The Looming Shadow
"Eh?" A young girl with short, raven hair, clipped to the side of her head by what appeared to be bone, had been relaxing in the outside quarters of her barracks when a brown haired man approached her. "A Lieutenant's meeting, Kyūzō?" The girl, Kirei Usuikikan of the 5th Division, looked up at her comrade in confusion.
"I'm about as confused as you are, really." Kyūzō Hashidojin of the 9th Division scratched the back of his head. "I suppose we'd better get our Lieutenant's badges on as well."
"Those things?" Kirei stood up, dusting herself off. "Didn't they go out of fashion 50 years ago?"
"Protocol and all that." Kyūzō waved it off. "I'll go on ahead, you catch up."
"Alright!" The girl called back, rushing into her quarters and pulling on a wooden badge with her division designation on it. "A Lieutenant's meeting now?" She thought to herself, rushing out as she slung her Zanpakutō onto her waist. She was aware martial law had been declared — Shinigami were permitted to carry and use their Zanpakutō within the Seireitei. "Where's the Captain?" She thought as she raced down the halls. "Was he called in as well? How much have things escalated in the past few days!?"
It didn't take the girl long to reach the meeting room, where she was greeted by the grim expressions of her colleagues. "Sorry I'm late..." She panted, breathing heavily. "Kyūzō...just told me...!"
A young girl with long, flowing blonde hair interrupted her. "What did he tell you? Are we not in war against these tresspassers? We need to hurry out and take them down." While she looked cute, Miyuki certainly was...vicious.
"Isn't that what this meeting is about?! How exactly we're going to bust their heads in?" Another blonde girl, about the same height as Miyuki, but without any of the elegance, snapped angrily. This was Hiyori Sarugaki, and she was as energetic as her surname suggested.
"That is correct, but another pressing matter is exactly what the Ryōka are doing..." Ise Yoshimichi hung her head. "Machishi Konikari and Harutō Mukagami of the Eleventh Division were struck down by the Ryōka two days ago."
"That's a good point." Miyuki was wondering- but trusting her instincts, she kinda thought that they were up to no good. "This may be the very first time in a few centuries that our order has been truly under threat...." Though worried, she wished to eliminate them as hastily as possible.
A young man with parted, dark black hair clicked his tongue impatiently. "And so we're all going to squander our time here, in this meeting?" His voice, though quiet, had an edge of impatience to it. It was obvious that, despite trying to appear calm, the boy would much rather be out fighting than in here talking. "Is there even a point to this?"
A tall, muscular man with sharp features, short light-gray hair and brown eyes approached; this was Eishabu Tatsuneji, the Lieutenant of the 13th Division. He answered in a serious tone, "A job's a job. What we have to do, no matter how we feel about it, is something that's necessary. There's no use in complaining."
A woman with bright red hair sighed, fixing her glasses which were slipping down the bridge of her nose. "Job or otherwise, we can't simply charge in after the Ryōka without express orders from our Captains. Even you, Toyotomi, would be reprimanded for simply running off without prior notification."
"Those are the words of someone who is afraid to take action, Sugeibi." Toyotomi replied sharply. "I refuse to just stand idly by. Whether it's justice or evil, those who make their voices heard are always the ones with power."
"Then we'll ask, simple as that. I'm sure...Captain Kaori -especially Captain Kaori- will understand." Eishabu shrugged; he knew that she was the most bloodthirsty of them all- even if she was no Kenpachi.
"Our Captains most likely at their own meetings." Kirei said, frowning. "The Head Captain most likely has his own orders for them, given the light of the situation."
Miyuki was taking her time to wrap her head around the politics of the Gotei 13. She didn't see why they couldn't just go out on their own -like every other military sect these days. "...I never understood those meeting things. I mean, debates will simply go nowhere."
"It's just the way things are run." Sugeibi replied, sighing. "War decisions are handled by our Captains, they have to be in some semblance of agreement before we can take any action."
"But I don't." Toyotomi replied, his calm tone edgy. "I don't know about you lot, but I am taking things into my own hands — now." And with that, the man slipped from the meeting and out the door, vanishing with a quick Shunpo.
"Well, we'll see how this goes." Eishabu sighed; and by this point, it was extremely obvious that the Gotei, in any shape or form, was unable to work together properly. Just like the governments in the Human World.
