I GIVE YOU EVERYTHING
Themesong: Zoot Suit Riot by Cherry Poppin’ Daddies
AN: Be aware that this jump uses the original Bleach Jump rather than the Bleach Reborn Jump or the nuBleach Jump or the German Hollow Quest Jump. This is because the other three did not exist when I wrote this originally, and changing the build would seriously change what happens.
Being myself again after forty seasons of being an Otter took… adjustment. More adjustment than normal, since her personality hadn’t had the centuries and millennia of memories that the others had to fall back on. Even the Maegi God-Kings had developed access to their other memories as they grew into their full power, though the process had usually taken between six and eleven years to fully manifest… if you’ll forgive the pun. But Athena Bellwether (who had been Symbeline Jumper before the shipwreck and subsequent amnesia) had had none of those memories to fall back on, and so her baseline state was more a mirror of the gestalt of all my personas than a continuation of the previous state… which was both good and bad. Still, she was me and I was her… as much as we are ever who we have been in the past.
The others were, to various extents, going through the same troubles, though Zane and I had a greater ability to cope than most of them, thanks to Astral Layers (ironically enough). For us, it wasn’t a sudden shock, it was like waking up from an extremely vivid dream, but with an adjustment period. For the rest it was a bit more like two glasses of liquids being poured together, two personas merging… though the older, wiser, and much more dominant personas absorbed the smaller single lifetime ones like a soup absorbs a flavoring packet.
VIctoria described it as, “feeling like climbing out of a box you didn’t realize you were in.” which, I think, said it best.
Ryoga said, “It feels like I spent 40 years eating cheese.” which said it… not best.
Zane said “Wanna see something cool?” and transformed into a giant freaking 8 foot tall owl… then into a normal snowy owl and back and forth for several seconds… which started a whole round of transforming back and forth from barely anthropomorphic human-sized animals to normal animals and back again.
“Jinkies” said Velma, as she walked in on the sizeshifting anthroparty. She looked tanned, fit, and gave me a huge hug as soon as she’d made her way through the impromptu menagerie. “Are you feeling any better?” she asked, concern clear in her voice. I guessed that she’d either forgiven me, or decided not to let the event destroy our relationship.
Nodding, I smiled at her, even as I swallowed my lingering darkness. I hadn’t forgiven myself… and wasn’t certain that the last decade had been a good test in any meaningful way, but it had given me distance that I’d very much needed… and I hadn’t done anything too stupid over those long seasons… how do seasons seem as long as years? I can’t really say… but at the time… they did.
“Yeah… I’m on the mend,” I finally said. “Did you have fun? Did you bring me a Pokebox System? Keeping track of all these Pokeballs is getting tricky.” I looked around for the others, and spotted Petra hoisting a box of computer components. I also noted that the crowd of weaseloids around Ziggy seemed a great deal larger than it normally was. “There’s a story here, isn’t there?” I asked, quirking an eyebrow.
“Oh… not much of one,” Velma said, “but I’ll tell you about it if you’re interested?” Once I’d had the the complete rundown… which included tales of Cirno accidentally aiding / thwarting / dating members of team rocket, Kenda failing to get all eight badges in either Johto or Kanto, and Velma failing to get even four badges in three different leagues… I turned to my PokePanions to get their take on the events of the past decade… and to examine the twenty-six wild pokemon who’d followed Ziggy and the Daughters of Zig into my Warehouse as if they’d been invited.
“AJ? Dare I ask who invited this lot?” Velma had already explained that they appeared to be just a small sampling of the Zigster’s byblows… and that my little fuzzy buddy had spent the last ten years seeing just how many members of the Field Group he could inflict the ‘With Egg’ status on. AJ looked a little at a loss for words, and deeply embarrassed by the situation, so I turned to Francine. “Do you have an explanation?”
“Nuh huh!” she insisted, flickering between her human and Alakazam form… a form she abjectly hated being in if she didn’t have to be… the migraines caused by having a brain too big for her skull (the most common killer of her species) weren’t as big a problem since we’d gotten the Companion Body Mod Pod, but they still were a regular issue that would take quite a bit of genetic engineering to get rid of. “We tried to get them to go away, but some of them wouldn’t and the Daughters got aggressive if we tried to shoo them off.”
Petra grinned, and added, “We did give a bunch of them to good homes… there have been almost six hundred of them.”
“That we know about,” Dyna added, holding up a female Furret that was bigger than she was. Furrets are the evolved form of Sentrets, and while the Sentret is a fairly large flying squirrel-like pokemon that stands some eighty centimeters tall (2’7″), a Furret stands a full meter taller (5’11”) though much of their body is tail. By comparison, Ziggy was a Linoone… and though he was a big boy for his species, he was just over sixty centimeters long. Dyna, meanwhile, was a hundred-and-seventy cm (5’7″) and though she was denser, the Furret she was holding was far fluffier, nearly concealing the redhead completely in brown and darker brown fur.
“That we know about,” Petra agreed. “That’s Wompus McGee, she’s holding by the way.” The Furret waved a little paw at me, then yawned hugely, showing off fangs that would have done a sabertooth tiger proud. There were four… or I guess five… ferret-like Pokemon; the Zigzagoon/Linoone line (which included Ziggy), the Sentret/Furret Line (which included Wompus), the Buizel/Floatzel line of aquatic weasel-kin, the cat-ferret Zangoose which didn’t evolve into or from another type, and the Gumshoos (which, according to Velma, evolved from the Yungoos). Of them, Furret was the weakest and largest by a large margin in both regards… though to be fair, Linoone was the only one of all of them that wasn’t considered too weak to actually use in competition… and that was due entirely to just how broken the Linoone’s speed and gluttony abilities were when combined with the move Belly Drum which a Linoone could use to max out their attack.
I groaned. “You named them?” Naming them would make them sooooo much harder to get rid of! I did not need… I counted… five Bidoofs, two Bibarels, six Sentrets, three Furrets, four Skitties, two Swinubs, a Lillipup, a Gumshoos (something I’d never seen before that had to have come from a later generation), a photonegative Zangoose that I was all too worried was a Shadow Pokemon, and a shiny Pachirisu. The power trainer in me cringed at the line up… only Lillipup and Swinub weren’t tiered as Utterly Useless. The logical part of my mind was busy throttling the emotional part that was squeeing at the cuteness of all that fluffiness. There were actual fist-fights breaking out inside the council hall of my psyche. I might have issues.
“Not all of them!” AJ said. “Dyna named Wompus… I only named Samarkandy,” he explained, pointing to the Zangoose, which was a bipedal black creature with a blue lightning-bolt patch across her chest. “She’s from Tunguska.” Tunguska was what Pokeworld called Siberia, which meant she was probably a variant, like Hilbert, Cirno’s Alolan Ninetales. I’d long considered Zangooses… Zangeese?… extremely stylish creatures… but had never recruited one, as they couldn’t stand up to the tougher pokemon used by top tier trainers. I’d already had Ziggy and my Mightyena, Lilith, to be my pets, the rest of my team had been my allies. I hadn’t needed more cute.
“I named Oshkosh and Spork,” Francine said, pointing at a pair of Bidoofs (male and female) with yellow ribbons around their necks. Wisely, I didn’t ask why she’d chosen those names. I’d dressed her in more than one set of Oshkosh brand overalls when she’d demanded clothing… yes, the brand existed in PokeLandia for some reason, b’gosh. Part of me was weeping, and not in joy. Bidoofs are called the ‘Plump Mouse’ pokemon and are half a meter of fluff, both physically and mentally. They were essentially the capybaras of the pokemon world… and their evolved form was the beaver of the pokemon world… if beavers stood a meter tall.
“I named Hattie,” RayRay said, pointing at the Skitty on her head. “She’s my hat.” Skitty are, as one might guess, a feline pokemon, literally only used by Coordinators and Breeders. If Trainers trained their pokemon for battle, Coordinators prepared their pokemon for contests… i.e. shows of ‘beauty’, ‘cleverness’, ‘coolness’, ‘cuteness’, or ‘toughness’… and no toughness did not involve actually being tough, just looking tough. Pretty much no Trainer took Coordinators seriously. Dressing your Pikachu up like a pop idol does not take skill. It takes a very patient Pikachu and a dressmaker.
I facepalmed, then looked to Petra. “And you?” She giggled, eyes bright, then said, “We had the best names!” I continued to look at her as she turned into her metal crab form and scooped up a different fuzz-thing in each claw. “This is Hasselhoff Bigface,” she explained, holding out a male Bidoof. I bit my lip. “This is Rip van Sneezer.” A female Sentret. “Napoleon Boneybutt.” A Male Sentret. “And Megalodon von Landshark.” Another female Furret.
I opened my mouth to comment on the silliness of those names… remembered all the frankly idiotic nicknames I’d given my pets over the ages, then asked, “Each of you came up with a different name, so you just picked four at random to assign those names?” It was a guess… but given how often Petra’s four brains disagreed with each other, it was a decent one.
She shook her head. “We didn’t pick at random. We just called out the names and the first who responded got the name.”
I considered that, then shrugged. “Works as well as any other method I guess… I’m guessing Ziggy didn’t name any of them?” It was a good guess. Ziggy’s idea of naming things was to name them Ziggy. I’m not saying he’s clueless… but that’s because Cirno was clueless… Ziggy would have had to try extra hard to get to her level. Of course, Ziggy was extra good at effort… just not great at focusing that effort into anything constructive. His idea of figuring out a problem was to try the same thing a hundred and one times in a row… then go for one oh two. Cirno usually asked for help around attempt twenty… or at least got bored and gave up.
“So? Do any of the others have names I need to remember?” I asked. AJ blushed, then nodded. “Actually… while you were talking to Velma and Kendra…” he began. I looked around, then noticed that Joy was busy affixing name plates to collars. “Everyone else supplied names?” I guessed. “Well… Cirno was telling the others all the names, and Toph decided that the ones without names would feel left out…” AJ trailed off, then shrugged.
In short order, I was introduced to Sheagora the she-Sentret (Uriel), Bruce the he-Furret (Ahab), Zhampu the she-Skitty (Yoiko), Nabiki the she-Swinub (Ryoga), Marx the he-Swinub (Joy), and Suzanne Emilia Xenia Yancy Amanda Nancy Diane Inigo Katarina Natasha Ophelia Wilma Isabelle Talia the Third (Toph).
I favored my companions with that special look I reserve for crazy people (including myself when I actually look in the mirror), then sighed. “You all are mental, you know that?” They nodded. “You two…” I pointed to the Hibikis, “are too old to be naming Pokemon after childhood rivals.” I shifted my gaze to Uriel… “I don’t think the Daedric Prince of Madness would approve… but then again, maybe he would. Who can say. Probably tempting fate a bit there, but I’ll sign off on it.” I looked to Ahab, “Would that be Bruce… as in the shark from Jaws?” He grinned and tapped the side of his nose. I didn’t bother asking if Joy had named the ice pig after Karl or Groucho… she wouldn’t have given me a straight answer, but I’d be able to tell once I actually read the spelling on the tag.
I did favor Toph with a long glare, but she just smiled serenely over the head of her acrostically named Skitty. “I see what you did there,” I half growled, half chuckled. She just smirked at me. Turning away from them, I asked the trio of trainers just back from Pokeland… “Okay… I’ll bite… which of you named the others… and what fresh lunacy did you inflict upon these innocent creatures?”
As it turned out, Kendra had named only two of them, the bibarels, which, as it turns out, were the eldest. She was also pretty certain that ‘Buffy’, the female, was also the dam of most if not all of the Bidoofs, but she didn’t know if Wensleydale or Ziggy was the sire. Pokemon didn’t typically have issues from inbreeding, but I sent a mental note to VIctoria to relay to VIvian to have all the new Pokemon, be those on teams or just general pets, run through the Calibrator and the Mod Pod within the next few days… just to be safe. As for Kendra naming a pair of Beaver-things after our fellow slayer and a type of white cheddar-like cheese… I didn’t comment. This was not my fight.
Cirno had named as many as Petra, and misspelled every single name, but thankfully the names she’d chosen were all fairly adorable, so I gave her a cookie. She’d named her she-Bidoof ‘Toofless’ after the dragon from How to Train Your Dragon (one of many movies I’d had in digital format on my computer and one of her favorites). Another movie I’d had had been that Studio Ghibli classic, Tonari no Totoro… My Neighbor Totoro… which had (of course) spellbound the childlike fairy… as it had me when I’d been a child. She’d named the he-Sentret she’d found taking shelter under a leaf after the big fluffy titular Snorlax-like forest spirit… but since she sucked at spelling and was quite forgetful… she’d named him Trotro. The other two he-Sentrets she’d named Scaramooch and Fandangler… something she explained to me in song format, mondegreenning the lyrics like a mad-woman. If you don’t know what a mondegreen is, well, excuse me while I kiss this guy… is an example. A mondegreen is a misheard song lyric… and the real line from Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze is ‘Excuse me while I kiss the sky.’
Velma, meanwhile, had named more than anyone else at five. She’d also, apparently, decided to annoy me with some of her choices. I had no problem with the she-Bidoof named ‘Wichita’ or the he-Lillipup named ‘Spencer’ (after Spencer Tracy)… and was only marginally exasperated by her naming of a he-Skitty ‘Fred’. However, I did have issue with her naming of the Gumshoos and the Pachirisu.
