Hatachi froze in his tracks as Katrina dashed around him, launching a Cero at a Menos Grande that had turned toward them. ‘So she did become one of them,’ he thought to himself, referring to the Visoreds. ‘That mask is fucking creepy.’ Before he could think further, Katrina shot back towards him.
“Hatachi, watch your head!,” she yelled as she fired another Cero at a pair of Adjuchas that were about to double team him. He whipped around and used Onaga to take out the Menos that the Adjuchas were controlling.
“Shit,” he muttered. He was still finding himself distracted by what was now a petty slight on his part. Plus he was tired. That fight with that jerk Scorpion and his Hollows didn’t take this long. But he couldn’t stop. He refused to look weak in front of Katrina or anyone else.
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Grimmjow and Kurosaki cleared off a large area near the center of the town by themselves alone.
“I want a rematch,” the Pantera said, ripping apart two Adjuchas at the same time.
“Now is not the time for that,” Kurosaki said, launching Getsuga Tenshou at a group Menos.
“Didn’t mean now,” he grinned, firing a cero to decimate another group of Menos.
Kurosaki rolled his eyes and sighed. He knew as well as the Espada that it wouldn’t be the same. There was no fight to the death mentality between them. Yet, anyway.
Grimmjow relished the fighting, realizing that it has been way too long since he last fought and killed.
It did not take them long to clear off that area of Karakura of the Hollows. Turning to face each other, each narrowed their eyes before they both sensed another swarm of Hollows nearby. They nodded slightly and took off to the next area
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Kira was near total exhaustion. Ohtoribashi told him to stay behind and rest, which he complied without a complaint. There was no way he could even lift Wabisuke at this point. The constant sparring matches earlier took its toll by itself. Having to come to Karakura to clear the infestation of Hollows only made matters worse. He sat down in a relatively secluded area of the park and closed his eyes.
‘Maybe if you let me out for a while we can be useful here,’ Orpheus said inside Kira’s head.
“No,” Kira replied. “Don’t mess with me right now. We have an agreement and two more sparring matches to go.”
‘Heh, okay, ‘Master,’ but I’m going to win. You’re not going to be able to do that last part. You’re quite pathetic. I don’t even know what she sees...’
“Shut up, Orpheus,” Kira snapped. His Inner Hollow snickered in his head.
“Kira-san, are you okay?” Inoue said, having tracked down the Assistant Captain after hearing him talk to himself.
“Inoue-san,” he greeted. “I’m just exhausted, as you must be as well.” He decided to confide in the situation that he and Katrina were in.
“Oh!,” Inoue exclaimed. “That explains why the reiatsu from the both of you feel different now," she smiled. Even though Inoue was clearly exhausted from having been fighting hours longer than the Shinigamis, she maintained her upbeat attitude. “Kurosaki-kun was able to get his under control because he wanted to protect all of us. I know that you want to protect Katrina-san and she wants to protect you. With that in mind, you’ll do fine.”
He looked up at her in awe. From all appearances, Inoue seemed to be the last person who would be able to give such sage advice, But she had matured with the responsibilities of having her Shun Shun Rikka. “Thank you, Inoue-san. I will remember that always.”
She nodded. She used Santen kesshun to create a shield to protect Kira. “I need to get back. Please stay behind the Santen kesshun.” She didn’t need to tell him twice.
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Nelliel and Kalea eventually found themselves in the park fighting off what was left of the Adjuchas along the way.
“Nel, I think it’s finally thinning out,” Kalea said. They both turned in the direction that Kira was at, detecting his unstable reiatsu.
“That has to be the Assistant Captain Katrina-chan was telling me about,” Nelliel said. “Stay near me, as you’re not known to most of the Shinigami yet.”
Kalea nodded and kept her distance while Nelliel approached where Kira was. They were stopped by Iba's sudden appearance. “This is as far as you two get.” he said.
Abarai joined Iba and realized that one of the Espada was Nelliel. “It’s okay,” he said. “Nel’s a friend of Kurosaki.”
“I remember you,” Nel smiled. “Back in Hueco Mundo.”
