The white sands of Hueco Mundo extended from horizon to horizon as far as the eye could perceive, towering dunes dotted the landscape as though the result of fallen ash. The otherwise empty expanse was broken in places by empty buildings of white stone that were the final reminder of what had transpired here during the Thousand-Year Blood War.
Quincy deserters had settled down in this area because they thought it a sufficient distance from Las Noches, and they’d just about begun eking out a life for themselves.
But that life would be short-lived, as now the small village was, but a smoking ruin and the eradicated corpses of Quincy now lay spread across the sands, their blood adding some much-needed colour to the otherwise drab environment.
In the middle of the chaos stood a tall blue-haired man with eyes of cerulean and hands grimed red with the blood of the fallen, his expression one of the greatest joy as his lips parted into a devilish grin at the mayhem he’d inflicted upon his enemies.
It was only fitting, for he had once been dubbed the Aspect of Destruction amongst the Espada. His grin turned even wider as he realised that his hunt was still not yet done; some of his prey had managed to escape the chaos and were now fleeing in terror.
Grimmjow’s blood boiled at the thought and he relished the nostalgia of hunting upon these dunes. The thrill of battle, the raw primality of it all. This was how Hueco Mundo was supposed to be and stragglers or not he welcomed the Quincy openly for this reason alone!
Dancing around on his feet, Grimmjow lunged forwards as his form seemingly whisked out of reality in a blur as he streaked across the desert towards his destination, using his Pesquisa to track his prey. He found them quickly enough and slipped past them without them noticing to appear solidly in front of them with a sonic boom and a wave of force that formed a miniature twister of sand around him as he replaced his suddenly outstretched hand into his pocket.
The Quincy looked upon him in horror before they produced their spirit weapons as the former Espada made no move to attack them; he seemed almost bored as he spoke coldly at them.
“Morons. I already killed ya'!”
Realisation never came as at that moment each of the nine Quincy split apart in two, bifurcated along their waists by the Arrancar’s passing. Grimmjow’s eyes returned to their usual empty lustre as his hunt came to an end.
"Oi, blue boy", he heard a low, somewhat raspy voice address him all of a sudden. "The fuck's going on 'round here?"
With no discernible sound or other indication a mysterious figure had appeared a scant few metres from Grimmjow. A remarkably tall man clad in a worn, white hooded cloak fastened with large silver clasps who... was floating freely around him, upside-down at that, as if weightless. Notably, he emanated little to no perceptible spiritual pressure, although one possessed of particularly keen sight could possibly spot faint ripples which enveloped his body as he moved at an unhurried pace.
"I came here, all about to say "same old shit" and pay Soul Society a visit", he continued whilst rotating to assume a properly upright stance and landed on the bloodied sand, among the corpses of the Quincy, with the grace of a falling leaf. "But then I find an Arrancar butchering some bloody Quincy in the middle of a village... like, the fuck? Mind some 'splaining?"
He extracted his hands from the pockets of his white leather trousers and threw his arms in the air in a display of histrionic exasperation. The sleeves of his cloak had been torn so his pale, long and muscular arms were currently the only visible parts of his body.
Cerulean eyes fell upon the stranger, as the former Sexta sized him up to gauge his worth and strength. He found him lacking in both.
“Tch. I don’t need to explain myself; anyone who comes to Hueco Mundo is either predator or prey. What kind of joke are you to ask a dumb question like that?”
Grimmjow’s voice carried a hint of annoyance as he replied, hands in his pockets and his gaze shifty as though he could hardly restrain himself to having a conversation. That damn little Strawberry had gotten so strong, and that realisation infuriated Grimmjow, in time he would show him who the King was.
Lips parted in a diabolical grin at the mental image of his future conquest.
Without waiting for an answer, Grimmjow turned his back on the newcomer and began to walk away at a brisk pace; he could not be bothered with this kind of nonsense, he’d need to keep his skills sharp until the time where he might have his revenge upon Ichigo Kurosaki. Then, the cloaked figure virtually popped into existence in front of him, standing with his hands on his hips.
"How rude", he said with pronounced reproach, the irony of that statement apparent yet not openly acknowledged. "Is this how you address your seniors, blue boy? Friendly warning: don't turn your back to random people, or you just might end up with a blade or two stuck in it."
Subsequently, the mysterious stranger shuffled his legs and folded his arms across his chest, clearly intent on blocking Grimmjow's way, at least in a symbolic manner. The lower part of his face could be seen now from beneath the cloak, thin lips outstretched in a smirk. And pink stars of an estigma visible on the left cheek.
Grimmjow flashed a wicked grin as he pointed behind Sakaala, just in time for the world around the other Arrancar to literally be torn apart in a cackling flurry of raging slashes, tearing long thin chasms in the sands and soon forming an expanding web of innumerable blue lines, as monstrous claws of reiatsu sought to tear him asunder from every which angle imaginable.
Instincts and intuition were at the forefront of Grimmjow’s fighting style and so he had moved simultaneously with Sakaala, whilst additionally leaving behind a tangible after-image to serve as a momentary distraction. Now his laughter resonated across the land as the world split apart into lesser sections and groaned underneath the weight of dozens of Desgarron all converging upon Sakaala in a blatant attempt to kill.
It was a continuous attack perpetrated by what seemed like a veritable army of blue-haired devils. Zommari had succeeded in creating up to five clones, yet Grimmjow had managed to surpass that amount several times over, which caused what might have been a brief barrage to expand into a continuous multi-pronged assault that saw the landscape laid to waste.
Together they numbered three, three converging yet separate waves of Desgarron, each with edges hardened and sharpened to nigh-perfection by Grimmjow’s raw ability and all of them trailed after him as though guided by the former Sexta’s Pesquisa.
When the onslaught ended it ended only because the Arrancar willed it so, as he found himself lounging on a large white rock that had miraculously escaped the devastation, gazing over what remained of this tiny piece of his "Kingdom" after his initial attack.
“Pat yourself on the back, for you have just earned an audience with the King.”
