“I could tell you were a captain, being as old as you are.” Tia Halibel raised her eyes high over her massive collar as she glared at the older woman below her.
“Really? I always thought it was the coat?” Retsu Unohana looked up at an Espada vesto lord, the most dangerous of hollows to walk any surface.
“She’s strong, very strong.”
Unohana eyes drifted over Halibel’s toned frame as she steadied her feet. Halibel did the same as she knew better then to underestimate people.
“She maybe old, but she is still a captain and none the less dangerous.”
Halibel struck first as Unohana right forearm blocked the hollow’s hammering fist with ease.
“You strike me out of pity for my age?” Unohana stepped back as Halibel answered with a ferociously roundhouse. Retsu folded her hands in and pushed out a set of interlocked fingers.
“77.” Halibel flash-stepped out of the way as the ground flattened where she had just stood.
“I’ve heard the highest masters of kido don’t chant.” Halibel slid sideways as her green eyes zeroed in.
“You’re pretty smart for a hollow, still you lack in areas that make many stronger then you.” Unohana replied sharply as she looked up sternly at the self-absorbed hollow lord. The Fourth captain smiled as she drew her Zanpakutoo.
“She has the edge physically, but my bankai is the ace here.”
“We’ll see about that.” Halibel was thankful for her collar as she gritted her teeth tightly.
“Why is she smiling? Is there some trick up her sleeve?”
“Before we get down to business, what’s your name hollow?” Unohana called out as she caught Halibel off balance mentally. Halibel drew her short Zanpakutoo and gripped her collar.
“Tia, Tia Halibel, the 3rd vesto Espada.” The blonde mused as she asked the same. “...And you?”
"Retsu, Unohana captain of squad 4.” The dark haired woman nodded a bit as she did something unusual.
“That’s quite the outfit you got there.” She looked back up as Halibel knew by her tone it was an insult.
“Your mockery ends now, CERO!” Halibel yanked down the high collar shadowing her mouth as a green cero erupted from it.
“47!” Unohana crossed her fingers from both hands and reflected the jade flare easily, destroying a few buildings.
“You are going to be difficult to kill with that kido of yours, soul-reaper.” Halibel bowed a little in admiration as she continued her attack. Both women assaulted each other unremittingly as Halibel drew first blood. Unohana looked at her forearm with a shrug as blood poured from it.
“Jus’ a flesh wound.”
Unohana lit up her hand as she started to heal the abrasion.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Halibel was on top of the healer instantly as she swung her weapon wildly. Unohana flashed stepped into the air as the blonde was right on her.
“I’ll cut it off this time!” Halibel round-housed her foot over her head and came down solidly on Unohana’s shoulder. The older woman spiraled violently to the ground as she braced for a hard landing. With a loud crash the 4th captain smashed into the ground, causing a large crater to form in the middle of the street. Unohana shook off the landing slowly as she looked up to see the vesto lord heading straight for her, her short sword leading the way.
“Die soul-reaper!” Halibel struck the ground as dusk and debris exploded everywhere. Silence fell as a wicked shriek roared from the middle of the crater. The blonde screamed as she missed killing the captain and in return was relieved of her right arm. Unohana had just missed the tip of Halibel’s sword by rolling out of the way at the last second and exposed the opening to the hollow’s right side.
“CERO!” Halibel screeched as another blast flashed from her mouth. Still shaking off the last hit Unohana managed to get her sword up to block the murderous attack as the blast threw the captain back, smashing her into a ruined building.
“Unohana-sama, I won’t be able to keep this up much longer, I’m not an offensive weapon.” Her Zanpakutoo said softly.
“I need some more time, how are “they” doing?” The older woman asked as her weapon sighed.
“They’re not going to make it…” Her Zanpakutoo said grimly.
“Send them… she won’t be long.” Unohana assured as she tried to heal herself again.
“If she doesn’t kill me first that is.”
“UNOHANA-SAMA!!!” Her Zanpakutoo screamed as Unohana looked up to see a sondio moving straight for her screaming malevolently.
“SOUL-REAPER!!!” Halibel appeared out of her flash step, her left hand pointing her deadly Zanpakutoo at the captain’s heart as Unohana closed her eyes and she whispered.
“Ban…kai” Her sword lit up as she lifted her hand…
Unohana opened her eyes and found them looking into Halibel’s. The hollow’s green eyes looked down to see blood spatter the inside of her collar as she saw a black blade stuck deeply into her side. The dark-haired woman looked over to see the hollow’s short blade deep in her shoulder and her hand holding it up.
“Your comrades, your fracción cry out for you arrancar, Apache, Mila Rose, and Sun-sun are already dead.” The captain lifted herself up, blood pouring from her left shoulder and mouth as Halibel panted, staggering back gripping her sword in a death grip.
“They were weak, they failed me!” Halibel paused; blood pouring from her sliced off arm and pierced side.
“You’re wrong, your love for them made them strong, everything you said and did for them…” Unohana stumbled to her feet as the Espada lord stood only a foot away.
