With the battles against the Privaron Espada out of the way, it becomes the turn of the Espada to step up in order to fight those who have invaded Hueco Mundo. This volume also explores Rukia’s past a bit, as well.
There are a total of nine chapters in this volume of Bleach, going from two hundred and sixty-one up to two hundred and sixty-nine.
Ichigo and his friends are moving ever closer to the centre of Hueco Mundo and rescuing Orihime. But their battles against the Arrancars are testing them in ways they never thought possible. Can they keep their honour in a world where it doesn’t exist, or will Hueco Mundo leave an indelible mark on their souls?
With Chad’s true power, Brazo Izquierda del Diablo, awakened in chapter 261, ‘LEFT ARM OF THE DEMON’, he is able to overpower Gantenbainne and claim victory. However, that is short-lived with the arrival of one of the Espada.
Ichigo and the others are able to sense Chad’s predicament in chapter 262, ‘Unblendable’, but all they can do is press on regardless.
Inside Las Noches, Ulquiorra tells Orihime that all her friends will die – he manages to provoke Orihime into slapping him.
As Rukia continues forward, she meets the Noveno (No. 9) Espada, Aaroniero Arruruerie – who happens to look exactly like someone from her past.
Despite his injuries, Chad tries to strike a final blow against Nnoitora in chapter 263, ‘Unexpected’. An Arrancar called Tesla intervenes, much to Nnoitora’s disgust. In the end, Chad just collapses due to his injuries.
Rukia tries to come to terms with seeing Kaien Shiba before her, which leads to her dropping her guard. Aaroniero doesn’t hesitate to attack her.
In chapter 264, ‘Don’t Say That Name Again’, Kaien – or rather, Aaroniero who looks like Kaien – reminds Rukia of how he ceased to be, and tells her to repent. When he says that she should kill her friends, Rukia’s anger reaches boiling point and she releases Sode no Shirayuki.
Elsewhere, Renji and Dondochakka stumble into a trap that causes them to meet the Espada No. 8, Szayelaporro Grantz.
Renji tries to perform bankai against Szayelaporro in chapter 265, ‘Bang the Bore’, but finds that Szayelaporro has designed the room so bankai can’t be performed. The Espada also reveals that Ilfort Grantz, who Renji defeated previously, was his younger brother.
Rukia fights against Aaroniero, who reveals that he can use Kaien’s zanpaku-tô, Nejibana.
Rukia fights against Aaroniero in chapter 266, ‘Hide Away From the Sun’, aware that his moves are all exactly like Kaien’s. Rukia ends up destroying a wall in the dark room they are fighting in, causing sunlight to stream in. Aaronerio actively avoids the sunlight, so Rukia uses her kidô to expose the Espada to it. Doing so reveals his true appearance.
Aaroniero claims to be the only Hollow with unlimited evolutionary potential in chapter 267, ‘Legions of the Regrets’. He uses his resurreción, Glotonería, supposedly giving him the power equal to an army of over 30,000 Hollows.
Rukia can barely bring herself to muster the strength to continue fighting, leaving at the mercy of Aaroniero.
There is a flashback in chapter 268, ‘You Are Forbidden to Die’, showing the time Rukia spent training with Kaien. Kaien reassures Rukia about why she chose to become a Soul Reaper.
Back to the present, Rukia has a final technique up her sleeve which she uses in order to bring her fight with Aaroniero to a close.
With her fight complete, Rukia tries to drag herself forward in chapter 269, ‘The End Is Near’. Her injuries prove to be too much, however. The other Espadas all notice Aaroniero’s defeat, but don’t seem particularly concerned.
A pair of Arrancars called Lumina and Verona report the situation to Szayelaporro, who gleefully tells Renji that Aaroniero and Rukia killed each other. Renji becomes even more determined to defeat his foe.
Meanwhile, Ichigo encounters Ulquiorra.
Once again, Chad is defeated almost instantly by a foe who is far more powerful than him… I don’t know why he bothers. That’s made worse by him getting a pretty great fight against Gantenbainne, and a power-up which is ultimately rendered useless.
The focus on this volume is mostly on Rukia, however – and whilst she fares a little better against an Espada, she more or less ends up in the same situation as Chad.
It was interesting to see her past and how she interacted with Kaien, as well as an opportunity to see how much she has grown from back then vs. the present.
Renji’s fight against Szayelaporro leads to one of my favourite confrontations in the Arrancar arc, though we’re still a few volumes away from that particular battle. You’d think preventing the Soul Reapers from using bankai would be a technique more often employed by their enemies… maybe something like that will crop up in a future arc.
There isn’t really too much more to be said about that fight at the moment – the next volume is where it will continue.
It was nice to see Rukia and Renji get some focus, though neither of them are in particularly enviable positions by the end of it… at least Renji still has some fight in him, I suppose…