, flaming blimps appeared within her mind in terms of her location. How fortunate Nnoitra taught her the skill before he was sent to bed in bandages.
"If I had to guess, this is the Soul Society finally acting. With the appearance of Ulquiorra and Yammy, they sent reinforcement in response to us, the arrancars"
For once, Grimmjow agreed with the hitokiri. "Yeah, and it all thanks to Ulqiorra" he growled, his discontent for the cuarto made clear.
Sakura chuckled. She sat on the edge of the building swinging her legs back and forth. "Oh, don't be like that. He was only following Aizen's orders to the letter. You can't blame him entirely on that"
"Whatever. I still think the bastard's soft if he couldn't take out a couple humans and soul reapers" Gimmjow scoffed. He turns to his team. "There' no need to hold back! If they have any spiritual pressure at all, I want them dead!"
"Oi! Mr. Leader!" Sakura called out. "What do I do?"
Grimmjow dismissed her with a hand. "Do whatever you want! I couldn't care less. Just don't interfere with my fights and I won't smash your skull." The threat though held no weight, especially how earlier Sakura manhandled him into submission. Gimmjow knew this, as did his fraccione.
Sakura though shrugged. "Okay. I'll be sure to point Arata in your direction like I said. Peace!" and she sonidoed away.
The sexta rolled his eyes. It didn't bother him that she could warn Arata of him or not. 'Like that would do him any good. I'm gonna destroy him so badly, Sakura won't have any choice but to be reduced to tears' he grinned at the thought. "Lets begin! No rest until everyone is caught! You will show them no mercy! If they even show a glimmer of spiritual pressure, kill them! Don't let a single one escape! Let's go!"
Arata's eyes snap open in alarm. He opened his own spirit radar, his unnamed pesquisa, and saw multiple signature spreading around town. 'There's six in total. From the look of it, there is two extremely powerful forces among them, about on par with those arrancars a few days ago'.
"Arata..." Rangiku started.
"I know. I sense them". Arata transformed and made his way to the door. The lieutenant pulled out her soul pager and saw two signatures coming their way. He sensed Rangiku pop out of her gigai and followed behind. "And I sense two of them heading our way"
The two them leap to the apartment roof where Captain Hitsugaya stood ready in uniform. "Captain!" Rangiku called.
"Where's Orihime Inoue?" the child captain questioned.
"I'm having my gigai watch over her so that she doesn't participate in the battle"
"Are you sure about that?" the hitokiri asked. "That gigai doesn't have that much power behind her. You sure she's able?"
Though his deathly voice tried to disguise it, the strawberry blonde knew he was concerned about the teen girl and smiled. "Don't worry, Arata. She should be able to protect Orihime in the worst case scenario."
Arata nodded, conceding to the woman's claim.
"You both better get ready" Toshiro warned. "They've arrived"
Without delay, two arrancars sonidoed above, one fat and the other skinny.
"They're so fast" whispered Rangiku.
'That wasn't a simple flash step. Another arrancar technique perhaps' Arata concluded.
The skinny arrancar, Shawlong, spoke. "Pleasure to meet you" and with that, attacked Captain Hitsugaya.
His lieutenant was about to help when the large arrancar, Nakeem, went to attack her. His sword landed, but not on Rangiku, but Arata's sword. Nakeem felt his eyes widened when he saw Arata's mask. The memory of the pain Sakura delivered was still fresh in his mind, and the mask he looked upon made him shake.
He was so spooked, he sonidoed away to an opposite building. "What's wrong? Don't tell me you're already afraid". Even the sound of his voice was akin to Sakura's. Nakeem said nothing, but readied himself. "Rangiku, assist your captain. I'll take care of this one"
"Alright. Good luck, Arata". She then left to assist her captain.
He nodded at her departing form. "Let's get started".
Though he stood ready, Nakeem was unprepared for the onslaught of attacks from the hitokiri as he flash stepped to him and punched him right in the sky. Arata didn't even release his sword and yet he was able to attack with such power that Nakeem couldn't keep up.
Arata was disappointed to say the least. He had hoped one of those stronger arrancars to come, but it seems like he was only given a minion. 'Might as well not continue this farce and end this'.
Arata punch Nakeem away and gave the rotund arrancar some reprieve. Nakeem at that moment realized that if he didn't release his sword, he would die. But before he could utter the release command, Arata flash stepped to his front and grabbed his shoulder harshly. He then delivered a deadly blow by stabbing into the side of Nakeem's neck.
As the arrancar sputtered out blood, Arata found his still living body displeasing. He grabbed the front of his face and charged a white hot cero. The dark night brightened as Arata blasted Nakeem point blank, turning his head into ash.
He grabbed his sword and watched as his opponent's lifeless body fell to the ground. "That was a let down..."
Said man looked down to find Orihime out her door yelling up at him. "You have to check on Chad! He's by himself and he's still healing from his wounds!"
He opened his radar again, and true to Orihime's concern, saw a signature heading towards Chad's location. And to his delight, it was one of the more powerful signature. 'Kill two birds with one stone'
"I got it! Just get to safety and don't come out until the coast is clear!" ordered Arata. He saw Orihime nod and took his leave for Chad.
Chad awoke to the feeling of multiple spiritual pressures duking it out. He stopped Orihime's spirits with their healing as he felt his arm was well enough to battle. He ran out his apartment to help with the fight, but stopped as he saw a white-clad figure lean against the stone wall outside his apartment complex.
"Oh dang. You're not Arata" the stranger uttered. It was a female and had a mask that immediately reminded him of Arata. "Still, that is one interesting arm you got there. Mind if I take a closer look?" she asked as she walked closer to Chad. While she wasn't apart of Grimmjow's hit squad, she still intended to find some good fights or kills while she was here. Might as well start with the one Yammy swatted.
