- Mystery magnifies the danger of any situation... - Kenji-Taichō
The hunt for Gengetsu has begun... The bounty hunters of Team Sanretsu move forward, truth and knowledge the prize for their efforts. Will they encounter that which they seek? Or only run afoul of more dangers and mysteries? With more questions than answers to be found, the mystery's only grow as the story begins to delve deeper into the world of these gods of death and what hides in the shadows of their world.
Training Under the Autumn Sky Edit
Kitsui sat in a contemplative posture, his arm bent and his hand positioned beneath his chin as he surveyed the horizon as though merely looking could bring it to him and answer all the questions that lay further down his path. The large stone he sat upon was rough and uncomfortable, but the fact he didn't feel the discomfort was a good indication of how deep in thought the young Shinigami was. A total of three weeks had passed since they began their search for Gengetsu, and more importantly the unknown figure who had rescued him that night. The four of them had been searching that length of time without so much as a sniff of their trail, and he quite feared they would be held up as idiots to be laughed at for their lackluster tracking skills in the future.
The countryside of the Human World was arrayed before him, he noted finally with a lessening of the tightness’ knotting his shoulders. Deciding that he would definitely need to come back here to enjoy the scenery – perhaps have a picnic - when things were less hectic and chaotic, the black-haired youth rose to his feet and set down the small dirt trodden pathway that ran in a bending curve from the stone he had been seated on not a minute previously. The path - if it could even be called such - was beginning to see signs that people weren’t coming here as often as they used to. Weeds sprouted through the cracks in the earth, though the trees around him actually made for quite the pleasant backdrop, despite their near skeletal look as they lost their leaves; a notion made all the more clear by the surprisingly clear blue sky and lack of clouds. He did notice one cloud though, and smiled when he noticed it looked almost identical to the sheep moving around with a laziness he wished he could imitate in the field straight ahead.
Sairento was crouching as he studied the ground, Kitsui found when he completed the ten minute walk back towards the area they had built a small fire in the shade of a large oak that sheltered them from the sun's heat and some of the wind. Hisako was lying down after a rather hard night from recurring nightmares, while Yoshiaki was drawing lines in the ground and then scoring through it and beginning again until he finally scowled and abandoned the task; leaving his adoptive son all the more confused on what the action was actually for. Explaining that he was merely thinking, the elder of the four got to his feet and looked Kitsui up and down before motioning him over to the side of their camp where he began to drill him in his practices of the Yuengiri for the day.
Dropping into a lazy posture, which despite its appearance; radiated an air of readiness. Much like a lion in the wild would. If you saw one lying down, you did not immediately think it was defenceless and strike. Sweat bedded on his forehead after a time as the youngster worked his muscles and joints in a delicate manner that flowed from one step into another. Petals fell around him as he performed the styles, linking from one technique into another, and another still. Dance-like. Beautiful. That was his style, and Yoshiaki wore a proud smile as he joined his adoptive son, the two seeming to dance around the other before their blades touched. It was a glancing interaction that occurred three more times before they parted and performed the flowing movements once again. Concentration covered their faces, and despite their movements and size, they barely disturbed the grass beneath their feet. It was as though they were one with the landscape around them. One with the sword in their hand until it became an extension of their body. Hisako watched with a grin, lost in the sways of Kitsui's body. His delicate maneuvers and motions, the looseness of his shoulders and the delighted look in his eyes gave her goosebumps until Sairento coughed and teased that if she stared much more, her eyes might well pop out.
Father and son moved in a circle now, time seeming to become a distant worry as they worked through the styles; Kitsui mimicking Yoshiaki's pin-point movements and adapting them in such a manner that the elders eyes widened momentarily as their blades touched again. Even though they held quite a bit of force, Hisako could easily tell just by looking that none of the strikes held the intent to cause harm. Remarking that it was a beautiful sight to see, Sairento was only a little slow in offering agreement. This happened most days, though watching those two gave him a good idea of what he needed to be aiming for if he was ever to match them.
As quickly as they had begun, their motions stopped; fresh sweat beading on both their foreheads, though Kitsui was clearly more tired that the elder. Panting somewhat, he found they had been practicing for the better part of three hours when he saw the suns change in position. Apologizing for holding them all up, he accepted the towel offered by Sairento and whipped the sweat from his brow and chest before they set off once again, discussing possible locations their attackers could have fled to. When Yoshiaki said Hueco Mundo every eye turned to him but Kitsui, whose fists merely tightened at his waist at the lands mention. He'd grown up there, been put through training that could only be described as torture and he still didn't have any idea of the why. It was maddening, and the question floated between father and son when the youngster did finally turn around. Asking if he was sure there was no other place, Yoshiaki only shook his head in reply. Explaining that they would have detected their spiritual energy, or even residue from Kitsui's Shinai Settotsuki attack as they searched the Human World, the only area they could have gone was Hueco Mundo.
