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|Balance of Souls: Incursion||Balance of Souls: Relapse||Balance of Souls: Deterioration|
The hours had passed by slowly. Roshan spent his time multitasking, coordinating the contingents of Quincy that remained within Silbern and meeting the requests sent out by Anders from the perimeter they had now set up in the Rukongai. When he wasn't doing that, he was forced to be Vitor's aide in instructing their guest in the Quincy arts. It was the price Roshan had to pay for making the old man break what he considered sacred traditions that should never have entered the hands of anyone not sharing their blood, but that in itself was the price they had to pay for Hikari Maebure's cooperation. The throne room was a mess, its floors covered in glowing blue sigils, silver-white liquid stains, and empty Gintō tubes, as well as the occassional parchment here and there. Though Vitor would be loathe to admit it, Hikari was an exceptionally quick study, which made the practical training easy, if not the ideological part.
"It is done, then", the old man affirmed whilst overlooking a complex sigil embedded into the floor, its shape was flooded with a perfect flow of Reishi in liquid form, a faint light rising from it in a rather soothing glow.
Vitor sighed heavily before ascending the small steps in front of Yhwach's absent throne, the only way to assure he would be taller than Hikari in the act that was to come.
"You have learned of the Quincy arts, its history, and its foundation, but to truly use it, you must be Quincy", the elderly man spoke with reverance for his teachings but obvious dislike for what he was now doing. "Kneel before me so that I might bestow upon you a piece of our king".
The Tsumikami stood tall in front of the elderly Human, his face frozen in a solemn expression. However, the ceremony reminded him of an important event from his distant past, and a smirk lurked in the corners of his lips for a short while.
"Oh, the irony", he said quietly as he was kneeling.
Vitor looked to Roshan who had procured a white sakazuki cup, the Wandenreich's symbol emblazoned within. It was something that always got Roshan to chuckle, the poor saps that designed the Wandenreich's implements clearly had a crippling fetish for their symbols, he would think to himself every time. The cup was filled with water, until Roshan drew a small blade over one of his fingers. A few droplets of blood causes the liquid to turn a muted and discoloured red.
The regent brought the cup to the elderly man who took it in both hands, where it loomed above Hikari for a moment.
"You really gotta make me do it?", Roshan complained while he examined his pricked finger, like a child over a skinned knee.
"It is the role of the king to impart schrift through his blood", Vitor replied without delay, like they'd done this song and dance innumerable times. The old man drooped low, placing the cup before the Tsumikami intended to drink it. A few moments of old rites passed and a cane passing over the Hell-beings shoulder as if he was being knighted.
"I bestow upon you, the letter Y, now drink and let that be the end of it", the old man withdrew from his perch in front of Hikari to take a seat elsewhere in the room where as Roshan had already returned to resting himself against whatever wall was sufficiently flat to be considered comfortable.
"If it was me, I'd have just chucked blood and let you be on your merry way, but the old geezer insisted", he joked.
Maebure drank the blood silently, his scarlet eyes, sharp features of the pale face and long canines disturbingly evocative of a vampire. Then, he stood up with gravitas appropriate for the situation and his formerly noble status. He began regarding his hands, feeling the peculiar beverage coursing through his body.
"You have kept your word", he stated calmly. "I intend to live up to my end of the bargain as well."
"No need to overwork yourself, pal", remarked Roshan with some degree of sarcasm.
"You already held up your part, Lurch is chaperoning my kids while they go play pachinko", he referred to their journey in passing with metaphor, though his cheery tone made it difficult to discern if he was simply being vague because he could or if he was purposefully skirting a series topic.
Vitor, nonetheless, scoffed at his choice of metaphor, "Please, at least pick something a little more dignified than parlor games", his aged voice complained.
"Alright, I'll go for shogi next time", the man shrugged in response. As if to follow the swaying tension in Roshan's muscles, the room suddenly darkened in atmosphere, the same feeling entering each other minds.
It was a moment later that the instruments Timothy Jones setup caused a series of alarms to blare at full volume through out the icy fortress, but its point had been moot, even the weakest of the spiritually aware could feel the presence that had just entered Soul Society.
Roshan silently pushed himself from the wall and began making his way towards the exit, Vitor joining him.
"You're welcome to stick around, of course", he said last with a dismissive wave of his hand towards their guest.
Hikari stared at the man's back with his eyes narrowed in a sinister expression. Then, he followed him unhurriedly.
The Rukongai Defense Line, Soul Society.
A defensive perimeter had been set up in preparation for an attack by the Balancers of Souls. Soldat were moved in, barricades and equipment were setup and the Souls living there were flushed out elsewhere in the meantime. The defense was centered around four points, a wall in each of the cardinal directions, each of them set in the 45th Rukongai of their respective districts.
The 45th Southern Rukongai, Kōon (高音, High-Pitched Tone) was in the care of Ho-jin Kwon.
Atop a roof on one of the few buildings on the outskirts of this district were three Quincy, two of them at with their backs to the expansive forest that covered the wild parts of the area whilst another faced it. He was a young man, with bright bronze hair. He stood tall on his own two feet, his goggles and beret held loosely in his right hand. His head cocked back slightly as he breathed in a grand intake of the spiritually charged air. Then he snored.
Upon hearing this, one of the Quincy left their perch to march over the rickety tiles of the building, delivering a powerful smack of a gloved hand to the sleeping Soldat's head.
"Adonai, you retard, we could be attacked at any moment!", he screeched at the top of his lungs.
"Ow, ow, ow!", jumping awake, Adonai was quick to cover the afflicted spot with both hands, whilst he shifted around comically as if to ease the pain through dance. "I'm sorry, Donner, its just, all this waiting around made me kinda sleepy", he apologized, though the tear in his eyes and the goofy grin he flashed left Donner feeling... unappeased.
Their complaining could be heard across the other rooftops and emplacements used by the Wandenreich forces, at the same time a yellow field of energy took shape amongst the trees that had gone unobserved. It took physical form, going from a yellow panel to an ethereal door that slid open to reveal several individuals sharing a uniform and wielding a variety of blades. Two similiar looking women, differentiated from the masses by the plates of armour they wore, stood at the front. One of them held out a rather large sword, its edge covered by a sheath.