“You know how much Columbo irritates me,” I grumped, glaring at the detective-like Mongoose Pokemon that had (according to legend) been imported to Alola to hunt the local infestation of Dark-type Rattatas and Raticates. “And ‘Scrat’? Scrat?! Why would you inflict that name on any of Arceus’s creations?”
As much as I couldn’t stand the bumbling detective played by Peter Falk… I couldn’t quite remember who had forced me to watch all those episodes… the memory was almost there… it had been someone important, right?… I had to admit that a clueless weasel that thought it was a detective was a decent match for the name. But Scrat? The hapless saber-toothed squirrel from the Ice-Age films? No. That name was too cruel. I finally put my foot down.
“Silly I can deal with. Snide insults to historic figures and rivals out of the deep past I will allow. But we are not saddling anyone or anything with a name as ill-omened as Scrat,” I declared, looking at the purple and white electric squirrel that was in every way inferior to the Pikachu… which at the very least could evolve into a Raichu.
Velma opened her mouth to protest, but I tapped her lips.
“No, my dear. On this, I am adamant.” I picked up the poor thing and spoke to it in its own language. “Do you mind if I change your name?” I asked him.
“Is my name bad?” he asked back, more curious than worried.
“Not bad… just unlucky,” I explained. “I’ll give you a better one, one that has a special kind of luck attached, if you let me?”
“You seem okay… sure,” the tiny pokemon agreed… though tiny for a pokemon is still quite large for small mammals. Even the smallest pokemon was still a full ten centimeters tall and weighed a hundred grams. That’s the size of a hamster. The Pachirisu was four times as tall, and weighed almost four kilograms… almost three times the weight of any earth squirrel.
I set him on the countertop, drawing Soul of Ice and very gently tapping him with it as I said, “I dub thee, Scratch, Squirrel of the Round and Keeper of Deez Nuts.”
Kendra snorted. Zane laughed. Velma harrumphed. Cirno said, “I don’t get it.” Toph fell over laughing. Scratch beamed, then acked as Ziggy pounced him right off the top of the bar. At that point, I declared a general party, figuring that no actual business would be discussed that day.
In fact, as it turned out, no actual business was discussed for the next six days, what with the catching up between the two groups and the bonding with new fluffs. After all, someone had to be in charge of feeding and looking after the forty plus new occupants… someone who wasn’t going to be me. I had my hands full just dealing with Ziggy, Fliagor, Alegra, Nimh, and Cirno.
On Day Seven Post-Redwall, we gathered to examine the new VMoD.
“Bleach?” asked Joy, head tilted to the side as she read the title from the machine. “As in the Chemical?”
“Yes and no,” I said, drawing the information up from the depths of my memories. “Bleach is a manga slash anime about a redheaded Japanese boy named Strawberry who, after trying to save one of his little sisters from a giant monster, is forced to become a substitute Soul Reaper or Shinigami… think Samurai version of Grim Reaper… katanas instead of scythes, kimonos instead of hooded robes, that sort of thing… to protect his home town.”
“So, hunting ghosts and demons, that kind of story?” Velma asked, coming up behind us and wrapping her arms around my shoulders. “A mix of comedy and mystery?”
“Heh… kind of yes, but mostly no,” I said. “While sure, there are some comic moments… mostly in the anime as filler, the manga verges on existential horror.” I leaned back and looked up at her chin. “This world is beyond bad news. There are soul assassins called ‘Quincies’, soul eating ghosts called ‘Hollows’, soul eating monsters called ‘Bount’, giant energy beam blasting mega-ghosts called ‘Minos Grandes’ or ‘Gillians’, much smaller and much more dangerous giga-ghosts called ‘Adjuchas’ and ‘Vasto Lordes’ that feed on the ‘Minos’ like they were snacks, renegade ‘Shinigami Captains’ with powers that make normal Shinigami look like children armed with rubber swords, insane Shinigami Captains who – in theory – are on the side of angels, mutant Adjuchas and Vasto Lords called ‘Arrancar’ who have all the powers of Captain Level Shinigami in addition to their giga-ghost powers…. and ‘Fullbringers’, mortals who bring out the innate powers of objects…. plus, if we’re unlucky, parasitic swords, non-parasitic sword spirits that think they should be in control, and… that most dreaded thing of all… filler episodes.”
“That’s a lot of terms…” Joy said, “and a lot of potential enemies. But how (exactly) are filler episodes dangerous?”
I sighed, then explained, “Because they screw with the timeline. I don’t know if we’re jumping into the manga or the anime series. Which continuity we’re in is important, because in some of them, it is entirely possible we will find ourselves in the middle of a fight one moment and enjoying a whacky side story the next. I don’t know how to handle a setting that actively generates non-canon events within its own timeline.”
“Oh,” Joy said, then asked, “So… is this setting as dangerous as it sounds?”
I considered the question, and the answer I came to was not one designed to make me (or anyone else on the team) happy. “No. It’s much, much more dangerous than it sounds… and I know how dangerous it already sounds. This place is so dangerous that, if we fuck things up too much, the Quincy might end reality, or the Arrancars’ leader might find a way to make himself god… and that’s just in the first year and a half, give or take. I have no idea what might happen over the remainder…” I rubbed my eyes, thinking of all the things that could go wrong, then added. “I do not think this is going to be a fun jump.”
Zane, who’d been examining the offerings as I considered what I knew of Bleach, growled, “And you’re going to be doing it alone, it looks like; there’s no import feature. There’s a set of four different ‘Mysterious Blueprints’ that unless I miss my guess, hint that they’re supposed to either teach you to make or train Arrancars, Bounts, Quincies, and Shinigamis… unless you can think of anything else in setting that meaningfully starts with A, B, Q, and S? But if that’s the case, why don’t they come right out and say that’s what these things do?”
I shrugged, then sighed. “Wonderful. That means just three people with native powers. It sucks, but Ichigo… sorry, Strawberry… has powered norms fighting on his side… two of them… though not the most interesting of the norms, which is a shame.”
Yoiko laughed, “Let me guess… this most interesting of norms… she’s the energetic flatchested toyboy.”
I considered for a moment, then shrugged. “Mmmm… I wouldn’t call Tatsuki flatchested… she’s got breasts, just not anywhere in the huge range… Tite Kubo, the creator of Bleach, is clearly fond of big boobs, though the manga has quite a variety of cup-sizes, ranging from actually flat-chested adults to ‘My god! How does she walk upright?’ But yes, Tatsuki is the most wasted character in the series. She’s pretty much the named character with the least screen time, a toyboy, trained in martial arts and the only important classmate of Strawberry’s that doesn’t join the adventure. She’s also the only mortal Japanese girl in the show who digs fighting.”
“Surely it can’t be that bad?” Zane asked.
“Kubo might not be the biggest sexist, but he’s still a pretty massive sexist. Lots of Damseling, lots of guys stepping in to fight for their girl or just the girl. The other mortal girl, the one who gains her powers from the series mcguffin, Orihime? She’s a pacifist… but also the strongest willed human in show, a black-belt fighter… and there’s one entire arc about rescuing her from the first Big Bad. She’s also the healer.”
“Talk about cliches,” Velma commented. Kendra half-snarled.
“Tell me that’s as bad as it gets,” Joy requested.
“Well, there are warrior women among the Shinigami, Arrancar, and Quincy… but they’re all hypersexualized, damselled or both… and invariably less skilled or powerful than their male counterparts,” I explained, then added, “For instance, the best fighter of the Shinigami? He’s the head of the Combat Squad, the one that does most of the fighting. He’s constantly fighting, as are his third and fifth officers. His second in command is a little girl who does almost no fighting and lives only to eat and play pranks. The leader of the Shinigami Medical Squad? She’s the former head of the Combat Squad… and late in the series she and the current head face off and he kills her, one on one, despite the fact that he has pretty much no control over his Shinigami powers.”
I took a breath, trying not to get worked up even as I continued. “But it doesn’t stop there. That Big Bad I mentioned? He’s a Traitor Shinigami Captain leading a rebellion. His second in command is the most emotionally vulnerable character in the series… and not only is she female, she’s the woobie… the character that makes you feel sorry for them. The Traitor Captain, Aizen, is also the creator of most of the Arrancar in the series. And among the Arrancar, the Espada… the Ten Blades… are his commanders. They include one woman, Tier Harribel, though there was a second, Nelliel Tu Odelschwanck… who was defeated by the two biggest sexists among their number and reduced to an almost helpless child. When she resumes her full form, she’s one of the aforementioned “How Does She Walk!?”. Before that, she cries a lot and needs to be protected.”
Before any of my friends could ask more questions, I continued, “Of the 13 Court Guard Squads (the primary Shinigami military and the only real leadership we see) two of the original thirteen Captains are female… the Spy Squad Captain… and the Healer Squad Captain… though she’s a reformed psychopath, and (as I mentioned) used to lead the Combat Squad. Among the original Lieutenants, there are… ummm… six ladies… They include brainwashed emotional girl, crazy little non-fighter girl, a homunculus who is constantly being tortured and experimented on by her psychopathic Captain slash Father, and the woman with the largest breasts in the series… whose Captain is a teenage boy.”
“But Kubo does call out sexism too. Like I mentioned, one of the Espada, Nnoitra Gilga, is a base jackass and scumbag who took out Nelliel because he didn’t like the fact that she was a woman. So blatant sexism is bad… but Kubo was raised in a very sexist society and was selling comics to teenage boys… so I guess it’s a good thing any of the females can fight at all,” I said, bringing my rant to a conclusion. “Rumiko Takahashi was my favorite mangaka and even she doesn’t always score great on the anti-sexism scale.”
Joy nodded, then clearly thought of something. “You said ‘Original’… is this a GoT type setting? Should we expect friends and allies to drop like flies?”
“Not to that extent,” I assured her. “But there is a fair amount of turnover in the secondary cast… though none of the primary cast… that is Strawberry (half-Shinigami, half-Quincy Fullbringing Visored), Rukia (Royal Shinigami by adoption), Renji (Shinigami), Chad/Sado (Fullbringer), Orihime (Magical Girl), and Uryu (Quincy)… die in canon. Additionally, a few of the Captains and Lieutenants also seem immune to authorial homicide, either through plot armor or just insane levels of badassery.”
Velma asked, “Is this a defeat means redemption setting?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “Nor is it a defeat equals friendship one. This is a fairly structured kill or be kill setting, with the bad guys getting progressively more and more hellaciously overpowered with every passing season… though those Badass Captains never really seem to grow in power even as they are demonstrably more badass than before, even though the main cast does. Seriously, the main cast fight some of the badass Captains to a standstill early on, but even after multiple level ups, they’re still barely the BAC’s equals… if that. Apparently getting a BAC to go all-out takes actually motivating them and the first time they fought, said Captains just weren’t that motivated.”
“You say that as if it’s hard,” Ahab commented.
“Shinigami are, by human standards, extremely long lived if not functionally immortal,” I explained. “Several of the eldest are more than two-thousand years old. They live for combat and are seldom challenged either internally or externally. Until the series starts.”
“Ah. Ennui?” Bao hazarded, looking up from where he was trying to teach Samarkandy the Zangoose to hold a calligraphy brush.
“Pretty much,” I agreed.
“So, are we doing this?” Zane asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, thinking it through. There were any number of reasons to avoid the plot and characters of Bleach entirely… the danger of going full shonen was a serious risk. “I mean, clearly we are, there’s no ‘Skip this Jump’ button,” I pointed out, “and the price for failure is the same as the price for wimping out, so… Yes, we are doing this. But I’m uncertain about bringing non-imported individuals into the setting.”
“Why’s that?” Velma asked. “We respawn if killed, right? That’s what happened when Ryoga got beheaded by that Sword Mage in Fairy Tail. He was back the next day as if nothing had happened.” She didn’t mention how badly the experience had freaked her out and how she’d been unable to stop crying and shuddering for hours after the event, nor the nightmares that had plagued her for months.
I let my voice reflect the seriousness of my words as I explained, “This isn’t a ‘The worst that can happen is death’ type place. These people play for souls. Uriel, Kendra, both of you are technically dead in your home reality. A Soul Reaper might be able to send you along to the afterlife, and even though this takes place in the spirit realm, we’ve no idea where the actual afterlife is. Also I’m pretty sure anyone who lacks the ability to see Ghosts will be at a disadvantage… of course, Chad did okay using someone else’s eyes. Look… I won’t tell anyone they have to stay behind, but you all need to be aware that this world will be dangerous and it is entirely possible you could have your souls eaten or warped by the local magitech.”
While the others began reviewing the episodes and manga scans from my archive, as well as the Redwall Book of Riddles which was a nice little cheat-guide, even if it didn’t cover everything… I went to the machine and began plotting.
Taking Soul Reaper was a given, despite the hundred Choice it cost. Quincies were all too vulnerable to Yhwach, Fullbringers were nuts… though I could in theory steal the powers of all the other Fullbringers without a huge outlay of power… but Fullbringer power was fundamentally Hollow in nature… as was that of the Arrancar. I figured it was best to steer clear… plus… I already had a Zanpakuto (a Soul Reaper’s spirit sword) ready and waiting to be awoken. Also, going Soul Reaper guaranteed that my physical boosting gear would be applied to my spirit form and not a gigai (a pseudo-body that the spiritual Soul Reapers used when in the mortal realms)… Probably.
