Aizen Sousuke liked fragile things.
He supposed that it was some aspect he had in respect with some of his subordinates and certainly the only one he would ever dare to admit to--if anyone could even make him admit that he was at all flawed.
A sigh left dry, parched lips as he gazed passively at the lonely moon over Hueco Mundo, the white orb casting dim flickers of waning light over the white desert sand. He reached out with hand, stretched out a single digit--not a wisp of wind in this hot, barren land with its always black sky.
The sand did not skitter across the land or blow in gusts in the warm, dry air, even in the more bearable coolness of night. Aizen loved the darkness that masked this world, and he could not possibly imagine Hueco Mundo soaked in hot, scorching rays of sun. The shadows of the trees edged strikingly, cautiously, over colourless sand, stretching the blackness their limbs cast over the dunes in motionless, still beauty.
Aizen sat still in this empty world, high above the lands where lowly creatures wandered, and thought. It might have been since he was in this strange, foreign world that he had acquired a particular fondness for fragility, because he was sure it didn’t exist back when he was in the Gotei 13. Or maybe it did; he wasn’t certain. Perhaps it was how the quartz-like branches extended, thin and bare, over the land as if reaching towards him, towards his great power.
Now there was something Aizen knew he had always liked. Power.
He knew that if he were to lay his hand upon one of those hard, brittle objects they called “trees” here in the hollow world it would snap immediately in his hand, and then he'd let the pieces blow away in whatever wind there was left in such a forsaken place. He'd stand and watch the bits of the minerals sweep themselves up and away in the wind, and some part of him knew that he would be comparing exactly such a sight to glass.
Glass, shattering in all its fragile beauty and scattering like leaves in the wind. It reminded him of Byakuya’s Senbonzakura, the thousand cherry blossoms. Only that man made it look far too great and powerful, and that was the one downside. Although Aizen liked power, he hated it when one made something so weak look so strong. And glass… he could imagine it… Glass, so brittle and so breakable, shattering in his hand. It would not hurt him, of course, because Aizen-sama was far beyond fragility.
And so, being the epitome of all things that were the opposite of fragile and gentle, Aizen could not possibly imagine how he could like fragile things.
"Eh? What are ya doin' out so late Aizen-sama?" Aizen listened with amusement as Ichimaru strained ever so slightly the syllables of his name and title. Without movement he waited for a minute longer… if only for a bit of fun. When Gin didn't receive an answer, he made it clear that he was unsatisfied and pressed on.
Gin was always so very amusing, his presence pacifying the always wandering curiosity of Aizen’s soul. It was because he knew he must watch Gin, that he must never turn his eyes away from the boy or let his guard down. After all… Gin was just that interesting.
"Nothing for you to be concerned about, Gin."
Oh, Gin was so much fun to toy with. It was true that the ex-shinigami was powerful and useful, and Aizen knew it wouldn't be out of his way to ignore the other and let him be. But Aizen, so much like a cat did love to play with his toys. Aizen never really liked leaving things untouched, anyways. After all, they could turn out to be valuable projects in the end. He much preferred to lock them away, to pull them so close they could not escape, and then play their minds to his heart’s content.
And if Gin were fun to play with, then, oh, Kurosaki Ichigo would be a marvelous catch for a desiring feline like Aizen himself. The boy reeked of reiatsu, power endlessly seeping through his form and that humongous zanpakuto, and Aizen remembered how he felt the pulse of the spirit energy sweep through his own form as he watched, with careful eyes, the now-substitute shinigami before him.
They had been at the Sogyouku. Aizen had stopped Kurosaki's Zangetsu with but a thumb and a finger.
He could recall so vividly how the child had paled instantly, so incredulous, so disbelieving that anyone could stop his blade. Ichigo had too much pride, indeed. But his true downfall would be his fragility.
Because underneath that tough, hard demeanor that screamed "I will protect you" to everyone he knew and loved, behind that outward attitude that promised everyone he would keep them safe, was fragility. He knew every bit about the boy, and some part of his own soul had swelled with delight when he had first witnessed just how breakable Kurosaki Ichigo could be, just how helpless and young he really was, despite all that immense power and that annoyingly proud “I’ll protect you all” attitude.
So technically Aizen could attribute his sudden fondness of fragility to Kurosaki, who, unbeknownst to all his "friends", was the epitome of gentleness and compassion, a heart of glass just waiting to be broken.
But Aizen would wait and see, because he found no fun in playing with an item that could so easily be cracked and shredded to dust. He wanted to see, with his own eyes, how Ichigo would grow, and if he could ever overcome the brokenness and delicateness inside him.
Aizen was hoping that he would never harden enough for the man to be unable to break.
And so Aizen, after leaving Kurosaki to the prospect of growing stronger, had been left without a toy to play with again, and with a deep sigh he turned his chair to face Gin, smiling slightly and wondering whether the silver-haired man could offer any form of entertainment. He repeated once more, "It's of no concern to you, Ichimaru."
