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posted by whiteflame55
Эй, guys,

This is a Фан fiction I wrote for Fanpop's Got Talent 2014 Фан Fiction Contest. I figured I'd post it here as well, share it around. For those who are interested, almost all of the character Модели came from ones I'd made and used on two rather large RPs on this Фан site.

link
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If there's enough interest, I'll continue the story down the line. Hope Ты enjoy it!



The dunes of Hueco Mundo were still and silent. Not a breath was exhaled, not a puff of air stirred. A few shrubs peaked out the sand here and there, but little else in the way of life was visible. All trees had long since been felled, and not a single Hollow was in evidence for miles in any direction. Despite the endless night, a thick, sickly heat covered the landscape.

Ever since their defeat at the hands of Soul Society, the Hollow had never been the same. They may have recovered were it not for their immediate subjugation to Yhwach and the Wandenreich (Invisible Empire), followed on by Soul Society's own occupation and near destruction of Las Noches (Hollow Night Place). Some of the most dreaded creatures in existence, a once proud group called the Espada (Sword), had become cowed and endangered, these Остаться в живых souls fighting for survival in a desolate hellscape.

“It's all so damn boring!”

The shout came just before an explosion of air that demolished a number of dunes. The deafening force crushed what little life remained in that area, and still nothing stirred. A man appeared among the clouds of sand, a shortsword resting on his shoulder unreleased. His short hair was a dark grey, a blue crushed velvet рубашка covering the deeply browned skin of his densely muscled chest and shoulders, while long, billowing black широкие брюки, слаксы, брюки obscured his legs and feet. A band of purple cloth covered his eyes like a blindfold, wrapping completely around his head and over his ears, leaving both obscured from sight.

“I got no clue why the fuck yer out there, Cap'n, but could ya stop yellin' in my damn ear?”

“How the hell can Ты still hear me, Ogodei?”

“Little thin' called “tek-know-logy,” Cap'n.”

“I don't care what Ты say. Ты can put any piece of metal crap in my ear and call it “technology,” doesn't mean I understand it.”

Ogodei sighed, leaning back in his chair. He was sinewy and lean, his hair and eyes black to belie his Mongolian heritage. Despite the heat in the room, he wore a heavy blue, fur-lined пальто that covered most of his body, only bulging out at the waste where his blade resided. White silk peeked out from between the folds of his coat, which was interwoven with metallic thread to improve its durability. Fur-lined boots covered his feet.

He removed a small metal piece from his ear and shoving a pinky in. Captain Takuma had continued right on shouting, expecting that he needed to do so in order to be heard, as was the case with certain Kidō spells. But this was no spell.

A new piece of technology developed with the help of human scientists, it allowed them to Converse across dimensional plains. He couldn't be sure how effective it would be in any environment, but transmissions to Hueco Mundo (Hollow Sphere) weren't a problem. They didn't have much ability to test it elsewhere, lacking full access to the Senkaimon (World Penetration Gate). All they'd been able to find was some old, rusted tech from the bygone days of Urahara Kisuke, and it was a wonder it held up at all.

“How's the weather in Dubai? It's shit here. And it smells like death.”

“Bright n' sunny, Cap'n. Smells like death 'ere, too.”

It smelled like death nearly everywhere these days. Outside his window, Ogodei could see the ruins of a city that had once been viewed as one of the grandest in the world. The tower known as the Burj Khalifa sat at half its originally impressive height, most of its rooms collapsed inward. Other tall buildings like the Burj Al Arab didn't even have ruins to mark their passing, simply foundations. Housed as they were in the Madinat Jumeirah, even this city within a city had Остаться в живых over three-quarters of its original makeup.

So many had died here. And not just humans, either. But then, that's part of why they chose it. They were going to take root in Hueco Mundo, but it had been... what was it again? He inserted the piece back into his ear, again hearing the piercing yell of his Captain.

“...too damn boring! Can't even find one of the damn masked things these days! It's like they're fucking avoiding me!”

“How d'ya think they react? Yer tha reaper, sir. They know a Kenpachi when they see one, not like those asshats in the S.S.”

