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This article, What Shall Be, 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.

After narrowly avoiding a new breed of hollows, Captain Gan Ojima, 11th Division Lieutenant Kenzō Takeshi and 3rd Division Lieutenant Shingo Miyamoto now find themselves faced with a new evil that could potentially shatter the fragile peace in Soul Society and bring about another war. Can they get the word back to Soul Society before it's too late?

Part I: A New Noble House - Captain Masahiro Matsunaga of the Sixth Division

Location: Masahiro Manor. Private office of Captain Masahiro Matsunaga

The silver-haired man stared out the balcony of his home, gazing into the distance. Matsunaga Manor is massive, housing over a hundred servants and guards who tend to every need of the Matsunaga Family. The noble house may be young in terms of age, but its fortune was vast. The family was charged with housing and protecting some of Soul Society's most valuable relics, as well as preserving its history. This allowed the family to hold significant influence within the government. It has been tradition that the Heads of the Matsunaga Clan hold some sort of political position, as it was with Captain Matsunaga's father and grandfather. So when Masahiro decided to become a member of the Gotei 13, his father shunned him. He never quite lived up to his father's expectations, wanting more to become a captain instead of a politician. It was only because his father had passed away from illness that Masahiro became the Head of the Matsunaga Family. Even on his deathbed, Masahiro's father continued on with his disapproval.

But this wasn't what Captain Masahiro Matsunaga was thinking. He actually didn't think about his father much at all. Instead, he watched 2 sparrows fly up into the sky. His attention pulled back towards the coming clouds off in the horizon. A servant came in, carrying a silver tray with a pot of tea and drinking cup. The captain didn't break from his stare. The servant placed the tray on a nearby desk, poured the tea into a cup, gave a low bow and walked out quietly. The captain never looking back.

Masahiro closed his eyes, let out a sigh, and continued to stand there quietly. He didn't like having so many servants doing things he was perfectly capable of doing himself. His mother insisted that being the head of the family required him to let others continue their service, to allow him time to focus on more important matters. Such as the continued success and influence his family brought. But to be honest, with the amount of people handling the day to day operations, he rarely needed to intervene.

Captain Matsunaga jumped up onto the balcony rail. He slightly turned his head towards the direction of the tea. No doubt some sort of expensive brew with rare leaves that's advertised as having a one of a kind taste. He paused briefly and in an instance, the captain disappeared, leaving behind the sound of wind blowing.

Several miles away, farmers worked regularly on the rice fields. With the rain clouds coming, they began gathering their tools, loading everything on to the back of wagons. Two elderly farmers were bringing up baskets of rice to a cart on the trail next to the field. Without warning, Captain Matsunaga appeared a few feet next to them. The farmers jumped back, started by his sudden appearance. One of them dropped their basket, spilling rice all over the floor. They quickly dropped down and scooped up what they could back into the basket, apologizing profusely. The captain looked their way briefly before beginning his walk.

The grounds of the Matsunaga Family is vast, stretching for miles, with its boundary set by a high stone wall. Its divided into several sections: where the manor resides, the farmlands, the training grounds ( something Masahiro had built once he became a shinigami and much to his father's chagrin ), the relics storage facility guarded by private security, the forest and the lake. Masahiro continued to walk down the path. More workers bowed and bid the captain good day as he walked by. Seemingly ignoring them, Masahiro stared ahead.

He walked for a bit longer, coming to edge of the farm lands where an old barn caught his attention. Nothing special stood out with this barn. It looked like a typical old barn, abandoned by the looks of it. Masahiro wasn't even aware that such a structure existed on this property. He walked up to the entrance. Only one of the doors still stood on its hinges. The other laid off to the side. The captain stepped inside, looking up through the large hole in the roof. He could see the grey clouds overhead now. The low growl of thunder in the distance.

The place smelled of dust and old wood, cobwebbs decorating the corners and in between beams. The thunder grew louder outside. There was a small creaking sound above him and dust gingerly floated down. Masahiro paused again, opening his senses to his surroundings. No further sounds, minus the thunder. He turned his body, his head still looking up and then began his walk outside.

