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This article, The Dark Clouds Have Gathered! Return of Past Evils..., is property of Ten Tailed Fox

The Dark Clouds Have Gathered! Return of Past Evils... is an article created by Achrones150. Use is allowed with the permission of the owner, with the exception of collaboration-created articles.

Hueco Mundo...

It's endless sands and soulless moon dominate the dimension. A lone Garganta opened in the blackness of it's night and a cold chill enveloped the air around it, as if the realm was welcoming the return of an old evil master. A shadowy figure stepped out, and touched down in the soft sands. His reiatsu filled the air, making it dense and hardly breathable. Before long dozens of Hollow erupted to eat him and gain his power, but they were doomed.

FLASH...!

The figure had drawn and cut them all down in a single instant with his sword. Slowly, the figure sheathed the blade as they all faded. He then put on a long cloak, looking similar to a brown blanket, and began the slow walk to the fortress of Las Noches, which loomed in the distance.

Inside of the fortress, there was much more activity. Much more civilized activity.

What had formerly been the ruins of Las Noches was now a fully-operational fortress. It had taken serious assistance from the Seireitei, as well as help of Arrancar who wished to put themselves forth to the task. It had transformed completely to a military base, set with troops and technology. There were various Arrancar performing special tasks, whether it be sparring matches, attack and defense formations, and even marching drills. There were even Fraccion commanding a few of the groups, giving them instructions in order to complete the specified tasks. This was one of the places where the lawlessness of the Hollow-infested area had been completely annihilated. Here, there was actual humanity... or at least, the closest thing to humanity as soldiers could get.

Walking down the main hall that led to the entrance of the fortress was Primera of the Espada Afilado, Cortez Selestino. As she did so, there was another that approached her, quite boldly to be in fact. He folded his hands behind his back, bowing as she approached him. "Cortez-sama..." He explained nervously, almost afraid to speak to the woman. "We are ready on this end. You are free to send the diplomatic team to Soul Society to ensure the truce. We will back you up in case there is any signs of deception."

"Very good..." Cortez muttered, folding her arms across her chest. "But, I do hope there's not going to be any problems of such... that would be quite troublesome..." She sighed heavily, raising one of her hands to enclose one side of her face. "Wish me luck, Tercera. If I don't get back... you know what to do..." As the Tercera Espada saluted her, she nodded and started to walk again...

...until she immediately stopped, eyes widening for a moment. The man who had addressed her turned his shoulder in surprise at her frozen figure. "C...Cortez-sama...?"

First Contact[]

The shadowy figure walked right up to the frontal entrance of the fortress as if he was the owner returning home. Not waiting to be greeted by anyone or to be given permission to enter, the figure strode into the front hallway. He followed the winding hallway until he reached what had been the throne room. The very room in which the Arrancar woman and her 'Tercera' were conversing.

There he stood...

His face was concealed by the cloak and his features were also covered by the same cloth.

He sensed her astonishment and grinned an evil grin, even though they could not see it. She knew who he was, even though he did not know her.

He was back, in the heart of Arrancar operations. It was time to make his return known.

In the main room, all activity stopped. Completely.

The groups training there immediately stopped to gaze upon the newcomer, the spiritual pressure clearly affecting them. Sweat beaded down their grace, their strength not enough to withstand the pressure completely. A few of them even collapsed, gasping for breath and trying in vain to fight it off. The only ones who seemed truly unaffected were Cortez and the Tercera, standing there to look at him in silence. Cortez's expression half-lidded, and the astonishment faded. Indeed, she knew who he was.

Yet, she wasn't the one to take the first move.

Instead, to her surprise, a group of five Numeros stepped forward, using Sonido to surround the man. Five blades were pointed straight at his throat, ready to push and end his life when needed. However, so close to the man, they were sweating even more (though they did their best not to show it). "H...how dare you step in here in the presence of our leaders!!" What was the male, gruff voice of the commander snapped. "Leave now, or suffer the consequences, you lowly bastard!!!"

The man ignored them and looked beyond the hood towards the Espada leader and cleared his voice, "My time has come. For two decades, I prepared. I grew stronger....while you rested in your cradle of power, believing your people were safe..and protected. You were trusted to lead this world - but you were deceived, as my power of the Hōgyoku has blinded you..." he began as the hood began to fall off. In an instant he drew his sword and cut down the Numeros surrounding him.

He then sheathed it again. Everything seemed to go into slow motion as the hood gradually continued it's descent off the figure's person. "You assumed no force could challenge you...and now...finally...I have returned." he finished as the cloak hit the ground; revealing the face of Sōsuke Aizen, grinning an arrogant grin.

