Under the Guilty Pagoda Tree
Nestled beyond the confines of the Forbidden City was Jingshan park, enjoying a moment of peaceful stillness in the absence of the usual swathes of tourists passing in and out of its perimeter. In the heart of the garden, a man stood beneath the infamous zuihuai, a small pearl resting in his palm. A smooth, shape-less black that threatened to swallow everything up in its depth. An ominous aura emitted from the stone, a primordial sensation of sorts that instinctively triggered in all of those within its presence somewhat befitting the eery light that had begun to emit from its form.
Forged from the scraps that remained of the dead Quincy King, these stones were to serve as a link between the Coven's realm, Home and the mortal realm. Slowly, the powers of the stone would draw them together and allow the essence of the other world to overwrite that of the mortal plane, supplanting its existence in total. To ensure this process went undisturbed, the mage had decided upon taking precautions. Such that now, when he pressed the stone upon the pagoda tree before him, it sank into the bark freely, swallowed up within its confines. Light radiated all around the park, revealing some manner of spell at work, he had subtly altered the properties of the world around him, but the light dimmed quickly and the rules of the park returned to normal, leaving the small sphere perfectly well hidden, deep in the depths of the tree.
"To think I'd find something like this here", the mage mused, his voice deep but carrying an almost soft, melodic air to it. "Perhaps the master had planned it this way".
The sky had begun to darken under the sphere's, a lodestone, influence, so too had the ground begin to transform around the tree, conforming to the unusual landscape of Home. The mage's robes billowed briefly as a small gale began to blow through the air. He removed his hood to reveal his rather impressively feathered headdress, now gently bristling under the breeze.
All of this was observed by a single figure perched upon a nearby tree, a silver-haired boy in a posh black coat. As the mysterious man dead centered in his gaze held up an ominous stone in his palm, and the surroundings seemingly shifted however briefly, the boy grinned upon his fortune. The inhabitants of Beijing were fortunate that he would happen to have arrived here at such a decisive moment. He held no fear.
The boy, Edward Brandon, was a Quincy who would call himself a hero despite his immaturity. He was an orphan belonging to Diluculum Aeternus who sought to tour the world and become famous throughout every continent with the power he considered having grown quite impressive through his first year of rigorous training. With the knowledge he had acquired from the organization, Edward knew enough to recognize the bewitchment of the Coven. Though his leaders had vehemently warned against confronting them were he to encounter them by any chance, Edward merely considered that they were belittling his own capabilities.
"One arrow, one kill," the boy whispered to himself, gathering ambient Reishi and shaping it into a bow. As he saw it, he stood at a perfect vantage point, and the Coven member seemed unaware of his presence thus far. The Heilig Pfeil he subsequently fired was certainly well aimed; if he had judged his foe correctly, he would fall dead on the spot, his arrow protruding flawlessly from the side of his head. Edward's eyes remained stuck open as he awaited the favorable outcome. After all, what good would magic do alone when he had power and wit on his side?
It had certainly been unexpected, at least. Xiuhcoatl, stood there contemplatively in the midst of the park's greenery, awaiting the arrival of somewhat distant Reiatsu signatures belonging to the members of the Gotei 13 that he had been transported here with, so much so that he had gone on to ignore most other sensations of Reiatsu he could feel through out Beijing. He had sat on the assumption that those beings he could sense were potentials, a serious misstep he realised once that familiar flash of blue shone in his eyes. The time his recognition granted was limited, severely, not enough to cast anything that would allow him to have walked away from the attack unscathed and so he reacted as any man might in his particular position.
His hand stretched forth, blocking the path to the arrow's target. It hit him with a radiating explosion, energy shuddering across his form alongside an amazing trail of smoke and dust collected from the detonating Reishi. It did not move him, however, and almost certainly failed to make the impact young Edward had been looking for.
When the dust settled, Xiuhcoatl stood there unflinching even as his hand singed and burned from the shot. He took one look at the wounds searing into his flesh before his expression changed. Not horror or recognition, but one of self-chastising anger. "How careless of me, to forego setting my wards in a place like this. The temerity of it".
He had immediately set about rectifying his mistakes in the aftermath of the first shot. Ignoring the pain it should have been causing, he slammed his hands together rather abruptly, palms splayed outwards, finger-to-finger like some sort of strange praying gesture. There was little in the way of outward effect from that, but to the spiritually aware, one could easily spot the difference. His energy shifted, feeding into the earth, and it in turn, fed back into him. The ground rumbled, signalling the change to the clear-sighted. His ward was ready now, to properly intercept whatever was to come.
But his hands had only just started their dance. Quickly he shifted from his first spell to the next, his hands swirling overhead and below, creating a brief image of a circle before the dead space in front of him began etching out a ring filled with intricate patterns not unlike a dream catcher. The gaps that remained in between its myriad divisions became seedbeds for a multicoloured bombardment upon his Quincy attacker. Small, deceptively fast pellets shot forth in all the colours of the rainbow, screeching with an emphatic howl as they flew. They fired wildly but with an unerring accuracy. Not all of them aimed for the boy atop his perch, but they were certainly after him. The building, its surroundings, the air above, a suppressive tactic the like of which had become exceedingly common in the modern age.
Just so, the spell would be left to feed upon his Reiryoku for a brief stint, though his hands no longer remained to maintain it. They moved onto the next, unceasing. Two orbs of light made themselves manifest in his hands, now drawn upward, raised to either side of his head. He remained like that for a second, allowing the orbs to fully take shape and realise themselves in this world. Their colour at first a crystal clear white that slowly took on a deep red hue the longer they were left to form. He swiftly moved, as if dropping into a martial arts stance, arms low, drawn back. Then he mirrored, turning himself to the opposite side. The orbs were loosed in this final transition, pressing outward as sluggish spheres at first before rapidly increasing in pace in rhythm with the motions of their master. Their speed was as such that their form blurred, losing shape as orbs and appearing more like a blade.
It quickly became evident that their form had more than just lost shape to the eyes of onlookers, but had truly become a swathe that emanated from Xiuhcoatl in all directions. A pure-blazing wave that scorched through the air, taking with it trees and greenery all before it stormed into the sky, setting the horizon alight with a clamorous explosion that rocked on for miles in the air of Beijing. A signal to all that the Coven cometh.
This final attack couldn't immediately have been said to target the small boy ahead of the sorcerer, but its detonation — unleashed directly above the park's perimeter — and the resulting shockwave that would undoubtedly catapult right at him certainly gave that impression.
"Shite!" Edward yelped the instant his arrow failed to reach its intended target, scurrying off in the opposite direction without so much as witnessing the man's reaction. "I'm comin' back, you hear!?"
But perhaps not on his own next time. With the help of his Reikaku, the boy ascertained the location of several spiritually aware entities—perhaps not as powerful as he had hoped for such a foe, but they would have to do.
Before the boy could breathe a sigh of relief at having narrowly evaded his target, an object darting by grazed the sleeve of his coat, narrowing missing the flesh of his arm. The boy spun around, gliding backwards with Hiryenkyaku, witnessing the shower of projectiles behind him, like shooting stars tearing through the atmosphere.
"I'm STILL comin' back, you twat!" the feisty boy exclaimed at the top of his lungs, his uncertainty evident in only his countenance.
A few miles away, another man popped into existence. Though unlike the first, he didn't look like he expected it. The small blue haired man just looked around in confusion. A minute ago he had just been giving his friend, and supervisor, drugs. Now he wasn't in Kansas, or Soul Society for that matter, anymore. "Well this is new..." Chitose said to himself. He'd experienced a lot of things in his life. Instantaneous teleportation without warning was not one of them.
Looking around, he got his bearings. "Well, clearly I'm in the human world. I've now deduced I am in some part of 10% of the known multiverse. Is that a McDonalds?" he said as he noticed the restaurant right in front of him. "I got it, they sent me to America. But I don't have a gun... This may be a problem... Oh well, time to act natural." He walked into a nearby alleyway before pulling out what appeared to be a balloon. Blowing into it, it quickly inflated into a Gigai, a physical body that Shinigami could use to pretend to be human. This one was dressed in a white T-shirt, Camo-Green cargo shorts, and socks and sandals. It even had an oversized waterproof wrist watch. Getting into it, he went into the Mcdonalds and ordered a McFlurry. Then he realized something...
These letters were in Chinese...
"Stupid capitalism, you tricked me..." the small man mumbled as he realized, he wasn't in America... he was in China. "Well I suppose that explains all the Chinese people." he paused for a moment before paying for his ice cream. "Welp, time to figure out why I was sent here." With that, he left the restaurant with his McFlurry in tow, ready to confront the day.
Or a person. A very angry person, no less.
"What the heck are you doing, idiot!?"
A young Asian woman in the unmistakable uniform of the Gotei 13 appeared before him all of a sudden. Asuka Shimizu, Lieutenant of the Tenth Division. A talented, high-ranking officer, diligent, dutiful and with a great latent potential ready to unlock. A high-ranking officer who had just witnessed the death of the Captain-Commander, enemy take-over of the Soul Society and the ensuant displacement of the Gotei 13 forces. To say that she was upset because of the situation was an understatement.
"Do you have any idea what's going on!? Why the frick are you eating junk food and chilling as if nothing's happened, huh!?", she continued to yell at the Seated Officer while flailing wildly with her arms.
Only after a short while did she begin to calm down. She briefly looked around in obvious confusion, then assumed a more confident stance when addressing the fellow Shinigami again.
"You... ugh, Wasuchiru-kun, right? Listen. There's a Covenite sorcerer not that far from here, performing some sort of... magical ritual with a floating... black thing. I wager something's bad gonna happen if he can proceed undisturbed. So, how about you come with me and try to stop him before the whole world turns inside out, eh?"
