This article, AGTT: Early Years, is property of Kenji-Taichō. Permission is required to alter its content.

In a realm that would later be known as Soul Society, two individuals walk with the wind at their backs and little on their minds. To them, life was lived one day at a time. If anything caught their curiosity, it received the full span of their attention until something else dragged them away and gently pushed them down the road of life. Now walking on a grassy plain, these young men will find their lives changed – and for once a prospect that could span a lifetime of effort.

Two Sheets on the Wind Edit

The day was warm and the sky was clear. The wind blew across the grassy plain, lifting fresh cuttings of greenery and making the young man walking beside the seven foot giant to his right sneeze as those grass cuttings tickled his nose. They were in the spiritual realm many humans deemed “heaven”, and with today’s scenery and weather, it wasn’t difficult to say why they thought such things.

The giant was known as Garian Shinjo, statuesque and physically imposing. He stood a little shy of seven feet in height with a strong jaw and prominent nose, features set in their usual playfulness that signalled he was laughing at his young companion for sneezing. The white-haired youth at his side narrowed his eyes, irises almost feline-esque regarding Garian intensely.

“What’s with the look, Beanpole-san? Love the outfit, by the way. Makes you look very thin.” Garian said, slapping his shoulder with enough force to make the youth stagger.

“You’re an asshole!” the youth bit back. “And my name’s Shintai! Not beanpole-san.”

“You forgot about baby-face-kun.” Garian ruffled his small companion’s hair and barked a laugh, running ahead to avoid being hit.

“You’re bloody infuriating!” Shintai snapped. “Get back here!”

“You’ll have to catch me.” Garian said over his shoulder, long legs easily taking him away from his smaller companion.

They ran over hills, ducked through forests, sailed over rivers and lakes with all the freedom of young men with nothing to tie them down. No women to call their own, no home to return to or no job to be about. They were like sheets blowing in whatever direction the wind took them. Day passed and night reared up to meet them, often with them sleeping beneath the stars and sharing stories by the light of a camp fire. Sometimes they had the company of people who liked travelling just as much as they did. Those nights were passed in cheerful banter with tales told, often with an exaggerated re-telling as the night wore on.

When night greeted the two companions almost a week later they found themselves in a small village in the vast and never-ending countryside of the realm so many deemed “heaven”. The village was predominately wooden and quite quant, with a friendly air even in night, with lights shining out onto the beaten road between the buildings that flanked it on either side.

“Thirsty?” Garian asked, feeling his mouth dry.

“I’m a minor.” was Shintai’s reply.

“It’ll hardly-”

“Kill me, right? I’ve heard it all before, Garian.” His features calmed though, and a smile accompanied his quick stride. “But I will have a seat. Keeping up with you isn’t fun.”

“Neither is listening to you. But I got to admit, you make me feel really intelligent and good about myself,“ Garian said with one of his cheeky half-smiles. “Especially when you talk,”

Stalking into the biggest building with a sign blowing in the wind outside with a face that could sour milk, Shintai slumped into one of the seats near the fireplace roaring in the back while he massaged his feet. “…Bloody long legged…” He mumbled angrily. “…Making me run after him…”

“Evening,” The round-bellied man behind the bar said at Garian’s approach. He regarded the taller Garian with none of the wariness others showed for his height and build, actually greeting him with a firm hand-shake. The barmen’s hairless head shone in the light. He was a man Garian was on friendly terms with, so his drink came before those of the other patrons.

“See you finally decided to shave the head, eh?” Garian edged the comment in. “Don’t think of it as you being bald, friend; you really only know how to light up a room.” They shared a laugh and a story or two before Garian excused himself and fell into a chair that barely held his large frame. Once seated and comfortable, he handed Shintai his water with a distasteful twist to his mouth.

“Did you get a hook in your mouth?” Shintai asked, reaching for the offered drink with a muffled word of thanks. He had since propped his sealed zanpakutō against the side of the fireplace, with his waraji set in front of the fire to dry them out.

“With the stench of your feet can you blame me?” Garian replied without much effort. “Things certainly got quite very quick.” The large man observed.

For a place that had been filled with quiet and friendly chatter a minute ago, it was now deathly quite. Only the logs burning in the fire and the shallow breathing of the patrons could be heard. Shintai shared a look with his companion, young features looking perplexed.

“That ain’t normal.” Was all he said and the silence suffocated the sound. “Okay, this is getting creepy.”

“Wait here.” Garian said, rising.

The eyes of the patrons followed him, but Garian didn’t need to reach the door to see what held their collective gaze. The window showed enough. An ominous green light shone in the distance, vibrant against the dark horizon. It was unnatural and completely out of place. Yet Garian could sense the complexities of the weaves; see the light for what it truly was. It was a form of Kidō foreign to the seven-foot giant, yet he could piece enough of what he did recognize to figure they were trying something he himself would have deemed an atrocity and a crime against nature.

“Is that…?” Shintai asked, suddenly doubtful. He wasn’t as powerful or as skilled as Garian was in the Shinigami arts. To his inexperienced eyes this was probably the most intricate and long-lasting Kidō display he had ever seen, or was to see in his life.