Following his father's example and cursing beneath his breathe, Kitsui was ready to begin looking anew when Hisako's gentle hand wrapped around his. Her presence calmed him, and if she could be strong in light of everything that had happened in her own short life so far, then he resolved to do the same. Turning to face the horizon, Kitsui made his decision by creating a Garganta by tapping the air right in front, revealing the familiar whirling energy he immediately solidified to create a walkable path through the Dangai. Before leading them through, he activated his Shikai as a precaution, knowing such an act was impossible once he entered proper. With his scythe in hand and Hisako holding his other, he led his companions through to search the land of Hollows...
Autumn’s Many Memories Edit
The Dangai was as dank and unimpressive as Yoshiaki remembered it. When he fled his previous position in the Royal Guard he had passed through this place to escape pursuit by hiding out in Hueco Mundo for a time before finally ending up in the Human World. That had been a very long time ago he noted with a scowl, disbelieving just how many years it had been since he fled his home and family because he gained the powers of a Yakubyougami. He had really only ever returned to the Dangai in order to train young Kitsui, but even then he dared not tarry because of the memories the place brought back of his younger, brasher days. It had been an autumn day then as well...
A young, black-haired man appearing to be no older than his late teens bounded through the now still Dangai with voices chasing his every step. His mind was racing, his decisions made in haste. The Shinigami were moving in. Quicker and quicker they came, always just a small jump behind him. His own skill in Shunpo and the fact the 12th Division had shut down the Dangai’s cleaners allowed him to outrun his pursuers, if barely. His moth was devoid of moisture, his forehead soaked with sweat and his hair laced back quickly so it wouldn't cover his eyes. Right then, he wished he could be elsewhere. Anywhere else, in fact. Even Hueco Mundo with an army of Hollow surrounding him would be better than this!
Saying his heart was in his throat would be the correct assessment of his condition, and adrenaline was giving action to his thoughts of fleeing. He could stay and take down a few, leaving himself even more tired than he was, or he could keep running through the same dark corridors that seemed to be alive when he caught shadows slithering along them. His senses were so out of tune, in fact, that he wasn't even aware of the black-clad individual hitting the ground as Yoshiaki drew his zanpakutō and lobbed the head from his shoulders. He didn't even remember drawing it, but right there and then, he knew his life was over. The voices came closer...
Dragging his adoptive father back to reality with a concerned hand on his shoulder, Yoshiaki whispered he was merely thinking about the past. What really surprised him, though, was the news that they had arrived when he was busy thinking of other things. The exit of Kitsui's previously opened Garganta was just a little farther ahead, highlighted by a small degree of light cast by the perpetual moon-like state of Hueco Mundo. Finally hiding his surprise behind his usual assertive expression, Yoshiaki bounded ahead of his three companions and touched down on the soft grains of sand lightly as he breathed in the air like a man drunk on oxygen. Noting the atmosphere and general landscape to be unchanged from his previous visit, the elder’s vision took in the skeletal trees devoid of all life, the endless plains of sand and the dark sky which a full moon dominated.
His three companions joined him soon after, with Hisako and Sairento peering around warily as though they expected Hollow to fill their vision and those endless plains any second now. Kitsui shared a similar wary expression, but Yoshiaki knew his reasons were different. There was only one person the youngster was searching for, and that was the Arrancar who'd made his life a living hell. Calming his adoptive son with a confident smile, the four finally began their investigation of Hueco Mundo; all jumpy for their own reasons, but sharing in one another's fears and weakness. They were a team, Kitsui kept telling himself, but out of the four, he was the only steady stride among them. Fear was a weakness, especially when others were looking for a leader, so he whipped his scowl off his face as well and schooled his face to stillness, allowing confidence to show through if one looked hard enough.
Meeting the Enemy on the Sandy Dunes Edit
The days seemed to blur together. Three days passed by, and three more soon followed until a week had passed under that same sunless night sky. By day and night they moved by the light of the moon and Yoshiaki's Kidō, but unbeknown to all four companions were the set of eyes following them...
