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This article, Behind Enemy Lines, is property of Northstar1022 and cannot be utilized without the creator's permission.

PLOTLINE: This story deviates from the main storyline immediately after the war against Sōsuke Aizen, creating a parallel timeline where the Thousand-Year Blood War does not take place. As such, there will be inconsistencies.

This follows the events from Warnings On The Way. WIth Soul Society increasingly coming under threat from an outside, the Gotei 13 have begun mobilizing their forces to strengthen their borders. Little do they know that there is an enemy among their ranks plotting something diabolical that could very well bring about the destruction Soul Society itself. Will the Gotei 13 find out in time?

Part I: A Moonlight Stroll

The clouds had just parted that night. It had pulled back its grey curtain to reveal a sea of stars swimming around the bright ball of the moon. Slowly, the moonlight began illuminating areas within the Northern Rukongai. It was very late, and the streets were empty, except for a seemingly lone figure running through the alleys. Captain Ojima was in a hurry, stepping quikcly but silently as he rushed past housing developments and closed shops. Ojima was still wearing his Human World attire. He came across a wall, easily several dozen meters tall, that blocked his current path. He clutched his sword and in three graceful steps he jumped up to a neighboring rooftop, on to a nearby tree branch and then over the wall, landing on the opposite side. He remained still in the shadow of the wall as the stone structure blocked the moonlight from him.

Captain Ojima turned his head from left to right, almost robotic, and scanned the area for any signs of witnesses. He then looked down towards the bandage on his arm. He casually untied the knot and pulled it off his arm, revealing the completely healed skin. He cast the bandage to the side like litter, dancing in the slow moving wind as it glided across the floor. Ojima grinned unnaturally as he examined his hand, almost as if it were something new to him. He flexed the fingers, turned the wrist and then clenched it into a fist as he began chuckling.

The bandage had traveled a bit away but snagged itself on an exposed root. Another figure stopped in front of it, bending down to pick it up. Captain Hiraga looked at the blood stained cloth before letting it fall once more to begin its journey in the wind once more. Ojima was unaware of Hiraga's presence so it came as a shock to him when the 4th Division captain stepped into view.

"Captain Ojima, you missed your meeting with the Captain Commander." Hiraga said flatly with his arms folded behind his back.

Ojima quickly regained his composure, clearing his throat before speaking. "Ah, yes, well I heard about what had happened to the 6th Division and thought I would go and investigate." He adjusted his stance, seemingly keeping the same distance as Hiraga walked closer.

"Then you're going in the wrong direction." Hiraga responded rather quickly, still in that cold and mechanical tone. His sunglasses blocked out his eyes but Ojima could sense Hiraga staring at him.

Ojima did his best impersenation of someone who was genuinely confused of his whereabouts, but he slowly and carefully brought his hand to the handle of his blade as he looked around. "My, my. So it seems. The fight back in the Human World must have taken more out of me then I thought."

Hiraga remained still with his arms still behind him. When he tilted his head forward slightly, light reflected off the lenses and traveled diagonally off the surface before disappearing. "I'm sure Captain Satō wishes to speak with you, as well."

"Is there a problem, Captain Hiraga?" Ojima stated with somewhat of an aggressive tone.

"No, no, Captain Ojima. Just questioning why you would rather be out here in the middle of the night instead of reporting to your superiors as you are bound to by law." Hiraga always seemed to have a response ready at a moment's notice.

Ojima grinned once more, snorting through his nose. "Speaking of superior, when was the last time you faced an opponent? I mean a real opponent. Figured with you being a medic, you don't get to see a lot of field time. Your fighting skills must be rusty." With his last word, Ojima flicked his thumb, unsheathing his sword slightly.

This time, Hiraga remained quiet. His gaze still fixed on Ojima.

The two stood there paused in time for what seemed like hours: Hiraga with his arms folded behind him and Ojima slightly leaned forward with his hand over his sword as if preparing to attack. The two seemed to be locked into deadly staring contest with neither showing signs of flinching. Tension was in the air as the two seemed locked on each other within the shadow of this wall, when suddenly Ojima broke from his stare and stood up relaxed.

