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The Emperor Sword

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The Emperor Sword

Post by Azalea on Wed Jan 24, 2018 8:55 am

It'd been nearly three months since Azalea took over the Eleventh Division as the new Kenpachi after a harrowing, fierce battle that left both participants exhausted. In that time, the black and gold skin woman had become a familiar sight in her nightly wanderings of the Seireitei, focusing primarily on getting to know the layout of the barracks.

She was, in some ways, very strict with her Division, enforcing harsh codes of conduct designed to curtail the unruly, oafish behavior the Eleventh was known for. No, Azalea's goal for this gathering of fighters was to completely reverse their public image, drawing away from the outlook that all Eleventh Division members were muscle-bound, blood-thirsty killers with an insatiable lust for battle with nary six functioning brain cells between the whole lot. It wasn't enough to be fierce fighters, so said to the Division after defeating their previous leader. She wanted them to be muscle-bound, bloodthirsty killers who utilized strategy and tactics other than "hit it until it dies." A smart army was an army that survived.

She was not pupular among the Eleventh due to this. Her many "suggestions" -never orders-, included a total ban on public intoxication, excessive vulgar behavior, unnecessary destruction of property, and on 'spontaneous, surprise practice fights' outside of the Eleventh's barracks. Anyone caught doing any of these, and they were always caught, were met by Kenpachi Azalea at three in the morning by her flipping their bunks over, rousing them from sleep and dragging them to the training field to "assist" her morning warm-ups.

However, once every week and a half, Azalea would simply be 'missing' for twenty three hours, during which time her entire Division seemed to snap back to their previous behavior and need to be retaught her expectations when she returned.

Now, however, Azalea was wandering the Second Division's territory with a determined look in her eye, her massive broken sword on her back. She wore the previous Kenpachi's Haori over her unique outfit that looked similar to a standard Shinigami uniform but more form fitting around the body while flaring at the ankles and wrists with a high, stiff collar. The Haori, like her sword, was heavily damaged from the fight with the previous Kenpachi, but the sword at least seemed to be healing a little every day.

Right now, mid-morning, she was striding purposefully towards the Second Division's barracks, her eye focused on something deep within the structure. The highly perceptive might notice that it felt vaguely like she was not entirely there, or that her spirit was incomplete, a feeling that had been steadily worsening since she rose to power.

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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Shiroki on Wed Jan 24, 2018 9:56 pm

Being a Shinigami made certain human sayings more appropriate somehow. In this case, 'it felt like somebody walking over my grave' seemed particularly apt. This particular sensation made yellow fur stand on end and momentarily distracted one from his current quest of reaching the top shelf to...*ahem* liberate a jar of Kibble Krisps:

Because kibble was so very essential to apprehending escaped Convicts, obviously. That Maggot Nest escape not long ago still giving them headaches? Wouldn't have happened with adequate kibble on hand. No, definitely not.

"Damn," the jar evaded all attempts to steady it, toppling over towards the floor

--until it was halted by a gloved hand; the twin of which supported Shiroki on its well-padded shoulder. "Thanks, Alfred."

Apparently, the soul gigai he had commissioned from Captain Oshi(Or was it really a Reigai; since it used a spirit instead of mortal body?) answered to 'Alfred'. Probably not a coincidence, now that he knew what Batman was. Oshi did have a developed sense of humor. "Did you feel that too?"

Alfred said nothing. Then again, Alfred rarely said anything. Maybe the fact that the gigai frame lacked a mouth had something to do with it. Oshi had decided that since it was a training gigai, speech was unnecessary: something they both had agreed on. "Let's go check it out,"

As usual, Alfred had already preempted him; the reigai construct gliding eerily out towards their courtyard, its spooky specter illusion somewhat ruined by the addition of a jackal child clinging comically to one billowy shoulder. Both had become a common enough sight in the division, with people usually more than willing to get out of the way. The fact that Shiro sometimes encouraged this behavior by urging 'Alfred' in the direction of hapless squad members didn't really help, but it was fun seeing them scurry away from a grim reaper of death. His teachers would have been appalled. Katsuma-sensei would probably call such behavior an abuse of power, and Ma'kine would be rolling in his grave to see it. That didn't make it any less fun.

Personally? He blamed Alfred. Alfred was definitely a bad influence on impressionable innocent pups. Obviously.

At first, Shiro had only intended to ride around on reigai Alfred once or twice, as a sort of bluff that they were two people instead of one. The original idea was to leave the deactivated construct in the barracks most of the time, using it only for when they needed to make public appearances. That was before he discovered how useful Alfred was however--and not only as a mod soul stepladder to help him reach the top shelf. It had been built with two 'modes', able to be controlled either by the mod soul 'Alfred', or by Shiroki himself wearing the frame. As 'Alfred', it had knowledge of basic martial techniques (no spirit energy of course); but when worn as a 'suit' allowed the Captain the use of all his abilities. As an added feature, it also came with a dampener to suppress the distinct spirit pressure traces of its user--resulting in the creepy 'empty' vibe that Shinigami would sometimes have on encountering it. Instead of oozing immense spirit pressure, Sakanade/Alfred presented the opposite: manifesting as a silent void that threatened to consume weaker traces of spirit energy nearby.

It didn't interfere with a user's ability to detect reiatsu of course; and so he eventually recognized what was likely the Kenpachi headed their way. Actually heading their way, and not passing by to some other destination, apparently.

That in itself was interesting. Historically Squads 2 and 11 had very little dealings with each other, a relationship that suited both. Each was so different from the other after all--though if rumors were to be believed the new Kenpachi seemed intent on changing status quo. And with some success, surprisingly. People were actually able to walk past 11th Division now without being caught in a fight or jumped by thugs. It was a definite improvement.

