This article, Descending Despairs, is part of this site's Fanon Canon project. Use of this page's contents is determined by the author of this page unless otherwise specified.

Storm Front

Ikeda, Osaka. Late afternoon.

It was a strange day for this bustling city of thousands upon thousands. Normally, the day was busy, with the various grade schools engaging in their lessons, their outdoor activities, and eventually their extracurriculars, while the adults of the large city were up to their usual agendas. Whether it was the school districts, the shopping districts, the business districts, or what have you, one could find a busy atmosphere of people in every corner. But this day was strange. There was an eerie calm that seemed to envelop the city. Many children decided to not attend their routine sport meetings or hobbies, some adults called in their sick days, and even some high schools saw a rather steep drop in attendance this day. People were remaining indoors today, all throughout the city infamous for its constant commerce.

Was it possible that unbeknownst to their conscious minds, deep down to their most basic human instincts, they could sense an incoming danger?

The clouds high in the air seemed just as quiet as the town, floating by peacefully along the air current which carried them. But almost as if it were a natural phenomena, some clouds began to change course, swirling toward a center point in the skies as a faint wispy energy began to permeate that section of the skies. It looked like a flat disc of swirling white clouds, and as it formed, a hand was slowly seen creeping out from the inside. This was no natural occurrence, this was a portal opened by powerful magic. The hand moved out closer and a foot could then be seen coming out, before long an entire person came out from that swirling portal. He was strange in his appearance, dressed in a flamboyant azure suit with darker blue arrows etched onto its design. His hair was short yet burst with an intense turquoise color which illuminated in the orange light of the falling afternoon sun.

As he exited the portal, he looked back toward it and formed a light grin. "So is this the place? Osaka?" he questioned.

"That is correct, Arata" a voice spoke from behind the oddly dressed man. It was a woman of small stature but of great presence; her black ponytail whipped about in the wind as she looked down at Osaka below.

Distaste marred her fair features, and her eyes looked quesy, as if she was witnessing a bunch of insects crawl about at her feet -- it was an apt description, truthfully. Looking at her partner, Megumi briefly ran over the orders that had been issued by the Masked Man.

She and her accomplice were to find the ragtag group of mageless misfits which went by the name of Xstence. It had come to her masters attention that they harbored at least two Soul Fragments, which were instrumental for The Coven to assert its rightful place as rulers of a glorious magocracy spanning all the planes. The targets were one Kōhaku Morimoto and their leader, Tetsuo Momohara. Arata was a huge access to the Coven, and Megumi was a battle-mage of great skill, she would ensure that Arata wouldn't come to harm, and deal with any futile insurgence from the mageless.

Megumi shifted through the air, guided by currents of wind that served to hold her aloft, and to Arata's side.

"Our quarry should be down there, it is a pity that they'll never realize what grand design they help bring into motion. Alas, such is the curse of the mageless, foolishly unaware of anything that goes beyond their narrow worldviews. Rest easy though, for after tonight, they will surely be enlightened."

"You have a way with words, Megumi-kun. I couldn't have said that better myself", another voice resounded amongst the winds of their high vantage point.

An elderly man joined the two young people, clad in a distinct, dark blue robe with golden adornments shaped into the likeness of flames. Jurō Henkō, a seasoned wizard, was to accompany them on this mission. The master of eldritch fire and an associate of Yōkai, capable of summoning those fell entities to his aid in battle. He stroked his greying beard, beholding the sight beneath him. He did not think highly of Humans either, though he could not deny being interested in their ways of coping with debilitating weakness. If slightly.

"Since we know the identity of our targets, let's not waste our precious time. Would you like to track them down on your own, or should I do the honours?", he asked politely of his accomplices, exposing the intricate pattern of tattoos on his right forearm while he pulled up the sleeve of his robe.

Speaking of tracking, the first of those targets had been going about his day as had been expected of him. The Morimoto Conglomerate was a booming multi-national enterprise with its fingers in many different pies, it dabbled in tech and entertainment, production, any market that it could snake its way into, it had. Of course it could only have gotten to where it had so quickly thanks to the heavy contributions of the conglomerate's Yakuza connections. No more did those results speak out than when Kōhaku was forced to attend board meetings.

His father's ailing health had forced the young business graduate to take his father's place before he was ready, but he nonetheless managed the role well for what little part he actually played in the conglomerate's day-to-day affairs. By and large his participation was limited to these meetings, where the board of directors gathered and squabbled over the company's direction. Many of the chairs were filled by people with obvious connections, if they didn't immediately dress the part, then the occasional slip of their irezumi would give them away. After hours of sighing and meandering away at tedium, Kōhaku was all too glad to be pulled from the meeting when the PA informed him that someone had arrived to see him.

— —

"If you call me 'chan' again, I'll snap yer neck, got that?", said Emi Tenka with the tongue of a viper. Her dull expression making her threat seem almost casual, and all the more intimidating for it.

"Eh heh heh, er... So, Emi-kun, what brings you here?", Kōhaku replied nervously, his hands pushing at the air in front of him as if trying to expand his personal space. The smile that he'd gained from escaping his meetings had started to twitch, threatening to break into a frown. Remain positive, remain positive!, the white-haired man thought to himself.

"Michiyo wanted me to drop this off, said you'd been lookin' for it", Emi eyed the simple brown, sellotape-covered parcel that rested under her arm, swiftly drawing it out and limply tossing it in Kōhaku's direction. The way it was thrown ensured it would land on the table that separated the two, but carried just enough force that the contents within would probably shatter upon impact.

Seeing that, Kōhaku shot out his hand as if by reflex to catch it, but found that it was just out of arm's reach. Of course, the sudden green outline manifesting around the box highlighted that he'd done more than stretch in vain. He'd harnessed the power of Fullbring to grasp at the soul of the box, and ushered it onwards with a command "deliver yourself to me". So it was that the box drifted lightly through the air and into Kōhaku's waiting grasp.

He opened the box with haste to reveal a transparent orb-shaped vase that contained a beautiful arrangement of lily-of-the-valley. Safely contained in the glass, the poisonous plant would be easy to maintain this way with an opening at the top to supply it with water and the clarity of the glass allowing easy access to the Sun. Kōhaku had been looking for this particular plant ever since he'd found it in a book of symbolism, and the beaming glow he projected now was sure to have delighted miss Tanaka. He would have to thank her in person as soon as he was free of the office.

"Well, have fun with yer peace lily, I got other stuff to deliver", Emi waved the man off before turning to leave.

"Lily-of-the-valley!", he corrected her, loudly. Though her only response was a shrug. The girl was a florist's assistant, but that didn't mean she cared.

The low hum of powerful generators muffled the echoing footsteps of the two engineers who walked along an access bridge above the main floor at the Sakaiko Natural Gas Plant. Both wore white dustcoats over their suits and hardhats, and they carried tablets that functioned as computerized clipboards. Their nametags were printed in katakana for easy identification. The older man’s name, who had steel-gray hair and wore glasses, was Hideji Katayama, while the younger man, whose only noticeable feature was the diagonal scar that cut across his left temple, was Tetsuo Momohara.

“The sooner we find that short, the better,” Hideji told his colleague. “We’ll have to check each control panel on the main line.”

“Why won’t the scanners work?” Tetsuo asked.

“The failsafe system is connected to the main line at two break-way points, unfortunately,” the man explained.

“I see. However, if we shut off the access-port...” Tetsuo began to suggest, causing Hideji’s eyes to light up with the idea.

“Of course!” the two continued to discuss the task at hand as they reached one of the control panels. While Hideji made notes on his tablet, Tetsuo opened the box and began to run through a perfunctory check of the system. While he had offered a way as to how they might determine the location of the short using normal means, he had only come up with the explanation in order to disguise his true intentions. Tetsuo glanced at Hideji to make sure the other man wasn’t paying attention before he placed his hand on the wires attached to the box. Closing his eyes and inhaling deeply, he pulled gently on the soul of the electricity coursing through the lines. Since the control panel was attached to the failsafe system, he first sensed the circuit flow running through the facility in its entirety before he began to narrow his search to pinpoint accuracy. Tetsuo felt somewhat guilty about relying upon Fullbring to help him in such a simple task, but he wanted to avoid redundancy and thus speed things up. Considering how closely his occupation was tied to his supernatural affinity, he found it was often all to easy to “cheat,” and this, along with his high degree of aptitude in his field, had allowed him to quickly reach the position of assistant supervisor in systems management despite having only worked at Sakaiko for about two years. His superior was Hideji. At first, Tetsuo had been concerned that the man would feel threatened by his presence in the company, but Hideji had soon confided that he had wanted to retire for some time, and hoped Tetsuo would take his position. The two had since become close partners.

“Momohara-kun, are you alright?” Hideji asked, as he had noticed Tetsuo closing his eyes.

“Ah, yes, sorry. There seems to be an arc-circuit break at terminal six,” Tetsuo told Hideji after he had determined the location of the short.

“Are you sure?” Hideji asked, “How did you find that out?”

“According to the monitor, the output levels are—” Tetsuo stopped as his senses suddenly picked up on a powerful spiritual pressure that, while not connected to the circuit at all, shot through him due to the fine-tuned state of his Reikaku. Still holding onto the wires, the feeling practically stabbed him with its abruptness, pressing into the back of his neck like a cold knife. Tetsuo drew back from the control panel as if he had been shocked, and grabbed his neck as he tried to determine where exactly the disturbance had come from.

“Is something wrong?” Hideji asked again, concerned.

“I have a migraine.” Tetsuo lied.

“Perhaps it would be better if you took the rest of the day off,” Hideji suggested, “You haven’t seemed yourself all morning.” What he said was true. Tetsuo had woken up with a certain restlessness that had not diminished as the day progressed, even though he had tried to ignore it since the feeling seemed to have no explicable cause. He nodded.

“That would be greatly appreciated.”

“You’ve already made my job here easier,” Hideji said as he patted Tetsuo on the shoulder. “Don’t work so hard. You should take better care of yourself.”

“Thank you, senpai.” Tetsuo bowed slightly to show his gratitude, although his stomach twisted with the guilt of having lied to his superior. However, the Reiatsu he had felt could no longer be ignored, as it seemed to be coming from the direction of Ikeda.

Tetsuo stepped outside the facility and blinked against the bright, midday sun. The skies were an almost perfect blue, with only a few wispy clouds drifting high overhead and the sea, which he could see to the west, seemed unusually calm.

A stiff breeze came from the north, the same direction of the Reiatsu, and Tetsuo began to feel even more anxious. Having left his hat and dustcoat behind, he loosened his tie as he felt a slight, electrical surge of excitement with the prospect of coming face-to-face with an unidentified spiritual being. If it had been a Hollow, there would have been no need for concern, as he would have simply relied on the other Fullbringers in Ikeda to handle it. But the disturbance he had felt was distinctively other, possibly even a Shinigami. Tetsuo quickened his pace before he reached his car, a sleek black Audi, and started the engine. As he turned out of the parking lot, he reached into the glove box and pulled out two, steel tonfa, which he set on the left passenger seat. Keeping one eye on the road and another towards the north, hoping he might catch a glimpse of whatever it was that had appeared, Tetsuo quickly used his cell phone to dial the number of a friend he knew would be closer to the disturbance than he was.

“I know you can sense that too, Kō,” he said. Otherwise I’m becoming delusional, he added in his mind. “Tell Michiya and Emi to meet at headquarters, and put everyone else on stand-by, I’ll be there in twenty minutes.” While he could have reached Ikeda in a fraction of the time if he had used the high-speed movement granted by his Fullbring, he would rather take the risk of pushing his speed than have someone notice him flying through the sky. That aside, he had no idea how much of a threat the spiritual presence truly posed, but he hoped it was nothing major. Instinctively, however, he knew that would not be the case.

"Like pigs to the slaughter."

A wicked grin came across the face of Arata, who along with his cohorts, had already spotted the first of their targets. In truth, the three mages that had come to the city were hidden from perception. A basic feat of their magic — to make their bodies hidden, their presence masked in such a way that it would be impossible to distinguish them from the air, and of course, their spiritual pressure hidden from detection. Sound itself was cut off, allowing them to communicate regularly without fear of being overheard. Similarly, their scent was masked, blending in with the classic 'big city' smell that subtly permeated the skies, and their very actions were muffled by the magic spell shielding them. Hidden within this shrouded space, the three observed the first of their targets mobilizing toward the source of reiatsu which he picked up on. The grin plastered on Arata was as menacing as it was cold.

Standing there, atop the skies and adorned with familiar black garbs, were two individuals: a red-haired male and a black-haired female. Both were dressed in the robes of the reapers. It would be a cause for alarm if anybody from the Soul Society were to see who exactly these two individuals were, but more than likely, the members of the Fullbringer group that these Coven mages were after had never come across these unfortunate beings. For in truth, unbeknownst to those that would cross paths with these two, they had died well over nine years ago. Of course, they weren't themselves, and as such, their reiatsu carried a much stranger feel to it than the originals ever had. No wonder they wouldn't be recognized as Shinigami. They were the source of the powerful reiatsu radiating over the skies of Ikeda and further out, though the mage controlling them was careful not to allow any interruption.

He was a master of the binding arts, due to his poor aptitude with the combative arts, which meant he could quite simply craft a barrier around the perimeter of the city. Alone, it would have taken him some time to accomplish it around such a large city, but with his two cohorts, it was done within minutes; performed in such a subtle manner that not even the most skilled of sensors would have noticed the change in the city. A barrier that did not keep anybody in or out, but one that completely cut off the flow of reiatsu. If anybody were to try and aim their reikaku toward the field where the barrier was cast, they would sense nothing more than they would in any ordinary human city in the living world; a place devoid of spiritual activity. They had to be sure they would not have any unexpected guests, after all.

"If you both do not mind, I'll take the lead. As I'm sure you both noticed, our shrewd friend was quick to call for back-up. I trust you both can handle whoever they may be?" Arata mused, his words aimed at his comrades while his sight was set on the incoming Tetsuo, who was more than likely going to reach the location of the two Shinigami waiting for him.

"As you wish, my comrade. I'll remain within range of you at all times, your talents are of great value to the Coven. I will ensure your continued safety to the best of my abilities."

With gentle movements, Megumi wove rivulets of electricity around her in a spherical form, utilizing the base spell of Byakurai in order to generate a lightning-based force Field. Likewise, she attuned her spiritual energy to the element of lightning, for she had received knowledge that one member of Xstence used lightning-elemental attacks; by attuning her spiritual energy in this manner, she greatly increased her natural resistance to the element, a quirk of being a mage of significant ability.

In response, her reiatsu flared outwards and crackled as if to emphasize her actions, before she turned her eyes to look forwards once more, before uttering to the other mages.

"Very well, the time has come for these kittens to catch themselves a mouse. Jurō, you'll do the honors, won't you?"

Moving swiftly, Megumi tightened her spiritual energy tightly around herself, for while she trusted the barrier they'd set up, she refused to underestimate their opponents. Failure to retrieve the Soul Fragments weren't an option to her, and she would give it her all even if she were up against regular humans if necessary.

"Naturally", replied Henkō with a nod. "It is only appropriate for the elderly to guide the young, after all."

With those words, he outstretched both of his arms in front of him. Then, he clasped his hands and jutted them forward. Whilst spiritual energy surged through his body, some of the lines tattooed on his skin shone with the colour of muted gold. All masters of Kidō had their personal ways of overcoming basic limitations of their chosen art, and like any other mid-rank member of the Coven, Henkō displayed a remarkable degree of skill and insight.

"Bakudō #58, Kakushitsuijaku", he recited the spell's name.

There was no need to draw a circle with ink or powder. Instead, he moulded his spiritual pressure to manifest large, glowing symbols in front of the group. Quickly, they assumed the shape of a circle with a set of coordinates within. Two separate sets of coordinates, extremely precise, and constantly changing to reflect movement of their two targets. There was no escape for them now.

"Two magnificent fruits, ripe for the picking", the wizard mused.

The second of those fruits, which had been relatively stationary until now began to move, and just so, the spell adjusted for every step, no matter how minuscule. Kōhaku, who had been happily awing away at the newest decoration in his office was pulled away from his own amusement by two distractions. The first was more mundane, his cellphone had began ringing, chirping away with a muffled tone from within the pocket of his work slacks. He already knew why, the second distraction. His senses had flared up, a niggling sting in the back of his mind that had alerted him to the arrival of something. He couldn't tell what, exactly, it was, but it didn't feel like a Hollow, which only made his heart sink lower. Something unknown was something dangerous.