For a moment Sakaala stood there, his face still adorned with a smug smile. But as the tempest of destruction engulfed him he quickly hopped to the side, then again. Each move swift, seemingly nonchalant, yet carefully timed and measured in fact. Arcs of blue sought to tear him to pieces, although a shroud of pink manifested in their way. The sand, the corpses, the ruins were obliterated in a whirlwind of thorough devastation. But there he was, hovering in the midst of that madness, still alive.
His cloak was ripped apart within the blink of an eye. However, his pale flesh remained untouched. The spiritual claws intended to cut him curved around him somehow, their tips distorted and bent out of shape. He swooped to the side, again, and again, to evade the piercing Desgarron, still smiling, still with his arms folded across his chest, levitating with what seemed to be an exertion of will rather than any natural motion. The razor-sharp storm subsided as abruptly as it had begun and, now suspended in the air a good dozen metres above the ravaged dunes, he fixed his stare at the former Espada. There was a brief, dark glint in his cool grey eyes when the title of "King" was mentioned.
"The King? Pardon my ignorance, then, your Majesty", he replied with utmost solemnity, the opera-like Hollow mask of his oddly appropriate given his behaviour. "I am but your humble servant, Sakaala. Displaced in space and time, I merely seek some answers. Mighty sovereign of debris and sand, will you grant my request?", he continued, running his fingers through his platinum blond hair to fix it, tousled by Grimmjow's fierce assault.
The thick spherical shroud of pink Reiatsu continued to envelop him with an audible hum. Now that only the garments on his lower body remained it was obvious that he was unarmed, yet he did not seem the least concerned either by that or the impressive display of Grimmjow's ferocity. The oppressive weight of his unveiled spiritual pressure might have provided a partial explanation.
Grimmjow frowned in distaste at Sakalaa’s theatrics, annoyance reflected plainly on his handsome features as he levelled his gaze on the other male. He briefly wondered if it was at all possible to be in the dark about something like this or whether the other Arrancar was simply amusing himself at his expense, either way, Grimmjow had little patience for things he considered trivial, so he stated plainly.
“This is Hueco Mundo, I killed them because I felt like it. End of discussion.”
He lounged about on his rock like a cat of prey that had just made a kill, his earlier bloodlust seemed to be dormant for the moment, simmering underneath the surface as he gave off an air of nonchalance and lethargy. As soon as he felt like it he would leave this bothersome stranger behind, but that moment had not yet arrived and he humored him a while longer.
Sakaala rolled his eyes. He reached out with his arm, index finger extended, and opened his mouth... then froze all of a sudden as realisation dawned upon him. Shortly later he slammed the hand against his forehead with a slapping noise, his head tilted backward.
"Oooh", he uttered. "I forgot to explain. Y'see, I kinda died a while ago, and I've spent some quality time in Hell. One hundred years? Two? I don't even know that, much less what the fuck's going on 'round here. Didn't the Quincy get their shit pushed in by the Flaming Old Fart and his Merry Men? What are they doing in Hueco Mundo of all places? And where did all those other Arrancar I sense come from? But!", he swung his arm in dismissal without waiting for a response. "You clearly aren't the talkative type and frankly, I'm looking forward to fighting an Arrancar for a change, so...", he smirked and extended both of his arms forward, his fingers seemingly grasping at air.
Out of the blue a pair of khopesh with star-shaped guards and pink hilts manifested within his grip. His cold eyes narrowed and his lips were lifted in a dark, predatory smile.
"How about I make you talk?"
Exchange of Pleasantries
Time seemed to slow down to a crawl. Sakaala motioned in preparation for a pounce, then leapt with ferocity that produced ripples of distorted space behind him. He shifted his left sickle-sword into a reverse grip only to begin rotating about his axis like a man-sized spinning top, so fast that he became a blur, a torrent, a veritable whirlwind of circular swings which sought to engulf Grimmjow whole. The rock the latter perched upon, the desert and ruins around it all vanished within that raging tempest of uncountable slashes to the accompaniment of a defeaning whizz.
From within emerged Sakaala. So fast that the storm was still raging on when he slid upon the white sand into a low stance, his legs spread widely and blades held high, ready. Ready to launch a twinned volley of thrusts. In an instant they dispersed the whirlwind with a myriad of puncturing strikes. Extended through spiritual pressure with natural ease; a staple of his fighting style. More, and more. The fabric of space was ridden with holes to the point of nearly collapsing unto itself. To finish things off, the Arrancar swung one of his blades in a broad arc. Multiple pink Bala burst forth from the edge on the move, with each consecutive fraction of a second. The result was a virtually simultaneous barrage of explosions. More than that, imbued with the power of spatial manipulation, the projectiles generated collectively a massive gravitational wave upon the black sky.
Sakaala beheld the spectacle with morbid glee, illuminated by the eerily pink glow of his own spiritual pressure.
Grimmjow’s eyes saw every movement that the other Arrancar made with perfect clarity through a combination of his Pesquisa and his uncanny senses of perception. In order to fulfil his role as the ultimate predator, Grimmjow had long since mastered the ability to sense the world even when he moved fast enough that he could no longer discern light or color, such talents proved useful whilst squaring off against foes of similar speed as his own. So when Sakaala commenced this dance of destruction the self-proclaimed king calmly observed before the coming storm had yet reached his shore.
The air distorted and flailed around Sakaala and Grimmjow stifled a groan at the implications. Spatial manipulation was not at all uncommon among Arrancar, in fact, many were they who had found ways of weaponizing Descorrer; Grimmjow himself among them. Yet this struck him as being of a different sort, and his nostrils flared at the scent of its reishi, which seemed particularly foul.
Alas, the storm reached him, his hands elongated into long claws of sharpened reiatsu as he gave himself over to a dance of his own, streaks of blue flashing amidst the shrieking twister of blades as he parried, evaded and deflected Sakaala’s strikes. His instincts were impeccable as he managed to slither past strings of space-rending slashes, thrusts and flourishes to make a couple of attacks of his own within the chaos, his after-image transitioning from place to place, and drawing ever closer to his foe like a stop-motion picture.
