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"I will always be watching over you..."

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The War of Four: The Alliance of Blood and Shadows, Act I

The Meet! Reunion of the Best kind

"Ah...Ah...ACHOO!" Hyōryū sneezed aloud, clinging tightly to her additional black winter cloak as their "transport" the Dragonbird, flew them over the cloudy covered snowy peaks of Aether, homing in on their destination after a good day's flight already. It was only a week ago when Angelika gave Hyōryū notice that she along with Oliver were to accompany her to the Meet with the Black Blood Sect. Having never been to a Meet before, Hyōryū listened long and hard to Angelika's explanation as how the history of V-14's very existence stemmed back to the Sect, as well as its streams of provisitional jobs and reccommendations, as well as the fact that Enrico is a agent of the Sect and has been for a very long time.

Now, after deciding to use the Dragonbird again due to the predicament of the Gotei 13 and the Inner Circle on the look-out for them, they began their long and agonizing flight towards their Meet destination, which this time is at its usual and oldest founding location. Aether, the Land that bordered the Cracked Valley and the mountains that bordered the Soul Society's borders and the glacier vallies nearby. Their flight had been agonizingly long, and cold as they got closer to Aether's mountains, guiding through the cold and wet clouds that held frozen water particles almost constant, creating a perfect camoflauge for those who didn't know the way to where they were going.

"I-I-I d-didn't know w-w-we were go-going t-to the North P-Pole, boss!" Hyōryū tried to joke as her teeth chattered, sitting behind Angelika at the farthest most position of their transport's saddle, with Oliver in front and Angelika atypically in the middle.

"S-s-shows you t-to wear l-less skimpy c-c-clothing, doesn't it?" Despite her speaking to Angelika, Oliver was the first one to retort back to her. However, despite his taunting words, it was clear that he was suffering just as much as she was despite wearing a heavy coat over his usual clothing.

Angelika was breathing steadily, the only sign of her own discomfort in the cold was her own slight shivering. However, her voice maintained a steady pattern. "I did inform you that it would be moderately chilly during our flight path..." She answered, holding her arms close to her body. "If you're that cold, you should have brought a much heavier winter attire."

"I-I-It'd we-wear me d-d-down when I-I hav-have to fight, b-b-boss," she protested, holding the coat over her, burrying her face within its confines to the point of almost muffling her voice underneath its heavy clothing garments, "and I-I di-didn't kn-know we'd actually travel through the m-m-mountains to get to the "unnaturally" w-w-warm Meet area, wh-which y-y-you still remain sketchy on d-d-details!"

Angelika smiled amusedly, turning her head so that she could look over her shoulder at Hyōryū. "Well..." She began, chuckling a little. "If I told you every little thing, then you wouldn't be able to have a good learning experience considering you've never been to one of these meets before..."

"F-f-fuck, I n-need a cigarette..." Gritting his teeth, Oliver reached into his own coat pockets in an attempt to look for one. "Hyō, you happen to have a lighter on you?"

Hyōryū chattered her teeth with a bland look on her face, comically pouting her lips as she heard the question, "D-D-Do y-y-you h-honestly b-believe y-you c-could get a-a l-light with these w-w-winds?! H-Has the c-c-cold frozen y-y-your brain a-a-already?!"

"I c-can t-try, d-damn it!!" Oliver snapped, one of his eyes twitching as he continued to fumble for a cigarette. "Now where the f-fuck did I-- AHA!" He immediately whipped out what he was looking for, twirling one in his fingertips but making sure to keep it so that it wouldn't get blown away by the winds. "G-got one!"

"S-So do I," Hyōryū bit down on her lips to keep her teeth from chattering, but had a cigarette already wedged within the side of her lips while looking smug, "n-now...I have...this...lighter," she unveils a cigarette lighter she kept hidden within her cloak, using her own body heat to keep it from freezing the fluids within, before she began sparking it, attempting to get a flame near her cigarette.

After the 11th attempt, a throaty chuckle of victory came from her as she got her cigarette lit and allowed a enriched puff of smoke to enter her mouth before exiting her nose, "Need...a...light...partner?"

Angelika could only roll her eye, turning her head away from them when Oliver turned to look over at Hyōryū. His grin grew even wider, and he stopped twirling his own cigarette. "Sweet!" With that exclamation, he extended his own cigarette to Hyōryū's light. "Thanks, pally!"

"Nice to see you too actually getting along for once..." Their boss commented.

"He...wouldn't...stop...whining...if...I didn't," Hyōryū said while extending her lip-locked lit cig towards Oliver's, even as he precariously reached around their boss to do it, she successfully shared enough heat to light the paper-rolled source of delusionary warmth.

Once again, Angelika was curious enough to look over her shoulder again to see what was going on.

The scene she was introduced to was rather... cute, to say the least. Instead of reaching with just his arm, Oliver had kept his own cigarette in his mouth out of the fear that the flame would go out quicker if he didn't. He was giving a slight glare towards Hyōryū for her comment, but chose to say nothing towards it. It looked like a kid sharing a scarf with a crush he had. It made her chuckle a little.

"Be thankful Anton wasn't here. God knows what he'd say about this little exchange..."

"W-wait a minute, what--?!"

Oliver's eyes widened in surprise and alarm, not out of embarrassment, but out of the thought that he may have fallen for some sort of joke that had missed his mind. He quickly pulled himself away, directing his shocked gaze and quirked eyebrow towards his boss.

"What?!" Hyōryū spoke out loud, almost losing her cigarette in the process, as a crimson blush ran up her neck and uncomfortably warming her face, albeit slightly welcome considering the circumstances, "y-y-you're not...we're not...I-I mean...errrrrmmm...forget about it please!" Her face steamed as she bowed her head, her bangs hiding her eyes as she uncharacteristically felt very embarassed by the joke tossed her way by her own boss. She wished they were there right about now...to at least save face.

"Ha ha ha ha ha~!!!"

This earned a hearty set of laughter from Angelika, and she turned her eye away from Hyōryū. "Relax, Frau Fūsoku! It was only a joke!" She said lightly, turning back to her frontward view. "I wouldn't have thought you would get so flustered over something so trivial..."

"...yeah..." After giving Hyōryū a questioning glance, Oliver turned his own attention to the front. His eyes widened in surprise, however, and he leaned towards the left and pointed below him. "Hey, boss. Is that the place you were talkin' about?"

Hyōryū's blush receded as she looked past the thinning veil of clouds, behelding a most magnificent sight.

They arrived at their location, would be putting it mildly. Descending the usual pattern of stocky, rigorous snow-capped mountains was a sheet of ice that could pass off as a natural valley, despite it beind at mid-level with the mountains themselves, with deep trenches that had been mined out thousands of years ago and has such set a rythym of manual labor.

Their location for descent was a beautifully enamored, obsidian-white glittering ice fortress, a number of speckled figures around it showed its vastness and true scope of his height. The architecture truly rivaled anything of the current age, and a faint trace of a ancient underground ice-cracked highway could be seen trenched towards another smaller, yet not in the least breathtaking as its bigger counterpart.

Needless to say, the chosen place to have the Meet, was not only out of the way, but also gaining in surprising warmth compared to the rest of the peaks that howled with icy winds and constant snow-packed clouds.

"Excellent..."

With a few clicks of the tongue, Angelika prompted the bird to change direction and descend towards the facility. "I see it hasn't changed much since the last time I visited it..." She muttered to herself. "They must've been keeping it monitored closely..."

Hyōryū whistled out loud as they descended towards a glowing dotted landscape, reminiscing as a makeshift ice-packed landing pad. A few other modes of transportation were also gathered, such as a mechanical avarice of a flying machine...a few other birds closely kin to the Dragonbird, and a handful of dark robed guards monitoring the steeds and vehicles at all times.

One particular robed figure waved them down to a empty area for them to land, with makeshift tents and heaters set up for the steeds to reside in as well as other vehicles, making a temporary, aerial camoflaughed hangar.

With Angelika's directing, it didn't take long for the bird to descend completely, landing in the empty space they were given.

"And here is our stop, ladies and gentlemen!" Oliver exclaimed, letting the bird touch down before slowly sliding off of the bird's back. "Please take any possessions with you on the way out. Thank you!"

Hyōryū dropped off the bird, and wrapped her cloak, finding it surprisingly less chilling than the atmosphere they had to brave earlier. "Damn, its f'ing vacation compared to our ride here...what the hell do they use to make this place so much warmer?!"

"It's all a matter of good technology."

Angelika slipped a hand into her coat pocket, reaching in to pull out her ID in order to confirm her status as a Meet member as she explained. "Because of the requirement of these meetings to be secretive, there is obviously a heavy monitoring of the few locations they could be secured. Each one is suited to their environment as perfectly as possible while still retaining a comfortable feeling for residents. All in all, I think you'll find it quite cozy."

"I hope so..." Oliver muttered, moving his smoking cigarette in his mouth and looking around. Somehow, it had not blown out - something he was both amazed at and thankful for. "At the very least, it better be good than the bars we're stuck with in the Rukongai."

"Oh, trust me... it'll be much better than those..."

"I wonder if they're as good as those spill that Shito dude told you he was going to treat you, eh Oliver? You maneater you!" Hyōryū grinned slyly smoking her also unblown cigarette, puffing small circles of smoke as she walked alongside her masculine companion.

"And now you're calling me gay." Oliver deadpanned, his arms hanging at his sides and his shoulders drooping moderately. "Oh no, it wasn't bad enough that there's an increasing chain of individuals questioning and or threatening the existence of my testicles, but now my sexuality's being taken into consideration!" A sarcastic smile was on his face, and he made emphasizing gestures with one of his hands. "What's next? Am I suddenly going to become a girl and grow massive tits?"

"You sound as if these accusations are a daily thing for you." Angelika commented lightly, stopping at the entrance of the place.

"More like a fuckin' conspiracy!" Oliver countered. "First there's the tsundere, a.k.a., Hyōryū, which I've come to expect. Then, Shadō - I repeat, Shadō, of all people - starts to retort with the exact same shit! Then, there were those two whores of Omega Team, and finally Yajū. All of them seem to take fondly of standing straight, folding their arms across their chest, and saying "Show me your balls, Mr. Holmes, for I do not believe they exist!" I ask you, what in the hell decided to spur this particular taunt onward, huh?"

Hyōryū snickered as they walked towards the magnanomiously large, crystalic doors that almost took akin to a shimmering ray of obsidian and transparent white, constantly shifting in rythmitic pulses, "Well...maybe its the fact you're a douche bag and you can't shut you're freaking trap to save your life? That usually begs you for the worst kinds of attention, y'know?"

"Oh, I'm sorry..." Oliver drawled. "The last time I did that, I ended up being mocked and insulted for it. So I kind of have a history with standing around and being quiet..."

Meanwhile, a pair of robed men flanked a beautifully fair skinned woman, whom bore a ceremonial dress as she walked towards the group of V-14. She smiled softly and bowed her head, "Welcome back, Angelika Hartmann. It has been sometime. I don't know if you recall, but my name is Athena Karoi, the envoy and the attendant of the Keeper, Veritas. It has been sometime since we last seen each other," she then glanced briefly at her two subordinates with a sparkling, bright curious look before looking back to the eyepatched woman cordially, "how has your journey faired?"

"It was quite cold..." Angelika admitted, tilting her chin up a little and looking Athena in the eyes. "But I'm glad that the heaters are still in place. All in all, our journey went without any problems." She smiled, extending a hand towards the woman. "It's good to see your face again after so long, Frau Karoi."

"Please, you can call me Athena," Athena said after taking her hand and clasping it with her other, the two hands were quite warm as she momentarily brushed them in a friendly manner, "you should know you don't need to be formal around friends and allies, Angelika."

The German woman closed her eyes and chuckled a little, somewhat amused at the statement. "I know. But it's just the way I grew up. You can't help but keep something you've grown up with all your life, after all..." She answered, slowly pulling her hand away from Athena's and returning it into her pocket. "I hope you don't mind it too much..."

Peeking around her shoulder, Oliver curiously eyed the woman and gave a whistle. "Nice duds." He commented. "That a uniform for your group, or something just for the meet?"

"You're the Captain of Subtlety, Oliver," Hyōryū muttered sarcastically with a blank look on her face, sideglancing him as she did so with slitted eyes.

Athena smiled, nodding her head in understanding to Angelika, "Good habits like that are hard to break, for that I don't fault you for it, Angelika."

She then turned her attention to her two subordinates, a sudden twinkle flashed in her eyes as she emphasized with a wave of her hands down her dress, "This is the proper ceremonial dress that every of Veritas' Second wears during the Meet. While I do have more flexible attire available, its always been traditional to stick to the ways our Sect has always asked of us."

This caused Oliver to give out another whistle. "Good to know that there's still people that prefer to stick to tradition.." He commented, grinning a little. "Makes me jealous that we came casually--"

"All right, Oliver..." Angelika said sarcastically, rolling her eye. "You can talk to your new friend after we're done and done with this..." She ignored the snort that came from him, turning her tone to Athena. "If you would, please take us to the meet location, I wish not to keep anyone waiting."

"Oh!" Athena fist-palmed with owlish-blinking eyes, comically announcing, "I was going to tell you...you're the last ones here! Must have slipped my mind," she laughed sheepishly before turning around with a subtle flourishing of her dress, followed by her guards and now the V-14 representatives.

"Wait," Hyōryū suddenly asked Angelika with a low tone with interest, "just how many groups are here at the Meets usually? In terms of mass, are we talking about more than the Central 46 judges, or are we talking about the size of the Gotei 13's Captains?"

"I cannot say for sure..." Angelika said simply, closing her eyes and breathing a heavy sigh. "But I can guess. With the potency of strength, size would be comparable to the likes of the Gotei 13 Protection Squads, if not greater. And that's not limited to just the Captains..."

"We're not a purely military organized group," Athena said admittedly, allowing herself to turn her head so she could sideglance them as she led the way gracefully, "but because of the wide array of exotic, skilled, and unique assets each group brings to the Sect its what makes us stronger than any ordinary army or police force ever could be. This fact has been recorded within the Keeper's Sanguis Scripturae, as it was said that the last time the Sect gathered for a joint-war effort, the entire Border Patrol Force of Yūrei's Police Force as well as even the demi-god Guardians were nearly wiped out within a single day."

"No foolin'?!" Oliver asked incredulously, quirking both his brows and widening his eyes. That very fact sent a shudder down his spine. To know that Yūrei's Police Force had suffered so many casualties in a single day was quite a revelation to hear, and it made him all the more grateful he was on their good side.

"When proper strategy is employed, even a fighting force of a few can decimate a incredible force of many, Oliver," Athena said with a knowing smile, winking at him before turning her head back forwards, "I've heard great tales of how V-14's coordination and combined strength, emphasizes the very based aspects of what the Sect can accomplish."

"You can thank our boss mostly on that end," Hyōryū pointed a thumb proudly to Angelika, smiling toothily, "she's the best bad ass of our group, and cause she knows where to point us in the proper direction."

"A master of the sword can only operate to her fullest with the actual weapon..." Angelika commented, lightly shrugging her shoulders. "Any all credit goes to all contributors. Still, it's nice to see V-14 compares to a core aspect of the Sect."

"Of course it does," Athena said as they turned left, towards a wide open crystalline corridor of shimmering black and whites, a large mineral-carved door stood there with old ancient runes laid over the front of it in a rectangular pattern according to the twenty foot tall gate, "you wouldn't be part of the Sect if you represented it in one form or another."

Hyōryū let out a low whistle, that inadvertently echoed through the hallowed halls of the crystal citadel they traversed in, "That is a pretty big, pretty door."

"Whatever's inside must be ten times cooler..." Oliver chortled, grinning from ear to ear.

Athena stood at the base of the door, with the robed guards standing back a pace ahead of the others, as she graced her hands against the crystalline-obsidian surface. She then backed up, clasping her hands in what appeared to be a prayer, speaking aloud in a chant, "Oh those of the sacred trust given to me, hear my words! Through the abyss rises the tainted dragon, who roars out the unknowable voice to all those with ignorance! Through the ice rises the fire of a undying will, from which blood was split from the first! In the name of that trust, I awaken you!"

THRUUUUUUM!

A low reverberation emanated throughout crystalline tower doors, all of which caused the runes to glow and almost...hum in response of her prayer. And slowly but surely, the door opened silently without creaking or cracking as other doors would, sliding open for all the onlookers to see.

Within the room was a near pitch black surface that represented the flooring, which seemed to ripple like water yet was as solid as any other surface within the citadel they resided in. The walls rose up in archaic carved symbols, with runic symbols emblazoning them. The chamber itself was wide and massive, with a rectangular walkways that allowed anyone to observe the Meet as well as observe the ancient symbols engraved within the crystalline-obsidian surfaces.

Within the top of the spire-like ceiling was a series of shimmering lights from pure blue crystals, that created a natural and aesthic light to shine down on the middle recess of the chamber, where a rectangular, center hollowed table resided with obsidian mineralized chairs were, each with a three meter distance from each seat, numbering in over forty two seats in all.

Around sixteen to seventeen of these seats were already occupied, all of which in various postures and overshadows of individuals that occupied them in their own way and disposition.

"Welcome," Athena said after dramatically raising her hands to the air and twirled her dress-garbed body to face the members of V-14 fully as she backed up into the amazingly immaculately created chamber, "to the Hallowed Hall of Shadows."

Needless to say, Oliver was rendered speechless.

His eyes dilated, and his mouth fell open at the sight at the area. The incredible lightning as well as the decorative symbols and water-like floor. "Holy...shit..." Was all he could say, nearly rendered frozen to the spot where he was standing. The look of the place more than made up for the fact that it was named "Hallowed Hall" - a trait that could be easily mocked.

"Is this where the good bad guys go when they die? I feel like I'm in heaven right now," Hyōryū said in bemusement as her own eyes bugged out with comical drama from the amazing splendor displayed around them from within, that almost made the entire structure outside seem like a mere canvas for a masterful painting within.

Angelika herself gave an impressed whistle, her own expression conveying her composed amazement. "Saying "welcome" wouldn't feel so necessary in such a high-quality room like this...." She said lightly, being the second to step inside after Athena.

"Its been the duty of countless Seconds of the Keeper to do so, regardless of the magnificent splendor our ancestral predecessors made here," Athena explained with a understanding smile as she walked towards the liquid "carved" stairs that sloped towards the rounded eliptical center of the room, where all the others of the Sect have gathered and waited, "though I can understand through the majority's perspective, the words seem more hollow than necessary for such a work of art such as this."

"What's with the liquid?" Oliver furrowed his brows and frowned as he fell in step with his colleagues, his eyes drifting towards the water-like substance. "Sure, I know this place would be better looking awesome, but I'm just getting the feeling that something like this would be pointless unless it was for other reasons..." He stopped momentarily to kick at one of the steps, just to see what it would do.

CRACK!

The substance, despite its fluid appearance on the surface, was incredibly dense to the incredibly inept impact, reflecting the force like any harder mineral would, except harder than anyone would expect.

"That, Mr. Holmes, is more of a security system the Hallowed Hall has than an actually insignificant floor," Athena said, stifling some of her laughter at the scene Oliver made the failed attempt kick, "all those who step within this room when the Second clears them as comrades or allies, keeps the floor and walls from...well...evicting you out in a very unpleasant manner."

The blonde quirked an eyebrow, lowering his foot and silently thanking himself for not having kicked too hard, as he was sure the liquid would've cracked his toes. "Oh... security system... right..." He muttered, rolling his eyes a little at the revelation. In truth, he had been expecting something better than a simple security system. But then again, what else could there be that was useful?

"What exactly does it trigger?" Hyōryū asked curiously as they walked at a casual pace towards the table where the other Sect's members were gathered.

"Oh, a number of things," Athena said vaguely, before she winked at her, saying in addition, "but that's also a energy barrier that divides this room from the Keeper's...quarters."

"Oooooh, "quarters"!" Oliver raised his hands up and wagged his fingers in a comically spooky manner - a mocking emphasis on Athena's statement.

"Dumbass," Hyōryū rolled her eyes and walked ahead of Oliver, with Athena looking slightly perplexed at Oliver for a few moments.

Athena then turned to Angelika and leaned down, half attempting to keep her voice down, "Are you sure this is the Mr. Holmes you spoke of? He seems...a bit dim in comparison of what you described."

"I was certain you would say that..."

Angelika half-lidded her eyes, lowering her head a little as well as lowering her voice. "Herr Holmes is not one to flaunt his efficiency and make it too clear to anyone else..." She explained. "He is quite a handful the majority of the time, but I assure you that everything I have spoken to you about him is nothing but the truth. Please don't be discouraged by his rough behavior."

"Ah! I see," Athena nodded in understanding, smiling with a bit of reassurance, "so his antics are just a mere front or a curtain for the professional and man he really is inside? I best not to make surfaced judgements like that again, despite how...incredible their actions are."

"Would you get over here already?!" A voice coming from the chair next to a muscular, fur collar jacketed man with round oval shades, "do you guys like flapping your jaws or something?!"

Hyōryū snarled, pointing at the other guy, saying back, "What about you?! Is your butt too blue and you have to cry at everyone about it for sitting on your ass for too long?!"

"Why you?!-"

"Easy, Hiroi," the shades-wearing man, obviously the leader of the two grabbing onto his younger subordinate's shoulder before pulling him slowly down onto the seat. He already sensed his partner was about to leap at her, "no need to get so riled up about a little banter."

As Oliver snickered at Hyōryū's response, Angelika leveled a slight glare towards the man for the blatant display of disrespect for her person. However, she did not say anything retaliatory herself towards it; now wasn't the time for it. "My apologies..." She said coolly. "Getting acquainted with old friends tend to derail one from the situation at hand. Athena, would you be so kind as to direct us to our seats?"

"Of course," Athena said with a nod, walking in a peaceful and graceful manner as she led the way. The guards who had been presently at her sides had mysteriously vanished, and now left the three members of V-14 to take their accustomed seats.

On their way, a number of individuals could be seen sitting in various postures. Some looked their way curiously at Angelika's new aides while others didn't bother looking in their direction. Strangely though, a great deal of seats weren't filled as there were since the last Meet occured, something that would be noticed by Angelika for as long as she had been going to them.

"These are your seats," Athena said, splaying her hands out to the three seats of obsidian mineral composite, almost identical to what the floor was made of, yet lacked the collascence and fluidity that the ground took. The backs of the chairs rose up in almost throne-like proportions with elaborately enamored designs embroidered into the arm rests, while leaving no real cushions to speak of on the back of the seats, "please sit now, while I go see to the Keeper. Feel free to become acquainted with any new faces you see here."

Hyōryū politely bowed to Athena, before grasping the seat almost cautiously, not wanting to mar the immaculate looking seats for fear of having to pay for it later. When she sat on the chair and scooted up, she realized the material was soft eloquently carved, it was almost comfortable without a cusion to her back or on her arms. "Nice..."

"Ok, now I know you're bull-shitting me." Oliver muttered, quirking an eyebrow and walking over to his own seat. He eyed it with skepticism, frowning but turning himself around. "If this is made out of the same material that the stairs are, you must have a hard a--ooh!" However, was abruptly silenced when he allowed himself to sit down, immediately finding comfort in the seat. "Ok, never mind what I just said. We need one of these at our HQ!"

"If it isn't being torn apart by the crows by now..." Angelika muttered dryly and somewhat in annoyance. "Moving from one location to another is quite the annoyance..."

"Still can't maintain your discrepancy even after all these years, Herr Angelika?" Victor spoke up, the first time he's spoken since arriving as his lone eye opened halfway to meet Angelika's gaze just across her on the table a few seats to her right, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised. With how...loud your team acts in your missions, I wouldn't be surprised if the whole Gotei 13 knew where you all lived."

"Hm?"

Angelika's lone eye widened in surprise when she heard the voice, her ears twitching a little. "Victor...?" She muttered, almost to herself as she gazed upon him. "Well, I guess it should've been typical for you to be one of the first faces I've seen. How's life been for you?"

Oliver quirked an eyebrow, smirking a little and folding his arms across his chest. "What, this your boyfriend?" He questioned, causing her to smile a little and chuckle.

"Far from it. There've been many to make that mistake..."

Victor stared at Angelika cooly, dispassionately, before answering with a terse, "Fine. I would ask you of your condition, but you're practically newsworthy compared to most of the Sect."

Hyōryū then arched her brow, looking back and forth, before framing her hands so she could look at both of them in some way, gasping slightly, inwardly suspecting they might've been related to each other at one point...or have the same secret behind their eyepatches...but then she just thought of other individuals with eyepatches. With a sigh, she then concluded it was just a coincidence.

"So what's your connection then?" Hyōryū asked after Angelika made her statement of not being an item.

"I tried to kill her," Victor openly admitted, closing his eye while possessing a nonchalant, cool tone, "several times. It was only because I had to maintain the cover I had acquired at the time, but I had no qualms with doing it."

"Yes..." Angelika said, faking a somewhat sad tone and a nostalgic look on her face. "I remember when we first met and the times afterwards. How many bullets did we give to each other? 50? 100? I lost count after the first ten."

"292," Victor said astutely, his eye opened to look at the mocking face of Angelika's with a uncaring expression, "is how many shots you fired at me. I fired 197 shots, due to my wanting to be subtle in comparison to your relentless wrath."

"It...almost sounds romantic," Hyōryū almost sighed aloud in a twisted, love-dove look on her face, leaning her face onto the palms of her hands, "shooting that many times at each other...how can you not feel something for each other?"

"...how the hell does that even work?" Oliver deadpanned.

"You don't," Alastair Valentine, having stayed quiet for most of the debacle up until now, his cool composed expression was more bordering on Angelika's type rather than the distant, dispassionate form of Victor's, "it was just professional gain for either of them to maintain that type of aggression. Not everyone is diminished by emotion," he then turned to cock a brow up, humoring himself while appearing to be more on Angelika's side as he asked, "right, ms Hartmann?"

"Indeed..." Sounding a bit pleased to hear a different tone, Angelika allowed her smile to widen a bit more. "Otherwise, I would never have bothered to have such a pleasant conversation with someone who attempted to take my life. Though..." She leveled a curious gaze towards Victor. "I must say, you seem a bit tense. Is the subject of the meeting so important that it leaves even you the slightest bit worried?"

Victor leveled a smooth, unreadable gaze with Angelika, before crossing his arms and closing his eye once more, "You must be aware by now, Herr Hartmann," pointedly his eye moved side to side from each part of the expansively long table, "how few seats are being filled within the Sect's Meet this time."

"Frau Hartmann, dear..." The German woman corrected, allowing her lone eye to sweep the area. One of her legs shifted over the other, her hands folding in her lap. "And yes, I have noticed that there are a few more absences than usual. Have you been told what happened, or must we wait?"

"Well, its quite obvious really," the man on the farthest right to Angelika sitting across the table from her while leaning back against his chair and crossing his arms, "the only criminal organization with such a damn long history with a borderline cult methodical morals as well as the one who's absorbed and destroyed more small operations within a few years than we've gathered in a decade. They also happening to be targeting members of the Sect, if that means anything to you," the feral smiling man then spoke aloud ominously foreboding, "considering you met one of their leaders on his expedition to either have you join them or have you all killed, Angie-cakes."

"Yes... and he's already made his decision..." A scowl came across Angelika's face, as she knew who exactly he was referring to. She tilted her head back, closing her lone eye and drawing in a breath. "I do hope that this problem hasn't started because of our misfortune..."

"Its been happening only within the last five years," Alastair spoke up, cooly adding his input into the flow as he clasped his gloved hands before leading ontop of them with his chin, propped up by his elbows on the immaculate, cold table, "we've only been able to deduct that the Inner Circle has been mobilizing, for what purpose, we haven't been able to figure out yet. All we do know, is they are trying to sieze total and complete control of the Underworld within the Spiritual Realms in order to make their move. They've already, by our count, have absorbed nearly 49% of most of the organized criminal groups and organizations....and nullified 21% others."

Hyōryū's eyes widened and her blood grew cold. While she had no pity or feelings for most of the organized criminal world, she knew at least a few people who've joined parts of other guilds or groups within the underworld. If this is true..., "What about those within the Sect?! How many have been affected by this?"

"The Sect, Frau Fūsoku, only makes up a good 15% of the Underworld's organized criminal collective," Victor interceded to inform her, fluidly and uncaringly, he opened his eye to stare into her widened eyes, "we have five groups that have already been either turned or destroyed by the Inner Circle. Seven other groups are not attending due to the Inner Circle threat, and are remaining anonymous at this time. So, what you see here at this time," Victor looked down from one end and then next, not even physically emphasizing his point too much, "is the remaining members of the Sect who are willing to seek guidance and alliances renewed."

This new string of information was enough to render Oliver completely silent, his own eyes slowly dilating and a chilling feeling gripping his nerves.

Such a strong force had 70 percent of the criminal underworld already? To know that such a dominating and tyrannical force had already covered so much territory was a disturbing revelation. When taking in the Sect's claim of nearly wiping out Yūrei's entire police border patrol and the Guardians in a single day, the Inner Circle seemed much, much more terrifying. He drew in a breath and exhaled, his folded fingers tightening momentarily before relaxing.

He was jarred a little by Angelika's cool response, inwardly surprised at how composed she was keeping herself despite the obvious. "So it seems..." She muttered, closing her eyes and tilting her head back a little. "That just makes it all the more necessary to do something about such a problem. No one can conduct business if all it does is unintentionally contribute to the expansion of the Inner Circle..."

"Dealing with the Inner Circle is like dealing with a pack of wolves. Sooner or later, they will devour you if they become hungry enough," Van Kessler, the last to actually wait to speak up was on Angelika's left on her side, merely a few empty seats across from both her and her flanking associate, "I already know for a fact a couple of the absorbed groups have almost been completely disassimilated, brainwashed, or executed. They don't take second thoughts or retirement into consideration."

"Brainwashed--" Oliver immediately stopped himself, slapping a palm on his face. "...okay. I definitely don't think I'll be sleeping tonight. You guys got any anti-sleep pills I could bring with me?" Due to a bit of sarcasm, it was hard to tell whether he was joking or actually serious.

"I could shoot you in the balls," Hyōryū offered, smiling widely at the proposition as she leaned forward and stared across Angelika's form towards Oliver's drawling form, "I bet that'd keep you up for life!"

"Most of the original members of the Inner Circle genuinely believe in their superiors, for one reason or another," Van Kessler continued, staring in Oliver's direction now he voiced his "concerns" to the Sect, "so I wouldn't believe that those who have joined the Inner Circle did it out of force, but more out of personal beliefs and loyalty."

A snort escaped Oliver's lips. "Must not have enough loyalty if they're so easily willing to become I.C.'s bitches..." He grumbled. "Look, I don't really care about how they do what they do, but I do care about us doing something about it. Does this so-called Keeper have a plan in mind that he's willing to share with all of us? Because I'm all too eager for him to get his fat ass out here and share it with everyone."

That's when the entiriety of the conversation went silent, as all the people present stopped yapping their mouths and tried not to look at Oliver's direction. It was as if Oliver's disreputable speech made him one to be shunned for speaking the way he did about the Keeper. That...

...and the Keeper was already apparent, sitting in his farthest equal-sized seat on the far left of the Sect's table, his robed form emanating a ancient, almost ominously thrumming across the room for those of any spiritual sensory above the norm.

"I trust you all have become properly," Athena spoke, passing by almost silently across Oliver's field of vision, underlying a cold disapproving sideglance before continuing, as she went to seat at the farthest right handed part of the Sect's table, "acquainted?"

"The moment I say something that's taboo..." Oliver snarked, folding his hand behind his head and putting on a cool and casual look. "Something other than idle chit-chat actually happens. Progression, ladies and gentlemen!" For emphasis, he motioned outward to the crowd as an indicator of their silence.

"I'm going...to kill you...when we leave," Hyōryū snarled lowly, gripping her hands in embarassment fueled rage, narrowing her eyes in a sideglance at Oliver, "bet your snarky ass on that, Oliver."

Angelika sighed, placing a palm to her face and shaking it sagely. "Sometimes, I wonder when exactly such progression will end up negative because of your tendencies..." She grumbled, switching her gaze towards Athena. "And yes, we have been fully acquainted now, given the time."

"Well then," the liquid, smooth and antiquated voice of the Keeper spoke over the table, as if he was standing right across from each of them face to face, "I say its time we begin explaining your personal buisness situations and how any particular aide the Sect can be given to alleviate some of your more less manageable manners, if not recieve aide from those who are more better off than others. Angelika," he spoke with a turn of his veiled face, speaking to her in a smooth tone, waving a gloved hand towards her across the expansively long table, "will you do the honors and tell us how your organization is faring?"

"Of course, sir..."

Slowly, Angelika allowed herself to stand up from her seat, her gaze a moving camera view to her audience. She folded her arms behind her back, clearing her throat briefly. "I will make this brief. V-14 has retained stability, as well as a small boost in membership despite the recent events. But..." Her tone took on a slightly annoyed and bitter tone as she finished her sentences. "Somehow, despite the security measures we have employed, the Inner Circle has managed to spill out information meant to be sealed. Concerning my Alpha team... we can hide nothing now. Names, ages, birthdates... maybe even our history. They know it all, and that makes hiding anything from them much more difficult. The rest of V-14 have yet to have such problems, with at least one exception..."

All eyes drew to her, anticipating her exception. Alastair stared with interest, wondering what could possibly have gone wrong that the Inner Circle has gained intelligence on about them so easily. He's always known V-14 to be a subtle group, with the occasional explosive finishes, their locations were always mobile and their identities kept secret with the exception of old employers, most of which could possibly be deceased.

Victor had a stoic front on his visage, giving off a wave of dispassion towards his fellow Sect member, believing if she's a true member of this alliance of blood she'd be able to adapt and transcend the limitations her group has conspired to bring about themselves. If not, then she would simply be the footstool of greater individuals to ascend, let it be the Sect or the Inner Circle.

Van Kessler looked at her with slight alarm, with a mixed bit of eagerness, wanting to see what could add to the dilemma their group has recently sustained.

Athena's eyes flashed with hidden fright and empathy for her fellow Sect's organization, feeling amazed how Angelika and her assigned escort could remain so calm despite their predicament.

Tome just looked netural, if not a little bored, his shades hiding the majority of his emotions while his partner simply grit his teeth with apprehension with the idea they all might be compromised.

Only the Keeper, managed to ask in a intrigued and unalarmed tone, "And that would be, Miss Hartmann?"

"...my mentor, one Asuka Sakamoto." Angelika said simply, immediately lapsing into silence once again afterwards.

"Sakamato-dono?" Van Kessler spoke in his mideastern european accent with alarm, having been an unknown past acquaintence and fellow swordsman who followed a different art of combat than she did, "Is she alright? Did they...find information about her already?"

"Ridiculous," Victor spoke out, his eyes closed as he leaned back and crossed his arms, earning a slight look of contempt by Alastair for his rude talk, but silenced as he spoke again, "Frau Sakamoto is a lot more sly and harder to find out about than her students, Herr Hartmann or any others she's had in the past. A masterful swordsman who is cunning in mercenary criminal dealings, she's hard to reach and even harder to track. Did you happen to be personally responsible for any knowledge...or herself slipping into enemy hands, even temporarily at best?"

"I'm going to assume he called me that on purpose."

Turning her mentality away from the blunt jab that he had thrown in her, Angelika directed her lone eye towards him with a quirked brow. "My master and I chose to walk our own paths a long time ago. If she was ever caught in such a situation, it would be of her own mistake or volition. I had nothing to do with it, simple as that."

"When was the last time you've seen her before you were engaged in conflict with the Inner Circle and its inadvertently used accomplices? Was there any mentioning of her being interrogated or betrayed in behalf of the enemy?" The Keeper asked intuitively, not moving its faceless cowl an inch from its posture towards her, its hands now formed a clasped bridge as it patiently awaited her answer.

"Actually, sir..." Angelika explained, turning her attention back to him. "The last time I saw her was during the confrontation. The opposition, a lone Yashin Shiyōnin..." Once again, she lapsed into silence for a moment, her scowl deepening a little. "...had used his powers to forcefully probe my master's mind. I had assumed that was how he managed to learn her identity. But she told me that he had merely sent a sort of "disruption wave" to her head in order to make the mind turn against the body. So, at the moment, I am... unsure of how he managed to acquire knowledge of her so quickly."

"Probing the mind without use of a spell?" Van Kessler looked quite incredulously, because of the mentioning of a telepathic in existence without the useage of spellcasting of any sort, Kido or otherwise.

"Yashin...Shiyōnin?" Victor spoke lowly and aloud in slight perplexion, cupping his chin as his eye looked down in thought.

"I've never heard of that name before," Alastair said in a cool, honest tone as he looked slightly unnerved that even Victor didn't know his name, "who is he, Angelika?"

"What did this entity look like?" Athena spoke from the opposite end of the elongated table, a glimmer of fear nearly unveiled from her eyes as they dialated slightly from a uncertain knowing, "what color was its hair, its eyes, what did it speak like?"

