"Faith isn't faith until it's all you're holding on to."
Meeting Long in the Waiting Edit
The sun beat down on the streets of a city unfamiliar to the blond-haired youth walking on the sidewalk, puddles from last nights rain slowly drying in the heat of the sun that cast its golden rays across the city below. Raising his hand to shield his eyes from the glare, the youth made a note of his surroundings with a care his mentor had all but beaten into him during his teaching in recent weeks and days. People walked, some with backs straight and faces staring ever forward; while others still walked with a slouch and earphones blaring in their eardrums that left them all but oblivious to the world around them.
"They don't have a clue, do they?" The rosy-haired youth said from slightly down the sidewalk. He was Jinta Kanō, and as he had promised, he and his friends had come as Kentaro had said they would, only the maker of that promise was gone training in god only knows where.
Riki Nagakura, his brown eyes scanning intently, took in his surroundings with a confident light gleaming in their depths, and Jinta feel silent at his friends motion. Ashni and Harumi Kazuki were seated on the ground close by, awaiting those who'd breach the Soul Society with them, their chatter barely audible to Riki as he moved farther down to talk with Jinta.
"What are the odds the Soul Society won't take kindly to our being there?" They'd ran the situation over in their minds a lot recently, but Riki had provided little to those conversations. He had only recently recovered from the injuries he had suffered at the hands of Rutilus Maculosus Lupus during an earlier forage for information, and had only been up and about much in the last three days.
"Pretty high," Jinta replied casually, finally leaning against the red brickwork of the house at his back. "You've heard the rumors the Imawashī have been spreading about the Order wanting to rebel against the Soul Society and the Central 46, and even though its a pile of rubbish, rumors are more often than not mistaken for truth. You should know quite a bit about that."
"Hey, I got the info, didn't I? Not my fault some Diabolus near kills me afterwards." Laughing among themselves, they settled in to wait on their comrades appearing.
Hurrying the other along Rozeluxe appeared from a cafe on the other side of the clearing hustling his small group through the busy streets. "Now now. Don't we all have to be somewhere right about now? It wouldn't do to keep your guests waiting."
"Who are you talking to like that? You're pretty much the same age as the rest of us yet you talk to us like we're you're kids." the silver haired girl snapped as she hustled through the busy crowd. "And besides, its those two you need to worry about!" She grinned as she continued walking on while pointing back to two other individuals.
Haruki had a loose black shirt and a white jean jacket on as he hustled through the crown to keep up with the others. "Crap! I lost her! Azami! Raze! I can't find Kujina ! I must've left her back at th-mmph!" His voiced muffled out as he turned and his face landed directly into a woman's bosom. Backing away, Haruki opened his mouth to speak but was quickly smacked to and fro before he could even utter a word.
"EEEPP!!!" A large cry was heard as Kujina continued to smack Haruki. "How could you violate me like that!? We're related you know!? I'm not like that black sheep who tries to go after anyone she pleases. S-s-so please don't do that again Haruki. Ok?" She smiled as she helped up her cousin and made their way to other side of the road where the others were waiting.
"If we're done with the shenanigans can we get a move on?" Rozeluxed chimed in as they gathered once more. "Hm, based on simple intuition, I'm gonna take a guess and say that those people over there are the ones you guys are suposed to meet."
"Yea that's them. Wait." Haruki took a moment to look the group over before running toward them shouting out with the others close behind him "Yo Harumi! Where's Kentaro?"
Rozeluxe walked over as he began to introduce himself. "Hello all of you. The name's Rozeluxe Meitzen, but you can just call me Raze for short. Howdy!" Turning toward Kujina who was hiding behind Azami he began to speak again. "You know Azami right? Well the one behind her i-"
"Shut up! I c-c-can introduce myself. I just don't....I just dont want to right now. Yea..." Kujina's face flushed red as she turned away and leaned against a wall.
Riki arched an eyebrow at the oncoming crowd and leaned off the wall he had been leaning against beside Jinta. "Well, looks like the cavalry's finally landed. The names Riki Nagakura." He walked towards the more responsible-looking Raze and shook his hand firmly. "Starting to think you weren't for showing. That I'd need to do all this beat-the-crap-outta..."
"Inshu." Ashni provided while rolling her eyes and elbowing him in the ribs.
"That's the name!" Riki finished, crouching from the blow.
Walking towards Azami with Ashni following closely, Harumi waved in greeting to the others. "This is Ashni." She leaned in and whispered to Azami. "She and Riki are..."
Ashni pushed in with another elbow and cleared her throat with a death glare shot at Harumi. "We have no idea where Kentaro is. He ditched us again... doesn't want to involve us he keeps saying. Men."