She pointed in the general direction of the potent spiritual pressure signature emanating from the aforementioned evildoer. Then, she placed her hand at the pommel of her sheathed Zanpakutō. She glanced at Chitose inquisitively, though with a rather stern face expression.
"He's like, over there. You've got any useful combat ability, by the way?"
Chitose just stood there sipping on his McFlurry while the LT went nuts. I wonder when she's gonna calm down.. He then started mentally counting. He got to fifty before she seemed to be running out of steam. He even managed to finish his ice cream by then.
Once she gave a pause so he could get a word in, he put his hands together with a sigh. "Look. The last two times I have seen a member of that organization, they have been leagues above me in terms of power. Unless you have a Bankai I don't know about, which would be nice. I am usually happy about the hidden, Oh I've had a Bankai this entire time Ha Ha Ha bit. We need a plan. I also have a bad feeling about that guy. Don't know why, but his power seems familiar. That's probably a bad thing. The world is a big place. Unless their magic accelerates by a ton, we have time. Now calm down. Getting yourself killed helps no one. Especially Captain-Commander Kyoraku." He spoke to her at first respectfully until the last part, where it was as if he was speaking to a child. Invoking the late General's name wasn't pleasant, Chitose actually liked the guy. But it was a sting that he felt was needed to get her to focus.
He went back to a polite tone "Now, every spiritually aware organization in the region is probably going to notice the rather powerful spiritual presence in the middle of a major city. If we are lucky, we can convince some of them to come and help us. If we aren't, we can try. But my opinion is if we can't get anyone to back us, we try and find a captain. There's gotta be at least one on the human world. As for combat abilities..." he trailed off. "I'd rather not talk about that in the open." He had a feeling he wasn't going to be able to keep his Shikai secret any longer. Which annoyed him far more than most would realize.
Asuka did not appreciate being admonished, by anyone in general but especially by a lower-ranking officer. Usually, she was the one to scold others, as she had done just a moment ago. Nevertheless, she did listen to Chitose with pouted lips. Then, she bit the lower one at the mention of the late Captain-Commander. She liked him as well, although more in a manner a young woman could like him. There was a lot to process from the recent events. Unfortunately, the situation did not seem to be getting any better since then.
"Of course we need a plan, silly, that's why I asked for your ability", she replied while rolling her eyes. "And it's definitely not the time to have any secrets about that."
She turned away from him to gaze into the distance. She placed her hands on her hips and began tapping her foot on the pavement.
"You may be right that we won't be able to beat him even with a good ambush, though", she admitted reluctantly after a short while. "I'd know if there were a Captain nearby. I wouldn't ask you for help if that were the case. There may be some other people more or less willing to help us, but are you sure we've got the time to find them? I've learnt the history of the Soul Society, you know. Waiting for things to happen and taking one's sweet time when they do is the doom of the Shinigami, with the most recent example... transpiring right now."
Eventually, she looked back at the 6th Seat who, despite being short for a man, managed to be noticeably taller than her. She was compensating for that with her face expressions, though.
"So, have you got any contacts in China? Because I don't."
"I mean, the guy who made the McFlurry looked familiar for some reason. Not sure where I have seen him before though. Uh, I know there are Quincy in China, the question is whether or not they know the Quincy I know. If they do, then yes, if they don't... I mean the main Quincy organization Stunde is sort of on our side? Though whether they'll back the shinigami over this Coven... I have no idea. We did kill a ton of them." Chitose responded. He neglected to mention he hadn't seen his Quincy friends in over a hundred years, and wasn't even sure if they were still alive. Shinigami didn't travel to the human world much beyond official business, and Nemu had been much more careful with her paperwork than Vice Captain Hiyori ever was. He did still send them small birthday presents every year though, so he had that going for him.
"The time, its more do we have a choice? We go there and die, well it's not like it would make a difference from if we had waited." he continued with a shrug.
"As for secrets. It's less that I care if you know, and more I'm concerned as to what would happen if the Central 46 were to ever find out exactly what my sword does... I've kept my shikai hidden for 200 years for a reason." He said as he grabbed the Liutenant's wrist, dragging her into the alleyway next to the McDonalds. There he gave her a basic display of his shikai, showing how it made his Mcflurry cup basically indestructable before cutting it's shadow, causing it to fall into halves. "Seika no Hikage reverses cause and effect between an object and it's shadow. Living objects can still move, but overall an object can't change it's shape, or have it changed, except under the most extreme of circumstances. So if I was to touch your sword with my shikai and you attempted to release it..." he trailed off to let her fill in the blanks.
The thing was, Asuka was not one to wait for an issue to solve itself, or to shy away from danger. True, she was in no hurry to die... but she was a soldier, after all. She was determined to thwart the enemy plans. Especially after what they had already done within such a short timespan. She was not fond of the idea of searching the area for friendly Quincies to help them all the while the sorcerer remained imperturbed. Once Chitose explained the ability of his Zanpakutō, though, that got her thinking. She supported her chin on the palm of her hand and started tapping her cheek with the index finger.
"All right, I've got a plan", she said eventually after letting out a short sigh. "We might look for some reinforcements and let the sorcerer finish his ritual, with no idea how to undo it when he's done. Or, we might take the risk and attack him, now. If we both use our Shikai well we might pull off a successful ambush. Or die trying, whatever. Anything's better than just standing here idly. So, here's the plan."
Afterward, Asuka described the best strategy she could come up with given the urgency of the situation and the knowledge of their Shikai powers.
"So? Attack or kick about?", she asked, somewhat exasperated.
Of course it's the suicidal Lieutenant... of course... Chitose thought as Asuka laid out her plan. It boiled down to attack the sorcerer head on and hope for the best. Why does no one ever listen... all this self-righteous crap only ever gets you killed. Might as well go along with it so she doesn't die...
"I'll go for it on one condition. It looks like we don't have a chance, we bail. No arguments. No heroics. Guy can't get too far away from what he's doing most likely. We clear the area we should be fine." he responded. Worst comes to worst he still had that drug he stole from the 12th's Captain. It should count for something if it did what the manual said it did. They'd probably need a miracle though, like another Lieutenant falling out of the sky or something.
As soon as she appeared out of thin air, Shiemi let out a groan and cupped her hands in front of her mouth. The teleportation had left behind a sudden bout of nausea, making her stomach do flip-flops and her head ache ever so slightly.
Still, nothing that shouldn’t pass in a minute.
As the nausea finally passed Shiemi rolled her shoulders as she looked around. Nothing looked familiar from any of her prior visits to the World of the Living, not even any of the signs that were visible to her. However, even with hundreds of people milling about on the street she had appeared on, their own energies wither flickering or nonexistent, the sense of a powerful spiritually gifted individual stood out like a sore thumb.
“Oh dear,” she frowned in the general direction of the feeling and immediately set off, using shunpo.
The oblivious citizens of wherever she had ended up remained so as she weaved in and out between groups and clusters. Finally, as she came closer to whatever was putting out the huge spiritual energy, she sensed two other energies, very similar to her own.
It didn’t take long before she got a look at who it was she had discovered, and she immediately ran towards them with a grin on her face.
“Wasuchiru-san, Shimizu-san!” Shiemi breathed in relief as she jogged up beside the two Shinigami, “Oh, I’m glad that I wasn’t the only one to end up here… wherever here is, anyway.”
"Oh, Makinami-san!", exclaimed Asuka when she noticed the newcomer approach them. "I'm glad to see you! Well, we're in China but, more importantly, for some reason we've been transported close to the site of some sort of Covenite ritual... which I'm pretty sure we should stop like, right now. I've just barely convinced Wasuchiru-kun to help, so let's go! I'll explain what the plan is on the go. Go, go!"
With those words, the vigorous Lieutenant sprang out from the alley. On the way, she described the plan she intended to deploy against the sorcerer, with Shiemi assuming a role similar to hers. In the meantime, she was able to sense another spiritual presence in the vicinity. Once they sneaked into the park, she could tell that there was somebody else as well. An unfamiliar spiritual pressure signature. Perhaps a Quincy? So many variables to consider basically on the fly... She was determined to do her best, though.
Situation Not Under Control
"Okay, when I release my Shikai we've got to act real fast", she whispered toward the fellow Shinigami officers when they hid behind some trees and bushes. "The sorcerer will hear it for sure. That's the point, anyway. You release too, Makinami-san", she said as she held her drawn Zanpakutō vertically. "Resound, Sensasayaki."
Slowly she moved the index finger of her off-hand against the hiraji of the blade. A piercing sound emanated from the katana as a result, surely audible to every spiritually aware person within the park. The blade became straight all of a sudden only to split into two separate ones, divided by a narrow interval. With that, the Shikai assumed the form not unlike a weaponized tuning fork. An appropriate medium for its auditory effects.
Least the view is nice... Chitose thought as he followed behind the two Lieutenants. He was pretty sure they were all going to die by trying this. But he wasn't about to leave the two to die. She didn't even respond to my statement... I'm just going to have to pull their asses out of the fire.
When they got there, he watched as the first lieutenant activated her Shikai, and then he kinda just touched the two on the shoulder with his. He really wasn't sure why he was supposed to reseal and unleash his Shikai again. He just kept it out the entire time. "Well if you two ever wanted buns of steel, you have them now." he quietly said as he moved to the side, prepared to sprint in once Makinami did her part.
Shiemi drew out her zanpakuto and gently ran a hand over the blade, "Bend, Shirokage."
The many sequins hanging from the sword's handle glowed brightly as they wrapped themselves around Shiemi's wrist, forming a thin protective layer around the hand holding her weapon. The large marbles, also hanging from her handle, broke off from the strings holding them in place and levitated up to circle above the lieutenant's head.
"Ready," Shiemi spoke, her lips thin from concentrating on the task at hand.