The Numeros fell, no sound being able to come from their bodies as they fell into the ground. The Tercera's eyes widened in shock at the man's power, his body tensing. Now he knew this guy was a threat... now he had to be alert! His hand gripped the hilt of his sheath, drawing it at a moment's notice. But he was hesitant to attack... for Cortez herself had not moved. She stared at Sōsuke for a moment, before closing her eyes.

"Sōsuke Aizen...." She said softly. "I thought I would never hear of that name ever since your imprisonment. How stupid of me was it to think I'd never see your face again..." She closed her eyes, pressing a hand to the side of her face once more. With her other eye, she fixed a hawk-like stare onto the man. "But nevertheless... that's not going to stop time from progressing. Hueco Mundo isn't the ruined landscape that it was during your reign. It's gained power, new power, and new leaders. Whether you like it not, everything has passed you by."

She broke off from the conversation for a minute, nodding to the Tercera. "Senkaku."

Senkaku allowed himself to straighten up, looking at her for a brief moment. "Yes, Cortez-sama?" He asked seriously, relaxing for a minute.

"I want you to contact the team and bring them here instead." She ordered, her laziness gone from her. "We've got a change in plans..."

Without hesitation, Senkaku nodded. "Hai!" And with a single Sonido, he was gone for the moment, on his way to follow Cortez's orders. With him out of the way, Cortez fixed her gaze back onto Aizen, lowering her hand from her face once more.

Aizen kept a deceptively polite smile on his face, "Passed me by, has it? I actually like it that way. You're correct in one way; Hueco Mundo isn't it's old ruined self." he said, closing his eyes. "You've turned savage, fighting Hollows into shoddy Shinigami wannabes." He reopened his eyes halfway, "And the funny thing is, for all your talk of power, it would appear that the Espada have gotten weaker in my absence." he retorted.

Cortez immediately raised an eyebrow slightly, scowling a little in disgust at his arrogant tone. "That so...?" She muttered, gripping the hilt of her swords at her waist. "Well, I guess there's no other choice, then... if you think the Espada have gotten weaker, then you're very mistaken." With a swift movement, she unsheathed her blades - cutlass swords lowered at her sides. "But I can't help but wonder who stronger you've gotten while rotting in that prison cell--"

At that moment, however, she was interrupted. Eyes widening, she turned her sight upward... to see the insane grin of an Arrancar as he swung downwards, his giant scythe carrying all of his power behind it. Whether Aizen dodged, blocked, or evaded, the contact was enough to smash a medium-large crater into the ground, concrete and smoke being blown about. Nervous, the other Arrancar in the area started to back off, knowing that they would simply be killed in this struggle.

Reunited[]

Aizen stopped the attack with his index finger, as he had to a certain orange-haired boy's Bankai years ago. The built up energy discharge around him, blowing a crater into the floor behind him. "Hello, Nnoitra." Aizen greeted in his deceptively polite tone. "It's been so long since we last saw one another. How was...the cold blade of the Shinigami who killed you? Pleasant, I hope?" he mocked. Eying the Arrancar with a menacing glare.

Nnoitra's eyes widened in shock for a moment at the easy display of strength. However, it was quickly wiped away, replaced by a smirk of his own. His snake-like eye slitted into its own menacing glare. "Fuck no." He replied haughtily, impressed by the display of Aizen's strength. "I was really hoping I'd die like I wanted to... to die on my feet while drowning on my own blood. Someone could say that would piss me off... but that was the old me. Now I see that as a chance to become stronger than I was under you."

He immediately took Santa Teresa off of Aizen's finger and stepped away from the man, readying his blade again. Was it the same case as it had been with that pussycat and Kenpachi? He would find out soon enough. "Though... I have been wantin' to thank you for givin' me this power in the first place. Without it, I wouldn't have gotten anywhere, but now... I'm gonna show my gratitude even more.... by crushing you!"

Cortez half-lidded her eyes once again. "Calm yourself, Gilga..." She muttered, though she doubted he would listen.

"Crush me?" Aizen chuckled, "How could a lowly Arrancar, such as yourself, muster up the strength to crush me when you couldn't even bring down a teenage Human with Shinigami powers and that brute without a release form. Not to mention, had she not lost her form....you would've been killed by that Arrancar woman you loathe so." he declared, obviously trying to anger him into attacking blindly. He looked over at Cortez briefly, "Do not worry my dear, your time is coming soon." he said with another polite grin, turning his attention back to Nnoitra.

It almost worked.

