- "For those who don't remember their history, origins or family, they spend every waking hour thinking "Who am I?". Propelled with that one thought, two differing ideals born from duty clash..."
The air shimmered momentarily, finally parting to reveal an opening doorway filled with a bright, but soft, white-colored light. Stepping out and sheathing the zanpakutō that had served as the doorways key, the rosy-haired youth took in the surroundings with a degree of anger and frustration, mixed with fear, awe and strangely enough, a degree of happiness. Like he'd just returned home from a long journey. In truth he had, though the Seireitei in the distance that held his gaze would never be home for him again. Taking off at a quick pace, long black cloak wrapped around his shoulders to conceal his identity and afford him a degree of stealth as he stalked the Rukongai's many alleyways; the youth went over in his head how he was to get past the gate guards and into the Seireitei proper. The cloak wrapped around him appeared much like the Shihakushō of an average Shinigami and with that in mind, the youth made a plan.
Due to the ongoing war with Averian and his army, people were walking around with a sense of purpose, tending to the injured and running messages back and forth. "That's my way in." He concluded, walking forward at a more calm pace. "Oih! You!" One of the Shinigami by the gateway shouted, playing exactly into the youths hands. Turning and feigning surprise, quickly followed by servitude, the rosy-haired youth walked forward and did what he did so well when he himself had been a member of the Rukon Patrol Teams facing Averian's Army. He saluted quickly, placed his feet together with his back straight and practically intoned "Sir".
"I need this ran to Commander Tadashi. He's back in the Seireitei, at the usual place." Seemingly dismissing his messenger them, the youth accepted the message and was allowed through the west gate into the Seireitei without a second glance. Once inside and a good distance away from the gate, the youth ducked into a nearby alleyway and shed the cloak like a snake might its skin, revealing a muscular physique covered barely by an open-chested black waistcoat with golden-colored trimmings and a pair of knee-length white trousers worn to cover his legs. Completing his appearance were the straw waraji worn over basic white tabi, the only part of the garb appearing even remotely Shinigami-esque.
He was Jinta Kanō, a young scion of both the Shinō and Yuengiri Academies, and now a member of the Ryū Order. The reason for his infiltration was simple. He only knew bits and pieces of his past before becoming a member of Shin Nagakura's family, with the 7th Division Captain the closest thing to a father he'd ever known. All he knew were from the hazy images saw in dreams more nightmarish than actual dream. But those images showed him one thing that was very clear - a research lab Naibu Shizuka had claimed was in the 12 Division Barracks of the Seireitei when Jinta had told his Sensei in detail about his dreams. And now he was here to find out for himself. Stepping from the alleyway, being careful to conceal his cloak for later, Jinta made a B-line for the 12th Division, sticking to shadowed areas and moving much like a wraith.
As the events around Averian and his army were ongoing, a young man from the Soul Society, was performing his duties with great skill, efficiency and all with a cheerful smile on his face. He was busy talking to others about what they needed to do, and ordered members of his own and other divisions to get to their duties. He was bringing a sample of material to the 12th Division, as he noticed a rosy-red haired man, walking through the shadows, and asked." Hey, you over there? What division do you belong to? Hotaru asked, as he neared the man, making sure to not drop the item the 12th Division was requesting.
Jinta straightened, cursed beneath his breathe and turned, all smiles and nervousness that was only half faked on his part. His mouth was a straight line, but his eyes couldn't hide the choices that were going through his mind. To be caught now would be imprisonment for a short while until the Order could intervene on his behalf, or simple rotting in a cell without them ever knowing. Which was the same as a death sentence with a stay on said execution for several years. So he lied, hoping that Shin and Yukimura would notice the name if asked and go along with it. "7th Division, sir." He used to be, at least, before leaving. But this guy wouldn't know that. "I was told to bring a message-" He showed the sealed envelope before pocketing it again "-to a contact in the 12th Division." Noticing himself in an alleyway he grinned nervously, acting the young recruit who didn't quite know all he was about yet. "He told me to be real quick, sir - the man who gave me the message, that is. I used to play in these alleyways-" More like cause mayhem in them "-so I know a few shortcuts." Learned from running from nobles he and Riki had been harassing with slingshots and pebbles. Ah, the good old days.