He lifted his phone from his pocket, and a faint smile drew onto his face. Tetsuo felt the same way, of course he did. Affirming that thought, he pressed that familiar green button and was immediately bestowed with the sound of his friend's voice. It was a quick and straight exchange, more a delegation of orders than anything else, though it still worked to comfort the Fullbringer. "Got it, I'll meet you at Hōnara".

With a simple reply of his own, Kōhaku hung up, and swiftly navigated through the phone's directory to call Emi. There was a few stalled moments of waiting, the sound of the dial tone drilling into Kōhaku's ear. In situations like this, he always felt everything was a little sharper, more clear. Knowing that those half-seconds he spent simply listening were going to be wasted, Kōhaku had already begun motioning for his own exit of the building.

A giant skyscraper like the Morimoto building would have been a long and tedious elevator ride, or a long and arduous climb down the many, many flights of stairs. He didn't have time for that. With a succinct pop, one of the windows of his office had freed itself from its sealant and now gentle floated through the air, bathing in the Fullbringer's spiritual power. He stood like that for now, arm outstretched watching the glass, until Emi answered his call.

There was breathing on the other end, but apart from that, silence.

"Emi-kun, get Miss Tanaka and meet us at HQ", as before, the words spoken were quick and tense, like marching orders from a military communications outpost. Emi didn't even have to reply, before Kōhaku hung up and pocketed the phone. He was sure she'd get it done. He had to be.

Distractions out of the way at last, the young businessman walked towards the window, at this elevation, the sheer wind threatened to suck him into the sky, though he had to climb another window before it could do so. As he let go, he was pulled into a free fall, and used his power once more to return the window to its proper place. It wasn't the last use of Fullbring he would be making today, indeed, everything about his new predicament required its constant supervision.

Working on the air as he passed through it, he has slightly decreased the speed at which he fell, keeping some air trapped in his lungs as well so that he wouldn't suddenly pass out. He had avoided taking the lift, or the stairs, because doing so would take a long time. But he was also worried about involving innocent bystanders. Whether he liked it or not, Kōhaku was still Human, and so, unlike a Hollow or a Shinigami, he could be seen by everyone else. Having fireballs and other horrific things thrown at him was dangerous, especially when no one else could see it. But fighting back in plain view? That would scare people. So would crashing into the middle of a busy street of course, and rather than contemplate that fact, Kōhaku was quick to maneuver into his next set of machinations.

He pulled on the air, and a great ring of green radiated out and around him, then he launched forward like a bullet towards a rooftop. Far lower than where his office was, but still high enough that no one would have really noticed his presence in the air. With momentum like that though, he was sure to have problems, if it weren't for Fullbring.

His body became harder than stone, and the rooftop's friction rapidly rose as he landed which brought him to a safe and relatively quick stop.

"That's one hurdle down", he mused lightly, throwing off his suit jacket and undoing his tie. He looked towards Hōnara, the old abandoned town in the distance. He had to hurry.

Tetsuo stopped the car in front of his family home, which lay on the outskirts of Ikeda between the city and the small town of Hōnara. He looped his tonfa through his belt, keeping the weapons pressed against the small of his back and hidden beneath his suit. Leaving his cell phone behind, he took his pager instead in case someone tried to track him, but was careful to mute the device before pocketing it. Then, he took off at a dead run. His footsteps instinctively carried him up the steep path and through the woods, and he reached the abandoned town in no time. Again, he had not drawn upon his spiritual abilities in order to keep his own pressure as faint as possible, hoping he might remain disguised as a normal human. He could sense the presence of the spiritual being somewhere overhead, and as such he avoided the main roads, instead threading his way through the overgrown underbrush until he had come to the short clearing in front of Hōnara’s old high school. A high, chain link fence hedged in the dilapidated building, and the broken windows stared back at him like empty sockets. But nothing moved.

Tetsuo removed his pager from his pocket and quickly glanced at the screen, but he had so far received no messages. He considered making a run for it: dashing across the open clearing in order to get inside the school. After all, there was as of yet no sign of the mysterious newcomers. But then, as he scanned the skies above, he at last caught sight of two distant figures in flowing back robes. His stomach sank. They were indeed Shinigami. Tetsuo crouched in the shadows, attempting to make his Reiatsu as small as possible as he watched the two warriors and waited for the other Fullbringers to arrive. He would approach them only if they first took notice of him. As beings who possessed unbridled power, Tetsuo had never trusted the Shinigami. Today was no exception. He wondered what they were doing there in Osaka in the middle of the day, and he wanted some back up just in case their purpose was to attack.

"Show time."

The two Shinigami remained stationary and silent, almost as if they did not take note of the Fullbringer nearby. When alive, these two — Rukia and Renji — were among the elite within the Gotei 13's battalions. But it was different now. They met their end in the war nine years ago, but were brought back by the magic of Arata; literal mere shells of themselves. In truth, they did take notice of the Fullbringer, if only because Arata did. They were connected to the necromancer who brought them forth from death's icy grasp; a hilarious ironic notion, given that they are the bringers of death themselves. Arata watched from the protection of the magic shroud blocking his existence from both sight and detection. Still, the cautious actions of Tetsuo were wise by Arata's standards. He typically thought humans as being foolish and rash, ready to attack enemies once they spot them or to approach a friendly person without worry of betrayal. Arata was one to enjoy chaos, but even he knew that a subtle approach was best not to create unnecessary devastation.

Wordlessly, he pointed two of his fingers down toward where he could sense Tetsuo sneaking about. It was true, with such reiatsu toned down, he would escape detection by most individuals. But to avoid being noticed by a specialist of Kidō was no simple task. Within the close vicinity of Tetsuo, a long yellow rope crackled into existence like a quiet lightning and moved with similar speed, seeking to wrap itself around the Fullbringer with the full intent of restraining his entire body. Almost at the same time that this had begun, the two Shinigami slowly began to descend toward where Tetsuo was. Both drew their weapons, holding their swords in hand while falling slowly toward his location. Arata did not actually believe he'd capture the Fullbringer with that spell. What he hoped to accomplish was to force the Fullbringer to move rashly without thinking, creating an opening for the two undead Shinigami to strike him down quietly.

Megumi observed quietly as her companion made the first move, she foresaw no true difficulty on their part, and expected Arata to be able to deal with their foe. For now, she remained hidden and bided her time, while she increased the radius of her senses to prepare for any who might rush to the aid of their quarry.

But a smile played on her lips, as she looked forwards to witnessing their foes fighting a futile battle. How marvelous it would be, to be sure. Megumi took a certain delight in watching the fruitless squirming of lesser beings, to watch them suffer as she once had. It was an enlightening experience, to see the realization on their faces as they grew closer to hopelessness.

She would endeavor to assist the Shinigami puppets if necessary, of course, for they were valuable assets and prized possessions that ought to be preserved if possible. For now, she would merely watch.

Meanwhile, Henkō put his hands back into the long sleeves of his robe and crossed his arms across his chest. There was a smirk on his wizened face, barely visible because of the shadow cast upon it by his hood.

"I suppose your puppets shall suffice, Kogo-kun", he said in a calm tone. "As much as I'd like to unleash a few of my... acquaintances, it would be best for us to keep things quiet. There are far too many distractions in a place teeming with life like this to ensure they wouldn't stray from their mission."

He had made a pact, a dangerous one, with the Daemons of Hell. At any time he could summon a few, or a whole group of lesser fell entities to act as his troops. Nevertheless, whilst they did not prove insubordinate, they had a tendency to enjoy their time out of Hell. Mindless puppets such as those summoned by the young mage were much more suitable for the task at hand. They required subtlety, not brutal effectiveness.

The old man, wasn't the only one contemplating things. Back from the safety of his rooftop some distance away, Kōhaku held his black tie, now free from his neck. He wasn't sure whether to leave the simple garment behind or not, it was simple and not something to his taste, but the fabric used to make it was expensive. For a second he wanted to debate the idea with himself, cursing the fact that he'd become so wasteful with his money recently, but he wasn't allowed that kind of freedom at times like this. He cast it off, letting it flutter away in the light breeze of the air and with a light smile, returned to his duties.

That meant withdrawing a pager his back pocket, his smile ever widening as a result. Bulky, over stylised and incredibly gaudy, the contraption was the epitome of Momohara's taste, or at least that's how Kōhaku saw it and he couldn't help but laugh every time he was forced to take a look at the thing. Shaking his head, he began making use of it, fiddling with the buttons to send out a message to all of the members of Xstence. A fairly standard message cropped upon the small screen: 「STANDBY」. Not much on its own, to be sure, but all of the Fullbringers working under Tetsuo knew exactly what it meant, and everyone within range of his towers would receive it. Despite the design of the device, Kōhaku couldn't help but compliment the thorough forethought Tetsuo had put into all of this.

Putting the pager back where it came from, it was a simple walk towards the edge of the roof, and little more than a flash of green for his jump to the next building. Like that, he'd have to continue on till he got to Hōnara, assuming there were no distractions headed his way, of course.

First Strike

Tetsuo gauged the incoming bolt of golden light and estimated its speed and trajectory. His body fell naturally into the preparatory stance for sochin, and before the incoming energy had time to hit, he slammed his foot down on the ground.

Ha!” he yelled with concentrated energy. Dirt and rocks were thrown up as a shield in front of him, and at the same instant Tetsuo retreated, disappearing with an electric flicker of light. The Hainawa snaked through the dust and debris before it fizzled out of existence on the ground, but by then Tetsuo had already reemerged in the clearing between the school’s fence and the woods. He did not attack the two Shinigami immediately. Instead, he assumed a defensive stance as he waited for them to approach. They might be provoking me,, he thought, wondering if they wanted him to retaliate. He still had no way of knowing what their purposes in Hōnara was, but they seemed to be making it clear that they did not intend to negotiate. Still, he refused to fight if it were at all possible to avoid a confrontation.

“I think there’s been some mistake,” he called out, addressing the Shinigami directly, “Why are you attacking?”

Without missing a beat, the two Shinigami vanished with a flicker, indicating flash step, appearing down at where the Fullbringer had stood in his defensive posture; with Rukia standing toward Tetsuo's front side and Renji standing at a distance on his back side. For that moment, they glared toward the target, and in that instant, Tetsuo would be able to see more of these two's strange features. Their skin was considerably pale, lacking color, and their eyes were very dim. It almost looked like they were unconscious and were trying to awaken from some kind of endless slumber. Yet their eyes carried a very mysterious intensity about them, as if they were staring deep into Tetsuo and trying to pierce through his very soul with their gaze. Both held their swords at the ready, matching the preparation displayed by Tetsuo's own stance, but made no actual move toward the Fullbringer.

"We would... like your... surrender. Tetsuo... Momohara Tetsuo. We have... no interest... in killing... you." spoke Rukia in a quiet yet deepened voice.

"No harm... intended. Nor friends will... be harmed. Only if you... come with us." then voiced Renji with a similar sounding tone.

“If you want me to come with you, you’ll have to tell me why. Who sent you here?” Tetsuo’s voice was strong and unyielding. He did not back down, instead gathering his Reiatsu into the soles of his feet and his clenched fists as he prepared to react to however they might attack him. He was unsure of whether or not he could face two Shinigami on his own, but then he noted the wooden badges on their arms that marked their ranks as lieutenants and, with a sinking feeling, realized that his situation was dire. The best he could do at that point was to find an opening in which to escape, or hold out until help arrived. Where the hell are you, Kou. He thought angrily as he pictured his friend caught up in some stuffy mafia meeting, playing with a paperweight or otherwise making himself useless...

Tetsuo quickly cleared his head of such thoughts. He had to concentrate if he hoped to survive.

"It would be wise to listen to them, Momohara Tetsuo-san." came a voice that surrounded Tetsuo from all sides. It was Arata speaking from his concealed location, using a spell to project his voice through the air in the Fullbringer's immediate vicinity. "I'm afraid it won't do us very good to come clean about who we are, but I suppose I can spare a detail or two. You see, you carry something very important. You and your friend, Kōhaku. And we are in need of it for the greater good of the world. It is in the best interest of your friends, and of course, yourself, to come with us peacefully. Sophisticated souls such as us do not enjoy needless bloodshed."

As the disembodied voice spoke, both of the Shinigami readied their weapons but remained still. While speaking, Arata had held his hands up and was wordlessly casting another spell. Both of the swords wielded by his Shinigami puppets began to emit a steady yet faint white light that surrounded it as a sort of hue. The closer somebody is toward this strange light, the more disoriented they would feel until finally passing out. For these blades, sheathed in light, to have enough of an effect on Tetsuo to knock him out, they would need to remain rather close to his face for a good amount of time.

"You have three seconds to comply, otherwise... We will not be responsible for the blood that will stain this land." the voice stated once more.

Tetsuo had tensed while the voice began to speak, and had projected his own senses in order to try and perceive its origin, but to no avail. Reikaku yielded no results. This is why I hate Mondays, Tetsuo thought to himself as the Shinigami’s Zanpakutō became shrouded in white energy. Yet the speaker, whoever they might have been, had made a mistake when they had decided to verbally answer Tetsuo’s questions, as he was able to exploit it as an opening in order to quickly deduce three things. First, that the Shinigami before him were not in control of their own wills. From the deadened state of their eyes, robotic motions, and the matching hue of their sword’s aura, he assumed they had been hypnotized or otherwise enslaved to the unseen master. Secondly, that whoever was controlling the Shinigami was nearby, considering their ability to observe and respond to what he had said. Third, that they had somehow concealed themselves so as to avoid detection via Reikaku.

With his senses sharpened by the flooding adrenaline of all too familiar fear, never quite diminished despite his years of combat experience, he quickly settled upon a conclusion. After the invisible adversary had spoken, Tetsuo made a slight adjustment in his plans. There was now only one logical course of action. He could not surrender: not without knowing his attackers’ true purposes. He could not retreat: it would risk taking the fight to the other members of Xstence, and would possibly involve innocent bystanders. Thus the only recourse, for the time being, was to find the source and eliminate it. Tetsuo breathed in deeply, allowing oxygen to flood his veins as he began to pull on the soul of the very atmosphere that surrounded him, to the greatest distance possible. If Reikaku was ineffective, then he had only one other option left available to him.

The space that surrounded him and the two Shinigami began to bend and twist as he pulled on the air, forcing it into a distortion. Invisible masses began to move, sucked toward the vacuum that surrounded Tetsuo. And in three seconds, he had determined a small pocket of space high in the air that did not waver like the sky around it did. Something was there.

“You’re right,” Tetsuo responded to the final threat given by the voice, “I will.” With that he pushed himself off the ground, vanishing for a brief instant as he travelled up into the sky, away from the two Shinigami. And despite the bravado of his last statement, he promptly headed towards the dilapidated school building, as though he were in retreat.

"Oh, where oh where, are you going to go?"

Arata held his hands together in a prayer-like gesture, focusing in order to maintain his spell over his Shinigami puppets' blades. Once Tetsuo made his move, the two Shinigami vanished from their positions. Above the Fullbringer, Renji reappeared high in the sky and swung his sword down. In the moment that it was thrust out, the sword had undergone its release, transforming into a much longer and fiercer weapon as it extended out at great speeds; the white light maintained itself around the blade even as it was released. The weapon was lashed out toward Tetsuo with the intent of slashing him apart.

Simultaneously, Rukia reappeared in between the Fullbringer and the school. She held up her sword at about eye-level, the blunt edge facing her, as a blue orb appeared at the center of the horizontally-held blade's sharp edge. "Sō... ka... tsui." she mumbled, the orb growing almost instantly to nearly triple its original size, resembling a swirling ball of contained blue flames before being launched toward Tetsuo. It was fired at the direction that Arata most likely believed Tetsuo was going to dodge the attack by Renji.

"I trust you'll be able to handle yourself henceforth, Arata. It would appear we might've overestimated our prey, I shall seek out the other while you subdue this one." Megumi spoke chillingly, her words mirthless and cold, as the Kuchiki outcast even now sought to further the interests of the Coven, interests which at present were seen to here.

Wordlessly, she focused upon the coordinates of Kōhaku, as tendrils of white energy, reminiscent of silken bands began to weave themselves around her frame in what appeared to be a cocoon of sorts; Jurō's spell had been flawless, as expected of a mage of his caliber, and with a silent nod to him in things she enshrouded herself entirely within the cocoon, before the spell and woman vanished into thin air.

The spell had been tuned to deposit her close to the approaching Kōhaku; and this it did, as the woman materialized out of thin air a few yards in front of him. Her brown cloak billowing out in the wind over the rooftops, and her hair lashing about like a long black whip striking the air. Underneath raven-black bangs, were two eyes who regarded Kōhaku with a mix of disdain and palpable disgust.