"Oh, really?" was the quick and eager response, and Aizen's smile widened.
Gin never disappointed. Even now, the younger one's grin was spreading slowly across his pale face, and he continued on: "So you won't mind me askin’ why you've been thinkin’ so contemplatively for so many tedious hours there? Such a long while to be thinkin’ o’ your already-established plans, Aizen-sama. Surely you have better things to do."
"I enjoy watching my world, Gin.” Emphasis on the my. Because in order to keep his underlings in check, he had to make clear his power and authority. What better way than to remind them that everything here belonged to him? “Do you really find my activities so intriguing?"
"O' course not, Aizen-sama. I jus' find your hobbies real int'resting, is all. Nothin' better to do in my spare time other than observe your hobbies. Nothin' to do at all but stalk you twen'y four hours o' the day." Sarcasm practically flowed like a stream of freshwater from his words, and Aizen was half tempted to scoop it up in his hands and take a long, sweet drink of the refreshing behaviour.
No one dared speak to Aizen this way--the closest came Grimmjow, and Aizen sighed again at the thought. Both the hollow and Gin were snarky, arrogant, and fairly self-confident. But Gin was a much better toy; he was sneakier, smarter, and more cautious. Grimmjow was merely a humanoid form of walking dynamite, which, once it exploded, was really no fun at all. Aizen liked to play with toys that knew what they were doing, what they wanted. He hated stupid opponents far more than he hated weak opponents.
The weak ones he could still break, at least.
"... Why are you here, Gin?"
"... You see... we've brought another one."
"Another Arrancar? Why?"
"You see, Aizen-sama... we believe she has potential. She might as well be a Fracción someday soon, with the way she's developin' so quick an' all."
"And what makes you think that, Gin?" said Aizen, now taking a slow step forward, back towards his chair on the balcony. He wanted to be alone for now; he'd been having such a peacefully silent night, with the lukewarm air of the evening soaking through black and white robes and the utter emptiness of the world before him.
"... Because she put a hole in Nnoitra's stomach, that's why... Aizen-sama."
Aizen turned back to face him, brown eyes just a bit wider than before.
Ah. Now that sparked an interest in him. Gin smiled.
"Let's go, Gin."
They strode quickly across marble floors and threw open the door to the room before vanishing entirely into the dark hallway and into the night.
“You know I don’t like this.” Grimmjow glared down at Ulquiorra, sharp blue eyes trying with no effect to stare the smaller Espada down. To this, Ulquiorra scoffed and turned away, not even sparing Grimmjow a glance. Grimmjow let a low-throated growl escape him as the usual drone came: “It is all for Aizen-sama.”
The sight of Ulquiorra standing there, back almost to him, gazing off into the distance in the direction he knew Las Noches was, angered Grimmjow to no ends. “I know you worship your freakin’ idol Aizen, Ulquiorra, but shut the fuck up this time and listen to reason.” Heh. Now there was a word he never thought he’d use.
“Reason? From trash like you? Ha,” spat the green-eyed hollow, and Grimmjow felt sick. He wanted to bend over and spill his stomach and guts out; that toneless, arrogant voice was almost scratching at the walls of his stomach and leaving bright red cuts inside him. It made him absolutely sick.
One look at the other drove him mad. That straight posture, the white and expressionless face, that perfectly pressed uniform. The white fabric cascaded down Ulquiorra’s surprisingly lanky body, almost flowing behind him in the short breeze that had started up after the “fight”, for fuck’s sake.
The brat looked almost everything like Aizen. Plaster brown hair on his face, yank a little strand out, and dangle it over his disgusting face, and you might as well call him “Sousuke”, and no doubt he’d respond like the little mini-Aizen he was.
“Are they all dead?” asked the Cuatro Espada.
“Dead as doorknobs,” was Grimmjow’s grumbled response, but Ulquiorra paid no heed to it.
“... And the girl?”
That stirred the weaker hollow significantly. Damn… I can’t hold it back...
"She ain’t anything! She’s a fuckin’ brat, for God’s sake! I don’t know what you see in that little… thing! Th-That weakling!” He couldn’t stand weakness. If he himself were to grow weak, he would push his own blade into his chest, because such a weak heart would not deserve to live. “Ulquiorra… how can you stand how weak that little bitch is?!”
The other didn’t even move before that reply came. “Because it is for Aizen-sama.”
Aizen-sama. Aizen-sama. Fucking Aizen-sama. He wanted to rip and to tear and make bleed--Temper got the best of him, and before he could stop himself his fist had raised and shot straight at Ulquiorra’s head.
God, yes, the anger. He needed to release it. He needed to punch, to beat someone down and watch the rivers of blood cascade over perfect white robes. He hated weakness… oh how he hated it. It was part of the reason he ran after Kurosaki Ichigo so insistently.
That boy had such huge reiatsu, such great power, and still he was pathetically weak.