" Oh really? Wow, that's interesting, but....... I have something to hand to them as well! Why don't we go together, I'll follow you, how's that sound eh?" Hotaru said, approaching the rosy-haired individual, and then asked," Oh yeah, what's your name?"
For Shin to know who he was and offer any kind of help should he be caught, he'd need to give his real name. "Jinta Kanō, sir." He replied, still feigning nervousness. "And you, sir?" He asked, beginning the now slow trek towards the 12th Division Barracks. The night was cool, with the chill air clinging tight to Jinta's exposed arms, suffusing his limbs to the bone beneath and mocking the outfit he did wear. Wishing he had kept his cloak for the first time since discarding it, Jinta shook his head; rosy-colored hair swishing in the nights air. Their path was illuminated slightly by Kidō light and that cast by the moon, yet the alleyways still cast long shadows ideal for hiding should a quick flight be needed. Of course, none of this planning showed on the youth's face, who still appeared very much the dutiful, if a tad nervous, recruit.
" Oh? Me, I'm Hotaru Takahashi! Nice to meet you Jinta! By the way, what exactly do you have for the 12th Division? Cause I have some research samples, and you? You do know that the 12th Division is quite particular in their research test subjects, right? I mean Captain Minoru Tanaka is quite the researcher you know, huh?" Hotaru said, tilting his face to look at the glistening moon in the clear night sky, illuminated with the small lights otherwise known as stars, all while such stressful times were going on.
"I only run errands, sir." Jinta replied, still continuing his rookie persona. "I imagine its got something to do with the war, but apart from that, I'm clueless." Hopefully he wouldn't meed to even meet the captain, as he guessed his unlikely companion seemed to be. He'd feign search and then hand the message to whoever was closest before leaving, haste to be about his duties the cover. If he was lucky, he'd be through the 12th Division Barracks and find their research materials without anyone being any the wiser. If all went well. After a time, the squad station of the 12th Division loomed before them.
Looking upon the 12th Division, Hotaru smiled and said," Oh look over there! We're here. Well, where do you need to go, I mean who knows, a rookie like you might end up in trouble by yourself, I'll help you to your destination." Hotaru said, taking the lead, directly in front of Jinta, without any second thought.
As Hotaru walked ahead, no doubt thinking he was being a great help to the new recruit trailing behind him, Jinta was busy suppressing the urge to kill the man. But then that would blow his cover completely, and get him caught besides. But he couldn't continue on with things like this if he was ever to find what it was he sought. "It'll be risky," He kept telling himself, but being here was a risk in and of itself. So what did he have to lose? Using a double Kidō spell, the first being Sekienton to create a cloud of red smoke to obscure his movements, the other Bakudo #26: Kyokko to completely hide his spiritual energy; Jinta moved into the 12th Division Barracks, hopefully leaving Hotaru behind so he could continue his search at a more leisurely pace.
Placing his back to a wall and watching the researchers of the 12th Division move with purpose and gusto, Jinta finally made his move. Still hidden by his Kidō spell, the rosy-haired youth kept his ears strained for any clue as to where he was going to go next. After all, it wouldn't be long until Hotaru alerted the division to a Ryoka running amok in their research labs whose ultimate goal was as mysterious as he was. Taking a breathe, Jinta resolved to follow the nearest researcher who was carrying a pile of papers in hand.
Surprised by Jinta's sudden actions, Hotaru was serious for a moment, and was using Shunpo to quickly enter the building, but before doing anything, stopped, and thought for a moment." Well, he used Sekienton and likely Kyokko to hide his movements, this means, he is a Ryoka." He decided to stay calm until an emergency breaks out, all while chanting an incantation on his lips. Hotaru was looking for Jinta, but not in a huge rush, knowing that Jinta couldn't possibly be of Captain Level, he calmed himself.
The researcher Jinta had been trailing had entered a room off from the main research lab, all the while whistling a merry little tune that helped ease Jinta's thumping heart. He was in a small, circular-shaped room with a high ceiling and stacks of files all filled to bulging with papers. Probably reports of experiments, observations on certain reactions and to what level and also failed he thought, suddenly angry. The researcher filed away his paperwork, turned and then walked away, leaving Jinta very much alone in the small room. Now all he needed to do was find what he needed to. Escape without being caught. Open a Senkaimon, return to Horiwari and then move onto the Human World from there. How hard could it be? He was close to finding out...
