This was the best word to describe Kaoseu’s current state of mind. A whirlwind of frustration and anger lashed at the fringes of his already fragile mind, tearing away at the fabric of his reality. His narrow escape from the weakling Shinigami had left him seething and injured, the battle sending him scampering away to Hueco Mundo to lick his wounds. Now, the newly born Hollow stood over a pool of his own blood, eerily luminescent against the white sands in the twilit world. Breathing heavily, he forced himself to stand still as he stared at his reflection in the grisly, self-made mirror.
The beak-like mask had grown back almost instantaneously when he had attempted to claw it off, only succeeding in drawing the copious amount of blood that he was now gazing into with grim disdain, his eyes searching for any sign of a human characteristic anywhere. Finding none, he lifted his bloodied, claw-tipped hands to his face, trying to find insight into something- anything
- that would keep him driving forward. After several moments of naught but a dark cloud filling the void in his mind, he gave up, clawing at the sides of his face as he reared up to his full height, his bone-like armor clinking together, his entire form trembling from the force of the raw roar that welled up from deep within his chest.
For a full minute, the gut-wrenching sound echoed through the void, full of every ounce of anger, every shred of sadness, down to every grain of regret, pain, and fear, mixed in with the full force of his Reiatsu. The call reverberated for a few seconds after Kaoseu dropped to his knees, weary and broken, mentally and emotionally. With a swipe of his hand, the quivering basin of blood sloshed across the landscape, dyeing the off-white sand with its ruby streaks. He could feel tears streaming down his face underneath the mask as his fingers absently opened and closed in the sand, making deep gouges with every pass. His eyes gazed at his reflection in the meager puddle that was left over from his furious strike, though they saw nothing.
It took a moment for Kaoseu’s breathing to steady once more, and when it did, he noticed something odd. Leaning in closer to what remained of the scarlet mirror, he looked himself over, trying to pin what was out of place. His eyes... they were no longer the primal yellow of a Hollow, but the bright amber of his old life. Kaoseu took a moment to measure this, and came to a realization- His form. He wasn’t near the equivalent of what his power should be. He could feel his own aura eking out around him, unable to be contained in the weak body he was in. If he were to estimate, he should be equivalent to a Vasto Lorde type Hollow. Right now, he was still a newborn. Sitting there, pondering, he could actually feel his spiritual pressure reasserting itself, which could only mean that he was more than likely going to experience some form of accelerated growth, compared to most Hollows.
Kaoseu took a certain satisfaction in knowing he had regained his sanity, as well as what humanity he’d had when he died. He could do this. If he grew in power, faster, then he’d be able to return to a human form, or at least as close as he could get. He remembered tales of the Espada, though none had been seen in over 300 years. If he succeeded, he would soon be the first to re-establish the powerful race of Hollows. Chuckling to himself, the newborn Hollow made to stand, only to feel the ground beneath his feet rumble and shift. Ripples spread across the surface of the sand, waves emanating from five different points before him, all overlapping. Quickly, Kaoseu stood full height, then proceeded to crouch down, letting himself enter into a fighting stance, his clawed hands held palms out, his neck-plates bristling.
Without warning, the ground exploded, sand careening into the air. It fell in slow motion, it seemed, as five figures, all of different heights and sizes, darted around Kaoseu. Just before the sand came down, every one of them opened fire. Dozens of Bala and various other abilities, including a ball of flame, several needle-sharp spines, and a purple-hued orb of pure Reiatsu collided with his body, most of them not even powerful enough to break through his powerful aura. The few that did, caused only a mild nuisance to him. Smoke and flames hid his form while he took a moment to pull in as much of his leaking Reiatsu as possible, then let it burst forth with a yell, sending the spines that had pierced him flying, and extinguishing the flames around and on him.
Not a single move was made, the twitch of a muscle grounds for attack, on both fronts. Slowly, tensions eased, and the killing intent in the air began to recede. A shift in the atmosphere caused Kaoseu to whirl around, a clawed hand lashing out and grabbing onto whatever had snuck up behind him. His fingers found each other on the back side of a throat, the head above it grimacing in pain as they clenched. eyes narrowed, Kaoseu gave the other Hollow a quick once-over.