As I read through the options, a thought occurred to me that made me chuckle. I wondered, idly, if Bleach’s Hollows and Kingdom Heart’s Heartless were at all similar, since both were large shadowy spiritual creatures with holes where their ‘heart’ had been… though a Hollow’s hole wasn’t always in their chest. That would be amusing if it were true… plus, I could totally do with a keyblade right about now.
Soul Reapers were all superhumanly strong, and (according to the machine’s description) all had the native ability to use their internal spiritual pressure to create melee weapons (the aforementioned Zanpakutos)… though ‘create’ and ‘melee’ weren’t exactly accurate. According to the lore in the Manga, a Zanpakuto began as something of a blankslate called an Asauchi, but was a ‘physical’ item (for spiritual realm’s definition of ‘physical’) that had been made by someone else. What the Soul Reaper actually did was imprint part of their own essence into the blank Asauchi, allowing it to transform into a true Zanpakuto and grow with the wielder.
An awakened Zanpakuto had its own mind and body and personality. With plenty of willpower and training and soul searching, it was possible for a Shinigami to learn the true name of their Zanpakuto and to unlock the true form of the weapon that lay, quiescent, within the souls of the Shinigami. Zanpakuto even possessed their own spiritual power, called Reiatsu, though the Reiatsu of a Zanpakuto and that of their Shinigami were virtually identical.
A Zanpakuto was, in many ways, effectively a secondary soul bound to the Shinigami and was, to some extent, a relative of a Hollow, being composed of the same ‘stuff’ and possessing many of the same qualities. In fact, the strongest (or at least most evolved) of the Hollows, the Arrancar, also possessed their own Zanpakuto, though in that case, an Arrancar’s Zanpakuto was literally the physical manifestation of their Hollow Powers. It was even possible for a Shinigami’s Zanpakuto to merge with a Hollow to grant that Shinigami some of a Hollow’s power. If an Arrancar was a Hollow that was becoming more Shinigami-like, a Shinigami that was becoming Hollow-like was called a Visored.
Zanpakuto could not be permanently destroyed as long as their Shinigami lived, and the size of the weapon tended to reflect the power of the Shinigami… though Captain-Class and higher tended to actively suppress the size of their weapons.
Speaking of power, the initial spiritual power-level that came with purchasing the Soul Reaper origin placed me at roughly the rank and power of a twentieth seat member of one of the one of the Gotei 13 (the thirteen squads of the Imperial Court Guards). Although called squads in the english dub of the anime and companies in the english manga, the part of me that now spoke fluent japanese now realized it was closer to ‘Divisions’… though from a modern military standpoint ‘Company’ size was probably more true. I seriously doubted there were 104,000 Shinigami… let alone 420,000. Still, 20th Seat was an officer’s rank and wasn’t a bad place to start… at least before everything else was applied.
Being a Soul Reaper also allowed me to start in the Soul Society instead of Hueco Mundo (Bleach’s version of Limbo) or Karakura Town (the fictional generic Japanese City that was pretty much all of the Mortal World we ever got to see). The Soul Society (Spirit World) was where all the Soul Reapers and the Souls of the Dead dwelt until they reentered the cycle of reincarnation. The Seireitei (Court of Pure Souls), the Capital / Fortress of the Shinigami, lay in the center of Rukongai (Wandering Soul City), the titanic quasi-medieval city that was the Soul Society’s Eastern Branch. Rukongai, comprised of three-hundred-and-twenty different districts, essentially housed all the souls of the dead for the entire Oriental Sphere, with Reverse London being the Occidental Sphere’s counterpart and Memorial Teotihuacan serving as the American Branch (though I had not known either of those facts until after I gained my Shinigami memories).
There was a strange universal free perk called ‘Keikaku Dori’ (which I’m pretty sure is a reference to Death Note… another manga that dealt with Shinigami) but regardless of origin, KD was the ability to make any plan I came up with as despair inducing as possible. To be honest, I’m not sure why anyone would want that, except to be a dick, but free was free. I’d shove it to the back of the ability toolchest to be gather dust until I found a use for it… or a way to reverse engineer it to produce plans that could produce maximal happiness instead.
Still, it wasn’t as if I didn’t have plans, and being stuck at twentieth seat was not part of any of them. To that end, I picked up the ‘More Power’ perk, which (boring name not withstanding) cost four-hundred Choice but would, in theory, double my spiritual power… and considered buying ‘Spirit Power ‘as well (which increased power production and regeneration rates)… but not only that was another four-hundred, it could be dangerous to produce too much spiritual pressure too fast. Also, I wasn’t thinking that I really needed both. Unfortunately, neither was discounted for Soul Reapers.
I did picked up ‘Soul Builder’, which was the one discounted for my origin, and which would (for the relatively low price of two-hundred Choice) allow me to build machines that would run on spiritual power and granted the basic skill of artificery… that is, the creation of artifacts. That would come in handy if my plans were to succeed.
As a Soul Reaper, I could take any one basic Soul Reaper power for free. There were some nice ones: Strength, Humano-form Sword, Flash Steps… but I already had strength, didn’t really want a human form sword, and could either already do flash-steps, or (if it was a different technique) learn it. Ichigo / Strawberry had with relative ease. ‘Kido Trainee’ it was!
Kido was Soul Reaper magic. The spells within were relatively short invocations with power ranked from one to ninety-nine, and the art was further divided into three sub-disciplines: Bakudo, Hado, and Kaido. Bakudo (the Way of Binding) was full of subtle spells that focused on binding an enemy, creating barriers and seals, or even reflecting attacks. Hado (Way of Destruction) and it’s related field Gisei Hado (Sacrificial Way of Destruction) were direct attack spells that had a large range of shapes and destructive effects that ranged from anti-personnel all the way up to anti-city… unsurprising since many of the more powerful Hollows were powerful enough to level reinforced spirit fortresses, let alone cities. Kaido (The Way of Turning) was the counter to Hado, being the healing arts. Rather than having names, numbers, or incantations, Kaido was simply a way to restore the body and spirit of those wounded in combat or misadventure. Kido Trainee gave me an innate talent for all three arts.
I figured I was doing pretty well, purchase-wise… then I saw all the Zanpakuto Abilities… and how much they cost… and froze. I was going to need a bigger allowance…. a much bigger allowance. Unfortunately, the only way to get that looked to be making myself a Quincy Target… Which meant going up against Yhwach’s minions. But then again, I was going to be a Soul Reaper, and Yhwach is a dick… I don’t like dicks. The Wandenreich were powerful, no doubt about that… and Quincies were dangerous as fuck… no doubt about that either… but they could be beaten… and they were on the wrong side of history, the genocidal fuckwits. Taken them out was even more high priority than dueling Zaraki Kenpachi or Byakuya… the two biggest badass Captains on the block.
Okay… I know I just dumped a lot of words at you. Allow me to explain. There were, essentially, two Big Bad Evil Guys in the run of Bleach that I’d seen before I’d left Earth (not counting the filler episodes of the Anime… which were about a third of the show and accounted for entire seasons… The Bount Invasion Arc, the Captain Amagai / Kasumioji Conspiracy Arc, the Zanpakuto Rebellion Arc, and The Reigai Uprising Arc… plus three mini-arcs and at least twenty stand alone episodes. Some of them were interesting, but cutting all but the Zanpakuto Rebellion would not have reduced the show’s quality at all… generally speaking, it would have probably made it better.)
Filler rant aside, the BBEGs of ‘Real’ Bleach were Fifth Division Captain Aizen Sosuke and Yhwach. The first was a traitor to the Gotei 13 and bringing him to justice was the highpoint of the first half of the series. He, his allied Captains, and his Arrancars (the Espada and their minions, the Fraccion) were some of the coolest enemies in the story and they had some rich and vibrant characterizations and interactions with the cast. Aizen was an iconoclast and an utterly immoral proponent of change, but you could feel for him and understand his goals. Yhwach was an omnicidal fuckhead who wanted to destroy all creation and remake it in his image.
Essentially Evil Jesus, Yhwach was the son of the Soul King, the ‘absolute master’ and lynchpin of the Soul Society. Without the Soul King, everything in the Bleach Universe would simply fall apart. Yhwach was also the founder of the Quincies, a group of humans who used the powers granted to them by Yhwach to destroy hollows. His blood flows through each Quincy, though many of the most powerful of them (the Sternritter) also possess a chunk of Yhwach’s soul inscribed into their own souls. This is called a Schrift, and takes the form of a german letter that stands for an ability.
At least a thousand years before Ichigo’s time, Yhwach set out to create the Lichtreich, an ‘Empire of Light’, with his Quincy army… but they were opposed by the Shinigami and Yhwach was sealed away. Over the next few centuries many (indeed most) of the Quincy were exterminated by the Shinigami to keep the world of the living from becoming unbalanced, with the final war being more than two hundred years before the start of the plotline. The explanation for why this would have happened is complex, but I shall attempt to explain in simple terms.
The cycle of life and death is really the flow of spirit particles (Reishi) between the realms of the Living (the Mortal World) and the realms of the Dead (Soul Society & Hueco Mundo). If the amount of Reishi in the worlds is ever imbalanced, it will put strain on the boundaries between them. Too much strain and the boundaries would fail, destroying both sides of the cycle. The reason for the unbalance goes to the nature of Souls, Shinigami, and Quincy.
When a living being dies, their soul normally passes on to the Soul Society. When that doesn’t happen, when something anchors a soul to the mortal realm, they become a Ghost. A Ghost can only remain in the Mortal Realm for so long before they run out of Reiryoku (spiritual power). This process will culminate in Hollowfication, and the Ghost will eventually become a Hollow. Once out of their own supply, they will be consumed by a hunger for more, a hunger that can be sated only by eating other spiritual beings… i.e. other Ghosts, other Hollows, Shinigami, Spirits, or humans with higher than normal Reiryoku. This makes Hollows extremely dangerous to humans, and so the Shinigami hunt them, as do the Quincies.
The problem arises in how those two factions deal with the Hollows. A Shinigami doesn’t actually kill a Hollow. Rather, they banish them, destroying the Hollow’s Mask (the seat of their consciousness and the physical manifestation of their power). This returns the spiritual energy of the Hollow to the cycle of life and death. A Quincy, however, turns Reishi into a weapon, an arrow specifically, and then uses those arrows to destroy the Hollow… and all the spiritual energy within. Since the Quincy, despite the Shinigami’s centuries of attempting to reason with them, had not only continued using their potentially disastrous methods, but had also increased massively in number since the fall of Yhwach’s Lichtreich, the Shinigami reluctantly destroyed those who should have been their allies. Or so they thought.
In reality, the Quincies that had been destroyed were the weakest of the order. The Sternritter had rallied around their slumbering monarch and created a hidden organization called the Wandenreich, the Invisible Empire, hidden in the shadows of the Seireitei itself. After the arrest of Aizen, the Wandenreich would invade Hueco Mundo and seize control of those forces once loyal to the traitor Captain, then go on to invade the Soul Society with the aim of allowing the now revived Yhwach to consume his father and become the new Soul King. They were a massively dangerous force of fanatical bastards.
Hell, Yhwach’s elite guard were known as the Schutzstaffel… yes, as in SS. No, that’s not a coincidence. Bleach’s three main factions are based on two of the Axis Powers (Japan and Germany) and the almost Axis Spain… not actually certain why the Hollows are Spanish instead of Italian… but whatever.
Did I mention that Yhwach was insanely dangerous, capable of not only seeing the future, but of altering the present based on his predictions. That he was effectively immune to any power he’d ever seen in use? That many of his Sternritter thugs were powerful reality warpers? Seriously, these assholes were a serious challenge to the Shonen Powerful Captains of the Gotei 13… with their limiters removed.
So now you’re probably asking why I’d want to take ‘Quincy Target’? You know, aside from the points. Well… without it, the maximum value I could get from other drawbacks was six-hundred… and, in fact, for all the suck of having Yhwach want me dead, I’d rather take it than any of the other (much less valuable) ones.
Not only did none of the others (of which there only five!) appeal to me (‘Not Lost’, i.e. the Hibiki Curse, was the only other one I’d even consider) but ‘Hollow Target’ was a recipe for ten years of constant battles and ‘Soul Reaper Target’ would make the Gotei 13 Captains and their thousands of minions attack me… and was not worth anything like the amount of points it should have been. ‘Star Crossed’ would saddle me with a member of one of the non-Shinigami factions that was in love with me. A human (Fullbringer or not) would be bad enough, but a Quincy or Hollow could be potentially disturbing, and would make my own side suspicious of me. It was also only worth a hundred.
‘Mind=Blown’, which was the only one that could be combined with ‘Quincy Target’ to get the absolute maximum of thirteen-hundred Choice, was right out. Taking it would mean that half my allies were secretly my enemies… a secret I’d be unable to guess. I wasn’t going to take my chances that the phrase ‘You cannot guess who will betray you’ wouldn’t also stop me from figuring out who the traitors were via means more accurate than guessing.