The rosy-haired youth simply sighed and walked towards Haruki. "I'm Jinta Kanō and speaking of people that ain't here..." Jinta interjected above the others, scanning faces and finding one missing. "Where in blue blazes is Kyodaina?" A worried look crossed his face soon after saying it. "... Something happen to her!?"
Haruki sighed as he took a seat on a nearby bench. "Well the thing with Kyodaina....she sort of distressed. Her pal Jikan, one tool of a guy might I add." Haruki said with scowl before taking a breath and continuing. "Well he got defeated and captured by one of the captains of the Gotei. Kyodaina saw the end of the fight before returning and telling us that part and that she will be training to master her bankai."
Away from Haruki and the others, Azami spoke to the others as she motioned for Kujina to come over. "Hey this is my cousin Kujina. Her parents died and she was made to come live with us while her sister Akiha, stays somewhere else." Jabbing Kujina in the side, Azami tilted her head toward the others. "Go on.."
"Hmph. You're just a year older than me you know? I'm not your kid." Kujina mumbled before turning to Ashni and Harumi "H-hello. I'm Kujina Sat-tonaka." Bowing hastily she retreated back to her cousin's side before looking over to see Rozeluxe waving them over.
"Oi!! Everyone! Time to discuss what we're doing. That is if everyone is finished with discussions." Rozeluxe smiled before plopping himself on the ground comfortably. "We'll do the discussion right here that way a big group like us isn't moving all at once. That looks way too suspect if you ask me. Any objections?"
"Yeah, I've got one." Riki piped up with a slight scowl. "Who made you the leader?" His scowl revealed sharpened canines and his look was altogether too confident.
Catching his friends mood, Jinta shook his head. "You were talking about tools, Haruki?" He laughed a little before walking towards the others. "But her Bankai? Someones aiming for the stars. Give her my best the next time you see her, would ya? Haven't spoken to her in a while."
Harumi was still with Azami, seemingly ignoring Raze and his suggestions that sounded a little too much like orders. "No need to be shy, Kujina. Let's just be casual and take the time to get to know each other, okay?" She walked towards her and began talking about trivial things that made Ashni roll her eyes. "Typical. She's always like that."
"Heh. Leader? No no. More like older, better, wiser, advice giver....then again, leader sounds much shorter and easier to roll off the toungue." Raze smiled showing off his unusual cockiness. "If you have a problem why don't we settle this the old fashion way? Haha."
Sighing as he facepalmed, Haruki looked up at Jinta. "Oh? I didn't even know you knew each other. Heck I don't even think we've properly met. But I'll give her your thoughts when I see her. Whenever I see her again...the last time I saw her was a few months ago."
Kujina smiled as Harumi spoke to her. "Y-yea! I would like that!" Turning her attention back to Raze and Riki, she sighed. "Er, Azami....I think those too are about to get into it with each other. Don't you think we should do something?"
"Yea. Yea. I figured this would happen....there are a big group of boys here. Someone was bound to argue. Why don't you be a good little cousin and go handle it for me while I talk with the others?" Azami waved the whole thing off as she continue to speak with Ashni
Then a miracle occurred. Riki was quiet for a while! "... You know, I think I could get on well with you. You like being a pain in the ass, something I can sympathize with... but just remember, I'd destroy you." He glared a challenge and Jinta only got between them when Riki went for his zanpakutō.
"Woah woah woah! Slow down here, Riki! Damn it, you might look mature but you've got the braincells of a tick."
"Did you just call me a damned tick!?"
"Its amazing how he manages to miss the entire point." Ashni said, shaking her head with a sigh. "I'll be back in a second." When she returned to Azami, Riki was lying in a fetal position groaning under his breathe. "Boys are easily dealt with," She declared as she dusted off her knee.
Raze smiled as he kneeled down next to Riki. "Heh. Looks like I know what not to do now. But as for destroying me?....Well let's just say you have to get pat the ladies first to be on my level."
Kujina had a slight sneer on her face before bursting out in laughter at the whole scenario that had just taken place. "Hahaha. Who would've known that today would be so much fun!?"
Azami sighed with a smile on her face "Its about time you finally loosened up a bit. I wondered when you would let a bit of the real you shine through."
Riki was still prone when Jinta shook his head and whistled sharply, drawing everyones attention. "Not to be the killjoy or anything, but we need to get a move on here." The others of Jinta's party only rolled their eyes, with the exception of poor Riki.
Finally recovering, but still a little shaky on his feet, the young Fōrun-juu met Raze's eye. "What makes you think I couldn't get past them?" His ego hadn't deflated much since his fight with Rutilus. In fact, if anything it had only grown. "And I can't believe the words that are coming out of my mouth... but Jinta's right."
"Hahaha. You two are certainly something interesting." Raze laughed as he eyed Jinta and Riku. "But now its time for business. So, what are the objectives once we get there guys?"