"From the information that I have acquired..." Angelika said. "Yashin is one of the right-hands of the Inner Circle's Horsemen, referred to as "Dragons". For his appearance, I'll be as quick as possible: he has the appearance of a man in his early twenties, dark blue hair, Caucasian skin, and a blue and red eye as a result of a possible eye condition. But the aura he exhibits around himself is one of a demon having stepped straight from the depths of Hell."

Athena visually twitched with a steep of fear when she heard the visual description, for the first time breaking her tranquil veil she layered over her expressions. As she raised her head back up to meet Angelika, she heard briefly from one of her comrades...

"Whoa, waitaminute?!" Hyōryū stood slightly up from her chair to look down at Athena, using her hawk-like eyes to catch every quiver Athena's face made, "are you telling me you know this fucker?!"

"Not personally...but I know of him through-"

"So....," The Keeper said with a slight sigh of wonderment, as it leaned back in its chair and steepled its fingers in a tower formation with its gloved hands, "that's what it is referring to itself now, hmmm? How fitting...it truly is a Devil Fiddler, from the way it likes to hide in the shadows."

"Why am I not surprised that the leader and his personal assistant are the ones aware of that guy?"

Oliver was the one to keep silent, his fist pressed against his cheek as he leaned on the armrest. It seemed far too typical for the first and second hands to know information the rest didn't. But then again, they might not have thought it to be necessary. Angelika gave that reason very often when it came to sharing information with Alpha Team.

"Is that all you require of me, sir?" Angelika asked, leveling her eye at the Keeper. She didn't want to keep standing longer than she needed to. Her feet got tired, after all!

"Yes, that is all," the Keeper said with a fluid gesture of its gloved hand, pausing in thought for a minute. It then moved to look at Alastair next, "Alastair. How goes your current regime within the furthest reaches within and without Aether?"

Alastair rose smoothly, straightening his collar slightly before looking the rest of the assembled, speaking formally, "Our reaches within Aether and our alliance's neighbouring societies has never been stronger. Profits have been most bountiful for the Black Moon. We've been able to reinforce our supply lines and reaches within our neighbour Sect's allies without incident. However...due to this, we've been finding more and more climactic skirmishes with the Royal Court of Aether's Military branches."

"What about the Noble Families, like the Valentines?" Van Kessler asked curiously, always curious to see what the denounced Valentine familial would-be heir had this time.

"Its always a battle, most of which are personal and directed towards me in particular," Alastair said with a narrowing of his eyes, gripping his gloved hands tightly to a audible extent, "and I will intend on spilling all of their blood, one day. But they are no fools...they haven't openly attacked the Black Moon due to its sheer might and expansive network."

Oliver couldn't help but take a jab at that.

"Well, that's what you get for being greedy..." He commented lightly, reaching with one hand to inspect his fingernails. "The stronger you are and the more territory you gain, the more people that want to take you down from that pedestal of yours. Don't know why they would be so stupid as to start messing with fire, but that's just the way it is. Those types of organizations have a habit of making a bunch of enemies within the first weeks..."

"I've been at war with the Royal Court and the Noble Families ever since I've renounced my position as heir and successor of the Valentines' Noble Family. Their dark deeds are being repaid in full with this war I've been waging for the last century and a half," Alastair said directly towards Oliver, his eyes piercing towards him, "so the first few weeks, as you've put it, have been like that in repitition for the many years I've been part of the Black Moon syndicate, before and now. Your little war with the Gotei 13 and the Inner Circle? Just the beginning...imagine it being waged for next half a millenia and never feeling safe, or comfortable in security of your own headquarters? That, is what it is for a powerful syndicate."

A ghost-like whistle from Oliver. "A millennium? Black Moon must be slipping if it's taking that long to--"

WHUMPF!

"Ow!!"

He suddenly found himself holding his face out of pain due to the quick side jab that Angelika had given him. "Let's not start insulting other people for the problems they have or the enemies they have made..." She said coolly. "Especially when we have problems of our own."

"Oh, come on, I wasn't even trying to be a jerkass that time!" Oliver grumbled, rubbing his nose with the tips of his fingers.

"Yeah Oliver!" Hyōryū growled, shooting a cold glare at her idiotic compatriot, "shut up and stay quiet, and I might not kill you later!"

"You seem to like having individuals that resemble barking dogs than obedient subordinates, Herr Hartmann," Victor smoothly spoke aloud, his eye looking from Oliver to herself, "since you don't have a proper leash to keep us from believing otherwise-"

"Victor," The Keeper interrupted without warning, its hand waved in Victor's direction, "I'd like you to inform what you can of how your operations are faring and any interesting changes we should be aware of."

Alastair promptly took that as a silent invitation to sit back down, as Victor looked evenly at the Keeper before rising himself, readying himself as he reached into his coat to fish out a notebook and began flipping through pages of personal notes he took down for this occasion.

"At least you're stopping with the dick jokes." Oliver deadpanned, lowering his hand and folding his arms across his chest. He turned his attention to his leader, lowering his volume as best as he could so that only she and his female compatriot could hear her. "Seriously... what's with these guys? They seem to have strict behavior and extremely tight lips as top priorities. Just like you... only with the stick much deeper up their butts."

"Well, firstly, Oliver..." Angelika frowned, quirking an eyebrow. "Not everyone prefers a free-based way of running things. Some prefer disciplined soldiers over personality-imbued mercenaries, machines over men, the upper class over the middle class. Organizations run in a variety of ways. That's just how it is." She rolled her lone eye. "And furthermore, you called the Keeper a "fat-ass". I think that was enough to cement some resentment of you right away."

"And people talk about me not having balls..." Oliver snorted, rolling his eyes. "Some people just cannot deal with criticism."

"....that's what you call it?"

"That's what I call it."

The arrogant, sure expression on Oliver's face couldn't help but make Angelika chuckle in amusement, one of her hands covering her mouth. In turn, this caused Oliver to look slightly baffled at her. "What? What's so funny?"

"I knew there was a reason I always kept you without a leash..." She teased lightly.

Hyōryū promptly headdesked herself, albeit lightly, onto the smooth table, groaning aloud, "Why did you have to bring him on one of the most important events for us? Seriously...why?!"

Tome chuckled at seeing the display of antics, raising a hand as the debriefing from Victor hadn't begun yet, "I like that guy! Not afraid of being devoid of his man parts while getting in the good laugh. You got some crazy-ass people with you, Angie-cakes!"

Oliver's eye promptly twitched, and didn't stop twitching when Angelika delivered the response back to Tome. "What can I say? The castrates sing much louder than the normal ones..."

"Ok, you know what?" The blonde grumbled, folding his arms across his chest. "New rule. Any guy who tends to make a "Where's Oliver's nuts" joke is automatically a closet homo. Congratulations, Piranha-Teeth, you are now officially one-hundred percent gay!"

"Pirahna teeth?" Tome looked at him slightly aback, not even phased by the homosexual joke that was thrown his way, "hey, these teeth are spectacular and good looking, my friend. I'd suggest you look at your poor excuse for molars sometime and see how you can get them looking like these bad boys!"

"I can't believe we're having this conversation," Hiroi rolled his eyes before facepalming, followed by the audible thumping of Hyōryū's head against the table, further inducing outcries in protest of Oliver's big mouth getting them in trouble.

"Ahem!" Victor spoke aloud with a clearing of his throat, glaring coldly at everyone chit chatting around the table, before speaking aloud, "All operations are moving within acceptable parameters. Increased movement within mideastern to southern Societies' security has bolstered an additional 27%. Western and Northern societies have decreased securities by 13% but have increased military proficiency by 21%. Interspiritual travel has increased by a total of 7% in the past ten years, while Interspiritual transcendence has increased by 5%.

Overall status summary of the Order's activity: Military is subtly becoming more aware of Sect affiliated and indadvertently affiliated organizations, groups, and syndicates. Police forces are becoming less and less aware of organized underworld activity," with a flip of the notebook page, he continued to read a different series of statistics and statuses,

"Status of all non-Sect affiliated groups within the Spiritual Realms is a terminated or decomissioned status of 69%, with most of those being recorded and identified to being absorbed or nullified by the Inner Circle. 8% of the remaining resides within Tendan, berift of any contact and affiliation with the Order of most societies, and considered a haven for most Non-Sect affiliated criminal regimes and corps. 5% of the unaffiliated criminal Underworld is not considered a threat to most of the Order or the Inner Circle. 3% of Non-Sect affiliated underworld is unknown, still being researched and under investigation as possible new criminal regime..."

Flip!

"...Status of the Black Blood Sect affiliated groups: Have lowered in numbers by 5%, having some been decommissioned or nullified by the Inner Circle, remaining 10% has begun expansion in the Underworld and taking notice by the Order's military forces by a margin of 25% collectively. Morale is above adequacy, and current connections with Black Market suppliers and other stockpiles is above requirement. Potential Target by Inner Circle, suggest immediate measures be taken to secure protection of the Sect and its contacts,"

Flap!

"That is all," Victor said as he swiftly shut his notebook, with a stoic even tone as he awaited comments or questions by the majority of the Sect's leadership.

Wham!

Now it was Oliver's turn to plant his head on the desk. "...really? Just...really." He grumbled under his breath. "I never heard someone speak with the word percent repeated so many times before in my fucking life. Maybe you should teach us all about E equals MC squared while you're at it." Mentally, he thanked Angelika for at least having the decency to summarize everything and be brief as possible.

"He just sounded like a German version of the executor tutorial...just now," Hyōryū blinked owlishly at the odd presentation being so apart from both Alastair's and Angelika's, sounding more like a statistic chart readout than a debriefing of past events of a personal organized manner

Angelika was the first to speak up, looking at him with a questioning gaze. "Herr Fürst... by what you are saying that activity is hidden from the police moreso than the the military. I find an inconsistency with that, considering that law enforcement would be the first to know about organized crime.... especially considering the damage that the Sect inflicted on Yūrei's Police Force. Correct me if I'm wrong, if you are able..."

"You misunderstand, Herr Hartmann," Victor said in a fluid, smooth tone as he did so, his eye locking onto hers, "the last major offensive and military operation the Sect had against the Order has been nearly two centuries. Ever since then, organized crime became adept at manipulating law enforcement to a near immunity for a time. What's been happening recently of these notes, have only been recorded for the past ten years.

And I ask you, what precisely does it mean when Underworld, that is now mostly under the thrall of the criminal syndicate power of the Inner Circle, has lowered the awareness of the underworld's activities yet the military has been making active raids and pushes to exterminate criminal organizations, which is supposedly a duty of law enforcement?"

To this, Angelika looked at Victor expectantly with a somewhat curious frown on her face. "A rise in the threat level. If the military are becoming more involved, that is an obvious sign that the Inner Circle isn't just performing acts of organized crime... but rather, they're jumping straight to acts of warfare. What other possible reason could they have?"

"I think I understand," Kessler spoke aloud, locking his crimson eyes onto Victor before redirecting them back to Angelika, "the Inner Circle is enveloping all organized crime within the Spiritualverse in order to swiftly control the Order's law enforcement and its military."

"You don't think they're actually doing what I think they're doing?" Alastair suddenly spoke in a rising tone of alarm, his face paling slightly and his eyes widening, pupils dialating at the thought of what they intend to do.

"Its precisely what they're doing," Victor spoke, putting his notebook away before leaning on the obsidian table, speaking forebodingly, "The Inner Circle has infiltrated nearly all of the Order's governments, law enforcements, and militaries. They're staging a massive coup de'tat, one that would ensure their dominance in the spiritual realms and assume ultimate power that would indefinitely dwarf this Sect's grasp within the Underworld. That, Herr Hartmann," he looked to Angelika with a cold, certain gaze at her, "is the endgame you're asking."

"...is this some sort of joke you are attempting to make? Because if it is, it's not very funny."

Angelika's frown turned into a slight scowl as she folded her hands together, her elbows resting on the table. Her eyebrows were narrowed, and her lone eye was glaring into the mirror that was Victor's own stare. Her annoyed tone carried the clear impression of her disagreement with his statement.

"When have I ever been dishonest to you, Angelika?" Victor spoke with a terse tone as he said her name, one of the few times the pair would know he's actually perturbed, "I'm laying out the facts, that is my best arsenal and greatest defense. Whether you like it or not, there's a war coming, and everyone will eventually be affected," he then looked at all the other leaders, those who've not cared to speak now and those who've been actively giving opinions, "including the Sect. We cannot deny that the Inner Circle has gained significant power over the course of its existence, and its only been up until the past decade they've seized control over nearly the majority of the Underworld AND the Order's military and law enforcement. Once they've completely taken over, they'll set their sights on us. Whether they destroy us now or bleed us slowly, is all up to how this Meet, here and now is decided by the Sect and the Sect alone.

We hold the power to possibly change fate and destiny," Victor then set his eyes to Athena, then finally to the Keeper, bowing his head to him before finishing solemnly, "which direction we choose, is entirely up to each one of us."

The Keeper took in the exchange of words and revelations with no visible or audible reaction. Entwining its gloved digits, it spoke smoothly, "Thank you, Victor, you may be seated."

With Victor seating himself again, closing his eye as he crossed his arms, the Keeper took only a minute to mull over what has been said before speaking again, "What your brothers and sisters within the oath of blood and shadows has merit to each their own. While we have confidence in our own personal strength, we have begun to be taken notice by another dark predator who wishes to trample our sacred territories. What Angelika and Victor have shared bears presidence to be taken note and acted upon promptly. The only question, is how you wish to act upon these revelations?"

Angelika drew in a breath, closing her eye and pondering for a moment. She tilted her head back, exhaled, and allowed herself to rise up from her seat immediately. Her lone eye was narrowed, glaring at the Keeper first before switching to the others within the room. It was not an anger directed at them, but rather anger directed at the situation.

"With all due respect, Keeper..." She began, a stern and attention-commanding tone in her voice. "That question is answered by the very situation itself. If we do not deal with this as of now, we will all be destroyed in the near future. Whatever the plans are, I for one do not intend for anyone, even the Inner Circle to trample upon me and my comrades. The only solution that can be taken with the people that desecrate us is their total destruction and annihilation. There cannot be anything less than that!"

At this, Oliver felt his blood began to boil, a slow and agreeing grin crossing his face. He leaned back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest with a rather smug and satisfied air.

Hyōryū grinned at the prospect of going to war, but the thought of what would happen if they failed...slightly unnerved her within the back of her subconscious. But for now, she shrugged it off and focused on what was important now. Backing up the boss to push the Sect into the most daring aggressive stance they've had in centuries!

"I agree with Angelika," Alastair said, leaning foward with hands clasped together, as he looked around the elongated table, "if we don't act now while we're still strong, they're may be a time when we're not so able to take an offensive stance against them at all. I appeal to declare war with the Inner Circle."

"Waging war is our buisness," Van Kessler spoke next, a thin smile errected on his pale alabaster skin with his red eyes flashing excitedly, "but if that buisness is for a mock government and society, than I might as well wage war against them, now shouldn't I? I also forward the notion to fight now, rather than bide our time."

"I might not have the most organized group," Tome said, thoughtfully stroking his chin, before smiling predatorially, "but each one of them would be dying for a chance to show off their skills and spill some blod. I'm at your disposal, as always, my brothers and sisters! HAHA!"

"If we don't stand together," a quiet, yet sure feminine voice of Senmei Tōketsu, her white coat flourished as she stood up to raise her voice a little more confidently, "we'll all fail. I suggest we pool all resources in nullifying the Inner Circle threat. I also stand with the Sect in its decision to wage war with the Inner Circle!"

"I!"

"Might as well..."

"Can't look weak, might as well go with all of you..."

"I will...!"

A rally of cries, into a clearly unanimous decision of the Sect's Meet chose the inevitable, if not the smartest choice. The Black Blood Sect now looked to each other to survive, as the Kee[er began opening the archaic lore of their past and present, documenting this very moment as they spoke and cheered, everyone has now become united and committed. Their survival!

The results caused Angelika to smile, clearly pleased with the decision to attack. She slid back into her seat, folding her hands on her desk. For a moment, she had been worried that there would be someone that would object to it. But now that the majority decided such, there was no more need to worry about opposition.

Vanguard of the Immortal Soul, Invasion of the Sect!

As history was being recorded for the Sect, and its members in high spirits, Athena's eyes suddenly dialated as a sudden click within the back of her mind activated.

"Oh no....!"

Athena suddenly stood up, and began treading over to the far hall's large, intimidating gate, not precisely enacting everyone's attention but enough so that Victor and a few other perceptive people could see her retreating in a cold sweated daze.

Once she reached that point, she placed her hand upon the door, exerting her mind and soul to what lay beyond and within the crystalized citadel.

"...hat do you mean we have incoming enemies?! This place is supposed to be hidden?!"

"That's what I'm saying sir! I'm seeing multiple transports entering our airspace! They'll be ontop of us within minutes!"

"Dammit! We have to inform-!"

"I'm aware of the crisis," Athena's voice spoke transparently, but no sound exited from her mouth where she stood, "just make sure you seal off all immediate exits and prepare defenses. We will not take them lightly, understand?"

"M-Milady, sir! Affirmative!"

"Good," Athena then clapped her hands together, speaking aloud in a hallowed voice, "unlock the binds that keep this hall sacred, and unleash the spirits of shadows and blood!"

And just like that, the doors opened, allowing Athena to walk out to join a company of dark robed men, but not before sealing the doorway behind, for the protection of the Sect and its members.

As soon as she left, Victor smiled crookedly, a rare occasion as he said aloud, "It looks like things are getting interesting around here..."

And for once, Angelika had to agree with him.

When Athena left, the German woman's smile shifted into a frown when she saw the emotional condition that she was in. Of course, she had faith in the girl, but it didn't stop her from paying mind to how she acted sometimes. She closed her eyes and took in another breath. "I had hoped to come back unscathed for a nice meal, but I suppose now that can't happen. The price for being hopeful, I suppose..."

Slowly, Oliver reached into his coat pockets and pulled out his weapons of choice: two MK-IV Kidō pistols, a different choice from his usual arsenal. "And who says we're not gonna?" He questioned bluntly, his smirk a mile wide. "As far as I'm concerned, this is nothing different from what the 10th Division tried to pull on us. We're gonna shoot, we're gonna kill, we're gonna laugh, and we're going to go home and throw a big party... not in that particular order, though."

"Boooyah!" Hyōryū shouted with glee, prompting some of the others at the meeting to check their weapons and prepare themselves for what is to come. She unholstered her two favored Jackals, priming them for level one fire mode, to ensure she had plenty of ammo to wreave out the meatbags they are going to be sent towards them.

The Keeper however, had other plans.

"I will store away the events of this Sect before beginning preperations to seal this place away. Delay them, destroy them, it does not matter, just make sure they do not reach this room," The Keeper spoke as it suddenly "submerged" into the floor, leaving everyone to tend to their personal affects.

BOOOOM!

Just outside the door, the citadel began to shake from the violence and chaos happening beyond their Hallowed Hall, showing just how much ferocity the battle was taking place.

"You heard him..." Angelika said smoothly, getting up out of her seat. She reached into her coat pocket, pulling out the traditional HCA-50. "Oliver, Hyōryū, on me. You know the standard procedure; shoot to kill, but watch your fire for friendlies. Let's move!"

"Right behind you, boss!" Oliver crowed, quick to follow right behind his leader with his weapons in hand.

"You can't get out that way," Andreas spoke first, vaulting the table in a fluid acrobatic gesture, landing gracefully behind Angelika and her cohorts, "that door can only be opened by Athena, and she just walked out the door."

"Wha--?!" Oliver's eyes widened in shock, his mouth falling open. "Wait a minute, why?!"

"She mainly did so to protect us, in the event the enemy is using overwhelming force or luring us out into the open with a trap," Victor spoke while placing his hands in his coat pockets, walking stoically around the table on the far end with his eye narrowed into a hawk-like glare towards the gate, "it was foolish of her to meet the enemy alone, be as it may with the guards, defenses, and her personal skills she has, the enemy wouldn't be foolish if they weren't already prepared."

"So what do you suggest us to do?! Sit on our asses is not my favorite thing to do, when there's meatbags that need plugging!" Hyōryū yelled out in a irate manner, holding her guns in a upright position as she readied herself to get going.

"Wonderful..." Angelika rolled her eyes in disdain and scowled, lowering her gun and placing a palm to her face. "Is there any other way out? Or do I need to start asking how sturdy this door is? For us to keep the intruders out, we have to be out there."

"Have you forgotten already, Angie?! Sheesh, I'm the newest guy and I know all this," Tome slapped his hand to his face, sliding off exaggeratively, before a conclusive nod by the others as they remembered.

"We need four of the Sect members to preform the opening of the gate," Alastair spoke with a nod, turning his head towards the door, "this is a safe measure to ensure that anyone within the Hallowed Hall can leave if need be."

"However, we need at least four people to remain behind to seal the doorway," Kessler spoke, looking over at the other odd dozen Sect members, "and I don't know how many of us want to stay here and twittle our thumbs."

"We'll need to," Senmei spoke up, standing in front of the majority of Sect members, "to keep the Keeper safe as well as the sacred tome, I'll stay here with the others."

Angelika blinked, and for a moment, she looked genuinely surprised. However, it was very quick to recede. "Oh... right." She muttered, frowning. "Working with doors that don't require spell incantation can get to one's memory." She raised her free hand up in a motioning gesture towards her Sect associates. "You three, let's open this door. Your chants take up a considerable amount of time and I prefer not to waste any more than I have..."

Alastair, Victor, and Tome looked to each other, nodding to one another before they walked towards the door, with Victor beckoning her with a small wave of his hand, leaving their subordinates behind.

"What gives?!" Hyōryū whined as she tried to follow, only to be halted by a muscle-bound arm of Hiroi's.

"Only true members of the Sect can access the door," Hiroi spoke as he looked back at the traversing forms of the four, "affiliations don't have that priviledge."

"All of this for a goddamn door?!" Oliver threw his hands up in frustration, though keeping a grip on his two pistols. "You know what. I was feeling sorry for Athena because she was carelessly trying to play the White Knight in this situation, but now I hope that she gets her ass penetrated, ripped apart, and bleeding from thirteen different locations. And that does go both ways!"

"Now you sound like Tome," Hiroi rolled his eyes before facepalming, before hearing Hyōryū slap Oliver on the back of his head, muttering unintelligibly for his constant statements.

With Victor standing on the opposite end of the four with a two meter spread with each of them before the giant gate, they began their formation.

Victor formed a few handsigns, before speaking out first in a stoic, resolute tone, "Through shadows we tread, we now step into the light, bringing forth the blood on our hands and staining on those who consider themselves pure and blameless, showing them their ignorance and sins..."

Alastair formed his own set of handsigns, before continuing in his own cool, composed tone, "Through the tides of darkness, I step forth in a cloak of will and determination, bound forever in a iron grip of fate for which I forever will attempt to break. I hold the keys to my own destiny, and will now unshackle the chest of fate!"

Tome formed a few handsigns of his own, before saying with a predatorial, anticipatory tone of his own as he spoke, "Gnash, bite, claw, I come out from an ocean of blood, spreaded out by my unsatiable lust and call to battle for pride and power. Bring me everlasting legacy, joy, and honor, for every challenge I take is the most dangerous one of all. Ascend myself into the heavens and spit upon those who call themselves gods, and claim the title of absolute divinity!"

"OW!"

As Angelika walked over to her own spot, Oliver rubbed his head and shot a slight glare towards his partner. "Smack me all you want, I'm not gonna let this go for as long as anyone lives...." He said in unamusement. "You can't seriously tell me that's not a really inconvenient thing to have. Needing four separate chants to open one door? Look me in the eye and tell me that's not ridiculous."

When Angelika made it to her spot, she folded her gun hand behind her back. Her lone eye closed, and her free hand stuck out her index and middle finger in a V-formation. The tips of those fingers lightly touched the space underneath each eye. When she spoke, her phrase was short in contrast to the poetic chants that her comrades had used.

"Silence. Our freedom approaches."

CREEEEEEAK-VOOOOOM!

The door finally swung open, its massive size daunting to any lesser man, as it opened all the way for the teams to lead out to meet the enemy.

"That," Tome finally said with a glare and a pointedly bland expression, "was a pain in the ass!"

"Maybe sticking to traditions can be a little hindering," Alastair said wtih a sweatdrop, while Victor remained silent about the whole ordeal, not remotely bothered by it.

"Its a powerful barrier that's errected before the doors," Hiroi tried to rationalize as he walked with the others to meet their individual superiors, "maybe its necessary for anyone who isn' the Second to do so, so it wouldn't take any longer than it should be."

"Well, I kinda agree with your boss and Oliver on this one," Hyōryū said with a pointed gesture of her head, enamoring her own face with a blank expression, "it was a pain in the ass."

Angelika shifted her gun hand behind her back, lowering her free hand from her face and opening her eye. "The V-14 will support the back and provide covering fire for the ones engaging close-up, as well as dealing with any potential threats that would happen to sneak up on them otherwise." She informed everyone.

"Yep!" Oliver drawled, twisting his two pistols around his fingers idly. "So if you like to kiss face with faceless mooks, you'd better hurry, 'cause Athena ain't gonna spare you any if you're late!"

Hyōryū smiled wickedly as she cast a malicious glint to Oliver, asking a sing-song voice, "Wanna have a bet on who has more kill counts?"

"Hm?"

Oliver met the mischievous gaze of his partner with a quirked eyebrow and an amused, anticipating smirk of his own. "Only if you're sure either of us are gonna bother to keep count this time." He responded, stopping the spinning of his guns. "What's the stakes, sweetheart?"

With a nod from Alastair, he then unsheathed his Zanpakuto as he watched Victor unholster his own Kido revolver, "Victor and I will take the mid point, taking on any enemies attempting to get by us will be in for a nasty surprise."

"Of course we take the front, figures," Tome sighed, pressing his forefingers against his oval shades before taking the lead outside the doorway, with Hiroi at his side, "just because we're damned immortal doesn't mean we're your personal meat shields."

"You are only meat shields if you don't do anything useful." Angelika countered readily, allowing for the rest of them to get into position while she and her own bodyguards moved into theirs. "So make sure not to waste that immortality of yours."

"Yeah yeah," Tome said as he broke out into a light jog, keeping his hands in his pants pockets while the others joined in, rushing down the corridor to the nearest sound of combat, "I won't promise I'll leave any for you, but I'll try to keep from destroying the place..."

"Please don't overdo it, Tome-dono," Hiroi pleaded with a sweatdrop running down comically of his scalp.

"First one to run out of ammo has to shout, WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE!" Hyōryū said wtih a exaggerated shout, not raising her voice in the octave it would take, but giving the good impression of it.

As they moved through the vast chambers, the echoes of gunfire and explosions drew closer and closer, until finally...

BLAAAAAAAM!

A series of horrified cries from guards, their previously immaculate black cloaks were burnt to crisp and their bodies smashed with sickening charred crunches into the far wall, before the steam of the explosion emerged the first combatant to face them.

She was tall, broad shouldered, and had fiery red hair that spread past the small of her back. Wearing a matte black form of what looked like Espada-esque uniform, with red borders within her clothing's attire, her generous curves and chest bore a musculature form of a capable fighter. Her eyes bore upon them, her sword not even drawn. Anyone with a faint sense of Spiritual Pressure differentiation, could tell she was an Arrancar, and yet...

"Whoa!" Tome suddenly stopped everyone as they were just mere half a dozen meters from the target, before smiling broadly and putting a thumb's up, "you, I like! Wanna tangle with me for a bit?!"

"Target acquired," she whispered, placing her hand onto her rapier, slowly unsheathing it, "I'll take your heads back to him as confirmation of your demises."

"That's not nice," Tome faked a mock hurt look as their first opponent drew out her sword.

"...you know what? That's retarded. I got a better one for you."

As he leveled his pistols at the one who had dared to challenge them, Oliver kept his gaze towards Hyōryū. "First run to one outta ammo not has to say that, but also sing the whole goddamn song. And don't say you don't know Guns 'n' Roses! We listen to it at least once a day on the radio!" It was a sign of both humor and the ability to show that he was capable of remaining calm even in the face of one of the more deadlier enemies of their opposition.

"You got yourself a deal!" Hyōryū said with a wild grin, aiming her pistols at the far end towards the newcomer Arrancar, intending on being able to take her out first.

WHIZ!

Within a instant, Rana moved like a missile with the grace of a ballerina, swinging around Tome while slashing with precise strokes of her sword against Tome's neck and side. However, as her sword met the skin, a surprisingly high pitched sparking sound was emitted, as Tome's dense detrimental layers weren't even marred by the high sped attacks.

"Now're you just pissing me off!" Tome spoke as he swung a quick back hand towards Rana's head, which she narrowly ducked under, quickly meeting Hiroi's unsheathing stroke of his broadsword Zanpakuto, pushing her back with sheer strength from the midst of the group before engaging her in sword play. Swinging his sheathe and sword within a style as if they're equally lethal, he began parrying the high sped and expertly played swings and thrusts of Rana's.

Tome seemed to be holding his own against Rana.

But as far as the V-14 was concerned, that didn't matter.

Every shot made by the V-14 was a precise one. Even in bursts, the guns were fired only when Rana left herself open to them. Every bullet shot was in a position to harmless to Tome, but a severe threat to the Arrancar. The deadly accuracy they carried in combination with this tactical maneuver would provide for a tense, paranoia-fueling situation for their opponent as she engaged Tome.

SNIK-SNIK-SNIK!...

Each shot, despite its lethality and accuracy, merely grazed the skin of the Arrancar, bypassing the Hierro with relative ease considering the grade of weaponry chosen. Rana however, only let this continue for a total of ten seconds, managing to hold her own pretty effectively against the simultaneous shots of the sharpshooters and the attacks laid by Hiroi with his relentless, tireless swordplay.

But then...

"Danza,"

She spoke lowly, slashing a vertical arc of scarlet energy in front of herself, momentarily stalling Hiroi as he held his sheathe in front of himself to block the attack, as it was a good six meters high and two meters wide in gait, the powerful energy released was nothing to snuff about. Even if Hiroi could dodge it with ease, it posed risk to the others behind himself...and worried about incuring his brother's wrath.

But it was according to plan, as the scratched and grazed Arrancar used Sonido with a quick burst, moving past all of the opponents in a blinding sweep, appearing behind V-14 while swinging in the inverted pose, unleashing another powerful torrent of scarlet spirit energy, uttering within its gait,

"Mariposa!"

"Jackal Mode 2!" Hyōryū uttered aloud, turning around within a fluid graceful arc with her guns, discharging them nearly point blank with the ferocious cutting energy, sending a pair of yellow energy bolts back at it, crashing and halting it, causing it to wave and spread out around them, but kept them from being harmed further.

That was Oliver's cue.

Having turned around when Hyōryū did, he thrust his legs forward, his eyes narrowed and a feral smile on his face. To him, it seemed like distance was a problem. If he maximized close-quarters to its full potential, damage would be increased. He was confident, fearless, and unhesitating in his movements as he charged her.

Time stopped.

As he raised his pistols up for a moment, a flash went through his mind.

He didn't see Rana.

In a brief moment, he could see the cold and angered look on the face of his old rival as he raised his single sword up defensively. He could see the defensive, strong stance he took, the vengeful defiance in his eyes. He could no longer see the halls of Sect, but rather a cave where the bodies of fallen victims lay. This brief flashback to what was before caused his grin to split his face as he leveled the barrels at his enemy.

"Oh, kid... you probably would've enjoyed this."

Then, there was nothing but the sound of bullets being ejected from their chamber, with both of Oliver's guns screaming fire and thunder.

Rana flowed around the discharges from the chambers of V-14's weaponry. Despite the speed of their velocity and trajectory, it still took a twitch of a finger to fire the weapon. That moment of muscular action was all Rana needed to exploit their innate weaknesses.

Using the edge of her Zanpakuto, she swung out in swift arcs, discharging Balas to counter the rapid fire of V-14's weaponry, often clashing her potent condensed concussive blasts of scarlet energy with the yellow and orange slugs and beams of energy of her opponents.

The chaos of the fire caused Hyōryū to dance around like a acrobat, walking up the walls of the vast corridor when not hopscotch bouncing side to side to avoid the blasts cast from her opponent, as she continued to fire rapid bursts of her guns towards her target, cursing the fact she was so fast.

Then, a white sliver of Kido slugs went in a tri-formation past Angelika's head in a almost pointedly purposeful gesture as they all aimed for Rana. The shots managed to strike her blade and push her back away from V-14, giving them more space for their continued fire.

Victor's steaming barrel of his Kido revolver was held at a perfectly outstretched position with his eye narrowed, "This is annoying that we need this many people to take on one opponent."

This was where Angelika allowed a troubled scowl to cross her face.

Her orders were not to let anyone in the room, using any means necessary. As far as she was concerned, this was a desperate situation. With such a strong enemy engaging them, it was obvious that this wouldn't be something that mere guns could do. Maybe Oliver and Hyōryū had a chance. But they were in a hurry, and all this woman was doing was delaying them. And she just recently drew her sword...

There was no other choice.

She placed a hand on her eyepatch, her mouth opening in a commanding shout.

"Both of you, get back!!"

"Oh, fuck..." Oliver muttered, suddenly turning pale when he turned to see what she was about to do.

Hyōryū's eyes widened as she saw what her superior was about to do. She backpedaled as ordered, but not before shouting out, "Boss! What the hell are you doing?! Its too soon!-"

Rana's eyes dialated slightly at seeing the action the one called Angelika was about to take. Inwardly she had known about special ocular Kido seals being placed within the eyepatches of combatants, the likes as Kenpachi Zaraki was proof of that. With a backwards leap, she intended on placing as much distance as possible...

WHIZ!

"Where do you think you're going?" Hiroi appeared within a instanteous movement of his own, too fast to be felt as a Flash Step, but nearing the speed of such. With a single concentrated stroke of his sword, he let out a ferocious fissure of spirit energy crash into her, even as she defended it with her own Zanpakuto, sending her crashing into the crystalline ground below with a explosive light display.

Within that moment of time, Alastair moved in front of the group while moving his hands in a series of synchronized hand gestures, before slamming his left palm onto the ground, with his right hand wrapping around his wrist, "Binding Art, Dragon Fang Wall!"

A series of plumes of steam rose up within cracks that formed within the cracks of the crystalline ground, before a series of incredibly supercharged geysers of flames flew up and attached themselves into the crystalline arched ceiling, cutting them off from Hiroi and Rana indefinitely.

"Good thinking, Herr Valentine," Victor spoke as he raised his pistol back into a upright position before looking over to Tome for acknowledgement, only getting a anticipatory grin in return.

"You actually think Hiroi could lose to that chick? She must be incredibly skilled, but we've fought a lot tougher characters than that dyke," Tome then turned around and began sprinting ahead, urging them to follow, "we got bigger fish to fry, ladies and gents! Let's double time it!"

"Thank God..."

Inwardly breathing a sigh of relief thanking Hiroi for the sudden save, Angelika took her hand away from the eyepatch. "Your timing is impeccable, Hiroi..." She complimented, though she was certain that he couldn't hear her. "I hope your victory is absolute..." She turned around, motioning to her two bodyguards as she led the way ahead of him.

"...good timing is a fucking understatement..."

Oliver's eyes were dilated in shock, even as he turned away from the scene in order to follow his boss. His heart had beat a little bit faster than normal, threatening to rip from his chest when he had seen what Angelika was about to do. Of course, he may not have died. But the last thing he ever wanted to see was when his boss pulled off her eyepatch...

"I concur with you greatly, Holmes," Hyōryū said, saying his last name only due to the fact she felt her heart in her throat from how nervous she was. She was thanking whatever spectral guardian prompted Hiroi and Tome to act so quickly to save Angelika the trouble of revealing her threatening secret, "I'm just surprised Hiroi moved in like that...as if he'd known..."

Only Victor briefly looked at Angelika with a knowing glance before continuing to jog with no outward expression, as he knew what would happen should anyone be unfortunate enough to be around mrs Hartmann when she revealed the secret behind her eyepatch. He just hoped he would be far enough away for when it did happen, and in the shadows...

"We share a special link, Hiroi and I," Tome tapped his forehead as he sideglanced them, telling them how Hiroi intervened, "we are the only entities that can trade thoughts, strategems, and information lightspeeds faster than any of you combined. Seeing as the reactions coming from your two comrades, and past info of no real wounds recorded from any of the Sect members or the Keeper himself, it means you got some sorta seal or trick within that eyepatch. I like to make sure everyone's last resort was saved, so after a half-second discussion with Hiroi, he volunteered to intervene and keep the bitch busy while we pressed ahead. Simple, no?!"

"I keep forgetting how inhuman you really are, Mister Kūgun," Alastair spoke with a nervous sweatdrop down his scalp, smiling sheepishly, "but I'm glad you two worked something out for the team's benefit."

"Despite the fact that you decided to wait until everyone was getting tired of the fight to employ it..." Oliver grumbled in annoyance. "Don't fuck around like that, you know we had business other than that Arrancar chick!"