"I won't tell you to come with me quietly, Fullbringer. Nor will I deign to explain the reason for my visit, no, all you need to know is that I've been tasked with retrieving you, and retrieving you I shall, and I will break every bone in your body to ensure you can't flee from me. Filthy Mageless parasite."

Quietly, the mage began moving menacingly towards Kōhaku, as her aura flared with arcs of lightning and sparkled with electric discharges. "Furthermore, don't even think about attempting to escape, or I will do.. this" With a flourish of her hands, Megumi unleashed upon the busy street they stood a gargantuan wave of raw lightning, which disintegrated all regular humans in the vicinity, tore through asphalt, concrete and ground and erased the entire district from the map in one go. As the spell died down, it would become apparent that nothing now remained of the busy street aside from a barren wasteland and toppled buildings. The discharge of lightning would be plainly visible overhead as several thick lances of brilliant blue striking down in the vicinity of Megumi; and would obviously alert all others with spiritual senses to her presence. Unlike her companion, this woman lacked subtlety.

Miraculously, despite the immense power of the spell, Kouhaku would most likely find himself utterly unharmed, for Megumi had diverted the power away from him, leaving a large circle untouched beneath him, even as flames and bolts of lightning spread across the battlefield which had by now become a veritable warzone.

Meanwhile, Jurō observed the aftermath of her spell crashing down upon the city. The sight of magic might unleashed amongst the steel and concrete of a mundane world was peculiar to behold, and rather difficult not to notice, given its potency. With his face partially obscured by the shadow cast upon it by the hood of his robe, he smirked and stroked his greying beard.

"My, my. Seems some of us do not have any compunctions about the usage of brute force", he said and snickered briefly. "However, such a vivid display might attract some unwanted attention...", he added in a grim tone.

With those words, he lowered both of his arms. He preferred to overlook things rather than participate directly, but the countdown had begun. Should the two Fullbringers prove capable of holding their own for slightly too long, he would have to interfere to finish the mission quickly. He did not doubt the abilities of his companions, yet at the same time he was of the "better safe than sorry" mindset. Time would tell.

For a moment, Kōhaku had thought to himself This is Hell. Having to leap from rooftop to rooftop, tugging on the souls of all the inanimate matter, it ate at him. He could feel it, every step of the way, his stamina being gnawed away at by the supernatural forces he was forced to employ. But when he saw that brown fluttering cloak, the ebony hair, and the ensuing flash of white that toppled everything around him, he couldn't help but feel sick. Thinking something so trivial could be compared to the scene he witnessed, it made his stomach turn. Rather than waste time complaining inwardly, he could've picked up the pace. He could have been at Hōnara by now. But instead, he'd brought Hell down upon those innocent people, so little left behind of them in the aftermath that Kōhaku couldn't even tell how many people had been lost. I'm sorry, Momo-chan, I screwed up.

Everything around him had been utterly erased, though his new found enemy had saw fit to avoid Kōhaku, clearly. There was a finely stood pillar of stone beneath his feet, a crumbling scrap of the building he had been standing atop a moment ago. Without even thinking about it, he had tugged on the air and turned it solid so that he could stand atop that instead, for the stone, with the rest of its mass eradicated, quickly toppled, shattering into rubble as it collided with the broken remains of the rest of the building. Kōhaku, looked up at her, his face twisted in anguish and rage.

"Parasite, huh?", he repeated to himself, the words having only now just registered in his mind after that screeching blast had filled his senses.

"A creature that latches onto a host and drains sustenance, irrespective of the host's wishes or desires", he rattled off relatively passively, almost contemplating the meaning behind it. He wasn't one to really react to insults, they never really meant anything to him, just empty words that someone used to make themselves feel better. But it was also rare of him to stand here in the aftermath of a man-made disaster, and to be in his right mind after all that, it was fortitude Kōhaku had yet to build for himself.

"Sorry, miss, but considering the circumstances, you sound more like the parasite here than me", he withdrew something from his pocket. Obscured as it was by his hand and the ensuing light that engulfed it, one would be hard pressed to tell what it was he had brought out, that quickly stopped mattering however as it disappeared, transforming into a series of rings made out of interlinking black bones that floated around Kōhaku.

"I don't know what you're playing at, but we could've talked it out, maybe I could've helped, even", his senses had been probing at everything they could all this time. He couldn't glean much, but he could feel that this woman was powerful, and obviously a soul. He had clashed with Hollows, misguided Fullbringers, and even the occasional Quincy, but souls... What would the spirits of Soul Society want here? He had to put it on the backburner. Contemplating now would get him killed, and as he could feel Tetsuo's own Reiatsu going crazy, Kōhaku was certain of what he needed to do.

"I guess it makes sense you don't know how to negotiate, after all, you're just a rat, right?", that was most certainly petty, but Kōhaku was hoping to earn the woman's ire, just as she had most certainly got his. His hand went for his pockets again, at the same time as he tugged on the soul of the air. He darted forwards, right at Megumi, only to spring past her by an inch or two. The air having turned solid, he rested there like a haphazard looking frog with his e-cigarette held at a slant between his teeth. He had already inhaled from it and then forced out a cloud of vapor at the young woman. Incredibly ineffective as it would seem, the mist wasn't intended as a distraction, at least not in the most realistic sense.

Possessing a Soul Fragment, Kōhaku had inherited the power of Reishi absorption and that just happened to be how he practiced it. The air would give him its share of energy, but souls? They were entirely made of that energy, and to gnaw at that would surely be painful, or so the albino theorised. Sticking around so close to someone carrying so much destructive power, wasn't his idea of a good time however, and so, the moment after the mist had been released, he turned the air into a more malleable form once more and shot off through the sky. Hōnara was right ahead, Momohara wasn't that far after. It was time for a game of cat and mouse.

The two Shinigami had surrounded him on either side, and as the blade of the transformed Zanpakutō shot towards Tetsuo, he quickly gauged his current location in relation to that of the other lieutenant. Then, without another second of hesitation, his tonfa had been drawn out in both hands and, crossing his forearms, he blocked the red-haired Shinigami’s attack.

He allowed the strike to push him down, directly towards the other lieutenant. And as a blue orb materialized in front of her chest, he had oriented himself so that he was in between the spell and the Shinigami above. The Sōkatsui exploded outwards, but Tetsuo had already disappeared, vanishing with an electric sliver of light. His sudden absence would allow the blade of the Zanpakutō to continue its path towards the other Shinigami, just as her own spell threatened to contact her own partner.

Tetsuo, however, did not wait to see how the two would react. He flickered into existence once: on the ground somewhere below Arata, and then, threading out a line of negatively charged energy that connected him with the point he had identified in the sky, established a conduit that would link him with his adversary. For a moment he paused and took out two coins of spare change from his pocket, holding one in each hand. He felt himself waver for a moment, as though he were suddenly dizzy, and widened his stance in order to stabilize himself. The effects of the Kidō spell used by the two Shinigami, however, were not yet strong enough for him to realize anything was wrong other than him simply having moved too fast to account for his own speed.

The instant Tetsuo sprang, which emitted a pulse on the ground beneath him as he literally bent the electromagnetic spectrum through the sheer force of his movement, he was already in mid-strike. The two coins hurtled towards the point where he had identified Arata’s location, or non-location as the case may have been, only they were now charged with two streams of electricity. The points of blue, crackling light turned in on themselves around the orb of non-substance, and upon contact they would explode violently.

At the same time, Tetsuo felt an electric shiver run through his spine as, in the distance, he could sense some other cataclysmic shifting of space as a torrent of electricity was unleashed. He sensed Kōhaku as well, making his way towards Hōnara. And, for a split-second, he was distracted from his own battle.

The very air itself seemed to shatter apart as several golden chains erupted forth from the cracks of the space where Arata had been hiding. They would collide with the streams of lightning running toward his direction just as the electrical explosion had transpired, preventing a great deal of it from expanding outwards. Sounds of discharge were sent up the chains for a brief moment when they smashed against the colliding conduits, and once that danger was eliminated, so too did the chains fade away. And out of the cracked space, which opened up a bit more once the chain spell faded, out walked the mage himself; bearing his wicked smile, now for Tetsuo to personally see. "Well, looks like the cat's out of the bag, huh? For an inferior specimen, you sure are able to use that limited intellect of yours quite well." spoke his condescending voice.

In that moment, where it was believed Tetsuo was distracted due to his comrades' welbeing, the two Shinigami were able to retaliate. Perhaps if these two were individuals, having to think for themselves and had poor teamwork as a result, such a manuever would've been the end of them. But regardless of their identities, the resurrected puppets were of a single collective mind. It was possible that their Fullbringer opponent was not even aware of this connection, and in that brief window in which Tetsuo was distracted, they would make full use of this perfect collaboration. As the blue sphere of flames rushed toward Renji, he tugged on his hilt, altering the course of his Zabimaru as it struck into the spell with its tip. But the flames did not die out. Rather, the motion of the sword continued to extend in Tetsuo's immediate direction, carrying the blue flames with it like a tunneling sharp projectile coated with embers. On the chance that either Tetsuo would not fall to the blade or managed to dodge it, Rukia prepared for those potential scenarios by once more raising her blade and focusing a spell at its center. This time, however, the creation was a series of small red spheres lining up along the blade's edge. In the instant they formed, they were fired as significantly fast explosive projectiles that grew even larger as they approached Tetsuo from all different directions.

Arata, now on the front lines, merely kept up his conscious guard while his hands returned to his jacket's pockets. Though he wasn't a direct combatant, he was sure he could handle the situation on his own.

Megumi did not follow after Kōhaku immediately, but instead recast the spell of Kakushitsujiaku upon him once more, in order to track his movement and precise coordinates, but before then, she had a statement to make. She'd warned him not to turn her back on her or try to escape, but the mageless one had done just that, very well, she'd have to show him that she was indeed serious. By now, the air had begun to fill with screams as people ran from the large gap in the crowded city. She followed them through the sky as they ran below her, like tiny ants to her eyes, a fitting vision of magelings.

Then, with one hand outstretched she conjured forth a large condensed sphere of thunderous energies, crackling with great power; in her palm it began to increase in size at accelerated rates until it was twice as large as her entire body, hovering overhead akin to a blue sun, the entire orb balanced on the tip of her right pointing finger.

With no movement wasted, Megumi unleashed her conjured spell onto the screaming masses below her, like a god bringing her divine judgement down upon heretics. Slowly, the orb fell to the earth, but when it did, it erupted into an explosion of tremendous destructive potential, sending a thick pillar of crackling energies reaching far into the skies. Megumi felt the first few pangs of fatigue at this feat, but she disregarded her mounting exhaustion; it was a necessary sacrifice.

Underneath her, a massive crater had formed, as if a meteor had impacted in the middle of a bustling city. Wails of anguish were heard among those few who had miraculously survived, and by now, a significant portion of the town had been eradicated by Megumi alone, in the span of a few minutes. She paid the chaos below no mind, as she turned towards the direction to which her quarry had fled. She'd catch up with him in a moment.

Meanwhile, in a perfect vantage point to watch the situation develop but otherwise unengaged, Jurō decided to participate in the mission more actively. He respected the prowess of his accomplices, no doubt, but he would like them to accomplish the goal a bit more quickly. After all, the Shinigami were over there, ready to pry into their affairs at the most inconvenient of moments. The faster the two Fullbringers were caught, the better.

Consequently, he lifted his right hand. The wide sleeve lowered on its own, once again exposing the intricate network of tattoos etched on his forearm and hand. Some of them shone brightly, but no word escaped his mouth. There was no need to, for to announce the spell he was about to use aloud would mean certain death of their invaluable prey. A fine degree of control was all that he required. Haien, the abolishing flames, easily one of his favourite standard spells. Coloured a muted shade of gold in recognition of his dominance over the form of the spell, several apparent will-o'-the-wisps emerged from his person and flew fast toward Kōhaku, not to strike him directly, but intercept and distract him long enough for Megumi to catch up with the Human.

After one step came another, and after that yet another. As soon as his momentum was about to dull, Kōhaku pulled on the air and repeated the process that sprung him forward in the first place. High-speed movement had never been his forte, though he had been taking lessons from the others in the group to see that resolved. It was hard going, and he was still very much prone to messing up. He gritted his teeth as the thought passed his mind, screaming and fire still roaring loud in the back of his head. Today of all days he wouldn't allow himself to screw up. Especially not now.

Having seen what his opponent, if he could even call her that, was capable of, Kōhaku had fanned out the floating discs that were his Fullbring, organising them each of his flanks for protection. It was common sense of course. He had to keep his eyes on the front, where Hōnara, where Tetsuo, was and this left him exposed. What better way to fill that gap than to layer out his shields in those very blindspots?

Putting that very thought to the test was the sudden increase in Reiatsu that Kōhaku felt. Another one?, he turned his head in the direction of the force that had sparked his spiritual senses only to witness the small sprites of light smash against his Fullbring. What were, at first, several delicate-looking flames rapidly multiplied and exploded in every direction that Kōhaku's Fullbring dictated. All of them safely away from him.

He grit into his own teeth harder, This is just great!, he complained. Judging by Tetsuo's Reiatsu ahead of him, it was clear there was someone fighting him, and with the two around himself, Kōhaku wasn't entirely sure how they'd be able to get out of it. There was nothing for it but to press on, though. And that's exactly what he did.

Facing forward once again, he shot into another leap to cross the final bounds between himself and that familiar abandoned town where he and his compatriots conducted their affairs like a bunch of kids at a school club. He was a blur of green and wind when he arrived not far from Tetsuo, rings of bone reforming all around him.

From his trajectory above them, he'd been able to see what was coming. Though he arrived as a ball of sweat and gasping breaths, he only permitted himself a couple before he pulled in as much air as he could to yell at his treasured friend with whatever warning came to mind. "Tetsuo, dodge!"

But Tetsuo had already moved to react, and he did not hear his friend’s advise. He had calculated the trajectory of the red-haired Shinigami’s Zanpakutō even as the segmented blade rushed towards him, glowing blue from the flames of the Sōkatsui that it carried along it’s lower, cutting edge. Just as the impact was certain, Tetsuo brought his foot around and with a concentrated, electric burst of energy, slammed his heel down on the spine of the sword. The attack was diverted, and the delayed Kidō attack finally detonated somewhere in the air below the two combatants harmlessly. At least he had hoped it had been harmless. With Kōhaku having arrived there was no telling whether he had managed to evade the blue light of the Sōkatsui or not. Tetsuo broke his concentration for a brief second to glance in his friend's direction and saw that he was indeed alright.

However, even though his actions had been as minimal and efficient as possible, Tetsuo still found himself trapped by the volley of red orbs that shot towards him from all sides. His distraction had cost him. At the last second he gathered the energy from the air around him, which had strangely increased ever since he had sensed the electrical explosion from earlier, and he separated the positive and negative currents running through the air. With a blast of concussive force, he emitted an electromagnetic shockwave that cut through the Shakkahō. But the spell had been too close, and the resulting explosion sent a wall of heat and pressure that slammed into him, tossing him back through the air like a paper doll. Skidding on the surface of the sky, he finally managed to regain his footing and righted himself before he pulled on the air between him and Kōhaku and cut the distance, finally coming to a stop beside his friend. There was steam rising from his shoulders, as his suitcoat seemed to have taken the brunt of the damage from the Shakkahō.

“I see you brought company,” Tetsuo growled, “Would it have killed you to get here a bit sooner?”


Silence befell the mage's face as he watched the one they identified as the other carrier of the desired soul fragment. But this was temporary, for not even a moment after...

A wide menacing grin became Arata's expression.

"Marvelous... Simply marvelous!" in a loud enough voice that both Tetsuo and the arrival Kōhaku could most likely hear him. The mage seemed to engage in a moment of pure laughter, releasing a heinous cackle that bore no less than the entirety of his malicious intentions for all to hear. "To think... Both prey would find themselves before my very eyes like this!" he spoke through his chuckling, holding out both arms with his hands overturned in the direction of the two Fullbringers. Using both hands, he had snapped his fingers, as if to signal something.

In that instant, hundreds of glowing silver rods came hurtling through the air like arrows from the shadow cast by the school building, coursing through with the two Fullbringers as their target. They rushed through the air making subtle whistling sounds in their wake, but half-way through their rush for their targets, they seemed to spontaneously ignite into orange-red flames which coated each and every rod with the blaze. However, it seemed to have a secondary effect as well, essentially causing them to be launched by the sudden eruption of flames around them, altering their speed mid-flight and thus throwing off any attempt to have gauged their speed prior to their ignition.

