[K] Deafening Silence

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Mar 22, 2005
Sounding Field: Kidoushuu Aspect.

Kayla Arujo
Taiken Yuusuke
Rei Jiiro
Yukiko Murray
Word Count: 16.2k


As the last inklings of sunlight surrendered their daily feud with evening, the darkness that blanketed the area brought on all the attributes of night. A cool breeze warning that winter was not yet fully gone, the music of crickets and other creatures chirping and singing into the wind, and the speckled array of fireflies.

Along with the usual inhabitants, there was the thick smell of water in the air and distant rumblings. Kayla counted the seconds between the minor flashes in the clouds and the thunder claps that followed.

Twenty seconds... She measured the speed of the air from her perch on the edge of the gatehouse roof, her figured silhouetted against the sky's last shade of blue before velvet would take over.

Hmm... should give us about forty minutes before it hits... she concluded.

She looked behind her, over to the area that was usually gated off. Rei's figure had easily disappeared, for regardless of what light may come at night, the shadows within a forest were always black.

Though from their early inspection, it was clear the Handan had done their job and taken care of the guards, but Rei had felt a scurry not too far off. He insisted he check it out ahead of time to be sure there was no interruptions for the rest of the group.

Of course she protested, and of course he disregarded her with a simple wink and "I'll take the north of the road. See you later!" and he was off. She frowned.

Don't be dumb and try to play hero, Rei... which was her own way of offering luck.

She sighed, her hands in the pockets of her pants to keep warm. A few rustled steps in the grass caught her attention and she perked up, peering into the direction of the noise and hiding her reiatsu until it was confirmed that the source was who she hoped it was.

Gah...I'm a few moments late, aren't I?

He'd meant to be on time, he really had, but ten minutes after departing, Yuusuke had come to realize that he was still wearing his white Haori and he'd to grab new packs of energy and healing pills. And thus, he was late. But almost there.

The flashes of lightning in the distance...he couldn't help but feel energized by them. Something about the presence of the electrical build up was comforting; this would be the first joint mission that he, or really any member of the Gotei, had done with the Army of Masks, and thus he was slightly nervous about it all.

Not that I don't trust them just...I'm not sure what to expect. This whole thing is going to be quite interesting, though, of that I can be sure.

The now Haori-less Captain stalked into the gate area, the long grass getting up into his pants and causing quite an itch. The lack of the other three members of the Kidoushuu members surprised him; they were all usually punctual and it was only by random chance that Yuusuke'd needed to turn back.

Maybe if I reach out...

Expanding his spiritual sense, Yuusuke could sense two muted, and familiar, Reiatsu signals. The first was definitely Rei's and it was heading away from him...and the second was no more than twenty feet away from him.

"Come on out. I won't bite, Kay-chan. Sorry I'm late...had something to take care of before I left."

The distant rumble echoed down through the mountains as the breeze brought the promise of rain...and more. Yukiko secured the black scarf over her hair as she slipped
down the path toward the gatehouse. Ever so often, she would pause to listen and feel for any reiatsu signatures that were unfamiliar.

So far, nothing other than the three I sense ahead of me...and I know who they are.

The trees around her began their slow dance in the breeze as she drew closer to the gatehouse. She had been slowed by having to gather several items together, but she was making up for it with speed. Not having to wear her haori had enabled her to slip out of Seireitei with greater ease than before, and she relished the anonymity it afforded her.

Lightning lit up the sky ahead, silhouetting the gatehouse and two familiar figures. With a final burst of speed, she scurried up to the edifice and slid to a stop beside Yuusuke. "Reporting for duty, Kayla-san."

Kayla stood, staring down from her position on the roof at the two and nodded approvingly before hopping down and joining them. She whipped out the map, spreading it out on the ground and lighting a dim orb of energy in her hand so they could see.

There was no time to waste.

In a hushed voice, she spoke rapidly and assertively, tracing the fine lines on the paper.

"Here's the main path we need to follow. To cover more ground, we'll be splitting. Rei already went ahead, to the far north of the road. Yukiko, you take the far south. Yuusuke and I will cover the road on either side, about two and a half meters in. Steer clear of the path, Yuusuke. We don't want to be in open space. But keep an eye on me in case we see something."

She lifted her eyes to make sure they were still following. When no questions were raised, she continued.

"There's a small river that we'll come to as long was we keep heading due west, so keep checking your compasses if you get disoriented. Once you reach the river, Yukiko, start heading north until you reach the bridge. That's the meet-up point.

"As you know, the plan is to take out whatever you find, unless they're Handan. If you get in a fix and need help, use the phones or if you have to, even though it's a big risk, send a flare into the sky. Hopefully that won't happen. Got it, guys?"

Yuusuke nodded at Kayla; it wasn't a hard thing to understand. Walk by the path, keep hidden, and keep an eye out. And, of course, kick the *** of anything that happened to wander by that wasn't friendly. He could do that quite easily.

"I got it...though, do we know if there's a high probability of meeting up with enemy units or not?"

Nodding her head silently, Yukiko stepped away from the two shinigami and headed south of the road, her movements hidden by the bowing of the trees and the rattling of the grass and leaves on the ground. Once she was well hidden in the brush, she confirmed Kayla and Yuusuke's location before pulling out her cloak and slipping it on. In the past it had helped to muffle her presence, and with the stormy weather approaching it would serve its purpose well.

I wonder who I will meet on this journey, friend or foe?


As Yukiko quickly made her way off, Kayla focused her attention to Yuusuke, answering his question promptly.

"I doubt we won't face at least some resistance. Guards are guards but there are scouts patrolling the area as well. This is no low security manner. Let's go." She stood and folded the map, tucking it away in one of the many, many pockets her particular uniform had.

As they made way through the gatehouse to the other side, the road appeared before them, the dirt reflecting at least a little bit more light than the rest. It appeared as a slightly lighter shade of grey. She turned to him, motioning towards the right side of the road as she made way to the left, taking shelter in the trees. Once she got about two meters in, she turned to inspect the vision it allowed her and fiddled with the earpiece she had been putting in.

"Oi, Yuu-chan," she whispered into it. "Can you hear me?"

Nodding, Yuusuke took the right side of the road. The air surrounding him was damp and the leaves on the low-hanging branches shimmered with dew. His normally dry feet were slightly damp, but the squishiness of the ground more than made up for it. It was easier to travel this way.

Reaching down, Yuusuke finished setting up the device that he'd been issued slightly prior to the meeting. Designed to allow them to keep in contact with each other, this walkie talkie, plus headset, had become quite fashionable, and thus they were all the rave among scouting teams.

"Kay-chan, this is Yuu-chan. I can hear you, but just barely. If you can, speak a little louder. You see anything yet? I'm getting a feeling...a few Fukushu and maybe a Hollow, I think," he spoke calmly into the device, trying to keep his voice low but still loud enough to be heard. He hadn't had much experience with Fukushu, but he could still recognize their pattern from when Diaz had pointed it out.

"Don't speak too loud. We may be downwind, but that doesn't mean people can't hear us."

A hollow? Now that's interesting. Since when have hollows been so easily whipped? She activated heat seeker, squinting as the adjustment of vision kicked in. Within seconds, everything was heat censored. She kinda hated that feeling but decided for now, it was for the best.

She over to the side testing on Yuusuke first before looking straight ahead, moving steadily along until she spotted what he must've been talking about.

Three figures appeared in the distance, two of them with the reds and oranges of an organic being while the third and larger one appeared in blues and purples. She paused, jumping up and grabbing a branch to swing herself into a tree and get a better view.

Just walking, slightly off the path on Yuu's side.

"Got it, Yuu? What should we do. All out offence or double sneak attack? Or one distract, other ambush? I'm thinking third would be best..."

"Right then. I agree. The third would be best. Get ready for my signal. I'll head in and try to distract them, maybe see if I can't take that Hollow down while I'm at it. You wait and then support me using Kidou. Yuu-chan, over and out."

Taking his time, Yuusuke moved gently through the brush, careful not to step on a twig or make any noise. He didn't want to alert the group until he was ready. Within a few moments, he had the group within his sight, standing only twenty feet or so from him. The Hollow stood closest to him, flanked on either side by the two masked man. None of them were putting out anything too impressive, but he wasn't going to risk it.

Shyunpo'ing forward, Yuusuke landed in the center of their little group, his Zanpaku already drawn. With a quick whip of his wrist, he brought down the blade through the Hollow's head, an ear-piercing screech permeating his skull before it disappeared in burst of spiritrons.

One down...the other two are moving...

Both had already drawn their own Zanpaku, and Yuusuke just grinned as they charged at him. Even his paltry skills were more than enough for these two. Their attacks were slower than his own, he noted, as Hiraishin danced into position, blocking their dual strikes.

His left palm smacked into the first one, sending it tumbling back a few feet, the hybrid losing his grip on its sword. As for the other one...

"Hadou #24, Raigen!"

The searing beam moved slowly across the Vizards torso, the smell of burnt flesh rising up as he too stumbled back in shock and pain.

"Now, Kay-chan."

She had followed his lead, though kept her flight in the trees, from branch to branch lightly tapping to make not much more than a slight shake of a noise. It worked fine, and when she reached a good spot right across from them, she climbed up to the highest limb that would hold her weight.

She watched Yuusuke creep from the side, attack, and destroy the hollow. Good, quick work.

