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This article, The War of Four: In Touch, is property of Mangetsu20.

This article, The War of Four: In Touch, is property of Achrones150.

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The War of Four: In Touch Act I

Retracing Our Steps, The Chase is on!

It was only a hour since the chaotic battle of the Convoy's defending Soul Reaper Forces, the Elite Mercenary group V-14, and the Anticipated Inner Circle Attack Squad all merged into a battle unlike any of the Soul Reaper foot soldiers had ever seen. Clashes of incredibly high, suffocating quantities of Spiritual Pressure. Buffeting winds from the immense explosive shockwaves emitted throughout the vicious battle. And the cries of anguish, anger, and malice raging throughout the road.

Even in the distance, a fierce and violent clash between Hankami were being fought out, even after the Dominator left their midst with the Reaper intending on ending two of his sibblings. While nothing but ashes that would never give birth to life within their wake was all that was accomplished, it was led to show more family tension and dysfunction that what was thought for the two parents of the Dominator.

With the sudden realization of startling proportions reached the ears of both the in charge Captains and the Head of V-14 of a supposed collaborative group of dangerous criminals, fleeing in the direction opposite of Yūrei Ōkoku, but to inhabited settlements along the way curving back to the Soul Society. Shinshin, a fellow pupil of Angelika Hartmann's under their mutual former mentor Asuka Sakamoto, that in order to ensure the mutually beneficial alliance brokered by Captain Aizen and Lieutenant Hayate, that it would be helpful to send any available forces of their own to hunt down the nuisances of escaped fugitives.

So it was led back to when Daisuke Hayate and Shinshin Fūten linked up with Rika Nakamura, the latter having effectively calmed the Dragonbird steed before letting them aboard. It wasn't until just a few minutes before take-off and getting their bearings correct, that the Punisher, Sakura Kojima, just arrived where they were re-supplying and preparing to give chase to the run-away criminals.

"Sakura!" Daisuke, having regained his jubilous spirits despite the heavy weight clinging to his heart underneath his regained cheerful disposition, smiled widely and waved out to her, "you've come to join us?"

"Thought you could use some help, still yet..." Was the smooth reply, followed by a smile of her own. Her arms were folded across her chest as she regarded the two with a calm and casual demeanor. "I don't think I'm done letting off steam just yet..." As she approached, she regarded the Dragonbird with a slight cautiousness. "Even though I still have my doubts on riding that thing..."

But even as she spoke, she was hiding her attitude on the aftermath of the battle that had been waged.

"Do you ever regret it?"

"...really? You think I'm a person to start regretting what I've done? I did what I had to do. She's the indecisive, cowardly bitch. I can't do anything about that!"

"I know... but have you ever stopped to think about it? Have you ever wondered, "If I could turn back time, change things so that maybe she would've seen things our way, actually be there for her... would things have turned out differently? Surely, she hasn't left your mind entirely..."

She could always count on her former lover to strike a nerve whenever he wanted to...

"It would benefit us greatly to have you around, Punisher," Shinshin spoke cooly as he walked past Daisuke and towards his equipment and belongings that he packed for the journey, as well as the anticipated conflict with their illustrious fugitives.

"Don't worry about him," Daisuke said pointedly moreover at the Dragonbird rather than Shinshin, noticing what her last words that hung in the air were understandably nervous, "he's a friendly guy once he gets to know you...well, once he gets to know you anyways, hehe!" Daisuke laughed nervously as he wrung his left hand, remembering his earlier "meeting" with the creature and how he panicked when the beast took his hand in its beak and Rika's needing to aid his arm's release.

"I don't intend on worrying about first impressions..." Sakura muttered, rolling her eyes and folding her arms across her chest. "What exactly did I miss, anyway?" Idly, she wondered if she should tell him about their encounter with the Reaper and the Nihilist. Had he sensed the ferocious battle waged from afar in the midst of his own? Had any of them?

Daisuke swallowed a dry lump that had filled in his throat from the sudden, yet not entirely unexpected query to their aftermath status. Scratching the back of his neck, Daisuke tried to mull out his words to make it sound like he wasn't hiding anything but couldn't bring himself to speak properly. "I...uh...what happened was...ummm..."

"The Gotei 13 brokered a deal with our organization," Shinshin cut in, fluidly injecting himself into the conversation as he swung a stringed bag over his shoulders before walking towards Sakura with a cool, practical gaze, "one of which we will finalize upon promising agreement with Captains Horikawa and Aizen when our points of buisness are completed."

"Wait a moment."

Sakura's eyes widened in surprise at the revealed information, blinking a few times in emphasis of her feelings. She took a moment to piece the puzzle together. Currently, she was technically "in alliance" with the Soul Society. From what it seemed, Mōka was in league with the V-14, the ones that had attacked the convoy in the first place. So if they were in alliance with each other...

The conclusion was enough to close her eyes and turn away, a scowl forming on her face.

"...of all the...!!"

Shinshin continued, despite seeing Sakura lose it when she heard the news for reasons only he could query about within his mind, "We also confirmed that our client was one of the prisoners on board one of the less protected carriages of the convoy. Apparently, he didn't approve of the additional security measures that Yūrei would be employing. Because this would be hampering his operations that he had been making for years out of sight, out of mind, he gambled on seeing a professional group retrieve his person off site..."

Daisuke blinking at the news, being the first to officially hear about it, asked Shinshin, "So it wasn't the Inner Circle who was in league with Shidai?"

"On the contrary. It appears that, like us, he sees the Inner Circle as competition and nuisances to his own particular dealings. No, I believe he was afraid that while he'd agree to paying the Inner Circle their fees for the rescue they'd attempt to suade him over to their side. Willing or no, he expressed his explicit concern of him perhaps not leaving the Circle alive," Shinshin continued, walking over to the steed in preparations for travel.

"This doesn't sound good. So these guys could end up linking back up to the Inner Circle for sanctuary, while liable to cause all sorts of trouble for the people out here," Daisuke looked over to Sakura, hoping to see her disposition brighten a little and gauge what was bothering her from the supposed good news.

Unfortunately, even when she turned back, she still had a scowl on her face. Hearing the news about the V-14 client did nothing to appease her about the fact that she would be working with the very one that had come close to taking her life. "So you guys are aiming to intercept them before they can reach any particular outpost owned by the Inner Circle. You got any particular idea of where these punks are headed?" She questioned, trying to get her mind off of her own dilemma.

"There's a small settlement just Northwest of the road that acts as a crossroads area for a lot of passerbiers from different Realms," Daisuke said, his eyes widening for a second seeing her perturbed the way she is, before pointing in the said direction into the thick of the forest, "from there, you can take routes back to the Soul Society, Aether, the lands south of here, or swing over to Tendan Dākusaido, which is a lot closer than any of the other provinces."

"There's a better chance these criminals would be heading to Tendan. Its a hive of the worse kinds of corruption and criminality you can even think of," Shinshin spoke in a intuitively knowing disposition, briefly unsheathing his sword to take in its condition before sheathing it back into its scabbard, "though since its the most predictable, it wouldn't be a good idea to assume anything the group or its leader is thinking of doing."

"It's also the most possible." Sakura muttered. "It would take a lot of resources to get to Aether. They'd have to stick with things like boat transportation, which would cost money and time. And these guys just got out of prison..."

"And have been sitting in a Sekisekki-laced carriage for nearly a half a day," Daisuke pointed out, walking over to the steed, awaiting for Rika to give the all clear so it wouldn't "attack" him again, "so their Spirit Energy reserves should be pretty low. Its amazing they were able to overpower any Soul Reaper in their path, let alone make a getaway in such a rapid, thorough manner..."

"Yeah, well, most of your subordinates were in a bit of a bind considering the Inner Circle were inexplicably raining energized meteorites left and right, I can expect these men to have taken advantage of that pretty well," Shinshin cooly pointed out.

"...wasn't it us that did that?" Rika asked in a confused tone, looking over towards Daisuke as he stood beside the bird. She raised a hand and gave an confirmatory gesture for him to climb on. "I mean... not us, but... Holmes-san who did that?" After all, considering the type of weapon Oliver had brought with him in insertion, it was pretty obvious who would be capable of "raining energized meteorites".

"No. While the hailing destruction initially was our doing, when the Inner Circle's Dragon came, she did something. She...warped space around herself...and ripped things apart in a manner not normally done before. The logic and rules that Sekisekki would have would not be valid in comparison the warping of space itself, thus why it was ripped asunder with such ease," Shinshin analytically conjurred up his analysis of the situation, as well as the terrifying force a Dragon of the Inner Circle could be.

"If a Dragon of the Inner Circle is that powerful," Daisuke could only speak lowly in a slight dread as he brought himself onto the back of the Dragonbird, second to the back, allowing Sakura a chance to sit either in front or behind him, "what kind of powers do their leaders possess? And on what scale?"

As the Hankami brought herself to sit behind her beloved, she closed her eyes and let out a heavy sigh. "I've been around the world since the beginning of its creation, and I've grown to understand the choosing of the Horsemen..." She said coolly, gently placing her hands on Daisuke's shoulders. "Individually, they're weapons of mass destruction. I can guarantee you that they were and still are the most dangerous people within the Soul Society other than the Captains of the Gotei 13. If you were to take any of them on by yourself, you'd be taking a dirt nap within seconds. No joke."

"S-Sakura?!" Daisuke suddenly shuddered as he heard this revelation, despite the comforting touch her hands made on his shoulders. The thoughts sent chills up his spine, as someone as powerful as she is that she would tell of them as if they're in a league unlike any of them would ever face, "do...do you know who they are? Do you know what they're after?"

The incredulous tone that Daisuke took with her made her smirk and almost made her chuckle.

"Oh, sweet-heart, how you've underestimated me..." She said coolly, a casual but jocular tone in her voice. She applied a light squeeze to his shoulders for emphasis. "My immortality may be gone and my powers a shadow of what they used to be, but my omniscience hasn't faded quite yet. I know everything... but, of course, it wouldn't be very fun if I just handed people answers. That would ruin the sense of accomplishment for when you actually find out the answers for yourself, wouldn't it?"

This made Rika frown a little in displeasure, but she made no open move to acknowledge or express it.

"Fine by me," Shinshin said cooly as he got in front of Daisuke, his pack unintentionally smacking Daisuke in the face before setting to his side, speaking his mind without turning his gaze to the Punisher, "if you want us to survive its better to let us do so on our own two feet and earn our place in this world and the next. We wouldn't be worth saving or protecting otherwise, right, Hankami?"

Sakura's smirk grew even wider. "Primitive, and yet capable of understanding. I'm glad you understand... mortal..."

They were words that Rika simply wasn't comfortable with.

The girl wasn't one to distrust any of her comrades that often. But the Hankami, no matter how she presented herself, always seemed to be akin to a "snake in the grass". The way she spoke, carried herself, and even the attitude she displayed about her own power and status conveyed that much. It was no wonder Shinshin seemed to hold a cold attitude towards her. She could only wonder how the Shinigami Lieutenant didn't seem to do the same...

"COUGH!" Daisuke interrupted comically, as he waved while making his incredibly distracting fake coughs, hoping they'd get the hint, "COUGHLet's get movingCOUGH!"

"I agree," Shinshin, said as he crossed his arms and looked to Rika, "if we talk about philosophy too much, we might as well bomb Tendan from orbit because how late we'll be. After all," he spoke in a cold, yet comical fashion, as he narrowed his eyes to squinting, "its the only way to be sure..."

"W-wait a minute!" That was enough to shake Rika out of her disdain. She turned her head towards the three of them, her expression slowing slight alarm. "There were supposed to be a few more people accompanying us! Aren't we supposed to wait for them, too?!"

"From where they're coming from, Rika, it'll take too long to effectively stop the fugitives before they reach the safe haven of Tendan's dense population of scum and corruption," Shinshin said with a sigh, narrowing his eyes at Rika saying in a dark, suggestive tone, "unless you want to be the one to explain to Angelika that we lost our targets because we took too long to get going?"

"Shinshin-san has a point," Daisuke said, leaning over to peer over the said man's shoulder, with a sheepish smile as he concluded, "if we act now before they recouperate any further, we might have a chance in nabbing them quick. After all, we got Sakura with us, so its not like we can't handle them, right?"

"I--..."

Any comeback Rika had could not come up to the surface. For a moment, she stared at them in a somewhat helpless manner. She knew that it would've been reckless to go in with less manpower than what they needed. Relying on Sakura wasn't something she liked to do considering what had just transpired. But, considering that they didn't have much time, both of them had valid points. There was nothing that could be done about it.

With a heavy sigh, she turned back around and looked down at the bird, clicking her tongue in the special command that she used. In response, it quickly flared its wings up and boosted from the ground, taking to the skies rather quickly. The air pressure was quick to smack them in the face. But the size of the bird and the way Rika flew kept them at a comfortable seating arrangement. It would be an ordeal falling off.

"I'll be providing air support and surveillance from the ground." She explained, her voice having regressed back to its softer tone. "If I need to, I can cut off any possible escape routes with his flames while you engage them directly. Is that okay?"

"Tactically sound, and would be handy for us to give them chase in the event they should try to escape with others covering his retreat," Shinshin said in an approving tone, holding his cross-armed stance with his eyes now closing in a sign of self-meditation, "you will not need to directly engage the hostiles, Rika. Supporting us, will be enough."

Daisuke sighed, leaning back as he got over the momentary rush of vertigo as well as the wind flapping in his face slightly before calming. Leaning back against Sakura, he let his eyes close to half mast, letting himself rest slightly from his whole ordeal, his breaths coming slow and labored. "Sakura...there's something I've been meaning to ask you," Daisuke spoke in a slightly hesitant manner, despite his willingness to share it with his heart's desire.

"Hm...?" Sakura quirked a slight eyebrow at the inquiry. Her hands slid themselves so that her arms were wrapped around Daisuke's shoulders. "Don't let our company bother you. Go on and tell me..."

"Have you ever...wanted to erase the pain of your past at all?" Daisuke said with a slightly dreamy tone, though it carried a longing and sorrowful weight that was all too clearly recently brought up from his most recent confrontation, "I know the pain and conflicts in our lives mold and build our character, make us who we really are, but having that...weight...that ache within your heart...wouldn't it be better to find a way to get rid of it?"

Shinshin suddenly opened his eyes slightly, reminding that question of his own he asked himself. Why couldn't he release the pain that held him so captive over the century of absence from his mother, the abandonment that changed him from a passive, innocent boy who loved and cared with all his heart...into an emotionless shell of his former self, only bred and capable of killing and completing the mission.

"This boy...has the same pain I had as a child," Shinshin realized silently, clenching the sleeves of his coat as he felt some unnatural bond of empathy towards the boy...for what he's going through...and will transpire for him.

"Getting rid of it, you say...?"

Here was where Rika couldn't help but pay her own interest to the conversation as Sakura spoke, although she kept her eyes forward. "That'd be easy to answer to someone who's afraid of pain, someone who can't bear the weight of torture. But can you really expect an easy answer from me? Sure... the majority of my own life has been my own personal Hell. But that's just it... it's mine and mine alone. You see..."

She began to raise one of her hands, running her fingers through Daisuke's hair.

"I could've ended it at the barbed wire. I could've stopped it all and lived an easy life. But I didn't. Instead, I chose my way and put myself into the position where I would face agony over and over again for the rest of my days. I carved it into myself with my own two hands. Humiliation, suffering, despair... I grew to embrace it, enjoy it, and revel in it. I guess I can't blame you for seeing that what's on my mind is only a burden. But you have to understand... pain is my pleasure. It's what kept me going all this time. Without it, I probably would've never survived past the Civil War. It's pretty hard wanting to get rid of something you've grown to enjoy so much..."

"I don't mean physical pain. I mean...something that chews and gnaws at your very being, your core of your soul," Daiuske emphasized as he clenched his overcoat where his heart lied, "I'd choose pain of a physical kind over this...this aching...the kind that could break the staunchest of warriors. Or the mistakes made in the past that we wished to fix, also causing this pain," closing his eyes as he felt the soothing fingers flow through his hair, "I wish it'd just be gone forever after dealing with it so much..."

In this instance, Sakura allowed herself to chuckle a little. "What do you think I've been talking about? Stop thinking so little of me, you dick..."

However, she was quick to regress back to a more serious time. "Dwelling on the past isn't going to get you anywhere, Daisuke..." She said softly. "There are some things that we have to grow to accept, no matter how much we dislike them. Treating them as problems or even annoyances is just going to make everything worse for you in the long run. As bad as it is, your errors and mistakes molded you into the person you are today. 'Sides..." She lowered her head so that her eyes would meet his directly, her hair falling to touch his face slightly. "In the end, look at you now. Lying in the arms of someone who loves you... turning out to be a good Lieutenant to a highly respected Captain of this time..."

In a rare moment, a smile - a genuine smile - crossed her face.

"I think your predecessor would be very proud of you right now, wouldn't he?"

"Heh," Daisuke allowed himself to be submerged in the pleasurable sensation of being in such a romantic embrace with Sakura, smiling back brightly, but allowing himself to speak softly in thanks, "I guess I need a reality check once in awhile, huh? I appreciate that, Sakura-chan..."

Shinshin couldn't help but admire the true bond between the most unlikely couple had behind him. He couldn't help but admire the sincerity of the love they shared, something that few in any lifetime would find. He wondered if he would make a bond stronger than what he had with his mother...only time could tell.

"Shinshin-san..." It was here that Rika looked over her shoulder again, a slightly sympathetic look on her features. "Are you all right...?" Her voice was soft, unwilling to let either Daisuke or Sakura hear her for the sake of keeping the normally detached man's front up.

"Hm?" Shinshin looked to Rika, realizing she was talking to him and not for any tactical advice or lack of direction. Shinshin couldn't help but instinctively look passive at Rika while inquiring, "what do you mean, Rika?"

"You seemed a bit... dazed, when they started speaking. Did it... ring any bells for you?"

It was at the end of this sentence that Rika realized that she may have been intruding on personal grounds. A slight blush came across her face, as she averted her gaze away quickly. "Uh-- I mean... you don't have to tell me, I was just curious..."

"Your my fellow collegue's subordinate, Rika, there is no need to be hesitant towards me," Shinshin spoke in a calm, soothing tone, his own way of showing he was being sincere and "cheerful" in a way. Raising his eyes back up to hers, "my life...wasn't exactly one to be longed for when I lost my mother. Built on nothing but instinct and pain, I eventually thought I should kill the emotions inside me and hone them into my personal weapons to use against those I saw as my enemies. But...seeing as building up from that pain like he has...made him much stronger than I have with my own use of anger and hate. I wonder if I chose a weaker path than he has...?"

"...I don't think you have." The girl said quietly. "After all, you're still pressing on, just like he is, right? I mean, look at me..." Once again, she allowed herself to turn away, a wistful smile on her face. "I'm not a fighter like you all. I can't defeat armies by myself or stand up to a particularly strong enemy like you can. All I can do is sit on the sidelines and watch you from above. But still, I make due of where I can, don't I? It's not our abilities and powers that make us strong, but the will to keep going despite our faults and flaws. Right...?"

"There is more truth in what you say than you realize, Rika," Shinshin said calmly, allowing himself a small smile, unseen by all due to their positioning, "and if I were to imagine it, I can gamble if you had the means, you would be standing by our sides. Fighting alongside us. That's what comrades do, isn't it?"

Rika allowed herself a small nod, her smile becoming more positive. "Mhm!"

"Maybe you should ask my associate if he has a Spirit Weapon that suits you," Shinshin said in a calm, nonchalant tone, not sounding as if he was teasing, "maybe you could practice your own style of combat on the side when we're not out on missions?"

Was Shinshin actually suggesting that she learn how to fight?

It caught Rika's attention once again, and she turned her head to look over her shoulder. The glimmering look of surprise was evident within the gaze of her eyes. "Practicing combat...?" She repeated hesitantly. "W...well, I don't know. I'm really not that good at fighting, and I'm not sure if I have the heart to start trying so suddenly..." She lifted a hand to scratch the back of her head, a red tint showing on her face.

"My associate can teach you the basics pretty well. Before we joined up with your organization, Zaii was a weapons instructor for various mercenary armies, as well as some of Take Xanxus' elite guardsmen," Shinshin reassured her in his still calm manner, patting her head with an outstretched arm gently, "you can take your time and find your own suitable style. Even pacifists learn how to defend themselves, when necessary, so I'm sure you're quite capable of learning your own way of combat as well as the code you adhere to."

"Why must everyone feel the need to do that?"

Rika mentally complained as she felt Shinshin pat her head. It wasn't that she minded; plenty of people had started doing that recently. But in all of the times that it occurred, she couldn't help but feel like she was treated like some sort of dog. Sure, it was their way of expressing their kindness, but they always seemed to perform the action for her...

Maybe it was because she was a bit shorter the majority of the other V-14 members.

"I'm not a dog..." She voiced her thoughts with a mutter, folding her arms across her chest in a slight sulk.

Noticing the silence and lack of reply, not to mention the body language emanating irritation, Shinshin retraced his hand with a look of query. Furrowing his brows he looked at his hand before asking her confused, "Did...did I offend you, Rika?"

"Everyone has a habit of patting me on the head." The girl said, putting her hands on her chin as she directed her gaze forward. "I'm really starting not to mind it, but... it's like they do it exclusively to me. Like I'm some sort of wandering puppy that has a sign on it saying "Pet me, pet me"! I might as well just get a sign like that and wear it all the time!"

"Forgive my ignorance then, Rika," Shinshin said in a apologetic tone, bowing his head in emphasis before putting a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it gently, "will this be more to your liking?"

"A--!" The red tint of Rika's face increased ever so slightly. "All right, now you're just making me uncomfortable!" Despite this statement, she seemed to laugh a little, covering her mouth with her hands in order to stifle her giggles.

Shinshin retracted his hand altogether, blinking in confusion as he looked to his hand. Sighing, Shinshin admitted defeat, "Perhaps its best if I choose words instead of actions to express my empathy...?"

It was clear that as strong as he was, Shinshin wasn't someone who could socialize very easy.

His social awkwardness seemed to reduce the embarrassment that Rika herself was feeling. She lowered her hands, folding them within her lap and regarding the man with a soft smile. The red tint that had formed on her face had faded away. "Whatever suits you best, Shinshin-san..." She answered, giving him a smile of sympathy. Despite the exchange, she couldn't help but feel that the sense of "adorkableness" he had given off was somewhat adorable. It was a rather strange compliment for the stoic attitude he held normally, but a compliment nonetheless...

"Thank you, Rika," Shinshin said with a sigh of relief. His eyes decided to search elsewhere, wanting to be productful instead of causing unneeded awkward tension between his comrades. Even though he was comrades with the majority of V-14 now that he and Zaii were on the Beta Team with the hotheaded Hyōryū as well as the similar minded Shadō, he still couldn't entirely adjust naturally.

After all, he tried to kill both his mother and their teammate, so any natural distrust could be felt in their underlying feelings when being near him. Yet somehow, with people like Rika, they seem to accept him for who he was and not what he had done. This reassured him in some fashion-, "I see the crossroads settlement just up ahead," he pointed out to Rika, knowing she'd see it eventually herself.

"Mhm..."

Rika was quick to shift back to her slightly introvert and studying attitude as she turned her eyes towards their destination. She folded her arms across her chest, shifting her vision in order to scan for any sign of an ambush. "I don't see anything suspicious..." She reported. "I'll drop down and let you off so you can get set up. Surveillance will be constant. Make sure to notify me in the event that you need assistance from the air. I wish you the best of luck..."

First Introductions, The Trap laid in Plain Sight

"For a girl who carries herself like a piece of fragile glass..." Sakura lowered her voice to a whisper as she spoke to Daisuke. "She seems quite efficient and tactful, doesn't she?"

"Mhm," Daisuke nodded with agreement, "I think most women in the World of the Living are like that, honestly, but she certainly knows when its buisness time."

"You'll be the first to know," Shinshin said in affirmation, simply nodding before he looked downwards, awaiting for the landing of the avarian steed she currently controlled.

With a few clicks of the tongue, Rika got the Dragonbird to descend downward. The sudden move caused wind to briefly flare up in their faces. But it was nothing that could be considered much of an annoyance. It took only several seconds for the creature to fly down to the ground, flapping its wings in order to slow itself down.

As they were folded, Sakura was the first to slide off and land on the ground. "This place is deserted..." She commented smoothly, putting her hands on her hips and taking a look around. "Hope nobody was planning to move here..."

"I don't see many people around," Daisuke commented as well, hopping off to land near Sakura, taking a few more steps closer to the town, "maybe that rain storm earlier drove them indoors?"

Shinshin hopped off soundlessly, walking stoically over to the other three, peering his eyes towards the town in general. His keen eye sight in combination with his honed senses stretched out, trying to peer to anything of the unnatural. Then, he felt something odd, causing him to shift a little closer to the cropping of ramshackle shacks and the windmill tavern that dominated the town as its center, "I feel something menacing and foul in the air...keep your guard up. They know we're here."

Rika knew that staying on the ground would be dangerous in the event of an ambush. With a few clicks of her tongue, the bird spread its wings out and flapped them in order to boost itself into the air. She only needed a short moment to get herself back into the air, flying high over the area but keeping close enough to swoop in if she was called. She clicked her earpiece in order to establish radio contact with them, speaking a message of warning.

"If there are civilians here, the targets may attempt to use them as an advantage. Make sure to check your fire and stay on the alert."

"Gotcha..." Sakura said smoothly, taking in a deep breath. The stench and sensation of the energy within the air was giving her a sense of elation, and it wasn't too long before a smile of malevolence crossed her face. "I'll do my best to tone it down. I know how you mortals get in the face of overwhelming power..." One of her hands moved to rest on her sword, ready to draw at a moment's notice.

"Wouldn't you be classified as a mortal with your immortality gone?" Daisuke quipped, though out of total curiosity rather than mockery, as his eyes blinked at her owlishly, "I mean, you're still pretty strong, stronger than I could ever be! But you're not like capable of being unkillable, are you?"

Shinshin's eyes drew to the windmill. Despite the rain storm, he could tell it was long past since its original purpose was faltered, seeing a few chimneys running out from the top of its structure, with fresh clouds of smoke pouring into the air. But the lack of noise, banter, and crowd a crossroads settlement would have put Shinshin in considerable unease. Placing his free hand around the base of his scabbard and guard, he awaited the opportunity to be the first to strike rather than the first to be struck.

Thus, Sakura's anticipating mood was jaded, and her expression was quick to change to a slightly annoyed one. One of her eyes twitched. "Shut up, you're ruining my mood..." She grumbled. "Don't ruin the good thing I have going here."

