Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls - FiMFetch.net (2024)

Episode 202: Bloodstained Gold

Fluttershy remained steady and calm on the outside as an ancient willow tree, with roots dug deep. Her hundred fold ethereal hands of light fanned out behind her gleaming halo, palms out, while her six hands of flesh and blood remained poised into curled fists. The air vibrated and stirred, the white sands of Las Noche’s interior desert shaking as the termors of raw spiritual pressure shook them. Guto’s form was awash and obscured with a pallet of metallic liquid, gold and brass auras of gushing reiatsu blasting around him as he assumed the form of his Ressureccion. Fluttershy felt the press of that pressure upon herself, and took a slow, deep breath through her nose.

If Sunset could have the courage to stand against Tirek, then Fluttershy felt the very least she owed to that example was to stand firmly against the full might of the present Seventh Espada. Even if Adagio had unseated Guto from his higher position, only the foolish would doubt for an instant that Guto was a deadly foe. Fleur de Lis’ imprisonment itself was proof of that. Fluttershy still vividly recalled the mighty Sternritter’s overwhelming power when she and her friends had faced Fleur early on in the course of these extraordinary events. None of them except Sunset had been able to do a thing against Fleur , back then. And now Fluttershy was facing alone the man who had brought Fleur down.

And she fully intended to win.

As the mass of gold and brass colored light burst away from Guto in a rushing gust, his transformed body emerged. His head that of a bone white mask shaped in the visage of a fearsome eagle, yellow eyes glaring from dark sockets. A mass of brown feathers formed a mane down his head and neck, and then spread into a large cape. Upon that back sat somewhat familiar looking turbine-like protrusions of pale bone, like jet engines formed from the carved bones of some massive animal, and bearing thin wing protrusions. His chest was bare, showing off lean muscle and his Hollow hole, and his lower body was clad in thick, feather covered leggings that ended in feet like avian talons. Again, a familiar sight, Fluttershy realized, as she thought about Greta’s own Resurreccion. The similarities to Guto’s was unmistakable. Guto raised his arms out to his side, as if making an inviting gesture, and the curved, scimitar-like blades on his armored gauntlets gleamed with edges of gold.

Then Fluttershy focused her attention upon Guto’s Hollow hole in his muscular, bronze chest, and noticed the twinkling gleam of something red and gem-like. A replica of Adagio’s siren gem, housed in the deeper recesses of the Hollow hole and mounted there on small, metal cables.

“Impressed? I do strike a remarkable figure in this form, if I do say so myself,” Guto said with a tone coated in narcissism and garnished with overconfidence. He gave off a richly amused and dark chuckle as he gestured at his Hollow hole, “I would have preferred it if Grogar could have found a way to make the gem’s gleam gold, but alas I shall accept the accessory for the extra power it can bring.”

Fluttershy tilted her head slightly, the inflection of her voice showing only simple curiosity, “The gem isn’t what interests me. I see a resemblance you share with Greta, now. The engines she had grafted onto her, were they meant to imitate yours?”

Guto’s teeth flashed in a pearl grin of self-satisfaction, “She admires me so, she insisted Grogar’s attachments helped her emulate my fine example of form and function. I suppose it helps that she shares my blood, but that hardly matters, without merit to back it up. That is just part of the great power I wield over my subjects, child. My gift to them, among so many I generously provide, is an example to strive for. That some fail and are crushed by said failure is a cheap price to pay in recompense for the ones who succeed.”

Her eyes glanced towards the rabble of Arrancar warriors who remained watching the conflict from the sidelines, so many still looking at Guto in awe, and equal fear. She saw Gilda still holding up the barely standing Great by the rim of the hole that had been melted in the ground, where even now down in the remains of the arena she could feel Pinkie Pie and Hydia’s reiatsu clashing. Gilda wore a look of sickness and shame, partially watching Guto, and partially looking at Greta, who’s own eyes still remained locked on Guto with something akin to desperate desire for approval.

Fluttershy shivered slightly, her pool of placid calm rippling with the displeasure underneath, “You’ve stripped them of any notion of self worth and replaced it with your own image. Even your own daughter.”

Her eyes glowed both figurative and quite literally with an aura of keen promise, “I’m going to shatter that image.”

Guto responded with a condescending chuckle, and his whole body tensed like a wound up spring, “I may well enjoy breaking you even more than I did the Quincy woman. She was arrogant, but you, my dear, are delusional.”

The turbine protrusions on his back flared with jetting blasts of crimson light, and Guto shot down at Fluttershy at a speed surpassing any previous Sonido of his. Even knowing it was coming, Fluttershy barely felt herself twist out of the way in time as Guto’s curved arm blades cut a twin path right where she’d been standing. Several of her golden arms of light were severed by the strike, the power in Guto’s swing enough to create a cutting X-shaped shockwave that tore apart a wide swath of sands. Fluttershy planted her feet and used the extra momentum of her dodge to twist herself into a spin that then saw her launching all six of her physical hands in a short, combined punch at Guto’s side.

He flipped forward, sending his body over her striking fists, and in mid-air his jet engines shot out a spinning stream of thrusting energy that spun him like a circular saw. His arm blades cut outward in a sawing stream of blows, but Fluttershy spun with them, stepping back lightly as Guto flew at her, still spinning as well. Fluttershy crossed her arms in front of her and sent out a mass of spectral golden hands, and the air rang with a string of thunderous impacts as the hands deflected Guto’s spinning blades.

Not even slowing, Guto flipped again, this time landing in a crouched position, and grinned at her as lines of red light appeared across the length of his turbines. Like striking cobras, a series of glittering gold chains ending in grasping manacles flew out, ten per turbine, and started to snap at Fluttershy’s luminous hands.

Fluttershy was not too concerned with this, for each time the manacles snapped upon the wrist of one of her translucent arms, she simply dissipated it. But that did mean that Guto’s chains were removing those arms from play temporarily and lessening her defenses as he then gestured with his hands and conjured forth a fresh swarm of blazing yellow dots of energy that then exploded into rapid fire Bala bullets. Instinct may have told her to evade further back and open up the distance between them, but she realized that Guto had the advantage in a long distance battle. She had to remain close to him if she was to have a chance of winning.

So instead of stepping or leaping back, Fluttershy lowered her body and rushed forward instead, running through the swarm of Bala shots and snapping golden chains while making straight for Guto. Her steps were as smooth and liquid as a olympic ice skater going through a complex routine, her body throwing itself into spins and evasive leaps, but always moving forward as her hands, both flesh and composed of spirit energy, fanned out around her. Her palms deflected Balas, or caught chains to halt them before they could reach her. Step by step she closed on Guto, and as she did so she coiled her right three hands to her side, and gathered power around them as she interwove streams of ethereal fists into three larger fists of golden light that wreathed her hands.

Once she was within about twenty meters from Guto, Fluttershy punched forward with her three right fists. Balas and chains were knocked aside as the three gold auras in the shape of massive fists extended outward with sound shattering force. Guto crossed both his blades and chains in front of him to take the blow, but even so the incredible impact of the three bus-sized ethereal fists cracked the air and sent him flying.

Fluttershy then felt a snap on one of her left wrists, and realized only too late that a gold chain’s manacle was wrapped upon her middle left arm. Guto had hidden a chain inside a Bala, so when she’d deflected it without thinking, having deflected so many amid the barrage up to that point, she didn’t even spot the chain until it was too late.

So as Guto was sent flying, she was yanked along as well by the pure momentum of her own attack. She did her best to recover in mid-air, rolling her body to gain a better position. At the same time, however, she saw Guto stab one arm blade into the sands to ground and halt himself, while the chain attached to her suddenly grew taut and reeled back towards him, dragging Fluttershy towards Guto with the speed and force of a Sonido. He swung his other arm blade out and, almost like a clothesline, aimed for Fluttershy’s chest. She managed to roll with the blow, but still felt a searing pain over her chest and shoulder as the blade cut.

Blood dripped to the white sands as Guto drew first blood, and Fluttershy, still attached to one of his chains, landed a dozen meters away, wincing from the wound.

“Still think you’re going to ‘shatter’ me, my dear?” asked Guto, to which Fluttershy reached out her other left hands and grasped the chain he’d attached to her.

Then, she poured her real power into it, the power that let her alter and control the fundamental expressions of one’s reiatsu. Of which Guto’s chains were composed entirely of.

“Yes,” she said, and then commanded, “Now, expose your chin.”