"Right, I'll go first...", said Asuka as she motioned toward the distant mage.
However, the more meticulously designed a plan, the less likely it was to be executed without a hindrance. Such were the laws of harsh reality. The presumed Quincy that Asuka had sensed earlier evidently anticipated the well-coordinated Shinigami assault, which resulted in the Kidō master unleashing magical devastation as they were about to begin. Obviously alerted to the presence of a threat. Perfect. Stunned by the ensuant shockwave, Shimizu stood there for a while, with her Zanpakutō held in shivering hands and eyes wide open, blinking slowly in shock.
"Uh... no... dammit!", she exclaimed. "That idiot must've... ah, screw it!"
To say that she was upset would be an understatement. Nevertheless, as so many bad things had happened within such a short timespan, she had to find a way to cope lest she break down completely. Focusing on averting the next one from occurring was the best way she could think of. She lifted her Shikai, and a quiet if piercing sound emanated from the twin blades.
"Hadō #31, Shakkahō!", the sorcerer heard from a distance.
"Hadō #58, Tenran!", exclaimed Asuka in fact from a completely different direction.
The miniature cyclone burst forth toward the Covenite member, uprooting all the trees that happened to be on its path. But that was only the beginning. In the following instant Shimizu charged toward him with her Zanpakutō held high. That was not a straightforward manoeuvre, though. On the go she started leaping from side to side, a couple of flickering afterimages accompanying her on the way. All of them proceeded to approach him quickly from varying angles. The twinned blades descended upon his ward to disappear together with their illusory wielders right upon contact - just as Asuka herself did. With a hasty Kyokkō she vanished from sight, albeit prepared to support her teammates if need be.
Ready to berate whatever moron decided to butt in uninvited, too.
Chitose added his own flair to the magical assault he threw in an incantation-ed kidō into the mix. "Hadō #54: Haien" he muttered as the windstorm flared up and towards the opposing mage. Throwing out the crescent of flame, he quickly accelerated using his Shunpo and caught it upon his blade, before running alongside the windstorm. Jamming his blade into the side of it, the flames caught and mixed into the Tenran, turning a cyclone of wind into a verifiable firestorm. This should prevent him from sensing my reiatsu for at least a moment, and a moment, is, all, I, NEED.
He ran along the hurricane of fire and wind until it was near the target. I'll try spinning, that's a good trick. he thought as he kicked it up to full gear. He utilized the principles of Sonído to accelerate quickly, smashing the ground with a burst of Reiryoku for a spurt of speed. He slid along a trail of power as a Quincy would, sliding out and around the mage in front of him, who Chitose still swears he recognizes. He appeared behind the man, already spinning. He trusted the man to block such an attack as the firestorm, though was fully prepared to move with him if he dodged instead. His sword quickly approached the man's back to apply his power to him as the Asuka made her assault, ready to continue his movement to a quick decapitation of the shadow underneath him. They wouldn't get a better chance.
"Everyone, everyone!" an unknown presence announced, running urgently to the group while waving both hands in the air. It was none other than Edward, the failed assassin who had the honor of witnessing the Coven's newly asserted hold over the city. Clearing his throat, he dropped his enthusiastic smile into a cryptic frown. "Everyone, we—"
But before he could speak of the Coven, he let his own curiosity get the better of him. He had never before now seen Shinigami and Quincy standing beside one another. "Wait, wait... what kinda group do you folks fancy yourselves as?" he asked, nearly chuckling at how surreal a sight it was.
"Byakurai!", the sorcerer bellowed. His arms folded by each other, so that his left hand pointed to his right side and vice versa. From the tips of extended index-and-middle fingers came bolts of a radiant gold. Casting off in either direction to intercept the two attacks initially raised against him. The first of the two hit nothing, the second clashed with a hurricane turned inferno. In his haste, Xiuhcoatl had focused more on unleashing anything than giving a perfect counter. As such his spell did not so much engulf his opponents as it did pierce through it, as such, then, it became more of a counterattack against his opponent. The flames would have washed over him, as would the blades of his sudden attackers, but following the earlier attack from the Quincy, Xiuhcoatl had been sure to prime his defenses.
The earth around him had turned liquid, rising up like a wall of ink, impeding the blast of flame from striking him, instead left to harmlessly scorch across a quickly formed wall, which dried up in the blaze, turning solid, though thick enough to remain standing. It was a worthwhile measure against the forthcoming blade strokes, though only one of those turned out to be real. Even if Xiuhcoatl couldn't sense his presence, he could surely hear the sound of Chitose's sword clattering into the thick mud wall.
"Truly, I have been most careless", he realised. Numbers were definitely on the Shinigami's side, and they had put them to good use. In truth he had only been saved from their machinations due to the intervention of that lone Quincy he sensed. He placed a hand upon the wall separating him and Chitose and mouthed the name of a spell. "Kongōbaku!"
On the side of the Shinigami, the muck began to brim with orange before a blast of raging magma spewed forth, threatening to swallow and destroy him. His other hand raised up, pointed in the general direction of his gathering foes. Or what he could sense of them anyway.
He did away with its prescribed dance, but spoke words familiar to the Gotei 13. "Ye Lord of stone and fire! Through the grass unseen, unwitnessed by the Sun's ceaseless gaze, bear your fangs of black and rend their hearts from their sinful coil!"
Erupting from his hand was a harsh red light, that broke and split in the wind, becoming five enormous coiling snakes that broke through the hardened wall of his ward with ease before they lashed out at the Shinigami and Quincy both. Intent on crushing them in their jaws, or consuming them in the fire of their inevitable detonations.
Shimizu analysed the situation as quickly as she could. Chitose was most likely fine, capable of defending himself with his disturbingly strong Zanpakutō. So was Makinami, under the effect of one of its abilities. Regarding the meddling Quincy, Asuka was not that much concerned. In his recklessness he had alerted the sorcerer to imminent danger. Now, he had to face the consequences of his unwise choice.
Meanwhile, she herself was protected by Wasuchiru's Zanpakutō as well. More than that, hidden under the cloak of Kyokkō she evidently managed to escape the enemy's notice. When his hadō burst forth from the wall of mud he had erected to intercept their assault she was not amongst its targets. The chance she had lost to ambush him owing to another one's carelessness she regained thanks to her caution. An opening, a literal one, through which one of the magical snakes emerged.
Still disguised, she leapt toward the dome of dried earth. She got inside with one swift motion. However, she had to discard stealth in order to attack. And so she did, rapidly, for the window was open for a brief moment only.
"Haaah!", Xiuhcoatl could hear her battle cry resound within his formerly safe space.
But while he did, the direction was wrong. Asuka herself was silent, her teeth bared in an expression of effort whilst she was approaching him in a valiant charge. The twin blades of Sensasayaki resonated. She stared at the sorcerer with eyes wide open. A dark-skinned man wearing an elaborate headdress. A stranger, an enemy. Her Zanpakutō descended toward him with all the strength she could muster, to nip another tragedy in the bud.
As the mud reached up to block his sword, Chitose just really wanted to face-palm. I fucking told her so. That woman owes me a drink or something for this... he thought. Then he stopped thinking as the mud turned to lava, though it didn't leave the shape of the pillar, as his sword made its form static. So there was just a pillar of lava there, just standing there, unchanging. Chitose kinda just stared at it before taking a jump back. This proved... fortunate. A snake made of flame dashed from the mage behind the pillar, attempting to burst through, the key word being attempting. It stopped at the pillar, unable to actually break it.
"Hah, stupid snake." Chitose said watching this. Then the snake went around the pillar. "Fuck..." he continued as he just started running away. "Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit... " he repeated over and over while running away from the snake chasing him as fast as he could. He ran into the trees, hoping the snake would just detonate on one, before watching it just burst through the first few trees. "Well fuck me then, right?" he said exasperatedly as he continued running. He kept going until he saw one tree that looked kinda weird. Having no other options he sprinted towards the tree, dodging around it at the last second before the snake slammed into it, where it died with a whimper. Chitose just kinda stood there scratching his head. "This is a weird tree, I like this tree... but how'd it do that?"
Indestructable trees... hmm... "Eureka! That's how I help with this retarded situation." Chitose thought out loud after contemplating the tree for a few moments. "If I make the entire forest invulnerable then bring the man inside of it... we may be able to get an advantage. It's something at least I guess..." With that, he set off into the woods, hitting every tree with his sword on the way, watching as they turned grey under his power. "this is gonna take a bit."
To the left, no-!, Xiuhcoatl had noticed something amiss in the previous attack, his counter having come to blows with no Shakkahō. But amidst the blur of their following assault, he allowed himself to be caught by it again. His eyes turned from his side, catching the glint of Asuka's sword before it tore into an instinctually raised arm. The blade slipped right through his flesh, eliciting a strained grimace from the mage as his forearm became cleanly severed from the rest of his body... That was, what should have happened anyway. What the world saw instead was a sword pass through flesh to no effect. Asuka would feel that it had connected, the usherings of steel through bone and sinew, the sounds, they had all happened, but the wound was gone.
Instead, a small cut appeared atop Xiuhcoatl's forehead, trickling with blood. There was little time to register that however, when his counter came. His raised arm snapped a finger, and one of the remaining Jasō-snaked recoiled from its attack to come after her. Then his other hand motioned, and all around her became a hurricane of force, "Shō!", he bellowed, creating an expression of force that whirled around her body, coiling close. It was not with the intent to strike her, though it very much possessed the power to, it was more of a cage, daring her to leap through to him, or to leap upwards to the fast approaching serpent of flames.
He needn't worry about the others, he presumed, knowing that three of the snakes were still in play. The boy that had been foiled by his ward, too, had seemingly run off into the wilds of the park. 'Remain cautious this time', he warned himself, keenly aware of how his Kongōbaku had backfired. The pillar of molten stone casting an ominous glow upon him and the Shinigami before him. Slowly, their powers were coming to light.