Azami and Kujina walked over before Azami chimed in "Well our group is there to rescue Jikan and possibly find Inshu and give him a good beating. Other than that we're trying to meet up with Yurei who went ahead and bring back Apollo if he is there as well."
"Azami...you do remember that your zanpakuto spirit was shifted and you lost your previous abilities right? You're no better than a regular swordsmanship practictioner at your local dojo right now. And that goes for Kujina too." Raze sighed as he scratched his head prompting the two girls to glare at him. "That being said, this would be the perfect place for you both to get in touch with the spirits once more. With the abundance of reishi and spiritual energy it should be no problem for the two of you to do so. That's if we run into no opposition though."
"Azami's strong enough to handle herself," Harumi chimed in. "I have fought her once before, after all."
"We're looking for info about a spiritual realm called Kōhai Tochi so we can rescue our friend Akiye, who was reclaimed by members of the Imawashī criminal organization after she turned her coat to join us." Jinta explained to Raze and the others. "And because I promised Kyodaina I'd help you out." He said the last as a whisper to Haruki, with a nod following.
"Now that we have that over and done with," Ashni stepped in before Riki could speak, making him scowl behind her but remain silent regardless, "how are we getting to the Soul Society?"
"I'd imagine we're heading through the Dangai... right?" Said Harumi with a visible shiver.
"Well she may be strong, but without access to her shikai she's a risk against the dangers we will face when we go to the Soul Society." Haruki said abruptly before turning to Jinta. "Kyodaina would thank you if she were here. I'm sure she'll join us once we get there."
Smiling, Raze looked over the group. "Well before we jump to anything. Mr. Tatsumi said to come to his shop when we were all gathered. I'm guessing he has something planned for us before we go, so if there's no other reason to wait around here ...shall we get going?"
Riki was quick to begin walking, intent to one-up Raze. He looked back with the grin that set alarm bells off in Ashni's head. It was only a matter of time until he tried something really, really stupid. "This guys shop won't come to us, guys." Riki said over his shoulder, before stopping and realizing he didn't have the first notion of where the hell he was supposed to be going in the first place. "... Which way is it?"
Jinta tapped Haruki on the shoulder and sighed, his shoulders slumping. "I envy you, Haruki. I've had the misfortune of growing up with that. But you'll be surprised just how useful someone without brains can be... especially to hide behind when the shit hits the fan."
"Jinta! That's terrible!" Came the brutal reprimand from Harumi, her closed fist catching him in the forearm and nearly knocking Haruki on his backside besides. "And you!" She rounded on Haruki with all the heat of a hell-bound demon raging in her usually gentle eyes. "She's your sister. Shouldn't you be a little more supportive?"
Azami bit her thumb as she and Kujina looked at their blades. "He's right though. Nevertheless..." Bringing her fist around, Azami pounded Haruki's skull and sent him tumbling to the ground. "WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO TELL ME WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN!? Little brat..."
"Now now kiddies. Let's not draw attention to ourselves. We're rather out in the open right now, who knows what could be watching us." Standing up and dusting off, Raze smiled devilishly at Riki. "By the way....the shop is this way?" He laughed as he began pointing toward a small bridge and set out for it.
"Oi! What the he--no....you're both right sorry Azami. Heh. Knowing you...you'll probably be the first one out there in the midst of combat. But we should all really get going guys." Turning to Jinta a he held his head Haruki chuckled "And this is what I had to grow up with heh."
Riki was beside Raze in a few short steps, but before he began speaking he made sure the others were out of earshot and even then he spoke quietly. "Its obvious your the strongest of your group," The blond-haired youth began, meeting Raze's eye. "But there hadn't been a mention of you until you first showed up. That tells me one thing. Someone else sent you to play nursemaid." He didn't mean it as an insult. Riki was just an idiot. "Your not only stronger," He continued as they walked ahead of the others, "but by a good bit. You hold yourself with more confidence, for one. So my question is why? Is Inshu that powerful that your sender knew you'd be needed?"
On the other hand, Jinta was still speaking casually with his new friends, feeling specifically sorry for poor Haruki. "Ashni and Azami are frighteningly similar..." He recalled the last time he had annoyed Ashni and the near-death experience that followed and shivered in spite of himself. "Haruki, don't piss off your sister or Ashni on this trip." He whispered. "Ashni's got a short fus-" Her open palm struck him right across the jaw, nearly unhinging it and knocking him against the brick building they passed; the rosy-haired youth landing in a heap, clutching his jaw tightly with tears welling up in his eyes. "What the hell!?"
Riki only gave them a passing glance, but his eyes soon bulged as he surveyed things and sniffed at the air like a hound hunting its quarry. "We need to get out of the open. Know any shortcuts?" The smell of decay floated on the wind, reminding Riki of the walking monstrosities he had seen two days ago near the city outskirts.