The ones responsible for this feat flashed out of the shadows after casting the dual-layered spell, standing before the now stationary Renji and Rukia. One was a tall male with short raven hair and a noticeable numerical tattoo against his facial cheek while the other was a medium height woman with hair tied up in a bun. Both were also adorned in the same Shinigami robes as the other two, and given their lifeless expressions, they were the same as the summoned Renji and Rukia. In truth, these four were the complete set of Arata Kogo's quartet. A masterful strategist, he kept his remaining Shinigami hidden away, awaiting the chance to corner the targets once they had managed to catch up to one another. With his Coven comrades capable of handling any possible interruptions, Arata was now free to apprehend the soul fragment targets.

"This'll be your last chance, foolish humans. Surrender yourselves or be brought along with us by force." Arata declared, holding his hand upwards, with his four Shinigami preparing to move.

In the meantime, Jurō shook his head slowly. So strong, so talented, yet at the same time so overzealous and inexperienced. Poor Megumi had allowed her prey to escape, venting off her frustration upon the city below and thus lighting a beacon for every Shinigami patrol within miles to spot them. At first, he was unsure why such an old, and ultimately unremarkable wizard such as himself was appointed to join this mission. Now he knew. The two youngsters needed his composure and caution to temper their fervour and help correct their inevitable mistakes.

Truth be told, Kogo seemed to be about to catch the Fullbringer he had been dealing with. As such, with the other one now in the area and with Megumi-kun unable to participate for the time being, Henkō decided to intervene again. That was a difficult task, to guide and catch an ant without accidentally crushing it with a single move too powerful. Thus, he had to forgo the usage of his favourite standard spell. As much as he admired the abolishing flames, no matter his mastery over them their inherent purpose was to eradicate, and he did not want his victim eradicated but captured. Nevertheless, among his myriad options there were multiple that would let him act with proper amount of power and with no risk of inadvertent harm.

"Bakudō #63, Sajō Sabaku", he spoke calmly.

Owing to the utterance, nine augmented chains of shimmering gold emerged from his aura and sped toward Kōhaku. Converging upon him like a bunch of glowing snakes, they were supposed to quickly bind the Fullbringer and prevent him from interfering with Arata's work. Noting that at that point completing the mission as fast as possible was imperative, that was not the end of his contribution. Because as the chains were about to reach their intended target, he opened his mouth once more:

"Bakudō #79, Kuyō Shibari", he added, planning for the chains to serve as a medium for the stronger binding spell in order to permanently incapacitate Kōhaku.

This time the effort was noticeable. With no ambient spiritual particles to draw from he had to rely solely on his own reserves, and to cast spells aloud required a portion of that energy. Fortunately, he did not intend to stay there a second longer than what was absolutely necessary to accomplish their task.

"Trust me, I tried!", Kōhaku replied, somewhat flustered with all the goings on. He had barely managed to get his breath back whilst Arata rattled on about giving them a chance to surrender. Though, by this point, that had already gone out the window when his comrade decided to murder a flock of innocent people. His only concern was with making these people pay for their transgressions, and he was certain of the fact that they could. After all, if they presented insurmountable odds, then Tetsuo and himself would have already been on their knees, whether they wished it or not.

Before he could get lost in that thought, the sound of chains became incredibly evident, as did the call of their master. Kōhaku wasn't nearly quick enough to be evading something so sudden, and he didn't even try. Those steel-styled bones that floated around him were pulled close instead and suffered in his place. Nine rows of chains wrapping around the rings that hovered barely an inch from their master, almost utterly pinned Kōhaku in place. He wasn't without his own response, though. Four rings hung around him on each direction, preventing the chains from crushing him directly, though they had secured him by clamping down on the rings. The fifth ring, freely hanging about overhead was free to place itself on the opposite side of those chains, doubling the power of their effects.

Through Kōhaku was loathe to admit such a thing, the Kidō spell that had been trying to secure him place was stronger than he could break out of without careful consideration. Even now, he couldn't get rid of the whole thing. The rings on either side of one portion of the chains did their job, ripping them into four sections and tossing them into the sky as raw energy once more. A gap opening in his predicament, Kōhaku was more than quick to follow it, escaping just in time to avoid the summation of the second spell. A deep purple void opening up in the air just as he left it. His shields would withdraw from their place as the chains began to fall away, but the strain was plain on his face. Doing that again and again, wasn't something he'd be able to pull off.

"Momo-chan, we might wanna turn that standby into something else", he suggested to his partner.

“Obviously,” Tetsuo responded from across the clearing. His voice was strained, as even he, of all people, felt the dire threat of their current situation. He had seemingly escaped from the fire storm thrown by the two newly arrived lieutenants relatively unscathed. At the last instant, as the Hyapporankan had shot towards him, Tetsuo widened his stance, sharpening the edges of his tonfa into cutting blades by vibrating the electricity that coursed through them. He had intended to cut through the shower of projectiles and then continue his attack towards Arata. But when the rods had burst into orange flame, he realized the stupidity of such a course of action and quickly switched tactics. Namely, getting the hell out of harm’s way. Tetsuo had thrown himself back away from the spears of flames, allowing the ground in front of him to take the brunt of the damage. The resulting explosion sent a wall of dust and billowing flames into the air, obscuring his vision. Thus, he had not seen the stray bolt that managed to fly farther than the others, and it narrowly missed his head as it speared through his tie and incinerated it. Tetsuo pulled off the burning object and flung it away from him as he searched desperately for an escape route. That had been far too close for comfort.

There was no time to formulate a plan of attack, but he nevertheless managed use the brief breath of time to draw in the energy around him. Easily, he prepared himself to move. With a blue light that emanated from the soles of his feet, Tetsuo vanished from sight, only to reappear in front of the red-haired male lieutenant. In the next instant he disappeared again, and seemed to shimmer into existence in front of one of the other Shinigami. Soon, the entire battleground was filled with flickering, fading images of Tetsuo, who moved with such speed that his afterimages seemed to blur together into one flowing motion. He was everywhere at once, leaving his opponents no chance to predict where his next steps would take him.

Using his projected shadows as a mask to hide his true intentions, the real Tetsuo emerged in front of Kōhaku and extended his hand. His friend took it and the two Fullbringers shot off away from the Shinigami who surrounded them towards the school a short distance away. As soon as they landed on the roof, Tetsuo used the window he had created to type a message into the pager: 「HQ. MOBILIZE. URGENT.」 As he hit send, Tetsuo knew that the few members of Xstence he could sense nearby were already on their way. For now, all he had Kōhaku had to do was to hold out a bit longer on their own.

“I think it’s safe to bet they’re all Shinigami,” Tetsuo told his friend, “Those four in uniform seem to be controlled by the guy I was fighting earlier, although the one who tried to capture you might be our biggest threat.” He looked around the roof and spotted a coil of wires from one of the electrical boxes on the roof. Perfect. He thought. “In any case, I can only get a shot if we create an opening,” he traded a knowing glance with Kōhaku, “But I don’t want to use that unless we’re sure that it will force a retreat,” he said as he spun his tonfa around back to their readied position. “I’ve got your back if you’ve got mine,” he said casually, although inwardly he could feel fear work its way into the pit of his stomach, and he gritted his teeth as he waited for their enemies to attack.


Arata was amused. There was nothing else with what to describe his expression but that. His targets were putting on quite the show, especially with this dance of afterimages produced by Tetsuo. Never, even in his wildest dreams, did he believe mere humans could be capable of entertaining him like this. But that's all it was. Nothing more than the same look upon a child's face as they watch a cartoon superhero on the television screen. It was a fleeting joy. But what made Arata so overjoyed about this situation was that it allowed him to truly test the limits of his control over his reanimated souls. He could take his time, of course, to properly see how these Fullbringers fend off every single special trait of these four Shinigami. But he was there with a task to accomplish, in which time was a crucial factor. Holding back was unnecessary.

"Megumi-san... Jurō-san... Do be careful out there." Arata warned in a hushed tone, his face still curled into that wicked grin.

Of the four Shinigami, only the woman named Rukia stepped forward. With a sweeping motion of her blade, its appearance drastically changed, becoming as white as the first hint of snow on winter's morn. A chilling presence arose from her body, almost as if the seasons themselves had been transformed; the humid airs of summer had given way to what seemed like winter's icy grasps. Arata had chuckled for a brief moment, his breath visible as a result of the cool air, as he glared menacingly toward his Fullbringer opponents and the doppelgangers forged to hide his movements. Rukia stepped back and held the blade horizontally with the tip facing outwards, as flickers of reiatsu danced upwards as they flowed around her. Four geysers of spiritual energy manifested into being in front of her person, glazing upwards as she maintained her grip.

"I would prefer not to have to explain to him..."

"Tsu... gi... no mai..." Rukia spoke softly and slowly.

"...why I've brought you both back as ice swans!" Arata continued.


Without warning, the four geysers of spiritual energy conglomorated onto one another and exploded outwards in a fierce rush. The wave was massive, enough to nearly blanket the sky as it consumed the afterimages in an icy chill; freezing them on touch to the point that several Tetsuo ice sculptures began to fall to the ground below with a loud shatter. It continued on, fanning out and devouring the skies as it threatened to completely freeze over the entire battlefield, along with any buildings or humans unlucky enough to be around the area.

Masked by the Curved Light, Megumi had been close to her allies for some time, she was certain they knew. But the purpose was to gauge their preys potential, but she'd soon understood that there was no point in doing so. Faced with the prowess of true mages, they were like helpless children fighting adults, hopelessly outmatched. Her earlier outburst, while necessary would undoubtedly draw the attention of the Gotei 13 - the time to complete their task had come.

She revealed herself right in front of the Fullbringers, just as Rukia's Hakuren came surging in from behind her; Megumi turned around abruptly to face the wave of white energies, and swiftly rearranged the flow of reishi particles in a way which weakened its lethality significantly, while also providing a momentary hole to prevent it from striking her as well, it closed swiftly afterwards. Weakening the attack of her comrade was not something she enjoyed doing, but it was necessary. Fullbringers were humans, and as such were prone to die from all manner of trivial things, a testimony to their inferior existence. Therefore she had adjusted the attack of Arata's "pet" to enhance its speed and ability to freeze whatever it came in contact, while greatly lowering its lethality; a fairly simple task for someone like her, whose talents were largely based around elemental magic.

Following the wake of Arata's attack, Megumi grabbed ahold of her brown cape, now encrusted with many ice crystals, and promptly threw it away, and soon it was caught by a gust of wind and sent fluttering away as Megumi's ponytail lashed about her in the potent gust.

"So then, comrades, I will continue the fight from here, it is after all my specialty. Arata, I suggest you prepare yourself to retrieve what we came for from our foes. Juro-dono, my.. antics have most certainly notified the Gotei 13, would you ensure that we still have time to complete our objective, generate a few barriers and a couple welcoming presents, mayhaps?"

Megumi's voice sounded differently when she spoke to her companions, usually like velvet-draped iron, it became more mellow, almost warm even. However, as quickly as it came, it was replaced again with the usual quality as she turned her steely eyes on the Fullbringers.

"Trash. As a last service to you before I collect you for a much grander purpose, I will share with you my name; it is Megumi. Don't respond in kind though, for the knowledge would stain my mind, you wretched little worms."

Hovering closer to them, she spoke again, her gaze not leaving the two young men for even an instant.

"From now on, I will be your opponent, the rules are simple, attempts at running from me will not only be pointless, but lead to similar destruction akin to what I demonstrated earlier. I assume you do not want to be a partial reason for their demise, now would you?"

Henkō shook his head again. Not in response to Megumi's request, but in exasperation stemming from the persistence of their targets. However, said targets were as good as captured now, so that he could take care of deploying preventive measures against the inevitable interference. As such, he let the chains of Sajō Sabaku bathe in the dark purple void of Kuyō Shibari and merge with the other spell. Next, he guided them toward himself only to absorb their energy.

The old wizard clasped his hands and closed his eyes. Faint aura of golden colour outlined his body. One of the greatest accomplishments in his career as a mage was developing his own ward, a sign of spellcasting mastery rare among the ranks of the Gotei 13. This time, rather than defend just himself, he decided to salvage the energy of his earlier binding spells and empower the ward to stretch it across a more sizeable area. Tenki. The tantalising, invisible field that did not exactly stop incoming attacks and enemies but repeatedly redirected them away, rendering all but the most substantial exertion to reach what was inside basically futile.

"We are safe now", he claimed, actively maintaining the enlarged field, for he doubted anything short of a Captain-class threat could hinder them at that point.

When Tetsuo had whisked him away from the earlier harm, Kōhaku took the time to transfer control of Bonewheel to his friend. With five of these hovering rings to protect them, it would be useful to have their control spread between the pair of them, allowing them to cover each other's blind spots and interfere with the numbers of their opponents if they decided to focus on one over the other. Tetsuo had shared his sentiments vocally, and so it was easy to reply wholeheartedly. "I've always got your back, Momo", the name had slipped out as habit, but he was at least conscious enough to treat it as more than a pet name.

The incoming storm of ice, as muddled as it became due to the enemies' own interference made it easier to block with those bone rings. All five of them lined up in front of each other, and Kōhaku himself stood in front of Tetsuo to greatly decrease their profile. The ice hit the barrier with all the force of an avalanche, causing the Fullbringer to physically strain in holding up his defenses. Like the woman before them, the small space occupied by the two men was the only safe spot, whilst the roof found itself piled upon by an ocean of ice that near enough flash-froze the entirety of the building's upper levels.

After it had subsided they were, of course, subject to this Megumi's rant. A rather goading one at that, but as the surrounding town they now stood in was abandoned, Kōhaku's compunction to fight back had only gotten stronger, as the manifestation of several sticks of dynamite appearing between his fingers clearly attested.

"If that's the case, the name's Kōhaku Morimoto", he stated in clear defiance of the girl's supposed fear of having her memory stained with their names.

Using the time provided to him courtesy of the woman’s rather lengthy... monologue, Tetsuo knelt down and slammed his tonfa into the ground on either side of him.

“She’s a classic villain, isn’t she,” he muttered to Kōhaku. Unlike his friend he did not supply his name. He had heard what she had said, but was only interested in one part of it: that their enemies apparently planned to use them in some ‘grand scheme’ of an unknown nature. By that time, he had at least determined that they were most likely not associated with the Gotei 13. While the Shinigami had many faults, they did not normally threaten to destroy entire cities—they were still tasked with maintaining the balance of the worlds, after all, if in name only. What he was more concerned with was how the two of them could incapacitate their opponents. Running would only bring their troubles elsewhere, and there was no guarantee that they could force their opponents to retreat. There was, however, one simple end to their predicament, and that would be to remove the source of the problem entirely.

As this thought flashed through Tetsuo’s mind, the energy building around him became heavy, dark and chilling as it was unwittingly imbued with murderous intent. Yet his expression remained unreadable as he continued to run through calculations silently. Typically, lightning could travel six meters into water before dissipating. But electricity favored the surface, and would disperse widely in all directions, travelling from ion to ion before it met with resistance. Ice, even if formed spiritually, was composed of water, locked rigidly into place; yet water nonetheless.

“Let’s see what exactly she’s capable of,” he said. In the next instant, he emitted a discharge of energy that traveled along the surface of the ice. As the blue, snapping light streamed over the frozen surface, it seared the ice and blackened it from the sheer heat of the energy. The electricity curled up towards where Megumi stood, using the water as a medium, it surrounded her and threatened to converge upon her from all sides. But Tetsuo did not move, keeping his senses alert to the movements of their other adversaries as he expected for Kōhaku to use the distraction of the attack to his advantage.


Michiyo had been heading back towards Hōnara, a sack of groceries in the front basket of her bicycle, when she had received the message from Tetsuo. “Standby” to her had, of course, meant “head towards the huge explosion of Reiatsu at headquarters,” and the second message had most clearly been a distress call. She had left her bicycle back at her house and had just started up the street that led to the school when, without warning, a golden light cut across the ground in front of her. The aura of glowing energy extended high above her as a dome, completely encapsulating the area around the school.

“Hmph,” she said as she tapped her gnarled hand against the invisible barrier—and was thrown back by the repelling ward. Picking herself up and brushing off her blouse, she squinted contemptibly at the spell. “Hmph,” she said again. Tetsuo and Kōhaku were somewhere beyond the wall, and if she wanted to reach them she knew she’d have to do something in order to get past it. And she had just the trick.