For the first time since the final battle of the Quincy Blood War 9 years ago, Asuka felt the chilling breath of death. She had cut the enemy, she was certain of it, yet his arm remained attached to the rest of the body as if nothing happened. Then, she was enveloped by a Shō. Moreover, now that she had revealed herself, one of the Kidō serpents turned directly toward her. Was she supposed to strike the killing blow? Or die trying? Think. Think. Think.
"Sekienton!", she exclaimed.
The red puff of smoke was immediately spread around the two spiritual beings by the whirl of forces, engulfing the both of them. Subsequently, Asuka tightened her grip on the hilt of her Zanpakutō and began spinning herself with the aid of Shunpo. She entered the Shō to force her way out, the addition of her own impetus sufficient to propel her outward. Slightly dazed, she nonetheless managed to manoeuvre behind the sorcerer swiftly. Instantly she transitioned into a powerful sally to pierce him. Then, she withdrew her sword. Still forced to rotate with all the built up momentum, she proceeded with a series of broad slashes. In the end, with her back now turned toward him, she rapidly reversed her hold on the Zanpakutō and plunged it backward to skewer him. All the while in the position to escape from the incoming Kidō serpent which, preferably, would move through its caster in order to pursue her.
So far Shiemi had kept a watchful eye on Asuka, standing ready to assist her and intervene if it was needed, and when she saw Asuka look slightly dazed from the latest attack she knew it was time to act. Only, her options were rather… limited on the physical front. Her swordsmanship, even with her Shikai active, was utterly pathetic compared to the levels of skill shown by Shimizu and their opponent. This would require a more tactical approach if any of them were to get out of this alive.
Shiemi shifted closer using shunpo, re-sealing and sheathing Shirokage for now, instead willing her spiritual energy to begin manifesting as she held up her hands towards Xiuh. She knew that she was proficient enough in Hadō for this spell to form without the help of the incantation, and so she went to work.
“Hadō #67, Shimoku,” she breathed and watched as the spell took physical form not far from Xiuh. The purple vines signaling that the spell had taken root shot up from the ground and deftly gathered to form a tree of the same color. As she watched the tree grow, however, Shiemi felt a small bout of nausea creep up in her throat, only this time it wasn't from being suddenly teleported.
This Kidō is sick and twisted, she mused internally as she attempted to keep her face as plain as possible, It is twisted but I can’t falter in the face of the enemy!
“You won’t escape this so easily, mage!” she called out as she threw up satisfied smirk stretched across her face and forced bravado into her voice, “There’s plenty more where this comes from!”
With the swiftness of one who excelled at Kidō, Shiemi continued on with her use of Kidō and drew on more of her reserves to create a barrier around both Xiuh and the purple tree, ensuring that the poisonous spell wouldn’t spread further to Shimizu-san and herself. The barrier was by no means elaborate or created with in-built traps, but it should hold the poison and its victim in place long enough for the effects to begin, she hoped.
“There, let’s see you try and come out of that!” she muttered as she hovered not too far from where Asuka was, just in case that she would require further assistance.
Elsewhere, Edward found himself steps behind the individuals who had gathered against the Coven mage. Pursued fervidly by one of the flaming serpents the mage had conjured prior, the Quincy child could only manage to outrun it Hirenkyaku, weaving his way desperately through the forest and away from the battle.
"To hell with this crap!" he shouted, hoping the mage had somehow heard him despite the considerable distance apart they stood. Fumbling under his sleeve, he proceeded to extract a single tube of Gintō only to clumsily have it slip from his fingers. In attempting to outmaneuver the snake, the child had failed to stay keen of his immediate surroundings, and he soon found himself caught under a tree branch, powerless to do anything but brace himself for his inevitable demise.
But he would not cower, for it was not the first time he found himself in a seemingly hopeless situation. Recalling the tribulations of his former training, he grit his teeth and glared defiantly at his pursuer, pretending that now was not a matter of life and death.
But the moment of Edward’s imminent demise would never arrive. As the snake’s struck towards him, blue jaws of glowing reishi suddenly emerged from the air to completely envelop and swallow the stream of lava. There was a snap of pressure, then a sudden roar as a snake formed of reishi consumed and detonated Xiuh’s spell.
“Shé Jìn Zhǎo,” a voice said from behind Edward. The McFlurry server from the McDonald’s? No, unfortunately: it was someone else.
Cast in the glow of the explosion, a lone figure appeared. He was tall for being Chinese, with well-cut shoulders and distinctively narrowed eyes. His sleek black jacket suggested he had just stepped off a motorcycle, and indeed he had, having left his high-end sports-make well away from the battle’s reach. Not that it would matter anyway, if the destruction he assumed was about to occur was left unchecked.
Cang Du evaluated the situation before him with marked disinterest as he approached Edward. “You’re in the way,” he stated flatly, keeping his unusual spirit weapon pointed down at his sides. Perhaps sensing the sudden influx of Reiatsu, the two remaining lava serpents shot towards Cang without warning from either side. Faster than the eye could see, he crossed and uncrossed his arms, splitting his specialized Heilig Pfiel into two equal streams that met the incoming Kidō head-on. This resulted in another grandiose explosion. Cang Du’s lip twitched where his signature scar crossed the left side of his mouth. The entrance was a bit too flashy for his tastes, as ultimately he had not come here to fight. Rather, his interest lay in what the operative from the Coven knew, particularly in regards to a certain Soul Fragment that was perhaps buried within the mysterious nexus of power, which throbbed like a hidden heartbeat in the center of the park.
Having watched the sorry excuse of a battle from a distance, Cang Du had seen one of the Shinigami darting about the forest, slashing at the trees. Barring complete lunacy, the only other explanation was that he had imposed some form of an effect upon the forest. To test this theory, Cang Du calmly walked over to the tree behind Edward, and with a concentrated point of Reiatsu gathered in his hand, he slammed his palm into the trunk.
The bark did not crack under the pressure, remaining unaffected by his strike, but Cang felt the full weight of it carry into the tree. The damage done inside was inestimable, and the poor specimen, unable to contain the force, suddenly burst on the side opposite of Cang. Twisted and pulverized, the heart of the tree spilled out from the hollow shell of its skin like crushed innards. Staring at the strange form of damage, Cang Du’s eyes began to glow darkly in the dim light as he analyzed all that he had determined.
The Shinigami’s Zanpakutō served to preserve the external form of whatever it cut. That much was obvious from the petrified tree, whose skin still stood unaffected despite taking a direct hit. What remained elusive was the reason why the Shinigami had gone to such lengths. Was he setting up an attack, or...? Perhaps he had discovered the location of the fragments himself, and was hoping to sequester them for his own purposes.
Cang Du would not allow that.
“Can you feel that?” he asked the other Quincy in German. When he was met with a blank stare, he switched to the slow, painful English he had learned within the last nine years spent in the human world. “Reishi in atmosphere is growing. Shinigami looks for powerful object to destroy Quincy.” He extended his hand, helping Edward to his feet. “To prevent that, we must find object. I believe it is in these trees. Keep your distance. I will send rain of Heilig Pfiel. When the rain ends, you hit the trees hard. If you can, shoot the Shinigami. After, we combine our forces and target Kidō sorcerer together.” Cang Du’s voice was hoarse, as he was a normally unsociable individual had not spoken so much in months, let alone in a difficult language. He sighed, giving up on the English and continuing in German, “Ultimately, it is up to you whether you decide to follow me or not. I will carry out my plan regardless, but should you choose not to aid me, make no mistake,” he turned to leave, glancing at Edward over his shoulder, “I will consider you to be my enemy.”
In the next moment he disappeared, vanishing with Hirenkyaku. Cang Du emerged in the air a few hundred meters above the forest. Sinking into an elegant crane stance, Cang placed one forearm on top of the other, leveling his arms in front of his chest before extending them, spreading his hands to the sides like wings. A veil of shimmering Reishi mimicked his movements, coalescing into hundreds of small, feather-like shards that shone blue with concentrated spiritual energy. The beauty of Hè Yōuyǎ Zhǎo belied its destructive potential, as in the next moment the feathers of the Reishi wings shot downwards, pelting into the ground in a veritable meteor shower. Cang Du had described the attack as rain, but aside from the Elegant Crane-claws’ wide range, the description had largely been inaccurate in capturing the power of the attack. He targeted each of the trees, delivering immense force as shard after shard slammed into its target. Those that missed due to the sheer number of projectiles stirred a cloud of dust into the air, and each Heilig Pfiel that landed shook the earth with its impact.
Cang Du himself remained completely still, drawing Reishi into the steel-like claws of his Spirit Weapon as he scanned the chaos below, waiting patiently for his Shinigami enemy to emerge from beneath the storm. The mage behind the wall of mud, while within his range from where he stood, was not yet in Cang's sights. He would first concentrate on locating the power source that was serving to generate the excess Reishi, then he would deal with the one who had brought it to Beijing. Operating out of a sense of self-interest, Cang hoped to avoid a fight with the sorcerer if at all possible. In contrast, his hatred against the Shinigami still burned brightly, and he would not mind if a few of them were caught in the collateral as he worked to achieve his goal.
Chitose paused for a moment when he felt the surge of Reiatsu in the air... "Why does the universe hate me? First we have the Tsundere Lieutenant with a fetish for older men, then the not surprised sorcerer who I swear I know from somewhere, and now a fucking Sternritter..." He didn't even have to see the guy to know what he was, that reiatsu was just too familiar. "Why can't something go my way for once..."
Then the sky started falling, hard.