"Let's all just return to our barracks for now." Sugeibi suggested. "Our Captains will notify us if we're needed, it wouldn't do to act like Toyotomi and go off on our own."
Kirei nodded in agreement. "I know it's a bit hard to bide our time, but we don't have a choice."
"Let's just see where little Toyotomi gets us, huh?" Miyuki flexed her hands momentarily- though she was not one for combat, it was obvious that she did enjoy watching others battle- even if her job did not require it.
"Toyotomi..." Kirei sighed in worry, looking at the door through which he'd left. "Don't do something stupid..."
Shade of the Decaying Tree
"How is the gut wound?" Myōbu bent down, inspecting Ahatake's torso. "Hmmm...the wound seems to have sealed itself well." She stood up, straightening her glasses. "All's well that ends well I suppose. As long as you don't overexert yourself, that wound shouldn't re-open."
"You know I still have to save Harumi and probably fight several Shinigami to get to her?" Ahatake pointed out.
Myōbu sighed. "I know. And, sadly, that falls under the category of 'overexertion'."
"That is sad." Gaikou said. "This is taking too long." Then again, she was lazy. Or something like that. "Is there any way to save her quickly?"
Ahatake looked at her blankly. "If I had money for the amount of concern that wasn't in your voice, I could probably post Harumi bail and still go buy a yacht." The boy sighed in exasperation.
"No, 'quickly', while it would be preferable, isn't exactly an option." Mokin replied sadly. "We can't simply storm through Soul Society, mowing down anyone that gets in our way. Moving quietly and avoiding conflict at all costs is better."
"Well, that's not fun." Gaikou crossed her arms. "This place reeks of death..." To be fair, Soul Society was considered the Realm of the Dead.
"That's because your friend decided to take the exact opposite approach." Mokin sighed in exasperation. "Wherever she and Dohko go, I can feel spiritual energy dropping like flies."
Ahatake frowned. "She's...not fond of Shinigami."
Gaikou snapped back, "Damn right I don't. Those jackasses hunted my kind to extinction. What, did you expect me to extend a hand to 'em and say 'naw, we cool dudes'? Think reasonably here. I want a BIT of revenge."
"I was referring to Kayla, but fair point." Ahatake placed a hand to his forehead in obvious exasperation. "I don't know what Dohko is doing, not controlling Kayla, but you, Gaikou, aren't about to go on a mass murder spree with all of us here to restrain you."
"I think that Dohko is trying to be smart...." She paused. "...only to make himself look like a bigger idiot. I realized that the reason he dresses in that snazzy suit is to make himself appear almost sophisticated, when in reality he's the exact opposite."
Ahatake smirked. "So, the same reason you wear those glasses then?" He asked, obviously playing with her.
Gaikou snarked back, "Need I remind you, I am versed in many Quincy arts and knowledgeable of the history? Even though the quartet of us are what is considered "idiotic", I am by FAR the smartest." That...really wasn't something to be proud of.
"Your knowledge in the art of the Quincy doesn't make you smart, if you lack knowledge in other fie-" Ahatake began, but Mokin but in between them.
"Enough!" She snapped, glaring angrily at them both. "This discussion is pointless and wasting our precious time. If you both have the energy to bicker, we can begin heading towards the Senzaikyū, am I making myself clear!?"
"Guh, fine." Gaikou hissed like a cat at Ahatake, obviously pissed. "We'll continue this discussion later, young man. When there's no talking chicken here..."
"Oh shut up mom." He emphasized the last word, lampshading her strange parental way of speaking that she had obviously taken to mock them both. Mokin, on the other hand, simply looked annoyed. "All three of you, let's get moving."
"Three of...oh right." Myōbu sighed. She already knew that if she didn't tag along with these three, he would never let her hear the end of it. "May as well."
Gaikou snapped, "You're not part of our little group. Got that, Shinigami?" And yet, their "group" wasn't even established yet- she, Dohko, and Harumi had just started to crowd around Kayla and Ahatake as of recently.
"You're aware of your hypocrisy, no?" Myōbu asked, looking at Gaikou from over the lens of her glasses. "You dislike me for being a Shinigami...and yet you travel with this boy, whose obviously a Shinigami."