Ogodei hadn't known when he started using that abbreviation that it had also been used to abbreviate a paramilitary force that enforced a number of terribly inhuman acts in the 1900's. Even after he'd been told, it just made him еще likely to use it, since it now seemed all the еще derogatory.

“Damnit, you're right. We've had the damn Hollows running scared for so long that ethey refuse to stand and fight. Even abandoned their shitty old fortress. Maybe I'll have еще luck finding a challenge in one of those fucking Quinc- wait, what are they called now?”

“Hogo-sha, sir.”

“'Guardians,' eh? About time we put that Название to the test.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------

“In times gone by, humans believed that gods and titans brought them gifts of great importance. They looked to Prometheus as the one who shaped them from the clay of the earth and bestowed them with “fire” или knowledge. This was a champion of mankind – a trickster who украл, палантин from the gods, and was punished with infinite torment. A fool.”

The Название of “Guardians” was outdated. The confederation of Quincy and Fullbringer was once known by that title, but that was decades old. To the outside communities, that Название remained the most commonly used. But it missed the point.

What was once one group had become three, and each was markedly different.

“This is the type of hero that humans idolize: a martyr, someone who sacrifices themselves for the sake of others. It sounds worthy of the adulation and accolades it receives, the sort of altruism one might expect to see heralded in heroic epics. But make no mistake, their acts are anything but selfless.”

Of course, then there were the other factions, the fanatics. Säuberung (Purge), a relatively new faction composed solely of Quincies, reveled in their Просмотры that the Quincies should once again be purified by purging the weak. They saw all Fullbringers as corrupted, and were practically hostile with the Ichiji-Tekina Chinmoku (Temporal Silence).

“The men and women who do this become immortalized. They seek recognition for their actions, and a way to avoid making the harder decisions and fighting the еще difficult battles. They kill two birds with one stone, ending their lives and shirking their duties while ensuring that they secure themselves a permanent place in history. Whether they are burning themselves alive in a feeble attempt to garner ”

This group of Fullbringers believed that they'd transcended time. They worshiped an old broken pocket watch, something believed to have been wielded by a long-dead Fullbringer named Giriko Kutsuzawa. It was amazing how many lies could be told on the face of a timepiece.

Some grumbling accompanied that last piece.

“Your skepticism is warranted. Why shouldn't Ты be? Some of the most notable characters of mythology and history have made martyrs of themselves. In some cases, they did not have the capacity for choice. Does that not reveal a dramatic flaw in my argument? Are the likes of Joan of Arc and Иисус Christ not emblematic of everything that we should strive for as Pillars?”

And then there was the main group, which somehow continued to bridge the fanatics. They called themselves Atlas no Hirasha (Pillars of Atlas), and their name was no less presumptive – to pretend that their group was the sole one holding up the world lacked some humility.

“Do not be fooled into believing that these examples were any less the result of their own choices. Иисус of Nazareth supposedly died for the sins of mankind, and thus he sought out his fate as a form of repentance for the larger population. His resurrection led to his abandonment of human beings, something they have suffered at great length since then. Joan of Arc was no less cognizant of where her actions would lead her, she simply accepted the outcome, believing that her chosen deity had led her along this path. Rather then seeing to her survival, that she could lead her people longer and continue her fight, she rushed towards a future where she was burned at the stake. Like the monks I spoke of before, she sought to make a statement with her death, and to immortalize herself in history. Both of them were fools.”

But then, it was true. And the man who spoke now was a minister of this group, a man who called himself “The Inquisitor,” Demandred Haschwalth. Despite his strong lineage, he held few of the characteristics of his ancestor. His short brown hair was brushed back and flattened against his head. Broad shoulders and thick, muscular arms bulged out from under his uniform. Though they weren't apparent under his robes, scars cover much of his body, though his face, hands and feet, all bare, remained untouched. His clothing consists of a long grey robe, its only adornment a lightly silvered trim fashioned in the shape of a long dragon climbing up the edges and appearing with open mouths at his neck. He wore a very simple uniform under that of black linen, meant to breathe and Переместить in easily should he need to fight. Minister или not, this man was dangerous, and he could Показать his claws at any point he chose to do so.