She allowed a tiny amount of her spiritual pressure to run wild, and it showed as she took every small step towards Chad. The ground quaked with each step, cracking the ground and the surrounding buildings. The air became so dense that Chad found it difficult to breathe. Despite this, he stood battle-ready, but as the woman cam closer, and his legs started to turn into jelly, he started to falter. The woman grinned beneath her mask as she saw the life begin to drain from the dark-skinned teens eyes. He collapsed to his hands and knees just as she was four meters away.
She got closer until she was a couple meters away until Ulquiorra's target came in between them. "Oh? Luck must be shining on me tonight" she muttered. How fortuitous that one of the targets Grimmjow wanted to fight would come her instead. She let off her spiritual pressure attack as the substitute bought his sword out
Just like Chad, Ichigo's face flashed in deja vu when he saw her mask. It was in league with Arata's; both expressionless, meant to unnerve the even the best of warriors. "Who are you?" he demanded.
"Apologizes. In all the excitement, I seemed to have forgotten my manners. My name is Sakura. You don't need to tell me your name, Ichigo Kurosaki. I've been well-informed about you"
As this exchange was happening, Chad stared wide-eyed in disbelief. This woman was so strong, just the air around her was going to end him. 'She was going to kill me without lifting a finger. If Ichigo hadn't shown up when he did, I'd be dead for sure'
"Chad, step back okay?"
The teen lightly gasped. "Wait Ichigo! If you're worried about my injuries-"
"Chad!" cut in Ichigo. "Please... let me handle this".
Though he was hurt he was not gonna help his friend, he understood why. With that, he ran away to help elsewhere. He passed Rukia who noticed his distraught disposition and it left her to wonder.
Sakura chuckled lightly at the exchange. 'This boy is just like Arata back in the day. All noble and selfless. I like him' she reminisced. "You sure you wanna do that Ichigo? There's no shame in having help by your side"
"Shut it. This is between you and me" the teen insisted. He took the bandages off his head as he said so.
"Very well then. But you might want to tell that to your little friend there. Seems like she wants to cut into our duet" Sakura pointed out. Ichigo looked to his right to find Rukia in uniform with her sword already out. He looked back and saw her gigai behind a corner. She gave an encouraging smile and thumbs up to the substitute and her owner.
"Rukia... I didn't know your powers returned"
"Yeah. Quite the surprise, huh?" she grinned.
The teen shook his head free of his surprise. "Look, I got this. You have to-"
His friend stopped him in his tracks. "No Ichigo. I have bad feeling about her and I'll be damned if I left you alone with her" she stated firmly, holding no room for argument. "Besides, this gives me the chance to finally show you my zanpakuto" Rukia then chuckled.
Ichigo begrudgingly nodded. He and Rukia stood firm against the arrancar.
"Rukia Kuchiki. I hope you're just as powerful as your elder brother" commented Sakura. Whenever she got the chance, she would read the reports and documents about the many people of interest Aizen gave out to the Espada. Though most didn't bother giving the papers more than a quick glance, Sakura took great care to study each and everyone of them, and that included the head of the Kuchiki clan. When she read his report, it was like an advertisement screaming, "FIGHT ME!" in Sakura's mind. The man was written to have great skill and power, and the hitokiri couldn't help but imagine their fated encounter.
The Kuchiki sibling said nothing as she released her sword. "Dance: Sode no Shirayuki!". She spun her sword in front of her. As it turned, the entire weapon became completely white. The guard became a hollow snowflake and a white ribbon forms at the pommel.
The air around them rushed with cold air in all directions, and Sakura whistled impressed. "What beauty" she commented before she moved. Rukia and Ichigo stood frioen in shock as they barely caught Sakura move, she was so fast. She was in front of Rukia and gently held the white blade in her hand while Rukia held the handle firm. "I always appreciate it when weapons and art cross and birth an elegant tool of death". It was a shame her axe disappeared, Sakura thought. She would have loved to show off the beautiful craftmanship of her favored weapon.
A shift in the wind directs her to stop Ichigo's Zangetsu, but not with her hand, but her head. As the large blade neared her neck, she craned her head to the side, stopping the blade with her noggin in its tracks. His attack did nothing to harm the hitokiri to the soul reapers disbelief.
"W-What the-?". Ichigo never got to finish as Sakura let go of Rukia's sword and back slapped the boy, sending him skidding back many feet to the side before crashing into a car.
Rukia promptly flash stepped away as Ichigo recovered and charged back into the fray. Sakura kept her left hand pocketed as she moved Ichigo's slash away. When the tip clanked with the ground, Sakura punched him in the gut and sent him skidding back again. Fortunately for Ichigo, he stopped himself before impacting with a car.
It had just occurred to both the soul reapers that throughout that entire exchange, Sakura did not move a single step. 'Just how strong is this woman?' Ichigo momentarily panicked.
Sakura rolled her shoulders until a crack was heard. "That was tantalizing. How about you use that bankai of yours? It'll certainly help you, considering you haven't put a dent into me" she suggested. "Or... how about you set the beast inside free? Maybe then this fight will turn in your favor"
'Yeah! What she said! C' mon, you know you're too weak to deal with this chick, so TAG ME IN!' the hollow within screamed.
"Some no mai, Tsukishiro!". Beside Sakura was Rukia, who was crouched slightly with her sword angled outward. She flash stepped away before she could question her being there. The ground beneath glowed a white circle around her and within seconds, her feet began to freeze.
"Oh?" Sakura uttered before an ice pillar was shot into the sky, freezing Sakura inside in the process.
Ichigo panted, but mostly from the exertion of containing his inner hollow. Rukia joined his side as they looked upon the large column of ice. "You... You think that got her?"
A tremble in the cold structure fractured any hope. Before they knew it, Sakura broke out with little effort by merely using some of her spiritual pressure. That amount though was enough to knock the wind out of Rukia's lungs and force her to ground, stilling like a corpse from the what little power Sakura was letting out. Ichigo was feeling the effects too, using his sword to lean on as strength was leaving his body at an alarming rate. "Oh!" she exclaimed as she rubbed her biceps. "You really gave the cold shoulder there" Sakura then laughed.