Nnoitra scoffed, indignant at the reminder of his defeat that had been so long ago. However, he sneered toothily, thinking up his own insult. "You and me both, motherfucker..." He taunted. "From the way I hear things, you had all the power in the world... and yet, you got fucked over by that very same kid, didn't ya? Had he not lost his powers, you would've been one. dead. god." He felt satisfied at his own words; who would've thought he'd be exchanging taunts with his former superior like this?

Cortez herself remained silent, not raising her blades up just yet. It seemed Aizen just wanted to talk for the moment... could she attack? She wasn't Nnoitra... her power was far from his vast spiritual energy, and it would take more than skin to block her own assault. Could she risk it? Doubtful, since Aizen was keeping an eye on her, too... distantly, she could sense the team making their way here. If anything, she wanted to delay him until they could get here... there was only three of them....

Aizen didn't seem faltered at all by Nnoitra's insults. "Interesting choice of words for a Hollow." he shot back with his signature smile. "After all, I was never un-bonded with the Hōgyoku. What if....that so-called power had all returned to me." he asked menacingly, suggesting that it already had. Aizen slowly lifted his hand and, before either Arrancar could blink, had it placed softly on Nnoitra's chest. "Since you seem so confident in yourself, perhaps I can grant you your wish of fighting with me." He had noticed the Arrancar's shock and decided not to waste it, "Hadō #90, Kurohitsugi..." he muttered. A black box surrounded Nnoitra and became pierced with energy lances. Aizen simply continued to stroll by where Nnoitra was attacked right up to Cortez herself. "Perhaps you want your shot, Miss Espada?" he asked mockingly.

Cortez was gone.

This time, she had re-appeared behind him, almost back to back. Her swords were on either side of her, extended outwards. She looked over her shoulder at him. There was a small cut made at his shoulder, but it only served as a warning. "I don't need you to give that to me..." She answered, her naturally bored tone once again coming to the surface. "I can take it!" She was definitely not one to step in and let an enemy trample all over her - it was just not her nature, lazy as she was. Right now, she needed to be strong.

Just as strong as the enemy who threatened her...

The box was cleared.

Nnoitra was standing there, bleeding prick marks within his skin. However, this time, he proved to hold out much better than he would've in the past. He had his arms in an X-shaped defensive position, guarding his front against the spikes. When it was over, her lowered them again, smirking mockingly at Aizen. "That itches, you punk-ass...!" He taunted again, readying Santa Teresa once more. Then, following Cortez's example, he charged at Aizen once more in order to engage him.

Aizen closed his eyes and grinned, "Simply let it be known that you were allowed that attack, and you shall not be receiving another. You may think that you decide when you can hit me, but it is quite the contrary. The only reason that there is a wound in my skin, is because I so allowed it." Aizen declared, looking back at her with an evil glare and intensified reiatsu. Whether or not his statement was true or not would have to wait. Nnoitra was attacking. Aizen disappeared and reappeared on the other side of Nnoitra, similarly to what Cortez had just done, blood staining his now drawn sword. Aizen then turned to face Nnoitra's back, "How like you Arrancar; always following the example of a stronger being. How can you thrive under such primitive instincts?" he prodded once more.

The reiatsu was quite chilling. It caused Cortez to open her eyes slightly. How powerful had this man gotten...? Was the reiatsu growing, or was Aizen simply forcing this effect? It was hard to tell... the deceptive man was never one to read completely. She looked on, observing as Nnoitra staggered forward thanks to the cut delivered. Unlike him, who seemed to be unable to see such movements, she could read them naturally. It would be a difficult thing to decide...

Nnoitra growled, standing straight upwards once again. "Shut up...!" He hissed, irked by his words. "I don't need a lecture from the likes of you!" On the word you, he performed a backhand swing in an attempt to catch Aizen off-guard. He wasn't going to lose to him, not when he got so far!

Aizen made a Kidō barrier with a flick of his wrist, which absorbed Nnoitra's blow before shattering. "On the contrary, a lecture from me might do some good for you. After all, I who have learned to rely only on myself and my own power, am superior to Hollows that aimlessly follow a leader." he said, knowing his words were sinking in. "I thought you disliked females who were higher in rank? Or did they teach you that was wrong as well?" This time he knew he had crossed the line with Nnoitra, but he didn't care. "Be thankful that I gave you the privilege of being cut with my Kyōka Suigetsu, Hollow." he said. The Arrancar did not know the doom that name would bring them soon enough. Aizen sheathed his blade once more and raised his reiatsu to a level that would be unbearable to beings at their level.