That alone meant he probably should go see what she wanted. Tapping a shoulder, he urged Alfred forward to meet her, keeping a respectful distance from the other Captain. Because personal space was still a thing apparently, and people got creeped out by non-speaking ghosts hovering too close.

"My Captain's greetings to you, Captain Kenpachi," as always, Shiro 'spoke' on Alfred's behalf as the reigai tilted its head to one side acknowledging Azalea. "Is there something you need of us?"

Best to get straight to the point.
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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Azalea on Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:16 pm

Azalea's eye flickered to the Captain and lower seated Werewolf, noting their approach as she continued towards the barracks. When they stopped to greet her, she nodded her head politely, giving a soft, "Hello, Captain Sakanade, Shiroki Sakanade of no relation. And no," she said without breaking stride, moving right past the duo without any hesitation. As she did, the sense of something missing from her soul was almost overwhelming. Something was most definitely wrong with her.

Also heavily apparent was her fixation on the Barracks itself. Other than the brief glance to the Captain, her eye never left one location, as if looking through the walls. If one followed her line of sight, it was almost as if she was staring into the Captain's office, or rather, something hidden in the office.

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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Shiroki on Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:38 am

Together they watched the woman continue on her way, seemingly drawn by some mysterious force to their front gate. If that wasn't like ten kinds of suspicious, he'd be a Quincy. The way Alfred swiveled his hooded head to regard Shiro suggested that he/it was likely thinking the same thing. Good for him.

Nobody in their right mind just strolled up to the Second Squad. Not unless they were delegates from First or couriers who did not have much of a choice. Even then, they would have come in a group, not on their own. Much like the Twelfth and Kido Corps, Second was in a category by itself: affiliated with but not entirely subordinate to the Court Guards. They held their own jurisdiction over most matters and even had to be deferred to in matters of security. Their very location --situated on an out of the way hilltop overlooking Seireitei proper--all but emphasized this, and in normal circumstances discouraged any visitors planning on making a social call.

Therefore, one had to conclude that this wasn't a social call. It was clear enough that the Kenpachi hadn't come over to chat, given the way she hadn't spared either of them a second glance. That alone ruled out most of the mundane explanations for her presence--why else would another Captain come all this way, if not to speak to the First Seat in person? Not to see anyone of lower rank, surely...since anything his subordinates could handle could surely be brought to his attention as well.

--unless there were traitors in the ranks he wasn't yet aware of, somehow able to pass info to their contacts outside? That made more sense, but it wasn't exactly something unexpected. Even if there were informants, what would they be able to compromise? His working habits? The inner sanctum? His kibble stash? As far as he knew they kept nothing of value in the office or barracks itself.

Never put all your eggs in one basket. Life in the Rukon taught a person that much: never take your current residence for granted, a physical shelter could be easily usurped or taken away. Experience had taught him early on that it was a bad idea to accumulate personal treasures all in one place. Travel light. Keep what you need. Move on.

For what it was worth, the exterior impression of the 2nd Division barracks was little more than a shell facade concealing the fact that it held little of actual substance. Nor was this the point of its existence. Squad 2 wasn't the Gotei's treasury or anything quite as fancy, it wasn't built to protect priceless artifacts. No, it protected something far more precious: the souls of Sereitei itself. Every single feature of the structure from location to layout had been designed with the express purpose of obstructing potential intruder advance and buying time for those within to evacuate to safety outside if the city ever was to fall. And while it was true that the Kenpachi had skirted some of the dormant obstacles by coming this far, there still were more to be had. Much, much more.

"Back to base, Alfred. Sentan Hakuja," Using the white roll of cloth conveniently provided by his reigai, Shiro ported them back to the office and dug out his more conventional dog gigai. A moment was all it took to transfer 'Alfred' from construct to dog; a somewhat longer moment to nestle himself in now-empty contraption's framework. "Archives. Now. Lockdown override, absorb and destroy records. Priority: Kibo Protocols,"

Perhaps stating that they had 'nothing' of value was an exaggeration. There was indeed one thing the 2nd Squad Captain cared enough to safeguard: the accumulated info records currently stored in what was previously Taiyo's trophy room. Each one was the result of many patient years' observation, especially what he now called the 'Kibo Protocols': an extensive collection focusing on potential inside threats of Sereitei and how each one could be neutralized. After the whole fiasco with the Maggot's Nest breakout, Captain Kibo's file topped that list. Here was where Alfred came in: with his mod ability to learn and retain info--a necessary feature Oshi had programmed so he could fulfill his role as a training dummy adapting to opponents' fight styles--Alfred could easily commit the more important archives to memory before destroying all evidence. That way, even if the library was found, no one need know the secrets that soon-to-be emptied room once contained. He wasn't planning on letting his captain colleagues learn about his personal project to counter each of them anytime soon.

Alfred barked once in acknowledgement and was off like a shot, leaving the Captain to plant himself behind his desk and await their guest's arrival.

Kido:
Sentan Hakuja: performed using a cloth component; transports targets from one area to another. Used by Tousen to teleport himself, Renji and Rukia to Sougyoku Hill
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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Azalea on Thu Jan 25, 2018 7:09 am

Azalea was not a someone most people would describe as intimidating unless they knew her. Standing at only five feet tall, with hair that dragged on the ground behind her, she had a small figure, without the usual muscle mass most people associated with a fighter. Instead, she looked like a mid-thirties year old mother; albeit a mother with pitch colored skin, golden veins that flowed on the surface, and who occasionally collapsed structures just by walking over them. Alright, perhaps she was a small amount intimidating.