"Shutting up now," Daisuke said promptly, before comically slipping his forefingers and thumb across his lips, smiling slightly before walking towards the settlement first, letting the other two follow. It came across Daisuke's mind that since Shinshin said they knew they were here, why couldn't they play coy? He looked over and said, "since they know we're here, can't we pretend we're just passing through looking for them? We might be able to get a gauge on what they look like and what they're doing..."

"Or they could be waiting for the opportunity with our swords not drawn and attack us on sight," Shinshin countered, keeping a cool, professional disposition as he thought things through rationally.

"Well, technically, our swords aren't drawn as of this minute..." Sakura pointed out, placing her hands on her hips as she walked behind Daisuke. "Besides, even if they weren't, I'm pretty sure all of us have good enough reflexes to detect any anomalies within our setting..."

GROOOOAAAAN!!!

"Good, hehe," Daisuke said, as he sheepishly rubbed his belly in emphasis of his declared hunger, walking towards the smoking chimney-laced windmill, "cause I'm starving, and if they're passing themselves off as cooks, might as well let it be their treat, right?!"

Shinshin could only sweatdrop at that logic, realizing if the fugitives were skilled enough, they could poison them and kill them all on the spot. Well, probably only Daisuke, as Shinshin was trained to have a high tolerance and immunity to poisons in general and the Hankami was the one who probably invented them to begin with. Shrugging, he followed the Lieutenant and trusted in his "on-hands" experience, only readying himself slightly more for an immediate attack if necessary.

"...what?"

Sakura, however, was more vocal in her reaction to it. As she followed, she fixed Daisuke's back with a quirked eyebrow. "Sure. Just walk nonchalantly in the area where it reeks of foreboding energy for some dinner. I'm sure it'll end well..." She said sarcastically, dropping her arms to her sides. "While you're at it, maybe we can ask them if we want to stay the night or two!"

"Thanks for the great idea, Sakura-chan!" Daisuke shouted back to her, placing his hands behind his head as he walked nonchalantly towards the place which he knew for certain was populated by people. He just hoped they would share some of their food...because it smelled delectable!

"I suggest we don't encourage him anymore," Shinshin spoke aloud as he slowed down to walk in sync with the rational person of the group rather than the village idiot.

Knock-Knock-Knock!

"Hellooooo? Can we have what you're having?!" Daisuke asked through the door, awaiting a succinct answer from those occupied within.

"God damn it."

The female shut her eyes and slapped a palm to her face, shaking her head sagely from side to side. Inwardly, she wondered if any of the residents of the place had actually seen the insertion. If they had been scared by it, she couldn't blame them. If at least one of them opened the door and pointed a shotgun in their face, she would expect it. But she was hoping that wouldn't be the case. The last thing she wanted was to go back to her siblings with a buckshot in her rear...

"God, how I'm starting to miss those breakout jerk-offs already..."

"Oi! The door's open for ya'!" A very Aethian, almost New Yorkan accent broke through the confines of the thick, makeshift door to the windmill turned tavern.

"He doesn't sound hostile...what's going on?" Shinshin thought as he moved his right hand away, leaving his left hand to hold the hilt in readiness despite the nonchalant attitude coming from inside.

"Awesome!" Daisuke said in a sincere attitude, opening the door to find it as he himself exepcted it to be. Warmer than outside, but pretty deserted with various stacked chairs and lanterns lighting up the interior.

A delectable scent could be found coming from the steam leaking from the counter and kitchen. From where the prior location showed a tall man with a peculiar tattoo or birthmark on his forehead and a dollop from his combed back, neat hair. Surprisingly tall, he looked like he was washing his hands with a towel while having an apron comfortably wrapped around his waistline as he looked up at them all with a cheerful disposition, "Good day, lady and gents! Sorry the door wasn't open, the weather outside was pretty foul so I kept them windows and entrance closed due to the potential drenched furniture I'd have on me hands. Is there something I can get all of you?"

If there was one thing that Sakura learned, it was not to be taken in by first impressions.

Quietly, she studied the man for a few seconds to take in everything about him. With the way he carried himself, he seemed like the common male resident just making a living. But as she took it into her mind, there was something... off, about the aura he was exuding. Having been around sincerely good hearts like a few of the Captains of the Gotei 13, she had enough knowledge to know that there was something less about the way he was acting. She would have to keep an eye on him for the time being, in the case that Daisuke and Shinshin couldn't.

She would play nice... for now.

Stepping beside Daisuke, she raised her elbow a little and gave him a rough bump as well as a somewhat annoyed look for his silence. It was enough to convey the message, "You're the one who decided to come in here! Speak up, stupid!"

"I'll have some soup with toasted bread please!" Daisuke said with an ethusiastic tone, smiling widely as he was greeted in such a nice fashion. If this man was the hostage, or even one of the fugitives, he certainly acted like a gentleman to those who looked as peculiar as they did.

"Herbal tea with soup," Shinshin said in a smooth, polite tone while his eyes kept a keen watch of this man's every gesture. Depending on how he carried himself or how he moved, he could very well hold the skills of a skilled and cunning killer or assassin. Anything odd or too in-sync might give a warning bell within Shinshin's instinctive analytical perception.

The man nodded to each of them, obviously not hard items to write down so it looked as if he'd memorize them within a few moments. Looking over to Sakura, he smiled while speaking courteously, "And what might you be havin' miss?"

"I might as well eat something, just to go along with the group."

"Three sticks of yakitori, please." She said readily, putting on a polite and charming (if not somewhat sheepish) smile of her own at him. Her hands were folded behind her back in a feint of nervousness. The dish mentioned was simply grilled chicken on a stick - a personal favorite of hers during her travels in her younger years.

"I'll have some of that too!" Daisuke said in sudden readiness, as well as wanting to have chicken along with his soup and bread, he felt incredibly hungry.

The man smiled a charming white toothy grin, before nodding to them all while repeating back, "I got you down for the gentleman on my left a spot of herbal tea and a bowl of our popping hot soup. For the lad with orange hair and black coat I got you down for a spot of our soup, some bread for dipping, and some yakitori along with the girlfriend in red."

"That sounds accurate," Shinshin spoke up cooly, but moreover sounding in a complimentary way than a suspicious one, despite his true intentions.

"Well, when you work with so many different people, you tend to start paying attention to what you're hearing," the man said in explanation, rather than accepting the compliment or simply going back to the task. Something a ordinary man would definitely say to a stranger's comment. With that said, the man nodded before walking away from them all, waving back to them, "just give me a fifteen minutes for the chicken and I can get your soup, bread, and tea in five!"

"Wow," Daisuke smiled with a little bit of a cheer in his voice, wrapping a arm around Sakura as he whispered in her ear, "its almost like we're having a date while out on a mission! Haven't done this in awhile since my beginning days at the D.C.O."

"You've dated before?" Shinshin couldn't help but remark that someone like Daisuke, as good looking and strong as he was, having as many quirks he has socially would have trouble keeping any steady relationship. Though, that was just his own personal analysis.

"I...uh...well...a little...," Daisuke suddenly blushed, realizing Shinshin's keen hearing and butting into the conversation made him feel awkward all of a sudden.

"Oooh...?" Sakura's curious coo didn't help matters. She gave a mischievous smile as she leaned into Daisuke's one-armed embrace, looking at him curiously. "Who was the lucky girl before me, hm?"

"Pleeeease, promise you won't say anything!" Daisuke whispered yet looked pale looking between Shinshin and Sakura. He looked helpless, as he couldn't get out of saying who it was, but hoped they'd have enough integrity to keep his secret. After all, the Queen of Hell and a known A-Class assassin were totally trustworthy now that one was his girlfriend and the other his ally, right?

"I have no gain from exploiting your secrets," Shinshin said matter-of-factly, shrugging as he nonchalantly added, "yet, anyways..."

"Don't worry. I may be many things, but a gossiper isn't one of them." Sakura added, her smile "What you say will never leave this room, as far as I'm concerned..."

"Alright," Daisuke took a deep breath, feeling exactly what it was to be on the losing end of a Truth-or-Dare game, "it was...Hana...Hana Yūgure," he squinted as he explained further, "we worked together a lot on occasions, to see how good we'd be in the D.C.O. She suggested since we've been partnered so often that why don't we take some time off and date while on or off assignments..."

Silence for a brief moment.

Then, Sakura started snickering.

The snickers turned into giggling.

And thus, she ended up having to clasp both hands on her mouth in order to stifle her laughter.

"Y...you, with her?" She repeated, keeping her hands on her mouth out of the fear that her laughter would become too audible. "It just had to be the one that had the ever so short history of trying to kill me, didn't it?"

Blushing hotly, Daisuke then voiced his complaints about it in a way to divert attention away from the obvious fact he was well aware of, "Despite how nice a time I had with her, she was always trying to beat the living shit out of me! I'm serious! I think half of her time she was trying to use me as her personal punching bag, and would try to shrug off my complaints with a make-out-make-up. Ugh!" Head-desking himself on the counter, he moaned that his current one and true love found his past mistake of a girlfriend a joke when it was misery half the time just thinking about it.

"I can just see it now..." Sakura placed her elbow up on said counter, her chin resting on the back of her hand and a smile of amusement on her face as she looked at Daisuke. "Hana sticking an apron on you, pointing to the kitchen and saying, "Make me a sandwich or I will backhand you to next year!"

"Let's just drop it please..." Daisuke groaned as he kept his face planted on the counter, his arms hanging limp with defeat.

"Why would a woman insist on the man making the meals? Isn't that a inverted way of thinking?" Shinshin asked with a perplexed look, obviously being very old fashioned in his way of thinking and how men and women should treat each other. Daisuke's relationships, both past and present, were very contrary to what most male and female ones typically are.

"That's exactly the point of the joke, " Sakura explained, turning her attention towards Shinshin to quirk an eyebrow at him. The smile faded a little. "And that is exactly what makes it funny. C'mon, that's something that shouldn't have to be explained. It ruins the humor."

"I'll try to adapt to a more appropiate way of recieving the joke," Shinshin bowed his head half-heartedly, still confused on the point of the joke and why a woman, in real life, would do something like that anyways.

"Heeeeeeeere y'are!" The cook then said with a jubilious tone, smiling his winning smile as he balanced a number of filled dishes on one arm. Looking to Shinshin, he handed him his pottery-crafted glass filled with herbal tea with the leaft still in it and the bubbling, delectable soup. He then handed the said soup to Daisuke, along with a plate of chicken and a few slices of bread, before finally handing a single plate of gourmet arrayed chicken for Sakura, "enjoy!"

"FINALLY!" Daisuke immediately broke out of his stupor of social depression, taking the utensils handed to him and began to taste the food, moaning as he could tell it wasn't tampered and cooked with incredible skill, "this is fantastic!"

"...eat food. Obtain a boner from eating it. It's possible!"

Then again, and despite her thoughts, Sakura couldn't help but see that the food had a rather attractive scent to it. After taking the plate given to her and regarding it with mild curiosity, she reached out to grab a stick between her fingers. With a casual gait, she put it to her open mouth, tore off a peace, and chewed softly. Although she wasn't going to act dramatically over it, the taste of grilled and seasoned chicken pleasing her taste buds. She found herself smiling a little as she ate the bite, nodding slightly.

"Not going to jump for joy..." She said lightly. "But yeah, this is pretty good!"

"Mmm," Shinshin said after taking a sip from his tea, nodding with acceptance with a slight smile on his face, "this is well brewed. Much appreciated."

"Great ta'hear that!" The man, just now realizing he was awaiting the verdict from each of his customers, replied earnestly, clapping his hands and rubbing them together. Briefly watching everyone eat, the cook then leaned back against the back counter where the kitchen began, putting his hands nonchalantly in his apron's pockets, "so brings such a colorful and entertaining group of upstanding individuals such as yourselves? You Soul Reapers huntin' some Hollows?"

"Something like that," Daisuke said nonchalantly, before dipping some of the chicken, wrapping a slice of bread around it and began chewing contendedly on it.

"We happened to come around this particular place in our search..." Sakura added in between consumption of her yakitori stick. "I thought it would've been a bad idea, seeing as it might seem as if we're intruding on someone else's property, but now that I know this is apparently a restaurant of sorts, I can say it's no big deal." She allowed her eyes to drift around. "Though, it seems pretty empty today..."

"Like I said," the resteraunt manager, for better title terms, shrugged nonchalantly as he waved his hand out, "the storm that hit must've been bad for the pilgrims and travelers. I usually get some through traffic throughout the week, but sometimes the weather can get very buggery around these parts," he then arched a brow at the three, as he queried, "if you're not Hollow hunting, what are you searching for?"

"To clarify," Shinshin said after setting down his plaster glass, sideglancing at Daisuke for emphasis, "he is the only Soul Reaper of us three. The lady on the far left is a foreign spirit and I'm just an ordinary soul," he then narrowed his eyes at the cook better, "we actually have come here to track down four fugitives who escaped this young man's Prison Convoy. We'd like your cooperation in helping us search here, as this is the only place for refuge for kilometers. And like you said....the storm is merciless outside, and almost anyone would do anything to get out of harm's way. Isn't that right?"

"Oh really?" The cook asked in a cool tone, still maintaining a easy-going disposition, even chuckling as he unpocketed his hands from his apron and walked towards the three of them, acting like he was truly intrigued, "and what makes you think they're here? As you can see, I'm the only one here, and I've been working to keep this place readily available for anyone who's passing by and as you just pointed out young lady," he winked at her while making a finger gun "go-off" in her direction harlmessly, "no one, has come to visit me until you three."

"Well, no offense..." The female said calmly. "But from the looks of things, this seems like a perfect place for runaways to hole up. Matter of fact, we were aiming to cut them off before they got to this area." The punctuation of this sentence was another bite of the yakitori stick she was eating. "You happen to poke your head out the window and see strange individuals coming in before us, by any chance?"

"I just told ya, sweetheart," the cook said in an amused, if not slightly irritated tone, flourishing his long right arm to the windows that had been locked up along with the door, "the storm was too bad for me to have them open. And even if I decided to take a leak outside, there would be no way for me to see anybody with a storm that bad going on, let alone would I be dumb enough to let them in-"

TK-SHK!

"I've had enough of your games," Shinshin said in a threatening, yet completely controlled tone as he narrowed his eyes and thumbed his sword part way out of its sheathe, causing the cook to open his eyes wide, "you wreak of deceit and this place holds the stench of murderous intent! You honestly believe a completely deserted town that has food, already cooking, enough to feed passing strangers is a passing alibi?! "

"Hey, Shinshin!" Daisuke tried to stop him from interrogating the poor man who didn't seem like the type who was the escaped fugitive.

Reaching an arm out, he tried to stop him, but Shinshin continued, "You were cooking it for them, weren't you? You were already in the progress of cooking a hot, piping meal for your weary comrades whom you pitied considering you all haven't had a gourmet meal for decades, or centuries, right? I can smell the creeping decay that hangs around you, fugitive! I smell the material of Sekisekki lingering on your wrists from when they were snapped off by the distortion fields...and I can hear your heart pounding before we even opened the door..."

"Hey now, buddy! There's no need to act so hostile! I-I-I'm just a cook here, see?! I mean no harm to nobody!" He waved his hands in a defensive posture, backing up to the counter that seperated him and the kitchen as well as the makeshift counter that made up the three's table.

However, Sakura would not help matters - at least, for Daisuke.

"Wait a minute..." She muttered, slowly getting up from her seat. Her eyes narrowed, giving off a hawk-like stare at the cowering man. "I'm pretty sure that the storm ended long after we came here. You would've had plenty of time to remove the locks on your window if you were simply keeping out the storm. Now that my friend's mentioned it, I do smell that sterile metal coming from you... and last but not least, I've known plenty of people to know who's putting up a bluff and who isn't." She placed her hands on her hips, slowly walking towards the retreating man with a calm, yet menacing gait. "With all that being said, I do believe it's time you came with us..."

After breathing a few times heavily, he then looked helplessly to Daisuke, the boy he seemed to think highly of for speaking so fondly of his cooking. But Daisuke himself crossed his arms, sighing as he looked between the two, "I'm sorry, but I can't deny the unease I have when I'm here and around you. Even if you're innocent, I think its best if you came with us, just at least to check you out and see if you're not harboring anyone untowardly here..."

"I see how it is," the man said with a sudden glint in his eyes, suddenly unstrapping the apron on his front...to reveal a ripped up, raddy appearance that could only appear on someone who just ran through the storm and if one looked below, he had no sandals or shoes to speak of, "I was hoping if I chose a more peaceful approach, I could cosy you up and see you on your way. Of course I was warned they'd send smarter people, but I was hoping it was only one of the grunts I knocked out on the way here...guess you ain't grunt, ey kid?"

"Lieutenant Hayate of the 9th Division," his title sent a spark in the man's eyes, and then rolled his neck as he heard the boy's next words, "I need you to come with me now. You have a long trip ahead of you, and I'd hate to see you being late."

Let's Dance! The Battle of Cops and Robbers!

"Sorry, Lieutenant," the man spoke as he spoke with a flourishing, gentleman's bow, "as upon the word of Hijō Gisei, I cannot be taken in after tasting freedom for the first time in forty years."

"Still a gentleman even after your curtain's swung open, eh...? That's too bad..."

Taking one hand off of her hip, Sakura placed it on the hilt of her personal katana. It was occurring to her that the Soul Society needed the targets alive. But of course, it was clear that this particular one was going to resist. So by standards, it would be okay to subdue him by any means necessary as long as the head was still in one piece. The Punisher would be free to sate her sadism with this man.

"I almost feel terrible for doing this..."

VOOM!

Within a blink of an eye, she appeared right behind Hijō - a demonstration of the immense speed that her Haya granted her. Her knees were bent and her body was twisted slightly in order to accomodate an exiting stance. Her crimson eyes gleamed with anticipation as she spoke one word to finalize her speech.

"Almost."

SHING!

With an iaido movement, she unsheathed her blade and swung it in a diagonal uppercut. The cutting edge was aimed toward the man's spinal chord - a clear attempt to cripple him and end the fight before it could begin.

"What the-?!" The man's eyes widened in alarm, never seeing something move as fast as she did, and clearly not expecting her to be the first to attack. Turning his head around with barely enough reaction/timing to register the movement, the Iaido slash almost appeared unstoppable...

Almost...

CLANG!

...until what almost looked like a creeping black shadow materialized on Hijō's back, stopping the blade with a loud metalic repulsion, sending a number of sparks around his body.

"Sorry, Hijō," a liquid-smooth, voice spoke out through the shadows and one that was immediately expected by the said man, "but it seems your ridiculous plan to play nice guy didn't work. Let me show you-"

SLURRR-CRACK!

"-what it is to play bad guy!" The voice announced as a fist struck out with a tenacious, insanely swift speed towards Sakura's chin from the shadows below her, intending on sending her straight through the roof with extraordinary strength and power that would rip the counters in front of the two.

Daisuke then sprung first, determined to take the assumedly weakened and powerless man down as soon as possible. Swinging his fist towards the man's face, Daisuke moved with incredible speed of his own, intending on taking the man by surprise as he moved through the buffeting shockwave with little effort and some shrapnel scraped harlmessly across his enraged visage.

However...

"Sorry, kid," the man said as he stepped forward and around his incoming fist, being nearly up close and personal with the boy, before swerving his left leg in a limber fashion to kick him in the side of the head, "but I ain't bein' taken like a common criminal-"

SNAP!

"No, you won't," Shinshin answered as he swiftly intercepted the foot within the blink of an eye with his left, crossed hand, while unsheathing his blade with his right, "you'll be taken...like a dog!"

SWIIIIIISH!!!

Shinshin swung his blade in a diagonal arc, intending on slashing him across his chest with a incapacitating force that may or may not be able to keep him alive. It mattered not to Shinshin at this point, for he intended on taking him down.

But instead...

WHIRL-CRACK!

Hijō swung his body up and around in an eliptical arc away from the cutting stroke of Shinshin's blade, before striking Shinshin's upper back with substantial effect, before flipping deftly away. In the end, within a matter of seconds, both Shinshin and Daisuke went tumbling forward into the debris caused by the unknown shadow-enraptured entity that attacked Sakura.

"These guys are certainly a grade above average, aren't they?"

WOOSH!

Sakura stepped back, the fist whizzing past her face and causing her hair to billow briefly in the wind wake. She pulled away, taking a few steps and keeping her weapon readied at her side. Her free hand was placed on her hip in an air of relaxation and comfort, even as she felt the back of her heel touch a splinter of what had been the counter. She let out a dark chuckle, twisting her blade and clicking it in a foreboding manner. "I'm going to enjoy every bit of this. Even if you're wanted alive, it doesn't mean I have to keep everything below the head in one piece..."

Then, she raised her sword.

FFFWOOOM!!!

In the wake of her swing, a crescent wave of blazing fire the width of a human torso was unleashed towards both of the fugitives. Obviously, they weren't at full power. But they would still be enough to cause serious damage and burns if not dealt with. The tongues of the flames that were unleashed even set a few nearby chairs on fire due to the intense heat coming from them.

"GAAAH!" Daisuke cried out in alarm, as he hadn't even donned his Zanpakutō, not wanting to be caught in the flames that would catch directly in between them and the actual targets. Daisuke used Flash Step to backpedal out the door, while Shinshin merely flipped over the flames, in a manner Hijō himself did to avoid the flames, wrapping his legs around one of the large ceiling beams while crossing his arms casually.

"You'll have to do better than that if you want to catch me!" He taunted in a still-light hearted tone, winking at Shinshin and Sakura to further annoy them.

"Annoyance," Shinshin drawled out, charging after Hijō as he aimed to catch him in their inverted dance within the rafters of the windmill ceiling.

Meanwhile, the entity from the shadows had merely reemerged within them, chuckling in a smooth tone that echoed around them all in a eery vibe, "You certainly aren't normal grunts, I'll give you that. But you're still no match for us!"

SNATCH!

The shadow on which Sakura was projecting was suddenly wrapping around her ankle. With a suddenly pivoting motion of incredible power, the shadow elongated and aimed to drag her across the shutter-locked windows around the interior of the rennovated resteraunt before slamming her into the center folded table of the dining lobby.

"Oh no, you don't..."

As the shadow lifted her into the air, Sakura called upon her flame manipulation in order to counter the grapple that the strange enemy had used on her. Within an instant, a burst of flames enveloped her ankle as her body bent forward. But this was not the only thing taking place; instead of her own appendage being set ablaze, it had converted into nothing but pure flame. As a result, they enveloped her enemy's shadow-like hand as well. It was a test to see if the shadow could suffer damage when "out of its element".

As she was landing, she performed a front-flip while in mid-air and landed on one knee, smirking all the while. The flames that made up her leg returned to their previous state.

"My my," the voice suddenly sounded a lot more coherent, as it emerged a safe distance to Sakura's left, appearing out of the shadows like it was made of water, before the dark haired, yellow-eyed man revealed to be unharmed by her actions, "you are quite the feisty one. Had I not used a shadow instead of my hand, you surely would've burned me quite badly," he then inhaled deeply, allowing the lights to somehow eerily flicker as he breathed out, "you smell quite nice. You're like a walking candy store to me," he began walking towards her with a predatorial gaze, as his body suddenly became enveloped in a vibrant, spirit energized-aura that almost seemed similar to Shadō's, as he reached his left hand out towards her in emphasis, "just filled with so much..."

BWOOM!

"ENERGY!" A ecstatic, borderline psychotically gleeful tone broke out as his eyes widened and glowed vibrantly, sending a shockwave of incredible Spiritual Power towards her that in someway, somehow...was mingled with her own Shinsei!

CRACK-WHOOSH!

"This place his History!" A suddenly comically-fearful expression donned on Hijō as he leaped out of the roof with a well-placed kick, jumping away from the exploding windmill/resteraunt. Much to his chagrin, he ran into the line of sight for a eager Lieutenant, charging up neon blue energy in his left hand, "sunava-"

"SOKATSU!" Daisuke snarled out, discharging his spell rapidly at the man, intending on catching him with the vibrant energy projection. Daisuke's feral smile however turned upside down in horror at what he saw next.

SNAP-BWAAAAM!

The man who looked helpless and unarmed to get away from the rolling fissure of energy, spun around with his left foot outstretched...kicking...the fissure in a controlled gesture before sending it hurtling into the row of unseemly shacks, causing them to explode in a pyrotechnic detonation.

The psychopath had shown himself.

The attack that he had used made Sakura's eyes widen slightly in surprise, even as she raised her sword over her head in preparation. She could sense the energy melded within his own. It was an unnatural occurrence in the case of Shinsei energy, as it was a pure kind and could not be utilized by the likes of anyone outside of the Hankami race. Of course, it was her power that she could sense within...

WOOSH!

With a swing of her sword, she disrupted the shockwave and scattered it. The deflection hit the walls, cutting straight through the material. In turn, this caused the foundation of the building to slide apart, the upper half collapsing to reveal the outside. But even as the wind blew in her face, she kept her eyes within his the whole time. The smirk had returned to her face as she settled into a stance, one hand on her sword and one on her hip. "Walking candy store?" She commented. "That's a new one..."

Then, with a swing of her sword, she called her flames up to her once more. The fire engulfed the length of her blade, extending a little beyond the tip. Bending her legs, she boosted off and threw herself at her opponent. Once she was in range, she swung the blazing blade down on his head. Her expression mirrored the man's in her own way, with widened eyes and a grin that expressed the manic feelings of her own as she made her move.

SHFT-BRAAACK!

The man deftly evaded, his body seemingly evaporated into thin air as her blade cut into a black misty afterimage of him, only to appear directly a few feet away, with his arms crossed. He blew out an amused whistle at the fire slash she preformed, "So your not utilizing Spirit Energy in the way I usually see it. Fascinating...could you tell me what flavor you're using? I've never tasted such delectable energies before...and being around you just makes me ecstatic!"

SNAP-SWISH-SWISH-SWISH-SWISH!

With a simple snap of his fingers, a number of shadows projected transparent blades. Elongating and moving like snakes, the blades surrounded and slashed all around her, intending on cutting her to pieces or slowly wear her down with shallow cuts. Whichever came first, of course...

"You've got to be kidding me!" Daisuke shouted out, comically stating while pointing his hand at him, "that's cheating!"