"Come now, Captain Hiraga. I was merely joking." Ojima said nonchallantly as he waved his hand.

"Interesting." Hiraga said. "I didn't think Captain Ojima had a sense of humor."

"You're speaking as if I'm not Ojima." The captain placed his hands on his hips. "What's gotten into you, Captain Hiraga? What makes you assume that I'm not him?"

"Would you like for me to point out the differences in personality traits or the more technical observations?" Hiraga replied, still calm and collected.

"Let's entertain the thought then." Ojima responded.

"In terms of personality, Captain Ojima rarely speaks in anything but a professional manner, unless he's speaking to Captain Satō. He does make jokes or engage in any sort of pleasantries. He's not sarcastic. And this is longest converstation I've ever held with the man outside of the captain meetings." Hiraga methodically broke down the discrepancies between the real Captain Ojima and this impostor. "But what first gave you away was back in the medical quarters. Your wounds. When they were being dressed, the blood had a very subtle purple hue to it."

"And why didn't you mention anything back in the medical bay?" Ojima placed one hand in his vest.

"Last thing I need is an altercation within the medical quarters. Especially with my staff and wounded present. Instead, I chose to let you leave so that I could track your movements myself and deal with the situation." Hiraga responded.

"Isn't that something a little outside your juristiction?" Ojima shot back with a grin.

"I was intrigued to know how you were able to mimic the captain so well. And, as you've stated, I don't see a lot of field time." There was a silence after Hiraga's words. The wind rustled a few leaves as they whirled in circles across the floor, sweeping past Hiraga's feet. "Where is Captain Ojima?" Hiraga questioned in a more stern manner.

This Ojima hesitated. Again, he gripped his sheath as he pulled out his hand from his pocket and curled it into a fist, letting the arm hang at his side. "He's right here in front of you."

Hiraga observed this Ojima without moving, without saying a word.

"Though it may not appear it, I have methods of acquiring information from targets that can be rather persuasive." Hiraga stated in a cold manner, and then finally stepped forward.

Without warning, Ojima thrusted his arm forward, red energy instantly swirling around the fist with the sound of static, creating an orb-like shape of crackling energy before flying from his hand like a bullet through the air, striking against Hiraga with a sound like thunder, resulting in a small explosion, engulfing the area in a cloud of smoke and debris. The entirety of this action seemed to have happened in an instant. Ojima watched as the smoke slowly moved with the mild wind, grinning at the satisfaction of erasing Hiraga from existence. As he glared at the result of his actions, he noticed the smoke clinging to a large area, slowly gaining shape.

As the smoke moved, it pulled away revealing a large golden pentagon as Hiraga stood behind it completely unharmed. "Bakudō #42: Goryōho (五稜堡, Five-Sided Fort)" Hiraga casually stated as the yellow barrier pulsed with energy. Even though unspoken, Hiraga's skill in the use of Kidō was so great that he was able to completely negate this Ojima's attack.

Ojima's lip twitched as his grin disappeared from his face. He straightened himself and watched Hiraga closely, his eyes focused on the 4th Division captain.

"I regret to inform you that this isn't the first time a Bala has been fired at me." Hiraga casually stated. Ojima tilted his head slightly at the captain's statement. "Yes, I am aware that you are an Arrancar." Hiraga again stated before Ojima has a chance to reply.

Part II: Facing the Lie

The fake captain came down on Hiraga's location with a resounding strike that caused the ground to explode, shaking nearby houses. Hiraga appeared above on of their rooftops, arms to his side and scanning the area. From the smoke, the impostor flew towards the captain with his sword in hand. Hiraga raised his hand, signaling another casting of Kidō spells, "Enkōsen (円閘扇, Round Lock Fan)" he shouted and a dull yellow disc formed into existence directly in front of Hiraga. The impostor's sword collided against the shield, clanging against it as sparks of magical energy shot up into the sky. Hiraga stepped backwards while simultaneously holding the shield in front of him. The impostor swung wildly against it, chipping away the yellow energy holding it together before one more solid strike shattered it like glass.

