Ichigo and his friends are moving ever closer to the center of Hueco Mundo and rescuing Orihime. But their battles against the Arrancar are testing them in ways they never thought possible. Can they keep their honor in a world where it doesn't exist, or will Hueco Mundo leave an indelible mark on their souls?!
Using the new-found power of his left arm, Chad easily defeats Gantenbainne. His victory is short-lived, however, as he is soon ambushed and quickly defeated by Nnoitra.
The chapter begins with Chad repeating the name of his left arm's true form: Brazo Izquierda del Diablo. Stunned, Gantenbainne can only repeat the name in apparent wonder and fear, with the "devil" of Chad's arm reflected in his eyes. Now back into focus, Gantenbainne grins as he charges up another one of his Resurrección's attacks; stating that Diablo is "a hell of a name." Gantenbainne hurls the fiery blast toward Chad, who merely crushes it in his left hand.
Now feeling a twinge of fear, Gantenbainne rushes Chad, attempting to finish him off with one powerful punch. However, Chad just as easily blocks his fist with his right arm's true form: Brazo Derecha de Gigante. Chad takes the opportune moment and outstretches his left hand, charging up an electrical current in his fingers and solidifying it in his fist before dealing his "La Muerte" attack, which literally blows Gantenbainne out of his Resurrección form and destroys the wall behind them, leading them out into the desert-like dome of Las Noches.
As Gantenbainne lays defeated on the ground, Chad kneels before him and thanks the Arrancar for pushing him into unlocking his full potential and as a gesture of kindness he'll "spare his life and pray for his good fortune." Now back on his feet, Chad questions the interior dome of Las Noches, but is soon warned by the fallen Privaron Espada of an approaching enemy. Chad quickly dons his transformed arms and deals a massive blow squarely in the enemy's stomach, but to no avail as an unaffected and wickedly grinning Nnoitra proceeds to cut Chad down with a single strike.
Chad's defeat is felt by everyone in Hueco Mundo, particularly Orihime Inoue. Ulquiorra appears and berates her friends for attempting to rescue her, prompting Orihime to slap him. Elsewhere, Rukia encounters Aaroniero.
Chad is seen critically injured from the blow dealt by Nnoitra, with the shield of his Right Arm sliced cleanly in two. Chad's eyes widen in horror as he falls to the ground whist Nnoitra clicks his tongue in disappointment, stating that Chad is "As weak as Hell". Chad's defeat is felt throughout Las Noches, most particularly through Ichigo and friends, who each take a hardened expression to this news while Ichigo begins to pick up speed, clearly pained and worried; mentally telling himself to believe in Chad, that together they swore to make out of this mess and return alive.
Elsewhere in Las Noches, Chad's defeat is also felt by Orihime, who gives a sorrowful expression to Ulquiorra upon the latter entering the room. Ulquiorra explains that Nnoitra is an idiot for disobeying a direct order to await the enemy within his own chambers and presents Orihime with food to eat. However, Orihime refuses to eat and states that "Sado-Kun is not dead" over and over again. Now clearly annoyed, Ulquiorra sarcastically questions what Orihime expects him to say: "Don't worry, I'm sure he's still alive so he'll make it here to rescue you?" Ulquiorra rebuffs this by stating that "I am not here to be your friend." Ulquiorra also questions if such a trivial matter is really that important, seeing as her friends will be dead one way or another. Ulquiorra goes on to explain that they should of known what they were getting into the moment they invaded this place and if they didn't, then the fault lies in their own stupidity and he would be infuriated if they came here to throw their lives away for a "Spoiled, sniveling little girl who isn't even worth it."
Ulquiorra takes his words too far, however, as Orihime steps up and delivers a hard slap across his face in retaliation, to which the former coldly stares at her before exiting the room, warning her that if she has not eaten her meal within the hour, then he will "strap her down and force it down her throat." as Ulquiorra exits, Orihime can be seen breaking down in tears.
