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This article, Balance of Souls: Collapse, is property of LordGalvatron, Stylx, and, Hellion.
Bleach: Equilibrium
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Part 1

Seireitei, Wandenreich Headquarters. Evening.

The heart of Soul Society was host to a great many scars and memories, all of them were new. Reflecting the great changes that the Seireitei had undergone, very little of its ancient and historic form remained present within the Sekkisekki walls that surrounded the capital. It had all been replaced by the architecture of the Wandenreich, transported into its place by absorbing the Reishi that constructed the previous landmarks so that the new ones could rise into place, like a curtain rising to reveal a new stage.

"In hindsight, this might have been a bad idea", Roshan Bamshad mused to himself as he wandered the hallways of the Wandenreich HQ, every window he passed gave him an eerily beautiful view of ice encrusted stonework buildings, only for another window to present to him some part that had been eradicated or demolished during the battle with the Gotei 13. It had been only a month or so following the victory the Quincy forces had over the Shinigami and work on getting everything back under control was proceeding at a mess of paces, one minute everything was fine and exceeding expectations, the next, someone's hair was on fire and the logistics crews didn't have a clue.

The man ruffled his shaggy blonde hair, letting out a sigh as he turned into the corner. To make things worse, Roshan had been appointed as Regent, somebody had gotten it into their head that he would've been a great choice to lead an empire just because he happened to be really old. He wasn't sure whether to be flattered or insulted, though he decided to grin and bear it, for now at least. The job was as easy as Yhwach had made it look. You'd spout off some philosophical crap and give anyone who got uppity a glare that just screamed "I'm gonna smite you", the idea of it made him chuckle if nothing else.

The man's attention was drawn from his thoughts when a couple of passing Soldat saluted him, he returned their motion with a simple nod of the head before either party carried on. It was one more turn in the series of corridors he'd been walking through that he then found himself at a change of scenery. A doorway, exiting out onto a bridge bathed in the orange glow of a setting sun.

On the other end of that bridge was a circular platform and a ramp that rose up towards the gap in a massive ring. Two figures, clad in white robes and adorning the fragments of masks on otherwise random parts of their faces, were present on the bridge.

"Oh good, you're already here", he spoke to the open air, letting his voice carry toward the Arrancar while he bridged the distance between them. The two Arrancar turned to face the Quincy, one had his chin and jawline covered by his mask remnants, which consisted of a row of teeth and the other's left eye was replaced by his mask, the circular, empty eye hole staring into nothingness.

"Bamshad-sama, you grace us with your presence.", Cielo Nocturno stated, he did a slight bow while grinning at the floor, his voice carried a large amount of sarcasm in it, as to which his partner, Redención Mandíbula chuckled audibly. Despite the obvious mocking that was going on, Roshan merely smiled.

"I see you're as energetic as ever Cielo, Redención, if you were Quincies you'd be Ritters by now", he remarked, putting emphasis on the words Quincies and Stern Ritter, making sure the two absorbed his sentence. While they grimaced at Roshan's quote, they quickly recovered from it, as if it was a joke.

"So Roshan-sama, what do you want with us?", Cielo asked.

He threw up his hands in an exaggerated shrug, his cloaked rising up with it to reveal his immaculate uniform. He walked between the two humanoid Hollows, to stand on the first step of the ramp that fed into the two curved pillars; the Gate of the Sun.

"Ah, well, we shipped ol' Tier back to Hueco Mundo while we got things settled here in Soul Society", he'd began riffling through his pockets as he spoke, searching for something that he'd seemingly misplaced. "The logistics guys have been picking up something weird near our base there, so I thought I'd check it out".

He turned from the gateway to the two men, his hand climbing from one of his uniform's myriad compartments, before tossing either of them a small device. Upon inspection they appeared to be little more than earpiece radios, painted in the typical Quincy colours of white and blue. Roshan was quick to hook his own over his ear, letting it disappear into his golden locks of hair.

"As for you guys", he started up again, his voice a little less dry than before. "The Gate here is pretty good at sending people places, but I needed a valet or two to hitch a Garganta back here", he continued with a touch of amusement.

"Fine we'll go with ya to Hueco Mundo, was gettin' bored here anyway.", Mandíbula stated, yawning as he walked up towards Roshan, stretching his neck as he did so. Cielo followed suit, walking up next to the aging Quincy as they all approached the gate.

"Shall we?", Roshan asked with rhetoric, the gate bursting to life behind him as if on cue. The space between its pillars filled with a bright line that shone down on the three men, engulfing them in its magnificence. To their eyes, the world around them disolved into millions of dust particles and then washed away into a wide ocean of colours. Then the process would repeat in the opposite direction, the ocean swirling into constituent particles and taking shape, as the unending desert of Hueco Mundo.

They were greeted by a cold but stale air, the empty lifeless sands, and a constant nightfall, their only light brought about by the Moon sitting far above their heads. The only thing of note before them was the pearly white walls of Las Noches, once the headquarters of Sōsuke Aizen and his Espada, it was now an outpost of the Wandenreich and the cage for Tier Harribel.

The group had nary taken a step before they felt a tremor rush under their feet, the sand above rippled like a wave of the sea, kicking at the balance of the three men as it moved.

"Hey, do ya see that?", Redención spoke, his eyes focused on a massive pillar of light that descended upon the roof tops of Las Noches. Then, it exploded. Cracks appeared on every visible portion of its pristine form only for every piece to simultaneously shoot out in every direction. A second tremor rippled beneath them, this one far more powerful, easily knocking them off balance. They all raised their heads in response to a massive shadow beneath their feet only to find a mile high tower of sand looming above.

"Aw, crap", they bemoaned in remarkable unison before they were buried under its mass.

Part 2

Glasgow, Human World. Afternoon.

Walking the streets of the large city, hidden in the crowd of common people was an uncommon young woman. Aileen McFarlane, known to some as Stern Ritter D - The Dirge, was wearing a perfectly casual clothing, walking in a casual pace and casually listening to rock music from her MP3 player. Somewhat weary, she was going down the street with her head slanted and her palms placed in the pockets of her jeans skirt.

The World of the Living was incredibly boring.

Even though born here, she was brought up as an elite Quincy. The splendour of this ancient organisation and the thrill of battle were the only things that could cause her excitement. The symphony of destruction she had played during the Wandenreich's invasion on the Soul Society was still reverberating deep within her psyche. However, now that the war was over, she felt unbearable emptiness.

What now?

The Shinigami had been defeated, though at a great cost. Nevertheless, after a thousand years of preparation the Wandenreich swiftly accomplished its mission, and there was little else to do. That is true, she heard something about the importance of fixing the balance of Souls, but she could not care less about such mundane matters. The Great Enemy had been vanquished, the Hollows subjugated.

With no enemy to fight, what was she going to do?

In the end, she was sent here, her hometown, to act as a sentry. But from whom was she to defend the city? What possible danger could threaten it now? Ever since the final battle she had been leading careless life devoid of happiness, excitement or meaning, for that matter.

What a pain, she thought as she kicked a can laying on the pavement. Unbeknownst to the young Quincy, a massive pillar of light came down to the ground, blocked from most people's view due to the numerous buildings in their way. Then as it touched the floor, a massive earthquake suddenly erupted, causing the city to go into a state of alarm.

What the... an earthquake, here?!, Aileen mused as she ran out into a more open area, as she did, she saw the massive pillar of light that was emanating from a fair distance away. Using Hirenkyaku, Aileen started to make her way towards the epicentre of the distruption, as she did she could feel the tremors get substantially more powerful while she was moving, actually destroying some of the more frail buildings around her.