Grimmjow loved fragility--he couldn’t explain why, as he hated it so much, but part of him wanted to embrace that weakness that was Kurosaki and…
His wrist was being squeezed and tugged so painfully, the clench of white fingers upon tanned skin tightening with each moment. Mercilessly. Breathtakingly, horrifyingly painful agony coursed through his nerves and set his blood on fire as he heard the first crack.
“D-Damn you, Ulqui… orra…” He gritted sharpened teeth as he struggled to pull his hand, out of the grip of the Cuatro Espada. No use--the iron hold only increased tenfold until Grimmjow felt as if he’d been filled with heat that was tearing and ripping skin and organs apart. “D-Damn you!”
And then reiatsu. It came so quickly that he thought he was drowning in it, that he was being pushed deep, deep down into a slimy, watery death. It was as if the air were being pushed from his lungs. As if the sky had pressed upon his shoulders suddenly. Grimmjow fought to stand under the onslaught of sudden spiritual pressure, and he had to fight for breath, his chest heaving heavily as the other gazed down upon him apathetically.
“I can’t stand being so weak.”
“...” Dull green eyes lowered to meet the gaze of the Sexta Espada. Eyes that were so terrifyingly blank that it seemed that the devil had washed them through himself and entered a surprisingly pure body to be reborn into humanity. To control and to torment and to tear apart those weaker than himself. “... Trash.”
Grimmjow hated strength. He hated weakness. What was left to praise, then? And as if reading his thoughts, Ulquiorra had pressed his fingers against darker flesh even more tightly now, and Grimmjow felt as if his entire arm might snap.
“This arrancar put a second hole through Nnoitra Gilga, Sexta.” Ulquiorra barely acknowledged the small, suppressed groan of pain from the blue-haired Espada. “Aizen-sama would appreciate such an addition to his great army.”
Sweet, fresh air. The breath of freedom. Ulquiorra had let him go, and it seemed as if he had sprung free of all gravity as he tumbled to the ground on his knees, clutching a burning arm and panting despite himself, a grumble in his throat that threatened to build to a scream.
“Trash. You are nothing more than a servant to Aizen-sama, just as I am and as Nnoitra is. We have no purpose other than to serve the most powerful in all of Hueco Mundo.”
“... I am no one’s hound.”
Ulquiorra turned more quickly than Grimmjow was able to comprehend--eyes flashed with a disturbing spark that the teal-haired Espada was quite familiar with. He couldn’t keep himself from flinching under such a threatening gaze.
"What was that, Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez?” The way his name was stretched out and spoken so slowly made Grimmjow cringe.
I am no one’s hound. But he didn’t dare repeat it to Ulquiorra. Thankfully the Cuatro Espada eventually grew tired of waiting for a response and instead turned away entirely, taking a few steps away from the scene before settling for standing at the edge of the dune they were on, gazing up at the skies once again. Grimmjow couldn’t see his expression from where he sat, but he had a feeling that if he could stare down at that expressionless, arrogantly tilted face he sure as hell wanted to rip Ulquiorra’s throat out right now.
… If he weren’t so sure that Ulquiorra would rip out his first.
He cast a short glance back at Nnoitra. The Quinto Espada lay facedown upon the ground, short, breathless gasps that were uncharacteristic of the towering arrancar leaving widely parted, thin lips. A quick thought flitted across his mind: Well, at least I don’t look like that shit right now.
“D-Damn that brat…” Oh, Grimmjow positively reveled in the sight. The roaring happiness of watching a stronger being in pain, he would never get over. He loved how Nnoitra’s words seemed forced from his very throat. “I… I’ll kill ‘er! Kill ‘er, that’s what I’ll do!!”
“You will do no such thing, Nnoitra.” Briefly Grimmjow wondered how Ulquiorra would sound if he were in pain. He’d never heard Ulquiorra make the slightest whimper of agony in battle--the other refused to show any sign of weakness. He was damn hard to break. “We will bring her back to Lord Aizen immediately.”
“H-Hell, no! That bitch put a hole in my sto--”
“Heal it yourself, Nnoitra. What is instant regeneration for? I sometimes wonder what you do with the brain that Aizen-sama bestowed upon you.” Ulquiorra. As condescending as ever, the little overpowered brat.
Nnoitra’s eyes practically bulged as he rammed the end of his crescent blade into the sandy ground and forced himself to rise to his feet. Blood dripped from his wound and flowed down into the sand. “Are you implying I didn’t have a brain before then?!”
“Most likely. Although I doubt that you do even now.” Grimmjow held back a snort as he too clambered to stand; that Ulquiorra could be good for something other than worshipping Aizen and doing his dirty jobs sometimes.
He heard Nnoitra give a disgusted sigh, and when he next glanced over at the taller Espada, the wound in his stomach was already sealing itself up. “‘Ey, Nnoitra. I thought you had the strongest hierro among all of us, huh? What’s with that brat slamming her arm through your body?”
“Shut the fuck up,” Nnoitra spat back at him, and he cackled gleefully. Running a hand quickly over his stomach, Nnoitra deemed it healthy and properly healed, swinging his blade up to rest the large axe-like weapon over his shoulder as he surveyed the wreckage. “She took me by surprise.”