And then came the thunder again. But the sound was different. There was something faint mixed with it, almost imperceptible. Masahiro didn't need to think too hard on what that sound was. The footsteps were almost on top of him before his reacted. Instinctively, he turned around just as the tip the blade barely missed his left cheek. The captain vanished and appeared floating above his attacker. It was covered in a black ragged cloak and what looked like a white hollow mask. It turned the double edged gladius quickly around its wrist and launched upward towards the captain who had just landed on one of the wooden beams under the roof.

It flipped forward, landing on its feet and lunged once again at the captain. Masahiro crouched below the blade, as it sailed through his silver hair, impaling itself into a support beam behind him. He curled his fist and drove it fast and hard into his attacker's abdomen, sending it backward. Masahiro gripped his sword handle with lightning speed, rose to his feet and was ready to draw his blade. But before he could do so, his attacker reached under the cloak and pulled out a flintlock pistol. It squeezed the trigger and sent a round directly towards the captain's head. Masahiro used his Shunpo to disappear from the path of the projectile and it flew past him, blowing a chunk of the wood from the pillar. Masahiro jumped from beam to beam, all the while dodging multiple shots as his attacker ran to grab its sword.

The captain landed horizontally on one of the beams, pushed off it, cracking the thick wood and flew directly towards his attacker. It fired more shots. The captain pulled his blade out splitting each projectile perfectly in half, sending the fragments into the walls around him. The attacker held out the pistol, readying the sword with its other hand. It squeezed off another round. This time the captain disappeared. All the attacker had time to do was place the pistol and blade in an X formation to block Masahiro's sword as it struck against it with enough force to pin the attacker against the wall.

With one hand, Masahiro pressed harder against the attacker. His haori's sleeves only came to elbows, revealing golden bracers with intricate designs that were traditionally worn by the head of his family. With his father gone, that title laid on him. They gleamed in the sun momentarily as clouds began to obscure the rays of light. Its pistol was the only thing blocking the double edged gladius from slicing its own neck. It let out an easily dinstinguishable feminine grunt as the captain used his strength to lift her off her feet with her back against the wall.

"Who are you?" Captain Matsunaga demanded. His voice was cold and calm. Even while she fought against him, he showed no signs of effort in holding her back.

"Not bad.... Shinigami." She responded back, struggling to fight against the captain's strength. "Didn't think you would be able to hear me coming." The attacker's voice was strained, but she tried to show no signs of distress. She chuckled and slowly she pushed against the captain's sword. The wooden beams started to shake, a low rumble started to build and her spiritual pressure shot up. As it did, she was able to force the blade away from her. Masahiro remained calm, even though his sword was being pushed back. When she had enough space, she turned the pistol and let out another shot which the captain dodged once again. But the sudden break in concentration allowed her to knocked the captain's blade to the side. And after a short exchange of lightning fast sword strikes, Masahiro smacked the side of her pistol as she fired a shot through the roof and swung the blade across her mask.

There was a sudden booming sound, the attacker disappearing and then reappearing on the roof. She looked down at the captain through the opening, who stood there holding his sword. "Pretty close, Shinigami." She said, apparently congradulating him on their short exchange. Suddenly, her mask cracked and then split in half, revealing her pale face and turquoise colored eyes. The only piece that remained was a band that covered her forehead and eyebrows. She gasped as the other pieces of her mask fell and shattered against the roof.

The captain turned to face his attacker and once more demanded answers. "How did you get here, Arrancar?" He asked, again with that cold and calm voice.

She griped her weapons tightly, her teeth grinding against one another. "You won't be alive long enough to find out!" She exclaimed. Her eyes burned with anger. She launched another barrage of projectiles, tearing through the structure around the captain who had already disappeared. Splinters of wood flew into the air.

Hadō #40. Gaki Rekkō (牙気裂光, Raging Light Fang)" The captain called out high above her, forming a circle of energy at the tip of his sword that was pointed directly at his attacker. She looked up and gasped, seeing blasts of green light rain down on her. She used her sonido to dodge the attacks as it tore through the roof.

The cluster of blasts proved too much for her to avoid just using her speed and she was forced to slash at some of the attacks. A violet ball of energy began to form at the end of her pistol. "Grrrrr, enough of this!" She yelled out and pointed her weapon at Captain Matsunaga. "CERO!" And a powerful blast of spiritual energy fired out of her pistol. It soared through the air and struck the circle of energy, shattering it like glass. It exploded in a brilliant purple-hued fireball, showering embers like streamers all around her.