Just as Aileen reached the area where the pillar of light originated from a massive shockwave came forth from it, blasting her backwards onto her back. As she got up she turned to see the immediate area devastated, that paired with seemingly more devastation and the screams of innocents caused Aileen to once again turn to the cause of the disturbance. The pillar of light faded as she turned back towards it.

This might be interesting, she thought, a wry smile suddenly outstretched on her face.

She reached into the neckline of her shirt and pulled, breaking her necklace. Then, she held it in her right palm, a small silver cross dangling from between her fingers. With her Reiatsu suppressed, she began approaching the site of the incident in a cautious pace, scanning the entire area with her heightened Quincy sense.

As she did, thunderclouds began to form above her, raining down upon the city, as Alieen paused to look at the growing storm, the clouds expanded at an impossible rate, as they did, a sprite occurred, causing the whole area to become drowned in a powerful light and oddly enough, reiatsu.

"My, my", Aileen quietly said as a bolt of lighting crashed down where the pillar of light was standing before. As Aileen uncovered her eyes from the light, she saw a female figure standing where the lighting bolt struck, her hair was black and tied into a high ponytail, she was wearing a hakama under a distinctive black Jeonbok. The odd clothed individual yawned and stretched as Aileen observed.

"Finally, we get let out, must be the only time I've really wanted to get out in my....hmm?", the woman stopped absent mindlessly talking to herself as she took notice of Aileen.

"The heck are you!?", asked the Stern Ritter, pointing at her accusingly. "You've got some nerve to make such a commotion!"

"Sorry bout that, but the Yüshítou are old technology, each one is connected to our fate so mine tends to make a ruckus even more so than the others.", explained the woman. "Naoko Murakami, Marshal of the East and leader of the Observation Corps of the Balancers of Souls. May I ask your name?", Naoko finished, asking Aileen for her name.

"Balancer of Souls?", retorted the Quincy with a question, narrowing her eyes. "Aren't you a Shinigami?"

Something changed in her stance, which now signified her readiness to spring into combat at the slightest notice. Naoko on the other hand changed her lighthearted expression to a darker look.

"I'm not associated with a group that claims to be better than other yet isn't anything of the sort, I am a Balancer of Souls, one of the predecessors to the Gotei 13", Naoko scowled, she put emphasis on the words Gotei 13, making sure to get her point across. After she said so, Naoko drew her blade, pointing it at Aileen, who lowered herself slightly, ready to attack.

"Lets go then."

"Predecessor", muttered McFarlane. "Well, real deal or not, you've already pissed me off, so don't take that personally but..."

She then lifted her right hand with an abrupt motion and the cross she had been holding emitted a flash of light. Suddenly, it assumed a solid shape, taking the form of what looked like the love child of a trumpet and shotgun. Aileen grabbed the weapon with both hands and swiftly aimed its barrel, adorned with the image of a screaming face, at the Balancer.

"Clamour!", she exclaimed.

Subsequently, a circular wave of energy erupted from the weapon with a loud hum. Miniscule at first, it rapidly expanded and carved a long ditch in the ground as it was approaching Naoko with great speed. Naoko took a glace at the attack before she disappeared from the Quincy's line of sight, slightly surprised at her opponents abrupt movement, Aileen faltered slightly as Naoko reappeared right behind her, the Balancer's sword against her neck. Aileen used Hirenkyaku to gain some distance from her opponent.

"You're quick.", Naoko said, the lighthearted tone she initially wore was back. "You still haven't told me your name, but I can guess you're a soul are you not?", she asked, as she did, Naoko used shunpo, appearing right in front of a mildly bewildered Aileen, who instinctively raised her arms in front of her face to intercept a kick from Naoko just in time. Despite blocking the attack, Aileen flew backwards, having to correct herself before crashing.

"I'm no Soul", she replied, a smug smile present on her face. "I'm a Quincy!"

Then, she cocked her spiritual weapon and pulled the trigger. The eyes and mouth of the stylised barrel shone brightly with energy as they unleashed a potent sonic shockwave. Once again Naoko disappeared via the use of shunpo, dodging the shockwave with slight difficulty, she reappeared a small distance away behind Aileen, scratching her head.

"Quincy, Quincy...", Naoko quietly murmured. "Ah! High-spec humans capable of manipulating surrounding reishi in order to destroy spiritual beings. Am I right?", Naoko asked, ignoring the Balancer's comment, Aileen once again shot off another sonic shockwave, however, unlike before Naoko merely raised her blade, electricity forming around it, crackling.

"Then that means...."

A bolt of lightning struck the area between the two combatants, erasing any sign of Aileen's attack and creating a huge crater in the ground.

"I must eliminate you, before you unbalance the flow of souls completely.", Naoko finished, her voice sounded deathly serious as she emerged from the dust cloud from the lightning strike. Aileen once again fired her spirit weapon, the attack aimed at the Balancer, before it reached her Naoko dodged the attack, her Jeonbok being the only thing damaged by the attack, she appeared above Aileen, her blade once again crackling with electricity.

"Let's go....Shǎndiàn.", Naoko said ominously.

But Aileen had already vanished.

"You're annoying!", she exclaimed as she was reappearing a large distance away.

This time, rather than unleash another sonic attack, she fired a burst of regular Heilige Pfeile at her enemy. The cluster of deep pink arrows crashed down on Naoko, covering the area with a cloud of dust. However as it settled an ball of electricity made itself apparent, as it dispersed, Naoko jumped out of it, she reached Aileen, engaging her in close range, forcing the Quincy to dodge and weave past Naoko's attacks. This kept up for some time, however as it dragged on, Aileen started to receive small cuts.

"I see, you're skilled enough to hold your own against my swordmanship skill, very well.", Naoko muttered, she broke from Aileen, moving back a small distance, she raised her electrified blade, stabbing it into the already destroyed ground, as she did, the battlefield started to tremor, causing Aileen to stumble slightly as she landed on the ground. In a millisecond, the earth suddenly exploded, releasing a vast amount of lightning from underneath it, causing Aileen to get blasted backwards due to the impetus of the explosion.

Once she landed on the ground, the Quincy glanced briefly at herself.

"You've torn my clothes", she said in an angry tone. "And... you've broken my MP3 player!", she added as she took the damaged device into her left palm. "You bitch."

The moment she cursed a gleaming pattern covered her body with a network of energy, and a bedazzling shine emanated from the barrel of her spiritual weapon: Blut Arterie. Then, a powerful continuous wave of sonic energy erupted from the weapon and shattered the ground in front of her immediately, approaching Naoko with the speed of sound.

"Tch.", Naoko tutted as she made a slashing maneuver with her blade, causing a stream of electricity to shoot out and instantly collide with the sonic blast, causing a violent explosion, taking the opportunity, Naoko jumped into the air, as she hurriedly sheathed her sword as she positioned both of her hands in front of her chest, vertically parallel to each other, she suddenly made a horizontal slashing maneuver with both of her arms, subsequently bringing them in front of her again, aiming in the vague direction of Aileen.

"Denki Tetsudō.", Naoko shouted, electricity burst from the gap in between her hands as it shot towards Aileen, the beam of lighting making a distinct screeching sound as it did so.