Whenever he came into range, his hand shot out like a spear with unerring precision towards Sakaala’s heart despite the sheer speed they moved at, his Hierro serving as an edge beyond any Zanpakuto as opposing currents of reiatsu clashed along its outer rim.
Yet this focus on maintaining an offence even in such an extreme situation took its toll, as he received a number of cuts along his chest and arms from the exertions.
Undoubtedly a factor in this was the fact that his adversary had turned the forces of gravity against him, and now the building gravitational waves in the area clung to his form as if to restrain him and pin him in place.
Grimmjow’s response was simple.
As Sakaala’s hail of Bala rained down upon his location, Grimmjow vanished in the maelstrom with a maniacal cackle as he defied the bounds of gravity by increasing his use of Sonido, it was a slow thrum at first as he acclimated himself to the increased pull of gravity, but then he performed a single dash and soon found himself racing through the dunes of Hueco Mundo, already half a mile away from Sakaala, most of the energy projectiles trailed past him and away as he evaded the rest and considered his countermove. To his eyes the world seemed to melt away as though replaced by a single white tunnel until alas he extended his claws of reishi and extended them down into the sands to brutally change his course, leaving gaping chasms in his wake before he lunged forward with such a raw burst of speed that it stripped the desert underneath him bare into mounting columns of white.
In but an instant he’d closed the gap between himself and Sakaala, flashing his teeth in a wide grin while directing the raw momentum of his charge around his hand, containing it inside a growing sphere of crackling cerulean that erupted as he unleashed the gathered energies in the form of three empowered Cero, fired at point-blank range.
Each Cero manifested at speeds far beyond that of even a Bala, like bolts of lightning that soon expanded into all-encompassing destruction that parted the desert for leagues ahead of them. Each of them large enough to put even the typical Gran Rey Cero to shame, and their goal was unanimous annihilation of Sakaala in the name of the King of Hueco Mundo.
Meanwhile, Sakaala glanced at his own exposed torso whilst Grimmjow was still dealing with the barrage of concussive Bala. He had sustained two cuts which he no doubt let slip in during the earlier exchange of blows. The crimson of blood conrasted sharply with his pale skin.
"Whoopsie", he remarked with a crooked smile.
Nonetheless, he widened his eyes after witnessing the astounding nimbleness with which the other Arrancar was manoeuvring across the vast battlefield. Suddenly, the latter was right in front of him, prepared to eradicate him in a wave of all-consuming light. Specks of dust kicked up into to the air were basically stationary at their airborne positions in comparison. Sakaala's muscles tensed, a surge of spiritual energy coursed through his body. For a split-second it appeared as though he had been immersed by the first Cero, but it quickly proved to be a mere afterimage left behind as a result of his side hop. The second beam he had to confront directly.
His twisted blade rose toward the pitch black sky. Outlined with a dense, humming coat of pink Reiatsu the sickle-sword then descended with the finality of an executioner's blade. Pink met blue, a veritable rift in space against a river of destruction. The rend carved into the beam to split it in half, so that its two streams proceeded onward whilst passing their intended target by. The same fate befell the final attack, unleashed a literal instant later. The twinned columns of light rampaged across the white desert with a defeaning roar, sizzling ditches left in their wake outstretched as far as the eyes could see.
But there he was, still alive, still standing. Sakaala slumped forward, his arms spread widely and his twin swords pointing diagonally to the ground. His braid unravelled, so that his long platinum blond hair was let loose, his arms shaking slightly, partly because of exertion, partly because of excitation.
"I had a gut feeling that you're strong", he said in the following silence. "But this... this is great!"
Then, he vanished. At least that was what most spiritual beings in such a situation would claim. In truth, he employed his Sonído at full throttle; whilst running past Grimmjow he slashed across his chest. Then swung at his back with the second blade right afterward. Changed his course, spun about his axis to follow up with several rotating attacks delivered within a fraction of a second. Thrust into Grimmjow's Hollow hole, aimed to cut off his ear, to tear apart his cheek with the tip of a khopesh. Striking swiftly whilst on the move, time and again. Attempted to sever his leg, kick him in the back of the head, strike him in the face with his elbow. Each and every attack a blur, delivered all the while numerous afterimages crowded the area around the other Arrancar, as if it were a small army rather than individual who challenged him.
In order to finish the onslaught off properly, Sakaala leapt into the air. As his body spun he moved above Grimmjow upside-down himself; his twin blades performed sweeping slashes to decapitate the self-proclaimed King. Then, as he gracefully landed a distance from the opponent he impaled the twin khopesh into the sand like hooks to support himself, stared at Grimmjow with a disturbing smile and, without a warning, launched a Cero of his own. The beam seemed to carve its way through spatial fabric, enveloped with ring-like distortions, but rather than strike the target outright it bent around him, twisted and coiled like some giant, brilliant snake, and only then descended upon him.
One might be forgiven for thinking that Grimmjow enjoyed combat; in truth, he did not. What the self-proclaimed King enjoyed was to display his dominance and flaunt his strength, yet Sakaala had already much exceeded what Grimmjow considered acceptable resistance. So when the Arrancar descended upon him in a ferocious and world-rending flurry of attacks, Grimmjow’s grin faded as he realised the true depths of his strength.
He rose to meet the challenge as his movement rose to parallel his adversary, accelerating from a standing position into a whizzing whirl of blue claws that rose to meet every challenge Sakaala levelled against him. His khopesh encountered energy claws draped in the distorting forces of a Garganta, causing space to flail and rupture around the two combatants before righting itself. He danced in-between blow after blow, and soon the King mobilised an army of his own as to an outside observer it would seem as though several identical fighters were battling it out on the dunes, like a skirmish waged by two warring kings.
In the chaos, amidst innumerable slashes, feints, flourishes, thrusts, hacks and manoeuvres, Grimmjow’s eyes began to light up with a faint blue light that grew into full intensity as the two fighters split apart and Sakaala prepared to fire his Cero. As in that isolated instant two thin but pressurised Cero of focused reiatsu was shot from the former Espada’s eyes, zig-zagging around the incoming Cero and attempting to strike Sakaala through his chest and abdomen while using his own Cero to cover their approach, two vipers hiding in the shade of the giant python.