Meanwhile, Rukia races up a flight of stairs, believing it to be the quickest way to reach Chad. Unfortunately, the stairs lead her to a long Suspension Bridge connected to a large, oddly-structured Tower. As Rukia questions why she is outside when she clearly went inside the building, an even stranger figure immediately appears behind her, asking if "she would care for him to explain it to her." As Rukia whips around to face him, the figure appears behind her yet again, and enters the tower while beckoning her to follow. Hand now to the hilt of her sword, Rukia approaches the door and boldly enters the pitch-black building. As she does, the doors close shut behind her and the figure can be heard somewhere in the darkness, breathing a sigh of relief and explaining that he "Simply can't stand the sunlight." As torches are mysteriously lit throughout the room, the figure removes his elongated mask and introduces himself as "The Noveno (9th) Espada, Aaroniero Arruruerie." However, contradictory to his name, his face is that of Kaien Shiba, Rukia's deceased mentor.
Rukia stands bewildered at the apparent return of her deceased mentor Kaien. Elsewhere, Nnoitra's lone Fracción appears and blocks Chad from attempting one last strike against Nnoitra while Aaroniero succeeds in fooling Rukia into leaving herself wide open to an attack.
Filled with shock and confusion, Rukia can only stutter Kaien's name as she stands before the figure of her seemingly resurrected mentor.
Elsewhere, the lanky figure of Nnoitra Gilga looms over the desert, searching for the nearest energy levels using his pesquisa. He is not kept waiting long, and is soon approached by his Fracción, Tesra Lindocruz. Upon arrival, Tesra notices the battered body of Chad and inquires as to whether or not Nnoitra is going to deliver the finishing blow. His Espada master responds by stating that such an act is useless, for who will recognize his strength even if he kills 1,000 weaklings?
Nnoitra then notices that the nearest energy level, (Rukia), was taken in by Aaroniero. As Nnoitra gets up to leave, his Fracción questions where they are going. Nnoitra explains that he found a massive Reiatsu in that direction, and is going to go "crush it." However, before he can take another step, a faint voice from behind tells to him to wait. Nnoitra turns to see a weakened Chad, rising to his feet and clutching his freshly-bleeding wound. Despite his severe injuries, Chad states that he will not let Nnoitra leave, to which the latter only grins and is surprised that former is still alive at all. Electrical sparks fly from Chad's left arm as he gathers all of his remaining energy into one last blow. Before the strike can connect, Tesra intervenes and blocks his fist with the solid Chakram in his Zanpakutō. Tesra states that such an attack could never reach "Nnoitra-sama" as Chad curses one last time before finally falling to the ground, unconscious. Tesra re-sheaths his Zanpakutō and turns to leave, but finds himself on the bladed edge of Nnoitra's Zanpakutō, who angrily questions why Telsa intervened. Stammering his apologies, Telsa expressed his concern that, at the opponent's full-power, such an attack might have injured him. Nnoitra reprimands his Fracción by reminding him that there is "No force in the universe that could break his body, for [he is] the strongest Espada."
Back at the tower, Rukia finally gathers up the courage to ask whether or not the figure standing before her is the real Kaien, but catches herself, remembering that she killed him with her own hands long ago. Before she can question herself any further, the pseudo-Kaien jumps down from the raised platform he was standing on to give Rukia a comical and warm welcome. After hearing him speak and act like Kaien, she becomes convinced that the person standing before her is, however, impossible it may seem, truly Kaien. After finding some stored cushions and sitting down with her, Kaien explains what happened after the night of his death. How his spirit body completely disintegrated after Rukia gave his farewells to his family, how the Hollow who consumed him, Metastacia, was designed to return to Hueco Mundo upon it's destruction, how the two were still merged at the time, and how Kaien managed to gain control of the new spirit body and take the place of the 9th Espada without Aizen's notice. Aaroniero further informs Rukia that the sole reason he drew her into the building was to shield her from the illusionary sky of Las Noches, for everywhere the light touches is monitored by Aizen. Aaroniero beckons Rukia to follow him, for he has a task for her that only she can do. As Rukia makes her way to follow, Aaroniero sharply draws his sword, and attempts to spear Rukia through her left eye. However, Rukia evades the attack in time and manages to put a fair distance between herself and the attacker. As the wound on Rukia left cheek bleeds profusely, Aaroniero calls out her name in two separate voices.