At his command, she leapt from the tree, letting out a low shout to catch their attention. It did, giving her a perfect shot at their heads.

"MÁƒ¡scara Roto!"

There was a small burst of energy on contact as her fist connected with the forehead of one mask, sending a crack down the side and causing a chunk to fall off. A blue eye opened up after wincing, as he was on her back on the ground. A thick smile crept on his face, and without hesitation, the Vizard angrily shot up with his zanpakutou held high for an attack. She parried the attack, positioning Aranami 's angel to cause the opponent's blade to slide forward, his body folding over from his on force.

She kneed him in the face, finishing the job on the mask and brought her sword up and then down into the back of his neck.

Yuusuke smiled as Kayla finished off one of the Fukushu with ease; now that there was only one left, this was little more than child's play. It was the one he'd hit with Raigen, a small growl escaping it's lips, which where barely visible due to the masks overhang.

The Vizard, crazy with bloodlust, tried to leap at Yuusuke, desperately attempting to sever his head from his neck. Stepping forward a few feet, the masked soldier's attack was nullified, as Yuusuke's left fist smashed into it's chin, sending it upwards a foot or so. Not wasting time, the captain grabbed the collar of the Vizard's shirt and flung it on to its back.

With a quick swipe of his right arm, and a flash of cool grey steel, the head of the former Shinigami was separated from its shoulders. "Well, wasn't that a nice work out, Kay-chan? Shall we continue on our way?"

She didn't answer him, but instead stood quiet, her eyes fixed in the distance of the path in the direction in which they had come.

Before he could start, she slapped a hand over his mouth and pushed him back into the brush, kneeling down and dragging him with her.

Someone had been coming down the road, seemingly uninterested in the scuffle that had just went on. Whoever it was was still pretty far away, but she could feel their power even from there. It sent shivers up her spine and she knew immediately it was someone they shouldn't engage, at least not just the two of them.

"Oi," she said in a low voice. "Let's hurry to the bridge and meet up with the others."

While a part of him wanted to protest the rough treatment she'd given him, he knew that Kayla had made a smart choice in forcing them to get down. Whoever that was, there was no doubting their power...but were they friend or foe? That was the question...and how to verify that.

"Yeah...I suppose we should hurry up and meet with them."

They stayed low, crouching as they moved through the thick brush. Beside them, the path grew slightly wider and up ahead, Yuusuke could see a small clearing that lead into the bridge. As they approached, he stuck an arm out, eying the figure farther out into the distance. The same one that was putting out that level of power.

"I think we're here first, Kayla. Let's keep hidden until then...and thanks for that considerate treatment back there," he muttered, sarcasm dripping from his voice.


Satisfied with the answer, she set the earpiece to low volume so she could monitor her comrades' chatter and still hear what might creep up in her surroundings. For the next few minutes, she was engrossed in her surroundings as she learned to discern the background noises that could be used to mask the presence of an enemy.

At one point, she gave up on walking on the ground and began to climb from tree to tree, using the intertwining branches and fallen trunks to bypass the underbrush that could choke a Menos. All the while, Yukiko kept her reiatsu as close to her body as possible to prevent detection by hostile individuals.

The walkie-talkies would crackle to life ever so often as Yuusuke and Kayla thought up some novel way to insult the other. Times like that required extra focus, since she had to stifle her laughter at the sniping they engaged in.

Kinda like me and Rei, but with more electrical shocks, she thought at one point as she crawled over a dead tree and hoisted her body up into the next tangle of branches. To her surprise she found no underbrush on the other side of the behemoth of a tree. The ground beyond it was barren and lacking in vegetation, and thus, a lack of cover.

Cursing to herself, Yukiko slowly clambered down from the branches and surveyed the layout of the empty field. About 100 meters away, she could see the forest resume its overgrown tangle. That didn't sit well with her, so she quietly whispered her location and lack of cover over the walkie-talkie set. Better to keep in touch than to come up against a foe with no possibility of backu~

Bare earth skidded under her clothes as Yukiko rolled away from the now-decimated tree. Where it used to stand, a wolf-like hollow remained crouched and ready to attack again.

"Pity you dodged in time," hissed a nearby voice before the telltale sound of a blade sweeping through the air alerted Yukiko to the fukushu's presence.

"Pity you irritated me," growled Yukiko as she pulled Chibbyr La from its scabbard. Steel clashed against steel as the sky grumbled overhead, threatening violence from above.

"Oh? You're just a lone shinigami, and a woman at that. What exactly can you do against me?" snarled the masked man as he pressed even harder against her blade.

"Bakudou #10, Gokuin," said Yukiko as she gestured toward the man's legs. He cursed aloud as his mobility was reduced by the kidou.

With her enemy distracted momentarily, the small shinigami pushed his blade away and slipped to his right side, keeping him between her and the hollow. "Your pet, I presume?"

She received no answer other than further cursing as she struck the man's lower back and darted toward the hollow. It opened its jaws wide in anticipation as it leapt at Yukiko, claws at the ready to rend her flesh from bone. With a quick twist of her body, she slid past the bared claws and landed on the ground, her sword parallel with the turf below. The hollow landed behind her on the ground, its mouth open wide for a howl of anger before its mask began to dissipate into the night sky.

Blade screamed against blade as the masked man renewed his attack. Twisting her sword so his zanpakutou slid to the ground, Yukiko stepped closer and launched a vicious kick at her attacker's right knee. The Vizard was expecting her attack, and responded by swinging his right hand down at her face, connecting with her jaw as he threw his weight against her blade.

The ground seemed to spin momentarily as Yukiko stumbled and pulled her zanpakutou closer to her body for balance, spinning low to the ground as his next punch sailed over her head.

"What makes no sense is why they sent such a weakling. Then again, the entire Gotei is weak," taunted the Vizard as he backed up and reassessed the situation.

Raising an eyebrow, Yukiko just looked at the man. "That is the best taunt you can come up with?" she asked in disbelief as she blocked his blade as it swung at her head.

"I thought this was a battle, not a chance to entertain a dead person," he snarled in reply.

"Hey, you're the one who started it," replied Yukiko before she let her blade drop down to the ground. His sword impaled the dirt beside hers, and his eyes widened before she headbutted his throat. As he stumbled back and clutched at his neck, Yukiko noticed a familiar piece of jewelry on his hand.

"I see that you're one of 'those'," remarked Yukiko coldly before she yanked her zanpakutou from the ground. Softly, she intoned the incantation for Gokuin again, making sure to bind his legs as she drew closer. His eyes seemed to glow with an infernal light before he opened his mouth and let out a shriek that made her wince in pain. As she tried to force her eyes open, his body struck her dead on and knocked her to the ground.

"Yes, I'm of the Fukushu caste," he hissed as he pinned Yukiko's arms to the ground. "And you are simply...dinner."

Looking into the man's eyes beneath the mask, she could only see hunger...and murder in his soul. Tightening her futile grip on her zanpakutou, Yukiko whispered, "Luath an' Aimsir, Chibbyr La."

The sword in her hand glowed softly as it became more glass-like in appearance. Sensing that he'd miscalculated, the Vizard lunged for her face with his jaw open wide to deliver the death blow. The way his hair blew back from his face became a rather interesting study in slow-motion as Yukiko activated her zanpakutou's ability. With his reduced speed, she was able to pull her legs up between them and kick out.

Time resumed its normal pace as he was in mid-flight. Using the small advantage she'd created, Yukiko quickly whirled around and charged him. Weakly, he'd rolled over and held his zanpakutou up to catch her attack, but Chibbyr La flashed down through the sword and through his chest.

With one final movement, she yanked the tip of her blade through his souketsu and hakusui before pulling it from his flesh. To her surprise, however, it didn't quite stop him from grabbing her leg and pulling himself from the ground.

"Die, dammit!" Yukiko snarled as she kneed her foe in the ear. He released his grip and moved back as he watched the shining blade of time lift high in the air before descending toward his face.

Stepping back from the corpse, Yukiko felt an odd queasiness in her stomach over the situation. He had been a shinigami once, and it felt unnatural to kill someone she might have once had ties to in some way or form.

When she had regained her breath, she bowed her head to the fallen man before scurrying toward the tree-line. From the static-filled transmissions on the walkie-talkie, she could tell that Yuusuke and Kayla had drawn ahead of her. Silently she stalked her goal, sliding her zanpakutou into its scabbard after resealing its form.

Time was of the essence, yet she needed to save her shikai for later, when push came to shove. Fortunately for Yukiko, the forest on the opposite side of the barren field held fewer obstacles, allowing her to make up time lost during her confrontation with the scout. Trees became fewer as she drew closer to the river, signaling that it was time for her to head north toward the path.

No foreign reiatsu signatures presented themselves as she slipped closer and closer to the established path. Then the sound of soft bickering filled her ears, letting the Captain know that she had indeed met up with her comrades. "Keep it down, you interrupted my session with that Vizard with your bickering," Yukiko said with a grin as she rejoined Kayla and Yuusuke.