Still, she found it strange that the handful of Shinigami she did see averted her completely. But that was good, for it allowed her nearly immediate access to the barracks itself, in which it was only a moment before she found the Captain's Office.

She entered without knocking, inclining her head to the now-seated Captain Sakanade. Her eye gazed around the room, before settling on the wall. It was apparent whatever the Kenpachi wanted was there. Strange, however, for she had no idea that Taiyo's Trophy Room was located beyond it, officially known as the captain's vault where important paper and items were meant to be stored. Every Captain had a vault, but the Eleventh's location was lost to time, as many Kenpachi passed without divulging its location.

"There it is," Azalea said to herself as her gaze remained focused on the wall. "I need to get behind that."

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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Shiroki on Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:30 am

If it were any other location, the sight would have been almost comical:

An exotic-looking female, looking both strangely out of place and disturbingly reassured in the main lobby of 2nd's front office--a front office that was almost universally avoided by unanimous consent. Nor did their unexpected guest appear to have any business with them or other purpose in mind. Or none that could be transacted at the counters through official channels at least.

More than one eye would be on her now as staff and civilians alike took in this unusual spectacle. The office; usually a confusion of conversations as harried desk jockeys attempted to sort out item claims and lockup-visitation hours with irate relatives, went notably silent. Even the usual shouted complaints from the drunk tank were absent. More than one shinigami looked up uneasily towards the captain's desk for cues on how to respond to the apparent invasion.

To be perfectly frank, Shiro wasn't quite sure of that himself. While walking casually into a division office without prior notice or even a reason to be there wasn't exactly 'polite', that in itself did not merit an executable offense. He supposed they could attempt to eject her and then issue a warrant for trespassing if she resisted, but that would open up a whole new slew of problems. Because although for the moment the lady wasn't doing anything destructive, an attempted arrest might well change that part of the situation. The last thing he wanted was to deal with a berserk Kenpachi on his paws.

So he waved down an overenthusiastic 7th Seat whose hand was getting too dangerously close to zanpakuto hilt for his liking, and nodded to the duty I.C to get everyone back to their business. Maybe the Kenpachi had some odd impulse for sightseeing, and if she did it wasn't any of his business. The office was setup in such a way that a customs counter barred the last 1/3 of its area; separating the desk agents and seated officers from everyday visitors. The counter itself incorporated sekiseki stone, with a fold-away portion to allow authorized personnel in. And though it would not stop a high powered attack, he was reasonably certain that the material it was made of would delay an aggressor long enough to formulate an appropriate response.

It had better.

The Captain did not react to the greeting. Could not; as a matter of fact--the hooded portion not being his actual 'head'. Nor did he feel like trying to disguise his voice to address her; since anything she wanted to say could've been said at their earlier meeting.

What he did do; however, was to draw Inukaze and ready its sealed form inside one voluminous sleeve, concealing it from view. Knowing; as he did, that this one casual motion would be all it took to get the attention of his newly-minted Executive Militia. It had been said in the past that the 2nd Squad Captain was capable of staging an execution battle and summon the Punishment Force by drawing their weapon. Having resorted to it before during the escapee episode, it was nice to learn that some rumors were true.

Nothing changed, at least not overtly. But already desk agents would be finishing their accounts with greater urgency, herding the civilians outside and locking down their location as other colleagues worked on activating seals and traps built into the grounds.

Merely a precaution of course. However greater the advantage of confronting somebody on home ground, tangling with a Kenpachi was still not on his list of preferred activities. Observation of her behavior suggested purpose and intent; he had not missed the way her gaze somehow bored straight past them and into the hidden chamber where Taiyo's treasures were secreted. Robbery, then. But of what?

More importantly...was it worth the effort to find out? Alfred would be at work sorting through and saving copies of those Shiroki considered important. But given the size of the collection it was a job that required some time. Perhaps if it came to that he could stall for time, then surrender and let her take whatever she wanted--visiting later to cross-compare inventory with Alfred's records to see what was missing.

Oh well, at least their day would be interesting.
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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Azalea on Fri Jan 26, 2018 2:26 pm

Azalea blinked her eye slowly, moving as far into the room as she could. Her gaze remained on the wall for a moment, memorizing the exact location before turning to the Captain.

"A thousand apologies, Captain Shiroki Sakanade, but I need to get into your wall. There's a very dangerous object within that wall that I've been trying to pin-point for the last three weeks. I am positive it's location is right there, positioned several feet behind that point," Azalea said, directing a finger to the wall a few inches from where she'd been looking.

As her arm moved, the huge sword on her back slipped an inch sideways, the thick strap sliding down her shoulder, making the weapon tilt, its broken tip making a clinking sound as it touched the floor. She was amazed how quiet the Second's barracks were, and made a point to say so out loud to Captain Sakanade, adding "I am envious for my own men and women are the most boisterous of people. Yours are such well trained, and you're even newer than myself. I applaud you for that."

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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Shiroki on Sat Jan 27, 2018 10:26 am

Situations such as this made Shiroki glad he had gone to all the trouble to setup a mute identity in the first place: being 'speech-impaired' was a great excuse to cover up periods of speechless surprise. The expressionless hood also helped a good deal in that regard as well. It would only buy a few moments, however.

He made the construct dip its 'head' in polite acknowledgement while considering the options. Keiichi would've made some witty remark about 'getting into walls'. Taiyo would've gone DEFCON2 all over a potential thief trying to loot her hard-looted trophies. Ma'kine would have made some excessively polite yet vaugely threatening remark to discourage any...un-guest-like behavior. It seemed he knew what most other captains might do for this given situation. But the question here was: what would Shiro do? All those other methods; they might have worked for those other Captains, but wouldn't necessarily work for him. Ma'kine's still seemed the best of the lot: diplomatic yet firm, not backing down but not making new enemies in the process. He supposed he could do much worse than just try to do what the old Vastine would do in any scenario.