“Yeah,” Garian replied, supplying the youngster with the answer he hoped he wouldn’t. “It’s Kidō all right, yet the weaves are strong. And prolonged,” He leaned forward, curiosity caught. “They’re being directed at something.” A familiar set fell across Garian’s features. “Come on, Shintai!”

The two bounded out the tavern door amidst mixed reactions. Some of the patrons nodded as though they were doing the right thing investigating, while others looked like they were suicidal and in need of having their heads examined. Regardless, Garian and Shintai were over the crest of the hill in the minutes that followed. Their zanpakutō were drawn and ready for use. Their eyes fell upon three figures, each with their faces veiled and eyes bulging in shock at being disturbed!

Meeting on the Plains: Two become Three Edit

Garian watched events unfold from there with an amused half smile on his face. All three asked, all over the top of another, who they were and why they had interrupted their ritual. Ritual? The word caught Garian’s attention like free drink on a hot day. It certainly explained the animal carcasses between them and the two interrupters’.

“Let’s see here…” He stroked his stubble in thought for a time, the smile never once slipping. “I’m a concerned passerby, to answer your first question. To answer your second, I’m afraid I’d have to go off on a tangent for about half-a-day. You see… I’d need to ensure you three questionable individuals fully grasped just how much of my time you are wasting, how idiotic your attempts at weaving those spells are, and generally how you would come to regret the first kiss your fathers ever gave your mothers.” He took a breath then and the three removed their veils, revealing three young male faces. They started to talk, all over one another again, but Garian cut in smoothly.

“I think you looked better with the veils on.” Garian said, cutting their reply off. “Because judging solely by the look of you three, I can see your father probably regretted that first kiss as well.” If his previous words had lit the fuse, the second sent the fireworks off!

Everything happened quickly after that, but in moments Garian moved quicker than his large bulk would have suggested and the unknown figure on the far right went down from a punch to the gut; the blow knocking him unconscious. The other two collected themselves, forgetting Shintai’s presence in their stupidity. The one on the far left fell to a strike to the back of the neck from Shintai’s sealed zanpakutō, the final Kidō wielder throwing his arms out wildly.

Garian moved quickly, caught Shintai by the collar of his Shihakushō and turned; finally releasing his grip. The youngster twisted through the air as Garian was surrounded in a towering inferno of flames as Hadō #65: Shinkoushoku Hinote surrounded him!

Shintai impacted the ground forcibly, finally slowing himself and running back to the crest of the hill so he could see what became of his friend. Charred ground and ash blowing in the winds refreshingly cool air greeted his eye, but it wasn’t what made him breathe in relieve.

Four Danku spells shattered as Garian stepped forward, the tower of a man shaking his head and sighing; and when that sound came from him it seemed so much more forceful. “You do know that Kidō should be used to help others, right? You really are naive. An impatient child trying to play at god! This“-He gestured sharply towards the animals now reduced to ash-“is a crime against nature! Trying to create life? How foolish are you and your friends? This could unbalance the very spiritual balance of the –“

“Your words are wasted on that one.” said a voice, somewhere in the night.

Garian shrugged his shoulders. Heeding the unknown mans words; Garian punched the final Kidō user in the stomach, the force knocking him out instantly.

“And you are?” Garian asked the air.

Nasu Shiba,” was the reply, followed by a blur of dull grey and white as a young man no taller than Shintai emerged from the darkness and rose silently from a kneeling position.

“I’m Garian Shinjo.”

“And I’m Shintai Misuto.”

The Shiba clansmen nodded his head in respectful greeting. “Do you know of these rituals?”

“Only the rumours from people scared enough to believe anything.” Shintai replied, tone showcasing his disapproval of the fate the animals suffered.

“Young Kidō experts and the occasional master banding together to further their knowledge,” Garian began as though lecturing. “People who focus so much of their time on a single field like our three fools here get bored quickly and-”

“And start doing things more crazy and depraved than the last.” Shintai interjected himself in Garian’s explanation, savouring the disgruntled look his partner shot him. “If they can heal wounds, extend their life or destroy at a whim, why can’t they create life?”

“For simple rumours,” Nasu stated, “you know a fair amount of the motivation behind these rituals.”

“We’ve crashed a few parties,” said Garian, checking the three unconscious figures for potential leads. Finding a letter he opened it and scanned its contents.

”The Hollow provided have proven ineffective. Move onto animals for greater effect.” He read aloud, tucking the letter away.

“They know how to make a man furious, no?” Nasu asked of the two.

“We’ve ran into a few of these groups.” Shintai explained. “They’re trying to mix humans with animals to create some kind of thrall they can control. Whether or not they’ve succeeded…”

“It’s difficult with so much ground to cover.” Garian told the Shiba clansmen. “But we can discuss this elsewhere, preferably somewhere with a fire and a chair. Like the tavern we just left.” And so the three Shinigami returned to the grateful applause of the taverns patrons; a free round of drinks and two rooms for the night their reward.