"Its not cheating, you backwards carrot top!" Hijō countered back, flailing his arms in emphasis with a couple of angry veins protruding from his forehead, "do you realize how many tireless years I spent to do something as awesome as that?! It is badass, not cheating-"

"I've had enough of you!" Shinshin spoke up, as he appeared behind Hijō unexpectedly, forcing the latter man on the defensive. While in mid-air, the two began an acrobatic, high-sped dance that Daisuke could barely follow with even his own intuitive senses and keen eye for detail. Each one of them moved their limbs in a tango of death, intending on catching one in a mistake and finishing it in a swift execution. In Daisuke's eyes...they looked to be respectively on par with each other!

A short laugh was Sakura's response. She readied her sword once more, the flames glowing brightly as the metal was raised in the air. There was a brief but considerable increase of heat, a pulse singing the very air around her. It would be the signal of her putting the pressure on him a bit more, seeing as he seemed to be comfortable for the time being.

PLOOSH!

When she swung the sword down, the flames on her sword shifted and extended. Within seconds, a whirling cyclone of fire twice the height of herself and the width of an elephant formed around her. The heat of the blaze ripped apart the physical shadows attempting to do the same to her. The height of the cyclone expanded, the top closing off and changing its shape to a comet-like projectile twice the size of a humanoid body. The formation of the fire, in general, now appeared to be that of a massive snake that loomed over the structures below.

As soon as it was formed, the comet head of fire threw itself at the man. The wake of the fire seemed to incinerate the very air, distorting the space of the area itself.

"This is unreal...!" The man thought as he witnessed the excruciating heat exuding from the woman's blade. Seeing her effortlessly create such a torrentially vibrant aura of flames that could grow in size and shape, even nature to the point any of his powers could be nulled in comparison. The towering serpent didn't help much for the man's perception, as he balled his fists and snarled up at it.

"Give it..." He began growl, even as the fiery snake manifestation reared its head and began plunging head first towards him with incredible, exhilerating force, "give me...THAT POWER!!!!" He shouted out, reaching out his hand in a blind fit of rage as he attempted to ready himself to absorb the power rushing towards him entirely...

SHFT-VOOM!

Instead of being struck head on by the fiery serpent like he should've, another entity intervened. With a swift outstretch of his hand, a powerful warping force blew back the flames, causing them to be dissipated with ease and thundercracked into the sky from the force utilized. It all happened...right in front of the original combatant, with his form standing still and in shock of what had transpired.

"No, Namakubi," a voice emanated behind a dark hood of a equally disheveled clothed man, that exuded an entirely foreign aura. Something that not even the likes of the Punisher would've felt in all her years of living within the worlds she's traveled. The voice also bore a pair of blue-red star-shaped irises that shined vividly behind the veil of shadow that cloaked his visage, "do not lose sight of our goal. That is an order."

"Datenshi...I..." the man was at a lost of words, trying to reign in his emotions and try to make a way to grasp a hold of his once fearless disposition. After breathing in and out, he then stood up straight and let his arms drop to his sides, "forgive me."

"Forgiven," The newcomer, dubbed Datenshi, spoke in a low and stoic form. Looking straight at the Punisher with a gaze of fearlessness and bridled rage, "now, I'd like to ask what you are and whose orders you were sent here. I'm not one for playing games with tempermental children, so no bullshitting, got it?"

"This is getting intense!" Hijō said with a easy-going smile, albeit breathing a little hard as he broke away from the cat-and-mouse game he was having with Shinshin, "can't believe your girly forced Datenshi to intervene. She must be quite the kicker in the rumps-"

SHFT-CLANG!

"Be careful of what you say about her! She'd crush your insignificant ass before you could blink if she was in the mood for it!" Daisuke retorted, using Flash Step to get up behind his opponent and unsheathing his sword to attack him in a fluid gesture.

While the blade met the man's energy-emblazoned wrist, the force was enough to cause him to skid back a handful of meters due to Daisuke's own substantial strength against the other man's, causing Hijō to chuckle, "I guess I know which one of you is on top, little Lieutenant..."

It was certainly a surprise to see such a newcomer approach her - especially one that she couldn't recognize by signature.

"And what exactly is this...?"

Her crimson eyes widened as she saw her fireball deflected, followed by the appearance of "Namakubi"'s protector. As they spoke to one another, her expression shifted to one of confused analysis as she regarded "Datenshi". Judging from the way he carried himself as well as the way he interacte with Namakubi, he could be classified as a leader of the quintet, if not the leader. The foreign energy she could feel from him was enough to reinforce that. Obviously, he was going to be a tougher challenge to deal with.

When he finished speaking the threatening words to her, she allowed herself to laugh. Her shoulders heaved a little in rhythm with her vocalizations of mirth. It was a laugh that contained her amusement and entertainment at his boldness. "Too bad. When dealing with the likes of you, bullshitting is my favorite past time..." She retorted, keeping her sword at the readied and lowered position. "Besides, you'll be going back in your little cages soon. What does it matter?"

"No one will cage me again," Datenshi spoke with a even-toned, stoic response as he walked towards her, grasping the hilt of a sword sheathed on his back as he readied his chance to engage in combat with her, "never again. I will happily perish by the sword before reentering that Hell they sentenced me in!"

"Be careful, Datenshi," the other one spoke as he plunged himself feet first back into the shadows, "she's a lot stronger than you think. She may even be stronger than-"

"No one is that strong, Namakubi..."

SHIIIIINK!

"...not a single soul will ever be as strong as our Leader," Datenshi emphasized with the unsheathing of his sword, emanating the same Spiritual Pressure residually as a Zanpakutō!

As Daisuke grinded his own Zanpakutō against the incredible martial artist, he then narrowed his eyes at him, "I'll give you one last chance: Surrender yourselves peacefully and I swear you will not be harmed."

"I give you guts for standing in my way kid," Hijō said with a smile, pushing back Daisuke's blade with a little exertion before speaking menacingly, "but asking me to go back to where I came out is like casting me into darkness itself. There's no way I'd go there willingly, both in mind and body. I'd rather die than go back there..."

"Then you leave me no choice," Daisuke spoke out in a stoic tone, as his body flared up with a brilliant, fiery aura of Spiritual Power, sending down a luminiscently heavy Spiritual Pressure throughout the air. Despite his rejuvenated strength, even the martial artist felt the sincere weight and hidden malcontent within the Spiritual Pressure about to be released.

"Blaze Eternally..."

"Shit!-"

"...Kyōi Abāta!" Daisuke roared out, causing the blade to turn into its double-edged broad-sword appearance along with the two spikes protruding from either end near the edge. The flames that traveled down its base caused a sudden instaneous combustion at point-blank for Hijō...

SSSSHFT!

...making Daisuke slightly unnerved as the martial artist fugitive appeared to have moved utilizing a form of a Fast-Movement technique, with a slight akin to the Flash Step itself.

Shinshin rushed to aid Daisuke, intending on catching Hijō off guard once again as he rushed in with the incredible speed of his nearly unparalleled Flash Step. However...

SWISH-CRACK!

...the shadow-enraptured form of Namakubi surged upwards and blocked Shinshin's advances, causing him to face off his own respective opponent and analyze his newly revised situation.

"A dog speaking of its master like a god. What misplaced devotion you have..."

Slowly, Sakura lifted her katana and pointed the tip straight at her new opponent. "I'll make sure your tail's tucked in the right place when you crawl back to him..." She whispered, summoning her spiritual pressure to the surface. It filled the area with a mixture of heat and the sensation of suffocation. The vision around the ones affected would warp slightly, as the very fabric of the air was being distorted once more. "Maybe then, he'll see the futility of sending trash like you to contend with the likes of us..."

The man stood stoic before the onslaught, unlike his other two comrades who, along with their opponents, paused to stand in awe of the pure malevolence emanating from her being. That, and the unquestionable weight of the world constricting around them all. Only Daisuke, seemed to be bearing a smile, as if it was a warmth to his heart...having felt that power before...and knew where it came from.

"You speak as if you are a god, woman," the man stood in front of her, his own body taking a warped black, dark green aura with a Spiritual Pressure unlike anything anyone has felt, "but there are no gods in this world. Or the next. There is only..."

SHFT-SWISH-SWISH-SWISH-SWISH-SWISH!

"...Monsters!" The man emphasized in a dark, stoic stern tone, swinging his blade in a series of blindingly swift attacks in a style that looked more stemmed in a intertwining style of discipline and street fighting. All in all, it was fast, furious, and incredibly dangerous to assume there was an end or a defined weak spot within the way he carried himself or the way he fought.

And so, a duel of the masters began.

CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

Datenshi's blade met Sakura's in a clash that could only be described as ferocious. His speed was met with an equally rapid, furious, and aggressive defense that could've only come from the likes of a war veteran. Whatever strikes that were thrown at her were parried and blocked with expert timing and precision. Her body moved in a quick, acrobatic, and flexible manner as it positioned itself for defensive maneuvers and evaded the attacks directed towards her in a deft manner. In the case of nothing but swordsmanship, it was anyone's game.

But throughout it all, there was something Sakura was doing that Daisuke would recognize right away.

Keeping her eyes closed.

"Unreal," Hijō spoke in a gasp, his eyes wide at seeing his formidable companion take on such an experienced opponent, "she's toying with 'em! How the Hell is she doin' dat?!"

Daisuke could only grin excitedly as he saw Sakura fight with ease against the strange entity. He almost...felt eerily familiar. Something that put Daisuke's mind at work. Where had he felt such a signature before? Who's Spiritual Pressure had emanated that samed warped...non-existant feeling?

CLANG!

After one more slash, the man simply swung his hand out in a crescent arc towards Sakura...

BWOOM!

...sending a fissure of energy that seemed to effortlessly shred and incinerate anything in its path directly to the Punisher. To the eye and sensation, it almost felt like a Cero, but it felt too precise. Too controlled, to be a Hollow technique. Discharging such a condensed yet explosive energy within a split second seemed something that nearly no Arrancar or Hollow could be capable of!

In a counteracting movement, Sakura raised her sword and swung the blade downward in a diagonal arc in order to perform her own counter-attack.

PLOOSH!

When the sword connected with the fissure, a waist-high arc of flames was unleashed from the steel. The power of the flames was enough to dismantle the foundation of opposing energy, roaring as they were unleashed into the world. The arc of fire continued to race towards their target, leaving a trail of burning earth behind it. But even above the roar of the raging inferno, Sakura's soft chuckle could be heard. It was almost as if she was right behind Datenshi.

And soon enough...

VOOM!

Just as the flame wave came close enough, the Hankami re-appeared behind her target with her flaming blade raised in the air. In that brief moment, her free arm would be seen hanging against her side in contrast to the one holding the sword. Her form was basked in the shadow of her own light, and the crimson of her eyes could only be made out. All in all, it presented an eerie and terrifying appearance for the ones who would lay eyes on it.

Then, she swung down.

BOOM!

Whether or not Datenshi would actually be hit by either attack had yet to be seen. But the close-quarters flame attack and the long-range one would meet each other in a house-high blaze. Massive winds would be generated, blowing out the windows of the nearby structures unfortunate enough to be there.

"Datenshi!" Hijō yelled out, suddenly incredibly astounded of this woman's power. He truly believed, as skilled as he was told he was, that a move with that speed and ferocity...he'd have to be incredibly endurable in order to withstand an attack just like that. Turning his head, his eyes instantly lost their charm and easygoing spirit as he eyed Daisuke with a loathing that even made him take a step back, "you people...you people...you people...are all..."

SHFT!

"MONSTERS!" And just within an instant, Hijō moved with a speed Daisuke couldn't counter. Raising his flaming blade to strike at him, Hijō skirted around it and landed a palm heel into his chest, grinding it in a piston fashion before throwing him downwards...

SCREEEEECH-BOOM!!!

...before he landed with a thunderous crash that seemd to dissipate the majority of the flames that were nearby the Punisher.

Shinshin was also attacked ferociously, as Namakubi seemed to move in a rapid fashion he couldn't ordinarily sense. While he utilized a series of slashes, thrusts, and flips, he couldn't land a hit upon him, and began to take a series of physical blows that forced him to the ground and onto the defensive.

"You are truly a stunning woman..."

Despite the angered, renewed vigor that gave the upperhand to the fugitives against the enforcers, a calm voice broke out through the flames. Stoic, and unaffected, even gracing with a smile was the brown-haired and multi-colored star-eyed form of Datenshi, with his entire left side burnt to the bone and ashen muscle, having barely evaded the lethality of the attack by leaping away a meter at the last second.

"...I've never seen anyone but suspected our leader to possess the sheer strength you've just displayed," he said with a smile, totally unfazed despite all the pain that he should've been feeling, showing, or emanating. With him literally only a foot away from the grave, he should've been at least showing fatigue or exhaustion from holding himself up from being torn apart so brutally.

But that changed...

THRUM-SSSSSSPRLURKIK-KI-KI-SPHT!

...when his body emanated a light green aura, and the muscles, blood vessels, flesh and bones reconstituted within seconds, and showing no pain projected from his clam visage. It was definitely...unnerving, to see the calm visage and smile plastered on his features as his body finally put itself back together.

With a few audible, painful sounding cracks, he regained all sense of movement in both his leg and arm, and even tested it before Sakura's eyes and held them up to the assured chagrin of his observor, "Ahhhh...good as new! Maybe even better. What do you think?"

And sure enough...

Sakura's smirk was wiped off of her face when she saw the wounds regenerate, all of the damage done to him wiped away within a few seconds. Her eyes widened slightly, and the grip on her sword tightened ever so slightly. She had allowed herself to think that one move would've ended it, that she would've gotten the chance to bring out the ringleader of the bunch. But upon seeing him heal himself, she knew that she would have to do a lot more than that if she wanted to bring him down.

But then again, the game wasn't fun when it ended quickly...

Slowly, the sadist's smile crossed her face once again. Her tongue licked her lips in an anticipating, excited manner. "I think..." She said lowly and menacingly. "...that I won't have to worry anymore about inflicting too much pain on you. In fact, now that I've seen that excellent display of regeneration, I'll open a window for you. You say there are no gods, that there are only monsters? Well I was referred to as both by the lesser beings. A god by those who revered me, and a monster by those who despised my very being. As far as I am concerned, they are one and the same. Executioner of the wicked, nightmare of the accursed, and the reaper of existence's corruption..."

FWOOM!!!

"I AM THE PUNISHER!!!" She allowed her voice to rise to a roar as mighty as the flames that erupted around her in a blazing inferno of a pillar. "AND I WILL BE THE ONE TO SEE TO YOUR ETERNAL JUDGEMENT!!!"

Even as the flames discharged in an incredible, awe-inspiring shockwave with an inferno that neraly decimated the entiriety of the town, but moreover stretched high into the skies. Like a raging twister of sheer rotating flames, with her at its epicenter, she truly appeared as a demon to anyone uneducated, but also a monster to those who knew or didn't know of her.

Even as Datenshi skidded back to avoid the entire potency of the flames, his stoic calm wasn't interrupted even as she declared the title. In fact, it made him amused. "The Punisher? You mean that entity of punishment and ruler over all the dominion of Hell? You're the Child of Izanami that was born of pain and torture? Oh really...this will just give me the first opportunity to actually enjoy myself..."

PLUMP-SCOOT-SCOOT!

"Alright, boss! I think I'm going to leave this one all up to you!" Datenshi called out, even as he crossed his legs and sat on the dirt only a couple dozen meters away from the incredibly luminiscent, pyrotechnic display of fury and wrath before himself.

SHFT!

Standing in between the two combatants was a lithe, dark-robed woman that sported a beautiful violet-black hair that flowed down past her shoulders and a pair of violet eyes that shined with enthusiasm, interest, and feral ferocity behind them. But above all else, she bore a slight smile at seeing her, even as she bore no weapon or immediate energy signature of her own...yet...

"You're Senkoku, the last pureblooded daughter of Izanami, correct?" She asked in an anticpating tone, as if she was reveling in the answer she'd give her.

Ghost of the Past, Who is the Real Enemy?

"Huh...?"

The Punisher's expression quickly changed to one of slight surprise as the said "boss" appeared before her. Under the shift in emotion, the flames that had extended so far in the air had quickly dissipated. For a moment, she didn't allow herself to respond to the query. She looked at the other woman with an investigative curiosity, lowering her sword for a moment. It didn't get past her that the subordinate had chosen to sit down on the dirt. Although it was a clear indication he wasn't going to get involved, she couldn't help but wonder why he didn't simply take cover. Was he assuming the battle was going to end quickly?

It was an arrogant thought, at best.

"I'm surprised that there are people that know of my real name..." She commented smoothly. "I've heard a lot of promising things about you, "boss". Your subordinate claimed that you were unchallenged, unbeatable, that no soul could ever hope to touch you when it comes to combat..."

"That's because, little girl," the entity spoke with a cool, if not eerily knowing tone. Something incredibly familiar if not foreboding was coming from her whole essence. In fact, it felt almost nigh similar to how a Hankami would feel around another Hankami...and yet, she didn't have that distinct trait that made her a sibbling and relative of hers in any level.

And she was completely in control of any power she had yet to produce, other than the next words that exited her mouth, "I witnessed your birth from a great distance when I was still young myself. I heard your wails as those barbs ripped through your flesh, your blood threatened to suffocate you, and your bones threatening to snap under the strain. Your pathetic, insignificant beginning has caused me to have only one form of emotion towards you since then: Pity."

"It's starting to become less and less of a wonder how these bastards escaped..."

The Punisher's eyes narrowed, a scowl forming on her face as she stared at the girl with intensity. At the same time, there was a glimmer of curiosity within those crimson orbs of hers. It was clear that was she was facing down wasn't a simple soul, but rather something much more ancient. There was no dismissing the claim as simple cultist knowledge when the energy signature of the woman screamed denial of such a case. That was the only thing that kept her from firing off a retort of her own. Instead, she shot back a simple question.

"...who in the hell are you?"

"My name is Senkakusha, formerly daughter of the 3rd King of my race, the Korai. Your race wiped out my own systematically and without mercy, in a unprovoked war of untold centuries of bloodshed and agony. I am the last of my kind that I know of and I herald the destruction for any daughter or son of Izanami, or their daughters and sons following them. You will end just as you began, Senkoku: a pathetic, pitiful, screaming child," Senkakusha spoke without moving an inch closer to the Punisher, speaking in a promising and stoic tone as a violent wind picked up and the faint rumbling overhead promised another bout of thunderstorms.

"Oh... really?"

If anything, the Punisher seemed more amused by this than anything else. She placed a free hand on her hip, raising her sword blade up to point at her enemy. "A girl stung by a bee wishes to burn down the whole hive..." She said casually. "Oh, how you remind me of my dear, beloved, and weak-minded daughter. But if you really think you're capable of killing me, then I dare you. I'll be glad to reunite you with all of the other fools burning in my domain."

"I don't think you understand, the gravity of your situation..."

VOOM-ROAAAAR!!!

"...you're no match for me, as you are right now, with the shell of your former self you've become," Senkakusha spoke with a sudden flare of Shinsei Spiritual Power, discharing in a maelstrom of reverberating, blue flames incinerated the matter around her as her eyes lit up and sent shockwaves that created a indenation in the earth for a great distance. Her hair flourished violently around her in sync with her dark robes, but something peculiar happened nearly afterwards. As a sword materialized in her right hand in a singing sound manner, a slit formed on her forehead...

...and revealed a third eye, glowing brightly in sync with her other two eyes, revealing the true origins of her race and its heritage. All the while, she kept a cool, controlled, and stoic gaze towards her in contrast to the malicious, wrath-filled gaze of her Shinsei-wielding counterpart.

"A third eye?!"

The Punisher's eyes widened in shock as she saw the split on Senkakusha's forehead. She had to brace herself against the shockwaves that were created, her hair and clothing billowing violently in the face of the blue flames. A look of amazement was present on her face as she met the gaze of her enemy. It had been said that once a Korai's third eye was opened, certain doom was spelled for those who looked at it. It was one of the most treasured weapons in their arsenal... and it was the very reason Hankami feared their existence.

With a wide grin, she stretched her arms out tauntingly. "You speak as if you know every atom of my being!" She jeered. "And yet, that knowledge couldn't save you or your race from being dominated by us. How can you expect your precious gift to help you now when it couldn't help you then?"

"You destroyed yourselves by our Will," She spoke in a hidden, knowing tone as she walked towards her, noticeably debris began to rise in a zero-gravity effect before disintegrating around her, "the one you called the Reaper? He was our instrument of retaliation against you, along with a number of your precious sibblings. Through your own civil war, you reduced the sheer numbers you once praised yourselves having to less than a dozen. And I know all of you by name...and I know for a fact you are by far not among the strongest..."

SHFT-SFT!

"...which makes this...painfully easy for me," Senkakusha moved with unbridled force and speed, rivaling that of her own kind, appearing within a single instant leap behind her. And she was using just her innate speed, rather than a spirit-fast-movement technique, a testament of her own stamina and power.

And with a single swing of her blade diagonally across her opponent's torso...

SSSSSS-IIIIIING!

...the cutting power was so terrifyingly precise and fluid, it cut a ribbon of matter behind her with the accuracy of a laser, as trees and even a far-off hill was carved away by the perfect swing of her blade. It wasn't spirit-derived. It wasn't even Shinsei-derived. It was a pure, declaration of how powerful she was through just her body and her blade.

"Oh, sweet mother--"

WOOSH!

With a reflexive Haya movement, the Punisher boosted herself to a nearby structure that hadn't fallen under the stress of the battle. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the hill collapse under the power of the strike delivered. It sent a vicious chill down her spine, multiple beads of sweat falling down her face. Once again, the boast of Senkakusha rang in her ears.

"The Reaper was being manipulated?! The whole time he staged that war, it was just a ploy made by their race!" She gritted her teeth at the thought. "Damn it... I should've paid attention to Oracle when she was speaking to me!!"

SHFT!

"You're wide open," Senkakusha whispered, as she moved again to Sakura's side, while swinging her blade along with her incredibly swift movement in a horizontal arc, before following up in a number of rapid-swung and accurately timed slashes and thrusts. This began causing another painfully fluid cutting ribbon to be exerted, cutting through matter behind her with such destructive precision, it rivaled the human mind's comprehension. Trees, shacks, landscape, and even insect life were cut by the precise thread of her sword slash.

"Tch--!!"

Gritting her teeth, the Punisher swung herself around brought a flaming blade up to meet the blade of Senkakusha's. The flames seemed to ignite even more once the opposing weapon came into contact with them. Against the barrage of attacks, the Hankami countered with aggressive swings while retreating back. It was a furious exchange between the two combatants, with neither one giving leeway to the other. Throughout it all, she couldn't help but think.

"Reaper... were you controlled when you were engaging us before? Was all of it nothing more than a puppet's display? Where was the real you?!"

"Get back, bitch...!!"

FWOOOM!!

With a vicious swing of the sword, she unleashed another inferno in Senkakusha's face to push her back and hopefully envelop her within the fire.

CLANG-FWHOOOOOSH!!!

Senkakusha raised her sword swiftly, before releasing enough pressurized force in the face of the violent inferno, to backlash onto her opponent. The flames seemed to flow around her body, but a thoroughly concentrated exertion of her Spiritual Pressure kept the flames from even touching her. Utilzing just raw strength and masterful swordsmanship, she turned her own enemy's attack onto herself.

"I thought I told you, Senkoku," the Korai spoke with all three eyes staring impassively at her as she held her sword in front of herself, her hair and cloak flourished around herself in a dramatic show of promising power to rival the Hankami's own, "as you are now, there is no way for you to defeat me."

"Nonsense!"

FWOOM!

The Punisher intercepted the blast by putting her sword in front of its focal point. The flames swirled around her person, but it was her affinity with them that shielded her from being burned. Within seconds, she swung the blade and dispelled all of the flames, leaving herself and her opponent to face each other once more. She lowered her sword to the side, meeting all three eyes with her own stare.

"How many of my enemies have spoken that exact same line prior to their demise? All you're conveying to me is the message of a broken record." She retorted. "Regarding me with that passive stare, acting like you have this entire situation under your control... it is always the ones like you who will fall the hardest!!"

VOOM!

With that being said, she took to the air and engulfed her blade in flames. Gripping the hilt of her sword in two hands, she raised and swung to unleash a massive arc of flames toward her opponent. But this time, the arc split into several snake-like constructions similar to the massive one that had threatened to kill Namakubi earlier. They raced down towards Senkakusha, moving in a manner to surround and crush her.

"You fool..."

Senkakusha spoke as she spread her feet and body into a sword stance, bending her knees and body forward, as she took her blade in one hand while the flat of it rested against her waistline. Even as the flames began to manifest into snakes, she only subtly began to manifest blue flames around her body, as they dove upon her and caused a magnanimously, vibrant and luminiscent explosion. Something else, could be felt within the flames that caused an instaneous flash of orange and yellow...

VROAAR!!!

...a giant column of blue flames swallowed up the mushroom cloud of orange-yellow flames, discharging upwards to swallow the Punisher within its deathly flames. The foreign-like attributes threatened to rip her Hankami body apart from the sheer force of it...

SHIIIIIINK-CRACK!!!

...before a blazing, blue-emblazoned blade stretched out and slashed towards her, intending on forcing her across the sky and towards the nearby hill she had sliced a portion of, as well as cut a deep gash within her body, as intended if not catch her aflame.

"...I've foreseen this conflict already...with your failure absolute..."

"HRAAAH!!!"

In response to the flames that were conjured up by her opponent, the Punisher swung out her blade so that it pointed directly at the oncoming blaze. A barrage of orange fire erupted from it, connecting with its counterpart and stopping it within its tracks. The power generated was enough to make her shield her eyes momentarily in order to keep the heat from getting in them.

However, it was a moment that allowed for a fatal mistake to be made.

When the blade stretched out, her eyes widened in shock. But beyond that, she had allowed herself to react too late...

SPLURCH!

The blade ripped a deep gash in her stomach, and she let out a pained gasp as the fire ate at the already opened wound. The force of it made her spin around momentarily in the air before descending back towards the ground. However, in the neck of time, she managed to flip herself so that she could land on one knee. She pressed a hand to the burning wound, using her own power to suppress the flames licking at it. Her head was lowered, beads of sweat falling down her face. However, a small smirk had crossed her face even as the pain coursed through her.

"Is that a promise, dearie...?" She whispered, a shiver running down her spine as she spoke the words.

"The future is never certain, Senkoku," a solemn gazing Senkakusha walked towards her, speaking in a matter-of-fact that bordered on chiding, "you of all people should know this..."

SHFT!