Without hesitation and still glowing with the power of Blut Arterie, McFarlane adjusted a couple of switches on the side of Clamour and promptly launched her own attack, sending ground-shaking vibrations across the entire area. The two attacks violently collided, causing a shockwave to tremor through the battlefield, Naoko, using the time given to her from Aileen's attack, moved once again towards the Quincy, she stopped a close distance away, raising her electrified sword as thunder clouds once again began to populate the area.

Surprised, Aileen had little time to react. Seeing the lifted blade wrapped in electric currents, she instinctively shielded herself with her own spiritual weapon, and the pattern of gleaming blood vessels on her body changed noticeably.

"Go!", Naoko shouted, as she did, a lightning bolt came crashing down to the two combatants, the bolt struck down only a few metres from them, it's power forcibly exploding outwards, creating a blinding flash of light and an extremely loud bang. Naoko, who had to shield her eyes from the light, removed her arm away from her eyes, searching to see any signs of her opponent.

Did it work?, she thought to herself, more electricity flowed through the Balancer's blade as she slowly approached the crater that her attack created.

Part 3

Inaba City, Human World. Night.

The moon had only recently taken its place on stage, illuminating the skies over Japan. Atop a hill overlooking Inaba city there was a shrine, and in the center of that shrine there was a sword. Raised high and embedded in a small pile of stones, it had been a landmark for the city, its very own King Arthur story, for no one could ever remove the sword from its place, despite how loosely it appeared to be held in place. Overt attempts to remove the rocks or the sword had not worked either, making it a rather popular mystery among the locals and a tourist attraction for outsiders. Tonight, that was to change.

The weapon began to rustle and vibrate, its corners lit up with purple light, and then a plume of dark smoke burst from every hole in the gathered pile of stones. It clouded the small shrine, its fog-like form spilling out onto the ground outside the shrine, its form so thick that the wind could not dissipate or direct its flow. A beam shot forth from the Heavens, crashing down upon the shrine, obliterating the small building in the process. A pulse launched outward from the impact, racing below and above the tree covered hill, uprooting and destroying many of the great wooden towers as it raced outward. It blew through the city, its initial impact destroying weaker partitions of concrete and shattering many glass windows, though its ferocity died down the further it flew it still caused such a reaction as to knock out every light in the city.

In the heart of the city centre, was the Musō Dōjō, a moderately sized hall with a design that blended the modern and traditional designs of Japanese archiecture, an obviously expensive building despite its size.

The inside of the dōjō was full of life and energy, numerous Kendōka were in the process of their Randori session, while they did so, numerous spectators watched them from the sidelines, sitting on long benches lining the wall, on one of these benches sat a tall young woman, she sat with her arms folded, sleeping, her black and red tipped hair covering her eyes as her head hung down slightly. She wore a simple red, short sleeved shirt, blue jeans held up by a black belt and straw sandals. As the randori session ended, the woman was approached by one of the Kendōka, who was in the process of removing his helmet. He was only a few years younger than the woman, his most striking feature was his hair colour, which was a shade of extremely light grey, he had blue eyes and his face was rather thin and sharp looking, despite his hair being rather messy due to the helmet he was previously wearing, it looked mainly flat with a spiky fringe which ended just before his blue eyes. As the young man approached the sleeping woman, a glint of mischief shone in his eyes.

The man went to his sports bag, removing a small packet of mitarashi dango's, he grinned as he opened the plastic wrapping and took one of the dumpling sweets, turning to the sleeping woman.

"Hey Kaede!", the man exclaimed loudly, he started eating the dango as she woke up with a jolt, in shock of the man's loud voice and the fact he was eating her favourite snack. She swiftly took out a lengthy line gauge from her own bag while her friend made a gagged on the dango he ate.

*Thwack*

"Ow!", the man said, rubbing the now red line that was on his face as Kaede snatched the rest of the dango.

"That's what you get when you eat my Dango's Haiiro", Kaede stated, taking a bite out of one of the dumplings. Haiiro responded with a cheery laugh before replying.

"It was worth a ruler to the face to see that look on your face", Haiiro sniggered, which earned him another smack to the face with Kaede's ruler. "I wish I didn't have to eat that dango though, blegh", Haiiro finished, massaging the new ruler indent on his face while clearing his throat.

Just as it had through out the rest of the city, the shockwave reverberated through out the clear wood floors and stylized walls. To the others in the dōjō it would have just been a powerful tremor, to Haiiro and Kaede it was far more, the invisible force passed through them like a sickness, their bodies instinctively heaved as if to throw up, but they fell short of actually doing so. In amongst the illness they could feel spiritual energy, was this spiritual pressure?

Though she could tell Haiiro felt it just as she did, Kaede couldn't help but ask the obvious. "You feel that?"

"Of course, you idiot.", Haiiro replied, his attempt at a lighthearted insult fell flat due to his demeanor changing rapidly, he had a grim look on his face as the two of them kept alert while the other dōjō members were in a panic.

"Let's get movin'", Kaede whispered, Haiiro, who had just took off his protective armour, leaving him in his Kendogi and his Hakama, firmly nodded. The two headed outside where they made their way towards the source of the sickening spiritual pressure via Hirenkyaku.

"You have your Seele Schneider's don't you?", Haiiro asked.

"'Course", Kaede bluntly replied, the spiritual pressure was numbing, causing both Quincies to shudder slightly as they approached it.

From the beam of light piercing the hill, a man had appeared, dressed in very old fashion garb that resembled the ancient Song Dynasty military uniform with a jeonbok worn over it that evoked a visual style not unlike the former Captains of the Gotei 13. He had slicked back grey hair and enough wrinkles to make most elderly men thankful that they had as few as they did.

"To be blessed with such beauty, after so long in darkness, truly this is miraculous", the man called aloud, his hands stretching wide to emphasize his point.

The two Quincies suddenly reached the location of the man, both of them poised and ready for any sudden movements that could occur, they both took a deep breath as they faced the unknown man.

"Hn? I could'a sworn someone was down there", spoke Kaede, her eyes surveying the summit of the now-destroyed shrine.

Behind them stood the man, entirely invisible to their senses. His hands weaved across the air in an intricate pattern, the movements nor his clothes making a single peep. The moment he finished, his body pressed forward, wading across the sky to stand right behind them. With such proximity he could now be felt but he sealed the deal by resting a hand on either Quincy's shoulder.

A simultaneous shiver ran up their spines before they instinctively bolted forward, twirling on their own axes in order to face the man once again.

Taking note of how well the duo moved, Zhong nonetheless put the finishing touches on the motions he had started before. "You will not mar my view", he spoke before a flash of spiritual energy erupted on either Quincy and their bodies subsequently burst into flames.

Kaede barrelled out of the smoke cloud surrounding her, the signature light of Blut Vene active across the veins beneath her skin. Her Spirit Weapon had manifested, and she quickly took aim in her continued descent, unleashing a series of Heilig Pfeil not long after.

The elderly man had already responded in kind, both of his hands weaving patterns into the sky, though this time not in rhythym. The tips of his fingers began to shine on his right hand before five massive snake-like forms emerged from them, each colliding with a series of oncoming spirit arrows. They exploded with the collision, only to emerge with twice their numbers to continue the chase after the female Quincy.