Said Python was now slithering around Grimmjow trying to close him in, and as it approached the Tres Pillares found himself begrudgingly impressed with his adversary yet again, he had never encountered anything of its like before. Even so, he knew by instinct how to best evade it as he coated his feet with layers of reishi and then did the unthinkable. Charging straight for the Cero Serpent’s “maw” and then he leapt into the air and deftly evaded it by landing right on top of it and running swiftly up its tail as it crashed down into the sands of Hueco Mundo below him. While Grimmjow remained in mid-air, his back arched and his body perpendicular to the ground, he looked down at Sakaala beneath him, cerulean orbs revealing undeniable hostility.
Then once again his silhouette evaporated into nothing, as Grimmjow momentarily used his Sonido to its highest possible effect for the first time in this battle. Even instantaneous seemed insufficient as Grimmjow manifested in front of Sakaala in a featureless white space devoid of anything but them and made a single attack fuelled through a considerable portion of his reiatsu. One that would cleave through the surrounding land in a cone in front of Grimmjow as he sought to rend Sakaala asunder by briefly entering the Hakusuki. So fast was the attack that it would have taken place before the reishi particles would visibly appear, as there just was no time for such an interaction to properly form until after its completion, offering Sakaala virtually no warning whatsoever aside from perhaps his overwhelming wealth of experience.
As he motioned to intercept the opponent should he evade his Cero, Sakaala spotted the impending retaliation in the form of two thin beams. The twin blades of his seemed to parry as if possessed of minds of their own, such was the natural swiftness of his movement. Coated with condensed spiritual pressure and its space-bending effects, they successfully deflected the counter-strike. The explosion of Sakaala's Cero happened at around that instant, blasting him with a torrential shockwave yet not causing him to move even an inch. He was ready to carry on... and suddenly, Grimmjow vanished from his perception.
First, was the sting of sharp pain. Then, a peculiar mirage: a blue-tinted Grimmjow delivering a blow and a red-tinted Grimmjow retracting his arm, at the same time. Only later an arc of pressurised Reiatsu exploded into the desert behind him. Sakaala furrowed his eyebrows; there was a rather sizeable gash that now adorned his abdomen, although he remained in one piece. It was not unthinkable for someone to outpace him, as seldom as that happened. But that was something else entirely. If someone was able to escape the Arrancar's incredibly sharp senses, it meant trouble. And sure enough, that was not the first time such a thing occurred either. After all, he had fought many battles during his long life. Hierro moulded in anticipation, an instinctual leap out of the way of danger, and he escaped instant death with a single wound.
"You got me here", he said, his face contorted in a disturbing grimace. "You're extremely fast, blue boy."
Sakaala loved combat. The thrill of danger, rush of adrenaline, to sprint, pounce, and swing his blades. A contest of skill and wit, an intense display of techniques, tricks, feints, and tactics. He loved to abuse his exceptional spiritual power. To revel in the freedom and authority it bestowed upon him. However, first and foremost, what he enjoyed was torment. Sometimes, he would be untouchable. Nonchalantly evade or block every single attempt at his life, so casually as to appear bored. Then, suddenly kill the opponent in a single stroke. Sometimes, he would be weak. Exchange blows, sustain damage, lose his ground. Then, on the precipice of defeat, reveal the full extent of his power and gradually crush the opponent, a strike at a time. Foster their hopelessness, or shatter their hope. Savour each and every moment. Like a predator, toying with his prey before going for the kill.
And what an outstanding specimen he had chanced upon.
His spiritual pressure swelled, engulfing him in a brilliant sphere of pulsating pink. Each impulse sent out a sweeping gust of wind, quaked the desert beneath their feet. And then, without a warning, Sakaala shrank. There was no better way to describe it, unless one would claim that the distance between the two Arrancar increased substantially within a moment, somehow. In fact, that was exactly what happened. Sakaala's arms did not merely move; they sank into the fabric of space like they would into water. Two dimensional rifts extended forward from the curved edges, toward and then past Grimmjow, to form transient walls to his sides. And immediately another pair, now horizontal, slashed the white desert beneath him and the black sky above him at once. Sakaala ran through the narrow corridor that ensued, subtle distortions outlining his form, pulling him forward... only to jump through a momentary Garganta, appear at the end of the dimensional corridor and impale the opponent with both of his khopesh. An abrupt change of direction with no loss of momentum.
Grimmjow assumed a relaxed posture, bloody hands in the pockets of his white hakama as the spatial walls slowly enclosed around him. His eyes were different now, he appeared almost bored as he straightened his back and spat at the ground in front of him before snapping at Sakaala.
“Quit wastin’ my time, little shit! I have places to be, people to kill and Espada to find; show me the full extent of your powers or I might quit going easy on ya’!”’
Even as he became fully ensnared in the spatial corridor, Grimmjow showed no visible signs of concern, he didn’t even make an attempt at leaving its confines or escaping its reach. Instead, he closed his eyes and let his scent-based Pesquisa take in everything about his current environment and he fixed his senses on Sakaala and memorised the smell of his essence. It was a foul thing, dusty owing to the thousand years and more that he had roamed the land, and desecrated with the agonizing scent of rent space and time.
It was impossible to miss, and so when it suddenly vanished for a moment Grimmjow knew precisely what had occurred, and so when it reappeared his instincts were already poised as memories of the many attempts on that clown’s life came unbidden to his mind. Whenever they fought, he had lost, but his opponent had always left him with new advice to consider, and consider it he had, however much Grimmjow hated it.
The blue-haired Arrancar growled angrily at the memories, an almost bestial sound reminiscent of a large cat. Yet he knew what to do as he isolated all of his senses except for his sense of smell and waited... Sakaala’s speed was on a different scale than most, yet with his senses so honed all he had to do was wait. The Thousand Year Blood War had taught Grimmjow something about the value of patience.
Sakaala’s blade whizzed towards him and in that instant he moved, ducking under the blades and lunging upwards between them before in the same gesture manifest his claws of energy and attempt to disembowel the ancient Arrancar while he was still possibly restrained by his own momentum. Remembering the density of the others Hierro he made sure to hone these blue blades to peak sharpness, anything less would simply amount to more scratches on a foe of this caliber.