"By the book, everyone, cut them down to the last", she commanded.
"Of course they had to come here", grumbled Kwon from his position.
The Sternritter was observing the arrival of the enemy from a moderate distance, hidden in an alley between two huts. There were a few Soldaten accompanying him, their stance and Reiatsu signatures indicating apprehension and readiness.
"You know what to do", continued Ho-jin, this time activating a small device that allowed him to communicate with the local detachment of troops, spread around the sector. "Shower them with arrows, maintain distance and lead them into chokepoints. Rinse and repeat", he commanded.
Subsequently he raised his left arm outstretched, a small Quincy cross dangling from a chain he was holding in the hand. The trinket flashed as it summoned the Sternritter's spiritual weapon, an elaborate, metallic bow with frame in the shape of a hexagon.
"Get ready", he whispered, peeking at the Balancers from behind a corner, his bow glowing with charging energy.
The Balancers flooded in from the forest to attack, flinging themselves at the Quincy's position with reckless abandon. Casualties became immediately evident, for both sides.
The three man squad at the front were an easy target, with Donner having been cut down by a tall woman cleaving through him with a pair of axes, she continued swinging like a cross between a maddened berserker and a spinning top, almost delivering the same fate to Adonai before being engulfed in blue light.
"T-that was close", said the last member of Adonai's squad, his Spirit Weapon formed over his shoulder in a form resembling a cannon or rocket launcher.
"Yeah... thanks!", Adonai gave thanks amidst getting rid of the lump that formed in his throat from shock. He formed his own Spirit Weapon in hand, a pair of trench knives, before giving his surroundings a clear look.
They were surrounded by hundreds of Balancers that were rushing beyond them to strike at the more numerous positions, all that was driving them was a need for carnage and bloodshed. Another Balancer landed on the house, and again they were sweeped off in the blue light of the Soldat's Spirit Weapon.
"Cover me Adonai, I need time to form Heilig Pfeil", he yelled as yet another arrived. Adonai was quick to leap to action, his knives cutting through the Balancer's neck in an instant.
"Hey! Did you se-", he was cut short by a fist impacting his ribs and the subsequent force that launched him through the air into a nearby house. He let out a single yelp before the building collapsed on top of him.
The lone Soldat's expression was undiscernable from behind his mask but his attempts to recline from his position made it clear he was scared. His weapon had yet to charge, and it didn't really matter as he began to feel a crushing weight atop his shoulders causing the building to collapse beneath his feet.
He hit the floor and activated Blut Vene in order to protect himself from whatever came next but the strength of his defense did little to impede the sword that pierced his throat.
"...Sorry", said Fang as she looked at the man dying under her blade, a pained expression clear on her face. Appearing on a roof adjacent to her was Zhang, clearly annoyed by her sister's apologetic demeanour.
"Stop apologizing, they're the enemy Fang", she stated before drawing her eyes to the front in search of an enemy.
"Yeah... Sorry", Fang said again causing her sister's gaze to squint in annoyance. Fang leapt from the lower level, flipping onto the roof rather dramatically, to land in front of her sister her bload soaked sword already pointing ahead of them.
"The strongest guy is over there", she stated with no hint of doubt.
"How do you know?", her sister questioned with skepticism.
"I don't suck at everything you know", Fang replied, puffing up her cheeks defensively. The duo vanished from view as they took to using Shunpo.
A fair distance away, Ho-jin's position had yet to be struck as the battering ram that were the Balancers attempted to force their way through the more cunning positions taken by the Quincy. Then he was faced with a loud screech of metal rushing through rock as two swords on either side of him pierced through the wall he had been using for cover, they drew inward like a pair of guillotine's with the intent of splitting him in half.
"Son of a...!", the Sternritter exclaimed, nearly caught off-guard.
He leapt away with the use of Hirenkyaku, his squad following suit with a slight delay. With no further word spoken, all of the Quincy aimed their bows at the building and unleashed a volley of Heilige Pfeile that utterly demolished it in an instant.
The 45th Eastern Rukongai District, Kanekane (钟鐘, Bell Chime) had been placed under the care of Carmen Abandonato. Like the other districts, its fortifications had been built through out the streets, the houses were emptied and used as the Wandenreich saw fit. The Quincy largely stuck to the ground in the district, hidden behind their manmade barricades, they sat on a rotation set up by the commanding Sternritter, an efficient intake of Reishi that let them keep whatever they needed at the ready without draining even the rich environment of Soul Society. They had eyes in a few rickety watchtowers that dotted the area, observing all of the possible entry points that the Balancers could have. Their eyes only got sharper when they began to feel the presences in the South.
A two-story house had been procured as the base of Carmen's operations in Kanekane, its lower floor had guards posted and the upper floor was where she dwelled. It remained relatively untouched from its prior family-housing setting, though a table in the center of the room had its chairs filled by the unusual forms of two Arrancar. Porcelian cups resting in front of them with steaming hot tea filling the contents.
"Drink up Cielo-kun, Redención-kun", chirped the Sternritter with a voice of sugar and teddy bears. The two Arrancars rather uncharacteristically glanced back at the Sternritter, not replying to her words.
Meanwhile, the forces of the Detention Corps were advancing in a slow and purposeful manner. Marching through the deserted alleys were grim and stalwart warriors. Even though not nearly as numerous as the Interdiction Corps, they were strong, disciplined and relentless men and women, former guardians, seasoned and hardened after decades and centuries of maintaining high-security prisons and performing duties in the Hell itself. Whilst not trained for regular warfare, they were more than competent at subduing powerful and devious opponents.
"Disgusting", commented Nakatani with a frown on her attractive, yet firm face. "This is what happens when people of Earth attempt to overthrow the Heaven. We shall put them in their place... in Hell."
Soon afterward, the Balancers began halting. There was a period of ominous silence.
"They are waiting for us, Milady", pointed out Máo Yǒng, the focussed gaze of his cold eyes seemingly piercing through the buildings and barricades which stood in its path.
"Of course", replied the Colonel with a hint of irritation. "They are attempting to defend themselves from trained defenders. I know exactly what they plan. Balancers, prepare to fire the first barrage!", she yelled toward her men dispersed across the area.
