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This article, Duel in the White Sands, is property of Rage Shenron.

As the black sky was brightened by the bleach-white crescent moon above, a masked arrancar walked through the desert world of Hueco Mundo, his thoughts having been left behind in Soul Society, where his partner was residing. While he walked, he felt as if something was amiss, although he dismissed it instantly, going back to his favorite past-time: daydreaming...

Walking through the desert of Hueco Mundo, the man in the black cloak started to ponder, "it’s been two days since I last saw Ashido in the forest of menos, hope he is doing alright. He really helped me out by healing the injuries I sustained while fighting the Espada".

"I am not sure if leaving him behind was the right thing to do, but once I check the situation at Las Noches, I'ill head back to the Menos Forest and ask him if he wants to go back to the human world with me. I can’t believe he survived this long in this place, even with the large number of Hollow that inhabits this world".

"According to Ashido, It takes about three days to reach Las Noches, so I should be there by the end of the day, now that I think about it the palace looks much bigger than it did before".

He was almost close to his destination, but as he continued to walk through the desert, he felt a slight disturbance in the air. What could it be?

Without any sign, the masked man appeared behind the large shinigami, leaning on his back. "Well, hi there." the masked-marauder said, his voice full of glee. "Who are you, if I may ask?"

"Oi Oi, isn’t it rude to ask someone their name before introducing yourself first", the man said with a hint of annoyance in his tone.

"Would you mind getting off my back, I don’t like people using it as their personal resting space". "What a strange looking arrancar", the man thought to himself upon looking at the masked stranger.

As the arrancar stopped leaning on the rather old-looking shinigami. "My apologies, sir. My name is Tsukai no Yumeuranai, the former Primera Espada. But don't worry, I'm not associated with any arrancar anymore. What is your name?" Tsukai asked, slightly upset that he couldn't lean on the man's back anymore.

"Not another Espada, I just dealt with once not too long ago, and now I standing right in front of the former Primera Espada", Saigo thought to himself, as the strange looking arrancar introduced himself.

"From all the information I’ve gathered, the Primera is said to be the strongest of all the Espada, even if he is the former, he should still have a significant amount of power".

"Man what a hassle to run into a guy like this in the middle of the desert, best not to make any sudden moves, for now let’s see how this plays out", as Saigo thought before introducing himself to the arrancar.

"My name is Saigo Murakami, and as you can see I am a shinigami, although like yourself I am no longer associated with any organization, that includes the Gotei 13".

Tsukai looked at his adversary with a watchful eye, although it was impossible to tell since his entire face was covered. "That's good to know." he said, quite bored of their idle conversation already.

"Well if that is all, I’ll be taking my leave now, I don’t have time for idle chit-chat", said Saigo with his objective for coming to Las Noches in mind.

Before Saigo could move anywhere, the arrancar reappeared in front of him, blade in hand. "Now, where are you off to so soon? Why don't we have a little spar? I've been completely bored the last few months, and you seem really strong. How 'bout it?" he asked, a little excitement in his voice.

"Bored..... Now that’s a surprise, Hueco Mundo is literary crawling with thousands of Hollows, maybe you should go and fight one of them, would make my job a lot easier. But then again seeing as how you were the former 1st Espada, there aren’t many here who could stand up to you and fight on equal grounds".

"Alright I’ll play with you for now", said Saigo while removing his cloak and revealing his face to the arrancar. "Let’s see how powerful a former Primera Espada really is", he thought to himself as he proceeded to draw out his Zanpakuto.

But Tsukai's zanpakutō, Ciervo, was already unsheathed and ready to pierce his new opponent on a moments notice. "I promise that this'll be a fight you won't ever forget." he said, a slight chuckle in his voice.

"Well then I hope you keep your word, as I am expecting a good fight from you", Saigo said, with his blade in front him. "If you’d like to begin, then please do so by all means".

Without so much as a gesture, the former Espada appeared above the middle-aged shinigami, Ciervo pointed directly at the base of Saigo's skull. As he appeared above his opponent, Tsukai quickly slammed down to the ground, hoping to have made any form of injury on Saigo.

The arrancar appeared right above his head and quickly slammed down to the ground, despite the speed of the attack, it went right past him. Saigo was able to keep up with the former Espada’s movements, and simply took four steps back in order to dodge the attack.

"Well now staring off with a powerful attack are we, and a fast one at that, I would have surely lost my head, if I didn't keep track of your movements".

Tsukai sighed. "Yes. Sadly, I'm not the fastest of the current or former Espada. However, I have other powers that I deem more important than strength or speed. Do you?" he said as he got up on his feet after observing the little crater he had made in the dune they were standing on.