"Ahatake is different!" Gaikou snarled like a wild beast, back at the woman. "Though I don't know why....something's just different about him."
"I'm...not sure if that's a compliment or an insult." Ahatake replied, confused. The conversation ended here as the group left the building, racing across the Seireitei, heading towards the Senzaikyū. "It really does tower over the Seireitei." Ahatake observed as Mokin flew over their heads. "You'd think a prison would be...less conspicuous?"
"It seems that the Shinigami prefer flash over quality. Just like they always have..." Gaikou snarked; "The Quincy prisons...well, let's just say there weren't any."
"No, they had camps instead." Myōbu snarked. It was obvious Gaikou had left a bad impression on the woman.
Ahatake sighed. "Oh boy..."
"Du denkst, das ist, eine mutterficken spiel?" Gaikou retorted in her normal accent. "Seriously though, let's just gloss over that one."
"...Yeah, let's." Ahatake agreed, thoroughly confused as to how he'd even gotten mixed up with these girls.
"We're getting close!" Mokin called down to them. "Unfortunately...we have company."
Gaikou sighed. "Is it just me or do we have "company" a lot? Like, can we have a single hour to ourselves where we're not on the floor, passed out after getting our teeth kicked in?"
"Yeah, I tend to notice that." Ahatake agreed. "We'll discuss obvious issues like these later though — if we have company, I suppose that makes us the hosts." He noted this sounded better in his head as they approaching a wide open area, the Senzaikyū looming ever larger. This, however, wasn't the focus. The focus was thaty of a young man dressed in the robes of a Shinigami, with slicked black hair and a bitter expression on his face.
"That's....!" Myōbu gasped in surprise. "That's Toyotomi Kuchiki!"
"Oh, great." Gaikou slumped. "Yet we have another dude wearing a full-body dress." She wasn't amused; at all. "Let's just get it over with."
"So you're the Ryōka..." Toyotomi gave the group a once-over and his eyes rested on Myōbu. "I never would have expected to see one of our own working with the Ryōka...Captain Tamashi won't be happy to hear this."
Myōbu avoided looking at Toyotomi. She quite clearly was shocked to be found out so soon, but wasn't about to oppose a Lieutenant.
"Quiet?" He looked at her sharply. "I suppose that's fine. No excuse will pardon you here."
"Oi!" Ahatake snapped. "Do us all a favor and shut up. Your voice is already getting on my nerves. So Gaikou, how do we decide who gets him?"
Gaikou sighed, "You do it. I'm sick of fighting guys with oversized swords, who are obviously compensating for their small genital size, while also wearing full-body black dresses."
"You certainly have a carefree partner." Toyotomi observed.
"Don't even get me started." Ahatake replied, his hand on his blade. "I don't suppose you'll simply stand aside."
"Of course not." Toyotomi drew his Zanpakutō, drawing the blade that shone in the light of the sun. Ahatake did the same, and both approached each other with blades drawn.
"Dammit..." Mokin hissed to herself. "Another Lieutenant-class opponent in only a few days...dimwit, don't stress your wounds."
Toyotomi looked over at Ahatake, dismissive as usual. "Ah, yet another bug I have to squash. This shall be over in a moment."
"You'd be surprised the amount a bug can move when it's backed against the wall." Ahatake replied, and, without warning, expelled a wave of flames from his mouth towards Toyotomi, not giving the man proper time to react.
Toyotomi vs. Ahatake
Toyotomi vanished into the air, using Shunpō to ascend as he smirked. "You'll be surprised by what happens when I drop a ten tonne sword on a bug, boy!"
Ahatake, however, quickly followed, leaping into the air with Shunpō, quickly making himself level with Toyotomi, swinging his blade diagonally down towards the man.
Casually raising his blade, Toyotomi deflected Ahatake's strike. "And then, that bug shall feel the retribution of my family!"
Their blades clashed, sparks flying as metal scraped metal. Ahatake gritted his teeth, keeping a firm hold on the reishi in the air, attempting to push Toyotomi backwards. Realising the high ground wasn't much of an advantage, Ahatake, blade still firm in his hand, began to float diagonally down towards Toyotomi...and pushed, expelling energy from his feet so that he was propelled like a rocket.