What he did do, however, was cause the counter's partition to swing to one side; clearing a path for the Kenpachi to join them in the inner office. Fortunately the counter staff didn't need to be told to step aside, taking up position behind in event of any trouble. One even had the presence of mind to shut the office doors and hang out the 'temporarily closed' signage to deter any other visitors.

They all knew their roles by now, and so Shiro didn't have to give any actual orders when he left the desk to glide over to the wall in question. Untying the katana at his side, he handed it over to the 7th Seat still in its scabbard and made a small motion in the air. Mechanisms grated with a grinding of stone on stone as a section of ground slid open, revealing stairs leading down into the darkness beyond. Conjuring Red-Flame-Cannon, he sized it down to a manageable globe that could light the way and gave a slight bow in the Kenpachi's direction. The invitation was clear.

"The vault is actually underground," volunteered one of the agents flanking the entrance in reply to an unasked question. "What the Kenpachi feels is likely the energy traces being channelled upwards from source location, since it has nowhere else to go. What with being blocked by all the sekiseki down..." the speaker swallowed awkwardly to see Shiroki's artificial head swivel casually in their direction. "Ahem. Shutting up now,"

All staged, of course. He wasn't upset at the exposition; it saved him the trouble of having to explain himself. If the Kenpachi was keen to do some spelunking, it would be in his best interests to tag along. And while few indications of such had been given, he wouldn't be entirely helpless: The sheathed katana he'd made sure to set aside wasn't Inukaze of course; her hilt still in his grip. If the kenpachi willingly disarmed herself to accompany him below, she would be at a disadvantage against somebody with a weapon at hand. Not to mention there was one little detail that no one had considered important enough to mention:

The Archives weren't just a vault. It was also an airless, lightless space. Once sealed from the outside there could be no way in, or out. Thieves who succeeded in breaking in would find themselves suffocating, their blue corpses left behind for the onmitsukido to find when they patrolled the depths. No, it wasn't just a vault. It was also a tomb: a tomb that their guest would enter alongside somebody whose shikai release allowed control over the air itself. If she tried anything aggressive, it would not be beyond him to draw what liittle air was available away, neutralizing the threat. Furthermore, his conjured Hado lantern would also be slowing eating away at what oxygen there was, limiting the time they could spend underground.

Step into my parlour, said the spider to the fly

Bowing to the Kenpachi, he waited to see what she would decide next.
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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Azalea on Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:34 pm

Azalea nodded in understanding. As she moved towards the vault entrance, the large weapon on her back was shifted into its proper position. She made no attempt to remove it, and her sole eye dared anyone to bring it up.

The swordswoman froze at the entrance, staring down into the lifeless vault stairs. She shivered slightly, her spiritual energy flaring and distorting in response to something she was in close proximity to.

She wouldn't say this in front of the Captain or any other Shinigami, but the object she sought was one of a hellish nature. She'd noticed the change in her spiritual energy four weeks ago, as she passed the Second's barracks on her nightly walks. The Kenpachi knew that only another Togabito could attract her spiritual energy in such a way, but she knew of none other than herself existing outside of Hell. But now that she was so close, having at last pinpointed its location and hiding place, her own spiritual energy seemed to be dead-set on betraying her, flowing towards whatever lurked under the Second Division. Whatever it was, it was dark, ancient, and powerful. And it seemed to want her to come to it.

This was just a feeling she had, though. Nothing more tangible than ideas and strange sensations. But, her spiritual energy was flaring without her consent, drawn down the stairs, and something clearly malevolent was exerting energy upwards.

"Captain Sakanade... If you forgive me for saying such, I believe it'd be best if I continued on alone. As the Kenpachi of the Gotei, it is my duty to slay all possible threats to its safety. And whatever lurks within your vault is clearly one such threat."

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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Shiroki on Mon Jan 29, 2018 8:52 am

There was some general uneasiness and a good deal of bristling in response to such a statement, but fortunately retorts were interrupted by Alfred's return. As a group they parted to let the animal through, then reluctantly followed the Captain in retreating. He gave the Kenpachi an implacable nod:

Be my guest

Then withdrew back to his desk, apparently unbothered by the spectacle of a visiting Captain lurking near the trapdoor leading to sacred division territory. If the Kenpachi wanted her privacy, she was welcome to it. Or the illusion of privacy; at least. He had agreed to let her continue on alone. But no one had said anything about that arrangement having to stay that way.

It would be just as easy to give the other a good headstart, then tag along a good distance behind where his presence would not be noted. All he had to do was wait.



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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Azalea on Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:13 am

The Kenpachi nodded gravely before descending the stairs. She truly was trying to keep the Shinigami safe, of course. And she hadn't lied; it was her job to silence things of this nature. She merely didn't bring up her certainty that whatever lurked down these stairs was most definitely a Togabito, though she had no idea how one got here.

The deeper Azalea went, the more powerful the thing's presence became. By the time she reached the base of the stairs, the other Togabito's power was smothering.

Azalea didn't have a chance to take in the sights of the Second's vault. Instead, her eye was drawn to the beast that lurked at the center. It's shoulder was level with her eye, and its body was heavily muscled. It's fur was as black as a starless night, and its tail ended in long black tufts. The beasts mane was larger than any animals, fur touching the ground, its heavy paws each the size of a snow-shovel's head. It had thick, silver claws that clinked against the floor. The onyx colored lion roared fiercely as Azalea stepped into the room, the awful feeling of a Togabito magnifying tenfold.