Conversation by the Fire Edit

“Not bad for a few minutes in the cold.” Shintai commented, taking the seat he had by the fire earlier.

Setting a log on the fire at the barmen’s request, Garian re-took his seat; shifting occasionally to regain his previous comfort. Drinking deeply of his cup, he took the opportunity to get a better look at this man who called himself Nasu. He was short of height and hardly physically imposing, yet he exuded a certain feeling of strength and confidence. His clothing was dull grey and white, with intricate black designs highlighted on the back of the sash he wore tied around his waist. His hair, unlike Garian’s scarlet and Shintai’s white, was a dull blond; flat atop his head with downward pointing spikes at the sides, fringe and back. He was young of face, yet not baby-faced like Shintai was.

“So what brings you two here?” Nasu asked after taking a sip from his cup. He watched the two over the cups rim, eyes somewhat heavy.

“Fun,” Garian answered seriously, drawing such a strange look from Nasu that he stopped to ask why he was staring at him. “What? Did I say something funny?”

Shintai shook his head in exasperation. “We’re simple travellers who move as the feeling strikes. We’ve got no families, no homes.” He announced. “Nothing besides the road before us and the sense of brotherhood we share.”

“Well,” Garian began in the tone that signalled some cutting comment wasn’t far off. “You can always add one more thing to that list of things you own. You’ll be forever fit to look back at this moment and realize just how really, really stupid you are. And why you ask? Just suffice to say that the no doubt humoured patrons now think you plough the other field,” Garian shot back.

“I hate you.”

“Need I separate you, children?” Garian whipped his head around to look Nasu in the eye.

“I’d love to see you try.” Garian replied, amused.

The patrons rolled their eyes and went back to their chatter. And at that time the three Shinigami figured their own conversation had diverted enough; so Shintai put them back on topic with a hasty clearing of his throat and another round of drinks.

“What are we to do about these Kidō users?” Nasu began.

“Wait a minute. What we?” Garian asked.

“We’ll need to find some group – concentrated, with people who know what they’re talking about. Not the grunts like tonight.” Stated the white-haired, baby-faced annoyance Garian knew as Shintai.

“You still haven’t answered my question.” Garian said again.

“True enough, Shintai-san.” Nasu said, ignoring Garian. “If you are okay with the idea, I will accompany you in your travels and see to it that this group, for lack of a better word, are brought to justice.”

“Now you’re just ignoring me.” Garian once again chimed in, once again ignored.

“Law needs to be brought to them.” Shintai and Nasu nodded in unison, their goal set. Still ignoring Garian they went about their planning; Shintai offering the rumours he had heard in full with Nasu piecing it together with what he had heard as well. They’d already formed a general idea of their next destination, picked from where the rumours had been more plentiful.

“Nice evening, isn’t it, Garian? Certainly is Garian, one of the best we’ve had this week.” Garian said to himself. “Those two are idiots, aren’t they, Garian? I do believe you are right, Garian.” He continued, finally growing tired.

“Right!” His open palm struck the table top! Silence fell. “Why do you two find the need to traipse around like idiots hunting nothing but rumours? Strangely enough, I could think of better pastimes. Like poker, or drinking, heck even woodcutting; maybe even some building on the side. Doesn’t all that sound better than rumour chasing?” Their faces told him no.

“Fine,” He conceded, defeated. “We’ll go rumour hunting. Bloody waste of time...” The rest was lost amidst his grumbling…

And thus three unlikely individuals met, unknowing that fate had much more in store for the three.

The Pendulum Swings Forward Edit

Back in the present day...

"So you were annoying back then, too?" Kentaro Hiroshi asked of his sensei, face wearing a slight smile. It seemed Garian's own tendencies were rubbing off on the youngster, for he sat with the same set to his shoulders and posture as Garian did – that of confidence and responsibility.

"And here I thought you liked my re-telling." Garian replied, without his usual sarcasm. He even seemed somewhat serious. "Shintai Misuto... He wasn't the strongest, nor the brightest, or even the most well-liked person in the world. But he believed in us more than any other could, and calling him anything less than a hero would be an insult to his memory. Rest in peace, Shintai," He said finally, holding a moment of respecting silence.

"... So what happened next?" Kentaro replied, strangely respectful. Here was a legend in his own right sharing the story of his life, that of his friends; and the journey he had taken. All of things that had happened before even Kentaro’s own father had been born.

"That," Garian said after a long pause... "I will tell you tomorrow evening. For now, we continue your training. I meant what I said, boy. You will be taught to control your Fullbring as surely as I will teach you history."

So the sensei and student began another night of training under the moons pale glow and the snows icy touch. Yet Kentaro was beginning to feel a strange affinity for the grizzled old veteran. He actually liked the annoying old fart, despite his sharp tongue and equally cutting wit. He had never felt at peace since Akiye was abducted, yet he now found himself sleeping easier; without nightmares disturbing him, and none of the angry outbursts. He was... at peace. And it felt good.

Chapter I end.
Next > AGTT: Birth of the Soulless

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