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Substitute In Flames arc

Heilig Weiß Ritter

"Quincy?" Ahatake had looked confused as Kayla did when Harumi had uttered the unfamilar word. "What is a Quincy? Isn't that some city in America?"

Harumi's eyes had narrowed with exasperation. He was being stupid again. "No. Quincy were a branch of Human mediums, those that had spiritual power, who learned to harness it and use it to fight."

"A seperate species?" Kayla asked, curiously.

"No. They're not a seperate species, though that is a common misconception." She seemed to be trying to get them to see a mental picture of what she was saying. "They're much more like the Fullbringers, like you. Humans capable of focusing power with an object to create a desire effect. Quincy specialize in drawing reishi from their surroundings and channeling it through a Quincy Pentacle to create a bow, which they use to slay Hollows."

"But isn't that a good thing!?" Ahatake seemed frustrated, and gestured to his Zanpakutō. "We slay them."

"No." Harumi's voice was grave. "Quincy destroy Hollows in a manner completely different from we Shinigami-"

"I'm Human." Ahatake felt the need to specify he was Human, only acting a Shinigami according to her orders.

"-, they're powers completely eradicate the Hollow soul, as opposed to purifying it and letting it pass on as we do." She shuddered for a moment, frowning deeply. She was troubled just relaying this information. "We Shinigami used to be refered to as "Balancers". It's our job, in addition to pass on Souls and eradicate Hollows, to keep a balance of Souls within the Soul Society and the Human World. Our worlds are technically two 'living' worlds that trade Souls off as they die, recycling and keeping a fair balance between both. When a Quincy destroys a Hollow, this cycle of reincarnation is disrupted, and the balance shifts. When the balance shifts...the universe will be destroyed."

Ahatake was sitting in class, recalling everything Harumi had told them. "Quincy were eradicated 200 years ago to keep them from tipping the balance too far away from Soul Society and unwittiling putting an end to creation...." He couldn't decide who had been right. The Shinigami, for wiping out an entire culture, to preserve balance...or the Quincy, who were destroying Hollows in an effort to protect innocent lives. Perhaps both were right. As the bell rang, he got up from his seat, and told Harumi, Kayla, and Saotome to leave school without him, he needed to take care of something.

"Now...let's follow her..." Were his thoughts as he followed Gaikou Ryuusei out of the school, keeping a tail on her as he went.

Gaikou supposedly didn't seem to realize that Ahatake was following her every move; though she occasionally did check all directions. Perhaps it was a sign of her paranoia; but possibly, it was because she could actually feel his presence. Even so, she didn't directly call the person out who was following her- lest she look like a total nutbag. It had happened a few times before. Scratching her head, Gaikou's grip on her schoolbag tightened as she continued on her way. "...Huh. Fool thinks he can try and corner me..."

Ahatake kept following. He was waiting for thhe girl to react herself. He wanted to gauge the hostility.

Gaikou's ears kept twitching around Ahatake's massive spiritual pressure; though she persisted in keeping it off her mind- she actually didn't want to cause too much of a commotion. Still, the temptation to turn around and smack him upside the head with her schoolbag was too seductive to her. "...Tch."

After another five minutes, Ahatake was ready to decide the Quincy girl wasn't worth his time, and turned on his heel, bookbag slung over his shoulder as he began to walk off.

Her eye continued to twitch in irritation; the sheer pressure that Ahatake was radiating actually made her flip her lid. WHOOSH! Gaikou Ryuusei spun around, gripping the strap of her bag tightly...and smacked Ahatake straight in the face, utterly flooring him. Her eyes were burning with a vicious fury, as she snapped, "Alright!! What the hell makes you think you can follow a girl home from school...!! Don't tell, you were thinking lewd thoughts, weren't you?!" She nonchalantly pulled her skirt down slightly- it was dangerously short.

He got up, rubbing his face, glaring at her boredly. "Sorry." Ahatake said bluntly. "Blondes aren't my type. I prefer darker hair-tones." He flicked her in the forehead. "I was merely curious about your activies, Quincy. You seem so proficient at this Hollow-slaying thing. Fast than myself, in fact."

Gaikou gnashed her teeth together as she spat in response, "...Don't touch me. Don't ever touch me." Her words were as cold as a blade; and also as icy as the aura she projected. "But yes, I am a Quincy. It would be wrong to call me a mere human with the powers of the Monks of Destruction- in fact, I am also part spiritual being. Therefore, my capabilities exceed that of mortal beings with spiritual powers."