Raze smiled with a wry grin. "Lets just say a certain blonde haired wolf wanted me to play the hunter just in case something were to happen. Heh. I don't plan to actively get involved unless its actually needed, I believe these three can take care of themselves and while I may not personally know the rest of you. I've heard many stories from said wolf. He watches everyone like prey, you guys included. That guy has some strange habits buut I gotta admit he knows his stuff even if it seems like he's not right in the head at times."
Looking at Jinta's suffereing Haruki whimpered before helping his new friend up. "And er....Jinta was it? I wouldn't make any of these people mad. Before we know it me and you may be in the hospital before we even set off on the trip. Whew now that I say it out loud...its kinda sad, seeing as we get completely domin-" Catching a glance from both Kujina and Azami, Haruki's mouth closed like a flytrap and he slowly averted his gaze from his relatives before simply staring off into the distance.
"Um...I k-know a shortcut." Kujina chimed in as she neared RIki. "If we pass the ruins of the High School, and go through the next road, the shop should be right in front of us."
Riki stopped and continued sniffing the air, his face screwing up from disgust. "You all go on ahead," He said holding his nose, which made Ashni laugh at the sound he made. The smell of decay was starting to blow in their direction. "I need to show Raze something." At Ashni and Jinta's suddenly concerned look, the young Fōrun-juu threw up his hands and sighed. "I'm not gonna fight him! Jeez, cut me some slack. C'mon, Raze." He didn't even give the man a chance to decline.
Ashni flexed her hitting hand and looked at Riki's disappearing figure with a degree of concern. "He keeps his word surprisingly well." Jinta interjected, casting Haruki a sympathetic look with his eyes saying "I'd help, but I know better". Ashni and Harumi shared a look though, guessing their companions plan. "Riki... just be careful." Ashni thought with a tightening of her fist that made Jinta jump back in freight. "I'm sorry I'm sorry. I'm- Not getting hit? Whew!"
Leading the others across a small steel bridge, Kujina smiled as she danced along its edges. "Ah, the fresh air is so relaxing."
Riki And Raze...
"Did you eat a bad mushroom while I wasn't looking? You can be such a sporadic handful, you know that?" Azami sighed before pushing her cousin along before turning to see Raze and Riki walking in the other direction.
"Hmmm.....so where are we going exactly? If you want to take a swing at me, you could have just told me. I would have been more than happy to oblige you in a quick spar." Raze said as he looked at boy to his side. "Then again, have the fun of a journey is not knowing what awaits you at the destination."
Riki stopped and took to the rooftops of a nearby building, with him and Raze close to the city outskirts. "If I wanted to fight you I'd have done it there and then, not beat 'round the bush. See that?" He pointed to an alleyway between two buildings on the opposite side of the street, two corpse-like creatures limping into the shadows where they promptly vanished through an opening Garganta. "Just so you know, those things have been following me and my friends for a week now. The limp you seen is a feint. They're faster, stronger and much more deadly than they look." Riki's nose was plugged with a peg he'd picked up on the way, giving him a comical look and a strange tone of voice. "If you sense anything out of the ordinary, its probably them. I thought the others would panic, so your the only one I've told. Not even Jinta or the others of my team know about those things - they're good at hiding their energy, but their smell is a different thing; and my sense of smell is top-notch."
Shocked by their apperance, Raze stopped and thought aloud. "Wait. How did they even get inside the city? Let alone survive the side-affects of the barrier? Hm. Riki. Why don't we just kill them all and settle that matter before it grows too far out of hand? I mean if we inform the others and put our strengths together, I'm sure that we could handle all of them and end the menace before it gets too far out of hand." Thinking back to recent weeks, Raze smiled cheerfully. "Well if anything were out of place it wasn't too bad of an occurence that it caused anyone to notice."
Back to the others....
Meanwhile, Harumi looked at the steel bridge and grinned, relishing in the low wind and refreshing breeze as she walked with her friends. "Jinta... whose Kyodaina?" The suddenness of the question and the tone she used made the rosy-haired youth stop abruptly and look to Haruki, as though pleading. He caught Haruki, turned to face Harumi and grinned, "Haruki's girlfriend!" He said quickly, nudging Haruki to play along.
Harumi turned her look on Haruki, as if questioning the truth of her friends statement.
Hearing the conversation, Azami turned back to question her brother "Oh? You're dating that ditz? I thought you and little miss Akane Kiyomizu were a couple?"
"Well er...um...you see...the thing is that well me and Akane broke up and then I started dating Kyodaina. It only happened recently and I dint really tell anyone yet because I was sure if it was serious or not yet. It kinda happened right before she left for training. Er...yea that's right." Haruki smiled nervously as he gave Jinta a glare signifying that he would pay him back.