The troopers did not reply, for no reply was necessary. Instead, they promptly began making gestures and drawing ethereal symbols in the air, preparing ancient Kadō spells. Ren and her deputy joined them in the unusual ceremony. Soon, there were numerous glowing marks of fire suspended in the air all around the district.
"Fire!", commanded the Colonel.
Countless large fireballs burst forth into the air with a defeaning roar nigh simultaneously. However, their upright flight was short-lived, as the fiery projectiles soon reached the apex of their trajectories and subsequently started descending right on the foremost positions taken by the Quincy. As the spells descended, two loud booming noises came from out of the main building, a fair distance away, two figures suddenly appearing as the fireballs descended.
"Wish we could of finished our tea first.", the first individual with the remnants of a mask on his jaw said.
"The tea was shit Cielo, plus I know ya wanted these guys to come sooner.", his partner replied, his left eye covered by an ivory white and blue mask remnant, the circular eye hole showing nothing but darkness.
"You're right Redención, ah well, too bad I guess.", Cielo sighed in response, throwing his arms up in defeat before looking towards the army of enemies that stood before them.
"FIRE!", a repeated command. Numerous squad leaders amongst the Soldat delivered the orders to their men and in short order the words bore fruit. Careening skyward were an onslaught of blue arrows of all shapes and sizes, rising to meet the firestorm that descended upon them.
The sky was alight with ignitions, several fireballs had exploded as did many of the arrows. Some were extinguished, and the sturdier ones simply rolled through them, breaking the spiritual fletchettes like twigs as they continued on the warpath. Though the brunt had been stunted, several of the flaming orbs still hit their mark, igniting fortification and housing alike and some of the white-clad soldiers with them.
Standing outside of the building she had been using as a command post, Carmen observed the chains of fire in the sky whilst finishing off her own cup of tea, quickly pawning off the empty mug onto a nearby Soldat once she had consumed its contents.
"What a pity, they didn't even finish", Carmen spoke to herself, feigning a mix of disappointment and bemusement.
"They are professionals, Milady", commented Máo Yǒng whilst observing the display of lethal fireworks in the sky.
"I know", responded Ren with a frown. "Balancers, prepare for the second barrage!", she commanded shortly.
This time, rather than fire spells individually, the troopers assembled into teams of six. Then, each unit started a collaborative effort, every member performing the same gestures in nearly perfect unison with the rest. The Balancers weaved with their arms and jutted their palms with their fingers outstretched, all of them aimed at a single point above them. Subsequently, each group launched a large fiery serpent, Zunōka Akudō, homing Kadō spells directed at the places from where came the greatest resistance to the first barrage, as they did so, a returning barrage of not only arrows but rectangular silver blocks of Reishi flew up to meet them in the air, with the faster arrows uselessly bouncing off the fireballs, the powerful Gintō spells met with the Kadō spells previously fired by the Balancers, the large silver blocks of Reshi managing to crash into the fire snakes, seemingly causing them to explode in midair, however as they did, numerous more snakes erupted from the remnants of the last and resumed their descent.
"I wonder if the Soldat have even bothered moving yet?", Cielo mused, before he could properly mock the Quincy Soldat, Redención leaned over and tapped the other Arrancar on the shoulder.
"I would if we should move yet?", Redención mockingly replied, pointing at the number of fiery snakes that had broken off from the rest, attracted by the two Arrancar's Spiritual Power.
"Shit.", Cielo replied as the two of them used Sonido to move up high in the air, the snakes quickly changing direction to follow.
"Huh, wasn't 'spectin' that.", Redención admitted calmly, shifting his weight to the side to move out of the way of one of the snakes that had locked onto him.
"Why the hell are you so calm?!", Cielo shouted at his partner, more bemused than angry at the Arrancar's tranquility, using Sonido once again to dodge one of the faster snakes that zoomed past him.
The serpentine trail of red exploded as it passed the Arrancar, bursting into streams of light across the area. It had found its way to a recently arrived Carmen, who seemingly prevented the fire-snake's advance with little more than the raising of an arm. It dispersed shortly after, the woman drawing a thumb across her lips as if signifying that she had just devoured the apparition of spiritual energy.
"Boys, would you be so kind as to not leave our front line in tatters?", she asked of the two Arrancar, with a trailing voice filled with what could only be described as a severe longing.
Beyond them, the great number of snakes had obliterated those Quincy fool enough to continue the previous barrage, the fortifications were in tatters and fire was the only solace in an air carrying little more than the screams of the dying. The first line of defence had been breached.
"Máo Yǒng, take your detachment and advance", Ren ordered her companion, a predatory smile outstretched on her face.
"Yes, Milady", the man replied and subsequently vanished with the faint sound of Shunpo.
The teams located to the south followed the Major, forming a company-sized unit. The Balancers charged with speed that was shocking in comparison to their earlier slow advance. Using Shunpo to travel fast, they reached the ruined barricades and surviving Quincy in no time.
"Wú Lanfên, assemble your detachment and charge!", Nakatani commanded soon afterward.
"Yes, Milady!", responded the second Major with fervour.
The tall, muscular woman with short grey hair plunged forward, her team and many others positioned to the north following suit. Whilst Máo Yǒng's group was drawing attention of the remaining enemies, Wú Lanfên's strike force stormed from a relatively distant location, throwing the Quincy in further disarray. The Soldaten, recovering from the barrage and distracted by the enemy charge were suddenly assaulted by yet another company of ruthless warriors.
"Balancers!", shouted Nakatani as she was drawing her twin chicken sickles. "Trample them!"
This time the Colonel herself leapt onward, a platoon of Balancers escorting her into the thick of battle. Speeding through the narrow alleys and demolished buildings, Ren was exerting her spiritual senses in an attempt to detect the largest spiritual pressure signature amongst the enemy ranks, that is, their own leader.
"It seems the big bad underling has decided to make her self more obviously known.", Cielo noted, ignoring Carmen's words once again as he looked at the distance where the Balancers were before looking at the fiery remains of their defences.
"Well, let's not disappoint em' then shall we, let's shift partner.", Redención suggested, drawing his blade in anticipation before suddenly being stopped by Cielo.