At least with ‘Quincy Target’ I had a small grace period, in that it would be roughly two years before Yhwach and the Wandenreich would move against me. And I could, theoretically, destroy them all. They weren’t a naturally occurring and endlessly respawning mob, so there were a finite number of them, and while I couldn’t possibly fight some of their number… I had a reasonably good idea of how most of them had died. After all, the climax of the Wandenreich Arc had been rapidly approaching when I’d left Origin behind. I’d been mostly up to date when I’d left. So, though I’d probably regret it, but faint heart and all that. Plus… it was worth a thousand Choice! How could I possibly pass it up?
Now outfitted with thirteen-hundred Choice, I returned to the Zanpakuto Abilities list… Abilities that came in two tiers… Shikai tier and Bankai (final Release) tier. To be an officer (claim a seat in any but Division Eleven) a Shinigami had to know the name of their Zanpakuto and be capable of achieving Shikai, the first release. This proved that they had managed to move out of the Asauchi phase and had mastered part of themselves. Division Eleven handled everything with contests of battle prowess… often to the dead. A Zanpakuto in Shikai changed its shape from a simple Katana to a more powerful form, and gained an expanded set of abilities beyond simply cutting things apart.
If Shikai was the first release, then Bankai was the final release (though there was also True Bankai which was be even more Bankai for your Bankai Buck). If Shikai was a blockbuster attack, Bankai was a pocket nuke. In general, only the Captains (and a couple of their lieutenants) had Bankai unlocked and even they could usually only maintain that heightened battle state for a couple minutes at a time.
I immediately spent six of my thirteen-hundred on Shikai boosts, since they would be the most useful day to day. ‘Shikai Empowerment’ would mean that when I released my limiters, my abilities (strength, speed, endurance, etc.) would be much stronger than before. It was essentially dumping energy into my physical/spirit body stats. ‘Shikai Element Ice’ would give me an elemental ice area-of-effect attack covering some fifty-meters in every direction. That was huge… and it would be bolstered by my already formidable control over hydro and thermodynamics… but I wasn’t finished yet. The third, and last Shikai boost I picked was called ‘Shikai Dissolve’ , and it would allow my blade to dissolve into a cloud of monomolecular perfect giant snowflakes that ranged from one to five centimeters across and had edges sharp as thought…. and all that was just Shikai.
For my next trick, Bankai! I squandered my remaining seven-hundred Choice making certain that my Bankai would be a thing of beauty, wonder, and absolutely horror for my enemies. ‘Bankai Greater Dissolve’ cost me three-hundred and effectively doubled the number of snowflakes per unit area. ‘Bankai Range’ was another two-hundred and effectively octupled the volume of the spherical area of effect (a hundred meter sphere centered on myself became a two-hundred meter sphere). And if that wasn’t enough, ‘Bankai Damage’ ate my last two-hundred and would make everything I did with my Zanpakuto hurt my foes way more.
If course, this was all predicated on the idea that I could hit Bankai at all. Nothing in the descriptions guaranteed that I’d be able to do so simply because I’d paid the points for upgrading it. Discovering my Semblance, Winter Tide, in RWBY had certainly been a near run thing, after all, and many was the time that I feared I’d have to take the default condolence Semblance.
Winter Tide was a curious thing. It manifested as a bone deep chill felt by all around me coupled with a keen awareness of their own mortality in all things capable of death. Leaves and surfaces in the area were covered in light frost and cold water glazed over, while my enemies rapidly found their auras draining to fight the frostbite. Allies and bystanders felt that awareness and chill for only a moment before it passed, but those with animosity towards me or those I felt animosity towards would continue to take the full brunt of the effect as long as I maintained my Semblance. In fact, both effects only grew more and more pronounced and damaging over time.
My Shikai and Bankai were both designed to be extensions of Winter Tide, or at least designed to be augmented by it. I figured that even though the machine didn’t offer anything about True Bankai, if I built my Bankai to be compatible with my Semblance, odds were that my True Bankai might be a fusion of the two. They were both spiritual or quasi-spiritual powers.
Since I had no points left, I couldn’t afford any items, but I did get ‘Hell Butterfly Eggs’ and ‘Portal to the Spirit Realm’ for free. Hell Butterflies were psychopomps and messengers, allowing Shinigami to send each other information from long distances away and to direct spirits to the different spiritual realms, keeping them from getting lost. I’ll get three eggs to start with and another egg would be added to the stash every week. Dunno how long the little black butterflies live, hopefully more than a couple days, or how long they take to hatch… hopefully not very long. Apparently Hell Butterflies don’t have a Hell Caterpillar state first… or maybe they do. I hope the Owls (and those of the Mon who were insectivores) didn’t develop a taste for them… could I breed Hell Butterflies? Did I have to worry about an infestation? Maybe it would be a good thing if the Owls developed a taste… Huh.
The Portal would allow me to use a summoning technique normally only available to high rank Soul Reapers, allowing me to create a portal that lead to the Soul Society or the Realm of the Living… but not Hueco Mundo. Alaso. I wondered if it would work in other worlds to reach their respective realms of the dead. If it did… would it only go to realms of the dead that already existed… or would it guarantee the existence of those realms. I tried asking the Banker, but all I got was a vague statement asking me why I thought there were any settings that didn’t already have some kind of spiritual realm. Asshole.
I signed off on my purchases, hitting confirm… and the Machine dinged, “You have two-hundred unspent Warehouse Points. Would you like to spend them now?” I blinked at that, then chuckled. I’d completely forgotten to buy what I’d planned to back in Alan Wake, distracted as I had been by the appearance of the Rogue Machine.
“Sure,” I said, “I think I’ll take the Realistic Ground Cover and Dig It.” I’d been thinking how nice it would be to walk on something other than concrete and linoleum. Of course, my companions and I had covered the ground with other things… rocks, dirt, etcetera, but RGC was needed to get ‘Dig It’ and would allow me to transform the floor of my Personal Reality into any naturally occuring terrain type… by sections if I so desired. I could even make paths and roads. The best part of it was that, unlike the stuff we’d brought in from elsewhere, any dirt or dust generated by the RGC would be magically taken care of… unless I accidentally toggled that part off.
‘Dig It’ took things one step further… or rather, forty meters further, by installing that much foundational material underneath the RGC. Why? For Gardening. For secret bunkers and tunnels for the weaseloids… and so that, once I got enough points for it, I could install the Pool upgrade. We already had one we’d built, of course, but the The Big Pool was an Olympic Class Water Park! And the Bigger Pool was a Lazy River and entire indoor peach complex… and both were self-upgrading thanks to my purchase of Control Central back in West Wing. The Bigger Pool didn’t even take up floor space in my Reality until I’d upgraded it a bit more. Which is good, because Aquadromes are huuuuge. I confirmed the purchase, and locked in spending the next hundred WP on the two Pool upgrades… I’d save ‘Let’s Have Fun’ which added water slides, waterfalls, and a wave pool, for later. I had other things on my list.
Now that I was done with my build, the single most mono-focused, self-centered build I’d ever made in fact, I turned to look over at what Joy and Ahab had been doing with their tablets. Seriously… I’d bought nothing that wasn’t directly related to being a Soul Reaper. Nothing. I’d never seen a jump with less crossbuild potential. There were only like… five perks that weren’t about being the best possible Shinigami, Fullbringer, Arrancar, or Quincy you could be… and all the abilities of each line were isolated to their own race… despite the fact that MC Strawberry had the powers of all four factions… and Drop-In was functionally useless in this jump, which was just weird.
“Are you paying attention?” Joy asked, waving her hand in front of my face.
I sighed and nodded. “Yes yes. Soul Reaper, Zanpakuto. 20th Seater. Kido Training because ‘Magic sounds like fun’,” I paraphrased what she’d been saying. I had the sneaking suspicion she was planning on trying to become a Visored… which, to be honest, I was damned tempted to try myself. Not just for the power… but honestly… because I really wanted to get in touch with my inner rage. We needed to have words, she and I.
Ahab, on the other hand, had gone for Arrancar. It came with a nameless setting specific perk that meant that lower ranked hollows would be effectively bound to his will, and – as such – would follow his orders without question. That might come in handy if Hollows and Heartless were, in fact as nearly identical as they look.
I suspected that the lack of a skull mask was the only thing that separated the two, since Heartless are made from still living mortals. I wondered if that meant the Mask was contained within the Heartless’s counterpart Nobody. How Dream Eaters and Unversed fit in, I wasn’t sure…. But giant black spiritual monsters with holes in their chests… come on… totally the same thing, right? They were even powered by the same existential rage and ennui.
Free for an Arrancar were the abilities called ‘Cero’, which was a devastating energy beam fired traditionally from the mouth and ‘Hierro’, which was a toughening of skin and body so great it could withstand tank rounds without more than a scratch. He also got a ‘Resurreccion’, the released state that matched a Shinigami’s Bankai. Not only did it come with a Zanpakuto that contained his Hollow power, that signature weapon contained a linguistic scrambling & flesh necrotizing venom. Furthermore, he got three-hundred Choice for free… or rather for giving up the ability to transform into his old Hollow form.
Huh. That was… interesting. Normally the auto-importing didn’t get either of them any Choice to actually spend. And speaking of things that don’t normally happen… he had selected somehow managed to select ‘Childish’… a drawback worth four-hundred Choice that gave him a cracked mask (like Neliel) that leaked his spiritual energy down to a third of normal and made him resemble a child both in looks and action. It could be reversed for an hour or so once a week, returning him to full power while it lasted.
“It didn’t turn off…” he explained, “It’s a background specific drawback. It specifically targets me and no one else.” Well, the Faunus companions in RWBY had had their origin specific drawback… but that had been mandatory for Faunus and hadn’t given CP.
With his seven-hundred choice, Ahab had purchased the ‘A-Mysterious Blueprints’ for three-fifty, the ‘Suppression Cloak’ (an article of clothing that completely or partially hides the wearer’s spiritual pressure) for fifty, and ‘Regeneration’ (the ability to regenerate from wounds almost instantaneously.) for three-hundred. The blueprints were described as featuring difficult to understand terms and a humanoid figure like the Vitruvian Man, except with a skull for a head and a hole in his chest. They were clearly instructions for producing an Arrancar.
I looked up from reading over Ahab’s build to see Joy considering… which was always scary. “What are you planning?” I asked her.
Tapping her lips slowly, she said, “If I take the New Recruit Drawback, I get five-hundred Choice and can ignore my Zanpakuto entirely for this trip. Sure, it kills my power level as a Shinigami, but my power level will go back up after the jump, and I’ll get an unlocked Shikai once that happens.”
“Yeah?” I asked, running through the numbers in my head. “What were you thinking of buying with the points.”
“Well with those points I could take the S-Mysterious prints…” she said, speaking of the instructions on how to forge spirit swords. “Which should allow you to turn others into Shinigami.”
I nodded. “Are you certain?” I asked her, brow furrowed.
“We’ll need more allies,” she pointed out, “Since we can’t import any of the crowd. It might take a while, but better late than never.”
I had to agree…. except I had a better plan. “No… Don’t take that. Take the Quincy one,” I told her, talking about the Q-Mysterious Blueprint. They resembled a biology textbook written by a western style monk, and should, if I was right, include methods for giving not just Quincy powers like Vollstandig (Holy Form, a transformation / power release) and Letzt Stil (Last Style, a hail mary final attack) but Sternritter Schrift.
“What?” she asked. “Why?”
I smirked at her, then explained, “Because the Quincy are the enemy. Information on the nature of what they can do is important. Being able to use their own powers against them might not be possible since all Quincy are vulnerable to being stripped of their powers and lives merely by the will of their Monarch… but it should still be useful. Anyway, I think I know how to get my hands on the S-Blueprint in jump.”
So she took the ‘Q-print’ for three-fifty, an ‘Ejector’ for fifty more (a device that knocks a spirit out of a body. Instant Soul Eviction.), and (with her last hundred points), she bought ‘Shikai: Unconventional Weapon’ and gained… in theory… the ability to transform her Zanpakuto into flintlock soul pistols. Cool, piratey. I liked it. Were Western Soul Reapers Pirates? My memories did not actually contain any visual references to them.
With the builds built, and the details settled, we settled in to relax for the next couple weeks as I brooded in my office, thinking through all the various permutations I could think of. I trusted no one besides Atura with my plans.
As the month came to an end, I turned to the others and said, “Look… Like I said, I’m not your keeper or your overlord. I’d like to think of us as friends… though yes, ultimately I’m in charge. So I won’t order anyone to stay in the warehouse… within the limits. I don’t know if you’ll be able to exit into Karakura Town or not since I’m Shinigami, but we shall see. If you do go out, stay safe. Remember, this is a world as dangerous as Fairy Tail… without the lighthearted goofery. There are genuine superpowered demigods… and gods, for all intents and purposes. Yhwach is essentially Evil Japanese Christ… with all the insane powers that implies.”
I gazed out at my family and friends, and hoped that this wouldn’t be the last time we were all together. Sometimes knowledge can be a curse. I hit the drop button.