“Stay back everyone,” she said to the Fullbringers who had arrived after her. Then, for some odd reason, she removed a small bunch of tansy clippings that she had been carrying in her pocket and set the flowers on the ground. Careful that she didn’t accidentally touch the ward, Michiyo extended her hands, and the invisible ward’s wall shimmered as it was redirected around an orb of humming, ethereal energy that was drawn from the power of the spell itself. At the same time, a small dome of translucent purple light surrounded the bunch of flowers on the ground, and Michiyo’s expression became stern as she concentrated. She began to stretch the sphere of energy that she had formed within the wall of the ward, using the spell’s own power against itself to form a pocket of air. It seemed as though the only reason the ward did not repel the orb was because it was not an attack in and of itself, but rather formed within the folds of spell, a redirection in the absence of a physical barrier. She was simply manipulating the space taken up by the ward itself, creating a gap by pulling on the soul of the matter that surrounded the spell. The sphere began to grow, until it took up nearly a quarter of the space sealed off by the Tenki. At last she could push it no farther. This was the extent of her Fullbring. Field of Damask.

“As soon as those flowers disappear, make a run for it.” She instructed. Michiyo paused for a brief instant, as though hesitating, but in the next instant she switched the giant pocket of air and teleported the small, fragile bunch of flowers to where the bubble in the ward’s wall had been. There was a crack, as though space itself had been split open, and a violent explosion of pressure and air as the ward snapped and folded in on itself. “Quickly!” she shouted as she sprinted towards the old high school, hoping the others would do the same. They had to reach the two other members of Xstence before whoever had set up the ward replaced the spell. Michiyo felt her bones creak as she ran, and she pulled air into her lungs and stretched out the fluid in her joints in order to move more nimbly. Not as spry as I once was, hmph. She thought to herself. As the Fullbringers arrived on the battle scene she quickly took in the situation at hand. Four Shinigami Lieutenants stood in the clearing ahead of them, two beings in flashy robes hovered in the sky above them, and the school itself was coated with a glittering cap of what appeared to be ice.

“My, my, you kids sure know how to make a mess.” She said as she came to a stop and placed her hands on her hips, hoping to distract the Shinigami’s attention to allow the other Fullbringers a chance to attack. Her own Fullbring was not as suitable for an offensive strike, so she would simply remain within range of all the combatants in order to provide support for the younger fighters. At least, that was her intention. She turned her attention to the blue-robed figure and smiled, “Aren’t you a little old to be wearing that get-up?” she asked the mage, “Us old folk have to set an example for the younger generation, you know.” Michiyo stated matter-of-factly. She nevertheless felt the nervous tension in the knots in her shoulders, but she was more concerned for the Fullbringers already under attack then she was worried about herself. Be careful. She prayed silently.

"And if you want beef, then bring the ruckus
Wu-Tang Clan ain't nuttin ta fuck with
Straight from the motherfucking slums that's busted
Wu-Tang Clan ain't nuttin ta fuck with"

RZA's brutal verse echoed throughout the empty gym. His baritone, energetic voice radiated from two over-the-ear headphones vibrating violently from every verbal punch. The one responsible for the noise often told people to never let the birth certificate fool them; New York City flowed through his veins and he never hesitated when it came to displaying it. Although this young man discarded his true name, Bang never forgot from which garden his roots grew. And so he walked and spoke with the swagger of a city kid. And expelled the impatience of city-folk through the constant bored glare of his lowered eyes. Yet today was different. He woke up with a certain anticipation boiling within.

Firstly, Bang found himself panting from a nightmare this morning. The swordsman never paid attention to dreams since they were often filled with weird fetishes or haunting tales of a lost love he could never claim. But last night he remembered hazy scenes of a distant war. Hundreds of cloaked men darting towards him wielding weapons of mass destruction. Allies fell. Civilians were hunted throughout the ancient city. Only he stood, against a group of Giants. However Bang felt neither fear nor hopelessness. Ambition. A desire to become stronger ignited his blood. The flaming sensation burned intensely leaving nothing but a crimson sigil on his palms; the image of a sword permanently burned into his flesh.

Bang awoke and things were normal-or as normal as a supernatural being could get. But that sensation of an approaching war lingered over him. It followed him outside the bed, into the bathroom, and outside his messy apartment. So he did what any warrior would do before war...train.

His hands were a blur, twirling in tight circles at his sides while his body hopped on place. The balls of sweat that were not burning his eyes, plopped against the wooden floors of the gymnasium. Back straight, head leveled. Wire tapping against wood filled the seconds his feet were elevated centimeters above ground, creating a rhythm reminiscent to machine gun fire between each step. Left. 50 shots. Right. 100 shots. Left. 32 shots. Right. 43 shots. He altered the speed of his personal jump rope, shifting between legs and even crossing his arms.

Beep Beep Beep.

The weird pager they gave Bang a few months back, when he first joined this ragtag group, beeped violently. But its warnings went unnoticed by the leaping swordsman whose razor wire chipped away at the floor. Fortunately the vibrations tickled him. Bang halted and checked the pager where a single word flashed on the screen.


"About time something happened. Thought the world had finally found peace." Bang took a sip of water. Drops crawled from the corner of his mouth and onto his ebony body, drenched in sweat. His tank top clung tightly to his skin, sliding down the numerous lumps and bulges of his muscles. He walked towards the locker room, placed his bag and unique razor wire jump rope into a locker and tied his epee around his waist. Now he noticed the sudden emergence of numerous spiritual pressures surrounding two very familiar energies. Who would dare attack them? Bang thought. In fact, who'd waste time hunting Fullbringers? The number of his kind who could cause considerable damage were far and few between. Shinigami ignored them and Quincy's were only aware of their presence. But this felt unlike anything he'd face before...And it made him excited.

Making his way downtown was even more confusing. Ambulances, firefighters and police officers sectioned off a portion of town; the portion he sensed his comrades in of course. Sirens amalgamated with the cries of women and children to form a horrendous symphony of confusion. Men roared with questions. Apparently there was a gigantic explosion nearby. And he heard public services search for both answers and survivors to no avail.

"A terrorist attack?" One woman exclaimed.

"More like a gas explosion." A man corrected.

"This can't be happening. They're saying it's the worst attack since..."

Bang sighed. He cared little about these ignorant speculations. The over abundance of police tape and uniformed soldiers were a bigger problem. "The cops have this entire area separated off from the public. Looks like I'll have to rely on the skies." He darted towards an abandoned alleyway and started leaping upwards. Each step on the air released an emerald pulse of light, where he vanished and reappeared between considerable distances.

"Impossible" Bang breathed in awe. He descended upon a war zone, feet covered in ashes. Surrounded by destruction. Entire streets were vaporized obviously engulfed in a massive explosion. But no signs of neither Kouhaku nor Tetsuo. "How can such a large scale battle occur in broad daylight without alerting the soul society or Japan's military-" Bang squatted and touched the ground, hoping to pull upon the soul of the scorched earth. "Dammit...I still can't-"

Beep. Beep. Beep.


"A cold breeze in the middle of summer..." Bang noted. He turned his attention towards the massive source of energy erupting nearby. "Enough investigation. I'm going to have fun before they ruin it." His words echoed, remaining after he vanished into thin air.

"Shiiiiiiit!!!" Bang yelled. He darted towards the opening created by Old Lady Michiyo with flames on his feet. Of course the swordsman would arrive late-but at least he made it in time to join the fray.

"Thanks Michiyo-san." He offered.

Jasei looked out the window of his apartment into the cloudless sky. A beautiful, normal day by all accounts. And yet he couldn't shake that feeling. Calm before the storm. He shook his head and tried to get back to the task at hand. He'd been up late last night, damn Hollows again, and his essay had to be completed in two days. Balancing human life and his other life kept getting more and more difficult. He had hoped that the purchasing of his first flat had signalled the start of a new phase of his life, possibly one where he could be more normal. He absentmindedly passed a hand over the open bottle of soda on his desk, a completely normal movement by the looks of things, with only the faintest flicker of green light hinting that the movement might have more significance than it first seemed. The liquid strained briefly against its confines, before pulling itself through the air and into Jasei's waiting mouth. He smiled briefly. The truth was he didn't want to be more normal. At first he thought that was what he wanted, to be like everyone else, and so he restrained his usage of his power to a minimum, partly through fear that through use of a power powered by the energy of the monsters he fought, that he might somehow become more like them, less human. But faced with the trials of everyday life, it became almost impossible to resist. A task is easier when you have the right tool for the job, and Fullbring was the right tool for every job.

Jasei's ponderings were interrupted by the faint buzzing of his pager. He picked himself out of his cheap desk chair and wandered over to the cooking area where he had left it. He stared down at the ominous word printed on the screen: STANDBY. Shuddering to think what that could mean, he quickly shut the lid on his laptop and grabbed his coat, stuffing the pager into his pocket as he closed the door behind him and set off at a brisk walk. Seems like his essay would have to wait after all.

As he emerged into the side alley just outside the building, where the bins were kept, he glanced around briefly to make sure no-one saw what happened next. He sank a little lower in his stance, before pushing upwards and rocketing up and away from the asphalt, the Bringer Light marking the suddenly more elastic properties of the ground. It was an incredibly impressive leap, and as he reached the apex of his jump, he perched on a nearby billboard, cheerfully advertising something that someone, somewhere, no doubt was in dire need of. From here he could get a vantage point of the entire surrounding area, and it was his usual positon whenever the possibility of a threat loomed. Of course, what with the police cars and ambulances, trouble wasn't too far away this time

"What the...?" Destruction. Sheer destruction. Ash and fire, the previously bustling area of the town reduced to a smoking crater. The wailing of the bereaved, the urgent voices of the medics and policemen pointing in directions. And then, beneath it all, the speculations of the normal passer-by drifted up to his ears.

"... gas explosion?"

"I heard the military..."

"A terroist attack?"

All these and more were among the suggestions Jasei heard. But he knew better. The stench of ozone filled the air and his skin tingled all over. Residual electric charge. That could only mean one thing. "Lightning? Momohara-san what did you...?" Jasei quickly shook his head. There was no way that he would do this. He doubted that even the most powerful among them could achieve anything like this if they tried. For all their gifts they were still only human, they had their limits. No, this was the work of some other being. He heard the faint buzzing again, peered down at the screen and immediately pushed off the billboard with sufficient speed that it appeared to an onlooker that he had disappeared, with only the most perceptive noticing the faint ripple of green that quickly dissipated. Speeding off over the rooftops and among the foilage Jasei's mind got to work. Who caused the explosion? And why? Was it the Quincy? No! They were barely away of the existence of Fullbringers, and, as far as Jasei knew, had no reason to attack them, and the explosion was definitely intended for a target. And the Quincy, like the Fullbringers, had their own Human limits. A Hollow then? Although he had never encountered a Hollow above the Adjuchas class, he knew that a Vasto Lorde could easily cause destruction like that. But in that case why stop there? Hollows were mindless beasts, their minds only occupied with catching and eating their next meal. A Vasto Lorde could have taken the entire town if they so desired. So in that case wh-

Jasei didn't notice the barrier until he smashed into it at high-speed, the repulsive force of the spell sending him careening back along his path until he hit the ground with sufficient force to cause a small crater. Luckily he had the sense to increase his durability before the impact with the earth, or he would have broken something. And he was certain that he needed all his limbs for the fight that was to follow. Picking himself up out of his hole he shook off the impact and examined himself, brushing dirt off his coat. Surveying the area of the barrier he looked for a way in. It seemed to be surrounding their HQ, preventing anything entering. Or anyone getting out. Jasei breathed with nervous anticipation at the thought. He quickly caught sight of Michiyo-san and the other Fullbringer, of whom he was not even aware until a month or two prior. Surging towards the portal and through the barrier he turned his thoughts back to the culprit of the attack. So if it wasn't a Quincy, a Hollow or a Fullbringer than that must mean... He came to a stop just before the school, which seemed to be dusted all over with a layer of snow, standing on the ground with green light trailing its way down his fingers making a slight hissing sound as it did so. He watched the four figures in black robes from afar and growled. Shinigami.

"Lookee here..."

"Now we have quite the circus."

"All of you inferior chimps are all here... and now I have..."

"So many test subjects...!"

Arata let out a snicker than radiated throughout the vicinity, a chilling laugh that descended like the frost of his reanimated Shinigami's ability. His orders were to capture the ones carrying soul fragments, of which they knew there to be two, but with these newcomers, the mage could do with them as he pleased. Test the limits of their capabilities, perhaps even perform excruciating experiments on them right here on the battlefield. But the researcher had to restrain himself, for he was essential in seeing this operation to its end. He had his responsibilities and thus... the fun had to be left to his compatriots.

"Megumi-san, Jurō-san... We should focus our efforts on the one known as Kōhaku. I will proceed to isolate the human, and once I do, I request that Jurō-san provide a suitable defense keeping them away from me and the human, while Megumi-san handle the others. Any objections?" he proposed, through a telepathic link.

Of course, Arata wasn't the type to wait for agreement. He viewed himself as the leader of the operation, despite what anybody else might protest; a clear example of the mage's arrogance and overconfidence in his own value and ability. And as such, he was going to proceed without waiting for any actual answer, assuming that his comrades would simply follow suit. It was a bad habit of his, one that perhaps may even lead to his downfall one day. But his plan seemed reasonable. His strategy played to the strengths and purpose of each member of their three-man team; Megumi focusing on offense to draw them away, Jurō's specialty in defensive spells to provide the proper blockade between the other Fullbringers and Arata when he managed to isolate Kōhaku, and of course, Arata, who was instrumental in the act of removing the soul fragment.

Both Nanao and Hisagi raised their blades, and allowed them to remain stationary before letting them go. They seemed to levitate in place, and soon after, they both tapped the hilts of their respective swords, causing them to begin a spinning motion in front of them. With a swift grasp, both spoke out: "Tenran...!" in their quiet and darkened speech. Twin cyclones of air rushed outwards and went flying in Kōhaku's direction. Of course, they were actually aimed at pushing away Tetsuo. Wind was an elemental power best suited to tangle with lightning, which to Arata, seemed to be the concept behind the Fullbringer's ability. The two wind spells were conducted simultaneously, rushing forth as parallel lines, to the point that they had begun to actually impose influence onto one another, establishing a sort of vacuum within that space between them as a result of the way they were spinning. The goal would be to basically push Tetsuo away and isolate Kōhaku within the vacuum induced by the twin whirlwinds. Once isolation was successful, the two cyclones were to circle around him and imprison him in a sort of wind cage where the semi-vacuum would compose the center and hinder breathing to some extent.

If that was to pass, Rukia prepared the following assault. To ensure that nobody would interfere in Arata's attempt to isolate the soul fragment, she swept her blade and spoke softly, "Some... no mai..." Several glowing discs, small in diameter, began to manifest all around the outside of the twin cyclones' range. "Tsuki... shiro..." Suddenly, several beams of light erupted forth and crystallized into pillars of solid ice, which circled the perimeter of where Kōhaku was hopefully separated. Anyone caught within the range of these circles would undoubtedly be frozen. This technique was normally conducted as a single circle, so to manifest multiple ones meant to trade quality for quantity. However, these pillars weren't meant to last long, only to keep the others away until Megumi and Jurō assumed their roles in this strategy.

Renji made his way into the vacuum space, being directed by Arata to enter through the smallest and most narrow openings left to allow him to capture the Fullbringer. Arata clapped his hands and shut his eyes for a moment, causing Renji to be bathed in a bright purple light that faded from the view of anybody else once he entered the isolated space. It mattered not what resistance Kōhaku might have been able to put up against Renji, for the spell that Arata had sheathed him in was one that could knock out even the most skillful of seated officers. Once he was sure that Kōhaku was knocked out, he would make his own entrance into the space in order to begin extraction, while leaving his partners to handle the rest of them.

Standing motionless, Megumi let the Fullbringers attack encroach upon her position, feigning ignorance at its approach. Surging inwards from all directions, using the ice as conduits to deliver what would undoubtedly be a powerful attack, had they ever succeeded in reaching their mark.

This was not the case however, for the attack was intercepted by a large sphere of electrical energies that spontaneously appeared around the Shinigami's form, arcs of lightning rippled across its surface and sparks flew as the two opposing powers clashed, eventually however, Megumi's lightning-tempered barrier won out, for it had been prepared ahead of the battle itself with utmost detail.

Megumi remained silent as she observed the power of Tetsuo's attack; comparing it to her own, so this was the power of a Fullbring, she thought. It was far greater than she had anticipated, but nevertheless, she didn't foresee it posing much of a threat at the present.

Reaching out with a slender hand, the sorceress unleashed a single large blast of lightning towards Tetsuo, but midways in its flight it forked into nine blue tongues of electricity which slithered through the air each on their own. bending and turning in impossible ways as they sliced through the air in order to strike at Tetsuo from every conceivable direction. Each of them aimed at bundles of nerves with surgical precision, seeking to strike through them and greatly inhibit his movement, in a perfect array they would emerge in waves of three, one from the side, another from the front and the last darting around Tetsuo to strike him from behind. Megumi was not interested in killing him though, and steered well clear of vital areas - however, she'd like to incapacitate him as swiftly as possible.