"It doesn’t matter what kind of powers you have, the only thing that is important for a warrior is his ability to adapt to his surroundings. I take in every little detail around me as possible and use that to my advantage", Saigo said.

Disregarding his adversary's statement completely, the masked marauder appeared behind Saigo, stabbing at the man in hopes of piercing him between his lungs and diaphragm. "You seem to have let your guard down, my good sir." Tsukai said with a slight snicker.

"Like I said before I never let my guard down", Saigo quickly turned around and grabbed the blade before it could pierce him, with the blade in his hand, Saigo went on the offensive and punched the masked marauder in the face.

"Here this is yours", Saigo threw the blade that was in his hand back at the opponent. "You arrancar never cease to amaze me", Said with a sarcastic tone of voice.

"Amaze you? What was so amazing that I did, hm?" Tsukai asked, insulted by his opponents total lack of respect for him.

"It’s not what you did that was amazing, but it’s your actions, ever since I entered this world, I’ve been attacked by individuals claiming to be Espada, all your arrancar are the same, nothing drives you except for death and destruction, still retaining the same animalistic instincts you were born with".

"Even after gaining Human form, intelligence, and even a Zanpakuto nothing changes, all I am too you is a piece of meat to be devoured. It truly is a said existence", said Saigo with pity.

"That is not even the worse part".

Tsukai was not pleased.

"You, shinigami, have no room to talk. You don't know why we are the way we are, and most likely never will. Besides, I didn't attack you. I merely sensed your presence and thought it'd be fun to have a little spar. Don't go around assuming things, because when you assume, you make an ass of yourself." he said, glaring at Saigo intently.

"I never said you did, I was merely stating my concerns, but the fact of the matter is that you didn’t stop; you could have walked away, but in the end you gave into your instinct and that my friend is the sad reality".

"But let me ask you this, remember back to the moment when we first met, how did you introduce yourself to me?"

The masked arrancar simply ignored the arrogant man's question. "What do you mean, "you didn't stop?" he asked, curious as what his adversary was attempting to portray with his words.

"All right then I’ll explain it to you, your exact words were I am the former Primera Espada, isn’t that correct? I find it strange for an Arrancar who no longer serves the Espada to still use his former title, I may not know the circumstance behind you leaving the Espada but it seems your still cling onto your former position ad glory, which I find to be very pathetic", Said Saigo feeling pity for the masked arrancar

"Not only that, but you gave me a little insight to how powerful you might be, just simply by uttering those words".

"You don’t have any purpose, no master to serve, or a reason to fight for. Waiting for the next opponent to challenge, something to give your sad life a little bit of meaning".

"Well even if you could feel anything I doubt you would be able to do anything about it", Saigo said while hoping to see some sort of reaction from the arrancar.

As the man spoke, Tsukai merely sighed. "I may cling to my former title, but it's only because I was ostricised by my fellow Espada, which is why I felt the need to leave. If things were different, perhaps I would still be in that organization. But no matter, all hollows are beings born from negative emotions, which is why we choose to wait for the next battle. We have nothing better..." he said, his voice trailing off.

Saigo drew out a tuning fork like weapon from underneath his cape, he held it in front of him, as he listed to Tsukai’s reasons for leaving the Espada. "I see, so you left the Espada for that reason, no point staying with a group of people who don’t need you".

"I guess that was all I wanted to know, your response made things a bit clearer, I always try to get to know my opponent before I fight them, gives me the chance to understand their reasons for fighting. I have nothing personal against you Tsukai, but my experiences with your kind have not been pleasant".

Saigo tapped the blade of his tuning fork weapon against the hilt of his Zanpakutō, the resulting effect caused it produce a large blade of green energy from his original weapon. He was now ready to fight his opponent head on.

Tsukai observed the rather strange weapon for a few seconds before he realized what his opponent was holding. "A bakōttō..." the arrancar said, his voice sounding drained. "Oh, how I loathe your kind's weapons," he continued, his voice seeming even more salty towards his evermore dangerous adversary.

"I am impressed Tsukai, you were able to determine the nature of this weapon with just a simple glance, maybe there is more to you than meets eye", Saigo said, genuinely impressed by his opponents observational skills. "But yes this is a Bakkoto and not many of them exist today", he gently tapped on the blade, a small wave of spiritual energy emanated from the blade and made its way towards the masked arrancar.

