171 CHAPTER 190: The Echo

The Divine Tree of Samsara enacted laws from the 'Original World' from millions of years ago. Those who were connected to it were granted immortality, as long as they possessed Reiatsu. Any wounds they sustained would heal instantly, but at the expense of their Reiatsu.

The ability would be worthless without the true power of the tree — creating a domain where Kazuya ruled over the life and death of everyone and everything. Those who possessed no Reiatsu would have no resistance to the tree, and by extension, Kazuya's will.

They would live at his whim.

They would die at his whim.

Connecting Aizen to the tree was the easier part of the plan. The tougher part was to wound Aizen over and over to drain his Reiatsu — a tall but achievable task.

Aizen was currently having a first-hand experience with the feeling of 'death' just like Yoruichi. Unlike his usual composed demeanor, he reacted with pure terror. It was a reminder, that even someone as powerful as Aizen was not fearless in the face of death.

Kazuya didn't forget to capitalize on the sweet, sweet chance. Wrapping his gauntlets in Nami's flames, he unleashed a barrage of punches at Aizen. The very moment the flames touched Aizen's face, his skin melted, and his white cheekbones could be seen. Golden threads appeared and stitched Aizen's face.

The pain jolted Aizen out of his trance and reignited his fighting instincts. Despite his eyes being closed, he was able to evade Kazuya's attacks.

Aizen's expression softened, a faint smile appearing on his lips. "Life is transient like cherry blossoms. Apes, humans, gods, they will all eventually perish." He sheathed his broken Zanpakuto and opened his eyes with a piercing gaze. "This is what drives them to evolve. I had somewhat forgotten what made me start this whole plan in the first place. Cazador, thanks for the reminder."

His ultimate goal was to ascend beyond all beings in the universe, to become the supreme deity above all.

A true god.

Someone like him shouldn't rage from temporarily losing something as worthless as his Zanpakutō.

Kazuya couldn't help but chuckle. "So much arrogance for someone connected like a puppet."

Aizen glanced back and reached for the strings attached to his back. Once again, he was unable to touch them as if they existed in another dimension. "Do these strings serve any purpose other than evoking fear of death and healing my wounds? Perhaps they also create a curse each time my injuries are healed?"

Kazuya lunged at Aizen and threw a fist at Aizen's smiling face. He was nowhere close to Aizen in terms of combat skills, but he had the massive advantage in close combat because of his armor and Nami's flames. He'd come out on top in a war of attrition.

The only blockade between Aizen and his death were the Shinigami present in the city. The massive tree would attract Shinigami to it like moths flocked to flames. Those present on site like Isshin and Isane would be appearing any minute now.

He had to wrap up his battle with Aizen as quickly as possible.

Aizen evaded Kazuya's ferocious punches with ease. His Haori fluttered in the night breeze as he effortlessly caught yet another flaming fist aiming for his face.

The flames charred his skin, even so, he maintained a calm expression. "You seem hurried… this desperation, does it come from your companionship with Tier Harribel?"

Kazuya responded with a fierce kick at Aizen's gut, which was blocked by Aizen's elbow. Using his wildly unpredictable moves, he kept Aizen on his toes. As he didn't formally train, apart from Yoruichi and Tier's unofficial lessons, he hadn't locked into one style of fighting.

One could say he had refined his own style of martial arts.

The rampant pressure prevented Aizen from concentrating on casting Kidō spells. Even though Kidō spells drained Reiatsu, he would rather not let Aizen change the pace with high-level destruction spells.

But it didn't stop Aizen's mouth from spitting manipulative words.

"Are you worried about her?" Aizen attempted to get under Kazuya's skin. "Cazador, she is fighting Ulquiorra, the most successful Arrancar after you in Hueco Mundo."

The silence paired with Kazuya's helmet made him extremly hard to read, but he couldn't stop his Reiatsu from fluctuating slightly. For someone as observant as Aizen, noticing any slight change was quite simple.

Kazuya's passionate feelings for Tier became obvious to Aizen.

Aizen smirked. "If Tier Harribel somehow survives Ulquiorra, the rest of my army would devour her for their soul nourishment. I can stop her if you agree to come with me. To a Hueco Mundo where Hollows are treated as individuals, not as beasts."

Aizen couldn't reveal the full extent of his Reiatsu to the world. Instead of overpowering his enemy, he directly attacked their weakness. Thus, Kazuya's feelings became his prime weapon to easily achieve victory.

"No."

"It seems you aren't willing to believe that a world like that exists. When was the last time you visited Hueco Mundo?"

"Could you just shut up and die already?"

Aizen's eyes widened a tad before a spark of fury gleamed in them as if he couldn't accept a Hollow continously reject him. Immediately, he swung his fist at Kazuya's chest. Clang! A resounding clang echoed as Aizen's Reiatsu-wrapped fist struck the thin yet exteremly durable armor.

Aizen became serious, and it showed in the battle. He moved and fought with a grace that depicted his mastery over every form of combat, his movements a seamless dance of attack and defense.

As wild and ferocious as Kazuya was, Aizen belonged to a league of his own. His skill was not just in his physical prowess but in the way he anticipated and blocked every move — Aizen had mostly adapted to the nuances of Kazuya's violent martial art.

Just when Aizen thought he could overpower Kazuya, he pulled out his trump card — Sonído. In an instant, he disappeared and reappeared behind Aizen, launching a powerful kick towards his head. But Aizen quickly raised his hand, blocking the attack with his wrist.

While this simple tactic didn't catch Aizen off guard, Kazuya's next move certainly did. He withdrew his hand and sliced through the air. Crimson Reiatsu was condensed around his hand and shot out as a crimson bullet.

The howling crimson bullet — Bala — struck Aizen's right shoulder and left a gaping a massive hole in its wake

"Captain Sosuke!" Isane's distressed voice echoed through the battlefield, having arrived just in time to witness Aizen's injury.

...

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