She grinned and quickly flung her pistol towards her right side without looking, pointing it directly at the reappearing captain. "Gotcha." She said with a wicked smile on her face. Captain Matsunaga eyes widened, shocked that the arrancar followed his movements. She pulled the trigger, sending another bullet directly at the captain's head. Matsunaga pulled his blade, striking it with an upward slash. The blade cut the bullet clean in half, but Masahiro couldn't react fast enough. One half went zooming past his head, but the other half lodged itself in its left shoulder, piercing it and coming out the back. Blood quickly began to soak his haori. Although he had suffered a wound, Masahiro showed no signs of pain. Instead, he gripped his sword in a defensive stance.

The arrancar walked slowly towards the captain, her pistol trained on him, the whole time with that wicked smile. "Can't dodge them all, huh?" She asked sarcastically, firing another round which the captain deflected. "So you want to know who I am?" Another round went through the air. Sparks flew off the blade when the round was deflected. "I told you wouldn't be alive long enough to find out." She fired at the captain's feet causing him to leap into the air to avoid, only to have another shot fired at his midsection. Masahiro twisted his body to just barely avoid the attack as it punched another hole in his haori. She instantly appeared behind him, her gladius coming down overhead. Masahiro brought his sword up, his hand near the tip to brace for the impact. The force of the attack caused his feet to dig into the roof and with its age, it buckled and crumbled underneath him. Masahiro fell through, but quickly rolled his body and landed safely on his feet, before suddenly leaping back to avoid another bullet that dug itself into the ground.

She was already aiming at the captain's head, grinning as she stared down at him with her finger on the trigger, before she picked up the sounds of whistles and people coming from the distance. She looked towards the source, seeing several shinigami quickly approaching. "Damn." She said with disappointment. She quickly twirled the pistol around her finger before sliding it in a holster at her side. "Looks like we're going to have to continue this some other time, Shinigami." She swiped her hand in the air behind her, and it literally began to tear itself open, revealing a tunnel of whirling, torrential energy. She placed the tips of her fingers on her forehead, bowed and flicked her writst. "Adios." The arrancar said and stepped through the Garganta, watching the shinigami get closer as shadows fell over her face, accenting her turquoise eyes. The tear was resealing itself. Captain Matsunaga appeared on the roof but only had time to watch her eyes staring daggers at him with the wicked grin ever present on her face. Before the tear completely resealed itself, she gestured towards the captain's shoulder. And then she was gone.

The other shinigami arrived on the roof shorly after. They were a combination of 6th Division officers and private security. "Are you alright, Captain Matsunaga?" One asked as he approached the captain.

The captain stood silent for a moment before turning back to the group of shinigami. Quickly he realized something was wrong. His vision began to blur and could feel the sweat come down the side of his face. His wound began to ache and then sting. "Poison?" The words struggled to leave his mouth and he fell down to his knees. The other shinigami immediately rushed to aid their fallen captain as darkness fell over him.

Part II: From Shadows

Location: The Ruins of Las Noches

The air was stagnant within the ruins that was once Las Noches. After the fabled battle between Ichigo Kurosaki and Ulquiorra Cifer, it had been greatly damaged, the main building losing a good portion of its dome roof. The sky was still as black as ever, a crescent moon casting an eerie glow down into one of the many large rooms. Spirit particles began to vibrate midair, as if something was forcing its way between them. Then a thin black tear ripped across the air. The Garganta began to force itself open, revealing a woman cloaked in black, with a matching loose fitting outfit. Her gladius glistened in the moonlight as she placed her hand over her pistol. She took a deep breath and walked through, stepping onto the cold stone floor. The Garganta closed slowly behind her.

She pulled her cloak off and tore off her black outfit, revealing a tight white uniform underneath. It was form fitting, white pants tucked into black boots, a short white jacket that exposed her stomach and lower back, where the number 5 was tattooed. Across her behind was her sword's sheath. She spun the blade, holding it in a reverse grip and slide it carefully back in. The espada rose her black gloved hands and tied her long purple hair into a high ponytail. She was annoyed with the fact that her outing didn't go according to as planned and her face showed it.