"Boss," Datenshi spoke in a hushed tone, as he was now off his simple observing position and now placing a hand on her shoulder, "Hijō and Nama have sensed a series of incoming entities, all of them strong. Its possible that they could overwhelm us at our current strength-"

"I understand," Senkakusha spoke in a low tone of her own, her third eye closing before sealing itself on her forehead, showing the sign of resignation, "tell them to move towards our destination as planned. These people are in no position to follow us now," looking over at the Punisher, a small smile spread on her face before resuming her stoic impassivity, "none of them."

"Understood," Datenshi spoke, backing up a few steps before leaping into the air, shifting out of visibility and soon after, out of all sensation. The other two subordinates of the Korai's also soon began to leave at high speeds, leaving the battle-scarred landscape and desolated, uninhabited crossroads settlement. It was just Senkakusha who took a few moments to look at Sakura, with a hidden emotion behind her impassive front, before she sheathed her blade within the recesses of her robes.

"We'll meet again, Senkoku," She said before her body enraptured in a misty, flickering aura of flames before she too disappeared with only her lingering voice to be left behind, "of that, I am certain."

"They're retreating?!"

The Punisher jerked her head up in disbelief as she watched both the leader and her subordinates disappear into thin air. Slowly, she stood back up, her free hand clutching the wound that had been left behind. As she took a few steps forward, she could feel the gash in her stomach slowly heal itself back up. Nerves were stitched back together, blood vessels resealed, and cells began to regenerate in order to fill the void. In seconds, the laceration was gone, although the throbbing ache still remained.

She opened her mouth to call out for her teammates, but another voice cut her off.

"I see you've started the show without us... couldn't wait for the fireworks?"

She abruptly turned her head to see a woman come out of the shadows of one building, a sword sheathed at her kimono-draped waist. One hand was on the hip while the other lay at its respective side. She looked at the area with a casual curiosity, as if she hadn't stepped into a battlefield. She furrowed her eyes at the strange woman.

But before she had time to question it...

WOOSH! VOOM! VOOM!

Three more figures appeared within the area. Two of them were people she recognized right off the bat, the white coat and black outfit making it very obvious. But the other, a figure of a bandaged visage was yet another stranger. They must have been more members of the V-14 serving as reinforcements.

"It seems that we were too late to cut them off..." Shinji muttered disdainfully, narrowing his eyes as he looked over each of the combatants. "Are you all stable?"

"I am standing, but our dear Lieutenant is still unconscious," Shinshin spoke in a low, impassive tone as he looked at Shinji before looking more thoughtfully to Asuka, "I am grateful you came when you have. I feared our godly protector was being outmatched this time around."

"Go suck a dick." The Punisher snapped back immediately. It was a rather immature insult and comeback, but it was her that said it. Who was she to care?

The words didn't go unnoticed by the others.

The unidentified female's eyes widened, and she placed a hand to her mouth in a clear, subtle and polite display of disgust. In contrast, Shou flinched involuntarily - something that went unnoticed by his superior. But Shinji and Genesis didn't show much reaction to it. For the former, it was just because of his naturally stoic attitude. For the latter, it was because she had grown to get accustomed to the woman using such crude language. It didn't help that she had a habit of doing the same.

Shou took in a deep breath and sighed heavily, looking over towards the unconscious form of Daisuke. "Genesis..." He said, grabbing his subordinate's attention right away. "Go and revive the Phoenix. I need to speak with Her Majesty..."

"Yes, sir. Right away!"

With a quick salute, Genesis quickly turned herself to the said Lieutenant and jogging over towards him in order to perform the said action. In turn, her boss walked over to their mutual one, an expression of slight confusion crossing his face. He used his arms to gesture towards the area. "My Lady... before crossing into this territory, I sensed energies of a Class-A type. Was there--?"

"Yup..." The Punisher placed her hands on her hips, giving him a solemn look before switching it over to look at the area. "I just got done fighting a Korai."

Shou's eyes widened considerably, and leaned back slightly in alarm. "A K-korai?! But... we were under the assumption that they were all dead! The Hankami had terminated them all, by what the other Daitenshi spoke to me!"

"That's what I thought, too..." The Punisher's teeth gritted slightly as she heard their assumptions being flung back at them. "But apparently, there's at least one still kicking. I don't know how in the hell the Soul Society managed to capture one alive, but that was definitely a Korai. And I'm willing to bet that there are at least a few more that managed to survive the massacre. It's always typical of a supposedly extinct race to get back up on its feet, just like that..."

"...I see..." Shou closed his eyes and hung his head, folding his arms across his chest. "I apologize for my lateness. Had we come sooner--"

However, he was stopped when the Punisher raised a hand to cut him off. "No. Don't start thinking that your very presence would've changed anything." She said sternly. "What happened happened, and there's nothing that could've changed that. Just shut up, count your blessings, and be thankful that we're all still in one piece."

"Yes, my La--"

BOOSH!

The serious mood that had settled over them had shattered instantly when they heard something crash into a nearby building.

Their eyes spun around, joining the eyes of the others to see Genesis's foot raised and Daisuke's body gone from her sight. This display and the billowing cloud of smoke from the building indicated that she had punted Daisuke into the building. The culprit herself had a bored look on her face as she lowered her foot, turning her gaze towards Shou. She seemed oblivious to the comically incredulous looks directed her way. "All right, the shock should be enough to stir him out of his dreams. My work's done here--"

"Genesis..." Shou spoke slowly, one of his eyes twitching. "When I said "revive him", I didn't mean "kick him through a building like a football". Did you even take it into account that might've just made possible injuries worse?"

"...well..." That statement, once it was completely processed, caused Genesis to cringe slightly out of embarrassment. "He is a Shinigami, so I figured he could've taken it...?"

Shou slapped a palm to his face in a show of exasperation, annoyance and embarrassment. "I may just have one of the dumbest subordinates ever..."

Shinshin could only stare in amazement at how poorly executed the attempt of understanding her superior's command was done. Walking to Asuka, he turned her head to Shou with slight apprehension before going back to her, "Mother...who are those people? They have the stench of brimstone and death hanging over them..."

Meanwhile...Daisuke's previously unconscious form, was now verily conscious.

"OWWWWW!!!" Daisuke hollered from the collapsed building, before promptly heaving the debris off him with one arm, with a very irate and pissed off look in his eyes. Despite the comical of the situation, Daisuke's eyes momentarily glowed red of a hidden malice...and unquenchable anger, "alright. Who is the wise guy who decided to kick my ass?! I'll gladly return the favor...!"

"Excuse me?!"

Whatever Genesis was about to answer to Shou's statement was cut off when Daisuke said his piece. Needless to say, she didn't like it.

Quickly, she rounded on Daisuke with a scowl and glare on her face before her commander could say anything. She stormed over towards him, baring her teeth to reveal sharpened canines. "I'm the one who did it! And I sure as hell don't like being called a guy!!" She shot back, balling her hands into fists. "You wanna do something about it!! C'mon, I dare you!!"

A sweatdrop came over Asuka's face, and she chuckled in a nervous manner. "Those two are Daitenshi, dear..." She explained calmly. "They may radiate of dark and warped energy, but in reality they're just like any of us. Both of them are relatively harmless... unless, of course, you happen to anger them..."

"Oh really?! Why does it-" Whatever Daisuke himself was about to say, ended when he saw everyone around looking in his and their direction. As well as the Daitenshi who effortlessly defeated him through their mismatched fight, "-have to be the damn girls who kick my ass?"

CRUNCH!

With a effortless heave of his arm, he threw the pile of debris a few meters to his right before walking towards Sakura, realizing how foolish he made himself out to be. Again...

"So I see," Shinshin said with a sigh of relief, "I was just curious why they smelled of brimstone, so now it makes sense. Still," he looked over at Shou and the Punisher's direction, "I overheard something while there was a pause in my confrontation. Apparently, their leader is supposed to be one of the last of her kind and is something on par with the Hankami. Does the name, Korai, mean anything to you, mother?"

"Korai...?"

As she watched Daisuke walk towards the Hankami's direction, Asuka's eyebrows furrowed in thought. She folded one arm across her stomach, the other propped up by the back of its hand. The secondary hand had a finger bent across the lips in a thoughtful position. "Now that I think about it... the term does sound faintly familiar. I heard it from my brother a while back when he was telling me about the Red Sun theology. The Korai were a race said to have rebelled against the Hankami centuries ago out of envy and jealousy of their power. Ultimately, they were defeated against the said "superiority and might" of the Hankami. Of course..."

Her eyes drifted over towards the Punisher's form. "Considering how you put it, I doubt all of what the scriptures said are truthful..."

"You all right, champ?" The said Hankami called out, placing her hands on her hips. Behind him, she could see a seething Genesis following close behind him - almost as if she was ready to pounce on him for what had happened.

"Just peachy!" Daisuke growled in annoyance, something that was a bit uncharacteristic, but everything about them being beaten by supposedly friendly or helpless fugitives irritated him like none other, "I just got my ass kicked twice in the last hour. Once when I was conscious, and the other when I was unconscious," Daisuke looked behind his shoulder hissing slightly, "no thanks to some of your subordinates feeling the need to be violent every time they see something have a sign of life in them..."

"I ask because I remember there is something that might actually give us a lead back to finding her," Shinshin spoke in a slightly knowing tone, though it came slightly hesitant, as his eyes showed a troubled look when he looked over at the Punisher, "though it will have to be slightly more subtle than this particular encounter we had..."

"Hm?" Asuka looked at him questioningly. "Whatever do you mean?" She switched her arms to a folded position, waiting for his answer. When he looked over at the Punisher, she couldn't help but glance in that particular direction, as well.

Genesis closed her eyes in an expression of disdain, her arms folded across her chest. "It's not my fault you're such a pussy." She answered bluntly. "If you didn't want that happening, you shouldn't have fainted in the first place!"

"...anyways..." After passing a slight glare to the girl, Shou turned away from the group in order to click his own personal earpiece. "Yoshizawa to Nakamura..." He said coolly.

"Yes, Shou-san?"

"The targets have been lost. Our team, however, seems to have come out of the ordeal relatively unscathed. Come to Junction 2-A for extraction."

"Roger!"

When the connection was cut off, Shou drew in a heavy sigh as he folded his arms across his chest. "Not exactly the best career day out of the V-14 yet..." He muttered. "Sorry that our efficiency wasn't up to par to standards today, Phoenix..."

"Well, we really didn't expect any of them to be in fighting shape, let alone have the strength to defeat us. I think we should've played it safe and waited for back up, hind's sight," Daisuke sighed, as he crossed his arms before looking to the Punisher, "though I'm pretty curious to see what foreign malevolence washed over me that was greater than yours, Sakura."

"Take Xanxus, my former employer, had a number of invaluable works of art stashed away off site in a personal musuem of his own making," Shinshin began speaking, crossing his arms as he breathed out a sigh, "one of the items, which I'm sure you know of, is a copy of the Red Sun's Philosophy Scrolls, depicting a lot of their prayers, customs, and worship during the Time of the Ancients. However, there is another artifact known as the Eye of Ragna. It is, as depicted in the runes on a tablet accompanied by the item, depicting a battle of the mystical entities known as the Korai against the Demon Lord of Pride, Septimus Atrum. It also happens to be the recounting of the final days of the Korai's legacy and their eventual demise..."

In all honesty, Sakura didn't seem very approving of the statement.

Momentarily, she allowed a scowl to cross her face as she looked back at Daisuke. But it lasted only for a brief moment before she exhaled a slow breath. Her gaze softened, regressing back to a more solemn tone. "What you felt was the energy of an old enemy..." She said. "Of not only me, but also of my race. We had all assumed them to be extinct years before. But apparently, a few of them still remain to be thorns in our side. Tell me..."

She suddenly gave Daisuke a rather interrogative stare. "What were you doing, carrying an individual of such power in a measly carriage?" She demanded. "Did you have any idea who you were carrying in those chains of yours?"

It was here that Asuka gave a slightly confused stare. "I was under the assumption that the building had collapsed due to the stress of the battle we had with Xanxus..." She said. "It didn't?" Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Shinji taking a few steps to the center of the area and peer up into the sky - presumably for signs of Rika.

"Like I said, it was stored Off-Site," Shinshin explained, taking slight interest in the heated conversation between the Hankami and the Lieutenant couple, "it was approximately a kilometer or so away, and much more heavily reinforced and guarded than Take's Panic Room. If what you said of his son taking over his criminal regime, then he probably has details on the location of the museum as well as blueprints. I think its possible this Korai leader might intend on redeeming the artifact from his possession..."

"We didn't!" Daisuke growled back at Sakura, realized she was acting like it was up to him or accusing him of the whole ordeal, raising and waving his hands and balled fists in emphasis, "we had no idea that any of them would even have the strength to move! I didn't even think we had a entity like that within our Prison! I was never debriefed on their identities! Shidai Kagai was after all the target of priority, wasn't he?!"

"That's not an excuse!!" Sakura's voice was quick to rise in volume as she glared back at Daisuke. Suddenly, fury had overtaken her, and all she could do was look for an outlet to release it out on. She ignored the somewhat shocked looks from her servants. "God damn it, how could you not know that you were carrying the closest thing to a god with you?! You might as well have been asking for them to break out!! I can't believe--"

And then, she cut herself off. Slowly, that look of anger faded to one of a bitter solemnity. The fire in her eyes was still there, but it had clearly dimmed down to faint proportions. She fixed the Lieutenant with a look mixed with weariness, bitterness, and frustration. Then, she lowered her head and simply stepped past him without further word. By this time, the Dragonbird that had dropped off the initial troops was now descending towards the ground.

Asuka watched silently as the Hankami made her way past her and Shinshin. "I understand..." She muttered. "Considering that none of us have taken serious damage, I believe we can make the trip there..."

"Considering we have numbers, as well as you, on our side, we shouldn't have a problem overpowering them this time around," Shinshin spoke confidently, even as he saw everyone gather near the Dragonbird for transportation, he knew it was more fact than belief. Despite being weathered, their forces didn't sustain too much damage, and the enemy has yet to gather enough strength to repel a substantial force. This appeared to be recognized by their leader, the next thing close to a Hankami in natural strength, as they withdrew before the battle could be renewed with the newcomers.

"No, we didn't," Daisuke hung his head in shame, realizing in a way it was the Gotei 13's fault, and indirectly, his own for letting this occur, "I didn't even recognize any of the prisoners that were being transferred. My Captain, or Captain Aizen, would know more than I would, but I don't think we would willingly transport someone so dang-"

Then, the idea, the supposition of the unthinkable occured to Daisuke...

"-unless the Korai wanted to board the carriage when we didn't detect her?!" Daisuke just realized the possibility, his eyes widened and his breath hitched at the potential risk their leader would go through.

It was a question that made Sakura stop in her tracks.

She stopped within her tracks, her body freezing abruptly in place. For a moment, she didn't allow herself to move from that spot. Her mind took the time to process the suggested idea. It would make sense that Senkakusha would willingly allow herself to be taken in just for the sake of selecting individuals powerful enough to aid her. Desperate criminals who wanted to escape their prison were one of the easiest kinds of people to sway to one's side...

She placed her hands to her hips, shaking her head from side to side. "Then I really do feel sorry for those souls who follow her..." She said solemnly. With that being said, she reached out to grasp onto the Dragonbird's side and hop on to its back. She landed just behind Rika, folding her legs in an Indian style position. "So, we're heading back, right?"

"On the contrary, we're heading to complete this contract. After all, I think it would be bad if we showed back up to Angelika empty-handed..."

The voice that cut her off was Asuka's. She approached with a casually soft gait, her hands folded behind her back. Shinji was following behind her. "According to Shinshin, there's a little something that your friend wants. It's called the "Eye Of Ragna". Does it ring any bells to you, Sakura-san?"

"...the "Eye of Ragna"...?" Sakura squinted one of her eye and cocked an eyebrow at the mention. "Only heard it tossed around a few times. You know what it is?"

"The Eye of Ragna is a crystal that's attuned to what is known as the Third Eye," Shinshin spoke with a knowing tone, as he was once the head of security for Take Xanxus and all his possessions, "obviously, its referring to the ascended Korai who've gained the Third Eye. For all intents and purposes, the Eye of Ragna was a weapon used by the King of the Korai to smite the King of Hell, also known as the Lord of Pride," Shinshin then looked cooly at the Punisher pointedly, "you know him as your predecessor, Punisher, as Septimus Atrum."

"Do you think...that she'd use that against us?!" Daisuke looked slightly alarmed, as he realized should they fail, a weapon would fall into the enemy's hands and allow them near unstoppable power.

"It wouldn't be a far fetch if she was backed into a corner," Shinshin said with a shrug, "the Eye of Ragna was spoken to be in the X-Class Spirit Artifacts, on par with the Hōgyoku and Ōin. Should she use it on a whim, great disaster will spell the Realm she's in..."

It was the catalyst that shocked the Hankami out of her confusion.

Her eyes narrowed as she turned her gaze forward, feeling the presences of the rest of them as they climbed aboard. "Then I got the feeling that I might not be the only Hankami chasing after her..." She muttered. "C'mon, driver. We've got a potential apocalypse to prevent and a manipulative bitch to kill!"

"Y-yes..!" Though somewhat disagreeing with the tone taken, Rika did not hesitate to utter the calling clicks to the Dragonbird.

Once again, it took flight, ascending into the air and rising high over the damaged civilization foundation. However, standing on top of one building would be a figure that none of them would've spotted in that altitude. But most likely, all of them would've recognized it. After all, the black hood and robe without a face could only belong to one of the most dreaded beings in existence. He watched silently with his arms at his sides, his head following the bird as it moved away.

Then, with a poof of smoke, he was gone from the area...

Welcome to Tendan Dākusaido, The Hunt for Mystic Eye!

"Well...guess Tendan does have a welcoming committee," Daisuke quirked, as he leaned over to the side on the Dragonbird, suddenly seeing what very well appeared to be a number of Terror-Class Air ships flying towards them.

They angled and looked almost very like black & silver birds of prey, as their metalic wings shifted and flapped around like a semi-sentient organism when it was merely a revolutionized piece of technology. Packing enough firepower in their twin repeating Kidō cannons to take on a small army, it was always a wise idea not to fight back or resist their terms.

When one of the Terror Ships flapped next to the Dragonbird, a clad air-vested leather garbed uniformed man turned his head towards their direction, speaking through his mask, "Where are you from, and what's your buisness in Tendan Dākusaido?"

"Oh, no..."

The first one to show reaction towards the ships was Rika herself. The very sight of the twin cannons was enough to make her face pale and her body stiffen. She turned over her shoulder, fear and nervousness showing in her eyes as she looked at her comrades. "Um..." She muttered hesitantly. "S-shinshin-san... c-considering you had connections, m-m-maybe you could be the one to talk to them... y'know, before they decide to do something drastic...?" She voiced these last words with a hint of desperation, clearly not wanting to be in the middle of a potential dogfight.

In the case of other reactions, to it...

"Can I blow them up?" Genesis asked politely.

"NO!!!" Was the immediate response from both of her superiors. The annoyed tone that both of their voices took caused Genesis to recoil, placing her hands up in defense.

"All right, all right, just asking! Jeez..."

Shinshin smoothly cleared his throat, before gaining the visual attention of the patrol man. Needless to say, the pilot did a doubletake when he saw Shinshin's face clearly, "Sh-Shinshin Fūten?!"

"I'd appreciate we skip the pleasantries, patrolman, and allow us to dock in the hangar," Shinshin spoke in a smooth, yet underlyingly menacing tone as he turned his cool gaze to the man's goggle-covered eyes, "unless you want me to call Zaii here...-"

"Nonononono!" The pilot, now donned as patrolman, waved his free hand and head in emphasis, "you're c-c-clear to l-land in the Eastern D-D-Docking Wing at H-Hangar A-13!"

"You're too kind, as always," Shinshin said in a detached tone, as he turned his gaze away from the man, causing him and all three of the Terror Wings to flap away and as opposite a direction as they could manage, "we can go now..."

"I wonder what Shinshin did for a living that caused those two to get so spooked," Daisuke muttered aloud, allowing Sakura and Asuka to hear his words as he nervously gazed off at the retreating, high-tech Air Ships flapping away.

"Trust me..."

Asuka had her arms folded across her chest as she watched the birds fly off, not looking at Daisuke as she spoke. "You're better off not knowing..." She said smoothly. Of course, it was expected for her to know considering the proximity she had with Shinshin. But just for the sake of not disturbing her comrades, it was something that she would not allow herself to say.

Rika herself sighed in relief, the heavy burden lifted from her shoulders. "Thank you very much..." She cast her eyes towards her flight path, turning the bird accordingly. "What exactly is the plan for approaching? I don't think I'll be able to give proper air support with the patrols flying around, and I don't wish to engage in any unwanted fights..."

"Fly-bys are permitted in Tendan," Shinshin began explaining as their avian transport moved towards the multi-ringed docks, contianing a number of steeds, vehicles, and air transports similar to the ones they encountered, "its only if you have a potentially lethal weapon on board or in your possession, its suggested you take it to the ground. You definitely don't want to get on the Guardian's bad side if you start a aerial battle, so try and keep just a bird's eye in the air, Rika-san."

It seemed to reassure the pilot, as she gave an affirmative nod in acknowledgement. "Right..."

"I think I might have an idea on how to get in..." Genesis commented, shifting one leg over the other as she looked out at the passing city. Naturally, this brought the attention of the others, particularly her colleagues. "The Korai and her group is after this artifact thing, right?"

"Yeah...?" Sakura muttered, raising an eyebrow.

"If this place is highly guarded as your V-14 friend says it is, then why don't we just let our targets do the work for us? We can follow close behind them while they dismiss the guards, keep ourselves hidden while we do so, and when they actually get to the artifact, we can jump 'em! I mean, we're outnumbering them in numbers and strength, right?"

"That could work," Shinshin spoke in a impassive tone, "but think about it. If they get their hands on the artifact itself, it would mean that all our efforts of letting them do the work, would be for nothing..."

"It would work," Daisuke surmised, as he rubbed his chin in thought, before a smile graced his face, "if we swapped the real one with a fake."

If it was a show, there would've been the sound of brakes SKREEing and a car crashing for background noise.

"Uh..." Now Sakura was regarding Daisuke with the quizzical look, which also held a certain extent of disbelief. "I beg your pardon?"

"I'm serious!" Daisuke implored, as he looked over his shoulder to Sakura, "if we can talk to the current owner of this artifact, convince him he should have a forgery made in the exact likeness and relocate the original...then we could get the drop on the guys getting the fake, without any risk of them making off with it!"

Silence.

Looks of various reactions came from each and every one of them, aside from Rika. Sakura was regarding him a look that conveyed nothing but skepticism. Asuka, Shou and Genesis were looking at him with slight curiosity. Shinji was regarding him with a piercing stare - something that was his default look. Neither of them spoke for a moment, even when they felt the Dragonbird descend downward.

"You make it sound like it's so easy to just conjure up a faux ancient and supernatural artifact that could be deceiving enough." Sakura said bluntly. "We're dealing with someone with the third eye. Y'know, the ability to see just about everything, even the future?"

"Besides..." Genesis muttered, frowning. "Wouldn't that take up too much time? After all, they did get a headstart on us..."

"Its not like they know exatly where the vault is, right?" Daisuke tried to sound convincing, but really found himself lacking tact and confidence when in the face of so many doubters.

"Take Xanxus has a number of vaults from which he selectively moves items at random around Tendan," Shinshin explained aloud, trying to think things through factually, "the Korai would need to set up a base of operations in Tendan, get proper equipment and intel, before heading out. My former master knew the ramifications of having a Korai artifact would mean an entity of that race, or one like it, would try to steal it for themselves. So each vault and chamber is designed to look precisely the same, even architecturally," he then looked over at the group with a curious eye of his own, "it could work...if we wanted to pursue that option of course..."

That got them all thinking once more.

They all looked at each other, switching glances from one to another. In the way that Shinshin had put it, it made more sense. The Korai would need time to fully prepare, and thus it would allow time for the fake artifact to be developed. Combined with Genesis's suggestion, it would give less time to the enemy should it succeed.

It wasn't until the Dragonbird's land that Sakura spoke up. She gave a light shrug of the shoulders. "Oh, what the fuck? Giving ourselves more of a chance couldn't possibly hurt that much. I say go for it."

"...I still think this is a bit of a stretch..." Genesis muttered, a somewhat sullen and pouting look on her face. "But if that's how you're going to put it, I don't have any problems with it."

"Neither do I..." Shou said simply, giving a nod towards Daisuke and Shinshin. Shinji and Asuka gave one of their own, with the former remaining silent and Asuka giving a slight thumbs-up.

"Good," Daisuke said, finally letting out a breath he didn't know he was holding, smiling that his idea didn't seem like such a crazy one after all, "so, where do we find this Xanxus guy?"

"He's dead," Shinshin spoke plainly, without a hint of remorse before hopping off the Dragonbird deftly, starting to walk away from the group, speaking with more volume so they could hear him, "but his son is in charge now. Rai Xanxus is one of the biggest corportations for brokering deals with both the government and the black market here in Tendan, as well as a supplier for a number of illicit groups working within Tendan. Look for the signs and someone will bound to point us to his new HQ, as his father's is currently a pile of steel and rubble..."

Asuka was the first to hop off and follow him, with Shinji moving after her. Both of them seemed to form an almost straight line behind Shinshin as he walked. Shou and Genesis followed straight after, with the former having his hands in his pockets and the latter having a hand on her hip. All of their weapons were holstered outside of their bodies, and all in all, they looked like a rather intimidating group to anyone who would've looked over in their direction.

"Since the V-14 is on good terms with Rai-san, getting in and doing the convincing is actually the easy part..." Asuka commented, looking over her shoulder. "All we have to do is notify him of the threat, get him to help us set up this little trap, and we're all set!"

"Unless the doorman is a wise-ass and wouldn't mind shooting us in the back after he turned us around," Daisuke spoke aloud in a jocular attitude.

"Rai Xanxus isn't one for letting irresponsible men run his personal headquarters," Shinshin spoke in a knowing tone, his hands lying by his sides as he walked, "but I wouldn't doubt he'd expect his former hired help to come knocking on his door. Who knows? He might expect someone else to hire us to kill him..."

Genesis gave a heavy sigh. "These people around here must have assholes like a clown's pocket."

And just like that, the serious mood shattered like glass.

Asuka, Sakura, and Shou immediately started laughing at the sudden, abrupt, and rather crude joke. They tried their best not to let it get through; Asuka was covering her mouth with both of her hands, Sakura had her head down and a palm slapped to her eyes, and Shou bit his lip. But all of it only stopped the mirth for a split-second before they started laughing.