And Guto, unprepared for the direct assault on his very will by being in physical contact with Fluttershy, found himself bowing without thinking, sticking his chin out in a highly vulnerable fashion.

“What is this-!?” he started to say, right in time for Fluttershy, with speed as fast as any of his own Sonidos, appeared in front of him and proceeded to uppercut his chin with all three of her right hands with earth rending force.

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Knowing that the allotted time she and her team had was down to seconds rather than minutes, Twilight stopped screwing around. With the wards of Guto’s tower triggered, they’d be swarmed by Arrancar warriors in no time, and even with their cloaks providing a strong measure of stealth, it’d be impossible to hide themselves with enough Hollows scouring the area. They had to get Fleur out of here, now.

Twilight drew upon her magic, allowing Midnight to help her guide the flow of eldritch energy as she simultaneously tapped into her Schrift. Teal flames engulfed her eyes as she directed the flow of magical light directly into the door beyond which Fleur ’s reiatsu could be felt. Twilight sensed the defenses on the door triggering, the potent Cero trap activating the moment foreign energy that didn’t belong it its creator touched it. Twilight didn’t care, grasping her hand like a claw and surrounding the door with a shimmering shell of pure magic and spirit energy infused power as she crushed the door of metal like paper. Her Schrift flowed into the energies of the trap, altering its variable of explosion to implosion, directing the potent force of multiple Cero detonations inward. The shell of her magic around the door flickered slightly at the golden pulsation of intense spiritual detonation that took place inside as the force of three or four of Guto’s Ceros imploded at once... but her magical barrier held with relative ease. Compared to hurling Sapphire Shore’s subspace dimension into orbit as it was exploding, this little firecracker was nothing.

“Sugarcoat, you and the girls hold the line here while I confirm Fleur ’s status. Don’t engage Guto’s men until you’re left with no choice, but don’t let a single one step inside this room if you can help it,” she told her friend, and Sugarcoat saluted as Twilight stepped past the threshold the door had once guarded.

The interior of the room beyond was swelteringly hot! Twilight flinched at the uncomfortable heat, as if someone had bathed the stone chamber in the center of a giant hearth. The source of the heat appeared to be a series of brass pipes that ran along the ceiling, powered by connecting devices interspersed on the wall. Twilight knew some in Hueco Mundo used a sort of strange spirit-particle based technology, and surmised perhaps Grogar had created these devices, probably for some favor from Guto. The chamber itself was split into thirds, with stone walls lining the center which had archways in their middle to lead to either the left or right third of the tower floor. Twilight moved forward quickly, glancing left and right.

To the left was a bedchamber of sorts, one both decadent and lavish, yet somehow incredibly messy in the manner of which countless cushions were piled about to create a pool of comfort. A smoke haze stemmed from some kind of floor mounted grill, still sizzling with some manner of meat that Twilight guessed was from a lesser Hollow. A somewhat ludicrously large wine case showing bottle after bottle of alcohol occupied almost the entirety of one wall. Opulent decorations of gold could be seen everywhere else, from ornate candelabras, to intricate statuettes, to a wall lined with gem encrusted weapons collected from a dozen cultures.

Twilight turned from it with a bewildered shake of her head and looked to the right, and there found Fleur .

This chamber was clearly set up as a comfortable den, with thick fur rugs and high backed leather seats arranged around a wide round table of dark wood. A map of Las Noches was spread across the table, notable markings focused on Adagio’s territory showing off the fact that Guto had been using his people to scout out the disposition of Adagio’s forces for some time, and was working on a potential plan of attack.

As interesting as that was, Twilight’s eyes focused solely on her objective, the woman chained to the wall on the opposite side of the table.

Fleur de Lis was managing her best to handle the room’s immense heat, but it was clear she was sweat soaked and exhausted. Partly this was due to the way she was chained to the wall, with short chains that were looped through anchors that wouldn’t let her properly rest, nor move significantly without also moving what looked to be huge weights of molded gold. Twilight guessed the weights had to be far heavier than usual, because normally a Sternritter like Fleur would have had the spiritual power to readily lift them, but she sensed Hollow energy engraved into the weights that probably made them much heavier. Fleur was wearing a tightly fit, one piece body suit of white fabric that terminated at her shoulders and lower thighs, not precisely modest but more covering than Twilight had expected considering what she’d heard about Guto. Then again, given the heat, perhaps the outfit was meant to make it harder for Fleur to cool down properly.

As Twilight stepped around the table, she saw that Fleur was slumped in the chains, eyes staring at something on the ground.

It was a saucer of gold, like a pet’s dish. It was filled with clean, clear water. Fleur could probably drink it, but she’d need to pull the weights in order to lean down and kneel to drink, and the position required would be humiliating once achieved, for Twilight could see the dish was bolted to the floor, meaning Fleur wouldn’t even be able to pick it up to drink properly. She’d have to lap the water, like an animal.

Given the cracked lips on the woman’s face and the dogged determination in her eyes, Twilight guessed Fleur hadn’t lowered herself to touching the water, yet. But how long had she been kept in here, with this ungodly heat, dehydrating with water right in front of her? Water she could drink, for the price of humiliation and broken pride.

Twilight was suddenly filled with the intense grip of outrage, and the image of putting an arrow through Guto’s head.

“Fleur ...” she said, and the woman jerked her head up, having been so absorbed in her own misery she hadn’t even realized Twilight had arrived.

Recognition sparked in Fleur s eye’s, the woman’s head of pale pink hair painted in sweat across her brow. Her lips trailed a bit of blood from their dry, cracked state as she tried to speak, failed, and then hacked out a rough cough before managing to croak, “S...Sparkle...”

Now that she had moved closer to the woman and was examining her in greater detail, including probing with her spiritual senses, Twilight understood that it was miraculous that Fleur had the presence of mind to even recognize her, let alone still be conscious. Those weights were indeed draining the Sternritter’s spirit energy, rendering her much weaker than she otherwise normally would be. Twilight could feel the woman’s reishi pooled inside the weights like blood drained into a mosquito’s belly. Seeing them up close, she realized with a twitch of disgust that the weights weren’t actually made of metal, or even inanimate objects.

They were Hollows. She could see the small, squelching eyes open on one of the, and the lazy opening of a mouth where the chains extended to Fleur’s limbs. These were Hollows, very likely creations of Grogar, designed to attach and suck energy out of prisoners like leeches.

“God,” Twilight breathed, and knelt down in front of Fleur , resting a hand on the woman’s sweat slick head, “I’m going to get you out of here, Fleur . Just stay with me, okay? Stay conscious, if you can.”

“H... how... are you...?” Fleur weakly shook her head, eyes closing as if in some kind of pained denial, “You can’t be here... just another... dream.”

Given how dehydrated and drained Fleur was, Twilight wasn’t surprised if the woman had been having delusional dreams about rescue and was mistaking her for another one. Twilight’s presence was probably confusing enough on its own, given the last time Fleur had seen her, Twilight had been nothing more than a cadet. It’d be hard for Fleur to swallow that Twilight had grown into a powerful Sternritter in such a short time and now was commanding a team on a rescue mission into the heart of Las Noches.

She sighed and stood, “If I was a dream I wouldn’t tell you how angry I still am at you for what you tried to do to my friends, Fleur de Lis. I don’t like you, but nobody deserves what Guto has done to you. I’m getting you out of here. You can decide if you’re dreaming or not once you’re safely home.”

With that, she summoned forth her bow in a rush of teal light and flame, and fired two arrows in short order directly into the two Hollow weights attached to Fleur . She’d already scanned them to ensure there was no more nasty traps attached to them, and she felt confident destroying them was safe enough. It seemed unlikely Guto ever expected an interloper to get this far into his tower. The two Hollow creations died and turned to motes of ash without so much as a whimper of protest, and Twilight considered the possibility that, given what Grogar had molded them into, she’d just done the poor things a favor.

Fleur groaned as she slumped, no longer attached to the weights. Twilight caught her, holding the other woman almost tenderly. However there wasn’t much time, and she glanced towards the golden dish of water. Fleur needed hydration ASAP, so Twilight, with relative ease, removed the dish from its bolts on the floor. She didn’t even need to use her Schrift for that one, just a bit of Blut Arterie to boost her strength.

As she raised it to Fleur ’s lips, the woman shook her head, “No... won’t... given in... never... not your dog... Guto...”