His opposite hand had finished its own formation, a large spike of earth had manifested itself into being right in front of him and with the slightest touch it shot forth towards Haiiro who had since landed on the ground below. It shot forth towards the recovering Quincy, who had only sustained minor burns, looking up to see the massive spike, he cursed as he summoned his spirit bow, firing a dozen Heilig Pfeil's at the floor in front of him, immediately following his attack Haiiro leaped backwards, closing his eyes. The arrows he fired went from their natural blue colour to a jet black, the immediately sprang to life, wrapping themselves around the rapidly approaching spike, impeding it's progress. Taking the opportunity, Haiiro re-summoned his Spirit Bow and started to fire upon the struggling spike, which was destroyed after a few charged shots.

"Tch, Kage Yajirushi!", Haiiro exclaimed, firing off a number of already black arrows at the man.

An arm shot downward and another shot upward from the man, the ground right beneath Haiiro's feet severed itself from the rest of concrete, sectioning itself into three slates, they shot upward, one after the other, one behind him trying to punch him forward, one in front of him to cave him in and the third to rise up right beneath him to shoot him into the air. While that distracted him, Zhong simply moved out of the way of the oncoming blackened bolts, a single step of Shunpo transporting him a fair distance away.

Kaede continued to flit through the sky, each time her Heilig Pfeil destroyed an oncoming snake, it only turned into more, until at last she gave up on trying to force them away. As she closed in on the upper stories of an apartment building, she activated her Blut Vene once again in order to punch through a window with her body, the glass doing little to harm her hardened skin. She repeated this process in order to escape the building as soon as the fire snakes entered, a look of shock dawning on her when the the entire room seemed to erupt into flame at the slightest touch.

She shook her head, seeing a spare moment, and drew out a Gintō tube from a bulky pouch attached to the back of her waist. She grasped it in both hands before interlocking her fingers and gathering as much Reishi as she could from the air. "Denizens of the Heavens hear my call, aid those in my care for I am unable, protect them for I am weak, fight for them for I am afraid, Reichsadler!", she chanted before throwing her hands wide open.

The Gintō exploded into a violent light and then gave way to several small hawk-shaped birds flying outward into the sky. Once far enough away the birds changed their path and started to converge on Sun Zhong at lightning pace.

Taking a chance, Kaede drew another tube only for the snakes to have recovered, bursting out of every possible exit in the apartment, some even melting the walls to forge a path. Caught off guard the Gintō fell out of her grip when she tried to dart away, one of the snakes collided with the tube causing the contents to explode into a shower of blue liquified spiritual particles. Instead of the violent reaction she expected, the snakes caught under it simply dissipated.

Meanwhile, Haiiro had managed to escape from the three pillars of earth, he turned to see his partner in pursuit with a number of the fire snakes he saw before, he turned and started to catch up to her using Hirenkyaku, firing a couple of Heilig Pfeil's from one hand in an attempt to distract Sun Zhong as he passed.

The man had bypassed the arrows in a matter of seconds, appearing right in front of him to interdict his advance. To prevent further movement away from him, he simply grabbed the boy by the collar of his clothes and pulled him close.

"How strong are you, really?", he asked as their bodies became illuminated by the approaching Reishi eagles that Kaede had formed.

"Haiiro, move!", Kaede screamed as she took notice of the event, but by then it was too late and the swarm of birds impacted against both parties, engulfing them in a powerful explosion. As she started to move towards the cloud that was summoned by the explosion, she saw a figure move out of the proximity, she paused, waiting.

"What was that for!?", Haiiro shouted from below, he sounded slightly annoyed but his voice was rather lighthearted. His veins were bulging with reiatsu as he stood up, inspecting his injuries, which weren't too heavy, though the burns were clear and steam rose from across his form. Kaede, while relieved at her friend's safety, reproached Haiiro's comment.

"Next time be more attentive, idiot!", she fumed, pacing back and forth in a mood, Haiiro, who had been laughing at her while she reacted, turned back towards the dust cloud.

The cloud did not dissipate, instead it expanded, its colour once grey become purple as it exploded outward in an attempt to consume both of the Quincy combatants. Kaede moved backwards instinctively to keep out of its reach, with Haiiro reciprocating her movements, they both outmaneuvered the cloud, going above it and meeting together.

"We need to get serious. He's going to go all out now", Haiiro murmured, Kaede, still in a mood, replied with a small nod, looking upon Zhong as they prepared themselves.

"Damn it, I didn't wanna use this so early", she moaned with annoyance unfitting of the situation. Her body broke down into particles of energy, flowing into a see of violet-red that raced towards Haiiro, taking the shape of an ornate katana once it had reached his hand.

"Be careful, Haiiro, we still don't know what this guy is", she warned.

Above, the purple cloud opened up to reveal the elderly man, as if he was welcoming them. Though it wasn't long before he leaped out towards them to attack with his unusually shaped dagger. The two clashed briefly before both trailing away from each other, a line of purple smoke trailing out of Zhong's dagger, Haiiro, noticing this, back away and turned around.

That smoke? Crap, this is going to be bad., Haiiro thought, as he went to attack again, he held his breath in preparation, the two opponent's exchanged numerous blows against each other, with more fog emanating every time they struck, forcing Haiiro to retreat after every attack, as he once again retreated out of the fog's reach, he started to gasp for breath.

"Oi Haiiro, you okay?", Kaede asked.

"Yeah, don't worry about me, I'll be just fine.", he replied before holding his breath again, ready to strike.

"Hold your breath as long as you can, boy", with a heavy swing of his blade a massive cloud rose from the blade, consuming Haiiro in its dark form. It blew all around him with the wind, trying to force him to inhale its malcontented air.

Repeatedly Zhong formed a cross with his left hand in the air, each time forming that same cross from a different starting point, four times in total. His hand ignited with flame that quickly died out and refocused as a tiny and nearly invisible dot on the center of his palm. That insignificant seeming point then emitted an inferno from Zhong's hand to engulf the smog that had engulfed the boy, igniting them both.

Shooting out of the cloud, smoldering, Haiiro landed heavily on the ground, coughing repeatedly as the cloud burned into the atmosphere.

"Haiiro?", Kaede asked, the young Quincy had not stopped coughing since his retreat, his skin was becoming extremely pale and clammy, and he gained bags under his eyes.

"Breathed... in... gas", Haiiro managed to splutter out between coughs, he finally was able to stop violently coughing, weakly standing up, his whole body shaking.

"Shit", he murmured before suddenly being intercepted by Zhong, who after colliding blades with Haiiro again easily knocked Kaede's weapon form out of his hands. Before he was able to counter with his spirit weapon, Zhong performed an upward slash with his blade, creating a wound that marked Haiiro's chest.

Kaede reconverted the kishi that made up her body into Human form, rushing to her partner's side. "H-Haiiro?", she spoke shakily herself, her eyes caught wind of the blood and the moment her mind processed it she locked up. She became still, almost frozen, apart from the physical shaking her body went through. Her skin turned pale and her eyes had widened in shock. A singular set of memories playing over and over in her head as a result of seeing that crimson liquid seeping from her teammate's wound.

"Pathetic", Zhong spoke with disdain, his blade spun in hand before being placed into a uniquely-shaped sheath. He widened his footing and took up a stance with which to prepare one last spell. His motions caused an extremely thin cut to open in the earth not far from the injured and frozen Quincy, a sheet of black flames poured out, standing over them like a wall. The following motions created a second and third cut in the dirt and equally thin walls of flame.

The moment before he created the next, a trio of Balancers arrived. two of female and another male. Standing out ahead of her two comrades, and with her arms in front of her, one hand balled into a fist against a flat palm, she bowed to Zhong.

"Zhong-Taishō, we have no more time, we must leave", she spoke with seeming haste.