If the canopy hadn't been protected by his Shikai, the rain of reiatsu feathers would have likely killed him, even then the unrelenting assault slowly started breaking down his sword's ability. Seika no Hikage could make objects incredibly durable, but it could be overwhelmed with sufficient force, especially considering he himself wasn't particularly powerful.
Chitose weathered the storm underneath one of the largest, and therefore most durable, of the trees. The assault had been uneven, meaning while many trees were destroyed, many weren't. Even so, quite a few of the feathers penetrated his cover, forcing him to utilize Bakudō #39, Enkōsen to protect himself. Unfortunately, even that didn’t stop all of them, with the last feather shattering his battered defense and striking him directly.
“Fuck…” he muttered as the hammer blow hit him straight in his stomach, though his Shikai prevented the worst of the damage. If there had been more that broke through... “Fuck… Fuck… FUCK....” he cursed as he tried to figure out what to do. The trio stood a chance, albeit a small one against the sorcerer alone, but throw a powerful enemy Quincy at them as well?
"Gotta use that… I guess…" he said as he pulled out a small vial of neon blue liquid. It was the other dose of the drug he stole from Jaromira’s lab. ‘’I wonder how Takashi is doing… I hope it helped.’’ Then he drank it.
Immediately after, he felt a change, as if a bolt of electricity had run through him. His reiatsu noticeably increased, placing it somewhere between a Captain and a Lieutenant. It appeared to have been of the diluted variety… “I just hope this is enough…” he added before increasing the volume of his voice. “Can you FUCKING NOT? I’M TRYING TO SAVE THIS CITY FROM THESE STUPID WIZARDS AND THEIR STUPID MAGIC AND NOW YOU ARE SHOOTING BLOODY FEATHER BOMBS AT ME! CAN YOU PLEASE FUCKING NOT?!”
Times like this were when he wished he could use his axe, it would make this faster. He repeated a maneuver he had shown his commander a couple months ago. He used his abilities with two-fold incantation to lace together two very different spells. “Hadō #31. Shakkahō” he utilized first, shooting a sphere of fire up at his opponent, quickly following it up with Bakudō #62. Hyapporankan, spearing the ball of fire, causing it to multiply with the hundred rods that were forming. At the height of their arc, level with the Quincy above, the rods exploded, leaving interlocking fields of glass shards filling the air around Cang Du.
Chitose quickly started his second chain of spells as he gathered his spiritual power, forcing it to the souls of his feet. He utilized a large chunk to jet up from the ground, utilizing a bestial version of Sonído enhanced Shunpo to jump up towards the new opponent, coming in right as the fields started to thin. The glass shards were incapable of hurting him, allowing him to rush through them with no damage. Chitose would appear right next to the man, his leg poised for a powerful kick designed to knock the larger man into the sorcerer, likewise using his spiritual pressure to enhance his blow further, using the same force that would propel him to hit his opponent harder. Now he just had to help the kick connect, he used Bakudō # 1. Sai, hoping it would move his hands out of position, even if most mages would laugh at him incanting a number 1 spell.
Apparently having found its mark, the kick pushed the Quincy back through the air towards the main battle, where Chitose finished his spell chain, pumping extra power into his finger as he completed his last dual incantation, Hadō #4. Byakurai. The additional juice was a boon to the spell, conjuring a large dancing bolt of lightning through the sky, aiming to spear both the Quincy and the sorcerer in the distance with the same spell. “Let’s hope this works…”
The earth has no eyes, for it does not need them. In the midst of the red smoke consuming both of their presences, Xiuhcoatl needed do little more than wait and listen. Walls of mud erected around him in defense, protecting him from his sly, quick attacker. From the outset, her onslaught was met by the rapidly rising muck that surrounded them both as it drew from soft dirt into near-liquid mud that ruined the momentum of her blows, only to harden as her blade retreated. Granting him some small piece of protection through obstruction. By the end, a fully erected dome of mud had risen around the sorcerer. Leaving him unable to see what lay outside, but his other senses took care of that.
A howl erupted, shuddering through the mud. Jasō came down, continuing its hunt for the Shinigami girl, her expectations foiled by its positioning, and its allegiance. She should have realised it when he bade its return with but a snap of his fingers, but she had seemingly missed that detail in her fervor. Nonetheless, the gigantic serpent came crashing down in such a way as to scrape only the top of the mud barrier below it, making a beeline straight for the Lieutenant, its jaws wide like an anaconda about to swallow its prey whole. That would not be enough, Xiuhcoatl realised.
Exercising restraint merely allowed the girl to play around him, and though he did not wish to come to blows as they had, it would be prudent to finish things quickly than let them be drawn out. He had a purpose in this grove of trees and grass, after all. His hand lit up with a ball of flame, a Kongōbaku spell, that this time he was sure would do its job. He placed it upon the earth, but rather than explode upon contact, the orb found itself subsumed into the mud beneath his feet. This was to be an exchange of resources, Xiuhcoatl thought lightly. His veins popped across his body, and for a moment his spiritual signature disappeared, melding with the spirit of the park.
The mud all around him and Asuka changed, brimming with orange light before the entire grove exploded in the impetus of magma and hellfire, seemingly consuming the pair of them, as even the ground within his dome turned to flame. Unwittingly, this served to annihilate the poison gas ushered forth by Shiemi's Shimoku and the barrier intent on keeping it and Xiuhcoatl trapped together, his own dome of muck melting to a similar fate of charred bits and ash.
Deep within the fire, rings of gold brimmed true, however.
The Shinigami’s Kidō burst into hundreds of glass shards that threatened to shred through Cang Du. But he did not move despite standing in the very heart of the storm. Pale blue lines traced across his skin as he activated his Blut Vene, forming a defense more impenetrable than an Arrancar’s Hierro.
While the glass pelted into him, it failed to cut him. Most of the shards simply brushed past him or were flung off of their course once impacting his padded motorcyclist’s jacket, which he was now glad to have brought along.
But the Quincy had failed to account for the Shinigami’s boost in Reiryoku, and he was caught off-guard as Chitose suddenly appeared in the air in front of him. Crossing his claws in front of his chest, Cang allowed his spirit weapon to take the full brunt of the Sai’s force as he slid back through mid-air. The Byakurai followed a second later, but Cang remained nonplussed as the liquid stream of electricity shot towards him. He simply slashed down with his claws, cutting through the Reishi and driving the spell down towards the ground. The air cracked as it was split by the lightning, and a moment later the surface of the earth exploded as the Byakurai crashed into it, neutralized.
Before Cang could move to attack, however, he felt the ground beneath them swell. He did not need to be in contact with the surface to sense the immense power building under the earth. Cang looked towards the dome where the sorcerer had encased himself and saw the light bursting from within. His eyes widened.
Cang wasted no time as he latched onto a current of Reishi beneath his feet and vanished, quickly moving out of the way of the blast radius. From a short distance away, he watched as the explosion consumed the entirety of the temple grounds, the sphere rapidly growing the very perimeter before bursting into the sky. He had to admit that, inwardly, he was a bit awed.
So this was the power wielded by the rogue Shinigami.
Once the inferno had died down, leaving the historical landmark as little more than a smoldering black crater, Cang turned his attention towards the remains of the forest. The trees, having already been weakened by his Hè Yōuyǎ Zhǎo, had been obliterated by the explosion. This would make things easier. Taking a bit of a risk, Cang once again emerged in the park. Ash stirred weightlessly as his feet slid to a stop on the still-warm ground, and he approached his target warily.
A stalwart tree, apparently blackened by the explosion, stood alone on a small hill of burned earth. It was the Zuìhuái: the guilty pagoda tree famous in legend. With his enhanced Reikkaku, Cang could sense that the leylines of the surrounding area had converged on this spot: twisting in a strange knot of Reishi. It appeared his assumption—as well as the Shinigami’s who had attacked the forest—had been correct: the Soul Fragments were hidden within the tree. That is, if they could still be called Soul Fragments. While he could still sense the remnants of Ywhach’s soul, having cultivated a personal awareness of it during his time as a Sternritter, the pieces had largely been twisted and crushed beyond recognition. Cang reached out, placing his hand on the cool, smooth bark, and felt an ominous pulse of spiritual energy resonating within it. Then he frowned. While he was still unsure if his own schrift had been buried somewhere within that mass of energy, he found himself grow angry as he considered what the Shinigami had done to something that so rightfully belonged to him. He made up his mind.
Taking a step back, Cang pulled out a small, rectangular pendant that hung around his neck, and liquid blue Reishi flashed from its engraved characters as he ran his thumb across its smooth onyx surface. Five blue lines appeared in the ground, tracing around the perimeter of the tree. Bearing marked similarity to Sprenger, Blue Tower was a Xiemaibo spell that focused upon detonating a target within a five-pointed seal. Drawing upon the remnant pools of Reishi within the surface of the earth, the field was soon determined, and Cang bit down on his finger, allowing a drop of blood to fall on the blue line of Reishi as a highly-condensed catalyst.
Unsure of what would happen in the wake of the Xiamaibo explosion, Cang Du retreated a short distance, standing in the air above the tree. But he was not yet finished. He sought out the heart of the black tree, concentrating his focus on where he sensed the greatest degree of power. As the pillar flashed into the sky, drowning the tree in a purified explosion of spiritual energy, six lines of concentrated Reishi emerged above Cang Du’s spirit weapon, three for each claw. He allowed the energy to build within the Heilig Pfiel, and then at the last instant, sent them slicing through the air. The six claws of compressed energy converged on a single point, vibrating dangerously as they became unified in their purpose. Then, they tore through the core of the tree.
For a moment, the Lodestone appeared whole following the attack. But then it began to crack apart, pieces of black smooth stone flaking off of the tree, as tendrils of pitch black reiryoku rose from the shattered pieces like smoke; as more pieces fell and the entire tree began to crumble, the dark energies loomed overhead of the destroyed monument to depravity. The cloud then began to churn and writhe, and then something even more foreboding happened, as another spectral form appeared in the sky behind the black cloud. A giant disembodied hand which grasped the darkness, as high above them two golden eyes peered down from the void.