“Huh? What do you mean, ‘surprise’?” demanded Grimmjow, taking a large, threatening step towards Nnoitra. The other propped the blade on his shoulder and bared sharp teeth. “Are your instincts that crappy?”
“No!” growled Nnoitra, fingers curling around the handle of his weapon dangerously. “The little brat’s reiatsu is so weak that I couldn’t even sense her turning on me!”
“Tch.” They turned their heads to gaze at Ulquiorra, who had lowered his head and was observing the soles of his sandals as if there was nothing better to look at. “Excuses, Nnoitra. You should be able to sense even the tiniest flicker of reiatsu at the level of power you’ve reached.”
“Yeah,” said Grimmjow with a canine grin, and he thought to himself that this was the only time he was ever going to agree with Ulquiorra. “Just admit it, Nnoitra, you’re so slow that even an Adjuchas can get the upper hand on you. Pathetic, man!”
“Shut up!” roared Nnoitra again, this time really snatching the handle of his axe-like blade and swinging it downwards, straight down onto Grimmjow’s hea--
“Too slow!” chortled Grimmjow as he dodged immediately, Nnoitra letting out a grunt of frustration as his blade struck the sand and sent it scattering instead. “Why don’t you really come at me?! For real, Quinto!”
“Idiots.” It was Ulquiorra who spoke again, and Grimmjow and Nnoitra whipped around to face him--he had stood and was meticulously brushing off immaculate white robes that were so clean that Grimmjow thought it’d be a sin to brush it off any more. “Fighting amongst yourselves. Did you forget our mission already?”
“Of course not,” scoffed Nnoitra, returning his zanpakuto to its rightful position, where it balanced on his shoulder. “It’s just that this guy was bugging the hell out of me. I hate annoying brats.”
“Speak fer yourself, Nnoitra.”
Ulquiorra’s eyes settled on them, gleaming dangerously, and they quieted immediately. “... Did you exterminate all of the resisting hollows?”
Nnoitra was the one to speak. “Yeah. Easy stuff--these guys are all as weak as those ugly-faced shinigami. When is Aizen really going to give us something fun to do?”
Ulquiorra ignored the question. “I suppose killing could not be avoided,” he said simply, glancing momentarily at the burning smolders of earth a little ways behind the Sexta and Quinto Espada. “But was a massacre necessary, Grimmjow?”
“‘Che. Of course it was,” said Grimmjow, and Nnoitra actually chimed in in agreement; violence was one of the few things they ever agreed on. “Didn’t your precious Aizen-sama say to only bring back those that are strong enough? He didn’t say he was interested in the rebellious ones.”
“We did him a favour,” groaned Nnoitra, who was now rubbing at his stomach almost apologetically. “Damned bastard probably wouldn’t even get up to do it himself.”
Ulquiorra seemed to either have misheard Nnoitra or chose to ignore his insult entirely as he surveyed the burning area, nodding with approval. “Fine. We will return with the only hollow that is worthy enough for Lord Aizen.”
Nnoitra’s groan of unhappiness was passed with nothing but a “tch… trash,” in response. Grimmjow smirked when Nnoitra finally scratched his head, unable to come up with a strong enough argument, and said, “Fine. Whatever, I don’t care for that weakling anyways. Well, I say we did a good enough job on this place. And if you really wanna drag the bitch back to Las Noches, then I ain’t the one carrying her.”
“On the contrary, Nnoitra,” was Ulquiorra’s usual dulled-down response, and Grimmjow grinned madly at the wail of protest that ripped through the air of the desert land, opting to make a dash for it before Nnoitra could dump the task on him.
Hopping a bit to make sure he had a feel for his legs again, he quickly flipped the other Espada off before shouting, “Later, bitch!” and leaping into sonido, sending a fresh blast of air and reiatsu around and blowing past him as he sprinted off. He thought he heard a faint order of, “Here’s a bag, Nnoitra. Do your job as Aizen-sama commanded,” before he was too far out of range to hear anything from them any longer. His legs took him far from Ulquiorra and Nnoitra, and only when he’d run as far as he could from the others did he put raise both arms, resting the back of his head against his palms as he stared up at the ever-present moon.
“Well, at least Nnoitra ain’t all that boring when he’s being bullied.”
Gin was back again. Just as Aizen had settled himself in the seat of his throne and allowed his mind to go off into emptiness again for just a moment, the silver-haired man had pranced back into the room with his grin so wide Aizen thought for a moment his teeth might fall out.
“All three of them? Bring them in.” Ulquiorra was the first to step silently, his back straight and posture impeccable as always; following him was a scowling Nnoitra, a large and rather well-formed bag slung over his shoulder and Grimmjow, still loitering behind and as disgraceful and rude-looking as usual.
“Aizen-sama.” Aizen stirred inside with pride, a feeling of might and superiority at the humble murmur of his name, as Ulquiorra bowed. “We have returned.”