The man glanced at the woman once before returning his gaze to his prey. He pushed air out of his nostrils and abandoned his stance, the already formed parts of his spell crumbling in response.

"Fine", he replied. And with that, they vanished.

Part 4

Vienna, Human World. Afternoon.

Meanwhile, far away in the distant Europe, two peculiar individuals were walking down a street in the capital city of Austria. One of them was an impressively built, bald giant with a well-trimmed dark brown beard and piercing pale blue eyes, wearing an elegant white suit. The other one was a tall, slender young man in navy blue jeans and a black hoodie, his face concealed by the hood. Both of them were holding several shopping bags heavy with groceries.

"Why don't we buy a car?", asked Karl Schwarzwald with mild irritation.

"We do not need one, Karl", replied Anders Schäfer calmly. "In the time of peace we should enjoy every minute of our lives. As a native inhabitant of this city, you should appreciate its architecture and sympathise with its people as we walk its marvellous streets."

"It's so mundane it hurts", retorted Karl, glancing to the side. "I'd rather watch TV", he added after a while.

Anders shook his head slowly with a solemn expression on his face.

"So young, yet so gloomy and cynical. I think I should teach you how to appreciate the God's greatest gift: life", he stated.

"Please don't", blurted Schwarzwald in response.

Schäfer was about to say something, but he paused. Immediately afterward Karl noticed something as well. There was some kind of commotion not that far away from them. Using their enhanced spiritual awareness the two incognito Quincy could sense a concentration of negative energy on a large nearby square. They heard some indeterminate noise, which was then interrupted by two short, abrupt booms.

Gunshots.

"It seems the inhabitants of Vienna are in peril", said Anders, who subsequently straightened up rapidly and dropped the shopping bags. "Come with me! We shall hury!", he addressed Karl.

"Again?", replied the younger Quincy.

The clouds in the sky surrounded the city in an odd formation, an impromptu circle focused on a specific point, its eye marked a particular point in the midst of an old park not far from the commotion being generated by gun fire.

"Well, that's new", commented Karl.

Anders looked in the direction of the gunfight, and then the odd event on the sky.

"It appears something serious is about to occur", said Schäfer solemnly.

"Police will take care of the gunfight", stated Karl as he was turning unhurriedly to look at the changed clouds. "That is something we should take care of."

"You are right, my young friend", replied Anders after a short hesitation. "Let us go."

Ignoring the bystanders, who at the moment were mostly occupied with the gunfight, the two left the groceries and vanished with the use of Hirenkyaku. After a while they appeared in the old park, which seemed to be the epicentre of the strange event. The two Quincies were able to sense some vague, peculiar Reiatsu, but did not see anything abnormal. The people scattered around them seemed anxious and were looking around, trying to spot something.

"I've got a bad feeling about this", said Karl.

"Shush!", silenced him Schäfer, a frown of concentration on his intimidating face.

The center of the odd spiritual energy exploded, a massive pillar of light emerging from what had seemingly been an ordinary rock formation. The stone had been ripped apart by the energy coming down upon, revealing a Podao that was trapped within its confines. A transparent figure, a man, had also appeared, steadily becoming more physical as time went on.

"No, no, no, y-you're too brigh- too big", the man stammered out as if talking to the pillar of light. His hands fidgeted between all kinds of gestures, trying to assuage the light of its brightness. "Come, come on, you gotta calm down, we're gonna get caught", the man continued to plead.

He repeated himself over and over, each time getting a little less coherent until he realized that it was futile. His head drooped down for a second before his fist raised and struck the ground with powerful force.

The ground cracked a fair distance around him and a shockwave rippled out beneath him, "I SAID SHUT UP!", the man roared. The beam of spiritual energy did indeed dissipate following his over display of force, but not without emitting an audible shriek across the city. The mundane people could not hear the sound, but it effected them all the same, all across the streets people collapsed into unconsciousness.

For those of a higher power like the Quincy, the experience was less extreme but all the more painful. The screech echoed through their bodies with a terrible force, seemingly ripping apart the very atoms that made up their bodies.

The man that had caused this effect, stood firm, clearly unaffected by it.

Karl swayed as if drunk, and Anders slanted forward before regaining his stance. The latter looked around at the unconscious bystanders. Then, both of them fixed their stare at the newcomer.

"Who are you, intruder?", inquired Schäfer in a stern tone, two drops of sweat flowing on his forehead.

Turning to face the Quincy that was questioning him, Hyo gave them an obvious once over with his why before his firm posture quickly broke down, once again he turned into a sniveling wreck. "Um... Eh... No, that's not it, I'm... Uh... Just passing by", he spoke at a slow place, stopping every word or two to backtrack as the gears shifted in his mind.

He stopped himself, shaking his head and holding a hand out so that the men before him knew to wait. He gathered his thoughts, swallowed his fear, and said it straight. "I am Mamoru Nakatani of the Balancers of Souls", he hammered a thumb across his chest to further to denote himself as if the gesture would somehow make him seem all the more grandiose.

He stood like that for several moments before realizing his own mistake at which point a puddle of sweat began to wash over him. "No, wait, no, no..."

Once again he shook his head, then he took a breath and started over. Drawing his arms to his sides and motioning forward into a simple, modest bow. "I am Hyo Seung, Marshal of the North of the Balancers of Souls, formerly of Gojoseon".

"Ou-kaaay", replied Karl, rather perplexed.

Then, he took off his hood, at last revealing his face: it was oval, with high cheekbones and a deathly grim expression etched onto it. His cold green eyes were piercing the Balancer with unnerving intensity. Below the right one, there was a small tatoo: "影", meaning "shadow" in Japanese.

"I'm Karl Schwarzwald, Stern Ritter "S" of the Wandenreich", he stated in a calm manner.

"And I am Anders Schäfer, Stern Ritter "H"", added the latter Quincy with solemnity. "What brings you here, Herr Seung, and why have you incapacitated the inhabitants of this city?", he inquired in a tone suggesting suppressed anger.

"Ah? Uh, t-that wasn't me, that was the light, um... I was trying to make it stop being so bright and big so I didn't get spotted", Hyo responded to the elder Quincy's questioning, dropping in and out of his stammering all the while. Eventually he found enough time to simply stop and take a breath, becoming far more calm in the process.

"I was a prisoner... Of the Gotei 13", he began speaking with honesty. "My friends and I only recently got free, and I'd really like to see them", he continued. His hands were gesturing constantly as he spoke, as if he was trying to impose a non-spoken language into his words.

"I don't suppose you'll just let me go, will you?".

The two Quincy looked at each other. Anders raised an eyebrow, and Karl shrugged his shoulder's in response. Then, the older man glanced back at the Balancer.

"Sadly, we cannot allow you to leave", he said after a short while. "As the assigned protectors of this city, we are obliged to bring you to our superior for questioning."

"Tough luck", added Karl.

"I see....", Hyo quietly murmured, he slowly got into a fighting stance, holding his Podao with both of his hands, releasing a sizable amount of spiritual power while doing so. He sprung forward quickly, as he approached the two Quincies, spinning round on his axis in an attempt to perform a horizontal slash.

Somewhat surprised by that abrupt manoeuvre, the Quincy were nonetheless quick to react. Schäfer sallied and lifted his left arm, grabbing the blade of Seung's blade with strength sufficient to immediately stop it. In the meantime, Karl had changed his stance and a silver forked cross glinted briefly in his left palm. Then, he was suddenly aiming a modern assault rifle equipped with a bayonet directly at the Balancer's head.