"Fuck yo---"

However, Nnoitra's retaliatory words were immediately cut off by the sudden surge of reiatsu, which also caused Cortez's eyes to widen completely. He fell to one knee, taken back by the power that was filling the room. He gasped for breath, sweating as his lungs were deprived of air. Why was it crushing him so much?! All of this time, Aizen was proving himself to be far stronger than him still yet?! He should've surpassed him!!!

However, despite the bead of sweat that dripped down Cortez's face, she stood firm. Immediately, she released her own spiritual pressure in order to keep them both from being crushed. It counteracted Aizen's, allowing Nnoitra to breathe in greedily once again. However, the female Arrancar was not yet done. Once again, she had vanished, re-appearing behind Aizen with half-lidded eyes.

"Sheathing your sword already? Such a pretentious action..."

Then, without warning, she unleashed a red energy blast from the point slightly above her breasts, the beam containing immense power within itself. "Cero!" She called out instinctively at the point-blank range from which it was shot at. She was going to make it hard for the man to gain any advantage... but she knew that wouldn't be enough to phase him any. She would have to keep on her guard...

Aizen appeared behind her, having dodged the Cero blast. "Still using such Hollow-like techniques? How uncivilized." he mocked. He then pressed his hand into her back, "Hadō #88, Hiryugekizokushintenraiho...!" he silently declared. A massive blue energy wave filled the hall, causing an explosion that blew the floor out from underneath them. The smoke that resulted completely masked Aizen's movements, for in an instant he was behind Nnoitra blasting another Hiryugekizokushintenraiho at the male Arrancar's back, causing another great explosion. After the attack finished, Aizen dropped onto the floor below where the fight had begun, below the smoke, so that he could observe the results of his attack without being blinded by the smoke.

Nnoitra was wearing down.

And that blast just made it worse.

All it took was that single blast to send him into the ground, coughing up blood as he was hit with the sheer power of the spell. His weapon dropped beside him, and for a moment, he lay still... it wasn't that he was too uninjured to stand... but rather, he was frustrated. Why was he getting beaten so, when he had supposedly advanced so far? Damn it to hell...

Cortez had fared much better, however. It was only her Hierro she had to thank for it. The strength of it alone greatly reduced the damage to nothing but scratches and slight burns. Otherwise, she was still OK. "That was quite an impressive spell..." She thought to herself in respect for the Shinigami. "He's not even getting serious and yet he took down my 6th Espada... did the one who defeat him have this much trouble?"

From Aizen's viewpoint, another Cero was fired at him from the smoke, aiming to destroy him once more.

Aizen deflected the blast into Nnoitra's direction, "I see you are capable of games, my Hollow friends. It amuses me greatly that you are still even trying." he mentioned. Aizen then raised his reiatsu as high as he could make it go in his Shinigami form. The results were immediate. The fortress began trembling and the loose parts began to crumble and disintegrate under the sheer pressure being instilled. "If this is all the power you two have, then perhaps you should gather the others to fight with you. At this rate, I may wind up killing you by accident." he said, mockingly. He could sense the group of Arrancar reinforcements coming towards them; exactly as he had wanted it.

"Kch...!"

As she burst of the smoke, Cortez immediately stopped the Cero within its tracks before it could hit Nnoitra and finish him off, dispelling it with her mental will. "Right back at you..." She whispered, raising her blades up again. "I'm only trying as hard as you are!" In various areas, she could finally sense her two Arrancar appear in the area: Senkaku, whose eyes narrowed tensely at the spiritual pressure in the area. The other, however, was smirking a little in anticipation. Both of them had their swords out and at the ready, knowing that the enemy was among them.

Bernabé Lino, Segunda Espada.

Senkaku Ningensei, Tercera Espada.

But, who was the third?

One thing was for sure, it was no Arrancar.

"Well, I'll be damned...."

A burst of spiritual pressure erupted, clearing away the smoke and bringing the full battlefield back into view. Standing there with his sword out was none other than the former 11th Division captain Kenpachi Zaraki. "If it isn't Aizen... no wonder you called so many up here..." He commented, a feral grin crossing his face as he lowered his sword. His showing eye stared his former colleague with a murderous intent. "I thought it was just a bug you all were bitching about... but if it's you... I think I can have some fun for a while!"