Azalea moved cautiously closer, her eye focused on the massive lion. But as she did, it reared back onto two legs and she was startled to find that on two legs, it more resembled a man than a lion. Its limbs hadn't changed much, but it stood proudly on two legs, its forelegs bending into human-like arms as it stretched its neck, looking down at her with its lion head, its mane now resembling waist-length black hair.

The beast towered over Azalea, easily twice her height. And as she moved backwards in surprise, the creature spoke, its voice as deep as the caves the lion originated from. As it spoke, a fierce wind started to blow, radiating from the lion-man.

"I know you, Azalea Algaliarept. I know who you are... Within and without. You are she who walked before Death, the Hunter of the One Eye, the tamer of beasts and the Leader of Men. You're Nocens, slave of the Left Hand, and She Who Pleasures. You are a killer, and a Sinner, both. You're... Beyond a doubt... alone. Even among friends and allies, you are alone. You will never truly be with them. They will die before you, age before you! You are eternal, Azalea, they cannot hope to match you, Azalea!" On this, the wind picked up even more, threatening to knock even her backwards. "You think, that you can be with them if you just try. You think you can become one of them. You thought to betray them, Azalea, but it is your heart that betrayed you! You like it here. You like these Soul Reapers! Every day, you live here, and every day you know them."

The winds' howl nearly took the creature's words from Azalea, and it's voice grew louder and fiercer, the lion-man growing angrier and angrier. "And every day you find it harder to betray them! You won't do it, you could never do it, Azalea. You're too soft! You're scared!
You know that if you kill these men and women, you'll only be reaffirming what they thought of you in the first place! But its true... This Azalea, I promise you, is the truth. There is a battle within you, and a battle without. You thought that you could have friends, but you will never have friends or equals! Those who could have became your equal, Azalea, you have betrayed!
" As the beast emphasized these words, it stomped closer to the Kenpachi, dwarfing her in size. "You have turned your back on your equals, Azalea! The moment you turned your back on the Left Hand. You sentenced yourself to be alone forever! These... soul reapers, will die before you do, age and grow old while you cannot, Azalea. Your wife, your precious Natasha, your Tasha and Polly, they will lose the will to live, Azalea. Just like everyone you have ever known, Azalea! They will give in in time. Nobody matches your desire, your burning will to live! You will always be alone. But its okay... I understand you, Azalea. I will be with you forever, have been beside you forever. It will always be me and you... Until even your eternal flame of life diminishes to nothing. I will always be inside your soul, within your mind. Hehehehe, Azalea. I... am...your... ZANPAKUTO." With that, the beast brought a huge paw down, smashing the Kenpachi to the side, driving her body into the wall.

Of course, this conversation was only heard by Azalea. The outside world could see the lion-man, but in reality it was Azalea who approached him. And rather than be attacked, she reached out to him, her hand going into his body, slowly pulling a long, plain, unadorned katana from the creature, which dissolved into black miasma that condensed around the sword.

Of note, this was originally Hanzo's Asauchi. The Shapeshifter had refused to wield it after the Ryoka incident, claiming the asauchi was too heavy and felt immeasurably wrong to him.

Now, as Kenpachi Azalea held the blade she seemed to become stronger, or rather it felt like she was whole again, having found a piece of herself she hadn't known she'd been missing. Distractedly, she threw the massive red sword on her back, embedding it in the wall, right where, in her mind, the lion had thrown her.

Thought nobody could see it, Azalea was locked in her mind now, needing to battle her Zanpakuto, while the lion-man had control of her body. Azalea's head tilted back and she made a fierce animalistic roar.

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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Shiroki on Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:00 pm

Lengthened and amplified by the vault; that same roar reverberated above its depths, shaking furniture and foundations with its intensity. Everyone had abandoned all pretense of work by this time, clustered in a nervous huddle at the open entrance into darkness.

Shiroki glided over to join them, literally floating his current form noiselessly above the floor as he traveled platforms of solidified air. Inukaze's blade brushed against the trapdoor mechanism on his way down the stairs, marking it in advance as a target. Being able to open and shut the only exit remotely would be a great advantage. Whispers erupted like wildfire among the watching crowd above the moment he disappeared into the gloom.

"Well, there goes another Captain. Could be worse, that guy always gave me the creeps,"

"Are you drunk or just stupid? Captain's a freakin' ghost. Can't kill something that's already dead."

"ALL of us are dead, genius. 'Sides, that's the Kenpachi down there. Y'think 'strongest-blade' is just for show or something?"

Conversation grew heated and devolved into a confusion of arguments and bet-taking. Shiro ignored them, choosing to focus on the more pressing matter at hand. It had not been hard following the Kenpachi's reiatsu trail to her current location; especially with the woman exuding enough power to come across as a miniaturized sun to his senses.

He took in their surroundings at a glance, from the sekiseki pedestals holding Taiyo's collection of artifacts to the apparent giant sword sticking straight through a wall. Apparently the Kenpachi had elected to do a little interior decorating of her own. To be frank, he couldn't exactly approve.

All minor details, however--eclipsed by the Kenpachi's position near a suspiciously empty pedestal-frame, looking as though it had once held a sword: A katana that; by some stroke of sheer coincidence no doubt, matched the new blade she was currently holding. He knew this blade as well, having had the opportunity to come up close and personal with it during a certain ryoka invasion half a year ago. Far too close, for his liking:

Officer Judai's zanpakuto. Why did she have it, and how was it even here?

For that matter, was it even the same zanpakuto any more? The shape of its sealed form was recognizable, but the malevolent aura it emitted definitely suggested otherwise. If any trace of its former identity yet remained, it escaped his notice. Which led to the conclusion that it simply no longer existed. Poor Hanzo might be needing a replacement soul-slayer, now that his former one had found a new home.