Step one? Find Yhwach and his Hidden Empire. Resource? one Rolodex that lists all the ways to get in touch with and the home addresses of World Leaders… even if that world leader lives in a secret bunker hidden within the afterlife. Probably wouldn’t have worked if I wasn’t a Shinigami, but it had contact info for everyone who was anyone in the Soul Society… even Tier Harribel, the ruler of Los Noches… at least until Aizen showed up and turned her into an Arrancar… and then Yhwach showed up and turned her into a trophy. A woman leader dicked over by two men… maybe that was commentary… or maybe Kubo was an ass.
Step two? Figure out how to actually get into the Hidden Empire… without tipping off the Wandenreich. Of course, it was entirely possible that doing this would be what made Yhwach come after me, but the great thing about prophecies is they aren’t that specific. No matter what Yhwach thought his reasons were, he was going to come after me because I’d ticked a specific box. Had I not done so, he might or might not have come after me, because I would still have had a mad on for a genocidal, nihilistic, egomaniacal fucknugget like ‘A’ for ‘Almighty’… seriously, who makes that his nickname?
Getting into the Hidden Empire wasn’t going to be easy. They’d lurked inside the Soul Society for centuries without anyone catching on, despite, you know, there being Court Guards and Intelligence Agencies designed to actively look for enemies both within and without… but then again, Shinigami are beyond smug, superior, and self satisfied. They’re a Japanese-style warrior cult with thousands of years of living memory, institutional memory, and the active knowledge that their job is not only vitally important, but that they serve an actual living god by doing it… and since they destroyed the Quincy (or so they thought) no one else could do it. That lead to incredible esprit de corps… and egotism to match.
But Step two meant gaining the freedom to act, and I couldn’t do that while saddled with a 20th seat… it was kinda an officer position… inasmuch as there are a couple thousand members of every Division. There were some thirty-thousand active Shinigami in the Gotei 13, accounting for roughly eighty percent of all those who graduated from the Shinroeijutsuin… the Spiritual Arts Academy. The other twenty percent went into the Kido Corpse and the Onmitsukido… the Special Operations Directorate… aka Stealth Force. A very small number of them worked for the government of the Seireitei, Central 46, though technically they were merely the judiciary.
The term ‘Divisions’ might give one the idea that the Gotei 13 functioned like a formal military, and to an extent, they did… but in practice, the Divisions were arranged more on a dojo system than anything else. Each Division had roughly a hundred officers commanding anywhere from six-hundred Shinigami for the smallest Division (the 12th, Technology & Research) and four-thousand for the largest (9th, Security, Arts, & Culture). The officers didn’t really have a set hierarchy beneath them, with squad structure being determined by the whim of the various officers. It was a mess.
Twentieth seat was the lowest ranked of the officers, but as I’d previously stated, even the 12th division had nearly seventy officers and the 9th had almost two-hundred. See, as long as it wasn’t Seat One (i.e. Captain) or Seat Two (Vice-Captain / Lieutenant), multiple people could fill the same seat… and even the rule blocking a Division from having two Seat Twos had been broken before.
Even promotion wasn’t some formal thing; in the Gotei 13 skill mattered more than seniority. The Captain of Division Ten was much much younger than any of the others… and in fact was younger than most of the other Divisional Vice-Captains, and had been promoted to 3rd seat right out of the Academy. Like I said, a mess. It was also a twenty-one hundred year old system that hadn’t been significantly altered in all that time.
To make matters slightly worse… I found myself in the Division of one of the three Captains who would eventually turn traitor; namely the 9th, commanded by the blind Kaname Tosen. Sure, I could have waited out my time until he was eventually replaced by Kensei Muguruma… one of the Visored after their hundred year exile was brought to an end… but that was a year or so down the line.
What I needed was a promotion… and that meant proving myself. Unfortunately, the best Division to jump to in terms of asskicking would have been the Combat Squad, Division 11… but I was most definitely a Kido user… as well as a master of magics and powers the Soul Society had no names for.
For once I wasn’t holding anything back… and the power level around me was frightening. Each Captain was probably a match in fighting skill for Raiden of Metal Gear Rising fame… and that was without going Bankai or removing their limiters. I had no way of knowing if I could face one of them mano-a-mano… so I’d have to fight my way up. But like I said, the 11th was the Combat Squad… and you know the old saying… if you can’t join em… beat em.
I hatched a plan, but put implementing it off for a time, as I had other things to do and my own current limits to explore. To that end, I took an unauthorized trip to the outskirts of the Soul Society to hunt Hollows. Best to make sure I had the basics down first, right? And I had to get a feel for Hollows if I was going to turn myself into a Visored… If I was going to have to deal with the freaks around here, I’d need the power. And anyway, like I said, I needed to have a face to face with my darker side. Sure… I could do that anyway… we were quite a collection inside our skull… but it wasn’t the same thing.
As I’d been virtually certain it wouldn’t, Soul of Ice hadn’t imported as my Zanpakuto (there hadn’t been any option to do so and the machine had returned an error when I’d tried to force the issue). But it wasn’t exactly a particularly hard fix. Soul of Ice imbibes that which makes it stronger… and placing a spiritual sword atop an artifactual one… the results were… horrifyingly painful I believe is the word.
It was like having one’s arm disintegrated one molecule at a time, pulled apart and put back together again without ever losing sensation. But it had to be done. If I didn’t bind my soul to Soul of Ice, it almost certainly would have simply absorbed the first Zanpakuto I used it against. I’d done everything I could to make the two compatible… but a since the import hadn’t been offered, I had to do the fusion manually.
I still wasn’t at all certain that Soul of Ice wouldn’t just continue to drink up the Reishi (spiritual particles) and Reiatsu (spiritual energy) of nearly everything in the area, more than once the manga / anime demonstrate how easily it could be done… but for now Soul of Ice was transformed, becoming a blade of blue water glass, the purest densest form of ice, the kind of ice normally only formed under the pressure of thirty-thousand atmospheres. Its shape flowed as the blade remembered every form it had taken, then settled into that of something closer to a burmese dha than a katana… though with a thought it could become a katana… or a bastard sword… or a rapier… or a pulse rifle.
But now I had to Jinzen… to meditate upon the sword… that’s what they did in the show to speak to the spirit of their Zanpakuto. Which was bullshit. I didn’t have to meditate crap to go into myself. I had real estate inside there… but that wasn’t a reason to be rude. Soul of Ice had served me long and hard, through thick and thin, and I’d just given it… for lack of a better word for it… a soul… part of my soul to be precise… plus a bit of Atura and Victoria too most likely.
I prepared a welcome inside the Palace of my mind and sent a message to Soul of Ice, inviting it to join me. I got no response. I sent another message to Soul of Ice, suggesting we should talk. No response. This wasn’t going well. I’d expected to have a fight against my inner demons… not against my own sword. I knew the damned thing’s name, I could Shikai… couldn’t I?
I stepped out of my mind and Shikai’d the shit out of the forest. Yup, Shikai. I tried Bankai… nothing. Fuck. Well, I didn’t major in Energy Bending for nothing. I opened my energy bending senses… and nearly blacked out from the sensory overload. Fuck… stupid… I was in the Soul Society… everything here was Spiritual Energy…. Wait… everything here was… I put the quest for Bankai on hold for a few minutes as I began to reshape a nearby tree, and some grass, and the rocks… crap… I could bend… everything here. This was… worrying… This was like the Spirit World of Avatar… without spirits everywhere. Just Soul Reapers, the righteous dead, and Hollows (and Quincies… fucking Spirit Cancer Psychos).
But back to the issue at hand. I focused on my blade… reaching into it… and (finding something within) gripped it gently, but firmly, then pulled the spirit within into my Mind Palace with me. There I found myself with a sulking child.
“You’re a big meanie.” she said to me. She was maybe four foot nothing, with skin the color of snow and hair the color of midnight black. Her eyes were the blue of blue-ice, and her outfit fit her slender form like a sheath.
I blinked. “I am?”
She stamped her bare foot against the ground, making a heavy thudding sound and I could feel the impact inside my skull. “You keep making me drink all the nasty stuff. It tastes icky.”
Flinching a bit at the jolt of that stomp, couldn’t help myself. I laughed, then said, “Yes, well, it’s medicine to help you grow up big and strong. Is there anything you’d rather I gave you to drink? Tea?”
She made a face, wrinkling her tiny nose. “I like Orange Soda.”
I blinked again… “When have you ever had Orange Soda?”
“I haven’t… but you have and you never share!” She threw a shoe at me… impressive, since she wasn’t wearing any.
“Right… okay… fine,” I said, a bit flustered. “Let’s go to the mortal world and stab all the sodas in the shop… Fuck… I hope Karakura Town has Orange Soda.” Turns out… Japan likes Fanta… how much you ask… there are seventy-four sodding FLAVORS OF FANTA SOLD IN JAPAN!… 74! I didn’t know there were seventy-four different flavors of anything! There was a shop in Karakura Town that sold nothing but Fanta! Fanta Orange! Fanta Honey Lemon! Fanta Club! Fanta Funmix! Fanta Strawberry (Heh… I left one for Ichigo in his school bag.)… Fanta Watermelon! Fanta Fantastic Five! Fanta Grape, Golden Grape, and Grapefruit! and Fanta Lychee! It was… beyond insane.
I probably should have felt bad about haunting the shop… but I didn’t. We went from there to the Kit-Kat shop and I indulged my sword’s newly discovered sweet tooth. And from there we sampled ALLLL the flavors of ice cream, sorbet, sorbeto, gelato, sherbet, frozen yogurt, and frozen custard we could find.
Afro-Guy (Karakura Town’s actual assigned Shinigami) asked me what I was doing and why I was in the real world without permission and why I was talking to my sword so I removed his memory of the event and went to see a movie. Much more sensible than fighting Soul of Ice… I outnumbered her, was older than her… kinda…, and ultimately had the power in the relationship and she knew it. But then… she was part of me. That’s what a Zanpakuto is, a blank soul which you shape into part of yourself.
What I wasn’t expecting was for the guy who made… aaaall the Zanpakuto… to show up just as we left the theatre and ask what the fuck I’d just done. I mean, seriously… I knew he’d said he could feel the location of every Zanpakuto… but this was just silly. Also, there was a difference between location and status!
Anyway, his name was Nimaiya, called the God of the Sword, and he’d invented the Zanpakuto and the process for making one. What Joy had wanted to pay for was essentially his primer on the process. Why have the primer when we could just talk to the guy who could do the real damned thing without any decoding.
Of course, my first comment to him was “Wow… Nimaiya Oetsu…. you look good without a hole through your chest.” Great opening, me!
“You thought I was a hollow?” he asked, though it was clear he was also a bit confused as to how I knew who he was. Royal Guardsmen don’t normally mix with Court Guardsmen (despite the name). In fact, it was debatable if all the Captains even knew of the existence of the Royal Guard.
“No…” I said, hiding Soul behind me. “The last time I saw you you were dead.”
He quirked one of his funky eyebrows at me. “When was this?”
I shrugged. “A little over two years in the future.” He believed me because I was telling the truth.
“Oh.” Yeah, I wouldn’t have had much to say about that either.
“Yes,” I agreed.
He considered for a long moment, then suggested, “You could be lying.”
“I could,” I agreed again. “But I’m not. And you know it.”
“How odd,” he remarked. “I do know it.”
“I have the power to speak the truth,” I explained. A normal person would have been like ‘Well duh, everyone has that power.’ but he seemed to understand that I meant more than merely speaking truth. I meant to speak the truth and have it be recognized as such.
“Huh,” he said, thinking about the implications. “Well… that doesn’t exactly answer my question.”
“No it doesn’t…” I agreed a third time. “But then again, I consider it highly unlikely you could understand what I’ve done. No offense intended, but it’s a bit beyond your contextual framework. Let’s just say I took a little of what you made and… a lot of what I have built… and fused them together.”
“But it’s not…” he began, then trailed off. Finally he finished, “That’s not how this is supposed to work.”
“I know. Sorry about that,” I apologized. “I will tell you one thing. Find me again after the battle of Los Noches, once the holder of the crystal, he who is master of the Espada, and would be forger of the Key of Heaven in the False Town, once he has been placed in chains and sealed in a chair. Once that is done I’ll tell you everything I can. But for right now, you might want to get back to the Soul King’s Palace and try and come up with a way to turn Mortals into Shinigami without them dying… either before or after.”
“Oh? Dare I ask why?” he asked, then added, “I assume you mean not dying of the process or using the abilities? Mortals die eventually regardless of what one does. That’s why they’re called Mortal.”
“Nope,” I replied, then grinned. “But good point. Yes. not dying in the process of being made a Shinigami or because of complications arising merely from being Shinigami. But consider this; the problem with the Quincy was their methods and tools… not their spiritual power. What could they have done with the proper tools and teachings?” And then I walked away from him, leaving him to ponder my words.
See, I hadn’t planned on this. Really hadn’t. When I’d jumped into Psychonauts I’d had the choice to specialize in any one psychic discipline… and I’d thought in terms of Dune, my all time favorite book. Movie too, for that matter. And remembered my time in Twilight, a fun read, but not good by any stretch of the imagination… and I’d realized / witnessed just how powerful an ability being a Precognitive Blindspot would be. And that’s why I’d picked the ability to shield myself from Precognition. And why, ultimately, I had no choice but to make myself an enemy of Yhwach… he’d have made me one anyway.