"As much as I would love some ultra-violence and nothing more at the minute, we have to remember, there are also other powerful ones commanding smaller units, I feel it would be best if we tried getting rid of all of them so that our beloved Soldat don't get destroyed.", Cielo explained, Redención grumbled slightly at the other Arrancar's point.
"God dammit, well I guess that's fine I guess, I bagsy the most powerful one though ya hear!", Redención demanded, a small grin was painted on his face as if he just won a competition.
"Then I call dibs on him", having felt out the spiritual energies of those Balancers invading the area, Carmen was able to toss a finger in a direction and easily point out Máo Yǒng's presence. "He looks... Mmm", her voice trailed off as she playfully bit into her lower lip.
Even though Yǒng was the first to lead an assault at the ravaged enemy lines, his methodical approach slowed down his advance. Meanwhile, Lanfên busted through the remnants of the defences and defenders alike with inhuman brutality, quickly catching up with him. Their troops were independent enough to act of their own accord, so the commanders could focus on taking out strategic targets.
And the two detected three such targets not that far in front of them. Without communicating in any noticeable way, the Majors began a joint attack. First, Lanfên grabbed one of the two heads of her meteor hammer, aimed and thrust it forward with incredible force, launching it like a cannonball right at the three strong Quincies. At the same time, Yǒng spun his long chain whip with spiky links and swung it in a broad, sweeping motion. Together, the composite maneuvre was intended to force the enemy to split up, if not tear them apart.
The 45th Northern District, Kyōkai (警戒, Siren), under Catalina Vargas, had erupted into chaos, the Interdiction Corps having washed across it like a swarm of angry locusts in search of an overdue harvest. The streets erupted in fire, both blue and red, as the Balancers and Quincy clashed on the ground and in the sky. The Colonel Ksenija Gregorovich led the assault, clashing blades with a particularly boisterous Arrancar. The fight was overwhelmingly one-sided with the Arrancar doing little more than staving off attack after attack as she continually pushed him back.
"That... all ya got!?", he taunted after a particularly hard blow. The strike of her sword having caused his spear to pulsate in his hands with intense vibrations.
"I'm sorry, allow me to step things up a little", she replied with a smile and a rather disarming tone of voice. She moved quickly, faster than he could follow, grabbing his hand with her own only to raise him off the ground and throw him at a nearby building. The force of the swing was enough that he crashed right through the stone and into the interior of the place. She was prompt to follow, entering the confines of what happened to be a rather large warehouse-like establishment.
"Do it now, Emya!", the Arrancar called out with a surprising amount of energy. A great deal of rattling erupted from behind Ksenija as a large series of plates fell into place, covering up the broken wall.
"I got a friend I'd like to introduce you to", the Arrancar laughed, shrugging off whatever injuries he'd sustained in the previous encounter. It had been a ruse.
Suddenly, a large, glowing web burst forth from the darkness behind the Balancer, spreading out as it was approaching her with considerable speed. The Colonel, breifly surprised by the abrupt ambush span around on her heel and used Shunpo to move out of the web's way, reappearing on the opposite side of the room she was in, her face was strained, not with physical exertion, but out of her thinking.
"I wonder...", she murmured quietly, mostly ignoring the threats she was presented with, "What if I blasted you on top of the building, that would of probably halted your plan but in that case you could of crashed right through which would of put us in the same situation we're in now...", Ksenija continued, seemingly off in her own little world as she pondered the numerous different possibilities or outcomes that could of been made.
As she was pondering there was a period of utter silence in the spacious, dark room. Sources of light were scarce, and the numerous pillars and containers spread across the area were further diminishing her field of vision.
Just as planned.
There was a sudden movement behind the Balancer, and an extremely tall and slender silhouette emerged from the blackness. It carried twin katanas, each of them held in reverse grip as they were speeding toward Gregorovich's back.
The nameless Arrancar that had facilitated the current conflict was quick to make himself scarce, slinking into the shadows where his body evaporated into the black. Feeling the small distortion in Reiatsu behind her, Ksenija hurriedly dodged out the way of the attack once again with Shunpo, reappearing in midair before landing quietly a small distance away.
"Ah, sorry, I must of gotten lost in thought. I'm guessing you are the friend of that other Soldier I fought earlier?", she asked in an inquisitive manner, looking at the dark silhouette, trying to make the individual hidden by the darkness out, however, she was unable to do so.
The peculiar being leant forward slightly, a shimmer of light illuminating him. He was a giant man with atypically thin, elongated body, wearing the standard uniform of a Soldat complete with a cap with the Wandenreich's logo emblazoned on its front. However, he kept the high collar upward, wore a pair of sunglasses instead of goggles, and did not have a mask. At least, not a normal one, for there were two bony, mandible-like protrusions framing his face.
He too was an Arrancar.
The features of his face were sharp and somewhat disproportional, with high cheekbones and a squarish jaw. Even though his stiff expression indicated extreme concentration, there was a smile lingering on his unusually wide and thin lips.
Then, they were outstretched in an unnerving grin.
"Tsk-tsk", uttered the man as he retreated with an unnaturally fluid motion and vanished in the darkness behind.
Silence. There was residual Reiatsu spread across the warehouse, but little more than the ambient level of the Soul Society, not something that could be used to track the Arrancar's location. With the poor lighting, the Balancer could not observe his movements. Nothing was happening for several tense seconds.
Suddenly, a burst of mantis green Balas erupted from the blackness, the incredibly fast projectiles aimed more at Gregorovich's side than back this time. Ksenija noticed the green energy attacks just in time to draw her sword to collide with the first Bala blast, causing it to erupt into a small explosion which kicked up the dust in the dark room, completely obscuring the Balancer from sight. While covered by the dust cloud Ksenija used Shunpo to dodge the rest of the closely following Balas before using it again to rush out of her cover and move towards the source of the Balas, as she reappeared she quickly scanned the area, her sword wielding hand was burnt by the explosion she caused by striking the Bala blast, her cuffed sleeve was similarly burnt and frayed, making it come loose in the process.
But she found nothing.
Meanwhile, the mysterious Arrancar was hiding behind a large container in another area of the warehouse, pressing his back and arms against its somewhat cold surface. Several wrinkles appeared on his prominent forehead, an indication of ongoing thought process.