Hiraga used his Flash Steps to avoid another swing, instantly disappearing before it could do any harm and reappearing down below in the streets. But the impostor had anticipated his movements and was floating a few meters above Hiraga, the tip of his sword pointing directly at the captain below. Red energy swirled at the point, creating a small orb of solid energy that composed a Cero. The impostor grinned before releasing the blast and it rocketed down into the streets, igniting the ground in red flames before exploding in a large brilliant red fireball. The 4th Division captain was unable to move fast enough to avoid the attack completely and it exploded next to him, propelling him through the air and crashing back down on the ground.

As the flames spread towards a nearby structure, the impostor continued to float in the air observing the fallen captain. The light from the fire cast an eerie glow on his face as embers floated up past him and black smoke began filling the area. "You can't hide behind your shields forever." The impostor gradually lowered himself to the ground and watched Hiraga bring himself to his feet. "Maybe I was right in thinking you got rusty." His shoulder spasmed, giving out a sickly cracking sound. Then his neck bent in an unnatural direction. The impostor's body swelled like a cartoon balloon while his clothing shrunk into himself. His body continued to balloon, his skin stretching to their limit and in an instant, his body burst into a sickly pile of meat, blood and bones, sending matter into the air.

Hiraga did his best to shield himself with his arm as the blood rained down on him, smearing his white robes. When he cleared his vision his eyes immediately went to the slender man standing at the center of body parts strewn about as chunks fell down to the ground and splattered in sickening thuds.

He shook the blood from his hair and swung his head to face Captain Hiraga. He breathed a sigh of relief and a snake-like grin stretched across his face. "Ah, much better." He said and dusted himself with his jet black hands, cleaning off the dark blood from his prestine white jacket.

Captain Hiraga remained silent, peering at him through his glasses. There were still faint trails of blood coming down in big drops like rain as it splatted against the ground.

The man in white stepped out from the mound of bloody chunks that lay at his feet. As he walked towards the captain, he adjusted his cuffs. His boots clacked against the surface of the cobblestone.

Captain Hiraga's attention shifted towards the man's hands, the skin completely black as if charred by fire.

The man noticed and looked at his own hands with his grey eyes peering under the bone plate stretched across his brow. The remnants of a Hollow mask. "Its the price you pay for wanting to look like anyone else." He spoke with a deep voice. "But then again, I can't remember what I originally looked like." Bending down, the man pried the sword from the fingers of his discarded hand, using his boot to hold down the piece at the wrist. A single strand of black hair hung over his forehead and flicked it to the side with a finger as he moistened his lips with his tongue. He shook the blade in his hand as he adopted a rather crude stance with the blade. "Not to worry. Once I kill you, I'll add your face to my collection."

Captain Hiraga gripped the handle of his sword tightly but the Arrancar was already in the air and the captain raised his hand to stop the attack. Both blades collided with one another in a resounding thud, the force rippled through both bodies. The Arrancar continued hacking away at the captain's defense, sparks flying with each strike against his sword, all the while the Arrancar grinning.

"Do you know how to do anything else but defend?" The Arrancar asked mockingly.

The captain remained composed, his trademark expressionless face stared at his opponent as he deflected each attack with his own sword, instinctively pulling away from the direction of the swings. It was not until the Arrancar thrusted his blade forward that Captain Hiraga reacted, spinning seamlessly around it and stepping back to leave a wide space between the two. The Arrancar continued to grin as he watched the captain move away from him. "What have you done with Captain Ojima?" Captain Hiraga coldly questioned.

"He's still alive if that's what you're wondering." The Arrancar replied. "Well, as close to alive without being dead, I mean." He waved the thought with his hand nonchalantly. He then directed a finger towards the captain, "But you shouldn't worry about him. I would start worrying about yourself, Shinigami."

Suddenly, the discarded hand from his previous form began to twitch on the ground. In fact, as Captain Hiraga looked around, he noticed that all of the mounds of meat and flesh were moving, like insects springing to life. They crawled across the surface of the road they had been fighting on, circling the captain. The Arrancar spread his arms, letting out a diabolical laugh as he did so. It started slow but slowly built into a truly demonic cackle. The mounds started convulsing, stretching and changing into a deep black color, growing into tall limbless forms with twisted smiling white masks. By his count, there were a dozen of these creatures around Hiraga, gliding across the floor and circling him.

