Ancient Blood Returns Edit
The cool crisp air of Monte Rosa greeted young Kentaro quicker than he had expected, mocking the light black overcoat he wore over his usual black as charcoal Shihakushō. Whipping his nose after sneezing the young Shinigami recalled the events that had lead him to the mountain slopes. He didn't usually show or try to express any love for the man who was his father, but at that moment he had felt something about his old mans aura... well shift. He knew he had been fighting against someone powerful, but the laid back and almost friendly feel their energy signatures had given off shouted they were only enjoying a battle, that while real and very dangerous, wasn't partook in with any desire to kill or seriously maim the other. That had changed when the unknown energy had seemingly undergone some form of Hollowfication and Kenji's energy had sharpened and grown in intensity, the will not to inflict lasting harm cast aside and forgotten for as long as his friend exhibited that change in demeanor. Kentaro shivered in spite of himself and this time it was completely unrelated to the wind that sliced through his clothing like it wasn't even there in the first place. That chill air suffused his limbs and reached his bones, causing an uncomfortable feeling of cold throughout his entire body that never lessened a hair as he walked; his mind focused solely on putting one foot before the other.
He wasn't even entirely sure why he had climbed this mountain in the first place. It certainly wasn't to help his father. Or was it? No. He shook that thought aside and cursed himself for thinking it. The whisperings among the spiritually aware in local taverns and small B&B's dotting the countryside spoke of a legend living among the snow whose power was unequaled, respected and equally feared, so he maintained that that had been the sole reason for his sudden urge to climb a mountain. It was probably just some member of the Ryū Order out for solitary training, using the intensely cold climate to their advantage to train not only their skills but also their bodies against the extreme weather conditions. With more thought he concluded it was probably his eldest uncle. If so things would end well for Kentaro, whose footsteps in the snow only increased in speed and excitement. It had been an age since he'd last seen or heard from Meian and if his luck was in, he might know something about Kōhai Tochi and the methods of getting there. Kentaro had his suspicions. The Dangai Precipice World was at the top of his list, though you couldn't simply enter the Dangai and wander hoping to find the location you sought. You needed a guide who had traveled that damned dimension before and knew where they were going, or you'd simply end up wandering until your strength gave out or the dimensional cleaners devoured you.
The scenery to his left and right, front and back was nothing short of breathtaking. The sun was shining in the heavens and even though it offered little in the way of heat against the cold mountain air, its golden rays struck the surface of the ice and snow on which he trod and made it shimmer like an ocean of stars. All around the ground shined with beauty that put even the brightest jewel to shame and for a time, Kentaro reveled in it. Letting it comfort him. Wash away his fears and doubt. His worries and problems. Gazing at that sight he could do nothing else, so why did he feel a sudden tightness in his shoulders? Like some sixth sense which just refused to acknowledge the beauty all around and instead focus purely on primal instinct? It was the sole thing that alerted him to a sickly shape flying through the air towards him, an arm that appeared more like a sickle blade threatening to cleave his skull in two! Reflex took over and Tenchikaimei was in his hands mere moments after catching sight of the humanoid. He cocked his elbow to dampen the impact and as soon as the contact was made, Kentaro was moving in a circular motion around his foe. Now that he was calmer he could discern its features. Strangely the... creature had the body of a man with not but a light cloak covering his limbs, as though the cold didn't touch its skin. On closer inspection its face was twisted and warped with scarring, the angles of its face giving way to a pointed beak. A beak? He wasn't quite sure what his eyes showed him was true until that very same pointed beak nearly took one of his eyes from his skull, though reflex again saved him. Its right arm was a sickle instead of an actual arm and its speed was greater than any human Kentaro had ever seen, spiritually aware or not. It moved like a leopard eying its kill. Only this prey wouldn't be so easily caught. Its weak side was the left, so he danced around another lunging peck and slashing sickle before Tenchikaimei was buried halfway through its ribs, though even that didn't seem to stall the beast!