Honed through countless self-imposed training sessions, intense battles and his signature "nonchalant in the face of danger" antics, Sakaala's reflexes were simply phenomenal. In no small part owing to his special ability as well. His perception was crystal clear, instincts razor sharp. With all that combined it really came as no surprise that he was able to, time and again, evade exceptionally swift attacks even as performed by opponents whose speed, at least at the given moment, was greater than his own. Grimmjow's piercing strike echoed through his spiritual pressure, and it was that echo which convinced Sakaala to dodge at once. But how?
His own spiritual pressure resonated with the echo. The result was a subtle spatial distortion that attuned his Hierro to the other Arrancar's claws and pushed Sakaala out of the harm's way. Immediately, he shifted his momentum to rotate about his axis and unleash a small whirlwind of slashing blades at his opponent, a brief but intense reprise of his opening strike. The dimensional walls were not as much torn to shreds as they were deformed into a transient vortex of warped space. Still, Sakaala emerged from that barely describable mess with natural ease. Seemingly pulled out of it by an invisible hand, one could say. That was all a display of Superposición: the gestalt of masterful Sonído and spatial manipulation working in perfect unison.
"You goin' easy on me, eh?", he asked whilst constantly on the move, rapidly leaping across the black sky.
With a swing of his sickle-sword he launched a barrage of Bala, then another. He did not bother to target his enemy directly with every single bullet; rather, he let them saturate his general area in an attempt to flood potential routes of escape with movement-impairing gravitational waves.
"Speaking of, where's your Zanpakutō? Don't tell me you hide yours too!"
Now with both of his khopesh extended toward the former Sexta Espada, he was firing a continuous salvo of energy projectiles. Although not nearly as powerful as a Cero they were considerably faster, and their effects had been gradually accumulating over a wide area. Without a warning, he interrupted the cannonade to launch not one, not two, but three Cero beams at the same time. They burst forth from random points close to his body and shot off in different directions. Surely enough, they all made sharp turns and bent toward his opponent with wildly varying trajectories, like triplet snakes speeding toward their common prey. Twisting and coiling, unimpeded despite the malformed section of space they had to wade through.
Suddenly, one of them came to the fore with significantly increased velocity. The second accelerated afterward, and soon the third one as well. Each one used to adjust the aim of the following one as Grimmjow would no doubt attempt to avoid a direct hit, so that the last would boast a further increased chance of scoring it... only for Sakaala to detonate them all simultaneously. The result was impressive, to say the least. A giant explosion of brilliant pink outlined with a ring of warped black, which proved merciless to the general area. Meanwhile, the perpetrator beheld the spectacle with a somewhat arcane face expression, his eyes narrowed attentively. His Hierro shimmered visibly as it shielded him from the ensuant shock wave.
The former Sexta seemed unsurprised at how his opponent had managed to so skillfully evade his attack, though a short snarl of discontentment betrayed his opinion on the matter as he was forced to content with Sakaala’s retaliation. Grimmjow fell into a rhythm as his form blitzed and tore apart into fragments before seemingly scattering around the area, appearing in pieces here and there like brief blue shimmers as he danced between the rending blows, bobbing and weaving in between strokes that could literally slice through the canvas of space at a whim, all while making it seem as though he did not need to put in any significant effort. Although whether this was a ploy or the truth might be hard to determine at a glance.
Once the initial chaos settled, he manifested into his supreme being yet again, hands in the pockets of his Hakama as tilted his head at Sakaala in a non-verbal challenge. This air of nonchalance was dispelled when his foe made an inquiry, causing Grimmjow to grin widely before replying with a short cackle.
«I threw it away because I don’t need it to show you who’s king! That’s why.»
As if to emphasise his statement, Grimmjow withdrew his hands from his pockets, a brief flash of blue followed, joined by a cascade of flickering lights and the sound of screeching air. And then it stopped as abruptly as it had manifested, and all of the airborne bala in the area were snuffed out like innumerable tiny candlelights.
Even with this threat to his mobility neutralised, Grimmjow did not cease his Sonido and drew streaks of blue across the sky in growing concentric patterns, all while being chased by errant blasts of Cero which although fast, by all means, could not keep pace with him. Grimmjow’s uniquely honed Pesquisa allowed him to note any change in spiritual energy quickly and so when he noted Sakaala’s intent he shot forwards at even higher speed and rode the wave of the explosion even as it added layers of energy to his growing web of blue lines.
It might seem as though he’d gone mad at first, doodling in the air as opposed to taking heed of his enemy but there was a method to the madness, one that was revealed as Grimmjow appeared a few yards away at a mere moment after Sakaala’s detonation had taken place. Grimmjow’s right hand was now wrapped in an enormous amount of kinetic force, collected from the air by using his own extraordinary momentum in tandem with his mastery of his reiatsu.
Grimmjow’s face split into a wide grin as he proudly announced the name of his technique. «Decreto del Rey!»
With that, Grimmjow released the pent up energies in the atmosphere and around himself, and Hueco Mundo trembled as the blue lines carved in the air earlier and energies that suffused the land for miles around were brutally pulled together around Sakaala by the delayed forces at play, forming an immense vacuum that sought to restrain and hold him in place, and then all of the gathered energies collided and Grimmjow’s Aspect of Death found its manifestation.
For what formed out of that interaction was an immense tornado of brilliant blue, which flashed and trashed with innumerable claws of energy whirling within as every attack that Grimmjow had prepared, and every move, turn and pivot he had performed during his earlier acrobatics came into one cohesive whole and scarred the land with the wrath of a spiritual catastrophe of Grimmjow’s making. So great were the powers involved that they would strip away at any defence with such overwhelming abandon that most of them would barely last for a moment, as each claw among the hundreds involved reflected Grimmjow’s intent to kill.
It was nonetheless a spectacle that could easily be seen from the walls of Las Noches itself, and one that stretched to the sky in its wanton rage as all sand around it was stripped away and disintegrated leaving a massive bare patch of land where it took place, whatever Sakaala’s ultimate fate might be.