Three years from now, Yhwach, whose power ‘Almighty’ (Hence the A) was the ability to see and manipulate the future, would declare five people “Special War Powers”, presumably based upon their potential to derail his plans. Ichigo the MC with his Unstoppable Evolution and Kenpachi Zaraki (biggest badass in the series and possessed of Overwhelming Strength) were the only two I knew for certain, though I’d read on a wiki that Aizen (Boundless Reiatsu) was one as well… which probably made Kisuke Urahara (former head of Division 12 and the sneakiest most coniving bastard in the series, said to have plans within plans within plans) one and Ichibei Hyosube (Captain of the Royal Guard and one freaky ass monk… who, in his infinite wisdom was said to have named all things in the Seireitei and who had the very first evolving Zanpakuto) the last.
Anyway, the second Yhwach realized there was an actually unpredictable variable throwing things off, he’d focus on me as well. I could have gone into hiding and just… waited until things blew over, but that wasn’t likely to work if anything I did swung things far enough that Ichigo and company lost the war. Also, there were those who fell in the Wandenreich’s Invasion that I actually liked… plus, I had taken the drawback, since conflict was effectively unavoidable. I just had to make certain that, by the time Yhwach understood the threat against him it was too late to counter… incredibly hard to do against someone who could retcon reality.
As far as my memory went, the series hadn’t ended when I’d left Origin Earth behind long long ago. The last chapter I’d read was something in the mid 650s and there would probably be at least 50 more chapters before the glacially paced Wandenreich Arc ever ended (it had started at least three years previous to that point)… and who knew how many more years worth of material had been written… would have been written? Time is wibbly wobbly as the Doctor would say.
There was a stupid little story Tite Kubo had related at one point about sixty chapters into the arc that went something like ‘The sealed King of the Quincy regained his heart again after 900 years… regained his intellect after 90 more, and regained his power after 9 more… then regained the World after 9 days.’ I knew that when Yhwach had regained his intellect he’d been responsible for the deaths of the mothers of Ichigo and Uryu (the only good guy Quincy and Ichigo’s rival)… and that had been six years in the past. In under three years, the shit was very much going to hit the fan… But hopefully, I could get this taken care of before then.
But that brought me back to figuring out my Bankai… which even Soul of Ice was no help with, since she didn’t know anything about what her form might be… which meant we’d need to find out. And that meant battle… and battle meant Hollows… at least for now.
Fighting Hollows was fascinating, it really was. Each was a unique foe, each a new challenge, and I might have had the memories (mental and physical) of a Kido Adept and a Shinigami… but I needed to practice them… and to merge the Shinigami sword styles into the forms I’d spent thousands of years practicing. The skills one gained at insertion always had room to grow.
Shinigami used four basic forms of combat; Zanjutsu (swordwork), Hakuda (hand-to-hand), Hoho (footwork, of which Shunpo… flashsteps… was the highest expression), and Kido (magic). I had the basics of and talent for Kido, another reality’s version of Hoho, and was almost certainly any Shinigami’s equal in swordwork and hand to hand… if only it had been entirely about skill… instead of a battle of spiritual power.
After confirming that, yes, I could kill a Hollow or twenty, at a time, with my sword, I had to find out if I could do so without, with Kido and magic and martial arts and especially with Spirit Bending. As long as I carried water with me, I didn’t need a sword to perform the ritual to restore a Hollow into a soul and send it on its way. In that regard, they were much like the dark spirits of the world of Avatar. On the other hand, as Pokemon had taught me… fighting type moves weren’t too effective.
Waiting for Rukia’s return from the mortal world, for Ichigo and company to invade the Soul Society to save her… waiting to get the whole serious ball of wax rolling would have driven me insane if I hadn’t had so much to do. I’d read both Arrancar and Quincy blueprints cover to cover and begun plotting how I’d use them.
When the heroes finally came, it was a relief, allowing me to set aside makework (no matter how necessary) and do something. With everyone distracted, I ventured deep into the wilderness outside the walls of the Soul Society, out, out past the furthest districts of the slums, into the black as it were, leaving my weapons and armor safely tucked away in the warehouse. I found a distant valley, empty and still, and there I placed every ward and seal I could think of upon the landscape, to keep others and their prying eyes out and… more important… me in.
I pulled out the essence of Hollow I’d collected over the past couple months and drank the vile substance down, then dove deep into myself, feeling the darkness and pain and anguish rising up inside of me, all the emotions that made a Hollow a Hollow. The lust for power, the desire to survive against all foes, the need to be triumphant, everything that was purely animalistic and feral and vicious and mean… and I felt the change wash over me as she appeared.
She… was me. The old me, the me that had been there to whisper all those horrible things the voices inside your head whisper to you… ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you’re nothing’, ‘a quick flick of the knife’…. Or ‘if you kill them, no one will care’. Or ‘go on, laugh, laugh at the stuttering idiot’… and there were more of them… She was legion. All the pain all my selves had ever gone through, the violence, the abuse, the fear, the terror, the violations both gross and fleeting. I looked at all of them, knowing I could wipe them from the face of the universe with a casual thought. I could scour away their venom as if I were hitting a delete key. But they were me, they were part of me… and they were the largest part of my motivation to do good, either because of all the bad I’d experienced or simply in defiance of their hateful mutterings.
If I’d been a native, there would have been a fight. There should have been a fight… it would have entertained the boss… and this was a Shonen Manga after all… but I wasn’t a native and that wasn’t my way. Thus, I went to them, drawing each writhing nasty vicious thing into a tight embrace and a kiss of welcome and took them into myself, feeling their darkness coalesce with each, feeling my willpower fray a little more, my control tremble, my urge to lash out grow… but I maintained. I would not stop until I had claimed and reclaimed every part of me. I would be kind to that person it was hardest to be kind to… myself.
I had been a saint and a sinner, a murderess, a killer, an assassin, and a slayer of children and old men. I had slain tyrants and monsters, gods and demons, and simply way too damned many cyborgs, mutants, and robots… I was a work in progress… but I’d always believed enlightenment was attainable. Vajra or Bodhi, Evolutionary or Otherwise, it was possible… Perhaps this was my first true step.
With growing calm to match the growing tension, I embraced my faults down to the very last, welcoming them into myself and accepting that they existed. Pervert, Glutton, Prideful and Vain, Arrogant, Egotistical, Vindictive, and above all Judgmental. I accepted those things and many others, my anger, my Wrath, fading away as I stored its fuel away for later use.
I opened my eyes… looked around the valley… it was an empty bowl of dirt… everything within five-hundred meters was… gone. And days had passed… Almost two weeks in fact. I had missed the entire Ichigo Invasion… just as planned. Now I just had to wait through the Bount Arc and the Captain Amagai Arc (if they even happened) before the Hueco Mundo Arc would begin. Now was as good a time as any to start dueling other Shinigami and testing myself.
But first I had to hide my shiny new mask… It looked like the monkey king’s crown of control. I frowned at the bone white of it and tisked, “You can do better than that.” It shimmered and turned silvery-white, the color of fine white jade. I was now a Visored.
I could have attacked the members of 11th Division one on one in ambushes, or tricked them into duels, but that wasn’t my style… at least not with potential ‘allies’. So I marched right into their compound, announced myself in a very loud voice, then challenged their 20th Seats to a duel. To make the others mad, and to goad them into coming at me full force, I hit the first of the 20ths with Kido until he crumpled… then defeated the second without ever drawing my sword.
I got down to Seat Eight before I hit someone who tried using Shunpo against me. I Ura Flashstepped behind him and Limited Broke him into a wall. He was fast… but I’d mastered Ura Flashsteps long ago and I could, at will shatter the sound barrier into fragments… when something says a mile a second, that’s four and a half times the speed of sound. I could manage about eighteen miles in a second if I really pushed it. That’s nearly thirty kilometers… or one meter every thirty-three microseconds. The Flash I might not have been, and I wasn’t going to be dodging lightning (Mach 90 was what I could manage… lightning was mach 290.)
““Where is the Challenge?!” I demanded. “I thought you were Combat troops! Someone fight me!” It was ballsy as fuck, considering that could have drawn the attention of Kenpachi or even Seat Three Madarame or Seat Five Yumichika (the two members of the 11th who have actually mastered Bankai (the Lieutenant can’t, and Kenpachi doesn’t even have a Shikai as he’s never even spoken to his sword. Hell, I hadn’t even seen Kenpachi or Yachiru yet.
But my hubristic gamble paid off with Seat Seven (Agatsugi, I think his name was), who, after going into Shikai, actually managed to finally land a hit that caused me any pain at all. It was like getting a papercut across one’s cheek. I grinned, then roared, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” That fight lasted almost thirty seconds.
The first of three Seat Sixes was a brute with both speed and stamina. His footwork was impressive, as was his reiatsu… but his swordsmanship wasn’t. It was actually beginning to bother me just how poorly trained many of these Shinigami were. Far from being an elite army, the law of conservation of ninjutsu had hit hard, making the vast masses of them less impressive than the average stormtrooper. They might have been meant to be more than that, but thanks to the fiercely individualistic nature of their society and the focus on one on one battles of the storyline… as well as the glaring lack of anyone one for them to curbstomp and thus show their badassery to… they weren’t. They were essentially nameless drones there to be slaughtered just to give enemies bodies to stack. I put him down hard. And the two that followed. I still hadn’t needed to go into Shikai.
Standing with sword tip on the ground I looked at the gathered Division 11, which now included both Peacock Head (Yumichika) and Baldy (Madarame). “This is pathetic!” I sneered. “This is why you lost to a Mortal with stolen powers, two Freaks, and a Quincy! You’re nothing! I don’t know why I came here hoping for a real fight. Combat Squad? You wouldn’t know Combat if introduced itself formally. You’re thugs in robes. You should be ashamed of yourselves!”
I looked out at the massed Shinigami. “I’m the 20th seat of my Division! I should have been stopped long before hitting single digits, let alone before breaking into your senior officers. You’d think a Division that prides itself on being the best at Combat and eschewing Kido would be better at this, but you’re not! It’s holding you back! You’re obsessed with Combat and you stink at it. You’re like children who think ‘Ooo, Battle is Awesomes! Lol! I should do that!’ but you’ve never bothered to actually learn what Combat really is!”
I pointed at their officers. “You’ve got Peacock Head, who’s so desperate to be cool that he lies about the name of his sword and hides the fact that he’s powerful enough to take out any lieutenant except for Division 1’s. He’d probably master Bankai in a heartbeat if he’d actually talk to his sword instead of getting into sulking contests with what’s fundamentally part of himself. He could replace Tosen tomorrow if he wanted to, but no, ‘Combat is Cool. Kido is icky!’ And so he sits at Seat Five like a overbred akita panting for his master’s attention.”
I shifted my gaze to Seat Four whose name I hadn’t bothered to learn. “You’ve got a non-entity who only has his position because his betters are afraid of the number Four. You’re Shinigami… the Shi is in the name you idiots!”
Turning at last to Baldy. “You’re bald. Letting yourself get worked up about that is… frankly, ridiculous. You’re more childish than she is!” I indicated the lieutenant who’d finally shown up. “And seriously… if any of you didn’t know this bald idiot could Bankai, you’re stupider than I thought. We’ve got three empty slots for Captains and this guy refuses to fill one of those posts because ‘Paperwork is Scary’ and he thinks he won’t get to fight as much. SPARRING IS NOT COMBAT! It’s is to combat what masturbation is to sex! Like I said, you’re all idiots. Fighting isn’t a game! It’s not the cool thing! It should always have a purpose and that purpose is to always either protect or to kill. That’s it.” I snarled at them, my words dripping disdain.
“Self-imposed limits are great ways to train. Letting monsters and traitors pound on you isn’t.” I looked at the lieutenant. “Child of Slaughter. Snack Thief. You I’d very much like to fight. But I don’t think you’d take the fight seriously, preferring to let Kenpachi do it for you…” at that moment my third eye finished peering into the small pink-haired girl and I truly understood what I was looking at. I stumbled in my words, then began laughing at the hilarity of it all. Of course. It all made soo much sense now.
Gathering myself, I shooking my head in amusement, then (ignoring the outraged glares) continued. “As for Captain Zaraki… well, even I’m not insane enough to think I could beat him… but I’d very much like to try to last as long as I could. Yet it grows late. I think I’ll return tomorrow at dawn. Ikkaku, Yumichika, if you fight me, you’ll have fight me with your Bankai. I won’t accept anything less.” I eyed them with challenge in ever gesture, then faced the Vice-Captain and said, “Yachiru… if you fight me with all you’ve got… I have one hundred mortal chocolate bars for you. And tell your captain, if he’s ever interested in actually learning how to sword fight instead of just… hacking at things with Nozarashi… I could use a student.”
The only being in that entire world who knew who Nozarashi was flinched as if struck. Of course she was taken off guard. The one person who should have known the name didn’t even know how to listen for it. Kenpachi Zaraki… the only Shinigami whose Zanpakuto had a Zanpakuto of her own.
I turned to leave. “Oh… and if any of you comes looking for me after I leave, wanting a little revenge or payback… I went easy on most of you.” Nothing like taunting bears with ground beef. I whistled as I walked away. That had been fun! The wicked snarky part of my inner Hollow was pleased.