"Tisk, tisk, Violeta." Her attention caught, she turned her head to face another man dressed in white. He laid on his back on top of a large stone pillar, his arms folded behind his head. His eyes closed, his face grinning and pointed towards the sky. Similar to other Arrancar, the remnants of his mask with fin like protrusions that framed under his eyes and cheekbones, extending back just above his ears. His Elvis-style light blue hair shined in the moonlight, with his sword lying next to him. He rolled to his side, propping himself up on one of his elbows. He wore his jacket open, exposing his bare chest. The arrancar pointed at her with a white gloved hand and spoke, "You're in a lot of trouble, missy." His voice clearly showing pleasure.

"What are you talking about, Aquarios?" She shot back, annoyed by his presence. Most Espada couldn't stand one another. Violeta Riona, the Quinto Espada, and Aquarios Lagota, the Sexto Espada, were no different. Actually, they wouldn't mind if they could end each other's life given the chance.

Aquarios rolled back to his previous position, laying down, eyes closed once more. "They know you left Las Noches and went to the Soul Society. He... is not happy." His voice slightly became serious as he looked at her through the corner of his left eye.

She couldn't hide the concern on her face, but she tried to brush it off as nothing serious. "Let them talk to me then if they have a problem with the way I do things."

"Funny you should say that." He shot back with that grin still on his face. She hesitated for a moment, waiting for him to finish. "They want to see you." This time, the concern she tried to mask wasn't so easy anymore.

Part III: Here comes Ivan, The Terrible

Back in Akabira City...

On a building rooftop, miles away from where they were almost overtaken by a new breed of hollows, Captain Ojima, Lieutenants Kenzō Takeshi and Shingo Miyamoto swirled into reality, thanks to Daikonran's special ability. They landed on their feet, Ojima and Kenzō quickly regaining their composure. Shingo stood hunched over, his hands on his knees, his face a green shade. His raised one hand, giving the number one sign with his pointer finger. "Gimme a second." Kenzō smirked as Ojima spun his spear, its form changing into a standard katana with purple wrapping around the handle and sheathed the sword across his back.

"I think we're safe now." Kenzō said as he scanned the area. They were perched high up one of the many buildings in the city. From there, Kenzō could see in all directions. No one appeared to be coming after them. He walked to one end of the circular rooftop, and peered over the edge. The building must have been about 50 stories, with a shiny glass surface that reflected the stars and street lights.

Shingo managed to get himself to stand up straight, color starting to come back into his face. "So what do we do now?" He asked, one hand resting on his stomach.

"We get back to Soul Society and let them know what's happening." Captain Ojima said plainly.

The trio were startled by the sudden sound of hands clapping behind them. They immediately turned their heads towards a nearby rooftop. A man with short silver hair and glasses stood there with a light grey suit and tie. A nearby large neon sign advertising some sort of carbonated soft drink cast blues, whites and reds around him. "Bravo, shinigami. That was a quite impressive escape." His were white gloves and raised one of his hands to brush the hair out of his eyes and fix his glasses, the other hand tucked into his pocket. "Captain Ojima. You've definitely proved difficult to capture. I'm quite intrigued by your Zanpakutō's special ability." The man smirked, staring directly at the captain.

"Who the hell is this guy?" Shingo asked between the three of them. His hand firmly on the handle of his sword.

"I don't know." Kenzō shot back, readying himself for a possible attack.

The captain walked between the two, slowly towards the roof's edge, never taking his sights off of the man in the suit. "Are you responsible for those things?" He asked aloud, making sure his voice carried over the distance between the two.

"Possibly." The grey suited man smirked, closing his eyes and titling his head slightly.

Shingo, tired of running around all night, of all the surprises, clenched his teeth in frustration. "I'm done with this!" He yelled out, bending his knees and instantly blurring out of existence.

"SHINGO!" Kenzō called out to his fellow shinigami.

But it was too late. Shingo was already in midswing when he reappeared to the suited man's right side. Light shined off his blade as it flew through the air, ready to slash its target. The sound of metal hitting stone reverberated around the two. Shingo's words couldn't escape his mouth. Instead he breathed heavily, eyes wide open, shocked at what just happened. The other two shinigami also stared in disbelief.