“Please, Fleur , you need water. You didn’t give in. You made it. He won’t hurt you anymore, I promise. You’re free, so please just drink, because if you pass out or die on me, then this whole mission is for nothing.”

The slow, dawning light of understanding was starting to break through the dread clouds of delusion in Fleur ’s eyes. Looking first at Twilight with the growing realization that this was no dreamt phantasm, Fleur then gazed at the cool water with trembling lips. With unashamed tears, she started to drink, although Twilight noted that Fleur managed to do so almost like someone trying to sip tea, rather than devour the drink greedily. Probably for the best, as it’d help the water settle in her stomach better if she didn’t down it all at once.

By now Twilight both heard the buzzing twangs of Quincy bowfire, along with feeling the intense bursts of reiatsu from just outside. Her team had engaged Guto’s Arrancar, probably when one got too close to the clearly destroyed door. Twilight sensed at least twenty Arrancar directly outside, their reiatsu shifting around in rapid confusion as the still invisible Quincy opened fire from their ambush positions. Despite that invisibility, Twilight knew things could turn dire swiftly, given that her team was heavily outnumbered and it wouldn’t take the Arrancar long to recover from their confusion and start pinpointing where all the reishi arrows were coming from.

“That’s our cue to go,” she told Fleur , and gently let the woman take one last sip before discarding the golden saucer of water and slung one of Fleur ’s arms over her shoulder.

With water having whetted her mouth and restored a bit more of her cognitive senses, Fleur ’s eyes were showing a combination of wild desperation and fierce heat, “Where’s Guto...? Going to... kill him...”

Twilight opened her mouth to say that there was hardly time for that, and that even if there was, Fleur ’s safe rescue took priority. However at the same moment there was a stone shattering crash as the wall just ten feet to their left exploded and a dark, hurtling mass of tumbling Espada went crashing by, impacting the next wall and breaking right through it in his uncontrolled spin as Guto was knocked skyward through the top of his tower by Fluttershy’s uppercut form moments ago. A length of golden chain that still connected Guto to Fluttershy was swiftly clinking as it was drawn after Guto.

As Twilight and Fleur both stared at the Guto shaped hole the man’s body had left in the ceiling, Fluttershy appeared at the entrance in the wall that Guto’s passage had made and she blinked at the two Quincy. They saw that the gold chain was attached to Fluttershy’s middle left arm, which didn’t seem to bother the girl overly much as she paused to give the two a smiling nod.

“Hello, Twilight. Hello, Fleur de Lis. I’m glad you’re okay. Please, continue on back to the embassy while I finish explaining to Guto the error of his ways.”

With that, Fluttershy leaped through the hole in the ceiling, following Guto just before the chain connecting them would have grown taut. A moment later both Twilight and Fleur heard a peal of sonic thunder from what must have been another impactful punch that shook the whole tower.

Fleur , suddenly much more awake and cognizant, glanced at Twilight, “What in the hell have I missed...?”

Twilight coughed politely and began helping Fleur down the hall, “It’s been an eventful few weeks.”

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Fluttershy’s next punch, delivered via another mammoth sized golden fist summoned forth from her halo, catapulted Guto back down towards the ground. Through the length of his chain that connected them, Fluttershy now had several smaller hands of gold light grasping the links and channeling her spirit energy into it, and hence into Guto. Strictly speaking she didn’t even need to speak commands with such a connection, she could simply send her will into Guto. Through this, she weakened his body and spiritual pressure while simultaneously willing him to paralysis.

At least, that was her intent. As was always the case, her reiatsu had to contest with her target’s, and Guto’s was resisting with fierce intensity. She’d caught him off guard with that first command, but now he snarled and barred his beak in a furious grimace as his violent will fought back. Before he hit the ground he spun his body around and the turbines on his back fired crimson jets of power as he flew off to Fluttershy’s left, a red comet that then unleashed a torrential storm of golden light at her.

Bala appeared and fired with the rapidity of a waterfall, while his beak opened and let out a predatory raptor screech as yellow light pooled and then blasted forth in a wide Cero. Fluttershy went on the defensive, a blossom of hundreds of hands flaring from her halo to intercept the Bala like flyswatters assaulting a swarm of insects. Meanwhile she cupped all six of her flesh and blood hands in front of her to seemingly catch the Cero that was flying towards her. However Fluttershy had learned from Guto’s previous trick, and her spiritual senses probed the Cero for what she suspected... a coiling mass of a dozen gold chains hidden inside the blast itself.

Feigning to fall for it, she took the Cero head on, letting it splash over her six braced hands as she poured her reiatsu into counter the mighty beam of destruction. She felt the energy sear at her palms as the wave of intense yellow light flowed over and around her. Guto’s Cero was far from weak, the kind of blast that would have obliterated its way through a mountainside. It certainly would have killed Fluttershy outright not so long ago, before developing her Fullbring to the degree that she had. It wasn’t simply raw reiatsu that was letting her tank the blast, but the way her Fullbring let her manipulate his reishi to weaken it. However much he could resist her commands to a degree, he couldn’t do it fully, and so the Cero’s energies were unfocused.

As the Cero splintered around her hands, the chains hidden inside the bema struck, trying to wrap her up fully. Fluttershy, prepared for them, spun backwards out of their snapping grasp and responded in kind with a rush of her own summoned hands of spectral gold. Grasping the chains and halting them before their manacles could clasp on her, Fluttershy was about to yank Guto towards her to deliver another punch, but saw the man smile with wicked satisfaction.

“Got you.”

She barely had a millisecond to react as the manacles her hands grasp all glowed brightly and Guto channeled power directly through them. Suddenly the explosive bullets of dozens of Bala all fired out of the chains themselves, catching Fluttershy at point blank range. She coiled her hands around herself, both flesh and ethereal, in a physical barrier as she was pelted and knocked groundward by the barrage. Pain shot through her, as a few Bala had struck home before she’d fully raised her reiatsu in defense.

As she hit the ground, the Bala kept flowing, Guto firing both from his chains and conjuring more from the air as he hammered the spot she’d fallen in.

However a second later he felt a titanic surge of reiatsu flow through those very chains, and strike his his core as a force of great strength yanked down on the chains. Fluttershy’s willpower all but slapped him in the face as she said, “Get down here...”

Resisting or not, he lost momentary control of his senses as he was pulled down like a wrecking ball and smashed into the ground by his own chains, feeling the bone-jarring impact through his whole body. Grunting and spitting blood, Guto rose with a growl. Across from him, about thirty paces or so away, Fluttershy rose as well, her golden hands uncoiling from around her like a protective flowering opening up. She was bleeding herself, from a wound to her scalp, which only added to the red coating her loose robes as the shoulder wound she’d taken was still seeping.

Blue light poured from her third eye, and she threw away his other chains, only keeping a grasp on the first one he’d attached to her as she poured more of her power into it, “You’re a bully and a coward, and you should be ashamed of the suffering you’ve subjected others to for the sake of glorifying yourself.”

Guto’s eyes boiled with indignation as her words tried to hammer his mind such such thoughts, but wounded pride and raw rancor added fuel to his spiritual pressure as he rushed her, “I’ll not be lectured by a hypocritical child who’s own power revolves around subverting the will of others.”

The ground all but exploded around him in a wake of sand akin to water flying past a jet ski as he flew at her, arm blades carving the earth in a violently swift pair of slashes. Of course, Fluttershy had baited this exact reaction. She knew her power couldn’t truly force him to feel shame for his actions, but figured he’d get angry enough to want to close the distance, where she had the advantage in melee.

At least somewhat. Guto’s strikes were blindingly fast and powerful. Fluttershy moved with the ease of a willow bending in a storm, but still felt the sting of his blade’s edge several times as she turned and twisted through his attacks. More blood coated her skin from slashes on her hips, her legs, her arms, even her face as one near blow tore a cut over her cheek. But when the moment was right and one slash was just a hair’s breadth too overextended, she punished Guto with a deadly combination of channeling her will through the chain she still held to stiffen his reflexes and weaken his physical resistance as she struck back with a flaring flurry of golden hands that struck in such multitude and speed that all normal eyes would have seen is hundreds of incandescent flashes of light before Guto’s body was sent reeling like a pinball.

Each impact Guto felt like a hammer blow to his Hierro, and to his shock he sensed some of his Ressureccion cracking in places from the rain of blows as he coughed up fresh blood. Yet with stubborn pride he did not fall and planted his feet before grinding himself to a halt and glaring hate at Fluttershy, who was breathing hard herself in exertion. She may have appeared to hold the edge, but she was expending power swiftly by channeling her Fullbring’s ability into his chain and matching him in melee.