Aaroniero continues to toy with Rukia's mind, but she sees through his deceit in time and releases her Zanpakutō. Meanwhile Renji and Dondochakka encounter Szayel.
The chapter opens with Gin Ichimaru tracing his fingers over a control panel of sorts. However, a cold voice calls out behind him, asking whether or not the intruders have breached the Espada Pavilion. Gin turns to see the figure of Ulquiorra Cifer standing in the doorway. Gin dodges this question, instead stating that Ulquiorra's visit is a surprise to him as he previously believed that Ulquiorra hated him, thus why Ulquiorra had never visited him until recently. Ulquiorra denies this, prompting Gin to ask that they begin a friendlier relationship with each other, also revealing that he has been somewhat lonely since Luppi's death, as it seems that they had used to talk a lot in the past. Ulquiorra brings the conversation back on track by asking Gin if he has been manipulating the hallways & corridors from their original position. Gin cheerfully denies this, saying that he would never do anything "mean" like that and that he also hates sad stories.
Back inside Aaroniero's palace, Aaroniero (Kaien) questions the surprised look on Rukia's face, stating that he is delighted that Rukia managed to avoid his attack, as this shows her improvement and growth, to which he states is always an officer's greatest delight. Rukia can only question in return how much of his story was true. Aaroniero responds by stating that everything he said was true and asks if she truly believes that he would lie to her and that if it is really so strange that he would attempt to kill her. Aaroniero (as Kaien) goes on to further explain by stating his former position as the Vice-captain of the 13th Division and states (to Rukia) as the woman who killed him with her bare hands. This greatly unnerves Rukia, with the horrible memories from that night flooding her mind. As he raises his blade, Aaroniero asks if she is finally able to atone for her sins be allowing him to kill her in return. Rukia boldly and firmly states that she is, but not yet, not now. She says that she will never forget what she did, no matter how many years pass and that if offering up her life will bring him even a little peace, then she would gladly do so. However, she came to Hueco Mundo to bring Orihime home and will not relinquish her life to him until then.
Aaroniero quickly passes off his act of vengeance as a practical joke, stating that although he would like to see Rukia pay for what she did, there's no way he would do something as stupid as kill her; reminding her that there is something that "only she can do" for him if she really wants to apologize for her past actions. He reveals that her "assignment" is to bring him the heads of all her friends. this greatly alarms Rukia, who coldly questions if he is going to pass this off as a joke again. She corrects herself, saying that there is no way someone can pass of something like "I'll let you go if you kill all your friends" as a joke. With rising anger inside her, she pushes his hand back, telling him not to insult Kaien-dono. she angrily states that there is no way a monster like him could be Kaien, as Kaien was the person who would never make jokes to test his soldiers, or force her to choose between herself and her friends; that the Kaien-dono that she and everyone in the 13th Division loved and respected wasn't that type of person. Aaroniero tries to defend himself against these claims by stating once more that he is Kaien, but before he can finish, Rukia screams for him to never say that name again, and releases her Zanpakutō before attacking him.
Elsewhere, Renji senses Rukia's rising spiritual pressure, but before he can dwell on it any further, both he and Dondochakka fall in a large trap hole in the ground, which sends them plummeting to another location. As Renji dusts himself off and gets back to his feet, a taunting voice appears over the loudspeaker, remarking of how Renji fell through the simplest trap, despite the dozens laid out before entering a side door, and introduces himself as the Octava Espada, Szayelaporro Granz.
Szayel's modified room prevents Renji from releasing his Bankai. Elsewhere, Aaroniero decides to end his fight with Rukia by releasing Kaien's Zanpakutō.