The man's smirk disappeared as he turned his head slowly, his eyes opened showing their pale grey color. They gazed directly at Shingo, the man's hand firmly grasping Shingo's blade without injury. Shingo tried to pull away, but the man held the blade firmly in place. "Is this the best you can do?" The man asked, his voice cold and relaxed. Without warning, he delivered a powerful kick to Shingo's midsection, causing the shinigami to lurch forward spitting out white liquid from his mouth. His body was then launched into the air from the force and Shingo crashed through the sign behind him. It exploded, sending sparks of electricity raining down as Shingo's body hurdled towards the streets below.

Kenzō immediately dove off the roof after Shingo while Captain Ojima began his assault on the man. The captain unsheathed his sword, while the suited man raised his hand to intercept the attack. Spiritual energy fought against each other as Ojima's sword met the man's hand. Sparks and white smoke emitted from the point of contact. The man was able to hold his ground against Ojima who was pouring his spiritual pressure behind the attack, beginning to growl. The ground underneath the man's feet began to crack and buckle, his hand starting to tremble as the captain's spiritual pressure shot up and began emitting a purple aura.

"Dammit" The man said in a low voice, beginning to growl himself as he was being pushed back by the captain's attack. Suddenly, he disappeared in a booming sound, causing the captain's sword to strike the ground, smashing it to pieces. The man reappeared at the other end of the roof. "Well done, Captain Ojima." The man said, shaking his wrist. He raised his hand into the air and curled into a tight fist, his bones cracking while doing so.

"Who are you?" Captain Ojima demanded, his hands gripped firmly around his sword's handle.

"Where are my manners." The man smirked once more. He loosened his hand and placed it on his chest while bowing forward. "Ivan Frederixe." And Ivan boomed again, reappearing directly in front of the captain. Ojima didn't have enough time to react and Ivan's hand managed to lock Ojima's in place around his sword. Ivan pulled the captain around and shot up a knee to Ojima's side. Ojima winced from the pain as he continued to struggle to break free of Ivan's grip. Ivan began to laugh maniacally as he pulled the captain around again, delivering another knee. The captain hunched over, grunting from each hit, still trying to free himself. "What's the matter? Having trouble?" Ivan teased, his evil grin staring back at the captain.

Ivan readied another knee attack, but Ojima gave one last tug and managed to free himself for a brief moment. As Ivan's knee came closer, the captain used his skill in Shunpo to disappear for a moment, allowing the knee to pass harmlessly by, and reappeared in the same place. Ojima's sword was already whizzing through the air. Ivan flicked his wrist, a small wakizashi slid out from under his sleeve in the blink of an eye, gripped it and intercepted the captain's attack once more. Their blades clanged against one another, sending sparks into the air. "Impressive." Ivan commented, still smirking towards the captain as their blades trembled in their hands from the force they were exerting. Ojima just stared blankly at the man, silent.

Kenzō was diving through the air as Captain Ojima and Ivan Frederixe fought above him. His body emitted a faint trail of spirit particles as he raced to catch an unconcious Shingo. The wind whipped past his face forcing Kenzō to squint slightly to shield his eyes. He moved closer with Shingo only being an arm's length now. Looking past Shingo, Kenzō saw the street below coming into focus. He didn't have much time. Kenzō stretched out to grasp Shingo's arm when suddenly...

CRASH

Kenzō smashed through the glass side of the building, the force of the impact blowing out the adjacent windows sending shards towards the city below. His body rolled through what looked like an office space, crashing through cublicles and computers. Luckily, the building was mainly empty due to it being late at night. Kenzō didn't enjoy causing damage in the World of the Living, as any bystanders would be unaware of the impending dangers. He finally came to a stop, laying underneath a mound of debris. "What the hell...?" Kenzō said in a whisper, slowlying lifting himself and shaking off the splinters of wood. Feeling slightly groggy, Kenzō's thoughts shocked himself back to reality once he remembered Shingo. He immediately turned on his heels and bolted for the newly created opening only to be stopped by the sight of four mutated hollows floating outside. One of them firmly grasped its twisted hand around Shingo's leg, dangling him upside down.