He asked for small fry, yet the idiots who were supposed to help him had brought him a shark. In spite of the home advantage, the disparity between their spiritual pressure was considerable enough to dismay him. To make matters worse, the Balancer woman seemed to possess uncanny reflex, or perhaps she was able to sense his own Reiatsu? He had been making a great effort to suppress his signature, but it was possible that enough was leaking out to alert her whilst he was attacking.
He moved sideways, slowly and silently. Then, he grabbed a medium-sized box standing on a crate. He closed his concealed eyes, visualising the enemy's position with the use of his spiritual sense and the knowledge of the warehouse's layout. After a short period of preparation he leapt from his hideout and immediately tossed the box at the, hopefully, unsuspecting Balancer. Ksenija, despite her being unaware of precisely where her sneaky opponent was, heard the noise that was the creaking box flying through the air, spinning around on her heel she jumped backwards and slashes at the approaching crate, hitting it and smashing it into smaller pieces, some of which hit Ksenija, who merely shrugged them off.
"Wasn't expecting that, kind of clever I admit.", Ksenija mused, landing on the shaded ground looking around for her adversary, up till this point she had been sensing the acute changes in the Arrancar's Reiatsu as he attacked to counter them somewhat, however she wasn't expecting her opponent to catch on so quick and resort to sneakier methods of attack.
That one was close, it nearly got me, I'll have to be more careful, Ksenija thought as she raised her blade in preparation for another attack.
The Arrancar remained hidden, crouching behind the crate the box he had thrown used to stand on. Judging from the Balancer's slightly, but noticeably delayed reaction, his suspicions were right. His usual fighting style consisted of striking unexpectedly from the shadows, but in this particular case his strikes were not really unexpected. Using miscellaneous objects scattered across the warehouse was more likely to result in a hit, but what sort of damage was he supposed to deal by tossing a wooden crate?
That was quite a predicament, but the thought of giving up did not even cross his mind. Instead, he decided to take a little more direct approach. Thus, he positioned himself in a more convenient manner and then plunged the crate at his enemy.
Suddenly, a loud screech ran its way across the outer walls of the building as a Balancer's blade sliced across the exterior. The warrior had been thrown off course on her attack by an Arrancar who promptly cut her down at the end of her faulted arc.
Satisfied with the red stream pouring out his opponent, the Arrancar turned away only to find himself bifurcated at the waist by a passing Balancer who didn't even grace the Hollow with a single glance, he simply cut through him and moved on, leaping up to a nearby roof.
He too met his end in the next instant when a Quincy arrow blew straight through his chest, erasing the flesh and the internals, including his heart. The Quincy let go of his bow for a moment, cautiously lowering it to his side as he watched the Balancer collapse. Then his vision turned red.
Hyo Seung, exploded out of the house, a single fist flying through the concrete with such force that it did not blow away the stone and woodwork, instead it punched through and dragged the rest of the building with it, causing its foundations to rip apart as the entire thing malformed into an ugly misshappen hill. At the top was the gored Quincy, his stomach oozing red from that single punch.
Hyo flashed a grin, bringing all his teeth to bare, before moving on to his true target. He caught up with her in a flash. Appearing on her flank, she was Catalina Vargas, the person that was going to kick his ass, or so a few unlucky Quincy had told him.
"H-hiya!", he waved his blood soaked hand in the direction of the woman.
The female Sternritter was standing atop a small house, overlooking the ongoing battle rather than participating actively. Her delicate face expressed such profound sorrow that she looked more like a majestic statue than a real person. Brooding, she did not react to Seung's arrival in any noticeable way, even after his somewhat awkward greeting, and remained gazing in the distance.
"To think that everything was settled", she said solemnly after a period of silence, seemingly to no-one in particular. "We have paid a horrible price to establish peace, and now blood is being spilled again. So many lives are wasted senselessly... I cannot stand this anymore!", she continued, turning to the Balancer as she was speaking the last sentence.
"That's okay, its a transition, the weak always spill their blood during this time", he had closed the gap suddenly, resting a hand on the woman's shoulder, raising and lowering it as if to pat her with reassurance those his words carried none.
"It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak", proclaimed Catalina, looking the Balancer straight into the eyes. "Not to slaughter them. I shall protect them."
All of a sudden, her body completely changed texture, as if becoming a part of the house she was standing on. Then, the rooftop cracked and began closing rapidly like jaws of a concrete predator attempting to crush Hyo in-between.
His footing disappeared, but Hyo's feet were already surrounded by Reiryoku that flooded through his body. It was all one practiced motion to him. Hohō kept him from losing his balance as stone became air, his reflexes kicked in as his sense of touch realized the change and he flipped backward, a slicing blade of wind appearing around his feet in a 180-degree arc in front of him. A counter attack and a retreat in a single step.
"Now, now, I wouldn't be good for that house's diet", he chided the woman and her sudden transformation.
The fragmented rooftop collapsed. A large cut had appeared in Vargas's torso, but she did not seem to notice. Her body remained grey, appearing as if made from the very concrete she was standing on.
"Jesting is not going to save you, murderer", she replied sternly.
Then, the entire building fell apart, the Sternritter's body together with it forming a pile of rubble.
"Did the Shinigami claim the same?", asked with sudden lucidity. The Quincy weren't blameless in this he was taunting, they were just next in the bloody cycle to be burned by someone else's blade.
The lucidity he showed quickly crumbled however as he began striking at the ground with his blade. Rubble was swept away to the left and the right, his blade bent with a creaking scream of metal, before it sprung off of the hard stone surface. The recoil prevented his blade from being pushed so far as to snap, but was only strong enough to give him the perfect arc for a rebound swing. His movements repeated themselves across the area that the woman had sunken into, rubble being flung every which way as he left light scars on the stone.
The Western Rukongai District of Hakumei (白鳴, White Screech), the 45th of its area, had been doing surprisingly well in the conflict. Though it was by no effort of its commander, Amala Kshatriya, instead its coordination had been left to the rank and file Quincy who had done rather well for themselves in off setting the Balancers attacks. Amala had been the first to engage, incinerating the lesser swordsmen left and right in her search for a stronger opponent.