"Sorry," Tome said with a toothy grin, "I forgot you norms tire out so easily. I'll try to make it quicker next time."

As the group went through the corridors, faint sounds of the battle rumbled the crystalline fortress, causing them to notice a section where the halls divided into two areas. A fork in the road, the worst kind for a group needing unity for the upcoming battles.

"You've got to be f'ing kidding me?! Really?!" Hyōryū exasperated as she came to a halt as the group did so. Explosions and gunfire were more prevalent to their left than the right, but a heavily menacing Spiritual Pressure reverberated the latter hall.

"It doesn't seem like we have much choice but to seperate from here on," Victor spoke solemnly, raising his gun into a ready stance, trading his eye to glance at both halls, "but who will go where, is the question now?"

It was here that Angelika smiled in amusement, her gaze drifting over towards Victor with slight disappointment. "And here I thought you would have been one to take the initiative and command, Frau Fürst." She said, in purposeful use of the feminine form of the German honorific. "This isn't a time to slip up in any way..."

"I'm wondering which way I should choose, in the event I could possibly avoid your...charming, company, Herr Hartmann," Victor spoke in a honest, blunt tone as he narrowed his eye in a sideglance towards her direction.

The smile faded, her mind falling into thought. The menacing pressure from the right was the obvious sign of an opponent sure of his/her abilities. The exertion of the energy was a sign that either the enemy could not control his/her spiritual energy, or that s/he was purposefully exuding it in order to lure victims to the location. It indicated some extent of arrogance as well as power.

That made her clench her fist slightly...

"Hyōryū. Oliver. I trust you'll be fine taking the left without me?"

Hyōryū's eyes widened, looking at Angelika as if knowing why she would abandon them now. After taking in the seriousness of her aura and gaze, she realized she had no say in the manner to suade her. With a curt nod, Hyōryū cocked her Jackals before giving her a canine grin, "Born ready, boss!"

If anything, Oliver was feeling the same way.

But as he raised his pistols upward in a holstering position, he regarded his boss with a questioning eyebrow. "You mean to tell me you intend to take the right by yourself?" He asked, putting on a skeptical frown. "I mean, I know you're going to make it out alive, but what's with the sudden want to part ways?"

"Whoever on the right is apparently thinking that they can break in here and play the waiting game." Angelika answered, keeping her hawk-eye gaze on the right corridor. "It's only fitting for a sword made to punish such thoughts and ideas. I'll meet up with you quickly after the deed is done, understand?"

When she looked over her shoulder...

...she swore she could've seen a flash of worry cross the blonde's eyes.

But, as quickly as the snap of two fingers, he had fallen back to his common skeptical look. "Well, all right... but make sure you don't get too fucked up. We're all planning to come in one piece, remember?"

The German woman gave a simple, slow nod in response.

"C'mon, Ollie," Hyōryū spoke as she walked into the left hall, regretably next to Victor as she urged her masculine rival, "we got some heads to plug!"

"I won't make guaruntees on your comrades safety, Herr Hartmann, but I will ensure the security of this sanctuary," Victor spoke without turning, his gun held upright and his body walked stoically off with her two subordinates, leaving her with the remaining two.

"I'm sure they'll be alright without you, Angelika," Alastair said in a soothing, calm voice as he nodded to her direction.

"I know they will." Angelika answered simply, turning her head to face the right corridor once more. "It's natural." Then, she brought her feet forward in a slow and steady walk down the corridor. She slipped her gun back into her coat pocket, placing her hands into her pockets. Where she was going, she would not be needing it.

Punishment from the Punished, Clash of Wills and Steel!

Alastair took up the lead from that point, with little complaint from Tome about it, content with jogging backwards with his hands in his pockets. His eyes narrowed and his stride smooth, with haste, and measured. He knew by the feel of this pressure it was more goading than it was proclamation. He hoped it was just a cocky amateur, looking to bite off more than he could chew. The last he wanted to deal with, was a entity that had good reason to be arrogant...

"I'm getting the feeling that this guy wants to lure the strongest away, don't you?" Tome asked Angelika casually, as if he had hardly any worries within this whole crisis.

"I could care less of what he wants..." Angelika answered bluntly. "What he'll get is a quick death, painless or otherwise."

BRACK-BRACK-BRACK...VROOOM!

The sounds of immediate Kido weaponfire and a wave of crimson energy exploding just around the corner of the crystalline arched corridor caught the trio's attention. Tome halted his jog and Alastair slowed as well, as the prior walked quietly over to the edge of the crystalline wall, placing his hand against it while briefly closing his eyes. Sifting spirit energy within its absorbant surface, he was able to get a clear picture of what was happening just beyond...

"A dozen Sect guards are engaged in combat with three hostiles. Two of them are fighting while the other is...meditating or observing, I dunno," Tome spoke as he removed his hand from the surface of the wall, he then concurred, "the Sect guards are putting up a pretty good fight, considered how upper class these guys are. Their killing intent is enough to make my blood quiver with excitement!"

"Concentrate, Tome," Alastair spoke, unsheathing his Zanpakuto before gripping it tightly with his right hand, "they're not trying to win against the guards because they want to lure out the leaders of the Sect. I think we should prove the error of their ways..."

Luring out the leaders of the Sect.

Angelika thought about it for a moment. Though she could easily assume the motion was done out of arrogance, she also had to lean towards the I.C. having a purpose of doing so. Obviously, assassination of the leaders, or at least the H.V.I's of the bunch, would disrupt the usual flow of the organization and cause potential panic within the lesser members. It was the direct tactic to finish the assault.

This led to a number of questions.

For one, if they were aiming to deliver a direct blow to the Sect, then why weren't they aiming for vital parts of the location itself, the places where crucial data would be? Why were they simply choosing to kill every occupant within? After all, they had managed to locate the supposedly secret area in the first place, so there was no denying they had a knowledge of the place...

Maybe the Inner Circle hadn't figured out a way to crack their codes.

A small, amused smile crossed her face at the thought. "I agree..." She said to the two males. "Let's make ourselves known, shall we?"

Tome smiled ferally at the thought, while Alastair closed his eyes and raised himself up, before taking the lead to take the fight to their invaders.

Within a few steps, they rounded the corner to find a number of Sect guards firing and leaping around, engaging what looked like a red trenchcoat individual wielding a red sword. With every expert parry of their Kido fire upon his blade, their shots were disassimilated and absorbed, making his sword glow brighter and brighter. Within sight of the leaders of the Sect, the figure smiled widely, as he said, "Enough playing around then!"

With a shimmering movement that felt parallel to a Flash Step, but unnervingly different, the red haired trenchcoat figure leaped up into the air before calling out with a wide sweep of his sword, "Reddo Hadō!!!"

SPRRRRRRCRRAAAACK!

A wave of torrential Spiritual Energy flew towards the guards, forcing them to fall back, not before claiming a few who were too foolish enough to try and stop the wave of energy, becoming incinerated within initial contact of the powerful burst.

But as soon as it was drawing near to both the new arrivals and the remaining guards, Tome rushed in front of it before taking a hold of the vibrant crescent form of energy, holding it right before himself as it he was holding nothing but tissue paper.

"So you're the guy blatantly proclaiming your existence?" Tome asked rhetorically, before tightening his fist around the mass of energy...

SNAP-BRACK-Sizzzzzzle-hisssss...!

...and dispersing it harmlessly with a flex of his hand, a rise of steam emanated from the palm of his left hand as he retracted it back to his pocket casually, but with a malicious gleam in his eyes behind his reflective shades, "I'm going to enjoy beating you to death with your own arms!"

The red trenchcoat man descended swiftly, with a plain smile on his face as he held his black hilt-red blade Zanpakuto in his right hand while running a gloved hand through his hair casually, "That's a bold statement, coming from the likes of you...Tome Kūgun. Why don't you test that?!-"

"Calm yourself, Jaaku," a red-bordered, black cloaked brown haired man stepped forward in between what looked like three high spiritual pressured beings, all which carried a semblence of "rotten" and "tainted" power within them, "all good things come to those who wait."

"I don't see why we had to wait when we could've attacked them outright?" the white coat, dreadlock haired man on his left asked, his own black shades gleamed menacingly towards the arrivals.

"You'll understand once this is over," Ryūketsu insisted, as he looked onwards to his targets with dispassionate, cool eyes while emanating a power of authority and confidence within him, "as will you, when you've been dealt with."

"And this must be the leader..."

Angelika met his gaze with a narrowed eye, the light gone from her eyes. From the way that he stood, the aura of authority that he gave off, and the manner in which he carried himself, she could tell that he was the head of at least this particular group. As she reached out with her senses, she swore she could feel the energy decaying, rotting away, and reforming itself only to rot again in an endless cycle. These three were no normal spiritual entities.

And the one that had attacked the Sect guards...

"An energy absorber...? This may be more difficult than I thought..."

After what seemed like an hour of staring down each other, what was in reality only two minutes, Ryūketsu closed his eyes, before speaking to Jaaku then Korosou, "Jaaku, the Bijounaga is yours for the taking. Korosou, you will go after the Valentine's prodigal son. I'll have some words with Miss Hartmann..."

"Awwwww, no fair!" Jaaku whined, comically inflating his head over Ryūketsu, steaming at him, "I wanted to fight the woman! I'd give anything to hear her scream and watch her skin-"

"Jaaku," Ryūketsu's eyes opened, showing a liquid vibrant obsidian with red irises, an entirely new look for anyone who'd known him in the past, but his voice now spoke in a dangerous tone towards his comrade-turned-subordinate, "not. Now."

"Tch," Jaaku hissed, before locking his eyes on Tome whom was now simply whistling a tune while looking up at the ceiling. That downright caused him to be irritated, as he shook his weapon and fist in the air while yelling at him, "pay attention when I'm going to attack you, asshole!"

"Sorry?" Tome asked in a coy tone, his smile betraying any pretense of his purposeful ignorance, "I can't hear myself think when I have ants crawling in my ears. Did you say something?"

WHIZ!

"DIE, DAMMIT!" Jaaku roared out, slamming his Zanpakuto over his head towards Tome. Tome merely sidestepped, avoiding the slash altogether while keeping his hands in his pockets, causing Jaaku to swing violently while he skipped, hopped, and flipped all around Jaaku, "HOLD! DAMN! STILL!"

CLAP-FLIP-FLIP-CLASP!

"Sidus Num, Infernus Nubila!" Korosou spoke with declaration, creating a large array of light dots that formed arrows. When he was finished and they all gave birth to vibrant, star-bordered flames, before he threw them at a instaneous series of volleys at Alastair.

Alastair deftly, and acrobatically, dodged and weaved through the series of magic flames, occasionally slicing through a flame arrow before somersaulting here and there, off the crystalline walls and domed ceiling, as a series of pyrotechnic explosions rocked the hall they combatted in.

Ryūketsu however, moved slowly across and fearlessly in between the series of chaotic attacks as his cloaked form flourished in between every rush of motion, every burst of flames, and every gust of air, his eyes were stoic and unmoving...fixated directly at Angelika.

BLIP!

And within a single passing movement crossing between Angelika's line of sight of his figure, he disappeared in a nigh silent gesture. In what felt like only moments, Ryūketsu appeared behind her near her left flank, already en route of unsheathing his sword with a sickeningly high pitched tone. He began swinging towards her left underarm area, intending on cutting diagonally through her appendage and decapitating her within one single stroke. The feat of his effecient attack was nothing short of mastery within the arts of assassination...

It was something Angelika could relate to.

Assassination.

As her left arm raised itself up, her right hand thrust itself in a perpendicular motion. With skilled timing, her palm struck the side of his katana and diverted its path just in the nick of time. His cutting edge scraped the fabric of her white coat, but did nothing to the skin underneath. She moved her left arm in a 90-degree angle outwards, striking the underside of the raised blade to keep him from pulling it back in time. Every moment signaled the clear mastery of a hand-to-hand fighter, a veteran who had done this many times before.

Upon the second strike, she turned herself around fully to face him. Her right hand was shaped like a dagger as it was thrust toward his chest, her fingers aiming to rip through the target and out through the spine.

Within a instinctive moment, Ryūketsu twirled his down-pointed Zanpakuto around so he could ram the hilt up towards her charging arm, using his free hand to preform a sideswipe counter maneuver to send her arm away from his body. Within a flourishing motion as he used the momentum, he threw out a vicious roundhouse kick towards her ribcage, sending enough force to send her staggering backwards but nothing of superhuman feat. He was reserving that for when he truly needed to surprise his opponent...

Alastair raised a hand up as another volley of fiery arrows came towards him, speaking swiftly, "Hado # 33, Sokatsui!" Within a blast of blue flames of spiritual energy, it came into contact with the volley and caused them to explode upon impact, furthering towards his opponent.

Korosou, fortunately, had already predicted such a counter, as he extended a collective of spiritrons into a nigh invisible string. Swinging upwards, he cut a fine line between the Kido with ease, sending the blazing fire past his body before counterattacking with it against Alastair, the latter switched to using swordplay to parry the unique and terrifying weapon Korosou conjured up.

Tome however...

"For someone who challenged me blatantly..."

DODGE!

"...you certaintly have lousy aim..."

SIDESTEP!

"...can't you..."

VAULT!

"...at least..."

BACKPEDAL!

"...and hit me?" Tome asked in the middle of dodging each and every attack of Jaaku's, finding it almost leisurely in angering the man past the point of his prowess being useful or his skills. He was now just swinging like a toddler with a stick at the wind. No matter how hard he swung, he couldn't strike Tome, for the latter found it all too amusing to just let him take the hit and actually fight him.

Angelika raised her left arm downward in order to block the kick, taking the full brunt of it. With gritted teeth, she was forced away, jumping back a good distance. When she landed on her feet, her hands were settled into a defensive position. Her eyes were narrowed in concentration, her scowl faint but considerable. Though the sounds of war were all around her, all she was focused on was the one that dared to attack her in such a manner.

She drew in a breath, turning one of her hands to grasp the hilt of her own sword.

"Impressive," Ryūketsu managed to utter, even within the landscape of chaos and battle that was being created around them, raising his sword up to vertically divide his face, "your talents haven't aged a day since the last time I faced you. Even with the visual handicap you wear now," he then switched his stance, spreading the length of his sword towards her while perpindicularly facing her off. Crouching on his knees a few degrees, he pointed his two left fingers towards her, as the curled knuckles were lightly touching the backside of his blade. With the killing edge spreading just a few hairs past his outstretched forefingers, he then whispered lightly, "brings back memories, doesn't it?"

Ryūketsu closed the distance between them within a fast-movement step, reminiscent of a ghastly scream, appearing just a couple meters. With a swift turning, thrust motion that was executed as if trained repetitiously and thoroughly, sent a nostalgic singing blade towards her chest. Then, followed the true form of the sword technique he employed...

"Kazeheki...!" (風劈 kaze heki; Eng Lit Translation, "Wind Burst.")

WHIIZ-BRACK-SCREEEEEEAM!

Within the mere finishing touch of the twisting, thrusting motion, a rippling force of compressing atmospheric power ripped along with the sword as it aimed for its target. Then, with its halting action of the finishing thrust, it discharged a penetrative, cutting power from the compressed force in the shape and form of a cylindrical rippling form of hurricane harnessed winds.

Jaaku then decided to play a little dirty, knowing the unlikelyhood of striking the man unless he actually wanted to fight. Within a spinning slash of his sword which Tome easily backstepped away from, a hidden chain was released from the sleeves of his trenchcoat before spinning them widely and arcing them towards Tome.

"What kinda pretty chains have we got here-?" Tome asked, raising the back of his hand to block the incoming whip with ease...

SLAP!

...only to actually feel the edge of the chain scratch through his incredibly dense, naturally hard skin, bearing blood and skin flakes off of the initial strike. "The Hell?!"

"That's funny!" Jaaku jeered with a smile, as he closed the distance and swung his Zanpakuto with a crimson glow emanating from it, "cause that's where those chains are really from!"

Alastair, in the meantime, had been easily keeping up with Korosou's plethora of unique spells and combat styles, using only swordplay with the occasional use of Kido to suppliment his defenses against his opponent. However...he began growing impatient with him...

Korosou launched a large phoenix star-connected flame spell at him this time, but Alastair narrowed his eyes unimpressed, speaking lowly, "Such attacks won't reach me..."

WHIZ-FLICKER!

"...if you don't follow true to your aim," Alastair spoke as he appeared behind his opponent, the fiery bestial spell collided into the far end of the hallway away from everyone else, causing a large combustion of flames and spirit energy to be emitted.

"How did you-?!" Korosou uttered in utter shock, as Alastair swung his Zanpakuto across the entity's back...

CRACKLE-SPHIZ!

...only to be met by a inverted triangle crimson barrier, that absorbed the force of his swing with ease. While Korosou smiled, Alastair's eyes flared with alarm as he backpedaled away within a moment's notice, as the barrier projected dozens of light construct lances towards him, intending on squewering where he stood.

All it took was the movement of Angelika's hand and swift, precising timing.

The sheathed sword collided with the underside of Ryūketsu's blade, forcing both of them upwards to point their tips at the sky. The shockwave generated from the winds scattered, blowing in both of their faces. But it was not enough to make either one of them recoil, even as their clothes and hair billowed viciously. At his words, the scowl on Angelika's face grew slightly deeper.

"I'm sorry..." She muttered, her words slightly mocking. "If you are a face that was in my past, you must've not been someone worthy enough to be remembered."

"It was a chance encounter, if anything, so I'm not surprised..." Ryūketsu spoke lowly, without being phased by the sheer manipulation of the technique's aim with her own sheathed weapon, "I wanted to exploit your abilities...learn from your incredibly skill as one of the most famed assassins through a unprovoked attack...feigning...as a unnamed, faceless assassin," as he spoke, his left hand slowly and nearly silently snaked out a reddish hue-black chain, until he could grasp it within the palm of his hand with a few extra inches of metal to use, "let's just say, that it ended up going into your favor and I ended up having to cut my losses...!"

SKID-WHIZ!

Within a instant, Ryūketsu backpedaled rapidly within a blurring motion, breaking the hold her sheathed weapon had. When he reappeared, he swung out a elongated chain with a swift and skilled employment, whipping it around to strike her in the face, intending on either beating her head in or cut across the face itself.

"Become..."

Alastair uttered as the lances closed in on him faster than he could physically move,

"Henka...!" (変化 henka; Eng Lit Translation, "Metamorphisis.")

As a ray of bright blue light emanated from Alastair's Zanpakuto's edge, before its light touched the dozens of crimson, hard-light forged lances racing towards him. And, within that instant, they all shattered and shimmered, turning into harmless particles, fizzing and sparking in response to the rapid change affect.

"W-What?!" Korosou uttered aloud, surprised that his spell was countered so easily with a Zanpakuto release.

"You have forced my hand," Alastair narrowed his eyes, the irises glowing blue with killing intent as his body illuminated in a aura of his wrathful Spiritual Pressure cracked the air around them, "I will now take personal gratification in your demise, creature."

SNIK-CLASP!

As Jaaku struck Tome's neck with his Zanpakuto, releasing an excess of violent Spiritual Energy upon his form, all could be seen within the aftermath was a lightly illuminated form of Tome, with a unimpressed glare behind his shade-donned eyes. The blade, unlike his chains, barely marred his skin's surface, causing a slight blackening as if a blowtorch was taken to the most dense mineral on earth and held there for as long as it could, but with no further use.

"Take a hike, loser!" Tome snarled, pointing his finger at the Zanpakuto that rested upon his person...

VRRRRBLAAAAM!

...and sent enough energy and force to slam Jaaku into the far crystalline wall, the energy barely absorbed because of its explosive collective power, as well as the force used to send the other man reeling, cracking the surface lightly.

Angelika found the simple move of a chain to be insulting to her skills.

But after seeing what had happened to Tome, she decided not to chance it.

She allowed herself to step back in order to avoid the chain...

...and her blood ran cold.

When the tip of the chain raced past her face, she could feel her eyepatch heat up a little as it was touched just barely. Out of instinct, she jumped back a little further, her free hand clutching the patch with the index and middle finger. A bead of sweat fell down her face once she felt the material, which was a bit thinner than she would have liked it to be. Such was the result of it being singed by the heat of the metal.

"You naiive fool..." She reprimanded, lowering her hand. "Don't you know that curiosity can be a very fatal quality?"

Then, she moved.

With a Flash Step, she was instantly re-appearing and appearing as several images within his vision. Each image moved everywhere in an effort to confuse and disorient him, to lure him into attacking the real form and missing. It was one of the oldest methods one could use with the locomotive technique. But when put to good use, it was also one of the most effective weapons in an arsenal.

Anyone of a mediocre caliber would've fell for a well-honed employment of Flash Steps against the enemy. However, Ryūketsu was far from an ordinary opponnent...

"Hadō #58," Ryūketsu uttered while extending his free hand swiftly, discharging a outward expanding twister of torrential winds towards Angelika's shimmering "bodies", "Tenran!"

Tome looked towards the area where he sent his opponent, landing onto the crystalline ground and began walking casually towards him, "You may be a simpering convict who escaped one of most secure Spiritual Dungeons known in the universe, but you aren't very battle saavy are you?"

"Hehehehehehahahahahahaha!" Jaaku laughed aloud in triumph, as his Zanpakuto glowed brightly from the excess spiritual energy Tome sent at him, emerging hardly scathed by his enemy's attack. "Thanks for the juice," Jaaku said with a malicious gleeful smile, rushing towards him while swinging his blade with augmented strength and discharging energy, "and have some back!"

"This is far from over!" Korosou bellowed, making a series of lines within the air, before constructing what looked like a crimson-line constructed golem protecting himself, "Sidus Num, Profanum Armaturam!"

"Your attacks won't reach me now, foul creature," Alastair spoke aloud as he walked casually towards him, his Zanpakuto flickering and pulsating with power even as his body emanated a wrathful, killing intent through his magnifying spiritual pressure.

Click.

Shing!

Woosh!

The sounds of Angelika's katana finally being unsheathed rang within her ears. The blade moved with a swift and precise movement that only a master swordsman was capable of. The cutting edge tore through the winds, causing its power to scatter across the battlefield.

But for Ryūketsu, there was a much more devastating effect.

Blood escaped from the gashes made vertically across his arms, spilling onto the ground - an effect that only belong to the technique that was Tamajutsu. "I already have one brat wanting to nose into everything that exists..." His assailant said lowly, directing a piercing stare towards her opponent. "I certainly do not need another!"

Ryūketsu's eyes dialated as pain shot up his arms, having seen no visible attack from the extension of Angelika's swordplay, albeit enough to physically render the Kido inert. As he heard the droplets of blood, Ryūketsu's eyes looked down and saw cuts open up from within his arm, rather than surface penetration.

With a slight half-slit expression on his face, he raised his gaze back to Angelika, "So, this is the famed Sword Style that turns the aggressive empathic force of an enemy back upon himself? I suppose my Master doesn't exaggerate when he says that you might be possessing such a power, besides your own mentor..."

Within a raise of his bloody arms, he grasped his Zanpakuto while the blade's dulled edge divided his face, whispering, "Punish," within a flare of light, his blade took on a darker more menacing spiritual pressure as well as dividing the tsuba into a four pronged cross with bladed protrutions from them, while the blade itself took on latin-esque script upon the length of the body's metalic surface, "Shūnenbukai..."

Without any utterances, Ryūketsu made a handsign, causing the blood to glow crimson along his arms before healing it with no signs of scarring, though from the smell of its employment, it looked like it bore incredible painful projections upon himself.

"Now then, Angelika Hartmann," he raised his Zanpakuto to point at her direction, "let's see...who can lay the killing blow upon the other first, shall we?"

Korosou roared out with a maddened gaze, swinging his left hand in conjunction with the spell-casted golem specter, "DIE YOU LOWLY SCUM!"

Within the wake of the powerful specter's fist, Alastair caused his blade to glow once more, before thoroughly thrusting his sword's edge into the crease of the fist, whispering, "Fūbi." (風靡 fuubi; Eng Lit Translation, "Dominate.")

Within the instant of making contact, the fist suddenly began to revert and change, the construct dividing itself and turning into a series of spherical lights that traveled all the way back up and around Korosou, causing the latter to panic and look around in terror.

"What the hell did you do?! That was a high class construct! How could you turn it against me?!" Korosou asked incredulously as he recognized the immense pulsation of power as a sign of its volitility.

"My Zanpakuto, has the power to change both itself and anything its blade makes contact with," Alastair spoke smoothly as he raised his Zanpakuto up vertically in emphasis, "while its passive defense would be the ability to break the bonds of spiritrons by merely parrying with said object, whether it be spells or flesh, a more aggressive trait is what's happening now.

I turned your spell into a spiriturally volitile, concentrative bomb," Alastair spoke while turning his back upon him, merely swinging his sword out in a executive stance, "narrowed down to a five meter impact radius."

"DAMN YOU!!!-"

Vrrrrrrrrr-BRRRRRRRACK, BOOOOM!

And within a instaneous flash of blue light, a pillar of torrentially powered energy exploded around Korosou, striking the ceiling in such a dramatic fashion that it sent shivers and vibrations throughout the entire crystalline corridor. Korosou, had been vanquished!

Tome meanwhile, had been parrying the enhanced strikes against Jaaku with slight caution. Had it been not for the Hell's Chains he was utilizing upon occasion, Tome would've let his enemy tire out and land a critical blow when least expecting it. Now, as he saw this man's initial power was to absorb Spiritual particles within contact of his blade, allowing him to increase his personalized power and blade's energy releases indefinitely, he realized that it could also be a double edged sword. As he began swiftly dodging and parrying his opponent's attacks, Tome smiled as he thought up a plan, one of which would shock his adversary to his very core...

Angelika took that as a challenge.

She spread her legs apart in a preparing stance, her blade sliding back into its sheath with the command of her hand. As she kept the palm and fingers wrapped around the hilt, she lowered her head a little to where her face would be completely overshadowed. All that could be seen was the light of her lone eye, presenting an eerie visage.

Ryūketsu's eyes narrowed, as he shifted the soles of his sandal-garnered feet, moving a little forward and backwards with each opposing foot. His breathing had almost stopped to a crawl, his heartbeat slowed, and his eyes closed. It was then, at this moment, that all outward and inward sensation of aggression and killing intent was nullified completely. To any adversary, it would almost appear as if he died standing...to anyone of high caliber of swordsmanship and experience, it appeared he became tranquility incarnate.

That...is when Ryūketsu made his move, while retaining this stance and sensation.

SHFT!

A near silent shifting motion and the hunter moved in swiftly, swinging his sword in a figure eight movement at such a high speed it had happened by the time he stepped down onto the ground a meter past Angelika's location. Within that moment, a series of barbed chains encircled around her person's space, moving at high speeds with enough tensile strength that it would squeeze the breath out of her. What was within the barbs themselves were toxins that would indefinitely paralyze all muscular contractions and spiritron flow within the body. This was the technique, known as Baindo Kugyō, as it was employed against its target.

"HA!" Jaaku called out with a victorious cry as he swung his blade with a incredible flourishing motion, discharging a large fissure of crimson cutting energy.

It was within the same moment as when Korosou's dying scream had been cognitively acknowledged by Jaaku that when he saw Tome backhand the energy with ease, sending the arc hurtling into an opposing crystalline wall, where it was absorbed and vibrated throughout the corridor's structure.

"Stop playing around with this kiddy shit," Tome spoke aloud in a dark, menacing tone as he raised his formerly bleeding hand to show no wound to sport, albeit flakes of blood were shown from the earlier cut, "show me your true power, Hanta. I might actually show you some of mine, if you try..."

"Don't FUCK with me!!!" Jaaku snarled out with a hysterically, vicious cry, his body emanated a forceful aura of nauseating, decaying Spiritual Pressure as his body glowed bright crimson. Within a propulsion of his feet off the air and the crystalline wall, Jaaku howled out while striking with a crimson embodied swordstrike, causing a devestating ripple within the spiritrons and the air, breaking it upon mid-swing in order to cause a immense explosion.

However, Jaaku's glare turned to a malicious smile, seeing out of the haze and steam that Tome had his Zanpakuto drawn within his right hand, guarding against Jaaku's own weapon, "Seems I finally got you to draw your damn sword, Bijounaga!-"

CRACK!

"Shaddup!" Tome said with a blank, yet dangerous glare of his own, as his body moved with a blinding speed Jaaku couldn't follow. His shin met Jaaku's side, with a sound of air cracking within the moment his leg met the latter man's kidney and side, ushering out a stream of blood and saliva out of the invader's mouth. Then with a screaming torrential velocity, Jaaku crashed with a violent impact into the ground, shaking the whole of the opposite end of the corridor away from Alastair and Angelika, "You're making my damned ears itch hearing you yapping!"

The shake was not enough to distract Angelika from the chains that surrounded her and were closing in - fast.

All it took was one barb to scratch her skin... and it would be all over.

With deft Flash Steps, Angelika moved to get away from the chains before they ensnared her. The first movement was one that carried her near the top of the trap. One of her boots pressed itself against the chains, the material of the sole effectively stopping the barbs from entering too far. The next movement carried her out through the opening, and she was able to land on the ground successfully.

It was here, that out of the corner of her eye, she saw a tear on one of her jacket lapels... and realized just what would've happened if she had been a split-second too late. A bead of sweat fell down her face, and she gritted her teeth slightly when she turned to look at Ryūketsu again.

This was certainly not one to take lightly.

Ryūketsu's form turned slowly and purposely towards her, his gaze meeting hers with the most unsettling look any warrior would give to another.

No Anger...

No Malice...

No Hate...

No Vindiction...

Just...eery...serenity...

"You moved well to anticipate me," Ryūketsu spoke, before his form had seemingly divert visually. As his form seemed to vibrate and shimmer while he spoke, the afterimage which had speaking to her was now in front of her, "but I've just begun...to attack..."

It was at that point Ryūketsu's Zanpakuto employed one of its more deadly traits. The venom within the blade's edge had enough potency that with just a single scratch would feel like a severance through the body, leaving nerve endings enflamed and overloaded within the target's nervous system. Though only localized to a particular area and limited to a ten second interval of affect, the pain would be so traumatizing to those who bear a normal sword wound that some would even pass out from the sheer pain of the affect.

Ryūketsu began swinging with expertise of swordsmen on par with legends within the Gotei 13's Captaincy. Swings were well timed, counters and parries utilized to an extent where he would employ swift counterattacks, thrusts were rapid, and strength was put forth enough to push back some of the most robust of opponents. Ryūketsu knew if he held a single ounce of skill back, he would have no chance against this formerly renowned, infamous assassin.

It was a good thing that the German woman had not been touched by the cutting edge.

She could brush off the fact that she had missed torture by a millimeter. As long as she was not hit, touched by those deadly poisonous tips, she was fine. It was pointless to worry about what would have been, especially when the opponent could kill her the millisecond she let her guard down. No, she was never that foolish as to make such a novice mistake like that.

She could handle herself as he attacked with newfound aggression, his blade moving to meet hers again and again in abnormally fast succession. Even if her eye couldn't catch the movement of her opponent, her body automatically reacted to each and every strike made against her. Not once did she allow herself to slip up. Her body, trained with discipline and diligence, would not allow it even if she wanted it to happen.

But the one thing that phased her the most was the way he was looking at her.

Those eyes were the ones of a true assassin, a cold-blooded killing machine. There was no enjoyment of the fight, no anger for her, no emotion at all. Despite himself and his very nature, he looked calm, gentle, and even enlightened even as he clashed blades with her. The more her condemning gaze met this faux peacefulness, the more numb her body felt even as it continued to move against his.

Were they even fighting?

Or were they simply standing still?

Her lips curled into a discreet smile, and she allowed herself to say one word.

"Beautiful."

With a swift motion of her free arm, she wrapped it around Ryūketsu's arm as it was making a thrust towards her. A follow-up of this was a counter-thrust of her own sword towards his face.

"Isn't it?"

SNIP-CLAMP!

Within the motion of her thrust, he made a timely intervention of his own free hand as he shot his palm up vertically at a 90 degree. His hands perfectly clamped upon her elbow, the vice grip enough to hold it in place and restrict movement of her swordarm, while his own arm was in the same predicament. His head had moved within the last moment, and earned a few bangs clipped from his face. A remarkable improvement from the earlier wounds earned by her Tamajutsu-induced attack.

"Its an ancient form of Zanjutsu spanning back to the golden days of swordsmanship, called Seijo Neya. You might've heard of it during your tuteledge within that fiercesome art of Tamashī no Sonshitsu under your mentor," Ryūketsu spoke in a even, smooth, almost attractive tone to the female former assassin, turned-merc-boss, "this form of combat I save for those I truly wish to clash blades with...to savor their presence and being entirely...and those I wish to kill without any enjoyment."

"Is that so...?"

Her body tensed up for a brief moment before she boosted away, releasing him and freeing herself from his grip simultaneously. As she landed in a crouched position, she kept herself balanced. "Oh, how sad this is..." She muttered, her tone calm but slightly amused. "This is just too soon for us to be fighting like this. Too soon, when both of us are clearly dogs doing their orders and nothing more. Had this been in a later time, I would have taken a much more different attitude to it.... but now...."

With a casual flip of the blade, she slowly sheathed the blade with a foreboding click, once the hilt met the maw of the sheath.

"You are nothing more than an enemy who will be destroyed."

Ryūketsu looked unmoved by her words, as a mountain would be by a blissfully soft breeze. His eyes locked onto hers, eyepatch and all, before raising his Zanpakuto dividing his face in a serene, deadly appearance, "I concur to say the same to you. It is unfortunate we met in this life...in such a fashion. Perhaps the next we will lock blades as equals rather than enemies."

SLICE!

Ryūketsu moved within a instant, his body flowing and vaulting over her head while slashing towards her shoulder, still employing the passive ability of his venom-edged blade. As he would land on the other side, he crouched before thrusting behind himself and then rolling to the side, slashing horizontally as he repositioned himself back onto his feet, now upon Angelika's previous left flank by a meter and a half.

It was here, that Ryūketsu swung his Zanpakuto in a swift rotational pattern before swinging it side to side, sending a kinetically whip-like attack of his Baindo Kugyō chains, intending on shredding her body in multiple directions with enough force within each convulsion of the chained-barbed long-ranged attacks to issue a solid punch from a body builder.

The first slash was avoided by simply ducking.

But as she turned around just in time to see Ryūketsu move the chains, she allowed herself to stop completely. Even as the chains raced towards her, she did not move an inch or even look like she was attempting to avoid it. Instead, her eye shifted towards the one who had defeated his opponent. It was an unspoken, nonverbal, but clear message sent to him.

Why are you standing there?

Alastair sighed, as he walked towards the conflict, each step looked leisurely and in no hurry. But within midstride of his next step...he acted!

SWING-CRACKLE!

Alastair moved within a deft, masterfully employed Flash Step as his Zanpakuto's edge met the chain right before Angelika's eyes, muttering a low word...

"Fūbi..."

...causing the entire chain that had been sent towards Angelika's, and now the priorly mentioned man's face into a fuse of a highly volatile spiritually chaotic reaction, racing right towards Ryūketsu's own form within a instant.

BOOOM!

Dance of the Devil, Reunions within the Foreboding Horizon

The bright crimson-orange explosion funneled in Ryūketsu's direction sent a billowing wind all around, save for Alastair's and Angelika's location. His stoic stature was unreptant and merciless, as he lowered his Zanpakuto with a furrowing of his brows.

"He's gone," the British accented man spoke with a tinge of disappointment in his cool tone, before turning back to Angelika, "I guess my interference disrupted his vibes?"

It was here that Angelika slipped her hand into her pocket. The faint click of a small box being opened could be heard from that pocket. Within her fingers, she pulled out a cigarillo and held it. Placing the end in her mouth, she fished out a lighter from the opposite pocket. Her eyebrows were furrowed as her thumb worked at the wheel.

"That will happen..."

Upon emphasis of the statement, the flame flickered, and the lighter was raised to ignite the lit end. "When an enemy is so narrow-minded, then they tend to flee when they realize that their ideals and plans don't work. A two-sided slaughter isn't where a duel belongs. Despite all he knew, he and his comrades didn't seem to grasp the concept of that, did they?"

"It would seem so," Alastair said evenly, his frown did not ease even in light of Angelika's statement, but let his sword down to his side as he turned towards Tome's direction, asking his masculine compatriot, "you done playing over there, Mister Tome?"

CRACK-WHAM!

"Eyup! These guys are nothing but talk!" Tome yelled out with a wide canine smile, as his feet slammed onto the formerly struggling form of Jaaku, officially imbedding him into the crystalline ground, causing another quake-like tremor throughout the corridor, "now let's go find the leader of this sorry excuse for an invasion, shall we?!"

With a curt nod, Angelika placed her hands into her pockets. "An Arrancar, and now these elements..." She muttered, taking the cigarette out of her mouth for a moment in order to blow out a puff of smoke. "Quite the mixed bag of intruders we have here. It makes me wonder what more is there beyond this hallway..."