Hotaru had entered the 12th Division barracks, and met up with a researcher and said," Hey you! Could you please take this to whoever needs it, I'm not really sure so yeah, sorry about that. But you know, keep positive!" Hotaru said, smiling with a thumbs up, the researcher ignored him and left, Hotaru then put his hands behind his head and said." Wow, these guys are some busy people, now, where is that Ryoka?" Hotaru wondered, walking around the area.
The stack of files and paper immediately in front of Jinta rattled under his enraged punch, eventually sagging forward and landing on the ground with a crash! Papers scattered everywhere, files fell out and Jinta barely avoided being pinned to the floor. "Moved to the Daireishokairō. It isn't here..." He whispered, the Kidō spell that had been covering his limbs and hiding him from both visual and sensory techniques finally being released. Knowing the sound would attract someone, Jinta exited the building and began working his way back to the exit of the lab stealthily, eventually forsaking stealth in favor of a quick sprint.
For a few minutes, Hotaru was trying to pinpoint his spiritual signature, before locating it, and noting that it was moving fast, he used Shunpo to try and keep up with the escaping Ryoka, he then said." Hello there. Where are you running off to Jinta? Didn't you have something to deliver?" He said up on a roof as Jinta was passing through, waving his hand with a mock smile on his face.
"Oh please, cut the crap!" Rage was plastered thickly on the young mans face. "I was never here to make a delivery, Hotaru. So how about you get about your job trying to stop me? Haja: Rasenshō!" Bringing his fist forward, Jinta released a spiraling wave of spiritual energy aimed directly for his opponent!
Dodging the attack rather easily with Shunpo, he got onto the ground and said." You know, I'm actually a big coward. If you weren't my enemy, I would never have fought you, so just....don't say you're on my side." Hotaru said, drawing his sword and saying." So, judging by that attack, you're probably a master at Hakuda, and you probably are a close-range fighter, so...Hado no 33: Sōkatsui!" Hotaru chanted, facing his palm in Jinta's direction as a blast of blue spiritual energy in resemblance to flames headed towards Jinta directly.
"Oh?" Was all the sound Jinta made as he drew his right arm back, sheathing his fist with spiritual energy. As the blast neared him he never budged a hair until it was threatening to engulf him. "Haja: Kensē Itten." Moving forward slightly, parting his legs and then delivering an uppercut, the entire Sōkatsui was disrupted. "You got all that from my first attack, eh? Hardly matters. But I'm hardly restricted to close-range combat. Hadō #34: Kongōbaku!" As he fired the Kidō attack, knowing his skill wasn't high enough to rely on it, Jinta turned and once again began his flight through the Seireitei. It was beginning to look like this battle would be fought on the run.
Hotaru used his own Kidō attack to block the attack fired by Jinta, and knew that Jinta wished to escape as soon as possible, so he decided to run as well, mockingly saying." So you're a coward as well? Or is this helplessness. Jinta-San?" Hotaru said, as he begun to use Shunpo to try and keep up with his fast opponent.
"I look at it as good strategy," Jinta replied, looking over his shoulder briefly. "Here I am, surrounded by Shinigami and pursued by someone I can only think is a seated officer. Wouldn't you run as well, in my situation?" For a time it seemed like he'd be happy enough to keep running. Until his drew his katana. "Shine Brightly, Nijigasumi." Jinta's body was covered in a multi-colored hue of spiritual energy as he turned and leapt backwards so he could both attack and continue his flight. Using his zanpakutō's mos basic ability of taking control of shadows, Jinta launched those shadows at Hotaru, hoping to slow him somewhat.
As the shadows entangled him for a brief moment, he was minorly injured before he got rid of the shadows with his sword, and continued to pursue Jinta, as he said." I am a seated officer, and these guys can't harm you, plus, aren't you lucky it's not a lieutenant or captain following you? Of course, it seems that you are on good terms with Captain Nagakura and Kori correct?" Hotaru said, as he started to flash forward.
"Of course I'd be on good terms with them." Jinta replied casually. "Shin practically raised me and Tadashi watched out for me... but! They had nothing to do with this. My little invasion was all my own doing." Ignoring the comment about lieutenants and captains, Jinta descended into the streets of the Seireitei; hoping to lose Hotaru among the winding alleyways and streets.