Guto smiled. He’d spent a long time thinking over an eventual duel with Adagio Dazzle, and in many ways things were playing out similarly with Fluttershy. Much as he hated to admit it, Adagio was stronger than him, and humiliatingly enough this seemed potentially true of this human upstart. But he was the more experienced warrior, and he’d been conserving his strength, while letting Fluttershy spend hers freely.

It was perhaps time to show her the true power and nature of his Ressureccion’s chains, something even Fleur de Lis had not lasted long enough to be worthy of witnessing.

Fluttershy felt the shift in the air immediately, as if Guto’s spiritual pressure had grown heated and more solid all at once. The artificial siren gem gave off a baleful glint, while the growths of bone on his back that were shaped like turbines split open several long hatches along their circumference. From these, chains of gleaming gold flew forth, many more than before. They did not move towards Fluttershy, but rather spread out around Guto, snaking along the ground like metallic adders.

That’s when Fluttershy had the sharp, immediate sensation in her middle left arm of intense heat and pain, as if her flesh had just been dipped into a volcanic flow. A single glance showed her the shocking sight of her arm slowly transmuting into solid gold metal, the effect spreading from the manacle Guto had originally attached to her. At the same instant, a hissing noise filled the air as the sands of Las Noches began to turn into gold, the dozens upon dozens of chains Guto spread out around him spreading the change around them like flame might consume a page of paper.

It clicked in Fluttershy’s mind that she’d gotten careless. Despite the fact that she’d been using his manacle and chain as a means to affect him with her power, he’d never removed it, and she hadn’t asked herself why.

Fluttershy, as calmly as she could manage, and with only a single deep breath, took her upper right hand and held it with fingers rigid like a knife... then struck with that hand as if it were a blade. A raw rush of molten pain ripped through her senses and she felt the wet heat of blood as it flowed freely from what was now the severed stump of her middle left arm, which she had just cut off with her own hand just above the elbow before the gold transmutation effect could reach the rest of her body.

Her face broke out into cold sweat and a small cry of pain was impossible to keep away from her lips. Even so, she didn’t lose focus and jumped straight up into the air, clearing a few hundred feet as the land turned to gold beneath her. She knew she probably didn’t want to be standing on any of that gold.

Guto watched her with a sneering laugh, “Hah! Glorious, is it not!? Those who do not eventually bend the knee to me, can be turned into such marvelous decorations for my tower! What will it be, human child? Submission, or decoration?”

“Neither,” she replied simply, using one of her right hands to clench shut the bleeding end of her severed arm, concentrating her best to try and get her body to stop the flow of blood as she applied her Fullbring’s healing to herself, “Is turning people into objects, mentally or physically, all you’re capable of?”

“More hypocrisy,” Guto spat, and the golden land seemed to boil with chains that rose up as he himself soared skyward towards her. Wherever the gold spread, it seemed to be able to produce additional chains, creating a dangerous field in which to fight, “All your power does is impose your will upon others, yet you chide me for doing the same?”

Fluttershy was more cautious now, and needed more information. What were the limits of Guto’s ability to turn things into gold? Her only chance was to learn fast, and seek an opening, before he found the means to overwhelm her. Hoping to take him off guard, she met his skyward charge, green motes of Bringer Light flowing from her legs as she vanished with startling speed to rush him at first from the front, then abruptly shift to an attack from his left.

She focused on her halo, bringing forth a sunburst of several dozen hands that flowed out in a spiral, punching in at Guto from multiple directions. These were deliberately slower attacks than she’d used before, however, and her eyes and spirit senses focused heavily upon Guto as he gave a contemptuous glower as he brought in his chains in defense. The multitudes of gold chains sprouting from his back crossed together like a wall of clinking gold, and Fluttershy’s ethereal fists slammed into them in a great, gong-like impact.

Her firsts didn’t transmute into gold, not the ones made out of her spirit energy at least. She sensed the currents of his Hollow reiatsu, the way they tried to gain purchase on her spectral hands and slid off, unlike the way it had penetrated her flesh so easily.

So he could only transmute certain kinds of reishi particles, ones that simulated solid matter. Or at the very least it took more time and effort to do so with raw energy, she surmised. Still, he was clearly drawing power out of the artificial siren gem, having readily resisted her combined blows.

Fluttershy was driven back as chains rising from below reached for her in a swift mass. She was just a shade swifter, cracking the air with her blisteringly fast movements as she dodged around the mass and tried to keep the pressure on Guto himself. More fists erupted from her halo and struck at the man as he, too, blurred with multiple Sonidos as he tried to surround her with chains. Her fists deflected off chains, battering them away, yet more and more appeared. In response Fluttershy threw her arms out and conjured hundreds of more hands, until the air around her and Guto was a maddening storm of impacts from so may fists and chains striking one another that throughout Las Noches the air was filled with their metallic impacts like an aerial earthquake.

She was expending too much energy, she knew, but she didn’t have a lot of options. Between the field of gold he’d created to form more chains, and the huge number he was producing from his own body, Guto was probably one of the only Espada who had a means to match her ethereal hands. Her ability to command him was limited, but not inconsequential, and she suspected it was her best shot to create the opening she needed.

It was clear he was by far the more experienced combatant, but that was being hampered by his pure arrogance. That, and his obsessive need to keep talking, as if trying to convince her of his greatness by words as much as force.

“Look at you! Reduced to solely defending yourself, and draining your reiryoku so quickly in the process! Admit it, child! Admit your inferiority! You’ll be more content once you accept your place under me.”

Fluttershy was familiar with Guto’s sort. She’d been running into them most of her life, since for most of it her shy and soft spoken nature all but attracted either bullies who saw an easy target, or manipulators who thought her a gullible mark. Guto was both a bully and manipulator, who fancied himself an icon. On the surface, someone like Guto probably thought of her Fullbring’s power as something in their same wheelhouse. Fluttershy could indeed subvert the will of another, if she so chose. But that was just a facet of what her Fullbring did. She’d understood that in her first fight with Gilda. That her Fullbring’s true power was how it connected her to others.

She could command, yes. Manipulate and control if she so chose. Truly, perhaps more than any of her friends, Fluttershy knew she had the potential to be a truly horrific tyrant if she ever let herself go down that path.

The difference was that Guto sought to build himself up by creating a pile of others crushed underneath him. Fluttershy wanted to help others grow by reaching out her hands and pulling them up when they were down. Sometimes that meant a little friendly encouragement, pumping up another when they needed it. Sometimes it meant soothing their hurts and helping them confront their issues.

And, sometimes, it simply meant she had to deliver a harsh dose of reality to one whose head was cramped entirely too far up their own rear end.

She breathed with the rhythm of her own motions, directing hundreds of her spectral hands of light in their constant typhoon of deflecting parries as seemingly just as many gold chains came from both below, above, and all around like a sky of metal cobras. The ferocity and frequency of Guto’s chains striking towards her was such that Fluttershy was unable to strike directly at the Espada, who remained a good fifty or so paces back from the action itself. Inch by slow inch the chains’ strikes grew closer to Fluttershy, her many parrying hands gradually being pushed inward so the dome of safety around Fluttershy appeared to get smaller and smaller as the seconds dripped by.

Her eyes snapped to the right as she sensed a spike of reiatsu, and saw one chain’s manacles drag themselves across the air, shimmering gold dust flowing in its wake. Guto’s power was turning the air particles themselves into gold! This dust then solidified into a thin, golden wire that slashed forward at hypersonic speed. Fluttershy rolled aside, feeling strands of her long pink hair cut free by the near miss. Those strands that were cut away turned gold and fell to the ground below. Suddenly more manacles dragged and swayed across the air, creating more lines of gold dust that coalesced together into micro-thin razor wires that hurled themselves in arcing slashes at Fluttershy.

Twisting about like a dancer, contorting her body with flexibility few likely knew Fluttershy even had, she kept the slashing wires of gold away from her flesh by scant centimeters. Even so, no shortage of her translucent hands and arms were sliced clean through, disrupting them and forcing Fluttershy to conjure forth even more to try to compensate as the chains redoubled their efforts to coil towards her.

