20 Chapter 20: Welcome to Hueco Mundo.

Baraggan Louisenbairn's POV.

As usual, I was resting my head on my right palm. Looking on at the lesser beings that make up my court, I couldn't help but lament my great strength. For millennia, no worthy Hollow has arisen to challenge me - a foe that could allow me to unleash my full power upon.

Maybe I should order another Vasto Lorde hunt? The sight of my subordinates trying their best to defeat a powerful enemy, only to be squashed like the bugs they are, never fails to get a chuckle out of me.

However, just before I could vocalize my order, my Pesquisa pinged off an unfamiliar reiatsu.


It has been so long since I felt one of those in this world. What were they called again?

"Ah yes, Shinigami..."

Turning my empty eyes in the Shinigami's general direction, I unknowingly started reminiscing about my younger days. The days when as an Adjuchas, I would launch raids on the Soul Society. Consuming all I could to grow stronger and turning all else to dust.

It is a pity I grew too powerful for those foolish Shinigami.

I gazed upon the dunes that hid the intruder. The silent pale sands seemingly tempting me to leave my palace and take a look.

However, I am no fool.


A manta ray-shaped Adjuchas heeded my call and hastily stepped forward. Separating himself from the rabble, he knelled in front of my throne, with his head squarely facing the floor. 'The cowardly worm.'

"My liege, how can I serve."

I didn't respond immediately. Instead, for a few moments, I stared him down. Making sure the fool feels the full weight of my gaze.

*Tap* *Tap* *Tap*

My fingers taped onto the left armrest of my throne in an uneven rhythm. I took pleasure in watching the worm squirm under the pressure of the situation. His entire body shook ever so slightly, and rivers of sweat formed upon his twitching bald head.

After a few more moments, I couldn't suppress my laughter. My deep gravelly voice echoed throughout my now silent court.

"Karack. Make yourself useful and bring the intruding Shinigami before me. Find a few bugs to track down the intruder's reiatsu."

I couldn't miss the chance to remind the dog of his place.

"It shouldn't be difficult, even for a bug you."

"The Shinigami is close..."

Ignoring Karack, I turned to the scorpion-like Vasto Lorde not far from my right side. As a Vasto Lorde, he deserved at least some acknowledgement. A Hollow does not evolve into our final forms without overcoming monumental struggle and anguish. Pain that very few could truly understand.


The Vasto Lorde turned to me, and allowed himself a quick bow to his King.

"Summon Szayelaporro."

"I have a feeling that the intruder will trigger some interesting events."

Stinger, nodded at the command but hesitated as he seemingly did not desire to question my command. Not allowing him to delay my potential entertainment, I broke him out of his thoughts.


Recomposing himself, he seemed to find the words he was seeking.

"Your majesty, I do believe that Szayelaporro will not appreciate being disturbed during his experiments for what could be a...a fool's errand."

He caught his slip of the tongue a second too late and tried to placate me in a panic-ridden voice, "Your majesty, I mean no disresp-"

*whoosh* *splurt*

A mighty swing of Arrogante interrupted the fool's rambling. Slicing clean through his neck, I impassively watched the headless corpse drop like a marionette doll with its strings cut. The weaklings in my court shifted and squirmed at the execution.

No one questions my command. Not even a Vasto Lorde.

Ignoring the blood dripping off Arrogante, I called out to another subordinate. Hopefully, one that's a bit more tactful.


Another Vasto Lorde of my court and a commander of my army stepped forth.

"You heard my order."

"Yes, my liege."

The minotaur-like Hollow immediately left the throne room and is, presumably, on his way to Szayelaporro.

The mad scientist should be able to extract any useful information this Shinigami has. One does not simply travel to Hueco Mundo for leisure. Either the Shinigami is on the run or is trying to hide something of value.

Hopefully, it's the latter.

I let out a hearty laugh at the prospect of gaining treasure to add to my collection. Or alternatively, another skull. My jovial mood continued even as one of my servants collected Stinger's bloody head with the practised movements.

After a thorough cleaning, one more Vasto Lorde skull will adorn my throne.


Vogt POV. A few minutes later.

I stepped out of the portal and landed in the infamous hell hole that is Hueco Mundo. Expectedly, the place reeked of Hollow reiatsu. The Vanguard Squad warned of the constant feeling of disgust every fibre of my being is experiencing just by breathing in the stuff. But I did not think it would be this bad.