Such a fantastic show of power did not go unpunished, and Grimmjow felt pangs of exhaustion hit him in the wake of the attack, as he watched the ongoing tornado with a mixture of hope and anger.
Sakaala decided to stand his ground. All of his effort was spent on defence, to endure amongst the cataclysm of immense devastation. His thick shroud of Hierro undulated and dispersed as it was torn apart by ethereal claws, strike after strike. His blades, reinforced with condensed spiritual pressure as well, quickly moved to block and parry. But that was not enough either. Relentless, the onslaught proceeded past or through the tempered steel, chipping it away, to rend his hardened flesh. Soon, he was engulfed whole by the tempest of razor-sharp death. Once it abated, his body fell limply unto the white desert below. Eventually, it crashed into the side of a dune.
Nonetheless, his spiritual pressure remained perceptible. In spite of the assault's frightening ferocity he was still alive.
"Ha... ha ha ha!", he laughed whilst lying on his back.
He began standing up, shakily. He was still laughing, and even after coughing up blood he resumed this display of odd happiness. The most he could manage was a swaying slump; his body covered in numerous bleeding wounds, what remained of his garments tattered, his long hair dishevelled. He extended one of his arms to summon the khopesh he had let go of, then looked up at his opponent. Severely injured, virtually on the brink of death, yet laughing maniacally.
"Threw it away? King?", he asked derisively. "The hell are you talkin' about, kid? I'll show ya who's the real fucking King of Hollows!"
He lifted both of his arms high, toward the sky, his morbid grin so wide that it almost split his face in half. Because sometimes, he would be strong. Exchange blow after blow, inflict and sustain damage, outmanoeuvre the foe and be outmanoeuvred himself. Explore their abilities, figure out tactics and counter-tactics. Fall for tricks, but use some of his own. Fight all out and enjoy the experience, relish every single moment of it... for a time. Because, after all, was he not always in a league of his own?
Sakaala had never discarded his Zanpakutō as it was such an integral element of his fighting style. Rather, at the time of his ascension to a natural-born Arrancar, well over a thousand years ago, he merely altered the extent of power sealed within the twin swords compared to what many of his modern-day brethren opted to do. As such, even in his Human-like base form he had access to virtually every skill at his disposal, save for those few exclusive or closely tied to his Resurrección's very form. So that the essence of his Resurrección was not the return of his abilities as a Hollow, but the full extent of his anomalous spiritual power. And powerful he was.
His battered body quickly vanished within a ball of hot pink light. Torrential winds were stirred and a peculiar phenomenon occurred: consecutive waves travelled across the fabric of space, like ripples upon the surface of disturbed water, the Arrancar their source and centre. The radiance softened quickly, though, to reveal Sakaala in all of his Hollow glory. His mask, reshaped into a horned diadem of sorts. His hair, now a thick, spiky mine not unlike that of a lion. His somewhat enlarged body covered in rough fur, long quills, and armour, chitinous segments that adorned his forearms, hands, and the whole of his lower body. Long, digitigrade legs of a gracile predator, and the spiked tail of a mythical monster. Curiously, the twin khopesh remained after the release, although transfigured into weapons made of bone, held tight in the grasp of his armoured, clawed fingers. The grevious damage he had sustained prior, gone.
"Listen carefully, brat!", he bellowed, the intense, crazed stare of his now slit-like pupils fixed at Grimmjow. "I am Sakaala, the Master of Space, the White Haunter, the Unfettered King! Better show some, fucking, RESPECT!"
Yet another peal of laughter of his was abruptly drowned in the defeaning noise of an enormous spatial distortion. The earlier ripples heralding his Resurrección were amplified into a veritable tsunami, wave after wave which swept across a vast area. An ungodly earthquake befell the endless desert, the black sky was wiped clean of clouds. The eerie, grey glow of the realm's inverted moon was replaced with the garish pink of Sakaala's spiritual pressure, so dense, so overwhelming, as if he were attempting to crush the whole world with its weight.
Rising to the issued challenge, Grimmjow allowed his energies to be unfurled in full... energies that had up until this point been restrained and kept dormant for this very occasion. It began with his eyes blazing up like twin stars, the world around him seemed to spin around its own axis, sight and sound distorted by the oppressive weight which took to rotate around his frame. Slowly at first but faster and faster as it peeled the now bare rocks from the ground and plucked them into the air where they remained fixed in place... hovering through nothing more than his presence, with his hands still in his pocket, he took a single step forward as his spiritual energy resonated with his growing resolve and intent.
It flared out violently, a raw force of destruction that flattened anything in its path and then collided with itself over and over to form towering whirlwinds of warring reiatsu. He took another step, and the clear skies of Hueco Mundo became streaked with bolts of blue lightning, their colour matching that of his fetching eyes. While segments of the ground cracked and collapsed under its own reinforced weight.. falling to the Forest of Menos leagues below.
Although Grimmjow’s demeanour and facial expression would give nothing aside from his confident grin, his spiritual energy made the man easy to sense as it wrecked the surrounding landscape. It was tinged with anger, resolve and the slightest twinge of rational fear, even.
All of that changed when Grimmjow took the third step, and his soul, spirit, body, might and mind all reached a unanimous decision: he would not permit another to call himself King and live. In that instant, the world around him flashed blue and then his energy recoiled, the devastating storms receded, and all that had once left him returned to him, where they formed an abnormally thick outer shell of superpowered reiatsu.. a shroud of finely directed energies. At a glance, it might be mistaken for some Arrancar-variation of the Shunko technique, and perhaps that was what it was, but one brought into being through raw instinct and need for excellence.
Sakaala’s speech elicited not even an eye-roll from Grimmjow who replied flatly: «Blow me.»