Toyotomi leapt back in the air- quickly letting go of his blade in order to obtain breathing room- though he allowed himself to manipulate some reishi particles, creating a whip of spiritual energy in order to catch the blade as he accelerated backwards. "Now!" With his blade in hand, Toyotomi slashed forward, releasing a blast of spiritual energy towards Ahatake.
Ahatake inhaled deeply, and then exhaled, expelling a large mass of flames from his breathe onto his sword. Even without Shikai, flames were always his weapon. "Ora!" He then swung the blade down, releasing the flames in a large arc. They clashed with the blasts of spirit energy, and Ahatake ran through them as they fizzled out, using them for cover and appearing in front of Toyotomi, thrusting his blade forward.
"He's creative!" Myōby gasped to herself. Given his injuries last battle, she'd expected him to be quite the buffoon. Unless..."Is it possible he learns through his body!?" Her eyes narrowed as she focused on the battle. "I've heard of such cases, but they're very rare...and usually idiots, so I guess it evens out."
"Slow." Toyotomi suddenly vanished into thin air, before reappearing behind Ahatake, blade down, about to plunge down. "You don't know why I'm moving so fast, do you?"
"Shunpō, I'd assume?" Ahatake replied, spinning back on his heel to clash blades once more, his teeth grit. "I learned the basics of that art, rather brutally in fact."
"Ah, I see." Toyotomi didn't really care either way. He backed up as he dissapeared into thin air, reappearing behind Ahatake as he went to strike once more. "Then what you have seen, does not compare to my own demonstration of the art."
Ahatake, however, wasn't stupid. The fact that this man chose to speak every time he made a sneak attack, was more than the cue the young warrior to proceed to spin wildly, releasing a slew of flames from his mouth that covered him entirely, and spread out in all directions. He would burn this man to a cinder.
"...what do they call this fighting style!?" Myōbu asked, bewildered.
"Desperation." Mokin replied.
"No." Toyotomi replied. "The correct answer to such a style is..." Toyotomi dashed into the air, gathering spiritual energy at the tip of his blade while condensing it, preparing to unleash a powerful deathblow. "It is foolishness." Swinging downwards, Toyotomi unleashed a powerful wave which ripped through the air, right down at Ahatake.
"Dammit!" Ahatake swung his blade up to clash with Toyotomi, but the force of the man's blade completely overwhelmed him, sending Ahatake hurtling down towards the ground, crashing into it with a large boom.
Toyotomi simply looked down at him, preparing to turn away; rather than dealing the ending blow. "Scatter to the wind, imitation Shinigami."
"Sometimes..." Ahatake winced, forcing himself to his feet. His entire body was rocking with pain, but he wasn't so out of it that he couldn't fight. "Imitation products are the next best thing." Vanishing with Shunpo, he closed the distance between himself and Toyotomi with surprising ease, and thrust his blade towards the man's back. "Your mistake, turning your back on a living opponent!"
"Pathetic." Toyotomi shrugged; truth be told, this guy was getting on his nerves- but he wasn't going to go to the next level- not yet. "But an imitation still pales in comparison to the real deal." He vanished into thin air, using Shunpo in order to appear above Ahatake, swinging his blade downwards.
Ahatake, however, extended a hand, wrapping it around the man's blade; wincing as it cut deep. "I'm sick of hearing you talk and talk and talk." With surprising force, he yanked the man forward by the blade, and slamming his fist straight into Toyotomi's jaw, rather enjoying the sight of him hurtling away as he let the blade slip from his hands. "I'm not going to lose here, just because you think you're better!"
"Oh, I don't think I'm better." Toyotomi smirked; catching himself as he ascended involuntarily into the air. "I AM better." Though he recieved damage, he still attacked, launching a blast of sheer air pressure towards Ahatake at full force.
Ahatake dodged, before barreling down towards Toyotomi, his face contorted in irritation as he gripped the hilt of his blade. "I'll show you whose better when you're lying on the floor, bleeding out!" As he closed the distance between them, he made a motion to swing his sword — only to vanish, appearing low next to Toyotomi and swinging his left leg up towards the man's gut.
"Wrong." Toyotomi caught Ahatake's leg- though he didn't retaliate, instead vanishing from sight once more, reappearing underneath Ahatake as he swung around with a roundhouse kick.