"Only Human, right?", she jeered as another spiritual body crumpled into a dehydrated husk. "Then how come you idiots are so worthless that you need to run away from me!?", her arms were tossed outward, the four corners of her cloak blasting upward suddenly. The temperature around her rose drastically, but more so a fair distance behind her as a shimmering wall of heat had been erected in the path of those Balancers that sought to push on ahead. The heat had been intense, not only did it boil the two men caught in it near instantly, but it went so far as to incinerate them, leaving nothing but ashes behind when the wall cleared away moments later.
In the meantime, the Wandenreich troopers were pushing the futile Balancer advance, inflicting constant casualties with coordinated barrages of Heilige Pfeile. For want of a better solution, the ancient Soul Reapers began retreating into any cover in their vicinity, some of them launching Kadō spells to keep the firefight from being strictly one-sided.
A group of Balancers hid behind a long cottage in an attempt to regroup and think of a plan that was a little better than a suicidal charge.
"What are we going to do, Sergeant?", asked one of the warriors, singed and sweaty.
"The enemy relies heavily on ranged attacks", pointed out the obvious the squad leader, a streak of blood flowing from his temple. "We must find a way to secure an assault and engage them in close combat. Then, they will..."
"What is that?"
At first, the sound was barely audible, particularly when the clamour of ongoing battle was taken into consideration. However, with time it was growing louder and louder at an alarming rate, becoming a defeaning roar that eventually dampened that very clamour. And just as a few of the Balancers raised their heads in confusion, they spotted the source of the reverberating boom.
There was a fireball descending fast exactly on their position.
There was no time to react otherwise. A fraction of a second later the sphere of flames crashed into the building, quaking the entire area with its fiery fury. The group of Balancers was vapourised, as was the house they had used as a hideout. A potent shockwave swept across the battlefield, demolishing the closest buildings and sowing chaos amongst the ranks of the Balancers. A large crater formed at the site of the impact, and there was a single man standing in there, his legs spread out and slightly bent in the knees.
He was a tall man of Japanese descent. His dark red, spiky hair stood upright, with a few strands hanging over his forehead. The gleaming, unsettling eyes were the colour of ash and smoke. His attire was black, and consisted of a somewhat loose undershirt, tight-fitting trousers and leather boots. Sweat was flowing on his remarkable, well-toned muscles of ashen complexion, the only indication of his body's reaction to the lethal temperature. He was holding a katana in his right hand, its blade white due to the incredible heat it contained, causing the air around it to undulate visibly.
"Hey", he said toward the Quincy in the distance as he turned around slightly, a lunatic grin outstretched on his face, Amala merely glared at the man with a unbridled look of rage.
"Who the fuck are you and why the fuck are you stealing my kil-", Amala began ranting before a golden bolt of light shot past, barely missing her face, it careened past her and hit a building in the background, causing an explosion which subsequently destroyed a large portion of the structure.
"Sorry about that, I would of waited but it seems our forces are dwindling for some reason.", a unusually pleasant female voice called out from behind Toru, the woman was wearing a Hakama uniform not unlike that of Shinigami while also wearing a Jeonbok over the top of it, signifying her presence as a Balancer of Souls.
"Naoko Murakami, Marshal of the East, it's a pleasure to meet both of you." she said in a loud but calm voice, bowing slightly after she finished talking.
"Marshal, eh? I'm Tōru Yōshanai, a Tsumikami", replied the mysterious newcomer with a wide smile.
Then, he grabbed the hilt of his sword with both hands and swung it in an abrupt, broad motion, unleashing a wave of roaring dark crimson flames at the Balancer with no warning whatsoever.
The Quincy had moved from her spot, under the cover of the blazing wave, appearing on Naoko's uncovered flank. Heat swirled around her body as she reeled back her leg to perform a dramatic high leg kick, that same swirling heat becoming a gigantic shimmering wave of intense heat.
"Amala Kshatriya, Sternritter X, and highly annoyed", she acquiesed to the continued introductions with creases on the bridge of her nose and brow to highlight her aggravation.
Naoko, despite visibly shocked at the duo's abrupt attacks, used Shunpo to avoid the two attacks, going out of her way to move as far away from the searing attacks as possible, having witnessed the effects on her now dead subordinates, she appeared high in the sky, still moving upwards at a fairly quick pace as she reappeared, yet she could still feel the heat from both Amala's superheated air and Tōru's blood coloured flames searing her skin. Deciding not to delegate, she quickly raised and brought down her Nandao in a fluid and quick motion, sending a powerful bolt of lightning down to where the Quincy was last, while the Balancer Marshal was heavily concerned about the Tsumikami, recalling her experience with the last denizen of Hell, her main target was the Quincy.
Yōshanai evaded out of sheer reflex, even though the lightning was not aimed directly at him. As he finished his swift Shunpo leap, he raised his left arm and promptly launched a sizeable fireball at the Balancer suspended high in the air, flames bursting from his hand.
Amala hadn't moved from her spot, though the Tsumikami had basically done so in her place. Heat bubbled around her and she wrung out her fist in the motion of a heavy punch. No where near close enough to physically touch her opponent, it was obvious what came next. An invisible cyllindrical pillar of intense heat flew towards the oncoming lightning bolt, only for them to seemingly pass by each other with the heat simply flowing over the electrical charge and it shooting through like an arrow. Though it wasn't so clear cut.
A moment later, the lightning bolt began to visibly melt and fall apart, becoming a golden smear in the sky that collapsed onto a nearby building. The golden fluid melted through the building like a hot knife through butter, disappearing into the floors beneath.
"Reishi's great, huh?", Amala taunted though a great deal of prespiration was visible on her form, and heavy breathing singled out some degree of exhaustion. "Really gotta learn to calm down" she berated inwardly, realizing that she was going to run herself ragged before the fight had even really started.
Naoko, ignoring the taunts, once again used Shunpo to move fare away from the counterattacks so as not to be caught inside the intense heat that permeated from them, however, unlike before, the Balancer didn't retaliate, but instead quietly gazed at the two of them, due to their attacks being quite devastating at most ranged, the Marshal thought it was best to observe the fighting styles of her opponents rather than mindlessly counterattack, despite being well aware that her plan could backfire with one mistake in movement while dodging the inevitable attacks that were to come.
"Hmph", uttered Tōru, looking up at Naoko. "Old Man's told me you Marshals are first rate warriors. You prove that or I'm gonna roast ya right now", he stated with a maniacal glint in the eyes.