Kenzō, eyebrows furrowed and eyes fixed on the group, curled his fists. His knuckles cracked as the ground began to rumble. His black haori moved as his spritual pressure rose up. "Ive had just about enough of this." Kenzō said aloud, his voice increasingly annoyed from the events of tonight. Using his Shunpo, Kenzō appeared instantly between the four, his open palm striking one directly in the face with bone crusing force. Its face imploded, blood spurting out between his fingers and through the cracks of its mask. Kenzō then twisted his body, bringing an overhead kick that caved in the head of another and launching it towards the streets below. Both eliminated hollows burst into black flames and faded to ash. The other two seemed to hesitate for a brief moment before one caught an elbow to its throat. Kenzō wrapped his arm its head and pulled it around, twisting his neck, letting out a sickening snap before it, too, burst into flames and blew apart.

That left the only remaining hollow the one holding on to Shingo. Kenzō turned his head, his eyes fixed coldly at it. "Just leaves you now."

Swords clanged against one another, sending sparks into the air as Ojima and Ivan continued their fight. They leaped into the air, disappeared and reappeared, blocking and attacking. It was a fast paced battle as each combatant used impressive speed, agility and fighting ability. Neither seeming to gain an advantage.

Ojima remained calm as he blocked an overhead attack. It let out a resonating sound as Ivan pushed down on his sword with one hand. The ground under Ojima's feet began to crack. He used all his might to push up, turning his wrists to change the attack's direction. This caused Ivan's sword to slide off Ojima's, effectively creating an opening as the captain swung his blade horizontally to cleave Ivan in two.

Ivan saw the attack and quickly jumped, rolled over the attack and landed on his feet. "Impressive!" He yelled out and threw a quick punch aimed at Ojima's head.

Ojima positioned the handle of his sword to block the punch, but wasn't anticipating the shear strength of the attack. It knocked him off his feet and sent him flying backwards. Ojima hit the ground hard on his back and slid towards the edge of the roof. He winced from the pain but instinctively rolled backwards on to his feet. When he looked up, Ivan was already in the air coming down at him with another overhead strike. His face grinning, as the blow connected. The force of the attack created a large explosion that blew apart a section of the roof, sending huge pieces of debris over the edge.

Even from several stories below, Kenzō could feel the sudden increase in pressure that shook the windows around him, and broke his gaze to see what had happened above. He immediately thought of Captain Ojima and hoped that he was alright as the cloud of dust and debris expanded. But allowing himself to lose focus gave the hollow an opportunity to launch an attack. Kenzō quickly leaned his back to avoid the clawed hand. With amazing speed, he reverse gripped his sword, pulled it up and sliced off the creatures arm before swinging across the creature's neck, lopping its head off. It released its grip as it turned to ash, letting Shingo fall. Kenzō reached out, grabbed the lieutenant and threw him up over his shoulder. He bent his knees and took off to join the captain. A ring of compressed air shot out from under his feet.

Blood trickled down Ojima's arm as it hung almost lifeless at his side. He breathed heavily while holding his sword in a defensive stance. Ojima knew that he couldn't keep this up, that Ivan was a much stronger and faster opponent than he was. He knew this by the fact that while he was bleeding and slowly tiring, Ivan stood off in the distance, smiling with his palm on the base of the hilt of his sword, holding it like a cane. His other hand was tucked casually in his pant pocket. The moonlight was reflecting in his glasses, making them appear like huge glowing orbs. He didn't seem tired or even the slightest bit taken back by the captain.

Ivan chuckled slightly before tossing up his blade and catching it with his free hand. In one fluid swing from down to up, he swiped the air releasing a powerful wave of pressure that tore through the roof. It headed with great speed directly at Ojima who quickly rolled out of the way. Blood smeared against the floor from the motion and once he got back to his feet, Ivan was standing next to him preparing to pierce the captain's head with a thrust of his sword. Ojima managed to get his blade up in time to deflect the attack, but it wasn't enough to block it entirely. Ivan's sword grazed his shoulder, the opposite side of his other wound. This caused the captain to wince in pain as he quickly backed away to gain some distance.

"This is not becoming of you, Captain Ojima." Ivan closed his eyes, shaking his head. "I wouldn't figure the Gotei 13 to back away from their opponents." He held his sword up diagonally, gazing at the city lights reflected off its cold steel. The fresh blood on the tip began to run down, causing Ivan to let out a little chuckle. Ivan swung his blade, flicking the blood to the floor. "I think this has gone on long enough." He bent his knees slightly, preparing to launch another attack. "Goodbye, Captain Oj...."