"W-what...?" Genesis, upon hearing their response to it, couldn't help but grin and chuckle herself. "C'mon, it wasn't that funny...!"

"Apparently, it was!" Sakura gasped between her fits of laughter. "Where the fuck did that come from?!!"

Daisuke, himself, couldn't help but snort and laugh at the joke, as much as he found it repulsive. The idea and concept the joke came from just made it all the worse, as he hugged his belly and nearly fell to his knees chuckling and snickering.

Shinshin on the other hand...

"I don't understand the humor in that statement," he said blandly, as he blinked back at the collective group, "its physically impossible to have more than one anal tract in the humanoid body. Why would there be entities that possess more than one? I don't see how this can be found jocular..."

This was where Genesis stopped laughing, leveling Shinshin with a somewhat annoyed gaze. All of the others passed him slightly surprised looks, but was not keen on stopping their own chuckles. It wasn't at Genesis anymore, but rather at the expense of Shinshin due to his clueless demeanor.

"You'll understand when you're older, dear..." Asuka said coolly, giving a playful slap on the face as she walked past him.

"I've got the giggles...!" Sakura stammered, both hands on her mouth as she followed suit.

Shinji simply closed his eyes and shook his head discreetly.

"Understand what? Mother!" Shinshin groaned in a somewhat childish manner, realizing there was something obvious he was missing that his mother obviously understood. He felt lost...

"Let's just find this Rai-guy before we laugh ourselves to death," Daisuke spoke with a few snorts, still finding Sakura's laugh adorable as well as the humor of a blatantly ignorant man, scolded by his mom.

Asuka clicked a hand up to her earpiece, patching through to Rika's channel. "How's the patrol going up there, dear?" She asked. "Are any more Terror Birds giving you trouble?"

"Not at all, ma'am..." The voice on the other end sounded rather relieved to be saying the words. "Ever since the initial encounter, they seem to have left me alone for the moment. It's good that Shinshin-san was brought along..."

"Did you happen to see a building with heavily guarded perimeter?"

"One moment, please..." There was a momentary silence, presumably because of Rika focusing on scanning the ground for the desired location. Thankfully, it was brief. "Hmm... there seems to be a structure several blocks away from your position. By estimate, it's a five-minute walk, so you should arrive there shortly. But..."

"Hm...?" Asuka pressed, narrowing her eyes slightly.

"I'm seeing guards standing outside. They're armed, and I'm afraid that they might be tempted to shoot at me considering...well... I'm not of the the usual patrol..."

"Better stay your distance in the event Rai's men are more carefree with their target practice," Shinshin advised over the comm, as he then began to pick up the pace and began sprinting towards their destination, assumed to be followed by the others.

"What's this Rai Xanxus like, anyways?" Daisuke asked Asuka pointedly, realizing he never really talked to the woman before and it'd give him a reason to be more polite to her. After all, they're technically his allies...

"Hm?"

Asuka turned her head to look over at her shoulder at the Lieutenant as she followed Shinshin's lead, initially expressing slight surprise at his tone. But it was quick to fade away. "Well, to be honest, I've only heard about him through Angel-chan..." She admitted. "But if I had to summarize it, I'd say he's quite the businessman. He knows how to handle things, and he's quite reasonable with his dealings. So if you're worrying about first impressions, I'm sure that you won't have to deal with anything ridiculous..."

"I guess we can only hope that," Daisuke mused, as he realized first impressions have never been always his own forte. After all, when it wasn't being questioned by a Captain of the Police Force or meeting the Queen of Hell, you never knew exactly what the first encounter would be like, before you realize the pivotal importance they'll have in your life. That's how the young Lieutenant looked at it anyways...

"We're approaching our destination," Shinshin spoke informatively, keeping his sprinting pace up until he was a good 25 meters away from the patrol of guards.

Obviously paid mercenaries acting as security, they wore thick body armor and wore a variety of melee weapons on their person on top of their readied firearms. The leader of the group noticed the oncomers with a steady gaze, causing the others to notice as well. The leader of the group walked forward first, letting the men stand their semi-circle in order to block the others' path in the event they'd attempt to skirt them.

"You've got a lot of balls coming back after what you did," the mercenary captain spoke with a sneering tone, but the effect was lost behind the skull-like breath mask and the radio-toned voice, "Shinshin..."

"Oh, boy..."

Both Shou and Genesis tensed up a little upon seeing the the stance of the guards, anticipating a potential fight. However, Sakura swung an arm out in order to keep them from placing hands on their weapons. Her crimson eyes set themselves on Asuka, who moved forward to stand beside her son at the challenge of the security leader. Talking would be up to her.

This was where Asuka dropped her usually sweet tone in exchange for a formal one that matched Angelika's. "Excuse me..." She said coolly, meeting the guard's eyes with a slightly stern stare. "But we did not come here to dwell upon old times. The V-14 is on business here, and we need to inform your leader of a potential threat approaching these headquarters. Time is of the essence, and unless you prefer explaining to him why you barred crucial information from an affiliate, I suggest you step aside."

"V-14?!" The security Captain nearly dropped dead when he realized the name of the entitled group, "you mean, you're with them?! I-I-I didn't know...forgive me, I didn't know Mister Xanxus had company. If you'd follow me to the Entrance I'll show you the way up..."

"That'd be appreciated," Shinshin spoke cooly, but it almost sounded like a kick to the face to the guy, as he almost started something in front of one of the most notorious mercenary groups in all of the Spiritual Realms.

"You guys sure have a reputation," Daisuke whispered humorously to Asuka as he walked in sync with the group, once again, on the move.

In response to this, Asuka shot him a coy smirk. "Did you expect anything less?" She whispered back, having regressed quickly back to her more casual way of speaking. This was followed by a chuckle as she faced her eyes back forward, folding her hands behind her back as she walked.

As the group moved forward, with Shinshin and Asuka taking the lead, the guards parted ways, but walked as far as the front door of the immaculately, contrasting black skyscraper that was Rai Xanxus's headquarters. As they entered the onyx tile lobby, one could see black was the prevailing theme in the majority of the artwork, design, and even security flowing around them.

A receptionist briefly looked up to see the security Captain outside escorting the group of heavily armed, and intimidating individuals towards what looked like a large elevator. Pressing the button, the elevator opened for all of them, bar the security Captain would enter. "I'll radio in that you're coming," the security Captain spoke briefly before the doors closed and the Captain walked away, before the chime of the elevator rang and they began their ascent.

"This guy either has a very white office, or he must be the whitest guy in such a dark building," Daisuke quipped, as he had noticed all the prevailing dark black highlights and coloration schemes as they entered the building. Even the elevator outdoor glass was tinted black, as they could see a straight-out view of the dark, seedy city-society that made up Tendan.

"...wow." Genesis muttered. "That was so not racist. I hope there was someone offended by that..."

Daisuke sweatdropped, realizing he made a bad joke, and was about to apologize when the elevator slowed its progress to the top. With a musical chime, it alerted everyone of their arrival to their destination. Opening the dual doors, what awaited them on the other side was an elaborate red carpet trail towards a art-adorned parallel walled-off-hallway, going directly to Rai's spinning door office.

"It seems Take's son has a few acquired tastes of his own," Shinshin mused as he noticed several expensive, possibly stolen, pieces of artwork adorning the walls of the ten foot by ten foot hall they all just entered.

"Hm...?"

It was here that Shou decided to turn his attention away from the group for a moment in order to look at the said pieces of art. His expression seemed to convey a genuine fascination as he regarded the potraits. "Well, this is certainly something to look at..." He muttered. "The wanderer above the sea of fog... flaming June... Corner of the Garden at Montgeron... these are quite fascinating pictures to look at! A shame that I didn't have a camera or anything like that to bring with me..."

Out of curiosity, Genesis looked over herself and focused her eyes on the "Flaming June" portrait. "Oooh, look at that one!" She exclaimed, pointing over towards it. "The next time we go to a museum, that one's the one I'll be taking a picture of. The lady in it looks so... pretty!"

Shou couldn't help but chuckle. "She does, doesn't she?"

"Sure, make this seem like some sort of date..." Sakura muttered under her breath, rolling her eyes slightly.

"You make it sound like that's a bad thing," Daisuke whispered next to Sakura, walking up and taking her hand into his briefly, squeezing it gently while they walked down further towards the entrance.

On the far side of the spinning door, an entity appeared without being sensed by the majority of the group, clad in what appeared to be a tuxedo suit and a matching black fedora. Smiling as he observed each of the oncomers, he raised his hands up saying with a gentleman's tone, "Not so fast, everybody. I'd like some sort've proof that you guys are really from V-14 and that you're here on friendly terms."

"Ugh..."

If there was one thing Asuka resented, it was identity clearance.

She met the man's gaze with a cool, yet firm one of her own. "You worked with Angelika Hartmann, right?" She asked casually. "I'm Asuka Sakamoto, one of the people who helped to take down Take Xanxus. I, as well as the rest of these fine folk--" She gestured towards the group at large. "--are here under her request. If you want assurance that we're on friendly terms, just give us a spot to keep our weapons guarded until our meeting's over and done with." Every word was delivered with a casual and naturally placed tone in order to ensure that he wouldn't assume she was lying.

"No harm meant, miss," the man shook his hands in emphasis of his apologetic tone, bowing before walking to the rotating door, "just follow on through. I just wanted to check if you really were one of the leaders of V-14, is all..."

"Whatever you say," Daisuke muttered distrustingly, walking towards the door, followed by Shinshin and the others, one-by-one entering the elaborate office of Rai Xanxus.

"Ah! My friends of the notorious, yet unmistakably professional V-14!" Rai got up and ran over, wearing his standard suit while protraying his holstered, diamond-handled firearms in either jacket interior pocket. With a jubilious smile of gold-plated and white teeth with a bright look in his green eyes, Rai grasped Asuka's right hand gently, and laid a gentleman's kiss on the back of it, "how can the beautiful face, of one of the most deadly, masterful swordsmen of the Dove House, Asuka Sakamoto."

It was a greeting that certainly had not been expected by any of them, especially Asuka.

A slight blush came over her face as the man kissed the back of her hand, and she raised her free hand to her slight smile. "Well, I'm glad to see you know exactly who I am!" She said in a slightly flattered and mostly pleased tone. "Saves the trouble of having to go through too many formalities."

Genesis snorted. "So much for being the serious, stick-up-the-ass type..." She muttered under her breath.

"But of course I know all sorts of important people," Rai bowed his head to her before releasing her hand, flourishing his arms in a dramatic way, "that is one of my past times after all. I collect things of all sorts, put them on display or in the back of my head. After all," he then turned around, to point out Shinshin, whom had walked to Asuka's left side, "who else would you be if you didn't have my dear old friend, Mister Fūten."

"Here I thought you'd be more shocked to see me alive, Rai," Shinshin spoke, with no formality but slight reserved hostility within his usual smooth tone, "find it better to be a gentleman to the man you tried to kill?"

"I never wanted you dead, Mister Fūten," Rai said with a sincere shrug, smiling smugly, "I just wanted my wrinkly-ass old man out of the way so I can move up in this dark, metalic jungle of a society we're in!"

"I'd rather you save the smooth talk for a brainless diplomat or a buisnessman you want to choke his savings," Shinshin said tersely, before nodding to Sakura, "tell him why we're here."

"Wha--!!"

Sakura abruptly recoiled as if she had been slapped, immediate protest coming out of her mouth. "The fuck, why would you put me on-- ugh..." Giving a helpless sigh, she slapped a palm to her face and slowly dragged it down in a comical manner. "Why do I even bother with you people..."

She was quick to straighten back up, walking to flank Asuka's other side. She folded her arms across her chest. "Right, well... our little mole here," She nodded briefly towards Shinshin. "Has told us that your daddy had access to a rather powerful artifact called the "Eye of Ragna". As we speak, there is a group that we're hunting down aiming to capture this said artifact. Now, I don't know if you know the exact details of what it does. But long story short... if they get their hands on it, we are all royally fucked. So it is essential that we not only capture them alive, but make sure that they don't get their hands on it. Now..."

She clapped her palms together, intertwining her fingers. "Part of our plan involves the replacement of the real artifact with a forged one in order to throw them off their game. We need someone capable of that, location of the museum, and blueprints."

"You want me to just hand over the location of one of my father's most prized possessions, of irreplaceable worth, to you on the hunch it actually does what the ancient texts claims it does? HAHAHAHAHA!" Rai briefly laughed aloud at the prospect, but after seeing the expressions on their faces collectively, he cleared his throat and scratched his throat, "yeah, of course you're serious. Why else would you pay a visit to me? Ahhhh..." Rai turned around, moving to his desk, gracing it with his finger tips before circling around to his leather seat and sitting down with a sigh, "and here I thought it was just a nice paper weight that cost more than the black market could ever afford. And you're saying its genuine?-"

"Its a heirloom to the Korai Royalty!" Daisuke spoke out in earnest, realizing that they shouldn't sit here and try to convince the man he had the real deal, shaking his hand at in emphasis, "and there happens to be one still alive who wants it back! Badly!"

"And if we don't go through with this with the cooperation we need from you, things can get very badly, for everybody," Shinshin spoke in a matter-of-fact tone, one that only the young Xanxus heir would know too well when he was speaking the truth.

"So, to put it as your colorful tongued woman over there," Rai briefly waved a hand to Sakura before looking back to Asuka, raising hands into quotations for emphasis, "we'd all be Fucked if I don't give full access to all five of my father's vaults' blueprints, make exact replicas in each of the vaults, and give you the original for safekeeping?"

Asuka breathed out a heavy sigh, closing her eyes. "Yes. I know it sounds ridiculous. But it's very true." She said softly. "The V-14 would not bother someone due to what would later turn out to be a lie. If the survivor manages to obtain it, she could very well spell the meaning of yet another apocalypse. I needn't remind you of the Plinian Movement that happened some time back...?"

"Nonononono!" Rai said with a nervous smile, waving his forefinger in her direction as he looked away, "I get the gist. Don't do what you say...wake up tomorrow with my phalus plastered on the ceiling and my skin being used as a bathroom rug. I have a gifted imagination what apocalypses are like after my traumatic run-by with one, ahem!" Standing up, Rai cleared his throat before reaching out a hand, "consider this transaction, free of charge. In fact, if you keep any of the other valuables from being taken or destroyed in this endeavor, consider each of you very well compensated!"

"Yeyeyeyey!" Genesis hooted, throwing a fist in the air.

"Great!" Pleased with the response, Sakura once again clapped her hands together. "So glad that you're in agreement. Now, if you would be so kind as to show us to the aforementioned blueprints to the target museum and its location, we will be just as kind as to do the rest..."

"Of course!" Rai spoke with a smile, recieving no handshake he withdrew his hand before sitting down, speaking aloud, "Maibito! You can show our guests to the needed blueprints and the locations of the family vaults!"

SHFT!

"Of course, Lord Xanxus," An entity appeared, dropping from the shadows of the ceiling's expansive rafters before reappearing in front of the groun. He bore the trappings of a samurai-garbed man, with two katanas sheathed in either side of his hip, tied by a long dark sash. With a red scarf covering his lower facial features, the only indication of his emotions was the unscarred left blue eye, as the right one bore a X-shaped scar on the right side of his bare crowned head, "if you'd please follow me," he spoke as he walked past the group and towards the far end of the office, behind a glass doored room where a large vault of file cabinets were, all of them having particular combinations and keys required to open.

"Maibito?" Shinshin spoket in query, having never seen the man nor sensed him until now. Obviously Shinshin's replacement in a way as the new head of the Xanxus buisness's security, if the skill he just demonstrated was as good as he thought it was, he would easily be on par with his own sword style, "interesting name for such a ominipresent bodyguard..."

Daisuke gritted his teeth with raw anticipation. Only time could tell if they would be successful with their plan that he suggested. If they'd fail...an irreversable form of tragedy would thrust upon them all. One which the Hankami can't help them again.

The War of Four: In Touch Act II

Multiple Battlegrounds, Backup Plans vs Countermeasures!

"We're in position," a radio-communication voiced to Asuka, coming directly from Shinshin himself at one of the overseeing five vaults, while Daisuke was near a vault of his own. As they prepared all of their forces to defend and wait in their respective positions, all they had to do is wait for the enemy to approach them, and fall for the traps they laid out.

"Roger that..."

Asuka kept herself in a hidden position near the vault that she was personally guarding. "Stick to the plan. Each of us will keep eyes on our respective vault for any sign of the enemy. It is most likely that they will split up and search each vault in order to cover ground faster. So once our individual enemy comes into view, we strike. Make sure to keep yourself completely hidden until that time arrives. We don't want them detecting us too early."

"Understood," Daisuke said promptly, as he kept himself reasonably hidden with the aid of his Overcoat's sensory stealth capabilities as well as his use of Kidō, "so far no sign of the enemy..."

"We should be expecting them at any time, so don't let your guard down," Shinshin spoke in a smooth tone, as he kept himself at full alertness from his own position.

"Rika, do you have any readings yet?" Asuka questioned.

"Negative. I'm keeping a close eye on the target building as well as the surrounding areas. So far, I'm seeing no activity. I'll let you know when I've got anything suspicious..."

"We've got an eye in the sky and people ready to engage in close quarters... if all goes right, I think we might be able to take them out quickly..." Genesis commented, a slightly smug tone in her voice.

"Quiet!" Daisuke suddenly spoke aloud over the comm, his form walking out of his position as he looked up in the sky, realizing what was heading their way with visible horror, "by...the...spirit...king..."

VRRRRROAAAAR!!!!

Something emblazoned in black-violet flames of Shinsei soared through the skies, taking on the shape of a dragon, 1/3 of a skyscraper in mass, charging for the black skyscraper that made the headquarters of Xanxus enterprises. Once it landed ontop of the durable structure, it latched all four talons around it before turning its gaze towards the respective five structures. Once its violet irsises locked onto the Punisher's direction, it reared its head back...

VRRRRRR-BLAM-BLAM-BLAM-BLAM-BLAM!!!

And discharged the fiery aura of a group of entities that split through the air, covered by the fiery essence towards the five vaults, cloaking the respective attackers as they barreled towards them with incredible force.

"...I have a feeling they know we're here." Sakura muttered grimly, narrowing her eyes and gritting her teeth when she saw the massive dragon look in her direction.

It was a clear sign of Senkakusha using her powers in order to search for any resistance. Of course, it would be natural for the all-seeing eye to go first and pinpoint anything out. Her heart pounded inside of her chest in anticipation, her fists clenching and a chill running down her spine.

"Keep your places!" Asuka commanded, keeping her voice low. "Do not engage until they are near you!!"

Shinshin narrowed his eyes stoically, even as his hair and cloak, knowing precisely which of the ones moved towards him. Shuffling his feet, he prepared himself accordingly as the enemy approached his position, grasping his blade accordingly. Then...his body became emblazoned in a thickly, ghastly aura along with dark black flames emitting from his body, causing the area to crackle and shatter around himself. He was accessing his personal style of Tamajutsu...!

Daisuke on the other hand...

"I got this," Daisuke smiled ferally, unsheathing his blade in a bright crimson light, transforming it into its unsealed form, "making a big mistake...covered in all those tongues...of fire!"

SWISH!

With a slash of his blade, Daisuke compressed the flames upon the entity, intending on incinerating the normally "friendly" flames onto the entity rushing at him. As the flames began to roar in intensity, something happened Daisuke didn't expect. The flames...were snuffed out!

Out of the flames came a dark, golden-bordered cloaked Namakubi, with a bright yellow glint in his eyes as he cackled with glee as Spirit Energy flowed in and around him, "Not what you expected, Soul Reaper?!" Before he slammed a foot into the blade's edge of Daisuke's weapon, the force sent him skidding across the flat roof of the nigh impregnably large vault.

Meanwhile, Datenshi flew towards Asuka, with the immense force that had propelled himself along with the Shinsei flames guarding his body from initial damage as he rushed into her vicinity.

"And here comes my particular opponent..."

WOOSH!

Quickly, Asuka moved to the side with a single step, leaning away from the man-turned-projectile as he sped past. Quickly, she twisted herself around in order to face him before he could land, unsheathing a ninjato and brandishing it in one hand. She lowered it in a ready position, taking in a breath to mentally prepare herself. There was going to be a pretty tough fight on her hands, if anything else. She would have to stay on her toes at all times.

Even so, an anticipatory smile came across her face.

"So then," Datenshi began to talk smoothly, his smooth features appeared with an elaborate piece of draconic armor intertwined with Aethian-stylized Magus hood and robes, "you're the revered master of the Tamajutsu Arts I've heard so much about..."

SHIIIINK!

"...I think I'm going to enjoy wiping that smile off your face, as much as I am going to kill the one who put me in my cell," Datenshi spoke with a cold, cool confidence as he eyed her with the mesmerizing red-blue star-shaped eyes, unsheathing his curved, guardless katana from his back.

It was going to be fun.

And the fireball heading towards Sakura flew with the most force, having enough pyrotechnic pressure around the flames it would definitely crack the top of the large, cube-structure.

The Punisher frowned, her own sword already readied in preparation. "Getting the feeling that were'gonna have a real hard time keeping all of this shit intact..." She pointed the tip at the oncoming projectile, summoning the power of her flames to her. Because the flames were made out of Shinsei, she was the only one that could perform a counter-attack and hold a chance of doing some damage. After all, it was an energy she wielded...

VWOOOM!!!

An eruption of flames shot forth from the blade in a manner similar to a flamethrower. The jet blast would be enough to envelop the target completely in her flames and hopefully neutralize the shield put up around the occupant.

After the flames combatted for control, the Punisher's flames billowed out and consumed the flames

FWOOSH-SZzzzzzz...

...revealing nothing within the flames themselves!

BOOM-CRAASH!!!

A sudden Shinsei pulsation, that could only be felt by the Punisher, was felt from the point where the Draconic manifestation landed on the skyscraper. The loud sound could only mean Senkakusha punching a explosive hole into the armored building and entering within, moving with purpose and focus towards a destination of her own...

A furious growl escaped the Punisher's lips, her eyes glaring daggers at the direction of the pulse. "You damned coward..!!" She spat, swinging her sword in a flourishing and vicious gesture. "Get back here!!"

VOOM!

Within an instant, she had vanished from her spot in order to locate and pursuit Senkakusha. Her narrowed eyes had dilated pupils, her teeth gritted in a snarl that almost looked inhuman on the humanoid's face. Her blade was alight with fire, its intensity matching the blazing passion in her heart. It was within seconds that she managed to reach the spot where her enemy was.

"I wouldn't advise using your flames in here," Senkakusha spoke cooly, her hands crossed and her body leaning against one of the walls, with her hair now donned in a silky ponytail and her body garbed in a black leathered, trenchcoat and slacks outfit along with a pair of black gloves to match, "unless you want to kill your ally's employer, and risk destroying a powerful artifact, that only those wielding incredible Spiritual Power can utilize?"

A momentary smile, false and malevolent, replaced the scowl on the Punisher's face. "My my, aren't you the relaxed one..."

She took a few steps towards Senkakusha, keeping her flame alight. But she didn't dare to strike just yet. After all, she understood that a full-out battle would end up wrecking the building, and she had to consider her allies. Her piercing stare continued to bear into Senkakusha's the entire time. "You haven't even bothered to draw your sword yet. Are you that sure you're going to leave out here alive?"

"Deary," Senkakusha spoke in a chiding tone, like a big sister have to a child, before she narrowed her eyes to near slits, "who says I need to draw my sword in order to kill you?"

WHIIIIZ-SHIINK!

And from the shadows behind the Punisher, entered a familiar yet menacing figure a few meters behind here. Lashing out with a spike attached to a length of chain, the projectile swung with incredible power and cutting ability, intending on catching the unaware Hankami by surprise and injure her from behind.

"!!!"

The Hankami's eyes widened in shock when she heard the telltale whistle of the offender's weapon. Reflexively, she spun her head over her shoulder just in time to see the spike race towards her. However, the speed closed the distance too quickly, leaving her options of mobility limited. All she could do was turn her head towards it, waiting for the injury to come to her.

That is, until divine intervention came in.

CLANG!

A Chinese-type sword was swung from the hand of an entity that had leaped seemingly from the shadows. Enough power was put aside to knock the chain back from once it came. The Punisher looked on in surprise at the one who saved her, slowly turning to face the assailant. "Yoshizawa? I thought you would've been busy dealing with your own pest..." She commented.

"I had no problems. Besides, here is nothing busy enough to keep me from the likes of my Lady..." Shou said simply, staring intensely at the eyes at the assailant.

"And Genesis?"

"I made sure she stayed put where she was. Her incendiary rounds would've certainly done extensive an unnecessary damage."

The Punisher couldn't help but chuckle a little. "Glad to see you've taken precautions. Good boy..." She switched her gaze towards her attacker, taking a few steps back and lowering her blade for a moment. "In return, I think I'm going to take the liberty of introductions. Shou..." She swung her free hand out in a gesturing motion. "Meet one of your distant cousins. Her name's Ashida of the Shikyotenshi."

"I'm pleased you remember us, Hankami..."

SHIIINK-CLASP!

Ashida briefly whipped back her spike before catching it back in her left hand, her stylized blindfolded gaze stared at the Punisher and Shou equally, "...for we remember your unneeded intervention long ago, bringing in unclean Togabito to serve as your Daitenshi..."

SPIT!

"...disgusting!" Ashida snarled as she spat and bared her teeth towards Shou with an almost animalistic hatred towards her.

Due to their ancient race's dejection from their original seat of power that the Daitenshi fulfilled, only surpressed from all-out war by Hell's Will submitting to the Hell Queen and their Daitenshi overseers, forcing them to become wanders and "Hired-Help" for Demons, or other other-worldly entities.

Namely, the Korai, at times had utilized them as bodyguards for their royalty, treating them with more worth than usually any other master would. Hence, Ashida's current fealty...

The gesture of rejection and disgust made Shou tense up slightly. His gloved hand increased the grip on its sword as he leveled it at her, his eyes narrowed and a frown on his face. It wasn't the gesture itself that caused him to react in such a manner... but rather, the amount of power he sensed within her. Suddenly, he was glad that he didn't bring Genesis along for the ride, for he didn't know how she would fare against such an opponent.

"We're all equally diseased, child..." The Punisher chided, reaching out to place a hand on Shou's shoulder. "Apparently, even in the likes of the underworld, you have kept your ridiculous sense of pride within your race. But no matter. Yoshizawa, do you mind taking out this particular piece of recycled trash for me?"