"Do you like my Vástago?" The Arrancar asked in between the forms. "Another unique ability given to me."

"Is this your Resurrección?" Captain Hiraga inquired.

"Does this seem like a regular Resurrección?" The Arrancar immediately replied with his devilish grin.

The captain remained silent.

"No, no. This power here was given to me by my Lord. See..."

"Are you an Espada?" The captain quickly interrupted.

The Arrancar seemed taken back by the captain's question, with a hint of displeasure on his face. Obviously not liking being interrupted. "Very astute of you, Captain Hiraga. May I ask how you came to such a conclusion?"

"The edges of a black marking can be seen just above the zipper line of your jacket. I deduced that it was a number tattoo as most documented Arrancar possess no such mark except for the few inducted into the Espada." Captain Hiraga calmly explained. "Though if history serves me, the Espada were killed off nearly one thousand years ago during a failed attempt to overthrow Soul Society. The rest of your kind were left to wander Hueco Mundo."

"Well, I'm not as much into history as you are, and while I do possess a number tattoo, I am not an official member of the Espada." He placed his blackened hand on his chest, pulling down the zipper to reveal a small black tattoo of the number 10. "My name is Garatuza Salaazar, the Décimo Espada." After making his introduction he began to walk around the captain, keeping himself behind the ring of Vástago. "I figure since you'll be dead in a few moments why not properly introduce myself." The Vástago remained at bay, though their bodies swayed slightly in a wave-like motion. Garatuza entered in and out of sight as he walked around the Vástago, his arms folded behind him, continuing his conversation with Hiraga, who kept his eyes on him. "See, Captain, you've interrupted something very important. Something that I can't have anyone snooping around in. And while my principal mission was to infiltrate Soul Society, which seemed to have been a success up until now, the deductive power of you Shinigami proved much more superior than I had anticipated."

Garatuza had completed a full circle around the captain, coming to a stop at his original position. Garatuza gazed directly at Captain Hiraga when he spoke, that grin growing wider. "Unfortunately for you, that means..." And without finishing his sentence, two Vástago lept towards HIraga.

Before they could make contact with the captain, the flashes of light appeared all over the Vástago's body and the two burst into pieces, raining blood behind them but leaving the captain completely unharmed. Captain Hiraga held his sword to his side, the dark blood of the Vástago dripping off the blade. Garatuza's grin disappeared as the bloody chunks dropped the ground and instantly turned to black smoke and ash. The captain's sword skill and speed appeared beyond what Garatuza could follow and Hiraga could see the trouble appearing on the Arrancar's face.

Garatuza signaled with his hand for another Vástago to attack the Shinigami from behind, but Hiraga sidestepped as the creature came down and swung his blade to separate its head from the rest of its body, causing the creature to explode into ash. Again, Captain Hiraga moved faster than the Vástago could react to. Garatuza's eyes narrowed and his smile was replaced with the a grimacing look. "Well it appears you have some skill after all."

The Vástago let out a wail, and with a gesture of Garatuza's hand, they sprouted long gangly limbs that whipped around uncontrollably. They began to close in on the captain, forming a tigher circle around him. The captain raised his sword, his eyes scanning from side to side. Though this action was hidden behind his dark circular glasses.

In an effort to avoid being trapped, Captain Hiraga lept into the air. He was barely over their heads when he looked down and saw one Vástago throw his arm up and it immediately stretch towards his direction. Reflexively, Captain Hiraga severed the appendige before it could grab him. But once he had done, he was now faced with several others darting towards him, while other Vástago lept up to meet him. Quickly, Hiraga found himself being attacked from all sides. His first target was his immediate threat, a lumbering creature with both arms out in an attempt to hug him. A quick diagonal slash across the chest took care of it, bursting into ash to signal its death. Still in the air, the captain turned around swat another lunging appendige while a creature came up from underneath. Captain Hiraga thrusted the point of his blade through the top of his head and flipped his body to maneuver past the appendige. With his free hand, Hiraga extended his pointer finger towards the source of the attack. It took Hiraga only fractions of a second to gather the high-density spiritual energy at the tip of his finger. "Hadō #4. Byakurai (白雷, Pale Lightning)", he shouted. It appeared as blue energy and in an instant, he released it as a concentrated blast that pierced the creature through its mask at the space between the eyes. The creature impaled by his sword and the one struck by his spell also burst to ash. This left half of a dozen Vástago to contend with, but his main concern was where Garatuza was as he had temporarily lost sight of him.