A loud thud interrupted him as Kenzō's heel dug into his forearm in an attempt to block the kick. This time, Ivan underestimated Kenzō's strength and could feel himself being thrown back. In an attempt to slice Kenzō in midair, Ivan swung his sword. Kenzō twisted his body, simultaneously pulling his own sword out, and struck it against Ivan's. Their blades clanged against one another while sending sparks into the air. Ivan boomed away as Kenzō landed on his feet. He reappeared on top of a nearby electric billboard, his face slightly annoyed.

"Who's the one backing away now?" Kenzō yelled out towards Ivan. Ivan quickly scowled at his comment. Shingo was already starting to regain consciousness as he rolled to one side and began propping himself up. He was clutching his stomach and already complaining about the lump on his head that he gained from the abrupt landing Kenzō was forced to give him to catch Ivan off guard.

Ivan straightened up and fixed his glasses once more. "I've waisted enough time here." His voice no longer calm, but instead slightly frustrated. "Til we meet again, shinigami." And with that his image blurred out of existence, emitting that distinctive booming sound.

Kenzō motioned to go after him, but was stopped by an order from Captain Ojima to halt. Ojima sheathed his sword as he made way towards Kenzō. "He's gone..." He clutched the wound on his left arm. "We need to get back to Soul Society and tell the others." Kenzō nodded back towards the captain, though the Captain's order didn't stop him from thinking about tonight's events and who Ivan was.

But for now, Kenzō would have to simply let this one go.

Part IV: Enter Los Pecadores

Violeta Riona, the Quinto Espada, walked slowly down the main hallway that led towards the great hall. Her fists were tightly clenched at her sides, her face trying hard to fight the urge to show worry or concern. This was not the first time that she was being summoned. She would often get in trouble for going off on her own, disobeying direct orders. Though most of her outings were withing Hueco Mundo, mainly to kill and consume. She lived for the hunt, the thrill of causing pain and extinguishing something's life. She loved it. But this was the first time she went outside his domain, and knew the punishment would be far more severe.

The end of the hall was now in sight, a feint light beginning to form as the opening grew closer and closer. She took a deep breath and swallowed. The leather of her gloves cracking as she tightened her grip. Now the opening was a few steps away. The light casting down onto the floor just inches in front of her feet. She paused for a moment, still in the shadows of the hallway. Possibly savoring the last few moments of her twisted life. Violeta knew she couldn't stay there forever and managed to place one foot forward into the light.

"You're late." A deep voice seemed to resonate all around her.

Violeta flinched, slightly startled. She walked through the opening and was now in the great hall within Las Noches. To say this room was enormous would be an understatement. It's easily the largest room within the entire fortress. Massive pillars stretched up into a vibrant blue sky, an artificial sun casting warm rays down on Violeta. She raised her hand to block out the brightness, letting her eyes adjust to radiant light. This was the only room that had an artifical sky created within it that was in stark contrast to the night sky of Hueco Mundo.

Off to her right, she saw who had spoken moments ago. He was a giant, the tallest among all the arrancar. He stood there, leaned up against a pillar that was previously destroyed, a large slab of stone overhead blocking the sun. The area around him was littered with large pieces of stone, as if it had been destroyed. He appeared to be cleaning dirt from under his fingernails with a black handled combat knife. The knife was more like a machete in her hands, but to him, it seemed rather small.

Within the shadows, she could see him in his black clothes: tight leather pants with a studded belt, chains wrapping themselves around his legs, the pants tucked into scuffed combat boots. He wore a black leather jacket with sleeves torn off and his collar raised. He wore nothing underneath it, exposing his powerful chest and muscular arms. Two black dragon tattoos covered them, wrapping around his arms from his wrists to his shoulders. His hair was red, spiked into a mohawk of sorts, sweeping back into a long braid. Even in shadows, she could see his crimson red eyes pulsing with energy. Here stood the Wrath of the Gods, Ardent Zorn.