The Battle of Las Noches Commences[]

Aizen looked around the room with a sarcastic grin spread across his face, "Oh look, you brought your pet with you." he commented about the Arrancar bringing Kenpachi into the room. Aizen finally reached down and drew his sword from its resting place. He then pointed it towards the ground, "Shatter, Kyōka Suigetsu....!" he declared. It was done; Shikai had been released. For these Arrancar and the Shinigami, doom had fallen. Aizen turned to Cortez and grinned menacingly, "Don't kid yourself. Use any power you want, heck use all of them at once, and it'll make no difference. You will get nowhere." he poked and prodded. Aizen then put himself in a battle stance, "Come then you shoddy Shinigami wannabes, and bring you pet with you. Let's see if you can do as much damage as you say you can." he challenged. The words were familiar to him, but he often repeated himself. He knew that in their current predicament, none of them could win, but he needed them to get the news out of his return; that mean that they had to know what he was capable of.

At that moment, out of the battle arena's reach, one final Arrancar stepped up to plate. But he was not here to assist. Instead, he allowed himself to sit on one of the large pieces of concrete that had broken off from the ceiling. He allowed himself to close his eyes and smile. "My, my..." He muttered. "So this is the release of Kyōka Suigetsu. This should be very interesting..." However, he too knew the outcome of this fight wouldn't be the way that his comrades would've wanted it. It was almost an honor... having their former god in his presence.

Almost.

"This man seems quite sure of himself..." Bernabé was the first to speak out, looking on Aizen with disdain. He looked at the Tercera standing beside him. "What do you say we give him what he wants?" Senkaku himself frowned with discontent. He had just gotten into this fight... and already things seemed to be looking to bad for wear. It wasn't his nature to fight at full strength at the start of combat... but this situation required it. He closed his eyes, took in a deep breath, and simply nodded. "Yeah..."

"PRAY! SANTA TERESA!"

Nnoitra had gotten back up in order to join the fray once more, immediately shifting into his released form first. At first, he appeared to have his confidence returned, grinning as he raised his deadly scythe blades towards his former superior. At the same time, however, on the contrary, he was furious. Chuckling madly, he was immediate to attack first, swinging his four blades and unleashing a tornado-like blast towards Aizen. As he did so, both Bernabé and Senkaku called out their own release names.

"Cleanse, Radiación!"

"Equalize, Aqua!!!"

As they shifted into their own release forms, Senkaku followed up Nnoitra's attack. From the ground, gusts of water erupted in an angle off from where Nnoitra's attack was. Both energy and water made their way towards Aizen, threatening and needing to destroy him where he stood. Smirking, Kenpachi decided to add his own attack to the mix; an yellow energy torrent of his own that had been created with the wake of his sword swing. Nicolao simply looked on, closing his eyes and shaking his head once more.

Aizen had done it. He had drawn them all back into battle, and now they would certainly face the consequences. Nnoitra was the first to attack... predictable. With Kyōka Suigetsu activated, he could cast illusions whenever he pleased, but he felt the need to conserve that power and give the Arrancar a false sense of victory before he defeated them. He stretched out his arm, placing his palm out and allowing himself to intercept Nnoitra's tornado-like attack. "Hadō #58, Tenran...!" he stated. Suddenly, the tornado reversed it's course back towards Nnoitra, just as Senkaku's own technique came into play. The water was sucked into the cyclone as it continued on it's course to Nnoitra. Aizen then preformed another Kidō barrier, protecting him from Kenpachi's reiatsu. Now it was his turn to attack. Leaping forward, he vanished with tremendous speed, aiming quick cuts for the shoulders of Kenpachi, Senkaku, and Nnoitra. When he reappeared behind the three, blood dripped from the tip of his blade.

"Kch!"

In response to the reversal, both Senkaku and Nnoitra had to pull back their attacks via their respect, forcefully dispersing the combined attack before it could hit them. "This is ridiculous!!" He thought, staring down Aizen in frustration. "It shouldn't take this much people to defeat this one man!" What was his teammates doing?! Clearly, they had to be holding back. Couldn't they see that this was a grim situa--

Then, the cuts came.

Senkaku could only barely register the blow, eyes widening as he felt the sword slice right into his shoulder. "W...what?!" He thought, his eyes drifting towards the red liquid that spilled from his body. He staggered back a little, dumbfounded. The speed was incredible! This was certainly not the speed of the former Tercera's.... he couldn't keep up!

Nnoitra and Kenpachi, however, were a little less undaunted.

Kenpachi was struck first, and due to him not having the thick Hierro that the Arrancar did, he suffered a bit more damage than the Arrancar did. However, he only grinned at the pain, turning to face where Aizen had just disappeared from. Already, this was becoming to be a good fight! Maybe he would have some fun with this after all... Nnoitra, meanwhile, had hissed at the pain of being cut. However, the factor that kept it from existing was his High-Speed Regeneration. As Aizen appeared one last time, Nnoitra retracted the blades within his nearest two arms and reached out...