"Was the entire group of Quincy this arrogant?" Ahatake asked himself, raising his head to his forehead. "I don't know why I thought you were interesting." He groaned, turning on his heel and beginning to walk away. "I'm sure none of your skills hold a candle to mine after all."

Gaikou's response was cold yet witty. "You may think that. But I do have one thing that you don't and I'm happy because of it: My parents aren't dead." She seemed to smirk at the last sentance, sticking her tongue out slightly at Ahatake.

She seemed to gather reishi at the tips of her fingers, materializing her gauntlet. "But if you really want to see if you are superior; then go ahead and try me." Her words belied her actions- in a split second she aimed the gauntlet straight at Ahatake's face and almost instantly fired an arrow towards him.

Before Ahatake could react, a hand slammed into his face, and simultaneously kicked the arrow down into the ground. Ahatake was thrust out of his body in Shinigami forn, catching himself in the air, skidding along nothingess as he looked up to see Harumi and Kayla, the former smirking a bit, her signature glove on her hand. "I knew you;d be trying something like this." She said, commenting on how easy Ahatake was to read. "Go settle your beef with her."

"T-thanks." Ahatake was certainly surprised, but didn't think anymore of it, walking over to Gaikou. "So, how do we settle this...thing?"

Gaikou crossed her arms and gave him a sharp gaze. If looks could kill, then that glare could cause a genocide. The Quincy responded in a matter of fact tone, laying the rules down. "We'll compete to see how many Hollows we can kill in the time limit of 24 hours." She withdrew a small capsule from her cleavage. "This is Hollow Bait. ...And it does exactly what it's called. What did you think it'd do, summon a giant butterfly man with a silly design? Let's be serious here. It begins in 3...2..."

"Wait, are you mad!?" Harumi shouted. "That'll draw every Hollow within 1,000 miles this way! You two can't slay them all!"

Ahatake grinned and raised his sword to his shoulders. "Don't worry Harumi. Quincy, release the bait now. I'll slay every Hollow I meet!"

Gaikou smirked rather evilly. "If you say so." She crushed the bait in her small hand, emitting a pulse of spiritual energy which resounded throughout the area; about several moments later, a creature of shadows with a pale white mask manifested from above. Gaikou didn't even look up- she merely raised her hand to the sky and muttered, "Glänzende Ansturms." Light gathered and converged upon her gauntlet; there, it compressed as Gaikou snapped her fingers, causing the light to be released in the form of a cross-shaped blast of spiritual energy which shot forth, ripping the Hollow in two with ease upon the moment of impact. "That's one."

A Hollow immediately materialized behind Ahatake, roaring loudly. Grinning, he swung his sword behind him, cutting it directly in half. "This is gonna be good!"

Harumi groaned. "Ahatake! Kayla and I will take care of the Hollows that you and the Quincy cannot reach! What's done is done, there's no point in resisting what can't be helped. Go all out!"

"Right!" Ahatake immediately ran off, searching for the nearest Hollows away from the girls. Kayla turned to look at Gaikou. "What made you use the Hollow bait of all things? Not even will be able to clean up all of this..."

Gaikou was actually hard-pressed to find a suitable response. "I'm assuming that this town has some cleanup Shinigami, like Karakura has." She was probably wrong; meaning that she had a lot of work to do after this. "Well, if you don't, then I'll take responsibility for it myself." She gathered spiritual particles on her feet and then activated Hirenkyaku- shooting off in the blink of an eye, blasting multiple Hollows with spirit arrows with enough force to cause the dark creatures to explode spectacularly as she moved.

Left and right, Ahatake began to slice at the masked entities, cutting into Hollows quicker than he ever had before. What was more, his body seemed to be adapting. With every strike made by the Hollows, he was learning a bit more, and managing to dodge their strikes. He was even walking on the air, slicing into the nearest Hollow.

"That makes 18."

Gaikou steeled her nerves; noticing an abundance of fiends converging around her. She clicked her tongue, as if preparing a next blow; reishi gathered upon her gauntlet, as if transforming it into a hidden blade. There, her own spiritual energy converged a single point- the tip of the blade. Spinning around, Gaikou unleashed an abundance of crescent-shaped spiritual energy which whirled around like a small tornado, annihialating the abundance of Hollows. "21 down."