The ancient Arrancar observed the spectacular response to his challenge with obvious exhilaration. To encounter a worthy opponent was such a rare treat, not to mention one who was a fellow Arrancar – that was truly exceptional. A magnificent gift to celebrate the end of his long imprisonment and miraculous return to the rest of the World. But, he was forever an actor, the main protagonist of a bloody play that was his life, written, directed, and performed by himself in order to provide the most possible entertainment. For him, of course. Every action and reaction of his was histrionic to an extent, exaggerated or outright feigned depending on the situation at hand. And yet, as he beheld the shroud of spiritual pressure which enveloped his opponent, a small crack formed in the metaphorical mask he was wearing at all times. An involuntary twitch in the corner of his lip, a squint of the cold, grey eye.
Naturally, he had thought of Kentarō Akiyama many times before. One of the select few people who managed to play a prominent role in that protracted play of his, the one whose final punch sent Sakaala to the deepest bowels of Hell for so long. He had always considered him, in his own away, as a friend, comrade, partner, perhaps his most prized toy, but never a sworn enemy. Yet on that fateful day, that fateful punch left a permanent fracture in Sakaala's soul. One that lingered there, suppressed by his ego, his melodramatics and antics, but impossible to ignore. So, when he witnessed that Shunkō-like phenomenon, the first more direct reminder rather than his own memories, the sliver deep within his psyche caused a painful sting. The gravitational waves emanating from his body subsided, then ceased completely. The noise, the light, the tremors were all gone, and all that remained was Sakaala.
His face expression now neutral, almost brooding, he nonetheless lowered his twin sickle-swords to a more combat ready stance. Pink arcs of energy outlined them with a distinct hum, so intense, so focussed that their very edges seemed to cut into the fabric of space just with natural motions of his hands. The area around him undulated visibly, as if someone threw a stone into the water, and suddenly he stood a scant couple of metres in front of Grimmjow.
"You're such a rowdy boy", he said in an eerily soft tone of voice. "I think uncle Sakaala must teach you a lesson."
An impossibly black arc manifested between them out of the blue. The result of an amazingly swift swing of a sword. No change in face expression, no telegraphed move, no warning impulse sent through spiritual pressure, just something that happened, seemingly all at once. The limb moved, led by a single thought, enveloped with nigh-imperceptible spatial distortions. First was a diagonal slash, across the chest, then a horizontal to cleave the torso in twain. An ascending return strike. A step forward. A thrust into the solar plexus region, right into Grimmjow's Hollow hole, then a strike with the flat of the blade aimed at the face. Two simultaneous cuts, each with from a different side and of a different trajectory. A step forward. Sword shifted into a reverse grip, swung to tear off the enemy's throat. The other twirled at a high speed, like a buzzsaw, to rend him within an instant. The left arm vibrated at immense frequency to deliver a flurry of impaling strikes. A step forward. An attack from above, the spiked club reaching from behind the monstrous Arrancar to crush Grimmjow's head. Another, and another. Their distinct hum combined in an unsteady rhythm, his dance-like moves a blur, the incredible weight of his spiritual pressure so condensed, so oppressive. Strike, and step. Strike, and step.
Grimmjow’s stance shifted almost imperceptibly, and his senses were on high alert as he noted every minute change in his opponent's stance and movement.. even as his unique Pesquisa tracked his opponent with an accuracy that few could match, especially given Sakaala’s enormous skill. As a consequence of this, Jaegerjaquez managed to retain his focus even when space, distorted, shifted and flailed madly at the command of his foe. He might hide his spiritual signature, but he could never disguise the foul stench of his strength, which grew putrid whenever he was about to employ his abilities.
His speed and instincts did the rest as he elegantly sidestepped the first blow, while simultaneously stepping over with the other foot and employing a highly accelerated burst of Sonido to slip into the Hakusuki for a split second, and make a single brutal jab at Sakaala’s chest with his right hand, focusing his spiritual energy into a vorpal blade. It would happen at the instant Sakaala’s blow missed, and nothing would herald its coming or its passing.
Grimmjow’s form was a blur as he reacted to the horizontal slash, his body arcing elegantly as he flipped back into a perfect handstand before hurling himself backwards and out of reach of the next blow before swiftly emerging in an upright posture, with a finger outstretched he fired a Cero in the brief interlude with blinding speed, but while this was a powerful attack of its own it masked his true offence. As within the Hakusuki parallels of Grimmjow appeared at either side of Sakaala, their hands extending into blades of condensed and hyperfocused reiatsu as they sought to bifurcate him along the waist before Grimmjow’s Cero would at all be capable of reaching him.
Ordinarily using the Hakusuki required preparation and natural acceleration, but it was possible to skip that step by using massive bursts of reiryoku to heighten the acceleration, and that was what he was presently doing, for although he would never admit it, his adversary now surpassed him in everything except speed, and in his eccentricity he had revealed a critical weakness.
His opponent interchanged between brutal and mighty strikes that betrayed his true abilities and almost goofy displays of wanton mayhem, and it was in those moments that his throat was left exposed to the panther. When Sakaala raised both of his weapons in preparation for the Cero that still hung in mid-air, inching forwards at an agonizing pace to his heightened senses, Grimmjow finally issued himself fully into the Hakusuki... Within the White Realm, Grimmjow could perceive Sakaala clearly through his advanced Pesquisa, and his posture would seem almost frozen in place to him as they were alone within the vast featureless expanse.
Knowing that he had to end the battle now, in this instant by capitalising on Sakaala’s weaknesses, he ’’moved’’ and as he lunged his form seemed to split apart into a rapidly growing trail of Grimmjows, that mimicked his movements perfectly with the same strength and force as possessed by the Espada. It was a trail of ten reflections, and together they launched a continuous string of lethal strikes upon Sakaala’s heart, lungs, head, throat, liver, brain, arms, legs and throat. When one completed the attack, another followed and attacked again, so it went in rapid succession, the total number of attacks approached one hundred.
He would not suffer this man who dared name himself King of Hollows to live!
Then the White Realm vanished and Grimmjow stood alone before Sakaala as he had before, he fell to his knees immediately.. overcome with exhaustion at the herculean feat required. So weakened was he from the exertion that he would not be able to avoid the next blow from his opponent, should he manage to survive the onslaught.
In the air around the two fighters were innumerable mirages and images of Grimmjow in various martial poses, an army of afterimages that blocked out all of Hueco Mundo and replaced it with a short-lived Hall of Mirrors. Soon, the illusion faded away. All that was left were the two Arrancar in the midst of a thoroughly ravaged landscape.