"Ru-... Rukia..." he weakly groaned. The pressure was lifted and Rukia's eyes began to fill back with life. She attempted to get back up but her body still felt weak from the onslaught that was Sakura's reiatsu.
"She'll be fine. If I wanted to kill you both with my mere energy, I would've already done so" To Ichigo surprise, Sakura was right in front of him, face-to-face. He was taller than her yet her power and stature made him feel small. It was just like the time he met Byakuya or Kenpachi. Their power and skill crushed him upon their first meeting, but he always persevered and found a way to overcome those obstacles. With Sakura, it would be no different. She threatened the lives of his friends and for that, she will pay.
"You're strong" Sakura suddenly said. "I don't even need to see your potential; you practically reek of it". She grabbed the back of his head and smacked her forehead against his. "Come on, Ichigo. Let that hollow inside you loose. Use that power and fight me!" she encouraged.
'Do as she say! Switch!'
She say the conflict in Ichigo's eyes as the top left corner of his left eye began bleeding black, but he fought it back. "That isn't driving you, huh? Well how about I go after that Chad fellow, hm? Perhaps I should castrate him and feed him his own cock. Doesn't that sound fun?"
He growled at her more enraged that she was promising harm towards his loved ones should he not follow her wishes. "Oh! Or how about I go after that powerless quincy? He should be easy prey. Perhaps I'll stuff the shattered glass of his eyewear into his eyes and watch as he bleeds to death"
"Or how about that orange-haired girl or this girl right here?" Sakura said as she patted Rukia's head with her foot. "Perhaps I'll cut off their arms and stick them up their cunts. I can practically hear their screams right now"
"I swear... if you lay a hand on-!"
"Or how about your family instead ? Maybe I'll force feed your sisters your father's headless corpse as I smear your mother's grave with his blood!"
"YOU LEAVE THEM OUT OF THIS!"
The burst of spiritual power from the boy made Sakura sonido back. The enraged teen held his zanpakuto in front of him. "BANKAI!". He transformed and immediately rushed the hitokiri. His left eye was partly filled with black but his vision was all red at this woman for threatening everyone dear to him. He aimed for her neck and moved with such breakneck speed, Yoruichi would be impressed.
His sword neared her, but to his confusion, she did not move. The blade of black finally landed in it desired spot, but to Ichigo's horror, it did nothing. There was no cut and she was not dead. She wasn't even scruffed. His sword trembled harmlessly on the number five, and it dawned on Ichigo she must be the fifth rank meaning fifth strongest. How could someone this strong be only the fifth?!
"That wasn't enough" Sakura chastised. "You need more power! Do you not realize the stakes this battle imposes, or do you just not care about your friends and family?"
"Of course I do! What kind of question is that?!"
"If you're serious, then use your power"
Again, his hollow screamed and demanded to let loose on this woman, and with how things were looking, Ichigo was tempted. Almost.
With how he was now, he couldn't face her. She was like a boss fight you encounter in a game but find you're too low level to even damage him. This wasn't a video game though. This was real. Deadly and painfully real.
Ichigo looked into Sakura's eyes but found she was looking to the side. He turned and saw Arata staring at them, but his body language was so strange. He was frozen, like he was in disbelief as he looked at Sakura. He couldn't see, but Arata's eyes were uncharacteristically wide. It was like he was looking at a ghost.
He heard Sakura laugh before she started to make her way to Arata. "You know what? I give up. You win. I'm gonna go with this guy now. Peace, Ichigo! Make sure to improve less you want sweet and painful death upon you and you ilk!" and with that, she hooked an arm around Arata's arm, and sonidoed away.
The young Kuchiki finally found enough strength to stand. She looked in the direction of where Sakura last stood with eyes brimming with suspicion. She too had seen Arata's stance and found it eerie. "You think he'll be alright?"
Ichigo's hand clenched his black sword tightly. Sakura's threats lingered, filling him with horror and anger at the woman for even coming up with such gruesome ends. "Yeah... I'm sure he'll be good" Ichigo sighed. "Arata is strong. He'll make it through whatever that woman has in store" he confidently stated. "Nice zanpakuto by the way"
The ebony hairy girl smiled back for the compliment. It suddenly fell as she and Ichigo suddenly another strong presence, but it paled in comparison to Sakura.
"What the hell? She already got to fight you?! That insufferable woman... leaving me scraps like this..." growled the new arrival. The soul reapers look up to find a blue-haired arrancar. "But I guess I should count myself lucky, because I get to kill you both myself!"
"Gah!" Arata never thought to himself what he would say in this moment, when he and his nee-chan finally reunited after years of being apart. Even now, as she lifts him up in the air to give him the king of bear hugs, all he could do is groan in discomfort, uttering not a single word.
"You're so big! Look at you! I always knew you'd grow up big and strong; you did surpass me in height by the time you were twelve, but by god, did I underestimate!" she laughed as she spun around. "Those tattoos looks beautiful. Sucks for me that the only ink on my flesh is this number five. Maybe they have tattoo parlors in Hueco Mundo. Eh. I don't know. But I do know that I'm happy beyond belief because my first otouto is here!"
Her last statement gave him pause "Wait... 'first otouto'?"
"Yes," she said when she finally put him down. "I took an arrancar under my wing when I came here". Sakura snickered at the memory of how Nnoitra used to be. It was almost bizarre to the hitokiri that it only had been nearly a month since she has been here and already she made an impact on someone's life. "All bravado and strength, but was held back because of his heart and mind"
"Ironic being that hollows are heartless"
Sakura chuckled. "Quite. But I helped him improve. Made him do a bit of reflection and now he is at peace with himself"
With his nee-chan, Arata felt totally at ease to the point of leaning against the wall as he talked to Sakura. "You do have a knack of improving scum into warriors. That is if you try"
As much as the statement made her smile, she denied it and shook her head. "No. He did that all himself. Just like how you improved yourself too". Without a doubt, she taught them and guided them, and made them stronger as fighters and people, but if Sakura was being honest with herself, she merely pushed them. She pushed them hard, but that was all she did. Arata and Nnoitra, in her eyes, could've refused her tutelage and teachings, but they didn't. They were the ones that took the step to listen, and they were the one that moved forward.