From beyond two of the creatures, Captain Hiraga could see the Arrancar fleeing from rooftop to rooftop. He thrust his sword into one creature and then turned it's body to throw it into the others. Using the mass as a step, the captain placed both of his feet on the chest of the creatures and lunged himself forward, kicking off it and freeing his sword in the process. Using his Shunpo, Captain Hiraga traveled at speeds undetectable by the naked eye and closed in on the Arrancar.

Garatuza instinctively reacted and slashed the air behind him only to find nothing there. Instead, the captain had changed his location and appeared directly above Garatuza, his finger already drawn and channeling another spell to release. But before he could fire it, the captain was suddenly brought crashing down through the roof of the building below him. Three Vástago were pinning him to the floor of the dark room. He remained illuminated by the moonlight peering through the newly created hole in the roof. Garatuza looked down at him with a sinister smile. The Arrancar pointed his sword towards the group, charging his own attack with red energy, preparing to release his Cero when suddenly a boot planted itself on Garatuza's right cheek and sent him crashing through the cobblestone floor below with a booming sound.

13th Division Lieutenant, Sōkaku Date landed on the roof spinning his spear in his hand. Streaks of orange flames coming off the tip as it circled itself. "Dynamite Kill One: Fire Goblin (ピー ゴブリン, Pi Goburin)", Sōkaku shouted and released a small but fast ball of fire that struck with explosive force, destroying the top of the creature pinning Captain Hiraga's sword arm. Now freed, the captain slashed through the other two creatures and their ashes scattered into the darkness. "Captain Hiraga, are you alright?" The lieutenant asked but kept his eyes on the downed Garatuza.

The 4th Division captain joined the lieutenant on the roof. "Lieutenant Date, where are the other creatures?"

"I took care of them, Captain. Who's the man in white?" Sōkaku spun his spear and tucked it under his arm.

"It appears that we have an Arrancar who has infultrated Soul Society." The captain watched as Garatuza lifted himself from the rubble.

The 10th Espada shook the debris from his clothes and stood straight, turning his head from side to side and cracking his neck. "Well now, that was rude of you, boy." His back was to the Shinigami pair. "You've also eliminated my babies. But no worries. There are more where they came from." Garatuza turned to face his opponents and raised his hand. He casually placed his sword against the base of his fingers, and in one quick swipe, severed them at the joint. Garatuza didn't even flinch from his actions. The parts fell the to ground and immediately began growing and forming into more Vástago. He held his bloodied hand up to the pair and with a simple flex, new fingers sprouted in its place, and he gingerly moved them to ensure they worked.

"High-speed regeneration." Hiraga whispered to himself. Sōkaku appeared shocked by this revelation.

Garatuza once again grinned as he curled his fist in front of him. "Once again, very astute, Captain. But that is not the only surprise I have for you."

Suddenly, the area was filled with echoes of creatures moaning. They appeared on rooftops and on roads, pouring through alleyways. By their count, Captain Hiraga and Lieutenant Sōkaku were now facing nearly three dozen of these creatures. Sōkaku gripped his spear in a defensive stance while Hiraga brought up his blade.

"Let's see how you fare against my children now." Garatuza stated sinisterly.

Part III: Facing the Vástago

Garatuza gleefully smiled as he watched his creations battling the captain and lieutenant. While he would never admit it to the pair, they fought admirably against the numbers.