A spectral voice called out to them as the masked countenance of the Coven's mysterious leader assumed shape in the sky. In a manner so pompous that every spiritually aware person in the entire city would notice his presence. He then spoke, his voice thundering out, threatening to deafen everyone who could hear him aside from Xiuh. "Hiirekurasa..."
The disembodied hand then directed itself to point down at the Shinigami, Quincy and all who dared to impede the Coven's goals. Within its palm a preternatural darkness issued forth, merging with the cloud of darkness conjured earlier in order to issue the true might of the spell into being. All shadows seemed to converge upon the Archmage's palm, and for a moment all shadows in the area were stripped clean and bare. Then all of them were unleashed at once in a shriek akin to a thousand warring souls.
Darkness beyond the ken of men welled forth in the shape of a gargantuan black beam, that tore through the entirety of the park and continued into the city proper, devastating everything within its path for miles upon miles. It was cast in such a manner that every single foe of the Coven would be within its range, and forced to respond lest they be consumed by the malice spewed forth from the Masked Man's dark magic. Xiuhcoatl's situation would be unique, as the darkness would move past him without harming him or damaging the wholeness of the spell. Essentially, giving him a sanctuary within a raging storm of pitch black.
After assessing the situation in that single instant she could afford without an untimely demise claiming her life, that much was painfully clear: the situation was way above Asuka's head. There was no way for her to thwart the sorcerer's plan, even with the help of her fellow Shinigami officers. After her half-ferocious, half-desparate zanjutsu manoeuvre accomplished nothing, she noticed the Kidō serpent pursuing her. Yet another optimistic prediction ruined by the brutal reality of things. So, with no other option left, she began to run.
Barriers of mud, ethereal energy snakes, the ground swelling up with a prominent glow, a volley of projectiles showering the area from above... That was too much. Too much for the young Lieutenant to handle. She escaped from within the earthen enclosure with a Shunpo leap, then proceeded to run as fast as her proficiency in the art could allow. Not in a straight line, but leaving flickering afterimages in her wake to perhaps fool the spell. That was too little, though. She considered using a bakudō spell to intercept, or just stall the Jasō. However, she was not certain that she could cast a successful one in time.
Fortunately, there was a possible solution within her foremost area of expertise. The deceptive form called azamukidō offered a wide variety of tricks, feints and baits to mislead the enemy with. The perfect supplement to the special ability of her Shikai. She did not possess the power or durability to endure the magic serpent but she had managed so far with her agility and resourcefulness. She was about to do just that. After gaining some distance from the pursuing spell she simply stopped, then turned toward it. Incredibly focused, she estimated the moment the spell would finally hit her. Considered her ability to evade in time to escape. The Jasō approached her relentlessly, inevitably. The maw opened to consume her in a fiery explosion.
That was when she performed the baikiru. An intense emanation of spiritual pressure that manifested a highly convincing body double for her. One that would appear virtually indistinguishable from her even when perceived through Reikaku. Exactly what she needed. With the best leap she could manage she jolted away from the harm's way, leaving her afterimage behind. Sure enough, the spell ultimately hit its designated target - or, at least, what it assumed to be the target. Nevertheless, as it was taking its effect, Asuka was in the process of tactical retreat.
"Run!", she broadcasted via her Shikai to Shiemi and Chitose on the move.
Soon afterward, she heard an ominous voice. Great darkness seemed to descend upon the mortal world, sublime in its scope. Regardless, Asuka was in no mood to behold that spectacle. All she wanted was to leave, immediately.
A flash of white light. Not a moment too soon after the Coven's leader conjured a beam of devastation, ravaging the city and threatening to consume the fleeing Lieutenant along with it, she suddenly found herself engulfed within a shimmering light hurdling from building to building at an untraceable speed, taking the form of a familiar woman bolting across the city with Asuka held safely under her arm.
The woman, Captain of the Tenth Division Ginkōgō Kusahara VII, had been present in the area long enough to grasp the situation at hand. Bejing, it would seem, had become the soil upon the which the Coven would plant their seed and expand their tepid influence upon the Living World. Ginkōgō jeered at the consequences of having arrived so belatedly; she would have gladly stood alongside her Lieutenant and torn her assailant apart with her bare hands, if only she had the chance. Nevertheless, ensuring Asuka's survival came first and foremost.
With the distance gradually closing between her and the approaching beam, Ginkōgō briefly looked at Asuka with a wry smile, assuring her that they would survive. She proceed to remove the cloth concealing her enchanted arm and utilized Sentan Hakuja, causing the cloth to expand and envelop the two until their surroundings were completely obscured and they vanished from the battlefield.
They would reappear in the skies above the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, observing the chaos from afar. Ginkōgō allowed her cloth to drift in the air and onto her shoulder before releasing her Lieutenant from her grasp. The casualties would continue to mount without a doubt, but nevertheless, Ginkōgō saw this as a victory, and she had her own Lieutenant to thank for that.
“This is your victory. You've fought well, Shimizu,” she praised, albeit in an ambiguous murmur. She could not suppress the grief and guilt surfacing in her unblinking eyes.
In the farthest reaches of the battlefield, Edward hovered some distance above the ruined land where the forest once stood. His saviour was a fellow Quincy, that much was certain; but Edward found his intentions rather difficult to grasp, if not only for his rather questionable English.
Edward remained far and safe from the ongoing battle, but his Reikaku allowed him to ascertain important details—namely that his allies had not been killed just yet. Nevertheless, the child was uncertain if he was up to the task of assisting them. He would have already died if not for that Quincy's arrival, whom Edward was yet uncertain as to whether he was an enemy or an ally.
And then came the black rift which tore through the clouds, heralding the beam that carved through the city, answering a question Edward had only began to ponder: was it already too late to make a difference? Desperately, he turned in instinctive retreat and did not look back.
"Bloody, hell, goddamn it with this day!" he exclaimed as the beam hastily approached to consume him; he could hear its roar resounding in its location. And it would reach him long before he would be cleared from its range.
The blurring blaze of blue flames, hinted at a different outcome ever. It washed over him, pulling him into an embrace, as if he were being cradled like a child. The flames opened up, swallowing him, in such a way that he was left entirely untouched by the brimming fire. This action happened all in a single instant, that rapidly picked up, the fireball and its occupants, streaking straight through the sky away from the oncoming slaughter.
It barreled through the skyline before gravity enforced its descent, causing the blaze to smash through the upper window of an apartment complex, extinguishing itself in the flurry of momentum that followed. Breaking out of that feat in a roll, the Quincy child still clutched in her arms, was a woman of relatively petite stature, not much taller than the boy she just saved.
"Well, hi Ed", said Basillia Basilica, casually greeting the lad after she returned him to a proper upright position.
For a moment, Edward greeted this new arrival with only a blank stare, now even more puzzled of the situation than before. Upon hearing his own name, he roused himself back to reality, nonchalantly dusting off his coat in an act of feigned compose before turning his attention to his new saviour. "Hello, there... stranger," he spoke nervously. "Have we met?"
"Hah, kinda, ol' Breastplate asked me to keep an eye on you since I was in the area", she replied upbeat, taking just a moment to put out a little flicker of flame in her hair.
"The name's Basi, I'm the fastest Quincy you'll ever meet", obvious pride aside, the girl took one look back at the window from which she crashed through to see the battle still raging. "Let's say we get outta here, yeah?"
" Eh, breastplate? Dunno what kinda breastplates you've ever seen, but I—" Edward froze in trepidation as that certain woman came to mind. "E—Eriphyla!? That ol' trollop knows where I am? Everything I had planned!? Bloody damn hell..."
Edward paced to and fro while pondering a way out of his predicament. Basillia Basilica... he could swear he had once heard such a woman mentioned by Diluculum Aeternus' leaders as someone they owed a great debt to. He could at least be certain that she was not directly affiliated with them and acting by request rather than duty.
"You're not gonna just throw me back with them, are you? They'll broil my arse if they knew I was goin' against the Coven! Mind if I just tag along with you for a bit?"
"Tsk, tsk, so presumptuous as always."
As Edward turned around to the source of the voice, the hand of a woman with a rather tall stature reached to pat his head vigorously. He looked up to see Eriphyla staring down at him with a wide grin.
"What is this talk of broiled arse? And did I hear 'trollop' go along with my mentioning? Oh, fie..." With an exasperated sigh, Eriphyla lifted her head and proceeded to scent the air. "Oh? The Man-Boy is here, too? Ah, this does bring back pleasant memories! That only the stench of blighted human did not sully it so!" Eriphyla politely held her lips as she chuckled childishly. "But I will say, Basi, I am pleased to see you well!"
Edward desperately clung to Basillia. "I...can't...go with her..." he whispered discreetly.
As Shiemi watched the dark beam appear, and then promptly begin to devour everything standing in its path, she felt a cold sweat coat her skin. To think that such power existed was downright terrifying to accept. And now, while Shimizu-san was safe for now with the help from Captain Kusahara, for Shiemi the threat at hand was still very much real. Face growing pale as she fumbled to get her sheathed sword out of its scabbard, it took a few precious moments before Shiemi finally yanked out her weapon and grabbed one of the many strings full of pearls and sequins. Pulling it loose, she then raised her hand, still clenching the decorative string, as far above her head as she could while preparing for the teleportation spell. “Bakudo #72, Sentan Hakuja!” The string with pearls and sequins floated above her head and began spinning around as the decorations and the string drastically grew in length and size. As they whirled around her, the pearls and sequins began obscuring Shiemi from view as the string’s size allowed for itself to whirl around her body in a dome-shape and energy began building up. She disappeared in a burst of energy, leaving behind a scent much like the sharp sting of burnt ozone as she disappeared from the ruined park and materialized not far from Shimizu’s position, having used her reikaku to get as close to her fellow Lieutenant as possible.