Arata though partly agreed. Yes, he improved through is own efforts, but if Sakura wasn't there, he wouldn't have started them in the first place. In the end, he shrugged.
"So how are you here anyway? I just woke up in an filthy alley way in this town" Arata asked, getting straight to the point.
"Well, I was on a mission for a client from Valkenheim. Really angry girl she was. I think her name was Hulda or something like that. Anyway...". She then went on to recall being instructed by this Hulda to recover some sort of special blue gem from an underground temple in the Dawn Empire. When she arrived at the temple entrance, a blue portal appeared out of nowhere. Sakura thought this was the entrance, but shortly after exiting said spiritual gateway, she realized how wrong she was. She did contemplate whether to return back, but she found this world too interesting to pass up.
That, and she doubted Aizen would've let her leave in the first place.
"Aizen. Was he responsible for me being here?" Arata asked.
"Yep. Essentially, you were the unforeseen result of his first testing of the teleporter that brought me here too" answered Sakura.
'So he was responsible. And I was just here by chance'
Like so many things in life.
"So how are things back in Healthmoor?" Arata asked. To be honest, he couldn't care less about his former world. His playground was this world now. He simply asked out of principle; it was his only home world after all.
"Same old as always" Sakura shrugged. "I did hear talk about truces, but other than that, the war is stilling raging without pause. Although people have been getting unusually stronger for some reason. Not that I'm complaining, but it was all so sudden." To that Arata nodded.
The two then conversed about what had happen to them over the years and their happenings in this new world. Sakura brimmed with pride as she listen to some of Arata's many adventures. It was just as she had hoped for when he left her company, that he would gain more experience in both life and the battlefield. She particularly liked the tale about how he got his tattoos. Those drug dealers must have been one hell of a fight.
The occasional clash of spiritual pressure stopped them on multiple occasions and as they did, Arata looked into the distance picking out who was battling. Rangiku and Toshiro were battling that skinny arrancar, Ikkaku was battling with Yumichika on the sidelines, Renji was by Urahara's shop fighting another arrancar, and Ichigo was battling against that other strong reiatsu signature.
"You're worried". It wasn't a question Arata was being asked. It was a statement. Arata huffed.
"Hardly. They're all seasoned warriors so I'm sure they will manage. Besides, whether they die or not doesn't matter to me. It is what it is"
Sakura though knew Arata, and she saw through the mask beneath the mask. "I'm sure". Without warning, Sakura pulled her sword out and went to strike at him. He blocked it and pushed her off before unsheathing his own blade.
Arata knew an attacking was coming before Sakura placed her hand on her sword. It was all simply a matter of when. She used to do that a lot when he was her student. attacking him when his guard was down for the sake of teaching him to always be on guard. He... eventually learned how to counter her surprise attacks, but now without a few years worth of bruises and cuts.
"I see your reflexes are on point. Impressive" she acclaimed.
Arata did not verbally respond, but instead flash stepped to the back of her before he tried to slash across her back. It failed as Sakura turned and blocked him and pushed him up into the air as their blades clash.
Sakura slashed his unarmored chest but the blade bounced harmlessly on the skin. "A hierro"
"You have an arrancar's hierro, or armored skin. True to Ulquiorra's words, the line between soul reaper and arrancar for you is blurry. You can even fire a cero exclusive to the elite of Aizen's army: the Gran Rey cero" she stated
"I see...". So his power weren't just hollow based, but arrancar based? 'No wonder Shinji was so confused. My hollow side is more muddled than either of us anticipated'
The two distanced themselves, Arata was higher up to fire a kido spell, but Sakura beat him to the punch and fired a low power cero at him, forcing him to dodge. He narrowed his eyes and flash stepped a couple meters to her left. "Hado #31: Shakkaho!"
The red fireball was fired, but Sakura swatted the fire away with her hand. She closed the distance and went to punch him with her free, unoccupied hand. Arata met her with his right fist. When the two collided, the vibration was enough to numb Arata's forearm, but he could tell that the blow was heavy.
You fractured a bone! Here she comes!
His eyes widen when he felt her blade cut into his neck, but not deep enough to cause a wound to his immense surprise. He frowns as he realizes what was up. "You're holding back, aren't you?"
"I'm trying to, yeah. It wouldn't be fun if I killed you immediately" she calmly stated without pause.
"Just like you were with Ichigo?"
Sakura grinned. She knew he was watching them battle for some time before he finally made his appearance, probably to study her fighting style. Most likely when he recognized her style did he make his presence known. "Yes. You saw the potential in the boy. I'd hate to have cut him down when he was just sprouting before he came a beautiful flower"
"So you let him live so that he could become stronger. I see..."
"Yes. Just like what I will now do to you" she said as she sheathed her sword. "Ulquiorra stated you have just as much potential as the boy, maybe a little more. Regardless, I look forward to the both of you and our inevitable clash"
"You're putting a lot of faith in us. Are sure it isn't misguided? What if we die before we get to face you?". A clash of energy was felt from the location of Ichigo and that second strongest arrancar. "What if we die today?"
She did not answer any of his questions. Instead she chuckled. "You've always been the curious type. Always wanting his questions asked and always wanting to be in the know. But let's just say I'm taking a gamble. And from my perspective, I'm gonna win that gamble"
That was pure confidence in her voice. It was the confidence he aspired for. It was cool and steady, balanced and maintained. Some might call her arrogant, but she always had a mind as open as the galaxy. She never looked down or pitied anyone as she knew everyone was filled with surprises and could one-up her if given the chance. She never overestimated her strength as she knew there will always be someone stronger in the world, and knew she could always improve. He used to envy that confidence when he was a child, and though he had matured a great deal and found his own confidence, the confidence of Sakura was one to be admired by all.