"Shooting from the hip now, eh?", he asked in a stern manner.

"We would like to escort you without the use of violence, but we shall respond with appropriate force should you insist", stated Anders gravely, his blood vessels gleaming menacingly with his aquamarine Reishi.

Hyo didn't reply, he started moving his free hand in numerous obscure ways, after a couple of seconds, Hyo summoned his strength, ripping his Podao out of Anders' hand, leaving a mere graze while also touching Karl's shoulder with his other hand.

"Haretsu.", Hyo whispered, as he did a small bullet of compressed air shot from the hand touching Karl, causing a small shockwave to rocket through all 3 combatants.

Blown away by the technique, Karl leapt into the air and landed a medium distance from the Balancer, whereas Anders merely slid a couple of metres backward. Then, the older Quincy grabbed the right sleeve of his suit and tore it off, revealing a silver bracelet on his forearm.

"As you wish", he said, lifting the arm.

Without a warning an ornate crossbow formed on the limb, its barrel pointed at Seung. There was a short, electric sound and an electrified bolt of energy burst forth from the spiritual weapon, aimed at Hyo's chest.

Hyo's hand dragged back, the fingers jutted out like the frame of snake fangs, before shooting forth. In the space between them, his Reiatsu became visible, and then hardened over the incoming bolt of Reishi, stopping it dead in is tracks mere inches from piercing through him. Just like that, he returned the bolt to Anders as a diamond-shaped spear of ice.

The middle-aged Quincy widened his eyes when struck by the deflected attack. Hit directly into his chest, his white suit was torn and the man himself was forced to slide backward another few metres. In the meantime, however, Karl had been preparing undeterred.

"A silver rod strikes the five-fingered stone bed", he declared, holding a small silver tube in his right hand.

Then, he simply dropped the item, a trail of glowing light blue liquid following it as it was falling. Once it reached the ground, it sunk into Schwarzwald's shadow and disappeared.

"Gritz", he finished.

Light grey spiritual fabric erupted from behind Seung, enclosing him in a man-sized coffin adorned with a Quincy cross.

The Balancer's sword cut through the Gintō-formed enclosure cleanly and with very little difficulty. The following motion cleaved through the formation, though it caused it to break apart instead of simply cutting it. When the spell had fallen apart, Hyo had appeared, though not within its confines.

He had proven able to move through its smaller openings and had already made his way over to the source of the spell, from behind the second Quincy he appeared, already in the midst of performing a drop kick to Karl's undefended back.

Whereas surprised by the utter inefectiveness of the Gintō spell, Schwarzwald had just enough time to prepare as the Balancer had been freeing himself from it. As such, once attacked from behind, he did not even have to move; with a swift motion he sank into the shadow beneath his feet and vanished.

In the meantime Anders, completely unhindered by the superficial wound on his chest, had been observing the situation attentively. Knowing full well his partner's abilities, the moment he disappeared from the line of fire he shot a bundle of a dozen Heilige Pfeile that scattered slightly as they were approaching Seung.

Noticing the barrage of arrows just in time, Hyo used Shunpo to rapidly dodge and weave through the narrow openings Anders was unable to cover, slowly moving ever so closer towards the Stern Ritter. As he did so, Hyo noticed a number of speeding arrows headed in his direction, he quickly spun his Podao in his hand to block the attacks, pushing him back ever so slightly.

Meanwhile, Karl halted a few metres from Schäfer with the use of Hirenkyaku. None of them let their opponent out of their sight even for an instant.

"That was my only Gintō", stated Schwarzwald.

"I have not brought any Seele Schneider with me", replied Anders in a grim manner.

With so many innocent, unconscious people scattered across the park, and due to the fact they were fighting in the middle of a very large city, he was rather reluctant to use any of his advanced skills to counter the surprisingly strong enemy. Fortunately, thanks to Karl's special power they had other means of combating him.

"Ready?"

"Yes", confirmed the older Quincy quickly.

Without further hesitation Schwarzwald swiftly lifted his left hand and aimed it at his partner's shadow, which proceeded to expand and become darker. Subsequently, Anders began firing a long burst of Heilige Pfeile directly into the shade. Absorbed by the mind-controlled darkness, they were then continuously spout from the numerous shadows surrounding Seung.

The Balancer immediately started to weave past the incessant attacks, using his Podao to actively block the arrows, as he did so, an unsettling smirk arose on his face.

"Is that the best you can do!?", Hyo shouted, as he did so he started to indiscriminately spin and twirl his weapon, while blocking most of the incoming arrows he let some pass, hitting him, despite his injuries Hyo ignored it, finally slamming down the blade of his sword, forming a near translucent, spherical bubble which started to expand, as it did so the arrows started to dissipate as soon as they hit the bubble, protecting Hyo from their attacks.

"Ken'eki.", Hyo murmured, taking his Podao out of the ground he began to charge towards Anders, his blade raised above his head, spinning it as he did so.

Seeing their attack had been ineffective, the older Quincy ceased the barrage, and once Seung charged at him he straightened up and fixed his grim gaze at the incoming enemy. His blood vessels were shining bright with flowing energy.

The spinning blade stopped abruptly mid-motion, drawing close as his arm bent in, his other hand pressing against the tight-gripped fist with an open palm, he collided with the Quincy, though instead of a cut crashing against the power of Blut Vene, it was a concussive hammering shockwave to instead repulse his opponent.

Despite his imposing stature, Anders was lifted off the ground and deflected backward due to the sheer strength of the blow. However, that gave Karl a clear line of sight, and the Quincy was quick to open fire at the Balancer. Continuous burst of spiritual energy arrows started blazing from the barrel of his atypically modern spiritual weapon.

The Balancer had appeared to have collapsed following his attack on the elder Quincy, flying right under the first few Heilig Pfeil as he flopped to the ground, his blade relinquished from its clips with several noteworthy clangs against the ground. Several following bolts impacted against his back, piercing the outer layers of skin and embedding themselves therein. They garnered little in the way of a reaction from Hyo who remained still on the ground.

His hands, obscured from an obvious view by some inconveinent objects on the ground, had begun weaving some form of inscription on the ground, soil was easily marked in though stone proved to be no issue for the spiritual being either, carving through the rock like it was soft butter under the cut of a hot knife.

When he had finished his body shifted in colour, patches turned bright brown before shifting in tone to a more earthy and natural colour, then he sunk into the earth disappearing completely.

The area fell into eery silence.

Surprised and slightly anxious, Karl looked around, the barrel of his rifle following his sight. Then, he leapt upward and landed on miniature platforms of spiritual energy summoned under his feet, standing several metres above the ground. Anders followed his comrade; the tattered remains of his jacket and shirt were hanging freely and fluttering slightly on the faint wind.

"Can you sense his Reiatsu?", he asked his younger comrade.

"He's... somewhere there", stated Schwarzwald. "His signature's become fuzzy."

"He might be retreating", commented Schäfer. "Or preparing an ambush", he added grimly.

To the left, a series of fireballs burst out of a nearby crevice, targetting either Quincy in a lopsided flurry of explosives. One of these blasts contained the Balancer's blade, hidden within the blaze, flying with immense force, and cutting power aided by the intense heat surrounding it.