As Renji realizes that Szayelaporro is one of top ten Arrancar, he hears Dondochakka yelling from the hole he fell in. Renji questions how he could possibly still be falling since he fell before him and decides to get away from the hole. However, another hole appears behind him and Dondochakka falls on top of him. While still on top of him, Dondochakka spots Szayelaporro and notes that he's the top researcher and spiritual weapons specialist in Hueco Mundo. Renji then gets fed up with Dondochakka not moving and kicks him out of the way. The two of them then argue and Szayelaporro tells them to stop. Renji then looks over at him and Szayelaporro tells him not to give him such a scary look. He then explains that even though he's an Espada his combat ability isn't very high at all. As he begins to tell him who he is Renji tells him to be quiet since he doesn't want to hear his life story and he only wants to beat him. He then attempts to activate his Bankai, Hihiō Zabimaru, but it ends up breaking mid release. Szayelaporro tells him he can't release his Bankai in this room because he knows everything about it. He then explains that because of that he was able to set up a mechanism in this room that stops him from releasing his Bankai and Renji states that the only way he would be able to do that is if he actually encountered him using Bankai before. Szayelaporro tells him that he knew because he fought his brother, Yylfordt Granz, whom Renji immediately remembers. Szayelaporro thanks him for remembering "that scum" and Renji tells him from the way he's talking he's not out for revenge. Szayelaporro tells him he's correct and states that he put spirit-recording insects on his brother and that's why he knows about him. He then draws his Zanpakutō and states that this is his first time meeting a Bankai user, and asks Renji to keep his body as intact as possible.
Aaroniero dodges Rukia's attack and states that she's foolish to think that she will be able to beat him with techniques he already knows about. Aaroniero then releases Kaien's Zanpakutō Nejibana and states that this will be just like old times.
With Kaien's Zanpakutō, Aaroniero easily overpowers Rukia, but thanks to her quick wit and knowledge of kidō, she manages to turn the tables and force Aaroniero to reveal his true form.
Aaroniero tells Rukia to prepare herself and she is easily overpowered by his attacks. As she is battling him she notes that everything about him is exactly like Kaien and that no matter how much she tries to deny it her mind, body, and eyes tell her that this must be Kaien. She tries to convince herself that she should only believe the Kaien of her memories, but as she's doing this her Zanpakutō is knocked away. She immediately uses Hadō #33 Sōkatsui, but he easily dodges and it hits the wall in the back, causing light to go in the room. As Aaroniero congratulates Rukia on being able to use that spell without incantation he notices the hole in the wall and goes to a different location. Rukia wonders why, as she was completely defenseless and could have been easily killed, and remembers before that he took her into this room to get away from the light and comes up with a theory. She then uses Bakudō #4, Hainawa, and holds Aaroniero down. He tells Rukia that she can't beat him with weak techniques like this, but Rukia begins casting a double chant. She uses Bakudō #61, Rikujōkōrō, to hold Aaroniero down even longer and then uses Hadō #63, Sōren Sōkatsui, to break the wall directly behind Aaroniero. The light that comes from the wall melts off Kaien's face, and two small Hollow heads in a glass cylindrical capsule with red liquid is revealed to be Aaroniero's true face. Rukia asks him what he is and he introduces himself as the 9th Espada.
With Aaroniero's true form revealed, Rukia claims that she can finally fight him without holding back. But, as Aaroniero comes to explain the truth of how he acquired his abilities, Rukia loses her will to fight and is impaled by Aaroniero's Resurrección.
Rukia asks Aaroniero what he is and he introduces himself anew. He then states that if it's about the heads, then she should keep it to herself as they have grown tired of hearing peoples thoughts on it a long time ago. Aaroniero notes that she used Rikujōkōrō, a Kidō spell that Byakuya specializes in. He then tells Rukia that she is a fool for attacking the wall behind him instead of actually hitting him since it would have at least wounded him. Rukia tells him that she hit the wall behind him because if there was a chance that it would take away his shape-shifting ability then that would be all that would matter since she needed to know for sure that he wasn't Kaien so she could cut him down without mercy. Aaroniero laughs at this since she made it sound like she could defeat him if she knew his true form. He then appears behind her in the blink of an eye and tells her not to underestimate him. He then states that as long as there is shadow he can still use his shape-shifting ability. Aaroniero's face then becomes Kaien yet again and he states that he doesn't know why a replication of the sun was put in Hueco Mundo even though there are guys like him who need darkness to use their powers. He then tells Rukia that she's dead wrong in thinking his power is shape-shifting and states that despite being a Gillian, he was still able to become an Espada because he has limitless evolutionary potential. He states that he had devoured Metastacia's spirit body after it returned to Hueco Mundo and took its powers. He then shows Rukia his Zanpakutō, Glotonería, which is actually a deformed arm with tentacles spouting out of it. He states that his Zanpakutō's ability is to devour a dead Hollow and take it's abilities and tells Rukia that the nostalgia of Kaien she's feeling isn't false. Aaroniero tells her that this body really is Kaien, along with all of his memories and experience. He then decides to go into his Resurrección which turns his lower body into a huge blob-like mass. He states that this is the power of 33,650 Hollows and asks Rukia if she can win alone against this giant army. Rukia goes to attack him and apologizes to Kaien as she wasn't able to even save his body from the hands of the enemy. She thinks to herself that she no longer has the will to fight Kaien's body and gets attacked by Aaroniero who uses Kaien's released Zanpakutō. She defends herself with her own Zanpakutō, but it easily breaks through it and impales Rukia through her chest.