Somewhere in the city, a young girl was working by a shop, entitled "The Green Dragon Shop", emblazoned fittingly with a green dragon on the shop's sign. She shuddered for a second, moving her hand under her glasses to rub her eyes. "What am I feeling?" She looked over into the city, feeling the massive amount of Hollow reiatsu filing into the city. "This....this isn't good..." She opened the door to the shop, causing the bell to ring. A man was sitting inside, and looked at the girl as she entered.

"Yuriko, is your shift over?" He asked, moving his hair out of his eyes.

"No, father." She replied, surprised why he would ask that when the reason she was here should be obvious. "Father, can't you feel it? The reiatsu here in the city? All of these vile beasts."

"Yes, I can feel it." He replied quietly. "But I can also feel it decreasing as quickly as it's increasing. There are people out there, can't you detect them?"

"I can, but....what if it appears?" Yuriko looked slightly fearful. "The great little Hollow."

"If it appears....we'll destroy it if the children fighting cannot do it themselves."

"Byakurai!" Harumi raised her finger to a Hollow's face, however, the spell bounced off. "What!? Has my power not yet fully returned?"

"Leave it to me!" Kayla replied, coating her fist in iron as she punched the Hollow's mask, destroying it utterly.

Gaikou glanced back at the two women from afar, muttering something under her breath. "...Huh. So there is an variable mixture of spiritual beings here." This sudden occurance was rather intriguing for her; she didn't know much about beings other than Quincy aside from their names. Stopping her contemplation, Gaikou focused once again. "Sturmfalke!" Spiritual energy swirled around Gaikou as she forms a solid, metal arrow, which she then infused with reishi until the whole arrow shone with her signature purple reiatsu colour. With a snap of her fingers on her clad hand, she launched the arrow towards a roving group of Hollows; upon impact, it detonated with significant force; enough to vaporize about a dozen dark beings. Suddenly, Gaikou found herself tiring out. "...I think that's fourty...something..."

Ahatake meanwhile, was at about 25. He spit flames, creating a wildifre to encircle the Hollows like caged beasts, before charging in like Leeroy, chopping them into finer pieces of flesh than a butcher's handiwork. "That makes 30..."


"What is this...." Harumi was looking at her phone. "The signals...they're all converging...that little bit of's attracting more and more Hollows...something like this won't go unnoticed by the Soul Society."

Gaikou's senses perked up. "...Huh." Something clicked inside of her mind; even if she won, she'd be chased down by Soul Society. Of course, arrogance took over there and then as she persisted in obliterating the eldtrich constructs with numerous blasts of spiritual energy. "65..."

Ahatake swung his sword, cutting into two Hollows simultaneously. "50..." He panted, falling to his knees. Even through the sword didn't wieght anything to his arms, he was exerting much more physical energy than Gaikou was. She simply had to stand and take aim, and occasionally move to find more prey. Suddenly, the Hollows stopped moving, and all began to look at one area, a crack in the sky. Cracking from building reiatsu. They began to move, heading towards the sky.

"What the!!?" Ahatake looked around. Since Harumi was with Kayla, and Gaikou was elsewhere, they were all seperated. And at what timing too.

"Father...." Yuriko looked at the sky, clutching her broom. "I told's starting. The creation of the Menos Grande."

The man walked outside the shop, looking up at the sky, his face full of meaning. "We will watch."

"W-what!?" Yuriko looked at her father in astonishment. "You're kidding, right!? A Menos isn't something just anyone can handle. That's a job reserved for the Royal Guard, not anyone else!"

The man smirked, mildly amused at that statement. "You paid too much attention to old textbooks, Yuriko." He placed a hand on her head. "I told you. We will watch. Not everything is as hopeless as it seems."

Gaikou, Kayla, and Ahatake caught up with each other, heading towards the center of the sky where the Hollows all now stood. Harumi, unable to stand on the air due to her low power, remained on the ground.They were deathly quiet.

"What...what the heck is happening here?" Ahatake looked around at the creatures, wondering why they were more still than the mannequins in a store.

Gaikou glanced around; she knew that something was up- so naturally, she deactivated her spiritual weapon for a moment, cautioning the group, "Be careful. Something is definitely about to become lop-sided in a few moments, so stay on your guards...!"

The Hollows, however, began to turn on each other, biting into the nearest Hollow, roaring in either desire or pain. The entire group stood there, beginning to consume one another, turning on the nearest when their "meal" was finished. Kayla raised a hand to her face.

"W-what...what is this?!"

Gaikou couldn't help but be absolutely flabbergasted. "....The hell is going on?!" This wasn't something she'd seen before; and to her eyes, it was rather terrifying- so out of the ordinary that it was uncanny.