"I suspect we will find out soon enough," Alastair spoke intuitively, taking the lead again as he initiated a Flash Step for the other two follow, "and I suggest we contact the others to see how the situation is in other parts of the citadel. I doubt these are the only intruders whose prowess are capable of defeating so many guards with ease."

Tome's eyes merely blinked as he followed, before momentarily speaking aloud, "The bitch Hiroi's fighting is tougher than she looks, but he's seemed to contain the battle away from the vital areas of the citadel. Holding back inside a building like this is hard to do for both of us, considering it might collapse on...less than resilient entities."

It was fortunate that Angelika had allowed herself and her subordinates to carry earpieces on their journey. Without hesitation, she moved her finger towards it, clicking it immediately and diverting her indirect attention to. "This is Hartmann to Fūsoku. What's your status?"

"Hyōryū here! This is f'ing great! I got lots of baddies over here to shoot at! Haven't run into any with terrifying skills like you might've...well, there was a guy with freaky blades, but me and Ollie plugged him full of it. Don't think he's getting up anytime soon..."

They're all right... as expected.

Angelika fought the temptation to smile at her words. "Any casualties? Did you happen to come across Athena along the way?"

"Nope, we've come across some guards...and some body parts...and some dead guards, but no Athena-"

"I'm outside, monitoring our external defenses, by the way," Athena suddenly intervened, entering the minds of all those present, "it appears that there are a great quantity of forces here. But there's...something inherently wrong with their energy. Its as if they aren't in control of themselves and moving as if they are one, making it difficult for even our seasoned guards to take them down effectively."

"Telepathy?" Tome inquired, having briefly explained his own form of rapid communication with his "brother".

"I don't believe its entirely so...it could be-!"

BOOOM!

The superstructure of the citadel shook violently, as if a great power struck it but did nothing to actually shattering its foundation. However, it quiets within a few moments before repeating again in earnest and repeition.

"Dammit! One of the intruders has released its true power and is firing at the prism towers! I can't maintain command over our defense forces and keep the majority of the enemy shock troops away if I attack it openly! Please, hurry outside and take care of it!" Athena spoke with urgency before her eerily smooth, intrusive voice vanished as if it wasn't there to begin with.

"Sounds like some people like being nosy," Hyōryū growled over the communicator device as she continued combatting alongside Oliver and the troops they rescued, "but it doesn't sound good if the whole freaking building collapses on us, eh Boss?!"

"Agreed..." The shaking of the building rendered Angelika's tone completely grim, her eyebrows furrowing. "We'll take out the artillery before the building has a chance to fall in on itself. Continue to push forth and root out any enemy resistance you find! Leave no one alive!"

"With pleasure, boss-maam!" Hyōryū shouted with glee, opening fire before disconnecting her connection to thoroughly enjoy the slaughterhouse experience.

"I believe if we follow the corridors towards the east side like we've been doing, we should be able to find the exit," Alastair spoke in a more tense, urgent tone as he continued to sprint at high speeds with his allies in tow, "I sense incredibly dark Spiritual Pressure outside. I believe it has something to do with the powerful attacks rendering this building to such dramatic quaking affects."

"Most likely more of the kind that we just faced..." Angelika guessed, narrowing her eye and taking her cigarillo between her fingers. "But what it is won't matter if this building gets destroyed."

Alastair narrowed his eyes to knots, as his body told him something...foreboding awaited them outside the safe, strong halls of their most sacred sanctuaries. His hand tightened on his Zanpakuto's hilt as he used Flash Step once more, appearing near the end of the forked roads leading to the massive, open doors of the crystalline palace. The sounds of the explosions, and blazing red lights shoned brightly and fiercely into the translucent crystal surfaces within and without.

"I guess we found the exit," Tome said pointedly as he blinked, grateful his shades offered some visual protection against the glaring lightshows from outside, "and those look like Ceros that's causing the shuddering and vibrating cicadda dance on this temple-"

"sanctuary."

"...sanctuary, whatever!" Tome said with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders as he peeked around the corner, seeing a massive series of explosions, clashing of steel, and bodies moving to and fro, left and right, exploding and bleeding massively across the air. It was truly a battlefield outside...

"I see that there's quite the mess outside..."

Angelika put on a frown, moving to sneak a peek of her own. Such a level of violence would certainly bar them easy access. Even now, as they were behind cover, she saw a few shots stray in their direction, but miss cleanly. It made her doubtful that they would get through such a mist quickly enough to get rid of the artillery source. But she kept her cool. "What do you two think?" She questioned, a contemplating frown on her face.

Alastair's eyes narrowed into slits as he observed the chaos only a few seconds before turning back to Angelika. Crossing his arms, his spoke in a serious tone, "We can't brazenly enter the battlefield as we are. While we may be able to rally the guards and possibly deal some damage against the enemy's militia, the possibility of being caught in crossfire and targeted will be too dangerous for us to consider."

"We can't all just tip-toe across the walls and hopefully spot our target without drawing attention," Tome said with a sarcastic tone, making his forefingers wiggle in comical emphasis to his point, "we need to move fast if the defeses of this place are going to withstand anymore reinforcements."

A heavy sigh escaped the German woman. "We can't go as we are, yet that's all we have..." She muttered. "If only we had reinforcements of our own... this is making me start to regret not bringing Oliver and Hyōryū with me..."

"I'll stall them," Tome spoke without hesitation, his eyes vaguely seen above his lowered oval shades, "I'm the only one with the best chance to survive as well as the best reaction timing of any of us. I should be able to coordinate any of the survivors as well as mop up the enemy grunts. With luck, the artillery battery will be rediverted towards me, and I'll be able to give them a few nasty surprises of my own."

"You do realize there is still a risk, even with your unique...anatomy," Alastair spoke in a low tone, but with a understanding and conclusive look through his eyes towards his compatriot, "are you sure you're up for this?"

"We don't have time to wait for any additional forces from within, and we're all they got between the possible demise of this sanctuary and our alliances!" Tome retaliated with a exasperated snarl, turning to look left and right to the two composed Sect Leaders, "I have to go...now!"

Angelika gave an affirmative nod. "Do what you must. We shall be doing the same." She assured him. "But just make sure not to die here. This isn't your burial ground, after all..."

"But Angie baby, you forget so easily," Tome said as he walked off into the outside ice-crust ground, smiling widely as he sideglanced her one last time, "I'm invincible."

SFT!

Within a blink of an eye, Tome was gone from their presence, and a brief silence save for the battlefield's cries and clashes were heard. Then, a series of screams emanated anew, as bodies flew in many directions both intact and in many parts, as a blurring figure moved to and fro through the battlefield, seperating the guards' ranks from the enemy's. His work has begun...

"Let's go find that cannon that's hitting the defense towers," Alastair spoke with renewed confidence, as he led the way towards the outside, while retaining his spitirual pressure and presence as quietly and subtly as possible. Moving to and fro, he led his feminine partner towards a distant, yet slightly populated ice-covered field. There, stood a being of immense proportions in comparison to the other invaders stood, holding a axe towards the nearest tower.

VRRRRRR...BLAAAAAM!

Within a formation of a bright red spherical condensed of spirit energy at the tip of the axe, a large gait of powerful energy discharged with a magnanimous display of control and personal ability, divebombing the fissure into the flickering shielded crystalline tower. The explosion rocked the shields and the expansive crystalline superstructure, but did not falter, albeit weakening within each strike.

"That, would be our target I presume," Alastair said pointedly, even as they were a good dozen or so meters from the bestially large monstrocity, with only a handful of burgundy robed invaders standing in between their target, "how shall we do this?"

"This, Herr Valentine," Angelika said calmly. "Is where I take a gamble."

With that being said, she reached into her coat pocket and pulled out not her gun, but a simple card. She positioned her arm in a stance that made it look like she would throw it, closing her eyes in focus. Her spiritual energy was focused into the card, making it illuminate a bright white color. Whatever she was doing would certainly result in an attention-grabbing visual.

Then, she threw it.

Once it hit the ground a ways off in front of her, it exploded into a blaze of bright light. The show lasted only a second before revealing a thick cloud of smoke. Within the midst of that smoke stood three individuals, their appearances masked within the mist.

"My my," the feminine lulling tone of Mōka Komori broke through the mist first, her red hair flourishing within the motion of arrival in a stoic and beautifully protrayed form of deadly embodiment, "I almost didn't think you'd need us, Angel-chan. What mess do you have for us to clean up?"

Alastair's eyes widened at the spectacle, seeing the unique and strange form of Kido as it summoned the three individuals, "Incredible...a Time/Space spell sealed in the form of a card. I didn't know they made those kinds of things..."

Kyōki's eyes blinked unseen from within its browless line, as it suddenly felt a number of powerful signatures not too far away. In mid-stride of prepping a Cero, it deactivated the energy sphere to growl at the newcomers, stomping towards them, causing the other invaders to back off slowly from the hulking mass of death.

Angelika's lone eye, however, was only focused on Mōka. "There is a big pile of trash coming this way - one that has provided a nuisance to the Sect building. The objective is simple: tidy up." She looked over towards the figure of Anton as he let out a low whistle, his own eyes gazing at the giant monster.

"Wow. Someone's been eating their Wheaties, I must say..." Anton joked, putting on a light-hearted grin. "Gonna be real difficult getting this into the trash bin, eh?"

Shinji remained silent, his red eyes drifting to look at the approaching menace. Although he said no words, his stance confirmed that he would not back down from the challenge presented to him. He readied his traditional umbrella, preparing himself for battle.

"Are we doing something else, then, Miss Hartmann?" Alastair asked Angelika curiously, as it looked like Angelika wouldn't actually engage the hostile herself. That question, however, was met as a dozen dark red robed individuals sprinted towards them, "I guess we have our hands full then..."

Alastair readied his blade as the enemies engaged himself and Angelika in respective combat, each of the half a dozen armed, trained, highly skilled men not letting up and wasting any energy. The enemy attacked silently and emotionlessly, swinging their weapons and attacking as one, making their series of synchronized attacks difficult even for veteran fighters to repel.

Mōka nodded, taking a hand to unsheathe one of her swords sheathed within the leather harness on her back, "Got it, pluck the turkey, then stuff it...I think that's the correct analogy, isn't it?"

BZZT!

Kyōki then disappeared within his next monstrous step, the faint sound of a static crackle emanated throughout the air...before reappearing to the side, on Shinji's flank of the trio of reinforcements. With a violent, surprisingly swift swing for a hulking brutish appearing entity, he swung his axe in a wide arc to cut all three of them within one motion. Kyōki employed enough strength to cause a buffeting exhaust of air pressure to blow any less resilient combatants away.

It was the speed of the movement that caught Anton by surprise.

Because of the size of their opponent, he had not expected the thing to simply vanish and re-appear in another location as quickly as it had done. He didn't expect himself to have to spin around in order to face it, hands outstretched in preparation to use a Kidō spell. But he found himself doing that very thing, his eyes narrowed in concentration. He had made the mistake of exhausting himself against Shindō; it wouldn't happen here.

The nearest one, Shinji, acted quickly.

With a single leap, the bandaged man gained hundreds of feet in order to meet the arm of Kyōki. With a swing of the umbrella, he connected with the bulk of flesh. But despite the small stature, the force behind the blow was enough to knock that particular arm astray in a parrying motion. It did not stop the wind generated from the strike from reaching down to the ground where the others were.

But it did not affect Angelika any.

With her pistol, she made sure to keep herself a distance away, providing cover fire for Alastair as the enemy attacked. She had to admit to herself that the troops had not lost their efficiency over the years. She found it even more of a necessity to time and aim her shots carefully here than back at Xanxus's hideout where there were nothing but mooks. Even still, she found that she couldn't kill them as quickly. The wind that hit the ground level made her recoil for a short moment, but it did not hinder her too much.

At this point, she was glad that she had used the card.

"RRRRGH!" Kyōki growled aloud as he found himself pushed back, surprised at the little being's strength employed against his own. He staggered back a step, his foot crushing the ice into a wide recessed impact site, showing just how incredibly dense the creature's mass and weight really was. With irises glowing red with rage behind its lidless white eyes, the monster reared its left massive fist back before throwing it at Shinji, using surprising speed despite its size, having improved itself within this factor immensely since it last saw action within Hell.

However...

CRACK-WHOOSH!

When Kyōki's fist was en route to its target, Mōka's left hand caught his forearm, with incredible strength and speed deftly executed before her V-14 compatriot. Using the momentum of the lunge, she pulled him towards him effortlessly, before slamming her leg into its abdomen, causing a recoil of kinetic force and mass to fly the monster backwards a good half a dozen meters away.

"Damn, that guy's solid," Mōka joked with a lopsided smile, looking to Anton expectantly while rolling her shoulders around with audible cracks and snaps heard, "he's all yours, big man."

Alastair began a deadly dance of metal against metal, his expertise within the arts of Zanjutsu clearly displayed when taking on the plethora of enemies. Ducking, whirling, somersaulting and vaulting over and around his opponents, he moved with a beautiful grace that would be only born in natural prodigious combatants. However, despite all of his skill displayed thus far, the attackers were not only being hard to kill they seemed to be adapting to his tactics. Getting a little faster, and a little smarter, anticipating his moves more and more, making them unnervingly dangerous.

Even when a few of them would be gunned down, a few would break off from the battle and unholster their own firearms, discharging them with lethal force and accuracy, all of them bearing similar caliber of the similar mark and design as Angelika's own firearm.

If Oliver was in Angelika's situation, he definitely would be yelling one thing: "Oh, fuck you!"

Thankfully, she was much more composed than that.

The incoming hail of bullets as well as the fact that the shots were always close to the mark forced her to rely heavier on evasion. In a few moments, she found herself running, ducking, vanishing and re-appearing just to keep them from hitting her. It was enough to keep her on her toes, her heart racing, and her senses alert. She knew that all it took was one bullet to make a direct hit and it would all be over. They would be on her in a second.

Meanwhile, on Anton's side, he was quick to take up on the opportunity.

With a single Flash Step, he had re-appeared in front of where the giant had landed, clasping his hands together and uttering the name of the Kidō spell.

"Byakurai!"

Then, he switched his arm positions, slapping his right hand on the underside of his left arm. His left hand's fingers were in a clawed position, spiritual energy escaping from each finger in the manner of an electric current. The bolts extended to the sky, connected with a cloud overhead, and extended back towards the fallen Kyōki.

There was one difference.

The bolts were not stray small bolts... but rather, they were one big one.

The lightning bolt smashed down on his target with considerable force, illuminating the area in a bright blue light. The winds generated shook the area, yet Anton held firm where he was. "Leave it to your enemy to give you a bit of advice when he doesn't mean to..." He muttered under his breath, bracing himself under the brief but powerful shockwave.

Mōka blinked slightly, covering her eyes from the brilliant lightshow that was created, her meager garments and attire clicked and flourished in the wake of the considerable shockwave of power. She had to admit, that Angelika had picked quite a handful of powerful subordinates. She smiled respectfully to Anton before reaching for her two swords, unsheathing them respectfully as she strode towards the downed target, "If that doesn't tickle him, I don't know what will-"

VROOOOOM!!!

Mōka did a slight doubletake, as she saw out of the steaming mist rising from the impact site, was a faint burgundy aura, covering the brutish monster as it rose slowly to its feet, dramatically slamming the pommel of the large axe into the crystalline ground. Pulsating around his torso, and now clearly seen were blackened-blood crusted chains emanated a thick veil of unseemly spiritual energy, so thick that it cushioned the blast of Kido thoroughly and completely. The force of the Kido, however, left a indentation of the brute further into the ground than when Mōka tossed him.

"Oh...one of you, huh?" Mōka spoke morbidly, as she took a step forward, fully unsheathing her swords before twirling them around her in a dramatic flourishing motion to taunt the enemy.

"Enough of this!" Alastair muttered heatedly under his breath, as he landed in a crouch his enemies came upon all at once, allowing him only a moment's breath. He closed his eyes, before hugging the flat end of his blade to his side, sticking up at a 45 degree angle behind him, with his head bowed forward straight with his back. Then, as they were but a hair's breath of cutting him to shreds...

WHIZ!

...he disappeared, only to reappear in a flourishing blinding upwards motion that made it appear as if he a twister of fluid sword strikes upon the air, each one without waste and with keen perception of every stroke of his metal weapon. As he floated above the air briefly before backflipping onto the crystalline ground with a weightless step, a dozen bodies were cut and geysers of their own blood filled the air before collapsing to the ground.

Meanwhile, the enemies sent to deal with Angelika were slowly but surely being methodically eliminated. Her swift speed and marksmanship surprassed their uncanny coordinated teamwork and synchronized attacks. Each one screamed in death by her shots, or grunted silently before collapsing onto the ground limply before none remained.

He had only a few seconds to breathe, more than two dozen began flying through the air towards his and Angelika's location, like a dark crimson cloaked cloud seeking the crush all life it envelops within its shadow, their presence mirroring the same as their "brothers", an eery sensation to the veteran combatants.

"How many of these cretins are there?!" He asked incredulously, his eyes narrowing at the enemies, standing stalwart in the face of so many enemies coming to deal with them.

"Not enough..." Angelika said grimly, reloading another clip into her pistol before holstering it, keeping the barrel lowered to the ground with both of her hands on the grip. "Never enough when it comes to the likes of them..." If this kept up, she would run out of ammunition, and she was not too keen on drawing her sword now...

On Anton's end...

"...well... at least we know those chains aren't metal..." He muttered sarcastically, cracking his knuckles in preparation. Truth be told, he wasn't expecting such a defense. But, at the very least, he could guess where exactly they came from. He turned his eyes towards Mōka as well as his voice. "Togabito?"

"No, he'd be wearing a cloak as a Sinner, and this dimension is outside the bounds of Hell's territory," Mōka said astutely, as if she had personal experience with their kind on a daily basis, "no, there weren't any chains visible on him before nor were there cuffs or collars. He is a Hantā, the ascended ilk and pawns of demons," she said with distaste as the towering monstrocity stared imposing at them, not moving to engage as eagerly as before but not backing off either, "but why would he be here? Are demons allied with the Inner Circle, because I sense the auras of the majority of the attackers to be not of Hell's domain?"

"If you desire to make a run for it, I won't blame you, Angelika," Alastair said in a cool, neutral tone, his blade held aloft as he mentally prepared for the next wave of enemies to approach, "though I don't know if you have any self-imposed code that you'd honor to finish a fight that's been started..."

"Run?" Angelika let out a scoff, readying her pistol to aim at the opposing group. "Don't be ridiculous. I was the one to call for the destruction of our enemies, and I will see it through to the very end. This isn't a matter of honor. This is what we must do, and I will accept nothing less!"

A disdainful scowl came across Anton's face. "Demons, working with a lowly criminal organization? Certainly, things in Hell have reached a new low if that's the case..." He kept his eyes on their enemy, even as Shinji walked up to stand beside him. "But that being said... shouldn't there be someone else who's keeping these guys in check?"

Biting the inside of her cheek, Mōka merely gripped her swords tightly before silently agreeing with Anton, raising her swords in front of her in a 'x' pose before she readied herself to attack, "I don't think they're aware. These guys feel incredibly off, and its been said that the Hantā are hard to track let alone keep in check. They are cunning predators and very dangerous, as they are usually crafted from the most murderous and strongest willed of Hell's Sinners..."

Kyōki roared out suddenly as it wrenched its axe from the ground, its bellow created a blast of airwaves towards them from its very intense animosity. With a heavy propelling motion, the monster leaped towards the group with a powerful manuever, swinging the axe towards Anton with enough driving force to smash the crystalline ground a good ten meters in gait. Meanwhile, as Mōka darted towards its body, it raised his meaty fist in a vicious arc, clashing with one of her swords with a vicious clash of metalic reinforced skin and her own blade.

Alastair smiled softly, closing his eyes briefly before raising his gloved palm towards the air, beginning to form a Kido spell in the form of a blue sphere, "I wouldn't have expected any less from you, Angelika. Now, let us finish this!"

Then it came.

Not the sound of charging footsteps.

Not the sound of gunshots or sword swings.

But rather, the sound of chains swishing through the air.

Then, the sound of metal tearing through flesh.

In an instant, each and every one of Angelika's and Alastair's enemies were impaled from the head down due to chains launched seemingly from the sky itself. Angelika's eye widened in shock and disbelief, trailing the chains to the source. However, from the moment that she looked up, all she saw were flames racing down to the victims that were impaled victims. They were blue, and despite the intensity, she could almost feel a soothing vibe from them...

But they were anything but soothing for the targets.

As soon as they were enveloped, Angelika could hear nothing but their screams. But she could not tear her eyes away from them, even as they were pulled up and thrust into the sky. The chains flung their flaming bodies at other parts of the enemy's offensive, meant to create chaos and soften up the lines for the defenders.

"What...?!"

On Anton's side, and to his complete shock, he didn't have to lift a finger.

The terrifying sounds of a minigun came up from above, the bullets raining down on Kyōki. However, upon contact, these bullets seemed to be explosive incendiary rounds. The flames that were created from such bullets was the very same fire that had been used in conjunction with the chains. Knowing that he would potentially be shredded if he stayed within the area, Anton had to back away a little. His shocked eyes directed themselves towards the sky.

"Reinforcements?! But... who?!"

Kyōki suddenly widened its crimson orbs in shock, and growled with agony as a few of the flames pierced and scorched its flesh, forcing himself to withdraw via Sonido, leaving the combatants temporarily out of harm's way of its vicious assault.

"Of course," while a sigh of initial relief of the retreating enemy was apparent in her tone, her eyes scowled towards the skyline, as she recognized the spiritual pressures emanating from them, "it had to be them ...dammit!"

Alastair in the meantime, defused his Kido with a widened-eyed stare towards the horizon, seeing the new entities engage in combat against the invading army as well as eliminate the incoming attackers they were previously readying themselves for battle, "Now...this is a surprise...," he mused lowly, looking to Angelika just out of query, "know something I don't?"

Then, the two individuals made their appearance.

Angelika was cut off from saying anything when she saw two individuals fall from the sky as if they were parachuting. As they came closer to the ground, she could see their appearances. One was a black-haired, pale-skinned female in a white longcoat and hat, holding what looked like a rifle in her hands. The other was a male in a suit and tie, wielding two machetes. As they came closer and closer, it was apparent that neither of them had parachutes on and were apparently flying towards their doom.

But when the time was right, they performed a flip to right themselves from the position they were in, landing expertly on their feet in crouches. They rose up, with the girl facing Mōka's group while the boy faced Angelika's. Neither of them had seemed to sustain any damage at all, even in the high fall they endured.

"Holy fuck..." The girl swore, scowling faintly as she pointed the rifle in the air with one hand in a holstering position. "Yoshi, could you warn me the next time you get greedy? I had to switch targets at the last minute because of you!"

"Apologies..." The young man said sincerely, briefly turning to look over his shoulder at her. "But the situation was urgent this time. I had no other choice but to act." He turned his attention back towards Alastair and what looked like a shell-shocked Angelika. "But now that we're here, we can focus on cleaning up this place."

"Right-o, sir..." The girl's scowl turned into a slight grin at his words, and she did a mock salute with her free hand for emphasis.

Alastair quirked a brow up at seeing the antics of the two newcomers, placing a hand in his coat pocket while holding his sword loosely in his grip, visibly relaxing. For the moment, they weren't their enemies, so Alastair could at least keep from being tense or threatening to these arrivals, "They feel like those creatures we fought earlier, yet different...wonder who's orders they've come upon?" He wondered aloud, just passing time now that they were interrupted from their initial duties.

Mōka scowled at the two entities, now hearing them speak just made her grind her mollars together, feeling incredibly angered and irritated by their presence alone. However, glaring at them is all she wanted to do, not wanting to verbally acknowledge them unless called upon, though she did hold her swords along her sides instead of against their throats...

The young male walked slowly towards them, his two machetes lowered in a non-hostile manner. He kept his eyes focused on Angelika, giving a soft smile. "It's been a while since we've seen each other, Kachō. I thought this time would never happen, given or take the circumstances. But at the very least, it's happened. I know my appearance has changed, but... I've always kept you and my comrades in mind..."

That brought Angelika out of her shock, and she took a step forward to mutter one word.

"S-Shou...?!"

On the girl's side, she wasn't oblivious to the glare that the other woman was giving her. She narrowed her eyes slightly, stepping towards them and lowering her free hand. "Hey, lady. What's with the glare you're giving me?" She questioned, cocking a slight eyebrow. "I just helped you out, not attempt to kill you like that walking bag of meat. A "thank you" or something would be appreciated, you know?"

"Who exactly are you?" The Russian, having gained his composure, stepped beside Mōka and gave the strange woman a suspicious glare. "As far as I can remember, there were no reinforcements called in by anyone within the high ranks of the Sect."

An amused grin came across the girl's face. "Oh, us? I guess we're what you would call the military of existence, in a matter of speaking..."

"More like the Vanguard of Hell," Mōka said thick of resentment, but not of an entirely personal level with the female entity in front of her, but rather her kind, "they are the Daitenshi, humanoids of various types within Hell that extract the worst kinds of punishment upon the worst kinds of Sinners. But they don't serve anyone but one entity," she spat towards the ground, before she snarled, "and I don't need your kind's help, thank you very much!"

"Shou?" Alastair asked aloud to Angelika, suddenly realizing the name and the look upon her face, directing his gaze towards the male of the pair, raising his brow in query as he repeated her question premising his compatriot, "Shou Yoshizawa?"

Shou nodded appropriately. "That would indeed be me, the same one killed by incineration and cremated within Yūrei. The same one who underwent a torturous experience in Hell because of my sinful actions within this society. I stand before you as an old servant and a new one of the very mistress of Hell." He lowered himself in a bow. "But I will regard you like one and the same. It is good to see you again, my master..."

This was enough to cause Angelika to relax, her shocked look fading back into a serene one. She smiled. "Likewise, old servant..."

On the girl's end, her eye twitched, and the faint scowl returned. "Oh, cute... the person I happen to help just so happens to be a racist..." She grumbled, her eyes narrowing in a full glare. "What do you happen to have against my Mistress, you ungrateful bitch?"

SNAP-SHIIIINK!

With a swift raise of her sword, she discharged the blade from a hidden chain mechanism within the hilt, sending it careening with lethal terrifying accuracy...narrowly missing the Daitenshi's neck only to scrape it, before pulling it back into her blade. While normally it would serve to only prove to be a childish outburst, the act sent a innate reverberating pulse into the girl. The pulse that had but a breath of a particular ominous power...power she would know altogether too well. When this happened, her eyes glared with cold murder within them, wanting nothing more than to kill her for mentioning what she spoke of.

Alastair was about to comment when he suddenly saw within his peripheal gaze the violent action committed by his associate's ally, inwardly recoiling at the murderous intent flowing out of her, "Angelika?" He asked slightly unnerved, but still maintained a cool composed visage as usual.

It was a move that alarmed everyone... even the stoic Shinji who had stood by and watched it all take place. He and Anton stood still, watching with widened eyes and a tense frame. Angelika and Shou immediately followed suit, with the latter abruptly turning himself around to watch the scene. Although her back was turned to her, he could sense the alarm that shot through his partner's body as well as the power. All it had taken was one movement for the entire situation to become incredibly tense.

Then, the girl giggled.

It wasn't long before that giggle turned into full-blown laughter. She staggered back, slapping a hand to her face and tilting her head to the sky. The slight scrape to the neck sent vicious chills down her spine, but it only fueled her heartiness. But it lasted only for a brief moment, although it seemed to last forever in the eyes of those around them. "Oh, sweet black fucking Sabbath!" She exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. "I never would've thought there would have been a wolf in this midst of sheep. I'm shaking in my boots!"

"What is she gafawing about?" Alastair narrowed his eyes in slight annoyance, but felt his mouth twitch due to being disturbed by the new set of events. If he observed anything about this woman and the exchange between proclaimed Daitenshi, is that she had some sort've past between them...or was it with the mistress of Hell? He still could not place a thumb on the situation, even if she hinted on the wolf meaning.

Mōka turned her gaze to the now revealed Shou, outright ignoring what she would inwardly refer as a giggling idiot before speaking plainly, "You're the one in charge of this raid? I appreciate your personal choice to skirt your laws and duties to aid us, but as soon as these filth are wiped out I suggest you leave as soon as possible. Your kind doesn't belong here, nor does any that serves the likes of her."

The bluntness of the statement caused Shou to turn around completely and face the other half of the team, his eyes narrowed and a faint scowl crossing his face. It was not the tone that he found a dislike in, but rather the words she chose to use. It was made clear that she did not like the two. Had it been anyone else, he would've dismissed it as some estranged enemy. However, his subordinate's comment made him stop and think about it. He would have to ask her later.

As the female Daitenshi stopped her giggles and regained her composure, Shou spoke in a firm and formal tone to Mōka. "As soon as possible may not come for a long time..." He said. "There is much more to our assistance than simple "skirting of our duties", as you have put it. But considering the situation, I'll have to explain everything later. I'm sorry to put you through the trouble." Then, he turned his tone towards the V-14 group in total. "If you happen to have any strays you wish to bring along, now is the time. Genesis and I will take point."

With that being said, he looked at the said Genesis, who was looking at him expectantly. "C'mon!"

"Right behind you, sir!"

They quickly raced away from the group and to the tower, their soles pounding the snow as they sprinted.

"Guess I'll have to put up with you a bit longer, don't I?" Mōka asked rhetorically from under her breath, taking off in a sprint behind them, but made sure she was the farthest behind the group, not wanting to give in to her murderous impulses at this time.

Alastair nodded, silently agreeing with the Daitenshi for the betterment of the Sect's survival and currently best chance of victory through their cooperation. As he took off towards the group, with everyone else in tow, he reached up to his earpiece, speaking lowly but clearly, "Tome! What's your situation?!"

"Well that's a funny way of putting it...one moment I'm minding my own buisness, singlehandedly slaughtering this poor slobs with my barehands when suddenly the freaking parade of Hell came through and began wasting a good bulk of the enemy forces. I'm not seeing any additional reinforcements beyond that, but their airships are currently holding off the newcomers to give what's left of their men a chance to fall back. Need me for something?"

"We're heading to the main defense towers around the sanctuary. Long story short, the leader of the reinforcements is here with us, and is here to deal with these peculiar enemies," Alastair explained through his comm, not wasting a breath as he continued to sprint across the snowy landscape.

"About time! Hold on...I got word from Hiroi that he managed to shake off his opponent. It seemed like she was falling back as well. Funny how that is seeming to be a habit among these cowardice bastards," Tome spoke over the comm.

"Jeez, Yoshi, how many of us did you send?!" Genesis complained, skidding to a stop once she neared the front of the door. With a raise of her foot, she kicked it down and stormed inside, stopping and scanning the area for any potential hostiles. When she was sure it was clear, she allowed herself to stand aside for Shou to step through.

"Only a small detachment..." He said coolly. "I went along with the phrase, "Too small to fight properly, too powerful to be contained". It's the ideal strategy for an operation like this." His ears perked up slightly at the distant sound of warfare not too far from their location, and he knew that the fight was not over yet.

Angelika clicked her earpiece on in order to get in contact with her own squad. "Oliver and Hyōryū, the enemy's artillery support has just been taken care of and they're making a full retreat out of the area, courtesy of... additional elements. What's your status?"

For the first time, Oliver took it upon himself to respond. "Well, I'm a little more than scratched up, but I'll pull through..." He said gruffly. "Say, did we call for any additional reinforcements within the area? I'm seeing these new guys looking as if they just came from some apocalyptic church or something!"

"Those were the elements I were talking about. For the time being, they're considered friendlies. So try not to shoot any one of them..."

"Hey! You make it sound like I have a habit of shooting my own partners in the back! Don't be like that, boss..." Oliver's voice, although complaining, was mostly good-humored.

"I want you two to regroup at the main defense towers quickly and clean up. We'll meet you there."

"Roger that! Oliver out."

"Something isn't right here," Alastair muttered as he noticed how quickly the enemy seemed to be routed, "I could understand the bulk of the enemy force to retreat, but why are the others retreating? Its almost as if that guy you were tangling with earlier, Angelika, left not out of fright but out of another matter altogether...are they planning something? A counterattack?"

Mōka narrowed her eyes, speaking aloud her own convictions, "Despite their relentless hunger for total success, the Inner Circle prides itself for discrepancy among all other things. That assault upon the Rukon District within the Seireitei's Soul Society just showed how far they'd go up until the point of being discovered. But out here, we're isolated from the rest of the known world, a perfect place for them to launch a total assault to eliminate their opposition. But they haven't nearly done that yet...have they?"

"Maybe the Daitenshi's presence was unexpected, just as much as it was on our side..." Angelika suggested. "If the situation gets too out of control for one side, it's natural for them to flee and make preparations. It's possible that the Inner Circle may simply not have expected the Sect to be reinforced by such allies. Of course..." Her tone became more grim. "There's also the possibility that they weren't just bidding for total destruction...."

"Whatever the case is, we'll find out soon enough once we regroup, now won't we?" Alastair spoke calmly, and finally, as the group approached the main crystalline crafted tower. It shined resiliently, despite the various marring and rips caused by the enemy's attacks, it glowed with the shine of a amazing piece of architecture. Surrounding its base was a number of black cloaked men, all of them armed with a plethora of archaic to state-of-the-art weaponry, from Kido armaments to spirit crafted melee tools to even specially weaved armor that enhanced physical abilities.

Standing among them was Tome, not a scratch on him without surprise, but with flecks of blood from the enemies he slayed at close quarters. He looked up at the approaching group with a gleaming smile, pushing his way past the many comrades gathered around as well as a few of the standoffish Daitenshi who segregated themselves purposely.

"Hey guys, what did I miss?" Tome asked, eying Genesis leeringly and Shou briefly before directing his gaze at Angelika and the rest.

Shou allowed himself to pull away from the main group, motioning with one of his machetes towards a few Daitenshi. They immediately complied, running up to him and meeting him half-way. It was a clear indication that they were discussing matters of their own. Angelika chose to ignore it, her eyes shifting towards Tome in order to address him.

"The enemy's artillery support has retreated along with the rest of the opposing forces." She explained. "So, truthfully, you haven't missed much other than the usual carnage that has been going on. Has anything different happened on your end?"

"Well for starters, your two gunnies kicked some major ass inside the perimeter of the sanctuary's corridors. A lot of mess to clean up on the inside, besides what the newbies cleaned house with their fancy chains and fire and brimstome whatnot," he grinned as he thumbed over his shoulder, where Oliver and his teammate began just now exiting the corridor exit, before continuing his debriefing, "and on a hunch, Hiroi is sweeping around the place for any interior invaders or nasty surprises left by the enemy. I haven't heard back from Victor ever since he left with your two gunnies, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's stalking some shadows somewhere..."

Mōka looked once over, furrowing her brows as she bit her lower lip in worry, "Something isn't right here..."

"What's new?" Anton muttered, scratching his face idly. "There's practically a million things not right in this situation and we probably have no idea what they are." He shoved his hands into his pockets, looking around. "Even if this is a nice place, by what I've seen so far..."

"Ey, boys and girls!" Oliver called out cheerfully, waving a hand out towards the crowd in general. His suit and tie attire had suffered several scratches - a clear result of the fighting he had been in. However, with the easygoing gait he took, it was also clear that he had not been critically wounded. "Holmes and Fūsoku bringin' it to ya Live from the Sanctuary! We got death, blood, slaughter, guts, and all that good shit! So hide your kids and elderly, 'cause this sure as hell ain't your grandma's special! Take it away, Pinko!"

The Russian in question cocked an eyebrow. "...really? Really. Did you come up with that while you were walking down the Hall?"

Oliver shrugged nonchalantly. "I'm that creative."

"It rivals your stupidity, I'll grant you that," Hyōryū came in, with equal amount of scratches but nothing to sniff about, with a dry deadpan look on her face as she heard what her gleeful partner was saying, "but I wouldn't be surprised if you thought of a quirky comeback about that too..."

"Whatever he's selling," Tome said with a hearty smile, walking over to Oliver while giving him a thumb's up, "I'm buying!" This prompted Oliver to grin, looking over at Hyōryū in amusement.

"See? Someone appreciates my humor."

Hyōryū then proceeded to facepalm herself, walking away from the two as she exasperated, "I guess they do make more than one of him..."

Mōka's eyes turned towards Angelika, asking with a serious note in her tone, "Where's the leader of security for this sanctuary? Someone had to coordinate with the majority of these guards right? Why don't I see him or her?"

As they were speaking, there were more than one set of eyes on the oblivious Oliver's back.

As he sent the subordinate Daitenshi off to their respective locations, he turned to the blonde man with furrowed eyes and a slight frown on his face. He took in a deep breath, popping his neck for a moment as to steady himself for an oncoming storm. Then, he allowed himself to approach the group in a deliberately slow manner.