Pulling back and leaping to safety, Kentaro began to think what the hell this thing was. The reprieve he had gained for himself wasn't long lasting until its mighty legs took it towards him again, though to Kentaro's eyes its stance was open and full of holes. The youngster took a ready stance as though Tenchikaimei was sheathed at his side, with his eyes closed and his muscles relaxed. It was then a simple matter to feel the area all around; the skeletal trees praying for heat, the animals burrowing through the snow, those who slept beneath it further still and the birds chirping overheard. Thump thump. The sound was like music to the youngsters ears and the Zanjutsu technique of Aragari sung, severing the creature at the waist as Kentaro flashed forward. He landed in the snow delicately, right leg bent at the knee, left knee brushing the snow before he silently rose and sheathed his zanpakutō with a slight metallic clink that sounded in unison with the creatures final breathe.
The adrenaline rush left him soon-after the deciding strike, but it wasn't long before the dread set in. He hadn't seen it before because he had never looked behind once to check if he was being followed. Hundreds of those creatures, some the same while others different stalked the snowy plains, their barely discernible eyes locked on him and never once straying. It was the look of a creature who had found its mission. Its one reason for being. They all looked like corpses that had only begun to decompose, and their movements were way too coordinated for Kentaro's liking. The majority had fingers shaped like long claws, easily capable of tearing or rending flesh, and moved too quickly for human limbs; while others still had arms composed of cruelly shaped blades designed for the sole purpose of hooking and tearing flesh. Most had animalistic qualities - a beak where a nose should be, hooves where a foot would otherwise have been; horns growing beside ears, tails sticking out from their lower backs, some walking with three, four maybe five arms; spines that had odd protrusions sharpened to deadly points. Some even flew on wings and they in particular looked all the more menacing and frightening.
But fear had no sway over the young Hiroshi. Spreading his legs and inhaling the mountain air, eyes closed as he leveled Tenchikaimei at the quickly advancing line. "Culminate, Tenchikaimei." The sword that appeared like a cutlass with the length of an average kodachi morphed and altered, taking on the form of a slim nodachi taller than Kentaro himself with dirty appearing bandaged hilt wrapping and the same eye-like guard present in its sealed state. His limbs were suffused with a dark, almost sickly aura and he discarded his cloak quickly and fluidly in but one motion as he held Tenchikaimei's edge in a backward grip. His eyes snapped open and his free hand brought the aura towards him quickly before his smile showed. God he loved it! The power running rampart through him, the iridescent joy that burned like a thousand suns whenever he released and the feeling of completely dominating ones enemy. These feelings caressed and empowered him, giving him the confidence and the will needed to rise above his opposition and crush them!
And crush them he did. He was among there number with a single leap, Tenchikaimei singing as it performed the action it had grown so accustomed to. It dealt death at every opportunity and soon the beauty of that sparkling ocean of snow and ice was replaced with a blood splattered scene right out of a nightmare! Young Kentaro moved with an ease and intimacy of the sword and its various styles that rivaled men and women centuries older. He clipped arteries with a wide cutting arc instead of decapitating, turned and twisted so they're blows missed him and sailed right into their brothers or sisters in arms and always kept himself one step ahead through footwork that would cause many watching him to think he was a dancer. In a sense he was. Only his dance was one of blood and steel, death and gore. His was the dance of his own existence. His style was artistic. Pin-point. A riposte here to sever one of those corpse walkers at the waist, followed by a backward pierce that took one in the ribs before his leap tore Tenchikaimei through its breast bone with a cruel ease. None of the blood touched him and his foes fell more quickly than he ever thought possible. He didn't even bother looking at their faces anymore, or the sick animal appendages their bodies exhibited. Even the skies above held no refuge for the ones who soared on wings. They fell to the quick aerial strikes and the Yuengiri styles sung in time with the dance he performed. Steel met bone. Steel met artery or vain. It mattered not which, for everywhere Tenchikaimei flashed, creatures that bore the look became corpses in truth. And all the while Kentaro stepped delicately and struck with deadly precision. They were targets and he the assassin.
With the world reduced to those two solitary things it appeared to the youngster in greater clarity than it had before. With his sole focus being the killing of these monstrosities that mocked life, Kentaro danced like he never had before. His emotions had long since been severed, his perception of their features improved but his own reactions weren't even given thought. He wasn't sure how long the battle had lasted, but by his reckoning it couldn't have been more than a few minutes tops. Bodies lay in a heap around him, some still breathing, but more motionless and unmoving save the wind that played with the clothing they wore. "Koshikuragariken." Dark flames soared to life upon his blade and with mere thought the fire formed intricate patterns in the air before settling upon a single long, sinuous stream that flowed around the battlefield and burning the corpses around. The stench was horrible and even with his severed emotions, Kentaro couldn't stop himself heaving.