...his clawed hands grasped Aizen's arm tightly. A smug grin crossed his face. "Gotcha...."

Then, Kenpachi made his move, as did Cortez.

Flanking the sides of Aizen, they swung down with brute force, Kenpachi letting out a battle yell as he did so.


Aizen smiled, and was cut in two by the dual attacks. Or at least, that is how it appeared to two Arrancar.

A shattering noise revealed that they had really cut one of the observing lower Arrancar. The small Numerous had a look of confusement and horror on his face as he registered what had just happened to him. Aizen was back his previous spot. "Did you forget I released?" he asked his attackers. A small flashback occurred in his mind, showing that the moment after he cut them, he had also flashed to the nearby Numerous, grabbing one and placing it where he appeared to have "reappeared". He had then returned to his original location and, due to Kyōka Suigetsu's powers, had cloaked the young Arrancar to appear just like Aizen himself, while the real one looked on from a distance. The Numerous died soon after the flashback ended, due to his wounds. "If you aren't careful; next time, that could be one of you." Aizen mocked, prodding them to attack him again.

An illusion.

Nicolao showed no outward reaction to the attack on the young Numeros, even as he fell into pieces on the floor. Even as he watched Nnoitra scoff and toss the arm away, as well as Kenpachi sling the blood off with a slightly grim (and possibly annoyed) look on his face, he only put on a studious expression. "An illusion-type?" He stated thoughtfully. "I would've never expected someone so strong to have to rely on deception such as that. It seems to me like he's being paranoid... but about what?" He continued to observe silently...

However, there were more shocked reactions within the group.

Cortez immediately jumped back, startled at what she had assumed to be Aizen fall to the ground. Blood dripped from the tip. "He substituted himself?!" She thought in amazement, turning to where he was now standing. "Damn... now it's practically impossible to attack. The next time, it could be any one of us..." By not choosing one of them in the first place, was he simply toying with them again? How far could this so-called ability reach? She readied her blades once again... she had to think! She should've remembered this before he had come--

Then, the inevitable happened.

"I...I'm going to kill you!"

Senkaku, having witnessed the slaying of the innocent, as well as the confused light dying within his eyes, allowed his own to light up in fury. How dare he do that! The Numeros had nothing to do with this fight, why did he drag him into it?! Not bothering to think any more, he summoned his trademark two ice blades and flew at Aizen. He was going to cut the bastard up!

The rest of them were at least a bit startled by it, even Nnoitra and Kenpachi for the outburst of Team Ningensei's former leader. "TERCERA, STOP WHERE YOU ARE!!" Cortez shouted in an attempt to get him to his senses...

Nicolao facepalmed. "Oh my god...how foolish."

It was far too late to save him. Aizen swiped his sword, causing blood to erupted and soil the tile floors below them. He then flicked the blade to clean it of blood. Other than that, it appeared as if Senkaku's attack hadn't even phased him. "Why are you putting so much distance between us?" he asked Cortez, having noticed her jump backwards. "Is it that you're afraid of letting even a part of me out of your field of vision by getting close? If that's the case, then it's a foolish thought. Distance only has meaning in a fight between equals. With you and I, distance holds no meaning at all." he explained, suddenly appearing in the middle of the Arrancar combatants. "Because in a single instant, I can close that distance." Energy crackled in his palm, "Hadō #63, Raikōhō..." he declared. A massive burst of yellow reiatsu erupted, encompassing all in the near vicinity.

One blow was all that was needed. Immediately, Senkaku's swords dissipated, and blood once again erupted from his shoulder. His eyes turned blank, and he descended like a fallen bird towards the ground, Resurrecion fading away and resealing itself. The concrete was uprooted upon his body's contact with it, as if something heavy had just smashed into it. He lay deathly still, a pool of his own blood forming underneath his back. However, there was virtually no time to panic over his death...

...as the Kidō spell was activated.

The only one who acted was Kenpachi.

"That won't work...!" The man taunted, lifting a free hand up to his eye patch. In order to counteract the energy, he unleashed his own, removing the eyepatch only for as long as the spell lasted. His spiritual energy clashed with Aizen's in a brilliant display of yellow and gold. The resulting sphere was almost unstable, terrifying winds being created from the aura. Kenpachi's reaction managed to defend the group from major injuries this time. As it cleared, Cortez herself leaped out of the smoke, coughing a bit as she tried to steady herself.