I did go back the next day. I had to. I’d given my word. It was like walking into a den of hungry jackals. I sighed. This was going to be amusing. “Gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me,” I said to the senior officers, then turned to face the crowd. “If any of you… or all of you… feel hard done by with what I said yesterday, please, feel free to attack me, all at once or one at a time. But know that, if you do, you’ll miss the entertainment.” Some sixty or so took me up on my offer. I signed my name in Kanji with their unconscious forms; San Jizou it said.
“Well, I’m warmed up,” I said, stretching. “Who’s next?”
Question: Was I able to defeat Ikkaku or Yumichika? Answer: They’re highly powerful fighters… no I wasn’t. Not without using Shikai, which I wanted to save for something important, or Bankai, which I hadn’t mastered, or using other powers. Not without demonstrating advantages that would demonstrate just how little I was an actual Soul Reaper. I didn’t have the raw power and even with Ura Flash Steps I was having trouble keeping up with their footwork. I was hypersonic… they were better than that. There’s a reason the Arrancar version is called ‘Sonido’. Still, I was beginning to see the nature of Shunpo and how to use it. But I hadn’t come to actually defeat them. I’d come to fight them.
The next six days went like this: Day One Prelims, Day Two Yumichika / Peacock Head (Good Fight, beating me sent him to the hospital), Day Three 4th Seat von NoName (kicked his ass), Day Four Ikkaku / Baldy the Balder Baldman, Day Five Yumichika out of the hospital (forced him to use his fake Bankai on me, more fun!), Day Six Baldy again (still hadn’t gotten him to use his Bankai, but the guy’s pretty decent at hand-to-hand, so we did that instead of actual swordplay. After the sixth day’s sparring, while tossing individually wrapped snack cakes at Yachiru to see how fast she could cut the wrappers off and eat the snacks without actually touching them with her fingers or letting them hit the floor, I commented, “It’s a long walk back to the Division 9 Barracks.”
Ikkaku grunted, “You’re not a bad fighter, you could join our squad.”
Yumichika snapped, “She uses a Kido blade!”
“You don’t know that!” Yachiru said, defending me… or (more likely) the Snacks I provided her with), “She doesn’t even use Shikai.”
“Neither does Kenpachi,” Yumichika retorted.
“Yeah, but he’s the Captain,” Ikkaku pointed out.
“Boys. Boys!” I said, chuckling, “Please. Don’t beg. It’s entirely up to your Captain.”
A shadow loomed over me… a shadow with many pointed spikes sticking up from its head. Finally he’d shown up. Maybe he’d been lost; the local Hibiki drawback was based on him, after all. “You think you’re good enough?” he growled.
“To qualify as a member of the ‘We fight a lot but don’t know how to do it well squad’? Sure. There are probably some grandmas in the Rukongai that would pass muster,” I snarked, looking up at him over my shoulder. “To fight you? Yeah, sure, why not?” I rolled my shoulder, then faced him squarely, bringing up Soul of Ice as I did so. “You’ve got to promise not to go easy on me,” I teased, knowing I was probably going to regret being so glib.
It’s a good thing I heal fast. I got a lesson in having my ass handed to me by Kenpachi Zaraki. Once I’d proved that, yes, my blade could actually cut the Captain, even without revealing my Shikai, he stopped letting me hit him… and went on the offensive, forcing me to defend with every ounce of skill I had. Kenpachi was as far from being my equal in finesse and swordsmanship as I was from being his equal in raw spiritual power… and yet both of us were holding back.
“You’re not fighting with everything you’ve got!” he growled.
“Neither are you, Captain,” I responded, not quite panting. His stamina was unbelievable for someone who didn’t have perks backing up.
“Yeah…” he grunted, “but I’m trying not to die of boredom.”
I smirked, then retorted, “And here I am trying to be all mysterious and cool.”
He laughed. Then kicked me through a dozen walls. It was like… well, like being booted in the tits by an eight foot tall psychopath with near infinite spiritual power. The walls barely hurt at all by comparison. I lay in the rubble and groaned.
“Fight over?” Yachiru asked, sounding a little disappointed.
I summoned a Snickers Bar from my sleeve and handed it to her, then groaned, “For today.”
“Today?” she asked, sounding surprised.
I sat up, already fully healed. My healing factor goes waaay beyond fuckng amazing. “Just because you people are slackers doesn’t mean I’m going to go easy on the lower seats once you offer me the 4th Seat.”
“Who said we’re offering you the 4th Seat?” Yachiru asked, while the three officers who mattered watched in varying degrees of astonishment as I stood, brushing myself off as if I hadn’t just taken an ungodly beating. They hadn’t seen the hydrotap from the warehouse pumping superfluid saltwater for me to drain of its chill.
“Well,” I began, “Chromedome would get mad having to go down to four and Featherface would get mad having to go up because he’s a looney who’s afraid of his friends hating him for something he can’t control. Wow, great shades of transgenderism.” I cricked my neck, then summoned my sword to my hand, something none of the others could do as far as I’d seen.
“You make me 4th Seat,” I offered, “and I’ll teach those morons in the double digits how to actually fight monsters. And in exchange, we’ll fight and I’ll teach you how to actually swing that stick in your hand like a sword.”
Kenpachi growled, “I know how to-” but he didn’t have time to finish before I acted.
Arching an eyebrow, I flicked Soul of Ice from her scabbard so fast there was a sonic boom that knocked Nozarashi from the Captain’s hand and flattened his hairspikes, ripping the bells from their tips. “You know how to fight,” I said. “But you rely entirely on power, not technique. I did that with almost entirely with technique and just a tiny little bit of power. Believe me when I say, there is almost certainly no one in the entire Soul Society who can match me in pure swordfighting technique.”
The big man got my point, I got a transfer, and that’s what I did until the start of the Hueco Mundo Arc, besides turning Uriel into an Arrancar, as he was technically dead… I’d always assumed he’d been saved by the Medbay… but becoming a Shinigami allowed me to see the truth… Uriel was very much dead, as in Sovngarde dead, a ghost that the Medbay had given a body to match his genetic code and the Companion Body Mod Pod had upgraded, but the Warehouse was Uriel’s Sovngarde and the body he was using was essentially a very adaptable gigai. Turning him into an Arrancar was almost too easy.
By the time Aizen kidnapped Orihime, I’d gotten very good indeed at Kido, especially without the incantations (it wasn’t that much different from unvoiced spells at Hogwarts). I’d also gotten damned good at Shunpo, which was highly compatible with Ura Flashsteps, and I looked forward towards observing a full Arrancar using Sonido (Ahab was pretending to be a kid living with Joy, who was in the Kido Corps.) But that wasn’t the only change. Battling high energy opponents had taught me tricks with Reishi & Reiatsu I’d never have imagined and that probably wouldn’t work anywhere else.
First, let’s clear up something… Reiatsu is Spirit Pressure, like atmospheric pressure except radiating out from powerful spiritual entities. Those entities possessed ‘Reiryoku’ or Spirit Power… think chi but purely spiritual. It was in every living thing. Reishi was the building block of everything in the spiritual world. In direct contact with someone I could bend their Reiryoku, though it was easier to do to mortals than to Shinigami who were more aware of their spiritual nature. I could also, through energybending shape the Reishi around myself into a shield or armor or… well… anything else I could think of. If that Reishi was in the form of Water, Ice, Fire, or Lightning, my control quadrupled. Deflecting Reishi and Reiatsu attacks was getting easier and easier with every passing battle.
But I wasn’t spending all my time training just against the others of Division 11. I’d made sure that everyone in the soul society knew of my boast to be the greatest living swordsman in the Soul Society, and that had, at first drawn the curious… and then the experts… and finally the masters. The rules were simple. No sword powers, no Kido, as pure an expression of swordsmanship and footwork as was possible. With each opponent I faced, I learned more and more of the tiny elements each had worked into their Hoho, and my own footwork improved more and more rapidly.
And I had potential students coming out the woodwork. Four hours a day I trained entire groups of Division 11 members in group tactics, coordination, shield work (oh yes. I taught the Shinigami to use fucking shields… morons). They bitched, said I didn’t use one. I just glared at them and summoned another Pseudo-Hollow. I was drinking pure sugar syrup to keep up the strain of crafting so many of them, but there too I was getting better about making my creations more and more dangerous and intelligent. “When you have mastered fighting as a group, you can complain about my tactics.”
Of course, in the depths of the Night, I wasn’t just napping either. I had, after months of scouting… and finally just calling in Zane to get him to ask the Spirit of the Soul Society’s City where exactly the entrances to the Wandenreich’s secret lair might be found… finally managed to find my way into the hidden side of the Soul Society. Thankfully, the Hidden Empire was massive, and drastically under populated… then again, the inner area of the Soul Society was pretty underpopulated too, essentially consisting of huge swaths of labyrinth, massive villas, and pointlessly empty buildings.
And so it was, that when Ichigo and company headed off to Los Noches (the fortress capital/capitol of Hueco Mundo), I instead headed into the realm of the Wandenreich to… prune the branches. Yhwach had a power called ‘Auswahlen’ (another A!) that would allow him to transfer energy from impure or less important Quincies and give it to ones he felt were more deserving… or even himself. Thus, reducing his potential pool of energy would be useful… and if I could take out a Sternritter Elite Troups or one of his inner circle of guardsmen, his Schutzstaffel (seriously, could he be a bigger Nazi?) it would take a huge chunk out of his offensive force.
Ultimately, my goal was to take out Lille Barro (aka X or the X-Axis, the sniper who had killed / would kill Zanpakuto guy) and Jugram Haschwalth (aka B or The Balance, Yhwach’s second-in-command, and possessor of Yhwach’s power when big Y was napping). Of course, to kill either of them, I’d have to strike absolutely on target without giving them a moment to respond… they were that powerful. Then again, that’s how I was planning on killing any of the Quincies in the first place.
By my calculations, Yhwach hadn’t reached the end of the 9th year yet. If he opened his eyes before that time, all his followers would, in theory, be stripped of their powers. The best way to defeat him then would be to do so before he could use his knowledge of the future… but when Yhwach slept, Jugram had his powers… and vice versa. Which was the only thing I had going for me, because Jugram’s normal powers… assuming I’d understood what I’d read… were to turn every misfortune against his attackers… and then return the damage they’d tried to do to him.
But that was for later. For the time being I haunted Silbern, the ice-frosted citadel of the Wandenreich, murdering Quincies one by one and dissolving their bodies into nothing but dust. Coming for me… oh yes, the Leader of the Quincies would be coming for me… but the drawback hadn’t said anything about it being a fair fight or him having any special knowledge of me. For the time being, I waited to face the masters of the Wandenreich, doing my due diligence and reading the minds of all I passed, learning the natures and weaknesses of their gifts from their own thoughts… so very very few of them had any protection at all against mind readers or my Third Eye. If Morale is the Queen of War, Intel is King.
By the time I’d cut their numbers by twenty, there was a general outcry. By the time it was fifty, there was a total lockdown. I took another ten just to prove I could and returned to the Soul Society after leaving a calling card… a Z slashed into a tapestry in the front hall.
Before the fall of Aizen, I returned twice more, each time destroying another handful of the Quincies. I’d have done more, but I had to help in the battle of Fake Karakura town… Orders were Orders. The day after Aizen was returned from Los Noches in chains, I was summoned to the Soul King’s Palace…. Or rather one of the five floating cities surrounding it. It seemed Nimaiya wanted to see me.
“Okay. Aizen’s been captured. No Oken made in Karakura town, fake or real. What’s going on?” he asked. The Oken was the Key to Heaven that would have opened the way to the secret dimension the Soul King’s Palace and its five cities resided in. Forging it had been Aizen’s goal all along, and to do so he’d been willing to sacrifice the lives and souls of several hundred thousand mortals.
“Have you found a way to do as I requested?” I asked.
“Maybe,” he said, “Though I’m not at all certain it will work. You’ll need damned powerful mortals. No, I don’t think being a Fullbringer is enough.” Fullbringers were people whose mothers had been attacked by Hollows before they themselves were born. Some of that Hollowification was passed into their children, especially if they were pregnant during the attack.
“I have faith in you,” I assured him. “And that’s why I’m going to tell you, and only you… and Ichibei who is over there in the corner hiding in his ink, erasing his own presence.”
The massive shinto monk laughed as he emerged from his hiding place. “You’re good, kid.” I felt a slight ripple as his power to change the names of things and thus the nature of it pressed on me, but I had a strong enough sense of self not to be damaged by his casually calling me a ‘kid’.
“I’m better than that,” I bragged. “And I’m an order of magnitude older than you are. But that’s neither here nor there, and I didn’t come to measure dicks. Ichibei, you’re out of my league… which is a problem… because the one who I’ve come to warn you about is out of yours as well.”
He sputtered, “Nonsense… I am the-”
“Yhwach is returning.” I cut him off. “And unless we find a way to stop him, he will kill the Soul King. He will kill the Soul King, bring about massive destruction on the Soul Society, slay you both… though Ichibei might survive being slain… hell, both of you might. I never saw confirmation of your death either Nimaiya.”
They glanced at each other, then back at me. “How do you know this?” the monk asked.
“I read it in a picture book… what the mortals call ‘Manga’.”