Seemingly satisfied by the answer, Harumi walked ahead of the others, leaving Jinta alone with Haruki. Ashni gave him a slight shake of the head and a death glare besides before joining her friend. "Whew! I know what the glares for, but thanks anyway, Haruki. You have no idea how much aggravation you just saved me from. She's more jealous than sense, but good at heart."
Adopting a cold look on his face, Haruki stared out over the river as he spoke to Jinta with a depressed tone in his voice. "And now....now I must go. To the otherside. If I continue on today I will be strangled by Akane and my life will be over. And I have no one to blame but....you Jinta! It was all you! I don't wanna get killed!" Flaining his body about, Haruki began running around in circles at the thought of what his girlfriend was going to do to him upon hearing his lie. "My eyes!!! My nose!! My "pride" as a man! All of it will be seized and burned! And for what!? A simple lie?" Haruki stopped his rant before smiling at Jinta and suddenly foaming at the mouth as he passed out.
Looking blankly, Jinta poked Haruki once. Then twice. Still nothing happened. "Uh... guys? I think I killed Haruki." But they were already walking ahead, the two of them seemingly forgotten about. "Great, this is just great. This can't be happening." Slapping him didn't do much either. "This is not my day." Slinging the unconscious Satonaka over his shoulder, Jinta flash stepped towards the others, scratching his head nervously when he came across Azami. "Okay, how to say this... Your looking beautiful today, by the way. But Haruki was only, well, you know... er, getting me... yup, its just easier to tell you I'm an idiot and he passed out for lying. Please don't tell... whatever you called his girl! He only did it to save me the dog house!"
"Oh I know. He wouldn't dare break up with little Akane. Well...its more like she wouldn't let him. Fufufufu." Azami smirked as she pulled Haruki down annd directed Kujina to aim a kiss at him.
"U-uh um ok. Come here H-haruki." Kujina whispered lowly as she made a kissing motion toward her cousin.
Waking up in a daze, Haruki began to flail around before shoving Jinta toward Kujina. "Noooooooo!! Anything but that! We're cousins after all!"
"Oh? I don't think a certain cousin of ours would like to hear that, seeing as you clearly--" Before Azami could finish, Haruki's hands clasped her mouth quite tightly.
Haruki leaned in and whispered into her ear "Please don't mention that honorable sister. For I may have to live in shame and then possibly kill you if you do."
Jinta watched the scene from the sidelines with a bemused expression plastered across his face. "I was only joking," Harumi said from the side. Turning, he smiled and rolled his eyes in response. "So you did that just to make me nearly crap myself? Thanks."
"Who nearly crapped themselves?" Jinta made a jump as Riki returned, not a wound on him. "You! I thought you were-"
"Off to fight? To kill Raze? Maybe. But no. I just had to show him something." Riki replied, appearing beside Ashni. "So, what happened without me? Any funny things?" Hearing about Haruki fainting made the blond-haired youth laugh out loud. "I pity you, pal. That I do."
Sighing at his embarassment, Haruki chuckled a bit before walking to ahead. "Let's just go already? I'm tired of being on the end of all the jokes."
"Aww don't be a poor sport Haruki." Raze smiled as he suddenly appeared and pulled on Harukis collar preventing him from moving. "We move when everyone is ready."
"Oh?" Riki put his arm around Haruki and whispered. "Jinta wet the bed three nights ago from a nightmare."
Jinta looked confused, not catching what was said. "Riki, you've got that look about you. What the hell are you planning?"
"I agree with Haruki. We need to go." Ashni chimed in, speaking for the first time in a while.
Haruki looked back at Jinta with a smirk. "Got ya now. Heh."
"Alrighty then folks, if you will be so kind and follow me...." Throwing a small bead into the ground, a large dragon began to emerge from a liquid substance before he climbed atop. "Now now. No dillydallying...let's go. DOn't mind him. He's a good guy." Raze smiled as he motioned for the others to follow.
Jinta still looked confused. "Riki, what did you tell him? Come here!"
Riki stepped down from the dragon and sighed. "Nice flight." His eye was blackened. Apparently Jinta found out. Ashni was still giggling and Harumi looked disgusted. "I hate you all." Jinta declared, face a thunder head.
Knocking on the front of door in front of them, Kujina and Azami smiled as the news about Jinta passed through their group as well.
"Oi Oi I'm coming already!" A voice resounded before the two large doors opened wide reaviling a red-haired man. "Oh!? You guys are here already? I surely expected someone to pick a fight with the other group. I was still having some coffee." The red haired man smiled before looking over the other group. "And who do we have here?"
"Riki, Ashni, Harumi..." Riki began, looking slyly at Jinta. "... and bed wetter-" Riki fell as Jinta charged, the two boys wrestling in the middle of the floor.