On the heels of that thought: Did that mean the Kenpachi had no zanpakuto before this point? What had her previous sword been, if not that? Was she perhaps an Arrancar; and not a Shinigami at all? That'd explain her mysterious disappearances, if she needed to return to Hueco Mundo to feast on souls every now and then. But didn't Arrancar have swords too? And he'd never actually heard of an Arrancar trading in its original sword for an asauchi before... Was that even possible?

The whole thing sounded like a bad joke: An Arrancar as Captain of the 11th. Not that it wasn't fitting in an ironic sort of way--with how some of those fight-happy muscleheads even acted a bit like Hollows.

What was to be done here then? For the moment, Shiroki's presence had gone largely unnoticed--a fact which he attributed to the Kenpachi currently communing with her Inner World. Or at least that was what it looked like. Could Arrancars even do that? He didn't know. Either way, if that was indeed the case he could have stampeded a Menos right in front of her without attracting her notice. No, it wasn't the Kenpachi who would be the problem here if what he thought was happening was happening. The real problem would be--

The woman whom the Gotei had officially elected as Kenpachi unleashed another guttural roar.

...That.

Shiroki Fetched; remotely activating the trapdoor mechanism to seal them both in. He didn't want to be responsible for a berserk Kenpachi escaping to wreck havoc on an unsuspecting city. The vault walls would be durable enough to contain them both, until he decided otherwise. Of course, this led to the second problem of him being locked in with aforementioned berserk Kenpachi with the possibility of being torn limb from limb...assuming that they didn't suffocate first.

Hopefully she would exert dominance over her zanpakuto before it killed them all.
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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Azalea on Mon Jan 29, 2018 11:32 pm

With Azalea's mind, the lion-man was causing havok of the room, tossing her around like a ragdoll. She was fast, but he was stronger. She hit him hard, but he hit back with more power than she could ever muster. A feeling Azalea hadn't felt in thousands of years turned her blood cold; fear. She couldn't possibly fight this thing! Why was she even fighting this beast? Weren't Shinigami friends with their Zanpakuto!?

All while he was thrashing her, he continued to shout abuse at her, tearing apart her ideals and beliefs, shaking her to her core, making Azalea question her life choices. If she couldn't stand to this spirit claiming to be her Zanpakuto, how could she ever fight Tanua?

Azalea cried out as the lion-spirit broke her right arm, crushing her elbow in one of its massive paws. Scrabbling to free herself, she allowed one of her tails to manifest, her energy spiking further out of fear and as she released one of her limiters. "Who are you? What do you want from me?"Azalea cried out as the lion hunted her.

"You tell me, Azalea. You tell me who I am!" Grabbing the Empress by her tail, the lion-man threw her across the room.

Outside of her mind, the Zanpakuto-possessed woman roared again, lashing out with the drawn katana. At first, she seemed to be striking at Shiroki, but then it became apparent he was simply in the way, as she began to lash out and strike at things without any seeming pattern. The truth being that she cut whatever Azalea ended up being thrown into in her mind. Sometimes a wall, other times a pedestal. But then she turned and roared more fiercely, her spiritual energy spiking so largely that it became visible, a burning white aura that crackled and flashed around her body like electricity. Her sole eye focused on the Captain as she gave a lion-like roar, lifting the katana over her head and charged forward, intent on bringing it down in an overhead swing with her full strength behind it.

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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Shiroki on Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:55 am

-Slash-

An elegant tapestry depicting scenes from Journey to the West drifted to the floor in halves; bisected cleanly in two.

-Chop-

A trophy pedestal toppled over to join it soon after.

-Crash-

Followed by a shelf of banana-themed knicknacks as he sidestepped a swing that would've taken off his head.

Better hope Taiyo doesn't come back. Because if she sees this, she's gonna kill me.

Zanpakuto dominance had never been one of his strengths. He barely managed it over his own, nevermind somebody else's. Traditionally he left it to others like Taiyo to handle that sort of thing, stepping in now and again to refresh Bakudo bindings on the newest guy-of-the-week who got it into their head to acquire shikai by force. It had never been difficult and the recruits never seemed to wreck much havoc.

Being confronted with this particular situation was making him re-evaluate those opinions. Low-level Bakudo was not going to be enough this time.

Cripple it. Powerful or not, a body still had to obey natural laws. Breaking the dominant arm would take care of errant sword strikes. Breaking either leg would slow its movements or render it helpless.

One thing at a time. Let's see if it can be contained first.

Being underground limited the types of Kido he had at his disposal. For now he tried #61 and #63, firing them in quick succession one after the other: A sextet of light petals slammed into the Kenpachi's midsection, which then found itself encircled and bound by ethereal chains.

And because he wasn't so optimistic to assume those alone would do the trick, Shiroki cast Hado #4--aiming White Lightning at the conjured chains. While he'd have much preferred a good Raikohou, something told him casting large explodey spells in such a confined space wasn't such a good idea. Hopefully the combination of two bindings plus a low level Hado would work just as well.

Because if the Kenpachi or whatever was controlling her hadn't noticed him then; she/it would definitely notice him now.
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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Azalea on Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:20 am

Azalea cried in agony as her body was tossed and broken. "How should I know who you are!?" she simpered, feeling as if every body and limb was shattered.

The lion reached out and tore another of her tails off, and it took all her will not to fall unconscious. "You're as much a part of me as I am of you, Azalea Algaliarept. I've been in your mind since before you stepped foot in Soul Society. Just as I know you, you know me!" The Zanpakuto spirit snarled and threw the woman again, but strangely she thought it seemed weaker. And his voice wasn't as loud as before.