The other set of eyes belonged to Genesis. She had taken to simply observing with her weapon holstered and her arms folded across her chest. But as soon as she saw the blonde man walk into the area, she had stiffened a little, her eyes widening in slight surprise and her pupils dilating in the most miniscule transition possible. Her eyes followed him the entire way, but he didn't seem to notice anything at all.

"The Keeper's location, I am unsure of..." Angelika responded calmly, folding her hands behind her back. "He disappeared shortly before the core Sect members joined in to reinforce the defense."

"Hey, Kraut!" Oliver called, parting ways from Tome in order to approach her. He eyed Shou, who was nearer to them, with inquiry before switching his gaze back to his leader. "Sorry to interrupt your conversation, but do you mind telling me who your new friend is? If he isn't some nameless mook..."

"No, no..." Angelika gave a small smile, nodding his head over towards the ex-V-14 member. "I'm not surprised that you don't recognize him. However, with the constant competation you two had, I thought you wouldn't have to rely on mere appearance alone in order to guess correctly."

Oliver blinked owlishly, switching his gaze to Shou - who was now looking at him with a casually serene look, though his eyebrows were still furrowed in slight tension. "...wait a minute. You mean to tell me that this--"

"--is Shou? Indeed, it is..." Angelika spoke calmly, placing her hands in the pockets of her coat jacket.

"Shou?" Hyōryū asked with wide eyes, having managed to work her way back to her leader, and stifled herself when seeing him and Oliver next to each other, "Oh shi-"

For a few moments, all Oliver did was blink owlishly in a display of innocent naivety. Then...

Click!

Shing!

It all happened so fast.

Oliver's hands reached and unholstered his two pistols with such speed, no one had any time to react to it. At the same time, Shou's twin machetes appeared with equal speed and heightened reflexes - a clear indicator that he had been more than ready to pull out his weapons on the blonde. Both of their expressions had gone from stable to dangerous, their eyes narrowed in deadly glares at one another. Within that very instant, Oliver had a pistol against Shou's forehead while those two machetes were pressed against his throat.

A stalemate.

And if anyone moved... one of them would die.

Within that movement, however, another pair of previously unseen firearms moved to intercept both of the men's temples, with a glaring redhead pointing both of her Jackals with power primed into the barrels, "Why don't you two idiots drop your macho rival act and your weapons for once! I'm not joking when I say I will drop you both down like a pair of used cigs if you two don't pipe down. NOW!" Hyōryū snarled, holding her guns evenly and steadily at both of them, not wanting to but inwardly prepping herself to kill her trigger happy compatriots if they think of triggering a incident.

"Shut the fuck up, Hyōryū." Oliver said coldly, not taking his gaze away from Shou. "It's one thing to reunite with an old friend, but it's a completely another thing when some shit-fuck decides that he wants to impersonate 'em. Sorry, but this is one thing I'm not gonna allow for."

"You think I'm really an impersonation...?" Shou asked quietly, returning Oliver's glare full force.

"Your weapons. Your appearance. Your spiritual signature..." Oliver gritted his teeth slightly as he explained. "They're completely different, and I'm not talking the kind of different where you part ways from an old friend for years on end and then come back. You might as well be a completely different person. I'll be damned if I stand by and let a punk like you insult a dead comrade of mine. But if you really want, I suppose you can let you get a word in before I blow your brains out. So what do you have to say for yourself?"

Silence.

Surprisingly, despite the fact that the ordeal was right in her faces, Angelika had a casual and aloof expression on her face. She watched as Shou closed his eyes and took in another deep breath. His hardened expression lightened up slightly, just enough to show that he was lost in thought. The more time he took only thickened the tension within the air. But his master was calm to it all, regarding it with an almost bored demeanor.

Then, Shou spoke.

"10. 17. 11. 12."

That was enough to relieve the tension immediately.

Oliver was quick to trade his angry expression for a slightly amused and amazed one, pulling his guns off of Shou's head and holding them in a holstered position with the barrels pointed towards the sky. "Shit..." He muttered, chuckling a little. "I didn't think you actually remembered that! Though, I guess considering the circumstances, it'd be a clinger in your brain..."

"...you knew it was me all along, didn't you?" Shou's eye twitched slightly as he leveled a glare at Oliver. But this time, it conveyed annoyance. "I should've known you would've done something so reckless for the sake of pointing a gun in my face, you sadist." He re-sheathed his machetes, folding his arms across his chest.

"Hey!" Oliver protested, sheathing his guns and raising his hands up. "That was an authentic, justified reason. How was I supposed to know it was you, with the get-up and all? Don't jump the gun and say I faked being on the alert!"

With a sigh, the male Daitenshi turned towards Hyōryū and bowed respectfully. "I apologize, miss Fūsoku, if I scared or alarmed you any." He said sincerely. "What transpired today was done because of nothing more than a precaution, not out of disagreement."

Hyōryū sighed, grumbling as she disarmed her weapons and holstered them respectfully, "I should snap kick you in the balls, Shou," glaring at him before looking at Oliver as well, "and you too mister ha-ha stand-up comedian. You do realize if I shot you it'd be me with the last laugh right?!"

Alastair blinked a few times before turning his gaze from the trio and back to Angelika, surprised to see her calm, nearly tranquil appearance in the midst of a potential shootout among her subordinates, "I don't know how you do it...just stand there as if its natural to see your men point guns at each other as if its normal."

Angelika chuckled. "If you were a part of V-14's Alpha Team, you would feel the same way." She commented lightly. "They've been this way for the entire time that they served as my mercenaries. It's pretty natural by now."

"Sometimes, I wish it wasn't..." The Russian muttered, a palm covering his face as he attempted to relieve himself of the tense alarm that had forced itself into him the moment the weapons came out. "It's only here of all places that punching someone else in the face means "hello" in our language."

Woosh!

Within an instant, he was right beside Hyōryū with an arm around her shoulders. "Holmes!" He said, frowning in disappointment at his American colleague. "Stop picking on my girlfriend, before you get hurt! I don't want to be responsible for any of your unborn children killed because she got a little trigger-happy."

In response, Oliver stuck out his tongue and blew out a raspberry at the two.

"Right..." Angelika rolled her eye slightly, turning towards the two male Sect members. "I guess now that the dust has settled, we focus on finding the rest of the Sect and regrouping. Will there be anything else needed in addition to that?"

Mōka's eyes widened slightly as she felt an ominous thrum within the distant, snowy landscape. She looked over, and the thrums began to throw out sudden gusts of winds, silenced as soon as they came, and began to grow slowly in more repetition and speed.

"Something's...coming," she said aloud, her teeth clenched and her brows knit into a frown, "something...foul. Old...and evil..."

Alastair was about to ask, when a sudden immediate broadcast to all of the Sect members was heard, "Everyone, this is Victor Fürst speaking on behalf of the Keeper's First. Something within the Hallowed Hall is blocking our reentrance with the other leaders of the Sect. We can't tell for certain, but we believe the other leaders are in danger within...I need reinforcements back at the gate ASAP! Victor out!"

"Well now," Tome smiled widely, shoving his oval shades up the bridge of his nose with his middle finger anticipatorily, "sounds like we got more surprises to deal with...left and right, now aren't we?"

Angelika's eye narrowed, and she reached into her coat pocket to whip out her pistol. The feeling of apprehension washed over her completely, causing her to tighten her grip on her pistol. But she remained firm. "You heard him." She said firmly, the sharpness returning to her tone. "We head to the gate and provide support. Let's move!"

Seeing the attention pulled off from him, Shou decided to return to the side of his subordinate, who appeared visibly shaken. "Hey..." He whispered, startling her out of her trance and getting her attention. "You all right? Now isn't exactly the time to start zoning out."

"Huh? Oh...sorry..." The girl turned away in slight embarrassment, scratching the back of her head and blushing a faint red. "It's just that...well..." She drifted off into silence once her eyes fell onto Oliver. "I was..." However, she abruptly shook herself out of it. "N-never mind...I was just thinking to myself, that's all. Nothing important..." She pulled out her rifle from its holster, turning the safety off and holding it by the back and front grip. "I'm ready. Let's go."

But this time, and out of her awareness, Oliver had noticed the look she had given him...

Enter the Jackal, A Mastermind in the Making

Mōka took a longing look towards the horizon, the thrumming and winds blew across like a ancient furious gale stern of a powerful storm to the peaceful valley. With one last glare, she turned her form away from the horizon's vantage point and towards the interior of the Citadel. She will not lose here....not now, not ever!

Alastair leading with Angelika, alongside the rest of the group that ventured into the crystalline palace, leaving a compliment of rearmed guards to watch the exterior of the gate along with Tome, who said that Hiroi would be regrouping with them at the gate momentarily.

"I don't understand," Alastair spoke lowly as he sprinted ahead with the others beside and around him, "we sealed the gate behind us, and nearly every one of the leaders within have a plethora of combat experience and powers of their own, not to mention the security within the Hallowed Hall forbade any enemies from setting foot without activating the special security measures. So...why can't we reenter when we have a Keeper's First at hand, as well as find ourselves with enemies within a sanctuary that's supposed to be filled with allies?"

The implications sent chills down Angelika's spine.

Now that she had thought of it, maybe the Inner Circle's ability to detect didn't reach as far as they were! It had only taken the dealings of a spy for the Soul Society to found out where the V-14 HQ was. Despite the fact that she was sure the Inner Circle would rather resort to more direct approaches to dealing with their prey, she couldn't put out Victor's suggestion of infiltration methods. With their skills, they could probably work their way into any system they wanted, even...

She took in a deep breath, allowing herself to speak.

"Maybe our security isn't as tight as we thought it would. We may or may not have a rat in our midst..."

Alastair's eyes brigthened with a glow of vibrant blue, and his jaw tightened at the suspicion growing more and more like a definite certainty. With his body picking up a pace faster, he muttered aloud in concurance, "Then I suppose its time to exterminate the vermin hiding within our midst, don't you agree?"

"Were it so easy..."

Turning around one more corridor, the company of Sect affiliates reached the hall leading the large imposing gate. What greeted them was an expectant, if not nonchalant Victor, checking his Kido firearms while leaning with his legs crossed against the crystalline wall perpindicular to the gate itself. Directly in front of himself, the incoming Sect compatriots, and the gate itself was Athena herself, meditating with her legs crossed and her body now garbed in a much less formal attire, something akin to that of a combat dress and archaic armor.

"So you've arrived," Victor said with a simple raise of his single eyelid, directing his iris towards the arrivals, "I'm glad punctuality is something the Sect cherishes."

"Just a moment, fräulein..." Angelika muttered, stepping over to stand over and crouch in front of the meditating Athena. Momentarily, she pulled her hands out of her pockets and rested her arms on her knees. This pose lasted only for a second before she reached with one of her hand...

Slap!

...before bringing it across the other woman's face with a scolding lace.

Victor couldn't help but smirk at her attitude, as well as the motion towards Athena, not condoning nor disapproving the act as well.

Athena didn't even wince, even as a angry red mark punctuated the slap Angelika threw across her cheek. However, she did speak firmly, "Please don't act irrationally, Angelika. We need your intuition and perception now more than ever," reopening her eyes she gazed at her with serious eyes, before announcing with a rise to her feet, "I've just confirmed that the security system has been compromised and the Keeper is no longer within the recesses of the Hallowed Hall. The leaders are in the middle of a battle with...a person unknown...who was cunning enough to rewrite the incantation password for entry and exit past the gate."

"That's not going to stop us," Alastair said confidently, as he took a few steps towards the gate, running his hand across the obsidian material while looking up at its tall grandeur and splenderous craftmanship, "this gate isn't impregnable, is it? Is it possible to destroy it?"

"Normally its physically impossible to even scratch the Gate of Shadows," Athena spoke honestly, before looking straight at the offending obstacle in front of her with a knitting of ber brows, "but now...the gate's tampering has lost its archaic effectiveness. I'm sure anyone skilled enough can bypass it somehow, or render its mechanisms-"

SHIIINK!

"Stand back, everyone," Alastair spoke as he unsheathed his Zanpakuto, raising its edge to just hover a mere few inches away from it, "I'm going to try something here...and I don't want anyone to get caught in this little experiment of mine..."

"Right..." Angelika nodded, rising up as soon as Athena did. "Oh, and Athena?"

As she looked over at her old friend again, her eye was narrowed slightly - a clear sign she was not too happy with what the woman had done. "Irrationality is just what I summarized your move to lock us in the meeting room to be. That was an incredibly foolish and childish action on your part, and I would appreciate it if you took our ability to handle ourselves in combat a little more seriously. I do not bring hounds to be kept on chains when there is a crisis at hand. Do you understand me?"

Athena's eyes drew into a knitted look before she bowed her head, speaking with a hurt tone, but a composed one nonetheless, "I...I am sorry. I underestimated the situation and I thought it shouldn't be something to bother you or the Sect about. With such a monumentous event underway, I thought it to be my duty as the Keeper's First to dispatch the enemy...instead I gave them an advantage," she raised her head to levelly gaze with her old friend, smiling sadly at her, "I'm sorry I got you and the rest of us in this mess."

"Fūbi," Alastair spoke commandingly, as he thrust his Zanpakuto into the recess of the large imposing gate, sending a ripple of energy into its essence. Within a wave, electric affect, the gate itself began to groan and whine before pulsating. It then, with long duress and protest to the ancienct mechanims within, began opening forth for the arrivals to enter, "alright!"

After briefly turning took in the direction of the gate opening itself, Angelika met Athena's gaze once more. But upon hearing the guilty tone, her expression softened slightly, and she couldn't help but give a small smile in return. "If we go through Hell, we will go through it together. Try to keep that in mind next time..." Her tone and words were forgiving, expressing no more of her stern nature.

As she stepped away from Athena, she turned towards her personal team. "Shou, Anton, Shinji! I want you three to take point." She ordered, snapping back into her commanding mask. This earned their nods, as well as their various responses.

"As you wish, kachō."

"No problem, boss!"

"..."

As the three said males moved into position, Oliver walked up to Athena and placed a hand on her shoulder, giving a smile of approval. "Have to say... you're quite duty-bound..." He commented lightly - a change of pace, considering his rogue nature up until that point. "Even if the Keeper, by some miracle, doesn't see you as a valuable asset to the sect, then I certainly do!"

Athena reflected a approving, soft smile back, her eyes twinkling a little brighter despite the situation as she nodded to him, "Thank you, Mister Holmes. I can see now why Angelika takes pride in having such a fine partner and subordinate under her command now," as she saw the gate open and the following people take up point, she moved forward to stand beside Angelika, saying in a low determined voice, "let's finish this."

"Agreed," Victor spoke as he brough up the rear, as Alastair walked backwards to join him, keeping his sword ready and in hand for the slightest inclination of conflict.

Within the Hallowed Hall, a reverberation of thunderous clashes of explosions and conflict vibrated the interior of the sacred chamber. Shockwaves created gusts of wind towards the point team, and conflicting spiritual pressures of those few beings within who held powers beyond the norm clashed with the enemy within. However, the lights above were now shimmering and flickering, making it harder to pin-point the exact location of the combatants within.

A slow smile came across Shou's face. The gusts of wind hit his face, but he didn't seem to care. If anything, he seemed quite appreciative of the sounds of war. "This is quite a setting..." He remarked, a calm but indirectly malicious tone laced within. "Mars has chosen to conduct quite a fine piece of music to conduct today." This earned him a curious stare from Anton.

"Aren't the ones devoted to justice not supposed to be willing to swing swords?" He questioned.

"The job of the Daitenshi is to separate humanity from the demons that try to consume it and destroy the elk that attempt to oppose that law... and it's only natural for someone to find an enjoyment their job, isn't it?"

That made Anton fall silent for a moment, pondering the statement within his head. But it only took a few seconds before his eyes widened in surprise, and he snapped back to attention. "W-wait a minute... "separate humanity from demons"... you mean that--?"

"Our mistress has sensed out the likes of demon kind within the ranks of your enemies." Shou's smile faded from his face as he explained. "That is all I can explain for the time being. If you want more, you'll have to wait until we purge every enemy from this sanctuary. Now isn't the time for words."

"Of course she sees fit to fight enemies she deems to not inform the world about," Mōka spoke bitterly, her tone quieter though and kept in check from bringing up another argument, moreover venting her displeasure of bringing up her.

"Awfully poetic all of a sudden, isn't he...?" Oliver muttered, taking the time to speak to Genesis.

"Tell me about it..." The girl muttered in response, idly checking her rifle to make sure it wasn't jammed or had any potential problems. "He always gets like this when--"

However, she abruptly stopped speaking, her expression changing to one of slight surprise when she realized who had spoken to her. She snapped her head, her moderately dilated eyes staring at the curious ones of Oliver. He couldn't help but quirk an eyebrow at her abrupt and seemingly random reaction.

"Uh, you all right?"

This seemed to be a bad thing to say. Genesis's expression of shock changed to one of slight indignation, and she twisted her face away from him in an angry huff. That shut him up completely and caught him by surprise. "H-huh?! What's with this kid?! All I did was ask her a question and she flips out!"

Alastair peered through the masses in front of him into the sparking, shadow-lathered interior of the Hallowed Hall. What was once viewed as a place of innate, dark beauty and safety, now became a hunting ground for the enemy to pick them off, one by one.

Victor armed his revolver, even as he was the last one in line, he was preparing for the unexpected arrival of any enemy from any direction. IN his line of buisness, the enemy favored blindsided strikes and flanking maneuvers over forward, frontal assaults. He never had been known to be too careless...

Mōka's eyes began tracking the movements within. Her eyes slowly changed from its dark brown color to a fiery red, her vision taking on an entirely different perspective than nearly all of the gathered allies around her. She suddenly caught sight of the real enemy. She suddenly then saw the incoming pair of individuals combatting...

A shorthaired, white long-coat garbed woman known as Senmei, was in midair, firing a pair of miniature "disposable-grade" Kido pistols, showering a hail of beams filled with slugs of high penetrative power and accuracy towards her incoming opponent.

However, despite all her grace and skill, the opponent moved effortlessly around her the incoming fire, before darting into the gap between the shots created by her guns, a palm clasped over her face. Muffling any shouts of protest, her body was pulled back suddenly before thrown into the ground mightily, causing a incredible cracking sound, causing her to cry out in pain. Her arms spasmed, her hands gripped her guns tightly as she weakly tried to bring them to bear against her opponent, before they flopped limply, allowing her to gasp for the air knocked out of her body, even as the enemy landed next to her effortlessly.

"Oh? We appear to have guests," a playful, yet sinister undertoned voice rang out from the individual who made the visible incapacitating move against the Sect leader, "I guess I shouldn't hide in the dark now that the figuratively proverbial cat is out of the bag. Lights!"

SNAP-SNAP!

With a pair of gloved fingers snapping, the previously elaborate lights shined brightly once more, illuminating the room to show the room filled with weary, dead, or currently incapacitated members of the Sect. Thankfully, for the most part the majority happened to be either unconscious or battle-worn while only a few suffered deaths.

The man in front of them, horrifyingly enough, was no unknown threat beyond with allied demon ilk or swarms of mindless marauders. But rather...a Sect allied leader himself!

"Hello there everyone," Daigomi said with a courteous tone, flashing a set of dazzling white pearly teeth while tipping his hat fancifully in their direction, "I'm so glad none of you chaps came to disappoint me. You're just in time for the grand finale, after all!" He flourished his hands outwards elaborately, speaking in a jubiously enthusiastic tone belying the morbid scene that has just unwraveled around himself.

Had the deed not been done, it would have been correct to assume that this man was nothing other than a lone survivor.

But the action he had performed, as well as his words, convinced Angelika and her particular group that this man was not the case. It didn't take much for her or any of them to put two and two together. The point men braced themselves, their weapons brandished threateningly at the Sect member. Certainly, they were more than ready to destroy their opposition after seeing what had just transpired. But...

"Hold your fire! Don't shoot... yet."

Angelika's commanding voice called out to them, and they immediately stilled themselves. They passed glances as the woman herself stepped in front of them, her gun pointed gangster style towards the man. "Herr Bandai... what exactly do you think you're doing?" She questioned, keeping her voice controlled. However, there was a clear tone of malevolence.

"Oh? That seems like a rather loaded question, Miss Hartmann," he said with a coy look, before shaking his head as he walked over to Senmei's quivering form, trying to raise her gun towards his position briefly and ineptly, "do you mean the present, as what do I think I'm doing, hurting this poor girl? Or," he then turned narrowed eyes, flicking a cigarette out of his coat sleeve before lighting it with a lighter dispatched from his other sleeve, his pleasant tone turned into a menacing, serious tone as he poured forth a swath of smoke into the air, "do you mean why I decided to betray the Sect for the Inner Circle?"

"Both will suffice." Angelika narrowed her eye into a slit, his tone only feeding the inner anger she had within herself. "Betrayal is something that can't be justified. But knowing that doesn't get rid of the curiosity. Tell me..." Part of her demanded that she pull the trigger and blow out his brains right then and there. However, she kept herself in line. She needed information, and she didn't want to waste a valuable source. If the man had enough guts to brag about his accomplishments in front of a dozen of his enemies, he probably would have no problem telling all about it.

"Why would you side with such tyrants, hurt and kill our comrades in their name? What bribery did they promise you, you pitiful thing?"

"Bribery? You think such an illustrious, powerful individual that had held of one of the most promising extortion racketeering operations as well as one of the best information broker dealings would be susceptible to promises of wealth or power? You think too small, Angelika, as well as insult my pride as a buisnessman," Daigomi said in a amused tone, pointing his gloved hands to himself in emphasis of her accusations and guesses.

"Then what is it that you seek?" Victor asked from behind Angelika, who now had reached a position beside Angelika within arm's reach, his anger seething empathetically to Angelika likewise, but his face betrayed nothing short of a narrowed eye filled with wrath and murder.

"Right to the point as usual, eh Victor?" Daigomi spoke with a point of his gloved hand, before walking casually across the black obsidian flooring, his footsteps made echoes that gave off the impression of a stage actor, or a trickster revealing his maddening schemes to those he fooled, "I seek to change this world. Surely, none of you have forgotten that fateful moment when all of us were plunged into oblivion only to be ripped back into the world as we knew it? That one moment...when gods summoned by mere mortal souls attempted the unthinkable: Bend the fabric of Lies to reveal the most beautiful Truth."

"Words of a man with delusions, nothing more..." Angelika dismissed coldly. "Countless have spoken the very same words, and those who had followed up with it ended up following the path straight to their own demise. What makes you think you'll be any different, especially considering the position you're in?" She kept her gun trained on him, but her senses were reaching out towards the area in particular. Was he the source of the ominous feeling that they were getting earlier? Surely, it couldn't be the case...

"You're outnumbered and outclassed," Alastair spoke with confidence, raising his blade in a provocative statement, the edge of the metal shined with a beautiful if not lethal declaration of cutting power, "surely you don't think you can get out of here alive?"

Daigomi smiled widely, stretching out his arms in a open if not taunting gesture as he spoke, "If you want to execute me here and now, by all means...then you probably won't know the plan the Circle has for this world, and how they will sieze power from those who cradle ignorantly blissful in their thrones?"

"I'd rather blow his f'ing brains out-" Hyōryū began cocking her gun and aiming it, before Mōka suddenly twitched and turned her head around towards the way they came, "what now?!"

"I should've known!" Spoke aloud with clear indication of alarm, anticipation, and regret... "that ominous pulsation...was a gate from the netherworld about to be opened into this one!"

That was enough to break Angelika's controlled facade, her eye dilating in an expression of complete shock and horror. The rest of the V-14's majority was not too far behind her, showing their own shocked reactions to the revelation. But it was Shou and Genesis who had expressed their anger vocally.

"Have you and your so called Inner Circle gone insane?!" Shou demanded, instantly brandishing his machetes in a threatening manner.

"What in Hell are you trying to prove, tampering with the boundaries of the dimensions?! This isn't something you or your precious organization can control!!" Genesis snarled, joining the front ranks and raising her rifle at the target with her finger tightened on the trigger.

"You don't have the slightest clue," Daigomi smiled thinly, narrowing his eyes accuastorily at Genesis as if she had no idea what she was talking about, "what boundries our power extends to, nor what we already control. The very one who launched an assault upon Angelika's precious V-14 affiliates, the one who commanded nearly this entire operation, is none other than the one who's in dominion over the one who's coming out of that portal."

"Yashin," Athena whispered, speaking for the first time since the revelation of the traitor, and now the second time she heard that name, "you mean...he's that powerful-?!"

"Of course someone serving such an archaic vessel of decrepity would doubt the facts," Daigomi verbally mocked, clapping his hands together, an amused grin donning on his face as he eyed all of them, "now...which of you are going to attempt to stop this potential pandemic for your precious sacred sanctuary and alliance...and which of you are going to attempt to capture me for interrogation?"

Hyōryū growled, her hands shaking with the hilts of her guns making her palms white with anger. Her eyes turned to her boss and senior, awaiting any orders she would have in this catastrophic turn of events. She hoped she would make the right call...this situation is becoming quite damning and maddening for her to handle as it is!

"We shouldn't waste time and exit this place to meet the threat," Alastair spoke while holding his Zanpakuto straight and true, not removing its pose as to not become the next victim of Daigomi's mercilessly cold assault on his former comrades, "but we can't just let him get away...he knows too much, for both our own survival as well as what he's done, he can't be allowed to walk away!"

"The real problem is the fact that he knows as much as he does," Victor spoke audibly, his gun now levelly trained on Daigomi as well, "that information could be turned to any number of affiliates the Inner Circle has, as well as our plans of action against them will be revealed. Interrogating him would be in our best interest...if that option is valid."

And within that moment, Oliver blinked.

"Did... did everyone just subtly give command to our boss?" He thought to himself, pondering the situation. Alastair and Victor, the people who he considered to be Angelika's male equivalents, seemed to be comfortable in the face of leaving the initiative to her. Was it the fact that she had chosen to speak out in the meeting? If it was, he couldn't help but be impressed.

Angelika closed her eyes and thought about it.

The attack, and this new revelation caused the pieces to fall into place. This wasn't an attempt to directly destroy the Sect. It was nothing more than a distraction for this very moment. That must have been why the Inner Circle's forces had chosen to pull away. They didn't want to face the results of what would happened if the gate to the netherworld was opened. If the forces that had severely weakened the defenses of the Sect were wary of what would happen...

...then there would be no way that the Sect, as weakened as it was, could hope to contain the problem all by themselves. Leaving the man to fight the threat not only jeopardized their secrecy, but it also put their forces in danger due to the threat of what was waiting on the other side. At the same time, Daigomi seemed all too casual in this situation, almost as if he was waiting for them to capture him. Was he being overconfident? Or was he leading them straight into a trap?

This was where she would have to make the decisive call.

"Shou..." She said coolly, slowly lowering her pistol. "I will leave this to you. Show this man how the V-14 deals with traitors."

The malevolent response promised a very, very painful death.

"Yes, master..."

With a swing of his machetes, Shou stepped forward, keeping his death glare on Daigomi while he spoke. "Genesis! There are Sect members that have not yet left this world. Prevent them from doing so..."

"Aye..." Genesis was quick to oblige, running past the point men and towards the wounded farthest away from Daigomi. Because Sonmei was right underneath the enemy's feet, she would have to wait until that particular area was cleared before she moved in.

"The rest of you!" Angelika immediately turned her voice to the majority. "We will take our leave. No use spending any more of our forces than what is necessary."

"Well spoken," Victor commented lightly, closing his eye as he recoiled his gun arm before swiftly turning around to join the rest of the group, with Alastair briefly resisting the maneuver before flourishing his blade and sheathing it properly, joining his other partner.

Hyōryū nodded, clicking back the safeties on her Jackals while momentarily glaring at her assumed target, turning on her heels to follow the rest of the group back, joining Oliver at her side when doing so. "Hope we can shoot some more baddies...I was really wanting to kill that bitch!"

"I reckon we'll get our chance to deal out more death, soon enough, Hyōryū-chan," Athena spoke in a calm, yet murderously certain tone as she walked in sync with the rest.

"Hoo-ah..." Oliver whispered, twirling his two pistols around on his fingers.

"Ta-Ta, everyone!" Daigomi said in a jubiliant tone, waving his right hand out while holding his lit cigarette in his left, calling out to them in a near comical manner, "don't forget to say hi for me, will you?!"

Of all the people to take their leave and follow their orders succinctly, only Mōka took her time in leaving. Taking one last look at Daigomi she turned to Shou, speaking in a cautionary, low tone, "Do not underestimate this one, Shou Yoshizawa. There is something foul and unnatural about this one's spiritual pressure."

"I understand." Shou did not allow himself to turn, but he still made it clear that he acknowledged her warning. Slowly, he lowered his blades, but he kept his stance guarded. "In turn, I wish you the best of luck on your end. Farewell, Mōka-san."

"Right," Mōka spoke with finality, her body shimmering as it moved out of the room the join the others. Despite his inherent nature, his past as a V-14 operative to Angelika let her forget his origins enough to look out for him. Inwardly, she hoped that one Daitenshi was enough to handle the likes of him...

As soon as Mōka left, the area panned into a eery silence. Slight moans and gasps were heard by other injured than Senmei, as Daigomi's gaze locked onto Shou. His yellow irises locked onto Shou's blue ones as he lifted his cigarette to take another puff, the crackling embers beyon the white wrapped piece of addictive became audible within the echolocatively sensitive room. After breathing out a hiss of air mingled with smoke, the man snapped the forefingers holding the cig, enveloping it in a brief blue flame before it disintegrated into nothing.

"Well then, Daitenshi," Daigomi placed his hands in his pockets, expectantly staring him down with a cool composed face, "are you going to strike down a member of the Sect as well as a member of the Inner Circle?"

Shou's eyes narrowed, his twin machetes making an audible clicking sound as he shifted them ever so slightly. His ear perked up slightly when he heard the snap of Genesis's fingers and the ignition of the blue flame. The bodies of the wounded were set ablaze. However, the flame would not incinerate or cause pain. Rather, it would heal the wounds that had been delivered to them little by little. Each snap of the finger meant another individual was treated by the flames, and there would be plenty of them to heal.

"No..." He said lowly. "I'm going to strike down a pawn, a puppet of sin masquerading itself as a mortal. It doesn't matter what title you were given. All of that will be purged once you join the rest of the damned in Hell."

He raised one of his machetes, pointing the tip directly towards the ground before stabbing it into the material.

BWOOSH!

All around Daigomi, a multitude of chains erupted from the ground. They shot to the ceiling till the tips were inches from piercing it. These chains banded together to form massive clumps, each one wide as five average people. Then, the metal was ignited with the blue flame, the heat increasing to uncomfortable levels. Those farthest from it would be okay, but Daigomi had a higher risk due to his proximity.

And that was only the beginning of it.

Without warning, the flaming chains shot towards their target. At the tips of the chains, a dragon head was formed, giving off the visage of several dragons closing in to consume their prey.

Even as the flames burned brightly and a few beads of expectant sweat trailed down Daigomi's brow, he smiled widely as they aimed to attack him.

"You shouldn't have done that..."

The next set of events were as unpredictable as a blizzard errupting in a desert.

The black obsidian, almost liquid-sheen appearing material that made up the floor around Daigomi suddenly rippled to life. Moving at instaneous speeds, the floor rose and expanded, forming a protective sphere around the individual immediately, blocking off the flames immediately with angry hisses and clashing metals, sparks rained around in futility.

The "floor" then moved around Shou with a sinister, almost borderline protective purpose, instaneously rising and discharging a number of pikes to stab into him repeatedly. The substance itself had enough penetrative power to stress even the material of Hell's chains, and the substance around the room only seemed to be focused on two things. Protect Daigomi and destroy the attacker.

Following up the pike thrusts, a large protrusion that emanated from the floor, almost taking the appearance of a large worm, rose up to a height of seven meters with a girth of 4 meters. The liquid metalic, borderline sentient substance seemed to detect Shou's presence, rearing its "head" and opening a maw-like jaw, discharging a number of swift and sharp tentacles at him, intending on slicing and smashing him across the distance with feroicous tenacity.

It was a good thing that Shou reacted as quickly as he did.

When the pikes were unleashed, he immediately took to the air before they could rip him apart. Seeing that the initial strike was ineffective, he moved his arms up. As the chains had extended from his sleeves, they had to sink back under the floor and back out through the entry holes. The flaming chains made a sort of web in front of him, intercepting the tentacles before they had a chance to hit him.

With a swipe of an arm, he restrained those tentacles and forced the chains to extend down worm-like monster's throat. With a grunt, he amplified the intensity of the flames, enveloping the creature itself as well as a good majority of the floor in a violent blaze. Coincidentally, it formed a protective wall around the section where the wounded lay - something that Genesis was grateful for.

She paused for a brief moment, looking at the display with apprehensive curiosity. "Is that the security system of the building? Or is this his powers?" She thought to herself.

As the flames and chains receded away from the bubble around its captive, the sentient substance unwound and receded back into the floor as well, leaving a perfectly unscarred and stalwart Daigomi, "I did warn you," he spoke with an amused tone as he looked at his hands for dirt, absentmindedly mocking the Daitenshi, "attacking a member of the Sect is a grave taboo to commit inside the Hallow Hall. Especially if you're not a member of the Sect...it will trigger the defense mechanisms within this hall to relentlessly destroy its target. As long as the aggressor lives, this whole chamber will attempt to reduce you to nothing more than dust!"

Even as the flames began building up around the avatar of the living substance in intensity, the "worm" began morph and change. Thinning out to mere strands equivalent to piano chords, they slipped through the vice grip of the chains and extended up and showered towards the Daitenshi with a wall of thin-razor sharp blades numbering in the tens of thousands.

The flashes that these piano-like chords made caused Shou's eyes to dilate slightly in surprise, and he found himself having to move quicker than he had planned.

Voom!

With a quick movement, the Daitenshi maneuvered in and out of the webbings that threatened to trap him inside. It only took a few seconds for him to successfully land on the floor, straightening himself up once his feet hit the ground. But it was a few seconds after that moment that made it clear he had not made it out unscathed.

Splurch!

Both of his arms fell off, blood spraying from the sockets and staining the floor. The messy limbs dissolved into the crimson liquid that they were full off, and only the machetes were left. Shou was left armless and unable to defend himself. But still, his voice was eerily firm and controlled.

"You still call yourself a Sect member after what you've done here...?"

Then, the unthinkable.

Out of the bloody sockets, a mass of blood, skin, nerves, and muscle erupted. They began to mesh together, reforming and reconstructing themselves back into the way they were before. In seconds, Shou had regenerated his arms with full functionality, as if the wound had never happened in the first place.

"Know your place, traitor!!" Shou growled, shifting his arms into a cross. "Murder..."

Upon that statement, the two machetes lying on the ground 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 Daigomi. 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.

"Shōri no Oto!"

As this was going on, Genesis was handling her own problem.

"Listen up!" She barked to the ones that were still conscious. "If you think you've recovered enough to leave, then get out of here now! This isn't the place for you to be! I will take care of the ones that are still unable to move themselves!"

One of the Sect leaders, an elderly yet well-fit man, looked over at the rest of the able bodied Sect members while nodding his head and speaking in a gruff tone, "You hear the lady! Pick up the unconscious and leave the dead! The Hallowed Hall will dispose of their remains as is customary, so get moving and mourn later!"

As one of the lieutenants of a deceased Sect leader was about to argue, he caught wind of the ferocity of the battle the Daitenshi was having with the traitor. As much as he yearned for vengeance, he swallowed down his pride and nodded after his elder, moving to grasp any of the incapacitated with the others, before gathering towards the exit.

"Oh!" Daigomi gasped in feint surprise, before remarking aloud, "how grotesquely impressive. Instaneous regeneration eh? Its not that all impressive when you've seen the things I've seen over and over," he then looked down, only by a small margin granted, to look at the assorted beasts around him, "and such adorable puppies you have there. Tell me, are they going to maul the Hall, cause I don't think its going to do you any good increasing the tempo of aggression here..."

Within his speech, the ground twisted underneath the soles and paws of the Daitenshi's summons and person, before a large uprising of obsidian sentient material skyrocketed around them, intending on trapping them within before finishing them off there, wrapping it around its resilient-liquid sheen embrace to curshing extents.

"...because any form of increase in power will only cause this room's security to increase its own power to destroy you!"

Shou folded his arms across his chest and did not lift a finger, for his hounds acted for him.

With alerting yelps, they leaped out of the way and briefly separated in the process. The Daitenshi was the last to move out of the way, barely escaping the boundaries of being crushed into a pancake. As he landed, his five hounds surrounded him. "The will of my body vs the will of a machine." A small smile came across his lips, the thought amusing him. "Let's see who breaks first."

And then it hit Genesis.

"Wait a minute... why didn't I think of that before!"

"Hey, uh, excuse me!" With a leap, she was right beside the elder Sect member, a terse expression on her face. "The defense system of this place... do you know where the an override source is?" She asked quickly. "With the defense system in place, this fight will never end!"