“Ulquiorra. Grimmjow… Nnoitra. Okaerinasai.” He said it with a slight smirk, resting his elbow on the hard arm of his throne as he looked down upon them. “How was the mission?”
“Aizen-sama.” It was Ulquiorra who spoke again, and Aizen raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “Upon reaching the nest you ordered us to track, we found a group of four to five hundred hollow gathered there.”
“Oh? So many gathered at once?” Aizen questioned, and Ulquiorra stared up towards his throne solemnly. “And I take it that none of them made it out of your little meeting alive?”
“There were no hollows with powerful reiatsu among them, and although we posed no threat they were resisting against us and your order. And so in the end we had no choice but to destroy them.” Ulquiorra lifted his gaze once more, this time allowing his eyes to meet Aizen’s--they remained there, and he did not turn away. “But you may find this interesting, sir.”
“What is it, Ulquiorra?”
“Grimmjow happened upon a young hollow there… an Adjuchas. She is neither strong nor weak, Aizen-sama, but you may have some interest in her potential.”
Ah. Much like you do with Kurosaki Ichigo, Aizen-sama, were the words that Ulquiorra did not speak.
“... Show her to me.”
The large bag slung over the Quinto Espada’s shoulder was swung and slammed down onto the floor, earning a dark stare from Ulquiorra and a muffled shriek from the bag. “You are not to damage the woman, Nnoitra.”
“Tch,” was the taller Arrancar’s only response before he stepped back and bade Ulquiorra continue his work. “I’m not. I’m just giving it a wake-up call.”
There was a quiet giggle from the corner, and Ulquiorra glanced over briefly to see Gin in the shadows. The lanky man gave a wave of a bony hand. “Go on, don’ let me bother you at all,” he drawled, and Ulquiorra turned his attention back immediately to the bag.
He approached it and looked down at the rumpled, dark brown cloth--then, without warning or hesitance he rammed his foot into what seemed to be the ribs of a human body through the thick fabric. “Up, woman. Rise to greet Aizen-sama.”
There was a rustle, a groan that was low and curiously malicious. And finally, locks of (hair colour) spilt from the opening of the bag as the top of small head peeked out into the bright white of Las Noches’ throne room. Aizen watched with fascination as the figure began to extract itself from the sack that Nnoitra had likely unceremoniously thrown it into. First the entire head came out, followed by a slim neck and shoulders, then arms reaching out to pull the rest of the bag off of the female body.
It was a girl, he was sure—a young-looking one at that. Why, Aizen couldn’t possibly be sure if the child was physically younger than Kurosaki Ichigo or perhaps a bit older. He scanned her carefully as possible with uncanny perception and found the thought of allowing this child to enter his army entertaining.
She was slim, possibly around the age of (your age), with dirty, sand-caked locks of (hair colour) hair that looked positively filthy; he swore he could see the darkness of blood against the thin tresses. Well, that was good. She seemed to be familiar to the sight of death and pain, then, which meant that he need not bother training her to grow used to it.
She was not a Vasto Lorde. While her form was very near humanoid, thick, sharp-edged, black armor of bone seemed to clamp around her arms, legs, and torso, most likely a part of her, and the hard structure covered the upper front, sides, and jaw of her face as well, leaving her hair to fall untidy around the hard shell. The only skin on her body revealed were at the elbow, knees and lower thighs, hips, and neck—what a surprisingly vulnerable area to expose to the enemy. Otherwise the armor covered most of her skin except for some the (tanned/pale/dark) shade of some of her face around the very bottom of the cheekbone, which Aizen furrowed a brow at. So a few small pieces of her mask had indeed been removed—by whom? he wondered.
Oh, this one will be interesting. I wonder if she can play games, like Gin? But if she doesn’t know, she can always be taught, of course.
Aizen looked closer and saw, as the girl raised her arms just a bit, a thin layer of black skin stretching from her arms to her torso and extending down towards the waist—those were wings. His gaze fell to her feet: paw-like and with sharp claws like those of a bat’s (much like those on her hands). He looked her up and down and saw that she drew up to about (your height) tall—he found the thought that he would at least be able stand above her reassuring.
After all, it’s never too late to start training them with fear. Intimidation.
“Hollow.” She seemed to ignore this greeting, merely glancing around her—whether in suspicion or genuine surprise he could not decide. “… Welcome to Las Noches.”
This drew her attention. She looked up at him with yellow and black eyes masked behind dark bone, narrowed and cautious.
“Please… what is your name?” Mannerisms were always such a nice place to start. Lure them into an illusion of perfect safety—and then, when they think they are protected and untouchable… shatter that illusion. The look on their faces were always so amusing, looks that cried: I thought you promised us, Aizen-sama...
Yes, he’d promised. He’d promised so many things, from strength to freedom from pain and suffering to power and everlasting contentment, if such a thing existed for hollows. But in the end, they’d all thought he would so willingly vanquish their greatest desires to them... oh, had they known that for Aizen-sama they were only disposable little toys and pawns, they would have scattered on the wind like leaves.