He wasn't sure how long he walked afterwards and he didn't really care. He had retrieved his cloak once again though it did nothing to stave off the growing cold as night began to descend. Small groups of those creatures still lurked the mountain passes and he now moved from shadow to shadow with the aid of his Shikai ability to bend shadows around his limbs. It gave him a greater ease of hiding in shadowed areas, and the same skill served him in another form. His eyesight. He could discern things wreathed in shadow or hidden by its dark depths before anyone even guessed something lay hidden. A skill which had kept him one step ahead of the dogs. But he'd have to face reality sooner or later. He had no idea how many of those creatures were scattered around, but he guessed with a chill that they all had the same mission - hunt down one Kentaro Hiroshi. It wasn't a particularly nice thought, but after his encounter a few hours ago now little else filled his mind. They're faces were burned into his mind and the smell would stay with him until his dying day, and if those creatures had their way that day wouldn't be long in the waiting. His best bet would be to circle back and lose himself in the countryside where the weather wouldn't be as extreme. But then he had no idea their numbers, or if the group he had put to the sword where the largest. And he still knew nothing of their origin or abilities.
"You know boy," A gruff male voice sounded behind him, "how the Soulless haven't found you is beyond me."
The speaker was hidden well in the shadows and even with his improved night vision, it was impossible to discern his features. All he could see was a brief outline of his shape which was enough to tell Kentaro that he wasn't a great amount off being seven foot in height. His shoulders were large and statuesque and even though that was all he could make out, Kentaro knew instantly that this man could destroy him with little to no effort.
"W-who are you?" It sounded more like a squeak.
"I'm like you. Traveling the mountain with corpses giving chase, though your lack of skills in hiding yourself from their gaze is truly laughable."
"Piss off." Kentaro retorted heatedly.
"Oh, so you do have a backbone. Your squeak earlier made me doubt so." Smart bastard.
The man stepped forward and his features became known to Kentaro's eyes. His snow-white hair was unruly and unkempt, with bushy sideburns and heavily cloaked eyebrows that appeared to frame his entire face. On closer inspection his whole head was lionesque, with his hair appearing somewhat like a mane. His face was craggy and weather-beaten, coupled with a stern exterior. His hooded bushy eyes signaled a "don’t-mess-with-me" demeanour and also an air that demanded respect. He was in possession of a firm jaw and strong chin that only added to his stern exterior. Kentaro felt a shiver run up his spine, but didn't allow it to show by shivering visibly. That would get him nowhere with this man.
"...... Traveling the mountain?" That struck a familiar cord. Something his father had told him a long time ago, but the memory wouldn't surface.
"Do your ears fail you, boy? I said as much and now you question me?" He shook his head in something close to disgust and sighed heavily, and coming from that frame, it was more massive than any sigh Kentaro could hope to produce. "If you want to survive the night, then follow me. I will take us safely past the horde. If you would rather test your luck alone, I'll understand."
"Then I guess you can run along and be understanding then." Kentaro's gaze was fierce and determined, his muscles taught and ready to respond to danger. He hated smart bastards like this old fool and wouldn't give him the satisfaction of further conversation just for him to poke jibes at him. "I'll get through this horde myself." And with that Kentaro left the mountain of a man behind...
"Fool child." The elder whispered as the youngster vanished into the night. "The Soulless know nothing but the mission they were given, and sadly for you, that mission calls for your elimination." But there was something about the young man that had caught his interest. He had the qualities to wield... The rest of his thoughts were lost as light shimmered around him momentarily before he vanished completely from sight.
