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 Behind Enemy Lines. Captain Hiraga and Lieutenant Date find themselves facing a member of the Nueva Espada, Garatuza Salaazar and his dreaded creations, the Vástago. With his ability create numerous creations, the Lieutenant finds himself facing an every growing horde, while the Captain has been wounded at must confront the Décimo Espada. Will the Captain be able to defeat his opponent?
Part I: Captain Gennai Hiraga vs Garatuza Salaazar
The battle between the Captain and the Espada was already underway as the Lieutenant Date fought off the Vástago. Garatuza's arms flew through the air and Captain Hiraga, while still nursing his shoulder with the sword run through, dodged them in the air while simultaneously moving back. With his sword hand, he batted one clawed hand away from his face and cleaving the other before it could connect. Garatuza simply smiled as the chunk of meat fell towards the ground and already morphed into another Vástago. The creature landed on the ground and immediately launched himself towards the Shinigami at great speed. Garatuza, his arm now fully restored, also lunged at Hiraga.
With his injury, he remained defensive, swatting away attacks as he continued traveling backwards, hopping off rooftops and back into the air. He found, though, keeping this strategy to be difficult since the sword made moving his other arm impossible. Unfortunately, removing it would only lead to more problems as the sword was actively keeping the wound from pouring blood. But that didn't mean Hiraga didn't feel pain. With each motion, he could feel the sharpened cold steel dig into the edges of his wound, sending intervals of pain throughout his body. This was causing an unnecessary distraction and before he could react in time, the creature appeared behind him and grabbed Hiraga's sword arm, and Garatuza directly in front of him smiled wide as he grabbed the sword in his shoulder by the handle.
In one motion, the sword was pulled free, blood splurting out in the process, and the Vástago struck Hiraga overhead with enough force to cause him to crash into the ground below. Garatuza continued to grin sinisterly as he watched the smoke rise from the crater the Shinigami had created on impact.
The captain rose to his feet, debris sliding off his back as he tried to stand tall. The lens over his left eye was cracked, the glasses damaged from his fall. The blood pouring from his shoulder left a long trail over his white haori, like a crimson waterfall. No doubt it would be the same scene on his back. While his resolve remained, Captain Hiraga could sense the loss of blood starting to take effect, his hand feeling slightly weaker as he gripped his sword. His left arm hung limp at his side.
Before he could regain his composure, the Vástago launched a stretched clawed arm and instinctively, the captain slashed the arm and cleanly cut it in two. Preparing for another potential creature sprouting, he noticed the severed piece immediately turned to ash. "It appears that the Espada can only create Vástago from his own body, while the others will instantly be destroyed when they are severed." He thought to himself. That simple notion brought some comfort knowing that once he defeated a Vástago, no others would be reforming in their place. That means that he could safely strike down the creatures, but has to remain cautious with Garatuza.
The Vástago flew down at his opponent and the captain jumped, allowing the creature to crash underneath him. Hiraga turned his blade and drove the tip through the top of its head. While the creature slowly turned to black ash, Garatuza immediately appeared in front of Hiraga with a leg reeled back. With Hiraga's left arm unable to move, the Espada drove his shin into the captain's chest, sending him flying back and bouncing off the cobblestone road before coming a complete stop against a wall separating the districts. The force caused the surface to crack in a large spiderweb pattern.
"You think killing off my children will save you? I can make as many as I need." Garatuza said matter-of-factly and cleaved his hand from his wrist, letting the member fall to the ground and begin transforming into another creature. The Espada slowly rose into the air with his Vástago following suit and he stared down at the captain.
Hiraga's wound would become quite problematic if this battle continued any further. Quickly, Captain Hiraga devised a plan in his mind and raised his sword clutching hand, pointing his fist towards his two opponents floating in the air. In front of his hand, Hiraga concentrated his spiritual energy to form a semi transparent red disc. Garatuza, looking down at the captain, prepared himself for an attack by simply raising his own arm as a weak defense. Confident that the captain would be unable to hurt him with whatever he was planning.