“… Who are you?” was the distasteful reply that was spat right back at him, and Aizen, although careful not to show it, was immediately taken aback—and he mentally relaxed almost as quickly as he’d started.
It seems this child will be of some interest after all. How nice—if she were as boring as most are, it’d be such a pain. At least we’ll have some fun now…
“... Oh? Who am I?” he repeated slowly, carefully, gleeful on the inside but reluctant to show any sign of it in his words and tone. Ulquiorra was taking initiative again; he stepped forward, dark green pools of anger concentrating on the girl as he placed a threatening hand on her shoulder: “Be careful of how you speak to Lord Aizen, trash.”
The Arrancar was on the brink of rage—Aizen saw her clawed hands fist and her arm twitch as if in impulse, and he knew instantly: the instinct to kill. Perfect.
“No, no… it’s all right, Ulquiorra.” Ulquiorra cast a questioning gaze at Aizen before stepping back reluctantly, and the lord of Hueco Mundo smiled from his towering throne above them all, his eyes sparking with just the slightest hint of fascination. “It was ever so rude of me not to introduce myself.”
And then he was standing, legs and back straightening so that he could stand high above the hollows, his ever-smiling face cast down upon them. The girl was staring him in the eyes—a rare feat for any hollow to enter Las Noches. He found himself chuckling slight as he spread his arms—to them, he must look like a king. A god.
He basked in the feeling of power as a burst of reiatsu flared throughout the room, walls and ceiling shuddering with the sheer immensity of his strength, the floors trembling beneath the feet of the Espada and their new guest, who he looked down upon with a smirk. She stood, legs apart, hand against her temples as she stared up at him in shock.
“I am Aizen Sousuke. Lord of Hueco Mundo. Tell us your name, Arrancar, and I will give you and your brothers and sisters all that you want.” The inverted sclera of the hollow seemed to fill with a spark. “What is it that you want, hollow? Strength? The power to rule over other hollows? To bring those that slaughter you down?”
There was no answer, and so he continued, “Simply tell me your name, and you will have all that you want.”
… A moment passed, then another. She stared at him, high up on his dais, with trembling legs that threatened to fall out from under her, and for a second he thought she might collapse—And then suddenly she had vanished in a flash. There was an inhuman screech that resounded in the throne room as a clawed hand swept through the air, cutting through like a blade—it caught on a piece of white cloth.
Aizen smiled slightly from no less than ten yards away on the dais, hands coming together slowly for a lonely ovation as he eyed the creature before him.
She—no, it—is fast. Not fast enough, but that can always be remedied. “Well done, hollow. You seem to already have mastered sonido. I applaud you.” Another shriek and a hiss, and this time it seemed to their audience that Aizen barely dodged the next strike as the winged Arrancar swept in for a murderous swipe of what could have been a fatal slice to the front of the throat.
“Should we stop ‘em?” Grimmjow grunted, eyes on the quickly progressing fight above him, flinching only slightly when he saw a shred of Aizen’s robe come off onto the claws of the Arrancar. “Nnoitra, what do ya think?”
“Tch.” The taller one scoffed, shifting his blade to rest on his shoulder as he heaved a disgusted sigh. “Do you really doubt Aizen that much? Dumbass.” Grimmjow was tempted to turn on him with his zanpakuto if he hadn’t been interested in what Nnoitra had to say. “Aizen’s powerful, Sexta. Remember…”
Nnoitra turned his eyes down to Grimmjow, and when the blue-haired Espada looked up to demand explanation for the sudden silence, he was faced with a large, leering grin from the Quinto Espada, the other’s eyes large with delight and teeth bared in excitement.
“Aizen-sama loves to play games.”
“Very good, hollow.” Aizen moved an inch to just avoid the deadly swipe of claws that, instead of digging into the flesh of his chest, bore down upon the stone of the dais, slamming with enough force into the marble that it was torn apart by a crevasse erupting from the impact of the hit.
It turned with wide, murderous eyes and rushed to strike again. And again. And again--another time and then another, and blows landed heavily upon the floor beneath their feet.
Aizen let out a short internal groan—he liked games, yes, but this one was dragging on a bit too long for his tastes. He’d asked a question, and he expected quick answers. And this… this was in the way. He stopped for a moment, robes that had been whipping in the air with the speed of his quick flash steps suddenly pacifying themselves, and he pressed a hand to his temples and shut his eyes with a heavy sigh.
Whether the action was mockingly or genuine, he would let the hollow decide—the more they were kept guessing, the more fun it was in the end. The creature restrained a hiss as it crouched, claws digging into the stone of the ground, its eyes observing his movements, watching for any opening for attack, any element of surprise it could use to its advantage.
“Really, hollow…” Slowly, almost lazily, he opened his eyes—the hollow gave a start. Aizen’s gaze was filled with anger, pure, undiluted anger that practically rippled through the air and drove into the spirit’s soul. “How long will we have to keep up this game? I’m getting rather bored, you know.”