"It would be my pleasure..." Shou said simply.

CLASH-SCRAAAAAPE!

"Come then, Daitenshi-dog!" Ashida snarled out vehemently, grinding her two pikes against each other while she radiated a thick, dark black-violet aura of Unholy Spiritual Pressure, shaking the reinforce, armor-plated glass to the brink of shattering from the intensity from which she exuded her power, "I'll carve your name into your skull in rememberence of your defiance!"

SHIIIINK-SWISH-SWISH!

"Try and catch me!~" Senkakusha spoke in a sing-song voice, slashing at the wall with her blade in a X shape before crashing through it, comically cackling as she barreled through the building towards the elevator, where she'd get to Rai Xanxus himself.

"W-what the hell are you laughing at?! Wipe that fucking grin off your face!!"

One of her eyes twitching at the rather humorous change in demeanor, the Punisher rushed straight after her. Mentally, she grimaced. In an all-out fight, she could battle to her heart's content. But considering that her flames would most likely incinerate the building and possibly injure allies within the area, she could not counter Senkakusha as she would've liked. All she could do was pursue the woman and hope that her speed was enough.

Unless, she thought of a more unorthodox way of stopping her...

A devious smile came across her face. "Perfect..."

As she ran, she lifted her sword and held it in a manner similar to a spear. She aimed carefully, not wanting to miss her target. Then, with a throw that combined lethal accuracy with immense force, she hurled the flaming blade at her target.

WOOSH!

But it wasn't the opponent she was aiming for... but the controls of the elevator.

On Shou's side, things were much more serious.

With the unsheathing of his other blade, he threw himself at his newfound enemy and swung both of his swords in a flurry of aggressive, suppressing strikes. He knew that this time around, he would have to play it serious. Although he didn't know much about Ashida herself, he knew that her weapons would ultimately nullify the regeneration ability gifted by him. If he allowed himself to get careless, it would be all over for him.

Thus, he had to keep her on the defensive.

SHFT-SHFT-SHFT-SHFT-WHOOSH!

Ashida found herself smiling as her enemy charged her. In a sense, she could feel the trepidation coming from the young Daitenshi's pores, the rush of his heartbeat, and the urgency of his swings. Each and every swing the Shikyotenshi found herself moving to and fro with a graceful, primal instinct, with only a few hairs actually being cut by the Daitenshi's blade as she side-stepped, backpedaled, and then finally vaulted over him.

As she passed over him, she dove down into a roll, pulling on the barbed chains connecting each of her spikes, intending on entangling him as she rushed with incredible speed the opposite direction of her opponent. The intention was to squeeze him into a vice grip before pulling him along the hallway, enough tensile strength to ricochet his body as she would sprint down the hallway with his body in tow.

SHINK-SPZZZZZ!

Senkakusha briefly paused in her charge, seeing that the Punisher was intending on keeping her from reaching her intended destination. Narrowing her eyes, she raised her blade in a defensive pose speaking aloud, "You really want to do this, Senkoku?"

In that moment, the Punisher didn't speak.

Slowly, she walked until she was at a comfortable distance from Senkakusha. She outstretched a palm, mentally summoning her sword back to her grasp. With a slightly howling whistle, it came to her waiting open palm. The hilt slapped against her skin, and she was quick to wrap her fingers around the material. Upon Senkakusha's statement, a bitter scowl crossed her lips.

"Don't start talking like there's some other way to end this little dispute. "She seethed, fixing the other woman with a harsh glare. "You owe a debt to me, Korai, as well as a debt to the one you and your kind ripped the free will away from. And besides that, I'm not planning on letting you get your hands on that precious artifact of yours. Mortality has already been forced through one apocalypse. It sure as hell doesn't need another!"

As one battle was about to commence, another was well under way.

Shou gritted his teeth, raising his blades up in order to catch the chains before they could wrap around his frame. Quickly, he shifted his feet in order to dig them into the floor, holding his ground against the makeshift trap. At the same time, chains sprung out from the orifice that was his shirt neckhole. They maneuvered themselves to surround and envelop Ashida within a trap, prepared to set her ablaze once the movement was complete.

"Don't underestimate her because just she's blind. That would be a careless mistake on anyone's end..."

Pride & Vengeance, A Dance of Doves and Crows!

SSSSSSHFT-SWISH!

Datenshi moved with an incredible rush of innate speed, intending on overtaking Asuka within the leap and bound of the small gap that seperated them. His reflexes seemed honed, trained, and incredibly above the normal swordsman expectation. His Spiritual Pressure felt foreign, almost as if he was from a different world entirely. And his eyes...beautifully ornate eyes...were filled with a deep, longing and a fiery determination to quench the thirst of blood caused them to glow. But it wasn't hers he was after...moreas...her death would lead to that blood quenching he yearned for.

All of this could be emanated as he flew at her with a mesmerizing speed, swinging his blade in a overhead arc, bringing down both strength and poise in his sword slash to her left side of her torso, with his left hand's fingertips touching the rooftop in sync with his sandal-toes.

An exhale of the breath was all the reaction needed before Asuka started her defense.

With a swing of the sword, she crossed blades with her enemy and forcefully parried the blade away, using her own strength to reflect her attacker away from her person. Quickly, she shifted herself into a stable and steady stance, her blade readied in front of her with two hands. Her feet planted themselves firmly on the ground in order for maximum reinforcement of her form. All the while, her brown eyes kept watch on each and every move made by her opponent.

SWISH!

"Bang," Datenshi said with a smirk of amusement, as he swung his left extended palm towards her, a brief light created along his skin before...

BLAAAAAAAM!!!

...releasing a potent, searing blast of energy that'd rip across the air, soaring through with shrieking, thunderous power before exploding a far-off building matching their current altitude. After this maneuver, Datenshi retracted his blade and backpedaled to observe his opponent with interest.

"I don't think it's a good idea to bring out my trump card just yet. I've learned my mistakes in my encounter with Yashin..."

With that thought in mind, Asuka raised the blade over her head in a kendo-style movement, needing only to wait only a second for the blast to reach her. Once it was within reach, she swung the cutting edge of her sword down upon the energy blast. It cut through the energy like a knife through butter, and the two halves sailed past her without harming her at all. The blasts would go on to connect with the said far-off building, but she would pay no mind to it.

"You're good," Datenshi said with an admiring tone, tapping the blade's flat edge against his shoulder, "you don't seem to need to utilize your Spiritual Power for any movement. Or at least, at the moment," swinging his blade a few times, as if testing the air for the first time before raising his gaze back up at her, "quick question: Is Tamajutsu a Defensive or a Offensive Art?"

An artful smile crossed Asuka's face. "Silly boy." She teased, taking a few steps forward. "You don't expect a tornado to give reasoning for destruction or a plague to give reasons to why it spreads. Why would you ask your enemy, especially one you've just taunted, the secrets to her abilities?"

"Playful banter, my dear," Datenshi said nonchalantly, scraping the edge of his blade along the roof, creating a grading sound and a display of sparks in his weapon's wake, "I've never insulted or humiliated you. However, I can always make sure to make you feel utterly degraded and worthless by the time I'm finished, if you prefer!"

SHFT-SWISH-SWISH-SWISH-SWISH-SWISH...!

Datenshi moved with swift, vindictive purpose, as he used an unknown Fast-Movement technique to close the gap faster than before. With that said, Datenshi moved with incredible versatility and speed, keeping his footing and his eyes drawn to her every move, analyzing the slightest changes in style and technique in how she countered or evaded his attacks. His blade yearned for murder, and his eyes looked for that opening for that to be made reality!

It was a deep contrast to the calm and almost detached look within Asuka's eyes as she moved to defend herself.

CLANG! WOOSH! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

She allowed herself to retreat back step by step against Datenshi's blade, weaving and blocking the attacks. Her movements were precise and fluid as she batted away the strikes with one-handed parries. But in the midst of each and every strike made against her, she kept herself positioned so that she would be continuously using his own momentum against him for more effective counters. The smile slowly returned to her face once more as her feelings became more accepting of the fight ahead of her. Her attitude about it made the entire exchange seem nothing more than an intense spar. It was somewhat unnerving to the outside viewer, to say the least.

"You seem to parry blades and energy fairly well..."

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG...!

"...let's see how you do..."

CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG...!

"...against this!!!!" Datenshi roared out, slashing downwards at the last strike, seemingly as if Asuka would be able to parry or throw it off just any other strike. But, at the moment of impact...

VOOOM-WHOOSH!!!!

...the slash seemed to cut a rift of space that seemed to implode on itself before discharging in such a wild, kinetic burst that it would rattle Asuka's form while propelling her across the wide open, square rooftop.

"Karahurai!"

"The potency within his power is high, yet too feral for coordination."

Asuka swung her sword with two hands, allowing the metal to push against the opposing force. Her hair and clothing rippled against the winds generated. However, she held her ground against the onslaught forced against her. Her eyes temporarily narrowed into slits as she was ferociously attacked. All she needed to do was twist her wrists...

VOOSH!

...in order to send all of that force back at Datenshi.

BRAAAAACK-WHOOSH!

The force of the shockwave, however, seemed to launch at open air as Datenshi had moved within the timing of the attack itself...

SHFT!

...to appear directly at her backside, crouching low as he delivered a blindingly swift uppercut swing alongside her back, intending on producing a sufficient injury against his opponent.

"!!!"

The timing of the high-speed movement made Asuka's eyes widen in surprise.

SPLINCH!

Reflexively, she threw herself forward in order to give herself room. As quick as she was, she was simply not quick enough. The tip of Datenshi's blade managed to slash across her back, eliciting a hiss from her as she twisted herself around in order to deliver a counter-attack. She swung in a pivot, her own blade moving up to meet his neck.

"Speed alarming under secondary conditions. I may have to get aggressive quicker than I intended to..."

CLANG-SHIIINK!

"You're very good!" Datenshi applauded openly as he swung his extended blade to the side, parrying the blow while smiling in a reveling disposition that he was fighting someone of such a high caliber, "I can't believe my luck I can cross blades of someone of such incredible skill in swordsmanship! And here I thought I was the strongest in swordplay in all of the Soul Society, bar the Gotei 13 of course..."

"...really?" Asuka frowned a little, stepping back a little and readying her blade once more. "That's not a very good way of thinking of yourself. After all, carrying that mentality in the face of an opponent that can crush you will only serve to hurt you more in the long run. There will always be someone stronger than you."

"Of course, but having confidence in oneself that you can overcome any obstacle thrusted upon yourself can make you an unstoppable force," Datenshi raised his blade appropiately, narrowing his eyes at her as he took to a more fencing posture, "take you for example. You believe you're going to win. You have the absolute conviction you're going to beat me and take me back to my little cramped cell, or kill me, is that right? You actually think you can kill something like me?"

Asuka smiled. "I have my weapon, my mind, and all of my limbs. As long as I have all of those, then I need nothing else."

Then, she pushed off with her legs and threw herself at Datenshi in order to begin her attack. Her sword was swung down on him with both of her hands, moving in a series of ferocious and swift strikes. It was the same body movement in the latter stage of her duel with Shinshin. Back then, she had carried herself in an aura of cold fury. But this time, there was nothing but pure concentration in her eyes.

Datenshi allowed himself to like the look in Asuka's eyes. In fact, had circumstances been different...he might've grown quite fond of this woman. Inwardly, Datenshi wondered about the outcome of this battle and if it was entirely necessary. But as he felt the rush of his body's adrenaline flow through him as vigorously as his Spiritual Energy as he clashed against equally determined spirit, he knew there was no stepping out now. Whatever happens...he will not be taken back...and will not die!

Dance with the Devils! What is Blindness?

SFT-TAP-FLIP-WHOOSH!

All the incoming chains sent Ashida's way were acrobatically dodged, as she ducked under the first one, propelling herself in the sideways before kicking off some chains, charging directly towards the Daitenshi with both spikes held in opposing parallel directions of her form. And within a single flickering motion of blinding speed...

SHFT-SWISH-SWISH!

...Ashida appeared directly above Shou, slashing her spikes towards his shoulders in fluid arcs before twisting over him in a vaulting maneuver, intending on strangling him with the chain attached to her weapons, or in the case catching on the weapon, snatch it towards the armor-plated glass opposing him on his right.

"An attack repeated can only work so many times..."

CLANG!

Shou's chains moved in accordance with his dismissive statement, banging against Ashida's as they retracted back into his clothing. With his blades, he stabbed through the links and caught the chains on his blade to keep them from moving away. At first, it seemed like he was going to yank her back towards him. But then...

FWOOM!

The area of the chain caught by the tip of his blades ignited in a blue fire that spread down the entire length towards the one wielding the pikes. But this wouldn't be the healing fire that Genesis had used to save the Sect members, or what Shou himself used against Daisuke. This fire would aim to incinerate Ashida to the bone until there was nothing left.

"Heh," Ashida smiled, twirling the spikes as the flames grew near the circle link-spaces in between the handles of the weapons, before she stabbed them into the ground, "I caught you!"

As the flames rippled across the chains, kanji letters seem to light up in red, utilizing the very elements of the flames to power them. And just like that, the links of the chain discharged dozens of needles of binding energy, aiming to strike every nerve and incapacitate the likes of a Daitenshi.

Following up on the incapacitating action, Ashida left the spikes in the ground, holding her enemy fast while she charged towards her enemy, before sending a series of powerful and swift precise strikes from her fists, intending on pummeling him to death where he stood, whether he could fight back or not.

"!!!"

Alarm washed over Shou's face as he saw the inscriptions materialize within the blue flames. Their influence made them wither away, absorbed by the material of the chains themselves. He could barely react in time for a frontflip to avoid the needles aimed towards his person, pulling his swords from the links of the chains. As his body moved to face a charging opponent, he scowled.

"You haven't caught anything but a case of foolishness!"

FWOOM!

Within a swing of one of his swords, he unleashed a blast of flames once Ashida was close enough to him.

BOOM!

With a single strike of her fist, violet-black flames emerged in a thick aura, striking the blue flames with enough force to cause it to dissipate in a loud fiery blast, sending it towards Shou's direction. Ashida smiled as she raised her flame enraptured hand to be unharmed, "Please...you think I haven't fought a Daitenshi who could manipulate the Holy Elements? I've killed dozens like you before, and you're no different..."

SHFT-BAM!

"...all talk and no muscle!" Ashida moved within a heartbeat to appear above Shou, swinging her fist to come down towards him, with enough force to shatter the glass down the hallway and crack the foundation beneath them, even if Shou hasn't been connected.

Even in the midst of the attack, there was a humorous thought that made a ghost of a smile cross Shou's face.

"If you knew who Oliver Holmes was, you wouldn't be saying that."

VOOM!

A Tahitita movement pulled him away before Ashida's fist could smash his skull in. In the eve of the movement, he skidded and lowered himself to one knee before standing back up and readying his swords. Multiple chains escaped from his shirt wrists, flying towards Ashida at immense speeds. Not only did they move to impale her, they also moved to surround her and limit her acrobat potential. He needed to restrict her and force her into the corner. Otherwise, she would evade him every step of the way.

"Looks like I got no option..."

SFT-SFT-SFT!

Making several handsigns of various sorts, Ashida spread her feet before bringing her arms towards her in a shielding maneuver...

SSPRRAAAAAAACK!!!

...before discharging a wide net of crimson energies, stemming of a Kurai Geijutsu technique, while causing the chains themselves to snap at the links and incinerate within an instant for those that were proximate to her body. After it was done, she made a rearing motion with her right hand, causing a few inverted triangles to glow brightly around her forearm...

SHIIIIIIIINK!!!

...before she discharged a red, piercing beam of light, intending on stabbing Shou through his torso, before she made a series of extended slicing moments from the distance she was from Shou himself.

"She snapped my chains?!"

Shou's eyes dilated in shock and amazement as he saw what part of the link he had unleashed shatter and burn under the spell's influence. Knowing that the crimson light could probably do the same to his swords, he used a Tahitita in order to teleport himself out of the way. However, he found himself caught within the storm of swings that came his way. At first, he simply stuck to evading them...

That is, until another predicament hit him without warning.

A splitting pain tore through his head like an armor-piercing spear, causing him to shut his eyes and let out an agonized yell. He stumbled in his defense - a movement that opened him up for a devastating strike.

SPLURCH-SPLURCH-SPLURCH!

Whatever that was being projected towards him tore deep gashes through his torso, nearly knocking him off of his feet. He was sent skidding away, stabbing his blades into the ground and falling onto one knee. His head was lowered as the intense migrane subsided, his breaths coming out in heavy pants. Slowly, he opened his eyes and pushed himself to stand back up. There would be one thing noticed by his opponent that he wouldn't.

One of his pupils had turned from a blue color to red - the state that it was in prior to his demise and transformation.

"Oops," Ashida smiled darkly as she recognized the state she put her opponent in, dissipating her crimson blade as she walked casually back to retrieve her weapons, "I forgot you Daitenshi are actually brainwashed and you need those chains to keep you from returning to your Sinful-state. Its how she turned so many into her personal commandos and lap dogs from the prior drooling and foaming states you were all in," Ashida turned around, picking up one of the spikes, twirling it by the large circle before the weapon, gaining speed and momentum as she eyed her opponent, "all that talk and you need substitute sedative to keep yourself in control. You're nothing more than trash serving the Queen Bitch of all that is detestable!"

For a moment, there was nothing more than silence coming from Shou. His gaze became solemn, even as he looked at the weapon that spun around threateningly. Slowly, he tilted his head to the side as he looked at her. The only silence that seemed to break it was the sound of his organic form regenerating lost cells. After all, he had not been struck with her weapon - something he was somewhat thankful. Then, with a somewhat subdued voice, he spoke to her.

"Then what are you?" He asked. "Your leader is risking an apocalypse by placing her hands on the Eye of Ragna. As a Shikyotenshi, you swore to bring down the ones that caused such disruptions within the spiritual realm. Yet here you are, going along with her in this pillaging quest. Hearing those words make it all the more painful to raise my blades to you... someone who's fallen so far. You are no better than I am. So I ask you... what are you to call me "trash"?"

"She's not like your mistress, bitch!" Ashida snarled out, throwing her spike towards him like a chained lance, intending on cutting him from a distance before she pulled back the weapon and continued to spin it again, "she didn't start a full-scale genocide out of the idea of a race similar in scale of powers to their own would cause a threat to them one day! She's not the one who decided that mankind needed to be obliterated to be saved! Hypoctricism is not a quality she retains! YOU! FUCKING! BASTARD!"

SHIIIINK!

Throwing it again, she intended on cutting him repeatedly with her specialized spike, intending on wearing him down to the point of zero resistence against his fate. For the sake of her mistress, her master, her savior...she'll kill him and every Daitenshi that came to stand in their way. For the good of her kind, it must be done!

The first one had been avoided simply by jumping off to the side.

But the second one prompted a much more different action.

VOOM!

Taking advantage of the emotions, he used a Tahitita to appear behind her with one of his blades poised. His eyebrows were furrowed, a frown on his face as he looked at the back of his enemy for a moment. Two words of his mouth, callous in their own nature, ticked within the caverns of her ears.

"You're open."

Then, he swung his blade in a diagonal uppercut.

"NGH!" Ashida narrowly stepped forward enough to make the wound graze her back, but still felt the vile stinging sensation of the blade cutting through her flesh. Turning around, Ashida moved with enraged yet focused speed as she rammed her elbow backwards in tune with a Fast-Movement technique, intending on catching him in the jaw and send him away as she pulled her thrown weapon back into her free hand, "I'll tear you into pieces!"

A counter-attack was expected.

Quickly, Shou leapt away just before the elbow could crash into his face. He took three wide leaps back before finishing off with a landing into a crouched position. With a flick of his hands, he twisted his weapons and stabbed them into the ground. As the tips cut into the material, he spoke out with two words that would signal restraints being undone.

"Murder, Shōri no Oto!"

Upon that statement, the two swords began to glow briefly before dissolving into an ethereal smoke-like energy. They began to split and change their shape just as the worm had done. As they shifted, growls and snarls could be heard coming from the energy. As the transformation progressed, it was becoming more and more clear that the new shape would be that of dogs, judging from the shape and the sounds that were coming from the power.

Then, it stopped.

Five dogs as large as a man stood in front of Shou, growling and bearing their fangs at Ashida. Their coats were black, but their feet, ears, and tail tips were laced with crimson red. They were physically well-built, a clear sign that they were made for taking down the strongest of targets.

A realization suddenly dawned upon Ashida that made her jaw drop and halt her attack.

"Zan...Zanpakutō...Shikai?!" Taking a step backwards, Ashida was suddenly confronted by a whole new breed of predator than she purged before. Never had she faced against a Daitenshi...that wielded Soul Reaper powers! "what is this?! Wh-What...ARE...YOU?!?!"

"I'm just what you said before..." Shou said simply, never taking his eyes of his opponent as he spoke. The horrified tone that she took with him sent a shiver down his spine, and he almost was tempted to take a grim satisfaction out of her feelings. The growling and snarling of the pack beside him made his controlled demeanor all the more unnerving. "I'm nothing but a piece of trash serving under the bitch of a queen."

He looked to each and every one of his pets, nodding his head towards Ashida. "Tear her apart."

That was all that was needed for the snarling dogs to throw themselves at her with their own tremendous speed, their teeth flashing as they leaped upon their prey.

Ashida's eyes widened behind her blindfold and felt everything slow down. Gripping the handle of her right hand's spike, she raised it up in a fluid arc towards her neck as she muttered gutturally,

"Infernus Sanguinis Vena...!"

SHINK-SPLURCH!

A startling maneuver was the fact Ashida stabbed her neck in what would appear to be suicidal. However, during the leaping motions of the beast, the blood that sprayed seemed to flow around and form a bodily-sized, Kurai Geijutsu rune. Ashida's blood covered teeth showed in a evil grin, as she then pulled out her spike just as the first dog reached the rune's proximity...

VRRROAAAAAAAAR!!!!

...before discharging such a torrentially violent force of flames, surging with heat exceeding that of any normal Devil-wielding flame, exploding out towards the dogs and incinerating them within an instant, covering the whole hallway towards Shou's direction and aiming to send the large pyre of fire out across the skies of Tendan, crashing through a few buildings before exploding into a pillar of flames that sent a shockwave, reducing much of the city block in the distance.

"My god...!"

Shocked at the immense display of power, Shou did the only thing that he could do in the situation. There was no way that he could evade in such a narrow hallway. So, he quickly crouched down, whipped out more of his chains, and surrounded himself in a dome cage. Once the flames hit, his own set fire to his own protection in order to ensure its durability. From the looks of his opponent, it would've seemed like he was caught in the hellfire.

"So she hasn't lost her fight..." He thought to himself. "I guess that was just a moment of shock more than fear..."

"Ngh..."

CR-CRACK!

"...ahhhhh, better," Ashida spoke as she popped a few joints in her neck audibly, starting the entire reversal of the blood flow, returning to her neck and sealing her wound as if it never happened, "I don't know how mortals can handle this kind of pain, but I find it more of an itch I can't scratch than actually unbearable," she complained before she wiped the blood in her mouth off, looking to her right and noticed the scorched down walls, showing the next series of rooms beyond it and the halls that were set aflame from her attack, "damn...I guess I was a bit too enthusiastic for that moment..."

Slowly, the flames of Shou were extinguished, and the chains that made up the dome retracted back into his person. He was on a one-knee kneeling position, with one hand placed on said knee, and the other one planted on the floor. His head was hung down, and his hair was overshadowing his eyes. Overall, he looked as if he was bowing to her with the stance he took. But underneath his bangs, his eyes were simply closed in a look of concentration and thought.

"All of that energy and she's not even exhausted. I should've expected much from the likes of a Shikyotenshi..."

"What, you done already?" Ashida looked over to the Daitenshi, lowering her spikes so she could grasp the links of chains and begin twirling them parallel to her form as she readied to renew the fight, "I've fought in battles much tougher with this for a lot longer, and you don't see me falling to a knee from a little wound I just got from you. You out of shape or something?"

In response, five more hounds seemed to spawn out of thin air right beside their master. Slowly, he brought himself up to stand on his own two feet. "Raising the blade to your neck took one second." He said evenly. "Uttering the name of the smell you used took two. Very quick... but compared to the true speed of my hounds, it's extremely slow. Would you care to try your luck with another?"

Snarling visibly, Ashida gathered Spiritual Energy along the lengths of chain and her weapons, causing them to glow red with kanji letters, and covered with a thick, ghastly violet-black Spiritual Power that covered her whole being, making her hair flair up in a terrifying visage, "You sure have a lot of nerve make it sound like you have a chance against me! Come on then! I'll make sure to cut out that tongue when I'm ripping the skin off your bones!"

Destiny's Clash! Unexpected Arrival...

"It sounds like our two subordinates are really cutting loose," Senkakusha spoke with a slight smile, hearing the thunderous roar of the flames that had been released not too long ago, as well as the sensation of incredible energies that permeated the building in a ghastly dark Spiritual Pressure, "though I think Ashida is actually taking this a little too personally against yours. I wonder if he excells in spouting bullshit as much as you do, or maybe you brainwashed him into talking that way, I can't decide what's more frustrating to her..."

"That doesn't sound like someone who cares much for the fact that my race extinguished yours," The Punisher remarked, a stony glare in her eyes. "Matter of fact, with all the talking you're doing, it seems like you're just stalling your death."

"Oh, my task is not to avenge my people. Your race did that to itself, and there's no need to further the bloodshed for both of our races being evenly wounded," Senkakusha spoke with a matter-of-fact tone, shrugging before smiling knowingly, "though, I think one of my own thinks otherwise, and he's going to bring a rude awakening to the Living and Spirit Realms. My task is just to ensure restoration to my kind is possible. After all, it was my father's to begin with," raising her blade as she narrowed her eyes, gritting her teeth with actual vigor, "so save me the trouble of ringing that pathetic buisnessman's neck and give me the Eye of Ragna. Now!"

"Suspicion confirmed. She knew we had it all along."

With a movement of her arm, the Punisher raised the blade up in a horizontal position at face level, the flames flickering and twirling around the steel of her sword. "You can have it over my cold, dead body." She growled. "Or better yet, you can have it when I'm done ripping every piece of flesh from your carcass!!"

VOOM!

With a Haya movement, she threw herself at her opponent, swinging her flaming blade down upon Senkenteki's head in order to begin their fight.

SSSHFT!

"Please..."

SLICE!

"...try to speak more maturely, you tempermental child!" Senkakusha chided tersely, utilizing her own Fast-Movement technique, shimmering out of harm's way of Sakura's incoming blade, before returning to Sakura's left side and slashing towards her neck with incredible, potent speed and ferocity of her own.