Outside her mind, Azalea's body was caught by the kido, the bindings slowing her body down to a crawl. Though it wasn't a total success, it not seemed as if she was moving in slow motion, no longer as much a threat as she incredibly slowly moved to complete her sword strike. Her aura of spirit energy pulsed around her body, pushing at the Bakudo, the only thing keeping it from being a complete success.

Back in her mind, Azalea whimpered and crawled away from the lion-man. But it dropped to four limbs and stalked after her, its huge paws crushing everything it stepped on.

As she crawled, tears streamed down her cheek, the pain overwhelming her composure. She couldn't recall the last time she'd hurt so bad. Not even Tanua had hurt her like this. No, the last time she'd been this hurt was...

The cave! When she'd been alive, and fell into that ravine. A lion had gouged out her eye that night, before she'd killed it. It had been among the last of its kind, you might even say it had been the...

"Saishū-tekina puraido," 'The Final Pride.'

Azalea's white energy exploded, engulfing her in white light, which as it dissipated revealed that she no longer carried a katana, but was on her knees, body criss-crossed with injuries, limbs bent awkwardly. Her Haori was somewhere else, and her robes were rent, huge claw marks tearing chunks of cloth away to reveal bare skin underneath. Her forearms were covered by black metal gauntlets, each finger looking like a silver-colored claw. The back of each gauntlet bore a small golden lion.

Azalea coughed once, more blood than air coming out of her lungs before she fell forward, head slamming into the ground, sitting there with her limbs broken, ribs crushed, and the release of her Shikai coating her forearms. Though her body was unresponsive, she was conscious, shaking still in fear of whatever had gone on in her mind.

Combat:

Shiro's Expert Bakudo against Azalea's Master Spiritual Combat- Azalea wins.
Partial movement permitted but heavily encumbered.

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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Shiroki on Tue Jan 30, 2018 7:15 pm

When he was absolutely certain that the Kenpachi would not be getting up for round two anytime soon, Shiroki triggered Recall again to open the exit and returned Inukaze to its sealed state.

If the new additions to her attire were any indication, it would indeed seem that the Kenpachi had succeeded in melding with what would definitely be her zanpakuto for now. Approaching on foot instead of hovering for the time being, he maneuvered to scoop up the fallen shape in both arms.

--his real arms; which involved a good bit of sleeve-rolling and precautionary Shunko in the process. Strength had never been Shiro's area, so the extra boost he could get by surrounding his body with Shunko reiatsu was very useful. Without that added support he might not have been able to lift her otherwise.

It could compromise his disguise a bit, of course. But such things were best worried about later. It was also unlikely the Kenpachi would be clear-headed enough to remember the specific details of how she ended up in Squad 4's infirmary.

He took care not to touch those yellow gloves directly. Who knew what they might do? It was lucky things got resolved when they did; just before she tore his Bakudo to shreds. Perhaps the airless environment had also contributed somewhat to their current outcome. In any other location, this would be a formidable opponent to face.

Navigating the stairs one step at a time (flash-step was out of the question when carrying an injured party), he arranged for her to have a couch in the waiting area before excusing himself to contact Squad 4 about the situation.
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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Azalea on Tue Jan 30, 2018 8:41 pm

Azalea's body couldn't react to stimuli. Her sole eye stared forward the entire time, her body shaking in fear. It was an alien feeling, this emotion, and feeling it again flooded her mind with thoughtlessness.

She was vaguely aware of being carried, and some distant part of her mind wondered who could possibly lift her incredible mass. But, the rest of her mind was stuck going over what she'd witnessed, and remembered.

Walking over the tundra... The ground giving way... Falling through the air... Hot breath on her face. A roar that deafened her, a pain that blinded her. A savage struggle against all odds.

More recently. Being toyed with. Abused. Broken and battered, tossed aside as if she was nothing. She couldn't understand its strength. It was boundless. It was as if it had the might of an army at its disposal. Two armies, even.

Her mind snapped back to her surroundings. She was on a couch. Her arms were covered in metal gloves. She could move her fingers, but it hurt. Pain was good. Pain meant she was alive. A couch meant she was alive in Soul Society. And if her mind was recalling events correctly, she had obtained a power known as 'Shikai,' the initial release of a Zanpakuto. Which meant her next step was Bankai... Obtained by beating the Zanpakuto spirit into submission. She shuddered, and turned her head to the side to vomit more gold-colored blood.

A voice called from the back of her mind. "Youre weak,
Azalea. You will never obtain the legendary power of Bankai. The weak deserve to perish.
"

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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Shiroki on Wed Jan 31, 2018 5:11 am

Newly returned to his actual form, Shiro narrowly avoided the bloody discharge and made a mental note not to lean so close in future. "Yeah, Doc says you aren't s'posed to move or...that happens. Cap'n? Little help here?"

That was the cue for gigai-Alfred to point vaguely in their direction--whereupon Shiro quietly cast Bakudo #9 without incantation; making it seem as though Alfred had done it to hold Kenpachi Azalea in place.

"Sorry Cap'n Kenpachi: Doctor's orders. Cap'n Creepy went to find you when y'didn't come back, an' brought you here. We were gonna go get 4th, but then Cap'n said somethin' about fewer people knowing would be better, so we got our in-house medic instead. Right doc?"

The black garbed onmitsukido accompanying him shot her companion a long suffering look, rolled both eyes, then returned to focus healing Kaido on her patient's injuries. Looking closely, one might notice that unlike the other members of the stealth force, the medic's mask and headgear was white. That; as well as the fact that she went about her business with no comment.

"An' don't worry about secrets. Our doctor's mute. Not as good as 4th's, but if there's weird stuff y'don't want gettin' around? She's your guy. Um, girl. Lady. Whichever," And to reply an unspoken question, added. "Also, don't look at me like that. Doc's always been this way. We'd nothin' to do with it, honest."