A smile outstretched on Jurō's wizened face, a fairly friendly one at that. He was sincerely devoted to the cause of the Coven, which most other people would automatically consider an indication of hostility, but he was far from being a cruel monster. He recognised the skill of the old Fullbringer who had managed to circumvent her way through his ward, though his annoyance grew quickly when others swarmed to exploit that opening. The two the wizards had been targeting already proved troublesome enough, they did not need even more interference. The clock was ticking.

"Elderly or not, we have still a role in the play that is life. So let us fulfil our duties and discover whose cause is the more noble one, Fullbringer-ue", he said.

Acquiescing to his peer's request, he then focused to reinforce Tenki with additional energy, twisting and weaving the spiritual fabric of the ward so as to render its relatively thin set of layers a veritable maze, too convoluted for any Human to unfold. Subsequently, he pulled at a portion of the ward and proceeded to wrap a layer around Kogo, in order to protect him from the newcomer Fullbringers as he was about to capture one of their actual targets.

But that was not the end. He took on a defensive role on this mission, but defence did not necessarily mean cowering behind shields and remaining passive. With the quantity of issues to deal with increasing, the amount of solutions had to increase as well. As such, Henkō exerted a significant portion of his spiritual power. No external source to draw from. No matter. They had to succeed, and that was a small sacrifice. He had already made a much, much greater one, and it was time to benefit from that choice.

The tatoos on his hands and forearms shone brightly. Foul words escaped from his mouth, guttural and harsh-sounding, the black speech. Golden flames erupted from his body in consequence, only to slither and converge a few metres above him, into a large fireball. Then, the fireball expanded, only to open up. There was light inside, the colour of crimson blood. Soon afterward, dark silhouettes appeared in the opening, the gate of Hell. A dozen of them exited the dimensional rift, which dissipated a while later.

Yōkai. The Daemons of Hell. Vaguely humanoid beings of bizarre, monstrous proportions, with outlandish skin and eye colours, additional or missing limbs, horns, tentacles and tails, wearing crude sets of plate armour and donning crude blade weapons. Sickle swords, flails, chain whips and spiked maces. All of them smiling in a predatory manner, barring their sharp teeth. Each of the Yōkai had the power and skill of an average Seated Officer, except for one. A particularly tall, four-armed specimen with burgundy skin and two curved horns protruding from his forehead. Their Lieutenant-class leader, Kanadzuchi, armed with a meteor hammer the chain of which was wrapped around his muscular, armoured torso.

"So, what's the matter, Old Man?", inquired the Yōkai. "I see you've got a nice party goin' over there."

"I require your assistance, Kanadzuchi-san", replied Jurō. "My friends and I wish to capture two of the Humans alive, the rest, however, are a nuisance. Feel free to proceed with them whichever way you want to, but make sure so as to not interfere with our own work."

"Aight. You heard 'im, boys, let's give those punks a foretaste of their afterlife!"

The Yōkai descended upon the Fullbringers with battlecries resounding across the area. For the time being, only Kanadzuchi stayed near his summoner, observing the situation and attempting to pick a worthwhile opponent from among the puny Humans.

For all his bluster and provocation, Kōhaku was really rather meagre as a combatant. Usually he stayed away from the front, preferring to stick to the back of his allies, bolstering their own fighting potential by transferring his expansive collection of Fullbrings to them. Using their unique abilities to cover the weaknesses of each of Xstence's members, or augment their strengths. But he wasn't entirely without his own options. What's Yours Is Mine, sitting within the spaces between each of his fingers, a simple looking Fullbring made entirely out of sticks of dynamite. Meticulously, he could control the yield in any way he wanted, making it as weak as a firecracker or as strong as an artillery shell. It took no time at all to reconfigure the material within each stick, given the bond he shared with the object in question.

Manipulating his power, he threw one of the sticks and turned it into a makeshift rocket hurdling right for the encroaching twinned tornadoes. It harmlessly lodged itself into their spin, being swept up in one way or another before it detonated in an impressive howling roar of fire and smoke. Its yield had been increased to such an extent that it provided a force large enough to outright stop the wind in its tracks. This would prevent the attack from achieving its initial goal, leaving Rukia's own ability to harmlessly be cast off away from Kōhaku. It did, however, provide the perfect cover for Renji who had easily been able to travel through the wind without issue, and just as swiftly moved through the smoke.

"Oh, crap!", Kōhaku yelled as he fled. Instinctively pulling on the air to spring himself away from Renji. When he reappeared a short distance away, his situation wasn't looking entirely favourable. He had avoided the clutches of the spell, but not outright. He sat there, stewing in his sweat and fatigue, now with the added layer of a thick haze trying to knock him out cold. It swept over him, forcing his muscles to relax. His spiritual power plummeted, and his dynamite faded away, returning to their usual state.

He was still awake, but he was definitely compromised. Forced to fight to keep himself standing.

Rooting his feet to the ground, Tetsuo resisted the force of the explosion caused by the wind-enhanced nitroglycerin.

“You know you don’t have to be so flashy...” Tetsuo trailed off as his partner was masked for a moment by a sheet of ice, and his throat tightened with fear. Caught off-guard, he heard the crackling of electricity almost too late. There was a flash of steel as Tetsuo turned his tonfa to take the incoming attack. He was able to block the strikes from in front and behind, redirecting the electrical currents into his own weapons— three from the front and three from behind— where he held the energy in an uneasy, vibrating state. Despite his expert control over the element, he was unable to stop the final three bolts of lightning, but he turned just in time to avoid what he assumed was a lethal blow. Two of the tendrils contacted the floating shields that Kōhaku had set up, but the last line of electricity brushed past his defenses and contacted the side of his upper thigh. He grit his teeth from the searing pain as he felt the current run through him, but before it could reach his heart, he redirected the ambient charge to his tonfa. Panting, Tetsuo turned to see what had happened to Kōhaku. The other Fullbringer was completely surrounded by a prison of towering ice. Thick. White. Impenetrable. But Tetsuo didn’t care. His friend had been isolated and was possibly under attack. And Tetsuo had energy to spare.

He sprinted towards the pillars of ice, pulling his elbow back as he prepared to strike. The tonfa practically sang from the lightning captured in the steel, and Tetsuo yelled as he drove his fist forwards, blue light flashing as he added impetus by pulling on the soul of the air around him. There was a sharp crack as he drove the tonfa into the ice. Veins of electricity spread across the smooth tower, compromising its structure, and with the second hit from his left fist, it shattered. He saw Kouhaku sway in mid air, and rushed to steady him, grabbing him by the shoulders.

“Hey, what’s wrong with you? Get a hold of yourself,” he said as he shook his friend. But his attention quickly snapped to the red-haired Shinigami standing in front of them, and he instinctively began to back away, and his hold on Kōhaku tightened. "Bastard," he muttered.

Michiyo’s eyes narrowed as the conjurer summoned forth his yōkai, unleashing them upon her hapless comrades.

“Well this certainly brings back memories,” she noted as the monsters made their way towards her and her comrades. “Best to keep these nasty things at bay,” she said with a nod. Raising her hands, each of the demons that were descending upon the Fullbringers was suddenly surrounded by a sphere of softly glowing, barely visible energy. As soon as she ensured they had been trapped, she clenched her fists, and the orbs began to constrict, threatening to crush the yōkai within a tight force field: one that repelled attacks from both within and without. “I hope this helps you kids out,” she said, mostly to herself as she assumed her comrades were otherwise occupied with their other opponents.

He watched the squadron of demons approach hungrily without displaying the slightest hint of fear and noticed flowers twisting away from their cold and foul aura; he could feel the slight shivering sensation of an encroaching death. But the swordsman grinned. "This beats jumprope any day..." Bang growled, filled with anticipation and angst for the upcoming battle; he pulled his epee from its ebony sleeve, the steel blade glowing divinely in the afternoon's blazing sun. Eyes, lowered from a neurological disordered, sharpened towards the oncoming monstrosities; inviting the challenge without hesitation. But his visage softened when he felt the wavering energy of the white-haired magnate. "Morimoto-san..." He whispered sadly.

The mysterious group apparently chose to corner Morimoto with the strongest of their rankings, judging by the combat prowess utilized against him, and left these weaklings to deal with the rest. Bang had no idea which pissed him off the most when he arrived at the conclusion. That they would choose such cowardly tactics, ganging up against a single person, or that they regarded him as nothing more than cannon fodder; trash to be tossed away while they hunt the big game. But they made a huge mistake in their choice. White energy radiated from Bang's person, engulfing him slowly in a sea of clouds. His intense reiatsu cladded his body in a white jacket that covered a black jumpsuit. The torso appeared stitched close, leaving only the pants visible. A blackened mask covered his face with a menacing visor. And his epee had transgressed time to become its ancestor, the rapier. A beautifully crafted weapon with a complex hilt.

The outlandish beasts had reached the swordsman rather quickly, with the first few dashing towards him. Their roars were frightening and could shake the earth and skies. But Bang's soul remained firm. In fact, he eyed his opponents in the manner of a dueler, one by one he broke down his opponents mentally.

But they were suddenly halted by an invisible bubble. One he had learn to appreciate for it saved his ass from numerous lightning bolts and dynamite sticks. "You're on a roll Michiyo-san." Bang gave the old crone a flirtatious smile before approaching the bigger beast.

"Looks like I'm going against you, big tall and ugly." Bang spoke to Kanadzuchi, voice distorted by his mask.

Within the enclosed space, isolated from the outside by way of the magic being performed by the reanimated Shinigami, Arata stepped inside following after Renji as he looked toward the two Fullbringers; Tetsuo and the mind-weary Kohaku. As usual, his wicked grin was etched across his face as he was flanked by the red-haired reanimation.

"The only flaw in an otherwise perfect maneuver... You humans are such a nuisance, even to the end." Arata mused, glaring toward Tetsuo. "Do you expect to fight efficiently while holding up that boy? Perhaps if you beg and grovel like a mutt... I'll go easy on you." he cackled, standing tall with his hands held outstretched from his body as his palms were facing upwards. It was almost suddenly that the air within the enclosed space began to get very heavy, almost as if power itself was saturating the air. In Arata's right hand, a permeating aura of red energy leaked outwards, while in his left, a yellow swirling energy ran up the length of his arm. But what the mage's intentions were would not be displayed right away, for Renji took the initiative.

Holding the elongated blade pointed toward the Fullbringers, the red-haired Shinigami spoke nothing as the sword extended at a nearly instantaneous speed, stretching outwards as it sought to crash right into the two humans. As it raced toward them, Arata held his right hand toward Tetsuo and Kohaku, as an intense pressure surrounded their immediate vicinity. A bright red glow seemed to approach them from all sides with the intent to devour them in its luminescence. It was a spell designed to paralyze them. With any luck, Renji making the first move distracted them both long enough so that Arata's spell could take hold, and in doing so, the red-haired Shinigami's attack was intended to separate them long enough for Arata to enclose Kohaku in a barrier he had been preparing using his left hand.

"My, my, this is getting surprisingly troublesome", muttered Jurō. "Bakudō #85, Shōhi."

With those words, he aimed one of his hands at the group of Daemons entrapped by his Fullbringer counterpart. As relatively weak as they were, they proved unable to escape the force fields confining and threatening to crush them. However, with the spell he employed he dissipated any spiritual techniques in range, bathing the fields in waves of milky white energy ere they vanished without a trace. Freed, the Yōkai finally landed on the ground, infuriated, and charged toward Michiyo from a variety of directions, intent on eviscerating her in one quick assault.

In the meantime, their leader had an opponent of his own.

"Oi, we've got the first volunteer!", he sneered at Bang. "What do you wanna do with that metal stick of yours, boy? Pick my teeth? Now this is a weapon for a real man!", he exclaimed.

Suddenly, his meteor hammer burst into flames. Wreathed in scarlet fire, the head of the weapon was then propelled forward. Kanadzuchi grabbed the chain with all of his arms and swung the weapon toward Bang in a broad arc, fast, intending to smite him with a single strike. Should he evade, the meteor hammer would simply complete its rotation and return to its owner's grasp, ready to attack again. The circular motion rendered a potential rapid counter-offence rather difficult to perform.

Bang ignored the giant's annoying quips. While they would usually invite a snappy response, the lowering reiryoku of his new comrade had removed all personal vendettas and desires. The man who helped him master his gift-how could Bang let Kohaku fall for such selfish reasons? His eyes dimmed while focusing on the flailing chain. I wont be competing in the Empire State games if I let that hit me. the swordsman contemplated. I have to do this perfectly. Time. Tempo. Distance. The three most important concepts of fencing, aspects that the ebony warrior had to instill into his body. The wilting leaves fall, not when the tree desires, but when the time arrives.

He calmly watched the flaming meteor approach. This was similar to the exorcise he had performed today, except for the horizantle arc of course. Veins bulged through his glove yet his wrist circulated freely. Bang practiced this maneuver a million times over against men wearing black mask and donning heavy jackets. But now he was forced to incorporate an inhuman skill to a human technique. Bang leapt into the air, high enough for his back foot to tap the metallic ball lovingly, and sent an emerald light erupting from it. The piece of metal suddenly crashed to earth while Bang soared forward in a forceful yet graceful hop. The ballestra, a fencers quickest step. But when used by a Fullbringer, one could compare it to an instant reappearance in one giant leap One target. One chance.

When he reached measure, the proper distance to the crimson beast, Bang attempted to flick his wrist forward. Essentially drawing the true edge of his blade against the beast's eye. The cut, shallow enough to cause healable damage, was accompanied by an emerald glimmer. He pulled upon the water within the demon's eye, calling for it to make an extension of his sword within its head and follow his motion. An internal foible capable of brain bifurcation. However, he would continue pass the beast should he miss. For this strike had a short window of opportunity due to the weapons unique feature for retreat.

"Graaah!", exclaimed Kanadzuchi as one of his eyeballs virtually exploded when the Fullbringer passed by him. "You little piece of crap!"

He had reacted quickly to his opponent's manoeuvre, which was likely the reason he avoided instant death. However, whilst minor in scope, the wound he sustained was far from negligible. Furious, the Yōkai gripped firmly the chain of his meteor hammer as it wrapped around him, only to rotate rapidly about his axis and force the weapon to burst forth with a thunderous noise, breaking the speed of sound with a sonic boom shortly after beginning its flight. Wreathed in flames, as if a miniature meteor was actually following Bang, pursuing him closely.

The Breath

Tetsuo knew he was in trouble the instant he felt the Reiatsu in the air around him thicken, and he watched in horror as the surrounding atmosphere literally turned blood red from the aura emitted by their enemy. While he was not aware its exact nature, he assumed the spellcaster intended to hedge them in with another barrier, and there seemed to be no clear path of escape. His options were slim, and if he used the ambient electricity to attack he would risk injuring Kōhaku. Yet the situation demanded a split-second decision. Tetsuo grit his teeth, and then he let Kōhaku drop.

With his hands free, Tetsuo quickly swung in a wide arc around him with both tonfa, and there was a crack as he emitted a wave of electromagnetic energy. The pulse unknowingly contacted the Kidō and pushed it back. Tetsuo saw Kouhaku in free-fall beneath his feet, and he moved to dive after him. But then, from his peripheral vision, he saw a flash of steel as the blade of the Shinigami hurled itself at his shoulder. He blocked it without thinking, and as the two weapons collided there was a flash of white.

Several things happened at once. The delicate balance Tetsuo held over the positive and negative currents of the invisible, electromagnetic wave was disrupted. Thunder cracked. Splitting across the plane where he stood, the energy was drawn back in towards itself with a sudden backlash. The force of the wave concentrated at a single point: where the lieutenant’s blade had contacted his tonfa.

Having occurred in less than a second, Tetsuo was not cognitively aware of his error, but he felt it in the sharp pain in his arms as he was thrown back violently. For a brief instant, he saw the roof of the school slip away from beneath him before he crashed into the ground, travelling at several hundred meters per second. Tetsuo took the brunt of the impact on his left shoulder, and dug a trench in the dust before he skidded to a halt. Through the ringing in his ears he could hear someone calling his name, and thought he saw two of Michiyo sprinting towards him as the world spun out of control.

“Tetsuo!” She reached his side just as the hellish four creatures broke free of their respective orbs and rushed at her. Extending both hands over her head, a wide, semi-spherical barrier shimmered into existence. The demons hit the invisible wall at full-speed. Their faces smashed against the force field with satisfying thunks, like bugs hitting a windshield, and most were thrown off their feet by sheer force of their own momentum. “Dumb animals,” she spat with disdain. “Are you alright?” she asked Tetsuo. He grunted as he forced himself to his feet, bright spots of light still swimming in front of his vision.