He looked in the distance and felt those foreign reiatsu signatures drop one by one. All that was left was by...
"Ichigo...". Without giving any verbal warning, he flash stepped nearby to observe him and this arrancar. Sakura arrived not a second after and the two watched as Ichigo battled a blue-haired arrancar.
"Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez. Espada number six. Your friend has his work cut out with this one. He's as deadly as savage panther" stated Sakura. Arata took note of how easily the sexta was tossing the teen around, like a floppy ragdoll. "No doubt he's out for blood."
Arata's muscles tensed for a second when Ichigo was kicked into the ground, a large crater resulting from his crash. As Grimmjow rocketed toward him, Ichigo winded up a swing hoping to slash the Espada. The resulting clash was deflected by Grimmjow's fist before he kicked Ichigo again down the street.
"He's still holding himself back" growled Arata. He knew how out matched the boy was against this Espada, but he shouldn't be getting creamed this badly. Because of the fact he was still trying to keep his inner hollow caged in, he wasn't operating at full capacity. Combine that with the difference in strength to Grimmjow, he was barely putting up a fight. Even as Grimmjow whaled on him with punch after punch, he wasn't even holding his sword to guard.
Still, even if he wasn't holding himself back, Grimmjow could still mop the floor with him; their difference in power was just too much for the teen.
"Yes. Sadly he isn't using his powers to their fullest extent. He was fighting back the hollow as me and him fought as well" added Sakura.
An aggravated scowl crossed Arata's face when Ichigo was shot up only to be kicked back down again. Grimmjow too was feeling let down at Ichigo's lack of power against him. He was hoping for a good fight. He spat to his left in disappointment. "Is that all there is to your bankai? I gotta say, you turned out to be a real disappointment. You used your bankai and all it gives you is average speed? Huh?!" Gimmjow yelled down.
It was then a look of surprise crossed his, Sakura, and Arata's face when the dust cleared when black energy laced with red was sent at Grimmjow. "GETSUGA TENSHO!" To surprised to dodge, he crossed his arms to block, but the attack landed true and scarred the sexta across his chest.
"Was like a cero" finished Sakura. "In terms of make-up and power, that's just a slightly altered cero blast. Wonder why he didn't use that attack on me?"
"Probably because you didn't give him any opportunity to" Arata mumbled, still in disbelief as he didn't know Ichigo was capable of such an attack. He thought he had only his fighting prowess and base stats to rely on, but oh how wrong he was.
Though his Getsuga Tensho scarred him, Ichigo couldn't savor the moment as he panted from the exertion. "Damn. What was that? Ulquiorra didn't mention that move in his report about your attacks, soul reaper. Not a word!" he grinned.
The soul reaper grinned back despite the strain on his body. "So maybe I won't be disappointing after all, arrancar"
Gimmjow laughed in response. "Guess I might have been wrong about you! It may turn out that you're worth killing after all!"
Ichigo looked about ready to charge in, but he grasped his face before he could fly off the ground. 'That hollow is beginning become more troublesome' Arata thought. When he saw the boy grasp his face and refuse to move from his crater, Grimmjow grinned and pulled out his sword before charging in himself.
Ichigo's eyes widen, too frozen from combating his inner hollow to move. Grimmjow closed in, but it wasn't Ichigo's sword he met, it was large surface of Arata's axe.
Although he was irked he was interrupted, once he saw that mask, he knew he found his other target. He sensed Sakura nearby and decided now was the time to show her why she shouldn't mess with the king.
"We'll speak later" Arata said before he pushed Grimmjow back up into the sky.
"I was wondering where you might've been. To be honest, I wanted to kill you first before I went after that orange-haired runt" said Grimmjow.
"Really now?" Arata commented at the fact the arrancar had an interest in him.
"Your 'big sister' is a large pain in the ass. What better way of getting back at her other than taking your severed head?" the Espada grinned as he readied his sword.
Arata scoffed at him though undeterred. "If you think I'll let you kill me that easily, you're foolish." And with that, Arata began his assault on Grimmjow, slashing at his hierro with tremendous strength. Grimmjow was caught off guard by the speed but blocked his attacks with his hierro and sword. Grimmjow countered his overhead attack and kicked him on the side of his head. Arata skidded back in air before he stopped himself. Just when he did, he saw Grimmjow about to kick his head again. He dodged and caught his ankle, and hurled him with all his strength into the ground.
'He's far agiler and stronger than that brute of an arrancar we faced' Arata thought. 'I need to-'
A booming noise from behind alerts him. He barely turned when his head was slugged, sending him flying to the side. He was given no reprieve as Grimmjow attacked him like there was no tomorrow, kicking and slicing at his hierro. "Is this really the best Sakura did for you?!" the Espada laughed when he side kicked Arata in the ribs before slicing his chest. "I was expecting much more than this sad show of power!"
Gimmjow halted when Arata caught his blade mid stab. With speed Grimmjow did not expect, he was pushed off before he was horizontally slashed across his chest. "Apologizes. I didn't realize my nee-chan talked me up. I'd be remiss to let her down." Arata turned the tables and moved Grimmjow back with the power of his strikes. Knowing his nee-chan was watching him, believing in him, fueled him. He attacked with renewed ferocity that floored Grimmjow as he pressed him.
The Espada had little opportunity to react. He had the advantage, but it seemed Arata rolled with the punches to get a feel of his strength before eventually he got used to it. 'Damn it! This bastard is really pushing me' he irritably thought. If things continued on as is, he would be forced to use his resurreccion.
The last time he did though was against Sakura. To do so against her student, was something he couldn't allow. His pride would never live it down.
He parried Arata and slashed across his chest. He spin-kicked his head, knocking him to the side before Arata flashed stepped behind and kicked him back. The two clashed looking equally matched, deflecting and striking each others leaving both battered and bloodied.
Grimmjow swatted away the axe but not without cutting the back of his hand deeply. The hitokiri and arrancar panted from all the intensity happening before them. Grimmjow grinned in amusement. His hand goes to his chest and he twitched when he gently touched his new horizontal wound. "I gotta say, you're more entertaining than that other soul reaper. You even left a lasting mark!"