"Wow, someone as dimwitted as you being able to plan an almost successful invasion. Wow I must applaud you indeed, Jinta-San. Anyways, you do realize I've traveled these streets how many times again? Whatever, you won't be able to lose me that easily." Hotaru said, diving into the alleyways and streets without any thought whatsoever.
Then again, the same was also true for Jinta. He'd ran these same streets countless times growing up, either losing himself and Riki in them so well it took anyone looking for them hours or evading people entirely. Very handy for pulling pranks. Skidding to a halt finally within the confines of an alleyway, Jinta sealed Nijigasumi and drew his wakizashi instead, his plan being to use the small confines to his advantage. "You talk an awful lot and I'm about fed up being insulted by someone too dumb not to see through me earlier. The uniform wasn't an automatic giveaway?" Jinta jibed, a grin on his face.
" Of course it was....I just wanted to see what excuse you made you know? I thought it might've been better, but when you mentioned the 7th Division, I remembered Captain Nagakura and his bonds with the Ryū Order. So...you were slightly careless there." Hotaru said, before becoming slightly serious." So, he's trying to confine me here? I won't let him that easily." Hotaru said, chanting," Hado #30: Gekiryuu!" Suddenly, Hotaru summoned large waves of water, which had then been able to demolish some of the area, allowing for more room to move around in.
The small confines worked against him, the waves slamming him against the wall, driving the air from his lungs! At least until they gave way under the force and pressure of the cascading volume of liquid being pressed against them. Amidst rolling waves and dislodged stone, Jinta rode those waves with one of his classic grins that signaled he had a plan in mind. When the waves ceased and Jinta stopped moving he stood in a half crouch, head dropped to hide his eyes.
"I was careless...? Hardly," Jinta replied, shoulder shaking with laughter. "The careless one is you, Hotaru-san. You've allowed me, a Ryoka, to infiltrate the Seireitei and draw you away from any help you may have had in the 12th Division. The war with Averian has everyone scrambling." Jinta began explaining. "The truth is this: The Shinigami number too few to plug the gaps. Averian's been killing them off whenever he can and the people that would usually be patrolling the Seireitei are instead stopping armies of Hollow waltzing through the Rukongai. And I'm not far from the gate," He said finally, flicking his head towards the western gate.
" You think so huh? Just wait till you see this. Please, Kaishin!" Suddenly Hotaru's sword turned into a liquid as it enveloped his wrists, palms and hands up to his forearm. Once this liquid settled, it turned into the form of two traditional medeival gauntlets with spiked on them, and the Kanji for number ten on the back of his palm. Suddenly, as he placed his hand on the liquid, it turned into mist, and then as it rose to form a misty wall around both opponents, it froze, all while his gauntlet was making contact with the once previous water. Hotaru then said," Well I've stalled you for some time at least."
"You have," Jinta replied casually, his wakizashi making slight movements through the air as he moved his wrist back and forth. "Spark, Samazamahi!" The blade dissolved completely, flames of red, black and white forming lines behind the rosy-haired youth. "I can play with gauntlets too." Claws extended from the gauntlets he wore, Jinta revealing a slight smirk. "Or claws, I guess." Throwing caution to the wind, Jinta attacked in tandem with his black flames, aiming to crush Hotaru between the blades of his claws and the burning flames!
Hotaru swiftly tried to dodge most of the flames as most of the ice surrounding them was melted, he used this opportunity to turn the liquid into mist, and then it surrounded Jinta, hoping to get some time to attack him with another method, he used Shunpo to get behind a large wall like structure.
Surprised by the mist, Jinta stopped abruptly to analyze them, leaving his back complete exposed. "What's with this mist?" He thought, eyes scanning quickly. "Is that his Shikai ability? Control of mist?" A fake smile covered his face, which he hoped made Hotaru think he'd correctly deduced his Shikai's power. "I'm going blind right here, so time to draw him in."
"So he's thinking that he's got my Shikai ability correct huh? It's a good thing for me I guess. Hmm... I might just play along with this charade." Hotaru said, as he looked around for more materials to turn into gas, he couldn't really find much, so he decided to create more water, chanting." Gekiryuu!" Forming more water, which then rolled to Jinta at high speeds, before turning into mist, covering the entire area, Hotaru knew that he had the advantage at the moment.