A figure with black hair and an exposed stomach had been watching their movements quite closely for the last four days, hidden behind a shroud of invisibility that bent whatever light was present around his limbs to not only hide his body, but extinguish any sign of his spiritual energy as well. Thinking these intruders fools for invading the land of Hollows; he had been sending word to his allies and subordinates over a four day period. Their goal was a simple one. Kill them all with the element of surprise and bring their battered bodies back to Averian where he could make a meal of their souls.
His red-haired companion waited a distance away with a small force of Hollow hidden well. They knew when to strike, Zenmetsu noted cruelly. A twisted smile formed across his face, but of course only he knew that hidden as he was. The curtain would soon fall he chuckled to himself, obviously delighting in the pain he would soon cause those four wandering helpless. Only two of the group happened to have any sort of superior combat ability if the various Hollow scattered around the dunes could be believed. Expecting an easy victory and meal, Zenmetsu simply had to wait for the perfect moment to present itself...
A Meeting Long in the Offing: Kitsui Sanretsu & Hisako vs. Zenmetsu Edit
The young Shinigami had been trying to tell himself that he was merely being overcautious as he used his own Hollowfied reiatsu to track anything that might come to close and be stronger than an average Hollow simply looking for nourishment. Worms passed beneath their feat, but their energy signatures weren't irregular or poised for a strike, so he passed them by without another thought for them. Next, his senses fell on the area to their right flank, the scene beyond hidden mostly by a large sand dune. For some reason, there was a single space roughly the size of a man that felt like nothing else in Hueco Mundo. It was unnerving and somewhat frightening, the youngster noted as he turned to face in its direction. Hueco Mundo had quite the amount of spiritual particles in the air, and for one spot to have nothing... meant trouble. Yoshiaki spun as Kitsui fired his Rei Kasui, a blast of spiritual energy that erupted directly beneath the spot his senses were locked on. Before the technique could even be exerted however, a figure filled the youngster’s vision with black hair and a black outfit that left the majority of his stomach exposed.
Kitsui's movements were quick and pin-point as he danced the Yuengiri styles, but the Arrancar's own motions were nothing short of incredible as he quickly deduced Kitsui's actions and countered accordingly, cutting a minor gash across the youngsters back as they passed after their initial few strikes. Another would have been dealt had Hisako's own Rei Kasui not parted them from one another as the energy slowly dissipated into the air. Thanking her quickly, Kitsui released his Mūnshēdo form and felt the power of the moons rays fill him once again. This time, when they clashed there was were no gashes made and the Arrancar's face showed well his surprise as the two moved into a series of high-speed movement attacks and swordplay, sparks flying from every strike and motion made. They were pretty even, Hisako noted with widened eyes. She knew Kitsui was fast and powerful, but this was an Arrancar! And powerful, she noted calmly, if his spiritual energy was anything to go on.
Their arms would have been a blur to most, and Hisako was barely following them, but Kitsui knew her strengths and weaknesses as she knew his. Their eyes met as he blocked Zenmetsu's next strike and understanding passed between them without the need for words. Twisting with aid from his severed emotions and increased perceptual abilities, Kitsui impacted Zenmetsu's blade with a heel kick and managed to knock him back into Hisako's forming Rei Kasui as a wall of crystal barriers encased the energy emitted, making it more potent as it engulfed him! It lacked destructive power he knew, so instead Kitsui used it as a diversion and launched a Rei Furashuu proper that crashed through the barriers and caused its own explosion. Content that his foe would have some injuries from that, Kitsui moved to Hisako's side, intent to protect her from any harm.
Prey Strike Back! Yoshiaki Hiroshi & Sairento Mukui vs. Saigai Edit
In his desire to aid Kitsui, Yoshiaki had failed to notice the red blur moving to his right and had only escaped serious injury through the intervention of Sairento who had instantly released his Helix Dagger and conjured a powerful crystal barrier that only cracked slightly under the red-haired Arrancar's strike. Sairento's armor had been complimented with a hardened crystal suit and spiked shoulder guards, tasset and his black hair changing to a white coloration. Explaining the release to be unique to the Masukage and the final form of their power, the young man regarded his foe with a growing level of annoyance reflected in the black pools that where his eyes.