Abarai nodded. Even though he had only seen her child's form, the reiatsu pattern was the same, as was her green hair, big eyes and the red marking across her face.
Iba kept his hand on his zanpakuto. He had difficulty believing that these Arrancars could be trusted.
Nel looked over toward Kira. “His control over his Inner Hollow is about to slip because he’s so exhausted. Please let me get close enough to him so my reiatsu can push the Inner Hollow back down.”
Iba looked at Kira, whose Hollow mask began to form. Inoue’s Santen kesshun, while designed to block any attacks from hitting Kira, was also preventing him from getting up. Inhuman guttural screams emanated from his direction.
“Dude...” Iba said to Abarai. “I think we should let her do whatever she said.
Abarai nodded in agreement. “I trust you, Nelliel.”
Nelliel smiled slightly. “Kalea, wait here.” She walked over to where Kira was and knelt down. He was half hollowfied and was trying to break the Santen Kesshun without success, apparently in reaction to her presence. “Hmm...”
“Izuru!” Katrina yelled from above. She had sensed Kira’s change from the other side of Karakura. Disregarding Iba, Abarai, Nel and Kalea, she barreled her way down, smashing through Santen Kesshun and grabbing Kira by the front of his shihakusho. “Get a hold of yourself!”
Nel blinked at Katrina’s outburst and power level. The Espada could see that Katrina was definitely in control of her Inner Hollow, but the anger was something she had felt when she first met Katrina at Urahara’s Shop earlier. “Katrina-san,” she called out. “Allow me to help him. It’s only temporary until he regains his energy.”
Katrina finally realized who else was around her. Kira took advantage of Katrina's momentary distraction by grabbing her by the neck as he took off up into the sky. Inhuman cackling filled the air, leaving the others in disbelief.
"Kira!" Abarai yelled from the ground to no avail. He turned to Nelliel. "He needs to be subdued before he tears off Katrina's collar."
She nodded and took off after them.
"If he makes it through this, I'm never going to pick on him during the Shinigami Men's Association meetings ever again," Iba said to himself, looking up at where the new battle was taking place.
"Izuru, fight him! Katrina yelled as she struggled to free herself from his grasp. ""Don't let Orpheus win!"
"It's far too late for that, little kitten," Orpheus snickered. "He's never had me under any control." His clawed hands tightened around her neck.
As they struggled in the air, they attracted the attention of the Visored Captains and Urahara.
"We're too late," Hirako said as he arrived. He had cleared off his section of Karakara before he could follow Katrina to the park area. “We may have lost Izuru.”
Ohtoribashi shook his head. “It’s too soon to say that.”
Urahara glanced over toward his left and saw Nelliel approaching. “I would agree that it’s too soon,” he replied as he nodded over to Nel.
She stopped in front of them. “I had an idea to try to push some of my reiatsu into him to keep his Inner Hollow from overtaking his body, but I didn’t take into account the strong reaction towards my presence. The Red Pineapple told me that it was important to stop him before her collar is ripped off. While I don’t know why, I’m going to try to separate them. Please go back and continue to clear Karakura of Hueco Mundo’s lowlifes.”
Urahara nodded. He realized then and there that a brilliant mind resided in that green haired Arrancar. To have lived a life stuck in a child’s body must have been torturous on some level even if her adult consciousness was suppressed. They watched as Nel went over to where Katrina was struggling with Kira.
“Tha Red... Pineapple?” Hirako asked, looking at Urahara with a puzzled expression.
“She means Abarai-san,” Urahara replied, smiling slightly. “But yes, I do trust her to handle this, but if you want to stay, Rose, by all means.” With that, he and Hirako dashed off toward the slowly shrinking Garganta.
Ohtoribashi did indeed opt to stay behind. This was a precarious situation. He needed to be sure that his Assistant Captain and 13th Company's Fifth Seat both make it through this ordeal.
”You can’t win, kitten,” Orpheus grinned, his masked face close to Katrina’s as they continued to struggle. ”Why don’t you hit me with your strongest Cero? Oh, wait, you don't want to hurt him, do you?”