"No need to be on guard, I don’t plan on attacking yet, I merely sent you a small amount of this weapons spiritual energy. Can you sense it Tsukai, I am sure you’ll be able to recognize the reiatsu", Saigo trying to reveal the true nature of this weapon to his opponent, before their battle begins.

"I'm not on guard. I find 'being on guard' is overly defensive, which can cause a fighter to falter." the arrancar remarked, slightly disturbed by the presence of the bakōttō. He had had bad experiences with said weapon, and did not wish to face another one...

"You see the weapon in my hand was created from the remains of various menos class hollows, and infused with the spiritual power of an espada level arancar".

"I know that wouldn’t bother you since hollows in particular don’t share any sort of bond with one another, but just to be fair I thought I should inform you what you’ll be going up against", Saigo could feel the Bakkoto’s presence.

The masked man appeared directly in front of Saigo. His face, although hidden from view, was filled with rage. "Now, listen to me. I find your belittlement of my species quite insulting. Yes, it's true that we don't usually form any sort of bonds with each other, but it's because we can't. Have you ever actually took the time to study the behavior of hollows? Well, if you had, you would know that the majority of us are incapable of creating a bond. This is due to the fact that a hollow's born when they have unfinished business within the human world. Once you understand how we think, do not judge me or my brethren." Tsukai said, his tone rather intimidating to a normal shinigami.

Despite being unable to see the arrancar’s expression due to its hollow mask, Saigo was certain that what he had said before slightly disturbed Tsukai. "This is quite surprising", Saigo said with a slight grin, "I didn’t think a monster such as yourself could express anger, to think hollows could display such human emotions".

"Believe me after centuries of fighting your kind, I have gained sufficient knowledge about hollows, the way they live and their behavioural patterns. I find it interesting that you call them your brethren, now tell me how many thousands of your brethren did you cannibalize in order to get where you are today".

And the shinigami had pushed it.

Tsukai thrusted his blade towards Saigo's diaphragm, hoping to pierce through so he could start his stitchings. "It is one thing to fight an arrancar or hollow; it is a completely different thing to be one of us. Do not misinterpret knowledge as wisdom. The two are nothing alike. Knowledge is something you find by studying something, while wisdom is something someone gains through experiencing something. You have not experienced being an arrancar, so you have no right to spew your words."

Saigo countered the attack with his bakkoto and pushed the masked arrancar back. "Like always straying away from the main topic, it doesn’t matter though, whether you want to admit it or not, the fact of the matter remains that arrancar’s such as your selves are nothing more than cheap imitations of us shinigami’s".

"We can argue about our respective views on shinigami and hollow all day, but I suggest we start our battle now", Saigo held out his bakkoto in front of him and took a defensive stance.

"Okay, since I feel like talking to you in pointless at best. But, I will have you know that I'm a natural arrancar, which means I didn't actually go through the shinigamification process like most arrancar have done. Anyways, I've already made my move. Now it's your turn." Tsukai replied, being in no mood to just have a normal spar anymore. He was out for blood...

"I see.... Well at least you are not one of Sosuke Aizen’s lackeys". Saigo slammed the pointed end of his Bakkoto into the ground, large fissures of green spiritual energy travelled towards Tsukai at fast speeds. Saigo leaped into the air and then with a powerful swing unleashed a torrent of green spiritual energy towards his masked opponent on the ground.

Without a word, the masked man appeared to his opponent's left, attempting to elbow the man in his ribs.

Saigo blocked the attempted strike to his ribs with the Bakkoto and flung the masked marauder back a few yards away. Using flash steps, he appeared behind his opponent, and went for a direct strike to the stomach.

And he made the hit, sending Tsukai several meters into another large dune, blowing the tower of sand to smithereens. As he shook the sand out of shirt and pants, the arrancar merely chuckled. "Well, it seems you're faster than I thought. No matter, I can always step up my game when I feel like it." he said, disappearing from his shinigami opponent's view.

"Yes... I am sure you can", Saigo responded with a mocking tone of voice. Saigo stabbed the Bakkoto into the ground, large pillars of green spiritual energy emerged from beneath the ground. "This should be interesting", Saigo looked on as the mass of spiritual energy surrounded the area that was within his visual range.

But Tsukai was already behind Saigo, completely avoiding the wave of reiryoku that had been in front of him. "Nice technique, but it won't work now." the arrancar remarked, a slight chuckle in his voice. Immediately, he thrusted Ciervo, his zanpakutō, straight towards the shinigami's back, hoping to pierce a vital organ, such as the lung or heart.

What Tsukai attacked was nothing more than a mere shadow clone, "why thank you", Saigo said as he appeared behind the masked arrancar. He then proceeded to stab the arrancar in the back with his Bakkoto.