"That won't be the only thing you'll remember me by" Arata said before he flash stepped behind him. He was taking a huge risk doing this, but at least both of them would be losing an arm.
He cut his right palm before he grabbed Grimmjow's left arm with his right hand. "Gran Rey Cero!"
The sexta failed to do anything to retaliate as a white blast pierced the night, violently searing his arm in its intense heat. A scream of pain erupted from Grimmjow as his hierro was melted along with most of his skin and muscles.
Tears in his arms erupted and told Arata enough was enough. He let off the blast and backed off from the now impaired Grimmjow. He assessed the damage of his arm and while it wasn't as bad as the first time, it still bleed profusely and he couldn't even lift it, leaving it limp by his right.
"BASTARD!" yelled Grimmjow. Words could not describe the pain he was feeling, but he quelled it down with his volatile anger only as he stared red at the hitokiri. "You're dead! When I'm done with you, you'll-"
Before he and Arata could continue their battle, a garganta opened behind Grimmjow, revealing the former ninth squad captain.
All but Sakura froze when Tosen stopped Grimmjow from attacking with a simple hand on his shoulder. "Sakura. Come here" he then called out.
"I see we've been figured out" Sakura said. She flew up towards the former captain. Though his eyes were concealed, they narrowed in the direction of the quinto. He, Gin, and Aizen had been told a great deal about her world and about herself. She was an executioner of the sinful, a sort of sentinel of justice, a position the blind man would've commended but after getting to know Sakura after all the time she spent with them, she was just like Kenpachi, another barbarian simply using the guise of justice to satiate her bloodlust and desire for violence.
He said nothing to her and turned to Grimmjow. "Put your sword away, Grimmjow" he ordered.
"Tosen" Grimmjow growled.
'Tosen? He's one of the captains that defected with Aizen' remembered Arata as he recalled being briefed about it by Kisuke.
"You wanna explain to me why you're here?" demanded the sexta.
"You ask 'why'? You can't be serious" Tosen retorts in slight disbelief, as if the reason wasn't already obvious. "You chose to invade the world of the living on your own. And you took five arrancars without permission. Then you lost them in battle. You disobeyed orders. You understand that much, don't you?" He walked towards him, his gaze turning to Sakura. "And you Sakura. Allowing your fellow Espada to continue this act of insubordination is shameful; you should have known better. Lord Aizen upset with you most of all Grimmjow. I hope you realize that"
That only added to Grimmjow's ire and he replied, "Wait, why only me?! Sakura left without permission too-"
"After our last meeting, Sakura came to Lord Aizen and asked permission to visit the world of the living. She was granted permission"
Wide-eyed in surprise, he turns to Sakura, who chuckles. "I was actually on my way to Harribel to learn how to open gargantas until I overheard your plans. Though I had my suspicions you were gonna act against Aizen's orders, I didn't tail you if that's what you thought. I just happened to cross your path at an inopportune time"
His only working hand, the one holding his sword, clenched in anger that Sakura came along solely by chance. "Regardless, come you two. Your punishment for your actions will be decided in Hueco Mundo." He opened a garganta and walked back to Hueco Mundo.
Grimmjow clicked his tongue in discontent. He stared back at Arata, contemplating whether to follow the ex-captain's lead or continue clashing with him, but with his burnt arm, he just could afford to continue disobeying his commanders. "Fine then! Let's go." He looked back at Arata and saw the same type of eyes Sakura always stared at him with. "This isn't over, Arata Takahashi! I will kill you and Sakura!"
The soul reaper sheathed his sword and cradled his damaged arm. He too couldn't afford to fight anymore tonight, seeing as his vision was starting to get hazy. "I'll be counting the days." To which Grimmjow scowled at.
"Hey you, hold on!" yelled Ichigo from below. "Where the hell do you two think you're going!?"
"Can't you see we're going home? I thought it was pretty obvious" Sakura laughed.
"The hell you are! You come here and you attack us, and then you just leave?! You gotta be kidding me! Get back down here! This fight isn't over until I say it is, damn it!" challenged the substitue.
"Get over it, kid!" Grimmjow dismissed. "The only reason you're still alive is because we're leaving!"
"You should consider yourself lucky. You get to live to grow stronger and hopefully face us yet again" Sakura said. "That attack you just pulled off is taking a toll on you it seems. Everyone here can see it, and from the looks of it, you only got about two or three more attacks until that hollow inside you breaks out" Sakura said to the surprise of Ichigo.
Her fellow espada grinned when he saw the shock on his face. "Besides, even if you were able to do it a hundred more times, you wouldn't stand a chance of beating me in my released form!" he said. He then addressed both Ichigo and Arata. "Don't forget my name soul reapers, and pray you'll never hear it again! Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez! Because the next time you hear my name, you'll be dead men! I promise" and he walked off into the garganta.
Sakura stayed behind for a little bit. She smiled down at the teen boy in excited anticipation. 'He's so close. He just needs that little push to get him going. Maybe then he'll be a match for us.' Sakura thought as she continued to look down at the teen's scowling features. "I look forward to seeing you improve, Ichigo Kurosaki. I hope tonight was an eye-opening experience"
"Sakura..." growled Ichigo, the threats made against his loved ones forever ethed into his mind.
"And you, my dear otouto" she turned to Arata. She hugged him again, but softer and more loving than before. "I look forward to what you will become"
"Arata, w-what are you...?" Ichigo then sputtered. His anger turned to confusion as he couldn't understand why Arata and that woman were hugging like family.
It shocked him even more when Arata slowly returned the hug and patted Sakura behind the back. "I as well, nee-chan"
Sakura let go with happly giggle before turning to the black portal in the sky. "Bye bye! See you two later!" and she left, the portal closing behind her.