A mass of chains flew under her, then boiled up, manacles clacking. Another mass pushed through her hands from her left side, rolling towards her in a metal wave. With a deep breath, Fluttershy spun, pulling forth more power and spilling forth from her halo a veritable mountain of golden arms that forged together into nine great lengths, “Enlightenment Technique: Flower Flowing Down River.”

With titanic slams of hurricane force, each fist unfurled like the petals of a flower, punching the air and chains with speed beyond lightning or sound. Each crack of power split the air and sent the masses of chains hurtling back, many broken into scattering links that clinked to the land below, frozen in gold.

Fluttershy had a few seconds of respite as she breathed heavily from the strain of her efforts, blood and sweat caking part of her hair to her face as her still bleeding wounds dripped down her body.

Guto, allowing his chains a moment to fall back and reconstitute themselves, chuckled with dry amusem*nt, “I can sense your reiatsu flagging. How long do you believe you can last, now? Five minutes? Ten? Regardless, the end is fast approaching.”

He frowned slightly, glancing towards his tower, where he now sensed and heard a ruckus occurring. The fight between him and Fluttershy had been involved enough that he’d not been paying attention to matters elsewhere. He sensed his warriors doing battle, and saw flashes of Cero light near his tower’s damaged roof structure. And were those... Quincy arrows!?

“What!? Who dares-!?” he began to shout, and then swiftly turned back towards Fluttershy as he felt her move, but it was too late.

Fluttershy had been counting on several factors.

One was that she knew Guto would notice Twilight and the other Quincy girls’ actions sooner or later, and felt confident that the moment he did, he’d be distracted. Another factor was that the entire time he’d been trying to break down her defenses with his chains, she’d been paying careful attention to the fact that he was standing a good distance back from the constant movements of those chains.

She suspected he wasn’t immune to his own power, and didn’t want to accidentally affect himself. His control over those chains weren’t perfect, probably because he was so proud of his power that he didn’t use it often enough to practice the control needed to avoid hitting himself.

Experienced as he was, his pride and arrogance were vulnerabilities he just couldn’t account for, because he thought himself above having to compensate for them.

That was what let Fluttershy use his momentary distraction to break through the exterior perimeter of his chains while he was still reforming some of them, and rush close to him in a burst of pure speed. It was true she was weakening. Bloodlose and massive expenditure of reiatsu was taking its toll on her...

...But she had enough left to finish this.

Grace did not begin to describe it. Fury did not cover the intensity of it. Relentless barely scraped the surface of what Fluttershy unleashed. Her fists, the now five of pure flesh and blood, glowed with inner sunlight as she struck with the speed and flash of light rays. She all but danced within a hair's breadth of Guto, striking his body with a downpour of fist and palm strikes that rang out with the clarity of church bells.

Guto didn’t so much as have room to gasp or fully register the impacts of damage hammering through his Hierro. Yet, he was an Espada. Rage gripped him and centuries of violent discipline took hold as he fought back with savage speed and power of his own. As blood flowed form his mouth and he felt his ribs crack, he spun and turned with Fluttershy’s blinding assault and slashed his arm blades in a horrifically swift series of counterstrokes.

Fluttershy didn’t retreat a step. She remained within inches of him, angling her body as best she could to lessen the painful strikes as Guto’s blades slashed her. More of her blood flowed, staining her Fullbring’s outfit almost entirely crimson. Pain and fatigue burned her, then turned parts of her limbs cold, but Fluttershy remained right in Guto’s face, her punches not lessening, but only getting faster and more potent as she drew out as much of her spiritual power as she could.

Her third eye glowed like a blue star, and her halo shone with a thousand points of light that resolved into as many and more hands of gold power. Guto’s chains chased them as they hammered their way across the sky, but Fluttershy’s guess had turned out correct... Guto hesitated to bring his chains close to his own body. A hesitation she capitalized on as she now surprised him with a kick that took him square in the jaw of his beak.

He spun downward and slammed into his own field of solid gold. The landscape turned gold bent inward with a titanic groan of broken metal.

His face mask cracked, Guto’s blood streaming from his mouth and nearly broken jaw.

“Bitch! I am LORD GUTO! I rule this land! I am everything an Arrancar must desire to be! I conquer, and ensure all bow to my glory! There can be no other result! No other path! I will make you bow to me!”

The chains suddenly all dropped, flowing into the broken, gold landscape. Then the gold boiled like liquid and from around Guto sprung a small forest of chains that then all wrapped together on either side of him, angled upward as he crossed his arm blades and aimed skyward. Blue light flowed from his bloodied body and pooled into a pulsating sphere along the edge of his blades, then the chains expelled gold light as they coiled around these sphere and began to merge with it, melting into the sphere. Within moments a massive, trembling sphere of destructive energy that glowed blue at its core, while surrounded by a bubbling swirl of liquid gold, had taken shape above Guto.

“Die, and be preserved forever in gold as the foolish human girl who thought to make me, of all people, bow their head in shame! Gran Rey Cero: Victoria Dorada!” (Royal Hollow Flash: Golden Victory)

It exploded upwards like a flying wave breaking over itself. No singular beam, but a frothing wave of crackling blue power intermixed with seething liquid gold that left a towering, frozen pillar of twisted gold in its wake. It had all the space distorting power of a Gran Rey Cero alongside the insidious ability to instantly turn any physical or spiritual matter struck with it into gold, and this wave flew right up at Fluttershy at incredible speed.

And she’d expended so much strength that dodging or blocking it was all but out of the question. She’d lost so much blood by now that she felt like she could barely walk, and much of her power had gone into that last furious flurry of punches to break down Guto’s defenses.

Yet she was not out of options. In fact this was what she’d hoped he’d do. An all out final attack that expended the lion’s share of his own remaining reiatsu, after Fluttershy had already pummeled his body to its own near breaking point.

This was where she put everything she had into one last effort. One last command.

Her Fullbring’s ability to influence the spirit energy and will of others was more potent with physical contact and with a spoken command. She’d punched Guto so many times he probably hadn’t noticed how much of her own reiatsu she’d attached to him in the process. At this point it was as if she was standing right next to him with a hand right over his own heart. And with all of his remaining reiatsu put towards destroying her, he had little left to resist with. All she had to do was speak a word, and shove all her own remaining will and spiritual pressure through the connection to his soul.

“Bow.”

It was beyond a mere word at this point. Fluttershy had put all of her will towards its true meaning of submission, of full acknowledgment of inferiority. That single command carried with it the weight of mountainous authority, hammered straight through Guto’s spiritual defenses and overwhelming his already off kilter and weakened mental state.

So he bowed. Physically, and with a mental scream, emotionally. As Fluttershy had expected, this affected his attack as well, the Gran Rey Cero: Victoria Dorada curving downward abruptly and sharply in response to the damaged will of its progenitor. The beam of crackling blue energy and golden liquid flew beneath Fluttershy, missing her by a few feet, before curving off down to explode upon the Las Noches sands half a kilometer away in an explosive flash of instant, frozen gold the size of several football stadiums. Fluttershy idly wondered how long it might take the Arrancar to remove the sudden, gigantic piece of gold modern art sitting in their back yard.

But Guto’s feral roar drew her attention as the man howled out a cry of wordless fury. He was still bowing his head to her, down on the ground, his body shaking as he tried to raise his head.

It was a bit shocking to her he even had the will left to resist that much. But then again, perhaps it wasn’t that surprising. This was an Espada who’d been several ranks above Grogar, and whom Adagio had not been eager to fight herself, despite having bested Captain Luna. The fact that Fluttershy had managed to scrap out a victory at all was... rather miraculous.

And mostly owed to his blind overconfidence. Had he truly taken her as a serious opponent from the start, Fluttershy doubted she’d have won.

Also, perhaps, she was getting ahead of herself. He was still standing, after all. From what Fluttershy could sense, he’d expended the lion’s share of his remaining power on that attack she’d just forced him to miss with, but it wasn’t as if every last scrap of reiatsu was gone. She had no idea how much power he needed to utilize his chain’s gold transmutation, so there was still a real risk this fight wasn’t over.

On top of that, she could still sense Pinkie Pie and Hydia’s reiatsu clashing, down in the arena. It was hard to tell what was going on down there, or who was winning. A brief glance only showed darkness, down in that hole. Far more than there should have been. Pinkie’s reiatsu was still flaring with potent force, but so was Hydia’s, so Fluttershy could only hope her friend was holding her own. It was equally unclear if Twilight had successfully gotten Fleur out of the tower yet. The sounds of battle still rang out from around the top of Guto’s tower, and Fluttershy could feel the reiatsu from Guto’s warriors as they fought Twilight’s squad.