Tutting that he was to slow, Sairento corrected the Arrancar by stating that it had nothing to do with his speed and everything to do with the fact he watched his friends back just as much as he watched his own, finally calling the Arrancar a fool. Acknowledging his new foe with a contemptuous twist to his mouth, the Arrancar introduced himself as Saigai and disappeared from view, this time his intended strike at Sairento's back being stopped firmly and somewhat easily by the powerful arm of Yoshiaki. Explaining that he was the oldest and thus responsible, Yoshiaki released his zanpakutō by uttering Let it Claim You, Shiniitarubyou. Yoshiaki held his sword-arm out before him with the blade pointing downwards as it formed into a straight-edged blade with five holes spaced evenly apart along its length that immediately began to release a blob-like substance that slowly corroded everything it fell upon.
Sairento moved in, carefully avoiding the corrosive substance to engage Saigai in fast spearmanship that was filled with quick motions and careful maneuvers to make up for the weapons blind spots. They moved around one another until Yoshiaki intervened once again with a downward Kendō strike that upturned the ground when it struck the floor! Twisting quickly, the young Masukage moved forward slowly at first until Yoshiaki impacted the base of his feet with a kick that sent him propelling at speed towards Saigai, which resulted in the two clashing with the shafts of their lances; but the sheer momentum Sairento carried caused Saigai to be pushed back through a large sand dune.
Grand Intervention! Edit
Zenmetsu and Saigai burst from the Rei Kasui and sand dune that held them, standing side-by-side in the night sky. Banding together, Kitsui struck out in sync with Yoshiaki as nothing short of a horde of hollow descended upon them! Cursing themselves for being so focused on the battle that they had failed to miss their sheer numbers, Kitsui and Yoshiaki worked to limit them with the Yuengiri styles. They moved in the circular fashion they had in training not a week earlier, dealing death to anything that came to close. They flashed and struck, flashed and struck. A steady rhythm that Kitsui usually experienced chopping wood and he felt very much like a woodsman chopping logs right now.
Sairento and Hisako worked to deflect the Cero's fired at them from afar, whether they be from weaker Hollow, or from Zenmetsu and Saigai themselves. Their defense only slowed when Hisako began coughing blood into her handkerchief, in which led Kitsui to fire his Rei Yarisazame that rained spear-like shafts of energy down on a considerable radius around their group to fill the holes left by Hisako's illness. The green gel laid earlier by Yoshiaki was also aiding their defense with any Hollow walking unknowingly into its grasp being corroded with its corrosive power.
Stating that Zenmetsu, Saigai and their Hollow would need to do better that they were doing, Kitsui surprised everyone present by declaring loudly and in a deep voice "Bankai! Zokunen Shagetsu!" Kitsui's Shihakushō appeared more like the uniform a Grim Reaper might wear, with black robes that hung loosely on him that barely succeeded in covering his body, complete with a hood that hung at his back; along with two feathered black wings that enabled flight. Kitsui's hair shifted to the white coloration he once sported as a child, with a chain-like accessory hanging from his neck appearing also, the effect of which is currently unknown. His spiritual energy had grandly increased, his companions noted, with the power emanating from his body in waves of sheer force. "It isn't just powerful and expansive," Hisako thought somewhat frightened, "it feels more like a living thing that wants to stifle my very existence."
His comrades were shocked though, more so by the actual release than by the shockwave that bifurcated the surrounding Hollow save Zenmetsu and Saigai. Explaining that he had been visiting the Dangai alone to train, and that Hisako's Fullbring had awoken his latent potential for the Bankai release that had been locked deep within. He further explained that when Hisako had suppressed his innate Hollow influence some weeks previously was the driving force that allowed him to now utilize his Bankai without the proper training needed to acquire it, stating that he and Shagetsu had always been close to one another since he had become aware of the spirit years before. Admitting that he was still new to this however, and that he had still yet to master his newfound power, the youngster stopped any further talk or explanations by making an impressive movement that took him behind Zenmetsu and Saigai where he proceeded to blast them at point-blank range with an incredibly powerful Rei Furashuu that engulfed them both and launched them into the horizon as Kitsui sustained it into a beam, even with Yoshiaki remarking internally that his mastery over the technique was quite impressive.
Falling to his knees from his own exertions and general lack of intimacy in the usage and maintaining of his Bankai, Kitsui's new form broke and he fell face first into the sandy dunes, Sairento soon picking him up and shaking his head. Any notion of celebration was cut painfully short though when a monstrous spiritual energy filled the immediate surroundings that made each of them think of death. Turning, Yoshiaki regarded Averian with a shocked expression and a tightening of his fists.
With Team Sanretsu faced with the sheer presence of Averian, have they any hope of survival!? Yoshiaki reckons they do...
Next Story > Tragic Encounter! A Hero Says Farewell