"They;re both idiots." Ashni declared, parting them both with a swing of her nodachi. "Need I remind you both what happens when you act the clown?" The put their faces to the floor and begged forgiveness, neither wanting to relive the moment that almost killed the rosy-haired youth some weeks ago.
"Shall we go in?" Harumi asked of the shop keeper. "I like your shop."
"Oh I like those two. Reminds me of two of my friends from when I was younger. Hahahaha." The red haired man smiled as he introduced himself. "I'm known as Mr. Tatsumi but you all can just call me Mr. Tatsumi. Hahaha. See what I did there?"
Azami sighed as she walked into the store. "Just come on in guys or you'll always be listening to his sad jokes."
"I think it was cute," Harumi said, stepping past him.
"I think it was stupid." Ashni echoed, following suit.
"Is it just me or are girls far scarier than any enemy you'll ever face?" Jinta asked Tatsumi. Riki didn't even speak. He simply shuffled past and muttered thanks about helping them before ducking inside.
"Now then. Let's hear it. What are all of your goals. We need to plan this out accordingly." Atsuya smiled as he took a seat at a large rounded table tapping on it so everyone knew where to sit. "Hm...I must say. All of you have look pretty strong. Why do any of you want to go there? And it better not be some reason like revenge or something that the Satonaka dimwits have been spouting for months now.
Raze smiled. "That's certainly true but I believe we all have our own reasons for wanting to go."
"We're going," Riki began with a deep breathe, "because Kentaro Hiroshi is an idiot who fell in love with a criminal, who got kidnapped by shady folks and now we're looking information to break her out. In short we're doing his dirty work." Stopping he grinned wide, happy at his explanation.
"While that may be true," Ashni kicked him between the legs. "Kentaro promised he'd help, but because of his training we're here in his steed."
"That's twice!" Riki moaned, high-pitched.
Laughing at the people on front of him, Atsuya nearly fell from his chair. "Oh? To rescue someone? If she's a criminal in Soul Society, the chances are that she's already dead."
"B-but Mr. Tatsumi...we have to go just in case there's a chance anyway." Kujina chimed in after reamining quite for a time. "If w can save her then we must. And besides Haruki-chan promised Kyodaina that we would go rescue Jikan."
"Pfft. Did you just use -chan for Haruki? Ha!" Atsuya smiled before continuing. "Well then I suppose that we have no choice then. So let me get this straight...the game plan currently is to 1) Get in successfully? 2) Rescue this criminal and Jikan?.." Making eye contact with Haruki and Azami he nodded "3) Making contact with Yurei and finding information on Inshu Senshi? and 4) Getting the hell out there with your hides still connected to your bodies?"
"Most is true." Jinta said. "Akiye - the one were looking for - is in Kōhai Tochi. We're going to Soul Society to break into the Great Library beneath the Central 46 chambers to see what we can find."
Atsuya's eyes narrowed as he gained a serious look on his face. "You want to go where again!? Are you kidding me? The majority of you wouldn't make it out alive if you go there as you are now. It would be best to build your strength and gain more allies before attempting to go there. When Van's father came into town, he notified us on where to find him and trust me that guy is no laughing matter. And for those of you who don't know, Van is Haruki and Azami's father and Kujina's uncle."
"Well then. I suppose we will just have to prove you wrong and becoem strong enough to conquer the place. Heh. Am I right guys?" Raze smiled as he stood up and got himself some tea. "Besides...its not as if we will get split up on any voyage we go on together, we all know better than that."
"Then I guess we'll just have to prove you wrong." Riki edged the comment in, speaking at almost the same time as Raze; a confident set to his features and shoulders, casting Atsuya a challenging glare with one of his classic wolfish grins that revealed sharpened canines. He stopped to look at Raze, perplexed for a time though before he gave himself a shake. And that very same confidence he exuded like an aura was fed on by his comrades, as each perked up the minute he spoke. Jinta wore a serious expression, arms crossed at his chest. Ashni wore a smile, finally agreeing with something the unfortunate victim of her rage up til now had said. And Harumi was nodding, each with the resolve to see these challenges through to the end etched upon their faces.
"We do this," Jinta continued on from Riki, "then we go all the way." At the nod from his comrades he continued. "There are no half measures, Atsuya. The Central 46 - the highest judicial authority in the Soul Society and one of the greatest wellsprings of knowledge in the spiritual realms. That's where we're headed and rest assured, we will get there. All we need to know is how."
"And If we need to go through the Central 46 to get there-" Riki chimed in, punching the open palm of his left hand "-then that's just what we'll do." He and Jinta bumped fists, nodding in unison. "Its that simple." The four said as one.