"Bakudō #21. Sekienton" (赤煙遁, Red Smoke Escape) The captain exclaimed and the disc exploded into a massive cloud of red smoke, engulfing the street and several nearby structures, quickly rushing up past Garatuza and the Vástago.
The Espada rose his arm to eye level, shielding his vision as the wind whipped past his face. The Vástago didn't seem to react to the spell, but nor did it launch itself in an attack. Garatuza appeared annoyed as if inconvenienced from this sudden obstacle. "Cute tricks, Captain. But I don't have time for this." He sternly stated and with his sword he slashed the air. The force from the swing cut through the red smoke like an invisible knife and then expanded outward in a swirling current, causing all the smoke to spin outward and entirely disperse. Garatuza expected to see the captain preparing another attack under the blanket of his spell, but when he looked down to the street, Hiraga had completely vanished.
Before he could thuroughly scout the area for the captain's whereabouts, Garatuza's attention was caught by a sudden explosion off in the distance. No doubt caused by the lieutenant fighting with his children.
Part II: Tough Times for the Lieutenant
Moments earlier, Sōkaku had cast his own Kidō spell in an effort to create an opening to retrieve his Zanpakutō. One the roof, the lieutenant took a few steps back away from the edge and gave himself room for a running head start. He paused for a moment to prepare himself for his plan and paunched himself forward. As he ran, he formed an orb of red energy in the palm of his right hand. Once the edge was close, he stepped off in one strong push and directed his palm down towards the street. He could see the heads turning up and the creatures beginning to shuffle at his sudden appearance.
"Hadō #31. Shakkahō (赤火砲, Red Fire Cannon)" and the lieutenant let the energy lose. The projectile flew down and exploded on contact with the Vástago, releasing the energy as a large explosion of crimson flames. The force was enough to knock back a few of creatures standing at the outer edge of the blast radius.
Sōkaku set his eyes on his sword and pointed his body forward as he flew down towards the hole in the wall. Before he could clear the opening, a creature made a clumsy attempt to attack the lieutenant's leg, but he immediately kicked it away from him. Using his incredible agility, Sōkaku turned his body in the air and landed on his feet, facing the horde. He could sense his Zanpakutō somewhere behind him but the other standing Vástago were already trampling over their fallen comrades to attack their prey. One quickly glided forward and the lieutenant drove the heel of his foot into its chest, flipping backwards on to his hands and then bringing his legs forward. Another creature tried to attack him with a whipping motion of its stretched arm and the lieutenant jumped over it. Landing back a few more steps and getting closer to his weapon.
He watched as the creatures funneled into the opening and get stuck as they anxiously tried to force their way in. This bought him enough time to prepare another Shakkahō and blasted all the Vástago directly in front of him to ash. The red flames engulfed the opening and Sōkaku immediately turned to lunge for his Zanpakutō. From the flames, several clawed arms fired through, burying itself where Sōkaku had been standing. He flipped over several of these attacks, trying to get closer to Karasutengu. Sweat building across his brow from the heat of the flames and his physical exertion. Finally, he clutched the handle of his sword, feeling a sense of completion and channeled one more attack in his palm. The flames swirled into creation and Sōkaku held his breath before releasing the blast. Once again, it tore through the side of the building, blowing back the creatures and setting many ablaze.
From inside, Sōkaku leaped out and scanned his immediate surroundings. To his left, the Vástago's numbers were larger. So he bolted over to his right and jumped over the stunned creatures. When in the air, he spun his sword in his hand, concentrating and beginning to chant Karasutengu's release command: "Wake up, Mischief Maker, and let the world be your playground." The creatures lifted themselves to their feet and adjusted their sights. Sōkaku's sword was covered by swirling fire that slowly grew in length. "Cry fire on those that would take your joy..." The lieutenant landed on his feet and faced his enemies. "...and lash out with the song of destruction to all that would wrong you, the Burning Trickster." The flames grew so long that Sōkaku gripped it with both hands and swinging it forward, he cast the flames and revealed its new form. "Karasutengu (烏天狗, Crow-Billed Goblin)!"