“Absurd, I didn’t love them, they knew their lives were forfeit from the beginning, sacrifice is my mark of death.” Halibel reached up to her face out of habit for using her cero. Halibel lurched forward; swinging her sword at the injured captain. Unohana flash stepped to the side and swung her sword, slicing Halibel deeply across the chest.
“Still, without you knowing it, they listened to you, worshipped you…” Retsu snatched the hollow girl’s forearm as Halibel flinched back in shock. “...loved you.”
Halibel tried draw back from the soul reaper as her mind suddenly start flashing back randomly.
“My bankai merges with people to heal their minds and bodies, so naturally I have a little insight on that person.” Halibel’s legs trembled as she lost her balance. Her sword dropped from her hand as she started to black-out.
“I tried to heal your fraccion, but it was too late.” Unohana lowered the shuttering Espada to the destroyed ground. The blonde struggled for breath as the random images continued to flood her mind of her subordinates, showing them how to use their cero, hand-to-hand combat, that very training and time was enough for them to forge bonds with Halibel weather or not she wanted to admit it.
“S-Stop, no more.” Halibel struck Unohana’s chest weakly as Retsu deluged Halibel’s mind even more. The blonde’s eyes rolled back as her fists dropped to her side.
“Shhhh, you’re hurt badly.” Unohana looked down at the dying hollow as Halibel looked into the darkening sky.
“Being a vasto lord, I didn’t have time for friends, comrades… lovers.” Halibel whispered dryly as Unohana felt pity for the hollow woman.
“Loneliness is the worst thing anyone weather they are human, hollow, or soul-reaper can suffer, without the love of others, life becomes meaningless and empty many even turn violent to prove their existence.” Unohana said tenderly as Halibel shook her head.
“You don’t understand soul-reaper and never will. You have no idea what it’s like to be a hollow.” Halibel coughed up blood as she knew her time was coming.
“Now send me back to Huceo Mundo, so I can pay for my failure.” Halibel requested softly as Unohana shook her head this time.
“No, everyone deserves to be loved, hollow or not.” The captain replied with lifting her sword as Halibel frowned.
“I don’t want your pity or your mercy, now finish it.” Halibel struggled to get up as she found she couldn’t.
“They’re waiting for you arrancar…” The hilt of her Zanpakutoo glowed as she pressed it to green-eyed woman’s forehead. “…Go to them Halibel.” A blinding light consumed the hollow woman’s body as her outline started to fade and finally disappeared.
…Darkness, sweet, empty, darkness, Halibel’s naked form floated in it as she found herself thinking.
She didn’t really know what they were, but for some reason now she wanted to find out. Her fracción began to form in her mind as she bit her lower lip.
At this thought a tiny little light appeared.
The light started to grow as Halibel shaded her eyes.
“Is this the way back to Huceo Mundo? No, it’s something else.”
The light got bigger and brighter as she squeezed her eyes shut and began to freefall.
The darkness turned to light on her closed eyes as her senses came back to her. First was her skin, it didn’t feel hard and cold but warm and soft. Second was the smell, not dusty or arid but sweet and humid. She knew from just these things alone she was not in Huceo Mundo. Next were the many sounds surrounding her, rustling leaves, birds chirping. She slowly opened her eyes as she stared into the blue sky above as hot sunrays beamed down on her.
“Where I’m I?”
She leaned up on the soft grass and looked around. This place was so colorful and lively she couldn’t help being a little scared. She slowly got to her feet as she found her arrancar uniform gone and replaced by some strange tunic.
She felt up her neck to her face to find her collar and mask gone replaced with more supple skin. Her number and hollow point were also gone as she didn’t understand any of this at all.
“Where did she send me?”
Halibel pondered as she found a dirt road and began walking. After a short distance she saw a small shack with three figures working the land. Two of them were short and a tall one all she couldn’t make out who they were as she decided to ask where she was. Coming up to a fence, she cleared her throat as the group turned. Halibel’s jaw dropped as she instantly reckoned the three, it was Apache, Mila rose and Sun-Sun all smiling.
“It’s Halibel!” Apache took off running as the others followed swiftly. Wide eyed and mouth ajar the blonde just stared as her fraccion jumped on her. Their masks and hollow points gone from their bodies, only creamy smooth skin.
“Ohhhh Halibel I thought we’d never see you again.” Sun-Sun cried as she squeezed the blonde. They were all crying now and telling her how thankful they were to see her again. Halibel remained frozen as the three backed off a bit.
“Halibel?” Apache asked as the former hollow didn’t said or do anything. Suddenly tears formed in her green eyes as a new, strange feeling consumed her. Her heart felt heavy as goose-bumps covered her skin
“Is this love?”
“H-Halibel, y-you’re crying!” Apache cried harder as they had never seen their master cry or show any emotion whatsoever.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Halibel said sternly as she lifted her hand to her face and found that indeed she was crying. The three just waited nervously as the blonde looked at her wet fingers and did something she had never done.
She smiled, opening her arms and hugged them for a first time. The feeling now indescribable as Halibel just sobbed with her fraccion no, Apache, Mila Rose, SunSun.
"I finally understand what it means to know love Retsu... Thank you."