A good portion of the Arrancar who served Guto were still entirely focused on her and their Espada, however, which meant Fluttershy’s best bet to help Twilight was to keep their attention on this fight to the very end. Even if that end was already past its climax. Neither she or Guto had much left to work with, so finishing this would come down to whatever last-ditch efforts they dredged up here and now.

Fluttershy let herself fall from the air, wary of the golden ground below. But she had to get close to him, and doubted he’d come to her this time around. Her power’s connection to him remained steady, so as she neared the bent, metallic ground, she pushed her will through that connection.

“Turn everything back to normal.”

Guto’s voice ripped out a frustrated growl like that of a caged animal as he straightened his body, muscles trembling with the effort to try and resist her commands. He was still too weakened, however, and with a cutting motion of one of his arm blades, the transmuted gold sands he’d created of the surrounding area shimmered with light and returned to white sand. Which was fortunate, because Fluttershy wasn’t actually sure he could turn the things he’d transmuted into gold back to their original state. That had been a bit of a guess, and if it hadn’t worked, she’d have had trouble getting close to him in a field of gold he could manifest more chains from.

Of the chains he had left, many had remained in broken links from her previous attack, scattering into motes of light, and the few he had left coiled on either side of him to help form the Gran Rey Cero variant he’d fired now hung in limp posture, like wet noodles. Yet Guto’s fury remained clear in his eyes past his cracked eagle mask, blood dripping from his beak.

“I am... not beaten yet... girl...” he breathed heavily, “You lack the will... to finish me off...”

He came at her. It wasn’t fast. He could barely pull off a Sonido, his form flickering, but the high-speed movement more like an awkward stagger as he tried to catch her in a cross slash. Fluttershy, admittedly, wasn’t much faster at this point, her limbs so numb from blood loss, her body in agony where it wasn’t numb, she could barely twirl aside the blow and catch the blades in her hands. Twisting, using as much of his own momentum as she could, she shoulder threw him into the ground with a heavy impact.

Snarling, he lashed with one taloned foot, scraping her face, drawing several lines of blood as she staggered back. He rolled over and rose to his feet, cutting with his right arm blade at her legs. She hopped over it, and with her power dimming with dull arcs of gold, she managed to manifest a few more ethereal arms to fly out and slam towards him. He coughed blood as he spun his blades, slashing the arms apart, but Fluttershy used that moment to command him, her voice barking, “Halt!”

It froze him, for just a moment, which she used to step in and pull her arms back, pouring the last of her strength into her flesh and blood hands. Her halo flared one last time in a brilliant golden starburst, and her fists mirrored that glow, albeit weaker than usual as she was running on spiritual fumes at this point.

“Enlightenment Technique: Gentle Lotus.”

She struck, and even for her missing arm, a brief flare of gold light formed into a brief flash of a fist where the stump was as all six fists struck simultaneously. Directly on Guto’s Hollow hole and the artificial siren gem mounted within. A circular blast of golden force impacted Guto and flowed out from chest to back, shaking the air and carving a tunnel of swirling air force across the sands. Guto felt more ribs shatter as his chest vibrated with the energies of the strike, and worse, heard a singular crack of noise as the artificial siren gem fractured and fell from his chest in pieces.

He opened his mouth, but had no air to gasp, grunt, or swear obscenities with. He just stumbled back several steps, and dropped to one knee, arm blades falling to his side like limp sacks of granite. Veins popped out on his arms as he struggled to raise them. His beak clenched, the bone white mask cracking even more as he tried to force himself to rise.

And he couldn’t. Only pure willpower kept him from falling to the ground completely. That, and utter, venomous hatred for the girl still standing in front of him.

Fluttershy did not look like a woman victorious, however. Her body was covered in wounds, many of which still bled. Her face was a mask of liquid red, bearing cuts that would no doubt leave scars if left untreated. Her middle left arm was still gone, the brief one of translucent gold now faded after her attack was finished. Even the halo of light that flowed from her back had dimmed to a dull, almost sallow yellow color, and her third eye was barely a wisp of blue light. Her eyes remained calm, but were nearly unfocused as she struggled to keep standing, despite her wounds.

“I... will not... submit...” he spat, blood coating his sputtered words.

“I don’t... need you to...” Fluttershy replied equally exhausted, “You lost. They... saw you lose... to someone you thought was weaker. That’s enough. Enough to damage the image of you that you worked so hard to hammer into them.”

Guto’s eyes flared a little wider as he glanced towards the crowd of his warriors who were slowly gathering closer, many of them bearing faces of shock, confusion, and dismay as they gazed upon their Espada. Felled by a human girl. Kneeling before her, bloodied, battered, and beaten.

“B...bitch...” he said after a few shallow, gasping breaths. “You’re... not better than... me. Hypocrite.”

“You keep saying that,” Fluttershy said, shaking her head, “But I’m not interested in people being above or beneath me. I connect to people. That’s all. Even this fight... just another connection. To them,” she nodded towards his warriors, “And to you. Maybe you can’t, or don’t want, to learn from that connection. But Gilda did, and I hope some of the others do, too. Either way...”

She turned and started to walk away as best she could, although it was really more of a hobble at this point, “I’m done here. Once Pinkie is finished with Hydia, we’re leaving.”

Guto’s fury only grew like an all consuming, dark flame in his wounded chest as he watched her walk away. He saw the faces of his many warriors, all looking at him with all manner of confusion and dismay writ on their foolish faces, and he despises those looks. What were they looking at him like that for!? He wasn’t finished yet! He was not shamed yet in front of his own subordinates!

When he noticed several warriors approaching, Greta limping along with them, coming towards him with concerned looks, Guto’s ire grew. It was even worse when he heard Greta, his failed flesh and blood daughter, say, “Are you able to stand, Lord Guto?”

Utter, tar-like rage boiled his blood, and despite his body’s state, this scathing hate alone gave his Hollow soul the power to force his legs to move and his arms to raise like twitching corpses. “I AM NOT BEATEN!”

He stabbed for Fluttershy’s retreating back with his right arm blade, throwing all he had into the blow.

“Yes, you are.”

A clamorous ring of metal sounded out as his strike was halted by a shaft of metal, and a bleeding, but firmly standing body behind it. Gilda, her spear held horizontally in front of her, had blocked Guto’s charge with the shaft of her weapon. Despite her own significant number of wounds, Gilda stood without budging as she pushed Guto back.

At the same instant, a flicker of motion showed Smooze appearing next to Fluttershy, immediately lending the girl his own body to lean on as he held her.

“We must get you somewhere safe to receive medical attention, Lady Fluttershy. ;_;” Smooze said with no shortage of worry in his voice.

“Gilda, what are you doing, interfering with Lord Guto’s fight?” said Greta, all but a shambling mass of wounds, herself.

Gilda’s face contorted into a fed-up scowl, “The fight is over. Fluttershy won. If Guto lacks the honor to grasp even that much, then he doesn’t deserve to be an Espada, or even a Hollow, for that matter.”

A rasping gasp of guttural anger split Guto’s beak as he, fueled by raw hateful emotion alone, aimed his arm blades at Gilda, “A battle is only over when one foe lies dead, and the girl lacks the courage to strike me down. If you were a true Hollow you’d understand that, Gilda.”

Her eyes stared into his, unblinking, and her hands clenched tight around her spear. By now there was an uneasy circle of Guto’s warriors around the scene. Uncertainty bled from them like a miasma, some looking towards the signs of battle at the tower as if unsure if they should go there, or remain close to their wounded Espada. Some looked as if they were even unclear if they ought to attack Gilda, Fluttershy, or Smooze at this point. Normally an Espada when faced with a challenge were expected to finish things themselves, and while some might have servants that would readily follow any order to mob an enemy, Guto had hammered so much ideology of respecting strength that there was an innate hesitation to interfere.

Fluttershy could all but see the calculation in Guto’s eyes, deciding whether or not ordering his warriors to attack her, Gilda, and Smooze would lose him too much respect to be worth it.

“What are you all standing there, gawking for? Our territory is under attack,” he said with as much mustered strength as he could, jabbing an arm blade at the tower, “Go and destroy whatever interlopers you find.”