"This...." Harumi couldn't take her eyes off it, shuddering. "Impossible..." She knew what was happening. Hollows gathering in one place to consume another. "This is the Devorando Ritual de los Muertos...." This was the name her textbooks had given to this event, though no one could hear here, far down on the ground as she was. When Hollows gathered in one place, hungry for the flesh of their own kind, and would break down to form the Menos Grande.

Gaikou muttered in a rather harsh tone; "Alright, you idiots...We need to try and destroy these things before anything bad happens." She raised her gauntlet towards one of the Hollows, before releasing a particularly powerful Heillig Pfeil towards it, aiming to destroy it before things got worse.

However the Hollows she shot at began to glow red, and break down into reishi, and moved to combine in the middle of the sky. Other hollows, though not all, not yet, began to mimic this, and soon the sky was alight with a red glow.

"Crap..." Ahatake gripped his sword. "They're...they're merging!"

Gaikou's teeth gnashed together; she widened the distance between the group, the Hollows, and herself with Hirenkyaku. "Everyone, get away as fast as you can, and then try and think of a plan of what to do next! This thing won't go down easily, I can tell." She honestly thought she was the leader here.

Ahatake, however, disregarded the woman's words, finding her irriating, and charged right in at the forming mass, trying to hack at it. However, nothing was coming of this, and it actually seemed to force him away. He skidded along the air, scowling in the direction of the Hollows.

Gaikou seemed to burst out laughing uncharacteristically for some reason from afar. "Bwahahahahahahahaha! Oh, that was classic...." She then straightened up and returned to her usual cold demeanour. "...All we can do now is just wait until it forms...but!" She withdrew a unique arrow weapon from her back pocket and then clenched it in her gauntlet hand, charging it with spiritual energy.

"Wait!" Kayla interrupted her. "I have an idea." She pointed her arm at the cannibalistic Hollows, mainly ones that were beginning to merge, and formed an arm cannon. A sphere of energy forming in front of her, she released it in large blast, destroying five hollows immediately. "This kind of thing is no trouble. You just have to put them to bed before they can do it."

Gaikou thrust her hand towards the Hollows that were merging, muttering, "Glänzende Ansturms." Light gathered and converged on the spiked tips of her gauntlet, compressing to it's utmost limit before Gaikou performed a punching motion, releasing a cross-shaped blast of golden spiritual energy towards a batch of Hollows, obliterating several in one shot.

However, the process began to speed up, the remaining Hollows quickly vanishing as they all combined. The end result was a Hollow towering at least 2-6 stories tall, easily dwarfing even the largest standard Hollow. It's mask was a white mask with an elongated nose and it's body was covered from head to foot with a black covering reminiscent of a cloak.

"It's here..." Yuriko was watching from the distance. "The Menos Grande." She was watching with fear at the sight of the giant creature which was visible to anyone who could see spirits from all around the city. "Father, we can't just let this go on!"

"We can." He replied, walking outside and donning a cloak. "Let us go watch. The children are fighting it now.

Gaikou could only look on in amazement at this towering abomination before her. "...I have never, in my life, seen one of those." The clockwork in her head began to turn as she attempted to think of an appropriate strategy. The Seele Schneider in her hand was continuously gathering ambient spiritual particles in the atmosphere, so when the time came, she'd use it as an arrow to blow the Menos Grande out of the sky.

Kayla readied her launcher, and fired a massive energy blast from it, but it did no damage to the Menos. Not even a dent.

"No..." Harumi muttered in horror. "None of you can take this monster..." She was clearly fearful of this creature, was it really as strong as everyone thought?

"GWWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON! " The Menos let out an earthshaking roar, it's reiatsu weighing over the group at large, causing them to shake and quiver under it's pressure.

"This is madness!" Ahatake roared, his blade gleaming as he decided his next course of action. The Hollow began to move, walking forward, it's very footsteps causing damage.

"Oh, come on..." Gaikou wasn't amused. At all. She then suddenly utilized Hirenkyaku, zipping around to the back of the Menos Grande; there, she aimed her gauntlet towards the back of it's head, releasing a blast of spiritual energy from her hand; mid-flight, it multiplied into ten blasts- no, twenty blasts. All of these impacted upon the towering beast...sadly, no significant damage was dealt. Gaikou gritted her teeth, snapping at the group, "Any other ideas!?"