Nicolao himself appeared a few ways off, looking a bit annoyed and disappointed as he descended back to the ground. "Hmph....!" He grumbled in irritation. "Destroying this fortress when I just had it reconstructed! They don't seem to know common sense!" Dusting himself off, he looked around as the energy aftermath was beginning to fade. "Still... that was quite some impressive energy. I wonder how much they've actually got...."

His ability was no longer an option.

Instead, Bernabe chose to fight Aizen head-on, taking the explosion as his very own distraction. Without hesitation, he re-appeared right behind him, raised his claws, and executed a flurry of slashes, aiming to cut the man into shreds just as Nnoira and Kenpachi had done to the Numeros. "That's pretty cold, Sosuke..." He commented dryly, though a mocking tone was held underneath. "That Numeros had nothing to do with this fight!"

Aizen parried the slashes with his sword, maintaining his rather polite guise. "Is it, Hollow? What was his training for then? Was he, as a soldier, not suppose to be ready for any combat situation? In war, nothing is fair and everything is cold. Don't get your emotions tangled up with your duties. That soldier completed his duties and stood until his last breath left him." Aizen lectured. Aizen then moved tremendously fast in order to deliver a wide cut along Bernabe's midsection. "It's funny though....I didn't think you Hollows had hearts to care for comrades."

SWIPE!

The cut was only avoided by a hair, the tip of the sword scraping his stomach. Bernabe jumped back, scowling a little at the blood that came across his stomach. "I don't." He stated bluntly. "That was an unfortunate incident, and a clever trick... but nothing that can't be cleaned up." He stood on his own two feet. "I don't let my emotions get in the way of what I'm doing, and I don't need you, of all people, to lecture me on that." Behind Aizen, Cortez appeared a few ways off, one of her swords having been sheathed for the time being.

The Fall of Las Noches[]

Aizen grinned, "Cortez-chan, why do you think it is that you can approach me with so little caution? Does being the primera really make you think your that much closer in power to me, that you're really my equal?" he asked. "How do you know that I'm not one of your teammates being disguised by Kyōka Suigetsu? You can't, because it's illusionary power masks everything, even my reiatsu." Aizen raised his palm up, "Very well then. That Arrancar you called your Tercera has died, but apparently that won't convince you that it's hopeless to attack me. Another demonstration is in order then." With that, Aizen waved his hand in the direction of Cortez's comrades. "Seeping crest of turbidity, arrogant vessel of lunacy. Boil forth and deny, grow numb and flicker, disrupting sleep. Crawling queen of iron, eternally self-destructing doll of mud. Unite, repulse. Fill with soil and know your own powerlessness. Hadō #90, Kurohitsugi." Aizen uttered. Suddenly, massive black boxes that distorted space-time surrounded all of Aizen's enemies save for Cortez. A black explosion ripped through the dome of Las Noches as each box exploded with thier contents still trapped. "Because of your arrogance, you will watch the fall of your beloved fortress and your comrades."

"W...what?!"

That immediately shattered Cortez's resolve. Immediately. She couldn't see the faces of her allies, but she could hear the startled yells of her comrades as the boxes consumed them. Her lips quivered, and she could only fall to her knees, her fighting will drained. "Damn you....Aizen...!" She could only shakily mutter as a retort, staring on in horror at what seemed to be the attack that would kill them all. She ended up falling on her hands, her eyes overshadowed. She didn't even bring herself to look up anymore.

"W....why....? Why did you come here...?"

"To test my newly acquired power...and to make my return known to the spiritual world." Aizen replied. "You were the biggest target. Sitting here in the middle of a desert wasteland and without your feral Hollows to attack on sight. You actually managed to weaken yourselves in my absence. You...were deceived by Soul Society, who assured you I couldn't escape. And now, because of them, the Reikai will fall." he continued. He then sheathed his sword and ended his Kidō. "You are all pointless. At this level of strength, you will never be able to stop me." With a wave of his hand, a Garganta opened up behind him. "I wonder if I should kill you all before I leave? After all, you did fail my expectations."

"That's a shame!"

Immediately, Cortez's eyes widened, and her head snapped towards the only one standing - Nicolao. He was clapping, an obviously pleased look on his face. Despite everything, and much to her shock... there wasn't even a scratch on him! "Because as of now... you exceeded mine completely. Nothing less from one who ascends to rival the gods themselves." His tone wasn't mocking, but rather genuinely complimentary. "You have certainly did more than rot in a prison cell for those decades... I'm glad my research didn't go to waste..."