It was built extremely muscular, lean and massive. Barrel chested, with dark brown skin, it was a wonder this Hollow didn’t seem to be more temperamental than he was showing. His facial features were mostly humanoid, with front facing eyes and a sharp edged nose. His grimace betrayed sharp teeth that would have otherwise remained hidden in his mask. The most notable features, however, were the set of massive, ornate horns that angled out, up, and slightly back from skull of the beast, as well as that, below his waist, rather than legs, there were muscular hooves, much like that of a horse or goat, and constructed as such. Thick fur, the color of flames, clung to the outside of forearms that connected with claw-tipped fingers that hung down to the knees. Lush hair of the same color sprouted from beneath the top of his mask in a long mane that reached almost to the middle of his back. In all, the beast was slightly smaller than Kaoseu himself, and emanated more Spiritual Pressure than his surrounding comrades, of which Kaoseu now took to looking over as well.
The two to his immediate left and right resembled each other slightly, though were different in the grand scheme of things. On the left, a blue-hued, Chimera-looking fellow huffed, his breathing labored from their effort. Behind him, a snake-headed tail swished, a simple mask over most of the head. On the shoulders, the heads of eagles, with masks similar to Hibiki’s own, if not slightly more archaic. Bristling wings sprouted from its back, which almost detracted from the taloned hands and the massive pawed feet. Its head was very angular, with a brutish mask, all sharp edges where it fit the contours of his face, which easily stood eye-level with his own. On the right, a figure of the same height , and similar build stood. However, this one was much more simplistic, almost bird-like. Large wings, greyish blue in color, and grey talons for both feet and hands, the beast was hulking, even more so than the Hollow dangling from Kaoseu’s outstretched arm. It stood passively, and could have easily passed as a dressed up mannequin, with its armored skin. A falcon-esque Hollow mask adorned his skull, with light grey feathers creating an illusion of spiked hair that jetted back from beneath the mask.
The last two figures stayed close to each other. As if knowing what was occurring, they circled around to stand in front of Kaoseu, awaiting scrutiny of their own. Obviously, none of them meant much danger, now that he had easily incapacitated the strongest of the bunch. So, the newborn Hollow continued, analyzing as much as he could about the last two. One was more bestial than all the rest. Standing on all fours, it resembled a massive, dark-armored dog, easily standing at a level equal with his chest, with sharp, bone-like spines poking up between the slats in the armor. The face was little more than a skeleton, with black horns that jutted forwards, designed for goring an opponent with little effort, and a gaping maw with teeth long and sharp enough, it was likely that it couldn’t even close its mouth without goring itself. A thick, muscular build made the beast a tank, if it ever decided to rush something. Kao remembered to take note of never getting on it’s bad side.
The last Hollow was the simplest of all of them. Built like a giant, he stood tall enough that Kaoseu’s head would have only reached his chest. He was like a double-wide trailer, easily dwarfing every other being present. He was one solid color, that of bleached bone, with dark joints in the armor to allow him movement. Three claws made up each massive foot, and five-fingered hands the size of a microwaves were attached to arms big around as tree trunks. On his shoulders rested a head adorned with a helm-like mask, a single slit creating the only opening for his singular, yellow eye.
Five Hollows, all more than likely capable of taking him on, and all just slightly below his own level of power. Wary of the danger, Kaoseu returned his amber gaze back to the Hollow that was now gripping onto his forearm, in a vain effort to draw a decent breath. Narrowing his eyes in warning, Kaoseu released his grip, and the horned beast collapsed to the sand, coughing and sputtering. Not a single move was made by the remaining Hollows, obviously in deference to the one that lay before them, regaining his composure. After a few seconds, the Hollow stood, clearing his throat.“Many apologies... Kaoseu.”
the beast began, shocking him with the knowledge of his name. The look lasted no longer than a flash of lightning, but it was long enough to draw a smirk of the small victory from the one standing before him as he continued. “I am glad your strength is as reputable as many have said. It has been long since one of you Shinigami have become one of us. I am called Hikami. To your left and right are Nue and Taka. Directly behind me, the four-legged one is Oushi, and the other, Ishi. We would ask of you to join us... to lead us. You are strong, and we all wish to once again become as we were, in a more human form. Please, accept our apology, and our allegiance.”
