It was what both shinigami and arrancar felt in the battles of Los Noches and Fake Karakura Town. Lives were lost and bodies broken almost beyond repair. Fake Karakura Town was utterly destroyed, but, for now, the real one was safely hidden away in Soul Society. Aizen, with Kaname Tosen dead, retreated momentarily to prepare for the siege on Seireitei. Kurosaki Ichigo, Kuchiki Rukia, and their fellow shinigami slowly regrouped, gathered their wounded, and crawled back to Soul Society. There they worked as quickly as possible to shore up the defenses against the oncoming army that would, undoubtedly, soon arrive.
Soon they heard rumors, odd rumors that were at first dismissed and later heeded when multiple reports came in, of souls arriving into Rukongai who looked nearly identical to the Espada that had been killed in Los Noches and the human world. The only things that they were missing, it was said, were the remains of their hollow masks and the hollow holes in their bodies. The first found were Yammy and Nnoitra who had not cared enough to mask their presence. The others soon followed as the hunt orders went out. Even Ulquiorra and Starrk were not swift enough to hide themselves from the Shinigami. They were questioned and tested, all sorts of things done to confirm that the Espada, once the most feared force, were now nothing more than very pissed, and, in some cases, very confused Pluses. Some were still loyal to Aizen and made vows to rejoin him as soon as possible while others, upon witnessing the deaths of their comrades and experiencing their own demise, swore to kill that damned Shinigami if they ever saw him again.
To be perfectly clear, the Shinigami had no clue what to do with the ex-arrancar and the ex-arrancar, in turn, really had no idea what they wanted beyond being let out of the prison they were in. After much discussion concerning how much damage the ex-Espada could do, they were placed on probation and allowed to try and integrate into the rest of Rukongai's society. If, for a period of one month, they didn't cause any issues, they would be taken off of probation. It was not an agreement fully agreed upon by the arrancar and some only consented to it so they could get out of the hell hole they were in. Still, they were, in a way, free and the possibilities were endless.
Still Soul Society waited for Aizen's army and received no further rumors. For all they knew, he had vanished into thin air, never to return. Most doubted this was true and for the time being construction continued hurriedly. When Seireitei and the closest districts of Rukongai were sheltered and fortified, however, and still no hint of war came Soul Society found that it's war time efforts were slacking off. No one could figure out or remember who had given the orders to slow down production and training, but all agreed something was very suspicious. Even so, if Aizen hadn't appeared by now, then what exactly was he up to?