After disappearing into the forest with a short wave to Kayla, Rei paused for a second to let his eyes adjust to the deep darkness of the night-shrouded forest. Dropping his reiatsu till it was practically imperceptible, he cast out his senses for any sign of the faint spiritual pressure he'd felt from the gatehouse. For a brief moment, he thought it had faded out, but then he caught a ripple of it, wavering in the distance ahead of him to the West. It felt weak, and somehow erratic, as though the source of the pressure was struggling to keep their reiatsu dampened. Without wasting anymore time, Rei wordlessly activated the Heat Seeker spell, and as his eyes adjusted to the night vision, he set off through the woods towards whoever, or whatever, was ahead.

Some minutes later, having covered barely enough distance to gain any ground on his prey, he was ready to bring out Kagami and start hacking his way through the clinging, crackling, creeping, impossible-to-run-through-quietly undergrowth of the forest. Only stopped from really doing it by the nagging sense that the rest of the group would probably laugh at him for attracting every hostile presence In the area with his unsubtle tracking methods. That would be after they burned him at the stake for compromising the entire mission, of course.

Instead, he stepped up to a nearby tree and reached up to pull himself onto the lower branches. Climbing a bit higher, so that he had a good view of the forest floor below him and the branches of the trees around him, he set off in a series of short shyunpo steps between tree branches. It proved to be a much more satisfying mode of travel.

Soon he was approaching the source of the reiatsu he was trailing. Sensing it clearly just ahead of him, he returned to the ground, creeping through the brush until he could see a figure glowing red and orange to his kidou-altered eyes between the trees a hundred feet or so in front of him.

Activating Kage no Heigou, Rei melted into the darkness of the shadowy forest and crept up on the figure. When he caught up, the person was standing in a small clearing, looking forward uncertainly as if unsure where to head from here. As Rei watched, undetectable in the shadows, the figure took a few steps to the right, and then paused again. Cocking his head as it seemed to listen for something.

In the next moment, Rei stepped out of the shadows behind him just as the man turned back, finding himself face to face with the Gotei Captain. Or face to mask, more accurately.

The vizard, as he was now revealed to be, started back with a grunt that turned to a growl as he registered the shinigami uniform on the man who'd seemingly materialized out of thin air behind him. The flash of steel in the moonlight was all the warning Rei was given as the vizard launched into an attack. Not that he needed warning. He had time to step easily out of the way as the hybrid's zanpakutou swung towards him, and he didn't even reach for his own weapon as he back stepped, dodging further swipes from the vizard's sword.

Just as his steps carried him back into the shadows under the trees again, he reactivated Kage no Heigou, and watched his attacker stop dead in confusion when Rei's presence suddenly seemed to erase itself.

"That was a foolish move, Fukushu," he observed, almost absently. To the vizard, Rei's voice seemed to emanate from the shadows themselves, not from any one point within them.

"Now I can't let you live.." he said coldly, appearing out of the shadows behind the hybrid. The whisper of steel as he drew Kagami was lost amidst the sighing of the trees around them, and by the time the vizard had fully turned around, Rei's zanpakutou was already slicing through the man's torso. The gleaming white mask that covered his face was decorated with a dark spray of blood as his body fell lifeless to the ground.

With a shake of his head and a flick of his blade to clean it of the hybrid's blood, Rei turned his back on the unfortunate Fukushu, and set out to the West again. His pace was more hurried now, both because of the delay the encounter had cost him, and because of a hint of worry that had sprung up at the back of his mind. If he'd run into an enemy vizard, how were the others faring? He didn't doubt his friends' strength, but he also didn't know who else could be out there in the night.

It was a bit of a relief, then, when he reached the edge of the forest and saw the dried out riverbed before him. He'd felt not a ripple of reiatsu from the others - a sure sign that they hadn't met any significant trouble. Now it was just a matter of heading South until he came across their meeting point, the bridge.


Kayla kept her head low at the time being, twitching slightly at his little interjection. The kid couldn't resist pissing her off, even at a time like this, could he?

"Ok, remind me to leave you out in the open to get devoured next time," she snapped, her eyes scanning the area for movement.

She just didn't know when to quit, did she? It was bad enough that she'd mercilessly shoved him into the brush without any consideration to him...now, she was trying to make him look like a bad guy.

"Oh please...you could've at least whispered something like 'move' or 'get down'. I would've reacted to that! Instead, you feel the urge to shove me around like a rag doll. Real cute."

"Excuse me? Rag doll? We need to act quick in this situation. Get mad of I hold a sword to your throat. Tossing you around in the plants is not a big deal when it's for your own ****ed protection..." she hissed, fight to urge to scream at him. A familiar voice reached her ears, and she swiftly turned to greet Yukiko, summoning her to join their hiding spot.

"Oh good, a person with at least half a brain.." she whispered under her breath mostly to herself.

Moving noiselessly through the undergrowth, Rei kept the open ground of the riverbank within sight on his left as he headed south to the bridge. By the time he finally caught sight of the structure spanning the river, he was silently cursing the trick of evolution that led to the existence of mosquitoes. Much to Kagami's amusement, he couldn't even slap the **** things when they landed on him, for fear of attracting unwanted attention with the noise. He was just brushing an irritated hand across his face for the hundredth time when he suddenly stopped short, melting into the shadow of the closest tree.

He'd felt an unfamiliar reiatsu somewhere nearby. As he stood there, hardly breathing, straining his senses towards the strange presence, he felt it leaving the area, and soon it was beyond his range.

Stepping out of the trees, he quickly approached the three shinigami already gathered at the bridge. Catching Yukiko's eye, he grinned to hear Kayla and Yuusuke bickering back and forth, even now. It was somehow reassuring.

"I see all's well with you guys," he drawled. "What now?"

"Half a brain? I'll show her half a brain someday," taking a deep breathe, Yuusuke just let the whole thing drop. It wasn't worth it and he knew it; besides, he really didn't mean to pick fights...they just managed to happen. You two should try to get along better, you know, Yuusuke. You're probably the oddest Captain/Vice-Captain pair out there...won't do you much good if you're at each others throats before your enemies are.

The Zanpaku's comment, followed by a snicker, was, while rather annoying, true enough. But, he'd deal with it later...now, it was time to say hello to the other Kidoushuu pair.

"Rei, Yukiko, fancy meeting you here. Anyway...Now that we're all here, we should probably head on but that signal up ahead...it's too strong to be anything good for us if it's nonfriendly, but we don't have a lot of time to waste either. I'm not sure what we should do." [/Color]

Yukiko thought about the situation for a few moments, weighing the pros and cons of either option before coming to a conclusion. It would be safe to call back, but it might prove more expedient to intercept the unknown person and discern their intentions. She let the air out of her lungs in a huff as she considered what she thought was best before coming to a conclusion. "I vote we continue on and intercept this person. If we don't, and they turn out to be a Vizard, they could be that much closer to backup, and we would be that much further from our support. Let's deal with it now," she said quietly as she waited for her teammates' opinions.

Kayla greeted Rei with a quick smile and an ever so slight "save me from him" glance before listening in on the rest of the convo and pondering the options. She rubbed her temple lightly, the scent of rain in the distance becoming strong.

"I suppose since we're all here... if we DO confront them, do we all go or should we send one person? I'm afraid in the latter situation that they might notice us and feel as though we're planning something. However approaching in a mob could be intimidating.

End Part 1

Kayla stepped forward, allowing her Reiatsu to flare up enough to give the signal to those nearby that she was there. She still wanted to avoid using the main path so she darted forward motioning the others to follow, still making way through the last patches of brush before the dried up riverbed lie before them. She slid down into the ditch and half-skipped through the cracked earth, turning every now and then to see her comrades had been following.

Eyes adjusted to the dark, she could see the flurry of petals stirred by the wind from the Sakura trees that lay beyond, a few landing in her hair and nose. She brushed one off her face as she reached the other end, climbing out and hoisting herself onto the ledge of the bridge to sit.

Small feet made no sound as they skittered across the dry ground of the riverbed and up the opposite side. The small form of Yukiko Murray, skulker extraordinaire, paused on the riverbank for a moment before moving toward Kayla's Reiatsu. All the while, she kept her focus on the unknown Reiatsu nearby.

I wonder who that is. Someone powerful, undoubtedly. Though, they don't 'feel' like a Vizard. I wonder if we might have another ally in our midst, or someone else entirely...

Kayla's covered head came into view quickly as Yukiko stopped beside the woman. "Shall we simply wait here, or go greet them with open arms?"

Like the others, Yuusuke had managed to slide down into the once flowing river, moving quickly. Sending out small pulses of electromagnetic waves provided Yuusuke with the exact location of all of his comrades. Kayla and Yukiko were forward and to his left and Rei behind them all.

Nifty little trick...it works quite well. Knocking off the waves, he focused his attention back on the other presence. It was not a Vizard one; he could be certain of that, but it didn't guarantee that it would be friendly. Ah...almost there.

"Looks like the only one left to wait for is Rei," he commented as soon as he came up on them.

"Yeah," Kayla agreed, her eyes turning to face her companions. "Let's wait here for them and see what they're doing. Just look casual," she said, jokingly putting on a faux slacker pose.

"Just keep your guards up, people. And be nice," she added, sending a mild glance at her captain.

Seeing as how Rei was holding back for his own reasons, Yukiko stepped up to the opening of the bridge and waited for the person to appear. She remained silent until the cloaked form drew close enough for her to see that they weren't very tall, and was wearing a mask that had some rather odd...decorations.

"What. The. Heck?" she asked aloud before leaning against one of the bridge's rails. "Oi, shortstack, what's with the mask?"