CLANG!

Quickly, Sakura pulled her sword upwards to block and bat away the strike before beginning a furious assault.

Her blade moved in rapid formation, twisting and turning in her hands as it battered at Senkakusha's defense. Her wrists flicked every which way, never ceasing movement. Her flames made her movements all the more impressive to look at, making it look like as if she was swinging an orange blur at her enemy. Her eyes were narrowed, her pupils dilated and the snarl continuous on her face. It was one of the few times that she would've ever allowed herself to truly get serious within her battle.

And all of it was because of what could have been...

CLANG-WHIZ-CRACK-CLANG-WHISH-CLANG...!

All that could be heard as Senkakusha matched blow for blow against the aggressive Hankami, her superior unaided swordsmanship matching the ferocity of the orange-glowing flames that guided alongside the blade of the orange haired opponent. Sparks that discharged from their blades were like shrapnel, creating miniature pyrotechnic explosives on their level, slowly but surely ripping the building's foundations with an incredible force as their battle continued to excalate.

"This tower is going to tumble, little Senkoku," Senkakusha warned, even as she continued to battle her at the insane speed they both were battling at, "what do you suppose will happen to your would-be employer on the top floor if we cut this building in half?"

"He'd better have prepared himself a fucking escape route!!" The Punisher growled, refusing to let up on her aggressive assault against Senkakusha.

As the battle progressed, however, there would be something neither of them would notice. The same stranger that had seen the bounty hunter team off to the site was sitting cross-legged within the shadows of their area. His arms were folded across his chest, and he eyed both of the fighters silently as he watched the two go at it. If worse came to worse, he knew that he would have to intervene. But for now, he just sat and watched, keeping himself hidden both from a visual and their spiritual senses.

"Well, since you don't care," Senkakusha allowed herself to smile, as she chose her next words ominously in the midst of their fierce fighting, "I'll just let it happen then..."

SLICE-SSSSSSSSSSCRAAAAPE-BOOM!!!

Using the heightened cutting prowess she displayed from before, Senkakusha spun in a complete circle, sending a few dozen ribbons of cutting power that shredded any semblence of support for the skyscraper's structural integrity. Also sending a unintentional shockwave along with the cutting streams through space towards the squatting observer, as building began to blow out debris and glass from all sides, just a floor above the place where their two respective subordinates were duking it out.

The next set of events would defy the fabric of logic.

VWOOM...

The Punisher's eyes widened in shock, and abruptly she pulled herself back from her offensive barrage at the sound of the ominous noise. She directed her attention to what would've been the ruined structures caused by Senkakusha's attack. They would see the affected areas immersed in a black and thickened mist encompassing each piece. Like a puzzle, the shredded material pulled itself back together. The slice marks were sealed up as the tongues of the dark energy swept across their frame. In a matter of seconds, every part of the area had been put back within its place, almost as if it hadn't happened.

There was only one soul the Punisher knew that had those qualities.

She abruptly turned her head to see the figure slowly stand up in awareness that he had been exposed by the accident.

"A-Apashii?!"

"Well, well," Senkakusha spoke cooly as she rose to her full height, but not unsurprised as she looked towards the naturally stoic, silent entity, "now I know big brother is watching. What brings you to this scum pit, Apashii? Wasn't watching the weak and helpless struggle entertaining enough?"

"What in the hell are you doing here?!" The Punisher hissed. "I didn't need your--" However, she abruptly stopped herself before she could continue her indignant protest. Her indignant gaze regressed. "Oh... that's right. I suppose you were concerned about the fact that the Eye of Ragna might as well be a dimensional nuke. Of course you were going to come, weren't you?"

Traditionally, the Monitor remained silent as he walked up to stand beside his sister. But they both knew that she had guessed correctly. There was no denying it when the Monitor shifted his hand out to the side, using his power to summon up his very own sword. A ghost of a smile came across the Punisher's face as she looked at him. She turned her attention towards Senkakusha.

"So, you've come to take away what's rightfully mine, is that it? It wasn't enough you had to protect the scumbag above your head? I'll give you one chance, Apashii, as one of the only remaining survivors I've seen with an ounce of wisdom," turning her blade away from their direction, she spoke aloud evenly and cooly, "let me retrieve my father's testament and his prized possession of my people, and I'll withdraw immediately. I'll never interfere with the affairs of mortal kind again and I won't partake in anything that will threaten the balance of souls. Sound fair?"

"Oh, so now that reinforcements are in here, you're trying to gamble your way out of this?!" The Punisher was about ready to strangle the Korai. Her free hand clenched into a fist, her fingers digging into her palm until the nails drew blood. "You shameless who--!!"

But she was abruptly cut off when the Monitor did the one thing that she would've never expected him to do.

He swung his arm out in front of her - a signal for her to retreat.

"What in the hell do you think you're doing?!" She snarled, immediately rounding on the Monitor and fully ready to unleash Hell on him. "Don't you realize who exactly is in front of you?!" She pointed her flaming sword in a gesturing motion at Senkakusha. "This is a manipulator, a direct cause of our near-extinction!! Every word she says might as well be a fucking lie!! She's only trying to cater to you because she knows she'll die otherwise!! Don't you understand that?!"

Silence. The Monitor didn't move his arm away from her - a clear indication that he was unmoved by her fury. As a matter of fact, he didn't even seem to be paying attention to her. It was enough to almost make him decide to strike him down and continue to engage.

Almost.

Senkakusha smiled, sincerely, as she lowered her own blade as a sign of goodwill, before speaking softly, "You have no idea what this means to me, Apachii. I thank you, and I'll always be-"

The unexpected quickly happened within a blink of an eye.

While they were all conversing, a very wrathful presence had begun to race towards the tower and the surrounding area. With all the violence and destruction, possibly raging out of control like the last time V-14 came in, the entity was having enough of it. It would settle things with the perpetrators, and then punish the subordinates...once and for all!

VRRRROOOM-BWAAAAM!!!

What drove through the elevator, unintentionally, was a fire embroidered form of the Spirit Motorcyclist riding Guardian, Ten Kenji, himself. Somehow reaching their altitude with his bike, he discharged a thunderous force of flames that spread into a cloud of smoke around the gathered three, creating a cage-like ring of fire.

"You people have got a lot of nerve causing so much damage without a care to innocent bystanders," Ten spoke with a young, yet veteran-sounding voice of distaste and detachment, kicking the brake out and swinging a foot off in one fluid motion to allow his full height come to bear.

At only 5ft 10, Ten made up for having an aura of electrical Spiritual Power that was as daunting as the Korai's own, covered his head with a black hood with biker goggles and his body in black sleeves and slacks, with a behemoth blade resting sheathed on his back. The unappointed monastic Sheriff of Tendan had come to stop the three of them.

"...why..."

At this point in time, the Punisher was ready to blow everything up herself.

She narrowed her eyes and sucked in a breath of air, her teeth gritted together inside of her mouth. She readied her blade defensively, glaring daggers at the newcomer. "Fucking super. Now we have a vigilante coming in to make things better!" She said sarcastically. "Don't know who you are, but you should learn to mind your own fucking business!!"

The Monitor simply lowered his arm, stepping away from the Punisher in order to give her distance. The sword that he had materialized vanished upon his will, and he returned his arm back to his side. But now, his head was turned towards the newcomer. It was almost as if he had sensed the man coming long before...

But the newfound signature would stir up reactions within the other areas, as well.

Asuka was both surprised and slightly alarmed upon the sense of the signature, a slight bead of sweat falling down her face. "...this could be bad..." She muttered quietly to her opponent. "For both of our respective forces..." Her heartbeat began picking up slightly, for she as well as the rest of the V-14 would recognize who it was that came into the fray. It was a direct reason why they never conducted much operations within Tendan, for fear of confronting such an entity.

"All of you!" Rika's alarmed voice came through their earpieces. "I just saw someone ride into the area on a bike!! I think it might be him!!"

"Wh-what?! Who?!" Genesis questioned back, shocked at the fear within the pilot's voice.

"Ten Kenji..." Shinji's voice muttered darkly. "Apparently, he has decided to intervene within this engagement against all parties involved."

"Of course this had to happen!" Datenshi growled, realizing both his fun and excitement for the battle he was having with Asuka was ending due to this trigger finger figurative cowboy entering in to stop all the battles by killing them or subduing them all.

"Who the Hell is that?!" Daisuke asked, currently on the verge of releasing his Bankai before the whole thing escalated up to this point, with his equally agitated opponent standing only a few meters away.

"He's part of a Monastic Order that's as Old as the formation of the Spiritual Societies," Shinshin began to explain, as Hijō also looked equally confused, "the Guardians, at least that's what they used to be called, used to protect Tendan and keep Order and Peace throughout the regions east of the Soul Society.

However, their Order dwindled significantly as the masses grew more accustomed to governing and protecting themselves, with nothing but bigotry and distrust towards them, especially after nearly all of the remaining Order failed to bring down the Black Blood Sect hundreds of years ago. Only a handful of them exist today, and Ten Kenji is the current overseer of Justice and Order for Tendan, while the other Guardians monitor the outlying provinces interjoined with Tendan itself. If Tendan were to title him, he'd be its Judge, Jury, and Executioner..."

"I don't know why the Hell you just now decided to intervene, Guardian, but I only have one warning for you..."

VOOOM!

"...get lost! Or I will personally see to it that you will die a painful death!" The Korai produced her third eye, releasing her Shinsei pressure at a level only the Punisher has seen, keeping a cool and even tone even as she gutturally growled at the enforcer of order.

"Any of you who don't wish to die, I'll give you a ten second head start to leave the premises," Ten spoke promisingly, turning his head to the Monitor, Punisher, and the Korai, "or I won't be responsible for the injuries or deaths that happen here and now. Understood?"

"Yeah, I understand..." The Punisher was quick to reply, glaring at Ten. "But you see, I just don't give a damn right now!"

For emphasis, she unleashed her own aura of her Shinsei's energy, enveloping herself in what appeared to be a spear tip of flames. Her hair flared up, billowing in the intense winds that her flames created. The power could be felt throughout the area by all of the combatants. "I'll just have to kill the both of you--"

However, she would not get to finish that sentence.

Her eyes once again widened when the Monitor swept a hand in front of her face. But this time, she could feel her power being forcefully suppressed, her conscience swimming under. She couldn't even bring herself to react fast enough to get away from her brother, losing motor function within her words right away. "You... trai..." She hissed weakly, before succumbing to her unconsciousness and falling frontwards. Her sword clattered to the ground, but she herself was caught within the arm of the Monitor.

He understood that she would resent him afterwards.

But it was necessary, for the sake of her comrades' lives.

"I'll allow you some extra time for making the wise choice, Hankami," Ten spoke in a low, knowing tone, before turning his goggled gaze towards the still brimming Korai, "but I'm afraid there is still one of you who wants to cause trou-"

SHFT-CRACK-WHOOSH!

"I don't have time for you!" Senkakusha disappeared via Fast-Movement technique, reappearing directly above the Guardian before slamming her blade towards his direction, being met by a fluid unsheathing motion and clash of his large cleaver. The resulting shockwave broke the floor underneath Ten, who was being forced downwards by the incredible strength of his attacker, before being forced downwards floor by floor, with no sign of slowing down.

"What-?!" Ashida narrowly saw her master's form force what appeared to be the Guardian down past their floor and ram down level by level of the collosally tall skyscraper, intending on driving him down into the earth below, "Mistress Senkakusha!"

"The Guardian is clashing with the Korai leader! At this point, the whole structure is going to collapse under the stress of their fight!" Rika continued to speak through the team's earpieces and report the situation. "You have to evacuate the building, now!"

The Monitor turned his head away immediately after Senkakusha descended with her new enemy, hefting his sister over his shoulder before calmly walking away. It was the most outrageous sight to see him strolling off while everyone else seemed to be in a state of panic. But he had reason to. His immense speed could carry him out of the building at any given point in time without having to worry about blockades. He could simply make his way to the exit as he normally would.

But what about their comrades...?

DASH!

"We're far from finished Daitenshi!" Ashida yelled without turning her head as she rushed towards the hole where she saw her master and mentor descend, flipping up in the air before diving after her, "but my duties are more clear than my hatred for you!"

"BAN-KAI!"

VRRRRROAAAR!!!

Suddenly, Daisuke called upon the power of his Bankai, launching himself from the cube structure like a rocket, soaring through the air with incredible speed to gain the necessary altitude, "Everyone get back! I'm going to cover the skyscraper in my flames and make sure I contain its collapse!"

"What?! Are you insane?!" Shinshin looked up with alarm, realizing that the Lieutenant was actually taking initiative with such a volatile Bankai that he only briefly saw himself.

"Jeez, and we didn't even get to fight at all! Then this happens!" Genesis snapped, quickly shifting her tone to that of a commanding one. "You heard the guy! Find a fucking exit route and haul ass! Pilot, you think you can do a falling sweep for Asuka? She's on the roof!"

"I-I can manage!"

Asuka already got the message.

Immediately, she threw herself back, completing the distance needed to leap over the edge. It was a move that tossed her off of the building and started her descent towards the ground. Her eyes were closed, even as she fell towards what would've been her gruesome death by gravity. But...

WOOSH!

It was Rika who saved her from it - just as she expected.

The Dragonbird managed to sweep downward and catch the woman on its back, ascending high into the air. She landed on its soft feathers with an "Oof!" quickly sitting herself up to look at Rika. "Impressive save, Rika-chan!" She complimented, turning her head towards the building itself as the Dragonbird began to circle it. If Daisuke's plan worked, the collapse of the structure would be on an inward scale. That would mean that each and every one of them would have to evacuate.

"Genesis, come with me." Shinji ordered. "We're retrieving our client."

"Gotcha!"

CRUNCH-SHINK!

"I'll give you guys three minutes tops," Daisuke spoke aloud, as he stabbed his blade into the earth perpindicular to the skyscraper that began billowing flames, smoke, and electrical energies out of one floor after another, showing the sheer destructive prowess between the two entities battling it out, "anything sudden happens I'll pull my flames immediately over the structure! This thing is huge and whatever it lands on will generate a shockwave proportionate to a quarter the size of a city buster!"

"Wait-!" Shinshin's eyes widened before he decided to leave for his own safety, looking straight at the top of the skyscraper, "something else is inside the client's room! Expect trouble!"

"Roger that. We're on our guard. Konno out."

Shou remained silent as he watched Ashida retreat to the aid of her master, slowly releasing his Zanpakutō and grasping the hilt of the Chinese swords. He sheathed them on his back, turning to walk away from the hole that had been produced. A momentary headache coursed through his head, causing him to shut his eyes and place a hand on his head out of slight pain. "She cut my chains... I'll have to keep that in mind the next time I contend with her..." He thought to himself, exiting the room.

CRAAASH!!!

The next startling thing the group, or any onlookers would find disturbing, is the descending and brutalized form of Maibito plummeting towards the ground with no attempts to realign himself or halt his fall. His impromptu exit was from Rai Xanxus' office, through a shattered window that he apparently been thrown from...

"I got him!" Hijō spoke independently, propelling his form into the air with rapid speed before catching the crippled, nearly dead form of the bodyguard before landing to the ground with little difficulty, "he doesn't look like he's in too good of shape, but I don't think any of us did it to the poor slob..."

Within the shaking building, Genesis and Shinji were making their way down the final stretch towards Rai's office when they heard the shattering of glass, followed by Rika's voice.

"Whoever's in there seems to have dispatched the client's personal bodyguard! I just saw him get thrown out the window!"

"And it seems like one of the Korai's subordinates was kind enough to keep him from falling to his demise..." Asuka added softly. "Certainly has quite a heart, doesn't he?"

"Fuck..." Genesis swore, slowing down with Shinji once the two closer. "I swear to god, if this turns out to be the exact same scenario as the fight with Daigomi, I am going to scream..."

Slowly, she lifted up her rifle and allowed Shinji to go ahead of her, considering their priorities in combat. They passed through the revolving doors, approaching the final one that would hold Rai and the unknown intruder. Just outside of the door, the female Daitenshi stopped and moved into a crouching position, the barrel of her rifle aimed towards the door. Shinji moved in front of it, raised a leg...

WHAM!

...and promptly kicked in the doors, blowing it off of its hinges.

CRACK-FZZZZT!

The door promptly was blasted into splinters as it hit what appeared to be a static-formed barrier of some sort, masking the appearance from what would be happening behind it and in the door. However, an eerily memorable voice cascaded the barreri's perimeter and the rest of the room.

"You know what I want, so just tell me where it is and I won't send you after your bodyguard..." the entity spoke in a smooth, promising tone that bordered on a gentleman to a possible serial killer.

"Who the Hell are you thinking you can just barge in here and just coming in to ask for things that aren't yours?! HUH?!" Rai snarled back in protest, but an obvious groan of pain could be heard, most likely from a previously sustained injury.

"Wrong. Most of the items in your father's vaults are trinkets and invaluable treasures that had been racketeered, tombraided, and stolen. It is of little use to you and shouldn't be worth all this chaos and destruction being waged over it. Tell me where it is, and I'll leave you to your own devices, or," a brief pause was heard before the voice continued, "I'll send you back down to your lobby. Express, just the way you like..."

"Please! Don't!"

An angered growl escaped Shinji's lips as he heard the exchange. Swiftly, he contacted Rika again, his teeth gritted together. "Nakamura!! Prepare for another sweep!! It's Shidai, and he's readying himself to toss the client out of the window!! We can't get to him because there's a barrier blocking our path!! Hurry!!"

The commanding tone that he took shook Rika to her very core, and the voice that she produced from the other end could barely hide her fear. "Y-yes! Right away!"

"Stand back!!" Genesis ordered, clicking the safety off and aiming carefully, her index finger starting to pull the trigger. Shinji was quick to back off just before she pulled it completely.

RATATATATATA!

A burst of machine gun fire erupted from the barrel, literally unleashing suppressing fire upon the barrier.

"Two minutes!" Daisuke warned as he continued to surge the necessary condensed flames around the large structure's perimeter, sweatdropping at how much more shaking and thunderous blasts were being produced by the volatile fighters within.

"Hmmm?" Shidai looked towards the barrier, "it seems your recently acquired muscle is trying to break through to rescue you. That's just like V-14," raising his left hand to the flickering and waning barrier from the desctructive output being used on his shield, causing electric dark pulses to surround his left hand,

"Hadō # 75...

VROAAAAAR!!!

"Tenchikaimei!" Shidai then discharged a fissure of black-violet flames in the direction of his opponents, the spell being a variant of Haien with its aboloishing, continuously burning traits intact while being discharged like a flame thrower out of a cannon. The effects were so volatile, they shattered the rest of the glass within Rai's office, causing him to fall to his knees to cover his head and protect himself from the affects.

This was where Shinji came in.

Quickly, he unfolded his umbrella and positioned himself in front of the flames. They connected, diverting themselves in paths correspondent with the slope of the umbrella itself. He pushed himself forward through the flames, giving a shout to his impromptu partner. "SWEEP!! NOW!!"

Genesis did not hesitate.

VOOM!

Within an instant, she was right beside the man. She sheathed her weapon within its back holster, moving forward to grasp the back of his collar and one of his arms. "I am real sorry about this, but it's for your own good!" She exclaimed, hoisting him into the air for a brief moment...

...before promptly tossing him out the window.

Fortunately, Rika's Dragonbird was already there to pick him up.

In one swoop, it had pulled Rai from the threat of gravity and swept back into the air again to safety. The secondary passenger was quick to greet him, squinting her eyes and giving a smile. "Ah, dear Xanxus! It's so nice to see you drop in on us..."

"As nice as it is that you seem to make a very bad habit of making enemies with everyone else except your clients!" Rai grumbled, still trying to get over the fact he was nearly killed by a madman and his skyscraper being assaulted by a madwoman being attacked by a hero-wannabe vigilante.

"One minute and thirty seconds!" Daisuke spoke over the comm, constantly keeping everyone informed of the incoming flames that would be hazardous to be kept within when the building would be crushed by the fierce fighters battle within.

"Damn," Shidai spoke with a deterred sigh, watching Xanxus get away, before turning his now exposed face towards Shinji. Mostly hidden by the darkness of his cowl before revealing one right onyx colored eye...and the other a red eye with a kanji letter in the center of it, "and here I thought I wouldn't be mettled by your ilk. Instead you bring trouble here with you..."

"You walked into that trouble yourself, when you stuck your nose in our business." Shinji remarked coldly, his crimson eyes baring a steel gaze into the eyes of Shidai. He lifted his umbrella to point it at the other man's face. "We have enough problems to deal with, and a slithering worm like you certainly isn't one of them. Why are you even here?"

"I needed something, and it wasn't here," Shidai spoke with obvious ire dripping frome his voice, as he began to walk towards him, "perhaps you can answer me a question: Where is the Eye of Ragna? Answer it, and you won't die a painful death by my hands or the falling skyscraper, trapped by flames. Its your call..."

"You really think you have enough time to inflict injury on me before this place collapses?" Shinji retorted, holding his ground as well as his gaze. "You're free to try. But I doubt you could break through my defenses and escape beforehand..."

"Hmmm...you have a good point there," Shidai spoke with a detached tone of interest, rubbing his chin while propping his elbow with his respective hands, "what to do, what to do...? Oh well, no real bother in tracking it down now that its no longer in its safe...so that just leaves..."

SFT-SFT-SFT-CLAP!

"...you to be finished off!" Shidai spoke, as a ominous emerald glow projected from his hands before he slammed both of his palms onto the floor...

VOOOOOOM!!!

...sending what could be described as a stasis field throughout the entire crumbling structure and everyone outside within a near mile radius. Everything that was happening in constant action, everyone who was anxious, hurrying within space had come to a complete halt, with only a blanket of emerald-like static to cover their forms as well as the landscape around them. The only ones immune to the effect, were Shidai and his chosen target, Shinji.

"There we go," Shidai said with a sigh, rolling his neck side to side as he walked towards his opponent, "now we have all the time in the world to get to know each other. Do you want me to go first," Shidai settled into a neutral stance, observing his opponent with a eerily familiar smile, "or should I?"

Shinji didn't dare to grace him with a response.

With a snarl, he threw himself at Shidai with speed only the physical boost of his legs could take him. Within seconds, he had closed the distance as effectively as a Flash Step could've done. He swung his umbrella down, the pressure enough to crush his target.

CRACK-FWHOOSH!!!

Shidai moved like water to intercept the incredibly swift Shinji, as he pushed his right foot back while crouching forward with his left, raising his left arm to have his left arm block the umbrella with his forearm, causing a buffeting shockwave the ricochet off of the stasis-field covered room. A thin field of energy wisped around where the unorthodox weapon landed, and didn't mar or scratch the sleeve of his opponent.

"My turn," Shidai said with a dark tone, as he pushed away the umbrella with his arm deftly before slamming a palm heel in his direction with impressive force, intending on slamming it into his torso and towards the wall with a concussive wave that would shake the stasis-covered first few floors.

WHUMPF!

Quickly, Shinji raised his arm in order to block the vicious strike aimed at his person. However, the force of it was enough to throw him away from Shidai and send him off of his feet. But fortunately, even as he was being sent towards the wall, he would be able to recover quickly. With a mid-air backflip, he landed his feet on the wall and boosted off of it. The force of the push caused part of the wall to start to collapse inward on itself.

In a rapid spin forward towards his enemy, he swung his umbrella again before he got too close.

WOOSH!

The resulting swing unleashed an immense amount of wind pressure upon Shidai in order to return the favor.

"Please..."

SNAP-FZZZZT!

"...that is such a petty trick to use your strength with," Shidai said with a taunting tone, as he snapped his right finger in front of him in a parallel arc swing of his hand, creating the same field he once created to halt a barrage of Genesis' gunfire and Shinji's initial physical strike. Once the wind backfired and flourished within the space it cut off from Shidai, the latter raised his right palm towards Shinji's direction, hiding the crackling energies to form around his hand, due to the vision impairing static properties...

"Raikōhō!"

SSSSSPRAAAACK-BOOM!!!

An incredible discharge of thunderous, electrical energy flew through the barrier with ease, aiming to strike Shinji with enough force that it detonated the surrounding stasis-covered part of the building and the roof, sending the floating debris out in many directions while crackling with electrocution.

"He shot through his own barrier?!"

Shinji's crimson eyes widened in shock at the display of one-way travel. In the midst of his flight, he knew that he couldn't avoid the attack. Quickly, he unfolded his umbrella and braced himself as much as he could behind its top. But when the electricity connected with it.

TZZZT!

...it not only pushed him back, but sent the electricity on a torturous course through his body.

"HRRRRRRRGH~!!" He gritted his teeth as he was thrown aside once more. But this time, he was hurled out of the opening created by the surprise attack. Because he didn't have Flash Step, all he could do was descend towards the ground.

SHFT!

"Now now now..."

SPRACK-FZZZZT!

"...you haven't answered my question yet," Shidai spoke in a gentleman's menacing tone, having stretched out his hand during a deftly employed Flash Step and ensared him with a red field of binding energies, rooted from the KidōGeki, "where. Is. The. Eye. Of. Ragna? You answer me honestly, I let you go. You don't answer me, I hurt you. You answer dishonestly, I hurt you. Simple, no? Now answer quickly..."

Oh, if only he had the knowledge of Flash Step. How he hated being at the level of a simple soul, sometimes.

Shinji stared impassively at his captor, remaining silent to the interrogative question. The threat of injury wasn't something that could phase him. After all, signing into the V-14 was a risk of injury within itself due to the missions that they took. Such an interrogation would not shake him into revealing the location. What could this man possibly due to him to break his will?

"Ohhh?" Shidai cocked his head to the side, revealing facial features that looked similar yet slightly different from Yashin Shiyōnin with the strong fact of a Aethian Italic tattoo over his right brow down to its cheek, and the mysterious red eye with a Kanji pupil on his left eye instead of his right eye. He smiled with intrigue as he looked at Shinji's face, "it seems you're no ordinary soul. You seem to be experienced with pain, yes? Well, then..."

SHEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOW!!!!

With a simple transition of a different Kanji pupil, and Shidai began to transport Shinji's mind and senses into a horrifying world of pain, suffering, and unimaginable horrors, dredging up his own pasts and unknown fears to meld into a nearly incoherent screaming blur through his mind and physical eyes.