“So let us not seek to emulate them. The Pillers, the Purge, and the Silence may not be able to agree on much these days, but we should seek to agree that pointless death is not the answer. We should strive for life with every breath, that we may continue in our goal to protect this planet from the specters of death and despair. The Ushinawa Reta Tamashī (Lost Souls) of the Shinigami will do no such thing – they sprint towards their deaths, inviting battle at every turn. We will outlast them easily. We shall not repeat the mistakes of those great Sternritter who sought to rain death on their foes either, no matter how true their cause. We cannot fall to anger, as they did.”

Renee rose from her seat, rising to an almost Amazonian height as she continued to regard him. Her green eyes were heavily lidded. Long red hair cascaded down her back in two extensive braids, each ending at her knees. A streak of golden thread was woven through each, making them glitter in the setting sun that streamed through the stained glass windows. оливковый, оливковое skinned and of athletic build, her clothing was anything but appropriate for such a somber setting, the traditional white uniform of the Quincy trimmed in blue with a modified, deep neckline that plunged down just enough to reveal her belly button, though the width was thin enough to not reveal much cleavage. She folded her arms across her chest, and regarded him patiently.

“But let us also not fall prey to the desire to avoid battle completely. We and humanity gain nothing by turning inward and seeking to печать ourselves off from the outside world. Soul Society has deemed preservation to be most essential, and has eschewed their duties. They, too, have condemned themselves to extinction, as surely as their maligned brethren. We must know when fighting is necessary, no matter the cost. We cannot let this world fall, nor can we press ourselves towards annihilation. The two are intertwined.”

Renee closed her eyes, and began to stride towards the central aisle, her heels clacking on the stone floor. This building was once known as the Washington National Cathedral, but that had been back in the days when humans believed in deities they couldn't perceive. Those days had long since passed, and this place was one of the many that had been affected by the fallout that followed. While many of the stained glass windows remained intact, any of those that were perceived to have religious imagery were reduced to shards. A few of those still peeked out of their frames, some larger than others in a somewhat beautiful array, almost like a frame for the sunset in the background. Of those that remained, most held to varying groupings of three primary colors, and thus much of the room was bathed in blue, red and green light, while the remainder was streaked in оранжевый from the sunset. They didn't cast much light – it was cloudy, and the sun was mostly obstructed – but their Цвета played out in twinkling lights across its length, bathing her in their cool light as she strode down slowly towards the pulpit. Demandred continued.

“So I urge Ты to seek our destiny as a people. Do not succumb to an unknowable fate, but embrace your future. Follow the path that lays before you, no matter how treacherous, and make certain that each step is not your last. Fight for our survival, whether Ты are Fullbringer или Quincy. Never surrender to the temptations to die with some pointless thoughts of glory, nor should Ты actively avoid the obstacles that lay in the path of salvation. Let us be united and certain in our shared vision of a world cleansed of Hollows and Shinigami alike, for both are creatures of damnation, and ensure our survival by our own hands.”

He bowed. Renee slowly clapped for him as she made her way up to the base of the stairs before him. It was the only sound being made in the room. He only raised his body back to its full height after she had reached the first step.

“Chevalier. I thought Ты found my sermons boring.”

“No less so today, though Ты seemed to add a bit of the contradictory this time. Glad to see you're keeping you're keeping your followers on the edges of their seats.”

Demandred frowned. The sunlight flashed through the room, revealing the massive number of empty pews that covered the room. A total of two parishioners languished in their seats, and one of those appeared fast asleep. The other simply stared at the ceiling, apparently not cognizant of anything being said. This is what had become his “flock.” The Pillars were getting tired of holding up the world, and had quixotically turned to much the same isolation as that of the Shinigami. That frown wasn't for her. It was for them.

“Too many of my worshipers have moved on to either Säuberung или Ichiji-Tekina Chinmoku, еще added to the flocks of fools.”