For someone unable to verbally communicate, the glare the doctor sent her colleague's way spoke volumes. She flashed a few hand gestures, and Shiro remembered suddenly he had urgent business elsewhere to...um.. tend to.

"Doc says she's done all she can for now, you'll be able to sit up after some rest. She also suggests you check in with 4th anyway once you can walk there, but again--that's up to you."
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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Azalea on Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:23 am

Azalea's eye turned between Shiroki and the medic. She could feel the kaido fixing broken bones and restoring bloodloss. She made a mental note to learn this powerful magic.

Azalea made to move her lips, but tasted blood again and paused. Relaxing her muscles, she tried again, swallowing dryly first. "I... apologize, for my rude behavior earlier, and the mess made. Though I did not find a Tog- a dangerous person below your Barracks, I suppose I did find something more important. If the Second ever needs a favor... Do not hesitate to call on the Eleventh. We'll be there, Captain Shiroki Sakanade."

Azalea's eye focused on the small Werewolf as she spoke, her memory filling in details of the recent events below. Of fuzzy arms carrying her.

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Re: The Emperor Sword

Post by Shiroki on Thu Feb 01, 2018 8:55 pm

Blue eyes glowed in the total darkness of their underground surroundings: Pondering. Remembering.

He went there to think sometimes. Close off the entrance, lock himself inside, and consider issues from time to time. There was something about cramped spaces and limited air that generated a sense of false urgency which did wonders for the thinking process.

First things first: Review the facts.

Fact 1: Shiro's vault was currently in ruins, courtesy of the mad rampage some hours before. Conclusion: Something had to be done about their current security, obviously. He didn't fancy any repeat incidents. Either find a way to restrict entry more securely or else strengthen the fortifications themselves so it would be harder to wreck the place. Careful consideration suggested that the 2nd option was better. Focusing only on the front door would be useless if everything fell apart the moment somebody found their way inside. And as that day's events had proved, there would always be a way in for those determined enough. Better to seek advice from 12th on how to disaster-proof the place; switch to stronger stone, and invest in some convincing decoys while keeping the REAL treasures out of sight. Alfred could help with making fake 'artifacts' to display on the shelves and pedestals, they could hollow out mini-lockers lined with sekiseki stone to squirrel the actual things away. It was a good plan for starters

Fact 2 was closely related to Fact 1: Despite everything, Hanzo's sword had somehow ended up in the Vault without his knowledge. Given the caveat that only certain people were allowed access, the whole thing made no sense. Who had placed it there? Had it been done with or without Hanzo's consent? And...(again, related to #1), if ONE object had been smuggled in under his notice, could there yet be others? Shiro made a mental note to look into access restrictions again. Such things could lead to serious security breach. What if that same culprit decided to sneak some time-sensitive bombs into the vault? It was lucky the matter was brought to his attention so soon. They would have to conduct regular item inventories from now on: go down each week to carefully catalogue every single artifact to make sure nothing was missing or...added. Failure to do so would be severe.

Fact 3: Kenpachi Azalea was now in possession of what had once been Officer Judai's zanpakuto. While a relatively 'minor' concern next to Facts 1 and 2, Hanzo was one of their guys and he couldn't let this slide in good conscience. Hanzo would need to be compensated for his loss; especially if it hadn't been his intention in the first place. Some sort of concession had to be gotten from the Kenpachi--not so high as to insult her, but enough of a recompense to deter future... inconveniences. And whatever was decided; it had to be done quietly. Because making the fact that the Kenpachi had technically 'stolen' an unseated officer's zanpakuto public would generate a whole lot of unnecessary commotion. He would see about a replacement for Hanzo first, to lessen suspicion and return things to status quo. Then a talk with the Kenpachi to share perspective. And finally, best to impose a Squad-wide order that all personnel were to have their zanpakuto within arm's reach of them wherever they went: maybe 11th Squad had the right idea after all... Damn things were part of your SOUL, you'd think people would be more careful with them.

Fact 4: Kenpachi Azalea weighed a ton. While Shiroki wasn't exactly possessed of Giant-strength, the first attempt was enough to suggest that even a Gatekeeper might find some difficulty in hoisting her up. Various footprint-shaped depressions still marred the vault's floor after that incident, marking the places where she had STOOD. If not for Shunko providing him with an extra boost, the 2nd Division Captain would never have been able to transport her out.

So far, to his knowledge he had only encountered one other person in the same weight-class. The memories associated with that person still haunted Shiro from time to time: Civilian casualties. Property damage. At least three bystanders killed. And so...Much... PAPERWORK. He would never forget that day for as long as he lived; nor the ryoka behind it all--especially the unique quality of her weighing and hitting much like a truck. While weight alone wasn't enough to finger a suspect, it was enough to make him more than a little suspicious. Maybe questioning the Kenpachi would help. Even if she and the ryoka were not the same person, they could share a race (as much as it alarmed him to imagine a WHOLE race of heavy scary ladies) or be related, or have information of some sort. The difficulty would be in trying to obtain that information without outright accusing her of anything. He would have to choose his words carefully.

Glancing up, the outline of a giant sword stuck in the wall caught his eye. Oh, right... Fact 5: That. Shiro had tried to extricate it earlier and been foiled in the attempt each time. It didn't seem to be worth using Shunko for, though. Not when Alfred might be able to do something about it. Better sooner than later.

Rubbing the bridge of his snout with one paw, the cub trudged up the stairs to look for Alfred. To think all of this had started with them going for a walk in the grounds and bumping into Kenpachi.

On hindsight, he should've just stayed in the office with his kibble...

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