There was a swift series of almost instinctual salutes and bows as almost every single Arrancar warrior present rushed off to join their fellows at the tower. Fluttershy silently prayed that Twilight and the others were almost in the clear, because they’d be even more outnumbered in a few moments, and she didn’t have any further means by which to help.

The only one of Guto’s forces that remained was Greta, who eyed both him and Gilda with a torn expression. Guto, seeing this, let his voice turn to an iron edge, “I meant that order for you as well.”

“But... Lord Guto, you’re... severely wounded. Against these three...”

“I did not ask your opinion of my condition, warrior!” Guto roared, “I ordered you to go deal with the interlopers who are likely stealing from me at this very moment! What good are you to me if you cannot follow even basic commands!?”

Greta’s hands, still slick with some of her own blood from the battering she took fighting Gilda, clenched at her side and she looked down in shame. But she did not go, “I... cannot obey, Lord Guto.”

“What was that?” he said with a genuine note of disbelief.

“I said I cannot do that!” Greta repeated, more forcefully, looking up with a complex mixture of emotions brewing on her features, “I would be no use in dealing with intruders in my present state of injury, and I will not walk away while my Espada is standing on death’s door.”

“Insolent and ungrateful,” Guto spat up more blood, “I do not need you here, least of all filled with useless pity. Both you and Gilda... I had such high expectations, and somehow both of you became like this. Weak willed and rebellious. Where did my training methods err? I sought to craft the finest, most disciplined warriors for my horde, yet somehow they all have turned out so disappointing.”

Greta’s teeth clenched as if Guto’s words were physical blows, and Gilda breathed out a deep, guttural noise as she pointed her spear at him, “Craft us? Like we were just blocks of f*cking stone for you to chisel at? Well, guess what, Lord Dumbass, we weren’t made of stone. We were people. Kids, half the time. Desperate enough to think we could find a place for ourselves in this craptastic place because you dangled that damn carrot in front of our noses, then gave us nothing but hell, blood, and pain so you could feel important and strong. And turns out you’re not strong... not where it counts.”

Guto, forcing his body to not shake from his injuries, stared at her without a hint of compromise in his eyes, “If you believe those words, Gilda, then if there’s even a scrap of you that is truly Hollow, you know what to do. I’ll not trade words with you to justify my actions like some sniveling Soul Reaper or Quincy. Hollows have only one way we settle disputes. I’ll postpone finishing things with Fluttershy, if you intend to stand in for her as a challenger yourself.”

Gilda’s eyes narrowed, “Gladly.”

“Wait,” said Fluttershy, “Gilda, you don’t have to do this. Especially as badly hurt as you are...”

“He’s even worse off than I am, after tangling with you,” Gilda replied bluntly, glancing back to offer Fluttershy a tired, but resolute look, “I know you don’t like this kind of thing, that it isn’t your style. You’d try to find some way to reach him, even as he’s stabbing you through the back. So... I’ll take care of it. As a Hollow.”

“She is correct, my lady,” said Smooze, “Your gift for unburdening the souls of others is great beyond imagining, but Gilda and Guto both wish to settle their mutual ire in the only way they feel can truly end it. It is foolish, perhaps, and I certainly have no desire to return to the ways of Las Noches, yet you cannot alter its very nature today, Lady Fluttershy. Perhaps another day, but not this one.”

She reached out and clasped one of Smooze’s gloved hands with a grateful squeeze. Her nose was clogged with the scent of blood, and her ears still rang with the echoing clamor of battle. To her, Gilda and Guto both looked like corpses risen, like two fallen warriors being strung along by some grim puppeteer. Guto, with nothing but his wounded pride left to keep him going. Gilda, with the icon of her past and all the suffering that came with it starring her in the face, with only one way to bury it all for herself.

Fluttershy looked at her bloodstained hands, then at Gilda, “If you’re certain you want to do this, then I have a suggestion.”

“What idiocy are you planning?” Guto had nothing but scathing suspicion on his face, “Do not think I cannot deal with my upstart former Fraccion, then still handle you, girl.”

A rough expletive huffed from Gilda’s lips, “Says the guy barely standing after trying to solo her.”

“Says the impudent brat who's barely standing after fighting an Arrancar much weaker than I,” Guto retorted.

Clearing her throat to draw their attention back to her, Fluttershy held out her to upper hands, “Neither of you have much energy left to spare, and are both in such terrible condition that a physical fight wouldn’t be... very satisfying for either of you, would it? If you absolutely must try to kill one another, then I suggest you also understand each other, first. If, in the process, death is all that can solve this, then I can’t say anything to that... but I can open up a means of fighting that will come down to your wills, not your already weakened bodies.”

“Hmph, that sounds like more of your obnoxious Fullbring power, isn’t it?” Guto grunted, “What a truly vexing ability you possess.”

Gilda, who’d experienced first hand what Fluttershy was likely alluding to, looked thoughtful, “That... thing you did when you entered my soul. Ugh, not sure I even want to look at Guto’s... but can I kick the crap out of him in there, too?”

Fluttershy gave a reluctant nod, “I have been refining my powers, and learned how to use that technique in new ways. Before, I couldn't connect multiple people, just myself and a recipient. Now I can bind two others, using myself as a medium. And if two people fight in such a state, it would have similar results to fighting physically. The only difference is that it will be your thoughts and wills clashing.”

She did feel some frayed nerves at the thought of using her ability in this way. She’d only recently, just prior to the Coalition summit, learned how to connect multiple souls together, whereas before she’d needed Twilight to use her Variable to allow her to connect Sunset to Gaia. Her nerves were mostly out of fear for Gilda. Sure, Fluttershy was suggesting this because she thought it’d be safer than Gilda trying to finish things with Guto with her body so close to expiring. Theoretically a conflict between their souls would be less likely to get Gilda killed. But just in theory.

Guto scoffed, “This sounds like nonsense, but be it a clash of blade and body, or will and mind, I will not be overcome by my own failure of a former subordinate. Come then, girl, do your trick. Once I’ve broken Gilda’s will, you and I will conclude our duel.”

“Do it, Fluttershy. One way or another, it's well past time I faced him,” Gilda said.

Fluttershy nodded and stood between the pair, holding her upper arms out now to either side. Smooze hovered close, watching Guto for any sign of a hostile move, while Greta stood opposite of him, doing the same with Gilda. With a deep and meditative breath, Fluttershy let soft motes of golden light flow from the palms of her hands. The motes connected together into gently glowing strands of light, remaining connected to her hands as they extended towards Guto and Gilda’s Hollow holes. As the small rivers of gold light connected all of them, Fluttershy’s eyes closed and her voice softly intoned; “Enlightenment Technique; Reflections Upon Still Water - Twin Ripples”

----------

Sunny Flare’s reishi dart guns were surrounded by crosses of bright blue spirit energy as she ducked the long reaching claw of an Arrancar warrior who was in their Resurreccion form, which covered their body in bony ridges and elongated their arms to blades finger claws. With a blaze of motion she used Hirenkyaku to zigzag around the Arrancar as a flood of sharp blue reishi darts flew from her weapons.

The darts peppered the warrior as he used his long arms to guard himself, but he was still pushed back by the scores of dart impacts that cracked his armored hide, “Ugh! Just die already, Quincy scum!”

A single, long pointed finger blade extended towards her like a sudden growth spurt, and Sunny Flare gasped in pain as she dodged, but felt the finger stab take a chunk out of her cheek. “Dammit, why the face!?” She reached for a silver ginto tube in the mantle of her uniform and threw it at the Arrancar. The glittering Quincy alchemic liquid splattered into the air as the tube burst and she gestured with a few fingers on her right hand towards it and channeled her spirit energy into the water.

“Gletscher” (Glacier)

A flash burst of ice created a solid, cube-shaped block that flew into the Arrancar at supersonic speed. Even as the ice broke apart on impact, each chunk then grew in size and then homed in on the Arrancar again, impacting in a series of freezing blows. Then the chunks of ice from those impacts did it all over again, swirling in in a blizzard of homing ice particles that surrounded the dazed warrior until they formed into a solid cube of ice once more, with the Arrancar trapped inside.

“Hah... hah...” Sunny Flare caught her breath, then felt a spike of reiatsu behind her as another Arrancar rushed her from the back, only for the Hollow to end up pincushioned in place by a hail of corkscrewing reishi arrows that moved with insane, erratic patterns before they impaled the Arrancar form all sides.

“Watch yourself, Sunny!” said Lemon Zest, appearing nearby with her oddly shaped bow still sporting multiple reishi arrows ready to fire, “Without your cloak, you’re kinda a sitting duck!”