"HAHAHAHAHAHA! That's a good one. You young ones sure have spirit but that spirit won't get you too far if you can't actually back it up." Atsuya smiled before tapping his elbow on the wall behind him revealing a large room. "Let's go in here. I have a few....sparring partners for you all. If you get pat them...er...let me make it easier....do moderately well against them then I'll adcknowledge you and get you to your destination in one piece. Though....Haruki and Kujina I will keep you here and have you do a different traiing. Funny Four, Azami, and Raze....you guys come with me." Atsuya smild as his chair began hovering into the large dark room behind them.
"Er...oh ok then." Haruki said as he looked at Kujina."Good luck to the rest of you."
"Luck? What kind of thing is luck if you have natural talent like all of us? Bah! Take that luck nonsense and stick it to someone who actually needs it." Raze smiled as he proceded into the room with Azami giving a thumbs up to Haruki and Kujina before he vanished from view.
Riki followed suit, cracking his knuckles and neck loudly, muttering about tests this and tests that until he was all but gone from sight, quickly fading alongside the figure of Raze.
Ashni and Harumi followed soon after, chatting quietly about what their test could possibly be and how difficult - in Ashni's case easy - it would be. Only when their giggling vanished did Jinta finally follow them, hand resting on the hilt of Samazamahi. "This should be interesting..." He too walked into the room, running to catch up with the others, stopping when he and Riki were shoulder-to-shoulder.
"Nervous?" Riki asked simply, without his usual sarcasm or clowning around.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't," Came Jinta's grim reply. "But I'll be fine. What about you? Confidence ever gonna crack?"
"Not today little brother," Riki joked, putting him in a headlock until Jinta cried uncle. "Just leave everything to me and we'll get what we need... and what your looking for." Jinta only smiled in response, remembering his last attempt at infiltrating the Soul Society. This time he'd have allies and trusted friends, though. And it gave him something to be confident about.
"Hahaha. Alright folks. Let's get this party started." Atsuya clapped his hands illuminating the large room, revealing a large wilderness-like area in the process. "Here is where the lot of you will conduct your training to see if you're fit to make it through tto the Soul Society, if you're looking for opponents, well...." Tossing two small pills onto the ground, Atsuya clappd again resulting in the pills taking the forms of both Van and Anna Satonaka. "You all will be facing these two as well as.....me."
Jinta, Harumi and Ashni's mouths dropped as one. They'd heard the stories about Van and Anna Satonaka. Kenji Hiroshi had been quite detailed in his explanations of the two. Only Riki walked forward. "That all? No problem!" The young Fōrun-juu, completely disregarding tact or any explanation burst forward towards Atsuya, fist drew back instantly!
Joining him in the attack, Azami sprung forward into action in order to trip Atsuya so he wouldn't have stable ground. "Ha! We got him now Riki!"
"Tsk. Tsk. Not smart but good job." Atsuya smiled as a rift opened in front of Riki and Azami sending the two of them away. "That's two down. They passed with flying colors? Who will be next? You Raze? Ashni? Jinta?" The red-haired man smiled as he patted 'Van' on the back. "Let's see if any of the other can figure out their own way?"
Upon seeing Riki vanish, Ashni was the next to attack. Drawing her nodachi deftly and utilizing high-speed movement to take her to Atsuya's back, she proceeded to bare her teeth in a snarl as she brought her blade down! Jinta watched calmly, not really sure where or how Riki and Azami had vanished, simply knowing that they weren't here any longer. As he drew his katana and whispered its release command, Ashni became invisible as Jinta created a large area of light around himself and the others, subjecting Atsuya to the illusions he conjured. All the while, Ashni's nodachi neared the top of the scientists head...
"Oh Vaaaannnn!" Atsuya clapped his hands as he quickly drew his own sword, blocking Raze who had come speeding foward. "Now now.....we have all the time in the world." Sensing Ashni's blade bearing down on him, he gritted his teeth before Van's own blade stopped the attack. "Oh? It seems that light wasn't just for show. Hah! These kids have some pep in their step. But Its time for one of you to go....you've done enough." Clapping his hands, Atsuya smiled as he spoke. "Jinta. Time's up. You're good to go." Suddenly a hand appeared from a rift and pulled him inside.
'Anna' pushed Ashni back before donning a ragged smile, similar to that of a straw ragdoll as 'Van' took Raze and Harumi into the void before appearing next to Ashni.
Atsuya walked over to the three of them with a serious look on his face. "Ashni....I sent the others away because I needed to talk to you. Haruki and Kujina should be on their way back. I need you to watch after the three Satonaka's and make sure they stay safe."
"Why me?" Was all Ashni said after a long moments pause, all the while her eyebrow rose in the same manner that had warned Riki and Jinta that she was close to loosing her temper a number of times in the past. "And on the point of sending people away, what did you do with my- ahem. Riki?" Her eyes dared him to say something about her slip up.