A blackened mass hung limply in the air after the ground beneath turned into a hurricane of fire and pain, its left arm outstretched towards the earth below. There appeared to be a small barrier behind it, as if it was protecting something from the explosion. Then with a small pop, it split open to reveal a man underneath. He looked singed, but nowhere near the level of destruction his second skin experienced. The barrier behind him broke, revealing a large strip of cloth that blew away in the wind.
"That was close..." Chitose groaned. He had been forced to sacrifice one of the gigai he had as a shield to survive that. Between that and forcibly maintaining his shadow with that barrier, he had been able to avoid destruction, mostly at least. Looking at his left arm, he just winced at the charring. His arm hung helplessly at his side, the burning too severe for him to even move it. Given some time and healing magic, he might regain use of it in the future, but for now his arm wasn't much more than a dead weight at his side. "I guess an arm for my life isn't such a bad trade..." he said with a small chuckle. "Byakuya is gonna kill me though, that blast burned his hair away." He had used an inflatable Gigai of Byakuya that had been affected by his shikai to survive the blast, and it had barely worked.
This is when he noticed the world changing around him, the darkness rising from the ground into the cloud that was above him. Unlike the rest of the Shinigami here, he was almost directly on top of the tree when the explosion occurred, being only a hundred or so feet away from it. Then the thundering voice of the Masked Man appeared causing Chitose to look up. He recognized the spell and froze for a moment, but only a moment. "I'm not going to be able to outrun that... Keep away time, DEFINITELY keep away time." He said in what was almost a small amount of panic. Then he ran, but not away like everyone else. He ran towards the source of the beam. Most would think he was crazy, but he was making a bet. He was betting he could move faster than the beam could track him at that distance. He was playing with fire here, but it was his best option.
Chitose barely survived the initial burst, having to have moved a bit away from the beam to not get caught in the explosion when it was shot straight down at the park below, though he quickly moved back into close range. He spent Reiatsu like water to do so, but he managed to avoid the beam entirely, even when it was swept towards him, utilizing his speed and agility to power through the intense pressure drawing him towards the beam.
Chitose just looked at the devastation when the beam finally ran itself down. Millions dead, all for something he didn't didn't truly understand. "They were going to die anyways... but not like this." he said as he clutched him scorched arm. "I don't think I can hide my abilities anymore... though that cat is already out of the bag. It's time to go..." he finished as he turned to move towards the west where his companions had run off to, leaving the ashes of millions behind him.
"Then by all appearances, I have failed", Xiuhcoatl remarked, his eyes staring down the mass of destruction left in the wake of Shijin's emanation. He refused to even blink as he witnessed the opening onslaught of devastation, searing that image into his mind. He couldn't have prevented the initial fallout, he had realised that, but there was a chance he could prevent the continued destruction of Beijing and its people. He turned to the mass that stemmed from the broken lodestone, focusing his Reiryoku upon it. Several of the golden rings around his body faded away, reappearing around them as he attempted to restore it to its previous shape.
The lodestone was technically a living thing, forged from the fragmentations of Yhwach's soul, as such, Xiuhcoatl believed his power could be used to heal it, and in so doing, end the madness that Shijin had wrought upon the Human World so forcefully. Whether it worked or not, the damage that the lodestone had originally received began appearing on Xiuhcoatl's body, redirected on new, powerful wounds that bled profusely along his arms and chest, that signature red fading through even the black of his robes.
From behind the sorcerer, treading softly through the ash, the Quincy who had delivered the initial blow to the lodestone appeared. Evidentially, Cang Du had escaped the condensed path of destruction despite his close proximity to its epicenter.
Nearly one-fifth of Beijing was not nearly so lucky.
But as he stared narrowly with slitted eyes at the Shinigami before him, Cang showed no hint of sympathy for his fellow humans. Mortals died. It was a natural, inevitable law of the universe. That their end had perhaps come prematurely was none of his concern.
In reality, however, his heart still pounded from the narrow margin of his escape. Foolishly, he had initially attempted to resist the power of the spell, crossing his Spirit Weapon in front of him in defiance as he had prepared to defend against it. But the darkness that cut through the sky, upon touching the silver of his claws, had begun to erode the forged Reishi. No, erode wasn’t quite the word for it... It was as though the particles of spiritual energy had been instantly erased. He had only managed to survive the destructive Kidō by diving behind Xiuhcoatl at the last second, as he had noticed a small bubble of empty space form around the sorcerer as the shadows had been drawn into the giant hand above. He had his impressive skill in Hirenkyaku to thank for the ability to move beyond the speed of the unleashed darkness, slipping into the threads of Reishi that ran through space itself the instant he experienced the spell’s true nature. Mainly, however, he had risked the assumption that whoever was working in tandem to place the lodestone in Beijing would have taken measures to ensure their comrade was not obliterated in the blast.
He blinked as blood began to pour from Xiuhcoatl’s new wounds. Maybe he had been mistaken on that point. For a moment he was reminded of his own characteristic streak of impulsivity—his greatest weakness.
Cang Du reformed his Spirit Weapon, and the claws emerged as vibrating blades of bluish energy. The darkness had managed to entirely consume his Spirit Weapon even though he had barely touched its hem. While his claws were replaceable, he knew it would require some time to completely reform the hardened Reishi into spiritual silver. In the meantime, the power and focus of his Heilig Pfiel would be significantly decreased. Cang looked up at Xiuhcoatl.
“Those are the fragments of his majesty’s soul,” he stated, although his tone was not accusatory. Indeed, while he referred to his former king respectfully enough, he had after all been the one to try and destroy his remnants. Simply put, he did not believe in pantheism. After a long pause Cang asked, rather uncreatively,
“What are you doing?”
Whatever had driven Xiuhcoatl to use his powers to rejuvenate the shattered lodestone; it proved to be a wise decision. Its pieces bubbled and seethed like black oil as it weaved together back into a larger whole, it grew and it expanded, thriving on the Sorcerer's sacrifice. Then it emerged into a large black monolith of smooth stone, twice the size it had been before and once more a large pall of supernatural darkness sunk over the area, as the lodestone resumed its dastardly work!
Screams akin to those of forlorn souls resounded as a pillar of pitch black reiryoku shrouded the object and shot up into the sky above the city of Beijing. Tainting the sky as well and the ground and thus doubling its reach of influence, a mighty event-horizon appeared at its edges, whisking away anything that wasn't spiritual in nature and already claiming a steady stream of innocent human lives. And as it expanded past them, they could already hear the screams of chinese citizens as they leapt over one another to avoid what to them looked most like an encroaching wall of darkness.
And to their horror, they'd witness any humans who touched the darkness literally discorporate before their eyes, disintegrating into motes of blue dust before vanishing entirely.
Chitose just slowly turned around as he heard the wails and screams behind him, stopping his slow flight away from the destruction. "What have I done to deserve this..." He mumbled as he watched the lodestone reforged. He just stood the slack jawed at it, he was certain it was gone. He had watched it be destroyed. "Why do I feel like I need to be the hero here... " He said as he started moving forward. "I am shoving this rock up someone's ass if it gets made again... All 30 feet of it..." He continued as he broke into a sprint, Hikage no Seika in his one good hand as he left arm flopped uselessly in the wind.
"Faster..." He said as he began to utilize Shunpo, dashing towards the monolith, angling to hit it across its shadowed side. "Faster.." He continued as he began to pull the Reishi in the air around him under his feet, pulling off from it similar to the people he had met back in Japan. "Faster." he murmured as the air cracked from the force of him pulling on his quickly dwindling reserves to call on the aspect of the Arrancar's Sonido. "Must go Faster..." He grunted from the pain as he began to slide upon the paths of power, straight into the stone below as fast as he possible could. The city below seemed to stand as his speed picked up higher and higher. He began to spin, his damaged arm dragging behind him as he slid down towards the stone. He would spin down the shaded side of the stone before sliding down to the ground below, dragging his blade across it's shadow, severing it asunder. "Please just work..."
But as the lieutenant descended towards the shadow of the monolith, a flash of cerulean energy rippled through the midnight atmosphere of the new spiritual realm. Two swaths of spiritual energy, vibrating dangerously and hooked like the claws of a tiger, converged upon Chitose from either side: both aimed for his ribs. The former Sternritter appeared in front of the Lieutenant without warning, Cang Du raised the claws of his Spirit Weapon, and with a shriek the Seike no Hikage bit into the condensed Reishi. The blade stopped halfway through the translucent claws, and Cang's gaze locked with that of the Shinigami's. The Quincy's power was practically spilling over at the sudden influx of Reishi, but he remained still, waiting for the falling claws to bifurcate his opponent.
Cang watched Xiuhcoatl from the corner of his eye, hoping that the proof of his true loyalties would remain clear. While he had been the one to initially destroy the lodestone, upon recognizing its true nature Cang had quickly realized that the most personally advantageous solution would be to offer his support to the spell-caster, hopefully in exchange for information. As a man who had never known loyalty, the rapid-change of allegiances apparently presented no contradiction in Cang's mind. Essentially he had reverted to his original plan, which happened to entail the removal of a certain black-robed hindrance.
"LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE YOU SWARMY NAZI!" Chitose yelled as the Sternritter blocked his path, blades of cerulean to either side of him. His blade was stopped by the claws the larger man wielded. He let his arm lose it's strength just for a moment, causing him to fall towards the direction of his spin. Chitose would attempt to use his excess momentum to spin around his opponent as the reishi blades tried to impale him, essentially rolling off of him before he continued his mad dash. The one he moved away from missed entirely as he was no longer there, while the other grated along his back, his shikai thankfully holding up under the continued abuse before it bit into his damaged arm, taking a chunk out of it. His arm couldn't catch a break.