Afterward, he began exerting his Reiatsu. First, the air around him started undulating with regular ripples. The ground beneath his feet, already severely charred by his fiery descent upon the battlefield, turned into glass. Then, his body was enveloped by a flame-like aura the colour of blood. Six spheres of fire spawned from the aura above the man in a circular formation, rotating around the axis with him in the centre.
"Try to dodge this", he said smiling.
Three of the fireballs burst forth rapidly, approaching Murakami on highly erratic trajectories.
Amala drew the back of her hand across her forehead, sweeping away beads of sweat before a searing hot air began to swirl around both of her arms. It remained, a semi invisible force, waiting to be unleashed as the Quincy watched the Tsumikami's attack.
Naoko, despite noting the odd paths of the Tsumikami's attacks, dove downwards and used Shunpo to evade the fire attacks speeding up to avoid the one that passed close to her, which still managed to burn the Marshal's skin somewhat, landing on what was now the glass floor that Tōru was also standing on, she plunged her blade deep into the glass, cracking it slightly before sending a surge of electricity into it, as she did so Naoko performed an upward slash, causing more electicity to surge out in the direction of Tōru, the heat energy released by the attack causing the glass to melt as the electricity desperately tried to find a way to ground itself, causing the creation of a molten liquid that was quickly approaching the Tsumikami as the electricity made its way to him.
The Balancer's attack hit its target, launching Yōshanai in a brief backward flight. However, the man landed quickly with a swaying motion. His clothing was slightly tattered, but the burns on his ashen skin began healing at a rapid pace. He smiled, the three remaining fireballs still rotating above his head.
"Wrong move", he stated with a chilling grin.
Then, the three projectiles he had fired earlier descended upon Naoko from behind, engulfing her in an explosion of fire. Wasting no time, Tōru propelled those he had so far kept at his person, repeating the detonation of crimson flames.
"Hahahaha!", he laughed almost hysterically.
The Quincy's blue eyes watched what transpired with caution. She was sure that the Balancer couldn't have been dumb enough to get caught in that attack so quickly, they were supposed to be super powerful and ancient, so that meant they had to be smart too, right? She bit at her lip thinking it over. The other guy stealing what could've been the best fight for Amala was also something to puzzle over. He wasn't the hulking guy in the mask or his boss. As far as Amala was concerned he wasn't really an ally, he was just in the way.
"You're in ma' way", she complained vocally, her arms having pulled back to her sides as if taking a stance. The heat swirling around her arms came together into a shimmering aura around herself, growing larger in the process, becoming a tower of heat waves right up until the last moment. Then she struck, her fists shot forward as if they had been loaded on to springs and the built up heat propelled forward exceedingly quickly, funnelled into a single path like an overly large beam that sought to boil and melt whatever was in its path.
Her target was Naoko Murakami, but Tōru Yōshanai being in its immediate path didn't bother Amala at all, however, the Balancer wasn't in the range of the Quincy's attack at all. She reappeared, a small but fair distance away from Amala with only the slight sound of her Shunpo accompanying her, her uniform freyed and burnt due to the attack she had just barely dodged from Tōru, her skin covered in mostly superficial burns due to her lucky escape. Taking advantage of Amala just firing off an attack Naoko wrapped her blade with electrcity and fire a small and fast bolt at the Quincy in the hopes of the attack connecting with the unsuspecting opponent.
In the meantime, Kshatriya's technique followed its intended path, dispersing the smoke caused by Yōshanai's fireballs and hitting the man himself. The Tsumikami did not evade, but merely covered his face with his left arm and swayed as the beam of superheated air passed. His skin darkened and some fragments were peeled off, burning in the extreme temperature, but soon afterward the superficial damage regenerated itself. Now enveloped by a noticeably brighter aura, he gazed at the aggressive Quincy just in time to witness as she was being attacked by the Marshal.
The expansive laboratories of the Einsicht were bustling with activity. Quincy were everywhere, scientists jumping around from desk to desk acquiring all kinds of implements and research notes, whilst some soldiers had been roped into carrying the heavier pieces of equipment around. All manner of research was taking place, data parsed on computers or written down on paper, concotions tested and machines manipulated as they strived to come up with something that would give the Quincy a definitive advantage over their newest enemies; the Balancers.
The back of the room was largely empty, both of apparatus and staff, and so it came as little bother to anyone that five lights of gold and blue appeared. Formed into complex patterns, they coiled into figures resembling five particular individuals, the patterns streaking out as if they were a circuitry-styled schematic of each of them. In seconds the patterns filled out, taking on new colours and mass as Girado, Haiiro, Kaede, Kerri and Zetsubō came into being. They were perfect, unblemished statues of the individuals, but only for a moment. Injuries, torn clothing, streaks of sweat, blood, and grime manifested over all of them and their visages darkened with the strain of fatigue.
"Well the journey to was a tad disappointing, but the journey from was just magnificient, if I do say so", spoke the Arrancar, giving himself a metaphorical pat on the back for his efforts.
Usuguraiboshi, with Byrne still dangling over his shoulder, ignored the Arrancar and took a few quick steps forward. However, he then halted abruptly and slightly rose his head.
"They are already here", he remarked grimly.
"I can feel them too, they're all over the Rukongai", Kaede stated balling up her fists in her hands, a feeling of discontent welling up inside.
"We're going, Haiiro", she called to her teammate and quickly began to leave the room, exhaustion clear in every forced step she took.
"Before you storm off, you might want this", the Arrancar revealed a syringe seemingly pulled out from nowhere that was thrown towards Kaede, who caught it in hand easily enough. Two more were revealed, tossed towards Zetsubō and Haiiro by the lanky figure.
"I told you I had something to give you a little... boost, what you do with it is up to you, but try not to waste it", he said last before making his own exit from the room. Kaede paid little heed to the departing Arrancar, or the possible consequences of what he'd just left them. She still had so much to prove to the Wandenreich, and so far all she had done was lose and waste time. It ate at her, just enough to throw caution to the wind.