The stranger paused momentarily at the odd question. Then he/she/it spoke, keeping their voice unnaturally low as they approached. "Who do you think you're calling short, you filthy Vizard?!"

"Hey...I'm nice to most people," protested Yuusuke, jokingly. He might've said more, but discretion was the better part of valor, and in this case, he didn't want to cause unwanted strife between the two of them. Things could serious very quickly and if they were busy arguing, then things could get nasty.

Yuusuke however, heard the insult that the masked stranger and couldn't help but wanting to quip back. He scurried up the slope comically, his hands flailing about, trying to grab something that would make for a good hold. Pulling himself up, he lay on his stomach and then quickly sprung to his feet. Brushing himself off, his hand went to his oba sash, underneath which was a small tanned teddy bear.

"Oi...Chibi-dono, this is Squiggles-san, the Teddy Bear. Now tell me...would a Vizard go around carrying one of these in broad daylight? Be honest..."

Just close enough to hear what had been said, Rei's hand couldn't be stopped as it found itself slapping him in the forehead and dragging across comically. I knew I should have beat him more when he was in my division... maybe even used starvation tactics in order to smarten him up...

He couldn't see Yukiko or the new presence, let alone hear what they'd been saying. But if what Yuusuke had said was any kind of indication, then it had something to do with the team being Vizards. Which was odd, since every one of them had a spirit signature that was purely Shinigami.

Going around to the side, but trying to keep to the edge of their sensory range, Rei tried to move so as to be able to see the face of the stranger. It couldn't hurt to know a bit more about the man beyond that he had enough Reiatsu to be more than a threat if things got ugly.

When he could finally see the pair at the end of the bridge, Rei couldn't help but comment on something that was glaringly obvious now that he could see the two of them and compare them with their surroundings...

wow... those two are short...

Kayla blinked, eyeing her fellows and raising an eyebrow as her gaze stopped at Yuusuke.

"Wait... you carry that thing with you?" She gave him a quizzical look before shaking her head and hopping down from her seat.

She gingerly approached him, eyeing his unique attire and inspecting his stature.

Oh, he's tiny... how cute. He didn't feel like a bad guy at all, at least.

"Oh, I assure you we're not Vizards. Can't you sense it?" she asked, tilting her head slightly. She continued to scan the mask and it's... shininess.

"Filthy Vizards?" asked Yukiko. Amusement was evident in her voice as she walked a little closer to the 'masked' stranger. "That's rather rich, coming from a wannabe such as yourself, toots."

The air around the person seemed to grow heavier with Reiatsu as the person sought to keep from smiting the short Captain. Seeing as she was supposed to greet and ascertain the person's identity, not irritate them to tears (which is fine and dandy, but send the right person for the job, folks).

The wooden planks groaned slightly under her feet as she cleared her throat and gave the masked person a small bow. "I am Yukiko Murray, Captain of the 5th Division of the Gotei. We are not here to harm you, since you appear to be a Shinigami...but we would appreciate it greatly if you were to remove your mask and deal with us face to face."

"I don't wanna take it off! It's something that I tried really hard to make. So nyaaaah!" If they could've seen his tongue, it probably would've been sticking out at them.

Yuusuke gave a short nod, agreeing with Yukiko; it would be much easier to deal with the man if he would just remove the mask and deal with them face to face, but apparently, the man wasn't comfortable with that. Turning his head to Kayla, he nodded, "Yeah, I carry this with me. It's...a reminder, I suppose." The response was low and difficult to hear.

Turning his attention back to the masked stranger, his voice was low and pleasant for once, and inviting tone present. "Well, since Yukiko's introduced herself, it's only fitting that I do so as well. My name is Taiken Yuusuke, Captain of the Sixth Division of the Gotei. If you don't mind me asking, why are you out here, anyway?"

The stranger paused, and tilted his head as if thinking about something. "I'm here...because I made a promise...I made a promise to her, a promise to get Kanoko out."

It was a far cry from his attitude only moments ago; his voice seemed stressed and his Reiatsu was beginning to act unusually. Kanoko...I know that name...Where've I heard that before. It wasn't recently; during my day--

"Wait...Otono Kanoko?" he asked, incredulously. Hadn't she died?

Rei was torn between stepping out from the shadows and joining the greet-a-thon just like everyone else, but he couldn't help but feel as if someone should be prepared in case things took a turn for the sour. While the man had a Shinigami's Reiatsu, it was also known that a Vizard could switch at a moments notice.

The fluctuations from the man were troubling, at their lowest you could barely tell that he had any power at all, like he was barely even there; and at its highest, it easily trumped even his own power. A small petty part of his mind couldn't help but think that that was garbage.

At the edge of his hearing, he could hear the man's baritone voice speaking to the others. "If your friend isn't coming out from the shadows, I doubt I can trust anything you four are saying. You claim my mask makes it hard to trust me, but I don't have someone hiding in the shadows watching us all."

Knowing that it would be useless and petulant to stay in place at this point, Rei made his way out from the shadows towards the man. He could literally feel the smirk on the shorter mans (it had to be a man, while the voice was obviously being faked, it still carried the same tone as that of a man.) as he closed the distance.

Making an obvious show of sizing the man up, Rei smiled slightly before he spoke, humour evident in his voice. "Short on attention too, ain't ya?" Another spike in Reiatsu almost caught Rei off guard as the man's knuckles went white from gripping down on the hilt of his Zanpaku hard.

"Even if you aren't Fukushu scum, who cares? I don't need your help to destroy their camp. And I don't need some fresh cut rookies getting in my way either. So if your not here to do something worthwhile, I'd suggest you leave... you never know what will hurt you if you're not careful." The man's voice wasn't so controlled when he was angry, at times switching from an overly deep voice, to what can only be assumed as his real voice.

He leaned in close to the man, sniffing at the air. He could smell the ozone, telling him that it might be raining later if things continued as they did. After he craned his neck back from Rei, he smiled again. "That mask is too pretty and cute to fool any Vizard, let alone a Fukushu guard."

"Tch tch tch, here we are, out in the boonies with assorted Vizards and whatnot wandering around....and all we can do is trade insults and one-up each other?" asked Yukiko as she stepped closer to the masked man. Er, well, masked guy, since his voice wasn't quite as deep as it would have been otherwise.

"You called us 'rookies'....For some reason, that brings to mind someone Kanie mentioned to me long ago. Fuyutsuku Nimuro of the previous Gotei generation, friend to Seiji Yasuo and the Sanbagarasu," she said as she stepped closer to the short man. "If you were friends with Sensei Kenpachi, then I would consider you to be my comrade. For I greatly desire to avenge his murder at the hands of the Fukushu Senkusha."

Silence fell between them before he reached up and pulled the mask away, revealing his youthful face. "Do you even know what that would entail?" he asked skeptically.

"I would have to attain Shinkou-Soutaichou's strength level," she replied evenly. "Or fight really, really dirty."

Nimuro blinked for a moment before he threw his head back and laughed bitterly. "Maybe you do, and maybe you don't have what it takes."

Kayla quickly shoved Yuusuke out of the way, and made her way to Nimuro. "Ah! So you're really Nimuro-kun!"

She paused, regarding the tiny man before her. The incoming storm was making it harder for her to distinguish his facial features as the light slowly faded away. He's short stature, though, made him adorable. As an afterthought, she added, "...we're not really rookies though."

Glancing back and forth at everyone, it was apparent that Nimuro was slowly becoming more and more trusting of them. Still, though, they needed something else; they needed to persuade him that they were worthy. I guess I'll try to do it then...

Taking a deep breathe, Yuusuke gently moved Kayla to the side; she could yell at him later or something. "Aiya...Well, if anyone here is rookie, it's myself, Nimuro-san. I'm the most recently graduated out of the four of us, and it's true that I'm not nearly as strong as Rei-taichou or Yukiko-taichou, but...I was appointed a Captain for a reason. And so were Rei and Yukiko. And Kayla was appointed the 11th Successor of the Kidoushuu for a reason. None of us are incompetent or incapable of fighting. It's apparent that we both have the same goal...to defeat the Fukushu. Why not team up? It'll benefit both of us..."

"You're all barely children... how the heck could you have become captains, let alone Shinigami?" The look of scepticism was written all over the man's face, slowly being worn down.

Feeling the need to tweak his nose more, especially considering the high road that he was taking with them in regards to the rank they'd earned, Rei quipped. "Funny choice of words, considering that you don't look to be old enough to walk these woods without an adult supervisor."

"Considering the fact that I haven't killed you all yet, and that I've yet to show you the difference between yourselves and a real Shinigami captain; you're asking a lot. I know nothing about what you're after. I know you're out to destroy Fukushu, but that doesn't mean we're on the same side."

"I'm not telling you to trust us Nimu... but what we are asking, is that for the time we're here, we might as well work together so we can both get what we want, and nobody gets sent home crying." Taking a breath to collect his thoughts, Rei continued. "So are you in or out? If you're not, we can always just try to work around you. It could get messy that way though."

He looked as if he'd swallowed a sour melon... whole. But at least the idea was finally beginning to take hold in there somewhere. After a few seconds, he looked up at the quartet of random so-called hero's with a look of begrudged respect. "Don't slow me down, don't get in my way, and if you betray me God help you, cause I sure as hell won't."