“You really like that word, 'fool.' Have Ты ever questioned whether that word is better applied to the pastor speaking of ideals to an empty room?”

“We are only fools when we fail to uphold our basic principles. Many of us have Остаться в живых sight of who and what we once were, but I refuse to do so.”

Renee climbed the stair towards him. Only this close could she see that he still wore his bandolier under his robe, no doubt holding all 6 stakes. Though this man was related to a widely famous Quincy, he carried none of the talent for Quincy abilities. He had become a Fullbringer at a young age, and one of great talent. Perhaps that was why he had once been so alluring as a leader.

Of course, that was behind him now. The man who stood before her was the same in every way, but the people were different. And Renee couldn't blame them. Charismatic leaders like him had led both the Quincy and Fullbringers nearly to their doom before, and they tired of these individuals, even if they spoke sensibly. Perhaps what drew them to the еще fanatical groups was the fact that there was no specific leadership for either one, they were just united ideologies. No matter how crazy, it seemed that people would rather unite around an ideology than follow any leader.

Not that she agreed with them. She wouldn't just adhere to an ideology in order to feel a sense of belonging. She would sooner follow the likes of this man, but he had to earn her respect first, something he'd tried and failed to do multiple times.

“Your stubborn nature aside, shall we return to our Назад discussion? As I recall, we were discussing the merits of sermons like these when, instead, we could be hunting our foe into oblivion at this very moment.”

Demandred didn't respond at first. He paused, carefully taking in a deep breath, and then letting it out. Behind him, his shadow twitched and rotated around him a full 360 degrees. As it moved, an object appeared wherever it touched, which appeared to be a thin таблица suspended in the air without legs. The podium he was standing behind was nearly surrounded by this rounded таблица that looked like a C, opening behind him. Two chairs appeared with it as well, one on each side of the opening in the table.

Renee nearly gaped. The ability to hide things in the shadows was long thought Остаться в живых after the defeat of the Sternritter. For a Fullbringer, even one as capable as him, to rediscover it was a slap in the face to pure-blooded Quincies like herself.

“Please, take a seat, Chevalier. I will explain.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Unnatural silence greeted every step as Natalya wandered through St. Albans School. The Название was a measure of tradition at this point, not devotion, but then humans had a strange way about them when it came to tradition. The discovery of Death Gods and invisible demons was enough to make them Вопрос their various faiths, but apparently not enough to warrant changing the names on some buildings. They allowed their cathedrals, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and monasteries to lay abandoned, wastes of space, money, and rich history, and yet changing the name on a building was simply too much effort to stomach.

Natalya shrugged at the thought as she walked. Understanding humans was like trying to track a grain of sand in Hueco Mundo – something that wasn't worth the effort and could never be accomplished anyway.

It was always strange to walk among humans, though she had gotten somewhat used to it with time. Necessity had changed the way that arrancar behaved... или at least some of the arrancar. The vast majority of the most advanced Hollows in the world were dead. But that was their own damn faults. They killed each other en masse for untold numbers of years, and when war came to them, they continued to kill any target, regardless of whether it had a mask или not. Eventually, they were bound to grind the majority of life out of that desolate landscape, and be hunted into near extinction here.

Most Hollows had thoughts for their self preservation, an unrelenting hunger that drove them to devour endlessly, and little if any concern for their fellows. Following the end of the Espada, their taste for alliances and their willing acceptance of leadership was completely lost.

Hollows fought and survived of their own volition. Any groups that were created were only meant to be categories, and did еще to draw battle lines than anything else. Hueco Mundo was nothing еще than a place of failed strategies and broken towers, and those who remained there permanently were nothing but backward creatures who hadn't realized that they were Динозавры of a bygone era, letting their Hollow masks bleach in the light of a waning moon.

Natalya Kuznetsov was part of a new breed, a breed referred to as the Puñal (Dagger). Hidden, these were arrancar without visible masks, capable of fully hiding themselves within a population of human beings and even avoiding the careful sight of the Hogo-sha, или whatever they were calling themselves these days. Natalya has gone undetected for weeks at a time, even right under their noses.