"Hadō #9: Tsurukusa!" Vines sprouted from the ground, forming several, long thin tendrils centered around Jinta. But instead of using them as they were meant to be, which was ensnaring the enemy, Jinta instead flared his spiritual energy and took to the air; using the energy and his rage at being caught to bolster his body. With that he began spinning the vines in wide arcs, the vines acting as a fan which blew the mist towards the clouds above. Stopping, somewhat tired by the exertion, Jinta waited patiently for his time to come.
"Whew, you are one tough opponent. I don't know how long I'll be able to hold you off for though....Oh well, I'll try my best, and if I die in the process, my bad luck." Hotaru said, as he swiftly tried to assault Jinta with a rapid flurry of punches.
Still holding the vines in his hand, Jinta couldn't react with the same speed or skill he usually showed when performing Hakuda. Hotaru's punches met him square in the jaw, then in the stomach and finally in the forehead; though any other blows were stopped abruptly by a wall of red flames, strong and durable, that erected itself deftly between Jinta and his assaulter. "I should warn you about Samazamahi," Jinta began. "These are my defensive flames, while those-" He pointed towards the black flames surrounding them, moving inwards "-are my offensive flames. The white... well you'll just have to figure that out." Leaping backwards to safety, Jinta's flame converged on Hotaru!
Hotaru was able to briefly make a weak defensive spell, although this only negated very little of the attack, as he was burnt by the black flames, before he was able to make contact with the ground, causing it to turn into a liquid like form, whipping away the flames as he propelled himself away from the ground where the flames lie as he panted while on a roof, thinking." Damn, only 6 left."
Naibu's training and advice governed Jinta's next movements. "Learn to recognize when speed is not important. Race when being first is important; move at your own pace at all other times. It is not necessary to always strike the first blow, to provide the first solution, or to reach a goal before anyone else does. In fact, it is sometimes vital to strike the last blow, to give the final answer, or to arrive after everyone else." Naibu's hypnotic tone echoed in the depths of the rosy-haired youths mind, bringing a smile to his face despite his situation and location. "Okay Sensei," He whispered.
So Jinta took this time to rest and regroup, carefully analyzing his opponents reiatsu signature for any clues and zanpakutō's special powers shown thus far. He was convinced that it was a mist-manipulating zanpakutō, that functioned similarly but differently to Harumi Kazuki's Kasukaeizou. "But the only abilities he's actually made use of were Kidō, which his zanpakutō played off." Moving his thoughts onto the mist itself, Jinta began to consider something deeper. "I'll need to see it a few more times." Jinta's hands interlocked, the back of his right hand sliding under the palm of the left, with both sets of fingers and thumb sitting at forty-five degree angles. "Hadō #30: Gekiryuu!" The torrent cascaded its way towards Hotaru's rooftop, Jinta making it even more potent through a delayed incantation, the words of which were lost in the sound of the rolling waves.
Hotaru quickly knew that Jinta was suspicious, and although he wished he could play the mist for longer, he knew that he would eventually have to take the offensive and then raised his hand. The water rolling at him turned to a mist as it went past him, boiling the water as the heat gently touched his face, he raced towards Jinta. Creating more mist that was closer to Jinta, he jumped high into the air, before he made a hand movement, causing the mist to turn into ice as the weight of the ice made it shatter, as many boulders of ice were started to collapse upon Jinta.
Black flames swept past, burning deep holes into the boulders descending towards their mark, with the red erecting barriers to deal with the threat; though his own black flames obscured Jinta's vision and caused one of the ice boulders sheared by the flames, point melted enough so it formed into a point, impacted him in the shoulder; driving through the flesh and bone like a drill! The ice shaft came through completely, the tip passing through the top of his shoulder down through his armpit. The air was filled with Jinta's agonized scream soon after as blood dripped down an arm devoid of movement, tears glistening in his eyes. Now on his knees, pain the only thought, Jinta shook from the combined shock of the sudden wound and the cold the ice radiated. But something kept him moving, his will to fight strong. Some would call it stubbornness. Others might say it was great resolve. Jinta didn't care. All he was worried about was that he was standing, the flames of Samazamahi still very much active. "This isn't... finished."