He made no move to shake Rei's hand, or any other of the usual methods of showing that a deal had been made, instead looking as if he was impatient to get off the road. "...so if we're don this little inspirational get together, can we get away from here? Bridges and the such are usually high traffic areas for an kind of base. So I'd rather not lose the element of surprise that I'd been working for before out little chat."

He stepped around Rei, taking a few short steps before turning back around to face them. "Next person to insult the mask, or my height, is gonna be brought down to size... the hard way." The glare and smirk on the man brought chills to Rei's spine. Almost making him regret the taunts... almost.

Gah, Rei's so good at this stuff... she thought admirably, as the foursome became five and they began to head for the trees again. I should probably ask for some pointers on this leadership business. Yuusuke could benefit from that too.. She snickered lightly and trotted up to her new captain, poking him in the arm lightly. He gave her an odd glance and she turned her attention to Nimuro.

"Thanks for not killing us," she said humorously. The man scoffed and she winced, facing away.

As the small group moved deeper into the forest of cherry trees, the storm that threatened rain began to act up even more as the winds kicked up, making the tree branches sway in their somber dance. Lightning began to flicker across the sky, illuminating the land around them in an almost hypnotic flicker. Cherry blossoms floated on the breeze, doubling the strange feel of the locale.

They fanned out a little, so as not to present a dense patch of Reiatsu for anyone to observe. The only sounds that accompanied the Shinigami were the occasional snapping of a twig and muttered conversations between Kayla and Yuusuke. Nimuro and Rei preferred to keep to themselves as the kept their senses alert for any forward scouts or hollows that might be lurking.

Yukiko simply covered her head with her cloak's hood and let her existence shimmer into seeming nothingness as a slight mist began to rise from the ground as the air cooled rapidly around them. Into the abyss we go, and who will survive, no one knows.

~~End Part II~~​

Nimuro lifted up a foot and scratched his other ankle. There was no sign of any guard left to worry about, instead it seemed as if the place had played host to tornado just moments before. "I didn't detect all that much tussle in the air; I guess those curs you guys are working with do their job as efficiently as I remember..."

Tossing another round of eyeing at the dishevelled perimeter, the Shinigami pulled up his hakama and gingerly placed a few toes on the edge of the slope before them. He shifted his weight forward and down he slid towards the lone gatehouse in sight.

"As I said, this is the place we're all likely to be heading. It doesn't look like we'll need to split up, so I suggest we loosen up the formation a bit; I'll take point."

Nimuro tossed his arms back within his sleeved cloak and proceeded to shuffle underneath the smoking overhang leading into the Fukushu compound. "By the way, do you guys know where your commanders want you to head?"

Confusion radiated from under Yukiko's cloak. "Erm, I believe we were supposed to follow the vizards?" she replied uncertainly. Her little feet were positioned right at the edge of the hill as she considered the best way down the incline. Fortunately for her, someone bumped her from behind and sent her sliding down the side of the hill. Her arms windmilled a couple times as she fought for balance, and when she reached the bottom, she stepped forward calmly as if she had planned to do so all along.

When she was right upon the perimeter, Yukiko considered the raw power it took to cause that much damage in such a short time. "Those 'curs' are efficient indeed," she said softly as she ducked under the overhang and followed Nimuro's lead. "Though, I'd hate to be on the wrong side of them tonight."

"Yeah...I didn't really hear much about a specific location. All I remember hearing was that we were to work our way towards the inside of the Valley of the Fallen Blossoms and work with the Army of Masks to complete the mission." A small shiver worked its way down his spine as a thin mist of rain began to fill the air; the temperature would continue to drop if more rain began to fall.

Two golden eyes took in the sights of the encampment, while his nose wrinkled slightly at the mixed smells of fresh rain, scorched earth, and charred skin that permeated the air. Following the rest of the group, Yuusuke took a few tentative steps into the perimeter, determined to avoid any nasty surprises that could still be lurking around.

"Yeah...They certainly did a number on the Fukushu. I'd hate to be one of them right now. We should be careful, though. There's no guarantee they got every single Fukushu out here...I'd hate to run my Kidou reserves dry before we get to the meat and bones of the mission."

Rei silently surveyed the wreckage in front of them as he too shuffled and slid down the muddy hill to follow the group through the damaged gateway into the compound. Everything was in disarray, the area pockmarked with craters and littered with the detritus of blasted earth and buildings... and Fukushu. He looked away from the charred bodies to focus on the conversation the others were holding.

"I think this is as specific a location as we're gonna get... the question is just where to start now we're here." He spoke up quietly. "If we're following the vizards we'd better figure out where they've been.. and where they haven't. Yuusuke's right; it's not likely they've slaughtered the whole compound, we're bound to meet some resistance once we start moving in. And from the looks of this place the Fukushu can put up some heavy resistance..."

His voice trailed off as he wordlessly activated a surveillance bougyoudo, Kankatsugan. He felt the change come over his vision almost immediately, his eyes suddenly taking in much more information than regular sight could afford him. Letting his gaze travel over the area again, he studied the blasted out spots before speaking up again.

"It looks like just as much of this damage was caused by medium strength kidou as by something.. else. The lingering energy signatures are weird... abstract. It looks sort of Hollow-ish in origin... but also, not." He shrugged, rubbing a hand through his hair as he deactivated the kidou and turned back to the others.

"I'll trust you on that then. So first things first." Nimuro slowed down his pace and lifted a finger to a dome in the distance. It was a piece of architecture that was unlike anything ever witnessed by Shinigami eyes. Adorning its exterior where what appeared to be vertical bracers shaped much like spinal columns. Its surface brushed clean with a dull glow in the starlight very much like bone. And, for a moment, it seemed to have risen and fallen as it had taken a breath. "That there is most likely where you lot are headed; the same as myself."

He fingered the rolls around his obi and turned around to the other Shinigami, fidgeting around in search of something. At long last he had found it, a sigil brushed in a harried fashion onto a piece of cloth.

"I ripped this off a guardsman before we met." The symbol looked faintly liked the kanji for "ambition" yet warped with many more brushstrokes than it would've otherwise needed. "Whatever the Fukushu are doing in there, you can bet that there are some Yashin surprises sitting in wait."

He tossed the cloth onto the floor and set it ablaze with a simple Kidou. "You're probably here for Kanoko, am I correct? If that's the case, I can spare some time to help you out with her before I have to finish my goal."

Kayla surveyed the damage that had been done to the terrain and nodded at Rei's assessment. "So some of the Vizards are proficient at Kidou, Rei? That's a bit worrisome."

Quickening her pace, Kayla caught up with the rest of the group in time to hear Nimuro's assessment. We're lucky he decided to team up with us. Nimuro-kun seems to know more about this than any of us.

"Well then, let's get to rescuing Kanoko-san. Let's proceed carefully as was suggested; Taichou and Rei are right; we don't what's in store for us."

"All right, well, for now we can't go any further, it looks like your 'friends' took another route to the central dome. There's a barrier that some Fukushu have erected around the exterior of that structure, and I'm guessing most of the spare guards chased after them underground." Nimuro licked a finger and held it in the air. "Cold winds, and it looks like some rain... Look, I'll go around and try to shut down that barrier. For now, you shouldn't try to help out your Masked friends, you'll get dragged into some unnecessary fighting. Keep to some of these buildings, see if you can find out the truth about this place yourselves, and I'll come back for you guys."

Nimuro rolled back one side of his cloak, reached inside, and pulled out a small pocket watch. The mon emblazoned onto the cover was a familiar one: Maehara. "If I'm not back in ten minutes... Call in the cavalry and forget the other team; you have to destroy this place."

Nimuro left down one alley, passed another glance at the Kidoushuu, looked at the ground, and faced the foreboding road ahead of him. "History's repeating itself... my generation owes it to yours that we tell you the truth about what's really going on around here. We fell because of that; your footsteps should not follow ours."

With that, the Shinigami snapped his fingers and quickly made a dash up to the rooftops and off to the east. The Maehara heirloom opened... on one side was an ornate timepiece, the hands and numerals each made of some opaque and lustrous material. On the other, a picture of four people; their faces were all rubbed out by the passage of time.

Yukiko watched Nimuro walk away as he stared intently at the pocket watch in his hand. A small part of her was saddened for the shinigami, since he had lost many of his friends in the Siege. His orders popped to the surface of her mind, however, and she turned back to the building beside her. All four of the Kidoushuu members nodded in agreement as they stepped up to the door and peered inside.

"I'll stay out here and keep guard, you need to see if you can find anything about the Soul Data Project or Fukushu plans," said Kayla in a low voice.

Rei, Yuusuke, and Yukiko nodded silently and entered the building cautiously. Yukiko looked around and then said aloud, "Well well, it's a research laboratory...thank goodness Jinsoku isn't here or we'd have been launched into a low earth orbit by now."

A hiss from Rei indicating that she should be quiet chastised the small Captain, so she focused instead on searching the central workbench area. On top of the main bench, she found several boxes* and a pile of delicate looking objects* that didn't look like anything she'd seen in the 8th division labs.

The boxes seem to have several files within them. All of them pertain to certain advances in the field of Recombinancy; they look like records on past development on what is known today as a Shifter. The delicate objects are some sort of keys that can possibly open up something else inside the lab...