Despite Saigo's preparations, he too had been fooled. Appearing a few meters from where his afterimage had been stabbed, Tsukai laughed. "Oh, how I love when people attempt to use the same move that I had used not even seconds ago! Just goes to show how naïve you shinigami are." he remarked, still laughing as he spoke.

"I suppose the only thing you’re good at is running away, I wouldn’t expect anything less from a cheap imitation", Saigo appeared behind the masked arrancar, with his left hand on Tsukai’s shoulder. "The same move, please, I wouldn’t lower myself to your level, and for someone claiming to be the former Primera Espada, you don't live up to your former Rank".

Remaining unfazed, Tsukai stood there, wondering what his opponent planned on doing...

"Not only are you a weakling but a coward too, come on at least try to entertain me a little before I smash that ugly mask of yours, I thought you were out for blood".

Despite being read like a book, the masked man did not respond to this comment; it would only demean him more. "If I'm such a weakling and a coward, why don't you just finish me off? If you're so tough, prove it to me."

"If I do finish you off right here and now, then all that talk from before would have been pointless, I am not here to prove anything, my kind has already done that ages ago, I am merely giving you the opportunity to realize the difference between Shinigami and Hollow. You should be thanking me, not only do you get to avenge all your hollow brethren that I’ve killed over the years, but also get to prove me wrong, now doesn’t that sound wonderful".

"Difference between shinigami and hollow? Don't make me laugh! We are one in the same; you've just built it up in your mind that shinigami are superior beings to all others. That type of mindset is what makes great men weak." Tsukai responded, his eyes lowered to glare at his opponent.

Before his opponent could finish his statement, Saigo closed the distance between them, and appeared right in front of Tsukai, with his right hand on the arrancar’s shoulder, and his left hand grasping on the Bakkoto that was aimed toward Tsukia’s lower abdomen.

Saigo slightly leaned towards Tsukai and whispered into his ears, "if you truly do believe that, then I suppose you’ll have to prove it".

Not reacting to the bakkōtō positioned at his abdomen, the masked arrancar merely sighed. "If I wasn't equal to you, how would I be able to continue on in this battle?" he asked, his eyes still lowered towards Saigo.

"It’s simple, I am currently fighting at your level of power, now if I were to fight with my full strength, then the outcome of this bout would have been very different". Saigo attacked his opponent with a surprising head-butt to the head, the sheer force of the attack was incredible.

But Saigo had only hit an afterimage. "I never said I was fighting with my full potential either, shinigami. Don't assume things, because when people assume, they make an ass of themselves." Tsukai remarked, having been a few meters away from his opponent's left side. "Now," he continued, "if you're done making assumptions, how 'bout you show me this "incredible power" you keep telling me about."

"You are quite good at running away aren’t you, but unfortunately you’ll have to force me to reveal my true power. Oh and by the way I never assume", Saigo closed the distance between him and his opponent once again, appearing right beside Tsukai. "You should really use that line on yourself, since you’re the one who’s making an ass of himself," Saigo went for a straight punch.

And Tsukai allowed the punch to make contact with his face. After the impact, the arrancar laughed, quite amused by his opponent's failure. "You never assume, eh? Well, you just assumed that I would be hurt by that punch, but I remain unharmed. And I should you use that line on myself? I fail to see why, considering I haven't assumed the a thing since we met."

"You sure are an odd one, like I said I never assume, that punch was merely to get your attention, like I’ve been saying all along, I am merely humouring you".

"This isn't humoring anyone, it's just annoying." the arrancar said from the side of the shinigami, his afterimage fading while he spoke. "Don't go acting high and mighty on me, shinigami; people don't come out of battles well after acting superior towards me." Tsukai remarked, his blade aching to pierce his opponent.

"High and mighty, no you are mistaken, I have no reason to act that way towards you, like I said before, everything is based on cold hard facts and truth, and the fact of the matter is Hollows are simply weaker than Shinigami’s. Thats why in desperation beings such as yourselves are born, to bridge the gap in power. Let me ask you something Tsukai, do you hate shinigami’s in general, or do you hate me".

With his blank mask revealing nothing, the arrancar glared at Saigo. "I don't hate any; I loathe you, but not your species. Your superiority complex leaves me speechless, as I've never seen someone with such a high opinion of one's self."

"Excellent, that’s what I wanted to hear", with a slight grin on his face, Saigo was pleased with his opponents answer. Saigo went on the offensive, as he released yet another wave of green spiritual energy towards Tsukai. "This battle will continue on as expected, I will use whatever means necessary to ensure that the outcome of this battle will be according to my plans", Saigo pondered as he began his assault.