Determined to stop his enemies in their tracks, the lieutenant gathered flames at the tip of Karasutengu as his spiritual pressure built up all around him, creating an orange aura. The creatures roared and howled as they closed in on him, but the lieutenant held on to his resolve. "I will not let you villainous scum out alive!" He shouted and once the creatures were close, Sōkaku thrusted his flame enhanced spear forward and released the collective energy in the form of a large explosion that engulfed the entire area in orange flames, destroying huge portions of nearby structures and completely incinerating the creatures as more continued to push themselves through.
Part III: Catching a Second Wind
Garatuza watched as the pillar of flames exploded from the streets, casting an orange hue over the rooftops. "Hmm, that lieutenant seems to have more power than I had anticipated. But no matter. The dozens he slays, the dozens more wait in the shadows. Isn't that right, my baby?" Garatuza turned to face the single Vástago floating at his side.
The creature gave off a low pur, as if a pet being scratched behind its ear. It made no other noise or gesture, but continued to float there, waiting for its master to give it a command.
"Now where are you, Captain?" The Espada asked himself. With his sword at his side, Garatuza scanned the area for any signs of Hiraga. Garatuza drifted forward as he continued looking down into the streets, his Vástago following closely behind. He could hear the lieutenant battling behind him, faint and far, but the sound carried over the rooftops. Garatuza moved his head from side to side, trying to spot his enemy. While outwardly confident and collected, Garatuza was finding himself increasingly annoyed. All this battling was surely going to bring in additional enemies and the Espada was pressed for time.
Suddenly, he felt the wind rustle behind him and whooshing noise between himself and the single Vástago. When he looked back, Garatuza was shocked to see the creature was already falling backward, dark blood spilling out from the diagonal wound across his upper torso. It came crashing down on to the ground below and exploded into black smoke as it disappeared. Garatuza gripped his sword tightly, his teeth bared now as his impatience finally took over. Frustrated, he raised his sword and prepared to cleave off another limb to create more of his Vástago, but before he could, his sword arm exploded in purple flames as the force pushed him back. Fire burned the edges of his white uniform from where his sleeve used to be. His sword fell, spinning on the way down, and implanted itself into the ground by its tip. The Espada gripped the charred stump protruding from his shoulder and recoiled back, smothering the fire with his other hand.
"Hadō #54. Haien (廃炎, Abolishing Flames)!" A blast of purple flames flew through the air and the Espada quickly jumped over it as it passed under his feet. He traced the path of the projectile with his eyes to its source, seeing Hiraga standing on roof with his palm pointing towards him. "You can't create any of your creatures from things that no longer exist, correct?" The captain had used Haien's unique properties to instantly vaporize the area the spell struck. With him destroying Garatuza's arm completely, there was no worry of him sprouting a new creature. Hiraga needed to ensure that the Espada did not have an opportunity to create any more of his Vástago. Time to go on the offensive.
Before the Espada had time to react, Hiraga shot forward and off the roof. Tiles exploded out from under his feet. Within seconds, the captain was in front of the Espada, sword held with both hands over his head ready to bring it down to split Garatuza's head in two. Reflexively, the enemy raised his arm to block the attack. Quickly, Hiraga changed his attack by turning the drop and driving the bottom of the handle square into Garatuza's sternum. This caused the Espada to stagger back from the blow and before he regain his stance, a slash ripped through his white uniform across his chest, with blood gushing out from the horizontal wound. Garatuza grabbed his chest, attempting to stop the blood from pouring out. Another wound opened up over the Espada's right eye, chipping away a piece of the white bone plate over his brow. This caused Garatuza to reel his back, placing his hand over his now blind eye. With the sudden, and lethal strikes, Garatuza fell to one knee as the two remained suspended in the air.