I knew I wasn't alone. Many of the soldiers almost immediately started vomiting up their lunch, while the veterans seemed to be battling a strong sense of vertigo.

I gave the battalion a moment to gather themselves. The Vanguard swept the area before we arrived, and if my reiatsu senses were to be believed, then they did a good job. All I could pick up is a stray standard Hollow that slightly breached the perimeter.

"Jonas. Pick off the roaming strangler a few kilometres southeast of our position."

"Yes, sir." With a mediocre Hirenkyaku, he departed.

The Vanguard had prepared rudimentary quarters for the battalion, which I plan to expand upon immediately. And maybe even add some...improvements before that fool Wagner can stick his nose where it doesn't belong.

Calling out to the twenty Unit Captains at my disposal, I started laying out the strategy we will follow now that we are here. The debrief, however, was interrupted by powerful reiatsu fluctuations that swept through the area.

Immediately ignoring the panicking soldiers, I put all my focus onto figuring out the cause of the fluctuations.

"It's a battle. Between a powerful Hollow, probably a Vasto Lorde and..."

"A Shinigami." A fire lit in my eyes as I processed that information.

The soldiers around me quieted down when they heard that little piece of information.

Good, a healthy level of fear should keep them alive a bit longer in this war.

I kept my gaze on the general direction of the battle, but I still issued an order to the troops behind me.

"Regroup with the Vanguard, and relay my orders for them to stay put. However, you are authorised to retreat if the battlefield strays too close to the camp."

One of the Unit Captains hastily responded, "Sir, what about you?"

"Are you a fool, son?"

"I'm obviously going to have a little talk with our rowdy neighbours."

The echoes of the battle had my blood boiling. I honestly couldn't care less about 'The Great Cause' Wagner preaches to these weaklings. I'm in it for the war and mayhem — the bloodshed and exhilarating carnage.

What do you think will happen when such a tempting battle occurs right before me?

I allowed a frenzied expression to form on my face. I was excited, and there was no one to stop me from acting upon that feeling.

A massive dust cloud formed at my previous position as I pushed my Hirenkyaku to its limits. The rushing air tried and failed to penetrate the Blut running through my face. I took command of the reishi around me and drew it closer. Combined with the Hirenkyaku platform beneath my feet, I essentially resembled a blue comet streaking throughout the uninteresting skies of Hueco Mundo.

All of this served to increase the thrill. I just hope my opponents don't die too quickly.

'Let us paint these pale sands red, with the blood of the worthy...'

Riku's POV. Present.

I need to find out who that suicidal Hollow referred to as King. This King should be somewhat powerful if the dead Hollow thought that by leading me to them, I would surely perish by their hand.

It's likely the Hollow was talking about Baraggan, one of Aizen's Espada. However, from what I could glean from the conversation I had with Aizen, it seems he hasn't recruited all the cannon Espada yet.

But again, it's Aizen. Whatever I spotted from the conversation is probably something he intentionally slipped to me.

Regardless, I have no intention of underestimating the destined number two Espada. One thing I realised by actually living in this 'anime-verse' is that the abilities shown in the anime are far more powerful than they were portrayed.

Such that when you hear or feel that someone has 'Captain-level' reiatsu, you need to be extremely careful when engaging that foe. The amount of available energy a Captain has is ridiculous. If all of that energy was released in one go, whole cities would probably be reduced to ashes.

However, it is also very difficult to release all that energy at once.

The body has to first withstand transmitting that energy before it can affect the world as reiatsu. And likely, no spiritual being in existence has a body strong enough to withstand the totality of Captain-level reiatsu acting upon them in one go.

Which is probably one of the reasons why spiritual beings have staggered releases of energy in the form of techniques, as we see with Kidō, Ceros or even Zanpakutō abilities.

I myself haven't strengthened my body enough to withstand all my power at once, but I also really have no need to do so. Any competent warrior knows not to bet their life by committing all their resources to one attack, especially when your reiatsu volumes determine your level of immunity to your opponents' abilities.

I turned on my scanning to its maximum. In a sphere with a fifty-kilometre radius, every single piece of information rushed to my mind - every minute movement of a grain of sand, every shift in air masses, etc.

Sōten ni zase immediately stepped up to filter most of the background noise, while a shapeless barrier also formed around my skull. I developed the barrier to work in conjunction with Sōten ni zase's filter function since Sōten processing abilities struggle to work with non-reishi-related data.