"" Ahatake replied, keeping a firm grip on his sword, but doing nothing. Was he scared to act? Scared to find an opponent where simple cutting had no effect. It was something entirely new. Even when Kayla was endangered by that Hollow before, he wasn't scared. This was just another Hollow! He gripped his sword. "WROAAAAAAAAAARRRR!" He immediately began to exude a massive amount of flames, the form his spiritual energy would take. However, it was as if an additional set of hands was holding the blade. Soft hands. Guiding hands. "I'm not scared of this!" He vanished, appearing next to the Menos and cutting into it's body, causing it to scream in pain and stumble backward.

Kayla watched this in shock. "W-what is happening now?"

Gaikou's jaw dropped. "...Amazing." That was the only word that left her mouth at that moment; this was completely unexpected and something she'd never seen before. "...But how, how'd that happen....?" She tried to think of a rational explanation; before realizing what exactly it was.

The Menos opened it's mouth however, and began to charge a red sphere of energy. This stopped Ahatake cold, who had been about to charge down the Hollow again and take action against it's mask. Standing between it and him now was a massive amount of spiritual power. Now that he'd stopped moving. his power burst had also ceased. "What the hell is that!?"

"No! Not a Cero!" This came from Harumi, down on the ground. She was right to be afraid. If such a blast of that size and power was released in this small town...

Gaikou then realized what she had to do- she needed to take the Menos down hard and fast. Pointing her gauntlet towards the shadowy evil, she gathered and converged stray spiritual particles before manifesting an arrow. The particles gathered at a singular point- causing the arrow to gain physical form. With a call of "Sturmfalke!" Gaikou shot the arrow towards the Menos Grande, aiming to split the gathering spiritual power straight down the middle in order to disrupt the charging sequence and giving her 'allies' the time to attack the beast.

The arrow made contact with the Cero, immediately disrupting the gathering and core of the reishi, causing it to explode, stunning the Menos as it let out the roar of it's life. Ahatake immediately caught on to this. "Kayla!! Let's hit this thing at the same time! You! Quincy girl! You too!"

"R-right!" Kayla nodded, and her arm returned to cannon form, and she pointed it at the Hollow's head from her low standing point. "Charged and ready!"

Gaikou focused some more spiritual energy into her gauntlet; it seemed that by utilizing these techniques in rapid succession, she was draining herself rather quickly of energy. A golden and brilliant energy focused on the spikes of her gauntlet while she refined the ambient reishi that was focused in a single point; then making this next attack more powerful than anything she had utilized yet. "Ready..."

Ahatake was being coated in flames, his was the only attacked that had that upclose and personal feel. His blade gleamed in the firelight as he ran towards the Menos, jumping right up in front of it's face. "NOW!" He called out, and from the corner of his eye, he saw the girls launched their techniques, Kayla launched her beam of energy, Gaikou released the arrow she had stored. Ahatake watched, and both attacked came close, hitting the mask just as he swung his blade down. The combined force of all three attacks did what one could not, craking and piercing the Hollows completely. It roared one final time, and then disintegrated.

Gaikou, unlike Kayla and Ahatake, was panting heavily from exhaustion. "Haa...ennn...." She could feel the light leaving her eyes for a moment, almost passing out before catching herself, clutching her chest. For some reason, she wasn't too durable and tired out easily...this had to do with her heart condition. "...I can't believe we just killed that blasted thing."

Ahatake and Kayla, however, were not the bundles of energy they seemed. Releasing energy beams like that tired out Kayla extremely, and even Ahatake was feeling a bit of faitgue, but not as much as the girls. Perhaps he had more latent energy than they did. Kayla seemed to be slipping, and was quickly about to fall from the air, depleting of most of her energy.

"Crap!" Ahatake ran towards her, sliding on the air and catching her as she fell. "Are you alright?" He asked, concerned.

"I'm fine..." She said quietly. "Just a bit tired....those energy waves use up more energy than I'd like..."

Harumi, however, was just plain surprised. "They...they beat the"

"Did you see that, father?" Yuriko asked, looking at her father, who was quite obviously watching the entire situation from the rooftop they had stationed themselves.

"Of course. They managed to defeat the Menos." He was looking at Ahatake in particular. "A magnificent display of teamwork, though the boy could have managed it himself had the Menos not taken him by surprise with the Cero. He doesn't quite know how to use his power, despite it obviously calling out to him." He stood up. "Let's go. This will not go unnoticed by Soul Society."

"T-then shouldn't we do something?" Yuriko shot the question at her father as if nervous. She didn't seem to want Soul Society intervention.

"No. Not until we have to."


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