"That's impossible!" The youth who swallowed his pride before now spoke out of fear for his rescuers trying something, waving his arms in protest, "this defense system is invincible! You can't simply cut off a head to a beast that has a legion of heads! The Hallowed Hall IS the security system!-"

"Silence whelp!" The elderly Sect member reprimanded him, scowling hotly at the youth into submission before he returned a serious gaze to her, "there is only one way to ensure the security system is inactive, but it comes at a cost...for with no Keeper or its first here, you have to seal yourselves within. The gate's locking mechanisms ensure no intruders that have entered may leave freely, but in turn, it is also impossible to escape without assistance of a great conglomeration of Sect leaders or the Keeper or its First herself."

Suddenly, rising from the floor like a latex-liquid mold came about a number of armored warriors, their helmeted visages had glowing red eyes from behind their "protective" visors. With a synchronized series of wet pops, the feet became unglued to the obsidian material, and the bodies became mobile...

WHIZ-WHIZ-WHIZ-WHIZ-WHIZ!...

...and incredibly swift they came, swinging their feudal style katanas of incredibly heightened cutting properties at the hounds and Shou, moving with grace and skill complimentary to ancient warriors borne of the Zanjutsu arts.

"You're witnessing the Puppet Form of the Hallowed Hall," Daigomi educated Shou with amusement as he watched the spectacle that the battle presented before him, his hands waved in emphasis of the examples he began giving, "unlike the Tethered Form the Hallowed Hall has been using, the Puppet Form is using archaically stored data and information from past deceased members of the Sect that have come to be burried here. Using the soul genetic data of each corpse of the deceased, this defense system can reanimate any number of useful individuals in a doll-like effigy, and use their abilities to near their full potential against the enemies within this chamber. In other words," he smiled widely while his eyes narrowed darkly, "you've disturbed the dead of this chamber, and now they will not rest until they spill your blood on this very floor and consume your body into the whole of the Hall."

Had it been anyone less, it would have been a completely terrifying situation.

The flames that encircled the warriors rose up to the length of the average man, the intensity of the heat, and fact that they were expanding ever so slightly as time progressed was scary within itself. But to face down an army of the Sect's deceased by yourself? It was something that would've shaken the nerves of any soldier. In fact, as the swordsmen charged him and engaged his hounds ferociously in combat, he found multiple beads of sweat falling down his face. This situation was certainly a dangerous one to be in.

However, this was something that he experienced before.

He had been though Hell, literally. It as an eternity of suffering, agony, and torment at the hands of the Daitenshi and the Kushanada. Somehow, through the pain, he managed to hold his sanity long enough for selection by the Punisher. His will had put him through the hell as a Togabito and the hell he suffered to become a Daitenshi. This was nothing but child's play to him, especially considering what they were.

"...dead, you say?"

SLICE!

With one of his machetes, he sliced through a warrior that dared to approach him from the head down. Within that very same instant, the entity burst into blue flames and disintegrated, leaving nothing between Shou's glare and its target. "The reanimation of lives that have been deceased, even in this state, is nothing but a target for the weapons I have been bestowed..." He whispered, brandishing both of his blades threateningly. "For a moment, I thought these were just mere shapes... but now that I know, there's no obstacle."

His ice-blue eyes narrowed into slits.

"It's just me and you, heathen!!"

With that being said, he lunged forward.

His hounds were tearing through their cover with extreme ferocity. Each one took out a good number on its own before being slain, and another one took the slain one's place. When Shou had launched himself on the offensive, the majority of that group took it upon themselves to charge him. However, with the advantage of his Holy element, they could do nothing to defend from his strikes. Within seconds, all that had opposed him were slaughtered and incinerated, never to return.

But all he needed was a good leap.

Voom!

Within that leap, he had placed himself in a crouch in front of Daigomi, bringing one of his blades up in a ferocious uppercut for the chest. It wasn't to kill him, but to gravely wound him. He was needed for interrogation, after all...

Taking her eye momentarily off the battle, Genesis regarded the senior with a solemn look. "I'm afraid we don't have much choice here. I'd rather be sealed and wait than let that rat get away. If that's what it takes, then I'm all for it. But it has to be done now!" Her urgency was emphasized by the edge of her last sentence.

Daigomi watched the battle with the bemusing interest, his eyes following each move with careful clarity and memorizing every feint and every twitch of the Daitenshi's muscular contractions and flexes. He even studied the way he utilized his Zanpakuto, now confirmed from his release phrase and increase of spiritual pressure, as well as the innate "Holy Flames" he used against the supposedly unbreakable substance puppets. He took his hands out of his pockets as he watched the last of the puppets fall.

"I told you already..."

Daigomi began speaking as his enemy leaped towards him, crouching before him within a powerful leap, swinging his blade in a powerful arc upwards towards him with a clear intent of mortally wounding him.

SCRRRRIP-FOOOSH!

However, the substance reacted with instaneous reflex, spreading a liquid sheen shield in front of Daigomi in the moment he landed before him, as well as ripple beneath him and protrude an array of powerful spikes upwards towards Shou's body, intending on impaling him violently.

"...the harder you fight, the more dangerous this room becomes for hostiles of the Sect!"

The members of the Sect acted without hesitation, moving the overhauled unconscious forms of their comrades towards the outside of the gate. Within seconds, the members were outside, already setting down the members in order to seal the gate behind htem. Within a matter of moments, they all began weaving signs, before they shouted in unison, "SEAL!"

The gate began to groan, before it slowly crossed the threshold, slowly drawing forth to where it began and slamming into place. Ancient levels and locking mechanisms began to move, click, and latch into place, sealing them in, and subsequently...the liquid effigies and material began regressing indefinitely back to where it began, a low thrum emitted before everything grew silent once more.

Shou could've fallen to his knees at Genesis's feet and kissed the ground she walked on, for that very moment he had been saved from a really bad injury.

The spikes had stopped inches from his torso - no, millimeters from his torso courtesy of the lockdown. Then, they shrank back into the floor, returning to their original state. Any later, and he probably would have been returning to the Punisher sooner than he would have liked. But he kept his cool; he didn't need his target to take advantage of weakness.

Without hesitation, he jumped back, brandishing his blades once more.

"Thanks a lot, you guys..." Genesis muttered, relieved that they had gotten rid of such a major obstacle. "May be nothing more than mere mortals... but you can come in handy when the time calls for it..." With that being said, she allowed herself to turn towards the situtation at hand. With the five hounds moving to stand beside their master, it seemed like everything was now clear. They had their target surrounded, and there was no escaping this prison. All she had to do was join up with him.

"So much for the security..." Shou said bluntly, giving a taunting smirk towards Daigomi as the hounds resumed their menacing growling. "Now that the machine's out of the way, it's time for the business at hand. These dogs can cover up to 1,500 meters of distance within a single second and carry enough strength to instantly kill anything that happens to get in its way, if not break every bone in their body outright. Not to mention that this is the first time I've ever employed my hounds outside of Hell before, so I'm quite eager to test them out on a living subject. Unless you want to be that particular first, I suggest you tell me what I want to know." With each and every word spoken, his tone grew colder and more intimidating.

"And if somehow those dogs don't get you, my little Typewriter here will!" Genesis added, said gun aimed straight towards Daigomi as she flanked Shou's right side. "I've always wondered how many shots someone can take before they actually die, thanks to teachings from the Mistress..."

"Two minutes, seventeen seconds," Daigomi said, with a smile of confidence bearing on his face, raising his left hand to hold up two fingers up in emphasis, "it took me two minutes to kill two of the Sect leaders and incapacitate nearly half of the remaining leaders and lieutenants here. Seimei over here," he pointed out, the only one left behind by the group due to his personal proximity to her body, "took me around thirty seconds extra. She's a fast little bugger, but all I needed was one hand and it was all over."

Daigomi emanated a killing intent aura so vivid, it perspirated the air with a sickening hiss while his Spiritual Pressure blatantly crackled the air with a unusual sensation unlike any these Daitenshi have felt, "Exactly why do you think I could feel such at peace threatening nearly all of the Sect's best fighters against me? Do you really want to find out...why I'm so confident...in my abilities?"

"What the hell?"

"Oh, no..."

It was not the killing intent that took them off guard, but rather the feeling of it. The energy emanating off of this man felt strange, foreign, and certainly unusual. Even the hounds tensed up and lowered their bodies slightly out of wariness. It was almost as if they had stepped into the air of the desert, but without the dry, arid environment. This was the sign that they had really stepped into the arena, now that there was nothing between them.

"Genesis! Brace yourself!"

"Gotcha, Yoshi!"

As Genesis kept the rifle trained onto him, Shou slowly moved his machetes so that the blades would form a cross. "We are the agents of the Punisher, sent from Hell to purge the demonic plague from this world and destroy any opposition that sympathizes with the unbalance. We will not rest until this newfound threat is stopped within its tracks. It's time for your judgement, Daigomi Bandai!"

"You make yourself sound like your the errant of the Devil, or the fiery vengeance spurned from the Hand of God himself," Daigomi said in a nonsensical amused tone, before his smile vanished and was replaced with a sneer, his eyes glaring at them, before he spoke aloud, "the Hankami are far from anything so pure as to be called Divine entities, blasphemers!"

...

WHIZ!

Daigomi moved swiftly forward, his body moving at such speeds that it wasn't just a simple High-Speed movement technique. It was sheer, heightened stamina that had become maximized beyond comprehension. His gloved hands palm-thrusted to the underside of the first two wolves in front of monstrous dogs with such incredibly first, he dislodged their jaws while rattling their brains within. Following up, he smashed their skulls together with such violent force, their heads burst open and bloodily sprayed as they crunched into meaty stumps and bits, contrasting their once fiercesome visages.

But he was far from done...

With a right palm thrust outwards, he merely muttered, "Bakudan Heki!"

SPHT-BOOOOOOOOM!

Emitted within a instant, a violent wide arc of white condensed spiritual energy was let loose in a incredibly rush of power and howling intensity, with the ability to instaneously incinerate the flesh off the wolves' bodies while smashing into the wall with a bright light show, as the material absorbed and dissipated the energy throughout the Hall, shuddering the entire room as the shockwave rocked it with its essence.

Shou and Genesis were quick to get out of the way, as well as the remaining three wolves.

One of them, however, did not get away unscathed.

As they re-appeared a distance away, one of the hounds let out a slight whine as it landed. Its leg had gotten burned severely, having been caught at the edge of the blast due to the proximity. The other two hounds moved closer to it in defense, determined to protect their pack mate against the newfound threat.

But that wasn't the only one that suffered damage.

"F-fuck...!"

Shou glanced to see a pained look on Genesis's face... or rather, what was left of it. One half of her face had been severely burned by the blast, with smoke steaming from the wound. However, the same regeneration effect that Shou had performed activated for her. Within seconds, the wounds were sealed, and her face was back to normal. "I am never going to get over this pain thing that comes with the regeneration..." She groaned. "Makes me want to crawl into a corner and die!"

"At least it's not Hell..." Shou muttered dryly.

With a raise of her rifle, the girl immediately began firing on the enemy's position, the bullets incinerating whatever they made contact with.

Daigomi promptly began sidestepping and hopping left and right to avoid the fiery rounds coming from her gun. With a amused smile donning on Daigomi's face once again, he verbally acknowledged, "Kidō Firearms made exclusively for the Daitenshi? These times are certain fascinating..."

He then leaped up, propulsing high into the air while flourishing out a weapon he had hidden within his jacket's interior. Once revealed, it was shown it was a HCA-50 series Kidō firearm, its golden tint gleamed in a beautiful meancing way, as he aimed it at the opposing ranged Daitenshi!

"You're not the only one with toys, Demon spawn!"

BLAM-BLAM-BLAM-BLAM!

A series of accurate, deadly yellow slugs were fired by the Kidō enraptured beams from the firearm, sending the slugs towards its target. Once upon impact, a number of powerful shockwaves emitted, creating intensive damage upon anything that it struck. For extra measure, Daigomo grasped a partition of spiritual plane within the air, and turned himself around, firing a number of spirit-covered slugs at Shou and his wolves, intending on keeping to a distance for the time being.

"Does everyone and their mother have one of those things?!" Genesis yelled in disbelief. "I thought those things were supposed to be rare or something!!"

Nevertheless, she quickly sprinted, making her way around the flames while returning fire. The recoil and the vicious vibration of the gun made her hands burn up, but she could easily ignore it. She made sure to aim her shots within his own so that the bullets she couldn't avoid were cancelled out by her own. At the same time, she positioned herself so that he couldn't focus clearly on anyone else. As accurate as she was with the weapon, she would be only a distraction.

The attack came from Shou's hounds.

Within the speed of sound, they appeared within close proximity. Their snarling jaws were already making their way towards his flesh, and the pressure they put behind their bites would be enough to shatter bone, if not tear off a chunk off of the body. At the same time, the chains moved in to surround him, restricting any routes of escape.

BLAM!

Daigomi quickly dispatched one of the hounds with a swift shot to the skull, the head exploding via generously large explosion and shockwave at close quarters. Using the momentum of the force pushing him away, Daigomi quickly twirled around in the air, throwing his shin of his leg into the neck of the dog with high amount of force, utilizing the husk of the Zanpakuto summon towards the chains behind him.

A slight shimmering of energy could be seen enveloping his leg as he kicked it, causing the body of the beast to snap and contort out of fashion before being enraptured in the same type of energy. Once hurtled towards the chains, a bright light exploded forth from the bloody body towards the chains, rocking it with enough force to expand the chains and loosen their links to a degree where they almost snapped. But for the moment...

WHIZ

...it allowed Daigomi to shimmer out of view, reappearing within a instant between the two Daitenshi. One he swiftly shot a barrage of shots from his firearm from his left hand nearly point blank at his feminine, gun-toting opponent, using well-aimed marksmanship and poise any gunman would envy. With his right hand, now donning a diamond handled black bodied cane, swiftly struck with violent force at masculine partner. The latter action was done in a manner of swordsmanship grace and skill, utilizing only a mere blunt object as the focus for the techniques he could yield against his enemies.

"Grr--!!"

With a growl, Genesis came to the conclusion that she wouldn't be able to avoid the shots at the range she was at. Holding the grip of her rifle in one hand, she put her forearms together in front of her face and hunched over - a move that utilized her arms to shield her upper body. Considering the chains wrapped around her own body inside of the clothing, it was enough to deflect the bullets and keep her safe from harm.

But on Shou's end, he did not have to lift a finger.

The remaining hound who had been left alone did.

As Daigomi's cane came inches away from Shou's machete, the hound jumped in, using its' targets distraction as an advantage. Its teeth sank into the offending arm, cracking the bone and searing through the muscle. With a swing of its head, it tossed the man away with immense force, only to have him crash into the opposite wall in a smoking display. It was rather satisfying for Genesis to see, considering that she was getting frustrated due to the fact that her target wasn't going down as quickly as she liked.

"Whoo! Knocked the black right offa ya, didn't it?"

Shou gave her a deadpan stare with the raise of an eyebrow, breaking his stance momentarily. "...that's racist."

And that's when it hit Genesis.

"Oh, hell, I forgot! There's still one Sect member left!" In the midst of the battle, Genesis had forgotten the presence of Senmei. Within all of the heat, she must have been doing quite terrible! But that was considering only the possibility of her not getting caught in the cross-fire. "Yoshi! Cover me!"

"On it..."

Voom!

She vanished and re-appeared right beside Senmei, a sheepish smile on her face. "Uh, lady? You all right? Really sorry that I just happened to notice that you were in the middle of all this..."

Senmei just gave her a deadpan, irritated stare, with her left brow twitching in emphasis of her frustration, "Really? Funny...considering he took me out last before you kicked in the doors...literally," she groaned as she gingerly tried sitting up, her hair standing on ends from the mighty gusts of wind and power that had fluxuated around her prone form, wincing only slightly from the impact that was caused to her earlier defeat, "but thanks for attempting to care...I'll walk it off...eventually..."

"My my..."

Daigomi's voice rang out across the corridor, still in the same nonchalant amused tone despite the scene that had unfolded. Rising from the cracked wall side, a visibly unshaken form of himself minus a few rips and dust malformations across his black suit jacket and slacks. The real thing that should have any ordinary soul panting and writhing in pain, was the mangled bloody black and now crimson stained right arm.

"...I should've been less cavalier upon my approach. How careless of me to forget you still had a pup leftover," he said with a mildly disinterested tone, looking over at his arm with a curious look. Flexing his shoulder, he pulsated a stream of unknown energy through the interior of the damaged limb, causing it to emerald underneath the ripped, bloody cloth. After merely a few seconds, Daigomi's hand flexed out with a painful snapping sound, and his arm moved up in emphasis of regained mobility, clenching and opening his palm experimentally.

"There we go!" He said with a sing-song voice, his arm moving around as if nothing had happened.

"So you can heal yourself too, hm...?"

Shou narrowed his eyes as he stared at Daigomi, lowering his machetes to his side once more. It was just another reason why he was so confident. On top of that, he wasn't showing any pain, unlike the times when the Daitenshi themselves regenerated. It was just another sign that this man wasn't what he seemed to be. What exactly was he...?

Genesis leveled her own annoyed stare at Senmei, a comical vein popping from her cheeks. "Hey, don't blame me for the battle. That was Yoshi's fault." She grumbled, reaching up with a free arm around her for support. "C'mon, grab on to me and I'll take you off to the side."

Sighing under her breath, Seimei took her free arm and let her support her, "You drop me, I shoot your toes off," she muttered under her breath as she began limping across the floor with Genesis as support.

As Daigomi holstered his gun back into the folds of his jacket, he looked at Shou with amusement as he stared at him with no utterance and no retort, "What? Does the proverbial cat have your tongue? Is is so surprising that there are species that you have yet to even begin to understand? Trust me when I say this, Daitenshi..."

SHIIIINK!

"...I'm nothing like you ever faced!" Daigomi gutturally, maliciously spoke while smiling toothily, his eyes narrowing to near slits as he unsheathed a hidden sword within the diamond handled, black bodied cane. The presence he gave off was like a predator, aiming to kill rival within its territory. That, and the eery sensation of foreign Spiritual Pressure mingled with killing intent that fluxuated the air.

The feeling of being in a foreign environment once again enveloped Shou's senses, and he gritted his teeth slightly. Under a mental command, the remaining hound shimmered out of view before vanishing, leaving nothing but him and his opponent. "Even if you come from the darkest corners of the universe itself..." He growled, tightening his hold on the grips of his weapons. "I will crush you until there's nothing left but the sinner underneath! I, as well as the rest of us, will put an end to your twisted dreams!"

For emphasis, he exerted his own power from his body, further disorienting the air within the environment and thickening the murderous intent that was potent within the area. It was enough to make Genesis shiver a little as she gently set Senmei onto the ground. "It's been a real long time since I've felt this kind of vibe before..." She muttered, a prominent frown on her face. "Just another good reason for the doors are sealed."

She did a double take.

"...well..." She shrugged, turning her attention to Senmei. "Good news for us, at least. You, on the other hand, might have your already bad day turn worse."

Senmei definitely felt worse than before.

"Oh hell...I think I'm gonna puke...," Senmei's body felt like it was being snuffed out, rolled over, and then shaken in many directions. It reminded her of a good brand of alcohol she liked tasting...now she felt sorry for the poor bottle, "someone get me a beer...or seven...oh wow..."

"Oh how scary," Daigomi said mockingly, flourishing both the cane sheathe and the diamond studded sheath, holding them respectively in each hand, "the shining knight is going to come make me rectify all of my wrongdoings and condemn me for eternity! Please...you're no better than the people you so-call judge. To put yourself in a position higher than those you're equally depraved as...is the utter definition of blasphemous hypocricy!"

Within that instant, Daigomi moved so fast, he left his previously assumed "unmovable" hat off his head in the exact position it was in. Shimmering out of existence and sight, Daigomi reappeared before his prey crouched down. With his sword, he swung upwards in a dramatically swift, high-powered cutting arc while following up with a high-powered thrust of his blunt-edged staff towards his midsection, intending on driving him backwards with incredible power should his first slash fail.

"Ah--!"

Genesis's expression immediately faltered when she saw that Senmei was actually getting affected by the aura around them. Her expression changed to one of alarm, and she immediately began sputtering out desperate attempts to console the woman. "W-wait, I didn't actually mean "get sick"! Don't puke, don't puke!"

She dropped her gun and fell to her knees, reaching out to embrace the woman in a comforting hug. It seemed like a pointless action, but the aura that the female Daitenshi would provide a sort of projection from the sickening aura produced around them for the time being. Inwardly, she snorted - the mortals had such light stomachs! But outwardly, she did her best to maintain a comforting and maternal presence.

Though, in truth, the Punisher was probably better at this than she was...

CLANG!

One of Shou's machetes banged against Daigomi's sword with immense force, and blue flames erupted seemingly from the two weapons themselves. Shou gritted his teeth as he put his power into the strike, his offending blade trembling under the power. But he held firm against the onslaught, and the shockwave generated from the strike was enough to delay Daigomi's next strike for several seconds.

Then, he began his assault.

When the cane swung forth, Shou swung upwards in an elegant, refined flip. He did not focus on speed, but instead relied on focusing the power of his strikes against potential weak spots of his opponent's defense. His movements were orthodox, precise, and tactical in contrast to the battle fury that he was making his blood boil so much. Whatever counter-strikes he couldn't block, he evaded and jumped away from before lunging back to attack again. It was a feral yet experienced assault, and he pushed forth all of his fighting power in order to strike down his enemy.

Daigomi became intrigued at the fighting prowess of the Daitenshi. He could practically taste the battle fury within the air he breathed from his opponent, and yet he kept a disciplined and tactical set of precise maneuvers and strikes. He found himself enjoying battling such a reserved opponent, but found his contrasting inner fury and composed fighting style irritating.

With every clash and parry he made against Shou, the further he got to understanding the nature of his fighting style. Even as he broke through a few of his well-timed slashes or thrusts, he would simply backpedal and propel himself back into the fray, not giving any ample time to switch to a new tactic of offense against him.

With a smile, Daigomi thought of a new approach to his enemy. As he came to force his opponent to backpedal again, Daigomi seized his opportunity. Lunging forward as well, he made a feint to thrust forward with his cane...

SNICK-CRACK!

...only to slam it into the floor below himself, propelling himself forward and over the intended slashes of Shou's machetes, vaulting over his body. During the vaulting motion, a blurring circular arc of cutting power was sent from his sword, intending on cutting deep into his shoulder down to his mid-pectoral section near his heart. After the maneuver was complete, he landed onto his feet lightly, having turned around and faced the enemy with readiness and glee.

What he ended up seeing was the open maw of a hound that had materialized within that split second.

On the other side of that particular hound, Shou had realized his mistake when he thrust with a lunge prior to Daigomi's jump. But he was quick to correct himself, taking a leap forward and barely avoiding the energy as it hit where he had once stood. As he skidded away, he turned around just in time to see five dogs materialize around his enemy, including the one that had jumped him.

"So, you have a whole pack of hidden dogs, eh? How underhanded of you, Daitenshi," Daigomi said aloud with a wicked grin, seeing all five dogs appear around him nearly at once within one movement. Looking at all five of them, he knew one particular movement to take them all out at once. Quickly raising his sheathe, he slammed it down in front of himself, raising himself up into the hair...

"Yanagi Amekaze....!"

WHIIIIZ-SHIIIINK!

...and swung his blade around in a cross-circular manner, sending cutting strokes into all five proximate beasts, causing a large uproar of butchered, bloody dogs to roll over around the ground below him.

"It doesn't seem you have the physical or proverbial balls to take me on alone, do you, errant of Judgement?" Daigomi said tauntingly, landing with ease among the ring of blood and corpses around himself, raising his sword towards his opponent's position while holding his cane aloft with the other hand.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Shou did not allow himself to waver of such a taunt. To him, they were pointless words, especially in times of war. But that wasn't the reason why he was able to shrug them off. "Those hounds are a part of me, to put it simply. There is no separate entity working together with me. It's just you and I. There's no need for such accusations of how I wage my wars..."

Then, in a manner performed when preparing to cut something, Shou slid the cutting edges of his two machetes together.

BOOM!

The hound corpses around Daigomi exploded in a blaze of blue fire - a movement made to catch him within the explosion. The blast was within a fifth of the room itself, sizable but only enough to consume the majority of the front of the room. The heat singed the Daitenshi's clothes, and his hair rippled back against the force. But he held firm as he always did, his eyes peering into the raging blaze.

It was within a fraction of a second that Daigomi had time to react to the amazing fiery explosion. Within the instant that it was set ablaze around his form, he stabbed his blade into the ground, exerting a powerful pulsation of Spiritual Power into the ground. The following happened instaneously...

VOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!

...the energy that was released caused a chain reaction, causing the very fabric of all spiritrons around him to split, break, and scatter apart. Thus, the flames appeared to turn into a shower of blue sparks before whizzing away into nothing but smoke and dust, the powerful force was enough to knock anyone off their feet without anticipating the move.

"You think far too little of me, Devil's lapdog," Daigomi spoke with dry amusement, his eyes now glaring at him as he arose with barely any surface wounds donning on him that his healing didn't work on behind the smoke screen, "you see me as an ordinary threat that must be extinguished, a Sinner that must be purged from this world and spend eternity in Hell for my crimes. I'll tell you something, dear pathetic creature," Daigomi spke with his eyes glowing emerald and his body alight with bright white spiritual pressure of stifling proportions, "Hell can't hold the likes of me, even if your mistress tried!"

"!!!"

Indeed, Shou had been caught off-guard and couldn't move in time.

WHAM!

He was thrown away, slamming into the opposite wall and gritting his teeth as pain shot through his spinal chord. When he staggered forward again, his narrowed eyes were wavering slightly, and the sick feeling washed over him once more. Once again, he found himself wonder what exactly he was dealing with. Did Mōka know about him? Was that why she acted so wary?

Either way, he had the feeling things weren't going to be good for him.

No!

He shook himself free of such negative thoughts. Giving up was the last thing he wanted to do. He could never allow himself to back down in front of an enemy, especially one such as this! There was no other choice but to keep fighting, to press the assault until the enemy was no more. That was his responsibility, and he would not allow himself to shirk from it.

"Such a boast..." He said lowly, brandishing his weapons in preparation. He returned Daigomi's glare. "It's a pity that I've heard the same words over and over again without substance. Come on, then, you heathen..." Holding the blades in a backhand position, he raised them up so that the tips would be pointing straight at his enemy in a threatening, defensive position.

As far as he was concerned, this fight was far from over.


The War of Four: The Alliance of Blood and Shadows, Act II

The Gate of Infernal Reckoning, Out of the Frying pan...

They had traveled a great distance across the snow-covered ice landscape from the crystalline citadel. The pulsations that were felt earlier now felt like large gusts of tidal winds, thrumming waves of snow and air in a "bubble"-burst pattern, growing larger and more frequent with each passing second. The group met up briefly with Tome, leaving him behind to guard the Citadel begrudgingly in case of reinforcements or additional attackers along with the Daitenshi that were willing to secure a stronghold around the Citadel's perimeter.

Now, arriving near the far southwest area from the Citadel, a blackened sky greeted them, with a funnel of storm clouds ushering in a near prone twister formation of lightning crackling around and within the funnel winds that were carving away at the ice and the aged snow-capped landscape, revealing an archaic obsidian gate of magnanomious proportions. Carved in effigies of an ancient battle waged long ago, the gate had been encrusted with ice and buried in snow, but now began to melt it with the pulsating dark blue warp within the hollow space that would serve as the gate's entrance.

It was here, merely a half a kilometer, that the band of Sect allies stopped to watch the dark aura surrounding the awakening gate, and the stifling spiritual pressure that began to emit from the gate itself. It was here, that Mōka stood at the head of the group and gazed with a vehement look of apprehension and anger at the coming nightmare about to be released.

"Why...Why did it have to be this gate?!" Mōka growled lowly, her fists balled and her brows knit in frustration towards the known arrival to come into this world from the next.

"..."this gate"...?"

In spite of the intense winds raging all around him as well as the spiritual pressure, Oliver's focus was only on Mōka as she spoke the words. To tell the truth, it was difficult speaking to her considering that he was still sore over their introduction. But the confusion overrode his personal loathing. "You sound like you've been here before, Coffee..." He grumbled.

Mōka turned her fiery gaze towards Oliver, speaking in a low yet audible tone for her compatriot to hear, "Do you know how many different gates there are to reach the world of the damned, Oliver Holmes?"

A scoff escaped the blonde's lips. "Obviously not, since I didn't happen to plan on any trips to Hell anytime soon. But let me take a guess. You do?"

"I know of many gates, but not all of them," she then turned her gaze back at the pulsating gate before them all, continuing her explanation, "Hell's existence has been around since the foundation of time and space, creation itself is tied into its position within all realms of both living and afterlife. The amount of gates available to be used to travel to and fro from oblivion's clutches is incomprehensible, but very few of them are actually accessible to either the minions of darkness or the powers of justice.

There are three accessible gates known in existence. One resides within the Soul Society, burried deep within the most ancient of caverns and under guard of the most archaic and resilient spells from the founders of the Kidō Corps. Another resides in Hueco Mundo, but has laid dormant and inert for over a millenia since...well, since a long while. The third is in the World of the Living and is the most accessible to both the powers of evil and good, though at this day and age, has rarely been used as a battleground since the Gotei 13 and several other Soul Realms keep it under constant surveilence as do the forces of darkness on the gate on the other side.

But...there has only been one gate to ever been crafted by the likes of Demon ilk that could be moved to whatever location they desired, and activated with enough power and skilled practitioners nearby. That is this gate, the Gate of Infernal Reckoning," she said with absolution, the gate thrumming to life and suddenly forming a dark black-blue energy ribbon that connected from all empty four corners of the inner side of the gate itself.

Turning to Oliver, she added with measure, "It also happens to be a favored mode of transportation by a particular...entity that the Mistress of Hell bound away long ago."

All of this information was enough to get Oliver's mind stirring.

Three gates for all three of the dimensions? He could only wonder why there were so many within existence. If that was the case, then there may have been an interdimensional group or at least one individual that was using such gates to pass through one dimension to the world of the damned. No one in their right mind would dare trek to Hell. So from the last statement, he could deduce that the gates were connected to the entity that was sealed away by the said Mistress of Hell.

But there was one other question within his head, shared by the likes of the overhearing Anton and Shinji.

"How exactly do you know about all of this?" He questioned, squinting his eyes and scowling a little.

"I'm part of a dynasty, you could say," Mōka began speaking a little vaguely, her red fiery hair flourished within the air giving her the air of a beautiful warrior, with a air of dread and bitterness wrapped around her like a thick overbearin suit of armor, "its...because I am...a...-"

THRUM!!!

"Oh, you've got to be horse-shitting me!!"

Gritting his teeth, Oliver turned his eyes away from the woman and towards the gate, both of his pistols pointing at whatever was going to come out. His heart began to pump at an accelerated rate, and he tightened the grip on the dual weapons. Whatever was happening, it was making him all the more antsy and the idea of hauling ass out of the area a better option...

"Something's coming out!" Alastair spoke aloud in a proclaiming, serious tone, holding his Zanpakuto ready as he moved into a battle stance, along with Victor cocking back his handgun, and Athena pressing her hands together in a mirrored prayer-like stance.

Mōka, alone of all of them, did not ready herself for battle immediately. She just stared as the dark, abysmal blue and black swirls began to be parted. Like a waterfall, it began seperating around what looked like a black smog-covered entity, perfectly hidden from within...or maybe blotted out unintentionally from visual contact. It was at this time, that everything became silent and the smog began drifting and covering everything in front of it, flowing out like a toxin that began infecting everything just by existing.

"For some reason, I don't think this is gonna be the same as with the Godzilla look-alike..." Anton muttered tersely, two Kiriken swords in his hand and readied defensively. Sweat began pouring down his face as he looked on, the tension within him increasing little by little. But he knew he had to keep his cool. Getting reckless wouldn't help any of them...

For Angelika, it was a matter of wariness and apprehension.

Although she maintained her composure, her inner body was doing a marathon. They were facing a gate that opened directly to Hell itself, and an entity was coming straight out of it. There was no doubt that there would be conflict. But this wasn't some military threat that they could handle like the Inner Circle. This was a foreign ground, a world that could easily be deemed to be unpredictable and unstable. Their chances of dying here were just as equal as their chances at surviving.

"Did we make the right decision by coming here...?"

It was then, out of the smog a violet aura relaying through the black smoke was seen, as the outlines of a terrifying visage was seen from behind it, washing the atmosphere with a wave of bloodlust and destructive intent greater than anything within this world or the living. It was then followed by a expectant thunderous release...of daunting Spiritual Pressure!

THRUUUUUUUUUUUUUM-BOOOOOOM!

The smoke suddenly blew all over the group, as a wave of stifling spiritual pressure past by them all, causing Mōka's hair to flourish and her few affects to jingle and rock fantastically, but she didn't give any ground like the others behind herself. No, she planted her feet firmly in the icy ground beneath her, causing it to crack for a good few meters around herself as she faced off against this new threat.

"Who dares stand in the way of the Harbinger of Destruction?!" A guttural, ominous and intelligent voice vibrated the smoke, almost as if it was like water reflecting ripples of soundwaves, through the group itself. Its presence lingered all around them, and yet not around them at all. It, to Alastair and Victor, felt like a unsettling experience to be in for men of poise and control. To Mōka, it gave her waves of nostalgic bitterness and anger within her.

That was enough to shoot any tension out of Oliver's body, if not most of it.

"Well, at least we know this thing has some sentiency."

A smirk crossed his face, and his eyes narrowed into slits. Feeling a bit bold, and considering the fact that they were most likely going to fight anyway, he decided to shoot back a comment of his own. "Hey, neighbor!" He called, purposefully emphasizing his words to fully express the sarcasm. "Could we trouble you for a cup of sugar? We're running awfully low--"

"Shut up, Oliver." Anton deadpanned, passing a twitching-eye glare towards the blonde.

Mōka glared through the smoke, not seeing a thing, even as the two men bickered behind her. But she continued to hear that godforsaken, loathsome voice...

"I hear the voice of fools and cretins..." It began railing off, but eerily the voice began to make a semblence of a presence to each individual nearby.

"I see a woman, bearing a secret both on her flesh as well as in her soul, kept even from her most trusted subordinates..." It spoke to Angelika, briefly sending a stifling wash of pressure over her before moving to another person.

"I sense the troubled heart of a betrayed fool, waging a war with his family and his own honor," He spoke, passing Alastair by, before speaking about Victor, "a man with utmost dedication with ferreting out the truth, but spins as many lies behind it, distorting his view..."

"A stalwart warrior with a clouded heart," he briefly mused as it passed Anton, before finally residing behind the first to speak, "and you...broken man, flaunting behind the guise of a jester to hide the wounds of a mourning husband...and a father."

Mōka had barely breathed as the entity moved to and fro from each individual standing before it, narrowing her eyes through the shadows while turning her head to and fro from the directions she heard the voice and the presence carry itself, though she couldn't be totally sure if he was really there or not.

Now, in the case of Angelika and Anton, they remained steadfast.

Angelika shuddered when the pressure washed over her, but she continued to remain silent. However, it became clear that the creature was toying with them. It supported the fact that it was no mere threat, no mere enemy that could be dealt with by a simple pull of the trigger or a swing of the sword.

Anton frowned only slightly at his words, lowering his blades upon the realization that it wasn't interested in fighting them for the time being. But, then again, Mōka had said that it was bound by the Mistress of Hell. Was this some sort of projection, then, instead of the real thing? If that was the case, then he dreaded what the actual entity was...

But, as for Oliver, his heart almost stopped beating. His eyes dilated to non-existence for a split-second. For that brief moment, one could see a glint that could only be recognized as shock and horror, as if the words had set off a spark within him. It was something that would've never been seen under normal circumstances, if he could allow it. Somehow, it had ignited that spark and exposed an emotion that been discarded a long time ago.

Fear.

Reflexively, he swiveled around so that his pistols were pointing at the thing that had settled behind him. "All right, enough of the "nice guy" act..." He growled, his tone switching to an angered and cold one within an instant. "Who in the fuck are you?"

When Oliver faced down the voice, the curling smoke seemed to hide the true size of the entity he was facing. But when the eyes opened, they glowed a inhuman transparent white light, looking down at him as if he was nothing more than an annoyance.

"Who am I?" The words almost felt like a new taste upon his tongue within his language. Now it seemed to carry weight as the burning visage looked upon them all, its disposition seemed to turn from simply curious to borderline fury, "why would I bother telling you who I am, when you have merely lived mere fractions of my lifetime while I've witnessed near the beginnings of creation of the heavens and hell alike? Why would I take time to address you each by name when I can address you by faults and failures? Why would death," the glowing eyes bore down upon them all, "care about what it takes away from life?"

"If you're willing to perform a pointless action such as addressing us by our said faults..."

Oliver's comeback was cut off by Angelika, who had now gained a cold edge of her own in her voice. "Then I'm sure you wouldn't mind gracing us with your name." Despite the growing apprehension within her body as well as the rising urge to collapse, she returned the glare full-force. "After all, with your voice and your very existence, it doesn't matter if you've lived as you say you have. You are a far cry from the likes of death, you naive child."