The Quincy were vigilant, but the abrupt nature and immense speed of the attack left them little time to react. Whereas the fast and nimble Karl was able to evade the barrage thanks to Hirenkyaku, Anders proved too slow to escape. Blut Vene offered him high resistance to damage, but luck was not on his side; while struck with only one of the blasts, it was the one carrying Seung's blade within. Despite his enhanced durability, the force of the attack threw him off balance and severely burnt the left portion of his abdomen.

"Shit!", cursed Schwarzwald when he witnessed that.

Acting impulsively, the injured Quincy shot an overcharged bolt of energy right at the crevice from which the barrage of fire had come.

"You guys are real good", a voice echoed through out the area, carried on the open air by unknown means. The crevice, following Anders' attack was empty, devoid of any source for Seung's previous attack.

"Real good, but, how well do you work when you can't discern what's going on?", the voice continued with unusual lucidity for its assumed speaker, but was nonetheless cryptic in its own way. When the words lost their flow on the wind, Anders found his vision flash bright red for an instant.

"I've got him!", Karl's voice resounded in the elder Quincy's ears, to his sight, Karl had indeed found Hyo, restraining the mud covered Balancer with his own hands, keeping him from fleeing whatever the elder Quincy could throw.

Even though surprised, Schäfer quickly turned around and aimed the Reiniger at the struggling Seung. He was about to fire a powerful bolt of energy, but in the last moment a shadow of doubt was cast on his clouded mind.

When did he grab him?, resounded a question within his psyche, but it was swiftly drowned in some irritating hum and vanished from his consciousness. That is not something Karl would do, warned him the silent voice of reason, but it was too overwhelmed by something elusive that seemed to seep into his mind.

His outstretched arm was shaking as if in fever. Then, he fired a Heilig Blitz at the Balancer with no thought whatsoever.

In truth, Anders had been firing not on the Balancer, but at his partner, to make matters worse. The grass and hardened dirt crumbled beneath Karl's feet, quickly transforming into liquid muck, dragging his feet within and denying him any sort of easy escape from the oncoming attack.

With no other options available, Schwarzwald activated his Blut Vene in the nick of time. However, the power carried by Schäfer's attack was too great to be simply shrugged off, and the bolt of energy vapourised the young Quincy's hoodie and left a large burn wound on his chest.

"Fuck...", Karl gasped, slanting backward.

Anders widened his eyes to their limits. Then, he approached his comrade with a single Hirenkyaku leap and caught him before he could fall limply to the ground.

"He's used... some mind trick...", uttered Schwarzwald, his face contorted in pain.

Even though emotions were virtually boiling within his mind, the older Quincy acted swiftly. With one smooth motion he pulled his colleague out of the mud and slung him over his left shoulder. Afterward, he jumped into the air and suspended himself several metres above the ground.

"Listen... we can't defeat him like that...", continued Karl.

"I shall eradicate him", replied Anders in an intense tone, his sight wandering across the park in the search of the enemy.

The air stretched behind them, unnaturally pulling into the metaphorical foreground, Hyo ripping through it like easily torn fabric to strike at his enemies. His Podao, returned to his grasp in the previous confusion, swung with a heavy audible arc at the occupied Quincy.

Schäfer's behaviour had been a ruse, however. Once freed from the illusion cast by Seung due to the emotional upheaval, he summoned all of his willpower to calm down and put his considerable tactical skills to good use. In truth concentrated on scanning the area with his enhanced spiritual awareness, he leapt forward the moment he sensed a change in Reiatsu behind him, just quick enough to narrowly escape the ambush attack.

Whilst on the move, he rotated around his axis and fired a Heilig Blitz in the enemy's direction.

The Blitz exploded with a ferocious impact on Anders' wind bound opponent, but its aftermath quickly revealed no trace of his foe. He was quickly alerted to his presence by the sharp sting of a blade entering his side, the weight of his own movement pressing him deeper still into its metal embrace.

"Reality doesn't work here friend, I can just about taste your thoughts", a voice whispered by his ear.

Immediately following his ominous message, Hyo leaped backwards a fair distance away from the Quincy he raised his arms as his body started to glow with reiatsu, as it did, the energy he released began to take form into a particularly large spike, as it formed Hyo approached the spike, touching it slightly. In a mere instant, the spike shot off like a rocket in Anders' direction.

In spite of his wounds and with Karl still dangling from his shoulder, Schäfer kept going. Seung's manoeuvre placed him high in the air, with only the darkening sky behind his back. This was exactly what the older Quincy wanted to achieve.

"Hagelfeuer!"

A blinding volley of spiritual bullets erupted from his crossbow and immersed the incoming projectile.

The battlefield settled following that last attack, Hyo had yet again disappeared from sight, though this time no trace of him remained. The atmosphere had calmed.

"I think he's gone", commented Karl all of a sudden.

"I shall...", started Anders gravely.

"...return to the HQ", finished the younger Quincy for him as he jumped back and stood on his own legs, suspended in the air.

His face was stiff and streaks of sweat were flowing on his forehead, but he regaind enough strength to move on his own. Without further comments he waved his left hand in a broad motion, opening a pitch black portal beside himself.

"If he comes back, he'll get us both. We must inform the old geezer and think of a tactic to defeat him", he stated firmly.

Schäfer was watching him intensely, an ominous glow in his piercing blue eyes.

"Very well", he replied at last.

Then, the two quickly entered the portal and disappeared from the World of the Living.

Part 5

Glasgow, Human World. Afternoon.

Wind blew over the crater, dragging the rising clouds of smoke to one side providing the Balancer with a clear view of its contents in the process. The Quincy female was nowhere to be found, instead she had been replaced by a tall man in an immaculate white uniform, his eyes obscured by the black peak of his hat.

A hand drew up to grab that same peak, drawing the hat, and his head, down slightly. "Bonjeur", the man stated towards the woman with a calm tone and heavy French accent.

Aileen had been whisked a fair distance away, six identical looking men now stood in front of her all lined up in a small double row firing line. One last man, bringing the total up to eight, stood next to her, likely the one responsible for her timely rescue.

"Are you unhurt, Madame McFarlane?", the Quincy asked of his comrade. At the same time, the firing line begun its volley, three standing and three kneeling in front, each of them loosed a powerful Heilig Pfeil, that while not massive in size was clearly dense, its bright blue Reishi structure glowing so brightly as to blind the view of anyone looking at them with naked eyes. That volley was followed by a second and a third all aimed at the lightning-wielding Balancer.

"Tch.", Naoko muttered as she swung her blade horizontally, creating a intricate web of static electricity, the arrows collided with the pseudo shield, causing thunder-like rumbles as they did so. Eventually the lightning shield gave way, fizzing out, causing the arrows to continue to soar by Naoko, who had took the time to move out of the way under the protection of the attack's blinding light. She flew the the ground, impaling her sword into it, after a mere second, the earth started to quake as it started to explode in front of Naoko, swiftly making its way towards the new combatants.

Suddenly, there was a faint sound beside her.

Aileen, who had since recovered from the shock caused by the previous attack, stood a few metres from the Balancer. Her jacket was gone, her tank top tattered, and the pale skin of her body singed in several places, but her face was outstretched in a predatory grin.

"Boo.", she uttered as she was pointing her spiritual weapon at the enemy.

Then, a powerful sonic wave erupted from the skull-like barrel of the Clamour.

All eight of the identical Frenchmen followed Aileen's suit, avoiding the incoming tremor of electricity before it could reach them with a quick use of Hirenkyaku. They appeared around the Balancer at various points, waiting a few moments for their comrade's attack to close in before firing their own omni-directional attack of Heilig Pfeil, these ones less bright and dense than the previous.