But then, her ability was tailored to the job. If she had been placed in a situation that required constant battle, as had been the case for so long, she would have long since fallen. Her ability was all about strategic usage. It's downsides, which would have meant death in the dunes of Hueco Mundo, were the perfect cover in these situations. Her body didn't always exude a strong reiatsu, nor did she have any obvious weapons on her person to ward off possible attackers. Appearing weak amongst Hollows presented a grave danger, but here among humans, weakness made her indistinguishable. Thus, she actively made herself look weaker. Her face's overly pale features could be explained by the pallor of sickness, which she didn't have to fake. She was sick to her stomach, and bone weary. Any aches and pains were magnified tenfold, and so she walked with a bit of a limp. Any beauty someone might see in her would be similarly tempered by her ill appearance. And this loss of health would give her the capacity to recover quickly from wounds and illness at any дана time of her choosing, all she had to do was tap into the store she was making now, and had been making for months.

In the meantime, no one would look twice at the bone-white woman dressed in black. Her school uniform, composed of a half knee-length skirt, black laceless shoes, long black stockings, a white undershirt peeking out above a black v-neck t-shirt and black sports пальто with the St. Albans пальто of arms on the breast made her even less visible among the crowd of students. She didn't stand out completely, nor was she too auspicious in Актёрское искусство like those around her. She was just another student, and not one to be noticed for her physical capacities, and while she wasn't visible to the humans around her, she all she needed was to be certain that the eyes that could see her wouldn't distinguish her as anything special.

“Shitty жопа, попка swamp.”

A man appeared beside her, walking with a sort of drunken stupor. What on earth was he wearing? Was that... fur? In the summer? The humidity in the air around him plus the near 100 degree temperatures should easily have had him gasping for air, but he was barely sweating. She coughed strongly, trying to send the hint to leave her be. He simply placed his hands behind his head, extending his arms out at right angles to the sides and assuming an air of nonchalance.

“Buildin' a damn capitol in the middle of a fuckin' swamp? Dunno why ya idolize those Founders o' yers.”

“Is there a point to all this, sir? I'm on my way to class.”

“Jus' shootin' the shit. What, ya got a problem wit' me talkin'?”

“I could do without the vulgarities.”

He smirked. “Aren't we a prissy little miss? Them's words, nuthin more.”

“We would both be better off if Ты let me be. I'm not feeling well, and Ты won't want to catch-”

“The nuthin' ya have? Nah, not gonna catch that. Don' catch no fuckin' fake sickness. 'Sides, I'm hardy as all hell, ne'er get no damn sickness.”

She only let her eye twitch in annoyance, but continued to walk, even while he stopped. Perhaps he knew something was up, but he couldn't possibly know who she was. No one did.

“Ya put on a good show, miss. But a Hollow's a Hollow, no matter the clothes.”

A student passing by rammed into his shoulder, looked confused for a moment, and then kept on walking. Another rammed into Natalya, who stumbled вперед by reflex. Still, they couldn't see her, and the girl who did broke out in a cold sweat and walked away quickly. Several of those around them took a wider berth around the invisible duo. Ever since the world had been informed of their presence, it had made them a lot еще wary of invisible beings.

дана the situation, they were right to be worried. Natalya stopped draining her health, focusing instead on drawing out from her store of perception to see if he had allies anywhere nearby. An eyebrow flicked up – one, and it was powerful.

“How about we take this somewhere else?”

He shook his head. “No can do. 'Sides, 'bout time this town got shaken up. Humans shoulda known they had a monster livin' among 'em. или do ya prefer 'demon?'”

“Enough jabbering, Ogodei!”

Their conversation had gone basically unnoticed with all the noise in the streets. The loud shout from the other Shinigami did not go over as well. The people around them all stopped what they were doing and looked in the direction of a nearby rooftop, though he was no longer there. He slammed into her, bashing her easily through the Стена of a nearby building. That's when they started screaming and running in any other direction.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Demandred reluctantly let off of the discussion as an explosion of noise echoed through the building. He rose, peeking through one of the nearby windows, though he could see little in the now dark roadway. He could easily sense two sources of reishi, though there was a third that seemed to appear and disappear rapidly.