"YOU KNOW WHAT? JUST FUCK EVERYTHING. HADŌ #99 IT IS." He continued yelling distraughtly before shouting "FIRST DANCE - SIX WALLS." It was a bluff, one hell of a bluff to get them to back off for just the moment he needed to reach the monolith. He was out of plans and out of time. He just prayed that this worked in his favor this time. He was really tired of everything going wrong.
Unfortunately, Cang did not back off.
The Quincy froze for an instant as Chitose yelled out the command for the spell, but then quickly went straight for the throat. While he could not exactly recall which Kidō coincided with "Hadō #99," he at least knew that a number of such magnitude signified immense destructive potential. The Shinigami was making his best effort to destroy the lodestone, but Cang planned to cut him off before he had the chance. He needed to make himself an ally of the invading mages after all, and protecting their precious egg was the best way to make amends.
Less than a second after Chitose had called out his bluffed incantation, Cang Du drove his fist towards the Shinigami's chin, cutting across the distance between them as he did so. While his Spirit Weapon had disappeared, his attacks were no less dangerous as he unleashed his skills as a master martial artist. His initial strike was meant to crush the very words in Chitose's throat, and he followed with a flurry of strikes targeted at the other man's neck and shoulders. His hands moved in a blur, striking several times and faster than the eye could see. At the back of his mind, Cang found himself wondering when the spell the Shinigami had cast would emerge, and his body was tense and coiled as he prepared to react. But as nothing had immediately occurred he frowned, sensing that something was amiss.
Cang Du had noticed the injury in the Shinigami's arm and he directed two of his blows there. The first would serve to absorb the spiritual energy from the blood itself before the second hit which, delivered with a concentrated point of concussive force, would shatter the arm's structure.
There was a brief lapse as Cang's attack suddenly relented. For a sliver of a moment his body seemed caught in slow motion before it snapped forward suddenly. Cang switched the lead of his stance. Point-blank, he delivered a full kick with his shin, aiming towards Chitose's stomach. This time, he expelled a burst of spiritual pressure as he accelerated the kick with Hirenkyaku. Should the attack make content, Chitose would likely find himself thrown back across the park, if not to Tianjin.
Chitose was in a bad spot, and running out of options faster than he could react. Utilizing his dwindling reserves even more, he used Sonido to rocket his right leg into the first punch, knocking it to the side completely while accelerating his spin even further. However, during the spin, his sword left his hand, careening towards the monolith . Cang Du would see a look of utter panic on Chitose's face as he swung back around, as his sword and best means of defense was gone. In reality, he had tossed it the moment his body came between his opponent and the sword, aiming to touch the monolith with it, bringing the stone under its effects.
Then the rest of the punches came in, battering Chitose's leg and shoulders while two more shattered his bad arm. His shouted incantation had stopped under the force of the blows before he was given a moment's respite. He quickly cast Hainawa, sending a golden chain shooting to the blade, though it would hit the ground before the chain reached it. He cast the spell without an incantation, leaving it weak and brittle. But that wouldn't matter, as the sword's ability would leave it durable and rigid, forming a long spear. His opponent then wound up a mighty kick, using Chitose's trick against him with the application of high speed movement. He took the kick on his battered leg, cracking it as Chitose was shot through the air, across the entirety of the park and into the buildings on the other side, his spear hopefully dragging along the ground behind him.
Though he did not understand his intentions, Xiuhcoatl was thankful for the brief interruption the Quincy had provided him. Time enough that he could see to the lodestones fortifications. Magic glistened across his form, a potent mixture of blood and Reiryoku that served to fuel a series of Dankū spells, quickly arraying themselves around the lodestone in every possible direction, protecting it from every avenue of attack. The spell was certainly not impervious to harm, of course, but the players on the field would have had a hard time dealing with them, and at this point, that was all that mattered. By the time Chitose's sword had been thrown after its mark, the wall was already in place.
From his placement it looked like it had actually succeeded in striking a blow. Stuck there hanging in the air, but there were no cracks in the lodestone's new body. A following glint of light illuminated the transparent barrier, and with it, all hope of success in his attack had been lost. Recalling the wall, and the Shinigami who had so brazenly battled him, Xiuhcoatl surmised that the Dankū that had been struck would now be rather permanent, foregoing some truly powerful attack, of course. If he were a spiteful man, he would've thanked the young man for his efforts, but he had a different plan in mind.
"Cease this nonsense!", his voice bellowed across the field, an attempt to curtail the Quincy's assault, and the battle at large. "Many innocents have died today, we need not add more to the pile".
"Ouch ouch ouch ouch..." Chitose stuttered as he lay 3 rooms into the building he had been kicked into, sitting on a black leather couch that was currently embedded in the wall behind him, he sword laying right beside him as the Hainawa had broken under the impact of hitting the building. He was a mess currently, his near incinerated arm sitting at a weird angle from the two break points the Quincy had inflicted on him, while his right leg was battered and bruised from the multiple strikes it had taken. He was pretty sure it was broken at this point.
Looking around at the room he wondered out loud, "Why are there all these cameras here? Maybe it's a movie studio or something, idk... Time to leave." He finally released his Shikai, something that even his companions on the great wall would notice. He was drained, almost out of energy. Looking through the hole, he saw the monolith standing and realized his gambit hadn't worked. "Oh well, now that tsundere Lieutenant can't say I didn't at least try, god she owes me for following through with this... But hey, for being a sixth seat, almost outplaying two captain level baddies ain't bad on the resume."
He stood up before placing a slight bit of energy into his sword, lengthening it to the point where he could use it as a cane with his good arm. He walked back out the hole, limping down towards his two opponents below, moving slowly as his injuries took a massive toll on him. He looked like a mess. As he finally reached a range where talking was feasible without screaming he paused, weary that he was completely vulnerable here. Chitose had finally run out of tricks.
"Well I guess this means we lost this fight, doesn't it? I can't break that barrier right now." He said as he could barely stand. "That being said, aren't either of you at least a little bit concerned about what you are doing to the world? This isn't right and both of you have to know it."
Evidentially following Xiuhcoatl's command that he cease his attack, Cang Du did not immediately lunge towards Chitose, although he very much wanted to cut down the Shinigami where he stood. While he bore no personal malice against the seated officer, Cang was loathe to leave something half-finished. The way he saw it, since he had come this far, why not put the finishing blow to the fight and leave it at that? But the mage had made his wish clear that no further destruction should occur, and for now the Quincy would oblige his request.
However, as the screams of thousands of civilians carried through the liquescent black of the night-like spiritual realm, Cang quickly noticed the incongruity. Extending his Reikkaku, he felt as soul after soul blinked out of existence, although his face remained an expressionless mask as he determined the true nature of the lodestone.
“For humans, we are all prisoners, and life is a cage. While I cannot understand the desire to preserve such 'innocents,'" he told Xiuhcoatl before readdressing Chitose, "I fail to see how a slave to the balance such as yourself can so quickly condemn this act as wrong. Death is merely a form of release." His words fell cold and incisive, punctuated by the distant screams of souls, but Cang Du remained impervious to the sounds of suffering around him. After a brief pause, he apparently lost interest in the weakened Shinigami and began to approach Xiuhcoatl. "I have come to offer my services in exchange for power," he began, "About earlier... please excuse my impulsivity. I was of the impression that the Soul Fragments had been bound by the Shinigami. I did not mean to interfere."
Xiuhcoatl was silent at first, preferring little more than the action of a light gesture. His hand pointed toward Chitose, then, one of those myriad golden rings of his disappeared from his body appearing on the same spot on the young officer. The ring shattered, and with it, Chitose's wounds disappeared.
Xiuhcoatl's left arm began to distend and break, crumpling in unnatural ways, his silence now punctuated by the guttural noises of his limb destroying itself. He looked on at the two men before him entirely unflinching, not out of resolution but simple tolerance to his own pain.
"It had not been mine intent to start a battle here", he finally spoke. "Your offer is a welcome one, Quincy are rare now, their abilities are something to be coveted".
His tone was calm, but heavy with relief knowing that the fight was over. Even though he had healed his opponent in Chitose, he expected little in the way of resistance.
"Much of this world is wrong, that is why we seek change", Xiuhcoatl spoke solemnly finally turning to the pointed question before him. "It cannot come through simple platitudes, and so you see the extremity of our revolution".
"If our course is truly as wrong as you believe, then I offer you the chance to correct it. You have potential, why not put it to use among our ranks?"
Chitose listened intently to the responses he was given. He was legitimately surprised when the mage healed him, though he deduced that those rings was how he managed to fix the busted monolith. His normally cheery expression dropped for a moment as he started to speak. "It's true that life doesn't really matter in the end, we all die eventually... well most of us... The balance exists for a reason however. I am painfully aware of that." he said while thinking over the crimes that were revealed to him in his nightmares. "You'll destroy everything, yourselves included by continuing down this path. Breaking the balance is the road to ruin, and I don't think your masked man is capable of sustaining soul society and the earth at once when the balance fails. Life isn't something that should be thrown away so easily. Too much of it already is."
"As for me, my path has already been set in stone. I can't change it now. I took an oath to uphold the balance, to protect the cycle. I may not take many things seriously, but that I do. I take that oath seriously. So I'm afraid i'll have to reject your kind offer." He paused as he turned around to walk away before stopping himself and half turning around. "Thank you for healing me. I do appreciate that. I'll be back for that monolith eventually, I don't plan on failing again. After all, a mere sixth seat nearly broke it this time. Now have a good day." Then with a step, he was gone, off to rejoin his companions to the east.