Facing the Horde Edit
Kentaro stalked the dark snowy plains of Monte Rosa like a wraith in the shadows, his eyes focused ever forward though his senses were finely tuned for potential danger. With shadows wrapped around his limbs and the night giving him further cover, the young Shinigami advanced with every intention of giving the horde looking for him the slip. Why they were after him was unknown to him, but he could hazard a pretty good guess. He had crossed the Imawashī and lived, something their leaders wouldn't be too happy about. But such thoughts lasted only briefly as Kentaro snuck around, his shadow-catching vision working to its utmost to keep him from walking headlong into a group consisting of at least two-hundred corpse walkers, as he was beginning to call them. The chill barely reached him now, such was the adrenaline coursing through his body. He was sweating from his earlier exertion and the continued exertion of stalking like a hunter in the snow with every sense tuned and honed for incoming danger. He was beginning to feel somewhat like a mouse surrounded by cats, or at the least a cat surrounded by dogs. But this cat would land on his feet.
But he suddenly stopped thinking of himself as a cat and went back to the thought he were a mere mouse. Everywhere his eye feel he caught shadows moving ever inward in a circular shape. He caught the tell-tale features of the corpse walkers too late and guessed their plan even slower. The flames of Koshikuragariken ignited on the edge of Tenchikaimei and bathed the surrounding area in new light that momentarily blinded the youngster. When his eyes once again adjusted his fears were realized. Thousands of the corpse walkers had surrounded him, slowly hemming him in; their bodies the wall. The clouds above which had harbored the promise of snow for hours now were momentarily parted as hundreds of avian flyer's on fell wings descended towards him, talons gleaming green in the light! Wait. Green? His mind went blank and instinct took over. It wasn't simply liquid that covered those talons. It was poison!
Determined not to be caught, Kentaro dodged to the right and swung; his Sakabatō coming into hand alongside Tenchikaimei. Koshikuragariken spread to both blades and allowed him to cut those corpses with the blunted edge of his secondary sword. If he was dance-like before he was a master of the intricate art now. Dual-bladed swordsmanship wasn't his preferred method of swordsmanship, but his footwork was nothing short of masterful in its display and execution! Twin blades cut through flesh like the hot length of steel it was in truth, the corpses the butter. But their numbers were too many for him to avoid them as he had done in the last skirmish. He managed to keep their claw-like hands, talons and sickle blades from cutting him with expert swordsmanship and powerful kicks. His body surged with spiritual energy, his delicate maneuvers gaining a degree of desperateness that highlighted the hopelessness of his current predicament. There were thousands of the bloody things! And the thing that scared him was that they seemed to know what was happening at the exact same time, almost like they shared... a damn consciousness! Shit! He rolled forward and slashed as he rose, severing three corpse walkers at the knees before leaping skyward.
He was beaten to the ground again by the fliers who feel soon-after with a quick few Bala blasts. "This is impossible! The entire group know and react to my movements seconds after I make them! How can anyone keep up with..." His smile broke across his face. To the eyes of the corpse walkers all around, everything would appear inverted. Up was down, left was right and vice versa. To one with mental abilities like Kentaro had, it was an easy technique to employ. And its effectiveness only served to prove his hypothesis about their shared consciousness correct. They all blundered and struck where they thought Kentaro was, allowing the young Shinigami to once again become the avatar of death he had been before. Dance-like and beautiful was the movements that struck down any who strayed too close. Koshikuragariken spun like before into the sinuous line of black flame that seared skin and burnt to the bone, only this time a small amount of the flame was kept encircling the twin blades he wielded with growing skill.
But the horde never slowed. They even seemed to react to and respond to his movements now, as though the inverted illusion he had cast with his telepathic abilities no longer held meaning. So instead he dropped into the Yuengiri styles and projected an image of his person to throw them off momentarily, which allowed him to take to the sky unhindered; clearing the lines of the horde with a few consecutive Sonído steps. Heart in his throat, lungs clawing for breathe as surely as the hands that dug into several foot of snow to speed his ascent, the youth looked back; silver-tinged black hair swishing in the cold mountain air that still mocked the cloak he wore. It didn't work in the slightest, for the wind cut through it as though it were nothing but a mere rag. His teeth a chatter and his cheeks red from the cold and exertion of the last few hours, he continued running from those who pursued him. He didn't know what manner of unholy creature they were, but they followed him with an almost feral bloodthirstiness that couldn't be shook despite his best efforts. He had hacked away at them only for more to fill the gaps, blew them away with quick Bala blasts and seared them to the bone with his Koshikuragariken ability, yet they still kept coming! It was bloody maddening!