He glanced over at his fallen comrades, all of who were laying on the ground and unconscious. "But, nevertheless. I don't recommend killing us - for that would just ruin everything for both you... and me. You see, I've always wondered how far one could go after gaining as much power as you have... and this attack on Las Noches has given me the perfect opportunity to test it out." He held up three fingers. "Three months. In three months, there shall be a being who will threaten even your existence. Consider this an opportunity to test your strength against someone of your caliber. But, consider this a warning as well - I have analyzed your abilities. So you'd best prepare yourself... death is not too far away from you."

Aizen smiled, "Perhaps you've forgotten about my evolution, but I guess it doesn't matter. In three months I will return here to accept your challenge." he replied. "If you lose though, I'll decimate Las Noches."

"Fair enough." Nicolao grinned in anticipation. "I look forward to seeing the progress. Farewell... Aizen Sosuke."

With that, Aizen stepped into the whirling portal and shut it behind him, disappearing from sight.

"N...Nicolao..."

"Hm?"

Surprised at the weakened voice, Nicolao looked in the woman's direction... only to come face to face with a comically stunned look. "All right..." She said slowly, raising herself up to a standing position. She pointed at the scientist with a glare. "You're going to tell me how in the hell you survived that!" She demanded. "I swore all of you had been killed in that attack--"

"Cortez-sama..." Even at his superior's chiding, Nicolao shook his head in pity and disappointment. "Have you little faith in our abilities? A mere Kido like that would never be enough to kill the top three Espada, nor would it be enough to defeat Nnoitra's hard head.... and skin..." He chuckled at his own crude joke. "But, just in case it did, I prepared something in order to prevent it from doing any real harm." He motioned to the crumbled walls, some of which were still intact. "Take a look around. What do you see?"

Upon that statement, Cortez's eyes shifted to that of her usual lazy-eyed facade. "...a bunch of blown up rocks and pebbles?" She guessed half-heartedly. She only succeeded at making Nicolao chuckle, however.

"Close, but no. This material negates the spiritual pressure of certain objects it comes across. I modified it so that it would effectively nullify a Shinigami's abilities in case they decided to attack us. Unfortunately, Aizen took the liberty of wrecking most of the material, so it wasn't as effective this time." He started to walk in the direction of the other three teammates. "Still, it proved to do its job effectively. Take a look for yourself."

As Cortez followed, getting a close-up view of the teammates, her eyes widened in astonishment. They had suffered only minor wounds in the case of Kenpachi, Nnoitra, and Bernabe. But, other than their unconscious state, they seemed to be quite fine. "Their immense durability helped the majority of the process, and the rock material did the rest. I dare say I did a damn good job!" Nicolao said confidently, folding his arms across his chest.

That was when the Primera's eyes shifted to the one warrior who had been cut down first - Senkaku. His eyes were closed, and his expression was almost as if he was simply in a pained sleep, his eyes closed, and his body laying still. Aizen had declared him to be dead.... but was he? "And... the Tercera?" She asked hesitantly, grimness in her tone.

Nicolao's gaze also turned solemn. "I'm afraid I don't know that."

They both pulled a Sonido, re-appearing beside the young Arrancar. "Hmmm...." Nicolao muttered. "It seemed as if he wasn't truly and completely enraged after all..." He pointed at the gash that Aizen had made in his shoulder - ice was encasing part of the wound, sealing off the blood vessels in a last act of self-preservation. "As the cut was made, Senkaku used his ice abilities to freeze the wounds and keep them from becoming too bad before he passed out. Looks like he thought head... my compliments." He diagonsed, nodding sagely. "Though.... because of the blood loss, I'm not sure if he'll live or die. We'll have to take him to the medics just to make sure..."

This caused Cortez to sigh, placing a hand onto her face. "Just super..." She muttered in agitation. "We prepare for diplomacy, and we get screwed over. What a great way to end my pain-in-the-ass day..." Nicolao shrugged non-chalantly.

"We can simply inform the Seireitei that we were late due to this.... attack. This will be nothing that can't be fixed... for now..." Nicolao clapped his hands together eagerly. "I myself am ready to get started on the project... or rather, finished..."


In a deeper part of the mist, a room that would've normally been dark was filled with a blue light, courtesy of a glowing tube in the center. In it, a lone man, stripped of his clothing, was floating in some liquid and hooked to wires that were on the bottom of the lid encasing the capsule. He appeared to be unconscious.

"...this will be my greatest challenge yet... to kill a god using my own experiment... the sacrifices are benificial to science. After this, Hueco Mundo will have complete dominance. No one shall rival our power ever again... The Espada shall rule!"

Slowly, that man's eyes began to open...

To be continued...?

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