“Yeah! Thanks, Lemon! I freakin’ realized that!” Sunny said, rushing past her friend and heading for the top of Guto’s tower that she and the girls had been deafening.

The fight had been going well, considering their little team was outnumbered dozens to one. At first it’d been easy to take down the Arrancar warriors who had come to check on the top of the tower, because with the cloaks the Quincy team wore that rendered them invisible it made ambushing the enemy a snap. But then the Arrancar had quickly wised up and began working in groups to cover each other, so if one got struck, the rest would attack wherever they sensed the strike came from. As a result the girls had needed to be far more careful, but then that became a problem when Twilight arrived with Fleur, who didn’t have a cloak to make herself invisible the Hollows.

This meant the Arrancar had to be fought with less caution as they focused on Twilight and Fleur, and a confusion, difficult skirmish had resulted as they fought to keep the enemy off of the pair as Twilight carried a nearly unconscious Fleur to the top of the tower. There, Twilight had used one of the small darts made from Cinch’s Schrift to set up a Window, but even within the minute that had taken more and more Arrancar had shown up to fight.

Sunny Flare had lost her cloak to a stray Bala shot, and now that she was visible a lot of the enemy were turning towards her and she’d been briefly cut off from the team.

Luckily for her Twilight had immediately led the other girls in a push to force back the Arrancar. Twilight herself made deadly use of magical telekinesis to halt Arrancar in place while drawing forth a storm of large reishi arrows encased in teal flames to pierce a score of Arrancar at once. This created enough of an opening for the rest of the girls to reach Sunny and begin falling back to the tower’s rooftop. Sunny saw the Arrancar forming into what looked rather direly like a firing line, and felt her stomach drop at the sight of what had to be at least thirty or so Cero blats being charged up, coating the roof of the tower in a sanguine glow.

“Wooooow, so they’ve figured out they don’t even need to see us all if they just blow everything up!” Sour Sweet said in a sing song tone of sarcasm that quickly grew rankled as she hefted her huge crossbow, firing into the line of Arrancar while looking back at Twilight, “Now would be the best time to do something, Twilight!”

“Working on it,” Twilight said. Her eyes were coated in a bright aura of teal, magical fire, and the light continued on to form the flickering image of raven wings behind her as she channeled magic and spirit energy together.

Fleur was laying on the roof at the very center, where one of Cinch’s darts was moved by Twilight’s telekinesis to plant itself in the stone, where the open field of a Window appeared. At the same moment, the Arrancar opened fire with their barrage of several dozen Cero beams. Sugarcoat rushed to Fleur and all but threw the other woman through the Window, which would lead to the embassy where Cinch was waiting.

Sunny Flare and the others rushed the Window as well, but none of them felt certain they could make it before the Cero barrage engulfed the roof.

Fortunately they had Twilight Sparkle with them, whose channeling of magic and reishi together formed a thick barrier of interlocking hexagonal barriers of purple light that formed multiple layers of a half dome in front of the roof. With a flicker of the Variable’s power, she altered the course of many of the Cero to bend around the barrier, and the few that still impacted barely caused a flicker amid the near solid walls of power.

“Alright, everybody go through, now!” Sugarcoat said, standing by the Window as Indigo Zap, Sour Sweet, Lemon Zest, and Sunny Flare all went through one after another.

Twilight hesitated, looking down the length of the tower at the ground far below. There, she senses Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, and knew her friends were both still in danger.

“Twilight, come on!” Sugarcoat shouted, “If you’re worried about them, you’re not helping them by staying here!”

It was true, but that didn’t mean Twilight liked it. For this plan to work, she, a Quincy, couldn't be seen openly helping Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, or vice versa. This rescue of Fleur had to come off as a coincidence, at least enough so to give her friends some plausible deniability. So she just had to trust that Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie would be able to handle themselves, although picking fights with Guto and Hydia had not really been part of the plan.

With a reluctant breath, she turned and joined Sugarcoat at the Window, hopping through the Schrift-created opening in space that instantly led from the rooftop of Guto’s tower to the interior meeting room of the Coalition's embassy building.

Once through, Twilight immediately noticed something was wrong. Her squadmates were all frozen in place, looks of horror on their faces. Fleur was breathing hard, struggling to stay conscious as she sat on the floor, looking too tired to be scared, but still bearing wide eyes.

“Oh... crap...” Sugarcoat said as she and Twilight both saw the source of the issue.

Cinch was still alive, but being held casually by the throat by a strong, crimson hand.

“Good, you’re back,” said Tirek, First Espada and King of Hueco Mundo, as he reclined on the meeting desk of the chamber’s second floor overhang as he gazed down at Twilight and her squad. Cinch made a gurgling noise as he dangled her off her feet, and Tirek cast a glance at her, “Ah, you can close your quaint little portal now.”

He dropped Cinch, who coughed, sputtered, and scrambled away from him as Tirek crossed his thick arms over his chest and watched Twilight. Cinch, hands shaking, made a gesture and the Window closed behind Twilight.

She had her bow out, still, but didn’t dare raise it yet. Fortunately none on her team were stupid enough to try anything either, and whether either smart enough, or scared enough, to stay silent.

“How...?” Twilight manages to say slowly, to which Tirek let out a rich chuckle that was entirely too cold to be friendly.

“Did you truly imagine you could make this much of a scene in my home and not draw my attention? If I hadn’t already had such an interesting day, I’d have shown up sooner,” Tirek said as he gave them all his unblinking gaze, and a growing, crushing rise of his spiritual pressure. Twilight felt her breath quicken at the feel of that insanely heavy reiatsu, remembering it well from the assault on Las Noches.

“I see. And what are your intentions?” Twilight asked, and Tirek’s lips curled in a spine tingling smile.

“Whatever they are, could you do anything about them, Twilight Sparkle?” he asked, then chuckled again like a rumbling cave and hopped down to the meeting chamber’s ground level, causing all of the Quincy to step back except for Twilight, who took a step forward to stand protectively between her team, Fleur, and Tirek.

“If you’re trying to scare us... well, good job. But if you were here to kill us for our actions, why bother talking at all? You’d just attack us, wouldn’t you?”

“You don’t know me very well,” Tirek stated simply, “I am quite capable of enjoying a little banter before a slaughter. That being said... let’s say you chose an auspicious day to pull this stunt, Twilight Sparkle. I’m in good spirits, and I’m choosing to view this as Guto’s personal failure to secure his territory and handle his affairs, rather than a personal attack on my kingdom as a whole.”

His eyes turned to dark slits and his spiritual pressure redoubled upon them like a crushing black hole. Twilight found herself able to stand up to it, her own not inconsequential reiatsu flaring against the storm, but her team almost one and all went to their knees, sweating bullets.

“Rest assured if I decide to take offense to you stealing into Las Noches for your little rescue, there would be nothing but dust left of you and yours, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Then... what do you want with us?” she asked, not dropping her guard, and doing her best to ignore Midnight’s urgings in her mind to launch a preemptive strike.

Tirek gave her a thin smile, one that left her gut churning like ice water.

“Nothing much. I just want you to arrange a little meeting for me. With Sombra.”

Rainbow Dash and Applejack will need to step up their game if they want to catch up to Fluttershy, who at this point has two wins over Espada under her belt.

Rainbow: "We would if you gave us any to fight! C'mon, what's with handing Fluttershy and Rarity all the big opponents?"

I know, I know. Just try to be patient, Dash. The Beast Realm will have plenty of things for you gals to fight, and later on I've got some big matchups planned for you.

Applejack: "Personally I'm fine with takin' it easy. Competition' is fine n' all, but I ain't keepin' score when its our friends' lives at stake."

Rainbow Dash: "Fiiiiine, whatever. Just saying, these Enherjar we've been hearing about better be awesome, because I want a real solid one one one fight to show off some new moves I've been working on!"

Ahem, well, I'll certainly try my best to meet your expectations. At any rate, with that out of the way, I hope all of you fine folk reading have enjoyed the chapter, and had a lovely end to 2023. Moving on to 2024, I hope to keep entertaining everyone as we continue through the Beast Realm arc. As always I appreciate any and all comments, questions, or critiques. 'Till next time!

Next Chapter: Episode 203: ChainbreakerEstimated time remaining: 5 Hours, 45 Minutes Return to Story Description

Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls - FiMFetch.net (2024)

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