Grimmjow did indeed discover one of Sakaala's few weaknesses. A fatal flaw, as it were, the reason the latter had ultimately lost his final battle with Kentarō Akiyama some centuries prior. Sakaala would toy with his opponents and fool around, vulnerable to retaliation for the briefest of moments. Not just because he enjoyed that; he could afford to do that. Evade their desperate attacks, ambushes, abrupt bursts of speed, ever elusive. Most of the time. Grimmjow had already proven faster than him, and then unwittingly reminded him of that man. The single crack in the monolith that was his enormous ego, the thorn within his psyche; a double-edged sword. One that would forever eat away at his sanity but also, at the same time, become a whisper of doubt that would keep him forever vigilant.
So, why would he expose himself so after having just recovered from the brink of death? Why would he leave some openings, however fleeting, in a duel with an enemy who could strike him down in a literal instant, eager and able to exploit them? Where did the rest of the tremendous power of his Resurrección go, obviously not spent on this oddly subdued and focussed assault of swift physical strikes? In an attempt to exploit a glaring weakness, Grimmjow had overlooked his arguably greatest strength. Not his power or resilience, not even his agility or skill, but his wit. His unparalleled mastery of the art of combat. The gestalt of his experience and instincts, ingenious tactics and manoeuvres, nonchalant behaviour, taunts, threats, tricks, and feints. Layers upon layers of bewildering unpredictability.
The first few counter-strikes were relatively easy to defend from. After all, he had already experienced that exceptionally advanced high-speed movement technique and was, as such, well-prepared for its inevitable return. Each time the younger Arrancar vanished abruptly, on that very instant Sakaala's Hierro expanded small bubbles of distorted space around him. In consequence, each potentially crippling blow missed its mark by a hair's breadth. But that was merely a foretaste of things to come. Neurons and nerves flared up repeatedly, instinctually incited to heighten Sakaala's exceptionally acute perception after each consecutive strike.
When that moment eventually came, just barely, he could discern the enemy. Not well enough to reliably predict his attacks, much less intercept them, although that was not his intention. Rather, each time he felt the surface of his skin nicked, the opponent's hand about to tear into his body, his form flickered. For a fraction of a second exceedingly fast contortions of muscles, further assisted with the space-bending properties of his Hierro, transformed him into some sort of mirage in order to endure the relentless assault of an army of phantoms. Mitigate the damage he would inevitably sustain by evading mid-hit. He felt the electrifying pain of exertion sweep across his body. More than just that; a few strikes succeeded to cut significantly deeper than intended. Even though he had unveiled his true form, even though he had been preparing for that exact moment, the young Arrancar still managed to surprise him. Impressive. Not to say... shocking.
Step, and another step. Each accompanied by a thud as hoof-like feet impacted with the surface of white sand, causing some of it to erupt into the air. Sakaala, a monster from the distant past, loomed over the kneeling Grimmjow, his bestial form surpassing seven feet in height. He stared at the blue-haired man, his eyes narrowed, a faint smile upon his pale, serpentine face. Among nearly one hundred cuts upon his body there were several more prominent thin lines of crimson red, which interspersed the light grey of his fur and his exposed chest. Rise, and fall. Inhale, exhale. Breathing deeply, at a measured pace. He felt dizzy, prickly, and the widespread pain from a myriad wounds was no small inconvenience, although he was used to it. Used to pretending that severe damage did not affect him at all.
Swoosh! He twirled his twin sickle-swords into a reverse grip, their curved blades descended like the fangs of a predator about to sink into the prey's throat... only to be impaled next to Grimmjow, into the ground. Sakaala crouched, rested his arms on his armoured laps. His tail reached from behind and hung over them, the spiked club at its tip swaying from side to side above the former Espada's head. Their faces separated by about half a metre of distance, the cold glare of Sakaala's slit-like pupils still fixed at the fellow Arrancar.
"Seems you've run out of steam, boy. So, how about you finally answer some fuckin' questions, eh?", he inquired as he slightly leant forward. "You can start with... what's your name, again? And what's an "Espada"?"
This was absurd, Grimmjow was the King yet claimants to his rightful throne practically popped out of the sands on a biweekly basis at this point! Fates a bitch and she has sisters.
And it seemed that in a past life Grimmjow slept with them all and forgot to call afterwards, because boy did they hate him.
Strangely, after his many attempts on Seireitou’s life, Grimmjow had lost some of that murderous rage that would have consumed him if this situation occured but a scant few years ago. But now at least he managed to contain himself, he would be King, eventually, and this battle with Sakaala had only been postponed until a future time where he would emerge the victor.
For Sakaala had dared to name himself King.
He had given everything to attempt to annihilate his foe, and he had failed.. and his opponent could certainly have killed him if he wanted, but Grimmjow did not feel obligated to respond right away.
Attempting to disguise how exhausted he was, Grimmjow stood up with great effort and assumed an overly relaxed pose.
«Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, Primera Pillares of Hueco Mundo.»
Cerulean eyes fixed on Sakaala, the self-styled King bided his time before he sneered «Piss off, I don’t have time to waste on shitty questions like that.. head to Las Noches and bother someone else.»
Using the last remains of his strength, the Panther’s form flickered briefly and then vanished into thin air in a sudden burst of blue light, followed by the sound of shrieking winds as the former Sexta departed the space and left to pursue his hunt elsewhere.
"Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez", mused Sakaala after watching him leave rather abruptly. "Now that's a mouthful."
His monstrous form shimmered, only to shrink noticeably into the Human-like one of his sealed state. He let out a heavy sigh. The many wounds upon his body were gone, but so was a significant portion of his spiritual energy. With a snap of his fingers he caused the twin sickle-swords to vanish; they had served their purpose. Following that, he looked around and began pacing somewhat absent-mindedly.
"All that effort for a scrap of info... I hope the others are more talkative than that, or it might be the end of my good mood for today", he muttered to himself with an eerie glint in his eyes.
And then, just like that, he disappeared as well.