With disdain in his face, he stared heatedly at Hiraga as blood poured down the side of his face. But his face slowly chained to a grin and he let out a small chuckly. Gradually the chuckle turned into a maniacal laugh and he pulled his hand away from his face. The charred stump began to bubble, as well as the wound on his face and chest. A purple aura boiled over his body, releasing a wave of pressure as it did so. Hiraga watched his opponent carefully. A new arm burst out from the stump, the wound across his chest closed completely, and his eye was now fully restored. When he opened it, the eyeball moved eradically before settling in place. As the aura continued to flare out around him, his body swelled slightly, signaling new vitality. Even his shredded clothing begain to repair itself, growing a new sleeve while the slash marks closed.
"While I'll admit that your skill with a sword far outweighs my own, as you can see, it still remains ineffective against someone like me." Garatuza flexed his new fingers and rotated his wrists, letting out little popping noises. "No matter what you do, my regenerative abilities will undo it." Hiraga continued to look at Garatuza. "I know that you're trying to avoid severing any more limbs, but the injuries that you inflict on me are all superficial. Without significant damage to my internal organs, I'll continue to heal them. I can even push them to heal faster by focusing on a specific area." Garatuza placed his new hand on his hip and raised the other, "You're in a battle that you cannot win." He smiled so wide that it exposed nearly every tooth in his mouth.
Using his Sonído, Garatuza appeared above the captain. With his unique abilities, he stretched his arm as he reeled and swelled his hand to larger proportion. He brought it down like a large fan, swatting at Hiraga like a fly. The captain evaded the first swipe and launched himself towards his enemy. Just as Hiraga readied himself to attack, from Garatuza's shoulder, an arm sprouted out and grabbed the captain firmly by the neck. The Espada pulled the captain towards him and the spun around and struck Hiraga with an elbow to the side of his head. As the captain rolled to the side, Garatuza grabbed Hiraga by the ankle and plucked him from the air and slam him back down to the ground once more.
Hiraga was able to adjust himself before he collided and instead landed safely on his feet. When he looked up towards Garatuza he quickly forward to avoid an arm slamming down into the ground, shattering the cobblestone, and rolled to his feet. He jumped back once again to avoid another arm strike at his feet as the Espada's hand dug into the ground. Hiraga watched as Garatuza grew several more arms, appearing as some sort of spider with the moon behind him. The arms lunged at Hiraga who used his agility and speed to avoid each attack. He was careful not to sever any of these limbs to not have to deal with the Vástago, but Garatuza's ingenuity with his body's special ability was becoming increasingly difficult to defend against.
Clutching the ground firmly, Garatuza pulled himself towards the ground at greater speed, flying down towards Hiraga like a missle. His body crashed to the floor just as the captain lept backward again, releasing a large plume of smoke in the process. Arms launched out from it just as the captain regained his footing. Quickly, Hiraga summoned his Goryōho spell once more, causing the arms to crash against the pentagon shaped wall of yellow energy. They thudded against the surface as the smoke cleared and revealed Garatuza. Hiraga used his speed to instantly appear behind his opponent and with his sword he slashed the Espada across the back.
From between his shoulder blades, Garatuza's face form and his head stretched out, headbutting the captain between the eyes. The captain staggered back, disoriented from the attack as Garatuza healed himself and molded his body instantly so that he was facing Hiraga. He stretched out his arm and swiped below the captain, taking his legs out from under him and causing Hiraga to fall on his back.
The Espada then raised his arms, inflating his fists to giant proportions and readied them to bring them down on top of Hiraga. "I'm going to crush your body like a bug." He said with a devilish grin on his face.
Hiraga raised his sword and pointed it towards Garatuza, who appeared unafraid by the captain's feeble attempt to defend himself. Suddenly, the sword's blade exploded into fine purple mist that shot up towards Garatuza's eyes and covered his head in a thick cloud.