Popping the protective cap, she flipped the syringe around and jammed the revealed needle into her arm, the fluid entered into her blood stream with the pressure of the plunger to push it out of the syringe and into her body. Immediately her body set on fire through out, the emptied syringe fell to the floor in a series of plastic clangs as her arms jolted. Her veins popped across her arm and up her neck, spreading out to other parts of the body rapidly. She reeled back for a moment and then her Reiatsu exploded into existence, knocking objects away and pushing everyone present back.
Startled sounds were emitted from the lungs of the present scientists as soon as the force of her Reiatsu died down. Her veins became less pronounced once more, and the fire welling up in her was replaced by a sensation of renewal. Her wounds were gone and so was her fatigue.
She jammed a fist in the air to compliment her new found stamina, "Good as new", she cheered to herself.
"God, you sound like the protagonist out of some cheesy manga or somethin'.", Haiiro gibed before jabbing the syringe in his arm too, creating a similar effect as with Kaede but slightly less forceful, as it subsided Haiiro removed the syringe and threw it away with a look of discomfort on his face.
"Gee, dunno why but I wouldn't think using some simple drug would be that bad.", the Quincy moaned, looking at his newly healed arm, "It did restore us though, so it's not all bad.", he reasoned before looking up towards Kaede.
Zetsubō examined the device given to him by Girado. Then, he walked toward the female Quincy and lifted his right arm, holding the syringe right in front of her.
"Take care of your comrade", he said in an oddly quiet and calm tone. "I have to talk with my Master."
"Would that be so bad?", Kaede laughed, giving off a grin towards Haiiro's earlier comment. Though Zetsubō had given them the task of watching over Kerri, Kaede wasn't about to just sit around. She approached the still unconscious Sternritter, giving her a quick once over.
"You guys heard tall, masked, and anti-social, keep an eye on her, alright!", she demanded of the scientists as if it was an order, given her rank over them, it very well could've been. With that she was off from the Einsicht's quarters. Haiiro paused for a second before twitching slightly.
"Hey, did she give you that horrid drug or did she steal it for herself?", Haiiro asked one of the Scientists, who promptly revealed the small syringe so as to signify Kaede not making of with it, with the appearance of it Haiiro let out a sigh of relief.
"Right, take care of Byrne-san then, I'm off.", he called out, using Hirenkyaku to catch up to Kaede.
Zetsubō watched them silently as they left him there, a Sinner and murderer of thousands, in the middle of their science department and with their wounded, unconscious comrade held in his arms. Their youthful carelessness and credulity was beyond his capacity to fathom. Perhaps their joint struggle against Black had something to do with that perplexing trust?
With those thoughts occupying his mind he approached a group of scientists. The Einsicht members were very obviously anxious in his presence, but they took Byrne and Girado's device without any objections. He observed for a while as they injected a dose of the mysterious substance into the unconscious Quincy, and then took off to depart from the room.
A lone room, deep inside the frozen halls of the Silbern had distorted. The air filled with the echoes of a flat screech, not loud enough to deafen, but strong enough to irritate any who could hear it. The air filled up with dots of white and black static, the walls flickered between several kinds of surfaces, the ice of Silbern, and clear wood being the most prominent of the switches. It intensified with time, the air soon becoming thick with massing dots, like a television set emitting static. A pulse emitted from the center of the room, erasing the static-like effects from the area and in its place were a new set of environmental changes.
The room had become a mixture, that of the Silbern, and that of the Seireitei's previous architecture that the Quincy had "overwritten" during their invasion. It was not a clean fusion of resources, they had fought for dominance and the room was now a mess of overlapping white ice and laminated wood, broken and chipped in places, outright destroyed in others.
At its heart were two men, giving off a tell tale spiritual presence that belonged only to one race of beings. Shinigami.
"Quincy, Quincy...", whispered one of them with a raspy voice.
The man was tall but hunched, and walked with an oddly cautious and mechanic-looking gait. Over his tattered kimono was draped a black hooded cloak that completely concealed his features. The right sleeve of the cloak was dangling empty as he was moving.
The other individual was completely stoic, not reacting to the spiritual power that was flooding the room, nor the weird appearance and ramblings of the man next to him, he merely stood there gazing out into the distance in a way that seemed like he was trying to piece the air in front of him.
"We must act carefully, hide in the darkness and strike from the shadows... Quincy, Quincy...", the first man continued his monologue as he was now shambling around the other one.
Suddenly he halted, straightened up and raised his left arm, shaking the clenched fist - his only fist.
"I will tear out their throats", he uttered in a dark, booming voice.
"You feel that?", Roshan, part way through opening the central doors of the throne room, had abruptly stopped. Turning to his ally with a question. Vitor nodded gravely, casting a gaze towards Hikari, those his eyes passed through him, his sight focused on the back wall and that which laid behind it, deeper within the Silbern. "What would Shinigami be doing here, now of all times?", the elderly figure wondered, his hoarse voice filling the air.
Roshan sighed outwardly, donning his usual expression of a worn grin and eyes that told so many little white lies.
"Hikari, we've got the front covered, but it looks like our back is a lil' open now, I don't suppose I could get you to take a look, huh?", he asked of the ashen skinned fellow.
The Tsumikami narrowed his eyes slightly. Usuguraiboshi was probably the only being in existence that addressed him appropriately. Even Yōshanai kept calling him "Old Man", much to his chagrin. Still, he had been growing accustomed to the lack of proper etiquette, so he refrained from commenting upon that. Instead, he scanned the spiritual pressure that appeared out of the blue.
"That Reiatsu signature is... oddly familiar", he remarked as he turned his head a bit. "Intriguing."
Pensive, he began a more thorough analysis of the spiritual pressure, only to notice that it diminished and vanished in a matter of moments. He was quite sure that he still could sense someone in there, actually two Shinigami, but their signature was heavily suppressed.
And even though it has been almost a century since their last meeting, he was nearly certain who might have been the source of that Reiatsu.
"Take care of your petty war", he said in the vague direction of the Sternrittern. "I'll investigate that."
With those words he walked toward the wall that stood in-between him and the mysterious Shinigami.
"I have the utmost confidence in you", the man laughed dismissively before he and his stout companion disappeared through the doorway. Immediately they were greeted by the presence of the Balancers upper eschelons, a particular Sternritter slumped down at their feet.
"Well hello there", greeted Xiang Yu.