"Very well..."

FLAP-WHOOOOOOSH!!!

A sudden flapping sound that was akin to two claps of thunder blasted away the smog totally, causing anyone nearby to be skidded back a few feet as a result, revealing the entity in question.

It possessed a broad shouldered, over sevent foot tall frame with a torso enamored in a grey skin tone. Overall, most of its ripped, tattooed muscular frame looked human...up until you get towards his head and below the waist. His eyes most noticeably were wrapped by a thick cloth, effectively blinding any visible eyes to the rest of the world, with distinctive pointy ears pointing upwards in a 70 degree angle. Ram's horns acutely mounted to the front of his forehead curl around in a fanciful fashion. Below his waist he wore a pair of cloth that went past his legs and down to his ankles...which was the stranger part, was that his waist down was akin to that of a goat with hooves.

"I will entertain myself by showing you myself, mortals, and giving you my name," he spoke with a more clear, less thunderous voice, but all the more filled with power and authority, as his arms crossed over his muscular chest, large wings outstretched to a three meter span on either side of himself, "I am Mōshin Tenmō, the most powerful of my kind and once bound by the chains of Hell's deepest pits. I am now free, and you...are simply beholders for a apocalypse that will shake the foundations of this world and the next."

"...yep... suddenly this seems like more of a bad idea..." Anton grumbled.

He knew as well as they all had to. There was no way that they would simply kill this thing and be done with it. From the sounds of it as well as the feeling of spiritual pressure, they were facing down the wrath of a god. Was this really the work of the Inner Circle? Were they really willing to go to such lengths as to gain the aid of demons such as this one? It was insane!

"You're too late, freak..." Oliver said darkly, leveling his pistols once again at the now revealed figure. "We've already been through that song and dance. Go crawl back under that rock you came from, 'cause you are definitely not needed here..."

"Little man," the Demon spoke with amusement, raising his elongated talon finger of his right hand, almost as if he was calling him out, "you will be the first to be extinguished from this plane."

Mōka gulped, now seeing that the demon decided to set his sights on the one who spoke to him first. Inwardly, she hoped he wouldn't take the bait and actually attack him recklessly! She knew he was a capable individual, but that anger he flourished earlier...is exactly the tool demons like to use against people like him...

But unfortunately, that was what Oliver did.

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

With a sneer, the blonde opened fire on the creature before. Every single round was fired with the trademark lethal accuracy that he had presented time and time again. The triggers were pulled with aggressive ruthlessness, their puller wanting nothing but the extermination of the one that dared to prod in his head.

"Oliver, what in hell--?!"

As Anton quickly moved forward, Angelika abruptly swung her arm out to stop him. He raised his head up in confusion, but stopped when he saw the stern and analyzing expression on her face. It was here that he realized that she needed to know just how powerful the said Mōshin really was. It was all depending on Oliver's shots to see the grimness of their situation. If all went as she thought it did...

Well, she just hoped that she was wrong.

"Please..."

FLAP-BAT-BAT-BAT-BAT!!!

"The likes of Kidō, no matter what form it is in," Mōshin spoke in a bemused tone, his left wing outstretched and blindingly shattered, dissipated, and cracked each round that it came into contact with, leaving no scorch marks or signs of injury on the extended limb, "will never harm me."

Oliver's heart skipped a beat once more.

Twelve armor-piercing rounds. Twelve rounds designed to shred anything in their path. All twelve rounds, launched straight towards the target without fail, had been deflected and dispersed easily by this beast. On top of that, there had been absolutely no sign of injury whatsoever. It should have been enough to tear through those wings of his and pierce his heart. Yet, it had done nothing but tickle Mōshin.

The hands that held the guns trembled, and their owner's eyes dilated. Once again, the introduction to the creature hit him full-force. All he wanted to do was deny every word, throw it off as outright fabrication to tick him off. But no matter what he did, it had just spilled out at least a fraction of what he didn't want to reveal to his comrades. That, as well as the horrible spiritual pressure that continuously washed over him, reminded him just how powerful this being really was. His form was faltering second by second, and he couldn't run from the position he was in anymore.

It was here that a new emotion swam up to the surface.

Pure, unadulterated rage.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH~!!!!!!!"

He let out a loud, ear-piercing blood-chilling scream as he charged the beast, losing his sense of rationality in his fury. His reloaded pistols continued to fire as he threw himself at Mōshin, desperate to find some sort of weak point. This thing couldn't be invincible. There had to be a weakness. Nothing was invincible. He would just keep shooting until whatever defense Mōshin had gave in. It had to give in!

And it was here that Angelika's lone eye widened in shock - the first sign of extreme emotion that she had allowed herself to show.

"OLIVER, NO--!!"

Mōshin's wings blurred in tandem, his body not moving a single inch other than the thin outstretched limbs protruding from his back and out in front of himself in a series of blinding buffeting movements. The visage which he displayed was no longer of amusement...but of annoyance.

"Using redundant tactics against me is irritating," he spoke lowly, in a semblence of a growl as his wings blocked off the last of the shots sent by Oliver, raising his hand up in what looked like a gesture to scratch his chin. However, that motion turned into a straight palm, and a wide thrusting motion was made towards Oliver's form...

SLIIIIIIICE!

...sending a tearing motion through the air with enough force to utterly cut Oliver in half within but a few moments. Nothing stood in its way but-

SHINK-TING!

Mōka's form somehow materialized from a unseen shimmering movement. With a pair of swords crossed in front of herself while her back leaned against him, emanating a protective aura of what felt like a dominating, almost living force. The cutting force sparked against her blades, cracked and shattered Oliver's guns, but managed to keep him from being harmed. Her brilliant hair flourished upwards from the following events, her taller lithe and muscular frame standing flush with Oliver's front, she stood firm in the wake of the sudden attack.

"Are you alright...you stupid hunk?" Mōka asked, her cool even tone while had a reprimanding tinge to it, had a little jocular taste at the end, showing she protected him out of personal reason rather than showing off.

Had it been anything else, Oliver would've responded with a smart-aleck comment.

But now, another thought had been occurred to him.

The one who he loathed the most was the one to pull him out of the fire. Why had she waited until after he had lost himself to his rage to do so? It didn't help that his weapons were now shards of metal in his hands. This wasn't a save. This was utter humiliation.

So he remained silent, his fingers releasing the useless pieces of metal and letting them drop onto the snow. Without another word, he backed away from the two, his bangs overshadowing his eyes and hiding his expression. But the vibes were all too clear.

"Losing your cool isn't your style, Ollie-boy," Mōka spoke tersely, turning her eyes to meet Oliver's overshadowed ones, "don't give the enemy that satisfaction, no matter the power they hold, they can't bind your will and spirit. Remember that..." She finished as she turned towards the Demon, now glaring behind the blindfold that obscured his physical sight.

"That hair," the Demon began speaking, arms falling off the torso in the previous arrogant position as he continued to speak...

"That fiery aura...that scent...that ominous sentient power flowing around and within you...you're," Mōshin then smiled a thin, fang-bearing grin, as he announced in a bellowing ecstatic tone, "you're her daughter, its undeniable! You're the Hankami offspring of the one who bound me nearly a thousand years ago! You're...-"

"The Dominator," Mōka finished the demon's rhetoric, causing the latter to bear a smile of certainty as Mōka's glare turned into sheer bloodlust, "that will be the last time you hear that name again, foul creature!"

The Dominator.

Even though Oliver turned away with a snarl on his face as he retreated back with the others at the fact that he was being lectured by her, that title rang dominant within his mind. It all made sense now; the manipulative tendencies that she had displayed in their introduction, the arrogance, and the power that she was emanating now made it very clear. Inside of his mouth, his teeth gritted together. It was no wonder that Shito had chosen to fear her.

"So that explains why she knew about the gates..."

Anton's face scrunched up in thought, and he broke away from these thoughts to glance at the fuming Oliver. "But still... the reaction to the Daitenshi, as well as when the Punisher was mentioned... I can only guess what happened was some family feud thing, if she's the Punisher's daughter..."

"She's...the Punisher's daughter?" Alastair spoke aloud in disbelief, having never seen the fiery queen of Hell either, but to believe it himself...it was hard to comprehend a member of V-14 just happened to be a Hankami. Looking to Angelika, he could tell she didn't know anything about it either, how cleverly she decieved them of her true nature.

"To imply she's a child of a Hankami means she's Hankami by blood then by manifestation," Victor spoke aloud, in a very collected and stoic tone, though raising his brow as he concluded, "but that would mean that two Hankami, who are all related in a sibbling-like fashion, would have to...be necessary for her birth."

"Oh f'ing hell, that's gross!" Hyōryū gagged, being repulsed at the idea of inbreeding that was living proof standing only a half a dozen meters away.

That was when the unexpected happened.

"I don't think I appreciate that tone of voice about my daughter, young lady." A slightly annoyed voice spoke from the heavens themselves. "I do believe you should..."

BOOSH!

A small, thick cloud that had somehow appeared over Hyōryū's head released contained water, drenching her in a practical waterfall moderately warm water. The sound of it made Oliver snap out of his funk, and he, Anton, and even Angelika snap their heads towards it in surprise.

"...clean up your act!" The voice declared, this time coming from on the cloud itself. The source of the voice appeared to be sitting on the poofy cloud, his arms folded across his chest, and an amused grin on his face. He raised his head up to direct his vision from the rest of them, still grinning for a few seconds more. Then, his smile turned into a slight frown.

"...yeah, I know. It was a really bad pun. And I am quite sorry for that."

Possibly only two people would recognize him.

"GUUH!" Hyōryū blurted out as she was submerged in a pool of uncomfortably warm water, drenched to the bone in its warm contents. Inwardly, she was thankful it really was water and not something else less pleasant. But outwardly, "you mother effing sonuvabitch! I'm going to rape your f'ing butt with the Executor, and fire it until his rounds can quench your thirst for comical stupidity! YOU HEAR ME?!?!"

"You!!!" Comically, if not ironically, both Mōka and Mōshin yelled out at the same time, but with different reasons altogether. Mōka briefly traded glares with the demon, before promptly taking off her sandal and redirecting her attention to the "man" up above.

Then, with a swift, powerful throw of her sandal, she sent the article of clothing towards the head of the man sitting on the cloud, intending on knocking off and onto his bum.

"YOU ARE SUCH A CLOWN, UGH!" Mōka yelled out in a fit of rage, stamping her feet in a fit of temper tantrum, making it look like the embarrassment of a child filled out in anger-filled frustration.

"Huh--?"

Bonk!

"Agh!"

The sandal hit home. His pupils and irises shrank into nonexistence, and he was unceremoniously knocked off of his cloud and onto his back. "Ow!!" He yelled, holding his nose and sitting up quickly in shock. A red footmark, courtesy of the sandal that had struck him, was now prominent. "Oh, come on, give me a break! I turn away from my very busy day to drop by and the first thing you do is hit me! This is no way to treat your elders!" He then trailed off, grumbling under his breath and nursing the mark on his face. "Judas priest, what kind of sandals do you wear?!"

"...well..." Angelika muttered dryly, with a hint of sarcasm. "That was enough to kill the tension off quickly..."

"Cut through like a Zanpakuto to a quilt," Alastair quipped, humoring himself with a slight chuckle while Victor just sighed and closed his eye in silence.

Mōka stomped her way to the man, unceremoniously shoving her way towards where he landed, before she kicked him in the face again, grabbing her sandal and placing it back on her foot insistantly, "You have a lot of nerve showing up at a time like this! Do you realize what is at stake right now?! Do you-"

After a long awkward pause, Mōka dropped her head and facepalmed her face before dragging it off, saying in a dry tone, "You do, don't you?"

And thus, the Nihilist rolled his lone eye.

"Well, duh..." He remarked, folding his hands behind his head and shifting one leg over the other in a relaxed fashion. "Did I happen to kill everyone's mood with my dynamic entry? If so, I'm terribly sorry for that." The sarcastic tone in his voice stated otherwise, however. "It's just that I was so happy to see you for the first time in several years, I just couldn't keep myself from stepping in. Especially considering that you were prepping to open up a fresh can of kick-ass on one of Senkuko's more rebellious pets..."

"Cascading a bucket of water on one of my comrades...is hardly what I could call stepping in," Mōka rolled her eyes as she spoke dryly in his response, "and you could've just...watched without making a sound. You watching me makes me feel uncomfortable as it is..."

Hyōryū reached for one of her guns, aiming to shoot the man who dunked her in disgustingly warm water on her person, glaring hotly at him while growling, "I'm gonna kill him..."

Behind her, Anton couldn't help but chuckle a little, albeit discreetly to make sure he didn't hear her. The last thing he wanted was for his balls to be on the receiving end of another kick from the likes of her!

However...

SFT!

A blindingly fast movement of the large bestial nightmare in question appeared behind Mōka and the man promptly, his wings outstretched in acknowledgement of the two as well as his full undivided attention.

"My my, have the ancients blessed me with this chance to meet the illustrious, if not most known, Hankami, the Nihilist himself along with his daughter, the Dominator," smiling widely, showing his white fangs and black gums within his maw, Mōshin then spoke with anticipation, "I will kill you both, Hankami, and then go after your beloved lover and mother, the Punisher, for my imprisonment in Hell!"

"...oh, right, you were still there..."

Upon hearing Mōshin's voice, the Nihilist drew in a breath and pushed himself up off the ground, brushing the snow off of his body. He leveled a gaze to meet Mōshin's own, one of his hands poking out of the front of his yukata. "Look, I just came here to take a break from my own pieces of work." He drawled, a frown on his face. "I'm not in the particular mood to draw my sword on anyone right now. Why don't you swing your punches towards someone--" He swung his head towards Mōka in a gesturing motion. "--who's more willing to swing back?"

"You're in no position to negotiate, Hankami..."

THRUMMMMM!

A wave of nauseating, bloodlust-filled Spiritual Pressure blasted over both Hankamis, having enough raw power behind it to reduce the ground for a great distance to crack and splinter, and the air to bring anyone less than Captain's Spiritual Pressure to their knees nearby. Even then, those who remained standing could feel a dominating pull towards them to crush and stifle their very existence. This was the extent of a mere exertion of Mōshin's power.

Hyōryū growled, feeling a tug attempt to bring her to her knees but slammed a foot into the ground and heaved, trying to keep herself from being humiliated in front of everyone else as she glared at the enemy before them.

Victor narrowed his eye with a bloodlust of his own, quietly reserved he wished he could simply shoot the thing in the head and be done with it, but chose not to be humbled to the same extent as Oliver Holmes had.

Alastair twitched and glared at the creature, his hand on his Zanpakuto vibrated, as the spirit within demanded to battle with the monster before it. Within, Alastair knew it was merely the empath waves being bathed upon their beings, coming directly from the monster's own individual thirst for death. So he kept himself as reserved as possible, awaiting for the events to unfold before him instead of lunging headfirst.

And Oliver?

He was getting the short stick.

Any humor that had been gained in the humorous encounter had vanished the moment Mōshin unleashed his spiritual pressure upon the area. The psychological toll that had been taken on him made his suffering even worse. He could not hold his own, falling to one knee and gritting his teeth as the spiritual pressure washed over him full-force. His resolve was shaking violently within him, and he was desperately trying to hold it within himself.

Mōka glared evenly at the monster, her hair flying backwards in response of the emanation of raw power, but did not flinch nor cringe in the face of it. After all...her own rage and wrath is equal if not greater than the condemned entity before her. Her eyes glowed a low, menacing if not subtle red as her body began to be bathed with her own pressure, slowly and surely rising, but at a slower climb. Her father would perhaps be the only to notice it, but she didn't mind if he interrupted her and fight in her stead. She never cared for such climactic battles, after all...

And of course, the Nihilist could sense the steady rise in spiritual pressure even as he stood ever so firmly in the face of the pressure waves. None of it affected him in the slightest. As far as he was concerned, it was nothing more than an attempt to intimidate them - something that he had been faced with more than once. He closed his eye and shook his head slightly, putting his arm back within its sleeve. It seemed that there was simply no reasoning with the blood-thirsty monster.

But, then again, he didn't mind a good fight once in a while...

"Mōka, dear..." He said coolly, resting a hand on the hilt of the sheathed sword that was hooked to his waist. "Would you mind it if I took this off of your hands? The more that I think about it, the more I'm beginning to see this as a chance to see if my skills aren't getting rusty on me..." It wasn't a statement, but rather a genuine question. Considering the way her spiritual pressure was rising, he had to wonder whether or not she wanted to truly take part in the fight...

Mōka's eyes suddenly dialated, and her rising in power stopped. She inwardly surpressed the rage and outright desire to rip the demon to shreds because of who she was acquainted with, not wanting them to shun her more than they must be doing, but to outright drop the battle.

"You're sure?" Mōka asked back, her hands dropping to her sides, propping onto her hips as she eyed her dad up and down with slight scrutiny, but saw the look in his eye that he had committed something. Now, he'll follow through. Sighing, she shrugged as she backpedaled away, saying in a deadpan, "Have fun," before completely pulling back within a blur of motion, reappearing near the rest of the gathered Sect affiliates.

All she could do was mutter a slight, "Hi," before turning her back to them, and watched the scene for herself of what was about to transpire.

Mōshin gleamed madly, truly excited at the prospect of killing someone who at one point was close to the Queen of Hell's heart. Now, he'll get the chance to rip it from her chest and watch her writhe in agony before he placed her head on a pike.

"I'm going to enjoy this...so immensely," he growled gutturally, taking a direct step forward with speed so fast, that nearly everybody present wouldn't have been able to track it. With the Hankami as special cases of course. He swung his talon-fingered right hand forward, attempting to slash him out with incredible cutting power right across his neck, before following up with a earth-shattering punch towards his right pectoral area.

They were motions that made the Nihilist's eye widen slightly.

But they were not shockers.

WOOSH!

When he unsheathed his sword to intercept the first attack, the winds from the slash hit him full-force. While his hair and clothing only billowed violently within the intense winds, everything behind him was blown apart and scattered in an expanding arc of destruction. The claws stopped inches from his neck, causing a wide grin of anticipation to cross his face. He could tell that this one, in particular, was going to be a strong opponent. It was too bad that the Punisher might have a more difficult time in dealing with him...

POW!

When the second attack came, the Nihilist parried the first one away from his person and swung a free hand out, stopping the attack with his open palm. For anyone else, it might as well have been trying to catch a flying glacier bare-handed. However, all the blow did was make him dig his feet into the ice a little bit more. He kept his gaze even with Mōshin's, a glint of amusement within his eye. "What a coincidence..."

He raised his sword.

"So will I."

WOOSH!

With a downwards swing of his sword, he unleashed a massive and slowly expanding fissure of destructive force, blowing apart anything and everything in its path. Of course, the attack itself was only meant to slice his opponent in two halves. But the Nihilist knew that the demon would not go down so easily... or at least, he hoped. If it did, then it would be a severe disappointment on his end. A small chuckle escaped his lips as he watched the resulting cloud billow up to the sky.

On Mōka's end...

"Well, well..." Angelika's smile conveyed her own amusement at the revelation, her lone eye staring at her old friend's back. "Such a revelation you kept from us, Mōka. If I knew I had a Hankami within my midst, I would've certainly relied on you a lot more..." She, for one, didn't hold any hostility towards her for hiding her true nature. After all, who was she to care about what species someone else was? It was just too pointless...

"Why did you hide it from us?" Although Anton remained the same way, his gaze was questioning and unconsciously accusing as he stared at the young "deity". "You didn't think we would care just because you're something other than a Shinigami or Soul, did you? "No enemies, only opponents" is the V-14 motto, after all..."

Within the wake of tremendous powers clashing in front of them, sending tidal waves of buffeting shockwaves and wind towards them, making the group shudder slightly if not cover their faces. Mōka however, stood firm in the wake of incredible power, not flinching from the forces clashing before herself.

"You see that?" She asked, in a rhetorical tone she carried a slightly incredulous undertone to her statement as she continued speaking, "that power so ungodly, so immense belongs to those who've earned it and place themselves on pedestals of godhood and deify themselves among lesser beings. Yet the Hankami were graced with power much greater than anyone would know. I've seen during the height of our power what happens to us and others when we show our true nature freely and without restriction."

"We Slay all those in our path, without thought or care, giving nothing but death in our wake...

"We Punish the worst of all kinds races, never looking past the worst of what any species has to offer...

"We become Nihilistic, denying any form of in any world has any real substance...

"We Reap the world of all it has to offer, not leaving one grain of life in any soil..."

"We Monitor all existence as if its a intriguing test subject for our personal enjoyment to watch struggle or suffer..."

"And we can Dominate all creation if we so choose," Mōka finished, labeling off all of the known Hankami she knew of by their titles subtly and what their darker nature embodied have they release their inner desires to the world. She turned over to look at her compatriots, speaking in a bitter tone, "I didn't hide what I was because I felt you would reject for what I was. I didn't reveal my identity because I loathe my existence. Being a Hankami means to be born of pain, torture, suffering and agony.

When being born from Hankami themselves, all of their agony and pain is thrusted upon you during your waking moments. For that reason, I will NEVER accept myself as a deity or god, or whatever the Hell people want to affiliate me as! I'm Mōka Komori, powerhouse and future head of criminality in the whole Soul Society!" She said the last words with a measure of pride and with a huff, staring evenly with her comrades, hoping what she spoke would sink in and they wouldn't immediately shun her for what she was.

Mōshin smiled darkly as the Hankami countered with perfect, precise movements. He knew that this would be a much tougher fight than the one he had with the Punisher, but he had suspected as such. After all...the masculine entities of the Hankami race were more prominent to be dominent over the females.

"Please..."

Mōshin flexed his shoulder, rearing his arm back in a precise methodical manner, causing his wings to fold back against each other allowing his limb more movement. A dark aura, thick as smoke, enamored his muscular arm, before he swiftly thrust out in a palm-heel thrust towards the cutting arc of incredible power towards his body.

B-WHRP-BOOOOOOM!

Sending a titantic pillar of dark violet, smoke-covered energy melded with kinetic-pressurized force towards the cutting arc, clashing it briefly, sending a mountain of sparks that caused miniaturized fireballs to rain upon the landscape around them. However...within a few more moments, the pillar of energy, now embodying more like a giant black smog-fist with dark violet tendrils curling in and out of it, shattered the slash and headed directly towards the Nihilist full force and without restraint.

"Don't take me lightly, Hankami," Mōshin said with a thick, guttural tone enamored with dark pleasure, "I am no amateur. Since I faced off your beloved lover nearly a millenia ago, I am adjusted to your semi-sentient energy that I can counter it upon reflex."

The Nihilist was ready.

VOOSH!

With another swing of his sword, he ripped into the offending attack, scattering the energy into the winds. A light laugh escaped him. "Good!" He exclaimed, satisfied to see that the demon had lived through it. "That would've been a pitiful end to such a promising duel, don't you think?" He twisted his sword in a flourishing motion, spinning it around with acrobatic twists and flips.

"Agreed. It would've been a pity I could kill you with just my bare hands," Mōshin countered with a toothy grin, his unseen eyes glaring at him as he retracted his wings back to their full width in extension.

Extending his forefingers out, he collected a spinning black electric globe of spiritual energy around its edges, increasing its size till it was nearly doubled in size of a man, creating this manifestation within a few seconds. Then, the energy cortex did something unusual. Instead of dicharging in a wide arc of power stereotypically seen by most energies, or like a straight-on bullet...it shimmered out of view!

Reappearing before halfway to the Nihilist's location, it then arced erratically, intending to make prediction of its intended path or evasion of it hazardous to any warrior. However, the real attack wasn't in the condensed sphere of energy capable of causing a implosion of large quantities of space before exploding in a half-mile radius, extending the shockwave for a mile afterwards.

It was the blinding speed of Mōshin moving after the sphere's path, shimmering out of view before reappearing before his target, slicing downwards with incredibly cutting ability with just the ridge of his right hand, capable of causing a uproar of pressurized cutting power to dig a trench deep within the ice and disrupt the flow of air aroudn them.

Within that instant, the Nihilist pointed his sword directly at the oncoming blast and focused his energy.

It took some difficulty on his end, of course. But he managed to focus his Shinsei right around the zig-zagging blast. The visage was similar to a green energy barrier right around the orb. With a pull-back of the sword, he reigned in the energy so that it would fly straight towards him, just as Mōshin was coming out of his movement. With a simple side-leap, he jumped out of harm's way just before he could be cut in half.

Now, the orb threatened the very owner it had came from.

Before anyone could respond to Mōka's declaration, however...

"Hey, not to interrupt the "Large Ham" speech..." Oliver's voice came to their ears, and he slowly brought himself to his feet again before regarding them with a slightly stern and annoyed gaze. "But since Nihil-bro's got his shit settled against the miniature Lucifer, isn't it high time we high-tailed it back to the temple? All we can do from here on out is become cannon fodder if we stick around..."

"I strongly agree!" Athena said in earnesty, raising her palms above them, extending a array of symbols foreign to all around her and creating a barrier of protectiong against the falling fireballs and cascading waves of power, "I don't wish to be here anymore than we need to be!"

"I second that!" Hyōryū said with a quip of raising her hand, before turning to Oliver, briefly twirling one of her Jackals before handing it to him, "so you don't go moping about being defenesless," and then grabbed onto Anton's arm, awaiting him to carry her with swift haste, "c'mon lover boy, we need to leave, like now!"

Alastair sweatdropped, really understanding the magnitude of the calamity about to occur around them. He quickly retreated, his body shimmering in the wake of the incredible fury around them, the first to take haste away. Oddly enough, Victor remained completely calm in the midst of the power surges around them, humbly content to write on his notebook of personal thoughts of what was unfolding around them in his own way.

A light scoff escaped Oliver's lips, but he gratefully accepted the weapon that Hyōryū gave him. "Gee, just what I've always wanted..." He remarked sarcastically, some of his old mood having clearly returned to him. He quickly put his hand on Anton. "C'mon, Pinko, we have to haul ass!"

"Huh?" For a moment, Anton was confused when the two grabbed him, but it didn't last long. "Oh, right, sorry. Forgot you two couldn't just teleport out of here yourselves..." He looked over towards his boss and Shinji. "We'll see you there!" With a nod from Angelika, he immediately teleported his two norms back to the temple. The German woman, after taking a glance at Victor, proceeded to vanish from the area with her own Flash Step.

Victor swiftly closed his notebook before stuffing it into the confines of his coat. Taking a quick look of curiosity at the people around him, he sighed before preforming a shimmering movement of his own Flash Step, following the others with quick resolve to outrun the potentially fatal backlashes of power thrown around.

"Mōka Komori."

Shinji, on the other hand, had moved behind Mōka and placed a hand on her shoulder in order to gain her attention. His stoic red eyes were piercing, but no readable motion could be felt. "Do not allow yourself to get comfortable." He warned coldly. "Although you speak of intentions harmless to us, you are still a Hankami. It doesn't matter whether if you're truly a deity or not. If you give us even the slightest hint of betrayal or deception, we will kill you."

"So the mummy speaks, does it...?"

Mōka narrowed her eyes towards Shinji's, briefly lighting them to a crimson fiery red of their own making when threatened in the manner he did so, saying aloud, "Believe me when I say this, Shinji, that if I was to betray anyone within V-14...you'd be the first to know."

Shaking off his hand, she shimmered away with her own utilization of Haya, following the others after Athena cut off the barrier and followed the rest of the group.

The warriors, would now be officially locked in their duel alone and without potential casualties, whether it would bother them or not was of little consequence.

Regroup! Cataclysmic Struggles

Mōshin snarled, seeing that the Hankami resorted to using trickery and utilization of his own power against him. He could sense, let alone actually see the trails of light wrapping around his own dark abysmal construct of destructive power, throwing back at him with skilled practioning and well earned prowess.

Within following up with his latter attack with his hand, he flourished his left hand in a sweeping motion, almost as if he intended on hitting the orb of destructive powers. However what happened next was intriguing. Instead of simply making contact with his hand, it seemed to move upon mnemonic command through the waves of pressure and energy in front of him, easily redirecting its flow to arc around him, orbiting him...before flashing swiftly if not with twice as much speed and velocity towards the intended target.

Within the air, the Nihilist found himself suspended upside-down with enough time to look on as the orb raced towards him.

There was no time to speak, only act.

Gripping his sword in two hands, he swung with a strength that shook the very storm above him. The blade came into contact with the energy, splitting it into two waves that cascaded horizontally past his person. The very movement seemed to make the skies thunder, lightning crackling down on the area like an artillery bombardment. The wind picked up around him, emphasizing the presence of the storm raging all around them. It made his skin shiver and his blood boil to be in such an environment.

He made his move.

With a downward swipe of his sword, he summoned his attack in the form of several tornadoes that had materialized within a matter of seconds. There were a total of four, each one a sizable distance away from each other. However, the one nearest to them was the most dangerous, and all that it needed was a few meters before its winds could do serious damage.

"Sick 'em!" The Nihilist hissed, feeling the intensity of the winds as that particular tornado closed in.

"Hahahahaha!" Mōshin laughed out in the joy he felt from clashing with this titan of destruction, "That is most impressive of you, summoning the elements to do your bidding!"

The demon raised a upraised hand, his wings extending fully, as a surge of air pressure began swirling around his hand, creating a manganomiously large vortex soaring into the sky. What was created within the vortex looked...disturbing. Black electric tendrils coursed in and out of the swirling twister of power, but within moments formed a howling black fire, the firestorm fueled by the negatives within the atmosphere and gradually traveled across the clouds which the Hankami created.

"Now witness the purge of life, the Abysmal Flames of your Extinction, Hankami!"

He then thrust his hand out towards the incoming twister, sending the first rotating pyro-fueled black twister of flames and electricity. Crashing with a loud howl, and a surge of clashing sparks and tendrils of backlashing power, it sent large shockwaves to batter anything around them, the winds cascading with incredible fury and wrath. Soon after, other black fiery twisters joined in the clash of titanic elemental struggle for dominance, pressing the funneling large winds back with incredible fury thrashing all around them.

Flapping his wings behind him, the demon went airborne, moving swiftly and gracefully through the air, before head diving with incredible speed towards the Hankami while the twisters battled ferociously around them. As he descended, he shimmered out of view, moving instaneously swifter towards his prey. Once reappeared, he swung out both palms in a dual cutting display from the edge of his hands, intending on sending the cutting rifts but meters away from the skilled swordsman and deity.

The tornado war provided an excellent background.

Woosh!

When the demon approached, the Nihilist flew aside to allow the cutting force to sweep past him. Within that second, he threw himself to meet his enemy, his blade gleaming in the light that the lightning strikes provided for him. His blade moved, swinging in a series of rapid, coordinated, and masterful strikes. All the while, the smile was still prominent on his face. Although it had never changed, the flashes within the environment gave off the impression of a blood-thirsty and insane visage.

It was possibly the most disturbing trait that could ever come from the likes of a humanoid body.

Mōshin, although physically couldn't see, didn't need eyes to tell the Nihilist's manical gleaming features that bordered insanity. He could feel the waves of bloodlust as a bath of hellfire sweeping his pores, pheromones indicating anything but hospitality or fear. He could smell the thirst for his lifeblood, and could hear the clacking of teeth upon one another as well as the twitching of his facial features. Mōshin grinned widely during midflight, pleased to have found such a reveler in combat and thirst for battle.

Mōshin's body moved with incredible grace and poise against the Hankami, meeting the blade the Nihilist utilized with his own cutting power thrusts of his talon-edged fingers, his hands moving with a expert blur and synchronized manner against his opponent. Each counter and clash of the two cutting powers produced violent showers of sparks, cascading and flying haphazardly around the space they flew. Their aeriel battle took them across dangerous terrain, as they were moving at incredible speeds across the airspace, narrowly avoiding each and every battling twister. While some of the vortexes were submitted and gathered into the dark firestorm maelstroms, others simply exploded with a violent, black pyrotechnic fury producing napalm tidal waves to crash into the ice-crusted snow-covered earth below.

"Incredible!" Mōshin shouted as he clashed once again with the Nihilist's sword with a straight out thrust of his talon-edged fingers, "shall we take this up another notch, Nihilist?!"

After asking his rhetorical question, Mōshin gathered a thick condensed smoke-enraptured energy cloud around his free arm. Thrusting it out in a claw-like maneuver, he discharged a collosal-sized shadow-energy serpent, sending an immense rush of kinetic power as well as crushing force around the Hankami's body. The intention of the attack, was to either plummet him into the ice-capped ground near the edge of the battling twisters and enflamed landscape, or crush him within the maw of the semi-sentient construct Mōshin created.

It was the former that got him.

"Oof--!"

The Hankami found himself hurtling towards the ground at immense speeds, the shadow energy restricting his movements. Truthfully, he had seen it coming. But of course, that would only prove to serve as another dodge and attack - a dance that would get far too repetitive over time. There was no use having multiple paths if you always took the right one, right?

And so, he allowed himself to see this particular action through to its end.

WHAM!

When he collided into the ice, chunks of it flew into the sky and reached several meters.

Mōshin flapped his wings several times, maintaining a static altitude as he "watched" with satisfaction as his opponent was sent hurtling into the ice-capped landscape below. Lowering himself down to the ground about a dozen meters away, his hooves clacked against the solid frozen earth beneath him with a soft click-clack. Folding his wings back onto his back, Mōshin began treading towards the rival's position his hands glowing black-violet streams of smog, emitting a menacing seperately powerful Spiritual Pressure of its own.

"Allow me to introduce to you the infamous weapons that had reduced entire civilizations to ashes and memories," Mōshin elaborated dramatically, as the weapons took on a solid form, showing a pair of elaborately crafted glaives with serrated inner edges and smooth outer cutting edges, with a circular handle/buckle hold for each hand, "Konrinzai!"

In the midst of the smoke that had arisen, the Nihilist's lone silhouette could be seen standing and waiting for the approach. "Oh, as if I haven't heard that many, many times before..." His voice, taking on a bored tone, called back to Mōshin. "If you have so much faith, then let's see you pierce my heart with those so-called weapons of mass destruction, shall we...?"

"Before a Hankami with such a infamous reputation as yourself, I'm not surprised you would belittle any weapon before your kind's crafting," Mōshin said with a bemusing tone, rolling his neck side to side, his shoulders flexing as he prepared to employ the said weapons, "but if you surely want a small demonstration of their destructive yield..."

SWING!

"...I am more than happy to oblige your request!"

Within the wake of one swing of his Konrinzai Glave on his right hand's grip in a diagonal twisted gesture, there was a slight delay in action. As if the simple swing was all that the weapon was capable of, and only useful for close quarters-

SCRREEEEEECH-BLP-BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

Then a mighty rupturing of air pressure collapsed in on itself, dwarfing any useage of mere manipulation of elements or energy potential. This...was collapsing of spiritronic particles and the atmosphere from the mere exertion of the cutting potential of the weapon before it. The rupture manifested in a equivalent of a monsterous tidal wave, moving at speeds only the opponent before him could possibly register, taking on the actual shape -if seen from afar- as a crescent distorted rippling affect, equivalating in immense tearing properties to anything it touches.

Time seemed to slow down for the Nihilist.

His eye widened in surprise as he saw the tidal wave of mass destruction race towards him. This was no mere attack. This was a force of nature purely meant to destroy everything and anything within its path. He had never seen anything like it since his past fight with that man. It caused him to grin, shivers running down his spine at the familiar feeling. Was this one of the few capable of killing him? He couldn't help but wonder...

He raised his free hand out, speaking one word and one word only.

"Deconstruction."

Within the focal point, a disruption within the air had been summoned between the two fighters. It grew larger to the point of where it doubled the size of an average man. Its visage was a black hole, the energy used against him was being sucked into it. On top of that, the ground near that began to crumple and fall apart, the pieces pulled into the warp that had been created.

"I apologize for this, Lady Izanami..." The Nihilist thought to himself, his lone eye visible through the shadow that had overtaken his face. "For I know that seeing this technique will only make you cry..."

Mōshin was taken aback by what he saw birthed into existence by the Nihilist. From the palm of the entity's hand, was a singularity that imitated what some would call a black hole. Its mere presence in the epicenter of the cutting rift made its size and mass seem pointless before such a manifestation of pure deconstruction.

SSSSSSWRRRRRRVRRRPPPP!

As the collosal tearing affect rammed headlong into the Nihilist's position, it seemed to be taken aback and pause as the singularity's control sprung out and grab a hold of everything before it, keeping the Nihilist from being sucked in while shielding him from the cutting power emitted by the demon.

With a measure of caution, Mōshin backpedaled a good half a mile away from the animation of gravity defying pull and compression, knowing if he were to be too close, any attempt of nullifying it would be for naught.

"I'm surprised by this, Nihilist," Mōshin said with sincerity, but had kept the same measure of calm and stoic tone he had before, if not still carrying the same underlying menace within it, "to actually forge a spherical construct within space to rupture the very properties of gravity before your command to nullify the cutting stroke of Konrinzai. I'm curious to know if this is the fullest capabilities of Shinsei's energy," he then grinned wider, as he probed further, if not to amuse himself, "or is this your truest ability?"