The Espada stumbled back, using his now normal sized hands to rub his eyes feverishly as he was blinded. Garatuza lashed at the air with one arm as he tried to open his eyes. He could feel a stinging sensation as he struggled to see. He slowly opened one eye, the sensation of knives piercing his retinas. From what little he could see, there stood Hiraga walking up to him slowly. With his free arm he lashed at him, but saw his arm harmlessly phase through him as if the captain were smoke himself. Hiraga continued to walk and Garatuza sent more of his arm slashing through the air. Each one produced the same effect as it harmlessly passed through the captin. Confused, Garatuza used both arms, forming his hands into points and sending them through the captain like spears. Both went through him without issue. Garatuza couldn't feel any force or impact, as if the captain were entirely air.
"What the...?" Garatuza was about to ask himself when he suddenly sensed the captain appearing directly behind him, even though the image of him was still in front. He looked back over his shoulder and saw Hiraga raising his hand and felt it pressed against his back.
"Kongōbaku (金剛爆, Adamantine Blast)" Red energy swirled like fire to his palm, seeping through the sides of his hands and fingers. The heat was building quickly against Garatuza's back who seemed frozen in shock. The light quickly built between the two and then, without warning, a blast of yellow and red energy ripped through the Espada's body, exploding out his chest and incinerating everything it touched. Garatuza's body swelled before exploding entirely into several pieces, limbs flying through the air and slapping down all around in wet smacks. The dark blood smearing all over. As the body parts laid about, Hiraga quickly sent several blasts of purple flames to ignite them, destroying any trace of them. The only piece of Garatuza left was his head and partial upper torso. He had no arms and legs, and his dark blood formed a pool around him.
Part IV: Frightful Conclusion
Hiraga walked up to him slowly, stepping up to him cautiously. As he got closer, Garatuza coughed up blood, sending thick amounts across his jaw and cheeks like paint. He struggled to breath and his remaining body gave no signs of repairing itself. "I assume that I've done sufficient damage to your internal organs that exceed your ability to repair itself?" Hiraga asked the bloody stump.
Still struggling to breath, Garatuza opened a single eye and stared at Hiraga. "Y.. You think you've stopped me?" He asked. He took deep breaths, making his remaining chest raise and lower. "You didn't stop me. You just stopped this shell." He coughed up blood once more. "The plan was never me. I just served as the distraction." He said ominously.
"Captain Hiraga!" Sōkaku yelled out. Hiraga looked up to see the lieutenant standing on a nearby roof. He was slightly injured, several smudges across his face and his clothes slightly tattered. Behind him were Captain Miyazaki and his lieutenant Shingo Miyamoto, Captain Ryusaki and Lieutenant Maeda. On the other roof, several shinigami appeared and more on the ground behind and in front of him. The final captain to arrive was Captain Miura, who appeared just behind Hiraga.
Garatuza, seeing their arrival, began to laugh, even though every attempt seemed labored.
Hiraga looked back at Captain Miura, puzzled by there sudden appearance.
"Captain Hiraga, there have been numerous reports of attacks all through out Seireitei. Dozens of soldiers have been wounded in the process and Lieutenant Sasaki is doing his best to lead the 4th Division in handling their injuries. You're needed back there." She ended, though something in her face said there was more.
"You still think you stopped me?" Garatuza struggled to say in between his gasps and attempts at laughter.
"The Captain Commander is gone." Captain Miura said in quick fashion, her head falling low as she spoke.
The shock of her statement wasting no time to set in with Hiraga. "What do you mean he's gone?" Even with his attitude, Hiraga could not avoid sharing some emotion.
"His entire office and adjacent areas have disappeared entirely." She responded.
Garatuza was bound for death and with his final breath he said, "Prepare for the end, Shinigami." His body convulsed, coughing up blood in one violent spasm and then fell still. Dead. His body slowly turning to ash as the black smoke rose up into the night sky.
<-- Previously in Behind Enemy Lines
Continued in Into the Dark -->