“Michiyo, they got...” Tetsuo was nearly overcome by a spasm of searing pain that originated at his sternum. It appeared he had been hit harder than he thought. “They got Kōhaku.”

Michiyo’s eyes widened with alarm, and she looked up at the yellow aura that swirled around their comrade.

“We don’t have much time,” Tetsuo said. His voice steadied as his objective became clear, and he ignored his injuries with chilling, single-minded focus. Widening his stance, he began to draw in his own Reiatsu around him, and his hair began to stand on end as the air was charged with heavy electricity. Michiyo felt her skin crawl. If he was this desperate...

“Tetsuo, if you use that—” she began, but from his knowing look she realized that he was already aware of the implications, and stopped.

“Can you teleport both of us there?” he asked, pointing towards a spot in the sky above the roof. “I’ll distract him, you get Kōhaku out of there.” Further details were unnecessary, as they were both aware of what needed to be done.

“It won’t be easy.” Her mouth was set in a grim line.

“I’m counting on you,” he said, and she nodded.

Drawing the barrier in close around them, Michiyo formed a tight sphere around the two of them and lifted it off the ground. They hung in the enclosed space for a brief moment, the demons still clawing at the bubble as they tried to break through. Then, they disappeared.

When the Fullbringers emerged again, they were above Arata. Michiyo allowed the orb shielding them to vanish as she instead focused on enclosing Kōhaku and the barrier that surrounded him within an even larger barrier of her own.

Tetsuo slipped through space itself before he appeared in front of Kōhaku. He turned his attention towards the mage above him, and his eyes were darkened by silent fury. Yet his expression remained emotionless, objective, impartial. Blue light snapped and cracked across his shoulders, and at that moment the atmospheric pressure around him dropped. It took less than a heartbeat to forge a charged path of electrons that linked him with his target. He breathed in, and in the next instant white lightning erupted from his tonfa. There was no pretense behind the attack. No hidden agenda. Only raw, electrical power in its purest form, and it traveled at the speed of light towards where Arata stood, unleashing one of the most powerful forces on earth: true, physical lightning.

"Seems the cavalry has arrived!" Arata responded, catching the glimpse of both Tetsuo and Michiyo in the corner of his eye. Of course, his main efforts were on pulling Kōhaku closer to him in order to perform the ritual, but it would seem that a secondary plan would be needed instead. Truth be told, the genius researcher did not want to admit that he did not expect there to be a barrier user on the target's team, but nevetheless, he had contingencies planned for such a situation. It was just as Tetsuo began his advance via a downpour of lightning that Renji entered the fray, flailing his elongated sword about in an attempt to ward off a great deal of the electricity threatening to attack the mage. Of course, the sword also acted as somewhat of a lightning rod as well, causing the shock produced by the lightning to be channeled into Renji's body. A crackling overcame Renji's body in that moment, frying him as the lightning with which his blade clashed with raced down to the hilt and subsequently his arm, but a reanimated soul would feel no pain, meaning as long as the body was intact, at least to Arata, the damage was negligible.

That wasn't an issue, for just as Renji made his move, the duo of Nanao and Hisagi returned to the mage's side. Their duty in producing that encircling vacuum of wind was simply to allow Arata a chance to isolate the target, and with Rukia maintaining a fairly separated space with her ice pillars, they could once more be free to act. Nanao remained near her summoner as Hisagi drew forth his blade, muttering a faint "Reap...!" as the katana shifted onto a dual pair of scythes, charging at Michiyo as Renji remained focused on Tetsuo. Their purpose was simply to keep both the Fullbringers as busy as they were possibly able.

In the meantime, Nanao clapped her hands before pulling them apart, with a long white strand reminiscent to a ribbon generated forth as she threw it upwards, causing it to be draped around Arata. Following that instant, she whisked her hand back, causing said ribbon to begin encircling Arata like a tornado. It wouldn't be difficult for a mage like Arata to battle a mere human in a war of barriers, but what was the point? There was a far simpler recourse. This spell being cast by the reanimated Nanao was a transport spell, and with Arata lacing his own magic subtly into the mix, teleporting himself into the confines of his own barrier was simple enough. Arata vanished and instantly reappeared beside Kōhaku, a menacing grin etched onto the mage's face as he glared onto his victim. With Nanao's task completed, she was designated to provide support to both Renji and Hisagi, clapping her hands together with a subsequent flaring of reiatsu surrounding her. She was ready to cast defensive spells, not only to help her fellow reanimations but also to prevent Tetsuo, Michiyo, or any other Fullbringer from attempting to interfere with her master's intentions.

"Hello stranger, 'bout time we got some face to face together." Arata cackled as his hand reached out toward Kōhaku, pressing his hand against the Fullbringer's chest as his other hand reached into his jacket pocket. He slowly removed what appeared to be a medium-sized glass container, almost like an ancient type of tea pot, as the hand against Kōhaku's chest tightened with Arata gripping hard against the man's torso. A faint hum resounded as green light surrounded his fingertips. The extraction ritual had begun.

This entire operation was a rush job. Gather the few lieutenants, and some not quite lieutenants, that could be called at a moment's notice and throw them in the direction of a massive burst of power. Soul Society didn't know what was going on, but needed to send a response to it.

3 Lieutenants, a third seat officer, and a 6th seat were sent.

Chitose Wasuchiru was one of the Shinigami dispatched to investigate the disturbance in Ikeda, Japan. He had been running at near breakneck pace since his orders were handed down, and the Senkaimon was in sight. beyond it was a sight of devastation. The rogue sorceress had annihilated a large chunk of the city with the spell that had first alerted them to the disturbance, and the crater was still smoking even after the time it had taken them to assemble and head out. This was not gonna be pleasant.

"Uh guys... I'm not one for pessimism usually, but I think we may be a bit outgunned..." he said to the men heading out of the gate one by one.

"I should be back finishing the work that Ishihara will not." Mumbled the third seated officer of the Fifth Division Yoshitsune Kageyoshi. He was not the type to volunteer for anything, and hated to be offered. Stepping out from the Senkaimon he stood next Chitose, and came clear of the heavy reiatsu left behind in the ruined area. "What a pitiful sight. I agree Chitose, but I'll call them a gang of hungry heathens. Whatever their target was, they assured they would capture it."

Yoshitsune placed his hand on end of his Zanpakutō's hilt, and his other on his chin. "We've got our work cut out for us."

Glacies Fidus hovered above the other four in a seated posture. The canine paid little attention to his assigned companions as he silently scrutinized the ravages before him with his eyes and nose, bitterly recalling an incident that left him with more questions than answers. And in some way, there was some connection between then and now. Of course, that was only his presumption thus far.

As he further reflected on his past, Glacies could not help but let out a wry titter. His every experience with the World of the Living was marred with conflict and confusion; it seemed that now he would only be adding to that streak. How little had things changed since the day of his rebirth, as painful as it was to acknowledge.

From the moment that Shiemi had emerged from the Senkaimon she bit her lip worriedly as she saw the field of destruction in front of the gathered team. To her it was both curious and incredibly scary that someone could obtain these levels of power. She had emerged just in time to hear Yoshitsune’s last remark on their situation and his words did nothing to dull the growing sense of dread that had begun rearing its ugly head since she stepped out of the Senkaimon.

“Yoshitsune-san, there’s no need to be so cold,” she sighed as she stepped up beside the taller man, “I’m sure that there’s something positive to find in the midst of all this chaos.”

Even as she spoke those words Shiemi's hand reached up to grab a stray lock of hair and twirl it tightly around her fingers, trying to battle her slight discomfort by distracting herself from the feeling.

"Man, this looks intense", remarked Third Division Lieutenant Yuji Akui with a mixture of excitement and apprehension, as he stood beside the rest of the team. "You can sense all those spiritual pressure signatures too, right? Those guys are strong! We... uhm, we should be extra careful."

He was a strong boy himself, and with great latent potential, but still very, very young for a Shinigami, especially of such a high rank. That was his first mission to the World of the Living. His elder brother, Captain Akui, did not approve his participation without some hesitation. And a lecture. There always had to be a lecture. About the perils and difficulties of operating within a foreign, non-spiritual realm, as well as the challenge of facing an unknown enemy. Yuji was not alone, however, and he was determined to prove he was worthy of his position. Listening to his brother's advice was probably a good idea, even if he was a bit... exacting.

"There's lots of weird people in there", he said with a slight frown. "I can sense a few Souls and Humans, but the others are odd. What should we do?"

So the mice had called for reinforcements, had they? Oh well, Megumi would not be deterred by the plight of the mageless and their would be benefactors. However, Megumi was no fool, and among the Fullbringers one of them had repeatedly spit in the face of gods such as herself, the wizened old woman; she needed to be the first to fall - and Megumi would her the justice of finishing her off herself, in that instant, the sorceress vanished in a lightning bolt before appearing half a league behind Michiyo; as a great amount of spiritual energy emanated from her body, tearing at the air with arcs of scintilating electricity.

Within herself, Megumi found the source of her power, the very proof of her superiourity; her magical abilities. Her face changed into one of anguish as she brought to memory the secret incantation for Byakurai, taught to her by the Masked Man himself. With a voice on the verge of trembling she spoke it as its progenitor once had.
. "O sovereign of the ancient skies..."

The air screeched in protest as its might was being invoked; breathing became increasingly difficult as the pressure in the air rose dramatically, static electricity danced amidst the combatants and bolts of white lightning streaked across the sky.

"Forge my heritage into a spear, steel my resolve."

Clouds above Megumi swirled and danced about in a vortex as raging winds shaped them into the long serpentine shape of a dragon; a symbol of who this variation of the spell once belonged to. Megumi's ponytail trashed wildly in the air until the ribbon keeping it together was disintegrated from the sheer friction; causing her mane to billow out behind her, each strand coursing with lightning - from a distance she resembled a woman possessed.

Her voice quieted a bit when she spoke the last sentence in the incantation, almost mournfully.

"Until, alas, I return home".

The simulacrum of a Rain Dragon roared in that instant, before it scattered into a cascade of brilliantly blue motes of light. For an instant they remained motionless in the air, much akin to a myriad of shimmering stars adorning the night sky.

But that instant was short-lived indeed, for in the next moment they all streaked across the sky; dancing and entwining inbetween one another as they shot speed and surged towards Michiyo and Tetsuo; in but the blink of an eye they'd be upon the duo as the overwhelming torrent of magic sought to tear apart the kindly old lady piece by piece, grinding her down to nothing in such a manner as to disintegrate her utterly; but it didn't stop there; instead it only continued onwards, bending and moving in ways that made it seem clear that Megumi directed it with her mind -- it bendt about and came back at Tetsuo; seeking to tear through his body and incapacitate him on the spot. Making him ripe for the picking.

The execution of the mission was far from flawless. The lesser Yōkai failed to achieve anything of note, whilst Kanadzuchi was barely holding his own against a single opponent. That was not what Jurō expected. True, he knew from experience that things hardly ever unfolded all according to the plan. But that... and the fact that he suddenly detected several notable spiritual signatures a distance away was a bit too much.

"Seems the enemy has called in reinforcements", he said in a raised tone, so that hopefully his allies would hear him.

They should be able to notice for themselves, but caught up in combat it was easy to miss such a as-of-yet unimportant detail. Unlike them, the old wizard had a clear view of the battlefield and was not actively engaged in battle. That allowed him to think. Eventually, he decided on a new course of action.

"Begone, weaklings, return to your foul realm."

With those words and a distinct gleam emanating from his tatoos, he sucked in the lesser Yōkai in a dimensional portal, sending them back to Hell. They were all but useless, even their fairly strong leader was in trouble. In consequence, a more powerful ally should be called forth to aid the mages. Able to act uninterrupted, Henkō concentrated, reaching further into the depths of Hell to summon another Daemon, the most formidable warrior he had made a pact with. That would take some time, but with the ongoing conflict and a ward surrounding the area, he could count on at least a few seconds. That should be enough.

"Bakudō #81,Dankū!"

A shimmering, see-through plate appeared before the two Fullbringers, just wide enough to shield the two of them as well as the caster of the Shinigami arts. Shiemi ground her teeth together as she watched the lightning spell draw closer by the second, her skin crackling from the energy that it let out into the air around them and the sensation only intensifying when it finally collided with her protective shield.

She was forcibly pushed backwards by the force slamming into one of her strongest Kido-spells, her arms, which she held straightened out in front of her, shivering from the effort of trying to maintain Dankū, and the smallest of groans slipped past her lips before she could hold it back.

Chitose had to run in right behind his superior. But that wasn't even why he was annoyed at this whole situation. This spell alone almost made him feel like they were sent on a suicide run. A direct hit from the attack he was currently charging into would likely be fatal to him, Lieutenant Shiemi, and the two humans they were currently attempting to protect. The best the two Shinigami could even hope to do was mitigate the damage, weaken the danger to survivable levels.

"Well... this would be so much nicer if the dog didn't know what my Shikai actually did..." he mumbled under his breath. Him and Glacies had met long before the dog was ever part of the Gotei 13, nearly a hundred and fifty years ago in Europe. The dog was probably the only person in the Gotei 13 who had seen his actual Shikai, not the fake one he constantly swung around. It was the only tool in his arsenal that could change this situation.

In a low guttural tone as he raced down the field, he uttered "Cast a Shadow, Seika no Hikage." His sword wavered as though it was made of water before the blade curved and blackened. His Shikai looked pathetic at first glance. It was incapable of cutting normally. However, its ability was useful in this situation. It switched the relationship between shadow and object, rending most objects nigh indestructible by physical methods, often leaving observers confused on what just happened. Even the storm shredding through the sky in front of him would merely batter, not disintegrate his body. One touch, and most of its destructive power would be worthless.

But it was still lightning... Even though with his Shikai preventing the storm from shredding his body to pieces, it wouldn't stop the shocking effects of being in contact with that much electricity. He'd have to reduce that as well. He wound up weaving a pair of spells as the leading edge of the witch's spell contacted with the barrier. One to wick away the charge to nonlethal levels, and a core to direct the charge through. Dual incantations were what Chitose was best in at Kidō, so hopefully he could pull off at least that much with what time the barrier had given him.

As he kicked it into high gear, utilizing something closer to Sonido than Shunpō to erase the distance between him and the others, trails of golden rope trailing behind him. As he passed Shiemi his sword would slam into her shoulder, probably breaking her concentration and the barrier in the process though her skin would remain flawless. It hit Tetsuo in the leg for much the same effect before hitting the wrist of the Old woman as he protected all three, the Hainawa flowing around them all. As he brought up his arms to shield his body while gazing into the heart of the storm barreling at them, the second spell went off as the lightning of Tsuzuri Raiden Arced down the rope. Then the storm hit with all the force of a thousand sledgehammers. Each mote of light raged into him with the fury of a jackhammer, battering his body under the repeated blows. Even his electricity protections only mitigated, not stopped the spell. While the shock from the barrage was mostly directed along his spell, as Chitose had intentionally let it consume the weaker spell to draw the worst of the charge away from his ally's bodies, plenty of charge still struck him, which would have dropped him to his knees if he hadn't been taking numerous hammer blows already.

As the storm passed, everyone was still breathing, though how good of shape the others were in he couldn't say. Either way, he needed to lay down for a second...

Michiyo could not entirely grasp what was happening. She had been on the roof of the school, still unsuccessfully attempting to wrap an orb around the cyclone of wind and light that trapped Kouhaku without alerting the attention of the two Shinigami who stood guard in front of Arata's cocoon-like prison, when Tetsuo emerged at her side, notably drained of energy. But before he could tell her what had happened, a flash of light in the distance alerted both of them to an incoming storm of electricity. Snaking like a dragon across the sky, the shower of blue lights that shot towards them far exceeded anything she had seen Tetsuo pull off—and she had seen the leader of Xstence emulate lightning in its natural state, powerful enough to stop the hearts of an incoming mass of unearthly yōkai in an instant. If electricity in the hands of a mere human was deadly, what they faced now was surely inescapable. Nonetheless, not one to give up hope, Michiyo turned her full attention to the incoming spell, pulling Tetsuo down forcibly by the collar as she took his place, both hands raised as she prepared to give her all in one final barrier that would shield the younger Fullbringer from the Shinigami's wrath.

She herself did not expect to survive the attack.

But then, at the last second, yet another Shinigami emerged. This time a young woman who quickly erected a barrier of her own to slow the Byakurai.