Heading to the right of the slightly shorter, but none-the-less awesome, Captain, Yuusuke muttered out, "Yeah...If he were here, this lab would already be up in flames." Biting his lower lip to keep quiet, Yuusuke eventually found his way over to a set of cabinets and a hood. Peering underneath the glass guard, he found some syringes* and something sitting on a heating unit*. "Huh..."

The glassware is holding some sort of object within it in stasis... The unit below it which seems to be heating the "subject" above it looks as if it can be adjusted...

With a nod at Kayla's orders, Rei stalked into the building behind the others, moving on silent feet and wincing inwardly at the noise his fellow captains were making. Immediately cutting to the left as Yukiko moved straight into the room and Yuusuke stepped in to explore off to the right, he manoeuvred carefully between tables strewn with microscopes, Bunsen burners and other shiny looking research equipment, he made his way to the end of the room.

A long desk ran the length of the far wall, set up with a few big and clunky computers and printers linked together by a tangle of heavy wires and cords. Beside the computers was a small shelving unit on which stood a number of partly filled vials and test tubes, like some kind of twisted and ominous spice rack.

Now what do we have here? he smirked inwardly, crossing over to examine the rows of vials*.

As he passed the computers his sleeve brushed one of the keyboards and he started as the screen leapt to life, crackling a bit with static as it lit up the desk with an eerie glow, revealing the information* stored in the machine.

The vials seem to holding the same "substance" as the one being heated nearby. The monitor's glow is a bit faded, however a single window remains open and reads: PROJECT FALSETTO.

After pocketing the files and slipping the objects...they looked almost like keys...into her robes, she continued her search. One corner of the benchtop had a similar marking to what Nimuro had shown them earlier. After glancing at it for a moment, Yukiko reached over and picked up a canister. Her sleeve caught on several containers nearby and knocked them over. As one rolled over the sigil on the counter, two loud clicks were audible before a section of the counter began to drop down. Inside, the glow of several small computers* and a small case* drew her attention and her hands.

The small computers seem to be stations connected to the one being observed by Rei. Some of their monitors are on and have several lines of code still being parsed onscreen. It seems as if the entire network of computers within the lab is simulating the sequencing of some type of Soul Data. The small case is currently locked...

Continuing his journey in exploration, Yuusuke found the objects which he'd observed earlier to be of little interest. Grabbing the glassware from earlier, he made his way over to the two sets of beat-up cabinets. Swinging both sets of doors open, one contained what looked to be a set of lab notebooks* while the other seemed to have some assorted odds and ends* contained within.

Inside the lab notebooks, there seems to be some diagrams written in Vizard script detailing some sort of new Recombinant. According to the scaled pictures inside, it would barely be able to fit within the room. Amongst the odds and ends within the shelf seems to be a page that fell out of the notebooks; it's a journal entry by the main researcher. However, it too is written in a Vizard script. The test tube in your hand begins to quiver...

Project Falsetto? Rei was sorely tempted to read through the document, but after a brief moment of scrolling he realized there was no time. Staring at it intently and committing as much of the information to memory as he could, he finally reluctantly pulled away to turn back to the vials. Since they all appeared to hold the same unidentifiable substance, he grabbed one that was mostly full and well sealed, tucking it neatly into an inside pocket, his mind still on the mysterious Project Falsetto. If only I could print it out...

The thought reminded him of the printers set up nearby, and he went over to one of them hopefully. Luck was with him, as there was a stack of papers* in the outcoming tray. Picking them up, he eagerly flipped through them, hoping it would prove to be useful.

With the papers lifted out of the way, something else was revealed resting next to the machinery, at the base of the shelving unit that held the vials. A chunk of... something*. He leaned in for a closer look.

The only report in the outbox not written in a Vizard script is a report to the Fukushu Overseer: "Subject A is finished as per your specifications and is at the designated zone. We suggest that the other two be brought back to base for further augmentation seeing as how Fuyutsuki is the only one of the three original targets still causing trouble."

The vials held a mass of flesh at first glance, something bulbous and hardly alive. However, upon closer inspection, the piece of flesh whirled around inside its container and fixed a single bloodshot eye at Rei.

As she peered at the computer screens, Yukiko realized they were running through a code that repeated itself ever so often. Without a moment's hesitation, she unplugged the smaller of the computers and set it on the benchtop. Then she picked up the case and tried to lift the lid. Seeing that it was locked, she fished the items out of her robes from before and began to try them in the lock.*

The case is locked; however one of the 'keys' seems to have worked on it. It's a portable camera console that seems to be tapped into the various surveillance systems around the compound. However, a password is needed...

Almost overeagerly, Yuusuke grabbed a hold of a few notebooks and the entry, taking them with him for future reference. Noticing the shaking of the vial, he began to fear for the worst and quickly made his way over to Yukiko, when he noticed a set of CD's* sitting on a lab table, almost absentmindedly setting the vial down near the end of the table as he explored the table further. Moving further down, he finally spotted a group of interesting looking bottles of chemicals* toward the middle of the table.

The CDs seem to be recorded data on each of the samples contained in vials inside of the lab. Judging by the way a single red line ran through their labels, it looks like the vials' contents were meant to be destroyed on the heating plate inside the room. The chemicals are labelled with a recognizable skull and crossbones. It's unknown as to what their purpose in the lab is; perhaps cleaning agents. The vial's contents now seem to be... growing. Fractures have begun to spiderweb the small test tube's surface...

Rei felt his blood run cold at the one piece of information he could read among the pages of vizard script. Subject A... Kanoko? Or... who? I'd better show this to Nimuro... he thought as he tucked the papers inside his uniform. His gaze had unfocused as he considered the implications of the brief message, but now they focused sharply at the object sitting in a transparent container next to the vials. He started backwards with a grunt of horror and surprise when he realized the object was looking back at him.

"****!! What the... ?" he picked up the container gingerly, carrying it with him but reluctant to put it inside his robes with that creepy thing inside watching him.

Purposefully averting his eyes from the thing, he moved towards the corner of the room, where a chest stood, nearly completely obscured by the junk sitting on top of it. Lifting armfuls of random things off the lid, he set them down next to the trunk and hoisted the lid to see what it held.

The junk seems to be some kind of paperwork, though it looks like they weren't anything too important. Inside the chest was a peculiar device. It looked very much like a spear aside from the purple fluid flowing cleanly inside of it. In that manner it looked like some large syringe. The vial within Rei's robes has also begun to quiver.

The case finally opened with the last key, and as it clicked open, Yukiko's eyes widened when she saw what was inside. A portable camera console...that could connect to the security cameras? She tapped on a couple buttons to see if it would work, but the only thing that would come up on the screen was 'password denied'. Looking around, she tried to find an out of the way spot to hide a password. Not seeing anything immediately, she just tried typing in the word 'ambition'* while palming some vials* out of the next set of drawers.

The password prompted a small sprite to pop on screen. It shook a finger at the user and pointed to enter a new password. All of the vials inside of the drawers were empty except for one. It held the dried out husk of one of the fleshy masses held in the other vials the other Shinigami found. It looked as if it almost had a mask on...

Ignoring the bottles, Yuusuke turned his attention back to the CD's on the table, and grabbed a few before spotting the cracking vile. A slight panic overcame
him as he backed up quickly, eventually falling backwards into a disorganized desk, all sorts of things decorating its top. Curiousity replaced fear as he opened up all of the
drawers quickly, while pointing at the vile and saying, "Uh, Rei, Yukiko...Something in there is...growing..."

Falling at Yuusuke's feet is a hard resin model of the very same Recombinant found in the lab notebooks. Its head has shattered into various pieces, however it maintained a musculuar humanoid body moreso than a Shifter. All of the drawers were in disarray, some even contained a load of unwashed lab equipment used in surgical procedures. A shrill filled the air as the lab sample broke out of its test tube on the counter. It seemed to have gills that combed the air and it slowly began slithering towards the Shinigami as it grew more and more hair-like appendages.

Rei was more than surprised to find that the chest contained only a large weapon-like object... a spear of some sort? He eyed the peculiar liquid inside suspiciously, but bent to pick up the object, sliding it through his obi for easy carrying.

Just as he did so, he felt a most disturbing jiggle from the inner pocket of his robes. His eyes bugged out comically as he set down the ugly piece of Cyclops flesh in order to fish out the test tube and look at it closer. It was very definitely moving.

Okay... that's just... ewww. He set the vial into one of the unlit Bunsen burners on a nearby table for safekeeping, keeping one eye on it as he picked up Creepyclops, as he had now dubbed the weird eye, and continued scavenging the area. He was just thinking he'd covered everything when something on the floor caught his eye. It looked like some kind of handheld device had fallen from one of the tables. He bent down to pick it up.

The device is some sort of scope; when looked through, the world is turned a shade of purple, the other Shinigami appear as yellow figures... as does the lab sample which has now also began breaking out of its test tube.

Cursing in irritation when a small sprite popped up and wagged a finger at her, Yukiko hefted the case and tucked it into a satchel with the other items she'd picked up from the bench. Then she began to look around further within the bench's drawers. Most of them were filled with empty vials and junk, but one drawer held a list.

"Growing, eh? Try zapping it with some electricity and see what happens," muttered Yukiko as she glanced over in Yuu's direction. Then she saw the slithering thing coming her way and groaned. "Good going! Now we have the spawn of Chthulu to deal with."