" Damn.....that must hurt. Although....it is indeed your fault that you have been this injured. So if you die, please do not blame me." Hotaru said regrettably, as he just saw the flames that were nearing him, and was too late to dodge having been inflicted with severe burns by the flames, his screams echoed throughout the Soul Society as he jumped out of the flames. His skin was burnt, with blood dripping down his face and his clothes being burnt asunder, leaving only a tattered shirt and pants, he panted." We have to finish this sooner or later won't we."
"I'm sorry... but-" The flames summoned by Jinta ceased and bunched together, forming a single stream with colors more comparable to average flames "-I can't die here! Samazamahi Jizoku!" The heat of the flames melted the ice rammed through his shoulder, with the flow of blood being stifled by a hastily tied off Kidō weave that would hold until proper medical treatment could be received. With his good arm, Jinta made complicated hand movements, directing that torrent of flames in the same manner as he has the black earlier, hoping very much to crush Hotaru quickly.
Mustering enough strength, he was able to quickly move away from the torrent of flames before panting again, and this time using the surrounding buildings to turn into a liquid state as well as the ground, he hoped to make Jinta fall over, or atleast lose some of his sense of balance in order to have a chance of defeating him. He knew however, that those chances were slim.
But Jinta was nearing his limit. His legs were shaking, his vision was beginning to blur over and he could barely keep his footing. The latter went completely as a result of Hotaru's actions, Jinta falling in a heap on the ground. "Move..." He kept telling himself, but aside from his good arm, none of his limbs obeyed his commands. It was as if all connection with them had been severed save that one arm. He was even numbed to the pain in his shoulder, with Jinta realizing that the cold of the ice shaft that had been there mere seconds ago was the cause. Get up, damn it!" But he lay there, struggling, the growing futility of his cause becoming quickly apparent. He was completely open...
" I guess I can finally win..." Hotaru said, as he placed his hands on the mud, as suddenly a sharp pain entered throughout his body, realising he was nearing his limit he kneeled on the ground, wanting to stand but his pain wouldn't let him. One of the two would die, but the new question is who?
Pushing himself up with his good arm, Jinta's face was a mixture of the feelings he was experiencing. Rage at being followed, caught and then engaged. Sadness that he probably wouldn't life to see the end of the night. And deep regret that he'd never be fit to repay Naibu for his kindness. Eyes closed as he pushed, the rosy-haired youth finally met Hotaru's eyes, seeing the same determination etched in his own. One of them would die, and Jinta was beginning to think it would be him. "Hageshii-" He began saying.
A figure clad in a brown-colored fur coat, dark red hair obscuring his facial features, suddenly stood over Jinta; casting a long shadow over the youth. That figure laid his hand upon Jinta's back, grasping the kimono and hoisting him to lay over his shoulder. The figures other hand grasped his zanpakutō tightly, the blade showcasing a chip in its square guard. He wore the average Shihakushō, somewhat tattered from wear, with a serious expression etched upon his facial features. "Ashido!" Jinta exclaimed with surprise. "What are you-"
"Doing here?" Ashido interjected, still maintaining the serious nature developed as a consequence of his time in Hueco Mundo. Though he did wear a slight smile as he looked at his brother. "Everyone chooses their own paths to follow, little brother. This is my path. And I've lost enough." He finished, almost in a whisper. Jinta relaxed instantly, slumping over his brothers shoulder; tears rolling down his cheeks. Turning, Ashido regarded the Shinigami before him with an appraising eye. "You are in no fit state to continue." He said simply.
" I realise that.....oh well. I'll let you go this time, but next time if you enter without any assistance, who knows what will happen to you so just be prepared why don't you. Jinta-San, it was nice meeting you...." Hotaru said, as he begun to feel dizzy, as his head lopped into the mud, causing a splash as a smile was on his face.
Ashido vanished soon after, making his way towards a deserted area of the Seireitei were two hell butterflies were seen, waiting patiently. "You can go back to Naibu as soon as your wounds are treated." Ashido said, as he stabbed his zanpakutō through the air and twisted, revealing the familiar Senkaimon.
"I'm sorry..." Jinta began, only for Ashido to silence him by shrugging his shoulders with enough force to buck Jinta into the air momentarily.
"I don't think that young Shinigami is the type to come looking for you." Ashido continued as he stepped through. "So why worry? Come on. Time to go." And with that, Ashido's form vanished through the open Senkaimon, leaving Soul Society behind for another time.