“What the hell is going on out there?”

Renee's Вопрос didn't take long to be answered, еще directly than they wished. A figure crashed through one of the intact stained glass windows. It appeared to be a young schoolgirl. She moved to rise, but quickly fell back to the floor.

“What is the meaning of this? Who would dare to attack a human here?”

Demandred's words also received their response quickly. Two figures plowed through the walls to its right and left, one with a purple band wrapped around his head and the other in a мех coat. Each exuded reiatsu, though the blindfolded individual exuded far more. Neither wore the robes that would have marked them as Shinigami.

“Ushinawa Reta Tamashī. Ты are trespassing on the property of Atlas no Hirasha. Leave these lands immediately, или I will be forced to terminate Ты with extreme prejudice.”

Their attentions turned away from the defenseless woman on the floor and focused on him. Takuma smiled maliciously.

“Give it your best fucking shot!”

Demandred needed no further provocation. Hands went into his пальто and came out covered in blood, the backs of them speared through with large spikes. He showed no signs of pain, and even as he moved, the blood seeped back into the wound. He rapidly moved forward, using high speed movement to engage with the еще powerful of the two. His muscles tensed with extra strength as his spikes sought the flesh of his opponent, only to clash with Takuma's short blade. The momentum forced them both out of the building, and safely into the open streets where they wouldn't further harm the church.

Takuma's smile broadened.

“Jibun no sekai o samatage, Nisshoku!” (Obstruct their worlds, Eclipse!)

His energy of his Shikai (Initial Release) engulfed the blade, causing it to elongate to a full length of 5 feet. A crack appeared in the metal as it lengthened, as though the blade had been overstressed on one side. On that same side, the metal rose up, angling one side of the blade differently than the other and making 2 deviated stabbing points on the end of it.

“Sōzō o Rikai Suru!” (Understand the Inconceivable)

The air around them filled with sparks, but Demandred hardly had time to notice, as the sparks flew from their repeated strikes as they clashed in a whirl of blades and spikes. Even tapping into the enhanced strength and speed of his Fullbring, this Shinigami was a match for him.

But he would fall, along with his foolish brethren, for disgracing this sacred place. He withdrew two еще spikes, ramming them hard into his feet in a burst of blood, and watching as the blood was resorbed into his body. He frowned at the other man and charged forward, each step increasing the density of his body until he was at his maximum possible mass, his body leaving huge indents in the ground wherever his feet landed, along with the holes created by the spikes themselves. He whirled his body around, preparing to bring that full weight down on his opponent. Takuma's grin stayed wide.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

“If ya don' mind, I'd like to finish with that one first, Quincy. I'll get to ya in a moment”

Renee frowned as she followed is finger. It wasn't that she was infuriated with his attacking a defenseless human being, though that was annoying – it looked as though they had broken something when she had been launched through that window. It wasn't that these two Shinigami had interrupted her conversation with Demandred, as they had had long enough for her to get the most pertinent information.

It was that speaking style of his. One sentence in, and she was already running out of patience with this one. Of course Demandred had дана her the leftovers.

“I'm afraid Ты will have to contend with me first, Shinigami.”

Ogodei rubbed the back of his head. “Temptin' as that is, tha' thing o'er there is-”

Renee didn't mince words. She drew a thick three-foot blade pockmarked with holes at regular intervals, hopping into a fencing stance most appropriate for a saber. Ogodei withdrew a dao, a thick, short, curved blade, and drew a small composite bow from his back, wielding both for melee combat. She struck appropriately, efficiently shifting from style to style as she attacked, lunged,disengaged, and feinted, each attack meant to press him back. And yet he wouldn't be pressed out of the building, countering each refined style with a confusing array of defensive postures that seemed to completely ignore any measure of composure или care. With no precision in his attack или defense whatsoever, he managed to hold to their space, though he hardly held his ground, jumping and moving around her in a series of complex but meaningless movements.