I haven't been able to create the much anticipated passive shield barrier that would protect my body at all times. Mostly due to the amount of time I would have to spend developing and testing it - time I did not really have before now.

"Oh, what do we have here..."

I sensed a pack of Hollows just enter my scanning range. Two powerful humanoid Adjuchas? And a standard Hollow.

I was about to ignore them and explore the rest of Hueco Mundo when I tidbit of Hollow-related information popped into my head.

"Wait. Adjuchas aren't typically that humanoid...Could these be Vasto Lordes?"

From what I could sense, they were just short of Captain-level, meaning they were either hiding their reiatsu or they were pretty weak for a Vasto Lorde.

In the anime, it was implied that Vasto Lordes aren't actually that strong. It's only their Arrancar forms that were worthwhile enemies.

But the academy and Kidō corps records beg to differ.

It's been shown that at least a handful of Gotei 13 Captains have died at the hands of a Vasto Lorde to date. Countless 'Captain-level' Shinigami likely followed suit in the aeons before the formation of the organisation.

However, that is not enough reason for me to fear them. Unless a Hollow has an outlandish ability, my arsenal of spells should be able to counter anything they throw at me.

I had the confidence to escape if the situation went sideways anyway, so I don't think taking a peek at the Hollows will hurt. As if to give me extra motivation, Sōten's curiosity-filled hum rang out in my mind.

"Alright bud, we'll go over and take a look."

"And if we're lucky enough, we could have perfect test subjects to truly study Hollow reiatsu."

I activated my favourite form of travel. Levitating a few centimetres off the ground, the Seki rocket pulsed for a moment before I blasted off into the distance. Closing in on the unfortunate Hollow pack.


Szayelaporro Granz's POV.

We landed on a sand dune a good distance away from Las Noches. I turned to face my 'partner' for Baraggan's meaningless assignment. I didn't suppress my annoyance with the situation, which showed by my more aggressive than normal tone of voice.

"Juren. For your sake, I hope your tracker dog is close to finding this mysterious intruder..."

He didn't look pleased by my tone, but he is very well aware of the gulf between our strengths. Gritting his teeth, he ignored me and sent a swift kick to the tracker, launching it forward. Landing with a loud thump, the creature took a moment to get its bearings. The spineless creature unsteadily stood back up on its four legs.

With a quick sniff of the air, the creature started running, presumably, in the direction of our target.

Juren turned to me and spoke with irritation seeping into his voice.

"I have the situation well in hand. All you have to do is to keep your mouth shut and let me execute His Majesty's will."

Chuckling a bit at the Vasto Lorde's false bravado, I motioned him to continue by extending my open left palm to him. I further emphasised my 'passivity' by folding in my right arm.

I watched him walk off in a huff. However, a chill flashed through my eyes. The moment this assignment is complete, Baraggan and I are going to have a little 'chat'. I agreed to work with him. He needs to remember that I'm not some insignificant servant he can just command at his leisure.


Not long after we started following the tracker, I immediately felt someone/something watching me. Glancing at Juren's body language, I saw that he hadn't noticed yet. I did not want to spook the voyeur so I acted as if I also did not notice.

My instincts were blaring out several warnings. Whatever is watching us seems to be waiting up ahead.

I slowed done my pace, letting Juren form a larger lead ahead of me. Someone needs to take the first blow, and it's not going to be me.

The presence suddenly disappeared.

I immediately prepared my tentacles to consume whatever is presumptuous enough to attack two Vasto Lordes.

"Too slow."

A chilling whisper rang out from my left side. Before my eyes could track my opponent, I felt a scorching flame melt into my torso and launch me into the distance.

*boom* *sizzle*

"Arggggh" I couldn't help but scream as the flame lit my internal organs a light. Even flushing the flames with my reiatsu isn't enough to extinguish them.

*crack* *rumble*

My flailing body landed hard on the desert floor. The sand did little to prevent a crater forming at my landing site.

"Ugh." Pulling myself out of the pit, the pain from my injury almost caused me to stumble. I sharpened the Heirro around my right hand and severed the burning flesh. Flaming attacks were always annoying to deal with since they tended to hamper regeneration.

I took a few moments to watch Juren engage the enemy. The dullard was clearly on the back foot. His clumsy attempts to avoid the enemy's energy blasts resulted in him having to regenerate missing flesh every few seconds.

Energy blasts that looked very different to the classic Cero.

Well, I guess we've found our rouge Shinigami...

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