"Well...." Atsuya sighed as the Van and Anna clones vanished. "You seem the most trustworthy out of the bunch. I need a good eye to make sure they stay out of danger. They'll more than likely wind up getting themselves killed one of these days cause of their personalities and you seem to be able to keep most of them in line with just a glance. And as for your....er....everyone. They are just further on in the area. They're all safe."
Accepting his answer, Ashni finally sighed as she sheathed her zanpakutō; the scowl still plastered across her face. "I'll make no promises." She said after walking forward a little. "We could be separated at any time. If there with me, I'll look after them, but if we do get separated, they'll have to work together to survive." That was the cold, harsh truth of it. With her piece said, Ashni walked towards the area Atsuya had motioned to earlier, content that her friends were safe.
"Hahaha very true." Atsuya smiled as he turned to welcome back Haruki and Kujina. "It looks like the two of you had a wonderful time."
"Yea.....Kujina had a pretty decent time while she was out. " Haruki laughed before being elbowed in the side by his cousin.
"In any case let's go." Atsuya shook his hed as he hurried the two of them along to a clearing where everyone was waiting. "Sorry about that everyone. I had to make sure you didn't have any fear within you while facing stronger opponents. Upon reaching the Soul Society, you may come across deadly foes and one of you may even die from this incursion.....but I have utter faith in all of you."
Riki raised his head and got to his feet quickly at seeing Ashni approach, followed closely by Atsuya. His eyes narrowed somewhat, his face growing in anger, but when it was clear she was fine and unhurt, his features smoothed over and he went back to his seat on the ground; those around him seemingly forgotten. "We ready to get this show on the road then?" He asked, only for Jinta to roll his eyes in irritation.
"Have you any patience?" The rosy-haired youth asked of his friend.
"I thought you'd know that answer by now."
"Boys. Be quiet." Ashni edged in, tone no-nonsense.
"Yes ma'am!" They both intoned, casting each other fool looks at having spoken in unison.
"Need I say more Ashni?" Atsuya chuckled as he shrugged begore walking to a near empty space and taps it with his finger causing a large gate to appear and open creating a large vacuum.
"WHOOOOA!!!" Azami and Haruki chimed in together before looking at each other in laughter.
Haruki donned a pair of goggles as looked into the empty space. "Are we ready to go?"
"Well just one more thing....be careful and watch each other's backs. Other than that....good luck." Atsuya laughed as he moved from in front of the gate.
Raze stood and dusted himself off. "Time to saddle up this pony. Let's move out folks." He suddenly grabbed Haruki against his will and pulled him in. "Azami, you grab Kujina and follow me." Jumping foward, he vanished into the large gate.
Doing as she was told, Azami sighed "I hate when he orders me around." She waked fowrd to the gate before stopping and looking back at the others "See you on the other side!"
"Old guy," Riki said as he rose. "We're the hell does this take us out, anyway? The Rukongai might be our best bet, considering the Soul Society doesn't much like visitors who happen to be members of the Ryū Order."
Jinta face-palmed, before rolling his eyes and marching Riki on before he ended up angering Atsuya in some way. "Ignore him, Atsuya-san. He's just an idiot."
"Who you calling an idiot!?" Riki shot back.
"Wasn't it obvi-" Came Jinta's casual reply, though both parted as Ashni's nodachi fell between them, several strands of blond hair falling as the blade passed mere milliliters from Riki's head. "I. Said. Be. Quiet." At the demonic gleam in those amber eyes, the boys gulped and walked off like kicked dogs.
"We're ready to leave now, Atsuya-san," Riki said finally, head hung and eyes down. Harumi only looked on with an unreable expression, as though what was unfolding before her happened all the time.
"Haha I hope you all do have fun...though to be perfectly honest. I have no idea where you will end up, I do know however that you will probably end up somewhere near a good location to begin your journey. Better than nothing right?" Atsuya laughed as he began lighting a cigarette. "Think of it this way. There's a chance you could wind up in the the very location you're friend is located."
"Unless you plan on sending us in another fuc-" Jinta silenced Riki with a sharp elbow strike to the ribs, driving the young Fōrun-juu to his knees. "Offff! What the hell, Jinta!?"
"Naibu would've done the same." Harumi chimed in. As she passed Atsuya she shook his hand and make more remarks about the place, with Ashni simply walking past him with a nod, as though it were to seal some former request.
Riki simply got to his feet, dusted himself off, felled Jinta with a right hook, dragged him forward and stood beside the others as they prepared to leave; all the while little imaginary stars were revolving around Jinta's eyes. "He'll life," He assured the others.
Exhaling with a smiile, Atsuya looked over those about to depart "Good luck out there.....you'll definitely need it."
The two teams gathered stood to look at one another before they left, each face registering a different emotion; but each with resolve etched in their eyes. Finally, they leapt in as one, leaving Atsuya to look on from the sidelines.