The list was were names... most of them seemed to be those that were confirmed members of the Red Moon, next to them were numbers... vial numbers.

"Yeah...Good idea Yukiko...I'll fry it's brains out."

Stifling his panic again, Yuusuke did the only thing he knew in this situation: he blasted the thing using the Hadou, Raiden. A thick beam of electrical energy shot out from his extended right palm, attempting to destroy the snake-like thing. Moving around the back of the other lab tables, Yuusuke forgot all about the statue he'd knocked down and instead, continued his journey over to Yukiko. "Let's head out of here...any longer, and I'm afraid we'll be dealing with some fully grown recombinants or something like that."

The dying lab sample fizzled into a charred coil all the while screaming in a voice unsuited for its body; it seemed like that of a man's death throes. The other lab sample is now also fully grown and is proceeding to block the single exit out of the lab.

Rei straightened up, holding the strange scope to his eye and peering through it, first at Yukiko, who glowed yellow against the dark purples and violets of her non-living surroundings. Training his eye over to Yuusuke, he was just in time to catch sight of the slithering mass of flesh crawling across the tabletop, appearing just as yellow as the two other shinigami in the room through the scope. Then there was a bright flash that left him blinking as he pulled the device away from his eye, slapping a hand to his forehead in consternation.

"Guys, I really don't think we should be blowing up unknown life forms... we don't know what could ha-- "

His voice cut off as the vial he'd left sitting in the Bunsen burner shattered, spilling its writhing contents onto the table. The thing morphed as it moved, growing exponentially while dragging itself towards the door. It was large enough now to block their exit.

"Oh... ****." He gulped. "What I meant to say was, after this, I really don't think we should blow up anymore unknown life forms... unless they appear hostile... or otherwise mutant and horrifying.."

With the last word he stepped forward and raised his right arm, releasing Fist of Destruction as he swung a hard punch at the unsuspecting mass of pulsing flesh.

The blob buckled under the sheer force of the impact; a few pieces of the sample flew across the room. However, it quickly regained its consistency and took a few swipes at the three Shinigami within the room. Outside, an unfamiliar presence was approaching the lab.

Watching in horrified fascination, Yukiko could only stand there while Rei bum-rushed the creature and hit it with the force of his kidou. A short shower of critter pitter-pattered all over the laboratory, and when it finally stopped falling, the petite woman peered out from under the satchel she carried. She expected to see Rei standing in front of nothing, instead, her eyes caught a glimpse of a larger mutation rising up from the doorway.

"Oh crud..." she whispered as it began to flail about wildly with its tentacles and feelers and whatever those other appendages were called. One struck Yukiko across her cheek, and she cringed inside from the impact of sloppy, rubbery flesh against her own tender skin. Outside, she could hear Kayla saying something rather sarcastic to Rei, and inside she was jealous she hadn't thought of it first. Yukiko stepped back and stumbled back into Yuusuke, and her eyes fell upon an odd object in Rei's obi.

"Oi! Rei! That big spear thingamabobber! Use it on the the, the, thingie!" she shouted. The satchel fell to the ground at her feet and the case fell open again, still mocking her for a password. Snarling, she typed in the first word that occurred to her and hit 'enter'.

The sprite once again appeared, this time donning a mask and proceeded to turn around and spank itself in mockery of the user. A figure has appeared next to a window, cupping its eyes in an exaggerated gesture... as if to pass on some sort of message. It pointed at the blob which was now spilling onto the floor and once again repeated the eye-cupping motion.

"Aiya...Looks like another troublesome situation..."

The broomhead'ed captain had decided that he'd like to avoid wasting any more of his Kidou if at all possible. Besides, Yukiko and Rei should be able to handle it...but he did
want to back them up. It's too bad that my physical combat skills are far below part or else I could help out that way. Then again, if I could use a sword decently or run around super fast, I wouldn't really be in the Kidoushuu.

"Go Rei! Go Yukiko! YOU CAN DO IT!!!" he literally began to cheer on his comrades, and almost began to strike poses to match until he realized the absurdity of that. They'd
much rather see someone like Shizuka or Kayla or Mai or Sayuri cheer for them than some silly retarded puppy in an imaginary skirt.

C'mon...There's gotta be something else I can do...Ooooh wait...

An almost evil grin blossomed as Yuusuke flew to the chemicals he'd found earlier. Not bothering to read the labels, he poured some into a few beakers and then...

"...Oi!!! Yukiko! Rei! Don't get hit!"

And then the vials flew.

The first two vials hit the creature square in the gut and temporarily reduced its consistency to that of rubber upon impact. However, the last one landed well short and burst open on the floor spreading a gas into the air...

Rei's head was spinning, trying to take in everything that was going on at once: the fact that his kidou-powered punch didn't take the creature down, the strange figure in the window motioning to him, making binoculars with its hands, Yukiko's shouted advice, and lastly Yuusuke's words of warning. Thankfully the urgency in his former third seat's tone got his attention and he ducked in time to avoid being hit by a flying vial of chemicals, only to have it explode next to him and evaporate instantly into a cloud of gas.

Throwing himself back from the spreading fumes, he shot a glare at Yuusuke, shouting across the room, "Dammit!!! Didn't they teach you anything in Shinigami Academy? Unknown chemicals, much like unknown life forms, can be DANGEROUS! Haven't you ever heard of caution?!!"

The gas was spreading throughout the room now, and Rei brought his sleeve up to cover his nose and mouth, breathing shallowly into his uniform in hopes of avoiding inhaling the substance floating towards him. Who knew what it could do? He didn't want little flesh monsters spawning in his lungs or anything...

"Someone open the windows or something!" He yelled, his voice muffled through the fabric. A glance to the closed windows reminded him of the figure making its odd gestures at him, and he remembered the scope that he still held in one hand. Lifting it to his eyes in imitation of the figure's movements, he turned back to the blob at the door, tugging the syringe-spear thing from his obi at Yukiko's suggestion as he charged towards the mutant blob o' dewm once again.

The scope now shows that inside the blob's yellow figure are two smaller life forms that are swimming up and down its torso. They gave off a different color, with a slightly orange tint to them.

The gas vapors began to rise from the floor and obscured Yukiko's vision. She covered her mouth with one hand while she pointed at a nearby window. Her voice was muffled as she said, "Hadou #4, Byakurai," but her actions weren't as well hidden.

Glass shattered as the windows were punched through by the precise kidou attack, and the breeze outside carried through the building and removed most of the gaseous fumes that threatened their survival. Rain was carried into the building with the wind, and papers began to fly about the room as a large draft was created between the window and the door.

"Yuusuke, when Rei is done, aim for the midsection of the thingie," said Yukiko as she waved the fumes away from her face. "We need to finish this thing off soo-"

Her words were cut off when she looked down at the console's screen. The sprite had donned a mask and had turned around, smacking its rear and mocking her attempts to access the camera's live feed.

"This means war," she breathed out in a cold fury as she leaned over and typed in a rude word before hitting 'enter' again.

Before the next prompt could be delivered to Yukiko, the figure who had previously given Rei the hint to look through the scope now moved to steal the camera console from the Shinigami's hands and began to calmly walk away from the building on the other side of the broken window.

The gas seems to be a freezing agent, anything it touches frozen solid through and through. A nearby frozen table buckles under its own weight and crashes into a million pieces onto the floor. The lab sample seems to slow down, but is... weeping? from the icy burns inflicted on its hide.

"It's called improvising, Rei. Making do with whatcha got... though... maybe some better improvision would've been advisable," quipped Yuusuke, a little agitated that the other Captain was yelling at him, "So just chill Rei...We'll get the situation under control."

Even if he wouldn't admit out loud, a little caution might've been better... but the chemicals had seemed to do their job. That thing is weakened now... I wonder if I can finish it off now.

Even with the gas leaving the room, the temperature was still dropping as the rain continued to come down. Yukiko had managed to prevent them all from having frozen lungs so it was his turn to do something.

"Hadou #44, Raiden!"

Two beams, one from each hand, shot towards the blob, aimed at the thing's gelatinous chest. I should've casted something with a little less drain.

The blob dies, but not before also yelling out an in eerily adult woman's voice. Meanwhile, outside, the stranger makes no attempt to escape as the sound of typing keys fills the stormy air.

A shiver ran the length of Rei's spine in the silence that followed the creature's dying wail. He was left standing close to its charred remains, staring down at it still through the scope, the spear-like needle all but forgotten in his hand. He'd been about to inject the monster with the strange purple liquid, but had hesitated at seeing the form through scope and recognizing more than one life form within its glowing yellow mass. The next thing he knew Yuusuke's kidou spells had hit and his chance to figure out the mystery of the mutant creature was gone.

Returning the spear to its spot in his obi, he pulled the scope from his eyes and wiped at the smears of goo that now covered him, with a little shudder at the thought of their origin. Looking to the others, he saw that Yukiko was staring (or more like glaring) at the stranger who'd helped them, who seemed to have taken the device she'd been toying with. As they all moved towards the windows, he made a point of avoiding Kayla's eye, not wanting to be the one that bore the brunt of the mockery and disapproval that she must be waiting to pour down on them after that performance.

Climbing carefully out the window and into the cold rain outside, he let the rainwater wash the chunks of mutant flesh from his skin and hair, and approached the stranger, who seemed to be completely unconcerned with their presence.