Captain Hiraga fought with master precision, each attack striking down a Vástago in a single blow. Black ash scattered into the wind. He moved angularly, sending no more than one attack against each target as he stepped across the rooftop. Some were dispatched by a diagonal slash across their torso, others found their heads separated from their bodies. He glanced over his shoulder to see the state of Sōkaku who was also fending off the creatures. The lieutenant's moves were more flashy, combining a series of acrobatic maneuvers and fancy legwork to make short work of the Vástago. He spared the use of his Zanpakutō's special abilities, knowing that they would be draining on his reserves if used consecutively. Instead, he resorted mainly to his skill with a spear, skewering them with its tip or crushing them with his strength.

From their perspective, they could see Garatuza continuing to watch them, no doubt admiring the effectiveness of his children as the two Shinigami fought them. But he knew that he had a specific mission and this interference had cost him precious time that he couldn't afford. Seeing his creations getting closer to the Shinigami, this distraction would prove enough for him to slip away and continue on. He turned on his heels and readied himself to run.

Captain Hiraga noticed immediately and gestured to the Sōkaku, "Lieutenant." He exclaimed.

Without needing any other order, Sōkaku instinctually knew what he needed to do. Being a soldier in the Gotei is to be able to work effectively in a team. Regardless of the number of squads, each member must be able to move and think as a single unit. So when Captain Hiraga called out to the lieutenant, he knew what he needed to do. Gathering flames around, Sōkaku stepped forward, locking his legs in a wide stance and thrust his spear forward. "Dynamite Kill Three: Goblin Breath (ゴブリン ブリス, Goburin Burisu)" From the tip of Karasutengu, an outward blast of intense flames rushed through a series of Vástago that stood between the Shinigami and Garatuza. It intensely burned through their targets and swept in front of the Arrancar, halting him in his tracks.

The opening gave Captain Hiraga an opportunity to rush towards Garatuza with his sword at his side and immediately began his offense. With their combined effort, they were able to reduce the near three dozen enemies to half. Something that the lieutenant could handle on his own. Hiraga sent a barrage of quick sweeping attacks that struck against Garatuza's own sword, sending vibrations throughout his body.

Garatuza's skill appeared less than that of Hiraga's as he remained entirely defensive, stepping back as each attack came at him. His blocks were all reflexive, only able to parry the attacks instead of stopping them completely. The grin disappeared once again and his face stiffening up. Past the captain's shoulder he could see the lieutenant defeating his creations as each one burst into ass in a combination of fire attacks and standard spear techniques. "Will you not assist your subordinate?"

Hiraga continued his assault without wavering, "Lieutenant Date is proficient enough to handle the current situation on his own. Though, in my professional opinion, your situation is becoming increasingly negative." And with a quick swipe, the captain severed Garatuza's sword arm at the elbow, causing it drop to the floor. Shock flashed across the Arrancar's face and then Hiraga's sword slashed across his chest, with the dark blood splurting out of the wound as the Arrancar's eyes rolled back. The Arrancar's body slumped to its knees and the blood formed a small pool at the captain's feet.

Lieutenant Date finished spearing another through the mask and readied himself to attack another before he realized that the Vástago were no longer looking at him. Their heads were all facing towards the body of Garatuza as the captain flicked the blood off his blade. "Captain Hiraga." He shouted down from the rooftops.

The captain turned his head to face his opponent but that's when Garatuza's lifeless face formed a grin and the severed arm still holding his sword wiggled on the ground and then stretched towards Hiraga with great speed. Unfortunately, the captain was unable to react in time and caught the blade through his left shoulder. It pierced through the captain who reacted with surprise without making a single sound.

Sōkaku, who looked down in horror, immediately spun his spear and released another quick blast of fire that instantly destroyed the arm attached the sword, leaving it lodged in Captain Hiraga. The Vástago shifted their focus back towards the lieutenant, nearly half a dozen in a spaced ring around him. Their arms seemed to swell, and with a fick, they sprouted bone claws that pierced through the ends. They began to growl much more ferociously then before.

The captain gripped the handle of Garatuza's sword and watched the blood begin to stain his white haori where the sword pierced. The captain staggered back slightly and turned his attention to the now standing Garatuza, who was smiling at him as his own blood poured from the stump in his arm.