With that, Hikami dropped to a knee, and the others followed suit, those incapable of the act drawing their bellies to the ground and bowing their heads.
Kaoseu looked around at the half circle gathered around him, and felt a surge of hope. However, he let it pass quickly.“Stand up.”
he growled roughly.
Shocked, each Hollow obeyed in turn. Silently, they looked uneasily at each other. Kaoseu uttered a deep growl, drawing their attention once more.“I am not one to be bowed to. To bow is to show weakness. If I’m going to travel with you, you will speak to me as one of your own. I am no greater than any one of you, no matter how strong or weak you or I am. If I’m going to travel with you, we are all equal. We all have the same goal. Is this agreed?”
Kaoseu said, his voice ringing with the uncanny echo his Hollowfied form had developed.
The tension in the air eased dramatically. Kaoseu could see
the physical change as each of the Hollows relaxed. One by one, they each came forward, to personally introduce themselves.
Hikami stepped aside, allowing Nue to step forth. A surprisingly gentle voice spoke, greeting Kaoseu with genuine warmth. Taka surprised him even more when a female voice uttered her thanks. Oushi’s calm manner was off-putting, though his gruff voice did match his appearance. As if to further surprise him, Ishi stepped forth, and bowed their head, and in the voice of a female, offered her greeting and thanks. Kaoseu responded in kind to each one, and once all of the greetings had taken place, he craned his neck and stretched his limbs. All of the remaining Hollows looked at him expectantly, and Kaoseu returned a passive gaze.
After a few moments, he spoke again.“So, exactly how many of you know the evolution of a Hollow...?”
When no one spoke up, Kaoseu grinned.“All Hollow start off exactly as we are now- Hollows. Most of them are mindless, or only focused on gorging themselves. However, those like us have transcended that bestial nature. We have our sanity, and our self control. But that’s not enough. We need massive amounts of power to take us to our next form, which is the first of the Menos class Hollows, the Gillian. After that, with the six of us, we can become Adjuchas, and from there, Vasto Lorde class Hollow. After that, the process of becoming an Espada is fuzzy. No one knows exactly how it’s done, but I intend to find out.”
Kaoseu summarized, and then looked around at the faces of the Hollows that were now his new acquaintances.“So... What do we do now, then...?”
asked Ishi after some time.
At this, Kaoseu chuckled. He said nothing as he began to walk forward, not bothering to wait to see if the others would follow. He stopped before one of the holes that they had entered from, now an entrance to the Forest of Menos, a gaping maw of darkness from this end. Looking barely over his shoulder, the ex-Shinigami smirked.
“We gather an army.”
he said, stepping forward into the void.Six Months Later...
Kaoseu looked down from his perch, a cave indented on the cliff-face. Below him swam a sea of Hollows, all comparable in strength to his own, and that of the five Hollow that rested behind him. On his last count, Kaoseu had given up when he reached seven hundred, and there was still a large amount leftover. Gathering those loyal to their cause had not been difficult, as most of these Hollows either shared their beliefs, or feared them greatly. It had been over three months since any of them fed. Now, it was only a matter of time before the process began...
Below, a reptilian Hollow roared, not the dull roar of a challenge or threat, but a roar of hunger and lost sanity. Hikami, Nue, Taka, Oushi, and Ishi all came to gather around Kaoseu to watch the fruits of their long awaited efforts. With another roar, the lesser Hollows began to take up the call, until all was chaos. Blood and gore began to spatter the ground as each Hollow, starved beyond their right mind, began to feast on each other, whatever they could clamp their jaws around. Slowly, Reiatsu began to leak into the air, combining into a potent cloud that began to take a solid form. Instinct driving their own movements, the six Hollow leaped down from their sanctuary, and began dominating the massacre, piling in all their own thoughts and feelings as they sated their hunger on the weaker Hollows.