The deputies of Karakura were by themselves. Arata landed beside Ichigo, his arm dripping crimson with every passing second. "Thanks for the help Arata. Now come on, you and Rukia need help quick-"
Ichigo halted all movement and stared back at the hitokiri in confusion. "The hell you mean 'no'?"
"I told you we will talk after I fought, and now that the fight is over, we will talk. NOW." The sternness he heard in his deathly voice gave him pause but he opened his ears for his incoming words. "I am going to say this once so listen closely: Tomorrow, I'm going to take you to Shinji and the Visoreds, and you WILL learn how to control your inner hollow. Understood?"
The teen scowled at his word and attitude. "That isn't your call to make!" he snapped back.
"Perhaps you suffered more head damage than I thought, but let us review tonight: you were easily dispatched by Sakura, you were tossed around by Grimmjow, you were nearly killed by Grimmjow, and you were close to being consumed by your inner hollow. What more evidence do you need?" he countered, leaving the teen unable to repond. He relaxes his figure and said, "What do you desire the most Ichigo?"
"What do you desire the most?" Arata questioned again. "What do you want no matter how old you are, how beaten you, or where you are?"
The teen boy didn't know what his elder was thinking, but he responded honestly. "I... I just protects my friends and family. No matter what, that desire will never leave me"
"I see..." Arata nodded. "How will you protect the people you love if you're dead?" he rhetorically questioned. "How will you protect the people you love if you're broken. And how will you protect the people you love if you're not even yourself anymore?"
Ichigo contemplated the meaning of his questions before they finally dawned on him. With all the effort he placed into containing his hollow, the more vulnerable he was to outside attack. And should the hollow break out from within, he would lose himself, essentially dying and leaving his body in the arms of an imposter. He couldn't risk that anymore. If tonight showed him anything, it was that he couldn't continue the way he was without putting himself and others in jeopardy. He was useless as he is so he needed to get stronger, and he needed to conquer the hollow within him to do it.
"I wouldn't" he whispered quietly, but Arata heard him loud and clear. Content, he turned on his heels in the direction of Rukia.
"It settled then. Now let us..." He collapsed just when he was about to take another step. Ichigo acted and caught him before he fell to the ground. His eyes fluttered, but he refused to let sleep overtake him.
"Come on, big guy. Lets patch our wounds." He wanted to interrogate the masked man about why he seemed so friendly with that arrancar, but held his tongue until next time. 'Sakura... Grimmjow...' Those two arrancar may have left him alive, but defeated nonetheless. 'I suppose Sakura was right,' Ichigo begrudgingly conceded. 'Tonight really was an eye-opening experience'
Elsewhere, In Hueco Mundo...
"Sakura. Grimmjow. Welcome back" Aizen addressed. His behavior seemed normal from Sakura and Grimmjow's perspective. Despite what Tosen said, their lord didn't seem upset in the slightest. With the small grin on his face, one would think he was more amused than anything.
"Why so quiet? Don't you have anything to say to lord Aizen, Grimmjow?" the blind man asked Grimmjow.
Apathetic as always of his superiors, he responded, "Not really" to which Tosen directed a viscous glare at.
"It's alright Kaname" voiced Aizen. "The truth of the matter is I'm not really that upset."
"But Lord Aizen, he-"
"I believe Grimmjow's actions were an attempt to please me, but then got carried away" Aizen cut in.
"But what about Sakura, my lord?"
His collected gaze shifts to the hitokiri, who stood as calm was the lord of Hueco Mundo himself. If there was one thing Aizen commended Sakura on, it was being as collected as he was, rarely ever showing panic even in the most serious of moments. "Did she not earn permission to roam the the world of the living, Kaname? In doing so, she was free to walk wherever and fight whoever she pleased. I see little to be offended about other than neglecting to stop Grimmjow from going too far." he said giving his own interpretation of the matter. "That's how I view this incident. Am I right, Grimmjow?"
The two men met eyes, both looking as if they could cut steel. Both knew the lie that was Aizen's view and Grimmjow fought with the idea of conceding to him. But he knew he had to. He wasn't strong enough to stand against the man that was his lord. "Yes m'lord" he said. It was then Tosen's hand found his collar in a triggered grip. "What the hell is your problem, Tosen?"
"Lord Aizen, Please! Give me permission to execute this traitor!" he implored.
"Tosen," Sakura started. "While the sight of a corpse pleases me greatly, are you sure that is the most strategic move to make? Are we not a war with the Soul Society? If not, I doubt taking out a loose cannon yet powerful comrade is wise" she voiced her opinion aloud.
"Sakura," Tosen practically growled in response. "This matter does not concern you, so I suggest you close that insolent mouth of yours" he threatened. It had the unintended effect of making Sakura grin.
"Oh? Are you challenging me? if so..." With speed he didn't anticipate, Sakura was next to him gripping his shoulder in a bruising vice. "Let's take this outside. I don't want to mess up the kitchen"
A heavy weight dropped on all their shoulders and they looked at their lord who continued to sit as if nothing was amiss. "Enough" he commanded. When When Sakura and Tosen let their respective targets go, Aizen then said. "Kaname-"
"You've always hated me, Tosen. Is that what this whole fuss is about? Is this anyway for a directing general to act?" Grimmjow said.
"I simply believe that anyone that disrupts the peace should have to pay for it. It's not personal" Tosen retorts.
"You would kill me for insubordination?"
"Yes. For the honor of Lord Aizen"
"Like a samurai to his lord, you dedicate yourself to Lord Aizen. I commend your loyalty Tosen, but it's okay to voice your opinions. Are we not a family?" Skaura voiced.
"We are an army" Tosen corrected. "It is our duty to bring about a new era for this world. Though I doubt you care about that, otherworlder"
"It's not that I don't care about your cause, it's just that I care more about fighting and having fun. Everything else is just background noise" shrugged Sakura.
"I should execute you for your lack of loyalty to our cause" Tosen spat in reply.
"Why am I not surprised?" laughed Grimmjow. "All you ever think about is the cause."
"Of course. It guides my actions. Something of which you have no knowledge" he said as he gripped his sword.