The blow connected with his jaw, sending Ahatake into the air. He caught himself, however, rubbing his jaw before he descended downward with a BOOM. Expelling a massive amount of fire from his mouth, the heat wave poured down like fiery rain.
Swinging his blade around, Toyotomi reflected the blast, as he sneered, "Momentarily, you shall witness my full power, boy!"
"Then show me, pretty boy!" Ahatake snapped back. "Show me the power of the 'real deal'."
"Alright." Toyotomi sighed. "You asked for it."
His weapon took possession of his reiatsu, shaping and expanding it using the blade as a medium to force the spiritual energy contained in the sword and his body to spiral around him, using the reishi particles in the air to "solidify" and stabilize, hardening and forming, shaping into an enormous, vaguely humanoid being which appears similar to a medieval knight.
This figure enveloped and surrounded Toyotomi, shielding him from anything which would wish to harm him. It could be said that this Zanpakutō was his "guardian deity". Its colouration was black and red, with stylized armour and no lower body. Overall, the design of the armour has a slight Egyptian hint to it and bore a demonic visage which was truly frightening to behold. Despite supposedly being the "ultimate defense", its mere presence rooted Toyotomi to the ground, anchoring him in one spot.
Of course, it didn't guard right under his feet, making it all the more possible to attack from below. The Zanpakutō's weapons were truly befitting for a medieval knight: In its left hand, it wielded an odd mix of a traditional longsword and an undulating blade, which resembled a kris. "This is...Banbutsu Sōzō."
"....T-that's a Shikai!?" Ahatake stepped back, looking up at it in awe. "What....the...?"
"Banbutsu Sōzō..." Myōbu murmured. "I've only heard about it before from stories. It's rumored to be one of the strongest Shikai among the Lieutenants, at the very least in terms of sheer power. I'd never thought I'd see it..."
"Gaze upon it..." Toyotomi made a cutting motion with his fist, swinging it straight downwards. "And despair." With his single motion, the sword of the armoured figure surrounding him swung downwards, straight at Ahatake at high speeds, enough to cleave the air in half.
"Blaze, Katenare!" Ahatake roared and his blade erupted to life in a massive aura of flames. He made a leap, dodging the giant blade, but just barely. "How the hell do I fight that thing? My Shikai is like a matchstick compared to it!!"
"Weak." Toyotomi aimed up at Ahatake; as the colossus continued to swing madly at him- though as a contrast, Toyotomi remained perfectly still; the whole scene was rather...eerie.
"Son of a-!" Ahatake was caught like a small animal evading a predator. The blade grazed past his body, and he felt a huge amount of wind pressure force him down to the ground, hitting it hard. "S-shit!"
"Do you witness it now, boy?" Toyotomi began to rant rather...smugly. "This power, is the power of my Shikai. As long as I remain in a single position, then I am nigh-invulnerable to all harm. It's simply futile to continue this battle, as the guardian will defend me, and attack in my stead!"
"Isn't that damn cheap!?" Ahatake barked, his eyes narrowing in irritation. "I have to get him out from under that thing...!" He knew that'd what he had to do, the problem was how he was going to go about it.
With a snap of his fingers, Toyotomi plumetted to the ground; causing a kickup of ashpalt. Right now, he had no weaknesses- his feet firmly rooted in the ground, his weapon was ready to attack. "Charge at me, boy."
"Damn!" Ahatake was irritated now, he'd planted himself down like a tree, firmly rooted to keep Ahatake from getting him to budge. So what could he do? "I guess I'll have to go the old fashioned route!" He vanished, rocketing forward with immense speed, gripping his blade as he neared the torso of the giant. "GRAAAAAAGH!" With a roar, he swung his blade towards the torso.
"Pathetic." Toyotomi, with a click of his fingers, commanded the immovable colossus to instantly deflect Ahatake's strike with it's large shield; swinging upwards, the giant launched it's shield towards him in a similar manner to that of a boomerang.
"Wait...if he tossed it...it has to go back!" Ahatake made a wide leap, as the shield flew towards him, before landing right on top of it, grabbing on tight so he wouldn't be thrown off by the wind pressure. If he was right, and this shield went back to the demon, he may have a chance...!