Reacting on instinct, Tsukai launched a large cero at his shinigami adversary, creating a stand-still between the arrancar's cero and Saigo's wave of spiritual energy. "Don't act like you're going all-out, because you're a terrible liar." the masked man spat at his opponent, annoyed by his lack of effort in this battle. What he was doing was making him loathe the shinigami more and more...

Saigo removed the spit of saliva from his face, "yes that it, get angrier", Sagio attacked his masked opponent with his Bakkoto.

But Tsukai blocked the bakkōtō with his zanpakutō, causing a shockwave of spiritual energy to resonate from there the two weapons had made contact.

Saigo continued with his barrage of attacks, as he had attempted to back the masked Arrancar into a corner. He then used flash steps to move a few feet away from his opponent, and took a moment to assess the current situation. Saigo held the Bakkoto in front of him horizontally, and began gathering spiritual energy at the tip of the blade, once the charging was done, he released a concentrated blast of spiritual energy, in a similar manner to a Cero.

Allowing himself to take the full force of Saigo's attack, Tsukai stood motionless, awaiting the blast of reiryoku to make contact. As it did so, the masked man placed his palm out and instantly fired a gran rey cero, which easily dwarfed the spiritual energy bomb. Vanquishing the blast without much effort at all, the arrancar laughed.

Saigo tilted his head to the side as the remained of the blast passed through him, he applauded at his opponents efforts, "well done Tsukai, you must be very proud, being able to dispel that level of an attack", Saigo said with a mocking and nochalant tone, implying that the blast just now was not what it seemed.

"The Gran Rey Cero, an Espada exclusive Cero, and one of the most powerful at that, I usually don’t request much from my opponents, but would you mind firing another one of those Gran Rey Cero’s towards me, if you won’t then I understand".

"It would just prove I was right all along, about you being nothing more than weakling and a coward, an ex-Espada trash. Now that I think about it, why would an ex-Espada resort to using a technique that only the Espada themselves are allowed to use, do you still cling to your former life Tsukai, or does it remind you of the good old days, oh wait I forgot you don’t have any good memories of being an Espada do you, you were after all left out of the group, the odd man out".

Not bringing himself down to his opponent's level, Tsukai did not reply, his words being kept inside like a caged dog.

"I see going with the silent treatment are you, well it doesn’t really matter, now then fire away your ultimate Grand Rey Cero, and this time give it your all, release all that anger and hate in one go, I am sure it will make you feel much better".

Unbeknowest to his opponent, Tsukai had been smirking the entire time. "You think I'm so unintelligent that I'd fire an attack upon request? I may be angry, but I'm not blinded by my rage. Your tricks, although may work on weak-minded individuals such as Ashido Kanō, will not get you far in these worlds."

"Whatever do you mean, Ashido is the man who saved my life, and I have no reason to trick a man such as him, but one thing I can tell that he is a lot smarter than you are. He’s managed to survive in this hellhole much longer than any Hollow or Arrancar. As for the Cero, I guess if you don’t want to then I can understand, I am sure you already realized that anything you try is futile, unless you step up your game".

"Why should I step it up for someone as condesending as yourself? Don't make me waste my time with the like if you." the arrancar spat, his anger beginning to subside.

His expression had suddenly changed, the look in his eyes became much colder and emotionless, as if the man who had been in habiting this body had died and was replaced by someone else, his voice much calmer than before, losing the condemning and arrogant tone it had before. "Well I suppose you’ve regained some of your resolve, I was hoping that you would have given into your anger and unleash your fury but this determination will do just as well". The energy sword dissipated and the Bakkoto was stored away, "now that it has come to this, there no point in fighting with a Bakkoto". Saigo began stretching his limbs despite the fact that the masked arrancar could attack any moment, small amounts of spiritual energy started to surround the man’s body, as he continued with his warm up.

Warching his opponent without much interest, Tsukai wondering what Saigo had in store for the masked man.

Saigo appeared behind his opponent without warning, with his left hand on the arrancar’s shoulder. "I suggest you take this seriously, unless you have a death wish", Saigo said with a deep and dark tone of voice, he was done playing game.

Unflinching, the masked arrancar merely laughed. "You think you'll kill me with the powers of a shinigami? Psh! No shinigami has been able to defeat me in three hundred years; you think just 'cause you come around you can? This is reality, Saigo Murakami, so I suggest you think ahead before charging into battle."