'Ohhh. He's getting angry' Sakura laughed in her mind.
"With no moral foundation behind it, killing is nothing more than..." He started to unsheathed his sword. "Murder. But on the other hand, killing with purpose..." He fully took out his sword. With speed Grimmjow couldn't comprehend, he severed his charred left arm without hesitation or pause. "Is justice"
The Espada screamed, the pain of the slice adding to his pain he received from Arata's immature Gran Rey cero. It did nothing to stop the former captain as he sets his sight on the dismembered limb. "Hado #54: Haien!" The arm was burned, but it was literally burned out of existence.
"DAMN! DAMN! DAMN! DAMN IT!" screamed the enraged and wounded arrancar. He glared at Tosen, his eyes filled with murder as he wanted nothing than to give this soul reaper a slow, painful, and degrading death.
The quinto though was laughing in disbelief and applauded the former captain for that show of power. "Oh my...! That was insane! Nice cut, hot fire, good show, Tosen, good show. That after-smell is kinda iffy though, I suggest putting some candles in here" she then added on the off hand. She turned to Grimmjow and began to approach him. "And you Grimmjow! If you thought that arm was burned to high heavens, look at this! Arata's cero was explosive, but he ain't got nothing on this!"
"SAKURA! SHUT! THE! FUCK! UP!" the sexta screamed in intense annoyance.
"Okay, okay. Come here." She approached his wounded arm, basking in the heavy metallic smell of blood before using her healing cero to alleviate the damage.
"I don't need-!" But Sakura shut him up with a slap to the face. It didn't last long as he then growled at her as she continued to heal him.
"I'll deal with you later!" He turned the dark-skinned captain. "YOU! I'll make you pay!"
"Grimmjow," Sakura stopped him. She gripped his shoulder tightly and he turned back to her. She warned, "Take a look at the situation before you. I suggest you evaluate your next steps very carefully."
"You should listen to your superior" Aizen agreed. "I warn you, I'll be forced to reprimand you if you attack"
He was about to disregard Sakura's warning, but it was Aizen's menacing words that really put a stop to him. He hated how powerless he was. He wanted to live his own man, not under the thumb of these tyrants. He sheathed his sword, turned on his heel and walked away. For a minute he was alone, before the tense silence around him was busted by the Espada above him.
"Leave me alone" he snapped.
"I would... but I made a promise"
"Come on. I promised to make you gyoza with fish. Question: do want fish IN the gyoza or fish ON THE SIDE with gyoza?"
He scrutinized her under a careful eye. She continued to be a thorn at his side and wanted nothing more than to snap her neck. She knew this too, so why did she continue to bother him? Why wouldn't she just leave him be, or kill him? Why does she keep treating him similar to Nnoitra, like... a brother?
He didn't get her. He refused to buy her whole "big sister" shtick, that she cared about Nnoitra or anybody for that matter. She didn't seem like the person to care about people, opinions, or even the world. She was a selfish being just like him. He understood her to that extent, but there was always more than meets the eye when it came to Sakura.
She was a simple woman yet she confused him at the same time. And he hated that. And just like with Aizen, he could barely do anything about it.
He cursed under he breath, and said, "... Fish on the side"
Sakura smiled and hooked an arm around his waist against his consent. "We also need to finish closing this wound lest you wanna bleed to death"
"I told you I-" but he yelped in pain when she slapped the exposed muscles and bones. "WHAT THE HELL?!"
"Like I said we need to finish healing you. Then I'll make you some food"
He snarled at her but relented to her wishes. If there was one thing he liked about Sakura, it was her goddamn delicious cooking.
1.) Omake: Honored Warriors Illustrated Picture Book
"Hey Arata do you want some desserts- OH MY GOODNESS!"
After everyone was healed from the arrancars' attack, they all proceeded to head home to nurse their wounds. Rangiku, however, took a slight detour before coming home with a pile of... as Arata called them, "erotic graphic novels."
Or in other words, porn magazines.
"I don't really understand why these people bother showcasing themselves to the world. Do then all have some form of exhibitionism or something similar?" Arata questioned as he turned to a new page of a blonde woman stuffing her moist pussy with a pink dildo.
To Rangiku's surprise and disappointment, Arata wasn't reacting the way she had hoped. For all his stoicism and patience, surely images of naked women pleasuring themselves would rile him up. Maybe even encourage him to make a move on her? 'With all those muscles and tattoos, what woman wouldn't be attracted to that?' The mask was a bit off putting, but she could manage.
"Maybe, but some of them just really enjoy sex to the point they want to make a career out of it. Most of them just do it for money though. Think of actors just a bit more... lewd" Rangiku answered.
"So these actors are just producing a visual protect. Interesting..."
"R-R-Rangiku! Why are you showing those to him?!" Orihime cried out.
The teen was ignored before she turned flabbergasted when Rangiku subtly looked down Arata's groin. "Damn. Isn't even hard too. What a scary man"
2.) Omake Honored Warriors Illustrated Picture Book
Eating was difficult enough for Grimmjow now that he was basically handicapped, but what could make it worse?
Sakura playing the spanish guitar while he ate.
"Where did you even get that?" Grimmjow groaned. The music was pleasant, he had to admit, but it was clear to him that Sakura was just getting used to the instrument.
"Gin gave it me as welcoming gift" Sakura happily answered. "I was taught how to play the shamisen at a young age so I just implemented some of what I learned into this"
"They're two different instruments though." She began to play another instrumental.
"They're both stringed and like I said, I know how to play the shamisen. I'll eventually get it down, don't worry" she waved him off. Halway through with his meal, one of the strings suddenly snap, ending Sakura's playing.
The sole male in the room smirked while Sakura looked down at her broken guitar. "Oh phooey." She shrugged it off and placed it to the side to eat her own food. "I'll just ask Gin for another string."
She broke her mask and dug in while Grimmjow stared at her. 'Okay, how talented are you? You can fight, you can cook, you can teach, and you can play the guitar. What are you a jack of all trades?!'