Through a memory of her and Kaien's first training session, Rukia remembers a very important lesson he taught her long ago, ultimately regaining her will to live and impales Aaroniero through his head, killing him.
Rukia recalls the day when Kaien first trained her. When they were training, Rukia got distracted and lost her sword. After that, when they ate lunch, Rukia told Kaien that she has little talent with a sword, and her Kidō was average among the Gotei 13. So was it really alright for her to be here, where does her heart lie, why is she here in the Gotei 13. Kaien answer that it's obvious, it's to "fight" and to "protect". Rukia asked him what to protect, which Kaien gave a pretty vague answer. Kaien then told her Ukitake's philosophy: There are two types of fights, fights to protect your life and fight to protect your pride. But he thought that both are telling them to protect the same think, the HEART. Then he asked Rukia where does she think that heart lies, which Rukia says that somewhere in their body, but Kaien told her that the heart is right between them. When they interact with each other, a heart is born between them for the first time. It's not in the body. When you think of something or someone, a heart is born there. Suppose you were the only person in the world, there wouldn't be a heart anywhere. If Rukia wanted to be here with all her heart, then her heart lies here, and that's the reason for her to be here. Kaien told Rukia that from now on, when she fights, she absolutely must never die alone. Because when they die, they soul-body would eventually turn to dust, so their heart will be left with their companions. If they leave them with their companions, their hearts will live on inside them. Then Rukia remembers when Kaien died, he thanked Rukia because he can leave his heart with her. Suddenly, Rukia grabs Nejibana, which makes Aaroniero calls her pitiful for keep on linger here, but still unable to cut him down. But she freezes Nejibana, and then points Sode no Shirayuki at Aaroniero. He says it's an eyesore for her to pretend to fight him with a broken sword. But then Rukia actives San no mai, Shirafune, reforge her Zanpakutō with ice particles, piercing through Aaroniero's head. She tells him that she remembered where the heart lies. What's inside Aaroniero is indeed Kaien's spirit body, but Kaien isn't in there. Kaien left his heart with her. Then she bids Aaroniero farewell.
Aaroniero and Rukia fall to the ground barely alive and Aaroniero's heads fall out of the jar they were concealed in. The bottom head begins screaming about the pain it's in and the top head lasts to curse Rukia before splitting in half, killing them. Rukia attempts to get up and thinks to herself that she must not die alone and states that she going to save Orihime. However, she passes out.
All of the Espada sense Aaroniero's death and they take it in different ways. A female Arrancar wakes up someone and states that the person's name is Starrk. Starrk states Lilynette's name and decides to go to sleep. Lilynette forces him to stay up though and tells Starrk that Aaroniero has been killed. However, he states that he already knows and asks her what she wants him to do.
Two Arrancar named Lumina and Verona go up to Szayelaporro Granz and tell him about Aaroniero's death. He states that he was so preoccupied with his fight he didn't even notice. He then tells Renji that Rukia and an Espada have killed each other in battle and Renji furiously attacks him. Szayelaporro easily blocks his Shikai and states that without a Bankai he can't win. However, Renji puts more force behind his attack and is able to injure him. Renji then tells Szayelaporro to get out of the way.
Ichigo senses what happened to Rukia and someone from behind tells him he's shocked that he noticed something like that and only thought of him as someone with raw power. Ichigo looks behind him and spots Ulquiorra, who tells him that it's been a while.
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