The hollow watched his swaying movements, the flow of white robes—and then it was gone. Vanished, just like that. Its eyes widened as it jerked up its arms immediately, spreading its wings—this was too fast, unexpected, and escape was the only chance…
“You’re much too slow, after all.”
A hand impaled inside it through the front of its stomach from the back. The hollow let out a screeching wail of agony as it thrashed and wriggling, only bringing more burning agony to the wound, and Aizen smiled from behind the Arrancar’s struggling figure.
It feels wonderful. To have your hand through another’s body like this, to hold them in the air with their bodies suspended on a blade of flesh and pain… to see the blood seep through your own clothes.
Aizen’s sleeve was stained a dark red, the flow of blood slowly soaking through the arm of his robe. He loved the look of this delightful shade dying his clothing.
“Such a worthless creature. I wonder if you are really worth it… you’ll only bring down my troops with your painful slowness.” He lowered his hand, and the hollow stopped thrashing for a moment, seemingly calmed by the fact that its feet were reaching the ground again.
And then Aizen drew back his arm. Just until his fist had been pulled back into the wound—then he stopped, opening his fist and stretching fingers as far as they would go, and the hollow let out a horrifying scream of mingled pain and hatred.
“…” Another sigh. “I did expect more of you. I’d heard so much from Ichimaru.”
A casual wave of the arm, and with his monstrous strength the Arrancar was flung across the room and sent crashing against the other wall, and when it finally became dislodged from the dent it had caused in the pure white stone, cracks and small crevasses could be seen spreading from its crashing point, flakes of white rubbing off on the black armor of the creature.
Aizen scoffed at the sight and watched as the hollow dropped from the great height down to the floor of the throne room, and he was reminded of just how much he loved fragile things.
To see the tough armor of this beast split apart at the shoulders, to see it trying desperately to regenerate the breaking shell and stall the flow of the blood seeping from its head—and oh, the sight of that large hole in its stomach made his head churn with delight—was so pleasing to watch.
He saw the head of the hollow lift just a bit, the weakened hisses of pain escape its masked lips. He lingered and looked on, for a moment, as Grimmjow, Nnoitra, and Ulquiorra slowly gathered around the limp and still somehow shifting body.
“How unsightly.” Ulquiorra scoffed at the sprawled and bleeding figure of the hollow girl beneath him, eyes sweeping down her battered form. “She is lucky Aizen-sama showed even a shred pity to such a weak creature.”
Grimmjow wanted to laugh, Says the one who insisted on bring her to Aizen in the first place. It had been interesting, at least, to watch her bleed, and he nudged Nnoitra, who scowled slightly at the touch and slapped his arm away. “‘Oy, Nnoitra. What are we going to do with this?”
“If you are going to make a mess, then do it outside.” His eyes then went back to the shuddering form of the creature on the floor. “Any damage done to the throne room will be yours to compensate for.”
Nnoitra positively giggled as he gave the already barely moving body of the female hollow a hearty kick to the ribs, just as Ulquiorra had done earlier—this time, the blow brought forth a choke of pain from the hollow’s already struggling lungs. “There! How’s it feel ta have a hole in your stomach?! Eh? Bitch!”
Grimmjow snorted, half bored with Nnoitra’s taunting (after all, what was the amusement in torment if the victim was already nearly dead?) and had begun to turn away, thinking of searching for another opponent to fight when he heard...
“… A-Ai… zen…”
Aizen had just turned to leave when an almost silent cry reached his ears. He turned, saw that Grimmjow had turned back as well, and watched the heavily bleeding figure of the hollow twitch on the cold marble floors. A small pool of its own blood surrounded it, and its head was raised towards Aizen, a clawed hand extended just slightly in the same direction.
He paused and stepped to the edge of the dais, looking down. “… What is it, hollow? Haven’t you died yet?” The last line brought a smirk to his lips.
Make them call for you.
Silence. “Well, then I suppose I’ll take my leave.” He had just begun to move away when a hoarse cry, loud and piercing, ripped through the air:
“N-NO!! Stop! Aizen!”
Make them scream your name.
“Aizen-sa… ma… Aizen-sama, Aizen-sama, please, stop!”
“… What is it?”
… Make them beg.
“P-Please… Aizen… A-Aizen-sama… I d-don’t want to die…”
“Ah. So you do speak after all. And here I would have thought you were a witless animal, had you not asked my name earlier.”
A slight lean forward, a bit of a closer look told him that her mask was cracked and falling away from a bleeding face, and for the first time he could see clearly a large break that was spreading like the pattern of shattering glass across what was left of the black mask on the hollow’s face.
… Make them plead and cry and beg for what they want and cannot have.
“Tell me, what is it that you really want?”
A tear of blood streaked down paling skin. “Aizen… sama… I don’t want to die…”
“Then perhaps I should heal your stomach up and then dump you off in an empty stretch of desert outside Las Noches.” He smiled. “Is that what you want, hollow?”
“N-No… No, I want… I want to serve Aizen-sama... P-Please… let me live, and let me serve under you… l-let me… Let me grow strong!”