“How could a Manga tell the future?” Ichibei asked.
“Because to me this isn’t the future… this is the past,” I half-explained. “I come from a time when those things were already accomplished. Look… Yhwach’s power allows him to see everything that will happen… but not everything that has already happened… He can’t change the past. I can. I am an anomaly, and any day now he’s going to figure out that I’m a threat to him and send his minions after me. I have a plan to deal with it… but I need things to be in place before that happens.”
“Can you tell us how to find him?” Nimiya aksed.
“I can,” I confirmed. “But if I do, there is a very real chance he’ll attack immediately. I need you to figure out a way to stop him, or at least slow him down. I will tell you this… When Ichigo Kurosaki returns to Los Noches… that will be the most likely time for the attack. It will be sudden, overwhelming, and extremely nasty… And Captain-Commander Genryusai will almost certainly be killed in the opening stages of the invasion.”
“You’ve gone from absolutes to qualified statements,” Nimaiya pointed out. “Why?”
“Because I’ve already changed enough variables that things may not go as I saw. I have… erased… nearly nearly seventy-five of the mid-tier Quincies of the Wandenreich, including several Sternritters. If all goes well, I will be able to kill two more, including the one who killed you, Nimaiya… but… and you must know this… If you kill one of the Quincies, it is possible for Yhwach to sacrifice a less important Quincy to restore a more important one to life…. More powerful than before. Also… if I can’t take out the one named Lille Barro… his bullets cannot be blocked and will hit even if you dodge them. Reflecting them back at him is the only way, and it will take a very powerful spirit mirror to do so.”
“Anything else?” Ichibei asked, concern creasing his normally jovial brow.
“Yes,” I said, feeling a little sick remembering the issue in question. “Yhwach can empower even which you erase, Ichibei. I saw you erase his voice, half his power, and his name and yet he still decapitated you. Now, Nimaiya… I have some friends I’d like you to meet.”
Sniper duels are a tradition as old as the sniper game. Two hunters stalk each other across a wilderness of covers and blinds and roosts, waiting for the other to make a mistake. I had no interest in having such a duel with Lille Barro… For one, he was bug-fuck insane. But I did have a plan.
Jugram’s best friend as a child had been Bazz-B… stupid name, I know, especially for someone born around 900 AD… and Bazz (aka H The Heat) would try and kill Jugram once he realized how little Yhwach cared about his followers. Time to accelerate that battle a bit. I hunted down Bazz inside Silbern, and… with a flick of will… drew him inside the Theater of the Palace of my Mind.
“Hello Bazz,” I said, my voice coming from everywhere and nowhere.
“Who the fuck are you?” he asked, eyes flicking around the place, trying to figure out where he was and where I was.
“I am… Yhwach’s enemy,” I said, smirking. “My name is irrelevant.”
“Where are you?” he demanded.
I laughed merrily. “I am in everything you see and everything you hear and touch. But if you need something to look at…” I appeared on the edge of the stage, crosslegged and looking very Asari.
“That’s not an answer!” he snapped, then gasped as I leaned forward and poked his nose. His hand scrambled for a weapon that wasn’t there.
“True!” I agreed, then gave him a weapon made of mental twizzlers. “Regardless, Yhwach thinks of all you Quincies as nothing but expendable assets, tools to get him where he wants to be.”
“Lies!” he bellowed, turning reddish under his silly fuschia mohawk. “You lie!”
“Oh. I do!” I confirmed. “I lie all the time, in little ways and big ways and ways so enormous your tiny little mind can’t comprehend them. But I’m not lying about this.” I threw up images from the manga… but these images had been recreated out of my memories using the actual people in the actual places. These were pictures only in the purest sense of the term. They were the next best thing to real. “This will happen,” I said, showing him the moment where Yhwach would pull the life and power out of those Quincies he’d deemed worthless.
“How… he wouldn’t… you don’t know him,” the hotheaded Quincy said, sounding almost plaintive.
“I know you,” I replied, showing him the moments of his own past, drawn in equal parts from his own mind and from the pages of the comic. “Only Jugram has value to him. The rest of you are only of value until you aren’t. Loyalty, Honor… these mean nothing to the man who would be god.”
He trembled, finally falling to his knees. “What can I do?” he asked after an hour of motionless silence. I told him to bring Jugram to a place just inside the walls of the Soul Society at midnight, where he’d show him the person killing all their fellow Quincies… and then, together, we’d take him down, then move on Yhwach. “Why at night? He can see what will happen at night.”
“Yes, but he can’t turn our luck against us. There’s a small chance, but just because you can see everything, doesn’t mean you can stop it from happening.”
Bazz is, for a Quincy, well meaning… but he’s a moron of the first water. He showed, as I’d known he would, with Jugram in tow. Jugram had to know this was a trap. I was hoping he would. Which is why I was perched atop the highest point in the Soul Society and about to do something insane.
One of my creations, one who looked like me and had a similar soul signature entered the square, and promptly attacked. Bazz, seeing that as the signal, attacked Jugram from the other side. I closed down all my senses into the moment, the butt of Soul of Ice’s rifle form snug against my shoulder. I was not breathing, my hearts were not beating. I was, all together, in that moment. And then I fired.
The bullet raced the speed of light towards Jugram’s head, crossing the intervening miles in hundred thousandths of a second. And yet he turned towards the shot, the shot that must have passed out of my unpredictability field and I saw him raise his hand to block the Reishi Bullet with the Cero field, a Quincy Bolt loosed from a bow never made by a child of the Father of All Quincies, that glowing pulsing, glaring ball of death. And then, with all his power and focus fronting on the bullet… I plunged my sword into his back.
“Predict this, mother fucker. Ban… Kai.” and a billion monomolecular snowflakes exploded out of Yhwach’s other half’s form. The area froze solid in an instant, froze and quaked and shattered, just like Jugram. Just like the bullet of energy fired from Lille Barro’s rifle that was targeted right at my chest. I grinned “Just as planned.” and grunted as thing punched a hole the size of a baseball right through my chest. Fuck… that hurt.
In the moment or so I had before I blacked out, I summoned a doppleganger with an identical wound, set to die spectacularly, and shunted myself into my medbay. Having 80% of your heart, most of your solar plexus, and bits of your lungs and esophagus vaporized is not fun, even if you’re a spirit at the moment. Good thing I had a second heart.
Clutched in my hand, however, was the soul of Jugram Haschwalth, the letter B that formed his power, that had been inscribed upon his very essence by Yhwach himself. Quincies… gotta love em… reality is a playtoy. Well, let’s see you raise Jugram without a body or soul, mein Fuhrer.
The next fourteen months were… dull. Very very dull. I spent them in the mortal realm, wearing a different body and just being a normal nobody. Couldn’t let Yhwach suspect his hitman had failed. So I waited, and waited, and waited. No practicing, no… nothing. Normal Joe Mortal (I was going male for this bit, just to be more confusing. It had been a while. My male human form was as big as Kenpachi… wow… hunky.)
But if I wasn’t practicing… my followers, my Maskadors were. A little bit Quincy but without the link to El Psycho Supremo, a little bit Shinigami, and a little bit Hollow… and all eager to cause some mischief. RayRay’s Bankai was… well… if using Dragon Ascent made her Mega Rayquaza… this was Giga Rayquaza… on steroids… with a Cero Heilig Pfeil breathweapon. The Six-Armed Asura Metagross could fire six at once. Zane, for reasons surpassing understanding, had a Zanpakuto shaped like Squall Lionheart’s Gunblade… and yes, it too fired Quincy Arrows. Kendra’s Windbow could now mow people down with scythe-like windblades. It was… to be honest, terrifying to watch the dailies from Velma.
I’d paid in kind for Nimiya’s Guide to Shinigami Creation. I’d traded plans for defenses designed specifically to keep Quincies out of key places, chambers that were my best guess at how to make Dune-Type No-Rooms, rooms that defied precognition. They weren’t perfect, but they’d haze things up a bit. I also lent Nimiya my RWBY Aura Booster to study and try out. And just to be a sport about it, I cleaned up his mental landscape for him, sorted his emotional baggage, cleared the Psychic Cobwebs, the usual. I owed it to him.
Eventually the Invasion happened, as it always does, and Joy called me with the two word message “Go Time.” Ultimately I hadn’t changed much, over all. The invasion went off much as it had in the manga, but this time as a much less of a one-sided curbstomp. The Wandenreich took hellish losses just to delay the prepared and eager Shinigami. Allied losses were a third what they had been, and Yhwach was pressed more and more to accomplish his goal before interference stopped him.
But still, things played out in a similar fashion. Genryusai died. No great loss. Others died as well, which was sad, but it happens. Couldn’t stop doggy boy from getting crippled or the clone maiden from being eaten by the hand clones… trust me, it would take faaar too long to explain and wouldn’t really be worth the effort. And still I didn’t make my move. I waited, and waited, until Ichibei faced off against the man of the hour, waiting until the forgone (known by all involved) conclusion to their fight. And then I confronted Yhwach.
“You cannot stop me!” he shouted.
“You cannot know that,” I countered, centered and calm.
“This is Destiny! It has been foreseen!” the would be God-King raved.
I laughed, then said, “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.” in my best John Cleese.
“What?!” Yhwach demanded, totally thrown off his game.
“Exactly!” I hammed.
He snarled, then demanded, “Get out of my way!”
“Or What?” I asked.
“Or else I shall swat you,” he said, sneering contemptuously.
“Heh,” I snorted derisively. “You and what army?”
“Once I know a power, I am immune to it,” he bragged.
“I love that about you guys,” I replied, unphased. “Every fucking idiot in this world has to explain, in the heat of battle, just how their power works. Seems to be a god damned law of reality. I dunno about you, but whatever my power was, I’d lie.”
“Lie?” he asked, confusion growing, but not comprehension.
“Yeah!” I confirmed. “Lie. Like I did when I killed Jugram.”
“You lied?” He looked utterly perplex now.
“Oh. Yes,” I assured him. “Very much so. With every word.”
He shook his head as if unable to believe he was having this conversation. “How so?”
With a shrug, I explained, “I said Bankai.”
“So?” he asked. “That’s what you used to kill my Jugram.”
I smirked. “Except, buddy boy… that wasn’t my Bankai. That was my Shikai. You’ve never seen my Bankai. No one ever has.”
“So what?” He threw his hands wide, triumph ringing in his words as he proclaimed. “You can’t beat me! I am Yhwach!”
“Yeah yeah yeah, you’re a pretty princess,” I agreed. “Daddy was mean to you and didn’t give you enough presents and so you’re going to kill billions of people just so you can feel special. Fuck a duck, you need help.” My tone was anything but respectful.
“Silence!” he howled, and the wind around us twisted into dark shadows that looked a little like eyes. “I will not be-”
“Oh yes you will be.” I was mocking him now.
“I shall destroy you!” he shouted, raising his arm heavenward. “You have made a mistake facing me alone!”
“Alone? Who said I was alone?” I drew my sword. “Watch carefully. You’ve never seen anything like this before. Bankai… All of Me.”
And the world… exploded. This wasn’t an Ice Age. This wasn’t anything that nice. This was an Ice Epoch. Two hundred me’s, all throwing off Icy waves of Winter Tide exploded onto the scene, each wielding a different Soul of Ice. This wasn’t just my True Bankai… this was my Semblance… and the true form of my Limit Break… all rolled into one. This was the nature of my soul… Winter, in all its facets, a storm of Ice and Snow and winds that made absolute zero seem like a summer’s day. This wasn’t just cold… wasn’t just Winter. This was the Winter of the Soul. I could maintain it for thirteen seconds and seven-thousand-seven-hundred-and-seventy-six blows from each of the two-hundred-and-sixteen mes in that unhallowed swarm.
It was long enough. It was enough damage. Cast a big enough shadow and you can hide anything. Yhwach could see everything, every action… but he wasn’t god. He could not see inside people’s souls, could not know why they did what they did. But I could. I could be inside all those minds, planting suggestions, ideas, memories of conversations we’d had that had then been erased from history… except in memory. I could edit the timeline, jumbling things, making a mess of precognition.
In effect, I’d hacked Yhwach’s future out from under him. As the ice tightened around him, sealing him in crystal just like the Soul King, I whispered into his mind “And on the seventh day, she ate his eyes.” and the demonic cryogenic ice-fish I’d created to live and move within my eternal Ice began gnawing at the would-be-usurper’s eyes. They would never, ever, stop.
“You wanted to be god. Those who plot to overthrow god get frozen in ice and sealed in a pit.” I waved my hand and we were inside his Palace, before his throne. “I’ve moved Silbern. Ichibei has created a separate realm for you to rule. You should feel honored. We call it the Oubliette. There are no souls here, no reishi, and no power can enter without the key. There’s one copy.” I held it up. “It can’t be used from the inside… so once I leave, no one will ever enter it again. But, don’t worry, you have plenty of space here… after all, it’s bigger on the inside. We left you a window. Enjoy the view.” And I dropped the key in front of his icy prison and left him there, staring out of the Soul King’s left eye… forever.
As for what happened next? Filler Arcs. Lots and lots of Filler Arcs.
Next: World 37 – More of the Same
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(note, this uses the older Bleach Document, not New Bleach or Bleach Reborn, neither of which were out at the time.)