"Now, I get to know you a lot better. Every, spiritronic fiber of your being will be tortured for my amusement and bring out every ounce of knowledge I desire! Your thoughts! Your emotions! Your body! I can see it all!!!!!!" Shidai's ominous, god-like voice spoke throughout the nightmarishscape carved from Shinji's own soul and memories melded in with the nightmarish qualities that heightened to unknowable planes of insanity.

This, is what Shinji had to endure...magnanomiously more forceful and terrifying than what Asuka was about to be subdued to by Yashin himself.

If it was anyone else, they would've certainly broken under the pressure.

Shinji's eyes dilated as he felt Shidai rip his way into his mind, bringing along with him the torturous experience of the past. Because it was flashing by so fast, his mind did not have time to comprehend each and every image. But the pain of Shidai boring his way though his conscience was the equivalent of digging into his skull with a drill. The man was attempting to forcefully dig his way through to the answer.

"GET...OUT!!!" He bellowed, his voice expressing nothing but an unrestrained rage. He focused all of his power into holding his enemy back and forcing the intruding presence out of his head. He couldn't let this pain get to him. He couldn't let Shidai gain the upper hand.

"You have a strong Will, Mod Soul 091...or do you like your name Shinji? I could continue playing with your depressingly empty psyche, but..."

SPACK-VOOM!

"...I have what I need," Shidai spoke with his own voice, finally releasing him from his Bakudo restraints and the entiriety of the landscape, causing him to fall as well as let everything proceed in time with only the strange sense of Deja Vu. The only thing occuring to them as their minds caught up was the instaneous explosion of Rai's roofttop/office, the sudden appearance of Shidai floating effortlessly in the air, as well as the falling Shinji.

Divine Revelations! A Chance for Redemption or Requiem?!

"W-what the fu-- Shinji?! SHIN--!!"

WHAM!

That was all Shinji would hear from an alarmed Genesis before he hit the ground, his vision going black.

"W-what the hell?!" Genesis thought, staring at the crater that had been created among impact from her position within the building. Smoke billowed around it, but she could see Shinji's unmoving form. "He and Shidai were just in front of me a second ago!! How did Shinji get down there?! Where is--"

Abruptly, she turned her gaze to the sky, seeing Shidai's form standing in the air.

"Oh, no... he dispatched Shinji?! That quickly?!"

Shidai paid no heed to Genesis, as he scanned the sky quickly, as he could still feel the time ticking away before the Lieutenant's Bankai would light up and make it difficult to be in proximity with the outbounds team when the skyscraper would crash down. Staring over at the flying avian creature, from which piloted both his prior target and now his know known prize, he simply smiled, whispering, "There you are..."

SHFT-TAP!

"You have something I want," Shidai spoke, as he landed on the Dragonbird's neck, directly in front of Rika as he reached out with his hand, utilizing his Geki to paralyze her while also at the mercy of potentially tossing her off her transport, "tell me where it is so I don't unnecessarily violate that petite body of yours. Now."

"What--?!"

Needless to say, Asuka and Rika were shocked to see the very man they had saw in the building appear right before their very eyes. Neither of them had seen or had expected him to approach, let alone stand on the Dragonbird.

But the horror intensified once the boss saw her subordinate get wrapped up within with the entrapping of their pilot within the Kidō spell.

It was a very bad situation. The very first thing Asuka wanted to do was strike down the one who dared to touch her subordinate in such a manner. She furrowed her eyebrows, tensing up against the tension of the atmosphere. But she knew that sudden movements would frighten the bird into going wild, and neither Rai or her could fly. She grit her teeth, and for the first time since the entire ordeal, her eyes were wavering in anger.

As for the pilot herself, she might as well have been on the borderline of hysterical.

With the Kidō spell wrapping around her, she could only stare in horror with dilated eyes and a mouth agape in fear. Her breaths came out in short, hyperventilating bursts. If not for the Kidō spell wrapping her in place, she would have been shaking violently. However, it wasn't enough to stop tears from falling down her face. "P-please... no..."

"Oh, no..."

Genesis's eyes dilated in her own variation of shock and horror as she saw the red glow around Rika's form from afar. It was clear that somehow, someway, Shidai knew that Rika knew where the artifact was hidden. Considering what he had done to Rai's bodyguard, nearly Rai himself, and Shinji, the only path taken would be interrogation. But for someone like Rika, who was considered the most "innocent" out of the V-14, whatever methods Shidai would imply would break the girl if she didn't talk.

"That low-down, dirty, heartless--!!"

Gritting her teeth and stopping herself from finishing the sentence with what would've been quite the colorful language, Genesis quickly clicked an earpiece to the rest of the team. "Guys?! We have an emergency situation!! Shidai just stepped onto the aerial transport and is interrogating Rika!! I repeat, Shidai has Rika hostage!!"

"Sixty seconds!" Daisuke bit on his lips immediately after hearing what happened. He knew more would die if he abandoned his position now. As blood leaked from his lips, he continued to concentrate on gathering the right concentration of flames. He just hoped the others would get to her in time...

"No? Then how about I take it from your-"

SSSSSSSHFT!!!

"body-?!"

TSSSSHINK-SLIT!

"what?!" Shidai immediately released Rika, narrowly evading the palm blade exiting out of Shinshin's left hand, while forcefully standing in between her and Shidai's potential counterattack, but could not deliver another for fear of harming the avian transport they were on.

Unfortunately...the next shockwave discharging from the skyscraper as the signs of metalic groans could be heard as the building was readying itself for collapse rocked the Dragonbird in violent buffets. This allowed for Shidai to maneuver towards Rika with just enough precise movement...in order to grasp the Eye of Ragna crystal from her contents before falling off the creature itself!

"Ah--!!"

Rika let out a short yelp as she felt the hand snake into her shirt pocket before pulling out the gem and descending. However, the Dragonbird's alarmed call and the sudden swerve it made away from the building itself. She let out a gasp as she and the rest of the passengers stumbled. But it was soon that the bird righted itself again, now a safer distance away. It did not stop the terror from Rika's voice as she warned them.

"He took the artifact from me!! He's making a run for it!!"

"Not if I can help it--!!"

VOOM!

It was here that Shou had allowed himself to step onto the scene, having exited the building himself.

With a Tahitita, he propelled himself after Shidai with a glare and a scowl, both of his blades ready to cut down the man before he could hit the ground. It wasn't helped by the fact that he had threatened Rika seconds before, bringing out a bit of anger within himself.

Meanwhile, his subordinate took the opportunity to leap out the opening, free-falling with her feet towards the ground. But unlike her mortal impromptu partner, her landing was easy. Her soles hit the ground, leaving minor cracks within the street. Quickly, she moved over to pick up Shinji and sling him over her shoulders. "I think that's all of us, Lieutenant! We're clear!"

"Right!" Daisuke said, as his body became emblazoned in his fiery aura that made up his Clad-Bankai, further brightening his appearance to a near man-sized inferno, "everyone stand back! I'm about to raise the flames...!"

Shidai narrowed his eyes, but erected a smile as he noticed his incoming presence before he left the Dragonbird. Spinning around, Shidai summoned a Kiriken blade in left hand, while tightly holding his newly acquired possession in his right hand, blocking both sword blows while allowing himself to descend away from the allies of his new opponent.

"Devils cannot stop me anymore the Death Gods," Shidai spoke with contempt, but held his taunting smile as he utilized impressive force and agility to slide his opponent's blades to the side before propelling himself along the air at a rocket's pace to Shou's right, "what makes you think any of your can stop Fate?"

BOOOOOOM!!!

What happened next happened just before the skyscraper began to tumble down. The Guardian, minus his sleeves and a smashed pair of goggles with a deep cut along his face but little other wounds surprisingly flew out of the building like a projectile and crashed into the street a good fifty meters away from the collapsing structure. Following him, in a casual, menacing manner was a completely fiery and enraged aura of the Korai, Senkakusha, with all three blazing eyes locked towards one direction in general.

Shidai and Shou's.

"Take care of the Guardian, Ashida," Senkakusha spoke, as a violet-black blur charged and renewed the battle with the Guardian, as she raised her blade in Shidai's direction, "I'll kill the thieves who dared to steal from me..."

"Come back here!"

With that threatening beckon, Shou was quick to pursue the fleeing Shdiai. His Tahitita left a small shockwave within his wake as his body was thrown forward. Off to the side, he could hear the crash of the Guardian as well as the boost of spiritual pressure unleashed by Senkakusha. But he knew that if he let Shidai out of his sight, he would get away. The artifact had to be captured!

Above it all, the Dragonbird kept flying. But some of its occupants were concerned in a different manner.

"Are you all right, dear...?" Asuka asked softly.

"I-I'm sorry..." Rika hung her head down, feeling shame replace the adrenaline an shock of the sudden attack. Her voice was shaking. "I-I should've kept it off my person... if I had known he was aware, I would've..." She trailed off immediately, placing a palm to her eyes and falling into silence.

"Jigoku Hashira Kangoku!" Daisuke swiftly erected powerful flames up around the collapsing, dauntingly high wall of flames, incinerating and burning any debris that threatened to topple, allowing the skyscraper to implode downwards, even as the steady flow of flames continued to burn high above the other combatants.

He swiftly turned his gaze towards the combat, and his eyes widened as he saw an entity attempting to make off with artifact, "HOLD IT!" He cried out with alarm, jettisoning himself from the ground in a buffet of fire and wind, wrenching his flaming blade with him as he charged towards the newfound enemies.

"Do not place blame upon yourself, Rika." Shinshin spoke with a semblence of empathy, holding her protectively close against him, keeping his blade out so he could repel any future attempts of violence to the main pilot of the avian transport. The sudden move made Rika jump slightly, her palm drawn away from her face. However, upon realizing what he was doing, she allowed herself to relax in his hold. "There is something wholely...unnatural about that man...Shidai Kagai!"

Shidai turned around, throwing the Kiriken blade with a formidable strength, shifting its shape into a discus of cutting energy towards the incoming Shou, "You cannot stop me, Devil!"

SFT-VROAAAAR!!!

"Neither can you, Deceiver!" Senkakusha appeared behind Shidai, rearing back a fist and nearly caught the man, as he surprisingly appeared to be a wafting explosion of smoke. Where was the real Shidai?!"

"He's gone?!"

Shou's eyes widened in horror as he saw the illusion disappear. Even as he moved to dodge the Kiriken sword, he had the impression that it would've been pointless now that it was confirmed that he was chasing a shadow. "No...no, he couldn't have escaped!!" He thought to himself, his eyes rapidly searching around in alarm. If that was a fake he had been chasing, the real Shidai would've had plenty of time to escape the area.

"You think illusions can fool the Third Eye? How laughable," Senkakusha snarled, as her eye pulsated out extending its reaches throughout the battlefield. Up. Down. Left...

SHFT-CRACK-SSSST!

"Found you!" Senkakusha, smiled darkly as she moved with a jettisoning motion down below a half mile behind Shou's position, slashing her blade towards the passively transparent Shidai, whom narrowly backflipped out of the way, barely holding onto the crystal while keeping his guard up against the Korai, "you won't get away with what's rightfully mine!"

"Do you honestly think now that I have the Eye of Ragna, any of you can stop me by mere violent actions," Shidai spoke dauntless, taking the crystal and pocketing it within the inner folds of his cloak, "I'm restraining myself from just killing every soul in this godforsaken city, but you're giving me not too many options..."

Now it was a very tense situation.

Continue to pursue Shidai, and they would risk getting killed by the use of the weapon. Retreat, and they would have to return with not only the news of the convicts escaping, but their client-turned-enemy possessing a weapon of mass destruction. It was the only thing that stopped Shou from attacking once he was close enough, his teeth gritted and his eyes narrowed in fury. If there was one thing he hated, it was the lives of innocent people being used as a target...

But he also knew that Senkakusha didn't have the same ideas as he did...

"That power isn't yours to use," Senkakusha stared him down with barely controlled fury within her words, pointing her blade at Shidai as she spoke in emphasis, "it is the last hope of my kind ever having a future, something the murderous Hankami could never have! I will not stand by and allow some mere mortal make off what is rightfully-"

"That is where your wrong, Lady Senkakusha," Shidai spoke as he smiled darkly, clasping his hands together, as he raised his Spiritual Power of abnormal origins to a grander height than the Korai thought possible, "I am no mere mortal. If I say I can turn a city to ashes, I mean I can turn this Damned city into ashes! Don't test me-"

SHFT!

"Jigoku Dangan!" Daisuke shouted out, appearing from above while swinging a hypercondensed pyrotechnic bullet towards the man whom he remembered possessed the artifact. Shidai's eyes widened, quickly jettisoning himself to the side as a large explosion of flames impacted the ground, causing a geyser of fire to flow upwards, over and around Daisuke as he charged after him, "give that up, Shidai!"

The paranoia-inducing thought didn't seem to occur to Daisuke, either.

Maybe Shidai was simply trying to intimidate them. After all, what he wielded wasn't simply some weapon that could be operated in the same manner as a rifle or a rocket. It was an artifact of supernatural origin, something capable of more than just total destruction. Even its holder had to understand that its power couldn't be taken lightly. But then again, it was already clear Shidai was no normal entity.

Sweat fell down Shou's face as he watched Daisuke attack, caused by the power generated. "That artifact..." He muttered to Senkakusha as he moved closer to her. "What exactly is it capable of?"

Senkakusha hissed slightly upon hearing Shou's voice ask secrets she had no intention of giving out freely. But as she saw the Soul Reaper attack Shidai, moving with determination and ferocity enough to match this unusual enemy's mettle and keep him on the defensive, she had no obligation in telling someone who had no capability in utilizing it. "The Eye of Ragna is a culmination of Spiritual Energy and Shinsei melded into a harmonious vessel. When a Korai ascends and gains the Third Eye, their life becomes bound to the Will of the Eye of Ragna.

In a sense, those who've never ascended returned to the World of the Living as normal Souls, while those with the Third Eye who are slain are returned to the Eye of Ragna. By utilizing its properties, you are wielding a Legion of Korai of uncomprehensible power to do nearly a unlimited amount of feats you couldn't before.Imagine if your princess could assimilate the entiriety of her fallen sibblings into a single object, and was capable of Deified feats?

Try to picture that for me, Devil, and see the necessity of someone being purely a Korai to use the Eye of Ragna in comparison to the likes of your kind, the Soul Reapers, or the Hankami? I am going to revive my kind and renew our civilization...and no one will keep me from attaining that!"

Shou's eyes narrowed as he turned his head towards her, a slight scowl on his face. "And what is convincing us that you won't turn around and destroy the Hankami?" He demanded. "You were willing enough to release dangerous convicts into freedom, as well as destroy the skyscraper with no regard for those below or nearby. For such a passive mission, you seem to make a habit out of throwing the lives of others away."

"They were not ordinary convicts, Devil," Senkakusha spoke with venom, turning her eyes, all three of them onto Shou with glowing menace, "they were souls, wrongly accused and imprisoned for being what they are instead of what they did. I'm giving them a new start, a purpose, and the chance for genuine freedom. Something your dear Punisher doesn't seem to keen on the latter for you poor Daitenshi," she spoke with ire in her tone, turning her gaze back at the Soul Reaper. Enamored, she became fascinated with the passion he had in this fight, despite how uninvolved he was in comparison to others who came to stop, impede, or aid herself.

"You seem to have contact with that Soul Reaper, Devil," Senkakusha noted as she felt the partial Holy Element dimly gleaming within the boy's own flames, "what's his stake in all of this? He didn't simply volunteer for this apparently easy mission to capture a few exhausted runaways, did he?"

"You ask me as if I know the Phoenix's mind." Shou muttered, turning his gaze away from her own and directing it towards the fight. "I'm not sure I understand it myself. But if I had to guess, I'd say that he felt... responsible, for ensuring the security of the Soul Society. Not out of fault, mind you, but rather a devotion to saving the lives of others. Of course... that's only my guess..."

"The...Phoenix?" Senkakusha looked at Shou incredulously, "why do you call him that? Because he uses flames? I think it would've been more apt to refer that title to the legendary Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto, or the Noble Captain Kukkyōna Hayate?"

"RAAAAAAAH!!!" Daisuke charged with even more ferocity, intending on stopping this man who threatened to slaughter a city for his selfish, begotten gains.

"I will not," Daisuke thought as his body became more imbued with flames, swinging his blade to and fro, making it almost blindingly impercievable for his opponent to detect or maneuver, pushing back Shidai into a purely defensive posture, "I will not...have another tragedy on my conscience! I will not allow anyone else to suffer like I have!"

"This isn't good," Shidai thought, though kept a purely stoic visage while anticipating and maneuvering timely to avoid each and every strike of his fiery-tempered opponent, whom frustratingly enough made it equally difficult to counterattack, "I can't utilize the artifact according to what I need it for in its current condition, nor can I activate a decent spell to counter a Bankai of this destructive caliber. Something with a bit more finesse is in order, that much is certain..."

It was a rather rational question. But the way Shou cocked his eyebrow and turned his head to regard her, it was clear that he thought it to be a foolish question. "If you think that it's because of simple combat advantages, then obviously you aren't thinking very hard, are you?" He asked cryptically.

"Tch!" Senkakusha rolled her eyes, before she suddenly saw Shidai grasp Daisuke's flame blade, as his hand was spreading bright blue energy of his own.

"If you want your precious artifact back," Shidai spoke in a irritated, taunting voice, as he pulled Daisuke to the side in a violent twist...

WHAM!

...before kicking his chest with a expertly preformed Hakuda snap-kick, knocking a great portion of the flames from his body itself while sending him reeling back a good few meters before he righted himself, coughing slightly at the force utilized. However, Daisuke's eyes widened as the artifact was pulled out of Shidai's cloak, and began to glow brightly, "what is he-?!"

Shidai held it up for everyone to see, a slight foreign, emerald glow wrapped around its surface, interior, then back around, allowing Shidai to smile, "This may set me back a little, but it will serve its purposes..."

"What is he-"

SPRAAAAACK-PHZZZZ!

"-doing?!" What Senkakusha saw next was disturbing to her, as it was for Daisuke. Shidai was literally manifesting the exact replica of the Eye of Ragna in his other hand, holding them parallel to each other. The only difference, was the key pulsating pressure of Shinsei and Spiritual Energy still remained within the original article while the other was an empty crystal.

Shou's eyes narrowed, an apprehensive frown crossing his face at the summoning. As he readied his blades once more in the event that an offensive attack would happen, he worked out the potential reasoning for doing so. However, he couldn't find a reason for why he would even bother with the replica. After all, it was nothing more than a fake, a false representation of the genuine article. So what exactly was he planning?

Within the skies, Asuka watched in grim fascination at the events unfolding. "He has the fake replica with him..." She muttered softly to her compatriots. "He must've sneaked his way through the midst of our fighting in order to obtain it. But why exactly would he...?"

"Do not be fooled, mortals and immortals," Shidai spoke with a genuine, hidden smile as he held up the presumed "fake" of one of five that were crafted for the very purpose of fooling any of the interlopers during the chaos, "I just crafted this just now...utilizing the basic components and structure of the Eye of Ragna, to serve my purpose and needs perfectly. Its too bad I won't be able to leave with this..."

FLICK!

"...but at least I won't be caught in your little crossfire," Shidai spoke glibly, throwing the real Eye of Ragna into the air, free for all to intercept while twirling his cloak around him within an instant, dissipating his form into a great field of smog and flames, rapidly fleeing the area of the powerful warriors that had assembled.

SHFT-SHFT-SNATCH!

Senkakusha moved with rapid speed, only hesitating for a moment to check with her enhanced senses to confirm that it was indeed the true and genuine article. As her body blurred in motion, her hand grasped the crystal at the same time as Daisuke himself grabbed it, his body's flames burning brightly in excess of the resolve that burned brightly within him.

Senkakusha narrowed all three of her eyes at Daisuke, "Unhand your unworthy fingers from my salvation, boy, or I will cut them off!"

"Not going to happen!" Daisuke shouted back, clenching his hand tightly around the item, somehow causing the jewel to pulse ominously and noticeably to everyone within its vicinity, "you'll have to convince me with more than words that you won't use this for disaster and destruction!"

This was something that Shou was quick to vocalize his concerns at.

"Phoenix!!" He screamed out, his expression conveying alarm. "No!! Your energy is making the eye unstable!! You have to let go!!" The way that the Eye of Ragna reacted to him was certainly not a good thing. The last thing he or any of them wanted was for Tendan to get destroyed within a potentially catastrophic accident...

"He's...manipulating the Eye?!" Senkakusha noticed with slight trepidation that her counterpart's essence was somehow influencing the artifact. She also had to voice her own concerns, but in a more blunt commanding way, "You surely don't think by you possessing this power you'll be able to control it?! At this rate, you'll destroy this and every Realm of Heaven-!"

"Then you should really let go," Daisuke said with a curling smile, with a daring glint in his eyes that made Senkakusha feel wary, "or else I might want to see what this artifact will do if a mere mortal god like me will do with it then your possible machinations against us all!"

"Is he trying to bluff into scaring her...?" Asuka thought, her eyebrows furrowed in slight apprehension and worry. The look in Daisuke's eye was rather unsettling, and she knew that her companions had some form of their own wariness.

Senkakusha began to gently pry her hands away from the artifact, which in turn Daisuke's grip tightened but slowed the course of his Spirit Energy into it, causing it to "calm" and cease the ominous rumbling. The Korai smirked as she fully retracted her hand, "Well played, Soul Reaper. Might I have a name with that dauntless face of yours?"

"Lieutenant Daisuke Hayate of the 9th Division," Daisuke spoke formally, holding the artifact a little closer, before raising his Bankai blade towards her, "directly responsible for transporting your so-called hired help to their new cells. I'd wish if you'd order them to do what's best for them-"

SHFT-SNAP!

"-nnnnngh," Daisuke suddenly felt his eyes snap to the back of his head, eclipsing into darkness as the unseen and unanticipated arrival of Ashida blurred into existence. With a swift incapacitating strike to a special cortex of Spiritronic nerves at the back of any Soul Reaper, knocking him swiftly out despite his Bankai's augmented state.

However, a slight scalding appeared on the Shikyotenshi's hand from which she ignored as she grasped the free artifact, while she yanked her chain with her free hand...

BOOM!

...sending a entangled Guardian whom she had been dragging behind her directly into a line of buildings behind her, whipping back her weapon before she wrapped it around her shoulder, "I've taken care of him, temporarily, Mistress, but he's become quite agitated. Expect him to burst through the pile of debris I've burried him in."

"I can expect so," Senkakusha spoke with a satisfied tone, grasping the artifact while turning towards Shou and the airborne V-14 ragtag group above, "I don't expect any of you to give me any further trouble, will you? My associates will part ways here, so feel free to run after them...if you can..."

No.

There was no way that things would go smoothly, now that the Guardian had been stirred. Had the Punisher still been conscious, they probably would've stood a chance. But Shou had long ago sensed her energy going dormant as she was silenced. With her, Shinji and Daisuke incapacitated, there was no way that they would survive a possible encounter with Ten or even another confrontation with the convicts. He knew that this decision would ultimately lead to Angelika's scorn. But the alternative didn't leave much for options.

So, after what felt like a long and grueling moment of silence, he clicked a hand to his earpiece.

"Shou to all units. This objective is lost. I'm hereby ordering a retreat of all forces from the area. We're returning to HQ."

As expected, Shou heard a protesting gasp from his subordinate. "B-but what about--"

"I'm sorry..." Shou's tone was rather forceful. "But Kachō will have to understand the circumstances. I will take full responsibility for this... failure."

"...yes, sir." The protesting tone Genesis had taken was immediately suppressed, for she know that his decision was final. "I have Shinji Konno in tow. What about Daisuke?"

"I'll take care of him."

"And what of our client?" Asuka added in smoothly, conveying her own understanding of the situation at hand. On the bird, she looked over her shoulder at the said man. "This was his headquarters, after all..."

"Pffft," Rai, despite his earlier emotion of reasonable anxiousness and increduality, had resumed his winning smile and his cool disposition, waving a hand in emphasis, "that wasn't my headquarters, my friends. That was just a penthouse with reinforced spiritual fiber glass and armored structure joints. My headquarters isn't as pretty as that one but things tend to blow up alot in Tendan. You actually have fulfilled one end of the bargain," turning to look over his shoulder, seeing each and every one of the square, cube-shaped vaults all intact he smiled with appreciation, "that bitch and whoever that hooligan of hers can take their precious trinket. My fortunes are still intact, and my vaults undamaged. You will all be more then compensated for your efforts, as well as for the grievence the unseen occurance of the Guardian's intervention..."

Shinshin thought his jaw was going to drop. The item of apocalyptic importance and seemingly irreplaceable value to their client was in the hands of the enemy...and he shrugged it off as if it was nothing?! "You can't be serious," he spoke in a dry, blandly unbelieving tone as he looked over at his former employer's son, "we failed to eject the enemy from your base, made off with the prize, as well as destroy your skyscraper which happened to be one of the tallest standing structures in this city-society. Was there something I missed?"

"Shin-kun, there is something you should always know about me," Rai said with a smile, turning his gaze to meet Asuka's, grasping her hand gently before kissing the top of her knuckles, "I'll do just about anything for a beautiful and deadly lady, who's already made my empire and wealth possible thanks to a prior job well done."

This seemed to bring Asuka out of her own surprised reverie at his nonchalant attitude. Slowly, she returned the gesture with a smile. "You're too kind, Xanxus-san..." She said softly, turning her gaze over towards the area. At the very least, there would be one person satisfied with the outcome of the conflict. "Where should we take you, then?"

"You can just set me down near where my front exit used to be," Rai spoke with a nonchalant tone, "my security team will meet me there in a half hour, and I'd also appreciate if you deposited Maibito's person there as well..."

Shinshin sighed, realizing that Rai had been completely confident in his hired help that was V-14 plus company. Confidence that almost cost him his life, but he knew he shouldn't complain. The large checks that would be given to them upon return to their boss and associates would indefinitely dampen the bad news overall. The bad news that would most undoubtedly make his sister-like associate want to strangle the poor man who ordered them all to pull out...

Speaking of...

"Farewell, Lieutenant Daisuke Hayate," Senkakusha spoke as she walked past Daisuke's unconscious form, her stride not slowing for a moment as she sheathed her blade and "Closed" her Third Eye, and left with her blind-folded subordinate in tow, "you played well. But in the end, I had the best hand...Phoenix..."

SHFT-SHFT!

And with that, they disappeared, and shortly after, nearly all of the Tenma Senshuda were beginning to fade into the mass metropolitan city-society, each going their own ways. Only time would tell where they'd go...and when they'd revisit those who've nearly taken them down.

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