"Vanish." Toyotomi didn't really notice what Ahatake was onto- as he made a grasping motion the moment that the shield was slung back to him, he simultaineously swung forward with the giant's sword, aiming to take Ahatake down while he was still riding the shield- he really was careless.
Ahatake made a large leap, however, rising over the sword, catching onto the back of the blade with his heads, feeling a large shockwave as the blade itself cut through the shield Ahatake had just been on. "Excellent!" Ahatake grinned to himself before running quickly up the length of the blade, now running along the entities arm.
The demonic entity could do naught about this unfortunate situation; as Ahatake had completely cornered it. Toyotomi hissed to himself, "...Drat." Really, this 'idiot' had actually outsmarted him? "...Not bad for a fool..." The demonic guardian glared at Ahatake fiercely as he moved up it's arm.
"He actually got onto the entity!?" Myōbu gasped in shock.
"It's wary." Ahatake grinned to himself. "If attacks me now, I'm far too nimble to actually get hit. It'll just damage itself..." He looked at the entity, trying to take it all in. "I need to exert enough power to destroy this thing...what is it's weak point...!"
The demon simply glared at him, unable to do anything about this situation- as it lacked the reflexes to simply swing its sword up at him- and thanks to its face being covered by a helmet, it couldn't chomp on Ahatake. It was an inevitable conclusion.
"Where should I strike...?" Ahatake mulled it over. The arms...the torso..the head. "Maybe, if I hit the head dead center, it'll throw this thing off balance entirely." He gripped his blade steady in his hand, before running along the length of the demon's body. "I won't lose here! Not now! Harumi is counting on me to win this!" He made a leap, and swung his flaming blade with all his force straight into the concealed face of the demon.
WHAM. The power of Ahatake's strike staggered the giant, causing Toyotomi to howl in disbelief as he was knocked back a few meters. "D-Did, did he actually hurt my Shikai...?" That was all he was wondering. However, disbelief turned to anger as he swung the demon's blade towards Ahatake.
"Dammit!" Ahatake swung his blade up to meet the demon's blade, clashing steel as he only barely diverted it, the force of the blow sending him down into the stone ground. "Gaikou! If you're done standing there like a slack-jawed idiot, I could use your help!"
"No!" Gaikou responded. "It seems that he wants to fight you and you only. You must do this alone...like a hero." She was either very, very savvy, or lazy as all get-out.
Toyotomi's demon's blade smashed against Ahatake's, as the lieutenant snapped, "You think...you can defeat this...!"
"It's....not like I have a...choice!!" Ahatake growled as the blade's impact kept forcing him deeper into the ground, his own blade barely keeping up with the repeated impact of Toyotomi's strikes. "Dammit...!"
"Fall like the bug you are!" Toyotomi seemed to grin like a loon- as he pushed Ahatake further and further down into the ground, his own spiritual energy flared up, to make the demon appear almost unnatural.
"Gaikou, what the hell are you doing!?" Mokin furiously pecked at Gaikou's skull. "He is about to die, and this isn't any time for a proper one-on-one match, you get your dimwit ass in there and help him!"
"That isn't a good idea!" Gaikou backed up on this- she seemed to possess a lack of logic here. "If Ahatake doesn't finish his battle with his rival, then something bad will happen! I don't know what, but it'll be bad!"
"I.SAID.GET.IN.THERE." Mokin snapped, furious with Gaikou, and proceeded to dive towards her eyes; if Gaikou wouldn't get in there, she'd come out of this blind.
"Stupid flying chicken...!" Gaikou didn't feel right- interrupting a battle between two rivals wasn't a good thing at all. "Fine, fine! But I'm cooking you..." She focused on the battle...noticing that Toyotomi was just about to attack Ahatake with his massive blade, she launched a holy arrow forward- striking the demon in the armpit, pushing it to the side.
"The blazes what that!?" Toyotomi looked around; confused. "...Did something just hit me, or was it my imagination..."
Ahatake made a large gasp, finally taking a breath as the attacks let up. His entire body was racked with pain, even though he'd managed to fend off the strikes with his blade, his arms felt damaged, as if the muscles were getting torn. He looked up into the hole that shows the sky. How far had Toyotomi beaten him down into the ground? He groaned, sitting up, and made a leap out of the hole he'd been crushed into, landing shakily on his feet. "About damn time...Gaikou."