The Nihilist's smile turned sly.

"I am the embodiment of chaos..." He said, his palm still outstretched towards the construct he made. "Every law within existence and every rule set by the forces of the universe means absolutely nothing to me. My very existence has caused empires to fall, dictators to be ripped from their pedestals, and entire civilizations to be wiped out from the map. The world is my play-toy to use as I see fit, if I wanted it so. You may have been fortunate enough to survive the likes of Senkuko, but..."

His fingers curled, and suddenly...

VOOM!

The suction force began to direct itself towards Mōshin, as if calling on his presence and his presence alone. The black hole began to pull at him, wanting nothing more than to drag him within its void. "Will you be fortunate enough to survive your very own world when it's ruled by the likes of me?" He challenged, his lone eye widening in amusement. "What are your odds? One in a million? One thousandth of a billion?"

It was then that Mōshin's eyes, behind his blindfold began to widen as he felt his being dragged without choice towards the singularity. His hooves scratched against the ice-capped earth, his wings outstretched to slow his pull, but he couldn't stop it. Gritting his teeth, he now knew that out of all the Hankami he was dealing with...it was the strongest of them all!

"How careless of me! To believe a mere fraction of distance could ever be beyond that mass' pull!..."

It was then, that Mōshin's mind splintered and his calm disposition shattered. While a sense of life preservation would be normally take over the body of nearly every entity, Mōshin's mind was constructed differently. From a mere gritting of his teeth, he began widely smiling. This smile was so wide, it almost looked manically driven as his eyes began glowing behind the blindfold entirely. His body oozed violet hued smoke, before a incredible rippling of nauseating, all-consuming, empath-bathed Spiritual Pressure was released with a laugh so feral it would rival any battle lusting entity before him.

"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, YES! THAT'S RIGHT! TRY AND DESTROY ME, NIHILIST! JUST TRY!!!"

VRRRRRRRRBOOOOOOM!

A gigantic pillar of dark violet spiritual power discharged from his being, sending such a concussive distorted force around him, it seemed to warp space's fabric around him. This rippling affect traveled and distorted the very pull of the black hole's reach, flowing towards the spherical construct, with a dangerous series of destructive tendrils until...and moved it backwards...

SWING!...VRRRRRRR-BLAAAAM-CRRRRRRRAAACK!

Following the momentary freedom of its pull, Mōshin swung his blade, this time throwing the very power this blade possessed. The blade to summon apocalypse incarnate.

The energy surge was similar to the black flames that Mōshin had used against the funneling twisters the Hankami had utilized. However, it radiated destructive properties totally foreign to anything within existence. The power to destroy creation and leave no trace of it. The cutting power combined with black flames that roared with incredible fury that far outcried any champion's power and with the based properties to destabilize, deconstruct, and destroy anything before it. This, is the most powerful form of Konrinzai's apocalyptic nature...with a single stroke of its blade.

This power was utilized against the black hole's employment as well as the Hankami standing behind him, dwarfing the rippling distortion cutting affect he used just a few moments ago. Mōshin intended to show Hankami, they weren't to tell him to bow. Not anymore!

"...I see..."

For the first time in the fight, the Nihilist's eyes narrowed in a solemn disposition. Even in the destruction he faced, all it seemed to do was strip away the mirth he had. His voice was sullen as he spoke. "I allowed myself to get my hopes up. You, a monster of your kind, may have immense power, skill, and years of experience... but you lack the thing necessary to rival me. You're just like the rest of them... the ones consumed by their own flaws to make even the slightest difference..."

The lone eye narrowed into slits, his pupil dilating.

"You want to kill me? You can forget it! You will never have what it takes!!"

Then, he unleashed an apocalypse of his own.

As the power and size of the black hole was increased, the very environment around them began to tear apart. The very atmosphere seemed to be struggling to hold itself together against the pull. The wind rippled violently across the entire area, the lightning became more and more prominent within the sky, and even the Nihilist himself had to dig in his feet. But he held firm, his eye narrowed in a glare at his enemy's direction.

Mōshin growled out, the release of even greater powers from the singularity began tearing away at the destructive arc of deconstructive power, and began further extending to pull him closer, his hooves now picking up large three meter wide slabs of ice in his wake as he attempted to keep his footing despite the monsterous acretion disk's pulling capabilities towards him and everything around it.

Mōshin managed to launch another slash of his blade and wide arc of unholy blackened flames, intending on keep throwing as much destructive power as he can at the monstrous gravitational rupturing nightmare that threatened to end his brief, fantastic release from Hell's grasp.

But it just wasn't enough.

Every attack that was thrown at the vortex was simply sucked in its dark void along with the parts of the environment. The Nihilist shut his eyes and gritted his teeth, knowing that the results would be total destruction of this area. But he knew that risk had to be taken in this situation. With forceful steps forward, he began to push the black hole forward, closer and closer to his foe. All the while, he continued to speak.

"Your fear speaks to me more than any words of yours can..." He whispered. "Squirm and squeal as you meet a fate worse than what you could ever meet in the depths of Hell!!"

He took one more step forward...

...until he felt a hand clasp his shoulder, his lone eye widening and his head turning to see who had done it.

A figure, cloaked in black. A spiritual pressure that radiated nothing but dread and despair. A stance that showed no emotion and no life, even in the midst of the chaos going on. The Nihilist's pupil dilated in recognition and realization.

"You...!"

It was here that the nightmarish black hole stopped due to the Nihilist's lack of concentration on it, disappearing as quickly as it had been summoned.

Mōshin felt as if his life was within moments of being crushed into oblivion. This...this Hankami made the Punisher seem like a sparring partner in comparison. The fullest capabilities this entity produced...made him look like a mere imitation in comparison of what true chaos and apocalypse was.

"RRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAH!" Mōshin bellowed out in a feral tone, his body emanating a violet-smoke fueled hue as his body catastrophically warped space around him for miles, his fury breaching the powers he should never unleash for the fabric of reality's delicate balance would be at stake-

"I think that's enough, Mōshin-kun..."

A soft, amused voice somehow managed to breach through the howling affects and the yelling came to a sudden, dramatic ceasing moment. Mōshin felt his eyes widen behind the cloth, his weapons shriveling into smoke and energy, as he turned to "face" the one who spoke his name in such a matter.

"L-Lord Shiyōnin?!?!" He gasped out with shock, not even sensing his arrival nor his very presence up until now.

The dark blue haired man smiled, his body enamored in a black long coat, with his hair flourishing down his back while spiking up on top. Holding no weapons but a simple black bodied silver edged trident, Yashin said in a chiding manner to the mighty demon, "What did I tell you about releasing that power, Mōshin-kun?"

Mōshin clenched his fists tightly, bowing his head lowly before muttering aloud, "The Hankami...forced my hand, my Lord. Forgive my ignorance to your command..."

"Ho?" Yashin said in a feigned curious tone, as he turned around to see the two Hankami standing only a fair distance between him and his now acclaimed subordinate, "oh, so there are Hankami. This is truly fascinating, seeing them up close and personal, makes me quite enamored and curious.

"Tell me," he now broke off his conversation with his servant, scraping the butt of his trident slightly across the ripped and decimated earth that was created by the previously clashing titanic forces, "what are your titles and why are you here, precisely, Hankami?"

Slowly, the Nihilist turned his surprised gaze towards the newcomer that had verbally subdued his opponent.

At first, he thought it was just a random officer, judging by the dialogue. But upon closer inspect and the sense of his spiritual pressure, the surprise slowly faded away from his face. Because of his omnipotence as well as his own immortality, he could easily identify the otherworldly being in mortal's skin. A small grin came across his face as he sheathed his sword.

"Oh, me?" He drawled. "They refer to me by the title of the Nihilist. As for what I was doing, I was just passing through, like I always do. Then this guy..." He motioned with a dramatic hand gesture towards Mōshin. "...suddenly decides that he wants to pull a Skrillex, kill every Hankami in the world, and challenge me to a fight! I mean, what's with that?"

The hooded figure remained silent.

Yashin smiled stoically back at the Hankami, giving away no true emotion other than amusement while his subordinate hissed nearby, "Is that so? I don't see the problem in that...considering you almost wiped yourselves out nearly a thousand years ago, what's the harm in finishing the job, hmmm?"

"Ey! Ey!" The Nihilist feigned an indignant look, his hands raised defensively. The only thing that betrayed it was the grin. "I'm trying to live a good life, for crying out loud! I mean, a good battle is fun and all, but one too many can get pretty dull and repetitive. I know there's some people who resent the Hankami to an extreme level, but the least you could do is keep me out of your genocide plots. Besides..."

He tilted his head to the side, a slightly disappointed look directed towards both Yashin and Mōshin. "You already saw the results of a demon trying to bring an end to chaos. It's nothing but failure, and that's something written in stone. Haven't you been doing your homework?"

"You fail to see the bigger picture, little man," Yashin chided aloud as if the Nihilist was a child, his eyes narrowing to near slits as he spoke, "I've already accomplished what I set out to achieve here. I summoned my servant to have him...stretch his legs if you will. He hasn't fought let alone done anything for a great while, so I thought to give his lax powers a little test run to see what his minimum standards are. That," Yashin allowed him to speak a low almost pleased tone, "and I know you have a daughter as well..."

The Nihilist blinked, mulling that particular thought over.

Was that a simple shot in the dark, a dangerously close assumption? Or did he really know more than he let on. Such manipulative figures tended to do that just to see how their victims would react to their hearts barely being missed. If he flat-out admitted that, then he would just be confirming Yashin's beliefs. He didn't want to give him any more satisfaction than what was necessary.

"Daughter?" He repeated, almost as if the word was foreign of him. "Come, now. I'm a loose cannon, a rebel to the established system, if you will. You're saying that the likes of me would even think of settling down and having kids? That's a ridiculous thought..."

"I never said you raised her," Yashin said with a chuckle, "I merely said that you had an offspring. I'd never expect the likes of you to be bothered with something as trivial as being a father to your child. After all...its not like Senkuko ever cared for her anymore than you had. Isn't that right?"

The Nihilist shrugged. "She never was the maternal type..." He admitted. "And I don't think she'll be changing her tune anytime soon. But, hey... what can you do?"

"Nothing," Yashin said neutrally, "to change what you are, is to change your potential. Therefore, changing into something else for the sake of others will only distort your potential and put exponantial limits on the potential you possess."

Turning towards his servant's direction, he simply nodded his head to him, inclining on his leaving of the area.

Mōshin snarled at the Nihilist and Monitor's location before turning around and stalking towards the gate from which he came. Within a instaneous blurring motion, the demon vanished as quickly as it came, followed by a sudden emptiness of the ominous presence the gate projected. Soon after, it began disassembling into millions of particles of spiritrons, floating away into the wind, leaving nothing behind indicating the gate's existence.

"As much fun as it has been to meet you, Nihilist, son of Izanami, I will take my leave from here as there is nothing left to entertain me," he spoke as he raised his trident and pointed it towards his right, smiling in a hidden threatening way, "by the way, I will only warn you once, Hankami. Stay out of my way...or I will crush you until there's nothing left but memories."

BLZZZZZP!

As soon as he spoke this, a dimensional tear ripped open to Yashin's side, slowly enrapturing his being and leaving nothing behind on the plane the Hankami were standing on. Faint outlines of dark blue flames and the sounds of chains clicking and jingling within were the only clues to what method of transportation Yashin was using, before his being was entirely "consumed" and disappeared. Without a trace.

And that was when the Nihilist allowed himself to chuckle.

It was a pleased, entertained, and even mocking sound that escaped his mouth and into the atmosphere. He raised his hands, clapping in and expression of his own amusement towards the final statement. "Ah, he made it as if I was going to purposefully intervene in his little schemes!" He exclaimed. "Your doomsday plot does not concern me, Yashin Shiyōnin. The only part of me that would even bother to pay attention to you would be my beloved daughter. So count your blessings and be thankful..."

He stopped clapping.

"Because if I ever allowed myself to step in this little quarrel..." He whispered, still amused. "Then this universe might as well sign its death warrant. That would leave no one happy..." His lone eye drifted towards the silent figure of the Monitor. "Right... Apashii?"

Without waiting for a response, he turned completely towards the hooded figure. "Brace yourself, my old friend. A war could pull you and your kin into this mortal struggle soon enough. Do your best to inform them, will you?"

With a silent nod of acknowledgement, the Monitor turned around and began to walk away, before promptly vanishing with a Haya movement. The Nihilist followed shortly after, leaving the ruined landscape in emptiness.

What now? Foreboding Horizon...

"I gather you understand?" Daigomi's voice broke the brief silence that had lapsed inside the Hallowed Hall. Various slight marrings were seen to and fro, with the smell of smoldering flames of various origins burnt out around the expansive room, with some of the smell emanated on Daigomi's person. His person had a handful of tears, slashes, and burns on it, but had no realy wounds to account for during the entiriety of the battle with the two Daitenshi. Of course...he couldn't speak on behalf of his opponents...

Had it not been for the gift of regeneration, the fight would have ended somewhat earlier.

However, it was clear that the pain still remained.

Blood stained his clothing as well as his face, despite his previous wounds behind healed. Because of the aches that had accumulated over time, he found himself breathing more audibly than before even as he stood defensively, his shoulders moving up and down. His blue eyes were still narrowed in defiance, and he still looked ready to continue fighting. But it was still clear that all of it had an effect on him.

Because Genesis was too busy keeping Sonmei safe within the aura her own pressure had put up against the two colliding forces, she remained unharmed. She continued to hold the woman close to her, breathing easy even as she watched the events of the ferocious duel. Although she was putting faith within her commander to win, she couldn't help but worry about the fact that he appeared to be at least a little bit tired.

"C'mon, Yoshi... you can do this..."

Daigomi waited a few more moments before sighing, raising his blade in a guard position as he spoke aloud, "I gather from your silence that you don't. As much as I love fighting enemies that can continue battling despite any number of wounds I inflict upon them, this is becoming a bit of a bore."

SHIIIIINK-CLICK!

"Though I did enjoy killing a few people and pummeling you for a little while," Daigomi continued, sheathing his cane audible before clacking it against the ground, holding it with his left hand while holding his right glove up to smooth out his silky, jet black hair, "but I'm afraid this is where our dance is going to be postponed. I gather that the plan is finished and we got what we came here for..."

"What could you possibly mean by that?" Shou demanded, the scowl deepening on his face. "Your forces have retreated, and there are still important personnel alive and here, more than enough to keep this organization stable." He swung out in a motioning gesture with one of his swords. "And from what I managed to sense on the outside, whatever you were attempting to summon has retreated back into its cage. And although it's heavily damaged, this building has not yet been destroyed. So what was the point of this entire attack? Was it simply a waste of resources?!"

"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Daigomi smiled toothily, his gleaming set of perfect white teeth glistened mockingly as his eyes narrowed at Shou's, wagging his finger in a further insulting way, "that would be telling, now wouldn't it? Why don't you use that head of yours and try to figure that one on your own..."

SPHT!

"I'm sure you can find some reason why we bothered to attempt this operation," he said as he raised his right two forefingers in front of himself, in a act of employing a spell or a technique, "chow!"

SPRRRRAAAAACK!

A number of cards, scatterd across the chamber itself began lighting up brightly, before forming what looked like a complex indigo and dark blue assortment of lines that formed an archaic Kido circle with Daigomi at its epicenter. Within merely a few more seconds, Daigomi was enveloped with a brilliant flash of light...

VR-BLAM!

...and with a sound that was closely related to a thunderclap, Daigomi disappeared without a trace of Spiritual Pressure or presence to follow. The scattered rift cards began lighting on fire, before destroying themselves completely, their use finished and now nullified for any particular inspection or backtracking of his destination.

"Damn it..."

Shou let out a swear but did not allow himself to attack, already knowing that the fiend had secured his escape. He re-sealed his Zanpakutō's powers and sheathed his blades, inwardly cursing himself for allowing his enemy a chance to get away. But at least now, he could think about why exactly the Inner Circle had even bothered to strike this place. There was nothing gained from it strategically, as far as he could tell. So what exactly was the point...?

"Hey..." Genesis spoke softly to Sōnmei, a bit of urgency in her tone. "You still with us? Don't try to die when the battle's over with now, c'mon..."

Senmei grasped at something within her coat, making a slight jingling and sloshing sound within the confines of her attire. As soon as she looked up to retort, she had a large bottle of what was labeled "Tendan Spill", popping the cork off abruptly as she looked up owlishly at Genesis.

"After all the shit I've been through, I'm drinking now...if you don't mind," she said, before latching her mouth over the opening of the bottle and swinging her head back, chugging down a few good swallows before unlatching, sighing with ecstacy, "oooooh yeah...that's the stuff..."

"W-W-WHAT THE F-- WHERE DID YOU GET THAT BOTTLE?! HOW DID I-- WHA--?!"

Genesis's eyes widened in comical shock as the woman abruptly chugged down the bottle's contents, shocked that she even had such a thing on her as well as the fact that she didn't even know about it until now. Her mouth was agape, and she was unable to form a sentence as she watched the woman drink. But that demeanor changed within an instant, one of her eyes twitching out of comical anger.

"W-why you?! You mean to tell me that I was being sympathetic and comforting when you could just drink your problems away?! You no longer have a pass for my sympathy, you mongrel heathen!!" She grabbed the woman's shoulders, pushing her off... or at least attempting to. "Get off me, go away!! Go puke in a corner for all I care!!"

This was enough to make Shou break away from his line of thinking as well as his serious demeanor, a slightly deadpan look directed in their direction. "Uh..."

"Here..."

Senmei said in a deadpan, yet semi-friendly tone even as she was being pushed away, handing her a bottle of equal size and untouched quantities within, "Have some...my special stash. Its a way of saying my thanks for not letting me puke my guts all over the place, miss...?"

"Ah--"

Genesis's eyes widened in surprise at the statement, relenting her push. "Um...thanks, I suppose..." She said coolly, accepting the gift that she had been given. "And the name's Genesis." She gave a slight smirk, her eyes looking at the other woman expectantly. "Don't forget it, okay?" As Shou walked over, she directed a hand towards him. "And this here's Shou Yoshizawa, but it's easier to refer to him as "Yoshi"..."

"Genesis...!" Shou's expression was slightly alarmed, and he stopped within his tracks. A slight, faint blush of embarrassment appeared on his face - a clear sign that he did not take the nickname lightly. "Don't call me that in front of other people, it makes me feel awkward!" He complained.

Genesis scoffed. "Take it up the butt, you pansy..." She taunted, using her teeth to uncap her own bottle. "We're stuck in here for who knows how long, so we might as well get acquainted to our fullest."

Senmei stopped after her second swallow as she heard the name, processing it in her mind. Spurting slightly before she looked at Shou, snapping her finger out enthusiastically as she her eyes widened to saucer size as she comically deduced, "You...You're nicknamed after that green dinosaur video game character, right?!"

"...I was hoping no one would notice that..." Shou sighed, lowering his hand and placing a palm to his face in embarrassment, hiding the redness of his face. "Yes, that's where my nickname came from. Anything else would've done but "Yoshi"..." This earned a set of hearty laughter from Genesis, even as he sat down and straightened himself up. "But, if I may ask, what about your name? It might have been mentioned by the defector earlier, but if it was, I forgot in the heat of battle..."

Senmei blinked, giggling a little after realizing her victory of guessing the reference right, before pointing at herself with a 'o' shape with her mouth, "Who me?" After blushing slightly, taking another swig from her bottle, she smiled politely as if she hadn't had anything to drink as she introduced herself, "My name is Senmei...Senmei Tōketsu."

Her smile was infectious, and in turn, Shou couldn't help but smile as well along with his partner. "Once again, I'm terribly sorry for not getting you out of there sooner than later..." He admitted, scratching the back of his head in sheepishness. "Being caught in the crossfire like that certainly must've been a terrifying ordeal for you." After all, who exactly could stand to be in the midst of flames while having two fighters out for each other's blood battling above her head? The very thought of it made him shiver a little.

Senmei gafawed, laughing playfully as she spoke in acknowledgement, "That was some crazy-ass fireworks I saw being tossed around. I was just trying to breathe for the first few minutes and not get kicked down any farther than I was...and then BAM! Big explosions and heat that makes any vacation in a desert more desirable than the lightshow you two were putting on. And man, about that spiritual pressure you two were giving off," she stuck a tongue out in emphasis with her eyes comically squinted in disgust, "I'm no whuss when it comes to having high spiritual energy, but after that incapacitating kick and both of you releasing whatever sickening vibes you had in you, I thought my mind was going to turn everything I had in my stomach and shake it like a pair of morracas before tossing it out the front door!"

It caused both Shou and Genesis to laugh at her comical gestures and the way she emphasized her words. Even within such an aftermath, it seemed like they could easily make a friend. Their interaction seemed to ease the tension that would've existed otherwise.

"You were lucky to have me around as your empathy shield, huh?" Genesis teased, before putting the bottle to her mouth and taking a steady drink from it. She had to blame her father for allowing her to do it. He was always such a bad role model, even when he was being a nice guy!

"You mean to say that you've had experience with fighting such foes?" Shou inquired, quirking an eyebrow. "The majority of the gunmen I've met, strong as they are, were unable to handle the likes of fighting against an empowered being such as myself or the likes of a Shinigami."

"Oh yeah, plenty...you find all sorts of crazy powered punks and freaks where I moved," she said with a nonchalant, casual tone sticking her nose up in a slight measure of comical pride, hickupping slightly afterwards, causing her eyes to widen and her to whisper her excuses. "You ever heard a place called Tendan Dākusaido?"

"Is that where you're from?" Shou asked curiously. "I haven't been there myself, but I have heard of it. The government's democratic, but it's organized crime syndicates that pull the strings." A shiver of disgust went down his spine, and he frowned in disdainful confusion. "But you don't seem like the type..."

"No no no no no no nooooo," she said in a quick rebuttal, waving her hands in emphasis of her denial, squinting her eyes to further her conviction, "its where my base of operations is currently. My organization is a mobile group by nature, but a lot of work can be found there, free of the enemy's corruption or sabotage," she continued now, clearing her throat as she went back onto track, "anyways, Tendan is crawling with competition, and I do mean our form of competition. Some of the majority of the gangs range from average gunslingers to genetically altered ninja-esque assassins, some of them even more dangerous. I once tangled with a guy who was a former member of a Aetherian Black Ops group called the Paladins, though I really don't know what that is. Anyways, he was fucking strong! I think if he wasn't so damned drunk at the time he could've easily taken on two if not three Captains at once with just his ridiculous strength and swordplay...and he moved freaking fast too! To be honest, I don't think I could've beaten him if he was sober, but I managed to own his butt with a few simple tactics of ambushes, traps, and some well-placed shots incapacitating shots.

"It didn't feel right to kill him if a simple misunderstanding led him to attack me, especially if he was drunk," Senmei said with a shrug, looking at Shou and Genesis curiously to see what they thought of her story.

After finishing, Genesis popped the bottle tip from her mouth and shrugged. "Oh, well..." She said nonchalantly. "Even if you killed him, it would've been his own damned fault. It was his choice to get piss-poor drunk, not yours."

"Well, even if you say it like that..." Shou frowned, folding his arms across his chest. "He still was drunk, and it would've been a bit dishonorable to kill him when he was in such a state."

"Eyup, that's what my gut told me," Seimei said with a proud chirp, before looking sheepishly at the bottle in her hand, "but it was also full of this stuff....ehe, though I was still more sober than he was, ehehehe..."

Whumpf!

Genesis delivered a friendly punch to Seimei's shoulder, grinning widely and toothily. "Yeah! Now that's what I call..." However, in the midst of her sentence, she retracted her fist and frowned. Her eyes lowered to the floor in thought. "Um... uh..." She muttered, poking at her head in attempt to find a finish for her sentence. But it was clear that the drink was getting to her. "Uh.... 42?"

"...really?" The sudden change in tone made Shou give her a look. "Really?" Judging from her slightly flushed face, he could tell that she had drank at least half of the bottle already.

"What...?" The girl whined, shrugging. "42 is obviously the answer to every problem! If only everyone knew that, then the world would be a much better place..."

"Forty two...what?" Seimei looked perplexed, obviously not having heard this particular reference before and cocked her head slightly as she grinned in ignorance but a tinge of curiosity etched on her features, "forty two...shots? Cause I think that was the dare a smuggler in Tendan offered...he couldn't drink his way past number thirty, but I drank them all, eyuuuuup!" Nodding vigorously in emphasis, she had a very nostalgic, pleased look on her face as she remembered how much warmth she drowned herself in that night.

"Nononononono!!" Genesis exclaimed, holding up a hand to stop Seimei (albeit it was probably not needed). "Not that forty-two... the forty-two... the one that..." However, in her drunken stupor, she frowned and stopped herself abruptly. "You know, the... forty-two... that rhymes with blue... which was the color of those flames that Yoshi was spouting earlier... and they were really, really, hot..."

It was here that Shou slowly put a palm to his face. Was she drunk? Not only did it prove that she was such a lightweight, but it also made him think of what would happen if they returned to the Punisher in such a manner. What would she think of this? It would certainly be embarrassing if she came in, staggering around and spouting nonsense as she was doing now. However, considering that it was the Punisher they were talking about, she probably wouldn't care as long as their mission was accomplished...

"Ok..." He muttered, lowering his palm from his face and looking at Genesis in a slightly exasperated. "I really think you've drunk enough--"

"No!" Genesis squealed, hugging the bottle to herself. "It's mine!! You can't have it, Yoshi!! I don't care how much you love it, it shall always be my precious!! Not yours!!" She turned her body away from him, and by proxy, Senmei. "You don't understand the depths of my pain!! Neither of you do!! I must drink it all away!! That is my destiny!! You cannot turn me away from it, you vile heathen!!"

"...."

"Wow...," Senmei uttered plainly, her eyes wide and blinking owlishly as she scratched her head, "you're about as bad as that ex-Paladin dude I just told you guys about...you can't handle that much, I suggest stop drinking it. Spill tends to make you go a little crazy when you're drunk, as in beyond the normal drunken stupor people usually have..."

"Fuck you, I can drink all this liquor slash beer!!"

Blatantly ignoring the warnings from both parties, Genesis promptly tilted her head back and drank down the entire other half of the contents, causing Shou's expression to change to one of alarm. In a frantic motion, he quickly thrust his arm out in an attempt to snatch it from her hands.

"Wait--!"

However, he had overestimated his lunge... as well as Genesis's reaction to it.

When his hand fell on the bottle and grasped it tightly, she let out another squeal and pulled it towards her. However, he was gripping it far too tightly to be shrugged off so easily. Unfortunately, this caused the effect of him stumbling forward...

Whumpf!

...and promptly falling down on top of her.

Senmei's eyes grew larger, and a faint tint of pink enamored her porcelain face as she saw the man fall ontop of the drunken girl, squealing in a adorable yet crazy state of mind tone. She raised a hand, about to clear her throat, "Ummm..."

WHAM-THUMP-THUMP!

When the previously concieved and known slow large doors were suddenly kicked in and crashed against either side with a thunderous cracking sound, reverberating the Hallowed Hall loudly and magnanimously.

Senmei's eyes drew tiny dots of what were her pupils and her eyes comically opened wide as a feeling of alarm shot up her body. Reaching into the depths of her white coat, she retrieved two very large Kido automatic rifles, holding them with surprising ease as she leveled them towards the doorway.

However, as she saw what was on the otherside, she promptly lowered her weapons, seeing the nearly the entire assembled Sect gathered behind the gate, with a fiery redheaded woman all known, with the exception of Senmei herself, as Mōka Komori. Her foot was outstretched in a snap-kick position, an irritated bland look previously adorned her features as the gate wasn't opening properly and proceeded to stalk forward...and open the gate by enthusiastic force.

But looking at the scene of two sprawled over Daitenshi in a very sensually, if not comically, position Mōka's eyes blinked a few times before smirking, as were a few other assembled members behind herself that saw what was going on within.

While a good few were wearing looks of outrage and horror at what Mōka had done, they all drew their eyes at Senmei and the two Daitenshi, their looks changed to surprise, amusement, and indifference. All of which made Senmei drop her guns and shrink before them all, feeling like she committed a taboo by raising her weapons towards her allies.

"I'm...sorry..." she meekly squeaked as she bowed with her forehead against the floor comically, a humble as well as contrasting position compared to her two newly made friends.

"Well well," Hyōryū said with a apparent amused, if not slightly attentive tone as she looked at the two servants of the Punisher sprawled over each other in a provactively illicitly "lude" position, "I knew you guys must've been bored in here, but I guess even the lapdogs of Hell have urges," Hyōryū smiled leeringly, turning to Anton as she slung an arm around his waist, pulling him against herself as she whispered huskily, "don't they?"

"Apparently so..." Anton's grin was as wide as a mile as he slipped his arm around Hyōryū's shoulders. "Didn't know you had it in you, Shou! Congrats!"

"Huh?"

After voicing the intelligent statement, both of the Daitenshi turned to look at each other while still maintaining the position... and realized just how compromising their position was.

But unfortunately for Shou, Genesis was the first to physically react to it.

"Eee--!"

Smash!

Splurch!

"Gack--!!!"

She abruptly smashed the empty bottle against the ground, aimed it at Shou's chest, and promptly thrust her arm forward to impale Shou with the sharp tips. A shocked expression came across his face, but he couldn't do anything when the bottle impaled him through his face. All he had time to do was let out a strangled yell, falling off of Genesis and collapsing on his back. That gave leverage for the female Daitenshi to sit up, smirking triumphantly (and somewhat stupidly) as if she had dominated some legendary enemy.

Then it hit her.

"Oh, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!!" She blurted, alarmed as she realized what she had done. In a flash, she was right beside the "dead" Shou's side. "I am so sorry for that! I panicked, and I thought you were actually trying to come on to me or something! That was the first thing I do when dealing with potential rapists--"

"N...no...." Shou said lowly through gritted teeth. "It's fine... I didn't need my eyes or my nasal cavity for that particular moment, anyways..." With a shaking hand, he grasped the bottle and yanked it out from his face. When his wounds healed up, the female Daitenshi let out a yelp when she saw his blue eyes giving her a death glare (albeit comical at best). She put on a sheepish smile, blushing as she gingerly stepped away from him.

"S-sorry, boss..."

"You're subordinate has certainly become," Alastair spoke to Angelika, his arms crossed and a brow arched in emphasis of his hidden intrigued amusement to the debacle that had unfolded, "quite liberated compared to when he was under your wing, hasn't he?"

"Any superior caught in that position with a subordinate is no worse than an irresponsible tramp," Victor spoke promptly, looking unamused and a little irritated at the scene preformed before him.

"I think its kind of adorable to see them like that," Athena said with a cheerful tone, smiling slightly sheepish as she noticed the slightly violent interaction that was introduced into the pair's antics, "well...slightly adorable anyways..."

Hyōryū giggled, if not snickering at the violent reaction his subordinate had to their statements, "Poor Shou...still can't land a good one without getting a nasty mark from the experience."

Mōka smirked as she sawshayed over in a alluring, if not taunting manner as she spoke, "Oh my oh my, what have we here? Fraternization through the ranks? If anything from Angie is true, you've certainly have become quite the wooer, haven't you, Shou-chan?

The only ones that remained silent to the charade were Angelika and Oliver, the latter with a slightly bored and even annoyed look on his own face. However, it was Angelika's expression that caught his attention the most: a simple raise of the eyebrow as well as a slight frown. This, on top of the mixed bag of remarks he was getting, stopped any coherent sentences from escaping his lips.

"Wha-I-no-but-not-duh-dee--!" He desperately tried to come up with a defense, tried to insist that this was not the case. But he was failing quickly, and it was only made worse with each passing second. That is, until...

"Hey, you leave my boss alone!"

Genesis had come up from behind him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and pulling him closer to her (much to his annoyance). Even another glare didn't stop her, as she was ignoring him to cast a glare at the one that had dared to call her boss a "tramp". "You're just pissed off because you can't get any of your own, you limp-dick cyclops!" She retorted, sneering. "So piss off and be grateful you have your hand!"

"Tch--!!" That was enough to break Oliver's annoyed look for a moment, and he burst into laughter at the insult to Victor. "Ha ha ha ha ha~!! Oh, that was a real good one..." He commended, doubled over with mirth. "Sounds just like something I would've come up with!"

Victor looked blankly back at Genesis, unmoved by her rapt antics and accusatory insult. It was then that Oliver laughed as well, earning a slight even glare from Victor at the nearby subordinate momentarily before transfixing his eyes back to Genesis. After a few subtle trading glances between Genesis and Oliver, Victor simply muttered, "That explains it," before reaching for a cigarette within his longcoat, fishing for it out before going through the ritual of lighting and smoking it.

A heavy sigh came from Shou's lips as he regained composure. Gently, he pushed himself away from Genesis and stepped forward, approaching Angelika. "Glad to see you have all made it back here safe and sound..." He said calmly, giving an acknowledging nod before slowly lowering himself to one knee, bowing before Angelika. "I regret to inform you, though, that the traitor has slipped through our fingers despite my efforts. I am truly sorry..."

"Typical..." Angelika thought to herself, a scowl crossing her face. However, it wasn't directed towards Shou, but rather the situation at hand. "You need not worry. I had a feeling that things would not be so easy as a simple capture and interrogation. But now that he's escaped, the Sect's security has officially been compromised..." As she spoke, her eye narrowed in a sign of subtle anger.

"By official, you mean we now know of it," Victor spoke thoughtfully as he took a puff, blowing out a thick stream of smoke from his nostrils as he locked his eye with Angelika's, "we have no idea how long Daigomi has been working with the enemy. All we can guess is that from his statement is that his personality was incredibly altered after the Plinian Eruption and the regression back into normalcy afterwards. I think at that moment, he ceased to be the comrade we knew of him as, and has since been hindering our plans as well as subtly aiding the enemy. We are only now aware of his allegiences as well as part of his intentions of doing so."

"He sounds like a broken man that wants to make sense of the world," Alastair spoke solemnly, as he cusped his chin as he thought aloud, "but to go as far as turning on his own? The man must have severe mental damage with his psyche the way it was before and after this tramatic event..."

"It doesn't matter that we can't hide now," Athena spoke aloud, a new sense of determination alight in her words as well a fire of passion in her eyes as she turned towards the group of fellow comrades. She crossed out in front of them, now speaking with her full attention upon all those gathered around, "we have just signed a declaration of war.

Consider Daigomi the messenger, as he was unable to finish what he started or whatever his collaboraters have started. They may act like they have turned the tables on us, but we are still united. We may have gained a few scars today, but we have gained new allies as well. Our forces have never been stronger, and the danger has never been greater.

They may be the Inner Circle, having one of the largest reaches within both the Underworld and the Order that we've ever witnessed in our lifetimes, but remember this. WE are the Black Blood Sect! Our history spans back to near the beginning of organized crime itself! Our way of life has outlived war, catastrophies, unrest, and anarchy! We have prevailed where others have faltered! With our combined might and skills at our disposal, we can drive back the Circle to the hole it has crawled out of...and surge a scorching hellfire they have never felt in over ten millenia!"

That was enough to start a chain reaction.

"You're damn tootin'!" Oliver declared, momentarily overcoming his sullen attitude again for the sake of joining in the mood. "We didn't step up to this war just to get stomped to the curb by the next Hitler! As far as I'm concerned, they made a fucking mistake challenging the likes of us! When all of this is over, we're gonna be standing over all their mangled corpses with our fists raised high! Rip 'em apart, scatter them over their own fires and watch 'em BURN!!!"

"Oo-rah!!" Shou, Genesis, and even Anton chorused that very response with enthusiastic agreement.


"Hell yeah!" Hyōryū raised her fist in the air in acknowledgement, hugging Anton close to her as she felt jubiliation and excitement rush in her like she had never felt before joining V-14.

"YEAAAAAAAAAAH!" Tome shouted out in a war cry of his own, excited to see that the fun was far from over as far as their engagement of combat against the Circle would be. Hiroi settled with clapping and whistling in a comraderous triumph that their day belonged to them after their victory has been ascertained to the beginning of this war.

Alastair clapped in response, as the other affiliated members of the Sect hooped, hollered and applauded Athena's speech, knowing that they indeed were far from being defeated.

Victor simply maintained a stoic visage, watching everyone with a mild interest but never voiced or gave cheer to the rest of the Sect. For now...he'd simply watch his compatriots a little more carefully, in order to sift out those he'd root out as trustworthy...and those that would be expendable.

Mōka smiled brightly, never having felt so much passion and compatriotship with so many in such a long time. In her mind, this is what the Hankami had sorely lacked in the past. It was never power, nor it was skill, or even pride or content. Its courage...to stand among those who aren't your kind and fight alongside them as one of them, and bond with them through the same aspiration they fight for. For that, the red-haired daughter of the Punisher believed, is what a comrade is really about.

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