Without looking at her, he pointed forward with his knife, gesturing to keep moving. She only broke eye contact once her head couldn't turn back any further. As she walked, she took in her surroundings, the vastness of it all. There was only one path that led straight ahead. After walking a bit further, she came across a small area to her left. It was layered in plush pillows with curtains hanging off of polished marbe stones. A very attractive woman wearing a skin tight blood dress laid there. Her hair was a similar color, long and straight, shining in the light. Her full red lips forming a devilish grin as she watched Violeta with blood red eyes. She was stroking a thick white fur scarf wrapped around her shoulders.

Violeta never cared much for the Lustful Heart, Roxanna Valentino. In fact, she hated her. Roxanna was infatuated with her looks, carefully combing her hair so not a single strand was out of place. This was the opposite of Violeta's looks, as she tended to keep her hair messy and mainly tied back. Roxanna pressed her lips together and snapped them, gesturing a kiss towards Violeta. Violeta scowled at this. The sooner she was out of her view, the better.

Walking further down, a series of multi-layered pillars stood off to her right. At the top of the tallest pillar, stood Ivan Frederixe, the Greed of Men. Violeta was repulsed by Ivan the most of the trio. He was sneaky, condescending, slimy and generally an unpleasant person to be around. He was fixing his tie, perhaps coming back from his own venture. Once he was done fixing himself, he placed his hand casually into his pant pocket as he leaned on the handle of his sheathed sword like a cane. He looked down at her, his glasses seemingly glowing as the sun was directly behind him.

Violeta became more anxious as she knew only one more person was left at the end of this path. Directly in front of her was a large throne comprised of simple stone slabs, and behind that was a large opening, similar to hallway that she had come from. She stopped a short distance from the throne, standing straight with her tight fists to her side. The room grew silent and Violeta was beginning to have trouble looking straight ahead.

The sound of feint footsteps began to get louder, until all Violeta could focus on was that sound. It drew closer and closer, as Violeta's eyes grew wider. A large figure began to form in the shadows. Violeta's heart began to beat faster. Yellow eyes, pulsing, formed where the head would be on this figure. It looked directly at her, causing her entire body to freeze, petrified. Slowly, he came into the light. A tall man with light skin, his yellow hiar swept back as it reached his shoulder. He didn't wear a shirt, revealing his muscular physique. Instead, he simply wore black boots with white trimming, white hakama and a black cloth that wrapped around his waist and went down to his knees. The ends were tied together in the front in the form of a breechcloth with a black sash keeping it together. Here was the leader of Los Pecadores, the Pride of Kings, Leo Grande.

He walked past the throne, in a direct line towards Violeta. His stare never broke. It was hard to read to his emotions, as he typically had plain facial expression. This could go a number of ways, Violeta thought. But with each step, her heart beat faster, her skin moistened as she could feel the sweat forming on her forehead. Leo Grande stopped just a few short steps away from her, as he stared blankly down at Violeta.

"You left Las Noches without my permission." He said coldy.

"I wanted to..." She began to reply.

"I did not tell you to talk." He stopped her mid sentence. She quickly went silent, her head turning to one side, her eyes shifting side to side trying to look at everything else but not Leo. She acted as if a child being scolded by a parent. "Not only did you leave Las Noches without my permission, but you left Hueco Mundo using the machine and went into Soul Society." Her mouth opened, but before a single sound could form, Leo's hand clasped around Violeta's throat, instantly lifting her off the ground. Her feet dangled as she tried to loosen Leo's grip with her own hands. "DO NOT SPEAK!" Leo said, this time louder than before. His face still maintaining that cold expression. She could feel his grip tightening, crushing the muscles in her neck. "I should kill you right now for this and send a message to the rest of the Espada who wish to step out from under my authority. But because of your little stunt, I must accelerate my plans and will need every asset at my disposal." Her lips began turning blue, her vision blurring, life slowly slipping away from her.

He walked forward, his arm stiff, as if Violeta weighed nothing more than a piece of paper. "I do not give warnings." And with one wide swing, he threw Violeta across the path, her body skipped across the stone and finally skidded to a stop. She quickly gasped for air, coughing as she massaged the soreness in her throat. Roxanna grinned even wider. He turned and walked towards the throne. "Prepare yourself. The war is about to begin." Leo said without turning back, taking a seat.

"Yes...." Violeta's voice strained, "...Father."

<-- Previously in What Once Was

Continued in Something Wicked This Way Comes -->

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