The mess of gore and limbs began to conglomerate after only a few moments of their added hunger. A black, tar-like substance began to form from the blood that soaked the ground, and snatched up whole Hollows as it surged, devouring them in their inky depths. Kaoseu and the other six were careful to avoid this mass until they were among the last of the Hollows to remain after hours of feasting on the flesh of their brethren. Standing together in a circle, they gazed up at the mass of formless black energy as it towered above them. Kaoseu nodded to the others, and in turn, they each cut themselves across their palms, raising their bloodied fingers. The mass quivered, and Kaoseu locked his gaze on it, slicing a claw across his own palm. He raised his hand and, for the last time, let out a passionate roar as he forced every ounce of Reiatsu he could muster into the palm of his hand, baiting the wave that now set in motion upon them. As it crashed down on the group, his call was silenced, and all was dark.Whispers
All that could be heard was the constant, shallow drone of low whispers, thoughts set adrift in a sea of pure spiritual energy. Thousands of them, some louder than others. Nothing was private, every thought was of one entity. They were a hive, a singular unit made of thousands of parts. He- for that’s all that he could define himself as- drifted through, feeling no corporeal form, and listened to each thought individually, searching for something, though he knew not what. He likened the voices to the sounds of a pool, with people talking and shouting on the surface while he was underwater, the majority of them muffled beyond the range of understanding. Every so often, he would hear a voice louder than the others, and drift in that direction. When he found it, he would press at it with his own consciousness, drawing it into himself as they each explored one and other. He repeated this, feeling more and more complete as he did so. Every time he drew another consciousness in, he felt a sudden need to name it for what it felt like.
The first, a stoic persona, large and expansive, but gentle. He dubbed it as such.Ishi...
Soon after, a fiery consciousness, wild and powerful.Hikami...
A strong sense of self, unruly, but contained.Oushi...
Pride, and utter confidence, rolled into a sense of power stronger than itself believed.Taka...
Emotions, strengths, and weaknesses, all creating a sharp edged mind that held within a softness incomparable.Nue...
Kaoseu felt complete. The name came to him with a sudden surge of self. Somewhere inside of his own consciousness, he felt the same click with the five he had gathered into himself. The feeling of floating abruptly stopped, turning into ascension. In the darkness, there was a single spot of light, high above. It beckoned, and Kaoseu drew himself to it with fervor, an ache driving him from deep within, made stronger by the identical ache of the others within him. Like a child breaching the surface, Kaoseu was suddenly aware, and let out a gasp. The resulting sound was a roar to his own ears. It took a moment for him to realize that he could actually hear himself, and that he had vocalized his feelings. Lifting his hands, he saw large, clawed fingers with sleek white palms. Just barely, he could make out the front of sharp-tipped feet, hidden beneath a ragged, cloak-like form. He lifted his gaze once more, and his eyes took notice of the sight that lay before him.
All around, swaying as if caught in a breeze, were hundreds, if not thousands, of Gillian. Their identical nature made the masses seem like a puppet army, something out of a horror movie, every one of them trapped in an endless dream of identical nature. Kaoseu felt unnerved as he moved through the ranks, one of very few that was doing so. It took several days before Kaoseu felt a deep emptiness within him, and realized he was hungry. He had seen neither hide nor hair of any Hollow aside from the Gillian, so they were out of the question as a food source. Slowly, he came to a realization, that this field of Gillian wasn’t a resting place, it was a breeding grounds, for those like himself, as well as a feeding grounds. Taking this to heart, Kaoseu set to work abetting his insatiable hunger.
For months, he feasted. The other Gillian paid virtually no notice to the goings on around them, and only reacted when he bit into their flesh, devouring them over the next few hours. He could feel his strength increasing, his hunger slowing down, yet he couldn’t stop. Only once did he come across another Gillian with a hunger, this one bearing a mask much like that of an Oni, grotesque and hardened. For hours, they stood, swaying, staring each other down, before they parted ways, each deciding that the other deserved their own chance at new life. Soon after, the void within Kaoseu was filled. He stood there, letting his strength flow through him, relishing in the glory of it all. Then, there was the tug from deep within his gut, an urge, an instinct, if you will. Acting on it, the sleek-masked Gillian opened his maw, and breathed out. With the sound of a thousand metal doors tearing open, the air before him was rent apart, showing the view of a city in chaos. His curiosity ignited, and a slight ache of hunger re-emerging, he let himself through, and into the World of the Living...
[Entrance into Raze the Dead