It all would have been simply annoying if not for the fact that keeping her inside meant she couldn't use all of her abilities, since they would damage the surrounding church too heavily. But еще infuriating still, the proximity to this man's quarry – the girl who was still struggling to rise from the floor – distracted him, so much so that most of his attentions were focused on her. Somehow, this Shinigami was capable of keeping up with her while being so distracted. He wasn't taking this battle seriously in the slightest.

Then he would simply die here.

He executed a sloppy flip over Renee's head, and just before he landed, Renee extended a hand. A force exuded from her hand, one invisible to the world around her, though she could see the flows easily herself. She may not have been a Sternritter (Star пересекать, крест Knight Order), but she had been дана an epithet all the same - “The Vacuum.”

His movements became sluggish as he landed, and his eyes opened wide in confusion. He swiveled his head as quickly as he could to look at her, but before he could even manage that movement, her blade had sunk into his side...

...And he was gone. Confusion colored her features for a moment as a bevy of arrows hit the same slowing Стена of high friction behind her. She turned to face him. A spot of red marred his blue coat, but the bleeding wasn't intense. He had somehow managed to increase his rate of travel in an instant, managing to avoid the Слэш by moving faster than the high friction Космос he was placed in could control. Of course, that didn't mean it hadn't affected him. Steam and even smoke rose off of his clothing and skin where it had been heavily abraised, and these spots covered his entire body. It was surprising that, дана that rate of transit, he had managed to avoid deeper burns.

еще importantly, his attention was all on her.

“You're trickier than I thought, или perhaps just lucky. It doesn't matter, though. Ты won't engage me as Ты have before, and these arrows are worthless to you.”

“Ya'd be sup-rised wha' an Стрела can do.”

He let loose with another slew of arrows. Renee didn't move, putting up another Стена of high friction between them. The arrows touched this, and penetrated with ease. Renee barely had time to shift out of the way of mortal danger as the arrows tore into her clothing and flesh. She grimaced, retreating a безопасно, сейф distance.

“My arrows don' much care for yer defense, miss Quincy.”

Another wave approached, and Renee tisked, moving her blade to a position that made it appear as though she was pulling back the string on a bow. She released the hilt, and the blade slid forward, arrows of pure energy shooting out and countering each of the black arrows of her opponent. Ogodei whistled. Renee spat.

“You have another thing coming if Ты think Ты can counter a Quincy with arrows.”

The Стена to her right smashed through, and Demandred glided in, carefully avoiding any еще damage to the building by reducing his weight below normal. An aghast look painted his face. With a gash deep in his right side, Demandred couldn't see through one of his eyes. It was as though the cut had sliced away a portion of his sight as well. The man who followed him was in worse shape, though he appeared less concerned about his injuries, despite a deep spike wound in each shoulder and what appeared to be several broken ribs.

The fact that this Shinigami could push him to this extent seemed impossible. He braced, preparing to force him out of the building once again, when someone above him cleared their throat. Everyone looked up.

Natalya looked down on them imperiously from her насест, окунь atop a nearby balcony, a sneer on her face.

“Humans and Shinigami. Such pitiful creatures. How you've managed to survive so long under the yoke of your foolish pride is beyond me.”

As before, this girl was still a mess, but she no longer showed any signs of her injuries impairing her. As she watched, Renee could see the Кости and tissues knitting on various parts of her body. Chōsoku Saisei (Ultra-Fast Regeneration)? Was she a Hollow? And if so, why hadn't it activated automatically before?

She didn't wait long to clarify.

“Punto Cero Sol.” (Zero Point Sun)

From her hands exuded a glowing ball of оранжевый energy. Renee and Ogodei made to attack her at range, but were quickly forced to go on the defensive, working hard to avoid numerous novas of energy that came off of the modified Cero. It was like a small sun, and these extrusions radiated out into tremendous array of pulsing golden energy rings. It was all they could do to avoid these, though Demandred couldn't help but despair every time it tore into the building. He kept struggling to get closer to it, hoping to end it before it landed and released all that energy at once. It was close, so close...