"Um... excuse me," He addressed the person, feeling foolish. "We should probably thank you for helping us out, in there, or trying to at least. Er... If you were trying to help us... were you? Who are you, anyway?" He could hear Kagami's groan as she rolled her eyes, and made a mental note to brush up on his interrogation skills sometime.

Irritation at the sprite's mocking combined with the horror of the creature's dying scream propelled Yukiko forward. Her focus was on the stranger who had snatched the console from her hands before she could access the camera feed. Subconsciously, she noted the collapse of a nearby table when the gas settled upon it, deep inside she wondered just what would happen once they got out of the building. And at the back of her mind, the small Captain was afraid, since her right hand had begun to itch again.

Shaking those thoughts from her mind, she hurtled toward the person who had snatched the console from her grasp as easily as an adult taking candy from a baby. "Where do
you think you're going with that?" Yukiko said coldly as she followed the stranger into the next building, her feet barely touching the ground along the way. There was no chance for a reply before she leaped forward and tackled the retreating figure's waist.

Grumbling about stupid mutations and disgusting slime, Yuusuke exited the laboratory taking care of the goop that had been flung on to him by the slimy mutant.

"****it...Who decided that making these Haori's white was a good idea? The stains NEVER manage to come out!" whined the lightning user, urked that he'd managed to ruin yet another Haori.

Several shivers traveled down his spine, and his fingers began to feel numb near the tips. The hazy rain had started to seep through his clothing, giving him something else to complain about. Well, this isn't supposed to be a cake walk but man...would it kill someone to make the weather less suck-ish?

His attention was pulled away from all the things he didn't like to something more amusing. He would've paid to see something like that. Well...making Yukiko irritated isn't the best of ideas, but...it's always amusing to see a war between Chibi.

Keeping his voice low, he muttered, "Man...Some popcorn would be nice. Oh well...GO YUKIKO GO!!!"

Kayla stood a few moments as she took in the sporadic bout of madness that had sprouted from inside the lab. Paranoia exploded from the moment crashes and shouts came through the doorway, and she had more than an excessive share of chills as she scanned the area worriedly for anybody who'd hear them.

She was disappointed that the unfamiliar individual who had shown up easily escaped her detection, and also at the disorienting reactions of her comrades. She had hoped they'd be able to handle something with a little bit more finesse. Especially her captain.

When will he learn how to think before doing...

She sighed, only glancing at Yukiko's attack before wordlessly slipping past Rei and into the now destroyed room. She frowned, eyeing the mess before the flickering blue-tinted light of a computer screen grabbed her attention.

She walked over, observing the login window and stroking her chin thoughtfully. The commotion outside prompted her to act quickly. They had to get going.

She got down on her knees, crawling under the table and pulling the heavy CPU from its spot on the floor. After unplugging all the wires and cutting off power, causing the entire network to shut down, she removed her dagger from its sheath. She began the tedious work of unscrewing, removing casing, and ended the task with taking the small drive from inside: the core of the system.

Between Kyin and Junichi, I might be able to figure this out...

Without further delay, she hoisted herself back onto her feet and ran out the door to re-join her group.

Sprawled in the mud, the tackled figure paid no heed to the Shinigami who remained wrapped at its waist. Instead, after cleaning the monitor of the surveillance console off with the back of a sleeve, a few more keystrokes clattered on and off. Displayed on the monitor were a few camera feeds still left in operation, there was a shot of the front gate to the compound, the remains of the battle, a series of offices, some sort of armory, and some sort of prison... as well as the Vizard team that had entered before the Kidoushuu.

The stranger propped their body up on their elbows and began to adjust the direction of the camera feed; panning over to the right it seemed as if the Vizards were talking to a prisoner along with someone else that didn't seem to belong to their squad. The rest of the monitor still showed some locked panels where other feeds should be. Hanging its head, the stranger then moved to rest on its side as it turned towards the rest of the Shinigami now approaching both itself and Yukiko who was still clamped on.

"He told you ten minutes right? Where's my watch?"

Rei stood blinking bemusedly down at the two women on the ground, and wiped a tired hand across his forehead. The stranger's words had confirmed for him that she was indeed on their side, and the fact that she could work the camera monitor proved that she would make a useful addition to their team... if she was willing to work with them after the fiasco she'd just witnessed.

With a small sigh, he walked over to the two figures sprawled on the ground and bent down, catching Yukiko around the waist and lifting her unceremoniously off the ground (after only a bit of tugging to pry her arms loose from the other woman's midsection). Propping the smaller captain on her feet, he turned and offered a hand up to the woman left on the ground, with an apologetic expression for the rough treatment she'd taken.

"You're working with Nimuro-san, then?" he asked, stating the obvious. "I think he's still got your watch, if you mean the pocket watch he was carrying..."

"Good answer, I suppose... do you mind letting go?" The figure began to steady their feet and tried to stand up. "I don't suppose you know why he let you escape... but I suppose he wants combat data using Shinigami as well as Vizards. If what I'm thinking is right..."

This time, the figure reached for something in her satchel, it was a compass-like device that pointed directly towards the foreboding dome in the distance. "He's toying with me... he could've just planted it back with you, but I suppose he really does want a fight if he's going to mock everyone here by holding onto it..."

Turning towards a shoulder, and possibly speaking into a device attached to an ear, the figure spoke softly, "I'm with the group of Gotei Shinigami now, did you meet up with them yet? I see. Yes, you're on the monitor in the prison--I take it the subject's still alive then? Good. No, he let them live; yes, I got here too late. Okay, thanks Mizaru."

The figure then faced back at the Kidoushuu operatives and brought a hand up to its chin, "Now, what do I suppose I do with you."

"He let us live? What do you mean by that?" asked Yukiko as she looked at the intruder. "Are you speaking of Nimuro-san?" Her eyes narrowed as she stepped back from the person she'd tackled. "Who are you anyhow? And what business do you have here?"

"Oh, that wasn't Nimuro, though you can easily err when that man you met wants you to." The figure walked towards Yukiko, seeing the stranger's stride so many times now and it became a bit more obvious that it was a woman.

The hood left the woman's head and revealed a face whose lower half was hidden carefully by a black wrap; her hair was held in place by a pair of stiletto blades. Up and down, the rest of her attire was a flash from the past; clad all in black with form-fitting fabrics and a slight gray trim. No mistake about it: Keigun, and an older uniform at that.

"My name's not important, it never was, it never will be. I suppose you all still think that this war was just about the SDP from the beginning? That this is simply about eliminating threat A to save item B from falling into the wrong hands?"

"Not Nimuro? If it isn't Nimuro then who is it? The enemy? Some Fukushu Vizard?" questioned Yuusuke, a growing frown on his face. This wasn't good; not good at all. "How are we supposed to verify that? Heck, how are we supposed to even know that you're not just trying to trip us up? This wouldn't be the first time that somebody's tried to fool Gotei Shinigami into thinking that things are different than they actually are."

"And if I told you the last two great wars weren't about the SDP itself? What if I told you this was a matter of restoring the last member of Soul Society's Royal Family back to their throne? There have been too many coincidences in recent history don't you think? A war of succession is being fought here, Shinigami, and it's time here and now that I break my oath and ask for your help. Because without it, he'll never return to the Throne of Worlds."

The figure began to unwrap the scarf about her face. A series of four kanji began to reveal themselves in the wrinkled surface of the cloth: Ou, Zoku, Toku, Mu.

Kayla spoke up for the first time in a while, stepping forward and looking the other woman intently as she revealed her face. There was a hint of nervousness in her voice.

"Did you say the thro-?" she started, though she paused, knowing well what she heard. "Why do you need our help? Hasn't this been done before?"

Her eyes darted to her captain and ex-captain for a split moment before returning to the officer in front of her.

Now, the woman's face was fully revealed: a small scar running above her cheekbone and a small knot of hair just above her left ear which had a piece of ribbon weaved neatly into it.

"We've also never had to deal with successor who wanted to fight for the lives of his subjects personally. Look, if we retrieve Otono from this place, I can learn how to restore the Prince back to a state in which he can claim his family's legacy."

She bit into her lower lip and almost drew a bit of her own blood, "This place is building a new kind of Shifter. A type of Recombinant that is based on forcibly converting normal souls and turning them into... harvestable troops."

The Keigun figure pointed back at the lab, "I'm sure you heard and saw the samples back there. Those were incomplete, in fact, that room was for incineration purposes."

For a long moment Rei could only stand and stare at this woman who made such dumbfoundingly momentous statements so nonchalantly, his mind reeling as he tried to process everything she'd said. That wasn't Nimuro? ****...!

He listened carefully to his team mates' questions and the answers the woman provided, struggling to grasp the implications of it all. The heir to the Throne of Worlds... Fighting for his subjects... Who...?

His train of thought was cut off by the talk of those new Recombinants, and the dying scream that still echoed in his ears took on an even more disturbing tone as a shudder traveled down his spine. He glanced back over his shoulder at the wrecked lab, and suddenly wanted to be away from there.

"Well, as long as we're all focused on getting Otono-san out of here, we should work together for the moment. We can talk more of what you're proposing as we work, hm?" He suggested, beginning to lead the group away from the building in the direction of the eerie dome in the centre of the compound.

~~The End... For now..~~​


Writing Week is 257

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