He was right, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of an answer. ‘Shit,’ she thought. ‘I can’t get free from his grip.’ Her mind was racing as she quickly thought about this whole situation. Her fatigue from having fought all of these hollows had severely impacted her ability to fight him off. She was barely able to use her hands to keep him from fully strangling her.
'Hey, Boss?' Lucia suddenly said inside Katrina's mind. 'Let me take over for a bit. I can take him down without hurting your loverboy.'
Katrina couldn’t answer, as Orpheus’ grip on her throat was almost asphyxiating her. Katrina tried to kick him off, but being in mid-air and her lack of oxygen made the move ineffective. As she started to pass out, she felt Lucia take over.
”Cat got your tongue, little kitten?” Orpheus sneered as he felt Katrina’s losing struggle. “No answer? Or you know that I’m right?” A soft inhuman giggle startled him. Looking at her again, he saw that it was now Lucia he was attacking. brackish green reiatsu began to flood out from the eyeholes of the Hollow mask. "It's about time you showed up, you bit..."
Suddenly he was jerked backwards when Nelliel grabbed him by the back of his Shihakusho, separating him from Katrina. “Shut up,” the former Espada said quietly, placing her other hand on Kira’s forehead, pushing as much of her reiatsu into him as she dared to. As she did so, the partially formed mask and Hollowfied parts fell off and shattered on the ground below.
“What I just did was somewhat risky,” she said, looking over to Katrina, who had been hovering mid-air while gasping for breath. Lucia had withdrew the moment Nel pulled Orpheus away. “It’s only because I am a Hollow that this would work.” She let Katrina take Kira, who slumped forward into Katrina’s arms. “He shouldn’t have been allowed to come out here.”
Katrina nodded weakly, as she draped his arm around her shoulders while she supported his weight as best she could, grabbing onto his sash with one hand. Kira had passed out from over exhaustion and she felt like she was going to follow suit. Katrina pushed up her mask with her free hand. “Neither one of us were ready to face a battle such as this,” she replied quietly. “But orders are orders.”
"He should be fine for awhile," Nelliel said, accompanying Katrina back down to the ground, where they were met by Ohtoribashi, Iba, Abarai and Kalea.
The 3rd Company Captain took Kira from Katrina and placed him on the ground, leaning him against a tree. "You need to rest, Katrina," he said. "I know we all do, but in light of what just happened, I'm going to restrict his movements with a bakudo spell while the both of you recover. There are still pockets of Hollows that are around Karakura that must be dealt with."
Katrina nodded slightly as she adjusted the cloth around her neck. Orpheus' claws did indeed rip gashes in the material, but not enough that reiatsu leakage from the invisible scar would weaken her any more than she is now.
Ohtoribashi turned to Abarai and Iba. "Stay near them. Neither are in any condition to defend themselves."
"I'm going to check on everyone else," he said before leaving, taking off back toward the center of town.
“Eh?” Kalea suddenly turned toward a nearby cluster of trees. She looked over to Nelliel, who in turn nodded. Kalea took off into the tree tops, knocking two adjuchas that were waiting in ambush. Using her daggers, she charged them with her reiatsu and lashed out at both of them.
“Why are you helping us?” Iba asked the green haired Espada. “Why aren’t you with the Adjuchas?”
“They’ve been building up a rebellion ever since the fall of Aizen,” Nelliel replied. “There were only three Espadas left before Kalea’s elevation. And that was only because I was able to intervene before the horde of Adjuchas tried to kill her.”
Iba and Abarai nodded. The Shinigami knew that it was a numbers game over in Hueco Mundo. So in the end, Soul Society was not the only place turned upside down in Aizen’s wake.
The sun was beginning to rise and there were still a good number of hollows left. With the arrival of the most unexpected allies, the tide was definitely turning in the Shinigamis' favor.
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Katrina Lau, Ranmaru Hatachi, Kalea Potawatomi, Orpheus, Lucia, Onaga (c) Tygerlander
Bleach (c) Tite Kubo