As the numerous Heilig Pfeil's cascaded down upon Naoko, a large pulse like sound shot out and echoed throughout the area, ripping apart the reishi arrows swiftly, turning them into mere shreds of what they once were. As the arrows dispersed Naoko shot out of the twin's ambush, despite having evaded the breadth of the attack, the right shoulder of her uniform was destroyed, leaving a particularly clear circular mark from where Aileen's attack hit her. Using Shunpo, Naoko maneuvered behind Aileen, she raised her electrified sword high, bearing a small smirk on her face.

"Right back at ya...", Naoko said gently before slashing downwards with her Jiūkǔndao.

She was once again impeded by the Quincy octuplets, one of them having made his way behind Aileen at a moment's notice, a rotating saw-like blade in hand to repel her sword.

"And once more to you, madame", he said flatly as the rest of his family burst in from all directions, buzzing blades swinging.

"Hmph", replied McFarlane briefly before she disappeared with the use of Hirenkyaku.

Sighing slightly, she made a vertical slash upward, creating a electrical charge that spread out in the vicinity shocking the frenchmen, using the time she bought, she shot electricity into the sky, which subsequently crashed around them in a spectacular display of lightning. Reappearing a fair distance away, she sighed as she turned to where the lightning struck.

"You're really making it hard on me, I don't want to fully exert myself just after getting out, all I wanted was a talk.", she said quietly, wiping a bead of sweat of her forehead.

"We'll have plenty of time to talk in the HQ", she heard a feminine voice from behind.

Aileen cocked the Clamour, and the weapon emitted an electronic buzz. Then, a defeaning shockwave erupted from its barrel, cracking the ground beneath the women's feet.

Another firing line was formed on the opposite side and their attacks had returned to their previous density, glowing menacingly as the Heilig Pfeil hurled towards the Balancer.

Naoko, her brow furrowed and face rather angrily contorted, violently slammed the entirety of her Jiūkǔndao's blade into the earth, as electricity surged through the sword, the earth around the young Balancer exploded outwards, repelling and blocking the attacks that Aileen and the Bonheur brothers had directed at her.

Using the cover of the large rock formations that she had blown out of the ground and the explosions caused by the attacks of the Quincies, she immediately used shunpo to maneuver directly in front of Aileen, her blade already crackling with electricity and moving towards the Quincy.

The empowered Heilig Pfeil continued their flight, burrowing through the raised landmasses in order to keep up the attack, though the attack would have been aimed for Aileen during the Balancer's escape, her return in order to attack simply placed her back in the flight path of the arrows of heavenly light.

"Why are YOU in such a rush?", Naoko asked bluntly, her hand on the Quincy's shoulder, immediately after doing so she made a vertical slash, creating a cage like structure of lightning. Quickly escaping it's confines before it completed itself, Naoko wasted no time to check on if the attack succeeded, instead opting to immediately attack the group of brothers, one of her hands raising her Jiūkǔndao to the heavens while she started to perform intricate movements with her other arm, it's flowing movements almost being hypnotising.

After a short while she swung her blade down, it's edge making a screeching sound, as the lightning bolt struck the area of earth that the Bonheur brothers were inhabiting, Naoko positioned her free hand near her head, as if she was attempting to make a vertical slash with a sword.

"Otoko.", Naoko stated firmly, she swung her arm diagonally down, causing a number of small ember-like particles to quickly fly towards the octuplets, who were now obscured from sight with dust to the previous lightning strike. As the embers neared the cloud of dust, the suddenly expanded, creating quite a large chain explosion that shook through the scorched and smoldering ground as it raged.

The French Quincies moved as soon as they realized what was going on, utilizing Hirenkyaku as quickly as they could to escape the chain of explosions forming around them. They emerged away from the cloud shortly after, burns appearing over clothing and visible skin while faint traces of blue shone from beneath their veins.

Still enclosed in the cage of lightning, Aileen was observing them with a dangerous glow in her eyes.

"You're very fast", she spoke of Naoko. "Annoyingly so."

Her attractive face contorted in a hideous frown of barely contained fury. Then, her blood vessels gleamed bright with overflowing energy as she blasted the cage with a potent sonic wave, vapourising it. She promptly rebounded from the ground and vanished with the use of Hirenkyaku, only to reappear a moderate distance behind the Balancer soon afterward.

Clearly enraged, she then launched a burst of overcharged sonic blasts from the Clamour.

Despite swinging around on her axis quickly in response to Aileen's own movement, Naoko's arm was still caught in the radius of Aileen's sonic blasts, obliterating the arm of her uniform and painting impact marks on her now smoldering arm.

"Tch, you can say that of yourself also.", Naoko replied, lifting up her arm and clenching her hand into a fist a couple of times before letting it fall to her side.

As she said so, Naoko immediately started running quickly towards the Quincy, her blade once again flowing with electricity, as she approached Aileen, she made a premature thrusting motion, releasing the electricity in a concise beam which flew towards Aileen.

Still infuriated, the Quincy wanted to continue the assault. However, the battle had been taking its toll on her body; due to the accumulating effects of the damage she had sustained and the usage of Blut Arterie straining her even further, she reacted to the Balancer's counter strike with delay. Unable to defend herself with Blut Vene in time, she was struck by the beam of electricity and fell to the ground, followed by a trail of smoke.

"Madame McFarlane!", yelled Henri-Gustave, who shot into motion after the descending Quincy, a storm of Heilig Pfeil constructed by his brothers following behind him before each drifted onto different courses, Henri-Gustave toward Aileen and the Heilig Pfeil towards the Balancer.

Her eyes narrowing slightly, Naoko started to weave past and through the incessant barrage of arrows that were being shot by the brothers, each and every one of them glowing brightly, as if the energy used to make them was going to explode at a moment's notice. Despite her best efforts, a stray arrow managed to strike her shoulder, causing a small explosion enveloping the Balancer in veil of dust. Leaping forth from the cloud the Quincy's attack created, Naoko used the small window of time she had to direct a bolt of lighting in the Bonheur brothers.

The brothers kicked into motion, each of them making distance from the attack, except for Henri-Ragon, who was forced to draw up his arms to defend his body, Blut Vene activating at the same time. The lightning bolt hammered into his defense, pressing him back and leaving behind deeply scorched flesh and melted clothing.

The other brothers had moved into a perimeter around the once falling Aileen, having been caught by Henri-Gustave. The brothers laid down further continuous fire upon the Balancer in order to prevent any possible attacks at their current range.

Naoko immediately got set to avoiding the Quincies counterattack, using shunpo to weave in and out through the small gaps in their attacks. She maneuvered out of the brother's fire for a mere second, erecting a wall of lighting before the arrows once again started to careen towards her general direction, the ones hitting the defensive wall being absorbed by it. Using the time her shield gave her, Naoko move out of the line of fire, already midway through an attack aimed at the brothers.

The arrows passing by her burst, losing their near-solid form as arrows to become loose particles of Reishi once more. They swarmed into a liquid flame that enveloped the Balancer in an orb of flames. Henri-Gustave, far below his brothers used his free arm, currently burning in the flames of a Gintō tube's liquified Reishi.

By the time the sphere of fire dissipated, the brothers and Aileen were gone, having made their retreat. Gazing upon the point she last saw her opponents, Naoko gently sighed as she sheated her Jiūkǔndao, turning round to look over the destruction that the battle had wrought upon the landscape before disappearing from the vicinity.

End of Chapter
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