"You really have no clue what you're facing, do you, Shinigami?" Garatuza spoke to both opponents. He looked down at his wounds and closed his eyes, seemingly entering a meditative state. The wound across his chest bubbled a black liquid before turning to ash and revealing it had completely healed. Next, he extended his arm and veins swelled in his next, gritting his teeth in a sign of pain. A lump of black meat stuck out from the opening and began making a sick cracking sound. The meat formed into the rest of his arm, though it remained black as previously seen. He flexed his fingers and moved his wrist as Garatuza let out a sigh of relief. "While my regenerative abilities are of great benefit to me, it still remains quite uncomfortable." He began walking towards the captain with his arms swaying casually at his sides. He watched as the captain left the blade lodged in his shoulder. "Not going to remove that, Captain?"

The captain remained silent and positioned himself diagonally from Garatuza, his injured shoulder facing away from the Arrancar.

Sōkaku, concerned with the 4th Division captain, remained in a defensive stance as the Vástago swayed around him. One whipped its bladed arm forward, stretching out towards him like a dart and the lieutenant shifted to one side to avoid it. The other remaining Vástago lept at him, arms up and claws pointing at him. He used his speed to vanish before the creatures could overwhelm him and appeared directly above, Karasutengu spinning as the fire created a ring around him. He released his spiritual pressure as an intense orange pyre from his body and swung Karasutengu towards his enemies, releasing a stronger version of the Goblin Breath ability. The stream was much thicker and enveloped much of the roof. The fire continued through the opening previously created and blasted out the windows. Half of the Vástago were instantly incinerated while the other three managed to leap out of its path.

Garatuza visibly sighed, letting out a long breath. "Your lieutenant is making quite the commotion. If he continues this way, more of your soldiers will arrive, further ruining my plans."

"He is not your concern, Garatuza. I am." The captain stated calmly.

Part IV: The Horde Continues

Sōkaku dropped down on to the roof to face the remaining Vástago, one of which was already sending both arms directly at him. The lieutenant turned his body so that they would pass him on each side while remaining unharmed. Sōkaku rushed forward, sending his spear through the creature's chest and then releasing another blast of orange fire that exploded out from its back. Instinctively, he spread his legs so that his body was as close to the ground as possible as another attack flew over his head. The third Vástago was over him, bringing down his arms directly overhead. Sōkaku rolled to the side and the arm pierced the rooftop. But he was too late to avoid the second one from appearing behind him and wrapping its arms around the lieutenant. Sōkaku found himself completely restrained. The third one lunged its other arm directly at the lieutenant, but before it could connect, Sōkaku bent forward bringing the Vástago over his shoulders and being in the path of the attack. The creature howled when the claws pierced its skin. Its thick frame being the only thing preventing the claws from going completely through. But the pain it experienced was enough to cause the creature to release its grasp. When it landed on its head, Sōkaku sent his spear through the creatures mask, killing it instantly. The last remaining Vástago continued without hesitation, but the lieutenant had had enough and flew at it head on. Its arms swiped at him, but Sōkaku's speed and agility proved superior and he maneuvered himself to a higher position and brought the spear crashing down on its head. Its mask shattered from the force, causing blood to shoot out from the cracks. It let out one final wail before turning to ash, with Sōkaku cutting through the cloud as he landed on his feet.

The lieutenant let himself regain his composure, allowing his breathing to return to normal before leaping out towards Captain Hiraga, who thankfully, had not been engaged by the enemy yet. He called out to the captain and motioned forward, but hands broke through and grabbed him by his ankles. Before he knew it, Sōkaku was pulled through the roof and smashed down on to the ground. The hands did not release their grip and he was dragged across the floor and through the wall at the far end of the house, ejected out into the alleyway and into another home where he slid to a stop. During the scuffle, Sōkaku had lost Karasutengu and he slowly staggered to his feet to regain his senses.