“Llamarada.” (Flare)

Light flashed, and the world around him was engulfed in golden flame.

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“What is taking so long, Hideaki?”

Hideaki sighed, sliding down in his chair and covering an eye with one hand. Pale and looking bored, he had a shock of white hair atop his head that hadn't seen a brush in months. His eyes were gray accented lightly with green. He wore a plain white t-shirt with one cutoff sleeve and a pair of brown slacks. A pair of dark green lenses sat on the таблица before him alongside a massive keyboard chock full of small keys, each with different labels. Before him was a set of screens that each displayed different angles around Acelin, who was sitting in a room nearby. The displays were all coming from a transparent visor that hovered around the other man's head, each part of which captured and conveyed these Обои to Hideaki through this panel.

“Have Ты ever read a science fiction novel, Ace?”

He didn't wait for an answer.

“So many of them include some version of a world-ending moment. The majority of these stretch the bounds of the imagination. Some of these are just plain unlikely – getting swallowed by a black hole, an asteroid striking down, solar explosions - and many seem to be just derivations of religious Armageddons, Ragnaröks, или apocalypses. But the ones that always seem the most likely, the ones that terrify us with their believability, encompass some action on the part of human beings against themselves.

We've always been self-destructive. When we couldn't kill each other fast enough will the tools at hand, we made new tools. Almost five hundred years назад to this day, we created nuclear bombs that could incinerate and irradiate whole cities in the blink of an eye. And every year, we devise new ways to kill other human beings faster, еще efficiently and еще brutally at every turn.

Any of these weapons could have led to our eventual demise, and our decline as a species can mostly be attributed to our outpacing even infectious disease in our brutality and willingness to kill one another. All the treaties and disarmings between nations were nothing but empty gestures aimed at prolonging the inevitable.

Then, 106 years ago, the situation changed dramatically. Humans realized they weren't alone. A painted face arose on Телевидение and computer screens across the world, telling us of the existence of Death Gods, demons called Hollows, entire subgroups of humans known as Quincy and Fullbringers with amazing powers. We were informed of other planes of existence, of places with endless deserts and awe-inspiring cities made of nothing but pure energy. We had our Вопросы answered on whether life after death exists, and were told that every religion was wrong. We were told all this, and then we were made to experience these things first hand.”

There was a long pause. Acelin eventually broke it.

“Does this story have a purpose? I believe we are both well aware of what happened. Are Ты suggesting that we should not blame them, that we would have engaged in the same behavior and ended the world ourselves if not for their intrusion?”

Hideaki breathed deep, and let it out. “Of course not. I'm saying science fiction writers had no imagination at all. They never thought up anything like what actually happened. Not a Douglas Adams, not a Frank Herbert, not an Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov или Jules Verne. Not even H.G. Wells could comprehend of such a catastrophe. All washed up nobodies who couldn't comprehend of the dangers that stared them in the face.”

Acelin shook his head. The reality was that Hideaki wasn't quite certain what to think. The future would likely have held its own harms for the human species, and doubtless they would have suffered in any case. But that wasn't for anyone else to decide, whether they called themselves gods или demons.

They had wreaked death and destruction on humanity. And they would pay, Hideaki would see to that.

Still, it wasn't as though he didn't have any doubts. Hideaki's eyebrows knit together in concern, his thoughts suddenly clouding.

“No normal human has ever set foot in there Ты know.”

“I would not exactly say that I am normal.”

“No, but you're not part Death God, either. We don't know what will happen when Ты interact with them. I can't even be certain that Ты can enter their barrier unscathed. Ты might never even reach them.”

Acelin's frown deepened, then quickly broadened into a smile. He shook with visible anticipation, swiping a hand up from his side with a flurry of silver as his плащ fluttered around them.

“The righteous will always be victorious. No matter the cost! Open the portal, Hideaki, and let me stoke the flames of our vengeance!”
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