The horde was closing in though, quicker and quicker. Their footsteps in the snow were getting closer and Kentaro's exertions were beginning to catch up with him. Utilizing mental and physical abilities to reach so many at once had drained him more than he had thought it would, and now he would pay the price. So he turned and planted his feet firmly, posture ready but not quite inviting death just yet. He looked desperate and for what he intended to do, he'd look crazy besides.
"What are you waiting for? Come and claim me!" The remainder of his energy surged, blasting snow away from his location and causing it to float around him as if gravity no longer had any meaning on that small area. A wolf-shape, white and menacing with blood-red eyes coiled around his limbs, suffusing him with power and lending him strength. It was the expression of his spiritual energy. A proud creature displaying its bloodthirstiness and lack of mercy through the foul feel it exuded. In his minds eye he saw a black pool stretching towards him, but he dared not drink of it. Instead he only touched the surface. The bare minimum of what was required to use his Hollow abilities. His hand glowed with the mist of Tenchikaimei's Shikai state and a red orb formed in the center, swirling with power and growing in size. "Cero!" The blast of crimson red bore a blackened outline, but its target wasn't the horde that followed him so relentlessly. It was the peak closest to them in which it flew. It impacted the side, shook the very core of that towering spur in the earth and brought forth the avalanche he had been hoping for! The snow cascaded down the mountainside like a great tsunami of ice and snow, growing in speed and power. It was a brilliant display of natures wrath and it crashed against the lines of the corpse walker horde, washing them away as though they held no significance to the cascading torrent all around. Kentaro only managed to avoid it by taking to the air and hovering with Sonído, or he too would have been swept away and annihilated. The avalanche seemingly took forever to pass and when it did, Kentaro simply fell backwards onto the snow and landed with a cushioned thud on a bank of snow.
"Haha." He began, not believing he was still alive. Raising his head to look at the vestiges of that life-saving torrent, Kentaro bowed his head in thanks.
"So you life, boy." The gruff voice from earlier said. "I must say, I never expected you to bring an avalanche crashing down on their heads. Why go to such extremes when you could have easily avoided them entirely?" The man appeared completely from the blue, light which had been bent around his limbs to ensure complete invisibility dropping away to reveal the same wall of muscle and weather-beaten features Kentaro had seen before. So that was why he saw little of the mans features earlier. He had allowed Kentaro to see that small shred.
Kentaro's answer came faster than the old man expected. "I refuse to die because I've got a goal thats like a force at my back, pushing me forward until I do succeed. So yes, I will fight and cling to life no matter how many times fate knocks me down. It may be an unsightly existence, that may seem impossible to those who know my reasoning, but one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that they will not derail me." It wasn't hard to know who the they were. "Ambition and the persistence to see it done is the path to success. And I will succeed!" Kentaro's tone was dangerous and laced thickly with the same venom that cloaked the corpse walkers attacking appendages.
The old mans eyebrows rose in surprise and for once there wasn't a smart remark. Instead those eyes were weighing and appreciative. They told he had come to a conclusion about an earlier thought. "I watched both your battles," He said finally, hauling the youngster to his feet with a single strong, callused hand. "Its clear you have skill in swordsmanship and speed, but your nothing but a jumble of different styles you only think compliment one another. You lack polish, boy."
"... I know that. I need to get stronger, and not only in swordsmanship. I need to be fit to break into Kōhai Tochi, rescue my friend and break any resistance beneath my blade as though they were merely insects rallying against the heavens. That's my goal."
The old timer was silent for a time, calmly considering. "Then come with me. My terms are this: You do not leave this mountain until your training is finished, even if the friends you no doubt hold dearly come asking for your help. In return for this, I will teach how to control your Fullbring-"
"My what?" Kentaro interjected suddenly.
"See what I mean? You don't even know the tenth of the power you could wield. You will be coached and drilled in history you will need to know, among them those walking corpses known as the Soulless. And you will grow stronger."
Weighing the options and considering the implications, Kentaro finally nodded and shook the elders hand - which dwarfed his easily. "I'm Kentaro Hiroshi."
"And I'm Garian Shinjo." And the name he gave brought forth all the stories of a legendary Shinigami Kentaro had heard growing up. His teacher was the Garian Shinjo! Teacher and student walked into the horizon to begin the training that would determine whether or not Kentaro would succeed or fail in his mission to rescue Akiye...