When he peered towards his entrance, Sōkaku saw several of the Vástago already spilling into the room. "And the hero slowly rises to his feet, shaking off the villain's devious actions." The lieutenant spoke as if narrating his own life and rose to his feet just as he described and stared towards his enemies. Even without his Zanpakutō, he confidently entered a battle stance with his fists balled up and elbows in. "Come, vile creatures, and I'll send you back to whatever Hell spit you out."

The Vástago varried in height and size, casting different length shadows across the floor. The tallest one lurched forward and readied its clawed arm. Sōkaku observed it carefully with a smile on his face. When the creature extended its stretched arm at the lieutenant, he flipped backward landing on his hands and simultaneously kicking the mass into the ceiling above him, firmly planting the claws into the wood. The other creatures began to glide forward and Sōkaku quickly rushed to one side, making sure that he positioned himself so they could not surround him in this enclosed space. He flew into the air, kicking the one closest to him. He could see his foot sink into the black mass that composed the creature's body and launched it back into the others behind it. This helps create a safe space between the lieutenant and his enemies.

The lieutenant landed on his feet and thrusted himself forward, using all his strength to continue pushing his enemies back. His immediate goal was to try and get out of this structure out into the street to not only give himself more room to move, but also find Karasutengu to even the odds. He pushed with all his might, attempting to get through the opening, but before he could free himself one creature flew over him and dropped down on his back. His situation was becoming more dire. Now, Sōkaku found himself in a prone position and vulnerable. He shook off the creature, turning his back to the enemy while using the Vástago as a shield to any additional attacks. The lieutenant pushed back, trying to continue powering through. He could hear the sounds of claws digging into his shield, the force pushing back against him. Sōkaku spun on his heels, striking with the side of his hand into the creature's neck, feeling the meat underneath shift and tear. When the creature burst to ash, he used it as a cloud to cover his movements and thrusted his fingers through another creature's head. He then jumped up, catching a glimpse of the dozens of creatures waiting outside, and dropped his elbow on top of another.

Sōkaku had to change his plans, as outside was too dangerous and would have to use the narrow opening to funnel the creatures to him and attack the smaller numbers. But he knew that without his Zanpakutō, this would be increasingly difficult. He brought up his leg and dug his heel into the frontmost creature, pushing out to knock them back. Some fell to the floor from the push and Sōkaku drove his foot into one of their heads, crushing it under his heel.

The creatures began howling, shoving and pushing themselves over one another to attack their prey. Sōkaku scanned the room quickly, taking in his surroundings and seeing any potential exits besides the one he previously created. Suddenly, creatures punched through the windows, further showing them as a never ending horde, flooding into the structure. Sweat began to run down the sides of his face and his breathing was starting to become a bit more labored. He looked behind him, and even with darkness inside, he could see faint traces of moonlight casting through the edges of a boarded up window. Quickly, he turned and ran towards the window. When he looked back over his shoulders, the creatures were preparing to throw their arms forward. Once he was in range, Sōkaku jumped through the window, the wooden planks exploding into splinters as he flew through and crashed against the wall of another structure adjacent to the one he was previously in. It proved sturdy enough to stop the lieutenant from smashing through, and instead he fell to his side. He was in a much narrower alley then the one on the other side, but thankful that it was not occupied. He immediately jumped straight up to gain the high ground and get to a better vantage point. Once he cleared the window, several clawed arms shot through the wall and sunk into the other building, puncturing it.

He hopped from wall to wall and landed gracefully atop the roof, quickly scanning the area to ensure none of his opponents were visible. Carefully he can ran across the surface back towards the side with the entrance and crouched low just before he got to the edge so that he would remain unseen from the streets below. Even without looking over, Sōkaku could sense there were many that had not yet flooded into the structure below. He carefully peered over and could see the body sized hole created when he was thrown through the wall. And thankfully, with the moonlight, a shine gleamed off a katana laying on the floor. Now, it was just a question of the lieutenant making his way over there, grabbing his weapon and fending off the numerous Vástago chomping at the bit to kill him. No pressure, he thought to himself.

Behind him he heard the wall explode from the alley below with such force that it shook the roof. It seems like the Vástago were getting impatient with their prey.

<-- Previously in Warnings On The Way

Continued in Here Comes Trouble -->

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