… And then make them submit.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible, hollow.” The look of horror and desperation that contorted the girl’s now visible face, as half her mask was crumbling away from her flesh, was fascinating and lovely in its own dark beauty. “After all, what use do I have for something that I don’t even know the name of?”
He stepped back, waraji sandals sliding ever so slightly on the floor as he turned away. “Something that has no name is as worthless to me as the sand that covers every inch of this hollow world.”
That wasn’t true, of course—loyalty and one’s life were all that he usually demanded. But this hollow—this girl—had denied his direct request for her name, and that had angered him.
Lies poured from his lips like air from his lungs; as long as Aizen-sama got what he wanted, he did not care what he broke or how. He would obtain what he wanted, and what he couldn’t have he would snap in half.
It was really a very beautiful sight, to watch something strong crumble to pieces, just like this hollow girl’s mask that was falling like dust from her face. He imagined the fear on her face as she saw him prepare to walk away and leave her to her fate, and it drew across his expression a dark, wide smile.
“Ai-Aizen-sama! Aizen-sama! N-No, please… please…”
“M-My name… it is…”
He stopped. Ah. Finally…
“(Name)!! I am (first name) (last name)! Please, Aizen-sama!” He saw, in his mind’s eye, the girl dragging herself by her claws across the marble, leaving a thick stain of blood on the floors as she pulled her broken body towards the dais on which he stood, towering above them all, begging and pleading.
“Aizen-sama! Let me, (Name), serve under you! You have my loyalty! My life! Anything!!”
“Let me grow stronger! Aizen-sama!”
Make them break.
The Hogyoku was really a more impressive object than he’d initially judged it to be, Aizen thought as he gazed down at the bandaged body inside the prison of glass he’d fashioned for the use of this monstrously powerful object.
Just how they should be. Fragile—helpless. Sealed inside a prison created by their own weakness.
He reached forward, allowing his fingers to brush against the surface of the glistening orb. Then, just for a quick instant, he allowed a large but well-controlled flare of reiatsu enter the small object.
The area within the glass and the body inside began to glow with an ethereal light.
The Espada and their Fracción watched from the shadows as the creature was engulfed by the blinding white of power that emitted from the Hogyoku.
And then glass was shattering—it was oh, so beautiful—and the figure was kneeling, breathing heavily, chest heaving up and down as bits of broken black bone fell from its face.
The only piece of the former mask left was the guard on the right side of the girl’s face and temples, extending down and clamped around half the jaw.
The bone had vanished from the rest of her body, lying in broken black shards amongst glass around her, leaving her vulnerable, exposed, and one of the Fracción slowly moved forward, white Arrancar robes in hand, and left the clothing before the naked girl.
“Your transformation is complete.”
He moved slowly and steadily forward, eyes never leaving the lowered, downcast face, and bending over, Aizen placed a hand on her chin and lifted it, bring her eyes to look into his own dark brown orbs.
“Don’t forget—you are one of us now. You owe all your powers and your life as you know it now…” He leaned in towards her and left a whisper in her ear: “It’s all mine. I was the one who took away your life and bore you into this world once more. All of that belongs to me.”
She shuddered, hands clutching at the robes that had been left for her as the Espada around them murmured with apprehension and fascination.
“Say it. Say it so that your brothers and sisters may hear: your undying loyalty and love for us.”
“… My life…
“… My heart…
“It is all for Aizen-sama.”
He brushed a hand through loose (hair colour) locks, now clean of their blood and filth, and smiled. “You are mine now, (Name).”
And as he turned on his heel and strode out of the room, leaving the Espada and their new member behind, he was reminded very deeply of just how much he really did love fragility. Strength was one thing: pure, sheer strength that drowned all others opposing it and cast them into darkness. Strength was beautiful and stoic, never-falling, always standing.
And weakness… weakness could be built up into strength, of course. If weakness was in an object, that object could be mended or rebuilt to support itself once more. Or even if that weakness resided in the soul, that soul could be stitched back together again with resolve, love, and dedication, and then the weakness would vanish, leaving in its wake a sturdier, more able shadow behind, one that could stand on its own.
But what Aizen simply loved was breaking a soul.
He imagined glass shattering, sprinkling blood-drenched shards throughout the air, and for a moment he wondered if the breaking of a soul really looked and sounded like that—surely it must, only a thousand times more beautiful.
He loved strength, because it was the epitome of all that he was.
And he loved weakness, because with that strength of his, he could snap into pieces even the strongest of souls.
Kurosaki Ichigo and (Name) were among the names that floated through his mind as he stepped, a bit livelier now, towards his chambers.
The silver-haired man seemed to melt from the shadows, the smile ever-present on his fox-like face as he said, dutifully, “Yes?”
“Fix her up.” Gin knew all too well what that meant. “But if you can’t, then that’s fine.”
Because even if Gin couldn’t stitch the Arrancar’s soul together, afterwards, Sousuke could still play with the pieces.