"Get out of here kid, you'll get yourself killed!" Michiyo yelled over the roar. It was to no avail. The lightning hit the barrier and disintegrated it almost instantaneously. They would have all been lost at that point had not another Shinigami, this time moving in a blur, intervened. She felt something brush against her shoulder, and in the next instant a wave of electricity poured into her. But it did not hurt as much as she thought it would, and while her very being trembled as though the cells of her body would suddenly break away in the torrent, she found herself at the end of the tunnel of light alive, whole, and breathing. Michiyo blinked, shuddered, and wondered how she had managed to survive.

But she had little time to contemplate the miracle, as Tetsuo, crouching beside her, emitted such a wave of Reiatsu that it seemed to freeze the blood coursing through her veins for an instant. She looked at him in horror.

As the initial force of Megumi's spell had been lessened due to the efforts of Shiemi and Chitose, Tetsuo, exhausted though he was, had found a wave of electricity at his fingertips, revitalizing him. There was a catch, however. Having already drained himself of his own Reiatsu, using everything to fuel the synthesized lightning that he had directed towards the mage who had captured Kouhaku, Tetsuo had nothing left with which to draw the lightning into himself. In other words, his Fullbring had long ago reached its limits, and the physical had begun to compensate for the lack of the spiritual. He stood, shakily, and as he did flecks of skin seared away from his arms and legs, small indications of the damage that was no doubt taking place internally.

"Tetsuo, stop this right now!" Michiyo's voice was sharp, alarmed, and commanding, but he did not heed her. "Tetsuo!" she reached out to snap him out of it, but drew back quickly when a sharp pulse of electricity bit savagely into her hand.

"Stay back," Tetsuo warned, his voice was choked as he fought against the pain. "I can't... hold back much longer." Stumbling forward, grasping desperately for a target, she saw as his gaze locked onto their nearest obstacle: the tower of wind that enshrouded Arata and Kouhaku, preventing any intrusion.

"You'll end up killing yourself," Michiyo kept one eye on Tetsuo as she tried to watch their opponent in the distance and gauge the intentions of the apparently friendly newcomers who had protected them for no obvious reason. Why fight against their own kind?

"You can't help me now," Tetsuo muttered darkly, and she saw dark blood spill over from the side of his mouth.

She thought of Xstence, the close knit-solidarity she had helped him knit, late-night meetings with terribly burned coffee and the groups stand against waves of supernatural foes, and knew that he at that moment in his desperation, Tetsuo was prepared to throw it all away.

"Don't..." she began, but it was too late. He had already disappeared. "Damn that boy," she muttered.

Tetsuo, in the meantime, was nearly overcome by the electricity he had barely managed to contain within his disintegrating body. He stopped at the base of the tower of wind, and prayed silently that he was not too late. That somehow Kouhaku still clung to life. Never had he felt so entirely helpless as he thrust both arms into the thick of it and allowed all the power to unleash at once. He did not control the storm: The storm controlled him, and as his conduit he was unable to manipulate the energy once released. The lightning threaded into the currents of the cyclone and shot towards the sky, diffusing strange, midnight blue shadows through the clouds. Tetsuo screamed, feeling the immensity of the burning pain in every fiber of his being as he strained against the current. Gradually, as if pulling apart the strands of thickly-bound muscle, he widened his arms, and as he did so the two currents of electricity flowing from them also detached from themselves, drawing the walls of the cyclone along with them. For an instant the scales were tipped, hanging in the balance as nature warred against mortal flesh. But then, with a thunderous roar, the cage cracked open and the wind dissipated. Tetsuo saw Kouhaku for an instant, held within the grasp of the enemy, and moved as though he would spring to attack. Then, he collapsed.

Michiyo, having seen it all, felt panic grip her as she watched him fall. She turned towards the Shinigami who had helped them earlier.

"If you want to help, get that hostage back. I'll try and keep those dead-eyes from attacking you," she said, her tone serious and commanding now that Tetsuo was out of commission. Making good on her word, she immediately worked to surround Arata's puppets with shimmering orbs of translucent energy, hoping to deter them from attacking her unexpected allies.

For Kōhaku, everything had been dull murmurs in the background. His mind, trapped in a fog, struggled hard to realise what was going on. He felt like he had been sleeping for years, but with none of the rest and restoration that should have come with it. He felt tired, drained. Sore. Around his chest, there was the tell-tale pangs of suffering, but it, like everything else had been numbed. It wasn't enough to say Kōhaku had been knocked out, rather he seemed to be in a serious daze. He was conscious, just barely, and did seem to react to some stimuli while succumbing to Arata's ministrations.

As events spiraled towards the chaotic, Kōhaku's listless gaze became focused on the cage of ephemeral winds that surrounded him, and soon enough, the gaping hole that replaced it. Clarity swept in for a moment, allowing Kōhaku to hear the screams of his friend in all its glory and anguish. For just a moment that was enough to break him from his stupor, and ever the quick-thinker, Kōhaku reciprocated.

A lone stick of dynamite manifested in his languid grasp, which tightened with strained ferocity, almost breaking the construct apart in the process. Not that it would have mattered as it ignited in an otherworldly accord. It wasn't a particularly powerful explosion, Kōhaku didn't have nearly enough time or presence of mind to make something that could hurt his aggressor. But what he could do, was throw himself out of his grip. The force of the detonation separated Kōhaku from Arata's grip, the force of it tearing a rather obvious hole in the fabric of his shirt as a result. This was the second time Kōhaku found himself in free fall today as he plummeted out of the "cage" and towards the earth.

As he fell he realised his daze had been replaced by ringing in his ears, and the sensations of numbness had all but turned into a searing pain as his flesh sizzled under its newfound burns. He was awake. He couldn't quite pull on the wind to stop his descent, but he was awake.

Luckily he wouldn't have to, as Emi added herself into the roster of new arrivals in this mess. She was fresh out of a step, almost appearing from nothing, only for Kōhaku to unceremoniously plummet into her arms.

"What in the fu-", she'd started before his weight and momentum pulled her down. For a moment, she fell with him, before righting herself in the air. She had clearly come ready to scrap, her arms clad in her typical Fullbring adornments, and an ungodly sized katana strapped to her back. Just a bit more than three times her size in length. Its markings were almost unmistakable for those familiar with it. And it dragged across the ground like an utter pain in the arse, or so Emi's thoughts on the matter went.

Kōhaku turned to look at her with surprise. "Momo-chan, your boobs are oddly soft", he spoke, the groggy overlay in his tone obviously faked.

"I'm gonna drop you", Emi replied flatly. And she did, beginning Kōhaku's short lived descent to the ground just below.

"Get back here, you filthy mortal!", exclaimed Kanadzuchi as he was struggling with the Fullbringer who challenged him.

However, their increasingly lopsided battle was suddenly cut short. There was a blur, and a loud sound. Something crashed into the Yōkai with force sufficient to crack his armour and propel him backward. Only after a while did the Daemon muster enough strength to put a halt to the motion. With purple blood now trickling from his mouth, he looked up at the perpetrator. What he saw was a teenager in the uniform of a Shinigami officer, complete with platinum armoured gauntlets on his hand - the form of his Shikai.

Yuji had used his released Zanpakutō, Soranoken, to open a dimensional portal. The Shinigami taskforce would have been unable to quickly overcome the durable ward set up around the battlefield, so he chose to circumvent it altogether and let everyone inside. As such, they were able to intervene in the battle without further ado.

"Why do you trespass on the Human World, Yōkai?", asked Akui as he assumed a fighting stance.

"I... I'll kill you too, brat!", was the only response he got.

Right afterward the meteor hammer of his opponent was launched toward him at a considerable speed. Yuji was slightly faster, though. He dodged the strike at the last moment possible and with a Shunpo leap closed the distance between himself and the Daemon. While rather confused about the situation, the young Shinigami knew that there was no time to talk. He showered the Yōkai with a barrage of kicks and punches. Then, as the enemy tried to strike back in desparation, the Lieutenant rapidly leant backward in a bridge position, only to use the momentum for the benefit of an upward kick to the opponent's chin. Sending him in a skyward flight, Yuji followed shortly and struck him again. Kanadzuchi plummeted toward the ground and crashed with a thunderous noise, not unlike a miniature meteor himself.

Once more in a fighting stance, now several dozen metres above the ground, young Akui inhaled and exhaled slowly. Soon, the Yōkai burst into blue flames and vanished, summoned back to Hell after suffering severe damage. With one enemy down, the Lieutenant turned to the rest. That battle had been straightforward enough, but with three mages left to deal with, he could not help but wonder: "What now?"

Despair Descends

It seemed, for a moment, that all was well. Kōhaku was rescued and the Shinigami had finally arrived. It seemed as though this tale was to end on a happy note.

But in the midst of perhaps what could be called a premature celebration, a dark cackle resonated throughout the battlefield, for ally and enemy alike to hear.

Arata's expression was a captivating maniacal grin as he stared at the green spiritual essence — almost gel-like in form — that seeped into the container he was holding. Without missing a beat, he let loose a frightening laugh to follow the light cackle. "Look upon it, humans! And yes, even you filthy Shinigami!" he announced, holding the sealing pot upwards confidently, before pulling it back to his chest; keeping it close to his person. "This is the beginning of your despair... You will fear the coven." Arata continued, though he spoke in a more cryptic and soft tone. With his free arm, he gestured to his reanimated puppets.

Though engaged in their assigned tasks and opponents, the four of them were quick to answer their master's call. Almost like bullets, they dashed off, abandoning whatever they were doing at that moment and rushing toward their master. But it was not to go to his aid. Rather, Arata began his next gambit. Perhaps even his final one in an attempt to finish what the mages started in arriving here.

Once more, he connected his mindscape to his comrades. "With the meddlesome Shinigami here, it may be practical to take our leave. The fragment now belongs to us." he declared.

It was rare to see someone overcome her magic, much moreso that a pair of lowly lieutenants could match her; Megumi would've been furious had she not caught a glimpse of the male Shinigami's true potential, for to someone like herself, few things escaped her notice -- especially where it regarded magic and her enemies ability to counter it.

Truth be told, both of the Shinigami who had stepped in to save the pitiful crone were gifted, when the Coven's mission was complete and a new era had begun in earnest, she would ensure that they were put to good use. For now however, they were enemies, and she could only hope that they would at some point see reason.

But for now, their errands were complete - she could of course remain behind, but every Shinigami she killed was one less potential user of magic, and a dire loss as a consequence. Responding to Arata's mental message: Good. Comrades, take a moment to congratulate yourselves in this, for we have just brought The Coven closer to our greatest purpose.

​With a casual wave of her hand, Megumi vanished into a pillar of green light before reappearing at Arata's side, whereupon she spun around and touched the air gently with a single finger. At first, nothing happened, but soon ripples began to spread from her finger outwards, as if the sky was a pond disturbed by a droplet. Megumi observed as they expanded and assumed the form of a whirling gateway into a somber and depressing realm, a gateway into the night -- a place of darkness, where a looming castle was visible beyond the veil. Wordlessly, Megumi entered the portal and disappeared, but not before beckong her allies to do the same.

Jurō was glad he had recalled the lesser Yōkai, especially in light of the abrupt Shinigami interference. Unable to pose a threat against the Fullbringers, the Yōkai would have been quickly wiped out by Shinigami officers. Even Kanadzuchi was defeated. Thus, it was prudent of him to gather energy and seek a far more powerful ally to summon. He was ready now. The fiery gate to Hell opened once more, connecting two vastly different realms for a short while.

"You shall regret meddling with the interests of the Coven, Shinigami", he proclaimed.

A large, muscular silhouette in a set of armour appeared within the hellish gate, emerging from the scarlet glow. That was no small fry, but a Captain-class Yōkai of impressive combat experience.

"Behold, the mighty Weaponmaster, Tan-", he was unable to finish his next utterance.

All of a sudden, the Yōkai virtually exploded. His remains burst forth from the dimensional gateway, visceral fireworks of sorts, startling the wizard. As he attempted to comprehend what had just happened, another being came forth from the portal in the Daemon's place. Similarly tall, yet more lanky in stature, with other features obscured by a long, tattered white cloak with a hood. A Togabito?

"Oh? What's that?", a deep voice resonated from within the hood.

"You... who are you?", asked Henkō, retreating a few steps.

The cloaked figure turned toward him.

"There I was, slaughtering a bunch of Yōkai in the depths of Hell, and suddenly... bam! Here I am! Isn't this the World of the Living, by the way?", the mysterious newcomer looked around. "Seems you've got a party going on in here, eh? Thanks for letting me out, anyway. We won't be needing that anymore, I s'ppose."

The man waved with his hand. The portal to Hell opened by Henkō collapsed immediately, even though the mage was considering sending the newcomer back. The newcomer who casually destroyed a Captain-class Yōkai. Jurō had a feeling he had unleashed something terrible... but that did not have to be a concern. They were about to leave anyway, and he would eagerly let the Shinigami deal with the Togabito in his stead.

"I am glad I could be of assistance", he said with a nervous smile. "Do as you please, but my friends and I are leaving."

"Ah, right, see ya", the cloaked person said with an offhanded gesture, but his stare was now fixed on somebody else. "Shinigami?", he mused, and while his face was not visible, one could almost hear that he smiled.

Meanwhile, Henkō hastily retreated, following Megumi through the portal of her make.

It took Chitose a little while to regain his senses after the beating he had taken from the storm. It hadn't done any permanent damage to him, but oh boy was he gonna be sore come tomorrow. Opening his eyes however, he could see that the witch who had cast the spell had disappeared, along with the other mages. Instead, the only flying person left was this weird cloaked guy just standing there. "The fuck they all go?" he groaned.

Michiyo, her eyes bugging out of her head as she gaped between the retreating mages and the nightmare from hell, apparently still had enough presence of mind to respond to the Shinigami's comment.

"Watch your language young man!" she snapped, before turning her attention towards Emi... and was subsequently shocked when she caught the tardy Fullbringer red-handed, casually dropping Kouhaku from a rather painful height. She winced as he hit the dust. "Tenko-san," she said, stressing the honorific to make her point clear, "Please be more careful. The poor boy's already been injured enough, hmph."

Narrowing her eyes at the intruding Togabito, Michiyo "hmphd" emphatically again, but instinctively took a step back. His power—whatever he was—was both palpable and cognitive. She had seen him rip the hapless yōkai to pieces with no visible effort of his own, and a cold sweat formed on her temples. She had an uncanny sense of déjà vu, and the situation was even more grim when the undeclared intentions of the Shinigami around them were taken into consideration. Who had betrayed whom? Why were they even here to begin with? What part did Xstence, a previously insignificant small group of humans, play in all of this? The thoughts swirled around her mind, but she didn't have time to consider them. For her part, Michiyo simply wanted to be left in peace. To mind her own business, and to let the Shinigami mind theirs. Whenever their worlds crossed, tragedy was the inevitable result. She had seen it happen before, and realized it was about to happen again.

Tetsuo probably had a much better grasp of the situation than she did, she thought, and she cast a glance in his direction. But he had not moved, and his Reiatsu was only the faintest of impressions. This put her in an even sourer mood, and although her warm expression did not change, her tone became hard and threatening as she addressed the Togabito.

"So stranger, apparently the last time we sent you bastards back to the void wasn't enough for you, hm?" The question was perhaps made more to herself than the supposed adversary in front of her, as she immediately asked the three other newcomers, "Also, can one of you youngin's explain to me what exactly this damn party is for? Or, by golly, I'm going to send someone to the other side of daylight." She waved her fist to make herself clear.

Emi 'hmphd' right back, pumping her shoulders up briefly as she did so before bringing her arms to a rest, folding them over one another.

"He was trying to cop a feel", she said in a voice that was barely more than a dull roar, coming out with all the emotion one would have for stating facts. She nodded to herself, seemingly justified in her response to the situation. "...and that's Tenka, Obāsan, don't start goin' senile on me now".

Whatever was present in her seemingly combative responses were lost however when Michiyo started on the Shinigami, eliciting a small chuckle from the red head. Her investment in the situation, having arrived so late, was practically nil. Where everyone else was tense and tempered, Emi was just being Emi, lackadaisical and free going at this point. Though she too had taken stock of the powers in play at current, and she wasn't up for picking a fight with anything like that.

Some ways below her, Kōhaku was giving out a long groan from his fall. His body, so recently free from its stupor was oddly sensitive to the goings on around him, and so what would have been average for someone else hurt a heck of a lot right now. Sensations from an aching spine weren't the only thing to trouble him of course as no sooner than he'd freed himself from his captor did the ritual begin showing side effects. His chest was red, sore, burning. Pain slowly worked its way in from the outer layers of his flesh until his organs started to feel like they were on fire and it became hard to breath.

He winced, and he grimaced, but Kōhaku held back the urge to scream. He wanted to turn that into cheers when they celebrated surviving this mess.

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